Lenten Devotional: Friday, March 23

by Hope Cook
Proverbs 4:25: Let your eyes look directly ahead. And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.

I’m sure I’m taking this verse out of context, but the point I saw was keeping your eyes open and noticing what’s right in front of you instead of being lost in the thoughts in your head.  Three times God has tried to show me this in the last day:

1. I read about being on vacation or on a trip (like I’m on right now) and how we have a hard time just being there and enjoying it — breathing, looking around, noticing.  Instead, we immediately think dozens of thoughts like, “I think I should take some pictures or videos to capture this moment,” or we think, “I wish my spouse was here to enjoy this with me.”  Our brains shift into noticing what’s not right or what could be improved instead of just being aware of these thoughts and still being present in the moment.  This morning I was the only one up at 5:08.  The sun was coming up in Honduras, roosters had been crowing since 3:30 and I was mesmerized by the beauty of the sky and the ocean(see photo).  That is, until I started thinking about how I should text a picture to my friend, and maybe I should Facetime my family so they could see it, or maybe I should journal about it.  I picked up my pen and journal and diverted my eyes from the beauty of the sky to begin writing.  The pen ran out of ink after three words were written on the paper.  I decided this was  a sign and maybe God wanted me to look up and enjoy the wonderful chance to watch His awesome sunrise through the palm trees.  Stop what you’re doing for a moment or two today.  Look up, take a deep, full breath into your lungs.  Put down your pen and your phone.  Look someone in the eyes.  Smell the air around you.  Touch a flower or a bush on your way to the car and notice the texture.  This is your one wild and precious life, so for goodness sake, don’t you dare waste it.

2. Yesterday I had a mom bring in her two fat, beautiful 4-month-old baby girl twins for diarrhea and cough.  I examined them and found no signs of anything other than “worm belly,” so I gave them the medicine for worms and briefly talked about watching for signs of dehydration.  As I talked to the mom, my eyes kept going to one of the twins who was a little smaller than her sister.  She was smiling the whole time and drooling a lot.  My eyes then settled on her almond shaped eyes and the shape of her head —  down syndrome.  That’s why she looked different (see photo of babies with my translator).  It was subtle, but the more I thought about it and got a few others’ opinions, it was quite obvious that one twin had Down’s.  Mom had no idea.  My translator talked and talked with mom.  As she pointed out each feature, mom would shake her head.  She honestly didn’t see any difference in the two girls.  Sometimes we are blind to what’s right in front of us.

3. Look at the strangers in front of you, don’t get that glazed look when you’re “dealing” with them.  One of our translators is a little on the haughty side.  This white haired lady grew up with missionary parents in Honduras, and she’s translated for hundreds of mission groups and aide organizations like Mercy Ships.  So maybe she’s a little fed up with helping people.  Yesterday I heard her loudly yelling in angry Spanish to some ladies to back up and move away from the farmacia (pharmacy).  She later said at supper that she could’ve punched one ungrateful old lady (this is making her sound terrible, but we all vent about our jobs at supper to some degree) because the lady had fussed about us running out of some of the medicines by the end of the day.  Our translator barked back at her in Spanish that she should be grateful that we were even there to give her any medicines at all.  This was a fair point, but if she’d stopped to look at the woman or talk to her, she would know that this was a 70-year-old grandmother who had walked many miles with three kids under the age of 6 to get medicine for them.  She may have seen that the grandmother didn’t look like two of the lighter-skinned children. The grandmother had been my patient earlier and I’d heard that she was raising three children who weren’t her own and struggling financially to keep doing so.  Only one was a blood relative.

Let your eyes notice those around you.  Make eye contact, smile, notice.  See them, really see them.

Lenten Devotional: Monday, March 16

by Aaron Farnham 

March 16, 2015

1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 (ESV)12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle,[c] encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies,21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

On the trips to Honduras I have attended recently I have considered myself lucky to oversee obtaining communion supplies for a short Sunday evening service at the Ranch. This year, as one of three seminarians (1 presently at Duke and 2 Asbury graduates) I was tapped to expound on verse 17 of the above passage while the other two had “Rejoice always” and “give thanks in all circumstances.” I found comfort in that because it was an example of the Holy Spirit meeting me where I am; Andrea and I had both elected to engage the habit of prayer this Lenten season.

While I cannot speak for Andrea, I intended to pursue the example of Brother Lawrence, a 17th century Carmelite in Paris who understood his daily tasks and duties as acts of prayer and through that found satisfaction in his work. Thus, the goal I had put before me was one of praying without ceasing. Frankly, I went that route because it was something familiar to me through multiple readings of Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God.  It was going well until the trip and I was without the triggers I had associated with my prayer, i.e. folding laundry, vacuuming, sweeping, and washing dishes. Furthermore, wouldn’t you know that when I got back Andrea was all about pitching in with those tasks?

Once again, the Holy Spirit met me where I was. On the last day at the Ranch a local artisan store is open to visitors. That is the store in which I purchased the painting on display in 717 (the old parsonage). This year I happened to pick up a Catholic rosary with the thought that it would look good hanging on the wall. Nevertheless, my curiosity caught up with me and I learned that the Anglican Church, which Methodism grew out of, had developed its own rosary in the 1980s. With that inspiration I used the rosary from Honduras to make an Anglican rosary, the praying of which I have found quite fulfilling the last few weeks.  

From this it is not my hope that we would all start praying the Anglican rosary (Should you find God speaks to you through that practice, so be it.), but rather that we would be reminded by this short illustration that God will meet us where we are as we seek God… So long as we listen. As Teresa of Calcutta said, “Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.” In my opinion, listening is the key to praying without ceasing and ultimately the key to recognizing God before us and it is also the keystone holding together everything else Paul included in the above passage.

For the closing prayer I turn to an adaptation of Saint Patrick’s Breastplate as found at http://www.kingofpeace.org/prayerbeads.htm which has more information about the Anglican rosary if it is of interest to you.

Saint Patrick’s Breastplate

The Cross
I bind unto myself today the strong Name of the Trinity, 
by invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three. 
Of whom all nature hath creation, eternal Father, Spirit, Word: 
praise to the Lord of my salvation, salvation is of Christ the Lord.

The Invitatory
Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, 
Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me. 
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, 
Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

The Cruciforms
I bind unto myself today 
the strong Name of the Trinity, 
by invocation of the same, 
the Three in One, and One in Three.

The Weeks
1. I bind this day to me for ever, by power of faith, Christ’s Incarnation; 
2. his baptism in Jordan river; 
3. his death on cross for my salvation; 
4. his bursting from the spicèd tomb; 
5. his riding up the heavenly way; 
6. his coming at the day of doom: 
7. I bind unto myself today.

1. I bind unto myself the power of the great love of cherubim; 
2. the sweet “Well done” in judgment hour; 
3. the service of the seraphim; 
4. confessors’ faith, apostles’ word, 
5. the patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls; 
6. all good deeds done unto the Lord, 
7. and purity of virgin souls.

1. I bind unto myself today the virtues of the starlit heaven, 
2. the glorious sun’s life-giving ray, 
3. the whiteness of the moon at even, 
4. the flashing of the lightning free, 
5. the whirling of the wind’s tempestuous shocks, 
6. the stable earth, the deep salt sea, 
7. around the old eternal rocks.

1. I bind unto myself today the power of God to hold and lead, 
2. his eye to watch, his might to stay, 
3. his ear to hearken, to my need; 
4. the wisdom of my God to teach, 
5. his hand to guide, his shield to ward; 
6. the word of God to give me speech, 
7. his heavenly host to be my guard.

Words: attributed to St. Patrick (372-466)
translated by Cecil Frances Alexander, 1889 
Adapted for use with Anglican Prayer Beads by Laura Kelly Campbell