Staff Devotional with Rev. Clay Womack - July 20, 2020
WHO YOU ARE .. AND WHOSE YOU ARE
Recently I had the distinct pleasure of penning a congratulatory word to a freshly-minted college graduate. Pastor-types are offered such a privilege with regularity, and it is a joy to do. This putting of congratulations, hopes expressed, and a gentle reminder of who she was and Whose she was on paper was particularly joyful because of the long-standing connection of being pastor & friend to this grad, as well as to her family. As is sometimes said where I come from: “we built a lot of barrels together” – Sunday School, UMYF, youth choir tours, mission trips, summer church musicals, middle & high school performances, Sunday worship leadership, VBS youth leadership team, and a bunch more – for the advancement of the Kingdom and the glory of God. I was part of “raising her from a pup” (another term from home stomping-grounds) in the meeting of Jesus and the first steps of equipped discipleship in his name.
Like you and those you “raised from a pup” in the Church, having something to do with their launch into the future – I am proud of and glad for this young adult: past, present, & future. She knows, but continues to learn more about, who she is and Whose she is.
And so do you. So do I. So do we, together, as Christ’s Body. COVID-19 days haven’t put a dent in the truth of it .. or derailed that train “bound for glory”.
On the occasion of this congratulatory note, I invited her back to the witness of Scripture and encouraged a regular – and often – return to its source of her authenticity now that she was about to commence her own independent life.
Four biblical locales were suggested:
Proverbs 3: 1-12
Philippians 4: 4-8
Matthew 5: 13-16
John 15: 12-17.
Respectively in & through Christ, they speak to:
Today, tomorrow, forever.
May I today invite you to a quiet, right-now prayerful reflecting through these four places in our scriptures? And consider the power of your daily Intent, Focus, Identity, and Purpose. COVID-19 days and their restrictions haven’t eroded anything having to do with your living into this Intent, Focus, Identity, and Purpose for Christ’s sake.
In fact, ol’ COVID .. its fears and exasperations .. just may be utilized by Jesus to further build you up! Like a certain freshly-minted college graduate: it is quite likely that you better know who you are, and Whose you are, now than you ever have before. Therefore, congratulations to you, too!
.. we have more barrels to build.
Staff Devotional with Rev. Clay Womack - April 30, 2020
Staff Devotional with Rev. Clay Womack
Blessings upon each and all, Church! May you be well-supplied and joyfully surprised by God’s grace this day.
‘Speaking of that amazing grace, anticipated: the old saying – “it may be a hard week but Sunday is coming!” – will find an eventual 1200 E. Yellow Jacket Lane fruition again: a call will go forth from State and County leadership that the people of First United Methodist Church can begin to assemble again on Sundays for the worship & praise of God, the study of the Word, and the Holy Spirit-inspired fellowship with one another in Christ’s love. That day we all look forward to and yearn to see.
“It may be a hard week but Sunday is coming!” will arrive, and our ability to gather once again in strength and numbers will be an awesome and joyful reality to drink deeply from. Until then, how thankful have we been for Sunday worship, learning, & fellowship made available through live-streaming and pre-recorded undertakings! A God-send. (No doubt, some of these new doings will remain as part of what First UMC offers to the community going forward.)
When I ponder all this, #553 in our United Methodist Hymnal camps out in my heart and imagination. That hymn’s written message, composed by Charles Wesley in 1749, is gathered up in the title “AND ARE WE YET ALIVE”:
And are we yet alive, and see each other’s face?
Glory .. and thanks .. to Jesus give for his almighty grace!
Somewhere in those first Sundays back, I hope we can stand together with lungs full of air and hearts full of gratitude, and powerfully sing the song, living into its message, and its history:
Back in the days of its first singing, it was the young circuit-riding preachers who would lift it up at the annual gathering in “conference” with each other and John Wesley, or Francis Asbury. They held to God and one another, and sang it, and meant it:
What troubles have we seen, what mighty conflicts past,
Fightings without, and fears within, since we assembled last?
YET OUT OF ALL the Lord hath brought us by his love.
And still he doth his help afford and hides our life above.
‘Solitary life and service on the frontier could be, and was, dangerous, hard, and lonely. In these our days of COVID-19, we-can-relate. ‘To both their yearnings and their humble declarations of Jesus’ faithfulness: We-can-relate. Their spiritual DNA continues to flow through us .. through you.
After the annual conferencing was concluded, those young circuit-riders went their separate ways to their appointed fields of service. Daunting? Yes, but they went confident in their Lord who was with them and in their ministry. ‘Confident, too, in their “tool kit” of prayer, study, witness, service, sacrificial giving, loving, caring.
With all their hearts they hoped to see the next year’s gathering of brothers & sisters in Christ and their conference together on the things of Jesus, singing with eyes tearful & hearts full: AND ARE WE YET ALIVE, cherishing their friendship, common service, and the God who claimed them. AND ARE WE YET ALIVE was not a question. It was a declaration and a promise. It still is.
Sundays are like that for us. Can I get an Amen!
Too: amid COVID days, and every season of days, your tool kit remains well-employed for Christ and neighbor; ‘seven-days-a-week, like theirs. You get it.
“It may be a hard week but Sunday is coming!” Friend: thank you for staying engaged with what your First UMC is offering; thank you for waiting with creativity and with patience; thank you for employing your Christian tool kit in keeping yourself and others lifted up, supported, served, thanked, and encouraged; thank you for giving, and seeing the possibilities all around you; thank you for involving your children and grandchildren. Thank you for believing that Sunday is coming.
In the joyful way of experiencing it, thank you for continuing to take up the Cross without fear:
Let us take up the Cross till we the crown obtain,
And gladly reckon all things loss
So we may Jesus gain.
‘Another life-giving piece of Jesus comes with doing so! As always, may God bless and keep you.
Rev. Clay Womack
Staff Devotional with Rev. Joe Pool
“Do not neglect the gift, that is in you, that was given to you…” I Timothy 4:14
My son Corey, now 30, had a favorite hat. His blue Adidas “gimme” cap. He wore it everywhere: vacations, summer camp, mission trips, to school, to church, riding skateboards, bouncing on the trampoline, floating the river…you get the idea. Inseparable.
The day came when I told him how fond I was of his cap. He gave it to me, “Here, it’s yours.”
The hat is in my office and I wear it when I think of him, which is often these days. Perhaps, that is the learning during such uncertain times as these, remembering the gifts in our lives. Be thankful for the simple. Lift up in prayer those known and dear and those unknown and distant. When nothing is certain but uncertainty, I turn to the simple gifts. I reflect and thank God for the giver of such things that remind me of love and grace, hope and peace. Find the simple and be thankful.
Staff Devotional with Liz Payne
So…I had intended to record a video devotional, just like the rest of the staff. However, every time I could have done it (i.e. late at night when everyone in my house is finally asleep and I have a minute alone) proved to be inopportune because, well, I had no make up on, or my hair had already wound up in a mom bun, or I was in pajamas….you get the idea. So here are my thoughts in written form, and I hope they bring comfort to you in whatever situation you are currently in!
Two weeks ago, my husband and I along with our two children (10 and 5 years old) were enjoying a wonderful spring break camping trip at the Grand Canyon. Reception was spotty, but anytime we passed by a visitor center or store, our phones would update and we would be flooded with messages about cancellations, closures, and general pandemonium. As we drove home, the news seemed to grow worse with each passing mile, until we returned home to a whole new reality. Over the span of just a few days, our lives had been drastically altered. I know for many of you, the experience was the same.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mind an “extended” spring break! I was happy to have a few days to settle back in and figure out what was happening. But I soon realized that this was not just a short interruption to our daily lives. Suddenly, we were all being called to roles and responsibilities that we have never had before. Overnight, I became a home school teacher, a full-time work-from-home employee, toilet paper supply manager, family attitude barometer, and an entire kindergarten social circle. It has been overwhelming and exhausting. And, worst of all, it highlights all my own insecurities and failures. How can I possibly be all these things to the people who are the most important to me?
A few nights ago, as I was feeling particularly discouraged, I turned to a scripture that brought me great comfort: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9. That is great news! I certainly feel like my weakness is on display now, and so I hope that, if it accomplishes nothing else, it will bring glory to God. During times of stress and uncertainty, it can be hard to remember that there is Someone else who will benefit from our struggles. God does not need us to respond perfectly; He can be glorified even when we are imperfect. And we need to give ourselves grace to not get everything right. God will be with us through it all, and at the end, we can all pray that our own weaknesses result in a perfection of Christ’s power. Without our struggles, where would we see God’s work? If we responded to stress and change with perfect clarity and dignity, how could Christ’s power rest on us?
If you find yourself struggling during this time, just remember, that Jesus is walking along side you, offering you his power. The truth is most of us are not equipped to handle the burdens being placed upon us right now. We need God’s help, and he has promised to provide it. Offer him your weakness, ask him to use it for his glory. Lean into his power and let it fill your heart and soul. Even though you are isolated, you are not alone. Use this time to draw near to God and allow him to lift you up. And above all, be patient with yourself. Take a deep breath. Trust in Him.