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As a writer, needle artist and photographer, I invite you to share my pursuits with me on this site. Among other things, there is a weekly post called “D-mail” that examines the spiritual meaning in current stories, both personal and news events.  I invite your comments at  cathycongerblog@gmail.com

“The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium.”  N. Platt

The whole outdoors is a delicate green veil of new leaves, providing good hiding places for critters of every size and providing a feast for our winter-weary eyes. Blessings to you this week.  So begins this week’s edition of ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES, devotions from my writer friend, Sally Bair, who lives and writes in Washburn, WI on beautiful Lake Superior. Sally’s weekly online devotionals are always insightful. This week’s was so good that I asked her if I could share it with my D-mail readers. Thank you, Sally for your permission.

Keeping the Veil Open
by Sally Bair

I recently wrote about the curtain, or veil, of the temple being torn in half when Jesus died on the cross, allowing total access to God. No more blood sacrifices are required for our sins, since Jesus sacrificed His own blood on our behalf.
The veil has been opened. But sometimes we close our hearts to that fact. For instance, when we plan our day-and our future-without asking God what He wants us to do, we draw the veil closed. God tells us, “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man (nor in ourselves, I add), in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish.” (Psalm 146:3-4)

When we hurry into the day without feeding on God’s Word and communing with Him, we draw the veil closed. Psalm 37:5 says, “Commit your way to the Lord; Trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.” “Direct my steps by Your Word ….” (Psalm 119:133)

Refusing to believe that God can bring something good out of our terrible situation closes the veil over our heart. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

If we believe we don’t deserve God’s love or aren’t good enough to be accepted by Him, the veil closes. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Conversely, if we believe someone else doesn’t deserve God’s love and salvation, we’ve closed the veil. “Judge not, that you be not judged … why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:1, 3)

When we simmer and stew and take offense to what someone said to or about us, the veil closes. “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32)

 
Prayer: Lord, You’ve opened the veil so we can have fellowship with You. Help us to keep it open every day, regardless of our circumstances and feelings. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
p.s. Please pray this week for the victims of the many tornados that have ripped through our nation’s midsection. My daughter, who just moved to Bloomington, Indiana in Tornado Alley, says she’s never spent so much time examining the sky or listening for sirens as she has this spring. Take care all and remember to honor the men and women in our military this Memorial Day, as well as those veterans who gave their lives for our freedom. Fly the flag, thank a vet, and say a prayer.

Scripture: Proverbs 2:1-11

SPIRITUAL STICKY NOTES

When there are concerns in my life that just keep buzzing around in my mind or gnawing at my stomach, I will write them out as sticky note prayers and stick them on my bathroom mirror. Somehow just getting them out on paper seems to help me release them to God. When God has taken care of them, I take them down from the mirror. Occasionally, there are truths that I need to be reminded of, which become sticky notes on my mirror as well. Here are a few of them.

* Worry is borrowing trouble from tomorrow.

* Don’t let worries get the best of you; remember, Moses started out as a basket case.

* Anxiety is the space between now and then.

* Courage is fear that has said its prayers.

* Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.

* The will of God will never take you where the grace of God cannot keep you.

* Go look out a different window.

* Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional.

* Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain.

* Your best friend is the person who knows the song in your heart and sings it to you when you have forgotten the tune. Carol Kuykendahl

* Sometimes He calms the storm and sometimes He calms His child.

* Faith is living with invisible means of support.

* In the kingdom of hope there is no winter.

* It is no disgrace to move out of the path of an elephant.

* Stop telling God how big your storm is; instead tell your storm how big your God is!

* Don’t let someone live rent-free in your head. Forgive.

* For a child of God, prayer is kind of like calling home every day. Put His number on speed dial.

* Many folks want to serve God, but only as advisers.

* Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.

* If God is your do-pilot, you’d better swap seats!

* The extreme greatness of Christianity lies in the fact that it does not seek a supernatural remedy for suffering, but a supernatural use for it. Simon Weil

* God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but He shouts to us in our pain. C.S. Lewis
He who learns must suffer,
and even in our sleep,
pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop
upon the heart until,
in our own despair,
against our will, comes wisdom
through the awful grace of God.

by the poet Aeschylus
inscribed on Robert F. Kennedy’s tomb

Prayer
Father God, I thank you for the wisdom of Solomon, who wrote the Proverbs. I thank you for the wisdom of many today who have written truths I need to hear as well. Never stop speaking to me, O Lord! Amen

p.s. Remember, God always bats last!

Scripture: I Samuel 1:11, 17, I Samuel 2:21, I Kings 17:24, Joshua 2:12-13, Matthew 1:5, Ruth 1:16, Ruth 4:13-17, Luke 6:48

PRESSED DOWN, SHAKEN TOGETHER AND RUNNING OVER

If you were one of the 22 women who were with me in Milwaukee, Wisconsin last Saturday at the inner city mission, City on a Hill, you will recognize the devotion I am about to share. That morning Diane de Los Santos, the executive director of City on a Hill, spoke to our group about faith, sacrifice, and reward. Her message really spoke to me and I would like to share what I learned with you.

Have you been asking God for something really important for a long time? Have you been in such desperation or need that only God can hear your cries? The good news is that God does hear the cries of his children, especially when they are willing to do whatever it takes to receive his provision. There are many examples in the Bible of people in this very position, but let’s look at four women, Hannah, Ruth, Rahab, and the widow at Zarephath.

Hannah
A man named Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had given Elkanah many children, but Hannah was barren. In those days the status of a woman depended on how many children she could produce, so Hannah was feeling desperate. Each year Elkanah took his family to the temple to offer sacrifices to God. Peninnah and her children received a large portion of meat to sacrifice. Even though Hannah had no children, Elkanah loved her more and gave her a double portion of meat to sacrifice. As a result, Peninnah was jealous and provoked Hannah, generally making her life miserable. After years of this, Hannah fell before God, weeping bitterly, and made a vow. “O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life and no razor will ever touch his head.” I Samuel 1:11
In other words, Hannah promised God that if he would give her a son, she would give up the child to be raised at the temple and serve God there for life.

Eli, the priest, heard Hannah weeping and thought she was drunk. But when Hannah explained her plight to him, he replied, “Go in peace and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked.” I Samuel 1:17 Hannah’s faith was so firm that the Bible says she went her way and ate something and didn’t cry anymore. By the following year, Hannah had given birth to a son and named him Samuel. You would think that after all that, Samuel would be so precious to Hannah that she would want the boy with her always, but Hannah was true to her word and gave Samuel up for Eli to raise. Not only that, but she prayed a prayer of praise and thanksgiving to God (which takes ten verses to record!) God rewarded Hannah for her faith. I Samuel 2:21 says, “And the Lord was gracious to Hannah; she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters.” Hannah gave what she had to the Lord and He returned more to her than she could have ever imagined.

Widow at Zarephath
In the days of Elijah the prophet, there was a terrible famine. God told Elijah to go to the house of a widow in Zarephath who would feed him. The widow had a son and the two of them were starving to death. The day Elijah arrived, she was about to use the last drop of oil and last measure of flour she had to bake bread. She and her son would eat it and then wait to die. But Elijah came to her door and asked her for water and bread. She told him she had none for him and that she and her son were dying. But Elijah asked her again to make him some bread and then make some for herself and her son! Hadn’t she just explained to him that she only had enough for one loaf? Nevertheless this woman had faith. She obeyed Elijah, even though it meant she and her son would go hungry. . She gave away the little bit she had and God rewarded her faith. Not only was there enough to make a second and third portion for her family, but her flour and oil never ran out the entire duration of the famine! Some time later, the widow’s son, who would be her only means of support, became very sick and stopped breathing. Once more she put her faith in God. She went to Elijah for help and God raised her son back to life. She praised God saying, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is truth.” I Kings 17:24

Rahab
When the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land, Joshua sent spies to the walled city of Jericho to check on its defenses. (Joshua 2) There the spies hid out in the house of a prostitute named Rahab. However, the king of Jericho tracked the spies to Rahab’s house, which stood along the city wall, and demanded that she surrender them. Rahab told the king’s men that the spies had been there earlier but had escaped out the gate. She told the king to hurry after them. While the king’s men were out on that wild goose chase, Rahab sneaked the spies over the wall. Before they left, she begged for mercy, “Now then please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare all of us from death.” Joshua 2:12-13. The spies agreed. They told Rahab to gather her family inside her house and to hang a scarlet cord on her door, which would be the sign to spare all under that roof. Rahab was a prostitute, a woman of the lowest class, and an enemy of Israel, yet she was willing to stick her neck out for the Israelites. Not only did God reward her by saving her household, but if you read Matthew 1:5, you will find Rahab one of only two women listed in the geneology of Jesus Christ, an honor we still read about today.

Ruth
The other woman listed in Christ’s geneology was Ruth, the Moabite. Neither Rahab nor Ruth were even Israelites! Israel and Moab were in the midst of a long, bloody war when famine gripped the land of Israel. Elimelech, his wife, Naomi, and their two sons, left the famine in Bethlehem to live across the border in Moab. There the two sons married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. In the next ten years, Elimelech and his sons were killed in battle, leaving the three women widows. Naomi decided the only way to survive was to return to her home near Bethlehem so her relatives could support her. However, Orpah and Ruth, as foreigners, would be outcasts in Israel. Naomi encouraged her daughters-in-law to go back to their families in Moab. Orpah decided to go, but Ruth chose to take her chances in Israel because she was so devoted to Naomi. ” Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go, I will go and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” Ruth 1:16
It took a great deal of courage, faith, and devotion for Ruth to cast her lot in with Naomi. Ruth gave up everything and God rewarded her faith. Following Naomi’s instructions, Ruth eventually caught the eye of a wealthy kinsman of Naomi’s named Boaz. Boaz purchased Naomi’s family land and with it, Ruth. Boaz fell in love with Ruth and married her, despite the fact that she was a Moabite. The Bible tells us the happy ending, “…the Lord enabled her to conceive and she gave birth to a son. The women said to Naomi: Praise be to the Lord who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel!…for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth…and they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.” Ruth 4:13-17
So God honored Ruth for her faith so that she, a Moabite, became the great grandmother of Israel’s greatest king.

There are many, many other stories in the Bible of those who lost or gave to God everything they had (which in most cases was very little) , people like Job and these four women. Because of their faith, God returned to them more than they ever had in the first place.
Jesus said,
“Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38
We hang on so tightly to what we have, when God is willing to give us much more if we trust him.

Prayer
Lord I am so blessed. I am wealthy in every way. Yet I forget that everything I have you have given. Help me to trust you for what I need tomorrow by letting go of what I have today. Thank you for your generous, abundant love. Amen

Presidential Proclamation–National Day of Prayer

 Washington, DC (MMD Newswire) May 2, 2011 — Throughout our history, Americans have turned to prayer for strength, inspiration, and solidarity.

Prayer has played an important role in the American story and in shaping our Nation’s leaders. President Abraham Lincoln once said, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for the day.” The late Coretta Scott King recounted a particularly difficult night, during the Montgomery bus boycott, when her husband, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., received a threatening phone call and prayed at the kitchen table, saying, “Lord, I have nothing left. I have nothing left. I have come to the point where I can’t face it alone.” Dr. King said, in that moment of prayer, he was filled with a sense of comfort and resolve, which his wife credited as a turning point in the civil rights movement.

It is thus fitting that, from the earliest years of our country’s history, Congress and Presidents have set aside days to recognize the role prayer has played in so many definitive moments in our history. On this National Day of Prayer, let us follow the example of President Lincoln and Dr. King. Let us be thankful for the liberty that allows people of all faiths to worship or not worship according to the dictates of their conscience, and let us be thankful for the many other freedoms and blessings that we often take for granted.

Let us pray for the men and women of our Armed Forces and the many selfless sacrifices they and their families make on behalf of our Nation. Let us pray for the police officers, firefighters, and other first responders who put themselves in harm’s way every day to protect their fellow citizens. And let us ask God for the sustenance and guidance for all of us to meet the great challenges we face as a Nation.

Let us remember in our thoughts and prayers those who have been affected by natural disasters at home and abroad in recent months, as well as those working tirelessly to render assistance. And, at a time when many around the world face uncertainty and unrest, but also hold resurgent hope for freedom and justice, let our prayers be with men and women everywhere who seek peace, human dignity, and the same rights we treasure here in America.

The Congress, by Public Law 100-307, as amended, has called on the President to issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a “National Day of Prayer.”

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 5, 2011, as a National Day of Prayer. I invite all citizens of our Nation, as their own faith or conscience directs them, to join me in giving thanks for the many blessings we enjoy, and I ask all people of faith to join me in asking God for guidance, mercy, and protection for our Nation.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.

BARACK OBAMA


Scripture: Luke 16:15, Luke 16:10, Luke 6: 43-45

THE SEED

 

Benjamin Hartman, the CEO and owner of a successful business, was nearing retirement and decided it was time to choose a successor to take over the business. He felt that none of his children were interested nor capable of taking over the helm. His board of directors were all aging themselves, so he decided to do something different. He called all of the company’s young executives into his office.

After they were all seated around the board table, Hartman began. “It is time for me to step down and choose the next CEO. I have decided to choose one of you. “The young executives were shocked to say the least, but the boss continued. “I am going to give each one of you a seed today - one very special seed. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from the seed I have given you. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one whose plant I choose will be the next CEO.” The executives were afraid the old man had lost his faculties, but none of them wanted to lose out on the opportunity so each took their seed.

One of the up and coming executives, Jim Fields, received a seed like his colleagues. He went home and excitedly told his wife the story. Even though she thought it was a strange way to do business, she helped him get a pot, soil and compost and he planted the seed. Everyday, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. After a few weeks, some of the other executives began to talk about how their plants were beginning to grow. Jim kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing. By now, others were talking about how big their plants were growing, but Jim’s seed had produced nothing. He felt like a failure.

Six months went by — still nothing in Jim’s pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. But Jim didn’t say anything to his colleagues. He just kept watering and fertilizing the soil. He so wanted his seed to grow.

The year finally passed and all the young executives prepared to bring their plants to the board room for Mr. Hartman to inspect. Jim told his wife that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot. “No, take it,” she said. “You have given this plant every bit as much TLC as any of the other men and it just didn’t grow. Who knows? Maybe it was just a bad seed. It’s always best to be honest.” Jim felt sick to his stomach as he carried his empty pot into the building. It was going to be the worst day of his life. When Jim arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other executives. They were beautiful — in all shapes and sizes. Jim put his empty pot on the floor. Some of his colleagues laughed. “Hey man. What’s with the empty pot? No green thumb?” Others felt sorry for him, shaking their heads as they patted him on the shoulder. “Oh well,” Jim thought. “As much as I’d love a shot at the CEO position, at least I can say I lost it fair and square.”

When Mr. Hartman arrived and surveyed the table, Jim hung back behind all the others. “Well gentlemen, today is the big day. I must compliment you on all the great plants, trees and flowers you have grown,” said the CEO. “I know you’ve been wondering all year what growing plants has to do with becoming CEO of this company. Today you’re going to find out. Today one of you will be appointed the next CEO.”

Jim’s heart sank as he wished he could disappear into the floor. Suddenly, the CEO spotted Jim at the back of the room with his empty pot. He asked the director of finance to bring him to the front. Jim was mortified and nervous. “This is it,” he thought. “He’s going to make an example of me and then fire me in front of everyone.”

When Jim got to the front, he set his plantless pot on the table. “Mr. Fields, what happened to your seed?” Hartman asked him. So Jim told him the story. “…and so, sir, I decided that it was best for me to just be honest with you,” Jim finished.

Mr. Hartman asked everyone to sit down except Jim. He looked at Jim, and then announced to the executives, “I’d like to introduce you to your next Chief Executive Officer, Jim Fields !” Jim couldn’t believe it. But Mr. Hartman,” Jim said. “I couldn’t even get my seed to germinate, much less grow into anything! How could I be the new CEO?” The others murmered in agreement.

“Let me explain,” said Hartman, “Gentlemen. One year ago today I gave everyone in this room a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. What you didn’t know was that I gave you all boiled seeds; they were dead - it was not possible for them to grow. All of you, except Mr. Fields here, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that your seed would’nt grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Fields was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new Chief Executive Officer. He is the only one with the integrity to lead this company.”

Someone once said that integrity is what you are when no one is looking. Honesty will not always earn you a place in this world, but it will help get you a place in the next.   Jesus said, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with very much and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. Luke 16:10
Jesus said to the Pharisees,
“You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts.”
Luke 16: 15
Jesus also said,
“No good tree bears bad fruit, not does a bad tree bear good fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briars. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.” Luke 6: 43-45

Prayer: Lord, lead us not into temptation. Deliver us from temptation to ruin our integrity for gain, no matter how small it may seem at the time. Help us to be honest in all our dealings. Amen