Fearful Earful

December 3rd, 2010

One of my professional friends from the tortilla business called me today.  He is a farmer from Ohio who specializes in high quality, clean grain corn for food processors.  He told me that the wife of an uncle had passed away and that he had discovered serendipitously that their farm, which had been in his extended family for over 125 years, was to be auctioned November 23rd.  Over 30 years of working nights, farming during the day, waiting on Mother Nature, blessing the land, loving his work, driving tractor trailers across half the country to deliver, standing by honorable business dealings, and understanding the importance of family growing strong together in pursuit of common values, Denny has become a big fish in his pond.  The tie to family and the land is so strong in him, that absence from either is his definition of hell.

Denny went to that auction.  I believe that whatever it cost would have been paid.  That land was part of his family’s history.   Where family is involved, there is no room for should, ought, might, maybe, someday.  There is not room for fear and self doubt and recrimination.  There are no “re-do’s” nor guarantees.

Today is the moment…and we must be fully present and ready when called.

Denny bought that property in a bidding dyad—152 acres of land across from the far corner of his own—for almost $700,000.  He did it for the rightness of it.  He did it for the love of the land and in honor of his family.  He did it for its potential and what might be.

Friends, there is no fear when one is within God’s moment, at one with Him– knowing, simply bringing the best you can, contented, and wholly committed.  And, because of the bottomless love of one, the land and the family continue…forever.

Sort of reminds me of the expectant hope that we hold for Jesus’ incarnation.  What is that worth in your life?

Prodigal or Purposeful Spending

November 18th, 2010

Wisdom about money…Sounds great.

What if you have always had enough money available that you could pretty much do what you wanted and when you chose, then are in a riff, an accident, a bankrupt company?

Now the feeling of urgency may appear in trying to manage the costs of daily living that were never questions before.  Adam Hamilton gives some spiritual advice that assures us that even if we have made bad judgments, squandered money, been profligate, and wasted our opportunities, God remains steady and faithful toward us.

But why is our challenge to become wise so often contingent on an experience of being down so long it looks like up?  We named credititis and affluenza as diseases with which we are very familiar.  We know the enemy, and as Pogo used to say:  He isus!

Wisdom is underpinned by knowledge, experience, values, and personal commitment.

Hamilton gives principles in Enough for breaking through to wise planning of finances:

  • Put God first in your life, honor him and pay your tithe (in response to his goodness in your life) and offerings, first
  • Know what you spend on and set limits via a budget, and continue to track expenses
  • Live below your means
  • Plan for contingencies and have an emergency fund
  • Pay off credit cards, use cash and debit cards for purchases; use credit wisely
  • Practice long-term savings and investing habits.

Even with effort, maintaining the same home or habits may prevent results that demand decisions for simplifying, letting go, changing plans, and walking new paths.  We are fearful, anxious about the unknown, feeling oddly different, embarrassed that we are so dependent upon others’ opinions of us.  Friends, God is already there.  He accepts us as his beloved children, and wants us to be content and fully engaged in his plan of reconciling the world.  The way was modeled.  A bridge across the great divide between heaven and earth was Jesus’ ultimate responsibility paired with love poured out for others.  It’s the way of the Cross…it is radical and purposeful spending.

The Desire to Acquire

November 12th, 2010

      Adam Hamilton admits to believing he needs, and knows that he wants, the newest technological “toy”.  He is able to buy, has a credit card in his pocket, can purchase now and pay later, and so succumbs to both “affluenza” and “credititis” (definitions on pp 15 and 16 of Enough).  One of Pastor Hamilton’s key staff members in charge of raising funds for the programs of the Church of the Resurrection admits to never wanting to shop and spend, so tends to save so much that too many like him would stifle the local economic scene.  Neither “cheap-itis” nor “affluenza” produces contentment.   Neither produces freedom of the kind we celebrate this week…living in a land where liberties of speech, action, assembly, belief, worship, and personal welfare are deemed worth defending.   Neither offers hope, extends a hand, nor models a positive, balanced way of living.

How did we come by this sense of urgent, must do, must have, right now, behavior?

Is the world really different than in prior generations when patience, deliberate planning, and intentional priorities informed financial decisions?

Hamilton suggests the issue is spiritual.  He offers that we are turning further and further from the God-centered way that marked earlier generations….that our wholeness in the image of God is broken and distorted, so we are separated from God, which is sin.  According to Craig Gay:  “The most serious indictment we must level at contemporary consumer behavior is that it is ‘spiritless’.  It betrays a decision to sacrifice all noble and truly human aspirations at the altars of comfort, convenience, and safety.”  Hamilton would add pleasure—just trying to feel happy, at any cost, in this rough and tumble, rude and uncertain, vulnerable and anxiety producing, accelerating and depersonalized world.

So, what can be done to get off the merry-go-round?

–Turn around, walk away from the materialism and walk toward God, that’s repentence.

–Re-turn daily to dedicate our lives to being Jesus followers.  Followers, disciples of the Way.

–Appropriate the truth that relationships are what sustain us and don’t rust or wear out.  Allow the Holy Spirit to work in us, recalling Jesus’ Way for our times,  until we seem to be re-lit from within…sense a calling to be more than we thought we could.   We are called to Jesus’ simplicity, faith-fullness, and lavish generosity.   We are called to be purposeful, seeking ways to make things better, with our gifts, time, talent, presence, and witness.    When we accept Jesus’ gift of freedom and forgiveness each day, pray, and seek to grow, the Holy Spirit speaks (sometimes in just a whisper) wisdom to ours about what God is calling us to be and do.

What does call look like with regard to our financial resources?  With God’s help we critically listen to what Madison Avenue is telling us, then reject most of it for the satisfaction and restraint of deciding for ourselves.   We buy what we can pay for without incurring new debt, we take responsibility for overspending and make a specific plan to pay off our debts, we make sure that there are funds set aside for emergencies, and we cultivate the habit of simplicity and living below our means.  With discipline, we are transformed, rightly focused,  and freed to be generous and open handed, giving hope, touching others, and letting God’s light shine through us into the world.

God delights when we are free to choose, like Jesus.

Creating a Big Hearted, Open Handed Community

November 5th, 2010

    This week many small groups and individuals begin discussing the book Enough by Adam Hamilton. 




     Is this your state of mind as you experience financial meltdown, 10% unemployment, flat salaries, and more trillions of national debt?   What are we to do?  How are we to behave in the midst of all of this upheaval?

     Adam Hamilton has an interesting perspective that I wonder if any of us share.  While he acknowledges the truth of many church members suffering, he says he believes the causes of the financial crisis, though many, are fundamentally spiritual issues and not financial ones. 

    This first week is meant to pique your curiosity about why he might make such a counter intuitive statement.  Surely with all of this seemingly opaque regulation and government and bad decision making someone must be to blame.    We are dead certain that someone must be to blame.   Yet, we seem to have the “Cheshire cat” syndrome a la Alice in Wonderland.  Do you recall how it smiled like a fool and crossed its arms in front of itself when asked for “which way Alice had gone”,  pointing in both directions at the same time….without taking any responsibility.  

    Is there anything, is there something, we can do to relieve this pressure cooker environment? 

    You are invited to take a deep breath, slow down a moment, and to share in the discovery of Scriptural truths that earlier generations knew.  Hamilton’s effort is to guide, encourage, and inspire.   Are you willing to take a chance?   What if the joy and contentment in life do come from seeking simplicity and generosity as you pursue your purpose in life.  Are you willing to re-consider what the good life is?  

    Is money morally neutral?  Is whatever we do with it?

    Jesus speaks of attitudes about and relationships with money, and often.  Sunday, Pastor Matt is beginning a series on personal financial habits that reflect our spiritual maturity, spiritual discipline, and response to God’s generosity toward us. You hear it don’t you:  praising God, growing disciples, and serving the world.

    Come on in, make yourself comfortable, open the eyes of your heart, and  join in the conversation.

Enough–Small Group and/or Independent Study

October 28th, 2010

Starting Sunday, November 7, three Sunday small group opportunities are open for group study to grapple with the spiritual and financial issues presented in Adam Hamilton’s Enough:  Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity.   Pastor MaryKa is the facilitator at 8, 9:30, and 11 a.m.  Come and participate!   Other open groups are:  Monday evening at 7 p.m. at the home of Kevin and Lauren Bauer (call for directions, 410-465-6071), Tuesday Men’s Group at 7 a.m. offsite at Eggspectations Restaurant, 6010 University Blvd., Ellicott City, 410-750-3115, (and from what I hear, the first time you come, breakfast is your welcome gift), and Thursday Women’s Group at 7 p.m. in Room 123 at the church.

Well, then, what are the issues???  Or better said, what are some of the larger questions to be explored together, like…

-How do I keep my faith in the midst of financial upheaval all around?

-When dreams become nightmares, what hope is there?

-What biblical wisdom may speak to daily habits, choices, and lifestyle?

-Is it possible to cultivate a simpler way of relating to things and money that produces satisfaction and contentment?

-Does greater financial freedom permit deepening relationships with others and in service for others?

Together, in group study, or here, GlenMartians will have the opportunity for discussion around each of these topics, as well as Pastor Matt’s three week sermon series on “The Simple Life”.    Matt speaks of his hope for all of us to experience some God-inspired change that positively impacts our lives and others’.  My prayer is that we will gain a greater trust and understanding of core concepts plus establish a “support system” and accountability group for talking about financial topics without tuning out.  Then in the weeks and months ahead, as spiritual and financial principles and strategies gleaned from the study and sermons are incorporated into new awareness, finding ideas to try in the face of challenges, implementing the personally “do-able”,  and renewing good financial practices and habits,  I believe that we will experience greater internal alignment (peacethatpassesunderstanding) and contentment individually and as a faith community.  Seems to me Adam Hamilton and Matt Poole are courageous and visionary when they care enough to offer financial study and sermon topics with the potential to produce long-range, life-changing transformation.  I am willing to invest my time, presence, and open-mindedness for the possibilities, and I hope you will consider joining in the experience, too.

If you haven’t picked up a book, there are more available in the Welcome Center and in the church office for a suggested donation of $10.  Don’t be a hanger-back; do be a joiner-in the conversation!

Free Money for Christmas!!

October 26th, 2009

How so?  Check out the Gift Card program!  It’s being used by over 300 Glen Mar families for everyday purchases which creates a steady stream of free money to support ministries right here and around the globe!

The primary feature of this program is that it COSTS YOU NOTHING extra.  You pay face value for any card (for retailers that you already use) – – Glen Mar buys the cards at a discount averaging 5%.  There are over 400 merchants in the program – grocers, gas stations, entertainment, travel, clothing, books, home improvement, restaurants, and more.  Actually, almost 50% of cards purchased to date are for groceries – Giant, Safeway, and SuperFresh – – –  everyone buys groceries!!!!

The free money that is generated helps many ministries INCLUDING OUR OWN OPERATING BUDGET (saving us $2700 so far).  Benefits right here at Glen Mar include not only the Operating Budget, but our landscaping materials, the Dunkin’ Donuts treats for Sunday morning, gas for mission trips,  $5000 in scholarships for mission trip youth & adults…………even our communion bread!!  Reaching into the world, we’ve contributed $6,000 recently to UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) to support disaster relief in Asia……..just as an example!  Many local ministries are supported also, such as Grass Roots and ministries in Baltimore & Fort Meade.

If you haven’t participated in the program yet, the holiday season is a great time to try it out!  there are even American Express and VISA cards available without the service fee ($5.95) required to buy the same card at many retailers.  Please visit www.ShopWithScrip.com for program information or a list of merchants.  If you want to order cards in advance, register as a Glen Mar supporter using enrollment code AF 17656D14184 (case sensitive).  When you order by Monday of any given week, the cards will be delivered to you at church on the following Sunday.  Just pay for them when you pick them up!

As a final incentive, the profits you generate are a tax-deductible donation to the church (IRS ruling in July 2009).  Now every time you shop, you can be creating a small tax benefit.  There is no additional record-keeping for you – – – Glen Mar tracks every purchase.

Stop by the gift card table on Sunday in the Gathering Area.  You’ll be glad you did!!

Gail Carter, Lay Leader


September 4th, 2009

The popularity of the “Got Milk?” ads is not only effective, but funny & eye-grabbing!  Seems to me that GlenMartians should publish a few, except that instead of milk being on the lips of every featured person, it should be fruit: the fruit of Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-taking Mission/Service, and Extravagant Generosity.

There are so many obvious sources of fruit in our church already – – – the Gift Card program, the Greeters, our Sunday morning worship, etc.  These are obvious and highly visible so they come to mind immediately.  BUT, what about the others?  What about those of which we never hear a resounding AMEN! or see at busy tables in the Gathering Area, or see identified by brightly colored shirts? 

How many other examples of our focused Practices exist and are being lived out in the body of Glen Mar?  We want to celebrate the least known as well as the most obvious.  

What are fruitful practices that you see in your life at Glen Mar?  Are they within your ministry, or acts that you see around you?  Is it a group, or even just one person?  We’re looking for enlightenment for that which we may be unaware or have overlooked.

Please email me (layleader@glenmarumc.org or gamarcar@verizon.net), drop a note in the Open Mailbox (literature rack in the Gathering Area), put a note in Pastor Mary Ka’s mailbox (across from the kitchen), or email her (maryka.kanahan@glenmarumc.org).

We are looking forward to hearing from you!!

Gail Carter, Lay Leader

Church-Wide Sabbath

August 1st, 2009

The 2 week church-wide sabbath will be starting on the 9th of August. Here are the details from one of Andy’s Ponderngs

Glen Mar’s Church Council, on June 23, approved a church-wide Sabbath beginning after worship on August 9 and continuing through the beginning of worship on August 23. During the intervening two weeks, there will be no church meetings. Worship and Christian learning will continue to take place as usual on Sunday, weddings (I have one) and funerals (if any) and pastoral care for those in need will be provided. But most other church activities will be rescheduled to either before August 9 or after August 23. The purpose for the church-wide Sabbath is to follow Jesus’ example–both as individuals and a congregation–by taking time out for reflection and renewal. Sabbath is different from vacation in that it represents not only ceasing from work (in this case church work) but using one’s time instead to engage in activities that renew one’s spirit and enable one to grow in relationship with God.

Members of the staff who are not already on vacation during the Sabbath will continue to be engaged in the reading, studying, visioning and planning that normally occupy them in preparing for the start up of full activities when school begins. Like members of ministry teams, however, they will not be attending any church meetings. In addition, they will be working from their homes in order that the building might experience a Sabbath as well. Essential maintenance work that is difficult to complete while the building is in use will be conducted during the two-week Sabbath, but the church office and building will be closed for activities.

Annual Conference — Day Three

June 6th, 2009

It’s the last day and we have a lot to do. I had breakfast with Melissa in the staff dining room.

The UMConnection Daily on Friday’s events is available.

We approved the trustees report and then began to debate a resolution on dialogue on many aspects of sexuality. There were a few amendments proposed, some accepted, some rejected. The amendments are not yet available for me to report accurately.

There were proposals not considered because they were submitted late and we ran out of time. Had there been time they would have been considered.

I left at 10 a.m. once the business was concluded. Following the business was an observance for clergy and clergy spouses who died in the preceding year, and ordination.

It was a good conference. They are always exhausting, and sometimes it’s hard to see what was accomplished. There is a web page where one may review the entire conference.

That’s all for this year.


Annual Conference — Day Two

June 5th, 2009

It’s Friday morning, and I am tired. Last night went late and, of course, it took me a while to relax in order to sleep. See the UM Connection Daily for today to get a synopsis of yesterday’s events and actions.

We will have to vote on the amendments, again, because a class of pastors, known as, “Local Pastors,” were allowed to vote and should not have been. It was a curious discussion about the amendments last night. Frankly, while I was out of the country I did not have the time or energy to study either the amendments or their background. I learned that they 23 amendments concerning church organization were proposed by the Council of Bishops. As a result, Bishop Schol offered remarks, with the consent of the body, on what the council says the amendments mean. It’s too much to go into here, but most of the amendments appear to increase flexibility for organizing the church around the world, not actually reorganize it. Those in opposition suggest that this will result in different regions adopting different doctrines. The bishop emphasized that those kinds of changes are reserved solely for the General Conference, and therefore no regional group could change them for their region.

Here are some snippets one should know, about which I am not writing:

·      This is the 225th annual conference for this part of the church; that means the first one was held in 1784 (Lovely Lane, in Baltimore, creating the denomination)

·      Twenty-six pastors are retiring with 638 years of experience, include former Glen Mar pastor, Rev. Donna Martin

·      White House Religion Liaison, Paul Monteiro, spoke Thursday night and participated in a panel discussion on community ministry

Today we will here reports from the Discipleship and Stewardship parts of the conference (including voting on the budget) and celebrate our partnerships with parts of the church in Zimbabwe, Latin America, Korea, and Russia. Other legislation will also come before the body.

Well, nothing super remarkable about this morning. We heard an interesting discussion by Rev. Jessica Duckworth, a professor at Wesley Theological Seminary, about Young Adult Ministry (18-35). Andy was taking notes. One note I wrote was that churches with about 30% or more people age 35 or younger attract young adults.

Also, the body approved a motion to target the proceeds from the sale of a district superintendant parsonage to starting a new church, and Hispanic ministry.

We celebrated retirees, those who will be ordained Saturday, those who were commissioned and two new local pastors. We also celebrated those whose appointments were changing. That included John and Mary Ka.

One of the speakers today was Erin M. Hawkins, the General Secretary of the General Commission on Religion & Race, based in Washington, D.C. She spoke powerfully of story and the language we use to tell the story. She asks us to consider if our story as individuals and church hamper us or help us move forward. She also asks us to consider whether the language we choose to use in our stories reflects hope or hurt.

The budget (page 46) was adopted, but not before some strenuously urged adding some items in their personal agendas without a plan or suggestions from where the money would come. They were referred to the Council Finance & Administration, which will consider, in consultation with the bodies responsible for those programs what to do about the proposals.

We also approved, with some amendment, revisions to the policies that guide decisions on how many staff persons a church can afford (page 61).

It was a long day. Al and I had dinner at 8 p.m. and I was asleep before 9:30 p.m.