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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I love to tell the story

Listen to the sermon here:

Stories.  They're part of our culture.  Stories are one of the easiest ways to communicate effectively.  In the Bible they bring God's word to life.  Dr. Daniel shared a story from Deuteronomy 26:4-10.  It tells about the time after God had delivered the children of Israel from Egyptian slavery and was now leading them into the promised land.  There were some instructions in terms of their gifts and offerings.  They were to reflect and recount how God had delivered and blessed them.  The story offers an example for us today.  When we give it doesn't matter who the "priest" is.  Our giving is to God.  We give because God gave, and gives, to us!  God gives so much!!  God makes an everlasting covenant with us.  And the story of God's love is told over and over again!  Max Lucado says, "If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it."  God is passionately and radically in love with us.  How are we responding to God's love?  How are we sharing God's story?  Who can we tell this week?

Gene Kelsey, Director of Christian Education 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

WDMUMC @ Youth Strike for Christ

Thou shalt have FUN! That was Youth Strike For Christ Rule #9…and fun was what we had! Approximately 300 youth from United Methodist churches across Iowa gathered at Veterans’ Auditorium in downtown Des Moines, beginning in the evening of Friday, February 1st and wrapping up on Sunday, February 3rd. West Des Moines United Methodist Church was represented by 12 youth and 6 adults during the event. Throughout the weekend we enjoyed uplifting music, fellowship, making new friends, small group discussions, participation in a mission project and more!

This year’s Youth Strike for Christ theme was Thrive. Keynote speaker was Rob Roozeboom shared about his life challenges after being diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy as a small boy and seeing his dreams of being a farmer and an athlete shattered. Today, Rob is the founder and president of RISE Ministries, an organization that teaches teens and adults how to overcome adversity in their lives. Along the Thrive theme, Rob talked with us about three primary concepts: 1) I will Thrive because of…, 2) I will Thrive despite…, and 3) I will Thrive with… These ideas were also the themes for the youth breakout sessions.

The Youth Strike for Christ mission project was packing food for Meals From The Heartland. The WDMUMC youth spent an hour of their free time to pack over 3,000 meals. In total, the Youth Strike for Christ bagged 61,344 meals!

Here are what some of the youth had to say about Youth Strike For Christ:
·         Jackson – “Getting closer to God through Youth Strike was fun. Throughout the weekend I felt very close to God. We had good discussions in small groups on how to Thrive and why we Thrive. It made me think about things I do and things I could do to get closer to God. I recommend other youth come to Youth Strike next year to get closer to God and have a lot of fun. I really enjoyed spending time with our youth group and also meeting kids from other youth groups around Iowa.”
·         Joe – “Youth Strike was a lot of fun. The music was good – much better than I even expected. The small groups were a lot of fun, too; we had great discussions on things that I had not really thought of before. It was great to get to know our youth group better through activities liking swimming (which was great) and bagging meals, but it was fun to meet other youth also. Bagging the meals for Meals From the Heartland was also a lot of fun and felt good to help others around the world. I want to do Youth Strike again and encourage other youth to come along next year.”
·         Bre – “Youth Strike for Christ was a great event. One of my favorite parts was the small group discussions; being a smaller group we really got to talk through the questions and hear what others think about the topics. All day Saturday was just great, from the small groups and music to the free time with our youth and the Meals from the Heartland mission project. It was a great time!!”
·         Sara – “I felt I got a lot closer to God during Youth Strike. I loved the chapel experience. Although our small group did not follow the prepared plan, we really got to know each other and learn how we each connect with God. I also loved the music and the messages within the music. I feel that I got a lot closer to our youth group but I was also able to meet others. Meals from the Heartland was so much fun and great that we packed over 2,000 meals! I definitely want to go to Youth Strike again; I have already told a friend to reserve the weekend for next year’s Youth Strike. It was a great experience that I will never forget.”

Youth Strike for Christ is sponsored by the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. The annual event is coordinated by a group of over 20 volunteers. Due to the size and nature of this event, it takes nearly a year of planning, so the 2014 planning is kicking off now. As stated above, youth are already planning on attending next year, which will be the first weekend of February.

Darin Woodward, WDMUMC member

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Photo-a-Day Lent!

Usually about this time church people are talking about what they're giving up for Lent. Chocolate is a popular choice, pop, fried foods, something that helps us experience self-denial with the hope that it will help us to better focus on God as we prepare for Easter. I'll be the first to admit that my Lenten sacrifices often 1) have an ulterior motive i.e. weight loss, saving money for something I want, and/or 2) fail miserably before we even get to Palm Sunday. As with many things in my faith journey, I feel like maybe I'm missing the point or I just don't quite get it yet. 

Now I'm not discouraging anyone from Lenten-chocolate-self denial, but I would like to offer up this alternative. ReThink Church has put out this photo-a-day challenge of sorts for Lent. The idea is easy: take a photo that represents the word for each day and share it. The thing is that it's already got me thinking, looking around, reinterpreting what I see in hopes of finding some of these things in my daily life and it doesn't even start until tomorrow! Maybe that's a little more what Lent's about, looking at our lives, at the ordinary and watching for God, noticing God moving more than we usually do. And while it might seem like the easy way out as opposed to giving up pop (not sure I can do that, ever), I'm getting the sense that this might be more meaningfully. And I'm betting I'll be a much more fun person to be around. 

So join me, won't you? It's only 40 days. Follow along, take a picture, head over to our WDMUMC facebook page and share with me your photo each day. Like this: 
We'll pull them all together at the end of the day in a collage to show what these things mean to WDMUMC.

My prayer is that God shows up for us in ways we're not expecting, that we tune in better and keep our eyes and our hearts and our minds open to what God's doing during this time. Can't wait to do Lent with you!

Jen Hibben, Associate Pastor 

What Does it Mean to Be a Disciple?: Join

from: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-NDxnBD08Vyo/TvpdOxFib0I/AAAAAAAACWs/cEgvlVEcxPs/s1600/join+us.jpg
Listen to the sermon here: 

As we read the Acts of the Apostles it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of the number of churches started and their amazing growth as people were converted to Jesus.  But a closer look also reveals that most every church either suffered from persecution and/or experienced conflict.  If we read one of the stories as recorded in Acts 11:10-26, we read an important message Barnabas gave to the new church at Antioch:  remain true to the Lord with all your heart!  When we, the church, face conflict -- and we do, and we will (I've never yet found a perfect church!), where we especially need to remain steadfast is in terms of our mission.  There is really only one purpose and mission:  make disciples!  But our tendency is to make church about us -- what I like or what I don't like.  And we naturally gravitate towards becoming a social club.  When that happens, trouble is not far behind!  So much of Paul's letters to the various church was in response to conflict and/or churches having lost their focus and sense of priority.  How many times might we hear a church member say, "I'm not going to church anymore."  "I don't like the music they sing."  "I don't like the Pastor's sermon."  "I'm not giving any more money to that church until they get their act together."  The truth is:  church is not about us -- not me and not you!  It's about God and the mission of making disciples!  So the call for us today is this:  renew our commitment to our membership vows or to the spiritual disciplines that keep us aligned with God.  #1 is prayer.  It's past time for us to be a church of prayer -- to discern what God is saying to the church and where God is moving by His Spirit.  #2 is presence.  Where ever we are, especially at church, to be present (and so much the more in these difficult and stressful times), considering "how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." (Hebrews 10:23-25)   #3 is gifts.  Stewardship is not optional.  We don't give when things are going well and withhold our tithes/offerings when things aren't going our way.  Withholding our gifts is like putting a shield over our heads and telling God "I no longer want your blessing."  I believe Malachi had it right when he warned that such a position is robbing God.  God is not able to bless what we don't give.  When conflict comes, our tendency is to stop praying, withdraw, and stop giving.  The best response to conflict is that we need to pray more, attend more and give more.  It's those spiritual disciplines that will get us through the tough times!  "God, revive us again, and set our hearts on fire, to serve You better, and to be Your church!"

Gene Kelsey, Director of Christian Education

Monday, February 4, 2013

What Does it Mean to Be a Disciple?: Pray

Well as many of you know, this has been a week of technical difficulties here at the church. Email, the internet and now we find out that the audio from this week's services didn't get recorded either, not to mention the power outage at the Super Bowl yesterday. Although it can be frustrating, somehow it makes it a little easier to say "no big deal" and take things as the come. We appreciate everyone's patience and understanding this week and hope to be "back to normal" this week.

So Sunday we asked the question: What does it mean to be a disciple? to which we answered: pray based on Matthew 6:5-13. This is part of our ongoing series about what it means to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus. Now I have to admit (and I did on Sunday) that I wasn't exactly excited to preach on prayer again. The truth is that I still feel a little inadequate in the area of prayer and more than that, I had used up my "good stuff" last time. So I said to God,  I don't know what I should do, I don't really have much to say, I'm not really a great pray-er, there are so many people in the congregation that are better equipped that I am." Now, while there was no booming voice from heaven, I very clearly understood God saying to me something along the lines of "Oh I'm sorry, since when was this about what YOU have to say? I thought this was supposed to be about what I have so say." To which I said, "Touche God! You're right! You always are." 

So once I got myself out of the way and spent more time studying the scripture, I could clearly see that that was exactly what the passage is about, what God has to say about prayer. Thankfully God appeals to our human nature, our need-to-know, just-tell-me-what-to-do attitude and gives us some insight through Jesus' words. He starts out by telling us what NOT to do: don't get all showy and wordy, basically. You're missing the point of prayer if you do. 

(We watched this youtube video which gave us some good, and comical, contrast based on this passage.) 

But as we dig a little deeper we can understand that God is not making us prayer rules for us, God is showing us the difference between the internal and external part of prayer. What's NOT important is the external stuff: what words actually come out, what type of reaction it elicits, what people think about the person who is praying, those things aren't what prayer is about. Prayer is about what's going on internally: are we being open and authentic with God? are we open to listen to what God's saying? are we tuning in our hearts and minds to God or just filling time and God's ears with whatever sounds good, or whatever's on  our prayer list? Jesus is helping us adjust our focus here, from what goes on externally to what goes on internally during prayer. Prayer is not what we see and hear, it's what's going on in our hearts and minds and spirits between us and God. 

All this may not be new to you or rock your prayer life, but it is what God is saying to us. We have a lot of expectations about prayer and those give way to a lot of insecurities and anxiety (I would know, praying is in my job description). But we can't ignore that most of those things are centered around the external and not the internal. They draw us farther and farther away from where authentic, life-giving, life-changing prayer happens: internally. So my prayer (my honest authentic prayer) is that this week as you pray, in whatever way you pray, that you allow yourself to let go of the external part of prayer and focus on connecting in your heart and mind and soul with God who is ready and waiting. 

We ended on Sunday with a paraphrase of the Lord's Prayer, a gift that Jesus gives us in our quest to pray well. This one is written by Sarah Dylan Breuer and can be found here. Unfortunately I think that we can become desensitized to the Lord's Prayer because we say it so often. That of course does not take away from it's perfection, it's profoundness and potential to change our lives. My hope is that hearing it in a little bit different words will help you hear it again, like it's the first time. 

"Loving Creator
we honor you,
and we honor all that you have made.
Renew the whole world
in the image of your love.
Give us what we need for today,
and a hunger to see the whole world fed.
Strengthen us for what lies ahead;
heal us from the hurts of the past;
give us courage to follow your call in this moment.
For your love is the only power,
the only home, the only honor we need,
in this world and in the world to come.

Jen Hibben, Associate Pastor