As a lifelong Tennessee fan, basketball season is not something that I typically looked forward to, and recently neither has football season! But as a basketball player and fan growing up, I always wanted a team to cheer for.
In seminary I got to adopt the Duke Blue Devils as my team and even got to witness a National Championship while I was there! This year I have two teams to cheer for during basketball season and it’s been so much fun. My dad, brothers and I have a family group text that we use during games so it’s like we are all watching together.
I saw a video interview with Rick Barnes, the Head Coach of the Vols, about the success they were having this season. He was dismissive of the numerical victories that they have had and said that, “Watering and planting something so someone can come to know Jesus Christ is the greatest victory of all.” The interview also shared that the team has been playing this season for an “Audience of One,” meaning that every time they step on the court they are seeking to give their all for God.
I wonder what our individual lives would look like if we began to live and love for an “Audience of One,” gave our all to honor God in the work place, our marriages and relationships, parenting, and in everything we do. I know my life would look different and I bet yours would too.
Let’s seek to live for an “Audience of One” this week and watch how God transforms the world around us!
In Christ, Will
Published on Friday, February 15, 2019 @ 8:32 AM EDT
A special called General Conference session will be held in St. Louis, Missouri from February 23-26, 2019. At this special session, 864 delegates of the United Methodist Church from across the world will gather to clarify the issue of human sexuality as it relates to the functions and practices of the United Methodist Church.
Listening sessions have been held with Holston Conference delegates, special classes were taught at Prime Time Wednesday gatherings in the Fall, and many articles have been written to try to explain what is going to take place at this General Conference (by the way, some of the articles are still available at UMNEWS.org or Holston.org). You can also get up-to-date information and notifications about General Conference by going to https://holston.org/umc/general-conference and clicking on Subscribe to GC News.
I am asking you to join with me and other United Methodists around the world to commit to an intentional time of prayer. Here are some ways you might pray:
• Pray each day from 2:23 to 2:26 a.m. or p.m. (or both!) – These times correspond to the dates the conference will be held.
• Enter into a time of fasting and prayer once a week for 20 hours with the focus on this special session.
• Join us at First-Centenary on February 20 and February 24 for special prayer services. (See front page article.)
• Intentionally set aside your own method of prayer each day.
• Gather your Sunday School or small group together for a period of intentional prayer and reflection.
• Participate in A Day of Prayer, which will take place from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. CST in the St. Louis America’s Center Convention Complex on Saturday, February 23, the first day of the 2019 Special Session of General Conference. The event will be live-streamed at www.umc.org/live.
Christ Jesus was continually in prayer. As Bernard of Clairvaux wrote; “You have His own commandment in the matter, “thou when thou wilt pray, enter into thy chamber and when thou hast shut the door, pray”. He Himself practiced what He preached. He would spend all night in prayer, not only hiding from the crowds but not allowing any, even of His closest friends, to come with Him. Even at the last, when He was hastening to His willing death, though He had taken three with Him, He withdrew even from them when He desired to pray. You must do likewise, when you want to pray.”
My friends, may we come together in prayer, seeking to align our hearts and minds with the One who loves us and calls us to be His people!
Psalm 5:3 In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.
Published on Thursday, February 7, 2019 @ 2:58 PM EDT
One of my heroes of the faith is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was martyred by Hitler’s regime during WWII. He saw how the German church was corrupted in his day by “liberalism” and “nationalist religion.” He began to reflect on and realize the possibility that Germans were so proud of their religiosity it was hard for them to be Christian.
His mother recalled that after her son had finished seminary and was going to pastor a church in Spain he reflected that he was not concerned about his academic abilities. He was concerned as to whether he could “meet the spiritual needs of the bourgeoisie and poor laborers in Spain who were struggling and would not really be impressed with the prestige of his degree.” This conversation that he had with his parents before he left out to begin his ministry set a course for how his life would go.
He believed that “the church and individual Christians should make a real redemptive difference in the communities they belong to.” To achieve this he always sought to put his faith into practical action, usually radical action.
When I read Bonhoeffer, Wesley, William Booth, George Muller, Count Zinzendorf and folk like that; I wonder if we (I) have lost our (my) radicalness. Church has become a noun (a building that we visit once maybe twice a week) instead of being a living functional working community of Jesus followers in our communities. Faithfulness means showing up for worship, making a donation and then going home to our regular lives. Ran out of time here, but I am going to try to live more radically. I want to make a real difference in my community.
Geaux Tigers, Barry
Published on Monday, February 4, 2019 @ 8:39 AM EDT
As part of a recent study a Harvard psychologist provided a simple assignment to residents of a local nursing home. In this unique teaching moment, those persons who were usually cared for, became “care providers.”
Half of the residents were charged with basic care of individual green plants given to them. During this experimental study, plant caretakers got sick less often and recovered from illness, more quickly. In some cases, blood pressure levels decreased to more favorable readings. Ultimately, the study showed that the very act of caring for something outside yourself improves overall health.
Well known family therapist, Esther Perel, says, “The most powerful antidepressant is taking care of other people.” To say that within this paradox of giving, there are broadened opportunities for mutual benefits in serving and being served, is an understatement. The impact of volunteering and serving greatly benefits the person providing care as much or more than the one being provided for.
As stated in the lyrics of one of my grandmother’s favorite songs, “You can’t beat God’s giving, no matter how hard you try.” We pray that God will remind us to earnestly share our time and energy with those around us ... ”Blessed are the pure in heart ...”
– Linda I. McDaniel
Published on Thursday, January 17, 2019 @ 3:23 PM EDT
I was in the grocery store the other day searching for an item that Judy asked me to get. Trust me, it is never an easy item like milk, cheese or cereal. No! She asked me to find candied pecans and whole cranberries in a can!
As I was looking for something that most people never use, I got distracted. I ran across a magazine cover that caught my eye Discover: The State of Science 2019 – Top Stories in Medicine, Archeology, Tech, Genetics, Space, and more.
I bought the magazine and I wanted to share a couple of things with you that I found to be of interest.
Plastics and the use of plastics has become a major part of our everyday lives. However, as one stated about plastic: “They’ve also become a persistent pollutant. Some 18 billion pounds of the stuff winds up in the world’s oceans each year.”
Cities and nations around the world are beginning to take action to address this issue but we have to continue to be proactive in recycling efforts.
It seems that globally, frogs are being wiped out by a fungus known as “Bd”. As you might guess, there are also many concerns over climate change. Some scientific practices are raising questions. How do we use genetic technology in a safe and responsible way? How do we continue to interact and connect with artificial intelligence in a moral and ethical way?
If you are interested these issues and others are addressed in the Social Concerns section of The Book of Discipline of the UMC.
The magazine did not just focus on bad news. The smallest fly ever recorded measures less than 2/100 of an inch was found in Brazil. Two new giant penguin colonies have been discovered. A rhino population on the brink of extinction has rebounded in Kenya. There is continued exploration deeper into the solar system and faraway galaxies. The New Horizon space probe that flew by Pluto in 2018 is travelling a billion more miles toward another planetary body nicknamed Ultimus Thistle.
Medical technology continues to make advancements. A potential HIV vaccine is on the horizon. Researchers are looking at Biosensor capsules to detect gastric bleeding and possibly detect presence of diseases. Sadly, the medical field is still struggling to find ways to battle Alzheimers.
The future is always filled with excitement and anxiety. There are things that we look forward to and other things that we dread even fear.
In our own Methodist Church we are possibly facing changes in February. No one really knows what to expect. Yet, I lean into 2019 resting on the faithfulness of God and trusting in God’s guidance. As God states in Isaiah 41:10; “So do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and uphold you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
I lean into the new year with great hope and anticipation of all that God is going to do through the membership of First-Centenary as we continue, together, to seek to make disciples for the transformation of the world.
– Mark Gooden
Published on Thursday, January 10, 2019 @ 3:40 PM EDT