Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Christmas Song for Our Youth Ministry

Away in a youth room no room for purple
And gluten free diets are such a hassle
Yet all the dear children in our tender care
Are thriving for Jesus is always there.

The kids are all lowing like Chick-fil-a cows
But dear Rusty Rivers no compassion he vows
And Joe with his eyebrow fixed high to the sky
Is spooning with Rusty til morning is nigh.

The stars in the sky look down on our youth
As they grow close to Jesus and learn the Truth
We love thee Lord Jesus but we always ask "why?"
The kids don't read emails and texts or reply.

Be near us Lord Jesus in 2015
As Red Bird and Eastgate we fit in between
A lot of good lessons we lead and we pray
Will fit us for heaven with Thee to stay.

Friday, November 28, 2014

I'm Full of It!

Romans 15:13 New International Version (NIV)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I'm full of it and you should be too! Perhaps by now you've guessed that I'm not talking about the turkey. Or shopping. Or Christmas movies. I'm talking about joy. Or JOY as I like to type it.

What am I so JOYFUL about? Advent. Preparing the way for Christmas. So what does that mean?

Watching Elf 25 times? Going on a sugar binge? Buying Bey Blades for the second time (who knew my daughter would want one?)? Decorating? Carols?

No. Even though some of those things bring me joy, there is so much more to this season than changing the radio station each time "The Christmas Shoes"comes on the air. 

I'm not limited to JOY during this time of year but it is helpful as I reflect on this season to list my JOYS. My list is of JOYS is exhaustive but here are my top three at this moment.

1) Abundant Life: I have life with a purpose. I love my family and love what I do. I'm blessed to be able to serve God the way that I do and I enjoy how much I constantly learn each day.
2) The Presence of God: I have been focusing on the presence of God this year and have been amazed at the ways in which God makes Himself known to me. 
3) Growth: You would think at some point you'd move beyond growth spurts but when you think of growth in spiritual and intellectual terms then growth spurts are a wonderful thing. I know that I have so much more to experience in terms of my faith and so much more to learn along the way and I'm thrilled at the possibilities.

So I'm full of JOY! If you are too, let someone know that you are full of it too!

Until Everyone Hears,

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Apart (but not really)

Philippians 1:3 - I thank my God every time I remember you.

This is our first Thanksgiving away from many people that we love. I've known all year that this would be my first Thanksgiving away from my step-mom. She passed away on Dec 1 last year. At this point last year she was in hospice care and was incoherent. I don't really count that holiday as my last with her. I prefer to remember the other holidays where she laughed at everything, cooked way too much, and made us all remember how abundant life can be. This whole year I've missed her presence in ways that surprised me. I knew that birthdays and holidays would be tough but other times would catch me off guard.  I would eat something with coconut and remember her extreme hatred of this wonderful misnomer of a fruit.  I know she'd be thrilled to see how tall both my sons are. And I hate that she will miss so many things that my kids are doing. So as I list the things for which I'm thankful, I'm thankful that I'm missing Debbie. Because her presence in my life made life more vibrant and for that I am thankful.

This is also our first Thanksgiving without my Father-in-law. He passed away on Wednesday, November 19. I remember my first Thanksgiving after getting married. It was an amazing experience. Mr. Karafanda commanded the kitchen as he and a few others cooked for around 30 people. Since I came from a small family this was overwhelming in a good way. As dinner started we were upgraded from the children's table to the head table as it was our first Thanksgiving together. As each of our children were born, Gigi (as he was known to the children) showed his true colors as a baby whisperer. He would walk our babies around and sing "You Are My Sunshine"to each of them. I'm not sure where he learned this amazing gift, but I am still amazed at this nurturing side of him that gave us all a bit of sanity from crying babies. So as I list the things for which I am thankful, I'm thankful for John (Gigi) Karafanda. There maybe one less John Karafanda in this world but I am thankful for my-big-fat-Ukrainian-family and for the love he showed to me and my children.

Finally this is my first Thanksgiving since being married away from He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Tagged. He is with his mom and sisters in New York. It is just days after his father's funeral. The kids and I couldn't get up there for the funeral for a reasonable cost. So we have been apart for a few days and will be for a few more. In many ways its only a few more days but in other ways this separation feels more empty than the others. But in all things we are thankful. I am thankful that He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Tagged made it up to his father's side before he passed away. I'm thankful that He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Tagged is able to be there with his mother for a bit longer.

And I am thankful that my Thanksgiving won't be one apart from all of these people. They are all a part of me. I believe in the communion of saints. I believe that we will meet again and I believe that because of their place in my heart, they are never far away.

May God be with us and know that we are thankful.

Until Everyone Hears,

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Are We Thankful?

Philippians 1:3 - I thank my God every time I remember you.

Its been about a week and a half since Cokes Chapel, Cornerstone, Senoia and Newnan UMCs came together for a weekend River of Life mission trip.

Its hard to explain what happens on a mission trip. There are so many different variables involved that just trying to come up with a description is overwhelming.

But here are a few highlights. First the numbers:

  • The event was 17 months in the making. 
  • There were 288 hours of planning. 
  • 72 hours of a prayer vigil that included 4 states. 
  • 427 work hours (just in one day!). 
  • 63 facility hours. 
  • 92 kitchen hours. 
  • The kitchen prepared 52 lbs of meat. 
  • 180 pancakes. 
  • 112 gallons of beverages. 
  • 20 lbs of fruit. 12 were actually consumed. 2 were juggled. 
  • There were 40 students.
  • 6 worksites. (5 non-profits and 1 private home)
  • Infinite number of lives changed.
Of course it isn't about the numbers. What was most impressive were the stories that the students told as they came back. When we started planning the event, we thought we would be working on houses but as we got closer we discovered that the biggest need at the time was at non-profit locations. We were helping places that were helping others.We were working in our county so all of our mission sites served others in the local area. As the work teams came back, we discovered that their experience helped them learn about the community in which they lived. Many students didn't realize how much it cost to go to the doctor. Others were shocked at the number of homeless children in our county. Some discovered the importance of a safe place for those who experience abuse in their home.

One story in particular hit me right in the heart. One of our students came into my office and looked troubled. He really enjoyed his work site at Bridging the Gap, a non-profit that distributes food, toiletries, and household items each Saturday. He was so convicted by their work that he wanted to know why we weren't doing the same thing out of our church. He kept asking, "Why can't we do that here?" As we began to talk further, we felt the Holy Spirit moving in our conversation and convicting us to move forward in weekly mission out of our facility.

There's no telling what you'll discover when you become the hands and feet of Jesus. Each time you step out on faith is a journey that can take you on an adventure beyond what we can fathom.

The theme for our weekend was "Thankful." Words can't express how thankful we are for:
  • our students
  • their leaders
  • the experience of churches working together as one
  • the mission sites we served
  • the people we met
  • the stories we heard
  • the experience of mission
  • the messages during worship (from Chris Mucha at Fayetteville FUMC)
  • the music that spoke to us (from Newnan UMC's praise band)
  • the food that nourished us
  • the warm floors that we slept on
  • the families and homes we returned to
As we continue to hear stories from these students, we know that God is with us and is continuing to call us to work with Him to make disciples and transform the world.

Until Everyone Hears,

Monday, May 19, 2014

Why? How? Who? What? When? Where?

Answering Your Kid(s)' Questions:

Kids can ask some really strange, deep, beautiful and complicated questions. As parents we often feel the need to answer all of them, but how do we do that when we are still discovering answers for ourselves? Faith can be scary but the arrival of fear is not the arrival of failure. Remember these three things as we navigate faith within our families.
  • You don't have to have it all figured out. Peter didn't and he was the rock. Its okay if you don't too.
  • God knows you'll be afraid. How many times in the Bible do you hear, "Do not be afraid!" He may not want us to but he understand that we will be at times.
  • Pray - but pray for the right things. Perhaps instead of praying for answers, we should pray for God's presence in the process.
Faith is a journey. If you traverse it with your child, you will show them how to become and disciple in a much stronger way than just answering their questions.

Until Everyone Hears,

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Revival Through the Means of Grace: Communion

Communion. It is something that unites us all and yet because we all do things a bit differently, it can cause separation. If you are new to the UMC, you might have a few questions. Below are a few of the frequently asked questions about communion. If you don't have an answer here, feel free to ask. And if you are too rushed to read, check out the video of Chuck Knows Church and Communion. Oh and be sure to come to church this Sunday. It is Communion Sunday. Maybe you'll leave feeling a bit closer to God and a little less rushed.

Why do United Methodists call this sharing of bread and cup by different names, such as Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, and Eucharist?
Each of these names is taken from the New Testament and highlights certain facets of this sacrament’s many meanings. Calling it the Lord’s Supper reminds us that it is a meal instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ and hosted by him at his table whenever it takes place. Calling it Holy Communion reminds us that it is an act of the most holy and intimate sharing, making us one with Jesus Christ and part of his body, the church. Calling it the Eucharist, a term taken from the New Testament Greek word meaning thanksgiving, reminds us that giving thanks to God for all that God has done is an essential part of the meal. By using different names we acknowledge that no single name can contain the rich wealth of meanings in this sacred act. 
What do United Methodists mean when they call this act a sacrament?
Our Confession of Faith states: “We believe the sacraments, ordained by Christ, are symbols and pledges of the Christian’s profession and of God’s love toward us. They are means of grace by which God works invisibly in us, quickening [bringing to life], strengthening and confirming our faith in him. Two Sacraments are ordained by Christ our Lord, namely Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.” The term is taken from the Latin sacramentum, which was a Roman soldier’s pledge of allegiance. A sacrament is God‘s pledge of allegiance [love and faithfulness] to us, and our answering pledge of allegiance to God.
Do United Methodists believe that the bread and wine physically or chemically change into Christ’s flesh and blood in this sacrament?
No, we believe that the change is spiritual. They signify the body and blood of Christ for us, helping us to be Christ’s body in the world today, redeemed by Christ’s blood. We pray over the bread and the cup that they may make us one with Christ, “one with each other, and one in service to all the world.”
I am a Christian, but not a United Methodist. Am I invited to receive Communion in a United Methodist church?
Yes indeed. It is the Lord’s Supper, not ours, and it is Christ who invites you. As our ritual puts it: “Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another.” We do not refuse any who present themselves desiring to receive. Whether you should receive Communion with us is between you and God.
I do not wish to receive Communion because doing so would be disloyal to my religion or my denomination. May I attend a United Methodist Communion service and not receive Communion? Yes indeed. We do not want anyone to feel unwelcome because, for whatever reason, they do not choose to receive Communion. Simply remain seated when others go forward, or pass the bread and cup along if they are passed to you, and no one will question what you do.
Should I receive Communion if I feel unworthy?
Two thousand years ago Jesus ate with sinners and those whom others scorned. He still does. None of us is worthy, except by God’s grace. Thank God we don’t have to earn worth in God’s eyes by our goodness or our faith. Your sacred worth, and ours, is God’s free gift. No matter what you have done or what your present condition, if you want Christ in your life you are welcome at his table. Communion provides the opportunity for you to confess your sins, to receive forgiveness, and to indicate your intention to lead a new life.
May young children receive Communion?
Certainly. As The United Methodist Book of Worship puts it, “All who intend to lead a Christian life, together with their children, are invited to receive the bread and cup.” We remember that when some of Jesus’ disciples tried to keep children away from him he said: “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Mark 10:14 NRSV).
But do young children know what they are doing when they receive Communion?
Do they understand the full meaning of this holy sacrament? No, and neither do any of us. It is a wonderful mystery, and children can sense wonder and mystery. Children cannot understand the full significance of family meals, but we feed them at our family tables and at Christ’s family table. Young children experience being loved by being fed. They sense the difference between being included and excluded at a family meal. They have the faith of a child, appropriate to their stage of development, which Jesus recognized and honored. Indeed, he said to adults: “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:15 NRSV).
May I receive Communion without standing or kneeling?
Certainly. In some United Methodist congregations most persons receive Communion while standing, while in others most receive while kneeling; but you are always welcome to receive while seated. If others are kneeling at the rail, you may remain standing and you will be served. You may also come forward and be seated on the front row, or come forward in your wheelchair, and you will be served. Or you may notify an usher, and someone will come to you and serve you where you are seated.
If someone in my family wishes to receive Communion but cannot come to the church service, can Communion be brought to them?
Certainly. As an extension of the congregation’s celebration of the Lord’s Supper, Communion is brought to persons, wherever they are, who wish it but could not attend the service. This can be done by the pastor or other clergy, or by designated laypersons.
Is Communion possible at weddings, at healing services, or at funerals or memorial services?
Yes. If you wish to arrange this, talk with your pastor.

Until Everyone Hears,

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Faith Sharing

I have a hard time explaining "Faith-Sharing" to others. Not because I don't believe we shouldn't do it but because I really don't know how you wouldn't do it. I don't understand the term "Evangelical Christian" because I think its redundant.

Jesus is Good News and Evangelical means believing in the Good News. I guess the confusion sets in when you try to distinguish how enthusiastic you are about believing the Good News.

To me, "Faith-Sharing" is about living your life the way that Jesus calls us to live. But one component of that is telling others this Good News. I feel like our culture today, shuns this a bit because we don't want to offend those who don't believe the same way we do. So I'm embedding a youtube video from Penn Jillette (the magician/entertainer). He's an atheist and has the best explanation of why Christians should share our faith than any preacher I've ever heard.

Until Everyone Hears,