Lessons in Leadership: The Most Important Muscle

Sunday’s Scripture ~ I Samuel 16:6-13.

While on vacation I spent precious time with my two nephews, Jacob and Elijah. Jacob will be three in October and Elijah is almost four-months old. They are true delights.

One afternoon Jacob asked, “Aunt Schawah, will you playdoh with me?” And when someone asks you to playdoh, you playdoh.

Jacob has quite a collection of playdoh toys – scissors and rollers and stamps. He even has little critters that will grow playdoh hair through their heads!

I took hold of one of the critters, turned it head down, and started stamping it on one of the playdoh pancakes Jacob prepared. “Aunt Schawah, whatcha doin’?” “I”m stamping. Look, this critter stamps out a flower.” “No way!” “Yes way. Look!” With amazement Jacob watched all the blooms appear. And with excitement, Jacob took hold of that same critter and started blooming a garden of his own.

Playdoh is impressionable. It is flexible and pliable – unless it is exposed to the air too long. Playdoh takes its shape from the maker and reshapes again and again at the maker’s desire.

Writes the prophet Isaiah, “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isa 64:8). As God shapes us, God makes us new. As God molds us, God prefects us.

As the work of God’s hands, we bear God’s impressions in our very beings. God’s shaping of us occurs throughout our lives; it is an ongoing transformative process that begins with our most important muscle. 

It begins with our hearts.

This week the Tuskawilla UMC Family begins a five-week series entitled Lessons in Leadership. We will study texts related to David found in I and II Samuel as well as the Psalms. I hope you will join us. See you in worship.

Prayer: “Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father; there is no shadow of turning with thee; thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not; as thou hast been, thou forever wilt be. Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed thy hand hath provided; great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”* Amen.

*”Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” The United Methodist Hymnal 140.

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Love God, Love People

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 22:34-40.

This week the Rev. Mary Downey will lead the Tuskawilla UMC Family in worship at both of our services. Rev. Downey is a commissioned deacon. Deacons are called to Word and Service – and specifically called to connect the Church through Word and Service to the world. Rev. Downey pursues and lives into God’s call on her life as the Executive Director of The Community Hope Center in Osceola County.

From The Community Hope Center’s website:

The Community Hope Center is a program-based project that impacts the low-income, poverty level families and individuals living in and around Osceola County, Florida. The primary emphasis is to assist those living homeless or in motels and hotels along Osceola County’s 192 Corridor. This program restores dignity and self-sufficiency to those in need in our community through a holistic approach to case management, funds assistance, and life skills. The program is intended to provide gap services to clients that other agencies are not currently providing. The organization exists as a result of a collaborative effort between local churches, social services agencies, Osceola County, the city governments, and community businesses.

To learn more about the mission and services of The Community Hope Center, please visit hope192.com.

Homelessness is quickly becoming – if it is not already – an epidemic in our society. Many of us remember the 60 Minutes feature on Seminole County school children living alongside their parents in their cars, getting ready for school in convenience store bathrooms, and carrying their few prized possessions everywhere they went in well-worn backpacks. We see persons asking for financial and food assistance at major intersections across our community. We read and hear about the continued conflict along our nation’s border – people eager for a new life, for a new dream – with some following the procedures in place to become a citizen while others take matters into their own hands.

On and on it goes. It can be overwhelming. It can be discouraging. It can make us want to throw up our hands in the air and scream “enough!”

It can break our hearts.

Last week while attending a district clergy meeting a book that has been on my desk for quite some time was brought to my attention again. The book is The Anatomy of Peace. I bought it months ago to read…turns out when you have a little one that having time to read is quite a luxury!

A foundational concept in that book is for each person to reflect on this premise – Do I have a heart of peace or a heart of war? If a person’s heart is at war, then he or she is not really interested in listening or stepping outside his or her comfort zone. He or she is immediately on the defensive, quite rigid in thinking and behavior, and I would imagine that while he or she may find company with other hearts at war, that he or she is actually quite lonely, too.

If a person’s heart is at peace, then he or she is open to listening – not listening to rebut or refute or to convince the conversation partner to your views or opinions – but rather to learn and understand. He or she is open to trying on something new, to stepping outside of his or her comfort zone. He or she may not become a permanent resident in the space beyond his or her comfort, but that person recognizes stepping outside his or her norm reveals a bigger world – a wider world that we share with all people.

When our hearts are at peace, I believe we are in the space and place and grace of loving God and loving neighbor as Jesus commands us. In this space and place and full of God’s grace, we are and we build the Kingdom of God.

I hope you enjoy worshipping with Rev. Downey this week and that you greet her heart of peace with your own.

Prayer: “I, the Lord of snow and rain, I have borne my people’s pain. I have wept for love of them. They turn away. I will break their hearts of stone, give them hearts for love alone. I will speak my word to them, whom shall I send? Here I am Lord. Is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night. I will go Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.”* Amen.

*”Here I Am, Lord,” The United Methodist Hymnal 593.

Help! I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 10:25-37.

Some weeks are more difficult than others. There are stressors, challenges, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, long hours, slow progress, and questions – lots of questions. During difficult weeks I tend to feel like the traveler making her way from Jerusalem to Jericho when robbers attacked leaving her beaten and broken along the road.

Eyes cast down. Curled in the fetal position. Longing for relief.

Hoping for a friend.

I am grateful that during difficult weeks that I do not hope in vain. Friends are near, present, and quick to bring comfort. And friends, we need each other.

Friends connect by phone call, text, and email. They offer a hug and then another. They recognize contributions. They listen. They give their time. They offer their humor. They help. They come alongside. They connect.

Friends – loved ones – help us stand, help us heal, and help us make our way forward.

Feeling better with the help of my friends and loved ones reminds me of my responsibility (my joy!) to be the friend and loved one of others – to offer love, support, listening, encouragement, hope, and help. And so I took time to do just that, which further transformed my difficult week into a week that witnesses to our call to care for our sisters and brothers in Christ.

There are people all around us that are wounded – with eyes cast down, curled in the fetal position, longing for relief, hoping for a friend – be it literally or figuratively. And our Jesus calls us to take on the posture of the Samaritan – to connect, to help, and to restore hope.

Who is on your heart to connect with this week? To offer a hand, a smile, and a hug? To share encouragement, humor, and time? I encourage you to do so. These small acts can change the tide of someone’s week. These small acts can save someone’s life.

I am delighted to welcome our friend, certified candidate for ministry, and seminary student, Samantha Aupperlee, in worship leadership this week at Tuskawilla! She will preach at both morning worship services. Join us to hear her sermon on The Good Samaritan and to wish her well on her second year of seminary studies.

Prayer: “‘Go, make of all disciples.’ We hear the call, O Lord, that comes from thee, our Father, in thy eternal Word. Inspire our ways of learning through earnest fervent prayer, and let our daily living reveal thee everywhere.”* Amen.

*“Go, Make Of All Disciples,” The United Methodist Hymnal 571.

 

 

Built On Faith

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 7:24-27.

How is it possible that in a couple of weeks Joshua will be ten months old? There were days when I thought he would never grow out of newborn diapers…and nowadays he will not stop growing!

It is good that he grows; Joshua is doing what he is supposed to do. Time is a gift, not an enemy.

Joshua’s new favorite pastime (new favorite pastime…is that a thing?) is “pulling up” – one step closer to cruising – and then to standing on his own – and then to walking! Joshua will pull up to stand on just about anything; unfortunately his choices of “pulling up” foundations are not always the sure-est, which leads to a quick departure back to the ground. Arriving back on the ground does not deter this kid. Though there may be a few tears, moments later he gets back up again.

As we mature in faith, the foundations of our faith shift, strengthen, and endure testing. Through times of trial and doubt we question our faith. Does what we believe hold? Does what we believe satisfy? Is what we believe well with our souls? Through times of health and hope our faith is confirmed, and as a result, we affirm our faith. We recognize it as our source of strength, our fount of wisdom, our well of comfort, and, perhaps most importantly, our legacy.

A signature teaching of my dear friend and fellow ministry mischief-maker, Rev. Melissa Cooper, is that faith is caught more than it is taught. Faith is caught as we live life with others – and as they live life with us – co-witnessing how we act and react to every day situations. When the going gets tough, how do we sustain? When we get knocked down, how and when do we get back up again? In our daily interactions, do we speak first of our joys or of our complaints? In our daily investments, do we think first of our neighbors or of ourselves? Each of these actions and decisions are actions and decisions guided and rooted in our faith. Therefore, it is vital that we have a sure foundation of faith so that as we pull ourselves up to the next opportunity or through the next trial, our foundation is sure – with Christ as our cornerstone and our friends in faith as encouragers at our sides.

Join us this Sunday at 11am as our Gravity Youth share with us about how they Built on Faith through their service with Metro Atlanta Project this summer. We will hear from each of the participants, view a slideshow of their experiences, and sing some of the music they sang in their nightly worship services. I look forward to worshipping with you on Sunday!

Prayer: “He’s coming on the clouds; kings and kingdoms will bow down. And every chain will break, as broken hearts declare his praise. For who can stop the Lord Almighty? Our God is the Lion, the Lion of Judah. He’s roaring with power and fighting our battles. And every knee will bow before him. Our God is the Lamb, the Lamb that was slain. For the sins of the world, his blood breaks the chains. And every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb. Every knew will bow before him.”* Amen.

* “The Lion and the Lamb,” Bethel Music, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9ujBoud26k