Monday, March 29, 2010

Daring to Dream

Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.
-- Joel 2:28e

It's been just over four years since we gathered on the grounds of Gulfside Assembly to honor the sacred memories of that hallowed place following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. For decades, Gulfside was the only place African American Methodists could safely gather and enjoy the beauty of the beach and taste the salt of the sea. That day, I heard stories of those who had been called to preach in the old chapel that once stood just south of the entrance to the Gulfside grounds. One pastor told his story, reminding those gathered that one would feel the spirit of God poured out as someone would chant, "somebody's gonna be called to preach tonight!" Inviting the Holy Spirit to come, always seemed to yield response, we were told. Eddie Brown tells of standing in the surf, fishing as a boy. His eyes dance as he remembers. I've heard stories of travelers driving across the south in fear during the forties and fifties relaxing only when their feet touched the sacred soil of Gulfside Assembly.

After Hurricane Katrina, the memories remain but a new dream is being born. There are dreams that are taking shape: a dream of taking that sacred place and developing a myriad of ministries and mission, including place for elders to live out their days. The dream keepers always draw us forward. That, as much as anything was the gift Martin Luther King, Jr. gave us: a dream of a different future. Gulfside Assembly holds before us both a sacred past and a dream for a brighter future.

It holds for us the promise of:

  • a place where the lion and the lamb will lie down together.
  • a place where elders will dream dreams and young people will have visions.
  • a place for healing of hearts and hurts.
  • a place where young people will once again experience God's call upon their lives.
Dr. Morsi Mansour, who dared to dream about a new future for children in a poverty stricken area of Egypt said, "if you have faith in God, if your spirit is full of faith, then you will find hope everywhere. You will not give up. It will take patience. There will be obstacles. But you will be like the river, going around the rocks." -- Rev. Bill McAlilly

Prayer: Loving God, stir up in us a desire to dream your dream for our lives and your world. When we face obstacles and feel defeated, gracious Lord, when our world is broken by war or by storm, give us patience to begin again. Grant us the perseverance to press on when we feel pressed down. Let our lives and our love flow toward the promise of a better tomorrow. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, we pray. Amen.

--Rev. Bill McAlilly is the Superintendent of the Seashore District.

God is Still In Control!
Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer

Monday, March 22, 2010

God is Making All Things New

I gathered with the leaders of a church named Bethany. As a conversation starter I asked them about their name. No one in the group was present at the naming. No one recalled giving much thought to it. We explored the scripture together, looking for Bethany. In time, someone commented, "Bethany appears to be the place where Jesus felt at home.

"Then, someone else mused, "It would be wonderful if our church were a place where Jesus feels at home?"

Jesus' love for this family -- Mary and Martha and Lazarus -- is obvious. Their home in Bethany is a place of retreat, of companionship, of refreshment. In this place, we see how God acts to make all things new.

Tears flow and perfume is poured out. Both are acts of love and devotion. Jesus weeps by Lazarus' tomb. Mary pours out costly perfume and anoints the feet of Jesus. As Jesus weeps, death and grief is palpable. The smell of the perfume fills the air and Jesus' own death is foreshadowed.

The stories are woven together artfully. Mary is identified in the second verse of the preceding chapter (John 11:2) as "the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair." By intent, the stories intertwine and enrich one another: the stories explore love and grief, devotion and resistance, death and resurrection.

Some of the religious leaders are distressed by the raising of Lazarus. They resist, afraid of losing their own power and influence: "If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him..." (John 11:48). Those who see Mary's extravagant act of devotion are immediately critical: "Why did she not sell the perfume and give it to the poor?"

The foreboding of the suffering and death of Jesus are vividly present. The sense of danger heightens. Mary is treated as Jesus is treated. Those who love Jesus will share in his suffering. New life will not come easily.

As we approach this Fifth Sunday in Lent, let us own with Paul our greatest desire: "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings..." In any place of your own suffering, may Christ be with you in your place at the foot of the Cross.

With gratitude for your ministry,

--Bishop Hope Morgan Ward

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
United Methodist Communications

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Teach Us To Pray

I love a good loaf of bread. When I lived in Fargo one of my favorite places was The Great Harvest Bread Company. They make some of the best bread I've had. If you have never tried their olive loaf or their cheddar garlic loaf, you have missed something special. And I loved the fact that I could stop by and actually be given a taste of a particular kind of bread before I bought it. I would buy a loaf and eat it all week. Just one good slice would easily make a very filling - and a very satisfying - meal.

That wonderful bread made me realize how just 'bread alone' could, indeed, be sustaining.

"Give us this day our daily bread", begins the third line of the Lord's Prayer.

Now this is a statement we understand. We understand food -

· with our full to over-flowing pantries;
· with our grocery stores lined with items we'll probably never need;
· with our restaurants offering big, bigger, and even BIGGER portions;
· with many of us trying to shed those stubborn pounds;
... we understand food.

Or do we?

Do we really understand the power of this line, "Give us this day our daily bread"?
Do we really understand the depth of the cry, "Give us food"?

We understand the kind of hunger that makes our stomachs growl when we go too long between meals. Or the hunger that comes from smelling the holiday turkey or ham cooking in the oven. But that kind of hunger can easily be resolved by a quick trip to the refrigerator or the cupboard.

This cry goes much deeper. It is a cry of millions across our world for whom the lack of 'daily bread' is a constant, life-threatening condition. This is the cry of people whose very existence is threatened by hunger - people for whom a loaf of bread is truly life-sustaining.

Perhaps as we pray this prayer, this third line will call us to remember - and respond to - those who have no 'daily bread' - whether they are in Haiti, or Chile, or the Sudan ... or just down the street.

In the study guide for the Lord's Prayer, Becoming Jesus' Prayer, published by the Iowa Annual Conference, we read these words:
To honestly pray "give us this day our daily bread" is to be reminded of our role in establishing God's kingdom of justice on earth as it is in heaven. It involves feeding the hungry. But there is more to this prayer. It would be an easy task if the prayer were only asking us to share our 'leftovers" with those who lack food. The prayer is subversive. (p. 26)

It is our responsibility to share what we have with the world, and if we really did share, hunger could truly be a thing of the past.

There is one other thought I would like to share regarding this particular line of the Lord's Prayer. As we pray for bread to sustain our lives, we should also pray for that which sustains our souls.

"Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."" (John 6:35)

In a world that tries to convince us that more 'things' will fulfill our lives, Jesus reminds us of the deeper hunger within our souls - a hunger that can only be satisfied by God.

In the words of the Communion hymn:
You satisfy the hungry heart
With gift of finest wheat.
Come, give to us, O saving Lord,
The bread of life to eat.
(UMH #629)

So as you pray this Disciple's Prayer this week, when you get to the phrase, "Give us this day our daily bread", pause for a moment and offer a special prayer for those who have no 'daily bread'. Then take another moment and pray that you might find the soul-filling bread you need to continue your walk through life.

Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread ...

Amen and amen.

--Bishop Deb Kiesey, Dakotas Diary, Lent, 2010

God is Still in Control!
Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
United Methodist Communications

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Dear sisters and brothers,

As the season of Lent continues, we are confronted daily with the journey Jesus makes to Jerusalem and the Cross. We read and ponder the text recorded in three of the Gospels: "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24, repeated at Mark 8:34 and Luke 9:23) The "following" part we have incorporated into our mission statement, and have encouraged from pulpit to classroom. Unfortunately, we have almost made it sound easy, like a game of follow the leader. The "denying" and "taking up" parts are another matter. We would just as soon skip those, but that is precisely what confronts us as Lent unfolds.

Just as we have invested ourselves, our time, and some of our resources in an overwhelming response to the earthquake in Haiti, another one strikes. This time it strikes Chile, and this time of even stronger magnitude than the January quake that devastated so much and took the lives of so many in Haiti. One is left wondering how much more we can endure; how much more sacrificing and sharing will be needed; how many more disasters are yet to be. And each time, our desire, our commitment, and our passion for following Jesus is put to the test. Each time we are called upon to share the burden, the pain and suffering of so many, with each picture telling yet another story.

Once again, we United Methodist Christians in the Western North Carolina Conference will, I am confident, respond with generosity and prayers. Once again, United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) will respond with long-term assistance. Already UMCOR is on the scene working side-by-side and hand-in-hand with our partner organizations, Iglesia Metodista de Chile, Ministerio Social Metodista, and Equip Metodista de Accio n Humanitaria. Our conference web site ( will have updated information on our response, as well as information about making donations either through the Conference Treasurer's Office or directly to The Advance (#3021178).

In the midst of these disasters, we are also approaching the annual Sunday known as One Great Hour of Sharing. On the Fourth Sunday in Lent (March 14), we will once again be invited to share in this special offering that generates support for our on-going work in response to suffering throughout the world. I urge every church across our conference to receive this offering, along with our gifts for the specific crises in Haiti and Chile. As I travel across our area, I am constantly inspired by and grateful for the wonderful way that you are engaged in mission projects locally and around the world. I hope that your generosity and compassion combine for an overflowing offering to assist those who are hurting.

All of which brings me back to where I started, the "denying" and "taking up" Gospel references. To make sacrifices on behalf of others means that we who have been blessed in many ways will have to adjust our own ways of living. Perhaps we will have to deny ourselves that extra purchase or additional meal out; or, perhaps we will have to make a sacrificial gift that stretches us; or, perhaps we will have to trust God deeper. Following Jesus was never intended to be a smooth highway, without challenging moments along the way. But it is the way!

--Larry M. Goodpaster,

God is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
United Methodist Communications

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Lenten Devotional from the Mississippi Conference
"Be steadfast in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain."
(1 Corinthians 15:58)

I recently went to the movies to see The Book of Eli. To my surprise this movie was somewhat Christian-based, an action adventure about a man who has a goal and will not be stopped. It stars Denzel Washington as Eli, who walks alone across the dangerous wasteland that once was America, driven by his commitment to this goal and the faith to see it through. The movie is set in a world 30-40 years in the future, decimated by some unspecified global disaster. Eli is on a mission to bring what remains of humanity the knowledge that could be its redemption.

But beyond its obvious entertainment value, does The Book of Eli have more in store for us than just a man who has been on a journey for some 30 years?

Either way, as we watch this character's story unfold on the big screen, we might ask how our own lives and choices reflect his. To what extent do we rely upon our own strength and wisdom, and not on God's? What emotional journey and final destination do we travel? Where and how do we differentiate between protecting our faith walk and being vulnerable, especially to people God can use to speak into our lives? What are the barren roads-literal or metaphorical-we use to numb life's pain? And how can God help us with these things?

Whether we see the movie, The Book of Eli, or not, these are certainly the types of things we all should be asking of ourselves-and each other.

The movie closes with the final words of Eli's last prayer, saying he has completed his job, won the race, and kept the faith. During this Lenten season let us begin walking the road on the start of our own journey of growing the beloved community of reconciliation; spreading the word of hope that Jesus brought--the words of hope for our future. Remember to shepherd others, to where they can learn of the hope they almost lost.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to let nothing-and no one- stand in our way when it comes to serving you. Help us to keep moving to fulfill our destiny and bring help to a ravaged people. Amen.

---Tim Crisler is a member of White Oaks UMC in Crystal Springs and serves as the Mississippi Conference Lay Leader.

God is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
United Methodist Communications

Monday, March 1, 2010

Religion 101: Connectional System helps link support

There are many times during the year when I am thankful to be a part of what United Methodists call a Connectional System.

As busy people, we can't be everywhere doing everything all the time. So we rely on our "connection" -- phone calls, e-mails, Webcasts and sometimes the slow but faithful "snail mail" -- all these ways of making contact with another person who is in the needed location and is able to respond.

I have found that I can call upon pastors when I have had parishioners facing surgery at Stanford.

It came as no surprise to me that the United Methodist Committee on Relief was one of the first agencies to respond when the earthquake happened in Haiti.

I am so appreciative to be a part of a faith community where people I may never know can respond instantly.

Truth be told, the committee has been responsive internationally for years, sharing services before, during, and after a disaster.

One hundred percent of all financial donations go directly to services with the committee; all administrative costs are covered through another fund. That's often unheard of in this day and age.

I cannot be everywhere, but faithful work is being done all over the world. I share in that ministry, too. And you can be assured that when someone calls upon me to visit a loved one, or needs a piece of information about Merced -- and yes, this has actually happened -- I will do my utmost to respond.

We experience this in our community, don't we?

Perhaps you've had some need and a neighbor responded. You've been unsure about something and a stranger asked if you are in need of help.

Maybe you have made contact with an office worker and were patched through to another department. That is "connectional."

Some people might say that is "customer service; that's their job,"

But I think when someone goes out of their way to respond with human kindness with no expectation for payment, that effort is Jesus at work. United Methodists would call it "being connectional." And I would call it grace.

--Rev. Jay Pierce

Please encourage your leaders and congregation members to give to the World Service Fund apportionment at 100%.

--- Jay K. Pierce is pastor at United Methodist Church of Merced. You can reach him at (209) 722-5777.

God is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
United Methodist Communications