Monday, July 29, 2013

“Thank you, God

“Thank you, God, for the beauty of this summer day.” Those were the opening words to the blessing that my eldest son prayed over the burgers and fries we shared at a local restaurant. After he finished the rest of his prayer, the power of those opening words, “Thank you, God” reminded me of the importance that gratitude has in the life of God's people.

It's very easy to let personal anxieties and worldly expectations drive the way we live our lives. Take a moment sometime and talk to a stranger in line at the grocery store or at the airport or at the ball field and sooner or later they will reveal the source of a fear or an anxiety in their lives. As a pastor, you learn very quickly that, at best, fear and anxiety can cast a pall on life, muting its beauty and vitality; at worst, as the Garden of Eden narrative teaches, it will destroy relationships and community.

In the third chapter of Paul's letter to the church in Colossae, he reminded the followers of Jesus that their lives – individually and corporately - were to be evidence that Christ is alive. One of my favorite passages in the Bible is found in verse 15: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”  I believe Paul wrote that because he learned that adopting the posture of gratitude is a powerful gateway to experience God's grace and God's peace. Gratitude opens our hearts to the revelation of how God has indeed blessed us.

Now, there are a myriad of ways that we can experience that manifest goodness of God; but I experience God's goodness best through the people he has placed in my life. When I think about my wife, Jennifer and our children I am grateful for God's constant companionship through their patience and constant love. When I think about the wonderful lay people in the churches we've served, I am grateful for the church and for the way God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. When I think about the Bishops, superintendents and pastors who through the years offered me direction, accountability and fellowship I am grateful that God did not let me be in ministry by myself.

God's grace is abundant in our lives, my friends. Be grateful and you'll see it. Even if it is over burgers and fries.

Grace to you and peace...
Rev. Herzen Andone

-- excerpt from a reflection by Herzen Andone is superintendent of the Northwest District. 

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, July 22, 2013


"God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and Truth." 

- John 4:24

"Praise the Lord! How good it is to sing praises to our God; for He is gracious,
and a song of praise is fitting."
- Psalm 147:1

It was Sunday morning and the congregation of a small village United Methodist church was gathering for Sunday school and worship. Dewey was in their midst and in his usual jovial, spirited form. He always had a tale to tell and a laugh to share. It was time for the Sunday school assembly, and Mrs. Ritter's piano music ushered them in.

They opened with prayer and then an old favorite hymn. As usual, Dewey sang with great vigor and feeling. His singing was always loud, spirited and with gusto. He knew all the words to all the hymns, so he could sing unencumbered. There was only one problem. He could not carry a tune in a number three washtub. The old folks used to tell stories about the days before central heat and air, when the windows would be open in warmer weather. The village dogs would join in the chorus-howling when Dewey sang.

After the assembly, we would go to the Sunday school classes. There were two adult classes-the young adult class and the older adult class. Dewey went to the young adult class because he said he didn't want to go into the class with "all those old folks." Dewey was in his late 70s.

After Sunday school there was worship, of course. Once again Dewey sang to the Lord with exuberance. The church was only 75 feet from a railroad track. A train came through once while we were singing a hymn, and the only voice I could hear was Dewey's, but the train sounded better. I often wondered why someone didn't ask him to hush, but nobody ever did.

I remember being back at that church a few Sundays after Dewey died, and I missed his singing. There seemed to be  so little spirit in the worship. The praise seemed so weak and everybody there seemed to be older. Then I knew. It is not the tune that is the most important. It is a heart for God filled with the Holy Spirit bursting forth in a song of Praise!

--by Rev. Wayne Webster, Brookhaven Dist. Super., MS Annual Conference (Psalm 111:9)

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, July 15, 2013

Be faithful in your giving

“…fix your attention on God.    You’ll be changed from the inside out.”(Romans 12:2 The Message)

Cindy and Steve were making final plans for their summer vacation.  They had considered some trips close to home, yet their dream trip to Yellowstone kept bouncing back into the discussion.  They thought about the fact that their oldest child will start high school in the fall and and the fact that they usually traveled home to Michigan to see family.  Finally they decided to “go for it” and head to Yellowstone.

The next Sunday, Steve started writing the check for their offering.  He found Cindy and asked, “What do you think about giving less to the church this summer to make sure we have enough money for our vacation?”  She said, “I guess it’s okay…I don’t know,” as she ran off to comb little Lily’s hair.

When it came time for the offering, their 10 year old son took his turn at putting the envelope in the plate.   Steve noticed that he was studying it pretty closely.   When they got out to the car, Tyler asked, “How come you gave less to the church today, Dad?”   Steve looked at Cindy, who stared straight ahead at the road.   He replied, “Well, your mother and I were thinking about taking a special vacation this summer.  You know that Kristy’s going to high school next year and…”   Kristy interrupted, “Mom said you were thinking about taking us to Yellowstone instead of going to Grandma and Grandpa’s this year.  Why would we want to do that?  It doesn’t seem very faithful to me for us to give less to the church just so we can take a trip to see Old Faithful!”

After the kids were in bed, Cindy brought Steve the checkbook and said, “I just went online and signed up to have our regular tithe sent to the church every week through online banking.  Do you want to write a check to make up the difference this week or should I?”  “I will,” he said.  “And I’ll call my folks to make sure we can come during our usual week in August.   Maybe we can take the ferry or do something special while we’re in Michigan this year and start a new tradition.”

--- Wisconsin United Methodist Foundation

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, July 8, 2013

Generosity by Example

Other than our Lord, who is the most generous person you’ve ever known?

For me, it was my first boss.

Over the course of time, our relationship transitioned from employer/employee to mentor/protégé. Eventually we became friends.

My friend Ed had a way about him and everyone knew it. But until recently, almost eight years after his passing, I couldn’t put my finger on what elements God must have mixed together to make him such a special person.

I always regarded Ed as the smartest person in the room, even though his higher education had been acquired through the school of hard knocks. You see, Ed dropped out of school at the age of 12 to care for his family. He was married at age 15 and he and his wife Margaret raised three children. After the kids moved out of the house to pursue their own dreams and start their own families, Ed and Margaret took care of each other. 

Outside of his immediate family, Ed was best known by both his employees and his clients as a fair and honest businessman who didn’t have a hidden agenda. He always took care of his employees’ needs and earnestly cared about his clients as well.

So here’s the part about him that I did not “get” until recently. Ed was so special because he truly cared and did for others, without any expectation of payback.

Generosity and caring for others, without an “agenda,” go hand in hand – I get it completely now!

When we think about generosity in the church, most of us immediately think about giving financial gifts. I don’t know how much money Ed gave to his local church—it wasn’t any of my business—but I do know this: Ed McElroy was the most generous person I’ve ever known. 

You see, I firmly believe that even though God plants seeds of generosity in each of us, it’s the generosity by example of another cheerful giver that helps to cultivate those seeds.

Since generous givers learn by example, can you even imagine how vital our congregations would be if we all practiced generosity without any expectation of payback? With God’s help, our lives, like Ed’s life, could inspire many others.

Will you pray that the generosity in your life will become an example to others as you care for them in the same way that Jesus Christ cares for you – with unconditional love? Will you ask God through prayer to show you what he wants you to give?

Randy Hardy, member of McEachern Memorial UMC in Powder Springs. 

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, July 1, 2013

“In and Out”

Giving is a life-long journey.  "What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”  (Matthew 16:26)

 It's been 41 years since I left my job as a systems analyst and computer programmer to respond to the inner call to ministry in the Wisconsin Conference of the United Methodist Church.  At 27 years of age I decided to change the direction of my life from seeking gain to seeking the joy of life itself.  I still recall clearly the excitement I felt driving home after my last day at work.  In just a few weeks now I will again drive home after my last day at work and already I feel the excitement growing.

 The past four decades have been better than even I had dreamed.  The first 20 years I served as a pastor in local churches and the last 21 years leading the Wisconsin United Methodist Foundation.  Our Christian faith clearly teaches us that the joy of life can only be fully experienced in its fullness as we let go of all that we have gained through sharing it with others.  Last week, our pastor reminded us again that life is like breathing.  We cannot live if we only breathe in.  To fully live we must breathe out as well.  To follow Christ means to take in and then let go…to receive and then give back.

 I’m excited about the next phase of joyful living that awaits me just around the corner.  What blessings will come my way?  But, more importantly, what can I give away?  Breathe with me, won’t you?  In and out. 

-- by Rev. William F. Helwig, President, Wisconsin United Methodist Foundation

Our thanks to Bill for his faithful ministry with the Foundation for the last 21 years.  This was his final newsletter item as he retired June 30, 2013.

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer