Monday, December 30, 2013

Can We Make it New Again?

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation:
everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
2 Corinthians 5:17

It was hard to tell what was more painful to look at, the shattered toy on the living room floor or the shattered expression on my young daughter’s face. The one gift that she had wanted and longed for at Christmas was now a broken mess thanks to the carelessness of her younger brothers. Once the tears had stopped and the anger subsided, the question came that I was not expecting “Daddy can we make it like new again.” So that afternoon, with tools and superglue in hand, we started to rebuild her shattered dream. The “rebuilt” toy looked nothing like the original, but it was functional and for a little while at least, I was her hero.

As we begin the countdown of the last few days of 2013, take time to celebrate accomplishments, remember dreams that were shattered, loved one’s lost and new creations that took their first breath in the year that is quickly wrapping up. But be also reminded of the incredible opportunity that we have in Christ Jesus that not only on January 1, but everyday He offers us a new beginning. He offers to take our shattered lives and make them new again. He offers to rebuild that which we have destroyed and make it a new creation through Him.

On Youth Sunday the youth of Dacula UMC wrote the following affirmation of faith for the New Year:

“We believe that God is eternal and holy, so that whoever believes in him shall not die, but live forever. We believe that God's existence is a circle, with no definite beginning or end. We also know that our lives are a line, with a start and finish. We must make the best of our lives. We know that time wasted is time taken away, while time spent for God is time earned forever after. We should not live in the past, but continue forward, and strengthen our faith and relationship with Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.”

--Bill Martin, North Georgia Annual Conference

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer


Monday, December 23, 2013

Preparing for The Glorious Celebration

Christmas Eve is awesome. Once again the world awaits in hopeful expectation for God’s glorious breakthrough. 

Charles Wesley’s words express the hopes of so many:

“Come, thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.”

As we make our final preparations for the upcoming glorious celebration, let us pray that God’s most gracious gift will be received by a sinful world in desperate need of a Savior. Let us pray for peace in the name of the Prince of Peace. Let those of us who name the name of Jesus also show the love of Jesus to all people as we labor for justice and mercy for all God’s children everywhere.

We must ask ourselves if we are truly prepared to have God break into our world through the Christ-child. Are our hearts open? Will we offer our lives in grateful service to our God who loved us enough to be born in a manger, preach, teach and heal a hurting world, suffer at the hands of sinful people, and be crucified to save us from ourselves?

Before many in the world will receive God’s Good News in Christ, the world needs to see Christian lives radically transformed by Christ’s love. They need to see us love each other and love all people in the name of Christ.

Are we ready for Christmas? 

-- Bishop Mike Watson, North Georgia Annual Conference

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, December 16, 2013

“Christmas, is it more than the Celebration of the Birth of Jesus?”

Many times the celebration of Christmas especially in the United States has become an opportunity for commercialism to creep into our lives in enormous amounts, disrupting our normal day-to-day schedule that we maintain the rest of the year.

We are bombarded with once-a-year advertising, merchandising, and changes to our daily lives and to our Christian lives at our churches and elsewhere.  In many ways it seems we are victims of commercialism to the point we cannot escape, and we get the feeling the real meaning of Christmas is lost in the ribbons, glitter and wrappings of gifts.

Yes, this is true; we let Christmas become very big in our lives and very dominating in our attitudes toward others, our time is consumed in events and in ways we never consider the rest of the year. 

Christmas and the pageantry of Christmas in the United States are so large the other religions of the world take exceptions to our total immersion into Santa Clause and the Birth of Jesus. There are groups in the world that don’t believe in Jesus, that are constantly trying to keep Christ out of Christmas.

Those of us in the Christian Church that truly believe will never leave Christ out of Christmas, or if we do, even unintentionally, then we missed something along the way in our Christian learning.

Perhaps, even though we are overwhelmed by all that seems to come along with Christmas, we may be missing the greatest chance of the year to take God’s message to a hurting world.

Because of the pageantry of Christmas the door is open for the believers, to declare the message to people on an individual basis and for churches to declare the message of Jesus on an even larger scale.

With the ice of normality broken, the time is perfect to interject the message of the Messiah into the world.  So what, if they hear the same message about the Birth of our Savior over and over in music and in testimony during the Holiday season, the good news may eventually sink in to those that really need to hear the message.

The message may be two thousand years old but Christians the world over anticipate the good news of the Birth of Christ just like they did the first time they heard it. 

If you are in a mood of just going through the motions of Christmas, then do something out of the ordinary for someone, maybe someone you don’t even know. If you make a concerted effort to do something nice for someone, they may receive a gift, but you will receive blessings that will lift your spirits.

-- The Lay Ministry team of the North Alabama Annual Conference

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, December 9, 2013

Listen in Anticipation This Advent

“And when, in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song, ’Twill be the old, old story that I have loved so long.” The power of song and shared story to communicate and to create community never ceases to amaze me. Several years ago I was blessed to travel to Israel on a mission and study trip. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I was prepared with camera and notepads to capture every moment. I was less prepared for the moments that captivated me. One such moment occurred during a simple Sunday worship service.

We traveled from our hotel in the Old City of Jerusalem to Bethlehem where we were scheduled to worship with a Palestinian Christian congregation. I remember being disappointed by the nondescript building and worship space set for contemporary worship. Compared to all the wondrous sites we had seen, rich with history and religious art, this plain room had as little atmosphere as any school in the States being used for temporary worship space. But our group was warmly welcomed, and we were given headsets for hearing the translator. 

A few of the songs were new to me, and I relied on the voice in my ear to help me tentatively sing English lyrics in unison with the Arabic voices around me. Some of the praise choruses were so familiar that I didn’t need the translator’s prompting, and the two languages blended as one. Then the music started playing one of my favorite hymns, How Great Thou Art.

I was taking off my headphones to sing from memory when I suddenly realized that the translator had misspoken the opening line. Listening carefully, it was soon apparent that he did not have a copy of the English version; he was paraphrasing this song from Arabic. When he reached the third verse and sought to put into words the redemptive act of Christ’s offering for us, his voice broke with emotion. In that moment, all differences and expectations melted away. Christ alone mattered.

During Advent we have an opportunity to retell the continuing story of God’s love and grace.  But there is no mistaking that this old, old story is filled with song from Mary’s Magnificat to the shepherds’ repeating of the angelic chorus. Advent invites us to listen in anticipation for new songs and even for old songs sung in new ways that open us to the constant newness of God’s activity in our midst.

Rev. Teresa Lilja, pastor of Alcovy UMC, North Georgia Annual Conference

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Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, December 2, 2013

Advent Greetings

        As we enter this season of Holy births, new beginnings, and the hope of peace, I want to extend my deepest blessing upon you, your church, and our world. It is a time for all of us to take stock of our faith as we celebrate the One who for us is the hope for all of creation.

       May this be our time to model the grace of God who has given us the child who set in motion a lasting faith, new hope and a different way to be. May our churches be a place of refuge and welcome for all the weary travelers of the world, and may we reach out to model our faith so that others might know the joy in our hearts.

      My prayers go to each one of you during this Advent and Christmas season. Feel free to drop me a message if there is any special prayer that you wish me to include during my own daily spiritual practices.

          May we all revel in the sheer joy of the birth of our Lord!
Be the Hope,

-- Bishop Grant Hagiya, 
Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, November 25, 2013

I was a stranger and you welcomed me

In 1982 I agreed to coordinate a night shelter at Trinity UMC near the State Capital. I had been volunteering at the nearby shelter at Central Presbyterian. As that shelter became dangerously overcrowded, the need for additional space became apparent. Trinity’s shelter operated during the cold months of February and March that year, and I was often scrambling for volunteers. If you had told me then that thirty-one years later, the problem of homelessness would be even worse, I would not have believed it. Those of us who were coordinating church shelters in 1982 thought that we would be able to solve the problem of homelessness by opening a few shelters.

Over these 31 years, I have accepted that God has called me to connect the church to those we would call “the least of these” according to the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25. When Jesus said, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” I see this as an opportunity to see the face of Jesus in the faces of those we serve. If Jesus comes as a homeless person, sometimes Jesus has had a bad day! He may come to us as one who is ragged, smelly, or delusional. When I accept these encounters as a way to experience Jesus, I look for what he wants to teach me through these meetings. An encounter with Jesus challenges me to question my assumptions, to put my faith into action, and to work to bring about change to policies and systems that cause people to fall into homelessness.

As Director of the Housing and Homeless Council, I have had the opportunity to see people all over the North Georgia Conference who are putting their faith into practice by serving people in need in their communities. When churches contribute to the Homeless Offering, the funds are distributed as grants to ministries all over the Conference. Members of the Housing and Homeless Council make site visits to the applicants, and we come back and report on all the good work that is going on as we seek to serve Christ in the person of the homeless and hungry.

--Rev. Virginia Tinsley, director of the NGa Conf. Housing and Homeless Council.

God Is Still In Control! 

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, November 18, 2013

Re-Advent Yourself

The prayerful preparation of Advent seems to always compete with the constant call of Christmastime conspicuous consumption. I have wondered what could actually slow us down enough to change the way we make decisions in these hectic days before Christmas.

Anne Rex, pastor at Fields Chapel near Canton, designed a unique Advent gift for members of her congregation. She passed out a laminated “master” card (pictured below) and asked everyone to put the card in front of the credit cards in their purse or wallet. Then during the intensity of the Christmas shopping season, she invited her people to look at the card and to ponder the five questions before making any purchase.

The questions continue to echo:

1. Do I really need this item?
Does the person I am buying it for really need it?
2. Can I afford to just buy something rather than investing myself more fully in my relationship with the intended recipient?
3. Does my giving recognize the injustices that litter our world today?
Will this product be a dust catcher or merely find its way to a future yard sale?
4. How might we give gifts that really endure?
5. Have I remembered the real birthday boy on my shopping list?
Can you ever BUY Christmas? Maybe Christmas can only be born.

Ideas are just ideas unless they actually change our behavior and change us. So now I keep one of these cards in my wallet, in front of my credit cards, forcing me to ponder my own spending habits every time I reach into my wallet, calling me to go deeper in my own Advent journey as I make more room for what Christ is trying do with me. So perhaps it’s not just how I spend the money God has entrusted to me, but how I spend my time, my energy, and my thoughts.

How might your spending change this Advent?

-- Blessings and Peace, Rev. Dr. Phil Schroeder, North Georgia Annual Conference

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, November 11, 2013

We Are The Church Together

We looked at one another and pointed and made motions as we sang.  I always feel a little silly doing the song.  But, I remember it well.

The longer I live, the more I find my memories to be like snapshots in my mind.  They come and go; they are here at one moment, then gone the next.

One of my favorite memories is that of standing in my home church as a young adult (which really was not too long ago) leading children and youth in singing Hymn 558 in our United Methodist Hymnal.  I am sure all of us in the Cal-Pac Conference hold advanced degrees in hymnology.  But, just in case my assumption is not true, let me note that I am talking about the hymn, “We Are the Church.”

I am the church!  You are the church!  We are the church together! All who follow Jesus all around the world! Yes, we are the church together!

Is this a part of the hymn that we sing as a local church? A Mission Area?  A District?  A United Methodist Church?  The call to be together in this fragmented world is visibly obvious.  It does not take long to notice just how many people throughout our neighborhoods, if not the world, feel so alone.  And, the ways in which we keep ourselves from others is many times all too normal: we drive alone in our cars, put on earphones when we listen to music in public places, and we sit behind computer screens for a large portion of the day.

The question is: how might we minister in this environment?

Our way is to offer the church in the name of Jesus to all!  And, let us not forget that "offer" is a verb.  I was excited to experience this verb in action as I worshiped at one of our local churches this past Sunday.  The preacher, the worship, the greeters and the people all consistently and genuinely echoed this call to community in their own loving and biblical way.

My prayer is for this to be the standard throughout our Conference, not the exception.  These holy moments inspire me to believe that we must continually look for opportunities to live out, and live into, God's call for us to share ourselves with others in making disciples for the transformation of the world.

Yes, this is God's call: that we be the church TOGETHER!

--By Rev. Dr. Stephen Hundley, Cal-Pac AC, REFLECT email newsletter

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, November 4, 2013

“House Rules”

We have young children; therefore, we have house rules. You know the type: Do your chores. Don’t hit.  Clean your room. 

In the past, the kids would invariably do something they knew was wrong, only to say, “You didn't say that was against the rules!” (Kids are so good at technicalities!) Other times, they would just blatantly disobey. (Ugh!) So, in an effort to simplify and be more effective, my husband and I combined Mr. Wesley’s wisdom and a wise parishioner’s parenting tip into the “New and Improved Nelson House Rules:” 

1. Obey people in authority (parents, teachers, etc.). 

2. Do no harm to others: instead, do good to others. 

With the understanding that obedience and doing good produce positive consequences (yay!), and disobedience and doing harm produce negative consequences (boo!). 

We want our children to respect, obey, and appreciate authority so that one day that perspective will be broadened to respect, obey, and appreciate the authority of God in their lives, and in light of that, do good for others in the world. 

Case in point: Some of you may recall a Monday Morning in North Georgia I wrote in the fall called “Fruit in my Fridge.” In the article I relayed a personal story of when I said,  “I’ll know I’m RICH when my fridge is filled with fruit,” and later came home to find a huge bag of fruit hanging from my mailbox on a day when I had been seriously struggling with contentment.  

So, did you wonder who put the bag of fruit on my mailbox? 

Sherri is the obedient servant. When I learned she was my “fruit fairy,” I told her her how much the kind gesture spoke God’s love and provision right to my heart, right when I needed it.  And I asked her what possessed her to hang fruit from my mailbox, and she shared this: 

“Your words about being rich with fruit in your fridge tugged at my heart, and the Holy Spirit said, ‘You can do something about that, and do it anonymously.’ So I went to the grocery store, full of joy, and began to pick out the freshest and best looking fruit I could find.  I was so excited to think about you finding it!” 

I hope to teach my children through our family’s house rules the joy of obedience so that one day they can become the “Sherris” of tomorrow, obeying the Good Authority and blessing others with the positive, joyful consequences of doing good to others. Amen.

--Anne Nelson wife of Rev. Matt Nelson, pastor of Inman Park UMC in Atlanta. North GA Ann Conf.

God Is Still in Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lessons from the Neighborhood

When I was a child, there were adults in my neighborhood who played special roles. They were characters who entertained and taught us in their own special way.

There was Mr. W.T., who sat on his front porch and threw candy at us like it was a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Isiah, whom we called “Wise,” always had a sing-song rhyme of a wisdom saying that sounded more like “pool hall banter” than a proverb. And then there was Mr. Alvin, who was the self-proclaimed Sheriff of the neighborhood. He actually walked around with a toy badge and an unloaded Colt 45. He saw his job as making sure that things were running smoothly in the neighborhood. But if there were any signs of conflict, like Barney Fife of Mayberry, he would often complicate matters and someone else would have to come in and clean things up.

Mr. Richard, who drove his 1975 Pontiac Grand Ville like Richard Petty in the Daytona 500, played rule enforcer. He had the keys to the neighborhood park and wouldn’t allow profanity, violence, or mischief to occur on park grounds.
And there was Mrs. Patterson, who made homemade cupcakes and had a choice selection of grape, orange, or strawberry soda. We could buy a cupcake and soda for a quarter at her house - and get a lecture on the importance of saving money while we were there.

Many of the lessons I learned in childhood seemed to center around the basketball court in the neighborhood park. I watched my adult neighbors practice fairness, responsibility, and doing their share to make our community better. I learned about honesty, patience, compassion, generosity, courage, gratitude, forgiveness, loyalty, and respect by walking up and down the streets.  

But it didn’t stop there. I saw many of the same adults in church on Sunday mornings worshipping God.  They were ushers, greeters, lay speakers, Sunday school teachers, confirmation class mentors, and choir members. 

Like the mentors who trained their protégés by walking around using hands-on teaching; I was taught that character is about who we are and what we do when people aren’t watching us. I learned how to “walk the walk” of Christian character.

--Dr. Quincy Brown, Vice President for Spiritual Life and Church Relations at LaGrange College. North GA Ann Conf.

God Is Still in Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, October 21, 2013

'Amazing Grace'

Grace is sometimes defined as God finding some favor with a person. But, is that the whole of grace? For me, grace is more substantive than a favoring – which can be momentary and changeable. God’s grace is an ultimate act of love. For God so loved the world that God gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever shall believe shall not die, but have the gift of eternal life. (John 3:16) This is more than finding favor. This grace is a sacrificial love that can only truly be grasped through spiritual awakening. God’s love for us is all-encompassing and enduring, whether we feel we are “in favor” or not.

The hymn "Amazing Grace" was written by the captain of a slave ship. It would be short-sighted to determine that God favored the captain over the hundreds of Africans he delivered to slavery and, perhaps, death. Yet, what God gave the captain was a testimony which beautifully conveys that God’s grace is available and offered to all. Today, this song, penned by someone who would be thought of as “unredeemable” by some, is sung by both the descendants of the author and the descendants of the Africans he transported as slaves—-with equal fervor.

As believers, we come to an understanding that we are all sinners saved through God’s grace -- the blood of Christ. “For ... grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). To know that God willingly allowed Jesus to suffer the pains of death so that we could be saved from our own sins and become one with Him, fills one with humility, rather than a sense of self-righteousness.  

I am eternally thankful to know that I am a beneficiary of God’s great love and grace; and in knowing, I daily seek a closer relationship with God. Whether in sickness or in health, whether in times of plenty or in need, I see God’s grace in my life. No other could raise me from my bed of affliction and cause me to walk again. No other could give me a calling to fulfill for His glory. No other could fill my heart with joy. No other could wash away my sins. It is in knowing God’s love—that Christ died and rose to save me—that I can sing “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.”

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

--Pamela Perkins Carn, coordinator of the Interfaith Children's Movement and a member of Central UMC in Atlanta. North Georgia Ann Conf.

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, October 14, 2013

And a Child Shall Lead Them

I am not a bumper sticker person. I’m not quite sure why I have this adverse feeling toward words and glue stuck to the bumper of my car, but I do. However, I do enjoy those who love bumper stickers. Their bumpers entertain me. Their bumper stickers cause me to chuckle; stir me through inspiration and at times make my blood boil in anger. 

A bumper sticker that once caused me to roll my eyes in a ‘whatever?!’ sort of attitude was the bumper sticker that read “Let Me Tell You about My Grandchildren!”  No longer do my eyes roll. I now totally understand and agree. You see I have the two most precious grandchildren in the entire world (I’m not biased at all). Caroline is four and Luke is two. They reach, touch and teach me in ways I never imagined possible.

Caroline (4) asks her ‘Shady’ (this is what they call Sharon, her grandmother) as she applies her make-up “Shady, what are you doing?”  “I’m putting on my make up.”  “But why are you doing that Shady, you’re beautiful just the way you are!”  Out of the mouth of babes comes a truth that speaks to the soul.  

Luke (2) is at the stage in life where he believes that a kiss heals all things.  Whether it is stumped toe, bug bite or an incision from knee replacement surgery, all one needs to do is kiss the violated area and the result is…all is well. You see a two year old believes there is power in a kiss. And a child shall lead them. 

I shall always remember the question of a child in my first appointment at Ebenezer UMC in Conyers. During ‘Small Talk’ (that’s we called the Children’s Moment in worship) Corey Kohlmeyer, age 6, raised his hand and asked this Pastor in front of the entire congregation: “Preacher Terry, why do we call ‘Good Friday’ good?”  

You could have heard a pen drop on the sanctuary carpet. All ears turned to see how this young ‘whipper-snapper’ of a preacher was going to answer a child. In that moment a child captured a worship service.

This week our Bishop will ask those candidates who offer themselves for ordination, “Will you teach the children in every place?” A simple but very important question! But I have to wonder if another question might also be appropriate. Perhaps Bishops should ask us all—laity and clergy alike, “Will we allow children to teach us in every place?” God speaks in all kinds of ways … I hope I’m listening. Now that’s a bumper sticker I just might put on my bumper!

--Rev. Terry Walton, senior pastor of Gainesville First UMC. North Georgia Ann Conf.

God Is Still in Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, October 7, 2013

All Are Welcome Here

A small brick church is located on a street corner in a high crime transitional neighborhood.  

During the week, more than 100 students in grades 4-12 fill the building to overflowing for the Hands of Christ After School Program. Picnic tables under the trees are in daily use for church activities and community families enjoying the shade and the playground. During the summer months, residents from the surrounding community come daily for free lunch where all are welcome.  

On Sunday morning the congregation begins to gather 45 minutes before worship begins. Some come walking, some drive a few minutes, some drive more than half an hour. There are families with children - lots of children - young adults, singles, straight and gay. There are Hispanics, Anglos and African Americans. There are people from Peru, Columbia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico. Some can barely read, others have graduate degrees. Some have served prison time. Some are recovering alcoholics. Some are citizens; some are not. There are many differences, but those differences are unimportant as the congregation gathers for worship at Iglesia Metodista Unida Douglas Street United Methodist Church. 

After being greeted on the patio, most people stop by a small room on the right of the narthex for continental breakfast, which is taken into the traditional sanctuary and eaten throughout the service. As the music begins there are worship videos in English and Spanish, traditional hymns, contemporary music and a variety of musical styles. Diversity is the face of worship in this multicultural, bi-lingual church.  

Every Sunday is a day of Pentecost with worshippers hearing the Gospel in their own language. Many who worship on Sunday have not felt comfortable or welcome in other churches. Here they find a church home where all are welcome. Because we are one in Jesus Christ, we look for ways to build bridges.  

It has been my privilege for more than ten years to be pastor of this wonderful congregation. Each day I see God at work and lives being transformed. 

In Luke 10:27 Jesus calls us to love God and love our neighbors. What bridge is God asking you to build?  Who needs a place to feel welcomed?  What doors need to be opened? 

--Rev. Angela Gilreath-Rivers, pastor of  Iglesia Metodista Unida Douglas Street United Methodist Church.

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, September 30, 2013

Challenged to Trust

“Climbing,” the lone voice said.

“Climb on,” replied the small chorus.

The youth leader was battling to be brave in front of the students who look to her every day for direction and guidance. This time they held her belay rope securely, she hoped, in their teenaged hands.  She trusted them in this moment with her safety and prayed this was a moment, unlike many others, that they would take seriously. Each step further up the ladder was an exercise in trust and the moment she stepped foot off the ladder and on to the tree was a personal accomplishment. 

This is the scene I witnessed on Sunday at the Challenge Course at Glisson. Time after time on this holy dirt, people are challenged to trust one another. Groups come here to build trust, practice trust, and ensure trust. Why are we so focused on trust that we've made it a major part of our business at Glisson? Because trust is a building block of meaningful relationships, and meaningful relationships matter in our personal and spiritual growth. They remind us of what it means to trust fully as we put ourselves on the line in the face of fear. 
“Don’t worry,” one of the teens yelled to the youth leader. “Remember, God won’t let you down.”

“True,” the voice muffled with nervous laughter replied, “but God’s not holding the other end of the rope. The boys are!” 

The boys, in that moment, had to make a choice to react in such a way that trust was built by their actions, or to not take things seriously and decrease the trust, increasing the fear of their climber.

Psalm 56:3-4 reminds us, “When I am afraid, I will trust in Thee. In God I will praise His Word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.”

Who is on the other end of your rope? Are you taking the time to foster the relationships that matter in your growth? Are you holding the rope for someone else and needing to be reminded how seriously you should take that responsibility? Are you looking to the ultimate belayer in those times where the climb has you fearful? As the church, may we be ever understanding of the role we play in one another’s growth.

--Kim Bell is program director at Glisson Camp and Retreat Center

God Is Still In Control! 

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, September 23, 2013

Planned Giving

The grass withers, the flower fades; But the word of our God will stand forever.”

  (Isaiah 40:8 – NRSV)

Edna loved children, yet she was never blessed to become a mother.  Instead, she taught children all her life and cared for each one of them as a gift from God.   As she prepared her will, Edna spoke with her pastor about leaving a portion of her estate to the church to be used for children’s or youth ministries.

Pastor Phil suggested she make her gift available to provide seed money to start new ministries that might emerge during the program year, outside of the normal budget cycle.   He pointed out that often there’s no money to even try some new and creative ideas for reaching out to children and youth, when they come up in the middle of the year.  Edna was excited about that possibility and included a paragraph in her will stating that a percentage of her estate would be sent to First Church to establish a Ministries Fund.   When she died in 1997, $20,000 came to the church and an account was established with the Wisconsin United Methodist Foundation.  Every year 4% of the market value of the fund is sent to the church to be used for developing program ministries.

Shortly after Edna’s gift established the Ministries Fund, another estate gift came to First Church from her friend, Mae and was added to the fund.  Mae and her husband, Bill, were also committed to caring for the children and youth of the church.   Before he died 10 years earlier, Bill had named the church as the beneficiary of a Certificate of Deposit.  He knew that if Mae needed it after he died, the money would be available to her first.  But, if she didn’t need it, they both had the assurance that a significant gift would be given to the church at the time of her death.  

If you have questions about how you might leave a legacy gift to your church, please call us or visit our website listed below.

-- WI Annual Conference Stewardship Message

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, September 16, 2013

Giving is Fun!

”God loves a cheerful giver.”  (2 Corinthians 9:7b)

Blake was so tired one night in the middle of the mission trip that he fell asleep at the table during supper! When he got home he was sick for a week, became dehydrated and had to spend time in the Emergency Room.

Now that he's recovered, his pastor asked him, "If you had known ahead of time that you were going to get so sick, would you have gone anyway?" Blake quickly responded, "Of course! Those people have to live like that all the time. We only had to do it for one week.  And, we were able to build some things to help make their lives a little better."

God gives us time, talents and treasures to use for God's glory.  They are not gifts given to us to store in bigger barns for ourselves.  They are like seeds, given to us to plant in good, rich soil so that they can bear the fruit of God's love for us to share with the world.

We often feel the temptation to use all the blessings that come to our own lives for our own benefit.  Our Christian faith, however, invites us to live in community.  Jesus calls us to TITHE, SHARE, and SACRIFICE from all our blessings.

How will you use your time, talents, and treasures to make a joyful difference for God this month?

-- WI Annual Conference Stewarship Message

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, September 9, 2013

Should I Give Less When I Retire?

Yes, my income is less; yes, I need to tighten my belt; but, please hear the experience of a couple from First UMC in West Allis when they reached retirement.

Introducing Sheridan and “Lou” Ellsworth.   Sheridan retired from a long career of teaching and as a Principal in the West Allis School System.  “Lou” was a homemaker and a very talented artist.   They loved this church!  When retirement came they pondered “must we reduce our giving to match our reduced income?” 

After much thought and prayer the answer was, “Heavens, No!”  They discovered that when not holding a regular job their expenses were much less, and so in retirement they actually increased their giving! 

You cannot love something and not offer your best – especially to your church, your family, your friends, and your Lord… “for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also!”

-- Rev. Earl F. Lindsay, Retired,WI Annual Conference

The following was story one of many stewardship stories that we will be shared from individuals throughout the Wisconsin Annual Conference.

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, September 2, 2013

Building Church Budgets

Around this time of year, many churches are beginning to prepare ministry budgets for next year.  We get calls with leaders trying to figure out how much should go into each category to help make sure a church is sound financially.  As a very broad, general rule, we have recommended that churches consider using one third of the budget for missional giving, one third for facility and operational expenses and the other third for staff compensation.  This kind of a budget would be a goal as we know that many churches have suffered financially during the economic downturn and we have seen budgets so bare bones that 80% or more was for paying the preacher and the other 20% just to keep the lights on and doors open.  That does not leave much room for outreach and evangelism efforts.

As the economy begins to pick back up and individuals begin to come back or grow in giving to the church, we encourage you to take a look at how the budget is structured at your local church and make sure that budget reflects where your heart is as a church and helps you grow the mission of your church.  This may be a perfect time to revamp the budget and prioritize resources to the places that will help to focus the ministry most effectively.  Money and financial assets are only resources to assist ministry to get done and not barriers to ministry happening.   Give thanks to our Lord for the great abundance God has given us and do the very best you can with the resources that have been given.  If we are solely focused on God’s work, our efforts will be blessed and we will do far more than we realize can be done with what we have.  Thanks be to God for the blessings of which we are aware – and the ones we are given that we don’t even recognize!

-- Christine, North Carolina Annual Conference

God Is Still In Control

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, August 26, 2013

Giving is…recognizing God’s priorities

Teaching Children About Money

Learning how to handle money responsibly was a value my wife and I wanted to pass on to our three children.  Yet, where does one go for appropriate “curriculum” for such teaching?  We decided to develop our own system.  Among the values related to money management that we wanted to teach were:

  1. Learning to give to God and others.
  2. Learning to save.
  3. Learning to spend responsibly.
As a fundamental learning experience, we provided each of our children with three banks, as soon as they were old enough to receive money of their own.  One was the “spending” bank.  One was the “saving” bank.  One bank was for “giving.”  The kids were urged to divide whatever money they receive among the banks.  And this they did without complaint.

The plan worked beautifully for a number of years, until one day my oldest son came home from Sunday school.  

Facing me, Chris declared, “Dad, you’ve been lying to me!”  I couldn’t imagine what he was talking about!

“You’ve always told me I should give away one third of my money.  Today in Sunday school, they told us to give only 10 percent!”

By: Wayne Barrett

The Abingdon Guide to Funding Ministry, Vol. 2
by Donald W. Joiner and Norma Wimberly

Copyright 1996 by Abingdon Press

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer