December 20, 2011

Receiving Gifts from the Church?

After years in the ministry, I still have mixed feelings about this. While no one is in ministry to get rich or to find earthly reward, still, a token of remembrance at Christmas shouldn't be too much to ask for. Or am I wrong on this?

Currently, we are in a loving and generous Church. And we do receive gifts from some church members individually, but there is no gift from the Church as a whole. This surprises me because the choir regularly collects money for a gift for the choir director and organist, and I'm for that too. It just seems odd to me that the Church doesn't take the opportunity to say thank-you to the pastor.

Of the churches we have served, there have only been one or two that gave the pastor a Christmas gift. One was a small, loving congregation who gave generously; the other was not as kind and gave only because they thought it was their duty--that was my read anyway.

My spouse has no problem with not getting a gift from the Church. I confess that it's just me. Part of my feeling stems from the fact that the companies I've worked for always do something. So I don't understand why the Church does not.

And I guess it makes me angry to know how much my spouse does and at what expense in terms of time, commitment, physical endurance, and yes, money, without the Church acknowledging his many gifts to them throughout the year. It seems to me that too often the Church acts like spoiled children who believe they are entitled to all that the pastor does.


December 19, 2011

The Messiah Is One of Us

Once upon a time there was an old monastery high on a hill. Each Sunday, the village people filled the sanctuary. Young men wanted to become priests; young women yearned to be nuns. Then one Christmas it happened. No one why or how it happened, but it did. When the priests and nuns entered for worship--there was no one else there.

The abbot withdrew to pray like he had not for a long time. How could it be that no one from the village came to celebrate mass? But despite all the prayers and petitions, no answer came. In desperation, the abbot decided to seek the wisdom of the Rabbi Who Walks in the Woods. This mysterious man was occasionally seen from the turrets, and it was secretly whispered that God spoke to him. Not believing this but with nowhere else to turn, the abbot took his cloak and rushed out the gate to find this man. Perhaps the Rabbi could help.

After hours, the abbot caught a glimpse of a little hut nestled under some large snowy oaks. There in the doorway stood the Rabbi Who Walks in the Woods--smiling and beckoning the abbot to come in.

No words were exchanged, but each man looked into the others' eyes and knew this meeting was meant to be. As they looked at each other, they suddenly began to smile, then laugh, then cry great tears of joy. But soon the tears of joy gave way to sadness and sobs of deep grieving. Feeling cleansed and after a deep sigh, the Rabbi motioned for the abbot to sit on one of the logs that served as a chair.

Then the Rabbi spoke the only words that were said, "I have a message to you from God. What I am about to say, I can say only once. I can never repeat it. What I tell you, you can repeat only once. And you can never speak the words again. Do you understand?" The abbot didn't really understand, but nodded yes out of respect. Then the Rabbi said softly, "The Messiah is one of you."

The abbot said nothing, but his mind raced. "The Messiah is one of us? Who could it be? Is it Father Matthew? Surely it is Father Thomas? Sister Elizabeth? Dear God, how have we served you?" The abbot looked back to the Rabbi and both knew the meeting was over.

The abbot hurried back to the monastery, making plans to tell the rest. After evening prayers, the abbot asked that all remain. He said, "I have a message from the Rabbi Who Walks in the Woods. What I am about to say, I can say only once. I can never repeat it and neither can you. Do you understand?" They did not, but nodded out of respect. "The Messiah is one of us."

The priests and the nuns sat in stunned silence. "The Messiah is one of us?! Who can it be? Is it Father Peter? Sister Mary?"

The next day, things went on as usual. Except each time one brother did a deed of kindness to another brother, the one receiving thought, "Oh, that must be Jesus. See how he cares for me." And the one giving thought, "Oh, that must be Jesus. See how graciously he receives my offering." And each time one sister did an act of mercy for another sister, the one receiving thought, "Oh, she must be Jesus. See how her face shines." And the one giving thought, "Oh, she must be Jesus. See how humble she is."

It was not long before the people in the village saw a difference. "See how they love each other. See how they serve. See how much they love us."

The next Christmas, the sanctuary was full as the congregation praised God for all that God was doing. God was present in their midst as they celebrated whole heartedly. And once again, young men wanted to be priests and young women wanted to become nuns.

Merry Christmas,

December 13, 2011

The Day the Church Gave Us Money

Last Sunday, the third Sunday in Advent, had an interesting twist toward the end of the service. The ushers passed baskets containing envelopes to everyone. Each person, including the children, chose an envelope. Inside was either a five or one dollar bill, with a few lucky persons received twenty dollar bills. There were two cards in each envelope. One gave instructions about hos to give the money to a stranger; the other was a holiday greeting from the church to be given with the money.

A few years ago, Mike did something very similar at our church. On that Sunday, a gentleman came to him after the service and wanted to take him to lunch. After the meal, the man said, "I never liked you. However, when you gave me money in church a few weeks ago, I started to like you, because you gave me an opportunity to do something for someone else." Now, I don't know why the man had never felt inclined to help others, but at least he was honest.

When we got our envelopes this Sunday, my husband, Mike, immediately had a person in mind to give his five dollar bill to; but I am still waiting for God to bring someone to me. The church giving us money? Yes, it happened as a way to help us spread love at this season of hope and expectation.

God, there are times when unexpected opportunities come in your name to spread love in the kingdom. Wherever we are open our eyes to guide us to those who need your love and encouragement not only in Advent, but all the time. Amen.

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

December 9, 2011

You Is Your Pastor?

This issue was raised in one of the comments and it is a good one. Who is the pastor of the clergy family? According to many, it is the District Superintendent. But is this true in your experience? And how realistic is it that you would go to your spouse's supervisor for help? But who should it be? Who can you turn to for help, spiritual and otherwise?

For example, who visited you in the hospital when you had your child? In my case, just my husband. For some, however, the spouse was too busy tending to the needs of the congregation to visit much during this crucial time.

In our conference, there are counselors available, but no designated chaplain. But in some conferences there is a person at the conference level who does act as a chaplain, or so I've heard. Is this true in your conference?

While I would never go to a DS or Bishop, I would have gone to Mary Morris. I first got acquainted with Mary when she was our DS's spouse. She was smart, kind, and politically savvy. A former school teacher, Mary was the person who introduced me (and others) to other spouses and got me going to the spouse events. When I think about her, I do believe she was a spiritual guide for many of us. I thought a lot of her husband, Bill, but loved Mary. I guess you could say, she was my pastor.

So when I need spiritual help, who do I go to now? Other spouse friends. In my experience, they are called by God into ministry as well--perhaps not a popular idea, but they pastor me.

Grace, Kathy

December 8, 2011

Ministry for Clergy Spouses

"Be Still" is a ministry in the Indiana Conference for clergy spouses who need a listening ear or a word of encouragement. I am putting together an information booklet to use with the program. I wonder if there are other conferences which have a booklet or information pamphlet given to clergy spouses when his/her spouse begins ministry?

If you are interested in sharing with me and my committee I would be grateful. My email is Thank you so much for helping.

God, we your children are mindful that we must care for each other in the way that you would. Guide the ministry that is beginning to reach out to those spouses who need your touch. Amen.

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

December 6, 2011

Gentle Savior, Do not Pass Me By

Last Sunday and Thanksgiving Day, I volunteered to serve meals to homeless persons. Both events were held in downtown Indianapolis churches, one United Methodist and one Catholic. When I arrived at each church, thirty minutes before, there were groups of people waiting. Then when the doors opened, a steady stream of hungry people entered.

We served over 300 people. I tried to look at each face and greet everyone with friendly "Hi" or "Good morning." Some responded with gratitude but others didn't even look up. They just passed by. After all, they were here not to socialize but to satisfy their hunger-- at least for that day. I felt sad and wished I could do more for them.

Fast forward to Christmas in a few weeks. Imagine Bethlehem and Jesus sleeping in a feeding trough. How tired and hungry his parents must have been. How many people just passed by the stable, not even giving it a second thought? Think what they missed.

As I served up the meals, I tried to look beyond dirty, scruffy, and often toothless faces, and image us all, not here, but in that Bethlehem stable receiving love from the Son of God-- a love available for anyone who comes into Jesus' presence. Jesus will not pass us by but is always ready to meet us, in a barn or even a church dining hall. Where is Jesus looking to meet you this Christmas?

God, thank you for your faithfulness and willingness to meet us wherever we are. Help us not to pass by without looking for your love and nourishment. Amen.

December 5, 2011

Santa Lives in My Town

Liz, a friend of mine, grew up in a small, Midwestern farming community. Here, every year, Santa made the rounds--church, 4H, City Hall, Christmas parade, school. He even visited the homes of the neighbor kids. Liz was always amazed that Santa actually knew who she was and even called her by name, asking how that new lamb was getting along or if she like that new play-kitchen set. After a while, Liz decided that Santa may work at the North Pole, but he lived in her town.

As she got older, Liz visited the big city nearby and was surprised to see that Santa had helpers. But how foolish those kids were, thinking that the helpers were the real Santa. They didn't look anything like the real Santa.

When Liz reached a certain age, she discovered the truer identify of Santa. But that really didn't matter, because whether or not he was dressed up, his eyes still twinkled and his kindness never wained.

Liz has fond memories of Santa. Even though her home is far and years away, her recollections of Christmas intertwine with Santa's warmth and care.

When children see us, hopefully they too will see reflections of incarnated Love.

Grace, Kathy

December 1, 2011

Guns and Church Security

Heard a most disturbing story. It seems that a few churches now have a security team equipped with guns! Yes, you heard right--guns. The idea is that certain men in the congregation are trained in case a gunman enters church with the intent of hurting someone. My friend told me that the church also has an emergency exit plan for the pastor and the pastor's family.

I'm glad people care about their pastor and will make plans in case of an emergency, but the thought of men carrying guns into worship makes me wince. There are just too many people with anger issues and, frankly, PTSD, to trust that someone might not use the gun they say they will protect you with and kill you or someone you care about instead.

Am I just out of the loop on this? How common is this? Do you have a security team at your church?

Happy Advent,

November 14, 2011

Presidential Candidates Using God?

While Herman Cain seems besieged by women claiming harassment, his comment about God may have gone without much notice. In an interview about why he is running for president, he said that God wanted him to. Then he compared his "conversation" with God to Moses'. Presumably, God had to convince a reluctant Cain just like God had to convince a reluctant Moses.

I'm really not sure how I feel about a presidential candidate announcing this. It feels unsettling. While I am glad that Cain is a person of faith and that he has a close relationship with God, it troubles me that he would use God to bolster his appeal. Perhaps I'm just too skeptical, but I've heard too many people justify their position by saying that it was God's will. But I also suppose that just because God wants Cain to run, doesn't mean God wants him to be president?! What if Cain says that God wants him to lead us where we don't want to go? Is a vote against Cain a vote against God? I don't think so.

Please do not misunderstand. I pray for our leaders and I pray that God will lead them in righteousness, but like Martin Luther said, "I'd rather be governed by a smart Turk than a dumb Christian."

What do you think?


Free UM Discipline Online

The 2008 edition of the Book of Discipline, The United Methodist Church’s official lawbook, is now available online without charge in a read and search version only. General Conference, the denomination’s top legislative body, revises and approves the Book of Discipline every four years. The Book of Discipline will be revised next at the 2012 General Conference, making the 2008 edition obsolete.

Here is the cokesbury link to find it:


November 9, 2011

Picture This: No Hungry Children

No hungry children? Is that possible? I'm here to tell you that in our county, thanks to F.U.E.L., we are helping feed hungry elementary school children on weekends. And here's our goal: no hungry children, period.

What if there were no more hungry children anywhere? But where to start?

After an Emmaus weekend and reading about children having free lunches in school and then not having any food on the weekend, Denise Skidmore found her answer. She began at home, then her home church, and then her home community. She simply started. F.U.E.L. stands for “Full Uv Emmaus Love.” In addition to her full-time job and family responsibilities, she began. This meant developing networks to coordinate with school administrators, community and business leaders, and a host of volunteers. It still means giving up family time, nights, and weekends to speak and advocate for FUEL in communities and in churches across the region. Denise Skidmore is an extraordinary Christian woman with a passion to care for hungry children. She saw a need and put a plan in motion to meet that need, and she's inspired many others to join her.

F.U.E.L. is now not just in our county, but more and more counties across our state and in some other states as well.

Denise's dream is also God's dream. God wants no hungry children too.

If you want information about started a similar program in your community, please contact me and I'll connect you with Denise.

Grace, Kathy

November 4, 2011

Other People Discipling Your Kids at Church

Of all the things about raising clergy kids, this is one of the most sensitive. How do you handle other people disciplining your kids at church?

Because our kids thought of church (even the sanctuary) as a second home, I let them run and play there. Many times, especially during the early years, we would be there with with Dad to unlock the doors and then we were often the last to leave--locking the doors of the church behind us. One of our churches was a very large, old, downtown church with lots of nooks and crannies. It even had a "secret" storage space where my husband kept some books. Needless to say, my child loved playing hide-and-seek in the church, in part because she knew all the best hiding places. So bottom line, my kids ran around, even in the sanctuary, which was fine with me. But it was not so fine with some other church members.

More than once, I heard a person call out to my children and admonish them not to run in the sanctuary. Most of the time, the kids complied, mainly because they respected authority, not because they thought it was fair. And sometimes, when I saw it happen, I would use the opportunity to remind whomever of the fact that I thought it was important to love being at the church even if that meant not being quiet all the time.

But I still didn't like the whole situation. I didn't want other people to think my kids were trouble makers and I didn't want my kids (or me) to get pushed around. And I certainly didn't want others disciplining my kids, especially when I thought the reasons were so off-based.

What do you do? What happens when other people discipline your kids, especially at church?


20-20-20 Rule for Computer Use

Dear Friends, If you or your kids are on the computer a lot, here is a new guideline. As you may know there is worry about what too much computer time can do to your eyes. So here is an easy way to maintain eye health. After 20 minutes of working on the computer, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This should also help prevent undue eye strain as well.


November 3, 2011

Does Biology Trump Responsibility or My Brain Made Me Do It

Ever wonder where we get the concept of right brain/left brain? Here's a link to find out.

Now, why does it matter? Dr. Gazzaniga, the scientist behind right brain/left brain research, argues that ultimately, responsibility is a contract between two people rather than a property of the brain, and determinism has no meaning in this context. Further social constructs like good judgment and free will are even further removed, and trying to define them in terms of biological processes is, in the end, a "fool’s game."

So yes, learning responsibility is best done in a nurturing environment as are the meanings of good judgment and free will.

Thought this was interesting and that you might enjoy it.


October 31, 2011

All Hallows Eve

You probably know that Halloween really began as All Hallows Eve. Some even suggest that the holiday (or holy day) goes back a lot further to pre-Christian times. And like many holidays, the Catholic Church baptized the pagan celebration and gave it a new Christian meaning.

But whatever its origins, Halloween is fun. It's a topsy-turvy time when kids can knock on your door and demand candy, and years ago, threaten you with a trick. Pranks are common and surely a nuance for adults. But Halloween is a time when people can let off steam. And since many of us live a pressure-cooker existence--that's not all bad.

It's also a great time for community outreach. Our church hosted a Fall Festival on Saturday night that featured car trunks full of candy, a bonfire, and other fun stuff for kids. And did the kids turn out! We had over 250 from the surrounding neighborhood--many of whom to do not to any church. And for me, any time a kid can come to the church and see smiling faces, it's a good thing. Jesus calls us to bring little children to Him, and this is an easy and great first step.

Happy Halloween, Kathy

October 27, 2011

I Can "Out-Nice" You

As a pastor's spouse, one thing that we are all generally good at is being nice. Being nice smooths stormy seas and often opens the way to friendship. So what's wrong with that? Nothing, I'm all for us being nice to each other. The problem comes when its used one of two ways. The first way is to be passive-aggressive to cover anger to get our way. It's really being not nice in a "nice" way. The second way is more to my point. Being nice can also be used as a way to keep others at a distance and not really engage them. It just allows us to maintain the appearance of civility.

Did you see the TV news report about Claremont School of Theology on your local PBS station Tuesday night? Here's the link: ttp://

Frankly, I'm not sure if Claremont is still a UM school. Recently the school has come under heavy criticism for promoting itself as an interfaith school. In fact the report did not say the word "seminary," but did tout Claremont as part of the University of California system. And perhaps there is something to be said about pastors getting their theological formation with other persons of other faiths training to become religious professionals.

During the report Najeeba Syeed-Miller talked about the need for authentic inter-faith dialogue as opposed to just "out-nicing" each other. That is, we need to find ways to work on our world's serious problems together--including religious bigotry and intolerance. And I buy that, but being nice has another side. It lets people co-exist long enough to also find things they might like about each other. And if you like a person, it's much easier to work with them.

So what do you think? Would you rather have the appearance of civility or no civility at all? Would you rather have authentic relationships or merely superficial relationships? Sorry, but I'd really like to have both.


October 26, 2011

The Gospel According to Indy Food Swap

Food Swaps are becoming common across the country and involve a group of people gathering and exchanging food items that are homemade or homegrown. I attended the second Indy Food Swap last Saturday, held at a United Methodist Church. Thirty-four participants of us were assigned places at a table to display our items. We were allowed twenty minutes to visit each table and see what each person brought. Then the swap began.

I brought whole wheat biscuits, my "signature item." Others brought salsa, cake pops, cookies, various kinds of soups, cookie mix in a glass jar, lots of jams and jellies, candy apples, wine, and many kinds of breads-- pumpkin, banana, poppy seed. The swap was fun as everyone moved back and forth across the room, quickly filling arms and baskets with treasures.

Simultaneously, in the basement, a large group of homeless people were having a free hot meal of homemade tamales. There was also a table filled with various free things such as books, clothing, shoes, and household items.

As I walked around the old four-story church, I sensed God's presence blessing all of the activity, which God had made possible. Many of the homemade items were filled with vegetables harvested from backyard gardens. Those who prepared the meal and were in conversation with the homeless were gladly responding to Jesus' message to "Love one another as I have loved you."

I left the swap with a bag filled with soup, bread, jelly a few cookies, and a soul renewed with God's presence.

God, there are many places where your people can be fed, physically and spiritually. Thank you for this fun opportunity to experience both. Amen.

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

October 25, 2011

Are You Going to Your Charge Conference?

I have to admit that I don't have much patience for meetings generally and I really don't see the point of much of what we do at Charge Conference. (Ours is tonight on my husband's day "off.") If you are familiar with this meeting, you also know that every District Superintendent does theirs differently. We had one DS who ran through each one in about fifteen minutes. Then we had one DS who liked to hear herself talk, so she kept folks for a couple of very boring hours. You would think these people could read the crowd.

Understanding the reason we have Charge Conference does not help. And it is very uncomfortable to have my husband's salary discussed and voted on. So I don't go. We say we want to revitalize the church, so we have killer meetings instead?!

I just wish we could do the whole thing by email.

Am I alone in this?


October 19, 2011

Have You Heard the One Len Sweet

Take some time today to laugh out loud.

"Methodism is at its best when its humor is at its highest. When a politician asked a retired bishop for some advice, the bishop told the politician to go out into the rain and lift his head heavenward. 'It will bring a revelation to you,' the bishop promised. The next day the politician reported back: 'I followed your advice, bishop, and no revelation came. Only water pouring down my neck. I felt like a fool.' 'Well,' the bishop said,'isn’t that quite a revelation for the first try?'”

From Len Sweet's forthcoming book, The Greatest Story Never Told: Revive Us Again.

Grace, Kathy

October 17, 2011

Really Like Your Opinion on This

Friends, Please look at the video at the address below and let us know what you think? The video is about the church and its future. It's really a "glass half empty" vision of the UMC, but it might match your experience.

Thanks, Kathy

October 12, 2011

Whi Is Building Your House

Each year the Indiana Conference has a retreat for clergy spouses. This year the theme was 'Who Is Building Your House?' based on 2 Samuel 7:27-29. Our bishop, Mike Coyner, gave the opening address, "Ten Foundations for Your House." A summary of each foundation follows:

1. Faith - Faith has to be part of your own life, marriage, family. You may need faith supports beyond your congregation.
2. Fidelity - Your marriage is more important than your spouse's ministry. Be faithful to each other. Be your spouse's best supporter not another critic.
3. Family - Don't give your family short-shift because of ministry. Plan family time far ahead and get on your calendar.
4. Friends - Feel free to develop friendships and keep them after you move. Don't go back for pastoral duties but for friendships.
5. Flexibility - You and your family have to be flexible. Ministry is not a 9 to 5 job, but don't let it become a 5 am to 9 pm either. You can also use that flexibility for your own needs.
6. Finances - You and your family need a financial plan. You may need to be the one who handles your finances. Use a tax firm or tax person, it will pay for itself.
7. Furnishings - Enjoy your parsonage and make it your home. Respect and appreciate your house, but be honest too. Have an annual evening with trustees and SPRC chair. Furnish with flexibility and with an eye to the future.
8. Freedom - Ministry provides a lot of freedom, so use it. Freedom to have friends beyond one congregation. Freedom to know you are part of something bigger (UMC). Freedom to know you have immediate respect. Freedom to participate as you choose (old "pastor's wife" rules are dead).
9. Fun - Make your life and ministry fun. Take God seriously, but don't take yourself too seriously.
10. Future - Think long-term (parsonage, kids, your life). Think "legacy." Hope for the future and work for it.

The retreat was held September 16, 17, and 18 and was attended by 60 spouses, including one husband, from all over the state.

I felt that Bishop Coyner's foundations gave fresh energy to old, familiar topics in ministry.

Thank you God for times of retreat and renewal. Amen.

Jacquie Reed, Fishers, Indiana

October 3, 2011

Who Is My Faith Community?

A pastor at one of the churches we've been visiting sent me a welcoming email saying "I hope you like our faith community." Now, in our search for a church following my husband's retirement, I kept saying to myself and telling friends, "I have to find a new church." Week after week after visiting six different churches and not feeling connected at any, I feel frustrated. I continue to tell myself, "I want to find a new church. I want to find a new church."

However, when I read the pastor's email that did not use the word "church," but "faith community," I realized that a faith community does not have to exist with the walls of a church. I remembered a song written years ago by Avery and Marsh, "I Am The Church," where a church is described as "the people" and "all who follow Jesus all around the world."

So the next day when I walked into the YMCA to swim, I saw the energetic young woman who teaches the Bible study I used to attend. She described an experience where her faith was tested and how God helped her through. I affirmed and encouraged her.

Then, after swimming I went to Target and saw a long ago friend, whose husband died last year, leaving with two teenagers to support. She explained how she was looking for a job but was unsuccessful. I told her I would pray for her and we exchanged email addresses to keep in closer touch.

A few days later, I was tutoring the teenager with whom I have worked since she was 8years old. I always ask when we conclude how I can pray for her, and she asks how she can pray for me. A fellow intercessor is always helpful.

As the week continued, I ran into people at the library, on a walk, again at Target, at a wedding, and various other places where I shared their joys and concerns, offering to pray. I gradually realized that I needed to change my perspective on "church," recognizing that I have a faith community wherever I go-- and interestingly, my frustration over finding a church ceased. I may be still searching for a church, but my faith community is all around.

God, thank you for opening my eyes to your where I can find those with whom I share a belief in you seemingly wherever I go. Amen.

Jacquie Reed, Fishers, Indiana

September 29, 2011

Knowing, Loving, and Loosing Those Close to You

One of our church members is a young woman who grew up in a rural area that was populated mostly by her relatives. As you might suspect, her family was close. That was great; however most of her relatives were quite elderly and she loved them all like they were her grandparents. She moved away from her community looking for better opportunities and soon she had secure ties in our church with a steady job and a new husband. But when her relatives began to die, she took each one hard and with each successive death, she sank deeper into depression, brought about by sadness but also guilt to leaving them. Her church and friends were supportive, but she would just about recover from one loss and another would hit her.

In the ministry, we grow close to a lot of people, many of whom reach out to us and become extended family. When we move or there is a death, we take it hard. And I'm not really even talking about the pastor, but also us, the pastor's family.

Children in the parsonage see a lot of death. In fact, my younger daughter never fails to remind us that her dad had to take her to a funeral one time (actually two times) because we couldn't find anyone to keep her while I was in class.

Being close to a lot of people, whether with everyone you've ever known through FaceBook or at church also means that we are more susceptible to bearing grief and enduring loss. This makes it all the more important to have your own support but also to talk to your kids. Even if the grief doesn't affect them directly, if it affects you, it affects them.

Grace, Kathy

September 26, 2011

Christmas and Your Kids

This year Christmas is on Sunday. Will that make a difference to how your family celebrates?

For us Christmas being on Sunday is not a big deal, but it did mean we had to adjust how we celebrated opening presents on Christmas morning. When our kids were little and woke up on Christmas before the break of dawn, it was really easier. But as they got older and wanted to sleep late and open presents at a leisurely pace, that was a different story.

I'm not sure what Sunday's are like for you normally, but in our house, my husband (the pastor) is up around 5:30. He takes that time to not only get ready, but also to rehearse his sermon once or twice more before the 8:30 service. He is focused on all that will happen, so it makes it hard for him to relax. So when Christmas is on Sunday, we allowed the kids to open some of the presents before church and even take one to the service. Skip, my husband, would even encourage other little kids to bring a gift to Christmas and then he would bless the toys during the children's sermon time. Then after church, we opened the rest of the gifts and then packed up to go to one of the grandparents for dinner.

I'm writing about this now, so that we can think ahead and plan. While it might be easy to see a Sunday Christmas as an intrusion into a family time, it can also be an opportunity to talk to kids about the real meaning of Christmas and back it up with a new way to celebrate.

Grace, Kathy

September 23, 2011

Would you use this book in your congregation?

Friends, I know many of you teach in your church. I need some feedback about this book idea.

The book would focus on the most common beliefs and practices of historic Christian communities: belief in one God, the distinctive Christian message (the gospel), the practice of baptism and related practices of Christian initiation (chrismation/confirmation, first communion, conversion related religious experiences associated with initiation into the Christian faith), the Lord’s Supper as the fullest expression of the Christian gospel, rites that mark the hallowing of life and vocation (marriage,healing rituals, services for the
consecration of Christian vocations, and rites associated with death and burial), the path of Christian sanctity (including personal and social aspects of holiness or sanctity), and the Christian hope.

Sound interesting? Or not?

Thanks, Kathy

September 14, 2011

Need Some Support? Check This Out!

Lori Wilhite is founder of for Pastors' Wives and Women in Ministry. She is the wife of Jud Wilhite, Senior Pastor of Central Christian Church in Las Vegas. Go to and watch as she shares critical advice about pastor's wives' deep need for a support network and the support they can find through Virtual Community Groups and local events offered by Leading and Loving It.

Why struggle alone?

Grace, Kathy

September 12, 2011

What if miracles were the norm and not the exception?

This past Sunday, after remembering and remembering 9/11--the victims, the great sadness. My thoughts went to "So where is God?" Then I looked over the congregation. (I sing in the choir, so I see faces and not backs of heads.)

There are so many miracle stories in our church. And all those faces are vivid reminders. There are foster kids, now adopted; saved marriages; a young adult who should have died after breaking his neck diving into a pool; an elderly person who found meaning after an unsuccessful suicide attempt; a young girl who's tumor seems to have vanished. These people sit next to a couple whose marriage is failing; people who are struggling with cancer; people who suffer chronic pain; and so many others. But despite toils and snares, God does not pick and choose. God is present to us all, and that is the miracle.

The miracle is that living with God in the Kingdom is now. We don't have to wait for pie-in-the-sky at some later unspecified time.

We live with miracles all around us, even in the midst of tragedy and storms. Not only that, but we can be miracles to others. That's my prayer anyway.

Grace, Kathy

September 9, 2011

More In Between Times

As we've been looking for a church, I realize that:

1)I am still grieving the church family we left after fifteen years. I've learned that making decisions during grief is not wise--so I continue the path of grieving and seeking--grieving and seeking each week.

2)Connections are not made quickly. I had to leave deep, deep friendships, prayer support, and ministries, which helped me grow closer to God and provided an opportunity for spiritual nourishment. Having to leave a place that had become "holy ground" and persons, who represented Christ to me in some way, is extremely difficult. However, I just remember that friendships are formed gradually over weeks and months and maybe years.

3)I am realizing how my role as "the pastor's wife" opened more opportunities for involvement and friendship than just being a "regular person," who walks through the door of the church each week. I never had to worry about people to meet or places to go. People came to me. I was able to get ministries started quickly, because Mike was my husband. Although I did have to go through proper channels my requests were honored quickly. I never realized how much being the pastor's wife was my ticket to implementing what I believed God was telling me to do.

So, as time passes, I am becoming more comfortable in "ordinary time," which I am finding is not "boring, uneventful, undistinguished" as Wendy Wright asserts. I find myself enjoying these large expanses of time where I can sit and rest with God. I am not running out every other night to a meeting at church or planning an event. And, most important, I am finding new pathways within myself to walk with God--something that might not have been possible to the extent I am experiencing if I was still connected to church.

I do not know how long I will be here. But I am not pushing myself to move on. Cultivating the richness of this opportunity, I am realizing is a gift. I'll know when "ordinary time" will end, but right now I am resting in the pattern of grieving and seeking in God's presence.

God, many times we find ourselves in ordinary time. Help us to welcome the tension involved in ordinary time as a stirring in our souls to go deeper into ourselves and with you. Self-knowledge and a closer walk with you are woven together in the ordinary times we experience. We have the assurance that you are with us always; and for that constant grounding, we offer thanks. Amen.

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

September 8, 2011

A Time Between

One of my favorite authors, Wendy Wright, wrote a book in 1999 called The Time Between: Cycles and Rhythms of Ordinary Time.

Ordinary time is that set of days or sometimes weeks between major events in the liturgical year. The first period of ordinary time begins after Epiphany and ends on Ash Wednesday. The second period of ordinary time begins after Pentecost and ends with the first Sunday in Advent. "The time between" and "ordinary time" have taken on new meaning for me as I attempt to find a faith community following my husband's July 1, retirement.

I haven't found a new church. We've attended five different churches in eight weeks--multiple services on Sunday morning enable us to attend at least two churches each Sunday. I didn't think finding a new church would be difficult, after all, I've asked God to direct me where I can learn, grow and serve, but I haven't heard anything from God. So I've decided that this time between churches-- this "ordinary time" despite the tension, uncertainty, and confusion must be where I need to stay for awhile. I am not willing to "join a church quickly" just to get my feet planted and start running.

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

September 2, 2011

To Air or Not to Air, That Is the Question

Character assassination. Surely no one wants to air their dirty laundry in public, least of all the Church. But sin, like dirt, can breed in the dark, so usually I'm on the side of bringing things into the light.

Also, no one said that serving a church is ever easy. I know lay people really don't understand this, but all of us who have served a church or been part of a clergy family know how easily things can go wrong. But I'm not talking about Ms. So-and-So who gets her feelings hurt because she was not publicly and profusely thanked. No, I'm talking about people who go out after the pastor or clergy family member with the sole intent of destroying that person's reputation.

How often does that happen? More often than you might think. But the stories often remain behind closed doors for fear and shame, and because people might muse, "Just maybe there is something to it."

Are there safe guards in place to protect innocent clergy? Frankly, no. In the UMC, the District Superintends are usually more interested in protecting the church than the pastor. If a family member is attacked--forget it. There is no help.

What can a pastor do? Sometimes not a lot. Suffer through? Move on, because only a very few "good" people will stand up? Get a lawyer? Counter sue? Sometimes the best thing is the expose the bullies, the liars, for what they are. Frankly, each situation is different.

But these things do happen. The best thing you can do is stay healthy, stay in touch with God, and stay connected to close friends. Be gentle as a dove, but as wise as a serpent. Take your church through a Healthy Congregation program.

Grace, Kathy

August 29, 2011

Storms: The Satellite View

Looking at the eastern sea broad and seeing Hurricane Irene move slowly up the coast really wasn't much of a concern to me as long as the storm seemed far away from any of my loved ones. But the moment I realized that I had 2 children living in the projected path, I started making phone calls and emails. As it turned out, they were fine. In fact one was a little annoyed that I was worried about her at all. She kinda drew the line when I called her to remind her to get gas. And I suppose she has a point, but I'm still the mother. So she can be mad at me as long as she gets gas and is OK.

Storms seen far away can seem like things of beauty, although terrible. And the big-picture view, the satellite view, gives a different, more objective perspective. The satellite view is fine until you realize that the view from space is nothing like being on the ground in the middle of the rain and wind.

Still I am grateful for the different points of view. Each has its value and can help us make different kinds of decisions. And we need both--the big picture and the one from the ground. I also guess I could draw some theological points, but I think they are pretty clear.

Hope you are yours are safe from all storms.

Grace, Kathy

August 24, 2011

Kicking up a Storm for Breast Cancer

About 136 former cheerleaders got together to do a dance routine to benefit "Susan G. Komen for the Cure" (Breast Cancer). Each time someone views the video, United Healthcare will make a $.10 donation.

Their goal is to get a million hits, which will lead to $100K raised.

Please can you take a moment to watch the video - and, just as important, pass this link onto your network of friends, family and colleagues? It benefits a very important cause !

Go to:

Happy kicking, Kathy

The Universe Is Running Away

Yes, it is true. According to the latest science, the universe is expanding at an ever-accelerating pace. It is like, as one scientist said, throwing a ball into the air; and instead of it slowing down and then falling, the ball just keeps going up higher and higher and faster and faster. Hard to imagine, but that is the current thinking. We live in a universe of energy and dark energy, matter and dark matter.

This brings up so many questions, like: What is the universe expanding into? Or do words like "into," "up," "down" have any meaning in that context? We think we know so much, but, in truth, we are so ignorant.

The same is true in our thinking about God. Where is God? What does it really mean to have a relationship with God? We have inklings; we have Jesus; but that is about it, or maybe that is enough. But is also hopeful--every reaching to discover and know more. When I get tired of reading the news, I pick up a copy of Discover Magazine or Scientific American. Here is a lesson that we, the Church, need to keep in view:Hope is vital to our world and if we short-change hope, we as Christians have nothing real to offer.

In these days when it is popular to criticize the Church and bemoan our system of organization, we might remember that we are also the Body of Christ and we should act that way, even with each other. But we must also beckon our dark and broken world, to the Light of our Salvation.

The universe may be running away, but we must embrace, then share, the hope of Christ.

Grace, Kathy

The UniverseGlaxacy Is Running Away from Us

Yes, it is true. According to the latest science, the univer

August 22, 2011

Homecoming and Note Burning

With so much bad news, I thought I'd share a little good news about what is happening at our church. Yesterday, we had Homecoming. After a stormy Saturday night, the Sunday skies were clear. The crowd was great; the guest preacher was inspiring; and the supper afterward was filling (very).

Then we had the note burning. The entire process of expanding our church facilities has been amazing, with little, if any, dissent. While I am sure God's hand has been involved, there was also a whole lot of planning and work that went into making the project happen, from the real estate deal that one of our members brokered, to the congregational input, to the spirit of servanthood on the part of the leadership team.

Just so you have some awareness of the magnitude. To buy the land that will one day be the site of our new sanctuary, the church had to raise 8 times the amount it had raised in the past. No one really thought we could do it, but with everyone doing their part, we did. When the announcement came that the money was pledged, there was an audible gasp in the room. That was three years ago. Even in difficult economic times, the money came in and pledges were honored.

So we all had a part of that note and it felt very good to burn it.

What exciting things are happening in your church?

Grace, Kathy
Clarksville, TN

August 18, 2011

An Act of God or Unusual Force of Nature?

The news story getting a lot of attention over the last few days in Indianapolis is the tragic collapse of the stage at the State Fair. Sugarland band was preparing to perform, when an usually strong (70 mph) gust of wind blew under the temporary stage roof. Sadly, five persons attending the concert were killed and many, many more were injured.

I've listened to news reports since Saturday night, explaining over and over the details of the accident, trying to figure out what caused the stage to fall. Was it poor installation? Was there something structurally inadequate? Temporary stages like the one at the Fair, are put quickly so they can be taken down as quickly-- often several times during the Fair run.

"National experts" have been brought in to examine the structure and perhaps find some piece of information that will provide the clue that everyone wants to know, so we can know the possible cause.

A few commentators have used the phrase "an act of God" to explain what happened. Does this statement mean that God caused the wind to blow so hard that the stage collapsed? What sort of comfort would this comment be to the families of those whose loved ones were killed?

However, the explanation by the meteorologists who study weather patterns makes the most sense to me. Frequently, before storms approach, as was the case on Saturday night, it is not unusual for very localized gusts of wind to appear, which is exactly what happened.

The wind gust was not an "act of God." It was a naturally occurring phenomenon in nature which unfortunately had tragic results on a very stormy night. So many times, when persons are at a loss for explaining tragic circumstances, they look to blame God rather than ask God for help.

I don't feel that God causes unfortunate events to happen. Sometimes circumstances come together -- like extreme wind before a storm -- that cause tragic consequences. Many years ago I heard a young pastor friend preach his wife's funeral. She died in an unfortunate hiking accident. Kevin, the husband, explained to those gathered, that when Brenda fell, "God was the first to shed a tear."

I truly believe that "God was the first to shed a tear," Saturday night, as the stage collapsed in front of a very large crowd gathered to see a popular band. My prayer is that those who were touched by the tragedy will seek God as they deal with the events that left some of them injured, as well as families and friends who are mourning the loss of deeply loved persons.

God, we are often at a loss to explain tragic circumstances. Sometimes there is a reason why things happen. Sometimes there is no reason. In these times of confusion and loss, help us to look to you, to seek you, and to rest in your presence. Amen

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana (suburb of Indianapolis)

August 12, 2011

If You Don't Think General Conference Effects You, Think Again...Hard

The UM Reporter came in the mail yesterday. You need to read it. Look on the first page at the article entitled, UMC body recommends big changes. Then continue reading on the back page. Look carefully at the discussion of the "guaranteed" appointment and note two things.

First, when the bishops talk about streaming-lining the process, they actually do mean that bishops and DSs will make the decision. Please hear this. I can witness to the fact that Cabinets do abuse their power to appoint or not appoint. I have seen this in our Conference under more that one bishop and in a couple of other Conferences. Abuses associated with naming someone as "unappointable" do happen. Naturally, no one thinks their ministry is ineffective, so many think that losing the guaranteed appointment will not effect them. But this is not true. This is not true. Surprise, clergy do not really have a guaranteed appointment now. The fact is that there needs to be greater accountability by the Cabinet, recourse for the pastor, and checks on the power of the bishop. I have witnessed fear and intimidation tactics used and it isn't a pretty site. If you don't think this can happen to you, it can and it might.

Second, if most Conferences are like ours, the delegates elected to General Conference have not been in the ministry very long--at least at that level. Of those elected clergy in our conference, only one has been to General Conference before. While I'm all for fresh thinking, there is also a price to be paid for inexperience. And with all the possible changes to the Church, inexperience will be a handicap.

Having been to General Conference (as an observer only and not a delegate), I can say that General Conference is as political as any government body. If you know your delegates, please urge them to prepare well but also ask them to contact other delegates in other Conferences to begin building coalitions now. Also attend the pre-conference briefings. If you aren't having any, insist that you do and then go. There are a lot of proposed changes--sadly driven by a lack of money and frustration over membership decline. And we all know that poor decisions result when they are made in fear and trepidation.

All I am saying is General Conference decisions will effect you. Insist on getting the facts. Be informed. Communicate with those elected to represent you to make sure they do.

Grace, Kathy

August 10, 2011

Seeing God

Late last week we had two friends who had heart catheterization. Fortunately neither had any problems. When I emailed the wife of one friend saying I was thankful for the good results, she emailed me back saying, "We were thankful God was with us." Her response awakened one of my frequent thoughts: "Would this friend feel that 'God was with us,' if the results revealed heart blockage requiring by-pass surgery?"

Fast forward to Sunday as we continued our search for a church. We ran into a former member of Mike's past church. She told us about her upcoming surgery for breast cancer. She concluded by saying, "I am seeing God so much over the past weeks, as I have dealt with the biopsy and then working out a plan of treatment."

I was taken by her words. Despite the anxiety involved in each process from discovery of the lump to treatment plan, she was able to acknowledge that "God is with me." I want to be like her, acknowledging God's presence, when life is smooth, as well as when there are challenges. Asking myself questions like, "Where Is God in what I am experiencing. I know God is with me, teach me, guide me, help me see you."

God you are in everything that happens. Help me see you in all that is in my life. Amen.


August 9, 2011

Love Costs...Even at Church

Recall the story about bleeding woman in Mark 5:21-34.

Awareness and healing are important here, but I think there is a lot more to this story. Some people just wear us out, even at church. As one spouse told me, the first person who presents him or herself at your door and wants to be your best friend is usually the last person you need.

We’ve all been with those people who seem to suck the air out of the room. But I don’t think the woman in Mark was like that. Rather, I believe she was desperate. She surely had tried doctors, medicine, and probably every home cure she and her family could think of. Jesus was her only viable option. She sneaks up behind him and touches the hem of his garment and poof she is healed. She can feel it, but so does Jesus. He feels some of his power leave him.

Her touching him, his healing her, cost him. Any counselor can explain to you how this feels from their side--the one healing. There was plenty more power in Jesus, but that is not the point for us. Because we don’t have unlimited power, we need to be replenished. When someone touches us, whether consciously or unconsciously, we are affected. It costs us.

One thing that surprised me when I did counseling is that people do not identify with your strengths; rather, they unconsciously identify with your weaknesses. Probably because that is where we put our energy--trying to cover them up. Yes, we are wounded healers, but still wounded. And it can be difficult to overcome your own weaknesses, prejudices, character flaws, and even bad habits to reach out and help someone, no matter how desperate.

Yet, we are call to love fully. Yes, even those well-intentioned people in the church. But we need help. We need help keeping healthy and maintaining boundaries. We get tired and there are always desperate,needy people.

Where do you go to be replenished? How is it with your soul?

Grace, Kathy

July 21, 2011

A Few Sundays Later...

Finding a new church that Mike and I could attend together following retirement has been top priority. We attended another United Methodist church several times during the past year, when Mike took a vacation Sunday. However, the first Sunday after our last Sunday was so difficult. We went to the early service at our new church, and then I told Mike that I needed to go back to 'my church' for one of the services. That idea was fine with him, so off I went -- slipping in after the service began, sitting on a bench against the wall of the sanctuary, and then leaving when the last hymn began. I cried the whole time, wondering if coming back was making the adjustment harder or easier.

During successive Sundays, I have followed the same pattern -- returning for one of the services at 'my church.' I realize that I will have to make the change gradually. I just cannot walk away from people whom I have loved and have loved me for fifteen years. Right now, I have to care for myself and my grief. I know that these feelings are temporary so I am trusting God to give me strength and guidance for the days ahead.

God, there are many clergy families who are experiencing changes -- new appointments bring moves and moves can be challenging. Remind all of us that you are in everything that happens, even grief and change. Increase our awareness of your presence so that at all times we can be nourished in your love. Amen.

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

July 15, 2011

How's Your New Church?

While I really dislike feeling unsettled, there are some real pluses to moving. For one thing the house begins totally clean and uncluttered. Although in our case, we are still moving all the stuff our girls left behind. And I like meeting new people, even though I miss old friends.

But moving has never been something I look forward to. When I think about it, it is just overwhelming. As I prayed for those of you who moved this year, I remembered the time we moved from our first to our second church (actually there were 4 churches on the circuit with a total membership of over 650). My husband was off at junior high camp leaving me with our 4 week-old baby, and, thankfully, my mother-in-law came to help. Because I was so nervous and excited, I stayed up most of the night before. The move went OK even though the moving van folks were lazy. Our furniture was mostly hand-me-downs and might not have been much to look at, but I certainly didn't want it scratched up. And the moving men didn't take kindly to being directed by a 25 year-old young woman. Believe me, my husband never left me alone to move by myself again. Even so, I grew up a lot that day.

The new parsonage was nicer than the one we left, but the church folks had run out of money and only did part of the needed work. I'm not sure what they thought we would do with carpet rolled up in one of the bedrooms. But since there were only three of us and we didn't need that room anyway, I just closed the door. Looking back, it is both funny and sad--but mostly funny.

If you moved this year, I hope it went well and that you are off to a clean start. Sometimes it's good to start fresh, with renewed hope and faith. Please know that others are praying for you during this time of transition.

Grace, Kathy

July 11, 2011

I Have My Soul Back

Mike, my one-day-retired-husband said to me, "I feel like I have my soul back."
I replied, "After only one day? That's great!"

When Mike was still pastoring, I said to him one day, "Wouldn't it be nice if people came to you asking for ways to deepen their faith rather than complaining?"

He had just dealt with a situation where someone complained, "Why were the flags taken out of the sanctuary?" (referring to the flags that were removed for youth Sunday so that the young people could have more room for their play). Then there was the time that a director of the food pantry yelled at one of the clients (completely inappropriate); and the list goes on and on.

Dealing with people is part of the job, but it can batter your soul. So when Mike said to me, "I have my soul back", I knew that he already had new energy even after one day of retirement.

Thank you God for restoring Mike's soul. Inspire all pastors to take time to "Be still" with you so that their souls can be restored even in active ministry. Amen.

Jacquie Reed,
Fishers, Indiana

July 4, 2011

A Lesson in Humility

For this story you'll first need to know that my mother was in the hospital, seriously ill.

At the end of each Sunday's service, people are regularly invited to come to the altar to pray. And this Sunday was no different. So when this person came forward, he did so in the company of others. However this was a little different, because for several years our church had prayed this particular man through a series of legal issues that left him a convicted felon.

Sadly, he still wears his shame; and its weight makes him stoop and look far older than his years. Once very active in church, after his release it took many months of reassurance from many people that we wanted him to come back--as far as we were concerned, God had forgiven him as had those of us at church.

Then my husband signaled me that this person wanted me to pray for him. So I left the choir loft and walked to where he knelt, wondering why me. No one had ever asked me to come forward to pray. But I was glad he came forward and thought perhaps I could help him. However, imagine my surprise, when--while still kneeling--he said he wanted to pray for me and my mother.

So there we were--him still kneeling and me, standing over him with my hand on his head. And there he prayed for me. He had come to help me and my Mom. Time stood still and I'm really not sure what all he said, as I cried and felt the presence of God surround us.

Afterward, I stepped outside to regain my composure. What a lesson in humility. What confronted me was that in my pride, even with good intentions, I went to help him, instead of seeking to be a vessel of God's grace. But grace was poured out on us both.

When I retook my seat in the choir, someone thanked me because they had been praying for him too. What else could I say? "No, he prayed for me and my mother. Through him God helped me."

Grace, Kathy

June 29, 2011

Life Is not the Hightest Good

Dear Friends, While I truly believe that Christians should participate in their government, it makes me nervous when I see people proclaiming the Christian platform, the Christian political view, the Christian political party. This is probably because my views do not necessarily coincide with those of the "Christian Right," whatever that really means.

For most things, I do tend to be evangelical and conservative, but I am also pro-choice. And here is why. We seem to have forgotten in the past, but many girls died because of back-alley abortions. Should they have chosen to continue their unwanted or unsafe pregnancy? That is a different question. But in our civilized society, it is lawful to defend oneself even if it means killing. The right to self-defense is a cornerstone of our rule of law. And I can't help but believe that God is compassionate, loving, forgiving, and understands our motives. God gave us the instinct for self-preservation after all.

I won't even go into the issues surrounding when life begins. And I realize that my view is unpopular in many places. But I also see a growing insistence that life is always the right answer. Please know that in the Bible, life is not the highest good. The highest good is always God.

Sure, I'm for life; but I am also for freedom of choice. But even if someone chooses wrong or unwisely, that is their responsibility. And I think we can all agree that as a society, we want to promote that.

Grace, Kathy

June 22, 2011

Indiana Annual Conference Highlights

The Indiana Conference ended on June 11th with a beautiful service for those commissioned and those ordained deacon and elder. Mike participated in the elder ordination of Matt Swisher. Matt and his family were part of a church Mike pastored from 1983 to 1989. Matt was three when we first met him. When he decided to become a pastor, we followed his career with special interest. Each person preparing for ordination is assigned a mentor. Matt chose Mike and for the past three years, and they met monthly, talking and sharing whatever Matt needed to discuss. We celebrated the joyous occasion with Matt, his wife Katie, and lots of family from both sides.

Another moment of personal joy, was when the conference introduced and honored those pastors retiring. Each pastor and spouse were seated on the stage. We were introduced and then led down one of two aisles in the vast auditorium. As we were in the aisle, everyone gathered, about 1200 people, stood and clapped for what seemed like forever. Both of us cried as we received this expression of appreciation.

Mike has already had several pastors ask him to preach and fill the pulpit during vacations and other times away. He is also going to work part-time at the YMCA where we work out daily. Although we have found a new church, I am still having difficulty leaving a church that has been home to me for fifteen years. I am depending on God to give me insight and vision for the future.

God, thank you for the joys and challenges of Mike's 39 years of ministry. We have learned from all types of experiences for we knew that you are in everything that happens. Guide our paths in a new way of ministry in your name. Amen.

Jacquie Reed
Fishers Indiana

June 21, 2011

The World Is God's Parish

Dear Friends, One of the joys of having a blog is being able to see who visits. It's not that you can tell the name or address of the actual visitor, that would violate privacy, but you can tell from what geographic region page viewers hail from. You might be interested to know that we have U.S. viewers but also visitors from Russia, India, France, Iran, China, Philippines, and some other countries.

So to these international folks, welcome. And we invite you to email us at if you'd like to contact us or write a post. I'm sure we would like to hear about ministry in your setting.

We each have an important Christian witness to share. And we are all members of the Body of Christ. So please let us hear from you. As usual, you can use your name or write anonymously.


June 18, 2011

You Just Never Can Tell

When my husband and I started out in ministry and I was still the youth director's girl friend, we worked (He was paid; I was strictly the volunteer help)at an urban church in a major city. The neighborhood was rough but loaded with kids. In fact the police told us that on those Friday nights when the church held its weekly teen dance, the crime rate was nil. And when one boy was asked why he could run so fast and jump so high, he said he kept in shape running from the cops.

While I have many fond memories of those times, I often wondered if we really made a difference. Were all those youth trips, prayer times, and visits to juvenile hall worth it? That is until through FaceBook one of those "youth" contacted us. It seems that she and a friend were coming to town for an event. Could we all get together? We found a time and met last week.

It was great to see her and we spent an hour reliving and revisiting. As we caught up, it became clear that yes, we had made a difference, at least to her. But of all the kids we hauled in our car and tried to nurture in the faith, I would not have thought she would have followed-up after all these years. I guess you just never know how God uses you. And I hope that all those kids know that I'd do it again gladly.

Grace, Kathy

June 17, 2011

Annual Conference Report

Dear Friends, I'm just back from our Annual Conference. On the whole, it was a dismal affair and I left feeling rather sad. Naturally, it was great to see friends, colleagues, and former parishioners. And at the Ministers Mates' Lunch it was fun to connect with old friends and meet some new folks.

But as far as the business is concerned, the news was not so good. And we are a growing conference. We did elect delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conferences, and some of them will represent us well. But the politics of getting elected far overshadowed who was elected. On the lay side, the delegates were largely folks with experience with at least one young adult, who also happens to be a clergy spouse. On the clergy side, the young women clergy came in very organized and pretty much had their way. All that is fine, but with one or two exceptions the clergy delegation is totally inexperienced. And there were no delegates over 50, save one, who was our bishop candidate last time around. No DSs or conference staff were elected. I'm not sure what that says about our current leadership.

Perhaps this bodes well for the church. But I believe we are still too focused on what is politically correct. Guess I also feel a little passed over too. Still no sour grapes. It is God's church after all and God has a plan. I just wish I could feel better about the whole thing.

Grace, Kathy

June 7, 2011

Is General Conference Important?

Dear Friends, I guess many of you have heard that this next General Conference in Spring, 2012, may be the most important Conference we've had as a church since we became The United Methodist Church in 1968. All kinds of things might happen. For example, pastors may lose their guaranteed appointments, the general boards and agencies may be eliminated or, at least, merged.

But I am also aware that my local church doesn't know anything about General Conference and probably cares less.

How is it where you are. What issues do you see as important? I would really like to know your opinion.

Thanks for your help,


June 5, 2011

How Connected Do We Need to Be?

So how many friends do you have on Facebook? LinkedIn? MySpace? Just how many friends do we need anyway?

Just saw a review of a new book by Robin Dunbar, How Many Friends Does One Person Need? Dunbar’s Number and Other Evolutionary Quirks(Harvard University Press, 2010. 312 pp.). I was feeling pretty bad about myself. However it seems that I'm pretty much like most everyone else. According to Dunbar, the most close friends we can stand is 3-4. Yes, stand. Dunbar gives reasons based on evolutionary psychology. My thinking is based only on my experience--3 or 4 is all I possibly have time for.

In these times, with family, work, church, community activities, I really don't have time to be as good a friend as I want to be to anyone. Just today, I decided to turn over a new leaf and stop complaining that I have too little time, so I called a friend and set up a dinner for next week.

Yesterday, I attended a wedding and was amazed that the newlyweds had both grown up in the same city and will continue to live here. Both families are respected in our community and are known by lots of people here. I have to admit, I was a little envious. We've lived in lots of places and our daughters made friends all over, but I always feared that they would not have a sense of rootedness.

Moving also effected my efforts to stay in close touch with good friends over the years. We all have good intentions, but long-distance friendships are tough to maintain. So I hope you take advantage of social networks, blogs, as well as opportunities even at Annual Conference.

Have about you? How connected to friends are you and how connected do you need to be?

Grace, Kathy
Clarksville, TN

June 2, 2011

Passing the Stole

My husband, Mike's, last Sunday before retirement is June 26th. The next Sunday, July 3, he and the new pastor will participate in a unique ritual. Mike, at each of the four services, will "pass a stole" to the two new pastors. The church owns a set of green stoles, so Mike, to symbolize the change in leadership, will place a stole on the shoulders of each pastor.

Usually such an exchange is not possible because the old pastor has moved on to a new church in a new town. The congregation, will witness Mike's blessing of the new ministers coming to care for the flock whom he loved so dearly for fifteen years.

God, thank you for the cooperative way that change can occur in your name. Bless all of those who are moving to serve new churches. Guide those who are retiring or taking a leave of absence. Thank you for the opportunity that all of us have to care for those in the kingdom.

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

May 31, 2011

God Sees Our Potential

Recently, our 26 year old daughter, Anna, who lives and works in Portland, Oregon, realized a couple of dreams. First, she was able to move from her tiny studio apartment to a one bedroom apartment. She is delighted with the extra space and now as she says, "I can have friends over," something she hasn't been able to do for over two years. Second, she purchased a cat. Anna has wanted a cat for a long time, but didn't feel that she had enough room in her studio apartment for a little friend.

Anna told me how she went to the humane society in Portland, looked at a few cats before she finally chose, Edie. Anna said that one little cat came to her immediately, so friendly, licking her face, ready to cuddle. Edie however, was somewhat distant, not eager for any type of interaction. Anna selected Edie over the other cat because, "I saw potential in Edie to become cuddly and ready to play."

I realized that God has the same perspective for each one of us as Anna had choosing Edie. God sees and knows the potential each one of us has to live, grow and serve in God's kingdom. Receiving God's love energizes our efforts to fully become who God created us.

God, thank you for pouring unlimited potential into each of us, your children. As we seek you daily, give us confidence in your presence to realize the potential to become who you wanted us to be. Amen.

Jacquie Reed,
Fishers, Indiana

May 10, 2011

Going on Vacation

Dear Friends, I'll be on vacation for the next couple of weeks. My husband and I are really looking forward to seeing our daughter and her family and celebrating our grandson's second birthday. And naturally I am taking a present for my four year-old granddaughter as well. Then we will head up for my younger daughter's graduation from graduate school. (If you have contacts in New York City, please let me know because she is looking for a job in Human Resources. Her MA is in I/O Psychology--just couldn't resist!)

I hope you have the chance to take some time away as well. It never ceases to amaze me how much fun my husband is and how much we enjoy being together. It is good to get away from the church with all its worries. But then, it will be good to return refreshed.

Happy travelling,

May 9, 2011

Welcoming a New Pastor and Spouse

Mike and I had a unique opportunity Wednesday. We met the new pastor and his wife, Kevin and Joyce. We did not know either one of them as most of Kevin's ministry has been in the southern part of Indiana. They were in Fishers for a few days making arrangements for the home they are building. Mike and I took them to a morning meeting at the church, where they had some time to get to know the staff.

The semi-annual fish/chicken fry also happened to be going on Wednesday evening. So Mike and I decided that if Kevin and Joyce wanted to meet us at 5:00 pm, we would take them to each table and introduce them around. They thought that was a good idea so for an hour and a half, we went from table to table. The four of us didn't sit down until after 7:30.

Mike and I were talking later that evening about how nice it was to let everyone meet Joyce and Kevin. The informal setting allowed Mike to tell stories or relate interesting facts as he made the introductions. I don't know how much Kevin and Joyce will remember, but that is not important. Because they were able to hear remarks like, "We've been praying for you." and "We're excited you are coming." They were able to capture the welcoming spirit of those gathered and to sense the anticipation for new energy and ideas.

How was the experience for me? Well, at times I felt sad as I realized that this is the beginning of the end. I knew that there may not be another chance to see some of these persons, because they attend another service or they may not be able to attend the reception planned for us at the end of June. I heard lots of affirmation and support for Mike's ministry as well as a few comments for myself. And I sense that there is lots of growing that I still need to do before we finally say good-bye. So I am trusting God to care for me and direct my paths.

God, I know that the church will benefit from the new gifts and energy that Kevin and Joyce will bring. I treasure the comments that persons made to Mike and me while we were host and hostess to these new friends. Keep us seeking you at all times. Amen.

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

May 6, 2011

No Grave Can Keep Me Down

Have you heard the song, “No Grave Can Keep Me Down.” Actually, I hadn’t until I heard All Things Considered on NPR yesterday. Here is the link, if you want to hear about Claude Ely and his influence on Rock and Roll.

But sometimes being held back can be a good thing.

Here is what holds me back: I just want us all to get along. I want us to be like the Church in Acts, praying and living in one accord. But there is always someone who is negative or who lashes out at innocent people. And as the pastor’s spouse, I can be an easy target.

A couple of years ago, a woman at our church told me how much she enjoyed the Creationist theme park in Kentucky. Wouldn’t I love to go? Having recently convicted myself about honesty, I said, “No.” To which she replied, “Why? You don’t believe in evolution, do you? And you do believe in the Bible, don’t you?”

Actually yes, I do believe in evolution. I was a zoology and chemistry in college. And no, I am not a literalist; but yes, I do believe the Bible, but maybe not “in” the Bible, at least in the same way she does.

Naturally, I didn’t want to offend her and start parsing distinctions that she wouldn’t buy. So I simply said, “No, the theme park is just not something that interests me.” With that, she looked at me like I was un-American, whereby I seized her hesitation and changed the subject. On the whole, I felt like a coward, but one who was at least not un-Christian in her eyes.

In a choice between standing up for my beliefs and putting a relationship at risk, I chose the relationship. Am I happy about what I said? No, I felt like a coward, but at least it didn’t escalate and civility prevailed. I’m not especially proud of my response, but over the years I learned that not all confrontations are worth having.

So I held back. But at a price. Was it worth it? Yes.

There will always be things that hold us back for better and for worse, but nothing can separate us from the love of God, neither life nor death...and you know the rest.

God’s love endures forever.

Grace, Kathy

May 4, 2011

Making a Good Retirement

Mike, my husband, is down to eight weeks until retirement. He is doing much better than I am with the change that is before us. I am really going to miss the people in the congregation. During the past fifteen years, we have grown close to so many families, watching children grow up, get married and then have their own children. Being part of graduations, marriages, baptisms, anniversaries, funerals, and other events that bring meaning to a family have wrapped our hearts in love.

We visited a few churches in our area, but no place seemed to draw us. Maybe we will need to leave our current church before we have energy to invest in another place.

Looking for a new church has also reflected the importance of being a friendly, welcoming church to visitors. A newly created position at church - connection coordinator - began last fall. The young woman hired for this ministry, is aware when visitors attend on Sunday morning. She asks them about their interests and sometimes by the end of the day, she has given their names to the individual concerned with a particular ministry.

One church we attended did connect me with a person in charge of new members. When I told her three different areas of ministry in which I was interested, she forwarded me the three emails she sent to the persons involved. That was a month ago, and I haven't heard anything.

I realize too that I have never had to reach out and find my own path - people always came to me and invited me to various parts of church life.

I was talking recently to a friend at the YMCA whose husband is one of the pastors at a Presbyterian church. Her husband is retiring in two years. Last year, the denomination had a pre-retirement two day retreat. Part of the time was spent dealing with financial aspects of retirement. In addition there were a couple of sessions for pastors and spouses discussing the emotional and spiritual components that retirement will bring.

Although the Indiana Conference has an annual required "Making A Good Move" day and a half program for those moving, there is nothing similar for those retiring. Maybe developing a one day event is something Mike and I can do in retirement.

Needless to say, I need to increase my faith and trust in God for what the future will hold.

God in times of change, help me remember that you are the constant, ever present, ever ready to help. Amen.

Jacquie Reed,
Fishers, Indiana

May 2, 2011

When God Is Silent

Truly we are a blessed people. This morning I awoke to the news that Osama bin Laden is dead. He was an enemy of our country who hurt many innocent people. And while the untimely death of any person is not a cause to celebrate, we are better off as a result. And thanks to the brave team of Seals who risked their lives on our behalf.

So the question is, was God silent for all those years while people earnestly prayed for deliverance? Likewise, was God really silent all those years the Hebrews were enslaved? Is God silent when we go through our dark nights of the soul?

When we go through tough times and look to God for relief or answers that will not come. It could be that God is not silent, but preparing the way. Jesus tells us that God is not like an unrighteous judge, whom we must beg to do the right thing. God is ever present and generous with steadfast loving kindness; God is even prodigal--generous beyond reason.

God comes in the fullness of time. God's time. God is always at work doing new things. Yet, I do not want to diminish our aching for God when we perceive God's distance. God may be present, but we may still grieve, suffer, feel lost and alone--just as Jesus felt on the cross. But resurrection always comes. So have heart, for your heart rests in the sacred heart of God.

Grace, Kathy

April 26, 2011

Making a Good Move

Next month, I will be facilitating a group of clergy spouses at the annual "Making A Good Move" event. Last year over twenty spouses came. What surprised me was that out of the spouses present, there was only one whose spouse had just finished seminary immediately after college. Everyone else was married to a second career pastor. And several spouses were not relocating because of job seniority or responsibility to a family home or children in high school.

But because we all want a move to go as smoothly as possible, here are some tips that might help you.

1. Intentionally continue whatever you do to stay connected to God. Even if you cut short the time you spend reading the Bible or in prayer. Staying grounded in God is a reminder that God is with you always and available for whatever you need.

2. Keep a routine as much as possible, especially if you have children. A routine can offer structure when boxes, empty or full, are constant reminders that change is ahead.

3. Recognize that moving involves grief. There will be breaks in meaningful attachments. Anger, sadness, disappointment, fear, and other emotions are often present. Realize that these responses are normal and give yourself some grace.

4. Give children an opportunity to choose to do a favorite activity -- one more time -- in the town where you live. Our children took lots of pictures of our house, their bedrooms, their schools, friends, and of their favorite places. Making a scrapbook gave us something to do in those early days of relocation, when we still felt sad leaving one church family as we were trying to carve a new life.

5. Be patient with yourself and celebrate the small steps. Adjustments take time, particularly if you are moving from a small town and church to a larger church or town. Learning such things as: how to navigate streets, how to get to church, making connections for yourself and your children, locating a doctor, dentist, a school, a job, a grocery store, and the library, cannot be accomplished overnight.

6. Share feelings about the move with your spouse and children so that you can support each other.

7. Stay in touch with persons in the congregation or community with whom you feel close, but be smart about it. You don't want to sabotage the next family.

8. Invite old friends to your new church, house/parsonage, and community. Seeing familiar faces after a move can be uplifting. Give your children opportunities to reconnect with their friends and make new friends. (See caution in #7.)

9. Clean the parsonage thoroughly before leaving. As a family, say a pray of thanksgiving for your ministry there and offer a blessing for the next family.

10. Be selective about your involvement in the new church. Talk as a family about how you can do things better this time.

11. Do everything you can to take care of yourself. Packing, moving, unpacking, adjusting to a new town/congregation/parsonage/house, finding a job, helping children find friends/school, require a lot of energy -- physical, spiritual and emotional. Light a candle to remember that God is present in these new surroundings. Ask for God's peace/strength/comfort/patience or whatever you need to dwell in your heart as you make your new appointment feel like home.

12. Exercise regularly. Finding a YMCA or fitness center with various classes can provide fun ways to manage the stress of a move as well as a place to meet new people. If finances prohibit joining these places, take a walk around the neighborhood and meet your new neighbors, which you might want to do anyway.

13. Establish a routine as soon as you can to add familiarity and structure to new surroundings.

14. Find ways to connect with other clergy spouses in the area. The Indiana Conference has a confidential Facebook site for clergy spouses to ask questions or share comments.

15. For those of us not moving, I always try to contact a new clergy spouse in our area a week or two after the move. A phone call or a quick visit can be helpful to the new spouse and offers an opportunity for the spouse to ask questions or just talk.

God thank you for giving us opportunities to see a broader vision of your body in each new church we serve. Keep us aware of your presence as we make these changes in your name. Amen.

Jacquie Reed,
Fishers, Indiana

April 25, 2011

If Jesus is Lord of the living, why are there so many dying churches?

Ministry is tough. And at its roughest times, it can make us doubt the goodness of God. Why is the Body of Christ so unlike Jesus Christ?

Sin is an obvious answer, but that just sounds flippant and simplistic. While I may not doubt the goodness of God, sometimes I wonder at God's wisdom about giving us free will, except, of course, I would never want to give mine up.

So how do you understand and think about the Church as a body of imperfect believers? How do you account for the Christians who have a lukewarm faith? How do you really live and raise your children as "resident aliens," to quote a familiar phrase from Will Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas.

Lent is over. Easter has come. But why do so many dead churches remain?

Grace, Kathy

April 21, 2011

Making a Good Move

I am mindful that many families are spending time packing boxes, changing addresses for magazines, and doing all of the many tasks in order to prepare for a move. Some already know their next appointment, while others are still waiting. There is typically lots of emotion surrounding a move-- bittersweet as people say.

Each year in May, the Indiana Conference, holds a "Making A Good Move" mandatory meeting for all persons who are relocating. Spouses are encouraged to attend.
The event usually lasts from Friday afternoon through Saturday noon. The bishop speaks as well as other conference staff.

I would like to recommend a book our bishop, Mike Coyner, wrote in 1999 called Making A Good Move (ISBN 978-0687081332) published by Abingdon Press. Bishop Mike, as he likes to be called, touches on many topics related to moving such as: leaving well and letting go; leadership style makes a difference; fast or slow? finding the right balance; your first impressions; your first Sunday; your first week; your first few months; your first conflict; your first year; your spiritual survival kit. Bishop Mike offers much practical advice in a straightforward, easy to read book. Even though the book is directed toward pastors, spouses can also benefit from Bishop Mike's words.

God prepare us to leave one congregation and serve a new one. Some may be experiencing sadness and grief saying good-bye to persons who have become like family. Others are eager to leave an appointment that has been particularly challenging and stressful. However a move presents, remind us that you are always with us. Amen

Jacquie Reed,
Fishers, Indiana

April 18, 2011

Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition

At the end of our Sunday service, we read the Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition, number 607 in the UM hymnal. In case you don't have it memorized, it is a prayer of surrender and discipleship.

But I'm struggling with this part:
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee of laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low by thee...

This is my struggle: How much is me being put to suffering by God and how much am I put to suffering by other people? I frankly don't think God causes suffering, but I know for a fact that other people do. But in either case, I also believe that God will have the final say and that say will be an everlasting "Yes."

This is Holy Week. I also can't help but think that Jesus had some of these thoughts as well.

As you examine your soul this week, please find ways to stop all the suffering you can.

Grace, Kathy

April 12, 2011

Help Needed for Spouses

I am beginning a new ministry for clergy spouse support in the Indiana Conference. It's called "Be Still." I have tried to locate articles or books dealing with clergy spouse issues, but everything is dated. I am wondering if anyone who reads SpouseConnect can give me any resources that have been published within the past two or three years. Thank you.

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

April 11, 2011

Forging a Path toward Understanding

There are many ways to gain meaning from scripture. One way I tried recently lead me to an interesting path. Here's what I did. I found one of my favorite verses. I wrote the verse on a piece of paper. Then the last word, became the first word of the next line. Each sentence that followed was based on reflection with the verse. I kept writing, until I realized it was time to stop--with a surprise at the end.

The scripture I used was Genesis 50:20, where Joseph is speaking to his brothers.
"You plotted evil against me, but God turned it into good."

My reflections follow:

GOOD can come from bad circumstances.
CIRCUMSTANCES do not need to determine how I respond to life.
LIFE can bring many challenges.
CHALLENGES can make me more dependant on God.
GOD is the constant in chaos.
CHAOS often leads to confusion which can make staying present difficult.
DIFFICULT times come to everyone.
EVERYONE has the ability to control how he/she responds to life.
LIFE comes from God.
GOD is a real presence in my life.
LIFE is good.

God I thank you for a new way to come to you. Fresh ways to enter your presence give me joy. Amen.

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

April 6, 2011

Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?

If you have a chance, check out the April issue of Christianity Today. There is an interview with Miroslav Volf, noted author and professor at Yale. Volf believes that our ability to live together in peace depends on how we answer this question.

In the interview, Volf says that all Christians don't worship the same God, and all Muslims don't worship the same God.

What do you think?

Clarksville, TN

April 4, 2011

Following My Own Advice:Finding a New Church 102

One of my favorite places of community is the YMCA, because it offers friendship as well as multiple ways to keep fit. And occasionally, I attend a women's ecumenical Bible study, which meets weekly in the Y chapel.

Today I was gathering my stuff, when one of the young women in the Bible study stopped to talk. She explained that she was moving to Japan at the end of the month. Her husband, who works for Eli Lily, a major employer in Indianapolis, was being transferred so that he could teach the Japanese in the Lily plant there. She said that they would be gone for ten months.

I sensed that she was apprehensive about this relocation. So, I proceeded in my "wise voice" to share that every time I moved, I learned more about myself and more about God. I continued that in each place I've lived, God has open my heart to new ways of seeing and being with God. My friend smiled, and said, "Yes, that is probably true." I gave her a "benediction" as we parted ways, "I pray God's blessing and care as you travel."

Later in the afternoon I thought, "I need to listen to my own advice. I've been so immersed in grief about leaving my church family, that I haven't even honored the possibility that--I will learn more about myself, about God, that God might even guide me to new ways of seeing and being with God, and who knows what opportunities will appear once I find a new church."

I know that many who read SpouseConnect might be facing a move in June or early July. I do not know the feelings or emotions that are surrounding these moves, but I do know that the same God will be with me and with others who are relocating, when I leave my beloved church family after 15 years, and walk into a new church the next Sunday. God is with all of us wherever we are -- even in faraway Japan.

God, you are everywhere and in your presence is everything all of us need. Keep us seeking you at all times. Amen.

Jacquie Reed,
Fishers, Indiana

April 1, 2011

Acting with Hope and Confidence

Very, very early this morning I was awakened by chirping. No, not by birds but the smoke detectors instead. Once I woke up enough to know what was happening, I also noticed that our electricity was out. With adrenaline pumping through my body, I took a quick look around the house--just to be sure. But with the random and irritating noise coming from the alarms in addition to the adrenaline rush, I couldn't go back to sleep.

A couple of hours later, I drug myself to the shower. But first, I decided it might be wise to light a couple of candles, because it was hours before dawn. As I got into the shower, I decided to turn on the bathroom light--just in case the electricity did come back on. And presto a few minutes later, it magically did.

The light (and heat) came on and all was well. Except, I kept the candles going because, from my experience, sometimes it takes a couple of times before the electric company has all the bugs fixed. But in this case, once the lights came on, they stayed on.

For me, this is an example of what hope is all about. It's about turning the light switch on even though the electricity is out. It's about having hope despite your current (no pun intended) circumstance. It's about taking an active step when it might be easier to give up and just go back to bed. But it's also about having faith that people will eventually get the job done right.

In this world, it's well and good to act in confidence (turning the light switch on) but we need to be cagey about giving our confidence too soon (keeping the candles burning). People will sometimes fail us and we need to be prepared, but that doesn't mean that we can't give them the benefit of the doubt. The church will sometimes fail us and we may need a back-up plan, but sometimes we have to give it a chance.

Please pray for folks waiting to hear about their appointment for next year.

Grace, Kathy

March 30, 2011

Hope in the Living Room

We've been friends with another pastor and his wife in our conference for over 34 years. We've shared the births of six children between use, two weddings (theirs) and two grandchildren (theirs). And the husbands have roomed together at Annual Conference for over thirty years. Recently, their two year-old granddaughter was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer. Devastated doesn't even begin to touch the catastrophe. The situation is further complicated by an estrangement with the son (our friend's), daughter-in-law, and grandchild over the past five years. Our friends have seen their grandchild only twice --once at birth and once during a brief visit in their home when she was an infant. Our friends and their son/family live under ten minutes away. Visits to the hospital since the cancer diagnosis were refused by the son. So Mike and I decided to meet with them once a week, to listen to whatever they need to say and to pray. The sole purpose of our visit is for them to receive God's love through us. When we went to our friends' house last Thursday night, there were still two unwrapped Christmas presents in the living room. The son and family did not come by at Christmas or let his folks bring the gifts to his house. When I volunteered to take the boxes to my house and put them in the attic, our friends replied, "No, we have hope." I couldn't get the boxes from my mind, because they seemed to represent much more than Christmas presents and hope--they are boxes of love, thoughtfulness, everything that represents parents loving children and grandchildren. These gifts say, "We love you no matter what," "you are special to us," and "We won't give up." When I looked in the dictionary for a definition of hope, I read, "The feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best." "That fits!" I thought. So this week when I go to their house I will write the definition on one of the boxes so that when they see these each day, our dear friends can see "hope" instead of sadness, regret, anger, and confusion. What does God say? "May the God of hope fill you with all peace and joy in believing, that you may always abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13. God, I feel certain that there are many families suffering from estrangement in some form. I pray for reconciliation and new vision for these persons. All of this is possible when we, your children, live in hope and in you. Amen. Please pray for them all. Jacquie Reed, Fishers, Indiana

March 28, 2011

It's All Theology Anyway

The conventional wisdom is that lay people are not interested in theology. Perhaps they don't think in those terms, but many of their issues are just that--theological. And if they are active in mission, then they have even more occasion to think about what they believe and why. Not only that, but all churches have people who run the theological gamut in their beliefs. Just in my Sunday School class alone, we have folks who were raised or who are former members of the Catholic church, Lutheran church, Presbyterian church, Baptist church, no church, Korean Methodist church, United Methodist church, and another Baptist church. We even have an agnostic. In our church, the range is even broader. In fact, one of our best-loved Sunday School leaders is a Calvinist. She whole-heartily believes in double predestination and teaches from that perspective. While at first I was troubled that her theology was not Wesleyan, over the years, I have grown to appreciate her. Because while she talks like a Calvinist, she lives like a Wesleyan--extending God's grace to all. But her beliefs about predestination did come up in a coffee we had at our house last week. A friend who is visiting the church asked what we, as United Methodists, believe about that particular doctrine. When the discussion moved into the arena of grace, she suddenly said, "If predestination is true, then Jesus did not die for everyone." Bingo! She nailed it. Guess why she was visiting our church...because she was attracted to our church's mission and witness in the community. Don't know about you, but in my experience, when people are actively engaged in mission and sacrifice their time, talents, and money, they want to be able to stand firm and know what they believe. It is not enough to simple feel good doing good for others; people want to know that what they do in God's name really matters to God. And if that is not theology, then nothing is. Grace, Kathy