Monday, March 5, 2018                                           Lenten Prayers 

17Pray without ceasing, 18…for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thess. 5:17-18

Forty days alone, 
a wilderness of thoughts, 
tempting and inviting thoughts, 
which could so easily
have distracted you 

from your task, your mission,
your vision.

Yet you emerged, stronger
and more attuned 

to all that had to be done, 
despite a time constraint 
that to our eyes would have
seemed hopeless.

We too live in stressful times. 
Demands are made of our time
that leaves so little 
for the important things of life. 
We are easily distracted 
in the wilderness of our lives, 
by every call to go this way or that
and do all that would keep us
from the truth.

We listen to the voices of this world, 
and ignore the one who endured all this 
and so much more, 
and emerged triumphant, 
that we might not have to suffer so.

Forgive us, Father, 
when we get distracted from our task. 
Forgive us those times when we try 
to be all things to all men, 
and fail to be anything to anyone
.

 

 

 

You were a man of suffering
acquainted with grief,
loved and despised in equal measure.
You understand humanity,
know our failings,
love us despite the people that we are.
When we, like Peter, deny you
by word or action,
forgive us.
When we, like Judas, are tempted
to follow a different path
forgive us.
When we, like those in the crowd
allow you to be crucified,
forgive us.
Bring us to the foot of the Cross
to stand next to the one who,
looking into your eyes declared,
‘Surely, this is the Son of God.'

******************************

Your love,
which breathed this world into being,
established a covenant people,
brought them out of captivity
and into a promised land.
Hallelujah!

Your love,
which from the moment of our birth
has known and called us by name
from out of this world’s slavery
into the kingdom of God.
Hallelujah!

Your love,
poured into the heart of Jesus
who endured the nails of our sin,
defeated death to rise again,
and causes our hearts to sing
Hallelujah!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018                                                                           

Blessing:  How do I find God’s blessing?

When the Israelites were poised to go into Canaan under Joshua’s leadership, they depended on the counsel of ten spies about whether to enter this new land. They trusted in the majority opinion, and it was wrong. Israel had trusted man’s word over God’s.

In Jeremiah 17:6, the Lord compared the person who trusts in people to a shrub in the desert, living in the barren wilderness with no hope for the future. What a perfect picture of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for forty years! They were exiled until the generation of those who had trusted in man had died. Jeremiah’s prophetic words were addressed to the Israelite kingdom of Judah, who trusted in false gods and foreign alliances for its welfare. Judah would soon understand what it was like to be a shrub in a barren wilderness.

Through his prophet, God addressed two groups of people: those who trust in man and those who trust in Him. Essentially, these are our choices in life – to walk by faith, trusting God; or to walk by sight, trusting people. Walking by sight means depending wholly upon people for guidance and fulfillment – family, friends, or self. It means trusting only what we can see and touch. As cherished and loving as families can be, however, unfortunately they can also be unloving and hurtful.

If we choose to walk by sight only to find that family and friends fail us, our only alternative is to go it alone – to become independent of others. We inherit this bent for autonomy from Adam and Eve, who chose to trust themselves instead of God. How easy it is for us to think we know what is best. Unfortunately, even when we are most confident in ourselves, we are not dependable.

God’s declaration to us is clear: “Blessed are those who trust in Me!” He wants us to spend our lives not like dried up shrubs in the middle of a wasteland, but like trees planted along a riverbank. Our seeking of God’s way in our lives enables us to grow, to become strong and productive. We are planted where it is best for us to live, and He uses everything in our lives to work for our good.

“But the person who trusts in the Lord will be blessed. The Lord will show him that he can be trusted. He will be strong, like a tree planted near water that sends its roots by a stream…It does not worry in a year when no rain comes; it always produces fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

By Cynthia Heald

Submitted by: Mark Lyon

Wednesday, March 7, 2018                                                                       

Under God’s Wings

Read: Psalm 91:1-16

The Lord will cover you with his feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge;
His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
                                                  Psalm 91:4 (NIV)

One afternoon while washing dishes, I watched a mother robin in the holly bush just outside my window. When rain began, she gently settled herself over her hatchlings. The rain soon became a downpour; the robin stood up in her nest and spread her wings wide. She rocked back and forth a few times, stretching her wings to create an umbrella over the nest. The rains pounded harder, yet she did not move. I watched her in amazement as I continued cleaning my kitchen. My chores completed, I hesitated to leave the room. The robin was still standing with wings outstretched, protecting her young.

The beauty of this scene reminded me of Psalm 91:4 and the refuge we have under God’s protective wings. Life’s trials are sometimes only a drizzle and at other times a fierce pounding storm. But regardless of the intensity of the storm, God will be faithful.  Though we may not always see God’s wings spread over us, we can rest assured that they are there to offer us shelter and comfort.

Prayer:  O God like that strong and faithful robin, you spread your love over us in life’s storms. May we rest secure and feel your comfort even in times when we may not sense your presence. Amen.

By Elizabeth Ann Bussey, from The Upper Room

Submitted by Jeanie Bergman

Thursday, March 8, 2018                                                                         

Armor

 

Therefore, pick up the full armor of God so that you can stand your ground
on the evil day and after you have done everything possible to still stand.
   Ephesians 6:13

If you're like me, Scripture passages about war and armor are difficult. I don't like the idea of violence. I don't want to encourage militaristic ways of looking at the world, and I especially don't want to perpetuate some idea that Christians need to arm ourselves against others. Every time I read this Scripture, though, I wrestle between these fears and something else: hope. 

This is sometimes not an easy world if you try to be a person of integrity, no matter what your faith. You will withstand attacks on your conscience daily. You will be told that you should change yourself or your beliefs in order to get ahead. You will be asked to compromise on what is right with the promise that you can repair any wrongs somewhere down the line. 

This is not a battle of our own choosing, but it is one from which we sometimes simply cannot steer clear. So, as I picture someone getting ready to go out into the world to start their day, someone who for whatever reason will face anger, pressure, or manipulation from others, I think about what it means to put on just enough armor to be able to walk through the arrows untouched.

So, put on the belt of truth and the breastplate of justice. Tie on your shoes of peace. Put a shield of faith out in front of you to block those arrows. Put on the helmet of your salvation. Carry a sword of the Spirit that will cut a path for you on those days that you have to forge your own way in the wilderness. You are covered in an armor that is far stronger than any that could be forged by our own hands. It's there not to harm others, but to keep you going when you need it the most. 

PrayerGod, on the days when the arrows fall all around me, be my armor. Amen.

 By Emily C. Heath,  from: UCC God Is Still Speaking Daily Devotional, August 1, 2017

Submitted by: Leslie Sands

Friday, March 9, 2018                                                                

Abundant Life:  Is it possible to be spiritual all of the time?

Maggie looked in at the window and got a last sight of her father. The sun was shining into the little bare room, and her shadow fell upon him as she passed. But his form lingered clear in the chamber of her mind after she had left him far behind her. There it was not her shadow, but rather the shadow of a great peace that rested upon him as he bent over the shoe, his mind fixed indeed upon his work, but far more occupied with the affairs of quite another region.

Mind and soul were each so absorbed in their accustomed labor that never did either interfere with that of the other. His shoe-making lost nothing when he was deepest sunk in some one or other of the words of his Lord which he was seeking to understand. In his leisure hours he was an intense reader, but it was nothing in any book that now occupied him; it was instead the live good news, the man Jesus Christ himself. In thought, in love, in imagination, that man dwelt in Him, was alive in Him, and made Him alive. For the cobbler believed absolutely in the Lord of Life, was always trying to do the things He said, and to keep His words abiding in him. Therefore, he was what the parson called a mystic, yet was at the same time the most practical man in the neighborhood. Therefore, he made the best shoes, because the work of the Lord did abide in him.

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Messiah.” (Luke 2:25-26)

By George MacDonald

Submitted by: Mark Lyon

Saturday, March 10, 2018                                                                         

A Prayer
          Note: The prayer response should be given after each line.

 When we miss the beauty and the joy of earth’s goodness...

            Response: God, surprise me again.

When we grow too accustomed to life’s busyness...

When the goodness of others gets lost in the rush...

When our frailty outruns our strength...

When the hope in our heart fades away...

When the call to serve others loses its flavor…

When we search for the way home to you...

When loneliness pursues us...

When it seems, the darkness will never give way to the light...

When the ache of the world wears our compassion thin…

When the troubles of others seem more than we can carry…

When even you seem far away from us…

 

As we strive to live our lives well…

            Response: Walk closely with us, God.

As we enjoy the treasures we’ve found in the field of faith…

As we continue to surrender ourselves to you...

As we journey into the unknown territory of a new year...

As we hurt in the process of loving our enemies…

As we learn to accept our weaknesses and our strengths…

As we open our hearts to the messengers you send to us…

As we stay faithful to our relationship with you…

As we give ourselves to the poor and the powerless…

As we keep searching for the truth…

As we try to live in the heart of the scriptures…

As we accept your constant love for us…

 

Amen.

By Joyce Rupp, from May I Have This Dance?   

Submitted by Toni Sullivan

Sunday, March 11, 2018                                                                Lent 4

Sermon:           “The Way of the Fool”
Rev. Bryn Smallwood-Garcia preaching at 8:30 & 10:30

Texts:  1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Mark 8:31-35

18For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

26Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

31Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

34He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

Mark 8:31-35

Monday, March 12, 2018                                                                           

Compassion:  How can I show compassion?

When we go through adversity it is so reassuring to have someone there to walk with us. It is so comforting to know our God is “the Father of all comfort” who has promised never to leave us or to forsake us. One of the simple things that we can do in the midst of tragedy is to reach out to people with compassion and understanding – to walk with those in need, to comfort them. People need the loving touch, the embrace of a friend. We need someone to reach out to us in troubling times. Reaching out implies doing something, doesn’t it? Compassionate people are those who feel the pain of others and act to alleviate that pain.

I want you to remember that our greatest source of comfort is God who, Himself, has identified with us in our sorrows and pain. Our God, who is “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” So, well He understands our situation, our uncertainty, and our fears and through us is able to comfort others.

A fundamental requisite for those who seek to comfort others is the ability to forget about self. It is so easy for us to become enamored of our own affairs and get caught up in our own journey to significance and success. We must work hard to put others first. Who can ever forget images of Mother Teresa in the suburbs of Calcutta pouring out her life for the poor and needy? And what about the self-sacrificing plane passengers who lost their lives while attempting to thwart the hijackers from using the plane as an instrument of further death and destruction?

We must become successful comforters by being present while others weep, by sharing a shoulder for others to lean on, and by being a reliable and careful listener. We must be dependable and trustworthy with the thoughts that are shared with us and avoid giving hasty answers or worn-out clichés to those who grieve. Grieving people need the safety of friends who hold them up rather than hold them accountable for what they express in anger and frustration. Yes, there is the great opportunity for us to be channels of mercy and comfort in the name of the Lord.

“Praise be to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is the Father who is full of mercy and all comfort. He comforts us every time we have trouble, so when others have trouble, we can comfort them with the same comfort God gives us.”                                                                                                      2 Corinthians 1:3-4

By Charles Stanley

Submitted by: Mark Lyon

Tuesday, March 13, 2018                                                                          

A Closer Walk

At the Home of Martha and Mary

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. 
One thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the better part.  It won’t be taken away from her.”
                                                                                                               
Luke 10:41-42 (CEB)

A Bible study reflection question caught my attention:  what three things in your life keep you from a closer relationship with God?  Instantly, the word busyness came to mind, followed by the words worry and fear.

When I retired, I envisioned days filled with reading, studying, writing, and indulging in the hobbies I enjoy.  Instead I find myself engulfed in a schedule that seems as frantic as earlier days when I raised children, held a job, and maintained a household.

I began to consider, What does God want from me? While I believe that God wants me to care for my family, church and community, I also believe God wants my time and attention.  God desires that I have more balance in my life.  Do I rush from one activity to the next, or do I take time to build a stronger relationship with God?  Today, I dropped my busyness and went for a long walk I the crisp air and sunshine on the mountain close to my home.  My mind totally focused on the magnificence and beauty of God’s creation. I had no room for worry or fear.

When we take time out from the demands of our daily lives, we can find a peaceful path, closer to God.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for the beauty of the world you created.  Help us to make time for you today and every day as we focus on a closer walk with you. Amen.

By Janice Hagood LeMaster, from The Upper Room, Sept. 10, 2017

Submitted by: Leslie Sands

Wednesday, March 14, 2018                                                                     

No Way Out

One of the matriarchs of my old parish, Betty, used to say: "God doesn't put more on our shoulders, than we can bear. I just wish He didn't think so much of my shoulders."

Is this strictly true? While adversity refines the fire inside of some of God's children, doesn't it embitter others? Don't some people whom God loves still actually die of cancer, of hunger, of self-inflicted wounds when the weight on their shoulders becomes too much to bear?

Aren't some people tested beyond their strength?

I don't actually know the answer to this question I've asked. But when I hit a wall with the Bible, I try to get curious instead of get mad. 

There are two things here that interest me: the first is the reminder that no matter what you are going through, your suffering is not unique. Other humans, many of them – and perhaps even Jesus himself – have broken in every cross that you will ever have to bear.

The second is those three little words: "the way out." In Greek they are only one word: ekbasis, which also means "a mountain pass."

In C. S. Lewis' Narnia classic, The Horse and His Boy, the boy Shasta travels alone, hungry and thirsty and cold, by night, through a dangerous mountain range. In the darkness, a creature comes up and travels with him – Shasta tells this creature all his troubles; he pours out his sorrows and lightens his load.

When dawn comes, he sees that the creature is a lion – but not just any lion, Aslan himself, known in our world by a different name (hint: His name on Earth is also five letters long).

Shasta also sees that the mountains are now behind him. Aslan had walked at his side – the cliff side – the whole night long.

The mountain pass is something you can't see until you're upon it. If all you did on the journey was look straight up or straight down instead of where your feet need to go next, you might die of fright. 

Sometimes it's better to travel in a bit of darkness, and alongside Someone who will listen well.

"No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful,
and He will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing
He will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it."
             1 Corinthians 10:13

By The Rev. Molly Baskette, Senior Minister at First Church of Berkeley, CA (UCC)

Submitted by: Holly Hackney

Thursday, March 15, 2018                                                                        

Functional Atheism

"This command I gave them, 'Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you.'
Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but in the stubbornness of their evil will,
they walked in their own counsels, and looked backward rather than forward."
                                                                                                                                
Jeremiah 7:23-24

A lot of us claim to believe in God, but then act as if everything depended on us, on our efforts and wisdom, on our ability to keep all the little planets of our concerns in perfect orbit around the great blasting sun of our inner control freak. Meanwhile, we are white-knuckling it all the way. Nadia Bolz Weber calls this "functional atheism." 

Some verbal hallmarks that you are a functional atheist: "I can handle this all by myself."
"Don't worry about me." "Yup, just fine."

One of the great sicknesses of the 21st century is our solitariness, our isolation from each other and from God. We are allergic to asking for help and have a pathological fear of being thought "needy." Some of us will walk in our own counsel right off a cliff rather than show our vulnerability to another human being or turn to God in prayer. 

Here's a news flash: You're just as God made you, and that includes being needy. Control freaks, perfectionists and fiercely independent types are not of much use to the God who made us to fit together, interlocking parts that hold the whole Creation in place. 

Prayer: God, I know my strong-man biceps are puny compared to what You can bench-press on a bad day with a migraine. Take away my shame that I really can't handle this
all by myself and use my neediness to show the world what Your power is really like. Amen.

By Molly Baskette, Senior Minister, First Church of Berkeley, CA
From UCC God Is Still Speaking Daily Devotionals

Submitted by: Leslie Sands

(Note: I wouldn’t call myself an atheist; however, I related to this because I really want
to turn to God to ask for his direction more often in my life... before I go ahead
and do what I’m doing, having to then pray for help or forgiveness afterward.  Lol.)

Friday, March 16, 2018                                                                             

Hinderers

Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralyzed Man

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside
the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed
man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd,
they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered
the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man,
“Son, your sins are forgiven.”                                                                              
Mark 2:1-5 (NIV)

When Jesus was in Capernaum, four men knew somebody who needed him, so they set out
to get their friend to him.  When they got to the house, they couldn't get in because of the
crowd of onlookers.

In this story I see three groups of people.  There was the man who couldn't walk.  There were helpers-the men who were trying to get their friend to Jesus. And there were hinderers-the crowd.  Those in the crowd did not mean to hinder the paralytic from meeting Jesus; many
of them did not even realize they were preventing his approach.

How many times have we been in that crowd?  The hungry need food. Prisoners need someone to visit them.  My church needs volunteers.  The list goes on.  What am I doing?  I often realize, too late, that I have even been hindering the process.  I have learned that it takes our whole selves to be helpers and faithful workers for Christ.  It takes our eyes and ears to recognize the needs around us; our hands and feet to get the job done; our hearts to recognize when we are being hinderers and to move us to compassion to provide care for those in need.

Prayer:  Dear Lord, make us instruments for your work.  Help us to recognize the needs of others and serve you faithfully.  Amen.

From The Upper Room, 2016

Submitted by Sharon Santi

Saturday, March 17, 2018                                                                        

Blackberry Pie

Blessings and Woes

17 He [Jesus] went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.

20 Looking at his disciples, he said:

“Blessed are you who are poor,
    for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
    for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
    for you will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you,
    when they exclude you and insult you
    and reject your name as evil,
        because of the Son of Man.

23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy,
because great is your reward in heaven.
For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.                  
Luke 6:17-23 (NIV)

The Lord says, “I will make them and the region around my hill a blessing; and I will
send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing.
   Ezekiel 34:26 (NRSV)

Blackberry bushes menace our property like towering green monsters, their thorny vines threaten to engulf the whole garden. My husband and I battle them constantly.  We cut them, poison them, and dig out their roots. We even tried our neighbor’s flamethrower. Yet they grow back, stronger than ever. Every summer we call a truce, as snow-white blossoms give way to plump, juicy blackberries. I pluck them from between the thorns, usually suffering a scratch or two. A few hours later, they have been transformed into blackberry pie. How amazing that something so aggravating can produce such a delicious treat!

I thought about the blackberry bushes as they related to today’s reading, in which Jesus talks about truths that seem impossible and contradictory. And Romans 8:28 indicates that bad circumstances can result in a greater good, not only in heaven but also here on earth:

28We know that all things work together for good for those who love God,
who are called according to his purpose.

Could that noisy neighbor teach me to be more understanding? Perhaps a frustrating job situation can provide an opportunity to gain new skills. The illness that has me down could grant me time to rest, read the Bible, and pray more deeply. If we look, we can find blessings all around us.

Prayer:  Dear God, help us to see how difficult situations can teach us and draw us closer to you. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

By Susan Thogerson Maas, from The Upper Room

Submitted by Jeanie Bergman

Sunday, March 18, 2018                                                            Lent 5

Sermon:  “What is Planted in the Heart”
Rev. Bryn Smallwood-Garcia preaching at 8:30 & 10:30

Texts:  Jeremiah 31:31-34
Philippians 2:1-11, 13
John 12:23-26

31The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.                    Jeremiah 31:31-34

1If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 

3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.9Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father….13for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.                                                                                                   Philippians 2:1-11, 13

23Jesus [said], “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.                                                             John 12:23-26

Monday, March 19, 2018                                                                          

Inspirational Christian Quotes

  1. “Life is wasted if we do not grasp the glory of the cross, cherish it for the treasure that it is, and cleave to it as the highest price of every pleasure and the deepest comfort in every pain. What was once foolishness to us—a crucified God—must become our wisdom and our power and our only boast in this world.” ~ John Piper

  2.  “God never said that the journey would be easy, but He did say that the arrival would be worthwhile” ~ Max Lucado 

  3. “God will meet you where you are in order to take you where He wants you to go.”
    ~ Tony Evans
     

  4. “Remember who you are. Don’t compromise for anyone, for any reason. You are a child of the Almighty God. Live that truth.” ~ Lysa Terkeurst  

  5. “If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run, then walk, if you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

  6.  “You are the only BIBLE some unbelievers will ever read.” ~ John MacArthur  

  7. “We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face...we must do that which we think we cannot."
    ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

  8. "The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time."
    ~Abraham Lincoln
     

  9. “God does not give us everything we want, but He does fulfill His promises, leading us along the best and straightest paths to Himself.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

  10. "The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard, but must be felt with the heart." ~ Helen Keller

  11. “Your potential is the sum of all the possibilities God has for your life.”
    ~ Charles Stanley

Compiled and edited by Crosswalk

Submitted by Marie Immohr

Tuesday, March20,2018                                                                            

The Compassionate Life

Developing Compassion

Before we can generate compassion and love, it is important to have a clear understanding of what we understand compassion and love to be. In simple terms, compassion and love can be defined as positive thoughts and feelings that give rise to such essential things in life as hope, courage, determination and inner strength. In the Buddhist tradition, compassion and love are seen as two aspects of the same thing: Compassion is the wish for another human being to be free from suffering; love is wanting them to have happiness.

Global Compassion

I believe that at every level of society - familial, national and international, the key to a happier and more successful world is the growth of compassion. We do not need to become religious, nor do we need to believe in a particular ideology. All that is necessary is for each of us is to develop our good human qualities. I believe that the cultivation of individual happiness can contribute in a profound and effective way to the overall improvement of the entire human community.

Prayer:     Dear God, help us to speak words of kindness and compassion. Make us sensitive to those who need to hear your love from our mouths. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

By The Dalai Lama

Submitted by: Sue Boughton

Wednesday, March 21, 2018                                                                     

Prayer to Walk with God All Day Long

“Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths; guide me in Your truth
and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long.”   
Psalm 25:4 & 5

Father in Heaven,

Thank you for the promise and hope of Your word. Thank you that You can be counted on to guide me through my day. Today I need to walk in the hope that only You can give. My way is unclear, my path sometimes feels like it twists and turns in confusing and busy ways as I wind my way along my journey.

Show me Your ways, Lord. Show me how You would walk in these places. Teach me Your paths of grace and mercy and integrity and love. Help me to grasp Your ways so I can walk securely in them even in insecure places. I need Your perspective today.

Guide me in Your truth, Lord. Without Your Word active in my heart and mind I cannot know Your truth. Help me to make time to read my Bible. Help me to take time to think on it and let it penetrate my heart. Lord, Your Word will guide me as a beacon and a light. I need Your word to guide me. Forgive me when I have left it on the shelf or have simply grabbed a verse and run off for the day, quickly forgetting what I read.

Thank you that You promise to guide me and teach me as I let Your truth impact my heart and my mind.

Oh Lord, You are my Savior, my rescuer and my redeemer. You alone are the One who restores and renews my spirit and brings meaning to my life. You bless me. May my heart overflow with thanksgiving to You for Your hand in my life.

I will put my hope in you today, all day long. Remind me by Your Holy Spirit to look to You to guide me. Call me into Your quiet presence to think on Your truths and may I not be distracted. This is the oxygen of my soul. Thank you that You give the hope and help and peace I need today. Thank you that You never cease to call me to Yourself. Help me to respond afresh to Your presence in my life.

In Jesus’ strong name I pray, amen.

By Gail Rodgers

Submitted by: Leslie Sands

Thursday, March 22, 2018                                                                        

Faith Without Fanfare

Read Matthew 6:1-4

Jesus said, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”              Matthew 28:20 (KIV)

When I was a young girl, I thought God lived at our church.  Our family resided on Eton Way, and I believed that God made a home in a brown building on Crofton Parkway.  After all, that was the place where most people dressed well and acted with kindness and patience, as if God had an eye on them on Sunday mornings.

As I grew older, I learned that God is everywhere and actually resides within us if we invite the Lord into our hearts.  God is always with us and watches over us all the time

I remember being amazed when I became aware that God is sincerely interested in us every day, not only when we’re wearing our Sunday best.  God sees into our hearts and knows our innermost thoughts every day of the week.

God also smiles when we perform small acts of kindness behind the scenes, without expecting anything in return.  God approves of our selflessly helping an elderly neighbor carry her groceries, our generously feeding a stray cat every night, or silently praying for a stranger.  I’m glad to know that God’s presence IA not limited to one address or to one day of the week.

Prayer:  Dear God, help us to please you through our actions today.  Amen.

Written by Kay L. Campbell (Connecticut), from The Upper Room, February 2017

Submitted by: Jan Labas

Friday, March 23, 2018                                                                             

Let Your Light Shine

[Jesus said], You are the light of my world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid...
let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works
and give glory to your Father in heaven.
                                                               Matthew 5:14, 16

When I visited a firefly farm, the owners led my group down a pathway to the river in total darkness. Silently we got into a barge, and the boatman rowed downstream. As we floated past the bushes growing on the banks of the river, we were delighted to see clouds of fireflies lifting up into the darkness. They performed a pirouette and then resettled into the next bush. The fireflies repeated this display all the way down the river, brightening each area for a few seconds.

In today's reading, Jesus reminds us that, like those fireflies, we are called to let our light shine into the world and into the lives of others. When we encounter someone, who feels depressed or discouraged or who has lost hope, we have an opportunity to share the light of Christ's love.

Prayer:  God of light, filI us with your love so that we may brighten the way for those who stumble in darkness. Amen.

From: The Upper Room

Submitted by Sue Boughton

Saturday, March 24, 2018                                                                         

The Secret Place

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.                         1 Corinthians 3: 5-9

Miss Mildred, the Sunday church school teacher of my teen years, always held a special place in my heart. I never forgot her lessons, nor did I forget her own powerful example as a strong Christian woman. Recently, twenty-five years after I last saw her, we reconnected.

"I never knew if any of my students absorbed what I taught," Miss Mildred commented after I told her how I'd dedicated my life to Christ. "I remember some students looking out the window and others checking their watches, eager for dismissal time," she joked.

"But to hear about you and to know that at least one of the seeds I planted took root is truly my reward."

All too often we engage in ministry without ever knowing the end result. Like Miss Mildred, we may wonder if we were just wasting our time. But perhaps we are not meant to know. Rather, we are called to step out in faith and sow a seed. God will take care of the rest.

Prayer:  Faithful God, thank you for people who are faithful to your call. Amen.

By Monica A. Andermann, North Bellmore, NY

From Devotions for Daily Worship

Submitted by Jeanie Bergman

Sunday, March 25, 2018                                                    Palm Sunday

Texts:  Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
Mark 11:1-11

Sermon title:    “Wild Horses”
Rev. Bryn Smallwood-Garcia preaching at 8:30 & 10:30

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

1O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!
2Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”

19Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord.
20This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it.
21I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.
22The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
23This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
24This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

25Save us, we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!
26Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
27The Lord is God, and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.
28You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you.
29O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Mark 11:1-11

11When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” 4They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. 7Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields.9Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

“Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
10Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

11Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

Monday, March 26, 2018                                                                          

Jesus, The Restorer

God’s restoration is at hand. Come, walk in the way of God’s heart.

Restoration is the act of returning something to its original condition — making the old new and fixing the broken. Often when I think of restoration I think about fixing old buildings, restoring communities after disaster strikes or restoring broken friendships. I always picture someone with their tool belt and hard hat, hammering away, making something look beautiful again.

In fact, this is often how I imagine Jesus. God gave us Jesus, the great carpenter, to restore our hearts. Jesus isn’t scared of old, crumbling walls or rusty nails. He straps on his hard hat, grabs his chisel and gets right in the nitty gritty of things. Jesus sees the areas that are dangerous and in need of repair, points out the dry rot that our sins have eaten away at and breaks down the crumbling walls that we have been building our whole lives.

Sure, restoration can be painful at times, and it hurts to admit that you’re broken. Sometimes restoration creates detours and closed roads, but through that restoration, through that pain, we are renewed and refreshed. God fills the brokenness with love and hope. God’s heart aches when we are suffering or when we fall into sin. God is working tirelessly to restore our lives and bring us to our original pure form.

Don’t be afraid or discouraged when the “closed for thru traffic sign” goes up. Don’t give up hope; Jesus isn’t putting his hammer away. Praise God for the restoring hands of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Prayer:  God, we thank you for sending your son, Jesus, as the restorer of our lives. Let us follow His examples of love, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness to mend the brokenness in our lives.  Let us live with Him as our guiding light. Amen.

By Meredith Satchwell

Submitted by Marie Immohr

Tuesday, March 27, 2018                                                                          

God IS everywhere
The soul is like a hummingbird.
One day the hummingbird
must fly away.

Though it is gone,
we can still hear the flapping
of its wings and we know it is
still there,
guarding us.

Prayer:     Dear God, we know you are there guarding us in many shapes and forms, from hummingbirds to people and even "Flat Jesus."  Please help us to remember that our loved ones are always by our sides, whether here on Earth or in heaven.  Amen.

Poem was written by Sarah at age 13 for her Great Grandmother.

Submitted by Sue Boughton

Wednesday, March 28, 2018                                                                     

A Long and Winding Path

Read: Psalm 142

When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then You knew my path.                        Psalm 142:3

Sometimes the path of life seems impossibly steep and lengthy. I have no strength and no will for the journey. Then I remember God knew this path long before I was called to walk it. He has always known the difficulties I would experience, the pain that I could never explain to another. He knows and offers His presence.

Perhaps you are overwhelmed with sadness today. It may be the weight of a difficult ministry; the worry of a hard marriage; the sorrow of a struggling child; the care of an aging parent; other troubles that come with life. “Surely,” you say, “God would not have me walk this way. There must be another, easier path for me to travel.”

But are any of us wise enough to know that some other way would make us into better
and wiser children? No, our Father in heaven knows the best path, out of all possible
paths, to bring us to completion.
                                                                                  Psalm 142:3

His ways are higher than our ways; His thoughts higher than our thoughts.                 Isaiah 55:9

He can humbly take the path He has marked out for us today, and do so in absolute trust in His infinite wisdom and love. He is wiser and more loving than we can ever know. He who sees has foreseen and will not lead us astray.

Be still and know that He is God
For pathways steep and rough;
Not what He brings, but what He is
Will always be enough. Amen.

Note: God will never lead you down the wrong path.

By David Roper, from Our Daily Bread

Submitted by Jeanie Bergman

Thursday, March 29, 2018                                                                        

The Least of These

The righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you?”
The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did
for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me”

Matthew 25: 37-40

If you want to know who the vicar of Christ is, find a hurting human being in your neighborhood. Jesus is found where people are putting up with things they want to go away, trying to cope when everything is all wrong.  He is represented on earth by the wounded.  He is not among them as a visitor, not even as a comforting friend.  He is one of them; he is any or all of them.  Talk about transference of one’s identity; in his mind, Jesus becomes the human sufferer.

Jesus points to suffering people and says, “There I am.”  He says it because he feels it.  He feels their hurt and, in the sharing of pain, equates the sufferer with himself.  Jesus is your hurting neighbor.  He is the hurting child.  He is your hurting enemy.  He is anyone who is from anything not of his or her own choosing.  If you feel the hurt of any person who hurts, you are suffering with Jesus.

Prayer:  God, help me discern and respond to the hurt or needs of others and respond,
as Jesus would, through the power of his Spirit.

By Lewis B. Smedes, from Days of Grace Through the Year

Submitted by Marie Immohr

Friday, March 30, 2018                                                                             

The One Who Stands by Our Side

[Jesus said], “I will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.
...I will not leave you orphaned."
                                                                    John 14:16,18

According to John, after Jesus concludes his public ministry, he spends a considerable amount of time with his disciples preparing them for what lies ahead. As Jesus speaks of his death and resurrection, his disciples have a multitude of questions. They sound like the questions of children just before their parents go out the door. Where are you going? Do you have to go? Can't we go with you? When will you be back? Who will stay with us while you are away? They are plaintive questions, pressing and immediate.

Jesus responds that God "will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever... I will not leave you orphaned" (John 14:16,18). He is promising them the presence of the Holy Spirit. The word translated "Advocate" (sometimes translated, "Counselor," or "Comforter") means literally, "someone who is called to one's side." The Holy Spirit is the one who stands by the disciples even after Jesus departs. And the spirit is a constant and comforting presence for all those who follow Jesus, an advocate in times of trial, a counselor in perplexity. The presence of the Holy Spirit, so wonderfully manifest in Jesus, continues to stand by and work through those who continue to follow him after his death and resurrection. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit we have Jesus' continued presence at our side always.

Prayer:  Wonderful Counselor, beloved Comforter, I thank you that, even as I call you
to my side today, you are already there, granting me the continued presence
of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

By Martin B. Copenhaver

Submitted by: Holly Hackney

Saturday, March 31, 2018                                                                        

How We Heal

“Jesus went through all their towns proclaiming good news…and making people well.”

Matthew 9:35

The truth about human beings is that we’re broken.  The larger truth is that we heal. The even larger truth is that we heal each other. WE have the power, often by the simplest of acts, to help each other heal.

The gospels’ most vivid stories are about healing. We call them ‘miracles,’ and they are, but not just because the lame walk, the blind see, and the deaf hear.  It’s the way those things happen, so close, so human.  Jesus lifts people to their feet, applies salve to their eyes, touches their ears.

The miracle isn’t the healing. The miracle is that one person decides not to stand aloof from another person’s pain.  The wonder isn’t that people are healed, it‘s that they’re loved like that.  The greatest need we have is to be treated with care, treated like human beings, but because that’s so rare, when it happens it seems miraculous.

We say, ‘If you have your health, you have everything.’  That’s not true. Some people aren’t healthy, but they have something many healthy people would gladly trade for – people who pray for them, accompany them, don’t forget them; a circle of care. In such circles even people facing death may experience a kind of healing, even the dying find the blessing of life.

Jesus didn’t heal everyone, but he showed us the new kind of life that can be ours when we don’t retreat into one-person worlds.  And he gathered the church as a circle of care to give that life away, hand to hand, heart to heart. It’s how we heal – by the company we keep.

Prayer:     Encircle us with care, merciful Jesus, and make the church a healer, good company for the world. Amen.

By Mary Luti, from UCC God Is Still Speaking Daily Devotional, June,24, 2016

Submitted by: Leslie Sands, shared with me by Nancy Vodra

Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018                                                                    

Amen
 

And so Lent comes to its end,

Easter marks the completion,

And I pray, O most holy God,

For what is, in fact, a beginning;

Life new and renewing;

The impossible to be believed;

Joy that cannot be quenched;

And always,

Everywhere I look

Every place I turn,

Your endless love and grace.

Amen and amen!
 

Jesus is Life!!

19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy—was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” 20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

2 Corinthians 1:19-20

Easter is God’s dramatic “Yes!” to life. Let your prayers today, celebrate God’s gift of life, affirming God’s “Yes!” with your own “Amen!”

By Rachel G. Hackenberg, from Writing to God: 40 Days of Praying with My Pen

Submitted by: Leslie Sands

This page was last updated on 03/05/2018 10:32 AM.