Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Life in Advent

So it is advent. It has been since November 30. We began with a wonderful Christmas at Home event at church on November 29 that included Advent Workshops, a Crock Pot-Luck Dinner, A Hanging of the Greens Service, and watching Christmas movies.
Maybe its been that advent came quickly after Thanksgiving, maybe its that my daughters have been constantly sick- at least for the past two months. Maybe I just took on too much this advent...or all of the above, but I am tired. So tired.
Advent is about waiting.
Awaiting the day that Christ came into the world, awaiting for Christ's return.
Peace- the prince of Peace came into this world and I have felt as if I am waiting for peace to come. I will breathe a sigh of relief Christmas Eve-- all of my bulletins will be done, the sermons written, the bible studies will come to a close. People will still be in the hospital and in prison, in need of visitation, people will still come in hungry for food, shelter, jobs. But the hectic pace will slow...
But what I've really learned is that I need to slow the pace down within me. (Like I didn't already know that, right?)
Today I meditated on Isaiah 35: 3-8
I was especially moved by verses 4-5:“ Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped."
I felt a sense of relief, Christmas is coming.
And I know-- Christ has come to open my eyes and unstop my ears.
I need to be unstopped from all the chaos that has filled-- all the stuff I've allowed to fill my overflowing plate...
Sunday night I went to worship at our contemporary service and they sang "Away in a Manger." Here is a song I've heard all my life- but on this night I heard it and realized that in the first verse of the song- it is us rocking Baby Jesus and by the second verse we are being rocked by God.
I needed that too.
I needed to remember that God is rocking me.
And I did.
God is holding me- I don't need to hold all this stuff. I don't need to own it. I don't need to take it on. I can let myself become unstopped and truly hear God.

We have a Christmas Comfort Service - this is our third year doing it.
Many churches have a Blue Service- and this is our version... except it isn't just for folks who are grieving, its for anyone and everyone who has become swept away or stressed in the busyness of the season and needs to be still, become unstopped, rest and feel God's comfort, peace, and healing. I am looking forward to it- while I'm leading it and preaching it- I too am in need of God's wholeness. I am ready to feel the peace of Christ who comes to us as an infant (in need as any baby, unable to care for himself) and He comes ready to give us all we need.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Lenten Disciplines

My Lenten Discipines were/are to spend time in reading scripture (not for the purposes of teaching or preaching), prayer, and posting on my blog once a week. I've been doing pretty good with spending time in prayer and fairly well in bible reading, but as far a posting- not so good. But I'm working on it! So below is my first post- in way long!

When I woke up this morning- at 6:30am- not of my own voluntary nature. I decided I would finally write. In between my own cereal and feeding my dear daughter spoonfuls of oatmeal and watching her smoosh bannana in her hair- I finally wrote!

Times are Changing/ Times are Changing Back

It is an exciting time right now and I’m actually glued to it (as much as I can be). I taped the debates and watched them later when I had time, I love listening to the commentators and pundits, most of all I’m excited about the passion I am seeing people have throughout our country. People actually seem like they are getting more inspired, more invested, and seeking to work for something better-- moving forward.

I’ve always loved politics. Well, more like a hobby. I grew up in a political family—mostly prompted by my mother. In my family we watched the evening news every night religiously. We dined with Peter Jennings and during commercials discussed what was happening in the world. It was your duty, your right, and a great opportunity to be a good citizen and take part in the democratic process. I didn’t know I was strange until in middle school I shared with friends that my favorite show was "This Week with David Brinkley"!

Other kids didn’t watch it? How strange! They were missing out on my crush George Stephanopoulos and my hero Cokie Roberts. How I loved watching Cokie Roberts! She was this smart, beautiful, wise woman sitting among men with poise, power, and persistence. They cared what she thought, they listened to her; they were not intimated by her (although they probably were…) but she was there! I knew that I too could speak up-- my voice was important. It is no surprise that among my favorite movies I would list “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” The understanding that I was called to stand up for justice and work for peace- that I was connected to the world through the Body of Christ was so clear even as a child. I had a responsibility to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly.

As much as I enjoy seeing politics unfold, as much as the political world excites and frustrates me, God did not call me to speak from the Hill, but God did and does continue to call me to help the church to stand as a city on a hill. See Matthew 5: 14-15. I would like to see the same fire and enthusiasm that people have for fighting/ending war, immigration, taxes be in people about spreading the light of Jesus Christ. In my family we talked easily about your duty as a citizen, as we watched the news, but it was never framed as "this is your call as a Christian". Think of all the money that is thrown at commercials, publicists, pundits, and graphics! How the church could use this for further ministry.

I don’t think the answer is to make the church more like the CNN newsroom. No Lou Dobbs or Wolf Blitzer in the pulpit, we don’t need to have catchy music and fancy graphics for everything. Often it seems churches think the answer to getting people excited is to say- Hey the Mall brings people in- let’s be like the mall, or whatever else may be popular. I don’t think that is the answer. I attended an ALL Day workshop on “Restoring Methodism” where authors James and Molly Scott who wrote Restoring Methodism: 10 Decisions for United Methodist Churches in America offered that the answer is in going back. They offer a lot of good in their book (which I'm still reading). In many ways we do need to reclaim our Wesleyan roots, but at the same time we cannot discount the good, creative, and new things we are doing. We can’t act as if all the good that happened in our church was generations ago- what does that say to me and to my generation and the youth of today and the future?

We aren’t called to mimic the hype of what we’re seeing in the political world- as intoxicating as it is. And we don’t have to choose as they are. One party speaks mostly of change and the other of returning to the past. We are theologians! We are the church. We do not look at the world in a linear this or that fashion—rather we are capable of loving the world and holding a theology of tension. We are “BOTH AND” and we can reclaim our Wesleyan heritage, restore the good that we’ve lost while still move progressively forward.