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Monday, November 26, 2012

A Different Kind of Christmas

Listen to this week's sermon here:

MP3 File

James offers some insightful, yet challenging statements which we heard again in worship today.  Two in particular are when he says, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says."  And "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows..."  Using a dialogue format our Lead Minister, Dr. Daniel, and our Associate Minister, Jen Hibben, talked about how this applies to us as we enter the Advent Season and with Christmas around the corner.  True religion is not surface-level or shallow; it's a life-changing force -- it's about Jesus.  And exerts positive influence on our lives and on others' lives.  What is Christmas all about...to you?  Hopefully it's Jesus.  With that in mind we're planning a different kind of Christmas because there's more than what we've acknowledged.  We want to make it different for ourselves, for our families, for our community, and for our world.  What will it look like?  To help make it different, our Advent small group study will use of Mike Slaughter's well-written materials, "Christmas Is Not Your Birthday" and "A Different Kind of Christmas."  We're going to ReFocus, and seek a closer relationship with Jesus.  We're planning a different kind of initiative, and going on a mission for children who are the most vulnerable.  We want to see more kids getting the food they need each day, both locally and globally, by partnering with the local agency, Children and Family Urban Ministries (CFUM), and StrongMissions located in Costa Rica.  True religion springs from an inner spiritual reality, and expresses love for others -- to those on the margins of life -- children; the poor; the least; the lonely; widows.  To accomplish this, our  first-year challenge for ourselves church-wide is:  whatever we spend for Christmas gifts this year, give at least 25% of that amount to this mission initiative for children.  Might you join us and accept this challenge as well?

Gene Kelsey, Director of Christian Education

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Don't forget God

Listen to the sermon here:

MP3 File

Thanksgiving has been described many different ways over the years with one being that it's a holiday when the family gets together for dinner at halftime of the football game.   Another person said he was thankful for several things: that he was not a turkey; for short, brief sermons; that his teenagers would someday have babies, then teenagers of their own; for snow that falls on his unraked leaves; for equipment and appliances that can be turned off; that no one can turn off the moon and the stars.  For what are you thankful?  In Deuteronomy 8, we're reminded, "don't forget God."  Today, Dr. Daniel reminded us of this important message that God gave long ago to the children of Israel as they were entering the Promised Land.  They had been miraculously delivered out of slavery, and led through the wilderness where God made water flow for them from "flint rock".  Now they were entering into a land flowing with streams, and springs and underground waters; a land of wheat and barley...fig trees...and honey; a land where they may eat bread without scarcity, and where they will lack nothing.  Now the warning: Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God, by failing to keep his commandments.  And do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God; nor say to yourself, "My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth."  Remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth.  It's been said that Thanksgiving is perhaps the most dangerous of holidays.  Not because we might eat too much, or because we travel and might have an accident.  It's because we forget God.  Even in prayer, believe it or not, we sometimes forget God.  While naming the many blessings we've received it's even possible that our emphasis is on the blessings rather than on the one who blessed us!  As we celebrate this week, hear the reminder: don't forget God!

Gene Kelsey, Director of Christian Education

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

WDMUMC Youth Do Reggie's Sleep Out

Most of us have warm and cozy beds to sleep in each night (even though sometimes we may resist going to them at a decent time and are even more resistant getting out of them in the morning). What about those who don’t have a warm place to rest? How does it feel to be young, alone, and sleeping out in the cold? 

On October 27th, 21 youth and four adults from West Des Moines United Methodist Church participated in the 7th annual Reggie’s Sleepout at Drake Stadium to raise funds and awareness for the Iowa Homeless Youth Centers. The event is named in honor of Reggie Kelsey, who aged out of the foster care system in 2001 and then within three and a half months died in the Des Moines River. Reggie’s Place Coffee Shop and Reggie’s Sleepout raise funds to help prevent similar tragedies. The participants of Reggie’s Sleepout are to experience just one night of sleeping out in the cold. They may bring a tent or use cardboard boxes to create their bed for the night. And yes, duct tape was permitted and many rolls were used that evening! Here are what some of the youth shared following their experience: 

 • Maddie – “It was a good experience for us, but we had the benefit that it was not a super cold night and we could bring just about anything from home to keep warm. It was challenging to think how people and especially kids, have to do this every night. We worry about having the latest iPhone and they don’t even have enough to stay warm. It was also a good bonding time with the Youth Group – we all learned something and could share in the experience together.”
 • Jackson – “It was really fun to be at the stadium and to get to know other kids better. It was a chilly night, but I hardly noticed because of the fun and activities. But I realized it is not so fun to sleep in a box, especially if I had to do it every night. I feel very lucky to have the things I have.”
 • Emma – “Our group had a lot of fun building our house and playing games, but I missed my bed and warm bedroom at home. I feel so sorry for kids who sleep outside all of the time. I enjoyed the experience and want to do it again next year.” 
• Jennie – “I really liked Reggie’s Sleepout because it really makes us think about how fortunate we are. It was just one cold night for us, but others do that every night and in much colder weather. The electricity going out for a while made the experience even more real as we stood in the darkness, feeling helpless. I definitely want to do this again.” 
• Joe – “It was a fun and a learning experience. It really put our architectural skills to the test – I think I could have done so much more with more duct tape. But seriously, it helped us feel what homeless people feel like. As I went to bed that night, I thought of those who go without a sleeping bag or coat and just use whatever they can to try to stay warm.” 

Everyone developed a deep appreciation for their comforts of home and how meaningless material items are when you do not even have a warm place to rest for the night. We pray for all of those who do not have a warm and safe place to rest each night.

Darin Woodward, WDMUMC member

Friday, November 9, 2012

Lifetree kickoff

After many months of visioning, planning, praying and diligent work, West Des Moines UMC gave birth to Lifetree Cafe on Grand; a new outreach ministry to the community and church, on Thursday, November 8, 2012! 

Lifetree Cafe is a new place in the Des Moines Metro area, where persons of various backgrounds gather in an informal and comfortable setting (a coffee house atmosphere) to hear and discuss real life issues and how they may impact their daily life and faith. 

The launch night had close to 35 persons gathered, engaging in conversations following the topic of discussion for the evening, "Smile, Even When You Think You Can't", led and facilitated by Duane Daby. The story of a mother and her incredible son, who has Cerebral Palsy, reminded us to look for the blessings in our lives, and to SMILE, even as we walk through the difficult journey's in life. The conversations were stimulating and invigorating around each table, as a beautiful spirit of excitement guided this launch night...many reasons to "Smile!" One participant commented, "We can't wait to see what God is going to do with Lifetree to touch and change lives!"

Next Thursday's program is titled, "Wounded Warriors, When War Comes Home," which will powerfully share and explore the impact of post-traumatic stress disorder in the lives of our military veterans, and the resources and strategies for coping with PTSD. 
The program features an exclusive film of a veteran who saw his friend killed in combat, and his return to civilian life. He'll openly share the lingering mental distress, violent tendencies, and relationship problems he experienced, yet how he also eventually found hope and stability.

We encourage you to attend, and to invite a friend, neighbor, or family member who may be touched through this story to join you. We gather every Thursday at 7:00p.m. for one hour at 720 Grand Avenue. 

At Lifetree Cafe you'll be warmly greeted and welcomed every week, share in thought provoking learning experiences, be invited into stimulating discussions and discover opportunities to build friendships with new friends.  We assure you'll leave each Lifetree Cafe experience enlightened and encouraged. 
We hope to meet and welcome you next week!

Paige Chapman

Director of Assimilation and Servant Ministries
Director of Lifetree Cafe

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Scarcity and Abundance

Listen to the sermon here:

MP3 File

We all agree that God is a generous God.  Yet we don't live like it.  Why is that?  Last Sunday Pastor Jen provided a very challenging and thought-provoking message that responds to this conflict or contrast -- scarcity or abundance.  It seems that much of the time we tend to hoard our money and our talents, and that we live by the rules related to a culture of scarcity rather than a culture of abundance.  Our thinking, and behavior,  seems to be that we can't give to the church, or to charity, or to help neighbor, because what if I give and my car breaks down, or what if I need that money for something else?  We have come to believe that we must look out for ourselves, and that generosity or sharing is dangerous.   We're careful to only give if we can be sure of what it will get us or the benefit we can expect in return.  And we've concluded that this is even good stewardship because this is being responsible.   Yet the Bible and God seem to speak in terms of abundance.  Abundance thinking teaches us that generosity or sharing is a joy.  That it's like the Kingdom of God.  Here at the church we had our Fall Fest celebration that included a Trunk or Treat. One area where we wanted to be intentional was to have trunks full of candy because we wanted to offer abundance to all the kids who came -- to offer and have more than enough for everyone!  We wanted to communicate the feeling of abundant love!  Here's the contrast:  The culture of scarcity says there's never enough; that we have to fight to meet our needs, and to take as much as we can.  That we give only when we know what we'll get.  And there's no guarantee we'll be cared for.  Generosity and sharing are dangerous.   The culture of abundance teaches us there's more than enough; that our needs are met; and that we take only what we need, and to share the rest.  That we give without expectations, because we will be cared for.  That generosity and sharing are joyous.  This is an area where all of us can examine our hearts.  How can we stop the voice of scarcity?  It's to pray, "God, how can I learn to live out of abundance -- Your abundance?"  Then to listen for the voice of God.  And try it -- live by a different set of "rules" -- the rules and culture of abundance.  To truly trust God!  How would your life be different if you lived in a culture of abundance?

Gene Kelsey, Director of Christian Education

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fall Festival Recap

                obstacle course, bounce house, fire truck and trunk or treat
SUCCESS! That is the main word I've heard in association with last night's Fall Festival, and it was! You can check out all our photos from Fall Festival here

 Look at those smiles! 
Dr. Daniel, our Senior pastor shared: 

Our Pastor Skeleton and Pastor Farmer
"My heart is full of joy over our successful Fall Festival held here at our church on Wednesday, October 31. There were a number of fun activities for children, an abundance of candy, lots of laughter and joy among adults, plenty of food, a stunning show by the West Des Moines fire department and a perfect evening with pleasant weather conditions.  The estimated guess of the number persons present were about 400 plus!

What went well?

1. We had a simple vision of reaching out to our immediate neighborhood and touching persons with the genuine love of Christ.

2. We had passionate and committed leaders who took ownership of this vision and set simple and realistic goals...to be the hands and feet of Christ. We wanted children and adults to feel welcomed and experience Christ’s love in tangible ways.
Fun for all

3. We marketed and promoted the event well.

4. Various groups and individuals in the church rallied together to fulfill a common goal. 

5. And, we went to work, did our part, and left the results to God’s.  A beautiful spirit of joy, care and love was all encompassing.

Fancy gypsy ladies

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew19.14).  Through all our expressions of genuine care and love, perhaps, we helped many children take a closer step toward Christ!"

What really made the evening was successful the atmosphere that we created and participated in with God. Everyone was enjoying him or herself, kids were laughing, smiling, dancing; all signs that God was with us and that God's love and care was being FELT by those around us. Thanks of course goes to God for working in our hearts and minds, preparing us for this evening, but I want to also thank all those who volunteered their time, talents, candy and love. We may never know the type of impact that we may have had last night, but we do trust that God will take whatever happened last night and use it for good, to draw others closer to God. That's exciting and a success regardless of the number of people or hot dogs that were there last night. Thanks for BEING the church last night, West Des Moines United Methodist Church!"

Jen Hibben, Associate Pastor