Monday, July 23, 2012

A Risk of Faith

PDF Print E-mail
Bishop Linda LeeMark 5: 25-28, New Living Translation
And there was a woman in the crowd who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal from many doctors through the years and had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she was worse. She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched the fringe of his robe. For she thought to herself, "If I can just tough his clothing, I will be healed."

I was recently reminded of this scripture as I prepared to make a journey to Africa. The trip itself was a blessing. I was able to attend and participate in the African United Methodist Clergywomen's Consultation at Africa University in Old Mutare, Zimbabwe last month. I saw firsthand the powerful Christian witness the University itself represents, and met young people from across the continent, across language groups and across cultural groups. All were brought together to be educated and to be ambassadors of mutual respect, peace and excellence in leadership. The clergywomen who participated in the consultation represented some of the finest leadership in our connection. And they were led with gentle but undeniable power by Bishop Joaquina Nhanala – the first African woman elected as a Bishop in the continent of Africa.

Women of the world face special risks
But my trip also reminded me of something very sad. In preparation for this event, I researched issues facing women in Africa, and it became clear that the same challenges faced by other women around the globe do indeed continue to affect and impact women everywhere who serve God in the Church.  Although men experience some of the same difficulties – there are some crimes which particularly devastate women and children.

Take the risk to reach out and help heal others
We celebrate the places God has made it possible for the gifts of women to be shared with our nations and our world. But we have a long way to go to end domestic violence, human trafficking, sexism, and poverty in our state and nation, as well as around the globe. It is our faith that empowers us to take the risk to reach out for healing, wholeness, and shalom for ourselves and all persons.
As we continue to try to help others, let us look in the places we have not yet gone – finding ways to participate in creating safe environments where those who are vulnerable can find God’s love through our care.

Jesus said to her, "Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you're healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague." (Mark 5: 34, The Message)

Where can we create safe environments for the vulnerable right here in Wisconsin?

---Bishop Linda Lee, Wisconsin AC

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Giving—It’s What We Do

Approximately 600 participants from the Wisconsin Annual Conference, including 150 pastors and 450 lay people, responded to a giving survey developed by the Generosity Task Force. The Generosity Task Force was formed at the invitation of Bishop Linda Lee to support and promote the theme of Extravagant Generosity, and to explore ways that local congregations might be better resourced and served in the area of financial stewardship.

To summarize the results of the survey in a single sentence: “It is extremely important that Christians give generously as an expression of gratitude and joy for all we have received from God.” Giving is not an option; it isn’t simply something we do, it is an expression of who we are.

Two primary forces motivate the giving of Wisconsin United Methodists: joy and duty. Forty-six percent of the respondents identified “responsibility, discipline, or obligation” as the primary reason for their giving, while forty-four percent named “joy, generosity, or desire to share with others” as their top reasons. For those responding to the survey, supporting the ministry of their local church and sharing responsibility for the church’s ministry were the most important motivations to making a financial commitment to the church.

A majority of people identified “hearing sound preaching and teaching on giving in their church” as important (37.5%) or extremely important (28.6%), though a number of people lament that money and giving is not talked about much in their local congregation. Seventy-four percent of those responding say that giving is important or extremely important as a means of growing in the Christian faith. It is evident that people believe that faith and giving are in a dynamic relationship—some people give more as they grow in their faith, while others learn to grow through giving more.

Eighty-seven percent feel that the local church is the most important place to give— and that the majority of their gifts should support the ministry of the local church. Only about half (51%) feel that supporting Conference ministries is as important as supporting local church ministries.

Nine-out-of-ten givers want to know that their giving is making a difference. If a person gives a dollar, they are very interested in exactly how that dollar is used and what value that dollar produces. In both local churches and Annual Conferences, where it is unclear how money is being spent and what the money actually pays for, givers are less motivated to give. The better job we do showing people how their gifts serve God and touch lives, the more motivated people are to give.

Clergy responses were slightly higher in all categories—giving, whether from a sense of obligation or joy, is essential to our  development as Christian disciples. Supporting the work of the local congregation is extremely important, but so is supporting the work of the larger church. On average, “important” and “extremely important” responses were approximately 7% higher from clergy.

For all people in the survey, giving to help others, giving to bring comfort and aid, and giving  that improves lives are the most important kinds of giving. We love to support our missions, and to do all the good we can through the financial gifts we have to share. 

--By Dan Dick, WI AC

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, July 9, 2012

Hearing God’s word amid the silence

“Silence is more eloquent than words,” according to the Scottish writer and historian Thomas Carlyle.
Where does one go where silence and quietness is valued and practiced? One place is the Monastery of the Holy Spirit just a few miles away in Conyers. GA.

The monastery has a Guest House for anyone to come for personal or group retreats. Guests are invited to participate with the monks in the various times of prayer and meditation. Although I did not make the 4:00 a.m. Vigils, my spirit was refreshed through the other shared times of prayer and by the beauty and the tranquility of the place.

During two days of retreat for myself, with only two or three minor exceptions, I did not speak and no one spoke to me. Other retreatants and I greeted each other with a smile and a nod of the head. Words were not necessary.

The words of the Psalms and prayers in the Abbey church were mainly all the spoken language that I heard for 48 hours. But I engaged in significant holy conversation with God and myself through silence. I was amazed at how many hymns, praise choruses, and scripture that sprang up from my sub-conscious. I worshipped God silently but genuinely.

I believe that God is present with us at all times and in all places. I also know that there are times when the noise around me prevents me from hearing God speaking to me. I need to find God in my everyday and it is difficult to hear God in noise and restlessness. It is not necessary to go away for a period, but it is important to create opportunities in the regular routines to enable the voice of God to be heard.

I need to hear and heed the words of the psalmist, “Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).”

excerpt from a devotion by Jamie Jenkins, North GA, AC

God Is Still in Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, July 2, 2012

Anything worth doing is worth doing well

"I did my best but I guess my best wasn’t good enough." These words have been spoken many times by countless people.

The rich voice of soul singer James Ingram repeats these words in the song "Just Once" that he recorded in 1981. It was his first recording, and it reached number seventeen on the pop charts.

The lyrics written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil detail the struggle of someone trying to understand why a relationship kept going sour. The question is asked, “Can’t we figure out what we have been doing wrong?”

Have you ever felt that way?

Whether crafting a sermon or developing a lesson plan; running your daily delivery route or honing your athletic skills; selling a product or performing a delicate surgical procedure; writing a computer program or a school term paper; creating an architectural design or parenting children. There are times when we are not sure that our best is good enough. We have made a good effort but think maybe it could have been more. The results could have been better.
There are many explanations for why we are uncomfortable with the outcome of our efforts. Whether it is a relationship or some project that we are working on, often there is the feeling that something more or something different would have produced better results.

An old proverb suggests that all God expects is that we do the best we can with what we have, now. We may try and fail but we must try.

There is no excuse for deliberately doing less than our best. When we do, we can expect the end results to reflect the level of our efforts. Anything worth doing is worth doing well.

When we have used our resources and skills to the best of our ability we can expect good results. I am not suggesting that the results will always be excellent but we should not worry about it. There may be imperfections but our goal is not to be perfect. Our goal is to do our best.

If the cause is consistent with God’s character and purpose, I believe God wants us to succeed. After we have done our best, then we need to turn it over to God. Even when our “best isn’t good enough,” God has the ability to transform it into something special.

--Jamie Jenkins, North GA Ann Conf

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer