A Message from Pastor Craig: 6-4-2023

It wasn’t till about 1984 that I got to use my first IBM PC (notice my shameless hook for Boca Raton people).  Previous to that, I thought I was hot stuff when I got my hands on an old Timex-Sinclair unit with an old TV the school let me have.  Then, the Commodore 64 came to our library, and then finally I was hired at a finance company where I had my own PC.

All that to say that I thought myself a reasonably legitimate “early adopter.”  And, for a decade or two, I tried to be one of the first to get the latest, a 286 or a 386 or a 40 meg hard drive, or whatever.  Sound equipment held a similar allure, as did cars.

All of that has gone by the wayside.  I still use a 14 year old laptop (the one I’m typing on is much newer than that).  My car is fifteen years old.  My sound system is of equal vintage.  These are signs of age, I suppose, but I would say that since Windows 95, things have only gotten incrementally, not revolutionarily, better.

So, you may not find it hard to believe that it was just this week that I walked into my first Buc-ee’s.  Buc-ee’s has been around since 2003.  In Texas they built a travel center that, and I quote Wikipedia here: “The New Braunfels location is the largest convenience store in the world at 68,000 square feet. The store features 120 fueling positions, 1,000 parking spots, 64 ice freezers, 83 toilets, 31 cash registers, four Icee machines, and 80 fountain dispensers.”

Now, the one I went to on I-75 wasn’t THAT big, but let me tell you, it was huge!  Gas pumps as far as the eye could see, once inside Coke machines as far as the eye could see, and oh, the bathrooms had stalls as far as the eye could see.  If WaWa and Cracker Barrell got married, and moved to Texas, this is what would, or did, emerge.  My free advertising here will stop at me saying the gas was way cheaper than other gas stations along the highway, and the bathrooms were worthy of a high-end restaurant.

As I wandered around this gargantuan convenience store, I wondered about where I stood with the “early adopter” thing.  Considering Buc-ee’s only opened new stores as Covid-19 was taking over, I don’t feel too late to the party.  But as we waited in line to pay, I wondered about being more of a lemming – following the crowd wherever it gathers.  I suppose that’s always a dilemma – are you trendy or a minion?

In terms of faith, I want to be what is called a “first follower.”  The idea in leadership circles about this is that there is somebody with a novel idea or action.  If nobody is following, they are just “doing their own thing.”  But as soon as one person joins, it’s now a group.  And the first follower becomes a recruiter for the leader – and in that sense becomes a leader too.

This is what I want to do with Jesus.  I want Him to act first.  I want Him to lead.  And it is mine to follow.  My desire is to be the first to follow.  Not that I am going to beat all the disciples that have preceded me – no, it’s when Jesus calls me, when Jesus calls us, for whatever it is that He wants to accomplish, I want to respond immediately, and say Yes!

Are you saying “yes” to Jesus?  Is He asking for anything?  I can assure you, He is inviting you to follow Him. Probably not to Buc-ee’s though.

Not impressed with their cookies,


Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 

Philippians 3:17

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A Message from Pastor Craig: 5-14-2023

Last week I shared a thought that Michael J. Fox articulated in an interview—he said that “gratitude makes optimism sustainable.”  I think that the statement resonated with me (and several of you who wrote me notes about it later-thank you!) because we have found that giving thanks just feels good.  It brings the satisfaction of those things that we recall back to life when we “count our blessings.”  It makes us smile when we remember good things that have happened.

Another reason the statement resonated with me is that I had just gone through colon surgery, and I had read that statement my first day home.  Coming home felt good.  I was grateful to heal away from that hospital bed.  But I also had been thinking about just how many people had contributed to my successful stay in the hospital.

I can’t list each one, but just to illustrate the point – a guy in the parking lot pointed where we needed to be.  Someone registered us at the front door of the hospital.  Another pointed the way to the elevator.  Another received us in the surgical waiting room.  A nurse tended to me as I got my gurney.  Three doctors came through.  Someone shaved me.  An anesthetist spoke pleasantries to me while she shot me up with some potent thing.  Another wheeled me away.  Who knows how many people tended to me during surgery.  Then there was always a nurse and a Clinical Assistant, with a Charge Nurse and a Clinical Manager behind them.  Food service, janitorial service, a chaplain.  How am I doing?  Oh yeah, and the guy that wheeled me out in the end.

Now, I could complain about just how much it cost to support all those people.  Or, I could give thanks that each one of them tended to me in the way that only they could.  I was surrounded by people tending to my needs.  And hold on.  How many people were praying for me?  How many called and wrote, and cared for Janice?  That list gets long!

And who were those people praying to?  They were praying to God, Who presented Himself as the Great Physician while here on Earth.  And how many angels are there at God’s disposal to do His bidding?  Now the list is real long!

I wish it was Thanksgiving time!  I could really impress people at the Thanksgiving table with the long list of things I am grateful for!  I don’t want to forget this by then!  I guess I share all of this to make the point that gratitude does invoke a certain optimism.  An optimism that tells me I am not alone, that there are many who walk with me through the bad times, not just the good times.  Gratitude brings satisfaction and hope, and motivation to keep moving forward.

How are you feeling?  Are there things going on in your life (kind of like me?)? I’m here to tell you, look around, look for good things, and good people around you.  And tell God, and maybe those people too – about how grateful you are.  It’ll change your attitude. 
Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.

Oh wait, that was Winston Churchill.

Naming them one by one,


May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Romans 15:5-6

A Message from Pastor Craig: 5-7-2023

Armed with not a little amount of time, I have been searching through YouTube for interesting videos to watch.  Recuperating from colon surgery has this incredible draw towards lying down.  Gravity is less relentless on your insides when in the prone position, and well, it just doesn’t hurt in that position, unlike standing or walking, or even sitting up for that matter.

 So holding a remote suffices for the need of personal power and control at this point.  Although, if you allow me a short rant here, why are the algorithms in YouTube’s searches so tight?  All that YouTube suggests for me are car test, news and comedy sketches, and Voces 8.  Now, I don’t want any of those things to go away – if you haven’t heard Voces 8, you should, they are really an amazing group.  But I would like some suggestions of other things!  There are other things going on in the world!  Where are those videos?!

And then this intriguing video pops up. It’s an interview of Michael J. Fox with Jane Pauley.  Knowing who either of these people are dates you.  If you were born post 1980, you probably don’t remember them, although anybody that has seen a DeLorean car somewhere in their lives has heard of the Back to the Future movies, the movies that launched both that car and Michael J. Fox into the annals of entertainment history.

Michael J. Fox was having his way with Hollywood back then.  He was popular beyond comprehension. I wanted to dress like him, primarily as Alex P. Keaton, his character from the television series, Family Ties.  I wanted to be cool like him, maybe sans the subscription to the Wall Street Journal.  And then he got Parkinson’s Disease.  At a very young age.

He has championed the cause of Parkinson’s research.  He has valiantly fought the fight, and to his own admission, had the resources to avail himself of the best of care.  Which has enabled him to survive decades of the disease, and function in spite of all the falls, broken bones, and illnesses that might have taken somebody else.

But money isn’t the sum of it.  There’s something else about him.  He operates with a level of optimism that is inspiring.  His ambition to stand out in Hollywood morphed into an ambition to beat a disease.  Having so much to lose, and so much to struggle with, it’s remarkable how he stays optimistic and keeps fighting.

This is where Jane Pauley came in.  She asked him about that.  And he said “with gratitude, optimism is sustainable.”  Jane Pauley looked at the camera and said: “Write that down.”  So I did.  Gratitude has a bunch of side effects – building relationship with the one you thank, providing contentment with what you have been given, etc.  But MJF appropriated it to his own life, and said that his optimism is sustainable through the struggle because of gratitude.  And as if answering the doubter before the question arose, he finished by saying: “And if you can find something to be grateful for, then you can find something to look forward to, and you carry on.”  Wise words from a tested person.

Speaking of tested persons—it’s amazing that through all the trials the Apostle Paul had to go through, a really rough life because of his faith, Paul says to be grateful over and over and over.  Whether to the church in Thessalonica, or Colossi, or Ephesus or Corinth, he called them to be grateful, and to not stop—regardless of the circumstances.  I’m resonating with that right now, and I tell you, song helps me give expression, and emotion, to it.  I encourage you to sing today, and to give thanks.

Singing with the saints in glory,


“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

A Message from Pastor Craig: 4-23-2023

This week I had the privilege of leading chapel for MECE.  This is something that I enjoyed doing early in my ministry, and probably loved it the most when our boys were in preschool when I knew so many of the kids and their parents.  But no matter, I have always enjoyed it.  I become an animated song leader, playing an airplane when singing “I may never fly o’er the enemy” (I don’t know if being “in the Lord’s army” is a cool thing to sing anymore, but I remember fondly the days we did).  I become a happy story teller, trying to keep the attention of each child – which can be challenging when there are 80 of them in the room.

And as a pastor, to see our Sanctuary full of curious little children, willing to listen and learn and imitate, wow, I see why Jesus loved the little children so much, and why He called us to imitate them (He even said we can’t enter the Kingdom of God less we become like them – look it up in Matthew 18:3!).  I asked them to repeat after me: “My God is so big, so strong, and so mighty,” and you know what happened?  They did!  They learned the song!

And when I told them that they could pray, and that God would help them, they listened, and I think believed me.  We as adults have had so many things happen to us, we have second-guessed so many graces in our lives, that we don’t fully embrace the idea that a big, strong and mighty God can do anything He wants, and that His will is directed towards our good.  But it is.

The children sent me WAY back in nostalgia-land when they showed me the song that they were learning – “If I were a butterfly.”  I learned that song in Youth Group (were we singing silly songs in Youth Group, or are we demanding more of our kids?  I don’t know).  I just smiled as I remembered singing that song on a beach watching the sunset on the Pacific Ocean.  I believed then and I believe now that God “gave me a heart, and gave me smile, gave us Christ Jesus and made me a child.”  The Truths that I learned in song come back to reassure me, guide me, now 40 some years later.

And that’s what I am praying for with those little boys and girls – that decades from now that song that I taught them, that “God is big and strong and that there’s nothing He can’t do” will ring in their hearts when some dark moment comes their way, and that they will trust Him, and lean on Him, and have them see Him walk them through it.

What song is playing in your heart this morning?  What song are you practicing today that might be a “balm in Gilead” for you tomorrow?  That’s why we come to church you know?  To sing, and learn, and imitate Jesus, just as the children do.

Still singing,


Start children off on the way they should go,  and even when they are old they will not turn from it.  Proverbs 22:6

A Message from Pastor Craig: 4-16-2023

Christmas and Easter are the big holidays in the Christian church, and they are big in culture, too. In the Church, the preparation time for the two is basically the same: for Christmas we call the preparation Advent (four Sundays before Christmas), and for Easter we call it Lent (40 days before Easter).  In our American culture, Christmas has a much longer lead-in – I think it’s right after the 4th of July.  Just kidding.  I think it’s actually after Halloween.  Whatever, the point is, there is lead time for both.  And both holidays have long lead-ins, but then they are quickly over.

I have before lamented how quickly Christmas is put away.  The gifts are unwrapped, and out with the trash go the wrapping paper, the scraps from the food, but also, often, all the decorations and the Message.  And this year, as we come to the week after Easter, I lament how quickly Easter goes away.

I don’t miss the bunnies and the eggs.  But the Message?  The Good News?  That can’t go away!  We are a resurrection people, our identity is not infused with the Message of Easter, it IS the Message!  The proclamation of the angel that synthesizes the Message was simple – “He is not here.  He is Risen, just as He said.” The implications of that statement have been the proclaimed Message ever since.

And today, a week after Easter?  Well, we remember the events after the resurrection.  Jesus stuck around for a long time, and visited with a lot of people.  He surprised a lot of people by simply visiting with them when they really didn’t expect it.  (I confess to you, if I had been Jesus, I would have gone to Pilate, stood right in front of him and said “Boo!” and freaked him out.  Jesus, of course, is loving, compassionate, and good.  Me?  Not as much).

I think that the most important remark from any disciple or person following Jesus came from the disciple Thomas. Thomas is remembered by a lot of us as “Doubting Thomas.” We remember him for being reticent to embrace the Message till seeing Him personally.

But here’s the thing.  When he did see Jesus, when Jesus availed his wounded hands and feet to him to touch and ponder, Thomas’ response was the response that God wants from every one of us who have received the Message of the angels:  “He is not here, He is risen, just as He said.” What did Thomas respond when he saw that it was true?  He looked at Jesus and said “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28)

No self-respecting Jew would call a human God.  A Roman might.  But not a Jew. That would be blasphemous.  That’s why they killed Jesus.  But Thomas went ahead and said it and believed it with every inch of his being.  In doing so he became the first of every disciple ever since to recognize the risen Jesus as Lord of our lives, and God incarnate. He shouldn’t be remembered as Doubting Thomas.  He should be remembered as Thomas the First.

And me?  I’m just disciple number gazillion and three to say it too:  Jesus is my Lord and my Savior, and my God.  You?

Holding on to Easter,


If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”  Romans 10:9-11

A Huge “Thank You”

This week we are sending out a huge thank you to Debbie Woolsey, Jan Hennigar, Janie McMillan and other UMW members for cleaning and organizing the children/youth ministry storage areas in the LEC and the youth room. They put in weeks of hard work and even created an inventory so we know what supplies we have available as we re-launch and re-invent our family ministry programs! You are all truly a blessing to this church! (I wish I had “before” pictures so you could see the huge difference!)

A Note from Our Staff Parish Relations Committee: April 28, 2021

by Cathy Herschelman, Chairperson

Last Sunday was announcement Sunday when all of the Methodist Churches find out about Pastoral transitions. I have some good news, some sad news, and some more good news so please hang in there with me.
The first is that Pastor Madeline will be remaining with us. I know that many of you are just getting to know her in real life but I have had the honor to work beside her with dinner church, and other projects. Considering that she joined us during a difficult time in our society when we couldn’t gather in our traditional ways, Pastor Madeline has shown creativity, strength and a real faith that I hope each of you can get to know.
Next is the sad news. If you have been in a Methodist church before you may know that Pastors don’t usually remain at a church for much more than 5 years. We had Pastor Ken here for a very long time so you may not be aware of that. In the Methodist Church when you are called to serve another community, Pastors have to trust in God’s plan and respond to the call. Pastor Marcus has been called to serve on the west coast of Florida beginning July 1. He will be taking over at a church where the pastor is retiring. Pastor Marcus has walked this church through some very challenging times. He did this by listening and caring about individuals. He may have helped your family through some difficult times as well by coming alongside you and your family. He may have even been part of a celebration moment such as a baptism or wedding. I know he’ll carry these memories with him as he serves a new church. I firmly believe that we are the church, we the congregation. Last year you might have thought that the church was a building and now we know that’s not true. You may have had moments when you thought the pastor was your church but it’s our job to build up the pastor as much as it’s his job to support us. We will find a way to celebrate and honor Pastor Marcus before he leaves and we’ll keep you posted on that.
craig nelson and janiceI want to let you know that this church will continue. We are the church and I am excited to tell you a little bit about our new pastor. First, I want to let you know that our District Superintendent, Dr. Cynthia Weems set up a meeting with SPRC and asked us what our church needed in our new pastor. We got to make a wish list if you will of the qualities that would best serve our church at this time. We were very pleased when sometime later Dr. Weems told us about Pastor Craig Nelson (shown in the picture with his wife, Janice). He is coming to us from his recent post in St Pete. He has a very diverse background. Pastor Craig crew up in Costa Rica as his parent were missionaries. He has lived in many different areas but has lived and worked in South Florida before and is happy to return to this area. He even has some family in Boca Raton. Pastor Craig worked as a District Superintendent in the south east district previously. Pastor Craig will transition to our area this summer and I hope you will all give him a warm welcome. Please click here to read Pastor Craig’s brief biography!