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I was so moved last week with the overwhelming show of support for our son Ian as Fr. Paul acknowledged his upcoming opportunity to represent the U.S. at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria.
Ian has always loved sports, and figure skating has been his dream since he saw Tara Lipinski when he was a young teenager. For the last 9 years he has been pursuing that dream and is pretty pumped up about getting to this place now. He will be in Austria for the next couple weeks and will have a few moments of fame via television coverage of the Games.
Cinde and I are very proud of the hard work he has put into his skating, as well as many other activities he has had in his life. Through him we have learned a great deal about facing challenges and limitations. As we have done life together, we have been greatly blessed.
We can’t wait to cheer him on and represent his wider church family (“All y’all,” as Fr. Paul says) that are sending us. We are extremely grateful for the generous outpouring from the people of Christ Church that will allow Cinde and me to be there for this huge moment.
In addition to the Special Olympics, we will visit with SAMS missionary, Stephen V, to learn about his work in Europe and hopefully encourage him as he seeks to plant a church in a country where the Christian faith is simply a historical memory.
We ask for your prayers, that God, whose glory fills the whole creation and whose presence we find wherever we go, would preserve us as we travel, surround us with his loving care, protect us from every danger, and bring us in safety to our journey’s end (paraphrasing from BCP page 831). Through all three of us, may God shine His light and make Himself known.
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We live in a fast paced society, always on the move. I see it in the students I work with at church. They are experts at cramming homework, sports, part time jobs, church, and time with family and friends into their days. There are times I wonder, “How do they do it?” when I see their tired faces at our Wednesday night student small groups.
And then I remember, I’m often no different. If someone asks me how things are going, a standard reply is “Good, but busy.” I too have mastered the art of filling my day with endless activities and meetings. There is always the subtle temptation to assume a full calendar means we’re doing something right.
In the past two weeks, I’ve had this disposition towards busyness challenged by God. Our bishop Todd Hunter has an amazing way of communicating truth in love. Having sat under his teaching I was reminded of one of his favorite passages of Scripture:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30, The Message
Last week I was able to take some extended time to rest in God through prayer, reflection, and personal retreat. It was a chance to continue to learn Jesus’ unforced rhythms of grace and think about how to better reflect that in my life. It wasn’t a purging of my schedule as much as it was a reminder that “God is present and accessible in every moment and every activity” (Esther de Waal). I left refreshed and reminded that my obedience to God isn’t His condition for loving me, but rather a response to His love.
May we find time to rest in God so that we see Him at work throughout our day.
Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a pastoral leadership cohort through Fuller Seminary, my alma mater. I was accepted into this program along with 11 other pastors across the country. We had a wonderful week together getting to know one another and praying for each other and the churches we serve in. I want to share an insight from my time there: The focus of this group was less on leadership techniques, and more on our own personal spiritual formation as leaders. Part of our time was spent on a 4-hour silent retreat of prayer and Scripture study. During this time I was struck by this verse: "And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed" (Mark 1:35). I was reminded that the core of Jesus' ability to lead came from time spent in prayer and communion with his Father in heaven. Jesus made that a priority and his leadership flowed from there. It's so easy to roll over when I wake up and check Facebook. But I've been getting better at spending time in prayer as I get ready for the day, often listening and praying along with the Daily Office. Starting my day with God also keeps him at the forefront of my mind as I go about my work. As we are still early into a new year, I want to challenge you by asking, do you have a morning prayer practice? If you don't, I'd love to chat with you about developing one.
If you missed Fr. Paul's induction on January 8—or if you had a seat in the back row—Christ Church has put together a highlight video that captures the most poignant moments of the service.
We invite you to take a look. We couldn't be more grateful to God for His faithfulness and provision to our parish.
Watch the video »
My first experience with short-term missions was in 1996. In response to an invitation from the Anglican Church of Uganda, a small team from my seminary spent 28 days there, leading workshops for clergy. Our purpose was to help them develop strategies for spiritual formation and discipleship in their congregations. We quickly realized, though, that what we would do in the U.S. was not necessarily what they needed. So, much to everyone’s surprise, we led them through brainstorming sessions in which, together, we sought strategies that would work in their own culture. That month opened my eyes to several important truths: Different cultures are just that: different, not wrong. We can’t assume that our way of doing things is the only way—or even the best way. I had much more to learn than to teach. The Church of God is considerably bigger than we perceive it to be. It is God’s desire, as shown throughout the Old and New Testament, for all the people of the earth to be brought into His Kingdom. Personal connection and relationships are as important, if not more, than the aid we give. I am grateful for that first opportunity to participate in the worldwide mission of God. At Christ Church, we believe participating in global mission is an important part of being a follower of Jesus Christ. We plan short-term mission opportunities that allow our parishioners to be on mission, too. This summer we will take a team to Guatemala where we will do something simple and practical, but which will revolutionize the lives of families: build wood-burning stoves. These stoves are safer, healthier, and more fuel-efficient than the traditional open fires on which they currently cook. I hope you will come to the Information Meeting after services this weekend to learn more. Please consider joining Fr. Paul and me in this venture.
We have a sweet confession to make. We have been quietly teaching your children about serving others over here in Sunday School.
You might remember our chalkwall gave hints about our teaching in August and September: The Hands and Feet of Jesus. We prayed over each child and wrote their names on a hand or a foot and lined our hallways with them.
What does it mean to be the hands and feet of Christ? I believe it means showing love and compassion, meeting the needs of others, forgiving, and sharing grace and mercy.
As parents, we see firsthand how children can be naturally self-focused. We try to shape their view of the world into one where they are not the center of the universe, but God is. When children are taught to serve, they learn to focus on Jesus and put others before themselves. And if they do it often enough, service becomes a “holy habit” even into adulthood.
Check out our recent Children's Ministry service projects on our Facebook page and see the article below for information about our new way of teaching about service. We are grateful to partner with parents in your child’s faith education and pray for you as you also teach them to serve in your own family and community.
Throughout history, people from all places and cultures have welcomed others through eating meals. We see the connection between eating and hospitality all over scripture: Abraham and Sarah feed the three men (Genesis 18); God eats with the elders of Israel (Exodus 24); The widow of Zarephath gives the prophet Elijah the last of her food (1 Kings 17). Hospitality is such a virtue in scripture that inhospitality is often a sign of immorality (see Genesis 19, Judges 19, and 1 Samuel 25). Perhaps this is why Jesus commanded his apostles to rely on the hospitality of others for their sustenance (Luke 10:5-10). The Apostle Paul continued this tradition by requiring church leaders to show hospitality to all as a witness to the gospel (1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:8). And of course, the connection between hospitality and eating is signified best in Holy Communion, where Jesus welcomes sinners to his table and offers himself to us as bread and wine. Because of the popularity of eating out and fast food, our culture today has all but lost this deep connection between eating and hospitality. But Christ Church Plano strives to continue this tradition by welcoming people at Gateway, our newcomer’s lunch. If you are new to our community, would you consider joining us for a meal hosted by Fr. Paul and the staff? Check the web site for the date our next Gateway luncheon. Consider it our way to extend the hospitality of God in an inhospitable world.
Did you know you can complain to God? Maybe you’re not the complaining type. But we all have our moments. And of course if all you are doing is complaining, you might want to take stock. But if you never complain to God, why not? Is it because you never have anything bugging you? (Ha.) Or perhaps it seems unseemly to give the Almighty an earful about what you, a mere mortal, think is unfair? The Psalmists repeatedly say, “I will pour out my complaint before You!” They show the human heart as a messy, sloshing, overbrimming thing that so often just needs to be poured out—not politely or piously bottled up. Whatever’s going on with you this week, try thinking of "Complaining Prayer" as a necessary part of relationship with Him, a gesture of trust that more often than not in the Psalms becomes part of the ability to truly say “I will praise Him with my whole heart." There are things that happen to all of us that don’t make any sense. From petty annoyances to disasters, it can be hard to find someone to completely “let your hair down” with. But I assure you that the Lord is one of those people. In fact, He’s the only person who can continue listening even after you’ve run out of words, and He can then speak His Word more fully into the heart you’ve just poured out.
Next Wednesday begins the Church’s longest season of fasting, prayer, intentional service, and self-reflection. This season, known as Lent, is an opportunity for an annual return to the basics. In Lent we focus on what it truly means to follow Jesus and what the core of a well-discipled life should look like. And in Lent, while we look ahead to the life Jesus is calling each of us into, we also take time to acknowledge that we often aren’t equipped and ready to begin this journey, and so we prepare. If you’ve ever gone on a long distance hike, you know that the more time you take carefully packing your gear and charting your course, the more likely you are to have a successful and enjoyable trek. In a similar way, our journey towards Christ-likeness is a spiritual hike, and Lent is the time we take to faithfully prepare ourselves for what lies ahead. At our upcoming two-day seminar, Prepare: Lent 2017, we will be led by Fr. Paul and guest speaker Fr. Jack Lumanog as they together invite us to deal honestly and openly with our pain and brokenness. We will remember that it is through suffering that God prepares us for the journey of faith. He transforms our suffering and pain into stories of his faithfulness to us. Prepare: Lent 2017 will invite us into honest self-evaluation before the Lord, and also invite the Spirit to heal us and free us from the sin and shame that holds us back from a life of faithfulness to Christ and his Kingdom. I look forward to seeing you there!