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Feb
09

There's something on your face

Posted by jklossner    6 Comment(s)    Add a Comment  comment-icon.png

This coming Wednesday, I will go to a service where ashes will be marked into the symbol of the cross on my forehead. After this service, I will go to restaurants, the grocery store, the coffee shop, the drive-thru line and various other places and watch as people stare at me awkwardly, wondering what is smudged on my face. I must admit, I get a little self-conscious and uncomfortable on this day. There is dirt on my forehead, and it’s clear to others around me. More so than most other days of the year, a sign of my Christian beliefs are on the outside – exposed, imperfect and obvious.
 
This service that we will have on Wednesday is called Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of blessing ashes made from palm branches blessed on the previous year's Palm Sunday, and placing them on the heads of participants to the accompaniment of the words "repent, and believe in the Gospel" or "remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." Ash Wednesday marks the first day of the season in the church called Lent - the 40 days leading up to Easter.
 
It’s during this time that we remember Jesus going into the wilderness for 40 days and fasting. Jesus was in a barren and dry place that is not too different than the current winter season of our area, when the trees are barren and the air is dry and cold. What I love about this season is that it calls me away from distraction and noise to know God more fully in the person of Jesus.
 
I can think of no better way for me to truly learn how to be more like Jesus than to put a symbol on my forehead that is obvious to others around me. The dirty smudge on my forehead pushes me to get over myself, to move past insecurities of what others might think of me, and to wear imperfection and vulnerability on my sleeve (or rather my face). It reminds me that I am human, that I am full of flaws and weakness and yet God loves me anyway; so much so, that God would send us Jesus in a human form so we would understand just how much God knows and loves humanity.
 
This week, I will go to these services and put the smudged sign of the cross on my face, resist the urge to wipe it off, and let it be a sign to me and to others that God works in the barren and dry places in our lives. God makes beautiful things, even out of the dust. Jan Richardson always says things in way that speak to me, so I invite you to cling to her words and come get the smudge of the cross on your face with me on Wednesday.
 
Blessing the Dust
For Ash Wednesday
Did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?
This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.
This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.
This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.
So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are
but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made
and the stars that blaze
in our bones
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.
—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons
 
Before Wednesday, Sunday will be here! We will conclude our series on Strength and Weakness by talking about the lessons we learn in our weakness and failure.
 
I also want you to join with me in praying for the Richardson Police Department and their families, following the tragic death of Officer David Sherrard. Officer Sherrard has, at times, been one of the off-duty officers who is here at FUMCR on Sunday mornings. This Sunday we will pray for his family, our law enforcement community, and our city as we grieve together. We will have prayer blankets for Officer Sherrard's wife and two children. Will you stop right now and offer a prayer for Officer Sherrard's family and friends, for the Richardson Police and their families, and for the other man who was killed and his family? In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone.
 
See you Sunday,
 
Julie

Feb
02

The Church that Richardson Needs

Posted by jklossner    4 Comment(s)    Add a Comment  comment-icon.png

This last week, as part of our yearly worship planning retreat, our Worship Team took some time to walk and drive the streets of Richardson. We learned about the new developments, all the construction, our schools and the community as a whole. As I listened to these reports and walked the neighborhoods around our church, a few questions came across my mind.

The first was this: What is the full picture we need to see as a church? Richardson is a place that is diverse, safe and increasingly becoming a central headquarters for many major national and international companies. Our school system is well known for phenomenal education, our neighborhoods and parks are safe and well cared for, and our job market is expanding. Richardson truly is a really good place to call home. Like any other place, there’s another side of this coin - one that poses some challenges for the city. Our school systems are so competitive that our youth struggle with anxiety and depression. Schools in and around Richardson have high poverty rates, pointing to a hard reality in some children's homes where education is not a primary focus. Our neighborhoods are wonderful, yet in the current housing market, many families are not able find a home that is affordable. Our job market continues to grow faster than improvements can be made to highway infrastructure.

These sorts of problems exist everywhere, but it led me to another question: Are we the church Richardson needs? As I look at the struggles inside and outside the walls of our church, I was filled with pride as I thought about the ways we are able to meet so many needs of our neighbors, and challenged by the reality that there is always more we can do.

As I walked the streets and neighborhoods, I prayed for each of you. For your families and the stresses that you face. And for your neighbors, that we might be people who stand beside all the broken so that God can make us whole.

The truth is, we are not saved from this world, we are saved with it. We are not the determiners of who God is gives grace and love to, because God makes no distinction or prequalification for this grace and love. If God doesn’t, why should we?

On Sunday we sang a song called “God of Justice,” and it has been stuck in my head all week:

Jesus, You have called us
Freely we've received
Now freely we will give
We must go live to feed the hungry
Stand beside the broken
We must go
Stepping forward keep us from just singing
Move us into action
We must go

I believe the church that Richardson needs is one that responds to the needs, big and small; those easily seen, and those we must seek out in our community. This week, if you look for need and find ways to open your heart to compassion, I know that God will fill you up with joy, gratitude and faith as we work towards being the people that Christ calls us to be.

On Sunday, I’ll be wearing a jersey - I want to wear your favorite too! We are starting a two-week series called Strength and Weakness and we’ll be talking about how we might reframe those terms in a different way.

See you Sunday!

-Julie

I want to make another plea for every household to make a pledge to our Annual Campaign. We still have more than 200 households who made a pledge last year that we have yet to hear from, and many others who have not pledged in the past who can help our church's ministry with a pledge commitment at whatever level you can give. It's so important, and without these commitments the kind of ministries we enjoy throughout the year will not be possible. Will you please make your gift today? Click here to do so. Our church has an amazing opportunity to be a blessing in this community but we need full participation for that to happen. Thanks in advance for what I trust will be a great response!

Jan
26

Disney: Facts and Fairytales

Posted by jklossner    0 Comment(s)    Add a Comment  comment-icon.png

I grew up with Cinderella telling me a “dream that you wish will come true.” Is that really true? Do I just have to wish for something in order for it to come into existence? I love Disney more than I care to admit, but I wonder if there is more to dreaming than wishful thinking… Sorry, Cinderella.

My older brother worked for Disney World for several years. In that time, I got to go the magical world that’s been created in Florida on a few different occasions. Here’s what I know about Disney World - it is truly magical. Every little detail has been pieced together so that the park is overflowing with happiness and fun at all times. Here’s what else I know - none of this happens by wishful thinking. It’s actually not magic at all. The culture that Disney has created with their staff in every capacity is that of radical hospitality. The people of Disney work in every possible way to make sure the experience is positive for those walking through the doors. It’s a mentality and a culture that holds the highest standards of hospitality.

Last week in worship, we talked about the dream for Access being a place that is radical in our invitation and hospitality. Yet, we know this will not come true just by merely wishing it into existence. We have to create a culture; we have to be committed to a high standard of welcoming. This is not to create magic, but something much more important – the hope of Jesus Christ. Our dream that we have been called to put into action is to be intentional around every corner with greeting those around us in a way that is representative of our mission statement “with OPEN hearts and OPEN minds, we welcome people FOR CHRIST…”

This is not solely the job of those on the welcoming team; it takes us all doing our part. It takes us all sharing the gospel inside as well as outside the walls of the church. When you walk into church this Sunday, ask yourself - what does it look like for me to welcome people for Christ this morning?

So here’s where I’ve come down on Cinderella:

Fact: In dreams, it is possible to loose your heartache. Not matter how your heart is grieving, there is always hope for a new day, and a new dream.
Fairytale: Dreams are not wishes; they are God’s constant whisper of hope. This hope comforts and challenges us to make the dreams a reality. This is what the Lord’s Prayer means when it says “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It is through our active, responsive, and intentional work - not our wishful thinking - that we build a church and a community that resembles the kingdom of God.  The kingdom of God is not the Magic Kingdom; it is not built on magic, but on something of better substance that we can build our life on: hope. My favorite hymn says with confidence, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” May we stand, build, and welcome with that hope.

This Sunday we are going to keep dreaming and talk about being the church that the community of Richardson needs.

I’m so thankful for each of you, for the dreams this community is dreaming, and for the opportunity God has given to us to be part of it.

See you Sunday!

-Julie

2018 Operating Budget
If we are going to be the church God dreams us to be, we need full participation. Not every household can give the same amount, but every household can give something. Each generation, our church invests in the present and the future. Our ability to do this is dependent upon the generous, voluntary support of each one of us. 
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