A few weeks ago, several of us from Auburn UMC traveled to visit and work with our partner church, First UMC of Port St. Joe Florida.

You may recall that a year ago, Port St. Joe, Mexico Beach, Panama City and the surrounding area of Florida suffered the brunt of Hurricane Michael. Since that time, we have been in partnership with the people of the Port St. Joe community as they rebuild their lives. 

While we were in worship with the church, one of their pastors, The Rev. Brittney Toner shared an inspiring message with the children. She gave them small cans of Play-Doh and asked one little boy to create a simple bowl.

The young man quickly worked his hands and within a few seconds had formed a yellow bowl that he handed over to the pastor.

Rev. Toner admired the bowl. She praised him for making the bowl. She then rolled the bowl into a yellow ball and asked if he could make it again, which he did.

This activity with the Play-Doh was done to highlight an important verse from the Hebrew Scriptures, Jeremiah 18:6, where God encourages the prophet Jeremiah to watch a potter shape and reshape a lump of clay into a useful vessel.

In the passage, God asked this important question, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter has done? ... Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.”

As I witnessed this moment in worship and heard this passage of scripture, I gave thanks for the many ways God’s hand is at work in shaping and re-shaping the lives of people along the coast.

God is working through churches and helping agencies to give people hope, direction and recovery. The same good work is happening here in Lee County with our friends in Beauregard and Smith’s Station through MEND, which was established by the East Alabama Medical Center along with area churches, ARM (Alabama Rural Ministry), UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on relief) and many other volunteer gatherings of faithful people work and walk alongside neighbors in need. 

As I watched the children of Port St. Joe UMC use Play-Doh to make, shape and then reshape their bowls, I also thought of how God is longing to bring recovery and hope to everyone’s life.

According to the message of Jeremiah, God is always longing to shape and reshape, form and re-form lives.

The challenge for me, and perhaps all of us, is to allow God to be God in our life. It is a choice, and challenge, for all of us today to live a life willing and vulnerable enough to become mold-able and malleable in God’s creative hands. 

May the work of recovery along the Florida coast, Lee County, and within all our lives, continue.  

Dr. Cory Smith is the Senior Minister of Auburn United Methodist Church. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, The Candler School of Theology at Emory University and Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. He is married to Alicia, and they have one daughter, Sarah Morgan.

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