Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

By the time you are reading this article, the end of 2011 will be upon us. As we say goodbye to the old year, we say hello to the new one. New is good. At least that is what we were thinking when we opened all those Christmas gifts a few days ago. The new electronics worked perfectly right out of the box, right?
              This is the time of year too that some of us settle down and get serious about making changes. Some of us will make resolutions. Wondering about how the practice of New Year’s resolutions came about, I located this answer from

The tradition of the New Year’s Resolutions goes all the way back to 153 B.C. Janus, a mythical king of early Rome was placed at the head of the calendar. With two faces, Janus could look back on past events and forward to the future. Janus became the ancient symbol for resolutions and many Romans looked for forgiveness from their enemies and also exchanged gifts before the beginning of each year.

Janus...a two faced Roman god.
Was January named for him?
Janus was the Roman’s two-faced god!
              As time went on, New Year’s Day moved from December 25, to March 25 and back to January 1. The tradition New Year’s Day falling on the first day of each year was firmly established by the church by Pope Gregory XIII in the 16th century, when the Gregorian calendar was introduced. We continue to use that calendar today. Um…and we continue to make those resolutions on January 1 too.
              We are people who cannot look into the future like Janus was thought to have been able to do. We only have the past to consider. Looking back prompts us at times to make resolutions that we hope will change us for the better.
              You may be like many people who have chosen one of the most popular resolutions for 2012: lose weight, stop smoking, save money, get fit, all in an effort to improve your life.
              Jesus encouraged his disciples with ways to improve their lives. In the gospels Jesus said blessings come from having and developing the gifts of the Spiritual life: being pure in heart, merciful and making peace with others to name a few (Matthew 5).
              What resolution can you make this year to become purer in heart? Can you meditate and reflect more? Perhaps journal about your life? Devote yourself to prayer and studying scripture? Take time for God to speak to your heart, to heal your heart, to fill your heart? Attend worship every week?
              And what about becoming more merciful? What resolution might take care of that? Lending a hand in a new ministry at church? Working as an elementary school mentor? Reading books about political, economic, racial or gender issues? Being a volunteer.
              Peacemaking.  I can think of a few things to help us be better peace makers: Thinking before we open our mouths. Listening. Speaking our words with love. Helping our neighbors. Stopping before we gossip, slander or fuss. Trusting our brothers and sisters in Christ for the best of God in them. Voting.
              If you are like some folks I know who say, “I don’t make resolutions, so that I don’t break them,” then the act of intentional improvement is not for you. So what if we break a resolution towards improvement? Isn’t it better to have at least tried?
              I believe each of us are given Spiritual gifts, the capacity to love like Jesus loves, to help others, grow in faith, speak the truth, and witness to our relationship with God. But if we never try to cultivate these gifts, I believe that they lay wasted like so much Christmas paper.
              This year I encourage us all to do like the store owners do on December 31, take inventory, and see what we are lacking for the coming year. God has everything we need to make changes for our better. All we have to do is go to God, and God will help us whatever that need is. May your resolutions and your new year be pleasing and glorifying to our God!

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

            As I sit here at the end of November, and I think about the coming days, that time of year we Christians call Advent, I must admit that I feel a bit weary. There is a lot to do before Christmas. Like me you probably have tons of shopping to do and visits to make, goodies to bake and parties to prepare for, extra money to earn and presents to wrap. Your “to do” list is probably as long or longer than mine.

              Our church calendar has filled up quickly too: practice for concerts, cantatas, and plays. There’s planning for get-togethers, meetings, trips and a multitude of other stuff to get done. Honestly, when I see everything listed, it’s pretty easy for me to get overwhelmed.
              What I long for, is to be a kid again. I want not to think so much about all the things to do, but to simply look forward to the joy and fun of Christmas. Kids don’t think of play practice as something they have “to do,” but as fun. They don’t consider cruising through Wal-Mart looking for just the right present as a chore, but as exciting. They don’t think of baking cookies as work, but as pure joy! And they relish decorating...the tree, the house, the lawn, the dog…anything at all.

              Children have a lot to teach me if I will stop long enough to consider their lessons. Children are truly innocent and pure. They are eager to trust and to believe the good over the bad. A child will love in spite of being hurt, dissed, or bullied. They will take an insult…toss one back and go on playing together without pouting or holding a grudge. Jesus said that the kingdom of God was made up of just such hearts; pure, open, and full of love.        
Jesus also said, “Let the little ones come unto me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 19:13). What I think is that Jesus was trying to tell us something in these words.  Jesus was trying to teach crusty, stodgy, jaded adults to notice the kind of goodness that helps a person fit in with God’s plan for the Kingdom.
Just this week, one of Pisgah’s little ones, smiling like an angel, said to me. “It’s okay, pastor Judy. She didn’t have a piece of bubble gum. I had two, so I gave her my extra piece.” I just have to tell you, the sweetness of that moment was enough to bring tears to my eyes and cause me to pray. Lord, give me a heart like hers!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Litany of Prayer in Remembrance of 
September 11, 2001

Leader: At moments when we remember the terror that our world experienced on September 11, 2001
All: Help us turn our minds and hearts to you God.
Leader: When we revisit the feelings we have had of horror, sadness, and overwhelming grief
All: Help us turn our minds and hearts to you God.
Leader: When we are lured to believe that revenge will melt away our conflicts
All: Help us turn our minds and hearts to you God.
Leader: When our security is shattered and peace floats like a distant day dream
All: Help us turn our minds and hearts to you God.
Leader: When we resort to using religion to excuse, threaten, exclude or destroy others
All: Help us turn our minds and hearts to you God.
Leader: When we grapple with how to create a better world for our children
All: Help us turn our minds and hearts to you God.
Leader: When we look for ways to unite ourselves in the bonds of peace
All: Help us turn our minds and hearts to you God.
Leader: When we coax from our disputes the hope of reconciliation
All: Help us turn our minds and hearts to you God.
Leader: When we attempt to fully surrender our lives to you God
All:  "Let us live as faithful followers of the Prince of Peace and, in the words of the author of the Letter to the Colossians: As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other…. [1] May our memory and our hope unite to move all of us toward peace and inspire us to live with compassion, confidence and courage."[2] Amen.

[1] (Colossians 3:12-13, NRSV)
[2]Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster, President Council of Bishops, UMC.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Uh...Excuse me, a follower of Jesus Christ, who is not a lunatic, will not intentionally murder 92 people because of a political agenda. I don't care if the media does call him a fundamentalist Christian. His religion is obviously his own, and not any Christian one that I know of!

Now that I've said that and got it out of my system...let me offer this prayer:

Lord of Heaven,

I cannot imagine the pain and devastation being felt by the families, friends, and loved ones of those (allegedly) brutally killed by Anders Behring Breivik last week. I pray that your comfort would surround them and sustain them in a completeness that is incomprehensible. Lord, take this horror that goes against everything that you are, and transform only you can. I am lost against it. Have mercy, O Lord, on us all. Amen.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Western North Carolina
Annual Conference
June 8-12, 2011
Lake Junaluska, NC

This year Bishop Goodpaster's theme was "Inspire the Living Faith!" Even before we were schedule to arrive, Bishop G asked us pastors to lead our congregations in reading from, studying on, and hearing sermons from the book of Acts. As you remember, we followed suit with our 5-week sermon series from Acts, "Disciples ActingOut." I believe Bishop G was praying for all of us to be re-inspired by the acts of the earliest Christians, and that the passionate flames of the Holy Spirit would be rekindled in each one of us.

Any Christian would be inspired by going to Annual Conference. I know that many times during the week, I thought...Wow! I wished the folks back at Pisgah could see this...could hear this...could feel this. The services, the preachers, the music, and the gathering of thousands of Holy Spirit-filled souls in that place did inspire me. My mind and heart was once again filled with the awesomeness of our God, and what God wants to do in us and through us.

Another thing about Annual Conference this year was the frankness with which we were presented the statistics about our churches. Enfolded within the joy and celebration of the benefits of God's active presence with us, was the shadow of concern.

It wasn't a shadow of concern about God and God's power. It was the concern about whether and me...the churches we attend and serve in...have what it takes to continue to make an impact in our communities. The shadow lurking was the concern about our own apathetic response to God in the coming years.

We have for 40 years seen a steady decrease in the membership of the UMC. We all know this; it isn't news. But this year we have been hammered by that reality and that the funding that has always kept pace, even through the decreasing membership, is beginning to falter.

As the baby boomer generation, which makes up a huge number of UMC membership, begins to leave the work force and live on a fixed income, there is less money coming into local churches, districts, and conferences to fund vital ministries.

Dr. Lovett H. Weems, who is the director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC, has explained that by the year 2018, the country will enter a time period where we will face what he calls a, "death tsunami," when the death rate in the country will increase at a dramatic rate. The bottom line is that by the year 2050, there will be 50% more deaths than in 2010.

Even though the rising death rate is a natural outcome of our aging population, it has "the potential to wipe out the UMC witness in vast parts of entire states." The racial make-up of those passing will be non-Hispanic, White and African-Americans; in other words...the majority racial make-up of our United Methodist churches. Lovett H. Weems. (I encourage you to take a look at this video.)

The question posed to us over and over again at Annual Conference was this one: Do we have the courage to follow God in what it takes to sustain and grow our churches in the next few years? Do we have the faith, the passion, the commitment, the determination, to remain as a witness not only for the UMC, but for Christ in the places where we serve?

Bishop Goodpaster encouraged us with his words, his prayers, his example, and his commitment to reset and refocus the financial base of the Western North Carolina Annual Conference. He has challenged the congregations of our conference to be bold, to think "outside the box," and to take the problems at hand, with the leadership and help of God, and solve them.

A shadow of concern is a good thing as long as it does not turn into a paralyzing fear. Let us at Pisgah UMC not be afraid of the future. God is with us. God will lead us through anything that is coming. Our part is to listen, stay together, be focused, love God, our neighbors, each other, and trust in the power of our AWESOME God.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Death Tsunami?

Here is a video from Lovett H. Weems, Jr. who recently spoke to the UMC Council of Bishops. Weems gives some startling information about the realities of the future of the UMC. He also challenges the UMC to "Reset and Refocus" itself before we are no more. Take a look.

Lovett H. Weems, Jr. - UMC Realities from Lewis Center on Vimeo.

What do you think about Weems predictions? What do we as United Methodists need to discern from these prophetic words. Please comment.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011


I woke up yesterday morning to some historical news...the news about Osama bin Laden's CIA/Navy Seal lead death and burial. In shock, I watched as young Americans took to the streets to demonstrate their glee over the death of this criminal. (I hope there is more to it than that.) Then I began to wonder about my shock, and about why I was not feeling jubilant. It was reported that the New York Daily News headline was "ROT IN HELL."

What I'm saying is that I am conflicted. On the one hand, I appreciate justice for all those persons whom bin Laden has hurt, killed, maimed, and morally destroyed. On the other, I am saddened that this kind of justice is required in our world. Today, after some time for this news to sink in, my response is prayer. I pray for the world, that we can realize what we are doing to each other and to our planet. I pray that God forgives us for our hate, bigotry, greed, and malice. I pray that the light of love can overtake the shouts of U...S...A., and that we can learn another way to express our closure: with closure in this prayer:

Our God, in heaven, great is your name,
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is where you are.
Give us what we need to live this day.
Forgive us our sins, and enable us we forgive others.
Let temptation not overtake us, but deliver us from evil.
Because this world is yours.
All power is yours.
All glory is yours...forever. Amen.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Walk On Resurrection People

On Easter morning, Pisgah saints sang the beautiful hymn Easter People, Raise Your Voices (#304) as our call to worship. The third verse begins with these words "Everyday to us is Easter, with its resurrection song." As Lent has wound its way to Easter, I've been thinking about these kinds of words. More specifically, some questions that they bring to my mind: What does it mean to be called Resurrection people? How should we live when we know that death is now no defeat for those in Christ?

One of the things I love about our dear old United Methodist Hymnal is that it often acts as a theological guide for us. In our dearest and best loved hymns, and even in those we don't know by heart, are nuggets of theological wisdom for us to hold on to.

There is wisdom about the (our) human condition and remedies for it.
Dark is the stain that we cannot hide. What can avail to wash it away? (#365)
All to Jesus I surrender, Lord, I give myself to thee. (#354)

There are songs of praise and thanksgiving:
To God be the glory, great things he hath done!
So loved he the world that he gave us his son! (#98)

There are songs of petition and help:
Do, Lord, do Lord, do Lord, remember me. (#527)
Sometimes I feel discouraged, and think my work's in vain.
But then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again. (#375)

There are songs of assurance and comfort:
Through it all, through it all, I've learned to trust in Jesus. (#507)
Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come;
'tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home. (#378)

As they traveled from village to village, John Wesley encouraged all circuit riding preachers to carry with them two books, the Holy Bible, and Methodist hymnal. Our modern hymnal is rich in tradition and gives us a graceful means to worship both at church and at home. I challenge each of us this Easter season to take up our hymnal. If you don't sing or know music...just read the words, and you'll be blessed.

As for the question as to how we Resurrection people should live, we find an answer one page further in our hymnal with hymn #305, Camina, Pueblo de Dios (Walk On, O People of God).

Walk on, O people of God;
Walk on, O people of God;
A new law, God's new alliance,
all creation is reborn.
Walk on, O people of God;

We are indeed called as Resurrection people to continue our journey with God, to live and act fearlessly, with a boldness and clarity that comes with assurance from God our creator, our redeemer, our sustainer and our Lord. To God be the Glory (#98). Amen.

Walking the resurrection life. Pastor Judy

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring, Life, Resurrection, EASTER

As I look out of my office window, I see green! New life is sprouting all around. Flowers are dancing their spring two-steps around the yard, and feathered friends I haven't seen since last fall have shown up for a meal. The world outside is bursting with new life.

I hardly think of spring without thinking of Easter. We will be celebrating the glorious resurrection of the Lord this year with special services and activities. I hope each and every one of you will attend as much as you can. These days we need all the celebrations of the resurrection that we can get!

As Easter approaches I am reminded distinctly of two things: life and death. I have tried to recall when in my childhood I first experienced death. Growing up on a dairy farm had its share of dark moments when death was a certain reality. I thought of pets that met their demise from various diseases and accidents, the rodents and rabbits slain by a mower blade, and so on.

When I was about five years old one of our cows was trying to birth a calf. I loved baby calves, and I was excited to get to play with this new one in the calf barn in a day or two. Sadly though, neither the cow nor the calf survived the birth. As the cow lay so still and silent on the cold ground, I noticed my daddy's face. In a way I can't put into words, I suddenly realized that death was something awful; a bad and fearful thing.

In contrast to that day, I also experienced life on the farm. We raised chickens, turkeys, ducks, and guineas on the farm. In the winter months, daddy hatched out chicks in the basement. Our farmhouse basement was not the comfortable, carpeted, big rooms we might think of today, but rather a cold damp place where you put your canned tomatoes and green beans for the winter. That was where we had the eggs in a naked-bulbed incubator.

It seemed to me that it took forever to hatch an egg. Every evening the eggs had to be turned over. Why? I have no idea. But daddy said it had to be done and carefully. So up on a rickety stool I stood, helping him turn the eggs over and waiting for the first sign of a crack in an egg.

A crack meant that the time was getting close; the time when the baby chick would begin to emerge from its shell. Everything about a hatching egg is excruciatingly tedious. But soon after a crack appeared, things began to move more quickly. I still remember wanting to hurry the process by "helping" the little chicken out. Daddy always warned me, "He has to do it himself. In being born he gets strong."

In a while the little chick would have a big enough hole for his head to poke out. He would begin to breathe and wiggle, and then flop out of his shell...alive! What an ugly thing he was, wet, sticky, eyes like tiny Saran-wrapped marbles too big for his head.

Eventually his panting would enable him to get to his feet, wobble around like a drunk for a while, fall over, get up and go again. As we watched the chicks be born, daddy's face showed me something else...that life...especially new a completely wonderful thing to behold!

Life and death; the two certainties of existence on this planet. As humans we experience them both. What I learned from dad when I was little is true for us all, life is wonderful; death is not. Death is that awful, fearful moment when life ceases, and the loss of it is almost too much to bear.

If that moment was all we had to look forward to, then our existence would be pretty meaningless. But, thanks be to God, death is not the end of us whose faith is in Jesus Christ. That is what the celebration of Easter and the resurrection means.

Easter is the celebration of our new life; our emergence into the life of Jesus Christ. It is in Christ that we humans, in our wobbly, wet, weak flesh have eternal access to the bright, never-ending life of God. The resurrection is the presence and the power of life itself. Jesus has conquered death once and for all. That is the good news. That is why we celebrate Easter.

So this Easter season, live with the fresh assurance that death has no power over you. In Jesus Christ, you are born again and live a new life!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Back in July 2010 when I came to Pisgah, I found a church that had been sailing along for nearly 135 years. Through many long and sometimes difficult seasons since 1875, Pisgah United Methodist Church has been situated and doing ministry in the Long Shoals community.

There is no doubt about the faithfulness of the people of Pisgah UMC. One look to the past shows a church that has been developing ministries, paying their apportionments, and continuing to be a faithful witness for Jesus Christ every year of her existence. Today when many churches are declining, Pisgah remains constant in worship attendance, giving, missions, and ministry.

Yet that is not to say that we, like many churches, do not face challenges. We do. The world around us is changing every day. Technology, culture, mores, family mobility and structure, and much more have affected the way we are able do ministry and the way we are able to care for our members and the community.

At the first meeting I had with the leadership of Pisgah we discussed our need for future planning. I agreed that we need a vision and a plan. In order for Pisgah to meet the needs of the community, to be true to her values and identity, and to follow God's will for ministry, we need to make plans. Plans are difficult to make though when everyone is not on the same page with God and one another.

Susanne Farnham in her book, Grounded in God, says "God knows our deepest potential, sees the hidden complexities of our circumstances, comprehends our situation in relation to the larger picture and grasps the broader implications of our plans"(5). Of course! Discerning what God envisions for Pisgah can be our way of tapping into God's divine wisdom.

During the month of February, every person at Pisgah is invited to be involved together in hearing from God. I will be presenting a series of messages Jan. 30 to Feb. 20 surrounding the theological foundations for taking time to discern God's vision for our church.

Also we will be praying, gathering information, doing surveys, defining our community, collecting historical and demographic data, and planning for a Discerning and Visioning Retreat to share all we are learning. The retreat will take place on February 25th and 26th.

Those who can and wish to participate will meet together in retreat to learn, pray and seek God together in a spirit of Holy Conferencing. What we are aiming to do is develop a spiritual environment which can enable us to see more clearly God's vision for Pisgah UMC. That's exciting.

I look forward to the weeks ahead because I know that when we seek God together for God's vision God for Pisgah UMC, we won't be disappointed! To God be the glory!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Visiting Rachel

Today I received such a blessing. I visited a saint of God, met a new sister in Christ and shared the Eucharist with a parishioner whom I'd only heard about from the other members of the church. As a minister, I often go to visit peoples who are suffering from dementia, mental illness, Alzheimer's, and the like. You really never know quite what you may face, what you will be able to do or say to them. Will the person know you, recognize why you've come, or even be conscious? Today was one of those visits.
The joy for me was that this person did not know me, but I sensed immediately that we know the same Lord. As we visited and talked, I could tell she could not remember much about her circumstances, or of those who had been so lovingly caring for her, or even where she was. She was pleasant, cheerful, and happy.
So I said, "Will it be okay if I sing you a song?" When she agreed, I sang for her the great Wesley hymn, "Oh For a Thousand Tongues to Sing." She, who couldn't recall even who she was, joined in, remembering and singing every word of that hymn. This frail, clearly failing 92 year old lady, sang like she was a mere girl in church on Easter morning. Her voice was strong, fierce, and confident.
Together we sang many other songs, and she knew and remembered the words to every one of them. Amazing too, was her recitation of the 23rd and the 24th Psalm. Every word of the Eucharist liturgy she recalled, and her voice as we sang the Lord's prayer together brought such joy into my soul that I wanted to shout. I didn't. (Shouting in a Hospice home disturbs the others living there.)
Today, this sister of mine and I had church; she and me and Jesus. We three, sang, prayed together, heard the Word, shared a meal, and I was blessed completely. God is good and loves us so much. I am grateful.

©2011 Judy H. Eurey

Saturday, January 08, 2011

On January 1st. I thought...

Wow! It is hard to believe that Christmas has come and gone. This was my first Christmas with the family and friends of Pisgah, and I have been mightily blessed by being with you. The Christmas blessings began showering down early in the month with the United Methodist Women Christmas meeting, where...I learned a lot about some women whom I thought were meek and sweet. When it came to "taking" what they wanted, well...they took it. I don't remember who got the jar of butterflies or the stained glass nativity, but they were well fought-over gifts! The party was great fun, great food with a great group of God's women! Blessings galore!

The music this year from the groups of gifted singers and musicians was a blessing to me too, and also a blessing to God. The Bells of Praise concert filled the sanctuary with the glory of praise, laughter, and love. I was blessed that the group let me join them this year. Believe me, it was a sacrifice on their part. They had to put up with me messing them up every chance I got. They even smiled through it all! Added blessings!

The choir also blessed me and the whole church with the Christmas cantata. I heard many people comment how beautiful the music was and how much they enjoyed seeing Cale Thornburg nearly fall backwards into Jackie Reep's lap! The flapping arms was him wind-milling...not exuberant choir directing. Some extra blessings!

What can I say to express how touching the children's Christmas play was? The kids did an absolutely fantastic job. I was proud of their and their leaders hard work in putting it all together. I was so blessed by their singing, their speaking parts, and their solos. God has graced us with a wonderful and talented group of kids who love Jesus and show us all how to love and be in the world. Abundant blessings!

Our Christmas Eve service filled me with the peace of Christ in a very special way. As we all came together and filled the church (to capacity), sang together, heard the Christmas story read, and received the Gospel message as presented by the Pisgah youth...I felt the presence of God with us. Those tears on our cheeks were tears of joy, brought by God working through the ministry of our youth and their leaders. So many blessings!

What I want to say is thank you! Thank you for the gifts of laughter, fun, love, hugs, music, grace, friendship, and oh yes, the "Edwina Piggy" gift. I give thanks to God for you, and for Jesus who is with us all. No more darkness for us; our way is forever lit by the presence of Jesus, the one born to save us. Hallelujah! Light has come!

To all the saints of Pisgah UMC, I pray for God's blessings on you in 2011 and always.