Hope to Carry On: March 29, 2024 (Good Friday)

Lenten Devotional Book 2024

Read: Hebrews 10:16-25

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful…” – Hebrews 10:23

My plans for New Year’s Eve 2023 involved putting my bullet journal together and watching TikTok or YouTube videos. Instead of doing that, I spent the evening crying after finding out that Julie, one of my “Montana moms” had passed away. She had been one of the people I was closest to during my former husband Jon’s pastorate in Montana, and she was one of the people who dropped everything to make sure Jon and I were cared for when Daniel was born prematurely. She and her husband John were at the hospital with me the day after Daniel was born when I was trying to come to terms with his birth and the trauma of what had happened. When another parishioner decided to call me and yell at me for daring to go home from the hospital for a night to gather my wits after spending six days inpatient because I almost died, Julie was one of the people who rose to my defense and kept that person from getting near me until Daniel was finally able to come home two months later. I haven’t been able to return to Montana since I moved away almost 14 years ago, but Julie and I kept in touch over Facebook, email, and through cards. Her passing hit me hard, and I am a month into coping with my grief as I am writing this. Unless you happened to see my Facebook post on New Year’s Eve asking for prayer for her family, you would not know that I am dealing with this because I have been grieving very quietly.

The epistle reading for today, Hebrews 10:16-25 talks about how God remembers our sin no more and exhorts us to spur each other on to good works and not neglect to meet together… but verse 23 was what stood out to me as I thought about what brings me hope from the passage. I have talked in past Good Friday pieces since 2018 about how the Cross is our good news, how this is where the rubber meets the road in terms of my faith, that all is lost if I do not believe that Jesus dying on the Cross meant that death is not the final answer, and I am here to tell you that I still need people to remind me of all of these things. I need the reminder that God is faithful and that I will see Julie again. I need the reminder that God’s Son died on Good Friday, and this means that our God understands grief. In the meantime, I am clinging to the hope that the spasms of grief that pop up at inopportune times are going to subside one of these days.

Lord Jesus Christ, by your death you took away the sting of death: Grant to us your servants so to follow in faith where you have led the way, that we may at length fall asleep peacefully in you and wake up in your likeness; for your tender mercies’ sake. Amen. (BCP, p. 504)
-Jen McCabe

It Is Well With My Soul: Acknowledgments

It Is Well With My Soul

These devotional books are a labor of love and require many hands to reach completion.

The cover photo was taken by Jairo Gonzalez and sourced from Unsplash.Com. It is a shipwreck at Point Reyes, California.

My writers this time are Fr. Keith Axberg, Michael Boss, Barb Cheyney, Cathey Frederick, Fr. Paul Moore, Ashley Sweeney, Mary Ann Taylor, Carol Treston, Fr. Jonathan Weldon, Sharon Weldon, Penny Worrell, Tom Worrell, and myself. I appreciate them sharing their gifts with the congregation.

I wish you all a blessed Easter.
-Jen McCabe

It Is Well With My Soul: April 17, 2022 (Easter Sunday)

It Is Well With My Soul

“For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 15:21-23

I remember in High School in an intramural soccer game, suddenly I was in front of the opposite team’s goalie with the ball at my feet. Another larger, more athletic boy on my team charged in behind me, and instinctively I stepped away to let him take the shot—I was too worried I would mess it up and have my teammates look down on me for it. My hesitancy did not help. The other boy blasted the ball so hard against the goalie’s hand that he jumped up in pain, with half his pinky finger at a right angle to the rest of it. I have never been good at sports, and that incident proved it beyond doubt.

It’s a small thing when put up against other failures I’ve faced in my life, but it is symbolic of just that. I fail. I mess up. I don’t always come through. I suspect you feel the same way about yourself. We see it in one another. Life is not all good, and we wish it were, yet try as we might, we never quite seem to get it right. We are somehow profoundly broken, both individually and as a society and a global species. There is no perfect society in the world, no perfect culture. I would go so far as to say that no culture is any more intrinsically whole than any other, or more broken.

This passage tells me that God knows and has done something about it. As a Christian, I see in Christ a process of redemption, beginning to unfold. We must die to our egos, our brokenness, even to our imagined dreams of a perfect society. Belonging to Christ means committing myself to loving as he loved, dying to my egocentric urges and ethnocentric fears for the good of people I don’t even understand, and trusting that such small deaths will ultimately transcend the big Death, which is to remain in our brokenness. In such a resurrection, death itself will finally serve no purpose and atrophy with disuse.

Loving God, on this day when we celebrate the resurrection of your Son, our trailblazer and guide, grant us the grace to witness the final death of death itself. This we pray by the power of the life-giving Spirit, and in the name of that same Son. Amen.
-Fr. Paul Moore

It Is Well With My Soul: April 16, 2022 (Holy Saturday)

It Is Well With My Soul

“Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8

If you have ever been a child, a parent, a friend, a human, you know the need for love. All creatures need love, and without it, they wither and die. Love is nourishment, and it includes forgiveness. How many of us do not need that? A toddler who runs out into the street finds he will be scooped up, scolded, and hugged all at once. Love for the little one covers up the anger at his behavior.

We use this kind of love in all our relationships. Loving and forgiving come hand-in-hand. It comes close to God’s agape love, being loved for oneself, not for what one has or has not done.
I have received this kind of love many times, and it has saved me. It is difficult to forgive myself, but the love of others has given me the courage and freedom to move on and try to do better at this thing called life. Thanks be to God and to those who can love and forgive.
Gracious God, we thank you for your undying, holy love for us. Without it, we would be nothing. With it, we are able to live and love those you have given us. Amen.
-Penny Worrell 

It Is Well With My Soul: April 15, 2022 (Good Friday)

It Is Well With My Soul

“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds…” – Hebrews 10:24

Sometime back in the ’80s, Skagit County decided to build a new jail. The original building was located on top of the courthouse, a metal structure that was probably freezing in the winter, steaming hot in the summer, and miserably cramped. The new design promised to be the latest in technology, larger, safer, and full of cameras. My husband Dennis was a paramedic at Skagit Valley Hospital and he and the rest of his crew were invited to visit the jail before it was officially opened so if they had to go and pick up an inmate they would have an idea of the layout and protocols. I was permitted to join the tour and gathered with the group outside THE DOOR on that chilly day. The portal opened silently and our guide pointed out that it was six inches thick but it wasn’t quiet when it closed after we entered, it made a huge booming noise. The rest of the tour showed us no privacy, hundreds of cameras, and a special room with a drain in the middle of the floor for inmates detoxing from alcohol or drugs. No way I wanted to end up in that facility.

Last year, a group of us at St. Paul’s formed an OPOP team, One Parish, One Prisoner. OPOP is an organization that matches an inmate who is going to be released with a dedicated team with the hope that with support, love, prayers, and visits, when this person is liberated from the prison’s walls, they will not return because of a lack of housing, food, driver’s license, programs to help with drug and alcohol addiction, absence or no family members, unpaid fines and no money.

I’m not sure why our incarcerated friend was chosen for us but I feel it deep in my soul that he will be like the starfish I picked up on the beach in Florida and placed back in the ocean so it would survive, that with our OPOP team, the OPOP organization that started us on our journey, our congregation, the community and with God’s help, he will survive.

Thank you, Lord, for helping us to heal and restore a person with love and good works. Amen.
-Mary Ann Taylor

It Is Well With My Soul: April 14, 2022 (Maundy Thursday)

It Is Well With My Soul

“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you …” – 1 Corinthians 11:23

There is nothing that touches me the way the Mass touches me. Whether as a child receiving communion for the very first time in a non-denominational church my grandmother took me to (I was about nine or ten, unbaptized, and actually thought coffee hour snacks were being served early as the plate with the Chiclet-shaped bread and little cuplets [sic] of grape juice were passed from person to person in the pews) or as a priest administering the Sacrament, I have never not known the presence of God in the Mass. I remember my first communion in an Episcopal church – by which time I was a young teen (and still unbaptized) – and that which I came to learn was called the “prayer of humble access” (“we are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs from under thy table, O merciful Lord …”) taught me not to fear coming to the table (for all my sins both known and unknown), but to delight in coming to the table by the invitation of One who wrapped me in his own worthiness. We are not worthy, but “thou art the same Lord whose property is always – ALWAYS – to have mercy.”

It was not just the words of institution that were passed along to St. Paul, but the gift of mercy, the gift of grace, the gift of God’s very own presence in the breaking of the bread and sharing of the cup. Paul is clear. These things aren’t given to us by the other Apostles but from Jesus. Like Paul, a priest may stand behind the Altar, but it is Jesus who consecrates the elements; it is Jesus who breaks the bread and shares the cup. I am not worthy, but through God’s grace, I am healed. It is well with my soul.

God, you take a simple thing like bread and knead yourself into it so that we may have life. You take the simple juices of grapes, crushed, stored, and (in the fullness of time) pour into them your Spirit so that we may have joy. So allow those elements to enter our very own bloodstream, that we may find strength and courage to deliver unto others what you have delivered unto us – health, holiness, and well-being; in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
– Fr. Keith Axberg