May 31, 2012

Introducing Blair Lewis

We are pleased our bishop and superintendent have appointed Blair Lewis to our congregation beginning June 1. Blair will assume full pastoral duties upon the completion of licensing school in July.

He will assume the general duties that Meredith Bell and Estee Valendy have undertaken—primarily evangelism and communications. But, in addition, Blair will be the chief preacher of the Celebration worship service and we are excited about that.

Blair recently turned forty and brings with him his spouse, Dawn, and daughter, Morgan, who is a competitive runner and swimmer. The family is a self-proclaimed unit of "workout fiends" and "health nuts." Though they mostly eat organic, Blair and Dawn each suffer from a bit of a sweet tooth. Morgan, being ten years old, will consume anything unhealthy she can acquire.

Blair and Dawn married in 2009 and she is an inspector for the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. Dawn grew up in Beaumont and Rayne, Louisiana, while Blair spent his childhood in Stillwater, Oklahoma and Abilene, Texas.

Graduating from Texas A&M University in 1994, Blair majored in Business Management. He has 17 years experience in finance, finishing as a senior vice president for DWS Investments, the investment arm of Deutsche Bank.

Blair felt a calling to ministry in 2010 and has been transitioning ever since to full-time ministry. Rev. Meredith Bell, who served our church for three years, has been in Blair and Dawn’s Sunday school class. She is excited we are getting the Lewis family and tells me her daughters, Ann and Lia, dearly love them.

Over the summer, make Blair, Dawn and Morgan feel welcome among us. May God bless Blair’s ministry as he becomes a pastor in our midst.

May 24, 2012

Memorial Day

My friend Tom Butts from Monroeville, Alabama wrote about Memorial Day in a quite moving way. Without his permission, I would like to share it for this upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

Soon . . . we commemorate Memorial Day originating in 1868, when Union General John A. Logan designated a day when graves of Civil War soldiers would be decorated. Known as Decoration Day, the holiday soon changed to Memorial Day, becoming a holiday dedicated to the memory of all war dead. It became a federal holiday in 1971. There is also a Confederate Memorial Day, variously celebrated in some of the southern states. Memorial Day helps us remember Veterans.

A thoughtful writer put it this way:

It is the VETERAN, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the VETERAN, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the VETERAN, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the VETERAN, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to assemble.

It is the VETERAN, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the VETERAN, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote.

What veterans do for our country and the church lives in our hymn “They’ll know we are Christians by our love” suggests: “We will work with each other we will work side by side . . . And we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride.”

As we remember to remember may I quote myself from last Sunday’s sermon: “We are at our best when we remember; we are at our worst when we forget!”

May 16, 2012

On Confirmation

On 19/20 May 2012 we as a church will confirm some 40-odd young people in our church—and by odd I mean numerically because the exact number always seems like a moving target.

Confirmation is an old and traditional way for believers to be connected with the past’s saints. It is not graduation from the church (the confirmands never to be seen again), but rather a way to take another step toward being mature believers in Christ. Confirmation is part of a constant journey toward God and life in Christ. This journey begins at baptism, when God gives us our Christian name to grow into, and goes on until we go to be with God. Part of our confirmation celebration embraces a worship service where the confirmands obtain a blessing and the openly confirm the baptismal vows made for them by their parents or sponsors at their baptism.

Confirmation is also a way for new believers to connect with the current believers of the congregation. From the point of view of the church we see our new confirmands as adults. Thereby they are now eligible to participate in the church’s functional work, mission outreach, and make a financial pledge to the life of the church. This activity is all part of our vow to support the church with our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. We make this pledge in front of family, friends, and God!

Finally confirmation aims believers in a direction to grow in grace and to seek the sanctification for which John Wesley made Methodists famous. In fact sanctification frequently appears in Wesleyan theology. John Wesley clearly believed that God saved people in an instant by declaring them justified by faith.

However, Wesley also believed that that is not where the Christian life ended. A saved person could still “go on to perfection” by “growing in grace in this life.” What Wesley offered believers was a way to continue their journey with God to the end of their lives. Thus, the journey toward God is never complete. We can always grow in grace and for Paul and John Wesley and our Grandma this meant that God could always offer even the most devout believer “entire sanctification.”

Confirmation is the beginning of a journey and we here at church welcome our confirmands along for a glorious trip with us toward God!

May 10, 2012

Thank God For Mothers

An article in National Geographic a decade or so ago, provided a penetrating picture of God’s wings. After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno's damage. One ranger found a bird petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree.

Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick. When he gently pushed it, three tiny chicks scurried out from under the dead mother’s wings. The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies. Then the blaze had arrived and the heat had scorched her small body, the mother had remained steadfast. Because she had been willing to die so those under the cover of her wings would live.

Psalm 91:4 reminds us of God’s care for God’s children. It well illustrates this story from Yellowstone: “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.”

Someone described us modern people too well when he/she wrote these lines:

We take the silver out and polish it
With all the zeal that we can muster,
But leave religion on the upper shelf
Expecting it to hold its luster.
Supposing our children to be with us, we travel on.
Are your children with you? 

Thank God for the mothers who try to give their children a sense of direction and purpose greater than their own self-gratification.

Happy Mother’s Day!

May 3, 2012

National Day of Prayer

Today, many Americans will celebrate the National Day of Prayer. It is a time for people of all faiths to pray together in their own way. May we honor prayer by practicing it!

A scripture verse that is fitting to attend to prayer is Genesis 14:18-20.

“And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. Melchizedek blessed Abram and said,

‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
maker of heaven and earth;
and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!’

And Abram gave him one tenth of everything.”

I heard that a church in Georgia once published a rather long prayer list. They thought it would be helpful to identify the reason for each person being on the list. In this way, people could pray for specific needs and problems, rather than praying in vague generalities. There were all the usual things: hospitalized, bereaved and facing surgery.

But beside the name of one man was written “pain in the neck.” Most churches have a member or two who deserves such a description, but few put it in print! And it does seem sometimes that only prayer can cure that affliction. Prayer is a powerful spiritual weapon against the forces of evil. Pray today for Arlington, for our church and for our nation. Prayer is our best and brightest hope.

Prayer makes us a part of the solution rather that part of the problem—and we are usually one or the other.

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