When we hear the word “desert” or “wilderness” in the scriptures, where was that?
One of the things that still continues to amaze me every time I travel to the Holy Land is how close the wilderness is! You can be standing on a hill just outside of Jerusalem, and take a few steps over the top of the mountain and suddenly find yourself in the desert!
What is so appealing about the desert? Many of the Hebrew prophets lived out in the desert. Jesus often went out to be alone. Saints throughout the ages have sought out the wilderness in order to be able to commune with God.
When I take Sabbath days in my ministry, I want to go as far away from “human” sounds as I can – no traffic, no hum of air conditioners, no airplanes overhead. I want to be in a place where I can hear nothing but what God has made. I want/need less distractions, less to occupy my attention, more to open myself up and hear the voice of God.
Many Christians misunderstood the intent of the “Desert Fathers and Mothers”. They thought that they were just going out there to avoid the distraction of everyday life, to escape the demonic influences that invade our everyday, materialistic existence. But the Fathers and Mothers did not go out to AVOID the demons; they went out to CONFRONT them! They went out, armed for battle in prayer, alone and vulnerable, but trusting in Christ to hold them safe.
How many troubles have you avoided in your life because someone was praying for you? You may not have even known it, but prayer has brought about more good than we realize. Those people who get up at 3:00 AM, not knowing why they are awake, but taking that opportunity to pray for their family…those who gather underground in oppressive countries, persecuted but unbowed…our own people who gather every Friday morning in our sanctuary at 9:30 to love and pray together – what strength can be found through prayer!
Take time to pray. As we enter the season of Advent, we prepare for the coming of the Christ Child. Vulnerable, needing, unable to care for or feed Himself – and the prayers of a mother and a father who, in desperate circumstances themselves, gave of themselves for their child.
The wilderness, the broken places, the isolated areas are most often where we find God. Apart from the distractions, surrounded by emptiness and sometimes fear – God meets us there. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil – for Thou art with me.”
Several persons have come to me, asking to join the church. We are setting up a New Member Orientation group that will meet Sunday, Dec. 10 at 11:00 AM in the Sunday School room. This is an informal class that everyone can join – just because you attend doesn’t mean that you HAVE to join!
The purpose of this group is to get to know each other and to fill out the basic paperwork that we need in order to have accurate records. As a reminder, we offer three levels of membership:
AFFILIATE: If you live here LESS than 6 months out of the year and are a United Methodist at your home church, you would become an Affiliate Member.
ASSOCIATE: If you live here LESS than 6 months out of the year and are another denomination up north, you would become and Associate Member.
FULL: If you live here MORE than 6 months out of the year, you should become a Full Member.
Everyone is welcome to worship and serve here, but to become a Member means that you believe this is where Jesus is calling you to dedicate your time and energy in His service. There are no real “perks” to membership, other than you are fully connected to and committed to our Bonita Springs family!
Sermon Topic Suggestion Box
Rev. Bill presents great sermons, but maybe you have wondered why your personal favorite scripture hasn’t been a sermon topic. Now is your chance!!! A suggestion ballot box will be placed in the back of the sanctuary where you can put in your favorite scripture (you might want to write it out in case a specific translation is important). Most importantly, though, is that you provide an explanation of why that scripture is especially meaningful to you. There’s no guarantee that your scripture will be picked (after all, there’s no guarantee you will win the lottery either…but some people keep trying). Some of the submitted scriptures will be picked as the basis for sermons in 2024. Your odds of “winning” are probably better than the lottery!
Decorating for Christmas Today
Our sanctuary will be decorated for Advent and the 12 days of Christmas today Friday, December 1, at 10:30 a.m.
We hope to have Chrismons as part of our tree this year. At the very least, we will have only white and gold ornaments on the tree since Chrismons are traditionally colored white and gold. White is the liturgical (or Church) color for Christmas and symbolizes that Jesus was pure and perfect. Gold symbolizes His Majesty and Glory. Chrismons can be made from nearly anything and represent Christian symbols such as the Cross (several varieties), the Fish, various Stars, The Shepherd’s Crook or Staff, Hands in Prayer, The Dove. The Lamp and The Candle, The Shell, The Angel, The Butterfly, and more. If there are crafty individuals who would like to make Chrismons for their own trees or for the church tree, please go to the following website: < https://www.whychristmas.com/customs/chrismons> After the descriptions, you will find a link for patterns.
Poinsettias for Christmas
Among the seasonal beautiful living things that we enjoy are poinsettia plants. If you are interested in purchasing a plant for display during Christmas season in honor of or in memory of a loved one, Please let the church office know or put a note in the offering plate soon.
Need a ride, provide a ride?
Christmas Eve will not only be celebrated during 10 a.m. worship service Sunday, December 24, but it will also be celebrated with a candlelight service at 5 p.m. that evening. And we all know how early dark arrives after the November time change! Some in our congregation family might not be comfortable driving at night. So, we would like to gather a list of names, addresses/phone numbers of those who might need a ride and those who might be able to provide a ride to someone. You can either put a note in the offering plate or call the church office, 239-992-1312, Monday-Thursday from 10am-1pm and speak to Office Manager Juanita or one of the volunteers.
Breakfast with Santa
Community Breakfast…Looking Back and Looking Ahead
After a successful November Community Breakfast with 89 meals served and lots of new families and many new volunteers, it is time to look ahead to the December 23 monthly breakfast. We remember all the fun activities that we had in 2022 and are planning to make the 2023 event just as good or better!
Check out some pictures of the fun we had this time last year. And planning is underway to make this year’s Christmas celebration with our neighborhood even better. We’ll still be packing stockings for the children (donation of items are welcome); we’ll still have a visit from a rotund guy from the North Pole for pictures with the children; we’ll still have a nutritious breakfast for all who attend; we’ll still have fun activities for the children; and we’ll still enjoy fellowship and an opportunity to share a special time with our neighbors. Stay tuned for additional ways our church family can help make this event a success.
Because some of our church family may be traveling to spend the holiday with family in other areas, we will need plenty of volunteers. There is something for everyone to do. You don’t have to be a cook, you might serve the food, you might carry trays to the tables, you might be a friendly and welcoming face for our guests, you might do crafts or activities with the kids (I hear there may be some cookie decorating planned), you might help another special guest (Santa Claus). There will be something for everyone on December 23 with serving from 10 am to noon.
Stay tuned as the Formational Leadership Team (FLT leader is Debbie Lane) finalizes plans. You are sure to find a spot where you can serve…and remember, you will be blessed as you are a blessing to others!
As a Public Service Announcement to the good people of First UMC Bonita, scam season is here! We have gathered a few of the most common for this time of the year so that you can be careful!
Your church/pastor will NEVER send you a private message (text or e-mail) requesting a GIFT CARD to help someone in need! If we have a special call for a need in our church, we will send out a public message to everyone. And if you have any doubts about the authenticity of the message, please call on the phone to verify in person!
Your GRANDCHILD is NOT in trouble! This is called the “Grandchild Scam”, where someone posing as your grandchild will call on the phone and tell you that they were caught drinking and driving (or the like) in some remote place, and need bail money immediately. They will also probably:
Be crying. This will disguise the scammer’s voice.
Beg you not to call their parents. So that you can’t verify the information.
Tell you not to hang up, this is their only phone call! This is to keep you from calling someone else to check on it.
The best thing to do is to use another phone and to call either their parents or your grandchild’s phone directly. If they tell you that their phone was taken, ask them a question only they would know (What year did we go to Disney? How many pets do I have?)
The IRS or the FBI will NEVER e-mail, text, or call you on the phone! If they want to get in touch with you, they will either send a notice through the regular mail or show up on your doorstep. Similarly, the FBI will NEVER ask you to participate in a “sting” operation, especially one that involves you putting up your own money!
If you have to PAY money to RECEIVE money, it is a scam. Publisher’s Clearing House, winning the lottery – do NOT fall for the scam of having to pay taxes or fees up front! The IRS will tax you AFTER the money is deposited in your account, and all legitimate companies know that. Scammers will claim that there are fees to be paid. Don’t fall for it.
Beware of “overly flowery” language – If you receive a notice with the words “kindly respond” or “warmest regards” or other language that most Americans don’t typically use, that is a good indicator of a scam. In the same way, broken English or convoluted sentences are also a sign that a translation app was used.
Do NOT CLICK ON LINKS!!! Your bank, your credit card company, financial institution or other reputable company that you deal with regularly will rarely send you a link to check something on your account. Any e-mail that tells you that there is a problem with your account and gives you a link to fix it is most likely a SCAM! Here’s what you should do:
Open a separate browser – not the one you are reading your e-mail on. Open up a separate browser if you can, and go directly to your bank/institution. Do NOT copy and paste the link from the e-mail – type in your bank’s address directly!
Look carefully at the website – if something seems wrong with it, it probably is. Scammers are getting very proficient at mimicking real sites, so be careful.
Call the bank/company directly. It takes more time, but it keeps your account from being emptied! And make sure you call the actual bank/company number as listed on your credit card, not the one in the text/e-mail!
If it seems to good to be true, it is. 8% interest for only 3 months? Not likely. 150% return? Dream on. If you are suspicious of it, there is probably a good reason.
Talk to others about it. You may find that your neighbor received the same exact text or e-mail, which was “personally offered to you”! Find someone you trust and ask them – I as your pastor have helped many people to recognize and avoid scams, but unfortunately some people still fall prey. Don’t be afraid to reach out!
I want for us to use the gifts that God has given us (even the financial blessings) to further His kingdom, so being wise stewards is important! And remember, just because somebody SAYS they are your grandchild or the IRS or your pastor doesn’t mean that they are! Legitimate people don’t mind your questions! If the person on the other end of the call starts getting angry, that’s another good sign of a scam!
Stay safe, people!
"TOM AND PRINCESS' CORNER"!
The places we go and the things we see!
Princess, I had such a busy weekend! On Saturday during the Community Breakfast, I peeked in fellowship hall, it looked like a Purr-ty! Everyone was having so much fun! I heard there were 89 meals served!
On Sunday, I heard a special guest was in church! I investigated and look what I found! I'm not kitten you! The pews are filling up, I love our church family!
They make my heart purrrrr!
United Women in Faith
Join UWF for December 3 Baby Jesus Shower
Ten members of United Women in Faith met November 20 to discuss the annual Baby Jesus Shower to be held during coffee hour after worship on December 3. This event has been a tradition with the women’s group. It is a fun opportunity to both shop for baby clothing and other necessities and to help new moms and their families. We invite others in the congregation to enjoy this too by shopping and joining us for Christmas cookies/appetizers on December 3. All the baby items we collect will be displayed in Fellowship Hall that day and then delivered to the Verity Center, which serves pregnant women in need.
During the November meeting, the group also discussed their Christmas celebration. Because our summer lunches were well attended, we decided to have a meal out – an early-bird dinner – at 4 p.m. at a local restaurant - and open it to ALL women in the congregation. Even if you haven’t attended our monthly meetings, we hope you will join us for this December 18 outing. This is our regular meeting time (the third Monday of each month), but we won’t be holding a business meeting! This is a time for fellowship and enjoying each other’s company and some tasty food you didn’t have to cook! But we do need to have a number of those who would like to join us. Please let one of the officers (Susan Atkinson, Jaci Colombo, Jann Mier, or Kathy Schmitt) know by the December 3 Baby Jesus Shower if you can attend. Once we have a number, we can confirm with a restaurant.
Book Club’s December Selection
The First UMC book club tries to read a wide variety of books from historical fiction to non-fiction to current best sellers and everything in between. After reading and discussing an older book, Peace Like a River (first published in 2001) in November, the group will read a more current book, The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller for the December 6 session.
The club meets the first Wednesday of each month at the Royal Scoop, 15 Eighth Street off Vanderbilt Drive. Members gather at 1:15 for lunch and/or ice cream and discussion. Those participating in Rev. Bill’s Bible Study on Wednesday afternoons will be able to attend both.
This book, another book club kit from the Bonita Springs Library, will be available to interested readers at church. The book is described as “a story of summer, secrets, love, and lies in the course of a singular day on Cape Cod…”. Main character Elle must decide between the life she has made with her genuinely beloved husband, Peter, and the life she always imagined she would have had with her childhood love. A New York Times best selling author describes this novel as “a magnificent page-turner”. The book was picked as the July 2021 pick for Reese Witherspoon’s book club.
The only requirement to be in the First UMC Book Club is to enjoy reading a variety of literature and discussing it with fellow readers. For the library kits, the books must be returned the day of the discussion so we can pick up another selection (only one kit may be checked out at a time). If you have any questions or want a copy of the book, please contact Susan Atkinson by text (239-405-9078) or see her at church. Happy reading!
The Upper Room
The Upper Room magazine's mission is to provide a practical way to listen to scripture, connect with believers around the world, and spend time with God each day.