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

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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 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
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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 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
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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


Forum of Bishops meeting continues

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
| UMCom
Contact: Diane Degnan (email), 615.742.5406

SAN DIEGO, Calif.: The second day of the learning forum for bishops serving annual conferences around the world focused on the strengths of The United Methodist Church and how to leverage these attributes as the church moves into the future.

The day began with worship, prayer, and singing, “Lord you are able to make all things new . . .” Preaching on the text, “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation,” (II Cor. 5:17) Bishop Debra Wallace Padgett, of the Birmingham (Ala.) area, invited the bishops to reflect on how they as individuals and as a community can grow as new creations in Christ.

“’All things new’ begins with you and me,” she affirmed. “We are becoming new . . . it sweeps across communities, organizations, churches, councils, even denominations.”

Following worship, Brian McLaren, noted author and leader of the emerging church movement, addressed the bishops and engaged in dialogue concerning promising signs in The United Methodist Church. In the spirit of the Wesley Covenant Prayer, he suggested the church is in a time of “letting go” and “letting come” what God wills. In many places, there are creative leaders emerging and prototypes developing that reflect new ways of being church.

“As pressures increase,” he noted, “so do creativity, courage, and determination.” In such a time, things can, in the words of author and educator, Parker Palmer, “break apart” or “break open.” McLaren believes this can be an opportunity for the church and its leadership to “break open” with new possibilities.

In the afternoon, bishops shared “best practices” in appointment making, accountability systems, and ministry with younger generations. Small accountability groups met to enable the bishops to work with one another in the light of their commitments in the Four Areas of Focus and the adaptive challenge of developing more vital congregations. The day ended with learning groups discussing how each bishop can best lead in the unique contexts of the particular annual conference(s) she or he is serving.

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United Methodist Bishops Begin First Forum Meeting

SAN DIEGO, Calif. // May 6, 2013: Active bishops of The United Methodist Church began the first meeting of the Forum of Residential Bishops on May 5 in San Diego with inspiring worship led by Rev. Jorge Lockward, Director of Global Praise for the General Board of Global Ministries. The bishops and spouses spent time in prayer, singing, praying for one another, anointing each other, and remembering their baptisms.

“The emerging church is a movement of the Holy Spirit,” said Bishop Robert Hayes of the Oklahoma Episcopal Area, who preached at the first night’s event. Bishop Hayes encouraged colleagues to reconnect spiritually with one another and with the church and to expect great things from God. “Change begins with us. We have to learn to engage with each other and even to disagree without being disagreeable. We have to model how to put new wine in new wineskins.”

“The purpose of the forum is to learn how to become a learning community,” said Bishop Grant Hagiya of the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area and leader of the planning team.  The Forum of Residential Bishops is a continuing education platform for the global community of United Methodist bishops with residential responsibilities.

In the first learning session, several bishops shared thoughts about how to engage with their colleagues in order to lead the church in times of rapid change. In addition, the bishops began meeting together in small groups in order to commit themselves to an intensive exchange about how to lead toward more vitality in their areas. The meeting will continue through May 9.

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Day 12: Missional excellence

1.jpgActs 2:42-45
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.

In these verses we have the earliest recording of the practices of the Church in its beginnings. Whenever I hear folks lament over not singing the “old” hymns, or missing the “old” style of preaching and worship, I remind them of the events in Acts 2. Certainly, things evolve in time and context, but the bones of who we are as missioners and disciples still live in these words of scripture.

The words of the old hymn that says, “Give me that old time religion,” set before us a challenge to look at our lives and our churches and to assess whether we can sing those words with sincerity. If, in fact, we truly embraced that “old time religion” of the apostles, we would be devoted to Bible study, prayer, worship, and fellowship within the Body of Christ.

If, in fact, we truly embraced that “old time religion” of the apostles, we would be in awe of the many miracles and signs of the “greater things” about which Jesus spoke.

If, in fact, we truly embraced that “old time religion” of the apostles, there would be no poverty, no brokenness, no loneliness, and no lack, for we would give out of our own resources to make certain that no one had needs that were unmet.

If, in fact, we truly embraced that “old time religion” of the apostles, we would “be” Jesus to our families, our communities, our churches, and the world around us.

Prayer: O Lord, help us in our devotional and disciplined lives that we might not ever forget the essentials, that we might not major in the minors, and that we might not just become disciples, but that we might make disciples, in Jesus’ name. AMEN.

The Rev. Sky Lowe-McCracken
Paducah District Superintendent-Memphis 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


United Methodist Bishops work in partnership toward common goals

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
| UMCom
Contact: Diane Degnan (email), 615.742.5406

United Methodist Bishops work in partnership toward common goals

“Exploring leadership for an emerging church” will be the theme of the first meeting of the Forum of Residential Bishops, scheduled on May 5-9, 2013 in San Diego.

The purpose of the five-day meeting is to create a learning environment where the residential bishops will share best practices, experiments and innovations that are working/not working in order to learn from one another. Each day’s discussion and learning will  focus on a different theme, with addresses from selected keynote speakers.

“This will be an intensive time of learning, listening and renewing our commitment to our call,” said Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the Council of Bishops. “By removing ourselves for a few days from the day-to-day urgency of leading annual conferences, we have an opportunity to jointly gain a wider perspective of the church as a whole and to help one another as leaders from around the globe.”

The bishops have previously committed to hold each other accountable through a covenant to work side-by-side to lead the denomination forward despite existing challenges in order to increase the number of vital congregations and engage congregations in mission and ministry in the Four Areas of Focus.

During the forum, the bishops will develop small accountability groups, and group members will follow up with each other afterwards related to their annual conference, jurisdictional and general leadership roles and responsibilities.

The bishops have identified some specific goals they are collectively working toward, which include:

  • Double the number of vital congregations in the U.S. by the end of 2017
  • Increase the number of vital congregations in the Central Conferences
  • Raise $75 million in the fight against malaria
  • Engage congregations in ministries to end poverty
  • Start 1,000 new congregations by then end of 2016
  • Enlist, support and mentor an additional 2,000 young candidates for ministry

On May 7, the Episcopal leaders will take a field trip to visit the U.S. – Mexico border.

The bishops will share information about their learning experiences through a series of daily updates which will be available on the Council’s website, and will conclude the meeting with a press conference (via web or phone — details to follow soon).

Last year, the Council of Bishops – which is comprised of both residential and retired bishops – decided to create a Forum of Residential Bishops for the purpose of building a learning community among peers. The meetings will be attended exclusively by active bishops; however, the forum will have no authority to make decisions or take actions on behalf of the Council. Such actions would be handled only when the full Council is assembled.

The full Council of Bishops has traditionally met twice a year, though they are not required to do so under church law. In order to make the forum meetings possible without creating  additional cost, the Council decided to meet only once a year. Their next meeting will be November 10-15, 2013 in Lake Junalaska, N.C.

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Day 10: Pastoral excellence

Luke 4:31-36 
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Jesus went down to the city of Capernaum in Galilee and taught the people each Sabbath. They were amazed by his teaching because he delivered his message with authority. A man in the synagogue had the spirit of an unclean demon. He screamed, “Hey! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are. You are the holy one from God.”

“Silence!” Jesus said, speaking harshly to the demon. “Come out of him!” The demon threw the man down before them, then came out of him without harming him. They were all shaken and said to each other, “What kind of word is this, that he can command unclean spirits with authority and power, and they leave?”

“They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority” (Luke 4:32). What did those gathered in the synagogue on that day hear, feel, or see that would spawn such a comment? Jesus’ authority was evidenced by the creative power he carried in his voice, his touch, and his actions. He had the power to make the deaf hear, the blind see, the captive to be set free. Jesus could “author” deep changes in a person, a group, or a world. That’s authority! On this day spoken of in Luke, chapter 4, Jesus loved a tormented man, and the result was that man gained a right mind. That’s power! That is authority of love!

Jesus’ love is a working love. It is powerful. It authors changes. I don’t have this kind of powerful love. I can, however, come under the authority of Jesus’ love for me and the world he created. I can be “refashioned” and “re-passioned” by Jesus love if I invite it to work on me instead of my working against it.

When I walk into a church that I am appointed to serve, there is not a chance of my love being of the ilk that creates changes of “Biblical proportions.” I don’t have that kind of “authority,” but I sure like to see Jesus’ authoritative love unleashed upon the people I serve and into the world that surrounds me. It is this powerful love that saved me, freed me, changed me and is re-creating me. All I can do is serve this Jesus who is so gracious as to have used His power on me…and then I can get to watch Jesus work!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, bring me under your authority. Mold me. Make me. Use me to your glory for the sake of this world you love….and are changing.

The Rev. Jay Archer
Cookeville District Superintendent-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 9: 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.

As we reflect on the transforming presence of Jesus in our lives, what a remarkably sweet gift is the healing presence of Christ that is always with us! Jesus reminds us that many of us are bent over, weighed down, overwhelmed and burdened. Every now and then, we need someone to speak a word of encouragement and lay gentle hopeful hands on us in His name that we may be able to stand up straight and tall, liberated through faith.

What must it be like to not have to look down at the ground, but look up to the Lord because we have been set free?

What must it look like to no longer be looked upon as cursed, but blessed and highly favored because we have been healed in the place of worship and praise?

What would happen if all those who came to the House, the Temple, the Church where we gather each Sunday morning; and brought those who were bent over because they were nameless, faceless and voiceless; and they were able to leap and jump and praise God for deliverance?

What would healing look like in each congregation if we all came expecting Jesus to be present to do great things in us, with us and through us?

Prayer: Precious Jesus, hear us when we pray for healing that we might stand up, reach up, look up and hold out until our change comes! Your transforming presence gives hope that we are not forgotten, invisible, or helpless. Heal us of the things that cause us to stoop over and not look up to give thanks to you. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. AMEN.

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Davis
McKendree District Superintendent-Memphis 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 8: Missional excellence

1.jpgRomans 8.26-27
In the same way, the Spirit comes to help our weakness. We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans. The one who searches hearts knows how the Spirit thinks, because he pleads for the saints, consistent with God’s will.

One of Jesus’ disciples asked of him, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11.1). The Lord must always teach us to pray, “For we do not know how to pray as we ought” (Rom 8.26). Prayer is God’s gift that enables us to long for, seek, and call out to God. Through prayer we are able to answer that we are children of God, not slaves to fall back in fear. (Rom 8.14-15)

Without God helping us to pray, we are left in the world of our own making. But through prayer God teaches us to imagine, experience, and see possibilities beyond ourselves. Prayer is radical openness to God’s possibilities.

If we don’t pray with radical openness, we are limiting what God can accomplish in and through us, and we are limiting the reign of God’s grace and the fulfillment of the creation. Through radical openness in persistent prayer, we can begin to see God’s “greater things.”

Jesus embodied radical openness to God and thus the fullness of God’s mission to save the world. Prayer is the way we grow into Christ to see the missional and evangelistic possibilities before us.

If we allow God to cultivate the mind of Christ in us, then we are habitually in the mindset of mission with Christ.

We are habitually noticing God showing up in suffering, care, hope and transformation.

We are habitually seeing the neighbor as ourselves. And we are joining Christ in the work he is already doing among our neighbors and us.

Prayer: Lord, teach us and help us to pray so that we might not miss the opportunities to serve alongside you.

The Rev. John Collett
Nashville District Superintendent-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 7: Congregational excellence

1.jpgColossians 3:12-14
Therefore, as God’s choice, holy and loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Be tolerant with each other and, if someone has a complaint against anyone, forgive each other. As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other. And over all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

Colossae folks first heard the gospel from Epaphras, a beloved co-worker of the apostle Paul. Ever since the Colossians had received and understood the message of God’s grace, fruit and growth had taken place. Paul gives thanks for this church, reminds them of their rescue through Christ, and now, in this passage, Paul’s words are offered as encouragement for even greater things.

Prayer: O Lord, help us put on Love like a beautiful garment to wear! Thank you for setting us free from sin by love for love! We understand that this gift we receive is the same gift to be given.

In all our congregations, our sisters and brothers in faith, may we remember and renew this awesome work of your grace on our behalf: your compassion for us, kindness to us, humility, gentleness and patience with us, your forgiveness of us and this incredible experience of your love through Christ Jesus.

Considering all that you have done for us, may we now with joy do the same, not only with each other, but with ALL! AMEN.

The Rev. Karen Barrineau
Clarksville District Superintendent-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 6: Pastoral excellence

Matthew 25:39-40
1.jpgWhen did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? Then the King will reply to them, “I assure you that when you have done it for one of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.”

It was 1998. My family’s life had taken a dramatic turn the summer of ’96 when I answered the call of God to become a pastor. Friendships were forming for my son in his new high school, and life was going well, though, as family adjustments were being made. We had slowly moved into our new family “normal.”

Then, my son came home from school one afternoon telling me that he had heard that a friend of his from his old school had been arrested for murder. He asked me to go visit him in Juvenile Detention. We were about to enter into a new world.

Murder was something one might see on TV or in the movies, but certainly was not a part of our lives. My son continued to press me to find time to go and visit his friend. Several weeks later, my son came to me with a letter that he had written. I wept as I read my 16-year-old son’s letter to his friend. He shared in the letter about the freedom that he could find in his heart and life through repenting of his sins and asking Jesus Christ to be His Lord and Savior.

One day, sitting outside the chaplain’s office at the prison, while reading to my son’s friend from Romans, chapter eight, I found myself overcome with deep emotion as I shared with him how much Jesus loved him. I began weeping, while feeling an indescribable love well up in my heart for this young man. I, then, realized that God was pouring out His love “through” me to him. We were both deeply moved that day by the power of God’s love at work in and through us.

Fifteen years later, while he still sits unjustly behind prison bars, I can honestly say that nothing has impacted me more deeply in life than the love that God deposited into our hearts that day. “Jesus loves us this I know, for the Bible tells us so!”

Is there anything greater than love? I think not. We read in I John that God is love. May we walk in no other authority than in the authority of God’s love!

Prayer: Lord, teach us how to love well. Give us your heart for others, so that we might serve with excellence the sheep of your pastures.

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


Keeping the ‘Connection’ through serving

1.jpgIt wasn’t until Hurricane Katrina in 2005 that I came to fully understand and appreciate the true gift of our connectional church. In the early days of the first responders, the United Methodist Church was present. UMCOR –United Methodist Committee on Relief — was there. With the generosity of the people called Methodists across the world, the organization of UMCOR, and the hands and feet and hearts of volunteers, the Mississippi Gulf Coast scrapped its way back. The heart of recovery, the heart of UMCOR, is the people of the United Methodist Church. Early on, people asked, “Where is UMCOR?” My friend Ed Blakesly, the first Disaster Coordinator after Katrina said, “UMCOR is us.”

130,000 volunteers later, there have been 13,000 homes repaired and 130 new homes constructed…all by done by the men, women and students who came for the last 7 years. We came to say, “A storm is a terrible thing to waste.”

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Click the image for more info on the New Madrid Fault Line from the USGS

Tennessee and Kentucky are no strangers to natural disasters — namely in the form of tornadoes and floods. What we fail to think about is that West Tennessee and Western Kentucky sit on or near the New Madrid Fault. It is not beyond the realm of possibilities that the next disaster could be a major earthquake.

In the 2003 tornado in West Tennessee, Christy Smith oversaw case management, construction and volunteers for that recovery in three counties.

Christy tells this story:

 “I stopped at a client’s house several months into the recovery and apologized that it had taken so long for us to get to her. (The storm was in May and this was probably August.) What she said changed my life, ‘That’s okay, Honey. I knew God would send someone!’ What? Me? I knew behind me was the invisible strength of God’s hand and people …praying, giving, organizing, training, preparing. She couldn’t see them…just me. So for her, I WAS the visible evidence that God cares about her. ‘Yes, Ma’am,’ I finally stammered. ‘God sent me.’ I had never really thought of myself in ministry…until that moment. ‘”

Here’s the reality: When there is a disaster, someone…just like that woman…is EXPECTING God to send someone. That’s happening right now all over the country, but particularly in the sorrowing Northeast. When we don’t come, it’s not just survivors we disappoint, it’s the God we love and serve that we disappoint. Christy continues: “That takes me to my knees and makes me want others to have the opportunity to serve.”

There are many places and ways one can serve. I want to appeal to you to consider serving in Disaster Response–now in responding to Hurricane Sandy and in the future as we anticipate the next disaster that will hit Tennessee and/or Kentucky. And one will. An opportunity is just around the corner for you to engage in training. The SEJ Disaster Academy will be held February 18-21, 2013 at Simpsonwood Retreat Center in Atlanta, GA.

Register here: http://www.ngumc.org/registrations/register/222 Let’s send five people from every District in the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences!

For more information contact Christy Smith (csmith@umcor.org) – but beware! Christy is relentless. Also, Bill Carr, Memphis Conference Disaster Response Coordinator, and Jason Brock, Missions Team Leader for the Tennessee Conference, can assist you.