Thursday, December 24, 2009
What a wonderful celebration of Jesus’ birth we had this past weekend at New Day Church! About 20 kids ages 4 – 15 poured their hearts and spirits into sharing a message of love and hope Saturday evening and Sunday morning (Dec. 19-20) to all who came. The story revolved around 2 little guys who were trying their best to come up with the BEST present for Jesus’ birthday, only to be disappointed at every turn. In the end, they discover that what Jesus really wants is their/our hearts, and the best gift we can all give is ourselves! Through all the glitches of missed lines, forgotten solos, late music cues, etc., etc., etc…. the charm of the smiles, energy and simple faith of the kids was spirit-lifting to everyone. The congregation left with bows pinned to lapels and a reminder that WE (our hearts, our hands, our feet, our voices) are the most important gift we can give to the world in Jesus’ name.
The attendance total for the weekend was 190 (which was GREAT! Our largest weekend thus far), but even more impactful, were the interactions we had following the program each day. The kids touched our hearts, but what brought tears to my eyes were the multiple parents/grandparents/aunts, etc. of various kids who sought us out afterward, to thank us for New Day’s ministry and to share how they thought they would never see their families participating in church. Some had been praying for years for this very moment!
And isn’t THAT EXACTLY what we were called to Big Lake to do?! In our Bishop’s words: go, find the “NONES” (not the NUNS) - the ones who claim no church affiliation on census forms. Find them, love them, create a space that allows them to claim Christ, to change that “none” into joy and hope that comes from faith and community. Many times I am overwhelmed by the enormity of this task, by financial concerns, by low attendance at worship, classes, events. Although we have had a sense that New Day is impacting lives, this experience is a shining star of encouragement lighting the dark night of doubt.
With the encouragement, however, comes an unexpected weight of responsibility! New Day is becoming important to people besides just Jim and I! Oh Dear, and Praise the Lord!! (If I sound confused, that’s exactly how I feel!) I still don’t know how we will continue to finance this ministry, and this still seems like an impossible task! But somehow, God is using New Day to reach at least a few of the people we intended to reach. Lives, hearts, families are being touched, changed, renewed. They are finding God’s home at New Day.
Please pray for all these wonderful families and all the families who are still searching. Please pray for all the mundane, logistical details to fall into place, so God’s amazing work can continue in Big Lake at New Day United Methodist Church.
May the New Year bring New Days filled with God’s hope, joy, peace and love to us all!
Let me try to describe one of the recent events that is an example of our work at New Day this year. Imagine you are attending the Grand Opening Celebration (Nov. 14) for the new Northstar Commuter Rail that now transports commuters from Big Lake (& 4 stops in between) to downtown Minneapolis. You are one of about 2,000 people who are walking through the huge tent which has been erected for this event. You find a cup of hot cocoa and a snack and then you walk by a booth with a Christmas tree decorated with yellow stars and a big screen TV showing slides. You are greeted with a warm smile and the words, "Don't let the holidays stress you out!" as you receive a flyer and a stress ball in the shape of a yellow star. The back of the flyer has info about New Day United Methodist Church, including the worship messages for December:
"Unplug the Christmas Machine"
"Stuffing Candy in Your Socks
(and other inane traditions)"
"Grown Up Christmas Wishes"
"Shhh... Did You Hear That?"
What we hope is that you'll take your star home, get on the internet, check out the New Day website and decide to come try out the new church!! What you may not realize in that moment of contact, are the hours of planning, preparation and prayer that had been spent in order for that one small interaction to occur. Things such as, listening for God to inspire the theme, the message titles, the graphics, etc. for the worship series; ordering stars and designing the flyer; traveling an hour to get excellent copying at an afforable price; website updating; taking pictures of events and creating the slide show; finding volunteers and staff to haul the tree, TV, etc. to the tent, set up the booth, hand out the flyers/stars, etc.; designing message, music and interactive ideas to create meaningful worship; finding money (mostly outside of the new faith community) to finance it all.... well, you get the idea!
So, why do we do all this work, when we're not even sure you will come?
Because people who do come are being blessed! And you might be like one of these: The 5th grader who answered the question, "Something that makes me feel safe..." with "this church." The numerous men who, after years of non-attendance, are finding meaning and direction from worship. The mom of preschoolers who commented that coming to the women's gathering is "better than therapy!" The parents who, for the first time since their 18 month old daughter was born, are able to worship because she happily plays in the childcare room.
People need God's hope, peace, love and joy. And we need each other to find them! That's all the reason we need.
We pray that your holidays are unstressed and full of the Prince of Peace who brings hope and joy in abundance at all times!
Wishing you blessings for each New Day...