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Showing posts from 2012

Reflecting Upon Newtown

Note: I offered these words during the prayer section of worship Sunday, December 16.

Last Friday was a day full of surprising ministry. After I wrote my usual Friday email devotion to the church, I received a call from Byron Proutt, our missions coordinator. He and others had recently partnered with Park Cities Presbyterian on a project, and their missions director called Byron to say another ministry was unable to pick up several boxes of food for their pantry—could we use it? Of course we could! So Pastor Gregg, Mr Johnny, and I rolled out to the warehouse and hauled back 80 boxes of food. Praise God! After we unloaded it Gregg and I went to Kroger to give them a letter of appreciation for making our Thanksgiving baskets for hungry families a priority. After I dropped Gregg off at home, I turned on my radio for the first time that day and heard the reports of the shootings in Newtown, Conn. I could not believe what I heard, especially as a father of young children.

I came back to m…

The Advent of the Texas Rangers

This has not been the best couple of weeks for Rangers fans. Three of our favorite players, Mike Napoli, Michael Young, and Josh Hamilton will wear different uniforms next season. Playing catch with James in the backyard yesterday-- he owns two Hamilton t-shirts-- it was difficult to explain the situation to him. Financial flexibility, depreciation rates among players, development of younger players... these are concepts not easily understood by a 10 year old. Or, honestly, by a 41 year old. All James knows is that some of the guys who were Rangers when he first became a fan are no longer around. Like every other Ranger fan, he/I/we have to accept a new reality, confident that team is headed in the right direction and has a plan.

Advent is a time of expectation and waiting. This is the time to reflect upon the ultimate purposes of God that seem far away and distant. No, Advent is not about baseball-- it's about God and looking for God to fulfill a vision for our reality-- but the…

Seeking God in the Unexpected Places

This week I have spent much more time on the phone than normal, calling folk who have yet to turn in their anticipated financial commitment to the church for next year. Yes-- you are next on the list-- so why not save everyone the effort and turns yours in Sunday? Thank you! Anyway, I called one of my favorite people in the church to ask about her pledge and she said she would get back to me in a few days. "Great," I said. Then, sort of out of the blue, I asked: "Is there anything I can do for you?" "You can pray for me," was the reply. I said, "I'd love to. What should I pray for?" There was a long pause. There was a trembling sound-- she was crying. I asked, "Can I come over this afternoon and check in on you?" She said that would be nice. So I went to her place and we had a nice visit and made come plans for dealing with her issue. It was a holy moment.

Turns out I've had several of those this week. I've had lunches with…

Value Added

A little news blip caught my attention this week. The Department of Treasury is seriously considering eliminating the penny and nickel from monetary circulation next year. This sort of thing has been talked about for years, and maybe it is being driven by all the "fiscal cliff" chatter. The article said it costs roughly 5 cents to produce a penny, and nearly 11 cents to produce a nickel. Quarters and dimes, on the other hand, cost less than their respective 25 and 10 cents to produce. There is also talk of replacing $1 bills with $1 coins, which would also produce great savings. There is much discussion about whether this is window dressing or if it would make a significant impact on our budgetary situation. Personally I am all for it-- and considering our leaders are contemplating cutting billions of dollars in aid to folk in need (clearly a justice issue), I'm for pinching every penny we can find elsewhere. You could say, wait for it: Changing our currency just makes s…

135 Days

"After the [insert cliche] there was a sound. Thin. Quiet"
(1 Kings 19:12).

Yesterday I went to the boys' school for lunch: it was billed as a Thanksgiving lunch with dads, so the cafeteria served turkey, dressing, sweet potato pie, etc. A more skeptical person might have suspected the real motive here was to get dads and their wallets on campus for the school book fair. Actually I'm pretty sure that was the deal, so maybe it's not so skeptical after all. Anyhow, I took the boys on their book buying spree the day before, so we were able to enjoy lunch together without the pressure of eating quickly and rushing to the library to celebrate Thanksgiving by... Yeah, it doesn't really work, does it?

I, and many other pastors, have made careers out of preaching this time of year, fueled by cliches: Christmas decorations up too early; music playing too soon; stores pushing December into September or October; Thanksgiving being overlooked. I could go on and on. For …

Unity Service for Election Night

i should have posted this three days ago, but if anyone is interested here is the liturgy we offered for our unity service on election night. based on reactions over the last 72 hours, i'm fairly sure it will be valuable in 2016 as well.

The psalmist declares: “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!”
We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, so that we might proclaim the mighty acts of the one who called us out of darkness and into the marvelous light!
We are no longer Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives, but we are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God!
We are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone.

Opening singing All Who Hunger
All I Need Is You
As the Deer

Prayers From the UM Book of Worship
…of Confession
Lord Jesus Christ, you are the way of peace. Come into the brokenness of our land with your heali…

Little Things -> Big Things (When God Is Involved)

"If it is possible, so far as it depends on you,
live peaceably with all" (Romans 12:18).
"If I could, you know I would; if I could, I would, let it go." (U2)

Sometimes it's the small things that make the big difference. You have heard that cliche a ton-- I know I have. The thing about cliches, is that they are usually based on hard earned, shared experiences. They are true to many people over time. I'm thinking about small things today, and how they can become big things when God becomes involved.

Two weeks ago we went home for a family reunion, and discovered Mom had lost a bunch of weight. Christy inquired as to how this happened, and the answer, was, you guessed it, simple: sugar. She cut out sugar and the weight went away. What happened next, you ask? Well Christy shared this news with me, as well as the news that we would now be cutting out sugar as well. I enjoyed the Coke I drank on the drive home, because I knew it would be my last one for a while.…

A Message for All Saints Sunday

Last weekend our family attended a family reunion. We used to do these every couple of years when I was a kid. Then for whatever reason we stopped for quite a long time. A couple of years ago my grandfather, approaching his 89th birthday, wanted to do another one, and we've had two more since then. This year's reunion was memorable for two reasons: 1. Half the people went home sick. A stomach bug that attacked my uncle's family two weeks ago has somehow gotten hold of my parents, grandparents, my own kids, and many others. 2. During the reunion there was a video playing in the background- a video from a reunion in 1988 or 89. I know this because my cousin, who I was playing cards with in the video, is wearing his high school class ring.

Watching this video was fascinating. Laughing at the 80s fashion was great. Seeing relatives who have gone on to glory, like my grandfather's brothers, was meaningful. Then my mind began to make some calculations. I freaked my dad out w…

Of Squirrels and Passion

A couple of months ago our family grew by a factor of fur and four paws: Sammy, an eighteen month old schnauzer. Sammy was rescued by a long-time friend who is passionate about dogs. She posted pictures of him on Facebook and it was all over. Anyway, Sammy has been a real joy for us. He is gentle, loves to play, and has a great personality. He has a bit of a bark, as our neighbors would testify- what are you going to do? Sammy's real passion, however, is squirrels.


I don't know what these other furry, four pawed creatures did to arouse his curiosity, but they really enjoy putting him to the test. Now, before he walks out the back door, he pauses: his nose just on the outside for a sniff. He creeps down, almost like a cat ready to pounce. After a few seconds, he bolts to the nearest tree, hopeful of finding a squirrel within reach. What would he do if he caught one? Does he even know? Last week there was an epic showdown- a squirrel was on the ground in the middle of the backya…

Experiencing Joy

I am hopeful summer soon "leaves" us for good and we some fall weather! Fall is also an exciting time of year for reasons beyond the weather. It's the traditional time to consider one's place within the church and think of how one can grow in faith over the next year. We become more aware of the resources and responsibilities God gives to us, and joyfully use them for God's glory. We're called to be good, faithful stewards of those gifts, and when we commit to the church as members we promise to support it with our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. October is the month we'll discuss how exactly we do that at Oak Lawn. You'll hear multiple messages across different media from our inspired stewardship team members:

*  Lynn and Jim Parsons (co-chairs)
*  Scott Collen
*  Lillian Lawson
*  Byron Proutt
*  Elaine Tricoli
*  Delena Watson

The theme of this year's stewardship emphasis is "Experiencing Joy." We'll learn about the joy w…

Celebration of the Ministry of Truitt Brinson and Bryan Clark

Sunday August 26 we dedicated a marker in the foyer of the church commemorating the ministry of Truitt Brinson and Bryan Clark, legendary members of the Oak Lawn Church.
Leader: We gather today to remember and celebrate the ministry of Truitt Brinson and Bryan Clark, who for many years welcomed people to worship at Oak Lawn United Methodist Church. People: The Book of Romans says, “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Leader: Truitt and Bryan remembered names, introduced new people to established members and guests, and invited everyone to further their relationship with God. People: The Book of Deuteronomy says, “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers…” Leader: Bryan and Truitt did not know strangers; they saw the potential each person had to grow in faith in Christ in this place. People: The Book of Matthew says, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me…”; The Book of Hebrews says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to …

Welcome Cori Berg!

Dear Church Members and Oak Lawn CDC Families:
On behalf of Oak Lawn’s Staff/Parish Relations Committee, I am pleased to announce the hiring of Cori Berg as Director of our Child Development Center. After several months of prayer, discernment, research, and interviews, we are certain we have found the right person to lead our Center. Cori is the former Director of Christ Lutheran Child Development Center in Dallas. Before becoming a Director, she held teaching positions in early childhood development and elementary school. She is also a dedicated artist and teaches others to develop their artistic skills. Cori has a Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre, Art and Philosophy (Valparaiso University), a Master’s Degree in Art and Theology (Union Theological Seminary), and did some doctoral work in Art and Theology (Graduate Theological Union and University of California Berkeley). Cori has a warm, engaging personality and a passion for creativity and we very excited for these and other gifts she br…

On Chick Fil A and Silence

$601.97.

After a few mouse clicks on our financial software, I learned that’s the amount our family has spent at Chick-fil-a since 2006. I have remained silent on this “controversy” until this point, not out of fear as to what others might think—my blog is filled with sermons and commentaries on a wide range of topics that some would consider controversial. I have remained silent because this issue would not exist if we were not so tied to our Facebook and Twitter feeds. We would not know what certain employees of Chick-fil-a think about same sex marriage, what entities they support, if we were not so plugged in.

Chick-fil-a was targeted because of an executive’s opinion on one of the great social issues of our time. Chick-fil-a was targeted because they support financially an organization that has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. This week thousands or more people either showed their support or protested Chick-fil-a in a variety of ways, and in the er…

Of Surgery and THE TWILIGHT ZONE

Dear Church Family,

Thank you to everyone who offered support to me during my recent surgery and recovery. Many of you brought meals, sent cards, texts, and Facebook posts. For those of you who do not know, I had surgery to remove a fragment of a disk in my back that pressed on a nerve there for several months, causing pain, numbness, and weakness. Turns out the fragment was 3cm! It's a wonder things weren't worse. My recovery is ongoing; I'll start physical therapy soon.

I spent the two weeks following surgery resting at home- watching lots of TV. No, not the Olympics or even Rangers baseball, but mostly movies and reruns of THE TWILIGHT ZONE. I've always loved THE TWILIGHT ZONE. It's a wonderful reflection of American society in the late 50s and early 60s, a time of great anxiety and wonder. The space race was in high gear, as well as threats of global nuclear war. Episode after episode centered around individuals lost in their own struggles. They we…

at least one guaranteed appointment!

the united methodist general conference met a few weeks to discuss matters related to the church. i am thankful for our faithful north texas conference delegates, clergy and laity, who worked very hard, and endured unbelievable frustration, on behalf of the church. watching online was painful; i can't imagine what it would have been like in person.

one of the unfortunate outcomes of the general conference was the removal of so-called "guaranteed appointments" for united methodist elders. this was one of the benefits of full-time leadership in the church. an elder in full connection was guaranteed to be appointed somewhere, unless circumstances made an appointment impossible. there were disciplinary steps in place to assure accountability among pastors in the annual conference. but the general conference felt these steps did not go far enough. the judicial council, the church's equivalent to the supreme court, will rule this fall whether this decision violated united …

Love Never Ends: A Message on Marriage Equality

Last week I received an email from a guest who was here last Sunday with his partner and his partner’s mother for Mother’s Day. He was very upset that on Mother’s Day we would discuss political matters, and made it very clear that he would not be back today for marriage equality—he assumed that since we are a church and we’re speaking on the issue it would be hostile. I invited him back, assuring him we would take a broader approach, that if Christians do not speak about issues in the world it leaves only the loud, obnoxious ones to speak for everyone, but never heard back from him. I hope he’s here somewhere!

I intentionally formulated the issue today as marriage equality, as opposed to homosexuality in general, for several reasons. The primary reason is this: homosexuality, as I understand it, is not an issue to be debated—we’re talking about people here. There are all sorts of theories and ideas about homosexuality—where does it come from? Is it a choice—a lifestyle—or is there some…