Dear Friends in Faith,
I am in my 27th year of ministry as a United Methodist pastor. It’s hard to believe! I am soul tired from the wear and tear of ministry over the years. I have requested a 3-month renewal leave and SPR and Parish Council have graciously granted it to me. I am so very grateful! I have 10 or so more years of ministry before I retire, and this gift will restore my soul and empower me to continue strong. I appreciate the support and encouragement I have received in this process.
I listened to a talk by Father Greg Boyle today. He talked of the importance and challenge of practicing our faith. It is one thing to believe in Jesus. It is another to live in the way of Jesus. We have great intentions, but many days, by noon, we fall short of our intentions. Living in the way of Jesus is hard. Father Boyle talks about not making daily decisions to be faithful, but moment by moment choices. And so, he creates mantras, or breath prayers, that remind him throughout the day of his intention. For example, one is, “Listen, listen, listen. Love, love, love.” He repeats “listen” as he breathes in, and “love” as he breathes out. Here are some other suggestions: “cherish the person in front of me,” “Your grace is enough,” “Come, Lord Jesus,” “Be still and know,” “Be strong and courageous,” “Do not be afraid,” “I am a beloved child of God.” The possibilities are endless. Such breath prayers can be a source of encouragement, strength, and determination. Try one for a day and see what difference it makes.
Dear Friends in Park County and beyond,
There is a lot of guilt in our Christian tradition. Surely if we are having too much fun then we must be doing something wrong! But, do you think that comes from God? I was challenged this week to think about that. God created this amazing, beautiful planet for us to live on and enjoy. God gave us tastebuds to enjoy the taste of the food we eat. God gave us the ability to laugh and smile and be filled with joy. God created us in a way that our hearts become full when we have fun playing with other people. In these intense days, I think it is important to seek out pleasure and let go of the guilt that comes with it. Go ahead and eat that bowl of ice cream and enjoy it! I’ve been enjoying long hot showers. It’s like the stress dissipates with the water and goes down the drain. And it just plain old feels good.
Dear Family of Faith,
Hope you are staying warm and safe in this polar vortex. Here is something to warm your heart, a video I shared in worship today. Take a moment and watch it, you won’t regret it. It will put a smile on your face! This 4-year-old boy, Rylyn Clark, was missing his cousins and grandparents, so his mom asked him to sing a song that would make them feel better. She recorded it, and here it is! Here it is:
Dear Friends of PCUMM,
I found inspiration in the words of Psalm 36 this week:
5 Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.
6 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your justice like the ocean depths.
You care for people and animals alike, O Lord.
7 How precious is your unfailing love, O God!
All humanity finds shelter
in the shadow of your wings.
8 You feed them from the abundance of your own house,
letting them drink from your river of delights.
9 For you are the fountain of life,
the light by which we see. (Psalm 36:5-9 NLT)
Hello Methodists of Park County and beyond,
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in God, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13 NIV
This is a jam-packed blessing! I have been thinking about what “hope” looks like in these tumultuous days. There is so much going on in our world, so many layers to be navigating. Not to mention the significant things in our personal lives. It can be overwhelming and discouraging. This short powerful verse says hope begins with trust. Trust in God. I think this trust is a verb, an action word. It requires effort and intentionality on our part. It is more than mental ascent or allegiance to God. It translates to action. Living by the teachings and example of Jesus, even when the world calls us in another direction. Somedays it is easier than others to trust God. But, deep down in my soul, I believe that God is trustworthy. That doesn’t mean everything will work out the way I want. It doesn’t mean there will be a happy ending to everything. It does mean through the valleys and mountain tops, God is loving us and giving us what we need to continue on. Hope. As we trust in God, we are filled with hope, joy, and peace. Those are the gifts God bestows upon us as we trust in God. May it be so!
Dear Family of Faith,
On Monday I started a letter to you with this quote from LR Knost. It still feels relevant.
“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And in-between the amazing and the awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.”
Dear Family of Faith,
One of my favorite authors is Henri Nouwen. His writings have inspired me and sustained my spirit across several decades. His wisdom is enduring. This advent season as we seek to embrace and see the beauty in darkness, this writing spoke to me and I hope it does you as well.
“It is easy to put the bad memories under the rug of my life and to think only about the good things that please me. By doing so I prevent myself from discovering the joy beneath my sorrow, the peace hidden in the midst of my conflicts, and the strength that becomes visible in the midst of my weaknesses.” (Weavings, November/December 1992, p. 39-40)
As we enter the darkest days of the year, my prayer for all of us is that we discover God’s gifts for us in the darkness. The peace that passes all understanding. The joy that shines through in unexpected ways. The love that encompasses all of life.
Christmas Eve will be different this year. We will gather digitally on Zoom at 7pm. Rumor has it God and 3 angels will come to visit us as we enjoy Stories and Songs in front of the Christmas Tree! I encourage you to join us! Pajamas welcome! Go to www.zoom.us. Click on “Join meeting.” Then enter the meeting ID# 883 3388 9515. Call for the passcode! Then enable your video and audio. You will be able to see everyone on your screen, whether it is a cell phone, tablet, or computer. Bring a candle and we will light those together.
We are continuing to worship Sunday mornings on Zoom at 9 am (call the office for the password) and in-person at 11:00 am at Holbrook. All are welcome. We do wear masks and socially distance to minimize the risk.
Thank yous continue to come in from Livingston Health Care and Park County Public Health. Our act of generosity and kindness is having a rippling impact of encouragement and hope!
You are all in my prayers as we journey through this unusual season. Stay safe and take care.
May the Lord bless you and keep you,
Dear Methodists on the Yellowstone and beyond!
This week it was a joy to join in the effort to appreciate the healthcare workers and first responders in Livingston. In this dark year, as our days get shorter, we can increase our joy by sharing joy with others. This week we spread joy through flowers, candy, words of appreciation and smiles. This was a group effort. There’s still a way you can participate. We raised $500 but the project cost $700. If you would like to contribute, please make a check out to “Park County United Methodist Ministries” and send to Grace at 302 9th Street Livingston, MT 59047. Thank you to everyone!
In this season when joy is hard to come by, we must be more intentional about finding ways to spread joy. I think joy is like the stars shining in the night sky. Join us Sunday morning, or listen to the sermon on our website, as we explore more fully finding joy in the darkness.
Christmas Eve we will celebrate via Zoom worship at 7 pm. We will have stories and songs for all ages. Feel free to join in your pajamas. I’ll be wearing mine and join you from in front of my Christmas tree. Invite your friends and family! One blessing of this year is that people can join us from any location. So, share this information! (Note it is different than our weekly Sunday morning worship.)
Meeting ID# 883 3388 9515
Call the church office for the password!
I’ve attached my sermon from last Sunday which goes deeper into the idea of embracing the darkness and finding the gifts of God there. Or you can listen to it here: https://www.methodistsontheyellowstone.org/worship/embracing-the-darkness-consider
God is on the mountain top. God is in the valley. God is in the light. And God is in the darkness.
Thursday Hymns and Prayers This Thursday at 7 pm bring your favorite nativity or Christmas decoration to share. We will connect with one another, sing carols, and lift up our prayers. We have a great time together. All are welcome! Zoom ID# 522 462 362 call the church office for the password!
May the Lord bless you and keep you!
Austin Channing Brown recently wrote, “Sometimes hope isn’t what we feel, it’s what we do.” As we reflect this advent season on the role of darkness in our lives this quote caught my attention. Hope isn’t always feeling optimistic about life and the future. As I mentioned in my sermon last Sunday (attached to this email and a video version here https://www.methodistsontheyellowstone.org/worship/embracing-the-darkness ) hope begins in darkness. Hope starts when we are unsatisfied with the way things are. When we are in pain, feel frustration, experience injustice, are filled with anger, or sick and in need of healing. It is in these places that we need hope to help us cope, persevere, and move forward in a way that leads to healing, redemption, new possibilities, thriving, and even new life. Hope is trusting God will be with you in that process. Some days hope is having an optimistic mindset and believing it will be better one day. Some days hope is acting to bring about your preferred future. What can you do today to move yourself, your family, your community toward healing, wholeness, redemption or flourishing? You are not alone in that work; God is with you. Hold on to hope. Hope lives
Park County United Methodist Ministries
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