Modern Times

waiting-man Our world is one hot mess.  We are polarized, captivated by our own anger at one another. No one wins.
 

But, these words keep pushing me :If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  2 Chronicles 7:14  (NRSV)

Humbleness… well that trait went out of style years ago, replaced by an insatiable appetite about ourselves.  We tuned into the stationWIFM-What’s In it For Me, pushing and shoving our way through life just to get an edge up, a tiny piece of something more than the stranger next door.  We want it, therefore we take it.  Nothing else matters but our own point of view.

We didn’t get here overnight, you know. It took time, well planned and orchestrated effort to develop a nation of people primarily fixed on their own needs and desires. It took self-help books, talk shows, slogans, and messages on our walls to create a world of takers instead of givers. “Believe in yourself,” “fight for yourself” and “look out for number one!”

Somewhere in our effort to foster healthy self-esteem, we created a monster and unleashed it across America. The beast invaded the presidential elections, the nightly news and the streets of our cities. We felt a need to be right above all others, from city hall to our kids’ ball games, nothing was off-limits. Profanities, sarcastic humor, accusations, and bullish behavior was not only condoned, it was exemplified.  There was no filter, no attempt to be nice, and no effort to be kind to one another, let alone be ‘humble’.

We lost the value in being humble, to lift up the soul of another person with equal honor and respect. Humbleness underscores kindness, generosity, compassion and human dignity. To  humble ourselves is to stop pushing, shoving, and accusing; to let the other go first, congratulate the winner,  be a gracious opponent and put down the weapons of violence.  It allows us to be silent, to experience the moment and to recognize God plunked down in our midst.

Humbleness changes our perspective on life.  We discover that we are not  center stage of the universe, nor have we ever been.  Life is not all about us!  We have no choice but to fall down to our knees, seek God’s favor and ask forgiveness of our selfish ways. We admit  that we are thirsty and hungry, compelled to drink in God’s perfection like a beautiful wine and share in the holy bread. We long to be refreshed,  for the peace that fills our empty souls and heals our broken land. 
 
God, in your mercy, hear us.
 


Relevant

rel·e·vant/reləvənt    adjective: relevant

closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand.

“the applicants experience is relevant to the job”

synonyms: pertinent, applicable, apposite, 

 
material,
to the point, germane,
connected, related, linked…
×
________________________________________________________________________________________________
 

“Face it,” the young millennial said, “The Church isn’t relevant anymore.  It’s not you. It’s the whole church in general—it’s just not relevant.” 

It felt like a punch to the gut.  Not relevant??  What does that even mean-not relevant? So I took a deep breath and said, “You have other things you would rather do on Sunday?” 

“Yeah, but it’s more than that. Church is just not important anymore.” 

“Well,” I said, ‘How do we make it more relevant?”

“You can’t,” the millennial said before walking away, “It’s bigger than you. My generation doesn’t need church like you did. You can’t change that.”

Under my breath I muttered, ‘Watch me, I have ‘connections’.”
______________________________________________________________________
 
I went straight to my connection, a hot-line to God to complain who threw it right back at me.   Connections.  That is the point, isn’t it? It’s the mission of the church, sharing a meaningful connection with Jesus Christ, greatest hero of the universe. But, how many of us have ever shared even one personal story of that relationship with our kids?  They only know what they see or hear.  If we hold all those spiritual stories of connections deep inside our Minnesota niceness, well…our kids will never know a single reason for being connected to Jesus, let alone attend the church that points the way. 
We will just be a bunch of nice people visiting on Sunday morning.
 
Church, I have to tell you something.  It’s not me, it’s you. Millennials expect it from me, but you—that’s proof that church is more than nice people.  Why?  Because, if we have no story after claiming a lifetime of a relationship with Jesus Christ, then there is no relevance and the millennials are right. Church, in the name of Jesus, show the millennials why!  Share YOUR faith stories about ‘why Jesus matters’. Share it out loud so our kids hear it!  Write it, claim it, speak it at JAM, put it the newsletter, or post it on our web site.
 
But, don’t hold it in! Faith is NOT personal; it is meant to be shared! Faith in Jesus Christ IS relevant-for millennials, Gen-X, baby boomers, and the next ones coming!

 

Be bold. Be faithful. Be connected. Be relevant.—SHARE YOUR STORY. 



God Happened

God hacross sunsetppened one Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago.  I learned about it after the fact, after the collection was given, the check was written, and one of our own headed to the cities to present the donation.  God happened here, and then again there in a Minneapolis neighborhood with a Baptist church we do not know. God happened in both locations at the very same time and it never made the news.

 A few days earlier, Bruce B. sent an email requesting financial help for needy kids at Zion Baptist church in the cities, a church that he was connected to in his missional work. Zion Baptist was doing an awesome ministry, helping kids get to camp, especially the neighborhood kids who were not members of any faith community.  The church was planted in a neighborhood struggling with poverty, crime, and stress along with wonderful families trying to help their kids navigate it all. Zion Baptist stepped in to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and raised money to send those kids to church camp along with their own.  But, the response was overwhelming and soon Zion found that they were short the money to send the additional neighborhood kids to camp. 

That’s when God happened.  It was a Tuesday.  God tapped Bruce on the shoulder, who then tapped me on the shoulder, who then sent it to the missions committee, and ultimately to the whole church body by the following Sunday morning. God spoke, we listened and then collected a special offering on a random, hot Sunday in July. The kids were going to camp the next day and time was of the essence, but God already knew that.
 

Bruce shared the story about Zion’s ministry which was a lot like our own, reaching kids for Jesus.  Bruce described the neighborhood we prayed for a few Sundays back, praying for the children who were living in the chaos. God listened to LeSueur UMC and to Zion Baptist who, it turns out, were praying too and that’s when God happened, again.

 Bruce left our 9 am service with a check collected from our rural church filled with folks who did not know anyone in that neighborhood, but they wanted to help “Bruce’s Kids.”  Now, Bruce was going to be late for the Zion service, but God already knew that. 

The pastor at Zion was praising his community for raising additional funds to help send the kids to camp the next day,  but they were still short funds, $2000 to be exact.  That was precisely when Bruce arrived at Zion, with a check for exactly $2000 in his hands.  Yup, God happened. This time, it was a Sunday.

 We called that grace. John Wesley called it prevenient grace, a big term that meant God moved all of the pieces of the puzzle into place before anyone in LeSueur or that Minneapolis neighborhood even knew that a puzzle was being created.  God connected two very different churches who both loved kids, Jesus, and grace.

Here’s to God grace happening in your life!

 Pastor Terri 



I Left the Church Over Pie

 I lost my faith over blueberry pie made with little duck cutouts on it.  I re-arranged time I didn’t own between kid sports, supper, homework, pets and working full-time.  The church ladies had a festival and 2 pies were required of every woman. Men didn’t make pie; they just ate it. I offered a monetary donation knowing that I was already over the edge of sanity. Nope-everyone (woman) had to make 2 pies.

blueberry pie

“How many do they need?!?
 
“Two homemade pies per person (woman).”
 
“Why do we need that many?  The calculator in my head was spinning.
 
“Because we  always  ask for 2 pies each (woman).” 
 
It didn’t matter how much overtime I put in at work, or the fact I was single parenting it with duties at home. I HAD to make pies. It was my church DUTY. So, I made two perfect, blueberry pies from scratch because frozen wasn’t acceptable.  It took all of my reserves to pull them from the oven at 11:30pm and stop the cats from tasting them.  
 
I got up at 5am the next day and arranged a rendezvous  to get my pies to the church before I headed off to work.  I skipped lunch to leave work early, and arrived at the church to help the late shift clean up. I was already exhausted. Then, I saw my pies, pushed to the back of the counter not even touched, not scored, not served, full and wholly intact.  

“Why?”

“We didn’t need that many after all.”

If this had been the first time, I might have let it go, but it wasn’t.  It happened before—twice to be exact, along with a special six-week choir practice for music that was never performed, an extensive list of asks claiming ‘no one else could do this but you’, and now my blueberry pies were untouched.  I didn’t need a thank-you for my efforts; just needed to know that my service was important instead of unnecessary.  My soul was empty. My faith was burned.

I left the church over pie.

It took weeks of healing before I returned –to a different church to be exact. I missed God and church.  I wanted to show my kids how to jump into a God-filled mission and put faith into action. I found a productive mission that recharged my energy and I didn’t have to bake a pie to prove membership.
 
I think about that every time we need volunteers, especially among busy families. What can we do to make their lives easier and not busier?  Do we need that many volunteers? How will their labor matter? 
 

Today, I look at the effort going into the ministries of Wednesday night JAM (Jesus and Me) and Children’s Church, painting the class rooms bright colors, and all of the planning for one very important mission: reaching kids for Jesus. I see renewed energy in the giving and the mission knowing that the labor matters.

Yes, a few more JAM volunteers would help teach, feed families, mentor kids, but–if you’re feeling so stretched you cannot humanely do anything else,    I get it!  No pies.   I only ask this—grab the kids and come for supper.  Eat. Be fed.  

JAM starts Wednesday Sept 7th   at 6 pm–with supper– in the LeSueur UMC social hall where souls are fed and faith is refreshed.  See you Wednesdays at JAM. 
 
Pastor Terri


Pray for Peace? Colossians 1: 1-14

For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,  so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.  Colossians 1:9-10 (NRSV)

 Our beloved United States is consumed by violence. Black lives, policemen, gays, innocent children, gangs and those struggling with mental illness-all victims of violence.  It is evil.  It is violent.  It is dark.  And, we are scared.

 Hate and anger escalate with every gunshot fired or bomb detonated.  Tension is thick on all sides making the next explosive act of violence a breath away.  We are just one shot away from another incident, another victim, another family in grief and another day in the life of America. And, we are sad.

 “Pray for Peace” is plastered across the internet.  “Stop the violence” fills the cries of the families on the news.  “Hands up, don’t shoot” chants the protesters.” Shots ring out. Officers falls. Black lives are lost.  No one wins.  No one is the victor except fear and darkness.

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.

Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”       Martin Luther King, Jr.-1967

“Pray for peace” is such an overwhelming request and, yet, I find it a shallow set of words masquerading as a prayer. “I did my part, now I can go back to my busy life and ignore the world around me.”  Is peace and prayer really that simple, that easy, and that cliché?  

Almost daily I read social media “theologians”, politicians, and everyday Americans claiming that we are a Christian nation-one nation, under God.  They dare me to prove that I agree:  click ‘like’ and ‘share’.   Seriously?

 Do we as a nation bear any resemblance to Jesus Christ these days? Do we bear the marks of the Holy Spirit that proves that this is so?  Do we show each other, let alone the world, that “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23) truly live within us? Do we love as Christ has loved us?  Do we radiate Christ?

 No. We are far from a Christian nation.  We are a shell of humanity without a healthy soul to fill it. We are not who we say we are. We are broken, fearful, hurt, angry, and fill that void in our hearts with bitterness and hate. We shut our doors. We avoid our neighbors. We cluster with others who feel and look like us.  We close our hearts.  We shut out peace.

 Pray for peace?  No, not yet.  Let us first, fall on our knees and pray that we get over ourselves and admit that we need more than a quick cliché of a prayer to return us to wholeness.  Pray that God remove that speck of brokenness from our own eyes and ask God’s grace to consume our fears and imperfections, and open our vulnerable hearts to the possibility that peace begins with us. 

 We pray that our empty hearts be made receptive to receive the “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control” that the world so desperately needs, especially right now.

 Pray for peace?  No, not yet. Let us pray for the needs of our neighbors, black, red, yellow and white and all of the beautiful shades in between that they have more than just enough to survive, that they live a life that is rich and full, that they know love and compassion from others around them.  Pray that they know safety and security in their own homes, that they can use the gifts that God gave them and find a calling in life that gives them dignity, hope and financial stability, which they, in turn, can share with others.

 Pray for peace?  No, not yet. Not until we pray for wisdom from above to fight injustice with Christ-like justice, that we fight hate with Christ-like love, that we listen more than we talk, that we do more than we boast, and that we put the marks of Christ on the hearts of the community around us. Let us be doers of justice and mercy, and active with kindness and love.  We pray that the tensions of violence diminish as, respect, understanding and patience rises together with Christ’s love.

 Pray for peace?  Do we know the power of prayer?  Do we know the power of action?  Do we know the power of love? Do we truly know that Light illuminates the darkness and extinguishes it?  Let us extinguish the darkness with prayer, action, love and Christ’s Light.

Let us pray that we will be the vessels for peace, that we will seek the marks of a true Christian, bearing love and not guns, that we will gather together to pray for one another needs, and that we will be filled with the peace of Christ that passes all understanding.   That is a lot to for which to pray, but let us pray none the less. Let us pray that we will be the peacemakers, bear the fruits of the Spirit, and live the life that Christ called us to live with one another.

 We as a people have lived too long in darkness.  We have let others determine our course in life.  We have run in fear and have not stood up to words of hate, to bullies, to prejudice, to negative rhetoric, and to inappropriate slang.  We claim to have the Light of the World, yet we have not invited others to share in that Light, keeping it too tightly hid in our sanctuaries.

 Pray for Peace? No, not yet. Not until we pray that Jesus fills our hearts and the Spirit moves among this church. Let us pray for courage to witness with words and actions, to share the light of Jesus in dark places.  Let us grow in our faith by gathering together and supporting each other in small groups.  Let us grow in our faith by learning more about the God to whom we address as ‘Our Father’. Let us grow in grace, sanctifying grace, the grace that John Wesley calls being made perfect, the grace that pulls us closer to God and to each other, to be made more perfect in love.

Pray for peace?  It’s time. Now we pray with the fruits of Spirit, bearing the marks of Christ, caring for the needs of people, and sharing the Peace of Christ with others in the world.  

Pray for Peace?   Go in Peace. Be the vessel of Peace.  Live with others in Peace.  Let the Light of Christ’s Peace shine within you.  And remember to pray, as Paul says, “without ceasing” for others that they, also, may bear the fruit of the Spirit, Christ’s Holy peace, AMEN

Go in the name of the Father of Peace,

God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace,

and the Holy Spirit that fills us with inner Peace.   AMEN



The Church slipped away….

“Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” Acts 2: 46-47

 

Something happened, somewhere, sometime when the world wasn’t looking—the church slipped away.  No longer was it the center of the community or daily lives.  People moved around it like a sign in the middle of the road saying ‘event ahead’, a nuisance to those who just wanted the freedom to drive the road to and from everyday life without stopping at ‘the event’.   
 
 The church became the building, an iconic relic with beautiful features inside reminding those who entered that God was present, the Resurrection happened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon the faithful.  Inside was a peaceful place to find God, sit with God, and fill one’s cup to face the world outside.  Then, the church locked its doors—to keep it safe. The world could not enter except on Sunday and then ALL of the splendor-of-God was revealed– for 60 minutes plus time for coffee.  The building was secured while the church slipped away.
 

 But, the people outside needed what was found inside of that church, not the beautiful objects, but the Spirit hidden between the pews. What to do?  Suddenly, the doors swung open to find the people, ALL THE PEOPLE, to lead them back to the church of Christ. The church found them outside in their homes, in parks, at work and in life.  It happened in the Book of Acts with the Apostles, repeated itself with Martin Luther, then John Wesley, and now—with us. 

The Holy Spirit called the church to stand up and move!
 

This fall, our doors swing wide open to the people on Wednesday night, starting with the youngest of our people: the children and youth who need to know Jesus personally. 

Our plan: JAM-Jesus and Me.

 5:30- Devotions,  6 pm- Family supper-all ages,  6:30-7:30- Youth and Family Worship and

Bible school for 3 yrs – 12th grade. 

 

It is bold. It is courageous. And, yes, it is audacious! We ask the Holy Spirit to nudge and call those in the church to share the food and the Gospel with the children outside the church, adding to the numbers of those being saved. 

 In Christ name,

Be bold and be blessed, 

Pastor Terri



Nothing stays the same.

Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, and when you look back everything is different… 

“Prince Caspian”, C.S. Lewis

 

When I was 3 years old, I asked my Mom if I was ‘big’ enough to reach the counter.  I wanted to turn on the faucet, wash dishes, and fry an egg without standing on a chair and getting ‘help’.  I wanted to be tall enough to reach the light switch and open the front door all by myself.  I wanted to change, grow and reach to become.

 

Then I blinked and was driving the family car for errands, involved in my own activities, and off to college to become a big person.

 

I blinked again and found myself an adult, driving kids from practice to games and back again. They also wanted to change, grow, and reach to become.

 

But, I blinked one more time, and my kids were gone, off to do their own things in life.  Now, I want to control the change, to stay the same, which era I don’t know, but the one that makes me feel good and safe and secure——yeah that one!

 

Yet, we want to LIVE life, not repeat it. Change is the rhythm of life, I guess, like the seasons that come and go.  To live is to change,  grow and reach to become.

 

But where are we headed?

 

You will see more Mustard Seed Groups to help us grow into Christ.  Why, because people search for authenticity in church communities. They want spirituality to be real and not more to do.  And, they want Jesus who came to make life good, not busy.  For that reason, we are researching the possibility of a Wednesday night bash, complete with meals and Jesus and kids and church and…(whew!) for those busy kids and parents who are going five different directions on the weekend but still want time with Jesus.  Stay tuned.

 

Remember when we boiled coffee in large pots for church dinners?  Who wants to go back to that era?!  In the next few months, you will see changes to our web site, even a church app,      on-line giving and discussion of capital improvements necessary for the future just to keep up with life—and to keep the heat on as our furnaces near the end of their life span!

 

But, it brings us to an amazing place—just what can we do with this wonderful group of people called church?  Who can we reach to change and grow?   How will we use this huge resource, our building, with all its rooms and spaces for that very purpose?  Ah, the future is promising as we change, grow and reach to become.

 

Now, off to get a cup of freshly brewed coffee from that new coffee maker downstairs.  No boiling necessary. 

 

Terri

 May 2016

 



Face it, we’re God’s cats

I close the door, collapse onto my couch and melt into the cushions. The marathon effort to deliver a meaningful Holy week and Easter is officially ‘over’.   I am off the clock and wilt into my couch. 

 

The cat opens one eye and realizes the presence of her servant, me.  The other eye pops open and she slowly stretches to greet me, eventually jaunting over to her empty dish to let out a mournful cry.  My gifts of service are required and my rest period officially declared ‘finished’.

 

It’s a funky kind of relationship between owner and cat. I serve although I am the master of the house. I am responsible, pay for pet care and food, while she sleeps her life away in a sunny spot on the softest piece of real-estate she can find.  Makes me wonder how God sees us?

 

God’s Son just paid the ultimate service in human history:  a crucifixion and resurrection just 3 days apart. Are we impressed? Think about it.  Our Master died in service to us even though we were undeserving, demanding, self-absorbed, and insistent about wanting more in our dish.  Maybe that is why God gave us cats, huh, to better understand the relationship of Jesus’ sacrifice and grace despite a world that demands more and appears indifferent?

 

Face it.  We are the cats in God’s world!  We acknowledge God when we need something, but ignore God unless it serves us in some way.  We seldom tolerate other cats, and prefer life to be on our own terms.  Feed me and I’m yours.  Otherwise, go away. I don’t need you now.

 

Pretty amazing that God still loves us. Even more amazing is the effort that God chose to get our attention, Jesus.

 

The cat is now curled up next to me, purring, and wanting to be in my presence. It’s one of those little God moments when she wants me for myself and without a need.   It is these moments that God longs for with us, to spend time in God’s presence without request or condition, to retrieve us back into a relationship together.  “Be still and know that I am God.”   I reach for my morning devotion.   I am with God curled up on the couch.

 

If only I could purr.
April 2016


Live outside of the box

Well, it happened, that dreaded event that comes after every Christmas: packing up the tree, decorations, sparkling lights, assorted ribbons and wrapping paper; and then, stuffing everything back into boxes that are already too full to close. The lights go out and Christmas goes dormant. Somewhere in those boxes goes the Christmas spirit of love, joy, hope and peace.  Yup, we just box up all the excitement and happiness of the season, and stuff it into a dark closet somewhere in the bowels of the basement, lost until we trip over it sometimes this summer looking for the camping gear.  Then, for a brief moment, we remember the season of love and joy, only to toss it aside for the inflatable raft.

 

So, it is no wonder that we miss the season, buried under a mountain of clutter, and forced to ‘go dark’ until next fall.  But what if it didn’t have to be this way?  What if we were ‘radical’ Christmas people? 

 

Not the ‘I’ll keep my yard decorated with crispy garland and sun bleached ornaments in July” kind of Christmas people.  No! I mean the Christmas people that let the light of Christ STAY in their live with the love, joy, peace and hope living on inside of them.  Those are the people of Christmas.  Radical, huh?

 

So, pack up the boxes with decorations, but keep Christ out of the box!  Let Jesus be the reason for your life, not just the reason for the season in December.  Be a Christ-mas person every morning from now until the tree goes up next year.  You just might be the Christmas that someone else needs to know this year and that is called living the Gospel out loud.  

Go ahead, Christmas people!  Live outside of the box! 

 

Happy New Year
January 2016