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

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Thrive Not Survive!

I am excited about Thrive@Ridge because God's Spirit is transforming us from a survival mind-set to a thrive mind-set.

Jesus wants Ridge to thrive!

As I have met in small groups with members of our community, I sense that our members and leaders want to thrive too.  We felt the pulse of thrive as we walked and prayed our way through our community on Sunday April 30th.  Twenty-five persons joined in our Prayer Walk!

Survival thinking says, "We'll never have enough money for the mortgage." That thought leads to Ridge not living our Jesus' command to make disciples because we are chasing after funds.

Thrive thinking debunks that by saying, "With the mortgage covered, let's focus on the main thing- sharing the love of Jesus with others!"

This week and next we have several important opportunities for you to come to a small group.  Sign up sheets are at the church office.  Ask questions and receive answers.  Call in if you cannot stop by to write your name in.

Survive mind-set believes, "We'll always have a mortgage payment."  That kind of belief means Ridge will be encumbered, slowed down, and inhibited in our ability to shape young lives and reach out to hurting and lonely people.

Thrive mind-set refutes that belief with affirmation, "With the debt gone, mission and ministry impacts will soar to new heights!"

Join us in prayer at 7:19am and 7:19pm as we pray for Ridge.

Our inter-faith community will gather on Thursday May 4 at 12:15pm for a brief inter-faith service in recognition for the National Day of Prayer.  Meet at the gazebo at Heritage Park in Munster.  Parking at St. Paul's Episcopal Church.

We pray at 8:45am and 10:45am on Sunday mornings before worship.  Your presence and prayers make a difference!

You can see the Thrive mind-set in the joy of our children, the passionate dedication of our youth, the amazing generosity of our mission efforts, the unending compassion of our care ministries, and the hard-working efforts of our lay leaders and staff!

Join me to say, "Goodbye survive and Hello thrive!"

See you at the thriving place,

Pastor Michelle

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Going on a Prayer Walk

When I was a girl scout, we liked to sing the song, Going on a Bear Hunt. It was silly and fun, incredibly interactive and energizing!

Prayer is like that.  It can be serious, but also silly and fun, interactive and energizing.

Ridge has begun our debt reduction campaign, Thrive@Ridge.  All of what we do and who we are needs to be rooted, grounded, and filled with prayer.  We do that because tackling a huge goal like $719,000 of debt on our mortgage is a serious business and we need serious help.  Yet, we also pray together because prayer, just like any other conversation, is interactive and energizing.

I have been praying at 7:19am and 7:19pm each day since Sunday April 23rd.  How neat to notice all the different places and situations I am when my "pray for Ridge" alarm rings.

This coming Sunday, April 30, we have an unusual prayer opportunity in which we will take our prayer to the streets of Munster.  Just as I have been appointed to a faith community and the community which surrounds it so too, are all disciples of Jesus sent out into the world to share Jesus' love.

Put the kiddos in a stroller or wagon.  Grab your dog's leash.  And let's walk and pray!  Put our feet where are prayers are.  Or put our prayers where are feet are.

We will be using an interactive prayer guide to pray for our school system, town leaders, police department, local businesses, fire department, hospital, local faith communities, and neighborhoods of Munster!

Unless you have something better to do on a Sunday evening than prayer- I will see you at 5pm in the Ridge parking lot.

See you at the praying place,

Pastor Michelle

Monday, April 10, 2017

All Roads of Forgiveness Lead to the Cross of Christ

Everything about this week leads to the cross of Christ.

  • The Palm Sunday parade as people are filled with great hope!  
  • The washing of one another's feet/hands as a commitment to serve as Christ serves us.  
  • The sharing of the bread and cup as a foretaste of forgiveness.  
  • The betrayal and arrest in a garden of prayer.  
  • The trial and conviction of Jesus.

All of these events of Christ's Passion lead us to the cross of Christ.  Outstretched to embrace all of humanity, Christ died for our forgiveness with God, one another, and ourselves.  He died that we may live fully in this life (unencumbered by regret) and the life to come.

And then the waiting happens.. just as it does in our human relationships.  We wait for the dawn of Easter when we recognize that God can be trusted to forgive and receive us again.  A cross and an empty tomb reconcile us to God.

But, in our human relationships reconcilation may or may not happen.  You and I know from our own experience that forgiveness does not, however, always lead to reconcilation.  We are complex creatures, full of illusions and/or inward resistance to what could bring new life.

I heard someone say that just as forgiveness is a journey so too is reconcilation.  Reconcilation may be the larger goal, but it may not be possible for us to achieve with others in this life.  God makes it possible for us to be reconciled to Godself, but human beings are another matter.

When reconcilation seems impossible with another person, we are left with a choice about whether or not to move forward with forgiveness on our side.  Forgiving can be, and often is, a one-way street with fellow human beings.

Thank God that God is God!  God is love.  Love aims to restore us to a new kind of life!  God creates a two way street so that we are welcomed home into Love's Eternal Arms.  The magnitude of God's undeserved gift of forgiveness for each of us opens us up to respond with heartfelt repentance and gratitude.  This is why the woman who annointed Jesus' feet cried.

Writes Gregory Jones, "it is not because the woman has shown repentance with tears that Jesus forgives her; rather, she shows repentance with tears beause she has already known forgiveness and thus has great love for Jesus.  It is her faith in his gift of pardon that saves her."

Again, it is the Unstoppable Love of Jesus that saves the woman, and you, and me.  May our response be one of great love in return.

See you in the forgiving place,

Pastor Michelle