Houston Harvey Relief

I’ve contact some of my friends who serve in various churches in the Houston area, first to make sure they were okay and second to find out what we as Tapestry can do to help. As I paraphrased Shakespeare to my friend J.T. (blessed be his name) “Tapestry may be small but we are fierce”. In other words, we may be a small church but we give wonderfully.

When you see the yellow hats yellow shirts you are seeing the SBDR

Thus far the pastors I have messaged have said they are in the rescue phase and what they really need are boats and places for people to stay after they were rescued. The rebuilding won’t begin till the waters recede. Therefore, my number one recommendation is still that you give through the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief agency. You can do that here (https://missionaries.namb.net/projects/full/hurricane-harvey-response). When you give to the SBDR you will be providing immediate help as well as resources later on. The SBDR will stay in the area for a long while and will feed a ton of people. In addition, they will help with mudout work, chainsaw crews, laundry facilities, shower trailers and more. If you are interested the Minnesota/Wisconsin Baptist Convention (of which we are a part) is already planning on sending some SBDR groups down. Some of us have been trained by the SBDR and more of us can be for the future.

Next I am going to recommend that a list some local organizations. Giving local is a great avenue because the local groups will be there once the immediate emergency need recedes. The national groups will leave. The local groups won’t. These local groups are the ones who will be dealing with the long term repercussions of the flooding.

Here’s the list”

Galveston County Food Bank: http://www.galvestoncountyfoodbank.org/

Corpus Christi Food Bank: http://www.foodbankcc.com/

Houston Food Bank: http://www.houstonfoodbank.org/donate/

Texas Diaper Bank: http://www.texasdiaperbank.org/

Austin Pets Alive is a no-kill shelter taking in Harvey pets: https://www.austinpetsalive.org/hurricane-harvey-evacuatio…/

Portlight is a local grassroots organization that provides disaster aid to the disabled specifically: http://www.portlight.org/home.html

The Coalition for the Homeless is an umbrella organization coordinating shelters and orgs across the city: https://www.homelesshouston.org/take-action/donate/

https://www.unitedwayhouston.org/flood/flood-donation

HT to  Chad Schoonmaker via Megan Kelly for the list.

Some of these local groups will begin to put out wishlists of what they need. When I see them I will post them. If you see any please pass them on to me.

Let me end with a plea to not give to just anyone who calls you. It saddens me to acknowledge the fact that when some are in serious need there are others who just see the need as an opportunity for their scams. There are going to be people who use the misery of the people of the Houston area as an opportunity to scam those who like to help people in need. Don’t give money to groups you don’t know or ot that isn’t recommend to you by someone one you trust. There are phone calls and emails going out now pleading for money to help Houston, and some of phone calls and emails are just scammers taking advantage of the fact that we like to help our fellow human when we see genuine need. Don’t stop helping, but be wise. Never let the scammers keep you from giving because it is better to be scammed than to turn your back on a genuine need. Still I would rather our money and resources go to the right places so be smart. Gentle as doves and wise as serpents.

The Tapestry Leadership Team will be discussing what we can do as an organization, but there is no need for you to wait on us. Give and give well … my small but fierce friends. :)

Don’t be a Sucker

The U.S. War Department thought it was pretty important in 1943 for U.S. Citizens to be able to spot fascism when they saw it. So they created this film to remind people not to be a sucker. Seems pertinent today.

We human beings are not born with prejudices. Always they are made for us. Made by someone who wants something. Remember that when you hear this kind of talk. Somebody is going to get something out of it. And it isn’t going to be you.

Don’t be a sucker.

Happy Birthday Dr. Barth

Today is the birthday of Dr. Karl Barth, the brilliant Swiss Theologian. He would have been 131 years old today. I would encourage you to to read or listen to something Barthian today. You can read the Barmen Confession here (statement from evangelical churches in German against the Nazi control church of the state in 1934), any of a number of his works can be found to read for free at Tyndale seminary’s Karl Barth reading room (a public domain version of The Humanity of God can be found there and it is wonderful), and you can listen to the 1962 Warfield Lectures at Princeton (I love the question and answer section primarily because it reminds me that seminarians have apparently always been kiss ups).

To quote Dr. Barth:

Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.

I personally am joyful for how Dr. Barth has helped me to connected with the God Who desires to be known.

Kicking To the Middle

I really enjoy reading and listening to Malcolm Gladwell. “Insight porn” is the name I have heard used regarding his genre of writing, since the thrill of similar books seems to be the “aha” moments that happen through such books. Gladwell references in several of his works a study ((This study is from Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame – you can hear the Freakonmics episode on this study here.)) studying what area of the goal a penalty kick is most effective and where most soccer or football players will kick a penalty kick or which area goalkeepers will dive to attempt the block. This study indicates that the most likely chance of success for a penalty kick is kicking the ball to the middle of the goal rather than to either one of the sides. Want to guess where most players kick the ball or guess where the goalkeepers usually go for the block? If you said “not the middle” then you are correct and you win the prize((sorry to tell you that there is no prize)).  Gladwell speculates that the cost of looking like you aren’t trying as hard or looking foolish is greater to the players than the reward of the increased likelihood of a goal. Therefore the players kick to the sides rather than the middle where they are more likely to score and thus do a better job.

I bring this up because I struggle with the same thing every now and then.  Sometimes I am more concerned with looking like I am working hard than actually working hard. The current specific instance occurs within one of the companies that I chaplain for, but I could also list pastoring and other situations if I felt the urge.

The best and most meaningful conversations I have in one of my companies consistently happen in the break room. I’m not sure what it is about the physical structure of the building, the culture of the company, or my own behavior but every time I take a book and sit in the break room really meaningful conversations about serious needs happens. I joked with the head of the company that I should just announce my presence and go straight to the break room instead of doing my rounds. So why don’t I do this?

Well because of my own fear of looking like I’m not doing anything. I know that I am a more effective chaplain when I sit in the break room, but I believe I look like a more effective chaplain when I am walking around the company. If I were in a signalling mindset at the moment I would say that I was more concerned with signalling that I am an busy than I was actually being effective. That’s why I am posting this here and I have discussed this with the head of the company. I am trying to be more concerned with being effective than I am with looking effective. The plan is set. All I need to do now is pick a book and go to the break room. I am going to be more concerned with being effective, than looking effective.

Shibboleth

The messages I deliver during Tapestry’s Sunday morning gatherings are usually structured around one book of the Bible at a time. We don’t usually go topical, but it does happen every now and then. This morning I thought it was important to address acting like a follower of Christ in the midst of the results of Friday’s executive order affecting immigration/refugee. Loving our neighbor is supposed to be a shibboleth of the Christian church.

The audio from the introduction to this morning’s gathering is below. Please forgive two things: 1) the audio quality is poor because it is from the room mic, not my mic, and 2) I realized while I was reading from Judges 12:4-6 that I initially mispronounced “shibboleth” as “sibboleth” and decided on the fly that it would cause confusion with two words that sound very similar if I stopped and corrected myself mid-reading. Therefore, I continued the passage swapping “shibboleth” with “sibboleth” and vice versa.

Threads“, several of you asked “what can we do?” The answer is we’re working on that and we need your creativity. At present we are contacting UWSP to see about extending love to the international students and faculty at the university. You will hear more concerning this. We are also trying to contact some international communities in our area to also spread love. For now I encourage you to do two things: 1) Do as  Jesus’s parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us and be a good and loving neighbor – that’s why He ends it with saying “go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37), and 2) contact your senators and representative to let them know your thoughts as a follower of Christ concerning how we treat the foreigner. Your senators and rep if you live in the Point area are:

Senator Tammy Baldwin, 717 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510, (202) 224-5653, Online Contact twitter

Senator Ron Johnson, 328 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510 (202) 224-5323, Online Contact twitter

Representative Ron Kind, 1502 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515 (202) 225-5506 Online Contact twitter

No matter your politics, whether you are conservative, liberal, libertarian, or, like me, a mutt please get involved and let vales of followers of Christ be heard concerning the “strangers” in our midst and at our doors.

Karate Chop The Fear That Keeps Us From Helping Refugees

Yesterday I posted about a list of what you should do every day that I am presently really digging. Johnny Karate’s 5 Karate Moves to Success. Today I’m going to write about one of the things that I believe those of us who claim to follow Christ should karate chop.

Before I begin let me say something that I say at Tapestry pretty frequently. I don’t talk about politicians at Tapestry but I do often talk about politics. Politics are about the policies that our government supports or avoids. My friend, Clint, would say that basically “everything that happens in life is politics”. I would say everything is theological but I understand the similarity and Clint is a really smart guy so I’ll support him on this statement. Policies are issues that the church should be involved in because they involve how we act and operate as a citizenry and country. They reflect our values as a people. It is my opinion that talking about politicians at church, or as a chaplain, diverts me from the mission I have been called to work toward, but talking about policies (i.e. politics) helps to promote that mission. I believe this leads to followers of Christ being a “thorn in the flesh” of politicians because we will become more concerned with getting certain things done than we are with which of the various parties gets credit for the completed actions.

So let’s talk about Christians allowing their fear to determine how we treat refugees and for that matter immigrants also. If you are a follower of Christ you have given up your right to allow fear (other than the fear/awe of God, but that’s a different thing) to determine your actions. You gave up that right when you declared Jesus as Lord. To declare that Jesus is Lord means that He has the right to determine how we lead our lives and we have agreed to follow His directives. If you don’t recognize Him as Lord that’s another matter, but if we declare Him to be Lord then we have no right to allow fear to keep us from doing what He wants. That’s why so often his messengers (the meaning of the word aggelos, ἄγγελος, angel) begin their messages from Him with the phrase “do not be afraid” ((Luke 1:30 is just one example)) .

And the thing is we know how He wants us to respond to those in need and the foreigners in our midst. Scripture makes this very clear. There are too many references to list here ((Relevant Magazine has a good online article describing what the Bible says about how we are to treat refugees.)) but I think Deuteronomy 10:19 does a good job of summarizing the intent of them. It states, “and you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” Love! That is the command we have been given by our Lord. We are to love the foreigner and there is no debate about it. As the wonderful contemporary theologians DC Talk reminded us “love is a verb” and therefore we need to be active in our love toward the weak.

Jesus continues the thought of the Old Testament in His parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25. I have mentioned this parable on the blog before and I am pretty sure that I reference in conversations around Tapestry about once a month. Basically Jesus says in the parable that we better be on the look out for Him in the personages of those in need. The way we respond to these “least of these” is our response to Jesus ((Matthew 25:40)) .

Please noticed that I haven’t spoken about any of the political parties in this post. Neither of the two primary, dominant, political parties has done that great of job with refugees and immigrants. My friend, fellow pastor, and immigration lawyer, Scott Hicks recently posted an article referring to former President Obama as the Deporter-in-Chief on the same day that he advised immigrants to avoid Butler County, Ohio because of President Trump’s executive order concerning immigrants. Those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ should demand more from all our politicians rather than thinking our party is doing a good job with refugees and immigrants. We should be concerned with treating those who are different from us in a Christ like manner, not just concerned about whether our party is in power or not. Like I said earlier we should be a “thorn in the flesh” of politicians and we can’t do that if we allow our fears to keep us from doing what we have been commanded to do by our Lord.

As I was just reminded by the excellent religious commentary “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” ((Yep Pam and I are watching the first episode as I type this post)) the Hebrew word miṣwāh means both “command” and “blessing”. For those who claim to be disciples of the messiah doing what God has commanded is not just obeying our Lord but is also the giving and receiving of a blessing. Jesus described this by stating “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” ((Luke 11:28)) To do the will of God is a blessing, as we can’t let our fear overcome us and keep us from the blessing of the command of God.

We can and should have serious debate about how best to care for refugees and immigrants, but if you are a follower of Christ you cannot allow your fear to keep you from jumping in to help the weak. We need to karate chop our fear.

The Apostle’s Creed

This past Sunday I asked all the “threads” to consider praying the Apostle’s Creed during the day. Just in case you didn’t know where to look for it I thought I would post it here.

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the church universal,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

Amen.

Gloriously Noisy

I am sitting in our den watching “The Dirty Dozen” (such a good movie) while Pam is doing some work for tomorrow and I am thinking about what a wonderful Sunday it was. A few weeks ago Erc G asked what I thought about one Sunday setting up various percussion instruments for the kids to play during the music at Tapestry. I told him that I thought it was a wonderful idea. So today he made sure there were various percussion instruments setup in the back of the room for our little ones to play as a part of our gathering today.

To quote Pam it wasn’t “‘children’s church’ or a special kids Sunday. Just letting little ones participate fully in the regular service with bongos, maracas, djembe, and cajon.” Yeah the beat was sometimes interesting. Yep it got a little noisy sometimes. There were more smiles during the singing than I have ever seen at a Tapestry gathering and that is saying something because smiles are VERY common at Tapestry gatherings. Our kids did a great job of helping us to declare the worth of our God. They weren’t a distraction. They were joy leaders.

It was a really good Sunday. I am very thankful for Eric and our smallest “threads”.

SIDE NOTE – 7 years ago today Jürgen and I became BFFs.

jurgenandme

N.T. Wright on Philemon

For some reason I have mentioned and briefly discusses Paul’s letter to Philemon. This is probably because I have been leading Tapestry on Sunday’s the Paul’s letters to Timothy and therefore I have been thinking a good bit about Paul. Anyhow, it is a short and great book that is full of social justice. In this case, how the gospel of the kingdom of God was going to lead to the abolition of slavery eventually – they path was set and it was a matter of time and followers of Christ recognizing the direction of God.

Anyhow, today N.T. Wright a writer and thinker that I respect a great deal announced that he is offering an online course on the letter to Philemon for free. Here’s the link. I’ve signed up for it and would love to hear what others who sign up also think about what we learn.

Patrick’s Breastplate

St. Patrick's Breastplate ISt. Patrick's Breastplate II CAY on white
Here is a shortened version of Patrick’s Breastplate, the prayer that I mentioned today during the message. Yes “shortened” means there is a longer version.
 
I arise today through
 
God’s strength to pilot me, God’s might to uphold me,
 
God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s eye to see before me,
 
God’s ear to hear me, God’s word to speak for me,
 
God’s hand to guard me, God’s way to lie before me,
 
God’s shield to protect me, God’s host to secure me –
 
against snares of devils,
 
against temptations and vices,
 
against inclinations of nature,
 
against everyone who shall wish me
 
ill, afar and anear,
 
alone and in a crowd…
 
Christ, be with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
 
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
 
Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit,
 
Christ where I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
 
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
 
Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.
 
Salvation is of the Lord.
 
Salvation is of the Lord.
 
Salvation is of the Christ.
 
May your salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.