Friday, December 24, 2010

Advent Fourth Friday 12/24

"It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony
for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the
bright morning star." The Spirit and the bride say, "Come." And
let everyone who hears say, "Come." And let everyone who is thirsty
come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

Revelation 22:16-17

It is Christmas Eve, many folks will flock to churches tonight and hold candle light services to welcome in Christmas day.  I love Christmas Eve services but I have to admit that it frustrates me to see churches so full on this night but so empty on Sunday mornings.  The stores empty and the churches fill up as folks stop spending the money and finally draw in for worship of  Christ.  

I passed a church the other day that had on its sign "Christ is the bigger word in Christmas"...this made me chuckle "mas" in spanish is more...more, more, more that seems to be the theme of Christmas. More food, more gifts, more money, more time, more energy, and more time spent in the stores than with family.  But the sign is right Christ is the bigger word and that is worth pondering as we go into a time to celebrate the birth of Christ and the promise that Christ will come again.

"I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star." 

Come Lord Jesus, 

Come into the darkness and shed light

Come and open our hearts

Come and bring us joy

Come and light a fire within us for peace

Come and show us love

Come and bring us hope once again

Come Lord Jesus and forgive us 

Come, and remind us that this is Christmas


Peace be within you,


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Advent Fourth Thursday 12/23

Psalm 147:12-20

  Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem!
Praise your God, O Zion!
 For he strengthens the bars of your gates;
he blesses your children within you.
 He grants peace within your borders;
he fills you with the finest of wheat.
 He sends out his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
  He gives snow like wool;
he scatters frost like ashes.
  He hurls down hail like crumbs --
who can stand before his cold?
 He sends out his word, and melts them;
he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow.
 He declares his word to Jacob,
his statutes and ordinances to Israel.
  He has not dealt thus with any other nation;
they do not know his ordinances.
Praise the Lord!

The eve of Christmas eve and alongside the story of the birth of John the Baptist and the end of the last chapter of Revelation this Psalm is tucked into the lectionary and it fills me with hope and joy.  
 For he strengthens the bars of your gates;
he blesses your children within you.
 He grants peace within your borders;
he fills you with the finest of wheat.
 He sends out his command to the earth;

The images of peace, strength, and fullness of life are scriptures of hope and provide a longing of a time when all of the world will be strengthened, when there is peace within all borders, when all are filled with the finest of wheat, and when all obey the commands that were sent out.
As I prepare a sermon on the 10 Commandments I think about what the world would be if we viewed them as a gift, as ways to live in order to have this world where all are cared for and peace reigns.  

I have heard it said many times that my generation is "morally declining" and to an extent I can't argue that the world seems to be a tough place to live in but to say that it is a generation at fault those are strong words.  But I know that there are many in my generation who are working for peace, for justice, for equality and we are doing so while unpacking a box that generations before us have place God in.  

And so I pray that as all of God's people strive to live together in a world, longing for peace, light, love, hope, justice, equality, and life that we do so not pointing fingers but striving for peace, taking care of one another, and obeying the commands set before us.  For that is what Christ was all about and what we are called to be doing today, tomorrow, and everyday.

Peace be within you,

Caption: The picture is of my 3 1/2 month old niece, Bryley.  I long for a world that is better for children like her who are coming up behind my generation.  I don't want to leave a mess for her to clean up and so I hope people hold me accountable to that.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Advent Fourth Wednesday 12/22

And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit
 rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the
lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will
 call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
 and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from
 generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he
 has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has
brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away
 empty.  He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his
 mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to
Abraham and to his descendants forever."
-Luke 1:46-55

I love these precious words in Mary's song of praise.  It often makes me wonder how in the world Christmas has become a consumer driven holiday.  
He brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly, filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away. 
My hopes and Christmas wishes are not for material things but for equality and justice for all of God's children.   I believe that that is what Christ would desire on the celebration of his birth...And I absolutely love these words from Mary.   So I let them stand on their own, praying that we remember these words and not the gifts over the next few days...for this is what Christmas is all about...
And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit
 rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the
lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will
 call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
 and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from
 generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he
 has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has
brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away
 empty.  He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his
 mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to
Abraham and to his descendants forever."

Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love to you and yours in the coming days,

Monday, December 20, 2010

Advent Fourth Monday 12/20

Do not be afraid...

I always find it interesting that every time we find an angel appearing in scripture the first words out of their mouth are "Do not be afraid."  

Now I've never had an angel appear to me with any sort of big news, but I can admit I might be terrified if it did happen.

I've been thinking about that line for a few weeks as we prepared for the children's Christmas program at church, as this line was read each time, I half chuckled and half pondered.  Zechariah, Mary, and Joseph, do not be afraid.  You all are experiencing something unusual, scary, and now here I am before you, bringing you good news in a way that is unexpected, but do not be afraid.

How is it we can not be afraid, even if we do not have angels appearing to us, the world is a scary place and there are many times when I am afraid.

Coming home late at night with no lights on, I am afraid.  When the phone rings late at night and it's my dad calling, I am afraid.  When I think about the future, where will I be in 5, 10, years? I am afraid.  So how is it these angels can say, "Do not be afraid." How is it that we can live in joy and not in fear? 

Emmanuel, God with us. 

Does this mean bad things will not happen? NO...

N. Gordon Cosby said "Anybody who tells you that if you get into the boat with Jesus everything is going to work out well forever after, just doesn't understand the faith. There is always turbulence.  Inner questions. Wondering."

Emmanuel, God with us, is peace.  Emmanuel, God with us, means we are called to fight injustice and oppression.  Emmanuel means that we are not alone in the battles of the world, but that we walk with a power greater than ourselves.  Emmanuel means we do not have to hope and long for some day that we have no idea when it will happen to come and make the world a better place, because Emmanuel means that we work for peace, love, equality, justice, and a better day today and tomorrow.  Emmanuel, God with us, very minute and that to me says "Do not be afraid" for God is a God not of tomorrow but of today.  God is with me, God is with us, God is in the world through us and with us.  

Let us live in this world and be not afraid.

Then there appeared to him an angel
 of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.
When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him.
  But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your
prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and
 you will name him John.  You will have joy and gladness, and many
 will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of
the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his
 birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many
 of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit
and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of
parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the
 righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." 
Zechariah said to the angel, "How will I know that this is so? For I
 am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years."  The angel
replied, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have
 been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But
now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in
their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these
 things occur." -Luke 1:12-18

Let us stand in the presence of Emmanuel and proclaim good news to a broken and dark world, because the good news of Christ is light and darkness does not overcome it!

Peace be within you,

Friday, December 17, 2010

Advent Third Friday 12/17

My initial goal of blogging everyday during Advent by reflecting on the daily lectionary wasn't met.  I had a feeling that once finals week hit this would happen.  At first I was disappointed, but when I reflect on this week I feel nothing but relief that I was able to finish strong on a long semester.  I would have been disappointed had I stopped reading the lectionary, but I just couldn't find the time or energy to write each night after taking finals/writing papers.  

During this week of finals I was constantly being reminded that the grades I get from this semester do not define who I am and that is a great thing to be reminded of.  When you spend hours upon hours preparing for one exam, writing one paper, finishing that last essay, deciding what energy to spend where, you feel stretched and tired.  Then you take the exam and turn in the paper and often times hope for the best.  

And so each evening when I would put aside the studying and dive into the scriptures of the day, I would find joy, I would find some hard texts, I would find hope, and I would remember how much I love scripture.  

A few weeks ago we had a student led worship service about mountaintop and valley experiences, our conclusion was that no matter where we are we have to just keep walking...from mountain to valley, from valley to mountain, and sometimes from valley to valley or mountain to mountain.  I read about how I found the mountains in the midst of valleys and these were the words I spoke, 

Life growing up was one big valley but the word of God became a mountain and oasis from the world. Gods love never fails. Gods  love reaches into the brokenness and grabs a hold of our hand to put us on our feet again. Gods word is Gods love poured out for us on paper and it is hope. It is wholeness. It is and it always will be.

And so in today's lectionary text I cam across Psalm 16, 

Psalm 16

Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you."
As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble,
in whom is all my delight.

Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names upon my lips.

The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
I have a goodly heritage.

I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I keep the LORD always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
my body also rests secure.
For you do not give me up to Sheol,
or let your faithful one see the Pit.

You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

As we approach this last week before Christmas may we not get caught up in the noise and busyness of the advent conspiracy, but may we take the time to spend in scriptures (even if they are those ones we would like to throw out from time to time) and may we live in the love of God, proclaiming the good news of great joy for all people.  

Peace be within you,


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Advent Second Thursday 12/9

 If there is a favorite moment in the semester it is the day that all papers are turned, all finals are complete, and I can breathe and know that a new semester of learning and growing is on the horizon.  There is nothing like looking back on a semester and knowing that I have spent 4 months learning material and knowing this material will come in handy in the years to come.  

As the fall semester comes to a close we find ourselves at the brink of winter.  We find ourselves at the doorstep of Christmas.  We find ourselves literally in the dark (the sun is never out...well this week has been weird...but for the most part the sun is missing in action).  We find ourselves longing for the warmth to return, for the sun to come out, for the flowers to bloom, the trees to bear fruit, and the world to live again.  

At the end of this semester we are longing for life (away from our books, notes, and papers) and we are longing for light (enough to play games of Whiffle-ball and take late afternoon hikes).  

Is this an interesting parallel to the waiting and longing for Christ?  To me it is.  It shows that no matter where we are in life we are always longing for something and why not long for life and light in this dark and broken world?  As silly as it may seem to long for the end of a semester, to a college student it makes perfect sense.  And as a college student reflecting on it, I can say that the end of the semester marks the beginning of a new one...a new chance to learn, a new chance to grow, a new chance to long for life and light.  I look forward to spring games of Whiffle-ball and the sun, and the trees, and the birds, but I am thankful for the small reminders that the Saviors birth is around the corner.  The reminders that Christ did come to bring light and life, that in Christ we hope, in Christ we live.  

What from the lectionary brought me to think about this?

For the mystery of lawlessness is
already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is
 removed. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord
Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by
the manifestation of his coming.

2 Thessalonians 2:7-8

While studying for my Greek final today I learned the word for lawlessness, anomia, h

And so me being the nerd I am pulled out my  Bible on ipod app and decided to check and see if I were right...and lo and behold I have learned something this semester that will be useful in the future (of course this is one of many examples).  Yay for totally weird and awesome brain tangents!

Peace be within you as you long for life and light!


Caption: The picture is a mask of John Calvin over a bust of President Abraham Lincoln...two of my favorite people to study about...This sits on my desk at work!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Advent Second Wednesday 12/8

  His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;
 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
  in those who hope in his steadfast love.
Psalm 147:10-11

As this day has come to a close (it has been a long freaking day...and week for that matter)...I have come to realize just how much stuff I have to do.  10-12 pages of essays, 10-12 page paper on Roman Basilicas, Greek quiz, Greek final, Roman History Final, Personality Theory Final, and approximately 19 more hours of work in the next 9 days.  I haven't hit the panic button yet, I've been close, but this happens every semester.  We get to finals week and we feel so overwhelmed like the world is going to end (though this one has its own emotional struggles along side the academic stress) and then we get to the end of finals and somehow everything is complete and the semester went down without any major problems.  

So today I was riding to the house after a Chapel Community Christmas party and a game of Apples to Apples, and I had a text message asking me to babysit on Saturday.  I'm a college student and usually...usually...when I have an opportunity to make a few extra bucks I take it without asking many questions.  But Saturday is my Sabbath.  Not only do I have all the work above that I would really enjoy getting off my plate on Saturday but here I have this opportunity  to make a little extra cash...and then I thought to myself...wait Saturday is Sabbath...

 And so a slight connection to todays lectionary when I read through and saw the LORD does not delight in the speed of a runner, but in those who fear the LORD and hope in the LORD's steadfast love.  

Just a small reminder that the LORD does not delight in the speed of the runner or the strength of a horse, we all need our rest.  We all need to rest and hope in the steadfast love of the LORD...

As hard as it may be for me to not work on my schoolwork or as hard as it is for me to not take the babysitting job this weekend.  I know I need the Sabbath, I am thankful that I am learning to observe the Sabbath and keep it holy...I do not have it perfected by any means, but I do hope in the steadfast love of the LORD and that love is worth resting in.  
Abraham Joshua Heschel said  "The seventh day is the armistice in man's cruel struggle for existence, a truce in all conflicts, personal and social, peace between man and man, man and nature, peace within man."

My brain is on so many tangents today...this semester can't end any sooner...

Peace be within you,

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Advent Second Tuesday 12/7

 Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts. Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. The LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.
Psalm 85:8-13

I have been looking forward to the time I spend blogging each night.  Tonight I was especially looking forward to this time (probably because I knew it would be a break from studying Greek and writing a paper on psychoanalytic theory) where I stop and retreat to my room to read scripture (to read it out loud) and to reflect on it and write some thoughts. 
I realize that the passages I have pulled out recently have mostly if not all been about hope and peace but I guess that is where my mind is right now.  And I think it is worth pointing out that peace is mentioned more than we think in scripture. Besides it is Advent after all.

So with that being said, as I was reading through the 85th Psalm I noticed that it is translated (oh how I cannot wait to learn Greek and Hebrew...and people think I'm a nerd now, just wait) that these thing will happen.  God will speak peace to God's people, love and faithfulness will meet, and righteousness and peace will kiss each other. The LORD will give what is good.  

So I started thinking, what if (crazy idea)...what if God is speaking peace to God's people?  What if love and faithfulness are meeting? What if righteousness and peace are kissing each other? What if the LORD is giving what is good?  Are we really looking for these thing or are we too caught up in the days political maneuvers, the darkness of a troubled world, and the problems in our own life to even think that God could possibly be doing these things?  

We humans are not the best listeners in the I am going to spend the next few weeks listening, looking for, observing, and trusting that God is at work doing a new thing in our midst...that God is speaking peace, that love, faithfulness, righteousness, and peace are being achieved in our world.  It is worth hoping for, it is worth looking for.  What would the world look like if we were looking for and making these things happen?  

In Advent it is easy to get the warm and fuzzy Christmas feeling...what is difficult is looking the world in the eyes and saying that darkness does not overcome it because Christ came to bring life and light, and that life and light are still alive and burning today.  

Peace be within you,

Caption: The picture is of my Chrismon tree...Living out on your own has its being able to decorate your tree however you want!! :-D

Monday, December 6, 2010

Advent Second Monday 12/6

I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.
Psalm 40:8

I've noticed something the past couple of weeks, and that is this emphasis on peace from within, the law being within, and how these ideas are not just words on a page.  Rather these ideas are internalized by us as believers.

Before I looked at todays lectionary I was talking about this deep love of scripture that I have, and it is not a love from the surface.  It is not that I read scripture and feel all warm and fuzzy.  It is that when I am having a rough day, or week I catch myself not only quoting scripture in the things I say but I live scripture in the way that I place my trust in God and believe the words of scripture.  The law and the word of God are within my heart and because of that I delight to do the will of God.  

This internalizing of scripture, of peace, of hope, of joy, of love, of life, and of light makes us (well makes me at least) not only long for these things but I want to do everything in my power to be these in the world.  When we love and internalize scripture we begin to live the scriptures.  

I challenge you to not just memorize scripture so you can spout it off at the next person who challenges you, but I challenge you to internalize and live these scriptures that are a gift to us from God.  When you do, no one will be able to challenge you because you are exemplifying the fruits of the spirit and you are exemplifying Christ in the world around us.  God has given us this text and this law not to condemn us, only Christ can condemn us and Christ came for us, Christ died for us, Christ rose from the grave for us, and Christ will come again for us...We have this law so that we may live and delight in doing the will of God in the here and the now.  

I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.
Psalm 40:8

Peace be within you,

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Advent Second Sunday 12/5

He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears
 hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide
with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with
the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill
 the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and
 faithfulness the belt around his loins. The wolf shall live with
the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the
 lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together;
 and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall
play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand
 on the adder's den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy
 mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

Isaiah 11:4-9

This is one of my favorite Bible verses.  It preaches itself for the most part. 

What I love about this passage is that describes a world that is peace.  I talk a lot about God being a God who created and loves this world but at the same time a God who yearns for this world to be whole again, to be at peace.  

This passage from Isaiah paints a picture of a world that is at peace.  A world that has peace from within (going back to one of my favorite passages from Psalm 122 and my soon to be new tattoo).  This passage paints my deep hope for the world.  This passage paints my prayers for the world, my cries for the world.  This passage not only portrays the way the world should be but it also points that our world has a long way to go in order to be at peace and therefore calls us into action.

This passage gives me hope that wars will cease, that children will be abused no more, that violence will have no place in this world, that oppression will end, and that peace and love will reign.  

Our job is not to sit idle and keep praying for these things, our job is to be peace, to be love, to work as Christ in this world because we are the body of Christ.  The world is a dark place, the world is a broken place, the world needs life and light that Christ brings.  

I long for the day I get to preach on this passage.  I long for the day when this passage is a representation of the world around us.  

Until then...Peace be within you.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Advent First Saturday 12/4

A wise soul once said "Speaking of the 10 Commandments, you know the fourth one is a commandment not an option right?"

So Saturday's have become Sabbath.   And in keeping to that my Saturday Advent posts will simply be posting one of the lectionary texts.  

Psalm 72

Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to a king's son.
May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the needy,
and crush the oppressor.

May he live while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth.
In his days may righteousness flourish
and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

May he have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
May his foes bow down before him,
and his enemies lick the dust.
May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles
render him tribute,
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
bring gifts.
May all kings fall down before him,
all nations give him service.

For he delivers the needy when they call,
the poor and those who have no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life;
and precious is their blood in his sight.

Long may he live!
May gold of Sheba be given to him.
May prayer be made for him continually,
and blessings invoked for him all day long.
May there be abundance of grain in the land;
may it wave on the tops of the mountains;
may its fruit be like Lebanon;
and may people blossom in the cities
like the grass of the field.
May his name endure forever,
his fame continue as long as the sun.
May all nations be blessed in him;
may they pronounce him happy.

Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may his glory fill the whole earth. Amen and Amen.
The prayers of David son of Jesse are ended.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Advent First Friday 12/3

Today I stray from the lectionary. I am spending the night in Louisville with my family. After hearing of my brothers desires to enlist in the military I thought I should come home and talk to him and be here with my family in a rather difficult time.

While talking to my brother I realized he is doing this. He has thought it through and feels like this is where he is going in life. Bible verses started running through my mind and I started sharing them with my brother.

I have to say that I am 100000% anti-violence, anti-war, and 10000000% prayer warrior for peace in our world.
BUT Knowing that this is what my little brother is going to do I want to be supportive so I shared with him these two verses...

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. -John 15:13
We know that all things work together for goodGod makes all things work together for good, or in all things God works for good');" onmouseout="return nd();"> for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. -Romans 8:28

In the John passage Jesus is giving a reminder of his commandment to love one another and says that there is no greater love than laying down your life for a friend. My brother whether I agree with him or not is doing something very noble, very loving for the sake of his country. He is willing to risk his life.

Before he finishes his enlistment we are going to get a tattoo together. Romans 8:28 and I'm going to remember him every time I see it. I will remember that God does work all things together for the good of those who love God and who are called according to God's purpose...My brother (again whether I agree or disagree) is doing what he feels called and led to do. And I believe 100% that my brother will be turning to God as a rock and as his salvation.
My brother is one of my best friends, he always will be. I love him and as much as I really...really...really don't want him to do this...I have to trust that God will work all things together for good, I have to trust that my brother will be okay (whatever that means) I have to trust that this is what is right for him, I have to...I have to.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Advent First Thursday 12/2

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
for my hope is from him.
 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
 On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.

Psalm 62:5-8

I'm having a rough day today.  I found out that my younger brother wishes and plans to join the military and wants to be in basic training by spring.  This is a complete shock to me and I can't help but worry.  I'm sad, I'm frustrated, and I don't want him to do this.  I spent most of the day pondering his decision, the decision to leave, to risk his life, to take a chance that he might have to take the life of another human being, and what for?  
I'm still frustrated and upset, but I'm going to be supportive.   My brother is someone I care about deeply.  Our relationship has grown since I've moved away to college and I respect his decision making...I don't like it one bit, mostly because he's my baby brother, but I love him and I will support him.  

So with my frustration I turn to today's lectionary.  I know that in all things I will be praying for my brother from the day he signs papers until the day he retires.  I know that God hears my prayers, God hears my cries, and God is still God.  My hope is in God.  My hope for peace, my hope for safety, my hope for life, all lie in God.

I've always kind of chuckled when I come to that line "I will not be shaken."  Mostly because on days like today I feel like the world has been shaken, but then I remember that my faith is not shaken, my hope and my trust are always in God, my roots are firm in Christ and nothing on this earth will shake that.

My refuge is in God. In realizing that today was a struggle, and that this week has been long and rough, I look forward to Saturday because it is my Sabbath.  It is the time where I stop and rest, it is when I take refuge where no one can get to me, I go to God and stay there.  I look forward to Sabbath this weekend more than ever because my body, my mind, my soul, they need it.  

Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
  God is a refuge for us.

Pour out your heart before God...I think I've done that a couple of times today and I'm trusting in God, that my brother is doing what he should be doing, that he is thinking clearly, and that he remains safe.  God is my refuge and I am thankful for that.  

During this Advent season while I am waiting for Christmas, while I am anticipating the birth of my Savior...I will be thinking about my brother.  I will be thinking about his future and I will be doing my best to be supportive of him by being there for him, praying for him, and loving him.  Cherishing each moment we have together in the here and now and looking forward to his future with him (and throwing in a few prayers for world peace of course).

Peace be within you,

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Advent First Wednesday 12/1

Today we finally made it to December.  When I crawled out of bed this morning I looked out the window to see it snowing.  This made me happy and sad at the same time.  Happy because in one sense I really love the snow and how it covers the earth with this pure (well white, we wont talk about all the minerals and what not in snow that are bad for us) blanket of fluff, and sad because about this time every year it gets too cold to hike, the sun goes away, and it gets dark and gloomy.  I share this because as I pulled into my driveway this evening, it was dark, I was tired, maybe even a little cranky, but the Christmas tree in the front room was lit and it brought a deep joy to me to know that no matter how dark and gloomy it gets, no matter how tired and cranky I am, no matter how cold it is, the light of Christ shines on in the world to pierce the darkness and bring life to the world.

In today's lectionary I pulled out the verses from Isaiah 2 and then the beginning of the text from 1 Thessalonians 2...

Isaiah 2:1-4

  The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and

   In days to come the mountain of the Lord's house shall be
established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above
 the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall
come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the
house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we
may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
 and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between
the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat
their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they
learn war any more.

1 Thessalonians 2:13

   We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you
received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not
as a human word but as what it really is, God's word, which is also at
work in you believers.

"They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."  I think I have heard more than a handful of sermons on this text, and yet, even so each time I read this passage from Isaiah I feel as if I could listen to twenty more sermons.  Today as I reflect on issues of oppression, on issues of justice, on what in the world is going on in North & South Korea, as I look for hope, peace, joy, and love in the world, I look at this text and I see hope.  I see a future of peace. I am overcome with joy, and I can feel the love of God for the world to desire this peace for God's creation.  

I had a conversation early this week about this passage and was reminded at how our words can often become swords. Our actions can feel like spears when we attack others.  I was reminded that as a follower of Christ I too am called to turn my swords, my words, into plowshares or something that is used in planting a harvest, a tool that is used in providing food for a community.  My words should cultivate a love for Christ, my words should reflect my beliefs as a follower of Christ, and my words should be used to build others up in love not to declare war on others.  My actions should be more like a pruning hook than a spear.  I shouldn't be making stabs at people but I should be like a pruning hook that leads to the bearing of fruit.  My actions should bear the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control...I hope you just sang them like you learned them as a kid).

It is when we learn to be plowshares and pruning hooks, that the world will see peace at work and learn war no more.  I don't believe that we are to sit back and wait for world peace to happen, I believe that God is working in, through, above, around and in between us to use each and every one of us to work for a world that lays its weapons down.  And I love that the passage from 1 Thessalonians 2 is in the lectionary alongside the Isaiah passage because Paul is getting at this notion of working in the here and now.

We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you
received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not
as a human word but as what it really is, God's word, which is also at
work in you believers.

Paul uses this idea of accepting the word of God as God's word not human word more than once in scripture, and this is important.  It is important because when God's word is at work in us as believers it holds power. When God's word works in us we are able to do more than we could ever imagine.  Because God's word is at work in us, we become plowshares and pruning hooks today instead of years from now.  Because God's word is at work in us we live the Gospel of Jesus Christ bearing light and life to the world.

I love scripture.  I love scripture because each time I read it I learn something new and I see that God is working in the world, I see that God created and loves this world and yearns for it to be peaceful and whole again.  I love scripture because it brings the hope of unity and reconciliation to the world.  I love scripture because it is the word of God which is at work in me.  

Peace be within you,


Picture: PAX is the Latin word for peace.  This is an ornament on my Christmas tree! 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Advent-First Tuesday 11/30

I'm reflecting a little late tonight as I spent most, okay all, of the afternoon napping after running a fever last night.  But I am feeling better and had fun going through the lectionary this evening.  There were many verses that were great but this one really stood out to me:

"So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us."-1 Thessalonians 2:8

When I read the passage from 1 Thessalonians I had to stop and let it sink in.  It is a reminder that this season of Advent is not just a time to stop and anticipate for ourselves the coming of Christ, but it is a time where we should be sharing the Gospel because we care so deeply for the world around us.  

A few weeks ago I was asked a question that I continue to ponder, when you imagine God what do you see?  I pondered and I still ponder, but I see someone who created this world and deeply loves the world but at the same time someone who yearns for this world to be whole again.  Someone who is heartbroken at the the way the world functions in oppression and self desire.   

It is in this season of Advent that we remember just how much God cares for the world.  Enough to send us Jesus Christ, a child, a human, to dwell among us, to live as we live, to see what we see, to do what we do, and to be in relation to other humans.  While at the same time he was human he was also divine. 

This message of a God who dwells among us is powerful, it is a gift that we have to share with the world, the world that God deeply cares about and that we too should deeply care about.  

In this Advent season let us share the gospel of God with the world.  Let us "go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere." But let us not forget to share ourselves as well.  Christ didn't just give the story, Christ gave of himself.  

Go and tell, go and live, go and share, go and be in this world.

Peace be within you,


Photo: This photo was taken in the Hanover College Chapel after a Sunday afternoon worship service on living in the valley, climbing the mountain, and going into the valley's again.  The candles represent prayers and memories of mountaintop and valley experiences.  

Monday, November 29, 2010

Advent-First Monday 11/29

The second reading from today's Lectionary come from 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 and it reads as follows:

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. 

We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead - Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.

As I embark on this journey through Advent I remember how easy it is to get caught up in the secular ideas of Christmas and forget about this season of waiting and anticipation.  I forget how easy it is to pass the nativity scene and rush to see the children sitting on Santa's lap.  I forget how easy it is to stuff presents under the tree and forget about the child that was laid in a manger.  
The text from 1 Thessalonians speaks to way people were living.  In every place of their faith God had become known, people were reporting of the welcoming, their turning from idols, all to serve a living and true God. 

What would that look like for us here, today, this Advent, this Christmas, in our lives?   Would that mean that we focus on learning to do good; seeking justice, rescuing the oppressed, defending the orphan, pleading for the widow, reaching out to the poor, visiting those who are sick and in prison, proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ in all of these things?  

Advent is a time where we remember that Christ came and dwelt among us in the flesh.  As a precious child who would grow into a man whose focus was on doing good.  During Advent it is easy for us to sit and wait, to sit an anticipate, to watch and to listen, but I challenge us to do.  To buy less for ourselves, to give more to the world around us.  To be to the world what the world awaits, Christ, let us be the hands, feet, and mouths of Christ not just over the next few weeks, but let our reputation of being welcoming, of turning to God, of serving a living God go before us and fall behind us.  

May the world come to know of this peace, love, joy, and hope that is Emmanuel, God with us.  May we all be Christ to this dark and broken world.  May we be light and life each day, as Christ was on Christmas morning. 

Peace be within you,

Sunday, November 28, 2010

First Sunday of Advent

As I was sitting here this afternoon lounging around and procrastinating on homework (who me? NEVER!) I saw a tufted titmouse perched on our feeder hanging on the deck.  This is the first time I've seen any bird come to the feeder and I jumped off the couch which immediately startled the bird.  It flew off.  About ten minutes later I looked out to see 3 of them feeding.  I quickly grabbed the camera and sat by our sliding glass doors waiting for the birds to return and feed again so I could capture a picture of them, however the longer I sat there the further way they stayed.  

I sat at those doors waiting, for a good thirty minutes with camera in hand, watching these birds fly around the backyard and feed in the feeder down the hill.  I waited and was hoping they would come up so I could capture a shot of them.  Eventually I got up and (there is a titmouse in the feeder right now as I type this) realized that as long as I was sitting in front of the glass the birds were staying away.  

As I started to read through today's lectionary texts I started to think about this season of Advent.  This time of waiting, anticipation, longing, and as we heard today in church a season of hope.  

As I was reading through today's texts I came across Psalm 122:

Psalm 122:1-9

I was glad when they said to me,
"Let us go to the house of the LORD!"
Our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem-built as a city
that is bound firmly together.
To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD,
as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
For there the thrones for judgment were set up,
the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
"May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
and security within your towers."
For the sake of my relatives and friends
I will say, "Peace be within you."
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your good.

Our feet are standing at your gates, O Jerusalem.  Our feet are standing at the edge of this Advent season.  We are entering a time where we are waiting for something to happen.  We are waiting for Christmas, we are waiting for Emmanuel, God with us.  But the good news is we do not have to wait until Christmas morning to find this, God is with us here and now.   

As we prepare to celebrate Christ's coming to the world in the form of an infant and our hope of Christ's coming again, "for the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, 'Peace be within you." For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good." 

Peace be within you,


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Advent Here We Come!

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

-Colossians 3:12-17

Such a familiar verse for us, yet a verse we are very quick to forget.  It is easy for us to be proud, arrogant, argumentative, and intolerant.  Yet in this passage we are called to be different people.  We are called to stand up and press on against the ways of the world. 

As we see violence taking shape in our country and around the world we are called to have compassion, to be kind, to be patient.  As family members struggle to find jobs we are called to be thankful and sing psalms and hymns with gratitude in our hearts.  As the world presses on in what seems to be dark and troublesome times we are called to let the peace of Christ dwell in our hearts.  As others mistreat us and ones we loved we are called to do all things in the name of Jesus Christ.

This isn't an easy way to live.  I'm constantly working towards this peace, humility, kindness, compassion, and love.  In doing so I fall and scrape my knees, but I also get up and dust the dirt off of me and press on.  When we work towards living a life in gratitude toward Christ we become a light in a dark and seemingly hopeless world.  When we love one another out of love for Christ, we have compassion on those the world would like to sweep under the rug and forget about.  When we let peace dwell in our hearts, we show the world that peace is achievable.  

As I prepare to approach this season of Advent, I remember these things because Christ exemplified them.  Not only do we await the Lord's birth again, but the world is awaiting a time of peace, a time of compassion, a world of love and this world is something worth striving for.  This will be my 21st Christmas, and each year I think there is no way this one can be any different than any of the others, but I learn something new each and every time and I look forward to spending time in scripture, in prayer, in hope, in joy, in peace, and in love.   

And in all that I do in the coming weeks I hope I do all things in a thankful heart, doing them all in the name of Jesus Christ, the one whom we await yet again.

The world needs us to be kindness, to be compassion, to be peace, to be love, to be humility...we can do it...we have to do it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Hymn but a Prayer

I love hymns.  Recently I found myself in the chapel of my college flipping through the hymnbook playing these hymns that I love on my flute.  When I came to O For A World, I realized how hard those words hit.  

1. O for a world where everyone

Respects each other's ways,

Where love is lived and all is done

With justice and with praise.

2. O for a world where goods are shared

And misery relieved,

Where truth is spoken, children spared,

Equality achieved.

3. We welcome one world family

And struggle with each choice

That opens us to unity

And gives our vision voice.

4. The poor are rich, the weak are strong,

The foolish ones are wise.

Tell all who mourn; outcasts belong,

Who perishes will rise.

5. O for a world preparing for

God's glorious reign of peace,

Where time and tears will be no more,

And all but love will cease.

This is a beautiful hymn and one of my favorites.  Not because it speaks of this world to come, but this is God's hope for the world now.  This is my prayer for the world today and everyday.  My prayer is that we learn to respect each others ways, live in love, truth is spoken, goods are shared, equality achieved, where we are welcoming, open to unity, and preparing for God's glorious reign of peace.

This is not something to long for after we are dead and gone, but it is something to strive for in the here and now.  Our society tells us this is impossible but God says it is not. 

I heard two sermons last Sunday from Isaiah 65:17-25 

For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice for ever
in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
and its people as a delight.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
or the cry of distress.
No more shall there be in it
an infant that lives but a few days,
or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.
They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
They shall not labour in vain,
or bear children for calamity;
for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord—
and their descendants as well.
Before they call I will answer,
while they are yet speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
but the serpent—its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain,
says the Lord.

Let us strive to live in a world where all but love will cease.  Let us be open to the possibility that God is at  work in the world doing a new thing in our midst.  



Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Advent in less than 2 weeks?

WHOA time is flying by! 

It is hard for me to even imagine that Advent begins in just a couple of weeks.  Life is so full of changes and everything is happening at once, yet I am confident that I am where I am suppose to be doing what I am suppose to do. 

In just a couple of days I turn 21, next week I go to Louisville on Thanksgiving day (not the days before, not the days after) to be with my family, and tomorrow I have my first CPM meeting.  In the next 4 weeks I have 2 term papers, 1 essay, 1 poster project, and tons of research/studying to do. The following week I have 4 finals and then I am halfway through my Junior year.  

In two Sundays we will see the Advent wreaths the Chrismon tree's and the purple (or blue) vestments pulled out of the closets.  Lights will appear in the windows, Christmas trees will begin to shine in windows, and "season's greetings" will be shared by many.  But what does this mean?  ANOTHER year of going through Christmas? Another year of singing silent night by candlelight at midnight? Another year to think of a new years resolution that I won't keep? Another year of the same thing?


A friend of mine posted a note on FB today about Advent and it challenged me. He is staying off of FB until Advent is over.  He has come to realize that FB is very time consuming and contributes to the fast paced society that we live in.  He is going to stay off of FB and spend more time interacting with people by writing letters, playing board games, and having coffee.  

I think this is a great challenge and I too plan to follow in his plans.  Keeping from FB and twitter and spending more time being personable, spending more time journaling, more time reflecting, more time being quiet and still as we await and anticipate the celebration of God becoming Emmanuel, God with us.  I do plan to blog, actually (as long as I can do so while keeping up with my studies) I plan to blog each day.  I am going to be keeping up with the lectionary (as usual) but taking time to stop and blog/journal about the scriptures of each day.

My prayer is that everyone may find some way to slow down and embrace this season of Advent.  It is a beautiful season and one of my favorite times of the year.

Peace to you all as we anticipate the anticipation!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Power of a Story

I've been doing a lot of thinking the last couple of days about the power of a story. How a simple reading or hearing of someones story can have an impact on our lives. I have many friends who share bits and pieces of their "story" with me each time we sit down and chat, and they too get bits and pieces of my "story" but in the end what do our stories mean?

One of these days I will sit down and write the story of my life, however, I think about this and realize that in fact I am not the author of my own story, God is. BUT when I make the claim that God is the author of my story then it brings those questions that we all come up with and try to answer (the if God is the author of my life is God responsible for the death of loved ones, young friends, ect.). Do I have the perfect answer for these questions, not at all, but what I do know is something I was reminded of in a children's sermon on Sunday morning. I am a child of God and this means that I belong to God and God loves me.

Does God "cause" evil and suffering, no, God sustains me and walks along side me in my suffering. It is no hidden secret that we live in a hateful and oppressive world. A world where parents abuse children, people face addiction problems, friends are raped, wars rage on, slavery still exists, we find gender inequality, and racism still destroys communities.
I have seen just about all of these things, I have caused some of these things, and yet for some reason when someone hears the story of my life (a life that is not my own) they are amazed that I have "turned into the woman I am today".

So why does my story hold power? Is it because I've trusted in the grace of God and held tight to God's word? Is it because I often find myself taking care of others at the cost of my own health? Is it because I overcame the odds that were stacked against me to become educated and stand up to make a difference in the world around me?

I believe it is because "all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28)." And in Ephesians we find scripture saying that we are all one in Christ, we all have gifts to build each other up and to work to equip the saints for the work of God (Ephesians 4). God uses each and every "story" that we have for good. God takes our brokenness and binds us together in community with others. God takes our anger and shows us peace, our hate and shows us love, our darkness and shows us light. We all have a purpose in this life and our stories reflect that.

In reading through a Herald and Presbyter publication from 1906 I ran across a paragraph that pulled this story idea together. You see when I look at the world around me, the universe, I do feel quite insignificant. When people want to hear my story I am quick to say that it is not a story about me but a story about how God is at work through me, in me, and around me. But this little passage from the Herald and Presbyter is beautiful and talks about how God takes our insignificant lives and makes them significant because God is the author, God is at work, and therefore we are working for something that is greater than our self.

"God needs you. You are not your own, either to be insignificant or great, but you are in the service of that which is greater than yourself, and that service touches your life with its own greatness. It is as though you were a lighthouse keeper, set to do your own duty on your rock. Can any life be more unpraised or insignificant? Why sit through the weaery nights to keep your flame alive? Why not sleep on, all unobserved, and let your little light go out? Because it is not your light,-that is the point. You are set there with this as your trust. The great design of the Power you serve takes you thus out of your insignificance." -The Herald and Presbyter, May 1906

In our stories we sometimes feel like the lighthouse keeper set on a rock in the middle of nowhere. We feel alone, we feel worthless, but God calls us to be a light unto the world and God sets us up to be so. As I continue to ponder and write my story out (I am only 20 years old and I think this could take a while) I will continue to keep in mind this Power that I serve and how God takes me from insignificant to loved and having a purpose. My story is changing each day and as I begin a new journey in this life I look forward to seeing and allowing God to work in new ways and show me new things.

Continue to reflect on your life story, continue to look for God's presence, God's work, the places God seemed absent (but try to find God) and know that our lives are not insignificant...but trust that we serve a God whose purpose and spirit is greater than our very self.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

God's love

In response to the recent teen suicides and bullying in connection with homosexuality the Hanover College Chapel Community came together in order to stand against hatred.  I along with a few others wrote a statement to read during our commitment service.  We were asked to write a statement about what God's love is and what that means for this community.  So here is my statement about God's love and how it can and will transform this community.  For all of those who have been bullied, tortured, unloved...God is love, and God does love, and God's people will love.


God’s love is a gift for all people that tears down the walls hatred has built.  It is in each and every person represented here today for we have all been created in the image of God.  God’s love is exemplified when we as a community refuse to be an exclusive group catering to our own needs. God’s love holds all of us together in perfect unity.  God’s love stands against bullying and hate to say you are worth more than anyone can imagine for you are created in my image and loved by me. God’s love pulls a community together to say that those who hurt others are wrong, and it calls the community to commit to being the voice that pierces the silence, being a light in the darkness, being hope to the hopeless, and a friend to the lonely.  God’s love is not just for me, or just for you, but God’s love is God’s love because it is for all of humankind.

When this community stands together in God’s love to proclaim to our brothers and sisters that hate speech and bullying are unacceptable in this place, on this campus, and in our presence then the world will come to know what God's love really looks like.  When this community refuses to be silent all will feel welcome, all will know they have a place at the table, and all will feel included in the great mysteries of our faith.  When this community says enough is enough to our world and claims itself as God's love in this place we build a bond that cannot be broken by hate. 

God's love does not simply allow us to be silent but instead God’s love calls us to stand up and stand in opposition to hate. God's love puts an end to childish ways of excluding those who are not like us and who do not agree with us.  God's love opens our hearts and our minds to see the world from someone else's perspective.  God's love rejoices here and now as we stand together against hate, against treating human beings with disrespect, and God's love moves the mountains of injustice that we have seen in our world. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"God works where God's people are gathered"

I just spent 3 days with 14 young preachers ranging in age, sex, and theological backgrounds.  We came from various Christian traditions, educational backgrounds, and preaching styles.  This morning we split up into 3 groups to go to 3 different services in the Louisville area.  The group I was in went to Journey Community of Grace, a new church plant.  I have to be honest that a couple of us were a little worried because we knew that this wasn't going to be our typical worship experience.  We have a love for our hymns, pews, pulpits, and some of us our liturgy and we went into this worship not expecting any of those things and wondering how we would experience worship in a new and different setting.

Now I have been to many different types of churches and most of the time (not all) I leave services that are out of my comfort zone still hungry and longing for worship as I know it.  So my fear was not having that sense of worship this week.

When we walked into the building we were warmly welcomed (not the uncomfortable church welcome to our worship have a seat) by people who wanted to know us, where we were from, what involvement in the Academy of Preachers meant to us and how they could support young people just like us.  They had a breakfast where people ate together, caught up with one another, and welcomed visitors.  

Then we went into worship.  The band played 2 contemporary songs and then Dr. Moody interviewed the four of us from the Young Preachers Leadership Team that were with him.  After he finished his questions he opened the questions to the congregation there and one individual was very curious about how they could be relevant to the younger generation in their midst.  This was very refreshing to hear someone ask us how they could be relevant to us instead of telling us what they had to offer.  

After the panel discussion one of the members of our Leadership Team shared his journey of faith with everyone, partnering that with Paul's letter to Timothy speaking to keeping the faith, finishing the race, and fighting the good fight he challenged the congregation to keep being hospitable to visitors, to keep reaching out to young people, to come to the festival, and to pray for us.  After his sermon he asked that the congregation join around us and lay hands on us to pray for us.  Folks lifted up affirmations, shedding tears of joy for being inspired by those they were inspiring and encouraging.  They prayed for us, for other young preachers who are discerning a call to preach, and we all realized that something my good friend Winterbourne had said during the panel discussion was very true.  Winterbourne had said that something we have learned through the Academy is that God dwells where God's people are gathered.  Here we were four young preachers sitting in a worship service that was unfamiliar to most if not all of us, skeptical and hesitant going in but stepping out in faith, trusting God, and feeding off of one another.  

After they prayed for us we sang the following words: 

Savior, he can move the mountains 
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever, author of salvation 
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave

Shine Your light and let the whole world see
We’re singing
For the glory of the risen King
Shine your light and let the whole world see 
We're singing, for the glory of the risen king

The energy in the room after the prayer and while singing this closing song was amazing.  The encouragement that we received from a community of believers who are committed to serve, encourage, and inspire young people, the welcome and hospitality, the pure love of worship that these people shared with us was amazing.  We left hungry, but it wasn't because the worship service wasn't what we were used to, we left hungry to fulfill our calling as young preachers.  We left inspired, filled, and excited about what God was doing through us and through the Academy.  

As our work continues, as the Academy continues to identify, network, inspire, and encourage young people to discern their call to gospel preaching I pray that more congregations will step up and show genuine hospitality to young people, that they will continue asking what they can do to be relevant and encourage us, that we can continue to work together across generations, genders, denominations, and theological differences to stand on the common ground of Christ.  

I am looking forward to the Festival of Young Preachers in January.  I look forward to meeting new young preachers to network with.  I look forward to opening myself up to listen to brothers and sisters who are very different than I am.  I look forward to meeting up with old friends and catching up with where they are and what they are up to.  I look forward to encouraging fellow young preachers who are discerning a call to preach and have no idea what that looks like or what that means.  I look forward to seeing God at work and being a part of the work.  I look forward to being a part of something as powerful and as transformative as the Academy of Preachers. 

January 6-8 will be here before we know it and 104 young people from all across the nation will gather to celebrate gospel preaching.  It will be exciting, it will be a unique event, and it will be worth attending.



Friday, October 8, 2010

See, Hear, Feel...

Last year I made a statement that has been one that I keep coming back to as I continue to live and learn in this world. The following is the statement that I made:

I see God the most in people, I hear God the loudest in scripture, and I feel God the most in nature.  

With a little guidance I hammered this out a little more today and it was really cool to see the pieces fall in place. 


I feel God the most in nature because I see the detail in God's creation.  I see the different leaves, and barks on trees.  I see the birds of the air and hear the sounds of nature all around me.  But most of all I feel the wind that blows freely, gliding the birds, blowing in the trees, carrying the sounds, and even touching me.  I take in a breath and the wind becomes a part of me, then I exhale and that wind leaves me.  What I realized today was that when I go out into nature it is usually because I am stressed or upset or something is weighing on me, but when I come out I am at peace, I am light and a new creation.  In Genesis 2:7 we find this verse, "then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being."  God breathed life, the wind that surround me and becomes a part of me in nature becomes like a new life and it makes me aware of the life that is around me when I am being in creation.  And so when I am in creation, I feel God's presence not only around me but also in me and through me. When I breathe in this breath I have this tension, stress, and weight built up in me and when I exhale that leaves me.  That breath that is life comes in and the life that isn't really life leaves me and is no longer in me.  So that tension is exhaled and room for new life is made.


I hear God the loudest in scripture.  This has been true for most of my life.  When I see the darkness of the world, when I hear stories of hate, injustice, war, and oppression it is very easy to be discouraged and have little hope.  BUT when I read scripture, when I open my Bible and spend time studying what God has to say, I hear a God of hope and reconciliation and I am filled with hope and become passionate about working for this reconciliation in the world.  So many people I know constantly ask where is God in this world?  Why don't I see evidence of a God of hope and reconciliation? I think the place to start is in scripture.  In order for me to understand how God is working in the world now I have to turn back to scripture and study to understand how God was at work in creation and with God's people.  There I find stories of hope and reconciliation (along with other things).  I hear God speaking to us as a world through scripture, often times crying out for us to be working for reconciliation and bringing hope, light, and life to others.

I see God the most in people.  The imago dei, the image of God is what we were created in.  When I look at Bryley (my just over a month old niece) I see God.  I see the work of a creator in how everything works, in how she is attentive, in how she grabs a hold of her bottle, in how she squeezes my fingers, and even in how she cries to tell me she is hungry.  I see God in how Bryley is continuing to learn as she goes along in this life, just like we are always learning and becoming more aware of the presence of God.  When I look at this child of God and see God, I remember that I too am a precious child, learning to live in the world, and being drawn closer and closer to the one who created me.

So there it is...I hope to continue to have my eyes, mind, and heart opened to where God is leading, what God is teaching me, and what God would have me see in this crazy world.  

Tomorrow I will go and spend time out in nature and I can't wait!



Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sometimes we just have to LISTEN

Saturday morning I was rudely awaken by two cats and a dog, the cats were standing one on my chest the other on my pillow both with their own noses in my face telling me it was time to eat while the dog stood in front of the sliding glass door with her hair standing on end barking at the 11 turkeys found in my back yard.  I thought "Wow did I oversleep?"...NO it was a little after 6:30am on my Saturday (my Sabbath) and I just wanted to sleep in!  At first I yelled at the dog to stop barking and leave the turkeys alone, pulled the covers over my head and flipped over so the cats would scatter, but no sooner than they darted off the bed they were right back and nudging their way under the covers.  I gave in and climbed out of bed, stumbled into the kitchen, and feed the animals.  At this point I was up and out of bed so I figured I would get myself ready for the day.  

I wound up getting to campus very early to take a walk before stuffing some PantherPacks (we'll get to those later!).  So I walked in the cool morning, noticing how happy the birds were that the sun was out and the weather was beautiful. The Blue Jays were the happiest in general, but walking under a tree I heard a robin, probably the happiest bird I have ever heard (even beating the Prairie Warbler.  This bird was jumping from branch to branch, chirping, and telling the world how happy he was! I smiled, stopped, and looked up, not realizing anyone  was around until an older woman said "He's been that way all morning, I just love it."  She startled me, but I was glad that I got to share the joy of the happy robin with someone else.

As I continued my walk I found myself at the Point (place on campus where you can see 3 bends of the Ohio River).  This is a place where I have spent many hours in dialogue with God, sometimes happy, sometimes not so happy.  But this time was different for me, I went and sat on my rock, and silenced myself.  I leaned back, closed my eyes, and listened to creation.  I heard the birds, the river, the boats, the cars driving by, the folks on their morning runs and walks, and the creatures rummaging in the woods.  But I also heard the silence of my own heart. 

This had been one of those "was that really only ONE week?"  weeks for me, and realizing that I needed to just slow down and just be on this Saturday, the day in which I have made a Sabbath, I went to a familiar place and had a new experience.  When I looked at my phone I realized I had been sitting there for over an hour.  I can promise you that is the quietest/stillest I have ever been for an hour, and it was an hour of letting things go.  An hour of just being in God's creation, an hour of not thinking about homework or school, or the things I needed to do, or the people I was worried about, or the excitement of things to come, I was quiet, I was still, and I was open to the power of the spirit.  I didn't have any big revelations, God didn't speak some huge life changing lesson, and I did not expect anything to happen.  I was simply there, I was aware of creation, I was with the Creator, and I was resting.  

After this time of resting relaxing I headed over to do some service work.  We packed 400 bags with food to feed 100 elementary aged children over the weekends for the next month.  This is a program that Hanover started this year and works to help the children but to also raise awareness on poverty within the campus community as well.  I was humbled to be asked to be a part of the council for this program, and was able to be a part of this particular stuffing session from the arrival of the food all the way to the delivery of the packs to the school.  It was an experience in and of itself to push carts full of these "PantherPacks" down the hallway where the children learn.  It was humbling to see how many folks came to stuff these packs and contribute to the discussion that followed.  I look forward to seeing or hearing about the long term effects this program and others like it have on children in the years to come.  This isn't a permanent solution to poverty in the area, but it is making a difference in the lives of 100 students this year and that is worth praising God for.

I was a lot quieter on Saturday than I usually am.  I took in a lot of what was being said, done, and chirped.  I enjoyed the silence of my own self and I thoroughly enjoyed tuning in to the sounds of the world around me.  I hope to continue this challenge of listening to the world around me, maybe this will become one of my Sabbath practices, who knows...but I challenge each of us to remember that  being rooted in Christ is different for all of us, and each of us have to find our own voice, our own roots, and let them grow deeper.

Peace and silence to you all.



Monday, August 30, 2010

I'm an....Aunt??????

Aunt Krista? Sounds kind of weird if you ask me! But as of this time tomorrow evening I will be just that, Aunt Krista.

I have held many titles in my lifetime.  Friend, sister, daughter, co-worker, classmate, roommate, elder, leader, but never aunt.  Each time my life takes a turn, each time I gain another title, I realize that life is precious.  I realize that my life is connected to many lives.  I realize that I have an effect on people and they have an effect on me.  

Tonight I sit, remembering the life of a young woman who died in a car accident one year ago today.  She was an athlete, a smart young lady, a friend to everyone, a daughter, and her life was just beginning.  She made 1 mistake, getting in the car with a young man who was intoxicated, and they both lost their lives that night.  I remember my friend today and tomorrow I will welcome Briley Rae, my niece, into the world.  

I am excited to be part of a new life.  I welcome the responsibility of helping raise a child in this world.  I look forward to working with my entire family to provide love and care for this precious life that is joining us on this road of life.

Tomorrow opens a new chapter in my life, a new chapter for my entire family, and we are all looking forward to the joy of a new child.



Guilty of digging out cracked cisterns?

I am.

My sermon text yesterday morning was Jeremiah 2:4-13 and verse 13 says this,

"For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living water, and dug out for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water."

Here are some highlights from my sermon which I hope would challenge us all to turn with our hearts towards God instead of the world.

We live in a very broken world, one of suffering, racism, war, injustice, and loneliness.  We also contribute to this brokenness by placing a demand on products made in sweatshops and picked by slaves, by gossiping about and alienating our neighbors, by demanding a reaction to initial acts of violence, and by refusing to put others before ourselves.  When we and those around us experience this brokenness we turn away from God and create for ourselves cisterns that are cracked and hold no water.  We create for ourselves quick fixes and ideas or places to go when we feel the world weighing down on us, and we feel trapped like there is nowhere to go.  We turn to things like work, or money.  We turn to television shows or we commit ourselves to our children's activities like ball teams or extracurricular activities or even their hobbies and interests. We may even over commit ourselves to the work of the church.  We may turn to drugs or alcohol. We may even escape to the sounds of music.  There are many things that we do, many things we turn to, in order to “escape” from the world.

These escapes are our cracked cisterns.  These cisterns may hold water for a short time or a long time but eventually the crack, spring a leak, and dry out.  Leaving us in the same position we were in before, lonely, broken, and weighed down.

When we reflect on the reality of a broken world I can understand the cry of the heart begging for a just and loving God to intercede and make everything better. That does not always happen and then we are there, feeling alone, and questioning if this God even exists. Elizabeth Johnson in Quest for the Living God makes a powerful statement when she says:

Seeing God as the liberating God of life is a most practical insight, for it enlists the power of the Most High in opposition to whatever mars the divine image in women and men.   Wherever persons are caught in the grip of unjust suffering, where the life of multitudes is throttled, gagged, slain, or starved, there the Holy one is to be found, in gracious solidarity with the poor, calling the oppressors to conversion, giving birth to courage for protests, struggling to bring life out of death.

When we as God's people view God as a liberating God w   who is working and struggling to bring life out of death, light out of darkness, and hope out of brokenness then we can learn what it is to drink from living water.   When our view of God shifts from that of an absent or self-seeking God to one of hope and life, we become hope and life to the world. 

Drinking from the fountain of living water means that we as God's children turn to God instead of to the world.  It means that we no longer seek our happiness in the materialistic or socially constructed ideals of true happiness.  We humble ourselves, turning to God and scripture, crying out from our heart and saying here I am Lord, I am here to serve your people by walking alongside the poor, calling out against those who contribute to oppression locally and globally, encouraging others to stand up for justice, and struggling with brothers and sisters around the world to bring light into darkness, to bring life out of death.

It is my prayer that we can hold one another accountable, lift one another up, and accept the call to take up our crosses and follow Christ.  I pray that we as Christ's church are willing to drink deeply from the fountain of living water so that we may carry this water to brothers and sisters around the world who just like us are seeking because they are thirsty.