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.