God’s Got a Surprise In Store for You

From the devotional archives – June 22, 2017

You wake up and probably immediately start thinking about all the things you have to do, challenges you face and problems with which you’ll have to deal. If you’re honest, it probably leaves you feeling excited, exhausted, anxious and overwhelmed all at the same time. But remember: you won’t have to do it alone because God’s going to walk with you today. And while you can’t figure out in advance what this means, you can be assured that God’s got a surprise in store for you!

United Methodist News Service launches UM News website

Nashville, Tennessee – United Methodist News Service, the official newsgathering agency of The United Methodist Church, has announced the launch of its new stand-alone website, UMNews.org.

UMNews.org allows for a better reader experience filled with engaging multimedia content and beautiful photographs that illustrate the news stories,” said news editor Vicki Brown. “We’ll be hosting UMNS Daily Digest articles and sharing big stories from local churches, annual conferences, and general agencies. With more space for content, we can live into our role as the source for news of the church, not just the news pieces that our team writes.”

United Methodist News Service produces about 400 pieces of original content yearly that are shared through weekly and daily news digests, through annual conference websites and e-newsletters and social media. About 2 million readers a year in 219 countries stay informed through UM News content.

The news service has been recognized consistently for excellence in communications, writing, and photography. The staff have received many awards from the United Methodist Association of Communicators, the Religion Communicators Council and the Associated Church Press.

Curated by a staff of professional journalists, the UM News site presents objective news pieces that focus on the church globally, striving to represent the many voices, views, and contexts of the denomination. About one-third of the news service’s stories came from Africa, the Philippines and Europe.

On UM News, readers can expect to see an even bigger increase in global coverage. “We’re strengthening our relationships with correspondents in the central conferences and increasing our capacity as a team for working in five languages: English, Spanish, French, Korean, and Portuguese,” noted Tim Tanton, chief news officer.

“With this new platform, visitors will be given immediate access to a large collection of news features, including special reports and commentaries,” Tanton said. “By moving the news service to its own website, we’re making it easier for people to access news articles, as well as better distinguish between the news of the church and other content that is produced within the church.”

Although a part of United Methodist Communications, United Methodist News Service is focused on providing fair and objective news coverage of what is happening in the church today. United Methodist Communications produces a wide variety of content ranging from inspirational features for spiritual growth to informational resources to assist churches in their ministries, as well as providing public relations, marketing, advertising to prospective members, connectional giving, and local church communications support.

Over the years, there has often been confusion within the church body as to the role of United Methodist News Service versus what United Methodist Communications offers as a whole.

The Book of Discipline specifically lays out the responsibility for a news agency within the church: “In keeping with the historic freedom of the press, it shall operate with editorial freedom as an independent news bureau serving all segments of church life and society, making available to both religious and public news media information concerning the church at large.”

The newly launched website serves as a catalyst for clarity between these agency offerings. News will be found on UMNews.org, while a broader range of content will appear on the denomination’s website, UMC.org. Later this year, a new website is planned for church leaders that will aggregate ministry resources from many sources across the church.

Sign up at www.umnews.org/en/news/umnews-subscriptions to have a synopsis of news stories delivered to your inbox daily or weekly with links to read more, or connect with UMNS at facebook.com/umnews and twitter.com/umns.


About United Methodist News Service
UMNS is a trusted and timely official source of comprehensive information and news about The United Methodist Church. Through umnews.org, social media, and weekly and daily e-newsletters, UMNS provides in-depth, thought-provoking multimedia coverage that facilitates a deeper understanding of our global connection and how United Methodists are engaged in issues affecting our world today.

About United Methodist Communications
As the communications agency for The United Methodist Church, United Methodist Communications seeks to increase awareness and visibility of the denomination in communities and nations around the globe. United Methodist Communications also offers services, tools, products and resources for communications ministry. Find them online at umcom.org.

Media contact:
Brenda Smotherman presscenter@umcom.org

Scholarship applications available for the SBC21 National Prison Summit on Mass Incarceration

Do you live near Nashville, Tennessee? Do you have a passion for social justice and a heart for people experiencing incarceration? Join us!

Who? Any United Methodist Women member

What? Participate in the three-day National Prison Summit led by Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century (SBC21) and join daily supplemental breakout sessions with other United Methodist Women members to empower ourselves for action.

Why? Partner with other United Methodists to learn how you and your church can help address the crisis of mass incarceration, the criminalization of communities of color and the school-to-prison pipeline.

Where? Nashville, Tennessee

When? The conference is October 25–27, 2018. Scholarship applications will be accepted on a rolling basis, with priority given to applicants who apply by September 1.

How much? United Methodist Women will be providing conference scholarships to a cohort of 10 participants. Note: The scholarship covers only the registration fee; it does not include travel or lodging. Applicants from outside the Nashville, Tennessee, area are welcome but will need to find other sources to cover their travel and lodging.

How do I apply? Apply online here! Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. Priority will be given to applications submitted by September 1. Email any questions to Executive for Racial Justice Emily Jones at ejones@unitedmethodistwomen.org.

*If you have trouble using the link above, you can copy-and-paste this address into your web browser: https://secure3.convio.net/umw/site/SPageNavigator/National_Prison_Summit_Scholarship.html

More about the SBC21 National Prison Summit: prisonsummit.com

More about United Methodist Women: unitedmethodistwomen.org

A trip to the farmers’ market

By Caroline Ezell

Featured Contributor

As a child, my grandmother took me on walks down Main Street in Blytheville to buy small, juicy tomatoes from an old man selling from a crate he held in his lap. She helped me pick peaches in a sprawling orchard not too far from there and I would eat them over the porch railing, honeysuckle drowning the steamy air.

My first job was working at a produce stand in Jonesboro. I would buy zucchinis ladies would bring from their garden and sell them to young mothers shopping for supper. Arkansas farmers helped raise me just as carefully and tenderly as they raised their crops. As an adult, I experience a deep, nostalgic thrill visiting my local farmer’s market. The Natural State boasts an ideal environment for cultivation of all kinds. Fertile soil, dense mountain forests, rivers and lakes, all make Arkansas the beautiful, natural haven it is. At the height of the summer season, our markets and stands are thriving under this sweet heat and bustling with local charm, communal dwelling places to appreciate the bounties of our Earth.

A few years ago, my grandmother moved to Texas. She insists I bring her local tomatoes when I visit. If you didn’t know already, tomatoes are an Arkansas staple. They are the state’s official fruit and vegetable, after all. In 1987, it was signed into law by former governor, Bill Clinton. Former state Rep. John Lipton who made the proposition said in his statement “the South Arkansas vine-ripe pink tomato has a taste, texture, appearance, and aroma second to none” and promised 20 lbs. of them to any of his colleagues who voted in favor of the measure.


Deepwoods Farm in Warren, Arkansas is one place to find these notable tomatoes among many other varieties. Deepwoods is owned by the Donnelly family who has been perfecting tomato farming for more than 60 years. They have an onsite farmer’s market, canning workshops, and offer the opportunity to try your own hand at tomato picking. Make sure to bring one back for grandma.


Saturday mornings in Fayetteville, Arkansas, are something of a great tradition. The Fayetteville Farmer’s Market is award-winning and entirely saturated in whimsy. Throw on your sunhat and get there early. Each stand in the historic downtown square bears testament to Fayetteville’s “funky” claim, offering anything from miraculously intricate hand-woven baskets to delicate, shell-pink mushrooms. Gorgeous, organic flower arrangements are abundant and there are always plenty of dogs to pet, homemade soaps to smell, and local musicians stringing along tunes for dancing children and adults alike. It’s an ideal southern atmosphere with a lot of quirks and a lot of quality. One, out of its almost 80 vendors, is Osage Creek Farms out of Green Forest, Arkansas. Their stand is run by the young, energetic couple, Kelton and Aubree Hays. Osage Creek specializes in grass-fed, grass-finished beef, free of antibiotics and hormones. Their cows are farm-born and raised, eating nothing but Arkansas grass from the pastures they are free to roam. Grass-feeding cows is a patient and more ethical process as it allows them to eat as they were biologically intended and reach a reasonable weight at a normal pace. “Grass-fed” is often a loaded term as it isn’t legally regulated. Arkansan consumers can rest easy knowing that when Osage Creek says “grass-fed,” that’s exactly what they mean. “They wouldn’t know what grain was if you hit them with it,” Kelton says. Aubree’s family has been in the business for years. Her grandfather started with only 80 acres after the Great Depression and today it has expanded to more than 1,000. Fayetteville’s unique atmosphere lends so many opportunities for locals to really show off, and show off they do.


In Northeast Arkansas, the tiny town of Cave City prides itself as “Home of the World’s Sweetest Watermelons.” The Johnson Brothers are third generation farmers from just outside the town. Phillip and Gary Johnson have been growing their entire lives. When asked about his decision to carry on his family’s watermelon tradition, Gary Johnson, the younger half of the namesake, laughed and said he “doesn’t have enough sense not to.” When their father grew ill in 1976, the brothers, then 13 and 25, took it upon themselves to tend the beloved crops. Now, they sell from a single stand in Cave City and people travel far and wide to buy their fabled melons. You might wonder, what makes them so sweet? Rich and sandy regional soil take partial credit, but the real secret is vine-ripening. The Johnson family takes great care to ensure each watermelon is picked ready to eat. They are selectively harvested at the height of their sugar content and begin their deterioration the moment they are plucked. With that in mind, distributing to grocery stores and shipping long distance is nearly impossible because of their limited shelf life, making them a truly local treasure. Cave City even hosts an annual festival honoring these legendary watermelons and their various growers in the area. Take advantage of these while you can, the season is beginning and they won’t be Johnson-certified delicious for long.


Me & McGee is a delightful little market in North Little Rock. Anyone who walks in the door is welcomed by their honorary greeter, Roxie, a sweet, brown dog who loves to visit. Roxie’s friendly “hello” is a total embodiment of the warmth at the heart of Me & McGee. The clever name may sound familiar. Janis Joplin’s classic, Me and Bobby McGee, sings the virtues of love, contentment and freedom. These ideas are not far off from the vision of Debbie and her very own Larry McGee. The husband and wife duo got started selling pecans from their orchard at a roadside stand in 2011. Now, they exist as a family-run marketplace and it’s, by no exaggeration, a bounding success. It’s an outlet for all kinds of goods including homemade breads, salsas, dill chips, and pickles just to name a few. Written on one of their chalkboards is the phrase, “you can’t buy happiness, but you can buy plants, and that’s pretty much the same thing.” It’s a tribute to their goal of keeping it simple and rejoicing in the small things.
When you shop Arkansas local, you can always count on a lot of heart, a lot of community, and a whole lot of fresh Southern eating.

A Reality That Changes Things

From the devotional archives – June 27, 2017

When you get the chance to take a drive, get out of town for a few days or go on vacation, you often see yourself, others, your life and even God in a brand new way. But sometimes you can’t get away. So what do you do? Remember that God loves you more than you can ever know, has got your back and is never going to let anything get in the way of that love. Because when you do, God can change how you feel about things any time and any place!