September 25, 2016
We’ve been reading out of Jeremiah’s book to the people of Israel, God’s chosen nation. The prophetic message from Jeremiah to the people spans a rocky history, complete with political, societal, religious, and financial turmoil. The kingdoms of Israel and Judah have been war-torn, people displaced and exiled from their homes. The words from the prophet to those whose lives have been turned upside down and who live under the rule of a foreign king and government, are these: “It said: 4 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Jeremiah 29: 4-7
Did you catch it? Even in chaos and exile, the people are told to carry on with their lives. Build homes to live in – for evidently there won’t be a rapid end to the exile. Plant gardens and eat what they produce – because they would be around where they are for more than a season. Take wives and have sons and daughters, etc. – because the people of God must continue to thrive and grow. And seek the welfare of the city … for in its welfare you will find your welfare – they were to seek the welfare even of those whom held them captive. Echoing from those words I hear Jesus saying, “Love your enemy.”
The prophet goes on to explain why God is instructing all these difficult responsibilities. In these verses the message from God continues: 10 For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. Jeremiah 29: 10 – 14. I hear a promise in those verses. I hear a promise that there will be an end to seasons of trouble. In fact, what I believe Jeremiah is explaining to the people in exile is that even in those seasons of trouble there is joy, love doesn’t end, life is still good, and there is much to be gained for wisdom and knowledge. God’s plans are not for harm but for our welfare.
Even as you may look at our society and wonder what it’s all coming to, don’t miss the good stuff that God is bringing about. Take strength in the promise that God once gave to the nation of Israel, that all is not lost and continue to be faithful no matter what.
Grace & Peace,
September 18, 2016
Greetings Friends, At the risk of getting on your bad side, the sermon series in October is about stewardship. Don’t turn away! Keep reading, please. I don’t know anyone, except perhaps Jesus, who likes to talk about money. Guess what? Most pastors don’t like to preach about it either. I’m not one of them. I actually like preaching about money because money is a tool that Christians often overlook in their toolbox of spiritual disciplines. I like preaching and teaching about money because when people, as I did some years ago, started looking at money as a pathway to joy, it changes their entire outlook on stewardship campaigns. What I’m not going to do is tell you how to spend your money. What I will be telling you in several different ways is how to take authority over your money so that it doesn’t become a source of guilt, entrapment, fear or dread. I know what it’s like to have rotating credit cards and bills that get paid at the very last minute and living paycheck to paycheck. Frankly, when my personal finances were like that, I figured every church stewardship campaign was for everyone else but certainly not me. Here’s my witness: I wish I had listened to the principles of Christian stewardship much earlier in life. You’re probably used to hearing people in church talk about giving. But when was the last time in church that you talked about earning or saving? Is it unchristian to earn money? Is it wrong to save for ourselves and our families? John Wesley didn’t think so. Wesley, the Christian evangelist and founder of the Methodist movement, gave a remarkable sermon called “The Use of Money.” In it, he said that the important thing isn’t money itself but how we use it. Wesley’s surprising advice still rings true today: earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can. During the month of October, our church will experience an exciting new stewardship program, Earn. Save. Give.: Wesley’s Simple Rules for Money, developed by popular author and pastor James A. Harnish. Through Sunday school curriculum and messages in worship, we’re going to learn together about Wesley’s surprising advice. In fact, each week we’ll be introduced to faithful Christians who, like all of us in one way or another, struggle with money. If you want to look ahead, here are the scripture texts I’ll be using in worship: Week 1. If You Could Ask for Anything (1 Kings 3:1-13) Week 2. Money—The Excellent Gift (Luke 12:42-48) Week 3. You Can’t Take It With You (Proverbs 13:11) Week 4. How Far Will You Go? (Proverbs 11:25)
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
September 11, 2016
In 1 Thessalonians, the author writes in chapter 17 these words: 15 See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” These are the wonderful words of life that we sing about, the words we declare in our praise song, “…the air I breathe…” I don’t know about you, but these wonderful, life-sustaining words are pretty tough to live in daily life.
Rejoicing always infers that we are to rejoice regardless of the circumstances, including those circumstances in which the future is unknown, even frightening. To rejoice always is a way of saying, “I claim this blessing!” What are we claiming? We’re claiming that no matter the current or future circumstances, we believe God will bring something good out of a given circumstance. Will we see the good immediately? Or in our lifetime? Perhaps not. Will it be the good we prayed for, expected or thought best? Perhaps not. Nevertheless, we are to rejoice always, believing God will bring good.
Praying without ceasing is humanly impossible, if taken literally. A person has to sleep, right? What this instruction means is to be in a mindset for attention to God. Being aware of God’s grace and will in situations, making choices that honor God, treating others as Christ would treat them. These are all examples of how to pray unceasingly. It simply means to walk closely to God and pay attention.
To give thanks in all circumstances is to admit that even whether things go our way or not, we must recognize that we’re blessed. Certain circumstances don’t feel like blessings – the health report isn’t good, someone we love is in danger, the promotion goes to someone else, the retirement fund has to be used for something other than planned spending – and when the tough stuff of life happens, it certainly doesn’t feel like the right time to be thankful. Those are times to gripe and weep and complain and ask, “why?” When faced with challenges and uncertainty, Christian disciples remember the promises of God and give thanks.
Wonderful words, beautiful words. The source of life. These are the words of God and I hope they’re an inspiration to you today.
Grace & Peace,
September 4, 2016
Dear Friends, The Gospel of Matthew , chapter 6 reads like this, “19 ‘Do not store up for yourselves
treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’” Jesus is speaking in this text and instructing his audience then and us today to invest in things that have eternal value. Jesus repeatedly teaches us that to love God and our neighbors as ourselves is at the very core of Christian discipleship. And this text from Matthew is the, “How it’s accomplished...” section of the lesson. By investing in eternal things, we practice love of God and neighbor.
If we unpack it just a bit, we might have to challenge our concept of what our treasures are. Usually we think of treasures as the stuff that keeps us happy, comfortable and content.—cars, hobbies, food, financial abundance, clout in the community or workplace, nice houses, etc. While those things keep us happy, comfortable and content, they don’t last forever. Like the saying goes, “Nobody gets to go off to heaven with a U-Haul.” We can’t take stuff, even our reputations or clout, with us. Jesus urges us to invest in things that last eternally. Only two things are eternal: God and people. So how do we invest in God and people? By using our resources wisely. In the Christian faith we call it, “Stewardship.”
Typically we think of stewardship as the managing of money. Earning, saving, spending, investing, giving, and losing money are all methods of being financial stewards. But there is an expanded definition of stewardship which includes other resources such as time, attention, spiritual gifts, contacts, abilities, and material possessions. All of these things, and probably more than I can’t think of, can be used to build the kingdom of God, make disciples for Jesus Christ, and deepen our own commitment to Jesus Christ as well.
In October we’ll engage in our annual stewardship emphasis month. We’ll be learning through Sunday school classes and in worship about how to be Godly stewards of our money. I challenge you to expand your commitment to stewardship and include other ways you might be able to strengthen the ministries of the church by committing time, talent, spiritual gifts, abilities, etc. Express your love of God with your whole heart, whole mind, and everything that you are and possess. Let’s build something together that will last an eternity because it touched God’s heart and the hearts of people.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
August 28, 2016
There are hidden blessings we’re experiencing in our church, blessings you wouldn’t know about unless you’re at the office every day. They are what I call “the God factor.” For example, our church reserves $10,000 that will carry us through for about two weeks if we find ourselves in a bind. Mind you, we wouldn’t be carried very high, if you get my point, but we’d make it until things get better. A few weeks ago we got within a few hundred dollars of our reserve and I’m not going to lie, I was nervous. But then the “God factor” kicked in and someone’s pledge check arrived in the mail and we had a pretty good Sunday offering the next week.
Here’s another example. We received a call that a woman and her child were stranded about 10 miles from their home. They needed a ride and a car seat. Initially, our response was, “Sorry but we can’t help.” Then a car seat was located and a Good Samaritan volunteered to drive and the mom and child were safely delivered home. The God Factor.
God works through us in small and large ways. Sometimes it’s to help someone who’s stranded and sometimes it’s to pull the church through a financial rough spot, it depends on what needs to happen. I strongly believe in the God Factor because I’ve seen it over and over again. The people of God step into action and make ministry happen because they love God and they love God’s people.
I’m praying for the God Factor to infuse this year’s stewardship campaign, Earn. Save. Give., as well as our leadership nomination process. There are ministry expansions that must happen if we are to grow numerically and spiritually as a congregation. In order to be faithful as God calls us into the future of effective and fruitful ministry, we need financial and time commitments. And it’s going to take all of us.
Our congregational leadership has done an outstanding job this year. They have led faithfully and courageously. It has been a year of learning how to lead and how to work together as a team. Some of our leaders are in a 2- or 3-year commitment of service; others will complete their term of service. Now is the time to begin thinking and praying about where you will serve your church.
Our new Gift-Based Service Guide is a guide that will help you identify where you can most effectively serve Christ through the church. The broad categories include:
Administrative Support Finance – Offering Counter/Mailings
Adult Small Group Leader Missions & Outreach
Children or Youth Dramatic Arts
Music – Traditional Music- Contemporary
Worship (Tech/Planning/Altar Guild) Hosting for Small Groups
Care (Visits/Meals/Prayer/Support Group) Hospitality and Inviting
Connecting (New Member Shepherd, Discipleship)
In each of those areas the guide will provide information about skill sets and personal qualities that are ideal for volunteers to have. It also gives examples of specific volunteer positions that fall under that particular area of service and an idea of how much time each of those positions might require.
Grace & Peace,
August 14, 2016
When you were a child, did you imagine you would become the person you are today? Did you grow up with the expectation of hardship, loss and disappointment? Did you know when you were in middle school that parenting would be difficult and occasionally heart-breaking? Most likely not. Typically, we start out in life believing that our dreams are going to be exactly what we dream them to be.
Likewise, we learn and experience in life that sometimes from the hardship, loss and disappointment, joy is borne, hope is renewed. More often than not, the transformation takes a great deal of time and a concerted effort to discover. So the question is, will we take the time and put in the effort to allow God to transform one to the other?
Christian discipleship comes with a Bible full of warnings against following Jesus. You haven’t noticed? Even Jesus delays or discourages followers, especially if their hearts are torn between following him and going their own way. In Luke, chapter 9, it reads like this: “61 Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’”
Some disciples followed Jesus willingly enough at the beginning but then changed their mind. As Jesus spoke the words of eternal life to them, they found the teaching difficult to accept. As Jesus confronted them with faithful devotion in the Gospel of John, this was the result…of some: “66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.”
Do you remember when you first decided to follow Jesus Christ and accept him as your Lord and Savior? Were you caught up in the emotion of an altar call or was it a gradual understanding of your need for God’s saving grace? Did you naively think that everything was going to be easy from that point on or did you have a full understanding of what it meant to give your whole heart to serve? Do you still have that fire in your heart, the passion for sharing your story of faith with others and your gifts and graces in service to God?
Ponder those questions in the coming weeks especially. You’ve been invited to deepen your understanding of faith and discipleship through various studies – Step Classes, Serving With a Heart, Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White, Disciple Fast Track Old Testament. You’ll be invited to remember that you have a call story, just as those saints who have gone before, some of whom we’ll meet in the sermon today (8-14). As we move into our stewardship program this year you’ll also be invited to commit your time and attention to serving Jesus Christ through the ministries of the church.
We all have a “call story,” the story of how God called us to himself, made us aware of his grace and continues to urge us forward. Committing to Christian discipleship is more than a one-time decision; it is a lifetime commitment. Where does your commitment need to be reinforced?
Grace & Peace,
August 7, 2016
In September of 2014, we became a Vibrant Church Initiative Church, meaning that we accepted the opportunities and challenges to focus on our congregational strengths, enlarge our idea of what it means to be in ministry to our community, and focus our vision and purpose in ministry.
One strength was identified as “Hospitality,” the ability to welcome people into our presence well. Many churches think they’re hospitable when in reality they are hospitable to each other, not so much to worship guests. When strangers were in our midst, even those not at all familiar with being in a church, we were described in very positive terms. The Mystery Guests noted that there is a genuine interest and hospitality extended to new guests. Comments such as, “The atmosphere was very warm and welcoming. I definitely felt like part of the group.” and “I had a warm feeling from the group of people that were there to worship. For me it set a very positive mood for the start of service.” Reports like this indicate that we know the importance of giving people an entry point to Christianity.
A second strength was identified as “Community Involvement,” which is no surprise to most of us. Members of our congregation are involved in a number of civic and service groups and events, and the community is not unfamiliar with our congregation or facilities.
“Facilities” was another strength identified by the VCI Team. It was clear to them, as it is clear to us, that we take pride and enjoy opening our doors for use by outside groups and activities. God has blessed us abundantly and we enjoy sharing those blessings by hosting events such as the Kiwanis Backpack event, Caring and Sharing, Emmaus Reunions, and the Bread of Life Thanksgiving Dinner.
When our church council met for long-range planning and facility assessment, one point was abundantly clear from the beginning and continues to be a priority: We must always have the capacity to host community events such as those listed above. What that means is that in the future we believe it’s important to always have a facility akin to or better than the Ministry Center and Fellowship Hall so that we don’t lose that important connection to the larger community of Mineola.
On behalf of our Board of Trustees, the facilities usage sub-committee of the Trustees, the Church Council, our Lay Leader, and myself, please help spread a rumor that is true! Our intent and commitment is to continue to have adequate facilities to host all the wonderful events that we currently host. The reason I ask for “positive, true gossip” is because regardless of how many times we announce it in worship or council meetings or committee meetings, some are concerned that if the decision is made to construct a new church building those events will be forgotten. Not so.
The Facility Usage Sub-Committee of the Trustees continues to meet on a weekly basis to gather information about how our facilities are used and what it costs to maintain them. They are currently gathering information about the Ministry Center. I will reiterate what I’ve communicated before, the sub-committee is not a decision-making body; they are gathering information so that the council makes decisions based on facts. Also, all decisions, when the time eventually arrives, will be made according to the Book of Discipline.
Grace & Peace,
July 31, 2016
One of the beautiful benefits of being part of a connectional system is that we, as United Methodists, are part of a much bigger picture than we may even know about. For many years I’ve heard reports at our annual conferences about The Lydia Patterson Institute but didn’t really listen to the reports because I didn’t know anything about the Institute. I’ve recently learned, however that it’s history is fascinating. Here is an excerpt from their webpage: www.lydiapattersoninstitute.org:
For almost 100 years, United Methodists have responded to the need for a quality education for those Hispanic students that face tremendous challenges obtaining a quality education. What began in 1913 with Mrs. Lydia Patterson, a Methodist laywoman acting through the Women's Missionary Society of her church, noticing that young Hispanic boys in el barrio had no school to attend began to setup schools in the homes of some Mexican Methodists.
Her spirit and vision is still alive today at Lydia Patterson Institute where over 400 young men and women, a majority of whom are from Ciudad Juarez, continue to be educated in a challenging academic environment while being nurtured in Christian values. LPI was one of the first schools in the US to emphasize the teaching of English as a Second Language in 1921 and to then merge students into the appropriate grade level to put them on the path toward graduation from high school.
Excellence and outstanding achievement has been the trademark of LPI students. Graduation rates of students exceed 95% of those entering as freshmen and over 98% of the graduates continue their education at colleges across the US. The graduation class of 2010, for example, earned 2.1 million dollars in competitive college scholarships.
With the support of the South Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church, LPI is positioned to keep faith with its historic commitment to academic excellence and intentional spiritual nurture. LPI is also extending its horizons to the limitless possibilities of cross-cultural enterprises by which she aspires to serve the general Church.
The Staff and Administration see themselves as strategically situated geographically, demographically and historically to serve as a bridge that will span the social, cultural and spiritual realities of a very diverse population. Today's conditions offer us an exciting and challenging moment in which to serve God as we serve mankind.
The Lydia Patterson Institute is owned by the South Central Jurisdiction (our jurisdiction) of the United Methodist Church. I hope you’ll take pride, as I do, in the ministry accomplished through this school.
Grace & Peace,
July 24, 2016
Dear Friends, I was reading from the www.umc.org website a couple weeks ago and I found this information interesting. I’m reprinting it here for you: Why We Give What motivates people to give time, money and care? As Christians, we give, first, because everything we have comes from God. We are stewards of what belongs to God. How we care for that which God has given to us will demonstrate the degree to which we can express our faith, hope and love for God’s creation. However, we do not always operate from this fundamental understanding of giving. As you will see below, people give for many other reasons.
• Compassion – They believe in the cause.
• Affiliation – They belong to the group.
• Tradition – They have a history or practice of giving.
• Recognition – They want people to recognize their generosity.
• Inspiration – The person presenting the need captivates them.
• Obligation – They feel it is the dutiful or expected thing to do.
• Transformation – They want to make a difference.
• Invitation – Someone invites them to give.
• Completion – They are fulfilling a commitment.
When disaster strikes, people are eager to give. Often, giving to these needs generates millions of dollars in aid to “individual need.” People give when they see a need or form a mental image of others in need; perceive a connection with those who will benefit from the gift; experience an emotional response, such as compassion or injustice; or recognize financial integrity in the church or aid the organization to which they are giving. These reasons do not explain or justify our need to give. We already have the first and most important reason before all others: “All things come from you, and of your own have we given you” (1 Chronicles 29:14b, NRSV). Reflect upon and acknowledge what might motivate you to give. Allow the great gift of God’s generosity to transform all of these reasons into one: to give because God first gave to you. Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbi
July 17, 2016
Have you heard of NOMADS? Nomads On a Mission Active in Divine Service – NOMADS provide volunteer labor for United Methodist organizations. NOMADS demonstrate God’s love through their work and by listening to the people with whom they work. They do new construction, remodeling, and repairs for churches, children’s homes, camps, colleges, outreach missions and disaster rebuilding. Team members do maintenance, cleaning, painting, electrical, drywall, sewing, flooring. With God’s help, NOMADS pretty much do it all.
NOMADS are folks, most United Methodist, some not, who travel by RV to various disaster sites around the United States and help with recovery and rebuilding. They are not the first ones on the scene in a disaster but often times they remain until everyone else is gone – they leave when the work is done. NOMADS typically work four 6-hour days and have days off. They are retired or people able to take at least three weeks off at any given time.
Individuals or couples who wish to participate in NOMADS ministry register as a NOMAD. They are contacted about projects available to them and have the option of accepting the project or not. If they accept the project, they are responsible to get themselves to the project site. Once there, they work and relax with other NOMADS in the same RV camp location.
The NOMADS ministry is undergirded with a powerful prayer ministry called the NOMADS Sunshine Group. Prayer concerns are collected and prayed for on a regular basis.
The United Methodist NOMADS donate over 110,000 hours each year, valued at more than 2.5 million dollars. It is impossible to place a value on the peace of mind, points of grace, and spiritual comfort that has been offered by NOMADS. What true blessings!
Most recently, NOMADS worked in Colorado. Here is their report:
We finished all the skirting on the manufactured home that we could do, without removing the ramp, which requires city permitting. Except for one threshold, that house is finished inside and out. The “windows crew” installed windows on one manufactured home which had been pending for weeks. They also did an outstanding job of fitting windows in another new project that were all too small. That job required shimming every window and will require trim both inside and out. Their ingenuity allowed us to utilize those windows, as we were told they were not returnable. That job will be finished this week. Another part of the crew completed several repairs to another manufactured home also this week.
Find more information about NOMADS at www.nomadsumc.org.
Grace & Peace,
July 10, 2016
Dear Friends,Have you heard some of these children’s church bloopers?
Noah’s wife was called Joan of Ark. Moses led the Hebrews to the Red Sea where they made unleavened bread, which is bread without any ingredients. The greatest miracle in the Bible was when Joshua told his son to stand still and he did. When the three wise guys arrived from the east side, they found out Jesus was the manager.
At the conclusion of the Gloria Patri as a child I wondered why we sang, “…which was in the beginning, is now and forever, world without ham. Amen. Amen.”
And you’ve probably heard the wonderful hymn, In the Garden, including the line, “Andy walks with me, Andy talks with me, Andy tells me I am his own…”
We laugh about children’s church bloopers but for fear of sounding foolish, adults often recite creeds, sing hymns, and say prayers without knowing what they’re reciting, singing or saying. For example, in the Apostles’ Creed it states, “I believe in the *catholic church, the communion of saints…” What does the catholic church have to do with it? In your hymnal, if you follow the asterisk you’ll see that “catholic” means “universal.” In the beautiful hymn, Come, Thou Fount of Ev’ry Blessing, is the line, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer…” Who knows what an ebenezer is? It’s a stone of help, sometimes a small pile of rocks erected to indicate that God helped someone in that particular place.
Here are more bloopers from newsletter articles. Laugh a little today! Enjoy the joy of the Lord! Ushers will eat latecomers.
The youth will present Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy. The outreach committee has recruited 25 visitors to make calls on people who are not afflicted with any church.
Don’t let worry kill you! Let the church help!
The congregation is asked to remain seated until the conclusion of
the recession. You can find these bloopers and many more at www.angelfire.com
Grace & Peace,
July 3, 2016
When Methodists began worshiping in Mineola it was a settlement, not a city. The Methodists gathered with all other flavors of Christians and worship was held under a tree, not in a building. The year was 1873. By 1876 Mineola was assigned a circuit rider preacher and was listed by the Marshall District of the East Texas Conference as a mission. We’ve come a long way.
The first building used by the Methodists was on the south side of the railroad tracks on the west side of South Johnson Street. The same bell that called people to worship in 1880 is the same bell that our youth ring every Sunday today, in 2016. That frame building was sold to the Catholic Church and relocated to West Kilpatrick Street and later burned.
In 1905, a new building was opened, the doors to the Sanctuary facing North Johnson. The parsonage was located in the adjacent lot. The appraised value of that building, now our Fellowship Hall building, was $8500.00. A 3-story addition was built on the east side of the original building about 20 years later. Membership continued to grow and serve God as The Methodist Episcopal Church, South.
By 1949, the property at the southwest corner of Pacific and McDonald streets was purchased for the site of our present Sanctuary and the “old” Sanctuary became the Fellowship Hall. In 1989, a fully equipped, modern kitchen was added onto the south end of the Fellowship Hall.
In 2001, the FUMC purchased the old Brookshire’s site and remodeled it to be opened in 2002 as the Ministry Center. It became the home of the church offices, the contemporary service, several Sunday school classes, church meetings, and much more.
Throughout our history, our congregation has been a significant part of the larger Mineola area. Today, in 2016, we partner with several civic and faith-based groups to service the citizens of Mineola and the surrounding area throughout the year. Our Ministry Center is used by Kiwanis of Mineola to distribute backpacks, Caring and Sharing to distribute food and gifts at Christmas, Bread of Life to distribute Thanksgiving meals and to raise money through “Breakfast with a Heart.” Hundreds of children learn about Jesus Christ and the Christian faith through His Kids and Vacation Bible School. The facility serves as the location for community meetings, exercise classes, senior adult activities and of course the numerous other ministries of FUMC.
Our Fellowship Hall is the home of the UMW Christmas Store, Boy Scout meetings and events, and was the birth place of Grace Health Clinic and our contemporary worship service. The halls of the education building have been the walkways to Sunday school classes, children’s activities, fellowship events, and much more.
As we look to the future, let’s remember the past. Our forefathers and mothers gathered under a tree amid the few houses known as the Mineola Settlement. Sometimes they had a preacher; usually they sang hymns to God, prayed, and studied the Word of God without one. The church is that. People who worship God. Join me in saying a prayer of thanksgiving for those who made God a priority.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
June 26, 2016
“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them.” Genesis 1:27
I confess to you that I have struggled with my feelings in response to the loss of humanity and losses to humanity that occurred on Sunday morning, June 12, in Orlando, Florida. A young man unleashed terror on a group of people who, just as he, was created in the image of God. I continue, as perhaps you do, to be disturbed and incredibly sad and those feelings have prevented me from offering any response through this weekly article.
The presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America put it best when he wrote, “We are killing ourselves. We believe that all people are created in God’s image. All of humanity bears a family resemblance. Those murdered in Orlando were not abstract “others,” they are us.” And I would go on to say that the families and friends who lost loved ones are no different than any of us. Anyone with a child, a parent, a brother or sister, etc. can either relate to their grief because they have experienced their own or can imagine how devastated those families are.
ELCA Presiding Bishop Eaton’s words strike a chord because, in them, we are reminded that despite the distance between Mineola and Orlando or the differences of opinion, whether political or social or theological, we are all part of the same human family. When we see each other through the eyes of God, as persons of value, worthy of grace, then we realize we must get on our knees for others the way we get on our knees for ourselves.
Our hope must come from Jesus Christ. In Christ we are reconciled to God and one another. Through Christ we are invited to the ministry of reconciliation which can, if we choose to participate in it, help us find common ground within all the different parts of our human family. It certainly will not be an easy practice because passionate opinions are high on all sides. We must examine ourselves as individuals, a Church, and a society, realizing the ways in which we have divided ourselves and allowed division to be destructive. We must confess that we have not been as passionate about reconciling as we have about arguing. But a return to the basics of loving God and neighbor, we might discover that we are not as distant from one another as first believed.
Our own bishop, Janice Huie, wrote this in her response to the Orlando massacre, “United Methodists offer our affirmation of the unconditional love of God for all people. We remind fellow Wesleyans to extend compassionate, grace-filled expressions through word and deed which will stand as a reminder that everyone – including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons – is God’s beloved child.”
Prayers for healing for individuals, families, the community of Orlando, and the rest of us who are watching from a distance are desperately needed. By the time this article is published it will have been a couple weeks from the date of the tragedy itself but the pain will still be raw for so many. In addition to prayers let us agree to be the positive force in the midst of negative, hurtful words and deeds. With the power of the Holy Spirit let us agree to invest our energy in building bridges in the midst of destruction.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
June 19, 2016
God is full of surprises. Last spring I hosted and led a small group meeting at my home as together we read, Longing For Spring. I scheduled it for Friday nights because Fridays were the only nights I was free for six consecutive weeks. When the group started meeting I looked at it as work, something I was expected to do as the pastor and group leader. Boy was I surprised.
The discussion on the first week was okay. Things were a little awkward because none of us really knew each other very well. The next week God showed up. That’s the only way I can describe it. Others in our group brought insights to our reading that I hadn’t seen, details I hadn’t noticed. We started to share some of our personal interests and concerns. And, I have to say, the meal was good.
By the third week time flew by. Instead of “members of the group,” they became, “my small group.” My small group didn’t feel the need to knock before they came into my home and everyone felt comfortable rummaging through my kitchen, looking for utensils and serving dishes. We spent more time talking during our meal and we abandoned some of the suggested activities from the book’s author. We shared much more of our personal lives.
At some point, I’m not sure when, our discussions took on a life of their own. They were more, sometimes less related to the chapter we had read in the book. My small group became my extended family and it was far from a work-related activity to meet on Friday nights. We all marveled at the fact that we looked forward to coming together, one of us said it like this, “I just kept telling myself all week, ‘Hold on til Friday! Hold on til Friday.’”
I’m not a “small group” kind of person. Or, at least I wasn’t before I was a member of that particular small group. There were six of us in my small group and we met on a weekly basis. We had a book that we all read together but if someone hadn’t gotten around to reading it, it wasn’t any big deal. We prayed for one another, laughed a lot, and shared one another’s lives.
We almost always started our evening with prayer and a simple meal. We occasionally sang a hymn and each week we read the Bible together. Our study book recommended particular contemporary movies to watch and we often discussed how they related to the book and scripture readings. The small group experience built relationships and God surprised each of us along the way.
On behalf of my small group I’m writing this newsletter article. We want others to discover what we’ve discovered. We hope more people will join a small group for about six weeks, long enough to get over the awkwardness of new relationships and begin the process of growing together. Watch the newsletter for types of small groups that will be forming. If you’re interested in being in a small group, leading a small group or hosting a small group, please contact me at email@example.com or call me at the church office.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
June 12, 2016
I have a book by Rev. Dr. Jim Moore, entitled Do You Have Alligator Arms? The content wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. In the book, Dr. Moore uses the football term, alligator arms, that is sometimes used by coaches, players or commentators to describe (and criticize) a would be pass receiver who keeps his arms protectively and timidly close to his ribs instead of stretching out full length to
catch the ball. He writes about how some of us Christians hold back instead of risking and embracing the life of a Christ.
One of the chapters is about Christian maturity. He says that when one is mature in faith one’s response to certain situations is different that when one is new to faith. For example, he gives the example of a situation in which a person is hostile toward another or rejects another or lashes out at another. When there
may have been a day when one’s reaction to those situations was to take it personally, get revenge, respond with equal hostility or anger, the mature Christian doesn’t take such situations personally.
It’s hard not to take things personally, especially when we’re passionate about something. But as Christians we’re asked to reflect the life of Christ who was able to look deeper into emotional actions and see the pain or passion of the other person. Jesus Christ taught us to pray for those we label as our enemies, to turn
the other cheek, and to bear one another’s burdens. It doesn’t mean we’re supposed to be door mats that people can walk all over but rather that we can live gracefully, offering others the same space we expect ourselves. So, how do we gain that kind of maturity? Perhaps the first point is to realize that it’s not about us. The reason someone is upset, lashing out, angry, frustrated or even hostile is not necessarily the result of something we have said or done! In
fact, many times it has little or nothing to do with us personally and has only to do with the person who is upset, lashing out, angry, frustrated or hostile. The second point is to realize that even if someone’s emotional outburst is a result of what we’ve said or done, there’s a very good chance that communication
– or lack thereof – is the root of the problem. If at least one can keep their composure, the mess can be sorted out.
Spiritual maturity comes with time and practice. Some of us are mature in some spiritual matters and some in others. The point is, we’re on this journey together and it’s not a competition. Let’s be patient, kind, loving and graceful toward one another in all matters.
Grace & Peace,
June 5, 2016
God at the center. I love those words. To me they mean that God is at the center of all things; all things revolve around God who is the creator, instigator, initiate, and beginning. “God at the center” means to me that there is a reflection of God in each of us and that we have access to God, should we so choose.
God is humble, humble to the point of dying on a cross for each one of us, regardless of our worthiness. It’s pretty amazing that God is so powerful and yet humble. Jesus declared that he was sent to be a servant to all and that’s what he taught the disciples as he washed their feet at the Last Supper.
God is humble, humble to the point that God doesn’t push into our lives uninvited, doesn’t insist on his own way (we have free will, remember), and waits in line for his turn for time with us. I don’t know about you, but sometimes that line can be pretty long! There are things to be done, thoughts to be thought, schedules to keep, etc. So many demands for our time and attention put God somewhere around “not at the very end” and “not at the front of the line.” If God was just a little pushier and a little less humble, He’d get more attention from us, right? So, really, it’s God’s fault. Hmmm.
If God were a bit more insistent on having His own way it would mean less free will for us. Semi-free will. And let’s face it. Even if God were more insistent, we’d still have enough free will to give attention to all the other priorities (some very important ones, no argument there.) So it’s either free will or no free will. God as we know God now or a manipulative God who treats us like puppets? I prefer to keep my free will, as do you most likely, than the alternative.
The challenge then, is to move God up to the front of the line in our list of priorities. Finding time and space for God requires effort on our part. IF we desire to seek the presence of God in our lives, we need to be silent and rest in prayer. To do that, we let go of ourselves, which allows us to hear God. When we sit in silence, even if it’s only for a few moments of each day, we turn our minds to our creator and begin the process of allowing God to be the center of our world. God at the center.
I challenge you this week to find time in your schedule for TAG time, Time Alone with God. When you’re in the shower, driving, doing the dishes, washing the car or taking your daily walk, turn off the electronics and the music. Start with a simple prayer as you breathe: Holy Spirit, come (inhale); Holy Spirit, fill (exhale.) When you’ve spent a few seconds clearing your mind, ask yourself how your soul is. Take notice of your distractions and take notice of how you’re feeling: angry, happy, frustrated, anxious, at peace, etc. When your silent time is over, thank God for the time together and go on with the rest of your day. You might be surprised how much silent time you have throughout the day that you could use to connect with God.
Grace & Peace,
May 29, 2016
May 20th concluded the United Methodist Church’s General Conference. One of the most publicized topics has to do with the United Methodist wording related to sexuality in The Discipline. If you’d like to read about General Conference in more detail, including the legislation on human sexuality and many other topics, go to www.umc.org/news-and-media/united-methodist-news. An excerpt from the United Methodist News Service about the Council on Bishops proposal to the delegation is printed below:
By Heather Hahn and Sam Hodges May 18, 2016 | PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS)
General Conference delegates apparently have hit the pause button on the denomination's quadrennial debates related to homosexuality.
Late afternoon May 18, the delegates voted by 428 to 405 to accept the recommendation of the Council of Bishops to delay a debate on homosexuality at this gathering of the denomination’s top legislative assembly and let a proposed commission study church regulations.
The bishops asked for the body’s permission to name a special commission that would completely examine and possibly recommend revisions of every paragraph in the Book of Discipline related to human sexuality. The commission would represent the different regions of a denomination on four continents as well as the varied perspectives of the church. The Book of Discipline is the denomination’s governing document.
“We accept our role as spiritual leaders to lead The United Methodist Church in a ‘pause for prayer’ — to step back from attempts at legislative solutions and to intentionally seek God's will for the future,” said Council of Bishops president Bishop Bruce Ough in announcing the recommendation.
The bishops also suggested they might call a special General Conference in 2018 or 2019 to deal with such proposals, Ough said. He also leads the Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area. Other bishops stood behind Ough as he read the statement.
Friends, regardless of your opinions about human sexuality and all the related topics, I hope you will join with me in praying for God’s wisdom for our bishops as they begin their work on this commission. Let us also remember that our United Methodist Church declares that all persons, gay and straight, are persons of “sacred worth” and so pastors and churches are committed to be in ministry “to and with” all persons.
Grace & Peace,
May 22, 2016
Today is Trinity Sunday, the day in the Christian calendar on which we celebrate the holy mystery of the Triune God, God: Three In One, The Holy Trinity. There are various ways to name it but no way to explain it because it is exactly a holy mystery. We cannot explain in human terms how God can exist at one time, in unison, as three persons: Father/Creator, Son/Redeemer, Holy Spirit/Sustainer.
We get bogged down every time we try to explain any holy mystery of God. How can Jesus be fully God and fully human at the same time? You’d think the two would collide at some point, causing the fully God side to make a mistake or the fully human side to be a tad bit self-righteous (no pun intended.) How is it that the bread and the juice of communion become for us symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ? How could Jesus die and be alive again after three days in the grave? How is it that we can go to the Bible and it means one thing, and then read the same passages days, weeks or years later and we can understand something completely different? They are holy mysteries.
Our first clue should be the first word, holy. It’s what we’re not, in this definition of the word. Yes, we are a holy people, meaning set apart for the special work of God. But holy mysteries are holy because they are of God alone. We’re not part of that. The prophet Isaiah expressed it like this: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55: 8-9)
Our second clue might come from the word, “mystery.” A mystery is something that we have to explore and put together like a puzzle. So we might say that the Trinity can be described as a candle with a wick, wax and flame or like the three ways we experience H2O ice, steam, liquid. All are part of the same identity but are experienced or used in different ways. Those metaphors are examples of how we humans have tried to explore and explain the Triune God but each one falls short in some way. The mystery continues.
Today our lectionary texts include Psalm 8, which describes the first person of the Trinity, God the “Father” or God the “Creator,” the person who is known to us through creativity. The epistle lesson is from Romans, chapter 5 which describes the second person of the Trinity, God the “Son” or God the “Redeemer,” the person who is known to us as our Savior who became human, lived among us, died for us on the cross and rose on the third day. And in the Proverbs and Gospel of John, we’re given a description of the third person of the Trinity, God the “Holy Spirit” or God the “Sustainer,” whom we experience as the presence of God that is always with us. All work together in love to be in relationship with each one of us and to all of creation.
God bless you!
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
May 15, 2016
One of the most prominent memories I have of going to church as a child is Sunday school. All the children gathered in the gym for…well, honestly, I don’t remember why we were in there but I’m sure it was something the adults thought was very important. From the gym, we were dismissed to our individual classrooms which were used during the week by the elementary church school. Our Sunday school classes weren’t large but I remember enjoying them, making friends that didn’t go to my school, and getting to know the adults who taught us. (Each year one of the ornaments I hang on my Christmas tree is the manger ornament I received from my Kindergarten Sunday school teacher.)
One of the highlights was when we got to move to a new Sunday school classroom. It was a really big deal on Promotion Sunday to go from the gym to the new classroom as an older child, at least older than I was the previous school year. And then, when we went to the youth room we had made it in the big league, so to speak. What I don’t remember is whether or not my childhood church offered Sunday school classes for adults. As an adult and as a pastor I want to expect that adult classes existed but that my parents just didn’t attend.
As a young adult, before going into ministry, one of the things I most looked forward to each Sunday was going to my Sunday school class. I was part of a single’s Sunday school class that was taught by a married couple who loved to teach the Bible. But the relationships I built in that class were what made me continue to attend. We helped each other move, change jobs, raise children, and have a comfortable group of friends to hang out with. And we went to lunch together every Sunday. All of that is to say that being involved in an adult Sunday school class contributed to me recognizing and accepting a call to ministry.
Adult Sunday school classes are incredible resources of learning, friendship, support, and God’s grace. On Sundays, May 22 and 29, all the adult Sunday school classes will be hosting a Sunday school “Open House.” What that means is that on those two Sundays, each of our classes will be expecting new people to visit them for the day, whether they are people who are not currently a member of a class or if they are people who typically attend one class but are interested in knowing how other classes function.
Make a commitment this week to try something new over the next two weeks! Check out one of the awesome adult Su