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Thoughts from Pastor Dan

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Today’s midweek devotional is written by Associate Pastor Trent Williams.

 

Yesterday, many of us had the day off as we commemorated the civil rights icon and leader, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As I sometimes do on this holiday each year, I spent some time listening to one of King's favorite singers, and a civil rights leader in her own right, Mahalia Jackson. Jackson was a powerful gospel singer who shared the stage with King on several occasions, including at the 1963 March on Washington, where she sang before King spoke. As the story goes, King was delivering his prepared remarks, and following his typed manuscript fairly closely. This was the section of his address where he talked about the crowd having come to Washington to "cash a check," to claim the promises of the Declaration of Independence for all Americans.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

This week’s devotional is written by Paula Verdegaal.  Paula serves as Vice Moderator on the Church Council.  She and her partner Wolfgang are the proud parents of Noah and George Verdegaal.

 

Now that school is back in session, the holidays are over and the Christmas tree and lights are (hopefully) put away, the last of my holiday guests just departed this morning. After having guests of family and friends in my house for almost three continuous weeks, I noticed myself longing for a return to my every day routine towards the end. No more eating out frequently, no more special trips to show people around town, no more sacrificing my small moments without children to spend as much time together. These thoughts brought in a few different emotions: guilt that I was so anxious for alone time and sadness that I didn't know when I would realistically get the chance to spend extended time with my friends that were visiting again. Even though I was enjoying myself, was it ok that I was also looking forward to an empty house?

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

If the category on Jeopardy was “New Year 2017,” you picked $1,000, and Alex Trebek said, “You’ll need these directions or guidelines as to how you should live your life and conduct your affairs for a ‘more fulfilled you’,” your response might be, “What are resolutions?”  But if Jesus were the show’s host saying that same prompt about what you’ll need in 2017 for a more fulfilled self, your response might be, “What are principles, Teacher?”  (No offense to Mr. Trebek.)

 

There’s nothing wrong with resolutions.  A lot of us make them in hopes of achieving a better self.  But according to Forbes.com, “University of Scranton research suggests that just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals.”  Those self-willed promises sound like a pretty unreliable hook to hang our hat on for the next 361 days.

 

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Dear Church Family,

 

Today’s midweek devotional is written by Dwight Baker, who serves as Acting Secretary on the Church Council. Dwight also sings in the Friends Church Chancel Choir and often serves as a lay leader in the Midweek Faith Formation Services and on Sunday mornings.

 

Are you a “glass half full” or a “glass half empty” kind of person? At this time of year, it is customary to reflect back on the past and set goals for the future. So, do you believe that the best times are behind us in the past, or ahead of us in the future? Might the future be metaphorically a tropical paradise or instead a desert wasteland? As I get older I worry that the best of times are indeed behind in the past, but I usually get surprised every New Year and have to readjust my viewpoint.

The Christmastide literature suggests that God planted the seed of the Christian revolution 2000+ years ago. Over time that revolutionary movement has spread to every continent on earth, and every generation since. But has the seed borne fruit in the collective body of Christ of 2016? What stewardship of God’s planting must we undertake to fulfill the kingdom here on earth?

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

Today’s midweek devotional, written by Pastor Dan, first appeared in Saturday’s “Faith & Values” section of The Eagle: http://www.theeagle.com/news/faith_and_values/nativity-scene-paints-a-diverse-picture/article_0c45f016-3fa7-58ed-b68b-8498d4647370.html. You are invited to share this message on social media that puts a different spin on “keeping Christ in Christmas.”  Read on…

 

We have more than ten nativity scenes in our home.  Since I was a boy when I had my own diorama with Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the three kings, the barnyard animals, and Baby Jesus lying in a manger, I’ve cherished the nativity.

 

A nativity scene, or a crèche, is a model that depicts the birth of Christ.  Whether it’s a live portrayal with human beings and livestock doing their best mannequin challenge, or it’s the pop culture expressionism of last year’s Coca Cola campaign, where creative Coke drinkers used cans with the names Jesus, Mary, and Joseph on them to portray the holy family, nativity scenes are incomplete without the shepherds—who came “to see this thing that has happened” (Luke 2:15), the magi from the East—who presented the baby “with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh” (Matthew 2:11), and barn animals (no scriptural account of the friendly beasts).

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

This week’s devotional is written by Associate Pastor Trent Williams.

 

There's Something About Mary:

 

On Sunday, we heard the gospel lesson from Luke that is known as the "Magnificat," the song that Mary sings when she hears from the angel that she is to be the mother of the holy child, Jesus. It's become one of my favorite passages of scripture, but it wasn't always the case. 

 

Growing up, Mary was something of a mystery to me. She tended to show up in the extremes--either absent most of the time or present in a way that the people around me considered unbiblical. I was part of a church where Mary generally only made an appearance around the Christmas season. I participated in Christmas pageants where one of the girls would play Mary, the meek and mild mother gazing in perfect--and silent--adoration of the newborn Jesus. Then there were the few occasions where I observed Roman Catholic devotion in the form of the rosary, and those repeated words: "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus." Mary seemed a distant and not terribly relevant figure in my faith life. Perfect, pure innocence or ritual that I didn't really understand. 

 

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The Midweek Message comes a day early to remind/inform you about tonight’s protest event.  More information in today’s devotional and the announcements below.  Read on…

 

One of my favorite hymns is “God of Grace and God of Glory,” the first stanza of which sings:

God of grace and God of glory,

On your people pour your power;

Crown your ancient church’s story,

Bring its bud to glorious flower.

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,

For the facing of this hour,

For the facing of this hour.

 

I woke up with that hymn in my head today.  Small wonder given what’s happening in our community tonight.  An outside party, unaffiliated with Texas A&M University, has invited a neo-Nazi to speak on campus.  Since TAMU is a public institution, the speaker’s white supremacist speech is allegedly protected by the First Amendment.  I say “allegedly” because it could be argued that such speech is legally defined as hate speech, which is not protected by the Constitution.

 

But, what’s done is done.  A man recently caught on video at another public speaking event giving a Nazi salute and saying, “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory,” and who was has also been quoted saying, “Let’s party like it’s 1933”—this man will be given a public platform to speak at one of the largest, most prestigious universities in the country.

 

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Dear Church Family,

 

Today’s midweek devotion, titled, “Light in the darkest night,” is written by Krista Burdine.  Along with her husband and three children, Krista is an active participant in the life of our Friends Church congregation.  She lives on a small wooded ranch south of College Station, with a menagerie of horses, chickens and cats.  Krista blogs about Faith, Hope and Love as the essential elements of the spiritual journey, at www.kristaburdine.com.  You can also find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/krista.burdine.writer. She enjoys interacting with readers. 

 

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots… He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. (Isaiah 11:1,3b,4)

 

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Dear Church Family,

 

Today’s midweek message comes to you a day early before the holidays get underway.  The devotional, written by Pastor Dan De Leon, originally appeared in The Eagle on Saturday: http://www.theeagle.com/news/faith_and_values/it-s-time-for-reconciliation/article_fa07ac22-695c-5e72-9d12-585641769943.html.

 

My heart broke when I read John’s email, “I’ve lost my faith in people.”

 

John is 81 years old.  He’s been an ordained Christian minister for decades.  From the pulpit to the streets, from education to pastoral care, John has been a steadfast lighthouse of hope that ministers like me—someone half his age—look to for guidance through whatever storms may come.

 

John and I serve together on the Board of Directors for our denomination’s Conference.  So, you see why I was devastated when I opened an email from him the morning after the elections titled, “Withdrawing.”  I promised not to urge John to reconsider his decision when I called him after that.  I just wanted to know what caused the blazing glow in that lighthouse to fade.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

Today’s midweek message is offered by our Associate Pastor Trent Williams…

 

What are you most thankful for? No doubt most of us will be able to name many things for which we give thanks--family and friends, home and table, church and freedom. It is appropriate and important for us to take the time to look around us and see all that God has done and is doing. When we gather with family and friends later this month to celebrate Thanksgiving, I do hope that you all have the opportunity to name these blessings and offer thanks to God and to each other.

 

But I also wonder if maybe we should start to look at our giving thanks in some new and different ways. So often, especially in our culture, we tend to stop with the usual list of blessings--we have a home, a family, enough to eat, an income, etc. And that is good. But what else might we come to see as blessings? I wonder if perhaps there are things that we need to be giving thanks for that we might not at first see as blessings.