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Essential

Caroline Noll, Associate Pastor

It is one of the new buzzwords: essential.

I actually prefer this word to another contender for buzzword of the year: zoom.
 
Essential is everywhere.

In my neighborhood there are homes with white ribbons tied around their trees in support of those on the front lines in this crisis.

I have also heard numerous news stories exploring our growing understanding of essential workers.
 
In our work in ministry, I have encountered this word in another way.

What is essential?
 
It reminds me of the questions my mentor and teacher in ministry would bring to meetings when I was new in church work.

We would gather for our first Promotion Sunday, or Vacation Bible School, or Easter Fellowship event planning time.

After opening us with light and prayer, before we ever got to logistics and nuts and bolts, she would intentionally slow down our time and ask, what is the purpose of this event?

Why do we do this?

It was another way of asking, what is essential?

If we know why we do ministry, the what and how is easier to sift through.
 
Now a newer mentor in ministry has been asking this question of our children’s ministers each week.

We know we can’t do what we would do in the church building in exactly the same way online and with social distancing, so what is essential in the work of ministry?

Here is what has been on our hearts:
 
Safety
Connection
Joy
Time with Christ, with God
Love
Community
Holding space
 
There is another big item on the list. Self-care.

The internal resources just to function in these days, much less be creative and productive, are enormous.

And we all know that we cannot give when we are empty and drained.

We must be connected to a deep well that fills us up. We must spend time there.

Oddly enough, that list of self-care looks very similar to the list for ministry.

What is essential?

Personal safety, connection with God, with others, and with something bigger and hopeful.

Time with God. Love of family and friends. Being part of a community. Knowing those who will hold space for me.
 
What is essential?

Jesus reminds us in Luke’s gospel, beginning in 12:22. 
 
Do not worry about your life (we are), or what you will eat (can you say hoarding?) or about what you will wear (well at least we’ve gotten over that one).

Consider the ravens, the lilies, and as you do, know that you are essential to God.
 
Consider these things. Consider what is essential. For there we find the kingdom.

Headlines

Eldred Marshall, Artist-in-Residence, Associate Director of Music Ministries

The headlines we see during the midst of this pandemic are depressing and scary.

However, even in the midst of uncertainty and pain, I find myself turning to the Bible in order to bring about mental and spiritual clarity.

The Word of God sustains. 

Here are some Bible verses in response to some recent news: 

“Tyson Foods Exec Warns of Meat Shortage – A major breakdown in American food supply”

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

– Matthew 6:26-27 (KJV)

 
“Shelter-in-Place Order is Extended”
 
Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

– Psalm 91:9-11 (KJV)

 
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

– Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)

 
 “Jobs or Health? Restarting the Economy Threatens to Worsen Economic Inequality”
 
If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

– 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 (KJV)

 
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon (money).

– Matthew 6:24 (KJV)

 
“Afraid to be a Nurse – Health Workers Under Attack”
 
I will say of the LORD, HE is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.

– Psalm 91:2, 5-6 (KJV)

 
“Can We Trust the Experts?”
 
A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels.

– Proverbs 1:5 (KJV)

 
Let us continue to pray without ceasing and to minister unto ourselves, our friends, our family, and our neighbors as best we can.

A change is among us

Yolanda Pendleton, Director of Missions, Community Outreach & Advocacy

As a child I remember my grandmother saying, “A change is among us.” 

I never imagined we would be sheltered in our homes, or wearing masks for our own protection. 

I’m guessing sometimes our surroundings have to change to get our attention. 

I’ve never been isolated like this before. 

Why are we limited? 

Is it to use this time of isolation to realize God has the right pieces to make the puzzle of life fit together? 

Is it to give us hope? 

I still have hope. 

We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul

Hebrews 6:19 

God’s mighty grace gives me hope everyday. 

Our world today so desperately hungers for hope. 

My hope is one day there will be no separation, and we will love all as we love ourselves. 

We will spread love in our homes, communities and churches without despair. 

In every season of life, whether we are celebrating, mourning, rejoicing, questioning or trusting, we can hold fast to hope.

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,

and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,

and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. 

Romans 5:1-5

Spirit and truth

Kitty Williams, Director of Music Ministries

As many of you know, Pure Joy! Youth Choir was on the 2020 Choir Tour to St. Louis during Spring Break.

We had a wonderful time sharing our music, fellowshipping and enjoying all the many amazing places in St. Louis.

Thank you SO much for your support to the youth through Stock Sales, Rummage Sale and Dessert Show.

They are so thankful to this loving congregation of First United Methodist Church Garland!

We couldn’t do it without you! We love you! THANK YOU!

Upon returning on AMTRAK the Thursday morning before Friday the 13th, Clay Jenkins ordered that there be no large group gatherings. That meant no church activities. 

Little did we know when we exited that train and traveled to our homes, life would no longer be as we knew it.

The Sunday we were in St. Louis (March 8) was a special Sunday here in Garland.

I was disappointed to miss Kimberly Ingram preaching, and Caroline Noll reading as Yolanda Pendleton and Patrick LaBruyere enacted “The Woman at the Well.”

I was finally able to watch the service on YouTube a day ago.

This was the last service before the Clay Jenkins announcement and sheltering in place.

As the scripture was read and the word proclaimed, I thought, “How appropriate!”

Little did we know the scripture would yet again be enlightened by our current situation.

Read these words from John 4:19-24 … 

The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.

“You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”


When I heard this read, my mind immediately rephrased it to say … 

The hour is coming when you will neither worship in your sanctuary, nor any other sanctuary.”

I don’t know about you, but I miss singing together and hearing the hymns and anthems; uniting our voices to declare, “We are not alone!”

I miss all of it – you beautiful people, the beautiful windows and banners!

Yet the rephrased words speak in my heart … 

“You will neither worship in your sanctuary, nor any other sanctuary …”

Am I to truly worship just in my house?

Then I read Jesus’ continued words … 

“…the Father seeks … those who worship in spirit and truth.”

The thought of Sunday worship in my house reminded me of a little book I received when I was young called My Heart, Christ Home. It is based on Ephesians 3:16-19.

It’s a little book that encourages you to invite Christ fully into every room of your heart because Christ cares about every aspect of your life.

Christ gave himself fully and wholly for us.

Giving yourself fully and wholly to Christ will allow you to know the breadth, length, height and depth of his love.

This will give you the peace that passes all understanding.

You don’t have to be in a big worship service to give yourself to God.

You can humbly give yourself to Christ right there in your own space.

You will receive the living water that Jesus describes to the woman at the well.

 So my prayer is the prayer that Paul prayed for the church people of Ephesus … 

“I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, Christ may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.

“I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”


Peace to you,

Kitty

Our God is bigger

Yolanda Pendleton, Director of Missions, Community Engagement & Advocacy

Look at opposing political factions working together in this crisis, when 90 percent of the time they can never agree to anything due to pure selfishness.
 
It is an example of what could happen so we truly could be the best nation on the planet.
 
Our God is bigger than our mess.

I still trust God.
 
So what do I choose to do during the coronavirus pandemic?

I trust God more than before.

Two painters were asked to paint their view of peace.
 
One painted this awesome, snowcapped mountain with beautiful flowers of all types below the foothills.

It was truly beautiful.
 
The other painted a picture of a storm with lightning, thunder and horrific rain and wind blowing all around where everything was unsettled.

When you looked under the old oak tree, you could see a bird clinched to a limb sleeping in total peace when everything around him was falling apart.

All the judges agreed that the latter was the true example of peace in Christ.
 
The world is crumbling behind the pandemic.

I choose to hold on to him who created the world, and holds the world in his hands.

Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.– 2 Thessalonians 3:16 (KJV)
The Lord bless thee,
and keep thee:

The Lord make his face
shine upon thee,
and be gracious unto thee:

The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee,
and give thee peace.
– Numbers 6:24-26 (KJV)

Story people

Caroline Noll, Associate Pastor and Pastor for Children and Families

On a recent trip to visit my brother and his family out of state, we wandered through some funny little shops in a beach town near where he lives, and I stumbled back into the artwork of Brian Andreas (found also at flyingedna.com) that I remembered from years ago in a little shop in Salado.

I joyfully flipped through a stack of prints, trying to find the perfect one until I saw the calendars. 

Jackpot.

Each month features one of his delightful “story people” as I remember them being called.

The days of the month are scattered with the usual “daylight savings begins” and “St. Patrick’s day” reminders in addition to the more random and joyful “burst into spontaneous song day” and “stories about light day.”

I’m 90 percent sure he makes these up.

I’ve started following his story people, everyday angels, and other artwork on social media.

So many of them are full of joy and light.

So many help me come to a new understanding, or rather to come to a very old understanding that I tend to forget on a regular basis.

So many of the messages are musings, reminders of who we really are, of who I am really created to be.

Reminders to stop pretending, remember, breathe, see and notice.

He talks of love and magic and heroes and light, of gratitude and quiet and simply being.

The art reminds me to resist being shaped by fear, to let my heart balance my head, and to be grateful rather than critical. I love all the ways the Spirit speaks to us in the world.

This artwork, along with so many other messages, keeps bringing me back to the beginning.

“Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image,’” (Genesis 1:26) and God breathed the breath of life (Genesis 2:7).

With the breath and image of God within us, how can we cease to have hope in the very nature of our neighbors in this world and in ourselves, to put away an understanding of ourselves that is shattered and restore it with an image of children of the living and loving God.

I’m glad I have the calendar with every day of the year, because I need to ground myself in my new old understanding every day.

And I’ll keep reminding you as well. You are a blessing.

Honoring my mother

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

– Exodus 20:12


Indulge me, if you will, in a bit of selfish and personal reflection.

God has given me much for which to be thankful in my nearly 66 years on this earth. Nothing more so than my beautiful mother.

Mary Eudella Remscheid. She goes by Eudella, or Grandma Della to the grandkids.

A mere 20-years old when I was born, she was the oldest of three sisters. So my grandfather threatened to throw me out the window if I was a girl. Mom responded by having three boys!

Not quite 11 years after I was born, my dad was killed in an auto accident on an icy road one winter morning on the way to work, leaving my brave mother to raise three boys on her own.

And she did so fearlessly.

After Dad died, we moved from Haysville (a Wichita, Kansas suburb) to Pittsburg, Kansas to be near our grandparents and several aunts, uncles and cousins.

It wasn’t long after that when Mom, not wanting us to miss out on anything for lack of a father, did what most of our relatives told her was unthinkable. She embarked with her three boys on a road trip vacation to California and Disneyland.

We didn’t miss out. Then or any other time as we were growing up, thanks largely to the love and unselfishness of my mom. 

Now 85, Mom is preparing for another long road trip with me. In a couple of weeks, I’ll be flying to Florida and driving back with her as she comes to live with my wife Marcy and me.

Mom’s not quite as fearless or independent as she used to be. And she needs more help these days than she would ever care to admit.

As many who have been through the experience of caring for an older relative can no doubt attest, it will not be easy introducing another person – even a loved one – into our daily lives.

And she has a dog!

Tiger will be joining the Buford menagerie, which already features a dog and a cat. (I fear Murphy and Sophie will not be pleased.)

But Mom set a wonderful example of love and courage in addressing head on the challenge of raising three boys on her own. Can I do less in return in her time of need? 

Can I love and honor my mother as she loved and honored me? 

Marcy has certainly stepped up to the plate and accepted the challenge, which is significant since she’ll be the one spending the most time with Mom while I’m at work during the week. Her example of courage and love is no less great than Mom’s in raising my brothers and me.

I pray that I’m up to the task. That I can live up to their example.

And that God will bestow upon me courage and strength. The same courage and the strength he gave Mom 56 years ago. 

Let’s be the light

Eldred Marshall, Artist-in-Residence, Associate Director of Music Ministries

This Christmastide, I opted to do something a little different. For the first time ever, I’m actually marking the 12 days of Christmas.

Why?

Because I want to enjoy the light for as long as I’m allowed!

In the mess that was my life towards the end of 2019, the one thing that kept me sane was our emphasis on “light” throughout Advent and Christmas.

More than once in the course of our December worship services, my mind wandered to the scripture “You are the light of the world … ” (Matthew 5:14).

Just yesterday during my workout, the verse (paraphrased) popped up in my head: “You are the salt of the earth – what good are you if you’ve lost your flavor? … ” (Matthew 5:13). 

Salt and light – two timeless metaphors that will remain with us until Jesus returns. Why are these verses so critical to us in this time?
 
In my almost 40 years on Earth, this is the first time I’ve seen “grown-ups” collectively dread a new year. And for good reason.

From implementation of the Traditional Plan and what that means for The United Methodist Church, its universities and our local church …

to the 2020 US presidential election and all it entails …

to Brexit and all that may entail for the global economy …

to issues more personal like aging parents or health worries …

We have plenty on our emotional plate.

This on top of whatever other curveball life may throw our way in our lives.
 
The world is in a period of darkness. It needs God’s light.  
 
God’s light is inside of us as Christians. We are that light.
 
Through faithful prayer and Bible study, we can keep our oil replenished so that our light shines brightly. This way, a weary world can enjoy the light.
 
May we keep the faith and draw closer to Him in this New Year.
 
Let’s be the light. And still, Merry Christmas!

Forever thankful

Give thanks to the Lord, our God and King, his love endures forever. 

This is the opening lyric of Michael W. Smith’s Forever, one of our ‘go to’ songs back when I sang with the praise band at St. Nicholas Episcopal in Flower Mound.

I sang the lead. The Michael W. Smith part. Not that I was ever mistaken for him, but that didn’t matter.

The band loved it. The congregation loved it. It’s upbeat. It has lots of energy. We sang it with passion. And the message – from Psalm 118 and 1 Chronicles 16:34 – is wonderful.

I’m reminded of this as I give thanks for the many blessings I enjoy. 

I’m thankful for another year of health and happiness. 

I’m thankful for my family. Especially for Marcy, my wife of 36 years.

And for my 85-years young mother Eudella, who with any luck will bless us with her world’s-best banana pudding when she visits this Christmas. 

I’m thankful for my church family at First United Methodist Garland. 

I’m thankful to be in ministry with Senior Pastor Valarie Englert and a dedicated, professional, passionate and spirit-filled church staff. 

And I’m especially thankful for a vocation that allows me to provide for my family while serving God’s kingdom. 

I’m thankful to live in a country where I’m free to worship as the Spirit moves me. To disagree with my friends and neighbors and still love them. And be loved by them.

I’m thankful for those working tirelessly on behalf of the less fortunate. In our city. In our country. On our borders. And around the world.

Most of all, I’m thankful for a God who loves me for who I am. And in spite of my faults.

Thankfully yours … 

Thanking God

Eldred Marshall, Artist-in-Residence, Associate Director of Music Ministries

“I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” 

Psalm 34:1 KJV

I learned this verse by memory as a kid thanks to two songs.

One was a campfire-type song I only heard sung in my church.

The other was I Will Bless the Lord (1999/2000), a contemporary gospel song by Hezekiah Walker

Throughout the Bible, we are exhorted to do certain things without ceasing: pray, give thanks and praise to God.

The older I get, the more I realize God tells us to do this not because he’s a megalomaniac, but rather He knows this is healthiest for us.

I don’t know about you, but my mind is singularly focused on the next ‘gig.’

In the busyness of my life, I feel it’s nearly impossible to set aside daily time to tell God “thank you.”

The older I get in this Christian walk, the more I realize this is not biblical – nor is it good for my psyche!

Thanking God daily for his grace and mercy is part and parcel of what it means to live our best Christian lives.

We are to praise God through the good and bad. We’re even told “… having food and clothing, we shall be content” (1 Timothy 6:8 NKJV).

Since God says “… My grace is sufficient for thee” (2 Corinthians 12:9 KJV), it’s not far-fetched to say thanksgiving should be every day!

As I enter the holiday season and 2020, I plan to start a new habit: to thank God daily for his blessings, great and small; to thank Him for whatever circumstances in which I find myself, good or bad.

I pray that you have a blessed Thanksgiving with your friends and family.