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I took this photo in Scotland this summer. The view was stunning. Waking up above the clouds was a spiritual experience. And while a photo has a way of taking you there, the several day hike, the ankle-twisting, loose-rock, steep ascent it requires to reach such a location may prevent a crowd from gathering. Or it could be as simple as not having the time. There are so many obstacles that prevent us from experiencing the full beauty of life.

 

New Years resolutions should include physical, spiritual, emotional, vocational and educational goals, but I think we also have to be realistic. Too many resolutions get abandoned at the base of the mountain. Too many goals are above the clouds with no real commitment, determination or training to get there. Or even worse, we can set goals and start hiking but get lost in the process. I believe the view from the top of the mountain is attainable for each of us if we prepare for the challenge ahead, if we commit to the course in front of us and persevere when the world presses against us.

 

 

This January in worship and small groups I will share my Scotland experiences; the Holy places, the kindness of strangers, mountain top experiences, solitude and simplicity, culture and community, discipline and prayer. I will share how this renewal will have a long-lasting spiritual impact on my everyday life and ministry. This January, come and set goals, face your mountains with me, and lets get hiking the highlands of life.

 

Johnston River of Life has another exciting journey planned this year. Up to this point JROL has been a second campus of New Hope. During the last few years we have transitioned; different leadership teams, mission statements, bank accounts and activities, but we maintain a shared life, community, and faith. Pastors Jon and Craig, the district Superintendent, and Administrative chairs have been in discussion to determine what the next step looks like.

 

Together we are setting out to charter JROL as a new church in the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. We will spend the next nine months refining our administrative structure, celebrating our ministries and volunteers, deepening our relationships and spiritual life, and re-visioning all things through the lens of, “Being Christ in Community.” In September we will have services celebrating this new beginning.

 

 

Between now and then, we invite your prayers, and we commit to ongoing prayer for each of you, our community and fellow churches. If you know someone who doesn't have a church family please invite them to join JROL and New Hope in this adventure. If they are curious about faith or wonder what it would feel like to be a part of a group of friends at the top of a mountain, looking down on the clouds, this is a faith journey that is worth joining.

 

Pastor Craig Ferguson

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I have been in church all my life. I don't remember when I missed worship for more that a couple weeks. You could say I am drenched in church culture and indoctrinated by an education in theology.

 

But.....

 

How easy it is to forget the Threads of Grace that hold us in relationship with God. Scripture reminds us that no one is worthy, no one stands righteous before God. We are loved by God before we can do anything to deserve it. We are drawn by God even when we mess up royally. We are anointed and given purpose by God even when we stumble along the road. The Gospel message is filled with hope, but so often we forget or we get distracted by things of the world.

 

During Lent this year I am excited to be teaching a series that will refresh our understanding of who we are as Christians and United Methodists. Historically what have been the components that made us stand out and still define us today as a people called United Methodists? What was the “method to our madness?”

 

Maybe you have questions...

What is our understanding of God and the Trinity?

How does Grace work for the unbeliever, the sinner, the devout, or me?

What is our Christian role and responsibility in the world?

How do we embody Christ to the world through our Social Principles?

How does faith and the church make a difference in my family and community?

 

A couple of things that really set this series apart is that we will begin with a ministry celebration on February 16th 6:00 PM at Crown Point (everyone is invited). At this time we will identify the committee members that will lead us into Chartering as a new Church in September. We will also celebrate all the ministries and volunteers that actively make JROL possible. (That's a lot of people) We will also have special Life groups that will meet during Lent to delve even deeper into the questions. (Make sure to join a group.) Finally, on Easter weekend we will have a special service celebrating our unity and purpose as members of JROL, “Being Christ in Community.”

 

We have a lot to celebrate, and an exciting year ahead of us. Get involved!

 

Craig Ferguson