New Mercies

What is your favorite hymn? I have several, but “Great is thy Faithfulness” is way on the top of the list.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be

Chorus: Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me


Summer and winter and springtime and harvest
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love


Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine with 10, 000 beside.

Would it surprise you to know that this positive and upbeat hymn is based on the Old Testament book of Lamentations? Here is the story:

Thomas O. Chisholm was born in a Kentucky log cabin in 1866. He succeeded academically even though he did not receive a formal education. Thomas became a schoolteacher at the age of 16 in the same schoolhouse where he was educated. He later became associate editor of the local newspaper and moved on to be an editor of the Pentecostal Herald in Louisville, Kentucky.

At the age of 26, Thomas made one of the most important decisions that he would make in his life when he accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior in 1893. In 1903, he was officially ordained a minister, but was forced to limit his years of service due to his poor health.

Thomas wrote hundreds of poems throughout his life. One was based in Lamentations 3:22-23:

22 Certainly the faithful love of the Lord hasn’t ended; certainly God’s compassion isn’t through! 23 They are renewed every morning. Great is your faithfulness.

Thomas sent this poem to a fellow minister and friend, William Runyan who configured a musical setting for the poem and called it, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”

Let’s now read the full passage from Lamentations, written by the prophet Jeremiah as he reflected on the desolation of the once-proud city of Jerusalem.

Lamentations 3 (Common English Bible)

19 The memory of my suffering and homelessness is bitterness and poison. 20 I can’t help but remember and am depressed. 21 I call all this to mind—therefore, I will wait.
22 Certainly the faithful love of the Lord hasn’t ended; certainly God’s compassion isn’t through!
23 They are renewed every morning. Great is your faithfulness.

Powerful words. What does it say to you? Are you watching destruction and desolation, and longing for God to intervene in your situation? What can you do? According to Jeremiah, you can wait.

24 I think: The Lord is my portion! Therefore, I’ll wait for him. 25 The Lord is good to those who hope in him, to the person who seeks him.26 It’s good to wait in silence for the Lord’s deliverance.

May we wait in silence today for the Lord’s deliverance from everything that has come to steal our hope.

Reflections of Waiting by Kathy Schumacher

Rich Simplicity

Take a look at this picture. This was front-page news, above-the-fold breaking information that came out this week in my local paper.

Yes, it is an article about a man being reunited with his favorite fishing pole after a 50-year separation. You can just see the look of joy on his face! You can hear the rush of excitement in the voices of the man who found the rod and the man who lost the rod. Can I just say that I love where I live?

Our front-page news is often like this. Usually, it is a beautiful picture of waterfowl, a big fish, or a Boy Scout taking an oath. These things constitute ‘big doin’s’ in this part. My husband and I always chuckle when the paper comes. We are blessed and delighted to live in this simple place.

Many of us have a yearning for this kind of simplicity in a community. Headlines and news programs literally scream at us with words that are harsh, complex, divisive, and distressing. We live in a broken world and our media reflects that on a daily/hourly basis. Oh, to go to a place and time that is easier!

Our lectionary passage speaks about “rich simplicity.” Paul connects simplicity with “being yourself before God” in this pastoral epistle to Timothy, probably written in A.D. 62-66.

1 Timothy 6 (The Message)

6-8 A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough.

What a picture Paul paints here. If we can keep our needs and wants in line with what we actually need to live, that’s enough. This surely begs the question about “stuff.” How much stuff do you have? How much stuff do you need? I have a friend who deeply dislikes all the storage units that have popped up on our island. Sometimes they are needed when you are between house moves, but a lot of it is just stuff we have acquired and can’t fit into our houses.

My closet reflects this. It is always a good exercise to look through your things and consider that if you haven’t worn something in months (years?) it probably isn’t that necessary to you.

Paul then moves on to the love of money:

9-10 But if it’s only money these leaders are after, they’ll self-destruct in no time. Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after.

Can it get any plainer? Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Have you ever compromised your principles because the lure of money got the better of you? If people didn’t do that, there wouldn’t be a lottery program in every state. What can we do?

Paul says to run.

11-12 But you, Timothy, man of God: Run for your life from all this. Pursue a righteous life—a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith. Seize the eternal life, the life you were called to, the life you so fervently embraced in the presence of so many witnesses.

Run for your life from all of this. Run toward the goal that is Christ Jesus. Run to the beauty that is righteousness. Run toward wonder, faith, love, steadiness and courtesy. You remember courtesy, don’t you? Just run.

In essence, Paul says just to keep it simple, and run toward the life to which God called you. Be yourself before God.

But clean out your closets first!

Photo via The Coastland Times

Protective Shield

One of the best things about living in the Outer Banks is the constant sound of birds and waterfowl. When I was growing up, we camped every summer all along the Eastern seaboard. I loved to sit on the beach and listen to the sounds of seagulls calling to one another. That sound was always associated in my mind with vacation, my parent’s love, family fun, and the freedom that camping with friends brought.

I recently came home from a long trip away and as I stepped out of my car, the first sound I heard was a seagull laughing. I was home.

In this lovely Psalm, we are reminded of the strength of a bird’s pinions. The word pinions refers to the wings including the flight feathers. According to scientists at HawkQuest, an environmental education nonprofit in Colorado, a bald eagle’s gripping strength is ten times stronger than the average grip of an adult human hand. A bald eagle can exert upwards of 400 pounds per square inch (psi). God’s creation is amazing, isn’t it? Such majesty and strength in something that is literally as light as a feather.

As you read this psalm today, I want you to think of a time when you felt attacked, defeated, or threatened by something that looked too big to combat. It might be a person, situation, an illness, a bad decision, or a false accusation. It might be depression or divorce. Whatever has you in a hunter’s trap, know this: God is bigger, stronger, and more powerful than any of that.

Psalm 91 (Common English Bible)

Living in the Most High’s shelter,
    camping in the Almighty’s shade,
I say to the Lord, “You are my refuge, my stronghold!
    You are my God—the one I trust!”

God will save you from the hunter’s trap
    and from deadly sickness.
God will protect you with his pinions;
    you’ll find refuge under his wings.
    His faithfulness is a protective shield.
Don’t be afraid of terrors at night,
    arrows that fly in daylight,
    or sickness that prowls in the dark,
    destruction that ravages at noontime.

God’s faithfulness to you is your protective shield. You can take comfort in knowing that God is your refuge. He is your stronghold. He is your protector.

14 God says, “Because you are devoted to me,
    I’ll rescue you.
    I’ll protect you because you know my name.
15 Whenever you cry out to me, I’ll answer.
    I’ll be with you in troubling times.
    I’ll save you and glorify you.
16     I’ll fill you full with old age.
    I’ll show you my salvation.”

So, cry out! Seek the Lord in your distress and you will be found. God will save you and glorify you! Thanks be to God.

Pinion Protection by Michelle Robertson

Be Perfect

A study on the Sermon on the Mount has bought me to a startling command from Jesus. Most of us are familiar with the “love your neighbor” teachings, as well as the “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” part, but I had really not noticed how this section ends. Take a look at verse 48:

Matthew 5 (NIV)

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven, for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the gentiles do the same? 

48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Do you think that is even possible? To be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect? That seems like a big ask.

Jesus relates this to the instructions to love and pray for our enemies for a reason. Imagine what the world would be like if we took that one verse to heart and truly did strive every day to love people who hate us. And we know that when we pray for people who persecute us, that prayer changes US.

In researching a sermon on this passage, I stumbled upon these wise words from Thomas Merton, an American Trappist Monk. Merton wrote over 50 books on spirituality, faith, comparative religion, and theology.

“Do not be too quick,” he wrote, “to assume that your enemy is a savage just because he is your enemy. Perhaps he is your enemy because he thinks you are a savage. Or perhaps he is afraid of you because he feels you are afraid of him. And perhaps if he believed you were capable of loving him, he would no longer be your enemy.

Do not be too quick to assume that your enemy is an enemy of God just because he is your enemy. Perhaps he is your enemy precisely because he can find nothing in you that gives glory to God. Perhaps he fears you because he can find nothing in you of God’s love and God’s kindness and God’s patience and mercy and understanding of the weakness of men.

Do not be too quick to condemn the man who no longer believes in God. For it is perhaps your own coldness and avarice and mediocrity and materialism and sensuality and selfishness that have killed his faith.”

There is much to ponder here. Do you have an enemy? Do you love that person? Can you pray for that person?

When we focus on this kind of accepting and grace filled agape love, we indeed move the needle a little closer to the perfection of the Heavenly Father. One thing is certain … we will surely never achieve it if we don’t even try.

Perfect Sunrise by Wende Pritchard

Pray Every Way

Is it just me, or has the world gotten a whole lot meaner?

I had this conversation with a couple in my church as we discussed a situation that had them deeply troubled. We spent some time not just talking about the situation itself, but how we got here. Conversations, text chains, emails, and “information links” via social media were some of the things that we could pinpoint as part of our current conundrum of confusion.

In the midst of this, the wife looked at me and said, “When did it become okay to be mean? There is nothing you see anymore that isn’t followed up with some negative remark.” As I drove home, it really hit me. All I could see were mean bumper stickers, mean flags, and mean drivers. I opened up Facebook and Twitter where anger and name-calling rule the day. When did bullying become okay?

I don’t ever remember it being like this.

I closed social media, and I opened up the lectionary assignment for today, and this is what I found:

1 Timothy 2 (The Message)

1-3 The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.

Yes, Lord Jesus! Yes, Holy Spirit! All we want to do is go quietly about our business, live simply, and exist together in humble contemplation. I am exhausted with the cacophony of ugliness that shouts all of these things down.

4-7 He wants not only us but everyone saved, you know, everyone to get to know the truth we’ve learned: that there’s one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us—Jesus, who offered himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free.

We need to return to this one, seminal, important truth. God wants everyone to be saved. There is only one God, who lovingly sent Jesus to die for our sins and set us all free. When we spend our days spinning truths, pushing agendas, misdirecting the efforts of the faithful, and when we are hell bent on having our way, we fail at this most essential thing.

We are called to proclaim Christ crucified. None of the rest of the noise matters.

Eventually the news is going to get out. This and this only has been my appointed work: getting this news to those who have never heard of God, and explaining how it works by simple faith and plain truth.

At the end of my meeting, the issue had been resolved and we all felt at peace. The wife mentioned to me that God has been calling her to form a ladies prayer group at our church. That, my friends, is exactly what Timothy is saying here. The FIRST thing we should do is pray and pray every way we know how and for everyone we know.

Eventually the news does get out. May Jesus Christ be praised.

The Light Shines by Kathy Schumacher


Our families are suffering from a lack of unity. Discussions on politics and national events have made any kind of family gathering (even by ZOOM) filled with polarized positioning, often expressed very loudly.

Our churches are suffering from a lack of unity. My denomination is on the precipice of a historic split that will forever change who we are, and I am heartbroken over that. We are moving from United to Untied.

Our nation is suffering from a lack of unity. We have become the Un-United States. The disunity on our streets, in our media, in the national government, and in our towns is destroying us.

Can there ever be unity in the world again? One would think that a global crisis such as the recent pandemic would have caused us to lay down our swords and turned them into plowshares for the sake of humanity. 

But no.

When evil raises its ugly head and godly people are silent, the enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy us by targeting our unity first. Knowing that there is strength in numbers, disunity is the goal of every evil force around us. When the righteous scatter, the enemy prowls around looking for weaknesses. 

As people of God, unity should be our goal. Jesus’ most fervent prayer was that we would be ONE. We are called to be the body of Christ for the world, working together in harmony to bring the kingdom of peace to the earth.

Let’s look at our psalm today and see what it teaches us about unity.

Psalm 133 (New Revised Standard Version)

How very good and pleasant it is
    when kindred live together in unity!

Unity is good. Unity is pleasant. Unity is a blessing. Like a fine and precious oil, God’s gift of unity should flow down the chins of his people.

It is like the precious oil on the head,
    running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
    running down over the collar of his robes.

Just as the dew on the mountains comes after the refreshing rain, unity is a sign of what life-forevermore will be in the kingdom.

It is like the dew of Hermon,
    which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
    life forevermore.

Where in your circle of friends, family, community, or world can you be the voice of unity today? Where can you offer a sign of reconciliation to someone “across the aisle” that would bring a moment of peace? Where can you lay down your right to express your opinion so someone else might voice theirs, and then listen with the goal of mutual understanding?

We can’t fix the world overnight. But you can change your attitude. Make peace with someone today and pass on a blessing of kindred living that is calm, respectful, and peaceful. One day, when Christ returns, we will all take a knee….in unity.

Nature’s Harmony by Michelle Robertson

Abandoning the Path

There is a very cute video circulating on social media that shows twin toddlers making a decision about whether or not to eat a treat left on a table by their father. He gives them instructions to wait until he comes back to eat the fruit snacks. After dumping the snacks out in front of them, he goes off camera and immediately they look at each other with that “He’s gone! Let’s do it!” look. They giggle at each other and reach for the snacks, shoving them in their mouths and rocking side to side in fruit-snack glee. It is hilarious, especially for this Nana who has two sets of twin grandchildren. They definitely conspire together!

We are those kids.

We have always been those kids. The minute God has his back turned for a just a hot second, we go off the rails and chaos ensues. Think I am overstating it? Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the golden calf:

Exodus 32 (Common English Bible)

The Lord spoke to Moses: “Hurry up and go down! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, are ruining everything! They’ve already abandoned the path that I commanded. They have made a metal bull calf for themselves. They’ve bowed down to it and offered sacrifices to it and declared, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” The Lord said to Moses, “I’ve been watching these people, and I’ve seen how stubborn they are. 10 Now leave me alone! Let my fury burn and devour them. Then I’ll make a great nation out of you.”

This is the worst thing that the redeemed and rescued Israelites could have done. God delivered them from Pharaoh’s enslavement, brought them through the Red Sea, obliterated Pharaoh’s army, and then just at the moment that God was delivering the Law to Moses on the top of Mt. Sinai, the rabble rousers below immediately make a false idol to worship.

What is your false idol? Do you bow down before your screens, your anger, your petty vengeance, your need to be right, your political ideology, your cheating, your arrogance … where have you turned your back on God? What shiny, golden thing has captured your attention?

Worship that thing at your peril, warns the Lord.

But Moses was able to intervene and pleaded with God for mercy. Luckily, God is full of mercy for his people.

11 But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God, “Lord, why does your fury burn against your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and amazing force? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘He had an evil plan to take the people out and kill them in the mountains and so wipe them off the earth’? Calm down your fierce anger. Change your mind about doing terrible things to your own people. 

Moses reminds God of his covenant with Abraham, and it worked. God’s anger was cooled and his compassion for his children was reignited.

13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, whom you yourself promised, ‘I’ll make your descendants as many as the stars in the sky. And I’ve promised to give your descendants this whole land to possess for all time.’” 14 Then the Lord changed his mind about the terrible things he said he would do to his people.

But did he deserve to be treated that way, after all he had done for Israel? Certainly not. Neither does he deserve our apostasy when we put things or people on the throne in his place.

Consider what you idolize and let go of it so that you might return to God. His mercy is new every morning.

Morning by Morning, New Mercies I See by Michelle Robertson

Strength for the Faithful

Do you have something in your past that you would rather forget? I know I do.

Paul’s letter to Timothy reveals an uncomfortable truth about his past. He reminded Timothy of the time when he was Saul of Tarsus and he violently persecuted Christians for their beliefs. He was present at the stoning of Stephen and was “extremely zealous” and famously violent for persecution “beyond measure” (Galatians 1). He was a Pharisee, a Roman citizen, a tent maker by trade, and yet God used all of his sinful past to convert the world after he first converted Saul on the road to Damascus.

I think it is easy to forget Paul’s violent beginnings as we study his many letters and his theology. Paul brought the Gospel to the modern world in a stunning series of missionary journeys that included imprisonment, shipwrecks, great personal cost, and eventually death.

This passage in 1 Timothy talks about his appointment to ministry in spite of his past:

1 Timothy 1 (Common English Bible)

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength because he considered me faithful. So he appointed me to ministry 13 even though I used to speak against him, attack his people, and I was proud. But I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and without faith. 14 Our Lord’s favor poured all over me along with the faithfulness and love that are in Christ Jesus. 

15 This saying is reliable and deserves full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I’m the biggest sinner of all.16 But this is why I was shown mercy, so that Christ Jesus could show his endless patience to me first of all. So I’m an example for those who are going to believe in him for eternal life. 17 Now to the king of the ages, to the immortal, invisible, and only God, may honor and glory be given to him forever and always! Amen.

What a remarkable reversal! The persecutor became the proclaimer. The sinner became the saint. The faithless one became the leader of the faithful. The Lord’s favor was poured out over Saul, and he received the faithfulness and love that are in Christ Jesus.

What do you have in your past that either enables or hinders you from sharing the gospel? Paul’s story is a powerful reminder of the power of forgiveness of sin to wash away all of our transgressions. It is also a good reminder to us that God loves every sinner and shows mercy and patience to all. When we sit in judgment of other people’s sins, we sit outside of God’s great plan to bring Jesus into the world to save sinners. All the doors of redemption must be left open for the Sauls to come in.

If the “biggest sinner of all” can be made new and whole through the mercy and grace of the Lord, so can the rest of us.

Do you have a story of a past that was changed? Go and tell.

The Lord’s Favor by Michelle Robertson

Lost and Found

Many years ago, I encountered an angry woman and a chagrined man frantically searching for a lost item at a beach access. I was headed to the beach and they were leaving when apparently he threw her engagement ring to her as they were trudging over the dune, heavy laden with chairs, towels, etc. Well, as you can guess, she didn’t catch it and it landed somewhere in the sand.

It was their loud arguing that caught my attention as I crossed the road to the access. She was berating him for being stupid enough to toss the ring to her in the first place. He was countering with how clumsy she was to have not caught it. I was amazed at the entire scene. Not to take sides but come on! Who throws good jewelry at the beach? That’s just a disaster waiting to happen. And it did.

So, I put my stuff down and joined the search. As we sifted and dug, I told them that I was praying Luke 15 over them. They did not know the reference, so this gave me an opportunity to share this Scripture with them as we searched:

Luke 15 (The Message)

15 1-3 By this time a lot of men and women of questionable reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” Their grumbling triggered this story.

4-7 “Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.

Jesus is terrifically concerned with lost things, especially lost souls. The Pharisees and religion scholars who believed that certain types of people don’t belong in church missed the point that Jesus took IN the sinners, ate with them, and treated them like old friends.

We must do likewise.

8-10 “Or imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she’ll call her friends and neighbors: ‘Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!’ Count on it—that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.”

After about ten more minutes of searching, I found the ring. The look of joy (her) and relief (him) on their faces was worth the effort and they walked across the dune holding hands. I was grateful for the strange opportunity to witness to my faith.

Are you lost today? Have you wandered away from God? Do you need a rescue?

Jesus is not only willing, but very able to come and find you. Look and see! Your deliverer comes.

Good Shepherd by Kitty Hawk United Methodist Church

Incomprehensible Plans

My beloved father-in-law just celebrated his 92nd birthday. Our family surprised him with a written document of our thoughts and favorite memories of him. He read each one, laughing and crying with every tenderly written word. In a Romans 8:28 way, this is a byproduct of the pandemic that forced us into lockdowns for months. We started doing a Wednesday Night Happy Hour Zoom call every week in order to stay in touch with him, and that has brought us very close with each other. From a Navy granddaughter stationed in Germany, to a grandson teaching school in Montana, to family living in Georgia, Virginia, Florida, and the Outer Banks, we come together from far and wide to be a family together.

Today we look at Psalm 139, a beautiful psalm of David. In it, he describes a kind of intimacy that only comes with familial relationships … in this case, parent to child.

Psalm 139 (Common English Bible)

 Lord, you have examined me.
    You know me.
You know when I sit down and when I stand up.
    Even from far away, you comprehend my plans.
You study my traveling and resting.
    You are thoroughly familiar with all my ways.
There isn’t a word on my tongue, Lord,
    that you don’t already know completely.
You surround me—front and back.
    You put your hand on me.
That kind of knowledge is too much for me;
    it’s so high above me that I can’t reach it.

What word of comfort can you glean from this? To be so fully known and loved by our creator is surely a word of majesty and hope in our ordinary lives. God surrounds us, front and back, with his hand on us. I immediately think of my father running beside me as I was learning how to ride a bike. With his hand on the back of the seat, I knew he wouldn’t let go until he knew I was safe.

So it is with God.

13 You are the one who created my innermost parts;
    you knit me together while I was still in my mother’s womb.
14 I give thanks to you that I was marvelously set apart.
    Your works are wonderful—I know that very well.
15 My bones weren’t hidden from you
    when I was being put together in a secret place,
    when I was being woven together in the deep parts of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my embryo,
    and on your scroll every day was written that was being formed for me,
    before any one of them had yet happened.

When I think about my father-in-law’s 92 years of life, it delights me to realize that God has a plan and a purpose for every single day of it. God knows what will happen every day and he runs beside Cap with his hand on the bike.

17 God, your plans are incomprehensible to me!
    Their total number is countless!
18 If I tried to count them—they outnumber grains of sand!
    If I came to the very end—I’d still be with you.

God’s incomprehensible plans are the sure thing that we all can hang on to in good times and bad. And in the very end, we’ll still be with God.

I hope that brings you joy today.

For I Know the Plans I Have Made by Wende Pritchard