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.
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
I just wanted to say welcome back, I've missed you. It was great fun to go on campus and see students again- lots of students- everywhere, students! And it was even more fun to talk to some of you and hear about your break and what is in store for the semester. I'm praying for you and I mean that.
And I'd love to see more of you! We can start this Sunday at 9:30 (!Coffee is served!) AM at Merced UMC for worship and then go pig out at the BBQ Pit. You can eat daintily if you want, but the big pig statue outside makes me think that would be inappropriate for the setting. Hope to see you then!
We have been knitting again. The "we" is growing which makes it great fun. My friend Gwen continues to amaze me with her skills at both teaching and knitting. She makes sure I learn something each time. (I have a lot to learn). There have been two completed projects among those of us who are learning- an eyeglass case and a dishcloth. Finishing is a good moment, but we are left to examine our work and see all of the bumps and lumps where are learning is taking place. Striving for perfection seems to be part of the knitting practice.
It's also part of our conversation as our words meander into this and that. We spoke about grace and how the life of faith seems to be one of continual learning and working out the lumps. A student remarked a month ago that we are never done seeking and growing when it comes to living faithfully. The Methodists call it "going on to perfection" and like knitting its more fun when we go together.
Yesterday my friend, Gwen of Knitability, came to the UC campus with me to knit. It was a really good thing that she was there since I picked up my project that had been sitting for over a year and realized I had no idea where I had filed my ability to knit in my brain. Apparently it was waaaay in the back behind many other distant memories because I couldn't even figure out how to hold my needles. Yeah, it was that bad. But, Gwen came to my rescue and as soon as I was set up it all came back quickly. Gwen explained that my muscles would remember how to do this even when my brain seems to have forgotten.
She's willing to help you out with learning to knit for the first time or getting your muscles back into the habit as well. Interested? Leave a comment or send me an email and I'll alert you when we'll be back at the Lantern. I even have some yarn and needles to lend out as you get started. As for me, I'll be picking up an easier project for these sessions (I'm thinking a prayer shawl- basically a very large rectangle) so I can use more muscle memory and the brain power can go towards prayers for the shawl recipient- or for you. If you stop by with a prayer request when we're there you can take home a gift of a prayer shawl of your own.
We only have a few students in the House for summer, but that doesn't mean we won't feed them! Our Summer BBQ is this Friday, June 24th. We'll be trying out a recipe for ribs that was provided at one of the House Dinners earlier in the year. (Friends are invited, so come on by!)
At the typical House Dinner during the school year we are able to share a meal around the table occasionally with local United Methodists. They provide the food and teach us how to make their specialty. The conversation and food are a link between the students and our local community.
Over 150 United Methodist Students gathered at the University of Evansville in Indiana from May 26-29. Our 3 Merced students were often seen laughing and making friends. The days were filled with worship, workshops and learning about how students make a difference in the United Methodist Church through recommendations to General Conference that the Student delegates vote on.
A big focus of the event was how to make United Methodist Student Movement an actual movement again, instead of just an annual event. What about out West? How can we encourage students to move through their days as disciples of Christ, turning the world upside down wherever they go?
One story shared at worship was about how John and Charles Wesley and the Methodists that they inspired made London a better place because of their Movement. In the face of rampant drunkenness, poverty, a lack of medical care and lukewarm faith, the early Methodists turned London upside down with their acts of piety and mercy. Visiting the prisoners, caring for the sick, preaching in the fields, praying for changed hearts- these were the things that transformed the world. And we can do it again.
Photo courtesy of Joseph McBrayer
Are you ever in the mood for something different? Do you just feel the need to get out of wherever you are and be somewhere else? I felt just restless enough to invite our Wesley leaders to head off campus at the last minute for lunch on Thursday. The company was great, the food was fine and the drinks were an adventure.
Have you ever seen one of these machines before?!? We had to go and try it because the student above had been waiting eagerly to try one out. You get to choose from all kinds of crazy flavors. Watching her make the machine work was way better than a kid in a candy store. (Especially since I didn't have to be responsible for saying 'no'. No one ever talks about that part of a kid in a candy store!) Lime Fanta, Vanilla Diet Coke and Peach Sprite were the choices at our table. Sometimes it's good to have everything planned ahead. But sometimes it is even better to be random.