This is the evening before a new year dawns for our K-12 schools. There is so much anticipation that leads up to a new year for students, parents, teachers, staff, and faculty of all schools regardless of age (including college and beyond). With the anticipation comes hope...hope that this year will goes well...hope to be liked...hope to be accepted...hope. My wish for everyone who is embarking on a new academic year is that this year would be one filled with learning, adventures, and opportunities. Where the setbacks and obstacles may be minimal, and where everyone feels safe to be who they are.
My prayer is that each person may feel the love of God, and the peace of the Holy Spirit. Hear these words of Jesus to his disciples: "I am leaving you with a gift-peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn't like the peace the world gives. So, don't be troubled or afraid." John 14:27
As you may be well aware, I challenged both congregations to read through Psalms this year to take your time reading, praying over, and sitting with these particular scriptures. Why? Last year I encouraged people to read through the Bible in a Year, that's great, but it also can be a lot of reading, especially if you get behind, and then what happens is people then stop. So, then I thought well what if we really sat with/studied a book for the entire year, would people do it? It means less reading on a daily basis, and more opportunity to read, and study it, allowing the scriptures to come alive. So, it is my hope that you have been journeying with us this year.
Partially why I chose and like the Book of Psalms is because of the writing...there are times when the writer is lamenting, sometimes angry, sometimes happy or rejoicing, giving thanks. It represents a wide range of emotions, all of which we have had at some point, and the realization that God can handle it and is with us through it all. The important part is spending time with God on a daily basis!
Here is our Schedule for the year by weeks:
2/5 Psalm 18:20-50, 19 2/12 Psalm 20-22 2/19 Psalm 23-25
2/26 Psalm 26-29 3/5 Psalm 30-32 3/12 Psalm 33-34
3/19 Psalm 35-36 3/26 Psalm 37-38 4/2 Psalm 39-41
4/9 Psalm 42-44 4/16 Psalm 45-48 4/23 Psalm 49-50
4/30 Psalm 51-54 5/7 Psalm 55-58 5/14 Psalm 59-63
5/21 Psalm 64-67 5/28 Psalm 68-69 6/4 Psalm 70-72
6/11 Psalm 73-75 6/18 Psalm 76-78:1-20 6/25 Psalm 78:21-72
7/2 Psalm 79-81 7/9 Psalm 82-85 7/16 Psalm 86-89:1-18
7/23 Psalm 89:19-52, 90 7/30 Psalm 91-94 8/6 Psalm 95-99
8/13 Psalm 100-102 8/20 Psalm 103-104 8/27 Psalm 105
9/3 Psalm 106 9/10 Psalm 107 9/17 Psalm 108-110
9/24 Psalm 111-114 10/1 Psalm 115-116 10/8 Psalm 117-118
10/15 Psalm 119:1-48 10/22 Psalm 119:49-88 10/29 Psalm 119:89-128
11/5 Psalm 119:129-176 11/12 Psalm 120-123 11/19: Psalm 124-128
11/26 Psalm 129-133 12/3 Psalm 134-137 12/10 Psalm 138-141
12/17 142-145 12/24 Psalm 146-150
Today is Election Day, and I hope that everyone who is able to vote does.
On Sunday we were watching the end of one Football game and '60 Minutes' came on afterwards. The first segment was on social media and news (in particular with the election coming up). The case was being made that the 'news' stories that get shared more often are stories that have more 'enraging, inflammatory stuff.' Also that those who post, share and speak out are those who are on the extremes, and those who find themselves more in the middle are either exhausted or intimidated from speaking out. There was a professor from, I think, Harvard (don't quote me on that) who indicated that at the college level they have avoided controversial subjects. So, let me ask when was the last time you had an open discussion with someone about something that could be, or was controversial? I might add someone with whom you may not have agreed with.
I have heard often times that people stay away from talking about politics and religion because it can be found divisive. But, what if we allowed ourselves to be in conversation with one another. One of the things that I love about the Diner, that we host on Wednesdays, is that sometimes the conversation moves to politics like it did this past Wednesday (11/2), when someone said 'I don't care if you are a Republican or a Democrat, just that you vote.' Then a conversation ensued about some of the candidates. I received a phone call and had to step away, but what I like is the ability to know that this was, and is, a safe space where people can discuss anything in a calm, collected manner, knowing that we may not agree. I've approached ministry my whole life (even back when I was working solely in youth ministry) that there should be no topic that is off limits in the church. Not that I, or anyone for that matter, has all the answers, but shouldn't we be a safe place for people to talk, to share, to question?
I am reminded on these days that no matter who wins, that I want to be about living my life to bring about God's Kingdom here on Earth. The God I serve is a God of Hope, Love, and Grace!
(In the meantime don't forget to go vote, polls are open in Iowa until 8pm.)
Or at least it was, when I started this! We may be unsure of when All Saints Day began...but it is something that we usually celebrate on the first Sunday of November, and this year is no different. We will celebrating it in both churches by remembering those who have passed over the last year, and dedicating memorials that have been given/purchased over the last year. I also think of All Saints Day as a time to remember those who have had an impact in my spiritual journey who are no longer with us. From Sunday School teachers to my confirmation mentor, and especially my mother. Who is it that has nurtured you/impacted your faith journey?
I do think that it is good for us to think about those who came before us, but I also think it is good to think about those who are yet to come, and how/what are we doing to help shape their lives spiritually? So, what are you doing? Are you setting an example for those in your household? For those who live down the street, or those who sit in the pew next to you, or...you fill in the blank. Yes, we aren't all called to teach Sunday School, or be a helper/youth group leader etc., but we are all called to reach out in Jesus' name.
So, as we think about, remember, and give thanks for those who have come before us, let us think about how we can shape/impact others.
No, the noises weren't spooky sounds, although it is the right time of year! They were noises of the women cleaning the kitchen! Cleaning the kitchen, taking everything out of every cupboard, labeling items that need labeling, wiping the cupboards down, and putting items back! Seems like it would be pretty exhausting, but then time passed, and I thought I would take a look and see how things were going, and they were having coffee because they had finished cleaning and organizing! Many hands make light work! Then the ladies shared in some lunch and fellowship (they even let this pastor join in)! Why am I sharing this with you? Lately we have been highlighting different areas around the church that people have been working/volunteering in during the children's sermon, and this is one way that people are giving back to the church...not really a glamourous way, but it was something that needed to be done. Also, because there were many, it didn't take too long to do it, and I don't think it was too difficult for anyone to do while doing it together.
It reminds me of when Moses' Father-in-Law was basically telling Moses that he couldn't do it all, he was going to burn out, and the people too! He needed to enlist others to help in matters. "They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you...then you will be able to endure the pressures..." Exodus 18:22-23
We need each other; it takes everyone doing their part (whatever part that is) for us to be able to reach out with the Good News of Jesus!
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, far away...just kidding! I once heard 'what if we were to change our wording from volunteers to servants would that change our perception?' I'm not so sure, but it doesn't change the fact that we do in fact need volunteers or servants. Every organization needs volunteers in order to function to its full potential. If you been in church, whether in person or on line, you have witnessed that we have been doing something different during our children's time lately. An individual from Bethel saw that we were in need of worship volunteers, and indicated that people needed to see or hear something 7 times before it was committed to memory (I once heard 17 times). Anyway, this person had an idea, and donated 16 $10 Casey's Gift Cards to be used to do something fun from then until the end of the calendar year. The fun, was having a child/youth pick a number that corresponded with a name of someone who had volunteered that week, with the criteria that they had to be present to 'win.'
This person had gone through the trouble of listing all the things that people do to volunteer at the church throughout the year, and tallied it all up to just under 4,000 for the year! That is way more than any 1 person can do, way more than even 20 people can do! We need each other to live into our full potential! So we have created a Google Spreadsheet, that one sheet is for 2022, and then the other is for 2023 for Worship Volunteers/Leaders. I invite you to take a look at your calendar and see what you have available and sign-up today!
This past Sunday on my way to Trinity, I saw a car coming in the distance, and so I instinctively slowed down a bit. Only to find out that it was actually two cars, and when they were closer the second one started flashing their lights, and so I immediately pulled over, only to discover that this State Trooper was after the car in front of them. So, I went on my way. Then, as I sat and listened to the prelude being played, there was a moment when I was fully anticipating the resolution of the music, and then it came. It was in that moment, I felt as if God was saying 'Slow Down, be patient.' Back to back instances, of a need to slow down, and be patient. (Yes sometimes I'm slow to listen, but glad that God finds a way!)
I'm human. I'm like everyone else and sometimes I find myself moving from one thing to the next...slow down, be patient. Are there times in your life when you find yourself going from one thing to the next, failing to take time, to slow down, and be patient? Are there times when you are quick to judge? Are there times when you are quick to respond, instead of fully listening? To all of this be patient..."Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love." Ephesians 4:2 (NLT)
(And just in case I still didn't get the message there was Sherriff's deputy in his truck across the street from the Bolan Schoolhouse...)
Over the course of a few days Auggie, our 15 month old, was saying something, that we weren't sure what it was, but we knew that it was a word(s) to him. Then a couple days ago, my husband figured it out. He says "Bah Rah"...meaning...Bob Ross (yes there is a story behind this for another time). Sometimes I am reminded that in our denomination we have things that seem crystal clear to clergy, but not anyone else. If you paid attention to your newsletter calendar, or the back of the bulletin this week, you would have seen that this afternoon I had my professional interview. Makes sense to clergy in the United Methodist Church, because we have one every year...it's a meeting with the District Superintendent. The interview serves as a time to for the DS to check-in with us, and also a time for them to share information that we need to know. So, if you saw this and wondered what it was...now you know.
This post has been written in my head for a couple of weeks now...I even started writing it a day ago, but then the computer updated before I published and what I had was gone. While I was writing a letter to Bethlehem Lutheran on behalf of Bethel for their 100 years in ministry a thought popped into my head...I wondered how many businesses in the United States have been in existence for 100 years or more...the answer? Around 1,000, which is less than half a percent...to think that Bethel and Trinity have both been in ministry longer than that is amazing (144 years for Bethel and 127 years for Trinity)! (The article referenced in this post is: 'What makes a company survive more than 100 years?' by David Bain.)
The article went on with stating that there were 5 characteristics that these businesses exemplified:
1. Strong corporate mission and culture...they talk about their purpose all the time.
2. Unique core strengths and change management...these companies are very good at innovating and changing but doing this through a position of strength.
3. Close relationships with business partners
4. Long-term employee relationships: employees at all levels stick around longer.
5. Active members of the local community.
As I read about these I, of course, thought about the church. What is our mission/purpose? Well according to Mathew 28:19 "Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." The mission of The United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world." How are we living this out in our congregations? How are we reaching out to those in our communities who may not know the love of God? What would we do, or could we do, differently to facilitate this happening? What partners would we be bridging in our communities? This to me is the heart of who we are, and what we are to be about.
Just a warning up front...this may be longer than my usual...
I have been thinking about this post for a while, and debated on whether or not to write it. In fact I'm still debating as I type, but if you are reading it, then it means I have decided to post it, so here it goes...
I remember a few months ago (I'm not sure how long ago it was, it seems like years!) I was driving down the road to go to the store, and I saw a sign. Instantaneously, I had this feeling of judgement wash over me. I took a second, and thought to myself 'Where is this coming from? You have no idea who these people are!" I have thought a lot about this since then, and especially as our summer has progressed with the Pandemic, protests, riots, and the upcoming election. How quick we are sometimes to pigeon hole someone because of a phrase used, or not used. We make judgments. I think the first thing is to recognize that we do so.
Even using the word protests instead of riots or riots instead of protests might lead people to think a certain way about you. Some see what's been going on as peaceful protests, and others only see riots involving looters, arsonists, and vandals. Whose right? Whose wrong? Both probably have some truth to them. What may start out as peaceful protests, can end up with a much different outcome if just a few people show up and get out of hand.
I have colleagues/friends who shout out at every injustice that happens and say this is the very thing that Jesus preached about, warned against, etc., etc. To which I wonder what Bible are they reading? Jesus really didn't speak out about the government of his day, but he taught forgiveness, and to love one another as we love ourselves (I kind of remember someone preaching about that on Sunday). What does it look like to love someone who has a different political view than we do? What does it look like to love someone who it seems we have little in common with? When we say we follow a God who loves everyone, and wants us to love as He loved us, how will this shape our conversations, our actions, our lives? Maybe this year it may mean being in real dialog with one another, listening fully to the concerns of each others hearts and not trying to prove that we, or our side, is right!