Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Joy

He is not here! He has risen! 
-- Matthew 28:6 

The date for Easter is set by the moon and the movement of the natural world. The symbols are lovely -- blooming flowers, painted eggs -- but natural things can only point toward the miracle.

Easter is pure miracle: today what we prayed for since Ash Wednesday comes true.

Thomas Merton wrote this on Ash Wednesday, 1950, as he lived in strong Easter hope:

The flu has not left me and my head is full of glue and I can't breathe and I am worried that my neighbors in choir may finally become completely exasperated at my snorting. And yet Ash Wednesday is full of joy. In a minute we will sing and go barefoot to get ashes on our head to remember, with great relief, that we are dust. God is all our joy and in God our dust can become spender. The great sorrow of humankind is turned to joy by the love of Christ, and the secret of happiness is no longer to see any sorrow except in the light of Christ's victory over sorrow... Thus I sit here in the corner of the upstairs Scriptorium and look out the window... at my own little happy corner of the sky.

Today, dust becomes splendor.

Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed!

Prayer: Risen Christ, raise us to fullness of life so that we may serve you with faith, courage and joy. Live in us, so that we may live in you. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we pray. Amen.

by Hope Morgan Ward, former bishop of the Mississippi Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Lenten Devotional from the MS Annual Conference

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Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Generosity of God

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any.
So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it.
If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”

Luke 13:1-9

Generosity and grace are akin. My mother Arnola Triplett was a great cook and I especially loved her cornbread. I remember once when she baked some cornbread and didn't allow me to eat it straight from the oven because she was not finished cooking and needed to go to the store for something. She gave me a small piece of the cornbread and then for some unknown reason placed the cornbread in the refrigerator and forbade me from getting anymore. Well, I couldn't resist the call of the cornbread and went into the refrigerator and grabbed a piece. When she returned she knew that someone had taken some of the cornbread. After denying that I ate the missing piece and almost causing my two sisters to also get a whipping I finally confessed. Fortunately, Momma let me off the hook and didn't whip me. It is my earliest memory of generosity or grace. I didn't get what i deserved.

WE all need grace at various points in our lives, don't we? We are all beneficiaries of generous helpings of gifts from God and others. These are gifts and we can never repay a person for a gift. We can only respond in gratitude and live lives that reflect generosity and grace.

Jesus found a barren fit tree that wasn't productive and should have been destroyed but he fertilized it more and gave it more time to produce. God is generous to us in the same manner. Why shouldn't we be generous as well?

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help me notice Your generosity and emulate You by being as generous with my gifts as You are with me. Amen.

-- Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr., MS Ann Conference

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Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, March 18, 2013

Giving is an expression of love and gratitude

 -- “Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul…. there was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold…. and it was distributed to each as any had need.   (Acts 4:32-35 NRSV)

When my son was a toddler, he had a favorite song about all the pockets on his overalls.  Whenever he lost something, we always checked all five pockets on his bib overalls and, eventually, we’d find the missing treasure! 

If the Sunday offerings in your church aren’t quite enough to meet the ministry challenge Christ has given you, don’t give up!  Keep looking!  Have you checked all the potential pockets of income?  Our annual income is one “pocket.”  It may be that up-front pocket that’s most visible.  But, what about the other “pockets” we might check?  Have you ever considered checking the “pockets” that hold your non-cash assets when considering gifts to the church?

Did you know you can make gifts of appreciated stock to your church?  By processing gifts of stock through the Foundation Office, you can avoid paying any commission or selling fees, allowing you to make a larger gift to the church!  You also avoid paying any capital gains taxes when you use stock to make a gift.

Have you considered donating “obsolete” life insurance policies that might have been purchased long ago for a reason that no longer exists?  What a wonderful hidden treasure! 

Would you consider giving the cash saved in a Certificate of Deposit to establish a Charitable Gift Annuity?  By making a gift with a CD, you can receive a guaranteed annuity payment each year for the rest of your life.  Call our office for the current rates.

Another “pocket” often overlooked is real estate.  You can turn assets of property or stock into a Charitable Remainder Unitrust.  The trust will pay you 5-8% of the market value of the fund each year for the rest of your life.  And, the church and any other qualified non-profit charities you designate will receive a significant gift at the time of your death.  

--WI Ann Conf

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Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Story of Two Seas

There are two seas in the Land of Israel.  One is fresh and fish are in it.  Splashes of green adorn its banks.  Trees spread their branches over it, and stretch out their thirsty roots to sip of its healing waters.  Children play along its shores.

The River Jordan makes this sea with sparkling water from the hills.  So it laughs in the sunshine.  And people build their homes near to it, birds their nests; and every kind of life is happier because it is here.

The River Jordan flows on south into another sea.  Here there is no splash of fish, no fluttering leaf, no song of birds, and no children’s laughter.  The air hangs heavy above its waters and neither people nor animals will drink here.

What makes this mighty difference in these seas?  Not the River Jordan.  It empties the same good water into both.  Not the soil in which they lie; not the country “round about.”

This is the difference:

The Sea of Galilee receives but does not keep the Jordan.  For every drop that flows into it another drop flows out.  The giving and receiving go on in equal measure.

The other sea is shrewder, hoarding its income jealously.  It will not be tempted into any generous impulse.  Every drop it gets, it keeps.

The Sea of Galilee gives and lives.
This other sea cannot sustain life.  It is named the Dead Sea.

There are two seas in the Land of Israel.
There are two kinds of people in the world.

---by "The New Mahzor" for Rash Hashana and Yom Kippur, Compiled and edited by Rabbi Sidney Greenberg and Rabbi Jonathan D. Levine. From WI Ann Conf.

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Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Friday, March 8, 2013


But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. 
-- Isaiah 53:5 

It was eight o'clock in the morning, and I had already been called back to the doctor's office. I didn't bother to take my seat. I was thinking to myself, Just give me the cup, and I'll take it from there. With her back to me, the nurse invited me to sit down. After a slight hesitation, I obeyed. When she turned around, she was holding two thick, blue rubber strips. It took me a minute to figure it out. She was about to take my blood. I wasn't ready for that. I stumbled all over myself trying to balance my phone and my purse while pushing up my sleeve.

Honestly, I was buying time. I HATE giving blood! I inherited small veins from my mother. You know the kind where they have to stick you repeatedly in one arm before sticking you repeatedly in the other arm before finally deciding it would be better to draw the blood from your hand? Yeah, that's me. The nurse was waiting patiently. The sleeve of my jogging top was too tight to push above my elbow. I started taking it off. At that moment I succumbed to my fears. I was about to cry. With a desperate sigh, I begged the woman to go and find the most gifted phlebotomist in the building. I meant no disrespect; I was trying to protect myself. Calmly, the nurse looked me in the eye and said, "I am the best." I started fumbling again with my things. I needed my phone. I had to have some music. That was the only way I got through it the last listening to Gospel. I sensed the nurse was getting impatient. I didn't have time to select a song from my favorite playlist. I was going to have to listen to the last one I'd played.

I dropped my head and paid attention to the words. They were from a Taize' chant used during Monday Night Prayer. Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom. Instantly I recalled the story of the thief who hung on the cross beside Jesus. And instantly I saw an image of Christ, His face streaked with sweat, His hair matted with blood, His eyes full of forgiveness. Even then, He was thinking about me...and you. "Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals-one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.' And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, 'He saved others; let him save himself if he is God's Messiah, the Chosen One.' The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, 'If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.' There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: 'Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!' But the other criminal rebuked him. 'Don't you fear God,' he said, 'since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.' Then he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.' Jesus answered him, 'Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise'" (Luke 23:32-43).

I finished reading and thought, Really, Denise? He was crucified for you, and you can't even endure the prick from a needle? This time I hung my head in shame. I was no longer thinking about my visit to the doctor. I was thinking about my reaction to other people. I face opposition every day. Many times I find myself grumbling and complaining about those who are bitter and resentful, the ones I had come to believe were created to make my life difficult. This story changed my mind. In the face of Jesus' Passion for me, I ought to be willing to suffer the heartache of disappointment, the grief of broken relationships, and the agony of persecution. As a child of the King, a daughter of the Most High God, I ought to be willing to suffer whatever happens in this life. And you should, too. -- Denise Donnell

Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for forgiving me. Thank You, Lord, for remembering me. I can never repay You; I won't even try. Instead, I live my life for you until the day I die. Then I will join You in Paradise, eternally grateful for Your Sacrifice. Amen.

by Denise Donnell, pastor of Mississippi City UMC in Gulfport.

Lenten Devotional from the MS Annual Conference

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Forgiveness is Liberating

Read Luke 7:41-43

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)

Forgiveness is a way of life for the Christian, and it is not an option. By forgiving the offender, the innocent party liberates him or her, lets them go free; this is what Jesus does in regard to our sins. Through Christ, God extended to sinful people this magnificent gift of forgiveness.

Knowing Peter's nature, I can imagine that, having asked the question, he waited to hear Jesus commend him for his generosity in having such great patience toward his enemy. It appears that Peter was not prepared for Jesus' answer. Jesus answered Peter with a story. It was a challenge addressed to Peter, to me and each one of us! It probes deeply into my heart and conscience and causes me to face the stabbing truth about this business of forgiveness and extending grace. I have learned true forgiveness is experienced only in relationship and is known only in reconciliation. When God forgives us, we are reconciled to God, and we begin to enjoy a fellowship with Him the world can never know or take away.

I strive diligently not be like the servant who had been greatly forgiven by the King with much grace. When he met a man who owed him, he did not extend any forgiveness or grace as the poor man begged, and was thrown into prison. Forgiveness is demanding as well as revealing. I believe that forgiveness means that one is able to love genuinely with a love that can go beyond the problem. This truth mirrors God's forgiveness toward us. God expects us as black and white Christians to manifest the same forgiveness toward each other that He has shown toward us. -- Rev. Ever J. Burt
Prayer: Dear God, we thank you for your forgiveness and grace daily. Amen.

by Rev. Ever J. Burt, elder in the Mississippi Conference serving the Dekalb Parish in the Meridian District.

Lenten Devotional from the MS Annual Conference

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Three Crosses

Today you will be with me in Paradise. 
-- Luke 23:43 

Jesus did not die alone. There is one cross on most United Methodist altars. But as we drive along the road, we see every now and then three crosses together, usually simply made of weathered wood.

Jesus died between two criminals, and that fact marks his death forever as a sacrifice of love for others. Outcasts and insiders, people reviled and people revered, people understood and people misunderstood -- we, in the vast and complex human family are bound together, inextricably by Jesus in the center.

"One cross is not the same message as three crosses. One cross makes a crucifix. Three crosses make a church." Barbara Brown Taylor makes this observation in her sermon, "The Man in the Middle."

During Lent, we say with the thief on the cross, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus Christ, the Gracious and Forgiving One, responds, "Today you will be with me in Paradise."

There is one cross on the altar of our churches. Let us never forget how it is inextricably bound to the other two.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, remember me. Embrace me with your love. Save me with your grace. For yours is the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

by Hope Morgan Ward is the resident bishop of the Mississippi Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Lenten Devotional from the MS Annual Conference

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Andrew: Having Run Away from Jesus in the Garden

Then all the disciples left him and fled. 
-- Matthew 26:56 

Who is this stranger whom I hardly know, (despite his presence within me) who cannot be kept decently silent and unseen (Lord, I still feel my muscles, tight from running), with whom I must be reconciled  before I sleep? This unwelcome intruder who is my self must be forgiven and accepted
and somehow loved. You have forgiven me, with your unexpected presence among us. But even in my joy I know I betrayed you and must forever know that this coward, too, is as much me as the loyal disciple I thought to be.

This stranger who is most of me is still my Lord's failed friend, but friend nevertheless, and in the friend I now must find, before I sleep, His image, and His love.

by Madeleine L'Engle, "The Ordering of Love"

Prayer: Forgive us, Lord Jesus, for we have betrayed and abandoned you. Find us once more, so that we may find your image in us. Fill us with your Holy Spirit that we may live in love, your way of victory and your power unleashed in the world. Amen.

by Hope Morgan Ward, former bishop of the Mississippi Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Lenten Devotional from the MS Annual Conference

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, March 4, 2013

One Great Hour of Sharing

Let us thank the Lord for steadfast love, for wondrous works to humankind.  
 -- Psalm 107:8

Sunday, March 10, the Fourth Sunday in Lent, is designated for a special offering in every church for the One Great Hour of Sharing.

The One Great Hour of Sharing is the annual opportunity to put in place resources for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).  UMCOR receives no other support for the administration of the significant and expansive ministries of our church in disaster response around the world.

Your Lenten offerings for the One Great Hour of Sharing make possible the provision of ministries of food and shelter, healthcare and peacemaking.  Link here  for resources to help you in interpretation of this offering in your church.

Recovery ministries in the wake of tornadoes in the American heartland, sustained recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas, support for families persevering through war and famine in Sudan, programs and provisions to reduce malaria in Sierra Leone, assistance in Eastern Europe through the record-breaking long, cold winter -- these are examples of the way on which your gifts are well-used.

Thank you for inviting this offering on March 18, or the Sunday of your choice during Lent. Your gifts will be a means of grace to people in need.

With gratitude for Christ's ministry we share around the world,

-- By Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, former Bishop of MS Ann Conf.  

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Friday, March 1, 2013

Mercy & Grace

And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. 
-- John 1:1-14 

When I was a child my Mom warned me not to go across the street and get in the "dirt clog" battle that was going on with several of the neighborhood children. "You'll get hurt" she said. It looked like so much fun that when I thought Mama wasn't looking I went across the street anyway. I stayed in the backyard behind the house across the street so Mama couldn't see me.

All of a sudden something hard hit me on the back of the head. It hurt real bad, and when I reached with my hand to feel where it hurt, my hand was covered with blood. I ran home crying and screaming; I didn't know what else to do. In my child's mind I felt like I deserved to "bleed to death" because of my disobedience.

Mama took me, cleaned up my head, put ice on the small cut, and got the bleeding stopped. She never even said "I told you so."

This became a life lesson for me; a lesson about God's mercy and grace. Mama loved and cared for me even when I disobeyed her. How much more so with God! He loves us so much he sent his only son and allowed him to die for our sins.

Prayer: Dear God, help us never to forget how much you love us. Thank you for sending your son, Jesus, to us and for your mercy and grace that wipes away our sins. You only ask that we repent of our sins and allow Jesus to be our Savior. Amen.

by Janet Thomas is a member of Decatur United Methodist Church.

Lenten Devotional from the MS Annual Conference

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer