Cranky And Unappreciative? Thursday, Oct 31 2013 

John 21:15-17 (NRSV)

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

John 21:15 (NRSV)

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

DEVOTION – Jill Allen Maisch (Maryland)

When I began serving at a homeless shelter, I assumed the guests would be appreciative.  But several complained about the menu, and others snatched their plates in silence.  Most met my smile with sideways glances that spoke of wariness and distrust.  I thought angrily, How dare they treat me this way!  They don’t even know me.

     Then I heard God speaking through my frustration: “Jill, do you know them?”  The next week I began to actually sit and eat with the guests.  I asked, “How are you?”  and took the time to listen – not only to what was said but also to what was not said.  I heard the sadness in the tone of voice, observed the forced smile, and was touched by the eyes glassy with tears.  I learned names and heard stories.  Those I once saw only grouchy and ungrateful became sisters and brothers – each with their own unique pains of the past, fears of the present, and hopes for the future,

In our reading for today, Jesus gave Peter some very specific directions about showing his love for Christ by serving others:  “Feed my lambs …Tend my sheep.”  Even those who at first seem cranky and unappreciative, we are also called to feed and to tend.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Serving in Christ’s name requires building relationships.

PRAYER: Dear God, help us discover how we might tend to the physical and spiritual needs of the people around us.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE WHO SERVE THE HOMELESS

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ABC Prayers Wednesday, Oct 30 2013 

Philippians 1:3-11(NIV)

3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.

2 Timothy 1:3 (NIV)

3 I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.

DEVOTION – Sherah B. Carr (Georgia)

For some reason I have been waking up ion the middle of the night, staring at the ceiling, and wondering why I am awake.  I’m tired.  I have to get up early.  What am I to do?

A few nights ago, I  remembered a friend’s suggestion about ABC prayers.  I began with the letter A and thought of people whose name begins with A.  The I prayed specifically for their needs and asked God to touch their lives.  Then I moved on to B.  I remember reaching the letter M, but the rest is a blur.  I was snoozing peacefully again.

This exercise reminds me of the joy and peace we find in praying for others.  In our small Sunday school class, we post weekly prayer requests.  We have been amazed to see the power of our prayers at work.  Talking with God, submitting our sincere requests for God’s help and guidance for our friends and family, leads to amazing results or even, as in my case, it can lead to a calming and peaceful sleep.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: We receive unexpected blessings when we meet God in prayer.

PRAYER:  Dear God, thank you for hearing our prayers at all times of the day or night.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE SUFFERING INSOMNIA

Beloved Of God Tuesday, Oct 29 2013 

Luke 3:21-22 (NIV)

21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke 3:22 (NIV)

22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

DEVOTION – Roland P. Rink (Gauteng, South Africa)

Quietly, over a number of months, I fell into the bad habit of allowing myself to be dragged down into a pit of worry and despair.  I began to worry even when I had nothing to worry about.  This Habit led to pessimism that was not helpful to me, my family, or others around me.

By grace, I found Luke’s account of the baptism of Jesus.  God’s Holy Spirit descends on Jesus in the form of dove, and a voice speaks directly to Jesus saying, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”  In this profound moment, Jesus’ identity was confirmed.

These days, when worry and doubt begin to assail me, I have a new way of dealing with them.  Over and over again I repeat these words:  You are my beloved.  With you I am well pleased.  In a world of distraction and noise, I find it helpful to remember that God loves me.

When times get tough and the world seems to weigh us down, we can remind each other that we are God’s beloved children.  And God is pleased with us.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Today I will remember that I am God’s beloved.

PRAYER:   Thank you, God, for Jesus Christ, through whom we have all been called your beloved.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: PEOPLE OF SOUTH AFRICA

New Life Monday, Oct 28 2013 

John 15:1-11 (NRSV)

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes  to make it bear more fruit. 3 You have already been cleansed  by the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become  my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

John 15:4(NRSV)

4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.

DEVOTION – Lucy de Tamez (Virginia)

A few days ago I was surprised to find a butterfly lying on our small patio.  It did not move, and I thought it was dead.  I carefully picked it up to show my young daughters, and together we admired the delicate wings and antennae.  I placed the butterfly on a table, out of my daughters’ reach.  After a while, I noticed that the butterfly was in a different position.  My husband suggested that I place it in the sunlight because the cold temperatures of the previous few days might have left it a bit frozen.  I did so, and after a few minutes, the butterfly was fluttering its wings.  It was alive!

Something similar can happen to us when we fall away from our communion with God and our brothers and sisters in Christ.  If we fail to pray regularly, read God’s word, or give God praise and thanks, our spirit can begin to “Chill”, and we no longer reflect the life of Christ.

However, when we return to God, the Light and the Truth, our spiritual; strength will return.  Spending time with God’s people and in God’s presence prepares us to more powerfully praise and serve God and to reflect God’s wondrous love.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: No matter how chilled we become, God’s love can warm our spirits.

PRAYER: God of all creation, help us remain close to you and to leave behind all that distracts us from you and the community of faith.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: FAITH RENEWAL

Standing The Test Of Time Sunday, Oct 27 2013 

Ecclesiastes 2:9-11 (NIV)

9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. 10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. 11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.

Psalm 71:18 (NIV)

18 Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.

DEVOTION – Shelby H. Grant (North Carolina)

My husband and I have begun researching our family ancestry.  During this process we have visited many cemeteries to take pictures of family graves markers.  Some of the markers are simple, small headstones.  Others are grand monuments.  Many quote a scripture verse, or say how much the person was loved and will be missed.

The passing of time, however,  has been an enemy to these well-intentioned memorials.  Many are fading, falling down, broken, and cracked.  Some plots are covered up with vegetation, and not all monuments are readable.

If King David and King Solomon had grand burial sites, time and generations have hidden the locations.  But their families and victories, their works of faith that live on in the psalms and writings in the Bible, remind us of our need for God.

Memorials of stone, marble, and brass may not last.  But our life of faith and the example we set will be passed down from generation to generation – a permanent monument that will stand the test of time.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: What spiritual legacy will I leave to others?

LINK2LIFE: To see photo of Shelby’s family grave markers, go to devotional.upperroom.org.blog.

PRAYER: Dear Father, help us to live in a way that those who come after us will find in our lives true examples of faith in you.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: CEMETERY CARETAKERS

Adapting With Grace Saturday, Oct 26 2013 

Genesis 12:1-9 (NRSV)

1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, 6 Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak  of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, “To your offspring  I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. 8 From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and invoked the name of the Lord. 9 And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.

Psalm 46:1-2 (NRSV)

1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present  help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;

DEVOTION – F. Richard Garland (Rhode Island)

Our plan was simple:  On Monday we would hike Mount St. Helens for its spectacular views.  On Tuesday, we’d hike Mount Rainier to just below the snow level.  But at Mount St. Helens, the summit and our view were shrouded by clouds.  On Rainier, the trail we had planned to hike was covered with 12 feet of snow.  We had a adapt.

In many areas of life we have to adapt, sometimes to unwelcome realities.  Moving beyond asking “Why?” to discerning “What now?”  requires letting God lead us into a new way of life.  God never leaves us in a place where grace cannot sustain us.  We live in a world that won’t always go the way we except it to go; Sometimes adapting ourselves is the best, most faithful response we can make.

If we trust in God’s enduring love in Jesus Christ as our faithful companion, teacher, and guide, and rely on the power of the Holy Spirit, we will have what we need to face any change.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Adapting to change can be a faithful response.

PRAYER: O Christ, faithful guide, teach us to look for you and trust your guidance when life forces us onto unexpected paths as we pray, “Father, hallowed by your name, your kingdom come.  Give us each day our daily bread.  Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.  And lead us not into temptation.”  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE FACING UNWANTED CHANGE

Around The World Friday, Oct 25 2013 

Psalms 67:1-7 (NRSV)

1 May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, (Selah) 2 that your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations. 3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you. 4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. (Selah) 5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you. 6 The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us. 7 May God continue to bless us; let all the ends of the earth revere him.

John 17:21 (NRSV)

21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us,  so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

DEVOTION – Carol Purves (Cumbria,England)

When I open my computer each morning I’m excited to read the meditation from The Upper Room.  Not only do I get a message that guides or uplifts me during the day; I also have fellowship with Christians all over the world.  I have a chance to pray for the circumstances of the authors – for their bereavement, struggles of faith, or rejoicing.

I next pray for the country where the day’s writer lives.  Recently I have prayed for Japan, Germany, Spain, Australia, Canada, and my own country, England.  The various U.S. states have been featured in my prayers as well. On my wall hangs a large map of the world to help me locate the countries I’m not very familiar with.

Each morning I get a thrill as I realize that people all over the world are reading these same scripture passages and meditations and praying about the same concerns.  Though we read and pray at different times, our problems, searchings, and rejoicings are similar, and we all can receive answers and help as we read.  And because we read and pray at different times, as we do a wave of prayer moves around the globe.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Whatever our circumstances and wherever we are, God is the same – faithful to hear us.

LINK2LIFE: To learn about international Upper Room editions, go to international.upperroom.org.

PRAYER: All praise to you, faithful God, that you listen to us and have compassion on us.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE WHO WRITE FOR THE UPPER ROOM

What We Know Is True Thursday, Oct 24 2013 

2 Timothy 3:10-17 (NRSV)

10 Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions, and my suffering the things that happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But wicked people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, 15 and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is inspired by God and is  useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16 (NRSV)

16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

DEVOTION – Andy Baker (Tennessee)

Recently, I flew to a small town in Alaska – a beautiful land of snow, ice, moose, and bear.  I had hoped it would be a clear day so I could see a glacier or two or maybe a herd of moose or caribou.  Instead, it was snowing, and the dark grey day offered little visibility.

The plane was small, with no door between us and the pilots.  As I looked up where the pilots sat, I realized that for the entire flight they could not see anything through their windshield.  Instead, they relied on their instruments to guide our flight.

I could not help but think about how we act and react when we are going through the storms and turmoil of life and cannot see the future.  When we cannot see how we are going to make it, we can trust what we know to be true:  God is with us.  God hears our prayers, sees our tears, and wants to guide us.  Just as those pilots could not see what was ahead of them, we can’t see the future; but we can trust the guidance we find in God’s word.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: We can face the future because God is there.

PRAYER:  Thank you, God, for the truth you reveal to us in your word.  Thank you for Jesus, who brought your truth to life.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: PILOTS

Understanding Wednesday, Oct 23 2013 

Esther 4:1:17 (NRSV)

1 When Mordecai learned all that had been done, Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went through the city, wailing with a loud and bitter cry; 2 he went up to the entrance of the king’s gate, for no one might enter the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth. 3 In every province, wherever the king’s command and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and most of them lay in sackcloth and ashes. 4 When Esther’s maids and her eunuchs came and told her, the queen was deeply distressed; she sent garments to clothe Mordecai, so that he might take off his sackcloth; but he would not accept them. 5 Then Esther called for Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs, who had been appointed to attend her, and ordered him to go to Mordecai to learn what was happening and why. 6 Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate, 7 and Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the exact sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king’s treasuries for the destruction of the Jews. 8 Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther, explain it to her, and charge her to go to the king to make supplication to him and entreat him for her people. 9 Hathach went and told Esther what Mordecai had said. 10 Then Esther spoke to Hathach and gave him a message for Mordecai, saying, 11 “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—all alike are to be put to death. Only if the king holds out the golden scepter to someone, may that person live. I myself have not been called to come in to the king for thirty days.” 12 When they told Mordecai what Esther had said, 13 Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” 15 Then Esther said in reply to Mordecai, 16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.” 17 Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.

Esther 4:14 (NRSV)

14 For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”

DEVOTION – Nicola Vidamour (London, England)

Last summer I was in Africa where I gained a completely new understanding of time.  One day we were expected at events in two different churches.  When we got to the first church I asked my host, “When will we need to leave here in order to get to our next appointment on time?”  He answered, “We will leave here when we are ready!  We need to give our full attention to these people here now, and we cannot do that if we are already think about where we are going next.”

After pondering the host’s answer, I realized just how difficult it is to live in the present.  I love to reflect on the past or dream about the future, but the present can pass me by a;; too easily.  Today’s Bible reading from the Book of Esther speaks about living in the present moment.  Esther understood that by leaving the past behind and not being afraid of the future, she was able to give herself completely to the present moment and to those people who needed her at that particular time.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: God’s gift of today is irreplaceable.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, give us this day our daily bread.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: BUSY PEOPLE

AUTUMN LEAVES Tuesday, Oct 22 2013 

Philippians 4:4-9 (NRSV)

4 Rejoice  in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.  5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, beloved,  whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about  these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Psalm 92:4 (NRSV)

4 For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

DEVOTION – Mary K. Gulledge (Ohio)

In our region of the world the autumn leaves are glorious.  The green leaves turn to shades of yellow, red, and orange.  Landscapes turn to canvases only God could paint, the colors so brilliant that they are breath-taking.  My husband and I enjoy seeing the glorious colors in nature.  Even quick trips to the grocery store are more pleasant because of the beauty of autumn.  Some people may so dread the season because of the work of ranking that they overlook its spectacular beauty.

The mood of a day is often set by our focus.  If we focus on our problems, our mood is likely to be glum.  If we focus on the Lord’s blessings, then in spite of our problems, we can see each day as a day that the Lord has made and we can rejoice and be glad in it.  If we sing for joy at the beauty of autumn leaves, ranking them will be all the more enjoyable.  As I rake leaves, I thank God for making them beautiful so that the task is less of a burden.  If we sing for joy in all God’s works, our songs will lighten our load and make our trials easier to bear.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Focusing on God’s joy makes our trials easier to bear.

PRAYER:  Dear God, thank you for the changing seasons and for the work of your hands that give us joy.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THANKSGIVING FOR THE BEAUTY OF AUTUMN

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