Four Tips for a Blessed Advent

Four Tips for a Blessed Advent

Dear Advent Pilgrims,

In last Sunday’s sermon I shared some of the best guidance I’ve ever received about having a blessed Advent. It came from a book I read years ago titled, “Unplug the Christmas Machine.” It offers people practical advice on how to keeps your eyes focused on God, and on the things that matter the most.

Here are those four tips again, and I invite you to consider them as an individual and as a family this Advent:

  1. Focus on Quality Time.

Be intentional about having relaxed and loving time with the family. This is hard to do when things get crazy and busy, but it is the best gift you can give each other. Quality, relaxed, loving time.

  1. Put Gift Giving in Perspective.

Teach your kids to have a realistic expectation about gifts. Don’t send them the message that the price of the gift equals the level at which you love them or appreciate them, and don’t think your value as a parent is gauged by your ability to please them, surprise them, or fill them with joy with the gifts you give them.           

  1. Pace Yourself.

Advent is four weeks long. Spread out the responsibilities as best you can, and don’t feel like you need to do it all. Plan things out. Don’t let the stress of gift buying, party hosting, decorating, or traveling all be condensed into one short period of the month.          

  1. Create Family Traditions.

Remember that when the toys are all played with, the clothes are out of style and outgrown, and the food is all eaten, that down the road, the most enduring things with your family will be the memories, the traditions, and the rituals that will mark them and shape them. So, establish fun, creative, and meaningful family traditions.

That of course includes joining us for worship every Sunday during Advent, either online or in person. And join us for a full slate of worship services the week of Christmas, including a live Interactive Nativity on December 19, Blue Christmas on December 21, a Water Works Christmas service on December 23, and four worship services on the Hyde Park campus on December 24, along with worship online throughout the day. For details on each service, visit our website.

See you on the road to Bethlehem!



We share the exciting news that The Bible Project 2020 has been picked up by Abingdon Press for publication! We are honored to share this resource to help congregations around the world learn to read the Bible without fear or frustration. It has been rebranded as The Bible Year: A Journey Through Scripture in 365 Days.” It features a daily devotional, a leader’s guide, a guide for pastors, and weekly videos.

Half the proceeds will support the Missions and Ministries Budget of our church. So, if you found last year’s journey through the Bible meaningful, would you take a moment to submit a rating or review on Amazon? That will help the publishing house promote the material for congregations around the world.

On Being Grateful for Everything

On Being Grateful for Everything

Dear Hyde Park Family,


 On Being Grateful for Everything

By Henri Nouwen

(from Bread for the Journey)


To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy,

But to be grateful for all of our lives—

the good as well as the bad,

the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow,

the successes as well as the failures,

the rewards as well as the rejections—

that requires hard spiritual work.

Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say “thank you” to all that has brought us to the present moment.

As long as we keep dividing our lives between

events and people we would like to remember

and those we would rather forget,

we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for.

Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.

On behalf of the staff and lay leadership of Hyde Park United Methodist, I wish you and yours a blessed time of remembrance and gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving!

Grace and Peace,




Join us this Sunday as we once again begin our journey toward Christmas and welcome Jesus anew into our lives. Our series theme is “All the Good,” and focuses on practical ways to experience the hope, peace, joy, and love of Advent. For more information, visit our website.


Thank you to the many, many of you who have enabled us to get off to a strong start in receiving our estimates of giving for 2022. If you have not yet done so, please fill out your estimate by clicking here. Your estimates of giving are the only way our Finance Committee has to accurately plan for all the ministries and programs God is calling us to do next year. Thank you!
3 Tips for Giving Thanks

3 Tips for Giving Thanks

Dear Hyde Park Family,
We are a week away from Thanksgiving, and I pray your days ahead will be filled with moments of joy, reflection, and connecting with loved ones.
As the season suggests, may there also be occasions for you to give deep thanks to God and to each other for the blessings that you enjoy. And may your expression of thanksgiving be more than just a special occurrence before an annual meal; may it become a way of life.
So, here are three practical tips you might consider for cultivating a pattern of gratitude in your life.
1. Be as Specific as You Can.
There have been seasons of my life when I have maintained a gratitude journal, in which I intentionally write down two or three things I am grateful for every day.
The best advice I have ever received about keeping a gratitude journal is “the more specific, the better.” It is easy (albeit important) to be grateful for broad, general things, like your family, your health, your job, and other basic necessities. But research has shown that the more details you can give about specific experiences of gratitude, the more aware you will be of such blessings in the future.
For example, in my own gratitude journals, I have noted the following:
·      The feeling of my bare feet on a newly cleaned floor, or the feeling of waking up in freshly cleaned bedsheets.
·      Walking in the front door and seeing both my dogs wagging their tails in perfect sync.
·      The rays of sunshine that poked through the trees as I was walking around my neighborhood, just as I was listening to a beautiful rendition of a favorite praise song.
2. Try the Daily Examen Prayer.
Many Christian communities observe the Daily Offices, a rhythm of daily prayer that aligns with different moments of the day. One of the evening prayers is called the Daily Examen, which is a structured way to review the past day with prayer and gratitude. The following uses the pattern prescribed by St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Begin with a pause and a slow, deep breath or two; become aware that you are in the presence of the Holy.
What am I especially grateful for in the past day:
·      The gift of another day…
·      The love and support I have received…
·      The courage I have mustered…
·      An event that took place today…
Petition and Review:
I am about to review my day; I ask for the light to know God and to know myself as God sees me.
·      Where have I felt true joy today?
·      What has troubled me today?
·      What has challenged me today?
·      Where and when did I pause today?
·      Have I noticed God’s presence in any of this?
Response and Look Ahead:
·      In light of my review, what is my response to the God of my life?
·      As I look ahead, what comes to mind?
·      With what spirit do I want to enter tomorrow?
3. Answer These Two Simple Questions.
Finally, you might find value in regularly answering the very same two questions that my therapist asks me at the conclusion of each of our sessions:
·      Since we last met, what is one thing that you are proud of?
·      What is one thing you are looking forward to?
I have learned to love those two questions, and it is often my favorite part of my therapy sessions. It has come to the point that I ask myself those questions even when I am not meeting my therapist.
No matter how hard life might become, God has empowered you to accomplish at least one thing that you can be proud of (and again, the more specific, the better.) And no matter how fearful or challenging the days ahead might feel to you, there is always something, even something small, that you can look forward to in the future.
So, friends, as you move into the week ahead, may it be filled with delightful, even surprising, reminders of all that God has done for you, in you, and through you.
Happy Thanksgiving!


Thank you to the many, many of you who have enabled us to get off to a strong start in receiving our estimates of giving for 2022. If you have not yet done so, please fill out your estimate by clicking here. Your estimates of giving are the only way our Finance Committee has to accurately plan for all the ministries and programs God is calling us to do next year. Thank you!
Wires Crossed

Wires Crossed

Dear Hyde Park Family,


I have discovered the joys of teaching my elderly parents how to use the Alexa app on their Amazon Echo. I purchased it for them a few weeks ago to give them a way of playing Filipino music by their favorite artists.

The lessons have gone as you might expect. It’s Alexa, not Amanda. Yes, it should understand your accent. No, you don’t have to yell. Don’t forget to start with Alexa; simply saying “Play Rey Valera” won’t do.

I will give them credit. After a few days, they figured it out. “Oh, Magrey,” my Mom told me a few days ago, “this is the best gift. We are listening to it all the time.” And then she recounts for me all the artists, all the albums, and all the songs they have listened to, most of which I’ve never heard of and can’t pronounce. My Dad, more the pragmatist, wonders how Amazon makes money allowing access to all this music. Oh, they make their money, we decided.

Then last Monday night, I had probably the best laugh I’ve had in months.

My older daughter Grace, a student at San Diego State University, reached out to let me know that apparently, my parents’ Amazon Echo had somehow logged into her Spotify music streaming service. Grace was on Spotify on her computer, and suddenly it started playing whatever my parents were listening to.

Now, you need to know that Grace is not a pretentious person by nature. But when it comes to her Spotify music, she can be fiercely protective. She has carefully curated her music selections to provide ready access to whatever playlist fits her mood and activity in the moment. She has her classical music, her Broadway showtunes, her pop hits, her select artists, albums, and genres, ready to go, literally at the push of a button. And given Spotify’s carefully crafted algorithms, she is even particular about the music that Spotify recommends for her to listen to.

This is all to say that since figuring out how to use their newly beloved Amazon Echo, my parents have been interjecting music into Grace’s Spotify account. This prompted this hilariously frantic text message from her to me last Monday:

“Okay. Yes, please fix it, because it keeps cutting out what I’m listening to, and playing songs in Tagalog, And now I’m getting recommendations for Tagalog songs, too. It is quite jarring to go from “Pictures at an Exhibition” to “Saang Linggong Pag-Ibig.”

This is easily my favorite text message of the whole year.

I called my parents, while still texting Grace, to figure out what to do. I explained to my mother that somehow, Grace was hearing whatever songs they were listening to. “Oh,” my mother said, half-concerned, “Grace would love Celine Dion.”

Uh, huh.

But here is where the story goes from merely comical, to a whole new stratosphere of hilarity. Grace discovered this problem while at work, at the tutoring center on campus where she is employed by the university. It was her night to provide background music for the center, and she had hooked up her computer to the public sound system.

So, you guessed it. All the students in the room were being treated to spontaneous musical interruptions by certain Filipino artists, along with Celine Dion, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, and Barry Manilow.

Grace was mortified.

I fell asleep laughing Monday night, and woke up Tuesday morning laughing all over again.

I don’t know what to do with this story; all I know is that writing it out and archiving it as a Midweek Message helps me preserve it for future use. Maybe someday it will become a sermon illustration. Perhaps you can resonate with the challenges of being in the middle generation, parenting your children, while also caring for your parents.

Or, maybe, you just needed a good laugh. I did, and for that reason, I’m grateful. And as one of my Facebook friends said afterwards, it is a sign of good parenthood that I can still find a way to embarrass my child 3000 miles away.

Alas, my only regret is that this was all unintentional.

Grace and Peace,



There’s no suitable segue into this, but this Sunday is Commitment Sunday. Thank you for filling out your Estimate of Giving Card, which you can fill out online. Our Finance Committee plans all its funding for ministries and programs based on your giving estimates, so every card goes a long way toward making a big difference. Join us this Sunday for worship as we celebrate God’s goodness and claim the bright future God has for us. See you Sunday!

Doing Thanks

Doing Thanks

Dear Hyde Park Family,

With Halloween behind us and the month of November ahead, we enter a season of gratitude that culminates with the observance of Thanksgiving. I hope you will take time to acknowledge the many blessings of God that we might otherwise overlook.

Let’s remember that gratitude is more than just giving thanks. It is also about doing thanks. It is about performing acts of gratitude, as generosity and gratitude are intrinsically linked. Numerous studies over recent years conclude that people who live gratefully are more likely to demonstrate generosity.

The link between gratitude and generosity is also part of our primitive ancestry. Columnist Kira Newman, co-editor of The Gratitude Project, says, “Evolutionary theorists suggest that gratitude and generosity have long been intertwined. Gratitude could have facilitated the process of reciprocal altruism, whereby one person’s generous behavior inspires the other to act in kind. Our ancestors who participated in this cycle of gratitude and generosity were more likely to survive, the theory goes.”

So, as we enter this month of thanksgiving, here are three simple ways that you can not only give thanks and feel thankful, but actually practice gratitude through generosity:


Once again, we are partnering with Metropolitan Ministries to fill volunteer shifts in their annual Holiday Tent, on Sunday, November 21. We sort food, direct cars, hand out turkeys, and more to help families in need. With just a few hours of your time, you can make a big difference.

Registration for SERVE day is through the Metropolitan Ministries website and requires each person to have an account. Click here to register for SERVE Day. Participants wear red “Making God’s Love Real” t-shirts, which you can purchase for $10 in the church’s coffee shop.

Shift 1: 10:45 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. (offers outside jobs)

Shift 2: 11:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. (offers indoor jobs only)

Shift 3: 2 – 5:30 p.m. (offers outside jobs)

Shift 4: 3 – 6:30 p.m. (offers indoor jobs only)

If you registered for SERVE Day in previous years, you can access your account. Simply click the link, enter your password, and modify as needed. If you need any assistance with this process, please contact Nathan Gula, Director of Volunteer Services, Metropolitan Ministries, 813.209.1035 or


We are partnering with a local ecumenical effort to provide basic food supplies for the roughly 2,300 refugees that have arrived in the county from Afghanistan, Haiti, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Syria, Ethiopia and Venezuela.

We have set a goal of providing 100 refugee families with the following:

*5 lbs. Jasmine Rice

*1 Gallon Vegetable/Canola Oil

*5 lbs. Dry Beans/Canned Beans

*1 lb. Loose Leaf Green Tea

*5 lbs. Flour

*5 lbs. Lentils

*$20 Walmart gift card for the family.

We invite you to bring donation items to the ministry office. To learn more, or to make a financial donation, click here.


As I shared in my sermon last Sunday, this current generosity campaign is one of the most important church campaigns in recent years. Let us be motivated to turn in an estimate of giving card primarily out of gratitude for what God has given to us, and in recognition that all that we have belongs to God to begin with.

We invite you to view our exciting Celebration of Impact that celebrates all that our generosity has accomplished together. Click here to turn in an estimate of giving for 2022 by November 14, so that we can properly plan a Missions and Ministry budget that will accomplish all that God intends for us next year.

Every giving estimate makes a huge difference. Your act of generosity and gratitude really matters.

Let’s go all in together.

Grace and Peace,


In Appreciation

In Appreciation

First, here’s a reminder that if you have not already, please subscribe to receive the daily prayer emails that will guide us on our 22-Day Prayer Journey. Each message includes a powerful testimonial of life change from someone in our church or community because of your generosity. If you’ve missed any of the prior messages, they are available here (scroll down to see the link to the message.)


I’ve never known quite what to do with “Clergy Appreciation Month” every October. It feels quite self-serving to say anything about it. I also wish there was a corresponding “Laity Appreciation Month” – or even better, months – to sufficiently acknowledge the vital role that laity like you play in the health of a congregation.

I also know that at a church like ours is blessed by more than its clergy. There is an entire team of amazing, high-achieving, faithful, and joyful staff members who are employed by this church. I can attest first-hand that one of the key reasons Hyde Park United Methodist has been able to function at such a high level during this pandemic is because of the innovation, determination, and adaptive leadership of this whole staff. They continue to learn new skills, engage people in different ways, and somehow – somehow – do it all with patience, courage, and a sense of camaraderie.

So, with all due respect to whoever first invented “Clergy Appreciation Month,” I’d like to re-designate it as “Church Staff Appreciation Month,” with an invitation for you to reach out with encouragement and gratitude to them.

Most of the staff are listed on our website , along with their email addresses. I’ve also named them here below:

Peggy Hisey, Executive Director

Meagan Kempton, Business Administrator

John Barolo, Discipleship

Melissa Torres, Children

Kim Apthorp, Children

Ginger Griggs, Children

Amanda Galbreath, Nursery

Mac Charalambous, Youth

Michael Dougherty, Traditional Music

Colleen Schmitt, Contemporary Music

Mat Hotho, Worship Technology

Lynn Osborne, Comptroller

Gwen Lindsey, Pastoral Staff Assistant

Kim Harcrow, Administration

Emily Nelson, Membership

Rich Howard-Allen, Facilities

Isabela Schlabach, Small Blessings Preschool

Bob Douglass, Portico

Chalette Davis, Portico

Mindi Vaughn, Portico

Shawn Rogers, Video

Vicki Walker, Clergy

Sally Campbell-Evans, Clergy

Justin LaRosa, Clergy

Bill Roth, Hospitality

Let them know how much you appreciate them. Your encouragement keeps all of us going.

Thank you, fellow staffers, for your hard work, patience, collegiality, and commitment to the mission of the church. It is an honor to make God’s love real with you.

Grace and Peace,




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