THE COLUMNS – DECEMBER

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Self-Awareness is Key to Success
Self-awareness is essential for any leader to succeed over the long term. That is why there are so many books and workshops about one’s leadership style, personality traits, and discerning strengths and weaknesses. The same is true for successfully living out one’s faith. One must be self-aware of who they are in light of their goal for success. So what does a successful life of faith look like? As a Christian, ultimate success is fulfilling God’s vision for our lives. Most think this is impossible to discern or measure, but faithful saints have been discerning and measuring this “success” in discipleship for hundreds of years. The Examen is one such highly esteemed process for discerning and measuring one’s faithful response to God and witness of character, word, and action. Ignatius of Loyola articulated this prayer practice in the 16th century as a way of listening to our own lives while discerning the presence or absence of God therein. Try out The Ignatian Examen using the following steps:

1. Find a quiet place and quiet yourself.
2. Become aware of God’s presence and goodness.
3. Pray for grace to see clearly, to understand accurately, and to respond generously
to the guidance God gives throughout your day and as you reflect upon your day.
4. Review in memory the history of the day in order to be shown concrete instances
of the presence and guidance of God and, perhaps, the activity and influence of
evil. Pay special attention to strong emotions arising from situations
and encounters.
5. Evaluate these instances in which you have either partnered with God or yielded
to the influence of evil. Express gratitude or regret.
6. Consider how to partner with God more effectively and avoid or overcome the
influence of evil in the future. Commit to this plan.

Through consistent practice of The Examen, or similar prayerful daily evaluation such as Wesley’s “Holy Club Questions,” you will grow in your self-awareness, more clearly discern how to effectively partner with God as his witness, increase the instances and magnitude of these partnerships and decrease the instances and extent of yielding to evil. Success!

Discipleship Challenge
God created each of us to impact the world for His Glory. We have this kind of lasting significance only by growing in our relationship with Christ and increasing his impact on lives. Each month this page offers challenges aimed at doing just that. Join your church family in reading, memorizing, and living out the Word of God that together we might grow as disciples of Jesus Christ.

MEMORIZE: Isaiah 9:6 – For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

READ: An Advent devotional each day this month. You can pick one up around campus or subscribe to the 1Discipleship Blog at http://firstdiscipleship.org/blog/ to receive a daily devotional email. Set aside time each day to read and reflect on God’s Word this month. Share your reflections on social media using #sharethelove and #1Discipleship.

ACTION:
1. Spend time in prayer each evening reflecting on how your thoughts and actions represented Christ to others. The Ignatian Examen and Wesley’s “Holy Club Questions” are recommended resources for this.
2. Take the fourth discipleship survey at members.firstdiscipleship.org and pray about how you will grow this month as a witness for Jesus.

LEAD:
1. Invite 7 people to worship this month.
2. Share with someone what Jesus’ birth means to you and how you have experienced him as Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father or Prince of Peace.

RIGHTNOW Media Highlight
RIDICULOUS by Mike Baker – In Jesus we see the real life example of what God’s love looks like. Six magnificent Bible passages give shape to this special study focused on the ridiculous love of God: 1 John 4:19; 1 John 4:7; John 13:35; Matthew 5:44; 1 John 2:15; John 15:13. The challenge is to learn how to live like Christ in a loved-starved world. It is not only ridiculous, it
is possible.

THE COLUMNS – DECEMBER

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FIRSTBEGINNINGS_RE_HEADER
Children at First Beginnings Child Development Center are learning that everyone should love the Lord, their God, with all their HEART, SOUL, MIND, and STRENGTH. Mark 12:30

DEAFCOM_RE_HEADER
Deaf Community’s 3rd Annual Chili Cook Off once again brought a great crowd and delicious chili! The four tastiest chilies were selected
by three discerning chili judges from two categories, traditional and creative, for their creators to receive the year long honor of Top Chili
Chef and a great prize.

GEMS_RE_HEADER
Pumpkins all decorated! Prizes won! What fun our friends had at GEMs Night Out on October 9th! The children enjoyed the fun playground outside, played fall festival games, and decorated small pumpkins. Can’t wait to do it all over again in November.

THE COLUMNS – DECEMBER

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Advent is a season of four weeks including four Sundays. This year Advent begins on Sunday, November 29 and continues through Christmas Eve. Advent derives from the Latin adventus, which means “coming.” The season proclaims the comings of the Christ—whose birth we prepare to celebrate once again, who comes continually in Word and Spirit, and whose return in final victory we anticipate. Each year Advent calls the community of faith to prepare for these comings; historically, the season was marked by fasts for preparation. Each Sunday of Advent has its distinctive theme: Christ’s coming in final victory (First Sunday), John the Baptist (Second and Third Sundays), and the events immediately preceding the birth of Jesus Christ (Fourth Sunday).

Churches provide a variety of services of worship for Advent: Hanging of the Greens; Blessing of the Chrismon Tree; Blessing of the Advent Wreath; an Advent Service of Lessons and Carols; and Las Posadas (a service of shelter for the Holy Family). In our church each Sunday of Advent we have a service of lighting the Advent candles. An appointed family or individuals will light one additional candle until all four are lighted. Finally, on Christmas Eve, the middle white candle is lighted. The person lighting the candles or another person will say the words provided for each Sunday.

Purple paraments, stoles, and banners are used during the worship services of Advent. Visuals of the season at First Methodist include: the Advent wreath with three purple candles, one pink candle, and one central white Christ candle for Christmas Eve; evergreen wreaths and garlands; and two Chrismon trees covered with white monograms of Christ.

Families with children and youth particularly enjoy this season. All are invited to worship on these four Sundays of Advent: November 29, and December 6, 13, and 20 concluding with three services of Holy Communion on Christmas Eve.

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THE COLUMNS – DECEMBER

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Many of us observe Christmas, but very few of us know how to keep Christmas. Observing Christmas involves getting our Christmas cards addressed, gifts purchased and wrapped, decorations in place, holiday cooking completed, and parties planned and attended. Unfortunately, observing Christmas puts us under a great deal of pressure and stress. Our schedules are packed with an unlimited number of things to do. We become Christmas junkies with more and more to do with less and less time.

It is sad that many of us don’t realize that it doesn’t have to be that way. Yet, it probably will be unless we do something about it right now. We have the opportunity to change. We have the opportunity to choose the type of Christmas that we can have by learning how to keep Christmas. Henry Van Dyke in his classic poem, “Keeping Christmas,” states, “There is a better thing than the observance of Christmas Day. That is the keeping of Christmas… Then if you can keep it for a day, why not always? But you can never keep it alone.”

Keeping Christmas involves being willing to make a grave for your negative thoughts and feelings and a garden for your positive ones. Like barnacles on a ship, it is easy to accumulate many emotional, relational, and spiritual barnacles in our lives. Identify the negative thoughts and feelings in your life today. Ask God to help you make a grave for them and one by one put them to rest in it. Be careful that they are dead. If you aren’t careful, they will come back to haunt you in the future, just like the ghost of Christmas past. Paul said it so well, “Forgetting what is behind and press on toward the goal which is in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13) Very few people had a past that needed to be forgotten any more than the apostle Paul. Make friends with your past and bury it.

Plant a garden of positive thoughts, feelings, and actions. Every day plant a positive seed and carefully nurture it until it becomes a part of you. There are many positive seeds or virtues that we need to plant: faith, hope, joy, kindness, love and understanding. You cultivate this garden daily by reading the Bible, praying and associating with positive faith-oriented people. You also develop these virtues by listening to positive faith-oriented messages, worshiping in a positive Christ centered church and enjoying laughter with good friends.

During this special season may we discover the adventure of keeping Christmas every day. And if you can keep it for one day, why not every day? But remember, you can never keep it alone. You must share it with someone else. See you Sunday in church!

View or print our 2015 Advent Calendar

Check out our full church events calendar or individual ministry pages to see all of the great things happening at First Shreveport!

The Columns – November

GLOBALMISSIONS3

frantzou
I write this as I am leaving from my 6th trip to the United States. This trip with the Mongerard Family to Shreveport, Louisiana was the best one for me, as we visited our friends and family at FUMC. I was so blessed and happy to meet a lot of great, friendly people in this Church. The love they showed us and the hospitality they have given was exceptional. Thanks once again to all of you, my brothers and sisters, for taking good care of us and for the assistance you give to our Haitian people!!

Frantzou Avril

GLOBALMISSIONS4

william
Greetings in the name of the risen Savior and Lord. I just wrote to thank you for your love for Agape Christian Academy in Uganda. Thank you for loving my family. Saints like you make serving the Lord so exciting! We are always happy to see you when you visit, and we are always sad to see you go. But we are mindful that God is moving you to serve Him elsewhere in His vineyard. I am praying for you. Rest assured I love and cherish you bunches!

In His Grace, William Nsubuga

The Columns – November

LEADERSHIP

Have you ever got in your car and your heart sank as you turned toward work? During a certain period of my life, my heart would sink when I crossed a particular street heading to work. Work had become a terrible chore with no joy. I felt like a mercenary working for a paycheck without regard to the cause. If you haven’t experienced that, believe me, you don’t want to. However, there is hope. There is a way to redeem the situation. You can use Scripture to reframe your work, to reinvigorate it with meaning and purpose. I found I Cor. 15:58 helpful. Perhaps you will, too. “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”( I Cor 15: 58)

First, frame your work with confident faith. ‘Stand firm. Let nothing move you.’ This verse comes after a long discourse on the truth, power and hope of the resurrection of Jesus. Paul is encouraging the Corinthians to put their work squarely in within the unfolding story of God’s renewal of all creation. Just as the resurrection is an anchoring truth, so also, is the ultimate renewal of all things. The victory and vindication of Jesus assures us of our ultimate vindication. I’m reminded of the story of Daniel. Daniel was only later a prophet. First he was a leader of the Jewish people and a counselor to King Darius of the Medes. After surviving the lions’ den Daniel says to the king, “The lions have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in God’s sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king.”(Daniel 6:22) Daniel’s confident faith came from having a deep trust in God’s faithfulness. So too, we should have a deep trust in God’s faithfulness despite the circumstances. As we walk by faith, God will care for us. I like what Dennis Bakke wrote in his book Joy at Work: “Winning, especially winning financially, is a second-order goal at best. Working according to certain timeless, true, and transcendent values and principles should be our ambition.”

Second, embrace your work as given by God. ‘Give yourself fully to the work of the Lord’ Did you catch that? Paul is not writing to a bunch of preachers, but to regular people who have regular jobs, and he tells them that their work is from God! Everything you do to impact others is part of God’s work – from being responsible to your supervisor to developing your subordinates, from providing good goods and good services to clients to developing respectful and fair relationships with your suppliers, from caring for each of your family members to reaching out to your community. You have been given a part of the Garden of Creation to tend and creatively order so that it is blessed and fruitful. Bill Pollard understands that the primary work of business is to help each worker be fully engaged in their work. “You cannot buy enthusiasm, initiative, or loyalty. You cannot buy devotion of the hearts and minds and souls of people. Ownership of results does not start with stock ownership. It begins with dignity, pride of accomplishment, and recognition for a job well done.” Our job is to find the niche God has designed for us, and help others do the same.

Finally, know your work is in Christ and has eternal consequences. ‘Your labor in the Lord is not in vain.’ Again, Paul frames work in the context of the resurrection. First, our labor is in Christ. Since Jesus was risen from the dead and poured out his Spirit upon us, we do not work under our own power. Christ is at work in us. Before we go to work each day we should pray for wisdom for difficult situations, compassion for people who are struggling, guidance for decisions, eyes to see God’s opportunities, and joy of our salvation to be a witness at work. Too many times I end up going through the grind on my own, when like the prodigal son, I come to my senses and realize God has so much more for me. Also, our work is not in vain because this world is not going to be done away with, but transformed. Christ will return to set the world right, and everything we have done by his will and power will last. N. T. Wright puts it this way: The question ought to be, How will God’s new creation come? And then, How will we humans contribute to that renewal of creation and to the fresh projects that the creator God will launch in his new world? The choice before humans would then be framed differently: are you going to worship the creator God and discover thereby what it means to become fully and gloriously human, reflecting his powerful, healing transformative love into the world? Or are you going to worship the world as it is, boosting your corruptible human nature by gaining power or pleasure from forces within the world but merely contributing thereby to your own dehumanization and the further corruption of the world itself? (Emphasis his)

One of the church fathers, Iranaeus wrote, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” As we embrace the work that God has given us, we will see this statement fulfilled. It is both the end that we strive for, and the means by which our work in the Lord will take us there. “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”( I Cor 15: 58)

The Columns – November

LOCALMISSIONS2

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” – John Wesley

Your local missions team is excited to share our new vision of local missions through First UMC. We are currently reworking our website www.firstserves.org to be a place to connect you to our community’s serving opportunities. It will also be a place to celebrate the great work being done currently! In the meantime, pray as we consider the following goals for 2016:

1. Refocus our scope of work to care for people in a transformational way
2. Foster community relations with our partners and those we serve
3. Involve membership through meaningful volunteer opportunities
4. Monitor our resources/donations
5. Improve communications with membership and community

Upcoming Events & Announcements

Goodwill Clothing Drop-off:
We have a Goodwill clothing drop-off on the first Sunday of each month – 9:30-10AM. Look for the Goodwill signs near the motor lobby, pull
up to the curb, and volunteers will grab your bags for you! Vouchers earned through your donations will purchase warm outerwear for our Love Feast attendees!
Needed – Volunteers to man this station. Would your family like to take a month? It’s a simple way to make a big impact! Call Michelle at 424-7771, ext. 108 for more information!

Love Feast:
First UMC serves the only community meal on Christmas Day – The Love Feast! Call the church office to lend a hand – early and late help are especially needed! We will also be taking donations of warm wear, toiletries, and desserts.

Bear Collection & Christmas Stars:
Stuffed bears should be placed at the altar rail in the sanctuary or in FaithLink, to be donated to JS Clark students Dec. 14-18. Choose a “Christmas Star” from a tree in the nursery, children’s area, or Faithlink to donate a gift for a neighborhood child – deliver to Michelle Osborn at FUMC office by December 13.

The Columns – November

GLOBALMISSIONS2

givehopeglobal

Dear First UMC,

I wanted to drop you a note to say how much our partnership with First United Methodist Church means to all of us at Give Hope Global. Words cannot adequately express how much we appreciate what you have done in support of our medical program at the Cambry Medical Clinic. Without your ongoing financial support for Dr. Osselin’s salary we simply could not have accomplished all that we have with regard to providing medical and dental care for 400 orphans
and for many other adults in the villages at Cambry and Darivager. Thank you!

We also greatly enjoy our partnership in support of Pastor Mongerard, his family and the children of Darivager. Your contribution to the purchase of the truck that he so badly needed was just what we required to make that happen for him. I recently received a note from Pastor Louis St. Germaine at Cambry telling me that he didn’t know how Pastor Mongerard would have survived this year’s drought without that truck. Every day he has been driving to haul water back until the well can recover from this unheard of dry spell.

By the way, please tell your donors that I wish that every one of them could have seen the joy of all the Darivager family when their team won the Give Hope
Cup in February. You would have thought they had just won the World Cup! It was a thing of beauty to see. Without your church’s support these kids would not have the energy to even compete much less walk away with the Cup. I know how much your congregation loves these kids and our teams feel the same way. We can hardly wait to see what God has planned for them in the future.

To God be the Glory,
All His best to all of you,
Roger Braswell and Angela Quinn

The Columns – November

WOMENS

Love Serves had another successful year! With over 90 players participating in the tennis tournament, it was a weekend of fun, food, sport and fellowship.
Our purpose of this tournament is not only to raise money for Project Celebration, (the Shreveport-Bossier Domestic Violence Shelter), but to bring
awareness to the needs of victims in our community. Project Celebration serves those in need of protection from physical abuse, support for victims of rape,
substance abuse problems, and help with anger management. Louisiana ranks fourth in the nation for incidents of domestic violence. It’s time for a change!
Project Celebration has a safe-haven home for emergency shelter from abusive relationships. They provide counseling and parenting classes to help the
clients develop skills to become a part of a healthy society. They also facilitate referral services, support groups, and legal advocacy.
Thank you to all of you who participated in this event. You have made a difference in people’s lives!

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly ; defend the rights of the poor and needy .”
– Proverbs 31:8-9

loveserves

LOVESERVES2

The Columns – November

MEN

Over the years we have consistently raised money through our annual Hal Sutton-First Methodist Golf Tournament and our annual David Toms-First Methodist Sporting Clays tournament. This year we were able to donate $15,000 in support of several local children’s ministries.

1. David Toms Foundation – $5,000
2. Methodist Children’s Home – $4.000
3. Providence House – $4,000
4. Hunters 4 the Hungry – $2,000

These tournaments also provide a great time of fellowship and outreach. In fact, after this past golf tournament one of the golfers said that he and his wife had been looking for a church. After meeting so many great people at the tournament, he decided that he wanted to make First UMC Shreveport their home church. That is a reflection of the great camaraderie we have at all our events.

The Men’s Ministry also has many ways men can get together to help each other live out their faith at home and work. If you are not presently in a Men’s study group but would like to be, there are groups that meet on Tuesday Noon, Wednesday 6:45 AM, Thursday Noon, and Friday Noon. Each are doing their own studies of Scripture and other Christian books. It is also an opportunity to share concerns and pray for one another. If you would like to be part of such a group, call Jonathan Beck at 424-7771, or email jbeck@fumcshreveport.org.
The Men’s Ministry has a lot to be thankful for this year. We can look back on a great year of lives changed and fun fellowship. Jump in, and experience what God is doing!