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Grace United Methodist Church

Mary's Message: Incarnation

UPDATE FROM JANUARY 7, 2021
 
When scary or bad things happen in the media, it always brings up the question of, “What do I tell my children?” Sometimes it can be as simple as nothing because they may not know anything about it. My biggest recommendation is to start by asking what have they heard, or what do they know? Once you know if they know anything about the scary situation, you can address it in language that is appropriate for your child’s age. On the way to school today, I asked Grace what she had heard. She replied she didn’t know anything, so I talked briefly about what happened and the best ways to disagree with people. I talked about how sad I was that things had happened.
 
Many times before now, I have referenced Mr. Roger’s as he tells us to look for the helpers. Helpers are people like the police, or first responders, or the young women who picked up the electoral college votes and carried them out of the chamber to safety. You can talk about how we can be helpers too, and how that can help us feel better. They might come up with their own ideas, but some include doing something nice for others, like delivering something to first responders, making an encouragement sign, or mailing a card to someone who might be lonely.
 
I would also recommend that in times like these, when people seemed opposed so strongly to one another, to read the book, “God’s Dream” by Desmond Tutu. It is a wonderful book that focuses on how we hurt God’s heart when we hurt others, and how deeply we can feel those hurts. It talks about how we can treat each other the way we want to be treated, and how we can celebrate each other’s differences. God smiles when we treat everyone like the children of God that we all are.
 
Please reach out if there is any way that I can help you and your children talk about difficult things.
Mary
 
 
UPDATE FROM DECEMBER 17, 2020
What a Blessing
 
Today was delivery day for our packages to Burrus Elementary. I donned a traditional “ugly” Christmas Sweater, put on my Santa hat, and added in my special Santa beard mask to visit the school and drop off presents. We filled two cars this year, and brought presents for 14 families, or 19 children. We were also able to help several other families that turned to the church during this time.
 
Our wonderful wraparound specialist, Ms. Black, was sweet enough to arrange for us to meet a few of the children that were receiving our gifts. One was a child that our family personally shopped for, and it was sweet to see her. I let her know that my daughter, who is her age, approved of the presents. The other little girl declined the adult help who offered to carry them for her. She was so excited to receive the presents that she was not going to let that bag go.
 
Each year we try to bless families. We can’t bless all the families in need at the school, but we can bless a few. Ms. Black relayed that some of the biggest needs this year were clothing, so I know that my family decided to give a few extra items of clothing for our new friend to open. What was extra special was that I picked out the same things for Grace to receive since she had grown out of her other items. Grace was very excited to see what our friend received, and equally excited when I pulled one out for her. We can’t do everything, but we can do something. We have helped children and their families have a happy Christmas.
 
Thank you to everyone who gave. I hope you can continue to give to others during this difficult time. I know we can’t fix all the world’s problems, but maybe we can help a few people have a better day, week, or even year.
 
Mary
 
 
 
UPDATE FROM DECEMBER 10, 2020
A Christmas Lament
 
I have tried to stay optimistic that we would get the virus under control through social distancing and face mask usage, but as our year draws to a close, I am feeling a large sense of loss.
 
My family has been very fortunate in this pandemic, so I know we are some of the very lucky ones. There are so many others out there that have lost jobs or loved ones during this time. I think I have a touch of survivor’s guilt. I have heard it said before, “We are all in the same storm, but not all in the same boat.” This pandemic is hard on everyone, but it is definitely hard in different ways depending on how much you have been affected.
 
So today, I want to remind you that it is okay to lament. This year has been hard, and if the doctors at the CDC are correct, things will get harder over the next few months. It is okay to be sad at Christmas. It is okay to lament. Lament means to express your grief and sorrow. I grieve with those who have lost a loved one, for all those who have lost a job. I grieve for the loss of normalcy; most of my shopping is done online or in a rushed fashion at a few stores that I dare enter. I grieve not gathering in person with a packed sanctuary as we lead up to Christmas. I grieve not getting to see family in person this year. I grieve not letting Grace play with all of her cousins and Ellie getting to spend quality time with relatives.
 
But I know that God is big enough for our grief. God is big enough to handle our anger. We can share all of our emotions and be completely honest with God.
 
If you are like me and going through grief this season, I encourage you to attend our Service of Hope and Healing. We are hoping that the numbers will be favorable in Harris County for an in person service, but we decided that this service should also be online because it could be so beneficial to many people. The service is designed to be a safe place and time to be sad. With everything we have gone through this year, we have much to be sad about. The service is also designed to bring us from sadness into hope. We hope you will join us in your grief and find some peace and comfort in the music and words. If you are able, you might grab a candle to light during the service. This service will be Sunday, December 13 at 6pm online and in the sanctuary.
 
We have a few other ways that might help you get further into the spirit of Christmas, even though this year looks so very different. Giving to others can be such a blessing, and we are still doing our angel tree, and wrapped and labeled gifts are due Tuesday, December 15 to the office. Music soothes the soul, and you can find some beautiful music at our Virtual Lessons and Carols on December 20. We will offer both a Family Christmas Eve and a Traditional Christmas Eve program online. The Family Christmas Eve service will include an adorable Christmas program put on by the children, and a few adults, of the church. We hope this will warm your heart as much as it does ours.
 
May this season of Advent fill you with hope, even in the darkest of times.
 
Mary
 
 
 
 
UPDATE FROM DECEMBER 3, 2020
Everything is Different, Yet Some Things Remain
 
We are post-Thanksgiving, so according to popular culture, we are officially in Christmas mode and can stop feeling guilty for decorating and listening to Christmas music! I am thankful for the Christmas music, but especially for the religious Christmas music that helps me focus on the true reason for the season, instead of the effects of the season like stress, busy-ness, and other negative emotions.
 
We are entering into a very different Christmas season than most of us are used to. Yes, there will still be presents, but many of them will be mailed and opened over video chat. There will still be fun parties, but they might be like my husband’s work, which is giving them gift cards to eat out and send pictures in of the festivities. There will still be shepherds hunting for the treasure of Christmas, and elves making mischief at people’s homes. There will still be Christmas lights, but we may enjoy them from the car this year. One of the biggest differences is that we are more able to decide what we will spend our time and energy on this year. We can say no to things more easily, and focus on the things that really matter.
 
One of the things that really matters to me is making sure that children have a happy Christmas. My father started this tradition for me. Unbeknownst to me, for years he helped families in our churches at Christmas. I remember hearing how he was helping a single mother who was a nurse and an immigrant afford presents for her child that year. He modeled the scriptures about giving quietly and not loudly so that everyone knew. Since college, I have been choosing a child off the Angel Tree and buying clothes and toys for a child. I can’t help everyone, but I can help one. Now we choose a child as a family, buy presents, wrap them, and pray for the child. It is a little hard for Grace to understand that the presents we pick out, that she really likes, aren’t for her, but for another child like her.
 
Even though we are in the middle of a pandemic, we can still help families. I encourage you to select a child and purchase him or her a present. This year we have split the needs for each child in two, so you can choose to purchase a) clothing, b) a toy or gift, or c) both. The suggested spending limit is about $20 per item, or $40 per child (but confession, I spent about $60 because I bought extra clothes and some books for the child we picked.) These gifts are helping families in our area have a Merry Christmas. The Wraparound Specialist, Ms. Black, talked about how much clothing was specifically needed for each child, so everything you are able to buy for a child will be greatly needed. You can sign up here: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0549aaa92ba2fb6-angel. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or need ideas for a gift. Once you have purchased the gifts, please wrap them and put a label with the child’s name on it. You can bring it to the church and place it in the hallway next to the office and sign the present check-in sheet.
 
Our studies look a little different this year, but I encourage you to try to join us. On Sunday mornings, we will have a church wide chat and devotional called “Do Not Be Afraid.” It starts each Sunday at 9:45am. You can join us for Sunday School here: https://zoom.us/j/97706617423 or with the code: 977 0661 7423. Our password is “advent.” This will replace both the Children’s Story Time and Coffee Hour during Advent.
 
We also have a book study that goes along with the sermon series for Advent. We are reading Adam Hamilton’s Incarnation. We will be reviewing the first chapter again this week, so you will not behind if you join us. You can join us at this link: https://zoom.us/j/92926220415 or with the code: 929 2622 0415. The password is “advent” for the study. The Bible Study starts at 5pm and will last an hour or so. If you would like to preview the study, you can find Adam Hamilton’s first week’s video here: https://my.amplifymedia.com/amplify/video/unitedmethodistpublishinghouse/37672-incarnation/37675-sessions/117050-incarnation-session-1-the-royal-titles-lord-and-messiah.
 
 
I hope you have a blessed Advent season as we prepare for the coming Christ.
 
 
Mary
 
 
UPDATE FROM NOVEMBER 25, 2020
Home for the Holidays
 
“Home for the holidays” takes on a new meaning this year, doesn’t it? Nathan and I began to worry as we saw the numbers rise throughout the country, and then in Harris County as we finalized our plans. We decided to stay close to home this year and chat with everyone over Zoom. We are definitely disappointed to miss another holiday with our out of town family, but we would rather miss someone for a little while rather than potentially forever.
 
It is okay to be sad this year. It is okay to mourn for what we have lost. This is a hard year. But remember that God is with us. God will comfort us in our sorrow. ”He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3
 
I hope that you do have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving.
 
I hope that you can join us for our Advent studies. On Sunday mornings, we will have a church wide chat and devotional called “Do Not Be Afraid.” It starts each Sunday at 9:45am. You can join us for Sunday School here: https://zoom.us/j/97706617423 or with the code: 977 0661 7423. Our password is “advent.” This will replace both the Children’s Story Time and Coffee Hour during Advent.
 
We also have a book study that goes along with the sermon series for Advent. We are reading Adam Hamilton’s Incarnation. We will be reviewing the first chapter again this week, so you will not behind if you join us. You can join us at this link: https://zoom.us/j/92926220415 or with the code: 929 2622 0415. The password is “advent” for the study. The Bible Study starts at 5pm and will last an hour or so. If you would like to preview the study, you can find Adam Hamilton’s first week’s video here: https://my.amplifymedia.com/amplify/video/unitedmethodistpublishinghouse/37672-incarnation/37675-sessions/117050-incarnation-session-1-the-royal-titles-lord-and-messiah.
 
I hope you will join us for these opportunities! Happy Thanksgiving!
 
Mary
 
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Grace United Methodist Church
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1245 Heights Blvd
Houston, TX 77008
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