Devotionals
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Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - January 9, 2020

Good morning!
Last week you probably saw that the UMC was in the news. A cohort of 16 leaders of varying perspectives had been meeting for months with a professional mediator to help them decide terms of potential division (not exactly a split, since the denomination wouldn't be divided down the middle, but instead allows a gracious plan for a group that isn't prepared to live under a more inclusive polity). The cohort then released its "Protocol of reconciliation and grace through separation" on January 3, 2020. National media groups interpreted the protocol as an actual "split" in the denomination. This is not the case. The ONLY body within the UMC that could decide the terms of a "split" (or otherwise) is the General Conference (scheduled to meet in May in Minneapolis).

The protocol will be sent to the Judicial Council (like the Supreme Court) to rule on the constitutionality (per church law) of what is proposed. The protocol will be but one (or 4 or 8---or more depending on how many different pieces of law it will have to address) piece of legislation to be considered at General Conference. However, what it seeks to do is take precedence over the other proposals (because of the diversity of those who participated in forming it) in a way that would expedite the various types of meetings that need to take place (global, regional, and possibly a break-off group) assuming some type of separation.

The 16 representatives are from varying theological perspectives and are part of different groups in the UMC. They are people who have invested considerable time and energy into figuring out a possibility for moving forward without tearing apart the church so many of us know and love. They have tried to address some of the big issues that remain untouched with some of the other legislation (or possibly simply a place where there will be a considerable debate). Some of those areas include how we would fund the group/s that break off, how we would fund ministries aimed at traditionally marginalized or excluded people groups, how clergy might maintain their pension plan, and how all of us stay deeply invested in the global church. For an FAQ of the people and the process, click here.

It should also be noted that they are also not the only group to have been convening to determine avenues for a different future (within and without the UMC). Some of those groups and proposals were previously shared, and others are still in the midst of their work. Attached is a pdf of the different plans, pros and cons, and additional information. This may be too "deep in the weeds" for many folks but may be of great interest to others. Use it for what it is worth to you. It was put together by another clergywoman and can be helpful to see the plans compared side by side.

As I have said many times before, nothing is "sure" yet. General Conference (as a voting body) holds the power. Please be in prayer for each of the delegates and bishops as they read the legislation, pray for the church, seek wisdom, and are in conversation with others. In the meantime, we at Moscow FUMC will continue to live our faith as we love God and love neighbor.

As always, I am here if you have any questions.

Peace and grace,
Pastor Debbie

 

 

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Pastor Debbie's E Spire - December 19, 2019

I have a couple of close friends from over the years. Our friendship has been able to endure beyond distance and moves, marriage and kids. We check-in and talk here and there...texting more than talking most times. But on the holidays, there's a little extra needed. Some of us have hard family situations. At this point they're not surprising or unexpected, they're the same difficult family members we've struggled with before...but we need extra support for the holiday. One nitpicks. One always arrives late. One isn't ever happy with the gifts or the food, or the whatever. Some deal with (or rather don't deal with...) mental illness. You get it. I'd like it if our families were perfect. But they're not. They're human. And, truth be told, I'm human too, and I'm sure I have my own quirks and habits that drive them just as crazy.

The point is, those special friends know just how to hold space to help us vent, take a deep breath, and go back in with a smile on our face. They get us. They sympathize with our frustration, and they hold us accountable to rise above and offer our best selves.

This week in worship we will be looking at moving from scared to sacred in terms of our relationships. We acknowledge that the holidays can be tough--and we know that there are ways to find blessings and solidarity despite it all. As you look at your calendar for the next few days, have you dedicated some time to see the people you're excited to spend time with? Or at least carved out time to check in by phone? Offer some support and encouragement and be encouraged yourself?

If you haven't yet, I hope you do!

We hope to see you Sunday for worship at 10:30 or Christmas Eve at either 4:30 or 7 pm.

Merry Christmas,
Pastor Debbie

 

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Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - December 4, 2019

What do you want to do? It seems like a simple enough question. But I’ve found it can be really hard to answer. I started intentionally asking this question 15 years ago when I began practicing sabbath. I started claiming a full day for myself for sabbath rest(oration) and then I’d wake up on those mornings and ask, “What do I want to do?”

 

Maybe you have more motivation or clarity than I do, but I struggled to answer that question. What did I want to do? Really want to do? Not have to do. Not think I should do. But genuinely want to do. It varied from week to week. Sometimes I wanted to read, sometimes sleep, sometimes watch a movie, sometimes go for a hike, sometimes do some yard work, sometimes cook a meal. It wasn’t one clear answer every sabbath. I had to learn to listen to my spirit and discern what would be fulfilling and fruitful.

 

As we’ve planned for worship this Advent we’ve talked about moving from scared to sacred—looking at rejecting all of the expectations that surround us and claiming the things that make Advent truly holy. That practice begs the question, what do you want to do this Advent? For decorating? For baking or cooking? For time with family? For community events? For gift-giving? What do you actually want to do? I’m sure the answers will vary for each of us, and they may be different for you this year than they’ll be next year. There’s no singular right answer. Really, there isn’t. I promise. Though it’s a shame to think that we’ve been cultured to believe there is—lights on the house, a tree decorated in the living room, family recipes in the oven, presents wrapped and beautiful (and likely expensive). But that isn’t it. That isn’t Christmas. Doing the things we feel we have to doesn’t generally draw us closer to the holy.

 

But slowing down to listen to what we want to do for ourselves and for others just might draw us closer to God. (It also helps if we honor what we feel, which can be its own challenge). But if you dare, I invite you to take some time to slow down and ask yourself, “What do I want to do to prepare for and celebrate Christmas this year?” And wait and see what comes to mind. Then maybe slow down and ask again tomorrow, and again the next day. You aren’t likely to have all the answers on the first shot, but it’s worth practicing and listening and honoring the way God’s Spirit speaks to and leads your spirit.

 

May you have the courage to ask the question and ears to hear the answer!

 

Happy Advent.

In Christ

Pastor Debbie

 

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Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - October 23, 2019

I’m a runner. That might sound obvious, or maybe braggadocios, but for me, it’s a new thing. If you had asked me 6 months ago, I probably wouldn’t have said that. You see, growing up I wasn’t very athletic. I could play most games. I knew the rules and could play well enough, but I wasn’t really an athlete. I wasn’t as strong or as fast as others, so I sort of fell to the bottom of the heap, and most folks didn’t bother to invest much to help me be a better competitor.

 

Then in 2013, I baptized a friend’s kids and her sister was at the baptism in the morning, then the ER for the afternoon, and eventually at the house for the dinner party and celebration. When I talked to her about it, it was cellulitis related to Leukemia. She is likely to have her form of cancer for life, but her odds of survival were greatly improved because of the research over the 10 years prior. She inspired me and I decided I would sign up with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) to train for a half marathon and raise money for more research. I started with a “couch to 5k” and then worked with LLS, training with them each weekend--working my way from 3 miles to 4 on up until we did 12 (13.1 was saved for race day). About halfway through the training I claimed “I’m a runner.” I stopped hating most of it and actually looked forward to running. It was awesome. And, after race day, I stopped running. Literally. I had reached the goal and I pretty much walked away from the sport. I didn’t even pretend to get back at it. Though I could claim I was a runner because I did that half marathon that one time.

 

When I got to Moscow I started running again. It was a little here and there, but I got up and moving. Then winter hit and I quit. Over the last year and a half, I’ve tried to work on being healthier all around and walk, run, do weights, and HIIT classes regularly. But it wasn’t until this summer that I shifted from running once a week (or two) to running most every day. There wasn’t a big goal this time, but simply the slow formation of a habit. And now, I’m a runner. (Hopefully I won’t quit cold turkey again).

 

Like a lot of things in life, I found a parallel in our faith lives. Often in faith we pick up a spiritual discipline (prayer, meditation, fasting, daily devotionals, Bible study, etc) and we pick it up for a time (maybe as a new year’s resolution or for Lent) but when we reach the goal, we stop. We might consider ourself a “pray-er” for that time we prayed daily for awhile, but if we’re honest, we aren’t really anymore. Until we start doing the discipline again, regularly, until, finally, one day it clicks.

 

My hope for us is that we can look at the spiritual disciplines and give one a try. We can start at a comfortable “pace”, so to speak and then keep with it, forming a regular habit of it until it becomes part of us. What spiritual habit is appealing to you? Which one would be a stretch but you’re curious about trying? If you want more information about spiritual disciplines or recommendations for how to get started, please let me know.

May God bless you,
Pastor Debbie

 

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Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - September 18, 2019

We are the church! As I met with the stewardship team to talk about this worship series, we talked a lot about what we needed to share and emphasize in this chapter in the life of the church. We talked about what encourages us, what inspires us, and how we can encourage more of that. The overarching message that kept surfacing is “we are the church.” Not the building, but the people. You and I, all of us together, are the body of Christ—the church.

 

We talked about the saints who came before us—some 10 years ago, and some 80, 90, and 100 years ago. We’re here because of them. They taught the faith. They sang in and led worship. They built and maintained the buildings. They invited new folks and cared for each other in ways that were life-giving and meaningful—enough that people wanted to keep at it—to keep being the church. And here we are!

 

In the years since our church was founded, our denomination went from The Methodist Episcopal Church to the Methodist Church and then the United Methodist Church when we merged with the Evangelical United Brethren in 1968. We also saw new expressions of Methodism break off to form a variety of other denominations that are still vibrant and vital today including the Church of God and Christ and the Church of the Nazarene. Despite all of those changes, we are here today—still the church!

 

As a denomination, we were led by the Methodist women to advocate for the Prohibition. Our churches struggled with segregation and integration—sometimes in ways that reflected Christ and sometimes in ways that reinforced prejudice. The denomination argued for 40 years about whether or not to allow women to be ordained and in 1956 finally approved it.

 

Over the years we have fought for equal rights, built schools and universities, fought Apartheid in South Africa, opened clothes closets and soup kitchens, taught English as a second language, participated in relief efforts after natural disasters around the world through the United Methodist Committee on Relief, and been joined by the NBA to fight malaria throughout Africa.

 

As the church, we have a calling and a mission to use what God has given us and share the light, hope, and love of Christ in the world. Throughout the Fall, we explore what ministries we want to do in the coming year and how we will make those happen. We are seeking servants to be a part of committees and teams—making a commitment to help us brainstorm, create, reform, and execute our programs. We are looking for prayer partners who will uphold our ministries throughout the year with intentional time focus on our church during the week. We are looking for new ideas that will spark our imagination and faithfulness as we grow in our discipleship. We are planning our budget and soliciting financial pledges so we can be faithful stewards of the gifts being offered—trying to take the next best steps for our church without spending beyond our means. And, we are continuing to discern our way forward with our conference and our denomination in what has presented as a very tenuous and trying time for many in the church.

 

We take all of that seriously and hope to do our best in leading us, as a church, into the future so we can continue to be a voice of hope and encouragement proclaiming “We are the church!”


Faithfully,
Pastor Debbie


 

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