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Thursday, December 8, 2011

First Things First

Been out of town for a while? What are the “first things” you do when you get home? Who are the “first persons” you just have to connect with?

Are you finding your daily activity restricted – new baby, surgery, planting and harvest, or whatever? What is the “first thing” you plan to do when you get your life back? the “first place” you want to go?

Unexpected expenses? Once you get your budget back in line, what are the “first things” you are likely to splurge on?

These 3 questions help us realize the true priorities of our hearts, who and what we value as significant and special to us. These are the things and these are the people we need to be thanking God for every day, as well as to be praying for.

These 3 questions also help us realize that the concerns of God, our life with God, and our service to God are not among our “first things”. Sorry for the guilt trip, but no apology.

God came among us that first Christmas. We cheat ourselves when we ignore Jesus. God instituted the practices of the spiritual life for our benefit. We cheat ourselves when we do not practice them. Be good to yourself. Put Jesus first. Go to church. Give outrageously. Take holy time with your family. Pray.

Jesus is a friend like no other. But he is also sovereign God. Put him first.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Is There A Parallel Universe?

We spend our whole earthly life on a single planet, in a small galaxy, somewhere in the vastness of the universe. Oh, the genius of it all. You’d think that would be enough for the human mind to ponder. Wrong.

The human mind imagines more. We visualize that which we cannot see or know. And we delight in questioning everything that is. Religious mystics of every age, ancient philosophers, theoretical scientists and endless writers of fiction feed imagination and fuel inquiry.

Thus my opening question, “Is there a parallel universe?”
And (for you SciFi buffs) the further questions, “If there is a parallel universe, what might be the classic character markers defining a hero in that universe?” And, “How would you know who was greatest of all?”

My answer to my opening question, “Is there a parallel universe?” is yes there is and it is now. It is a spiritual universe, concurrent with the created one in which we live. Its values are strange to us and its heroes even stranger.

It is a universe where each person’s character is revealed, not by how they live, but by one thing only, by how they respond to Jesus.

It is a universe where suffering equals victory and where death has no power, where the greatest one is the least among all, and where the triumph of the self is the self’s ultimate defeat.

It is a universe measured by different dimensions, not by time and space, but by sacrifice, love and grace. It is a universe of endless joy and perfect peace, as sung at the manger in Bethlehem when Jesus was born.

Hmmm. Parallel. Spiritual. Universe.
Hmmm. Christmas. Savior. Carols.
Hmmm. Character.
Hmmm. How they respond to Jesus.

May your Christmas be Merry, full of endless joy and perfect peace. God bless you.

Friday, November 18, 2011


A friend of mine went to a spiritual counselor.
The counselor said,
“Can’t do anything for you. Too many blockages.”

What’s blocking your view of the sun in the sky?
What’s keeping you from seeing the absolute beauty in your love partner?
What’s reigning in your magnificent potential and your soaring dreams?

You need to dump the trash!

Thankfulness will not enter a cluttered life.
Not even if it’s cluttered with only good things.

“Think on things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable. … And the God who gives us peace will be with you,” says the Bible.

So where’s the God of peace,
When your mind is filled with the clutter of cares and responsibilities?
When life is nothing but action, and a series of rapid choices?


Too busy. or Too bitter. or Too burdened.
Oh dear, that’s not life.

You need to dump the trash
And let thankfulness in.

Just do it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The "Family" Time of Year

The "Family" Time of Year

In the church "Family Time" starts early this year.

Family photos for the church directory
Have you scheduled your photography yet?
Thur & Sat afternoons available Oct. 20-22
It's free. And we want everyone to be in it.

Family gifts to keep the church open and vital
How much does the church mean to your family?
Promise Sunday is Oct 23. Promise cards available then.
It's fair. And we want everyone to help.

Family Ingathering Kits to help with disaster relief
Have you decided which kits your family will bring?
Kits will be piled at the altar Sun Oct. 30 and dedicated.
It's fun. And we want everyone to be blessed.

Together we are the "Family" of God

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Financial Relief - God's Way

Starting October 4th – “Managing Our Finances God’s Way” – with Stan Lovett

Friends, the economy is still staggering. Families are struggling. Good people trying to pay their bills, save their job, and get out of debt, just can’t.

The parish is offering the community a class called
“Managing Our Finances God’s Way,”
a program of Crown Financial Ministries.

Humeston Public Library for 7 weeks
Tuesday nights at 7:00 pm
beginning October 4th.

Every Mormon Trail person, couple or family is welcome
Best for couples both to come
All workbook costs are waived

Plain-English budget and debt management tools from Iowa Extension Services will also be available.
The program is beneficial regardless of one’s economic level, spiritual outlook, or seriousness of financial concerns.

Stan Lovett, whose training has been with Crown Financial Ministries in North Carolina, will be leading.
The speakers on the DVD (Rick Warren, Chip Ingram, Chuck Bently, Howard Dayton, and Ron Blue)are the truly inspirational heavy hitters in the field.

Pre-registration is appreciated but so not necessary.

Here and in a growing number of churches couples are gathering
1. to review God’s principles of family financial management,
2. to support one another in applying those principles when the going gets tough,
3. to find relief and financial freedom for themselves, and
4. to better glorify God with their lives.

Check the website ( , or “Like” our page on Facebook ( ) to keep up on the “Managing Our Finances God’s Way” announcements.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Faith is the confidence of things hoped for and the assurance of things unseen. (Heb 11:1)

We think of faith, living the faith, walking the faith. When we think of sustaining faith we know we are the people of God in the world every day. We know that God watches out for us and hears our prayers. And that is one fine and reassuring definition of faith.

But a more radical definition of faith is the “get out of the boat” kind of faith, like when Jesus, walking on the water toward the frightened disciples in the boat, spoke to Peter and said, “Come.” Peter, of course, obeyed and walked on the water, too.

That kind of faith is really stepping into the unknown. It is a step of obedience and it follows upon God’s unique and specific word of direction to a believer.

When such a word from God comes to you and you step out of your boat, you immediately find yourself in uncharted territory, with no guide but God.

That’s when faith gets scary. And that’s when Jesus truly proves himself. It’s scary because you’ve never been there before and you really have no plan. It’s assuring because you experience Jesus’ strong hand rescuing you, guiding you, blessing and using you in the most wonderful and unimaginable ways.

There’s sustaining faith which is 24/7. And there’s radical, “get out of the boat” faith whenever God speaks an individual word of specific direction. Be assured that God is with you wherever you are in your faith journey today. Have faith.


A Fresh Start and Fall Schedules
With the beginning of school, September brings a fresh start for many of us. Our churches, schools and communities start up many programs. As you consider the options available, you might want to take a look at a) your life-style and b) your self-care practices and evaluate which ones would be most health-full for you.

What habits will you need to change or alter?
Do you want to schedule more time for physical activity,
or an intentional time of spiritual reflection or relaxation?
What about a specific night for a date with your spouse
or a time that the whole family spends together?

You can’t afford to be haphazard about self-care. Ask yourself these questions:
What is my greatest need?
Which one dimension needs my attention now?
Do I need to focus on
 caring for my physical body,
 strengthening my relationships,
 stretching myself intellectually,
 renewing myself spiritually, or
 managing my finances God’s way?

What do you have to do in order to GET FIT? The parish offers 3 fitness programs.
Physical fitness – Yoga Monday mornings, and afternoon Aerobics starting soon
Spiritual fitness – A 7-month spiritual challenge beginning in October (TBA)
Financial fitness – “Managing Our Finances God’s Way” Small Groups, Oct 1st. gracious in everything he does. God gives a hand to those down on their luck and gives a fresh start to those ready to quit. (Psalm 145: 17b-18 The Message)

I invite you look at your fall activities with an attitude adjustment, with a picture of a fresh start. I hope that you will intentionally create a health-full balance for yourself, and that our parish programs might serve you well as you work to GET FIT.

[This article adapted from and article written by Kae Tritle, RN & Wellness Coordinator for the Iowa Annual Conference of the UMC, for the September issue of Lower Lights, the online newsletter of the South Central District.]

Friday, August 5, 2011


In the book entitled, “The Externally Focused Church” by Rusaw and Swanson, the authors tell a true story.

“In 1987, Mike Hayes of Rochelle, Illinois, was a freshman, at the University of Illinois, and was trying to figure out how to pay for College. He wrote to Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene, asking each of Mr. Greene’s readers to send Hayes a penny. Greene took a liking to the idea and asked each of his several million readers to send Hayes a penny. Thousands responded. In less than a month, “Pennies for Mike Fund” contained 2.3 million pennies, which at that time would actually pay for four years of college.”

The Penny-Worth lesson for the Church the authors of the book are pointing out is that the church’s greatest impact may not stem from asking for great things from a few people, but from asking many small things from a lot of people.

Rev. Doug Anderson of the Rueben Job Institute for Pastoral Leadership has a saying, “One does not have to change everything to change everything!”

Sometimes the problems that we face in our communities, our families, our lives seem so over whelming. We feel like we cannot do everything, so we end up doing nothing. But the fact of the matter is that always we can do something, a Penny’s Worth at least.

What Penny-Worth thing is waiting for your penny today?
Who needs your last Penny of love? or forgiveness? or encouragement?
With whom can you share a Penny’s worth of grace?
In what local project can you invest a Penny’s worth of effort and goodwill?

And for the parish I’m also asking a Penny’s Worth, many small things from a lot of people – a daily prayer, a worship service, a Bible chapter read, one fitness or Sunday School class attended, a mission blanket purchased, a “God story” shared, a pint of blood donated, a shut-in visited, one invitation extended. What Penny-Worth thing will you bless your church with today? And be assured: whatever blessing you give will be returned many times over – pennies from heaven.

Credit where credit is due. I pretty much copied this article from Rev. Paul Smith, South Central District Outreach Minister, writing on page 3 in the July-August issue of Lower Lights, the District’s e-newsletter. But I changed the ending. Thanks Paul for your good article. Read Paul’s original ending here and scroll to page 3.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Thoughts for Men

Got Family? Got Dreams? Got Problems?

There are two keys that will help you grow spiritually. These are very simple concepts.

1. You must invest in yourself. Simple right! Listen fellas, you have to be willing to invest your time, effort and money on your soul. To think a life and especially a spiritual life can be built without these elements is foolish.

Invest your money in things that strengthen your spiritual life. Buy a Bible. Give to the poor, your church, or your favorite Christian ministry. Your heart will follow your money for sure. Putting God first will not only help your soul. It will help you get yourself to a better financial point in your life.

Invest your time. Being isolated, especially from God, is a tough way to go. Attending worship, or meeting for study and service is certainly a worthwhile spiritual investment. We are all isolated in a sense. It is vital to stay connected. To stay inspired and motivated to grow you gotta stay in the loop with God

Invest your effort. This is the hardest of the three. Effort takes energy. But God’s spiritual energy can lighten your burdens. Prayer is an effort sometimes. Kindness, forgiveness, patience, and friendship all require effort. But such effort builds Christian character and produces Christian maturity. The investment brings great reward.

Are you tending to your soul?

2. You must put yourself in a growth environment. Surround yourself with a team of fellow seekers and you’ll never walk alone. Their understanding support and gentle encouragement will help you succeed. Teamwork wins.

Become a leader. Step up in your family or on your team and create an environment conducive to your spiritual growth. Come early to worship. Claim a ministry in the church or community. Organize a home prayer or Bible study. Travel together online or in person to inspirational places. Make sure every team member has access to these events and participates.

Focus on the fundamentals. Everything has certain steps or fundamentals that are essential for growth or to make something better. The fundamentals of spiritual growth are ancient, proven and powerful. Review and practice the basics with your team always.

Do you have a growth environment to connect to? Are you connecting on a regular basis?

I have yet to meet anyone who has built a successful spiritual life by ignoring these two basics. 1. Tend to your soul. 2. Travel together.

Friday, July 1, 2011

June News & Notes

Garden Grove VBS
Held during the week of June 20-24, 5 youth and 9 leaders learned that God is our HERO. While studying about 4 youthful everyday heroes in the Bible whose names are never even mentioned we learned that we are God’s heroes when we 1. do the unexpected, 2. step out in faith, 3. save the day, and 4. stand for truth . For our mission project we raised $118 to purchase children's board games for The Child Life Program at Blank Children's Hospital.

I-Cubs Baseball and Randy’s Tail-gate Brats

79 members and friends of United Trinity Parish enjoyed I-Cubs baseball and Randy’s tail-gate brats at Principal Park on Sunday June 5th, following song services in both churches. The I-Cubs started off with a big lead, but lost it. Thankfully they came back to win the game in the 9th inning after blowing an 8-0 lead. The weather was perfect, and what fun to enjoy a lazy Sunday afternoon with so many friends. Already looking forward to next year.

Annual Conference
Kris Thomas and Pastor Dale represented the parish as delegates to the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church June 4-7 at HyVee hall. There was a lot of worship and study time, which was really quite exceptional. The conference speakers were amazing, encouraging, inspiring. Among them were our own Bishop Trimble, Mike Slaughter, Bishop Peggy Johnson, Dale Batcheler, Norma Morrison, Cynthia Wilson, and our District Superintendent Bill Poland. Check out their impressive bios here. Or check out the online audio archive to listen to any of these amazing speakers. Kris and Pastor Dale recommend you at least listen to one of Mike Slaughter’s talks.

What? A Harvest Festival in June?
How can that be? It’s easy. Even we did it. Here’s how. Last September at the LeRoy Presbyterian Harvest Festival 40 or so folks purchased tickets for a family-style dinner at the McClung House. Well, traditionally this dinner happens right after Christmas, but for one reason or another it kept being rescheduled. Finally on June 11 we enjoyed a fabulous roast beef dinner, with, you know, that incredible brown tapioca pudding that comes as a salad and satisfies like a dessert, not that we didn’t have dessert, too. I’ll do Harvest Festival Dinner any time of year if it’s at the McClung House, you betcha.

Kids to Camp
Our 2010-2011 TUF Team (after-school) program ended in April, except for those 6 TUF-Teamers who registered for summer church camp. This year all of them attended the Christian Church Conference Center in Newton during the last week in June. Scholarships from the church and from the camp itself make it possible for anyone to attend. It is the commitment of both the parish and the camp that cost will not keep any child who wants to from attending church camp. Parish scholarship money comes from our Cans for Camp program, where members bring their recyclable cans and plastic bottles to the church for us to reclaim the deposit on.

The Use of Money
Following the reasoning in John Wesley's Sermon #50 Pastor Dale preached 3 sermons on the use of money. Wesley's 3-fold rule on the use of money is: Gain all you can, Save all you can, and then Give all you can.
But since Wesley's time the English language has changed a bit and those 3 words Gain, Save, and Give don't mean today quite what they meant to Wesley.

Gain Gain all you can means to work hard. It is the opposite of sloth or laziness, and does not refer, as entrepreneurs today might think, to building wealth.

Save To Wesley, Saving is the opposite of accumulating money or goods. It is restraint in spending. It is living simply with only the necessities of life and health.

Give Give is not about giving a percentage to God or the church, but understanding that it all belongs to God. It is about taking care of God's possessions entrusted to you in a generous manner, providing for the wellbeing of all creation in this order 1st yourself, 2nd your family, and with your "overplus" 3rd the household of faith, and 4th the rest of the world.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Grace for Troubled Times

Need a vacation, a rest from the weariness?
Sit with God as you might with the ocean.
You bring nothing to the ocean, yet it changes you.
 Sean Caulfield

I was watching the rain today. Rain we did not need. Heavy, and no wind. Dancing, slapping, beating down on everything as far as I could see. Not like my puny little lawn sprinkler. While I was watching I got to thinking that God’s grace and goodness is over all. It touches everything, beats down on everything. More like the rain than any human-made sprinkler. I sat and watched the rain today. I sat with God. And it was good.

~ ~ ~

Need a change, a break from the worthlessness?
Unless someone will pay a higher price for me than Jesus did, they’re not allowed to tell me what I’m worth. I will be used for God’s glory.
 Nikki (Air1 Christian Radio, the Positive Alternative)

It is Jesus who determines a person’s worth by how high a price he is willing to pay to cover their debt. Nikki says Jesus paid a high price for her, made the ultimate sacrifice. And because of having been made worthy she will glorify God all her days. Jesus died for you too. Why? Because you are worth it. Therefore you, too, are … worthy! And since your worth comes from God in heaven, no one on earth can take it from you. Never worthless. Forever worthy. Sit with God today. Praise the Lord.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My Favorite Month - May

Hi, Pastor Dale here with some personal reflections on God's little blessings.

Usually I don’t pay much attention to birthdays, but this one was really fun with all the birthday cards, text messages, facebook posts, phone calls, and emails. Messaging today is kind of like surround sound. It comes from everywhere and sounds rich and full and oh so sweet. Thanks to everyone for “making my day.”

My classmate and good friend Denny Butler died after a heroic battle with cancer. I am so grateful to have known and enjoyed him, and to have re-connected with him this past year.
My new friend, Kelly Lee James, from last year’s Cowboy Church, lost everything but his life in the Joplin tornado. His faith is guiding him through his devastating losses and inspiring others. The shining faith of both of these men of God is a living testament to Jesus. Is there anything better than good Christian friends?

I love it that the youth and the youth leaders from the church are responding to the needs of tornado victims taking supplies to Joplin.
I love it that the Garden Grove Post of the American Legion conducts the essay contest for the 5th graders on “What the American Flag Means to Me,” and then leads the outdoor service, teaching the students how to honorably retire worn and tattered flags.
I love it that Mormon Trail Seniors attend Baccalaureate. This year was amazing – the Senior Class, the teachers, the program, and all the pastors together.

I was so happy to attend the first of our grandchildren’s graduations – Chelcee from Park Hill South in Kansas City area. So proud of you. LOL!

First, to Oklahoma City for a family wedding Linda was officiating for Derrik and Malorie. Friendly and Fine. Driving through the Flint Hills of Kansas is really restful to me. I call it my “prairie fix.”
Second, a relaxing, local, 4-day Memorial Day weekend, which included a little mowing, a little cleaning, a lot of relaxing, going to a movie, and the Ft. Des Moines Memorial Day program. Sweet month, May.

Friday, May 6, 2011

It's May

Wow, it’s May already, with final exams and graduations, Mothers’ Day, planting and gardening, Memorial Day, 4H and more. Time sure marches on.

But before we move into summer I’d like to lift up a huge congregational Shout of Praise & Thanksgiving to God for all the Heavenly Blessings we enjoyed in April. Surely the Presence of the Lord was in this place.

I want to celebrate a full and wonderful year of TUF Team after-school programs. Thank you Lord, for these great youngsters and our whole team of leaders. Our final gathering for the year was a dinner the youth prepared for their families. 59 people were served. A happy night and a great year! 6 of the youth will be attending camp this summer with the help of the Cans for Camp. Thanks, too, to all of you who bring your cans to the church for us to recycle for cash.

*On April 9 the Upper Midwest Region of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, re-organized their regional governing by-laws, a vast and exciting change that promises stronger lay leadership in Regional ministries and administration. The Region also elected the interim director, Bill Spangler-Dunning, as director.

With Easter coming so late this year, the Holy season of Lent filled most of the month. We kept that season by having a Sunday night Study Series at the LeRoy church. For four weeks we studied, with lively debate, “A Life Worth Living” by Bruce Wilkinson. We ended the series with a mission report from Linda O’Connell and friends from the Presbyterian Church in Indianola who together had traveled to El Salvador to visit a *mission site with which they have connection, called “Our Sister Parish.”

The Holy Week communion services were soooooo… beautiful and meaningful, impressing us with the cost of salvation mercifully paid by Jesus on the Cross, and the endlessness of God’s great love. Then, with the sun shining and spring hope in the air, Easter arrived. What a perfect day to receive New Members in both churches and celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism by immersion at Humeston.

April’s best. The parish is celebrating a huge achievement. Challenged to read 400 chapters in the Bible each month from Oct 2010 to April 2011 (2800 chapters in all) we exceeded the challenge 3 fold. By April 30 we completed reading a total of 8821 chapters (or an average 1261 per month). How awesome is that!!!!!!

Other April events included Presbyterian Women’s Fellowship Dinner, United Methodist Women mission disbursements, scrolling announcements being projected in church, and the parish attending an Iowa Barnstormers game at Wells Fargo Arena.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spring - Easter - Spring

Come to the Palm Parade during worship
both churches – April 17th

Join us in Remembering Jesus’ Last Days
Thur April 21 @ LeRoy – Communion Service @ 7 pm
Fri April 22 @ Humeston – Communion Service @ 7 pm

Celebrate! Worship! on Easter Sunday April 24
Youth Sunrise Service and Breakfast @ 6:30 and 7:15 am
Easter at LeRoy – 9:00 am
Easter at Humeston – 10:30 am

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Church in the World Today

A church member asks, “How can I minister, even in my own little world, when it has pretty much become to me a foreign land?” It’s no longer the world I grew up in.

A Lucas County youth pastor is telling me that one of the small group leaders in his ministry community (a woman) has a number of young girls in her group struggling with serious eating disorders.
- Not the world I grew up in.

He talks about cutting - young men and women seemingly addicted to cutting themselves, and if not addicted, at least using cutting as a way to temporarily drive away the greater and more horrible inner pain they face daily.
- Not the world I grew up in.

Here are some questions parents asked online.

1. In a time of overbearing parenting and institutionalized narcissism, how can I cultivate caring in my children?
2. Sometimes my husband will say – we need to toughen these kids up; they have to live in a tough world. How do we balance teaching them kindness/gentleness vs being tough?
3. Growing up in an alcoholic family, and with anxiety as an adult, how does one manage anxiety with parenting?
4. Can you help me with spiritual principles for my 6-year old? She asks many questions about God and I don’t know how to discuss spirituality with her.

What a challenge for today’s church.

Where in your faith community can youth and parents like these turn for help? Can they turn to you? to your church? In Matthew chapter 10 Jesus called the 12 disciples and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and every sickness.

From the beginning, ministry in Jesus’ name was the work of the church. Another Matthew, Matthew West, has a contemporary song about living in, and then breaking out of, “My Own Little World.” The chorus of that song asks

“What if there is a bigger picture, What if I’m missing out,
What if there’s a greater purpose,
I could be living right now
Outside of my own little world?”

From St. Matthew to Matthew West, Jesus is the same.
The church gathers in his Name for worship.
That’s good! --- good for one’s soul.
The church disperses in his Name for ministry.
That’s also good! --- good for the world.
He is the Son of God. All power and authority are his. He calls. He sends. He disperses his followers to minister, even among wolves, with these words, “Do not worry about what you are going to say [or do] or how you will say it [or do it]. When the time comes, you will be given what you will say. For the words you will speak will not be yours; they will come from the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

- Not the world you grew up in?
- For sure!

But it is still God’s world. And it is still the world into which the church is sent. From the beginning, ministry in Jesus’ Name was the work of the church. It still is.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The JESUS Film - Overcoming the Darkness

In March and April we want everyone to have the opportunity to view The JESUS Film. We will be showing it in the churches, around town, anywhere we can. We have DVD and VCR copies to loan. VHS and DVD copies are available at the Humeston Library if you are unable to attain a copy at the church. The film can also be seen on your computer right here in over 100 languages (English, Spanish, or whatever).

I recently read an article in a devotional booklet about Candra and John Penny’ mission venture in Benin. The mission was called Benin Beginnings and was a JESUS Film mission trip.

They wrote, “Imagine visiting a remote nomadic West African village, sitting with a king, visiting the Voodoo center, and being confined inside after 10:00 pm because of the Voodoo worship ceremony going on outside.”

I said, “Oh yes, I can imagine.” I had an experience so like that in 1995 while ministering in Ghana, except it was a Voodoo tree upon which spells had been cast and which, reportedly, had the power to harm and kill. It was a frightening place. I could feel the evil.

Benin is an impoverished West African nation where hundreds of years ago its inhabitants were marched down dusty paths to the ocean where they were loaded on to slave ships bound for the Caribbean and the United States. Benin has many village languages and nomadic tribal groups.

Candra and John were visiting the Fulbe people, showing the film over and over in several different local languages. They and their team saw 19 new house churches started. Literally thousands of people in central Benin came to pray, to seek God’s forgiveness and mercy, and to open their hearts to follow Jesus.

What a miracle.

Pray for such a miracle in South Central Iowa these next two months, the miracle of Jesus overcoming whatever darkness is destroying people’s lives. Pray for God to use you in accomplishing this miracle.

Monday, January 31, 2011

As Promised on Sunday

At church Sunday I promised I would post the two Cybertales I read from the pulpit. Here they are. Scroll down to read The Christ-like Thing and The Masters Way.

The Christ-like Thing

Chuck and Helen are friends of ours. Years ago I learned an important lesson from them as they told me about a particularly difficult situation they were in.

The small-membership church Chuck was serving was going through a cruel and nasty time. The members were not working out their disagreements openly. Instead, this unhealthy situation was marked by backbiting, criticism and general negativity. Lots of misplaced feelings were being directed at Chuck, Helen and the kids. And it was wearing them out.

I visited with them at their weariest. I felt so bad for them. Trying to empathize I inquired if they were “fixin’ to leave.” Their response was a lesson I never forgot.

Chuck and Helen said that no, they were not fixin’ to leave, but that they were fixin’ to increase their giving to the church from 12% to 16%, even though they did not know how they possibly could. To my astonished, “Why?” they answered, “We just have to find a way to love them more. And in our experience, our heart sometimes follows our giving.”

This is the lesson I learned: I can always love more. Love is what I am called to do. And, in Christ, love is what I am empowered to do.
Pastor, will you give more love to those you serve?
Church member, will you give more love to those among whom you serve?
It is the Christ-like thing.

The Masters Way

Early in my Christian reading I realized that though he never wasted a minute Jesus did not hurry anywhere. I noticed that he stopped lots of times to visit with, help, heal and teach friends as well as strangers. He valued everyone.

Jesus’ life had power because he lived the way he did. He lived for others. Christians believe that Jesus had come on the holiest of missions, to be the savior of the world. But he never let this mission overshadow his earthly ministry.

His ministry was a wayside ministry, a life giving, along-the-way ministry. What he did as he went about was of utmost importance. He was not one, as we say today, with places to go, things to do, people to see, worlds to win. He was one with life to give. And he gave it.

Early in my Christian life I realized that anyone could be like Jesus. I also observed in myself as in others a great unwillingness to live like Jesus lived. Thankfully a few saints in my life took time to remind me of this terrible tendency. I say thankfully now, but I never liked those reminders at the time, not a single one.

One incident is especially vivid to this day. It happened in Mars more than 30 years ago. The congregation was debating whether to address me by my given name or as Reverend or Pastor. Tom, a down-to-earth, retired oilfield worker took me aside one day. He said that he preferred to address me as Parson. I was flattered, but only ever so briefly. For Tom continued. He would do so to remind me that I needed to be a person first.

Tom understood. Calling me Parson was Tom’s way of leading me out of the comfort of my office and into the turmoil of people’s lives. Tom gave me my ministry that day. He showed me the Master’s Way.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

There is HOPE - part 2

Well, I'm at my computer trying to select the proper font for my "There is HOPE!" banner, when a hungry traveler comes into my office. His name is Rod. He's from Northern Iowa, and he looked hungry.

I asked him what he needed and he answered, "I am hungry." "OK," I said, at which point he interrupted me and said, "But what I really need is up there on your computer screen. I need HOPE."

It was a little past 1:00 and I hadn't had lunch yet , so we went to Wojo's Diner. We ate, visited, talked about recovery (his since 1992), and parted. As Rod got in his car he said, "Thanks for lunch, and for renewing my HOPE."

Everyone needs HOPE.
We, the Good News people, have it to give.
Lord, help us give more. Amen

Monday, January 3, 2011

There is HOPE

There is hope for me. There is hope for you. There is HOPE. Just wait and see.

I love the Brandon Heath lines, "There is hope, for me yet. Because God won't forget,...HE's not finished with me yet."

That's a message people need to hear. Or so it seems from YouTube comments. Reckon I'll just have to lift high "There Is HOPE" as a theme to guide the 2011 missional and discipleship ministries of the parish.

Everyone knows someone in need of HOPE. Who do you know? And How can the church help you meet their need? Let us know.