Serving the Needs of Others

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.- Hebrews 13:16

There are numerous scriptures that encourage our efforts to serve others. The church is not alone in this effort of service, but no other organization is able to equip and motivate as much service as the church. Each church and member thereof may approach this differently, but the call to serve the needs of others is clear and far reaching.

Ascension has many talented and dedicated volunteers. Even where there is staff support, our ministries rely heavily upon the efforts of our members. Each month the Elaine Kadane Food Pantry and Harvest of Hope Community Garden ministries provide significant food support to our community with minimal staff support and an abundance of volunteer commitment. Our worship service, while less of a ministry to others, similarly is heavily dependent on volunteers.

There are many ways to get involved at Ascension. If you read through the rest of this @Ascension email you can see several ministries relying on you to volunteer: Prayer Partners, Fresh Food Day, Greeters and Ushers, and Stults Pen Pals. Also, perhaps you feel called to offer your time and talent on one of the committees that helps to lead these endeavors? The call to serve may urge each of us in different ways, but I hope we all feel it. If you are looking for a way to get more involved at Ascension, please let me know.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul

Encouragement to Read

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go”. - Dr. Seuss

Reading is an important part of life. Some comes quickly and is hardly noticed, signs, labels etc. Some may feel more like a chore, email (not this one of course!) or other work. Reading for pleasure, beyond what is required, or by happenstance can be missed if we are not intentional to include it in our lives. I have not always been a reader and still struggle to commit the time many days. Perhaps a bit of encouragement will help create the space for more reading.

Reading scripture guides us toward a deeper relationship with God. Through scripture we can observe generations of people interacting with God. Over time, these stories help us to recognize God's wisdom and grace in new ways. While I favor holding a Bible in my hands, I have several favorites, I find myself reading scripture from my phone a lot too. Recently I have rediscovered the "You Version" Bible app. It offers hundreds of translations, various reading plans, as well as other means of encouragement. You can use this app across several devices, making it easier to keep up with reading the Bible daily.

Reading other books about scripture and about faith is also helpful as we seek to follow Christ. Ascension is blessed with a lending library, it is in the office across from the conference room. There are many great titles that can be borrowed freely. Some of these came from past book studies, so several members will have read them; others may be less known. If you are interested in seeing what is available, you can ask the clergy or vestry about access on a Sunday, or stop by during the week while the office is open. May our collective reading guide us ever more toward Christ.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul

Our Formation Year Begins Sept. 8th

Gold there is, and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel. “ - Proverbs 25:15

Education in the church has gone by many names. For many years we knew it simply as "Sunday School." Others speak of "discipleship," many churches now use the word "formation." Part of the reason for this shift in language is practical as some of our formation happens throughout the week and not just on Sunday mornings. More than that, the word formation is also more accurate in that what is being offered is more than knowledge.

Ascension offers a variety of formation activities throughout the year. Retreats and trainings are part of our formation, as well as small group studies throughout the week and a variety of offerings each Sunday for all ages. Perhaps you have been a regular already at 9am on Sundays, but I want to offer a word of encouragement to come this year.

On Sunday, September 8th at 9am we will all gather in the Parish Hall to hear about the various Sunday morning offerings. This is the chance to hear what each group will be doing and studying. If you haven't been a part of Sunday formation in the past, you can choose something that appeals to you. Each of these formation offerings help to build our relationship with God and with one another. Join us.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul

Construction and Repairs Update

In addition to all of the usual work happening at Ascension, there is construction. Some of this is work planned for through the Capital Campaign, other parts are repairs following the storm in June. We are doing our best to post regular updates, including photos and video through social media. This update will offer a few more details.

The work of our "Let Your Light Shine" Capital Campaign began last summer with the updates throughout the Courtyard classrooms. Work on the upper building began late last year, but really got underway over the summer months. It is remarkable to see the vision of a renewed youth and outreach center being created, we hope to have occupancy of the space in November. At that time the Elaine Kadane Food Pantry will also move into a space designed for this ministry.

Other work completed by the campaign includes the replacement of the playground equipment on the smaller "north" playground. This was included in the original campaign. Initially we were unsure if this project would remain in the scope of work, but generous contributions from parents and a commitment to the campaign by the school meant that it was able to be included as well.

The repairs following the storm in June have been slow. In part, due to delays with the insurance company and in part scheduling the various contractors needed. We received the initial funding from the insurance this week. I am delighted to say that the remediation of mold and mildew in the Nave has begun. This work will improve the condition of our worship space. Following the remediation there will be some cosmetic repairs required as well. We are hopeful that we might schedule the work to improve the lighting and sound in the nave prior to the cosmetic repairs. This could help us reduce the total expense as well as the disruption to our worship space.

There were temporary repairs to the damage of the roof and HVAC earlier this summer. The work to replace the roof begins this week as well. It was also confirmed that the temporary repair to the roof is sufficient for us to proceed with our other internal repairs, such as the flooring and wall repairs. And...for those who are wondering, the limbs along the road will be removed soon as well.

Thank you for your patience in this process. Thank your for your support and contributions. We are working on a more complete update on the financial impact of all of this as well. Both with the capital campaign and storm repairs additional funds are helpful. As to the capital funds we expect to outline what else could be accomplished with further contributions. General gifts are helpful as we address the ongoing storm repair, while the insurance covers the largest items, there are often other expenses along the way. Ascension needs your continued support, in prayer and in contributions.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul

Thank You!

I feel truly blessed to have had your support in my time of leave this summer. It was a time of intentionality with family and deliberate study. It was refreshing to be away for a time and generate new ideas for our mutual ministry at Ascension, too.

While in Seattle I had the opportunity to spend time with the kids and explore a bit. I want to share a little about how I spent my time while the kids danced each day. I read some great books, including but not limited to: Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How-To Book by Dan Harris, Making Sense of the Bible by Adam Hamilton, The 3 Day Effect by Florence Williams, Walk in Love by Scott Gunn and Melody Wilson Shobe, Conversations with Scripture: The Psalms by Louis Countryman, and Paradox: Creating Christian Community Beyond by Ken Howard.

I completed some online coursework. Specifically the bonus modules from the "Next Level Leadership Course". Topics ranged from leadership principles and managing well to work with the Enneagram. I had completed the main course last year, meeting with the leader Shane Hipps and others.

I also spent time working on projects that are difficult to manage while in the office. Most days I spent some time writing, focusing on ministry experiences and a longer piece about scripture that has been on my mind for some time. While in Seattle I also arranged to meet with several local clergy. This time allowed for sharing ideas and generally learning from one another.

Again, I am grateful for your support for this time. We are all happy to be home! I missed Ascension and our life here in Dallas.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul

Blessing in a Time of Violence

Which is to say this blessing is always.
Which is to say there is no place this blessing does not long to cry out in lament, to weep its words in sorrow, to scream its lines in sacred rage.

Which is to say there is no day this blessing ceases to whisper into the ear of the dying, the despairing, the terrified.

Which is to say there is no moment this blessing refuses to sing itself into the heart of the hated and the hateful, the victim and the victimizer, with every last hope it has.

Which is to say there is none that can stop it, none that can halt its course, none that will still its cadence, none that will delay its rising, none that can keep it from springing forth from the mouths of us who hope, from the hands of us who act, from the hearts of us who love, from the feet of us who will not cease our stubborn, aching, marching, marching until this blessing has spoken its final word, until this blessing has breathed its benediction in every place, in every tongue:

Peace.
Peace.
Peace.

--- by Jan Richardson, 2017, The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief

Jesus' Way

Our Scriptures this week have much to do with vanity and greed. Ecclesiastes warns us against the illusions that vanity can produce, and in Luke's Gospel, Jesus warns us against storing up wealth at the expense of one's soul. These are tough lessons to hear, and even tougher to live. The point is that our goal shouldn't be to live for the acquisition of bigger and better things if it means we neglect the needy.

There is so much need in our zip code of 75243. Not a week goes by without at least three or four people knocking on our doors for some type of assistance. Many stories are heartbreaking. A young woman with six children evicted from her apartment. The man whose diabetic wife couldn't work and was short on rent. The lady with no insurance with a hole in her roof and no hot water since the recent storm. The Afghan family who arrived in Dallas with only the clothes on their backs. I could go on and on.

When people came to Jesus hungry, he fed them. We at Ascension are doing our best to be like Jesus. We will be taking lasagnas to Austin Street on Saturday, August 3, at 5:30 p.m., and we will be making an extra food pantry shopping trip this week to restock bare shelves. In addition, we want to connect with local refugee assistance agencies to offer help with resettlement. But we must move forward with a wise plan, not one which one author refers to as "toxic charity." Please consider how you might get involved in helping us help others. Cash assistance is great, but in the spirit of Invite-Welcome-Connect, how might you make it your personal mission and ministry? That was Jesus' way.

God's Peace,

Mother Marci+

The Lord's Prayer

This Sunday, we will be looking at The Lord’s Prayer. It’s so familiar that I wonder if we even think about it much when we’re saying the words. Yet Jesus’ lesson in prayer holds the key to a true relationship with God. Instead of praying so that we might “get right with God,” we should instead look at prayer as a means of atonement.

Author Scot McKnight writes that true prayer is facing God honestly and humbly, with all our heart and soul, and it is facing God together in community. This is atonement. And atonement allows us to commune fully with God. Here is salvation!

Jesus says, “Come pray with me.” He doesn’t say, “Wait until your life is perfect and then come pray with me." Instead he welcomes us in our brokenness. He gives us the Holy Spirit and through the Spirit, we can better understand and cope with life’s problems. May you set aside some time for Christ this week, in faith, believing.

God's Peace,
Mother Marci+

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+