Really Living
August 18, 2017

This weekend, 180 of our youth will be going on ‘Really Living’ - their annual back-to-school retreat. I went with our youth on this retreat last year and did not expect how full - or how messy - the experience would be. For 48 hours, the youth come together. Through games, worship, small groups, and pudding, they end the summer by celebrating that to really live means life will be messy. This isn’t the sort of mess you clean up; it’s the kind of mess that you lean into and embrace. 

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A church for all races
August 11, 2017

A decade ago I received a very special Christmas gift from a congregation member: an 1894 edition of "The Doctrines and Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South." When a new member joined the church, this book instructed the pastor to say, "All, of every age and station, stand in need of the means of grace which [the Church of God] alone supplies; and it invites all alike to become fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God." The invitation to "all alike" was expansive and welcoming, yet the word "South" in the title of the book reminds me that the all-inclusive invitation existed in the context of a Methodist Church that had split 50 years earlier, north and south, over slavery and would not re-unite for another 45 years. The all-inclusive invitation existed in a context that had also created the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in the south and the African Methodist Episcopal Church in the north. Even as the church wanted to be a place for everyone, it was deeply divided around race. Today, Methodists have similar words that affirm our aspiration to be a church for all races and also guide us towards how to become that.

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Mind the Gap
August 04, 2017

The phrase “mind the gap” is a warning issued to rail passengers reminding them to take caution while crossing the space between the train door and the station platform.  It’s a more kind and caring way of saying, “don’t fall in this hole and break your ankle.” As I’ve considered the mindfulness it takes to keep my ankles safe, I’ve started to wonder what other gaps may need my attention. These gaps might also exist in our understanding around issues of justice in our society. What holes do we fall into that keep us from connecting our faith more fully to the world and issues around us?

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Making Prayers Tangible
July 28, 2017

This photo shows a prayer blanket. Members of our church hand-made it for a man whose son is battling cancer. Before being delivered this blanket went to church services at FUMCR. People there prayed for the man and his family, and then each of them tied a knot in the fringe of the blanket. Prayer blankets and the knots in their fringes help make our prayers for others very tangible.

Prayer blankets began as part of our sanctuary worship services, and now they're coming to Access.

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Rainbow Road, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Trust the Track
July 21, 2017

In Mario Kart (unquestionably the world’s best video game), one of the final rounds of whimsy takes place on a track called “Rainbow Road.” The course is exactly as the name describes - colorful, bright and fun.  You drive around a long and winding multicolored road that poses one small challenge: there are no rails to keep you from falling off the edge. So the word ‘fun’ may be a bit of stretch for those of us who find ourselves falling off the track over and over again. I may have mentioned this before, but I don’t like to lose. I’ll be honest… I find this whimsical rainbow track to be a dream crusher.

So what happens when things turn out to be a lot harder than we originally thought? What do we do when it seems like we just keep falling off the track? 

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(
photo by Kevin Lim, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Two of your friend groups meet. Scary?
July 14, 2017

Our church staff is learning about the Enneagram, a tool that helps people understand the motivations behind their actions. We learned that some people's desire to be well thought of by others leads them to present themselves very differently depending upon the group they're in. It could be scary if two of their friend groups met, because they couldn't meet both group's expectations. The Bible gives us two stories of people that changed themselves for those around them and some clues as to when it's spiritually healthy to do that and when it's not.

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There is a way to do this...
July 07, 2017

Any time I begin playing a game there are two things I want to know: how do you win the game? And what’s the best strategy to get there? It’s a pretty uncomplicated method when playing games and yes, the narrow focus brings out my competitive nature. Similar to a magic trick or a puzzle, I want to know how it’s done. My faith at times has felt like a game where I don’t know the strategy. In times of questioning or moments of stagnation where I long to be closer to God, I find myself asking ‘how?’ repeatedly. How do I move forward? What is the next step? Is there a way to do this?

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A tool in God's hands
June 23, 2017

Last Sunday I shared a story of being used as a tool in God's hands. No, not one of the tools pictured or any kind of mechanic instrument at all. I was another kind of tool entirely.

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FUMCR members working on school in South Africa
FUMCR members work on the Skuinskloof school in South Africa

Why giving to the church multiplies world-changing impact
June 16, 2017

The knock on my car door window startled me. I was about to pull out of the Micro Center parking lot and hadn't noticed anyone nearby. I rolled down my window and saw a thin woman in her late 50s. She held a bag from the store. As the wind disheveled her long, graying blonde hair, she explained that her car wouldn't start. "I think it might be the alternator," she said and asked if I could help her with bus fare so she could get home. The excitement of having just purchased a USB Bluetooth dongle (version 4!) put me in a generous mood, and I gave her a $5 bill. Best-case scenario, she used it for bus fare, and my five dollars directly impacted and improved another person's life. Even as a pastor, when I give to the church I don't often see such an immediate impact. At the end of this post I will ask you to give to our church to help balance our income and expenses going into the summer, but before I do that, I want to share why giving to the church has the power to impact and improve far more lives than many other kinds of giving, and I'll do it with a story of how another 5 dollars helped bring dental care to a rural village in Africa.

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Your joyful spirit was noticed this week
June 09, 2017

This past week our church hosted an Annual Conference with about 1300 people representing every United Methodist Church in North Texas. Two hundred blue-shirted volunteers from FUMCR shuttled people from parking lots, gave directions throughout hallways, provided snacks during breaks, served meals, and more. Marveling at our volunteers one conference attendee asked Shandon, our Assistant Director of Welcoming Ministries, "How do you do this?" Shandon replied, "We ask people to help." The next question surprised Shandon and revealed something important about the culture of our church – something for which I'm incredibly thankful.

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Students thank Access for help reading books
June 02, 2017

Last Sunday we displayed a huge number of thank-you cards and notes from students at Mark Twain Elementary. They wanted to thank Access for helping them read an amazing number of books. In the 2014-2015 school year they read 4,000 books. How many do you guess they read this year?

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