Sometimes you need to go around

Josh Medlock, Director of Student Ministries

You find yourself standing in front of the tallest wall you have ever seen.

You were told by everyone around you that you needed to scale this wall and perch yourself on top of the highest point so that you can see what is on the other side.

The wall has some places here and there that you could possibly fit your hands and feet into.

There also seem to be some large cracks that look like you could really get a great hold on to pull yourself up.

You take a deep breath and start to climb.

Quickly, your body reminds you that you aren’t as young as you used to be, or that you are not in the shape you thought you were.

Probably should’ve used that gym membership you’ve been paying for but never actually use.

You climb back down.

Each time you try to climb, every place you put your hands and feet, it all seems to be too much.

Each time you tire quickly and must come back down.

You almost slip and fall so many times you’ve lost count.

Struggle as you might you just can’t seem to get there.

You begin to wonder and dream about the sights on the other side of the wall.

What will the world look like?

How much beauty are you missing because you can’t see what is there?

Is there a large lake or perhaps a beautiful frozen glacier that seems frozen in time?

You try again. No luck.

You are drenched in sweat and your muscles ache.

Your body is yelling at you to stop and rest.

But everyone told you that you HAD to get to the top, that what lies beyond the wall is something that MUST be seen.

How long would you try to climb?

How long would you push yourself past the point of exhaustion?

Wait! Did you bother to look to either side?

The wall doesn’t go on forever. If you walk a ways you can simply go around.

So you walk.

The walk seems to take forever but eventually you can see the end of the wall.

Your pace quickens.

Even though your lungs start to burn from the effort and your already shaky legs are about to give out, you find yourself inspired and full of hope because there it is!

The end of the wall.

You slowly and cautiously creep around the corner to view what is beyond the wall.

I find that there are many times I feel as though I am climbing that wall.

What I have to remind myself is that there are other ways of getting where I need to go.

The walk that I am on is not one that I journey alone.

I am surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who mentor me, guide me, and encourage me.

But most importantly, I walk with Jesus. I never walk alone.

The walk may be longer than expected and it might seem like it will never end.

But it will, eventually.

We don’t always need to climb the wall. Sometimes we just need to walk around it.

My prayer for you today is that you won’t walk alone.

That you will look to either side of you and recognize the cloud of witnesses that walk with you.

If you don’t see them, don’t look up at the wall.

Instead, look deep inside and know that you don’t ever walk alone.

Blessings.

A morning prayer

Kitty Williams, Director of Music Ministries

New every morning is your love, great God of light, and all day long you are working for good in the world.

Stir up in us desire to serve you, to live peacefully with our neighbors and all your creation, and to devote each day to your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 

– An Order for Morning Praise and Prayer, United Methodist Hymnal, 876

I love this prayer because it reminds me that every day God is working out God’s purpose.

It also reminds me that we all need to be a part of God’s work every day. 

Sometimes when praying, my prayers sound like a task list for what I want God to do.

It’s almost as if I’m saying “my will be done,” instead of “thy will be done.” 

A few weeks ago, we sang the hymn Open My Eyes that I May See. 

This is a wonderful morning prayer! I hope you will pray it with me this morning. 

Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth thou hast for me; 

place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free. 

Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see. 

Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine! 

Open my ears, that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear;  

and while the wavenotes fall on my ear, everything false will disappear. 

Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see. 

Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine! 

Open my mouth, and let me bear gladly the warm truth everywhere; 

open my heart and let me prepare love with they children thus to share. 

Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see. 

Open my heart, illumine me, Spirit divine! 

Amen. 

A prayer for fathers and equality

Dr. Eldred Marshall, Artist-in-Residence, Associate Director of Music Ministries

Dear Heavenly Father,

We thank you for the fathers in our lives: biological and otherwise. 

We thank you for the wisdom they taught us, the protection they provided us. 

We thank you for the leadership they provided when we needed it. 

Please continue to bless the father figures who surround us with love, encouragement, and support. 

We pray that more men seek to follow you and obey your will, for in doing so it will strengthen our society. 

Further, Father God, we pray for our nation on this Juneteenth holiday, as it has yet to overcome the legacy of slavery and segregation. 

We implore your Spirit to move the hearts of men towards reparations. 

We remind you of the words you gave to Amos: let your righteous justice flow like a mighty stream. 

Please move this nation to rectify inequality in all forms.

In Jesus’ name, 

Amen

Two hundred thirteen

Josh Medlock, Director of Student Ministries

Two hundred thirteen.

Two hundred thirteen mass shootings have taken place in the United States (gunviolencearchive.org) as of Wednesday, May 25, 2022. 

A mass shooting is classified as any shooting where four or more individuals are killed during one event in one or multiple locations. 

This means that as I sit at my desk on Wednesday, at least 452 individuals have lost their lives in mass shootings. 

Twenty-one of those lives were lost on Tuesday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. 

I am a father of two children. One who is 16-years old and the other is 13-years old. 

I cannot comprehend the emotional turmoil that a parent goes through if they lose their child in this manner. 

I do not dare to let my heart imagine the suffering and anguish that a parent feels when they lose their child. 

If I do, I become inconsolable. I become consumed with anger and frustration because these things are preventable. 

Did you know that according to worldpopulationreview.com, there have been 288 school shootings in the United States? 

In comparison, there have only been 44 school shootings in all other countries combined. 

How is this possible? Why is this happening? Where are we failing? 

I will not stand on a soapbox and make this political. This is not about politics.

This is about a crisis. A REAL crisis.

Our fathers and mothers, our aunts and uncles, our nieces and nephews, our brothers and sisters, our friends, our neighbors, our spouses and our children are dying … and it is preventable. 

The negative stigma surrounding mental health is still very much an issue today. 

Individuals who commit these acts are not okay. Something is going on in their lives that leads them down a road ultimately terminated in death. 

In many cases there are signs that are missed by those who are around them. 

In many cases they did not tell anyone they weren’t okay. 

We as a people have to push for awareness and make sure everyone knows it is okay to not be okay. 

See something, say something. 

If you think something is not right, it is better to ask and say something and everything actually be okay than to say nothing and something tragic happens. 

We all have a part. We all are empowered to do something

Be brave and courageous, be willing to be vulnerable. 

Ask for help. Ask if everything is okay. 

It is one of ways that change can happen. 

These things are preventable. 

During times like this, when I am filled with anger and frustration, I struggle to hear what God is calling me to do because I want justice, and I want it right now. 

I want change, and I want it right now. 

I am sad. I am angry. I am frustrated. 

I do not want to live in fear that my children may not come home. 

I weep. I mourn. I hurt. 

And God weeps with me. 

This was not the plan. This is not what God envisioned for us.

But here we are. And God is with us also.

Even if we cannot see or hear God’s voice. Even if we cannot feel God’s presence.

God is still with us, and will remain so.

We are told in scripture that God is always with us, and nothing will ever separate us from that great and abundant love.

We are also told that life will present us with toil and turmoil, despair and death.

The challenge we all face every day is leaning into the love that God has for us and patiently waiting to hear the voice and feel the presence that we long for. 

My spirit aches, and my heart is broken. 

So all I can do today is pray. 

Pray that my anger will turn to compassion. 

Pray that my frustration will turn to action. 

Pray that my sorrow will turn to hope. 

Pray that my fear will turn to courage. 

Pray that the families of these children and adults will find comfort and strength in the abundance of God’s love.

Pray that they be surrounded by those who will carry them, mourn with them.

Pray for the face of God to shine upon them. 

Two hundred thirteen.

Pray we can change this number. 

May the peace and love of God be with each of you this day. 

Graduations

Kitty Williams, Director of Music Ministries

On a local newscast last night, the anchor person said:

“It’s finally here! The season of graduations!”

I thought back on my graduations, my husband’s, my children’s and my mom’s graduations.

For our family, each graduation was a celebration of accomplishments with great anticipation and hopes yet to come.

Then I thought of all the students who have come through our First United Methodist Garland children’s and youth programs.

I am thankful for the privilege to work with so many wonderful students who have gone on to become doctors, teachers, engineers, lawyers, analysts, philanthropists, musicians and much more.

Each year, if seniors have been active throughout their high school years, I allow them to choose the choir tour destinations, Dessert Show themes, and most importantly, our theme verse or quote for the year.

I am so thankful for seniors who come to their year with anticipation and willingness to take leadership.

The younger youth appreciate when the older youth lovingly include them.

Together, we all grow in faith.

Madeline Watkins and Liberty Cowan are outstanding seniors. They take initiative, showing creativity and ingenuity.

Although Pure Joy! Youth Choir has been small this year, they are one of the most talented groups around!

I credit Madeline and Liberty for not only singing in tune, but also keeping our group in harmonious unity!

This year, they chose this quote as our theme:

“God can give you peace for the past, purpose for the present and hope for the future.”

There are many verses that support this quote.

Because Ascension Sunday is in one week, the passage brought to this reflection is John 14:25-27.

Before Jesus ascends, he assures his followers:

“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace, I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

Prayer:

Loving God, life keeps changing and sometimes that causes anxiety.

Thank you for the calm assurance that your peace can be in us.

Without fear, help us to bring peace and assurance to those around us.

Lifting the Cup

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11:25-26

In the key Scripture for this collection, we hear that the Psalmist will lift the cup of Salvation as an expression of gratitude for blessings from God.

That image reminded me of the first time I led a Love Feast at our church family camping outing.

It was Sunday morning, and we were grubby and tired.

It took a while to gather all the kids (and adults!) for the worship service that would close our weekend.

Our pastor visited the day before, but no one thought to bring “official” communion elements – so he prayed over a couple of juice pouches and a handful of hamburger buns.

But remarkably – when the time came to have the simple laity-led form of the Lord’s Supper – as I talked about these everyday items being “set aside” and becoming more than they were before – all the fidgeting stopped.

It was one of the most meaningful worship experiences I have ever had.

After worship closed, the kids joined me in returning the elements to the Earth and the birds.

None of the poking and pushing from earlier, they too were transformed.

Prayer: Father God, help me to remember that I have also been consecrated. Like the buns and juice, I am transformed. Remind me and use me. Amen.

Jack Kincaid, Canmore, Alberta


A daily Lenten devotional reprinted with permission from The Society of St. Andrew to inspire help sharing nourishing food with neighbors in need. 

Every $1 donated provides more than 40 servings to those in greatest need. A donation of $47 for the 47 days in Lent provides more than 1,880 servings. 

What a way to celebrate the resurrection of hope and lift the cup of salvation for our hungry neighbors! 

Sacrifice and Thankfulness

Scripture: Psalm 116:8

The writer of Psalm 116 is recovering from illness and is so grateful to God he asks, “What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me?”

Have you ever had somebody bail you out of a bad situation, and you have no idea how to repay that gift?

The Psalmist offered this song of thanksgiving and concluded the repayment would be devotion and faithfulness.

They promise to work together with God’s people in worship and service.

God has blessed me in so many ways.

I have a wonderful family who loves me more than I love myself.

I have a supportive church family.

I have had many meaningful jobs.

I, like the Psalmist, recovered from pretty severe illness and am in reasonably good health.

So, what shall I return to the Lord?

I have no riches to give, and the Lord does not need my riches anyway.

I can only give what the Psalmist recommends – devotion, faithfulness, and a desire to work with all God’s people to bring about God’s dream – for all the people of the Earth to know of His goodness and mercy.

Prayer: Lord, so often, I think of sacrifice as a negative thing. Help me see any sacrifice I make to further your kingdom is an expression of thankfulness to you for all my many blessings. Amen. 

Chris Howell, Lynchburg, VA


A daily Lenten devotional reprinted with permission from The Society of St. Andrew to inspire help sharing nourishing food with neighbors in need. 

Every $1 donated provides more than 40 servings to those in greatest need. A donation of $47 for the 47 days in Lent provides more than 1,880 servings. 

What a way to celebrate the resurrection of hope and lift the cup of salvation for our hungry neighbors! 

What Cup Will You Drink?

Scripture: Matthew 20:20-22a

Growing up in a home where food was always available, we often had choices about both food and drinks.

It wasn’t easy to comprehend how some of our neighbors lived much more sparsely.

As a high school student, I joined a group that traveled to the barrio south of our school to tutor grade school students.

There, I first met young children whose basic daily food came from school.

I listened as Mario told me he sometimes couldn’t pay attention in class in the morning because he hadn’t eaten since lunch the day before.

One day he explained, “Mama gives me warm water or tea before I get on the bus. I try to take home the milk from lunch so I can drink it before I go to bed at night.”

I could not imagine how he could be grateful for such a little bit of nourishment until I realized he sometimes had no other food or drink!

When the Psalmist asks, “what shall I return to the Lord for all (God’s) bounty to me?” I wonder if the cup of Salvation might look more like a half- pint of milk?

Prayer: Lord, in these Lenten days, help us choose well the cup we are willing to drink. Strengthen us to recognize and receive your gift of Salvation, even when it comes through a cup of suffering. Amen.

Linda McKiernan-Allen, Indianapolis, IN


A daily Lenten devotional reprinted with permission from The Society of St. Andrew to inspire help sharing nourishing food with neighbors in need. 

Every $1 donated provides more than 40 servings to those in greatest need. A donation of $47 for the 47 days in Lent provides more than 1,880 servings. 

What a way to celebrate the resurrection of hope and lift the cup of salvation for our hungry neighbors! 

The Little Wooden Cup with Enormous Meaning

Scripture: Titus 2:11

Family heirlooms and meaningful gifts stay in a cabinet in our home.

Each item brings feelings of contentment: connection to family or fond memories of people and events surrounding the gifts.

One thing stands out atop the cabinet: the small, simple, wooden communion cup from the Holy Land given to me by my former pastor.

This cup was made from wood near the River Jordan, where Jesus was baptized and then began His ministry.

What that little wooden cup symbolizes, however, brings more than contentment.

It represents the great mystery of faith, often recited before receiving Communion in our church: Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.

It represents the Cup of Salvation: the cup of thanksgiving, forgiveness, all of God’s blessings.

With its imperfections in the wood, that cup exemplifies how our transgressions also mar us as human beings.

What goes into our cup of Salvation, the blood of Christ given for all is pure.

In thankfully taking the cup, we receive forgiveness and all the blessings of God: most significantly, the greatest gift of life eternal.

The little wooden cup was meaningful because of its place of origin and who gave it to me.

But partaking in the cup symbolizes the unmatchable gift of forgiveness and blessing poured out for me through Jesus’ sacrifice.

Prayer: Merciful Father, we humbly thank you for Jesus, who through his
suffering, death, and resurrection, gave us the greatest gift: Salvation. Amen.

Julie Erickson, Olathe, KS


A daily Lenten devotional reprinted with permission from The Society of St. Andrew to inspire help sharing nourishing food with neighbors in need. 

Every $1 donated provides more than 40 servings to those in greatest need. A donation of $47 for the 47 days in Lent provides more than 1,880 servings. 

What a way to celebrate the resurrection of hope and lift the cup of salvation for our hungry neighbors! 

A Double Draught in the Cup of Judgment

Scripture: Revelation 18:6

The theme of “The Cup of Salvation” brings to mind other cups in the Bible, like the cup of judgment in Revelation 18:6.

The Book of Revelation interprets the Roman Empire as the antithesis of the Realm of God.

In Revelation 18:1-24, God condemns Rome for idolatry and injustice, such as the wealthy feasting and ruling by violence while others struggle against hunger and persecution.

However, the Roman Empire, and its way of life, would be destroyed by the same means it used to rule.

Injustice would cause it to collapse.

Violence will consume Rome, but the passage offers a way forward.

“Come out of Rome!” (Revelation 18:4).

That is, “Turn away from idolatry, live in covenant, and provide food and opportunity for all.”

This Lent, we can consider how similar today’s world is to Rome.

According to Revelation, idolatry, exploitation, and violence set in motion patterns of decay that eventually cause social collapse.

But it is not too late.

We can heed God’s call:

“Come out of the values and practices of today’s empire. Feed hungry people. Live in peace. Create opportunity.”

Prayer: God, help us confess the ways we support empire in our time. Help us find the courage to say “Yes” to your invitation to “Come out!” Amen.

Ronald Allen, Indianapolis, IN


A daily Lenten devotional reprinted with permission from The Society of St. Andrew to inspire help sharing nourishing food with neighbors in need. 

Every $1 donated provides more than 40 servings to those in greatest need. A donation of $47 for the 47 days in Lent provides more than 1,880 servings. 

What a way to celebrate the resurrection of hope and lift the cup of salvation for our hungry neighbors! 

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