It's been a long time since this blog has been activated... but you can consider this a REBOOT! I'll be posting more regularly about the goings on of the Wesley Clubs and the Wesley House in Merced. Stay Tuned!
I love it when a dream becomes reality! When the Wesley Foundation received a grant for Environmental Justice work we knew we wanted to share it with our local community. We knew we wanted to involve students in something they cared deeply about. And we knew that there were many needs in our area.
Where we live in the Central Valley is largely an agricultural area. How crops are grown and harvested affects those who live here not only at the dinner table, but also in the air we breathe, the water we have access to and the working conditions of our neighbors and family members. There are a few farmers lifting up the importance of sustainable agriculture, many through organic farming.
T&D Willey Farms in Madera is one of those voices. They are a family farm that grows delicious produce. My family has enjoyed being part of their CSA for the past four years. However, I know that not every family has access to local organic produce or the information that would lead them to choose this for themselves. So, Wesley Foundation partnered with a local food pantry, Good Neighbor Food Pantry, to provide a bag of fresh produce with the bags of groceries the clients typically receive once a month.
Then came the next challenge: sharing knowledge about how to make healthy, nutritious and delicious meals using the typical ingredients in the food pantry bag and the fresh produce. To do this, we brought in the experts. Students from the Merced College Nutrition Department, lead by Professor Michelle Pechennino. Using the ingredients given to food pantry clients they created recipes and then demonstrated how to cook them. Sometimes, the bag from the food pantry is like the box of ingredients on the television show, "Chopped." Some of the ingredients are great mysteries. And for some who have been living on processed foods most of their lives, vegetables like spinach, leeks, parsnips or kale are mysterious as well.
The interaction with those learning was dynamic and helpful. The room was full of people and enthusiasm for two different demonstrations. Many ideas were shared back and forth for how to use the ingredients. Samples, hugs and tips about finding produce at our local farmers market were shared at the end.
Last weekend I was in Las Vegas at a conference called RELEVANCE X where young adults from across the United Methodist Church got together to learn, worship and serve together. There were many amazing God moments that were part of that conference and most of them were unplanned. Times when God was present as always, but we made room to notice. One of those moments for me was when the speaker, Jim Walker, invited us to sing the Doxology together as a prayer before he spoke. I have sung this song many times in many churches. Typically with organ leading the way and voices joined in a bored tone. I have never sung it with a large group of Tongans before. While the fact that they are Tongan probably means less than the fact that they can sing harmony, I was appreciative of the gift of their culture and what it means to sing in community. Singing in their midst, the boredom went away and I felt like I was singing out of praise rather than duty or habit. It was the same song, but the music felt fresh. It felt like an authentic offering of praise.
As we spent the weekend thinking about how to make our faith fresh and relevant to new generations, I was thinking that it is the same gospel, the same God, the same story that has been shared for centuries. But when we bring our gifts and experiences to it fully, when we don't hold back but bring our very best, when we let go of fears and open the door to whoever the Holy Spirit has invited to hear, it's like we're singing a whole new song.
And now for your enjoyment... same song, fresh music... by Gungor.
"Brothers and Sisters, become imitators of me and watch those who live this way- you can use us as models." Philippians 3:17
She swore like a construction worker
and painted her prayers.
She left the convent and buried a husband.
When she read the Bible, she ate the words,
digested them fully,
savored the presence of God found there.
Her Jesus danced.
And she danced with him.
She invited me to dance, too.
When she had given
all the love she possibly could,
she opened up to receive
all the love she possibly could.
Who do you look to as your model in the faith?
Someone you care about is hurting. There are many broken hearts out there. Come and place them in the loving arms of God. Give a gift of love. Love is for more than sweethearts.
Bring them with you to worship on Sunday for anointing and prayer. Or come yourself and take home a prayer shawl for them.
Wesley Worship at UC Merced COB 114
Sunday, February 12th at 8:00 PM
Have you ever played that game where everyone says something true about themselves and something that's a lie and the rest of the group has to guess which is which? I recently shared the truth about being a debate team member in college. Some people didn't believe it. They've never been in an argument with me.
You see, I really love to be right. (Anyone with me here?) And I love to win. (Still with me?) So, debating meant I could win by being right- or at least convincing others of this. The convincing had to do with using logic and witty one-liners. The most fun ever! But the truth is that usually in debate we lost track of whether what we were saying was right and we could never consider whether we really believed what we were arguing. That would be a losing strategy.
I quickly (maybe not quickly enough) learned that the tactics that earned trophies in debate were not winning strategies in real life. Friends could be hurt by the quick comeback meant to destroy their argument. Arguing for the sake of arguing might even convince someone to believe something that I didn't believe at all. When I made deeper commitments to living a faithful life, I knew that the debater would have to go. What might have been an "asset" in a future as a politician or television personality had to become a loss for the sake of Christ. Paul (Philippians 3:7) understands this. What the world values doesn't lead to knowing Christ. Everything lost is nothing compared with the gain that is found in Christ.
Many Bible passages are beautiful and inspiring. They bring comfort and peace as reminders of God's grace find room in our hearts. The Bible connects us to people who were healed, who experienced the presence of God in amazing ways. So we're motivated to look for God around us as well. Some passages leave us feeling lighter, as if a burden has been lifted.
And then there are the ones like this week's SOAP Bible Study. Philippians 2:3, "Don't do anything for selfish purposes but with humility think of others as better than yourselves."
Now, I am a child of the 80's when "self-esteem" reigned supreme, so alarms are going off in my head right now. What do you mean? Think of others as better? Don't I need to be watching out for myself? Women have been selfless forever, does this really apply to me? To my life?
It does help to remember that Paul gave this instruction to the entire church, not just the poor or the women or the slaves, but everyone. And that Paul's model for this lifestyle is none other than Jesus, who didn't exploit power but emptied himself to be with us and walk among us. And that, probably, this passage is less about being told to humble myself in front of those trying to put me in "my place" and more about being reminded that the person who pours my coffee or picks up my garbage and others who I might not even notice, are just as worthy in God's eyes as the people I might naturally admire. And that I am called to see and acknowledge that worth.
Yet, it's difficult to imagine even a day when selfish desires don't win out. And then I find the word of hope that lightens the burden because I know I'm not carrying it alone. "God is the one who enables you both to want and to actually live out his good purposes." (Philippians 2:13 Common English Bible)
So I pray, God, enable me to be humble, to act out of the interest of others. Amen.