Sunday, December 30, 2012

A 'Can-Do' Attitude



This is the season for New Year’s resolutions.   We want to start out the New Year on the “right foot,” taking care to improve ourselves and our habits.  For many people this means starting with two of the top ten resolutions made each year - getting out of debt and saving money.

We also tend to be facing a number of money crunches at this time of year:  Why does the car always seem to need a major repair in December or January?  How did we end up with so much on the credit card when we vowed to have a “simpler” Christmas?  When can we stop worrying about the heating bill?   Seriously, you want me to “Think Greater” about generosity? 

Yes that seems counter-intuitive, but generosity breeds a positive, “can-do” attitude in us.  It’s good to say thank you, even in tough times.   Consider making the first payment from your paycheck a “thank you” gift for the many blessings you’ve received.   And then saving an equal amount in an emergency savings account you can use when you truly need to overspend your regular budget for medical needs, car repairs, house repairs or emergency family travel.

Some folks find that giving 5% of their income to the church and saving another 5% each week or month in an emergency fund can be a helpful spiritual tool as they take responsibility for their finances.

--WI Ann Conf

Lessons Learned from Children!

Growing in Generosity with Children

Eleven year old Hallie sat quietly while the other children in her Sunday School class were talking about their allowances, particularly how low their allowances were in the face of all their expenses.   When asked if she thought her allowance was big enough she replied, “Of course, why wouldn’t it be?”  When asked how much it was, she replied, “Ten dollars a week.”
Even the children who received less than that per week didn’t understand how Hallie could think that was enough.

“It’s enough,” she replied stubbornly.  “I give one dollar a week to the church, and put three dollars a week into savings.  That leaves six dollars a week to do WHATEVER I want with.  As long as I don’t want anything that costs more than six dollars, it’s enough.”
--Shared by Rev. Heather Brewer, 
Pastor of the Bloomer and New Auburn UMC’s

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
www.umcgiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Message from God



How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices, together they sing for joy; for in plain sight they see the return of the Lord to Zion. Break forth together into singing, you ruins of Jerusalem; for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. 
--Isaiah 52: 7-10 

These verses from Isaiah foretell the coming of a messenger with good news. It was shared with the people of Israel at a time in their lives when they were being “challenged to purify themselves and give up their persistent reliance on ritual magic and political maneuvering” (The Spiritual Formation Bible, NRSV).

New insight into God’s plan
The purpose of the challenge was to give the people new insight into God’s loving plan for them in the midst of troublesome, difficult and painful times. The messenger was on the way, announcing peace and salvation, bringing good news of restoration of what was lost. The messenger assured God’s people that they would sing again and have the great grace of God’s protection.

In reflecting on this text, it occurred to me that Jesus was not only the messenger. He was the MESSAGE. Jesus was the peace of God who came to live in the midst of humanity. He demonstrated the salvation of God as he healed those who were sick and gave hope to the hopeless. Jesus was the GOOD NEWS that God’s power could do what human power couldn't.

A time to remember that God is with us
Christmas is the time when we celebrate the incarnation of God in Jesus. It is a time to celebrate that God loved us enough to “come down here,” and live as we live. Jesus walked as we walk, enjoyed time with friends, suffered with the suffering, worked and rested--like we do. He also revealed to us the best message that we could ever hope to receive – God is with us. IMMANUEL. No matter what challenges, troubles or difficulties we face, God is with us and will never leave us alone.

Feel the power of love
So I pray peace for you in this season. I pray for the salvation, safety, wholeness, and wonder of God--born anew in us each day that we breathe the breath of life. May you feel God’s love for you and for all of creation in this sacred season and in every season of your life. I pray that through you the world will come to know that love and its power to create peace, restoration, reconciliation and new life! That’s a message worth sharing!!! How are you sharing this message of LOVE?

--Bishop Linda Lee

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
www.umcgiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org

Sunday, December 23, 2012

What happened to joy and peace of Christmas?



There are many reasons to relish the Christmas season: the celebration of our Savior’s birth, the wonderful holiday music, special events at church, gathering together with family and friends. The food. The gifts. The memories.



“Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth.”

But there is more to the holiday season than singing carols by the fire, retelling the Christmas story and sharing meals with loved ones. Increasingly, it seems, this is a stressful time for many people, the hustle and bustle, lofty expectations and added expense to already strained budgets.

A surveyed conducted with 1,000 Americans across a broad demographic stated that 45 % said the holiday season brings so much financial stress, they would prefer to skip it altogether. Almost half of the survey’s respondents said their level of stress is high or extremely high.

No wonder for many people the Christmas season has become more stress than joy, more burden than celebration.

Of course, there is a solution to taking the stress out of Christmas – by making Christ the center of it. We have already received the greatest gift anyone could ever get, without even driving to the mall: unconditional love.

We celebrate this season as a reminder of God's gift to us. Jesus was not born in an ornate palace surrounded by servants; He was born in a stable, clothed with rags, laid in a feeding trough.

Christmas was never meant to be about gifts under the tree, gifts that will never last. It is a season to remember God’s love and to share that with others: family, friends, even strangers.

May your home be filled with joy and peace this Christmas season, whether or not it is overflowing with wrapped boxes from the mall. 

---excerpt from a story by Glenn Hannigan, editor of the N. GA Advocate

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
www.umcgiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Believing is Seeing

"Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 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 Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a 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 favours!'"


"When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.' So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them."
Luke 2: 9-20, NRSV

It's easier to believe when you see

This scripture takes me back to one Christmas Eve, when I was very young. Long after bedtime, I stepped out of the room my brother and I shared and looked down the long hallway into the dining room. There, where the Christmas tree was still lit, I saw Santa Claus – red suit, black belt and red hat with the white ball at the end. He was putting gifts under the tree!!! It was the best gift I could have ever imagined! It was a gift no money in the world could buy! Right about then, my mother appeared from somewhere and made me go back to bed. But that sight brought me such joy and excitement that I could only imagine what the morning would bring.
Of course, I found out not too long after that special Christmas, that Santa Claus had NOT been in our dining room. But the impact of that moment still comes to mind when I think of the shepherds who were the first people, besides his parents, to see Jesus. They probably didn't know what it all meant, but they believed. And because they believed, they were inspired to go and see. What a time it must have been for them. What a priceless gift – to SEE the Savior with their own eyes! To see and to understand the significance of the fact that he was there. What joy and excitement they must have experienced as they returned to their flocks.

Believe and you can see Jesus


When we believe, we can still see Jesus today – believe that the kingdom of God is in each of us, believe that Christ is within all of us, believe that all are made in the image of God. We too can see. And rejoice. And look forward to every new day. Because Jesus is in our dining room and everywhere that we are. He is loving us, guiding us, providing every need--so that we can love and walk with others who need to feel his love, and share the bounty we have received. Thanks be to God!!!


Have a blessed Christmas and a Spirit-filled new year!


God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
www.umcgiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Practicing Gratitude: A Spiritual Discipline


Gratitude is in the spotlight every year around Thanksgiving day in the United States. However, more attention is being paid to cultivating that attitude as a lifelong, year-round spiritual discipline.

“Gratitude is one of the first result of a spiritual self-examination,” said the Rev. Ken Sloan, director of stewardship and connectional ministries at the General Board of Discipleship in Nashville, Tenn.

“Teaching stewardship begins with that self-examination,” he said. “It focuses our thoughts on what we have, not on what we don’t have.”

The self-examination can also help shift the focus from what the church needs in terms of dollars and cents, to looking at what we have received, how God has blessed us, Sloane said. And when we see how God has indeed blessed us, we are grateful.

“When grown from the spirit of gratitude, stewardship is no longer seen as some ‘bitter pill’ that needs to be swallowed,” he said.

Scripture both mandates and offers expressions of gratitude. Thank offerings have an early place in the Bible. Leviticus 7:12-18 instructs how to make a thanksgiving offering. Ephesians 5:20 says, “Always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Common English Bible). Psalm after psalm begins with thanksgiving.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, realized that gratitude was the response to faith in God.

--The Rev. Erik Alsgaard, editor of the MI Area Reporter and pastor of St. Ignace (Mich.) United Methodist Church

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
www.umcgiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Practicing radical hospitality



It was cold and windy when I went to vote in my precinct 2 miles from my house. When I arrived about 8:00 a.m. there was a long line of cars trying to get into the parking lot from both directions. 

It did not really take that long to find a parking space. Nevertheless I was a bit irritated that I had to cope with this added frustration at the beginning of my day. As I approached the entrance to the school, I was met by several smiling teachers welcoming me and the incoming students with an enthusiastic greeting and smile. My attitude changed immediately.

Recently I was in a department store looking for a particular item but could not find it. When I asked a store employee he said, “Come with me and I’ll show you where to find it.” In similar circumstances I have often experienced “customer no-service” so the helpfulness of this clerk was a pleasant surprise. 


I am a baseball fan. I enjoy watching my favorite Atlanta Braves play. Fans attending games in Atlanta are greeted warmly by stadium employees that welcome you to Turner Field and thank you for coming when you leave. It makes you feel like they are really glad you came.

One of my favorite fast food restaurants is Chic-Fil-A. The attitude of the staff at every location that is really unrivaled. They seem always ready and willing to serve you and respond to every request with “My pleasure.” 


What does all this have to do with you and me? I am glad you asked. They are reminders to practice hospitality. Warmth, kindness, and generosity are attributes to cultivate and demonstrate.


United Methodist Bishop Robert Schnase has identified five practices of fruitful congregations. One of these is what he calls “radical hospitality.” He says, “Radical hospitality means ‘drastically different from ordinary practice outside the norm,’ that exceed expectations, and so it produces practices that go the second mile, that take welcoming the stranger to the max”

The Apostle Paul counsels the Christians in Rome about what it means to put love into action. In the middle of those instructions he says, “Practice hospitality.”

 — excerpt of a story by Jamie Jenkins, N GA Ann Conf


God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer
www.umcgiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org

Monday, December 3, 2012

TRUST Your Call






It may not show up in a list of Christmas Words, words like wait and watch, joy, hope and love. Yet, the word is Advent. It's essential preparation for the fulfillment of God's promise. It's also essential to your call into ministry.

The Christmas story is all about call. In it, God calls people to do what God wants done. The call is part of the promise. God calls Mary. God calls Joseph. God calls shepherds, and all sorts of wise people. Do you think anyone in the story doubted their call, questioned the promise? I suspect so. Wise people ask questions. "How can this be?"

Notice in the story how quickly things move along. God doesn't wait for Mary and Joseph to file their FAFSA and get their finances set. God moves. God calls. God promises. God comes.

When you consider a call into ministry, in part it means the recognition that God has claimed your life with a promise, a promise to use your gifts to bring about what God wants done. So, this Advent ponder the call and promises God makes in the story that leads to Christmas.   Then, ponder your own story. "How can this be?" "How can I trust the promise?"

Advent Blessings,

Rev. Lee Johnson, Director of Admissions, Saint Paul School of Theology 

St. Paul is one of the 13 seminaries supported by the Ministerial Education Fund of the United Methodist Church.

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
www.umcgiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org

Monday, November 19, 2012

Want to inspire your kids or grandkids?



• During the season of Thanksgiving, find a time each day to “give thanks” for the blessings you’ve received. Have each person in your family (or at your lunch table at school or work) share something they are thankful for in the last 24 hours. You decide how often to do it – every day, every other day, every time you have a family meal with those who define “family” for you.

• This year Thanksgiving is on November 22nd and of course Christmas Day is December 25th. Why not use these 50 days of preparation as a time of Thanksgiving for the gift of Christ’s love? The money given to support the missions and ministries of our church world-wide, or our “apportionments,” total approximately $100 per member.

Put a special bowl in a prominent spot in your house. Ask the children in your life, “How can we save $2.00 a day this holiday season, to give thanks for all the blessings we’ve received?” Then save the money each day, and put it in an envelope marked “apportionments” when you’re ready to place it in the offering plate at your church.

The apportionments are actually mission giving that strengthens the whole church. For this small sum of money, we are able to do amazing ministry in our communities, our state, our nation, and our world. For more information on apportionments, go to www.umcgiving.org.

Wisconsin United Methodist Foundation

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
www.umcgiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thanksgiving/Advent


TRUE TREASURE

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6: 19-21, NRSV)

We live at a time in history in which we are called upon daily to reassess our values. Rapid changes in the things of everyday living sometimes send us reeling as we do what is necessary to keep pace with the times. Consumerism is often a form of 21st century idolatry and fear drives far too many of our decisions in our homes and in our congregations. What we treasure and value is often disposable, suitable for giving or throwing away when the shine wears off.

VALUES USED TO BE CLEAR

In past generations, the things that were valued, treasured, or in which we invested our time, energies and money, were culturally clear. For example, family, in which parents taught the difference between right and wrong by example, was a cultural value. Higher education was a value. Moral integrity of elected and religious leaders was a value. Ethical behavior and decision-making in the sacred and the secular arena were values. Human life and freedoms were values to be fought for so that all people had access to them. There was a cultural and religious understanding of what was right and what was wrong.

NOW RIGHT AND WRONG SEEM RELATIVE

In this post modern age, although many, if not most of the values named above continue to be important, they and other values tend to be relative, no longer absolute. Right and wrong depend on circumstance, situation, perspective or experience. The value of being obedient is truncated if what is being asked is immoral or leads to abuse. The value of being ethical and honest is diminished if truth telling results in rejection, marginalization or silencing. The value of being a role model becomes questionable when those in position to do so are hypocritical, untrustworthy or unsafe

VALUE THE TREASURES OF HEAVEN

Where do we put our treasures, what do we value, in what do we invest our trust in these times? In this chapter of His sermon on the mount, Jesus' call to invest in the treasures of heaven is ageless. After teaching the importance of placing our values well, Jesus names several of the treasures of heaven:

• Focused sight on the things of God
• Clarity about who we are here to serve
• Unwavering trust in God

Investing in these treasures brings the peace of mind that allows us to be persistent in well-doing, in serving others, in being persons through whom the light and love of Jesus Christ shines even in a world of relativity.
In these times during which we live, when innocent people are killed for revenge or because of their race or ethnicity - even in these times when unemployment is yet at an all-time high and the needs of the poor continue to go largely unmet - BECAUSE of these times, we must value the things of God even more than we may have done in the past. Because of these things, we must regularly re-invest ourselves, our faith and our hope in the treasures of heaven. Because of these times, the value of what God in Christ Jesus invested in us goes up.

GOD'S LOVE IS UNCONDITIONAL

The value of God's love for us, for the human race, revealed in Christ Jesus, does not change. God's love is not impacted by cultural shifts, economic changes, war, famine, or flood. The love of God in Christ Jesus is not diminished by our immorality or confusion. The love of God is not eliminated if we turn away from it. Rather, God's love is prevenient, (available before we know we need it or want it) even as Wesley reminds us, is God's grace toward us.
I invite us, in this coming season of Thanksgiving and as we anticipate the beginning of our Church year at Advent, to give thanks for the gift of the incarnation--God in Jesus Christ. God's investment in humanity, lavished upon us because God values us, God treasures us, God continues to invest in the human race, so that we might have and share life with others. Let us rejoice in God's gift - Jesus Christ -- and let us offer this treasure - his love and grace, to others in every place, at every opportunity, in every circumstance.

John Wesley invites us to do all the good we can, by all the means we can, in all the ways we can, in all the places we can, at all the times we can, to all the people we can, as long as we can.

"God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you're ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done.
This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise." (II Corinthians 9: 8, 11, The Message)

In Christ's spirit of peace, Bishop Linda Lee

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
www.umcgiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org

Monday, November 5, 2012

Are you ready for the election?

Whether you are Democrat or Republican, we're all Americans and in this country we are governed by a democratic society—the people's choice. Tomorrow is a historic day for this country, where we as citizens elect a new leader that will take this country forward or backward for the next 4 years.

As an African-American female I know that I am where I am because of others who have taken abuse for the color of their skin or their sex. Their sacrifice has allowed me to be able to vote as a female and as an African-American. No one needs to know who you vote for, just do it in good conscience.

The Bible authorized government positions in Romans 13;1-2: "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

Even our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, talked briefly about giving the government what's due them in the four Gospels,  ". . . render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's' . . .."

So I hope everyone exercises their right to vote tomorrow and know that whoever takes office the Lord is Still In Control!

Sincerely,

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
www.umcgiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org

Monday, October 29, 2012

Want to inspire your kids or grand kids?



  • During the season of Thanksgiving, find a time each day to “give thanks” for the blessings you've eceived. Have each person in your family (or at your lunch table at school or work) share something they are thankful for in the last 24 hours. You decide how often to do it – every day, every other day, every time you have a family meal with those who define “family” for you.
  • This year Thanksgiving is on November 22nd, and of course Christmas Day is December 25th. Why not use these 50 days of preparation as a time of Thanksgiving for the gift of Christ’s love? The money given to support the missions and ministries of our church world-wide, or our “apportionments,” total approximately $100 per member.
  • Put a special bowl in a prominent spot in your house. Ask the children in your life, “How can we save $2.00 a day this holiday season, to give thanks for all the blessings we’ve received?” Then save the money each day, and put it in an envelope marked “apportionments” when you’re ready to place it in the offering plate at your church.

The apportionments are actually mission giving that strengthens the whole church. For this small sum of money, we are able to do amazing ministry in our communities, our state, our nation, and our world. For more information on apportionments, go to www.umcgiving.org.

--Wisconsin UM Foundation, WI Ann Conf

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
www.umcgiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org

Monday, October 22, 2012

Forgive My Heart


You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right
before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that
he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see
that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.
-- Acts 8: 21-23 (NIV)
  
Then Peter came and said to him, 'Lord, if another member of the 
church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?' 
Jesus said to him, 'Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.  

-- Matthew 18: 21-22 (NRSV)

    
When I was younger, I was in an armed robbery. The robbers put me on the floor; they used duct tape, bound me, left me on the floor and threatened to kill me. The trauma from this robbery stays with me to this very day. After many years, I was asked to participate in Kairos' Prison Ministry, which brings the love of Christ to incarcerated men and women. At first, I resisted going; I was not prepared. How could I go to prison? Would I see the robbers in prison? As I searched my heart, I found the anger, bitterness, and hatred for the robbers. I wanted revenge. I couldn't go into this ministry with my heart so cold. Could I get my heart right?

God started asking me questions. Did I want the robbers to die? No. Did I want the robbers to go to hell? No. How could I claim to be a Christian and have those thoughts?

As a Christian, I am a human and I have lots of thoughts I shouldn't. God is still working on me and I'm not perfect, but a work in progress. Could I give my issues to God and let him heal me? Yes, but it was a struggle to give my anger, bitterness, and hatred to God, so he could heal me. If God could heal me, could he also heal the robbers? Yes, he could.

Did I want the robbers to know the love of God? Absolutely! Did I want the robbers to know God's forgiveness? This question is something I tussled with.

God's grace was big enough to forgive sins, but that meant my sins. God has forgiven me, why would I want to selfishly keep his forgiveness to myself? I found I didn't want to keep his forgiveness to myself. With each question and answer, God was changing my heart, and I began to feel the joy of sharing Christ's love with others regardless of the circumstances and I had to let go of what had happened to me. I was a little nervous as we entered the prison, but I knew the love of Christ would out shine my nervousness
.

-- Robin Claris, MS Ann Conf

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
www.umcgiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org

Monday, October 15, 2012

Theology of capitalism: Entrepreneurs and Money-Changers

The entrepreneurs who represent the best of capitalism are very different from the money-changers who represent its worst, writes the Rev. Morgan Guyton, associate pastor of Burke United Methodist Church, in the Huffington Post. He challenges Christians to embrace a more entrepreneurial spirit while criticizing the darker side of capitalism.

Read complete blog post.


NOTE: Thoughts are not necessarily those of umcgiving.org but this is a thought provoking blog.

God Is Still In Control! 

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
www.umcgiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org

Monday, October 8, 2012

Memorizing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs


There are two books that will change your life. Neither of them is on the current Top Ten Best Seller List. You will not see their authors parading through television talk shows promoting their writing.  
There two books to which I refer are The Bible and the hymnbook. They should be mainstays in every library. There are many versions and variations and all are invaluable.

I have found that memorizing the words of hymns has served a purpose. It is one thing to sing the words from the printed page or projected on the screen as you worship with others, but you cannot always have the words before you when you are alone. If you have memorized the words you can sing them in the dead of night and as you drive down the highway.

I cannot tell you how many times I have been faced with temptation and from somewhere deep within my subconscious I have heard the words: “O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be! Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, O take and seal it. Seal it for Thy courts above.” Although this song, Come Thou Fount, was written over 300 years ago it is powerful today.

At times when I have wondered if God had abandoned me or was not interested in my circumstances I have found myself singing, sometimes silently and sometimes aloud, “Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!” or my spirit responds, “Be still my soul, the Lord is on your side” from the song written by Katharina A. von Schlegel.

When I am challenged to allow my mind and body to become something other than what God intended, the melody and the words of the contemporary song by Jesse Dixon spring forth: “Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving I'll be a living sanctuary for you.”

When I feel alone and friendless I hear “He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own.”  When it appears that the whole world is against me, that beloved hymn Amazing Grace pops into my mind and mouth: “Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come; 'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me home.”

My musical memory bank is one of my most treasured possessions. The list of songs of faith that have buoyed my spirit and anchored my life is extensive. I cannot recall them all and do not have time and space to recount them if I could. But I have committed them to memory and God brings them to my consciousness when they are needed.

I commend the practice of memorizing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” I promise they will be valuable resources to you. This Lenten season would be a good time to begin that discipline.

                                                                       
Pastor Jamie Jenkins, North GA Ann Conf.

God Is Still In Control!


Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
www.umcgiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org


Monday, October 1, 2012

The God we love and serve never changes


When I was in my early teens, I read the award-winning novel, The Good Earth, by Pearl Buck. The author was the daughter of missionaries to China. She lived in China from the time of her birth in 1892 until the 1934 uprising.  Her novel, about a poor Chinese family’s struggle to survive, opened up a world of Asian culture that was completely foreign to this South Alabama native.

After reading the book, I was convinced God was calling me to be a missionary to China. I realize now this was not God calling, but me wanting to experience something new and different. I really did want to serve God in some way, but being a missionary to China was more about me having an adventure than doing the will of God.

I now find it amusing to think I wanted to go to China as a missionary over fifty years ago.  During my 43 years of marriage to an itinerant United Methodist Minister, I have had a difficult time making a move across the state of Georgia or the city of Atlanta. Looking back, I wonder how I would have survived a move across the world to China.

The young girl who wanted to leave Mobile for change and adventure grew into an adult woman who loves to travel to foreign places … but who desires the stability of living in the same home and community. 

Change is agonizing for me. Being forced out of my comfort zone by moving to a new church and into a new community has always proved to make me anxious and incredibly sad. Leaving people who have become family is like being pulled from the ground with your roots exposed to the harsh elements.

This is where the goodness and grace of God comes in. I leave one place feeling like my roots are raw and bleeding. In the midst of a difficult transition, God helps me put those roots in the new soil, and with time and healing, find a new place to learn and grow. Every move that was so traumatic ended up being a blessing. God has been faithful.

Whether you are moving on up—moving on out—or just moving—I hope you will move with the knowledge that God is with you. God does care when you are scared, sad, or angry over the changes that are so much a part of our life and our world.

--excerpt from a story by Lena Jenkins, North GA Ann Conf

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
www.umcgiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

More Fully Human



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Bishop Linda Lee
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married.---Isaiah 62: 3-4, NRSV

This scripture reminded me of my trip in January when I hosted a Wisconsin Annual Conference pilgrimage to the Holy Land. We were blessed to visit many sacred sites and learn more about the ancient context of our faith and its relationship to our lives as Christians today. We also spent time with people directly affected by the realities of living in the midst of the land sacred to three faiths--Christian, Jewish and Muslim.

Have the courage to be fully human
One of the people we met was a young man who was an ex-Israeli soldier. He talked about the things he and other soldiers were required to do in the Palestinian occupation that conflicted with their understanding of who they were as faithful Jewish people. After telling us his story, he indicated that he asked himself – is this really who we are as Jewish people? Is this really how we want to be? His conscience compelled him to invite other former soldiers to ask these same questions of other Jewish people. As he concluded his remarks, I thanked him for having the courage to challenge people to be more fully human. Being more fully human means more honest with ourselves about how we are relating to other human beings – whatever our role or position.

In the United Methodist Church, we ask congregations to take a Human Relations Day offering in January. And in February, we celebrate Black History Month. It is a good time to consider in the United Methodist church in Wisconsin how we are living out our faith in Jesus Christ. Are we being the way we really want to be as representatives of Jesus Christ in the world? Can we be more fully human?

Find ways to appreciate each other
God delights in humanity and rejoices over us in all our humanness – he even delights in our imperfection, or when we are desolate or forsaken. The question is – do we delight in one another?  It is a good time for us to find ways to delight in the spirit of God within each of us. As we abide in Christ, we become more fully human.
How can you be more fully human?

--Bishop Linda Lee

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
www.umcgiving.org
lcarey@umco.org

Monday, September 17, 2012

Stepping Up!



I was glad when they said unto me, "Let us go to the house of the Lord!" -- Psalm 122:1

A large group of us from Mississippi were on the Teaching Steps beside the wall of the Old City in Jerusalem. 

These steps were climbed by pilgrims approaching Jerusalem for the three great festivals of the Jewish faith (Deuteronomy 16:16):  The Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Booths.

There are 15 steps, and there are 15 Psalms of Ascent, Psalms 120-134.  Among these are beloved verses that many of us can recite, heart psalms for us.

We will pause on each step, reading the psalms one by one, step by step.  The Psalms of Ascent are also called Gradual Psalms, Songs of Degrees, Songs of Steps, Pilgrim Songs.

As we speak and listen to these psalms, we "step up" toward God just as our forebears in faith moved up to worship God and offer their gifts.  Moving through the psalms, there is a senses of spiritual ascent, from spiritual birth through enlargement of the spirit to spiritual maturity.

These psalms are lovely to read in Jerusalem, or in Mississippi, on any day.

With gratitude for the comfort and strength of God's word to us,


--Bishop Hope Morgan Ward


God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
www.umcgiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Early lesson in forgiveness and holding a grudge

When I was a freshman in college, I would often go to the library and study after class. One day, after I had finished studying, I decided to go the computer lab to work on a program. As I was walking toward the lab, I noticed a couple cuddling. I didn’t pay this much attention, until I came closer. 

To my surprise, the girl cuddling with this unknown guy was my friend “Charlie’s” girlfriend! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was just yesterday that Charlie had told me how much he cared about “Deborah,” who I saw, was now “creeping” with another guy.

Wearing my feelings on my sleeve, I was tempted to tell Deborah about herself. After all, she was supposed to be Charlie’s girlfriend, but there she was parading down the hall under someone else’s arm. 

When I told Charlie what I saw, he got defensive and said that I was lying. To my surprise, he asked Deborah about it. And of course she denied it and he believed her. I couldn’t believe that Charlie took Deborah’s side over mine.  We were supposed to be boys.  We hung out together. We played basketball together and I even gave him a ride to school every morning! I learned on that afternoon that there some things that go well beyond the boundaries of being boys. It took me a long time to forgive Charlie and Deborah for what happened.  And it took me even longer to forgive myself for holding such a grudge against them. 

When we learn to forgive ourselves, we let go of the part of us that wants to hold on to blame, shame, guilt and fear. Forgiving others shows that you have the ability to open up and let love flow through you.  It shows that you no longer bear grudges and carry hatred in your heart for being wronged.

After my experience with Charlie and Deborah I had to learn how to apologize to myself and let it go. It wasn’t easy as I would often find myself beating up on myself about something that I did or didn’t do. Finding the courage to open up to be honest with God about my struggles with forgiveness was the first step of learning to forgive myself. God forgives us when we miss the mark, and wants us to forgive ourselves as we forgive others.

Rev. Dr. Quincy Brown is Vice President for Spiritual Life and Church Relations at LaGrange College. Contact him at quincy.brown@ngumc.net


God Is Still in Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
www.umcgiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage


Early on the morning of June 7, I boarded an airplane in Atlanta for a short twenty-eight minute flight to Fayetteville, North Carolina. I was greeted curbside by my grandparents at the Fayetteville Regional Airport, and we began the five hour car ride to Clemson, South Carolina.

We spent the next two days on the campus of Clemson University for my grandfather’s 70th class reunion. My grandfather, and the other members of his class, graduated in May 1942. Nearly all of these men received military officer commissions, and they were sent to serve in World War II.

When I think about what it means to be courageous, I think about the Clemson Class of 1942 – “the War Class.”

One member of the Class of 1942 remarked to me, “We are not courageous because we served in World War II – this was our duty. We are courageous because we continue to serve when we are asked to serve.” He went on to say, “Our country and the world needed us.  We did the job.  We came home.  Then we set out to make our communities better places.”

Today, few understand what it means to serve with the singular goal of making life better for others. This kind of service is the most courageous because it is inherently selfless.  Our Christian faith calls us to this kind of selfless and courageous service. Unfortunately, few – too few – understand what this means.

My prayer is best articulated by the hymn writer, “Save us from weak resignation, to the evils we deplore. Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, lest we miss thy kingdom’s goal.”


-- Mathew Pinson, North Georgia Ann Conf. 


God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
www.umcgiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org

Monday, August 20, 2012

Just stop it!


I am acknowledging my age. One of my favorite TV shows from days gone by was The Bob Newhart Show (for those of you too young to remember the show you can go to YouTube for a five-minute episode clip).

Bob, as you may know, is a psychologist in the show. In the scene, a woman comes for her first visit. Bob begins by explaining how he bills—five dollars for the first five minutes, and then nothing after that. The woman is thrilled. Bob assures her the session won't go over five minutes.

He asks her to start. She explains that she fears being buried alive in a box. He asks her to say more. The fear, she tells him, extends to other things—being in tunnels, elevators, houses, cars, "anything boxy."

"So basically you're saying you're claustrophobic," Bob states. 

"Yes, that's what I'm saying," she confirms. 


This exchange takes about two minutes. Bob takes another ten seconds or so to empathize with her—how awful it must be to live with this fear.

"It's horrible," the woman says.

"All right," Bob says.  "I'm going to give you two words that I think will clear up everything. Just take these two words and integrate them into your daily life, and you should be fine."


The woman is excited. She asks if she should write them down.

"Oh, you can if you like," Bob says. "But most people have no trouble remembering them."

"Okay," she says, leaning forward.

He asks, "Are you ready?"

"Yes," she says.

"Okay, here are the two words." Bob leans across his desk to put his face close to hers, and then screams, "Stop it!"


There are times in our faith journey that God leans into our heart and simply says, “Stop it!” Yes, to stop fearing so much of this life around us and to start trusting in God’s promise through Jesus Christ that “low I am with you always.” In such trust we can enjoy this gift of life.

As we return to our parishes or to new parishes to have a year of new beginnings, remember you can trust God to be faithful because God is already there in the midst of our ministry.  God will neither leave us nor forsake us. It is a simple matter of “Starting It!” Starting to believe what we preach, teach and share as children of God.

Start trusting today.

--Dana Everhart, superintendent, Atlanta Emory District


God Is Still In Control!!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
www.umcgiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org

Monday, August 13, 2012

Thank God for our extended family


Recently our daughter, Jennifer, her fiance, David and his parents flew into Atlanta from California for a whirlwind visit. The purpose of this visit was to introduce David and his parents to our many relatives in south Alabama and a few long-standing friends here in Atlanta.

After a short rest Thursday night, we awoke to a southern breakfast of biscuits, gravy, grits, bacon and eggs. Then we loaded our stuffed selves into the minivan and headed for Orange Beach on the Gulf of Mexico. On Saturday about seventy five or so of Jennifer’s aunts, uncles and cousins gathered to celebrate her engagement, check out David, and enjoy a delicious gulf coast lunch (David won them over with a strategically placed Roll Tide yell).

There was a lot of southern style fellowship. Jennifer’s future mother-in-law said she had never witnessed so much hugging. The hugging is my favorite part. One consistent thing in my huge extended dysfunctional family has been the supportive hugs. As a clergy family in North Georgia, we have lived away from relatives for over forty years. I have missed a lot of family hug fests.

In the beginning, being away from relatives was difficult, especially on special occasions and holidays. We wanted our children to experience the Sunday lunch gatherings and the large Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas get-togethers. The problem was how to do this when we lived hundreds of miles away and needed to be at the churches Jamie was called to serve.

We decided if we could not be with the ones we love, we would love the ones we were with. We started by inviting families over for lunch after church on Sundays. Hard work but well worth it. Most of these people also lived away from relatives and floundered on holidays and special occasions. This helped develop friendships that have been as close as relatives and a loving supportive network for our children. While loading the dishwasher this past Easter one friend asked me how many holidays we had spent together. My answer was well over thirty--a lot more than we have been able to spend with the relatives in Mobile, Alabama. 

This attitude of loving the ones you are with has made life much more enjoyable. We love our children and grandchildren very much. It would be wonderful if they all lived close enough to hug every day but they don’t. Some of them live far away. We see and talk with them weekly via Skype and have long visits with the grandchildren during the summer and at Christmas. It’s not perfect, but it works.

Our new neighbors have a ten year old son. Darren comes over to visit us occasionally. Recently he asked if I would play a game with him. He chose Monopoly. I hate Monopoly, but I agreed. While we were playing, I thought how much I would love to be playing this game with our grandchildren, nine year-old Jamie or 6 year-old Felicia. Another thought came just as quickly, “If you can’t be with the ones you love, love the ones you are with.”  I made a deliberate decision to enjoy this game with Darren. We played on for two hours of fun.

We can choose to focus on what we have or what we don’t have. We can emphasize our losses or our gains. Thank God for all our many blessings and especially for our “extended family.”

Lena Jenkins, North GA Ann Conf

God Is Still in Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
www.umcgiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org