Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Mid-Week Update from Pastor Carol Myers

Dear Friends,

I want to give you some updates on what’s happening at our church:

We will have Sunday school this Sunday. The Service Master fans and cords are out of the church, hallways are clear and we are back in business. The only Sunday school class that has been displaced is Duane Kruckenberg’s class. They will meet at Les and Diane Meier’s home this coming Sunday. The nursery is temporarily upstairs. Otherwise, all other classes will be in their same location.

The trustees are working hard to get the main floor back in order. In the next two weeks, new carpet will be laid in some rooms, other carpets will be shampooed and the tile in front of the elevator repaired. The repairs on the lower floor, particularly the youth room, will take longer. Our insurance company has been helpful. We have such a capable group of people on the trustee committee and in our church. We are fortunate indeed.

Angela Jass has been hired to do ten hours of custodial work per week. This is for three weeks. At Church Council last night, the decision was made to pay Lori Kahler for twenty hours of work per week so that she has a source of income as she recovers from her illness. (Lori was working thirty hours per week and that is what has been budgeted. Her sick and vacation time has been used up.)  This gives Lori three weeks to see what assistance she qualifies for, as well as find out if she is able to work and, if so, under what restrictions. You might see her unlocking the church in the morning and locking up at night. This gets her out and walking. (Just what the doctor ordered!) She is very grateful for the care of the church. Please continue to hold her in your prayers.

Meanwhile, wonderful ministry is happening. Four young people were confirmed last Sunday amidst beautiful music and prayers and a caring congregation. Wednesday meals feed a community of people. Next Sunday, World Communion Sunday will be celebrated and little Colt Carmichael will be baptized at the 11:00 service. Life in our community of faith has its challenges, but it is also deeply rich and rewarding. I’m so glad you are part of the team!

On the journey with you,


Friday, September 25, 2015

September 27 Family/Small Group Lesson

SEPTEMBER 27 - FAMILY/SMALL GROUP LESSON                     JAMES 5:13-20                       

Light a candle and lead the group in prayer by having everyone repeat each phrase:

Loving God,

thank you for being with us today.

Help us to learn

and to pray.


OPENING ACTIVITY: Google image search "praying people " and invite those gathered to describe what the people are doing.  Invite them to name times when they pray.  Ask for volunteers to recite any table graces or bedtime prayers they know.  Say a prayer that you know.  Ask:

Who helped you learn to pray?

Say:  The Bible reading for today is about prayer.

EXPLORING:  Open the Bible to the book of James.  Biblegateway.com is a good online Bible. Explain that James is a letter that was written to Christians to teach them how to follow Jesus better. 

Google image search "scroll" and tell the learners that letters in Bible times looked something like this.  Letters were usually read aloud to groups of people. 

Read aloud James 5:13-20.

  • How is this letter different from letters written today?
  • What does James say to do if you are sad or suffering? Happy? Sick?
  • What is prayer? (talking with God, listening to God, telling God when we need help, thanking God for the blessings in our life.)
  • Why might we pray when we have done or said something to hurt our relationship with God or others?
  • James tells Jesus’ followers to pray for each other.  When have you prayed for other people?

Go back to images of people praying. Compare differences in how they are praying.


  1. Do you think all the people in all the pictures are using the same words in their prayers?  Why or why not?
  2. What are some of the body postures you see that you have used to pray? 
  3. What are some of the body postures you see that you have not tried when praying?

Encourage group members to try a new prayer position while you pray, “Thank you God, for always hearing our prayers.  Remind us to talk with you often.  Amen.”


Brainstorm things that your class/family can pray for together. 

Make a list and have each learner select one thing they will pray for.  Ask each learner to write or draw what they will pray for on scratch paper.

 Invite each learner to offer his/her prayer with the group.  After each prayer, lead the learners in responding, “Lord, hear our prayer.” 

After all have offered their prayers, lead learners in saying, “Amen.” (We say Amen because it means, “may it be so.”)


Prayer Partners:  Divide the group into pairs.  Ask each participant to share with their partner something that they would like to be prayed for this week.  (Younger kids might agree to pray for their partner each day like this, “I pray for XXXX today, Amen.”)


Invite the group to think silently about the people they will pray for this week.  Select a volunteer to read:

Loving God, as we go through the coming week, we are happy to know that you are with us and that we can pray to you wherever we are.  Amen.

Blessings for your week!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Mid-Week Update from Pastor Carol Myers

Dear Friends,

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus asks the disciples, “What were you arguing about?” They had been arguing about who was the greatest. I imagine it was a rather sheepish silence. Jesus says to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and a servant to all.” It was what you might call a teachable moment. Then Jesus puts faith into action in a way that makes his words come alive. He took a little child in his arms and said, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me” (Mark 9:33-37).

These are the words that I read Sunday at worship. As I read and preached those words, I was ever so aware that we had our own sermon illustration happening outside the sanctuary. Many people put their own schedules, plans, agendas and preferences last in order to deal with a broken pipe and cascades of water that filled our church’s main floor and the lower level. It was servant leadership that picked up brooms and shop-vacs, that moved bookcases and desks, that ripped up carpet and removed ceiling tiles. It was servant leadership that offered sandwiches and snacks for the hard-working crew.

And it was servant leadership to wrap the workers and the world in prayer. Those of you in the sanctuary were sharing in the liturgy, which means “the work of the people”. That’s why worship is called a worship service. Those who were in the sanctuary had also put their own schedules, plans, agendas and preferences last. It is always sacrificial to take time out of our busy lives – and our tired lives – to gather to worship God and give thanks together.

So whether you were in the sanctuary or whether you were wading in the water, you put your faith into action in profound ways last Sunday.

Thank you.

You are the greatest.

On the journey with you,


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Mid-Week Update from Pastor Jeff Blackman

Grace and peace to you from God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
These next two weekends will be Confirmation weekends for the Alden and First United Methodist Churches.  This Sunday, September 20, two confirmands will be confirmands as well as a family will join the church.  In addition to that, the Alden church will hold their semi-annual (holy) hamball dinner.
“Confirmation” essentially says, “Yes!” to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  The pattern of confirmation is to affirm baptismal vows that parents made for each of the confirmands.  By affirming those baptismal vows, the confirmands now accept those vows with their own voice and will.  They then become members of the Church and specifically the Alden UMC.
The hope that a pastor has who confirms a young person is that this event starts a life-long journey of active relationship with the Holy Trinity, usually found within the general parameters of a church body.  Our culture does not encourage, much less support, church participation.  A young person has to make a serious and determined effort to be active part of a church.  Parents are a critical factor in a teenager’s participation in Church.
The next weekend, September 27, First UMC will hold its confirmation service at the 9:00 morning worship service.  A very similar event will happen there as happened at Alden UMC.  These confirmands will face the same pressures and struggles as they find their way on the journey of faith. 
I invite you to pray for these young folks and their families that this confirmation service will take hold and grow deep and abiding roots in the faith and life of the Church.  This is a beginning for them and we pray it will be a satisfying journey toward God’s kingdom on earth.

                                                                                 Pastor Jeff Blackman

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Mid-Week Update from Pastor Jeff Blackman

                                                Grace and peace to you from God and our Lord                                                 Jesus Christ.

Some people consider the greatest gift humans possess is the ability to speak.  With great gifts come great responsibilities, And the potential for great harm,  The Epistle reading for this weekend names this truth and the Gospel reading gives it illustration.

The Epistle reading is from James, chapter 3, verses 1-12.  The passage is all about speech.  In this passage are concerns about teaching, and personal control.  I think that speech is the issue.  Teachers of the faith are highly valued.  Within this framework words are used to convey the problem: lack of control.  Verses five through twelve comment on the power of "the tongue" the words we speak.  James says the tongue can be wild, like a destructive forest fire.  He says the tongue is untamed, is full of poison and evil.  Obviously James has been the focus of a "tongue-lashing."

We all know that what James is saying is truthful.  We know it because we have seen it and its destructive consequences.  Probably most of us have been on the receiving end of such trouble.  Probably we have also, at some time or another, "given as good as we got."  We know that what we are saying is critically important.  Yet in our common life together-both secular and sacred-there are great struggles with the destructive effects of our speech.  As James says, "Blessing and cursing come from the same mouth...it just shouldn't be this way!" (v10)
As an illustration of this speech problem, the Gospel reading from Mark (8:27-38) has Jesus asking, "Who do people say that I am?"  Peter answers what he has hears others say and then Peter makes his own profession-"You are the Christ" (v29c)  Then Jesus teaches the disciples what will be his fate and Peter, aghast, scolds Jesus and tries to straighten him out.  To use James' observation-the tongue that confessed Jesus as Christ is the same tongue that scolds and corrects Jesus.  Jesus, in fact, calls that speech, or tongue, the words of Satan tempting Jesus once again.

We presume that Peter couldn't imagine what Jesus was predicting and was trying to talk him out of it.  Through words.  Words that conveyed human-me-first thoughts rather than God's thoughts.  The tongue steered Peter away from God.  So what James is warning about is that our tongues, our words, are of critical importance to a Christian.  Will they be words of blessing--God's thoughts or words?  Or will they be  words of curses--self focused words with ourselves at the center of our concern?


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Mid-Week Update from Pastor Carol Myers

Dear Friends,

 Our Wednesday community meals are starting up again in September! I believe that God puts a church in a community in order to be in ministry to that community. This is one of the most exciting ways that we live out that commission!

 If you haven’t yet come to a meal, now is the time to start! You will find good food, good conversation and good community around the table. What a great way to connect with new and old friends and build relationships!

 If you are interested in making this ministry happen, check with Lyn Evans or Linda Scallon or Linda Starr to find out how you can help. It takes close to 100 volunteers each week to prepare food, serve, clean-up and deliver meals. God may be nudging you to make this ministry your own!

 In many ways, the people who come to this meal who do not have a church are our mission field. If you are eating at our church on Wednesday evenings and if you are helping in any way, there are many ways that you can reach out to others in the name of Jesus Christ. Get to know new faces and welcome them warmly. If someone asks if they can help, find them a job. (How discouraging to ask to help and be told there is no need!) It may even mean inviting them to take your place at the sink or wiping tables. Getting others involved moves us from a place of being in ministry to people to being in ministry with people, recognizing that there is much we can learn from each other, no matter what. To share in ministry is to offer dignity to all who are involved. Anyone who has ever worked in the kitchen knows that to get people involved is to share laughter, conversation and grow in relationship. Those relationships are the beginning point of sharing how you have experienced God in our church and inviting another to come and see.

 There is another way that our Wednesday mission field can expand. Our bishop has asked that all United Methodists read with children in an effort to combat poverty in our state. How could you read with children who come to our meal? The bishop is encouraging us to give new books to students of all ages. What if children who came to our Wednesday meals received a new book? (Children’s Literacy Resources are on our website.) What new Holy Spirited possibilities and opportunities are beckoning us?

 The bishop’s encouragement to read with children has sparked my imagination. One of the unexpected consequences of many hours of reading to my children is that I discovered both the power of stories and the power of using my voice to tell stories. Who would have guessed that reading to my children would lead to preaching! Some of you are already mentoring children through our schools. Thank you. Please keep track of the hours you spend so we can tell our bishop how we are doing.

 Others of you might like to get involved in reading through our school system. There is a need for mentoring (which includes reading and more) for both elementary and secondary students. Contact the schools if this is a ministry that God is nudging you toward. If you are interested in having some special training for reading strategies, you can contact Mike Swartzendruber at mswartzendruber@ifcadets.net or 648-6420.

 Where will the Holy Spirit take us next?

 On the exciting journey with you,





Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Holy Spirit Work by Kendall Clarke

When Carol asked me to do this, I said uh ok, a little reluctant but as the weeks passed that still small voice in my head said just do it, what could possibly go wrong, so here it goes. 

 I grew up small farm town Iowa where the motto is, if it needs done, do it. I  grew not knowing the love of the Lord, it wasn’t that my parents didn’t believe, it just seemed like it wasn’t a priority in life. Dad worked a lot during the week so the weekends were made for farming. I remember vacation bible school a couple of times but that was about it for church stuff, so I grew up not knowing God or his son Jesus. I went thru my teens and twenties this way doing whatever I wanted not really caring or having anyone in my life to love or be loved by. Then I met my wife and it all went downhill from there. Just kidding dear (kind of). When we were married in 93 I joined this church, did the new member class, said some word I soon forgot and we got married. I remember coming to a few services but when you are young and poor, it just seemed every time we walked in the door someone or something was wanting money. We just did not have so we became creasters and drop and go Sunday school parents.  This continued for a few years then some life events happened that made me start to think I should revaluate this thing called faith. I remember sitting in a church at my nieces funeral (she was killed by the babysitter)I was so distraught and had no one to cry out to. I did not know God or Jesus to cry out to them I remember being so, so mad over that event it got me to thinking I need some answers, so I became a seeker. I went in search of some answers.  That continued but faded out without knowing what I was looking for or where to find the answers. Then when we were trying to have children we went thru some miscarriages, (that will break your heart) I put on a strong face for Val but I think she saw right thru it. Then we finally had Christina she is such a blessing, when she was born She was a jaundiced baby so she had that wrap thing on her all the time. She did not like it so we held her a lot, (she was my little glow baby) so in the evenings when I got home from work I would hold her. While holding her, I would read to kill the time.  I don’t remember why or how, I picked up the bible and read it cover to cover not studying it or understanding it, just as words on a page I think some of it sunk in but not much of it. Then a short while later I was involved in a fatal motorcycle crash that event changed my life. There was not a day go by that it was not on my mind. I did not deal with it correctly, I tried to push it out of my mind by doing things I shouldn’t have been doing. It wasn’t till years later after meeting Jeff that I dealt with it the way it should have been done before. Then fast forward a few years we come to a Christmas service and there is this new preacher in town. I heard Carol’s sermon and I was hooked. She had this peace and grace about her, I could tell right away she truly cared about me. So one thing lead to another, we started coming more and more. Then I saw a signup sheet for a book study The Shack so I thought I can do that. I like to read, and then that is when I met Kendy. Over the years she has shown me ways to connect to my spiritual side and we have worked together with the youth.  It has truly been a blessing to have met her that day. Then   Duane Schultz asked me to do a youth mission trip. It was good. There is just something about that warm fuzzy feeling you get knowing you have helped somebody out.  Then Duane Kruckenberg asked me to do the walk to Emmaus.  I said no, that’s not my thing, then a year or so he asked again. I said no, then a third time, and by seeing how the Emmaus thing was working and by some strong suggestions from some others in my life I went, All I can say is wow. I had never felt so much love as I did that weekend from above and my fellow man,  As the Lord has been leading my down this path, I have learned to pray both in speech and written word. I had seen where there was a class on praying so I did it. I have always had a fear of looking foolish in things like that but Jeff and Carol were the teachers so I thought I can do this and it went well. So that brings me to today. 

Without the Holy Spirit working in me I am sure would not be up here today between Carol, Jeff, Kendy and the Duanes working in my life, I would not be here. I am still the seeker I started out to be.  I don’t think till we take the last breath we stop seeking the love of the Lord.  So may we all be blessed as we go on this journey of faith we call life.  Amen