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2021 Advent Devotionals

God of justice and peace,
from the heavens you rain down 
mercy and kindness,
that all on earth may stand in 
awe and wonder
before your marvelous deeds.

Advent Greetings!

Long before this season of Advent begins, youth from Oklahoma and Regional Ministers have pondered over the scriptures and began reflecting about what these upcoming Advent days hold. In this season of preparation for the birth of Jesus, we are presenting you with two resources to guide your journey down Advent Road. One resource has been created by the Oklahoma Regional Youth Council. A second resource has been created by Regional Ministers from our 31 regions and ethnic ministries.

We hope you enjoy these devotions. May something from them stir your heart into awe and wonder of God’s marvelous deeds.

Peace & God’s Grace,

Pam Holt Signature

Regional Minister Pamela Holt

2021 College of Regional Ministers Advent Devotional

ENGLISH VERSION
SPANISH VERSION

2021 Regional Youth Council Advent Devotional

CLICK HERE to visit our Dropbox and download the ebook in PDF format.

2021-11-23T11:26:11-06:00Nov 23, 2021|Regional News|0 Comments

Disciples Supporting Afghan Families

Loving and Helping Our New Neighbors

Soon Afghan families will be our new neighbors as they move into the metropolitan areas of Oklahoma. Some of our Disciple congregations are already making preparations to help welcome them. As you might imagine, the needs to help one family relocate are tremendous, and there will be many families who need our help. If your congregation would like to join this ministry and work together, please contact Mary Heath, Chair of the Region’s Refugee & Immigration Commission or the Regional Office. Please note there are many resources to help understand the needs of our Afghan communities. The resources below are just a start!

Disciples Hospitality & Welcome

These links will take you to the most comprehensive resources to learn about Disciples hospitality and welcome of Afghanistan refugees into our midst. You are welcome to use any and/or all of these resources in your congregation.

Disciples Statements on Refugees and Immigration

Share this video from Rev. Terri Hord Owens, General Minister and President, and this video from Week of Compassion on Afghan Welcoming.

Disciples Refugees & Immigration Ministries (RIM)

These links will direct you to many resources for your congregation to learn more about the Afghan refugees.

Web Resources   Facebook Resources

Week of Compassion

Refugees and Displaced People

Church World Service

Church World Service is an organization in the US serving the Afghan resettlement program. There are twenty-one CWS offices around the US. Just recently, CWS approved the Afghan Placement and Assistance Program to make it possible for CWS to provide resources to communities who want to partner with CWS who are further than 100 miles from a CSW office, places like Oklahoma and West Virginia.

Please follow the links below to help your congregation learn about the CWS Afghan Resettlement ministries and worship resources.

5 Ways You Can Help Welcome Afghans Video

Resources and Worship Guide for Reflecting and Praying for the Displaced

Oklahoma Congregations Already Preparing

The Region of Oklahoma has eight congregations already preparing to help in the resettlement of Afghan families.

  • Edmond Trinity
  • Norman FCC – working ecumenically in the Norman community
  • OKC Crown Heights
  • OKC Western Oaks
  • Ponca City FCC
  • Stillwater FCC – working ecumenically in the Stillwater community; OSU has contributed housing
  • Tulsa Harvard Avenue – working ecumenically in the Tulsa community
  • Weatherford Federated

How Your Congregation can Participate

The needs of resettlement are great. Here are some of the many ways your congregation can be a partner in this ministry.

1. Pray for these Afghans who have been displaced from their home and are seeking a new home — here.
2. Partner with a larger congregation who is already in motion.
3. Designate a point person in your congregation to contact one of the congregations noted above to see what the needs are and report back to your board to determine the best way for your congregation to partner. Some of the needs include:

  • financial support for rent, utilities, legal services
  • medical care
  • transportation
  • furniture and home goods
  • appropriate seasonal clothing for adults and children
  • language interpreters for Dari and Pashto
  • volunteers when the time comes

4. Make a financial contribution to the Region’s Restricted Fund: Refugee & Immigration Afghan Resettlement.

We cannot do this ministry by ourselves. We work best together. Let us welcome and love our new neighbors with joy and gratitude!

Peace & God’s Grace,
Rev. Pamela Holt

2021-10-12T14:52:18-05:00Oct 12, 2021|Regional News|0 Comments

Regional Minister Travel Update

The Regional Executive Committee has taken into consideration the Regional Ministers’ Travel during this continued pandemic, and especially during the surge of the Delta Variant of COVID-19. The Executive Committee created the following protocols for our Regional Ministers who long to be with congregations, but who also recognize the risks as they move from congregation to congregation. This new protocol is designed to remain effective until further notice.

Regional Ministers Travel During a Pandemic
09.16.2021

The mission of the Regional Church is to connect, equip, and empower Disciples of Christ across the Region of Oklahoma. The attendance and participation of Regional staff at various services and events across the Region are vital to the continued ministry of the Regional Church. Yet in the midst of a global pandemic, Regional staff must take into careful consideration everyone they may come into contact with during their ministry, including a significant population that is unable to be vaccinated.

As such, the Executive Committee and Board of Directors of the Regional Church (Disciples of Christ) of Oklahoma have instructed Regional staff that attendance and participation in such services and events will only be permitted so long as all participants at the service or event will be following CDC guidelines, including but not limited to wearing face coverings and practicing social distancing.

Should the Regional Ministers arrive and participants are not adhering to the expected CDC guidelines noted above, the Regional Ministers are instructed to leave the service or event immediately.

2021-10-07T15:58:14-05:00Oct 7, 2021|Regional News|0 Comments

2021 Charitable Contribution Changes

2021 Charitable Giving Tax Benefit Changes

The following information has been compiled from the Oklahoma Disciples Foundation for informational purposes only. It is recommended you check with your accountant or a tax advisor for details regarding this new tax benefit and your charitable gifts.

Expanded tax benefits have been enacted for individuals and businesses through the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020, last December.

In 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) expanded the deductibility of charitable contributions in 2020 allowing up to $300 for cash contributions to charity in 2020 to taxpayers taking the standard deduction.

2021 Charitable Contribution Deductions

In 2021, the charitable contribution deductions is $300 for individual taxpayers taking a standard deduction and married couples filing joint returns can deduct charitable (cash) gifts up to $600.

The requirements for deductibility:

  • Donations must be in cash (or by check, credit or debit card). This does not apply to contributions of property, marketable securities, real property, or otherwise.
  • The donation must be to a public charity. Donations to donor advised funds or most private foundations will not qualify.
  • Cash contributions carried forward from prior years do not qualify.

Charitable IRA Rollovers

Eligible taxpayers (those over 70½ years of age) have a beneficial way to support their favorite, qualified charities, including your congregation and the Regional Church, through the Charitable IRA Rollover, which has been in effect permanently since 2015. These charitable gifts can replace the required minimum distributions (RMD) that are required annually from your Individual Retirement Account (IRA).

If you are an IRA owner over the age of 70½, you can make charitable gifts directly from your IRA totaling up to $100,000 per year. These contributions will not be included in your adjusted taxable gross income for that year. Your IRA manager will be able to provide you with the paperwork.

If you are interested in making a gift to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Oklahoma through an IRA Charitable Rollover, please contact the Regional Office at office@okdisciples.org or 405.528.3577.

Deductions

For individual taxpayers who itemize deductions: Individual taxpayers who itemize their deductions may now deduct certain charitable contributions up to 100% of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (“AGI”). Prior to the CARES Act, taxpayers were limited to deducting certain charitable contributions up to 60% of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income.

The requirements for deductibility up to 100% of AGI:

  • Donations must be in cash (or by check, credit or debit card).
  • Donations must be made to a public charity (not to a donor advised fund or most private foundations).
  • Donations must be made during 2021.

If a donor gives more than 100% of their adjusted gross income, the donor may carry forward excess deductions for up to five subsequent tax years; although this deductibility may be set to expire after 2021.

Additionally, corporate limits for charitable cash deductions has increased from 10% to 25% of taxable income. Businesses donating food inventory in 2021 may also qualify for increased deduction limits.

Have you made a charitable gift this year?

You can easily make online gifts to the Region here or to the Oklahoma Disciples Foundation on their website to one of the funds supporting the ministries and missions of the church. Click this link “Together We Touch Lives” to see a list of endowment funds that support church ministry, missions and grant funding. Gifts to Disciple Club, Endowments or the Grants Program may be made in honor or memory of an individual. If requested, the Foundation will send a gift acknowledgement on your behalf. For information call (405) 525-6530

2021-10-12T14:02:53-05:00Oct 6, 2021|Regional News|0 Comments

Wonderful! Restful! Fruitful!

This summer, the Region granted me a three month sabbatical.  I was hungry for some rest, yes, but I was also very hungry to find a deeper, stronger, more resilient faith.  After a wonderful, restful, and fruitful sabbatical, I am pleased to return to the call to serve the Regional Church!  I am grateful for the Regional Executive Committee and the Regional Board for their encouragement and support for this sabbatical time.  And I am also grateful for the Regional Staff and Rev. Paxton Jones for their dedication, knowledge, and wisdom to continue the ministry as expected.

So what did I do on this sabbatical?  Several things.  On May 1st, Randy and I moved temporarily to a cottage on a sizable horse ranch in Mineral Wells, Texas.  We brought our cat, our dog, and our two horses with us.  While there, we also welcomed a feral cat, a longhorn, and a crawdad!  The month of May was a muddy mess.  It rained every single day!

I began this sabbatical by taking the Faith Institute’s “Teaching Healthy Boundaries 101 & 201.” While this course was intended for me to join our other trainers in preparation for teaching Healthy Boundaries to clergy, it really helped me understand more fully why self-care boundaries are so important for clergy, even during sabbaticals.

Randy and I both were refreshed in our souls by sharing many evenings with friends we have not seen in several years. Around many tables, we broke bread and drank wine. We laughed and we wept with one another as we shared our joys and lamented our sorrows we had experienced over the last several years.

Family Time

We spent two weeks of this sabbatical time in Pagosa Springs, Colorado where we gathered with our children, our three year old grandson, and Randy’s sister and brother-in-law. This time was absolutely delight-full as we ate together and played together. Our adventures included fishing, hiking, shopping, and exploring through the eyes of a three year old! We also gathered as family at Lobo Lookout at Wolf Creek Pass to finally spread the ashes of our son Brook who died in December of 2018.

We also gathered with my family to finally join the ashes of my mother, Shirley Green, with my father in Arlington, Texas.

Sorrow permeated my sabbatical when Rev. Dr. Don Pittman died. And that same week, my favorite professor from TCU, Dr. Ronald B. Flowers died, and Rev. Bob Stewart died. All three of these men influenced my call to ministry in profound ways. I cling to the joy of knowing them and remembering them in simple and profound ways.

True Connection

The pinnacle of my sabbatical was a surprise invitation to participate in an eight day horse conference north of Dallas, Texas.  The leader would be a woman I had never heard of, Ingela Larsson Smith, a professional horsewoman from Canada, who was offering an opportunity to have “True Connection” with your horse.  I had one hour to decide and pay to reserve my place.  I had the time, the horse, the trailer, and the money, and a very supportive husband!

Of course, I went with one set of expectations and came away awed and fulfilled . . . let me explain, very simply.  In the first lecture, Ingela shared that she was a professional dressage rider and horse trainer around the world. She has trained the Queen of England’s horses and horses for the Sheik in the Middle East. Impressive, right? But she continued to say that her performance path left her heart yearning for something more, something deeper. So she turned to the Christian faith. She shared with her twelve students that we could never have “true connection” with our horses unless we had a “true connection with God.”  Full stop, right?  In other words, we as humans can make horses perform and work, but for a horse to choose us as a leader, and choose to be in relationship with us, we have to find a way to be fully present.

Before we ever got to the arena with our horses, she invited us to consider our relationship with God.  God’s deepest desire, or hunger, is that we will choose to be in full relationship with God.  That is easier said that done and where we often get confused. For a visual, Ingela placed three chairs in front of us.  One of the three chairs represented the unbelievers in the world.  People who have not yet heard the good news or choose not to believe it.  A second chair represented all the believers, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, all those who believe in God and have a faith tradition.  This is a good place to be, of course, but it is a place where we are also driven by the cultural demands of society . . . achieving, doing, ladders to success, demands. It becomes a place where we begin to hunger for more and more only to discover exhaustion and depletion.

The third chair represented God — the full, unconditional, steadfast love of God, who is fully present to us and lavishes us with love and grace when we choose to be in God’s presence, every time.  This is the place to gently push aside and silence the many voices that question our goodness and to trust that you will hear a voice of blessing, and most importantly to realize that God walks with us, together.  Ingela asked us, “In which chair would you like to sit?”

Of course, we all opted for the third chair because we are deeply hungry for this true connection with God, but we realized that we all, even as the best disciples of Christ, find ourselves in the second chair most often, distracted by the demands of our culture and daily work/tasks, and often lured by the critical voices in our head.  To have true connection with your horse, Ingela said, you must find your way into the chair of God for yourself, to be loved without any distraction, to be fully and truly accepted for all that you are created in God’s image, and to be anointed over and over again with goodness and mercy. This, Ingela said, is the kind of presence you will need to be with your horse — fully present in your mind, in your heart, in your soul.  At that moment, your horse will find true connection with you and you will walk together.

In the afternoon practical applications of Ingela’s lectures with our horses, all twelve of us found that magical and mystical moment of true connection with our horses. As you might imagine, holding on to it is another challenge!

I was on the edge of my seat for every word Ingela uttered about faith and relationships. And, feeling truly inspired and connected, equipped and empowered, I have discovered a new level of servant leadership both with my horse and with ministry. What I know for sure is that it is not all about me, it is about “we” and what we do together.

Again, I am deeply grateful for this time of rest and renewal to discover a deeper, stronger, more resilient connection with God, and I am equally as grateful to return to you as we do ministry together!

Peace & God’s Grace,
Pam

2021-08-10T12:40:35-05:00Aug 10, 2021|Pamela Holt Blog, Regional News|Comments Off on Wonderful! Restful! Fruitful!

Support Disciples Mission Fund 2021

DMF Day is June 24

Make a gift on DMF Day to support Disciples Mission Fund, which makes it possible for the whole church to work together, doing far more than we could alone.

Individuals and congregations make contributions to DMF, which funds the work of regional and general ministries, who make it possible for us to be the church together, in many ways and in many places.

If you’ve ever…

  • Sat around a campfire at church camp
  • Had a visit from a global mission co-worker
  • Visited a Disciples college
  • Served on a search committee for a new pastor
  • Attended Children Worship and Wonder

… then you’ve seen Disciples Mission Fund at work. Learn more about DMF

Tell us your DMF story!

How has DMF made an impact on your congregation or your life? Send your story and a picture to news@disciples.org, and share it on social media tagged #DMFDoesThat.

Imagine what our gifts can do!

2021-05-18T11:59:09-05:00May 18, 2021|Regional News|Comments Off on Support Disciples Mission Fund 2021

Paxton Jones: Peace Offerings

When our younger daughter was 2½ years old, her pediatrician advised us that she needed tubes put into her ears to combat a series of infections threatening her hearing. Arrangements were made; on Sunday I informed my congregation from the pulpit that I would be out of the office the next day and why; and too soon morning arrived.

In terms of medical procedures, putting tubes in a child’s ears is relatively minor. But this was my child, my baby, and though she marched down the hall to the surgical suite like a trooper, I was a nervous wreck. My anxiety was compounded by the absence of anyone waiting with us—no elder, no deacon, no one from the congregation, though it was obvious the previous day in church how anxious their young pastor was.

My wife and I were lonely and scared…and then the district minister of my region walked into the waiting room. He was the answer to a prayer I was too afraid to voice. He knew, when no one else seemed aware, that even pastors need pastoral care. And I swore to myself then and there that given the chance I would be “a pastor to pastors” whenever and however I could.

This episode is a foundational piece as to why I went into regional ministry and why, when my friend Pam Holt called, I came out of retirement to serve as your Acting Regional Minister for three months while she’s on a well-deserved sabbatical. I’m happy to be here—happy to minister with and to you, and to and for her—until she returns, hopefully renewed and refreshed, on August 1st.

I hope to encounter you soon, somewhere along the journey, here in Oklahoma!

Paxton Jones
Acting Regional Minister

2021-05-05T15:23:33-05:00May 5, 2021|Regional News|Comments Off on Paxton Jones: Peace Offerings

FEMA Funeral Assistance for Covid-19 Deaths

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, (FEMA) is providing financial assistance for COVID-19 related funeral expenses incurred after January 20, 2020.

Assistance is limited to a maximum of $9,000 per funeral and a maximum of $35,500 per application per state, territory, or District of Columbia

How to Apply

COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Line Number: 844-684-6333 TTY: 800-462-7585
This dedicated toll-free phone number is open Monday-Friday 8 am to 8 pm CT. Call this number and FEMA’s representatives will help you complete a COVID-19 Assistance application. The interview should take about 20 minutes. Multilingual services are available.

Visit the FEMA Funeral Assistance website page HERE

Eligibility

To be eligible for funeral assistance, you must meet these conditions:
• Death must have occurred in the United States
• Death certificate must indicate the death attributed to COVID-19
• Applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses after January 20, 2020.
• No requirement for deceased person to have been a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien.

Covered Costs

• Transportation for up to two individuals to identify the deceased individual
• Transfer of remains
• Casket or urn
• Burial plot or cremation niche
• Marker or headstone
• Clergy or officiant services
• Arrangement of the funeral ceremony
• Clergy or officiant services
• Arrangement of the funeral ceremony
• Use of funeral home equipment or staff
• Cremation or interment costs
• Costs associated with producing and certifying multiple death certificates
• Additional expenses mandated by an applicable local or state government laws or ordinances.

Further Information

Funeral Assistance Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and a Video:
“Providing Financial Assistance for COVID-19 Related Funeral Expenses” can be found HERE

2021-05-05T14:34:29-05:00May 5, 2021|Regional News|Comments Off on FEMA Funeral Assistance for Covid-19 Deaths

Donate to 2021 Spring Annual Fund

April 12, 2021

Dear Friends in Christ,

Christ has risen! Christ has risen, indeed! Like the disciples, I hope you can feel the joy of the resurrected Christ!

Thank you for being a generous donor to the Regional Church’s Annual Fund. Your gift is an important way to be a “witness” that Christ is risen, forgiveness is offered, and hope is everywhere. We are grateful for every gift which helps us stay connected and together serve those in our communities who are broken, suffering, and/or most vulnerable.

This past year, love has looked and felt like sacrifice in so many ways. And yet, despite the sacrifices, our loving and serving like Jesus and the Disciples has been extraordinary. Your gifts to the Regional Church have brought some unimaginable joy!

Your gifts have provided the Region with resources so that with up-to-date technology, we have found our way, like you, through the closed sanctuary doors into windows filled with prayer, music, preaching and sharing in the Lord’s Table. In these moments of connection, whether it be a church in our neighborhood or one across the state, we have experienced the love of God embracing us like never before. Albeit different, the Regional Church has not missed a beat connecting with clergy and congregations in all of the various circumstances of the life of the church.

With your generous gifts, we continue to provide clergy and leaders with education and confidence that there are many resources for caring in crisis and long term recovery from any storm that arises.

With your generous gifts, the Region continues to reach out to provide courage and strength and dollars for those who are in need. Since the first of 2021, the Region has helped clergy and families who have been sick and yet recovered from COVID-19. We have partnered with Week of Compassion to provide financial relief to families who have struggled with paying their rent and utilities, and even more financial relief to families and congregations who suffered damages from the frigid, sub-zero winter weather.

As we look forward, we are cautious and excited for the Region to offer in-person camp this summer for our youth. We are also already making plans for the 2022 Regional Assembly to be held in-person at Harvard Avenue Christian Church in Tulsa. We know it will be a grand celebration of gathering, worshiping together, and making a joyful noise throughout the land!

Your gift is important. And, we are grateful for every gift which we turn right back around to help you and your church to love your neighbors and serve like Jesus.

Please give generously to the 2021 Annual Fund of the Regional Church! The depth and breadth of love in your gift truly makes a difference. Again, thank you for your part in the meaningful, life-giving work of the Regional Church.

Stay safe! Stay well! Stay hopeful!

Peace & God’s Grace,

Pamela G. Holt, Regional Minister

To learn about your Regional Church read the 2020 General Board Report or watch the video.

God has not caused the current breakdown of our world.
But here is what I know about Easter:
God is creating in us something more beautiful for having been broken.
Crucifixion to resurrection.
That’s how God works.

Rev. Cameron Trimble, author of
“Piloting Church: Helping Your Congregation Take Flight”

Gifts may be given securely through Givelify or online here or checks may be made payable to Christian Church in Oklahoma, noted Annual Fund, and mailed to 301 NW 36th St., Oklahoma City, OK 73118-8661.

2021-04-12T13:44:38-05:00Apr 12, 2021|Regional News|Comments Off on Donate to 2021 Spring Annual Fund

Ready? Set? Go! Wait, I’m not ready!

Remember the children’s game, “Ready?  Set?  Go!”  These are the words I’m hearing in my mind as I prepare to depart my Regional responsibilities for a long awaited three month sabbatical. Am I “ready?”  No, I’m not!  Am I “set?”  Wait! I’m not ready!

I entered into the work force when I was 15 years old, and I have worked every year since with only two weeks vacation most years. In the latter years, four weeks but I never took all four at once. I was eligible for a sabbatical in 2007, but I gave it to my colleague instead who desperately needed it. I was eligible for a sabbatical again in 2013, but I chose to forego it so I could apply for this current position. I was supposed to take this sabbatical last year, but COVID-19 came. This year, I’m going, ready or not!

I have created a list of things to do while on sabbatical! After being trained to become a Healthy Boundaries trainer, my list includes rigorous exercise, playing with horses, reading a long list of books, writing every day, volunteering at a local community garden or food pantry, burying my mother’s ashes and spreading our son’s ashes, and reconnecting with family and many (vaccinated) friends.

My executive coach, Rev. Cameron Trimble, has advised me to set aside this long, too-long, list of things to do. Rather, she says, I need to make a list of ways “to be” ~ to rest and reclaim the person God has intended. Robert Saler in Planning Sabbaticals reminds me of the same wisdom in four important points:

  1. He recommends taking the “joy vs. obligation test.” Is the activity on my list going to bring joy or is it an obligation? Sounds a bit like Marie Kondo!
  2. He cautions not to make the mistake of creating a bucket list rather than balancing energy. The goals of a renewal leave all depend upon a deliberate pace with lots of “downtime” for reflection and processing built in.
  3. He encourages reveling in unplanned detours, surprises, or other deviations from the “script”. In other words, make space for improvisation or the Holy Spirit.
  4. Most of all . . . dream.  Breathe. Give yourself over to the vulnerability of showing the world what it is that feeds your soul. That trust is the cornerstone of sabbaticals that renew and delight. Robert Saler, Planning Sabbaticals, (Missouri: Chalice Press, 2019) 39-48.

I think I will listen to these two wise, experienced mentors who are both encouraging me to practice being and not doing. I truly pray my time away will be filled with the grace and mercy of God to be renewed and prepared for a new season of shared ministry and mission with you all.

So, ready or not, I am going! As I walk out the door in a few weeks I am reminded of Wayne Muller’s words:

“Jesus did not wait until everyone had been properly cared for, until all who sought him had healed. He did not ask permission to go, nor did he leave anyone behind “on call,” or even let his disciples know where he was going. Jesus obeyed a deeper rhythm. When the moment for rest had come, the time for healing was over. He would simply stop, retire to a quiet place, and pray . . . When Jesus prayed he was at rest, nourished by the healing spirit that saturates those still, quiet places.”  Wayne Muller, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives (New York: Bantam, 1999), 25.

Like Jesus, I am going, leaving some tasks untended. Unlike Jesus, I have permission! And, I am leaving you in the very competent hands of Rev. Paxton Jones, the Acting Regional Minister, Associate Regional Minister Rev. Michael Davison, and Executive Assistant Ellen Spleth, who serve as the Regional Staff, and of course, the Regional Executive Committee and Board are equipped to handle anything that might arise. Thank you all for this privilege of rest and to be nourished by the healing spirit.