Our Bodies on the Line

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I want the donut, but do I reach for vegetables instead? It depends on my mood, stress level, self-image at the moment, all kinds of things. And to my anything-goes appetite, it feels like this question is way too personal. But why not? Paul tells us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and that we are to glorify God in our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). All the same, I say, it’s none of your business.

But I’ve grown accustomed to this life and rather like it! After Western treatments destroHuman body heart EKG lineyed cancer cell invaders, I looked for natural health alternatives to help me live a healthier lifestyle. Especially related to food. So all of a sudden I’m not quite so touchy about the “What do you eat?” question. And I’m specifically grateful for the Health Alternatives support group that a cancer-survivor church member leads each month, as well as for herbalists and organic-food-eating friends. There’s a whole world of knowledge out there for healthy eating, but now I’m voluntarily taking some baby steps to change my previous behaviors. Baby steps, but they count.

This is God’s creation, and we are guests in it. Even with our body-selves, we are stewards, not owners. Most days this sounds like an exciting new adventure! For the other times, I try to rely on good habits and prayer, not in that order.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

 

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CLayM Ministry Expands

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Joy, joy! I felt like a proud mom for the Conference Lay Minister (CLayM) program at California-Nevada’s Annual Conference Session this past week.

CLayM logoCLayM is an exciting ministry that trains and deploys experienced, skilled church leaders as volunteer pastors to serve congregations needing a few years without the financial requirements of a seminary-trained, ordained pastor. It gives the CLayM-matched churches some financial breathing room, but also a spirited pastoral presence who comes from the laity, on fire to pursue the purpose of the Church in that specific time and place. Often the congregations are in rural or open-country communities, but sometimes they’re in the midst of the city, as well.

I was the first Coordinator for CLayM and for its predecessor, ELM, for six years. It was thrilling to be on the ground floor of that program, which still is unique in our denomination. In those early years, Conference leaders imagined that the program would serve a few churches, maybe “twelve at most.” – But just this week, our District Superintendents assigned CLayM pastors to forty congregations, and the Laity Session recognized and blessed twelve graduates from the first-ever Spanish-language CLayM class! The Bishop also announced that plans are in the works for a Cambodian-language CLayM course, as well.

Lay-led ministries are growing throughout United Methodism in the U.S. and elsewhere, as we learn that a variety of ministry models can be fruitful and fulfilling in the Emergent Church movement. Jesus, John Wesley, and others across the generations keep calling us out of the church building, out of the old paradigms, to minister among the people in powerful, passionate ways. Thank You, God!

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

The Ripple Effect

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I heard years ago of a national study that showed on average, people share a piece of bad news eleven times, but they share good news only four times. In other words, people tell others almost four times more about a faulty product, poor service or failed expectations than they do about receiving a kindness, having a good day, or getting a gift out of the blue. I’ve made it a personal goal to reverse those percentages.

There is an amazing ripple effect to whatever we say, write or do. For example, a writer friend of mine interviewed some public-school students about an engaging unit their teacher had with tRippling water circleshem studying insects. So she wrote an article about it. By wonderful coincidence, the teacher saw her article. My friend found out later the teacher had been considering retiring – but when she saw how her students appreciated her creative teaching, she took heart and decided to continue teaching.

In the last few years I’ve heard about the field of Positive Psychology. It is the scientific study of how being grateful, thanking others, and saying a good word benefits the one who says thanks and passes on good news, as well as the recipient of it. We’ve heard this message through religious channels for a long time, but now researchers are proving it, based upon sociological data and physical effects on the brain. As Christians, we know what’s most important is not fundamentally about the giver’s benefits from giving – it’s the positive ripple effect that can transform the lives of both givers and receivers, and ultimately transform the world.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

Giving Simply

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“I never carry my checkbook to church. Ninety percent of the time I make financial giving decisions, it’s in front of the computer monitor. How can I even participate in supporting the church financially when you dMoneyon’t have online giving or even automatic transfer?” The young woman looked around at the room filled with stewardship leaders, most of whom could have been her parents. In the substance of her comment and the age of her audience, she could have been speaking to the Finance Committee of most North American churches, as well.

When we don’t make it easy to give electronically, we make it hard for many people – especially young adults – to participate and support the work of the Body of Christ. Those who are used to credit cards and checkbooks may think it’s complicating things to set up an Electronic Fund Transfer, online giving, or a local church giving App. But by not providing it, would-be givers are forced to go through a multistep process just to be able to respond.

In a recent discussion about simple living, I asked how people can “keep it simple” with so many electronic devices. One young woman said that in a way, it is simpler: instead of having a TV for entertainment, a phone for calling people, and a computer for work files, lots of folks have just one thing: a tablet or a phone. It goes to show, it’s all in your perspective.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub