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Lenten Daily Devotionals for March 27 - April 2

Sunday, March 27
The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)

Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

Monday, March 28
“Lost and Found In My Family Tree” by Alice Goetzinger McCain

Family has always been important to me. Since I began doing genealogy after retirement the concept of Family has expanded to include finding “lost” ancestors I never met, sometimes many generations past. I want to find their names, locations and dates, and learn more about their lives. In a way, I want to flesh out the “bones” of dry statistics with “flesh and blood” of real people. I’ve learned that Lutheranism has had a powerful influence on my family over many years, and Lutheran church records have helped me track down many ancestors.

On my mother’s side I am Norwegian.  My maternal great grandparents, Cornelius and Pauline Skillingstad, came from Norway and homesteaded in South Dakota in the late 1800s. Great Grandma Skillingstad’s 1947 obituary spoke of Cornelius, a farmer, who died while on a mission trip to Nebraska. Pauline was said to be a faithful Bible reader and church attender even after she lost her hearing due to old age.

My father’s family had roots in Germany and Luxembourg, coming to the United States in the mid-1800s. 

One family in particular, second great grandparents the Schlichtings, found solace and support in the German-speaking St. John’s Lutheran Church of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. I know more about this family from records kept at St. John’s. Further online research, taken from German church archives, revealed that Schlichtings had deep roots in the “Evangelische”/Lutheran church in Prussia-an area that is now part of Poland.

Finding my Flug ancestors proved to be more difficult. Great-great Grandfather Johann Wilhelm Flug was born in Biersdorf, Westerwald, Germany in 1819 and emigrated to the United States in 1853, eventually settling in St. Paul, MN.

In October 2021 Bruce and I traveled by train and bus in Germany for two weeks; part of this trip was a “roots tour” to learn more about the Flug side of the family. Again, Lutheran church records came to the rescue.

The iron mining town of Biersdorf was elusive-not even on our Michelin map of Germany. After one trip to a different Biersdorf, we found the correct one. And guess what? In the Evangelische Kirchengemeinde-Daaden church office, in the small town next to Biersdorf, there were records going back to the 1700’s for this Flug line of my family. I am forever grateful for the kind help I received from the church administrator, Dagmar, who welcomed me and brought out books with church records from 1673 to 1900 for me to explore. 

A one-day Sunday trip to beautiful Wittenberg, “Lutherstadt,” reinforced my pride in being a Lutheran. Bruce and I visited sites where Martin Luther lived, worked and raised a family. In addition to our visit to St. Mary’s Church, where Luther preached, and the home he shared with Katie and their six children, I was surprised to find an office for the ELCA on the main street of town!

I will always be grateful for Lutheran church records that helped me find lost relatives. But mostly I am grateful that my Lutheran roots and upbringing have “found” me, giving me faith in a grace-filled God who loved us enough to send God’s Son to earth, bringing God’s kingdom/kin-dom into our lives every day. Thanks be to God!

Tuesday, March 29
“The Bethany Lost and Found Box” by Pastor Paul

The lost and found box at Bethany is an interesting study. Coffee mugs, umbrellas, eyeglass cases, and the occasional key chain all are among the items inhabiting that depository of the lost. Frequently, people inquire about the lost & found box, hoping that their misplaced object might be there, having been turned in by someone who had found it but not its owner.

The lost & found box is indeed a place of the lost, but also a place of hope, of inquiry, a place of reunion and reconnection. And then, as we hear the refrain of the lost narratives of Scripture, there is joy – “Rejoice with me.”

Perhaps the lost & found box is an apt image, a metaphor of the church gathered. Each week we congregate as gifted, beloved, faithful people, and we do so bearing our losses. It is here as well that we come to understand, to learn anew, that we are foundlings. God comes to us in the waters of baptism, in the bread and wine, in our prayers and in the Word. God comes to us in Jesus, and we find that we are found, reunited with a God who has never left us. And the refrain is clear: “Rejoice with me.”

Wednesday, March 30
Lost Sibling, Part 2 (Genesis 37:19-24; 28; 45:1-5; 14-15)

They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.

 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.

Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.

Thursday, March 31
“Kirk and the State Patrolman” by Benay Nordby

Kirk was gone! My 3-year-old son. My baby. My boy.  He was right there in the coffee shop, as I talked with friends in the Olympia capitol building. I shrieked! Anyone? Huge building. Cavernous basement halls. State Patrol is in charge. They are summoned. I go to search. I beg the front doorman. A curt reply: “The door is too big, he couldn’t open it.” Thanks. Hope. My chest aches. Panic rises. I push it down. 

I fly through the halls, turning left, turning left, turning left. Ten minutes have passed.

Twenty. If he were taken, he could be in Centralia by now. Gone. 

But outside on the broad front steps, sits Kirk, alone. Being curious, he has followed a classroom of young students out the front door. Someone is watching. A tall Washington State Patrolman leans down and asks, “Are you Kirk?” Taking his tiny hand, he leads him into the patrol office. I am alerted and race in to find my son decked out with Buckle Up badges, candy, and a few coins the guys have given him. Kirk is sitting on a desk, smiling with the patrolmen who found him, a photographer catching the happy moment for their newsletter. Kirk is oblivious to the worry he has caused and I try gently, with all eyes on me, to remind him in a kind but firm voice, “Don’t ever do that again.”  

This scary moment in the sweet and challenging years of raising children makes me think of our Lord who waits and watches as we get lost within the many things that lead us astray. And like Kirk and the State Patrolman, when we sit and be still and wait, Jesus takes us by the hand and leads us home.  I’m reminded of the verse we sing in The King of Love My Shepherd Is: 

       Perverse and foolish, oft I strayed,

       And yet in love he sought me.

       And on his shoulder gently laid,

       And home, rejoicing, brought me.

Friday, April 1
“Our Father, We Have Wandered” Text by Kevin Nichols, 1929-2006

Our Father, we have wandered and hidden from your face; in foolishness have squandered your legacy of grace. But now, in exile dwelling, we rise with fear and shame, as, distant but compelling, we hear you call our name.

And now at length discerning the evil that we do, behold us, Lord, returning with hope and trust to you. In haste you come to meet us and home rejoicing bring, in gladness there to greet us with calf and robe and ring.

O Lord of all the living, both banished and restored, compassionate, forgiving, and ever-caring Lord, grant now that our transgressing, our faithlessness may cease. Stretch out your hand in blessing, in pardon, and in peace.

Saturday, April 2
“Loss and Discovery in the Season of Covid” by Pastor Paul

The loss of my mother some two years ago, at the very onset of the pandemic, was a profound moment. When someone walks the face of the earth with grace and dignity for 96 years, it seems they will stride on forever. When they are gone, it leaves a void that can be partially filled by memories and legacies. It is thus with my mom, and among the fragments of her life are those gifts of faith and perseverance which accompany me in these days.

What I have found, or perhaps rediscovered, in this Covid season is the importance of personal human interaction. Zoom, online worship, social media are helpful means by which to get us through a time that is fraught with peril for physical proximity. They serve a practical purpose. But, there is no replacement for eye contact, for sitting across the table at a potluck dinner, for hugs and pats on the shoulder, and yes, perhaps even for people storming out on a conversation…because it is real. This bodes well for the church, where the joy of the kingdom banquet will be known, in a community where God’s incarnation (in the flesh) is celebrated each time we gather.

 

Lenten Daily Devotionals for March 20 - March 26

Sunday, March 20
Lent 3: Repent or Perish/The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree (Luke 13:1-9)

At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

Monday, March 21
“The Little Neon Green Chick Card” by Chris Christensen

Recently, as I worked at my computer, I reached into my desk drawer for a square of dark chocolate for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. My fingers flipped up a Rolling Bay Hay and Feed chick card that has resided there since the pandemic began and Bay Hay curtailed their chick card program as part of their COVID procedures. The neon green chick card triggered an immediate response of loss from the past two years. No trips to Denmark to visit family. No trips to Northern Ireland to see friends. No Road Scholar/Elderhostel trips. No long, lingering conversations with friends and family over restaurant meals. No family celebrations except outside during the summer months. No week-long visits from the granddaughters. No wandering the aisles at Eagle Harbor Books or Wm. James Bookseller in Pt. Townsend. The loss of people we held dear and of people we’d hope to know better. The tremendous loss of freedom to come and go without weighing the risk-level of leaving the house. So many losses burst from that little neon green chick card.

But, these two pandemic years also featured people’s creativity and resourcefulness. Businesses instituted COVID safety precautions that allowed them to serve their customers and keep their businesses viable. Restaurant customers ate A LOT of take-out to help local restaurants to stay in business. We learned to conduct meetings and social gatherings over Zoom. People created socially distanced spaces to visit with family and friends. We held worship in parking lots, and via YouTube. Because of previous research on corona viruses and research on potential MRNA vaccines, we had vaccines available within a year. In Genesis we first know God as a creator that brings the world into being. Humans, created in the image of a creating God, are therefore creative beings. In times of loss and when feeling inundated by difficulties, we call on the deep well of God-given creativity to help us find our way through.

Tuesday, March 22
“When the Social Evaporated” by Rachel Pritchett

Life during the work week at Bethany changed almost overnight when COVID hit.  

I was the office administrator then, and without a doubt, my greatest joy in the job was welcoming people. But now the church seemed cavernous, empty and still.  

I missed the FFF gatherings most. I looked forward to moving the tables into place and getting the kitchen ready. I rejoiced when folks arrived with their steaming casseroles of lunch. I gleefully abandoned my workstation in favor of chewing the fat with everyone. And, of course, there were the programs that followed lunch, which gave me a unique opportunity to find out about the lives of my friends. How lucky was I!  

There were the delivery people, hungry for human contact in their daily journeys on the road; the preschool students, parents and teachers; the painter; the landscaper; the maintenance person; the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the groups that rented space.  

And, there were the members of Rachel Circle, who individually remembered to come back to the office window and keep me company, thankfully. They came on Tuesdays, as did the money counters, who lingered as well, which enriched my morning. Treasurer Jim Rohrscheib then swung by to count the counters’ work, and in the process made me an ardent Seahawk fan, even though I’d never seen a football game in my life. And on Wednesdays, it was the Altar Guild women, who made me part of their lunch and business meetings. The Bible study men and women filled the place with activity and warmth.  

There were handyman volunteers who swung by my window to share every excruciating detail of the repair of the day.  

There were the strangers, who were lonely and in need.  

I had friendships with some Bethany members before I came to the job. But I made more, including Dorothy Webb. She was a lot like me – no nonsense, rather work-oriented. We immediately struck up a solid friendship. She taught me how to arrange flowers at a higher level and how to fold tablecloths correctly. She showed me how to improve my landscaping at home.    Most of all, she showed me how to be retired in an effective way, something I had struggled with since I retired from my newsroom profession. We celebrated holidays together, as we shared the same birthday.  

One day she called and said she was moving to be closer to family. I told her I’d visit.  

That was the natural end of a friendship I’ll always remember and cherish. Dorothy knew a trip to visit her would be a stretch for me. She never called or wrote, and neither did I. It was understood.  

I understand Bethany is now slowly returning to its new normal. Weekdays will fill up with people again. New friendship like mine with Dorothy’s will be forged.  

So what I lost is now someone else’s to find. Thank God for His children.  

Wednesday, March 23
Lost Sibling, Part 1 (Genesis 27:41-45; 33:1-11)

Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” But the words of her elder son Esau were told to Rebekah; so she sent and called her younger son Jacob and said to him, “Your brother Esau is consoling himself by planning to kill you. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; flee at once to my brother Laban in Haran, and stay with him a while, until your brother’s fury turns away— until your brother’s anger against you turns away, and he forgets what you have done to him; then I will send, and bring you back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?”

Now Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids. He put the maids with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. He himself went on ahead of them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near his brother.  

But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. When Esau looked up and saw the women and children, he said, “Who are these with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” Then the maids drew near, they and their children, and bowed down; Leah likewise and her children drew near and bowed down; and finally Joseph and Rachel drew near, and they bowed down. Esau said, “What do you mean by all this company that I met?” Jacob answered, “To find favor with my lord.” But Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.” Jacob said, “No, please; if I find favor with you, then accept my present from my hand; for truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God—since you have received me with such favor. Please accept my gift that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have everything I want.” So he urged him, and he took it.

Thursday, March 24
“Finding our Place” by Sonja Selboe

Quite a few years ago, I struggled with the meaning of life. What is my place on this beautiful, blue globe? Do I matter at all? To my husband and my brood of four smart, active children, yes. Or maybe not. Surely, there’s more to life than one’s nuclear family. Surely, there’s more to life than the labor of managing a household. God saw my empty heart. “Come child,” she said, and led me to see the long chain of blessings that I and every other human child bestowed on each other. Blessings that came from long ago and that will continue long into the future. No matter how small. A smile, picking up an item that someone dropped and bending over was difficult for them. Helping a stranger in town find a location they were seeking. Helping someone with yardwork. Saying words of encouragement. Treating people who serve us with respect and the gift of a pleasant smile. Writing notes to people who are on your mind. I think of writing as a nudge of the Holy Spirit when someone thanks me because a note came at a necessary time in their life. I’ve received such blessing notes that made me weep. The blessings that we give and receive are part of a huge web connecting all humankind and enfolding us in God’s boundless love.

Friday, March 25
“Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling” Text by Will L. Thompson, 1847-1909

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and me. See, on the portals he’s waiting and watching, watching for you and for me. “Come home, come home! You who are weary come home.” Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling, “O sinner, come home!”

Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading, pleading for you and for me? Why should we linger and heed not his mercies, mercies for you and for me? “Come home, come home! You who are weary come home.” Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling, “O sinner, come home!”

Oh, for the wonderful love he has promised, promised for you and for me! Though we have sinned, he has mercy and pardon, pardon for you and for me. “Come home, come home! You who are weary come home.” Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling, “O sinner, come home!”

Saturday, March 26
“A Prayer for the Homebound” by Gail Christensen

In the days of the pandemic, I have found a new calling to be a connector with a few members who for one reason or another have not been able to come to church. I have the honor to deliver homemade goodies [I love to bake bread and cookies, but don’t need to eat them], church bulletins, give information about events, and have conversations. In return I receive blessings and a purpose to connect with others instead of being a recluse.

As one dwells on this solemn time of Lent, reflect on your life, your purpose here and now, and you may find a new direction. We have ‘lost’ ways we have lived, but ‘found’ ways to be creative, flexible and adaptive. Thanks be to God.

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