Devotion from Phyllis Estep

I remember while growing up and I had a hard time with a problem, some well-meaning person—-pastor, parent, teacher, or friend would say,” Don’t forget to count your blessings.” Usually this annoyed me, but it did help if I stopped to praise God for the things that He was doing for me.

In this present time of staying at home, except for a trip to Publix once a week in the last two months, this seems like a good time to count blessings. I want to meditate on the benefits that God provides by using my favorite Psalm 103: 1-5. (I have some of the words underlined in my Bible.)

Praise the Lord, O my soul;

all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Praise the Lord, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits

who forgives all your sins

and heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit

and crowns you with love and compassion,

who satisfies your desires with good things

so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

I try to ponder my day’s activities and bring my concerns to God.  I often neglect to do an act of kindness, and sometimes I say or do something hurtful (I sin). When I confess my sins He forgives them all.

I pray for healing for myself and others, knowing that all things are possible with God. I thank him for the healings received and for the healings still to come.

I praise Him for redeeming my life from the pit. I consider John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Max Lucado wrote an “Inspiration thought” on Psalm 103:4. “He…loads me with love and mercy.”

“Picture a giant dump truck full of love. There you are behind it. God lifts the bed until the love starts to slide. Slowly at first, then down, down, down until you are hidden, buried, covered in his love.

’Hey, where are you?’ someone asks.

’In here, covered in love.’”


Praise the Lord, O my soul. Amen

Devotion from Jodi Farber

Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.


This is such a simple yet powerful verse in the Bible and has been one of my favorites since I was a girl growing up in a Godly environment with parents who taught me how to love and follow God in all aspects of my life.  This does not mean that following God and being saved by His Grace makes everything easy, but instead it is a reminder that He will always be there to give you the strength to face the difficulties that life brings if you accept it.

Last year my Mom met Jesus face to face on March 27th and my Dad joined her on July 15th.  We moved to the Orlando area at the end of April for a job that I thought would be the next successful step in my career but abruptly ended in October.  My closely knit large family suddenly divided after my Dad’s death and went from being together for all holidays and special events as well as many fun family camping trips and pool parties to not speaking to each other at all – and I was left alone, in a new place, with no job and parents that recently passed away.  Now this may sound like a story to evoke sympathy, but it is not, because the Grace of God carried me through this dark time and blessed me with a Godly husband who is an amazing pillar of strength and our 5 kids who have stood by me with constant support and love.   God is always faithful if you keep your focus on Him and lean on the people that He has put in your life to show you His strength.

Now I could say that in 2020 everything has turned around and my loving family is back together and we aren’t facing a pandemic that no one can predict or understand its long-term impact, but unfortunately that isn’t the case.  However, through God’s strength I have found ultimate peace by leaning on Him and following His plan for my life, which included working here at FUMC Sanford.  The love and faithfulness that surrounds this church has given me blessings that I did not think I would experience again in my life.  Through this ministry, which focuses on God’s grace, love and perseverance, I am reminded daily that I can conquer any difficulties that will come and experience the true joy of His blessings as long as I keep my focus on Him and not the storms around me.  No matter what you are going through, God will always find ways to strengthen you!  Just keep your eyes on Him and don’t focus on the negative because God has something so much better in store for you, and His strength (either directly or through others around you) will carry you through the dark times, I promise!


Devotion from Drew Weiss

“But [Peter] became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. A voice came to him, ‘Get up, Peter, kill and eat!’ But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.’ Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky.”

Acts 10:10 – 16  NASB


Peter thinks the voice of God is testing his personal righteousness.  “Eat what is forbidden, eat what the law has called unclean.”  The Lord is offering a test, but it is not of Peter’s own willingness to follow the law.  It is his willingness to show love to folks that are different from him.  This vision inspires Peter to reach to a population that was considered ‘unclean.’  To extend the love of Christ to people that were prevented from receiving it in a meaningful way.

Perhaps we don’t think of working-class folks as ‘unclean,’ but it would be a mistake to say that they are not treated as marginal.  Maybe treating someone as marginal is the new way to call them unclean.  I don’t usually think about how the cashier’s day has gone or who makes the products I buy.  I never gave a thought as to why I should either; it feels natural – it’s there job.

I work at a craft store and today while cleaning up our T-shirt isle my manager made a comment.  “By the way,” she said, “we don’t have as much shirt inventory because the factories have stopped production.”  It touched me in a way I couldn’t anticipate.  How many factory workers are now struggling with rent?  Or food insecurity?  Or applying for unemployment?  How many are struggling?  And how have I neglected their struggle?


Dear God,

I pray that in these turbulent and unpredictable times those of us in privileged positions do our part to extend compassion to those struggling.

If you are experiencing food insecurity please be aware of the times we are distributing food.  Here is the link to our calendar.

Devotion from Susan Eppard

Thou preparest a table for me in the presence of mine enemies… Psalm 23:5


Growing up, before I learned how to cook, my part of preparing each meal was to set the table. Most days it was an ordinary task, but I would always take extra care when Grandma and Grandpa were coming, because they were so wonderful and I loved being with them. I’d set out the good dishes and lay out the silverware, making sure everything was in order and especially nice for when we’d all be together to enjoy a  delicious meal and our time together.

Life was simple back then. But life got to be rather difficult as a result of making some really big mistakes, some really bad choices. I found myself in the midst of serious trouble and distress of my own making. Feeling pretty hopeless and alone, I was sure God didn’t want to have anything to do with me anymore.

I was so wrong! All the while, God loved me, even when I couldn’t love myself. And all the while, He wanted fellowship with me. He was laying things out, He was setting things in order, He was preparing a table for me.

God’s table, I discovered, is one of abundance and everlasting love. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done. He’s completely undeterred by any trouble you find yourself in. What amazing news! What incredible hope! He provided for me while I was in distress and felt hopeless.

I’m certain He wants this for all His children. As God’s people, we can feast at His table of love and grace and no enemy of any kind can ever take it away.


Holy God, You provide for us in amazing ways, even in the midst of our troubles. And although we do not deserve to be treated with such grace and mercy, You overwhelm us with Your love. Help us to be faithful servants and invite others to Your holy table that is open to all. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Devotion from David Killingsworth

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

John 3:8 (ESV)


Many of us are familiar with the image of a white dove in Christian artwork and symbolism used to represent the Holy Spirit. While beautiful and serene, I tend to gravitate towards another symbol for the Holy Spirit given to us by Celtic Christianity: the wild goose.

The Christian life is many things, but predictable is not one of them. God has this really profound track record of just when we think we have God figured out, we realize that there is more to God than we ever imagined. Our Christian journey feels less like a direct and well-worn path and more like a “wild goose chase” pursuing God (and often, God pursuing us!) into places that we never would have ventured otherwise, and into places that don’t tend to be anywhere on any map we can find.

It certainly feels like we are in the midst of a goose chase right now. We are being led (or pushed!) into new territory like online worship and trying to find new ways to maintain connection and relationship. Church looks and feels different, as does almost every part of our lives right now. The verse from John above reminds me that life in the Spirit can be a blustery one. Sometimes it feels as if we can’t tell if we are coming or going, and despite our wishes for a straight and direct route, our spiritual journey ends up looking like a map of Billy’s adventures from the comic strip “Family Circus.”

And yet, God is in the detours, the wind gusts, the goose chases. God is with us in the uncertainty, and God is right beside us when we feel like we’ve been blown completely off track and will never find our way home. In these “off the map” moments, I am comforted by another image from our feathered friend, Mr. Goose: the “V” formation. On the long journey back to “normal” (whatever that means), our shared life in the Spirit shows us the best way to travel home: together.


Lord, guide us on days when we feel lost and disoriented. Remind us of the gift of each other, and gift of new and astonishing in which the wild and wandering Spirit of God is at work all around us. Amen. 

Devotion from Valerie Russell

Philippians 2:14 – “Do everything without complaining or arguing.”


This is one of the hardest verses for me because I love complaining. It seems to be a natural reaction to what is happening.  I am likely to bring up the objections to a suggestion.

In these days of social distancing and quarantining of our families, how easy is it to fall into complaining and arguing?  We complain about staying in (although it was not so long ago that we were complaining we were out of home too much), about not having enough toilet paper (who would have ever imagined that?), and about not having enough time to read our Bibles (oh wait, we do have time). Now, we might be complaining that we are moving too fast to re-open or too slowly to re-open.  Sometimes I wonder if complaining is in our DNA.

Some of us are using our time wisely.  We are reading our Bibles more, eating healthier, and getting more exercise.  The rest of us are watching more television, eating more junk food, and lounging on the couch – and complaining. Paul would be amazed, amused (I like to hope), and a bit angry.  He wanted us to be imitators of Christ in the way we are living our lives.  No complaining or arguing in the line at the grocery store. No worrying about whether there will be toilet paper. No sulking that your favorite series has ended for the season.

When people say that God has a plan, they sometimes mean that they have no idea why something is happening, and they hope there is a plan for making it better.  I tend to think that God is in control, and even if we do not know why, we have to trust that God knows.  No complaining about the plan, and no complaining that we wish we knew what was going on.  We are not in control; God is.  We cannot complain about that.


God, help us to stop complaining. We have much to be thankful for; help us to remember those things. Help us accept that You are in control. That is enough!  Praise You, God, for being in control of all. Amen.

Devotion from Meghan Killingsworth

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:7-12 
If you ask 100 people which bible stories they know, I’d be willing to bet that at least 10 of them would mention this story of the woman who was nearly stoned to death for being caught in adultery. Few people notice that the dude isn’t in sight anywhere in this trial and near-execution but that is for another day. Alas, Jesus finds himself in the midst of a crowd both trying to trap him in a difficult moment and trying to make an example out of this woman. ‘The law says we have to kill her, Jesus. What should we do?’ Jesus, the ever skillful conversationalist mentions that anyone who is totally blameless according to the law is free to uphold it now. As we know, the crowd drops their stones, one at a time from the eldest to the youngest, and only Jesus is left with this woman. This has to be one of the most dramatic moments in the stories of Jesus: just Jesus, a woman nearly killed, and the deafening silence of everyone else’s sudden humility remain in the room.
Most of the time when we read passages like this, we image ourselves to be the woman standing in condemnation. Maybe we remember a time when someone else’s judgement, harshness or hatred hurt us deeply. And, there’s something kind of satisfying about imagining Jesus dropping a bomb like that on our opponents, humbling them publicly while we get some level of satisfaction. But I think interpreting the story that way might tell us more about who we could be in the picture here. The fact is, what the Pharisees wanted was to publicly shame this woman for breaking the rules that it was their job to keep, and to crush their opponent (Jesus). There are more folks with stones in their hands than fear on their faces. We’re at least statistically likely to be the Pharisees some (dare I say most?) of the time.
In this world that seems to be increasingly harsher, sharper, and in all our ideologies, more fundamentalist, maybe in times of crisis we can be the folks who consistently check our palms and ensure that we aren’t carrying the stones we decry when they fly in our direction. Maybe the witness of people who love Jesus in this fearful and worrisome world is that we could be people who make altars out of our stones rather than wounds. Our wise bishop, Ken Carter, once said, “We often want justice for others and grace for ourselves.” May we be people who follow Jesus to our own softening in an increasingly sharp world. Maybe this is the light of life Jesus spoke about?
Gracious God, thank you for being everything we need, even when you are not what we want. Give us enough grace to love ourselves and others as you do. Give us the vision to build monuments to grace rather than enemies and death. Amen. 

Devotion from Mark Thompson

John 21:11-13 – Breakfast by the Sea

“Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, net was not broken. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and eat breakfast.’ Yet none of the disciples dared to ask Him, ‘Who are you?’ – knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish.”


Prior to the scene in the verses above, the disciples had gone fishing through the night, and had come up empty-handed (netted?). From the shore at sunrise, an as-of-yet unrecognized Jesus called out to them, gave them some direction, and they caught a lot of fish (153 to be exact!). 

He was waiting on the shore, with a charcoal fire blazing, when they hauled in the catch. Jesus already had some fish and bread cooking, and added some of the disciples efforts to the grill as well.

There is a lot happening in this passage. My favorite is realizing that the risen Christ just wanted to hang out with his friends and have a cookout on the beach at sunrise. Doesn’t that sound great? The ultimate heavenly Host? 

Also, He already had fish on the grill, but he wanted to involve the disciples, and their efforts, in this meal. We are a part of the plan. We could have been created to subsist on one boring thing (Soylent anyone?), it could have fallen from heaven, or we could have been designed not to eat at all I suppose. But we are brought in to a network that provides a tremendous variety of foods, bursting with flavors and textures for us to enjoy. He asks us to take part, and says, “Come and eat.” 

Lastly, similar to walk on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24), it is through the meal that their eyes are opened and Jesus is recognized. As it was then, I believe it is today as well. When we gather with friends (virtually if need be), and share a meal, we see Jesus.

PS – It is speculated that the fish that was caught was Tilapia (aka St. Peter’s Fish), which is now available much more easily at your local grocer.


Holy God

It is an honor that You would have us involved in your design for this world and the perfect world to come. It is humbling to think that You relish joining us at dinner parties and cookouts. May our eyes be opened in the breaking of bread and may we see You, the risen Christ, in those at our table.

We also realize that putting food on the table is challenging for some in our midst and around the world. We pray for parents struggling to make ends meet, those who suffer from food insecurity and those for whom a piece of fish is a luxury. And we, the church, commit to being the hands and feet of Jesus to our neighbors, inviting them to our tables to dine amongst friends.

Devotion from Shirley Rumsey

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.


We all have trials in life, but right now we are all experiencing the same trial together. We are feeling the separation from family, friends, and missing the normalcy of our lives due to Covid-19.  Although we may struggle, we can always rejoice that we have Christ.  Jesus offers us his peace; he hears our prayers. We can rejoice in knowing that God is more powerful than anything the world can throw at us.

 God calls us to give thanks in all circumstances. Why would that be God’s will for us? Many times, the Bible reminds us to not be afraid.  If we are praying, rejoicing and giving thanks, fear is overcome because we know God is in control and He provides. So, let’s thank God for our blessings during this challenge, and rejoice that Jesus has overcome the world.



Almighty God, we rejoice in knowing that you loved us so much you gave your only son, Jesus. We thank you for how you always provide for us, especially in times of doubt. We ask that you please increase our joy and help us to be more grateful for the blessings you have given us. Please strengthen us to do your will. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.


Devotion from Cynthia Kozak

Psalm 25:21
Your perfection and Faithfulness are my body guards for you are my hope and I trust in you as my only Protection.

Isaiah 41:10
Do not yield to fear for I am always near NEVER turn your gaze from me for I am your Faithful God I will infuse you with my strength and help you in every situation I will hold you firmly with my victorious right hand.

Reflecting Without having Faithfulness in our hearts we would have no trust as a Human. It brings me Calmness to my Heart it gives me Peace. It actually brings me Joy! Keep your eyes on the Lord at All times and he will see us through any tough times in life .


Dear God
Lift us up today and everyday with your Blessings.I pray that you will anoint me with courage and strength. I Pray that you will give me Patience and wisdom. I pray that you will encourage me to walk proudly and behave well in times like this