slippin into the future

“slippin’ into the future”

So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart. Psalms 90:12 (NRSV

To the Pastor and Congregation of 2027 Perry Memorial UMC:

I am excited to write to the Perry of 2027! The simple small verse from Psalm 90 suffices nicely: “teach us to count our days”. In 2017, we are mindful of “our days” because we are challenged. I’m reminded of the Steve Miller Band’s classic: Fly Like An Eagle. The song begins: Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future. In this day, people are hurting from unemployment, underemployment, lack of education, chronic poverty, and substance use disorder. Children are hungry and miss school because of constant chaotic households. For our community, time is not only “slippin’ into the future” but people’s well-being as well. We hope these conditions for people are much improved in 2027 and 2017 Perry is hard at work to be part of a solution. We believe in our mission of Serving Community in Christ’s Love.

So, this is what is happening at Perry in 2017:

We have spent the last five years developing “a wise heart” for God’s mission of piecing back together a broken world. We work on reaching out into the community with missions and witness. We were shocked to find so many people in need for just a simple plate of food. In response, we started a monthly community meal, The Shepherd’s Table. At this writing, we are serving over 700 meals per month. We hope by 2027, the community will have turned around and hungry people are a rarity. The 2017 people of Perry yearn for a future when The Shepherd’s Table will go the way of the iPod (that was a popular but discontinued “mp3” music player). We also dreamed that we would one day build a multipurpose building to not only house Shepherd’s Table but as a community center as well. We are counting the days when ministries like Shepherd’s Table are no longer needed. I would be thrilled to learn of the ministries of 2027 at Perry.

A remarkable lady named Amy, discovered that all too many children belong to households offering little to eat on weekends. So, with the support of the congregation, Amy began a “backpack feeding ministry” to supply hungry kids with weekend food during the school year. The “backpacks” not only meet a real need in this community but provide a portal for new folks at Perry to immediately be involved in weekly ministry. I am hoping that in 2027 that kids don’t go hungry but if so, may Perry continue to provide for this need. I also wonder how people of 2027 are “plugging” in to Perry ministry portals?

In 2017, we understand that a plate of food isn’t enough, people need to be able to feed themselves spiritually as well. In 2014, I asked the Administrative Council this question: “How do we make disciples around here?” Total silence settled heavily on the room. We were “doing church”, we were not intentionally shaping and forming disciples. Perry continues to work on shaping disciples for Jesus Christ by developing spiritual leaders through a covenant accountability group that developed a disciple-making process named: C.I.T.Y. When C.I.T.Y. works well, we Connect Perry and community, Involve Perry with community, Teach disciples, and Yield spiritual fruit. We are experimenting with our disciple-making process by expanding C.I.T.Y. into existing and new ministries. For example, we are starting a Wellness Ministry which emphasizes “wholeness in body, mind, and spirit” as well as

Menistry—a men’s discipling group. I surely hope by 2027, that covenant accountability small groups are the norm at Perry.

That’s our 2017 plan: ministering to the community in ever loving ways and making disciples that Jesus finds to be faithful in small and large “things”. Our goal is to build ever deeper community so that nothing is lost and no one is broken. We further dream that these disciples have drawn into the congregation all manner of folks from the community into a joyous worship experience on whatever day of the week and in whatever way that people of 2027 choose to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth. I hope that 2027 disciples are adapting to the changing culture and finding new ways of offering the gospel in Jesus Christ. I am concerned about the future on this point, as we are a rather timid folk about sharing our faith with others. I hope the pastor in 2027 is reaping the harvest from seeds we planted in 2015 to make spiritual leaders who will lead the people called Perry into radical discipleship and hospitality. I would love to discover that Perry’s 2017 spiritual leaders have spawned a new spiritual “DNA” at Perry which embraces the future while transforming the community in Christ’s love. We live to see God’s kingdom come to fruition here in Shady Spring and around the world.

We are slippin’ into the future rapidly. The times are challenging but Christ’s love remains. I trust that Perry folks of 2027 will judge our work in 2017 as folks who were gentle, loving, and those who gained “a wise heart”.

Blessings,

Pastor Scott



Advent! Really?

As we ready ourselves for Christmas at Perry, it is good to be reminded that to arrive at Christmas, Wesleyan Christians first navigate the season of Advent.  Advent is largely no longer practiced by “non liturgical” churches (non-denominational or independent community churches, etc.).  Missing Advent, these churches are missing a great opportunity.  Meanwhile, “Electronic preachers” hawk prosperity gospels and seem to quickly drown.  John the Baptizer’s yearly call to “Make the Lord’s path straight.” Sometimes, we prefer to head “straight” to Christmas too. This is sad and explains why we want to get right to singing Christmas Carols and know so few Advent songs. Yet, marking Advent holds much promise for Wesleyans because we are people of hope and Advent bolsters hope.

The word, advent, comes from the Latin, adventus, which means “coming” or “arrival”. Thus, the Christian season of Advent is meant as a time of self-reflection, preparation, and deepening spirituality in expectation not only of the First Coming of Christ, the Manger-Child of Bethlehem, but the Second Coming of Christ, the King. “Yawn!” might be the response of many modern-day Christians without the Advent tradition. WRONG! No yawning allowed! We find ourselves living between Bethlehem and New Jerusalem. The Second Coming of Christ, the King, heralds New Jerusalem. Living in this “between time” means that we are the keepers of the Good News of the First Coming and heralds of the Promise of the Second Coming. This is hard to do in our culture that is increasingly anti-Christian. Yet, that’s our Christ-given task and why we need the preparations Advent provides.

Help is on the way! This Advent, Bible study and Sunday sermons follow Rev. Adam Hamilton’s book: Not A Silent Night. The study looks at Christmas through the eyes of Jesus’s mother, Mary. Hamilton has a good idea here. Mary certainly lived beyond that night of wonders in Bethlehem and her son’s life was not easy. Much of Jesus’s life must have been difficult for Mary to watch. This Advent, let’s imagine together how Mary beheld the life of her son through his early life, ministry, suffering, death, and resurrection. If we are committed Christians our own lives will, to a lesser or greater extent, mirror the lives of Jesus and Mary in ministry and maybe suffering. As Christians, each of us, will experience physical death, but also, eventually, physical resurrection just like our Savior. Hallelujah! Not A Silent Night brings us hope in these days of violence, terrorism, and antichristian attitudes. Advent helps us with the journey.  Happy preparation for His Coming(s).

Pastor Scott



Looking Up

Last month, I wrote about finding and taking Sabbath—the place and experience of “resting in the Lord”. Pastors are notorious for advising his or her folks to seek out Sabbath time and then ignoring Sabbath themselves. It’s a hypocrisy pastors share more or less discreetly. Well, Lynn and I spent some time away during October hiking/walking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in TN. A time of needed Sabbath! The Smokies are ancient in their geologic origin and contain an astonishing diversity of life. For example, there are salamander species indigenous to the Smokies that exist nowhere else on the planet. In short, these rugged mountains make a fascinating location for experiencing the Creation. Each step or turn in a trail can reveal some new wonder—but you have to be a keen observer!

Psalm 121 always comes to mind when we make our Smokies’ pilgrimages. Verses one and two kept focusing in my mind’s eye as we were walking on the mile-high “Flat Creek Trail” in the Heintooga/Balsam Mt. region of the GSMNP. So, I decided to stop and “lift up my eyes”. Lynn and I have visited the Smokies many times and we never fail to be impressed by the many vistas, but never I had just stopped and looked up. The sight of tree branches against the crystal blue sky was stunning! I have included a photo but photos never do such scenes the justice they deserve. Simply by lifting up my eyes, I had discovered a whole new way to enjoy God’s lovely Creation. I was blessed once more with a unique glory sighting. The power of Sabbath—here was my “help”!

Psalm 121 is known as one of the “Songs of Ascent” in the Psalter. It comprised one of many songs/psalms that the Jews would sing as they made their annual trips to Jerusalem to celebrate yearly religious festivals. Jerusalem sits atop ancient hills and, so, the journey to Zion involved “ascending.” Hence the name: “Psalm of Ascent”. The people knew that the journey to Jerusalem was worth the “ascent.” There they would worship Yahweh (the Lord), experience the Temple, and enjoy great fellowship along the way singing their songs of “Ascent”.

How have you experienced God differently lately in your faith’s walk? Have you bothered to “lift up your eyes” (or “down,” or “sideways,” or even “upside down”) to see what new thing God might have in store for you? How might we sing a “Song of Ascent” here at Perry? To what or whom are we “lifting up our eyes” these days?

Keep ascending, don’t become stale, and remember to “sing” along your “ascent”. You will find “help”.



What If We Were “No” People?

What if we were “no” people? A simple, albeit confusing, question from my oldest son Jacob has stayed with me for several days now. Not necessarily the question, but his own response and the glory sighting that came through the conversation.

Last Sunday evening we were watching TV on the couch, trying to relax and get ready for an-other long week of school and football/cheer practice for the kids; another week of work and travels for me. I don’t remember the show we were watching but since we’re between TV seasons I can only imagine it was something I’ve seen a half dozen times already. Suddenly, Jacob looks at me and asks, “Daddy, what would we do if we were ‘no’ people?” Anyone who has kids knows that questions almost always require some amount of clarification to figure out exactly what they are asking and so I did just that. Without missing a beat, Jacob clarified, “You know, what if we had no house, no food, no car?” Another key fact you learn with children is that question frequently come from out of the blue and are so abstract that most answers begin with, “Well, I don’t know. I guess…”

In the seconds that transpired between Jacob’s clarifying question and my biding time with a stuttered response, my brain quickly began to run through very adult questions:

Where would I go to find work? How much savings do we have in the bank? How much do I have in my retirement fund that I could draw from? How long could we keep the house, utilities, etc. up?

Now, the last truism of parenthood Q&A sessions is that children often generate their own response and answer their own questions, especially when they don’t like or can’t wait for your answer. Before I could answer my own adult questions and boil them down into something I thought a seven year old would understand, Jacob answered his own question by saying, “Well…I guess we’d just go to church and they would help us out…give us food, and clothes, and stuff.”

Like most of us, I generally listen and try to absorb what’s going on around me but it’s often later that I understand what was said as I reflect upon the passing events. When Jacob first answered his own question by saying that we could go to church for help and assistance, I was certainly listening to him and I was most-definitely proud that he knew that church is a place that helps the less fortunate. But, over the past several days, this exchange between he and I has taken on a much deeper meaning.

I have come to realize that this is truly a glory sighting, probably one of the most real and clear sightings of Christ’s glory and grace in my entire life. In an instant, Jacob again confirmed for me that what we are doing at Perry Memorial IS THE WORK OF JESUS CHRIST. Through our ministries and love, we are helping the “no’s” in this community and in this world. We are feeding those who are hungry, we are providing for those who have little or nothing, and we are loving those around us the way Jesus Christ would. Meanwhile, we are instilling in our children this love, compassion, and knowledge that it is the church that will save the “no’s” among us. I wish I knew such a thing when I was merely seven years old! What a bright and glorious future our church (Perry Memorial and beyond) has in front of it when the youngest among us knows how Jesus Christ’s love SOUNDS, LOOKS, and ACTS! As a father, nothing in this world could make me prouder, and you as a member of Perry Memorial should be equally as proud of the work we’re doing and the greatness that remains to be done by us and generations to come.

Rob Williams



Window Washing

Well, the Fall Festival is over and I offer “Thanks!” to everyone for their help and participation. I especially thank Rick Dotson for providing leadership for the Fall Festival. Perry is an awesome church because of awesome people. On we go! Shepherd’s Table is upcoming, backpacks continue weekly, the Choir sings out, and we have weekly youth meetings. You do know, don’t you, that Perry has a Youth Group called the Perry Pathfinders? Yes, we remain busy, plus, it is “high time” to concentrate on Charge Conference. More “stuff” to do. The “rhythm” of church continues.

Serving Christ is about more than staying “busy,” however. The 4th Chapter of Hebrews speaks about “entering God’s rest”—the concept of Sabbath. Sabbath does not mean that we collapse and become the spiritual equivalent of “couch potatoes.” While Sabbath certainly can include physical rest, Sabbath also provides that we STOP, STEP back, and ALLOW for a new perspective. This is how I find Sabbath meaningful and I am happy to provide an example.

One recent morning at the parsonage, I was working on a sermon. I was on “page 2” (sermons are “usually” around four written pages in length) when I became “stuck.” Couldn’t write another word! Oh dear! I closed the laptop and looked towards the outside across the deck. Then I noticed (not for the first time I confess) that the outside glass surface of the patio doors was dirty with dust and grime that settles over time. “Ok, that’s enough!” I sighed, and looked for allies. Soon, Windex, paper towels, and a squeegee, were my trusted partners. Within minutes the glass in the patio doors was much cleaner (although not exactly spotless). Just as I was wiping the last drops of Windex off the glass, the Spirit brought to mind how to finish the sermon. I had experienced Sabbath time and was refreshed. Even washing windows can be renewing. I was rested. (Oh, by the way, I don’t hire out for windows.)

God works in so many marvelous ways. A little Sabbath time and I could not only clearly see the back yard but how to proceed on the sermon as well. Ah, a Glory Sighting contained within a moment of Sabbath. Thank you, Lord.

May you allow God’s principle of Sabbath to work the wonder of rest in your life…

Pastor Scott



Glory Sightings

Sometimes, as a congregation, we have that “deer in the headlights look” when it comes time in Sunday Worship for H.O.P.E. Encounters and Glory Sightings. “Just who have I shared Christ with this past week?” and “Where have I actually seen God’s presence?” are questions we wrestle with. Is God only in those “lights flashing”, “knocked off your horse”, Apostle Paul-style “Damascus Road Experiences”? “Where is God?” we wonder. OK, enough already!

What are “Glory Sightings”? Glory Sightings can be as bodacious as a spectacular sunrise or as subtle as the breaths we draw. Allow me to offer an example. One recent morning, I noticed that the sun had just begun to peek through the Norway spruce trees behind the parsonage. Another great day I reckoned. As I walked from the kitchen with a cup of hot tea, I noticed the sunlight falling on a white plastic bag laying on the dining room table. Then I remembered: that’s those Communion linens, towels, and tablecloth (our very own Paula Whalley sewed the tablecloth) that Lynn brought from home. They needed attention!

So, I plugged in the old Shark iron, added some water for steam, and began to iron and fold the linens and tablecloth. After about the second linen, I began to notice how the ever strengthening sunlight was adding a brilliance to the plain white cloths. I also noticed how soft and pliable the linens have become. The repeated washings not only have removed the bread crumbs and juice stains from the many Eucharist Celebrations those linens have attended, but also added a worn and wonderful character to the cloths. Each stroke of the iron smoothed more wrinkles from the cloths. Soon I had a stack of eight no-wrinkle, brilliantly white, and neatly folded old “friends” ready for the next Celebration of what Father Wesley termed, “a Primary Means of Grace”. The cloths were prepared for the next Holy Communion and I had had a Glory Sighting.

Did you catch the Glory Sighting? The Spirit moved me to realize that those linens are like our lives as Christians. God’s love brightens our lives just as the sunlight brightened the “whiteness” of the cloths. Sometimes our lives become “crumbly” and “stained” but our repeated coming together and celebrating God’s grace through the Eucharist helps to “wash” out the “crumbs” and remove the “stains” of life. The strokes of the iron smoothed the cloths’ wrinkles just as our Servanthood “unwrinkles” us and allows us to take on that worn, yet wonderful character of a life conformed to God’s purposes for the Kingdom. Yep, the mundane, ordinary ironing of washed cloths was my Glory Sighting that day. THIS IS HOW GOD SHOWS UP FOLKS! God is very much to be found in the ordinary and mundane events of life. Now, what Glory Sightings have you seen in the ordinary and mundane?

Oh yeah, one other point. Do you know that you can use ordinary, mundane activities that turned into Glory Sightings as openings for sharing your faith? We call those H.O.P.E. Encounters. Are you watching and listening?

May you allow the Spirit to reveal God’s glory…

Pastor Scott



MY Beckley Day of Hope

On August 16, 2014, I had the privilege of working the Beckley Day of Hope. I chose to work in the Shoe Tent and was excited about the day. When the gates were opened and the guests of honor began coming in, I thought, maybe I had made a mistake. I am way too sensitive to help these guests! Little ones, fami-lies, grandmothers, what was I thinking? I turned around and Shelia Cooper and Susie Dotson gave me a look that said “straighten up, you can do this”. And I did. And I’ll do it again this year and the next.

There were so many stories of that day, but I thought I would share a few of them with you. There was a little boy with his mom and he was more concerned about his friend needing a pair of shoes. His friend wasn’t with him, and the mom tried to explain that he could pick out a pair for himself, but his little face dropped when he found out that he couldn’t take a pair for his friend.

There was a dad with his two high school children, a son and daughter. It was towards the end of the day and there were not any sizes left for the girl. When I told her that, the dad said, Well, can she try on a boy’s size? I looked at her and she said, okay. So, this teenage girl accepted a pair of boy’s tennis shoes, because that was what was available and she needed them. Heartbreaking.

As I said before, these are only a few of the stories from my day. I am truly thankful for my experience with the 2014 Beckley Day of Hope. I invite you to serve in some capacity, as there are many ways to help. Hope to see you there!

Amy Crawford



“Apostle”—One Who Is Sent

After these things, the Lord commissioned seventy-two others and sent them on ahead in pairs to every city and place he was about to go.” Luke 10:1 (CEB)
If we take time to think about it, a church’s activities and ministries fall into four categories. The business of a church is to: REACH (out to people), RECEIVE (new people into the church), DISCIPLE (grow in faith), and SEND (disciples into the world). These are what Christ commands us to do. If a church cooperates with the ministry of the Holy Spirit in all four of these areas then a church will grow and, thus, God’s kingdom too. Mostly, we tend to fall short on the SEND part. We United Methodists keep pretty quiet about our faith—even during worship!

In last month’s Peeper article I wrote that my prayer was the Spirit would “enliven” and “embolden” us as the Day of Hope approaches. So, how’s that working out for us? Quite good, actually! Last Sunday we heard two strong “Sent” testimonies. Ellen Todd told us of her experience with a group of young people singing along while she sang and played the ukulele. Ellen was enthusiastic in her telling and we could hear and see her joy. Then, minutes later, Marge Holland related her experiences handing out Day of Hope flyers in and around Sophia—which included the local liquor store—where, by the way, she received her warmest welcome for flyers! Marge, like Ellen, was joyful. Hmm, musician, Ellen Todd, and marketer, Marge Holland, are both evangelists. Who knew? Well…God knew! These were two wonderful spiritual moments celebrated within the context of worship by two of Christ’s earnest disciples who were practicing being “Sent”. I was “blown away.”

But wait! I am not yet finished. Monday night (July 20) I led a training session for those interested in working the “Connections Tent” on the Day of Hope. The Connections Tent is where we get a chance to pray and give witness to our faith as people leave the Day of Hope event. Convoy of Hope provides a training booklet and I decided to print five copies ahead of the meeting. My friends, was I ever wrong! Ten folks attended that training meeting and I was only too happy to quickly print the additional copies. The work of the Holy Spirit in and through Perry folks continues to amaze and encourage me. “Thank you” for thinking “BIG”. It is a privilege to be your pastor for another year and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us.

May the Spirit continue to enliven and embolden us…
Pastor Scott



Good and Faithful

Jesus taught us that you can learn a great deal about people by how they use their resources. In fact, He told a parable that addresses this very issue in Matthew 25. It is the Parable of the Talents. It is about being faithful with what God has given to each of us.

What is the standard for success in managing God’s gifts to us? God’s standard is faithfulness. We have a responsibility to handle our wealth effectively.

Listen to the voice of the Master: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful…” (vs. 21); and again in vs. 23, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful…” Understand that God is not looking for quantity as the measure of success here. God gave to each servant “each to his own ability, to one He gave five talents of money, to an-other two talents, and to another one talent.” (vs. 15).

The master knew each of his servants well. He knew what they were capable of managing. The faithful steward is responsible for what he or she has, whether it is little or much. As someone once said, “It’s not what I would do if one million dollars were my lot; it’s what I am doing with the ten dollars I’ve got.”

Interestingly, the servant who was given two talents received the same reward as the servant who was given five talents. They used those talents in their Master’s best interest. It was the third servant who did not act in the Master’s best interest. He did nothing to increase his Master’s money.

The way we handle our wealth can also honor God. Honor the Lord with your wealth…” Prov. 3:9. How do we best do that?

We honor God by managing what we have; timely payment of bills, prudent management of debt, saving for emergencies, saving for retirement and wise investing.

We also honor the Lord by generous giving. Giving a cup of cold water in His name is demonstrating His love to those in need.

Are you effectively handling your wealth? Open your checkbook. It is the ultimate test of your heart’s desire. Are you honoring God by your investments in eternity? Your answers will determine the direction of your life and your final reward.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matt. 6:19-21

So Perry, we have a lot of good and faithful services reaching out right now, but we must remember that we always need to increase our Master’s money to continue to be faithful.

When we receive income, the first check we write should be to the Lord, the second check for our savings.

Yours in Christ
Wayne-O, Finance Chairman



HOPE

HOPE

Spring has come to Shady Spring and what a time it is! Life is “springing” up again after the cruel winter. Redbuds, anemones, bluets, coltsfoot, and dogwood…the list of springtime blossoms seems endless. And those birds! I was awakened recently at the parsonage at 3:00a by the sweet sounds of birds singing. It can only be springtime and I realized this year that another spelling for spring is: HOPE. As 1 Peter says, we are given a new birth in a living hope. Yep, what blossoms and bird songs are to spring, the resurrection is to Christians. We are birthed into a living hope.

Where do I see hope? In more places than I have space for writing so I will mention one place. This Tuesday past, Amy Crawford and I attended the initial meeting for the upcoming Beckley Day of Hope. The date is Saturday, August 15, and the venue is the Convention Center. The Day of Hope leadership is expecting 3,000 guests and will require 1,000 servants as well as monetary donations. Amy and I were excited to hear the wonderful testimonies of people’s lives being transformed by just one awesome day!

Ah, what did 1 Peter say about Christ giving us a new birth into a living hope? So, as the psalmist wrote, let us count our days and begin to prepare for Perry’s participation in the Day of Hope.

Last year about eight of us served and my “hope” this year is that we will double that number as well as substantially increasing our monetary donation to the event. To me, hope means commitment and I have committed Perry to begin praying for the event, bringing more servants to the event, and a base donation of $2,500.00. Even more importantly, I have committed Perry to being a “Connections Church” at the Day of Hope. As a Connections Church we will be available to pray with people and share the Good News of the hope that dwells within us. As a Connections Church we will also follow up with those folks that we pray with and talk to so that their HOPE doesn’t stumble and people know that others care for them.

PERRY CHURCH!! This is an awesome opportunity for us to put our faith into action, so begin praying how you might best fulfill God’s will in your life as a servant at the Day of Hope.

Whatcha workin’ on “BIG” Church?

Grace to all, Pastor Scott