Monday, November 28, 2016

When the Dam Breaks

Recently, I've asked for prayers for our daughter Grace.

Our daughter has struggled with anxiety for the past two years.

At the time, I resigned from serving on Conference Boards and committees, so I could be more available to help her.

We had many nights, where we prayed and prayed for God to lead us and help us comfort her, guide her, calm her and give her all she needed to be happy and successful.

We found a great counselor and learned tools for our toolbox and triggers of her anxiety.

We had her evaluated by teachers and her pediatrician for ADD/ ADHD knowing my husband struggled with ADHD throughout his childhood.

At that time ADD was ruled out and the Dr said he saw anxiety and suggested we could begin medication, or simply continue with counseling.  We chose to continue with counseling.

Then, this summer we moved.

The tools in our tool box didn't always work.

By October, we saw clearly that we needed more help- more tools, and a bigger toolbox.

We began to seek the help of doctors and therapists.

Looking back, the best description I can have is that for the past few years, there has been a dam that was leaking-- and the leaks were the anxiety we saw and sought to manage.

Shortly after Halloween, the dam burst.

And all kinds of things that had never been present, were now present.

A journey we started a few years ago has become more clear and more complex all at once.

Over the last month, doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, pediatricians and soon to be more doctors, occupational therapists, and who knows who else will help us learn more of how we can help our daughter navigate all that we now are dealing with.

In addition to anxiety, she has now been diagnosed with ADHD and depression.

We have been so thankful for so much love and support from friends, family, our church.

We share about what's going on freely and without stigma.

Our daughter has learned that anxiety, depression, ADHD are all medical, neurological, biological conditions that are not unlike other health conditions.

We have so appreciated the many people who have offered meals, presence, and support.

When I've shared the metaphor of the dam that leaked and has now broken-- some kind and caring folks have responded by saying, "Well, you all will help her rebuild the dam."  I wasn't offended.... trust me-- genuine care and concern will never offend me.

                                                                  The dam isn't coming back.

But we are no longer sinking, drowning, or treading water... although there are days it can feel like that.

We've been holding on to the life rafts.

We have sought to find what was the trigger or triggers that led to this bursting dam. There isn't one.... and perhaps it is just that it held together for awhile and then... no longer could.

                                                       No, we won't be rebuilding the dam.

But we will be building a ship - indeed, an aircraft carrier would do nicely.
One that can help her launch into the world knowing that she has everything she needs to be successful, joyful, and her best self.

We often talk about how it takes a village - it isn't just a saying, it is true

It take the Body of Christ.

It takes every single one of us.

I cannot stop thanking God for the kindness and love everyone has given us.

I cannot stop praising God for the love, grace, comfort, and light God steadfastly gives to lead through each day, sometimes it is each hour....

I called one of my best friends yesterday and said, "Please tell me its going to get easier."

She said, "It may not get easier.... But I can promise you I'm here with you."

I have felt this love and support from so many.

We are not alone.

This year, I need Advent more than ever.

This year, I know so fully the Incarnation-- I know God is with us and has come for us.

This year,  we clamor for the light more expectant than ever-- for we have been walking in deeper darkness than we've ever faced.

But Christ has come and will come again.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not and will never overcome it.

Thanks be to God for the light that shines,
the hope that conquers fear,
the peace that calms our restlessness,
the joy that sustains all,
and the love of Christ which binds us together.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Long View

This prayer was posted in a clergywomen's group I'm in tonight and it gave me great peace.  

It's called the Romero prayer, but written by Bishop Ken Untener. 

 I pray that it will remind you of who you are and fill you with grace as it has for me today. 

Tomorrow my sermon is "Who We Are" and this prayer was a great way to ground me as I prepared for tomorrow. 

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view. 

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith.

No confession brings perfection.

No pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No program accomplishes the Church's mission.

No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.

We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master
builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.

--------Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw 

Lord, Have Mercy. Christ, Have Mercy.

This week began as my first full week serving a church filled with amazing people.

  I've been doing a lot of listening.  I've been doing a lot of praying.  I've been trying to get my office organized, catch up on sermon planning, meet tons of new people, provide opportunities for fun for 2 girls, and keep everything--everything up.  

Every day I have no idea how the day finished already.  
Each day has been full and usually 12-14 hours of non stop work.  
God is in it all.  But I've been tired at the end of each day.  Exhausted. 

I am barely getting "it all done" (really-- not at all)  and I have not kept up with the world.  
I see updates on my phone and I breathe and pray and keep going and later... I lay in bed at 1 and 2 am after the day's work is done(or at least stopped) I read about the atrocities in the world with my heart breaking.  
And I fall asleep praying.  
  Knowing God is real and here in the world. 
   Knowing God doesn't get exhausted like I do.
And I pray. Lord, Have Mercy. Christ, Have Mercy.

That's all I've got. For now.  And I just have to let it be enough. 
My prayers are enough.,.for now.   
I haven't been making speeches or writing great blogs - I have amazing friends who are doing this needed and prophetic work.  But all I could do in this week was pray-- and keep being there for my church in this new time. 

I pray. 

I pray about what I know and I pray about all I don't know. 

I haven't cried this week about the injustices of this world because I haven't let myself feel it all. 
I'm not trying to be numb.... I have just felt so much already. 

In a new appointment - I feel like a sponge- and I am soaking it all in..... and I just have no more room.  

But.... I can't not know--- I can't not care.  I can't not feel. 

But I just can't respond to it all right now. 

It doesn't mean I don't care. 
It doesn't mean my silence is a condoning of injustice. 
It just means- I'm doing all I can right now.  

My prayers are not any less real when they aren't posted on Facebook. 

And yet- as a pastor- as a public theologian- I have a responsibility to lead, to bear witness, to equip, to encourage, to speak out, to call out injustice, to comfort the broken, and to always, always, always share the good news. 

So today- finally on the first Sabbath day I've had-- I let my focus be on uninterrupted time time with my husband.  I really needed it.  I am so thankful for him.  We caught up on the week and on what we've been feeling and thinking.  And together we caught up on the world and the news.  And then I gave myself some silence from the world.  

And now I have the energy to respond publicly-- rather than in the late night silence after my exhaustion, but now from a place of Sabbath renewal. 

And now.... now I weep. 

With my newfound energy from this day-- I weep. 

Tears and prayers and anger and fear and sadness and hope and worry and tears and prayers and no words—no words—and no words are adequate.

I pray for Alton Sterling.
I pray for Philando Castile.
I pray for the five officers who lost their lives in senseless violence protecting their community:
Brent Thompson
Patrick Zamarripa
Michael Krol
Michael Smith
Lorne Ahrens

I pray and I pray and I pray.
And often my prayers are wordless-because I have no words and I need no words—for the Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.

I pray.
I am praying for a day when fear no longer rules.
           For the day when peace reigns.
           For the day when love is our primary response.

  I am praying for an end to violence,
      For hope to invade.
      For compassion to lead.
      For love to ignite every heart.

I am praying for our prayers to turn into changed hearts, opened minds, and a transformed world. 
I am praying for our prayers to create conversations where there is now chaos. 
I am praying for our prayers to turn confusion into clarity. 
I am praying for our prayers to turn prejudice into peace. 

Please pray with me and for me.
Pray I can be present for all the people I need and want to be present for.
Pray I will rest when I need to rest.
Pray I will do what I need to do when I need to do it.
Pray I will listen when I need to listen and speak when I need to speak.
Pray that this Sunday I will have the courage to lead as God is calling me to lead.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Lent: A New Normal ----Our life, or new life in Christ

Recently I was asked, “Why does Easter move anyway?” 

I knew I had learned this at one time, but I also knew I did not remember. 

Other than knowing it had something to do with the moon, I could not articulate my answer. 

We know the date for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and St. Patrick ’s Day—but Easter, well that one moves.

Here is the short answer: 
Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox, unless the full moon falls on a Sunday, then it is delayed a week.

Is your head hurting yet?

The vernal equinox is the Spring Equinox- March 21. 

March 22 is the earliest Easter can occur on any given year, and April 25 is the latest.

You may be wondering, as I did, just how this formula got put into place.

Easter and Passover
Easter was once determined by the date of Passover.

Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples.
Passover celebrates how the Israelites, when slaves in Egypt, were protected by the blood of the lamb across their doorways, as death passed over them during the plague.  Because of the blood of the lamb they were protected and liberated.  God saved them and brought them to freedom through the sea. 

That Passover meal became the Last Supper where Jesus instituted the sacrament Holy Communion.

Here in this meal Jesus shared the new covenant offering forgiveness, love, and grace.  In the New Covenant Jesus shared a four part blessing—he took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to his disciples. 

His life was taken, blessed, broken, and given so that we would have new life in this new covenant, forgiven, and made new.  

Jesus became the Paschal Lamb, whose blood would protect us, free us, and lead us to new life. 

On that night Jesus was betrayed and the next day he was crucified and on the third day he rose again.

 In this way, Easter is connected theologically to Passover.

A Little History
But the date became no longer dependent upon Passover at the Council of Nicaea.

This was the first ecumenical gathering of the Christian Church where the church uniformly came together to agree upon doctrine which is articulated in the Nicaean Creed.

At this meeting the Church also argued over the reliability of dating mechanisms and chose to no longer use the Jewish Calendar  to determine Easter.  Instead they began to calculate the date using the Julian Calendar whereby the date would be calculated using the date from spring equinox so that Easter would be the first Sunday following the full moon after the spring equinox. 

The Church continued this practice calculating Easter with the Julian Calendar until the 1500’s when the church realized that their reliance on this calendar was causing them to incorrectly date the spring equinox (the spring equinox is the one day in spring when there is exactly 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of darkness).

The Julian calendar assumes the year is exactly 365.25 days long. Unfortunately, the actual solar year is slightly shorter (it is 365.242199 days to be exact). Although the difference appears minor, it can add up over the centuries. In fact, every 129 years, the Julian calendar slipped one additional day out of synchronization with the actual solar year.

So if the date for Easter was off- then Lent, Ash Wednesday, Pentecost would so be off.

To correct this, Pope Gregory XIII, issued a papal bull in 1582 that resulted in several calendar revisions, the most important being the creation of the Gregorian calendar. [i] 

The Western Church decided to use a Gregorian Calendar system, while the Easter Orthodox continued to use a Julian Calendar.   So the date for Easter, for the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant Church continues to be set using this calculation, while the Eastern Orthodox Church continues to use the Julian Calendar.

Who is Easter Really About?
However the Church has begun to talk about creating a set date for Easter .  The Archbishop of Canterbury has said that it would help schools and families to arrange terms and holidays. [ii]

Having a set date certainly would help us arrange our schedules and plan our lives.  And I’m definitely glad that the spring break in Chesterfield County falls the week after Easter this year, rather than the week of Holy Week, so that families can worship through the week at church on Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. 

Yet, something in me finds the fact that Easter moves a good thing. 

The purpose of Lent is for us to refocus and stop putting ourselves first, to repent and believe the Gospel remembering that we are dust and it is Christ who give us life—new life! 

Moving Easter for our convenience, seems to me to contrary to the reason for Lent.
Perhaps when Easter messes up our schedules, it is a good thing. 
We have to repent and reorient ourselves.

 Every year, we have to ask ourselves, “When is Easter?”  And perhaps that may become the start of our Lenten practice? Have our habits and spiritual disciplines become old, worn, rote even?

When is Easter and how can we reorient our lives to be in line with the meaning of Easter, rather than move Easter be in line with our desires. 

Jesus Christ comes and makes everything new!

When the date of Easter changes each year—we have to shift and be made new.  

Nothing stays the same, except for the steadfast love of God. 
We drift away filing our lives with our plans and our purposes. 
We create our life, and in so doing we forget how Christ gave His life for us.

Easter this year is on March 27, and the 40 days leading to this day begin Lent.

On February 9, I hope to see you for Shrove Tuesday as we begin putting Christ first in our schedule and plans and walking with our Savior first in our schedule.

The next day, February 10 is Ash Wednesday, we will place the ashes burnt from last Palm Sunday’s palms as the sign of the cross on our heads, humbling ourselves, remembering who we are- from ashes we came and from ashes will we return, and knowing that when we repent and believe the Gospel we have new life.  We will offer a Children’s Ash Wednesday Service at 6:30 and a Traditional Ash Wednesday Service at 7:30 so that people of all ages are able to experience and understand the power of this humbling service.

Each Wednesday throughout Lent we will offer Lenten Lunches at noon at church.  We will have be having a time of fellowship sharing in soup and bread and then we will worship together. 

The First Sunday of Lent is February 14 and we will begin our Lenten Series “A New Normal.”  We begin our “New Normal” series recommitting ourselves and renewing our covenant in line with the New Covenant Jesus offers. 

February 14 is also Valentine’s Day! 
Could your relationship use a new normal-- a revival of the heart- a re- commitment and      renewal?  Following the 11:00am worship service we will offer an opportunity for couples to Renew the Covenant of their Marriage. We will have extended childcare on this day and we invite all couples, whether you have been marred 40 years or 4 years to not only recommit your lives to Christ in this worship service, but also recommit to the covenant of your marriage. 

Christ has come with a New Covenant, New Wineskins, New Birth, New Commandment, a New Understanding, a New Kingdom, and New Life!   
I pray that throughout this Lent we will all take the opportunity to develop a New Normal in Christ Jesus our Savior! 

In God’s Love, Grace, and Peace
Pastor Beth

[i] The new Gregorian calendar had an extra day in those years that were divisible by 4 (just like the old Julian calendar), but unlike the Julian calendar, it did not add an additional day in years that were divisible by 100, unless the year was also divisible by 400. Thus, under the Gregorian calendar, the years 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not leap years, but the years 1600 and 2000 were leap years.
• To make up for the errors in the old Julian calendar, ten days were omitted from the new Gregorian calendar. Thus, Thursday, 4 October 1582 in the old Julian calendar was immediately followed by Friday, 15 October 1582 in the new Gregorian calendar.


Setting my mind on the Spirit

 It's the first week of Lent.  I decided I wanted to write and reflect more for Lent.   Years ago-- I wrote on this blog more often and ...