Thanks for the ministries

Kitty Williams

First United Methodist Church Garland …

I love the way this church bonds together to get ministry done.

Perhaps this German word, “gestalt” applies.

It means “an organized whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts.”

That is what happens here.

It is amazing to see how God works through people to bring God’s “kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.”

Serving with you has been my honor and pleasure. 

Musically, I am always amazed at the beginning downbeat.

I am thankful for the years of practice from each individual making that one note (and the music that follows) a beautiful sound, in tune and on time. 

There is an intangible understanding that causes music to inspire and move us to do God’s will.

So to all the choirs, all the tech people, all the set builders, all the financial supporters and all those who encourage and pray for the music at First United Methodist Garland,  gestalt – thanks! 

Rummage sale!

Does God work through fundraisers? Yes, on multiple levels!

First, it causes us to clean out the excess in our homes.

Second, we grow together as a community as we work and organize.

Third, we meet neighbors who don’t normally come into the building.

Fourth, items go to places where they are needed.

(I’m personally excited that a small church will be using the John Markley Sunday School class pulpit. There are several more stories about other items finding a perfect home. Ask me about it!)

Oh yeah – finally, Pure Joy! Youth Choir earned over $5,000 for their annual choir tour.

Pure Joy! is truly grateful! To all who donated, organized, and worked together on rummage sale – gestalt – Thanks. 

This year Pure Joy! Youth Choir’s theme verse is Galatians 5:22-23:

“the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.”

As many of you know, because of school district schedules, we had a winter break choir tour instead of a spring break choir tour. We traveled to Atlanta, with stops along the way.  

We sang in churches, a youth correctional facility and a halfway house for women.

As we brought the message to others, we learned what it means to truly live and walk by the spirit.

(I hope you were able to come to their show last Sunday.)

To all Pure Joy! Youth Choir members, Diane Owen (faithful accompanist,) the college students interns, youth choir parents, and to those who hosted us – gestalt – thanks! 

To Betsy Henderson and all the children’s choir directors for the foundation that you give both musically and spiritually, gestalt – thanks! 

Finally, I encourage you all to seek first the kingdom of God through Jesus Christ and do good. Make love your aim. 

Sometimes, you might feel like you are not “good enough” or “spiritual enough;” however, as stated in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:

‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” 

Although we each have weakness, by humbly coming together, wonderful things happen for the upbuilding and glory of God’s kingdom.

To the people (both in heaven and on earth) of First United Methodist Church Garland for the past 16 years of ministry together – gestalt – thanks!

Light in the darkness

Kitty Williams, Director of Music Ministries

St. Francis of Assisi once said, “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”

The Christmas eve candlelight service is one of my favorite activities for Christmas celebration.

I remember the first candlelight service in our sanctuary at First United Methodist Church Garland. I think it was 1973.

Back then, there were no safety lights, no glow of cell phones and only boy scouts carried pocket flashlights.

So when the lights were out in the sanctuary, it was really dark!

Back then on Christmas eve, near midnight, after the Christmas story was read, after carols were sung, the sanctuary lights were dimmed and only the lone Christ Candle glowed.

The pastor then recited John 1:1-5:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

He was in the beginning with God.

All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.

What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

It always amazed me how that single Christ Candle lit the whole sanctuary.

Then as we sang Silent Night, the sanctuary illumined even brighter and brighter.

And finally on the last verse, everyone lifted their candles so that the light became even more brilliant!
Our first Christmas eve Candlelight service began our years-long tradition, which offers the same message of light and life.
The Light came into the world! 
We sometimes take for granted the power of lighting a candle in the dark.

A single light allows us to see everything more clearly.

With Christ’ light, we can have hope.
In Jesus, life in the light of God’s grace, this abundant life of peace, hope, joy and love is given. 
I want to see the brightness of God. I want to look at Jesus. 

Clear sun of righteousness, shine on my path, and show me the way to the Father. 

In him there is no darkness at all. The night and the day are both alike. 

The Lamb is the light of the city of God. Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus. 

I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light
Verse 2
United Methodist Hymnal #206

True north

Kitty Williams, Director of Music Ministries

The theme verse for Pure Joy! Youth Choir this year is Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of the spirit! 

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

There is no law against such things.

This verse is part of a chapter that describes living “by the spirit.”

Those living by the spirit will reflect not only one, but all the fruit of the spirit described in this verse.

“Woah!” one may say. “That’s a lot of work.”

Our focus is not making sure we ‘do’ all the fruit. As Christians, our single focus is following the Holy Spirit.

Basically, our job is to trust in God through Christ by the Holy Spirit. God’s work handles the rest (the fruit in us.)

John 29:28-29 best describes it: 

Then they said to him (Jesus), “What must we do to perform the works of God?” 

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 

One of the songs the youth are learning is called True North, by a worship band from Northern Ireland band called Rend Collective. 

Here are the abbreviated lyrics: 
Oh, You are my true north
I will follow You into the dark.
I will follow You with all my heart.

I will not let the darkness steal the joy within my soul
I will not let my circumstance become my compass, no
I will not let the fears of life and sorrows of this world
Dictate to me how I should feel
For You are my true north.

I will not let my failures turn into the curse of shame
I will not walk beneath the clouds that taunt me and condemn
For I will stand on solid ground the shadow of Your love
Forgiven, changed, a heart renamed
For You are my true north, everybody sing

Oh, You are my true north.
I will follow You into the dark.
I will follow You with all my heart.

One of the students asked, “What is ‘true north,”

I gave a brief definition. But the question caused me to look it up! (Thank you, Google.)

There is the ‘magnetic’ north and the ‘true’ north. (How scientists figure this out is another discussion.)

This is what I learned:

  1. The magnetic field of the earth changes. Therefore, if you only use a compass, you can be misled and get lost on the way to your destination. 
  2. To reach your desired destination, use the compass plus a ‘magnetic declination’ equation for the location (latitude.)

So how does this relate?

Basically, representing the ‘magnetic field’ – our emotions, world attitudes, cultural norms, religious rules and other voices can dictate our action. Following those guidelines, we miss the mark.

However, by seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit, our ‘magnetic declination,’ God’s kingdom can come on earth as it is in heaven.

The decision to follow the Holy Spirit is not a ‘one and done’ thing.

Trusting and believing is daily work, a daily decision.

“I will trust God today.”

The purpose of church community is to support each other in our daily decision of not what to do, but who to follow.

Miracles like Running 4 Clean WaterGood Samaritans of GarlandGLOWS (Garland Overnight Warming Shelter) and the support of knowing that you are loved will emerge. 

Individuals and the church will bear fruit!

When words don’t come

Mark Buford, Director of Communications

Sometimes, the words just don’t come.

That’s a problem when it’s your turn to share a reflection.

And that’s when I’m reminded that listening is just as important as sharing.

So I listened.

Or more accurately, I read. 

Colossians 3:1-11, to be precise.

One of the scriptures for this Sunday’s worship service at First United Methodist Garland.

And it was the last few words that caught my attention … Christ is all in all

This reminds me of a song I used to sing back in my praise band days – You Are My All in All.

(Nichole Nordeman sings it far better!) 

You are my strength
when I am weak,
You are the treasure
that I seek,
You are my all in all.

In these times of inflation and poverty and hunger and racism and political bickering and COVID and monkeypox and on and on and on, I am weak. 

When I fall down
You pick me up, 
When I am dry
You fill my cup, 
You are my all in all. 

Thankfully, I have a Savior who loves and watches over me to help me cope. 

Jesus, Lamb of God, 
Worthy is your name. 
Jesus, Lamb of God, 
Worthy is your name. 


God is in it all

Rev. Caroline Noll, Associate Pastor, Director of Children’s and Family Ministries

For everything there is a season,
and a time for every
matter under heaven:

a time to be born,
and a time to die; 

a time to plant, and a time
to pluck up what is planted; 

a time to kill,
and a time to heal; 

a time to break down,
and a time to build up; 

a time to weep,
and a time to laugh; 

a time to mourn,
and a time to dance; 

a time to throw away stones,
and a time to gather
stones together; 

a time to embrace, and a time
to refrain from embracing; 

a time to seek,
and a time to lose; 

a time to keep,
and a time to throw away; 

a time to tear,
and a time to sew; 

a time to keep silence,
and a time to speak; 

a time to love,
and a time to hate; 

a time for war,
and a time for peace.

– Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

I have turned to this scripture again and again over the past few years.

It speaks to me in so many seasons, perhaps because it names so many seasons.

I love the breadth and depth of human experience and emotions named.

God is in it all.

Even though I have correctly quoted and cited these verses, I have mistakenly misinterpreted them in my mind and heart.

The conjunction used is “AND.”

In my mind and practice, I have, unawares, substituted the conjunction “OR.”

One joins together.

The other separates.

These scriptures, with their repeated “and,” link them all together. 

Birth AND death.

Breaking down AND building up.

Weeping AND laughing.

They are all happening together.

One does not cease to let the other have space.

One does not stand still while the other stands front and center.

Life is messy, complicated, and layered.

Some days the movements are small and holding them together feels normal, the everyday challenges and gratitudes.

Other days the mountains are high, the valleys are low, and my mind and heart are stretched and ache to contain it all. 

Today, then, I give thanks that I do not have to contain it all.

God is in these seasons, too, and I can offer those highs and lows to God.

All the joy, all the celebrations, the proud moments, the full hearts, the soaring spirits, and the contented breaths.

All the headaches, heartaches, tears, heaviness, tired weariness.

I do not have to carry it all.

We do not have to carry it all. 

We offer these to God.

In prayer, in song, in journaling, conversations with those who love and care for us, reading the scriptures, gathering at the Lord’s table, sharing a restoring meal with those who love us.

God works in us and through us, the Holy Spirit moves and breathes in us, AND Jesus shows us the way.

Thanks be to God.


Kitty Williams, Director of Music Ministries

On a local newscast last night, the anchor person said:

“It’s finally here! The season of graduations!”

I thought back on my graduations, my husband’s, my children’s and my mom’s graduations.

For our family, each graduation was a celebration of accomplishments with great anticipation and hopes yet to come.

Then I thought of all the students who have come through our First United Methodist Garland children’s and youth programs.

I am thankful for the privilege to work with so many wonderful students who have gone on to become doctors, teachers, engineers, lawyers, analysts, philanthropists, musicians and much more.

Each year, if seniors have been active throughout their high school years, I allow them to choose the choir tour destinations, Dessert Show themes, and most importantly, our theme verse or quote for the year.

I am so thankful for seniors who come to their year with anticipation and willingness to take leadership.

The younger youth appreciate when the older youth lovingly include them.

Together, we all grow in faith.

Madeline Watkins and Liberty Cowan are outstanding seniors. They take initiative, showing creativity and ingenuity.

Although Pure Joy! Youth Choir has been small this year, they are one of the most talented groups around!

I credit Madeline and Liberty for not only singing in tune, but also keeping our group in harmonious unity!

This year, they chose this quote as our theme:

“God can give you peace for the past, purpose for the present and hope for the future.”

There are many verses that support this quote.

Because Ascension Sunday is in one week, the passage brought to this reflection is John 14:25-27.

Before Jesus ascends, he assures his followers:

“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace, I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”


Loving God, life keeps changing and sometimes that causes anxiety.

Thank you for the calm assurance that your peace can be in us.

Without fear, help us to bring peace and assurance to those around us.

Lifting the Cup

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11:25-26

In the key Scripture for this collection, we hear that the Psalmist will lift the cup of Salvation as an expression of gratitude for blessings from God.

That image reminded me of the first time I led a Love Feast at our church family camping outing.

It was Sunday morning, and we were grubby and tired.

It took a while to gather all the kids (and adults!) for the worship service that would close our weekend.

Our pastor visited the day before, but no one thought to bring “official” communion elements – so he prayed over a couple of juice pouches and a handful of hamburger buns.

But remarkably – when the time came to have the simple laity-led form of the Lord’s Supper – as I talked about these everyday items being “set aside” and becoming more than they were before – all the fidgeting stopped.

It was one of the most meaningful worship experiences I have ever had.

After worship closed, the kids joined me in returning the elements to the Earth and the birds.

None of the poking and pushing from earlier, they too were transformed.

Prayer: Father God, help me to remember that I have also been consecrated. Like the buns and juice, I am transformed. Remind me and use me. Amen.

Jack Kincaid, Canmore, Alberta

A daily Lenten devotional reprinted with permission from The Society of St. Andrew to inspire help sharing nourishing food with neighbors in need. 

Every $1 donated provides more than 40 servings to those in greatest need. A donation of $47 for the 47 days in Lent provides more than 1,880 servings. 

What a way to celebrate the resurrection of hope and lift the cup of salvation for our hungry neighbors! 

Sacrifice and Thankfulness

Scripture: Psalm 116:8

The writer of Psalm 116 is recovering from illness and is so grateful to God he asks, “What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me?”

Have you ever had somebody bail you out of a bad situation, and you have no idea how to repay that gift?

The Psalmist offered this song of thanksgiving and concluded the repayment would be devotion and faithfulness.

They promise to work together with God’s people in worship and service.

God has blessed me in so many ways.

I have a wonderful family who loves me more than I love myself.

I have a supportive church family.

I have had many meaningful jobs.

I, like the Psalmist, recovered from pretty severe illness and am in reasonably good health.

So, what shall I return to the Lord?

I have no riches to give, and the Lord does not need my riches anyway.

I can only give what the Psalmist recommends – devotion, faithfulness, and a desire to work with all God’s people to bring about God’s dream – for all the people of the Earth to know of His goodness and mercy.

Prayer: Lord, so often, I think of sacrifice as a negative thing. Help me see any sacrifice I make to further your kingdom is an expression of thankfulness to you for all my many blessings. Amen. 

Chris Howell, Lynchburg, VA

A daily Lenten devotional reprinted with permission from The Society of St. Andrew to inspire help sharing nourishing food with neighbors in need. 

Every $1 donated provides more than 40 servings to those in greatest need. A donation of $47 for the 47 days in Lent provides more than 1,880 servings. 

What a way to celebrate the resurrection of hope and lift the cup of salvation for our hungry neighbors! 

What Cup Will You Drink?

Scripture: Matthew 20:20-22a

Growing up in a home where food was always available, we often had choices about both food and drinks.

It wasn’t easy to comprehend how some of our neighbors lived much more sparsely.

As a high school student, I joined a group that traveled to the barrio south of our school to tutor grade school students.

There, I first met young children whose basic daily food came from school.

I listened as Mario told me he sometimes couldn’t pay attention in class in the morning because he hadn’t eaten since lunch the day before.

One day he explained, “Mama gives me warm water or tea before I get on the bus. I try to take home the milk from lunch so I can drink it before I go to bed at night.”

I could not imagine how he could be grateful for such a little bit of nourishment until I realized he sometimes had no other food or drink!

When the Psalmist asks, “what shall I return to the Lord for all (God’s) bounty to me?” I wonder if the cup of Salvation might look more like a half- pint of milk?

Prayer: Lord, in these Lenten days, help us choose well the cup we are willing to drink. Strengthen us to recognize and receive your gift of Salvation, even when it comes through a cup of suffering. Amen.

Linda McKiernan-Allen, Indianapolis, IN

A daily Lenten devotional reprinted with permission from The Society of St. Andrew to inspire help sharing nourishing food with neighbors in need. 

Every $1 donated provides more than 40 servings to those in greatest need. A donation of $47 for the 47 days in Lent provides more than 1,880 servings. 

What a way to celebrate the resurrection of hope and lift the cup of salvation for our hungry neighbors! 

The Little Wooden Cup with Enormous Meaning

Scripture: Titus 2:11

Family heirlooms and meaningful gifts stay in a cabinet in our home.

Each item brings feelings of contentment: connection to family or fond memories of people and events surrounding the gifts.

One thing stands out atop the cabinet: the small, simple, wooden communion cup from the Holy Land given to me by my former pastor.

This cup was made from wood near the River Jordan, where Jesus was baptized and then began His ministry.

What that little wooden cup symbolizes, however, brings more than contentment.

It represents the great mystery of faith, often recited before receiving Communion in our church: Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.

It represents the Cup of Salvation: the cup of thanksgiving, forgiveness, all of God’s blessings.

With its imperfections in the wood, that cup exemplifies how our transgressions also mar us as human beings.

What goes into our cup of Salvation, the blood of Christ given for all is pure.

In thankfully taking the cup, we receive forgiveness and all the blessings of God: most significantly, the greatest gift of life eternal.

The little wooden cup was meaningful because of its place of origin and who gave it to me.

But partaking in the cup symbolizes the unmatchable gift of forgiveness and blessing poured out for me through Jesus’ sacrifice.

Prayer: Merciful Father, we humbly thank you for Jesus, who through his
suffering, death, and resurrection, gave us the greatest gift: Salvation. Amen.

Julie Erickson, Olathe, KS

A daily Lenten devotional reprinted with permission from The Society of St. Andrew to inspire help sharing nourishing food with neighbors in need. 

Every $1 donated provides more than 40 servings to those in greatest need. A donation of $47 for the 47 days in Lent provides more than 1,880 servings. 

What a way to celebrate the resurrection of hope and lift the cup of salvation for our hungry neighbors!