Monday, January 28, 2013

Offering and receiving the gift of peace

“Your flight has been canceled.” That is not the news you want to hear when you arrive at the airport at 9:30 PM for your return flight and you are thousands of miles from home.

It had been a wonderful trip with 24 other friends, family and colleagues. In spite of some cold, windy, wet weather we had enjoyed our visit to Israel. The Holy Land, as it is often called, is a fascinating place. 

In the week before arriving at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv for our return flight, we had journeyed through the land from the borders of Syria and Lebanon to the southern end of the Dead Sea. Just hours earlier we had celebrated Holy Communion in a sacred site that commemorates the resurrection of our Savior.

We were exhausted and exhilarated as this spiritual pilgrimage was near its end. Ready to get home. Ready to rest and allow everything we had seen and heard be absorbed into our minds and spirits. We were not ready to hear, “Your flight has been canceled.”

After hours of negations, confusion and finally clarity, thanks to Nathalie Ben David, supervisor of Delta Airlines, we were schedule to board a plane the next morning to journey back to Atlanta, via Europe.

The patience exhibited and the care given by Ms. Ben David redeemed the situation. No one wanted to spend the night in the airport but some things are unavoidable. We certainly did not want to fly in an unsafe plane. This kind woman understood customer care.

I wonder when I am involved in unpleasant or difficult situations, do I bring calm and stability or do I add to the chaos and confusion? When we gather in corporate worship we often are invited to “pass the peace.” We exchange the words: “The peace of Christ be with you.” And the response is “And also with you.”

As appropriate as that exchange is when we are worshiping in the sanctuary, I think it is also our task and opportunity to offer and receive the gift of peace at other times as well. Lord, help us to acknowledge that you are always with us and your presence is peace!

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

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, January 21, 2013

Keeping the ‘Connection’ through serving

It wasn’t until Hurricane Katrina in 2005 that I came to fully understand and appreciate the true gift of our connectional church. In the early days of the first responders, the United Methodist Church was present. UMCOR –United Methodist Committee on Relief – was there. With the generosity of the people called Methodists across the world, the organization of UMCOR, and the hands and feet and hearts of volunteers, the Mississippi Gulf Coast scrapped its way back. The heart of recovery, the heart of UMCOR, is the people of the United Methodist Church. Early on, people asked, “Where is UMCOR?” My friend Ed Blakesly, the first Disaster Coordinator after Katrina said, “UMCOR is us.”

130,000 volunteers later, there have been 13,000 homes repaired and 130 new homes constructed…all by done by the men, women and students who came for the last 7 years. We came to say, “A storm is a terrible thing to waste.”

Tennessee and Kentucky are no strangers to natural disasters — namely in the form of tornadoes and floods. What we fail to think about is that West Tennessee and Western Kentucky sit on or near the New Madrid Fault. It is not beyond the realm of possibilities that the next disaster could be a major earthquake.

In the 2003 tornado in West Tennessee, Christy Smith oversaw case management, construction and volunteers for that recovery in three counties.

Christy tells this story:

”I stopped at a client’s house several months into the recovery and apologized that it had taken so long for us to get to her. (The storm was in May and this was probably August.) What she said changed my life, ‘That’s okay, Honey. I knew God would send someone!’ What? Me? I knew behind me was the invisible strength of God’s hand and people …praying, giving, organizing, training, preparing. She couldn’t see them…just me. So for her, I WAS the visible evidence that God cares about her. ‘Yes, Ma’am,’ I finally stammered. ‘God sent me.’ I had never really thought of myself in ministry…until that moment. ‘”

Here’s the reality: When there is a disaster, someone…just like that woman…is EXPECTING God to send someone. That’s happening right now all over the country, but particularly in the sorrowing Northeast. When we don’t come, it’s not just survivors we disappoint, it’s the God we love and serve that we disappoint. Christy continues: “That takes me to my knees and makes me want others to have the opportunity to serve.”

--By Bishop Bill McAlilly, Tennessee AC

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Star and a Gift

This is the season of Epiphany.

It is a time marked by our remembrance that wise ones of old left home to follow a star and to honor a king.

I’ll not retell the story; you likely know it well.

It is enough, I think, to remember that these learned astrologers caught a vision that changed their lives. It inspired them to set out on a journey that took them far from home, far from their “comfort zone.” It was a journey that may well have cost them as much as four or more years out of their lives.

All because they believed that God was doing something special in history and they needed to respond, to “pay homage.”

They brought gifts – precious gifts – and gave them as a witness that God’s sign had been seen and responded to.

People are still seeing signs of God’s activity in our time, signs of God’s saving grace at work in our world. And wise ones are still responding with gifts – gifts that are precious to them – as a witness in our day and time.

Gifts like time and treasure and even their very lives, all because they have been captured by a vision that will not leave them in their comfortable places. A vision that summons them to leave home and even safety to go and tell others what they have seen.

To be captured by a vision of Jesus, and Jesus’ great commission to all who call themselves disciples, is to be invited – even compelled – to leave the places where we have become comfortable in order to give our witness to what God is doing now and in the New Year.

Our routines are, for many of us, comfortable. They are “the way we have always done things!” The day-to-day business of our ministry – wherever that is – can lull us into thinking that we are following Jesus. But then something happens that causes us to look again or, as was said to young Simba in Disney’s great movie The Lion King, “look closer” at what we are doing so that we become uncomfortable with the status-quo.

If I am not willing to give witness to what Jesus is calling me to do, if I am not willing to step out in faith and make “disciple making” an even larger priority in my ministry, if I am not willing to give my energy to that which truly does transform this world, I should not be surprised if others are reluctant. 

--excerpt from a column by Bill Dobbs, Clergy Asst.

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, January 7, 2013

All It Takes Is One

Mark 5: 15-20 (NRSV)
"They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighborhood. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. But Jesus refused, and said to him, 'Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.' And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed."

It is a great relief to finally come to the end of a time of illness or disease or other struggle. Sometimes we wait for years for that day, like the man who called himself 'Legion' because he was bound by a legion of demons. No longer suffering and alone, it's understandable that he wanted to go with Jesus who had set him free and gave him a new life! We read, however, in this account, that his healing was not for the purpose of taking him out of his everyday life, family or community – but it was a demonstration of God's presence and power that he was to share.

The healed become the transformers
It can be a challenge to go back into a community that has only known you as sick, disabled, drunk, crazy, different, or otherwise having something “wrong with you.” When we experience a miraculous change, some will celebrate with us, but surprisingly, others will either deny our new reality or be angry about it. To go back into the same unhealed setting requires that the healed one become a teacher who assists the community to understand and embrace the awesome movement of God.

God’s kingdom is built one helping hand at a time
As in an alcoholic or other addictive family, one person’s recovery can begin the healing process for the whole family. The same can be true in the work and ministry of the Church.  All it takes is one person with a vision for mission, for ministry, for reconciliation or transformation. The love, diligence, enthusiasm of one can transform the whole body. Sometimes like the man who used to be bound by a legion of demons, our task is to be present, tell our story, share our faith and healing. The beloved kingdom of God is built one person, one conversation, one prayer, one helping hand at a time.

Is there a story of God’s healing you have to tell today?

---Bishop Linda Lee

God Is Still Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer