Join us for this short devotional reading of Philippians with backdrops of music and the beauty of nature.
Music: Be Thou My Vision, played by Pam Barksdale
Photos: by Chris Hartmann, video editing Elizabeth Hartman
2 Corinthians 5:7
“Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord; for we walk by faith, not by sight. We are of good courage.” (New American Standard Bible)
Ssssssshhhhhhhh! God is at work!
Recently there have been a lot of uncertainties in my life. Mostly these have to do with jobs and getting by. My husband and I each keep trying to find work. We are hoping so much for even more, one that would have benefits. Right now I am waiting to hear back about a job at the place I worked before the accident when I shattered my shoulder.
Then there is the food stamp recertification process, so much paperwork and waiting. I know the letter has been received because I got a call from someone the other week. I sent out a thank you letter to the lady who interviewed me earlier this past week. I am trying the best I know how, but in all that happens, I have no control over what happens.
Have you ever been in that place before? For me life seems stuck at that place where people keep encouraging, “It’s always darkest before the dawn,” and “For every door that closes, another door will open.” During this waiting time, it seems that nothing is going on that I can visibly see, despite everything we are trying.
So, I have been dealing with this–by walking. I’ve now managed to add another half mile to the walk, making the total I now walk each day to 4.5 miles. Because of the heat I am having to walk later in the day now.
With my walking, I have been able to see progress. I have also started turning the walking time into an active form of prayer. Sometimes it is hard to see what God is doing or not doing by human standards. Someone had to remind me recently that things happen in God’s time. God doesn’t need to follow some schedule I set or calendar I keep.
I am also seeing how God is providing during this endless difficult stretch. We have the food stamps until we get through with the recertification process. I am back on an assistance program which allows me to see the doctor and get medicine. My husband’s application for help has not been processed yet, but I’m having faith that it will go through. I am learning firsthand how God’s answers do not always agree with what I think or want. God’s answers may be “not now,” or “there’s something better I have in mind for you,” or in some cases, a very big “Yes!”
Also during this time, I have been active in working to help my church get ready for a fundraiser, benefitting our community assistance ministries and Habitat for Humanity. I’ve worked on some of the details, such getting banners and posters for advertisements and a band to play for the benefit. Getting ready for the benefit has been like putting a 3-D puzzle together, but it is coming together now, and businesses, individuals–and a band are coming to help.
As for my husband’s job, I have faith he will eventually get something. At this point in time, I’m not sure as to what, where, or how his job or anything else will work out. I do know the hand of God and the power of prayer have been keeping me pushing on and walking on. I will get to my goal of those seven miles. I am even considering signing up for some 5ks (3 miles) walks here in town. I know that God is working. Even when we’re not completely sure of the direction that God is steering us, sometimes we have to just help the faith along the way by keeping going, keeping on putting one foot ahead of the other, all while praying. This is what I call walking in faith.
This is a meditation on Psalm 8 in words, music, and pictures.
But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.
- Acts 16:18b (NRSV)
I lay restless, a myriad of thoughts dancing in my head. Seemingly endless to-do lists stretch out into the darkness. Problems from work cry out for solving. Feelings of regret and worry ricochet off the walls even as I lay dead still in the silence of the bedroom. I fear another sleepless night, more hours encumbered with a restless mind. So I roll over and whisper, “Will you pray?” Continue reading
Rev. Ana Gobledale shares a prayer written by husband, Rev. Tod Gobledale. Ana and Tod are Associate Missionaries with the Common Global Ministries Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, and serve as co-pastors at St. Andrew’s United Reformed Church Brockley, London, United Kingdom.
The lovely background music was graciously supplied by Pam Barksdale.
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (ESV)
How to Run a Race
Back in high school I was on the cross-country team. For three and a half years during cross country season our team would practice regularly, doing “runs” across various terrains to get used to running in the competitive races.
Our days back then could be exhausting. As soon as the school day ended, track practice began. Our routine included stretching, a warm-up run, then a practice run which often meant a 6.5 mile round-trip from the school. Some days my body was aching and screaming even before I began my one-mile walk home from school.
Some days it would have been tempting to forget the reason behind the training, but that is where being on a team helped. When one of us would experience down times on the team or in life, having support from team members–as well as from others at school or my family, made such a big difference.
All the while, I was learning. I learned that it takes everybody for a team to work: each individual and the team as a whole must to be persistent and stick with the training and preparation for what lies ahead. Encouraging others along, especially when the going gets tough, could make all the difference in how things turned out.
Although I usually ran on the Junior Varsity and did not place in the big races, I was still part of the team as a whole. I did my part and in the end earned “letters” in cross-country and JROTC (Junior Reserve Officers Training Program, which also called for great amounts of physical training and fitness.) Letters are patches awarded at the end of the season; they can be sewn onto a school jacket. Not everyone who participates gets a letter. Earning a letter signifies accomplishment, of having been faithful in sticking with the team along the way and being in the top number meeting the requirements.
Earning the letters was important to me then and now. Even more importantly, however, has been the learning from those experiences that has stuck with me since and influenced my life and my walk in faith as a Christian. Maybe you have some similar experiences that keep on helping you in your Christian faith.
Some big lessons I learned were: 1) the value of sacrificing what I need to sacrifice in order to keep strong enough to persist in what is worthwhile in life. 2) the need to work with others along the way in reaching goals that are higher than any one person. 3) the need to push myself to run new “terrains,” to try new things, so I can be best prepared to navigate well through whatever unknowns that lie ahead.
Years later, I still train physically, even after quite a few health challenges. I am still on a walking program and take it mile by mile. Some days I do not walk because of the weather or my health. That is okay. But it is important to me to keep going, to set goals for myself physically, and to find people who encourage me in reaching my goals. In the same way,I try to be the encourager for others, too.
The Christian life is not meant to be accomplished all at once. We train and grow in steps that continue throughout each of our life. As with physical training, that support system is important in following Christ. We are called to be church together, to help and encourage one another in each individual’s continuing challenges in life and in faith. We are all different and can all learn from others’ experiences, all while supporting each other. And in all we do, we can encourage each other to keep our eyes ahead, on the race that Christ is calling each of us to run. Wherever you are, don’t be discouraged, you can do it! Just keep at it and never quit.
Dear God, thank you for calling us into this life of faith that puts us with those around us in training, practicing, working hard, and sacrificing each and every day so that we may accomplish your will. Help us to run this race of life faithfully and persistently toward the goals that you have set before us, growing each day in our understanding of the disciples that Jesus Christ calls us to be. These things we ask in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.
Psalm 139: 1-18 ESV
We like to think we understand the idea that God is everywhere; that, as the Psalmist says, there is no place where God is not present with us, even when it might seem as though God is either distant or absent.
However, Fred Craddock warns us that “everywhere” seems a way of saying “nowhere.” (Reflections on My Call to Preach) We have to exercise some care lest, in our “spiritual maturity,” we fail to see God in our lives at all. So, how do we become aware of God’s presence in everything we do; everywhere we go?
In the late 1600s, a monk named Brother Lawrence, wrote a series of letters that have been compiled into a book called “Practice of the Presence of God.” In it he writes that “At any moment and in any circumstance, the soul that seeks God may find [God], and practice the presence of God.”
So, it seems to be, at first, a matter of seeking and observing. We need to get in the habit of looking for God in all the twists and turns of life; expecting God to be present and actively looking to see where and how God shows God’s self.
I don’t pretend to be very good at this. It’s something that I’ll work on all my life and still only barely scratch the surface. ”For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.” (1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV)
Still, it is something to truly strive for. If I can begin to see God’s presence in all the stuff of life, then life itself becomes a window into God’s actions. Then, no matter if we’re describing a wonderful worship service or a trip to the grocery; whether we’re talking about a time of deep prayer or a conversation with a neighbor, we might be able to begin it with the same phrase that Jesus used to describe the ways of life: “The realm of God is like this…”
Matthew 20:26 ”Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant.
“Helping, fixing, and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul.”
- Rachel Naomi Remen from,
A Time for Listening and Caring
Often when people are called to go on work trips, they are often looking for a way to help those who are suffering from the effects of poverty, natural disasters, war, or other calamities. Many consider their best trips as those where they are able to build or repair homes, health care clinics, or schools. It is extremely satisfying to be able to see the results of what has been done, and to be able to tell others about the need and the ability to relieve that need.
It sometimes is difficult, when recruiting people for such trips, to help them understand that those who are suffering are the very ones who will tell us what needs to be done, how it might be accomplished, and what matters most to them. The tasks that are anticipated before departure frequently never happen, and they never take place in exactly the way they are planned.
Once worker’s feet are “on the ground” in the target area, however, the perspective changes rapidly. It quickly becomes apparent that things will need to proceed as they need to proceed, given the situation. Local contacts make it clear that the most important that the workers bring is their presence in a place of deepest need. At this time, it’s important to make a major shift from task orientation to serving real people who know their own situation best..
Rachel Naomi Remen says it well – we need to see life as a whole, not broken or weak. As we enter into the life of others and experience their situation, whether at home or far away, we are called to humble ourselves and serve them. Without a servant’s heart, we will never experience the fullness of life that God has given us.
Prayer: Holy God, help us understand the teaching of your Son, Jesus Christ. Our prayer today is that you will give us a servant’s heart, so that we may enter fully into the life you have offered to us.