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

March 24, 2011

Gentleness and Meekness

Our choir director has been leading us in brief devotions on the Fruit of the Spirit during each rehearsal. Last night's was about gentleness and meekness.

I confess that know what gentleness is, but have always been unsure exactly where meekness is. To me meekness was just another word for weakness. But thanks to the devotion I now have a clearer understanding.

Gentleness is how you actively treat others. Meekness is how you receive the treatment of others. Here the Scripture is also instructive. Meekness is humbleness of heart. It allows you to hold another's soul in your heart, because your heart is in God's. (See Matt. 11:28-30.)

This means that meekness allows you to contain the hopes, fears, anxieties, joys, and anger of another person in such a way that it gives that person rest, peace.

Instead of being a sign of weakness, meekness requires strength and stamina. It requires a strong, loving heart, which is only possible with an infusion of grace from the Holy Spirit.

These days, we all need rest. Who can count on you today to help them find peace?

Grace and Peace,

March 23, 2011

Hope for the Flowers

Last night I attended the Vanderbilt Divinity School student and UM Boards and Agencies dinner at the Upper Room. This is an annual event for students to meet with alumni, bishops who live in the area, and personnel from the various general boards and agencies. At the dinner I sat next to two very impressive students. Each was working in an area church and was committed to excellence in ministry. It was just nice to see young men and women beginning to answer their call.

The dinner was also a chance to visit with friends who are currently serving. I've got to say that some of us, however look pretty beat up and tired. This was alarming, but expected.

Ministry is an all-consuming passion. Most of the pastors I know, however, would choose being a pastor again, even knowing the toll that it takes on self, friends, and family. As a spouse, this is difficult to watch. But with grace, we keep serving and loving the unlovable, some of whom are in our churches.

I heard a scripture last week that helped give me perspective. While some strive for riches and glory, our part is the Lord. The Lord is our inheritance. There is no substitute without it and abundant living with it.

Blessings, Kathy

March 20, 2011

The Spice of Life

Just returned from a great minister's spouse weekend retreat. The fellowship was great; the speakers taught us a thing or two; but more than that--we laughed a lot.

Gosh, I love these women. Some are stay-at-home moms; some are professionals; some are retirees. We had a couple of toddlers and a very sweet 8 month-old baby. So the talk was lively; the food was too good; and the weather--blue skies all the way.

Still if I had to pick out one thing, it was the funny stories we shared the first night. Sorry, can't say more because we all promised...

Laughter is the spice of life. It soothes the weary soul. Laughter is also a gift of God. So I just imagine that Jesus must have been laughed a lot and told funny stories too.

I hope you find time to laugh with those you love today.

Clarksville, TN

March 18, 2011

Where Is Your Potter's House?

The week before Lent, I visited one of my favorite friends, Sister Karen Van deWalle. Sister Karen is a potter.

She creates in a little purple and blue house in Broad Ripple, an artsy section of Indianapolis. When I visit, Sister Karen is usually "throwing," the term she uses to describe molding the clay into a vase or bowl. The day I visited, she was making mugs. I sit and watch her work and we talk about whatever I want. I absolutely love being in the midst of Sister Karen's creative energy-- watching her hands make something beautiful from an ugly blop of clay.

Just before Ash Wednesday, God led me to read Jeremiah 18:1-4, (where God told Jeremiah to go to the potter's house where God would give Jeremiah a message), for Lenten reflection. I have a sense that the time I spent with Sister Karen was the beginning of the path that I have followed now for a week--one of the "potter's houses" in my life where I hear God's word.

Today my "potter's house" was at the YMCA, more specifically in the natatorium where I spent close to thirty minutes swimming laps. God's word came very specifically for close friends going through a difficult time with their family. The insights regarded giving these persons information and peace regarding a puzzling situation. Sometimes my "potter's house" is right in my kitchen when I bake bread or biscuits. Kneading the dough immediately brings me into an awareness of God's presence creating an open heart to hear God's word.

Where are your "potter's houses" ? Where are you going to hear God's word during these forty days of Lent? How is God speaking to you?

God open our eyes to see a place where you can come to us. Open our hearts to hear your word. Amen.

Jacquie Reed,
Fishers, Indiana

March 14, 2011

Great Ministry: Give Your Bible Away

Last fall, the Common English Bible (CEB) was introduced with the release of the New Testament. This new translation represents the work of more than 500 men and women from 22 faith traditions, including 118 translators, 10 editors and 77 reading group leaders. The translation work began in 2008 and will end in Fall 2011, with the release of the complete Bible, including the Apocrypha.

The Common English Bible is not simply a revision or an update of an existing translation. It is a bold, new translation designed to meet the needs of Christians as they work to build a strong and meaningful relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The CEB is written at a comfortable level for more than half of all English readers by translating ancient everyday speaking styles into modern English. The end goal being this: A translation that is relevant, readable and reliable will enhance church worship and participation, and personal Bible study.

This new Bible is great and you can get copy very inexpensively to give away in your community. Or invite your friends at church to give them to other friends and family who may not attend church. It's a great ministry. Spread the Word; give your Bible away.

For more information, see:

Grace, Kathy

March 10, 2011

Loving God by Being Truly Present

Monday morning, I was preparing to pray, when the phone rang. I took a second wondering if I should answer, but I did. The caller was a pastor's spouse whom I have mentored over the past three years during a very difficult appointment. She was overjoyed to tell me that her husband was moving in June to a new church. I was thrilled and excited.

I listened as she described the parsonage and all of the many benefits that this new appointment would allow personally and professionally. However, I must say, that occasionally I kept thinking that I wasn't going to have time to complete my morning prayer time if I kept talking to her, because I had to leave my home by a certain time. I chastised myself for not being completely present to her. I also began to get restless, which is what I do when I am pressed for time. Thankfully, God took over and allowed me to give up my own agenda to offer myself completely to my friend. Of course, by the time we finished talking, I needed to leave. I missed my prayer time; but as I reflected later in the day, I would not have missed the opportunity to celebrate with my friend, to hear her answered prayer, and to rejoice with the potential for spiritual growth that the move will present.

Monday also reminded me of a day last summer when I was preparing to attend a weekly ecumenical Bible study at the YMCA, when the phone rang. Once again, I knew that if I answered, I would be late. Thankfully, I did answer, to find a friend of mine crying at the other end. She and I talked for as long as she needed, but just like last Monday, I kept thinking I really need to get to Bible study. Thankfully, God intervened and I continued listening. I took off for the Y when she finished. I missed most of the class, but I was glad to listen.

I later shared with the group about my experience saying, "I thought about telling my friend I couldn't talk to her because I had to get to Bible study so I could learn how to show God's love to all people in any circumstance." They appreciated the humor and reality of the situation.

My prayer today is "God, I want to be present to you. I want to be present to those with whom I call friend. "My prayer time" is as much sitting at a table, reading your word as being with those who are crying or celebrating. Amen.

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

March 8, 2011

Are pastors in some Conferences better than others?

OK, OK, please keep reading past the title.

Here's the thing, so often we hear about the lack of pastoral leadership and the continual declining membership of the UMC. This had led to some pastors and bishops to say that the church needs to weed out ineffective pastors--and one way to do this is to eliminate the guaranteed appointment.

1. The logic is flawed for lots of reasons but here are four. Membership is declining in all mainline denominations. Perhaps all mainline denominations have ineffective clergy. And this is probably true, but until recently some Southern Baptist and non-denominational groups were growing. Does that mean that Southern Baptist or non-denominational pastors are more effective as a group? Or could it be that there are other factors at work?

2. Some UM jurisdictions are bleeding members while others are not. Does that mean that, therefore, their clergy are more ineffective or are there other factors at work: for example, demographics or geographical relocation patterns?

3. Is making the ministry more stressful by taking away a major benefit going to help or hurt clergy physical, emotional, and financial health? More stress = Higher health insurance costs.

4. In actuality we really don't have a guaranteed appointment now. Bishops have more power than you might think. Surprised? But we do have a process and some protections in the Discipline. Know anyone who has been unjustly treated?

Keep in touch.


March 1, 2011

What Makes Us Methodists?

Ever wonder what is distinctive about Methodists? Here are some ways we are different from our Baptist, Presbyterian, and Church of Christ friends.

1. How we understand what it means to be human:
Coming out of the broader catholic tradition in general and Anglicanism in particular, our theology underscores the importance of prevenient grace; that is, the prior gracious activity of God in all things. This emphasis keeps our theology free from determinism and diminished views of human being. Hence Wesleyan (or Methodist) anthropology is underscores the responsible nature of the divine-human relationship.

2. Our theological emphasis:
Wesleyan theology is balanced in its conception of grace. It draws from the traditions of the Reformation in its understanding that sinners are justified by grace through faith alone. Like the Protestant Reformers, Wesleyan theology teaches that salvation is a sheer gift from God (free grace). It also draws from the catholic tradition in emphasizing the cooperant nature of grace. As Wesley, himself, put it in his sermon, On Working Out Our Own Salvation, "God works, therefore you can work; God works, therefore you must work." It is the combination of these two in its theological emphasis that is distinctively Wesleyan.

3. Our purpose is eminently practical:
With its origin as a reforming movement within the broader church, Wesleyan theology has been focused on the end or goal of religion, which is holiness or holy love. In other words, the Wesleyan way of doing theology is eminently practical: to inculcate nothing less than the holy love of God and neighbor in daily living.

4. Our historic emphasis on holiness:
Wesleyan theology is holistic, embracing proper teaching (orthodoxy), a transformed heart (orthokardia) as well as an array of practices that reach out to the neighbor, especially the poor (orthopraxy).

5. Our mission-orientated understanding of the church:
Wesleyan theology freely acknowledges that it operates within a communion, an interpretative tradition, that is a part of the larger ecumenical church. When Wesleyans are mindful of their historic roots, they understand call and mission as fostering the love of God and neighbor. In other words, Methodism is a reforming movement, organizing itself so that it focuses on the proper ends or goals of the Christian faith.

6. Our outward focus:
In reflecting on the Word of God manifested in Jesus Christ, those who practice our Wesleyan theology refuse to be merely theoretical or speculative in their approach, but remain practically engaged and "other directed"; that is, they are ever mindful of the “cash” value of theology and are therefore oriented to the service of their neighbors. Put another way, Wesleyan theology in its best sense, in its methods and means, exemplifies love of God and love of neighbor.

7. How we move toward perfection--our goal:
Every aspect of our theology sees its completion, its perfection, in the glory of God; in the One who ever calls forth the community to both renewal and loving service.

Credit to Dr. Ken Collins, professor at Asbury Theological Seminary for his help on this.