MidWeek Check In

Thank you, Church, for all the ways you are showing up during this crisis. Thank you for the donations you are making to keep the church functioning. Thank you for the gifts you have offered to care for one another and to serve our neighbors. Thank you for the supplies you have brought for the food pantry and blessing box. Thank you for your patience when tech is squirrely or things are different than we’re used to. Thank You.

You are proving that the church is the people, whether they have a building in which to gather or not. I know that we are eager to again see one another face to face. In the meantime God is still moving, and sustaining, and doing great things in and through us.

Thanks to your generosity we are doing better financially. This week we received over $8,000 dollars and our expenses for this week an next are roughly $13,000 so we are in a more normal pattern. Our operating cash remains above $50,000. Thank you for your support.

The blessing box is being used regularly. We had a huge glut of food the first week. It’s now settled into a good rhythm of input and output. It warms my heart to see those who need supplies getting care.

If you or someone you know is in need of care, physically, mentally, or spiritually, please reach out to the office or send a message to (832)-304-1403.

Tomorrow begins the Tridium– Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil. These three experiences are really one service that tells the story of Christ’s passion. I hope you’ll join us Thursday and Friday evening at 6:30pm and at 7:00 am on Sunday morning for the Sunrise Service.

Social Distancing the Johnny Karate Way.

Humans are social creatures. Deprived of connection, we can become anxious and depressed. And of course, there is the fear and uncertainty of a global pandemic. Plus disruption to some (or all) of your regular routine.
So, once a day, ask yourself:

  • Am I sleeping way more or way less than usual? (or way weirder)
  • Is my temper shorter than normal?
  • Do I feel on edge (you do), and how am I dealing with it?
  • Am I obsessing over the news?
  • Have I prepped like the world as we know it will be eaten by zombies tonight? (count the rolls of toilet paper)
  • Am I having difficulty focusing? (even when the kids aren’t melting down) Do I not enjoy things I usually love?

If you start getting a lot of yeses, chances are the isolation and stress are having an effect on your mental health. Incidentally, if you have already painted a hand on a volleyball and given it a name, you can disregard the questions. Go directly to counseling, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

I am not a mental health professional. I see a couple of those; they are great; if you are overwhelmed or struggling with thoughts of self-harm, please make an appointment with one. But for those who get a bit down or stir crazy from isolation, I can offer a little guidance from my own journey with anxiety and depression.

Fight back like Johnny Karate

(Johnny Karate is the kids’ performer alter-ego of Andy Dwyer (Christ Pratt) from later seasons of Parks and Recreation. His show is featured in a BRILLIANT episode in the last season. If you do nothing else, watch that, it will make you smile)

Johnny teaches us that we should do 5 things every day:

Make something

Cook a meal, create a photo collage, decorate your window, find a creative outlet. It doesn’t have to be perfect, or ever seen by other people. Crafting things with our hands grounds us in our body and helps us focus on something other than anxiety.

Learn something

Give your brain a chance to play. Watching one more news story or reading one more post won’t make you feel better. Instead, take advantage of the great free courses and museum tours online. Read a book about a topic you love or have always found fascinating. Seek wisdom, truth, and beauty. Your mind and soul need them.

Karate chop something

For kids (or super frustrated grown-ups), this could be literal; but stick to pillows and punching bags, please. However, it can mean get something accomplished. Finish a project, especially one that’s been hanging around. Got a closet that attacks every time you open it? Karate chop with organization. Flower beds looking like weed farms? Karate chop yard work. Finishing stuff releases dopamine, and dopamine is awesome.

Try something new

Working and playing and everythinging at home can make your world feel like its shrinking. Open up some horizons by trying new recipes, picking up a hobby, or intentionally learning something new. Turn dinner into Chopped, rearrange furniture, learn tik tok. Anything to break routine.
Anxious energy could become a beloved new hobby.

Be nice to someone

We all need some extra kindness right now. We all need a positive connection right now. Set aside time every day to reach out and say something encouraging, supportive, and caring to another human. And then just listen; kindness can unlock many places in the heart.

The Johnny Karate method sounds simple and a little silly. That’s the point. If you are not overloaded right now, someone around you is. We’re all swimming through mud. We don’t know for how long. Give anxiety, grief, and sadness space in your day, but also look for light and hope. So embrace the simple and the silly. Those are usually the places God shows up. Take a break every day because you need it.

Stay healthy, friends. Trust Jesus. And wash your hands.

What does the Protocol mean for DPUMC?

UPDATE: UMCNews has added this chart that outlines the major plans coming to General Conference and links to primary sources.

You may have seen the UMC denomination in the headlines over the weekend. A plan called The Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace through Separation was released Friday and captured the attention of many people both inside and outside the UMC. Since then I have and several questions and conversations about what this will mean for Deer Park UMC.

The shortest answer is, it means nothing until General Conference meets in May. The UMC has been having a long conversation about polity and human sexuality. That conversation has been particularly intense over the last 18 months. At a Special Session of the General Conference in February 2019 the denomination adopted part of what was called the Traditionalist Plan. It maintained prohibitions on performing same-sex weddings and ordinations, and restructured the process for dealing with complaints and punishments for violation of those prohibitions. That legislation went into effect on January 1, 2020.

Caucus groups across the denomination met over the year and several have submitted plans or legislation for General Conference 2020. Notable among them are The Bard-Jones Plan, The UMC-Forward Plan, The UMNext Plan, and the Indianapolis Plan. All provide for some form of separation from the UMC denomination or breaking the UMC into multiple denominations. The Protocol is like these in that responds to GC2019 and proposes a path forward via multiple expressions of Methodism; all will require debate and adoption by GC2020 to become a reality.

What is different?

  • The Protocol was worked out by leaders from a wide spectrum of caucus groups with the help of a professional mediator and is being supported by 8 Bishops.
  • The Protocol does not yet have legislation for its implementation. When that legislation is ready, it will need to come to the GC2020 either through a Special Session of an Annual Conference (our AC is Texas Annual Conference) or by permission of the General Conference organizing committee because the deadline for legislation is long passed.
  • The signers of the Protocol have expressed a desire for the plan’s legislation to come to the floor for debate and vote as a whole (inseparable) package. The Indianapolis plan also has an inseparability provision, and the validity of that has been challenged.
  • The way the Protocol was crafted and released gained far more media attention than any similar legislation.

UMNews has done an excellent job of summarizing the specific provision of the Protocol and had provided an extensive FAQ.

The Protocol is ultimately one plan among many coming to GC2020. I will not speculate here on its likelihood of adoption and we will not have a firm answer on this plan or any other until May. It is worth noting that the Protocol, like several other plans provides for votes by Annual Conferences and/or local churches. Our bishop, Bishop Jones, has already announced that all actions stemming from GC2020 will be taken up at a Special Session of the Annual Conference in August. This is because our normal session occurs only 9 days after the close of GC2020, and that is not enough time for meaningful conversation or considered decisions.

The leadership of DPUMC was already considering when to hold information sessions and town-halls ahead of GC2020. Those will likely be scheduled in the March-April time frame. While possibilities and contingencies will be discussed all year, no decisions can be finalized or actions taken until we know what the General Conference does in May and the Annual Conference does in August.

In the meantime, I ask you to do 3 things:

  • Be in prayer for our church, our leadership, our denomination and its world wide leadership.
  • Check any information you see in or on a major media outlet. The UMC is a large denomination, movements are going to make headlines from time to time, but they often fail to do the background research necessary to understand our polity or the wider implications of a single action. umnews.org is a great source for accurate information.
  • Be in conversation with one another. In times of anxiety or conflict it can be tempting to seek peace through silence. We have reached a point where that is not viable. We need to listen to each other, seek to understand each other, and hold each other accountable for understanding the options on the table.

Called to Rise [Beyond Sunday]

In Acts 11, Peter is called to step out of his comfort zone to meet a need. The Holy Spirit pushes him to move beyond previous restrictions to expand the Kingdom of God.

Trace the movement of the Spirit through the New Testament. Are there  other people who were held outside the Jewish community and later welcomed into the Church?

Can you recall a time when God used something you’d planned in an unexpected way?

Who might be the Gentiles, those who need the gospel but are outside our comfort zone, in our community?

What might our church need to do to welcome them?

Small steps:

  • Start a conversation with a stranger
  • Invite someone to worship or Sunday School
  • Ask someone of a different age, race, income level what they need from God

Long Strides:

  • Begin learning a new language
  • Volunteer to teach or serve people of a different age or with different needs
  • Suggest to leaders ways we might reach people in our community 

Renovation Update

I hope you’ve seen the growing donation total in the Gathering Area. We continue to progress toward our 3 year goal and projects are underway.

The Food Pantry has a new permenant wall and door thanks to Rick Sullivan, Junior and Penny McBride, Tim Camp and other willing volunteers. It looks terrific and provides the Pantry with more storage space and a clean, welcoming look.

We are also starting work on the roof over the Choir Hall. The Sanctuary is progressing. HOwever we hit a snag with Church Interiors. The Trustees are now pursuing additional bids. They want to do such a large project well, but we hope to have the funds raised by the time a bid is finalized.

DPUMC continues to grow in being a welcoming place and your gifts are making possible for our buiding to reflect our Spirit. If you have not yet set up a regular gift ot the renovation fund, you can contact Susan Greer in the office to do so.

Giving Thanks

Every day we draw breath should be a day of gratitude.  However, in this season, we are more keenly aware of all God’s blessings.  I am thankful to gather with my family this week.  I am grateful to serve a loving energetic church, and for the work we are doing to refocus on discipleship.  I feel blessed to have bills paid, secure housing, enough means for a lavish meal.

I hope in the midst of your festivities this week, you take time to pause and be grateful for the blessings large and small that contribute to your life.  I also pray that we allow our gratitude motivate us to become blessings to others.  In the midst of this season of busy, may we be a place of peace.  In a season of buying and selling, may we be a people of generous hearts.  In a season of family and friends, may we have eyes for those who feel lonely, or lost.

I am grateful to be a part of the Deer Park UMC family and hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I look forward to celebrating the whole holiday season together.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Pastor Kate

If your kids and youth have questions this week…

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all yourstrength, and with all your mind; and your neighboras yourself.”

Luke 10:27

This week we didn’t have a traditional sermon at DPUMC.  We tied up our series on difficult questions of faith by answering questions from the congregation.  So it wasn’t possible to write my usual Tuesday follow up blog.  Instead, I thought I’d offer some information to help parents and grandparents answer some difficult questions they may be asked this week.

The testimonies of Dr. Blasey Ford and Hon. Kavanuagh continue to dominate the news.  The ongoing nomination process has sparked a national conversation about consent, assault, men and women’s experiences and rights.  These subjects are as important as they are sensitive. Children and teens need to have their questions honored and feel safe talking to the adults around them.   If the young people in your life have questions, it is because they are seeking your wisdom about the person they should become.

Many parents will want to shield young children from the explicit details.  But children are capable of grasping consent and how they should treat others in an age-appropriate way.  They can be reminded Jesus loves them and everyone.  Because we love Jesus, we also love other people and treat them nicely.  We only hug or touch others if they say its okay.  And people should only hug or touch them if they say its okay.

With older children, you might emphasize that God has created each person and that all are equal in Christ.  You can read together Psalm 139 or 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 and along with the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27).  Discuss what it means to love others as ourselves.

With pre-teens that might also include a conversation about substances, like alcohol and drugs, that inhibit our ability to make good decisions and can even put us in dangerous situations.  You might find the UMC’s Social Principles a helpful guide.  From the section on Women and Men:

We affirm with Scripture the common humanity of male and female, both having equal worth in the eyes of God. We reject the erroneous notion that one gender is superior to another, that one gender must strive against another, and that members of one gender may receive love, power, and esteem only at the expense of another. We especially reject the idea that God made individuals as incomplete fragments, made whole only in union with another. We call upon women and men alike to share power and control, to learn to give freely and to receive freely, to be complete and to respect the wholeness of others. We seek for every individual opportunities and freedom to love and be loved, to seek and receive justice, and to practice ethical self-determination. We understand our gender diversity to be a gift from God, intended to add to the rich variety of human experience and perspective; and we guard against attitudes and traditions that would use this good gift to leave members of one sex more vulnerable in relationships than members of another.

UMC Social Prinicples ¶161

Teens, especially, may be wrestling right now because Ford and Kavanaugh were themselves teenagers on the night under discussion.  Your teen may know a friend who abuses alcohol or drugs, or who has been the victim of sexual assault.  Try asking for and listening to their opinion first.  If they have questions, remind them that sex is a good gift from good, but meant to be a gift between married people. Help your teen understand that loving others, means respecting their boundaries; loving yourself means being careful about the people you spend time with and the situations you put yourself.

Be an adult they can come too.  Even if they or their friends find themselves at a party, on a date, or in a situation they’re uncomfortable with, let them know you are someone they can call with no questions asked until the morning.

For a deeper family study, you might read 2 Samuel 13-15 or Judges 19-20.  Be aware that both these stories contain difficult content including sexual violence.  In both, the assault and subsequent injustice have devastating effects for the Israelites.

Whatever questions your kids have, remind them that they are loved and that you are a safe place to bring their fears and anxieties.

Prayers for you this week parents.

What’s Up With Judging (Follow Up)

Hey friends,

We had a great time Sunday kicking off our What’s Up with That sermon series and playing with a new tool called Mentimeter.  I love that you all got to respond and ask questions live.  I couldn’t get to all of them during the service, so I wanted to follow up with a couple of answers here.

1. Didn’t we invite accountability when we joined the church? Or does it have to be explicit?

Great question!  Sunday we talked about the difference between judgment that condemns and accountability among believers is :

  • Accountability presumes equality
  • Accountability always benefits the person receiving
  • Accountability has to be invited

Yes, I do think we invite accountability when we become a part of a faith community.  For instance, in our baptismal vows we pledge to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves; and in our membership vows we pledge to uphold the congregation with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness.  Those are very explicit expectations and it is good to hold one another to those standards in love.

It is fair to hold each other accountable for explicit and widely shared expectations.

For less overt expectations or expectations that are held mainly in a subgroup of the congregation, I think the depth of relationship you have with the person dictates whether on not you need an explicit invitation.

2. How do we find that log without judging ourselves to much?

Another good question.  Some of the answer depends on where the fulcrum is in the question.

If the issue is you have trouble seeing yourself as you really are, then sometimes its helpful to ask others you trust.  Don’t respond to what they say immediately, but write it down and over the course of a week, record times you think this is true and times you think its false.  Try repeating several times.

If the issue is that you are prone to self-criticism or shame try the activity in reverse.  Ask your inner critic what they judge to be “wrong” with you.  Then share that with others you trust and let them provide some balance.

It can take a while to sift out what we need to work on and what we need to accept.

This coming Sunday we are talking about What’s Up with Politics.  They’ll be less Mentimeter, but it will be available at: https://www.menti.com/8af99638  for you to send in your questions.

6 News Stories You Might Have Missed (and why you should care)

This week has been like a news tsunami.  15 min after Justice Kennedy announced his retirement yesterday, I had to turn off all news notifications and walk away.  It just felt like a constant onslaught of hard, hurtful, and heartbreaking headlines.  Yet flipping through my feeds this morning, really only two issues were catching attention:  the plight of migrant families and the after effects of Kennedy’s resignation.  Both important stories, but there is a funny paradox in onslaught.  When we are overwhelmed by a constant stream of new (or seemingly new) information, very little of it actually catches our attention.

For people of faith, there is a great deal we that needs our attention.  So here are 6 stories I noticed this week.  Few of these have an unambiguously correct response, but all touch on matters of faith and ought to be a part of Christian conversation right now.

1. Concern over the erosion of the “rules of war”

The modern rules of warfare are intended to protect civilians, refugees, and aid agencies seeking to help them.  However, in conflicts across the globe, the “rules” are being circumvented or flat out ignored, leading to greater brutality and long-term damage.

Why the Church should care: While the modern rules are rooted in the Geneva Convention, Christians have long advocated boundaries on violence and respect for life in the midst of conflict.   Not to mention, many of those aid agencies coming under fire are backed and run by churches and faith-based organizations

Check out: The Rules of War Are Being Broken.  What Exactly Are They?

 

2. Peer Groups Help Lower Stigma of Mental Health Issues

Loneliness, depression, and anxiety are reaching epidemic proportions in American culture.  Coordinate conditions like addiction, suicide, and debt are rising along with them.  Creating spaces for people to be vulnerable seems to help them navigate difficult moments and reach out for professional help when they need it.

Why the Church should care: The church should be about offering good news of life and hope.  At our best, we know how to form groups and model the kind of vulnerability and accountability that can be helpful in dark time.

Check outStudent-peer organization helps erase stigma tied to mental-health issues

 

3. Hate Crime Charges in Virginia

Almost a year ago, a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville Virginia turned deadly when a young man rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters killing Heather Heyer and wounding several others.  He was charged this week with 28 counts of hate crime acts.

Why the Church should care: Racism and violent retaliation are sins.  We as (Wesleyan) Christians are called to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.

Check out: Federal Hate Crime Charges for Driver at Charlottesville White Nationalist Rally

 

4. SCOTUS changes the rules for Public Employee Unions

Among the flurry of Supreme Court rulings in the last few days was Janus v AFSCME.  In its judgment, the Court overturned precedent to declare that dues could not be compelled from non-union members even if they benefit from union activities.

Why the Church should care: Because of the Biblical mandate to care for the poor, many churches were on the frontlines of creating and supporting the labor movement of the 20th century.  Specifically if you are a United Methodist, we have a resolution statement on our position.

Check out: Supreme Court deals a blow to rules against forced fees for government workers

 

5. Rolling back some protections for Red Wolves

The Interior Department announced this week that they are changing the way they manage the endangered American red wolf.  The change includes allowing landowners to kill wolves who stray onto their land.

Why the Church should care:  I’ll confess, I’m not qualified to assess the good of this particular issue, but the article made the list because it is the latest in a rash of reversals in ecological policy.  The church’s response to ecological issues usually ranges from apathy to resistance.  However, scripture both charges us to be good stewards of God’s creation and reminds us that redemption is not just for humanity.  We should probably pay more attention to this stuff.

Check out: Interior Department plans to let people kill endangered red wolves

 

6. Casa Vides

Need a moment of hope, read/listen to Youth Radio’s story about volunteers at Casa Vides.  Casa Vides provides shelter for people coming out of ICE detention or who evaded border control.  Recently, they’ve been housing parents who are attempting to reunite with their children.  Two college students share their experience serving.

Why the Church should care:  As we push for better conditions for those detained at the border it is crucial to provide models of what that might look like (don’t just name the problem, be part of the solution).  Additionally, it does my soul good to be reminded of the hope offered in the leadership of young people.

Check out: In Texas, a summer job that helps provide temporary refuge for migrants.

What stories do you think are flying below the radar this week?  It is easy to get overwhelmed with so much going on.  Take care of your soul, but stay aware, friends.

 

Sidenote: The crisis on our Southern border continues to unfold.  While the Executive Order was a first step, it is still unclear what the plan is to keep families together beyond 20 days or to reunite separated parents.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting some discussion of Scriptures dealing with immigration and the church’s response.

Welcome

Welcome to the scribblings of one Methodist pastor.  Here you will find devotions, sermon clippings, pastoral letters, and other assorted thoughts and reflections.  The most significant categories can be accessed through the menu at the top.  These include:

  • Beyond Sunday: These are follow up materials related to sermons I preach.  If you would like to hear the audio for the sermon, it is generally posted by Tuesday on my church’s website.
  • Open Source Liturgy: Prayers, readings, and sermons series crafted by myself, my team, or posted with permission.  You are free to use and adapt these with attribution.  Pictures or stories of how they worked for you are always appreciated.
  • Faith and Art:  For more than two thousand years artists across the world have produced moving works based on Biblical texts and the stories of the Christian faith.  I use many of these in preaching but often can’t delve fully into them so the extra reflections end up here.
  • Leading: Reflections on leadership, change, and being a pastor.

Enjoy!