Clearing the Clutter

As we continue through our September focus on prayer and discipleship, here’s a little extra something for you, a devotion from an Asbury Theological Seminary student living in Southwest Virginia.

By Suzanne Whittaker

I began this summer with a very long summer reading list. Titles I have neglected to read were dusted off and placed in a beautifully organized pyramid-shaped stack on the nightstand. I was so excited to catch up on all of my reading plans that I even made an official Facebook announcement, complete with picture! And then summer happened.

It’s September and we’ve begun our homeschool lessons and piano practice, and I am rushing to organize everything for the fall semester at Asbury Theological Seminary. That beautifully organized stack of books stands accusingly in the same place—with a few titles gone, at least. One is Out of Chaos by Jessica LaGrone. “Chaos” is not how I would describe my life right now, but it is definitely busy. It is a great read about the amazing “new” that God can, and does, create out of chaos! I highly recommend it.

My big plans for the summer were to work on some forms of chaos in my life. My screened porch comes to mind instantly. For years I have threatened to fix the broken screens, scrap the old paint and put up a fresh coat, hang some blinds to make the evenings much more enjoyable (that sunset is a scorcher!), and put new outdoor carpet down. Today I disposed of three bags of debris, none of which moved me toward the original goals. My putting-off-today-what-could-be-done-tomorrow approach to the porch chores created an environment that prevented any of us from enjoying the porch this summer. It was cluttered with paint chips and leaves blown in from storms, dirt in the corner where a plant had turned over, and stacks of gardening items my teenage daughter, Alyson, uses for her backyard orchard projects. The wood stain used by my daughter to finish her porch swing project was still sitting where my adult ADHD brain had left it two months ago.

The porch became the junk drawer of all junk drawers!

I am writing this after the morning I finally tackled the porch. I began with a general debris pickup and basic organizing of the items. The space is actually usable again. Just a quick hour of work and things were greatly improved. I am planning on power washing the walls and cutting out the remaining screens this weekend. I may even re-glue the carpet. The exciting part is we can begin to enjoy this space again. We will be able to step outside and relax in the chairs or swing, simply enjoying the beautiful blue mountains and the autumn sunsets. Perhaps we will have breakfast at sunrise!

It’s not been hard for me to connect my summer of disorder to our spiritual lives. How often do we clutter them?

Life is both orderly and exciting when we set time aside to go to church, study Scripture, and meet God in a time of meaningful prayer. Life is frustrating when those spiritual activities take a back seat to all the other stuff in our lives. Eventually we notice our light has grown dim and our soul feels lonely.

The good news is that it doesn’t take a power-washing to gain control. You simply need to start with your daily prayers and get back to Sunday sermons and fellowship with your local church family. I’ve always found that no matter how long you’ve been away, the folks at church are always glad to see you!

God in Art: The Spirit Descends

Pentecost is this coming Sunday, June 5. The story of Pentecost is found in Acts 2. We at Methodist Life encourage everyone to begin meditating this week on the role of the Holy Spirit in our personal lives and in the lives of our churches. In terms of importance, this Sunday ranks right up there with Easter. After all, it is through the Holy Spirit that we experience God directly in the time we now live. How will you honor that great truth this Sunday?

Mosaic depiction of Pentecost, photographed in a basilica in Trier, Germany. Image by Holger Schué via Pixabay.

God in Art: A Revealing Walk

In one of the resurrection stories, Jesus appears to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, walking unrecognized with them. The story is found in Luke 24:13-35. This depiction by an unknown Flemish painter around 1600 is dependent on pilgrim clothing and imagery familiar to the artist, but it does capture an important theme. The world is a busy place, full of distractions, and as we wander through it we can miss the Savior even as He walks with us. Be sure to zoom in on the tiny details. There’s more going on in this painting that you initially will see.

Resurrection Day!

John 20:1-18 (New Testament for Everyone)

On the first day of the week, very early, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb while it was still dark.

She saw that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb. So she ran off, and went to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, the one Jesus loved.

‘They’ve taken the master out of the tomb!’ she said. ‘We don’t know where they’ve put him!’

So Peter and the other disciple set off and went to the tomb. Both of them ran together. The other disciple ran faster than Peter, and got to the tomb first. He stooped down and saw the linen cloths lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter came up, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the napkin that had been around his head, not lying with the other cloths, but folded up in a place by itself.

Then the other disciple, who had arrived first at the tomb, went into the tomb as well. He saw, and he believed. They did not yet know, you see, that the Bible had said he must rise again from the dead.

Then the disciples returned to their homes.

But Mary stood outside the tomb, crying. As she wept, she stooped down to look into the tomb. There she saw two angels, clothed in white, one at the head and one at the feet of where Jesus’ body had been lying.

‘Woman,’ they said to her, ‘why are you crying?’

‘They’ve taken away my master,’ she said, ‘and I don’t know where they’ve put him!’

As she said this she turned round, and saw Jesus standing there. She didn’t know it was Jesus.

‘Woman,’ Jesus said to her, ‘why are you crying? Who are you looking for?’

She guessed he must be the gardener.

‘Sir,’ she said, ‘if you’ve carried him off somewhere, tell me where you’ve put him, and I will take him away.’

‘Mary!’ said Jesus.

She turned and spoke in Aramaic.

‘Rabbouni!’ she said (which means ‘Teacher’).

‘Don’t cling to me,’ said Jesus. ‘I haven’t yet gone up to the father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I’m going up to my father and your father – to my God and your God.” ’

Mary Magdalene went and told the disciples, ‘I’ve seen the master!’ and that he had said these things to her.