60 days until Christmas… Eve Offering

It’s hard to believe.  One of our staff members starts in July giving us reminders of how many days until Christmas.  Two weeks ago within a 24 hour period I saw my first Christmas TV ad, heard my first Christmas Radio spot and received my first Christmas Card (that was awesome as one of the children of our Dinner for 6 couples made cards how-many-more-days-till-christmas-7czysr5hfor our whole group- made my day!)  But this blog is not THAT article lamenting the materialistic tendency of Christmas and loss of the sense of Advent preparations.

Instead, I just want to remind the folks in our Centenary community of our Advent Offering this year and explain how it will work.  We are making a paradigm shift from budgeting all of our Missions funding through our operational budget and instead, supplementing our missions outreach by emphasizing our Advent Offering.  We have the opportunity to give generously during the season of Advent in order to impact our Winston-Salem community and those most in need.  Here’s how that works:

  • Both offerings taken at the Lessons and Carols (December 10) as well as all 4 of our Christmas Eve Services will 100% be designated for local Missions.  (Should you place a check in the plate and designate operations, of course it will go towards our budget.)
  • While we will support some global mission causes through budgeted funds, 100% of our Advent Offering will be spent locally helping our neighbors close to home.
  • We trust our Missions Committee to make good choices about how to disperse those funds.  They will choose a multiple of agencies, causes and missional opportunities to support.  So our gifts will meet a multitude of needs!
  • We know that Christmas is a time when we celebrate the good fortune and opportunity most in our church family enjoy.  So this is a chance to balance our personal celebration with family and friends along side support of those in need and the agencies that are faithfully meeting those needs.  Christmas Eve in particular is a time for charitable giving remembering those who are struggling.

I want to challenge you to have a conversation with your family now about how you might celebrate Christmas this year.  Some families look at their Christmas Budget and decide that they will spend half on themselves and half they will give away.  Others make the promise that whatever they do spend on themselves they will give an equal amount to charity.  Others decide that instead of gifts, they will support good causes.  Whatever sounds meaningful to you is wonderful, just make a plan now.

One reason I believe that our Advent Offering is even better than some other options you might be considering to support is that our giving will support a multitude of causes in positive and healthy ways. If you have not read the book When Helping Hurts by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett, it is an excellent explanation of how to go about helping others in healthy ways.   They say that helping the poor happens in one of three ways:  Relief, Rehabilitation, and Development.

Relief is crisis assistance  when people are unexpectedly unable to help themselves.  It should be seldom, immediate and temporary.  Good Samaritans give assistance in order to bridge that gap until they are able to get beyond crisis existence.  Examples of this would be Hurricane Relief or someone has an accident or surgery and is unable to work and lives paycheck to paycheck.  They need help until they have healed and return to work.  Rehabilitation is when the bleeding has stopped and assistance is needed to restore the people to the pre-crisis condition, helping partner with people until they can get back on their feet.  This is essentially poverty alleviation.  Development is the ongoing work of moving all people into a right relationship with God, self, others and Creation.  It’s helping people move to a place where they are able to work and support themselves but this work is done with people, not for or to people (City With Dwellings is a good example of this).  Our Missions Committee has the ability to support all three kinds of financial assistance versus just one good cause.

So as we consider our wish lists, shopping lists, cooking lists and travel plans for the upcoming holidays, I hope we will also pause to have a conversation about what our Helping Plan will be for 2017.  And I hope that your family will consider giving generously to our Advent Offerings so that we can overwhelm our Mission Committee with so much support that the Extravagant Generosity of Centenary United Methodist Church will be experienced by neighbors and people downtown and throughout the Winston-Salem region.  We have 60 days until Christmas!  Let’s make a plan.

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth


Stop Selling Sugar Water

Last night I watched the movie Hidden Figures again and was just as moved by the story the second time around.  The movie tells the untold story of three African-American women and the role they played working at NASA helping to get a man on the moon.  Katherine Johnson, the mathematician; Mary Jackson, the engineer; and Dorothy Vaughn, the first computer operator. I was inspired by their stories of courage, charting new territory and trying something for the first time.  Of living a life of deep meaning even if they had to struggle in order to do it.  And that is what I have been reflecting on, the courage to live a life of meaning and how easy it is to just coast through life.

I did laugh at the reminder that computers used to be the size of a large office room and the change it brought into our lives is immeasurable.  The capacity of the computer was not fully grasped at its origin by most of the world surrounding it.  But a few figured that out, including Dorothy Vaughn. That in turn, reminded me of another story I came across researching a sermon a few weeks ago.  Maybe one you are also familiar with but I had missed or forgotten this along the way.

Steven Jobs and Steve Wozniak, the founders of Apple Computers at age 21 managed to invent the Apple computer, fitting it into a box small enough to sit on your desk. Realizing they had made a major breakthrough (in the garage of their parents’ home) they offered their invention to Atari.  They weren’t interesting in the big dollar signs, they just wanted a salary that would allow them to continue their work.  Atari said no.  They offered it to Hewlett-Packard who also said no. (Kicking themselves later!!!)

It seemed only Jobs and Wozniak wearable to see the value in what they had created.  So Jobs sold his Volkswagen and Wozniak sold his calculator and pooled together their $1300 in order to form Apple Computers.  (Named Apple after fond memories of a former summer job Steven Jobs had spent working in an orchard.)  Off they went , Jobs as the visionary and Wozniak as the engineer.

It didn’t take long to realize that the vision was bigger than what the two of them were capable of doing.  They needed greater management expertise.  So Jobs approached John Sculley, President of PepsiCo.  When you think about it, there is no logical reason why Sculley should leave a highly paid, secure job at one of the top companies in the world to1862625614_da7753a674_m join a bunch of computer nerds in California in an untested industry.  He said no.  But Jobs was relentless and approached Sculley again and again.  Finally, Jobs gave it one more try using his best visionary passion painting a picture of what could be.  He asked Sculley:

“Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”  – Steven Jobs

Indeed, Sculley and Jobs went on to change the world.  I imagine it was a similar scope question that Jesus used to approach the disciples.  “Do you want to fish for fish the rest of your boring life or do you want to learn how to fish for people and make a life changing difference in their lives and yours?”


Jesus offers us the same transformational opportunity today.  Most of us spend our lives making sugared water,  going to work to accumulate more possessions and perhaps finding space for God and the world in our spare time. But Jesus had a vision to change the world. His was the vision of the Kingdom of God and he calls us to place it at the center of our lives, to make it our reason for existence.  If we have the courage and the will.

33 Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – Matthew 6:33 CEB

Are you living a life of deep meaning or are you just – living? Do you want to make sugared water the rest of your life or do you want a chance to change the world?

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth



I’ve been thinking about salt today.  Random?  Maybe.  Theological?  absolutely.  Relevant? I think so.  First of all, I have bypassed the candy bowl in my office all week-long and the thought keeps recurring how these days I prefer salty snacks above sweet ones.  It’s like my sweet tooth is disappearing.  Things that used to make my mouth drool, not so much anymore.  Give me salty snacks and savory food choices and I’m all in!

thThen I started thinking about all of the uses for salt.  We salt fresh meats in order to preserve them.  Bacon is good!  (Sorry Vegetarian friends, I just couldn’t give it up)  I even came to love beef jerky these past several months.  But ultimately it preserves food so that they have a longer shelf life.  Salt preserves.

Salt helps wounds to heal faster.  It may sting like crazy but as the salt cleanses and help dry up wounds it promotes your body’s natural healing. Salt heals.

Salt makes food taste better by enhancing flavor.  While it’s all in the palate of the taster we know that if food tastes bland to us we an add salt and it brings out the natural flavors that already exist and bring balance to super sweet food (that’s why some of us love salted caramel!)  Salt flavors.

So if you have mosquito bites or irritated skin, salt can relieve your itches.  Same concept as the healing, it dries out itchy wounds and cleanses and calms the skin so that the itchy places can heal. Salt relieves.

The granular salt also comes in handy when it comes to cleaning.  It can help clean your teeth with baking soda or it can be used to scrub disgusting sinks or places around you household.  It exfoliates your skin leaving you feeling smoother and fresher.   Did you know that if you spill something on your carpet or your shirt that if you soak it or apply cold salt water it will help remove the stains?  (I definitely needed this handy trick as spastic as I can be!) Salt cleanses.

If you have managed to set something on your stove on fire, salt can snuff out a grease fire.  It suffocates the fire saving your kitchen from a complete disaster.  Salt extinguishes.

Salt also helps melt ice and snow.  Greg and I learned the value of putting down a little salt on our sidewalk and driveway when we lived in the mountains.  By lowering the freezing temperature of water it helps snow and ice disappear faster with a little help of the sunshine.  Salt deices.

There are more uses but you get the point.  Salt can accomplish so much and has great value.  No wonder Jesus said to us “You are the salt of the earth!” (Matthew 5:13) We have so much to offer the world around us.  We are called, even commanded to be salt to our weary world.  We as Christians have an opporutnity to enahnce the world, if we so choose.

I am pleased to be a part of a program called SALT – Spiritual Academy for Leading Transformation.  Our District is working to help lift up lay persons in our churches to hear how God is calling them to be salt in their communities.  What ways might God be calling them to help serve or further God’s Kingdom?  Because ministry does not have to wait for a pastor to be initiated or created!


It brings life, it preserves life, it enhances life, it comforts irritated life, it cleans up messes, it puts out messes, and it melts the frozen places in our lives.  I’m pretty sure Jesus meant for us to be a part of all of those things.  Because the world needs all of those things.  So your turn.  Go and be salt.  Not salty- to be clear.  Salt.

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth



I have been at a loss for words regarding the mass shooting that took place in Las Vegas.  The loss of life and infliction of injury by one person reveals a level of disconnect with humanity I cannot wrap my head around.  Over 50 dead and over 500 wounded?  Over 500?  The impact of this event is staggering.  My initial reaction was that I didn’t even know what to pray for.  Words wouldn’t come to my lips, at least not any that made any sense or carried any weight.  Then I remembered:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. – Romans 8:26

At this time we do not know why Stephen Paddock did what he did.  Maybe that will become more clear as authorities learn more about what happened.  It is not lost on me that tonight my church hosts a guest speaker and panel discussion on Shining Light on Mental Illness with a focus on belonging.  Did Stephen feel like he belonged anywhere? I don’t know.

As I watched the news last night trying to pull my thoughts together I bet I heard “our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their friends and families” a million times.  It sounded like everyone was reading from the same script.  And the words, quite frankly, rang hollow.  It’s the same thing we said after Orlando.  It’s the same thing we said after Sandy Hook.  Is that all we will have to offer after the next time a mass shooting takes place?  Enough.  We can do better.

I know I do not have a solution for this problem.  But it is a problem.  I know doing nothing is not an appropriate response for the magnitude of these tragedies.  I hear people say that someone who was going to do this would get hold of guns illegally and couldn’t be stopped.  Maybe.  But I also know that after Australia had a mass shooting in 1996, the country united behind tougher, sensible laws on firearms. As a result, the gun homicide rate was cut almost in half, and the gun suicide rate dropped by half, according to the Journal of Public Health Policy.

I have good friends that are hunters who own and use guns.  While I do not care to own a gun, I completely understand and respect that others feel differently.  Hunters in my family point out that you cannot hunt animals with assault weapons.  You ruin the game and render it inedible.  With the increase in gun violence in our country and the number of deaths caused by homicide and not hunting accidents, I believe we can do better.  Certainly the kinds of guns people Reported-Shooting-At-Mandalay-Bay-In-Las-Vegas.jpeg.CROP.promo-xlarge2can buy and the legal conversion kits are worthy of debate.  Can’t we talk about what is best for our country from both sides of the perspective and not immediately devolve into hot political debate?  Please?

It strikes me as bizarre that we have an elaborate, multi-tiered regulatory and training system to teach people to drive a car and get a drivers license, but pretty much anyone can buy assault style weapons, conversion kits and thousands of rounds of ammunition without serious impediment.

Interestingly, Caleb Keeter, a guitarist with the Josh Abbott Band, tweeted a shift in mindset after living through the events of Sunday.  Read more about his thoughts [here] on the need for gun control after being a life long supporter for the right to bear arms.  Maybe it’s time for all of us to come to the table and talk about ways in which we can put words to our actions.  That surely there is more that we can do other than offer our “thoughts and prayers”.

I may not be able to name the different kinds of guns and explain how they work.  But, I do know that shooting thousands of bullets into a large concert crowd with no other recognizable purpose than to cause harm breaks God’s heart.  And I know that what breaks God’s heart should also break my heart.  And it does.

The post-shooting cycle is starting to take hold as I type today.  Those on the left yell about gun control.   Those on the right engage in fear mongering about the government coming to take guns away.  Those in the middle, like me, feel lost.  Meanwhile, publically traded gun companies see their stock values surge as sales suddenly bump up in reaction to all the gun posturing.  And, we as Christians continue to pray.  We pray for the dead, the wounded, and for answers and peace.   We pray for wisdom and to spread God’s love.

No matter what side of the gun control/gun lobby spectrum you find yourself, isn’t it time that we acknowledge that our system is broken?  Doesn’t this pattern of behavior teach us that something needs to change?  Hasn’t enough bloodshed happened on our own soil unrelated to terrorism or war to warrant some kind of response on how people access particular kind of guns or upgrade kits?  How we provide care for mental illness?  Are our prayers and our thoughts enough?

Or maybe there are other strategies for how we can help our society step away from the propensity towards violence.  I am reminded of the life of Oscar Romero, Archbishop in El Salvador who spoke out against social injustice, violence, and poverty in favor of Christ’s love.  His life story is a difficult one but his message is a powerful witness.

“Let us not tire of preaching love. Though we see that waves of violence succeed in drowning the fire of Christian love, love must win out; it is the only thing that can.” -Oscar Romero

We must not tire of preaching love.  Enough violence.  More love.  Enough.

Grace and Peace,

Lor Beth