Friday’s Flowers by Charlotte Packer as featured on her blog Charlotte’s Plot

A week ago, on the school run, I spotted these violas growing on the pavement. It would be hard to think of a more inhospitable place for a plant to put down roots: solid concrete with a light sprinkling of grit, heavy shade from parked cars one minute and baking sun the next, not to mention the ever-present threat of dog pee or a heavy foot. I felt sure they wouldn’t last long. But I was wrong, they are still there today, a sweet surprise for anyone who happens to spot them.
– Charlotte Packer reflecting on her photo Friday’s Flowers

Resilience is the process of facing adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or extreme stress and “bouncing back” successfully without becoming too negatively affected by the experience. The concept has received growing attention because of the usefulness of possessing a reasonable amount of resilience in the face of life’s difficulties. After all, who among us doesn’t face major stressors, in one form or another? The question is, “How can we have the resilience to deal with what happens and not be destroyed emotionally in the process?” – Introduction to a study entitled resilience from

Romans 8:28 NRSV
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God,
who are called according to his purpose.

If ever there was a great biblical examplar of resilience, it is the apostle Paul. According to his own testimony he experienced imprisonments, countless floggings, being near death, whippings…, beatings…, being stoned, shipwrecks, being adrift at sea, danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from his own people … toil and hardship, many a sleepless night, hunger and thirst, being often without food, cold and naked. … “Resilience” is the ability to respond creatively to stressful, pressure-packed, anxiety-producing situations such as Paul’s. A resilient person, rather than being deformed, diminished, or even destroyed by such traumatic, tension-filled circumstances, is able to engage those conditions in healthy, redemptive ways that bring some degree of wholeness. – Robert Mullholland, Weavings, Feb/March/April 2013

One’s doing well if age improves even slightly one’s capacity to hold on to that vital truism: “This too shall pass.” – Alain de Botton

Psalm 46:1–3 NIV
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

Psalm 44:6-8 NIV
I do not trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory; but you give us victory over our enemies, you put our adversaries to shame. In God, we make our boast all day long, and we will praise your name forever.

Trust is the essential key in resilience, trusting that when the curve heads south, God is still at work in the midst of the shifts and changes. Don’t jump off and crash, but pay attention; trust and learn some practices to hold you until the new emerges.
– Larry Peacock, The Resilience Spiral

The powers of darkness gather about the soul and shut Jesus from our sight, and at times we can only wait in sorrow and amazement until the cloud passes over. These seasons are sometimes terrible. Hope seems to fail, and despair seizes upon us. In these dreadful hours, we must learn to trust, to depend solely upon the merits of the atonement, and in all our helpless unworthiness cast ourselves upon the merits of the crucified and risen Saviour. We shall never perish while we do this—never! When light shines on our pathway, it is no great thing to be strong in the strength of grace. But to wait patiently in hope when clouds envelop us and all is dark requires faith and submission which causes our will to be swallowed up in the will of God. We are too quickly discouraged and earnestly cry for the trial to be removed from us when we should plead for patience to endure and grace to overcome.
– Ellen G. White, God’s Amazing Grace

Philippians 4:6-7 NRSV
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Lord, we pray
not for tranquillity
nor that our tribulations may cease
We pray
for thy Spirit
and thy love
that thou grant us
strength and grace
to overcome adversity
through Jesus Christ.
–Girolamo Savanarola

Be sure to check out the fabulous writing and photography of Charlotte Packer on her blog, Charlotte’s Plot

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Love One Another: Acts of Service

Serve One Another by Marca Sue DeLacerda

This is the fourth of five messages inspired by the book The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. The congregation is invited to take out something to write with and the bulletin insert for taking notes. Click here for the Acts of Service Insert. The prayer following the message is also located on the insert.

For the past few weeks, we’ve been learning about the five love languages and how to use them to fulfill Jesus’ command to “love one another.” This is so important, let’s do a quick review. (Allow the congregation to offer possible answers to fill in the blanks.)

Words of Affirmation                   
Love through what we say and how we say it. Some people feel most loved when you give them a sincere compliment or a word of encouragement.

Quality Time                                   
Love through presence. Some feel most loved when you make space to give them your undivided attention, when you listen. This often leads to a much needed conversation.

Receiving Gifts                                              
tangible, symbolic expressions of love. When we remember a gift, look at a gift, or use a gift we remember the love and thoughtfulness of the person who gave it to us and we feel loved.

And this week, Acts of Service                                                
Love in action

Francis of Assisi is known for making God’s love real in many different ways. He lived in Italy around 800 years ago. If you’ve ever seen a statue of a monk with birds and squirrels hanging around like they do for Disney princesses, you’ve probably seen a statue of Francis. He left his wealthy merchant family to live a simple life of nature, preaching, and good works.

As you listen to the story, look for the ways Francis practices the different love languages. (Read the first part of the story straight through and then read it again line by line so the congregation can respond. The story is provided by Derek Maul in his book 10 Life-Charged Words)

Part 1: Saint Francis of Assisi took a novice (monk in training) out for a day of preaching the gospel. As they left Assisi, they helped a farmer move his cart; (Acts of Service) down the road they talked with a merchant and listened to his problems; (Words of Affirmation and Quality Time) around noon they shared their meal with a hungry beggar; (Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Receiving Gifts) soon after lunch they prayed with a sick woman; (Words of Affirmation, Quality Time) on their way back, they helped a woman carry her heavy load. (Acts of Service)

Part 2: When they returned to the monastery at dark, the novice commented that the day was gone and they hadn’t preached to anyone. “My son,” Francis responded, “we’ve been sharing the gospel all day long.”

Francis shared the gospel this way because this is how Jesus shared the Good News, through word and deed and time and gifts. Jesus had great conversations, washed the disciple’s feet, gave away bread, and listened to little children.

In John 13:34-35, Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

For many, many folks, this means love in action.

In his chapter on the love language acts of service, Gary Chapman tells this story: Michelle sat in the living room, pecking away at the laptop. She could hear sounds from the utility room, where husband Brad was catching up with the piles of laundry. She smiled to herself. In recent days Brad had cleaned the condo, fixed supper, and run the errands, all because Michelle was in the midst of finals for grad school. It made her feel content . .  . loved.

Some people feel most loved when that love is demonstrated, when love is in action: cooking a meal, washing dishes, vacuuming, cleaning a toilet, changing the baby’s diaper, changing the cat’s litter box.

I remember a time when our girls were small and my husband was deployed with the Air Force. An elderly gentleman in our congregation came up to me as said, “I’d like to help you take care of your car. Get the oil changed, check under the hood and check your tires.” I thought, “Thank you Jesus!” I don’t know anything about cars except how to drive them and put gas in them. I also felt loved.

Our daughter is getting ready to travel for her college musical theatre auditions. She’s been working up to them for months; applications, essays, after school classes. One day my husband said, “Let me take care of the travel arrangements.” And he did. Weeks later he said, “Let me take care of the financial paperwork (FASFA and CSS).” Thank you Jesus! I’ve never loved him more.

How does the song go?
We will work with each other. We will work side by side.
We will work with each other. We will work side by side.
And we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride.
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

Jesus put his love into action and we as followers of Christ still share the Good News this way today. Christians feed and clothe the poor, fight human trafficking, build water wells and hospitals and homes and schools. Every week in the bulletin we list opportunities for you to exercise your faith and your love in service to others. Why? It’s as essential as worship and growing your faith through small group studies. Come to think of it, serving others is worship, an offering of thanksgiving to God. And we know how much we grow through serving. It stretches us and makes the Scriptures come alive.

Desmond Tutu says,I don’t preach a social gospel; I preach the Gospel, period. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is concerned for the whole person. When people were hungry, Jesus didn’t say, ‘Now is that political or social?’ He said, ‘I feed you.’ Because the good news to a hungry person is bread.”

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love

They’ll know we are Christians by our love and they’ll know our God by our love! Loving others makes God’s love real. Acts of service open the door of the heart. Persons ask, “Why do you treat me well when no one else does? Why are you helping me?” And we have the chance to reply, “You’re important to God so you’re important to me. I just want to share God’s love with you in a practical way.”

Maybe this is how you came to know the love of God, through the kindness of a friend, family member or even a stranger. Maybe the hunger to make a difference, right a wrong is what drew you to faith.

You might be thinking, “Well isn’t this just random acts of kindness.” No, we’re not talking about random acts. We’re talking about intentional acts to make God’s love real, and our love real. We look for ways to serve and heal and provide. And we go out of our way to do it, just like Jesus did.

Cory Booker says, “In life, it is never the big battle, the big moment, the big speech, the big election. That does not change things. What changes things is every day, getting up and rendering small acts of service and love beyond that what’s expected of you or required of you.”

1 John 3:16-18 NRSV
We know love by this that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

Look and listen. People are in need all around us. What they say is a clue to what they need. What are they worried about? What are they complaining about?

We have to really look and listen, because some people have a hard time sharing their needs. We don’t want to appear weak or needy. We want to be self sufficient. But, this is why God gives us each other. No one can do everything and no one goes through life without needing help.

Then there’s the other side. Some people have a hard time serving. They hear Jesus’ call, “I have not come to be served but to serve” and they cringe. (Mark 10:45) Servant to them means doormat. God isn’t asking us to be a doormat, to be stepped on or kicked around. Doormats can’t love. People love.

To some servant means slave and slaves have no choice but to serve. God isn’t asking us to be slaves. Love isn’t forced or manipulated or coerced. Love is always a choice. We follow Christ, out of gratitude. We choose to love and we choose to love in healthy ways.

Augustine of Hippo once said,
What does love look like?
It has the hands to help others.
It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy.
It has eyes to see misery and want.
It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of [others].
That is what love looks like.

Choose, my friends. Choose as Christ did. Choose to make God’s love real.

Know you are always welcome at our congregation, Community United Methodist Church in DeBary, FL. We worship on Sundays at 8am, 9:20am, and 11am. Dress casual and bring the kids.

Please consider patronizing today’s featured artist, Marca Sue DeLacerda.

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this message in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page