November 12, 2019

Newsletter


Navigate THRED's New Layout and Join the Conversation
We're confident you'll like THRED's new look and layout. At THRED you'll find contributors and visitors who are interested in what you have to say. Here you'll encounter honest exchanges about the things that matter, the things we think about, as well as the big issues like God and faith and Jesus.

At THRED you can share your perspective, respond to others, and come away invigorated by the give-and-take. THRED offers an open forum for people to talk about the things they care about. And while it offers a Christian perspective, visitors to THRED will find that it's amenable to all kinds of viewpoints.

At the THRED website, there are articles and vlogs (video logs) on relationships, community, society, God, Christianity, and other items of interest. These can be accessed by clicking here.

At THRED we believe your voice and experiences are significant. We know we can learn more through dialogue with each other, which then makes for wonderful and enriching discoveries. And we think the hardest topics should be talked about more, not less.

At THRED we look forward to hearing from you!

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Blessing Others During Christmas: the Men's NetWork GIVES BACK
This year between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, the Men's NetWork is encouraging men's groups to help others out during the holidays. Different from our spring WORK DAY event, GIVES BACK is a chance for guys to "pay it forward" in response to the blessings they receive from God.

With this service event, there's a fun contest with three winning categories, too: 1) most creative service idea; 2) most community-oriented project; 3) best "holiday-themed" dressed group. Each group winner receives a $150 Amazon gift card. Also, registered participants will receive a new Men's NetWork stocking hat or one of our other "classic" caps.

To get you going, here's a few ideas to think about.

* Giving Back to a Nursing Home or Retirement Center
These folks are truly appreciative when visitors drop by. Think about putting together Christmas stockings for them. You can fill them with items from any dollar-type store. After you've passed them out, why not sing a few Christmas carols as you stroll the hallways, wishing residents a Merry Christmas and God's blessings for the New Year.

Stockings can be filled with mints and hard candy, homemade snacks, packets of hot chocolate, tea or coffee, slipper socks, skin lotion, lip balm, and a few of LHM's Project Connect booklets and Advent devotions.

* Giving Back to Kids Who Need Toys
What's more traditional at Christmas than giving kids toys? These may be low-income or disadvantaged kids at homeless shelters, long-term hospitals, or those in a family or two that you know will not have much of a Christmas this year in terms of presents. Once you determine the kinds of gifts you'll get based on the age and gender of each child, you group can get to work.

Doing a kids' gift giveaway will require selecting and collecting toys (many second-hand shops for children have excellent toys in great shape). You can then gift wrap the items (spouses and girlfriends may be handy here). Also, include a Christmas card along with some illustrated kids' booklets and Advent devotions from LHM. Then just deliver to families.

* Giving Back Free Car Winterizing Services and Kits
There's nothing that says "practical" like free car services, especially during the hectic holiday season. Here your group can secure donations, collect items, pack kits, and serve at the event. Freebies can include checking antifreeze and oil levels (topping off fluids), checking tire pressure (filling tires with a portable air compressor), checking battery cables, and cleaning posts.

Helpful items to distribute are antifreeze, oil, windshield wiper fluid, tire pressure gauges, ice scrapers, jumper cables, emergency roadside kits, bags of kitty litter or sand (for better traction), and LHM's 2019 Advent devotions: Call His Name Jesus.

* Giving Back a Christmas Dinner Basket
Of course, with Christmas comes the traditional meal, which is always a sizeable expense. For many, of course, it's simply not even possible on their budget. Here your men's group can gather the ingredients for a truly special dinner and deliver these goodies right to the front door of the families receiving them.

Meal baskets can include a frozen turkey or ham, boxed stuffing, canned cranberry sauce, canned vegetables and fruit, a can or jar of gravy, pumpkin pie (or filling and crust), macaroni and cheese (for the kids), an aluminum roaster pan, a pie tin (if prepared pie isn't included), and a printed copy of LHM's Advent devotions. You might even want to toss in the video Bible study, The Real St. Nick: Leader, Legend or Lie.

* Giving Back to a Men's or Women's Shelter
These safe havens have an ongoing need for materials for adults and children using their services. Your group can help meet this shortage by donating essential items in high demand. To do this, your men's group can break into different teams to solicit donations, collect items, pack kits, and distribute goods to the shelter.

Items can be packed in clear plastic bags or grocery sacks. Include things like shampoo, bars of soap, disposable razors, shaving cream, feminine hygiene products, toothbrushes and toothpaste, lip balm, combs, hats, gloves, sweaters, coats, blankets, toys, coloring books, crayons, socks, LHM's illustrated kids' booklets, and Advent devotions.

* Giving Back to a Veterans Hospital
Over the course of their lives, these dedicated men and women have often paid a high physical price for their active-duty military service through injuries, disabilities, and various traumatic stress disorders. You can convey a small token of your indebtedness to them for their time in the Armed Forces with a visit and the gift of a handmade care package. Gift packs for vets are fun to put together.

Care packages can include items like crossword puzzle books, beef jerky, paperbacks, chocolate, candy bars, an easy-to-read Bible, hot sauce, trail mix, a signed Christmas card with a handwritten note, and some LHM Project Connect booklets and you guessed it—LHM's Advent devotions.

You can register for GIVES BACK at the Men's NetWork by clicking here and giving us a few quick details.

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Mongolia Awaits!
For 2020, Gospel Adventures is taking students, teachers, and adventurous learners to Mongolia for a five-day learning expedition to this country on the other side of the planet.

Famed for the conquering exploits of its most famous character, Genghis Khan, the country of Mongolia is a land of wide-open spaces and close-knit communities.

Situated between Russia and China, Mongolia is vast in size and few in people. (It's the world's least densely populated country!) But that doesn't mean it lacks a remarkable history and promising future.

With Go Mongolia! students and teachers get five days of online exploration that touches on numerous aspects of this captivating region. Student adventure of Mongolia takes place through short articles, videos, maps, colorful graphs, hands-on activities, eye-catching charts, identification boxes, questions for discussion, and more. All these pieces work together to highlight the country's ethnic groups, ways of living, religion, economy, culture and customs, government, language, history, and other features that make Mongolia so vast and diverse.

Drawing inspiration from Ephesians 3:17-19 and letting the immensity of Mongolia illustrate it, students will learn about God and "how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is." Student takeaways will include a new awareness of Mongolian culture and its citizenry. With this, they will gain a fresh appreciation of the work of the Gospel in their own lives and how God is at work in people's lives around the world as well.

This only scratches the surface of what this FREE five-day online experience holds for students. If you're a teacher, you can access our grade school curriculum sample now by clicking here.

The full curriculum will be available in January 2020.

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Dollar-Doubling Grant to Empower LHM's Ministry Outreach
With Thanksgiving a couple of weeks out, Lutheran Hour Ministries has an excellent opportunity for your year-end gifts to expand their ministry reach. A $200,000 matching grant will boost your donation by doubling the dollars of your gift. Your contribution will help expand the audience reach of The Lutheran Hour, go toward the development of new LHM Learn courses, be put into creating online content for THRED's digital outreach venture, and help expand LHM's global ministry footprint.

See what's happening at LHM and how your dollars will go to work by checking out this video. You can see it by clicking here.

As LHM moves forward in proclaiming the Gospel, 2019 has been a year of great blessing and joy for the organization. You are certainly part of that through your dedicated prayers and thoughtful use of the many ministry tools and resources LHM produces. When you share LHM ministry materials with others, you help them learn about Jesus and the love God has for each of us.

And, if you're so inclined, financial gifts make a huge difference as well. The current $200,000 matching grant is an excellent way to maximize your contribution, so LHM can press on with its longtime mission of Bringing Christ to the Nations—and the Nations to the Church.

As always, thank you for all you do for Lutheran Hour Ministries!

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Seasonal Messages to Share the Savior's Story
This year's Advent devotions, Call His Name Jesus, by LHM's Theological Writer Dr. Kari Vo, will once again be a Christmas blessing to many thousands this year.

They can be received in your e-mail inbox as a daily message during the holidays. Otherwise, you can read them online, listen to the audio, or enjoy them via LHM's Daily Devotion app as you travel. You can find the app by clicking here.

In Call His Name Jesus, God comes to us. "In this tiny baby we see the Man who lay down His life for us on Calvary's cross, the Son of God who defeated all the power of the devil—because He loved us," Vo said. "But it also starts with you in all of your tininess—somebody sitting in a comfortable chair reading in the lamplight; a parent putting the little ones to bed with a prayer and a story about Jesus; a driver with your eyes on the road, watching out for hazards while the back of your mind is preoccupied with work or errands. You are a single speck of human life among billions of others on a troubled planet in an ordinary galaxy of this immense universe. And yet, Advent is about you, because you are the reason Jesus came," Vo added.

During the Advent season, you can receive these devotions as a daily e-mail, beginning December 1. You can also access a downloadable version, which includes a large-font text and bulletin inserts, right now. Audio begins on December 1 with Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Speaker for The Lutheran Hour, reading the devotions. You can click here for all the details.

Le pondrás por nombre Jesús, the Spanish-language version, will be available to read online or to receive as a daily e-mail through the Advent season beginning December 1. Audio will also begin on December 1 with Rev. Hector Hoppe reading the texts. The print version is also now available. You can click here for the details on LHM's Spanish-language devotions.

Don't forget to sign up—if you haven't already—for LHM's regular Daily Devotions in English and Spanish, too. They begin Tuesday, January 7, 2020, following Advent.

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The Discomfort with Dismantling
A few years ago, my husband and I began exploring the possibility of moving into a new home. Having done a bit of research, we identified neighborhoods and entered our preferences into an online search bar, along with our price limits. We were disappointed by how few homes met our qualifications, but were excited to find a single, promising, slightly suspicious possibility: a spacious home, in a top-notch school district, priced inexplicably lower than comparable properties.

We planned a visit and considered all the possible explanations for this anomaly, but could not have anticipated what we found. The house was lovely: nice curb appeal, modern updates, and convenient amenities. Yet it took only 30 seconds and a walk across the front room for me to see it ... or rather, feel it. The house was crooked.

"The Magical Leaning House," I quickly named it as I began to observe how everything in the house was, not so subtly, pitched to one side. Now, having been familiar with the "settling" that can occur in older homes, it was not the leaning phenomenon that fascinated me most. Rather, I was baffled by how intentionally the previous owner had embraced this characteristic. The window frames were custom-made rhombuses, made to perfectly fit the off-kilter openings. The wood trim and molding was custom cut at precise angles to adjust for the tricky way the corners came together. Everything was modified to embrace the imbalance.

Yet a visit to the lower level revealed evidence of numerous attempts to seal and fill cracks in the basement floor. It was simultaneously impressive and troubling. I could not imagine why someone would go to such great lengths to aesthetically and superficially accommodate what was quite obviously a foundational issue.

Clearly, the owner did not tune in to home improvement reality television. There is something about making old things new and wrong things right that scratches a primal itch for viewers, including me. We can also all agree that there is no worse discovery for a new homeowner than learning there's a problem with the foundation. How badly we want for the renovation budget to be used for a beautiful new front porch, a clawfoot tub, or a custom kitchen island. But no matter the sacrifice, there is never a question—at least for the professionals—about what is actually the priority.

Whether the house needs to be hoisted up, reinforced, or even torn down, foundation work is backbreaking. It's time-consuming and often looks and feel destructive; torn-up landscaping, broken tiles, sledge-hammered concrete. It seems to halt all other progress. It costs.

But what is the alternative to foundation repair? I suppose it's "The Magical Leaning House." How problematic could it be to live in a house that leans? A rolling baseball and an uneven freshly-baked cake seem like small inconveniences in comparison to the colossal cost of breaking up and relaying a new foundation. Not so, say the experts. To the contrary, the longer a homeowner delays fixing the foundation, the more uneven it gets, the more damaged the structure of the house becomes, and the more will be required to repair it.

Many, at least publicly, agree that our United States was built on an uneven foundation. The land and everything on it was created to benefit some inhabitants more than others. Despite this history, and perhaps due to the great sacrifices and perseverance of individuals and groups, many attempts have been made to correct the injustices and assuage the legacy of our broken beginnings. But repairing broken foundations is colossal work, and it's become apparent to some (and remained painfully obvious to others) that the work that's been done is much like that in "The Magical Leaning House"—several crack repairs, but mostly aesthetic and superficial modifications to distract us from a structure that actually continues to be unstable and imbalanced.

For a great many, the unwillingness to deal with the foundational work has been intentional and self-serving. Their lives have been spent ordering custom rhombus windows and cutting precise angles so that all appears tidy and purposeful. It may seem that they benefit from this particular pitch, but they fail to realize that our collective dwelling is still rapidly sinking.

For others, "The Magical Leaning House" has become home. These residents have lived so long on an incline that it now feels mostly comfortable as their bodies and gaits have redistributed and modified to adjust to this constant state. For them, it no longer feels like a lean, but feels normal—even right. Not only would foundation repair be loud and disruptive to their environment, but it would create discomfort for their own physical bodies. So without clear knowledge of impending structural failure, foundation work feels not only unnecessary but detrimental.

Yet there are still others who, through personal investigation or the intervention of a visiting neighbor, have begun see the tilt and identify it as destructive. They lean closer, even as they wince at the reality that it is, indeed, worse than they thought. They seek input, get opinions, ask questions, do research. The closer they look, the more problems they find. The renovation budget seems to climb to insurmountable heights. They are regularly tempted to simply deal with the superficial, order custom windows, and get back to the joy of picking accent colors. But they have seen the truth and cannot unsee it, and the only lasting satisfaction they can now have is in pushing up their sleeves, grabbing a hard hat and a sledgehammer, and asking the foreman how they can help demo.

The institutions of our time are the houses we live in and the structures we build upon. May we not settle for the cheap praise that comes with fresh coats of paint and new wall art, but look closer and dig deeper to identify the brokenness that has kept us perpetually off-kilter. Let us lean into the discomfort of dismantling the systems that compromise our collective ability to flourish. The work will be far from easy, but there is no doubt that it will be worth it. The greatest peace and satisfaction will be most palpably experienced by those who have seen the foundation's crumbling condition, recognized the past and potential harm, but sacrificed control and comfort to ensure lasting security to all who pass through its doors.

Join in. There's enough work for all of us.

Written by Sabrine Rhodes

How is it where you live? What are the things that can be done to uplift and fortify your neighborhood and community? How can we see to it that compromised foundations (both local and national) are addressed rather than ignored and built over?

You can let us know what you think by clicking here and leaving a comment.

You can let the folks at THRED know what you think by clicking here.

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Upcoming Events:
  • MD, Pasadena: Galilee Men's Bible Study
    April 13, 2019 - December 13, 2019
    Host Church: Galilee Lutheran Church

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Newest Men's NetWork Groups:
  • Men's Prayer Breakfast
    Hamlin, NY
  • St. Paul's Men
    West Falls, NY
  • Trinity Lutheran Thursday Morning Bible Study
    Columbia, MO
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