Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Grace

Have you ever had an experience when you were able to get away from your normal routine and be refreshed – and found that the Holy Spirit had a message for you? I have found that a change of pace, a change of scenery, can provide opportunities for the Holy Spirit to speak to me. And some locations I have visited have proven to be “thin places” where boundaries between heaven and earth became transparent for me. Perhaps I listen more intently in new places.

One such “thin place” for me is Camp Junaluska, a Conference and Retreat Center operated by the United Methodist Church near Ashville, North Carolina. I spent a week there at a conference for young pastors (this was a long time ago, obviously!) and enjoyed some stimulating classes on Wesleyan theology and pastoral leadership. But the best part of the conference for me was walking around the grounds of the complex and being inspired by everything I saw. Captivated by the spiritual beauty of that place, I wrote several poems that week. It was a joyous time for me, one that I will never forget.

Closer to home, I have been privileged to meet monthly with a group of colleagues in our Peaks and Plains District at the country home of a kind couple outside of Berthoud. Their home is in the foothills southwest of the town, and it has become a cherished retreat center for all of us. The facilitator of our group will generally read a poem of a Scripture to us, and we will meditate upon it and listen for what the Spirit is saying to us.

At our session in April, one of the members our group brought prayer stones, and each one of us drew a stone from a bowl and meditated on the word inscribed upon our stone. The word I drew was “Grace,” and as I pondered this word, a poem flowed through me. I wrote it down on an envelope I had handy and shared it with the group. I had been giving much study and thought to the subject of grace recently, but this was different. I simply wrote down what I heard inwardly.

The beauty of God’s Grace, as one thinker has said, is that the church has not corrupted or watered down its original meaning. Grace, which became the cornerstone of the apostles’ message, cannot be turned into something it’s not. Grace is what the apostles experienced so profoundly in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and what I have experienced so profoundly in my own life. Grace is not going away, either, because God’s Grace still flows freely from Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross. This Grace exploded into the world when the Father vindicated his Son by raising Him to new life on the third day.

I could go on about what grace means to me theologically and personally, but let me say just this. Because of grace, I am accepted and loved by God, and I don’t need to do anything to prove it! What a great gift this is! Beyond this truth, it’s hard to write much prose about grace, because the truth of grace is much more poetry than prose. Unlike moralism, grace simply sings. So I close with the poem the Spirit gave me one month ago.

Grace – it’s the air I breathe,
God’s nature, and God’s greatest gift to me.
Grace is the chance to learn from mistakes,
To begin again, to grow.
Grace is my lifeline, always present, but never taken for granted.
Grace leaves no room for shame and erases regret.
In your grace are teachable moments
Rather than endless remorse.
Grace opens the path to the cross
Instead of wandering in confusion.
Grace makes a way in the wilderness.
Grace opened a whole new world to me.
Christ is alive: What grace that even murder was overcome with life!
Life is grace because Christ is King.
Let the song of grace resound!



 Thomas Cross is one of the pastors at BUMC.  He loves to help people grow in Christ and start new small groups.  He says his passion is ‘to introduce people to the God I know through Jesus Christ, the God who is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.’  He enjoys hiking, reading, cooking, going to movies, working out, collecting art, listening to jazz music, and watching the Broncos for fun.  And he has a blast meeting with the diverse small groups he facilitates!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tearing Down Walls

I must admit I am a Facebook junkie. I check my page every day. Lately I have posted a cute baby animal picture every day because I decided to give people a chance to smile every day. Seriously, who can’t smile while looking at a cute baby animal?

A while back, I decided Facebook needs to be a little more positive because sometimes I read a post and find myself feeling bad or sad about the person who posted it. I don’t necessarily think they are trying to be negative, but it sure comes across that way to me. I, myself, have also been guilty of the negative Facebook post. However, certain events in my life have caused me to think about life in a different way now. My life is a gift given to me by God! I need to enjoy every moment and share God’s love with everyone. These days, my daily goal is to make at least one person laugh or smile. In my opinion, we don’t really have enough of that these days.

Yesterday, I read a Facebook post that I think was meant to be funny but it just hit me pretty hard. The post read:

“You can only let someone throw so many stones at your before you pick them all up, put them together, and build a wall to keep them from doing it again.”

I have always struggled with self-esteem because I have had plenty of stones thrown at me. I was heavily bullied in elementary and middle school. It wasn’t just kids who bullied. There were supposedly “responsible adults” in my life who would point out all the negative things about me. I think I started building a wall at a very young age. I have always thought of it as a way of surviving, “If I don’t let people get close to me, they can’t hurt me."

Over the years, my wall has grown significantly. In fact, I doubt I can see over it right now. I let very few people in and I have always struggled to truly trust people. I have been terrified of getting hurt over and over again. Now I realize just how many good people I may have pushed away and I regret it. This Facebook post led me to figure out that I need to start tearing down those walls!

It made me think of the life of Jesus. I thought to myself, “How many people threw stones (in the form of words or even real stones) at this man? How many betrayed him? Jesus didn’t build a wall. In fact, he helped others to break down their walls.

1 Peter 5:10 states, And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

I am going to take it one stone at a time and open myself up to the world. I am going to break down that wall and find freedom. I know “God's got this,” and he will help me through it. I will pray for his guidance with this every morning. I will be hurt by others (it’s inevitable). However, I need to trust him to restore and strengthen me instead of focusing on how others have hurt me. God’s love is stronger than other peoples' hate!

 
-Jackie


I grew up in Colorado and spent most of my time growing up in Arvada, Colorado until I went to the University of Northern Colorado. I received my Bachelor of Arts in Music Performance in 1994. Now, I work at The Link A Community Assessment and Resource Center. At The Link, I work with youth who are either gang involved or at risk of becoming gang involved. I love my work and I get to see transformation in these kids on a daily basis. I am actively involved in the music ministry at Broomfield United Methodist Church. I enjoy singing with the Sunrise Singers and Chancel Choir. I also love having the opportunity to play my flute and sing whenever given the opportunity.


My life is now in transition as I recover from brain surgery. I had a MRI in December of 2013. At that time, I was told I had a large brain tumor and that surgery was needed as soon as possible. I had a craniotomy on December 23, 2013. My healing and progress is moving along now and I wouldn’t be where I am now without the support of my friends and family and the community at Broomfield United Methodist Church. So many people and groups within BUMC reached out to me with cards and offers of support. Most importantly, of course, I praise God for his hand in my healing.


Friday, May 15, 2015

Be Where God Wants You To Be

I'm writing this post from the Tampa International Airport in sunny Florida as my family and I wait for our flight back to (lately) not so sunny Colorado. We've been on vacation here all week and, full disclosure, I was supposed to write this post a couple of days ago and post it on Thursday but some combination of the sun, the beach, and relaxation caused it to slip my mind.

This was our first trip back to Florida since moving to Broomfield in 2011. The first visit back to somewhere that was once called home is always a little interesting, and this trip was no exception even though we left here four years ago. As soon as we walked out of the airport and were hit with the humidity it flooded our minds with memories of living here for so many years. They say that smell is the greatest trigger of memories, but a Florida night with its oppressive stickiness could make a solid case for second place.

All week long we were reminded of Florida life as we spent hours on the beach soaking in the sun. There's a lot to love about that kind of life, and I think JJ could have possibly been pursuaded to move back. I can see why. Me? I enjoyed being here and remembering things that were special to our family but I wouldn't ever want to move back. Mainly because the time I spent living here was just that, a time, a season. It was a great time and season, but it wasn't meant to last forever because God had different plans for Theresa, JJ and me.



That feeling we have all experienced of missing something from the past certainly isn't new. In a story from Matthew 17, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up to a mountain and they watch him turn into a radiant, glowing being while Moses and Elijah show up and start talking with him. The three disciples are so amazed that they ask Jesus if they can put up some tents and hang out there for a while. But Jesus told them that they had to leave the mountain and go on to what was ahead in his life and ministry. It was a time and a season, but nothing more.

Watching JJ get nostalgic for some of the things he enjoyed about Florida was tough. Just being here made him miss some friends that he left behind and, as a parent, it's not easy to watch kids go through that. He's dealing with some other "moving on" things this year as he finishes up 5th grade and looks toward middle school next year. It seems that following God means we're always moving on to something new and that means we're also always leaving something else behind. New jobs mean leaving old ones behind. New relationships sometimes mean the end of old ones. And as a church congregation, we're facing decisions that might mean moving on to new buildings and leaving the old ones behind.

As we now sit on the plane somewhere between Florida and Denver, my family and I are taking with us some great memories of a fun vacation to a place that we once called home but is now just a relaxing place to visit for a while. We're looking forward to landing at DIA and getting home - where God wants us. In my experience with moving on and following God into new places, that's the best way to do it.


Joe Mazza is the Director of Worship Arts at BUMC and leads worship at our 8:30, 9:45, and 5:05 worship services. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Grandma Knows Best

As an Early Childhood Education teacher, I spend a LOT of time helping my students navigate the waters of social interaction. We don’t come in to this world inherently knowing how to take turns or share or be patient and wait our turn. Thusly, I play games with my students. We play BINGO and Go Fish, and Sequence and many other games. The purpose of these games is twofold. Yes, they will learn math and literacy through the process of rolling dice and matching numbers and letters. That’s not the most important thing that they learn, though. They learn, through playing games, how to take their turn, how to be patient, and most importantly, that life isn’t fair. For every winner, there has to be a loser. That’s just the way it is.

Playing games with children always makes me think of my grandma. I come from a family of very competitive game players. Growing up we played card games every time there were at least three or four of us in the same room. Our favorite was, and is, a game called Michigan Rummy. It’s a progressive card game, requiring the players to make books and runs and pay strict attention to other players and their strategies. My grandma was, perhaps, the most competitive of all of us. When playing with just the kids, you’d think that maybe she’d go easy on us, let us win every once in a while, or, at the very least, maybe not try as hard. No, that wasn’t her way. She would say, “Life’s not fair. You win some, you lose some. Never, ever be a poor loser, but just as importantly, don’t be a poor winner.” She never apologized for beating us at gameplay. My grandma also did not abide spoil sports who gloated and preened after a win or who moped and whined after a loss. Instead, she taught us that to win is to be gracious and to lose is to try harder next time.



My grandma was a pretty classy lady. She was also a strong believer in God. Through her and her lessons to my cousins and me, I think that I carry on her legacy through my chosen profession as a teacher. I channel her every time I sit down and play a game with my students. Understanding that life is not fair, that things will not always go the way you want them to, is a challenging lesson to learn; just ask a four year old who has lost his third consecutive game of Hi-Ho Cherry-O. It’s much easier to lie down on the floor and scream it out for a few minutes than it is to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again. It’s a lesson that God wants us to understand though. The Bible says:

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happens to them all. Ecclesiastes 9:11

I’ve had to turn to this Bible verse a lot lately. Certain events in my life haven’t gone just the way I planned and I sometimes just want to call it quits, stomp around and maybe yell a few choice words. I always hear my grandma’s voice in my head when I’m tempted to do so. I remember that I’m not always going to win, and that I must not be a poor loser. I just need to try harder. Thanks, Grandma.

-Sara





Sara Godwin is the Assistant Director and Teacher at Apple Tree Christian Preschool and Kindergarten. She has two wonderful children, Rachel and Ian, a loving husband, Shawn, two awesome kitties, Lewis and Lucy, and a sweet dog, Minnie. She has been a member of BUMC for 10 years. She began at BUMC working in the Children’s Ministry, assisting with Sunday School before moving to the preschool. She also helps with Wacky Wednesday and is the self-described crazy lady who wears all sorts of costumes every year at VBS.