District News

The Lord is My Light and My Salvation, Psalm 27:1

There are some Books in the Bible I look forward to reading.  I have often read the Bible in a year in a variety of ways; from Genesis to Revelation, in alphabetical order, and in chronological order.  I have started with the Gospels and spent the first ½ of the year in the New Testament, then moving to the Old Testament.  I have read these Books in the order they are presented in my Hebrew Bible as well as the order in our Christian Bible. 

One of my favorite Books is the Psalms.  150 ways that we can speak with our Lord in prayer, praise, song, and lament.  Some are written for David, others by him.  From the shortest (117) to the longest (119), the authors express how they are feeling when they composed these verses.

Although the 23rd Psalm is probably the most well-known and often recited one, my favorite is the 32nd Psalm.  Through the Psalms, we are invited to be still and know that the Lord is with us. Psalm 136 celebrates that God’s steadfast love endures forever through God’s work in creation, in history, and today. The words of Psalm 139:13-14 tell us how precious each of us is to our Creator (“For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. (NRSV)).

I speak with our Lord daily and strive to pray without ceasing.  Sometimes the prayers I lift up come directly from my heart and soul.  Other times I reach for the Bible and read one of the Psalms because the author has found the words to say, that in the moment, I cannot.

As we prepare for Holy Week, I can’t help but imagine how, as Jesus entered Jerusalem, people greeted him with the words of Psalm 118:26: “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” And as we move toward Good Friday, and we recount the 7 Last Words of our Lord and Savior, know that one of them comes from the 1st verse of the 22nd Psalm: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

In this one Book, there are 150 ways that we can express where we are on our journey with our Lord.  Our anger, our sense of loss, our grief, fear and frustration are all spoken about in these verses.  There are moments of absolute joy and praise, as well as wonder at how our Lord’s steadfast love endures forever.  Each day, in our prayers, in our conversations, and in our reflections, may we continue to celebrate who we are and whose we are.  I close with the words of the 150th Psalm as we prepare for Holy Week.  And Amen.

Psalm 150

Praise the Lord.[a]

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

We Believe

As we continue our journey through this season of Lent, I have been reflecting on the miracles of Jesus as recounted in each of the 4 Gospels.  Sometimes, a miracle is reported in more than one Gospel, like the healing of the Centurion’s servant, or the friends of the man who is paralyzed lowering him through the roof. Other miracles are only found in one Gospel, like the raising of Lazarus, or the healing of a man who is deaf and unable to speak.

I have read and preached on many of these miracles more than once.  And yet, each time I study these passages I discover something new. Two versions of the healing of the Centurion’s servant offer us glimpses of a person who has gained respect from people in the community (Matthew 8, Luke 7).  We only know of this Roman by his title. He didn’t need Jesus to come to his home in order for his servant to be healed. Although he is a foreigner and outsider, he expresses belief in Jesus’ authority. In that moment, Jesus praises the Centurion’s faith, grants his request, and heals his servant.    

Not unlike the dedication of the friends of the man who is paralyzed, the passages about the Centurion remind us how we can bear witness to our faith.  Each Sunday, clergy persons have the opportunity to share our faith stories, reflecting on the subtle and monumental ways our Lord has shaped and is shaping our lives.  As servant leaders of our faith communities, we are only a part of God’s story.  

What is your story of faith? Which passages in the Old or New Testament resonate with you? In what ways has God touched, or is our Lord touching your life, calling you to a deeper understanding of the relationship we have with our Creator? How is God transforming us as we learn what it means to be loved unconditionally?

How do we declare that for our Lord nothing is impossible, that God is making all things new? How is our Lord speaking to your heart and your soul, calling you to be His hands and feet today and in the days to come? 

One of my favorite gospel hymns is called “We’ve Come This Far by Faith”.  I believe I have shared it before.  The song reminds me that God is with us at all times and in all ways.  Our Lord is preparing us to continue to spread the Good News of Jesus throughout the world, to tell how our faith makes a difference in our lives and the lives of those we meet. May we be blessed as we celebrate who we are and whose we are.  And Amen.



March is Women’s History Month.  Each day I have read a few paragraphs about women who have made a difference in our lives and are part of our heritage.  I can’t possibly list all of the women who I admire.  One of my mentors gifted me a book called I Dream A World which shares portraits and brief biographies of African American women who changed America.  From Johnetta Cole to Leontyne Price, Maya Angelou and Maxine Waters, and so many more, these women inspire me.

There is another book, our Bible, which is full of women who for a moment or a lifetime were and are a part of our faith journey.  Many women, some we know by name, others who are only known by the events which shaped their lives, make up our Christian story.    

I want to share a few of the women who have impacted who I am and how I answer God’s call upon my life.  I love Ruth’s story, the whole Book of Ruth, but especially the first chapter.  In it we learn how a woman, a foreigner, and a widow dedicated herself to her mother-in-law’s life and family, (Ruth 1: 16-17) ensuring that Naomi was able to return to her homeland and be restored in body and spirit. Ruth, a Moabitess, is one of a few women named in Jesus’ genealogy. 

When Hannah, the mother of Samuel dedicated him to the Temple and God’s service, she lifted up a prayer of praise and thanksgiving.  Our gratitude for all that the Lord does in and for our lives resonates in these verses from 1 Samuel, Chapter 2.  Like Miriam’s song and the Magnificat, Hannah’s words affirm our Lord’s miraculous and wondrous work.

The Samaritan Woman passage holds new meaning for me each time I read it. In so many ways she was an outsider and an outcast.  Through her conversation with Jesus, she discovered and affirmed her worth and value.  Jesus shared with her that He was the Messiah.  She received living water, without even realizing her thirst.  Her life was transformed by the time they spent together.  Although we never learn her name, we know how her willingness to see and hear with her heart and soul, forever changed her life.

I am also drawn to the passage about Jairus’ daughter and the hemorrhaging woman.  In the Gospels, these two healing miracles are juxtaposed.  We know very little about what happened in their lives for 12 years.  They meet Jesus on the same day.  In Luke Chapter 8, we are offered some history about what the woman endured for 12 years.  Like Jairus, she took a chance to meet Jesus and reach out to him for help.  An unknown, unclean woman found the courage to defy the laws of the day to seek true healing and restoration.  The same can be said of Jairus.  He was a synagogue leader who knew about Jesus’ reputation.  Jairus believed that Jesus would and could heal his daughter.  He probably risked his livelihood and his status in the community to meet Jesus and bring him to his house.

Each of these passages and many more, add to the tapestry of our faith.  Which women speak to your hearts and souls? Which mothers, sisters, and daughters inspire you to share how God’s love continues to transform our lives? May we be blessed by the Miriams, Deborahs, Elizabeths, Marys, and the unnamed women who are part of our journeys of faith.  And Amen.

I Love to Tell the Story

Sometimes there is wisdom in lessons we’ve been taught from our past. Growing up, although it was created for a younger audience, I would watch episodes of Sesame Street.  In those first few years, there were characters and teaching modules that appeared for a few weeks or months. 

One of my favorites was Roosevelt Franklin, who introduced the beginning middle, and ending of words.  Around the same time, there was a skit that did the same for stories.  I have included a link to the video for the stories in case you are interested in seeing it.

Our lives are shaped by our beginning, middle, and end. We are born, we live and grow and then our Lord calls us home when our work in His name has been accomplished. During a celebration of life, I remember the pastor shared that our Lord sets the beginning and end of our life stories, and we are shaped by the dash which reflects the time in between.

Our Bible is the story of our spiritual lives.  It begins with the book of Genesis and ends with the Revelation of our Lord and Savior.  The story of our relationship with our Lord unfolds in the Scripture between these two books. 

Our journey of faith is complicated, full of peaks and valleys, filled with wondrous and marvelous surprises, and affirmations of whose we are.  We may see ourselves in the people in the Bible, whether we know them by name or not.  Sibling rivalry impacts the first families of the Bible as brothers and sisters contest with one another.  Like us, judges, prophets, and monarchs were sometimes overwhelmed by God’s call.

Being a conquered people changed how our ancient ancestors related to our Lord and to one another.  The Diaspora created new ways for the descendants of Abraham to share their story and their heritage.  The covenants that God shared and shares with us arise from His steadfast love for our lives and our salvation. 

The New Testament continues the story of God’s presence in our lives and our Lord’s dedication to our welfare.  We have not reached the end of our story yet.  Our life journeys, our commitment to fulfilling God’s purpose and mission, and how we live out God’s love for us as we seek to embrace and embody the Great Commandment continues. 

During this season of Lent, we will relive how God chose to become one of us, so that we can know the depth and breadth of His love for us. Which of God’s stories are you sharing? How is your life being shaped and reshaped during this time? May we continue to celebrate how God moves in our lives, as we seek to be His instruments in and for the world.  And Amen.


Stairs to Heaven

This past Saturday I attended the life celebration of a friend from the Flint area.  He was a super dad, a great friend, and the epitome of what it means to live a life full of love and giving.  I rarely saw him angry.  He was one of those people who you could rely on.  It didn’t matter if he was busy, if you called him, he stopped what he was doing to help.  If your car ran out of gas, he was the one who went to get more, so you wouldn’t be stranded.  If there was a construction project that got more complicated than it needed to (and which one doesn’t), he’d offer a hand or a word of advice to untangle the snags and snafus.

And my friend could talk.  His wisdom came from life.  If you had a minute, he would take an hour to tell you how fantastic his children were, the hopes he had for them as they grew and started families of their own, the boys and young men he adopted through scouting, his perception about life in Flint, and life in general.  Our Lord brought him home when he was only 55.  We are saddened and grieving because we will miss him.  And yet we know that he is a shining angel in heaven.

At the funeral, there was a picture drawn by his granddaughter Sylvia that captures our journey to our eternal home.  Its title: Stairs to Heaven.  The person at the bottom of the stairs is her grandfather and our Lord is waiting for him at the top.  Even though he was drawn at the bottom of the staircase, everyone who attended his life celebration knew that he had made it all the way up the stairs and into the everlasting arms of our Lord. 

That is what our life journeys are about.  We are climbing up, striving to be closer to our Creator.  Some staircases are steeper than others.  Each is determined by the years we live and how we invest those years in God’s call upon our lives.  This picture, drawn by a little girl, encourages us to always look up, to be aware of our destination, and to rise above all that we are experiencing.

We don’t often talk about dying or death.  In the midst of our sadness and loss, we may not always be able to see the joy and serenity that arriving at the top of this particular staircase achieves.  Our Lord is waiting for each of us to climb the stairs which have been created for our lives.  And when each of us reaches the top, we will be welcomed to our eternal home, where there will be no more death, no more crying or pain (Revelation 21). May we continue to receive God’s blessings as we journey onward and upward.  And Amen.

The Journey Begins

Today begins the 2023 Lenten Season which will take us through a time of reflection and meditation on what our Lord did for our salvation. Ash Wednesday 2023 will be a little different because the weather has made its own pronouncement. Many faith communities in this area have either postponed or canceled worship services for this evening, while others are making the service available online.

I hope that, whether you planned to attend a service or not, you spend time today in prayer and preparation for the journey of these 40 days to celebrate Jesus’ dedication to our welfare and our redemption. 

There are far too many ways to share the ways Jesus touched and transformed lives.  Even if we took one day for each parable and each miracle, as well as the transformative conversations he had with the disciples, and leaders of Israel, it would take more than the time allotted for the season of Lent.

And yet, that is what we are invited to do.  We are asked to consider how a conversation with a Samaritan woman at a well, or the inclusion of a tax collector and fishermen as disciples forever changed how we think about and relate to one another. 

Sometimes I wish there was a return to someone’s life to learn what happened after they met Jesus.  What happened with Jairus’ daughter or even the hemorrhaging woman? Did either woman become part of a larger community of disciples spreading the good news of Jesus’ time with us?

Did the Centurion, whose slave was healed, become a follower of Jesus? Did he request another tour of duty in Israel because of what Jesus did, or did he go somewhere else, sharing the story of healing and restoration for his slave and possibly himself?

And the man who was paralyzed. What was it like the first time he broke bread with the friends who carried him to where Jesus was speaking, lowered him through the roof, and then walked with him back to their home? What did the family members of the 10 lepers do when their loved ones returned home, free of the disease that had separated them?

Are there other passages that you wish would have one or two more verses? In your time of reflection and meditation during Lent, I invite you to consider what a transformed life might be like, for these persons in the Bible. May we also continue to relive and celebrate how Jesus has changed and continues to change who we are every day.  And Amen.

Praying for Michigan State University

I had planned a very different topic for this week’s Corner.  I am guessing that like many of you, I watched the news unfold on Monday night as we learned there was an active shooter on the campus of Michigan State University.  Over the next four hours I waited for regular updates from the police as students were requested to shelter in place and the search for the shooter began.

I began praying as I learned that eight students had been shot, and three had lost their lives. I watched as police officers and FBI agents walked through campus searching for the shooter. I can only imagine what the students, faculty and staff were experiencing during that time. Shortly after midnight, the lead officers shared that they had located the shooter and he had taken his own life.

As I watched the news coverage on Tuesday, I learned that there have been 67 mass shooting incidents in our nation so far this year.  And I am not sure if that number included the one which occurred in Pennsylvania on the 14th.

My heart goes out to the families of the three students who died as well as the shooter’s family.  I recall watching an interview with survivors of the Sandy Hook shooting, who are now in their junior and senior years in high school.  Each one spoke about the student they were before that day and the people they are now. That tragic day changed their lives in ways we may never know.

The same will be true for Michigan State students, faculty staff, along with the people of Lansing, and the first responders who were present to protect and serve.  I ask that today, tomorrow and in the days to come, we pray for the university community, the city of Lansing, the faith communities which have opened their doors for support and comfort, and the counselors who have made themselves available for those who need to talk and grieve. 

I hope that you will reach out to our sisters and brothers in the Lansing area, asking how we can help them journey through this time.  Know that our Lord is with us in all times and in all ways.  And Amen.

Farewell Celebration for DS Margie Crawford

A Farewell Celebration for The One And Only Midwest District Superintendent, Rev. Dr. Margie Crawford is planned for Sunday, April 30 at GR Trinity UMC — 2pm worship with reception to follow.

Grand Rapids Trinity UMC
1100 Lake Drive SE
Grand Rapids, MI  49506

Questions? Please contact the Midwest District Office at 616.459.4503 or email Liz – [email protected]


Cabin Fever

Last Thursday, Punxsutawney Phil made his annual appearance to tell us how long this winter will last.  For those who enjoy these snow-filled days, you will be happy to know that there will be six more weeks of winter.  In many southern states, which are experiencing unusually cold temperatures, ice storms, and even blizzards, this winter can’t end soon enough. 

When I was a child, February was not a good month.  I was often sick with a combination of tonsilitis and bronchitis.  Missing two to three weeks of school was permitted back then.  My teachers did not send my class assignments home with my sister, so I didn’t have much to do all day.  My mom, who worked nights, would stay up with me in the morning to take my temperature and give me the medications the doctor prescribed.

Being sick, I really wasn’t that interested in doing much, until I started to feel better.  I wanted to get back to school, to see my classmates and get through the mountain of homework which was waiting for me.  The only time I left home was to go to the doctor. 

By March, as the weather changed and the medication worked, I felt better.  I rushed back to complete everything my illness prevented. I tired easily because I tried to do too much too quickly.  I had to discover how to pace myself, balancing all the back homework I had to complete with current assignments.  I learned that getting back to school was a gradual process. 

It’s February once again and I’m experiencing a different kind of cabin fever.  I am eager to get out and learn about ways we are in mission and ministry throughout the District. This time the illness is not mine.  I believe that we have all been driven by COVID and the impact of the pandemic for longer than I imagined.  Even so, I am sensing renewed energy and purpose for many of our faith communities.

Over the past three years, we have all had to consider how we can be effective, vibrant, and vital.  Missions that filled our spaces before COVID have not recovered as we anticipated.  We are in that balancing space of catching up and moving forward at the same time.  As we seek ways to be in connection with our congregations and our neighborhoods, may we also reflect on the verses of Matthew 25: 31-46, and how this passage invites us to a life of serving.

How does this passage inspire us to journey with our sisters and brothers? What current or new missions and ministries can we start or restart to help others know they are worthy, and they are loved.  In what ways is God still calling you to be His instruments in our world and for all of His children?  Our work is valuable.  Our work is needed.  Our work is transformative, for those who receive it as well as we who offer it.  May we invest in the time of preparation, rejuvenation, and inspiration as we enter God’s mission field once again.  And Amen.

Putting the Pieces Together

Every once in a while, a Puzzler’s Corner is truly about puzzles.  Late last year, I learned that COSTCO is selling the largest manufactured puzzle.  It is 60,000 pieces and comes in 60 bags of 1,000 pieces.  The puzzle image is a map of the world.

I have discussed this puzzle with friends, some who also do very large puzzles and some who think working a jigsaw puzzle is more torture than hobby. It is not on my list of puzzles to purchase, mostly because I am not fond of the image. 

I have several puzzles in excess of 30,000 pieces, and though I really don’t look for others, once in a while an image will catch my eye.  This is true of the puzzle called Travel Around Art.  It is a 54,000-piece puzzle manufactured by Grafika, a German puzzle company.  I have been monitoring whether this puzzle is available in the U. S. for about 18 months. It is not. Just before Christmas, I ordered the puzzle. Over the past several weeks I tracked its journey from Germany to my home.

The puzzle arrived last Friday.  The box was heavier than I anticipated and it took a lot of maneuvering to get it into the house.  When I opened the box, I was surprised to see a suitcase and not a box with the image of the puzzle on the outside.  After I slid the suitcase out of the box, I opened it to reveal 27 numbered bags of puzzle pieces, a poster and 27 pictures, one for each bag.

Later, I found the story on the internet about why this puzzle was shipped in a suitcase.  The puzzle first came out in 2020, and as part of the promotion, it was packaged in a suitcase to encourage people to travel around the world to view the actual paintings in the puzzle.  Unfortunately, with COVID appearing at about the same time, the unique sales pitch for this puzzle was lost.

I am not sure if I would travel the world to visit museums and view each of these paintings. Over the next few years, I would like to continue visiting holy places throughout the world.  I have made the pilgrimage to Israel twice and may go a third time.  I’d also like to visit the places where Paul spread the Good News of our Lord and Savior and see the land of Egypt which was home to Abraham’s descendants for 400 years.  When I was much younger, my family went to the shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre, which is north of Quebec City. If the weather agrees, I’d like to travel back to Quebec and make the journey up the mountain where this shrine is. I want to go to Lourdes and learn more about St. Bernadette and spend some time in England to experience the homeland of John and Charles Wesley.

And now, I have a new suitcase for my journeys!  As we continue to discover what it means to be God’s instruments in and for the world, I hope that we can travel to places to share with others what it means to be blessed by God.  Whether you travel as far as the Holy Land, or as close as your local grocery store, I invite and encourage you to share how God continues to touch and shape our lives each and every day. 

Below is the poster for the puzzle, along with pictures of the suitcase it arrived in. And Amen

Midwest District