HMC E-Newsletter November 20, 2012  

Thanksgiving Meal: Thanksgiving Thursday, 3PM at HMC. Are you spending Nov. 22 in Houston?  If so, invite your friends and come enjoy a community Thanksgiving meal at HMC.  The celebration will start at 3:00.  Turkey and stuffing will be provided, so bring a side dish or dessert to share. Let’s rejoice and be grateful together. Hope to see you there!

The Gospel’s Conversation with my Weary Soul
You think you know what you’re going to get when walking in on a new worship experience.

Not this time. It was a typical enough service, with nice looking people, children running around, familiar songs, warm coffee. Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing noteworthy; until they started passing the microphone around. Then everything changed. A cancer update less about diagnosis and treatment and more about anxiety management and how faith was (and wasn’t!) functioning. A moral dilemma solved by riding bike as an expression of faith. A struggling parent whose prayer/spiritual life was also being eroded. A particularly challenging passage of scripture. Candles lit for unnamed concerns, a lamp for the people of Iran. Anger expressed at the president, followed by humble hope-filled prayer.

Like the Psalmist crying my soul “melts away for sorrow” (Psalm 119:28) or prophet with “a faint spirit” (Isaiah 61:8), each in our own way understand how fragile life and faith, soul and body can be. And if life doesn’t erode our faith, busyness will, or boredom, or relying on a pastor to believe for you, or the temptation of your siren’s song of choice, or…. Well, just about anything.

What can we do to regain lost faith? Or stop its erosion? Or find stability in the midst of the storm?

The author of the New Testament book called “Hebrews” suggests that the spiritual disciplines are God’s way of allowing the gospel to influence and sustain our souls. Here’s 3 spiritual disciplines suggested in Hebrews 10:19-25:

We’re invited time and again to bring all of ourselves to God: “my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus…let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” (Hebrews 10:19-22, see also 4:15-16). This is pretty easy when the “all” is positive and happy. Less so when it involves alcoholism, depression, shame, social-media addiction, past wounds, parenting struggles, or faith doubts. It’s complicated by the magic power most church front doors possess in locking out our secret and private selves, leaving us to gather and worship with nothing but our public persona. Complicated, but not negated. The church I shared about above has reached a striking level of community authenticity. But first and foremost, the invitation from Hebrews is to a spiritual authenticity between you and God. No emotion, no thought, no doubt, no sin is more than God can handle or wants to be involved in.

We’re also need to allow the gospel to dialogue with our weary soul: “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).” That which we believe, and trust, and hope comes to life only when it rubs shoulders with what we’re living, feeling, and thinking. We must time and again be oriented to Gospel, to the beautiful new world God is creating in the midst of the old, and to the worth-ness of God above all else.  ”Holding fast” may most powerfully take the form of allowing the gospel to “read” us, rather than us reading it. Indeed, for me, faith grows when the gospel is teacher and my life the curriculum; formation rather than information. And no preacher or devotional book can do that hard work for us.

But neither are we alone in that hard work.

We’re also invited to bring all of ourselves to community, and to empower others to do the same.   Hebrews invites, “and let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another (10:24-25).” The level of relationship necessary in order to effectively “provoke one another to love and good deeds” is quite deep. Beyond platitudes and generalities, such depth includes open sharing of what “stops” you in being obedient to Jesus, and a willingness to humbly dig deeper into each other’s blind spots (what others can discern about us that we can’t see ourselves). This may happen in a more public setting as in the worship described above, in a small group, over coffee, or amongst friends committed together to grow in Christ-likeness. But encouragement is never general. It is always specific, always personal, and always active.

Our souls will melt and our bodies will decay. Our faith will be tested and our patience rocked. Not because we’re weak, or special; but because we’re human. It’s happened before, it’s probably happening now, and it will definitely happen again. And when the rains come, and the floods wash past us, it will hurt. But it need not destroy us.

Preached November 18, 2012 at Houston Mennonite Church. Join us next Sunday at 10:45AM!

Please share this with your FB friends off our church website.

Connecting More Fully at HMC:          

Congregational Meeting: Sunday December 2, Meal will be provided. Please bring bowls for soup!
Christmas Banquet: Sunday night December 16, 5pm at HMC. Come enjoy good food, music and more.
COLD WEATHER ITEMS NEEDED: Marty’s sermon last Sunday really spoke to me. How we treat the “least of these” is a reflection of our faith. Since the weather has turned colder, there is a huge need for winter coats, blankets, jackets, sweaters, and other clothing to keep folks warm. It is hard enough to be homeless in normal Houston weather, but brutal when it is raining or the temperatures fall. So, clean out the closets and donate what is not being used in your home and start the holiday season by sharing. All sizes of both men and women’s clothing are needed and will be greatly appreciated.
ART SUPPLIES NEEDED: The Peace Club will be helping the children with crafts at the daycare center during the Relief Sale. One project will be making turkeys using pinecones, feathers, bobble eyes, etc. If you have any extra of these items, please bring them on Nov. 10 to supplement what is available. If anyone over 12 would like to volunteer, we can use the energy and help. Just stop by and join in the activity.
Are you on Facebook? We are! “Like” Houston Mennonite Church, The Texas Mennonite Sale and Auction, and/or The Peace Pastor today! Thenclick “share” so that all your followers know about it too!
Mennonite Central Committee Penny Power: Please bring your change to church for Penny Power. Proceeds this year go to relief and development work in Mexico through Mennonite Central Committee.
Christmas Banquet: Sunday night December 16 at HMC.

Eat the Turkey, not each other: How to Survive Thanksgiving Dinner

There’s more to look forward to this Thanksgiving than a second slice of pecan pie when you’re [finally] alone in the kitchen.

For starters, every road in Texas is officially a speed trap for the next week, and the Highway Patrol intends to feast.

And then there’s this: you’re getting ready for hours of extroverted time with people who believe differently, vote differently, function differently, parent differently, eat differently, relax differently, entertain differently, pray differently, and expect differently than you do. Let’s face it, we like our routines, and Thanksgiving is nothing if not unusual. It’s not that we don’t love these people, we’re just not used to interacting with them. And most aren’t used to dealing with conflict daily. Which means Thursday is as ripe for anxiety as it is for giving thanks.

From my experience with FaithWalking, here’s how to eat the turkey and not each other.

Remember that anxiety is contagious, but you don’t have to pass it on. Everyone at table Thursday is connected, and each person’s anxiety can and will ripple throughout the room. For instance, if the turkey isn’t done on time the host may visibly or emotionally vibrate with anxiety. You have a choice to conduct that energy, or to soak it up and allow it to stop with you. Easier perhaps when its a turkey than when dad flips out over your election vote, but the principle is the same. Choose to absorb, not conduct, the anxiety in the room. And pay attention to your own anxiety (clinched fists, tightened back, drooping posture, etc…) so that you can be its master and not the other way around.

Be gracious with people’s blind spots. Old roles and patterns of behavior may be on full display, as family reunions have a tendency to call out the best and worst of family systems. And much that you will see and experience will be blind to those who are saying and doing it. The image to the right explains this well. When your awareness of someone’s behavior exceeds their awareness of their own behavior, you have a lot of power! Use it well. Yes, you can predict who will explode and leave the table (like always). No, your parents still don’t want your financial advice no matter how brilliant. This is not the time to bring up personality traits, point out glaring weaknesses, or say anything that includes “you always!” or “you never!” Yes, you can see it as plain as day, but if they haven’t been transformed in the last 30 years, don’t expect it to happen today. If you’re really itching to make a point, read more here first.

Say what is so for you, but take a learning posture. In other words, be civil. I love the definition of civility from Tomas Spath, “Civility is claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process.”   Speak the truth, tell your story and don’t let anyone run all over you. The Jesus ethic does not demand you loose arguments. Honesty is essential. But so is granting others the same amount of respect you desire. Don’t in any way hide your beliefs, but at the same time stay engaged with those you disagree with. Taking a learning, rather than a “teaching” posture, can often diffuse the anxiety and shows respect for those around the table, even if you experience them as “enemies.” (Remember what Jesus had to say about enemies?)

If insults start to fly, just take it. Of course you’re right, you’re absolutely right! Doesn’t matter what you’re right about (ObamaCare, Benghazi, the ridiculousness of a Red Dawn remake) just shut up and take it anyway. Why? Because your relationship with these crazy people is more important than being right. Trust me on this one, it doesn’t matter who wins the argument, you’re family. You can’t control what anyone else will say or do, but you can control your own actions and anxiety. We are, after all, people who claim not only to “believe in” Jesus, but people who actually believe him when he lays out for us a strategy of non-retribution for the healing of both the human heart and the world community. So if you’re insulted, don’t insult in return.

Finally, Apologize and forgive. Whether you’ve been the one who pushed too far or they were, Jesus tells us in Matthew it’s our responsibility to initiate reconciliation. Cool off first, eat some pie, watch the second half, whatever. But say the words. Make it right. There’s a reason we leave dessert for last, it covers a multitude of sins.

And, if by chance you learn something important about conflict, come back here Friday and let us all know what it is! Thanks.

This is the most popular post our church website has ever had in one day.
It was also posted in Marty’s Houston Chronicle blog, The Peace Pastor which you can see here.

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Worship Order for November 18


Opening Scripture       Psalm 93

*Opening Prayer

*Songs of Praise and Celebration

SJ #1 We sing to you, O God

SJ #112 I owe my Lord a morning song

*Offering and Offertory

Scripture Presentation Revelation 1:4b-9 and John 18:33-37

Children’s Time

Message          Ascribing worth to God who alone is worthy                                                             

Song of Response                               Please choose a song of Response

*Sharing & Prayer

Connecting More fully

Song of Comissioning             HWB #86 Now thank we all our God

Commissioning Prayer

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, church office (713)464-4865,, also available on Facebook.


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