By Mary Jo Bartolacci, Brown St. United Methodist Church
This photo hangs above my desk. I shot it while on a hike in north Georgia a few years ago. Ever since, I’ve been listening to the story the tree has been telling me about itself and its crooked pathway to the light. I’ve imagined its quirky and difficult struggles. What brought about all those dead lower branches? That striking wrong-way turn? And what happened to cause it to reverse course and reach up toward the sun again? I’ve come to see that the story the tree tells is of second chances. It speaks of my own story of brokenness, grace, and forgiveness. God be with us as we both continue to grow.
A Prayer by Pastor Tracey Leslie
Gracious Lord, when we were children, sin seemed so easy to define: don’t fib, don’t push, don’t call other children names. But Jesus, your teaching went so much deeper. Sin is also that which we hide in the darkness, that which is pretentious and disingenuous. O you who are The Way, The Truth, and The Life, we have so much to learn this Lenten season! Teach us wisdom to walk in the light that is you. Teach us courage to seek truth even if what we see makes us uncomfortable. How thankful we are that you came not to condemn us, but to save us. Save us, Lord Jesus. Amen.
By Pastor Tracey Leslie, Trinity United Methodist Church
What is a word you’d use to describe “wilderness?” One I’d use is isolating. We all know a lot about that these days, right?
Some of you know I have had multiple eye surgeries over the years. Some of my most intense feelings of isolation follow these surgeries. There’s just something about not being able to see that causes me to feel cut off from the world.
By Emily Kuehl, Trinity United Methodist Church
A short time into my first year, my college roommate decided to move back home. Though sad to see her go, I was also elated; the dorm room was not large to say the least. Suddenly free from any compromises like my music volume or what time to shut off the lights, I eagerly awaited what this new phase had in store.
Not long after, my excitement about a room to myself and starting college turned to disappointment and anxiety. I struggled to find real friends among acquaintances. There were people to sit by in class, but no one to help unpack personal obstacles. Most days after class, I had little to do but go back to my silent dorm - back to solitude.
By Laura Stevens, Trinity United Methodist Church
It was a very dark and rainy night. It was supposed to have been a happy time with friends at the Purdue Christmas Show at 3:30 that afternoon. I knew that this could be problematic for me because I’ve had chronic fatigue syndrome since I was 17 and that time of day was my worst. Things did not go well. We sat close to the stage and the loud music and visual stimuli compounded my fatigue. After the show ended we had to wait and wait for our driver because of all the traffic to pick us up to take us to dinner. It was raining and we had to stand by the buses and their noxious fumes added to my feeling crummy. I was physically and mentally exhausted. I decided there was no way I could cope with dinner so I asked our host to drop me back at his house where I had left my car. I was eager to get home and eat and get my medicine so I got in my car.
It was so dark I got confused and drove off the road into a gulley. I asked God to help me and He did. A couple drove by, saw my predicament and invited me into their house. They called a wrecker and when it came, I went out to wait until they pulled my car out. A young man seemed to appear out of nowhere and reassured me that I was going to be okay. Once my car was out I asked the wrecker if I could follow him home to my house to light the road. Once I got home I realized I didn’t have my garage door opener and had trouble finding my key because I had not left the porch light on. I finally found it and I was able to get in and get some food and my medicine. I began to feel much better and decided a couple of things. First, God had been with me in my “wilderness” and helped me find the right people who could assist me. Second, I vowed never to drive in the dark again. Third, I vowed to pass on future Christmas Shows!
By Ruth Smith, Trinity United Methodist Church
Sometimes the kids and I take advantage of good weather and take our art supplies to the park. This was one of those days, perfect for spending an hour or two outside instead of sitting inside doing bookwork. I was excited about artmaking together. You wouldn’t know it from my drawing, but most of the hour we spent next to the river was full of complaining, frustrated yelling, and testy outbursts tempered only by the fact we were in public. I am ashamed of the way I spoke to my kids that day, more concerned about my expectations and what I wanted than to what they were trying to communicate to me.
Prayer by Pastor Suzanne Clemenz, Trinity United Methodist Church
Dear Loving God, we thank you for the journey of Lent. We thank you for this time to slow down, to turn inward, to seek you and to listen for your voice. We thank you for the journey of Jesus, and for the way that he kept his eyes squarely on the Father. We pray for eyes that are able to see like Jesus. Especially when life does not go the way that we want, when we are hurt and discouraged and not able to discern the way ahead, shape our hearts to trust in your goodness and faithfulness, and to recognize the angels in our midst. Amen.
Image by Tracey Leslie
By Mark Longfellow, Trinity United Methodist Church
As we get older, we tend to look back at our life experiences. Many are fond memories and some of the most simple things are the most special. Upon reflection, I did not understand the meaning of those moments, the people I was with, or the situation. I think of those “watershed moments” that changed my life. I may have asked for divine guidance, or sometimes not. But I felt God’s presence and instinctively followed his path. It was as if he had placed me in a pre-determined situation with a guidepost person or persons. It is these examples of real-life testimony that serve as strong witness. And, my personal experience of faith serves as a foundation to witness to others.
Welcome to Lent 2021. The focus of this devotional booklet is the question: What Do You See?