Please Won't You Be My Neighbor?

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For years that's what the late Rev. Fred Rogers sang as an invitation to millions of children and parents who watched his intelligent and award-winning TV show on PBS. Fred was onto something. "Mister Rogers Neighborhood" was created in 1968 when the world seemed to be coming apart at the seams. We had few handles on how to act differently in a very divided world. Teaching children civility by being a neighbor seemed a good place to begin. 50 years later it would seem we need to begin again.

Thanks a member's belief and generosity, we have joined The Neighboring Movement. On September 28, a group from our church will meet with seven other churches for an orientation and coaching session on how to think about being a neighbor. We will do that three times in eight months. In between, each church's group will meet weekly for an hour to learn, discuss and apply solid principles for "loving your neighbor" (Matthew 22:34-40).

Our Healthy Church Initiative (HCI) prescriptions challenge us to reach new people in our mission field. Consequently we are seeking persons to join this class and learn better to do just this - right in our neighborhood. We have members living in every part of our mission field, from Plano to Lavon and Fairview to Richardson. Be part of the movement. Contact the Rev. Diane Presley to join ... right where you live.

Blessings,

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Better Together

Our Crossfire Youth Band led worship alongside Nigel Eastman during the Sunday Night Life Kick-off Celebration on Sunday, Sept. 8.

Our Crossfire Youth Band led worship alongside Nigel Eastman during the Sunday Night Life Kick-off Celebration on Sunday, Sept. 8.

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One of the things folks noted Sunday night was how good it felt that the Gathering Area was full for dinner, worship and just being community together as kids ran and played and adults caught up with one another ... and all of this even as the Cowboys were playing their first meaningful football game.

One of the things folks noted in the various classes offered Sunday night was how good it felt to be in a good-sized class with others around the same topic ... or exercise as was the case with Margie Terrell’s yoga class.

One of the things folks noted at our Mission Together Sunday was just that: how good it was to be together in mission and together as families in mission.

One of the things noted by folks regularly during our renovation work is how good it has been to sit closer together in chairs in worship; how they have enjoyed getting acquainted with more folks and feeling more energy from that in worship.

We will feel that again as over 125 people gather for our Mission Charity Golf Tournament next Monday and over 100 people volunteer to help park some 3-4000 cars during the Balloon Festival next Friday through Sunday. At $10 per car, that is a lot of money for missions that we support. Be sure to sign up for a shift here.

As the writer of Acts observed, the believers were found day and night together, sharing. They were found together in the temple, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. “And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (Acts 2:43-47). It simply is biblical: we are better together. See you Sunday, Monday and next week in ... the Together Place.

Connecting God and Grace to Self and Community,

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Dorian Gives Us Pause to Reflect

from FoxNews.com

from FoxNews.com

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... so the potter started on another (piece) as seemed best to him. -Jeremiah 18:4

It has been tragic and fascinating to watch the development and devastation of Hurricane Dorian as it plowed across the Bahamas and is now bending up along the Atlantic seaboard. At one point packing 185 mph winds with 200 mph gusts, it has been among the strongest of hurricanes on record. We have experienced more record-breaking storms globally in more recent years as global temperature and ocean levels rise. This creation drama, alongside the more clearly man-made drama of mass shootings, leaves us wringing our hands, lighting candles and crying out, "What can be done in the face of such onslaught?"

The Bible suggests a first step: work with God.

Over and against our feelings of helplessness in the face of these disasters, we are only truly helpless when we forget that, "the Lord is my shepherd," that "the Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever," and that the Lord is the potter; we are the clay. Once we remember that relationship, that partnership, that power and possibility, then suddenly we do not feel so overwhelmed and helpless in the face of onslaught.

A long-time friend and counselor reminds me that in counseling the "Why" questions are draining because too often there are no clear answers that satisfy. Instead, he advises, we should work with "What" questions. What happened? What did I learn? What might I do differently going forward? "What" questions empower us for positive steps forward.

Dorian and Jeremiah give us opportunity to pause, reflect and ask, "What might we learn, not only about these disasters, but more importantly what God might do with us in the face of these disasters?" I will be working with Jeremiah 18:1-11 this Sunday with some help from our third graders and their new Bibles given by the church. Let's worship, listen, pray, discern and act together with God, our Creator and Re-Creator.

See you in God's house,

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Neighboring as Prelude to Neighboring

"But the man wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?'" Luke 10:29

"But the man wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?'" Luke 10:29

On a hot Saturday in Plano 20 of us were completely turning over an overgrown yard for a retired veterans couple in their 70s. Project leader and Finance Chair Rick Billings remarked to me with a smile on his sweat-covered face, "MAN I had forgotten how much I MISS this!"

Rick said what some 250 people felt as they worked Saturday and Sunday on behalf of seniors in retirement homes, prisoners in East Texas, the poor who find grace at the Salvation Army and Minnie's Pantry, the animals at the Plano Animal Shelter, and the dozens of people whose lives will be extended by our 32 blood donors. Thank you to Mission Chairs Leslie Harris and Debbie Ison who organized us for Mission Together.

As Rick inferred, it is easy to get away from this prime directive that Jesus gave us. In Luke's story, the legal expert knew what he was supposed to do - love God with everything and love the neighbor automatically. But he wanted to hedge his bet; he wanted a loophole to step through if he didn't like the work or the people Jesus was giving him to love. In so doing, it becomes easy to forget to do it and forget how to do it. As with our Mission Together, the Neighboring Movement that begins next month reminds us again how to be a neighbor.

Under the Rev. Diane Presley's coordination in September, a group of 15-20 will meet every week for 24 weeks and three times with people from other churches to learn and practice what our grandparents did automatically - be a neighbor to the people on either side of your home and across the street. It will be easy to learn and fulfilling to live out. This group will likely be the first of several to go through this curriculum, reach out to our neighbors, and have a lot of us saying, "MAN I had forgotten how much I MISS this."

If you are interested in being part of this first Neighboring Movement Group, contact Diane or me,. We have some God and grace to connect with our community.

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Looking for the Good

Antonio Basco hugs a mourner. People came from across the country and waited in 100-degree heat to attend his wife's service.   JONATHAN LEVINSON / OPB

Antonio Basco hugs a mourner. People came from across the country and waited in 100-degree heat to attend his wife's service.

JONATHAN LEVINSON / OPB

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On Sunday I told the story of Antonio Basco, 61, who lost his wife Margie in the hate shooting in El Paso. He feared no one would come to her memorial service, only to discover 1500 people in line to honor his wife and hug on him. It was for me a timely reminder that we are all surrounded by a "multitude of witnesses," both heavenly and earthly who are looking and rooting for the good to be done in our troubled world. Well, there is a P.S. to that story.  I am obliged to member David Wille for sending along the news link.

Turns out that on the day of Margie's memorial service, thieves stole Antonio's only vehicle, his mobile car wash van and trailer. Upon recognition of his plight, people who look for the good, were moved to action. A local car dealer gave him the keys to a new van and another benefactor bought him a new trailer and power sprayer rig.

 At our best, we Christians look for the good to do and do it. This Saturday and Sunday, we are giving ourselves similar opportunities as the body of Christ. On Saturday, we will be helping a married couple in their 70s with the repairs and yard work of their home. On Sunday we will be looking for the good and doing it in a dozen other initiatives after our one worship service at 10 a.m.  And this time we’re including projects for adults and children to do together. You may sign up HERE. I hope you will make a point to be there because there is so much good to do.

So come to church with your work clothes on and water bottles in hand, enjoy a bit of breakfast, praise God and then "go out unto all the world," looking for the good and doing it in the name of Jesus. 

Amen - "so be it."

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Won't You Be My Neighbor?

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The Rev. Fred Rogers sung that question for years on his cutting-edge, award-winning show that was for kids of all ages. He believed strongly in Jesus' and the Bible's mandate to reach out to every person of every type to lovingly invite them to be our neighbor. As a society we have largely forgotten how to do that and do it well. In fact, as an increasingly fearful society, we tend to avoid the opportunities before us to begin those introductory holy conversations. As the church of Jesus Christ, we are about to learn what our grandparents did automatically: how to be a good neighbor.

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By unanimous Church Council approval and a generous member's gift of $2000, our church will join eight other area churches in the Neighboring Movement. Some 20 people from our church will meet weekly studying, praying and learning how to intentionally be a good neighbor to the people right on the block where they live - in Plano, Parker, Wylie, Allen, Murphy, Fairview, Sachse, Richardson - our mission field. They will meet three times with similar groups from the eight other churches including FUMC Dallas, to be coached and encouraged together in this strategy to meet our mission field where they live. This initiative meets the goals of our Healthy Church Initiative to reach new families in our mission field and Connect God and Grace to Self and Community.

If you have curiosity about this outreach strategy, give me a call or contact the Rev. Diane Presley, dipresley@hotmail.com. We are now creating this group for the fall. The first cohort meeting with other churches happens in late September. I am confident about the outcomes the Spirit will bring about as we learn to ask the stranger, "Won't you be my neighbor?

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God's Justice Rolls Down ... with an Assist From Us

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Sitting stream-side in Colorado each cool morning this week, Bible and journal in hand, I have felt so very far away from the Texas landscape and summer heat. But the events of the past weekend in Dayton and El Paso have kept the anguish in Ohio and Texas clinging tightly to my heart and prayers daily. They fill my prayer journal pages.

Losing myself in the gurgling sound of water tumbling irrepressibly from the Rocky Mountain tops to the Gulf of Mexico, I am reminded of the prophet Amos who must have pondered similar waters when he proclaimed, "let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like a ever-flowing stream" (Amos 5:24). Amos comprehended correctly that regardless of the pain and injustice that we perpetrate upon ourselves and others, God's graciousness and God's justice will not be deterred; it will not be damned up. It will most certainly roll forward.

Curiously though, ever since the Garden of Eden, God chose US to be partners in this venture - collaborators with God to bring about this justice in the world. God could certainly do it by Godself, but that would be controlling, even dictatorial. Instead, God spoke through the prophets and came in the person of Jesus to show us how to actively help God's justice roll down more freely by binding the wounded, loving the stranger, and opening floodgates in broken systems that dam up justice intended for all. In God's economy, in the covenant God has made with each of us through our baptism, God needs an assist from us, the Church - an assist that goes beyond prayers and moves into action, just as surely as the ever-moving waters of this Colorado stream, rolling forward.

Christ's partner with you,

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Sacred Conversations

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This past Sunday, as we woke up to the news of yet another deadly shooting, this one in Dayton, Ohio, some began to get ready for church for the first time in a long time. Others were preparing for church as was their habit. All were arriving at their destinations with a heaviness of heart.  All were tired and sad and angry that they had to pray again over mass shootings. Some were asking, “Why does God allow so many bad things to happen?” Others were asking, “What can we, as people of faith, do to stop this violence?” 

I said on Sunday, that it has become more and more difficult for us to have conversations with those who think differently from the way we think.  If, however, we, as people of faith, want to be a part of stopping the violence, we must be able to talk with one another.  We have to go further than professing our belief in the equality of race and gender; we have to speak out and together take the next practical steps, whether that is mission work, protest, or other action.  As Jessica Aziz of Grace Avenue UMC, Frisco, says, “We must have face-to-face sacred conversations and spark those throughout North Texas, especially with people who are different from us, whomever we encounter in classrooms, at work or on the streets.”    

I eagerly anticipate being a part of those face-to-face sacred conversations here at FUMC Plano, and learning how best to give feet to those sacred conversations.  I hope to begin some of those sacred conversations with those of you who sign up for “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?” beginning September 8, at 6 p.m., and later in November and December, when we tackle the question, “Why Is It So Hard to Talk About Race?”

Being here at FUMC Plano is, as I knew it would be, a blessing and an opportunity to serve. I am grateful to be in ministry with you,

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Judith Reedy
Associate Pastor

Mission Together ... to our (local) Community

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Last week I defined what we mean by “community” in our disciple-making vision statement, “Connecting God and Grace to Self and Community.” I said that we intentionally enable growing disciples  to connect God and grace to others in our local, regional and global communities. I enumerated several active ways in which hundreds of people from our church do exactly this and in doing so, grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ and the world which Christ came to save. In fact, they are active instruments of this ongoing saving healing work that Christ is doing in the world today.

The feedback was so positive after our inaugural Mission Together experience the Sunday after Easter on April 28, we decided to schedule a second opportunity on the weekend of August 24 and 25. Mission Co-Chairs Leslie Harris and Debbie Ison, aided by the Rev. Diane Presley, are designing an array of hands-on opportunities that people of all ages can do together. I often say children learn more from actions than from words. So, we have multi-generational discipleship in mission. This will enable adults to work alongside our kids modeling discipleship by doing “mission together.” Be sure to sign up HERE with your family, Sunday school class or small group to be part our outreach after worship. We are collecting supplies for two organizations, Minnie’s Food Pantry and the Plano Animal Shelter. You can download a list HERE.

As we live more intentionally into a mission-focused perspective as a church, we make outreach and discipleship “the main thing (Covey)." We will worship on Sunday, August 25, in one service together for one hour before going and spending several hours reaching, helping and serving our neighbors the way Jesus teaches us (see Matthew 25: 34-40.) I hope you will make worship on August 25 a priority for it will be one of those rare times when we are all together.

Connecting God and Grace to Self and Community,

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“Community” = Local, Regional, Global

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When we talk about our discipleship process we say we connect God and grace to self and community. What do we mean by “community”? For many, that word implies the local, usually smaller area of our population. For example, I live in the community of Murphy or Lucas or Parker, or the Douglas community within Plano. Certainly, as we chose to use the word “community” in our Vision Statement we had that in mind, and we enable growing disciples in our church to connect God and grace locally through avenues like our recent Patriotic Pops Concert, the Plano Overnight Warming Station on cold winter nights, our Citizenship classes, and our Quilts for Kids ministry just to name a few. A group of men assisted with floor installation in a home recently and will build outdoor benches to be used by Memorial Elementary when school starts up again.

Our understanding of “community” also includes our regional community of Texas and the United States. Recently we enabled growing disciples in our church to connect God and grace through leadership of camp at Bridgeport; college-age and middle school mission trips to Victoria, Texas, for post-hurricane home repair; and a Crossfire Youth Choir tour to New Mexico, Arizona and California.

Our Honduras Mission Team: Mark McLain, Kevin Davenport, Alan England, Will McLain,, and Nigel Eastman. They will travel to the La Mosquitia region of Honduras July 28-Aug. 4.

Finally, we understand “community” to be global. Sunday we blessed Kevin Davenport, Will McLain, Alan England, Nigel Eastman, and Mark McLain as they depart for Honduras with supplies to help with children’s health and home construction. This work aligns with the work of Reach Out Honduras and its directors, Alex and Laura Waits. Laura is the daughter of members Jim and Dee Parker. Tommy and Heidi Lawrence and members of their Sunday School class have been to Honduras as well in support of this growing educational ministry, growing in their discipleship as they connect God and grace where those are vitally needed.

In deploying growing disciples locally, regionally and globally, we step in the footsteps of the first disciples who Jesus charged to go to “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth” and be witnesses of love for the Christ we serve.

Thank you ALL for your service to our WHOLE community.

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