Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

Lenten Devotions: "We Are Changed"

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

'[ V ] Diego Velazquez - Kitchen Maid with the Supper at Emmaus' photo (c) 2011, Playing Futures:  Applied Nomadology - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

April 2, 2014

“We are joy, we are broken pieces
Upon a spinning, changing world we are borne
But for the love that will not release us
Our Rock of ages and our carry home
And we’ll sing it to the hills and the valleys
From every land ‘cross every sea
We will sing it when our hearts are breaking

And rejoice in the song of victory.”

Lyrics from "We Are Changed," by Peter Mayer

We have a saying at church: “deaths come in threes.” Perhaps you have expressed those sentiments or experienced that reality as well. Recently, our congregation has gone through a time where we have felt that reality to be more than doubled, and almost tripled, in recent weeks. In other words, we have been working with individuals and families who have had a loved one die. The words we proclaimed on Ash Wednesday, just four weeks ago,  are ringing in our ears: “you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

Just yesterday, I stood with a dear family in the ICU, and we commended their loved one to God. I read the words of Simeon who sang, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2).

I shared that with them on my way into the hospital I sat for a moment and looked up at the mountains. That view led me to read for them these words of Psalm 121:

"I lift up my eyes to the hills —
from where will my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time on and forevermore."

I spoke directly to their loved one in the bed, not sure if she could hear me or understand me or not (but I always assume they can), and said, “this is a time of going out and coming in--there is a very fine line here, but you are surrounded by a circle of love.” We prayed the Lord’s Prayer and then each person--a husband, two daughters,  and a sister plus myself--all said something that we loved or admired about the person.

She died less than four hours later.

Peter sings, “We will sing it when our hearts are breaking
/And rejoice in the song of victory.”

I find myself in that space today. My heart is broken, but I am also confident and certain of the final victory.

The painting at the top of the page is in the National Gallery in Dublin. It was painted by Diego Velazquez. It is simply titled, “The Maid at the Supper at Emmaus.”

There is something going on with her. She is being changed. Through a tiny window one sees Jesus and a guest at dinner.

I like it. We don’t always get to see the whole picture but we receive hints, reminders, and glimpses along the way.

“We are joy, we are broken pieces
Upon a spinning, changing world we are borne
But for the love that will not release us
Our Rock of ages and our carry home."

 

Pope Francis and Obama: When Faith and Government Meet

Pope_francis_president_obama
Pope Francis meets President Barack Obama at the Vatican on Thursday, March 27. (Getty)

By Billy Kangas

For President Obama, leader of the one of the wealthiest nations in the world, and Pope Francis, leader of the Catholic Church, to come together to discuss the need to address poverty and income inequality is historic. But what exactly does last Thursday’s meeting at the Vatican mean for hungry and poor people? Will it help shift Obama’s narrative on income equality from a focus on the struggling middle class to one on the hungry and impoverished in the United States and around the world? Does the fact that the two men were able to set aside any differences in opinion and find common ground in a desire to help the poor hint at a larger sea change?

The meeting raises many questions, but it also underscores the pope’s enormous potential to impact global politics, global leadership, and global priorities—including hunger and poverty. Exactly what does the so-called "Francis factor" contribute? Here are some observations to put Francis in perspective, and give some context to the life and ministry of this cleric, who is changing the world through small acts done with great love.

He's a leader from the developing world

This point is so key to understanding Francis. His voice has continually reminded me to look beyond my own cultural concerns and obsessions to see who the truly marginalized in this world are. As much as disparity and inequality remain significant and heart-wrenching issues in the United States, the inequality that ravages so many U.S. communities is often more acutely felt in the communities of the developing world. It is from these places that Francis emerged; it is in these places that he has spent his life of ministry. He reminds us to take our gaze away from our navels and to look into the pleading eyes of those who suffer under our indifference. 

He brings a different narrative 

Our political system often only gives us two stories to choose from: the narrative from the left, and the narrative from the right. The stories from these two sides can become all-consuming, blotting out all else and creating an environment in which one is judged solely on where they fall on the continuum of conservative to liberal. Francis emerges with a different kind of story—it is not one driven by politics, wealth, or power, but humility, grace, joy, and sacrifice. It cuts us to the heart, and brings a challenge. His message is simple: God's glory; neighbor's good. There is little room for self-aggrandizement in that equation, and I have been convicted time and time again of my own sin and of my need for the transforming Grace of God in my life.

He has a different kind of power

Francis wields a significant amount of power, but it is not the kind of power that we have grown accustomed to in our contemporary world. He does not have the power of the nation-state, he does not have the power of a global corporation, he does not even have the power of a radical revolutionary. His power lies in his ability to remind millions that their allegiance is to the God who demonstrates love in Christ laying down his life. Francis has been a great communicator of that message. He has been an example of what Christ looks like, and that is a power we have rarely had to contend with in this modern age.

He is bringing to bear a tradition

Another reason the “Francis factor” must be taken seriously is that he is more than just a prophet, he is a pope. As a pope, he brings with him a tradition that is deep and rich and beautiful. He does not bring ideas that are his alone, which will flash in the pan of world history and be forgotten, but represents a movement grounded in 2000 years of theology, philosophy, and social teaching, from which countless others have given their lives to demonstrate the radical love of God in Christ. Francis will not be pope forever, but we can be sure he will not be the last to bear this radical call. The message Francis preaches is not his own, and it will continue long after he has gone. It is the message that continues to sustain us.

It remains to be seen exactly how the “Francis factor” might influence the agenda of Obama—and vice versa. But hopefully, at the very least, last week’s meeting signaled to the world the importance of coming together to address issues of hunger and poverty in our world. 

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Living out the mandate to work for God’s glory and neighbor’s good includes ensuring that all are fed. Bread for the World’s 2014 Offering of Letters, “Reforming U.S. Food Aid,” seeks smart forms to U.S. food aid programs—changes that would help feed millions more each year, at no additional cost to U.S. taxpayers. Visit http://www.bread.org/ol to learn more.

Billy Kangas is Bread for the World's Catholic Relations fellow.

Job Market Still Weak as Congress Debates Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment3
Photo credit: www.LendingMemo.com

By Robin Stephenson

Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen says the U.S. labor market is still unhealthy, making it difficult for many who lost their jobs during the recession to find adequate employment. In December, Congress failed to extend emergency unemployment (EUC), a program that helps job seekers meet basic needs as they look for work.

Yesterday, during public remarks at a conference in Chicago, Yellen said that although the unemployment rate has dropped from a high of 10 percent in 2009 to a federal average of 6.7 percent, the nation’s unemployment levels are still way above pre-recession levels. And more than 7 million people employed in part-time work would like full-time positions. The slow recovery, Yellen made clear, has still not reached everyone on Main Street.

Over 2 million people are classified as long-term unemployed, meaning they’ve been out of work for more than six months. This figure is the highest it has ever been. And the obstacles this class of workers face to find employment is even more difficult than it was pre-recession. "Research shows employers are less willing to hire the long-term unemployed, and often prefer other job candidates with less or even no relevant experience," said Yellen.

The root problem is a lack of jobs. "No amount of training will be enough if there are not enough jobs to fill,” Yellen stated. A maximum sustainable employment rate should be between 5.2 and 5.6 percent – we still have a long way to go.

For the last several months, I have followed the Twitter hashtag #RenewUI, where many unemployed workers gather for mutual support. As I read stories from people who need Congress to act immediately, the urgency to pass legislation is apparent. For many without benefits, finding work has given way to keeping their homes and their families together.

I met Tracey from Pennsylvania after she tweeted about a job interview she was hoping would bring good news. Tracey said she lost her job in 2012. She is worried about losing her home. As finances got tighter, her children moved in with her parents. Tracey, who worked in staffing for 10 years, told me, “There just aren’t jobs out there.” As the Senate argues about costs, Tracey and the #RenewUI community make it known that their basic needs that can’t wait for months of negotiations and partisanship. “I don’t want to lose my house,” she told me. “And I want to bring my kids home.”

This week, senators continue working on H.R. 3979—a bill to extend benefits through May and make them retroactive to the Dec. 28 expiration. With 30 hours of debate to go, a final vote is expected to come as early as Wednesday. This will be the third time the Senate has voted on a reinstatement. The attempt to pass the extension through bipartisan effort is a testament to mounting pressure from a vocal grassroots. As the bill moves over to the House, even more pressure will be needed to push the it through.

Congress must renew emergency unemployment insurance today. Call 800-826-3688 and tell your senators and representative to act.

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Behind every statistic is a story – and telling those stories can move hearts and minds to action. If you have a story of how the ongoing budget battles have affected you, we invite you to share with us through our Faces and Facts site.

Robin Stephenson is national social media lead and senior regional organizer, western hub, at Bread for the World.

Lenten Devotions: "Foolishness"

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

'Jester- Joker Card' photo (c) 2012, GoShows - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/April 1, 2014

"For the day will come
when you leave this dusty town
And your cross will take its place
by your father's in the ground

Love is not just a fable
that Hollywood bought and sold
Oh let me tell you now love is the only road"

Lyrics from "Blue River," by Peter Mayer and Vince Varvel

I have always thought and felt that these lyrics of Peter's reflect a deep, conscious spirituality. They are mindful of our mortality. They also reflect and point to something greater and much larger than ourselves, namely love.

Today is a day for foolishness. Psalm 14:1 reminds us, "The fool has said in his heart there is no God." So, I'm not advocating that type of foolishness, but rather the folly that St. Paul wrote about to the Corinthians. Check out this message from 1 Cor 1:

"For 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. For it is written,

'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,

and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.'

Where 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? For 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. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength."

 Jesus' words often sound like foolishness, don't they?

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."

"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth."

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled."

"Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy."

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God."

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."

"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

"Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my accountRejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

Try these on for size today. I bet you find they fit. No foolin'.

Working to End Maternal and Child Hunger Year-round

Mother_daughterBy Kristen Youngblood Archer

“I fall, I stand still… I trudge on. I gain a little… I get more eager and climb higher and begin to see the widening horizon. Every struggle is a victory.” – Helen Keller

Today is March 31, the official end to National Women’s History Month. Like so many other months that have been assigned an issue of national or international importance, this month was dedicated in the late 1970s, around International Women’s Day, for the purpose of celebrating the achievements and contributions women have made to society, science, government, and our world at large.

The trouble with these months is that, well, they end. Once they’re over, we’re on to the next month or issue, and have forgotten all of the great things we learned, celebrated, and promised to do in the month prior.

At Bread for the World, we like to look at these important months as a time not only to celebrate, but to reflect on what has been done among specific communities of people to end hunger, and what more there is to accomplish. While these designated months (African-American History Month, Older Americans Month, Hispanic Heritage Month) serve as official rallying cries, we must pursue relevant issues and challenges throughout the year if we are to effect lasting change.

While Women’s History Month ends today, poverty, malnutrition, and hunger among women and children around the world continues. There’s still work to do.

With this in mind, Bread for the World has just completed two new “Hunger by the Numbers’ analyses on women and children.

The international analysis takes a look at the important role women play in development and ending hunger worldwide, particularly with regards to nutrition in the first 1,000 days from a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday. The domestic analysis highlights some key issues brought to light in the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America. From wages to childcare, this document evaluates some of the main factors that contribute to the hardships of workers in the United States.

We hope these analyses will not only provide valuable information, but that they will encourage us to keep working to end hunger among women and children all year long.

Kristen Youngblood Archer is Bread for the World's media relations manager.

Photo: A mother and daughter in Nicaragua shell peas from their garden. (Margaret W. Nea)

Lenten Devotions: "Islands"

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

'Atoll Island' photo (c) 2008, Christina Spicuzza - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

March 31, 2014

"So they gathered up the driftwood made it watertight
And drifted rudderless to the horizon
I'm confused and I'm scared he said
and we got no land in sight
But I've got you dear to keep my eyes on...
 
We're on our way to the last island
Don't look back don't think twice
Oh we're on our way to the last island
Something to call our own won't that be nice
 
I'm on my way to the last island
Gonna find my piece of paradise
Oh I'm on my way to the last island
Something to call my own
won't that be nice."

"The Last Island," by Peter Mayer and Roger Guth

Today is the day the church celebrates the life of priest and poet John Donne. Perhaps his most popular words are about the inter-connectedness of all people: his best-known phrase, "No man is an island," gives testimony to the fact that we are all related to one another.

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less. As well as if a promontory were. As well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee." John Donne wrote in "Meditation XVII."

I think Peter's song "The Last Island" is not something that is prescriptive—in other words, something that we should attempt to follow or emulate. Rather, it is "descriptive" of the desire to have one's own island, "a piece of paradise."

So, today we have the opportunity to contrast community versus isolation. I am most grateful for organizations that foster community as opposed to the tide of "having my way."

Blessings to you today as you celebrate being connected and related to one another.

Lenten Devotions: "Mud In Your Eye"

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

Xrayvision600

Fourth Sunday in Lent
Laetare Sunday
March 30, 2014

"Dirty Hands, Dirty Feet
I'm over my head it's made a mess of me
But it keeps a coming back to the
Holy road means crashing you and me
You've gotta walk through
the muddy water to come clean."

Lyrics from "Dirty Hands, Dirty Feet," by Peter Mayer

"As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man's eyes, saying to him "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see" (John 9:1-7).

So, let's get this straight— in order for Jesus to heal the blind man, he mixes up a salve of saliva and holy ground to make mud and then spreads it on his eyes. The blind man is then instructed to "Go wash in the pool of Siloam." The blind man (or more appropriately, the "former blind man") came back "able to see."

I tried to check out the origination of the phrase, "Here's mud in your eye." But, most of the websites had all sorts of extraneous derivations of the phrase. However, I can't help but think that it has something to do with this incident in the Gospel of John. Jesus, like the Prophet Elisha, does something that would initially seem to compound the problem as opposed to alleviate it. I also wonder why Jesus didn't just say, "SEE!" and the blind man would miraculously have vision. What did it mean for Jesus to "get his hands dirty?"

What did it mean for the man to have a "muddy compress" applied to his non-seeing eyes?

The crazy advertisement at the top of the page used to appear in all the comic books that I would devour as a young boy. I think I probably spent more time fantasizing about having x-ray vision than I did about any of the characters in the comic books. Just imagine how it would be to have the ability to see through walls and other barriers.

Now that I have grown up (somewhat), I have met blind people who are able to "see" a great deal. Their awareness is heightened, and their senses often seem to function at levels which far exceed my capabilities. Conversely, there are other people who have 20/20 eyesight, and yet their "vision" is somewhat impaired.

During the season of Lent, it is part of our journey to catch glimpses of how God sees us: namely, as daughters and sons for whom God sent Jesus to live, die on a cross, and rise from the dead. That particular insight is life-changing.

 Today is also known as Laetare Sunday. It is a Holy "spring break" in the middle of Lent. Laetare comes from the Latin translation of Isaiah 66:10, "Laetare Jerusalem," or, "O, be Joyful, Jerusalem."

Be joyful!

"You've gotta walk through the muddy water to come clean"

Lenten Devotions: "Waterfall"

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

Photo fountain 1March 28, 2013

“Waterfall drink your fill
Washing over you it spills
Night and day it’s runnin’ wild
We’re born to be a river child

Tossed about like a toy
From the badlands to good soil
We could’ve never bargained for
This mighty ride of Joy

This is Love that’s been spilled
This is grace that is willed
Every empty heart be filled
Waterfall, waterfall.”

—Lyrics from "Waterfall," by Peter Mayer, Brendan Mayer, and Adam Guth

It’s all about baptism.

A while ago, I visited Dublin’s Chester Beatty Library—a museum dedicated to ancient manuscripts—a museum dedicated to ancient manuscripts. This place was built to house texts long before the word “text” became a verb. It is really a temple for the written word. The benefactor collected sacred texts of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I spent quite a bit of time just wandering around and looking at these magnificent books, scrolls, and drawings.

Just as I was leaving the building, my eye was drawn to the lovely display of water picture above.

I thought to myself, Wow, if I was in charge of church architecture, I’d want every worship space to have significant sacred space dedicated to a water feature.

For me, it’s all about baptism. It tells us who we are and whose we are. Peter calls us “river children,” for it is “love that’s been spilled, this is grace that is willed, every empty heart be filled.”

Photo: The pond in the atrium of the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland. (Courtesy of Ron Glusenkamp)

EITC Can Be a Blessing on Tax Day

6869765923_307afdd67c_bBy Robin Stephenson

I’ve been thinking about my taxes lately. I’m that person who keeps important papers stuffed in my closet in a crumpled brown paper bag, which I conveniently ignore until the calendar flips to April. My dad will start calling me with reminders any day now, and I’ll make the deadline – I’ll probably file on April 15, if history holds. Taxes are important to my dad. Prior to the current recession, the deepest economic downturn post-World War II was in the early 1980s. Our family qualified for the earned income tax credit (EITC) during that time, and for a few tough years, it made all the difference.

In the early '80s, work was unpredictable and my parents worried a lot. Unemployment and instability are extremely stressful for a family. My memories of that time are reflected in the news today, which is filled with stories of families struggling to find their way through recession. Even though employment hasn’t reached pre-recession rates, Congress has failed to reinstate emergency unemployment, leaving more than 2 million unemployed Americans without a safety net. For those who had some form of work during 2013 and qualify, the EITC will provide some financial assistance.

The tax credit, instituted in 1975, is one of the principal anti-poverty programs in the U.S. budget. If a car breaks down, or there is an expense that month-to-month paychecks can’t cover, the EITC is there to help keep low-income working families from falling into debt. (Take this quiz to see how much you know about the EITC).

In 2010, when this refundable tax credit was about to expire, Bread for the World made it the focus of our Offering of Letters campaign for that year. During the Great Recession, the EITC proved to be a lifeline for many working families that still struggled in the tight economic climate. Bread for the World has advocated for the current benefit levels for this refundable tax credit to be made a permanent part of the tax code—the current benefit levels expire in 2017.

President Obama has called for an expansion in his 2015 budget proposal to include an expansion of the tax refund for childless workers. Currently, a single worker without dependents working full time at minimum wage ($15,080 annually) does not qualify for the credit. If the EITC were expanded to this group of workers, the Treasury Department estimates another half million people would be lifted out of poverty.

Bread for the World will continue push for EITC to be made permanent, and will advocate for the expansion. Since my senator, Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), is now chairman of the Senate Finance Committee with jurisdiction over the tax code and sits on the Budget Committee, I feel like I have a special role to play, and I want to be sure he hears my story. I’m glad EITC was there when my family needed it.

 

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Do you have a story how EITC has helped you or your family?  Behind every statistic is a story – and telling them can move hearts and minds to action.  If you have a story of how the ongoing budget battles have affected you, we invite you to share with us through our Faces and Facts site. 

Robin Stephenson is national social media lead and senior regional organizer, western hub, at Bread for the World.

Photo: flickr user 401 K (2012)

Lenten Devotions: "Joy Cubed"

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

March 27, 2014

Psalm_book"These days of winter have come to bury you
No sign of spring and no promise to carry you
No flowers blooming in your window sill
And the beat of your heart is too still...
And the beat of your heart is too still... Oh sing

Joy, joy,joy in the morning
Joy, joy in the afternoon
Joy, joy,joy for the child is born
This night the promise is given to you."

—Lyrics from "Sing Joy," by Peter Mater

My friend Irene's funeral was yesterday. About 18 of us gathered around her three adult children to celebrate her life. Irene was born in Bavaria, and was 5 years old when Hitler came to power. Her childhood was much different than those of most people I know. She liked to recite her Confirmation passage for me "auf Deutsch."

"Befiehl dem HERRN deine Wege und hoffe auf ihn; er wird's wohl machen."

"Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act."

(Psalm 37:5)

Her life wasn't an easy life, but she had deep joy in her soul and heart. Whenever I would visit her, we would talk about art, music, theology, and wood carvings. One of Bethany's Caring Visitors, Helen, calculated that she had visited Irene approximately 90 times. Caring Visitors at our church bring the sacrament to members who are homebound. Helen brought Irene joy, and I know Irene brought joy to Helen, as well.

The Psalm book at the top of the page is one that I purchased one day when Peter Mayer and I were browsing around guitar shops, bookstores, and coffee shops.

The book is open to Psalm 33, which I like to think of as some of the inspiration for Peter's song "Sing Joy."

"Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous.
Praise befits the upright. Praise the LORD with the lyre;
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings. Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. For the word of the LORD is upright,
and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD. By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
and all their host by the breath of his mouth."

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