December 28, 2020 - Grace and peace from our brother Jesus, Amen. Sunday was the First Sunday after Christmas. We at Paxton hope you had a safe but merry Christmas and will have a Happy New Year. We are all ready to say goodbye to the problems of 2020!

Sue and I had a really nice Christmas. Our daughter and her faithful four-legged companion, Stella, spent several days with us. Sue and Megan went to see Grandma Dixie in Nacogdoches on Christmas Eve, finding Dixie quite cheerful. They also visited with Sue’s sister, brother-in-law, and nephew—who was born about a month after Meg. My brother and his wife came on Christmas Eve with their new dog, Scally. Scally is still very much a (large) puppy but got along with the other three dogs and all the people. Sue and Megan fixed a great Christmas meal, and we had fun opening presents. I sure got some neat stuff.

Christmas week for the most part was chilly but nice. On Saturday, it warmed up to near 70, which thawed out my blood: I spent some needed therapy time in the yard and garden. Our company left Saturday, and our dogs, Sam and Gunter, just collapsed after all the excitement. We don’t have any New Year plans and probably won’t even stay up for midnight. We are pretty boring, I guess. Actually I read last week that people who like routines and staying at home are not boring but content. That sounds better!

Paxton Methodist is having in-person worship; we respect each other by wearing masks and keeping socially distant. Scientists and medical professionals say that we can do three simple things before the vaccines are generally available: To curtail the spread of Covid-19, we should wash our hands regularly, stay at least 6 feet apart—social distancing, and yes, wear a mask. Things are so dire that mask-wearing is the patriotic thing to do. It is also the Christian thing to do, loving your neighbor as you love yourself.

All during the month of December we have been collecting cans of soup for Community Christian Services. In January 2021, we will collect cans of tuna. Paxton Methodist Church wants to thank the anonymous person who sent a generous amount of money to the church. We will certainly use it in the ministries of the church.

We want to be as safe as we can. Since we resumed in-person worship, our music has been on CD. We can hum the song under our masks but no vigorous singing! We started with “The First Noel,” sung by Elvis. We tried this song last week; unfortunately, the CD didn’t work—or perhaps Elvis left the building! But Elvis was back this week. The second song was our New Year hymn, “Morning Has Broken.” This is my absolute favorite in the Methodist hymnal; I particularly like this version by Cat Stevens.

Fannie had a really good Sunday School lesson for us this morning. Gene read our scripture, John 14: 8-14. This Gospel is certainly the most mystical of the four Gospels, showing us the cosmic as well as the human nature of the Christ. In the reading, the disciples are still having trouble figuring out what kind of Messiah Jesus is. For John, when one sees Jesus, one sees God. Fannie mentioned that the earliest Christians were known as Followers of the Way; they didn’t think of being true to Jesus as a religion but as the pathway to God and fulfillment. Jesus was the living presence of God among people.

I used the Gospel lesson for this Sunday—the First Sunday after Christmas—which came from Luke 2: 22-40. One of the days of Christmas is set aside to remember Jesus’ circumcision and his naming. In the Gospel lesson we see Jesus presented at the Temple and two elderly, faithful people, Simeon and Anna, realizing that this Jesus was the Promised One. Most of my sermon, though, spoke about how people in the Middle Ages celebrated the 12 days of Christmas and the importance of Christmastide to the people.

Whoever you are, in whatever faith you were born, whatever creed you profess; if you come to this house to find God you are welcome here. Paxton United Methodist Church is an inviting church that takes to heart the idea of “Open Doors, Open Hearts, and Open Minds.” Worship begins at 10:00. Our email address is paxtonumc@yahoo.com. If you would like the weekly email newsletter about Paxton Methodist, you can send your email address to the Paxton email address, and I will add you to the list. God’s Speed.

December 24, 2020 – The First United Methodist Church of Center invites the community to a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service on Thursday, December 24 from 6pm to 6:30pm on the downtown square in front of the historic Shelby County Courthouse. 

The entire community is invited to come together for this festive family time of singing carols and celebrating the joy of Jesus’ birth. Everyone should bring their own candle. Hot cider will be provided before the event. The evening will conclude with everyone singing Silent Night by candlelight! 

“First United Methodist Church Center is overjoyed to be able to provide this festive community candlelight gathering, especially during this time of social isolation,” said Pastor Malcolm Monroe. “Hopefully, many people will feel comfortable singing the old familiar Christmas carols while outside and respecting the social distancing suggestions to keep everyone healthy.” 

In case of inclement weather, the event will be cancelled with no alternative service. (Santa Claus will not be with us because he will be on the other side of the world delivering toys to the children there).

For more information about the Christmas Eve Candlelight Gathering or First UMC, please contact Pastor Malcolm Monroe at the church office (936) 598-2707, visit the church website at www.fumccentertx.org or follow on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FUMCCenterTexas/.

December 21, 2020 - Grace and peace from our brother Jesus, Amen. Sunday was the Fourth Sunday of Advent. Instead of using the scriptures for that Sunday, however, I used Luke 2: 1-14, often read on Christmas Eve. Paxton Methodist will not have worship on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, so we celebrated these wonderful days today. We at Paxton United Methodist Church wish everyone a very Merry Christmas.

Paxton Methodist is having in-person worship; we respect each other by wearing masks and keeping socially distant. Scientists and medical professionals say that we can do three simple things before the vaccines are generally available: To curtail the spread of Covid-19, we should wash our hands regularly, stay at least 6 feet apart—social distancing, and yes, wear a mask. Things are so dire that mask-wearing is the patriotic thing to do. It is also the Christian thing to do, loving your neighbor as you love yourself.

All during the month of December we have been collecting cans of soup for Community Christian Services. In January 2021 we will collect cans of tuna. Our church also contributed gifts and money to CCS’s children’s Christmas. Some of our members gave gifts and money for the Silver Bell nursing home Christmas at the request of Pastor Sarah from Timpson and Tenaha Methodist. We received a letter and a certificate of appreciation from Bishop Jones for our 100% financial support of the Texas Conference and all the ministries of the church, in Texas and globally.

I am working on the end-of-year reports, including the financial reports of the church. I couldn’t do that without the hard work and help from Gene, our church’s treasurer. I am hoping to have everything figured out and entered by the end of the year. Dr. White, our East District superintendent, called me this week so we could have our end-of-year meeting. Usually pastors go to the District Office in Lufkin, but due to the strangeness of 2020 we did a “teleconference.” It is always nice to visit with Dr. White, who is a very kind and caring leader. The plan is for me to continue to serve Paxton Methodist as a part-time retired pastor. I guess there are a few miles still in my engine.

Our Sunday School lesson came from the first chapter of the John Gospel. It begins by stating four times that Jesus is the light that came into the world. John was written much later than the other three—probably in the first decade of the second century. John certainly had the most cosmic description of Jesus; John the Baptizer is also crucial in this gospel, letting folks know that the Light of the World was going to overcome darkness. We ended up in quite a discussion about some of what John said, which is good for our minds and our souls. One is never too old for school—in this case, Sunday School.

We want to be as safe as we can. Since we resumed in-person worship, our music has been on CD. We can hum the song under our masks but no vigorous singing! Both songs today were Christmas hymns. We started with “The First Noel,” sung by Elvis. Unfortunately, the CD didn’t work—or perhaps Elvis left the building! Maybe next week. The second hymn was a country version of “Silent Night.”

The thought of those two teenagers, Mary and Joseph, heading to Bethlehem and beginning a new life together is really pretty ordinary. Seeing a young couple starting out is exciting and hopeful, but still these events happen all the time. Mary and Joseph’s new life is complicated by the fact that Mary is in the family way. The idea that the God of all would become flesh and blood in a tiny helpless baby is not ordinary. To absorb such a mystery requires us to call on our mystical nature, seeing these events not in a historical way but spiritually. It also becomes very clear that the God of all has a special place in his heart for the poor and downtrodden. The first folks who receive the angelic news flash about the birth are not the powerful and well-connected but the lowest of the low—shepherds. The world is being turned upside down by this birth and all its meanings.

Whoever you are, in whatever faith you were born, whatever creed you profess; if you come to this house to find God you are welcome here. Paxton United Methodist Church is an inviting church that takes to heart the idea of “Open Doors, Open Hearts, and Open Minds.” Worship begins at 10:00. Our email address is paxtonumc@yahoo.com. If you would like the weekly email newsletter about Paxton Methodist, you can send your email address to the Paxton email address, and I will add you to the list. God’s Speed.

December 17, 2020 - I was cooking my oatmeal the other morning, and before you could say, "how did it happen," it had! I didn't turn the heat down on the stove and my oatmeal boiled over. Now, let's be honest, any good cook turns the heat down when the pot begins to boil. There is nothing good accomplished by uncontrolled boiling. The food in the pot sticks to the pan and burns or bubbles over the side and is lost. 

In case you wonder where this is going, here it is. Some of us are better cooks than we are Christians. We are smart enough to keep our food from burning and boiling over. However, we have not yet learned how to control the boiling  in our spirits. Too often, we allow old hurts, resentments, jealousies and hatreds to burn high inside us until they boil over and make a mess of everything. 

A good cook learns to turn down the heat and keep the cooking under control. Doing this, all the goodness and flavor is preserved and there isn't a pot to be scrubbed and soaked to get the burned food out of it. Maybe it's time we learned to turn down the heat on the things that trouble us. 

Maybe we need to remember the words of the Psalmist, "Be still, and know that l am God." (Psalms 46:10) Pause this week, turn down the heat, and reflect on the goodness of God. 

It's something to think about....TBP

Come join us for Worship, in person this coming Lord's day... 

Center Church of Christ 
110 Hurst Street
Center, Texas
www centerchurchofchrist.com 

December 14, 2020 - Grace and peace from our brother Jesus, Amen. Sunday was the Third Sunday of Advent. We are living in the worst time of this pandemic: More and more people have friends and loved ones who have suffered horribly and even died from this virus. Late this week, the first really hopeful sign in the nine-month battle—a vaccine was approved and will be rolled out next week. My sermon title for Sunday, “Voice in the Wilderness of Covid,” reflected the frightening reality of 2020.

Paxton Methodist is having in-person worship; we respect each other by wearing masks and keeping socially distant. Scientists and the medical professionals say that we can do three simple things before the vaccines are generally available: To curtail the spread of Covid-19, we should wash our hands regularly, stay at least 6 feet apart—social distancing, and yes, wear a mask. Things are so dire that mask-wearing is the patriotic thing to do. It is also the Christian thing to do, loving your neighbor as you love yourself.

Usually at Paxton Methodist, Advent features a Christmas program and dinner for the community. However, due to the ongoing pandemic, we have canceled our 2020 celebration. All during the month of December we will be collecting cans of soup for Community Christian Services. CCS has done an excellent job of getting essential supplies—especially food—to individuals and families in need. The Kids’ Christmas part of CCS is now hard at work, helping spread holiday cheer to the younger members of those families.

Our Sunday School lesson was a very timely and needed reminder that our goal in life is thinking and living as Jesus did. Fannie took us down Memory Lane, back to the 1980s & 90s and the popular bracelet—WWJD (What Would Jesus Do). Our author reminded us Jesus told his disciples that whoever believes in him will do the work he did.

We want to be as safe as we can. Since we resumed in-person worship, our music has been on CD. We can hum the song under our masks but no vigorous singing! Both songs today were Christmas hymns. “Joy to the World” mirrored today’s theme of joy, especially appropriate since we were also commemorating Joy Hutto’s birthday this week! “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” featured Andy Williams’ mellow voice.

This 3rd Sunday of Advent is to be one of joy as Mary exclaims to God her surprise and honor in her role as the mother of the Christ. In our Gospel lesson today from John, the theme of light overcoming darkness is really stressed; John points to Jesus as the light that will illuminate our path, showing us the way to wholeness. If we can get past some of the stranger parts of the Baptizer, we can hear his voice in any wilderness, beckoning us to new light and a new way of understanding God.

Whoever you are, in whatever faith you were born, whatever creed you profess; if you come to this house to find God you are welcome here. Paxton United Methodist Church is an inviting church that takes to heart the idea of “Open Doors, Open Hearts, and Open Minds.” Worship begins at 10:00. Our email address is paxtonumc@yahoo.com. If you would like the weekly email newsletter about Paxton Methodist, you can send your email address to the Paxton email address, and I will add you to the list. God’s Speed.

Randy & Sue Smith/Paxton United Methodist Church

December 11, 2020 - St. Therese of Lisieux Parish Catholic Church in Center regrets to announce the Our Lady of Guadalupe Procession and Public Celebration is cancelled due to COVID-19. The parade and celebration would traditionally have been held this weekend.

December 11, 2020 - Huxley Helping Hands will host a Drive Thru Food Pantry on Saturday, December 12 at 9am at Hillcrest Baptist Church, Center, TX.

  • Only 1 box per household
  • ID is required
  • Must be in line by 9:30 am to receive a box.

December 10, 2020 - We had our young grandson Mason who is a little over 2 years old, staying with us for a few days during Thanksgiving. As you go from our den into our dining room, you go up some stairs or steps, about 5 of them to be exact. Well, Mason already has an independent streak. So, we would start up those steps and he would say, “all on my own” and hold the rail and walk up without my assistance.

Well, for a little fellow, that is a big moment. He was venturing to climb those steps without any assistance from Poppy or Gigi. He reached the top safely by just taking one step after another. The last step was just as easy as the first. However, we were near, we were close, we were ready to make sure he did not fall. He did it several times and never had an incident.

To a toddler, climbing the stairs is a big adventure. To the Christian, it is the greatest possible adventure to ascend to God. As we make that ascent, God is near, he is there to pick us up when we stumble. Remember the words of Paul, “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14) Let’s make sure we are climbing toward the heights with God.

It’s something to think about ... tbp

Come join us for Worship, in person this coming Lord’s day.
Center Church of Christ
110 Hurst Street 
Center, Texas
www.centerchurchofchrist.com

December 7, 2020 - In 1950 at the age of 18, I hitch-hiked to Springfield, Missouri with three dollars in my pocket. I persuaded the college to let me enroll with the promise to pay as I could for a room in the dormitory. I was given a room shared with Don Walker of Tyler, Texas. It was complete with a lavatory, a Panel-Ray Heater, a washcloth, a towel, a broom, and two bunk beds.

When I got the flu, the school nurse came to “paint my throat.”  I held up my head and stretched out my neck as far as I could. “Hold down your head and open your mouth,” she barked. Up to this time, I never had a doctor and thought “painting my throat” meant painting my neck. She quickly crammed a swab down my throat and after a time of coughing and gagging, the nurse said I’d “be fine.”

After three days, I began recovering. My roommate, Don Walker, (now Dr. Don Walker of Tyler, Texas), took my picture. After a year of living on peanut butter and crackers, shoveling snow and washing dishes, I enrolled in ETBU in Marshall, Texas and received my B.A. Degree.

1950 was a hard year for many of us in Springfield, but I learned how good peanut butter was, met some of my dearest friends there, and learned that a “throat-painting” is not really so bad … when it makes you feel so good later.

December 7, 2020 - Grace and peace from our brother Jesus, Amen. Sunday was the Second Sunday of Advent. It became clear this week that East Texas is ready to flirt with Old Man Winter. My morning walks with my four-legged friends, Gunter and Sam, have been quite chilly. The pups don’t seem to mind as they frolic around the park. I am listening to the new Michael Connelly book and moving as fast as I can. I bundle myself up real good, as I just can’t take the cold like I used to.

All during the month of December we will be collecting cans of soup for Community Christian Services. Paxton Methodist is having in-person worship, and we respect each other by wearing masks and keeping socially distant. The predictions by scientists and the medical community have unfortunately come true. The virus is spreading throughout our nation, with millions getting infected and thousands dying. Even though the United States only makes up 5% of the world’s population, our country accounts for 20% of the infections and deaths worldwide.

Scientists and the medical professionals say that we can do three simple things before the vaccines are released later this month. To curtail the spread of Covid-19, we should wash our hands regularly, stay at least 6 feet apart—social distancing, and yes, wear a mask. Things are so dire that mask wearing is the patriotic thing to do. It is also the Christian thing to do, loving your neighbor as you love yourself. Usually at Paxton Methodist, Advent features a Christmas program and dinner for the community. However, due to the ongoing pandemic, we have canceled our 2020 celebration.

We want to be as safe as we can. Our music this morning was on CD. The first was the Christmas song, “O Holy Night” sung by Marie Osmond. The second hymn was “Standing on the Promises,” on Christy Lane’s album, Footprints in the Sand. Our first-Sunday communion was shared...but also socially distant and in individual Ziplocs. Today we were in double digits and were glad to hear that two of our absent members had returned home, although not at church yet.

Our Sunday School lesson was focused on the idea that humans were made in God’s image. The scripture came from the Jewish hymnbook, The Psalms—Psalm 8: 1-9. The beautiful poetry of this psalm speaks of creation, saying that humans were fashioned with glory and grandeur just slightly less than divine. Our being created in the image of the Divine should be seen as an awesome responsibility to live up to.

The scripture for my sermon was the Gospel lesson for the Second Sunday in Advent, Mark 1: 1-8. In this Gospel, there are no babe in a manger, no angels, shepherds, or wise men, and no bright star. Instead, the writer of the Mark Gospel, the oldest Gospel in the Christian Testament, tells us about the wild prophet in the wilderness, John the Baptizer. Apparently unknown to the Mark writer are the stories of Bethlehem and the birth of the babe. In Mark’s Gospel, John, like the prophets in the Jewish Testament, is urging people to turn to a new (but also old) way of seeing and thinking. He is baptizing people into a new life—a new way of understanding God. All these years later, we should still heed John’s words.

Whoever you are, in whatever faith you were born, whatever creed you profess; if you come to this house to find God you are welcome here. Paxton United Methodist Church is an inviting church that takes to heart the idea of “Open Doors, Open Hearts, and Open Minds.” Worship begins at 10:00. Our email address is paxtonumc@yahoo.com. If you would like the weekly email newsletter about Paxton Methodist, you can send your email address to the Paxton email address, and I will add you to the list. God’s Speed.

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