Category Archives: Pastor’s Ponderings

Pastor’s Ponderings

All Things Bright And Beautiful.

Genesis 1:31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 he has made everything suitable for its time; moreover, he put a sense of past and future into their minds.

Matthew 6:28 ….. Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin,

All things bright and beautiful,
All things great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

Spring has come for us here in the Claybanks Community. The days are getting much longer, the coldness of winter has moderated to warming of the days. The grass has turned green, leaves have come out, flowers begin blooming, and the animals of God have made their presence more abundant, all under God’s plan for the beauty of the earth.

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings:
God made their glowing colors,
God made their tiny wings.

For Reba and I, summer is our favorite season of the year and our summer begins with Memorial Day Weekend. This change of seasons gives us an opportunity to reflect on the sense of the past and look into the future, to what the summer will bring, as Ecclesiastes in chapter three tells us.

As I was reading Scripture the other day and becoming distracted with my roaming thoughts, something hit me. When I went back to Scripture it became apparent about how significant the world around us is, that our Almighty God has created it for us, and how he wanted so much for us to enjoy what he had created. Sometimes it is the beauty of the earth, sometimes it is the warmth of the sun, sometimes it is the relationships that the current season provides us opportunities to be in.

The purple – headed mountains,
The river running by,
The sunset, and the morning
That brightens up the sky.

At Fennville/Pearl UMC Memorial Day was a day that we celebrated in community. Fennville had a Memorial Day Parade that went by the Fennville United Methodist Church and ended up at the cemetery just down the street where, annually, I was part of a Memorial Day Service where we recognize those who had made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could have the freedoms that we so closely cherish today. Following the service the community was invited back to the Fennville United Methodist Church for an ice cream social and hundreds of people gathered together and shared conversation around a bowl of ice cream with smiles and laughter. Following that day, I knew that summer would quickly be on its way into our lives. For Reba and I that meant attending the Annual Conference of the West Michigan United Methodist Church; this year to be held in Traverse City. Edie Bogart, Reba and I will be a part of the process as we continue to work to bring together the Detroit Conference and the West Michigan Conference into one Michigan Area Conference.

Now June is a special month in which Reba and I have birthdays, hers being before mine (which means if I do not do well then I do not do well) and as we count the years together in August we will also be able to celebrate our anniversary. These times help us reflect on not just the past times together but also give us opportunity to plan for future times together. Summer also gives us an opportunity every other year to have our grandchildren come to visit us along with their parents. And we look forward to sharing the beauty and the many different activities that we can avail ourselves of in Northern West Michigan this summer.

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruit in the garden,
God made them everyone.

Being close to Lake Michigan is a blessing for sailing during the day and sunsets at night as Reba and I are able to quickly get to the shores of Lake Michigan and take in many of God’s blessings as we sit by the shore and absorb the warm breezes and observe the passing of another day together as the sun sets over our beautiful Lake Michigan.

My list for summer can go on and on. Sunday drives in the afternoon in our sports car, cutting of grass, gardening, washing of cars, attending music concerts in parks throughout the different communities surrounding Claybanks. Visiting with family and friends, cookouts in the backyard or picnics in the park, tubing the many different beautiful rivers in our area, extended visits of family and friends are all of the many different glories that God has created for us.

For Claybanks United Methodist Church we have the opportunity to be invitational when many of the visitors to our shores come to worship with us. We are able to bless them with our church, our friendliness, our worship together and yes, our Strawberry Social when we invite those who live in and visit the Claybanks area to come and be together in community.

It is my prayer for you and for me, that we all take time during this summer to slow down and appreciate the beauty that God has created for us, and the relationships that God has given to his children as we come together.

God gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
who has made all things well.

Text information:
All Things Bright And Beautiful
Page 147 – The United Methodist Hymnal

Pastor Gary

Pastor’s Ponderings

I want to thank the Claybanks United Methodist Church Congregation for their willingness and support as I introduced to the church some new and varied types of worship during our Lenten and Easter Season. Your acceptance and affirmation for these different ways in which to worship have been a blessing to me. As we continue to worship and honor God together in the days and months to come, I pray that you will be open to new and varied ways in which to worship through the power of the Holy Spirit. To worship on Good Friday in the afternoon during the same hours that our Lord Jesus went to the cross for us was very meaningful to me and many others. To gather outside of the Claybanks United Methodist Church on Easter morning as we recognize the opening of the tomb in Christ’s resurrection and then moving into the Fellowship Hall and then processing together into our sanctuary showed that we are indeed a community of followers of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For the first Sunday after Easter, our Holy Humor Sunday, I want to thank all those who were part of this somewhat unique and new way in which to worship. We affirmed that indeed God smiles and laughs with us. Celebrating Holy Humor Sunday at Claybanks United Methodist Church was my second experience in which we can bring a liturgy following Easter that helps us remember that laughter, lightheartedness and humor are gifts that God has given us, which may have been avoided during the Lenten Season. The use of humor is beneficial so that we might more enjoy the world in which God has placed us. As a parish, we worshiped in a service that included lighthearted humor and stories, some of our own creation and some looking at Scripture in a different way.

In a continuation of Holy Humor Sunday, I would like to share these humorous and enjoyable thoughts with you.

• Going to church does not make a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
• Do not argue with a fool. He will drag you down to his own level and beat you with experience.
• If I agree with you; both of us will be wrong.
• We never really grow up; we only learn how to act in public.
• Evening News is where they begin with, “Good Evening”, and then they proceed to tell you why it is not good.
• Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says, “In case of emergency notify…” I put in EMT’s.
• When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that fire departments usually use water.
• Did you hear the story about a rabbi, the priest, and the pastor who were talking about their parishes…..!

Imagine the Scripture story of Zacchaeus where Jesus found him in the tree as he passed by. Using the Scripture story from Luke 19:1-10 can be, yes, a humorous story that teaches us much about who we are as followers of Jesus Christ. How many of us have been caught up in a tree and were not able to get down on our own? Jesus does seek the lost.

Humor is a great therapy for lifting our hearts, relaxing our minds and feeding our souls with gifts of love that we can share with one another. I look forward to hearing from you as you will continue to share humorous stories, jokes and antidotes, but please remember I am a pastor, and my ears are sensitive, thank you.

I want to thank all those in our parish that extended themselves in making an extra effort to be part of our Lenten programs, devotional readings and worship experiences during Lent and Holy Week. It is my prayer that our growth on the path taken for Lenten and Holy Week have assisted us as we journey along the trail that brings God closer to us. While we struggled together on that journey, I became aware that my heart, in the Wesley fashion, was “Strangely warmed”. It has been a blessing for me and for Reba to be part of Claybanks United Methodist Church during the Lenten Season and I pray the blessings will continue in the Easter Season that will bring us to Pentecost.
Pastor Gary

Pastor’s Ponderings

Since Pastor Gary and Reba are on vacation I decided to hijack his portion of the newsletter to pass on an “ah ha” moment I had recently. Over the years, I’ve never really committed myself to reading a daily devotional. Sure, I read out of my Bible, but have never added any other type of devotional reading. This Lenten season I decided that rather than “give up” to show my love for Christ, I would “add to” my daily spiritual routine. I picked up the Daily Lenten Devotions from the Society of St. Andrew that Pastor Gary had for us and decided this is the year of change…this year I WILL read my Bible AND let a devotional guide my studies of The Word.

A lot of the daily readings involve Matthew 17:20, about the mustard seed. When I got to day 21 there was yet another “Mustard Seed” story. I snuggled down next to my fireplace and began reading. Holy Cow, this story gave a completely different aspect to the mustard seed.
I’d like to share that story with you. It’s written by Chris Howell and was included in the Daily Lenten Devotions from the Society of St. Andrew:

A different Kind of Faith
Scripture: Matthew 17:14-20
In Matthew, 17, the disciples had tried and failed to cast out a demon from a young boy. When they ask Jesus why they were unsuccessful, he tells them it was because of their “little faith.” He goes on to say if they had faith like a mustard seed – they could tell mountains to move.

Do you know what mustard weed was like in Jesus’ day? It was like the kudzu of Palestine. It grew wild. Birds ate it but didn’t entirely digest the seeds – and the seeds were dropped everywhere. It would take over fields and crops. You could pull it up but more birds would eat more mustard weed and it would be back. It was persistent, irritating, and fast-spreading. Jesus said that was the kind of faith the disciples needed: small and contagious; faith that is persistent and fast-spreading that takes over the world!

Living in the South, I know and understand kudzu. I’ve seen it take over trees and engulf buildings. Can you imagine how different the world would be if the love of God spread like that? Taking over and engulfing lives?

That is what the church is called to spark – a wildfire of faith! Uncontainable. Vast. Bigger than my puny human understanding can conceive. I have to stop putting my great God in my tiny human box and have faith in his power to transform lives.
Prayer: Father God, keep me mindful of your awesome power and unfathomable love.

And here I thought I understood the “Mustard Seed” story – have a small amount of faith and you can do miraculous things. Was I wrong! There’s so much more to the story than I had understood. My prayer for each of you is that you have faith like a mustard seed – not only as big as a mustard seed and incomprehensively strong, but persistent and so fast spreading that it takes over the world!

Konnie Grant

Announcements and Stuff

Lenten/Easter Schedule

Maundy Thursday Service – No Service at CUMC. Please join with another church in the area to worship.

Good Friday Service – 7:00pm 

Easter Morning Sunrise Service (Outside if weather permits) – 9:30am

Easter Brunch following Sunrise Service (approx. 9:45am)

Easter Sunday Worship/Celebration 10:30am

Easter Brunch

Easter Sunday we will be having a light brunch following our “sunrise” service. A sign-up sheet for food donations will be on the back table. All family and friends welcome!!

Book Study

A group of us have begun the Lenten book study “24 Hours That Changed the World” lead by Pastor Gary. We have two more classes and you are still welcome to join us. We will be meeting on Thursday, April 6 at 4:00 pm and then one more time with the date yet to be determined.

Spring Clean-Up/Hot Dog Roast

We’ll be holding our annual yard clean-up and hot dog roast on Thursday, April 20th. We’ve always had a good turnout and have been able to get a lot of work done in a short amount of time thanks to so many volunteers. So bring your lawn tools and hot dogs/chips/cookies etc. in the late afternoon and join in the fun as we work together to care for the church God has entrusted to us. The Munson House yard clean-up will be held the following Thursday, April 27th. In case of bad weather on either evening, the events will be rescheduled.

Summer Fun!

Look at the fun events the ladies have planned for us this summer. More information will be coming for each event as the time grows nearer. April is our month for the butterflies at Frederik Meijer Gardens. Bring your friends and come join in the fun.

April 6 – Frederik Meijer Garden Butterflies – We will be meeting at the church at 9:45am and carpool to the museum. Cost is yet to be determined. If there are at least 10 of us we can get in for a group rate, which is $10/person. If we don’t have enough for the group rate the cost will be $11/person for seniors and $14.50/person if you’re under 65 yr. old)

Upcoming Events

• May – Southern Luncheon (Home of Reba Peterson)
• June 11 – Dinner at the Shack in Jugville (Carpool directly after church service)
• July 12 – A Day at the beachfront (Brown bag lunch/ Home of Diana Hicks)
• August – Bonfire & Potluck (Home of the Petersons)

Men’s Breakfastp

The United Methodist Men’s Breakfast is being held at the Montague United Methodist Church on Saturday, April 8 at 9:30 am. All men of the church and their friends are invited to join in breakfast and fellowship.

Yard Sale?

There has been some discussion about having a churchwide yard sale – some are for it and others not so much. We’d like to know how much interest there is among you. If you’re interested in helping to put on a churchwide yard sale please sign the sign-up sheet on the back table. If there’s enough interest, a committee will be formed and we’ll move forward with the project. Thank you!!

Nursery Schedule

4/2 – Edith Bogart
4/9 – Joyce Twiss
4/16 – Carol Adams
4/23 – Kathy Ohman
4/30 – Joyce Twiss

Pastor’s Ponderings

We’re just coming off a very busy Advent and Christmas season and Lent is upon us. For me as a pastor, these two church seasons are busy times of the year. Things have slowed down for a short time during January and February. With things having slowed down, I have started to reflect back on the Christmas season and can recognize the many blessings that as a person, as our church, and as a community we have received. Some of our blessings are right before us and we recognize them immediately. Other blessings are sometimes hidden from us in disguise, yet when we stop to look at all that has happened during this past Advent and Christmas season, there are many blessings to be thankful for, if only we would take the time to recognize them. I receive many publications during the year and I want to share with you an article that talks about blessings. This article comes from the Health Ministry Network Newsletter written by Mary Slutz. I have written some brief thoughts to her writing.

• During the time following the Christmas season we need to consider the blessings we received. (The mess I had to clean up after a party means I have been surrounded by my friends and family.)
• The taxes I pay means I am employed. (As your pastor, you provide not only a paycheck for me but pay for a portion of my health insurance and insurance provides security.)
• The clothes that are a little too snug means I’ve had enough to eat.
• A lawn that needs mowing, gutters that need cleaning and a driveway that needs to be cleared of snow means I have a home. (As a parish, you are providing Reba and me a place to call home.)
• The far spot in the parking lot means I can walk. (I love to park far away from the store entrance giving others an opportunity to park closer. Yes, it also provides exercise for me.)
• The ability to attend the church of my choice means I have the freedom to worship openly. (We have many choices as to where we can attend worship and we are thankful for the Claybanks UMC and the other churches in our community reaching out in Christ’s love to our community.)
• The person in church who sings off-key means I can hear.
• Our heating bills means that we are warm. (At times it can become difficult to meet the budget needs for a church, yet we have been able to meet our expenses and the heat and electricity stay on.)
• The early-morning alarm means I am alive. (More than once I have greeted someone and ask them how their day has gone, and a beautiful response I get is that, “I was able to put my feet on the floor as I got out of bed this morning and another beautiful day is before me.”)
• The extra work of hosting my family means my loved ones are nearby. (For Reba and I to be able to travel to Grand Rapids to be with family who traveled from many different states to be together at Christmas time means we have a great love for each other and are so greatly blessed).
• The heartaches and stresses of parenting means I was able to have children. (Even though our children have long left the nest and grandchildren are part of our lives we still can share blessings with them).
• The weariness at day’s end means I have been productive. (To be able to go out to a place of employment or visit a friend or to be able to shop and then return home at day’s end means that we have been able to be a part God’s community).
Look for the beauty in what you take for granted and appreciate those things. Then pray for ways to help others find these blessings in their lives during the coming year.

As your pastor, I wish and pray for a wonderfully blessed year for you, our church parish, our community, and our world.

Pastor Gary.

Pastor’s Ponderings

Lent is only a month away. Lent begins on Wednesday March 1st which is almost as late in our Christian Calendar year as possible. It seems as though we have just recently completed the celebration of Christmas and the Advent Season of the Church. To begin Lent we will, at Claybanks UMC, come together for an evening Ash Wednesday Service at 7:00 pm which will include the imposition of ashes. For those who are unable to attend the Ash Wednesday Service we will have an imposition of Ashes at our first Lenten Sunday worship March 5th.

It has become a modern practice of the Protestant Church to honor and participate in Lent in a number of ways. We at Claybanks will commit to a journey through Lent with our Christian sisters and brothers in many different ways in order to prepare us to arrive at a deeper connection with our Lord and Savior as we Celebrate His Resurrection on Easter morning.

For three afternoons in Lent (March 9th, March 30th and April 6th) we will gather at 4:00 pm for a Lenten Series “24 Hours That Changed The World.” Adam Hamilton will lead us in a video presentation followed by group discussions and activities. “24 Hour” participants’ books will be available to read in preparation for our study together.

In addition, during Lent we will have Lenten Devotional Booklets avail-able developed for Lent by The Society of St. Andrew entitled “With Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed”. I, as your pastor, will be following our Lenten readings with a message series that parallels our Devotional Commitment.

Holy Week will continue to draw us closer with our Lord. Palm Sunday will begin Holy Week as our young people lead us into Jerusalem as we celebrate Christ’s triumphed entrance with palms. On Holy Thursday we encourage coming together in worship at a number of our community churches. Good Friday we will experience the passion of Our Lord when we come together for Good Friday Service at Claybanks UMC at 2:00 pm.

Our Easter Celebration will begin at 9:30 am with an Outside (weather permitting) Sunrise Viewing of the Empty Tomb followed by a church breakfast. We will then proceed into the sanctuary for our Easter Morning Worship Celebration “He Has Risen” at 10:30 am.

It is my prayer that during Lent you will find these and other journey stations spiritually enlightening as we continue to experience our closer walk with God.

Pastor Gary

Pastor’s Pondering

I started thinking a short time ago about two different newsletters that I receive monthly and how they interrelate with each other and how they affect our Parrish life and our ministry at Claybanks UMC. Don Nations wrote an article recently, DNA Updates For United Methodists, about our United Methodist Appointment System as different from the Common Call System that many religious denominations use and the need for Interim Pastors at times. Many churches and denominations use the Interim system when a pastor retires, becomes ill and cannot resume their role as pastor, or is called to another church. We, in the United Methodist Church use an Interim Pastor occasionally when a fill-in is needed to cover for a period of time, from when a pastor leaves for whatever reason until new pastor appointments are set on July 1st of each year. An Interim pastor quite often has a very special role helping the congregation make the transition from “Our Way” to a “New Way”. The Interim pastor’s goal is to help the congregation look at gifts and graces, seeking to strengthen the congregation and then embrace the new pastor who brings a number of gifts and graces to the new congregation which they have been appointed to serve. This is happening now in our area as Pastor Mary Brown at Montague UMC is not able to return from her medical leave and retired Pastor Gunnar Carlson has been appointed temporarily to shepherd the Montague UMC Parish. We as the Claybanks United Methodist Parish are to be in prayer and support for our sisters and brothers at the Montague United Methodist Church and Pastor Carlson.

Lewis Parks, in the second article A New Way To View Vitality In Smaller Congregations, offers these things that I believe our parish is very much committed to and we pray that all church congregations will commit to.
• We maintain a vital worship of God. We honor God with our praise, gifts, service and prayers, attend to the Word and are exposed to and receive Baptism and Communion.
• Our parish is a surrogate family. We hold each other close and extend the love of God to all, in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. We share our hearts and our resources with all.
• Our congregation is a blessing to our community for we seek the welfare of our community and we are in touch with the needs of the community.
• We use our building as holy space and for mission and service. We are attentive to our properties and use them as expressions of who we are in Jesus Christ.
• The last of Lewis’ commitments is the most critical and yet difficult for us. We as congregations are to pass the faith to the coming generation.

There has been a shift in our society over the past fifty years where we have become less and less joiners in many areas of life including the church. Even with this uphill battle before us, we must attend to the children we have, strive to reach other children and adults, get to know them, open and teach the faith to them, and encourage their participation in worship.
We must be the Body of Christ to each other and our community. Because of my love for God and for you I am committed to being a part of the “Sharing of the Good News” to those around us, our families, friends and our community. May we at Claybanks UMC continue to look at new and exciting witnesses where we can make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world!

Pastor Gary