First United Methodist Church

John Wesley’s Rules for Voting

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Party Like Jesus | Devotion by Dr. Jon (Sept. 30)

Devotion from Betsy McKeeby (Sept. 29)

Community in the Period of Pandemic and Beyond
By Betsy McKeeby

I have had a lot of personal experience with dementia and am presently serving on the Advisory Board for the Brain Fitness Academy at FUMCWP.  Because of these experiences, I’ve been reflecting on the importance of community for each other.

We use the expression of Vibrant Family often in our church.  It is the name of one of our 4 pillars, for which Pastor Rachel Delaune provides pastoral leadership and Lynn Striepe serves as the lay head. In our theology we speak of God the Father and that we are His children as part of our family image. Today I want to talk about the subgroup of people who have memory loss or any form of dementia like Alzheimer’s Disease as well as their care partners.  Our society puts so much emphasis on ability and performance that these groups can be overlooked as their participation and contribution changes. Because of discomfort in traditional worship settings, this group often decreases attendance and it is easy for the church family to operate on an “out of sight, out of mind” pattern.  This results in a loss of the benefits of the active church family.

This period of forced separation (to avoid spreading of any illness) has presented us with an opportunity to learn new ways to be a family.  Romans 8:16 says “We are all children of God and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.”  As a family, Paul tells us in I Corinthians 12:26, “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it, if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”

As we reflect on our faith family, why should we focus on those impacted by memory loss or dementia?   According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.8 million people age 65 of older have dementia in the US.  While 80% of these individuals are 75 or older, 1 in 10 women over age 65 is impacted. Alzheimer’s is now the 6th cause of death for adults.  The number of people with dementia listed on their death certificate has doubled between 2000 and 2018.   Even with these high numbers, you may not see the impact around you until your family, neighbors, or friends are directly impacted.  Once your life is directly touched, you notice and hear of those with dementia who have been hidden in the shadows are all around you.

How are we to respond as a church family?  We are blessed to have a program offered here at the church (though now on zoom) for those with early dementia to come 2 days per week for structured activities targeting brain functions as well as experiencing sharing with others.  The Brain Fitness Academy collaborates with UCF Communication Disorders Clinic who develops individual lesson plans for each member.  If interested contact the Brain Fitness Academy at [email protected] to learn more or to schedule an evaluation for appropriateness of the program.

How can we as individuals support individuals with memory loss or their care partners?  Maintaining social support and interactions seems to slow the progression of losses.  Sharing games, physical activity, and music are examples of ways to enjoy the present moment. Physical touch is important and can include holding hands, brushing hair, or gentle massage.  If unable to be with a loved one, take advantage of modern technology such as portals or skype to be able to pair video and speech.  With a simple set-up, these systems can be used with minimal support initially and allow contact though more assistance is needed as disease progresses.

As a church family, we can be present and with our neighbors and friends also.  Observing for changes in behavior, difficulties with driving or lack of attention to physical care such as weight change or missing medical checks should be discussed with the individual but family can also be contacted to express concerns. It is not unusual for losses to not be apparent to someone who is absent and just relying on phone calls. A thorough medical evaluation is essential for diagnosis and to identify reversible problems.

Church friends can be part of the support team. As losses progress, friends can be eyes, ears and hands to help an individual maintain independence.  This allows us to help carry the burden of another.  Though professionals may be necessary, the value of familiar contacts has unique value in providing affirmation of the importance of the friendship. Connecting about shared experiences and interests supports communication skills.

Because we know God is love, we are called to show love to all.  Looking for those that some might say are the “least of these” provides an opportunity to give love but also to receive in unexpected ways.  The person who is unable to speak is just as valuable as a person who has lots of power and prestige. Making a connection through a story, picture or song or seeing a smile and bright eyes affirm that this person is alive and a child of God. My challenge is for you to find someone this week who is “in the shadows” and isolated from previous activities and to connect with them by phone, cards and when possible in person.

Psalm 145:9 says, “The Lord is good to ALL and his compassion is over ALL that he has made.”

Devotion from Pastor Craig (Sept. 28)

Worship Update from Pastor David

Devotion from Pastor Rachel (Sept. 24)

This last week, I have thought a lot about Trash and Treasure. I grew up in a family of three girls and with a mom as a full-time teacher and a dad as a full-time architect, we shared clothes and passed them down as we grew. We got new clothes for Back to School, Christmas and our Birthdays which was a treat. But before we bought a brand new $80 pair of jeans at the Mall, we would usually find more success (not to mention a bit of savings) at a local thrift store. My love of bargain shopping has carried with me well into my adulthood and still to this day, I love finding deals of gently used items for a fraction of the cost. This past Friday for example, my friend and I went to a local Consignment Sale mostly for children, and I found quite a few deals of costumes, shoes and new(ish) toys for the kids that we will wrap up for Christmas. I was especially proud of three very fancy Disney Princess costumes, with tags still on them, all in Emmaline’s size for a fourth of the price. Some may see that as someone else’s trash; but I view it as a treasure. And a pretty great find!

But this perspective change from Trash to Treasure goes beyond simply bargain shopping; it is a theology of restoration. A belief that God is making all things new. The first time this hit me in a profound way, I was eating some really great pizza. When Ryan and I were serving the University and a church in Gainesville, FL, we used to love going to Satchel’s Pizza for a slice, a loaded salad and their homemade Root Beer. Satchel’s Pizza is a Staple in Gainesville, so check it out next time you visit. What is better than anything you can consume there is the Wall O’ Junk; I’m serious, that is what it is called…you can’t make this stuff up. The Wall O’ Junk is made of items from the trash that have been repurposed and refurbished with creative, loving care to look like something else. You can eat in an old broken-down van, or outside under an inoperative plane or sit inside looking at stained glass windows created from trash. The décor is quirky and fun and if you sit and stare long enough, you see redemption. If you open your mind wide enough, you can see the Kingdom of God at work. If humans can make a fun and colorful place to eat with trash and broken-down items, how much more can and will God make our old selves new again?

Our entire Scriptures affirm this over and over. It did not just start with Jesus, but God has always been in the business of renewing and restoring lives. When Abraham and Sarah were finally able to have a child and a lineage after years of barrenness, God was making old lives new. When Moses was afraid and lacked confidence in his leadership, God made his old life new. When Ruth choose to stay by her bitter mother-in-law rather than retreating, God used Ruth to make old lives new. And it goes on and on and on. The story of redemption and restoration is at the heart of our very faith. That God could use a poor, undereducated, and unwed teenager to obediently bring forth God incarnate; it was once again God making old lives new. Remember Church Famil, that the story of God began in a Garden called Eden and ended in a Garden with the promise of a new heaven and a new earth. Then the most important event to our Christian faith, the resurrection also happened in a Garden and we know that in a garden, things are restored and dead things are made alive again. It is the same in today’s world. God is constantly taking the trash of our lives and turning it into a treasure. God continues to amaze me as he turns my anger, my pride, by self-seeking ways into moments where God can be glorified and I can grow and be restored.

One of my favorite Scriptures, Isaiah 43:18-19 said another way sounds like this:

“Forget about what’s happened;
    don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
    It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?

                        Isaiah 43:18-19 The Message

God is doing a new thing in our hearts, in our church, in our nation and in our world. Do not lose hope, don’t dwell on the past. But look for where God is taking the trash of our former selves and turning it into treasure. Look for the Gardener, God is doing a new thing…do you see it?!

Forget the Competition, Find Your Race | Devotion from Dr. Jon (Sept. 23)

Devotion from Mia Thomas (Sept. 22)

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Devotion from Pastor Craig (Sept. 21)