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Lenten Devotional Guide 2011 First United Methodist Church of McKinney www.sharingtheheart.org


May this Lenten Devotional Guide lead you, and every member of First United Methodist Church of McKinney, through a daily time of prayer, scripture reading and call to service to help end malaria.

This booklet is lovingly prepared by the Global Health Initiative of the United Methodist Church and your pastoral staff at First United Methodist Church of McKinney

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Imagine No Malaria Dinner Friday, April 8, 2011 6:30-8:30 pm Dyer Hall First United Methodist Church McKinney, Texas Music by:

The African Praise Band Lovers Lane United Methodist Church Reserve your place now! At the Imagine No Malaria Table in the Dyer Hallway Free nursery provided for ages 4 & under (by reservation)

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FUMC McKinney Lenten Calendar Date

Event

Time/Place

Speaker/Activity

March 8

Pancake Dinner

5-7 pm, Dyer Hall

Food/Fellowship

March 9

Ash Wednesday

6:30 pm, Sanctuary

Worship

March 13

1st Sunday of Lent

Sanctuary, Dyer Hall

Worship

March 15

Lenten Luncheon

Noon, Parlor

Rev. Janet Cavalier

March 16

Chapel Service

6:30 pm, Chapel

Bob Manley

March 20

2nd Sunday of Lent

Sanctuary, Dyer Hall

Worship

March 22

Lenten Luncheon

Noon, Parlor

Rev. Chris Rickwartz

March 23

Chapel Service

6:30 pm, Chapel

Rev. Liz Greenwell

March 26

Relay for Life

All Day, Dyer Hall

Rummage Sale

March 27

3rd Sunday of Lent

Sanctuary, Dyer Hall

Worship

March 29

Lenten Luncheon

Noon, Parlor

Dr. Jim Palmer

March 30

Chapel Service

6:30 pm, Chapel

Rev. John Harman

April 3

4th Sunday of Lent INM Offering

Sanctuary, Dyer Hall

Worship

April 5

Lenten Luncheon

Noon, Parlor

Rev. Tim Payne

April 6

Chapel Service

6:30 pm, Chapel

Patty Froehlich

April 8

INM Dinner

6:00 pm, Dyer Hall

Food/Fellowship

April 10

5th Sunday of Lent

Sanctuary, Dyer Hall

Worship

April 12

Lenten Luncheon

Noon, Parlor

Patty Froehlich

April 13

Chapel Service

6:30 pm, Chapel

Rev. Janet Cavalier

April 16

UMW Luncheon

Noon, Dyer Hall

Food, Fellowship

April 17

Palm Sunday

Sanctuary, Dyer Hall

Worship

April 17

Easter Eggstravaganza 3:00 pm, Dyer Hall

Fun/Fellowship

April 19

Lenten Luncheon

Noon, Parlor

Rev. Liz Greenwell

April 21

Maundy Thursday

7:00 pm, Sanctuary

Worship

April 22

Good Friday

Noon, Sanctuary

Worship

April 22

Good Friday

7:00 pm, Dyer Hall

Worship

April 24

EASTER!!!

Sanctuary, Dyer Hall

Worship

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Ash Wednesday - March 9, 2011

Join the Journey Genesis 2:7 “The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being.” Lent, our forty-day preparation for Easter begins today, Ash Wednesday. These forty days do not include Sunday, because Sundays are considered “mini-Easters.” Forty is also the number in the Bible for the amount of time used for accomplishing what is needed to be done- as in the number of days it rained on Noah’s ark, the number of years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, and the number of days Jesus fasted in the wilderness, to name a few. The early church also set aside these forty days for preparation for baptisms, which would take place on Easter. At First United Methodist Church, we begin our Lenten journey with today’s Ash Wednesday service at 6:30 pm in the sanctuary. At this service and services around the world, ashes are placed on the forehead to represent our mortality. But, they are placed in the sign of the cross, reminding us that as Christians we die in Christ. As we move through the Lenten season, we move from despair to hope, as Good Friday offers redemption with Christ’s death. On Easter, we celebrate as people of the resurrection. To prepare for Easter, we are encouraged to give up and do something extra during these 40 days of Lent. To accomplish this task requires the guidance of the Holy Spirit and discipline. The purpose of discipline is spiritual growth. We have to work at being Christian! To help us with this work of spiritual growth, we will be invited during Lent to practice a different spiritual discipline each week – fasting, works of mercy, prayer, holy conversation, and scripture. We will also be joining as a church family during Lent to pray for the end of malaria. May you be richly blessed by this devotional guide as we pray and practice spiritual disciplines together. Let us join the journey with Christ to the cross and new life. PRAYER: Lord, we remember that you created us from dust and to dust we will return. May today’s ashes be a sign of our mortality and penitence; so that we may remember that only by your gracious gift we are given eternal life through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen. Thought for the day: What do I need to give up or do to spiritually grow this Lenten season? Rev. Janet Cavalier, FUMC-McKinney, Texas

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Day 2: March 10, 2011

An Empty Bed Luke 5:23-26 “’Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ So he said to the paralyzed man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, ‘We have seen remarkable things today.’” A few months ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Sierra Leone to witness the work of The United Methodist Church in the elimination of malaria. While there, we traveled to Bo, the second largest city and home to Mercy Hospital – part of the United Methodist network of health care facilities in Sierra Leone. We were graciously welcomed and guided through a tour of the hospital by a doctor. While viewing the children’s ward, I asked the doctor how many patients were being treated for malaria. He replied that of the five beds (all filled), three of the patients were suffering of malaria. He pointed to two beds that held infants, carefully watched over by their mothers who eyed us with interest. The doctor assured me that those two were recovering well, and that they would be expected to go home shortly. Then the doctor pointed to a third bed, where all I could see were rumpled sheets and no patient. The doctor explained, “That child was brought to us in a coma, suffering from a severe case of cerebral malaria.” The family, it seemed, had waited too long to bring him to the hospital, whether for fear of not being able to pay or in hopes that it might be something other than malaria – something that would pass without the cost and inconvenience of a hospital stay. I turned to the doctor and asked a question to which I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to hear the answer – a question that sent a shiver of fear through my mind: “Where is the patient now?” The doctor replied, “We were able to treat the malaria, and nurse him back to health. He is already outside in the courtyard, playing with the other children.” Thanks be to God for the wonderful work of the doctors and nurses of The United Methodist Church in Africa who work tirelessly everyday to save the lives of little children suffering from a preventable disease. Every 45 seconds, a child dies from malaria somewhere in Africa. But on that day, in that hospital, a child lived. Prayer: Lord, we can still see miracles performed by Your hands, if only we look. Allow us to be your hands and feet here on Earth each day so that the miracle of the elimination of malaria may occur. Amen. Thought for the Day: What miracles has God worked in your life? Prayer Focus: That one more child will live today. Margo Jacobs, Michigan

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Day 3: March 11, 2011

Finding Contentment in a Holy Life “…I have to be content with whatever I have…” Philippians 4:11b Have you ever counted the number of products it takes to get out the door in the morning? Soap, body was toothpaste, mouth wash, shampoo and conditioner, shaving crème, moisturizer, mousse or gel, hair spray. Deodorant, body lotion, powder, after shave or cologne… and we’ve not even started on make-up! And recently, Madison Avenue has convinced us that none of us have teeth that are white enough. Take a survey of your bathroom and estimate the cost of the products you use every day. You will be astounded at the dollar figure you discover that you spend mindlessly on products that we’ve come to view as necessities. Small wonder that it is easy for us to be content with what we have. Even if we make the “sacrifice” of using store brands instead of name brands, our shelves are bending under the weight of luxuries that we deem necessities. One of the important life lessons that is attached to the *Imagine No Malaria+ campaign is the stark truth of how little ordinary people of Africa have. They have a totally different understanding of what the Apostle meant about contentment. Regardless of how difficult our lives might be, if preventing a terrible disease meant covering our beds in netting, there are very few of us who could not make it happen before too many pay checks came and went. Our generosity in sending mosquito nets will not cause undue hardship for many of us. Perhaps we can use this campaign as a time for re-ordering our perceived needs and the amount of our resources we invest in pampering ourselves. Prayer: Gracious and generous God, show us what is needed for a holy, content life. Make us careful of our needs and giving of our means. In Jesus, who gave the most. AMEN Rev. Dr. Jaime Potter Alvarez, Pennsylvania

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Day 4: March 12, 2011

Choose to Do Good Read 1 Timothy 6:17-19 Luke 6:38 “Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” It is hard to imagine that something as small and seemingly insignificant as a mosquito net could make the difference between life and death. However, malaria threatens the African population every single day. Having had no exposure to the risk of malaria, and knowing little about it, I did some reading. I was shocked to learn how devastating it is. Two thousand African children die daily because of malaria. That’s a tragedy, but I discovered that it is easily preventable. I learned that insecticide-treated bed nets are a highly effective deterrent to contracting this disease. The bed nets cost less than $10 a piece. Ten dollars could help a child in Africa grow up healthy and strong. My Bible reading that same day was the passage in 1 Timothy. As I read it, it became clear to me that I was being offered the privilege of giving. My small donation not only helps another, but it brings me joy as I obey Jesus and get a taste of the abundant life He offers us. Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us see that by our small acts of love we can tap into Your kingdom. Transform our hearts to be willing to give. In Your name we pray. Thought: How many lives can I transform through the Imagine No Malaria ministry? One life can be impacted with $10, 10 lives can be saved with $100, and a monthly pledge of just $28 can impact the lives of 100 children that might otherwise die of malaria. Prayer Focus: Malaria Victims Robin Priestly, New Mexico

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First Sunday in Lent – March 13, 2011

Fasting Matthew 4:1-4 NRSV Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to his, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” This Sunday the church will be contemplating the spiritual discipline of fasting. Lent is a time for spiritual discipline as we prepare for the celebration of Easter. Fasting is perhaps the least practiced and least understood of the disciplines, so some discussion is in order. Fasting is the practice of giving something up, usually food, in order to focus ourselves upon the Lord. Fasting should not be done to torture or punish oneself. We give up a meal so that we may spend that time and energy by turning our eyes upon Jesus. During Lent, consider giving up one meal a week. Use that time to read Scripture and meet the Lord in prayer. Let the grumbling of your stomach be a reminder to seek the Lord. Let it also be a reminder that there are many hungry people in the world, physically and spiritually. To take it a step farther, we can set aside the money we would have spent on the skipped meal and dedicate it to the eradication of malaria. We can pray for those who suffer from this disease and ask God’s blessing upon our work. Plan to come to worship today to hear more about the spiritual discipline of fasting. May we grow in faith together as we learn to practice this ancient discipline. Dr. Thomas O. Brumett, FUMC-McKinney, Texas

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Day 5, March 14, 2011

Size 1 Samuel 50 “So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.” Early Sunday morning, I headed out to a small church in rural Texas. I didn’t know where I was going, because the district directory didn’t list an address for the church, nor did the Internet. Strangely, I made it without needing an address at all. The smallest church I had ever seen was impossible to miss in a town that looked more like a tiny subdivision than a community. Staring at the surroundings, I was disappointed though. With so few people worshiping in such a remote place, I wasn’t sure they would believe they could save lives in Africa, no matter how the pastor felt. Nevertheless, I made my presentation. Then, they amazed me. The thirteen people who joyously filled the pews that morning unanimously decided they could be the healing hands of Christ for over one thousand people…over one thousand people who lived in places that were so remote and seemingly insignificant that they too had no addresses. Some people see those who are living in address-less villages of Africa as overwhelmingly unreachable, but the people of Bruni saw their potential to serve God by fighting malaria and sending relief to those in need. That morning thirteen people reminded me of what David knew when he faced Goliath – when we are in God’s service, size doesn’t matter. The desire to serve and knowing God stands with us, that is what matters. Bruni was small. They stood against this mammoth disease anyway, because they knew they would win. Prayer: Lord give us the boldness to serve, even when the task seems impossible. Help us to remember that nothing is impossible for you and with faith as small as a mustard seed we have the power to move mountains for your kingdom. Amen. Thought for the Day: God is not limited by our size or abilities. Prayer Focus: Imagine No Malaria’s ability to reach Africans in the most remote villages. Leia Danielle Williams, Arkansas

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Day 6, March 15, 2011

ACTION DAY! Many people like to give up something for Lent – a Friday meal, coffee or soda, sweets like chocolate, even fasting for a day each week. Have you already decided? This year, consider adding Imagine No Malaria as a prayer focus for your sacrifice. Use the time you might otherwise be drinking your coffee, eating chocolate, or even while fasting at mealtime to remember those who are tragically affected each day by malaria. To get you started, below is a picture of Francess Beecher—a young mother in Sierra Leone who has felt the tragic touch of this disease. Want to take it to the next level? Donate the cost of the chocolate, meals or other sacrifices that you save to our special Imagine No Malaria! Offering on Sunday April 13 during worship at FUMC-McKinney.

Dec. 2, 2010 | BO, Sierra Leone (UMNS) Francess Beecher knows the staggering cost from just one mosquito bite. In September, she lost her firstborn, 2-year-old Jonathan, to malaria. “He caught high fever and within a few days became weak and anemic.” The family eventually took Jonathan to the village health center, but he was too weak to recover. He died a few hours later. Now five months pregnant, Francess is hopeful her child will enjoy a long life. She received three insecticide-treated bed nets *from a UMCOR distribution in the Bo District of Sierra Leone+ to protect their family from the mosquito-borne disease. Excerpts taken from a UMNS article by Phileas Jusu, Dec. 2, 2010 (“A Mother Pays Highest Price of Malaria”)

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Day 7, March 16, 2011

Help Me To Love John 15:12-15 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my father”. In a New Yorker magazine cartoon, two seminary students are walking across the campus. One of them says to the other: “What gets me in this business is having to love everybody even if you don’t like them.” If we have been hurt deeply, or betrayed, or humiliated, it is very difficult to love that person. Yet, if we do not love as Jesus commands, our own spiritual health is jeopardized. I learned that truth many years ago as a missionary in the Congo where I met someone whom I thought impossible to love. But God loves us infinitely. And he offers us, through his Holy Spirit, the strength to love others, as he has loved us. The same God, who gives us this commandment, gives us the strength to obey it. This love is an incredible gift of grace. And, I believe the church is beginning to rediscover the need to follow this example of our Lord. Prayer: Gracious Father, teach me to love, to really care about others. Help me to share that love through my attitudes and actions. AMEN Rev. Jerry Schmidt, Pennsylvania

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Day 8, March 17, 2011

The Women Who Paid the Bills Luke 8:1-3 “Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, 2as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.” Have you ever wondered how Jesus survived moving from place to place, teaching and healing. Surely, there were expenses. Where did his money come from. And it was not simply Jesus needing help, there were others as well. There were the twelve disciples who were being trained by Jesus to multiply his ministry. And in this passage we are reminded that there were others, especially a number of women who also traveled with him. In this passage we are also told that it was these women of means who took the responsibility of financing Jesus ministry. These women paid the bills. Why would these women make such a sacrifice to leave the comforts of their homes to travel with Jesus and be part of his movement? Scriptures indicate that they were eager to support him because when they were in need he had helped them. Each of them had struggled with “evil spirits” or illness and Jesus had healed them. He had changed their lives and they believed in his mission. It was not a burden on them to give in this way, it was a joy and a privilege. Many of us have been touched by the healing hand of Jesus. Christ has given our lives meaning, freedom, direction. In difficult days, we have felt the presence of God’s Spirit and known that we were not traveling alone. And in times of spiritual hunger, struggle or doubt we have found deliverance in the gift of God’s forgiving love. We love because he first loved us. Because of what God has given us we are pleased to give to others who are in need. Imagine No Malaria is an opportunity to be part of the Jesus movement in Africa. People are dying. Children and women who are pregnant are the ones most vulnerable. Our gifts can make a difference. In fact, our financial support can get the supplies needed to save people lives. Prayer: We thank you, O God, for the women mentioned in Scripture who sacrificed the comforts of home to follow Jesus. We thank you for their generosity in giving to supply the daily needs of the disciples in their work. Show us, Holy one, how we can be of service to you in our day. Show us how our resources can further your holy work. Rev. Clayton Childers, Virginia

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Day 9, March 18, 2011

Just Ask – You Never Know Who Might Respond Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Sometimes extravagant generosity comes from unusual places, and not always from familiar faces. When Pastor Tina Carter of Parker Lane UMC in Austin, Texas set her goal to save 15 lives per attendee, she turned to 20-year-old Angel Campolo for inspiration. Though she hadn’t taken a leadership role in the church previously, Angel was willing to be open to God’s work in her life. “*After talking with Pastor Tina+ I felt compelled to do something about malaria,” Campolo said. And she did. Working closely with Pastor Tina Carter, she began asking church members if they would help save lives in Africa, pulling them aside after church and personally asking them to get involved. Her church family responded with pledges and gifts that inspired Parker Lane UMC to raise $11,190, well beyond its goal. Pastor Tina, “just asked” Angel and she, in turn, “just asked” the congregation. In then end, reaching their goal, “wasn’t that hard” according to Angel. Leadership from an unusual place happens close to home too. Guy Simpson found himself on the wrong side of the law, and at age 22 facing a sentence of 5 years in prison. “I felt like my life was over.” That is until he became involved with the Kairos Prison Ministry at Greene County Prison in Waynesburg, PA and met United Methodist Chaplain, Rev. Kathy Higgins. After hearing a short presentation on Imagine No Malaria, Guy was inspired to send $5 to the ministry – a third of his monthly salary – along with a heartfelt note promising to send the other $5 to save a life as he was able. When the donation was received in the office, a kind stranger immediately matched it. Guy’s “two small coins” have impassioned and inspired the entire Imagine No Malaria ministry team. He was “just asked” to consider the lives of others, and he responded. God may have big plans for an unusual leader in your congregation - and it could be YOU! You never know how the Holy Spirit might work through you to inspire others. Prayer: “O God, I have heard the cries of children and families as they seek to be free of malaria. I have seen that through knowledge, prayer and action, I can help. Lord, help me to be bold in love and in action. Show me how I can be an instrument of your grace. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.” Laura Meengs, Michigan

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Day 10, March 19, 2011

Go Into The World A church member recently inspired a time of pondering for me: “You know,” he said, “I’m getting a little bit tired of hearing about this whole Imagine No Malaria thing.” “Why you think that is,” I asked? “Well, “he said, “It seems like we’re being asked to give a whole lot of money to people who are a world away instead of using that money to help the people who are right outside our doors.” We often fall into the trap of believing that our mission is to reach THIS person or THAT person instead of embracing the biblical mandate to go into “all the world” with the Gospel-not to mention the Wesleyan idea that the entire world is our parish. Those who have a genuine heart for the church’s mission already know that the church mission field is always “both/ and”-it is both the house next door and the house on the other side of the world, and both houses are inseparably linked in the beautiful and mysterious unity of the Holy Spirit. The body of Christ, in other words, cannot afford to be territorial in its mission and outreach. This became clear to me a few years back when I had the opportunity to visit and pray with patients in a hospital in the village of Ankaase (Ghana, West Africa). On that day, I prayed with a mother and her small child, both of whom were seeking treatment for malaria. We did not speak the same language, of course. However, in those sacred moments, we found unity in the shared vocabulary and intonation of prayer. The mother wept during that time of prayer. She wept, I assume, for the sick child that she held in her arms. Her tears became something sacramental for me-baptismal water that flowed into the depths of my soul. When I think about the Imagine No Malaria ministry, I don’t think first of dollars and bed nets (as important as they are). Rather, I think of that mother and child in Ghana. I think of their faces and souls. I think of their tears. Most of all, I think of the truth that, if one person in the body of Christ suffers, then the entire body of Christ suffers. In recent days, my wife Tara and I have prayerfully discerned some ways in which we sense that God is calling us to expand our personal discipleship to Jesus Christ. Our heartfelt commitment to Imagine No Malaria is part of that extension. Even as I type these words, I find myself thanking God for Imagine No Malaria, not only because of its life saving efforts, but also because of its impact on my personal walk with Christ. Through the ministry of Imagine No Malaria, I’ve come to understand in a whole new way that, if I do not see the eyes of Jesus looking back at me when I gaze into the face of a hurting human being (no matter whether that human being is right next door or on the other side of the world), then something is seriously wrong with my soul. Prayer: Forgive me, o God, for the ways in which I’ve often hardened my heart to your people and your world. By the power of your holy spirit, transform my thoughts and impulses that I may resist the temptation to walk away from a hurting or needy soul who may very well be showing me the face of your son. Bring me more deeply into the kind of discipleship that will inspire me to look upon every portion of my life as my mission field and every portion of the world as my parish, all for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whose name I humbly and gratefully pray. AMEN Rev. Eric Park, Washington District Superintendent, Western PA Conference

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Second Sunday in Lent – March 20, 2011

Works of Mercy Luke 18:35-42 As he (Jesus) approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” Then he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and ordered the man be brought to him. “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.” What is it about someone asking for help that makes us uncomfortable? When someone states a need, why do our internal walls rise? Why did the crowd in Jericho hush the blind beggar? Mercy in this passage is from the Greek root word eleeo which means “to help one afflicted or seeking aid.” There are a million reasons we turn the other way. It doesn’t feel safe. I don’t have the time. I have no money in my walletThe list goes on. I recently read a story about a person who felt called to keep a stack of gift cards on her at all times. One Sunday, she saw a struggling single mother at church, so she gave her a gift card from Wendy’s and said, “God loves you and I love you too. I want you to take your children to lunch after church.” The love this mom experienced through this act of mercy resulted in gratitude and joy. She was feeling hopeless and discouraged when she walked in. Now she felt loved. Someone had mercy on her. The card giver believed that God was calling her to be prepared for times she might encounter those who are “afflicted or seeking aid.” The anxiety we experience when we see someone in need may be because we are unprepared. We have a God who can intervene supernaturally, but the usual way God works his love, grace, and healing is through people and through community. We are Christ’s hands and feet in the world. We are to be the presence of God for others. There are many opportunities to “work out what God is working in us” said John Wesley. Wesley stated works of mercy are feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, visiting jails and prisons, sheltering the homeless, and welcoming the stranger. Whether we prepare for daily encounters or prepare to go across the world on a mission trip, intentional preparation to be an extension of Christ’s light is the key. Prayer: God, prepare my heart and my mind, so that I respond to the needs before me and to the needs in the world through works of mercy. Thought for the day: Be intentional in your preparation for the opportunity to do works of mercy. Prayer focus: That one more person experience Christ’s light in me through a work of mercy. Rev. Liz Greenwell, FUMC-McKinney, Texas

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Day 11, March 21, 2011

Plans Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” For most of my younger years, I wasn’t sure that God could have a plan for my life. Why would he? I was perfectly normal, and nothing like the folks I had read about in the Bible. However, during a Lenten study my group discussed Zechariah. Our leader joyously read chapter 9 to indicate how prophecies were used to foretell the coming of the Messiah. That was not what struck me as important, though. Hundreds of years before Christ walked on the earth, God determined what a specific colt would be doing on a specific day. If a colt’s life was important enough to be part of God’s plan, it suddenly became very clear to me that mine must be as well. So I started searching for a way that my life’s story could be more intertwined with God’s bigger story. Then, I discovered a ministry called Imagine No Malaria. God prepared a good work for us to complete, the work of eradicating deaths from malaria in Africa. For 160 years, we sent missionaries, built schools, founded churches, and started clinics there. In that time, we formed an infrastructure that distributes supplies, offers healing, and trains volunteers. This ministry is not random. Our church has been journeying towards it for almost two centuries. This good work that God started with the first Methodist missionary who arrived safely on the shores of Africa is culminating with us. Our work to save lives has always been part of God’s plan. Prayer: During this time of Lent, remind us Lord that you prepared the way for your Son to complete your plans and we too have been prepared to be part of your plans. Amen. Thought for the day: God can use everyone to bring about his plans. Prayer Focus: Individuals who feel like they have no part in God’s plans and do not know how they can serve. Leia Danielle Williams, Arkansas

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Day 12, March 22, 2011

Partnering for Mission Luke 10:1-2, 8-9 After this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you; heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” Jesus sent 70 people in pairs on a mission trip that involved healing and proclaiming the kingdom of God. Most of us would not go on a mission trip alone, but when we are paired with others, we gain courage and are able to take advantage of opportunities to show the love of Jesus and bring about many kinds of healing. My opportunity came in 1991, when I learned of a group going to Haiti. Preparations included lots of shots to ward off diseases and a weekly pill before, during, and after the trip to prevent malaria. While in Haiti, we visited four mission projects and then decided where we wanted to work for the week. I selected a nutrition feeding station for children whose parents had tuberculosis or AIDS. Each day when I arrived, a threeyear-old boy named Charles was waiting for me to pick him up. He wanted to be carried constantly. Since I couldn’t speak his language, I sang to him as I carried him around to see what was happening with the other children. The staff didn’t ask me to do anything else. They recognized that Charles needed full-time tender loving care. I had never before met a child so starved for attention. While he received physical food at the center, he had a greater need for the healing that comes from knowing that someone cares. Twenty years later, I still remember Charles and my week of singing to him. Also vivid in my memory is the allergic reaction I had to the anti-malarial medication. Fortunately, the head-to-toe hives and itching did not start until I was home and had immediate access to an emergency room. Unfortunately, the hives returned every six hours for 10 days in spite of Benadryl and steroids. For years I have banished thoughts of going on another mission trip to a malaria-plagued country. Today “Imagine No Malaria” offers the hope of a pair of mission blessings: the gift of health for the millions of children and their families who can be saved from a preventable death from malaria, and the possibility of a mission trip without the threat of malaria or medication reactions for Christians who are called to take the love of Jesus around the world. Prayer: Loving God, we thank you for the partners you give us for the mission you have called us to. Help us to respond in faith to your call. We pray for healing for all who are sick, and we ask for your blessing on all who are working to combat malaria. Amen. Rev. Barbara Drake, Pennsylvania

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Day 13, March 23, 2011

Blaming the Ill Luke 8:47-48 “When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’” When Franklin Delano Roosevelt was stricken by polio he was in the prime of his life. His star was rising. Shortly before this time he had been chosen at age 32 to serve as the Democrat’s Vice-Presidential candidate. The campaign was a losing effort but Roosevelt had made a name for himself and in the process he began laying a foundation for his own presidential campaign sometime in the future. People were talking about him as an “up and comer.” Then he was stricken with polio and his life changed forever. He would never again stand on his own. In our day it is hard to imagine what a dreaded illness polio was. It was so feared that many people felt compelled to remove any family members who had had polio from society entirely. They would hide them away in a back bedroom and close the blinds. Biographers say that Roosevelt’s mother encouraged him to do just this, to retire from public life and spend the rest of his years at their home along their family home on Hudson River. But his wife, Eleanor, refused to let him give up. She convinced him to put up a fight. Within 10 years he was elected president of the United States and went on to lead his nation through the Great Depression and World War II. In Luke 8 we read about a woman who also refused to give up hope. Society taught that women in a situation like hers were to retire from society. They were to go off by themselves. They were not to touch anyone. They were not to be seen in public. But she refused to give up on life and she believed with all her heart that if she could just touch the robe of Jesus, she would be healed. Remember, according to the law, she was not even to be in public, much less intentionally touching people. So when Jesus called her out, she was terrified. But Jesus did not condemn her, he praised her and celebrated her faith. Even today some blame illness on the people who are ill. There is a temptation to close our eyes and deny that illness even exists. Sickness reminds us that we are all vulnerable and blaming the victim is one way we assure ourselves that what happened to them will never happen to us. Jesus challenges us move beyond our fears and to choose, instead, the way of compassion and love. Prayer: Help us, O God, to put aside our fears and care for those who go through difficult times. Our faith can give them strength in times of need and their courage can inspire us to greater faith still. Open our hearts, Lord Jesus, and fill us with the compassion for those in need. Jen Manier, Minnesota and Rev. Clayton Childers, Virginia

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Day 14, March 24, 2011

ACTION DAY! If you think you are too small to make a difference, try spending the night in a closed room with a mosquito. —African Saying We at First United Methodist Church of McKinney are beginning our journey to make a difference in Africa. We are educating ourselves and developing our role in the Imagine No Malaria mission of the United Methodist Church at large, to eliminate death and suffering from malaria in Africa by 2015. Today on this 14th of Lent, I ask you to take action by praying for our mission. Ask God what part he wants you to play in the eradication of malaria. Make plans and buy a ticket to attend a dinner on April 8 to celebrate this mission together. We will be in fellowship with one another, as we enjoy the music of the African Praise Band from Lover’s Lane United Methodist Church. Come and join us on this journey. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. —2 Corinthians 5:20 Susan Kamath, Chairperson, Imagine No Malaria Committee, FUMC-McKinney

Imagine No Malaria Dinner Friday, April 8, 2011 6:30-8:30 pm Dyer Hall Music by: The African Praise Band

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Day 15, March 25, 2011

Even if You Were the Only One Luke 8:22, 26-27 “One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side of the lake.’ So they put out, … 26 Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him.” I remember a pastor once instructing us to take our Bibles and open them to John 3:16. He then said: “I want you to read through the passage. ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.’ Now I want to take your pencil and I want you to lightly scratch out the word ‘World’ and in the margin I want you to write your name. Now read the passage again inserting your name in the place of ‘world.’ Read it one more time. Do you hear what God is saying to you? God knows you by name. God loves YOU! If you were the only one in the world needing the healing love of Jesus to deliver you from death to new life, Jesus would have given himself just for you.” In Luke 8 we read about Jesus instructing his disciples to set out and go for a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee. This was not just a random ride. Jesus wanted to meet a man on the other side, a man who likely had quite a reputation in those parts. He lived in a graveyard and preferred to go without clothes. He was in desperate need of powerful help. I think Jesus went there just for him. Even without knowing him, Jesus loved him, and went out of his way to save him. There are thousands of people who we will never know struggling with life threatening illnesses in Africa. The most widespread of these is malaria. It is taking the lives of almost 800,000 people a year. These people are dying needlessly. Did you hear that – 800,000 people dying needlessly each year! With prevention and proper treatment no one should be dying of malaria any more. We have the ability to defeat it. And the United Methodist Church is committed to making this possibility a reality. One of the greatest needs is the generous support of Christians willing to give financially to get the supplies to the people who are in need. Prayer: Loving Savior, your love for us is hard to fathom. That you know each of us by name and love us as we are. That you want each of us enjoy life in all its fullness and be delivered from the illnesses and demons that hold us down. Thank you, O God, for your bountiful mercy. Give us wisdom and faith to know how we can best follow in your way, becoming your instruments of healing in a hurting world. Clayton Childers, Virginia

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Day 16, March 26, 2011

Muddied Waters Revelations 22:1-2: Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Water burst into the air, jetting straight up from the well we had just drilled into the volcanic El Salvadoran soil. Like a brown fountain, the murky water sprayed high above us in the sunshine, full of drill mud and rock cuttings. A powerful blast of compressed air, carried by a hose running down more than a hundred feet to the bottom of the well, drove the stream. We stood and watched joyfully, blessed by the sight after three days of patient drilling, and the exhausting work of clearing mud lines and mixing concrete by hand. Gradually the water jet lost its muddy color as the rushing air blew away the impurities caused by our drilling. The unpolluted life-giving water from the deep aquifer replaced the drill mud and cuttings. The fountain became clear and pure. Soon the local villagers would be enjoying clean drinking water, and the well would be protected against contamination by a thick concrete cap supporting a sturdy hand pump. *Whatever mission task we take up, whether digging wells in El Salvador or providing mosquito nets in Nigeria, all we do is made possible through the power of God flowing through us. Though we go forth to work, we never go alone. Christ is with us.+ How often are our lives muddied by the work we do, filled with the gravel and soil of daily life? We may have tapped into a deep vein of God’s pure Spirit, but the cuttings and grindings of our routine existence cloud the flow. Stop, He seems to say, and let My mighty rushing wind blow away the debris. Your work has proceeded far enough, My child, under your own power – be still, and watch as My flame purifies. Prayer: Father, as we fill our lives with fretting and fury, call us to a quiet place where we can see You at work – and rejoice. Amen. Thought for the day: God will redeem our work. Prayer focus: Those who strive and contend while trusting in their own strength alone. Nels Hoffman, New Mexico

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Third Sunday in Lent, March 27, 2011

“Prayer” Prayer is the lifeline for the believer on his Christian journey. As Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick wrote in his classic book, The Meaning of Prayer, “In dealing with prayer we are dealing with a natural function of human life. As humans we naturally seek to relate to a power or source higher than our limited understanding. It is natural to seek that higher source. Deep in every one of us lies the tendency to pray. If we allow it to remain merely a tendency, it becomes nothing but a selfish, unintelligent, occasional cry of need. But understood and disciplined, it reveals possibilities whose limits never have been found. We believe that God desires to be to every one an inward and abiding friend, a purifying presence in daily life, the One whose moral purpose continually restrains and whose love upholds.” So prayer becomes for us the high privilege of communion with God. The great gift of God in prayer is himself, and whatever else He gives is secondary and incidental. Jesus prayed with such power that the one thing the disciples asked him was to teach them how to pray. (Luke 11:1) This intimate relationship with the Creator is to be valued if we are to appreciate our own value. Prayer is not to ask what we wish of God, but what God wishes of us. Prayer is not begging God to change the will of God but to discover what God wills for us. Some of us struggle with what we call unanswered prayer. There is one sense, however in which prayer can always be depended upon if a person has kept his life at all in harmony with God. The discipline of regular prayer opens our hearts to accept Gods response to our petitions regardless of what the answer may be. The Christian knows that he is not refused what he has prayed for and finds, in fact, that he is helped in all his troubles and that God gives him the power to overcome those troubles, which is the same thing as taking the trouble away from him. We need to remember that prayer should not be selfish. When we are lifting up our concerns, needs and confession, we should remember those both in our knowledge and beyond who need the grace of God’s love. The prayers of Jesus included others and set for us the powerful example of unselfishness of our prayer. Above all our prayers should evidence an open heart to which Gods response will be not only recognized but call for praise and worship on all levels. “Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire; Unuttered or expressed; The motion of hidden fire, That trembles in the breast.” Dr. Jim Palmer, FUMC-McKinney, Texas

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Day 17, March 28, 2011

Stand Firm I Corinthians 15:58 (NIV) “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” At one point or another, my colleagues and I have each come across an individual or two who has asked a difficult question: Why would we want to work to end malaria, when we cannot support the world’s population as it is? For these individuals, the question stems from practicality, not morality. How would we possibly feed those children that we will save? How might we sustain their lives? What use is it to spare them from one death just to deliver them into the hands of another? The Apostle Paul, in the first of his letters to the Corinthians includes one sentence that answers squarely the concerns raised, “… your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” N.T. Wright in his book Surprised by Hope put it this way: “Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human being and for that matter one’s fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world – all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make. That is the logic of the mission of God.” We are not oiling the wheels of a machine that’s about to roll over a cliff. God has a plan and a purpose for every child that we save, every mother that we touch, every father who yearns for a brighter future for his children, every nation striving to end malaria within their borders. In the book of Ephesians, Paul tells us “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We were created to do this work, at this time. It has been prepared for us since before time began. Our fight against malaria is purposeful, it is meaningful, it is the Lord’s work and it is not in vain. Prayer: Lord, I see through a mirror, dimly. At times I cannot see how my small actions are woven together for good. Yet, you have assured me that my work is not in vain; that I am not restoring a great painting just to have it thrown on a fire. Father, help me in my unbelief. Where I have shown weakness, make me strong. Where I have shown pride, make me humble. Where I have shown ignorance, make me wise. Help me to see more clearly how my actions, through your resurrecting power, will bring about your new creation, and help me to stand firm for you. Amen. Laura Meengs, Michigan

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Day 18, March 29, 2011

ACTION DAY! Spread the word! On Sunday, April 3, the congregation of First United Methodist Church of McKinney will receive a special Lenten offering for the United Methodist’s Imagine No Malaria campaign. Come celebrate with us and be a part of this amazing opportunity to eradicate this terrible and preventable disease of malaria. Help us “start a buzz” about ending malaria. If you have been fasting and saving, Sunday, April 3. is your opportunity to give your Lenten offering for Imagine No Malaria. Rev. Janet Cavalier, FUMC-McKinney, Texas

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Day 19, March 30, 2011

Love your Neighbor as Yourself Matthew 22:34-40 (NIV) ‘Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested Him with this question: Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus replied, ‘love your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself”. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.” On August 5, 2010, 10 persons were killed on a mission trip to a remote village in Afghanistan. The majority of the folks were Christians who were living out their faith, sharing their gifts for the sake of helping those who found themselves in the margins of the Afghan society. Each had given up livelihoods and made sacrifices as they sought to live out the two greatest commandments. I have heard the questions asked, “Why would folks travel to a place so dangerous? Why would they risk their lives in a place so far from the security of their borders?” the answers lie in the Biblical text---each one who confesses Jesus Christ as Lord is to love God with heart, mind, and soul. Equally as important is to love one’s neighbor as we love ourselves. Neighbor is not bound by geography, but rather by one’s ability to connect with others who have been created in the image of God. Those who journeyed and died a horrific death knew the reason why they were willing to give of themselves sacrificially---for the love of God. We are being asked to support the cause “Imagine No Malaria.” We are asked to save lives, and we can do that by raising awareness that malaria is preventable through communication, education, and better health care. What we are being asked to do seems so small in comparison to what others have sacrificed. The challenge, however, is not to compare our tasks to the tasks of what others are doing, but rather to ascertain how we are living out our faith in relationship to how God has called and is calling us as individuals. The call is not about equal giving but equal sacrifice, for we do not live out sacrifice in the same manner. For example, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Jr, Oscar Romero, and Mother Teresa all lived prophetically, each using their own gifts as given by God. Love God with all your heart, mind, and soul. Love your neighbor as yourself, and in the words of Paul let us live a life worthy of the calling we have received. Rev William B. Meekins, Jr, Pennsylvania

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Day 20, March 31, 2011

“Being Born from Above” John 3:3 “Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’” The Gospel of John chapter 3 is one of the most famous passages in all of Scripture. It is a dramatic story of a man, a Pharisee named Nicodemus, who is so desperate for answers that he comes to Jesus late at night to ask him questions. It seems that Jesus confuses him even more. The Pharisees were some of the most dedicated religious practitioners in Jewish society. They worked very hard each day to be faithful to the letter of every law. Still, Nicodemus felt that something was missing and he, evidently, believes Jesus may hold the key to his questions. Almost immediately, Jesus tells him that anyone who wishes to the “see the kingdom of God” must be “born again.” Some versions prefer to translate this “born from above.” Both capture part of the meaning. The original Greek word is “Anothen.” It is not used often in the New Testament text, but it is seen a few other times. One of these sightings is most interesting. “Anothen” is the word used in Matthew 27:51 where, right after Jesus has breathed his last breath, the Scripture says: “The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” In this verse the word “anothen” is translated “from top to bottom.” What point is being made? The significance is that the tearing of the temple curtain is a “God thing.” Any human being might sneak into the temple and tear the curtain in two from the bottom to the top. But, according to the Scripture, this is not how it happened. According to the Matthew text, the curtain was torn in two from “the top to bottom.” This helps us understand even more the message of John 3:3. Being “born again” or “born from above” is a something God does for us. It is God’s free gift. We do not earn it. We cannot reproduce in a laboratory. We cannot manufacture it in a factory. Even a Pharisee, as hard as he may work at keeping every jot and tittle of the law, even he cannot make himself be “born again.” Only God can do this. God does this for us not because of who we are but because of who God is. It is God’s nature to love. God is a God who loves because it is God’s nature to love. The “New life” begins with God coming into the world in the form of the Son. Why? Because God loves the world. It is God’s nature. Prayer: Holy Loving God, you are so patient in hearing our questions and gently guiding us toward the truth. Help us open our hearts anew, to see your love and receive the gift of new life you desire for us all. Rev. Clayton Childers, Virginia

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Day 21, April 1, 2011

“In Spirit and in Truth” John 4:5-42, Key Verse – John 4:42 “They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.” Have you ever been shocked by someone talking with you when you did not expect it? There are times to talk and times not to talk. Jesus broke the rules, once again. Rule number one says: No Jew is to talk with a Samaritan. Rule two says: No men are to talk with women, unless they are a close relative. But Jesus broke the rules. He also broke the rule about not associating with people who are sinners. Scholars have suggested that it was unusual for a woman to come to the well to draw water alone. Drawing water was a social activity, women usually came to the well in groups. Perhaps, this woman came alone because she was a threat to the community. After all, she was not following the rules about marriage – five marriages already, and now she is living with a man outside of marriage. She was likely being ostracized and this may explain why she came to the well alone. Jesus, in his goodness, puts the rules of social relations aside, and strikes up a conversation. This is an act of grace. Jesus knew that this woman was in need of a word of grace. Life had not gone well for her, and probably, some of that was her own doing. What a good time for Jesus to come to visit that particular village and sit at the well at that particular time. When she arrived Jesus was waiting. They talk, and in the course of the conversation Jesus makes clear that he knows as much about this woman as she knows about herself. It is not a pretty story. Yet, Jesus does not run away. He does not stand in judgment. He does not even give advice. He just takes the time to talk with her about her life and her life with God. This short conversation saved her. Suddenly, she becomes, not the lost sheep, but the bearer of good news, an evangelist to her community. She proclaims the good news and introduces her community to Jesus. Imagine No Malaria is a work of God. When I was introduced to the ministry, I was awe struck by the injustice of facts behind it. How can we live in a world so rich in resources while people are dying because they cannot afford a $5 treatment or a $10 bed net. When I heard my church was working to do something about the malaria crisis, I wanted to help. I immediately sent a $10 text message to support the campaign. Then, as I learned more, I wanted to do more. I signed up for an Impact 100 pledge of $28 a month. But still I want to do more. I wanted to tell others. Soon I found myself leading my Sunday School class in a briefing about the malaria crisis and how God is at work through the Imagine No Malaria ministry. This is the way it is when you become a part of a movement. You begin to figure out ways to help. Just like the woman in this story who led her whole community to Christ. Prayer: Holy God, thank you for the courage of this woman. Even though ostracized by her community, she boldly testified about the good news of Jesus. Help us, O God. Inspire us for bold witness to others about the good work you are doing in the world. Rev. Clayton Childers, Virginia

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Day 22, April 2, 2011

A Life of Wholeness John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Several years ago I was on a mission trip in Cameroon, which is in west Africa. Our team was working with former GBGM missionaries Wes and Leah Magruder. We were visiting different congregations all over the country. Every day we spent lots of time driving to a new village and a new church, where we stopped and visited for a few hours. As the trip progressed I began to notice that our van driver began to spend all our breaks, meal stops, and church visits sleeping in the van. I questioned our interpreter about it (because our driver spoke only French) and our interpreter simply said that our driver was sick. Shortly afterwards I asked our team leader if she thought our driver might have malaria. Her answer surprised and enlightened me. She responded that it was quite likely that our driver did have malaria, because in a sub-Saharan country like Cameroon nearly every adult carries the malaria parasites. Several times a year they may be stricken with flu-like symptoms that are so severe they can barely function and work. Yet work they must, if at all possible, for they have to provide for their families. Often they suffer through it as best they can with no medications, because they can’t afford them or have no access to them. The Imagine No Malaria initiative helps prevent malaria and offers treatment for those that do have it. In the future, as we reach our goals in this initiative, fewer and fewer children will have malaria. Those children will grow into adulthood healthy and whole. In John 10:10, we see that God’s will for us is not sickness and weakness, but a life of wholeness and abundance - for everyone. By being healthy and experiencing a life of wholeness we fulfill God’s promise to all generations. Prayer: God of all nations, your love and mercy surrounds us, wherever we are. So many people are suffering from malaria. Help us to learn about the suffering of others and give us the wisdom and compassion to act. It is so easy to look the other way. With open hearts and open minds we seek to learn what you would have us do. We ask all this in your son’s name. Amen. Rev. Marji Bishir, Texas

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Fourth Sunday in Lent, April 3, 2011

Into a Holy Conversation Colossians 4:2-6 (NIV) “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” It’s no surprise for one Christian to come near the end of a conversation with another Christian by bringing up matters for prayer. I find in my own life that one of the blessings of being in relationship with other believers is having a mutual commitment to prayer. How will we spend the time until we meet again? In God’s presence, together before the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). But as it closes, the Book of Colossians also directs our attention beyond the community of faith, both as a matter of prayer and as an exhortation toward a certain kind of conversation. This is our conversation with the world around us, a genuine dialogue through which we naturally proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and respond with wisdom to questions about our faith. Of course, a key word here is naturally. The encouragement to such conversation envisions a community of Christians whose walk of faith is so well integrated into our daily living at work, school, play, and life in the neighborhood that the character of Christ has become attractive and brought us into positive relationships with others. In this vision, the quality of our lives and the witness to our faith merge naturally in the same conversation—a holy conversation. Sometimes in “conversation,” there is only one voice. But that’s not true conversation, that’s monologue. Conversation requires listening. In the Faith Connections Sunday morning class recently, we were reminded that “wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk” (a saying credited to Doug Larson). Colossians 4:5 calls us to “be wise” as we relate to the world, and I believe this certainly includes the practice of listening. Are we good conversationalists? Do you practice the discipline of merging the witness of your life with your words of witness to the grace and hope of Jesus? And these with the practice of listening well to the spiritual journey of another? The ability to bring these together with a trust in the Holy Spirit to use you to speak grace to the world is a fruit of disciplined, growing faith. Prayer: Lord, let my life be in a holy conversation—full of grace, seasoned with wisdom, and disciplined in love. In the name of Christ my Savior, Amen. Rev. John Harman, FUMC-McKinney, Texas

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Day 23, April 4, 2011

Moving the Mountain Matthew 17: 19-20 “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing is impossible for you.” Recently I read that as many as one of every two people throughout human history has likely been killed by malaria. It is believed to have killed Alexander the Great in 323 BC. It may have led to the death of Genghis Khan, the Mongol overlord of the 13th Century. George Washington suffered bouts of malaria, as did Christopher Columbus, Ernest Hemingway, Davy Crockett, and most recently George Clooney. Every single year, there are as many as 500 million (that’s half a billion) cases of malaria, and of those, nearly one million people are killed. If ever there was a challenge, eliminating malaria is a mountain of one – in fact, that’s a Mount Everest-sized challenge! The United States eliminated malaria in the 1950’s through a concerted public health effort. Unfortunately, one of the greatest reasons our success in the United States did not translate to the eradication of malaria worldwide is because public interest in eliminating the disease slowed, and as a result funding to continue the fight in the developing world slowed as well. Malaria rates that were on the decline suddenly accelerated again in Africa and Southeast Asia. This always reminds me of a large group of well-meaning individuals pushing a boulder up a mountain, nearly reaching the summit, only for it to roll back down as one by one, the interest of the individuals wanes and they wander home. We have the boulder on our shoulders again. In the past 10years, rates of malaria have been declining – so much that we can now say that a child dies every 45 seconds, instead of every 30 seconds. Celebrities, politicians, and now United Methodists are again rolling that boulder up the mountain. Every time that I hear of another country in Africa lowering rates of malaria through free medication, better access to care, and net distributions, my faith grows a little more that we can actually overcome this killer disease. You see, even though I live the fight against malaria every day, I have days where I question whether this mountain can ever be moved – whether that boulder will ever make it to the top. What sees me through those days is my faith in the Lord. I have seen the power of the Lord when I put my trials and tribulations into God’s hands. I believe God so loves each of God’s children that an effort like Imagine No Malaria that seeks to save one more child every 45 seconds is truly guided by the Lord’s hand. When I remember this, my faith grows, just like a tiny mustard seed, and I can once again imagine a world without malaria, and trust that the Lord will bring that world to reality. Prayer: Lord, let us not allow the boulder that is eliminating malaria to roll back down the mountain again. Give us strength and courage to continue this fight, so that each of Your children might live to see a long and healthy life. Amen. Margo Jacobs, Michigan

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Day 24, April 5, 2011

Sharing out of Love Philippians 2: 3-4 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Nothing could have prepared me for our welcoming into the village we received in Bo, Sierra Leone. When we arrived at our first village the brownish-red dirt road was lined with people. Men, women, and children were waiting for us, and as we piled out of our vehicles we began walking up the road and the singing and drums began. I was, as were the rest of our group, surrounded by the throng. I have never experienced being in a throng before. Children mostly surrounded me, smiling and laughing and talking. Overcome with warmth of emotion I pumped my two fists in the air and shouted, only being heard by the children closest to me, “This is BIG!” The few that could hear me above the song smiled, and pumped their fists in the air and shouted back to me, “Yes, this is BIG!” We were led and seated at a long table as “dignitaries” facing the seated villagers. After being introduced to them, we were introduced to their leaders. When the formalities were ended we toured their medical building. Inside the walls were lined with educational posters concerning AIDS, eye conditions, malaria, etc. One man proudly took me into the supply room (which held only a few boxes of empty syringes), but he was especially proud of a white enameled freezer sized, temperature controlled storage unit for medicine. A generator kept the device at constant temperature. I asked if I could see inside it. He acted as if he had never been asked that before, and after a bit of tugging was able to lift the lid. We both peered down into the rust lined interior of the unit only to see two single dose ampoules of medicine on the bottom. I had expected to see racks of various pharmaceuticals, but they were nonexistent. Afterwards we were educated by local leaders about the organization, communication and distribution of insecticide impregnated bed nets to prevent malaria. This initiative had been well-designed, extensive and largely complete for this Bo district. Bo is only one district, and there are eleven more districts in Sierra Leone. Paul tells us in Philippians Chapter 2 that since we have received the love of Christ that we are to be like-minded and to share that love and concern for others, not for our own glorification, but because we truly value others. Those in Africa who are suffering the ravages of death due to malaria truly need our help, and God willing we will stand united, and be generous in our contributions to help eradicate this disease. Prayer: Dear Lord, make me an instrument of your peace and love by sharing with others that they may have freedom from the disease of malaria. May we do this not for our own ambition, but simply out of interest and love that we have of others, as Christ has for us. In Your name we pray. Amen. Dr. Peter L. Paulson, Illinois

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Day 25, April 6, 2011

The Prayer of the Lord Luke 11:1 “He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” Do you know how to pray? How to really pray? The disciples wanted to learn to pray and they went to Jesus and asked for directions. This is not the first time they had talked about prayer. Jesus had already talked to them about the need to not make a show of their religion by praying in the middle of the marketplace where they would get a lot of attention. He also had demonstrated a commitment to pray regularly and at critical times. He seemed to

pray all the time, as he always seemed so close to his Father and would talk with God even as they walked from place to place. Prayer was important to Jesus and the disciples wanted to learn. So they asked him for help. Jesus responded by sharing with them the prayer that has become known as The Lord’s Prayer. It begins with a song of praise to God – Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven….” How often have we prayed this prayer, yet without thinking about what it really means. Do we really expect and believe that the kingdom of God is going to come on earth as it is in heaven? Do we really expect? Would God ask us to pray for something that he knew would never happen? Of course not. We are a kingdom people – the vision of that kingdom – the eternal reign of God’s shalom where all are fed, none suffer infirminty, no one dies, nor are their tears in anyone’s eyes. This is the Kingdom of God on earth. This is what we pray about. It is also what we live for – to be part of God’s kingdom coming work in the world. Imagine No Malaria is kingdom coming work – God working through ordinary human beings to end suffering and death, crying and despair and bring in the kingdom joy. God is doing this work, even now and we have a chance to be part of this glorious ministry. Rev. Clayton Childers, Virginia

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Day 26, April 7, 2011

ACTION DAY! Malaria can be overcome, but only if enough people know about the cause, and care enough to eliminate the disease. Help spread the word! Today, tell two people in your life about Imagine No Malaria. It can be your coworker, classmate, grandmother, or neighbor. Nervous about how to start the conversation? Here’s a conversation starter for you: “Hello *NAME+. As part of my Lenten focus I am praying for and learning about Imagine No Malaria—a ministry of my church, The United Methodist Church, that is working to eliminate deaths caused by malaria in Africa by 2015. Today I am sharing information about this ministry with two people in my life, and you are one! Did you know that nearly one million children die each year from this disease? It starts off feeling like the flu, but gets much worse. Kids often fall into a fever-induced coma. Adults can’t work. If a person isn’t treated for malaria fast enough, it kills. In fact, a child dies from malaria every forty-five seconds. The good news is that malaria is preventable, treatable, and BEATABLE! Since malaria is spread by a specific mosquito that only bites at night, bed nets can help stop infections. So can cleaning up areas where mosquitoes breed, like puddles and trash-filled creeks. We can also help by training health workers, putting reminders to use the bed nets on the radio, and by improving and revitalizing our hospitals and clinics in Africa so they can better serve their patients. If you want to hear more, go to www.ImagineNoMalaria.org or zapmalaria.com (our North Texas Conference dedicated site).

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Day 27, April 8, 2011

Trust John 21:19 “After this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’” 2 Corinthians 4:17 “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.” I am leading you along a road with curves and bends. The road is covered with snow, ice and potholes, and it looks like the bridge along the highway has broken down. You yearn to get to where you want to go: you want to reach your desired final destination, a place you have dreamt of for a long time. Follow Me and allow Me to direct your paths. The road ahead may be covered with snow and ice, and the bridge along the highway may have broken down, but stay close to Me and allow Me to guide you and direct you. Learn to trust in Me when things go wrong, or when things do not work out your way. Hold tightly to Me: together, we can make it. There are times in my life when I felt like the bridge along the highway had broken down, and everything I wanted was becoming nearly impossible to reach. Things weren’t happening the way I wanted them to, but at that time I heard the voice of God speak to me: “I am your father and you are my child. Trust me”. When I heard the voice of God, my Father in heaven, I got the assurance that the Father can never leave His child and I as the child have to trust in my Father who placed me here on earth. Trusting my father rebuilt the bridge that was broken on my life’s highway, and I was able to move forward as God’s love melted the snow and ice ahead. Prayer: Holy Father, help me today to learn to trust you. You know how I struggle. I do long for your quite voice of assurance reminding me that I do not travel life’s paths alone. Help me, O God, to hear anew your voice of assurance today. Thought for the Day: Trust - hold tightly to God. Juliet Mpanja, Uganda

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Day 28, April 9, 2011

Shine, Shine, Shine! Matthew 5:14-15 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” So many children’s songs hold profound truths that we only truly appreciate when we get older. One such song is “This little light of mine”: This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine! This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine! This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine! Jesus asked us to be His light in this world of darkness. He reminds us not to allow our eyes, which are the lamps of our bodies, to be filled with darkness, but to be “completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp shines on you.” Luke 11:36 Our light needs to shine out for more than one morning or one day out of the week. We need to stand out daily with our words and actions as lights that bring truth, love, compassion, and acceptance to our society. During these hard economic times, I have found it hard to shine when I am worried about my job, my family’s finances, my children’s education, and so much more. But God reminds me in gentle ways of how I can still be his light—by taking food over to a grieving neighbor, babysitting for an ill co-worker, or visiting with a depressed friend. These actions cost me so little but share so much with others. Prayer: Holy Father, help us to hold our lights in a world of darkness. Let us become the lights that live in truth and love. Brighten our lights by reminding us of the compassionate actions and words of our Lord, Jesus. In whose name we pray. AMEN Thought for the Day: In what way can I be God’s light today? Donna Trimble, North Carolina

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Fifth Sunday in Lent – April 10, 2011

“Inspired by Scripture” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. Take a deep breath. Really, go ahead and take a deep breath. . . . Ah . . . the breath of life! “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7). Ah . . . the breath that inspires us to a spirit-filled life! “Jesus breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22). The Hebrew word (ruah) and the Greek word (pneuma) are translated in context as “breath,” “spirit,” “wind” or “air.” Just like we cannot physically live without breath, we cannot spiritually live without the Spirit. So breathe in again, this time breathing in not just physical air, but the Holy Spirit as well. This can be truly refreshing! So being refreshed, let us encounter the Bible with a feeling of being filled with life. Scripture can be difficult and daunting, but it remains filled with life. All scripture is “God-breathed”! Taking good breaths from the Bible makes us more prepared for our life in Christ. Choose a Gospel, one of the first four books of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) to read this week. Read as much or as little as you want, the point being to take breaths of Scripture. Let the Words from the pages inspire you! Let the inspired words teach, rebuke, correct, and train you for your tasks for the day. One more time, take a deep breath. Let the Spirit fill you up. Now take a deep breath and plunge into the Bible! Prayer: Breathe on me, breath of God. Help me, as I read your Holy Scripture this week to feel the breath of life from your inspired word. Fill me with your Holy Spirit so that I may truly live a Spirit-filled life. Equip me for your good work. Amen. Rev. Doug Fox, FUMC-McKinney, Texas

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Day 29, April 11, 2011

“The Raising of Lazarus” John 11:16 Thomas, who was called the twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” The Disciple Thomas has an interesting way about him. He has become known to history as doubting Thomas because, having missed out on the first appearance of the resurrected Jesus to the disciples, he insists that he cannot believe the story unless he “puts his fingers in the nail prints of Jesus hand and his hand into place where the spear pierced Jesus side.” In this story we see the disciples struggling with Jesus, trying to convince him that he does not need to go to Judea to minister to Lazarus. They do not want to go there because the temple leaders have it in for Jesus. They want to kill him. Just recently they threatened to stone him, and now Jesus is going to go to Judea where it will be even easier to catch him. Hard as they try, they cannot deter Jesus from his mission. It is at that point that Thomas speaks up and says “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” At first glance this might sound like a courageous statement. Perhaps, Thomas is challenging the others to be bold in faith and walk tall in the face of death. Knowing Thomas though, I receive it as a bit of a joke, said under his breath, dark humor. Can you see it that way? Thomas is acknowledging out loud what the others are all thinking. Following Jesus is risky business. If he keeps this up, he may get us all killed. Two millennia later, following Jesus is still risky business. Sometimes people do not understand our passion for living the way of the cross. It runs counter to the way of the world. The world teaches that our role in the world is to look out for number one. Or at least limit our sphere of concern to our families or those like us. The way of Jesus refuses to accept these false barriers. All the world in our parish. God’s compassion reaches even across the oceans. And we are called to join in this mission even when it may be risky. Prayer: Holy loving God, help us see the world from your perspective. Open our hearts to embrace your children wherever they are, and become your vessels of healing and hope in a hurting world. Rev. Clayton Childers, Virginia

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Day 30, April 12, 2011

ACTION DAY! It’s time to make a list. Grab a pen and some paper, and write down all of the items you can buy with just $1. Not very long, is it? You can buy a soda, a candy bar, something off of the dollar menu at a fast food restaurant, or something at the dollar store. These days, you can’t even buy a cup of coffee for just one dollar! Consider this: you can save 100 lives with less than $1 a day. That certainly seems a lot more valuable than a can of soda, doesn’t it? Less than $1 a day (just $28 a month) pledged over three years will impact 100 lives in Africa, and help to eliminate deaths caused by malaria. Prayerfully consider today if you can impact 100 lives. If you decide to make this commitment, go to www.sharingtheheart.org to make your pledge (or another gift). Second, every time you spend one dollar today (or two dollars, or three…) stop and pray for a child in Africa. Pray for their health and pray that they are safe from malaria today.

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Day 31, April 13, 2011

Freedom Galatians 5:13 “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” During Vacation Bible School, our leader gave everyone who entered the sanctuary a black bracelet that looked like a prison chain. Then, she began announcing things she had done that were hurtful. She spoke of actions to which the children could relate, like screaming at their parents or fighting with friends. With each sin she mentioned, she added a bracelet to her body. Soon, these sins covered her with chains. Slowly, she went to the large wooden cross that was standing by the altar. She told the children one day she heard the good news of Jesus, that God loves us all, and wants us to live life in all its goodness, both here and now in the world beyond. It was then that she accepted Christ as her savior. With tears pouring down her face, the teacher said, “In that moment, Christ didn’t just take one of my sins away” -She let her arms drop and the chains rushed to the floor beneath the cross - “He took them all. I was set free. He can set you free too.” She then invited us to lay our chains at the foot of the cross. While I put my chain down, I thought about my freedom and what it cost. How was I using this freedom for the glory of God? I wasn’t using it to heal the sick. I wasn’t making a difference to those who needed to see God’s love the most. Within months, I found my way to use this amazing freedom to reach out to those in need. Through Imagine No Malaria, I was able to take part in a God sized dream – to eliminate a disease as a source of death in Christ’s name. Prayer: Thank you Lord for the ability to serve you in a way that extends your love to those around us, even to people we may never have a chance to meet. Please Lord, help us to use our freedom to bring you glory. Amen. Leia Danielle Williams, Arkansas

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Day 32, April 14, 2011

Caring for Each Other Matthew 23:37, Luke 13:34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not.” Outside my office window there was a nest for a Canadian goose. The mother sat there quietly and patiently day after day, waiting for the natural process and spring birthing of young. We grew quite friendly as she watched me work at my desk and I engaged in a morning review of the status of the coming young. As I closed my office door each evening, she looked longingly at me as if to say, “Are you leaving me here alone?” I confess it was quite a daily routine to watch as she protected and provided for her small ones. Now I understand a little bit more about the scripture references to Jesus’ sorrow over Jerusalem and weeping for the unwillingness of the people to accept his lordship. Jesus said, “How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not.” Matthew 23:37, Luke 13:34 Are we weeping over the lost and wandering ones? Are we brooding, protecting and nurturing the ones who can’t find their way? Are we gathering with loving patience those who need the fresh assurance of rebirth? May we once again long and pray and patiently hold on for the re-birthing that is needed in the churches and communities where we serve. “I thank God upon every remembrance of you,” is what St. Paul said to the church, when he wrote in recognition of their faithfulness to the gospel and their hospitality and care for him personally. I thank God today for you: For your life given in covenant and service; for your labor of love and your message of hope given out in acts of kindness; for your vision to meet the needs of many and minister his grace; for your family and those whom you embrace as family; for your daily, steady working so that life is improved for someone. I thank God for you, because you are important to the kingdom of God. May God bless you abundantly today, for he is good; His love endures forever. Rev. Bramwell Kjellgren, Pennsylvania

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Day 33, April 15, 2011

Justice, Mercy and Humility: A Reflection on Micah 6:8 Micah 6:8 (NIV) The Lord has shown you what is good, o man, and what does he require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Justice: We are called to do justice and not just to believe in justice or study justice. Followers of Christ are called to speak and act on the behalf of those who lack influence. We must go where Jesus is going, do what Jesus is doing, and be who Jesus is being for the lame, the poor, the sick, and the marginalized. Malaria was eliminated in the United States in the 1950’s. Since that time there have been few major advances in either the prevention or treatment of malaria. The best vaccine we have yet developed is only 70% effective and just made it to human trials last year! Why is it that 60 years after malaria was eliminated in the United States, a mother, father, brother or sister loses a beloved child to this disease every 45 seconds? Have we forgotten to do justice? Mercy: We must love mercy; we must be living demonstrations of God’s mercy. But what does this mean? In his book Change the World Rev. Mike Slaughter, the pastor of one of the largest churches in Methodism, had this to say about mercy: “Mercy is closely related to grace – receiving what one doesn’t deserve or hasn’t earned… a gospel worldview begins with the premise that God accepts me, demonstrated through the redemptive offering of his Son on the cross, in spite of my brokenness and failures. Because of God’s mercy and grace, I am accepted and now free to work at being the person God created me to be. Mercy is the generous demonstration of indescribable grace!” Through programs like Imagine No Malaria, we are showing our love of mercy. Perhaps that mercy hasn’t been earned, but the Lord calls us to reflect the love of Christ to those near and far so that “they will know we are Christians by our love.” Humility: To walk humbly with our Lord means to accept that this life really isn’t about us. It’s about God. To serve with humility means to serve as Jesus served—without expectation for self-gain—to the sinners, the tax collectors and a whole host of others whom we might wish weren’t included in our neighborhood. To serve with humility means to look for Jesus in every person you meet, humbly accepting that you are no better than the least among them. Imagine No Malaria seeks to make it not about us, but about God. How can we live into his will for his kingdom? How can we look for Jesus among the children of Africa? How can we humbly walk with the Lord through the streets of poverty, seeking to do the Lord’s work? Prayer: Father, there is much work to be done in your kingdom. How might I be a part of it? How can I act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with you? Lord, thank you for the precious gift of your Son. Through his death on the cross you have shown your grace and mercy, offering redemption to all, even me. Show me, Father, the path that leads to you and how I can let others know my love for you through word and deed. Amen. Laura Meengs, Michigan

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Day 34, April 16, 2011

Living and Giving in Contentment Philippians 4:11b “…I have learned to be content with whatever I have …” My international travels have opened my eyes to the opulence of life in the United States in ways I could not have done without taking those trips. I earned myself the title of “ugly American” in the lobby of a hotel in Moscow when I had been in the USSR less than 24 hours. I had promised all of my 50or-so sponsors that I would send them a post card shortly after we arrived in Russia. I bought the cards in several kiosks at the train station, but decided to get all my stamps for post cards at the hotel. The woman behind the desk looked startled and counted out 15 stamps. I shook my head “no” and wrote the number 50 on a piece of paper. The woman’s demeanor changed from being surprised to being disgusted. She threw the stamps on the counter, took my rubles and tossed my change on the stamps and turned her back on me. I was shocked. I asked our interpreter, “What did I do to her?” “Nothing”, our guide responded, “except to pay more for stamps than she earns in a month.” I was humiliated and never have forgotten how I felt in that moment. Scenes of similar discomforts played out again in Estonia, Lithuania, post-hurricane Jamaica and Zimbabwe with different groups of people. Regardless of how much we would stress the importance of being in partnership with those we were visiting, the tendency of U.S. citizens to be generous and make purchases of big ticket items is hard to squelch. We spend because we have; we have because our lives on unemployment compensation are more affluent than 80% of our world neighbors. Very few of us would find it a real sacrifice to donate one net per month to Nothing But Nets. So why won’t we? Is it because we just forget? Or will our appetites get the better of us? Or will we still not know how to be content with what we have? Or will we think that $10 isn’t a grand enough gesture to bother with it? As we seek to be your partners in ministry, Lord God, might we see no opportunity too large or too small to give the task our very best. In the powerful name of Jesus, AMEN. Rev. Dr. Jaime Potter Alvarez, Pennsylvania

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PALM/PASSION SUNDAY—Week 7 in Lent, April 17, 2011

Passion That Leads to Compassion 1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. The word “Passion” has an interesting and elusive history. It originally meant “to suffer”. Regarding his crucifixion, Jesus told his disciples that he must suffer, in Greek “pascho”, from which “passion” seems to be derived. “Passion” later developed to mean an intense emotion that compels action. Adding the prefix “com-” to this gives us, “compassion”, which literally means to suffer with. So what am I getting at? In 1 Peter 3:18, we see that Christ suffered (there’s that word “passion”) once for sins. He did this on the cross. He died so that we could be made alive. We are to have a passionate life, or life abundant! (John 10:10) And what is the purpose of this life? He made us alive so that we could love one another and be compassionate (1 Peter 3:8). So are you ready for the punch line? The passion (suffering) of Jesus allows us to live a life full of passion (excitement) that reaches out to others with compassion.  Remember and give thanks to Jesus for his suffering for us on the cross.  Give thanks for what you are passionate about that God uses for his glory.  Find a way to show compassion this week to someone hurting, someone alone, or even to those who are living in Malaria infested countries. This week is Holy Week. We start with the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem with waving of palms and celebration. We then go with Jesus and Disciples to the Upper Room for the Last Supper, the washing of the disciples’ feet, and the institution of Holy Communion. We then encounter the cross where Jesus suffers and gives up his life for our salvation. Make a point this week to attend either the Maundy Thursday service (7 pm) or one of the Good Friday services (noon or 7 pm). First encounter the cross and then celebrate the resurrection. Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for suffering on the cross for my salvation. Give me an abundant life, filled with a desire to live passionately for you. Help me this week to be compassionate. Show me who I am to love in your name. Amen. Rev. Doug Fox, FUMC-McKinney, Texas

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Day 35, April 18, 2011

Beyond Nets: Imagine No Malaria He came into the hospital in the arms of his mother. Anemic and frail, 8-month-old Domingo died within hours, still cradled in her arms. His veins were too small to withstand the blood transfusion he needed to survive. And the hospital, which is barely able to provide basic care, lacked the equipment to save him. With scant resources, the Malanje Provincial Hospital in Angola serves a population of 1.2 million people. Malaria alone accounts for 40 percent of the hospitals cases. Dr. Laurinda Quipungo, a physician, said, “The image of a dying child is very frequent here. It is our reality. Sometimes we will have two or three children die in the same day.” We could easily be lulled into believing that little Domingo is nothing more than a statistic: we’ve never met him or his family. We didn’t see the sadness in his mother’s face as she held her dead infant or the disappointment of his brothers and sisters. It also would be easy to gloss over Dr. Quipungo’s quote and be pacified by the thought that her statistic represents the depth of the problem on a global scale. Sad to say, it only scratches the surface. While malaria has been largely eradicated from the United States, 300 to 500 million people are still infected each year, mostly in Africa. Every forty-five seconds a child dies of malaria. It is a haunting statistic, to be sure. But attached to each number is a name, a heartbeat, a loved one, a soul. Children who DO survive may develop chronic anemia and neurological impairment. In mild cases it’s the worst flu you have ever experienced. In the fatal ones, it involves kidney failure, bleeding and swelling of the brain. Malaria is a crisis that affects individuals, families and economies. Even if a child survives beyond age five with a well developed immune system, that child will still get malaria, again and again. When he’s older it will prevent him from working at times. At 22, he will fall victim once more and not be able to sustain his work, which will eliminate food from his family’s table, which will cause poverty in his household, which will lead to poor health, which will cause the statistics to grow. There is however, an amazing reality in the midst of all of this. Malaria is preventable! Our Imagine No Malaria ministry goes beyond providing nets. It is a comprehensive approach that also supports efforts to educate about prevention, establish community -based malaria control programs, and revitalize hospitals and clinics across Africa. This approach is working. Malaria rates in parts of Africa are on the decline. For example, after increasing net coverage and access to medication, the mortality rate for children under 5 in Rwanda dropped by 66 percent in two years. There are similar reports from other areas where a comprehensive approach has been used. I am a leader of the church, a person driven by convictions of the heart, words of scripture, and inspirations of the spirit. I am driven by a desire to make real God’s call that we love one another as God loves us. I am inspired, yet haunted, by the words of Jesus himself, “Truly I tell you, just as you did to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did to me.” Mathew 25:40 Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, Western PA Conference, and Chair of Imagine No Malaria

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Day 36, April 19, 2011

The Meaning of the Cross Luke 22:41-42 “Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.’” Do you believe that Mary, the mother of Jesus, could have chosen not to be the mother of the Lord? Have you ever thought about that question? It will tell you something about your theology to play that question through. I believe Mary could have said No to God. People do that. God was asking a lot. But Scripture relates that this was not the choice she made. When she heard from the angel what God wanted her to do, Mary said “Yes.” In the same vein, we can theorize that Jesus also had a choice. He knew his death was near. He knew he had been betrayed and he likely knew soldiers were on the way to arrest him. On that evening, Scripture tells us Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemene and prayed. He prayed fervently that he might be spared the agonizing death that lay before him. I believe he could have fled. He could have fought. Instead, Jesus accepted the way of the cross. Death on the cross was choice to which Jesus said Yes. Life is made of choices. Sometimes they are difficult choices. It is the nature of the amazing freedom that God has entrusted to each of us. God calls us to the way of love, but we have real choices. We can say No. That is the nature of love. True love does not coerce. We are not God’s puppets. This is why God has called us to live lives of faith even when we know faithfulness will lead to difficulty. The cross of Christ is all about Jesus example of faithful love overcoming fear. 1 John 4:18 tells us “perfect love casts out fear.” In his hour of decision Jesus overcame his fear. He did not run. He did not call for an army of followers to rise up and fight, even though many were waiting for him to give the word. Jesus chose the way of love. Love is more powerful than any army. The cross is a picture of perfect love. Love that refuses to quit loving. Love that won’t give up. Prayer: Loving Savior, we praise you for your constant love. Even when we fail to live up to your example, even when we turn away or flee in fear or respond with violence, you never give up on us. You always wait and hope and pray that we will choose to turn back to you. Thank you Jesus for loving us so. Rev. Clayton Childers, Virginia

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Day 37, April 20, 2011

Hope Romans 8:24-25 “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” On a recent journey through West Africa, I was left with an a-typical loss for words to describe the depth of the experience. In Cote d’Ivoire, I visited schools in rural communities where there is no water. Fetching water, a responsibility of the young girls in a family, is a task that can take hours each day. When the family is faced with the choice of having water or sending a daughter to school, the decision is simple: the family needs water. A well can make all the difference. In Liberia, I saw the amazing work of the Camphor and Ganta missions, where health care is being delivered in the most limited conditions. I had the privilege of meeting the traditional birth attendants (TBA) at the Camphor mission. Mothers-to-be in rural villages entrust their prenatal care to the TBAs, and each day, they deliver their babies into the hands of these dedicated women. The incidence of problematic deliveries has been reduced in the villages thanks to the TBAs. In Guinea, I visited a small clinic supported by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) that is the only hope for those who suffer from malaria, HIV/AIDS, and other diseases of poverty. Similarly, in Sierra Leone’s Kissee Hospital and the Manjama clinic, life-giving care is provided to the people of a war-ravaged country. It is difficult to find words to adequately respond to the sight of a baby gasping for breath as she struggles with malaria and pneumonia. Or of the child lying in bed whose life is being cut so short by tuberculosis. Or of the man in a wheelchair who lost his leg to leprosy. It is hard to find words…. But in each of the places I visited, I knew I was a privileged witness to hope. My trip to West Africa was a long one, but I measured it in more than distance or days; I measure it in hope. As I held the baby gasping for breath and prayed for the young boy dying from tuberculosis, it became clear to me that this was not a journey that required words, it was a spiritual journey. It was a journey of love and of possibilities for a new future. It was a journey of hope. Prayer: Gracious and holy God it is often difficult for us to see hope in situations that appear hopeless. Our human eyes do not allow us to see life as you see it. It is only when we see life through our eyes of faith that we catch a glimmer of hope that only comes from you. Give us eyes to see the world through eyes of faith and hearts to love as you would want us to love. Amen. Rev. Cynthia Fierro Harvey Deputy General Secretary, United Methodist Committee on Relief

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Day 38, April 21, 2011

Finding Our Place at the Table Psalm 116:12-15 “What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones. Our confession of faith is that God is good. In fact, in the formulaic language of the southern church in which I was raised, “God has been better to me than I have been to myself.” This is truly one of the mysteries of our faith. God has the amazing capacity and tendency to bless us even when we are not aware of God’s hand of blessing upon us. This provision of blessing is also part of the provision of Maundy Thursday. Jesus invited those closest to him, even his betrayer to the dinner table for a time of blessed and sweet communion. Our Lord turned an ordinary meal into an extraordinary time of remembrance. He invited those closest to him in the sharing of the now sacred meal to remember him and to remember the great cost of his love.

A Place at the Table!

I have eaten at many tables. Some lavish and full of abundance, and others so sparse that it seemed as though there would not be enough food to go around. I have eaten at tables in Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America, the Middle East, Australia and island places too numerous to count. In every place, I have discovered the amazing presence of Christ at table. I believe that God reminds us of our commonality at table. I believe God invites us to find our place at the table where difference is diminished, even extinguished, and we find oneness and unity in Christ. I believe Imagine No Malaria is one of those unifying places for our church. Imagine No Malaria is a place where we can also lay aside our differences and unite around the saving of lives. Please join us at this welcome table. PRAYER: Good God, we are so blessed that Jesus made room for us at the table. We are so blessed that the love of Christ breaks down every wall and helps us to see the entire human family as brothers and sisters. Help us to see Imagine No Malaria as a way to “return to the Lord for all his bounty.” Let our support of Imagine No Malaria be just another expression of your invitation to be at table together, sharing of the abundance you have given so freely. Hallelujah! Amen! Rev. Gary Henderson, Nashville, Tennessee Executive Director, Global Health Initiative of The United Methodist Church

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GOOD FRIDAY—Day 39, April 22, 2011

Healing Ministry Isaiah 53:4-5 “Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.” The drama of Good Friday calls us to remember the words of the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah points to one who will bear the afflictions of the people and who will usher in a new era of peace and make healing the reality of many. In Christian tradition, these powerful and potent words have been used to describe the suffering and death of Jesus. These words are often quoted to authenticate the healing ministry to which the church is called to participate. As United Methodist, we embrace the biblical challenge to participate in healing ministry and Imagine No Malaria gives us ample space to accept this challenge. As a church, we are partners in a global alliance to reduce the death and suffering caused by malaria. Malaria is preventable, treatable and beatable! We are bringing our resources to bear in the fight against this dreaded disease. On Good Friday as we think about the gift of salvation made possible via the vicarious death and suffering of Jesus, we are challenged to think about how we can make salvation (saved lives) possible too. When we give in support of Imagine No Malaria, we literally become conduits of healing. Our gifts are used to wage the war against this disease. Our instruments of battle are prevention, treatment, education and communication; seasoned with unceasing prayer, thanks be to God! PRAYER: You are Jehovah Rapha, God our healer. And by your stripes are we healed. Thank you for calling and commissioning us to healing ministry. We commit our work through Imagine No Malaria to your tender care. Do with us what you will that lives may be saved. AMEN. Rev. Gary Henderson, Nashville, Tennessee Executive Director, Global Health Initiative of The United Methodist ChurchExecutive Director, Global Health Initiative of The United Methodist Church

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Day 40, April 23, 2011

Food for the Journey Luke 24:5,8 “The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the man said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen… then they remembered his words.” The night had passed like countless others before it. The still, heavy air, stirred only by the slightest of gentle night breezes gave little hint of what was to come. The approaching Sabbath had cut the work of preparation short and in their anxious sorrow the women had spent a restless night. Unable to wait any longer, they gathered “…the spices that they had prepared…” and made their way to the garden. There was nothing in their world of experience that could have prepared them for what they would find. In the half-light that was neither day nor night, the women, still a distance away, could see that the stone had been moved. With the flickering glow of their torches casting an eerie light, they cautiously entered the tomb. To the dismay of all, they were horrified and “perplexed” to find the tomb empty. “The angelic visitors who suddenly appeared spoke to the now terrified women: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” Luke 24.5b Like these women of old, we, too, have often found ourselves looking “for the living among the dead.” We visit the old, familiar haunts of mind, body and spirit that are comfortable and non-threatening with little hope or expectation that God might be doing a new thing in our midst. Upon such a discovery, we respond much like the women at the empty tomb: terror, horror, fear and perplexity. “He is not here, but has risen.” These words of hope and assurance dispel the darkness and affirm the presence of a God who is with us always. We worship a living God, a God who has overcome death and the grave, a God who lives and reigns forevermore. Hallelujah! AMEN Prayer: O Lord, may the assurance of Jesus’ resurrection fill my heart with the confidence that you are with me always-even to the end of time. AMEN Thought for the day: Am I looking among the dead for He who is alive? Rev. Bob Higginbotham, Pennsylvania Assistant to the Bishop, Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference

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Worship Our Risen Lord With Us! Easter Sunday, April 24, 2011 Sunrise Service 6:30 am Glenn Mitchell Park Traditional Worship Sanctuary 8:00, 9:00, 10:05, 11:10 am Wellspring Contemporary Worship Dyer Hall 10:05, 11:10 52


Lenten Devotional Guide 2011