By Lance Mayes
I spent yesterday learning about advocacy — how to give a voice to the voiceless and marginalized. I specifically learned about immigration, the child welfare system, and general advocacy. Today I get to talk with my representative and senator about what I’ve learned and what I think about bills that have been introduced.
The biggest lesson that I have learned is to keep the conversation open and going. This involves lots of listening and humility. It is easier to do this (especially with those you disagree with) when you remember that all people are made in the image of God.
What does this have to do with Ash Wednesday?
In Psalm 51:1-17 you see prayers like:
- “Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love.”
- “Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin.”
- “Oh, give me back my joy again.”
- “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.”
These prayers keep us humble. If we keep these prayers in our minds and on our hearts, our advocacy for the voiceless and marginalized can be greater. We need to remember:
- From dust we came and to dust we shall return
- We are sinners
- We are mortal
- God provides mercy, love and joy to all (even those I disagree with)
The journey through Lent begins with taking a hard look inside and acknowledging the ugly parts we want to hide. The journey begins on Ash Wednesday with the imposition of ashes on our foreheads reminding us of our mortality and need for repentance.
Join us Wednesday, March 1 at 6:15 in the Sanctuary for our Ash Wednesday Service. Let’s individually and corporately remember we are all the same — we are all image-bearers and sinners. We all receive God’s mercy, love and joy. We must humbly listen more. And we must boldly (in love and respect) speak up.
By Lee Weems
The boom of the thunder awakened us. Pounding rain was falling on the roof and we were thankful to be inside. In the dark night, the winds whipped the rain around while we experienced another March storm. Memories of severe storms and flooding from last year stirred thoughts of Wimberley and the families whose houses were swept away. Some persons experienced the tragic death of a loved one.
During spring break, youth and sponsors from Woodland gathered with a multitude of other youth and adults to invest time in the San Marcos and Wimberley communities. The volunteers equipped with paint brushes, rollers, hammers, saws and compassion provided a presence of God to the battered communities north of San Antonio.
Lent allows us a time to explore the questions and struggles of life. This is a time to ask questions – Why do disasters happen? We can ponder the uncertainties of life and confess that sometimes events happen that don’t make sense.
Lent offers a time to pause and to allow both silence and reflection to remember our foundation of life during the stormy weather. We need to back away, catch our breath and remember a bigger story.
Psalm 118 continues to be an essential reading in my spiritual journey, especially during Lent. This psalm invites the faith community to remember the days of darkness and affirm the Light that shines even behind the ebony shadows.
“Re-member” means to put the parts together. Psalm 118 is a congregational song of “re-membering” and affirming. This psalm allows us to reconnect with our life story. No doubt, along the way, each of us have been powerful and pivotal moments. The people of Israel had some tough times. This psalm contains a list of the crises and tough times in their history.
Psalm 118 is a public worship hymn. Woodland gathers as family of faith each Sunday. We come to re-member that our faith journey is jagged. Within a short distance from where any of us stands, someone has known the struggles of divorce, illness, death, relocation, or times of forced change. Confession allows us to acknowledge the bruised and broken, the confused and critical times along the path.
When this psalm was read responsively, the Hebrew people were invited to affirm a greater truth, “God’s steadfast love endures forever.” Hesed, the Hebrew word, proclaims the covenant love of God to the people of God. In our fractures and failures, disappointments and destruction, God never gives up on us and his enduring mercy surrounds us.
As we worship, there are spoken words, hymns, prayers and silence. We can confess times of insecurity and uncertainty. Together we speak aloud the great truth to one another, “God’s steadfast love endures forever.”
The storms of life are weathered and God’s steadfast love embraces us. Let us hold firmly to Hesed and trust God to gently hold us. Then we move forward into a world that knows pain, and become ambassadors of hope.
By Barbara Higdon
We appear to be a nation depressed and angry. We cry out to God to “restore our fortunes.” We rail against the failures of our leaders in whom we placed our trust. Greed, corruption and power-lust have invaded many of our political offices. Many are voting in anger and disgust with those who made huge promises and failed to deliver. We turn against them and look for other saviors who promise to change.
In the midst of that anger, it is easy to lose hope and forget the One who promised “to do great things for us.” He has not failed us, but he has allowed us to believe that in man we can find relief.
My prayer today is that we can “sow with tears” and wait patiently for the harvest. Putting one foot in front of the other in the midst of despair of any kind is important. God has promised that we will “will reap with songs of joy” if we simply follow his path.
Moving forward in this season of Lent, we must remember that our responsibility is to sow the seeds, whether with or without tears. It’s God’s promise to restore our souls, and our walk to the Cross is a daily reminder of his faithfulness even in the face of broken dreams. Reading the Psalms reminds us that we are not the first, nor the last to cry out to God for help. Our Lord has faced everything we face or will faced, and he understands us better than we understand ourselves.
Prayer: Lord, we know we have duties as Christians and citizens of a broken world. Remind us daily of those duties and help us to sow seeds of love and peace wherever we find ourselves.
By Barbara Higdon
“All day I’ve faced a barren waste/Without a taste of water,” sang the Sons of the Pioneers. “Old Dan and I with throats burnt dry/And souls that cry for water. Cool, clear water.”
Those of us who live in South Texas know well the thirst that Bob Nolan’s lyrics describe. The psalmist who wrote today’s reading understood that thirst and the deeper thirst of the soul when he wrote, “I seek you, my soul thirsts for you…in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
Mirages beckon, but they fail to deliver.
“Keep a-movin’ Dan, don’t you listen to him, Dan/He’s a devil, not a man, and he spreads the burning sand with water.”
How often the false relief promised by a shimmering pool of water on the sand distracts us. We rush towards mirages in hope that we’ll find relief, only to be disappointed. Like the desert dwellers of old, we stumble about dismayed that we’ve been beguiled by lies again.
At the well, Jesus promised the Samaritan woman, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give them will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14).
What a promise.
May our hope rest upon the Keeper of the well that never runs dry. As we move toward the time that reminds us that Christ bought that living water with his life, may we drink deeply from the spring of water that gushes up to give us that same eternal life.
Father, forgive us when we are sometimes distracted by the sparkling promises of the world. Help us gratefully drink the living water you offer to satisfy our souls and quench the thirst within us. Amen
By Edgar Twedt
It’s amazing how the signs of Lent jump out at us daily, and even more amazing how easily we can miss them. This beautiful psalm is a wonderful reminder of the amazing signs of Lent which are all around us. This is especially true when we realize that the true focus of Lent is God’s self. In the Psalm there are more than twenty references to God, either by name or metaphor or pronoun. The focus is entirely on our God. And that, of course, is exactly where the focus of Lent belongs. Of course it’s about introspection and reexamining our own lives, but it’s always about reexamining them in the light of who God is, and who God is to us.
As I’ve looked at these powerful words they’ve reminded me of the many places where God touches our lives as we travel through these Lenten days of our lives. Listen to the metaphors that the Psalmist has given us: “My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast.” “In the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.” “I meditate on you in the watches of the night.” “Your right hand upholds me.” “Your steadfast love is better than life.” What powerful, uplifting, moving language this is, reaching out to us from God’s self, enfolding us in his love in this Lenten season.
Now listen to the Psalmist as he tells of his personal relationship to God: “My soul thirsts for you.” “I think of you in my bed.” “My soul longs for you.” “In the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.”
There is another dimension here, however, toward which this Psalm should point us. Just as the psalmist sees and describes God in such a great variety, there is similar variety all around us. We hear God’s voice in the Scriptures, we see God in our symbols, we feel God’s touch in the love of our sisters and brothers, we hear God’s voice in our music, and in countless other ways. The real key is to keep our antenna tuned as we travel through this Lenten season with our focus on God’s self, and on ourselves only insofar as we focus on our relationship to God.
In many ways the language of this Psalm reminds us of two contradictory things. We are often, perhaps always, tongue-tied when it comes to focusing our attention on God’s self, but when we focus our attention on God’s self we experience God’s presence in unspeakable ways. We experience what theologians call the ineffability of God; we experience what we cannot define. And it is that experience that God calls us to as we travel through this Lenten season to our Lord’s glorious resurrection.
By Eastin Kandt, Nicholas Mayes, & Leslie Kandt
Psalm 105:1-15, 42
Keep your eyes open for GOD, watch for his works;
be alert for signs of his presence.
Psalm 105:3-4 (The Message)
Where do we see God today?
- in art
- being alone and quite praying to God
- taking walks in nature
- in people helping others
Why do we think this is important?
- it strengthens my faith and I continue to believe in God
- it helps my relationship with God
- it helps me help others see God at work
- it gives me hope when I am discouraged
- it reminds me God was, God is, and God always will be
Even in depressing times you can find God’s presence in your life and in the world around you.
We encourage you to
Keep your eyes open for GOD, watch for his works;
be alert for signs of his presence.
Where do you see God today?
By Bridgette Langford
Chapter 150 of Psalms verses 1-5 reminds us to always give thanks to God, sing unto to Him, and to rejoice always for the wonderful works of His hands. Knowing His judgment is Seeking His Glory, His strength and His face always.
As I am about to close a chapter of my life by graduating Seminary, I am constantly reminded of just how blessed I am by His mighty works in my life. The road has not always been easy and sometimes the burden heavy, but seeking Him at every step has been my strength.
Today as we prepare to celebrate our risen Lord, I want you to take moment and reflect on this passage and think about what Christ has done for you. Our God is so mighty and loving and I hold tight to that knowing if I just seek His will, He is going to provide for me. My hope and prayer for us today is that we keep seeking His face, rejoicing in song to Him, casting our cares on Him and allowing Him to strengthen us.
God is so good. Have you let Him know how thankful you are today?
Here is a prayer you can say:
Heavenly Father, today I thank you for providing me the strength to overcome the struggles in my life. I am so blessed to call you my risen Lord!!! Thank You for paying the price of giving your life for mine. Thank you for allowing me to cast all my cares on you. Father, help me to seek you not just today but always. Father, I love you and thank you for the life I live in you. Amen.
By Lance Mayes
The first two verses in Psalm 105 encourage us to give thanks and sing praises to God and let the whole world know the wonderful things God does.
Thanks, praise and Good News. We can do that!
It is easy for us to give thanks and praise to God when things are going well: the birth of a healthy baby, a good doctor’s report, getting a driver’s license, winning a game against your biggest rival. It is much more difficult when things are not going so well: a miscarriage, the cancer is back, failing the driver’s test, losing the big game.
It is good to stop and reflect when things are great and when things are bad. Make a list, write it down and thank God. In The 5 Minute Journal gratitude is defined as “the feeling that embodies the word ‘Thank you’. It is the unexpected reward of a kind deed that is magically produced by your brain. It is the cute, tingly feeling in your body that makes you smile at strangers.” Thank God for the day God has created for you. Thank God for every beat of your heart and breath you take. Thank God for the good and the bad (James 1:2-4).
Most of the time when we think about singing praises to God, we think of Sunday morning worship. It is good to be with other Christians and raise our voices in praise as one. It is good to listen to and enjoy a concert of praise and be spurred to join in their worship of God. It is also good to have private times of praise. You see a beautiful sunrise and speak a word of praise to God. You hear the story of your neighbor that their grandchild is getting the mental health help they need and you whisper a song of praise in your heart to God.
Sharing the Good News. Telling others about the wonderful things God is doing in your life and in the lives of others. What story is in your heart that is just waiting to get out? Please share! Tell your family and your friends. Tell your neighbors and coworkers. Tell your church community and your acquaintances. Write your story and post on a blog or on Facebook. Record your story on video for Youtube.* We all have so much we can tell about the wonderful things God does.
*We encourage you to record your story and we want to help. We can help you by posting on the Woodland Blog and/or in our print publications like our missions newsletter “Harvest Tree.” We can also record your story on video.
By Nate Newell
King David writes in Psalm 27 “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, oh whom shall I be afraid?”
When people remember King David they often remember his great feats, and his courageous faith, but no one ever brings up how scared he must have been … I look back at the things he had to face: lions, bears, giants, and even entire nations waging war against him. I think to myself, if I was alive back then, would I be as brave as David? Then I go on to think, what dangers do I face? Are they even remotely as dangerous? While we might not have to do battle with a 9 ft warrior we do have to battle traffic on Loop-1604. We don’t have to wrestle lions and bears to protect our flock of sheep, but we do have to worry about the mergers on I-410.
We should take our cue from David and put our trust in God, not our GPSes. In Psalm 27 David says the Lord is his stronghold, the bible also says God is an ever present help in trouble.
Put your trust in God, pray, sing praise! For he is our salvation, we need not fear anything. Psalm 27 puts into words the thing that everyone wants to hear, salvation from sin, and defense from danger. God protects us from all things and all he asks in return is that we talk with him. Pray before a meal, thank God for a friendship, for “The Lord is our salvation.”
By Mike Elliot
I think that one of the most powerful verses in Psalm 27 is verse 14. “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Often in my life I can get impatient. I have all these plans for college, finances, friends, and family. Several times these plans don’t go quite how I envisioned. All the distractions of life tend to just get in the way.
Whenever that happens I try to do my best to keep positive, but every once in a while it feels like the world is out to get me. It’s almost as if the enemies of the Lord are doing their best to try and tear me down. During these times I need to remember that the Lord is my light and salvation! There is not a thing in this universe that is more powerful than my God.
When I read this Psalm, I immediately think back to the anthem I performed with YouthCUE that was based on this scripture. While having this song stuck in my head I started pondering what might have been going through David’s mind while he wrote this song. What kind of crisis was he facing to come up with the words in verses two and three. He mentions enemies, foes, and an enemy army. What is even more amazing to me is that in verse four he doesn’t ask for his enemies to be defeated. He asks that he may dwell in the House of the Lord for his whole life, and gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.
Compared to the challenges David faced, I have had it pretty easy. I want to be like him and instead of worrying about the challenges that I am facing, focus on God and continue to seek Him every single day. If I continue to seek Him, and wait patiently for Him, I won’t need to worry about all the plans that I have for myself, but I can be quiet and listen to the plans that He has for me instead. He provides the perfect plan that I could never come up with myself. Now it’s up to me to follow it and trust in Him.