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Thoughts from Pastor Dan

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

Thousands of people flocked into Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis on Monday for the funeral of Michael Brown, which was also called his “homecoming” service.  Among the many images that struck me from that day of mourning was the picture of a sea of people clad in their traditional Sunday best holding their hands up in the air as they poured into the sanctuary.  An eye witness to Brown’s murder reported that the unarmed 18-year-old ran from a police officer with his hands in the air yelling, “Don’t shoot!” when he was gunned down.  Service attendees holding their hands up was a sign of more things than words can describe: solidarity, defiance, protest…hope.  Although it meant different things for many people, what that image looked like to me was a sign of promise.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

Last week I offered a devotional, “Breaking the Cycle of Violence,” where I shared thoughts on depression and how we as a society stand to be more educated about it.  The midweek message was dedicated to Robin Williams, but in hindsight it was dedicated to so many others who have taken their lives or attempted suicide under the ambiguous yoke of depression.  A dear friend of mine and seminary peer, Rev. Todd Simmons, read that devotional and offered some words of reflection for my further understanding.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

“Doesn’t it make you angry?” he asked.  A childhood friend of mine had recently died from an apparent suicide by drug overdose.  “It’s selfish, don’t you think—your friend killing himself?”

 

This sentiment resurfaces every time a celebrity takes their own life.  News of Robin Williams’ death by self-inflicted asphyxiation went public and social media exploded with judgments against the epic actor and comedian.  Scathing commentary on Twitter about Williams’ presumed selfishness was so toxic that Williams’ daughter deactivated her Twitter account for her own well being.  A radio personality and a cable news anchor decreed that Williams’ suicide was selfish.  Worse yet, we hear again the religious assertion that if someone takes their own life, they’re simply not leaning heavily enough on their faith.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

“We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.” –Romans 12:6a

 

We have opinions that differ.  We have concerns, desires, and viewpoints that differ.  We have outlooks and perspectives that differ.  But gifts?  In our culture of individualism, where compromise is viewed as a weakness, our differences are worn on our sleeve as opinions, concerns, and perspectives that we must defend at all costs.  Understood this way, differences are threats that we teach ourselves to stay away from, so as to keep our way of looking at things from being torn down.

 

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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.”

 

This Week @ Friends

Monday - Sep 01st

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9:00-am 1:00-pm

Tuesday - Sep 02nd

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7:30-am 8:30-am

Wednesday - Sep 03rd

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6:00-pm 6:45-pm

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7:30-pm 9:30-pm

Thursday - Sep 04th

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7:00-pm 9:00-pm

Saturday - Sep 06th

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10:00-am 12:00-pm

Sunday - Sep 07th

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9:15-am 10:15-am