Monday, December 19, 2011

Reflection in Peace

"For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named" Wonderful Counselor; Mighty God; Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”
(Isaiah 9: 6-7, NRSV)

REALITY SOMETIMES DEFIES PEACE
For many Christians, preparations for Christmas are more hectic than peaceful. Parties to host or attend; gifts to purchase and get to their recipients; favorite foods to prepare; houses to clean; worship services, concerts and recitals to attend; poor to care for and serve. And there are other realities which contradict what seems to be the way of peace -- crime in some neighborhoods, domestic violence, conflict in schools or in work places. The poor and the homeless whose presence, visibly or in the back of our minds, pricks our consciousness, reminding us of the violence poverty does to a body and to a heart. Along with the deployment of more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, we are reminded that in too many places, the world continues to function completely antithetically to the ways of peace.


JESUS BROUGHT US PEACE
In many aspects, the days during which Christ was born were similar to our own times. The need for peace was born out of the lack of it, for the majority of God's people. In Jesus, God responded to the cries of the marginalized, the oppressed, the despairing, for whom peace was not easily attained. But it was into the very midst of conflict, poverty, hunger, disease, injustice and hopelessness that God in Christ Jesus appeared as a visible symbol of hope and life.
The birth of Jesus was proof that God is a God of peace and of justice. Endless peace is the result of knowing the healing, forgiving, restorative, miraculous love of God. Jesus showed us what it looked like, sounded like, felt like as he fed the hungry, gave hope to the poor, healed the sick, raised the dead and called for justice for the marginalized and excluded.

PEACE STARTS WITHIN
It is often difficult to believe that these movements of God are still occurring and live within and among us. Yet, they are. The way of peace is an inside-out job. We are God's vessels for the change we wish to see. So I invite us to live into this season of new life and new beginnings, releasing from within us the peace that comes from knowing the love and presence of our God resident in each one of us.

BE A VESSEL OF GOD'S PEACE
Human nature is amazingly predictable. Love multiplies, hope multiplies, faith in God multiplies. The more we give, the more we receive. It truly IS more of a blessing to give. God's immeasurable gift of love to humanity cannot be repaid, but we CAN respond in kind. We can respond by being vessels of God's peace in the midst of the challenges of real life. We can exemplify and speak peace in our congregations, our families, our circuits, in our schools and our places of work and community. Not just some of us, but each of us, all of us. Looking to the author and finisher of our faith, we are the agents of God's change, transformation, movement and spirit of peace today.

LET'S CELEBRATE A NEW SPIRIT OF PEACE
With these things in mind, let us celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Through him we expect a new spirit of peace in Wisconsin Conference. New peace that gives birth to new life in ministry and mission in Wisconsin and throughout the world!
"But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be the sign for you; you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, And on earth peace among those whom he favors.' (Luke 2:10-14)

In the Spirit and Peace of Christ, Bishop Linda Lee



God Is Still In Control!



Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer

UMCGiving.org

Monday, December 12, 2011

Glad for Advent

CBS News Anchor Dan Rather wrote in his book, I Remember, about watching the Flying Valentis while growing up. He writes, “Walking past a vacant lot on our way to school early in the morning, we would come across the Flying Valentis practicing in their long tights and tank tops.” The Flying Valentis were a troupe of circus acrobats who traveled and performed throughout the United States.

“Although we were used to their art,” Rather recalls, “the Flying Valentis never ceased being the wonder of the neighborhood. Every morning it was like getting invited to a great show without having to buy a ticket. They did triple somersaults above their practice nets and caught each other by the forearms while swinging from the trapeze. We’d gasp when they missed connections and fell into their nets.”

From watching this family work out, Rather and his friends discovered that practice meant a lot of hard work. It might have looked like a lot of fun, but it was work. Rather writes, “From this hard-working family with its specialized brand of togetherness, we learned that even life in the limelight was no cakewalk. When we traipsed back from school in the afternoon the Valentis were still swinging away from their nets, and when they returned from a tour looking banged up and limping with limbs in casts we could see that a price had to be paid for fame.” Rather learned a valuable lesson from watching the Flying Valentis, “Their vicissitudes would have been good preparation for survival in the acrobatics of network television.”

Advent is our time of holiday preparation. It is a time when we look back, examining Israel’s expectation of the long-awaited Messiah. It is also a time to look forward to the day when Jesus will return. We do not know when that long anticipated event shall occur, but we try to stay prepared. Like flying a trapeze, Advent/Christmas season often looks like a lot of fun with all of the tinsel and lights. However, without the disciplines of reflection and preparation, this season can make us end up looking as battered as working without a net.

Advent season gives us the spiritual net to help us survive the hurriedness of Christmas. With great panic we can either say that there are only 4 Sundays until Christmas Eve and we’re not ready, or with the right amount of spiritual preparation we can say that we’re looking forward to it. With adequate reflection, we can celebrate this special season with all the wonder and poignancy that it deserves. Don’t miss the net!



--Tim McClendon, A Potters View




God Is Still In Control!


Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer

UMCGiving.org

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Advent Joy!

My spirit rejoices in God my Savior... -- Luke 1:47



With joy and hope, we sing with Mary:


We magnify the Lord,

we rejoice in God our Savior

for God comes to us.

God works through us

so that all call us blessed.

God who is mighty does great things for us.

Holy is God's name.

God's mercy is great.

God shows strength,

scattering the proud,

bringing down the powerful,

exalting the lowly,

filling the hungry,

sending the rich empty away.

God remembers and does

all that God has promised.



This beautiful Advent song expresses God's purpose and power in the world.



Wherever God's people sing this song with their lives, this world is infused with compassion, justice and faith.



Wherever God's people sing this song with their resources, this world is made more gentle, hospitable and peaceful.



Wherever God's people sing this song with their spirit, this world is seasoned with the salt and leaven of holiness.



Let us sing this song today as Advent anticipation continues, as our hearts are made ready for Christ who comes into our world anew this Christmas.



Sharing joy with you in this holy season,



--by Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, MS AC



God Is Still In Control!



Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer

UMCGiving.org

Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas isn’t the same without Advent journey

Some years ago a prominent megachurch pastor preached an electrifying sermon that he concluded with a memorable phrase: “Get Ready! Get Ready! Get Ready!”

Soon the phrase was heard in sermons across the nation. A gospel song was eventually written featuring the phrase and it has become popular in many Christian circles.

“Get Ready! Get Ready! Get Ready!” could very well be the heralding as Christians around the world prepare in this Advent season, to celebrate the birth of the Christ child.

Advent is marked by two markedly different responses, waiting and preparation. The former is passive, the latter active. Yet they need not be mutually exclusive; there are virtues in each.

Some waiting is passive. The Christian is not involved in any activity or any particular preparation, but simply waits. The preparation might be inward, requiring no outward routine, no visible sign of movement. It might be silent, reflective and meditative. It could be a time not of communal but solitary prayer.

Time to ponder
These special moments and times remind me of the way Scripture records that Mary’s heart pondered what she had heard. Just she and God.

Most Americans don’t like waiting! We don’t like to wait for a traffic light to change or to stand in line waiting to be served. Many expectant parents don’t like to wait nine months to learn the gender of their new infant! Waiting can be a bit of a challenge.

What I so like about Advent is its purposeful waiting. Whether positive or active, it is not stagnant. Something takes place in the period of “not yet.” We wait, but we are not idle. Or at least that is the hope of Advent.

Advent is a time of preparing the heart. It is a time of prayer and song and Word. And yes, it is a time of gift purchasing and decorating. Of heart pondering and silence.

In a few short weeks Christmas will arrive, but Advent can make all the difference in how it is received.

Missing out
I remember one year when I simply missed Advent. I was out of the country for nearly a month, and was so focused and absorbed in the assignment that took me from home and the normal activities of December that I really lost track of time. In fact, I do not recall preparing at all for the great Christian celebration.

I returned home two days before Christmas. Exhausted from the long trip back to the United States and the changing of time zones, I slept the better part of two days. Like Rip Van Winkle, I finally awoke, but when I did, it was Christmas Day.

I never quite caught the Christmas spirit that year. There was something missing. It was Advent! I vowed never to miss Advent again.

I have learned something about special trips, especially those taken with my family. The journey itself carries a special gift, with unique experiences and memories. In a real sense, the journey prepares us for the destination.

So each year I look forward to the journey of Advent. And when Christmas Day finally arrives, I am ready! I am ready! I am ready!

--by Retired Bishop White, Endorsing Agent for Chaplain Ministries and bishop-in-residence at Candler School of Theology.

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
UMCGiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org

Monday, November 21, 2011

A future with amahl

Amahl is the Arabic word for hope. As we look toward a Future with Hope, a remarkable pilgrimage is unfolding in the place Jesus knew and loved.

The first experiences of our 10 women bishops’ pilgrimage have been in the Galilee, the areas of Jesus’ birth, childhood and 80% of his ministry.

The pilgrimage is remarkable in several ways: the pilgrims are from the African Methodist Episcopal, Christian Methodist Episcopal, Episcopal and United Methodist churches. The pilgrimage links us with Arab Palestinian Christians, "a minority within a minority" in the country of Israel, as well as Jews and Muslims.

The pilgrimage focuses on the leadership of women in empowering women, developing economic opportunities for women, creating a compassionate and just future for children and families, and weaving peaceful communities.

We have visited with remarkable leaders, women and men, who are persistent and persevering in the way of peace. They reach from both sides of the great divide between the dominant Jewish communities and the minority Arab communities.

Palestinian and Jewish women are working together, creating economic opportunity in the production and selling of baskets, honey, olive oil and soap. They are not learning a new way of life together; rather, as Father Elias Chacour observes, they are living as they lived side by side 60 years ago.

"We want you to know that there is a community in Israel that believes in a shared future," a young woman told us. Her observation has been echoed by others in our first two days here.

In story after story, we have heard faith journeys from people working in humble places and not looking for headlines. They live a vibrant witness of faith.

A woman rabbi chooses to shop in a Palestinian village rather than drive farther as other Jews do to shop in a Jewish area.

Palestinian and Jewish women work together to open a cooperative.

Palestinian Christians educated in the United States return to Nazareth in faithful response to God's call to participate as leaders in the hope for peace.

The reality is powerful: We are among the "living stones," to use the words of Father Chacour.

Beautiful lives inspire even more than beautiful churches.

--by Wayne Rhodes, Director of Communications, General Board of Church & Society


God Is Still In Control!


Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
UMCGiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org

Monday, November 14, 2011

Giving for the Glory of God

“Imagine the President of the United States and the Committee on Ways and Means sending out jugs, mugs, boxes, barrels, eggs, and buttons with their pictures on them to catch pennies to meet the fiscal needs of the great government of the United States!

Imagine the different states and counties holding fairs, festivals, concerns, and ice cream socials. With women cooking, sewing, and acting so that each community may meet its apportionment!

This would disgrace any earthly government in its own eyes and the eyes of the nations. Yet this is what Christians are doing year by year to finance the Kingdom of God!”

-from Gems of Thought on Tithing, published 1911; By George W. Brown, a Presbyterian layman

-----------------------------------------------------

The early Hebrews mentioned only crops and herds in their base for a tithe. Later when the people settled and started raising olives and grapes, products such as oil and wine were included in the base. A generation or two ago people could not conceive of anything but cash as the base for a tithe. But with more people investing in the stock market, and in real estate, people can now consider tithing other assets as well.

For more information on giving with assets other than cash, visit our website at www.wumf.org.

--adapted from an email from the WI UMF, WI Ann Conf

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
UMCGiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org

Monday, November 7, 2011

It's time for a 'thank offering'

That time of the year is approaching, when we are called to reflect on our lives and recognize that we are still standing – not because of our own ingenuity, intellect, or pedigree, or even because we are entitled to stand – but because God has been good to us. Even if you feel that life has left you weary and torn, the very fact that you are still alive is testimony to God’s grace and mercy.





Psalms 107 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” According to Harper’s Bible Dictionary, the ancient Israelites were instructed that it is appropriate to give a “thank offering” for occasions such as “successful passage through the desert, release from prison, recovery from a serious illness, or surviving a storm at sea.”


Few of us have suffered the desert or a storm at sea, but we’ve all thirsted through dry places, felt restricted and trapped, endured sicknesses of our own or those of loved ones, or somehow escaped the ravages of life. We’ve either been there or we’re still there.


Compton’s Interactive Bible says, “No problem is too great for God.” Psalm 107 reveals the terrible calamities experienced by the ancient Israelites: homelessness and starvation (verses 4-5), imprisonment (10-12), self-inflicted disease (17-18), and imminent shipwreck (23-27). (Since Israel was landlocked, Jews were especially fearful of turbulent seas.) In each of these cases, God was able to rescue those who called for help. The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:37: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”


When life seems to be getting the best of us, it's not always easy to stop and give thanks. But that’s just what God calls us to do. The “thank offering” was a response to coming through the tough times or because God delivered. We are called to give God thanks – not only when we are delivered – but also when all is well or when we’re weathering the storm.


Thanksgiving is almost upon us. Maybe this wasn’t your best year yet, but praise God anyway. Thanksgiving comes when we acknowledge our joy in belonging to God. Praise him that he chooses to be called our God and calls us his own.


Another interesting fact about the “thank offering”: The offering bread was made to be eaten within one day, with the understanding that thanksgiving is a daily act. We should not hold our praises, nor let the rocks cry out their thanksgiving. We are to thank God each day.


I believe we need to shout our thanksgiving so the world may know where our help comes from and so God may know we are a grateful people.


--Bishop James Swanson


God Is Still In Control!


Miss Lladale Carey

Web Producer

UMCGiving.org

Monday, August 29, 2011

Gleaners in the Field of God

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest... you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God. -- Leviticus 19:9-10


Gleaning is an ancient practice of faithful hospitality and generosity. It is listed as a law in Leviticus and is drawn gracefully for us in Bible stories.


I love the idea of gleaning and have for many years used it as meditative image for regular pastoral and now episcopal communication. As I move about, listen, watch and read I feel kinship to the ancient gleaners.


Often I am an alien in the land: I am often in a place for the first time. I am dependent upon the kindness of strangers and the expertise of others -- weather forecasters, garbage collectors, mail deliverers, airplane pilots, plumbers, electricians, information technologists, dentists.


Always I am in need of generosity, of grace. This list also is very long. Just today, I moved into the left lane without checking closely enough and a friendly horn tap and braking and smile were offered rather than road rage.


It was pure grace to be in McAllen, Texas and Reynosa, Mexico -- border towns connected by bridge across the Rio Grande. The Advance Committee gathered for the needed business and visited border ministries of our church. The genuine friendship and partnership of the Methodist Church of Mexico and the United Methodist Church in Texas are remarkable witnesses to the goodness of God as they work among the people and welcome mission work teams from around the world.


As I walked across the square in Reynosa with a leader of the Methodist Church of Mexico, I commented on the beauty around us. He responded, "Yes, it is beautiful but it is empty. People are afraid to come here." I spoke of the violence in Arizona, of the reality of violence and of beauty in every place. He responded, "There is a difference. When it happened in Arizona, no one says all Arizona is bad. When it happens here, many say all Mexico is bad." We walked on in this realization, yet in hope for God's law to be fulfilled in us, and God's grace to abound in our world.


In the square in Reynosa, I was again a gleaner in the field of God.


With gratitude for God's hospitality and compassion,



--Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, MS Ann Conf




God Is Still In Control!


Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer


United Methodist Communications

lcarey(at)umcom.org

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Time to Give Back

I turned on my television to see the unbelievable pictures of the devastation caused by the tornados that ripped through Missouri, Kansas and Iowa this Spring. Homes ripped apart; lives lost; cars overturned; trees stripped of branches and bark; and faces showing the strain of shock and disbelief.


How many times this year have we seen such pictures - whether caused by floods or tornados or fires or earthquakes or tsunamis? This has been a difficult and devastating year. And even as we here in the Dakotas have fought the fight against rising water, I am reminded that there are so many others who are reeling from disasters of much greater magnitude than ours.


I was shocked to learn at our Council of Bishops meeting this year that the UMCOR funds which allow an Annual Conference to receive an automatic $10,000 grant for disaster aid was nearly depleted. The call for those monies has been so great over the past several years, that it has put an incredible strain on those important resources.


Did you know that in the past five years the Dakotas Annual Conference has received over $ 150,000 in direct grants from UMCOR (as well as other assistance) to help with floods and fires and drought?


Did you know that One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) pays the administrative costs of UMCOR, so every penny we give goes directly to those in need?


Did you know that every time we have asked for help from UMCOR, we have received it?


Friends, we have truly benefitted from the generosity of UMCOR, and also from United Methodists across the country who have contributed to UMCOR - and therefore to us in our times of need.


It is now time to give back.


During the 2011 Annual Conference a special offering for UMCOR was taken. Furthermore I asked each local church to receive a special offering during the Summer months. These funds will go directly to UMCOR to allow them to continue to respond to disasters across the world.



  • We can be the hands and feet of Christ to hurting people.

  • We can join with other United Methodists to increase our gifts to those in need.

  • We can truly make a difference in the lives of people across the world.

In the words of Matthew 25:"Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me." (37 - 40)

With you in the Work of Christ,


--an excerpt by Bishop Deb Kiesey, Dakotas Ann Conf


God Is Still In Control!


Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
http://www.umcgiving.org/
United Methodist Communications


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Effective ministry requires continuous learning

Dr. Green was the pediatrician for our first child. I had just finished college and we were preparing to move to Atlanta for me to start seminary. Lena and I took six month old Jason for his last check up before we re-located.


As we sat in the doctor’s office in Chattanooga I told Dr. Green that we were moving so I could pursue my call to ministry. I explained that I would begin classes at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in the fall.


Dr. Green said to me, “Theology school will differ from medical school in at least one way. You won’t have to buy books but once. In the medical field things are always changing and you have to keep up. You won’t have that worry in the church.”


He was a good pediatrician but it was obvious that the good doctor did not know very much about church work. I knew it then and forty years later I am much more aware that the study of scripture, preaching/teaching, pastoral care, leadership development, church administration, time management, visioning and planning, and all other aspects of “church work” are not static. That is true today and I suspect it has always been true.


It is certainly inaccurate to think that you can learn it all and then just coast the rest of your ministry. The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. One must grow in knowledge, understanding, and wisdom to be relevant and effective in ministry. This applies equally to clergy and laity.


We in the North Georgia Conference have many opportunities help us to “present ourselves to God as persons approved, workers who do not need to be ashamed and who correctly handle the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, NIV). You can learn more about these learning experiences and register for them at http://www.ngumc.org/pages/detail/16.


--excerpt from an email by Jamie Jenkins, NGA Ann Conf




God Is Still In Control!



Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer


United Methodist Communications

lcarey-at-umcom.org

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Story of Two Seas

There are two seas in the Land of Israel. One is fresh and fish are in it. Splashes of green adorn its banks. Trees spread their branches over it, and stretch out their thirsty roots to sip of its healing waters. Children play along its shores.

The River Jordan makes this sea with sparkling water from the hills. So it laughs in the sunshine. And people build their homes near to it, birds their nests; and every kind of life is happier because it is here.

The River Jordan flows on south into another sea. Here there is no splash of fish, no fluttering leaf, no song of birds, and no children’s laughter. The air hangs heavy above its waters and neither people nor animals will drink here.

What makes this mighty difference in these seas? Not the River Jordan. It empties the same good water into both. Not the soil in which they lie; not the country “round about.”

This is the difference:

The Sea of Galilee receives but does not keep the Jordan. For every drop that flows into it another drop flows out. The giving and receiving go on in equal measure.

The other sea is shrewder, hoarding its income jealously. It will not be tempted into any generous impulse. Every drop it gets, it keeps.

The Sea of Galilee gives and lives.
This other sea cannot sustain life. It is named the Dead Sea.

There are two seas in the Land of Israel.
There are two kinds of people in the world.

--from ”The New Mahzor " for Rash Hashanah and Yom Kippur /Compiled and edited by Rabbi Sidney Greenberg and Rabbi Jonathan D. Levine



--submitted by the Wisconsin AC


God Is Still In Control!


Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer


United Methodist Communications


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Extravagant Generosity: The Heart of Giving

One of the most difficult challenges for the church is effectively bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to a negative world in desperate need of something positive and transformational. The need for positive leadership seems more acute now than ever.

As our culture continues to be affected by the aging of generations, changing economic realities, increased competition for charitable support, and a continually evolving vision for the church, a new approach to address personal generosity would be helpful. There is an apparent need to change from the traditional culture of fund raising in church to positioning generosity as a core value of discipleship and individual spiritual experience. There will never be enough fund-raising gimmicks to sustain significant giving in the church. Hearts must be encouraged so giving becomes an outpouring of one’s love for God.

The use of the word generosity is a part of the change in communication. Frequently, the word stewardship has been applied to the approach to finances in the local church. Unfortunately, that word carries negative “baggage.” The word generosity, however, communicates the appropriate biblical and spiritual value. In his book Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, Robert Schnase identifies Extravagant Generosity as one of the five fruitful practices. “The practice of generosity describes the Christian’s unselfish willingness to give in order to make a positive difference for the purposes of Christ” (Abingdon Press, 2007, p. 112). He also says, “Generosity is a fruit of the Spirit, a worthy spiritual aspiration” (p. 116). This program guide is designed to walk church leaders through a step-by-step process to planning and implementing the program Extravagant Generosity: The Heart of Giving.


From the Biblical Foundation

In the famous verse of our faith about the very nature of God (John 3:16), we again see giving explained as an expression of love: “God so loved the world that he gave . . . .” The thread is also seen in other passages. We read in 1 Chronicles 29:9 that the people responded to the financial appeal from David “whole-heartedly” (NIV). Then in Matthew 6:21, Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” And looking again to Paul’s letters to the church at Corinth, Paul suggests that generosity, as reflected by the Macedonians, came from first giving themselves to the Lord (See 2 Corinthians 8). They made a spiritual decision. In addition, Paul says, “Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Without more insightful teaching about what constitutes meaningful life, the prevalent cultural momentum of acquisition, consumption, and accumulation of possessions becomes our default value. First Timothy 6:17-19 provides an important framing passage:

Tell people who are rich at this time not to become egotistical and not to place their hope on their finances, which are uncertain. In- stead, they need to hope in God, who richly provides everything for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in the good things they do, to be generous, and to share with others. When they do these things, they will save a treasure for themselves that is a good foundation for the future. That way they can take hold of what is truly life.

Generosity, not consumption, is a key value of a meaningful life.

--Michael Reeves and Jennifer Tyler

If you would like to order this resource, please contact Cokesbury.

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
http://www.umcgiving.org/
United Methodist Communications
lcarey@umcom.org

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Giving means thinking positively



“Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times.” (Ephesians 5:16 The Message)



Tornados in the Midwest, tsunamis and earthquakes around the world, spring floods on the East Coast and along the Mississippi River, state and national budget controversies, rising gas prices … the past few months definitely feel like desperate times.

The apostle Paul writes, “Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times.” How will we as United Methodists make the most of every chance we get during these desperate times? For one thing, we’ve just come through another tax season. I’m always amazed that no matter what kind of a year we’ve had – good or bad – we always find a way to pay our taxes.

If you examine your tax return and you wish you had given Jesus a bit more so that you could give Uncle Sam a bit less, we invite you to consider starting now for next year. “Resurrect your finances” during the Easter season. Here are some suggestions:



  • Make the first check you write each pay period, or the first automatic withdrawal you make, be a “thank you” gift to God.

  • Instead of buying your children or grandchildren candy and trinkets for Easter or graduation, consider a gift in their honor to help victims of a natural disaster through UMCOR or to your church’s portion of our shared mission (apportionments).

  • Give at least 50% of the total you might spend on a vacation or special events during the summer to the ministry of Christ.

  • Try tithing; i.e., giving 10% of your income to the church for 3 months during the summer or fall.

  • See how quickly you can get out of debt under various repayment scenarios by going to http://www.moneypurposejoy.com/, click on “resources,” “calculators,” and “accelerated debt payoff calculator.”

Attend the “Freed Up From Debt” workshop at Pine Lake Camp on Friday, August 19. Register for the Stewardship Retreat at http://www.wiumcamps.org/.




--Wisconsin UM Foundation



God Is Still In Control!



Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
http://www.umcgiving.org/
United Methodist Communications
lcarey@umcom.org

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Nurture Children as Church Leaders



Three adults were meeting to plan the fall program ministries. It was summer and a third-grader came to the meeting with her mother. In the middle of a planning dilemma, one adult turned to the child and asked, “What do you think?”

Without missing a beat the child answered with a question that led to solving the problem. For the rest of the meeting, the child was included in the conversations, leading to some great plans.

How can children be involved in your congregation in ways that help them develop their own leadership skills? Think about all aspects of your congregation’s life. Where are children currently involved as leaders? Where are their voices and talents needed? The answer should be “everywhere.”


  1. When planning mission projects for children, get their input about what projects to support, when to do these projects and who the projects will target.

  2. Recruit children as liturgists. Give them copies of the liturgy in advance with their part well marked. Practice with each liturgist with the lighting and microphone in place.

  3. Invite children to be on the planning team for church dinners, vacation Bible School, special worship services, fund-raisers or church picnics. Let them help with set up, food preparation and evaluation. Keep in mind that children need to move, to complete a project that is meaningful and helpful and to feel appreciated.

  4. In Sunday school classes, small groups and other gatherings of children, include times for children (in age-appropriate ways) to practice making choices, to think about the needs of others in the church, to be creative problem solvers and to share in leadership roles.

  5. Include children when doing churchwide mailings or requests. Provide pledge cards to children as well as adults. Include children’s prayer requests for the church devotional book, recipes for the church cookbook or special covers for the bulletin.

  6. Invite children to join your quilting group or to make items for the church bazaar, to participate in the church clean-up day or a work project 9in the community, to join the prayer chain or to design the bulletin board.

Think creatively about involving children in the total life of the congregation. They need to be responsible members of the community of faith in order to grow as leaders in the congregation. Children will provide leadership today and in the future.


--Mary Alice Grann, GBOD, Interpreter Classic, Feb/Mar 2003

God Is Still In Control!



Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer

United Methodist Communications


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

We are all 'Christians under construction'



“The Most Trusted Man in Georgia.” That is the way a radio commercial portrays Clark Howard, Atlanta talk show host and consumer advocate.


Clark’s mission is to help folks “save more, spend less, and avoid getting ripped off.” Many people in this region and around the country heed his advice and share it with others. It is fairly common to hear someone start a conversation with, “Clark Howard says…”


A link on the Clark Howard website is to “Clark Stinks” where everyone is invited to offer criticism of his attitude or advice. A regular feature of his daily radio program is to read some of those comments. Often he says that he was wrong either in what he said or how he said it. It is not uncommon to hear him acknowledge that he was wrong in judgment about a product or service. Clark Howard’s mistakes do not result in serious consequences and do not have a life changing effect.


It has been said that every person has feet of clay. All of us make mistakes. Some mistakes are more serious than others. Some are more public than others and have a more widespread impact.


I have had friends and colleagues who have been accused of some terrible things. Sometimes they were guilty. Sometimes not. Either way God’s grace is theirs. Years ago one of my teachers reminded me and all of his students that “anything anyone can do, I can do.” It was Brian Bailey’s way of helping us to see that all of us are sinners in need of God’s grace.


Recently I saw one of our retired United Methodist clergy, Rev. Claude Smithmier. In conversation with him I jokingly made a critical comment. Claude reached into his pocket and with a slight smile he handed me a polished rock. It was his gentle way of saying, “He who is without sin let him cast the first stone.”


Philip Bliss penned the words of the hymn, "Hallelujah! What a Savior." The following words of the first verse speak loudly to me:


Man of Sorrows!

What a name

For the Son of God, who came

Ruined sinners to reclaim.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!



I am one of those “ruined sinners.” And so are you. We are constantly being reclaimed. We are what someone has called C.U.C--Christians Under Construction. People of faith are forever seeking forgiveness and claiming God’s redemptive love and grace.



When we sing, “Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart,” we understand that what is felt internally must be expressed externally. Our actions must be Christ-like. When they are not, then our only hope is to confess our sins and trust God to forgive us and restore us to a right relationship with God and with other human beings. And to repair the damage that we have caused. I believe God is capable of doing all of that. Hallelujah! What a Savior!


--by Jamie Jenkins, North GA AC


God Is Still In Control!


Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer

UMCGiving.org

United Methodist Communications

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Stewardship Lessons from the Orthodontist

When I was growing up you didn’t get braces until your teeth had all come in. But today the approach is to do braces much younger, often at age 8 or so. That way they come in straight rather than trying to correct them later.

Many churches equate stewardship with dentistry (getting our members to give is like pulling teeth) but maybe that’s because we don’t take our lead from the orthodontist.

But View from the Pew research shows that Christian adults who tithe a full ten percent of their income learned that lesson early. More than one in four (27%) started as a child or teen and and a third (33%) started in their 20s. By age 30, 60% of those who are now tithing had already started to do so. They give generously and sacrificially as adults because they were taught to do so early in life.

But in my stewardship work I have seen that these groups are often given a “free pass” when it comes to stewardship. We don’t want to turn them off. We don’t want to make church all about money. We want them to come to church and feel comfortable, they’ll give when they are ready.
But, according to this study, we have already missed that window with 60% of those who may tithe.

Folks, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot.

At age 5 your young charges may not be ready to hear about sacrificial giving. But they will understand that a collection is taken every week during Sunday School. Or they may understand that during the children’s sermon money put in the jar is used to buy nets so kids in Africa don’t die from being bitten by a mosquito.

How about your confirmation process? As you talk about church membership is there the expectation that these youngest members of your church will support it financially?

If you look at middle class suburbs you would probably find that the group with the greatest discretionary income is empty nesters. But I bet teenagers aren’t all that far behind.

Do you know who the youngest self-made millionaires are in the history of America? It’s not a teen-aged computer prodigy with a dot com fortune. It’s Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, who starred in Full House as infants and went on to rule the elementary school book and video industry.

OK, so you don’t have the Olsens attending your church but the depth of the pockets in your youth room are deeper than you give them credit for.

In 2004 Magazine Publishers of America’s research showed that by age 16 and 17 teens have nearly $4,500 in discretionary income a year. If they were to tithe, their $450 annual support of the church would exceed many adults in your congregation.

In my stewardship work I talk with many adults who say they truly want to tithe but the combination of family expenses, consumer debt, unsure job situations and other “grown up” issues make it, in their eyes, impossible to do so. But most teens don’t have these kinds of financial issues, so I believe that now really is the time to get them started on tithing.

If we wait until they’re 30, the window has closed for nearly two-thirds of future tithers.

Click here to read the rest of Brian's blog.

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
http://www.umcgiving.org/
United Methodist Communications
lcarey@umcom.org

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Practice of Extravagant Generosity

“Extravagant Generosity describes practices of sharing and giving that exceed all expectations and extend to unexpected measures. It describes lavish sharing, sacrifice, and giving in service to God and neighbor. Vibrant, fruitful, growing congregations thrive because of the extraordinary sharing, willing sacrifice, and joyous giving of their members out of love for God and neighbor. Such churches teach and practice giving that focuses on the abundance of God’s grace and that emphasizes the Christian’s need to give rather than on the church’s need for money. They view giving as a gift from God and are driven to be generous by a high sense of mission and a keen desire to please God by making a positive difference in the world.”


As we look at “extravagant generosity,” we know that Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church has had a long tradition of faithfulness in giving that has allowed us to live into our mission as a community church who cares about the people of the community and the world. That tradition continues to this day, as many of you continue to give faithfully and sacrificially.


There are three fundamental reasons which make a significant difference.


We are incredibly blessed by God. When I count my blessings – family, friends, opportunities, and experiences – my only response is one of gratitude. As a Christian, my response to God’s incredible blessings is to become a blessing to others. It is out of God’s extravagant generosity extended to us that you and I participate in extravagant generosity with our church, our communities, and our world.


We are invited to be in partnership with God. We have been invited, as individuals and as a church, to be in partnership with God in the work of shalom (peace, reconciliation, justice, and wholeness) for all creation. As Christians, our response to God’s invitation is to offer ourselves, our gifts, and our talents in mission and ministry through Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church.


We trust God. God is our great provider, who never fails to provide for our needs. God is our great sustainer, who sustains us through all of our trials. God is our great comforter, who comforts us in the midst of our fears and doubts. God is worthy of our trust, our love and our devotion.


Because we can trust God, we can respond to God’s generosity in our lives.Because of your response to God’s generosity, Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church has made and is making a significant difference in the greater Cincinnati area as well as other parts of the world. It is my prayer that our “extravagant generosity” will lead us to become a vital and thriving congregation in the days and years to come.


Thanks be to God! And thanks to all of you as members and friends of Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church. God’s extravagant generosity and your faithful response will make all the difference.


I am proud to be counted among your number.


--Bishop Robert Schanse, "Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations"


God Is Still In Control!


Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer

UMCGiving.org

United Methodist Communications

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

God's Word Will Stand Forever

I returned from a four-day visit to Haiti in February. I was there in my capacity as President of the General Board of Global Ministries to review the progress of our disaster recovery work one year after the earthquake that devastated much of Port-au-Prince and left nearly 300,000 dead. This trip also provided an opportunity for further consultation and coordination with the Methodist Church of Haiti. I was accompanied by Mr. Thomas Kemper, General Secretary of GBGM, Rev. Cynthia Harvey, Deputy General Secretary for UMCOR, Bishop Janice Huie, President of UMCOR, and Ms. Melissa Crutchfield, International Disaster Coordinator for UMCOR.


I had last visited Haiti during Holy Week of 2010, just a few weeks after the January 12 earthquake. I was surprised and pleased with the recovery progress I witnessed a year later. Despite the media reports that nothing has been accomplished a year after the quake, there are many signs of hope and resurrection in the midst of what remains a very devastated, chaotic and poverty-stricken country. Most of the rubble has been removed from major streets and highways. Garbage is being picked up. Over half of the 1.5 million people living in tents immediately after the earthquake have returned to their homes, retreated to the country to live with relatives or been removed to temporary housing camps. Many church-related schools are operating in temporary facilities. Micro-lending, work-for-pay and agricultural programs have enabled many people to start supporting themselves and their families. Our United Methodist VIM program is operating extremely well. And, after a slow start, our UMCOR recovery work is engaged in building schools, providing housing, and starting livelihood projects such as agricultural and micro-lending programs.


One of the most sacred experiences of the trip was visiting the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince where Sam Dixon (then Deputy General Secretary for UMCOR) and Clint Rabb (then coordinator of our VIM program) were entombed and eventually died. We were accompanied by Jim Gulley who was trapped with Sam and Clint, but was safely rescued. Jim guided us over the mound of rubble that once was the hotel’s lobby and guest room tower and retold the harrowing experience of the 35 seconds of the earthquake and his 55 hours of being trapped.


Shortly after last year’s earthquake I wrote to the clergy and laity of the West Ohio Conference. In my statement, I quoted Isaiah 40:8:


The grass withers, the flowers fade;

but the word of our God will stand forever.



I have seen with my own eyes the truth of this prophecy. God’s word of love, salvation and new creation is active and eternal. God’s faithfulness is absolute. Even in the midst of massive destruction and a non-functioning government in Haiti, God is speaking a word of resurrection. Even in the midst of chaos and grinding poverty in Haiti, God is speaking a word of hope. Even in the midst of withered grass and faded flowers, God is speaking a word of redemption.I thank you for not forgetting God’s people in Haiti.


I thank you for joining with God to speak and demonstrate the word of mercy. We need a sustained response in Haiti. The recovery will likely take a decade or more. I urge you to continue your prayers, your financial support, your volunteer labor and your relationships with our Haitian brothers and sisters.


--by Bishop Bruce Ough, president, General Board of Global Ministries




God Is Still in Control!



Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer


United Methodist Communications

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Do our attitudes and actions cause religious disharmony?

Jail time for religious disharmony?



A news story a few months ago reported that Malaysian authorities were investigating two Muslims who sparked complaints after they pretended to be Christians and took communion at a church service. They said they were researching a magazine article.

A churchgoer filed a police complaint after reading an article in a Malay-language magazine written by a contributor who described how he attended a Roman Catholic Mass with his friend and hid his Muslim identity. The writer said they were trying to confirm rumors that Muslim teenagers were being converted to Christianity in churches every Sunday.

Police federal crime investigations chief Mohamad Bakri Zinin said officials were probing whether the men had caused religious disharmony – a crime that carries a prison sentence of up to five years.

Rev. Terry Jones and Rev. Wayne Sapp should be grateful they don’t live in Malaysia.

Last September Rev. Jones, a pastor in Gainesville, Florida, stirred up quite a fuss when he called for people around the world to set fire to copies of the Koran. He designated September 11, 2010 as Burn A Koran Day and he hoped to set ablaze thousands of copies of the Muslim holy book on that day. After much controversy and international protest, he said he had made his point and did not carry out his plan.

However two weeks ago, on March 20, during a Dove World Outreach Center's Sunday service without any publicity and under the supervision of Jones, Pastor Wayne Sapp soaked a Quran in kerosene for an hour, held an event he said was a "trial" for the Muslim holy book. After the book was found “guilty”, Sapp set the Quran on fire using a barbecue lighter.

I wonder what Rev. Jones and Rev. Sapp would have done if someone had set fire to the Bible, the holy book that Christians believe in?

Anger over the burning of the Muslim holy book has erupted into deadly violence for the past several days in Afghanistan, with demonstrators setting cars and shops ablaze in riots that have left at least five civilians dead, officials said. In Florida, Rev. Sapp called the events "tragic," but said he did not regret the actions of his church. If he had it o do over again, he said he would.

"I in no way feel like our church is responsible for what happened," Sapp said in a telephone interview last Friday.

I don’t have to believe exactly what anyone else believes but one of the great blessings of this country is that I don’t have to. My right to believe and the rights of others to do the same is protected. Thank God! I can continue to practice my faith and share my beliefs with others. And I will.

But before we begin to feel self-righteous, let us examine ourselves. Do our attitudes and actions sometimes cause “religious disharmony?” Maybe the results are not violence and death but perhaps confusion and hard feelings that hinder the work of the Church and the advancement of God’s plans for us.

I certainly don’t condone the actions of Revs. Jones and Sapp or the violent protests in Afghanistan. That would be easy to do, but I am reminded that before I try to remove the speck from another person’s eye I need to remove the log from my own eye (Matthew 7:3-5).

--by Jamie Jenkins, North GA Ann Conf

God Is Still In Control

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
United Methodist Communications
http://www.umcgiving.org/
lcarey@umcom.ortg

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Giving is an expression of love and gratitude

“Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul…there was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold…and it was distributed to each as any had need. (Acts 4:32-35 NRSV)

When my son was a toddler, he had a favorite song about all the pockets on his overalls. Whenever he lost something, we always checked all five pockets on his bib overalls and, eventually, we’d find the missing treasure!

If the Sunday offerings in your church aren’t quite enough to meet the ministry challenge Christ has given you, don’t give up! Keep looking! Have you checked all the potential pockets of income? Our annual income is one “pocket.” It may be that up-front pocket that’s most visible. But, what about the other “pockets” we might check? Have you ever considered checking the “pockets” that hold your non-cash assets when considering gifts to the church?

Did you know you can make gifts of appreciated stock to your church? By processing gifts of stock through your church you can avoid paying any commission or selling fees, allowing you to make a larger gift to the church! You also avoid paying any capital gains taxes when you use stock to make a gift.

Have you considered donating “obsolete” life insurance policies that might have been purchased long ago for a reason that no longer exists? What a wonderful hidden treasure!

Would you consider giving the cash saved in a Certificate of Deposit to establish a Charitable Gift Annuity? By making a gift with a CD, you can receive a guaranteed annuity payment each year for the rest of your life.

Another “pocket” often overlooked is real estate. You can turn assets of property or stock into a Charitable Remainder Unitrust. The trust will pay you 5-8% of the market value of the fund each year for the rest of your life. And, the church and any other qualified non-profit charities you designate will receive a significant gift at the time of your death.

--excerpt from the Wisconsin UM Foundation

God Is Still In Control!


Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer

United Methodist Communications





Check out this other methodist website: MethoBlog

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Giving means thinking positively.

“Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times.” (Ephesians 5:16 The Message)

Tornados in the Midwest, tsunamis and earthquakes around the world, spring floods on the East Coast and along the Mississippi River, state and national budget controversies, rising gas prices … the past few months definitely feel like desperate times.

The apostle Paul writes, “Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times.” How will we as United Methodists make the most of every chance we get during these desperate times? For one thing, we’ve just come through another tax season. I’m always amazed that no matter what kind of a year we’ve had – good or bad – we always find a way to pay our taxes.

If you examine your tax return and you wish you had given Jesus a bit more so that you could give Uncle Sam a bit less, we invite you to consider starting now for next year. “Resurrect your finances” during this time. Here are some suggestions:




  • Make the first check you write each pay period, or the first automatic withdrawal you make, be a “thank you” gift to God.

  • Instead of buying your children or grandchildren candy and trinkets or graduation, consider a gift in their honor to help victims of a natural disaster through UMCOR or to your church’s portion of our shared mission (apportionments).

  • Give at least 50% of the total you might spend on a vacation or special events during the summer to the ministry of Christ.

  • Try tithing; i.e., giving 10% of your income to the church for 3 months during the summer or fall.

  • See how quickly you can get out of debt under various repayment scenarios by going to http://www.moneypurposejoy.com/, click on “resources,” “calculators,” and “accelerated debt payoff calculator.

--Wisconson Ann Conf Foundation


God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
http://www.umcgiving.org/
United Methodist Communications
lcarey@umcom.org

Monday, May 9, 2011




"This is what the LORD says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls." -- Jeremiah 6:16




As a young man, I have frequently wished I were alive during the Civil Rights Era, so I would have had the chance to be a part of that blessed movement. But The Parchman Hour has taught me there is no such thing as the Civil Rights Era. Every era should be the Civil Rights Era.


If The Parchman Hour taught me anything, it is how ridiculous it was that I felt I had missed out on the Civil Rights struggle. There had been a Freedom Ride in 1947, and other forms of resistance to segregation had been occurring since segregation started, but the Freedom Riders knew there was still work to be done.


I hope that The Parchman Hour helps people realize that the past has been someone's present; that all of the things they read about really happened. That all of the historical heroes and villains they have or haven't heard of were real people; that "The Civil Rights Movement" was just people making sacrifices for what they thought was right. That there is still work to be done; that "The Civil Rights Era" was then, is now, and will be the future until everyone is truly equal.


-- Alex Karsten is a member of the cast and crew of The Parchman Hour, by Mike Wiley. This reflection comes after the March 2011 tour of the play in Mississippi..

Prayer: Almighty God, fill us with the strength of your presence that we too might stand in your spirit and truth fighting for justice in the world around us. Do not let us grow weary, but lift us up with strength that we might give glory to your name through our lives.


God Is Still In Control!!


Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer

United Methodist Communications


Monday, May 2, 2011

Faith-filled Ways to say “Thank You” to God this summer:

As you plant flowers in your garden, say thank you to God for their gift of color. Give at least as much back to God as you spend on flowers this year.

Use your time and talents to raise money for outreach. Do you have a garden? Do you have more zucchini than you can eat? What about tomatoes, beans, or sweet corn? Maybe you have some friends and neighbors who would gladly give a gift toward a mission of your church in exchange for some of your vegetables – fresh, frozen, or canned.

Put a container in the middle of the kitchen table and invite family members to make a special offering – perhaps even $1/day to say thank you for a joy each day.



If your grocery bill tends to rise during the summer because more people are home and you have more visitors, try planning your menus around what’s on sale each week. Then with the money you save, you can make an extra gift to the mission and ministry of the church.

Remember, God doesn’t take vacations from us! If you’re heading out on a special vacation – enjoy! Give thanks for the memories you’ll make by signing up for online bill pay through your bank. Then your offerings will be sent to the church automatically whether you’re on vacation or in your regular pew each week.

Honor those you love with a special gift to the overall mission and ministry of the church through our apportionments. “A-portion-ment for others” can be a wonderful way to remember loved ones as a part of their gift for birthdays, anniversaries and other milestones.


--from the WI AC Foundation


God Is Still In Control!


Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer


Monday, April 25, 2011

World Communion Sunday

World Communion Sunday has me thinking. When I was a youngster in my home church we went to Sunday School and afterwards made our way into the sanctuary. The educational building was behind the sanctuary so that if you went from one to the other you usually entered through the back door that opened into the sanctuary right beside the pulpit and altar. If we saw the communion elements and the white cloth spread out we immediately pressed our parents into leaving early.

Communion services were so long and were as somber as a funeral service. We used the old ritual; where what we said reversed our efforts at the Protestant Reformation’s focus on grace. We went back to something that resembled a large confessional booth. We used words like, “We bewail our manifold sins and wickedness which we from time to time have committed in thought, word, and deed…” I felt sinful enough already. Our communion service seemed to add to my sense of guilt. The words of pardon were miniscule in comparison to the confession. I usually left feeling worse.

This is one reason that today when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper; we attempt to focus more on Christ’s marvelous work of grace than on our power to reform ourselves. We, more often than not, now refer to Communion as the Eucharist. Eucharist means Thanksgiving. The most important thing that we do when we come to the Communion Table is say, “Thanks!” to Christ for his gift of mercy. Rather than focus overly on our sinfulness, we thank God for God’s graciousness. What a better perspective!

World Communion Sunday is an event that bridges denominations and spotlights our commonality in the Body of Christ. This world would be so much better off if we looked for that which we hold in common rather than our differences. Holy Communion, rightly observed, reunites the Church. This is the pastor’s hope when he or she holds up the loaf of bread and says, “Because there is one loaf, we who are many, are one body in Christ.”

Therefore, our focus this week is in how to get over our differences and find common power to live in Christ. The Eucharist is a time of positive celebration, reunion, prayer for healing, and a sacred time to put others before ourselves. In my first parish I had three churches. I remember how shocked I was as I went to my first communion service at the smallest church of eight members. When I arrived there was a loaf of sliced “Wonder” bread still in its wrapper on the altar and a bottle of Welch’s grape juice and some small paper cups. They had not had communion in years. I was soon to find out why.

I went through the ritual and opened the altar for people to partake and NOBODY came forward. The reason they hadn’t had communion in years is that they were afraid. They knew full well that they were not living as consistent Christians. They felt too unworthy to come to the Table. I quickly switched sermons and preached on grace. Still nobody came up, but by the time I left there five years later, a few did. Those few moved from guilt to grace, judging to acceptance. They found real communion with Jesus, a sacrament indeed.

Dentist Thomas Welch found himself in a somewhat similar situation back in 1869. Communion was problematic for a number of reasons. The alcoholic content of the wine was one of them. Dr. Welch was the Communion Steward for the congregation of First Methodist Church of Vineland, New Jersey. To his dismay more often than not communion either set some of the participants off on an alcoholic binge or a rush to judgment by the abstention crowd. He and his family did experiment after experiment to come up with a solution and they did. He created unfermented grape juice, dubbed it “unfermented wine,” and soon churches all around wanted the product. By 1890 “Dr. Welch’s Grape Juice” had become a staple on communion tables, where it remains so today, all because someone saw communion as a sacrament that brought Christians together, not divided them!


--from "A Potter's View" Blog by Tim McClendon, UM pastor, SC Ann Conf.


God Is Still In Control!
Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
http://www.umcgiving.org/
lcarey@umcom.org

Monday, April 18, 2011

"For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named" Wonderful Counselor; Mighty God; Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9: 6-7, NRSV)


REALITY SOMETIMES DEFIES PEACE

For many Christians, preparations for Christmas are more hectic than peaceful. Parties to host or attend; gifts to purchase and get to their recipients; favorite foods to prepare; houses to clean; worship services, concerts and recitals to attend; poor to care for and serve. And there are other realities which contradict what seems to be the way of peace -- crime in some neighborhoods, domestic violence, conflict in schools or in work places. The poor and the homeless whose presence, visibly or in the back of our minds, pricks our consciousness, reminding us of the violence poverty does to a body and to a heart. Along with the deployment of more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, we are reminded that in too many places, the world continues to function completely antithetically to the ways of peace.


JESUS BROUGHT US PEACE

In many aspects, the days during which Christ was born were similar to our own times. The need for peace was born out of the lack of it, for the majority of God's people. In Jesus, God responded to the cries of the marginalized, the oppressed, the despairing, for whom peace was not easily attained. But it was into the very midst of conflict, poverty, hunger, disease, injustice and hopelessness that God in Christ Jesus appeared as a visible symbol of hope and life. The birth of Jesus was proof that God is a God of peace and of justice. Endless peace is the result of knowing the healing, forgiving, restorative, miraculous love of God. Jesus showed us what it looked like, sounded like, felt like as he fed the hungry, gave hope to the poor, healed the sick, raised the dead and called for justice for the marginalized and excluded.


PEACE STARTS WITHIN

It is often difficult to believe that these movements of God are still occurring and live within and among us. Yet, they are. The way of peace is an inside-out job. We are God's vessels for the change we wish to see. So I invite us to live into this season of new life and new beginnings, releasing from within us the peace that comes from knowing the love and presence of our God resident in each one of us.


BE A VESSEL OF GOD'S PEACE

Human nature is amazingly predictable. Love multiplies, hope multiplies, faith in God multiplies. The more we give, the more we receive. It truly IS more of a blessing to give. God's immeasurable gift of love to humanity cannot be repaid, but we CAN respond in kind. We can respond by being vessels of God's peace in the midst of the challenges of real life. We can exemplify and speak peace in our congregations, our families, our circuits, in our schools and our places of work and community. Not just some of us, but each of us, all of us. Looking to the author and finisher of our faith, we are the agents of God's change, transformation, movement and spirit of peace today.


LET'S CELEBRATE A NEW SPIRIT OF PEACE

With these things in mind, let us celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Through him we expect a new spirit of peace in Wisconsin Conference. New peace that gives birth to new life in ministry and mission in Wisconsin and throughout the world! "But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be the sign for you; you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, And on earth peace among those whom he favors.' (Luke 2:10-14)


--In the Spirit and Peace of Christ, Bishop Linda Lee


God Is Still In Control!


Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer



Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Philosophy of scarcity or abundance?

Do we live a philosophy of scarcity or a philosophy of abundance? The difference became apparent to me when I learned of the difficulty that missionaries faced in Bolivia in the late 1960's. The farmers harvested their "potato" crop long before the "potatoes" matured.

They feared their neighbors would arrive in the dark of night and steal their crop. Neither the farmers nor their neighbors believed there was enough for everyone. Therefore, they harvested their crops prematurely and there was insufficient food for everyone. Their fear induced behavior produced the results they anticipated.


Fear and anxiety hang over many people in this country. The global recession caused many individuals and companies to collapse. Some congregations suffered from the same malady. They made bad decisions, assumed they would experience significant future growth, and these new members would be very generous contributors to the church's desired future. The recession hit and their response was to cut ministries and focus their energy on finding sufficient money to meet their financial obligations instead of concentrating on God's mission and calling.


God promises to meet our needs, but not our wants and wishes. God provides sufficient resources so that no one needs to go hungry, without shelter, or deprived of an education. God provides, but God assumes that we are willing to take only what we need and share with those who do not have what they need. God expects us to keep our eyes and hearts focused on our mission instead of allowing our fears and anxieties to lead us into acting as if God is unable to provide for our needs.


Several years ago a congregation invited me to consult with them about designing strategies for their congregation's future. It became obvious that the leaders were unable to envision big hairy audacious goals. Everything was restricted by what the leaders believed they could afford. Even when I urged, begged, and pleaded with them to allow an awesome God to use them in ways they had never known before; they were unable to shake off the philosophy of scarcity. They did not have enough money and could not imagine carrying out the ministries without the infusion of far more money than they had ever known before.


This philosophy of scarcity is contrasted with another congregation in the community that believed God would provide. They dreamed of doing ministries that some thought were impossible. They refused to allow the lack of financial resources to curtail their assurance that God would transform the lives of individuals in their communities beyond their wildest expectations. They learned to do many of the ministries without additional money. They became the resource people instead of hiring individuals to do the ministry for them. They learned leadership skills they did not know they possessed. Those big hairy audacious goals became a reality.


We worship and follow an awesome God. Our God provides for our needs. As Eugene Petersen paraphrases Paul in his letter to the Church at Corinth, "Just think-you don't need a thing, you've got it all! All God's gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale" (I Corinthians 1:7).


Grace & Peace,


--by Bishop Max Whitfield

To comment on the Bishop's Blog, send an email message to karla@nwtxconf.org Your comment may be published on this website.

Read more of Bishop Whitfield's blogs click here.

God Is Still In Control!


Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer


Monday, March 21, 2011

Year-round Stewardship Made Easy

There is no doubt that church committee work is cyclical and this is absolutely true for Stewardship Committees. After Labor Day they start to get organized, are busy in October and November, are done by Thanksgiving or so and are back to sleep before the Christmas decorations are put away. Afterall, there is really nothing to be done stewardship-wise the rest of the year, right?. Of course there is. To help guide you the rest of the year the Foundation has developed the Five Star Stewardship Award. The program has 17 activities, ranging from having a stewardship campaign to developing a narrative budget to having the children and youth take on a fund raising project for missions. Some activities are required, having a campaign and a budget, for instance while others are optional. Each activity has a point value, and any church earning 150 points earns Five Star recognition. For you over achievers out there (and you know who you are) the church with the most points in each district will be recognized as a Gold Star church. And Five Diamond status will go to the church in the Conference with the most points. The Foundation will make a matching gift to a mission project supported by it. There are almost 800 churches in the Conference, so earning this recognition will require a significant commitment. But the point here really isn’t to earn points. It is designed to lift up 17 possible things your stewardship committee can be doing to strengthen the church. Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised to know that many of the activities are based in three areas that I think are important: missions, financial transparency, and talking about money. Each church in the Conference will receive a complete packet in the mail this week, but if you just can’t wait, you can download the Program Description, the Tally Sheet and even a Spreadsheet to help you evaluate your past success. As of two weeks ago I am once again chairing my church’s Stewardship Committee and I know that this program will be a centerpiece of our activities for the year. I hope it is for you as well. --Brian D. Sheetz, Executive Director, East Ohio United Methodist Foundation God Is Still In Control! Miss Lladale Carey Web Content Producer UMCGiving.org United Methodist Communications lcarey@umcom.org

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lifeguard

Trust and Joy in the Midst of Trouble

“Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation” Habakkuk 3: 17-18, NRSV

This scripture reminds me about something that happened when I was about 8 years old. I took swimming lessons at the YMCA in West Philadelphia, near 52nd and Market Streets. I progressed well enough to move to the deep end of the pool. I was afraid, but I went out on the diving board, closed my eyes, and jumped in anyway. I touched bottom, but couldn’t get to the surface quickly enough. I felt like I was drowning. The lifeguard was watching and put a pole in the water and pulled me out in what seemed to be just in the nick of time.

Sometimes We Need Saving

Some days we may feel overcome by the things life brings our way. Situations or conditions occur that we did not anticipate and cannot resolve by our own efforts alone. We need a lifeguard...one who is watching over us and knows just what we need. Habakkuk prays the prayer of a man overcome by realities his people were facing. So much pain, so much destruction, so little hope. Yet, as he listened to God’s response to his cries, he was reminded that God was watching over them and would not let them be overcome.

Sometimes We are Called to Be the Savior

There are situations and circumstances occurring all over our world that make us want to cry out some days, “How long, O Lord? How long?” News reports of young wives in one Middle Eastern country for whom suicide is preferable to a life of abuse with their husbands. Young people in the U.S. who are giving up on life as a result of being bullied on the internet or at school. And millions still suffering from poverty and its diseases, stresses and pain. Yet, we have a Savior, one who guards our lives and watches over us and all creation. It is our task to grab the pole. The pole of prayer, or the pole of scripture, or the pole of fasting, or the pole of service, or the pole of worship. In this way, we can continue learning how to swim in the shallow and the deep waters of life. We can be witnesses to those struggling or in despair, and help them understand that no matter how difficult things can be, God is with them. We can speak to the powers that be for justice and rightness with God. And we can offer the love that Christ has so freely given to us.

We never know when God will be our lifeguard or use us as a lifeguard for others.

--adapted from a SoulFood article by Bishop Linda Lee, WI Ann Conf

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
UMCGiving.org
United Methodist Communications
lcarey@umcom.org

Monday, March 7, 2011

Making Room

Welcoming new people into our churches and making room for them might mean metaphorically and/or literally that we will have to rearrange the furniture, use some of our fancy plates and silverware, put out more food and coffee, and learn some new recipes and ways of eating, but in the end we will rejoice because we will be blessed with the love of God and the presence of HIS SON our Savior Jesus Christ.

When I lived in Mexico, one of my favorite Christmas traditions to participate in were Las Posadas (translated literally: the lodgings). Las Posadas consists of nine processions that take place every night before Christmas from December 16th to the 24th. These processions represent Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem and their search to find a place to stay. Each night the journey is reenacted. People representing Mary and Joseph and rest of the procession of people go door to door asking for a place to stay until one family finally lets them. When the family lets Mary and Joseph and the procession of people into their house, they all celebrate, worship, eat, and fellowship together. The next night, a different family has the honor of hosting the celebration at their house.

When the procession goes from door to door they sing a song. The song goes along with the reenactment. When the procession arrives at the first house, they sing the first verse and the people inside the house respond to them that there is no room and so the procession goes to the next house and the next house until they arrive at the last house where they are finally let in to the house.

Outside the first house the people sing:

“In the blessed name of heav’n, I beg you, sir, let us in for the night, for my beloved Mary is with child, and is unable to go any further tonight.”

Inside the first house the people sing:

“I don’t have a room for you; please do not stop here, just move on your way. The doors are closed, I’m settled for the night. I will not open for fear that you might be some knave.”

Outside the last house the people sing:

“Please have pity my good friend, she is so weary, so worn and so cold. Her time is near, and soon she will give birth to a dear Child who will be the true Light of the world.”

Inside the last house the people sing:

“You are Joseph of Nazareth? With your beloved about to give birth? Enter, my friends, I failed to recognize One who will bring love and peace and good will to the earth.”

Then the people in the inside of the house welcome in Joseph and Mary and the possession of people by singing:

“Welcome, pilgrims to this shelter, let it peace to you impart. Though a poor and lowly dwelling, it is offered from the heart!”

And together everyone sings in great joy:

“Let us sing with rejoicing, Let our songs our joy convey, for the blessed Holy Family chose to honor us this day!”

This tradition helps us to reflect on how we respond to knocks at our door. How do we respond? How do our churches respond? Do we say that there is no room or do we make room?

As the Hispanic-Latino Missionary working in the Detroit Conference, I have seen the joy, the celebration, and the transformation that can happen when churches make room for pilgrims, for immigrants who are looking for a place of shelter and hospitality, for people who are looking for a loving Christian family because they are far away from their families.

Welcoming new people into our churches and making room for them might mean metaphorically and/or literally that we will have to rearrange the furniture, use some of our fancy plates and silverware, put out more food and coffee, and learn some new recipes and ways of eating, but in the end we will rejoice because we will be blessed with the love of God and the presence of HIS SON our Savior Jesus Christ.

I have created a guide for developing Hispanic/Latino Ministries called Making Room at the Table, which can be found by clicking here. . If you would like me to come and speak to your church about Hispanic/Latino Ministries please contact me at sluna@detroitconference.org .

For more information about Hispanic/Latino Religious Traditions such as Las Posadas and for the lyrics of the Las Posadas Song see the book- Fiesta Cristiana: Recursos para la Adoración Resources for Worship by Joel N. Martínez and Raquel M. Martínez (2003, Abingdon Press).

--Sonya Luna is a missionary with the Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church serving through the National Plan for Hispanic and Latino Ministries (NPHLM) in the Detroit Annual Conference.

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
UMCGiving.org
United Methodist Communications