Friday, October 13, 2017

Devotional 10-13-17

Lectionary Readings:  Exodus 33:12-23; Psalm 99; Matthew 22: 15-22; 1 Thessalonians 1:  1-10.
Every time we think of you, we thank God for you.  Day and night, you’re in our prayers as we call to mind your work of faith; your labor of love, and your patience of hope in following our Master, Jesus Christ, before God our Father.  1 Thessalonians 1: 2-3 (The Message)

This devotion is not a typical one for me, but I hope you will indulge me and read it anyway. In the passage highlighted above, Paul, Silas and Timothy were writing to the church in Thessalonica and were praising their faithfulness and their acts of love and patience in following Christ. The whole passage speaks to the faithful servants living in this city, just like my friend, Al. I have been preoccupied with my memories of JMUMC’s past Minister of Music, Albert J. Zabel, III, since learning of his death last week.  He was a talented organist and a prolific composer/arranger of sacred music for the organ, hand-bells, other instruments and choral works for adults, teens and children.  I didn’t know that he had even written a book on how to move from employing piano skills to playing the organ (Practically Perfect Pedaling).

 As talented and gifted as he was, the qualities I most admired were his perseverance in serving God by using those talents and his steadfast faith in God.  He was a very humble person who did not seek the limelight.  He never called attention to the works that we performed that were his creations or arrangements.  Someone in the choir (Handbell or Sanctuary) would notice his name, sometimes only after we had practiced the work several times, but he never made that announcement.  His individual performances on the organ were primarily preludes/postludes and the occasional concert which was usually in coordination with other performers.  He willingly accompanied a host of choirs and singers throughout his life, always focusing on the performer and the music, and not himself.  He was dedicated to the rich tapestry of music that honored and glorified God.

I got to know Al “up close and personal” on the Summer Players Youth Tours between 1984 and 1991.  The first musical drama that I toured with was the newly written “Uniquely Yours”, a collaboration between Al and Trilby Jordan.  It was full of humor and real life about how teens can remain close to God and still express their unique qualities and gifts.  His musical score included a violin, flute, clarinet, French horn and hand bells, as well as some “special effects”.  The musical drama was so appropriate for the youth in our group, but Al’s talent seemed so effortless, we didn’t realize the depth of his gifts.

The message from this drama to all of us, was that God uses us as we are.  We don’t need to be anything other than who we already are. We are enough! God calls each of us and asks us to be faithful in following His guidance and to put His plan into action.  We all have a history of struggles and heartache; joys and mountain-top experiences also. But, we are never alone.  God is With Us throughout every struggle and rejoices with us in every joy.   God blessed our congregation and community with the talents of Al Zabel and we are all better for it.  He created, taught, served and cared for all those around him.  He inspired us through his music and through his entire life. He was faithful to God’s plan for him and did not seek adulation for his efforts.  May we all go and do likewise with the gifts God gives us. God asks us to spread the gospel, to sow the seeds…and He will take care of the rest.  Al was faithful to God’s direction in willingly sharing his God-given gifts with students, choirs, congregations and even those who have purchased his music who do not even know him.

Dear Almighty and Wonderful God: We thank you for the life and service of Al Zabel.  We know that his gifts came from you and he was faithful to use them to glorify your name.  Thank you for all that you have taught us through our association with him.  You bless us every day with angels and saints who appear in our lives as ordinary people, but have been sent by you to show us more clearly how we should live and care for one another.  We thank you for this glimpse of the eternal through the extraordinary life and music of Al Zabel.  AMEN                                                                                                                                                                  

Chyrl Budd

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Devotional 10-7-17

What Do They Call You?

My brother and I were born in an Army hospital. Our names were chosen before our mom went back through the big double doors – alone – to delivery whatever we would be. 50+ years ago, ultrasound was an unknown baby-sex-determining technology. She had to write down a boy’s name and a girl’s name BEFORE delivery (As a total aside, I would have been Ann Elizabeth had I been a girl.). So as a result of that notation on the page > I have been Steve for 55 years. More recently, as I move through the West Virginia Annual Conference and the National United Methodist Foundation circles, I get to be Kim’s husband…I like that. Makes my stock price HIGH. The last 20 plus years have garnered me the title of Grant and Josh’s dad. I like that one too > I’m uber proud of my fellas and will NEVER miss a chance to be identified with them.

For the bulk of my electrical career I have had the  (nick) name "The Lightbulb Guy" – with some customers even introducing me using the company name as my last name > catching their mistake and grinning.

At work now some call me the bicycle guy and ask a myriad of chain, tire, gear, and riding questions. What I don’t think anyone has ever called me is the church guy or God’s guy or the religious guy, or…

The internet (namely Facebook) is riddled with memes! Memes about just about EVERY subject imaginable. Some are so silly. One shows our 16th President’s famous silhouette with the words, “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.” And it’s signed – A. Lincoln. A meme/story that did catch my eye was from a Fred Rogers quote: "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”

Physical helpers can certainly be spotted. Although the news would rather show the looters, occasionally a story surfaces of someone or several someones helping. I was moved by the video clip of trucks pulling boats on trailers lined along the interstate, queued up ready to help after Harvey hit Texas. We also see pictures of our WV United Methodists packing flood buckets and repairing homes and churches.

Society seems to be on an unfiltered rampage of being offended, complaining and name calling. I have to stop myself and ask if I’m helping to NOT spread gossip, if I’m helping to NOT discredit ideas that aren’t my own, if I’m helping to NOT  blame when things don’t go my way, if I’m helping to NOT dismiss someone because I don’t like their stance, if I’m helping – if I’m helping! There’s an old saying (not from Facebook – Ha): No word is ever wasted. It either helps or it hurts. I MUST be sure that I HELP.

Psalm 19 v14: Let the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
Steve Matthews

Friday, September 29, 2017

Devotional 9-28-17

I have never turned away a stranger
but have opened my doors to everyone. --Job 31:31

Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth—
stranger, not your own lips. --Proverbs 27: 2

With her permission, I am sharing a Facebook post from my niece Kerry who is a social worker in Columbus, Ohio:

Friends. I have just had what might be the single most delightful conversation of my life with Ms. Ann Smith, an 80 year old woman dining next to me at Lavash. She struck up a conversation about an Uber Eats sign and we spent at least the next half hour (maybe longer) talking. She told me all about the 26 day trip she took for her 80th birthday which included a week-long cruise on the Columbia River even though she couldn't get anyone to go on the cruise with her. Next month she's going on a cruise around Portugal and Spain with a woman she just met. We talked about politics, and my job, and bad drivers, and so many other things. Several times I had to stop myself from weeping with joy at connecting with this woman. She reminded me of my grandmother. My 36th birthday is in about six weeks and when I told her she was inspiring me to consider a solo trip of my own, she told me I was "just a child" and that I should practice self-care and do things to find joy. And I feel so wonderful about it all that I just had to share with the internet. One million heart emojis could not convey how this chat with a stranger warmed my heart.

Afterwards, Ms. Smith came back and stuffed a note, about a restaurant in the area that has yummy desserts and a happy upcoming birthday message, also $7--so Kerry could treat herself on her birthday. This from a total stranger!

I told my niece that I have rarely been disappointed when striking up a conversation with a stranger.

Several years ago, I heard a story about Egypt on NPR. The reporter told about an average Egyptian coffee shop. Rather than single tables, there were long tables where strangers were forced to sit together. Patrons actually talked to each other rather than burying their noses in their phones or laptops.

Can you make someone's day by simply engaging in conversation? Think of what you might be missing by not.

For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. --Matthew 25:35
Anita Gardner Farrell

Friday, September 22, 2017

Devotional 9-22-17

In January, Jeff Taylor told us that as cradle Christians ours is more of a faith story of our growth as a christian. Looking back at my life, a lot of that growth was in micro-mini steps that are hard to quantify.

What I can tell you is that I eventually learned to ask God to guide me when I wasn’t sure what was the right thing to do.  A warm feeling in my heart would tell me I was on the right track. If I did not get a warm feeling I took that to mean I needed to rethink what I was doing.

I wish I could tell you that I always stop and ask for guidance, but of course that doesn’t happen!  It did teach me to listen for God’s voice.

The next time God spoke to me was many years later before our convocation about becoming  a Reconciling Ministry congregation.  I hate conflict and had been to enough meetings to know that the convocation would be painful for  me.  I didn’t want to go, but was feeling guilty, feeling like it was my responsibility to be there.  So I was  praying.  God told me that not only was I going, but I was going to speak!  Another thing I don’t like is speaking in front of groups.  I said “Ok, but what am going to say?  I get tongue tied on all those alphabet letters and besides I don’t like the labels!”  God reminded me of Mathew 22:35-40 when Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment was and “Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord, your God with all of your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Mathew 22: 37-40 NIV) I’m thinking, “Ok.  I can do this.  Everyone is my neighbor.  I don’t need to use those alphabet labels.”  I wrote out what I was going to say starting with the bible quote from Mathew.  I added that this makes it very easy for  me, I want all of our neighbors to know that they are welcome in our church before they come through our doors.  Sunday morning before church I was studying what I was going to say and  praying to God to help me not to stumble over my words.  At this point, God had one more surprise for me.  He told me I needed to add that what Jesus says trumps anything else in the Bible!  I added it, then took it out.  I’m thinking, this is really going to upset some people.God put it back in two more times!

God takes us out of our comfort zones.  Every time I have taken that step of faith I have been truly blessed!

Margaret Williams

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Devotional 9-16-17

A few Sundays ago, I attended worship in a different church than my own. Steve and I went there only because a friend was preaching, and we wanted to hear his message. We live in a different town than the church; there is no chance that living where we live, we would become members of this church. I wasn't there in my Foundation role; I looked like a "regular" visitor.

As we sat there, a person brought us a visitor bag that had homemade banana bread in it. I tried to tell her that she didn't need to do that, but nothing stopped her, and we came home with bread.

As I sat there in worship, feeling guilty, I realized that I was doing the church an injustice. My guilt was based on the idea that the bread was offered in exchange for something - that it was offered to persuade me that they were friendly and to try to convince me to return. That's not a very grace-filled motivation behind offering a gift, and why would I expect that their motivation was anything but grace-filled? The bread was a gift, offered in the love of Christ, to two peoploe they did not know.

Glory to God.

Instead of feeling guilty, I should have felt thankful for their message of welcome and grace. And now I do.

There is a lesson in this for all of us, I think. When we offer hospitality, we should remember that it is a radical act of grace, not done in the expectation of something in return. When we receive that kind of grace, we should be thankful for it, and not think it was done in "exchange" for something.

It's grace.

Kim Matthews

Friday, September 8, 2017

Devotional 9-8-17

With a Voice of Singing
Psalm 149
Praise the Lord!
Sing to the Lord a new song,
    his praise in the assembly of his faithful people.
Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;
    let the people of Zion be glad in their King.
Let them praise his name with dancing
    and make music to him with timbrel and harp.
For the Lord takes delight in his people;
    he crowns the humble with victory.
Let his faithful people rejoice in this honor
    and sing for joy on their beds.

When I was about five years old, I did something wonderful! I joined the Johnson Memorial Carol Girls Choir. I remember one of our first anthems was “Come Christians Join and Sing,” and I was so proud when the Carol Girls and Wesley Boys Choirs presented it to the congregation. From that very first performance, I was hooked.

When I graduated to junior high school, I became a member of the Crusader Choir, and with high school came membership into the Chapel Choir. With each graduation brought anthems with greater difficulty and deeper meaning. Those anthems helped me understand the scriptures in a way nothing else did.

I’m now a member of JM’s Sanctuary Choir, and I still get goose bumps when we are sight-reading an especially beautiful anthem. I may love the melody, or the words may move me to tears. Either way, singing God’s praises brings joy. It was true when this psalm was written. It is true today.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we are thankful for all You have given us. We are also thankful for the ways we can praise Your name. Let us praise Your name with dancing, instruments of all kinds, and, of course, singing! In Your name we pray. Amen
Becky Warren

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Devotional 9-3-17


Read Romans 12:9-21

A definition of Humanity is; compassionate, sympathetic, or generous behavior or disposition : the quality or state of being humane.

I believe that the above definition is exactly what is being stated in in the passage from Romans.  It is how we as Christians are to treat all we encounter, no exceptions.

It distresses me to hear Christians making light of another's misfortune, of looking at those who have made bad decisions in life as someone less then human.  We all are on this big ball floating in space, and it is all we have.  We have to care for each other as God desires for us to do.  We are losing our Humanity for our brothers and sisters.  We should be reaching out to each other offering support.

Love each other, reach out to all in need, be the Disciple we are called to be for Jesus Christ.  Again I say, no exceptions!!!!! Remember Jesus never made an exception...

Peace and love to all.
Fred Herr