A Snowy Day

On a very cold, snowy Sunday in February, only the pastor and one farmer arrived at the village church. The pastor said, ‘Well, I guess we won’t have a service today.’  The farmer replied:  ‘Pastor, even if only one cow shows up at feeding time, I feed it.’


I found the above short story on a site of amusing Christian stories. Once, not too long ago, I thought I had only one Spiritual Journaling student show up for a workshop. I was thinking about what to do–perhaps send her to another class or what? The “problem” was solved when two more students arrived for that workshop.

But after reading the above, it really touched me that even if I have just the one on any given Lord’s Day, I should do all the Lord allows to give to that one soul all God has for him or her at that particular time.

What a lesson for not only pastors, but each of Christ’s disciples as well.

“So he told them this parable: ‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.” ~ Luke 15:3 -7

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Psalm 23 for Church Attendance

Recreation is my shepherd, I shall not stay at home; 
It maketh me to lie down in a sleeping bag; 
It leadeth me down the interstate each weekend.

It restoreth my suntan; 
It leadeth me to state parks for comfort’s sake. 
Even though I stray on the Lord’s Day, 
I will fear no reprimand, for I am relaxed; 
My rod and reel they comfort me. Continue reading

National Back to Church Sunday | Blog

National Back to Church Sunday | Blog.

Church doesn’t bite – people do.

Posted on 05/19/2011 by Jessica Clegg

If you told me in 2004 that I would stop going to church, resent Christians and be separated from my relationship with God by 2005, I would probably have laughed.

I had been going to church since elementary school, had given my life to Christ at a summer middle school camp and was on fire for Jesus. There wasn’t a thing related to church that I wasn’t involved in. I listened to mostly Christian music, ran a Bible Study, was president of Campus on the Rock at my high school, lead announcements at my high school ministry and was at church three days a week.

But that was the problem – I was burned out, exhausted, and overwhelmed with the weight of choosing to focus on college-prep or church activities. I knew the only one to talk to would be my youth pastor. We sat in his warehouse office – full of books and Bibles – and I eagerly waited for his answer.

“Maybe the problem is that you’re not focused enough on God, maybe you’re not involved in enough ministry,” he said. To say I was upset would soften the blow I felt in that moment. He went on for almost an hour, but the damage of his first statement blocked my ears to any other advice that followed. I instantly felt alone. I felt like no one, especially church people, could understand what it was like to be overwhelmed and lost as a Christian girl in high school.

It was at that moment that I decided to drop church and anything related. I stepped down from church leadership, handed over my presidency at Campus on the Rock and left the church. I can’t say this felt bad – it felt wonderful.  My resentment felt empowering and my bitterness fueled my focus in school.

It saddens me that looking back at this moment, I still remember the overwhelming relief of giving back the burden of service. There was a small tinge of upset at walking away from friendships I’d made, but to my surprise many of the church friends I had, forgot I ever existed. If I wasn’t in church, I wasn’t in their group Continue reading

Shepherd of today relates to nativity – UMC.org

Shepherd of today relates to nativity – UMC.org. (Follow link to read the rest of the story!)

“Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lords angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around the, and they were terrified.” (Luke 2:8-9, Common English Bible)

Each Christmas Eve when he hears the familiar account of the shepherds’ angelic visit, Glen Fisher has good reason to sit up a little straighter in his pew.

The United Methodist has herded sheep for more than 30 years on his ranch near Sonora in southwest Texas, and he is a respected leader in his profession. In January, Fisher will complete his two-year term as president of the American Sheep Industry Association, the national organization that represents the 82,000 sheep producers in the United States.

Sheep remain an integral part of U.S. agriculture. Farm flocks are raised in all 50 states, providing wool for mills as far away as China and meat for dinner tables closer to home. Fisher’s home state of Texas has the nation’s largest share of the industry, with more than 10 percent of the nation’s sheep producers and some 830,000 sheep and lambs as of this past January.

But Fisher, 63, takes special delight in being part of a profession referenced throughout the Bible and knowing that shepherds like him were among the first to hear the good news of Christ’s birth.

“I’m quite proud that even today all the Christians in the world know about shepherds and their sheep,” he says.

“The angel said, ‘Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you — wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord.'” (Luke 2:10-11)

Fisher’s work does not quite fit the standard Christmas greeting-card image of shepherds calmly caring for flocks with a shepherd’s crook and staff as their only tools. 

These days, Fisher tends his flock of 1,800 ewes and about 60 rams with a big blue Ford pickup, a feed buggy and the help of two ranch-hands.

He mainly checks to make sure his livestock, which also includes cattle and goats, have enough water and feed in their concrete troughs. It is dusty and time-intensive work. Even with the feed buggy, it takes a man two days to feed all the livestock on his property. The feed troughs typically need refilling every 10 days.

He also checks the condition of the pasture, sees if any fences need mending and looks for the tracks and droppings of any potential predators.

Many people characterize sheep as dumb, but Fisher says that’s not entirely true. He has seen sheep fight off coyotes to protect their young. Ewes can always identify their lambs by the sound of their “bahs.”

“They are pretty smart animals,” he explains. “But there are times when they can try your religion. When you are trying to get them into a pen and they just stare at you, you get mad and say the words you shouldn’t.”

His big worry, for now, is the drought that has parched his community since late September. December is Fisher’s lambing season, and seeing the lambs play and climb is usually his favorite part of the job. However, he now he has more mouths to feed and thirsts to quench.

 

Study shows high obesity rate for clergy – UMC.org

Now I have the perfect excuse for my recent weight gain! Or do I? A recent volunteer study was conducted and a subsequent report was made. Here is an excerpt:

Pastors can never stop at one dessert.

Refuse to sample a pie, cake or cookie during a local church potluck and you risk offending a parishioner.

That’s some of the anecdotal evidence that Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell has collected as research director of the Clergy Health Initiative, a program of Duke Divinity School.

But she also has some hard facts: United Methodist clergy in the state have an “alarming” prevalence of obesity and its related chronic diseases. Job stress seems to play a key role.

The article continues with:

Five major stress factors for clergy are mobility, low financial compensation, inadequate social support, high time demands and intrusions on family boundaries. “Clergy recently reported that these combined stressors decrease their engagement in healthy behaviors,” the study said.

I read this article following some recent news that a clergy friend of mine was no longer going to be serving a church because the folks there didn’t want to see their familiar church change. I have seen the numbers in attendance drop after a growth spurt in several churches – and now in one area of the country pastors are expected to post the church attendance numbers every Monday. Members want the pastor to visit whenever they are sick or lonely or worried, but only if the house has just been cleaned, the member looks his or her best, and it’s a “convenient” time. We are experiencing financial deficits in churches and growing needs from the community, and pastors are expected to “fix” the budget – even to the point of taking salary cuts, or no salary at all in some cases.

There’s more, so much more, but why beleaguer the point? I can’t help but think that it’s time we went back to basic declarations such as – WE ARE THE CHURCH! We are one body – the body of Christ, and if one part is ill or hurting, we are all ill and hurting.

“that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.” ~ 1 Corinthians 12: 25-26

Study shows high obesity rate for clergy – UMC.org.

I Wanna be a Sheep!

I Just Wanna Be a Sheep
Words by Brian M. Howard*

Chorus:
I just wanna be a sheep
Baa, baa, baa, baa
I just wanna be a sheep
Baa, baa, baa, baa
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
I just wanna be a sheep
Baa, baa, baa, baa

Don’t wanna be a goat, nope
Don’t wanna be a goat, nope
Haven’t got any hope, nope
Don’t wanna be a goat, nope

Don’t wanna be a hypocrite
Don’t wanna be a hypocrite
They’re not hip to it
Don’t wanna be a hypocrite

Don’t wanna be a Pharisee
Don’t wanna be a Pharisee
They’re not fair you see
Don’t wanna be a Pharisee

Don’t wanna be a Sadducee
Don’t wanna be a Sadducee
‘Cause they’re so sad you see
Don’t wanna be a Sadducee

Just wanna be a child of God
Just wanna be a child of God
Walkin’ the same path He trod
Just wanna be a child of God

Do you remember singing this song during Vacation Bible School or maybe with your youth group? I began to wax nostalgic several days ago when a friend shared with me a couple of youtube video clips and then told me about an upcoming mission trip. This all made me remember and reflect on my pre-clergy days, those days when I believed with all certainty that as a member of the laity I was entitled to care by my pastor whenever I needed it, owed right instruction on the Word of God, and privileged to abdicate all responsibility of my eternal soul to someone other than myself. Those days were carefree and happy child-like days!

Now, this does not mean to say that I wasn’t doing something for the kingdom of God. For several years I went on various mission trips. I traveled to Mexico and Venezuela with other missionary’s and helped with the construction of several cement block simple form churches. We did outreach with the families and the children by having VBS. Why, we didn’t even ask for a single donation to participate in these programs and we bought all the material in our own home town! I will acknowledge that I received as much as I gave through this work (as is often the case when we give a portion back to God, no matter how small the portion). I received relatively cost-free trips to Mexico and Venezuela. I had the opportunity to visit parts of the world that I never would have traveled to under normal circumstances. I made friends and long-lasting relationships with neighbors and fellow church members, and my self-esteem grew in leaps and bounds whenever I was asked to go on another mission trip because I was “needed”. So, I was helping to grow the kingdom of God! Wasn’t I?

As I reflected deeper, I recognized that the answer to those questions was a resounding “YES“! I was growing the kingdom of God – just not in the way I thought I was doing it. (Surprised?) What I have come to realize is that my kingdom growing was in my own heart and in my personal spiritual growth. As my baby steps of study, prayer and service helped me grow in my relationship with God, my witness to His love and grace began to touch others that he placed in my path, like a ripple in a pond when a stone is thrown in. Many opportunities have been given to me to talk to others and to example my faith. But more than that, I have developed a friendship with God. I am a sheep that knows the sound of my shepherd’s voice. Isn’t that one of the ways we can grow the Kingdom of God – by wholly becoming immersed in a relationship with our creator and being a witness to His voice?

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” ~ John 10:14-16

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