Lenten Devotions cont’d

Sisters and brothers in Christ,

As we begin the slow process of recovering from the tornadoes that ravaged our area this week, I hope you are comforted by these devotions.  They are a gift from the students of our Wesley Foundations in the Nashville Episcopal Area.


 

Thursday, March 5

Have Faith and Give Thanks Even in Hard Times

Read Psalm 121; 2 Timothy 1: 3-7

We have all had rough patches in our lives, and sometimes it is rather hard to stick with God through it all, but I would like to share a story from my life that might help you understand why it’s important to keep faith in God.

About 10 years ago, my grandma was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was kind of advanced when the doctors found it and, if I remember correctly, they wanted to operate right away so that it did not spread to the rest of her body. My family and I did not know how to handle the situation right away and it was hard to grasp the enormity of it. But my grandma told us that she was determined to get through it and survive, and she was NOT gonna let the cancer break her down. Even though things weren’t exactly going the way she wanted, she kept her strong faith in God. Her faith, support from her family and friends, and a lot of chemotherapy treatments made her – after 8 long, hard years ­– cancer free. And for that everyone was so thankful.

Two years later, however, the cancer was back. But this time it was in her liver. This was not what we were expecting at all. My grandma went through more treatments, except it was with radioactive beads. The doctors decided to try this and see how it worked so it was kind of like a test run. We were not very sure about this, but my grandma decided to try it if it would possibly help with the cancer. Now my grandma is doing pretty well most days even though it is sometimes tough, but she has been a fighter and a survivor throughout this whole cancer ordeal. Her faith in God has never wavered through all of it, and it has inspired our family to keep going and keep our faith in God strong also.

I’m telling you this story to show how important it is to keep believing in God even when everything seems to be going completely and totally wrong. We should stick with God in the good and the bad because He is who will help get us through it all. God should also be thanked both in the good times and the bad. It makes God happy when we thank him even when things are not going our way. That tells him that we trust that he will make all things work out for the best. Far too often I think we forget that God likes to hear our prayers in addition to giving thanks to him. The combination of the two delights God and says that we have faith that he will make things better in the future.

Thought for the Day:  Remember no matter how hard things in life may seem, keep you faith in God. He will NEVER leave you.

Prayer: Hey God, thank you for always watching over us. Help us to always remember to pray to you and to thank you both in the good times and bad. We love you so much. Amen.

                • M. Einerson  (UTM Wesley)

 

Friday, March 6                              

 “The Greatest Participation Award”

Read Psalm 121, Micah 7:18-20, and Romans 3:21-31

What is the one thing that everyone has done at some point in his/her life? Youth Sports. If you remember your recreational sport days, you’ll remember the best part of it all: the postgame juice boxes and oatmeal cream pies and the participation awards. Everyone was a winner. You didn’t receive an award for playing well, it was for your ability to get a ride, show up with a jersey of some kind, and occasionally try to make a basket, shoot a shot, or catch a pass while your teammate picked flowers or sometimes their nose.

When we embark on our walk with God, we come to realize the difference between a participation award and a reward. For clarification, a reward is something that is given to your because you have earned it through hard work, while a participation award is given to anyone who shows up to an event. Verse 23 of Romans 3 says,” ALL have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, but ALL are treated as righteous freely by his grace because of a ransom that was paid by Christ Jesus.” Paul goes on to use phrases like “Through HIS faithfulness” and “GOD’s patient tolerance”, but what does this tell us? We have received, not achieved, the most important participation award possible. We play a game called life on Earth, and we can miss the target, fall short of success, and sometimes struggle, but God continues to award us with forgiveness, unwavering love, and compassion.

As I read through Micah 7:18-20 and Psalm 121, I also recognized a common theme of God’s protection and compassion. Micah 7:18 finishes with “He doesn’t hold on to his anger forever; He delights in faithful love.” How amazing is it to know that someone DELIGHTS in faithful love, DELIGHTS in forgiving us for our sins, and DELIGHTS in continually having to overlook our sins? Again, God is awarding, not rewarding, us with His compassion and love. Despite our defiance and failure to uphold our end of the deal, God is joyous in the process of forgiving us. Not only does He continue to wash us clean of our sin, but He also protects us in every way possible. From Psalm 121:6-8, you can see that in all circumstances, conditions, and directions, God offers his protection; He’ll protect you in the “night” or “day”, when you are “going” or “coming”, from “now until forever from now.” In all parts of life, if we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, or if we show up with a jersey ready to play, God will reward you with protection, compassion, and unwavering love- the most important participation award possible.

With all of this said, these passages serve as a proclamation of God’s power, His absolute permanence in our chaotic life, and His amazing grace. I hope as you read through them, you didn’t focus on our imperfections, but His ultimate strength and sacrifice. He loves you! He loves to watch you grow, and He will ALWAYS love, protect, and forgive you… “from now until forever from now.”

Prayer: Heavenly Father, allow us to recognize your strength and compassion and to glorify your amazing grace, because it is you who has given us this life and the opportunity to praise your name. We thank you Lord for all you have done. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

                  • C. Hunt (UT Martin Wesley)

 

Saturday, March 7                     

  “The Mountains”

Read Psalm 121 

 “I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Ever since I was a child my parents have taken me to the mountains in East Tennessee. It was always a great experience, but the trek up the mountain was always an arduous task. We would go hiking around the cabin and after a while our legs would get tired and sweaty.

Though these times in life were hard there would always be a time that my parents would take out of our walk to pray. This gave us time to rest, relax, and take in the beauty of God’s creation. This moment of prayer taught me that in life when times get hard, it’s okay to take a moment and breathe.

When we take time out of our day to pray to God and realize that he is where strength comes from, we can breathe and get a second breath that God gives us.

Prayer of the day: God please be with us as we go through our busy lives. Give us the strength to walk up our own mountains and keep our eyes on you. Amen.

                • G. Haynes (Austin Peay Wesley)

 

Sunday, March 8                                                                                           

Transformation

Read Matthew 17, 1-9 and John 3, 1-17

            Throughout the Bible, many people are transformed through God. Jacob is “transformed” into Israel. Saul is “transformed” into Paul. In both cases, God takes someone and helps them become the person He has planned them to be. But for many people, we aren’t called to service by wrestling with God, nor in a flash of light. Many of us, like Nicodemus in the Gospel of Luke, have questions, and that’s ok.

In today’s society, we as Christians feel that we need to know the answer to every question anyone will ask us about our faith. And, even worse, if we can’t make a strong argument for Christ in any given situation, we sometimes don’t. But, as we see in Luke, even those who lead us have to ask questions. And, most importantly in Luke, we see, despite the fact we don’t know everything there is to know, that God is there to help us when we stumble.

Thought of the Day: Don’t dwell on the past. Rather, use it as a guide so that you can be transformed through Christ in your future.

Prayer: Lord, help us to not be ashamed of our questions, but rather use the questions we have so we may grow closer to you. Amen.

                • T. Lawson (MTSU Wesley)

 

Monday, March 9

“But God… Why?”

Read Psalms 128:1-6 and Hebrews 3:1-6

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” Proverbs 3:5

God has placed many roadblocks in my way throughout my life. Each time I was faced with one of those challenges my response was, “But God… why?”. Why, God, can my life not happen according to my plan? Why not this way? I was upset and confused by the times God told me no.

They say hindsight is 20/20. After some time, I began to see how God was working through those hardships. In Psalms 128, it speaks of the blessings God gives His people when they are obedient. Obedience is not an easy concept for me, especially when the task is something that I struggle with. My heavenly calling is the first thing that comes to my mind. The call to love others no matter how they are different than me. The call to lay my pride aside and to be a servant to all. The call to see everyone as a precious child of God. Our callings are not easy tasks and can take years of practice, but they are not impossible with God’s help.

Hebrews 3:1-6 encourages us to keep our thoughts fixed on Jesus. We must hold firmly to the hope that He gives us and be obedient to God’s individual calling that he has for each of us. Let us not respond with, “But God… why?”, but instead let us answer with, “Here I am, Lord”.

Thought of the Day: God wants me to trust him and respond with obedience to his calling.

Prayer: Gracious and Loving God, we confess that we have heard your calling but find it difficult to obey. Help us to respond with joyful obedience. You are a good good father, and we choose to put our trust in you alone. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 Prayer Focus: Those who are discerning God’s call for their life

                • H. Underwood (MTSU Wesley)

 

Tuesday, March 10

“God’s Blessings for Us”

Read Romans 4: 1-13

The LORD bless you from Zion. May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life. ~ Psalm 128: 5

Often, we hear in our society and culture today the phrase #BLESSED. It is often accompanied by pictures on social media of dream vacations, expensive electronics or jewelry, or new cars or houses. Yet in all of us that use that phrase, how often are we thanking God rather than showing up our peers? Do we remember what it means to be truly blessed?

The blessings that God gives us are perhaps a little different from the #BLESSED blessings that are so often shared. We see in Paul’s letter to Rome how God has blessed Abraham, and how God chooses to bless us. Paul reminds us that it isn’t through any works of our own that we earn a blessing. If we seek to earn such a gift, we see it as wages, or a payment that is owed to us. In versus 6-13 Paul shows us that it is through faith in God that we receive God’s blessings. It doesn’t matter the “stage” of faith you have, or how far in your journey in Christ that you are. God loves you and blesses you because of who God is and not how much we do.

Remember to take a break. God rested on the seventh day and so should we. “Remember the Sabbath and keep it Holy.” As you slow down from the grind we have of life, look around you. How has God blessed you in life? Despite all the twists and turns in life I’ve been through, when I remember to pause, look around, and really SEE the people and community around me, I can’t help but see how God has #BLESSED me. It really is through nothing that I am, but everything that God is that I have a network of people that love and care about me. Reach out and talk to someone. More people love you than you know. As a challenge for the rest of this season of Lent, share the people that love and care about you with #BLESSED and why they are a blessing in your life. You’ll be reminded just how much love is out there, and maybe, if we all do it, we may remember the true meaning of blessed.

                • A. Barker (MTSU Wesley)

 

Wednesday, March 11

 Freedom Through Christ

Read John 7:53-8:11 & Psalms 128

21 whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”
– John 3:21

All of us, like this woman, has been caught in the act of sin and stand condemned by God; but God offers grace to those who repent. This passage shows God himself changing the appointed punishment and he reestablishes the foundations of righteousness. In John 7:53-8:11 God shows us his mercy towards all people. God said “neither do I condemn you, Go now and leave your life of sin” he said his after he told the Pharisees “if anyone of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her”. He was saying that no one is without sin, but through the glory of God and his mercy we are covered by grace. Colossians 2:13-16 tells us that “13when you were dead in your sins… God made you alive with Christ. 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross”

In John 3:18-21 it tells us that the Light (Jesus) has come into the world to show us mercy and not punish us but deliver us from darkness. Life is not fair; our lives are messy and hard, and most of the time we think that nothing is going our way. Forgiveness is God’s recipe for a fresh start. Not only will God free you from your sins but, he will bless you beyond compare. In Psalm 128 it says that God blesses all who walk in his ways. Blessing and prosperity will be yours, who walk in the footsteps of God. Follow God down his path and not your own. Seek him first and may his will be done.

Thought for the Day: God wants us to repent for he has shown us mercy

Prayer:  Lord, in our repentance show us your glory and lead us down the path of righteousness. Help us to follow your will and show mercy to others. In Jesus name, Amen

                • D. Stott (MTSU Wesley)

 

Thursday, March 12

“Where’s the Exit?”

Read Exodus 16:1-8

“He is before all things, and by him all things hold together. He is also the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first born from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For God was pleased to have his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile everything to himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood shed on the cross.”  Colossians 1:17-20

Do you ever feel like you’re burning the candle at both ends? Like you’re running around with no direction? Wherever you turn things fall apart? So much so that you want to give up or even shut down? I have.

I am the kind of person that likes to be in the know. I like to know everything that is going on and be involved in it all. I like to be in control. I like to know what is going to happen when and why and have a back up plan in case the first falls through. I do this with everything: school, work, home, etc. I give my all to everything. But sometimes I think, “What’s the point? Why am I giving everything but getting nothing? When is someone going to help me?” But the irony is… I am often so busy, that I ignore the people that are trying to help me, check in on me, tell me to slow down and rest.

I am so busy running around, that instead of taking note of the ways and people God has provided for me, I keep complaining about how exhausted I am. But if I just took a moment to stop and look around, I would see that I am not alone. Even if there aren’t people around me helping, when I take a step back and look, I see all that God has done for me. God has and is always providing exactly what I need in each exact moment. No more. No less. I try to rush Him. I try to ignore Him. I complain to (and sometimes about) Him wondering when He is gonna show up and do something. But most of the time, He has already done it, and I missed it because I wasn’t focusing on Him. How often do you find yourself in this situation? I know I find myself here more often than I would like to admit.

How have you been missing God’s provisions in your life? Have you been running so far, so fast, so long that you missed your exit? Maybe even your exit to the cross? Have you been living your life in fast-forward wondering when the happy ending will come?  Let’s pause, rewind, and see that it already has come. God has already written and executed His plan. He has already provided. Jesus died on the cross so we don’t have to live each day wondering where our strength will come from, wondering what will happen next. Just like God provided the exact amount of quail and manna the Israelites needed for each day (no more, no less), He is providing for you. He is right next to you running this race. Sure, we have all screwed up along the way, taken wrong turns, ignored the road signs, and run out of gas, but God has the Map and is guiding you through each turn.

Thought for the Day: Where has/is God providing for you?

Prayer Focus: Ask God to show you ways that He can provide for someone else through you.

                • C. Shepard (MTSU Wesley)

 

Friday, March 13                         

“The Walls that Build Temples”              

Read: Ephesians 2:11-22     

For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
Psalms 95:3-5 (NIV)

Every day, in every moment, we are surrounded by walls. Not literal walls, necessarily, though that may be true for some of us–but figurative walls. Ones that separate us from each other. Personally, I feel these walls in every aspect of my life; they dictate my actions, my thoughts, and my words. There are so many walls that I can name–walls between me and people of different races, genders, beliefs, ages, and lifestyles. These could be walls that have been “constructed,” so to speak, by society and culture, established long before I physically existed; these could also be walls that I have built to protect myself at the expense of relationships with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I have learned to walk through life with fear, sticking to the path that I can easily see, avoiding touching these walls for fear of disrupting the “peace.”

But what peace could there possibly be if I live in fear? God does not call us to live in fear. Because of Jesus and his sacrifice and because of God’s mercy and grace, we are told not to live our lives in fear–that we have nothing to fear, because we have an all-loving and amazing God on our side. The earth molds to the will of His hands and the seas part with the whisper on His breath, so why do we let these walls control our lives? In Ephesians 2:11-22, it speaks on how God breaks down the walls of hostility between us and creates a unified body—one of peace and love. The most amazing part of this is that not only does God break down the walls of hostility that we have built between us, but that He has constructed a new set of walls—ones that guide us and unify us. These walls—the ones built from God’s love—form buildings and these buildings become a holy temple, built in peace; it says, “In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” It is described as a household and a dwelling where we find reconciliation through God, with Jesus Christ as its cornerstone.

Therefore, we must ask ourselves: what are the walls of hostility and isolation that exist in our lives? What are the ones that exist due to society, culture, or history, and what are the ones that we have created? How can we, as individuals and as a, community allow God to break down these walls to build ones that will rise to create a guiding, unifying, loving holy temple, not with our worldly lust for control as the cornerstone but with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone? How can I/we recognize the holy walls that have already been built and that are being built now?

Thought of the Day: God calls us to recognize the holy walls in our lives and to let them guide us.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us let go of this want for control over these walls in our lives. We need Your holy temple, a set of walls that does not separate us, but unifies us; with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone, this holy temple can exist on Earth as it does in Heaven. Amen.

Prayer Focus: Those struggling to feel unity and peace.

                • B. Barnett (MTSU Wesley)

 

Saturday, March 14

Trust When Things are Tough

 Exodus 16:27-35 and John 4:1-6
One day, discussion at my Sunday school came around to the idea of finding a reason for why certain events happen in your life and whether we should accept that everything that happens in our lives is a part of some master plan.  And on one hand I can be a very independent person.  I like to think of myself as self-sufficient and capable of taking care of myself.  And yet on the other hand, what this passage in Exodus shows has its own draw.  The idea of being able to depend on God to provide your food every single day for forty years is something that can be hard to fathom in our fast-paced modern world.  As dangerous as the Israelites’ situation was, I can’t imagine a more physical example of God’s love then to have him literally rain food from the sky every day, just for you.

More times in my life though, I feel closer to Jesus in our passage in John.  Here Jesus is said to leave Judea not because of any higher plan he hears from God, but because the Pharisees have caught wind of all the people the disciples and he are baptizing.  When I face situations like this, where I feel pushed around by circumstance and not in control of my own life, it can be frustrating.  More than anything I would prefer if God just swooped in and dropped just what I need from the heavens.

Yet there’s something comforting in how Jesus travels from baptizing people and ends up arriving at a well.  No matter the chaos and pressures surrounding his circumstances for coming to Samaria, he still ends up connecting to water.  I feel like we get asked to trust in God, we aren’t expected to sit around and wait for our solutions to just pop out of nowhere.  I believe sometimes what we need to do is keep our eyes open and see how even when change comes around, we can continue to do what we were called to do in different ways.

Prayer: Dear Father, keep our eyes and hearts open to you so that even in times of tribulation, we don’t lose sight of your unfailing love. Amen.

Prayer Focus: Noticing God providing in big and small ways.

 

                • M. Schremmer (Vanderbilt Wesley)

Response to Tornadoes in Middle Tennessee

I was saddened when I woke up this morning and discovered that tornados had ripped through our area last night affecting so many here in middle Tennessee. We especially pray for those families who have lost loved ones.

I am thankful that through our United Methodist Connection, before daylight, our people were connecting and mobilizing to respond to the disaster.

As we continue to assess damages to churches, homes and businesses, our hearts and minds are with the families of those whose lives have been lost.

UMCOR has been at work this morning connecting with our leaders to create a path to quickly respond to the needs of our communities across Tennessee.

Robert Craig is the Nashville Episcopal Area Disaster Response Coordinator.  With our friends at UMCOR, Robert will be guiding our next steps into what will become a long-term recovery effort.  We are working diligently to respond faithfully to the needs of our communities and we know you will want to help.

First, please continue to pray for all those affected. Please also reach out to those who you know who were in the path of the storm to be sure they are okay.

We will be updating a page on the Tennessee Conference website tnumc.org/tornado with opportunities for how you can provide hands-on assistance.

In the meantime, you may choose to give financially to support our Disaster Response efforts.

CONTRIBUTE

In the near future, we will need teams to help with long term recovery. It is our natural impulse to desire to respond in tangible ways. When we receive the green light from our Disaster Response leaders, we will want to be prepared to mobilize. Please let Robert Craig know you would like to help by emailing him at: disasterresponse@tnumc.org

In the meantime, continue to support and pray for strength and comfort for those who have been directly impacted by this devastating storm.

 

 


Lenten Devotions for the coming week

 

Sisters and brothers in Christ,

Today I offer more devotions from the students of our Wesley Foundations across what will be the Tennessee Western Kentucky Conference.  I hope you find them helpful.

 


 

Thursday, February 27

“Up on Your Feet and On Your Way!”

Read: Jonah 3:1-10, Psalm 51

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. -Psalm 51:10 (NRSV)

In Jonah 3, God calls Jonah to travel across Nineveh, which was a three-day walk, and proclaim God’s message. This is the second time God commands Jonah to go, and after him running from God the first time and ending up in the belly of a whale, he obeys. I really like the Message translation of the first two verses. It says, “Up on your feet and on your way to the big city of Nineveh!” Sometimes I feel like life is kind of like this. I sense God nudging me to do something or use me in a way that feels uncomfortable and I push back on it, not wanting to take the risk and step out of my comfort bubble. Often, this lands me in a figurative whale’s belly, but the cool thing is, God doesn’t just give up on me or leave me in the belly. God challenges me again, tells me to get up on my feet, and leads me where I am called to go.

I also catch myself doubting my ability to successfully follow God. Oftentimes I don’t feel equipped to carry out God’s mission or confident enough in my own faith to make a difference. When I am in these lows, I find comfort in praying Psalm 51, asking God to renew my heart, grant me a willing spirit, and deliver me from sins of the world. It is in these moments of crying out and blindly trusting God that the greatest transformation is experienced in my life. I want to get up and go on my way to sing the praises of the Lord now and forevermore.

Thought for the day:  God wants me to run alongside God.  Not away, against, or into, but with.

Prayer: Lord, open my heart and mind to follow You when I am called. Blanket me in grace so that I may live my life in an abundant way that glorifies You. Call me and I will follow. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

                    • M. Hudson (Belmont Wesley)

 


 

Friday, February 28

Transgression Met with Compassion

Read: Jonah 4: 1-11; Psalm 51; Romans 1:8-17

“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt of erings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” – Psalm 51:16-17

Jonah 4:1-11 Like Jonah, I can let worldly inconveniences cause me to be angry. When God shows his love and compassion I resist and insist on staying in my dark mood. Jonah tells God in verse 3 “please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live” but God doesn’t work by our commands. The Lord doesn’t wish for Jonah to suffer or to die, instead, He shows his kindness and compassion. Whenever faced with opposition or anger, a response in kindness and love prevails. You cannot fight anger with more anger, just like you cannot fight hatred with more hate. God taught Jonah the importance of trusting in His prevailing love.

Romans 1:8-17 Paul reflects on how he’s accepting of all and will not hold back the Gospel from anyone who will listen. He’s unashamed of his faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. In our world of instant messaging and endless exposure to marketing, we as Christians must remember our priorities. Paul’s priority is to live out his passion for spreading the Gospel. He knows that “in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed” therefore he is just the messenger. We often take on the weight of worrying if our words will bring others to Christ, but this is a reminder from Paul that God will prevail.

Thought for the day: Our time on this Earth is finite, spend the precious moments with those you love and show love to strangers even when it seems uncomfortable. The Lord sees all and most importantly, your heart.

Prayer: Lord, let my life be a beacon of Your Goodness and compassion for humanity. I pray that my disposition for kindness and love will resonate with every soul I come across in my daily life and forever. Amen.

Prayer focus: Someone with unresolved anger.

                    • C. Collier (Belmont Wesley)

 


 

Saturday, February 29

“Moving into Consciousness”

Read Psalm 51

“About that time… “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven”… What sorrow awaits the world, because it tempts people to sin. Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting.” – Matthew 18: 1-7

Thought of the Day: God wants me to be aware of my actions during the day.

When I was 5, my twin sister and I were in a Chinese restaurant with our family after the Christmas Eve service at church, and they had some of those coin machines that you could get those little floppy sticky hands that you could throw against something and it would stick to it. We didn’t have any money, and couldn’t convince any family members to give us any, and so we made the decision to take quarters out of a St. Jude’s donation display. The reason I tell this story though is not to point out the obvious sin that came in that moment, but to point out the bad decision that led to the sin.

Psalm 51:5 says “For I was born a sinner, yes from the moment my mother conceived me.” I think for a lot of us, the word sin is hard to define. For me, sin comes from the decisions that we make that end up causing harm to others or more importantly ourselves. What Matthew 18 is trying to convey is that unless you become aware of what causes the decisions that lead up to the sin, you can’t ever fully move away from the pain it causes. The temptation of sin that the passage talks about is the moments that lead up to the “sin”. To stop the temptations and the loud thoughts that run through our unconscious brain, we have to become aware of ourselves consciously in the moment. To be able to see and understand what is causing those decisions to be made. For my sister and I, those moments leading up to stealing the money weren’t full of conscious thoughts of stealing from sick children, but instead of unconscious thoughts of what we wanted in that moment and of reassurance that it was the right thing. We didn’t think about the way we were hurting others.

In our daily lives there are things that we do that can hurt others and hurt ourselves, and it comes from the temptations of our own brain. It’s the unconscious thoughts that we let run wild in our heads that can tend to override the transition into conscious and purposeful thoughts that drive our actions. To truly move away from the bigger sins that this passage refers to, we have to become aware of ourselves and the way that our actions can cause pain. We have to chose in that moment, to fight the unconscious thoughts to become present in the moment, and to choose to let the conscious and rational thoughts drive the way we come into a better way of living.

Prayer: Dear God, help me to move into my conscious thoughts in moments that are tough, so that I can move away from the temptations of my unconscious self. In your name, Amen.

                    • A. Mink (TTU Wesley)

 


 

Sunday, March 1

The Daily Examen

Read Psalm 32

The prayer of Examen is a spiritual practice that trains us to still our hearts and minds, reflect on the day/week/month/season that has just passed, and reset for the time to come. We have sprinkled this practice throughout this devotional guide to assist you in your journey through the season of Lent.

  1. Become aware of God’s presence: Lookback on the day and note the times you felt God was with you, assisting. Feel God with you now and ask to become more conscious of God’s presence. It may be helpful to repeat a phrase like, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), or any other prayer that connects you to a Higher Power.
  2. Look back with gratitude: Review the past 24 hours and notice what you’re thankful for. What happened to make you feel blessed? Take a moment to give thanks to God for providing you with these blessings.
  3. Take an honest look at your day: Note everything that happened over the course of the past 24 hours, your interactions with others, and your emotions. We often rush through each day, not pausing to reflect. Doing a deep, honest reflection of the past day causes us to learn more about ourselves and improve our future actions.
  4. Choose one part of the day, and pray about it: From doing your review, you might find something God is directing you to work on – an emotion, a relationship that needs mending, an unpleasant situation. Pray for it, ask God’s guidance to resolve it.
  5. Pray for tomorrow: Ask God to guide you tomorrow leading you to your highest purpose. Send love and light to tomorrow, praying for wisdom and strength. Feel deep gratitude, knowing God has already answered your prayer and tomorrow is already blessed. Take some deep breaths, and know that all is well.

 


 

Monday, March 2

Fear Meets it Maker

Read Psalm 32

Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” 3Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. 7The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.  -1 Kings 19:1-8

Ever since I was a small child I was scared. I was scared of talking to new people, trying new things, speaking up for myself, taking risks, and even cutting my own food. I was and still am constantly afraid and nervous, just as Elijah was so scared for his life that he asked God for him to die. Yet God told the man to get up off his but and eat, just as he tells me everyday to get up and to speak for myself and others. Just as God tells all of us to go out and show those who despise us love, courtesy, and respect. Just as God tells us to go and serve those who are lacking, whether it is with money, housing, food, or love. No matter how scared we are at taking those risks, God tells us to go on out and go on our journey, just as Elijah did.

As said in Psalm 32, the Lord will protect and defend us as long as we admit and acknowledge our sins and mistakes. This applies to us falling short of delivering peace, love, and service to those that we think to have wronged us. We need to acknowledge that we fell short and admit that we failed due to our fears and anxieties in order for us to grow past them and for us to properly serve our communities. Once we are able to come to terms with our own shortcomings and misfortunes we will finally be able to properly use the strength God has always provided us. It is only when we keep silent and fail to speak up that we fail ourselves and our community, but we can always come back from it due to god’s love and patience.

Prayer: Dear Father, thank you for your everlasting patience for when we feel scared and lost. Through you and our own acceptance, we can find the strength and courage that we need to get through the day, as well as helping others through their own days.

                    • L. White (Austin Peay Wesley)

 


 

Tuesday, March 3

The Daily Examen

Read Hebrews 4:14-5:10

The prayer of Examen is a spiritual practice that trains us to still our hearts and minds, reflect on the day/week/month/season that has just passed, and reset for the time to come. We have sprinkled this practice throughout this devotional guide to assist you in your journey through the season of Lent.

  1. Become aware of God’s presence: Lookback on the day and note the times you felt God was with you, assisting. Feel God with you now and ask to become more conscious of God’s presence. It may be helpful to repeat a phrase like, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), or any other prayer that connects you to a Higher Power.
  2. Look back with gratitude: Review the past 24 hours and notice what you’re thankful for. What happened to make you feel blessed? Take a moment to give thanks to God for providing you with these blessings.
  3. Take an honest look at your day: Note everything that happened over the course of the past 24 hours, your interactions with others, and your emotions. We often rush through each day, not pausing to reflect. Doing a deep, honest reflection of the past day causes us to learn more about ourselves and improve our future actions.
  4. Choose one part of the day, and pray about it: From doing your review, you might find something God is directing you to work on – an emotion, a relationship that needs mending, an unpleasant situation. Pray for it, ask God’s guidance to resolve it.
  5. Pray for tomorrow: Ask God to guide you tomorrow leading you to your highest purpose. Send love and light to tomorrow, praying for wisdom and strength. Feel deep gratitude, knowing God has already answered your prayer and tomorrow is already blessed. Take some deep breaths, and know that all is well.

 


 

Wednesday, March 4

GOD the Father

Read Exodus 34:1-9, 27-28; Matthew 18:10-14

“Blessed is the one who’s transgressions are forgiven, whose sin is covered…. Therefore, let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found… You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance…. Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!” ~Psalm 32

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At the beginning of the spring semester, I received a word written on a paper star at the first UT Martin Wesley Foundation worship service. We talked about epiphany and the magi who were enlightened and came with frankincense, gold, and myrrh. At the end of the service, I received the word comfort. This word brings back memories of home, snuggling up to my mom and dad with baby sister in tow to listen to them read bible stories when we were little. It’s nostalgic, homey, and comforting. I’m reminded of my parents’ rules as I grew up and how I often found them unfair and compared my friends’ house rules to mine. Now that I’m older, I know that was a way to show me their love. They wanted me home safe every night and out of trouble. For that, I am immensely grateful.

Still today, I’m learning repeatedly of God’s love, protection, and comfort he provides for us as a Father would. I’m reminded of the Ten Commandments, which He gave to the Israelites and what we still follow today. And even as I, or we, may wander and compare God’s inbreaking Kingdom versus the consumerism of our world today, God is looking—calling—for us like in the parable of the lost sheep. He constantly leaves the ninety-nine in search of the one and rejoices when he finds him/her and brings His sheep home.

In this season, I remember how Jesus Christ taught and discipled faithfully for three years, walking his way to the cross to make way for His sheep to come home and receive grace and mercy. When trials and failures come, remain strong in his grace and mercy, the path is not meant to be easy. Come home and be comforted, share God’s love, protection, and comfort with others. Exercise his grace and mercy by opening your fists, receive and be fed. Then, when the time comes, go and feed others and rejoice.

Prayer: Dear God, our Father who protects, loves, and comforts us, we pray that You may open our fists and we may come home. May we remember the grace and mercy You offer us now and forever, and may You guide us as we feed Your sheep, and remember Your sacrifice as we walk our way in this season to the cross. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Prayer focus: Comfort, feed and be fed.

                    • L. McGranahan (UT Martin Wesley)

A devotion for Lent

Recently I received a packet of Lenten devotions from the students of our area Wesley Foundations – that they put together – together across the east and west.  They are the present and future voices providing spiritual direction to our church.  Thanks be to God!  I wanted to share these devotions with you. I hope that you will incorporate them into your Lenten devotional time.

On this Ash Wednesday, I remind you that the promise of Easter is never gone – even in the midst of Lent!

I will be sharing these with you.

 

Wednesday, February 26

“How are you?” 

Read Psalm 51:1-17

“Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins.”  

-Isaiah 58:1

 

I frequently find myself confronted with the question “How are you?” Although this seems like a simple question, I almost always avoid answering this question with the truth. Typically, I respond “I am good. How are you?” because it’s the easiest answer. I tell myself that I choose the easy answer because I am in a hurry or I don’t know the person who asked the question well, but I make this choice because I am afraid to allow myself to accurately evaluate how I am. Although it is not hard to just tell others how I feel or what is happening in my life, I don’t want to answer the question because it means admitting the truth to myself.

I believe that many people struggle with admitting the truth of what is going on in their lives. After taking part in many sins, David struggles and avoids the feelings that weigh on his heart. In a confrontation by Nathan, David begins to let all of his feelings and struggles pour out, and he asks God to create in him a clean heart. I like to think that Nathan could have asked the simple question of “How are you? No, really, how are you?” to get this response from David. This simple question, when asked by the right person, shows that people care about what is happening in our lives and prompts us to let down any walls we surround ourselves with.

Now is the time to let down your walls. I ask this question to you: How are you? Really, how are you? Take some time to think about the events happening in your life and how they make you feel. You may actually be happy and well, but it is also normal to feel sad, lonely, or just like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Take this time to be honest with yourself because it’s never too late to admit your feelings to yourself, someone else, or to God. Answering this question truthfully brings us closer to God.

 

Prayer: Dear God, allow me to let down my walls to share and face the truth of my own burdens. Help me give my troubles to you, Lord, so that you can create in me a clean heart. In your name, Amen.

                      • A. Webb (Belmont Wesley)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Letter regarding the Protocol proposal

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In this New Year I invite you to join me in praying for the United Methodist Church and her people in all places across the world. I invite you to pray that we expand our mission in every place so that those for whom Christ is a stranger will find in Him a gracious and generous friend.

It is no secret that the United Methodist Church has continued to struggle with conflicting views regarding human sexuality, and today I write to you with news that emerged this morning about a mediated agreement called “Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation.”  This Protocol is a response by a number of constituencies within our Church to propose to the General Conference a plan that would allow a gracious separation among faithful Christians so that we may avoid continued distraction from the work of the Kingdom of God.

The individuals adopting this proposal have affirmed their recognition that they do not, and cannot, speak for every constituency in the United Methodist Church, but have made this proposal after prayerful consideration about how best to go forward in doing our most important work—making disciples of Christ.

This news comes to us from our own United Methodist News Service.  Many of you have no doubt read reports coming from other media outlets.  In light of some of the confusing messages contained in those reports, I would offer the following.

Some have interpreted the proposal as a decision that has already been made, or as a call by the Council of Bishops for a Church divide, or both.  In fact, it is neither.

The Protocol is a mediated agreement among a group of persons who have committed individually and collectively to pursue a common legislative goal when the governing body of the global United Methodist Church meets in May.  That legislative body—the General Conference—is the only body with authority to establish the governing law of the United Methodist Church.  The group of individuals who have come together to propose the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace have made clear that their proposal is theirs alone and is not at this point an official action of the United Methodist Church.

It is to be noted, however, that this proposal is unique in that it was generated by a group of individuals representing diverse advocacy groups with contrasting views and bishops with a variety of perspectives, rather than by a group with a single theological perspective.

The group came together as an outgrowth of dialogue initiated by Bishops from Central Conferences outside the United States and collaborated on a proposed agreement for the separation of The United Methodist Church (UMC) that has the unanimous support of these individuals representing varying perspectives.

Some of the central ideas of the proposed legislation are the following:

  • The creation of four regional conferences—Africa, U.S., Europe, Philippines—each with its own ability to adapt the Book of Discipline;
  • The ongoing existence of The United Methodist Church;
  • A path and financial support for the formation of a new traditionalist conservative Methodist denomination as well as other potential Methodist denominations which may emerge;
  • The removal of restrictive language related to LGBTQ identity and practice in the post-separation United Methodist Church immediately following the May 2020 General Conference;
  • Holding in abeyance any church disaffiliations or closures related to human sexuality issues, and any administrative or judicial processes regarding restrictions in the Book of Discipline related to LGBTQ persons, beginning January 1, 2020;
  • Creation of a fund to strengthen ministries with and among persons and communities historically marginalized including Asian, Black, Hispanic-Latino, Native American and Pacific Islander communities;
  • Provisions allowing Annual Conferences and local churches to vote to depart from The United Methodist Church with their property in order to participate in another Methodist expression, but making clear that no Annual Conference or local church is required to take such a vote, and no one is asked to leave or separate from the United Methodist Church;
  • Continuity of pension service from Wespath across the various Methodist expressions.

In May of this year the General Conference will gather to consider this document as one of a number of proposals that are before the General Conference.

In the meantime, the work continues in the Nashville Episcopal Area, the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences. We continue to press toward God’s call upon our lives to “discover, equip, connect and send lay and clergy leaders who shape congregations that offer Christ to a hurting world, one neighborhood at a time.”

Change, and especially talk of separation, is daunting:  yet is heartening that persons of very diverse views have come together to do this serious work, and have listened to, and heard, each other. I would remind us that despite the uncertainty, God is doing amazing work among us and we have tremendous leaders who are focused on making disciples of Jesus Christ.

I recognize that for many this report is received with some measure of anxiety. My prayer for you is that you turn toward one another, not away from one another.

A friend sent a book of prayers to me this Christmas, and I share this prayer with you:

 

Where there is separation,

There is pain.

And where there is pain,

There is story.

 

And where there is story,

There is understanding,

And misunderstanding,

Listening

And not listening.

 

May we—separated peoples, estranged strangers,

Turn toward each other,

And turn toward our stories,

With understanding

And listening,

With argument and acceptance,

With challenge, change

And consolation.

 

Because if God is to be found,

God will be found in the space between.*

 

Amen

 

*Daily Prayers with the Corrymeela Community by Padrig O Tuama

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION:


Christmas Message

Isaiah 9:2

[a] The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
    on them light has shined.

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the days grow shorter until December 21, the winter solstice. I am not particularly fond of the shorter days, the longer nights. I prefer daylight into the evening.

Thanksgiving means many things in our family. It means being thankful, eating well, family time.

It also means a shift toward Advent and Christmas. The ritual we practice is enacted annually  the Friday after Thanksgiving.  We decorate for Christmas.

At our house there are distinct roles when it comes to decorating for Christmas. My role, always, is to go to the attic and bring down the several boxes filled with 40 years of Christmas decorations. Pandora is playing our favorite Christmas channel. It is a beautiful time in our home. Lynn turns our home into a holy place for the season of Advent. And the waiting begins.

There are the cross-stitched ornaments that Lynn made for our tree our first Christmas in Georgia.  Here we were, not yet 25, married less than a year, in a strange place, far from family. The thought of Christmas away from home created a longing I had not previously experienced. An awareness was awakening in me that I could not yet name. The longing is as old as time–the longing for home. That longing is keenly present when Christmas draws near.

With every box pulled from the attic, there are memories.

There is the box that has the first Christmas ornaments given to our children. It also contains their handmade ornaments they made each year.

There is the brass Advent wreath my father made in his shop.

There are Moni angels gifted to us the years we lived in Philadelphia, MS. Moni was a potter who was a member of our Church.

There is the nativity set that sits on the mantle, given to us by Lynn’s maternal grandmother in the early years of our marriage.

There is the apple cone form made by Wayne West which Lynn uses to make an apple tree each year.  There is the Christmas village given to us by Sam and Barbara Creekmore when we lived in New Albany, our first appointment.

Now there is another Christmas village that lights our home—the one we acquired from my mother when she entered the nursing home.

These are the friendships, memories and stories that sustain us.

I’m remembering the Christmases of my childhood tonight.

When I was six years old, it snowed in North Mississippi on Christmas Eve. We were scheduled to go to see my mother’s family. I remembered my parents discussing the weather and potential road conditions. My mother was uncertain, my father confident that he could navigate any challenge weather could present.

Darkness visited us that night.

We should have listened to my mother.

Traveling on Highway 30, west of New Albany, MS, we crossed a bridge covered with ice. My father lost control of our Volkswagen Beetle. When we came to a stop, the car was upside down. My father was thrown from the car (no seatbelts in those days), and miraculously he received the only minor injury. My father’s chin was cut, requiring stitches.

The rest of the family was uninjured.

After receiving medical attention, my father and the men of the family went to the scene of the accident, borrowed a neighbor’s tractor, turned the car right side up, pulled it out of the ditch, added 4 quarts of oil, and drove the battered car back to my aunt’s house.

By then, the party was over. Uncle Dalton, my mother’s brother closest to her in age, loaded my mother, sister, brother and me in his car and drove the 2 hours to our home in West Point, MS. My father wrapped up in as much warm clothing as our relatives could spare, and he drove the wrecked car home. My vague memory is that we followed him, warm and dry.  

 The mind of six-year old thinks many things under such circumstances. The conversation between my brother, sister, me, wondered out loud about the arrival of Santa Claus. What if we walked in on him while he was delivering our presents? The closer to West Point we travelled, the greater our excitement built. I can still remember the disappointment that washed over me when I walked into our living room and it was exactly as it had been earlier in the day when we departed and no Santa.

Of course, Santa did come as Santa had come in prior years and has come every year since.

I’m remembering this story tonight, the weekend a year ago when we celebrated my father’s life in the service of death and resurrection. It was a dark time in our family. Just five years earlier, we walked through another dark time in Advent, the death of my nephew, killed in the line of duty as a policeman on December 23.  Sometimes it helps to say to yourself, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”

For some of us, seeing the light this Christmas will be hard to see.

Indeed, many persons within our tribe of United Methodists will walk in darkness, experiencing the holidays with an emptiness that is penetrating. We  remember our loved ones and the empty space they occupy in the places we gather. I remember last year praying as my father’s life was nearing the end, “Lord, please do not let him die on December 23.” The prayer was answered. Yet, the December grief in our family has multiplied.

For some reason, I remembered the Christmas Eve accident today as I visited with my mother who wrestles with her memory due to dementia. Somehow,  recalling the story with her, stirred a memory for her.  She smiled, then laughed, remembering. She laughed loudest when I reminded her that she said, “I knew we should not have come.” It was a rare moment of recognition. I give thanks to God that she is not aware of the dark spaces that occupy much of her mind.

In the midst of darkness, the light still breaks through. 

What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

John 1:3b-5 

If you were to ask me, I would tell you that my theology is rooted in the Incarnation. The darkness becomes more bearable knowing God is with us.

And yet, without Good Friday and Easter morning, Christmas is a nonevent.

Can you imagine—no Christmas. No Story. No star in the East. No Angels. No Wise men. No shepherds. No Mary. No Joseph. No manger. No memory of Jesus.

Ours is a story of rebellion and redemption.

The world still, as much as ever, needs a Savior.

Indeed, Jesus came…and comes…to redeem.

He redeems those exiled in loneliness, or addiction, or alienation.

Jesus is light shining in the darkness.

One of the ways we deal with darkness is the beautiful hymnody of the Advent and Christmas season.

In 1868 Phillip Brooks, penned the words to this now sacred hymn,

 

O Little Town of Bethlehem

               O little town of Bethlehem, How still we see thee lie.

               Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, The silent stars go by;

               Yet in thy dark streets shineth, The everlasting Light;

               The hopes and fears of all the years,  Are met in Thee tonight.

 The closing lines of the hymn resonate with me still tonight:

                  O Holy Child of Bethlehem,  Descend to us, we pray;              

                  Cast out our sin and enter in; Be born in us today!

Tom Ehrich reminds us:

A messiah [was] sent to lead God’s people out of bondage and home across a fearsome desert, as Luke put it.  A shepherd for lost sheep, as Matthew put it.

 Apart from the darkness, the birth of Jesus makes no sense.  All of us, in one way or another long to escape the darkness.  To drive away the fear, the loneliness, the anxiety.  The way we do Christmas is madness if we fail to acknowledge the darkness we are trying to escape. There are no good tidings unless we can acknowledge the darkness and ourselves as people who walk in darkness.

The light has come into the world and the darkness has not overcome it.

There is an additional verse to O Little Town of Bethlehemnot in our hymnal, that captures my imagination this Christmas:

    Where children, pure and happy Pray to the Blessed Child

   Where misery cries out to thee, Son of the Mother mild;             

   Where charity stands watching   And faith holds wide the  door,

   The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and  Christmas comes once more.     ,  

 As I write this, I can see the light from our Christmas tree reflected in the window in the next room. Across the street, the neighbor’s Christmas lights illuminate their home. I am comforted by the warmth of light.

I pray for you that, this Christmas, the dark night will wake, the glory will break,  the light around you will comfort and Christ will come once more.

Merry Christmas!

Bill and Lynn McAlilly

 

 


It’s Time to Name Our New Conference!

The time has come to name our new conference! The new conference guide team is initiating the process that you will find below.  I will be appointing a discernment committee to collect the names, pray, listen, and discern the new name. 

The process relies on your submissions. Please consider submitting a name that you believe God is giving us. 

Please continue to be in prayer for the committee and for the Memphis and Tennessee conferences as we create a new conference together.

Bishop McAlilly

—–

Names are very important and hold meaning in our lives. We are intentionally given names at birth. In Scripture, when people experience rebirth or transformation, God gives them a new name. When something new is planted or formed, it is given a new name. Many names tell stories. The name for our new annual conference is important as we lean into who God is calling us to be.

Bishop McAlilly will appoint a new conference naming discernment committee composed of members of the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences with intentional attention on the inclusion of young members who will be living and leading for decades to come in the new conference.

Names for the new conference will be submitted through forms available through the Memphis and Tennessee Conference websites from September 16 – October 14, 2019. The form will ask for submitter’s name and contact info, the suggested name for the new conference, and an open box to share the why, the story, the meaning, the related scripture or the rationale for the name.

The naming discernment committee will meet and consider all submissions and discern the new name. The mission, vision, values and strategic initiatives that were adopted for the new conference at annual conference 2019 will be considered in the discernment process.

The name will be announced on Sunday, December 1, the first Sunday of Advent.

Submission Form (This link also will be available on both conference websites and via E-Newsletters through October 14)

Mission, Vision, and Values for the New Conference (adopted at both 2019 annual conferences)

 


Update on Our New Conference

Dear Friends,

I trust you have had a good summer.  I give thanks for fruitful work leading us to the successful vote at both annual conferences regarding the formation of a new conference.  This year will provide an opportunity to live by faith as we move into the future with sure and certain hope that God is guiding our steps.

The task now before us is to complete the plan of transition, organization, structure, staffing and budget.  I have asked Rob Martin and Melinda Britt to lead a guide team along with the following persons:

Bethany Huffman
Cindy Solomon
H.G. Stovall
Jim Allen
John Pearce
Larry Davis
Lynn Taylor
Roger Hopson

To help our larger advisory team do this work, we have created this smaller guide team and employed Cindy Solomon as our project coordinator to keep track of the workflow. The guide team has met four times to establish the scope of work to be accomplished.  They will guide working, conversational groups to accomplish the technical and adaptive work that is before us.  This team will be recruiting members for these groups from the larger advisory team and beyond; leaders who are willing and gifted to assist in executing the tasks and transition conversations to be accomplished.

The guide team has created a covenant realizing that it will be essential for this challenging work.  It is not a perfect document but a living one that relies on God to make it work.  And they are extending the invitation for each of the teams working on this new conference to adapt this covenant for their own.

  • We will bathe our work in prayer, seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our work.
  • We will choose to trust in each other and in the process.
  • We will make decisions in alignment with our new conference mission, vision and values and make this our priority.
  • We will lead with openness – hearing and listening to ideas that are not our own.
  • We will be transparent by sharing information on our teams and with other teams and leaders.
  • We will own our perspective and acknowledge and address conflicts of interest.
  • We will do our work with a bias for thoughtful action.
  • We will be empathetic for generations to come who will be living and leading in the new conference.
  • We commit to seek input and reflection from diverse perspectives and experiences.
  • We will speak publicly in a unified voice, while allowing disagreement in our teamwork.
  • We will have each other’s back.
  • We will hold each other accountable to our actions.
  • We will be present physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
  • We will decide what will be communicated at the end of each meeting.
  • We will share when we hit a rough patch in our work.
  • We will remember our purpose as a team and be clear in our authority.

A meeting of the expanded new conference advisory team, including over 90 laity and clergy, was held on September 10 at Discipleship Ministries.  The gathering time centered around Ecclesiastes 3 and the new season of our church. We remembered the common language of the mission, vision, values and strategic initiatives that we adopted last June at annual conference.

During this time together, each member of the new conference guide team shared information about their work thus far, gained input from the larger advisory team on tasks that need accomplishing, conversations that need to be held over the next year, and communication styles that will be effective. The guide team is already using the input to direct their communication. The advisory team reflected on the content of an article written by Cynthia Weems and Lovett Weems, Jr. on leadership and how leading with these characteristics could impact their work (https://www.emergingmethodism.com/new-article/characteristics-of-leadership-needed-for-united-methodisms-future).

They practiced asset-based conversations that will be helpful as we discover the gifts God is providing in the Nashville Episcopal area.  Using a Gantt chart, the workflow and timeline of the work to create a new conference was reviewed as well.

The advisory team, the guide team and I are committed to transparency with each conference as we do the work before us.  Please continue to follow this blog, as well as your conference and district communications channels. This will allow you to be informed into the future.

I invite you to share your gifts and your input as we step into our future by faith.

I ask for your prayers for the ongoing work that is before us.

As we walk this road to a new conference- across the river, I look forward to the journey that is unfolding—a future, focused on our mission to discover, equip, connect, and send lay and clergy leaders who shape congregations that offer Jesus Christ to a hurting world one neighborhood at a time.

Grace and Peace,

Bishop McAlilly


“A Call to Discipleship: Living as Disciples of a Non-Violent Lord in a Time of Violence”

The following is a letter from Bishop Ken Carter, president of the Council of Bishops

August 6, 2019

“A Call to Discipleship: Living as Disciples of a Non-Violent Lord in a Time of Violence”

To the People of The United Methodist Church:

As president of the Council of Bishops, but more fundamentally as one who professes faith in
Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, I write with a call to discipleship.

What is God’s dream for us? How can we become the answer to the words we say in
worship, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done”? (Matthew 6). In Wesley’s words, we
are being called “to reform the nation, particularly the church, and to spread scriptural
holiness over the land.”

The United States has witnessed a steady occurrence of mass shootings across our nation, this
past weekend in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. I commend the statements of Bishop
Gregory Palmer and Bishop Earl Bledsoe to the people of their residential areas (West Ohio,
New Mexico/Northwest Texas). The carnage following these acts of violence reminds us of
Sandy Hook and Orlando, Sutherland Springs and Charlotte, Las Vegas and Parkland,
Charleston and Pittsburgh, and on it goes.

Underneath the violence is a culture of white supremacy and a fear of immigrants (xenophobia).
These are expressions of our sinful nature, and deny the image of God (Genesis 1) that is in
every person. Christ died for all (2 Corinthians 5), and in this he loved us and gave himself up
for us (Ephesians 5).

I also join my voice with Bishop LaTrelle Easterling of the Baltimore-Washington Conference.
The president’s disparaging comments about an honorable congressman and a major
northeastern city (Baltimore) are rooted in a cynical desire to divide us along racial lines. The
use of the presidential role granted for the purpose of serving an entire people for white privilege
does great harm to us. According to counterterrorism experts, the president’s racial rhetoric is
fueling an incipient and violent white nationalist movement in our nation.

The majority of our membership in the U.S. is Anglo. If you are a white person reading this and
you find it troubling—in my own self-examination and confession, I do, as I am under the same
judgment—I urge you not to write me, but to contact a friend who is African-American or
Latino/a and ask them, “What did you hear in these statements?” and “What do you perceive in
these mass shootings?”

I write less to reinforce our very real political partisanship and more to say that we can have a
better civil dialogue, and perhaps United Methodists who are Democrats and Republicans in the
United States can contribute to this. We are in desperate need of leadership that does not pit us
against each other. And we are in need of a dialogue that is deeply rooted in our discipleship in
the way of our non-violent Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is calling us to love our neighbor (Mark 12). To love our neighbor is to work for a church
that does not exclude anyone, that welcomes immigrants, that reckons with the systemic
realities of racism and that honors the faith of people across the political aisle from wherever we
are sitting.

To love our neighbor is the cost of discipleship (Dietrich Bonhoeffer). To love our neighbor may
be our most powerful form of evangelism at the present moment. To love our neighbor is to
move beyond our fragility toward repentance and reform. And of course, all of this leads to the
question asked of Jesus by the lawyer in Luke 10, and his surprising and unsettling response.

For Jesus, questions of eternal life had nothing to do with separation from or superiority toward
the other. As disciples of Jesus in the Wesleyan tradition, holiness is not separation; holiness is
love of God and neighbor (Plain Account of Christian Perfection, The Almost Christian). And we
cannot love God, whom we have never seen, if we do not love our brother or sister whom we
have seen (1 John 4).

It turns out that the neighbor we are called to love is the one we have profiled and labeled as
our enemy. And it turns out that by teaching us to love our enemy (Matthew 5), Jesus is forming
us in a holiness without which we will not see the Lord (Hebrews 12).

The Council of Bishops is a global body and The United Methodist Church is a global
church. I call upon our brothers and sisters in Europe, the Philippines and Africa to
intercede for us in this struggle (1 Thessalonians 5), that we would be faithful, nonviolent and courageous in our discipleship.

And so, I call us to be the people we profess to be: disciples of Jesus Christ for the
transformation of the world (Book of Discipline, Paragraph 120). We pray for healing
among those who are grieving, amendment of life among those who have done
violence, and judgment upon our human hearts when our spoken words have
contributed to violence (Matthew 12). We commit ourselves to the transformation of
systems and laws that reflect the life that Jesus promises (John 10).

The good news is the very peace of Christ that breaks down the dividing walls of hostility
(Ephesians 2), and the promise that disciples of Jesus who are peacemakers will receive the
blessing of God (Matthew 5). And in this way, we will bless all the families of the earth (Genesis
12).

The Peace of the Lord,
Bishop Ken Carter
President, Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church

 

BishopCarterLetterAug6Final


Methodist Health Systems

Over a hundred years ago, John H. Sherard, Sr., a Delta planter and layperson from Clarksdale, MS, had a vision for a hospital in the city of Memphis that would offer quality care for persons from all walks of life. He was inspired to do so because his pastor had been hospitalized in Memphis and had received inadequate care. Now, for more than one hundred years, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare (MLH) has faithfully fulfilled that mission.  We give thanks that excellent care is accessible for all persons as MLH has provided care across the years.

 

Recently, a Memphis news outlet reported unfavorably regarding collection practices at MLH. This report has been troubling to many of us. In the midst of balancing ministry and fiscal responsibility, the mission of the hospital does not change:

 

The mission:  MLH, in partnership with its medical staffs, will collaborate with patients and their families to be the leader in providing high quality, cost-effective patient- and family-centered care. Services will be provided in a manner which supports the health ministries and Social Principles of The United Methodist Church to benefit the communities we serve.

 

Our office has been in regular contact over the last week with Dr. Michael Ugwueke and The Reverend Dr. Albert Mosely seeking to understand the nature of the allegations as well as the practices which led to the content of the report.  The Administration is taking appropriate steps to examine its policies and procedures regarding collection practices and has suspended any legal action while this review is underway. In an institution that seeks to do good always, MLH must also strive to do no harm. I will continue to urge the leadership of the hospital to ensure that policies and procedures are aligned with the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church and our Wesleyan Heritage.

 

However, this report does not tell the whole story of MLH and the amazing work the hospital does on behalf of those on the margins in the Midsouth and in particular the city of Memphis. MLH serves a diverse population in a region that historically has experienced high levels of poverty. Annually, MLH invests over $220 million to assist with care for those in need.  MLH has remained committed to the city of Memphis as it seeks to offer care to those on their doorstep. In 2018, MLH established “My Sister’s Keeper” to care for women of color to support their ongoing health concerns.  Dr. Albert Mosley, SVP and Chief Mission Integration Officer at Methodist discovered that through MLH’s Community Health Needs Assessment that black women make up more than a quarter of the population in the Mid-South. Furthermore, “they are impacted disproportionately by many health conditions,” said Mosely.

 

 

I trust that you join me in praying for those whose lives are in need of care.

I trust that you will pray for those healing professionals who provide care.

I trust you will pray for the entire MLH team that undergirds quality care, and for the administration as they seek to bring peace and justice for all.

 

 


Since You asked…the vote tally

Memphis Conference Results regarding the Creation of a New Conference
Votes cast Yes No %
Clergy  176 127 49 72
Laity 266 192 74 72
442 319 123
Tennessee Conference Results of the Creation of a New Conference
Votes cast Yes No %
Clergy 306 200 106 65
Laity 372 241 130 65
678 441 236
Area Wide  Votes cast Yes No %
Clergy 482 327 155 68
Laity 638 433 204 68
Totals 1120 760 359

EXPANDING THE MISSION FIELD…AFFIRMED

On our trips to the Holy Land, one of the first stops of the trip is always Caesarea Maritima, the port on the Mediterranean from which the Apostle Paul likely sailed on his 2nd, 3rd, and 4thmissionary journeys.

 

Each time I stand on that shore looking out across the Mediterranean Sea, I wonder if I, as a disciple, would have had the courage to make such a voyage. In our ordination text at Annual Conference, we read from II Corinthians 4 where Paul gives an accounting of the hardship he endured. Nonetheless, Paul continued to feel the call of God to expand his mission field.

 

Over the last two weeks, you have considered the possibility of expanding the mission fields of the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences.  On June 3 the Memphis Conference voted on the possibility of becoming a new conference, and likewise, on June 13 the Tennessee Conference cast their vote.

 

Today, June 17, 2019, the respective conference secretaries met in Nashville to count the votes. I am pleased to report to you that both lay and clergy voted to support creating a new conference by 68% affirmation.

 

Thanks to all who have diligently led our work to explore expanding our mission and vision across the Nashville Episcopal Area by forming a new conference.

May God continue to grant the wisdom to live into the vision of expanding our mission field.

As we have continuously said for the last 7 years, “nothing is sacred but the mission.”

 

May the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-39) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19) guide our steps as we Discover, Connect, Equip and Send lay and clergy leaders who shape congregations that offer Christ to a hurting world one neighborhood at a time.

 

Bishop McAlilly


And Are We Yet Alive?

I want to tell you that I love Annual Conference in our United Methodist tradition. 

In 1784, John Wesley dispatched Thomas Coke from England to oversee the founding of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America. Coke met Francis Asbury at Barratt’s Chapel in November. Plans were quickly made to gather all Methodist preachers together for the Christmas Conference at Lovely Lane.

Historian John Strawbridge writes about what happened over those ten days that formed a new denomination:

“Every Methodist preacher in America left their home and their parish on Christmas Eve. It was an important place to be in the church forming this denomination, dealing with the business that it took to create a church that would serve the people. So, they gathered all the preachers in America, about 86 preachers that they knew of at the time and planned to meet at the Lovely Lane Chapel on Christmas Eve 1784 for the formation of a new denomination.

They met in conference for ten days, established a Discipline, a Book of Worship, they ordained preachers, and they aside Asbury as the first superintendent. It was 10 days of debates and struggles and accusations and reconciliations, and the kinds of things that we do as Methodists.

To realize that this is not something that was handed down from on high, but that those people all came together as lay people.”

 

Since 1784, Methodists have been conferencing. It is the way we hold our connection in high regard. Collectively we work together.  What is decided by the conference becomes our guide for our work for the coming year.

 

Today begins Annual Conference season for the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences.  United Methodists from Paducah to Paris, from Memphis to Medina, from Camden  to Collierville, from Savannah to Spring Hill, Columbia to Cookeville, McMinnville to Murfreesboro will gather in Collierville June 2-4 and in Brentwood June 12-14.

 

Our theme: Remember Who you Are: Word, Water, Witness.  

 

These promise to be historic conferences as we determine if we have the energy to focus on our mission in spite of our challenges. 

 

When we gather, we will sing:

  • And are we yet alive,

and see each other’s face?

Glory and thanks to Jesus give

for his almighty grace!

  • Preserved by power divine

to full salvation here,

again, in Jesus’ praise we join,

and in his sight appear.

  • What troubles have we seen,

what mighty conflicts past,

fightings without, and fears within,

since we assembled last!

  • Yet out of all the Lord

hath brought us by his love;

and still he doth his help afford,

and hides our life above.

  • Then let us make our boast

of his redeeming power,

which saves us to the uttermost,

till we can sin no more.

  • Let us take up the cross

till we the crown obtain,

and gladly reckon all things loss

so, we may Jesus gain.

In 1799 Tobias Gibson was sent from Tennessee to be a Missionary to the Mississippi territory. At the end of that year, he rode  the 400-mile trip through the wilderness of Mississippi and Tennessee to attend the conference at Strother’s meeting house, then in Sumner County, Tennessee.

It had been a difficult year for Gibson.  He appealed to Bishop Asbury for help, due to his failing health. The Bishop consented and sent Moses Floyd as his helper.

When one rides 400 miles by horseback through the wilderness having overcome the dangers of the frontier, singing “And are we yet alive” takes on new meaning.

Thankfully, getting to conference isn’t quite so challenging! Nonetheless, we sing:

Yet out of all the Lord 

hath brought us by his love; 

and still he doth his help afford, 

and hides our life above. 

As we gather, may we pray for one another that we will take up the cross until our crown attain.

And may we remember: Nothing is sacred but the mission. 

I look forward to greeting you!


LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE: AC2019

You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. 

Matthew 5:13-16

 

“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works.”  

 

One of my prayers for the coming Annual Conferences is that we will let our light shine in such a way that those on the outside watching might say what was said of the early Christians, “See how they love one another.” When we shine the light of Christ and remove our egos from the process, we will offer a path for those broken by sin and grief to come near. The love that Christ offers will make a way for estrangements to be healed.

 

It would be naive of me to think that this session of Annual Conference will be without some measure of tension. It seems as if the bloggers have been relentless for the last two years and especially since the special session of General Conference.

 

We acknowledge that in our context, some left St. Louis thankful for the legislation that was passed. Others left feeling harmed. Among our people in the Nashville Episcopal Area, we have both. When we gather I pray that the Holy Spirit that calls us to faithfulness will bear witness to us in a mighty way.

 

I have a request: I ask you to lay aside your positions, your anger, your frustrations and come to Annual Conference shining the light of Christ with all you encounter.

 

We will NOT deal with matters related to the special session of General Conference. There are no action items to come before the Annual Conference.

 

We will honor those who have entered the Church Triumphant.

 

We will celebrate those who have given faithfully their lives in ministry and are choosing the retired relationship. 

 

We will elect delegates to General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference. 

 

This is important work. These persons represent us.

These persons will participate in shaping the future of our denomination. The General Conference is the only body with authority to speak for the United Methodist Church.

 

One common misunderstanding is that some people think bishops have voting privileges at General Conference. We do not.

 

Only those you elect to represent Conferences have the privilege of voting. We will want to elect those who will let their light shine before others.

 

We will present the resolution for a new conference. 

 

If the vote is in the affirmative for the new conference, we will begin planning for a historic session of Annual Conference in 2020 to celebrate, give thanks, and remember who we have been.

 

The timeline is as follows:

 

June 2019  Final Vote for a New Conference

June 2020  Historic Conference Celebration

July 2020    Southeast Jurisdictional Conference

Fall 2020     Special Session of the New Conference to elect officers for the quadrennium.

 

We will order the ministry of our clergy.

 

We will care for the administrative matters that come before the conference, including adopting a budget. 

 

We will have great worship and great music! 

 

So come and let your light shine before others!

 

Your Servant for Christ’s Sake,

 

Bill McAlilly


Cross Shaped Lives: AC2019

In a very short time, the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences will gather.

Our theme: Remember Who We are: Word, Water, Witness will guide our days together.

In our remembering, I invite you to prepare yourselves by focusing on Matthew 5,6, and 7. This is known as the Sermon on the Mount. These three chapters encompass the Beatitudes but so much more. More than anything else, these sacred words are a  guide to how scripture invites us to live in relationship with brothers and sisters in Christ as well as those in the world.  It is my prayer that we will meditate on these Holy Words daily as we approach our time for Annual Conference. 

Further, let me invite you to reflect on the life and teaching of Jesus and prayerfully consider how we are preparing ourselves spiritually. When we are rooted in Scripture and focused on Jesus as Lord, holy conferencing with one another becomes a means of grace. It is my prayer that this will be true as we gather.

As you prepare your hearts and minds, reflect on these three short chapters. Think before you speak. Reflect on the life and teachings of Jesus. As Paul taught us in Philippians 2, “Have this mind in you that was also in Christ Jesus.”

Our lives are cross-shaped because we have said yes to Christ through our baptism. We are indeed rooted in scripture, centered in Christ. Our witness becomes the window through which others are drawn near to Jesus Christ. 

We have important work to do. Let us do our part by being spiritually prepared to give Christ our best. 

Your Servant for Christ’s Sake,

Bill McAlilly