Monday, February 22, 2010

Poor, and Yet Making Many Rich

We are treated as impostors, and yet are true;As unknown, and yet are well known;As dying, and see -- we are alive;As punished, and yet not killed;As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;As poor, yet making many rich;As having nothing, and yet possessing everything. -- II Corinthians 6:8-10

Wearing our mortality with ashes upon our foreheads, we begin our Lenten journey.

This is the season of great mystery in Christ Jesus: we find our lives as we lose ourselves in higher purposes;
we become rich as we share lavishly;
we rise to life as we die to ourselves.

At the recent Clergy Leadership Conference in Hattiesburg,
a witness was given:
"My blood pressure was high and nothing brought it down.
I tried what doctors said and nothing worked.
I worried much about myself.
Then somehow I stopped worrying about myself.
I began to focus on the needs of others.
My blood pressure came down."

This very personal testimony is a lens for the mysterious ways of God.
God moves in ways that feel counter-intuitive.
We rise higher by living more deeply.
We find inner peace as we reach out more expansively.
We live as we die to ourselves.

It is possible to have nothing and yet to possess everything.

Lent is an invitation to live and learn into the mystery of Christ.
I hope you will give time and attention to these opportunities on the horizon.

May they be occasions for the working of the Holy Spirit in your life and ministry.

---Bishop Hope Morgan Ward
God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
United Methodist Communications

Friday, February 19, 2010

Yearning for Beloved Community

I wandered through the consignment store, looking for treasures. It is amazing what you can find in such places for pocket change. As I paid for a couple of picture frames, I saw the cashier's face change from a smile to a frown.

"Don"t let her eat that in here!" The words came out of her mouth in a rush. The child in a stroller was opening a lollipop. This was hardly a place where candy on the floor would be a crisis.

I reached for the little Spanish I know. "Ella est muy linda," I offered her parents, embarrassed by the harsh words of rejection. The child was very beautiful, undeserving of rebuke.

Her parents seemed to recover. As their eyes met mine, there was deep connection and mutual gratitude for shared space. The cashier turned away.

This was not a heroic moment. It was a tragic moment, one that bothers me deeply.

Why are we harsh with one another? What mars our souls so deeply that we cannot welcome one another? What are our children learning from us? How are they shaped by our unexamined biases?Beloved community can break through, anytime, anyplace. It cannot erase harsh words and violent acts. It can be a means of God's redemption of our weaknesses and our mistakes.

This Lent, let us pay attention to what disturbs us, particularly if it seems to bother no one else. It is in that place that the next work of reconciliation is likely to be done.

-- Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, Residing Bishop in the Mississippi United Methodist Conference.

Prayer: Disturb us, loving God, and work within that disturbance to soften our hearts and strengthen our vision for the reconciliation you intend for all people, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Wisconsin Stewardship Stories

The following story is one of many stewardship stories that we will share from individuals throughout the Wisconsin Annual Conference. If you have a stewardship story or idea to share, please send it to us today. All items submitted are done so with the understanding that permission is granted by the author to the Wisconsin United Methodist Foundation for the purpose of sharing items in this forum with other United Methodist churches.


Yes, my income is less; yes, I need to tighten my belt; but, please hear the experience of a couple from First UMC in West Allis when they reached retirement.

Introducing Sheridan and “Lou” Ellsworth. Sheridan retired from a long career of teaching and as a Principal in the West Allis School System. “Lou” was a homemaker and a very talented artist. They loved this church! When retirement came they pondered “must we reduce our giving to match our reduced income?”

After much thought and prayer the answer was, “Heavens, no!” They discovered that when not holding a regular job their expenses were much less, and so in retirement they actually increased their giving!

You cannot love something and not offer your best – especially to your church, your family, your friends, and your Lord … “for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also!”
--Rev. Earl F. Lindsay, Retired

To learn more about the connectional giving system of the United Methodist Church click here.

Please continue to encourage your leaders and members to give 100% to the World Service Fund apportionment. Many live will be touched by your gifts of love.

God is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
United Methodist Communications

Monday, February 8, 2010

In a meeting with representatives of our Conference Committee on Young Adult Ministries, I spent a lot of time explaining how various communications channels work on different levels of the denomination.

Our Conference chair of Young Adult Ministries, Glen Simpson, responded “With the technology to help us connect today, there is really no excuse for us not to be able to make the systems more efficient and focus on ministry,” he said, as he smiled at what he was about to say next. “If Jesus came back today, he’d start his ministry on FaceBook.”

In the meantime, I received a call from Nashville, TN asking for me to help with a United Methodist News Service story on the issue of healthcare and specifically, to find some individuals on the local church level to interview. Now this is the connectional system I know well, and I jumped at the opportunity to help my fellow communicators.

I was able to provide support for the article, and I got a call thanking me for the help. Before the individual hung up, he said “I have another item you may be able to help with…”

The UMNS FaceBook page had received a message from someone in Bullhead City, Ariz., who was in desperate need of help. I took down the contact information and sent out a simple email sharing the story with the local pastor and several people I felt could be of assistance. Before the week was out the family had their physical needs taken care of, and, perhaps more importantly, had found the spiritual support of a church family.

As United Methodists we take great pride in our Connectional System, and it is truly amazing to see it in action. However, helping this family and seeing all the pieces that led to providing that help, made it clear to me that we cannot become complacent. When we use technology and our Connectional System together we can achieve amazing things.

--Stephen J. Hustedt is the director of communications
for the Desert Southwest Conference

Please encourage your leaders and congregation to give 100% to the World Service Fund apportionment. To learn more about the connectional giving system of the denomination, click here.

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
United Methodist Communications

Monday, February 1, 2010

One of things that I get to do several times a month is teach a Christian based recovery principles program to women prisoners. On Tuesday evenings, if time seems to be getting away from me at work, I will tell my colleagues, “I need to leave. Tonight I go to prison.” If there is a someone around who does not understand the volunteer work that I do at the prison, I usually get a strange stare to which I might respond “when I am here, I am on work release.” I have fun seeing the look on people’s faces when I make that statement. However for me volunteering at the Tennessee Prison for Women is most rewarding. I get to help women chart a path to a new life for when they leave prison. I see the role that I play as a very important one that changes the lives of many women but it does and should not stop there.

Rehabilitation is a process with several components to a renewed life. The United Methodist church is doing all it can to help youth offenders (male and female) experience rehabilitation through the Human Relations Day Youth Offender Rehabilitation program. One of six Special Sundays observed by The United Methodist Church, the Human Relations Day offering supports Community Developers, United Methodist Voluntary Service and the Youth Offender Rehabilitation Programs. These efforts aim to heal injustice in the United States and Puerto Rico by encouraging social justice and work with at-risk youth.

The church wants these young people to return to society and become contributing members. To that end, it receives offerings that offer grants for these ministries. Stan Basler, director of UM Criminal Justice and Mercy Ministries for the Oklahoma Annual Conference, is an advocate of restorative justice in the state of Oklahoma. He emphasizes that restorative justice is community-centered justice and that restorative justice in practice includes victim-offender mediation programs and drug courts.

If you are wondering why I am writing about Human Relations Day after January 17, my answer is this. January 17 is the official designated Sunday to take up offerings but you may celebrate/observe and receive your offering any time during the year. This year’s giving might have been preempted by the Haiti earthquake giving but as Bishop Gregory Palmer so wisely urged churches not to let the giving to these causes compete, I ask you to do the same. I would say that you should give all through the year. Local church members can give at their local churches by making their checks payable to their local church noting that it is an offering for Human Relations Day. They can also give online. Your local church will be credited as long as you make that selection. While we say Human Relations “Day,” the needs are here all year long and you can give at anytime.

You can learn about other ministries that your giving to Human Relations Day supports here.

Elsie Cunnigham is the director of Connectional Giving at United Methodist Communications

God is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
United Methodist Communications