North Georgia Annual Conference 2017

North Georgia Annual Conference 2017 from Larry Carter, Lay Leader

The United Methodist Church is a Connectional Church and is a very large body of Believers Worldwide.  Globally, there are more than 11-million Methodists in the movement founded by John Wesley and early Methodists.  The UMC is organized much like our government and is divided into geographical areas each with their own boundaries and internal structure.  Cokes Chapel was “planted” in 1833 by Bishop Thomas Coke, sent to the New World by John Wesley.  Cokes Chapel UMC is situated in the LaGrange District of the North Georgia Conference.  The North Georgia Conference contains more than 800 churches, 1,300 clergy and 360,000 lay members.  We are a medium sized church and connected to the larger body.

Every year, the North Georgia Annual Conference gathers clergy and lay delegates together to worship, discusses and decides on policy issues, votes on prospective changes to the Book of Discipline (our votes are made known to the General Conference), hear various reports from the members of the body and enjoy fellowship.  We hear reports from the various ministries and the business of the church.  We honor those clergy and spouses who passed the previous year with a Service of Remembrance.  We hear the retiring clergy give their retirement speeches (and most continue to work for the Kingdom as long as they live).  We witness the Ordination and Commission of Clergy as they vow to serve wherever they are sent.  We witness the clergy assignments and send them off to their new charges.

The NGAC enjoys relationships with a number of organizations, such as the Candler School of Theology, the Gammon Theological Seminary and others including LaGrange College.  There is also an active camp and retreat ministry including Glisson Camp and Grow Day Camp (in which we participate locally).  There is just too much information to present in this blog so I hope and pray you will visit and learn what Methodism in North Georgia is all about.

The Annual Conferences are presided over by a Bishop and we are thrilled to have as our bishop the first female in the 151 year history of conferencing in North Georgia.  Bishop Sue Halpern-Johnson is a very real person who challenges all of us to Show Your Work (which was the theme of the conference).

I don’t want to ramble and am not a church historian.  I am simply honored and humbled to be chosen to be a lay delegate from Cokes Chapel to the Annual Conference.  From Cokes, we sent Pastor Lisa Dempsey, Deacon Kim Reindl, Lay Leader Larry Carter and Prayer Team Leader Debbie Carter (as guest).  There are around 3,000 United Methodist from all over North Georgia who descend on Athens every year, stay in the hotels, dine in the restaurants and spread the Love that God has for us.

I’ve visited the conference web site and picked a few pictures for a slideshow displayed below.  Enjoy.  Feel free to ask any question(s) you may have.


Blog from Keith Simpson

By Keith Simpson


I was struggling to come up with a name for this blog when Jackie reminded me of an old sports apparel company’s slogan that was “Just Do It”. A perfect title. Jackie comes through again. Just do it!

To me, this slogan means just do the right thing all the time. I know that it’s easier said than done, but I know I strive to do just that. It means to me, do it regardless who or if anyone is looking. Remember God is watching. In the military, we call it integrity. It’s one of the leadership values the Army expects its leaders to have. In the military, integrity is one of the most important values leaders and soldiers need to have and use always. We depend on every soldier and leader to just do the right thing, all the time. My life depended on the integrity of the soldiers who worked on the aircraft I flew. I trusted their integrity while maintaining the aircraft. All the other pilots, in turn, trusted that I would have integrity that everything that I signed off as fixed was actually fixed and I had properly tested or flown the aircraft. We all depended on each other. It was a life or death trust and we took it seriously.

There is one instance that comes to mind. I was stationed at FT Bragg, NC. I and a couple of my crew chiefs were working particularly late that evening. 12 hour work days were the norm in Army Aviation, not an exception. The two crew chiefs were working on different aircraft, trying to get them fixed so I could test fly them and have them ready for an early mission the next day. We were all going on our 13th or 14th hour of work and the guys were getting tired, as expected. One young Sergeant came over to me with this look of fear in his eyes.  He said, “Sir I screwed up big time”. I was expecting some catastrophic news about the aircraft he was working on. He proceeded to explain to me how he accidentally dropped a washer and a nut down between the aft fuel cell (rear gas tank) and the aircraft frame and he couldn’t find them. By the look on his face, he thought I would be upset and start raising Cain. He looked so dejected and he actually told me he was sorry he had let me down because that aircraft wouldn’t be flyable the following morning. We had to find that hardware because the aircraft would be grounded until we did. Instead of getting mad, I told him instead how proud I was that he did the right thing and brought it to my attention. INTEGRITY. That young man did the right thing without hesitation. No one would have known had he decided to keep it a secret. (Until it eventually punctured the fuel cell).

The next morning that soldier stood in front of everyone and received a Commanders Coin and a 4-day pass. I explained to the formation what he had done and how he used integrity even when no one was looking. He had also shown courage in the face of adversity. Now he had that proud look instead of the scared look. Often and usually, the right thing is not the easy thing. Moral courage and integrity.

We never know who or if anyone is watching us. Other people may look up to you without you even knowing. We all have two choices to make when a difficult situation arises; do the right thing or not. I was reminded of this again this past Sunday that someone is always watching. What you do may have a lasting effect on someone, especially children and teens. They look up to us whether we know it or not. Just one action could leave an indelible mark on someone.

Here’s my example of someone making an impression on me. In the early 70’s, while I was a young teenager, my family and I were watching tv. There was one commercial (before DVRs were ever dreamed about), that was about littering. There was an old, Native American Indian standing on the side of the road with a big tear running down his face. There were litter and trash all over. The message was not to litter and that has stayed with me my entire life. I can still close my eyes and see that man with the big tear running down his face.

As a Christian, we have a moral obligation to God, ourselves and others to “Just do it”. We can show the world, one person at a time, what right looks like.

As usual, I’ll leave you with some scripture. God Bless you all.

Psalm 7:8,10. Let the Lord judge the people. Judge me, oh Lord according to my righteousness and according to my integrity. My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart.
Proverbs 10:9.Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes the crooked paths will be found out.
I Chronicles 29:17.I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent.

Memorial Day Blog from Keith Simpson

Blog Memorial Day 2017 from Keith Simpson
Why do we celebrate Memorial Day? Obviously for the cookouts and get together’s, right? Not really and we all know that. Memorial Day was widely observed in 1868. The celebration commemorated the sacrifices of the Civil War. The proclamation was made by General John A. Logan. Directly following the proclamation, participants decorated the graves of over 20,000 graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers.
After World War I, the day became a celebration to honor all who died in all of America’s wars. Memorial Day became an official holiday in 1971.
President Ronald Reagan is credited with reviving Memorial Day and the practice of honoring it. President Reagan gave one of his most famous speeches at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day 1986. I will print the first few lines but I encourage you to look up the speech and read it. It’s very powerful. It begins with “Today is the day we put aside to remember fallen heroes and to pray that no heroes will ever have to die for us again. It’s a day of thanks for the valor of others, a day to remember the splendor of America and those of her children who rest in this cemetery and others. It’s a day to be with the family and remember”. The speech is one I recommend everyone reading. It’s a moving speech outlining some of the great feats of courage by America’s ordinary men and women.
Memorial Day is special to me and to many of my friends and I know to countless others. Some of my friends get a little agitated when someone comes up to them on Memorial Day and thanks them for their service. The reason is Memorial Day is to honor and remember our fallen. Nov 11 every year is Veterans Day. That is a holiday that honors all of America’s veterans whether they are still on active duty, retired or just served a couple of years. That’s what I call “My Holiday”.
For me, Memorial Day brings those memories of my friends that gave their lives in the service for this great country. They willingly paid the ultimate price. It’s an emporia day for me. It brings tears as I sit and write this. Tears for my fallen friends. Men that left moms and dads without a son. Men who left wives with no husband and left children with no dads. They did it willingly. I will say that over and over. They did it for people they would never meet. They did it for Democrats, Republicans, independents, liberals, conservatives, supporters of the wars and the protesters. They even did it for the people who hurled insults at them and called them names. What those people don’t realize is freedom is not free. They get to protest and disagree with things because of those men and women who defend those freedoms and gave their lives for it.
I have snapshots of these men in my head. When I close my eyes, I can see them. Smiling faces, some not smiling or just doing what they did. Every day when they went out and climbed into those aircraft, they did it willingly, never knowing if today was the day. Even if they could have known somehow, they would have done it anyway. They loved being soldiers, they loved being Apache Pilots and Kiowa Pilots and they loved their country. They also loved their families dearly. We owe them so much. We owe their families so much. Memorial Day is that day to pay a little of that debt.
This coming Monday, please take just a few moments to remember all those men and women who gave all. Be with your families, have the BBQ, go to the lake and all the other things you can do on this holiday weekend. By doing all those things, you are honoring them because, without the sacrifices of so many, none of us would have the lives we have and the freedoms we have.
In closing, if you ever get the chance to go to Washington, DC and Arlington National Cemetery. Visit the tomb of the unknowns and the changing of the guard. If you’re not moved, you can’t have a heart. It’s sobering to look across Arlington at the simple white crosses that mark each grave and the enormity of it. It’s ok to thank veterans for their service but when you do that, just keep in mind who we are really honoring. I miss every one of my friends.
Of course, I will leave you with some scripture. Have a happy, safe Memorial Day weekend and if you’re able, come to the 10:10 service at the Cokes Chapel flagpole. Thank you and God Bless!
1 Corinthians 16:13. Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.
Proverbs 10:7. The memory of the righteous is blessed, but the name of the wicked will rot.
John 15:13. Greater love has no one than this, that one day lay down his life for his friends.

Ministry Moment from Bridget Adamson

A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated the teachers of Cokes Chapel Childcare Center.  Teacher Appreciation Week was held May 1st-5th.  During this week we take time to recognize and thank our teachers for all their hard work and dedication.

I would like to take a moment and tell you about my teachers.  We currently have 25 teachers on staff.   17 of those teachers have been with us for 1 year or more!  We have 2 teachers on staff that have been with us for 8 years. Our teachers work a combined two week period of 1, 611.48 hours!  Plus countless additional hours that don’t make the time card! 

Over half of our staff have degrees, certifications or are currently working on them.  We have a very talented group of ladies here!  5 of our teachers are High School Interns working under the Work/Study program through the local High Schools.  This program allows the student to gain job experience while attending school.  Congratulations to Kate-Lynn, Ce’Nadra, Katie, Kaelin and Destynee!

Our teachers are kind, caring, dedicated, hardworking and loyal.  Come by and meet them if you have a chance.  You’ll be glad you did!

Bridget Adamson

Blog from Keith Simpson


Attending church or worshipping at church?

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now so I decided to write about it. Are we worshipping just because we are physically present at church? For me, there is a big difference. It also pertains to me when I’m playing music.

Jackie was the driving force behind me coming back to church. I had walked away from the church, (not necessarily God),
when I was in my early 20’s. I let the actions of a group of people get in between me and the church. Notice I didn’t say God again. I have always kept my basic beliefs in God and His power, love, forgiveness and grace. I guess you could say I kept those beliefs inside of me but didn’t acknowledge them in public. I guess I didn’t think it fit my image I had created for myself as this big, bad Apache Helicopter pilot that had no fear of anyone or anything. As corny as it sounds, I thought I was almost bigger than life.
Boy, could I have been

any more wrong? So, fast forward to 2011. Jackie, her Grandmother (Abuela) and Alexandra had found this little gem of a church with the name of Cokes Chapel. She would mention that they were going to church and I would politely nod and go on about my business. One day I felt I should join them. I had all my walls up to combat all of the “do gooders” I was sure to meet. Funny thing is I didn’t run into any that day but instead just a lot of warm, friendly smiles, hellos and glad you could make it. Needless to say, I was caught a bit off guard, but in the best of ways. After that day, church became a little bit more regular in my life.

Here is where my title for this blog comes into play. I was finally attending church but was I worshipping? I will say not really. I was there physically but mentally I would drift in and out of the service. It remained this way for a while. I would pay attention to the message that Pastor John was delivering but I didn’t let the walls down so the Holy Spirit could work.  I truly believe the Holy Spirit is always present but we are left to decide for ourselves if we let him in. I went on like this for a while.

Jackie kept mentioning we should try the Contemporary Worship service but I wouldn’t agree to it. I would see everyone coming out wearing shorts, jeans, sandals or whatever and I just couldn’t get past it. Remember, I was raised going to a Baptist church with my grandmother. I’m not sure she could have ever handled shorts at church, but that’s a different blog. Jackie kept nudging ever so lightly because she knew if she pushed too hard I would not come at all. (Not saying that was right for me to do but I’m being honest). I just couldn’t imagine what was going on. Drinking coffee, in shorts and watching video clips and a live band??? What is this? Remember- I had no idea what a contemporary service was or really anything about it. Just because we label something doesn’t mean that other folks like me know what it means. Keep that in mind for a later discussion!

Finally, the day came and we went to the contemporary worship service. I was completely mesmerized by everything that was happening. I had a nice cup of coffee and listened to the band play. I was in awe of Pastor Mark on stage delivering the message. The stage was decorated to fit the message set and he was energetic walking all over the stage. We watched clips from a movie to enhance the message and it was amazing. I was like, “Wow, this is cool.”
Now because I was in awe of everything I was seeing and experiencing and I was in church, I had to be involved in worshipping, right?  WRONG!  I was physically there but I still wasn’t really worshipping. When the band was playing, I was playing parts in my head instead of listening and worshipping with the music.  I was thinking about how I would change the song and what guitar fills I could insert and on and on. Again, I was there, but only physically. Soon after that
I began playing in the Worship Band. Surely, I had to be worshipping now, right? Nope, wrong again. I was up there trying to figure out what the heck we were playing because I hadn’t really heard most of the songs before and I was trying to find my place in the group. Even after we would sit down, I often thought about what I played incorrectly and how to make it better and everything but putting all my focus on the message.
Now we fast forward a few more months. I was getting a little more comfortable with the music and settling into the routine. It was around this time that I started to believe that Pastor Mark was preaching to me every week. How did he do that? Obviously, he wasn’t directing the message at me but he sure was getting through. He now had my attention and finally, I think I began to worship God. The Holy Spirit was at work in me! I listened to both the songs and the message.  All the stage props and movie clips were my focus at first but now they complemented the message. They raised my interest in the word.
Sometimes we never really know what brings people into a church or what triggers their interests to return. All the things I mentioned above might just seem silly or not needed in a church. I thought they were all just cool props at first but then I started to get excited to see what Bobby had dreamt up for the stage for the coming Sunday. Then I got involved helping with the staging, peaking my interest in that work. I realized that if this was connecting with me, I’m sure it can connect with younger people too. We live in a visual world, so naturally, it should spill over to church! Even though they may be stage props, they help grab people’s attention, but it’s still the Pastor who has the task to bring the message.  Teaching should be multi-faceted, energetic and interesting enough to keep people’s attention.

Finally, I was really worshipping. I was immersing myself in the music and I was really listening to the message and letting it all in. I actually looked forward to the next Sunday because I couldn’t wait to hear what he had to say to me. He was just preaching to me, right?  Obviously, that’s not the case but I often wonder if other people feel the same way? Are they letting the message “talk to them” or are they just attending?

I certainly hope that everyone who comes to church or watches it via Livestream or watches other services on TV, take in the message and let the Holy Spirit into your heart. The Holy Spirit is always there, wanting us to let him in and touch our heart. A short conversation I had with Kim comes to mind. We were discussing something and I started to tear up and get a little emotional. I apologized to her but her words back to me really stuck. She said, “It’s okay Keith, that’s the Holy Spirit at work in your heart”. WOW! Being filled with the Holy Spirit can bring tears, it can bring shouts or any number of things. That thought is always with me now.

This Sunday, try clearing your mind and opening your heart. Take in all the sounds, scenes and everything that’s happening and let the Holy Spirit come in and cleanse your soul and guide you along life’s path. If we let ourselves be led by God, there is no telling where we may go or what we may do or accomplish.  I see people sometimes checking their phones and doing other things. Those really are distractors that take your focus away from the sermon. I encourage everyone to come to church with an open mind and heart, ready to let in the Holy Spirit and not come just to be seen or heard. (I’m certainly not trying to call anyone out, but if the shoe fits….).  Remember I’ve been that person just sitting there, not inviting the Holy Spirit into my heart.

I am so thankful that Jackie gently prodded me along the way. I am amazed and thankful for the journey I’m now on and excited to see where I’m headed. I feel so blessed that God put Jackie in my life. Together with God’s guidance, we can set the example for Alexandra. It has been amazing already to watch her grow spiritually and I am positive God has great things in store for her. I hope all who read this will join me on this amazing journey with Jesus at the wheel. Cokes Chapel is at a crossroads. We have a unique opportunity with our Church. Pray for Vision 11, that we allow God to lead us in making Cokes Chapel truly be a place for all of God’s children. Together with the help from our Lord, let’s set our church on fire (for the Lord).

 May God bless each one of you, our country and our church.

As usual, I will leave you with some scripture.



Isaiah 23:13. NIV

 The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught

John 4:23-24 NIV

23-Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24-God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Ministry Moment from Bobby Kirk

This week the Youth studied Colossians 1:15-20 and we discussed that Jesus is Lord of all.

– Not just at church but in your everyday life and not just on Sunday but the rest of the week as well.  

If someone says “Lord”, they are in charge.  Ever hear someone say “You are not the boss of me!” (Or ever say it yourself?).  If you call Jesus Lord, you are saying “You are the boss of me.”  

If He’s the boss of you, you’d probably want to do what He says.  If He’s truly in charge, He needs to be “over all creation” in your life.  That affects your time, money, priorities, friendships, family, school, movies you watch, music you listen to, the jokes you tell, etc. 

You may call Him “Lord”. But is He really that to you? 

He’s our Creator, our Sustainer, and our Redeemer!

Bobby Kirk

Youth Director

Cokes Chapel UMC

Ministry Moment from Kim Reindl

On Sunday, April 23, Cokes Chapel celebrated Confirmation Sunday! On that very special day, four of our young people were baptized and six confirmed their faith as followers of Jesus Christ (one additional youth will be confirmed on May 21)! Since this was the culmination of our “Foundations of Faith” Family Confirmation Class, four parents and one previously confirmed youth chose to reaffirm their faith, reflecting our Methodist understanding that growth in faith is a lifelong journey.

God brought forth tremendous fruit from this time of intentional learning and community. It was truly a time of joy, as we grew in relationship with God and one another! Please hear what some of the class participants had to say about our time together:

“The part I enjoyed in this class the most of all was being able to learn about God more and growing more in my faith in God.”—Mallory Booth, Confirmed, 5th Grader

“I learned that God was so much bigger than I ever imagined—I feel so much closer to Him now than I ever have!”—Ella McCallie, Confirmed, 6th Grader

“The Intergenerational aspect was wonderful—going through this class and all of its related experiences alongside my daughter was a faith journey we will never forget and we were able to learn and grow together!”—Carma McCallie, Parent

“What I learned from the class was when Jesus got baptized and everyone else started to get baptized. My favorite thing was when we were talking about baptism and when I got baptized last Sunday!”—Jerrell Moore-Forts, Baptized, 6th Grader

“I learned that Jesus is our shield from harm…My favorite part was when we went to The Varsity!” —D’Shawn Moore-Forts, Baptized, 5th Grader

“We did a lot of fun things, like visit and worship at different churches.”—Jackson Smith, To Be Confirmed on May 21, 8th Grader

“I enjoyed the field trip to the Episcopal Church and sharing the experience with Jackson. The labyrinth and Taize service were very interesting, and seeing how others worship was spiritually enlightening.”—Brian Smith, Parent

“I really enjoyed going through the class with other families. I think it added a lot to our discussions to have perspectives of adults and children.”—Arianna Smith, Parent

“I enjoyed the retreat the most. It reminded me that God is always with me.”—Matthew Kirk, Confirmed, 7th Grader

“I enjoyed the small groups best. It was a good experience.”—Emily Kirk, Confirmed, 5th Grader
“It was interesting and fun learning during the class. It was fulfilling…Getting baptized is what I enjoyed the most because I feel like a new person and open to God.”—Alexandra Simpson, Baptized, 6th Grader

“My heart is so warm knowing that this was a life changing event for Alexandra spiritually. What more could a parent ask for!”—Jackie Simpson, Parent

“It really was a wonderful experience to go through with Alexandra. It made an impact on all of us!”—Keith Simpson, Parent

Thank you to the people of Cokes Chapel for providing the willingness and resources to make such ministry possible! To God be the glory!!!

Grace and Peace,

Kim Reindl
Director of Inter-generational Discipleship Ministry
Cokes Chapel UMC


Blog from Keith Simpson

 Confirmation Reflections

Several months ago, my family and I started this wonderful journey together working toward Alexandra’s baptism and Confirmation and our Reaffirmation of Faith. The classes, called Foundations of Faith, were developed and led by Kim Reindel. This has been an incredible family learning experience that has brought us closer together. We were able to watch Alexandra’s faith grow as she learned more about God and as she moved toward making the decision to be baptized and then to announce her dedication to the Lord. This process moved us in ways we could never have imagined. The three of us learned and grew in our faith together.

Jackie and I were not raised in the Methodist Church so the learning curve was steep for us too. Jackie was baptized as an infant in the Catholic Church and I was baptized in the Baptist Church as a teenager. Thanks to the vision of Kim, Jackie and I were able to go through this process with Alexandra as a family instead of just Alexandra going through it only with other 12-year-olds. Throughout this process, we also learned about the foundations of the Methodist Church.

The three of us will carry this experience and what we learned through the rest of our lives. During this entire process, Kim challenged us and helped us think outside of the box. She encouraged us to look at many things from different perspectives for ourselves as well as looking at issues from the perspectives of others. This was such an eye-opening experience for me especially. I always try to respect the opinions of others and what they have to say but often don’t really “LISTEN” to what they are really saying. We all must try to remember that we all have the right to our opinion and to our individuality and even though those opinions may differ from ours, they are equally important to the good of the situation.

It’s hard for me sometimes to acknowledge an option that greatly differs from my own. I do really believe that God wants us to listen to what others have to say and to respect those opinions or beliefs regardless if it clashes with our own. Just because we respect those opinions doesn’t mean we have to agree with them or change how we believe. Along with this same line of thinking, it’s also not up to us to judge anyone. That is left to the Lord. When we start to judge others based on opinion or belief, we start down a path that isn’t meant for us to go. During these classes, I found myself really listening to what the others in the group were saying and thinking.  That listening helped me to feel like I was growing spiritually. I really believe we can always learn something from listening to others if we just open our minds and heart. Collectively we are stronger than we are alone. This means also the Church is stronger with our collective faith and participation. As I am sitting writing this, that thought really struck me. I believe we should always be actively engaged with being a disciple of Christ. To me, this means we should never be satisfied with the number of people at our worship services. We should always be engaged in spreading the Word of God and bringing more people into the House of God to hear the message and grow with us. In turn, these people go out and spread the word and more people are brought in to hear the word and so on.

On this same line of thinking, Kim took us to visit different church’s to see and experience the way others worship. Again, an eye-opening experience each time. Each church had a different way of worshiping but they were still Christians. Just because our methods of worship are a little different, doesn’t mean we are that different. We all worship God and are Christians. This journey has been one of tremendous learning. It has opened my heart in ways I would never have expected and it brought my family closer together spiritually. Watching Alexandra get baptized and then confirm her love of God and her willingness to choose this path for her life was a powerful experience that I will never forget. Her life is now forever changed.

I will leave you with some scripture.

God Bless you all,  Keith Simpson


2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Galatians 5:22

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,


Diversity from Keith Simpson

“Why are those people here at our church”?  Have you ever heard anyone at church say that? I hope not but it has probably been said. I know I heard it a few times growing up. My Grandmother (Granny Cain) was instrumental in me becoming a Christian and had a tremendous impact on my sense of right or wrong. If she ever heard anything like that she would pull me aside and explain that way of thinking wasn’t right and it wasn’t how Christians should treat others. I grew up in the 60’s and there were a lot of changes taking place in society. She always told me God loved us all, regardless of what color of our skin, what we did for a living if we were rich or poor and so on. We are all sinners and are all on this journey called life together. It really bothered her when someone new would show up at church and they were poorly dressed or looked “different” than the rest of us and someone might whisper something about it.  She always taught me to wear my best clothes to church as a sign of respect to God. Being from a very poor family growing up, she knew what it was like to have very little and very few clothes. The reason she would get upset is because of the way some people would react to a person coming in wearing old, worn clothes when that was probably the best they had. God cares about what is in our heart, not how expensive our clothes are. That was a valuable lesson to me. You may be thinking, “What does that have to do with diversity”?  Diversity isn’t just about the color of our skin. It’s also about economic and social status, big or small, intelligent or unschooled and really anything that makes us different. I think diversity within a church is very important. God doesn’t care about any of those things. He loves a rich person just as much as a poor person and so on. Having a diverse congregation allows those who have more, to care and help those who have less. It gives a safe haven for all people to worship and learn in an environment that is nonjudgmental and that embraces all of us. It’s a place where we can go to learn about God and not be looked down on because we may not know the Bible inside and out or that we are slower to learn than others. God embraces us all. Isn’t that a wonderful feeling to know we worship a God that doesn’t care about any of those things but loves us in spite of all of the things that are right or wrong with us? All He requires is that we reach out to Him and ask for His forgiveness. He sees through everything and can look straight into our heart. That’s a very powerful thing to me.

In my experience in the Methodist Church, we do embrace diversity and embracing others that may be different than us. If you get the opportunity, walk around our cemetery. There are people from very different walks of life buried there. There are Confederate soldiers and Union soldiers, probably some wealthy and not so wealthy people there too. Having a diverse church not only helps us individually but helps us collectively in society. I think God expects us to welcome and embrace each and every person who walks through the doors of Cokes Chapel UMC. He expects us to share the word and show how much richer life is with Christ in it. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus shows acts of humility and grace. Think about the Last Supper. He washed the feet of all his disciples. Feet washing was usually done by a servant and was done before the meal. He showed us humility. He set the example for all of us to follow. His grace and love are unmatched. John 13:2-16 explains this ritual of washing feet.

God created us as a diverse people and He wants us to unite. That’s why He gave us different skills and strengths so that we would recognize our need for one another and appreciate our individuality. And God’s love for variety is not just visible in us but in all aspects of His creation. Look at the many species in any ecosystem all living in synchrony, or the changing seasons, each allowing for growth and harvest.

Let us continue to welcome each and every person that walks through our doors. Let’s show how common we are instead of how different we all are. Let’s spread the word and love, grace, compassion and forgiveness to the world. We are all in this journey called life together and together we can spread the love of God and be Disciples For Christ.

May you all be blessed with the love of Christ. I’ll leave you with a couple verses of scripture.

Galatians 3:28

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

1 Corinthians 12:12-14 –

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one bodywhether Jews or Gentiles, slave or freeand we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so, the body is not made up of one part but of many.”
Keith Simpson

Ministry Moment from Bridget 3-22-17


Luck.  Are you a lucky person? Do you ever feel lucky?

Recently we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day at Cokes Chapel Childcare Center.  A common phrase during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations is “the luck of the Irish.”

What is “the luck of the Irish?”  Are Irish people just naturally lucky?  It turns out that “the luck of the Irish” is actually an American phrase.  During the gold and silver rush years, some of the most famous and successful miners were of Irish and Irish American birth.  Over time, this association of the Irish with mining fortunes led to the expression ‘luck of the Irish.’

I have a little bit of Irish in me that comes from my Great Grandmother Kelley.  But I don’t feel lucky because of that.  I am lucky because I get to spend my days with 160 kiddos!  Precious, innocent children who attend our childcare center.  Children who through our ministry are learning about Jesus.

Who are learning how to live in the ways that Jesus did.  We are growing and making disciples here, as we are told to.

Come and see.  You will feel lucky and loved!

Blog from Saudi Arabia from Keith Simpson

Hello again from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Have you ever felt like your life is heading down a one-way road the wrong way? I sure do. Driving back and forth from our compound to the Saudi Air Force airfield reminded me of that. Traffic laws here are more like suggestions than laws. People here pretty much do whatever they want driving. It’s such a contradiction to the Religious laws. We regularly see cars and trucks driving the wrong way on a one-way road just because it’s quicker. Making the drive to the airfield every morning we face numerous obstacles. The first thing we face is the traffic driving the wrong way. They flash their lights and blow their horns. That is how they let you know they’re coming and you better move. It’s pretty exciting the first few times. It’s especially fun when the cars are 2 and 3 wide coming at you in the wrong direction. It’s like NASCAR except backward! After getting past the one-way portion of the trip, we’re headed towards the next set of obstacles. They like to build speed bumps in the road to control speed which often blend in with the asphalt. They don’t paint them so you can’t see them. If you slow down too much to cross them, cars or trucks will pass you in the opposite lane and on the dirt shoulder. Yep, exciting again!
Next, comes the camels. There are several areas we call camel farms. They’re 2 or 3-acre squares in the desert that have dirt bulldozed into walls all the way around. Somehow the camels still get out or maybe are let out. They wander out into the road. When it’s you in a Suburban or Tahoe against a camel, the camel will always win. They are very large and will completely destroy a Large SUV. I had one stand in the road in front of us and then finally walk along the side of our vehicle and stop and look in the window. Pretty funny. We have figured out they use dirt for the walls or fences because wood is in very short supply here but the one thing they have plenty of is dirt. Lots and lots of dirt or fine sand. The camel herders use what they have I guess. After the wrong way traffic, cars passing you on both sides of you and the camels wandering around, there’s always the mid-size flatbed truck that is piled as high as they can pile it with bales of alfalfa and they can somehow strap it down. The trucks are piled so high it looks like they could tip over with a light gust of wind. After all of that, we drive into the airfield, thankful we made it but knowing that in several hours we have to run the gauntlet again.

This reminds me of my spiritual life. I, probably like most people, navigate through various obstacles every day. We trudge through the journey every day, dodging bullets (so to say) from things thrown at us and just the normal issues most of us work through daily. Very often I find myself trying to do this on my own. I think I have to handle everything alone. First of all, I am lucky to have a wonderful wife I know I can count on to have my back and help me but I usually don’t want to bother her. The most important resource or help we all can have is the Lord above. I can ALWAYS pray and ask for His help, wisdom, and guidance. We all can look to Him to bless us with the wisdom and good judgment to successfully navigate any obstacle that life can throw at us. We are so fortunate to be able to ask for these things and most importantly ask for forgiveness for our sins and for the wisdom to do better the next day. Isn’t that amazing that our God loves us so much He is willing to forgive us all of our sins? All we have to do is ask and you shall be forgiven. I know I am certainly not worthy of it but he gives it to me willingly. His love for us is unconditional. His grace is constant. I am so thankful I worship such a loving God. I know I have to try harder every single day to live life in a way to honor Him and lead other people to know his grace and forgiveness. As a Christian, I believe it is my duty and obligation to him to set the example for everyone to see. More often than not it is what we do, not what we say that will either bring others to know Christ or make them turn away. The old saying “Actions speak louder than words” is something I believe. It doesn’t mean I always succeed but I must strive for that. We can let his light shine through us for others to see.

Instead of a scripture verse this time, I will leave you with words from my Grandmother’s favorite song.

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. 
I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no 
less days to sing His GRACE, then when we first begun.”

God bless you all. I hope to see you all soon!

Keith Simpson

Ministry Moment from Bobby Kirk


Lego the Worry

In youth, we have been discussing “worry & change” and how those two seem to go hand in hand in this world.  As a youth, they may not have a say in where their family moves, or what middle school, or high school they will attend; or even who their teachers will be when they move up a grade year after year. Sometimes it may be a bully at school they have to deal with.  Matthew 6:25-31 addresses the concerns of not worrying and for us to remember that God has got our back! He has told us to not even worry about the basics for survival – food, drink, & clothing. 

Our youth are walking through a lot of change in their lives right now with themselves and with their surroundings. I encourage you to remind the youth of Cokes Chapel how much they are loved and how awesome they are. 

May you be reminded how much God loves you and to not worry – God’s got your back.


Bobby Kirk

Youth Director | Cokes Chapel

Note from Bridget Adamson, Childcare Center Director


Love.  A simple, four letter word that can be shown in many ways. How do you show love? Let’s look at love through the eyes of a child.  Love to a child is a hug, a high five, a smile.  A child’s love is the most purest and innocent of all.  At Cokes Chapel Childcare Center, we give and experience love everyday.  Love is our foremost goal at the center.  We surround our children with love and in turn they shower us with love.  Love at the center can be as simple as saying, “See you later, gator”  as a child leaves for the day.  The bigger part of that love is to hear the joy and laughter of that child as they exclaim to their parent, “she called me gator!” 

Love is shown by lending a listening ear to an upset parent.  Love is shown by giving one final hug, one final ‘I love you,’ and one ‘remember, Jesus loves you,’ to a foster child on their way back to their home. Love is shown by assigning a child a nickname (they love this!). Love is shown by just being there, holding and comforting.

Do you need to experience love?  I invite you to come visit us at YOUR childcare center.  It truly is the place to see love in its purest form.  Come spend some time with our children.  I guarantee they will shower you with LOVE!

LOVE.  It really is that simple.  “Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud…Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8


Bridget Adamson
Director, Cokes Chapel Childcare Center

Note from Bobby Kirk February 15, 2017


The flagship verse for our amazing youth is this:

1 Timothy 4:12; Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity. 
At at time when it is important to fit in with their peers, our youth are deciding to stand out by setting an example of what a relationship with Jesus looks like. If you happen to talk with one of our youth at church let them know how awesome they are for standing up for Jesus!

We believe that God uses us regardless of our age, more so if we are willing!  It is exciting to see how they youth have developed over the past couple of months and how they are living out our flagship verse. Shannon and I are so blessed to be a part of this time in their lives!  

From the beginning of this year, we have been discussing identity, labels, attitude, and priorities. It’s paramount for our youth to know who they truly are in Christ and to build on that foundation.   All these things came together when they experienced WinterJam2017.

They experienced what it is like to worship our Lord and Savior in fellowship with 30,000+ brothers and sisters in Christ. Our youth learned they are not alone! There are lots of like-minded youth that love our Lord Jesus Christ and put Him first. WinterJam is a loud and exciting worship concert with modern Christian musicians that connect with the styles of music our youth listen to and enjoy. 

May your relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ always be youthful!


Bobby Kirk

Cokes Chapel UMC | Youth Director

Note from Kim Reindl February 8, 2017



There’s a popular song that says, “It’s always better when we’re together.” That’s true, don’t you think? Life’s just better…together.

Last November and December, during the season of Advent, we set out on a journey together. Instead of experiencing the season individually, we as a church were presented with very intentional opportunities to join together in reading Scripture, imagining the Christmas story (often in a new way!), discussing our insights, and worshiping as a church family. Every one of us—children, youth, and adults—whether through adult classes, Children’s Church, Youth Group, and/or worship, we’re studying and talking about the same stories of our faith. At the end of Advent, in typical God-like style, we finished with a celebration!

Some of the comments that I heard were… “I had never thought about how brave Mary had to be or how difficult it must have been for Joseph. The group helped me see these familiar stories in a new way.” “I really enjoyed getting to know people from both worship services. I met people I hadn’t met before. There are some great folks here at Cokes Chapel!” “It was so good to read and study the same things as my child. We were given an opportunity to talk about these Bible stories as a family.” “I loved the Celebration Breakfast! I loved hearing from everyone (all ages) about what God was teaching them through the classes or Lisa’s sermons. I hope we do more things like this!”

Yes…It’s always better when we’re together!

Kim Reindl
Director of Inter-generational Discipleship Ministry