2023 Lenten Devotions - YouTube

Hear the Lenten Devotions in the writers own voice. 
Monday, March 20
OFH Ministry Partner
Raul Hernandez, Legal Coordinator:
Hello! My name is Raul Hernandez. I'm here from the ELCA [Outreach Center]. I am the legal coordinator here. I've been here for about... almost three years, or maybe going on four. So, my success story is-- I mean, almost all of them. Because people come in here with emergencies. Don't know where to start. And that's when I come in and help out. You know, coordinate the lawyers with the clients and, you know, appointments. And so, they're able to come in and talk to the lawyer for free for 30 minutes and find out the right steps or the right forms, so they can represent themselves with all the legal paperwork and the correct paperwork.
So, my success story is, there was a gentleman that came here about... almost three months ago. He was having trouble finding a lawyer and also the money to pay a lawyer. But he came in and heard about our programs, and we were able to help him out. He got all his things that he needed through the court. And about two months later, he came in and he donated the money that he was saving up for a lawyer! And he was grateful that we had a program like this, and he wanted to give back to the community.
As you go about your day today, how do you see God at work?
PRAYER | Oh God: Please give me strength when I am weak, love when I feel forsaken, courage when I am afraid, wisdom when I feel foolish, hope when I feel rejected, and peace when I am in turmoil. Walk with me through the joys and struggles of this world, reminding me that I always have an ally in you. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
Tuesday, March 21
OFH Ministry Partner
Nate Shubat, volunteer:
Hello! I'm Nate Shubat, volunteer with Breaking the Chains Church. When I look for signs of God's presence in the world, the first place I look is the worship services we have with the men at the Felmers Chaney Correctional Center in Milwaukee, and the Kenosha Correctional Center in Kenosha. And I know the idea of God's presence at a worship service seems obvious, almost cliched. But there's something more to this. The Breaking the Chains Church worship services... They're so simple, so sincere, so genuine. I think that's probably the way it was in the early days of the church. No one's worried about the polish. No one's worried about the performance. And I think that simplicity makes it easier to see God's presence there around the table.
Another example of God's presence there, is the fact that.... you look at the men around the table. We're all there-- incarcerated and incarcerated --following very different paths, leading very different lives, very different experiences and perceptions. Yet despite all these differences, there we are, together. Coming together to talk about our faith in our life, and how those two come together, and how we're going to use that to move forward to build God's kingdom here on earth. Teaching each other. Learning from each other. Lifting each other up, regardless of where we came from, or how we got there. That's a sign of God's presence in the world. After all, Matthew tells us that Jesus himself said, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there also." Thank you!
As you go about your day today, how do you see God at work?
PRAYER | Gracious God: Hope rises when we come together as your people, when we are centered on your love and goodness. Bless us in our efforts, that faith, hope and love would grow in our lives. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
Wednesday, March 22
OFH Ministry Partner
Rev. Char Guiliani:
Hi. My name is Pastor Char from Incarnation Lutheran in Milwaukee.
Sometimes you don’t realize God is involved in your decision making until you are deep into the project. A young man reached out to Incarnation in 2021 asking if he could complete his Eagle Scout Project at our church. His idea was to build Bee Hotels to help the pollinators flying through our area. Yes, they even fly through the area of 15th/Keefe in Milwaukee. As a congregation, we gave a big YES. The summer of 2022 the Bee Hotels were built and installed in the two gardens near our church entrance. As the area was being prepared and the hotels were being installed, the neighborhood came to see what was happening. From toddlers to older generations showed up! God was working through this project from the beginning, and we felt God’s presence throughout the two days of work. People from different walks life gathered to help complete this project and you can see by the pictures shared, everyone enjoyed themselves working together and getting to know each other. Our Boy Scout is now an Eagle Scout, and we are looking forward to seeing God’s smaller creation begin to take occupancy in these hotels. Blessings to you during your Lenten journey.
As you go about your day today, how do you see God at work?
PRAYER | Dear Creator God: Thank you for guiding us in directions and paths where we don't know the destination, because we know with you, the end result will be something from your good hand. Bless us as we fly through each day and help us to realize our purpose and direction in this life is in and with you. Thank you for unknown outcomes that you lead us towards. In your name, we pray. Amen.
Thursday, March 23
OFH Suburban Partner
Steve Stretz, member and OFH Ride Run Walk volunteer:
Friends of mine tell me that they've been more or less talked to by God, and that God has moved them to be a missionary to do this or to do that. And I don't think it's that way for everyone. It's not for me, anyway.
So, let me tell you a little story. I was at All Peoples Church, at the garden, helping. I had delivered some produce. And there's conversations that go on, such as someone talking to some young people, you know, saying they're gonna miss them, they're moving. And in the midst of that, someone comes up, and the young lady comes up and can't decide what she wants. She talks to me, and we have a conversation about a variety of things. So, I go about my business. And next thing I know, she's asking if anybody has a sofa. And I thought that was odd that she would ask about a sofa... And then I hear Susan say that some people are moving out of the house across the street. It turns out that the same young ladies that she was missing, were moving out of the house. And they can't take the furniture, because it was donated by the church, and they don't have a way to move it. They're just moving in temporarily and moving out. So, the furniture would go on the street. So, we say, well, maybe there's some furniture for this young lady that can help with what she needs. Turns out, she was in love with all the furniture. And the next question is, how do we get it from there to her house-- and then all of a sudden, there's a trailer available. And I say, "Well, I have my Jeep and I have a trailer hitch. Maybe I can help." So that's what happened. So, we move all the furniture out of the house and put it into trailers. We drive it to her house. And on the way she sees her son and daughter, I think, are walking on the street, and she calls out to them and says, "Look what God gave me!" And I had to smile. So, we unloaded all the furniture. And there was no real furniture in the place at the time, and there were people living there. So, God put me there and put all the things together to allow her to have the furniture that she needed. It's strange, but that's what happened.
As you go about your day today, how do you see God at work?
PRAYER | Dear Lord: Guide us in our lives, that the gifts and abilities you have created us with, may help our neighbors and show the kind of love and care that you have first shown to us in our own lives. Soften our hearts to see the needs of others around us, and put us in situations perfect for our gifts and abilities to be well used. In your name, we pray. Amen.
Friday, March 24
OFH Ministry Partner
Arnez Blathers, staff:
I really have to admit that, you know, God had an impact on my life before, you know, before the gang life and everything. God was there. He would be there. I don't even know how to describe it like... I've been hurt. And I'm still here. God was always like, "Look, pay attention. Look, I'm trying to show you something. Look."
And the whole time I was always doing my own thing. I was doing whatever I wanted to. And always live life. Joined a gang, or whatever you want to call it. I was part of a lot of stuff. I've been involved in a lot of stuff... Going to prison, was life changing. It was a wake-up call. It was, "Okay, this could be me for the rest of my life." I've always felt like God sent to me who he wanted in my life. And right now, I have I went from like, just a wide circle of people. I'd hang with these groups, and then I hang with this group and-- no, now it's just down to chosen few. Because you never know. And I picked that up from prison. Because no matter what you do, there's always a consequence behind it.
My whole life-changing thing was when-- he'd come all the way from Iowa. Him and his wife, and they talked to prisoners. And it wasn't like, "Oh, so what's it like in there?" No, it was always, "Did you bring your Bible? Oh, that's okay. We'll read to you." And it was like... first it was like, "Okay... Whew! I get out my cell? You know, cool." And after a while, it was like, I was either getting programmed, or something inside me just woke up and said, "Yeah... That makes sense!" But every time we stopped talking, he said, "I want you to read Ezekiel 36:26. I want you to read that. And I want you to read that either to yourself or read it to someone else. Just read it." And I'd read that over and over again. And just, that right there. One day, I just literally dropped to my knees and submitted to God. "Okay, fine! Okay. Okay! I can't do this. I can't! Fine. Okay?" I was already five years in. But uh... that woke me up. Just that little part right there, because I get what they were trying to say, I just needed a new heart. I needed it. And I wouldn't accept anything less.
As you go about your day today, how do you see God at work?
Ezekiel 36:26 | "A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you, and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."
Saturday, March 25
OFH Suburban Partner
Gloria Potter, Stephen Minister and OFH donor:
I most profoundly felt God’s presence in my life during a very difficult season, when my husband’s business went under, and he was dealing with depression and ways to cope with this loss. We were scheduling divorce proceedings, filing for bankruptcy, and selling our house.
I was teaching and in grad school, and it was a lot. Eventually, my own coping mechanisms were failing me, and I felt alone and desperate. I remember just getting in my car and asking, “God where do I go? I am so vulnerable right now and my path looks so dark.” As I put my hands on the steering wheel, I knew there was a plan for me. I found myself in the parking lot of a psychiatric hospital. There, I received support through caring doctors, therapists, and medication. I talked, shared, journaled, and during those lonely nights, prayed so hard for guidance. Jesus was always walking with me, but now I was listening and allowing the healing to take place. After a two week stay, I remember walking out the hospital doors and seeing my little red car in the parking lot. I knew God had drawn me to this place to refresh me and move me forward.
I now am a Stephen Minister* at St Matthew’s Lutheran Church. I often think that if I had had a Stephen Minister at that time, I would have felt the presence of God through that ministry. Maybe I wouldn’t even have had this journey to share with you. Now, as I sit with someone and they share their story with me, I feel the presence of God in our relationship, and it is a reminder that our Gracious God is always present with us. I’d like to close with Hebrews chapter 13 verse 5: “God has said, never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
* Stephen Ministers are lay congregation members trained to provide one-to-one care to those experiencing a difficult time in life.
As you go about your day today, how do you see God at work?
PRAYER | Dear Lord: Even in the worst moments of our lives, you are with us. Please watch over us and guide us toward your goodness and wellbeing, so that your love would flourish and grow in and through us. In your name, we pray. Amen.