Day 4: Missional excellence

4.jpgActs 1:8
Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

When the call came, I felt the very life knocked out of me. How could it be?

Surely this was a bad nightmare that would go away when I awakened!

But I was wide awake, and the nightmare was real. My son had been murdered!

How could I now survive?

The anger within me burned like a fire that was all consuming. Revenge was on the edge of the insanity that was consuming my heart…how does a parent move beyond such pain and grief?

The answer came as my wife and I and our younger son were driving down the mountain toward Florida where the random shooting had taken place in a church parking lot. The questions, both spoken and unspoken, were filling the air inside our car like a dark blanket that was almost suffocating us. How could something like this happen? Why did this happen? Why Jason? Who did this? Why? Why?

Why?

It was 15-year-old David who broke through the dark myriad of unanswerable questions. He said, “We know where Jason is, but what do we do about the boy who killed him?” 

I heard myself say, “We forgive him!” It was at that raw moment when healing began for our family. Forgiveness is that point where life begins for all of us.

Jesus died so that we might live. That is the story that must be shared to the uttermost parts of the earth.

Prayer: Lord, help us to share our stories of faith so that others may find life through Jesus Christ.

The Rev. Tom Halliburton
Cumberland District Superintendent-TN Conference

– – – – –
REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…

READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


Day 3: Congregational excellence

3.jpgEphesians 3:17-19
I ask that Christ will live in your hearts through faith. As a result of having strong roots in love, I ask that you’ll have the power to grasp love’s width and length, height and depth, together with all believers. I ask that you will know the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge so that you will be filled entirely with the fullness of God.

It had been coming for quite a while, but we had not recognized it for what it was, as I believe that we should. We lost precious children and teachers in a horrific event at Sandy Hook School. We also lost a parent and her troubled child.

But, God came to save all of the cosmos in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Doesn’t that call us to accept our shared humanity with all of its brokenness? To do so would open in each of us opportunities for the pain of others to be felt. By acknowledging and feeling the pain of others, we can begin to respond with compassion. After all, the word “compassion” means “with passion.”

Compassion is not regret. Regret forgets until the next time. Compassion is active involvement in the healing process.

I pray that you have never had to suffer the horrific pain of such violence. And, I pray that you never will. I also pray that we will be more sensitive to the pain and struggles of others on all levels, whether in our own country or in other lands across the globe.

There are no easy answers to the pain and brokenness that surrounds us. There is, however, hope. Hope came in the form of an innocent child:
• exposed to the elements,
• the neglect of the community,
• and the retaliatory fear from both religious and secular leadership.

Hope came through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is this hope that draws all of us to gather together in the loving embrace of a congregation where mercy and compassion reaches out to one another to bring healing and wholeness.

Prayer: God, grant us compassion for those You came to save. Place in us your heart for others, that we might find the fullness of life through living in the embrace of your love in our churches and in our conferences. May our congregations be healthy examples of your forgiveness and grace.

Dr. John R. Bonson, Sr.
Director of Connectional Ministries-Memphis Conference

– – – – –
REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…

READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


DAY 2: God’s transforming presence – Offering Christ to a hurting world

2.jpgPsalm 139:7
“Where could I go to get away from your Spirit? Where could I go to escape your Presence?”

One Sunday afternoon I had just finished preaching my third sermon for the day. I was completely exhausted and drained of energy as I was driving the thirty-five miles back home. Then suddenly there it was right before my eyes. I stopped the car and got out, only to behold the glory of God’s beautiful creation.

The majestic mountains rolled on both sides of me. Just below the dark-green and waxy leaves of the trees reflected the glow of the sunlit sky. There were tiny buds covering the ruby-leaf plum trees. The porches and lawns of the houses were filled with colorful flowers. The vines covering the walls and porches splashed of bright orange, yellow and red colors. It was a magnificent sight!

As I beheld the beauty of God’s creation that summer day, suddenly I felt the Holy Presence surrounding me, filling me with little whispers of peace and love. My tired and worn body was completely transformed into a ray of energy, joy and new life. God’s presence hushed my sighs of weariness, bringing a breath of cheer and ease to my troubled soul.

I am convinced that we can discover God’s presence in all, yes all, of our daily lives; not only in the beauty of the earth, but in the faces of all our brothers and sisters. We can know God’s presence when we serve others living with poverty and injustice; when we stand up for truth, justice and righteousness, when we protect the least, the lost and lonely, when we reach out to the poor, the homeless and imprisoned. How many times have we looked back over our lives only to realize that God’s presence was there with us all the time: in the close encounter of an accident, the reconciliation of a family member, in caressing a new born child.

When was the last time you felt bathed in God’s majestic presence? When was the last time you recognized God’s presence in the ordinary, mundane circumstances of day-to-day living?

Prayer: Loving God, open our hearts to see your Holy Presence in all of our daily lives. May your closeness burst forth in the purity of the dawn and in the glowing ray of sunset, speaking your words of hope, joy and new life. May we always know your Holy Presence as we offer Christ to a hurting world. AMEN.

The Rev. Bettye P. Lewis
Director of Connectional Ministries-TN Conference

– – – – –
REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…

READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


DAY 1: 40-Day Walk With God

1.jpgI John 4:9
This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through Him.

Our grandson, Thomas, is 18 months old. He can say a few words now, but my favorite is “Papa.” He calls me Papa and sometimes calls his grandmother Papa. It makes me smile when I hear him say my name. Sometimes Thomas says “Papa” as praise. Sometimes he cries it when he is wounded and hurt. There are other times when he says “Papa” as a prayer.

Recently, in my own prayer life, it occurred to me that when I pray to God, call God’s name, God must surely smile as I do when Thomas calls my name. In its simplest form, this is what prayer is. Sometimes when I say God’s name it is praise. Sometimes it is when I am in pain. At other times, it is simply as a silent prayer.

Inviting God’s presence to give us a deep sense of the many ways God’s love is being revealed into us and through us is our hope for this prayer guide. For the sake of the mission of Jesus Christ in the world, we invite you to commit the next 40 days to a “Season of Prayer.” We invite you to journey with us as we seek to bear witness to the love of God in the world.

Across the Nashville Area, we are calling you to be a disciple of Jesus Christ who will invite others to become a disciple who will then change the world. May this prayer guide be a tool to assist us as we lean into God’s movement across our conferences.

We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. (I John 4:14)

Prayer: O Lord, speak to us with clarity as we seek to bear witness to the world of your love. Keep our lives focused in you as we live into your desired future. These things we pray in the strong name of Jesus Christ. AMEN.

Bishop William T. McAlilly
Nashville Episcopal Area Leader

– – – – –
REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…

READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


A 40 Day Walk With God starts tomorrow morning!

1.jpgBeginning tomorrow morning the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences will embark on a 40-day journey together with God and through prayer. As we prepare for this upcoming Annual Conference season (Memphis – June 2-5, Tennessee – June 10-12), consider walking with us!

“We will join hands and hearts across Conferences as we enter into a 40-day season of intentional prayer together and with God. I believe this call to prayer will change your life and our churches as we prepare for Annual Conference.” – Bishop Bill McAlilly

RESOURCES:
There are several options for participation during the 40 Day Walk…

  • Physical prayer guides: there might still be a few of these floating around, contact your District offices for info (Memphis | TNUMC)
  • Digital prayer guides: DOWNLOAD (.PDF) for printing or for reading on your computer
  • 40 Days of Doodles for kids! CLICK HERE to download (.PDF)
  • Subscribe to the Bishop’s Blog: by subscribing with your email, you receive automatic updates to your inbox – each daily devotion will release at 6:00 am cst every morning between Apr. 24-Jun. 2. Enter your email address in the box on the upper right-hand side of the HOME page
  • Follow the Bishop’s Blog daily: just log on to www.BishopBillMcAlilly.com every day to read the daily devotions from the 40 Day Walk With God prayer guide – each daily devotion will release at 6:00 am cst every morning between Apr. 24-Jun. 2

You can also get links from our social media presence on Facebook and Twitter:
> Memphis: Facebook | Twitter (@UM_Memphis Conf)
> Tennessee: Facebook | Twitter (@tnumc)

Use hashtag #40daywalk when sharing and tweeting through Twitter – let’s let the world know that the Memphis and Tennessee Conference’s are in a season of prayer and encourage our brothers and sisters across the connection to join us!

cov.jpg


The ‘FACTS’ are in

Over the last three months both the Memphis Conference and the Tennessee Conference have been working with the Financial Advisory Consulting Team (FACT) from the General Board of Finance and Administration and the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits. This is a process that started under Bishop Ben Chamness and one which was continued when I arrived. As a result, we now have quantifiable data with regard to our trends over the last decade or so. The reports are comprehensive and in many ways daunting to consider.

1.jpg

TN Conference representatives meeting with FACT Team at West End UMC on Dec. 11 (click image to read the TN UMC FACT report on TNUMC.org)

A summary of the reports is on the respective websites for each conference (Memphis | Tennessee). In the TN Conference there is no clearly stated vision; in the Memphis Conference there is no clearly stated mission. A common denominator in both conferences is a lack of trust. The themes of missional, pastoral and congregational excellence emerge in each conference and a desire to clearly articulate a vision around these is evident. There is sufficient data to rattle even the most optimistic of us to the core. Most of all, it is clear that the adaptive challenge before us is that we cannot continue doing business as usual. We must continue to see the Nashville Area as a mission field and unite, articulate, and execute a clear plan for mission and evangelism.

Perhaps the most significant recommendation was to suspend the Uniting Committee work, which was begun in February 2012. What was recommended was that we vigorously pursue alignment across the Nashville Episcopal Area. Each conference convened the members of the Uniting Team following the FACT Team meeting and each group voted unanimously to suspend their work and affirmed the formation of a Strategic Mapping Team for the Nashville Area as well as a Strategic Mapping Team for both the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences.

The Area Team will meet beginning in mid-January with Gil Rendle, Leadership Consultant with the Texas Methodist Foundation, who will guide our work (The Bishop’s Blog introduced Gil Rendle in the Nov. 6 blog post “Keeping Hope and Closing the Gap”). We will meet for two days in January and two days in February. I have asked each FACT Team participant to submit the names of two clergy and two laity who might be considered for leading the strategy work.

It is my hope that at the Annual Conference Session we will receive a report from the Strategy Teams for consideration.

In the meantime, your thoughts are important to us. Feel free to respond in writing to the FACT Report and make suggestions that will improve our life together. An email address has been established for both Conferences and should be utilized for members to send in their questions, comments, and concerns regarding the FACT Report: NASMT@nashareaumc.org.

This day, I give thanks for your faithfulness the hope that is ours in Christ Jesus our Lord.

May the Peace of Christ be with you always.

Bishop Bill

2.jpg

The Bishop addresses the Memphis Conference representatives at the Dec. 12 FACT meeting (click image to read Memphis’ FACT report on Memphis-UMC.net)