May 26, 2023:  The End of the Meal

“Who regularly invites you into their home for a meal?” That was the first question posed on January 1, 2013, when First Light Digital Devotions premiered. I told the story about how I learned to cook when I was first out on my own and how eating is an important part of relationships with others. I wrote:

I encourage you to set a place for God at your table each day.  I know for many of us, our plates are extremely full with work or school, family obligations, charity activities and the like.  But we should make time for God each day, spending some quality time reading God’s Word and praying for our concerns and the concerns of others.  What better way to show our love for our Creator than by welcoming God into our everyday lives, just as our loved ones welcome you into their homes for nourishment, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

For ten and a half years, we have gathered in this space to share devotional time together with God. When I started this project, I don’t think I imagined it would last this long. We’ve gone from seven-day-a-week devotions to five. We started following the weekly lectionary and added writers. We moved the blog from a Weebly site to our own website. Last summer, a new editor took over the stewardship of this endeavor and added new writing voices.

And now, with this writing, our journey together in this way will end. We’ve decided to discontinue this format and move to a new camp blog, Good SOIL, which will provide spiritual formation and explore other topics around camp’s core values. We know this may come as a surprise to you, dear reader. As we gear up for a capital campaign, explore new options for camp programming, and update our brand, we thought this seemed like the best time to wind down First Light and start other exciting projects.

The great thing about the cyber world is our archives of all our postings, probably totaling over 2,600, will still be available online. So, you can look back and read and be enriched by these writings as you wish. And you will be able to spend some time “at the table” with God, growing in your faith.

As I think back on these years, it was during the camp’s 50th anniversary year that this project was started. We are closing it out in the 60th anniversary year. A lot has changed in that time but our camp’s dedication to serving God and helping children, youth, and adults grow in their faith has not. New times dictate new ways of doing that and we look forward to what is in store as camp grows in new directions.

Our devotion for the end of 2013 reminded us that:

Change is a scary word.  At times we get comfortable with life as we know it; making it a little bit different often comes with anxiety.  But change can be good.  It can be exciting and put a newness in our lives that gives us a fresh outlook on our surroundings.  We rearrange from what is to what will be.

Saying goodbye is sometimes tough to do.  Okay, it is almost always tough to do.  Saying goodbye to those who have helped shape your life, been by your side, and helped you through the good and bad is something none of us probably look forward to.  But eventually we all have to say goodbye.  Move on.  Make a change.  But with prayer and faith in God, we know that endings are new beginnings.  We know God will watch over us.

Today, we say goodbye to Digital First Light. I think instead of saying goodbye, I’m going to have gratitude. Thank you to our readers, regular and occasional, who took time to read, reflect, and spent time with God. You were encouraging and supporting every step of the way. Thank you to our writers who shared their love of Jesus and their gifts of words with us. You will never know just how many times your words struck a chord in our readers’ hearts, how many times it was exactly what they needed to hear. Thank you to my partner in ministry, Jim Vitale, for taking us to a new level with your editing and writing skills this past year. You helped greatly in discerning “what’s next?” while celebrating “what is.”

Most of all, thanks be to God for sitting at the table with us. You continue to inspire, guide, and share in the ordinary parts of our lives in extraordinary ways. We dedicate this work to your glory in thanksgiving for all that you have been and for all that you will be.

Praise be to God! Amen.

–Chad Hershberger