A Call to Prayer for General Conference

therefore-go-umc-gc2016I have just returned from Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center in Lake Junaluska, N.C., where I joined resident bishops of The United Methodist Church in a learning retreat. We heard presentations from L. Gregory Jones, former dean and now senior strategist for leadership education at Duke Divinity School in Durham, N.C., and Marty Linsky, who, with Ronald Heifetz, has written extensively on the topic of “adaptive leadership.”

The retreat was meaningful. One of the byproducts of our time together was deepened conversation about what it means to be spiritual leaders before, during and after General Conference, the top policy-making body of The United Methodist Church which meets once every four years.

A small group of us met daily for breakfast and prayer around this idea and were offered space on the agenda to have a larger conversation with our colleagues about what that spiritual leadership might look like. I’m hopeful that all United Methodist Church bishops will offer prayerful, spiritual leadership in the days leading up to, during and after 2016 General Conference, May 10-20 in Portland, Oregon.

I am asking of United Methodists in the Nashville Episcopal Area these three things:

  1. Pray and fast each Friday beginning in Advent and continuing through General Conference.
  2. Have a Day of Prayer on April 1, the Friday after Easter, to pray for all who will be leading and serving during General Conference. This could take the form of a prayer vigil where the church is open 24 hours and persons agree to spend an hour in prayer.
  3. Pray for the delegations of the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences by name each day:

Memphis Conference Delegation: Click here.

Tennessee Conference Delegation: Click here.

There are a number of groups offering preparation leading up to General Conference and resources are being produced for local congregations to access. Click here for more information.

The United Methodist Publishing House is producing a small guide for the Church which is a re-release of a little guide Francis Asbury published in 1792. The title is: The Causes, Evils, and Cures of Heart and Church Divisions. It will be available in the spring and promises to be a good resource.

There will be other resources forthcoming. One in particular that you will want to watch for is written by Western Pennsylvania Conference Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton: What Are We Fighting For? Coming Together Around What Matters Most.

Your appointive cabinet has covenanted together to be spiritual leaders by Leading, Learning and Loving. I will be sharing more about this in coming days.

In the meantime, I invite you to join me in stepping deeper into a life of prayer as we lean into the season of preparation for Advent, Epiphany, Lent and Easter. As my colleague, Virginia Conference Bishop Jung Jin Cho, prays, “Your Will, Lord, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.” May this be our deepest prayer in the days to come.

Your Servant for Christ’s Sake,

Bill McAlilly


Bishop Schnase calls for prayer as Ferguson, Missouri awaits grand jury ruling in shooting death of Michael Brown

let-us-prayBishop Robert Schnase, resident bishop of the Missouri Conference of The United Methodist Church, today issued “a call for prayer” (below) as Ferguson, Missouri waits for the St. Louis County grand jury to decide whether Officer Darren Wilson should stand trial in the August shooting death of Michael Brown. The grand jurors have until January, but a decision could come at any time between now and then.

A CALL FOR PRAYER

I’ve preached twice in recent weeks in St. Louis and as I visited in our churches, the tension is palpable as people await the news from the grand jury in the Michael Brown case. Fear runs deep that there will be more violence. The tragedy has left the community on edge as it copes with the anger, frustration, and mistrust felt by so many people following the shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darin Wilson.

The issues involved are far larger than Ferguson, than St. Louis, and than Missouri. The entire country and the whole church need to engage these issues. The focus for law enforcement and the legal processes is on what happened on August 9. But the tragedy forces people of faith to confront a larger question: What happens now? What happens next? What do we learn about ourselves and our communities that will cause us to change so that such events are less likely in the future? What kind of preferred future does God intend for our communities and for our world?

Followers of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and believers in the God who is the lover of justice must come together for prayer and dialogue to address the deeper and more intransigent issues that have been too long repressed in our communities. These are issues such as racial profiling, mistrust of authority, violence in our communities, underemployment, quality education, fear of one another, white flight, inequalities in our justice system, family breakdown, and under-representation of ethnic officers in law enforcement. There are hard issues and issues that require deep commitments and changes of attitudes, values, and behaviors. These require changes in systems. These require long-term work and a willingness for community and church leaders to stay engaged for the long haul.

In the short-term, the role of the church is to be the purveyor of peace. The sin of racism must be dealt with, but not through violence. Violence rights no wrongs, heals no harms, and leads to no positive change. As the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

What can United Methodist Christians do?

First, pray. Pray for peace. Our faith finds its roots in the hope for a day when “the lion shall sleep with the lamb.” We serve a Lord who said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.” For nearly two thousand years, we have offered “grace and peace” to one another when we gather in Christ’s name. Peace is our hope, our prayer, our yearning, our aim, our end, and it is our gift to the community.

A number of our United Methodist churches in St. Louis and across the conference are already planning prayer vigils on the day the grand jury decision is announced. Other of our churches are working with Metropolitan Congregations United to plan “safe places” for the community to gather for dialogue and to offer support to one another. These churches are also planning to offer a variety of worship experiences and other services needed by the surrounding community.

Second, call upon officials to work for ways so that people can express their frustrations and voice their concerns peacefully. People need a way to participate, to speak out, to gather for mutual support, and we need leaders willing to give room and space for it in a way that reduces the possibility of violence rather than ratcheting up tensions.

Third, support the efforts of two of our United Methodist Churches near Ferguson, Wellspring and The Gathering at Clayton, who are developing extensive plans to be open and available to the community as places of peace and respite. These two churches are collecting supplies and gathering individuals with the needed skills sets to be helpful. Manchester United Methodist Church has volunteered to be the drop-off point for supplies. We are collecting a pool of volunteer pastors to be sent to Wellspring and the Gathering in Clayton to offer support as requested and needed by those two churches. The Metropolitan Clergy Coalition, an interfaith group, has also offered suggestions to area congregations on how they can be helpful.

Along with other religious leaders in Missouri, I renew my call to everyone in Ferguson and the greater St. Louis area to be an instrument of peace amid chaos, a calm voice in the turmoil, a sign of grace when the world needs most the message we offer in Christ.

Yours in Christ, Bishop Robert Schnase, The Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church

 


Council of Bishops issues statement concerning human sexuality

November 8, 2014

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Grace and Peace to you!

Below is a statement that yesterday afternoon the Council of Bishops adopted, unanimously, regarding our ministry with all persons, regardless of sexual orientation:

As bishops of The United Methodist Church, our hearts break because of the divisions that exist within the church. We have been in constant prayer and conversation and affirm our consecration vow “to guard the faith, to seek the unity and to exercise the discipline of the whole church.” We recognize that we are one church in a variety of contexts around the world and that bishops and the church are not of one mind about human sexuality. Despite our differences, we are united in our commitment to be in ministry for and with all people. We are also united in our resolve to lead the church together to fulfill its mandate—to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. As we do so, we call on all United Methodists to pray for us and for one another.

This statement is offered to the United Methodist Church to affirm our vow “to guard the faith, to seek the unity and to exercise the discipline of the whole church.” We are mindful that many across the Church will disagree; some expecting more, others expecting less.

As a global church, we wrestle with language that does no harm-either in the United States or abroad. What we are clear about is that the mission of the church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world is our deepest call and commitment.

We acknowledge that differences and divisions exist within our denomination and across the Nashville Area. Therefore, we will prayerfully consider ways in which to open space for deeper conversation among one another with regard to our differences around our understanding of human sexuality.

Please continue to offer prayer for each other and for the bishops as we move toward General Conference 2016.

Serving Christ With You,
Bishop William T.  McAlilly
Resident Bishop

*For more information about this statement from the Council of Bishops, click here to read Nov. 7 story from the United Methodist News Service.


Day 40: Walking with God to the ends of the earth

1.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.

Over these last 40 days, you have heard our sisters and brothers bear witness to the love of God in the world. As we gather for the coming sessions of the 2013 Annual Conferences, may we be attentive to the invitation to trust in God as we expect greater things across the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences as we live into being disciples.

My life has been enriched by the stories and prayers that have been offered here.

As we engage in the business of the Annual Conferences, may we be attuned to the movement of God’s spirit.

From Jerusalem
to Judea
to Samaria
to the ends of the earth.

We are called to move out from the places where God has planted us into our communities, our state, our nation, even to the ends of the earth.

May we live our lives as faithful disciples and allow the power of the Holy Spirit to guide our mutual work.

I give thanks to God that we are on this journey together.

Prayer: Speak, Holy God, to the concerns of our hearts. Call us to a deeper walk with you in these days of Holy Conferencing as we seek to be your witnesses across the Nashville Area. Speak, O Lord, for we, your servants are listening. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. 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


Day 39: God’s transforming presence – Offering Christ to a hurting world

40Days_Logo_day39Philippians 4: 4, 6b, 12
Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad!… bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks… I know the experience of being in need and of having more than enough; I have learned the secret to being content in any and every circumstance, whether full or hungry or whether having plenty or being poor.

One afternoon as I was driving down Broadway in Nashville, I could not believe what I saw. There she was again. I had seen her three times before – the bag lady. Each time her very appearance had left me visibly shaken. Her presence had hung like an awful omen in my head. Her eyes were hollow. Her skin stretched across her face tight like a trampoline. The once bright colored dress had now faded and had been reduced to rags. And of course she carried her bag – a lopsided old tattered bag – containing all her earthly possessions. This time – I told myself – I would not pass her by. This time I would stop and speak to her, hand her a few dollars, and give her an encouraging word.

But as I approached her, an amazing thing happened. She greeted me with open arms and a warm loving smile. Her words were simply this, “Hi, I’m Anna. God is so good; God is so good; God is so good to me. And now I just want to thank him, yes thank him for his goodness and grace.” But how could this be? How could someone living in extreme poverty, praise God and give thanks? Does this not seem unusual to give thanks when life has dealt us such devastating blows?

What about each of us? Can we say like Paul: “Rejoice evermore….in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you?” And in giving thanks can we remember all the bag ladies – children, women and men – those who are hungry, ill-clad and homeless – by offering Christ to a hurting world.

Prayer: Gracious and loving God, empower us to give thanks in all things and circumstances. Open our hearts to see those who are lost, alone and suffering in a hurting world. May we become your servants by reaching out in ministry with our brothers and sisters whose grateful hearts can touch us and fill us with your Spirit of always giving thanks. 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 38: Congregational excellence

1.jpgColossians 3:17 (Read verses 12-17)
Whatever you do, whether in speech or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God the Father through him.

I was walking along the sidewalk and noticed a little boy playing in a yard under the watchful eye of his grandfather. The little boy had a stick in his hand which he was obviously using as a sword. It was also obvious that he was winning this mock battle. As I reached him, he offered me the stick. I told him that he could keep it for himself. He ran over to his grandfather, they talked, the grandfather said, “He really wants you to have this stick.” I dropped to my knees in front of the boy, extended my hands to receive my gift. As he handed it to me he said, “This is a magic sword. It will keep dragons away.” I thanked him for the gift. He was happy and so was I, for I haven’t had a dragon problem since that day.

We have been given a powerful gift to help make our congregations healthy. It isn’t magic, but it is effective. Listen prayerfully to what Paul said: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

If we incorporate these two things into our planning and our prayers, greater things can happen. If everything we do is done in the name of Jesus Christ, our ministry will be focused. Any program, any activity, which doesn’t meet this criteria wouldn’t be done, freeing up time for needful things.

Our gratitude will open our hearts and lives to a deeper experience of God’s grace. Gratitude is our response to the love God has given us through Jesus the Christ.

No, it isn’t magic, but this gift of God can keep a congregation healthy and fruitful.

Prayer Focus: Look at all the activities your congregation leads or takes part in and raise this question, “Does everything we do fit the mission of making disciples?” and, how much of your prayer time is spent expressing gratitude to god? How much “thank you,” as compared to, “give me.”

The Rev. Harrell Nation, Jr.
Brownsville District Superintendent,-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 37: Missional excellence

1.jpgGenesis 1:1-2
When God began to create the heavens and the earth—the earth was without shape or form, it was dark over the deep sea, and God’s wind swept over the waters—

As a child, I learned this verse as “God sweeping over the chaos the water.” Over time I replaced the phrase “the face of water” with “the chaos of water.” The word chaos grows as an apt metaphor for my life.

Monday morning dawns reflecting on the sermon delivered, just hours ago. But the reflection is replaced by the revelation the next sermon is due in a few days. Looking into the weekly calendar, I find Bible studies, prayer services, and committee meetings. These fill the columns and set time aside. Hospital, nursing home, and home visiting needs attention. Oh, and the phone will ring for an unavoidable crisis.

The family calendar is no lighter. Doctor visits, PTA meetings, and afterschool activities will require time. I haven’t called mom and the dog needs to go to the vet. This is the normal weekly chaos of life. What do I do with this chaos?

Perhaps it is a good thing I learned the first two verses as God swept over “chaos.” Perhaps I should reflect on what God was doing while sweeping over “chaos.” God was creating. God is still creating. Just as God led me through the last sermon, so shall I be led for the next. My cluttered calendar of responsibilities and requirements are reminders, God through Jesus is with me and leading me.

The Good News is this: in all times, even the chaotic times, God through Jesus is with us, loves us, and saves us. Could there be any greater thing than to lead someone through the chaos of life into the peace of Jesus Christ?

Prayer: May I accept God’s presence in the midst of my chaos. May I see each event, requirement, or responsibility as an opportunity to share the Good News and to do greater things.

The Rev. C. Kevin Marston
Chairperson, Fellowship of Local Pastors & Associate Members-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 36: Transformational presence

1.jpgJohn 1:29
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Our final morning in Jerusalem took us to the Garden Tomb. My spirit was heavy on this last day of our pilgrimage. What a beautiful place! What a heavy heart I carried! As we walked, I noticed along the side of the pathway that there was a young, mid-thirtyish man kneeling next to a tree in the garden and praying. He was stocky built, wearing a blue shirt, Middle Eastern in his skin tones. His hands were resting on the tree with his head bowed in prayer. I noticed a shiny gold wedding ring on his left hand. I don’t know why I noticed him. He was being quite unobtrusive in his quiet sanctuary.

I sought a path to a deeper garden spot to be alone for a quiet moment of meditation before re-boarding our bus. I sat down on a single concrete bench. In a few moments, I was distracted by the sound of a hedge cutter being started immediately behind me. As I turned toward the sound of the noise, I saw the young man who had been knelt in prayer beside the tree along the pathway when we had entered the garden. Although I never saw his face either time, it was the same shirt, the same mid-thirtyish stocky build, the Middle Eastern skin tones and the shiny gold ring on his left hand. My heart was strangely warmed as I realized that it had been the caretaker of the garden whom I had seen knelt in prayer. That was a precious thought to me. I got up from my seat and moved back toward my group to get on the bus to depart for our next stop.

The next day after arriving home, while thinking and praying, I heard clearly and distinctly a statement that would change my life forever, “Diana, Mary thought I was the gardener, too.” Oh, my goodness! I can’t begin to find words to describe what I felt at that point. I cried the rest of that day, and into the next. I saw Jesus! It was Him! I actually saw my risen Lord in the garden near the tomb where His body had been laid over 2000 years ago; along the path where Mary had encountered her risen Lord, mistaking Him to be the gardener, until He spoke to her and her eyes were opened, as had been mine (John 20:15-16).

Prayer: Lord, open our eyes to see your Presence. Open our ears to hear your voice. Open our hearts to be transformed by your love. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

The Rev. Dr. Diana M. DeWitt
Chairperson, Spiritual Formation Team-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 35: Pastoral excellence

1.jpgMatthew 1:23
Look! A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will call him, Emmanuel.

Emmanuel—“God with us.” Neither God with me, nor God with you, rather “God with us” together. Pastoral excellence and church vitality grow out of this holy plurality. As surely as God is triune, so does God work in spirited relationships. God with me or you alone grows too easily into a God who looks and acts too much like our own pet emphases and projects.

“God with us” requires much checking-in with God and with each other. “God with us” understands that deepest renewal arises out of deepest relationships, and that God’s full image can only be borne relationally.

“God with us” insists that what we do together, while more difficult, remains most lasting and substantial. “God with us” invites us to explore the relationships that God places along our journey, especially welcoming the strangers as friends whom God gives us to serve. “God with us” refuses a lone ranger model and resists every temptation to clutch too tightly the many gifts God provides.

“God with us” depends on a trusted conference conferring what John Wesley pointed out as a means of grace and on which he built the practical disciplines of Methodism. As we approach this Annual Conference, may we anticipate it as amazing treasure—a three-day gathering with trusted Methodist neighbors in order to listen to God as we worship, commune, study the scripture, pray, fast/feast, and puzzle over vexing issues of faithfulness, confident that God promises to show up with truth that sets us free!

Prayer Focus: Pray for the communion of saints, living and dead, on whom you count for wisdom, courage, clarity, and correction. Pray for that cluster of people out of which your life of faith arises and flourishes. Pray for the gathering of saints which constitutes the Annual Conference towards which we now point.

The Rev. Gregory Waldrop
Co-Chairperson, Order of Elders-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 27: Congregational excellence

27.jpgMark 12: 30-31
And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”

A little boy said to his Sunday school teacher, “The pastor said our congregation is healthy. When did we go to the doctor?” In other words, the little boy was asking who is qualified to check us out and make this pronouncement.

What makes us a healthy, vital congregation?

God gave the ultimate sacrifice, his only son Jesus, to atone for the sins of the world. A congregation that understands the magnitude of this sacrifice and the depth of God’s love is also a congregation that embraces God’s Kingdom and loves all creation.

A healthy congregation expresses their love of God in all they do. They love the world unconditionally as God loves us.

A healthy and vital congregation is passionate, joyful, and always ready to serve.

We are healthy because we have embraced the lifestyle of the Great Physician.

Prayer: Oh God, help us to love one another as you have loved us. Teach us to live in solidarity with all creation as we yearn to make disciples for Jesus Christ. AMEN.

The Rev. Roger Hopson
Executive Assistant to the Bishop

– – – – –
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 23: Congregational Excellence

40Days_Logo_day23
Philippians 4:11-13 

I’m not saying this because I need anything, for I have learned how to be content in any circumstance. I know the experience of being in need and of having more than enough; I have learned the secret to being content in any and every circumstance, whether full or hungry or whether having plenty or being poor. I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength.

Balance is always a problem because there seems to always be more of something than something else. Paul was able to find balance where ever he found himself planted…even when he is under arrest.

He reminds us that he has had plenty and he has had nothing. Finding that balance is important, and Paul was able to find balance between his relationship with Christ, the people he loved, and his situation.

In our congregations, it has been my experience that those Christ followers that manage to find a balance between jobs, families, culture, worship, prayer life and concerns have the ingredients to cause the kingdom to become closer at hand.

So, how does one or a group of “ones” find that balance?

I believe that the key to finding this balance, which was exemplified by Paul’s state of contentment, is by putting first things first.

Let us seek first the kingdom of God, let us pray continuously, let us do what it takes to balance our spiritual lives with our physical lives…let us be healthy, as both individuals and congregations, so that we are able to love God and love the neighbors Christ has given us.

Prayer: Lord, help us to focus, and help us to set our priorities to bring balance to our being. Amen.

The Rev. Stephen Webb
Chairperson, Fellowship of Local Pastors & Associate Members-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 20: Missional excellence

1.jpgRomans 10:8-10 (Read verses 8-11)
But what does it say? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart (that is, the message of faith that we preach). Because if you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and in your heart you have faith that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Trusting with the heart leads to righteousness, and confessing with the mouth leads to salvation.

Have you ever noticed how many of our favorite hymns are about trust? “Only trust him,” we warble contentedly. “Tis’ so sweet to trust in Jesus,” we advise in song. And what is more uplifting than standing in the great congregation, surrounded by family and friends, singing happily “Through it all, I’ve learned to trust in God?” But do we really? Trust in God?

Trust the God of Jesus Christ, Paul says. God is generous and God will save if only we trust. Paul seems pretty sure that this trust issue is a problem for Christians; so sure that he writes about it to the church at Rome – a church full of people Paul has never met! If we say that Jesus is Lord, Paul suggests, we ought to trust that the same God who ordered Jesus’ life will order ours. We might even believe that the same God who raised Jesus to transformational life in the Resurrection will transform us in the Resurrection life!

“Trust in God” is not just words, it’s a way of living in the world that says that we have placed ourselves in God’s hand. We place so much trust in people and things every day. Our employer will pay us for our work; our computers will not crash; drivers will obey traffic laws; the grocery store will have groceries. We put huge chunks of our lives in the hands of others. So why is it so hard to trust that God is faithful and will lead us to whole and healed lives through the Lordship of Jesus Christ?

As we take this walk with God, we need to slow down a little and think a lot. Think about how our response to God’s love in Jesus is shown in the lives we live as we trust God to help us order our lives as Jesus ordered his. Then we may truly sing with joy, “Tis’ so sweet to trust in Jesus.”

Prayer: Wondrous God, your love for us is faithful, no matter what. Help us in this season of prayer to give our hearts to Jesus’ way of living in the world. May this journey truly transform us as we learn to more completely trust in you. Amen.

The Rev. Lucinda Nelson
Spiritual Formation Team-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 19: Congregational excellence

1.jpgColossians 3:16
The word of Christ must live in you richly. Teach and warn each other with all wisdom by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

We are given the assurance that, “where two or three are gathered” (Matt. 18:20), in the name of Jesus Christ, the Spirit of the Lord is there. One of the ways we can feel that most deeply is singing together.

Being a “Minister of Worship and Music,” I am, obviously, biased when it comes to the presence and prominence of music in the church. However, what you may not know is why I feel so strongly about it.

It is oftentimes difficult to explain the movement of the Holy Spirit to a non-believer, but it is easier to grasp this experience when in the presence of a singing community. Put simply, singing kindles the flames of the Spirit.

Music has the ability to speak to people in ways much deeper than mere words, and it helps us connect with the church through all ages—the past, present, and future. Singing old and new songs is more than a way of giving identity to our own generations; it unifies us with the Body of Christ in all ages and times.

What are you doing in your churches to encourage healthy congregational singing?

It may surprise you, but one of the most important things I have learned in this endeavor is to build and nurture trusting relationships. Within your churches, I would encourage you to ask, “How is it with your soul?”

But I would also add, “How is it with your song?”

Prayer: God, help me to “tune my heart to sing your grace,” and make me ever attentive to the needs of your people to proclaim their faith through singing. AMEN.

The Rev. Jackson Henry
Chairperson, Order of Deacons-TN Conference

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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 18: Pastoral excellence

1.jpgLuke 24:36 
While they were saying these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

I was tired, worn out, and stressed to the max! I was mostly annoyed at the inconvenience when I first got the call from my doctor to tell me that I had cancer. In my war-wearied state of total burn-out, I remember thinking that it might be nice if I actually had cancer, then maybe I could get away for a while.

My melt-down came when I was informed that surgery could not be scheduled for several weeks. I wanted the cancer out of my body immediately! I broke down into uncontrollable tears. I remember sitting at my computer, desperately trying to e-mail my Spiritual Director for prayer. I was crying so hard that I couldn’t see through the tears. My whole body was racked with sobs. I could barely catch my breath.

At one point, as I wiped the tears away, I saw my dog, Gus, sitting on the floor beside me. He was looking up at me with the most compassionate eyes I had ever seen. Around my feet lay all of his favorite toys. I had been oblivious to his efforts to cheer me as he had fetched all of his toys from around the house. Gus was dangerously possessive of his toys. No one was ever allowed to touch any of his toys. If he caught you picking up one of his toys, he would pounce on you, growling his warnings to back off. In his concern for me, though, Gus was now sacrificially extending his love in the only way that he knew how. Some people may think this is a bit of a stretch, but I saw the eyes of Jesus reflected in Gus’ big, brown eyes as he looked up at me in that moment of sacrificial love.

When we extend sacrificial love to those in pain; when we are willing to give all that we have to help another bear their burdens; when we lay down our lives for others, it is then that we see the transformational power of God’s love at work. I am physically, spiritually, and emotionally whole today because of the sacrificial love extended to me through the many friends and family that became Jesus for me when I was broken and weary.

Prayer: Lord, help us to bring the authority of your love to our families, our churches, and to the world around us. As you call us to greater levels of excellence in ministry, may we learn to love well.

The Rev. Dr. Diana M. DeWitt
Chairperson, Spiritual Formation Team-TN Conference

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

1.jpgLuke 13: 10-13
Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. A woman was there who had been disabled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and couldn’t stand up straight. When he saw her, Jesus called her to him and said, “Woman, you are set free from your sickness.” He placed his hands on her and she straightened up at once and praised God.

“God’s will, done His way, and in His timing” is a powerful prayer for individuals and for the church. However, when Jesus healed the crippled woman on the Sabbath He offended the synagogue rulers. Jesus called them hypocrites because they showed less compassion for this woman of sacred worth than animals in their care.

Jesus’ simple prayer, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment,” was filled with the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. The spirit that had been crippling her for eighteen years left her. She stood up straight and began praising God.

Healing of body, soul, and spirit causes us to praise the Lord who is the true source of all healing.

Since God’s healing, transforming power so dramatically changed this individual, can we also believe that the Lord will transform families, congregations, districts, and annual conferences? Our theme from John 14:12 certainly encourages us to pray for even greater things than these.

“God’s will, done His way.” Those are challenging words. God’s way is always better than any program, plan, or agenda that we could contrive.

Together let’s consciously submit our will to God and pray that we’ll be led by the Holy Spirit.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we believe your transforming power and presence can change individuals and our churches and our annual conferences. Place your hand on our lives, set us free from any infirmity, and allow us to praise You wholeheartedly. AMEN

Margie Burger
Director of Prayer Ministries, Aldersgate Renewal Ministries

– – – – –
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