Gardening Monday, Jun 30 2014 

Psalm 104:13-23 (NRSV)

13 From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. 14 You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use,  to bring forth food from the earth, 15 and wine to gladden the human heart, oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart. 16 The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. 17 In them the birds build their nests; the stork has its home in the fir trees. 18 The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the coneys. 19 You have made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting. 20 You make darkness, and it is night, when all the animals of the forest come creeping out. 21 The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God. 22 When the sun rises, they withdraw and lie down in their dens. 23 People go out to their work and to their labor until the evening.   

John 15:9 (NRSV)

9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.

DEVOTION – Janine Randell (New South Wales, Australia)

Recently, I have been truly enjoying my garden.  I uses to simply maintain it – giving it a bit of water and mowing the grass – and then think, Looks good!  Lately though, I have been pruning, turning the soil, throwing on some fertilizer pellets, and then topping it with some of my husband’s lovely Lucerne mulch from our hay farm.  And the results have been amazing – beautiful bulbs and flowers, flowering bushes and gorgeous roses.  The garden looks brilliant!

Our lives are like gardens.  Sometimes they need to be plowed up or have the soil turned or have branches pruned.  Even though it can be painful, it is necessary to cut away the sin in our lives to make room for new growth.  We need to apply the fertilizer of God’s word and the water of the Holy Spirit.  Then on top of it all, we need to apply the mulch of good fellowship, worship, and prayer.  All this helps to keep our hearts and minds growing strong so that we can shine brilliantly for the Lord and the work for the kingdom of God.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: How am I tending the good things God has planted in me?

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank you, thank you that you love us as the Father had loved you.  You have planted good things in us.  Help us to abide in your love so that we can continue to do the things necessary to keep your work alive in us.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: GARDENERS

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Guess Who’s Back! Sunday, Jun 29 2014 

Luke 15:11-24 (CEB)

11 Jesus said, “A certain man had two sons. 12 The younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the inheritance.’ Then the father divided his estate between them. 13 Soon afterward, the younger son gathered everything together and took a trip to a land far away. There, he wasted his wealth through extravagant living. 14 “When he had used up his resources, a severe food shortage arose in that country and he began to be in need. 15 He hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to eat his fill from what the pigs ate, but no one gave him anything. 17 When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have more than enough food, but I’m starving to death! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I no longer deserve to be called your son. Take me on as one of your hired hands. 20 So he got up and went to his father. “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion. His father ran to him, hugged him, and kissed him. 21 Then his son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Quickly, bring out the best robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! 23 Fetch the fattened calf and slaughter it. We must celebrate with feasting 24 because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life! He was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

Luke 15:24 (CEB)

24 because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life! He was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

DEVOTION – Madeline Peterson (Nebraska)

Our daughter found a stray cat on our porch.  Without asking permission, she fed him.  Then the inevitable happened:  Old Tom made himself at home.  Soon his furry grey body and quiet purr became an important part of our lives.  But he had not given up his street life; he would disappear for weeks at a time.  Just when we decided he was gone for good, he would return – a torn and bloody skeleton of a cat.

The prodigal son had some of Old Tom in him.  But so do we!  While we enjoy the comfort of being part of God’s family, our independent nature at times gets us into trouble, and we end up spiritually -and sometimes even physically – starved and wounded.  No matter how many times Old Tom wandered off, it was a day for rejoicing when someone shouted, “Guess who’s back!”  Someone would pour him a bowl of milk, and someone else would prepare a warm bath.

Our scripture tells us that God’s welcome mat is always out, no matter how many times we stay.  Imagine the cheering for us from heaven when someone shouts, “Guess who’s back!”

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: When we stray, God is waiting to welcome us home.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, our willful nature causes us to stray from your loving care.  Thank you for welcoming back your foolish straying children.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: TEENAGE RUNAWAYS AND THEIR PARENTS

Gifts Great And Small Saturday, Jun 28 2014 

Mark 12:41-44 (CEB)

41 Jesus sat across from the collection box for the temple treasury and observed how the crowd gave their money. Many rich people were throwing in lots of money. 42 One poor widow came forward and put in two small copper coins worth a penny.  43 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I assure you that this poor widow has put in more than everyone who’s been putting money in the treasury. 44 All of them are giving out of their spare change. But she from her hopeless poverty has given everything she had, even what she needed to live on.”   

Mark 12:44 (CEB)

44 All of them are giving out of their spare change. But she from her hopeless poverty has given everything she had, even what she needed to live on.”   

DEVOTION – John Peebles (Virginia)

I was picking the last green peas of the season.  The vines were tall, and most contained three or four pods of up to nine peas each.  As I went along I found one small plant dwarfed by the rest.  On it was one pod of about five peas.  As II picked it I thought, It ain’t much, but it did what it could; it gave all that it had!

Sometimes we think what someone else has to give “ain’t much.”  But we are not called to judge how much someone else gives.  God calls each of us to give all we can, no matter how great, no matter how small.  And we are called to give thanks for all who give, no matter how great or how small the gift.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Today I will answer God’s call to give all I am able.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, teach us gratitude for small gifts as well as great gifts, and help us to be grateful for the giver of both.  We pray as Jesus taught us, saying, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us today our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one”  (Matt. 6:9-13, NIV).  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE WHO THINK THEY HAVE LITTLE TO GIVE.

Under His Wings Friday, Jun 27 2014 

Psalm 9:1-6 (NRSV)

1 You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,   2 will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” 3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence; 4 he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. 5 You will not fear the terror of the night, or the arrow that flies by day, 6 or the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or the destruction that wastes at noonday.   

Psalm 36:7 (NRSV)

7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.   

DEVOTION – Mary Baird (Texas)

My grandparents used to raise white leghorn chickens – fowls with snow – white feathers and vivid red combs.  Sometimes, as a child, I would see a hen squat on the ground, looking as if she were resting from the heat of the day.  When she finally stood up, a brood of tiny chicks would come scrambling out and take up position behind her.  Anywhere she went, the chicks would follow; if she stopped and held our wings, they’d scurry back under.  For those chicks, the safest place to be enfolded inside their mother’s wings.

Seeing this as a child given me insight into a statement Jesus made.  He was expressing to the multitude his grief over Jerusalem because they had rejected all the prophets God had sent them.  Then, in a more tender moment, he exclaimed, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, ….  How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”  (Matt. 23:37).

We live in a stressful world filled with problems that can seem overwhelming.  our Savior beckons us to trust him and run for protection within his arms.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Christ’s arms of protection are available every day,

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, may we learn to run to you for protection.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: CHICKEN FARMERS

In Dark Times Thursday, Jun 26 2014 

Romans 8:31-39 (NRSV)

31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.   

Matthew 28:20 (NRSV)

20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

DEVOTION – Don Greeley (Illinois)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition which a vivid life  experience continues to replay in thoughts and dreams and at unexpected and unwelcome times.  It often originates in a life-threatening event, but it can also affect someone whose world is shaken in a less dramatic but intensely personal way.  At its worst, PTSD is paralyzing and hinders daily life.

As someone who has personally struggled with PTSD I have wondered, Is it selfish for a person who is battling PTSD to ask God to remove the condition?  We can look to the Bible for an answer.  Jesus did dramatic healings, but healing was not his main focus.  His assurance to us was and is that God is a source of indescribable power and strength and that God cares for us, knows our names, and surrounds us with love.  God may not take away, with a single stroke, the intruding images of PTSD.  Healing will come at its own pace.  Until then, when the images strive to take control, we can reach out to God, who stands beside us.  We can be assured that we are of inestimable worth to our creator and that God buoys us up with love.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: When we are in a dark place, God is next to us and yearns to take our hand.

PRAYER: Dear God, you are on right, on our left, in front of us, and behind us.  Help us to feel your love carrying us through the dark places in our lives until light shines once more.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE WHO SUFFERS FROM PTSD

Being Acountable Wednesday, Jun 25 2014 

Hebrews 10:23-25 (NRSV)

23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.   

1 Thessalonians 5:14 (NRSV)

14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.   

DEVOTION – Veronica Kamidi (Nairobi, Kenya)

I went mountain climbing the other day and met up with some energetic students.  When I thought I could not possibly go on, they shouted words of encouragement:  “You can do it !”  “You are one strong lady!”  This is nothing.  You’ve made it this far; the worst is over.”  At times, they burst into song to boost morale.  Together, we made it all the way.

This experience reminds me of our Christian walk.  Sometimes the battle is too fierce, and we feel we can’t go on.  We don’t have the strength even to pray.  In such times, we need other people to support, encourage, and admonish us in love.  Through Christian fellowship, we have the strength to hold on to God’s sure promise and to continue.  Being accountable to one another keeps us on track.

Some people say that they need not go to church anymore because they listen to sermons on TV or on the Internet.  This practice is no substitute for Christina fellowship.  The TV won’t comfort us through hard times, rejoice in our blessings, or keep us accountable.  Our brothers and sisters in Christ will.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: We are members of the body of Christ and accountable to one another.

PRAYER: THOSE WHO ARE NOT FREE TO WORSHIP TOGETHER

PRAYER FOCUS:

Carry – Around Baggage Tuesday, Jun 24 2014 

Matthew 12:25-30 (NIV)

25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28 But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house. 30 “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.   

Matthew 11:28(NIV)

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.   

DEVOTION – Michael Lewis (Virginia)

Carry-on luggage on an airplane can be cumbersome.  My small suitcase is swollen with personal belongings that I prefer to have within reach.  I lug it on board, hoping that its girth will go unnoticed.  Sometimes, my bag is too bulky to fit in the overhead bin.  One time, I had to take it to the front of the plane for storage elsewhere.

As I reflected on that incident, I realized that in many ways I have treated sinful habits like carry-on luggage.  I have carried around my lust for material possessions, hunger for approval, and appetite for sensual pleasure.  I’ve depended on their presence to feel good about myself.  However, they offered little relief from my emotional or spiritual struggles.  I am learning that God’s opinion of me is what matters.  And because Christ is my Lord and Savior, I am accepted, loved, and valued.

Jesus gently and lovingly calls each of us to have a personal relationship with him.  When we surrender our baggage to Jesus Christ – by daily asking him to help us desire him more than our sinful lusts – we experience intimacy with Jesus through prayer, worship, Bible study and obedience.  Jesus Christ is all that we truly need.  And his load – his will for our lives – is easy and light.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: No sinful pleasure can compare to relationship with Christ.

PRAYER: TRAVELERS

PRAYER FOCUS:

Safety During The Storm Monday, Jun 23 2014 

Psalm 55:1-8 (NRSV)

1 Give ear to my prayer, O God; do not hide yourself from my supplication. 2 Attend to me, and answer me; I am troubled in my complaint. I am distraught 3 by the noise of the enemy, because of the clamor of the wicked. For they bring  trouble upon me, and in anger they cherish enmity against me. 4 My heart is in anguish within me, the terrors of death have fallen upon me. 5 Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me. 6 And I say, “O that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; 7 truly, I would flee far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; (Selah) 8 I would hurry to find a shelter for myself from the raging wind and tempest.”

Psalm 55:8 (NRSV)

8 I would hurry to find a shelter for myself from the raging wind and tempest.”   

DEVOTION – Sharon Braner (Oklahoma)

When I was a child, my family sought shelter in the root cellar when tornadoes approached our area.  The cellar was hollowed out of the earth behind our house, and wooden supports held the dirt walls in place.  Flush with the ground, its hinged door led to three concrete steps down.  Many vegetables and bins filled with potatoes.  We sometimes waited in the dark for hours for relief from the dangerous lighting, wind, and rain.  A strong hiding place is absolutely necessary for survival when tornadoes roar overhead.

A hiding place is critical during other storms life brings as well:  terminal illness, wayward children, financial downturns, and unending conflict.  At these times, a dangerous and debilitating feat can roar through our hearts and minds.

In Psalm 32:7 the psalmist addresses God as “my hiding place,” reminding us that God alone is our spiritual and emotional shelter.  When fear interrupts our lives and drives up to hide in dark despair, God comforts, strengthens, and calms our soul.  Sometimes God graciously removes the storm; but always God can remove our doubt and fear when we wait, pray, and seek God’s face.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: When I am afraid, I can pray and trust God’s promises.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, thank you that we can be relieved of our fear because of the courage you provide when we spend time with you.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE CONSUMED BY FEAR

The Mystery Of Communion Sunday, Jun 22 2014 

Mark 1417-25 (NRSV)

17 When it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18 And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” 19 They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, “Surely, not I?” 20 He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread  into the bowl  with me. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” 22 While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. 24 He said to them, “This is my blood of the  covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”   

1 Corinthians 11:26 (NRSV)

26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.   

DEVOTION – Patrick Kangtga (Maryland)

For along time I questioned the point of Holy Communion.  Then one day it dawned on me as I walked from my pew to the altar rail – a walk that was longer than I’d thought.

For me, Communion celebrates the long walk of Christ from life to crucifixion to resurrection.  It is the walk that Christians around the world make each Communion service.  It is the walk that the saints in heaven walked along before us.  The bread we eat reminds me of the manna that God provided to the Israelites in the desert.  The wine is the life-giving blood of God’s grace that Christ gave for our salvation.

At Communion the story of our faith is constantly being retold and demanding to be heard.  At communion we are committing to serve our brothers and sisters – even the entire world.  And when we glimpse the truth that lies within the mystery and Communion becomes more revelation than routine, our lives are radically transformed.  Communion is a miracle that empowers and encourages us to take the love of God into the world for the sake of Christ.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Through Communion, our lives can be radically transformed.

PRAYER: O God, thank you for the mystery of Communion where we experience your presence.  Help us to see you in those we encounter.  May we know and share your love more completely.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE WHO SERVE COMMUNION

New Strength For A New Day Saturday, Jun 21 2014 

Isaiah 43:16-21 (NIV)

16 This is what the LORD says– he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters,  17 who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:  18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.  20 The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, 21 the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.   

Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)

19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.   

DEVOTION – Laila Karin Geitz (Akershus, Norway)

I was tired and moody – and in despair.  I was about to sign the contract to sell our home.  My dear husband of 55 years had died a few months earlier after losing his battle against cancer.

Soon after his death I realized that I could not go on living in our home with all I would have to do: maintenance, gardening in summer and snow shoveling in winter, carrying wood for the fireplaces, and other necessary chores.  I should have been grateful for actually finding a buyer even before the house was advertised for sale and at a time when buying and selling houses was almost impossible.  But I felt bad – even a little guilty – for selling the home we had shared for all these years.

I had not had time to read I Dag, the Norwegian edition of The Upper Room, the morning before I left I left for the real estate agency.  But when I returned home, I saw the opened magazine on the kitchen table and read the words above from Isaiah 43:19.  My feelings of despair eased.  God did not tell me to forget my husband.  God did not forbid me to think back on all the good memories with joy.  Rather, God invited me to go on with my life with new strength.  God is near, in both good and bad times.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: God helps us see a way trough the wilderness.

PRAYER: Dear heavenly Father, we thank you for all we have received from you – especially good memories and a loving family and church.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: SOMEONE WHOSE SPOUSE HAS DIED

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