Sanford, the peace of Christ and our birthright gift

Friends,
With the permission of Bishop Ken Carter (Florida Conference), I wish to share the following post.

Bishop McAlilly
– – –
1.jpgThe county seat town of Sanford, with a population of about 50,000, lies in the heart of the Florida Annual (regional) Conference, between Orlando and Daytona Beach.

Ordinarily, Sanford would be of little interest to the major media markets of the United States.  All of that changed with the death of Trayvon Martin and the trial and subsequent not-guilty verdict for George Zimmerman, which has sparked reflection, debate, and outrage across our nation over the past weekend.

One can set aside the verdict of the Trayvon Martin death, giving the jurors the benefit of the doubt, and still find the events in Sanford deeply disturbing.

One man is dead, another is free.

The deceased was an unarmed young black man. The killer was armed and claimed self-defense, against the background of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. The toxic brew of economic scarcity, racial profiling, escalating violence and community destabilization is at the heart of the experience.

We dare not waste the moment
What we make of this event is likely shaped by the media source that has crafted the narrative of this human drama for us. Regardless, I would invite my fellow Anglo citizens to listen to the voices of our African American neighbors — they will hear lamentation, unbelief, rage, pathos, and resignation.

This is a teachable moment, and we dare not waste it.

Beyond the civic conversation, United Methodists are called to reflect on what this means for disciples of Jesus Christ who are called to transform the world.

We can return to the core teachings of Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and explore the roots of our own inner violence.

We can read the passion narratives and recall that we follow a Lord who was non-violent.

We can listen again to the last words of Jesus, about the gift of peace that he would leave with us.

We can rediscover the teachings of this Jesus who inspired Mahatma Gandhi and E. Stanley Jones, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the women of Liberia.

The peace of Christ is, in the words of Parker Palmer, our “birthright gift,” and if United Methodists are to make a difference in a violent and fractured world we will learn again, in a countercultural way, what it is to be his disciples.

Claiming the source of our hope
On the Sunday morning following the George Zimmerman verdict, I asked the pastor of First United Methodist Church in Sanford to read a letter that I had written to the congregation. I wanted to encourage them, and I wanted to remind them of the connection that we have as United Methodists. But in a deeper way, I wanted to claim the source of our hope, expressed in Ephesians 2:13-16“(13) Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  (14) For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. (15) He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, (16) and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross.”

I am praying for people of The United Methodist Church in Sanford. I am praying that they will be an outward and visible sign of God’s peace, justice, reconciliation and healing in the days ahead. I am praying that they, and we, do not waste this teachable moment.

My own commitments are these: to encourage the many congregations in the Florida Conference that reflect the multicultural diversity of their communities, and there are many; to question more publicly the “Stand Your Ground” law of our state and its incompatibility with our General Rule to “First, Do No Harm;” and to bear witness to the cross, which has broken down the dividing wall of hostility that is between us.

This is the peace of Christ, which the world can neither give nor take away. This is our birthright gift. The world is in need of it now.

* Carter is the resident bishop of the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church.


Pack it up again, stopping hunger

1.jpg

Coming off the heels of the extravagant generosity expressed by the Tennessee Annual Conference in June, there is another opportunity for Methodists in Middle Tennessee to don hair nets package meals to be delivered to hungry all over the world.

A Stop Hunger Now meal packaging event will be held at the National Gathering of United Methodist Men on Saturday, July 13th at Belmont University. The afternoon packaging shifts starting at 12:15 and 2:15 pm are open to local congregational teams who desire to package meals and receive training to bring hunger action opportunities back to their congregations.

2.jpgYou are encouraged to gather a carload of “mission-minded” folk from your congregations and experience the power of being the hands and feet of Jesus!

In addition to meal packaging, you will learn more about hunger in our world, and how we can all be part of a movement to stop it. This is one case where Christians need to cultivate intolerance…toward world hunger! There will be time available to ask questions and receive tips from leaders, and resources that you can bring back to your church.

Note: This event is open to ANYONE, not just those that are registered to participate in the UMMen conference!

> CLICK HERE to sign up to participate and/or donate at:

For questions or help, you can contact the Calvary UMC Stop Hunger Now Team:

Tyler Petersen (email)

Joe Dunn (email)

Andy Morris (email)

Larry Malone (email)


Stop Hunger Now

SHN.jpgIt was great to see so many of you packaging food with Stop Hunger Now at the Tennessee Annual Conference. Many of you expressed interest in this exciting global mission and desire to know how to involve your congregation.  I want to suggest a way for you and others from your congregation to experience the meal packaging ministry locally.

A Stop Hunger Now meal packaging event will be held at the National Gathering of United Methodist Men on Saturday, July 13that Belmont University.  Afternoon packaging shifts starting at 12:15 pm and 2:15 pm are open to local congregations and individuals who want to join in. Please sign up to participate and/or donate at:

Stop Hunger Now Event: Saturday, July 13th – Belmont University – CLICK HERE for more info about this online

You can stay and enjoy the evening hearing a message by Bishop James Swanson (MS Conference) and a concert by Phil Stacey beginning at 7:00 PM. Details and registration are available at http://ummgathering.org/NG/.

Better still – have your United Methodist Men come be a part of the entire weekend.  It may be a long time before our men will have such easy, affordable access to a United Methodist Men’s Gathering. CLICK HERE for more info or to register.

A team from Calvary United Methodist Church has led their congregation in a successful 100,000 meal packaging event this past February.  They are ready to assist you and your mission team. They are organizing the packaging event at the UMM National Gathering and welcome your team’s involvement. Call to discuss your plans and options with the Calvary UMC Stop Hunger Now Team:

Tyler Petersen – jtylerpeterson@gmail.com – 770-843-0690
Joe Dunn – joedunn615@gmail.com – 615-946-2090
Andy Morris – andymorris@comcast.net – 615-479-4413
Larry Malone – malonelaurence@gmail.com – 615-415-4980

You can be the hands and feet of Christ. Be part of a movement to end hunger in our lifetime. You are asking how to engage the mission field: Come learn how at the UMMGathering! 

Grace and Peace,
Bill McAlilly


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 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

– – – – –
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

– – – – –
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


Day 16: Missional excellence

1.jpgActs 2:42-47
The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles. All the believers were united and shared everything. They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them. Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes. They shared food with gladness and simplicity. They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone. The Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved.

Today’s Scripture reminds us that we are called to do what the early church did. They fellowshipped and were obedient to the apostles’ teaching and participated in communion and prayer. Then, greater things began to happen.

The community began to notice the signs and wonders performed by the apostles. The new believers were generous in selling and sharing their possessions with glad and sincere hearts. They were living transformed lives and it was contagious.

We’ve heard a lot of questions about becoming vital congregations and about being disciples of Jesus Christ. But a better question to ask might be, “When did we stop being disciples and vital congregations?” As I reflected, Jesus softened my heart and encouraged me to return to the ways of the early church.

Over the years I have been able to identify others as missionaries (like school teachers) or evangelists (those that share Jesus). But I had been making excuses – that Jesus had called and gifted others, not me. Then, Jesus taught me that I am called and empowered to offer Him to others. Now I am intentional about not only meeting physical needs, but also sharing the Good News of Jesus through His transforming love.

Prayer: Jesus, thank You for calling us to follow You. Empower us to share You with everyone we meet. Yes, Lord, GREATER THINGS are still to be done! In Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN.

Today may we look for the opportunities where God is already at work — and join Him!

Holly Neal
Lay Leader-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