Lenten Devotional: Thursday, March 10

by Ted Staton

Psalm 63.1 O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes a year – we all have this allotment – the young, the old, rich and poor, healthy and sick – all the same amount. So then, how are we supposed to find time to sit and think, much less to think of others during Lent?

I used to wonder about all this “giving up something for Lent” talk. The public schools in Baltimore were very Catholic compared to public schools in Georgia. Everyone “gave up something for Lent”. It was not until I became a United Methodist clergy student at Emory that I really began to piece together the puzzle. Without hope of finding more minutes in the day, I realized that I would need to give up some old, usual tasks to make room for the new ministries I wished to be in.

Probably the best Lent I have had was at Reinhardt College as Chaplain and teacher of Old Testament, New Testament, World Religions and Greek. Whew, I needed more free time to talk to students, faculty and staff. Then the idea hit me: I would give up lunch during Lent and place two folding chairs at the intersection of a bunch of sidewalks in the center of the campus. I sat in one. It worked – people who would never have knocked on the office door of the Chaplain, stopped to chat – Weather topics at first, then deeper, more theological topics… and I lost weight, too.

Like a sponge in a dry and weary land, our soul longs for time as though it were water. Giving up a task creates a type of time-vacuum that can then be filled with other things, more holy things.

I pray we seek and find a Holy Lent.

Prayer: Lord, we love you and seek you. Fill us with your Love. Amen

Lenten Devotional: Tuesday, Feb. 23

by Natalie Smith

Psalm 46:10
God says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

This year I have made a commitment to being still. I have committed to a daily meditation practice that has already helped my mind to make better sense of the world around me. For me, the world can be an unbelievably chaotic, confusing, and overwhelming place, and my inner voice often screams, “RUN and HIDE, I can’t handle this!” That instinct translates into any number of numbing and tuning out scenarios I’ve created as coping mechanisms. But underneath it all, I have a deep desire to know myself and to know God. I know that it is normal and natural to build exterior versions of myself in an effort to more comfortably navigate my world, but I also know that every time I run and hide, I miss an opportunity to get closer to my inner truth and to God. So my commitment to being still is a commitment to sit in the possible discomfort of emotion, of pain, of the unknown, but beyond that place, I have experienced the immaculate beauty and peace that is God. This is how I am able to live in the world as it is for me. I can live it because I know that at the center of everything resides the unwavering love that is God. If I can see God in all things, I can move forward, undeterred on my way

Prayer: May I be still so that love, the truth of all beings, may become ever more present and obvious in my world.

Lenten Devotional: Tuesday, Feb. 16

by Joe Dennis

Psalm 19:14Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

When I was younger, writing poetry was a passion of mine. I would isolate myself in my room, and all my teenage angst, coupled with what I now know was depression, elicited hundreds of poems. Most of them fueled with words of anger and desolation. My emotions were my ammunition for my writing, and it was so easy to get in touch with them.

IMG_2341

As I got into college and into adulthood, the focus of my writing became journalistic. As my depression became treated and my angst faded, it became difficult to tap into my emotions to provoke my writing. Even when I was able to find a quiet place, my ability to write poetry was stifled.

Now, with the pressures of work and family, and the constant connectivity to external distractions through my phone (and watch and tablet and computer and TV and radio), finding a quiet place has been difficult for me. It’s been something I’ve been longing to do, especially after hearing fellow church members discuss the power of meditation and prayer. I’ve tried. But even in those rare times I can isolate myself from distractions, my attempts at meditation often end up like this:

<start meditation>
Breathe in. Breathe out. Focus on your breaths. Talk to God.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Hey God. It’s Joe. Oh shoot. Did I ever register Jackson for baseball? Wait Joe. Not now. Focus. Breathe in. Breathe Out. Back to you God. So … wait a second. Damn. I forgot to put the empty boxes in recycling. Shoot. Now that will have to wait for two weeks. Joe! Focus! OK.
Breathe in. Breathe out. It’s me again God. I’m trying to focus here. So anyway … Please help me focus. Hmm. Focus.
P-H-O-C-U-S. It’s weird that the Vietnamese dish “Pho” is pronounced “Fa.” It makes no sense. JOE! STOP IT! 
Breathe in. Breathe out. This is stupid. I’m going to check on Jackson’s registration. 
<end meditation>

I cringed when Lisa said at last week’s Ash Wednesday service that we will have time to meditate and work on an activity. With my three kids with me, I knew this would not be successful. My biggest concern would be keeping Jaydon off his phone, keeping Jackson quiet to not distract others, and keeping Matthew from running around. I even contemplated leaving.

But then Maxine took the boys away to do a kid-focused project. So I went to the activity table and naturally gravitated toward the writing exercise. I made sure my phone was on silent, read the prompt, grabbed a pencil and notepad, and started to center myself. And for the first time in decades, I was able to tap deep into my emotions through my writing.

For the first time ever, I feel like I had a heartfelt conversation with God. And it felt incredible!

Prayer: God. I know you are there, waiting for me to get in touch with you. Help me clear all distractions and find the best way to get to you.

Lenten Devotional: Monday, March 23

by Colleen Pruitt
March 23, 2015

Psalm 118:1: Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

Johnny Appleseed Blessing
Oh, the Lord’s been good to me,
And so I thank the Lord
For giving me the things I need
The sun, and the rain, and the apple seed
The Lord’s been good to me.
Amen.

Each night before dinner, our family sings this short blessing.  Looking back, I cannot remember when we gave up “God our Father” for “Johnny Appleseed,” but it has become a favorite and a mainstay at our dining table.  Sometimes, just for the fun, the boys like to sing the blessing in different styles and accents, and if everyone is in an especially good mood, we might even shout “Amen” at the end or sing it an extra time.  It has become a habit and a happy ritual during the busyness of the evening hours. No matter what my day has been like or what is going in the world, this time with my family makes me stop and pause and give thanks.

This simple blessing serves as a daily reminder that we have all we need and that the Lord has been good to us. Not only is this something that I hope our boys carry with them in their own lives as they grow and eventually leave our table, but I hope that they will share the spirit of gratitude with everyone that they come in contact with.

Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for the many gifts you have bestowed on me.  Help me to be thankful for what I have and allow me to use the gifts you have given me for good purpose and in your name. Help me to give thanks each and every day and share your joy with others. Amen

Lenten Devotional: Thursday, March 19

by Hal Turner
March 19, 2015

I have been hesitant this year to volunteer for a devotional as my thoughts have been very chaotic lately.  It seems I am always in a personal or faith crisis.  After what once seemed a very real personal teen-aged encounter with Jesus, I have gone through life doubting that I was worthy of that Grace. People would tell me that my academic life made me incompatible with Jesus.  Understanding physics, chemistry and biology I had been tainted by knowledge that prevented me from believing in the Bible.  Then as I came out, I was told clearly that church law declared me incompatible with Jesus Christ.  (it still does, lol.)

Yes I still feel a overwhelming sense of rejection from God and the Church. But of course as a person with PTSD I will always feel an overwhelming sense of rejection.  It is a type of quicksand I find myself often stuck in. While searching for some deep insight to offer for a devotional I continue to find myself stuck in the mud.

One sound though occasionally echoes in my mind as a call to hope. The lyrics of an ancient psalm. A psalm of hope, renewal and freedom. So I offer those words as my devotional this lent.  If you know the tune sing this with me.

I waited patiently for the Lord.
He inclined and heard my cry.
He brought me up out of the pit.
Out of the mire and clay.
He set my feet upon the rock.
And made my footsteps firm.
Many  will see and many will see and fear
I will sing, sing a new song
…….
Psalm 40 1-3 paraphrased
A song of Hope and Praise