Friday, June 23, 2017

Devotional 6-23-17

Riding in the Shadow of Giants

Events of June 23, 2016 would change the landscape (literally) of small towns along the Elk River – forever. The flood waters left behind empty foundations, debris, heartache, pain…and giants.

The area along Rt. 4 in Clendenin is known to me only from the seat of a bicycle. When traveling from Charleston to the north, I am usually in a car and it is usually on the Interstate. For more years than I have been a part, the WV Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church has organized a fund raising bike ride from Charleston to Buckhannon.  The recipients of these funds change from year to year. In my eight rides, we have raised money (and awareness) for Imagine No Malaria, Tsunami Relief, Kids Affected by Aids, Clean Water for Africa and several other VERY worthy causes. Although ride support varies > the route does not. It brings us right along the Elk River…right through Clendenin.  This year’s fund raising pledges were designated for use in the flood recovery in WV. As planning began, I knew it would be an emotional ride – raising money for an area so often traveled yet so severely devastated. Would things we remembered be changed? Be gone? We knew already that our beloved Brawley Chapel, which was always an oasis with cold water, granola bars and an available restroom, was indeed gone. So damaged that it had to be torn down.  The ride launched on the bright, clear morning of June 3rd. Away we rode. As the distance from Charleston grew longer and the distance to Clendenin grew closer, everything seemed normal. Just past the bridge that leads to Clendenin United Methodist Church, we stopped in a parking lot at the corner of Beech Street and Rt.4. Since Brawley Chapel was no more, this seemed like an acceptable alternative for a rest. The support drivers began un-stowing the water and snacks as we looked around. Jack Lipphardt, who is heading up the disaster recovery for our conference, had volunteered to be one of those drivers. Standing next to Jack, he casually said, “See that post over there?” and he pointed back towards the corner of the parking lot. “Yes.” “That white tag near the top is the high water mark. It has the date and level written on it.” I was speechless. Not only was it well over my head > it was, I do believe, ‘over the head’ of a school bus.  As I stood there with my mouth (I’m sure) hanging open, all I could muster was “wow.” If I could have seen through the trees to the other side of the river, I would have been able to see where Clendenin UMC set. I remember scrolling through the pictures on social media of the flooded areas and in particular of this church in Clendenin. On two different bike ride events, Clendenin UMC, its pastor and members, had been gracious enough to allow the riders and crew to stay in the church’s fellowship hall – in a space revealed by the pictures to be completely under water. Immediately next to the church is the pastor’s house – a place where he and his family had allowed the sweaty riders to shower (coming up with twelve extra towels). The living room of their home would eventually be under four feet of water.

It is in such a fire that heroes are forged. Faced with a situation that would have so many – me included – wondering if giving up or running away would be the best solution, people like Rev. Scott Ferguson from Clendenin UMC dig in and look towards a solution. Offering prayer and hope to those in pain, food to those who are hungry and shelter to those whose homes were washed away > all while suffering the very same afflictions himself. Scott, you are a giant. To those in your community. To those in your church. To those around the state and region that draw strength from your actions. In the 2 Kings story, Elisha asks Elijah for a double portion of his spirit. I would ask for a fraction of the faith exhibited by the giants of this flood recovery. A fraction so that I may soar over mountains. I have to believe that you are the living manifestation of the age old question printed on tee shirts, bumper stickers and bracelets; WWJD?

I will never travel that road again that I do not remember and respect in whose shadow I roll.

Steve Matthews

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Devotional 6-17-17

Matthew 9: 35-38

35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness, 36  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  37 Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  38 Ask the lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."

Anyone who has ever worked on a farm knows hard work!  If you had to cut a hay field, you knew before hand that it would be hot, dry, dusty and entail long hours between the cutting/ bailing and transport via a hay wagon to the storage shed!  It was necessary but not enjoyable.  On a farm it was one of many chores that had to be done.

In Matthew's account Jesus is traveling the countryside and sees people in need. He does many things to try and show God's good deeds to the least of them.  This too was necessary.  God's people were dominated by Roman rule and life was hard.  Jesus was sharing the GOOD NEWS that God's kingdom on earth was at hand!

Today, as Christian people we may not think of ourselves as "laborers".  However, just like in Jesus' day, we are called to do the hard work of sharing Christ's love with the harassed- the helpless- the sick- the lonely!  This can be very difficult because it calls us to step out of our comfort zone and go where we might not want to go or witness to people we do not know or like.  But Jesus remind us that the "harvest" is dependent upon each of us to do his work in his kingdom on Earth as we await that house not made with hands but eternal to the Heavens.  May it always be so!

Prayer: Father give us the strength to do your work and share your word with those who need to hear that they are loved as a child of God too. Amen

Marv Jones

Friday, June 9, 2017

Devotional 6-9-17

Separation is Hell

Genesis 1:4  Common English Bible (CEB)
God saw how good the light was. God separated the light from the darkness.

On April 15, 1960, Rod Serling’s show, The Twilight Zone, aired an episode entitled “A Nice Place to Visit”.  Of course, the title came from the saying, “It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live here.”  The story was about a ne’er- do- well named Henry “Rocky” Valentine who was shot by the police while robbing a pawn shop.

When Rocky awakens, he is greeted by a fellow named Pip who provides him with money, a furnished apartment, and women. Naturally, Rocky thinks that there’s been some sort of mistake, and he’s been admitted into Heaven!

This arrangement is wonderful - until it’s not. When Rocky wants a certain food it’s there. When he wants a certain woman, she’s there. And when he bets on a certain game, he wins – every time.

Eventually he grows bored with the situation and tells Pip that he’s tired of Heaven and wants to go to “the other place”. Pip laughs and tells him he’s not in Heaven. It is then that Rocky realizes he’s stuck in a place that offers no challenge and no hope. He’s separated from goodness. He’s separated from God. He is in Hell.

I was probably seven or eight when I saw this episode, but it made a lasting impression on me. It, along with my family and church, reminded me that to experience true joy, one had to work for it. Not because that’s what God demanded, but that it’s what comes when disappointment is replaced by hope, or hard work brings about happiness for oneself and others.

But no matter what we do, there will be times of darkness. It is then that we must ask for God’s love. No, he doesn’t need a reminder. He loves us always. But we need the reminder that we are loved always – no matter what hardship we face or terrible thing we’ve done.
It’s a shame that someone hadn’t taught Rocky Valentine about God’s love. Rocky could have said, “This is a nice place to visit, but I don’t want to live here. Separation is Hell.”

Our prayer comes from England Dan and John Ford Coley:
Light of the world, shine on me. Love is the answer.
Shine on us all; set us free. Love is the answer.
Amen

Becky Warren

Friday, June 2, 2017

Devotional 6-4-17

Acts 2:1-4 (Common English Bible)

1When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. 4 They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak.

As a deacon, part of my calling is to help lead the church out of the building and into the world -- our great commission is to go and make disciples, after all!  But it is important to remember and rejoice in the aspects of unity and fellowship that being together in one place provides.  The apostles were together regularly to eat and to talk and to remember their time with Christ when, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to them.

Many have asked about our current renovation work - why are we doing it, can we afford it, what are we going to do with the new space?   Again, as a deacon, part of my calling is to help lead the church OUT of the building.  But in our ministry context, we are literally within the mission field of those needing the hope and love of Christ as much as anyone anywhere in the world.  We face unprecedented rates of addiction, which is causing unprecedented rates overdoses, incarceration, and broken families.  

Johnson Memorial UMC has been abundantly blessed by many generous families through the years.  Many have left gifts to the church designated solely for building improvements and upgrades.  With the help of many in the church, we have visioned and discerned how ministry in Huntington, at Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church, might look in a building that is more easily accessible to all, a building that is inviting and welcoming to our neighbors, a building that has space available for other groups and churches to do ministry alongside us.

But the building is still just a building.  With the improvements to the physical structure, we must continue to pray for the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and the life of our church.  We must pray for the ability to speak in the language of those around us, the ability to connect with those who need to know the love of Christ, through us.  And we must pray that as we gather together, it is with the expectancy that the Holy Spirit will continue to come upon us, giving us the power and the courage to go and make disciples of all the nations, starting at our front door!

Rev. Alan Williams

Friday, May 12, 2017

Devotional 5-12-17

“Hear  Our  Prayer”
Psalm 31, verses 1-5,
Verses 15 and 16:  “My times are in Thy hands: deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.   Let thy face shine upon thy servant; save me in thy steadfast love.”

A vivid childhood memory is that of observing my grandmother pack boxes to be shipped to Poland. Years before, at the conclusion of the First World War, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South sent several persons to Europe to determine where the Church might establish a presence to relieve some of the suffering inflicted from the War.  Poland was one of the countries.  Now, years later my grandmother received a letter from a person she knew writing on behalf of the Methodists remaining in Warsaw.  Life was difficult due to hardships imposed by the Communist regime.  They were in dire need of medicines and warm clothing. Could she help? There were challenges in mailing packages to Poland as boxes were frequently opened, searched and inspectors kept what they wanted for themselves.  This did not deter my grandmother.  Friends from church donated clothing requested. Whenever a new garment was given, she was off to the scrub board in the basement to fray the fabric just enough to make it unappealing to inspectors. A physician in the church donated medications normally dispensed by prescriptions only.  I watched as she skillfully sewed medications, one pill at a time, into the lining of a man’s overcoat or another prescription into the hem of a heavy wool skirt.  Some might say that she was ahead of the times in shipping pills into a country undetected!  She later learned that while not all boxes arrived completely intact, many did.  Certainly those who received the contents felt not only blessed but that a prayer had been answered.

A lectionary reading for this week is selected verses from Psalm 31 including the verses quoted above. It is a psalm attributed to David.   The psalmist prayed to God to save him from the hands of his adversaries.   While we do not know a lot about those persecuting him, it is clear that the psalmist placed his trust and reliance upon the steadfast love of the Lord.  He prayed to God to deliver him.  I was reminded when reading this passage how many times throughout history God has worked through ordinary persons to answer the prayers of another.   What was true in the past is also true now:  a card or call to a person whose prayer is to be remembered; time or resources to fill backpacks with food for children whose unspoken prayer is for something to eat over the weekend; personal contacts with someone who has rarely gone to church but wonders what it would be like to meet others in a setting of fellowship and acceptance. 

There is another dimension to the psalmist prayer.  He knew that his times were in God’s hands.  He asked for a blessing that God’s face might shine upon him and redeem him yet he also inclined his spirit to God’s safe keeping.  The psalmist opened his heart to God and so can we.

Gracious God, nudge us and use us in answering the prayers of others and when as the psalmist, we incline our spirits and needs to Thy loving care, Lord in Thy mercy, Hear our prayer.  Amen.

 (This devotion is dedicated to the loving memory of Virginia Bourne Darlington.)

Sue D. Woods

Friday, May 5, 2017

Devotional 5-5-17

Pleasing our God

Read Genesis 1:1-2:4, Psalm 8, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, Matthew 28:16-20

Our God is a loving, a caring God that is easily pleased.  Pleased when the earth was created with all that is on the earth and above; the stars, the moon, the heavens and sun.

He created man and woman and was pleased.  We are all children of this great and awesome God.  He is pleased when we treat one another with acceptance, love and care.  His son, Jesus Christ is our example of how we are to treat each other. God is happy when we help the least of our brothers and sisters. The poor, the prostitute, the addicted, and equally our neighbors, the rich and on and on, with love and respect for all. Let us be the hands and feet for Jesus.  Let’s make our life one that is pleasing to God.

Fred Herr

Friday, April 28, 2017

Devotional 4-28-17

Read Luke 24: 13-35

Many Christians are faithful in attending worship, volunteering to serve in many aspects of their church; such as singing in the choir, teaching Sunday School, serving on different Committees and helping out wherever called. This was my Christian life--just going through the motion. I knew that Jesus loves me-------but I had not felt his Love!

My life changed when I attended my walk to Emmaus. Fred had attended a walk first, I had not planed on attending until later. But when he came home after his walk, I saw such a difference in him, a big smile and a changed Christian man, with the love of Jesus in his heart.

I wanted that too! I attended my walk two weeks later and I am glad I did!

I have experienced the Love of Christ that he has for all of us! i know that some are not interested in attending the walk, but if you would like to have a closer relationship with Christ you might consider giving it a try, if someone should approach you. It is something that will change your journey with Christ. You might just like it and come back to your home and church a changed Christian. It is out there for you to experience for your self.

Just like the two men walking to Emmaus discussing what was taking place in their home land, when a stranger joined them and continued on with them.......they didn't know who he was until he was gone.

Their eyes were opened and they saw Jesus more fully!

Pray,
Dear Father please let your children have the desire to know you and experience your love that you have for them. Lead and guide them the way that you desire them to follow.
Thanks you for the love and blessing you spread to all your people.
Hold everyone in your hand and comfort them all no matter where they are in in their journey with you.

All Gods children say,
Amen

Melanie Herr