Dec 4, 2016
Do you know how to help a friend or family member navigate the journey of grief? Too often we believe we have to have the perfect words to help a loved one feel better after experiencing a loss. To further complicate things we blurt out words that are less than helpful simply because we have a need to say something. While some of our common sayings may sound good, they’re not particularly helpful to a person dealing with grief. For example, “God needed another flower for His garden.” (Really? And God had to take my friend/spouse/child?) Or, “Someday you’ll look back on this and feel happy for the memories.” (Probably true. However, it’s as far from that feeling right now and impossible to get to.) Sayings like this are meant to help and spoken with the best of intentions.
Rather than “explaining” loss, it’s helpful to those who need comforting and those who want to do the comforting to stick to simple statements of being present. For example, “I don’t understand why this happened but I want you to know I’m here for you.” Or, “I wish I could say something to make you feel better but I know I can’t so just know that I love you.” And at times, the best thing to say is nothing. Simply be with the grieving person and allow them to express that grief.
Grief is different for each person. There’s no set length of time one might grieve, although prolonged grief that interferes with a person’s ability to function on a daily basis is best handled by a trained counselor. One’s reaction to grief varies as well. Some people fall silent, others prefer to talk. For some it’s comforting to be alone, for others to be around people. The best we can do is be supportive of friends and family who are grieving.
The holidays are particularly difficult for people who are grieving because for one, their loved one is no longer here to share the traditions and special moments or for other reasons their lives are significantly different than last year…and not in a positive way. Another thing that makes holidays so difficult is that there is a great deal of pressure to be happy. Grieving people get the message over and over again throughout the holidays that surely they can postpone their sadness until after the season!
But grief doesn’t stop for a holiday, not even Christmas. And that is why our congregation hosts a Blue Christmas worship service. This year it’s on Sunday evening, December 11, at 6:00 p.m. in our Sanctuary. People who attend will experience a space where it’s “safe” to be sad in the midst of jingle bells and good tidings of great news. The message and music and liturgy will be particularly aimed at bringing comfort and peace in the midst of grief.
Perhaps this is the worship service that will help you make it through the holidays. Or maybe you know someone who has, at some point this year, experienced grief. Consider those who have lost a loved one to death or experienced divorce. Think of those who have lost employment or whose children have moved away from home. Do you know someone who has been struggling financially or had to change their living situation due to health or age? Grief comes in a number of ways! Identify yourself or someone in your life who might benefit from our Blue Christmas worship service. And invite them!
Grace & Peace,
Nov 27, 2016
Dear Friends, The best gift we have ever been given is the gift of salvation. Whether you can
remember the date, time and place when you accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior or if it was a gradual process of learning to follow Jesus Christ by first giving your heart to Him, salvation is a process. It is a disservice to God when we assume the work of God’s grace is complete when we make our first confession. On the contrary, God’s grace continues to work in the heart and life of the disciple, drawing him closer to God, teaching her to love as Jesus loves, and come to understand at deeper and deeper levels how sin destroys and God saves.
Our individual salvation stories are as unique as each of us. For some, salvation meant freedom from addiction. For others it meant the recognition of God’s deep and abiding forgiveness. Some of us experienced salvation as the eye -opening, unbelievable love of God. Still others of us recognized the gift of salvation when we went on a mission trip and witnessed the powerful Holy Spirit. Our journeys are different but the end is the same – eternal life with God! And the really good news is that we aren’t on this journey alone. We have the support and love of Christian community which shares our burdens, hears our confessions, accepts us in our brokenness, and celebrates our choice.
Throughout the years of our Christian lives, justification happens time and time again. Why? Because the closer we get to God, the more we try to imitate Christ, the more we recognize how far away we are. And so, we ask for forgiveness as we recognize sin at work in our lives and we do whatever we can to break that cycle. And each time we experience justifying grace, ask for forgiveness and turn away from that sin, we experience sanctification. Sanctification is the process of growing more and more like Jesus Christ – loving how and who Jesus loves, serving how and who Jesus serves.
Can we ever expect to be made perfect in this life? According to the Wesleyan way of salvation, absolutely! Why? Because through Christ all things are possible. And by perfect, I mean perfect in love, not in the way of the world. Even John Wesley didn’t believe that most of us would ever reach Christian perfection but we can sure have fun trying. Together with our brothers and sisters in the faith, we are on a journey. A wonderful, amazing, life-long journey.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
Nov 20, 2016
Dear Friends, This evening at 6:00 p.m. the Mineola Ministerial Alliance will host a community
Thanksgiving service at First Baptist Church. The preacher will be Rev. Rick Son, pastor at First Christian Church. The offering will be introduced by Rev. Jim Pickens, pastor at Smith Chapel United Methodist. Another part of the service will be led by Rev. Dr. Mark Neely, pastor at First Baptist in Mineola. I’ll be representing First United Methodist Church of Mineola as I lead yet another part of the service. Other pastors are members of the alliance but will be unable to attend due to other commitments but my point is, we, the members of the alliance, choose to work together to offer spiritual leadership for our community. The community Thanksgiving service is only one of the ways we accomplish our goal.
The Ministerial Alliance accepts donations and collects offerings at each event so that we can assist people who are not eligible to receive financial assistance from Kindness Kottage or Salvation Army. Quite often our money assists people who are passing through Mineola on their way to a funeral, a job, a family event or an educational opportunity. Some are walking or riding a bike. Others are driving. The pastors of the alliance are able to meet with and assist those folks who run short on funds or find themselves stranded due to illness or something like that. We can authorize one night’s stay at an inexpensive motel, food, or gasoline for their vehicle. The process is that we authorize the financial support, they take the form to the police station where their names are run through a database, and if there are no warrants out for their arrest and they have not already received assistance, our Mineola Police Department approves the voucher for the individual to use. One additional safeguard is that when a pastor authorizes financial assistance, we notify the other pastors so duplicate assistance isn’t given.
The other way that the alliance money is spent is an annual high school graduation scholarship. Members of the alliance review student applications and, based on church involvement and need (rather than high GPA and school involvement) we give scholarship money.
Every pastor in the Mineola area is welcome to join the alliance; all they have to do is come to one of our monthly meetings. Unfortunately, some pastors choose not to participate. Those who do have to set aside denominational differences, some of which are significant, and focus on the main reason we’re all pastors in the first place – we want to serve Jesus Christ and make disciples for Him. We are making a particular effort right now to invite pastors to join the alliance and be part of the ministry we offer the Mineola area community.
I hope you’ll be there tonight. There is a community choir that will meet at 5:00 p.m. on the chancel at First Baptist – EVERYONE IS INVITED TO PARTICIPATE. Steve Dotson, the music minister at First Baptist will be our director and he’s amazing! (Second only to our own Jeannette Peel )
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
Nov 13, 2016
Dear Friends, What makes life good? As we approach the Thanksgiving Holiday, imagine yourself sitting at the table, surrounded by family and friends. And perhaps it’s a tradition at your Thanksgiving table for each person present to say what they’re thankful for. When it’s getting close to your turn are you excited or anxious? Are you wondering how long everyone has because you have a long list of blessings you’re thankful for? Or are you frantically trying to come up with something to say? What makes life good? That’s the topic of a survey from Pew Research Center. They asked the question of countries rather than individuals. The researchers wanted to know what people across the globe value in their lives and they looked at a number of factors including: Income and Wealth, Jobs and Earnings, Work – Life Balance, Housing, Environmental Quality, Health Status, Education and Skills, Social Connections, Civic Engagement, Personal Security, Subjective Well-being. You probably won’t be surprised that the United States’ score defined the “good life” by financial wealth and income while France defined it by a larger emphasis on time off and less on work. If you want to live somewhere that has high civic engagement, move to South Korea. (Or simply increase your civic engagement here.) Voter turn-out is high in Turkey but the air and water quality is above average in Norway. No matter where we live, it has much more to do with attitude. In Colossians, chapter 3, we have this instruction, “ Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.” (Colossians 3: 14-16, NRSV, emphasis mine.) It’s an instruction for an on-going attitude of thankfulness. If your health isn’t perfect, give thanks for the people who love you. If you don’t have the income you need or deserve, give thanks for the beauty of the earth. Are you lonely? Give thanks for your place to live. You get the idea. I heard the father of a disgruntled teenager say to his son in the store a few weeks ago, “Well, if you’re mad, be thankful you have an opportunity to get over it.” Contentment, satisfaction, the “good life,” all come from an attitude of thankfulness. God has blessed us in ways we don’t recognize and in ways we chose to ignore. I pray for a blessed Thanksgiving holiday for all of us, no matter where you live. Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
Nov 6, 2016
I shared with you last week in worship that when I celebrate Sabbath, one of the activities I enjoy tremendously is counting my blessings as I harvest the pecans in my backyard. In mid-season I already have a huge planter full of pecans that represent blessings I’ve given thanks to God for. Another activity that I enjoy as part of my Sabbath observance is to find a quiet, comfortable place in which to surround myself with pictures. The pictures are typically of people but sometimes they are remembrances of significant events in my life or such. I spend time praying over each of the pictures, asking God to bless the person or people in the photo, giving thanks to God for the occasion of the
photo, and giving thanks specifically for the ways in which the people in the photos have taught and mentored me in the faith.
One of the wonderful things that happen when we pray over people in such a way is a profound feeling of thanksgiving for that person. It helps us remember how important their influence has been, what we learned from them, and how we’re different because of them. Additionally, giving thanks like that strengthens our faith.
It’s practices like that which sustain us when faith is difficult, when God is silent and the future is unknown. None of us would have the assurance of Christian faith if it were not for our mentors. Whether a parent or grandparent, teacher, coach or pastor, Christian
mentors allow us to ask questions, struggle with difficult faith concepts, and forge our own relationship with God. Mentors give us the space to grow at our own pace, not becoming a mirror image of the mentor but a believer in our own right.
Today we give thanks for the saints who, in these past twelve months, have gone on to glory. They have finished the race that was before them and followed the path prepared by Jesus Christ. On All Saints Sunday we remember and give thanks for lives lived in the best possible image of Christ and we ask of ourselves the same. What example of faith are we giving to those who don’t yet know Jesus Christ or who are young in their relationship with Him? How well are we mentoring
those around us so that when they face the dark night of the soul, they emerge on the other side stronger and more committed to Jesus Christ?
Give thanks today for those pillars of faith which mentored you. And commit to living up to the example they provided by being a guiding force, a reliable mentor to someone else.
Grace & Peace,
October 30, 2016
Good Sabbath! It’s Sunday morning, the time of Sabbath rest for Christian disciples. In Genesis 2, the Bible reads, “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” In Exodus, the notion of God observing a time of rest moves from being a divine practice of God’s to a divine commandment for us. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work…” (Exodus 20: 8-10)
For no other reason, we should observe the Sabbath because we’re commanded to. But God isn’t one to throw out instructions to His children without a beneficial reason behind it. And that’s the case with the command to observe Sabbath. God desires our attention for the purpose of refreshing our lives with creativity and peace.
Today and next week I’m preaching a sermon series about observing Sabbath, both individual and community observances. Today the emphasis is on the importance of individual Sabbath time that it scheduled on a regular basis and set aside specifically for giving one’s attention to God.
Whether we’re busy with work, caring for others, juggling responsibilities or simply living in a state of anxiety or worry, it’s important to learn how to set those distractions aside and focus attention on God. Preparation is necessary in the process toward observation of Sabbath. Worship is one part of Sabbath observation. When we enter the Sabbath worship space, it’s important that we do so as friends of God and friends of one another. Our busy-ness, responsibilities, worries, and differences need to be set aside so that we can focus on the gifts God has given and desires to give to us. It’s impossible to fully attend to God when we’re distracted by other things.
One of the activities of Sabbath is to recount our blessings since the last Sabbath observance.
What a wonderful way to begin worship! Take a few moments before you arrive at church or during the Prelude to jot down the gifts with which God has blessed you since last Sunday. How has God blessed you personally? Your family? Your community? The world? Have you experienced growth in an important relationship? Have you been blessed by tithing or through service to the church? Have you been mentored or had the opportunity to mentor? What do you have to be thankful for that you’ve perhaps taken for granted? Write your answers and say a prayer of thanksgiving for each one.
Good Sabbath, Friends!
Grace & Peace,
October 23, 2016
Dear Friends, The author of Earn. Save. Give., James Harnish, writes, “We don’t need more
money; we need wisdom.” Of course he’s referring to God’s wisdom, which is ours for the asking. And as we’re asking for God’s wisdom we may as well also ask for healthy doses of courage, commitment and determination. With those competences, the gift of God’s wisdom helps us, over time, to become good and faithful stewards of the financial resources God has given to us. Christian stewardship doesn’t come easily, nor does it happen overnight for most people.
If you grew up in a home that practiced giving to the church before all else, like I did, it helps. The last thing my parents did before leaving for church on Sunday mornings was write our offering check. They never made a big deal of it and I don’t even remember either of them telling me specifically what they were doing but I knew. And it made a lasting impression on me. Unfortunately it wasn’t a habit I formed for my own life. As a member of my home church in San Antonio, I sat through many stewardship sermons, campaigns and commitment Sundays. I occasionally even filled out a pledge card. But for me it was an emotional response to the invitation to tithe and once my initial enthusiasm for making the pledge waned, so did my consistency in giving.
It took me a very long time to trust the process of re-ordering my personal finances around my commitment to Christ but about 12 years ago I finally took the plunge. One year instead of spending a salary increase I set the difference between one annual salary and the new annual salary and committed it to the church. I did that every year until I met my goal of committing 10% of my gross income to the church. There have been seasons in my life when I have not fulfilled my tithe for various reasons but I’ve always tried to catch up in the next season.
Ordering our financial lives around the 10-10-80 practice of giving God the first 10% of our income, our best and first, putting 10% aside for the future, and living on the rest, 80%, can make the difference between living from “paycheck to paycheck,” just getting by, and living into the full joy of generosity.
I invite you today, Commitment Sunday, to pray about your 2017 financial and service commitment to the church. When you pray, ask for God’s wisdom. And a healthy dose of courage, commitment and determination to fulfill your pledge. May God bless your decisions today and take you one step further in your Christian discipleship through the practice of stewardship.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
October 9, 2016 The True Wealth
13 Happy are those who find wisdom, and those who get understanding, 14 for her income is better than silver, and her revenue better than gold. 15 She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. 16 Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. 17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. 18 She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy.
Proverbs 3: 13-18
Have you asked God to bless you with the gift of wisdom? Knowledge is wonderful, information is powerful, our time spent learning is time spent well. But wisdom is another thing altogether. Wisdom is not something that is acquired or earned or inherited. Wisdom is a gift from God and we have to ask for it in order to receive it. The good news is that James 1:5 promises that if anyone asks for it, God will give it generously and ungrudgingly.
Last week the word from the Lord was this: We don’t need more money, we need God’s wisdom in using our money. Wisdom gives us the difference between producing finite results and making an impact that reaches far and wide. We are right to pay our bills responsibly and take care of our financial obligations. But with God’s wisdom, we learn to so order our financial resources to meet not only our own needs but the needs of others. God’s wisdom gives us the attribute of generosity.
Today’s message from God is again about wisdom but this time we’re learning how wisdom in earning money with integrity and ethics. There is nothing wrong with earning money. Wealth and money are not inherently evil. The root of evil is the love of money and wealth. When we are more concerned with accumulating money and wealth than using it as a tool to bring the Good News to the world, that’s when we’re in trouble. When we are reluctant to part with money and wealth for fear of scarcity or stinginess or greed, then we are called to turn back to Godly stewardship.
Grace & Peace,
October 2, 2016
It’s World Communion Sunday and I thought it might help to offer
some information about it from Ministry Matters, a United Methodist online worship resource. Today, congregations around the globe will celebrate World Communion Sunday. Most of us have heard about World Communion Sunday but may not know much about where the celebration originated. According to the website of the National Council of Churches, World Communion Sunday began in 1936 in the Presbyterian Church and was adopted by the Federal Council of Churches (predecessor of the NCC) in 1940. Since then, the
celebration has grown into an international ecumenical celebration of Christian unity. The key word for World Communion Sunday is communion, or unity. It is a day when we mark the almost universal Christian practice of breaking bread with one another and remembering both the night of Jesus’ betrayal—when Jesus instituted what we now call the Lord’s Supper as a lasting remembrance—and of Jesus’ sacrifice. So accounts of the last supper feature prominently, by virtue of World Communion Sunday being a celebration
of the Eucharist. But there is a flavor of the Christian celebration of Pentecost as well, when people from around the Mediterranean world came together in mutual understanding and inspiration, by the power of the Holy Spirit. World Communion Sunday is a time for remembering that around the globe—in
different languages, with different traditions and customs, and in various forms of liturgy— the Lord’s Supper is celebrated throughout Christendom. At its best, therefore, World Communion Sunday serves two purposes: it is both a joyous and meaningful partaking in
Jesus’ sacred meal with his friends and a mind-opening exposure to different Christian traditions from around the world.
World Communion Sunday is on the Christian calendar for a reason: it can and should be a time of profound Christian unity, marked by our shared celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus instituted the first such meal, and World Communion Sunday is a helpful way in which Christ calls us back together to celebrate the liturgy “in remembrance of me.”
At a time when there seems to be more divisiveness than unity, more criticism than common ground, more skepticism than trust, it is a good time for us to gather as the Body of Christ. It is a good time to remember that the very diversity of the Body of Christ is what
causes it to function properly and effectively. At the root of it all is Jesus Christ, the head of the Body and the head of the Church. Thanks be to God!
Grace & Peace,
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 begi