Worship Buzz - 11/10/2017

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!  

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If you’ve made big sacrifices, you know what I’m talking about. Every time I’ve received abundant blessings, it’s after I’ve focused on doing what is right and good. I’ve made the sacrifice, now l pray that God sends that blessing forward. Sometimes sing praise because my efforts became grace for another, but my favorite praise is about how blessings are falling into place to create one big celebration of thanks!

Interpretations on the meaning of the Thanksgiving Holiday can be historic, food based or praise driven. I choose to interpret our Thanks Giving as praise to God for sending friends and food and personal accomplishments.  We have a cornucopia of blessings!  And more than enough to share.

We are in our third week of the Stewardship Series, Live Simply.  The music this week is both familiar and powerful. It lures us closer to the Thanksgiving Holiday and reminds us of how important our faith is to us.  In one week, at the Annual Stewardship Dinner we turn in our pledge cards and estimate our budget for 2018.  Prayerfully consider what you can add to our ministry. 

Last Sunday we handed out Ministry Worksheets.  This self-review can be your way of saying “don’t forget to include me when you do this.”  It’s also the first step in getting a great communication network going in the church also. Bring your sheet back and leave it in the basket on the Connect Center to be included.

The Ministry Worksheet is not about committees. However, Full Disclosure, we have openings on the Trustees Board and Worship Hospitality Committee. If you like going to meetings and plan things, please let us know. The 2018 Nominations and Personnel Report is due this week.

Our United Methodist Local Church Conference will be held on November 21 at 7 pm. Everyone is welcome to attend. At this annual meeting we celebrate our ministry of the past year and we hear a message from the Bishop's Cabinet. This year Rev. Esther Lee will convene the meeting in place of the District Superintendent. Let's enjoy our evening of holy conferencing.  But first, put the November 21 Church Conference on your calendar. Second, key leaders submit forms on line by this Thursday.

LET’S TALK about Facilities this Sunday – We need to look further down the road. What decorative or structural changes need to be done after a decade in our building?  Stay after worship with us and talk about it.

I thank God for you, every time I pray.  The congregation and friends of First UMC of West Chicago continue to be a channel of God’s abundant blessing for me and my family.  If you don’t have a place for Thanksgiving Dinner, consider joining my family. 

Let everyone have a place to be happy this Thanksgiving.

Pastor Nancy Rethford

Worship Buzz - 10/27/2017

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Let Freedom Ring!

Brainstorming with a group of freethinkers can be dangerous, but I was ready for anything.  In theory we go from a traditional concept to something more real and personal to the group. I started with the birth of Jesus and the group landed on freedom.  

Hmm. Freedom.  Is this the underlying expectation for our Christmas?  Or is this the underlying longing for everyone today?  I’m not ready to write liturgy on this brainstorm, so I’m taking it to you.

First, a specific. Looking over our prayer concerns from this week I am moved to a longer time for cancer patients again. We enjoyed Erlaine’s lesson at puppet time last Sunday. She pointed to pink and said it was for breast cancer awareness month. Seeing pink everywhere in October calls us to action not only in prayer but in visits/cards to victims and families. It’s a good thing. Thanks, for helping us stay on track, Church! 

Now, an application. If we take each of our prayers, for friend, for disaster zones, for country, for church – and we apply the message of freedom - we ask, What freedom does God want for our people of concern?  What would happen if, after each intercessory prayer, we added quietly, “May they find freedom in you, God.” 

This is our seed thought: How will we find freedom in Christ Jesus?  I’ll follow up on this with you in a few weeks when I have new channels of communication opened up.

Right now we are starting a new Worship Series, titled “Live Simply.”  Because it is our annual stewardship series we’ll be hearing laity talks and general encouragement on finances. The overall theme is the practice of the Christian lifestyle. We have wonderful friends in the church who do this well. Let’s take advantage of these gifts and learn.

The newsletter is being published this weekend. Check out the article on composting. Consider taking this step towards a family commitment. Bring your old pumpkins to the church on November 4 for our pumpkin smash. Also plan to stay for lunch. The UMCW is hosting their Holiday lunch and bazaar one week from tomorrow!  Yahoo!

With Halloween on Tuesday – join me in prayer for everyone’s safety.  Like many we receive few trick or treaters. I’m ready for anything.  We’re also opening our home from 6 pm – 10 pm for youth and adults needing a place to be.  It’s a party to mock the devil, aka All Hallows Eve. Dress or not. There’ll be food, but you can share.  

From the fun we’ll turn to the sober reality of All Saints Day. We are always in grief, but we don’t let our grief paralyze. As Christians we are called to LIFE!  Jesus is our life.  Our November 5 celebration of the Saints will be even more joyous than our Halloween fun.  God is so good. We just have to party!

Blessing and Jo,

astor Nancy Rethford

Worship Buzz - 10/13/2017

A docile camel from Illinois had such bad breath that the owner solicited help. I was nearby passing out Lions' Candy mints and collecting funds for vision and hearing aids last Sunday. The owner, Mary, chatted with us for a while and then asked to try our candy on her animals. The mints worked!  And I was invited to meet the camel where I was nuzzled in gratitude. In worship we had looked at Jesus' saying that we filter out the ants, but eat the camel whole. I was more worried about the camel consuming me!  and aren't ants protein? 

Last Sunday was fun from beginning to end. Are you ready for another Sunday of the Lord's joy?  There's a few details you may want to prepare before you leave for worship Sunday morning.  Top on the list is our October collection of hats, mittens and gloves. This collection is for our needy clients at PADS. We want to finish this collection in three weeks.

Second, are you planning to be at the October 21 Oktoberfest   and/or   the November 4 Holiday Bazaar?   We sell tickets for both those meals at the church on Sunday. Come to worship knowing if Oct 21 and Nov 4 fit into your schedule.  We'd love to draw you and your family into our wonderful ministry of festival foods.

Thank you for the gift for Pastor Appreciation Sunday. The gift is a gift certificate for artwork!  What a surprise!  There is a lot of simple wisdom in this gift. Much like the oil on Jesus' feet, the gift of art is a sacred symbol of our relationship. We will take our time choosing the piece, and then you can see it at our next open house.  Thank you!

Church World Service/CROP has not reached their goal of ending global hunger.  Can you help?  We are walking this Sunday, Oct 15 in the CROP Walk because in many parts of the world they have to walk for everything.  CROP relief efforts are well published online. When you're looking up the info, go ahead and donate to my walk efforts at crophungerwalk.org/northwestdupageil .  We're happy to have you walk the three miles with us. We start at St. Andrew Lutheran at 1:30. Overflow parking is at our church on the west side. 

Our Church Band, Unity, is leading some of the songs on Sunday.  It's so much fun to praise God with our friends in Unity. They are doing one of their old favorites, "And All the People Said Amen," which I heard on the radio today. Also, we will have a song from the choir about being a welcoming church. Has that been your prayer?   We could use your hand in friendship at the door.  If there is a classier way to say "greeter" you can correct me, but I'll still ask for your help on the 5th Sundays.      

Wherever you are in your walk of faith, walk with us. We know the Way. We follow in Jesus' footsteps. And we have a lot of fun doing it. 

Pastor Nancy Rethford

Worship Buzz - 9/8/2017

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Dear Ones,

 

Running through the Psalms is like running through the thistles.

My dog likes to find the thistle weeds, so I’m reminded of the metaphor almost daily. When doggie Dax comes in with thistles I know she’s been to one of her favorite digs in the overgrown fence garden. Exhilarated to be a terrier with digging instinct she plows forward to her own demise.  When Dax comes in the door she beelines for the couch and begs us unburden her from the burs. And we do.

Like thistles we encounter some rough emotional times discussed in the Psalms. “How Long, O Lord?” is the trumpet call for a long suffering rant.  Read enough of these chapters and you may want to ask a licensed therapist, “Is the Psalmist depressed?”

Even when the thistles of life depress us, the Bible says we can have joy always. The Psalms often blanket the hard times statements with flowery faith. “But I have sure faith that I will experience the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living!” (ps 27:13, ceb)  Can we, also, learn how to find joy-filled thoughts in the midst of the worst times?

In our new Sunday worship series we are Following Jesus with the footsteps outlined in Galatians 5:22-23, the fruits of the Spirit. This Sunday we move to the footstep of Joy. It’s not an easy step of discipleship for me or you. But come Sunday we’ll work on knowing joy no matter what life brings us.

Our Mission to the Harvey Flood Victims will conclude with a trip to the Midwest Distribution Center on Thursday (Sept. 14).  I’m going myself to see the condition of our United Methodist relief ministry as well as to joyfully contribute our donations. If you have any items for a flood bucket (list attached below) or a complete bucket bring it to the church. We’ll dedicate what we have on Sunday. So far we have 6 filled buckets. 

Good News - The milkweed plant has been designated as the State of Illinois’ wildflower!  Violets are still the state flower, but as a protected wildflower the milkweed will continue to draw and sustain monarch butterflies. Look on the monarch butterfly as God’s joy-filled blessing on this earth. Thank God for the creature and the disciples, whose mission to protect this species has achieved state wide success.

I don’t have to imagine what God can do with those who believe, I see it everywhere I go. That’s what gives me joy. What’s your happy thought?

 

Blessings, Pastor Nancy Rethford

Worship Buzz - 9/1/2017

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Dear Ones,

In the Spirit of the Lord, there is peace, joy and love.  Have we arrived yet?  Labor Day weekend is a good time to reflect on our journey of faith and make plans to walk in a way that leads us to God's holy kingdom. 

Right now, we may think we are following Jesus well enough, but can we say the fruit of the Spirit is truly ours? In the book of Galatians, the early church teaches us to structure our faith goals around nine character traits that no law or personal opinion can condemn.  I find these traits or fruitful outcomes are the same traits that Jesus was teaching us.

This Sunday we begin a new worship series, “Following Jesus: Footsteps in the Faith.”  With the Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23 as our guide, we will walk from love to self-control, trusting Jesus to guide us every step of the way.   There will be a Facebook post each week with a personal story of a disciple who inspired me to walk with Jesus. Check out our Facebook page each week, share what inspires you with a link to the weekly story and LIKE us over and over again.  God can use our outreach by Facebook, email and the web site.  

This weekend we are starting a collection for the Houston flood victims. The Midwest Distribution Center (an arm of U.M. Committee on Relief) shares the following news:

It has been a busy year for flood relief and we will need all the Cleaning Bucket Kit supplies. We have purchased 27,000 trash bags and volunteers are rolling them - getting them ready for Cleaning Bucket Kits. Other volunteers are assembling the kits. Bug spray is in especially short supply.  Any donations would be greatly appreciated. Monetary donations or supplies bought through “DollarDays” would be the best way to donate, as they are shipped directly to Midwest Distribution at the Center's bulk prices.  

Anything you bring for flood relief we will send on to MDC in Chatham.  God will provide a driver for our contributions, so keep buying stuff for the trip to southern Illinois for the next two weeks.

On September 10 our regular fall programming will begin.  Children’s Ministry will start with lessons from various adults and youth in the church.  The program which Pastor Leslie created provides easy to use lessons for volunteers to choose. Please see Pastor Leslie to schedule a week with the children.  If you have not taken the Safe Sanctuaries course, we provide links and financing for that important safety step.

Also September 10 we will hold our first Let’s Talk forum.  We start around 11:45 with a make your own sandwhich meal, followed by conversation in the Conference Room (#138). By 1 pm we are cleaning up and heading for home. Can you stay for an extra hour on Sundays?  I want to talk with you about a few things.

Teresa of Avila, a Carmelite nun in the 16th century, wrote these poetic words of encouragement:

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours."

Let us do the work of Christ wherever we are this holiday weekend, coming together in worship to praise God for walking with us at all times.  

Worship Buzz - 8/25/2017

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Dear Ones,

The long, winding road of our summer worship series has taken us on a virtual vacation!  We hung out in our neighborhoods. We spent time together at Reed-Kepplar Park. We talked about seeing Jesus at the lakeshore. The tidal rhythm of life surprised us. We laughed loud and long at the poolside. We stopped at the museum to see the Viking Ship and turned our worship center counterclockwise for a traditional look. What a joyful trip the summer series has been!

This week as we return to the home fires, we want to have a camp fire after worship.  Can you help get that ready?  We’ll work on the weed management tonight (Friday). Text me at 630-360-0471 if you want to be involved with that, or on Sunday to help with the fire or s’mores.   We are not outdoors for worship, but those who want to join us after worship at the fire may.  

This week we’ll sing folk hymns. Musicians (guitarists, vocalists and percussionists) can meet with Ron at 9 am to run through the music.  Let’s start thinking about getting back into our regular routines of Chancel Choir, Unity Band and Church School.  Ron is starting rehearsals September 6 at 7:30 pm.  Church School and Station Youth Group resume on September 10.

Have the students in your family started school?  We’re praying for them and their teachers to have an excellent year.  This Sunday in Worship we will have a special blessing for students and teachers.  Students and Teachers should bring something symbolic: a back pack, a planner, a pencil case, your student id or license.  At prayer time we’ll invite those wanting a blessing to come forward.

Are you ready for summer to end?  Let’s enjoy the good weather with friends. The women meet for the Salad luncheon tomorrow (Saturday). Then Sunday we hope to make s’mores at the fire pit.  What more do you want out of your 2017 Summer?  I know you can find it with us.

Blessings and good health to all,

Pastor Nancy Rethford

Worship Buzz - 8/11/2017

As we head into the weekend, let’s take a few key travel images with us. 

  • A key – It’s needed for doors to our homes, our cars and also vacation places.  Keys unlock something valuable. What are you unlocking today?
  • A suitcase – If you like to bring home things from a trip, you need to leave room in your luggage. Under pack your expectations too. As we travel the road of life and there will always be room to learn something new.
  • A sturdy pair of shoes – Glamour often leads the prideful to sore feet at the end of the day. Put on clothing you can depend on. The highways and byways of life have unexpected hazards.  You’ll make it home because you planned ahead.

And now for the complete opposite. Flip – Flops are welcome in Church Sunday.  Our rummage sale workers don’t need to put their feet back into their sturdy work shoes or tight dressy shoes. It’s another casual Sunday. Come prepared for playful moments in worship. We’re talking about lessons from the pool and that means pool shoes are permitted.

Don’t miss this year’s RUMMAGE SALE.  It starts in a few minutes --- 5 pm to 7 pm tonight. Tomorrow morning the sale opens at 9 am. Bag sale is in the last hour. By noon we’re closing shop.   I know you’re thinking you don’t need more junk, but maybe someone you know does.  Remember this fundraiser is for our missions, highlighted throughout the year, and managed by the United Methodist and Congregational Women.  Your support makes a difference.

Wherever your summer has taken you, we invite you to share your stories at the church. You are always welcome to come early and/or stay late, make an appointment with me, or stop by the church.  We are hear to refresh your soul, like a dip in the pool on a hot day. -- 

Blessings  and Joy,

Pastor Nancy Rethford

Worship Buzz - 8/4/2017 - Sandy Beach

This weekend at Church we gather to worship & to pray.  God’s love comes down to us in Word and song, in the sacred Lord’s Supper, in the fellowship of believers. We pray for the sick that their faith doesn’t weaken in times of suffering, for the innocent that trouble won’t find them and for those who morn, God’s grace.  We gather to worship and to pray.

If you’re on vacation this week, please take our summer series to heart and enjoy the place where you are. There are lessons of faith everywhere.  This Sunday we are finding lessons from the oceans.  Hmm what could the oceans be saying to us?  “No, more plastic bags! Please!” was how a tour guide in Boca Raton put it.  Though Jesus doesn’t teach at the beach, he did have some rather gnarly waves in John 6:16-25. Read this for yourSunday devotions. If you ask the question in verse 25 with an open and honest heart, no matter where you are, God will answer you.  

Better yet, come to worship to get the whole spiritual experience of being with Jesus and his friends. We have Holy Communion this week.  The kids will get to play “in the sand”  (volunteer leaders needed). For music, we have Ron Benner back on the keyboard and he’s picked two familiar tunes to splash around the water themes. We’ll end with a rockin’ version of “O For a Thousand Tongues” (music leaders meet Ron at 9 am). I’m looking forward to sharing worship with you.

As a people, we need to work a little harder on our hospitality.  Please consider taking a role at greeting or setting up the coffee.  Our regular host was at Camp last week and we missed having the drinks.  We also need more greeters on 5th Sundays and more children ministry volunteers. 

Let me leave you with a funny fictional story, although I think it has happened to me. One Sunday morning, as our young pastor was preaching, a two-month-old baby started to fret, and her mother wisely decided to take the infant out of the church before whimpers became wails. Their escape to the nearest exit took them past the pulpit. Interrupting his sermon, the pastor looked down at his wife and daughter and said, "Ah, yes, your family are always your severest critics."

Let us take ourselves lightly, or at least try not to be so serious while on vacation. 

Peace and Blessings

Pastor Nancy Rethford

Worship Buzz - 7/21/2017 - Reed-Keppler Park

Dear Ones,

Warm days, lazy breezes, dogs on a walk, people on bikes – summer is so much fun!  Before we get ready for school, harvest the last tomato and rake falling leaves, let’s enjoy the summer we have left!  Worship this Sunday will be our annual outdoor worship. Instead of in the grassy sanctuary, we will meet at the North Pavilion at Reed-Keppler Park

Do you know the story of how Barbara Reed’s family donated the land for the park?  We’ll be telling this story and other stories this Sunday as we experience faith and worship outside.  We’ll have two guitars to accompany us and worship words in the bulletins.  You may miss the screens and the piano at first, but I believe this worship will be a significant experience in your summer.

When I think of my outdoor worship experiences, one in particular strikes me as pivotal in my life. We were on a boundary waters trip with 14 others from our church.  Divided into two camps we had few opportunities to be together.  We came together for worship on Sunday morning at the water’s edge. Slabs of hard stone were our pews. The sun was hidden by clouds and I struggled to bring the Word of God to my fellow campers, most of whom were barely awake. Short and sweet was my intention, but even that was interrupted.  A bird flew into our gathering space and for a while everyone just watched it. I let the grace of God overwhelm me and the Holy Spirit helped me speak words of grace and worship. The bird flew off and we sang a praise song. It was God’s worship, not mine.  Though I was leading, I wasn’t in charge. I’ll never forget that lesson.

Jesus said that the stones will cry out to him if God wants.  He said mountains can move with faith. He said that our clothing will always be less beautiful than the flowers and trees.  Reading an agrarian based testimony of our relationship with God, I wonder why we don’t worship outdoors more.  It’s so clear that nature has understood God better than humans.

Sunday we’ll delay the start until 10:10 so everyone can get to the park.  We have Dave Purnell leading the music while Ron’s on vacation. If you bring a dish to pass – like sandwiches, fruit or chips, we’ll have a food table set up.  Worship Hospitality is bringing water, some chairs and tables.  Please bring your own table service – utensils, plate and cup.

This will be fun. Cause it’s summer and we’re chilling in the park with our friends in the faith.

Blessings on your summer however you are experiencing it.

Pastor Nancy Rethford

Worshsip Buzz - 7/14/2017

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Dear Ones,

Grace and peace to you and your neighbors!  Walking the Railroad Days parade last Sunday reminds me of how important our neighbors are to our survival.  Many of the people I spoke to come to our church Several times a year for valued programs. They need us and we need them!

Why do you Bless animals, people and sometimes things? I've been asked. Well, first I do it because God gives us the power to bless in God's name. Second, because people like having to the power of blessing, especially God's blessing, on their side.

There's been a trend in the Christian church to bless significant parts of our lives, the animals, the land, and, yes, things we drive. One church blesses new drivers licenses. I would like to bless our bike riders this weekend as we begin our summer series: Faith Lessons in Vacation Places.

How can we bless our bicyclists given that riding to church is prohibited by traffic?  What about blessing our bike helmets? If you ride or own a bike, you probably have one. I've got extras to give away. We'll bless the helmets and thank God for protecting us this summer as we ride and walk our neighborhoods. 

Lastly, we kick off the summer series with an ice cream social at fellowship. There's always something fun going on when you're with your church friends. Come every week of this 8 week series as we travel to a park, a lake, an ocean, a pool and many more virtual vacations. 

Don't forget to bring us your rummage sale items. We made room for your donations in the choir room. The office is open Tuesday and Friday this week.  Or give us a call at 630-231-3344.

Peace and joy,

Pastor Nancy Rethford 

Worship Buzz - 7/7/2017

Happy Heritage Week! 

With origins half way between today's Warrenville and West Chicago (Gary's Mill at 59), we are an historic church with an historic role in our community.  After a long Independence Day, we move into our Rail Road Days elebration of the local heritage. This is a fun way to celebrate our common heritage. Although we all have other heritage stories (my family likes to say that Lief Erikson founded America) we hold this history in common:  The Gary family had a vision of bringing the railroad to the western settlements.  We are the beneficiaries of that vision! Let's celebrate!

Every year we pull a float in the Sunday 1 pm parade. There's a crew who assembles it on Saturday morning. On Sunday after worship we bring the remaining float items (mini church tower and banner poles) to the float being housed at Woodwards on Claremont. We will be the 3rd parade entry south of the stop sign at Elmwood and Elite, in front of the Howard house.  You won't find Frieda Howard there. She's a Grand Marshall, along with Ron Benner. Both friends have had long histories of developing the arts in West Chicago. Let's celebrate!!

Our float will highlight our growing children's ministry with a Noah's Ark display from last week's VBS program.  All kids are welcome to sit cross-legged on the float. Parents and adults from church will walk handing out fliers to other adults in the crowd.  Please help us as you are able. Exuberant cheers from parade side is also participation. Let's celebrate!!!

TONIGHT is our 8 pm Movie Night at the back of the church. Please bring a chair or blanket to sit on. 

TOMORROW at 10 am is our blessing of the animals. Leashed or caged animals only please. We don't want to be chasing critters on a busy Saturday.

IN WORSHIP (Sun 10 am) we will be blessed by a visiting niece who will sing for us. You'll have to come to find out who and what she's singing.  Ron and I are open to any special music this summer. If you know someone who can perform a solo, vocal or instrumental, please speak to them about enhancing our worship with their music. 

Next week we'll start a new series:  Faith Lessons in Vacation Places.  We'll laugh and pray together about the vacations we take, but mostly we'll learn that we don't take a vacation from our faith. It goes with us.

Celebrate your Faith with us every week, every where we see yo, for God is GOOD all the time.

In Joy,

Pastor Nancy Rethford