Thursday, July 31, 2014

Appreciating the Desert

When Del Webb built the first phase of Sun City, his target market was retirees from the upper Midwest, and he assumed they would want to buy houses that looked like transplanted bungalows from Minnesota or Wisconsin, complete with grass lawns and familiar shrubs.

Our church, too, was originally landscaped with grass that wasn’t removed until 1988.  That year the congregation embraced the concept of xeriscaping.  Merriam-Webster defines xeriscape as “a landscaping method developed especially for arid and semiarid climates that utilizes water-conserving techniques (as the use of drought-tolerant plants, mulch, and efficient irrigation),” and says the first known use of the word (if not the principle) was in 1985.  We were pioneers in that regard, appreciating our desert 26 years ago.

However, once the desert flora was in place, we started treating it like the plants we were used to in colder climates—trimming bushes into hedges and frequently overwatering them.  Some of this was necessary because the landscapers had planted many of the items in areas too small for the full-grown plants, too close together, or too close to the walkways.  Over the years quite a few of our plantings have become woody, over-grown, and unattractive.  It’s time to fix that.

Starting with a donation designated for landscaping, Master Gardener, Certified Arborist, and Certified Desert Landscaper Kris Coates is helping us to:

W Identify and remove the plants that have reached the end of their useful lives.

W “Stump back” salvageable plants that can regrow into more natural and attractive shapes.

W Replant with more eye-catching and appropriate types of foliage that will require less water and less maintenance.

W Train our Building Committee and the landscaper we use in how to care for the new plants.
Once the entire project is complete, we will save thousands of dollars in water and landscape maintenance costs every year, and our campus will be far more beautiful and desert-appropriate.

We are so fortunate that Zane and Martha Porter referred Kris to us; she is committing countless hours of her time and effort to this project free of charge, and with her help we will be able to buy most of the new plants we need at wholesale prices, almost 40% off retail.  If you see her around the grounds, be sure to thank her.  With her help, we will all be able to appreciate the desert in a whole new way.
“The desert, when the sun comes up...I couldn't tell where heaven stopped and the Earth began.” ~Tom Hanks

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Thanks to Royal Oaks

Royal Oaks is in the middle of removing the “islands” from their traffic circles due to fire department requirements, and they have graciously agreed to let us have (for only the cost of transplanting them) quite a few mature yucca plants and two cacti that would otherwise have been destroyed.  Look to see these new plants soon on the 103rd side of the campus.

Monday, July 28, 2014

90+ Tea Help Needed

On Wednesday, August 6, First Presbyterian Church is hosting a tea at 10:00 am in Swain Hall for its members and regular attendees who are 90 years of age or older.  If you are a younger person willing to act as a host or hostess at one of the tables, or to chauffeur one or more of the attendees, please call Beth Mabee in the church office at 623.974.3605 or send an email to  Thank you!

Friday, July 25, 2014

PW Back to School Lunch

Here are the school supplies collected for the students of El Mirage Elementary school by the PW-sponsored Back to School Project.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Lost and Found

If you have misplaced one of these items, stop by the church office to claim your property:

Blue metal water bottle
Small flashlight
Green crystal pierced earring
Woman’s white cap
Kokopelli charm

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

In the Library

A new book I’d recommend is Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verchese.  It is with the new books on the round table in the library.

Also, this note is just a reminder that August 1 is my last day volunteering for the church library.  I’ll be happy to show anyone what a volunteer does to keep the library running smoothly.  It is not an overwhelming job.  In fact, it is kinda neat, if one likes books and enjoys reading.  If you are interested, call me at 623.974.9250.

~Muffy Keen


Monday, July 21, 2014

PC(USA) leaders offer prayer for use this Sunday

Grace and peace to you. As we gather together in worship around the world this Sunday, we encourage you to lift up the following prayer for all of God’s people. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Ruling Elder Heath K. Rada, Moderator, 221st General Assembly (2014)
Ruling Elder Linda Bryant Valentine, Executive Director, Presbyterian Mission Agency
God of light, we praise you for the wonder and glory of this world and the many blessings we have received. Still, at times the darkness is like a night and it feels you have hidden your face from your people. The most vulnerable and innocent among us seem to be hemmed in by violence and conflict. This week we realized that no place is safe—not home, not a 2,000-mile trek through rainforests and deserts, not 30,000 feet up. Yet, we profess that you know all things, count the hair on our heads, and know our rising and our sitting. How can this be?
God, we are saddened by the news reports of people taken too soon from this world and we shake our head with disbelief when we see the bodies of children carrying the ravages of war. It seems as though the only ones in the crosshairs of violence are those with no power, little to gain, and much to lose. They pay with the thing you hold most precious, the very breath you breathed into our lungs.
May your Spirit of peace and wisdom descend on the Middle East. May the words and actions of Abram haunt the leaders of Palestine and Israel. May they rescue one another, become great nations, and bless all peoples on earth. Protect the innocent and send prophets among them and their leaders to find a just resolution.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.
Wars rage on the ground, the sea, and in the air in the Ukraine, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, and many other places. Families mourn the loss of loved ones and are robbed of hope for a future for their children. Help us see the painful reality that conflict zones cannot be contained. Comfort the grieving and burden the rest of us with this senseless loss of life. Open the way for aid agencies and those offering relief, give them courage and resources to ease the immediate suffering they encounter.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.
Walk with children fleeing homes terrorized by gang violence, crushing poverty, and drug wars. We know they carry a singular hope, to have abundant life that you have promised us. The journey is fraught with danger and uncertainty. Hold them in your arms and nurture the hope planted in them by their families and your Spirit and do not allow it to be crushed by hatred and racism.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.
Break our hearts Holy God by the reality that faces so many of your people. Let the scales fall from our eyes so that we may see how our own choices and passive acceptance of U.S. policy contribute to unrest and injustice.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.
God grant us the grace and courage to work for all these things that we pray. Help turn sadness into righteous anger and action. May we know your ways, and beat our weapons of destruction into instruments of reconciliation and creation. It is an honor to be agents of your peace so that this world will know and confess your name.
In the name of the one who taught us to pray:
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

For Personal Devotions: “These Days”

The personal devotion booklets for July, August, and September can be found in the holders attached to hallway bulletin boards. Even though the price printed on them is $2.95 each, you may have yours by paying only $1.00, brought to the office, dropped in the slot below the booklets, or into the Sunday offering plate in a miscellaneous envelope marked “These Days.”

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Stephen Ministers

Our Stephen Ministers are available to those suffering bereavement, illness, or other personal crises for prayer and support. To arrange for a visit from a Stephen Minister, call the church office at 623.974.3605 or coordinator Rev. Dr. David Glenn Walker at 623.977.0930.

Advice to Stephen Ministers in training, by The Rev. Kenneth C. Haugk, founder:
Hurts don’t go away because you wish them away or reason them away. In fact, nothing you as a caregiver can do will miraculously remove the pain. That’s God’s terrain. So don’t expect that you will be able to provide just what the person needs to make it all better. You have been called to fulfill a role that is much more attainable – walking with the person, sharing and being Christ’s love and compassion. When you do that, you will be making a significant difference in the suffering person’s life.
∼in Don’t Sing Songs to a Heavy Heart
When silence fills the room, remember that God is beneath and within the silence, radiating his love. You are always there as God’s emissary of love. You can speak in love, you can listen in love, and you can simply be with the other person in love.
∼in Don’t Sing Songs to a Heavy Heart
Your presence is worth much, much more than words. Your presence communicates to the other that he or she is valued, precious, beloved. Your presence brings not only the gift of yourself into the relationship but also, in and through you, the gift of God.
∼in How to Relate to Those Who Are Suffering
One of First Presbyterian’s Stephen Ministers is prepared to spend some time with you!

If you are interested in becoming a Stephen Minister, contact Gene Downing at 623.933.0642 or Rev. Dr. David Glenn Walker at 623.977.0930. Stephen Ministers meet the first and third Monday of every month at 2:00 pm in Annex 3.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summer Ecumenical Hymn-Sing

Shepherd of the Desert Lutheran Church will host the second of the three Summer Ecumenical Hymn-Sings at 3p.m. on Sunday, July 27, 2014. All, of any church affiliation, or none, are most welcome.

Our host church, located at 11025 N. 111th Avenue, sings from Evangelical Lutheran Worship and part of our hour of singing will be taking a brief "song tour" thru the Church Year - with a few "side-trips."  We will also sing some familiar hymns to "interchangeable" tunes. The rest of our singing will be selections from the hymnal offered by participants. The accompaniment will be provided by their very accomplished musician, Kathy Tofanelli.

The last half-hour together - we plan to be on our way homeward by 4:30p.m. - will be enjoying light refreshment and the opportunity to talk about the experience with friends, new and old. There is no charge for the event.

These hymn-sings - also known as "One in Spirit / One in Song" - are offered by The Ecumenical Planners of Sun City. The final opportunity this Summer will be on August 24th at First United Methodist Church of Sun City. Queries may be addressed to the coordinator, Marshall Esty, at

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Volunteers Needed

We need more helpers for several of our important ministries:
  • Recording church services for the homebound.  The volunteers who handle this take turns, so you can commit to whatever level of activity works for your schedule.  For information or to volunteer, call Bill Wentling at 623-810-7916 (cell).
  • Providing rides to church for those who can no longer drive themselves.  To be matched up with a rider, call the church office at 623-974-3605.
  • Handling minor repairs such as replacing batteries and light bulbs for others who need the help.  You will probably only be needed for this once a month or so.  To become a part of the A.S.K. Service, call Craig McCoy at 623-680-3443 (cell).
Thank you for your service!
Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy.  You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in. ~Marjorie Moore

Monday, July 14, 2014

Celebrating the Wilsons' 65th Anniversary

Harry Wilson is the Gatekeeper for First Presbyterian, and he and his wife Nancy have been an important part of the church for as long as they've been members.  Yesterday we helped them celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary at Fellowship after worship services.  Happy anniversary, Harry and Nancy!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Foundation Fund - the History Continues

Now...You Can Make a Gift that Keeps on Giving

The Question is How?

In addition to Wills and Bequests, you may want to establish a Charitable Gift Annuity. You will be joining members and friends of First Presbyterian Church Sun City who over the years, since The Fund was created in 1979, have helped strengthen the ministry of our church and received income for life!

Minutes of The Fund Committee, December 20, 1990 include these items:

“Letter from Maricopa County in Estate of Grace Northrop, concerning bequest of $1,000 to the fund.”

Along with listing of Gift Annuities issued –

1986 3 $76,000
1987 1 16,000
1988 3 57,000
1989 13 136,000
1990 1 100,000
Total: $513,000*
*These Charitable Gift Annuities have matured.

You will notice increase in the number of gifts received in 1989. In December of 1988, The Fund Committee presented A Suggested Long Range Financial Management Plan to the Session with initial Goal of $3.5 million in assets for The Fund. A Confidential Financial Survey was provided, along with example of benefits of Charitable Gift Annuities – income for life, tax deductions and long term financial support for the Church.

Here is example of current rates from

Sample Charitable Gift Annuity Rates for a Single Life
The annuity payment is based on the annuitant's age the day the gift is made and the amount of your gift. The annuity is paid annually, semi-annually, quarterly, or monthly, as you choose.

Your Age 65    70    75    80    85    90+
% Rate of Annual Income    4.7    5.1    5.8    6.8    7.8    9.0

The Fund Committee today is just as committed to the long range financial management of our church as the members who presented the suggested plan:
In order to enhance our future income, the Fund Committee would like the authorization and support of the Session in undertaking an aggressive program of encouraging gifts to The Fund through:
  • Naming the Church as a beneficiary in Wills and Bequests
  • Direct gifts to The Fund
  • Purchase of Charitable Gift Annuities or other life income investments with the Church as final beneficiary
~Fund Committee presentation to the Session, Dec 1988
You are invited to join the visionary members of our church in making your gift for the future. A Charitable Gift Annuity benefits the annuitant(s) and the church. You can learn more about this time- honored giving opportunity by visiting the Presbyterian Foundation website:, or by contacting the church office for more information.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Monday, July 7, 2014

Presbyterian Women in July

After church last Sunday, listening to an inspiring sermon and hearing a beautiful special music offering by Gloria B., I was struck by the thought of how many gifts the people of our church have. We need to celebrate these gifts and encourage each other. I am going to endeavor to recognize these individual talents in people.

PW is sponsoring a drive to collect school supplies for a local school. This drive starts now and the supplies will be delivered to the school after a “Back to School ” Gathering on July 23, 2014. The Gathering will be a brown bag lunch. This will be held in Swain Hall at 11:30 am. Everyone is invited.

The school chosen for this drive is El Mirage Elementary School in El Mirage. They are a Title 1 School and appreciate any supplies we are able to donate. A list of the supplies needed is posted on the PW Bulletin Board in Swain Hall and one is at the reception desk in the office. You don’t have to belong to PW to contribute.


The days are definitely warmer as summer descends upon us. This is a great time to read a good book. There are several in our PW Cart. Here is a review of two of them.

FICTION - Telling the Bees, Peggy Heskith
Albert Honig’s constant companions have always been his bees. A never-married octogenarian, he makes a modest living as a beekeeper. Deeply acquainted with the workings of the hives, Albert is less versed in the ways of people, especially his friend Claire.

NON-FICTION - Mothers, Sisters, Daughters: Standing on Their Shoulders, Edwina Gately and Sandra Mattucci
The amazing stories of twenty-three women on whose shoulders we stand are revealed in reflections by the poet Edwina Gately and biographies and drawings by Sandra Mattucci. They are saints, mystics, martyrs, reformers, poets, missionaries, environmentalists, and mothers from diverse cultures and countries.

Presbyterian Women are special women. We are part of a larger group, Presbyterian Women in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Thank you to all of you that support our church’s PW Group and our activities.

Blessings to All.
~Diane Nestlebush, Moderator

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Meet Our Landscape Designer

Kris Coates, Master Gardener, Certified Arborist, and Certified Desert Landscape Designer, has volunteered to help us rejuvenate the church's aged landscaping.  Here she is planting donated opuntia cactus in the recently cleared ground on the north side of the church.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

July Mission Corner

Menaul School is an independent faith-based 6-12th grade day and boarding school giving students a diverse, personal, intellectual and cultural education. The mission of Menaul School is to prepare students to succeed in mind, body, and spirit.

The history of the school dates back to 1896, when the Reverend James Menaul (a Presbyterian minister) sought and received Presbyterian funding for it. This year, 2013-2014, there are 172 students; 134 of them are from the United States and 38 are from international countries such as Nigeria, China, and Korea. Over 90% of the students go on to higher education. The support for this school by the Presbytery and its churches, including ours, helps to keep the school operational.

Anita and I had the privilege of visiting the school while on vacation in 2011. The staff was very courteous as they showed us around and thankful for our church’s support. If you are ever in Albuquerque, New Mexico, stop in. You will enjoy the visit.

~Gene Downing

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What It Means

Recent news articles about the General Assembly meeting in Detroit:
What Affirming Same-Sex Marriage Means for the Presbyterian Church
MaryAnn McKibben Dana
Time Magazine, June 23, 2014
“It’s important to know what the change does and doesn’t mean. Last week’s ruling (called an Authoritative Interpretation) gives pastors and churches the latitude to perform same-sex weddings, but doesn’t require anyone to do so. “The Assembly took a second action that day—we voted 71%-29% to amend our constitution’s paragraph describing marriage—an amend-ment that must be ratified by a majority of our regional bodies, called presbyteries, over the next year. In typical Presbyterian style, the language was a compromise: marriage is a civil contract between ‘two people, traditionally a man and a woman.’”
(CNN) -- “The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) is pulling millions of dollars in investments out of three U.S. companies tied to the Israeli oc-cupation of Palestinian territories....In a close vote at its annual assembly in Detroit on Friday, the church voted 310-303 to divest $21 million from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions….But immediately after the vote, church leaders said the decision was not a judgment against Israel. ‘In no way is this a reflection for our lack of love for our Jewish sisters and brothers,’ Moderator Heath Rada said....’We recognize the complexity of the issues, the decades-long struggle, the pain suffered and inflicted by policies and practices of both the Israeli government and the Palestinian entities….’”

I’ll borrow some of the language from Rev. Dana’s article to explain what these banner headlines mean and what they don’t. Let me say first that the media has in typical fashion sensationalized the news from Detroit. The actions, with regard to same-sex marriage, taken by the Assembly have no jurisdictional weight until they are ratified by the Presbyteries.

And the decision to divest from companies who do business with Israel is not punishment against the people of Israel. It is a protest against the policies of the Israeli Government. The General Assembly has a long-standing practice of protesting govern-ment policies, both foreign and domestic, deemed hostile to human rights and impediments to peace and justice. Our long-standing support of social witness policy puts our denomination at the forefront of peace and justice ministries and a frequent target of the media.

When the General Assembly takes an action and sends it on to the Presbyteries for ratification, or should it fail because a majority of Presbyteries vote no, the whole church can be confident the Spirit of God has led us to a decision. We are the church together. Everyone’s voice is important even though every decision isn’t unanimous.

It’s important to remember who we are and more importantly whose we are when we read banner headlines that contain the word Presbyterian.