Friday, June 1

How precious to me are your thoughts, 0 God! How vast is the sum of them! If l would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you. -Psalm 139:17-18 (ESV)

A water bottle filled with sand sits on the windowsill beside my desk. I’ve never been one to collect sand from the beach. That was my sister, Maria, and the bottle is filled with sand from our last vacation together in Wellfleet, Massachusetts.

A few weeks after Maria died in her sleep, I was helping my brother- in-law clean up their yard and there it was, under a tarp in a pile of things from the vacation-a bottle of sand from my sister’s favorite beach; her way of bringing paradise home.

I held the bottle in my hands, picturing Maria sitting comfortably on her towel with a big straw beach hat on, funneling the sand, handful by handful, into the bottle. “Okay if I have this?” I asked. Mafia’s

daughter nodded.

The bottle of sand has been on my windowsill ever since. Sometimes it reminds me of the soap opera my mom has watched almost every day since I was a kid-“Like sands through the hourglass” begins the show.

After Maria died, Mom stopped watching TV for a while. The day I went onto Mom’s porch to borrow something and the show’s song echoed out of the open window, it made me feel better. Maybe the grief over Maria’s unexpected death had shifted just enough that Mom wanted to feel back to normal, whatever normal had become.

But, mostly, the sand in the bottle is a message from heaven, a reminder for me to take the time to take it all in. Everything-a-the green grass, the sound of birds singing, even the grief. Take in amazing moment of life.

Heavenly Father, help me be mindful. Guide me to see Your infinite blessings in sand and stone.

-Sabra Ciancanelli

Digging Deeper: Deuteronomy 2:7; Romans 15:29




The Vice Presidency is:

* a steppingstone… to oblivion. -Theodore Roosevelt-

* a spare tire on the automobile of government. -John Nance Garner-

* not such a bad job. All inside work… no heavy lifting. -Walter Mondale-

* sort of like the last cookie on the plate. Everyone insists he won’t take it, but somebody always does. -Bill Vaughn-


Aren’t two sparrows sold for a small coin? But not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father knowing about it already, -Matthew 10:29 (CEB)

Several years, ago. my husband, Don, and grandson Caleb built a rock fountain in our yard, The water flows down slabs of rock a small pool surrounded by a low, horseshoe-shaped wall. Don put a bird feeder nearby, and we keep a couple of bird books and binoculars handy to identify the many types of birds who come to eat, drink, and bathe.

The birds behave in very different ways. This spring we have six fat robins who take turns splashing in the pool. The redwing blackbirds, grackles, and cowbirds drink but aren’t fond of being wet. Our pair of

house wrens perches on a rock and takes dainty sips. A fat chucker, no doubt an escapee from a local game bird farm, spent three days walking around the yard, occasionally hunkering down to rest inside the brick wall. An injured cardinal sheltered in the small space between the wall

and the running water. We have juncos, messy and raucous doves, and

an occasional squawking blue jay.

The birds I love most, though, are the house sparrows. There are dozens of them; small and plain, indistinguishable from one another in their drab gray and brown dress. They come many times a day for food and water, flocking in and flying out in seemingly random patterns. Their lifespan is short; we often find their bodies under the trees. But these sparrows have value in God’s sight and in mine. Daily, they

remind me of a God Whose love and care for the tiniest of creatures encompasses life and death, and Whose love and care for me is infinite, compassionate, and far beyond my understanding.

Loving God, let me learn from the birds to rest and to trust in You. Amen.

-Penney Schwab


Digging Deeper: Matthew 6:25-27, 10:30-31



What to do in the choir.

After all those long hard choir rehearsals, you show up twenty minutes late for the Christmas musical. You should:

  1. Climb into the back row of the choir from the baptistery.
  2. Enter pretending to be a soundman checking cables and then suddenly slip yourself into the choir.
  3. Turn the lights out in the church and slip into the choir during the blackout.
  4. Read M. Stephen’s pamphlet “Techniques for Tardy Appearances.”


While singing, you discover you have only one page of a two page hymn. You should:

  1. Hum for your life.
  2. Sing “watermelon, watermelon, watermelon.”
  3. Try to get another hymnal out of the choir rack with your feet.
  4. Sing the first page over again.



“Son,” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the sheep for the holocaust:” Then the two continued going forward. -Genesis 22:8 (NAB)

I sat on my bed, cradling the telephone in my lap. I had until 5:00 p.m. to call New York University and accept their offer to enter a graduate degree program in the fall. I was hoping to have the twenty-five-

thousand-dollar annual tuition waived by working as a graduate assistant to one of the professors there, but that job went to another student. I needed to decide whether I wanted this master’s degree enough to pay for it myself, through loans.

I called my parents. My dad answered. I asked him what he thought.

He paused. I knew, on the other end, he was thinking, breathing, praying, maybe, weighing his words.

“That’s an awful lot of debt for you to be having to payoff, sweetie,” he told me gently. He didn’t say anything more.

“I know, Dad,” I said. Now it was my turn to be silent.

When I found my words, I told him, “I’m going to turn them down.”

I hung up the telephone and cried. A cherished dream was coming to all end. But behind the deep disappointment was a strange lightness in my heart. It was like glimpsing a patch of blue sky behind the dark clouds of a fast-moving thunderstorm. I felt a freedom in obedience, in conforming myself to the reality of my life as it was.

Resolved in my decision, I reached purposefully for the telephone. It rang before I could pick up the receiver.

It was a university secretary, calling to offer me the graduate-assistant position and a tuition-free education at NYU. The other student had decided not to return to school and had declined the job offer.

“Yes,” I said. “Yes!” My heart nearly burst, so surprised was I by the movement from anxiety to despair to acceptance, and then, miraculously; to joy.

God, l offer You my will today. I trust You to help me to continue moving forward. -Amy Eddings

Digging Deeper: Genesis 22:16-18; Psalm 40:8; Romans 12:1-2


5th and 6th grade responses to science questions on tests:

* Momentum is something you give a person when they go away.

* A monsoon is a French gentleman.

* The word “trousers” is an uncommon noun because it is singular at the top and plural at the bottom.

* To keep milk from turning sour, keep it in the cow.

* When planets run around and around in circles, we say they are orbiting. When people do it, we say they are crazy.

* For asphyxiation, apply artificial respiration until the patient is dead.

* Thunder is a rich source of loudness.

* One of the main causes of dust is janitors.


Let us rejoice today and be glad. -Psalm 118:24 (NIV)

It’s unseasonably cool this week. The heat’s turned off in my building, and I’m wearing a hoodie that’s hiding several long-sleeve layers.

Even my thoughts are chilled-focused on discomforts of my childhood in the northern dimes, like walking a wintry mile to school, or sleeping in a bedroom upstairs with no heat. From the window, I scope the overcast morning sky for a glint of hope.

The phone rings, interrupting my negative thoughts. It’s my friend Sandra. “If you want to come over, the rhubarb is ready to pick. And I want you to have the first batch.”

“Oh, great! Thank you! I’ll be there within the hour.” Just hearing the word rhubarb pushes my mind off its icy block. Driving a few miles north, I fondly remember my dad and me as a teen walking into a nearby field to harvest an abandoned rhubarb patch, every spring producing all our family could ever eat and more. Rhubarb pies, cakes, sauces galore!

Now back home, I wash and cut the stalks and then reach for a well-worn cookbook. How much sugar do I add to sweeten the sour gift, so full of promise?

With anticipation, I turn on the oven. Its supplemental heat warms my apartment. I bake a rhubarb pie. Its memorable tang turns my heart’s weather around.

Lord, when negative memories complicate difficult days, help me to reach further; dig deeper; to find a positive grace.

-Evelyn Bence

Digging Deeper: Psalm 85:4,6-13




5th and 6th grade responses to science questions on tests:

* There are 26 vitamins in all, but some of the letters are yet to be discovered.

* Genetics explains why you look like your father, and if you don’t, why you should.

* Vacuums are nothings. We only mention them to let them know we know they’re there.

* The cause of perfume disappearing is evaporation. Evaporation gets blamed for a lot of things people forget to put the top on.

* Water vapor gets together in a cloud. When it is big enough to be called a drop, it does.

* Mushrooms always grow in damp places, which is why they look like umbrellas.






But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. -Romans 5:8 (NIV)

It was the weekend we’d been waiting for: open-the-pool day,

Lonny and the boys worked various chores involving hoses and chemicals and a two-man struggle with the thick winter tarp, Our pool was small, just enough for a good game of volleyball or Shark, but the

excitement was big. The morning pulsed with summer.

But before the fun, we gathered, as we do each Memorial Day, and walked toward the Mississippi River. We went down two blocks, past a barge, along the road until the bank was thick with spring-green grass.

We walked until we reached neat rows of knee-high white crosses, slender and shining in the sun-a memorial to fallen soldiers.

Our village is small, but it’s lost quite a few sons, Some served in World War I. Several were buried at sea, One was a POW. There are also crosses representing soldiers who served in World War II, Korea,

and Vietnam. We stood silent and read each name.

The river flowed in solemn cadence. I thought of parents and spouses and their children and those who fought but didn’t come home. I didn’t know these families, but I know love. My heart ached for their giving that offered everything.

After a few moments, we headed home. Seven-year-old Isaiah’s hand slipped into mine as we climbed the hill toward the first day of summer, toward the pool and a picnic and family and friends, and toward

our long-awaited day;

Thank You, Lord, for sacrifice that saved us. Amen.

-Shawnelle Eliasen


Digging Deeper: John 15:13




“We pass this way but once,” we have heard it said. But my wife has learned that, unless I’ve studied a map, that isn’t necessarily true.

So I understand the fix a local hunting guide got himself into. His party became hopelessly lost in the mountains and they blamed him for leading them astray. “You told us you were the best guide in Colorado!” they asserted.

“I am,” he said, “but I think we’re in Wyoming now.”


Bob: My wife drives like lightning.

Ted: She drives fast?

Bob: No, she hits trees!


“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. “-Matthew 5:16 (NIV)

I sat with the birthday boy and his friends on the grass in Central Park, singing songs with my guitar. I’d begun a small entertainment business, singing and face painting at children’s parties.

I connected with my group of kids, talking with them, looking them with a smile as I sang each song. One little girl, however, was particularly fixated on me. Her dark curls framed big brown eyes. I responded with lots of eye contact for each song.

“Okay, guys,” I said after my last one, “I’m going to set up my face paints now, so start thinking about what you’d like me to paint.”

I prepared my brushes and paints, and one by one the children came to be transformed into pirates, tigers, princesses, and puppy dogs. The little girl sat down last. Her parents stood by her, looking a bit hesitant.

“What do you want me to paint?” I asked her.

“A butterfly,” she said shyly.

 I dabbed my brush in light green paint, and began to create her butterfly.

“I can’t believe she’s letting you do this,” her mom said in surprise.

“She’s on the autism spectrum and has sensory issues,” her father clarified. “She never lets anyone touch her face.”

My heart swelled as I continued to paint; each tiny stroke felt enormous. When she looked in the mirror, her big eyes sparkled with delight.

Lord, I love how ‘You use small things to show Your greatness.

Thank You for the privilege of being Your hands and feet as You work in the lives of others.

-Karen Valentin

Digging Deeper: Matthew 25:40




A little boy watched, fascinated, as his mother gently rubbed cold cream on her face.

“Why are you rubbing cold cream on you face, mommy?” he asked.

“To make myself beautiful,” said his mother.

A few minutes later, she began removing the cream with a tissue.

“What’s the matter?” he asked. “Are you giving up?”


While I was employed by a private corporation and assigned to the space-shuttle program, my job included ordering supplies. One of the engineers asked me to get a new dictionary for him. The request form said, “State reason this item is needed,” so I asked him why he wanted one.

I expected his answer would be “My old copy is lost” or “The cover is falling off.” Instead he replied, “My edition defines spaceship as an ‘imaginary aircraft.'” He got his new dictionary.


The birds brought Elijah bread and meat every morning and every evening. And he drank water from the brook. Kings 17:6 (ICB)

I was still early in the day, but I was sprawled on my couch in the dark, every drape drawn, curtain closed, and eyelid securely shut.

Mentally, I was blowing up balloons for my pity party …. “There’s a tear in your cornea,” the nurse at the Minute Clinic had explained. “Your contact lens was probably too dry and scratched your eye.”

My eye throbbed as tears streamed from beneath my closed lid. To top it off, I now had a migraine. But despite being nauseated and in pain, all I could think of was a Five Guys burger. The more I thought about it, the hungrier I felt. The restaurant was only a seven-minute walk from my apartment. But in my vampirish state, that was seven minutes too long.

That’s when my phone buzzed. The text read, “Want to join me and Lila’s friends for lunch?” Now I was even more upset! I’d have to miss out on food and fun with my friend Tami and her daughter. I texted

back, explaining I was homebound. I started to text, “Could you please pick me up a burger … “ but I felt too needy, like too much of an inconvenience. I deleted it.

“Can I pick up something for you?” Tami texted right back. That’s how I wound up popping all of my pity party balloons and enjoying a burger with a smile on my face-in the dark. I don’t know why I continue to be surprised when God uses my friends to meet my needs in delightful ways.

Dear Lord, I wouldn’t hesitate to help a friend in need, but so often I’m hesitant to ask friends to help me.


Teach me how to receive as well as to give.

-Vicki Kuyper

Digging Deeper: 1 Kings 17:7-16




One of the world’s greatest scientists was also recognized as the original absent-minded professor. One day, on board a train, he was unable to find his ticket. The conductor said, “Take it easy. You’ll find it.”

When the conductor returned, the professor still couldn’t find the ticket. The conductor, recognizing the famous scientist, said, “I’m sure you bought a ticket. Forget about it.”

“You’re very kind,” the professor said, “but I must find it. Otherwise, I won’t know where to get off.”


I have five siblings, three sisters and two brothers. One night I was chatting with my mom about how she had changed as a mother from the first child to the last. She told me she had mellowed a lot over the years:

“When your oldest sister coughed or sneezed, I called the ambulance. When your youngest brother swallowed a dime, I just told him it was coming out of his allowance.”


“Peace I leave with you; my peace J give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you.” -John 14:27 (NAS)

Wayne and I had several meetings set up with our attorney for estate planning. We wanted to protect our assets as much as possible for our heirs’ sakes. I lost count of the hours we spent reviewing every detail in order to properly take care of our children and grandchildren.

After one lengthy session we returned home, mentally and exhausted. Wayne commented that he wished it wasn’t so complicated.

That got me to thinking. Did Jesus leave a will? Then I read the fourteenth chapter of John and realized that He did. He willed His body to Joseph of Arimathea, He willed His mother to John and from Cross He willed His Spirit back to His Father. But to His disciples His followers, He said, “My peace I give to you.”

His peace. As He was nailed to that Cross His thoughts were on those He loved. While dying He took care of all that was necessary to pave the way to eternal life for me and for you. Amazing, isn’t it? What a legacy. He laid down His life for us and then rose from the dead execute His own will.

The next time Wayne and I met with our attorney, I felt calmed by the gift of peace that Jesus has left with me.

Lord, how fortunate we are to have a Savior Whose thoughts were on us as You went to the Cross. May my thoughts turn to You in every aspect of my life.

-Debbie Macomber


Digging Deeper: Isaiah 26:3; Philippians 4:6-7




A DEA officer stops at a ranch in Montana and talks with an old rancher.

He tells the rancher, “I need to inspect your ranch for illegally grown drugs.”

The old rancher says, “Okay, but do not go in that field over there,” as he points out the location.

The DEA officer verbally explodes, saying, “Mister, I have the authority of the federal government with me.” Reaching into his rear pants pocket, he removes his badge and proudly displays it to the farmer. “See this badge? This badge means I am allowed to go wherever I wish, on any land. No questions asked or answers given. Have I made myself clear? Do you understand?”

The old rancher nods politely, apologizes, and goes about his chores.

A short time later, the old rancher hears loud screams and sees the DEA officer running for his life, chased close behind by the rancher’s prize bull. With every step, the bull is gaining ground on the officer, and it seems likely that he’ll get “horned” before he reaches safety. The officer is clearly terrified.

The old rancher throws down his tools, runs to the fence, and yells at the top of his lungs, “Your badge! Show him your badge!”


THE BEAUTY OF SIMPLICITY: Spiritual Glue for Marriage what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, to walk humbly with your God. -Micah 6:8 (NAS)

Every morning my husband, Rick, and I sit on the front porch. Nothing fancy. We drink coffee, talk, and pray. One bitter-cold day we were in our rocking chairs at dawn. In the quiet stillness, my  words asked me a startling question. “Would you still love me if I couldn’t fix things?”

We’d been married for almost forty years-the same length of time he’d owned an auto repair business-and it sounded like he needed my reassurance. But he’d always appeared confident. He was my rock.

What I had to say felt so intimate that my heart grew full. “I’m sorry. I should’ve told you this a long time ago. I admire you. You serve people behind the scenes without caring if you receive recognition. Yesterday, you were at church at 5:00 am. to help set up. After the service, you helped tear down. After you finished, you fixed Jamie’s leaky roof”

He sipped his coffee and looked out into the darkness. “It’s no big deal.”

“Yes, it is. You have the gift of service. You’re a mechanical genius.

And you’re generous. What you do matters. The other day you stopped to help an elderly woman having car trouble. Last night at Mother’s house, you put her broken lamp back together.”

“I’m just doing the right thing,” he said.

I knelt in front of him. “When you’ll fix broken things, you’re helping to mend broken people.” Putting my arms inside his warm coat, I hugged him. “And, yes, even if you couldn’t fix things, I’d still love you.”

Father; no matter how long we’re married, simple kindness holds us together.

-Julie Gannon


Digging Deeper: Proverbs 3:3; Galatians 5:22



A young woman wasn’t feeling well, so she asked one her colleagues to recommend a physician.

“I know a great one in the city, but he is very expensive: five hundred dollars for the first visit, and one hundred dollars for each one after that.”

The woman went to the doctor’s office and, trying to save a little money, cheerily announced, “I’m back!” thinking she could save the $500, and pay $100.

Not fooled for a second, the doctor quickly examined her and said, “Very good. Just continue the treatment I prescribed on your last visit.” That will be $100.


Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. -Proverbs 27:1 (NIV)

Hi. My name is Marilyn, and I’m a procrastinator.

People think I get a lot of things done. But they don’t know how much time I waste and how much more I could accomplish if I was more disciplined.

Take exercising, for example. Every day, I plan to go for a walk. But each day, I find reasons to postpone the exercise. I tell myself I’ll do it after I drink my coffee, read my devotion, check my e-mail, or do the

laundry. Then it’s lunchtime, and I’m hungry. Besides, it’s too hot, too cold, too something or other now. Tomorrow I’ll start out earlier, but the scenario repeats itself.

When I heard about Carol, though, my attitude changed. She’s been in our church choir for years, even directing it at times. But since her surgery, she hasn’t returned. She hasn’t been able to regain her strength and the medications she’s on only make her weaker. Before the she power walked the trails in the woods near her house, but now can barely get from one room to another.

The next time I had the urge to walk, the old excuses started to pop up again. But I decided to walk for Carol, praying for her healing as I did, no matter the temperature outside or what else I could be doing

Today I have the strength to walk, and I can show my gratitude by taking those extra steps.

Thank You, God, for giving me good health today.

Help me to take advantage of it while I can.

-Marilyn Turk

Digging Deeper: James 4:13-16




After a worship service, a mother with a fidgety seven-year-old told me how she finally got her son quiet. About halfway through the sermon, she leaned over and whispered, “If you’re not quiet, Pastor Chariton is going to lose his place and will have to start all over again.” ..


Jemima was taking an afternoon nap on New Year’s Eve before the festivities. After she woke up, she confided to Max, her husband, “I just dreamed that you gave me a diamond ring for a New Year’s present. What do you think it all means?”

“Aha, you’ll know tonight,” answered Max smiling broadly.

At midnight, as the New Year was chiming, Max approached Jemima and handed her small package. Delighted and excited, she opened it quickly. There in her hand rested a book titled: The Meaning of Dreams.


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