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This is a great way for women from Wesley to get to know each other better in a social setting.  Women to Women meet once a month on the 3rd Tuesday at noon at a variety of restaurants.  For more information, please contact Cindy Parker.

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Consistancy

Beginning part of post…

One of the things I think is especially hard in any life of faith is consistancy. It becomes especially difficult when we are faced with “absolutes” from the words of Jesus Christ, such as Beatitudes, or his commands on how to behave. We all know that the Bible says that if you’ve got two coats, you should give one to the poor…and yet, I doubt if any of us (including me) have less than half a dozen in our closets. Sure, we give them during drives, but we always seem to retain more than we need, and many look for opportunities to replace what we’ve given away…which I think misses the point.

Full post can be found here…

http://josefowski.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/consistancy/

Sunday School Teaching

I had not taught any religious classes in years when I felt moved to lead a short term class.  My schedule makes  long term classes problematic, but when the idea of short, 4-6 week seminar style classes came up, it was a perfect fit. We thought we could come up with shorter and different classes that would be  more appealing to those who might only be able to attend a class once in a while.  Class sizes started out very small, but as we’ve kept at it, the class size continues to grow – and sometimes the classes with the toughest subjects  draw the largest numbers.

While I  hope to have an impact on those who attend the classes, one can’t be in a small group without it affecting everyone – even the leader. Here are a few ways it has created a personal impact.

1. It has improved my faith life. I have to review, read, and research some of the material, not all of which we will ever go over in class. I have to reflect on it, have answers to the questions that are provided, and invariably come up with my own thoughts and reflections on the topic.

2. It has improved my relationship with the church. It is hard to not feel a greater connection  when you are part of a small group. Leading that small group means getting to know the people in the group, and engaging them in conversation. It also has the effect of getting you to church a lot more regularly.

3. I’ve seen connections between the material I’ve presented and  scripture, sermons, and life in general. I’ve stopped being surprised at how often a topic or a lesson that is mentioned in one of them is highlighted in another. My logical side argues that this is church material, after all…but the connections happen too often for my spiritual side to allow it to be dismissed. The topics are too diverse and too random for it to be simply chance.

A perfect example of this is a class I recently led on resurection.  I remember briefly touching on Revelations, with some members (myself included) tending to give short shrift to that particular book. The next day I was looking up the day’s readings in “A Disciple’s Journey”, and one of the readings was Revelation 21, which is about the vision of a new heaven and a new earth, and “he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away. (Rev 21:4) ” Then the specific reading started, and included the “Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” (Rev 21:6), before concluding with a vision of what is to come for both those who have been faithful, as well as those who have been faithless. It certainly makes the lesson stick a bit longer with you when you get messages like this!

4. I’ve learned. From the material, of course…I am constantly amazed at the high quality of material we are blessed to work with, especially what I remember having 30 years ago. Anybody remember filmstrips? It is more than that, though…it is learning from each other, even when we don’t agree on the finer points of an issue.

This post was originally posted at http://josefowski.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/sunday-school-teaching/

Father’s Day

This is my draft of what I’m going to be saying at the services on Sunday….call it a “sermon-ette”.

First, let me echo Pastor Amy’s comments she made on Mother’s Day…for it is clear that for some, the talk of a Loving and Forgiving Father is alien, with fathers who didn’t live up to our standards, or even a Father figure at all in one’s life. It must make trying to understand the central message of the Bible a lot more difficult.  I pray that such a relationship of a strong and loving father figure is not totally absent from your life, or that you can find inspiration in other relationships.

Being a father has helped me understand my heavenly Father a bit more…and studying him has helped my growth as a father, as well.  Although it is obviously on a much smaller scale, I see a lot of similarities between our heavenly Father and being an earthly father.

First, there is the power. That is, that power of creation…that moment when you hold your child in your arms for the first time, and you feel the wonder (and the responsibility) wash over you. There is joy, simply through their existence as well as seeing them grow – as Psalm 127 says, Children are a heritage of the Lord; Offspring a reward from Him.” There is the feeling of being held in awe…and while we (and maybe our children) tend to forget it as we get older, it is those moments where a shadow of the power and awe of God is reflected on us – a power that is both motivates and humbles you.

I was home on my mid-tour break from Iraq, and we had somehow gotten into a discussion on heros.  We had all given examples, mostly historical, except for my then 7 year old daughter.  When I asked who she thought was a hero, she said, “Dad….you’re my hero.” How can you not try a bit harder after that?

Another example where I see a bit of a parallel: I love my children, I am proud of what they have accomplished, but I also know they can do more…and so, I try to do everything in my power to encourage that.  Sometimes it is positive, sometime….sometimes it takes the form of cell phone or car restrictions, or not giving them everything they think they should have, might seem to them as being an uncaring or unloving father. While we see this as childish behavior, I am not sure we always see the acts of our Heavenly Father in the same way.

But…It may be in those “discussions” one has with your children that you can glimpse a few of the deeper questions we have in our faith life, such as why does God sometimes make it so tough for us? Perhaps, like how we love our children, see them as good,  but knowing they can do better and who we want to succeed, to do the right thing, to take the right path even if it is bit longer and rockier, God has a similar plan for us.

And, maybe, when they are little, you do a bit more for them…you make or guide their decisions, but there comes a time when you want them, you want them,  to make their own choices, and to make their own decisions…even when every fiber in your body is screaming for them to do differently.

And, when they do make the wrong choices…and they will, as we all do…we can be there to help them. We would prefer not to do that, but even in that, we hope they learn from that experience. It is a balancing act….You don’t want to embitter your children, for they will become discouraged, as it says in Colossians 3:21.

That brings up another aspect…. I think we’ve all had that feeling that we’ve failed…failed ourselves, failed our spouses, failed our family, failed our God, and felt totally lost and alone. As a father, you get to see that, hopefully on a smaller scale, but still there, with your children.  You see them struggle, you see them fail, and sometimes, even turn away from you. However, you don’t stop loving them, and their failures, followed by their successes, only increases your love for them – as we see in the parable of the Prodigal Son.

But…there are limits to the comparison.  John 3:16 may well be one of the most known parts of the Bible, but I think we hear it or see it so often that it loses its meaning….In terms of Father’s Day, think of how it starts out “For God so Loved the World he gave his only Son….” That sacrifice, I think, resonates a bit differently when you think of it in terms of your own children.

So….on this Father’s Day, let’s give a thought, and a thanks, to those who have the role of Father in our lives….be it here on earth, or elsewhere.

Original posted at josefowski.wordpress.com

If I had a hammer…

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to help start the kickoff to the Apostle Build. This is where 12 churches in the area got together to start building a house for a deserving family. It was a cold day, with a bit of wind…not exactly the kind of day I wanted to be outside. All churches were supposed to send two people, and I was asked to go down to Frederica, where the house is being built.

Now…I like the idea of fixing things, but am not exactly Mr. Handyman. I think I COULD fix a lot of things, but generally the tools and time (as in not having any) generally stop me from doing a whole lot, especially big projects. Working on a house, especially from the ground up, was not something I really thought I could do, and certainly not what I would have prefered to be doing on a cold, late winter day. However, at the end of the day, I was proud of what I had done, as well as learning a few lessons.

I developed a few new skills (as well as some sore muscles). I also developed an appreciation for all those people who work at such tasks, especially the supervisors. The foreman who was leading us certainly had his work cut out for him, but he did it with humor and grace. I suspect that the work the 20 or so of us did could have been done by about a quarter of his normal work crew, but it isn’t always about efficiency. The family we were helping is right there, and I’ve often thought about them over the couple of weeks, especially the one day I ran into a vaguely familiar woman, but couldn’t quite place her. I happened to be wearing the Habitat for Humanity tee shirt that day, and she asked me if I had worked on it. She then told me she was the homeowner, but looking a lot different in her professional working clothing than the sweat shirt and jeans when we were working together.

I also got some other thoughts on watching this house go up…a lot of different people, from different parts of the Christian faith, all working towards a common goal. There was some splinters, some laughs, some mistakes..but at the end of the day, we also had 4 walls up, and a base on to which each church, taking their turn on a weekly basis, can build on.

The house is getting close to completion, but there is still plenty of work to do do….Wesley Church’s day is coming up on May 18th from 7:45am to 3:00 pm. As I well proved, no special skills are required…God will equip those who are called.

Originally posted at http://josefowski.wordpress.com/.

Communication is the problem to the answer

This past Sunday evening in youth group we examined how to communicate with God and learned to understand the things that can hurt our commuication with God.

For many of us, we hear communication and no problem… surely we all know how to communicate. With so many vehicles to use today in order to communicate with someone, it sure seems easy. There is Facebook, Twitter, Email, Skype, Instagram, Texting, Calling, and, and, and, I know there’s got to be one more….oh yeah in person face to face.

The point is that we are bombarded with so many different ways to communicate with others, each new way promising us this is the best and most convenient way, we sign up. We create our accounts and next thing you know these become our primary way of staying connected with each other.

Let me ask you a question: Do you think the way we communicate with others impacts the way we communicate with God?

There is nothing wrong with these forms of communication, they can be very helpful. But if we are honest, we can become so dependent and immersed in them that we have soon forgotten what it looks like to be still and quiet. I noticed this in my life. In fact when I did have the opportunity to be still and quiet, it made me uncomfortable, and I quickly needed to turn something on.

Is this you, does that sound like your life or your teenagers? We want the peace of God, we want the comfort, love and presence of God in our lives, but these all come through knowing God….like personally, intimately. They are not things we can purchase at church or the christian bookstore, or get from someone else.

During this week take time to read Psalm 46.

As you do notice that the Psalmist starts out proclaiming God as our strength and refuge and that God is present in our trouble. After that the Pslamist describes violent disasters, storms, earthquakes, & destruction, it says that the nations will rage, kingdoms will totter, but be still and now that God is God. God will be exalted among the nations and all the earth.

Perhaps you feel like this, your life is crazy, perhaps you are feeling like our world is crazy and this passage does well to describe it. Our world is not our hope, it is not our home. God’s kingdom is. I pray that God’s entire being would rest so peacefully in your heart and in your homes. But we must call upon the name of the Lord to do so. Let us call out to God so that our peace would be found in the still and quiet and even when the loud, noisy and chaos comes, our peace and hope remains. Because God is with us, always.

Chris Countryman

Director of Children, Youth, and Young Adult Ministry

Resist: Christian Dissent for the 21st Century (Micheal G. Long, Editor)

The concept of Christian dissent starts with Christ (although there may be some who argue that John certainly paid for his dissent in his preperation for Christ). This book’s 19 chapters take different looks and views of the concept and practices of dissent, as well as chapters on prayers and mediations on the subject.

The different chapters, authors, and subjecs is a good approach for such a topic. Whether we should dissent, what we should dissent against, and the methods of dissent are all discussed in different ways throughout the book. Topics such as racism, consumerism, violence, political dissent, poverty, and eco-dissent  – an interesting topic that manages to incaspulate most of the previous topics.

The variety of authors means there is going to be topics and approaches that will hit home with some, and will leave others scratching their heads at the approach or treatment. I liked the note on consumerism that stated that “Ba’al worship is not a great threat, but I-doltrary is another matter”. but the eco-justice chapter seemed a bit over the top, unequivocally stating that racism and classism is behind pretty much every eco-justice issue seems a bit much.

Overall, though, a great read that gives a broad perspective on the subject, and would be a great choice for a discussion group.