Faith Stories

We have been sharing faith stories on this web site since the fall of 2012. While the story on our front page may be the most recent, each one has been a gem in its own right, that is just the way it is with faith stories!  God acted so that we would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us.  Acts 17:27

These are the stories of people who have seen God at work in everyday life and have been forever changed.

A Simple Quilt by Carole Keyser
If I were a simple quilt
I’d be so honored, so fulfilled
Knowing I had shared God’s love,
In every stitch, my life.

Let’s pause and consider the components of that simple quilt.  Like all quilts, it has just 4 elements: a backing, batting, the pieced top and the quilting, itself.  Its analogy to life is simple.  Let’s make our quilt of faith together.

First is the all essential backing.  Its purpose is to support the structure of the quilt.  Therefore, it contains all the elements of life, itself.  What supports your life?  Faith?  Family?  Whatever or whoever supports you day by day is the backing to your quilt of life.

Next is the batting which adds warmth and volume in the life of a quilt.  Although it cannot be seen, it is necessary to support the integrity of the quilt in much the same way that our faith and family support our well-being.  What sustains and supports your life?  Prayer, hope, desires?  All are unseen yet essential to add substance to our existence.

The top of the quilt, the most obvious layer, is a reflection of life, itself.  To the quilter, it offers an artistic expression of color, pattern and texture, all carefully blended together and stitched to perfection.  However, the observer may see an entirely different picture thru their interpretation of the same elements.  That’s the wonder of quilts…..and life.  How do others see you?  As you have structured your life or as others view your life?
The fourth and final element of our quilt is the actual quilting which binds the other three elements together.  Each stitch is a day, a memory or a life experience which connects us to God.

So, wrap yourself in your quilt and feel its energy, its warmth, its comfort for it becomes your inward expression of your faith, your life, your hopes and dreams.   Because, when your quilt is finished, you know that you have created something whole that began with many parts.  This accomplishment is fulfilling!  That’s what I desire when the quilt of my life is finally complete; that God will rejoice in the whole and be satisfied.

On a personal note, I have been blessed to have found kindred spirits thru sharing with the Binding Stitches Peacemakers and I wish to thank each of them for being one of my life “joys”.  Please come join us as we continue our quilt life together.

Persevering for Christ.  In my mid twenties, I was like house on fire, a rippin’ and a roarin; in short I tried to shove more than 24 hours into a day’s time.

I was a young member of the Hagerstown Elks club and was on the Board of Director’s for the Maryland, Delaware and District of Columbia Elk’s Camp Barrett. This was a camp for underprivileged boys. I spent many hours rounding up boys from the Hagerstown and Washington County area, taking them to a doctor for physicals, and arranging for bus transportation to and from the camp.

At that time I was married with a son. I had a full-time job and was heavily involved in Little League baseball.  I was very involved with family and social activities. I was burning the candle at both ends and 24 hours wasn’t enough hours in the day.

I was coming home from a Board meeting at the camp and I developed a case of hyperventilation. I had to stop the car on the expressway.  I had this feeling of “I can’t seem to get my breathing in rhythm”. As a result, I ended up in an ambulance headed to the nearest medical center.

I could go on and on, but the short of the matter is this: have you ever felt like you couldn’t get that next breath; neurosis kind of feeling? This got so bad that my doctor recommended I seek the help of a psychiatrist. With much talk, medication, and a return to church, I recovered.

But there is more… at another point in my life I had a bout with Alcohol and the feeling that I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. Once again the divine hand of God was made plain to me.  A Methodist minister prayed over me and it felt as if that weight of the world was lifted from my shoulders. Thinking back, this event took place at the church in which I was baptized.

This story doesn’t quite end just yet. Our family had to contend with our youngest son almost losing his left arm to a flesh eating disease. There were multitudes of prayers lifted towards heaven, by many persons local and far away. Then we have my hip issue but hips can be fixed. I have found that our Faith in people and God will see us through no matter what. The outcome might not come out the way we would hope but then again, as with Job, we persevere.  Greg Hoover

How the Bible speaks to me.  In 1973 a group at Cornell University had written a workbook pairing scripture with questions of justice and the environment and a small group of Christians at Sodus UMC became one of the pilot groups of what became the Eco-Justice Task Force.  So it was in 1973 that I learned the following formula for positive change in my life
.             God-change = Small Group Discussion + Holy Scripture
I have learned that Bible stories time and again take on new life when we work together on letting them speak anew.  “Eco-Justice” had us examine both human justice and our stewardship of the environment. These discussions lead Betty and me to buy a house within walking distance of downtown, to buy a diesel Jetta for its outstanding fuel mileage and most of all, to begin tithing.

Much like the harmony in music performance that Linda Sappington talked about in her faith story last month, for me, generous giving is a spiritual harmony, a harmony with creation and the human family.  Tithing is a powerful way of putting the welfare of others first in my life.  It has been like a marriage vow that has my total commitment.   Tithing is a reminder that all we have is entrusted to our stewardship by our Creator.

Tithing is also an investment in the church, the one institution that holds the potential of safeguarding the values of compassion and fairness in American society. We worry about who will teach these values to the younger generation, since “being in church” seems to be less and less a community practice: The church is the group of people that care enough to figure this out.  Being church together we encourage each other to try harder.  Then as church family members we serve in our community in so many ways.  John Wesley members are volunteering all over the place and lending leadership to all kinds of community groups.  Clearly we model our values in the community.  There should be absolutely no question that our members will go all of the way to support the church (with a tithe and beyond).  I will, won’t you?  The church institution cannot take on the world, but the church body (Christ’s people) certainly can!!!!  They do it by lending their energy, labor, and prayer to others.  Richard Willson

A Caroling Adventure. Last night Lois and I went caroling to our John Wesley shut-ins. Now you have to understand that I cannot hold a tune in a five gallon bucket, but I was still able to harmonize with the other four people in the group. All told we had 19 people so we had 4 groups of 5 singers. We had prearranged lists organized by Barbara and Greg Hoover so that we knew who would be expecting us. We started off in prayer first and to be honest with you, our prayers were answered in the faces of people we saw at the individual houses and at the nursing homes.  We had Christmas song books so that we did not have to “go by memory” for the songs that people chose. We visited two nursing homes and an individual house and we were gone for over three hours, though it seemed like only a few minutes.  One of the highlights came when we were singing in the loss of memory area at a nursing home. When we began to sing their eyes did not have much twinkle, but the twinkle returned when our songs stirred past memories and some were even singing along and doing motions to some of the songs before we were done!  I know being 1/5 of something may not seem like a lot, but when you see memories flashing across the eyes in front of you, how can I not give a few little hours of my time to share the joy of Christmas and the Grace of Jesus Christ. Yes, giving is better than receiving!
Kevin Noll,   Co-Chair Family Life

Singing with the Saints.  In my continuing walk with the Lord I encounter His directions to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord” (Psalm 100) and to “be a part of the body of Christ” (I Corinthians 12:27).  I do both by singing with my faith family in the church choirs.  Each week our faithful musical shepherd, Jon, patiently teaches a group of folks how to sing together.  He chooses the songs to support the Pastor’s message.  He breaks the various song musical parts down for his group of sopranos, altos, tenors, and basses.  He helps us sing our parts singly, then with a supporting voice, and finally with the entire choir.  He uses his marvelous gifts to show us how to work together, to listen to one another, and to turn a series of notes into the “music of the spheres”.

We, each of us, bring our whole selves to the process.  We are unique folks, with our own hopes and dreams, but we work as a team.  We each sing our parts to the best of our ability and we listen to each other.  The way the musical parts work together is amazing.  I sing the alto voice part.  Sometimes I sing melody, sometimes harmony.  Sometimes the altos sing alone, sometimes with other voices in the choir.  But always I look to our director so that we all pull together, we all end together.

Finally, the worship service begins.  It is time for the choir to offer their gift of music to God and to the congregation.  Our song becomes our prayer to our mighty God.  He often honors our offering by granting us His Spirit of power and love.

OK, so maybe we don’t always sound like an angelic choir, but we do to my ears of faith.  At those times I am assured that God is pleased with our joyful songs of prayer and praise.  At those times I know what it means to be a harmoniously operating part of Christ’s body.  I love our Lord and I love my faith family, especially those who share in this adventure with me.     Prayerfully offered by Linda Sappington

A glimpse of heaven.  On Saturday morning the Binding Stitches Peacemakers met to work on a quilt.  These folks turned their love of fabric, patterns, and textures into a time of fellowship and service.   Folks selected fabrics, pressed them flat, cut them into strips/squares, stitched them together, pressed them flat, stitched them some more, pressed them flat, and assembled them into a quilt.  As everyone worked, they shared stories and laughter.  Thank you so much Carole and Barb for sharing your crafting passion with us all.

On Sunday morning Pastor Bill led us in prayer and worship.  Jon led the musical prayers of the congregation and choir.  Pastor Pat brought us the message on patient perseverance.  He led us on a round of ‘High Hopes’, that high apple pie & rubber plant relocating ballad.  Later that evening, the Oscar presentation turned that same message into a song & dance routine.  I am now making it my theme song as I struggle daily to follow my Lord, one step, one decision, and one action at a time.  Thank you Pastor Bill, Jon, and Pastor Pat for your continuing example of faithfulness each Sunday.

The Epworth class is currently reading ‘Jerusalem, The City of God’ by Ellen Gunderson Traylor.  Sunday, we watched a PBS documentary on Jerusalem which did a reasonable job of sharing the importance of God’s city throughout the history of the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic peoples.  In order to experience the culture, we celebrated with a breakfast and luncheon of Middle Eastern foods.  Each class member prepared a dish.  Many brought art objects to decorate the tables in a way that augmented the cultural study, new tastes, and new food textures.  Upon completion everyone worked together to clear the social hall and to clean up our dishes.  When we all left there was no physical footprint of our experience.  My heart was changed though and I had a new appreciation for this pilgrimage city and God’s faithfulness.  Thank you so much Lauri and Jenny for the advance planning that made this class possible.

In the afternoon, 18 church members and 6 friends tried their hands, feet, arms, and backs in bowling 10 pins.  Sue wanted to play, but her shoulder objected.  Her solution was to open a line and to have other members each bowl a frame on her behalf.  She celebrated with her guest bowler whether they rolled a gutter bowl, a spare, or a strike.  Her end total was quite respectable and represented the love of the folks around her.  I could only stay a little while, so I provided cheering services.  Thank you so much Sue and Kevin for running point on this activity.

Finally, I participated with other JWUMC choir members in the 5th Annual Mass Choir Festival held at First Christian Church.  A total of five area church song families shared music of faith with our community.  Each group was different, but their musical prayers were all raised to God with love and hope.  Mark Giblin joined our group with his saxophone.  Our rendition of ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross’ with his participation was amazing.  Everyone joined together to perform two presentations.  We brought our different styles and talents together to sing of God, our Creator.  The audience joined in at the very end.  I caught a glimpse of what it would be like to be in the Heavenly Choir.  I am not ready to go to heaven yet, but my soul thrills to the possibility of joining the trillions of believers before God’s throne in song.  Thank you Jon, Alicia, Mary, Lois, Barb, Greg, and Richard for the extra practicing that made our offering especially tuneful.

Living, laughing, working, worshiping —  together with others who share their joys and talents freely with respect and kindness.  This is the world that God empowers me to be a part of.  There is a place with your name on it, please come and take it.

Prayerfully submitted, Linda Sappington

Hugs and Kisses.  What can a hug or kiss do?  Cheer you up when you’re blue, say glad to see you, where you been, or welcome you back again.  I guess there is no doubt about it?  How unhappy we’d be without it.  A kiss or hug delights and warms; it’s why God gave us lips and arms!

The family life ministry folks dropped this message, a bag of chocolates, and a heart-shaped balloon from the balcony on Sunday during the morning offering.  This was their special offering of God’s love, shared with all present.  The congregation below registered first surprise, as this gift rained down upon them, and then delight.  People snagged each beautiful present and shared it with their neighbor if that person had not yet received their love greeting.

The worship service continued, perhaps with a bit more of God’s Spirit among us.  After the benediction, people were smiling and were sharing their plans for sharing their chocolate greeting with others.  Kate Suddeuth sought out organist, Jon, and handed him her balloon, still with the chocolate intact.  It seemed she wanted to make sure that he received one with a smile and a hug from her.  As I savored the creamy, yummy chocolate with my family after the service, I was especially aware of God’s love for us.  I really enjoyed this tangible example of His grace to empower my day.

Thank you faith family, thank you family life group, thank you family, thank you Jesus.

Joyfully submitted by Linda Sappington