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Showing posts from 2017

Top 10 of 2017

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It's been a great year at the cinema. Christy and I enjoyed our annual cinerama in Houston over the Christmas holiday. I watched four movies for the first time, then THE LAST JEDI for the third time. These end of the year screenings played havoc on my top 10 list- including knocking DUNKIRK out of the top spot.

THE SHAPE OF WATER
Christy didn't want to see this, and I get that. Who wants to see a woman fall in love with the Creature from the Black Lagoon? But this movie is amazing. It is sweet and haunting, beautiful and heartfelt. Great performances throughout, and director Guillermo del Toro is brilliant. It also includes my favorite scene of 2017: a breathtaking black and white sequence.

LADYBIRD
Do you remember life as a senior in high school? Ladybird (Christine) is desperate to get out of Sacramento CA and has applied to East Coast Ivy League schools. Her mother belittles her every day. This movie is a love letter to Sacramento, shot beautifully throughout the city. In…

Christmas Eve and Beyond at Grace

The final countdown has begun-- 48 hours until Christmas Eve! I am excited to see familiar faces, not so familiar faces, and totally unknown faces all day this Sunday. It’s always wonderful to see rows and rows of the Celebration Center packed with families. I’ll be away for a week following Sunday so this will be my final email contact of 2017! So Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Please be mindful of a few things for Sunday and beyond:

December 24

It will be a tremendous help for everyone to sit in the middle of the row. If you sit on the end and there are empty seats you’ll be asked to move down. We don’t want first-timers to feel like they are inconveniencing anyone, so leave empty spaces near the aisles. If possible, park away from the building, leaving room for guests. Ditto for the back rows-- sit toward the front! You’ll be closer to Baby Jesus!The 4:00 service is intentionally for children and families. It is a low-stress, fun, silly time of worship. No “shushing” of kids is…

The Last Jedi

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I saved you, Dummy. That's how we will win-- not by fighting what we hate, but saving what we love. Ever since I was six year old, Star Wars has been an escape from real life. I always played with the toys-- Kenner action figures were some of my best friends. I had a recording of The Empire Strikes Back-- not the soundtrack but every word, musical note, and sound-- on a record.


The Last Jedi, in a very real way, is the end of all that escapism. Yes, it still features aliens and space battles, but as a popular meme says, "The struggle is real." Grief. Heartache. Despair. Faithlessness. Even unforgiveness. We must go in a new direction, but clinging to the past feels comfortable and safe. When we are pulled there by force, we fight back.

This is at the heart of much of the criticism of The Last Jedi. Many Star Wars geeks, who grew up with the toys and the merch and everything else, do not want our beloved franchise taken to uncomfortable places. And when one of the main her…

Healthy Church Initiative: Feb 16-18, 2018

Mark Your Calendars: Feb 16-18, 2018

I know everyone is busy gearing up for Christmas. Believe me, your staff team has been working extra hard the last couple of weeks to make a very lively December 24 meaningful to everyone! But we also need to start glancing into next year for a very important weekend: the Healthy Church Initiative, February 16, 17,  and 18.

You've heard many church leaders talking about this process for several months now, and all our energy and learning has been geared toward this weekend in February. We're asking everyone who loves Grace UMC to make this weekend a priority. A six-person team from the North Texas Conference will be here all weekend conducting interviews, compiling reports, and offering feedback to our church. Most of the day Friday will be spent listening to key leaders at Grace. The biggest events that impact everyone are Saturday the 17th: a workshop (10:00-3:00 p.m.), and Sunday morning worship on the 18th (we'll have one service only…

Give Us Our Daily Bread

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I moved to Dallas in 1995 to attend seminary at SMU. In those days, right across Mockingbird Lane, was the Mrs Baird's bread factory.

Every day, walking to class, one could smell the fresh bread baking. The smell took over the area. Regardless of what time I had eaten, smelling the bread made me hungry. It evoked feelings of warmth, fullness, and joy.
Today we're talking about the Wonder of a Manger. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a small village six miles south of Jerusalem. The name Bethlehem literally means, "place of bread" in the Hebrew language. There are many stories of Bethlehem throughout the Bible, not just Jesus' birth story in Luke 2. One of my favorites involves a young family, husband, wife and two sons, who were from Bethlehem, but ironically, lived there during a time of famine.
In order to find food, they moved to Moab, a neighboring territory where non-Jews lived. Shortly after the move, the husband died. The boys grew up and married Moabite women…

Cuckoo for COCO

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No, I am not talking about this guy:


Coco is the new movie from Disney/Pixar, creators of some of my favorite movies and franchises: Toy Story, The Incredibles, UP, Wall-E, and so many more. I've been critical of Pixar's recent decisions to flood us with sequels: Finding Dory, Cars 3, Incredibles 2, Toy Story 4. When they stick to original movies, like Inside Out a couple of years ago, they almost always strike gold.

Coco is in an original category all its own. It may be the best Pixar movie ever.

I've been tweeting about Coco for weeks:

See this!! #TheLastJedi is going to dominate movie tweets for the rest of the year. Don't miss this wonderful film. https://t.co/5qOaxCnbyL — Pastor Frank (@revfrankdrenner) December 13, 2017

Well deserved. One is original, heartfelt, meaningful. The other is, we'll, not. #cocohttps://t.co/FIrBErHZ0U — Pastor Frank (@revfrankdrenner) November 27, 2017

On our way to the sparkling new cinema in Bay City with five boys Hopes way up! htt…

Thanksgiving Prayer

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A Morning Prayer of Thanksgiving A 21st Century Worship Resource by The Rev. Dr. LaGretta Bjorn
Loving God, Creator of all that has been, all that is, and all that is to come;
You made us human and gave us hearts to love you and follow you.
We thank you for the many blessings you have given us over this past year. God, we thank you for all of the blessings you have given us throughout our lives:
Food to eat,
Clothes to wear,
Shelter from the storm,
People who love us unconditionally. We thank you for their love because we recognize that their love for us is a reflection of your love.
We acknowledge that there are times in our lives when we, ourselves, feel unloved and unlovable.
Give us the grace to love others, even when they are difficult. We trust in your faithfulness to carry us over the rough places of life.
We trust in your love to walk with us through the difficulties of our days.
We trust in your promise of life everlasting and put all of our hope in you.
We thank you for Jesus.
We thank you…

Let Your Light Shine!

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Last night I was reading about a new business practice (this is a glimpse into the preacher life the night before the sermon). Many companies are shifting away from focusing on the product alone to a more experience-based strategy. They are selling projects, not products. For example, a shoe company exists to sell shoes, right? But this new strategy builds the experience around the shoe. Set a goal: run in the Boston Marathon. The shoes may come with coaching to help you reach the goal. Or a membership in a local running club. Projects, not products.

So I began to strategize about starting my own biblical-era lamp business. These are not the brighter than the sun flashlights we see on sale today. They are fashioned from clay, each with its own individuality. In the middle of the lamp there is a small reservoir to hold the oil. On one end of the lamp a wick extends upward. It's not the most efficient design-- you'll need to carry around a stash of oil and matches. It's als…

Veterans Day - 2017

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When I first came to Grace last year, Betty Reese walked up to me and said, "My late husband Bill served in World War II and wrote a book about his experiences. Would you like to read it?" "Absolutely!" I said. My grandfather also served in WWII and I've always loved hearing his Navy stories (my dad, uncle, and their father were also Navy, and I have three cousins who currently serve, assuming I am not forgetting anyone. I'm digressing). Anyway, Betty gave me Bill's book, I took it to the house, and placed it on my bedside table. And it sat there. For months.

After awhile, Betty asked me if I had finished the book. I said no. I had started and stopped several times. After another lengthy period of time she asked again. I had made no progress. She understood: moving to a new place and the adjustment period makes taking on new things difficult. She asked for the book to be returned, so she could loan it out to family. I reluctantly gave it back. Then a f…

Paraphrase of Psalm 23

Psalm 23 contains words that offer comfort in the most difficult days:

One of the Sunday school classes at church was studying this psalm. At the same time, the young granddaughter of someone in the class was profoundly ill, recently placed on hospice care. Nana Rylander awoke in the middle of the night the other day and wrote a paraphrase of Psalm 23 as a prayer for Kaylen and her family. The class prayed the paraphrase together this past Sunday morning. Kaylen died last night. Nana gave me permission to share it in this space, in the hope that these beautiful words may offer comfort and peace to other children and their families living in the shadow of death. Please share with anyone you know whose child is suffering from severe illness.
A Prayer for Kaylen (prayed by Grace's Pathfinders Class, November 5, 2017.)
God, our Father, we pray for Kaylen and her family this morning. We pray that each moment she lives she will sense your Holy Spirit in and close around her, loving her and …

Martin Luther and All Saints Sunday

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500 years ago this week, the world changed. A Bible teacher and priest, Martin Luther, posted ninety-five theses to the door at the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther grew up the son of a very strict father. During his childhood, he was taught by very abusive teachers. He decided to skip out on his father's plans for Martin to become a lawyer, thinking there was no benefit in amassing earthly wealth if one's eternal salvation was in jeopardy. So Luther became a monk. After years of prayer and study, he was even less secure in his salvation. He was afraid of God, whom Luther assumed would treat him in the same authoritarian ways of his father and teachers. The monks believed Luther should be a priest. Then they shipped him to Wittenberg to teach at the local university.

Luther was not the only priest frustrated with the church of his day. Obsessed with completing the basilica at St Peter's in Rome, Pope Leo X urged leaders across Germany and other Christian nation…

Pass the Lotion

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This morning is a dreary, cool start to the day. It's overcast and there has been a constant drizzle in the air. For a cold weather type guy, it's pretty depressing outside. Even with the dampness going on right now, the past week or so has been very dry-- and oscillating between cold and warm temperatures. Last weekend was outright cold; yesterday set records for warmth in November. I noticed this morning that the constant change and mostly dry conditions have caused my hands to be very dry.

So I walked around the church, looking for some lotion.

I started in the office. Nothing. Kitchen. Nope. The women's bathrooms (I knocked first, even though the building is closed). Nada. This was surprising. I went to the nursery; no lotion. Last chance idea: the custodial closet. No lotion again. I found anti-bacterial gel everywhere. And lots of squirt soaps. But no lotion anywhere. What does that mean-- aside from needing to stock up at Sam's?

Last Sunday night was incredible…

Living Out Our Baptismal Commitments

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Last Sunday we baptized Edward Grady Meyers, son of Sarah and Matt. Edward was locked in the whole time, as you can see from the photo above! Baptizing babies is a core belief of United Methodists. Do you know why? It has to do with grace. We believe God's love is active within us from birth. God is continually guiding us into relationship. Once we commit to Christ, God's grace doesn't stop; we are continually being shaped from the inside out by love. Babies participate in that love too! Baptism has nothing to do with understanding or accepting grace; it has everything to do with responding to the grace already active within us.
Matt and Sarah reaffirmed their faith in Christ at Edward's baptism. They also committed to "nurture him in Christ's holy church, that by your example he may be guided to accept God's grace for himself..." Then the congregation also commits to Edward: "We will surround this child with a community of love and forgiveness, …

First Day of Fail?

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This morning I came into the church hot. I know it's Texas, and it's September. It's also the first day of Fall (technically). But I walked into my office from my car, probably 50 feet away, sweating. I've had it with this awful, sticky weather. Anyway, I decided to go to the Celebration Center for my daily devotional time. I gathered up my tools:

The Book of Common PrayerMy prayer beadsMy weekly guide for prayerBibleDaily reader When I sat down on the front row, I glanced down at my new fitness tracker I purchased the other day. I wanted to re-focus on my fitness goals, and I thought a built-in accountability partner on my wrist might help. Yesterday I met my goal of 10,000+ steps. So far this morning, I saw, I was over 5,000. I also noticed my heart rate was around 100; it's usually closer to 70. Like I said, I was hot and sweaty. So I swiped to the right on the tracker a few times and found the Relax setting. I set it for five minutes of breathing exercises.

Breat…

Whatachurch??

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I've been encouraging everyone to invite friends and neighbors without a church home to visit Grace for some time. Personal invitation is still, by far, the most effective way to bring new people to church. A few months ago I began to think that as a leader I could not in good nature encourage others to do something I was not doing. Being somewhat new in town, I do not have many non-church relationships, so I began to pray for a way to reach unchurched people to bring the gospel to them. As part of our Healthy Church Initiative work, I read about a pastor who set up shop at a local coffee house for a couple of hours each week. He only brought a sign with him that basically said, "I am a pastor. Stop by if you'd like to chat." I couldn't get this out of my mind; I even dreamed about it. But in my mind it didn't happen at a coffee shop. It happened here:


I knew this would be a radical thing for me to do, but I could not get it out of my mind. So a couple of mon…