Every day during Lent, members of Oconee Street UMC will write a Lenten devotional and share with the congregation.
by Maxine Easom
March 15, 2014
In 1997 I wrote a devotional for our church’s Advent devotional booklet. I have adapted that devotional for this lent, as it seems particularly appropriate for our theme of developing Holy Habits. This devotional focuses on the importance of searching and knowing scripture to help us and others in our everyday lives.
Scripture: Psalm 91 (See below)
As a child many people encouraged me to memorize Bible verses – my mother, other family members, my Sunday School teachers, close Christian friends who influenced my faith journey from an early age. Being the “achiever” that I am, I committed many verses to memory. At school we had a program taught by a revered Christian woman, Ms. Agnes Mackey, where we could earn rewards for verses learned. (No separation of church and state at that time. Back in the “dark ages.”) I still have the verse motto certificates, the New Testament, and the Bible that I was awarded for my memorization of verses. I also spent several weeks at a Christian camp free as a reward for learning verses.
I have to be honest and say that at that time I was just working to learn three hundred verses, because there were 300 verses to learn. I was certainly a child who was reared in the church, with solid Christian instruction, but I had not processed the total extent of why committing the scriptures to memory was important. But during the summer of 1997, I had an experience which unlocked for me the importance of learning – no – memorizing God’s word.
Mid-June of that summer, my sister, Marian, was in a terrible bicycle accident. During the initial hours following her accident, the horrors of the possibilities associated with her injuries hung over us. On the evening of her accident, while waiting with my family in the ICU waiting room, we were visited by very close Christian friends from Athens, members of their church. The love and concern of those friends buoyed our strength, and their love surrounded us in a way that was surely sent from God.
After they had spent time with us and as they were getting ready to leave the ICU waiting room to return to Athens, we bowed to pray together for Marian and for ourselves. One of our friends prepared to lead us. Then he stopped and asked his wife if she would recite the 91st Psalm for us before we prayed. His wife had not pre-thought doing that, and she had nothing with her to provide assistance in case of memory failure. However, God’s grace and presence filled her, and she began –
1 You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
2 will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress;
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence;
4 he will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night,
or the arrow that flies by day,
6 or the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
or the destruction that wastes at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only look with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord your refuge,
10 no evil shall befall you,
no scourge come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder,
the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.
14 Those who love me, I will deliver;
I will protect those who know my name.
15 When they call to me, I will answer them;
I will be with them in trouble,
I will rescue them and honor them.
16 With long life I will satisfy them,
and show them my salvation. Psalm 91
After she finished, we prayed and our friends left. However, I could not stop thinking about Gail’s scripture sharing, how appropriate it was, how much it comforted us. How could she have recited that lengthy passage from memory? How much Scripture did she have committed to memory? How many other people had she comforted in this way? How had this discipline comfort her in her own life?
I could not remember the specific psalm, so when I returned home, I searched it out. Since that time, it has been of great comfort to me in times of need – deaths of parents, bouts with cancer and health problems, the normal stresses of life.
This Psalm has many points which could “preach” (as Lisa and I talk about), but I have adapted this devotional for this Lenten season because I think the spiritual discipline exhibited by our friend – that of learning and relying on God’s Word, bears witness to why we are focusing on Holy Habits during Lent. I am sure that Gail does not know that her actions that evening in that waiting room have marked my life. But they deeply witnessed to me about the importance of reading and learning God’s word, speaking clearly about why this “habit” can deepen our faith and allow us to minister to others in times of need. I continue to pray for the discipline to develop this Holy Habit.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for your Word. Increase our awareness of it’s importance in our lives. Help us to clear times for studying your word, and opportunities to use your word to help others. Amen.