Browsing articles in "BLOG"
May 30, 2018

Spiritual Direction 101. The Basics of Spiritual Guidance by Teresa Blythe

The sticker on my windshield tells me that my car needs an oil change every three months or after so many miles. Also I go in for a spiritual oil change at least every three months, preferably every one or two. People have done that since the dawn of time. In recent years spiritual direction has entered the mainstream. More and more people understand that body, mind, and spirit need regular check-ups and check-ins. And where there is a demand, there will also be a supply. Spiritual direction comes out of the monastic tradition but is now available to everyone and offered by persons from a variety of backgrounds.

In her book Spiritual Direction 101, Teresa Blythe addresses those who want to hang their shingle and become active practitioners of spiritual direction. Now Blythe continues to remind her readers that everybody can simply call themselves spiritual director. The title and the work and not regulated in any way but she insists on maintaining the ethics of the profession as outlined by Spiritual Directors International. One big take-away for the aspiring or practicing spiritual director is to not do this work alone. Blythe continues to emphasize that spiritual directors receive supervisory spiritual direction themselves.

If Blythe’s book is your first formal education in spiritual direction you will love it for its bibliography. There you will find most important classics and a few hip and coming approaches. Blythe also shares abundantly from her own praxis of many years – like a list of most helpful questions a spiritual director can ask, with the top three being:
– What is it you care most about in life?
– When do you feel most fully alive? When do you feel least alive?

Although there is skill and knowledge involved, Blythe keeps reminding her readers that, “this is one of the great tests of spiritual direction: If you can remember that God is the true director.” Whether you work with groups or individuals, whether you work with cisgender or transgender persons, whether you work with people who are similar to you or very different, spiritual direction is about “honoring the third chair” – a reality that transcends the here and now. From this spirit of inclusion Blythe details how to work with the aging, the addicted, clergy, and other groups.

Finally Blythe gets into the nitty gritty of setting up shop: location, decoration, pricing, marketing and much more. Spiritual directors see their directees in coffee shops, church offices, professional offices or retreat centers. Their fees range from free to top dollars. Working your call to become a sustainable praxis requires a lot of discernment. It is probably best to check in with your own spiritual director about that when you meet next time. Oh, by the way, you don’t have to do spiritual direction as a stand-alone business. It also works well in other ministry settings. I just scheduled my next spiritual oil change.

Share
May 29, 2018

Healing and Recovery with Creativity


I do not remember the names of my high school music or arts teachers. And they don’t deserve to be remembered. They told me I wasn’t good at music or arts and I believed them. To this day I don’t trust that I am a creative person, at least as far as formal arts and music are concerned. You may be the greatest artist or musician or you may be challenged as I am. Regardless of your skill: creative expression is important for developing and maintaining resilience. I have been part of the Fort Bend Recovers working group for emotional and spiritual health since Hurricane Harvey hit our community. Working with these dedicated leaders and helping our community get back on its feet is very rewarding. There is a lot of resilience that needs to be showcased and celebrated. And that is exactly what we are going to do:

Fort Bend Recovers … with Creativity’s vision is to celebrate our community’s restoration and resilience by promoting healing and recovery through original works. Fort Bend Recovers …with Creativity’s first project will be to present “The Harvey Experience – one year later”. This is the title of the anniversary event. We plan to hold the event on August 25th 2018. We are formulating our call for submissions, developing creativity categories which include both visual and performance art. The call for submissions will be worded to encourage residents of Fort Bend County (young and old) to tell their Harvey story – in writing, poetry & essay, in paintings, in music, in dance, etc. We hope that we will get a Harvey quilt, a Harvey rap song, and many Harvey paintings and drawings and photographs. “Art has a way of transforming hard truth, ugliness, and heartache and turning it into something beautiful. We believe that creative works will be healing for the creators as well as the observers/participants.” — Dr. Amy Harkins, a psychologist with Easter Seals Greater Houston

Fort Bend Recovers…with Creativity is working to finalize the details for The Harvey Experience. The details for the creative works will be posted soon. But don’t let that stop you from starting to create. Express your Harvey experience and share your process. We are not looking for the next Mozart or Van Gogh. My high school music and arts teachers are not invited to the event. You are free to express yourself and find your own voice.

Share
May 9, 2018

Annual Interfaith Iftar

I am excited! I ordered 9 free tickets for my wife, my kids, my in-laws, and myself. We are going to the annual INTERFAITH Iftar of Ramadan at Maryam Islamic Center in Sugar Land on May 31st, 2018. Here is what is going to happen there:
6:30 PM – Arrival & Socializing
7:00 PM – Program Begins
8:15 PM – Fasting Experience/Iftar
8:40 PM – Prayer followed by Dinner

Amina Ishaq is the Lead for Maryam Islamic Center’s Interfaith Team. Which brings me to the question: Who is the lead of St. John’s Interfaith Team? How come we don’t have an Interfaith Team? Anyway here is her introduction on the importance of the holy month:

“Ramadan is a special and holy month of the Islamic lunar year for over 1.6 billion Muslims around the world. It is a time for inner reflection, contemplation, discipline and devotion to God. As we fast and sacrifice food and drink during the daylight hours, we are reminded of Gods blessings upon us and are encouraged to be charitable.
Ramadan is a month of giving and sharing. It is an opportunity for friends and family of diverse faiths to understand one another and to show kindness to those around them. It is a time of renewal and recommitment to bettering oneself. It is a time for one to become closer to God through sacrificing ones most basic need in order to become more patient and disciplined. The holy Quran was also revealed in the month of Ramadan.
The month of Ramadan ends with the celebration of Eid-ul-fitr or the celebration of the breaking of the fast. On Eid muslims pray to God, greet one another happily, exchange gifts, eat delicious food, visit family and neighbors, give charity and have fun.
It is our hope that this Ramadan & Eid brings a sense of peace and hope throughout the world.”

So, don’t miss out. Please join me and my family this Ramadan. Get your free tickets over here. If you can’t make it this time, then at least talk to your church council members about getting an Interfaith Team started at our church. I’d love to help!

Share
May 1, 2018

Where does church fit into your life?

We count how many people attend church every week. But that’s not all: we also keep a membership roll of who “belongs to the church”. Then we also look at how much money ends up in the offering plates every month. How big is your church? We answer that question in terms of Sunday attendance, membership and income.

In all honesty, the three measuring sticks of attendance, membership and income are not as accurate as they used to be. Originally the idea was that members attend “their” church regularly and give regularly to “their” church. That is hardly the case anymore. My own son went to preschool at a United Methodist Church. We attended chapel there regularly. I go to spiritual direction in a Roman Catholic Community. My wife serves a Presbyterian congregation and I join them for special services as time permits. In many patchwork families children attend services with mom one week, dad another and grandparents on a third weekend. We have children in our own Sunday School who are part-time Baptists. A lot of children hit every Vacation Bible School in town. Faithful church members of our own congregation – now in their 70s – tell me that was commonplace even when they were little. We went to a First Communion Service last Sunday. It was a great moment for our friends. But the reality is the kids had had communion at our UCC church for years – only on the Catholic side of their identity can they call it “First Communion”.

Bottom line: Everybody is wearing multiple hats. Hardly anybody “belongs to” one particular church. We show up in places. We give when we find meaningful ministry that deserves support. For most people church does not fit into their life at all. So for those who show up and give, let’s celebrate them and not give them a hard time that they don’t abide by some rule of exclusivity. The church as the body of Christ belongs in all incarnations to the one God. Let us wear our human reflections of that lightly.

Share
Apr 9, 2018

Autism Awareness Month and the Church


I was wearing all blue last week because it was the beginning of Autism Awareness Month. As a church we need to keep in mind that faith is a very important part of life for so many families in the autism community. Many of these families often feel held back from becoming a part of a religious community because of their child’s diagnosis. They might feel excluded, or just assume that they won’t be supported or accepted.

Autism Speaks hopes that all families affected by autism may be welcomed in their house of worship, and able to become active participants in their faith community. They have put together a list of resources that families and faith leaders may find helpful. As part of their resource guide they share The Beatitudes of the Exceptional Child by Andre Masse, CSE, that were first published in the NAMR Quarterly, 1968.

The Beatitudes of the Exceptional Child
• Blessed are you who take time to listen to difficult speech for you help us to know that if we persevere we can be understood.
• Blessed are you who walk with us in public places, and ignore the stares of strangers, for in your companionship we find havens of relaxation.
• Blessed are you who never bid us to “hurry up” and more blessed you who do not snatch our tasks from our hands to do them for us, for often we need time rather than help.
• Bless are you who stand beside us as we enter new and untried ventures, for our failures will be outweighed by the time when we surprise ourselves and you.
• Blessed are you who ask for our help, for our greatest need is to be needed.
• Blessed are you who help us with the graciousness of Christ Who did not bruise the reed and quench the flax, for often we need the help we cannot ask for.
• Blessed are you when by all these things you assure us that the thing that makes us individuals is not in our peculiar muscles, not in our wounded nervous system, not in our difficulties in learning but in the God-given self which no infirmity can confine.
• Rejoice and be exceedingly glad and know that you give us reassurances that could never be spoken in words, for you deal with us as Christ deals with all of His Children.
• Blessed are you! Indeed!

Share
Apr 4, 2018

German Restaurants in Houston

Houston is well-known for its multicultural culinary options. It may come as no surprise to you but there are several good places offering German cuisine:


Charivari Restaurant is German style fine-dining. This upscale place offers fantastic cooking classes and seasonal events in a welcoming atmosphere. 2521 Bagby Street, Houston, TX 77006


Rudi Lechner’s is home-style cooking. On Wednesday nights they offer a German sampler buffet from 6:00pm until 9:00pm for just $16.95 per person. 2503 S. Gessner Rd, Houston, TX 77063


King’s Biergarten & Restaurant is your stereotypical Oktoberfest party place. They offer decent sausages and sauerkraut alongside a good variety of beers. 1329 E Broadway St, Pearland, Texas 77581

All three are good at what they do. At King’s you will not find fine dining and at Charivari you will not find Polka music. They all come in their own category. Guten Appetit!

Share
Apr 3, 2018

Walk against Hunger


Thoughts and prayers are not good enough! When in comes to human suffering action is needed. And you have a great opportunity to act in two distinct ways: You can walk and donate! The CROP Walk has raised awareness of hunger in our communities since 1969. By joining the West Fort Bend County CROP Walk you make our voice bigger and louder. The more people join the walk the harder it is to ignore hungry children in our communities. Please come out to George Ranch Historical Park, 10215 FM 762 in Richmond, Texas. Registration is on Saturday at 7:30 a.m. and the walk begins at 8:00 a.m. It is a short, easy walk.

Besides your feet, you may also bring your wallet. Funds raised benefit Helping Hands, Needville Food Pantry and hunger projects around the world through Church World Service. Together, we can help end hunger in our community and around the world! You may donate even if you can’t make it on Saturday. Please donate online here.

Over the last 36 years St. John’s United Church of Christ has consistently been among the top fundraisers. This year let’s also be among the largest walking groups! In recent years we had extra support from Boy Scout Troop 309. This year Physical Therapy in Richmond has pledged to bring additional walkers. Join our team and give hunger no chance!

Share
Mar 19, 2018

The 10 most popular Baptismal Verses

Baptism marks the beginning of the Christian life. I usually have the parents pick a Bible verse for their baby. Grownups obviously get to pick their own. For many years taufspruch.de has helped German speakers to find a verse that matches their life situation. Here are the 10 most popular Baptismal Verses:

1: For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. (Psalm 91:11)

2: Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)

3: You are all around me on every side; you protect me with your power. (Psalm 139:5)

4: for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; prudence will watch over you; and understanding will guard you. (Proverbs 2:10-11)

5: for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

6: I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. (Genesis 12:2)

7: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)

8: I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. (Psalm 139:14)

9: Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:8)

10: God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. (1 John 4:16b)

Do you remember the verse you were given? Or can you find it on your baptism certificate? A lot of times, people share with me how it has served as a meaningful motto that has carried them through their lives.

Share
Feb 27, 2018

Community Labyrinth for Lent

In the court yard at St. John’s United Church of Christ we now offer a labyrinth. Everyone is welcome to access it from the West Street side. We will maintain this temporary installation through Easter. If you are looking for a meaningful Lent experience, come on over and walk the labyrinth:

A labyrinth is not a maze. It has one way in and one way out. You cannot get lost in it. There are no dead ends. It is a symbol for life: It may seem chaotic but it moves forward steadily.
As you enter please imagine how you are descending into darkness. A labyrinth has dungeon qualities to it. Ancient cultures have imagined all kinds of creatures in those caverns. It can be a dangerous and deadly place.
Just like the path of life leads to death so is your way into the labyrinth. As you step in you step from light into darkness. The light fades away more and more the deeper you get into it. As you enter please imagine your journey as the challenges and hardships you face in life: the turns you are forced to make, the dirt you have to walk through.
A labyrinth has a center. Once you are in the center stay there for a while. Rest. Celebrate your arrival. You made it through all of life’s troubles. If you are a religious person consider this the end state of your existence whether you call it heaven or Nirvana or however you name it. Maybe for you it’s just the great emptiness.
When you are ready make your way out again. Take with you the strength of having been there before. As you walk out remember how you overcame all those troubles. After all you are walking back towards the light. Find signs of hope along your journey. Remember resources for personal strength that you can tap into. From my Christian perspective I call this part resurrection life. Out of death back to life. From darkness back to the light.
This is a spiritual exercise. If you have an urge to walk really fast get some physical exercise first and come back when you are ready to walk slowly. This exercise works best in total silence. If that does not work for you right now please come back when it does. Find your own pace. Some of the images that may pop up along the journey may make you slow down, some may make you want to speed up and run away. Find your own pace, yet be mindful of others.

Share
Feb 20, 2018

Texas Primaries are under way – What kind of Leaders do we need?

Today is the first day of early voting in Texas. I will be honest I have only today checked the ballots to see who is running for what. You can find the ballots for your precinct here. Our democracy depends on citizens who inform themselves and make use of their right to vote. But who should I vote for? What kind of leaders do we need?

Here are a few candidates that I found:

1. The incumbent – I have a proven track record of doing what I always said I was going to do. You know what you are going to get when you keep me in office. So I ask you to keep me in office.

2. The entrepreneur – I have had great success in my own company. I am an achiever and now I set my mind to achieving things in the political arena. Please join my fight.

3. The activist – I am very passionate about my issue. I have always been passionate about it and I know you are, too. Let’s move forward.

4. The anti-politician – I do not like politics. I do not like what politicians do. I want to get in there and tell them to stop.

You may recognize one or two or all of them. They also have powerful biblical precedents:

1. The incumbent – King Solomon had one major qualification for office. He was King David’s son. (1 Kings 2) This is what got him the throne: family legacy, dynasty. Not competence, not vision spirit but tradition. And it worked. Under his leadership Israel has seen wealth and wisdom like never before and never after him again. A solid choice.

2. The entrepreneur – Abraham was a successful rancher with huge herds a livestock. A wealthy business man for his day and age. (Genesis 13) That is why he was a natural leader. As such he became a blessing not just for his own family but for people from every nation. He understood the art of the deal and how to use relationships in business and family.

3. The activist – Dooms day prophets like Amos may not win elections but they sure shape public opinion. When they dig in and get a microphone and a twitter handle they will use them to fight injustice loud and clear. (Amos 2) A great prophet is one who may not get a leadership role, just plenty of enemies. We need their clear voices as a moral compass.

4. The anti-politician – The prophet Samuel warned loud and clear against government overreach: taxation, military service, forced labor, over-regulation. (1 Samuel 8) Politicians tend a amass power and influence and anti-politicians are in important counter weight-counter to balance things out. We need them to rock the boat.

What kind of leaders do we need? Learn about your candidates and use your right to vote!

Share
Pages:1234567...92»