A Father’s Day Prayer

Dear Lord,

Sometimes Father’s Day seems like a made-up day to sell cards, ties and golf balls. And sometimes it’s a day of great pain – for fathers, sons and daughters.

Yet this day is so important because it is a reminder that being a father is a holy calling that is an honor, a privilege and the most important job a man will ever have.

So I pray today for fathers and those who father everywhere. May they understand the awesome responsibility You have given them. And may they also come to know just how needed they are. Let them lean on Your grace. Allow them to be healed of all pain, hurt and selfishness. Enable them to love and then love again and then love yet again. Help them teach faith, courage, humility, compassion, integrity and tenderness to their children, their children’s children and all who have no fathers.

I pray this in the strong name of Jesus.

Amen.

Bitter or Better

You’re going to mess up, do something you regret, hurt someone and give less than your best. Sometimes the impact will be huge, at other times small and most of the time somewhere in-between. Unfortunately, this will happen every single day.That’s why you have to decide whether you’re going to let your mistakes make you bitter or whether they’ll make you better because you’ve opened yourself to God’s grace, learned something about yourself, lived with greater humility and become more understanding of others. Bitter may be tempting, but better is always better.

Camp Tanako Provides Traditional Summer Experience for Arkansas Foster Children

Camp Tanako Provides Traditional Summer Experience for Arkansas Foster Children

Whether your memories of summer camp are real or formed from what you saw in movies, most of us know what summer camp is about. S’mores. Canoeing. Crafts. Bunk beds. Swimming.

But there is a segment of kids who have never heard of summer camp – or have any way to go to one. These kids are in the Division of Child and Family Services and live in therapeutic group homes at Methodist Family Health. For these children, their experience of summer is bouncing from a family member to a foster home to a group home.

Before coming to Methodist Family Health, their greatest desires were quieting their rumbling stomachs as they realize dinner isn’t coming, or having an hour or two to themselves after raising their younger siblings because their parents weren’t home (or weren’t able) to do so. Their summers were anything but carefree.

Each year, Methodist Family Health takes every resident in our therapeutic group homes throughout the state to a week-long summer camp at Camp Tanako on Lake Catherine in Garland County. The experience is a traditional one – fishing, crafts, and a carnival included – but the opportunity to just be a kid is not.

“Camp Tanako is a labor of love for the staff and volunteers who make it happen, but it’s one where we are rewarded with laughter from kids who haven’t had much to laugh about,” said Craig Gammon, United Methodist Children’s Home administrator and one of the masterminds behind Camp Tanako each year. “We have teenage boys ask to color and paint because they never have before. The girls love to kayak because it is a novel thing for them. All the kids’ needs are met, and the only thing they have to ponder is whether they swim or sunbathe. For our kids, it’s a week away from problems and troubles they are too young to face.”

This camp experience is made possible by the Rev. Robert Regnier Memorial Summer Camp Fund at the Methodist Family Health Foundation. Named in memory of former Methodist Children’s Home CEO Rev. Robert Regnier, this fund enables children who are residents of our group homes to enjoy a week of camp and outdoor activities, complete with campfires, arts and crafts, games, recreation, and spirituality services.

“The fund provides for rental of Camp Tanako for a week as well as all food and supplies for the kids attending,” said Carolyn McCone, CFRE, executive director of the Methodist Family Health Foundation. “Large or small, donations to the fund make it possible for our group home residents to have a time away they will never forget. It seems like a small thing, but it really means the world to the kids in our care.”

If you would like to contribute to the Rev. Robert Regnier Memorial Summer Camp Fund, there are several ways you can do so:
Text MFH to 501-881-2258;

Visit MethodistFamily.org/Donate to contribute online; Mail a check to Methodist Family Health Foundation, P.O. Box 56050, Little Rock, Arkansas 72215; Call 501-906-4209 to make a secure donation by phone.

You’re Blessed

You’re blessed every day. In fact, you’re blessed in more ways than you can possibly count. You’re blessed when God’s love engulfs you in spite of what you do or is done to you. You’re blessed when just the right person shows up at just the right time to help in just the right way. You’re blessed when you pray and find exactly the peace or direction you need. So what do you do the moment you realize you’ve been blessed? You bless God and then you find someone else to bless!

Can We Affirm A Common Core?

Can We Affirm A Common Core?

The “Common Core” refers to an often controversial set of state standards for education that was enacted a few years ago and is still supported in most states. The Common Core is knowledge that students should know by the end of a particular grade. The goal for the Common Core is to prepare students for success in post-secondary education. If all students possess similar levels of educational expertise, the pedagogical playing field should be more level, and there should be less need for remediation. At least that’s the theory.

When I go to our Arkansas Annual Conference, it reminds me of the Common Core of Methodism in our home state. I’ve been a Methodist all my life and a pastor all my adult life—“deeply ingrained” would be an understatement. At Annual Conference I experience worship and business the way we do them. I renew relationships with long-time, well-beloved colleagues and friends. I am reminded of our Wesleyan theology and our practices of faith that are uniquely Methodist. I would be so out of place at a Southern Baptist convention or an Assembly of God conference. I am Methodist to the core.

Although I am writing this before Annual Conference, I am anticipating the presentation of a letter that will affirm our common core as Wesleyan Methodists. There is deep division within our denomination, made deeper by the General Conference of last February. As members of the Arkansas United Methodist family, several of us (of different perspectives on human sexuality) were invited by our bishop to have dialog about what unites us. We quickly came to affirm what we share in common, because what we share is broader, deeper, and perhaps more important than what divides us. The letter shared at Annual Conference included these points of commonality:

  1. We believe in the Triune God, salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, in the unconditional love of God, and in God’s grace sufficient for every need. We believe in the faith delivered to the church in the historic creeds.
  2. We cling to our Wesleyan heritage as Christians of a Methodist tribe. This includes:
    a. A Wesleyan understanding of grace—prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying.
    b. Theological and social discourse grounded first in Scripture, informed by tradition, experienced in personal and corporate dimensions, and articulated with the best of human reason.
    c. Christian discipleship consisting of both vital piety and social action.
    d. Adherence to the General Rules given by John Wesley:
    1) Do no harm.
    2) Do good.
    3) Attend upon the ordinances of God.
  3. We believe the mission of the church is making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We affirm the trajectory of the Arkansas Annual Conference “to make disciples who make disciples equipped to transform lives, communities, and the world.”
  4. We believe that whatever happens to the structure of the United Methodist Church, we will respect our fellow Methodists, and our interactions will be characterized by:
    a. Listening well. We invite the members of Annual Conference to truly listen to one another as we share in conversation.
    b. Loving well. As disciples of Jesus Christ, love is at the center of who we are and what we are about. Jesus tells us, “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” (John 13:34-35)
  5. We believe we are stronger and will accomplish more working together in our social witness. We commit to support our Annual Conference initiatives: 200,000 Reasons to stop childhood hunger in Arkansas, UMCOR, Volunteers in Mission, and disaster response initiatives.

This common core is often referred to as our “Methodist DNA.” (I’m no geneticist, so cut me some slack for the sake of analogy.) Each organism in God’s vast creation carries a genetic code made up of DNA, which is enclosed in chromosomes. Every cell in an organism carries this unique genetic code. But the slightest variation in composition introduces mutations into the organism. Human beings have 46 chromosomes, but the mutation of even one of those chromosomes can produce a substantially different organism.

In 1972, a mutation was introduced into the Methodist DNA with the “incompatibility” language inserted into the Book of Discipline. Mutations can be good or bad, and opinion is certainly divided on the character of that mutation. But mutations are part of the process of evolution.

The “incompatibility” mutation and its subsequent reinforcement may indeed produce a different organism in the Methodist family. It has happened before. The species methodista pluralis has continued to evolve. My point is that most of our DNA is still intact. We share a common core. My hope for the future is that whatever organisms evolve, we can affirm that we have more in common than what divides us. We can coexist in peace, and perhaps even cooperate. We can all make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

At least that’s the theory.