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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I Am a Church Member...Dotty


We continue this week with reflections  about what it means to be a church member as we study I Am a Church Member as a church.  This week's post comes from Dotty Thurston, our volunteer Director of Care Ministries. Dotty's fingerprints are all over this church as she has volunteered to paint and decorate spaces like the Cafe. Dotty's words here are only matched by her deep commitment to service in the church and the world. 

Jen Hibben, Associate Pastor



There is only one reason that I am a church member.I love our Lord and Savior - that’s it!I love Jesus and I need to think and do whatever I can for him, in the hope of being with him someday.In saying that, being a christian and pledging myself to membership means I have committed myself to God - it is a promise to God that I will honor the church - the Body of Christ.Wow that’s so powerful! - a commitment to God! 
So how do I do that?
I come to church - not only do I come to church but I prepare myself, my heart, toreceive anything God wants to teach me. I try to clear my brain calendar, the busyness of my life, and give God my time to worship Him.  
So how do I honor the Body of Christ?I give of my service - I volunteer in the Care Ministry here. I visit our members in thehospital and sometimes in retirement communities, I participate in bible studies, and serve on various committees and so on. I give whatever talents I may have.Some of you have some pretty incredible talents like singing in the choir, leading the children, maintaining our building, while some of you prepare and serve meals to others nourishing a body at least one more day. I am so blessed for all the things you do for others - by example you show that you are a member of the body of Christ. Sorry to say, none of those are my talent but... I do paint walls. I have painted lots of walls in this church. And oh yes, much to my teammates chagrin, I play softball. It’s a funny sight. Our service and talents big and small are appreciated and needed to maintain this body. 
So how do We Honor the Body of Christ?Stan and I give of our gifts.Stan and I enjoy being a part of giving to the budget. Yes, you heard me right - we are cheerful givers. But like Jeff Butler said a couple of weeks ago, sometimes it can be painful. I remember times in my life especially in my 20’s and 30’s it was hard andsometimes nonexistent. But today I am a cheerful giver. And I see the bounty of the fruits, the money you and I give throughout this church and beyond our walls. I can only hope that we are pleasing to God in what Stan and I are able to do.
I also Honor the Body of Christ through my conduct.Do you have this book yet? You need to read it. Thank you to those for bringing this to our attention. This book should shake you up a little bit and it will.....IF you take it seriously....and IF you are a part of the body of Christ. It calls out our behavior! If we love God, we must behave in a certain way. Membership calls on us to ALWAYS work together even when we have differences of opinions.We must love one another, even the unloveable. That can be a tough one but not so if you truly want to be in the Body of Christ. Membership means everything I do and say, is based on a biblical foundation of love - Everything! Putting it another way - Every thought, every action reflects our attitude towards God. I’m going to say this again - Every thought, every action reflects our attitude towards God! Here’s another tough one according to this book - When you become a member, you actually give up your preferences when you join. Pastor Jen preached about this last week. Do you have an agenda or want a certain way of doing things. According to this book, you are to give it up to be a part of Christ. Otherwise, you and I intentionally break up the body. We go against Christ. As a church member, my motives should not be to get my preferences or my way because as a servant of God, I am supposed to be last, and not first.As Pastor Jen said last week......We will never find joy in church membership if we constantly seek to do things our own way. 
Lastly, as a member, I pray for our pastors. The spiritual leaders hand picked by God!Let me give you some statistics.
  • 1,700 pastors leave the ministry each month
  • 90% of pastors report working between 55-75 hours per week.
  • 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • 80% say being a pastor has had a negative affect on their families.
  • 50% of pastor’s marriages end in divorce.
  • 80% of seminary graduates will leave the ministry within the first five years.
Consequently, only 10% of ministers will actually retire as ministers.Guess what is the root cause of these statistics? You and me.On page 49 of this book, it says “the devil sees the pastor as a threat, and one of his highest priorities is to take him down and take him out” Guess who Satan uses to bring down a pastor - You and me. 
So who’s soldier do we want to be - God’s or Satan’s. Please pray as the book says, for our pastors. 
So why am I a church member?One reason, as I said, because I love the Lord and I have a commitment to Him.to serve and not be servedto love you when you are unloveable and because I want you to love me too.to behave in a Christ like way in every thought and action so God knows what I thinkof Him.And to protect my pastors, this church - the body of Christ.Please be a soldier of God with me.Serve.....love.....behave.....and protectTogether, let’s be the best members we can be.


Dotty Thurston

Monday, October 28, 2013

I Am a Church Member...Mike


As we continue with our church wide study of I Am a Church Member, Mike Powers, a member here at WDMUMC has agreed to share with us some of his thoughts and perspectives about church membership. Mike has been active in many areas of church life, from the finance committee, to coordinating our huge Meals from the Heartland packaging event to joining us on our mission trip to Costa Rica. I know you'll enjoy Mike's thoughtful perspective!

Jen Hibben, Associate Pastor 

I appreciate the opportunity to share some of my thoughts about being a member of the West Des Moines United Methodist Church.  I have a couple of perspectives.  First, I am a relatively new member as my wife Libby and I joined the congregation a little over two years ago.  I realize that most of you have been here a lot longer than we have but in our relatively short period of time here we have both come to view our membership as a true blessing for us. 
Secondly, while I have tried to be actively engaged as a member here, I will tell you that was not the case for me in my prior experience at other churches. So I can provide a comparison of the two different levels of involvement.Maybe a good place to start is an explanation of how it came about that Libby and I joined the West Des Moines United Methodist Church.   Having moved to West Des Moines from Naperville, Illinois, we looked to transfer our membership to a Methodist church in the area.  Libby selected this as the first one to visit.  This is not the closest Methodist church to our house but I think she picked this one because it had been around a long time and seemed to be the traditional kind of church that we were used to.  We did not know anyone who attended here but it seemed like a good place to start.We came one Sunday and everyone we met was really friendly.  After service, Paige handed us a gift bag along with two free tickets to an omelet breakfast that, as luck would have it, was being held right then downstairs.  Not being one to turn down a free meal, especially an omelet breakfast which is clearly a step-up from the usual church pancake breakfast, we accepted the offer.
Before breakfast was over we had talked with a dozen or so church members, and we did not see the need to visit anymore churches.  Then and there we knew we had found our new church home.  Libby and I joined MITS-WITS, and we were welcomed with open arms.  It has been a great experience for both of us to get to know the members of that class and to get involved in helping to organize some of the social and program events there.  We are very grateful for the great friendships we have with the MITS-WITS members.  And I might add if you are looking for a Sunday school we meet every Sunday at 9:50 am for an hour in the Wesley Center.Shortly after joining MITS-WITS, the church started its program of small groups and we were approached about joining a group that was forming.  We agreed to join and that has also led to stimulating book studies, fulfilling projects, social gatherings and a close bond of friendship among all of the group members for which we feel very blessed.  One of the unique experiences that our group had was building rocks and walls out of an odd assortment of materials for the Easter dramas.With Libby’s recent ankle surgery and hospital stay, we have received an outpouring of prayers, encouraging words and not to mention delicious food from so many of you.  We were very touched by your concern.  You truly have become our Iowa family and we love you for caring so much about us.
I mentioned earlier that I have become much more involved here than I had at previous churches.  You may ask, “Why?”I grew up attending a Catholic grade school in a small town in southern Illinois and went to mass on a daily basis for eight years as the good sisters that were running the school did not view daily mass attendance to be a topic for debate.   Like many things that are imposed upon you as a youth, once free of the obligation as an adult I resisted embracing the church for a long-time.
Libby grew up in the same hometown with a more positive attitude towards church and she recruited me into the Methodist church shortly after we were married.  I did go to services most Sundays but I begged off when invited to become more involved.
So what is different now?I think that whenever you undertake a major life change such as moving to a new city it is natural to stop and take stock of your life—particularly as you get older.  When I moved here things were going well but there seemed to be something missing in my life.  I sensed that I should do more to help others and on a deeper level I felt that I was lacking a meaningful relationship with God.
Therefore, instead of saying no as I previously would have done, I said yes to joining a Sunday school class and to joining a small group and to serving as a day manager at the state fair and serving on the Finance and Stewardship committees.  In January, I plan to join the church’s mission team to Costa Rica.
My only regret now is not having said yes sooner.  By agreeing to become involved, I was able to enjoy experiences that made me feel so good and wanting more.  Some of the highlights over the last two years:·         Going to Edgewater for Vespers and talking to the residents and sharing their appreciation for being able to participate in that service.
·         Being part of a team working at the church’s state fair stand and having people come up and say how they make it a point to visit our stand every year because of the high quality and friendly service and could we please take a prayer back to the church for one of their loved ones for whom they had great concern.
·         Facilitating a student panel on bullying at MITS-WITS last February and seeing how eager and articulate our high school age members were in making their comments to a packed room in the Wesley Center.
·         Watching members of this congregation raise the necessary funds and come together on a Saturday morning to package over 67,000 meals for starving people.
 Investing a little bit of my time has produced an abundant return.  That investment of time has also opened my heart and mind to being more receptive to the messages delivered during the Sunday services along with the discussions we have in MITS-WITS and in our small group.  So my advice to those of you who may be a less active member such as I was, look for an opportunity to get involved.  You are never too young or too old to start and I think you will be amazed as to how it will make you feel.
Being involved with some of the church’s committees has also given me an appreciation of the many challenges that the pastors and staff face to ensure that the church can continue to fulfill its mission.  I greatly admire their dedication and devotion.  Even with our help it is far from an easy job.  Without our help it is an impossible one.  We all need to pitch in and do our part.  The good news is that by helping the church you are really helping yourself in many ways.  I can vouch for that.For many of you, doing your part is what you have been doing--and then some. That is what has made this church such a special place.  I am so impressed by how through your generous nature, both in time and money and compassion, this church can help so many people in important ways through its ministries.  My involvement with the Meals From the Heartland project opened my eyes to that this year.
Thank you for that generosity of spirit and thank you for accepting Libby and me into this church family.  Let’s continue to make the good things this church is known for happen by working together in a spirit of cooperation and let’s always be mindful of the instructions of the Apostle Paul in Colossians 3:12-15 and  “…clothe [our]selves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of [us] has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave [us].  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in [our] hearts, since as members of one body [we are] called to peace.”
 

Mike Powers

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Fall Festival!


Yeah, I kind of felt like that too Harry.

Today was one of those days for me. You know the kind, when nothing seems to go according to your plan? Dentist appointments are a good way to start of those kinds of days. Rain most of the day is a good way to keep that vibe going. Your baby getting sick in the afternoon really ups the ante. And not to be outdone, late afternoon, you know, when you're trying to gather the million things a baby needs and get out the door, late afternoon has been keeping the surprise of your dog running away. And not just running away and not coming back, running away, rolling in cat excrement and then coming back. (Not sure which is worse). Late afternoon also held a hosing down your cat-poop-cover dog when you're already late. You know, just one of those days. 
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Where's Waldos?

I have to say, as excited as I was about Fall Festival, the rest of my day sure tried to get in the way. It caused me worry that people wouldn't come because of the rain. It caused me to worry that it might not be as much fun without the bounce house. It caused me to think that some how my crazy mixed up day would mess up God's plans to show up. As I was driving in between taking my baby to the doctor or trying to get back to church to work on the things I left to take him, I prayed that God would surprise me, that God would prove me wrong. I can't say that I had a lot of faith that God would actually do that though. But God's pretty good at proving me wrong.

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Egg and Bacon, mmm

As I walked from my car to the church (about and hour later than I had hoped to be there) I saw a couple other families walking there too. I didn't know any of them, I was a little surprised. I came down to a completely packed Heritage Hall full of people I did and didn't know. We had to open up the Wesley Center and I was a little more surprised. Thinking that everyone was inside waiting for Trunk or Treat to start, I was surprised when the crew asked me to go see how many more people were outside (we were running out of hotdogs). When I went outside I was even more surprised to see that the parking lot was full of families already trunk or treating! We wouldn't have even all fit in Heritage Hall AND Wesley Center. (I ran to get more hotdogs :)) We had just as great of a turn out as last year if not better. Just like last year, there was this energy, this excitement about what was going, about the neighbors we were meeting and the fun we were having. I have my thoughts about what was really going on (HERE), but the heart of it was that God was real and active in our midst and we were participating in God's work. 


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Elmo participating in God's work

As much as I love the night of Fall Festival, some of my most favorite parts are hearing the stories about what happened that night. Ways that God surprised us or touched our hearts or opened our eyes a little bit wider. 

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Gene faithfully manned the parking lot, helping people find the correct parking, making sure that those who needed handicap parking got it and making sure kids were safe. At one point he told a driver where the parking lot we were using was and how to get to it from where he was trying to park. But the driver had already been there and told Gene that it was completely full, there were no more places to park there. 

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Dia de los muertos trunk!
I also met a woman who had a fabulously decorated trunk, if you were there I bet you know the one. A member of our church introduced me to her and explained that she wasn't really connected to our church, but had seen the sign for trunk or treat, prepared her trunk and came over. We weren't even expecting her, but God brought her right into the middle of Fall Festival! I smile thinking too about the way that member treated her and celebrated her trunk and invited her to come be a part of what's going on at our church. 

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There's a neighborhood family that I met last year at Fall Festival and I've seen them around a couple times since then. The first time that we met they were a little hesitant and unsure about me (can you blame them?) and the church. Since then they've come over to support Gigi's lemonade stand, chatted with me and even asked about LifeTree. So tonight they came right on over in costume, knew that this was a safe place and that they knew someone right away. I'm so thankful just to witness stuff like that. 

So what are your stories from Fall Festival? Did you have a crappy day like me that got turned around? Did you expect God to show up like God did?

Check out all the great photos HERE!

Jen Hibben, Associate Pastor

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

In Seeking To Reconcile We Find God

Sermon at West Des Moines United Methodist Church on October 20, 2013 by Dr Wesley S.K. Daniel

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"In Seeking Direction We Find God"

Sermon at West Des Moines United Methodist Church on October 13, 2013 by Dr Wesley S.K. Daniel

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

I Am a Church Member - The Gift of the Church

Sermon at West Des Moines United Methodist Church on October 6, 2013 by Pastor Jen Hibben


So today we’re finishing up our series based on our church-wide study I Am a Church Member by talking about the Church and church membership as a gift. Our church-wide study groups just got started this last week, so you can still join a group this week and not miss much. You’ll find a list of our groups and meeting times in the catalog in your pews and also information about signing up.

I distinctly remember that I had to learn the word utopia. No doubt at some point in high school it was one of those vocabulary words that we had to learn to make it through English class. Utopia is a fancy word for a perfect world. As I was trying to think of what utopia might look like to me I was reminded of the movie, The Truman Show, did you see it? This movie director has essentially created a utopia for this guy named Truman Burbank, and everyone knows it but him.Everything is clean, the neighbors are friendly and well dressed, everyone’s polite and the sun always seems to be shining. Now that might not be what utopia might look like to you, but you get the point right? For some people that might look like a perfect world. So think for a second with me what a perfect world would look like for you, use your imagination. No war, no disease, no conflict, no calories. Lots of love and cooperation, lots of joy and peace. Well I bet we were all imagining things a little differently, that’s how utopias go, they’re usually only utopias for one person. In The Truman Show the whole utopia was based around him, what would keep him content and oblivious.

Did you realize that Jesus talked a lot about utopia? Except we don’t call it utopia because utopias are made up, we call it the kingdom of God. And the great thing about the kingdom of God is that it is utopia for all of us. When we imagine utopia we all have bits and pieces of what the kingdom of God would look like. No war? Yeah, I’ll be that’s part of the kingdom of God. No calories? Well, that’s probably more in my utopia. Jesus used all kinds of metaphors and parables to try to show us what the kingdom of God might be like. A mustard seed, a pearl, a farm field, yeast, a gracious king. All pretty cryptic and most of them need a lot of explanation and study to make sense, but one thing Jesus said about the kingdom of God that isn’t quite as hard to understand is that the kingdom of God is already here. It’s already here, but it’s not fully here yet. He says in Luke chapter 17:

“God’s kingdom isn’t coming with signs that are easily noticed. 21 Nor will people say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ Don’t you see? God’s kingdom is already among you.”

I know that I used to make the mistake of thinking that we needed to wait for God to come back in some fiery chariot and destroy a bunch of stuff before things would be the way God wants them. But that’s not what Jesus said. Jesus said the kingdom is already among us. One of the biggest problems with waiting for God in a fiery chariot to bring the kingdom of God is that it lets us off the hook. If we can say nothing’s really going to get that much better until God intervenes, so whybother? then maybe what we do doesn’t matter so much, maybe we just have to ride it out and be on our best behavior so we’re on God’s good side. That’s too small of an idea of God for me. Because God did already intervene in this world, we call him Jesus. And Jesus doesn’t tell us to just hang on and be good people,Jesus insists that we participate in changing the world.

And that brings us to the scripture for today. In this story Jesus knows that he’s going to be killed and he’s trying to prep them a bit. And one of the things that he does is sets the stage for the church. Jesus doesn’t put it this way, but I would say that Jesus gives to us, his disciples, the gift of the church and he gives the gift of the church to the world. An organization, a place, a group of people that among other things work together to bring more and more of the kingdom of God to this world. The church is the primary and the best way to bring more of the kingdom of God to the here and now.

I think we forget this all too often when we think about church, but the church is one place where we can actively practice living like we’re living in the kingdom of God. The church is a place where we can actually create a utopia, God’s utopia, the kingdom of God. The church, this church can be place where everyone can be loved and cared for, where people don’t go hungry, where people are safe, where people can experience God, where people feel whole. The church is a gift to us, followers of Jesus, because it’s a chance to participate in andexperience the kingdom of God, a perfect world, the best place we can imagine. The church is a gift to us because it is a place where we learn what it’s like to live like God wants us to live, it’s a place to practice living like God has already come back, fiery chariot or not.

A lot of times churchy people talk about the inbreaking of the kingdom, those places where the kingdom of God breaks in. And I imagine it kind of like an egg, where there’s this pecking and finally it cracks and the crack starts to spread and the kingdom just oooozes out and covers more and more of the things around it. And I imagine this kingdom ooze gets all over us while we’re here and we take it out into the world with us and we leave it new places and then we come back and get more ooze all over ourselves and then we go back out into the world to leave it some other places and eventually the world around us starts to look different and eventually other cracks break through and the kingdom oozes out there too. I honestly get pumped up thinking about being a part of that.

And that’s the other way that the church is a gift, the church is absolutely NOT about creating a utopia within its walls for its members. It is a gift for its members if it can do that, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s not a country club or a secret society. The church is a gift to the world because the church when it operates as the body of Christ is the main agent for change in this world. We are God’s main agents for change in this world. The church is the body that takes its understanding of the kingdom of God and works to make the world around it look more and more like that. What we do matters. It’s each one of us taking that kingdom ooze to our work places, our schools, our friends, our neighbors and making those places look more like the kingdom too. It’s us coming together and intentionally finding ways to make the world look more like the kingdom of God. The church is a gift to the world, it’s a gift that Jesus gave to a messed up world and said, “Here, take this, this should make things better.” If we’re not making things better we are doing church wrong. If we’re not loving and caring for each and every person who walks through our doors we are doing church wrong. If they way that we treat people in here is no better than the way the world treats them then we are doing church wrong. If it doesn’t feel different in here then we are doing church wrong. If we’re not making the world around us look more like God’s kingdom then we are doing church wrong.

But sometimes we get it right. I think that the kingdom broke through lastyear during our first Fall Festival. I think that’s why we all loved it so much; it wasn’t actually because it was fun or “successful”It’s because there was this big crack in our parking lot that oozed out the kingdom all over this neighborhood and for that night our parking lot looked a little more like the kingdom of God. And kids who might have had a bad day at school got to jump their hearts out in a bounce house. And people who were hungry ate hot dogs and candy. And kids whodidn’t have costumes were transformed by the facepainter. And for two hours that night we came together and we participated in the inbreaking of the kingdom. And our kids and our neighbors felted loved and cared for. And it felt magical didn’t it?  But we know that it wasn’t magic, it was the Holy Spirit working in and through and among us, empowering us to bring a little more of the kingdom here. And it was a gift to us, and it was a gift to the world. And that’s what the kingdom is like. The kingdom is God is like a Fall Festival at West Des Moines United Methodist Church. Amen.


Pastor Jen Hibben