Ash Wednesday Heart Prayer Bracelets

IMG_1950 (002)It’s a simple piece of jute twine. Cut by the hands of eager children excited to serve as worship leaders for Faith’s Ash Wednesday service. A heart bead was added to remind us that we are called to enter the season of Lent with all our heart. A prayer knot was tied in each bracelet in contemplation of the person who would receive it.

The twine is rough and prickly. The jute twine bracelet is a symbol given to remind us of the ancient Biblical practice of seeking repentance by wearing sackcloth and ashes.

“Then I turned to the Lord God, to seek an answer by prayer and supplication with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “Ah, Lord, great and awesome God, keeping covenant and steadfast love with those who love you and keep your commandments, we have sinned and done wrong, acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and ordinances.” Daniel 9:3-5

The jute prayer bracelets are a visual and sensory reminder to help us turn from those things that keep us from God and focus on living and loving like Jesus. And so we wear these Lenten prayer bracelets as we turn to God this Lent, seeking and praying and surrendering ourselves to the Lord.

We are reminded of Daniel’s words and pray them as our own, “Ah, Lord, great and awesome God, … we have sinned and done wrong, acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and ordinances.”

We reflect on the ways we have fallen short. We repent and reflect on the ways our hearts have become hardened to even those seemingly innocent sins like gossip, jealousy, judgment and indifference. We repent and reflect on who we are in Christ.

We remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us.

The Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation given because we are God’s beloved children.

We look towards Easter and remember God’s promises.

Lent is a journey, a season to refocus and renew our faith commitment and allow God to change our hearts and shape and mold us to be what God has created us to be.

Lent is a season to immerse ourselves in the words of Jesus.

 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me…” (Luke 4:18)

As we feel the prickly rub from our Ash Wednesday jute bracelets against our skin throughout these 40 days of Lent, let us be reminded of God’s call to “Return to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12).

child of God

 

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Prayer Prism

Prayer Prism
“What came into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.” – John 1: 4-5

journey-into-faith-ship-logo-pictureFaith UMC has claimed the image of a ship to represent our journey into faith. Several centuries ago, mariners installed prisms on the decks of their ships to illuminate the dark spaces below deck.
On the journey with Jesus we receive in him God’s life-light. In the light of Christ we come to view ourselves as restored children of God.
img_8280The purpose of a prism was not simply illumination. A prism is a tool. Because of the prism of the church, the light of Christ enters the darkness in our hearts and in the world. We are invited to receive and be illuminated by His light. We are invited to share the light!


Prayer Prism kits are available at Faith UMC! Attached to each card is a cord and a small prism. We invite you to thread the prism bead onto the cord and tie 2 prayer knots on each side of the prism bead. Wear your prism or hang it in your home or car as a daily reminder to receive and be illuminated by Christ’s light.

First Knot—Thank God for the gift of Christ’s light.
Second Knot—Ask God to illuminate Christ’s light in your heart and life.
Prism bead— Pray that Christ’s light will shine prismatically into the world.
Third Knot—Pray for Christ’s Light to illuminate into our community and the world through the ministries of Faith UMC.
Fourth Knot—Ask God to help you share Christ’s light with others.prayer-prism

Let us receive the Light of Christ anew and shine it prismatically into the world!

Arise and Shine! Your Light has Come!

By Kathy Schumcker, inspired by Pastor Cara Stultz Costello’s 2016 Faith UMC Christmas Letter
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Write a Psalm of Praise

WRITE A PSALM OF PRAISE

Praise The Lord Oh My Soul

Read Luke 1:39-56

Consider Mary’s relationship with the Lord.

Reread Mary’s Song (vs. 46 – 55).  Mary’s song of praise, known as The Magnificat, invites us to participate with God in his mission for the world.

What does The Magnificat say about the heart of God?

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you reflect on your relationship with God. Reflect on times you have experienced overflowing love and joy.  Reflect on the ways you have been overwhelmed by injustice in the world today. How is God calling you to participate in his mission for the world?

For what specifically will you sing this week as you prepare for God to come near?

Try to put your thoughts into a sentence of praise to the Lord and write your own psalm of praise.  Make it a  shared  or community psalm by inviting your family, friends, or small group members to add a line to the psalm. Share your thoughts on social media with #FaithUMCAdvent!

The Lord has done great things for us!

magnify_5508c

 

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Walking to Bethlehem: A Labyrinth Journey

Walking to Bethlehem: A Labyrinth Journeywalk-to-hope-labyrinth-10-7-2015

“You will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:12-13

When we hear the word journey, we most often think of traveling from one place to another over a period of time.  A journey might also be passage or progress from one stage to another. Both definitions might be used to describe one’s faith journey.

Over 2,000 years ago, Mary and Joseph journeyed from Nazareth to Bethlehem; a 70 mile journey laden with danger, discomfort, and fear.  A journey we only imagine being possible with deep trust and faith in God.

Today, we invite you to explore Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem through the experience of a prayer labyrinth. The labyrinth is a spiritual tool that many people use to grow closer to God.  It is found in all religious traditions in various forms around the world.  The labyrinth represents a journey, a pilgrimage, an intentional time to seek God.

labyrinthLabyrinths can be large for walking, indoors or outdoors, and small designed for your fingers to walk.  You can even walk a labyrinth on your computer screen using your mouse. Unlike a maze, there are no dead ends or false paths. Simply follow the path to the center. As the path winds, it becomes a reflection for where we are in our lives; touching sorrows and releasing joys.

There is no right or wrong way to experience the labyrinth. Trace or walk the labyrinth without words, sing it, pray, or repeat a few lines of scripture.  Feel free to skip, run, crawl or dance as you journey. Use whatever means might help you to open yourself to God’s presence.  As you ‘walk’ the labyrinth be aware of your spiritual focus and how you are drawn to God.  Journey with an open heart and mind!

Begin the journey by taking a few moments to quiet and prepare yourself.  You might choose to begin your labyrinth journey with a prayer hymn such as this twentieth century hymn by Daniel Iverson:

Spirit of the Living God fall fresh on me. Melt me.  Mold me.  Fill me.  Use me. 

Walk the labyrinth as if you are on a journey to Bethlehem to worship Christ! Begin with a favorite Advent hymn, such as O Come, O Come, Emmanuel or Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.

Read through the following scriptures as you prepare for this journey to Bethlehem:

Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:2-7, Matthew 1:18-25, Matthew 2:1-12, Luke 1:26-56, Luke 2:1-20

What journey might God be calling you to explore? Joseph’s journey to obedience? Mary’s journey from questions to praise? The Magi’s journey to worship Christ the King and experience His wonder? The shepherd’s journey from amazement to proclamation as they share their joy, glorifying and praising God? Mary &  Joseph’s journey to Egypt to escape Herod and protect Jesus?

As you explore these journeys surrounding the stories of the birth of Christ you may find God is calling you to journey. Perhaps you are finding yourself on an unwanted journey or heading in a direction that you may not have anticipated or find surprising.  Journeys of disappointment, sorrow, and pain are bound to be part of our life story as are journeys of wonder and great joy.  Allow the good news revealed in the experiences of those who journeyed to Bethlehem over 2000 years ago remind you that God walks with you on your journey as well.  Seek God and submit to the journey He has prepared for you knowing that He is with you.  May you find peace, hope, and strength in Him that will sustain you wherever you are in your journey this Advent.

 

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Intentional Acts of Gratitude and Grace: A Calendar for Advent and Christmas

Intentional Acts of Gratitude and Grace: A Calendar for Advent and Christmas

faith-mustard-seedChanging the world by putting mustard seed faith into action!

Attached below is a list of suggested activities for Advent and Christmas. This list was compiled by some friends at Faith United Methodist Church who were inspired by a random acts of kindness calendar.

Some of the activities involve making a card for someone in our community, collecting food, clothes and toys for those in need, cleaning up a mess you didn’t make, helping and serving others, praying for people you encounter in your life and community. You may have other ideas of additional activities to add to the list.

Imagine how a daily commitment of practicing some of these acts of gratitude and grace might change us and change our community. How might being intentional about making a difference in the lives of the people you encounter each day make a difference in your community and the world?

This challenge to make a difference in the world, might seem impossible or we might be tempted to fall into the trap of thinking we are too insignificant to make a difference so why bother.But I remind you that Jesus said that with faith as small as a grain of mustard seed we can move mountains. “For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)

I once heard a motivational speaker share that to create a culture shift in a given community, 20% of the population would need to embrace the change. If that would happen the culture of that community would change.

So what if everyone who read this blog were to commit to living an intentional spiritual practice of gratitude? Imagine the change that could happen in our community if we practiced giving thanks to God and others daily.

Imagine what a difference it would make in our world if we all were intentional about encouraging others and building others up? Imagine if we all strive daily to live in peace with one another, embracing our differences and growing in our commitment to building relationship with each other and with God?

Advent is a season of waiting as we prepare our hearts and lives to celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas. Our waiting can be spent in action, intentional action focused on practicing gratitude and grace throughout the season of Advent and Christmas.

Pray as you begin each day asking God how you can make a difference for Jesus in our community. Complete the suggested daily activities. Share the calendar of activities with your friends and family. Do the activities together or on your own. Change the world by putting your mustard seed faith into action!

Download the Intentional Acts of Gratitude and Grace Advent and Christmas Calendar here: intentional-acts-of-gratitude-and-grace-calendar-2016

Download a thank you card created by a mother and daughter team at Faith UMC that you can color and use for the card activities here: heart-thank-you-cards

Gracious and loving God, thank you for the love you give us so abundantly. Thank you for sending your Son Jesus to teach us how to live and how to love. Throughout this season of Advent help us to remember that you also send us. Help us to be motivated by the  gift of love you so generously gave to the world in Christ Jesus. Strengthen us and empower us to make a difference in the world in the name of Jesus. Help us to put our mustard seed faith into action and move the mountains in our lives, our community and world. In Jesus’ precious name we pray, Amen.

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Faith UMC 2016 Mission and Vision Devotions – March 2016

March 2016

Ministry WITH the Poor

Scriptures, Reflections, & Prayers for Faith UMC’s Mission & Vision

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to (with) the poor…” Luke 4:18

KINDNESS

Written by Paulette Baker,
Faith UMC Lay Leader, Stephen Minister, Camp Read-A-Lot Coordinator

IMG_3413I had just returned home from the Sensory Sensitive service at church on the day before Easter. As I was standing in my kitchen, I happened to glance at a window on my porch. The sunlight had cast a perfect cross on the window panes. How fortunate I felt to be in that exact spot at that exact time. No coincidence, I’m sure. There are so many signs of God’s love surrounding us, and this one gave me peace and reassurance. As I reflected on this incident, I thought of how easy it is for us to share a sign of God’s love with others. A simple act of kindness—a random act of kindness—may easily be interpreted by another as an act of love. We can all reflect on times when such an act made a huge impact on us. We all have the power to pass this on to others.

Being kind to family is natural. Being kind to friends can be a necessity. Being kind to colleagues at work may be an attempt to look smart and witty. But, being kind to strangers is an act that will set you apart from every other person because it shows that you have a malice-free heart.

Don’t ever underestimate the power of simple acts of kindness. It won a frail old lady named Mother Teresa the Nobel Peace prize. It armed a monk named Dalai Lama the support to fight for the freedom of a nation. Don’t mistake people who are always kind as fragile or weak. Kindness is actually a mark of acute inner strength…the mark of a person who will go to any lengths.

It takes a big heart and a brave soul to drive someone’s troubles away. Everyone promises to offer help tomorrow, but very few can step forward to help today. Those who dare to act right now, rather than later, know the real meaning of kindness.

Just like how a single stone can create many ripples in calm waters, your act of kindness can have a ripple effect on someone’s life. There is no such thing as big or small when it comes to measuring kindness. Even in the slightest doses it can bring about joy and happiness.

I have made the butterfly a sign or symbol for me…to serve as a reminder that, above all else, we should always try to be kind. May you do the same.

March Scripture Focus: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.” (John 13: 34-35)

oil_11349cp (1)Prayer: Heavenly Father… Allow us to serve others with a joyful heart; never keeping score; always giving and never expecting to receive. Allow us to give of our talents and our goods, to give of our time and energy, to give of our hearts and our souls. Help us understand the needs of others, never criticizing, never demeaning, never scolding and never condemning nor judging. Lord, you have been so gracious to us, always loving, forgiving and restoring; never gloating over our defeat, even when we are wrong. Father, keep a condemning spirit far from our hearts and further from our lips. Allow us to serve others as You serve, with gentleness, compassion, and tenderness, never diminishing the worth of another, choosing to extend mercy to the brokenhearted, like You have repeatedly shown it to us. In Jesus’ name. Amen

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Holy Saturday Easter Vigil, Walking in Hope

Journey into Faith - Learning, Loving, Leading at Faith UMC

Scripture tells us that during the crucifixion darkness came over the land.

The sun had stopped shining.

The moment Jesus breathed his last breath the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

The earth shook and the rocks split.

 Ayear0819gcJesus taught His disciples, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise. But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.” Mark 9:31-32

Then it happened – their Lord was betrayed, tortured, killed!

Did they now understand Jesus’ teachings? Or did they begin to doubt and question? Shrouded by grief and despair, what do the disciples do now?

Shocked…..confused…..frightened…..hopeless…..helpless

Are you familiar with any of these emotions?

Can you imagine what the disciples experienced at Jesus’ death? They had submitted their lives to this…

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