You know who some of my most favorite people are? They are people who take a week off from work and sometimes their families and then go on a week-long mission trip with a bunch of teenagers! They are folks that are NOT vacationing! They work incredibly hard on the projects they are assigned. They manage the teens, doing their best to keep them safe and from not getting into too much trouble. They become their guides, friends and mentors, even if just for a week. They go all in!! They are amazing!
The main reason I see them as amazing is not because it makes the trip easier for me, the leader, but because they live in to what they believe God is calling them to do, and they make it a priority. They set an example for our young people about what is really important, not the mission trip, but the putting of God first! Over my tenure as a youth pastor I have always been amazed at the professionals who give a week of their hard-earned vacation time to be able to provide life impacting opportunities for young people.
I have another friend who is a dentist. His calling is not so much to work with teens, but uses his gifts and talents to serve dental needs of people in the third world. He will take two weeks off from his very successful practice to travel to South America and spend countless hours helping people who would not get any kind of dental service, and well as hours in teaching families about how to care for their teeth. I have that a time or two he has taken some of his staff with him and has paid their way.
There is another lady I knew from a previous church that was a true prayer warrior. She was truly amazing. You had to be careful about what you asked her to pray for because something was going to happen! It might not have been what you were expecting, but God seemed to be really present when she prayed!
I share these things because after a phone call from a youth pastor friend of mine who reminded me of what should be really important in all our lives as Christians, our priorities. God truly wants us to put Him first, and we all know that, but few strive to live it. In this culture it seems like our priorities are everything but God. It is easy to see. Ask yourself where do you spend the bulk of your time and money? Do you think about what God wants from you when making decisions, especially ones about attending church events and meetings when something else happens at the same time? Do you ever consider what you might be missing out on when God is not the priority for your life? God is amazing! When we put Him as the focus and priority in our lives the journey becomes incredible and life full of so much grace and love. It is not always easy, I know, I have been struggling with this for about 45 years now. I do know when my life revolves around God, it is so much greater than when it revolves around Richard, especially in the tough times.
Matthew 22: 37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[e] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. NLT
Devotion for 9/15/21. Rest
Sometimes we all just need a little rest. Summers for me in my line of work are always very busy. They are awesome and fun, but it really is non-stop from the time school lets out till the time kids go back to school. There are the mission trips, VBS, back to school planning and this year was getting back to a normal Sunday School after being out for over a year and half. Then on top of those big activities there were movie nights, tubing, bowling, and other youth and children events. So, at the end of the summer I feel a little like Sofi looks like in the picture! Just whipped!
I look forward to September when I can finally slow down a little and recuperate. Rest is a good thing. When I was a kid, I was one of those nap haters! Now I would do anything to get a few minutes of midday sleep. I now realize just how important good rest is.
Today’s stress levels are sky high, which leads to a lot more tension in all of our lives. People are so worn out by all the battles we are facing that are above the norm as we continue to try to navigate through the pandemic that will just not go away. Just today I encountered several friends who are truly facing exhaustion. Their tiredness is not from their normal jobs, but stems more from the long term of facing and dealing with the pain and suffering that Covid has caused all of us.
They need real rest. I believe we all need real rest. Even God took a break after completing His wonderful creation. So, are you getting proper rest? Where are you finding the rest that revives your soul? I am not talking just about sleep, which is critical, I am also talking about soul rest, emotional rest, and even mental rest. We are designed as one unit, not multiple pieces. Our emotional, physical, mental and spiritual pieces are not independent parts, but are interdependent. One of the parts directly affects the others. I have lately discovered in a real way that my lack of physical health cause my mind not to be as clear as it should be. When my mind is not clear, it directly impacts my emotional and spiritual sides as well.
Where do find your rest? Maybe it could begin with seeking that rest that God tells us we all need for our souls. There is a reason “Remember the sabbath and keep it holy” is one of the Ten Commandments. That verse is so totally about resting and remembering all that God has done for us, and looking forward to what He will do for us! Do you ever really take a sabbath, a day of rest? A sabbath day for me is a long walk with my wife and dogs, enjoying God’s creation. It is a chance to slow down and breathe out all the stuff I have to deal with, and breathe in the magnificence of God’s handiwork present all around me. It restores me. Go find your real rest. God does not just give you His permission, He pretty much demands it from us.
Pictured left to right: Richard Smith, Kris Lomonaco, John Lomonaco, Roger Spittle, Pam Prentice, Dan Whipple, Shirley Luce, & Sandra Bilbro
I chose to become involved in Stephen Ministry because of my own life experience. When we were told that our 1st child had a nonsurvivable birth defect, the disbelief, pain, and feelings of isolation were overwhelming. Luckily, we were urged to join a support group that allowed me to share openly and truthfully about things that most people do not want to hear. Once others have helped you reach the other side of such dark places, you know God would not want you to sit silently while others suffer. Sometimes your most effective ministry comes out of your own deepest hurts.
– Kris Lomonaco
Stephen Ministry is a one on one opportunity to share the love express that love connecting with my “neighbor”. When someone else is experiencing a difficult time, it allows me to let that person know how much they are valued by others, their church and Christ! In response to what Christ has given me…..Stephen Ministry!
– Roger Spittle
Stephen Ministry is aprovide high-quality, Jesus centered, confidential support for people who are hurting and need someone to talk to. Having had a few friends in other churches who became Stephen Ministers, I knew this was an opportunity to serve the Lord by helping others. In 1998 I agreed to become a Stephen Minister. The commitment I made was for 1 year. That commitment turned into 12 years of offering care to people who needed a shoulder to lean on while they sorted out their troubles. I was hooked. Now after a few years sabbatical, I am thrilled to be offered the same opportunity once again. I loved watching my care receivers become stronger and readier to take on the world. We laughed, prayed, cried and hugged as we grew to love each other and what God was doing in our lives.
I am excited to be able to serve the Lord and some of His people in this capacity, once again. We have all needed to talk with someone at one time or another, when our life has become troubled. Many of us don’t ask for help. We “suffer” in silence or burden our close family and friends. Stephen Ministry offers the chance to talk to someone without judgement, and in strict confidence. Your caring Stephen Minister will not tell you what to do or not do. They will not try to fix what is wrong or broken. What they will do instead, is listen and reflect back what they’ve heard. They will walk with you as you figure what to do next in your life. They will help you feel the presence of God when they pray for and with you.
I believe my gift is serving and helping others. I feel better when I can do something to help someone else. Jesus said in Matthew 45:25 “Whatever you do for the least of these you do for me.” By ‘least of these’ I see Jesus referring to His followers. Jesus also said to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” What better way to do that, than to serve as a Stephen Minister. If you need some loving care, because you see your world a little off balance, or crazy, don’t hesitate to ask for a Stephen Minister. You do not need to walk a troubled path alone.
– Pam Prentice
I have been involved with Stephen Ministry before and am very pleased to see HUMC resurrecting this ministry. People need people to connect with. Especially people who are struggling. The struggle might be: mourning the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, divorce, family issues or dealing with an illness. The list of struggles people deal with is endless. Having someone who will listen in strict confidence, showing care for them and their struggle, brings healing. Having someone to pray with, when they can’t find the words, brings healing. Stephen Ministry is a way to wrap God’s arms around someone.
I choose to become involved in Stephen Ministry for that very purpose. To show God’s love to people, especially when they are having difficulty seeing His love. Stephen Ministry doesn’t solve problems, but it can support people through their journey through prayer, love and understanding.
– Shirley Luce
Stephen Ministry is an opportunity to take time to stop and listen. Everyone comes to a point (or more) in their life where they need a non-judgmental, sympathetic, attentive ear. Life was not meant to be weathered alone. I’m excited about this ministry because it is a metaphorical “Open” sign for everyone to see. How do we show others we are there for them if we open our arms inside our own home? Support systems such as AA and Al Anon blossom from organization and offering public messages of uncompromising support. There will always be people who need care and support. I know that at some point in time I will be needing help like this. Most people are impacted by an event which drive them to take on a cause, I’m just being proactive about it.
– Dan Whipple
Stephen Ministry is the one-to-one lay caring ministry that will soon be taking place in our congregation. Stephen Ministry equips and empowers lay caregivers – called Stephen Ministers – to provide high quality, confidential, Christ-Centered care to people who are hurting. The best way to understand how Stephen Ministry works is to learn about three groups of people involved in this ministry: Stephen Leaders, Stephen Ministers, and care receivers. Joins us on October 14th at 9:45am in the Fellowship Hall for A Taste of Stephen Ministry. Come learn about the benefits, structure, and opportunity available through a Stephen Ministry Program.
A Conversation about The Commission on the Way Forward
The Commission on a Way Forward was proposed by the Council of Bishops and approved by the 2016 General Conference to do a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph of the Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and explore options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church.
You are invited to a church wide conversation on this important subject on Sunday, October 14th at 3:00pm in the Fellowship Hall. Rev. Amy Coles, Assistant to the Bishop of Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, will join us to lead our learning and conversation on The Way Forward. Commission on a Way Forward worked diligently and prayerfully in 2017-2018 and sent their completed work to the Council of Bishops in early 2018. The reports have been translated and are available in preparation for a special session of the General Conference to be held in February 2019. You are invited to come hear where we have been as a denomination in regards to human sexuality and where we are headed as we prepare for the special session. The goal of this conversation is to cultivate fertile ground for continuing the conversation with each other, so we can hear God’s voice and listen to one another. You are encouraged to come with an open mind and heart to listen and learn. To learn more about the work of this Commission prior to our Conversation on October 14, please visit www.umc.org/wayforward. Refreshments will be m provided and we expect to wrap up our session by 4:30.