I´m focusing on prayer this Lent. Specifically I´m focusing on all the many ways that we can connect to God in prayer. I´m exploring the written prayers of some of the great ‘prayer-warriors´ of the faith. I´m exploring body prayer and artistic prayer. I´m practicing breath prayer, and prayer journaling, and deep silence and I´m taking time to pray the Psalms. It´s been wonderful!
As a child I thought prayer was just something you did before you ate and before you went to sleep at night. Prayer was a set pattern of words said at a set time of day. "God is good, God is great. Let us thank him for our food. Amen" and "Now I lay me down to sleep…" I didn´t really understand who God was and why we had to say these same things to him every day (especially when I couldn´t even see him!), but I did know that it was something my parents did and it made me feel good to be doing what they were doing.
As I grew older I learned that prayer was so much more. I have learned that it is my life-line in this wonderful and crazy world to the one who loves me more than I can ever imagine. How is your prayer life? Is it as rich and rewarding as you would like, or is it dusty and difficult? Might I suggest a couple of ways to pray that I have found to be meaningful and renewing?
• Praying the Psalms – This is a great place to start. The writers of the Psalms really knew how to lay it all out before God. Have you noticed that there isn´t an emotion that they are afraid to bring before God? I find that praying these prayers out loud and with feeling really brings a new dimension to my dialogue with God.
• Prayer Journaling – I have used a prayer journal off and on over the course of my adult life and have found it to be very helpful in discerning God´s will for my life. There are a couple of styles I have found helpful. The first is free writing. Simply take a sheet of paper and begin to write whatever comes to mind. Let it all flow out without worrying about punctuation or sentence structure. Another is using scripture. Read until something speaks to you, copy it into your journal and then write about what you think it means for you at that particular time. It´s interesting to journal over a period of time and then look back and read it as a whole. Sometimes what is not apparent on a daily basis becomes very clear when seen all together.
• Breath Prayer – The breath prayer is one of my favorite prayers. It is a simple prayer of petition that reminds me of my constant need of God and connects me quickly to the God who is ever present. A traditional breath prayer is the Jesus Prayer – "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner." It begins by naming God and is followed by a brief petition. By what name do you call God and what is the deepest need of your heart?
• Creative/Artistic Prayer – I also love praying through the media of colored pencil and collage. It makes perfect sense if you think about it. We are created in the image of the creator, so creating seems like a natural way to connect with God. I´ve rediscovered the joy of losing myself in the colors and I offer that joy to God as prayer.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 we are urged to pray without ceasing. In our busy world it is all too easy to get distracted and lose touch with that still small voice that dwells within us. Don´t give up! Try something new and see where the Spirit will lead. I´ll be praying for you.
P.S. Don´t forget to get your items in for the Youth Auction to raise money for their mission trip!
• March 6, 7:00 pm — Taizé Sung Prayers
• March 10 — Spring Forward: Daylight Saving Time Begins
• March 16, 6:00 pm — Jazz Vespers: The Dave Collee Quartet
• March 24, 9:30 am - 1:00 pm — Youth Auction and Brunch
• March 25, 3:00 - 7:00 pm — Blood Drive
• March 28, 7:00 pm — Maunday Thursday Service
• March 29, 12:00 pm — Community Good Friday Service (Central Reformed Church)
• March 29, 7:00 pm — Good Friday Service
• March 31, 9:15 and 11:00 am — Easter Sunday
• April 10, 12:00 pm — Sweetheart Luncheon
I am writing in my role with the Africa University Task Force of the Grand Rapids District. Four years ago Dr. Jim Salley preached at First UMC about our United Methodist University in Zimbabwe. Africa University (AU) was founded twenty years ago as an institution of higher education dedicated to creating moral, ethical, and spiritual Christian leaders for the continent of Africa.
After Dr. Salley preached at First UMC in February, 2009 and again that afternoon at the Grand Rapids District Conference, a group of Grand Rapids District United Methodists felt God calling us to lead a major project at Africa University. Three members of First UMC were on that task force: Ed Edwardson, chair of the task force, Kim DeLong, and Gary Haller.
We decided to raise $500,000 to build what is now called the Ubuntu Retreat Center on the campus of AU, a holy space where retreats, conferences, and spiritual gatherings can be held in order to further the cause of peacemaking and ubuntu in Africa. Not only has the task force raised over $500,000 for the project, but an anonymous donor matched our effort. Right now construction is underway for the $1 million Ubuntu Retreat Center, which will include nineteen two-person rooms, two large discussion halls, a reception area, and a full kitchen and dining room.
Most important, I want you to know that of the $504,560.63 raised, $120,890.66 has been received from First Church laity and clergy. Of that total, we received one $30,000 and two $20,000 individual/family donations. In addition, the retired clergy of FUMC raised $39,555. The rest of the total came from dozens of pledges and one-time gifts from First UMC members and friends. The generosity of First UMC never ceases to amaze me. Because of your commitment to the Ubuntu Retreat Center, you have become a catalyst for positive transformation on the continent of Africa which will in turn change our world. Well done, good and faithful servants.
Rev. Laurie Haller
for the Africa University Task Force
PRAYER QUILTERS We will be meeting on Thursday, March 7 from 9:00 am to noon in Wesley Hall. All are welcome. It´s a great opportunity to be a part of this worthy mission, meet new people, and to learn about quilting. No experience is needed. There is a job for everyone. For more information contact Ginnie Edwardson at 261.2602 or email@example.com.
TASTE AND SEE All those who wish to investigate membership at First Church are invited to attend our next Taste and See on Sunday, March 3 at 12:15 pm in the parlor. This is a way of learning more about yourself and your faith, and more about First Church and its many opportunities. At the conclusion of the brunch, you can then make a choice to join or to wait; there is no pressure. We want the time to be right for you. Vows are celebrated with the congregation in an upcoming worship service. Child care is available. Contact Patsy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FROM THE MISSIONS COMMISSION: Burma, situated between Thailand and India in Southeast Asia is a beautiful, lush, tropical country. For the past 50 years, Burma (now called Myanmar by the ruling military junta) has suffered under brutal, corrupt, ironhanded military rule. The various native tribes who live in Burma around its borders have suffered most. Many villages have been burned, the army has killed thousands, and hundreds of thousands are internally displaced persons or are refugees in Thailand. Some progress has been made in the past year toward a fragile peace and democracy, but much more must be accomplished. Let us join in the Global Day of Prayer for Burma scheduled on Sunday, March 10.
60+ LUNCHEON will be held on Monday, March 18 at noon. The program will be a spring concert by the Calder Band. Please call Elaine Youngs at 735.5506 or Luci Baer at 457.7797 if you would like to make a reservation.
TAIZÉ SERVICE Wednesday, March 6 at 7:00 pm. Taizé is a meditative service of choruses, accompanied by instruments and vocal solos. Communion, prayers for healing, and the lighting of candles are also offered. It´s a wonderful way to connect with God in the midst of a busy week.
MOMS GROUP: MOMS NIGHT OUT Join us at On the Border on Monday, March 11 at 5:30 pm. Leave the kids at home and enjoy a dinner out! Please meet us at On the Border – 3195 28th Street SE (in front of Woodland Mall). RSVP to Sami at email@example.com.
ROAD TRIP TO CHICAGO Join us on Thursday, July 11 for a road trip to Chicago! We´ll depart church at 7:15 am and travel on a deluxe motor coach. Upon arrival, we´ll take a 90-minute narrated boat tour and learn about the architecture and history of Chicago. After lunch, we´ll see the fabulous world premiere of "The Jungle Book," a musical at the Goodman Theatre. We´ll leave Chicago after the musical and have dinner together at Cracker Barrel in Stevensville before arriving back at the church by 10:00 pm. Click here or pick up a form in the north lobby rack for more detailed information and to reserve a place on this special day trip!
GR METRO MINISTRY LOVETT WEEMS BOOK STUDY All GR laity and clergy are invited to join Metro Ministry for a lively and engaging three-week discussion of Bearing Fruit: Ministry With Real Results co-authored by Dr. Lovett Weems, Jr., the keynote speaker for Saturday (drive-in day) at the 2013 WM Annual Conference. The discussion will be led by Rev. Julie Liske and will take place on Tuesdays, April 16, 23, and 30 from 6:30 - 8:15 pm, at Trinity UMC, 1100 Lake Drive SE. Registration deadline is April 4. To register please call 616.456.7133 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
DON´T FORGET to spring forward Sunday, March 10. Set your clocks ahead one hour for daylight saving time. Don´t be late for church!
CARING CONNECTION The next meeting is on Wednesday, March 20 at 8:00 am at New Beginnings Restaurant (1455 Michigan St NE). We welcome anyone who would like to participate in caring for our homebound with phone calls, note-writing, and visits.
SECOND SUNDAY LUNCH BUNCH will meet Sunday, March 10 after the 11:00 am service for lunch at New Beginnings Restaurant (1455 Michigan St NE). Because we reserve space there, please let us know you are planning to join us by calling Sherry Gates at 942.8527 by Saturday, March 11.
PARTNERS FOR A RACISM- FREE COMMUNITY ANNUAL FORUM Friday, March 22 from 7:30 am - 3:45 pm at the Eberhard Center @ GVSU Downtown. The morning keynote speaker is Dr. Gail Christopher of W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Register online at http://prfc-gr.org/annual-forum-2013.
ATTENTION, PARENTS AND YOUTH: Spring sign-ups for serving in the children´s church school area are ready on Doodle! Please go to www.grandrapidsfumc.org/volunteers to sign up to serve in the Infant Nursery, Toddler Nursery, and Children & Worship classrooms! Volunteers are especially needed on Easter Sunday. Thank you for supporting our church school teachers and children.
KIDS CLUB: CAMP OUT AT WESLEY WOODS Friday, March 22 - 23, we will be taking our 2nd-6th graders on a camp out at Wesley Woods. We will be leaving the church at 5:00 pm and returning Saturday at 5:00 pm. We are looking for parents that would like to come and chaperone. The cost per child is $30 and parents are free. The kids will be playing board games and participating in team building activities. Saturday we be Geocahing for most of the morning, so please bring lots of warm clothes and outerwear. Contact Emily Mol at email@example.com for more information.
Concerns & Prayers for:
• Abby Greer
• Burt Holmes
• Rick Kase
• Norma Mann
• Nancy Parrish
• Jessica Stokes
• Laura Wright
• Chris Bolhouse
• Scott Grifhorst
• Stephan Mathos
• Jesse Mounts
• Trevor Norton
• Shawn Seher
• Peter Taylor, Jr
Our young adults, led by Sami Marasigan, leave for a mission trip to Washington DC on March 2
This Saturday, March 2 a spaghetti dinner will be held to benefit Abby Greer. It will be held at Pietro´s (2780 Birchcrest Dr SE) from 4:00 to 7:00 pm. The cost is $15 per person which will go towards helping Kelli and Brandon with Abby´s medical expenses. All are welcome!
MEN´S LENTEN BREAKFASTS 2013"How My Mind Has Changed." Join us on Fridays through March 22 at 7:00 am in Wesley Hall. Upcoming schedule: March 1 — Dr. Robert Hundley, Lansing DS; March 8 — Rev. Sean Kidd, Pokagon UMC; March 15 — Rev. David Nellist, Trinity UMC; and March 22 — Rev. Steve Charnley, Greenville UMC.
WOMEN OF FIRST LENTEN STUDY: "WATCH AND PRAY" Join us on Wednesdays through March 20 from 12:00 – 1:00 pm in Wesley Hall. Bring your own lunch! In the Judaism of Jesus´ day, prayer was experienced in many forms and formats of community. These practices of prayer continue and have been added to in contemporary Judaism, particularly among the Orthodox. Prayer was and remains an integral part of what it means to be Jewish. This Lent we will explore various kinds of prayer and what it means to have a deep prayer life as Jesus did. Upcoming schedule is February 27 — Teach Us to Pray, March 6 — It Is Right to Give Our Thanks and Praise, March 13 — Give Us This Day, and March 20 — How Long, O Lord?
FIRST AID STATION
BLOOD DRIVE Receive a $10 Meijer gift card when you register to donate at our blood drive on Monday, March 25! Appointments are preferred, so sign up now for a time between 3:00 - 7:00 pm that works best for you. Unable to donate blood? Homemade cookies are needed, too. Give a little of your time and a little of your blood and help save a life! Questions? Contact Marj Timmerman at 901.9224 or firstname.lastname@example.org.