"Pastor Charlie Woodward", "Charlie Woodward"Pastor Charlie Woodward writes a daily devotion for the pandemic days until things are back to “normal,” whenever that may be. As the title states, we are in the wilderness alone, but we are still together. We may feel isolated and on our own. But we are in this together. I want to make sure we have an opportunity to stay connected. Each devotion will include a Bible verse, a brief reflection and prayer.  

Find a link to each day’s devotion below, or sign up here to receive the devotions to your inbox every morning. Choose the Devotions distribution list.

This is an opportunity for us to be present with each other in the days to come. You can be present by sharing your comments, insights, prayers and pictures in response to what Pastor Charlie shares in the coming days. For we are in this together. And where two or three are gathered in God’s name, God is present, too.

God Knows You

Psalm 139:1-12; 23-24

The Inescapable God

To the leader. Of David. A Psalm.

 

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 far away.

You search out my path and my lying down,

    and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue,

    O Lord, you know it completely.

You hem me in, behind and before,

    and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

    it is so high that I cannot attain it.

 

Where can I go from your spirit?

    Or where can 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 settle at the farthest limits of the sea,

10 even there your hand shall lead me,

    and your right hand shall hold me fast.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,

    and the light around me become night,”

12 even the darkness is not dark to you;

    the night is as bright as the day,

    for darkness is as light to you.

 

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;

    test me and know my thoughts.

24 See if there is any wicked way in me,

    and lead me in the way everlasting.
 

God knows you. You cannot hide from God.

 

I love the title of this psalm – The Inescapable God! God has a GPS on us 24/7! There is nowhere we can go to escape.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

As you have heard it said, “God is the God who knows us. And the God who knows us is the God who loves us.”
 
 

One of my concerns as a pastor over the past four months is that I have been unable to set my eyes on so many of our congregation members. Four services at Far Hills on a weekend, and I can right now close my eyes and see each grouping of people and where they usually sat, when they arrived, and the looks in their eyes as I served them communion. I miss that. I miss being able to read your reactions of the words spoken or the music sung. I miss your smiles and greetings before and after church. I miss the times we can share the joys and sorrows each week.

I know you miss it, too.Yet even when we are together, so often we hide behind the masks of our own making (pre-COVID masks) and put on a facade that we have it all together, and everything is fine. Now that we are not together, those barriers are easier to establish, and harder to break through.

A few days ago I mentioned the steps outside the Temple in Jerusalem. The steps were purposefully designed to be uneven, so when you climb the steps to the Temple, your head is bowed down as a sign of humility and reverence.

Another trait about the Temple is that there were certain passages for entering and exiting: one-way passages if you will. But the custom in the days of Temple was that if you were mourning the loss of a family member within the last year, you would enter through the exit, and exit through the entrance. This was a sign to those around you that you were mourning. Maybe we should try that when we get back to church.

My hope and prayer is that the walls and masks and barriers we build don’t get in the way of allowing the body of Christ to care for each other.

As we are loved for who we are and whose we are, may we do the same with those we are called to love. And if you need a definition of that, Jesus made it clear – love one another as I have loved you!

During these difficult days, we may need to work a bit harder.

 

Let us Pray: 

God you know me, inside out and upside down! And still you love me! Help me to love as you love, with compassion and caring. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.


ALMOST Perfect Game

Psalm 86:11-17 

11 Teach me your way, O Lord,

    that I may walk in your truth;

    give me an undivided heart to revere your name.

12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,

    and I will glorify your name forever.

13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;

    you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

 

14 O God, the insolent rise up against me;

    a band of ruffians seeks my life,

    and they do not set you before them.

15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,

    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

16 Turn to me and be gracious to me;

    give your strength to your servant;

    save the child of your serving girl.

17 Show me a sign of your favor,

    so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame,

    because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

 

Photo by Kevin Ward, Eastpointe, USA

Do you know the name Armando Galarraga?

He was a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers in 2010. He should be in the record books for baseball for being one of only a few pitchers ever to pitch a perfect game, but he isn’t. 

What is a perfect game in baseball? Author Paul Dickson in The New Baseball Dictionary (1999) describes it best: “A no-hitter in which no opposing player reaches first base, either by a base hit, base on balls, hit batter, or fielding error; i.e., the pitcher or pitchers retire all twenty-seven opposing batters in order.”
 
Over the 150 years of Major League Baseball history, and over 218,400 games played, there have been 23 official perfect games by this current definition. No pitcher has ever thrown more than one. Babe Ruth, Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan have not. 
 

Amazingly, two were thrown in the month of May in 2010. And then there was the game thrown by Galarraga in June that same year.

Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers was one out away. The ball was hit softly to the first baseman, and Galarraga ran from the pitcher’s mound to cover first base. He caught the throw from the first baseman, touched the base before the runner got there. The runner is out. Right? Perfect game?

Not so fast. The base runner was called safe instead of OUT. A blown call. This is before instant replay in baseball, so the call of the umpire stands. Chalk it up to human error. Now, don’t fret, the next batter was an easy out, and the Tigers beat the Indians 3 to 0. 

BUT this young man’s claim to a perfect game was ruined due to HUMAN error.

After the game, the umpire apologized. After seeing the replay, he knew he had made a mistake. Nonetheless, the play stood as called.

It was ALMOST a perfect game.

How are we doing in our faith journey? Are we almost at a perfect game status in following God with an undivided heart? Or are we almost there, but missing the mark because of “human error?”

An undivided heart. Total. Complete.

But don’t fret. For as I have said before, our relationship is not an “IF – THEN” relationship – IF we love God with an undivided heart, THEN God will love us.

NO.

Our relationship is a “BECAUSE – THEREFORE” relationship. BECAUSE God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and loves us so much he gave his only Son to die and rise, THEREFORE we respond by striving to do that which is pleasing in God’s sight.

Undivided heart. Total. Complete.

How are you doing with that?

The good news is this – God is a God of second chances. God gives us a new day each day to begin as baptized, forgiven children of God.

You might be close to winning a perfect game, and that is great. But know that we all fall short. God still loves us and forgives us.

OR if you are like my softball team in high school that had an ALMOST perfect season (we won ONE game and lost 17), God still loves us and forgives us. 

Batter up – let’s work on our game! 

 

Let us Pray: 

Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.