Friday, November 23, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like...

It's the day after Thanksgiving and I've already seen pictures of family's decorating their Christmas trees! I don't even want to think about Black Friday...I avoid it at all costs.

My family may wait a day or two to tromp out to the 'cut your own' Christmas tree farm, its all of a sudden windy and cold outside! But that doesn't mean I'm not thinking about Christmas.

Hold on a minute!! Before we jump straight to the manger, I would like to invite us to slow down and wait for Advent. Advent is the four week season leading up to Christmas Day. It's a time of preparation AND yearning, not for presents but for the RETURN of Christ.  This may seem counter intuitive, we seem to like the hustle and bustle of the season, we are blessed when we are able to give gifts to our children and loved ones in celebration of Jesus' birth...but Advent is a most holy time, a time for people of faith to look forward with hope and yes, even yearning.

Advent helps me to make sense of the proclamation we make each time we celebrate Holy Communion as we "proclaim the mystery of faith: Christ has come, Christ is risen, Christ WILL come again!" Advent is the season when we lean into Christ's return.

We are really good at Christmas preparations, but I'm not so sure if we are on top of things when it comes to are some resources that may be helpful in your home to talk about Advent:

Want to learn more about advent in general? Click here for some interesting facts and info.

Here is a great glossary of advent terms and symbols.  

Why not have an advent wreath at home? Here are some devotions to use with your family.

Here is a story about the life lessons of St Nicholas that teaches us all about the gift of giving.

Here are weekly activities and coloring sheets for the season of advent.

Are there other resources that have been a blessing to you and yours during this in-between time? Share them with me and I'll be sure to pass them on!

peace, love in Christ

I couldn't resist adding this one for my preaching friends...
p.s.  Advent doesn't begin for another week!

Saturday, November 17, 2012


I have known this for a while, but it really hit me this morning - we have way too easily accepted the inundation of advertisements that we are assaulted with day in and day out.  I fear its driven by our motivation to get something for 'free'!

It started with radio and broadcast television, which before cable was 'free', advertisers paid for ads and we sat through them because we didn't want to get up and switch the channel during the commercial break (there were only a handful of channels back then anyway).  Now that most of us pay for cable/satellite television or DVD's or the internet we have the luxury, and the insanity, of being joined at the hip to our remote controls.

Most YouTube videos play a commercial at the beginning, as do some of my iPhone apps - especially the games.  I find it interesting how these ads have grown more sophisticated.  I used to be able to click them away, now with video ads you have to watch and listen a few seconds before the skip button appears.

All to get eyeballs on products.

All ultimately take our eye off of the ball.

You know the saying, don't you?  "Keep your eye on the ball!"  When we were kids and my dad was using us as target practice, I mean practicing his fast pitch softball pitching, he'd tell us time and again "keep your eye on the ball!"  We learned to do so out of self preservation - but that's a story for another day.

With the assault of marketing messages permeating every facet of our lives it's easy to feel overwhelmed.  It can be really hard to filter out competing messages and demands for our attention.  As a person of faith I must ask myself - how am I keeping my eye on the source of all that is good and right?  Am I keeping my eye on Christ Jesus?

"Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”

Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”"
(Matthew 14:29-31 The Message)

What has gotten into us?  

Thanksgiving is just days away.  During the month of November many of my friends have been posting on FaceBook and Twitter things they are thankful for...I think that's great, but honestly, I believe part of our normal practice should be to write down each and every day what we are thankful for.  

After making the requisite posts about family, home and friends, I have found myself taking more time to think deeply and reflect about what else I am thankful for: creativity, a walk with a friend, beautiful music, conversation over a cup of tea, a sliver of the moon rising at sunset...and in the midst of each of these is God's love and grace - poured out, spread broadcast and absolutely free.

Peace, love in Christ,


Friday, November 2, 2012

farewell to an old friend

It hit me today, that this would most likely be our last time in public together.  Its not that I'm ashamed of you, it's just that... well, I have to face reality.  You are worn and tired.

You've been a great sweater - one of my favorites for a long, long, long time.  On days when I'm in need of 'comfort clothes' I've always reached for you first. But the reality is that the spots where I have had to darn you are becoming obvious.  And each fall when I pull you out I find even more holes.  The sleeves are getting thread bare and even though you are my favorite sweater, it's time to make friends with a sweater that will suit me in this season of life.

yes, it's time... sniff
Favorite sweaters (or... insert shoes, hairstyles, wallets, you get the idea) have something in common with churches.  We get comfortable with one another and before we know it, we make assumptions that this is the only way to be, does 'we've always done it this way...' sound familiar?  When we slip into this way of being we lose sight of other options and we miss out on opportunities to live into new realities.

This point was driven home Wednesday night when I was out at Harlington Cemetery with the Sr High youth for our All Hallow's Eve service.  Yes, I took high school kids to the cemetery for communion on Halloween - it was a cool service and we had some great time sharing about loved ones who have gone home to be with the Lord.

As part of our worship we read the 23rd Psalm together, and afterwards one of the boys grumbled about how hard the words were to pronounce and how awkward it is was to read the King James translation.  Ouch!  I had always thought that the 'old' words were comforting - but I sure don't want God's word to be a barrier.  As someone who thinks of herself as forward thinking I realized that it's time to revisit this one.

Change is hard.  We don't like to change until the only other option is loss - then, we have a tendency to become overwhelmed and anxious.  It's human nature.  We naturally yearn for what is manageable, but often times the energy necessary to keep things manageable wear us out, which leads to anxiety and an overwhelmed feeling.
There is hope, however.  The very natural movement from manageable to overwhelmed to vulnerable to energized was explained at a recent Iowa Annual Conference clergy gathering in a presentation by Field Outreach Minister Rev. Paul Smith.  Here's a link to the presentation it's only 4 minutes long and well worth your time.

I especially appreciate how Paul points out that our most creative moments can come from when we feel most vulnerable - which in turn leads to everyone becoming energized.  Hope is a powerful thing!

I can let go of the 23rd Psalm in King James language, its not like I will never read or pray the 23rd Psalm again...I can also let go of my favorite sweater.  I happen to have one or two more sweaters in my drawers.  I have seen a church become energized, and its true, we had to become vulnerable with one another before we could start making headway.  It is an exciting time to be a part of the church, even if parts of us feel old and worn in this season.  Our triune God is not done with us yet!

If we truly want to 'make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world' the good news is that we don't have to go it alone, as Paul Smith said, the way to make change is in community walking side by side one another.  I like this, very much.

in Christ, together,