Recently, I wrote an article for the May/June 2020 issue of Tour Collierville Magazine which I share below. I was asked to focus on current events and how to rely on God during times of uncertainty, doubt, and trouble. As we continue to see rising numbers of positive COVID-19 cases, small business owners struggling to stay afloat, and numerous protests for racial equality and police reform, I pray that these words may offer some comfort and assurance of God's protection. +Peace and Love from Pastor Kris.
So many things are happening in our world right now. It seems like we hear from federal, state, and local leaders on a daily basis as they present new guidelines and best practices for how to deal with COVID-19.
There’s a growing concern around our economy and how long it will take for us to rebound. Many individuals have applied for unemployment benefits, some families are dipping into their emergency funds, and all of us have had to adjust our lives as we practice social distancing and follow “Safer at Home” orders.
It would be very tempting to give in to fear. It’s taking more effort to keep thoughts of doubt or despair at bay given the current situation. If you find yourselves worrying more than usual, then I encourage you to look to God’s Word and discover joy and hope during this time.
Turn your minds to the Easter story found in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 28. Here, we see two women discover the empty tomb. An angel instructs Mary and Mary to go and tell the disciples that Jesus has risen from the dead. They hurry away “with great fear and joy” before meeting the risen Christ on the road. These women demonstrate how it is possible to live a faithful, joy-filled life and still experience moments of fear, doubt, or anxiety.
Earlier in the same Gospel, we see how Jesus’ followers had concerns and worries about their basic needs being met. Jesus, as their teacher and friend, points to God’s provisions. God supplies food for birds and dresses the wildflowers so that they’re more beautifully adorned than any runway model. If God cares about these living things, then how much more will God care for humankind—beings created in the image and likeness of God?
Psalm 46 begins with some very powerful words: “God is our refuge and strength, a help always near in times of great trouble.”
Our community, our nation, and our world is experiencing a time of great trouble, but I don’t think we’re alone. I believe that God’s Holy Spirit is present with each and every one of us, and I trust that God is guiding us through this pivotal moment in world history.
Psalm 46 also references earthquakes and tsunamis, the rantings and ravings of nations, and the destruction of weapons used for war. In the midst of this chaos, the Psalmist does not fear. Through it all, her eyes are on God.
The women at the empty tomb are filled with both fear and joy at the thought of Jesus overcoming death. The angel speaks a greeting, “Don’t be afraid,” and Jesus repeats these comforting words when he meets them on the road.
Earlier in his ministry, Jesus says to his followers, “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” Instead of worrying, the Messiah encourages his disciples to pay attention to what God is doing right now and to not get worked up about what might happen tomorrow.
Friends, it’s completely natural to experience fear in times like these. Becoming worried about our health, our safety, and our finances is a very real, human response.
Through it all, I pray that you will seek God first. Discover joy and hope in the Psalms and in the Gospel stories. Put your trust in the Lord, because God will protect and provide for us. God is always ready to help when we need Him most. Thanks be to God!
We are in an unprecedented time as we deal with COVID-19 and adjust how we go about our normal activities. There are many changes happening, and this can overwhelm our capacity to cope.
The news media continually monitors the spread of this virus, government officials regularly put out new community restrictions, events are being cancelled, stores cannot keep shelves stocked with basic supplies, and some friends are losing their jobs.
All of this leads to an increase in stress, anxiety, depression and/or grief during a time of uncertainty and social distancing.
People handle situations like this in different ways. Some may be more irritable, some may be more emotional and cry, and still others may isolate and close themselves off from their loved ones.
We need to remember there is no right or wrong way to navigate or cope with stress and that everyone is doing their best.
The good news is that you are not alone even while social distancing. Having a connection with others is innate in each human being. All of us need to know we are valued and loved.
It can be challenging to stay connected when we are supposed to limit our exposure to others, but it is not impossible. Here are few ways you can stay connected with others:
Along with staying connected to others, remember to practice self-care in order to regulate and handle the stress associated with issues related to COVID-19. There are many ways to practice self-care. A few examples include:
Amid uncertainty, please know you are unique and amazing. There is no other person like you who can fill your shoes. Be a courageous person…talk with someone about how you feel and what you are experiencing.
If you want someone who will talk with you and help you find resources, the people of Peace Tree are here to assist. You can start by messaging our Congregational Care Team at email@example.com or by filling out the Prayer Form on our Connect page.
Hang in there! We will get through this together.
Behavioral Health Safety Net Insurance for those without mental health insurance and do not qualify for TennCare. (further details can be provided)
-Contact Leigh Ann Pray by calling 615-804-7164
Memphis-Area Food Curbside and Pick-Up Options via I Love Memphis Blog:
United Way Community Response and Recovery Fund
Memphis Food Industry Emergency Worker Assistance
GoFundMe organized by Edible Memphis
Talkspace Coronavirus Resource Hub
Free Resources for Mindfulness and Meditations
RELIEF FUNDS AND ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE
MEALS FOR SENIORS
Members of City of Memphis Senior Centers will still receive a daily meal from their respective seniors.
Members registered to receive MIFA meals can opt to pick up their meal from the center they attend or have it delivered using the van service.
Members at other senior centers have the option to pick up their meals at their respective center for their regular nominal fee.
Leigh Ann Pray has worked in mental health in Tennessee for over 20 years. She has a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and is a Licensed Marital and Family Therapist. During her career, she has worked as an In-home Counselor, a Case Manager, a Case Management Supervisor, a partial hospitalization Program Director, a Director of Quality Assurance and Training, a Chief Clinical Officer and a West TN Regional Director. Leigh Ann has been a part of implementing trauma informed care with Foster Parents, as well as developing trauma informed curriculums for clinicians. She has trained counselors, therapists and community partners on a wide variety of topics such as effective discipline, communication, trauma informed practices, and many more. She was a cohort leader with the National Council for Behavioral Health, in a collaboration to create trauma informed communities. The Collaboration focused on creating sustainable trauma-competent environments to allow children and families to thrive. Leigh Ann has spoken at events in multiple states on topics such as secondary traumatic stress, cross generational trauma, how to create trauma informed communities and trauma informed foster parenting. Leigh Ann believes in empowering people to identify and develop their strengths and abilities so they can maximize their potential.
Peace Tree is part of the United Methodist Church, and we are connected regionally to other UMC congregations in Middle Tennessee, West Tennessee, and Western Kentucky. Our area is being challenged by the planned gathering of white supremacists and associated hate groups in Murfreesboro and Shelbyville on October 28, 2017. The following is a letter written by Bishop Bill McAlilly to local churches. You can read the original post on Bishop McAlilly's blog HERE.
Dear United Methodist Family,
The same hate groups that devastated the Charlottesville, Virginia community just a few weeks ago are now targeting our Tennessee Conference by planning to gather in Murfreesboro and Shelbyville on October 28, 2017 to spread the vitriolic evil of racism. As United Methodists, we must remember and recommit ourselves to the ideals of our United Methodist social witness.
Within our Social Principles we understand racism as sin and contrary to the fundamental recognition that “our primary identity is as children of God.” “Racism … plagues and hinders our relationship with Christ, inasmuch as it is antithetical to the gospel itself.” I call on all of us to renew our personal and collective commitment to stand against racism and the violence born from it.
Some have inquired as to our possible response to the racist protests being planned. We are encouraging people to work within the interfaith partnerships already formed. The Shelbyville First United Methodist Church and the Shelbyville Church of the Nazarene will be sponsoring a prayer vigil on Thursday, October 26, 2017.
The Rutherford County Interfaith Council and the City of Murfreesboro encourage individuals to consult the #Murfreesboroloves Facebook community. Individuals who seek to publicly counter-protest in the Shelbyville area should consult the Shelbyville Times Gazette for information on where to legally gather. For more information, please feel free to call the Stones River District Superintendent, Rev. Max Mayo, at (615) 893-5886.
I call upon all United Methodists to join in praying for our communities as well as discovering creative ways to live our baptismal vow to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.
Bishop Bill McAlilly
Also, I invite you to read and reflect on Reverend Paul Purdue’s sermon, Blessed Are the Peacemakers – Being Mistaken for the Children of God preached Sunday, October 8, 2017 in the aftermath of the shooting in Las Vegas. You will find a link to this message below:
Rev. Paul Purdue: Blessed are the peacemakers – Being mistaken for the Children of God
The following press release was written by Compassion International, an organization which exists as an advocate for children, to release them from their spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enable them to become responsible and fulfilled Christian adults. Peace Tree is providing volunteers and working alongside Collierville UMC to help host Compassion International's upcoming event.
More than 1.4 billion people in developing countries live on less than $1.25 per day, facing challenges most Americans never will. Compassion International’s The Compassion Experience is making a four-day stop in the Collierville area February 19-22 and will bring visitors on a journey into the lives of two Compassion-sponsored children living in the Philippines and the Dominican Republic. The event will be hosted by Collierville United Methodist Church at 454 West Poplar Avenue in Collierville
A self-guided tour will immerse visitors in the lives of the children. Through the use of an iPod, a headset and 1,700 square feet of interactive space, visitors will see the children’s homes, walk through schools and markets, and hear life-changing stories of hope—all from the perspective of a child whose life began in poverty. This free event is appropriate for all ages and is an excellent opportunity for anyone who has never had the chance to travel outside the U.S. to get a small glimpse of what life can be like in developing countries.
Visitors are encouraged to make a reservation, however walk-ins are welcome. Groups of 20 or more should email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve their space. For more information about “The Compassion Experience”, visit www.compassionexperience.com, @compassion_exp on Twitter, and www.facebook.com/compassionexperience on Facebook.
Collierville and Memphis-area residents — all ages welcome
An interactive tour through the life of a child living in a developing country
WHEN / WHERE:
February 19-22, 2016
Collierville United Methodist Church
454 West Poplar Avenue
Collierville, TN 38017
In a few days we'll be ringing in the new year and welcoming 2016. But in the midst of the twelve days of Christmas, my thoughts still linger on the people we visited in Scripture during our House Group worship, the characters of the Nativity Story: Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds. Each was greeted by an angel, each was terrified by the news they received (or simply by the sight of God's holy messenger), and each heard the phrase, "Do Not Be Afraid."
These are words that I've needed to hear time and time again during these first six months of church planting. Whenever I doubted myself and my calling to plant a new church with the mission of reaching new people, I heard God whisper, "Do Not Be Afraid." As I feared whether or not I could raise enough of my salary to support my wife and unborn child, our friends and family showed their support and assured us, "Do Not Be Afraid." As I've led a Launch Team into the unknown, they've had my back and echoed the angelic phrase, "Do Not Be Afraid." So far this journey has been fantastic and humbling as I've trusted God, put my faith in his provisions, and depended on others to work alongside me as we fulfill our mission to Love God by Loving Others. We've shown our corner of God's Kingdom that Church can happen anywhere, and we enter the new year greatly encouraged and more excited than when we took our first steps this summer.
We want you to know how God has been moving through Peace Tree and how God has been using us as His hands and feet. We volunteered our time and recruited others to serve at the Guatemalan Consulate Visit in early December where more than 800 individuals received assistance from their government's officials. When you factor in children and spouses who also attended the event, we ministered to over 1200 people! Over 163 people have attended one of our community events including our Suggs Park Field Day and Back to School BBQ. Over 145 people have worshiped with us outdoors including our most recent service, Carols and Candlelight on the Collierville Town Square. 74 different people have visited one of our House Groups. And back in September, we showed our appreciation to police officers, firefighters, and EMTs during our Public Safety Appreciation Day by delivering baked goods to the Collierville Police Department and six Firehouses.
Thankfully, Peace Tree has several strategic partners and sponsors that have made this ministry possible. We're thankful to our mother church, Collierville UMC, for their continued prayers and support. And we are grateful for the Memphis Annual Conference and the Metro-McKendree District of the United Methodist Church for their assistance through funding and resources. I am most especially thankful for the more than 55 individual donors who have made charitable contributions to Peace Tree totaling $25,339! Their gifts make our ministry possible and helps support my work as a church planter.
As we approach January 1st, there are a few more days for individuals to make a gift to Peace Tree. So, if you believe in our mission and support our core values (Love All, Serve All, Live Together, Follow Christ), we hope you'll consider making a gift to Peace Tree HERE. Our online giving portal makes it possible for donors to give instantly and securely and assures them that their gift counts towards 2015's charitable contributions.
We are thankful for many things this Christmas season. We see a genuine community forming in front of our eyes. We've reached out in service and loving-kindness to our neighbors. We've worshiped Christ and studied God's Word together. And surrounding each of us has been a Spirit of Love and Peace. We hope that you will continue praying for us, sharing our story with others (especially those who feel far away from God), and that you will join us at an upcoming House Group gathering or community event. I am sure that I will still have moments of fear and trembling, but at the same time I stand amazed at everything God has done through us in just six short months. If you see me sometime soon, please remind me (as I remind myself daily), "Do Not Be Afraid." The Savior is here! A new year is about to begin, and with it comes multiple opportunities for this new church to reach new people for Christ. Amen.
+Peace and Love from Pastor Kris
Families come in all shapes and sizes these days. No longer can we drive by a home and assume that a "traditional" family containing a husband, wife, and 2.5 children live inside. More and more families include a step-parent, an adopted sibling, or a foster child. And with these modern-day realities come modern-day challenges: how to visit every family on Christmas Eve or Christmas day, how to please grandparents who live hundreds of miles away, and how to coordinate schedules with an ex-husband or ex-wife who wants to see a child during the winter break.
On top of this, there are many young adults who have started new jobs this year and won't travel home for Christmas. They've formed new family groups with other young people to fill this void. Newlyweds have to determine which spouse's family they will see at worship on Christmas Eve and which family they will visit on Christmas day. There are so many obligations, appointments, and traditions to uphold during this busy time of year that we often forget to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
So this year, we plan to celebrate Christmas early on Friday, December 18th at 7:00 p.m. This week marks the end of the semester for students, but families will still be in town. Celebrating Christmas early means you won't have to worry about splitting time with another family on December 25th or navigating an unfamiliar town to attend a worship service on Christmas Eve. And celebrating under the gazebo on the Collierville Town Square means you won't have to worry about parking spots, fighting for seats, or running out of room for you and your family. "Carols and Candlelight" will be a chance to take a Christmas service down to the basics: we'll read the Nativity Story and prepare our hearts for the Christ child, we'll sing beloved carols that echo that story, and we'll gather together with neighbors who long for community and friendship.
This Friday is not simply a chance to pause and celebrate Christmas on your schedule; it's also an opportunity for you to invite someone who is searching for Christ this year. Think of the co-worker who hasn't attended a church worship service in years, the neighbor who doesn't do well with large crowds, the classmate who is a spiritual person but who has no faith community. This is an opportunity to share the joy of Christmas and spread some holy-day cheer. We hope you'll join us this Friday, but we also hope you'll text or call a friend who you'll pick up and bring along to "Carols and Candlelight."
With so many things happening in the world, it's easy to forget why we celebrate Christmas. "Carols and Candlelight" will provide a much needed reminder. I'm most looking forward to our final carol where each person will be invited to light their candle. It's a reminder of how Christ is the Light that came down to earth, a Light that shines in the darkness, a Light that we follow and shows us the Way. Celebrating Christmas early on December 18th reminds us that Christ is our Light, and when we share that Light with our neighbors, the world becomes a brighter place. We'll see you this Friday night in Collierville.
+Peace and Love from Pastor Kris
We thank you for who you are. You are the Creator of everything we can touch, taste, and see, and yet you take the time to walk with us, to listen to us, and to care for us in our daily lives. You don't need us in order to accomplish your goals, but you've honored us by asking us to work in your harvest and to reach your people.
This day, as we eagerly anticipate our first community event in Collierville, we ask that you would bless our work. Please build upon the energy and excitement that has gone into the planning of this event. May the plans that we've discussed not be our plans, but instead may they hopefully be your plans for Saturday in Suggs Park.
Bless the people whom we will meet. May they feel comfortable in sharing their stories with us. May those who have left the Church find their way back with the people of Peace Tree walking by their side. May those who have had questions about Christianity and have expressed doubts over their faith find hope and promise in the House Groups that are forming.
Watch over the children who will come and enjoy life in the playground and spray park. Keep the dogs in the dog park healthy. Inspire the musicians who will share their gift with all those at our Field Day. Bring neighbors together around the games that will be set up. And cool everyone down with the pure, clean bottled water and the juicy goodness of ice-pops.
Above all, may we delight in your presence! Allow us to truly connect with our neighbors so that we may fulfill our mission of "Loving God by Loving Others." Send your Holy Spirit upon us this Saturday so that all those who encounter the Peace Tree squad will also encounter God. And thank you for all the times you've remained faithful to us.
In the mighty name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.
Today, my heart is saddened as I think about my brothers and sisters living in the Palmetto State mourning the loss of nine South Carolinians who were killed while attending a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. In times of unspeakable tragedy, we ask the question, "Why?" Why did this happen, why were good people murdered, and why did God allow this to happen? While the stock answer is "Everything happens for a reason," I want to suggest that this answer is not fair to the families and community experiencing this great loss, and perhaps this answer is too quick and easy an explanation for such a complicated world created by such a mighty God.
Fellow pastor Adam Hamilton wrote a book in 2011 entitled Why? Making Sense of God's Will. In it, he shares, "The sweeping message of the Bible is not a promise that those who believe and do good will not suffer. Instead the Bible is largely a book about people who refused to let go of their faith in the face of suffering." Already, the people of Charleston have shown us that they refuse to let go of their faith in the midst of this tragedy. Christians, city leaders, and members of the community gathered this morning at Morris Brown AME Church for a prayer vigil. Others gather on the street in front of 'Mother Emanuel' to pray with one another and to comfort one another. The people of Charleston have rightly showed us that, while there may be no answer for these thoughtless killings, true comfort and hope is found in God. When you are asking the question "Why?," turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Even as we hold onto faith, we ask why tragedies occur in a world that was called "good" at its creation. For this, Hamilton supplies three foundational ideas:
I have often said that God's answer for the injustices of the world is humanity! Human beings are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus. The Church serves as the Body of Christ. And the redemption of the world came in the Son of Man. We are responsible for this world, but at times we choose what is evil over what is good; we choose the wrong path as opposed to choosing God's path. But with God's help, we can choose what is just and good; we can right the wrongs of this world and help usher in a day when God's Will shall be realized on earth as it is in Heaven.
During the writing of this post, the suspected gunman, Dylann Roof, has been apprehended. Many will call for swift justice and will want to take his life for the lives of those he murdered. As a Christian, I first seek out Peace, and today I call for Peace with Justice. We have a responsibility to choose good over evil and to walk the Way that Jesus walked. How can we look upon Dylann the way that God sees him? How can we treat him as a Child of God who must now live with the consequences of his actions?
I challenge the stock answer "EVERYTHING happens for a reason." I see no reason in last night's mass murder. And I do not believe that God willed this event to happen. But I do know that God will never leave my side, and I do trust that God is with the members of Emanuel AME Church and the people of Charleston at this very moment. For those of you who do not know where to turn, I encourage you to look to God. Adam Hamilton writes, "Rejecting God doesn't change the situation that has caused our suffering; it only removes the greatest source of hope, help, comfort, and strength we have." Remember that evil and tragedy do not have the final word. God is Love, and Love Wins.
+Peace with Justice from Pastor Kris
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