Feasibility

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Feasible.  Feas-able.  According to Webster, it comes from the old French root, "faire"–"to do."  Feasibility then means, "able to to do."  

It has a rather safe connotation: something within our comfort level; something we know; something within our known ability; something predictable.

During the fall a number of us filled out a "feasibility survey" for our stewardship consultant, Horizons Inc. Don Smith, its representative, interviewed some 20-25 of us. The company looked at patterns of giving, statements of belief and confidence in the church, her leadership and her direction and then completed its analysis. This Sunday, December 10 - immediately following the 11 a.m. service/Cantata - Don will report out to us the results of the company's analysis which will then be published for all to see in the church. I hope you will stay for 20-30 minutes following the service. We will extend child care for this reveal.  

I do not know the full results of the analysis. What I do know is that Webster did not factor in God for what he defined as,"feasible."

See you at the surprising place this Sunday,

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

Taking Stock, and Starting Again

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We do this around our Thanksgiving tables, wherever they may be. In one ritual or another, we look at those around the table and all that is on the table. We pause, and we give God thanks for everything there that is good and right and worth remembering. It pushes a reset button in us as we reenter our daily life, enter a new year and start again. This year more than many has made this "taking stock" extra important.

We begin a new year this Sunday - a new Christian year - with the first Sunday of Advent. Throughout this one month season, I will be emphasizing healing and hope for the same reasons we took stock around our Thanksgiving tables: we need a reset in our lives before we enter the new calendar year. A reset is exactly what God sent Jesus to do in us - all of us - so that we can start again.

Come as you are, and invite another tired journeyer to come with you; it's been a long road.  Together this Sunday we will again be around the table, looking at all those around the table and all that is on the table. We will pause, and we will give God thanks for everything there that is good and right and worth remembering; and then we will start again. Thanks be to God.

O come, O come Emmanuel,

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

Guest Writer, Ed Volfe

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Daniele, my wife, loves interior design and she is very intentional about making our house our home. In our bedroom she hung a couple of photo frames of the two of us when we were still dating, photos of our wedding day, and photos of the day we celebrated ten years of marriage and renewed our marriage vows. Right in the middle, surrounded by the pictures, she hung a frame with the words, “Begin each day with a Grateful Heart.”

Every day I wake up and look at that particular frame in the center and all of a sudden my day begins with gratitude. I then look at the other frames around it, look at the day ahead, think of our church and its neighbors, and the possibilities God has in store for all us that day … and my heart fills with gratitude. I take some time to read a Bible verse or a passage and immediately I feel nudged by the Spirit to entrust myself to God, and to be thankful.

Well, I must confess not all my days are so filled with gratitude as I wish. Some days are challenging as life demands present themselves. I think of people who for a time in their lives simply cannot be thankful or cannot experience gratitude because of losses and pain they are going through, especially during the holidays.

But I also think of Sam Perrine whom I visited numerous times in different hospitals for the past nine months or so. Especially this week, I am thinking of Sam because he went to be with the Lord this past Monday. In the midst of his pain from cancer, he always asked me about his family and his church FUMC Plano. He was always concerned for other people. And when he talked about himself, he spoke with joy and a smile on his face. When I saw him last week, through his shallow breathing, he asked how I was doing. He then asked me for Orbitz chewing gum from the desk drawer next to his bed. I found the box, gave it to him, he got one out, and then offered me one. I took one out and were both chewing gum as we visited. Sam was a contented person in his heart.

I think we all need reminders to begin the day – or the afternoon, or the evening – with a grateful heart, regardless of what we are going through, especially because God is with us, though it does not feel that way at times.

Psalm 100 compels us to enter God’s presence with thanksgiving and praise. I believe whoever wrote that Psalm is inviting us to look God in the eye and to realize, over and over again, the Lord only is sufficient for us and He is the only one who can give us a heart filled with gratitude.

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Ed Volfe
Associate Pastor

Leave It to a Woman

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As I think back to a pretty glorious 170th and 15th Anniversary celebration (wasn't that FUN?), there are faces that keep popping up in my mind: Heidi Lawrence, Jill Stoel, Lynette Little, Robin Anderson to name only a few. As I think forward to Thanksgiving, there are faces that keep popping up in my mind: my late mom, my mother-in-law Joyce Craig, my wife Cammy, my sisters - all of whom have been so formative of our various Thanksgiving offerings. 

Now before I get a bunch of male protests, I absolutely acknowledge and appreciate the work that guys like Tommy, Gerry, Wade, Kevin Clanahan and others did for last Sunday, and I appreciate what the guys in my family have done to assist with Thanksgiving but, in most cases, there's no comparison, right?

So this Sunday I want to extol the virtue of a biblical woman named Deborah in Judges 4: 1-9, and a number of women for whom I give God thanks as we all head into the Thanksgiving week. My staff and I wish you all a blessed time with the women of your lives.   Tell them what a gift they are for you.

Grace and peace,

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

Reconnecting, Renewing

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The fun part of reunions whether family or school - in addition to the food - is reconnecting and renewing old ties and friendships. We see folks we haven’t seen in ages and rediscover all over again why we enjoyed one another and how much we had in common in the first place. The experience tends to re-ground us with thanksgiving. It also can generate new ideas and renewal for what we might do together going forward that would not have happened without the reunion.  

I am really looking forward to reconnecting with some old friends this Saturday night as the Revs. Don Renshaw, Judith Reedy, Andy Lewis, Holly Gaskill Bandel and others from our past rejoin us with stories at our 170th Anniversary Reunion Songfest at 7 p.m. Of course there will be food to go along with the merry-making. However, it will be matched by the renewing of our common faith in our future at our ONE 10:30 Worship Service Sunday morning, and of course again there will be food!

Nametags will be a must and we will provide them so that we might meet the person who is sitting in our seat come Sunday. I think it an appropriate turn for us as we celebrate our 15th Anniversary on this site and ask God, “O Lord, who would you have us go meet over the next 15 years for your sake in this place?”  

See you at the Meeting Place this weekend,

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

PS: See Joshua 24: 14-24 for what that renewal looked like for God’s people then.

Honoring the Saints and Remembering Mom

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My dad, a golfer, used to joke, "If there aren't fast greens in heaven, then I'm not interested." Since Mom's death two and a half years ago, Dad now asks in his declining health, "Where in the Bible does it say what heaven will be like?" His heartfelt hope is that he will be reunited with Mom because for him that indeed would be heaven. 

The Bible is silent about fast greens and marital reunions as we typically think of those, but it is not silent; as is often the case, the word of God speaks beyond our limited notions.  John of Patmos in the Revelation (9:9-17) describes heaven in these soaring ways:

  • "Salvation belongs to our God."
  • Angels sing.
  • "These who came out of the great ordeal ... worship God day and night."
  • "They will hunger no more, and thirst no more."
  • "The Lamb ... will be their shepherd; he will guide them."
  • "God will wipe every tear from their eyes."    

Perhaps not what I would envision, but for the Mom I loved and who suffered greatly it is divinely sufficient. We will remember our departed saints this Sunday, and thank the God who holds them.

See you in the thankful place this Sunday,

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

Hard to Say Goodbye

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More than a love song title, this phrase describes the feeling when you have invested so much in people you care about in a church family. And it should feel that way.

The church community is different from a business or school. The whole basis of our being together is a specifically invested, loving and personal relationship borne out of the invested, loving and personal relationship with an intimately personal God. It is a healthy sign that it is hard to say goodbye to these we care so much about.

So it is that we say goodbye to our Facilities Manager Greg Harris and our Contemporary Worship Leader John Hames. A corporate security firm made Greg an offer he could not refuse to work as a VP in downtown Dallas. His last Sunday with us will be Nov. 5. Our Staff Parish Relations Committee decided that it was time for a change in leadership in our contemporary worship service as we seek to expand the reach of that service, and parted ways with John.  We thank both Greg and John for their service and wish them God's blessings in the next steps of their careers, even as it is hard to say goodbye. 

Grace and peace,

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

God's Not Finished with Me Yet

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I am waiting for the doctor to perform the last bit of surgery following some cancer surgery on my nose two months ago. I am wanting to say, "Enough is enough." However the truth of the matter is that for full healing to occur, the doctor is not finished with me yet.

I imagine Lisa and I will have some conversations around this analogy for our spiritual lives. We all are Wesleyan Christians. We hold to a belief of salvation that is ongoing all our lives. The Spirit keeps working to diagnose parts of our lives that need to be operated on and sometimes removed so that the body can be healthier. Sometimes that is painful. We give up something very personal for the sake of a greater gain in our lives.

So when you see me with with a bandage on my nose Sunday, just know that God isn't finished with me yet.

Breathe peace,

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

Canoeing the Mountains

Pastor Matt grounded by a safety vest at the Plano Balloon Festival this past Sunday. 

I am taking our staff through a study of Tod Bolsinger's book, Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory. It is a fascinating read using the Lewis and Clark expedition as a metaphor of the need for changing the way leadership in the church thinks - both clergy and laity. Lewis and Clark were charged by President Thomas Jefferson to find a waterway to the Pacific Ocean for the sake of commerce. Everyone assumed there was one and so Lewis and Clark kept doing what they had always known to do - canoe. But that paradigm no longer worked when they suddenly faced the Rocky Mountains. They were forced to rely on the local inhabitants - the Shoshone Native Americans - to guide them in new ways of thinking and navigating their next steps toward their destination. In the same way, the Church now needs to rely on the local inhabitants of the mission field to navigate our next steps toward reaching more people with Jesus.

Our Healthy Church Initiative is our chosen process to help us figure out the direction and focus of our next steps. We are compiling information about ourselves and our mission field, and your participation is crucial. Many have read Simple Church to get an idea of some of the issues. So far 102 people have filled out the HCI survey that will be compiled and discussed at the all-church retreat January 12-14.  If you have not yet taken this online survey, please do so HERE.  With your help we will better understand how to canoe the mountains around us.  

See you at the navigation place Sunday,

Matt Gaston Lead Pastor

Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

Jesus Wept

Rachel Escamilla, our Perkins Intern, reminded us of this during our devotional in staff meeting the morning after the carnage in Las Vegas. It is John 11:35. Lazarus has died before Jesus arrives, and sisters Mary and Martha are simply beside themselves. It is not when Jesus is told of Lazarus’ death that Jesus cries. It is when Jesus sees Mary and Martha crying that he too weeps. This has been instructive and inspiring in Christian tradition ever since: Jesus moves in love and empathy as he cries with all who cry out and mourn.  

We have all been crying out and mourning. As we did with the adults at the nightclub in Orlando, Fla. in 2016, and as we did with the children and adults of Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Conn. in 2012, we have been crying out and mourning for those murdered and injured in Las Vegas. We have been crying  out to God: “How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (Psalm 13:2b).  “How long, LORD, must I call out for help, but you do not listen?  Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?” (Habakkuk 1:2). This is raw and this is real, just as it was for Martha and Mary. This is where we all begin in our grief. 

This Sunday, we will begin a spiritual conversation about putting God first in our lives. But we must also cry out and mourn together. To that end, there will be some different elements to worship including special music, prayers, candles, and an opportunity for all to write prayers on large paper panels in the Gathering Area for our sisters and brothers in Las Vegas. On Monday, these panels will be divided up, rolled up and mailed to the three United Methodist Churches in Las Vegas. We want them to know first and foremost that as they grieve they are not alone, and to remind them that for all of them in Las Vegas and for all of us here, “Jesus wept.” 

Breathe peace (John 16:33),

Matt Gaston Lead Pastor

Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor