HMC E-Newsletter February 18, 2010

Have you decided to read &/or listen to the New Testament yet? See Below

Call for Pitches
We at Houston Mennonite Church publish an equal opportunity Newsletter. We’d love to have your input in our newsletter. I’m not biased or anything, but I think you should consider including a piece for us to read. Suggestions include: a personal reflection on your faith journey, the death penalty, the wars we’re still fighting, immigration, parenting, creation care, updates on another issue dear to your heart, a look at Houston life and politics, a poem, a historical piece, what it feels like for you to tithe, a skill-based article (pastoral care, hospitality, teaching, etc…), your dreams for our church, a recipe from your pot-luck dish. You write it, we’ll publish it.
With all the technology and media we have today, let’s practice our Anabaptist heritage of everyone having a voice!
Special thanks to Linda Ensminger for her piece below! Stay tuned next week for more offerings from each other!!

De-cluttering our Lives, by Linda Ensminger
For the past few months and weeks, my husband, Doug, and I have preparing our house to be “put on the market”.   This is no easy task, since we have occupied this home for over 26 years!  Many things have come and gone, or should have, in terms of ‘stuff’.  It is amazing how much ‘stuff’ one accumulates without even trying too hard! I think it probably multiplies when we’re not looking!

 While this process is necessary, it is not always easy.  Both of us found it extremely unsettling at times and downright stressful most of the time.  There were closets, corners, shelves, garage, bedrooms, bathrooms, that all contained an assortment of things to deal with.  The easy part was identifying junk and just throwing it away.  However, you cannot just throw away junk without some consideration for where it is going, etc.  Then, there were clothes that no matter how many times you thought you would lose the weight, you will never, ever get into them.  That,too  was easy.  There is the re-sale shop who never questions why you are giving away these perfectly good clothes.  Then there were the too many cooking utensils, pie plates( one can really have too many), plastic cups, and six cans of roach spray.  Thankfully, my cleaning lady was only too happy to inherit some of my extra things.

 Then, there were the shelves in the back of the closet that hadn’t been moved since moving in day-26 years ago.  Sorting through those boxes brought back memories and some of those memories of the past were not so good.  Some things got saved, and some things made it into the trash can.  A quick look and a tear or two and then they were gone.  Hopefully, forever.    Suddenly being confronted with the past, then trying to move back into the present, while looking ahead to the future was harder than both of us thought it would be.

 The best part of the whole process is getting rid of the clutter, which is the first thing the realtor tells you to do.  It is very conducive in producing, not only a happy realtor, but a pleasant looking environment.  I am calm and happy when I walk around the rooms in my house now.   While it seems strange to think that another family will live here soon, I am very grateful for the years and the time that we have had here in this particular dwelling place.  I like the improvements and we are enjoying the fruits of our labors.  Sprucing up and de-cluttering are good things!

 This whole thing got me thinking that one should do the same kind of getting ready with our spiritual house-our souls and our hearts.  Many things get accumulated over time that get overlooked, shoved behind, forgotten, gather dust and dirt that really need to be dealt with.    These things tend to do more than just clutter our lives.  They keep us from being fully in the present, experiencing what God would have us to enjoy today.  They keep us tied up, distracted, and fussing over what to do with everything while ignoring what is really important.  It is scary and hard to get ready to be “put on the market”, but if we are serious about moving on into a spirit filled future, it is a ‘good thing’ to do some serious soul and heart improvements!

 Love to all, Linda Ensminger

Lent 2010:Holding On- Letting Go

What do you need to let go of?  

Our theme for Lent 2010, which kicked off yesterday with the celebration of Ash Wednesday, is HOLDING ON- LETTING GO. This allows us to ask ourselves the tough but necessary question, what are we clinging to that we need to let go of? A painful memory, bitterness, a certain self image, financial resources, spiritual or physical clutter, etc… Lent encourages us to do the inner work necessary to let go, or as Linda says above, to de-clutter our lives. But it takes us the next step as well, and invites us to hold on to that which is most dear to us. As my wife says about practices that invite you to let something go (like fasting, a traditional Lenten practice), it frees you to have the time for something else, perhaps something more valuable: scripture, God, others, yourself, missions.

The story of Jesus is the story of letting go and holding on. We see Jesus letting go of expectations, and holding dearly to his God, even to the point of death. Jesus renounces violence, leadership defined as power over people, oppression, etc… With each new gospel story we see Jesus cling to his image of the Kingdom of God come into our midst. Ultimately as Christians we are called to this same kind of love- a love that has no end.

While I find much about this theme that connects with my own personhood at this time, I also find much that connects with our corporate existence as citizens of planet earth. My longings this Lent include hopes that our world can let go of:

  • nuclear weapons and energy as sources of security (President Obama supports increased resources and development in both areas!)
  • violence as a means to peace (the troop increase in Afghanistan is evidence of our collective poor memory)
  • competition and comparing
  • exclusion of outsiders and those not like us
  • greed and the concept of “mine”

In place of these horrors, my Lenten longing includes hopes that our world can hold onto:

  • a sense of interdependence and working together
  • equality and the prophetic voice of justice and dignity for all
  • relationships and community health over profits
  • an ethic of welcome etched into our history that cries out “bring me your huddled masses yearning to be free.”
  • Religion that binds us together and doesn’t tear us apart; that encourages us to stand up for those who can’t stand on their own.
  • An ethic of service, caring, and love.

Lent is an intentional 40 day period where we enter the story of Jesus with the goal of transforming not just those 40 days, but every day. Whatever practices you adopt to help you let go or hold on to something this Lent, the ultimate goal is not to prove your willpower over 40 days. No! As June Meirs-Dreidger says below in her article, it is to be transformed to be like Jesus. In other words, the point of practices of letting go and holding on is to change our world to be less like the first list, and more like the second. To be the kind of people we want to be, and to be the kind of church we feel called to become, we will have to do more than commit to it. We will have to adopt practices that train us to be the type of people we want to be. So for the next 40 days, consider letting something go (fasting), or holding on to something (scripture, see below). May this Lenten journey be an opportunity for new beginnings, as you let go, and hold on!

Lenten Schedule

►Learning Christ by reading and/or listening to the New Testament. Mp3 copies of the NT are available the next several Sundays in English and Spanish, children’s and adult.
►Wednesday Nights: The Journey A mid-week small group gathering to share life, prayer, and reflect on Lenten scripture texts. 7PM Wednesdays at Houston Mennonite Church, beginning February 24th. Pack your Bible and perhaps a journal. Travel companions provided. Why stumble alone when you can walk together? Come share the Journey! Come to me, all who are weary and in need of rest.’ Jesus
►Maunday Thursday: Thursday April 1, 6:30-8PM.
►Good Friday: Friday April 2, 7PM Tennebrae Service of Shadows.
►Easter: Sunday April 4. 

Lenten Practices

You are encouraged to either pick up or let go of something this Lenten season, as a spiritual symbol of your walk with God. Check out the worship tab of our website for suggestions, or consider joining us for this collective practice:
Read and/or listen to the New Testament.
We invite you to “work out” your faith this Lenten season by listening to or reading the entire New Testament through the 40 days of Lent. Mp3 copies of the NT will be available the next several Sundays, for those who want to listen. Bible Reading guides will be available for those who want to read (also below). Of course, you can do a bit of both. The January 10th sermon talked about “making the impossible possible” by training ourselves to practice what we want to become. Make sure to pick up your copy of the NT on CD this Sunday: available in English, Spanish, adult and children’s.

To download free copies of the New Testament in various translations, languages, and drama or non-drama formats, check out: 

To purchase a $29 listening device called a “Bible Stick” see 

Day 1 – Matt. 1-7
Day 2 – Matt. 8-12
Day 3 – Matt. 13-18
Day 4 – Matt. 19-24
Day 5 – Matt. 25-28
Day 6 – Mark 1-6
Day 7 – Mark 7-11
Day 8 – Mark 12-16
Day 9 – Luke 1-4
Day 10 – Luke 5-9
Day 11 – Luke 10-13
Day 12 – Luke 14-19
Day 13 – Luke 20-24
Day 14 – John 1-5
Day 15 – John 6-9
Day 16 – John 10-14
Day 17 – John 15-19
Day 18 – John 20-Acts 4
Day 19 – Acts 5-9
Day 20 – Acts 10-15
Day 21 – Acts 16-20
Day 22 – Acts 21-26
Day 23 – Acts 27-Rom. 4
Day 24 – Rom. 5-10
Day 25 – Rom. 11-I Cor. 1
Day 26 – I Cor. 2-9
Day 27 – I Cor. 10-15
Day 28 – I Cor. 16-II Cor. 9
Day 29 – II Cor. 10-Gal. 4
Day 30 – Gal. 5-Phil. 1
Day 31 – Phil. 2-I Thes. 2
Day 32 – I Thes. 3-I Tim. 5
Day 33 – I Tim. 6-Heb. 1
Day 34 – Heb. 2-10
Day 35 – Heb. 11-James 5
Day 36 – I Pet. 1-I John 1
Day 37 – I John 2-Jude
Day 38 – Rev. 1-7
Day 39 – Rev. 8-15
Day 40 – Rev. 16-22


 Mennonite Response to Haiti

On Tuesday afternoon I helped to unload 36 Relief Kits and 17 handmade comforters into one of our classrooms here at church, all destined for Haiti through Mennonite Central Committee. These kits and comforters came to us from El Campo, Texas, 60 minutes from Houston down the SW Freeway (59). El Campo is home to a community of Church of God in Christ Mennonites, often referred to as Holdeman. There community is not that much larger than our own! They send their blessings.

Also, for a great article on Mennonite Central Committee’s work in Haiti post earthquake, check out this article at:


Connecting More Fully at HMC:
Sewers and Doers We will be meeting on this Saturday, February 20, at 9:30a.m. at the Annex.  Please join us.
►Ten Thousand Villages Sunday: Today is “Mennonite Sunday” at Ten Thousand Villages, a fair trade store in Rice Village, 2424 Rice Blvd Ste A. Consider shopping or volunteering at TTV as an expression of your faith. We do!
►A Talk about Honduras: 3-5:30PM today at HMC. Well-known Anthropoogist Adrienne Pine will speak on violence and survival in Honduras and the political state of the country after the  June 28th, 2009 coup. Sponsored by Patria Morazan and HMC. About this event, Patria Morazan says, “Based on an analysis of Honduran governance during the past six months, Pine argues that indeed, rather than saving the continent from hugo Chavez’s 21st Century Socialism, the military and corporate backers of the Honduran coup regime have pushed the region towards 21st Century Facism.
►THE JOURNEY: A new small group gathering will begin this Wednesday Night, 7PM & HMC focused on caring and sharing. All welcome. (see insert).
Next Sunday Gilberto Flores, the Texas-based Conference Pastor for Western District Conference will be with us for worship and will deliver the morning message. This will be Gilberto’s first visit with us on a Sunday morning since coming to WDC.
►Chili Fundraiser for International Missions: Sunday February 28th after worship. Join us as we discern who to partner with more deeply as an expression of our desire to support missions overseas. Speakers will be Frances Chavez, Judy Hoffhien and Kristi Long, who will each present a missions project to potentially support. The meal is provided and will be a fundraiser.

You and your friends are invited to join us for our Sunday School programs for people of all ages. 9:30AM each and every Sunday!

►ADULT Class: BOOK STUDY: Time Warped: First Century Time Stewardship for 21st Century Living. 9:30AM.
This book is on time-but not time management. You don’t need another organizational tool or trick. What you’ll study in these pages is our society’s inclination toward busyness-and what that means to the Christian seeking God and wholeness. Each chapter ends with discussion questions that will help you identify areas where you may need to do some repair work.
►Preschool (age 2-4): With Teacher Beth Wiebe.
►Grades 3-5:
With Teacher Linda Ensminger.
►Junior Youth (Grades 6-8):
With Teachers Alan Wilson, Kristi Long.
►High School: With Teachers Lynda and Roxie Voran, Marty Troyer.

** Children’s Church happens during worship in our children’s ministry room for kids 1-5. They hear a Bible story, sing, and play together.

Housing Needed
Relatives of former member Linda Kandel will be spending 11 weeks in Houston starting June 7 and are looking for temporary housing. A studio apt or even a room and bath would be o.k. Linda says this about her niece and the husband: Justin is doing a human resources internship with Shell Oil  on Fannin. He is a grad student at University of IL. Kirsten would be interested in finding something to do , work or volunteer. Justin and Kirsten are very neat young people. He is outgoing with lots of energy, she is creative and more shy. They are liberal Apostolic Christian, which is my background, and very interested in peace and justice.  They are looking into missions and have visited Sierra Leone for a possible place. Justin and Kirsten plan to join us for worship this summer when they can.

If anyone in the congregation has or knows of anything available please contact Linda Kandel or Pastor Marty. 

Typist (still) Needed:

If you are interested in helping type out the Lenten liturgies that we use in our bulletins, please let pastor Marty know and he will get you copies of what needs to be typed. We’re talking 400 words a week, with some formatting. Liturgy: calls to worship, benediction, etc…
The ideal candidate will receive rewards beyond what this world can provide.

Transformation and change  
by June Mears Driedger

“We must be the change we wish to see in the world (Mahatma Gandhi).”

“What are your disciplines for Lent?” my spiritual director asked me.
“Oh, I think I’m gonna give up watching ‘Star Trek’,” I told her. “I watch it every Monday evening with my roommates. It’s kinda a ritual for us but I think it will be good for me to give it up.”

She studied me for a several seconds then sharply responded: “If you do that you will miss the whole purpose of Lent. You will end up with more pride–you will be proud of yourself rather than seeking transformation.”

I was shocked at her response. I was shocked by her rebuke as she was a gentle, humorous woman. I also was shocked by her statement about Lent; I thought the whole purpose of Lent was to give something up. I’d always heard about people giving up chocolate for Lent or red meat or television watching, so I figured I was on the right track with the whole Lent thing. Lent was a new concept for me. In the church tradition I grew up in we never talked about Lent. We talked about Good Friday and of course, we celebrated Easter, but never Ash Wednesday or Lent, or even a period of preparation for Easter, the grandest day of the year.

The word “Lent” comes from Old English, meaning “spring” or “lengthen” as in the lengthening of the days. This is not the image of a spring of pleasant warmth but an image of change, of transformation, of conversion. In the lengthening brightness from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday–our Lenten spring–we are called to offer our brokenness to God. In offering our own brokenness we can then offer the world’s brokenness to God.

Lent spring is 40 days (plus Sundays), echoing the 40 days of temptation Jesus experienced. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes on Maundy Thursday of Holy Week. During these weeks before Easter, the church enters into a time of reflection, repentance, prayer and fasting, and renewal. Early in the history of the Christian church, new converts were baptized on the Saturday just before Easter Sunday. Prior to baptism, these new converts participated in an intensive spiritual formation which included instruction, mentoring, practice in spiritual disciplines, and the development of the disciplines or habits of service, justice, charity and witness. Also at this time, previously baptized persons reflected deeply on their own conversion and ongoing transformation. At the Saturday Easter vigil people renewed their baptismal commitments along with the new converts who were baptized for the first time. Everyone together participated in a festive communion celebration to welcome the arrival of Easter.

At a later Lent season, I decided to continue a discipline I began the preceding Advent and Christmastime. I was trying to follow Christ’s challenge to pray for our enemies. When I first began this discipline at Advent I thought it would be fairly easy and I would understand what it meant to pray for my enemies by New Year’s Eve. Little did I know this discipline would extend into the entire year to the following Advent! I did learn a lot during that year of intentionally praying for my enemies–I mostly learned how much transforming work God needed to continue doing in me. I came to understand that the change I wished to see in my enemies had to start within me.

As Lent begins again, I ask myself these same questions: what in me needs transforming? What transforming does God wish to do in me? What change needs to happen in me in order for change to happen beyond me? Sometimes I have a clear idea of what needs transforming and sometimes I can’t answer the question until well after Easter. Either way, what is essential is for me to have an open heart to ask the questions and a willingness to hear God’s answer.

The God-who-is-with-us is the faithful God who heals and restores and resurrects. We are restored. More importantly, we are transformed and made new. We are blessed. We are changed and can in turn bring transformation and change to those around us and beyond.

What in you needs transforming? What change does God wish to do in you?

This piece was originally published in PeaceSigns, a monthly E-zine from  Mennonite Church USA Peace and Justice Support Network.

Web Site Update
Have you checked out our church webpage lately? If so, you’re not alone! New pages on recent sermons, “our pastor,” and peace and justice have proved popular. One typical day this week included the following hits on our webpage, with visits per page in parenthesis: Welcome page (17), What to expect if you visit (5), Sermons (4), Calendar (3), Visitors and Guests (3), “Seeing the Face of God in the City” sermon (3), Sistern Mennonite Churches (2), Mennonite??? (1), “Coyotes and Crossing Borders” sermon (1), Order of worship (1), Welcome Home #4 sermon (3), Our pastor (1), and A Gospel Formed Community (1).

That same day people found our site by searching on an online search engine for the following terms: Houston Mennonite church (3), Mennonite sermons (3), Mennonite churches in Austin, Texas (2), Palm Sunday Houston 2010 (1), ash Wednesday in Houston (1), churches (1), Mennonite churches in Houston (1), marty troyer (2). 3 people went from our webpage to Mennonite Central Committee’s webpage. (Information such as this is available for every day!).

In the 13 months our webpage has been operational in its current format, we have had a total of 9464, many of those have come from folks who do not already attend HMC.


Order of Worship February 21,

Do you know of someone who would benefit from hearing that there are things in life worth holding on to other than stuff, and that it might be time to let go of something? Consider inviting them to church. Here’s one way that might feel more comfortable to you and them: Tell them something your faith helped you to let go of, and tell them about our church Lenten theme. Let them know where and when we meet. Tell them to check us out online for themselves, so they know what they are getting into before they come. Try it, it might be just what they need!

* Call to Worship                          
* Opening Songs                                                                      
        Come, now is the time to worship                                                           
SJ #9
        O God our help in ages past                                         HWB #328

* Affirmation of Faith                                                    HWB #710
Scripture Reading                       Deuteronomy 26:1-11                       OT Pg 180
Children’s Time (Children 1-5 dismissed for Children’s Church)
Sharing joys and concerns, Prayer                                                          
Scripture Reading                     Luke 4:1-13                                   NT Pg 61

Prayer of Confession
Song of Response             From the depths                           HWB #136       
Offering & Prayer
Welcoming of Visitors and Announcements                                            
* Benediction Song    I know not why God’s wondrous love       HWB #162
* Benediction

Thank you to the following for sharing your gifts!                              
Worship Leader: Gloria Wilson; Song Leader: Linda Ensminger; Scripture Reader: Hannah Troyer; Children’s Message: Margaret Gehman; Children’s Church: Elizabeth Melendez and Gloria Wilson;  Message: Pastor Marty Troyer; Accompanist: Linda Washburn; Sound: Jim Emmert and Nick Gehman.  NEXT WEEK: Children’s Message: Marty Troyer; Song Leader: Jim Emmert; Pianist: Margaret Gehman.

Looking for a Trustee: Peggy Campbell

My friend George O’Malley received some inheritance money a couple of years ago.  George decided to make a small start on a fund for college (or what other needs three of the children might have upon reaching adulthood).  He set up, with Bank of America, a Fund for Minors account of $500. each for Jose Pena, Rosa Betancourt, and Maria Pena. 

George would very much like to have someone else in the church take over the role of adult signer for the accounts.  One factor is that, knowing himself to be bipolar, he would like to protect against any future temptation to access the fund himself.  Another factor is that George’s health is compromised.  If he died before they reached 18, there would be legal hassles in their accessing the money.  A final factor is that he would prefer someone present here in Houston to be responsible for it.  He is planning to move to Round Rock when I go. 

The duties of this responsibility are minimal — receive the statements from Bank of America.  If you choose, the job could be turned over to someone else at a later date.  Unfortunately, there can be only one adult signer for the accounts.  Please contact me or Pastor Marty if you want to consider this.  Thanks so much for your prayerful consideration of this need.

Pastoral Care

Do you want a person to talk with about something in your life? Got a question or insight into faith or scripture you want to kick around? Have you been sitting on a great idea for the church? Need prayer? Want to get to know your pastor better?
As your pastor, I’m available to meet with you at the office or at a time and spot that works better for you. Just let me know when and where! Monday’s through Thursdays, and weekends by appointment. Marty Troyer, cell:(713)835-9436, church office (713)464-4865,, also available on facebook.

Additional Information

HMC E-Newsletter is compiled by Houston Mennonite Church pastor Marty Troyer.

All are invited and encouraged to share articles, personal updates, stories, announcements, pictures, etc… to include in the weekly updates!

Know of others who would like to receive HMC E-Newsletter e-mails from Houston Mennonite?  Have them send name and e-mail to Marty at 

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