Be Like Jesus

The O’Fallon FUMC children ministries paired with Faith Lutheran Church to engage in a day of service for 3rd-8th graders. They went out into the community doing mission projects, worshipped, did games, and engaged in fellowship.  Here are pictures from the event.

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Intergenerational Ministry

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I love this picture.  Its not the most clear photo, and if you take a second look at it you might be confused as to who the subjects are, but the sentiments behind this pic are what make it so sweet.  You see, this is SnapChat face swap of my 13 year old daughter and her confirmation mentor, Joan Bowman.  The duo took a selfie together during one of their many meetings  this spring during which Joan taught Sophie the history of the seven churches in Revelation and Sophie taught Joan about the latest social media.  Sharing a love of Taylor Swift and a passion for Christ, these two built a beautiful friendship that transcends age.

Sophie and Joan exemplify an intergenerational relationship.  They have shown me how enriching it is to have friends outside your own age group and have caused me to think about the role of  here at OFFUMC.  It is my prayer that the young and old of this church can learn to respect, appreciate, and enjoy one another.

This past Friday, September 30, generational lines were again crossed, as 28 PreK students joined 50+ Prime Timers at a Lunch & Learn event.  Together the new friends talked, laughed, and created apple mosaics.  Long-time church member and employee of the Colonnade Senior Living Center, Kerry Turk, spoke of the benefits of cross-generational contact.

Young and old alike enjoyed time with new friends, and we look forward to future endeavors together.

Blessings,
Stacy Robinson, Children and Family Coordinator

See pictures from the Primetimers Lunch with the preschool kids here.

Spirit of God is Like the Wind

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Sometimes I like routines.  They help me remember what I need to do, when I need to do it, especially in the morning when I’m barely awake enough to do anything.  The familiar patterns of routine bring comfort, and predictability makes life easier.  And let’s be honest, the easier, the better. Right?  Maybe not.
Maybe that’s why people were always getting mad at Jesus; he was really good at disturbing patterns, upsetting routines, and calling people to the path less traveled—working on the Sabbath, breaking bread with the wrong people, questioning authority, contradicting strongly held teachings, forgiving those who deserved punished, and all but guaranteeing suffering and hardships.  Jesus was unpredictable.  Maybe that’s why he described the Spirit of God like the wind—you don’t know where it comes from, or where it’s going—as it blows through your life.

But Jesus wasn’t trying to cause problems for the sake of being a troublemaker.  Sure he stirred things up, but he did so because things had become some common, comfortable and routine; spiritual vitality was stagnant; routine had bred comfort, and comfort produced complacency. It can be said Jesus’ ministry was one of “comforting the afflicted, and afflicting the comfortable.”

Today, (September 30th) marks the tenth anniversary of that horrible day when Charles Roberts barricaded himself inside a one room school house in Lancaster, PA, and shot and killed five Amish girls before taking his own life.  Talk about how unpredictable life can be.  Who could have ever imagined such tragedy?  In the wake of such pain our prayers were for Christ to comfort those who were so heavily afflicted.

Then I listened to an interview with Terri Roberts, the mother of Charles Roberts. She described how, in the wake of such tragedy, the Amish community’s response was that of forgiveness for Charles, and how they embraced his family.  In the aftermath of the pain perpetrated by her son, she said, “we had a very private funeral for our son… as we went to the gravesite, we saw thirty to forty Amish start coming out from around the sight of the graveyard, and they surrounded us like a crescent, and love just emanated from them.”  She described how she would never forget the devastation caused by her son, and how it is forever embodied in the life of Rosanna, now 15; a young lady who suffered head injuries the day of the attack, and is now tube-fed, in a wheel chair, suffering seizures, and forever changed. For ten years now, Terri has visited Rosanna once a week and helps care for her—feeding her, bathing her, reading to her, and more.  One of the Amish fathers recently noted, “none of us would have ever chosen this, but the relationships that we have built through it… you can’t put a price on that.”  Terri said, “Their choice to allow life to move forward, is quite a healing bond for us, and it’s quite a message the world needs.”

They chose to allow life to move forward through love and forgiveness.  I don’t know about you, but this afflicts my natural tendencies.  It would be easier to let anger, fear, and uncertainty drive the patterns of life.  But the Amish Community and the Roberts family didn’t do that.  And neither did Jesus.  Troublemaker!

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Don Long

“Whyyyyy do I haaaave to go to school?”

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This is a popular question at the Robinson house especially as the end of summer is fast approaching. I usually answer, “because I said so,” but every once in a while, my husband will chime in with the extended response. “You have a lot to learn! There are facts, skills and experiences that are necessary for success later in life. You need to be able to follow directions, cooperate, work in a group, problem solve, etc., etc. etc., so you can grow-up to be a well-adjusted, productive member of society.” Then, I change the subject because secretly I wish summer was longer, too.

Regardless, we all know why our kids are in school, but, have you ever thought about why your family is (or isn’t) involved in a church community? What is the end goal?

Personally speaking, in a few years when my kids leave home, I pray they will have a relationship with God to carry them through hard times; that they will have an every day faith guiding their decisions; that they will experience the peace and joy only God can bring; and that one day, they will be called home to an eternal life with their Creator.

If you’ve landed at OFFUMC (or maybe just in this newsletter) with similar desires for your kids, know that God’s gift of salvation is given to all who will accept. But just as kids get more benefit from school when they give their best effort, so God multiplies our blessings when we intentionally pursue a relationship with Him. Growing with God takes time and repetition; There are truths to learn and skills to practice. It might involve some hard work and some home work. The process can be challenging, especially when we, as parents feel unprepared or ill-equipped, so the support and encouragement of a Christian community can make a huge difference. If OFFUMC can be that community for you, please contact one of our staff. We would love to walk alongside your family in their journey of faith.

Blessings,

Stacy Robinson

Children & Family Coordinator

 

An Invitation to Abundant Life

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“Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat!  Come buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?  Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.”  — Isaiah 55:1-2

As we prepare to begin a new school year, life often becomes busier.  Extra things get added to the schedule.  New routines begin.  Even if you are no longer connected to the school calendar, as the summer wanes schedules can get hectic.

Wherever you are in life, the invitation from Isaiah is one that is refreshing.  We are invited to come to the waters, to come and eat what is good and delight ourselves in rich food.  As the stress of life becomes overwhelming, this is an invitation that becomes very appealing.

For me the question that really resonates is “why do you labor for that which does not satisfy?”  So often we are busy, but not centered.  We have too much to do, but feel like we accomplish nothing.

As your schedules change and things get added, I would encourage you to meditate and pray over this passage from Isaiah.  Where do you need God to feed you?  What would you like from God if you could eat without money and without price?  What are you spending money or energy on things that do not satisfy?

Sometimes we need to let go of things that we love in order to find God.  And at other times, adding a few minutes of quiet prayer can transform a hectic day into a purposeful one.

If you find yourself longing for purpose and meaning in the midst of your busy life, I would encourage you to find a small group, a prayer group, or a Sunday School class.  We are working to keep our list of classes on the church website up to date.  Please contact me by calling the church or sending me an email rwilliams@offumc.org if you would like to get connected.

I pray that no matter what life brings you this new school season that you would be fed and filled with God’s good and satisfying grace.

Blessings,

Pastor Becky

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“To Go or Not to Go”

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“Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” ~ Hebrews 10: 23-25

In a recent article, “How Skipping Church Affects Our Children,” Carl Truemann was quoted as saying,

“The church is losing its young people because the parents never taught their children that it was important. I think that applies across the board. It applies to family worship, and it also applies to whether you are in church every Sunday and what priority you demonstrate to your children church has on a Sunday. If the sun shines out and their friends are going to the beach, do you decide to skip church and go to the beach? In which case, you send signals to your children that it is not important.”

Now before you stop reading because you figure this is just one of those articles that’s gonna make you feel guilty about not going to church, don’t!  I encourage you to read on.

The “How Skipping Church…” article goes on to remind us that simply being in church doesn’t guarantee a quality relationship with Jesus Christ or a vital faith, much the same way just showing up at the gym won’t help me get into shape and live a healthy life—there’s much more to it—but that’s a conversation for another time.  Instead I’ve been thinking about church attendance in the summer time, especially when you’re on vacation.

So, let me ask you a question: “When you’re on vacation, do you attend worship?”  Many summers my family and I vacation in Minong, Wisconsin, a small, quiet place in the northwest of the state.  We spend a week in a cabin on “Nancy Lake,” where we’ve been going for about 12 years, and where my family has been going for more than 50 years.  While there we visit “The River Church,” pastored by Ben Kidder.  It’s a great little church, and I’ve learned a lot.

First, as a pastor, it’s always nice to worship with my family.  I can go and be a “parishioner,” and that’s great, especially because it helps me see the life of church from your perspective.  Sometimes we forget to do that—to experience life through the eyes of someone else; consider what it’s like from a perspective different from our own.  When my family and I visit the church, we’re just that—visitors!  This helps me remember what it’s like to be a visitor.  I’ll never forget the FIRST time we visited “The River.”  We were nervous about what to do, where we should go, where we should sit (we didn’t want to sit in someone’s pew), what we could expect, what would there be for the boys, was it expected of them to go to “children’s church,” or could they stay with us?  There were so many questions, and the experience helped me remember that as a church, we only get once chance to make a first impression.

There’s a lot we assume guests know when they visit our church.  There’s a lot we don’t think about because “we know the routine,” and there’s a lot we overlook because we’ve lived with “it” (whatever it is) for so long.

I used to have a little Suzuki Swift that I loved to drive.  It didn’t have a radio, the turn signal switch was backwards, you had to jiggle the ignition to get it to start, and you had to hold the driver’s side window with one hand and crank it up with the other… it had a lot of idiosyncrasies that to me were endearing qualities, and made it MY car.  Becky hated to drive it, and so did everyone else.  Maybe that’s why I liked the cars “issues,” because then it was all mine.  So what about our church?

There are a LOT of great reasons why we should go to church, and one them, especially when we’re traveling and on vacation, is so we can remember what’s it’s like to be a visitor; to experience first-hand why “radical hospitality” is so important in the life of a growing congregation.

I love visiting other churches when I’m on vacation and when traveling to new places, because I get to hear great sermons, meet new people, collect good ideas for new ministries, gather resources, and most of all, remember what it’s like to be a visitor.  I come home with a new perspective: “it’s not about me.”

So, let us meet with one another, and as we do, let us never forget that when we gather we’re to encourage one another—especially the visitor among us—and remember that Jesus taught us: when we come, we come to serve, not seeking to be served.

In Surrender and Service to Christ,

Pastor Don

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His Word is a lamp

fireworks-227383_1280.jpgThe best Fourth of July fireworks show I ever saw was on a mountaintop in Colorado.  The summer after my first year in seminary, I worked with a program called A Christian Ministry in National Parks.  The program trains college and seminary students to provide worship for people camping in the National Parks.  I was blessed with the opportunity to live for the summer in Estes Park and work in Rocky Mountain National Park.  On July 4th, I went with a group of friends on a hike up a mountain to watch the fireworks.  It was an impressive display.  We could see 4 different shows at once.

 

On the way back down the mountain, we encountered some trouble.  It turned out that between myself and two other friends we only had two flashlights, and one of those flashlights barely worked.  We had a five-mile hike ahead of us, down a dark and twisting rocky path, and we were without adequate light.

 

However, I learned something very important that night.  When you are going on a five-mile hike, you don’t need to see the whole path at once.  You only need to see one step in front of you.  As I thought about this lesson, I remembered a conversation I’d had with my seminary professor right before I left for the summer.  I confessed to him that I was scared about going into ministry and unsure what the future would hold.  He responded by explaining to me Psalm 119:105.  (“Your word is a lamp for my feet, and a light for my path.”)  He told me that the lamps they used in this time were small little oil lamps that shone only a few feet in the darkness.  Often God doesn’t show us the whole path all at once.  Usually we get a just a few feet at a time.

 

As I hiked down the mountain with my friends, I learned that you really can hike a mountain only seeing a few feet at a time.  I should also mention that when we were maybe 2/3 of the way to the bottom, another group came behind us with headlamps.  They taught me two things.  One: if you are night-hiking, wear a headlamp!  Two, the journey is always easier when you have someone else’s light to brighten your path.

 

I tell you that story in order to say, that as we begin a new ministry journey together I feel like I’m holding a dim flashlight and peering into the darkness.  I trust that it will be a fun and exciting journey together, but I can’t see what will happen.  In the midst of my joy in coming to O’Fallon, I also have fears and doubts.  There will be some challenges in this new chapter of ministry.  I am peering into the darkness.

 

However, in spite of the darkness, I have two strong promises.  One, God has given us a light for our path.  God’s Word, the Bible, and Jesus, the Word of God, provide light for our path.  Second, I do not journey alone.  None of us know the future, but we do know that God has called us to journey together and share the light that we have seen.  And so, O’Fallon First United Methodist Church, let’s start hiking together!

Blessings,
Pastor Becky Williams
Associate Pastor

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