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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Reflections on conflict from an Access member
May 26, 2017

Each person has unique gifts, interests, and past experiences and a unique personality. When I get to know someone well enough I usually discover something fascinating within their uniqueness. Last week I discovered that a member of our Access congregation, Dirk G. Sutherland, writes devotionals, which are reflections and prayers on Biblical topics and scriptures. Dirk shared one with me related to our recent sermon series on conflict. I found it insightful and vulnerably honest and want to share it with you.

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photo by Ralf Kiepert (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cussing might be helpful
May 19, 2017

I've noticed something around me that I find curious: some people noticeably filter cuss words out of their language. They usually say something like, "Well, I can't say that in front of a pastor." Others don't filter their language but then sheepishly say something like, "Oops. Sorry, pastor." Friends, let me ease your anxiety. Cussing might be helpful.

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Mother's Day founder, Anna Jarvis
Why Mother’s Day founder fought to end it
May 12, 2017

Among the 10 Commandments we find, “Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 10:12).  Setting aside a special day in our country to honor mothers goes back to the early 1900s, and the first such day began in a Methodist church; however, the woman that worked for that day of recognition later tried to put an end to it.

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Productive Confrontation Recap
May 05, 2017

In last week’s Access sermon I shared a story from Joshua 22:10-34 that relates a conflict between different Hebrew tribes. One group took a provocative action. The other group prepared to go to war. But before they started fighting, they talked and managed to resolve the conflict. In this week’s post I’ll recap the steps I shared on Sunday for productive confrontation.

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Mark Twain students helped FUMCR package over 100,000 meals
April 28, 2017

Last Sunday nearly 500 volunteers worked throughout the day to assemble over 100,000 meal packages for hungry people around the world. Among the volunteers were students from the Beta Club at Mark Twain Elementary, their teacher, and parents. Incidentally, the Beta Club is the same group that thanked Access members a few years ago by transforming their school library into an Italian restaurant and serving dinner. 

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A great Easter without a hunky Jesus
April 21, 2017

I had a fabulous Easter, and I hope you did too! My heart filled with joy as I worshipped with so many of you, your family, and friends. Last Sunday's worship also reminded me of how blessed I am to work with such talented people. Shandon organizes, manages, and troubleshoots things seen and unseen to create a sense of warmth and welcome in an often-chaotic environment. Eric weaves together graphic arts, music, light, and a host of individual people with unique gifts and skills into a cohesive whole that is beautiful in its own right and that also transports me beyond it into the presence of God. Julie connects the words of scripture to daily life in ways that consistently give me new insights, and she doesn't miss a beat when I ask things like, "What if we preached the Easter sermon together?" Our Access Easter celebration did lack one thing: a Hunky Jesus.

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4 invisible but real reasons for gratitude
April 07, 2017

Those creatures on the Access sign are gratitoads. In 2014 our church members took photos with gratitoads to document things for which we were grateful. I recently listened to a podcast where two psychology professors reminded me that not everything that provides a reason for giving thanks is visible. The professors gave four examples of invisible but real reasons for gratitude.

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Enliven prayer with hands-on activities
March 31, 2017

The Bible shows prayer as a deeply vital part of Jesus' life. Prayer has surrounded and sometimes instigated the most important decisions of my life. And yet sometimes my practice of prayer feels boring and stale. Over the next week I'm looking forward to two opportunities at church to enliven our prayers with some hands-on activities.

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