Monday, October 23, 2017

What if...We Do Something Extraordinary?

On Sunday October 15, Ridge UMC family heard a powerful testimony from John and Sue Molenaar about how God has moved through their lives and marriage in an extraordinary way.  Thank you John & Sue, for being amazing servants!
As Jesus wants to do something extraordinary in your life and mine, Jesus needs to grow our hearts and thus enlarge your capacity; making us a new creation. Capacity not only is about having a bigger heart to love more… but capacity is also about having a greater power to accomplish loving others.  
Jesus grows our capacity to love.  How are you giving Jesus your heart to grow your love capacity? Holding your heart back.  Feeling shy, or bruised or timid.  Extend even your broken heart for Jesus to mend and then wait and see how he will grow into back into your heart with an even greater capacity. 
We are also challenged to stretch our commitment to God in Jesus.  If we stretch our commitment to Jesus and his ways, then our deeper commitment will reap deeper investment.  If we hold back, or limit our investment, we will gain only a little.  
The same can be said about generosity.  Generosity begets generosity.  Over the past month as we have watched one hurricane after another impact, Texas, Florida, the keys, and Puerto Rico- you have responded generously.  We delivered over a dozen health kits, a flood bucket, four boxes of cleaning supplies, and that is all over and above the $4,542.00 we have sent onto UMCOR!  Wow- talk about stretching our commitment to be people of generosity… and we did that while giving to our ministries and our Thrive campaign!  WOW, well done, Ridge.
We are encouraged to expand our influence in the lives of others as our God blesses us with an expanding notion of family and friendships. As Jesus wants to do something extraordinary in your life and mine, Jesus expands who our neighbors are and thus grows the next ripple or ring in our sphere of influence.  Who is Jesus nudging you to mentor? Invite to coffee? Invest life or spiritual advice into?  Pour life into?  Don’t think you’re too old or too young or too anything… Jesus has someone in mind for you.
 Enlarging capacity, stretching commitment, expanding influence- imagine what God could do through you, through me, through us- when we trust Jesus with what we’ve been blessed with.  What if… what if you and I both did something extraordinary for Jesus? – this is our what if challenge as we lean into planning and preparing for our ministries in 2018! 

See you at Jesus’ possibility place,

Pastor Michelle

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What if...We Seek God First?

Our challenge on Sunday at the conclusion of the message was to SEEK GOD in our checkbooks, calendars, and use of our talents/abilities.  Seeking God in everyone and everything means that you and I use God’s values as a priority means we consider our stuff. 

Giving a portion of our time, talent and treasure as a return to God is not a tax – imposed by some far off faceless deity (Luke 18:9-14). Being generous does not look like giving God’s kingdom the leftovers in your calendar or wallet (Malachi 1:8 (NLT); Numbers 18:29 (NLT)).  Contributing to the building or creation of God’s realm on earth through ministry and mission is not a bribe to gain good favor with God or earn a place in heaven or even get attention. 

Moreover, giving a tithe or 10% of your income is not a fundraiser for the Church.  Leave that for a bake sale or auction.  Tithing is about faith-raising.  When we set aside what we will give to God’s purposes, we demonstrate in a tangible way our trust in God’s providing care.  Finally, we read in Deuteronomy 14:22-23(NLT) that tithing is not an option.  It is a SOP (standard operating procedure) for the people of God to be about God’s business in the world. (See Matthew 23:23 (NLT).

I have learned over the years that if you don’t have the money thing right; you won’t have the heart thing right.  If you don’t have the heart thing right, you won’t have the money thing right either.  Seeking God as a priority by being generous is simple and easy.  We are giving to God as we comprehend the vision of what we do together and why it matters. 

Because of our three year commitments to THRIVE@Ridge, our congregation has had a game changer. No longer will we merely survive, but your generosity and faithfulness to God have turned us around to thrive in new and amazing ways.  As we move forward into 2018’s ministry together, please add to your prayer list these areas of ministry priority within our 2018 fiscal budget:
·        Missional activities and outreach to families with children
·        Connection and outreach events with youth in our community
·        Sharing the story of Jesus & Ridge UMC with others (marketing/publicity)
·        Care & visitation to our infirmed, homebound, &/or elderly
·        Leadership engagement through training & equipping of our members to be missional

This Sunday, October 15, you have the blessed opportunity to participate in something bigger, stronger, wider and larger than yourself and your household.  You have the opportunity to impact lives with Jesus’ hope, unconditional love, and meaning for life.  I am in prayer for you this week as you pause to consider how you will SEEK GOD in everyone and everything. 

See you at the seeking place,

Pastor Michelle

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

What if...we humble ourselves and pray?

We began our conversation on Sunday October 1, a day which will now also be remembered by a horrifying act of senseless violence and evil.  Often asking "what if...?" brings fear into our hearts and minds as we consider all the things that could go wrong in our world.  The mass shooting in Las Vegas is, sadly, just the most recent example of the 'wrongs' which are a part of our daily living.  But, Jesus does not want us to live in fear, aniexty, worry or panic.

Jesus Christ is the Light of the World, Hope in Darkness, and Life in Death.  Because of who he is and how we loves us, you and I are blessed with a different way to consider 'what if...".  What if, what if...?, becomes a question about possibility out of impossibility?  

Cindy Regnier's testimony of how God responded to her prayers during seemingly impossible times in her life lbeautifully illustrated this.  If you missed her sharing, please reach out to her to listen to her powerful personal story.  Thank you Cindy, for your vulnerability and willingness to trust God in impossibility.  

Moreover, what if asking the question of 'what if...?' shifts the conversation?  What if, what if..?, becomes a moment to trust God, who can do far more than we can imagine or give?

Reverend Linda Lawler helped us shift the conversation by challenging us on Sunday morning to turn from our wicked evil ways and thus re-orient ourselves back to God in Jesus.  Facing the beautiful loving face of God focuses us on the Holy Spirit's light, hope, and peace.  Because of how immense and amazing our God is, the eyes of our hearts have no more room for fear, aniexty, worry or panic.  Thus, we are invited to:

1) Humble ourselves and pray- Proverbs 22:4a; John 3:27-28, 30; 2 Chronicles 33:10-13; Matthew 6:5-8a

2) See God's Face- 1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Chronicales 22:19; Colossians 3:1-2

3) Turn from our wicked ways- Psalm 10:4; Ezekiel 33:10-17

On Tuesday morning of this week I spent time in our Ridge sanctuary.  I knelt at our altar rail holding our Ridge UMC church directory in my hands.  As best as I could I held you and offered you into God's amazing light of hope in prayer.  

May each of us humbly turn, turn, turn to gaze deep into the loving, healing eyes of our Savior Jesus.  May our gaze remain upon Him " the things of this world grow strangely dim... in the light of his glory and grace."(UMHymnal #349 Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus).

See you at the turning place,

Pastor Michelle

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Fruitfulness of Thrive@Ridge

"For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s[d]will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God."(Colossians 1:9-10)

I have read these words from Paul many times, but the truth within these words resonates differently since Ridge UMC responded to our Thrive@Ridge First Fruits Sunday & Confirmation Sunday!  My prayers at 7:19am and 7:19pm have not yet ceased although we passed our 40 days a few days back.  One reason I have not stopped praying is because I am so grateful.  The other reason for my unceasing prayers is that I can see the 'fruits' of our campaign even though reducing debt is an 'invisible task'.

I see the fruits of our good work when I talk with leaders who are even more excited about what God is doing at Ridge.  Fruits of confidence in God are now more abundant.

Fruits are noticed in the changed mindset of our leaders and staff whose mindsets have left the survive mindset behind and are now willing to wrestle with new and lofty goals for the future!

We witnessed the fruits of ministry together on Sunday as we welcomed our newest and youngest members, our 2017 Confirmation class.  They are ready to do ministry with us!

We see the fruits when we celebrate that 57 families from Ridge have now pledged $535,212.00 to our debt reduction campaign over the next three years!

Finally, the tangible fruits filled our offering plates this past Sunday.  Ridge received her largest offering (in the history of the church) on Sunday May 21, 2017 as over $95,000.00 was given to our Thrive@Ridge debt reduction campaign (not counting our offerings/tithes for operating budget and missions).  Thanks be to God!

This is why I am not done saying, "Thank you" to you or to God!  Please join me in an attitude of gratitude as we bear the fruits of generosity, gratitude, hope, joy, and peace while we THRIVE@Ridge.

See you at the fruitfulness place,

Pastor Michelle

Happy Heaven's 1st Birthday, Earthly 72nd, Dad!

Here are the thoughts I shared with sixteen family and friends who attended last Saturday's burial or 'tucking in' of my father's ashes in Vandergrift, Pennsylvania.  I thought I would share it today on my Dad's birthday- May 23.

"My father was many things such as an advocate for higher education, county line dancer, golfer, jazz enthusiast, traveler, and avid Steelers fan.  He had many roles like son, grandson, brother, nephew, uncle, father, father in law, grandfather, etc.  He was an intelligent, thoughtful, opinionated, charming, stubborn, astute, and compassionate man with many quirky habits and routines. He was complex and also one-dimensional. 

What my father craved most in this world was also what he struggled with the most- close intimate relationships.  He lived and loved the best he could.  Some times that was often not in the manner others of us wanted or needed.  But he loved, his way. 

He enjoyed deviled eggs, kugala, a good steak and a lively conversation.  He was proud of his family heritage and history.  He regained a different equilibrium with himself (and others) when he returned to his Catholic heritage and faith.  I am grateful to his parish, his visiting Communion steward, and his partnership with the Catholics Come Home program for reconnecting him to his faith.

Thank you for being with me today as we give thanks for Rich’s life…regardless of what is or is not resolved between Rich and each of us; said or not said; done or not done; thought or not thought; we trust in Jesus’ greater power to heal, forgive, and restore what needs mending.  Jesus is the Great Physician, the healer. 

My father is finally, at last, at true peace.  For that I am deeply grateful.  We gather as close to his birthday as we can… a reminder for me that eternity is a new birth for my Dad and one day each of us.  My prayer is that each of us experience the healing comfort of our Savior Jesus.  Amen." 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Who Knew? Miracles Can Still Happen!

When we read the gospel stories of Jesus doing amazing things like healing people of diseases, or walking on water, or stilling a storm, it is easy to think think "that happened then, but miracles could not happen now".

Same is true when we consider the stories of the early church miracles.

The joyful truth is that miracles happen today.  A miracle is happening at Ridge UMC.  An unlikely, beneficial event is taking place and would not be taking place without the Divine intervention of our God in Christ.

Our Thrive@Ridge Commitments are a miracle in progress!  47 families from Ridge have now pledged $471,212.00 towards the reduction of our debt!

Thank you to all of these families who are allowing God to use them to make a miracle happen!  We could not do this without God.  We cannot do this without one another!  We appreciate your generosity.

Our Rally Goal is to have 70 families participate in this effort.  Pastor Paden reminded me recently while interviewing our confirmands, "Christianity is a team sport."  We do this better- together.

This Sunday May 21, 2017 we invite those who are able to make a first fruits gift toward their pledge. Our offering could be the biggest one-time offering in the history of Ridge UMC!

Miracles happen.  Miracles happen because God wants Ridge to thrive!

See you at the miracle place,

Pastor Michelle

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Commitment Sunday- Little Cards Do Big Things!

My, how a little card can do a BIG thing!

Thank you for joining us in prayer during our season of Thrive@Ridge!  Our Prayer Walk on April 30th, pre-worship prayer times, and individual prayers at 7:19am and 7:19pm have kept our focus on God and God's power.  Let's continue to pray and encourage one another.  

On Sunday May 7th in worship we shared a very exciting announcement regarding our THRIVE@Ridge debt reduction campaign!  I am deeply grateful to the 24 Ridge families who have made early commitments to reduce the debt of our mortgage.  Their pledges total $289,102.00.  Wow!  

Thank you to these amazing families who have stepped out in faith early.  Your sacrificial gifts have inspired us!  

Our Goal #1 of $325,000 is very close.  By God's grace, we can surely meet this goal and launch ourselves into the next goal of $500,000.  

Moreover, our rally goal to engage 115 of our 185 families is achievable.  Let us come together because united is how we best impact the world for Christ.  

Our leadership team and I are in prayer for you and your family this week.  You will have the opportunity to make a second-mile, sacrificial commitment to THRIVE this coming Sunday, May 14th.  Pledge cards will be in the sanctuary pews or fellowship hall attendance pads.  Informational folders are available by both welcome tables at each building entrance.  

Little pledge cards have a BIG impact on the mission of Jesus through Ridge.  Bring yours this Sunday!

I am so very proud of you, our leadership and our Ridge family.  You continue to amaze me as a generous people who seek to fulfill the mission of Jesus.  Thank you for who you are and what you are doing!

See you at the thriving place,

Pastor Michelle