Conflict Between Busy-ness and Spirituality

There is probably no better text in the Gospels that describes the conflicts between busy-ness and spirituality as Luke 10:38-42. As Martha bustles around getting ready to host Jesus and his friends for dinner, her sister Mary sits at Jesus' feet to listen to him and to bask in his presence. When Martha becomes frustrated by Mary's seeming laziness, Jesus reminds her that what Mary is seeking --HIM -- is way more important.

I'm afraid I'm guilty of being Martha much more than Mary. Responsibilities and distractions usually convince me that I do not have enough time for the contemplation of the Holy. Yet this is not what God wants for us. Only ONE thing is needed, says Jesus -- a divine synergy of relationship. God wants us to put Him first, but He doesn't want us to do so at the expense of efforts on His behalf. If our efforts to create a banquet fit for God Himself leave us exhausted and overwhelmed, then we've missed the feast itself!

Jesus is our Living Bread and our Water of Life. According to author Joanna Weaver, ("Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World," Random House: New York, 2000), only one thing is needed. Fellowship. She writes that we must first invite Jesus into our hearts to rule and reign. Next, ask God to reveal the next steps. Then have faith that what needs to get done will get done. And finally, be open to the Spirit's leading. My prayer for you is that you will take some time during these warm summer days to imagine yourself sitting at Jesus' feet, basking in his loving presence. Listen to what He tells you. Rest. And enjoy the banquet.

God's Peace,
Mother Marci+

Who is my Neighbor?

In this week's Gospel text from Luke, Jesus tells the classic parable of the Good Samaritan. The parable is in response to a lawyer's question, "And who is my neighbor?" A deeper reading of the Greek text implies that the lawyer is not so much wanting to "trick" Jesus as he is trying to truly understand Jesus' meaning. There is some urgency on his part to realize the path to eternal life. When Jesus tells the lawyer to, "Go and do likewise," he is telling the man to literally "make himself like" the Samaritan. Since the Samaritan is himself an outcast in the Jew's eyes, Jesus' meaning is profound. He is not dismissing the lawyer. He is telling him to humble himself

like the outcast, in order that he might understand what it is to be that person that's ignored, scorned, and in need. When we look with eyes humbled by the love of Christ, we see the needs of others much more clearly.

When Tracy and I traveled to the Texas border, we both gained a new understanding of "Who is my neighbor?" Now is the time to ask ourselves this question. Who is my neighbor? Who am I as a Christian? What could I do to assist the church in caring for others? Well, I've got great news -- there are many ways to assist!

Volunteer! You are needed! Contact Mother Marci if you are interested in any of the following areas: picking up food from Sharing Life for our Food Pantry, helping in the Food Pantry, baking lasagnas and serving at Austin Street on Saturday, Aug. 3rd, raising funds for KIDS-U backpacks, stocking the Tasby Middle School food pantry, serving as a Stephen Minister, visiting our homebound, preparing meals for the sick, and collecting items/setting up refugee resettlement apartments (through Hope Harbeck at this time).

And if your soul really needs a new perspective, consider going on a Courts and Ports mission trip. We still have 3 spaces open for the Sept. 15 - 18 trip. Let me know immediately if you can join the team that's going.

In considering, "Who is my neighbor?," consider how you might be a Good Samaritan to someone in need today!

God's Peace,
Mother Marci+

Texas Impact "Courts and Ports"

Texas Impact was founded in 1973 on the central religious conviction that religious communities are called to minister to the whole person–to respond with compassion to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of all people. Texas Impact’s member organizations include Christian denominational bodies, regional Jewish and Muslim social justice committees, and local interfaith councils. Texas Impact and its sister organization, the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy, form an interfaith network that brings faith to bear on social issues through grassroots education and policy advocacy. Individuals and communities can become members of Texas Impact to join in this work of faithful advocacy, several members from Ascension have made this commitment in the past few years.

Texas Impact currently sponsors an educational program called "Courts and Ports" This program encourages interfaith teams to travel to the Texas border at Brownsville to observe the immigration process. The teams will attend a district court hearing, talk with ACLU representatives on current legislation, assist at respite centers, tour a refugee sponsoring community, spend time at the International Bridge into Mexico and talk to refugees who are waiting on the bridge to be accepted into the US. Mother Marci and her husband Tracy traveled with the program in April. We are excited to be sending a group of eight folks from Ascension, September 15 - 18. It is our hope that they return to Ascension with new perspectives and ideas on how we might continue to "offer a cup of cold water to the least of these." Jesus calls us to radical love and hospitality to all!

Want to know more? Please see www.texasimpact.org.

Christ's Peace,
Mother Marci+

Tips for Contacting your Elected Officials

A few weeks ago, after our presentation on the Texas border crisis, many of you were saddened to learn of the deprivation and fear faced by asylum-seekers. Others were upset to learn that there are not enough respite centers or civic assistance. As more refugees seek the safety of the United States, the need for a more humane border control process and aid to asylum seekers will continue to grow.

The presentation prompted a great desire among parishioners to “do something.” One thing we urged you to do was to contact your elected officials with your concerns about the refugee crisis at the Texas Border. Here’s a brief guide on how to do that.

First, find out who your elected federal, state, and local officials are. You can go on-line to discover your congressional district. (See below).

Next, do your homework. Research. Plan out the issues you want to discuss and be prepared to discuss specific points. Make sure your position is clearly stated. If you’re unclear, it can also be helpful to call and simply ask what your representative’s position is, or if they support or oppose particular bills or legislation. You can then respond by affirming their position, or noting where you disagree with them.

There are many ways to contact your representatives. You can email, write a letter, make a telephone call or plan a visit. I have to give my congressman credit -- I received a phone call from Kenny Marchant’s Washington office the day after I sent him an email about the need for more respite centers and judicial officials to clear the overloaded dockets. I spoke at length with his assistant, Ryan, who was very pleasant and listened to my concerns. I felt like I had done some good, as he did not understand the difference between a “holding pen” and a respite center, and that needed to be clarified for my letter to make any sense! You can be sure I will be continuing that conversation!

Finally, here are some websites that may prove helpful:

National representation:
https://whoismyrepresentative.com/

Texas representation:
https://wrm.capitol.texas.gov/home

www.whitehouse.gov
(White House switchboard #202-456-1414)
www.house.gov/representatives
www.senate.gov
www.usa.gov
www.aclu.org

Make your concerns KNOWN. You CAN make a difference!

Blessings,
Mother Marci+

Crisis at the Texas Border - How Do We Respond?

Thank you for your great response to our recent presentation on the crisis at the Texas Border! If you missed it, you can view the presentation here or on our Facebook page. Following the presentation we discussed what we might do as a parish as a response. Many of you had excellent questions, and even more of you offered your willingness to help Ascension as we ponder the best ways to help our refugee brothers and sisters.

It is important to distinguish between asylum seekers, and refugee resettlement. Asylum seekers are passing through Dallas to join up with sponsoring families or agencies. They may join up with sponsors in Dallas and may stay until further court process. Most, however, pass through Dallas via bus on to other cities. These are the people in need of respite centers. They arrive with nothing but a small backpack, and they arrive in Dallas needing food, medicine, toiletries, clothing, and a brief place to rest until their bus comes. They usually do not stay overnight. This is the work that Oak Lawn United Methodist Church is doing  With interest from the parish we could volunteer in partnership with OLUMC to help fold clothes, sort through items and hand them out or whatever their immediate need is. This page of their website contains more information about their response.  

Refugees seeking resettlement have already come through the immigration process. They are not seeking asylum. They have been assigned by local government agencies to apartments and are attempting to put their lives back together in the United States. Hope Harbeck is currently working with Refugee Services of Texas to collect items to furnish resettlement apartments. Since our presentation, I have contacted Refugee Services of Texas, and hope to meet with them and with Hope Harbeck soon to determine what Ascension might do to partner with them. This would likely be supplying an arriving family (perhaps one family a month) with basic furniture, bedding, clothes, towels, paper goods and food.

If you are interested in these options we need to hear from you. Please contact me to indicate your interest. In the coming weeks I will offer more information, including how to be an advocate with your elected representatives as well as the possibility for a mission trip to the border to experience the "Courts and Ports" program.

In Christ, 
Mother Marci

Fr. Paul's summer plans

Each summer we each make plans for time with family, both near and far. I have also made a point to spend at least two weeks with youth programing each summer, including things like camp, mission trips, pilgrimage and EYE in the past few years. This year I will be the “Dean” during the second week of Camp at All Saints with many of our own youth in attendance.

Then, from July 8th to August 9th I will be in Seattle with Noah and Emma. In many ways it is hard for me to imagine being gone that long, longer than I’ve been away from a church since I was ordained in 2005. My decision came in part after Emma was diagnosed with Epilepsy earlier this year. Both Noah and Emma had been accepted to the Pacific Northwest Ballet Summer Intensive and had their hearts set on it. We knew they could only go if a parent was present now.

As I made my request to the vestry I included my plans for the time. I will spend two weeks focused on Continuing Education. In February 2015 I attended the “Daring Way” certified leader training with Brene Brown. This is excellent course work and gave me access to an online portal that offers continuing education videos led by Brene. Further, I completed the “Next Level Leadership Program” with Shane Hipps last year, it includes five bonus modules that I haven’t completed yet. I expect to spend part of these weeks focused on writing as well, I have three separate projects started that would benefit from a focused effort.

The third week I will continue writing some, but shift my focus to “out of office work”. There are many projects that would benefit from undistracted effort. Planning for our confirmation curriculum is high on my list. I also have another video series in mind that I hope to make progress on while I am away.

Finally, the last two weeks I will be on vacation. Cycling around Seattle, seeking out good food and good beer and generally enjoying time with the kids. Sarah will join us the last week we are there for some family time before Noah leaves for Idyllwild this fall.

I am very excited about this plan, but was a bit nervous to present it. Indeed, it makes me a bit nervous to leave for that long! I feel blessed to have found support from the vestry and many other leaders at Ascension. They recognize the value of the time away to study and rejuvenate and the value of the time with family. Further, I feel support as I seek to support our children in their pursuit.

Ascension will be in good hands with the staff and vestry tending to most immediate needs. They will be able reach me in the event of a crisis, pastoral or otherwise, but I will not check my email daily in order to be able to focus the aforementioned plans. I hope that this blog will help the community understand where I am and what I’m up to during this time. I know that many in the parish will be traveling during this same time, but hope that you will fully participate in worship and ministry whenever you are in town.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul

Storm update from Fr. Paul

The storm that swept through much of Texas took a toll on Dallas and many other communities. Prayers for all affected are needed, many are taking action too! I know many members are busy tending to immediate needs at their homes and helping others around.

At church there has been some substantial damage. The trees around our campus have been damaged, many will be lost entirely. Some damage to the roof, particularly where the tree in the herb garden fell onto the room. Further, the drains were clogged by excessive leaves, causing flooding above - the trickle down effect was in full force. Many ceiling tiles were damaged and the full extend of this damage is yet to be known. Some of our A/C units were damaged, others were blown off of their base and will need to be assessed further prior to powering up. Conduits to these roof units and some lighting also will need to be checked. The garden has also lost nearly all of the current plants.

All in all we are fortunate, the Nave saw some water around doors and windows, but no known damage there, including the organ and piano. It doesn’t appear that we lost any of our many, many windows!

Many members and friends stopped today to help as we begin our clean up effort, thank you! Clean up inside and out will continue throughout the week. Your help, as you’re able, and your prayers are appreciated. I have been in touch with the Diocesan Director of Natural Disasters, The Rev. Keith Tuberville, who may help us offer aid to those in our community in the days and weeks ahead. More updates will be posted as we’re able.

Blessings-
Fr. Paul

Celebration of Penecost

“Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.”  Genesis 11:1

The importance of language cannot be overstated. Our capacity to communicate encompasses everything from basic needs to the complexity of emotion. The words we choose to share our experiences matter as we seek to create understanding. It is hard to imagine a world with just one language. Just think of the ease with which we could travel!

Even with just one language, I suspect there were a great many misunderstandings. I know I have experienced a failure of communication even when everyone shared a common language; regionalisms and intonations can leave us wondering what was really meant by another. Listening, really listening is another challenge we all face at times.

Pentecost is a celebration of God's power to unite us through the power of the Holy Spirit. As each heard the message of salvation in their own native language it did more than allow them to hear what was being said. It  improved understanding and generated great compassion and genuine appreciation for the different peoples gathered. I hope that our celebration of Pentecost unites us in God's spirit. I hope also that as we gather, each may feel entirely welcomed as God's own.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul 

Who Is My Neighbor?

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus gives us a double commandment of love. Love God, and love your neighbor. When asked, "And who is my neighbor?," Jesus responds with the parable of the Prodigal Son. His message, of course, is that we cannot claim to love God and yet turn a blind eye to the suffering in our midst.  

Tracy and I experienced this in a powerful way as part of the Courts and Ports Program, in conjunction with the Texas Impact Board. We traveled to Brownsville and McAllen, TX, and Matamoros, MX, to observe the border crisis. In addition to attending federal mass arraignment proceedings in Brownsville, we assisted at a respite center and toured a sponsoring community called La Posada. As Congress continues to argue over $4.9 billion in border aid, we must ask ourselves, "Who is my neighbor?" Tracy and I will talk about our trip and show a video about our experiences at the border this Sunday, June 2nd, during the 9:00 a.m. formation hour. There will be plenty of time for Q & A, and brainstorming on ways Ascension can continue to address the refugee crisis.  We have always been a welcoming church. But the times, "they are a-changin'." We must challenge ourselves to even greater acts of service and charity in Christ's Name. Let's talk about it!

In the peace of Jesus,
Mother Marci+

Hosting Ramadan with The Dialogue Institute of Dallas

Over 80 people attended the Iftar dinner held at Ascension on May 14, 2019 in partnership with The Dialogue Institute of Dallas.  We learned so much about the practice of fasting and prayer practices by Muslims during their holy month of Ramadan.  We had an amazing time of fellowship with our Muslim brothers and sisters.  There was delicious food in abundance!  Stay tuned for more interfaith opportunities with the Dialogue Institute!