O Lord, give strength to your people;
give them, O Lord, the blessings of peace.
About this time every year, someone asks me what my New Year’s resolution is. The truth is, I do not make resolutions; I never have. Not that there are not plenty of things that I could and should “work on” in 2023. I could, for example, resolve to be more patient, to spend more time studying the scripture and more time in private prayer and quiet reflection, to find new ways to reach out in service to others, to make more time for rest and rejuvenation … But I still am hesitant to resolve to do these things. That seems so ironclad and a bit intimidating to me. I suppose I am afraid that I will fail, and will be so discouraged that everything suffers and I end up in a state of stagnation or inertia.
Instead of setting myself up in that way, as if these things are rules that I must follow or lofty standards that I must achieve in order to be “successful” in 2023, I believe I will just try to be more open to the Holy Spirit’s presence in the coming months. Perhaps that will lead and nudge me to make more time for study, prayer, and quiet reflection. Perhaps I will be inspired to a particular area of service, one that I might never have imagined I would enter into. Perhaps I will stop making excuses for all the things I know I should do that would be good for me, and see them instead as ways to honor the life that I have been given by God.
And I wonder if that would not begin a new cycle: my new openness and awareness of the Spirit might lead me to engage in these things, and these things in turn might lead me to an even deeper awareness of the Spirit. I might gain a deeper understanding that God is always at work in my life, always seeking to strengthen the relationship we have, no matter what I do or fail to do—because God is far more resolute than I could ever be, and God’s promises mean more than I any resolution I could ever make.
How about you? Are you ready to be open to the Spirit in 2023? If you listen and look with some intentionality, you might experience God moving in some mysterious ways in your life in 2023 … and you never know where that might lead!
God’s blessings to you in the New Year and always.
Dave and Joyce O’Brien have been coming to Grace for seven or eight years. They have both felt very welcomed by the people here at the church, and feel like it is our church home!
Dave has been on the council several times, and is currently on the Worship and Music Committee. He is also is the choir, and is called upon to do things like move the Chrismon tree, put up the wreaths, etc. He writes a meditation for the newsletter every week, and leads the Wednesday services. He has finished the Diakonia classes and other classes to become a Synotically Authorized Minister (SAM), and is currently enrolled in seminary classes. He is also a full time Parole Officer.
Joyce is in the altar guild and sings in the choir. She also enjoys baking for the fellowship hour between services. She helps Dave by editing his meditations and the papers he writes for his classes.
Fellowship Hour – January 8th – Mary Schneider and Cindy Wood
A note from David O’Brien
Many thanks to all who contributed to the gift card from the congregation.
Recently, an envelope for me was left with Pastor Brenda. The contents of the envelope were overwhelming, and much needed. Since I don’t know who left the envelope, I like to think that I should think everyone here at Grace. I love you all, and it’s very special to think that you love me, too! Sooooo……thanks so very much!
Some members have been asking what the raised glass door box in Grace’s parking lot is. The Outreach Committee is pleased to tell you that they are working on the completion of a Blessing Box. During the winter the Blessing Box could contain gloves, hats, or socks that people walking or driving by Grace could use and in the warmer weather it could be stocked with food or water that a passerby could take. Of course, information on Grace and other religious material will be included. Stay tuned……
Meditation on Matthew 3:13-17
By Vicar Dave
How blessed we are that God comes down to us! Today’s Gospel is another example of how God, in the form of Jesus Christ, came down to us and became fully human. Jesus, being both God and human, was without sin, and therefore did not need to repent nor to be baptized. But here He is, coming to John for baptism. It’s also another example, at least for me, of Jesus taking human expectations and turning them on their heads. John apparently knows who this is standing before him. He also knew who Jesus was before he was born, leaping in his mother’s womb when Mary came to visit Elizabeth while they were both pregnant. So John’s looking at Jesus, thinking “I’m not worthy to tie this guys shoes, and He wants to be baptized by me?” But Jesus, in His typical fashion, expresses humility and instructs John that he should “let it be so”. Why would Jesus do this?
Jesus goes though this ritual of purification, not for Himself, but for us. He is showing that He is the link between the old covenant and the new one. Baptism is one of the many ways that God imparts His grace to us. Every Sunday, we say that “we believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins”. As Jesus has become fully one of us, He models behavior that is important for us to emulate. It’s similar to how He showed us how to celebrate Holy Communion in His last supper, and how He taught us to pray. He gave us the ultimate example of humble service on Good Friday when He submitted to being punished for our sins. That act brings Him full circle from His baptism. First, He has no need of purification from sin, but submits to it anyway, for us. Then, He has no guilt to be punished for, yet submits to that as well. In both of these acts, and many more during His time on Earth, Jesus shows us that He loves us and wants us to live with Him in paradise, just as He told the criminal that hung on a cross next to Him.
What would this world look like if we followed Jesus’ example of humility and service? Rather than complaining about our situation and asking God “why me?”, we could accept the things that are placed before us and work with them the best we could. It could mean that, even though we don’t need to do anything about injustice, we speak out against it anyway. Instead of just reading about the homeless or hungry in our community, we could do something to help them. Like supporting food drives or homeless shelters.
I’ve often heard the expression, not my circus, not my monkeys, when people are talking about a messed up situation that they’ve seen. It could be used when seeing someone doing something wrong, like shoplifting, or drinking too much and heading out to their car to drive home. We’re not the ones doing this, but perhaps we’re in a position to stop someone else from making a mistake that could alter their lives with a simple word or two. I’m so glad that God cared enough to come down to us and show us a better way and to save us from our sins. I’m happy to be one of the monkeys in His circus!
In next week’s announcements the total amount of food collected for Grace’s Food for Toledo ministry for 2022 will be announced. It hasn’t been tallied yet, but the Outreach Committee can’t wait to announce the totals! Thank you to Grace members for supporting this important ministry. Aldersgate has relayed to us that the number of families taking advantage of their food pantry has greatly increased recently. At this time they are servicing approximately 90 families every two weeks.
A BIG Thank you!!
The Worship and Music Committee would like to thank everyone that made Advent and Christmas so special at Grace. It takes a lot of members’ talents and time to do what we did at Grace this year. We look forward to seeing what we can do next year (but let’s not hurry that)! Here is a list of people to be thanked:
Altar Guild, Brenda Holderman and all those that helped put up the tree and wreaths (and took them down as well), the Monday Advent Study leaders and those that attended the sessions, Sue Wagner and her Fellowship Hour team that provided treats during Advent, Connie Thomas for spearheading the poinsettia drive and for all that purchased poinsettias to adorn the church, those that lit the Advent candles at Sunday Services and filled our mangers, our assisting ministers, readers, and acolytes, Janelle Rife and Cindy Matthews who spearheaded our Advent skits and all of our actors, the ushers and those that ran the sound board, Nancy Lockard and our Prayer Team that put on the Blue Christmas Service, all of our musicians, our soloist, and music leaders that spent several hours practicing to provide beautiful music during Advent and Christmas, Fritz Gooch for live streaming, Cathy Holewinski for providing bulletins and handling a busier than usual church office with graciousness, Gretchen for everything she did and Pastor Brenda for making Advent and Christmas so special to Grace and its members.
Behind the scenes at Grace ….by Gretchen
- It is official we have a scheduled Grace menagerie gathering Monday – Friday by the office door between 9:00 a.m. to noon. It is a gathering of Blue Jays and mostly squirrels celebrating the feast of peanuts passed out by Cathy. It is a wild frenzy of fur, feathers and flying peanut shells!
- Thanks to a phone call to Engage Toledo it is not so dark pulling into the church parking lot. All of the streetlights in front of the church and east and west of the church were out. We can now see the driveway!
- We are still in need of peanut butter jars so as you go on your high protein diet and finish a jar please drop off in office or outside Gretchen’s door !
- Don’t forget about the Flower Chart for 2023! It is located on the Community Bulletin Board outside the big church. We have an arrangement with Schramm’s Flowers to deliver to the church. You can call them to arrange and then let the church office know you are having delivered and any information you would like printed in the bulletin. Schramm’s will directly bill the person ordering. If you would like to bring in flowers that is also wonderful and don’t forget to let the church office know.
- The Community Bulletin Boards are a great source of information so don’t forget to check them out .One is outside the big church and the other across from the office.
- Do you remember?
Healthy People! Healthy Parish!
January and Red!
What can we associate with January, Grace Church and Red?
If you guessed Blood – you hit the mark.
January is Grace’s annual winter blood drive ! We are scheduled for Wednesday, January 11 from 1- 6 pm in Brenner Hall.
This is a great New Year’s resolution – to start donating blood.
Donors are not limited to Grace members – they can be neighbors, friends and family.
There is a place to schedule an appointment on the Red Cross website or you can call/email Gretchen Hiatt and she will work with you to schedule an appointment.
Wrap A Heart!
Just around the corner is February and Heart Month! It is also our month to wrap a heart with a warm blanket month. For the last 2 years we have collected blankets to be given to Tent City to distribute to people in need .
As you are following through with your new year resolutions of cleaning your closets – ??? and have any clean blankets, quilts, afghans please consider donating them for the Wrap a Heart program. Clean blankets ,quilts, afghans can be dropped off at the Church Office, Gretchen’s door or let Gretchen know and she will pick them up. We will have our collection trunk out in February but don’t want to miss the opportunity to collect if you are cleaning now – hint!
Blahs, Yuck, Blue, Gray, Clouds, Cold, Brown Snow (definition of brown snow is not what you think – it is the old snow that has dirt in it) etc.,etc. etc.?
Sounds like the weather in the winter in Toledo -right!
Many people experience the winter blues and some SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
Winter Blues is not a specific medical condition, but the National Institutes of health say the “Blues” are fairly common and people feel more down than usual, sad, and have little energy.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a more severe condition and according to the National Institutes of Health experience more depression with feelings of hopelessness and despair, fatigue, problems sleeping and concentrating and changes in appetite. Winter blues symptoms are milder than SAD.
If you are experiencing the Winter Blues, there are some things you can do to lift your mood.
- Get moving! Get outside and walk – check out what nature is doing. If you can’t get outside walk inside – just get moving. Walk around the house and check out what you see outside.
- Set your alarm and stick to Sleep Routine. It is tempting to sleep in on dark mornings, but it is better to get up at the same time each day. According to the National Sleep Foundation getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night is important for our good health. Get into the routine of doing something that relaxes you before sleep warm Decaf tea, reading the Bible, etc. Turn off the TV, have your bedroom cool and get rid or turn all lighted devices (like the clock) around.
- LAUGH! There is actual research that says laughter stimulates processes in your brain that counter depressive symptoms. Check out a good movie or TV show – what is your favorite – Grumpy Old Men (notice there is not a Grumpy Old Women movie!), 3 Stooges, Dick Van Dyke or whatever movie or TV program make you laugh. Read a joke book and then tell the jokes to your family and friends even if mess them up it will be a good laugh!
- Warm yourself up with a mug of real hot cocoa! Use natural cocoa powder (it is high in heart healthy and mood – boosting flavonoids). It is rich, delicious and a great treat to look forward to. Make it with fortified milk which provides carbohydrates, protein and Vitamin D which according to S Kleiner, MD increases serotonin levels and helps us to relax. This is a great warm drink before going to bed.
- What about having a party – a January party. Make it simple – easy snacks. Then play cards or crazy board games or watch a funny movie. It is something to look forward to! January is National Oatmeal month so serve oatmeal cookies and milk! If you can’t get together in person have a group conversation by phone or facetime – everyone can drink warm milk, have a cookie and tell jokes and laugh! Getting together in person or by phone is wonderful for communicating and can be great for a good laugh.
- Do something each day! Something that gives you a sense of accomplishment -yes cleaning your closet counts but also something like writing a letter or calling someone, or finishing a project, or even trying a new recipe (oatmeal)!
- The key is not to go crazy with a “TO DO” list as then it becomes more of a chore and less enjoyable. Do things you like to do!
- Plan something! Vacations to warm places with sun are great but sometimes that is not possible. Plan a dinner or lunch date, a phone call or facetime call, the party with the oatmeal cookies!
- Light !! Open those curtains and blinds – yes it may be dull and dreary, but it is better then being in the dark in a room. Turn on those table lamps – get some light. Set a timer for the lights to come on so you don’t have to worry about tuning on. Get LED lights so you don’t’ have to worry about electric costs.
****If your symptoms interfere with your daily activities and you are depressed, PLEASE call and talk with your MD about. it is very important and there is treatment for SAD.
****If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or suicide, please call the Suicide Hot Line at 988. There is a trained professional who can help you 24 hours a day seven days a week .
The final count is in! During Advent the members of Grace graciously donated the following to our Advent Project: 76 toothbrushes, 38 tubes of toothpaste, 21 boxes of Kleenex, 8 bars/bottles of soap, 29 cans of vegetables, 29 cans of fruit, 43 boxes of pasta, and 42 cans of soup! The personal needs items will go to Grace’s Personal Needs ministry and the vegetables, fruit, pasta, and soup will go to Aldersgate United Methodist Church’s Food Pantry.
Thank you, thank you, thank you…..
The Annual Congregational meeting will be Sunday January 29. Please have all annual reports in to the office no later than January 16.
More information on the Annual meeting to follow……………..
If people never did silly things
nothing intelligent would get done !
(Ludwig Wittgenstein -Austrian -British Philosopher )
This is the day the Lord has made.
Let us rejoice and be glad in it!