"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.

The Voice of God Speaks

The voice of God speaks.

There is power in the voice of God. There is power in the Word of God.

The psalmist captures the power of God’s voice, which can break the mighty cedars and shake the wilderness.

There is power in the voice of God.

You and I know that, for there are memories we carry for a lifetime. I am making an assumption here, because I know this is true for me, and I imagine it is also the same for you.
 

What voices have had power in your life?

Whose voice do you remember that first gave you a word of encouragement?

Whose voice is one that tore you down, and decades later, you can still hear that voice?
 

Sarah and Paul were children in my first congregation. They were two of three children. Their brother, Scott, had died of smoke inhalation. The smoke came from a fire Paul started in the family’s house. Paul had found his mother’s cigarette lighter, and lit the couch on fire. Everyone got out, but Scott died a few days after the fire. He was only four years old and the baby of the family.

Sarah and Paul were eight and six years old at the time. Their grandmother helped out where she could, but the family was broken. They had no home to live in, so they lived with grandma. Saddened and depressed, they had a hard time keeping it together.

Grandma wanted to do what she could. She knew that the kids needed a different environment. So, the summer after the fire, which happened in January that year, she signed them up for camp at Lutheran Memorial Camp in central Ohio. She was concerned about what they might experience. She let the camp staff know about the accident, and told them that camp fires might be difficult for the kids. Mindful of what had happened, the staff assured grandma and the parents that they would keep a close eye on the kids.

I was present when Sarah and Paul were dropped off for the week at camp. I saw the hesitation in their eyes, and in the eyes of their parents and grandmother, too. After a few tears, the adults left and the kids started the week at camp. I was dropping off my daughter that week, too.

I attended the week’s closing ceremony, a time when families gathered to pick up their kids and hear their songs and share a meal. I remember at that ceremony, when Paul saw me — his pastor — he ran over to me and said hi. He started to tell me about his week at camp, and how much fun he had.

Then Paul pointed to his counselor, Steve. Paul told me that Steve was the best counselor at camp.

Paul looked at me and said, “Pastor, do you know what Steve told me? Steve told me that I am special.” The smile on Paul’s face and the glimmer in his eye were powerful.

For the previous six months, Paul had heard many other voices.

At camp, through a messenger of God named Steve, Paul heard another voice.

The psalmist writes “May the Lord bless his people with peace.”

Through a counselor with Steve, the Lord did just that.

What a powerful voice.
 
 

Let us pray: 

Thank you for those who speak powerful words of peace, love and hope. Help us to do the same when we open our mouths. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Psalm 29 

 

Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,

    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;

    worship the Lord in holy splendor.

 

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;

    the God of glory thunders,

    the Lord, over mighty waters.

The voice of the Lord is powerful;

    the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

 

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;

    the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.

He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,

    and Sirion like a young wild ox.

 

The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.

The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;

    the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

 

The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl,

    and strips the forest bare;

    and in his temple all say, “Glory!”

 

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;

    the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.

11 May the Lord give strength to his people!

    May the Lord bless his people with peace!
 
 


Listen

What a great way to end a letter! In these three short verses, St. Paul packs a lot!

Finally…farewell! A sign that the end is coming. I imagine the Corinthians felt the same way you do when you hear the pastor say, “In conclusion…” Finally. Let’s wrap it up and give you some nuggets to hold on to, just in case you haven’t been paying attention up to now.

Put things in order. I can hear my dad in that statement! I remember him trying to reason with his first grandson who had thrown the magazines off the coffee table to the floor. My dad’s words to his grandson, age 18 months, were, “We must maintain some semblance of order.” His grandson didn’t understand!
 
God brings order out of chaos. Order promotes confidence and certainty. Get your ducks in a row. It may take some work, but order is better than disorder.

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

13:11   Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

13:12   Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.

13:13   The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
 
 
Listen to my appeal. Agree with one another. Live in peace.
 
Listen.
 
I am writing this a week or so before it gets published. This past weekend, May 30-31, has been marred by protests and marches, of which several have turned violent and destructive. There has been a lot of disorder!
 

In these moments, I appreciate words shared by a high school friend of mine who lives closer to the pain and anger than me. This friend of mine has a daughter who is African American. I listen to my friend. I know she listens to her daughter.

In summary, the advice she shared is to listen. Listen to hear the voices of those who live in fear every day. Listen to those who are seeking justice. Listen to those who want and need to be heard.

As a wise person once said, “Remember God gave you TWO ears and only ONE mouth for a reason.

Listen.

Everyone has a story. Yes, you have a story, and that is great. I do, too. And maybe there is a time for your story to be told. Now is a good time to listen to someone else’s story. Someone different than you.

Listen.

I am not going to get into a conversation about rioting and looting. There is a time and a place for that. But right now, don’t let those discussions get in the way of listening.

Listen.

I will never understand what my brothers and sisters in Christ are thinking or feeling unless I listen. I am confident I will never fully comprehend it, because I don’t live it. But I’ve got to try.

Listening is a gift. Time is a gift. Keeping your mouth shut is a gift, too. Stop giving unsolicited advice (Ummm…Did I just do that?) and listen.

Listen.

My fear is that sometimes we mistake listening as inaction, and in doing so, we fear that we give the appearance that we do not care. And so we speak up, thinking our words are more important than hearing the words of others. I need to get over that. How about you?

Listen.

It is only through listening to all voices that we might somehow get closer to agreeing with one another and living in peace (…and there I go again. Stop talking, and listen).

And the God of love and peace will be with you. The God of love and peace.

These are the attributes of God I love.

Let us pray: 

Almighty God, shut our mouths. Open our ears. Fill our hearts. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen