Monday Meditation – Touch

Touch

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners, (Isaiah 61:1  NIV)

Jesus healed the sick by touching them and restoring them to their communities. The priests only wanted money for sacrifices to be made in order for one to be allowed to rejoin one’s family and community.  They wanted to be paid in order to make one ritually “pure” again.

Miracles

Big miracles like the virgin birth and the resurrection just don’t happen in my life with too much frequency.  But many miracles Jesus performed every day, like touching someone in need, often those who no one would touch.  I’ve seen such love, I know it can happen.  I just don’t see it enough.  Touch is an incredible miracle.  Because without it none of the others would matter.  Even one’s weak faith did not disqualify you from receiving Jesus’ touch.

A touch.  The compassion of one man willing to break all the rules to touch you at your lowest.  It doesn’t have to be physical, it can be spiritually.  But both together are so powerful.

Dear Lord, Your Son came to touch and heal us.  Let us follow His lead and reach out to those nobody wants to touch.  Grant us courage to do so.  Amen.

Seeking Ways to Be in Service to the Global UM Church – The Philippines

global church

1 Corinthians 12:27 – Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

The reach of The United Methodist Church is wide. We are a global denomination focused on making disciples for Jesus Christ wherever we encounter them.  On a recent trip to the Philippines, two GCFA staff members, two professors and sixteen graduate students from Belmont University Massey College of Business learned first-hand what it means to serve in a global denomination.

There are 12 annual conferences in the Philippines – all of whom are actively making disciples of Jesus Christ.  The members of the churches work every day to reach the poor, connect with persons seeking Christ as their Savior and receiving the Love of Christ in their homes and their places to worship.

Work began in earnest for the team on April 1 when we arrived in Manila. Belmont University and the Travel and Meeting Planning Department of GCFA coordinated the 10-day trip.  The purpose was to talk face-to-face with leaders of the Philippines annual conferences about their need for resources to support their ministries and how GCFA shared services can fill those needs.

Using one-on-one interviews, surveys and hands-on interaction, the graduate students talked with and learned of needs in the area of financial reporting, data collection, meeting planning, and giving methods in the areas they visited.

belmont students

The students worked on four areas of interest: missional giving, travel and meeting planning, effectively using the Ezra database outside the US, and training and leadership resources. Each small group met with church leadership and got responses in each of the work areas.

Dedication

However, an even bigger impact than talking first-hand with church leaders was the observance of the dedication of the people of the church.  When, in one area, the students learned that pastors and bishops sometimes travel by boat and sometimes even by horse to visit and worship with their congregations, the students saw great examples of faithfulness to the people.

The team was able to visit the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation, Inc. (KKFI) – an organization that works in the community to provide education, meals and skills training for children.  There they observed the impact that people dedicated to serving have in their ministry.

The students, in a report back to GCFA when they returned, shared the impact their experiences had on their lives as they visited people, offices and churches in Manila and Baguio.  The work in this ministry continues as GCFA leadership will review the recommendations of the team and find ways to implement them as we work to serve the global church.

Cheryl Akey, Travel and Meeting Planning Manager, The General Council on Finance and Administration

Monday Meditation – Lent : Rage

rage

Continuing with our Lenten series on the emotional life of Jesus, we turn to Mark 3:1-6.

In this passage the Pharisees provoke Jesus’ anger.  After a discussion about what one can or cannot do on the Sabbath, Jesus makes the talk concrete by inviting forward a man with a withered hand.  Jesus asks the Pharisees, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil?  To save life, or to kill it?

The Greek description Mark uses for Jesus’ anger at the Pharisees is unprecedented in its use in the gospels anywhere.  Jesus is enraged because of the Pharisees stubbornness of heart, their lack of compassion for someone on the day made for humans to contemplate not just God but God’s relationship to humanity.

Do we do good when it is convenient for ourselves?  Or do we do it at every opportunity that God presents us with?  Does our own selfishness get in the way of our own compassion for people and do we use rules and regulations to keep ourselves out of the discussion?  How enraged would God be with us on the Sabbath?

Dear God, sometimes we have not been a loving church.  We have sometimes been too obedient to the structure and laws of the church than we have been compassionate to others.  Lord help us to see that the Sabbath was made for us and not us for the Sabbath, an idol that can obscure your face from us.  Help us live to do good when and where we can.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Lent : Indignation

Indignation

Jesus had a full emotional life, which we get glimpses of in the gospels, especially in Mark.  During the Lenten season we get a hint at Jesus’ emotional life and what it meant for him to be indignant, angry, compassionate, fearful and loving and what that means for us today.

Almost from the beginning of his public ministry in Mark, Jesus is not an unemotional Savior.  In fact, he is a very feeling human being as well as God.

In Mark 1:40-45 when the leper approaches Jesus asking him if he dares to declare him clean, Jesus “snorting with indignation,” answers in the affirmative.

Is Jesus indignant with this man who dares to come to him with this outrageous request?  No he is irate with those whom the leper has just come from, those whom Jesus has him return to in order to show his cleansing as a testimony “against” (in the original Greek) their refusal to cleanse him, probably due to a lack of appropriate payment.

Should we be no less indignant at the systems that keep the poverty-stricken from full inclusion into mainstream society?  Low wage jobs, lack of health care and affordable housing, are but some of the impediments that the poor face every day in order to live in a self-sustaining way.

Dear God help us to understand how systems of oppression exist to trod down upon your people.  Help us to not partake in them and help us to bring them down much like your son preached and taught.  Let us never forget our righteous anger against a system that would marginalize people because they do not have enough to pay the toll.  Amen.

We Are Called To Serve Out Front and Behind the Scenes

Spiritual Gifts

Biblical Foundation

We are all called to serve.

Some are called to serve as teachers and shape the next generation; some are called to serve as pastors and lead a congregation; some are called to serve as performers and use their art to glorify the Lord; and others are called to serve behind the scenes, to organize, to report, to communicate in order to support ministry.  1 Corinthians 12:4-6 states, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work” (NIV).

I love this scripture because it reminds me that our service, whether out front or behind the scenes, is all God’s work.  Personally, I identify with those who are called to serve behind the scenes, who support others in their ministry.  At GCFA, we call that “the ministry of administration.”

Many Who Serve

There are many in The United Methodist Church who serve within this ministry of administration.  And, as part of my role, I have the opportunity to work with church business administrators across the denomination.  They, too, are individuals who are called to serve.  Often they serve behind the scenes.  They manage the church budget; make sure the bills are paid; coordinate the church management system, and so much more.  At GCFA, we seek to serve these individuals through our Academy of Church Business Administration (ACBA), two weeks of classes that cover 14 different areas of study.

Being part of this ministry supports the connection’s mission to make disciples.  It is my privilege to support the ACBA, and to serve the entire United Methodist connection through the ministry of administration.

Thank you,

Jodi Chadwell

Chief Officer of Shared Services and Ministry Evaluation

Monday Meditation – Still Small Voice

Still Small Voice

And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?  (I Kings 19: 12-13 KJV)

A lady running errands has gone viral.  Why?  Listen to her testimony.

This woman went to the grocery store and saw a homeless man trying to keep warm near the entrance.  When she saw the man, she heard the voice of Jesus telling her that the homeless man liked bananas.  She should buy some bananas for him.

The woman figured on her own that he would also need some protein so she bought him a couple of small nonperishable items as well.  She also wanted to buy him some fried chicken so that he could have some warm food in his belly.

Jesus told her not to buy the fried chicken that the man needed something for later.

The woman persisted in asking why she couldn’t get him some fried chicken.

Jesus said, “I don’t want you to get him fried chicken.”

Well the woman let it go and went to go pay for her groceries.  She separated out the things she had bought for him and took it to him, wishing him a “Merry Christmas and God bless you.”

A lady came up from behind her and said “This is your lucky day.  Here’s some fried chicken for you.” She then hands him the warm meal.

Lesson:  Listen to that still small voice pricking your soul.  Even when the Spirit says no, there’s a good reason.

Dear God, Still us enough to hear your voice not only when you say “yes” but also when you say “no.”  Though we know not the reason, let us still trust you and do what you do ask of us.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Valentine’s Day Gifts

Valentines Day

Valentine’s Day

Some say Valentine’s Day is a made up celebration by the floral and card companies in order to make sale in an otherwise devoid month of any “holidays” or “special occasions.”

I say any excuse to celebrate “love” is worthy.  Now how we choose to do so can be up for discussion.

Gifts

While gifts are one way to show love, they are not the only way or some would even say they are not the best way.  We can celebrate with gifts of all kinds like flowers and candy and cards as gifts for Valentine’s Day.  Even those are given with some thoughtfulness. It is more the thought put into a gift that provokes the most joy.

A handmade gift from my grandson is worth a great deal to me.  The effort and thought put into it by him is what counts as love in my eyes.

But we can combine gifts of cards, flowers or candy with something else.  Whether a purchased or handmade gift, we can also take the time to pray for them and then send a quick email or text letting them know you remembered them in your prayers.  It’s not bragging if done from a heart of servanthood to that person from a place of love.

It will show the other person that you were thinking about them and brought them before God with love and attention.  You shared your love for them with God.  You shared your time with God with them.

That, my friends, is a great gift.

Dear God, who is love, show us how to love more perfectly.  Help us to remember those near to us when we come to you in prayer.  Let our time be about others and not solely about us.  When sometimes thoughts and prayers can seem like empty sentiments, help us to revive the power of prayer. Amen.

Meditation Monday: Growing Pains

In order for a lobster to grow it must first rid itself of its shell. The shell does not grow but is rigid for the protection of the soft crustacean inside.

Growing Pains

As a lobster grows it begins to feel the growing pains of the too small shell it has. Pressure builds up as its body pushes against the old shell. It finds some rocks to hide in. Soon enough, it breaks out of its old shell with a new one already intact.

Just like the lobster, we sometimes have to push through growing pains in order to get rid of the old as we grow. God provides for new “protection” but we must recognize that we need to grow out of where we have been in order to get to where we need to go. The “stress” the lobster feels as it grows against it new shell is a sign to it that it needs to begin the molting process.

As the lobster sheds its old shell it recycles the minerals within it to build the new shell. It continually builds upon what has come before into what is to come.

“No one sews a piece of new, unshrunk cloth on old clothes; otherwise, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and makes a worse tear. No one pours new wine into old leather wineskins; otherwise, the wine would burst the wineskins and the wine would be lost and the wineskins destroyed. But new wine is for new wineskins.” Mark 2:21-22 (CEB)

Dear God, help your church to shed its old shell as it matures and grows. Like the lobster, let us build on what we had in order to get what we need to proclaim and do your love in the world you have set us in. Amen.

Advent Week One: The Fig Tree

Advent week one

1st Week of Advent

During this advent season, we watch for the coming birth of our Savior. In Mark 13:28-30 Jesus, himself, speaks of watching for him to return with signs in the heavens. Just as a fig tree signals the beginning of the summer season so too will the coming of Christ have signs preceding it.

Yet in Mark 11:12-14, 20-21, Jesus curses the fig tree for not bearing fruit even though it is out of season for figs. The tree withers and dies.

Often the success of the Israelites is portrayed as a fig tree in the Old Testament. And most central to its success is the Temple, the religious and political hub of the nation. The Temple was the storehouse of tithes, alms and offerings.

Fig Tree

So when the fig tree is bursting forth with life, Jesus tells us we can watch for him to come back. But when it does not supply what is needed to the hungry, it will be cursed and wither from the root.

Why is Jesus so disgusted with the fig tree even though he knows it isn’t the time for the harvesting of figs?

While we may watch for signs of Jesus’ coming, just as every year we look with anticipation for the coming nativity, need still remains in the land. And as long as this want continues, the people of God should share the fruits of the Temple to alleviate that hunger, no matter what the season. When that happens perhaps the fig tree will finally be in bloom and Christ will come again.

“Learn this parable from the fig tree. After its branch becomes tender and it sprouts new leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, you know that he’s near, at the door. I assure you that this generation won’t pass away until all these things happen. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away.” Mark 13:29-31 CEB

Dear Lord, help us as we wait for your return. Help us to be the blooming leaves of the fig tree, feeding those in need, whether spiritually or physically, so that your light would return to this world permanently. We need you more every morning. Help us to watch for your coming. Amen.

Support the spirits of our military troops

Support Troops

Support the spirits of those who serve us

Those who serve our country in the armed forces and the first responders in our communities often witness harrowing acts of war and violence.  It makes an impact on the body, mind, and spirit of each one of them.  Too often, though, the spirit is forgotten.  We rally to make sure those who provide help to others have sufficient medical/psychological care and benefits befitting the nature of the intense jobs they hold.  But how can we care for their spirits?  The United Methodist Men had an answer.  From an Eagle Scout project, Strength For Service was born.  It supplies devotional books to members of the armed services and first responders free of charge.  For a story about how your ministry can support this project click here.  Help the men and women who do so much for us with books designed to help build up their spirits.  This is but one way to honor their service to us.