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Staff Parish Relations Announcement

Dear Central Family,

One week ago it was announced that Carness will be moving at the end of June. He has been appointed by Bishop Gary Mueller to serve as the Senior Pastor of St. James United Methodist Church in Little Rock. In the United Methodist Church, ordained elders work under an appointment system, serving one-year appointments; for the last nine years Carness had been re-appointed to Central. However, your SPR Committee knew that at some point this day would come, the day when the Annual Conference needed Carness’ gifts in another congregation.

Now that this time has come, we turn our thoughts to what the transition will look like here at Central. Carness’ last Sunday with us will be June 25th, and you will be hearing more in the coming weeks on how we will celebrate his ministry here. That means our new pastor will begin at Central in early July. Last night we heard the details about who that pastor will be.

We are so excited to announce that the Bishop is appointing Rev. Jim Lenderman to be our next Senior Pastor. Jim comes to us from Asbury United Methodist in Tulsa where he has been serving as the Senior Associate Pastor on their Executive Leadership Team. Asbury is the largest UM Church in Oklahoma, with almost 8,000 members and 2,600 in weekly worship attendance. Jim is a native of Arkansas, however, and a member of the Arkansas Annual Conference. He has served numerous appointments here, including most recently as the Senior Pastor of Grace United Methodist in Conway, Arkansas, a multi-staff church that was averaging over 500 in worship when he left. 

Jim has a passion for preaching and worship, teaching and discipleship, and generosity and stewardship. He is excited about walking with all of you on your journey of experiencing who God is in your lives and who you are in Jesus Christ. As he shared with our SPR Committee, he is passionate about “helping people actively engage with what God is doing around them by discovering what God is calling them to do and turning them loose to do it.”

Jim and his family are thrilled about coming to Central. His family includes his wife Beth, and their two sons Hayden (23) and Jordan (19). They all love Razorback sports, with all four having attended or currently attending the U of A. Hayden is an intern at the UA Wesley Foundation and actually led worship this past Sunday at our 9:00 service.  Jim and Beth have been personal friends of Carness and Ashley for almost 25 years, so we are excited that the transition will be a smooth one.

Please be in prayer for Carness and his family, for Jim and his family, for our staff, and for all the Central family during this time of transition. I would encourage you to reach out to Jim with a word of welcome to Central. His email address is jlenderman@asburytulsa.org, his facebook profile is https://www.facebook.com/jim.lenderman.3 and his twitter account is @jim_lenderman. 

God Bless,

Mark Secker, Chair SPR 

Praying without Ceasing

The candles were lined up in perfect rows.  The red glow emanating from some of them meant that they had already received the name of someone who was now being prayed for.  A few of the glass votives contained candles that were burned completely out and needed to be replaced.

That's what happened when you lit a prayer candle in my childhood church. It burned until the candle burned completely out. If you wanted to have your prayers carried to heaven on a flame in a glass red votive, you lit a brand new candle and let it burn until it couldn't burn anymore. When I was a child it was considered a right of passage to be old enough to light a candle for yourself- there was, after all, a flaming stick involved. But the right to pray belonged to everyone- whether you were flame-worthy or not.

I have always loved to pray. From the time I was very little I would pray child prayers - the ones that start with Dear God and end with I love you. When I was a little older, I would write prayers for special events as if they were greeting cards tucked away to to be opened for a celebration. When I was older still, I would  spend my time talking to God as if he was in the room -but only when no one was around so I didn't appear crazy! I preferred, even relished in, this non-stop conversation model of prayer. As a teenager, time alone with God in prayer saved me.

As I have matured, my prayer life has matured too. Time in prayer is not simply about me and what I need from God. Its also about God and what he desires for and from me. In his book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, Tim Keller suggests that "prayer, in its fullest sense, is continuing a conversation that God has started through his word and his grace which eventually becomes a full encounter with him."

As I think back to why and how prayer has carried me throughout my life, I realize that Scripture was, and is, the way my prayers connect me to the Holy One.  In this praying relationship, the Word creates a deep knowledge and understanding of the One who listens, comforts, guides, and forgives. Scripture helps me know how to pray and what to expect from the one who answers those prayers. 

When I feel alone, praying reminds me I am not alone.  

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD yourGod goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  -Deuteronomy 31:6

When I am afraid, praying reminds me I can make it through.

“The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? The LORD is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies.”  -Psalm 118:6-7

When I am confused, outward conversations with God allows me to talk myself into some kind of ordered understanding.

“Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.”  -Proverbs 2:9-11

When I am hurting, someone is close by who understands my pain and catches my tears.

“But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction.”  -Job 36:15

When I am anxious, I have someone I can rely on to be my worry partner. (I know God isn't anxious for anything, but there is always reassurance in having someone with me on the worry train.)

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  -Philippians 4:6-7

When things happened that made me wonder why- or how- the world could work in such a way- I am comforted by knowing that God had an answer even if I didn't.

"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD."  -Isaiah 55:8

There are many ways to pray, many kinds of prayers, and many postures of prayer, but knowing and trusting God and leaning into His grace and goodness is where I meet Him.  I pray without ceasing and encourage you to also.  In prayer, His light will shine with the unceasing glow of a burning votive candle into your heart, reassuring you that the darkness will not overcome it.

Dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,

Congratulations on becoming the 45th President of the United States. Thank you for your willingness to take on the difficult job of leading our nation. On this historic day when you will take the oath of office and begin your presidency, I want you to know I am praying for you and your family. I do so because I am a Christian, and it is clear in Scripture that all Christians should pray for their leaders. The Apostle Paul, in his first letter to Timothy, writes these words:

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Every American, whether they voted for you, for Hillary Clinton, or any other of the candidates, wants the best for our nation, and ultimately we are all in this together. As President Obama said just after the election, “We are now all rooting for Mr. Trump’s success in uniting and leading the country…We have to remember that we're actually all on one team. This is an intramural scrimmage. We're not Democrats first, we're not Republicans first. We're Americans. We're patriots first. We all want what's best for this country…That's what the country needs: a sense of unity, a sense of inclusion, a respect for our institutions, a respect for our way of life, rule of law and a respect for each other." I will be praying for you, for Vice-President Pence, and for all our leaders in Congress as you all seek a way forward for this wonderful nation in which we live.

To guide me in my prayer life, I often turn to the writings of Rev. Peter Marshall. Rev. Marshall served as Chaplain of the U.S. Senate from 1947-1949, and his prayers have been a source of hope and inspiration to me for many years. On this day I am reminded of his “Prayer for America.” Here’s a portion of it: “Our Father, you did bless America. You have made her rich. Will you also make her good? Make us, the citizens of this land, want to do the right things. Make us long to have right attitudes. Make us willing to seek moral objectives together, that in united action this nation may be as resolute for righteousness and peace as she has been for war...Bless this land that we love so much, our Father, and help her to deposit her trust, not in armies and navies, in wealth and material resources, or in achievements of the human mind, but in that righteousness which alone exalts any nation, and by which alone peace can finally come to us.”

Mr. President, as you seek to lead us in “Making America Great Again,” I do hope you will consider what “great” looks like for our nation. As this prayer reminds us, we are great when we are good. We are great when we seek to serve instead of being served; we are great when we fight for justice instead of fighting for position; we are great when we work hard to love all and want the best for all instead of working hard for only some and leaving some behind; we are great when we look out for those who are the most vulnerable in our society instead of looking out only for those who can do something for us in return; we are great when we value life, every life at every stage, instead of choosing value based on race or nationality or ability or socioeconomic status.

As a Christian, I believe that this way of living is personified in the person and work of Jesus Christ. When thinking about “greatness,” Jesus has some instruction for all of us in Mark 9:33-37:

After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.” Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”

To be great in the eyes of Jesus is to be a servant. To be great is to welcome those and love those who have nothing to offer, have no power or influence, and who can give nothing in return. In my humble opinion, Mr. President, that is how we make America great, it’s how we make the world great, and it’s how God’s Kingdom will come here on earth as it is in heaven.

Thank you again for your willingness to serve our nation as its 45th President. May God lead you as you lead us.

Together on the Journey,

Carness

The Day After

(This is a little longer than usual, but please stay with me – I promise there’s a point!)

Cream or cookie? When you’re eating an Oreo, which part is your favorite? One of their commercials illustrates this dilemma perfectly:

 
 

This highlights, in an albeit hyperbolic way, how people can take one rule (like no talking in the library) and make it the most important thing, at the expense of all others. It’s a humorous look at the length we will sometimes go in following the rules.

Jesus understood this humor. He, in fact, used it himself in the Gospel of Matthew. As he is addressing the Pharisees, he tells them this:

What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!
— Matthew 22:23-24

I have always appreciated Jesus’ sense of humor here. It’s more of an “Ooh” moment than a “Ha ha” moment, one of those comments that’s funny but hits a little too close to home. Jesus is pointing out to the Pharisees how misplaced their righteousness is. They are extremely concerned with following every letter of the law, part of which included tithing your crops (“One-tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord and must be set apart to him as holy.” Lev. 27:30). However, garden herbs such as mint, dill or cumin would not be grown in any real quantity; Biblical commentator William Barclay notes, “Only those who were superlatively meticulous would tithe the single plants of the kitchen garden.” And yet, this is what the Pharisees were focused on. Meanwhile, the important parts of the law, the major tenets such as justice, mercy, and faith, were getting neglected. This is where the humor comes in. Jesus compares what they are doing here to straining out a gnat but swallowing a camel. Both of these were unclean to eat in the eyes of the law, so Jesus is showing the absurdity of going to such great lengths to make sure a gnat doesn’t end up in your water but totally missing a camel floating around in there!

The election is finally over, and some of you are excited, some of you are disappointed, and some of you are just relieved that you don’t have to see another political commercial. On this “Day After,” my question for us is, “Now what? How are we going to make sure there are no camels floating in our water?” As Kingdom people called to make a Kingdom difference, how do we create an environment where the Kingdom of Heaven is ushered in? How do we make sure we’re not so focused on the little things that we fail to see the big things? The prophet Isaiah dealt with this in Chapter 58. Here’s what God says to the people of Israel:

My people Israel act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me. ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ I will tell you why! It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord? No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
— Isaiah 58

In other words, living out the Kingdom here on earth every day is far more important than fasting for fasting’s sake or tithing the very smallest of herbs. Those things tend to be our way of trying to get in God’s good book and win his favor. It’s simply checking the boxes and waiting on the blessing. “I’ve done all that you’ve required of me, God. Aren’t you impressed?”

Here’s the Deal: Whether it’s the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament or Jesus in the New Testament, the message for us is the same: We honor and please God as we love like he loves, as we actively pursue justice and righteousness, fight for those who cannot fight for themselves, show mercy and compassion to those in need, and shine the light of Jesus into the darkness of people’s lives so they might find salvation and healing. Today when we woke up, our nation had elected a new President, but Jesus remains our King, and he is still calling us to live as Kingdom people. For us to live like this, for us to usher in this Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven, it matters not who is in the White House, who has the majority in Congress, or who makes up the Supreme Court. All that matters is what we do as Jesus’ disciples. As Jesus is in the Upper Room near the end of his life, he gives one last directive:

“I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.”

Good enough for me, I think I’ll start there. How about you?

Give Freely

Famous racecar driver Mario Andretti once said, “If things seem under control, you are just not going fast enough.” I’ve been thinking about this quote as Covenant Sunday approaches here at Central, specifically as it relates to making a financial pledge to the church. There have been times that I have been guilty of giving financially to the church only what is comfortable, what keeps me in control and doesn’t push me outside my comfort zone. It’s mostly due to fear and a lack of trust that God will provide. I tend to forget that I have never been able to out-give God; every time I have taken a step forward in my giving, he has honored that step of faith.

In Hebrews 11:1, we are reminded that, “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” Tithing to God through the local church, or working toward a tithe, certainly takes faith. We may not initially see how God will provide, but we know that a faithful disciple is one who acknowledges that, as James tells us, “Every gift comes down from God above.” The Psalmist reminds us that “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.” To be a follower of Jesus is to give one’s life for the Kingdom – to give time, talent, and treasure so that others will come to know the love of God, the grace of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Here at Central our budget includes opportunities for all of this to happen. As you give to our operating budget, your giving helps us Worship Fully, Grow Deeply, Give Freely, Share Passionately, and Love Unconditionally. You are having an impact both locally and globally in sharing the Gospel message, and you are taking a step forward in your faith by placing your trust in the God who provides.

On a national level, the average United Methodist gives just 2% of their income to the church. If that’s where you currently are, I realize that a tithe (10%) is too big of a step for most. But what about taking one small step toward a tithe and giving 3%? For a family making $100,000 that means going from giving $2,000 a year to the church to giving $3,000 a year to the church. For a family making $50,000 it means going from $1,000 to $1,500 a year. If you’re not currently giving anything, why not take an initial step of faith and start your journey of discipleship in 2017? If you were willing to give even $20 a week, that would be just over $1,000 over the course of the year!

I want to encourage you to consider coming alongside us on this journey. Paul tells us in his second letter to the Corinthians, “Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. You must each decide in your heart how much to give…God will generously provide all you need.” May you take a step of faith in your giving in 2017, even if it means you feel a little out of control!

Worship Fully

We are now less than a week from Election Day. This Sunday Nov. 6th I am encouraging everyone to wear purple to church as a symbol of our allegiance not to a political party or platform or candidate but to Christ our King. In the Bible, purple was associated with royalty; kings wore purple robes, as purple dye from mollusks was expensive to obtain and produce and thus reserved for only the highest of society. In John we read how after the Roman soldiers flogged Jesus they put a crown of thorns and a purple robe on him, mocking him as “King of the Jews.” And yet, they were actually more right than they ever realized. Jesus did come as King, but his Kingdom was not geographical but eternal; his Kingdom was not political but spiritual. Jesus came to rule over our hearts and lives, and his call on us is to know him as Savior and Lord.

If we belong to him, we are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven and ought to live as such. Paul says we are Christ’s ambassadors. An ambassador is one who represents their homeland while living in another country. That’s who we are as Christians; we represent Christ while we are here on earth, and every moment of every day should be lived with him in mind. Every conversation, every decision, every action, may I say even every vote, happens through the lens of Christ and his call to love God and love neighbor. So whether you plan to vote red, blue, or whatever color is represented by third parties, may you do so with a purple mind and a Christ-centered heart.

Take a Knee

My husband Greg has always coached youth athletic teams. Even before we were married, he coached boys little league teams and served as a mentor for 13 year old baseball players. When he began coaching our children’s teams, I would love to watch him interact with the little people on his team. Mostly I loved his posture. He would usually kneel down next to them, on one knee, and offer them encouragement, guidance, or a hug when they were discouraged. He would get on their level- eye to eye, cheek to cheek, shoulder to shoulder. There were times when he would kneel down so far that they would be looking down into his eyes. Sometimes he would be just the right height to catch their little disappointed heads on his shoulder. When he was excited at their accomplishments, he would meet them on one knee only long enough to get his arms around them and lift them up into a giant bear size hug. One time a little boy came to him for some “batting” advice and ended up sitting on Greg’s extended knee as if it was his own personal bench.

I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath.
— Psalm 116: 1-2

I love the imagery of this passage as if God would “take a knee” to hear our prayer. Like he would bend down next to us to encourage, guide, and embrace us in our disappointment. But that’s exactly what He does. As we offer up our prayers we can know that God has been eye to eye, cheek to cheek, and shoulder to shoulder with us in His son Jesus. When we listen to His promises we can be lifted up if we are facing difficulties. When we are unsure about what to do next, or how to improve our “game,” we can be assured that the coaching we get from the Lord of Lords will be the very best guidance. There is not one thing in our lives that God cannot understand and give us the power to endure, overcome, and use for His glory. As we kneel before him in prayer he joins us, on our level, and listens. I will pray as long as I have breath! 

While I Was Gone...

While I was on my sabbatical, there was a major development in our denomination that has caused a great deal of conversation, concern, and prayer. I thought it might be helpful for me to give you a summary of where we are and where we’re headed.  Hopefully, this will help you to speak more intelligently to your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers when you’re asked about what’s going on in the United Methodist Church.

The development has to do with the United Methodist stance on human sexuality. The United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline is basically the rule book for our denomination. The Book of Discipline addresses human sexuality as follows:

¶161F.  Human Sexuality—We affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons.  We call everyone to responsible stewardship of this sacred gift.

Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are affirmed only with the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage.

. . . .

We affirm that all persons are individual of sacred worth, created in the image of God.  All persons need the ministry of the Church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self.  The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.  We affirm that God’s grace is available to all.  We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us.  We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay member and friends.  We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.

¶304.3 While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world.  The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.

¶341.6 Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.

¶806.9 [The General Council on Finance and Administration of The United Methodist Church] shall be responsible for ensuring that no board, agency, committee, commission, or council shall give United Methodist funds to any gay caucus or group, or otherwise use such funds to promote the acceptance of homosexuality or violate the expressed commitment of The United Methodist Church “not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends” (¶161F).  The council shall have the right to stop such expenditures.  It shall not limit the Church’s ministry in response to the HIV epidemic. 

¶2701.1 [Clergy of The United Methodist Church] may be tried when charged . . .with . . . (b) practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings, including but not limited to: being a self-avowed practicing homosexual; or conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions; or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies . . .

With some minor edits, the above quoted provisions have been in the Book of Discipline since first adopted in 1972.

Every four years the global United Methodist Church gathers for General Conference to worship, pray, and conduct the business of the church, including voting on any proposed changes to the Book of Discipline. Each General Conference since 1972 has seen efforts to change the language on human sexuality, but each such General Conference has voted to retain the language regarding sexuality.

At the 2016 General Conference this past May, the delegates voted by 428 to 405 to accept the recommendation of the Council of Bishops to delay a debate on homosexuality at the 2016 conference and to let a proposed special commission study church regulations. This commission will completely examine and possibly recommend revisions of every paragraph in the Book of Discipline related to human sexuality. The commission will be made up of United Methodists from the different regions of the denomination on four continents as well as United Methodists with varied perspectives on the issue of human sexuality. It is currently being formed and will begin its work soon, with the hope of bringing some possible solutions to a called General Conference in 2018 (you can read the latest concerning the commission here).

Bishops in The United Methodist Church are elected by multi-state Jurisdictional Conferences.  On July 15 of this year, Rev. Karen Oliveto was elected a Bishop by the Western Jurisdictional Conference. Rev. Oliveto is a married lesbian and the first openly gay Bishop in our denomination. However, she is not the first openly-gay pastor. In the past year, over one hundred clergy have openly acknowledged they are in same-sex partnered relationships, and there have been 13 complaints against pastors for officiating same-sex marriages. In addition, four Annual Conferences – Baltimore-Washington, New York, Pacific Northwest and Northern Illinois – have released statements that their boards of ordained ministry do not make the sexual orientation of candidates a determining factor in their decisions about ordination.

On July 16 of this year, the South Central Jurisdictional Conference (of which the Arkansas Conference is a part) passed a motion requesting a declaratory ruling from the Judicial Council in response to the Western Jurisdictional Conference’s election of an openly gay bishop. This request is authorized by ¶2610.2(f) of the Book of Discipline. The Judicial Council is our version of the Supreme Court and is explained this way on their website:

The Judicial Council is the highest judicial body or ‘court’ of The United Methodist Church. Its nine members are elected by the General Conference. The Judicial Council determines the constitutionality of acts or proposed acts of the General, Jurisdictional, Central, and Annual Conferences. It acts on these either on appeal of lower rulings or through requests for declaratory decisions. It also rules on whether acts of other official bodies of the denomination conform to The Book of Discipline. This is done in accordance with procedures established in The Book of Discipline.

They will be meeting on October 25-28 to deal with this ruling.

Follow all that? I know it’s a lot, and I want you to know I have been praying fervently for the denomination, for our church here at Central, and for our ability to stay on mission while all of this is in process. Would you be willing to join me in prayer? If so, here are some things to be praying for:

  1. The Council of Bishops: Pray that they would be led by God’s Holy Spirit as they assemble this commission, and that this work, while of great importance, will not sidetrack them from leading us in the mission of the United Methodist Church, “To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
  2. The Special Commission: Pray for those asked to be on the commission and for their work, that God would lead them into his will as they seek a way forward for our denomination.
  3. The Judicial Council’s Fall Meeting, Oct. 25-28: Pray for each member of the council and their important work surrounding this ruling regarding Rev. Oliveto.
  4. Central UMC: Pray for our church that we will keep on mission to Connect People to Christ as we Worship Fully, Grow Deeply, Give Freely, Share Passionately and Love Unconditionally. Let’s pray that we keep the main thing the main thing as we seek to help the lost find their way home, help the hurting find the healing touch of Jesus, and fight for those who have no voice to be heard or valued or cared for.
  5. One Another: Pray that we may lead with love and be full of grace in our conversations regarding this and every issue before us. In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, we read these words: “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” I recently finished a book that I think is a must-read during these difficult times for us as Methodists and as Americans during this political season. It’s called Good Faith, and here’s a great quote from the introduction: “Good conversations demand active listening, mental and emotional engagement, openness to the possibility that we’re wrong, and empathy to see the situation from the other person’s point of view.” Pray that this would be so for all.

This past Sunday I preached about the power and priority of prayer for any spiritual revival, whether in an individual’s life or the life of a congregation. I have been, and will continue to be praying daily for the five items above, and it’s my hope that each of you will join me. As we navigate these waters together, the only way we do so in a God-honoring way is to make sure God is leading us – let’s call on him to do just that.

God Is Good!

Is God really good all the time? Of course we would say yes! For such a long time we have been confirming this in church as a congregational response. “God is good, all the time” and “All the time, God is good.” It seems to be an affirmation for all of us.

However, sometime ago a mom who lost her beautiful five year old daughter shared with me how difficult these words became for her. Saying God is good all the time was something she could not bring herself to say amid her tremendous grief. I was reminded that so many people are walking through this life with tremendous pain and may not be convicted of the goodness of God all the time.

For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.
— Psalm 100:5

At our United Methodist Conference we were encouraged to consider God’s goodness here and now. Instead of reciting “God is good all the time,”  we claimed “God is good here and now.” As we make our way through challenges in our world, our nation, and our personal lives we can be confident that God is with us today. Here and now, just like He has been throughout history, God is good, faithful and loving. May we take comfort in knowing that this truth will remain from generation to generation no matter what we face.

“Here and now - God is good!”

“God is good - Here and now!”

For the Too Many and the Many More

I love to walk. I always have. Walking has often been like therapy for me, a way to process ministry and mothering challenges. Each step offers a little one-on-one time with myself or when I'm willing to be quite enough to listen, a little one-on-one time with God. On our family beach vacations I walk on with my sister-in-laws (who are really sisters to me) as a way to catch up and share the details of our lives in between the visits. In October of this year I am going to take my love for walking to a new level. I will be going to Atlanta to participate in the Susan G. Komen 3 Day event. This event challenges participants to walk 20 miles a day for 3 days in a row (yes, that is 60 miles total!) to help raise money for research, support, and care for people who are battling Breast Cancer. I lost one of my sisters (in-law) to cancer- not breast cancer, but I certainly know that cancer in all its forms is a tyrant. So I am training to walk 60 miles in 3 days with the hope that it will make a small difference in the battle to defeat cancer.

For the Too Many

People sometimes ask what I like about my job as a pastor. That is a hard one to answer. Its a joy and privilege to be with people at the most important and joy-filled moments of their lives. To watch a new couple join hands right before they say their wedding vows or pray over a new baby cuddled in the arms of exhausted parents are special moments. It's a privilege to hear people's stories of redemption and hope. Teaching, preaching, worshiping, and praying are all things that make my job fun and fulfilling. 

Sometimes people ask what is the hardest part of my job, though, and that is an easy one to answer. The funerals and memorial services are the most difficult. I have done too many. I have especially done too many services for women who have courageously endured treatments and surgeries and terrible side-effects in their effort to beat cancer. I am walking for the too many sons and daughters who won't have their moms there when they say their vows or cuddle their new babies. I'm walking for the too many grandchildren who don't have "grandma's" hand to hold and I'm walking for the husbands who are raising their kids and trying to move on in their lives without their wives. I am walking for the too many.

For the Many More

I am also walking with a full heart for the many women I know who have tackled the tyrant! I am so inspired by them and the way they claim hope in their lives and live each day with strength and purpose. I am so grateful for my dear friends who have survived the surgeries and treatments and terrible side-effects. I am walking for them and the many more women who could claim "breast cancer survivor" as part of their journey. I'm walking for the many more children and husbands who will not have to grieve. I'm walking for the many more who will benefit from research and treatments that hopefully will lead to "No More!"