Friday, July 20, 2018

Devotional 7-20-18

Fishing on the Fourth of July
 Matthew 4:19 NIV
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”

This past July 4, Jon Parlier and I visited an old friend who lived in North Myrtle Beach. We found ourselves in the company of thousands of others who had flocked to the sun, fun, and fireworks.

We found a spot on the shoreline where we planted our chairs. Presently we heard – and then saw - an airplane towing an advertising banner for a nearby restaurant. A few minutes later Jon asked me what I thought of the televangelist who wanted people to send him money for a private jet. I can only guess that the banner–towing airplane brought about the question. I said I didn’t think much of it. He agreed and said that 5.4 million could be put to better use.

Pleased that we had settled the matter, we enjoyed the sun, the waves lapping our feet, and the sounds of seagulls overhead.  But then we detected three shadows blocking our sun. The shadows were actually three high school girls armed with beautiful but nervous smiles.

They giggled as they explained that they were from Minnesota and on a retreat with high school students from all over the United States. They wanted to know if they could talk to us about our spiritual lives.

I have to laugh when I think back on that moment. They thought it would be difficult to get us to talk, but once we started, they could hardly get a word in. Jon told of his nomadic childhood which made it difficult to put down roots in any church. He then told them that I had been at Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church in Huntington, WV, my entire life and that was the church we both now attended.

Haley and Chloe talked to Jon about the retreat, but Emily and I went a bit deeper into our upbringing. To be honest, I didn’t give her a chance to say much because I wanted her to know how Jesus had come into my life at an early age and how God’s love had sustained me in times of trouble. As it turned out, I answered the very questions that she had been sent out to ask.

Did God send them to us - or us to them?   And how awesome was it that it took place by the seashore? All I know is that Jon and I were there to be “caught” by these young fishermen. I hope that as time passes, they will remember the old couple by the sea who were eager to talk about God’s love. Maybe they will be “caught” by some young fishermen, too.

Heavenly Father, thank You for all of those, young and old, who follow Your teachings and become fishers of people. Help us to overcome our inhibitions and follow their lead. In Your name we pray.

Becky Warren

Friday, July 13, 2018

Devotional 7-13-18

It’s A Miracle!

The amazing story of the Thai soccer team’s rescue came to a climax today as we learned of their amazing rescue being successfully completed. I’m sure our sense of relief was nothing compared to that of the parents of the twelve boys and their coach who were lost, then found, then rescued.  There’s no doubt in my mind that this was a miracle—the inclusion of God’s hands at work in an unbelievable event.

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines miracle as “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs; the healing miracles described in the Gospels.” We are all familiar with the stories of the miracles performed by Jesus. All those witnessing them were amazed to see Jesus heal the infirmed. When the family of Lazarus witnessed Jesus raising him from the dead, there’s no doubt they could hardly believe their eyes! But then, seeing is believing.

So, what is it that makes us believe in miracles? And why is it some people don’t believe in miracles? A good friend of mine would respond, “It’s a God thing.” And, indeed, I believe it is our faith in God that we can call certain events such as this rescue, a miracle—a miracle that this group of young boys and their coach survived for so long before they were found; a miracle that the world pulled together for them, providing experienced seal rescuers, first responders and caregivers to help; and a miracle that they seemed to have fared well through their very traumatic experience.

When God enters the picture, things change. And we call it a miracle. So why does it seem so hard to believe that things can change when we let God enter the picture in our own lives? The power of prayer is an amazing thing, when we open our hearts to commune with God, allow silence in prayer so that we may hear God, and determine what it is He wishes us to do for Him. In many ways, this, too, can be called a miracle, can’t it?

It’s all part of having a deep faith in God that we understand and “see” in our hearts the miracles God brings to this earthly world every day.

May we rejoice—every day—in the power, the glory and the everlasting love of God, our Father!
Diane Feaganes

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Devotional 7-7-18

He held the offering in his hand.
Wheat, first fruits from his field.
Looking at it, he remembered
the seed.
The promise of it.
The fear in it.
The possibility of famine or feast
that had rested in it.
He remembered throwing it into the field.
Praying for rain.
Praying for not too much rain.
Praying for sunshine.
Praying for not too much baking sun.
He remembered watching the tiny plants sprout,
hoping for growth.
He thought of plucking the wheat from the field,
the first to become fruit.
So far, it was the only to become usable wheat.
He had pulled it,
made a sheaf,
and brought it to the Lord.
He offered it to God,
hoping that his first fruit
would not be his last.
Praying that there would be enough.
Enough to feed his family
Enough for seed for the next year.
His offering of first fruit
was an act of faith.
An act of obedience.
It was worship that beat back fear.

It was ritual that spoke of his faith in God.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Devotional 6-29-18

"Our Gifts, Our Talents, and Our Service"

"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men." 1 Corinthians 12: 4-6 NIV

As I read Corinthians 12: 2-10, I couldn't help but think of our church. We are one body with many members. God has given each of us certain gifts. I started out listing ways that we use our talents to serve. Then I realized how really diverse our congregation is! Think about it. Some of our talents are obvious, many are very subtle, but have a huge impact on the body as a whole.

What are your gifts? How is God calling you to use them? Maybe you aren't sure what your talent is. Pray about it! Then take a step in faith. It doesn't take a special talent to volunteer, to listen without judging when someone needs to talk, or to give someone a smile of welcome. Look for ways to show Gods love to those around you, not just at church, but out in the community. In the latest edition of "The Upper Room", Carrell Jamilano said it best. In her June 6th devotional she says, "God can take whatever we have--no matter how small the amount, how weak we feel, how poor, or how untalented we may be--and multiply it. When we seek Gods will, we can trust that God is already working. We need only to ask God's help."

We sing, "They will know that we are Christians by our love, by our love."  Go out and live it!

Margaret Williams

Friday, June 22, 2018

Devotional 6-22-18

I Cry for Help and You are There
Lectionary Readings:  2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27; Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5: 21-43

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice.  Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.  If you, O Lord kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.  I wait for the Lord, my soul waits and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning. Psalm 130: 1-6.

I have recently been cleaning out several files and boxes of mementoes in preparation to move to a new address in Huntington.  This has caused a rash of memories that I thought were tamped down and relegated to the basement of my mind.  Some memories are so joyful and bright with happiness that it has been easy to think of them again.  There were weddings and births, special events and sightseeing trips, visits with friends and family and even other times when we changed our address.  But there have also been reminders of some painful times—times of great loss and sorrow; trips to the emergency room and hospital stays; loss of precious family members and great fears for a future without their presence.

Although some of the memories were painful, they were nothing compared to the actual events.  I was able to relive those past events with the benefit and comfort that through each event and even through this present move, I have been surrounded and loved by a God who never left me, even when I thought He was silent.  The memories also allowed me to recall the host of family and friends who were by my side, anticipating needs and providing support and comfort.  I have been truly blessed and am so thankful that I have had such strength and support available to me.  Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord Unto me!

The recent celebrity suicides have also been preying on my memories, reminding me of another suicide that directly changed my life 27 years ago.  With all the advances in medicine these days, we have not been able to prevent the incidence of suicide to any degree.  In fact, today the Herald Dispatch reported an increase in the number of suicides per year in WV.  Evidently, mental illness is still a topic that we have not talked enough about and not enough people have felt safe enough to ask for help/assistance.

The psalmist, David, felt the need to cry out to God, but also confirmed that his hope was found in God’s word.  In another psalm (121), David looks to the hills, and cries “where does my help come from?  Help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  He watches over you and will not slumber nor sleep.”  God is definitely available, but it seems that fewer people are calling on God for that assistance. Do we need to do a better job of asking others how they are feeling? Do we need to practice more thoughtful listening instead of talking so much?  Do we need to try to look past the outer layers of a person to understand what is truly going on in their inner thoughts? Social media has connected us at lightning speed, but many feel even more disconnected and alone.  What can I do to help? 

I don’t have any answers, and I’m sorry if this post has been on the sad side.  But I hope that God will use this message to encourage someone to seek help before changing forever the lives of the family and friends that love them so much. We are all in need.  There is no problem or concern, that God cannot heal, bind up or provide strength for you.  We are His, He knows our name and he will not leave us without support and comfort.  There are no overnight fixes, no quick solutions because grief and loss, pain and struggle take a lot of hard and ongoing effort.  I don’t see anyone having an easy way: financial, emotional or otherwise.  But we do not walk through the valley alone.  So, take a baby step and talk to someone about how you feel.  Quit saying “I’m fine” if you are not. Allow someone to help you….

Dear God, we know that you are always With Us even when we cannot think or feel.  Please continue to guide us to those who need us and give us the words or the silence that is required for the situation. Be with all those who are hurting and struggling.  Help them to feel your loving arms of support in the midst of their pain. We thank you for your faithfulness, your overwhelming mercy and your extravagant love.  AMEN.

Chyrl BuddNational Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  1-800-273-8255

Friday, June 15, 2018

Devotional 6-15-18

Jesus Calms the Storm

Mark 4: 35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

This passage of scripture is very comforting to me!  How can this be? All of us have experienced fear in our lives. These fears can be the loss of a job, the loss of a spouse or child, the end of a marriage or an unexpected medical condition.  In each case, there is a sense of loss and abandonment. We sometimes feel like we are alone on an island with no one to share our pain and grief.  So- I can identify with these disciples as they face a violent storm and yearn for solid ground!

But just like them, we may feel that Jesus is “asleep” in our own life.  This scripture serves to remind us that nothing is further from the truth!  No matter our pain or suffering, Jesus is there to help calm the headwinds and storms in our journey. Jesus asks his disciples why they still have no faith.  No matter what we may face- this scripture reminds us to reach out  to Jesus.

In Matthew 11: 28 Jesus calls out to us! He says : “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

We do not walk alone in this life-even if we sometimes feel that way.  May it always be so!

Prayer: Father thank you for being with us when we encounter tough times.  Help us to call on you when we face fear so that we might have rest for our soul as we await that house not made by hands but eternal to the Heavens.

Marv Jones

Friday, June 8, 2018

Devotional 6-8-18

“Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’ --Matthew 24:40

This spring I had something of a dilemma. I like to feed the birds in my yard. I have a couple of squirrel proof (ha!) feeders, a sunflower feeder, a peanut feeder (please, dear squirrels, eat the peanuts and leave the bird seed for the birds (ha!), a hummingbird feeder and a suet feeder. The suet usually attracts sweet little woodpeckers which I love to watch. 

But recently, a flock of starlings were attracted to the suet. This gang of large, black birds swooped in making all kinds of noise and actually fought each other for the goods. They could devour a single suet cake in 24 hours.

I considered not replacing the suet, although I didn't want to deprive the woodpeckers and "pretty" birds. Then I recalled something my Mother always said when I'd complain about the squirrels and deer helping them selves to my birdseed and flowers, "Well, they're God's creatures too."

The "least of these" scripture popped into my head. Jesus tells us to help all our brother and sisters. Not just the beautiful, well-mannered ones, who look and act like us, but the loud and dirty, the socially unacceptable who make us uncomfortable. We are called to minister to the starlings as well as the cardinals and blue birds.

I continued to replace the suet cakes and the starlings eventually went on their way, but every time I refill the holder, I think of "the least of these." It's a good reminder!

Anita Gardner Farrell