Even When It Hurts: Acknowledgements

Even When It Hurts -- Lent 2021 Devotional Book

This is a labor of love for me, but I cannot do it alone. Here are the people who are part of this project:

The picture on the cover was taken by Raphael Nast and sourced from Unsplash.Com.

My writers are incredible, and some of them even offered to write extra devotions to cut down on the number that I had to write myself. They are Marilyn Allen, the Reverend Keith Axberg, Michael Boss, Cathey Frederick, the Reverend Paul Moore, David Sloat, Ashley Sweeney, Mary Ann Taylor, Carol Treston, Penny Worrell, and Tom Worrell.

May you be blessed by what you read.
-Jen McCabe

Even When It Hurts: April 4, 2021 (Easter)

Even When It Hurts -- Lent 2021 Devotional Book

Read: Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

I will not die, but live, and I will tell what the Lord has done.
-Psalm 118:17

This portion of Psalm 118 is a shout of triumph but it is not triumphalist. The psalmist has been through dark days. He thought he might not make it. He has learned a “hard lesson,” but lives to tell about it. The story is not about how he triumphed, but how God saved him from the day of trouble, to which he responds with praise. “I will tell what the Lord has done.” He opens with a common refrain that expresses how Israel was to understand the heart of God: “His love continues forever.” This is all about praising God’s everlasting love. He ends gathering the people together with him. “Let us rejoice and be glad today!”

Lent is over. Yesterday was the last day of Holy Week. It is as of we have been through the lament of Lent and are emerging from the other side full of hope.

COVID-19 has had us lamenting for over a year, compounded with new variants that are more virulent than what first emerged to plague the world. Yet as vaccines gain momentum, the beacon light of herd immunity begins to dawn on the horizon. This trial will not go on forever. There is hope.

A little less than a year ago the death of George Floyd galvanized the nation and brought into sharp focus the disparity between how black and white people are treated. The ghosts of our past have emerged in violent white-supremacist groups, even as we have wrestled with the unconscious ways in which we, too, have participated in our nation’s original sin. Yet the work is yielding fruit. The backlash from the events of January 6th show signs that most of us really do want to expand the national story to include the stories of people of color.

Oppression will not go on forever. There is hope.

If we are to take the pattern of this psalm as our own, then we must give thanks to God for bringing us through. Even our own efforts are made in the context of God’s never-ending love. In the end, we must all join together in praise, for a single voice just does not do the moment justice.

God of unending love, we lift our hearts in praise for the ways you are bringing us out of darkness into the light of love, faith, and justice. Amen.
-The Rev. Paul Moore

Even When It Hurts: April 3, 2021 (Holy Saturday)

Even When It Hurts -- Lent 2021 Devotional Book

Read: Psalm 77

I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.
-Psalm 77:12

I’m definitely a “glass half full” person by nature. That said, I also realize that however much I’m inclined to think that my faith and optimism have been tested over the nearly seven decades of my life, the greatest travails most likely lie ahead. For this reason, I try to keep both my physical and spiritual being in fine fettle. A great way to do this is by taking a walk outside. The prophylactic benefits are well established, but beyond that, it doesn’t take much time in nature to be reminded of “the deeds of the Lord” and God’s “miracles of long ago.” This sense of continuity and faithfulness is both humbling and sustaining, and leads to the inescapable conclusion, “What God is as great as our God?”

Lord, when I am in distress, help me to recall “my songs in the night” — the meditations of the miracles you show me every day. For you are the God who performs miracles, and who leads me “like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” Amen.
-Michael Boss

Even When It Hurts: April 2, 2021 (Good Friday)

Even When It Hurts -- Lent 2021 Devotional Book

Read: Psalm 22

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.
-Psalm 22:14-15

It has been ten years since the night Daniel almost died.

Ten years since I was pasted against the wall by the team rushing into the PICU at UC Davis Children’s Hospital after a Code Blue was called.

Ten years since I followed them down to Daniel’s PICU bay where I stood helpless as they worked on him, completely in shock.

Ten years since the UU chaplain held me as the doctor told me that they were putting Daniel on ECMO because they didn’t think they could bring him back a second time.

Ten years since the UU chaplain held my hair as I threw up into the wastebasket in the Family Room outside the PICU because my stress level was activating my fight-flight-freeze response.

Ten years since I called my twin brother and my former husband Jon to come and be with me at the hospital.

Ten years since I sat in the Family Room and wondered why God was forsaking me.

Ten years since I did one of the hardest things I’ve ever done by signing the ECMO paperwork.

Ten years since I cried all the tears my body could produce so that I wasn’t sobbing but starting to keen instead.

Ten years since the doctor walked in the room and told me that Daniel had improved with a few ventilator tweaks and that he would not be put on ECMO.

Ten years since I slept on the hard floor of the Family Room because Daniel’s room had to stay sterile in case he needed to be put on ECMO in the middle of the night.

Ten years since I simultaneously put God on notice while giving thanks for the miracle my child received.

Ten years since I came to the end of myself… and found that I was embraced and surrounded by God when my strength was utterly sapped,

Ten years since I stopped being able to participate in the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday without starting to cry at various points because I watched my son almost die.

Ten years since I received my son back alive.

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen. (Source: BCP, p. 101)
-Jen McCabe

Even When It Hurts: April 1, 2021 (Maundy Thursday)

Even When It Hurts -- Lent 2021 Devotional Book

Read: Psalm 55

If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers.
-Psalm 55:12-14

Being wronged by someone you love and trust is the ultimate betrayal. Psalm 55 offers us a glimpse into David’s fractured heart as he mourns over the betrayal by a close friend and confidante. In 21st century language, we could say he was beside himself. How could this friend do this to me? And why?

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, I gave myself time and permission to revisit a betrayal that occurred earlier in my life and had lain buried for decades.

As a young woman, I was repeatedly and violently assaulted by a man I loved. I ended the relationship abruptly after a life-threatening beating, and never took time to fully process my grief. And then I avoided talking about the assault for decades, not wanting to be stigmatized.

Last spring, I unpacked and revisited every detail of that long-ago relationship, from my long history with the abuser to the day I finally left (it’s amazing how clear your memory can be, even about events that occurred decades earlier). Although I didn’t feel the physical pain that I endured in the assault, I felt the emotional pain again as if the event had just happened.

It was the ultimate betrayal.

I mourned.

Over the next couple of months, I dealt with denial, anger, bargaining, and depression. As I sat with the assault fresh in my mind, I ran through the gamut of emotions, from irritability to stress to anxiety to outright rage. This ushered in other negative emotions, including resentment and even hate.

I credit my faith walk and prayer life—and God’s sustaining hand—as the reason I have come through this long-buried trauma stronger and more committed to Him, and even more devoted to helping those less fortunate.

Tonight, on Maundy Thursday, let us remember Judas’s betrayal of Christ, and feel the heaviness of Christ’s heart (on Good Friday, Christ will be betrayed again, this time by Peter, Pontius Pilate, and the mob).

Like David in this psalm, Christ cried out in distress in the dark night of His soul. As do we in times of utter despair. Like David, ultimately Christ trusted God’s will in His life. As must we as we press on toward a glorious Easter.

Dear Lord, let us trust in You, morning, noon, and night. Amen.

Even When It Hurts: March 31, 2021

Even When It Hurts -- Lent 2021 Devotional Book

I cry to the LORD with my voice; to the LORD I make loud supplication.
-Psalm 142:1

This is a hard psalm for me to say. I was the youngest child. As kids, my brothers had little desire for my company. One of them took every opportunity to say and to do hurtful things to me, and when as a small child I cried, then I was a cry-baby, beneath contempt. Tormenting me seemed to be his hobby.

By age five or six, I had decided that it was better to be borderline invisible than to make a fuss about anything. Better to be ignored than to be vulnerable.

King David (or whoever wrote this psalm) considers it highly appropriate to “cry out” and make sure God hears – full volume, please! I shrink back. No fuss, please. Let ‘er rip, yes, in praise and song and celebration. But in times of physical or emotional pain or trouble, well then: whining is not okay; no one wants to hear that.

So as an adult, it’s been a bit of a revelation to discover that real men do cry. That real people learn to be open about who they are. Real people ally themselves with spiritual partners – real people seek out trustworthy listeners. And learn to be trustworthy listeners themselves.

I admire the human behind Psalm 142. This was someone who was wholeheartedly opening him/herself to God.

Not a bad model to follow.

Lord, we all know that short verse, “Jesus wept.” Thank you for leading us as you opened yourself to the fullness of your humanity which is lived in the fullness of God. Stay with us and be our Guide and Savior always. Amen.
-Tom Worrell