Tuesday, December 27, 2011
There was a very cool article about how pastor's do Christmas that was floating around Facebook that I thought was pretty good.
For a lot of folks Christmas can be stressful, especially for Clergy, Clergy Moms and Dads, and I believe especially for Clergy Couples. Churches can do a lot to ease the stress off the pastor so that the pastor may be the most effective s/he can be-- especially on the night that is most the most highly attended church service of the year!
I am very very thankful for the amazing church I serve!
Messiah United Methodist Church is an amazing community of faith sharing the joy of Jesus Christ!
I've had both of my babies here. In fact we found out the day after we moved in the parsonage that we were pregnant.
I thought they would just be so disappointed! Here they brought on this young vibrant pastor and I was exhausted.... But no, they never thought or acted this way. Once my church knew that Kevin and I were expecting our first child- they were as ecstatic as we were! Then when sixteen months after our first we had our second, they joyfully welcomed her too!
Messiah has always been wonderful at offering childcare at church events, worship, meetings, etc. They were like this way before I was here.
But here's the huge thing- if I'm the only one who needs childcare at a meeting...it is still made available for me. That is huge! (Some of you will really know this!)
We have wonderful families, but neither Kevin's family nor mine live close by.
At church events, worship, etc, we do not have family who can help with our children.
One year, our children were in the nursery until 12:30am on Christmas Eve!
(We have the most amazing childcare/nursery workers ever!!! They love our children and we love them!)
We are a clergy couple- so we usually both need to be at church at the same time.
Currently, we serve at the same church (which has advantages and disadvantages to child care needs--for ex we once were both leading retreats (me for the Women's Ministry, him for the Youth on the same weekend- Aghh!)
For Christmas Eve this means four services 5, 7, 9, and 11. I lead the 5pm service for children and families. This service used to only have the children's Christmas pageant and children's music.... which is great--but I added a sermon when I came on board. Mostly because I figured that for some folks this may the only church service they attend all year, but also because every opportunity I get, I'm going to preach the Gospel. Dr. Teresa Fry-Brown used to walk into the classroom, shout out a text, and give us 3-5 minutes to preach a 3-5 minute sermon.
Even if I've got only a small window of time...its still an opportunity...
Kevin preaches at the 7pm Youth Service and then we're both at 9 and 11.
For a couple years now, one of our friends who also happens to be a staff member (although this is not part of her job!) has offered to be at our house with our children (and her kids come over too) we turn on the fire and they hang out enjoy watching movies, and our kids get to bed.
They did this again for us this year and it is a huge help- an enormous relief!
So after I finish preaching the 5pm service, I get the kiddos, take them home, get them in their Christmas pjs, and we put out Santa's cookies (milk will come out later).
I am so thankful for our friends helping us with this!
A few other kids have joined in this tradition- folks involved in the music ministry (who are also at church all night) have dropped off their kids.
SO in addition to my two-- our friends watched 2 other families' children!
With a total of 5 kids.
Before we left for church earlier in the afternoon on Christmas Eve-we pulled our pack n play out for one baby and cleaned the guest room up for another child to sleep.
Of course now- it still looks like a tornado hit our house --- post-Christmas....
Also for the past few years, one of the amazing women from our church, a Mom, and a friend, and a leader out of our PoLO's Parents of Little Ones ministry has organized "Christmas Eve Lunch" to be brought to our house on the 24th.
This is amazing and overwhelming, and I fight back tears as swarms of loving folks ring our doorbell bringing food. We were brought, turkey, ham, potatoes, green bean casserole, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake, apple pie, salad, fruit salad, a Breakfast casserole! SO So much food!!! We ate a bit for Christmas lunch... but we are so go-go-go... that we don't tend to fill up too much on Christmas Eve... We really eat this on Christmas Day!
We have nothing to worry about on Christmas Day because of this joyful and kind service! And we are SO THANKFUL!
On Christmas Eve I tried to clean most of the day- we're having visitors coming in town this week... and since folks would be over in the evening of Christmas Eve I wanted things clean and organized... and I just wanted it to look nice for me- especially before the whirlwind came Christmas Day.
I cleaned until around noon ish-- then we ate a bit of lunch and then I put the girls in the bath by 2 ish. Gracie thought it was hilarious that she was taking a bath in the middle of the day!
I got the girls in their dresses, hair done, tights, shoes, and Kevin and I got ready and then we read "Twas the Night Before Christmas."
I wanted to be at church by 3:30 but didn't make it till 4 (still needed to print out my sermon and go over it a bit)-- even when its 5 minutes-- you still want it good! :)
Kevin was going to drop off girls at the Children's Choir room by 4:30 and get them where they needed to be. I had enough time to print sermon, pull my hair up, get my mic, robe, and stole on, put the nursery workers cards and gift cards together (and asked someone to take them down to the nursery for me- yay for delegating!) and got in the sanctuary to greet folks coming.
5pm came and the service went great! I'm pretty sure we had about 1000 folks at the Christmas Eve Service (but that's a "preacher's count" lol) Folks went out to the narthex...
The greatest part of service this year? After preaching my sermon- I sat with my family and together we watched the pageant together. We even got a picture!
Afterwards one of the youth helped Kevin get girls in settled in stroller to go home while I said goodbye to folks. Then I walked the girls home and got them settled with our friends.
I made it back in time to see the 7pm service. I wasn't participating in this service, so I had the great joy to sit in the pew and hear my husband preach!
You might be wondering - do preacher's eat dinner on Christmas Eve? I'm not sure how other's do it-- but I only eat and the other pastors and musicians and those involved in services at Messiah eat because of the love and generosity of the SPRC (for non Methodists- that's Staff Parish Relations Committee --they're like HR) The Staff Parish Committee sets a spread for all of us in the parlor. We have caffeinated drinks (a must), sandwiches, hors d'oeuvres, sweets, etc.. Everything is delicious and we graze all night.
One of the best Christmas Eve's -- it was right before the 11 o'clock service and I said something that sounded really Southern and I laughed at myself and said, "Wow, I'm tired my Southern accent is really coming out!" And Ralph (our Sr. Pastor said), "I hate to tell you this, but you always sound Southern!" We all were rolling! He has an incredible sense of humor!
The greatest part of Christmas Eve is singing "Silent Night" seeing the light of the Christ candle spread throughout the congregation and as the light is spread, Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus come up the aisle and stand with the pastors. I love sharing a hymnal with my amazing husband, holding my light high, and seeing the light throughout the congregation knowing that Christ has come!
At the end of singing Silent Night, Pastor Ralph gives this benediction:
"O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray;
cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today!"
We sing "Joy to the World" and process out of the church with the acolyte leading, then Mary and Joseph, then Kevin and me arm in arm, and then Pastor Ralph and Pastor Jose side by side (they tend not to walk arm in arm!).
I love Christmas Eve! I love being a pastor and a mom and a wife-- and I love that God and my church have called and equipped me in all of the above!
Its sad to me that most people seem like they are done with Christmas... It is still Christmas! :)
I am seriously not trying to be a liturgical snob here.
Most of us are burnt-out on Christmas because decorations came up after Halloween.
So many people have taken down their trees and decorations. And our tree is looking a bit of a fire hazard and will have to come down soon... and I totally understand the desire to have everything neat and packed away so that vacation time can be enjoyable (as some folks are doing.) But it is Still Christmas! We have 12 days to celebrate the birth of Christ!
The 12 Days of Christmas is not just a song that is played on the radio...
It has real meaning.
Delia Halverson points out in her book, "Teaching and Celebrating the Christian Seasons" that the origin of the Twelve Days of Christmas song was actually a device to teach Christianity.
The meaning behind the song is :
True Love---------------------- God
Me------------------------------ Baptized Christian
Partridge in a Pear Tree--------Jesus (a partridge acts as a decoy to save its babies)
Two Turtle Doves---------------Old and New Testaments, witnesses of God
Three French Hens--------------Faith, Hope, Love (1 Corinthians 13:13)
you know this one its what we read at all the weddings...
Four Calling Birds----------------Four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)
Five Gold Rings------------------Torah of Old Testament (the first five books)
Six geese a-laying----------------Six days God created (Genesis 1)
Seven swans a-swimming--------Seven gifts of Holy Spirit (Romans 12:6-8;
1 Corinthians 12:8-11)
Eight maids a-milking-------------Eight Beatitudes (Matthew 6: 3-10)
Nine ladies dancing----------------Nine gifts of Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22)
Ten lords a-leaping----------------Ten Commandments (Exodus 20: 1-7)
Eleven pipers piping---------------Eleven faithful apostles (minus Judas Iscariot)
Twelve drummers drumming------Twelve points in Apostles' Creed
Epiphany does not come until January 6
We still have time to be in Christmas! My husband, Kevin preached a great sermon on Christmas Eve titled, "Doing Christmas" where he shared how we get so caught up in doing Christmas that we do not "feel" Christmas.
Perhaps it has been a rush getting ready for family and Christmas, and gifts, and baking, and cleaning.
Advent and Christmas are quite hectic in my house- but I am thankful for these 12 days. I do not take vacation during this time- I'm usually one of few in the office this week. Kevin and I usually take the first week of January for vacation so that our Senior pastor and Director of Congregational Care can be away this week. I actually love being in the office. It is quiet, I have time to clean, to reflect, to prepare for future sermons. But most of all- this week allows me space to truly BE in the power of these 12 Days of Christmas. To allow space to soak in the power of the Incarnation.
So Merry Christmas!
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Some believe that if you talk about Santa it takes away from "keeping Christ in Christmas."
They may be the same people who get upset about using X in Xmas.... I remember the gasps across my Christian Thought colloquy when the TA wrote "Xian" on the board to shorten it. The TA said to all of us - get over this- X- means Chi- for Christ....This image has floated around Facebook:
I have no judgment (? that's even probably too strong) towards those who love Santa or demonize him. Nor do I think that my words will be the all wise words of how to deal with Santa...but I do have an opinion about Santa, so I thought I'd share.
I actually love Santa. I'm a pretty optimistic person- I do not believe optimism means naivite either. (Perhaps that will be another posts someday...)
I never grew up feeling like Santa and celebrating Jesus' birth were mutually exclusive.
I don't really feel like Santa means commercialism or consumerism.
Yes, manufactures, toy stores, etc have manipulated the Santa image to sell products.
I do believe parents have used Santa to manipulate (read here scare) their children into good behavior.
I think sometimes children may have a wrong view of Santa--like he'll bring them whatever they want... but I don't think that's their fault. I think they just haven't been taught who Santa is.
So- Who do I think Santa is?
Santa is Saint Nicholas- someone who loved Jesus and gave to the poor and shared his love of Christ with others. Saint Nicholas was a bishop and a saint.
See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Nicholas (I'm having trouble with this link- but its wiki)....
Kevin and I loved reading this historical fiction book a few years ago- "The Autobiography of Santa Claus" It was a fun historical novel to read that we greatly enjoyed reading to each other. Whenever I talk to my girls about Santa- I say that Santa does what he does because of his love for Christ. We may meet people who dress up like Santa who do not reflect this, but it does not discount the core of who Santa was/is. I talk about how the wise men brought gifts to Jesus. I talk about how Jesus received three gifts. I talk about how the greatest gift we have is that God gave us His Son to save us. We watch the Veggie Tales "Saint Nicholas: A Story of Giving."
For parents -- I loved this response about Santa.
We also love watching Charlie Brown Christmas, we love watching Rudolph, we love watching Frosty, The Night Before Christmas- and pretty much any Christmas special out there (we even have a He-Man/She-Ra Christmas special!
We watched Rudolph the other night- what a phenomenal movie about rejection, grace, redemption, who are the misfit toys today??? We talked about these things with the girls as we watched the movie. God calls us not to judge others, but to see their gifts and know that God has made them for a purpose. These are the conversations we have. There can be good and powerful teaching conversations that are helpful and that do not overwhelm them with too much info.
Why should I deconstruct the world for them before they have yet experienced it? I believe it is important to deconstruct things - for sure! I had a solid and wonderful liberal arts education! I've read Foucault, Derrida, Heidegger, Lyotard- I took Postmodern Theory, Philosophy, etc.. Much thanks thanks to incredibly smart and caring professors at Birmingham-Southern College and more deconstructing as a US-2 Missionary thanks to the General Board of Global Ministries and Central UMC in Detroit. I continued the joy of deconstructing in seminary.
Deconstructing is fun- interesting, intellectual, important.
It shouldn't be done for our own agendas... b/c then we'd just have to deconstruct ourselves!
Which.... really- at the end of the day that is what theology should do... we need to deconstruct ourselves...
We deconstruct, we tear down, and what do we find at the core? Truth. Incarnation. Christ.
There is more than us-- we are made in the image of God.
We are made to point to something more.
I loved loved loved this wonderful article about the power of Incarnational Theology!
The power of believing is important- but we don't believe just to believe- we don't believe in an idea or an idol, or a concept, we believe in a person- Jesus Christ.
A real person who came and lived, and died, and rose again for us.
Who came so that we may have life- and not just any life, but a life transformed and abundant.
And we have wonderful wonderful amazing persons who help point us to the person of Christ and help us live more like Jesus. Saint Nicholas was one of those persons.
So what do I tell my girls?
I tell them to believe -in Jesus, to believe in Saint Nicholas (Santa) and to believe in themselves and what God can do through them to give, to share joy, and share the love of Christ.
in this advent waiting time
wrap the power of hope around each of us.
Fill us with the expectancy of joy and love
and the miracle of the incarnation.
Let all your people know that you are with them.
Your love is being birthed anew throughout the world.
Wrap love and prayers us like swaddling clothes
and rock each of us in your nurturing care.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
I hope you have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving!
I invite you to come to Messiah to celebrate the beginning of advent:
What is Advent?
As we begin the Christian year, we also celebrate the holy season known as Advent. It is a time when we prepare ourselves for the coming of our Messiah. Advent means "coming." We celebrate these days of Advent in expectation and preparation for Christ's arrival.
Through the centuries, Christians have observed a time of waiting and expectation before celebrating the birth of the Savior at Christmas. The Advent season is a time for reflection and preparation, but its mood is joyful. Advent has been enriched by Christian tradition to reflect its distinctive Christian meaning. It proclaims the revelation of God's love as expressed in Christ's birth in a humble stable, His sacrificial death on the cross, and His victorious resurrection! It points to the hope of Christ's coming again as the King of kings and Lord of lords. Advent makes innkeepers out of all of us, asking each of us to make room for the arrival of Christ the King. Let us, prepare room for Christ in our hearts, our lives, and our homes!We offer Christmas at Home at Messiah -an afternoon filled with ways to prepare for Christmas!
From 3-5 We’ll have Advent Workshops (gingerbread houses, snippets, gum drop tress, advent wreathes, etc.) followed by our crock pot pot-luck!
Bring something in the crock pot to share or bring a yummy dessert!
Come then to worship with our Hanging of the Greens and prepare the church and your heart for Christmas!
Afterwards, we’ll enjoy hot cocoa and watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas!"
Below are some pictures of Christmas at Home last year at Messiah! I hope you'll be able to join us this year!
Monday, November 21, 2011
A simple girl
An ordinary man
An unforgettable destination
Christmas! We know all about this wonderful season- we have bumper stickers, t-shirts, Christmas sweaters, wreaths, and decorations. The house becomes prepared with delightful smells, joyful music, and the colors of red and green abound! We know about Christmas! The story has been told and retold, we’ve read the story, seen the movie, and watched pageants of children in shepherd bathrobes, “yet, its very familiarity may keep us from fully grasping its riches.” Adam Hamilton shares this powerful sentiment at the beginning of his book “The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem.
Beginning next Sunday, Messiah will offer a five-week sermon series and study you won’t want to miss where we will journey to Bethlehem from Nazareth in the footsteps of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and others, gaining insight into our own journeys with Christ. Whether you are a long-time Christian or simply curious about the story of Christmas, you are invited to join us on this inspiring journey.
Someone once said to me, “I don’t need to go to church- I’ve heard the stories, I’ve read the bible… I know it. I don’t need someone to tell me what I already know every Sunday.”
I may have faith, and I may be familiar with the stories of the bible, but God’s word is a living word, my life is ever-changing, the world is in constant motion, and God has more for me to learn, understand, grow, and do. I need to come and hear and be on this journey.
Every advent we travel to find a child born in a manger for us. This advent, we explore this journey deeper, aware that there is so much more God has in store for us. We invite Christ by singing, “O come, O Come Emanuel” and Christ invites us come to a little town called Bethlehem. Join us on this journey as we begin advent. Let us journey together to Christ!
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Snoozed with said child till 6.
Church by 7:15 -- all of us.
Amazing Day! Food Pounding-- We have tons and tons of food brought by everyone for families in our area in need of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Christmas Shoeboxes were collected, College Care packages were sent out. Nothing But Nets collected money.
We sorted all the food after church- This year the girls were old enough to help, but I truly felt worried we wouldn't make it through when I got them from the nursery at 12:10... they were melting down!
There is a sorting party in the sanctuary, I told the girls! We're invited to help! :)
They had a blast! It was so awesome to see Sophia- 3- excitedly taking stuffing, potatoes, canned goods, soup,and other groceries. I helped her up and down the stairs, found food for her and together we sorted. Gracie (4) went right to work and seemed to know just what to do. A 6 year old handed Sophia some food to deliver to its correct place and Sophia said, "Mommy, that was so nice!"
We waited to get the name of our family we would deliver to. We got a family with a 6 and 4 year old girl! Gracie was very excited about this! We packed a full bag for each person in the family, one set for Thanksgiving and one for Christmas. Lots of food was there- veggies, fruit, pie crust, filling, yams, marshmellows, gravy, ....soups, pasta, sauce, rice, potatoes, pancakes, syrup, cereal, oatmeal--- everything for Thanksgiving and everything for every day
We picked up our turkey, milk, and bag of fresh produce. And off we went to meet our family! Gracie played with the girls instantly and the Dad from the family helped me unload the car while Kevin entertained Sophia who was half asleep. Grace and I, the Mom and Dad and two girls and I prayed together. It was so wonderful. I wished I spoke Spanish- the Holy Spirit interceded and prayed with, for, and through us.
Home- Sophia and Kevin napped, Gracie watched a show...and I worked on prepping for Disciple Bible Study.
Fixed Dinner- Fed Kids. Walked them with the help of our "adopted grandma"/ nursery worker- to the nursery.
Amazing Disciple 2 Class- Talking about what it means to wait for the Lord, trust, and have patience like Joseph! Before we focused on the study- we ordered ourselves for ministry to the Hypothermia Rotating Shelter-- We're giving each guest Christmas gifts (20 guests) a $45 payless gift card (for good shoes), the Prayer Shawl knitters/crocheters of the church are making hats for the guests, one wonderful person in the class offered to make gift card holders, we are going to give inspirational little books along with our gifts. We'll be keeping their heads warm, feet warm, and hearts warm too.
Kevin texted to me to have someone walk home with me b/c there was a weird guy outside in the parking lot... Thankful for the fellows who made sure I got through the dark parking lot safely!
Home and cannot shake conversations from Disciple 2, the day, thoughts about church, vision for church universal, UMC, and all the places and ways God is leading the church and me.
It is hard to shut all of that down....
I'm also thinking about the visit I need to make for someone having triple by pass surgery... thinking about the Thanksgiving Eve Service I need to work on, thinking about the Hanging of the Greens Service for Saturday evening. Calling folks who are going to read and participate... Hoping that folks signed up for the Crock Pot Pot-Luck Saturday before the worship service (We have Christmas at Home: advent workshops, crock pot potluck, hanging of the greens service, and watching the Charlie Brown Christmas movie).
I'm thinking about updating the new 20Something class email list... and our new study. Their questions, vibrance, the way they inspire me...
There is so much- so much in my head and my heart.... and my feet are aching and my brain is like a ricocheting ideas and thoughts....my heart is overwhelmed with joy and gratitude...
It is so hard to slow all that down and know I can stop....
There is so much to do and plan and prepare and process...
And yet I need rest and I need to stop and I need for a moment to not be planning and preparing and processing-- sometimes I just need to be. Sometimes I do not need to be multitasking.... and going, going, going....
Lord, help me, even the midst of such overwhelming joy, even when everything is good and worthy, and exciting... to calm down and to stop.... to rest in you. To honor you and the life, body, mind and soul you have given me-- but giving me- part of your creation-- time to be renewed. Amen.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
The retreat is based on Genesis. Creation- and what God does in creation- God creates out of chaos. There is always chaos.... what do we do with that?
Do we control it? or do we allow God to create out of it?
Tonight I mentioned to someone that I'd be doing this on Monday morning. I've written about this kind of thing before.... but I said that I was doing this talk on balance and the person responded laughing, "Oh do you know anything about that?" I "joked" back-- Yes- I know a lot about juggling for sure!
Today I had a meeting in Richmond. Because of this I missed our District Clergy Meeting- but Kevin still needed to be there. Preschool for the girls didn't start until 10- but Kevin actually needed to be at meeting by 9:30 (but that's only the coffee and doughnuts...part). The MOM's group at church meets at 9:15 and had childcare so I asked if Kevin could drop them off then and if one of the Mom's would walk the girls to school at 10 for us. I arranged a ride for Kevin with someone who was willing to leave a little late. I left around 8 to get to Richmond after setting out clothes for the girls. I was so very happy when Kevin called me and all of it worked out :)
Someone may say - why did you do all that- someone may say I'm codependent--someone may say-- why should I find my husband's ride yada yada.... coordinating schedules, making sure calendars mesh--- that kind of works to my gifts, so I do that. I do not feel burdened by that.... but I juggle it - I organize it - I make it work (kind of feel like Tim Gunn when I say that :) I do not make it work alone... :)
But back to the the person's laughing response - "Do you know anything about that?"
I'm not hurt by the comment, but I wonder when I hear this - and I write about this because I hear people say things like this to other folks a lot-... what is it that others expect? Do you ever wonder that when you hear a response like this?
What is they expect when it comes to balance? What do we expect when when we say balance?
Sometimes comments like this do bother me a bit- if I'm completely honest, only because it is a slight put down-- or it could be taken that way. It hits my overachiever button-- where I want to prove to you (whoever the you is) that YES I am balanced- YES I have it all together- YES I DO- and I'll show you!!! and then you'll see!
Why do I care what they think? (It's like I want their gold star...) This is silly, but I think anyone who is an overachiever type person may understand this desire.
My balance may not look like your balance-- my balance is not status quo, static (and truly my life will never looks like level scales)... but that is not peace for me. My balance is about taking the chaos that life throws at me and letting the Holy Spirit sweep over it the way God swept over the dark watery chaos of the beginning and creating something new and good!
Tonight I read "The Cat in the Hat" to Grace and Sophia for the millionth time.
Tonight, as I read these words:
The thought occurred to me that we are all we are all on a giant ball-- and we are trying to balance it all-- and it doesn't work. It doesn't work if you're trying to do it by yourself. The only reason I "balance" at all - is because I am held by the power of God, the Holy Spirit guides, comforts, instructs, holds it all together, holds me accountable, and makes something new...something I would not be able to see. God surrounds me with people who help me to hold it all too- people who creatively help me see, create, and do. There is no way this day would have worked had I not had the community and supportive, amazing, people around us. This is the church! This is the body of Christ. This is what tells me every day that I am not alone. This is what tells my silly overachiever button that life is not about me being an overachiever- life is not about me saying, "I can do it all by myself." (Which my mother will tell you was my first full sentence).Look at me! Lookat me now!" said the cat. "With a cup and a cake
On the top of my hat! I can hold up TWO books! I can hold up the fish!
And a little toy ship! And some milk ona dish! And look!
I can hop up and down on the ball! Butthat is not all! Oh, no.
That is not all... "Look at me! Lookat me! Look at me NOW!
It is fun to have fun. But you have toknow how. I can hold up the cup
And the milk and the cake! I can hold upthese books! And the fish on a rake!
I can hold the toy ship! And a littletoy man! And look! With my tail I can hold a red fan!
I can fan with the fan As I hop on the ball! But that is not all. Oh, no. That is not all....".
That is what the cat said...Then he fell on his head!He came down with abump from up there on the ball.
Life is about saying look at me look at me look at me now- I fall and I am broken- and look at we look at us- look at Christ- and see how we are now whole. Whole from brokenness, created new out of chaos.
John Wesley said, "The best of all---God is with us." The other night I was at a workshop where they asked us to think about what it is we love most about our church. We thought about that, talked about it, wrote it down. Then they said, "What if you didn't have that?" The words that came were : devastating, lonely, isolating.
Without God, without church, without community, we'd constantly be falling down with a crash.
But because of God we're whole, because of church we're loved, and because of community we're held together.
I would add to Wesley's quote- that the best of all is that God is with us, and so is- the church.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
I came across this quote posted on Rachel Held Evans' blog-- and it made me smile!
Emerging Mummy with “In Which I Can Feel Like Sisyphus”
“When I'm picking up for the eleventy-billionth time, when every one needs to eat and it seems like wejust ate, when we are wondering what to do with our one wild and precious life that sure isn't feeling very wild or precious right about now, when the laundry is piled unfolded and someone spills their full glass of milk on the floor I just washed and the bickering and noise enters its second hour and the house is too hot and there isn't much time for the things that I want to do on the day off, I feel like Sisyphus, futile, pushing a rock up a hill that will never summit
Everytime I turn around - I've cleaned the kitchen to find that shredded cheese is now spread all over the living room... (how did this happen?) Juice has been spilled on the dog.... play-doh is stuck to my toe....
We're still working on potty training our youngest - and that has lots of fun challenges.. While cooking dinner I hear the girls going upstairs and playing dress up- they come downstairs and do a "fashionista fashion show for us"
We're getting back to a rhythm with the girls going to preschool- back to preparing lunches, back to the dash for finding our school bag in the morning because it was not hung up in the "spot"
-- The other day in the car Gracie told Kevin- "Daddy we need to hurry." Kevin pulled over and told her that we did not need to be in a hurry- and all would be well. He wanted her to know that we didn't have be rush, rush, rushing... as we so often feel... We don't want to live in a attitude of go go go stress- but in receive receive grace and give give abundantly....
All this balanced with being a full time pastor at an incredible church. My children are around a lot- and thankfully everyone at church seems to love my children. It helps that they are just awesome awesome kids-- but it can be a little crazy when at the Wednesday night dinner they refuse to eat and only want to run around the Fellowship Hall. But I listen... and I hear joy and laughter. Last Wednesday the girls had some stickers and ran throughout the fellowship dinner giving everyone stickers and hugs. What did I hear- expressions of joy.... contagious....
I took Gracie with me on a visit recently- we took a woman a prayer shawl and Gracie prayed, "Dear God please heal, Ms., Ms. Ms... and I filled her name- Yes, heal Ms. XYZ. Make her feel better. Give her peace. Thank you for Jesus. Amen."
I listened and I hear- the Holy Spirit move as the woman we visited, her husband, sister and I held hands and continued to pray- but no one needed to say anything after that.
I was headed to take communion to a retreat I was leading and Gracie heard me talking to Kevin about getting communion supplies-- Gracie said, "I want us to have communion." We stopped and had worship and communion in our living room. It was awesome. Then they dropped me off to do my retreat.
I have this wonder, chaotic, filled, and blessed life!
I haven't been writing lately- but I've been listening to God, experiencing the power of joy, and doing pretty good. Yet I have been going and going-- and doing and doing and living and living-- I'm thankful for a moment to make myself stop - and share and reflect on all that I am experiencing and hearing. I need this too. I need moments of reflection so that I can listen to what my life and to what God is saying. Thanks for listening.
Monday, April 11, 2011
John 11: 1-45
“Dead Man Walking”
April 10, 2011
Shut--- up in the tomb, bound, cold, buried, dead--- he laid.
Light all of a sudden began tearing into the darkness of the cave and a voice shouted, “Lazarus! Come out!” Not just any voice- not just words but life- He could hear—ears unstopped, breathing begun. He awakened, he rose, he stood—still bound and wrapped in funeral linen. Groggy and disoriented, but hearing the call—compelled —he walked out.
Lazarus – a dead man walking.
We hear about death -it is in the news. It has been our companion especially in recent months-Egypt, Libya, Syria, a bombing in Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, Japan, Haiti, friends, loved ones… Death stares at us when we read the newspaper, when we drive on our commute listening to the events of the day. We cry out to God, much like Mary and Martha did, “Lord, the one you love is sick. The world is sick. Lord we fear. Lord, we don’t understand. Lord, we need help and healing.”
We know that Jesus loves his friend Lazarus- and we know that Lazarus is ill- we are told this several times. Mary and Martha honestly speak their minds- they send word to Jesus- they reach out. .
We too cry out.
But most days our cries are not centered so much on death.
Most days we are more focused on survival. On getting through…on making ends meet.
We survive, we get through, we stay busy---existing-- but are we living?
We wait as Mary and Martha waited, hoping, wondering- Where is Jesus?
The themes of waiting and God’s timing are woven all throughout the Gospel of John. The cross constantly looming, Jesus always speaking about his time. Upon hearing the news of Lazarus- Jesus stays for two more days and then we read: “and then” ---- Then Jesus says “Let us go back to Judea.”
Jesus, even though away, knows what is happening. Even while not physically present with Lazarus, he knows that he has “fallen asleep.” Jesus is going to GO He is going to AWAKEN him.
When Jesus arrives, we are struck by another theme heavily entwined throughout the story—He comes and there are “many Jews” who had COME to Martha and Mary – they had come to “comfort them.” The Community is active and real and present and here with them.
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother wound not have died.” Martha says. If only you had been here? If you only you had answered me? If only…
But Martha doesn’t end with this…she continues, “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus tells her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha knows this- Yes—“he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.”
She has a future hope, a promise, but that doesn’t help her NOW—right now- in this real and raw present moment. She does believe it, it does give some hope, but she can’t touch that or feel it- she can’t see it.
Jesus then reframes her understanding to the NOW- to the present—eternal life- resurrection is not just some distant future—it is now- for it is in him, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
Do you Believe this? Jesus asks her.
Martha says, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
I am moved by her words.
Her belief is not some obscure, intangible, distant theological doctrine- her belief is in Jesus who is the Christ.
But I am struck--Why does Martha say he is “coming into the world?”
He is here now…. He is in front of her. He has come now- he is with her.
We know that Jesus is, and was, and is to come.
We know he is always seeking us and He is always coming to each of us and calling us to come to him! This too is what Martha knows and proclaims.
This is the constant activity of Christ.
He comes and calls you to come forth.
Martha goes to get Mary who is at the house surrounded by the community who have come to comfort and mourn with her. Mary comes and falls at Jesus’ feet. She weeps and the community has come with her also weeping.
And Jesus asks this crowd, “Where have you laid him?”
They say to him, “Come and See, Lord.”
And here—at this –the sight of all – taking it all in
The community reacts in two ways:
1) Some are moved- “How much he loved Lazarus!”
2) Others are angry, skeptical…He healed others- why couldn’t he have come and saved Lazarus.
Jesus comes to the tomb instructs the community—He says something most unexpected, “Take away the stone.”
What would you think? You’re standing at the tomb—you are weeping. You are sad. You are angry. You had hoped for a miracle and it never came.
I want you to think about who you are in the story.
Everyone is here now- Mary and Martha, the community who have gathered around them, some moved by Jesus, some angered by him, the disciples, Jesus, and a big stone that is over the cave entrance, and there is a dead man inside.
Martha speaks up- “But Lord, he stinks!”
Jesus said, “Did I not tell you if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
“So- they took away the stone.”
The stone is rolled away and Jesus prays, “Father I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
Jesus acknowledges that God is present, always hearing, always knowing- always listening for our cries, our words, our needs.
Then Jesus calls out, “Lazarus, Come out!”
Jesus commands- and creates new life.
God is always sending Jesus to us.
His only Son, to come to us and to call us to come and follow him.
“Lazarus Come Out!”
The Dead Man came out----- The Dead man came walking out---
His hands and his feet are bound with strips of cloth and his face is wrapped in a cloth.
Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Even though he is awakened, Lazarus is still bound by signs and stench of death.
Lazarus has risen, he is resurrected but the community must come and unbind him.
Jesus has freed him from death, but still he needs to be released from its grip.
So -- Who are you? Where are you? What would we do?
Would you still be in the tomb? Would you rise and come out?
Are you one of those who have rolled away the stone?
Are you weeping Mary and Martha? Confronting and yet praising Christ?
Are you loosening the bindings?
Are you on the ground fallen down weeping?
Are you holding your nose? Gawking at this strange event?
Are you the dead man walking?
The community is called to come and be part of this resurrection- Unbind him! Jesus says.
Lazarus is alive, and yet still tangled still in burial clothes. He is living, yet not able to fully live.
Do you know what that is like?
Perhaps not dead----but not fully alive? Stumbling towards life…Surviving, breathing—and yet trapped up bound by old bondage, wrapped in past wreckage, stuck in old sin?
At some point we may be all of these people.
No matter how much we try to bind up the dead places, perfume the smell, or cover our deadness and dryness with stones and tombs—Somewhere, sometime, we are dead men walking- our faith has been lost, we have become weary, we have given up hope, we see only dried up bones, and no new breath of life seems possible.
Why does Martha say Jesus is coming?
Because he never stops coming to us. And He will never cease calling us to come forth.
We stink- we are bound- we hide buried in a tomb.
But still- Jesus calls each of us to come forth.
What tombs do you hide in?
What bindings do you need to be released from?
What stones do we need to roll away?
Who are the dead men walking around?
Lazarus heard the call—the call from Jesus—Jesus who is the life and the resurrection- Jesus is LIFE!
Awakened he came--- ready for a new life and yet still held in the bondage of the old….
Here Christ calls- he commands the community to be part of the redemptive and restorative work of his creation.
They come to the Dead Man Walking and they help release him.
Jesus said, “Unbind Him and Let him go.”
Where now will Lazarus go? What now will he do?
Can he go back to an everyday life when he has experienced new and eternal everlasting life?
What will the community now do?
Some undoubtedly celebrate after they have removed the funeral bindings.
Others flee to town telling the Pharisees and chief priests what had happened.
What about Mary and Martha?
They now understand life, death, and Jesus in a greater way. For Mary will anoint Jesus with perfume, preparing him for the cross.
Much changes now. The cross no longer looms in the distance.
Ironically, Lazarus’ empty tomb is now the entry way to Jesus on the cross crucified.
The chief priest and Pharisees gather, worried about what they will do. They say, “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy places and our nation.” The high priest Caiaphas says, “You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” And Caiaphas did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to put him to death.”(John 11: 50-53).
Jesus --no longer walked about openly- but goes now to Ephraim and remains there until Passover. He returns to his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus for a meal before Passover and Mary anoints and prepares him for death. Crowds of people will soon shout Hosanna and Crucify in a matter of days.
Lazarus’ life is different now.
He has come forth from death, for death as the Sanhedrin decide to pursue him.
They seek to also put him to death—because so many people are believing in Jesus because of him.
Mary and Martha had sent word to Jesus, “Lord, whom you love is ill.”
Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus as those around said, “See how he loved him.”
And Jesus loved him and called him forth and created new life rising up in him.
Lazarus also loved Jesus. Lazarus’ love for Christ is a real love with sacrifice.
Unbind him and Let him Go!
To the cross with Christ.
A sacrifice that is willing to go with Christ.
To go with him to the very end.
Having Jesus at our tombs means that we must follow him to his.1
We practice dying when we are living in Christ.
We die to sin, to shame, to prejudices, opinions, stagnant ideas, dying to one old life and then another, ever striving toward new life. [And we] consciously practice rising from whatever tomb we’ve have holed ourselves up in lately. ”2
We practice dying…not because we are afraid of death but because we are called to Come forth into life! To witness to an eternal life that begins NOW. It is real and powerful- for it makes dry bones rattle, become flesh, and breathe, it makes what we think is impossible, what we have buried, come alive, come forth, out of the tomb, out of depths, out from the grave into a life in Christ!
We began our worship today singing, “And Are we Yet Alive?”
I ask us-- Are we?
Are we dead men walking?
Are we existing? Are we yet alive?
Christ has called us to come forth and live in Christ Jesus!
And when we come forth and live—we walk out to this community – a community that is here to unbind each other when we rise.
We will unbind
And we will Go!
We will go to the cross.
As end our worship we sing “Are Ye Able”
Jesus asks us – are you able to be crucified with me? To die to sin and to live in me? No longer a dead man walking?
Let us stand and sing and say – as Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ; “ it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me " (Gal. 2:20).
Come Forth and live!
Thanks be to God! Amen!
1 Commentary on Gospel by Meda Stamper
2 Suzanne Guthrie
THE RAISING OF LAZARUS
Duccio Di Buoninsegna
The artist name is listed on the bottom, but I cannot make it out...
"The Resurrection of Lazarus"
Giotto di Bondone (c1267-1337)
Scrovengi Chapel, Padua
I do not know who or where this image is. If you find it and know the artist, please let me know. This is my favorite of the images because it reveals the intimacy of the community who comes to unbind him- you see the people up close.
Monday, March 28, 2011
But I don't know if anyone has taught me how to play better than my girls. My youngest especially! Sophia knows how to play! She has the most amazing imagination. Both of my girls do- but I realized that when Gracie was Sophia's age she was always instructing her little sister to play. "Sophia follow me" and "Sophia let's go do this." Gracie is often content to do her own thing and lead-but Sophia has no one to teach--except me and Daddy usually! And she does! She teaches me how to play!
Saturday Gracie napped as she recovered from her fever and Sophia and I played and played. Yesterday when we came home from church Gracie said she was going upstairs for a nap and Sophia said, "Mommy! Color with me!!" I wanted to just check on Grace and Sophia just screamed "No Mommy! Stay! Sit! Color!" After a brief meltdown where I checked on Grace and I came back- we began our coloring.
Sophia put a crayon in my hand and said- here Mommy you use this one. Draw a princess. Now draw a prince charming. She is coloring with me. She took a pink crayon and said, "Now the monster comes." and she draws a monster. Then there was a wolf, and a pig, and then a wicked witch, and then another prince and princess and I think some other characters too! She created a whole storyboard!
Here's a closer picture:
We then had to go hide Sophia said! Because a wolf was coming! (They love playing wolf and pigs and singing a song about the Big Bad Wolf that they learned at school!) She loves to hide behind the big chair in our living room and its a house! And then she brings everything and dumps it back there. I was directed to stay. I propped myself against the buffet and the wall and she covered me up and brought me pillows and we had a tea party, called Grandparents, sang our ABC's, and played and played.
Then all of a sudden Sophia said- Okay Mommy- You be a alligator and I'll be a dog- Now you're a pig and I'm a horse- I'm a princess annnnnnd you are now a monkey!
Then Sophia said- Mommy let's go play with our dolls! We go upstairs and play with barbies, princesses, McD's toys, Shrek, stuffed animals, little people, and my little ponies, and one random dragon. All came together in a brilliant story Sophia orchestrated and directed me in. (Seriously- Toy Story got it right!)
Then it was time for dress up! She flung open the trunk and began pulling clothes out left and right until she found what she was looking for. She was determined and had a plan!
All along- Sophia taught me to play and dream and imagine. Playing is pure joy. Play is a spiritual practice- it opens us to discover to dream- to aspire. Not to have a plan-- not to figure everything out- not to schedule but to enjoy one moment at a time. I am so thankful that my wise Sophia and my sweet Grace pull me out my moments of thinking--- "but I really need to clean this or do this or go fold this laundry..." Sometimes what I really need to do is "Sit down Mommy!" and play!
Friday the whole family rested- one child with a fever and Kevin not feeling great and I was doing the breathing treatments every 4 hours. But Kevin had to leave at 4 for the Confirmation Retreat- I had to get it together.
Some of my amazing co-workers brought us lunch and that became our dinner- sandwiches and soup from Panera! I got the kids down- and I rested too and kept doing my breathing treatments.
Saturday we had a lovely and easy day. I played with the girls, we rested and cuddled, and I kept on doing the breathing treatments. I managed to make food for us, to call and catch up with some folks, and even by the evening to do dishes and pick up the living room before going to bed.
All day Saturday I was sort of in awe of how I felt. I still had tightness and a coldness in my chest- I didn't quite still feel like a sumo wrestler was sitting on me - but I still felt pain and it lifted during the breathing treatments on the nebulizer. But the energy to do- to be awake and alert with the girls- I was shocked that I was mobile, breathing, alive, functioning! All I could think was God is so good! I am able to be their mom and see them play with play-doh and dress up, and take care of my four year old's fever!
It is healing work of God and it is healing work of medicine- but I think there is more to it too. I couldn't let this pain and illness keep me from loving them, taking care of them, playing with them, reading books to them (between my hacking cough). I had the energy- the will- the desire- to do this.
I think that there is power in Momma Love-- when your mom takes care of you there is healing power in that-- but there is more to Momma Love-- your love for your children as a mother is powerful- and it can heal them but also heal you! It was healing me- it was Holy Spirit filled Momma Love power.
I think Momma Love is quite biblical and has the power to heal and restore much. Julian of Norwhich talked of Jesus as Mother Jesus who gave us new birth on the cross-- Jesus says he longs to gather us a mother hen gathers her chicks. Jesus's mother love for us is healing for the world- healing, reconciling, restoring us to be in real and right relationship with God and with all the world.
My love for my girls holds power.
I've just finished reading Shayne Moore's book "Global Soccer Mom." You can learn more about Shayne here http://www.globalsoccermom.com/
She talks about her love as a mom hurting for the world and I feel that too. My love for my children is powerful and I connect that love with and all the other children of this world. I may not be their Mom, they may not have a mom and I may not be able to adopt them- but my love can do something- it can be healing- and it work in the healing love for living God's kingdom now. Christ is seeking to gather us - his little chicks- to be well.
What if all the moms in the world - we're busy- wiping bottoms and noses, making sure our kids eat enough vegetables, and brush their teeth- what if we also did something about the rest of the children of the world too. That's what Shayne talks about in her book.
I finished this book over this time I've been sick. Resting was like forcing myself to stop- so I stopped and I read. (I'm sure that someone will say I didn't really stop- but reading felt renewing and restoring too).
Our love has healing power. In these days I am feeling that very personally as I heal from this illness, but I realize too that my love for my girls does a lot more in me too. Let your love - especially your momma love have power- Shayne talks about how it has power to change the world.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
I have been ill since I've been back fighting off bronchitis and sinus infections. I pushed through and got exhausted and rested and pushed again and fever, headache, sinus pain slowed me down. I'm not good at resting. I feel like I should be able to take the medicine my Dr gives me and poof! be better. It seems that I have to learn this over and over again- that- this isn't quite how healing happens. I cannot keep doing and keeping a normal pace.
My husband is good at this or at least he is good at holding me accountable to this. I feel guilty when I rest- when I miss things- when I can't keep up my normal pace. I am a high energy person and I really can't stand when I can't keep up my regular pace. There are many people I haven't had a chance to catch up with since I returned, there are things I haven't had a chance to get done...I'll finally have energy and clean the whole house, do five loads of laundry and then I'm back to being exhausted. Kevin just looks at me and says- "You have to rest." Yesterday he said, "Hey- you promised to do this when you were ordained." I said, "How so?" "Well, he said, "you committed to self care too." It is really amazing and wonderful and even little frustrating... to have someone who holds you accountable. I need it and I am thankful- the frustrating part really is not being able to be as productive as I'd like. There's a lot to be done.... and I enjoy doing it too...
But I'm learning. Lent is a powerful time to be held accountable. I find that one of the things I have to learn is to slow down- to focus on Christ- and to be still. I do not do this naturally... or easily. But I have a best friend in my spouse who reminds me of this and teaches me. I can rely on him when I need to rest and there is no guilt and this is amazing. I especially felt guilty resting after being gone for 10 days on our trip- and now I'm back-- but not fully back like usual!
But this has also taught me- I'm more than what I do. There is more to me- to those I love than what I can do for them. Sure, they love my energy, and my doing-ness- but they love me first.
God loves us first- God is not satisfied with sacrifices and what we do-- Our actions are important and necessary- but there is more that God wants.
Psalm 51 says, "For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."
I think sometimes I feel so filled with the joy of Christ that I think I can just go forever and not tire... and yet I do - I get really tired, I get exhausted, and I get sick-- these past two weeks- evidence.
I pray that in this Lenten season, I may learn to have my heart, my soul, my body, my whole self broken for Christ and healed by Christ, and made whole by Christ. That I may listen and be still for what it is God is calling. Let me then bring forth my energies, my sacrifices, all my service-- for then I will be filled and able to give more freely.