Foothills United Methodist Church
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Growing in grace.... Serving with love.



G = Gratitude

Tuesday, January 01, 2013 View Comments Comments (0)
When it comes to spelling out “Generosity” with our lives, the “G” is definitely gratitude. It’s easy to feel gratitude to God in this season of Epiphany, when we celebrate in worship all the ways God has shown God’s love to us, especially through Jesus Christ. But also in these quieter post-Christmas days, we can think back with gratitude for the relationships and events of the past year and the lessons we have learned along the way.
Gratitude is not as much a feeling as an intentional stance towards life. It shows up in all kinds of self-giving in our Foothills family, from teaching children, youth and adults to being present to one another in supportive personal relationships, from strengthening the life of our surrounding community to deepening worship and small-group life. What a great way to start the New Year, filled with gratitude!
Dear God, may our lives reflect our gratitude for Your amazing love. Amen.

E = Energy

Friday, February 01, 2013 View Comments Comments (0)
When we live generously, the “E” stands for energy: an interior energy that comes from God, and the mutual energy of giving to and receiving from others as part of a faith community.
The Greek word for energy means “effective activity.” It describes being vividly alive, productive and in active service. In the New Testament, the term denotes a power greater than merely human will, and most often comes from God. For example, the term is used for God’s work within and among us, for the power of prayer, and for faith working through love in our lives.
Such generous energy moves around us these days at Foothills UMC. We see people who are vital, alive, purposeful and effective as they teach young children, creatively engage youth, lead adult Sunday school classes, and guide midweek study groups. They pass on basic life skills, feed and assist homeless guests, pray for and visit individuals, engage one another in caring conversations, and prepare for and lead in worship.
Your generosity exudes energy that is both contagious and radiant. Thank you for all the ways you model it by the way that you live!

N = Natural Growth in Giving

Friday, February 22, 2013 View Comments Comments (0)
The “N” in “Generosity” points to natural growth in giving. God intends for us to enjoy giving for God’s purposes, wherever that may be, flowing naturally out of maturing faith.
People grow in their involvement, often starting with a one-day mission project and then expanding as they learn about the cause, how they can help, and how good it feels to be personally involved. For example, the FUMC youth do yearly mission trips through Sierra Service Project, giving our adults an opportunity to learn about the work, attend their fundraisers, support them through prayer, and go along with them as chaperones. Likewise, when one team of Foothills adults first helped clean up after Hurricane Katrina as Volunteers In Mission, they began a yearly tradition of trips to the Gulf!
Likewise, as we deepen in our discipleship, we often grow in our financial giving. Most people decide at some point to invest in God’s work by giving out of their income on a regular basis. Next, when a major giving opportunity comes along, they choose to give out of their assets for the church’s future ministries. And then they may decide to include the church in their will, to provide ministries to future generations. One response is not closer to God than another; we are simply seeking to grow in our response to God’s call to us.
Giving can take other forms besides mission trips and money. For example, in one church I served, a woman who was physically homebound chose to use her telephone to call everyone related to the congregation on their birthday to offer God’s blessing. What a gift to us all!
There are as many ways to give as there are ways we receive God’s blessings through others. Giving allows us to participate in God’s creative work. Thank you for all the ways that you give God’s love to others, both inside and outside the church.
“. . . Give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.”       (2 Cor. 9:7-8)

E = Engagement in the World

Saturday, March 30, 2013 View Comments Comments (0)
“The place God calls you to,” says Frederick Buechner, “is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." When we hear God’s call and seek to live out “Generosity,” the second “E” becomes engagement in the world.
People get personally involved when they follow their passions, naturally expressing their faith in the public sphere. I have seen Christians get engaged through at least three major gateways. One way is through hands-on mission trips, when we see we can make a difference in others’ lives, and surprisingly find ourselves changed, as well. At Foothills we regularly offer United Methodist Volunteers In Mission and Sierra Service Project trips. Several congregations across the U.S. find that personal-involvement service days are the front line of evangelism, particularly for young adults in the surrounding community.
A second way to get excited and engaged is to learn about our UM Apportionments or Shared Ministries. (For the moment forget whether we’ve paid our Apportionments in full or not; just learn about them!) We are part of a dynamic global network of community-based ministries that change people’s lives, both right nearby and literally around the world. Go ahead, check it out: subscribe to the General Board of Global Ministry’s e-newsletter, or browse through 2013 - 2016 Giving Opportunities Through The Advance by country, type of service, or agency. And the next time you take a trip, go visit one.
A third way people engage comes when seeing individuals in need leads them to ask questions about the social systems that cause such suffering. Some UM churches select issues from our General Board of Church and Society, California Impact, Lambda Letters, or another alert network. Others subscribe to the United Methodist News Service, which simply reports on global events. Many congregations offer a Letter-Writing Sunday after worship once a quarter, where people write whatever they want to say to their legislators on any topic they choose.
God moves us to act on our faith and become personally engaged with the needs of the world. May we encourage such involvement with a generous spirit!

R = Relationships

Friday, April 19, 2013 View Comments Comments (0)
The “R” in “Generosity” highlights relationships. Healthy relationships weave an interconnecting web of friends, neighbors, family, church members, community folks, and people around the world whom we may never meet but for whom we pray. All of these relationships are gifts God has entrusted to us to enjoy, strengthen and share. While we usually experience them one-to-one, when connected together, we enliven one another and grow, like a magnetic field in space or synapses sparking one another in the brain.
The tough part is that our relationships are so human! Even close friendships have their On and Off times, and we all have that less-than-beautiful side that we cannot hide. (Okay, call us “characters,” but you still know what I mean.) Most of us have some aspect of dysfunction in the families we were born into, and in the family relationships we choose for ourselves. What a proving ground for God’s grace!
When we seek to be generous in our relationships, we try to have Jesus’ quality of caring, his kind of truthfulness, justice and compassion at the center of our interactions. We seek to move beyond possessiveness to “uplifting one another in love.” Such love is an always-moving target, but it’s a goal well worth aiming for.
God bless, Betsy S.
Where two or three are gathered in My name, There I am in the midst of them.”   – Jesus

O = Outreach

Saturday, May 25, 2013 View Comments Comments (0)
When we seek to spell out “Generosity” with our lives, the “O” can stand for outreach: reaching out to others with Jesus’ quality of compassion and care.
The point of outreach is not to bring people “into” the church, but to help them “be” the church, part of the Body of Christ, wherever they are. When we give expression to God’s generous love, each in our unique way, we help all of us connect more authentically with God, with ourselves, and with others. People may find or nourish a faith community that helps them in this process, whether it’s in our congregation, in a Bible study or other small group, in a base community, or in a gathering of neighbors who share God-initiated values. Whenever this happens, we nurture and strengthen one another, trusting God more and growing in our discipleship.
What’s essential about outreach is not to be gathered into an organization, but to be moving out into a wider faith community of real people who walk alongside us (past, present, future, and geographically, as well). As we reach out to one another, we also reach more deeply into our faith, in a mutual dance with one another and with our gracious, ever-moving God.
Yours in Christ, Betsy S.

S = Spiritual Deepening

Monday, July 22, 2013 View Comments Comments (0)
Through life’s ups and downs, we are either growing or withering away. Whenever we seek to live generously, it puts us on the side of growing. So the “S” in “Generosity” can stand for spiritual deepening.
How does this happen? As we focus on God’s abundant grace in the gift of God’s love in our lives, we become more joyful, regardless of whether we have a little or a lot in material goods. We try to keep growing in our “first fruits giving” – giving the first and the best to God in our time, money, relationships and involvements, and seeking to manage all of these dimensions according to God’s generosity towards us. We want to become more present to God’s Presence in and around us, by joining in worship and in a small group for spiritual growth. We go deeper in our prayer life with God (in whatever form that takes for us), and connect more consciously with one another as a faith community.
Questions naturally pop up in our living. Where do we see and respond to God’s grace? What is our specific mission? How can we embody it in our daily lives? Living generously prompts us to become more intentional in our spiritual disciplines, and more conscious of God at work all around us.

Betsy S.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and This is not your own doing – It is the gift of God.”    Ephesians 2:8


I = Integrity

Monday, July 22, 2013 View Comments Comments (0)
When we reflect on the “I” in “Generosity,” we could say it stands for integrity. A self-giving, caring life strengthens our integrity in several ways: by clarifying our intentions and bolstering our purpose, by strengthening consistent, ethical decision-making, and by challenging us to be the same, whole persons no matter what our outward circumstances.

Ronald Greer has written a book titled “If You Know Who You Are You’ll Know What to Do.” In it he says the term integrity comes from the Latin word for “whole, integrated, complete,” so the concept has to do with one’s thoughts, feelings and actions fitting together in harmony.
"Integrity involves both the uniqueness of who I am as a person and the integration of the values and wisdom that guide me,” says Greer. So it involves two essential aspects:
     First, being true to the uniqueness of who I am as a person; and

     Second, my “moral integrity:” living in alignment with the values and wisdom that guide me. This is not a one-time decision but rather an ongoing choice I make to be defined by what I believe to be true for me.

So far, so good.  But none of us lives permanently in that ideal place.  So how can generous behavior help us live with more personal and moral integrity? Here are a few ways generous actions move us in the right direction:

¨ Self-giving behavior prompts us to see people’s unmet needs and inner hungers, revealing opportunities to nurture people’s lives and touch their hearts.

¨ Any small act of compassion can move us from a general awareness of others to personal commitment to place their welfare first in this moment.

  ¨ Actions of heartfelt caring are not based on our feelings at the moment, but on our ongoing decisions.

  ¨ Reaching out to another person is reaching out beyond oneself, reaching out because you matter to me, not because it gives me an edge.

Methodist founder John Wesley describes such specific behaviors as “spiritual disciplines.” They are actions that arise out of the character of a person. At the same time, the more we practice such disciplines, the more we become generous in who we are, with “Christ-in-us” integrity.

Betsy S.


T = Trust

Monday, August 19, 2013 View Comments Comments (0)
When we experience “Generosity” as both recipients and givers, we see that the “T” can stand for trust. Generously sharing our personal involvement, relationships, and resources naturally flows out of trust in God, including the assurance that God will meet our needs. Actually that’s what “faith” means – not a specific set of beliefs in God, but trust in God’s love toward us.
There’s a difference between our wants and our needs. Wants can be never-ending, but our needs refer to human basics of community, water, food, and shelter. It’s amazing how looking back on our past experiences can clarify how God has given us these core resources, even in our worst times. Those times have helped us see our priorities more clearly and realize our utter dependence on God.
Recalling how we trusted God in the past and how God provided for our needs, we are encouraged to trust God again now for our present and future needs. Because of this trust, we can risk giving help to meet others’ needs, knowing that our basics will be covered. Jesus lived that way. John Wesley lived that way. We can live that way, too.
Years ago, I interviewed a man who had developed a deep relationship with the people of a particular village in Bolivia. He had visited them often over the years, each time helping with various mission projects (building a school, setting up a system for clean drinking water, etc.). But out of all his experiences, what stood out for him the most was how strong their faith in God was. Despite being extremely poor in material things, they trusted God to meet their needs and joyously shared their faith. And every time their needs were met, albeit in unexpected ways. Their trust in God deepened my friend’s trust, and through him, mine, as well.
Yours in Christ, Betsy S.
“I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. . . .”
-Philippians 4:12

Y = Yielding to God's Grace

Wednesday, September 18, 2013 View Comments Comments (0)

When we consider the “Y” in “Generosity,” we realize it could stand for yielding to God’s grace.

One phrase I read somewhere years ago has earned a cherished place in my home. It says “choosing to be utterly dependent on God.” Of course, we always are utterly dependent upon God, but it is the act of choosing this dependence, of accepting, welcoming and embracing it, that makes all the difference.

The reason our dependence on God is Good News, not bad, is because of God’s grace. Jim Harnish, in his book A Disciple’s Path, describes grace as the gift of God’s love that meets us where we are but loves us too much to leave us there. It is God’s love at work within us to transform our lives as a unique expression of God’s love not only for us but also through us to transform the world. This means that God is constantly at work in us to shape us into the likeness of Christ.

That’s a tall order! But it is God’s tall order, not our own. In the moments when I yield to God’s grace, I let my life lean into my relationship with God, like a kite leaning upon the wind. Acknowledging God’s incredible generosity towards me and towards all creation, I simply let God work at aligning my life along the intense, consistent lines of God’s love. Such yielding includes not only recognizing the sheer giftedness of life, but also the gift of God, Who cannot be grasped or possessed. God’s generosity, God’s grace, is simply too much ever to be contained.

Yours in Christ, Betsy S.