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

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

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

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