Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Holy Places by Kendall Clarke

                           

In Chapel a couple of weeks ago Carol and Jeff were talking about Holy places, it got me thinking about a special time and place in my faith journey. It happened to me the last time we did the living Last Supper play this is what I wrote in my journal after the performance.

The last supper was amazing the hand of God was in his house last nite,it was truly awe inspiring performance  ( not so much the acting as ,the presence of God among us) I am so thankful that I had the chance to experience it. It was a mountain top feeling. While in my pose I had to come up with a focus point so I could look the same every time, so I looked at the EXIT sign ,the more I looked at it I started looking at the X in the exit sign made me think of the X or cross the Jesus died for me it ,and the X that  was left on his hand it truly was meant for me for me to be in this time and place, for it will never  happen again that performance was truly amazing ,from this day forward with God beside me and Jesus leading my way I will work to become a better man the man called me to be In Jesus name I Pray Amen.

A few days later after thinking about it I expanded my entry

After the performance we were sitting in the chapel waiting to take pictures  we were sitting in the dark, you could hear the thunder going and I could feel the presence of God in that room it was enough to give me a chill,

I want to thank all of the people that helped put the Living Last Supper on I feel it was one of the best and most fulfilling experiences of my faith life. So one of Holy of Hollies is the Chapel of theTrees, Every time I go to Wed. service I recall the feeling I had that Day and give thanks to God 


Kendall Clarke


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

An Update from Church Treasurer

We made it!!

In case you haven’t heard we made our 2014 budget and paid all our bills in full.  This includes all our Iowa Conference Apportionments and District Asking.  Take a moment to pat yourself on the back.  This is a huge accomplishment for our church and one in which we all should be very proud.  Each and every one of you who gave money to the church needs to celebrate.  It takes gifts of all sizes to meet our budget.  As your treasurer I am always humbled by our church family’s generosity.

So how’d we do it, weren’t we behind by like $70,000 as late as September?  Yes, you are correct, and maybe that big number was a wakeup call for us.  In the last three months the donations totaled over $140,000.  This huge wave of giving more than made up for our deficit and pushed us into a positive balance after everything was paid! YEA!

We will have our work cut out for us in 2015.  Our budget was just recently approved by the Church Council at $430,400.97.  If you have questions about what makes up the budget please see the budget documents posted on the bulletin board outside the church office.  While we can celebrate our success we can’t have an extended hangover period, we’ll have to get right back on the horse and start riding again if we hope to finish 2015 with similar success.  I am confident that it will happen.

This year the finance committee will be featuring 4 special offerings…one each quarter.  This first quarter will feature the Going Sphere and our mission team.  The Change the World drive will take place during February.  Beginning in April we will focus our special offerings to the Trustees.  Then in July we will begin a 3 month effort to support our Growing Sphere.  In October, the Gathering Sphere and our music program will be featured.  Please look forward to these special offerings and participate.

Thank you, thank you for all you do for our church.  You can be very proud of the special things that are taking place at First United Methodist Church in Iowa Falls.  We are changing lives every day.  Come on in, its warm inside and we’d love to see you and catch up. 


Mike Nissly, Church Treasurer

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Mid-Week Update from Pastor Carol Myers

Dear Friends,

Last weekend, I talked about sources of our identity. I said that most often, we define ourselves by what others think of us or by the negative, critical, comparing inner voice that tells us that we aren’t measuring up, we aren’t enough, we are less than we should be. The failures and limitations and sins of our past influence how we think of ourselves. All that pain becomes the source of our identity.

Thomas Merton and Richard Rohr are two theologians who say that those are false sources of identity that lead to a false self. Or, to put it another way, those sources of identity are all about ego.

The story of Jesus’ baptism is the story of our true identity (Mark 1:4-11). Jesus comes into a wilderness of confusion and guilt and is baptized. He certainly doesn’t need to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. He chooses baptism to be in solidarity with us in our sins and failures. Our baptism is the sign that, by the grace of God, our sins, failures and limitations do not define us.

This is what defines us: In the same way that God speaks to Jesus in his baptism, God speaks to us in ours. God says to you, “You are my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased.” This is your true identity, your true self. This is who you really are.

So how do you and I live in such a way that our true identity shines forth rather than our ego, our false self, getting in the way?

The answer is complex and living it even harder. As I think about putting this Good News into practice, I am aware of two actions I must take. The first is practicing awareness. (How many times does the New Testament say, “Stay awake!” or “Wake up!” or “Keep alert!” This is all about awareness.) I need to notice when I am obsessing about something. I need to notice when I am feeling angry or depressed or resentful or remorseful. The odds are good that my ego is involved at that point. The odds are also good that I’m focused on something that happened in the past or I’m afraid of the future.

The second is this: I need to practice being fully in the present moment. This is what Jesus teaches in Matt. 6:25-33. It is in the present moment that I can rest in my true identity. It is in the present moment that I can breathe. In the present moment, God provides and all is well.
Two spiritual disciplines that take a life-time of practice. Two spiritual disciplines that position us to receive God’s healing grace.

On the journey with you,

Carol

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Mid-Week Update from Pastor Jeff Blackman

Grace and peace to you from God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
This weekend marks the recognition of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist.  This baptism happened in the Jordan River.  Each of the four Gospels have a different account of Jesus’ baptism.  I believe that the reason for the difference is theological.

Each of the gospel writers has a slightly different emphasis in relation Jesus’ and John’s connections.  In each case Jesus is seen as the greater of the two but, historically, the one who baptizes is seen as a mentor or teacher or, in some way, superior to the one being baptized.  In the Gospel stories, clearly Jesus is far and away the superior of the two.  Yet, Jesus was baptized.  Within the context of the Gospel narrative, Jesus’ baptism is the scene for the anointing of Jesus by God’s spirit.  Secondly, it is also the scene for the divine voice pronouncing Jesus as the beloved Son.

There are many intriguing questions in regard to Jesus’ baptism, but one aspect of the event is of great importance:  believers need to be baptized.  But, once again, we are greeted with many different variations of understanding as to the meaning of the event.  Different faith traditions practice baptism differently.  Some baptize infants, some do not.  Some claim it “saves” you, some claim it restores you.  Some claim it is necessary for membership in Christ’s fellowship, some see it more personally.  Most use water in varying degrees of quantity, some use no water at all.  These differences are important, yet all baptize because Jesus was baptized.  The different understandings found with the Gospel writers are seemingly mirrored by the various traditions that claim Christ as Savior.  Is one “right”?  Of course!  It’s the one you accept.  Clearly there are many ways, many understandings, many parameters, many differences.  One significance—following Jesus.

Baptism is a step toward the crucified life that Jesus demonstrated.  It is a step toward becoming fully included in God’s family.  It is a step toward discipleship.  It is always a step toward Jesus.  When we remember and observe Jesus’ baptism, we are remembering and observing our own baptisms.  Every time we celebrate a baptism, we are celebrating God’s active claiming of another follower of Jesus.  Baptism is God’s gracious claiming of another person who is captured by the vision of god’s desire.  To me, it does not particularly require one way to be a baptism in Jesus.  It only requires God—Father, Son, and Spirit—and an intention to follow Jesus.
                                                                Pastor Jeff Blackman



A Mid-Week Update from Pastor Carol Myers

Dear Friends,

It’s 2015 and First United Methodist Church has started with a party! Grab a noise-maker and join in the celebration! We ended the year in the black – and then some!

Thank you for your generosity and commitment to Christ lived out in our church! Thank you for your perseverance that didn’t give up and didn’t give in. Thank you for making a difference by your generous giving. You have supported the mission and ministry of our church that impacts people in our church, in our community and beyond.

One of the reasons that we ended the year so well is that the leadership of our church is careful to be good stewards of the money entrusted to our church. Slightly over $10,000 of the budget was not spent in 2014. The truth is, if we had spent all the funds in our budget, we still would have finished the year in the black. However, you need to know that the leadership of our church takes your giving and your trust very seriously.

Your generosity has allowed our church to step into 2015 with last year’s apportionments paid in full. This is something to be commended. Only 68% of United Methodist Churches in Iowa pay their apportionments in full. This “a portion meant for others” is an outward and visible sign of our connectional system that supports mission locally, state-wide, nationally and internationally. Your gifts have reached around the world and touched a neighbor.

Thank you. I am deeply grateful for your lived faith as disciples of Jesus Christ. Together we move into 2015 with Holy Spirit courage and hope. God is at work in First United Methodist Church. Won’t it be wonderful to see God’s surprises unfold this year?

On the dancin’ journey with you,

Carol

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

An Email to Carol Myers from Dave Hartl (and now shared).

Subject: Solon 

 Hi Carol, 

 I have to tell you about the day we had yesterday. 

We drove back to Solon to attend the funeral of a close friend. Elmer Hahn had been head custodian of the Solon School District while I taught there. He was also a bus driver, and he drove my wrestling teams to away meets and kept our scorebook. He was a farmer whose daughter, Julie, was my FFA chapter vice-president. Elmer loved his Angus cattle and Suffolk sheep, and we shared many times together buying breeding stock at sales as well as watching his daughter show champion steers and lambs. Elmer had another close friend that usually went to the State Fair sales with him, but I was a second-choice replacement when his other "consultant" couldn't go. He never told me who that other "consultant" was - maybe because I wouldn't have figured that a Methodist minister could know anything about livestock. We shared times together helping ewes deliver lambs that were slow coming into the world. Elmer had big hands; I had small, strong hands back then. 

 About a year ago I visited Elmer in the Nursing Home at Solon where he was convalescing after breaking a leg in a freak farm accident. I called him occasionally and we talked about everything from Solon football to the changing agriculture picture in Iowa. 

 Last week I told Lana that I needed to call Elmer to see how he was doing. I didn't get around to it, but I knew I would before Christmas. Since retirement I have done lots of Christmas calling in place of the previous annual Christmas newsletter we used to send.  

Elmer died of a heart attack on Saturday. I went back hoping to see some of my former wrestlers and students. We would have probably done better to go back for an evening visitation the night before, in that respect, but Tuesday added an extra cantata practice that we both felt we needed. So instead we went yesterday to the funeral at Solon United Methodist Church. We got there early enough to have nice conversations with both Julie and her mother, Jean.  

 After the service was over, as we were departing, I saw a person who I knew by face but couldn't connect him to a past student, to the school, or to a farm. I introduced myself and asked his name. He replied that he was Dennis Tevis,  (our previous District Superintendent) I felt better about not being able to connect him to Solon. Solon had been his first charge and he had become a close friend of Elmer's. They both were into raising show lambs, and he shared how he and Elmer had spent many a day at the State Fair selecting rams at the breed sales. The mystery "consultant" had been identified. Dennis still is raising sheep in retirement. 

 I introduced him to Lana as the man who brought Carol to us. Without hesitation, she replied, "We can't thank you enough!" 

 The service was short and sweet, per Elmer's wishes. You may know Scott Kober. He did a beautiful job talking about our friend. During his "sermon" part of the service, Scott said something that has stuck with me. He talked about how much Elmer loved the Christmas season - so much so that we sang all four verses of "Silent Night" together. He talked about events leading up to the birth of our Savior from the standpoint of the "sheep" people. He related how that baby's birth changed the meaning of "life and death" for them. I don't remember ever hearing that said before. 

 One last note: The pianist for the service sat just off to our left. I noticed that she had a hymnal but never looked at it. And she was playing interludes and all those other fancy things that obviously have never been written into a hymnal - the kind of things that would scare the heck out of your average church pianist. (By the way, Susan is not your average church pianist, by any stretch of the imagination.) But anyway, she was putting a spin on "Amazing Grace" that was simply . . . amazing. 

 Scott announced at the end of the service that the last song would be Elmer's last request. We listened to a 60-year-old recording of "Don't Fence Me In." And as the family stood to leave, the pianist began to play (without music) her rendition of "Don't Fence Me In" that would have amazed even Gene Autry. 

 I hope our day yesterday brightens your day today . . .  

 Take special care,  

Dave 
Subject: Solon



Hi Carol, 

I have to tell you about the day we had yesterday. 

We drove back to Solon to attend the funeral of a close friend. Elmer Hahn had been head custodian of the Solon School District while I taught there. He was also a bus driver, and he drove my wrestling teams to away meets and kept our scorebook. He was a farmer whose daughter, Julie, was my FFA chapter vice-president. Elmer loved his Angus cattle and Suffolk sheep, and we shared many times together buying breeding stock at sales as well as watching his daughter show champion steers and lambs. Elmer had another close friend that usually went to the State Fair sales with him, but I was a second-choice replacement when his other "consultant" couldn't go. He never told me who that other "consultant" was - maybe because I wouldn't have figured that a Methodist minister could know anything about livestock. We shared times together helping ewes deliver lambs that were slow coming into the world. Elmer had big hands; I had small, strong hands back then. 

About a year ago I visited Elmer in the Nursing Home at Solon where he was convalescing after breaking a leg in a freak farm accident. I called him occasionally and we talked about everything from Solon football to the changing agriculture picture in Iowa. 

Last week I told Lana that I needed to call Elmer to see how he was doing. I didn't get around to it, but I knew I would before Christmas. Since retirement I have done lots of Christmas calling in place of the previous annual Christmas newsletter we used to send. 

Elmer died of a heart attack on Saturday. I went back hoping to see some of my former wrestlers and students. We would have probably done better to go back for an evening visitation the night before, in that respect, but Tuesday added an extra cantata practice that we both felt we needed. So instead we went yesterday to the funeral at Solon United Methodist Church. We got there early enough to have nice conversations with both Julie and her mother, Jean. 

After the service was over, as we were departing, I saw a person who I knew by face but couldn't connect him to a past student, to the school, or to a farm. I introduced myself and asked his name. He replied that he was Dennis Tevis, and I felt better about not being able to connect him to Solon. Solon had been his first charge and he had become a close friend of Elmer's. They both were into raising show lambs, and he shared how he and Elmer had spent many a day at the State Fair selecting rams at the breed sales. The mystery "consultant" had been identified. Dennis still is raising sheep in retirement. 

I introduced him to Lana as the man who brought Carol to us. Without hesitation, she replied, "We can't thank you enough!" 

The service was short and sweet, per Elmer's wishes. You may know Scott Kober. He did a beautiful job talking about our friend. During his "sermon" part of the service, Scott said something that has stuck with me. He talked about how much Elmer loved the Christmas season - so much so that we sang all four verses of "Silent Night" together. He talked about events leading up to the birth of our Savior from the standpoint of the "sheep" people. He related how that baby's birth changed the meaning of "life and death" for them. I don't remember ever hearing that said before. 

One last note: The pianist for the service sat just off to our left. I noticed that she had a hymnal but never looked at it. And she was playing interludes and all those other fancy things that obviously have never been written into a hymnal - the kind of things that would scare the heck out of your average church pianist. (By the way, Susan is not your average church pianist, by any stretch of the imagination.) But anyway, she was putting a spin on "Amazing Grace" that was simply . . . amazing. 

Scott announced at the end of the service that the last song would be Elmer's last request. We listened to a 60-year-old recording of "Don't Fence Me In." And as the family stood to leave, the pianist began to play (without music) her rendition of "Don't Fence Me In" that would have amazed even Gene Autry. 

I hope our day yesterday brightens your day today . . . 

Take special care, 
Dave 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Christmas to Remember -Paulette's Story

A Christmas to Remember—Paulette’s Story
by
Linda Scallon

 Away in a manger, no crib for a bed. The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head. The stars in the sky look down where He lay. The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

It was a bitter-cold, blustery December night.  The windows of the cars in the hospital parking lot were frosted over, and engines were sputtering as vehicles were started to be warmed for any human daring enough to brave the cold. Inside the hospital was toasty warm, with water running down the windows from the internal heat and humidity. From one of the hospital rooms, a different kind of warmth was radiating—a warmth emanating all of the love from family that surrounded the bedside of a very sick young woman. A daughter, a sister, an aunt—the woman was a special person in each member of her family’s lives and the lives of so many others.

Paulette had been born into a loving, Christian family 35 years earlier, and had endured much during her lifetime. Slightly brain damaged at the age of two from a high fever, she had been born with a disfiguring skin disorder, neurofibramatosis, or elephant man’s disease. Paulette had survived the taunts and snickers of many to become a beautiful, caring and self-sufficient adult who lived on her own and loved and cared for all of the residents at the nursing home where she worked. Her smile, her laugh, and her empathetic nature were contagious. She loved sports and sports trivia, the Minnesota Twins, and the Iowa Hawkeyes, and she shared those pieces of herself every birthday and Christmas with anyone and everyone who would take the time to listen. The past year, however, had proven to be the truest test of survival Paulette had ever known.  She was no longer working at surviving taunts, stares, and snickers, but rather fighting to survive and continue living.

On August 4th, Paulette rejoiced with the birth of another niece, Amy, and rejoiced that she had received a clean bill of health following surgery and radiation three months earlier for a cancerous tumor in her arm.  All was well until October when a re-check revealed a large tumor located near her lungs.  Surgery would remove most of the tumor, and what remained would be treated with fourteen days of the most intense chemo possible.

Two weeks later Paulette sat in the doctor’s office awaiting her post-treatment test results. The space seemed as cold, clammy and barren as that day in October when she had first learned of her cancer’s re-emergence. Finally the doctor came in and reported that the remaining tumor had doubled in size during the course of treatment. Nothing more could be done.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes. But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes. I love Thee Lord Jesus, look down from the sky. And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.

Just six weeks after learning of the ineffectiveness of the chemo, Paulette lay on a hospital bed laboring to breathe even with the help of oxygen, straining to speak more than one word when necessary, and drowsy from pain medications.  By then it was Christmas—Paulette’s most favorite time of the year. Her family encircled her bed, and in the darkness of her room—in the late evening and early morning hours—they shared stories and memories, all the while hanging on to each of Paulette’s fleeting breaths. When questioned if she would enjoy hearing her favorite Christmas songs sung, Paulette gave a faint smile.

Tears crept into the corners of  her family members’ eyes as they sang favorite Christmas carols and basked in the love and warmth of the Christ Child’s presence.  Paulette listened peacefully, relaxing and enjoying visions of a greater moment that awaited her—visions of dancing on streets of gold. Then something truly uplifting and quite inexplicable happened as her family began singing the first verse of Away in a Manger…Paulette joined in the singing! She sang each and every word of the first verse and then—singing the strongest of anyone—led family members, with tears now freely flowing, into the second verse.

The moment was miraculous in the same way that the very first Christmas night had been so many years ago. The parallels were staggering. The baby lying in a simple manger surrounded by family, and the women lying in a simple hospital room filled with family. In that moment Jesus became real. The spirit of the Christ child filled the room with new warmth and unending love, everlasting peace, and a presence that could not be put into words. As her family stood hand-in-hand in an unbroken chain around her bed, Paulette sang out the final verse of Away in a Manger with gusto and a smile….

Be near me Lord Jesus I ask Thee to stay. Close by me forever and love me I pray. Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care. And fit us for heaven to live with Thee there.

These precious phrases would be Paulette’s parting words to her family; tenderly giving voice to her testimony of faith.

Twenty-four hours later, on December 4, 1989—four months to the day that Paulette had rejoiced in hearing the doctor’s optimistic report—my sister and friend died at the age of 35. In her dying she still managed to share one last gift:  A night to remember. A song to remember. A Christmas to remember.

In a very real way, the Christ child appeared to all of us that Christmas. Just as He had been a part of our daily living, He showed that He would also be a part of our dying. The Christ child’s greatest gift is to allow us in our dying to be born into eternal life. If we will accept His gift and keep him at the heart of Christmas each and every day, then in our living and in our dying, others will know that we belong to God.   

Several weeks prior to her death, Paulette had purchased Christmas ornaments for my parents, my five siblings, and me to open on Christmas Day. As she had requested before her death, the ornaments were opened during the family gift exchange. Amazingly, the ornaments depicted the Holy Family and were titled Away in a Manger.  Her entire life Paulette gave of herself to everyone she met, but she saved the best gift for last. She had made Christmas real, and had allowed each of us to see and feel the Christ child in a way we never had before; leaving us the gift of a memory that will never be forgotten, but will be forever shared.