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Showing posts from 2017

Popsicles Are a Means of Grace

Last Saturday night was going to be an amazing evening. Months ago, Janet Hayes and I reserved the Splash at Fairview Park as a Back to School event for families in Sherman. This would be a free event, a gift to bless the kids of our community. I created an event page on Facebook. This was just meant to communicate that it was happening. It was not a paid advertisement. Surprisingly, 349 people said they would attend (the place only holds 400!), and 1,500 people indicated they were interested. 1500! About three hours before the event was to begin, thunder rolled and lightning crashed. Eventually the City of Sherman closed the water park and the event was cancelled.
I was not in a great mood for several hours. This was the kind of gift I had dreamed of the church offering the community. As I posted the news on Facebook, people said things like, "Thank you and bless you. This was a great idea." I hope we do something like this again next summer.

On Monday of this week, a doze…

My Approach to Preaching

I received many comments after yesterday's sermon, following the events of this past weekend in Charlottesville, VA. Thank you to everyone for your support and feedback! You can listen to the audio recording of the sermon here.



The experience of writing and delivering that sermon has me thinking this morning about the nature of Christian preaching as I understand it. Preaching is deeply personal and relational between:
preacher and Godpreacher and the local congregation/community/parish one servespreacher and the denomination s/he represents, when applicable Every preacher has their own models for sermon development, and ministry in general. Some preachers consider preaching the least important part of their work; they are more caregivers, for example. Others see preaching as a mode for teaching, so the sermon has more of a lecture style. From the beginning of my ministry, I decided preaching best fit my gifts, and had the capacity to deliver the gospel to the most people. When I w…

A Christian Response to White Supremacy

My sermon from August 13, 2017, following the events of this weekend in Charlottesville, VA
Matthew 14:22-33
The other night, Christy and I took Linus to Dilligham Intermediate School to get his new schedule and meet his teachers. There are nine elementary schools in Sherman, which go from K-4th grade. Then all 5-6th graders attend the same school. It's not the way I would have drawn up the school system, but it is what it is, at least for now.

Anyway, as we walked through those halls, it was very evident to me what it looks like when one takes every kid from every school and puts them together in one school. The kids and their families were beautifully diverse: immigrants speaking a second language. Second generation kids. African American kids. Latino kids. Caucasian kids. You get the picture. As I looked around at the different faces and heard different accents and even languages of kids and families who will share the same space as my son, I did not feel threatened or isolated.…

Prayers of Peace for Korea and the World

With all the talk of war this week, including outlandish claims by a Dallas pastor I will not repeat here, I found these prayers for peace and the unification of Korea hopeful & comforting:

A Call to Prayer for a Just Peace from the General Secretary of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society (issued August 9, 2017)

On this day, 72 years ago, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki – just three days after dropping one on the city of Hiroshima. It is estimated that over 150,000 people were killed over those three days.

Fast forward to present day, the last few months have been met with anxiety and tension around threats of nuclear weapons and warfare. Leaders in North Korea continue to isolate their country as they threaten Creation with nuclear missiles. Leaders in the United States agitate and provoke with threats of destruction. It is during times like these when we must join together in a call for the exhaustion of all diplomatic effor…

Recent Summer Movie Reviews

It's been a while since I wrote some movie reviews. So let's catch up! But first, congrats to Wonder Woman, which I reviewed here. That film is 2017's #1 summer movie, bringing in $400 million. It's still in wide release two months on, so check it out if you haven't!

The Big Sick


Christy and I have been watching Silicon Valley this summer, and Kumail Nanjiani is hilarious. The Big Sick is a true story of how his relationship with his wife began. It is a sweet, funny romantic comedy with great supporting performances. It's also honest about the struggles of immigrants dealing with a new culture. Christy and I both loved this movie and we are so happy for its success. It started very small-- it's a low budget, independent movie. It has expanded its release almost every week. Go check it out.
Spiderman: Homecoming

Honestly, I was not excited about this movie. I loved Spiderman in last year's Civil War, but with all the recent Spiderman movies (six in sixteen y…

Life Lessons from Matthew

We've had a great summer here at Grace! I've been very impressed with our worship attendance. Thank you for your faithfulness in worship participation! We experimented this summer with a sermon series and special Bible study both focused on the Book of Genesis. I think the dual focus helped attendance in both the class and worship. The sermon series ends this week with the completion of the Joseph narrative (Genesis 45); the Bible study ends in a couple of weeks.

Our next worship series kicks off on Back to School Sunday, August 13: "Life Lessons from Matthew." Here's an outline:

August 13: Matthew 14:22-33
August 20: Matthew 15:10-28
August 27: Matthew 16:13-20
September 3: Matthew 16:21-28
September 10: Matthew 18:15-20
September 17: Matthew 18:21-35
September 24: Matthew 20:1-16

One of my favorite Christian authors is John Ortberg. Years ago he wrote a fun book called If You Want to Walk on Water You've Got to Get Out of the Boat. It recalls the amazing s…

Ticket to Ride from the Rockies

Greetings from Colorado! Our crew took off after worship last Sunday. We're spending five days in a cabin at the YMCA of the Rockies, then we'll stop in Kansas for a couple of days, catching up with friends who moved there from Texas. Usually our family vacations are urban in nature : Chicago,  New York, San Diego. So this has been a change, and a good one. The camp offers a ton of activities, guided and independent. The weather has been spectacular. Cool in the evenings and mornings, warm during the day. And it's rained every day so far. 
Yesterday we spent an hour or so in a neighboring village doing touristy stuff during the rain.  Following a picnic on the shore of Grand Lake, we drove through the Rocky Mountain National Park, which was beautiful and thrilling and exhausting. Today a dear friend I once served with at Custer Road UMC is driving up from Denver with her three kids to spend the day. 
A couple of fun back to school events to keep in mind: August 12& 13…

Reunited-- And It Feels So...

Good?

Genesis 32:22-31



Impulsive. Acting before thinking. He had run away from home, burning every bridge in the process. Now, some time later, he was desperate and had nowhere else to go. So he started the journey home. Along the way, he practiced a speech he would offer to any family member he encountered: "I have sinned against God and you. I have nowhere else to go. Let me be your servant, that I may live another day." The story of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15 sounds eerily similar to the encounter between Jacob and Esau after being separated for twenty years. Jacob is literally the younger brother; Esau is the father figure. Jacob is scared and unsure about the future; Esau celebrates the return of one he thought was dead and lost.

The night before the family reunion, Jacob struggled. He heard from his servants that Esau was coming at him with 400 men. He orders his servants to deliver hundreds of sheep and cattle to Esau as a gift-- more like a bribe-- to earn Esau…

The Famous Black Cat Band

This week my former high school band director, Mr Reinke, died. Mr Reinke is a legend in my hometown of Bay City. He was the leader of our Black Cat Band for many years. He was a fiery man, a perfectionist with extremely high standards. He was a gifted musician. He and I both played the trombone; one of us sounded like a goose being strangled. The other sounded like... well I can't think of a metaphor to properly describe Mr Reinke's horn. It was amazing. He would pull that thing out occasionally to show us how to properly play a part of a song and the sound was spellbinding. 
Mr Reinke was very innovative in his music selections. He had us playing the most random music, from popular stuff of the day by Michael Jackson to Also Sprach Zarathustra (popularly known as the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey) to Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. This song in particular was a great choice-- it's amazing, complicated; however, this was the late 1980s. The song was originally released…

Do Not Remain Silent! Sexual Violence in Genesis

During the Genesis series I have approached each sermon from a narrative preaching/storytelling perspective. I will continue that today, with some expository comments and statistics at the end. Activities for little kids outside of the Celebration Center were offered for parents concerned about the sermon content (emails and announcements were shared in recent weeks).

Genesis 34:1-7 and 38:1-11



Jacob ran away from home to avoid the wrath of his brother Esau. He settled in the land of his Uncle Laban and fell in love with a woman. Twenty years later, he had two wives and two concubines, who together produced twelve sons, who will become the originators of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Often forgotten, Jacob had a daughter as well: Dinah.

Dinah’s story, such as it is, is contained in Genesis 34. She goes out to visit some women while her brothers are working and her father is home (remember, he was always a homebody). Alone, she is attacked by Shechem, the son of Hamor, the ruler of the t…

Bridgeport 2017

Greetings from Bridgeport Camp! I'm not sure how many of these I have attended, but honestly they get better every year. The activities mostly do not change year to year; what is different are the relationships. I have several clergy colleagues here, plus I've served here with many of the same counselors over the years.

Here are some highlights so far: evening worship under the stars is amazing. We start after 9:00, so the sun is gone and there is a cool breeze. We have Bible study twice a day- we've learned about creation, and the lives of Moses and Esther. The kids choose fun activities every day, and their biggest moments are at the pool and the gift shop. The other day Linus skipped the more expensive Big Kahuna ice cream sandwich and instead bought two smaller ice cream sandwiches- one for him, one for me. How amazing is that??

And did I mention it's hot??

The kids are out by 11:00, so everyone gets a solid eight hours of sleep. And our cabin has placed 2nd two c…

Serve Grace

Next week I'll be at Camp Bridgeport with Linus (elementary kids). It's always a fun week of silliness. Each kid is assigned to a Family Group, about 20 students from various churches, for Bible study and relevant activities and games. They also sign up for Interest Groups, which is more traditional camp-type stuff (swimming, archery, hiking, etc.). And adults sign up to help with these activities.

I received an email the other day from one of the Camp Directors asking me to sign up for which Interest Group I'd like to lead. The past couple of years I have worked on the camp newspaper, but it's always iffy if enough kids will sign up for that. I volunteered for Board Games, or "anything that meets inside." So I'll be worn out on Uno by next Friday!

We have lots of opportunities here at Grace to sign up for as well. Our Lay Leadership Team, one time called Nominations, recently revamped our Serve Grace form to help facilitate more folk in ministry. What w…

Putting the FUN in Fundraising

The other day I received a letter from Lydia Patterson Institute (LPI). If you do not know what LPI is, you should-- it is an incredible story. It is a United Methodist mission school in El Paso. Students from Juarez walk across the bridge to attend high school. More than 95% of those kids go on to attend college in the U.S. It is an amazing, life-changing and life-saving institution. My wife Christy is actually a graduate!

Anyway, inside the envelope was a letter to encourage supporting the school. I regularly receive similar letters from Sam Houston State University, Perkins School of Theology at SMU, and Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. Do you receive letters like these? If not send a gift to a local hospital or food pantry. Then check your mailbox regularly! These letters from non-profits are different from the typical solicitation letter one receives from a church in some very significant ways:

No ominous predictions (If you don't support us we'll have to tu…

Narrative Preaching: Hagar and Ishmael

Not sure what a narrative sermon is? Check out last week's post.

"Lost in the Wilderness" Genesis 16:1-16, 21:8-21
They grew up in different countries, spoke different languages, worshiped with different traditions. Though they had different roots, both lived in an oppressive, patriarchal societies where women were viewed as little more than property. As strange as it sounds to modern ears, in biblical times the value of a woman's life was determined by her relationship to men: her father, husband, sons. If these relationships were healthy, she had value; if these relationships didn't exist, she herself might as well not exist.

So it would not have been unusual at all for Sarai's husband to insist that she introduce herself to powerful men as Abram's sister, rather than wife. This happened to her at least twice, first to the king of Egypt, then the king of the Philistines. When Pharaoh bought Sarai as a wife, Abram acquired great wealth: herds of sheep a…

Communications Strategy for Grace UMC

The other night in Bible study a woman I had never met before came in and sat near the front. After class she introduced herself to me. "My name is Regina. I am Catholic, and I worship at St Patrick's in Denison. I wanted to learn more about the Bible and I saw this class on the website. Is it OK that I attend?" "Absolutely!" I said. And I gave her my copy of the participant book. Regina made my day.

When I first came to Grace a year ago, I heard people say, "Communications is an issue here." After 20+ years in ministry, my first reaction was, "What church doesn't have communications concerns?" I knew the website needed updating. Jan Sutter, who handles our offline communications, like bulletins, newsletters, emails, etc, spends lots of time on paper-based media. I began researching bulletin and website designs from other churches, as well as online church communications forums to learn best practices of growing churches.
Since we were alr…