Thursday, January 7, 2021

Devotional 1-8-21

This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. --John 15:12

I played my drum for him...
I played my best for him...
Then he smiled at me...
Me and my drum.

--The Little Drummer Boy, Harry Simeone, Katherine Kennicott, Davis Henry Onorati

When I first saw this cartoon, my first reaction was to laugh. We all know the story of the Little Drummer Boy who plays his drum for Baby Jesus. We picture a young boy with a small drum playing softly.

But here, we see a heavy metal drummer who wants to "set up." That means speakers and we assume drumming that would not be considered a lullaby. And it's funny. 

But, look at the baby! Although Mary looks perplexed and Joseph unsure, the baby is happy, with his arms out. He's excited to see this alternative drummer and seems to be saying, "Play it, man!" The song says the drummer boy played his best for the Baby. I assume this green-haired fellow intends to play his heart out.

I am a septuagenarian who has never had her ears pierced. I just can't do it! Likewise, I have no tattoos. I'll admit, when I see someone covered with piercings and tattoos, I find it a little unsettling, but I'm working on it! Jesus said to love each other. He didn't put any limits or add any qualifications. Just love each other.

Be like the Baby!

Anita Farrell

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Devotional 11-19-20


 "Teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God." Colossians 3:16 ((NRSV)

 When Pastor Glenn's letter arrived inviting me and many others to share a memory, story or devotional for the homecoming celebration in late September, I knew that I wanted  to participate. l have warm memories of meeting many of you at the Homecoming celebration in 2018. The question was where to begin.

 The Upper Room writing for August 3rd immediately caught my eyes for several reasons and I have borrowed both the title and scripture passage from that day. August 3, 2020 marked the 150th anniversary of my grandfather Darlington’s birth at Graefenburg, Kentucky. Among the gifts he had for ministry included a beautiful, strong tenor voice, and he used it effectively over many years. Those who attended an Annual Conference in which he presided said the morning worship was the highlight, both the meditation and the singing which he always led.

 We United Methodist are a people who love to sing. Music is a part of our collective DNA. Others may chant the liturgy, but we sing our faith. Our heritage goes back to John and Charles Wesley. John was the preacher "in whom the world was his parish" and brother Charles, the prolific writer of countless hymns which enrich our worship to this day. His hymns include among many Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing" (my grandfather's favorite), "Love divine, all love's excelling" (my favorite) and a beloved Christmas carol, "Hark! The herald angels sing." We are also blessed with a contemporary supplement to our hymnal with tunes and texts which resonate in an up to date manner.

 There are many facets of the Covid 19 pandemic which have surely altered our lifestyle and worship is certainly one. The comment I hear most frequently is: “I miss being in worship with my friends." Even when this is possible, health experts remind us to maintain social distancing, one from another, and refrain from singing in a col1ective setting. Many churches, including my home church, have worked at providing worship via Facebook and YouTube for which I am grateful. When the hymns are played and the text appears on the screen of my computer, I sing at home! So in this challenging time in our lives, may we keep a song in our hearts, words of praise on our lips and in a place and space where it is safe to do so,  “keep singing'' our faith in Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Savior.

Sue D. Woods 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Devotional 11-6-20

 Life in 2020

(I still believe)

The year started just fine,
With a kiss and some wine,
Many plans to prosper and grow.
As the clock counted down,
Hopes and dreams all around,
2020 was here, don’t you know!

And, our lives moved along,
Seemed that nothing was wrong,
Yet, an evil was lying in wait.
There was nothing to hear,
Or to see, or to fear,
Yet a virus was holding our fate.

We were stopped in our tracks,
Seemed that medical facts,
Were becoming our daily routine.
Counting cases and deaths,
All of us holding breaths,
As our nation went in quarantine.

No more hugs, no more kisses,
Fewer dreams, fewer wishes,
Just waiting for life to return.
Would we ever get back,
On a normalcy track,
What lessons were we going to learn?

As the world got smaller,
And, the plague got taller,
And, our God seemed so far away.
Would we all come together,
As we braved stormy weather,
What would history books have to say?

Many churches they closed,
No more taking the host,
And we needed it now most of all.
No more singing the praises,
Due to mask covered faces,
Was our world beginning to fall?

And, the elderly suffered,
Our dear Fathers and Mothers,
Were taken away from our sight.
Their accommodation,
Was complete isolation,
Oh God please, won’t you show us your light?

Life fell apart quickly,
You were heathy or sickly,
And, that would determine your days.
Would you brave the unknown,
Or would you hide in your home,
Yes, your path, was one of two ways

With our mask covered faces,
There were fights among races,
And, businesses soon shutting down.
There were livelihoods broken,
Many cruel words were spoken,
Seemed that love was so hard to be found.

Perhaps saddest of all,
That invisible wall,
It grew higher as fear took its toll.
Our world rearranging,
Our earth it was changing,
At its core, both its heart and its soul.

Violent demonstrators,
Those on ventilators,
Streets riddled with sadness and crime.
This should bring us together,
As we fight for forever,
God is watching. There’s still enough time.

Let us fall to our knees,
We are begging God, please.
Forgive us, and show us the way.
He is still in control,
Of our bodies and soul.
As we humble ourselves to pray.

With my very last breath,
Not conceding Earth’s death,
Peace and love we all can achieve!
Our world can survive,
Yes, there’s still enough time.
I believe. I believe. I believe!

Kelley Allison Weber

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Devotional 10-30-20

 Inspired by Psalm 90

We think we are strong.
We imagine, sometimes, that we are invincible.
Invisible to the pain of death.
And then we realize that we are not.

We dwell in your house, O God.
We were born in you - created in you.
As were all who came before us. 
At the beginning of time,
when the mountains rose from the sea,
and the earth was formed,
you were there,
and you created us.

You know, even when we forget, 
that we are dust,
and to dust we will return.
Time is nothing to you.

Hours and minutes are meaningless,
you sweep them away like a dream.
The grass grows,
the grass fades as the sun sets.

When we open ourselves to your presence,
we realize our sin.
Your righteous anger is justified.
Our sins overwhelm us.
Our disobedience overtakes us.
You set it before us.
Shine light on it.
And we cannot avoid it.

All our days pass by
and our years end like a quiet sigh.
Seventy. Eighty. Perhaps.
Even in your presence,
we do not live in heaven.
Life passes. Trouble passes.
And they are gone. And we fly away.

You are God.
Your majesty and divinity are great before us.
Teach us to count our days.
Grant us the wisdom it brings.

Shine your light, we pray.
Grant us grace in your compassion.
Fill us with your unending, loyal love
so that we may find joy
each day we have been given.
Open our eyes to your presence each day we have been given.
Let your favor be upon us,
and may the work we do
be the work you set for us
so that the days we have been given
have divine meaning.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Devotional 10-18-20

 The following devotion is reprinted with the person of the author. Veronica Timbers is the daughter of Sallie and Lynn Childres, former attendees of Johnson Memorial UMC.  Thank you to Anita Farrell for "recruiting" this devotional for our ministry.


I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory
 (Psalm 63:2 NIV).

Nature calms me and reminds me in times of doubt and feeling disconnected from God that the Creator truly is. I find assurance in the creativity of each leaf, tumbling stream, dipping valley, rolling wave, bird song and even the blade of grass surviving against all odds in the crack of the sidewalk.

The minute details of nature act like a balm to my weary soul. They remind me with a fierceness something has been here creating and is still here creating.

Remembering this brings me to God’s sanctuary. Sanctuary is a word too often equated with a building. It actually means “refuge” or safety.” It means God’s very presence.

Longing for more

During a recent hike in the mountains of North Carolina, I looked over the mountains and breathed in the sheer magnitude of the landscape. My heart cried, “Bigger,” even though it already was so big.

I was looking out at miles of wilderness, but I wanted more. Some probably would call this selfishness, but as I reflected, I saw my insatiable hunger for more and bigger as coming from the image of God woven into our very beings.

I have a longing for all God has created; for all justice to be accomplished now, not later; for all things to be made whole now, not later; for the church to be what Christ commanded now, not later.

My longing is not much different than the sentiment expressed in Psalm 13, “How long, O Lord?” How long until there is relief, until hope can break through to reality?

The object of our longing

I am comforted that God does not shame our ambition to see this world made right or to dream of bigger and better, even to demand it. I believe such ambition fills God with great joy, because it means we actually get God’s vision and power. When we are captured by this knowledge, we enter into the work of creating with God in a whole new way.

When we are dreaming and longing for “bigger” in the areas of justice, community, the meaningful participation of all and the thriving of creation, we can be assured we are in God’s sanctuary.

Even if we enter God’s sanctuary feeling weary and with our souls dried up, we are in the presence of Living Water. We are where we can grieve, celebrate, heal, rage, wrestle, laugh and question until we realize Christ is with us in it.

Then we can praise the name of God in all of our complicated mess as we sit with what is and what is yet to come. God delights in this exchange of our full self and welcomes our holy hunger for “bigger.”

A prayer

May the following prayer help you pray for more of God’s vision, power and way.

“Lord, the world is a bit of a mess right now. I am not sure of my place in it, but I am feeling overwhelmed by _____________; I am mad about _____________; I need _____________; I am feeling hopeful about/in awe of _____________.

I am feeling all of this, and today, I choose to remember this sanctuary and place of safety where I can bring it all and stay until I am comforted by your great love. Amen.”


Veronica Timbers is a doctoral student in Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work. As a licensed clinical social worker, she has 15 years of experience in mental health practice and has worked in ministry settings as a chaplain and part-time campus minister. 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Devotional 10-11-20

 A few weeks ago, I accidentally broke off a leaf of the little African Violet plant I had been tenderly caring for.  I put the leaf in some soil and kept it watered, not wanting to throw it away.  It turned a little brown around the edges; nothing happened. But surprisingly one day four tiny leaves began to appear! I hope to have another African violet plant someday!  Recently I read in a devotional book that to develop another plant, dip the stem in honey before putting it in the soil!

Some things such as our faith may grow slowly. Faith needs nurturing and “honey."  I believe my faith still is maturing after all this time. I feel more deeply the love of God.  This knowledge is life-changing. Jesus taught a great deal about love.  In the gospel of John, he said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34, RSV).
The 13th-century English Bishop Saint Richard of Chichester wrote:
May I know Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly,
Follow Thee more nearly.

Godspell follows the wording in Hymn 429 of the 1940  Methodist Hymnal:
Day by day,
Dear Lord, of thee three things I pray:
To see thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
Follow thee more nearly,
Day by day.

Let us all  rejoice in the knowledge of the love of God.  Pray that we all may love well and live with a blessing to all, including all God’s creation.
Dear God, fill our hearts with kindness, our actions with caring, our spirits with gentleness, so that we may become more of what we ought to be, through Christ our Lord.                          
Martha Casey

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Devotional 10-4-20

 An American Idol

 Exodus 20:1-4 CEB

20 Then God spoke all these words:

2 I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 You must have no other gods before me. 4 Do not make an idol for yourself – no form whatsoever - of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth.

When you get up in the morning, what is your routine? For those of you still working, you may slowly rise, shower, have a cup of coffee, listen to the news, and then check your phone for messages or emails. For others, you may eventually roll out of bed, turn on the tv, have a bowl of cereal, and get ready for either in-person or virtual school. For those of us who are retired, the day may not begin until 9:00 when we stretch to get the blood pumping, pour a glass of prune juice, fetch the newspaper and our reading glasses, and settle down to watch a recorded morning news show. At my house it’s CBS This Morning with Gayle King, Anthony Mason, and Tony Dokoupil.

Wait a minute. Did you catch it? Did I leave something out? Oh, yeah! What about Facebook? Snapchat?  Twitter? According to the Pew Research Center, 72% of Americans use one of these platforms every day. They are a part of our routine!

What does that say about many of us? I know what it says about me! It says that I’m probably being rude to Jon when he comes into the room wanting to share some news, but I’m flipping through post after post. It also says that I’m setting a terrible example for my adolescent grandchildren who are already way too controlled by their phones. It says that I am constantly thinking of something “clever” that I can post, or I am worried that I missed a birthday greeting to someone who barely remembers me from high school! Worst of all, it proves that I’m wasting so much time on looking rather than doing, and at my age I just don’t have that kind of time to waste. These forms of social media in conjunction with texting (I threw that in for my granddaughter) have become our American Idols. No, not the TV singing show, but something that replaces God and the good works that we do in God’s name.

This past week I have had some wonderful “good works” moments. The church I’ve attended for 67 years, Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church, celebrated it’s 150th anniversary and all of the good works and wonderful people that have come from it. Then on Monday members of our Sunday school class did some gardening and clean up around the church grounds! What a good time we had! Today Jon Parlier and I packed bags of food for the Pack for the Future Children’s Ministry. And now I get to share my thoughts in a devotional that will be distributed digitally as a part of the Worship Ministry!

I tell you this, not to call attention to the few things I do to make me feel good, but to remind us all to put the phone down! Step away from the computer! Go back out into the world (wearing a mask, of course), and do something to help others survive and you to thrive! Don’t worship at the altar of this American Idol.

Heavenly Father, help me to fight this addiction I have to my phone and the social media that attracts me. Guide me and lead me into a life of doing for others instead of envying what others have. And if all else fails, drain the energy from my battery. In your name I pray.

Becky Warren