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Thoughts from Pastor Dan

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The following is part of the clergy column I wrote for our August e-newsletter, The Connection, available on August 1st at www.friends-ucc.org...

 

With the summer rapidly coming to a close, many of us who determine our annual workload by the fall and spring semesters in our community are squeezing in whatever ounce of adventure, vacation and relaxation we can seize. Some make a pilgrimage to the beach. Some take that trip to the place of their roots to see family and old friends.  Some hop on a bike and travel across the country.  Some spend time in the garden or take in that reading list that's been calling for attention for months. Some deal with affairs, whether obligatory or celebratory, left unattended for far too long in the shadows of our busyness.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.Matthew 19:13-15, NRSV

 

Earlier this week, the front page story of our local paper said that we were “beefing up the border” in response to the recent surge of immigrant children coming to the United States from Central America by way of the Texas-Mexico Borderlands.  A word to better describe “beefing up” is ‘militarizing.’  One thousand National Guard troops are being deployed to the area where undocumented kids are crossing into the region.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

For this week’s devotional, I offer a prayer that I wrote for a conference call.  Have you ever prayed over the phone?  The first time I ever had prayer on the phone was with a teenager who called me—then her youth minister—to talk through something challenging in her life.  I was on my cell phone walking down the street in a semi-crowded area when the voice on the other end of phone said, “Will you pray for me?”  Taken aback, I said, “Well…sure!”  I stopped walking and stood still right there on the sidewalk with people passing me by on either side.  Then the words came, and then the ‘amen,’ and then a mutual exhale of relief and peace on both ends of the phone.

 

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Guest submission by Ana Deter - Licensed Lay Minister

 

Dear Friends Church Family,

 

 

If you have time to open the back door in the morning while you’re drinking your coffee and look at the sky or hear the chorus the birds offer, you have time for the marvelous.  You may only have a moment before the polite chaos of the day starts, but that moment can stretch to the horizon … Most of life is fascinating if looked at closely enough.

Dine Ackerman

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

The youth group of our church is preparing for a mission trip.  We’re joining five Austin-area youth groups for a trip to Livingston, Alabama, where we will work with an organization called Alabama Rural Ministry (ARM) doing various construction projects and providing a day camp for children in a highly impoverished area.

 

ARM requires that all groups working with them complete an extensive Bible study.  This is in an effort to prepare teenagers to be humble servants for others, setting their own interests aside as testament to Christ’s servanthood toward his friends.  The Bible study concludes with each participant signing what’s called a “Do No Harm Oath,” one of the stipulations being, “I will subordinate my self-interest (the need to feel good, rewarded, etc.) to the needs of those being served.”  This covenantal agreement mirrors Scripture: “…in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

Today’s midweek message appeared in Saturday’s Eagle, my monthly clergy column.  It was inspired by my new friend and ministerial colleague, Rev. Jeff Hood, who concluded his pilgrimage against the death penalty on Thursday in Austin on the Capitol steps.  I pray this brings you thought-provoking blessings and peace.

 

Pilgrimages and hunger strikes.  The kind of nonviolent activism espoused by Gandhi seems distant and impractical in our present context.  Enter Rev. Jeff Hood, a Southern Baptist pastor who, dressed in clergy vestments, walked 200 miles across Texas in the 93-degree heat over the last two weeks in an effort to raise awareness about capital punishment.  Hood remarked, “Through walking in prophetic imagination, Jesus changed the world.  On my pilgrimage from Livingston to Austin, I follow Jesus’ lead and with every step remind my fellow Texans that you cannot love your neighbor as your self and execute them.”

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult…“Be still, and know that I am God!” –Psalm 46:1-3, 10a

 

For a long time now, Job has been my favorite book of the Bible.  On the surface that sounds cryptic.  Why would a story about a man who loves God more passionately than most suffering hardships more tragic than most peek my interest?  What I’ve come to discover is that my initial and enduring interest in Job is not in the troubling nature of his sufferings but in the relational nature of his questioning.  At the heart of Job’s experience is our very curious, very human question: Why?  Questioning, it seems to me, informs a life of faith that is passionately in love with God.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

With the end of another school year, we attended awards ceremonies at our kids’ school yesterday.  Each child walked across a stage and received awards while their teacher doted on their attendance record, number of books read, etc.  One teacher added something unique.  “Our class focused on goals this year,” the teacher said, “so, each of my kids wrote down their goals, and I’m going to say each child’s goal when they come up to receive their award.”

 

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Dear Church Family,

 

”I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.” –John 14:18-19, NRSV

 

I recently had the opportunity to see one of the first blockbuster movies of the summer: X-Men: Days of Future Past.  This fifth installment of the X-Men film franchise finds the ageless mutant Wolverine (played by the equally ageless Hugh Jackman) traveling back in time to stop the assassination of a government scientist.  His murder would result in the vengeful backlash of countless mutants and their human sympathizers being wiped out by killer robots created by the slain scientist.  The assassin is a young mutant named Raven.  She is good-natured, and she hasn’t taken a life…yet.  Wolverine convinces Raven’s estranged friend Charles Xavier to help him stop Raven from acting against her better angels in the act of murder, and, consequently sparing countless mutants and their allies from being killed in the future.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

I offer today’s midweek devotional and announcements one day early to remind us about tonight’s Theology on Tap gathering, 6pm, at Perrine Winery on Harvey Road, where will enjoy friendship, wine and refreshments, and a fun conversation about Sabbath.

 

“A Sabbath rest still remains for the people of God; for those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labors as God did from His.  Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest.” –Hebrews 4:9-11a