JEFFREY SWAINSTON, CHAPLAIN
P.O. Box 77
Manton, MI 49663​
(616) 405-6921
revjeff82@gmail.com

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER  2019 GRANGE NEWS

The holidays can be an especially tough time of the year for the less fortunate in our communities. The weather changes and those who have been living in tents all summer now have to find a place to live. Those who have been living on garden vegetables all summer long now need to find another source for food. This problem is closer to most of us than we think.

As a pastor, my church receives requests almost weekly for assistance for someone in need. They need gas to get to the doctor, they haven’t had a decent meal in a few days, and they need help finding a place to stay are all common requests this time of year. I have a desire and a longing to help as many people in need as possible. Actually, its more than a mere desire to be helpful. Sometimes it is a strong conviction that I am looking straight into the eyes of Jesus Christ.

​​But the same question always seems to arise. How do we know we are truly helping someone in need? How do we know that this person is not just trying to take advantage of us? The ultimate answer is that we don’t. But in the spirit of the Christmas season we have to ask ourselves, “Do we practice justice, mercy, and truth on the most basic human level?”

​In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminds us not to judge others. He challenges us to pay attention to our own attitudes and motivations and not to be concerned with the failures of others. He reminds us to ask for what we need.

​So back to the question of wondering if we are being taken advantage of by someone who really doesn’t need the assistance. The real answer is that it doesn’t matter. There are no guarantees that the person I give food to is really hungry. But I do know that if I were in their situation, I would appreciate receiving the help I need. That is how I would want to be treated so why wouldn’t I do the same for someone else? I can respond to the need presented to me and leave the true outcome to God.

​Today at every possible moment do justice, practice mercy, and reveal truth in the most basic, easy, and human way. It is in this small step that our souls will find renewal, that our hearts prepare to celebrate the Christ Child, and that others can see the true light. Merry Christmas to you all!!

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019 GRANGE NEWS

TAKE YOUR KIDS TO CHURCH

​The lazy days of summer are coming to an end. Gone are the family reunions, vacations at the beach, and visiting favorite amusement parks. For some the summer marked first-time camp adventures, sports tournaments, and robotic competitions. It is still hot outside, but August and early September mark the beginning of school. Family game night will be replaced with homework and projects. Online video game tournaments with friends will be replaced with late night study sessions and writing papers. Shorts and sandals will soon be replaced with sweaters and boots.

For many families, the end of summer also means the start of THE CRAZY SCHEDULE! The challenge of juggling your schedule, the kids’ schedule, meeting deadlines, getting a healthy dinner on the table, and making time for family activities. Hopefully there is one thing in your schedule that does not change…you go to church!

​​I always took my girls to church but I may have never told them why. I’m not sure I ever gave it much thought, I just felt it was important. I took them to church because it taught them what we believe as Christians, they engaged in the traditions of church, they had a safe space to explore their gifts and talents, they could think critically and ask questions about their faith, and it helped them intentionally set aside time for God. 

We can worship God at home, but there is something special about corporate worship. It is during corporate worship that my children heard how God had changed and blessed other people. They saw how the community came together to take care of each other. They received a Word from God, heard songs and prayer, and had experiences to encourage and inspire them throughout the school week.

Church is a place where my children were nurtured and loved by a community of believers who wanted the best for them. Because we attended consistently, the members of the church knew them and became like family. They had dozens of big cousins, aunts, uncles, and grand-parents. They knew they had people looking out for them wherever they were. It warmed my heart to see my teenage daughters in deep conversation with one of the elders of the church.

My children saw love and accountability modeled in the church community. They experienced love through the power of prayer, both praying for others and having others pray for them.

The church community reinforced what we taught at home. They practiced respecting their elders, caring for others, and disagreeing with others respectfully. They learned that the world does not revolve around them. They had opportunities to serve in the church and in the larger community.

Children are under a great deal of pressure academically, athletically, and socially. But when I took my children to church, those pressures were eased. Even if THE CRAZY SCHEDULE is in full effect at your house, make time to take them to church where they can be surrounded by a loving and supportive community.

Adapted from the Michigan Conference UMC Newsletter

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