We are all searching for signs of Light in these dark times marked by the ongoing COVID-19, deep polarization, families struggling to survive financially, depression, racial injustice and so much more.

This #hashtag campaign, #LiveWithLight, will use ‘the peoples’ messaging’ through United Methodist congregations to spread a message of hope that the Light of Jesus always overcomes life’s painful struggles and difficulties.

The Conference will be offering collections of devotions, prayers and tool kits for leading with this scripture and theme.

#LiveWithLight Cabinet Devotionals

Bishop Gary Mueller

Rev. Jim Polk

Rev. Blake Bradford

Kathy Conley

Rev. Ann Ferris

Rev. Ulysses Washington

annie beatrice martin

Bishop Gary Mueller

“Brighter and Brighter and Brighter”
Week of February 28 – March 6

The Word was first,
    the Word present to God,
    God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
    in readiness for God from day one.
Everything was created through him;
    nothing—not one thing!—
    came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
    and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
    the darkness couldn’t put it out.
(John 1:1-5 “The Message”)

I would never identify myself as a writer. However, I write a lot, including daily reflections about doing real life with Jesus in the abundance of his unconditional, invitational and transformational love.

One thing has become absolutely clear to me as I have written day in and day out about real life and real faith. Life can become dark because it is hard and difficult. No one is immune. For some, it is so oppressive we literally cannot truly understand their burden.

I’ve also discovered another kind of darkness that, to put it bluntly, has a much darker side. It results when we human beings – including those of us who spend our lives as Jesus’ followers – live in ways that are fundamentally opposed to God’s Will. Sadly, it doesn’t take long to see the catastrophic results of our sin. The world becomes darker and darker and darker right before our eyes.

Far more important than the darkness in which we live, however, is the fact that there is Good News so great it can only be called awesome news: We don’t have to live in fear of the darkness. Jesus, the Light of the world who created all that is, has come smack dab into the middle of the world to redeem it and us. His Light cannot be overcome even by darkness that seems impenetrable.

What this means should make sense intuitively because we understand how light works. What happens when you turn on your phone’s flashlight app when you are in a dark room? You can see. What was it like to be afraid of the dark as a child and have your parents turn on a light? You were immediately much braver. What is it like to sit by a campfire in the midst of the cold dark woods at night? You can see and, more importantly, are warmed physically and in your soul. This is what Jesus’ Light does, only on a grander scale. It brilliantly lights up every dark space with salvation, joy, love, justice, and hope.

Jesus’ Light is divine light. It does not just illuminate what’s around us, it penetrates our souls and illuminates us from the inside out. This happens through his unconditional love that accepts us as we are regardless of what we have done or not done. His invitational love that sometimes nudges – and sometimes challenges – us to accept him as our Savior who offers salvation and our Lord who is in charge of how we live. And his transformational love that allows his light to burn brighter and brighter and brighter in us as we grow in holiness in our relationship with God and others.

Jesus makes it clear throughout the Gospels that the most important work we have in life is to nurture the Light he has given us so it shines brighter and brighter and brighter. In fact, it’s so critical it’s our vocation. But how do we do this when we don’t have the luxury of ignoring all of our many responsibilities of caring for and loving family, paying the mortgage, being successful at work, contributing as a responsible citizen, and being a good neighbor? We do it the only place we can do it. Through all these things we do in real life every single day – changing diapers, mowing the lawn, helping those in need, cooking dinner for our kids, dealing with office politics, and spending time with our spouse. This shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, Jesus’ Light is meant for real life as well as eternal life.

Just when we think we’ve got it all figured out, we also realize something else. We can’t keep the Light Jesus has given us to ourselves because we feel a deep desire to share it with others. Not out of guilt or because we think we are better than others. But because we want others to experience the extraordinary difference Jesus makes in ordinary life. What is more, we discover that it becomes a joy and privilege to shine brightly as we pray during dark times with others, change light bulbs they can’t reach, invite them to worship, serve as a listening and accepting ear, shovel snow off their driveways, serve at a homeless shelter, and even speak boldly about the sins of racism, childhood hunger and sex trafficking that smother them.

Ultimately, this whole Light thing is really pretty basic. Jesus invites us to #LiveWithLight – in our lives and the lives of others. When we do, a miracle occurs. We glow brighter and brighter and brighter.

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Rev. Jim Polk

Even the Smallest Light Still Shines
Week of March 7 – 13

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

I’m almost certain this was one of the first songs I learned in Sunday school. Perhaps you also learned it as a child. It’s a nice song and one I sang with gusto and yet… and yet I don’t think I ever understood it, not really and certainly not as a child. What light? How bright? Most troubling for me: How little can that light be and still shine?

As it turns out, pretty little. I’ve learned over the years that even the smallest light can still shine brightly. In fact, sometimes it is the smallest of lights that give me the greatest comfort.

When I was a pastor in Dermott, Arkansas a good friend of mine and I would often go walking for miles through the woods and fields at night… in the dark… without flashlights. It wasn’t my idea, but I learned that even on cloudy moonless nights there was always enough light to see once my eyes adjusted. Still today a sky ablaze with stars fills me with joy even as the darkness of the night remains. A crescent of light can be as encouraging a beacon as a full moon shining in all its glory. Even the smallest of lights still shines brightly.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

Some time ago the power went out at our house during a storm. We lit a few candles and then went searching for flashlights. It turned out we had plenty of flashlights but not so many good batteries! A few lights shined brightly, but most were pretty dim. Even so, for the next few hours, the dimmest of lights was still enough to dispel the darkness and help us see. In the dark, even the smallest of lights still shines brightly!

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

So, back to the song. It’s a good one, as far as it goes, except that it is not really true. Sure, a small light can still shine brightly, but that little light of mine… well, it turns out it’s not really mine – or yours – at all. That light belongs to Jesus alone, and that is one of the most important things of all I have learned over the years.

The apostle John knew this, and in a wonderfully mixed metaphor he described that light in John 1:1-5 with these words:  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…4In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…”

Within Jesus was life itself – godly life, deepest life – and that life within Jesus the Christ so exuded itself that John effortlessly described it as a light shining into our world, into our darkness, into us. It was that life, that light, that part of Jesus’ very essence that drew people closer to God even when they didn’t understand it. It was that life, that light, which brought hope, courage, peace, love, grace, and even in the darkest of moments, even when all felt lost and hope seemed but a dream, the darkness could not overcome it. In the dark, even the smallest of lights can still shine brightly.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

It turns out that little light is not so little at all.  In fact, it is huge. That “little” light is nothing less than the light of Christ, the very life of God! Jesus came to give us that life, and when it is within us, when God dwells within us, we too begin to draw people to God. We too can begin to bring hope, courage, peace, love, and so much more into the darkness of our world. We can become the vessels God uses to bring grace to this world.

Wow! It both excites and sobers me to realize that I – we – are meant to be the bearers of the life of Jesus and that as we live this life we become the light of Jesus in our world. It’s not that we ought to be the light; we are the light! Jesus himself said it in Mt.5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

In the midst of the darkness of this world, whether experienced in politics or pandemic or polarization or any of its other manifestations, through us the light of Jesus can still shine. Through me, the life of Jesus can shine like a beacon of light into the darkness of this world, and though on the outside it may seem weak and dim at times, with the light and life of Jesus within me the darkness cannot overcome me! That gives me hope, and courage, and peace, and love.

This much I’ve learned: Even a little light can dispel the darkness, and the life within me, that wonderful life of Jesus in you, well… the darkness will not and cannot overcome that light!

“In him was life, and that life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…”
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

Prayer: Oh Lord, Creator and Giver of Life, Light of the World, thank you for placing your life within us. Help each of us now to live in such a way that through us your light can shine in the darkness of this world, drawing people ever close to you. This we pray with deepest humility. Amen.

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Rev. Blake Bradford

Week of March 14 – 20

The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.
John 1:5 (The Message)

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.
John 1:14a (The Message)

Living with Light means being witnesses that the amazing, awe-some, take-your-sandals-off-cause-its-holy-ground, Light of Jesus Christ has MOVED into the neighborhood. John’s Gospel tells us that the Word of God is taking up residence in and among humanity.  The question is, as always, whether we are offering the Word a welcome mat or posting a “private property-no trespassing” sign at the doorway to our souls.

God’s light – the Life-Light — is, of course never dependent on our whims. God’s light blazes in the darkness no matter how much we welcome Jesus into our hearts. There is, however, a huge difference between being devoted light-bearers versus being darkness-loving attempted flame snuffers.

On my better days, when my soul is prepared, my mind set upon holy things, and my strength focused on Christ, then I provide testimony to the Light in my words and witness to the Light in my actions.

I wish I could say that this soul-place was evident and abundant in my life every hour and every day.  I wish I could say that I have always opened the door wide, without fail, and welcomed in our Neighbor.  But alas…

Some days it is hard. Along with my own mess, I get judge-y. I want to declare that Jesus Christ, my new neighbor, the Word of God, is my neighbor, but I also want our neighborhood to be a gated community.

Some days it is just dark. The light of Christ seems more like a flickering candle than a blazing bonfire. In my wiser moments, I realize that Christ’s light only seems small because I have journeyed so far away.  Usually, it is not premeditated – I just get busy. We all seem to be in the business of busy-ness these days, and a formational relationship with God just gets dropped and delayed amidst the clutter of my life.

And yet… “We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, generous inside and out, true from start to finish… We all live off his generous abundance, gift after gift after gift.” (John 1:14b, 16).  I depend on this generosity, Jesus’ own grace with every heartbeat and breath of my existence.

O Christ – the Life-Light and Word, Son of God and Son of Man – Jesus, forgive me, heal me, equip me, and send me to be a Light-bearer!  Through you, may I live with Light!

annie beatrice martin

Kathy Conley

The Glory of God
Week of March 21 – 27

My mind goes in so many directions when I read our Scripture verse from John: “The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” NRSV

“The Lifelight blazed out of the darkness and the darkness couldn’t put it out.” The Message

Our Holy God speaks to us in God’s complete Glory. God’s presence, God’s countenance, God’s love, God’s Light, God’s Son! This is who God is. Nothing can overcome the Light, put it out, darken it! We are covered with that Light forever and for always. We are truly blessed with the Glory of Jesus, the Light. The Light that is reflected, not seen. It is a reflection from God through Jesus to us and we, in turn, reflect that Glory, that Light to the world. We can do nothing less than make our life a testimony to the world of that Light. And we must keep our eyes on that Light to know our way and to understand that we don’t have to fear what the world gives us. We have a deeper way of seeing the world because we have God’s Glory making the way for us, punching holes in the darkness, because Jesus’ Light shines through the dark.

Jesus illuminates the love God has for us, the saving grace that becomes the story of our life as we allow Jesus to share/shine on every aspect of our lives. Praise be to God, who brings light to the darkness and order to the chaos. Praise be to our God who gives us clearer vision so that we can clear the obstacles of our life and can see the presence of God, the reality of God. And then know with all blessed assurance that we are marked by that great love and are to live in that love forever.

annie beatrice martin

Rev. Ann Ferris

Week of March 28 – April 3

My husband is a skilled handyman who can usually find plenty of work wherever I am appointed. In one small town, he was particularly welcomed. Before he arrived, there was no one who would crawl under floors to sort out plumbing problems, so that is what he spent a lot of his time doing while we were there. He used a head-mounted flashlight to light the way in those narrow, dark spaces. He never knew what he would find, and sometimes surprises awaited him, such as the skull of a dead animal or a lake of raw sewage blocking his path. He relied on his flashlight to illuminate the area where he was working and also to guide him around or through any hazards he encountered.

When they were traveling through the wilderness on their way from slavery in Egypt to a new life in the Promised Land, God provided a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to guide the Israelites (Exodus 13:21-22). The pillar of fire lit up the sky so they could see the way to go during the night. Even when it was dark outside, God was always present with them and guiding them on their journey. Jesus declared, “I am the Light of the World” (John 8:12).  He will provide light and direction for our lives.

Most of us will never crawl in the dark spaces under floorboards, but the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent unprecedented snowstorm have shown us that life sometimes presents us with situations we never imagined. In addition, many of us are dealing with sudden, unanticipated, huge personal challenges. How can we thrive? Whatever happens to us, how can we find our way? The key is to allow Jesus to be the light of our world, to guide us on the journey through life, whatever we encounter. May we welcome Jesus Christ as the light for all parts of our lives! #LiveWithLight

annie beatrice martin

Rev. Ulysses Washington

Week of April 4 – 11
As we embrace this text, I want to remind us that these are the words of God’s messenger. These words were presented by John, a person entrusted with valuable information. In the ancient world, messengers needed to be trustworthy. An essential question for the messenger was, would the messenger be willing to stake their life on their message? That was the question. Well, John, the messenger of Jesus Christ, could risk his life on his message of the Gospel. He ventured everything on the good news and in the coming of Jesus, the Son of God, the one called the Word. In this text, John shows how well qualified Jesus was — no, the only one qualified for the work of our redemption and salvation. In verses one and two, John linked Jesus’ eternal existence back to the beginning.

In verse three, the creation message is revisited. God’s message causing that to exist that had no previous being. A work that could only be accomplished by omnipotence power.

In verse 5, John lengthens his message of Christ as “the light,” begun in verse four — where he says, “and the life was the light of all people.” The phrase “and the life was the light of all people” is in the imperfect Greek tense. This meant that “the life” began to be “the light of men” in the past and continues to be so in the present times. The Son of God is the source and essence of life itself.

As a reminder and a contrast to the light, the matter of darkness is mentioned. John would have us contrast the two naturals element, that of darkness and light. He would have us distinguish living life in darkness to that of living life in the light. If we identify Jesus as “Light” and sin as “Darkness,” then John’s message is: Christ is more significant than all the darkness of sin. Jesus is above all evil. Now, out of the comparison of the two, a word of hope emerges — a lesser than and a more extraordinary than emerges.

As I think about the words “shineth in darkness,” I get the idea of persistent effort. “Shineth” has a starting point, and John relates his understanding of the illumination of “the light” he’s talking about back to Genesis 1:3, which says, “Then God said, Let there be light, and there was light” (NRSV). This account means God willed, God decreed, God appointed, and God’s determining was, and will be followed in every instance by an immediate result. Light is one of the most spectacular productions of the creative skill and power of God. It is the grand medium by which all his other works are discovered, examined, and understood, so far as we can know it.

By the command of God, the light was rendered visible in the darkness. That was the first struggle of light into and through the darkness, until the darkness received it, rolled back before it, and passed away into it. From a natural point of view, we see this repeated comprehension of light by darkness, as in the dawn of every morning, the night passes into day, and the earth now shrouded in blackness is now bathed in the clear white light of an Eastern sun.

But John was thinking more of the fallen nature and this fallen world into spiritual darkness. He was thinking more of humankind “sitting in darkness and the shadow of death,” with no ability to find the way either of truth or holiness.

In this thick darkness, and consequent intellectual and moral deceptiveness, the light gleams. When lost in darkness and death, the best place to look for redemption is the light, the source of all life, which is Jesus, the Son. Please notice this part of the text: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:5 NRSV). The thought here is that the darkness did not lay hold of, did not usurp, and did not seize the light to become light itself.

Darkness, in the Bible, commonly denotes ignorance, guilt, or misery. Ephesians 5:8 says, “For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light (NRSV). And we are to live with the light. We are to live with the wisdom and teaching which come from God. We are to walk as children of the morning light—letting the world see that we are not slaves to the flesh but free, willing, rational servants of God omnipotent. Darkness does not understand the light, does not overcome the light, does not extinguish the light.

In the KJV, the text reads, “…and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:5 KJV). The word “Comprehended” has to do with understanding, recognition, and appreciation. There were and are those who did not and do not recognize the necessity of the light. Some persons did not and will not allow the light to penetrate their darkness.

Yet, some have, some will, and some are “Living With Light!” Verse 7 gives the positive side of the application of verse 5. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.”

Walking in the light is the opposite of walking in darkness. It means seeing reality for what it is and being controlled by desires that accord with God’s light. If God is light, and in him is no darkness at all, then he is the bright pathway to the fulfillment of all our deepest longings. He is the deliverer from all dark dangers and obstacles to joy. He is the infinitely desirable One.

If he shines forth as a Being of infinite worth, he is the star of glory that we are created to admire and cherish. If God opens our heart’s eyes to see all that, then our desires are captured by the surpassing glory of God over everything that the world has to offer, and we walk in the light as he is the light.

There is a walk; there is a lifestyle; that necessarily results from the miracle of new birth when we are given eyes to see the surpassing worth of the light of God. So, let me ask, are you “Living With Light?” If not, I invite you, and God invites you, to a journey of walking and “Living With Light!”

#LiveWithLight Prayers

Sign up to receive these prayers as #LiveWithLight Daily Affirmations!

Holy Creator of the beautiful darkness, we seek You as we seek rest in the night. We stretch our necks heavenward looking beyond our horizons. We peer into the vast skies seeking signs of Presence. Clouds of human weariness often keep us from seeing stars shining far beyond our imaginings. The vast darkness deters us. We can not comprehend the meaning of the dark. As children cowering under the covers during a thunderstorm, we huddle in the dark. We think we are alone. We admit our fear of the darkness. Sometimes we transfer our fears of darkness to our fears of those who appear dark to those of us who are pale reflections of humanity. We demonize the darkness with words oblackened to exclude. We ascribe darkness to evil but You are there in the darkness as well as in the light. You are in every place and declare it all good so…isn’t the dark of night a beauty to You and thus for us. If we are afraid in the dark doesn’t that simply reveal our lack of trust in You? Yet, we claim with hope in the midst of our confusions that you are the Light which guides us. We confess we trust and plead, help us in our distrust. We look at the shining daytime Sun and cannot see the stars; at the stars at night and do not see the Sun. Yet, we know in the place in our hearts You have filled with Jesus that all shall be enlightened to the Realm of Shalom for all creation, for all Your children and for all time. Shine through us O Holy Giver of life so that all may be as You intend. We pray in Your Holy Name and Power. Amen.

Rev. Pam Estes
St. Paul UMC, Little Rock

O Mighty God, as we enter into the Holy City of Jerusalem with shouts of hosanna, they have a particular meaning to us this Easter week. We have been trying to worship you through Zoom, Facebook and YouTube. It hasn’t been an easy year for us in many ways but the one thing that remained constant was you. You were like a shining beacon on a hill that we could take comfort and solace from. You remain that beacon shining in the darkness.

 

We were surrounded by death and sickness in so many ways. The news is filled with it. It is never far from our minds and yet the hope remained that we could get through it if we remained faithful to you. You gave us the Holy Spirit whose message was one of hope and life; hope that we could make it through this dark period to one of hope and you delivered. We give credit where it is due to science for the vaccine but the hope came from the Holy Spirit. The hope that filled our lives as we march towards the cross.

 

And the feeling of life as we receive the vaccine, that we can return to some semblance of a normal life. But I feel that you don’t want us to return to the same old way of doing things, that you are calling us to come back as a changed people. To be a better people, not arguing over matters of little importance to you, O God. To truly be focused on the Kingdom of God.

 

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Rev. Dr. Candace Barron
First UMC, Beebe

God of Light and Life,
God of Covenant and Cross,
God of Hope and Resurrection,
We have faced unfathomable destruction all over the world.
We have witnessed disease and death,
Hatred and upheaval,
Fighting and disillusionment.
We have seen so much devastation of human life and the human spirit,
That we have come to question our own place as disciples in the center of the chaos.
We feel marooned in the middle of a sea of doubt and doom,
With no way to escape on our own.

 

But even in the middle of great turmoil and oppression, our eyes, like those of Simeon your servant of old, have seen your salvation.

 

Out of this present darkness you have indeed and forever called us out into your glorious light,
The blinding glow of your eternal love and grace,
The light that shines forth to illuminate the deep dark night of our collective human soul,
That moves us to burst forth from the tomb of our own making,
To live the life you have called us to live, outside the empty tomb of the Resurrection.

 

Abide in us, by the power of your Holy Spirit, with the light of Christ the Resurrected Lord,
With whom and in whom we enjoy the great responsibility and hope of serving You,
In whose image we are created, and recreated, to share with the world the Light of the World.

 

By the power of your Holy Spirit, as your Holy Church, let us live with light in this world, through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Amen.

Rev. John Michael
First UMC, Corning

Almighty God – We offer our hearts in thanksgiving for Your grace, wisdom, and hope. Your love is pure. It penetrates and fills one’s heart like a single light in a dark room. We celebrate that Your light shines brightly in our darkest moments. Not only does it guide our steps, but also exposes compulsive behavioral patterns that nurture our sin condition.

 

In Your light, we feel warmth, safety, and assurance. Because of Your light and love, we are able to see how our lives can be lived with purpose, passion, and pursuit. We beseech Thee, O God, to shine Your light in the dark places of our world that nurture racism, oppression, and injustice.

 

Your love, the only perfect love, drives out fear. Your light, the only pure light, overcomes the darkness from within and without. Help each of us to be a reflection of Your light and love. Use us, the Body of Christ, as instruments of Your light so that the darkness within our sphere of influences maybe cast out; enabling those within our mission field to live into the light and love of Christ our LORD.

 

We offer our thanks and ask these things in His holy name, who lives and reigns with You and The Holy Spirit now and forever… Amen! #LiveWithLight!

Rev. Michael Bolin
Green Forest UMC

Gracious God, you are the light of the world. You stand in the midst of the darkness in this world and you are not afraid. You are not moved by the shadows. You stand firm shining bright enough that the darkness trembles and shakes. You are the almighty— the joy of the world! And you call us to come into your light. We long to leave these familiar dark places but often are too afraid of showing our filthy hands. We praise you God because you do not reject us. You welcome us out of the darkness to be cleansed by your inextinguishable light. Thank you most gracious God! May your light continue to shine in and around us! Amen.

Rev. Doug Phillips
White Hall UMC

Leader: Gather all, for the day has begun.
All: Come, live in the light.
Leader: You bright-eyed and energetic; you broken and weary,
All: Come, live in the light.
Leader: You who joyfully invite the coming day; you who reluctantly enter into the unknown,
All: Come, live in the light.
Leader: Listening with open ears to all Jesus has to say to us —
All: Come, live in the light.
Leader: Discovering with open eyes where the Spirit is leading us —
All: Come, live in the light.
Leader: Discerning with open hearts what God Almighty is stirring in us —
All: Come, live in the light.
Leader: Communing together, though many, yet one, God calls to us—
All: Come, live in the light.

Rev. Amanda Smith
Norphlet/Centennial UMC

God,
Today I need a reminder. I need a reminder from you that the light you set in place through the Word, is life. That this light is not fleeting, or unstable; but predictable, always available to me, and can envelop me when I need it most.
Today is a new day. I may experience challenges, stress, minor inconveniences and even major problems. I may experience peace, joy, love, and a sense of direction and purpose. But whatever I experience God, I know that you are with me. You are light and life amidst. Your life and light are woven together with what we experience daily. The beautiful tapestry that is our existence here, in the place we call home.
So whatever today brings, I pray that I might experience your light. I pray that I might recognize light in others, and in myself. I pray for surprises when I look for and see your light all around. And yes God, that I am reminded that your light is right here, right now, always.
Amen.

Rev. Claire Caldwell
St. James UMC, Little Rock

Gracious and Loving God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
As Creator, you brought light out the darkness and created life where there was no life. As Redeemer you came into the world shining light into our darkness, bringing the light of love and salvation to everyone. As Sanctifier, you poured out your Holy Spirit onto the believers at Pentecost, shining light into our hearts and filling us with power to be your witnesses. Now, may we live as people of the light, continuing to reveal your light and love to a world that so desperately needs it. As your servant Paul reminded the Ephesians, once we were full of darkness, but now we have light from the Lord; so live as people of light! May it be so for us, and may it lead to awakening, revival, and the transformation of the world through Jesus Christ our Lord, the Light of the World. In His Name we pray, Amen.

Rev. Carness Vaughan
St. James UMC, Little Rock

Lord, the light from that first Easter sunrise shines into our lives.  It is warm.  It is filled with an energy that allows us to see things around us in a new light.  In the light of the love of Christ.

Let us walk in this light.  Let our actions reflect our beliefs.  Let this light stay bright within our hearts.

In our world today, we are surrounded by the darkness of terror, of political unrest, and of a global pandemic.  May the Lord continue to be a light in that dreadful darkness.

Most of all: let our light shine through to others in our words and in our deeds.  May we shine our “light of love” on everyone we meet.

Indeed, may others see the light in and through us each and every day. Amen.

Rev. Kay Brogdon
Hardy UMC

Dear Father, we read in scriptures about Jesus being the Light of the World and whoever follows Jesus will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” In John’s writings, Light is defined as life, as seen in John 1:4, “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men”. Those that have faith through Him will have eternal life. We pray Father when temptation has a hold on us, give us wisdom and strength to follow you. When our paths seem dark help us to follow the light. Thank you for being there to guide us and for never leaving us. Help us to show the Light of Jesus to those we encounter each day of our lives. In Jesus name we pray. Amen!

Bruce Vick
Northwest District Lay Leader

…and then there was light. Just like that. Light to dark and dark to light- all sounds so simple, O God. However, there is so much in between. Hues and shadows that we rarely catch a glimpse of, especially in the midst of all of our business. All of us know so many who live in those areas of shadowland. I guess if we are honest, O God, we all find ourselves there from time to time. I am a child of the Light and a prism of colors, but I am also a child of the darkness and the shadows. God, we know you are here, too. You are the creator of the light and the creator of the dark – thank you for the promise of your presence with all of your children wherever we are. Help each of us be a light in darkness and reflect your light to others. #LiveWithLight

Rev. Jay Clark
Pulaski Heights UMC

Oh Lord of all that is good and holy, I look to you out of the darkness and find hope in your brightness. You surround me with your gracious love and envelop me with your comfort every single moment of my life. I thank you Oh Lord for your willingness to reach out to me with your love and shine your light of holiness on my dim path. Help me to follow your direction as a vision of complete wholeness in my life. I pray to reflect your light in every aspect of my living and being, as your servant Lord and disciple. Amen.

Rev. Terrie Bunnell
First UMC, Prescott

Our gracious and loving Heavenly Father, I come to you with praise and with thanks for the spiritual light you provide. Even as at times I find myself seemingly lost in the darkness of a sinful and hurting world, I know You will never allow the darkness to overcome Your Light and I am relieved and refreshed. I can experience the redeeming light of your love and share it with others struggling within the darkness. I thank You for the promise of Your light and I trust, with your help, I will become a brighter light for Your glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Jim Kimzey
Southeast District Lay Leader

Eternal Father, creator and sustainer of the light that brings life and hope to our world, please know how much your children need and want that glorious light to shine bright again in our land. We know from Your Book and your promises and actions down through the ages that the “Light” is always present for us, but we cloud its radiance with our own petty doubts, fears, and insufficient faith. We face away from your love and guidance in fear we will have to get out of our comfort zones and stand up to our challenges and put to work the talents you have given each of us.

 

Fill us Dear God with Jesus’ compassion for the marginalized and make them instead our focus. Help us to pull our culture out of the muck of race, gender, and political glory and make us a unified force for what is right and not necessarily what is popular.

 

In Jesus’ Holy Name, amen.

Charles Long
Northeast District Lay Leader

Gracious and Loving Heavenly Father, we come to you today praising Your Holy name for your love, grace and hope. As a community, we are struggling with illness and tragedy today. In the midst of the darkness, we see your light which guides us to peace in the midst of the journey. We see prayer vigils popping up throughout our community as we are hungry for Your word and we are seeking You with all our heart and soul. Lord, we want to grow in our love of you as we trust you during these difficult days being assured that Your everlasting light will lead us and guide us. This light helps us see how to live. God, our hearts are touched today by Your love for us and help us to be a beacon of light to those that you place in our path today. Lord, we thank You, we love You and we praise You. Amen.

Rev. Jim Cross
Ashdown/Richmond/Wade’s Chapel UMC

As I reflect on John 1:5 “The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” I am reminded that the light is shining through to not only my life but also to all lives—even if we do not recognize it. The Light is always with us in all circumstances—from our darkest days to our most joyful days.

 

In recent days, my daily devotionals have all focused on the Light and the many ways I personally experience the Light. These experiences include the lamp unto my feet guiding my path, walking in the Light and allowing the Light to shine through me so that the ones living in darkness can see the Light.

 

“The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” means to me that I am always in the Light and love of Jesus Christ whether my days are dark or joyful. I am thankful for the love of the Light that is ever-present guiding me on the path of life.

 

Loving God, thank you for the Light of your presence and love in all aspects of our lives. Thank you for lighting our pathways and guiding us through the darkness in our lives. Thank you for your Light giving us hope as we journey through sorrow and grief. Thank you for your Light filling us with joy so that others can see your Light. Thank you for inviting us to live in the Light of your love. May we recognize, follow, and allow your Light to fill our lives with hope, joy, peace, and love for you and all your children. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Rev. Nan Nelson
Bayou Meto UMC

Most Holy God,

 

Thank you for fresh mercies each day.  Thank you for blessings, seen and unseen, too numerous to name.  Thank you for your son, Jesus the Christ, who died for our sins.  Jesus – the Word made flesh, the Living Light.

 

Hear the prayers of your people:  We lift to You those who are hospitalized, homebound, heartbroken, and hopeless; those imprisoned, and the unjustly treated; those desperately seeking new opportunity and new life in new lands.  We pray for mercy and healing.  We lift to You a world in turmoil and ask for peace.  We lift to You our leaders, pastors, congregations, communities, and country: grant them wisdom, clarity, courage, and strength of character.

 

Lord, you asked the lame man by the pool, ‘Do you want to be well?’  We have been sitting beside the healing waters for many years, crippled by our own state of being – stuck in the same sad, pitiful place so familiar to us, allowing the crowd of apathy, ignorance, power, position, privilege, politics, and “isms’ of all types to get in the way and become our excuses.

 

Forgive our self-serving works and wrongdoings.  Help us to see ourselves in all humanity – part of Your wonderful creation, made in Your image.  Let the words that spring forth from the abundance of our hearts be kind, patient, respectful, compassionate, and non-judging and our actions bear Your fruits of love, justice, hope, forgiveness, reconciliation, and unity.

 

“Yes, Lord, we want to be well!” Give us faith enough to boldly pick up our mats and walk in Your Way, letting the Light of Your Word dispel the deadly shadows of hate, fear, and distrust so that all are drawn to You. Equip, energize, and empower us for the work ahead as we joyfully proclaim, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.  Shine, Shine, Shine. Let it shine.”

 

In the name of Jesus, let it be divinely so.  Amen.

Regina Norwood
Central District Lay Leader

Gracious God, you who sent the Light into the world to give us hope. There are times that we do not see that light at work in our world especially in recent times, but deep down we know that You are there. We thank you for sending Jesus Christ to light up our world. Help us as Christians to let the Light of Christ shine through us so that the world knows there is hope. Help us to know that your light is what casts out the darkness of this world. Help us to remember that your light casts out our sins so we may be able to live as you would want us to live. Help us to grow, help us to be, help us to heal in the light of your love. In your powerful name we ask all these things! Amen!

Rev. George Odell
First UMC, Clinton

O Gracious God, Great is your name and greatly to be praised. It is good for us to come before you in these dark and benighted times – times of great anxiety, anguish and anger. O Blessed Father, we seek and do find comfort and protection in these times of seemingly unending darkness and difficulty. Illuminate our way without end by the light that shines in the darkness, showing us that the darkness does not and cannot overcome it. Our Father, show us there is light for the dark side of life, even our lives. Grant us, we pray the spiritual power to fearlessly give witness to Him (Jesus) who said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” May we never forget that the light, shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. The light, O God is your Son Jesus, in whose precious and powerful name we pray. Amen.

Rev. Renee’ Willett
White Memorial UMC

“Victory is Ours”
Goodness is stronger than evil;
Love is stronger than hate;
Light is stronger than darkness;
Life is stronger than death;
Victory is ours through Him who loves us.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, An African Prayer Book

 

How do we pray when darkness seems to prevail? When the diagnosis is worse than we feared? When a beloved child of God is harassed because of the color of their skin? When laws seek to harm rather than heal? When we receive the news we never wanted to hear? When there’s another shooting? When our friends abandon us, and our hearts are broken? Amid loss, where do we find hope for victory?

 

Early one Sunday morning, a group of women discovered that hope in an empty tomb. Christ’s resurrection shows us that hate does not have the last word. Sin and evil do not. War doesn’t. Bullying doesn’t. Sickness and self-harm do not. Even death and the grave do not. Only God does. God’s final word is love. In the end, all else fails. Only love prevails.

 

“What, then,” Paul asks, “will we say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? In all these things we are winning a most glorious victory through him who loved us” (Romans 8:31, 37). The victory of love helps us persevere in the face of suffering. Love empowers us to love our enemies. Love enables us to choose the thorny path of peace and reconciliation over the well-trodden path of retaliation. Love intensifies our hunger and thirst for righteousness.

 

Love emboldens us to stand up for those who are put down. The victory of love in Christ’s death and resurrection keeps us focused on the light when darkness surrounds. Victory is yours. Victory is mine. Victory is ours through Him who loves us. Thanks be to God. Amen!

Rev. Hammett Evans

Faithful God, there are times when the darkness overwhelms us. We struggle to see your light, and there are moments when we wonder if your light still shines. Mass shootings across our nation, the scourge of racism and bigotry in our communities and even in our communities of faith, our brothers and sisters around the world suffering under the heavy hands of oppressive governments. The dark clouds of grief descend upon us as we reflect upon the lives lost to COVID and the isolation and separation families have endured throughout the pandemic. Our hearts are heavy for those who see no hope or light, for those who suffer from mental illness, and those who have been stigmatized and cast aside. Remind us once again of the light of the risen Christ. Remind us once again that the darkness has not and will not overcome your light. Look deep within our souls, examine us, and reveal in us any darkness that may exist in the deepest, darkest corners and crevices of our hearts. Shine your healing light in us, and grant that the perpetual light of Christ would shine through us and into the darkness of the world around us. Help us to see your light. Help us to BE your light; through Jesus Christ our Savior, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Rev. Bradley Moore
Huntsville/Presley Chapel UMC

When I was a child, I found it incredibly rewarding and stimulating to my inquisitive mind to capture “fireflies”. Particularly interesting was when I caught several “lightning bugs” as we call them in the south and placed them in a jar. Then, I would go out into my yard lighting up the darkness.

One discovery everyone may not know is a small portion of some “fireflies” simply glow, but they do not produce much light. As a child determined to light my dark pathway I was drawn to the brighter lights instead of the small glow.

Likewise, we will do no more than give off a “small glow” without the presence of Jesus and his spirit. If we want to light up the darkness around us we must stay connected to our power source.

We must remain determined to move through our dark world, as we share the light of Christ. Allowing others to be drawn to the bright light of Christ in our lives.

Together, may we take confidence in the true light as 1 John 5 illustrates in the message: “What came into existence was Life,

and the Life was Light to live by.

The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;

the darkness couldn’t put it out.”

As we prepare for holy conferencing let us let our jars be filled with the light of Christ, and then we will be fully aglow offering light to the pathways around us. Would you join me as we pray: “Light of Jesus; you came down into darkness to give light and life that all might experience your transforming love. Help us as your children of light to likewise shine brightly. As your disciples, may we light a path back to you and along the way be a blaze that darkness cannot extinguish. In the name of the light giver Jesus, our Lord-Amen!

Rev. John Mark Moore
First UMC, Cave City/Sharp UMC

Holy and Life-giving God,

With the breath of life, you created light and said that it was good. When the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years, you used a pillar of fire to guide them in the darkness. And when your people yet again were led astray by their sinful nature, in the fullness of time you gave us the Light of the World, Jesus the Christ, to light the path back to you.

We give you thanks and praise that you are a God of light who is always providing light to Illuminate the path back to you for our wandering feet.

Oh Holy One, you promised that the darkness would not overcome the Light and we trust in your divine provision. But if we are truthful Lord, the darkness of death, racism, and extreme polarization have made our world very dark. Forgive us for losing our way in the darkness and idolatry of the world. Shine your light on the dark crevices of our hearts and into the deep divisions of your world. Reveal the truth of who each of us has become and give us the courage to see and accept our truth.

Grant the sunshine of your Holy Spirit to illuminate the path forward in, with, and through Jesus Christ’s saving grace. And help us to choose only the path revealed by the light of your love.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer. Amen.

Rev. Judy Rudd
Lakeside UMC, Pine Bluff

Holy Creator God,
You made the light that shines in our life.
You made the sun, moon, and stars as symbols of your light that pierces the darkness we experience.
Like the light that radiated from the face of your Son on that holy mountain,
Like the light that shines on the the path of our journey,
Like the light that breaks through the shadow of night as a city on a hill or a light house on the beach,
Your light overcomes even the darkest darkness.
May your light shine in us.
May your light shine through us.
May your light shine from us.
May we share your light and let not the darkness overcome us.
In the name of Jesus, the bright morning star, Amen.

Rev. Daniel Thueson
First UMC, Charleston

Almighty Father,
In this world of darkness, You shed the Light for all to see though some do not understand. We come with our full body and soul in the likeness of You and pray that as believers we will take the Light out into this world. The Light is the only saving grace we can bring to the darkness. Father, enhance our methods of sharing, enhance our methods of reaching, enhance our methods of loving those who remain in darkness. Even though darkness is near we are called to be Your beacon of Light to share and love. With the love you showed us first we come open and honestly into Your present. In your loving Son’s name, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Rev. Laura Butkovic
Faith/Gardner UMC

O Holy God,

 

The light is so bright when we come into this world. Often it is the lights of a delivery room and the hopeful light of love between our parents. As we get older, we come to fear and expect the darkness. That darkness may take the form of feeling inadequate, or being reprimanded for being a problem, or feeling a disconnect from all the assumptions around us. Those assumptions tell us what we should be, how we should act, and who our friends should be. The darkness becomes a safe hiding place from the world of broken dreams.

 

But then, there are those glimmers of light that will not go away. There is that teacher that loves you when no one else seems to care. There is that pastor that sees something in you and affirms it. There is that friend that never lets you go and continually reminds you of the light.

 

Then one day, that light finally enters your life and it begins to do its work. It is patient but determined. It remains present even when you refuse to allow it to move forward. But, O God, one day, we stop resisting and we discover joy. There is still darkness out there but the darkness in here will not let it take up residence again. The darkness will keep coming – personally, collectively, and globally. But we will choose to hold to the light. We will teach it. We will preach it. We will live it. And we will pray it becomes contagious. Thank you for the light of your Son, Jesus Christ. It is in his name we pray, amen.

Rev. Beth Waldrup
First UMC, Camden

O Holy God of Eternal Life and Light, you have brought forth the true Light, which was from the beginning: Grant that we, who know the Light may bask in it now on earth and in the heavenly places with you to come. It is hard for us mere mortals to imagine your godliness except in the knowledge of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is so awesome to ponder the reality of your Guiding Light; so, give us the courage to be they who believe in that Light, so that we see can see the Light and receive the power of the Holy Spirit to become children of God, which is more than belief, it is the life changing and Light-filled experience of knowing Jesus as our Savior and Lord. Show us the Light, so we can know you better and see you clearer. We ask these things, in the name of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – who is the Way, the Truth, the Life, and the Light. Amen.

Rev. Tom Mullins
First UMC, McGehee/Wesley UMC

God of us all, you made this amazing world to reflect your love, and yet we destroy it. You made human beings to be vessels of your love, and yet we reject it. I wonder why you haven’t just completely given up on us.

 

And yet you haven’t. Over and over again, you reach out to us, even as we push you away. Your love is overwhelming, and your grace is eternal.

 

Thank you that your son, your Word, your own self, continues to be the light that shines in and through the darkness we create. And thank you that we simply are not capable, even though we think we are all-powerful, to create a darkness which can extinguish the light which is you.

 

Please let your light shine into our time of conferencing and make it holy. Lead our actions, our words, and our hearts to create sacred space where we purposefully and eagerly set aside our tendency to focus on self and instead focus on you. Guide us to be mirrors of your grace, centering and reflecting your light to extinguish the darkness of this world, and to build a church which better reflects the image of you.

 

Amen.

Rev. Melanie Tubbs
Augusta/Bald Knob UMC

O gracious and loving God, we come before you with gratitude in our hearts for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ, the light that came into the world. In his life, we see the depth of love you have for us. In his life, we see that hope, peace and joy are the mainstays of life rather than fear, despair and doubt. We offer you our lives today to show your abiding love to all we encounter. Through Jesus Christ, the light of our lives and the light of the world. Amen.

Rev. Stephen Copley
First UMC, DeQueen/Gillham/Weekes UMC