Monday Meditation – You Don’t Have That Kind of Time

Time

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.  Psalm 90:12 ESV

“When I was 38, my best friend Pammy died, and we went shopping about two weeks before she died, and she was in a wig and a wheelchair. I was buying a dress for this boyfriend I was trying to impress, and I bought a tighter, shorter dress than I was used to. And I said to her, ‘do you think this makes my hips look big?’ and she said to me, so calmly, ‘Anne, you don’t have that kind of time.”  Anne Lamott, from “Beyond Bunnies: The Real Meaning of Easter Season,” with Michele Norris, NPR’s All Things Considered, April 18, 2011

If the past weeks have shown us anything it is that we are vulnerable.  We may be at the top of the food chain but we are not beyond our human frailties.  Hurricanes can kill us.  We can kill one another.  We can be killed in our homes and at entertainment venues.  Time can be taken from us quickly and without warning.

Life is too precious to waste on wondering if our “hips look too big.”  Life is for hanging out with friends who are dying and enjoying each other’s company.  It is about helping one another get out from underneath the mud and muck of a category five hurricane.  It is about risking one’s own life to save one’s neighbor, even a stranger, as bullets rain down upon a crowd.

Life is about more than the superficial.  It is meant to be experienced and all its audacity wrung out.  We cannot take it for granted.  It is too tenuous nowadays to be wasted.

Dear God help us to understand Your plans for us in this life you have given us.  When many conspire against us, let us know that You are God and love shall conquer all.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Standing Up

Protest

This past weekend the hate groups at Charlottesville, VA showed up in my neck of the woods, Middle Tennessee.  Many preparations were made for their arrival.  The two cities they were gathering at had to come up with physical plans to keep the peace within the group as well as with counter protesters.  Where and when people would be allowed access to parks and parking, which streets to close, and even asking some businesses to close on the day of the protest were all things taken into consideration,

Counter protesters had to make arrangements as well with the police and local governments regarding their protest against the alt-right.  Furthermore, they held workshops on non-violent protesting.  I’m proud to say that such a workshop was held at an area UMC Church.  There were sign making workshop at a large pot-luck dinner held the week before the protests to gather together all who would be involved in the counter protests.  Bonding and preparing need to happen when love rises against hate.

It was such a delight to see people of many faiths and walks of life, come together and stand against those who would advocate for racism and ethnic cleansing.  To see the body of Christ standing in the way of evil gave me goosebumps.  The church fulfilling its mission in the footsteps of Christ is what the world needs to see more of in the future.

“If indeed you continued in the faith firmly established and steadfast and not move away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven.” Colossians 1:23 NASB

Dear God, help us to stand steadfast in Your love against those who would do harm to Your children, all Your children.  Grant us courage to do so.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Unity

Unity

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12 NIV

We are in this together.  There is no part of the body of Christ that we can excise in order to bring about unity.  We are in unity.  The question is how we learn to live with each other in all our differences and diversity, wrongs and sins.

First we must choose to be together no matter what.  Staying together in an era where divorce is so common can appear to be an old-fashioned idea especially if one party feels as if the other is beating them up.  Perhaps it is best to walk away.

And yet we can’t.  We are in this together whether we want to be or not.  We are the body of Christ.  We can’t leave each other alone no matter how much we want to do so or in fact do so.  We are inextricably tied together with one another.  We will face one another in heaven one day.

So let’s learn to love one another as God loves us.  That is, better than we love ourselves.

Monday Meditation – God Is Always Here

God Is Always Here

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 29:20b NIV

I don’t know what it is like to not know God.  I don’t know everything about God but I do know God is real.  And that makes all the difference in the world.

I may feel it.  I may live it.  But I am never alone.  God is always here.

I may be confused. I may be scared.  But I am never alone.  God is always here.

The world may seem like it is crumbling.  But we are never alone.  God is always here.

Violence may be all around me.  Strangers may trample over me.  But I am never alone.  God is always here.

We don’t always understand.  Our confusion is confounding.  But we are never alone.  God is always here.

It is in this togetherness with God that allows us to withstand the trials and tribulations we go through.  Not because we know the “why” but because we know the “Who.”

We are never alone.  God is always here.

Las Vegas – We Stand With You

Las Vegas

We here are GCFA stand in solidarity and love with the people of Las Vegas, Nevada against the brutal violence perpetrated against humanity late Sunday night.  When one part of the body is hurt, the entire body suffers.  It is only in love that such wounds can be healed.  We send our thoughts and prayers to those hurt in this act of domestic terrorism.   Just as importantly, we stand firm in our Christian conviction that death shall not have the last word.  Our risen Savior has broken the bonds of death and set free all its captives.

Evil may think it has won this day.

Fifty plus are dead, over 500 are injured.  Firefighters had to wear Kevlar vests to the scene along with the police.  In today’s social scene, bullets made to pierce, not just flesh, but cement and plaster, are readily available for sale.  Military grade weapons pervade the American landscape–yet we still have faith and hope.

We have faith and hope that there is a greater power in this world that is a light against the darkness.  Love will always triumph over hate.  For every Good Friday, a resurrection is promised.  We hold onto that promise for ourselves, our church, our country and all the people as children of God.

We stand in any breach of faith and hope that has been cracked by this night of cruelty. “And let them give it to the doers of the work which is in the house of the LORD, to repair the breaches of the house,” 2 Kings 22:5b (KJV) We stand that those whose faith and hope is tested by this night of horror who can stand upon our shoulders for resolve until their hearts and bodies have been mended by the Holy Spirit of God.

We will continue to pray and do what must be done to challenge the circumstances that allow such acts of depravity to occur according to the Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church. (#3303, 3426)

Today is the day
God deplores violence in our homes and streets,
rebukes the world’s warring madness,
humbles the powerful and lifts up the lowly.
And so shall we.  (A Companion Litany to Our Social Creed)

Monday Meditation – John Wesley and Budgeting

John Wesley

“By the right use of money we can provide for others.  Money can serve as a husband for the widow and as a father to the orphans.  We can supply protection for the oppressed, a means of health for the sick, and a comfort for those in pain. Money can become as “eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame (Job 29:15, NRSV); and, indeed money can lift up others “from the gates of death” (Psalm 9:13).”

Budgeting can be a stressful and boring process.  Yet budgets often speak volumes about what a person or organization does or does not value.

They force us to make choices—some difficult, some easy.  Nevertheless, it is these choices that signal our values about what we take responsibility for as individuals and organizations.

For John Wesley, budgeting was easy.  He gave all but what it took to maintain his health.  That amount rarely changed, despite his earnings rising over the years.  His basic maintenance was just that, the basics.  Probably a bit austere to our day and age. But, nonetheless, this is a living witness to his commitment to giving from his abundance.

It is estimated that Wesley gave away nearly $50,000 US in his lifetime. It is the equivalent of a whole year’s wages for some lucky few today.  Back then, it was an enormous amount of money.

John Wesley believed in generosity.  Even if he never preached it, his life and his budget spoke for him.   His life was his living witness to budgeting and giving. He lived as a steward of all God gave him.

“If at any time a doubt should arise concerning what sum you should spend on yourself or any part of your family, there is an easy way to resolve the doubt. Ask these questions: (1) In spending this money, am I acting according to my character? Am I acting not as an owner, but as a steward of my Lord’s goods? (2) Am I giving this money in obedience to God’s Word? In what scripture does God require me to spend this money? (3) Can I offer up this action or expenditure as a sacrifice to God through Jesus Christ? (4) Do I have reason to believe that for this very work I will receive a reward at the resurrection of the righteous? You will seldom need anything more than these questions to remove any doubt that may arise.

If any doubt still remains, you can further examine yourself by prayer according to each of these four questions.”

Cain Kinghorn, John Wesley on Christian Practice: The Standard Sermons in Modern English, Volume 3 (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 2003), 317–334.

Monday Meditation – God Cares For Us

Marah

Then Moses had Israel leave the Reed Sea and go out into the Shur desert. They traveled for three days in the desert and found no water.  When they came to Marah, they couldn’t drink Marah’s water because it was bitter. That’s why it was called Marah. The people complained against Moses, “What will we drink?”  Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord pointed out a tree to him. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. Exodus 15:22-25 (CEB)

To give a little background about this Scripture text from Exodus, God had already delivered the children of Israel from the hands of the Egyptian army, opened the path for them through the Red Sea, and led them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  Now, as they travel through the wilderness, they wander without water for three days.  The scorching sun made them tired and thirsty.

We have experienced some very hot days this summer and we can imagine how it could have been for the Israelites walking in the desert for three days with no water.  Finally they come to a place called Marah where they found some water.  As they started to drink, they soon discovered that the water was bitter.  The very name Marah means “bitter”.  Just imagine how you would react if you were at a restaurant on a very hot day and you order a nice, cold refreshing drink, you patiently wait for ten minutes and finally when the waitress brings it, it is  slightly warm and bitter.

In the case of the Israelites, they didn’t have a drink of water for three days.  They must have had so much hope and expectation when they saw water, but soon their expectation was turned to total disappointment and frustration.  So, immediately, they began to grumble and complain against God and Moses.  Max Lucado says, “Their jubilation over liberation soon becomes frustration over dehydration”.

I’m sure all of us go through “Marah” times in our lives.  So, how do we deal with our Marah times?  Do we react like the Israelites who grumbled and complained?  Or do we look to God for solutions?  You may have heard or read this before:  “No matter what your problem is: don’t nurse it; don’t curse it; please don’t rehearse it.   Just call on God and He will reverse it”.

I know from personal experience it’s pretty hard to let go and let God take control of our situations.  But that’s what we are reminded in 1 Peter 5:7 where the apostle Peter says, “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you”.   In 1 Corinthians 10:13 the Apostle Paul says, “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone.  God is faithful, and He will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing He will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it”. 

Gracious God, we thank You that You are our Great Healer!  Forgive us of our grumblings and murmurings and the times we have wandered away from Your presence.  Grant us hope and healing, courage and strength to hold on to You when we experience “marah” times in our lives.  Use us as Your messengers of hope in the lives of those who are hurting.  We love you and we praise You. In Your Holy name we pray!  Amen!

An Investment In the Kingdom

Your Alternative to Traditional Banking

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Luke 14:28-30 ESV

We are excited to let you know about the United Methodist Credit Union Association (UMCUA) and some of the ways association members can be your financial partners in ministry, helping you to build up the Kingdom.

They are a group of credit unions throughout the United States working in collaboration to provide an alternative to traditional banking.

Each credit union operates independently and provides banking and lending solutions to clergy, laity and local churches throughout the Unites States. As a member of a United Methodist church you are eligible to join and take full advantage of all of their products and services designed with you in mind!

You might wonder what exactly is a credit union and why would you join one?

One of the biggest reasons, is that when you partner with them, you are making an investment in the kingdom.

You see, the more members they have; the better dividends they can pay and the more projects they can fund like the building project with 1st UMC in Upland, California. Personal savings and checking accounts, home and auto loans to church construction projects and refinances  are just a few of the ways they are investing in our United Methodist connection.

UMFCU, a member of UMCUA, funds church loan for installation of energy saving solar panels

“We are happy with these needed funds to complete the installation of our solar panel energy efficient and money saving project.  This is our second loan with the UMFCU and we appreciate the competitive rates and terms and great member services.”  Maxine Sawtell, Chair of Board of Trustees of 1st UMC of Upland in Upland, CA.

credit unions

UMFCU President and CEO, Ramon Noperi, congratulates 1st UMC of Upland for its solar panel church loan.  Maxine Sawtell and Andy Parsons from 1st UMC Upland, accept the loan.

This is but a glimpse of the partnerships within the United Methodist Financial Credit Union Association.

Stop by online to learn more.

www.umcua.org

Monday Meditation – A Psalm of Lament

September 11 Twin Towers

Almighty God, where are you?

In this darkest hour,

We call for you, begging for your light.

For many years now, we have lived with a scar on our land.

It was created with the toppling of buildings and planes upon our soil.

The loss of life, infernal.

The loss of innocence, disturbing.

The darkness fell upon on

Like a veil, as the dust covered us for miles.

For some the pain is still potent.

The grief too much to bear.

The bitterness harsh.

The anger desperate.

 

But you are a mighty God.

A just and merciful God.

While grace is your first instinct,

Your righteousness will not be denied.

We cry out for your mercy upon our brokenness.

We cry out for redemption from our pain.

 

The love of God shall never fail

Death, broken in the resurrection,

Is not the last call upon our souls.

Love is the infinite power

That will prevail.

God is love.

#embracelove

A call to Love is a call to Love – EVERYONE. What?!

embracelove

On Facebook, I have seen some examples of people of color loving neo-Nazis and white supremacists.  In forming intimate friendships, they have been able to love the hate out of them and become friends.

If we are all made in the image of God, and thereby worth everything in God’s eyes, enough for God to send God’s Son to us, then is loving the enemy something central to all our lives as Christians?

Are we prepared to do this as a church?  Can we #embracelove around our neo-Nazi brothers and sisters?

In order to love we must first prepare ourselves.  How can we do so?

  1. Loving each other. We must be a living example of a people who love one another without conditions.
  2. Resting in the love of God and our fellow Christians. Learning to accept love will help us to teach others how to do so as well.
  3. Learn to listen. Truly listen to hear the other not to prepare a retort or comeback.  Listening to understand is not acceptance.
  4. Rely on hope. We will not always succeed.  Some will resist our embracing them with love.  We must never lose hope that God will touch their hearts in some way that lies beyond our presence in their lives. Only God redeems the irredeemable.

No one is beyond reproach from God or God’s followers.  While we as a church do not accept the rise of Nazism and we do not believe in one race’s superiority over another, we also believe that all are deserving of God’s love and healing touch, no matter what their sin.

Dear Lord, we live in troubled times.  Help us to see each other’s worth not in skin color but in the content of our character, the strength of our love for one another and the righteous grace You bestow upon us.  Amen.