Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Few Days a Camp PYOCA

Most if not all of my friends know two things about me. 1) I'm weird. 2) I'm a nerd.

Last week I was busy stressing about being a senior (maybe a blog on that later) and working 2 jobs, I felt the stress weighing on me and knew I needed to get away. Not too long after this discovery that I was stressed and stretched thin I got really sick and had to go to the hospital.  After some antibiotics and steroids I was feeling better.  Before I got sick I was looking for places to go, to get away, to relax, to escape.  Someone recommended I contact the local Presbyterian Camp, and so I did.  I offered to do any grunt work they could use and they have! 

I am weird in that I did not want to simply "get away" and sit for a few days.  I wanted to do something, in particular some service work, and I wanted to do it somewhere I knew it could be used.  The nerd in me that loves all things Presbyterian has really enjoyed talking with the staff and other volunteers here.  I've had a chance to meet some folks, stick my head into a cluster meeting and say hi to familiar Presby brothers and sisters, and to make new relationships with folks I had met a time or two or never at all.

It has been very refreshing to get away, to get out and work by the lake, to look out the window and see nature all around. To be pretty unplugged for the most part.  But I think most importantly I have been at peace.

During the day we have worked hard digging sand, shoveling gravel, digging trenches, running electrical line through pipes, laying out pvc pipes, climbing ladders, cleaning cabins, helping out in the kitchen, and who knows what other stuff we have done. It has been awesome (I'm weird remember).  It has given me a chance to use my muscles (ones that haven't been used in a long time) to share my gifts, to work hard, and to enjoy just being for a few days.  

Tonight I am sitting in the Lodge, looking out over the lake, I will probably spend some time reading and praying and just sitting and enjoying the stillness of this place before I head to bed early.  Hard work takes the energy straight from you!  I will wake up, have a few achy muscles and will finish running electric to the pumps (a project we started today). It sounded like we would have some sand to move as well, and I look forward to that as well.   After this, it is back to Hanover. Back to sermon prep, back to school work, back to balancing myself and not stretching myself too thin.  

We have had some good laughs this week.  I have met some great people and learned some very useful things about building a septic field...whether or not I'll use those skills again...we shall see.



Sunday, July 24, 2011

Words-Healing or Hurting?

Words Have Power

A couple of days ago my facebook status read as follows: "Words have power, God used words to create the world, Jesus used words to heal people, to cast out demons, and to teach us how to live with one another. Our words can have these sorts of positive power or they can be used to break people. To cause pain, to put others down. How will you use your words?"

I was reflecting on something that had taken place in my own life (and will not talk about that here).  As I sat on the computer, hurt, tired, frustrated, and wondering where I go and what I do next I thought...we too often forget how powerful our words can be.  We fail to realize that the things we say to other people are not always just words that go in one ear and out the other.  I am the type of person who loves to talk with people.  I take in what they are saying and it sticks with me throughout the day, week, and even for years. I am constantly thinking about conversations, what they said, what I said, what I should have said, how I should have phrased something.  

It is not by accident that I am cautious and careful with my words. I know that my words can and do have power.  I know that I can say something I see as small or insignificant that strikes a cord with a friend that can send them into a panic or into deep sorrow.  I know that I can also say something that lifts their spirit and gives them a breath of hope.  It seems to me that people do not take the idea that words hold power as seriously as we should.  Growing up we learn sayings like "sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me" or "I'm rubber and your glue, whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you." I fear these cute little saying have created this false and harmful idea that words do not have power.  While in theory it is nice to have children think that people can say whatever they want but in the end it doesn't matter, the reality is many children go home at night after being picked on at school and have parents who verbally abuse them. 

We have to be more aware of the words we use and how we use them. Winston Churchill once said "By swallowing evil words unsaid, no one has ever harmed his stomach."  Words can hurt others but when we choose to refrain from speaking harmful things to others no one gets hurt. That is not to say that you should not speak the truth in love, but we must do so with caution, with love, with respect.

I leave you all with this from scripture,

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.-Colossians 4:6

What wise council we find in this passage. To speak with graciousness, preserving our words so that we may know how to answer everyone-my bet is that we answer in love. We answer with power that builds up our brothers and sisters, that we refuse to stand on ground that breaks each other down, and instead focus on how we can positively impact the world around us.  Speaking the truth in love is not sugar coating reality, it is taking into account that words do have power and choosing to use them wisely.

I am committed to living well with others and building them up in word and deed...and I hope I will be held accountable to that...I am also committed to holding others accountable to the same.



Monday, July 18, 2011

Preaching Camp Sermon #1

Preaching camp has begun and the 8 minute sermons 4 of the next 5 days will all be on the Sermon on the Mount. 

Matthew 7:13-14

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life and there are few who find it.”


In the world as we know it the wide gates and easy roads are numerous.  Many of us in this room are familiar with these wide and easy roads. The roads that mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters have taken. The roads that lead to artificial happiness, short term fixes, and a long life of masking pain and hurt.  These roads are quick fixes and too often they seem very appealing, even to the eyes of someone traveling through the narrow gate, and on the hard road.  Sometimes they are especially appealing to those who are journeying and feel alone. Who feel abandoned because everyone else is traveling on the easy roads and through the wide gates.

I grew up right here in the south end of Louisville, my high school is less than 10 minutes from here and my immediate family all live right here off Dixie Highway.  My brothers have chosen easy roads and wide gates into drinking, drugs, and settling for the easy way out. Neither of them continued their education, one of them did not even graduate high school.  Most of my graduating class is right along side them.  Settling for getting by, for giving in, most of them when asked say they do not have a choice. They had to get married, they had to start a family, they had to settle for a job, they do not have time for friends, they do not have time for serving others, they do not have time for church, they have to take care of themselves.  The road is easy that way, that is when we look out for ourselves.  The gate is wide when you are not carrying someone else through it.

This passage is near the end of Jesus’ sermon. By this point those disciples who had gone up the mountain and had listened to him had heard many teachings about living with one another. Lessons on not judging, or worrying, or how to pray, how to treat one another, about oaths and divorce, retaliation, and love.  These same lessons we are studying now and as I read them I realize we are called to take the road that is counter-cultural.  The road is hard and the gate is narrow because we can’t travel it alone.  As Christians we are called to bear with one another. Being a Christian does not work when one lives on their own and when we are working for reconciliation between us and God and each other we have to get dirty.

My first year at Hanover I decided to go with a group of upperclassmen on a night hike.  It was a full moon and clear skies and there was a group of seven of us.  One of the seniors said I know the trail we will be fine, and so we headed off down the bluff and into the creek bed, there was one flashlight that we had just in case we needed it but we never got a chance to use it because I lost it.  As we hiked down the creek bed two members of the group informed us they had donated blood that day and were feeling week. Only a couple of us had water and so we shared what little we had left as we were a good hour and a half into the hike.  As we continued on the path we ran out of water and the two who had generously given their blood became weaker.  Finally I spoke up and asked if we were close to the final ascent of the trail? Our fearless leader said, as a matter of fact I can’t find it and we should have been heading up by now.  Eventually we had to make a decision to start climbing up the bluff to get back on campus.  As we climbed the two who had donated blood became weaker until we had to carry them.  It was dark, we were climbing up steep hills, and we were all pitching in to get these two up the hill and to safety.   We started the hike around 11:00pm and finally made it to campus at 3:00am.  The road was not easy and the path was quite narrow. We had to work together with one another so that all of us could safely ascend to the top, so that we could have life. 

As we journey through life we are called to love our enemies, to turn the other cheek, to refrain from judging our brothers and sisters.  We are told not to be angry with others, and to treat others the way that we want to be treated.  These are narrow gates and hard roads because they are counter cultural in that we have to put others before ourselves. We cannot walk alone and do what is asked of us.

The road is hard when we have to stand up for our brothers and sisters in the coal mines instead of demanding that our electric bills be lower.

The road is hard when we have to choose to give up the luxury of a chocolate treat while taking a stand against slavery.

The gate is narrow when are called out of our comfort zones to go and preach, to go and serve in communities where no one wants else dares to go.

The gate is narrow when our families and friends turn their backs and we must journey on moving into a new place, a new call, a new life.

The road is hard when domestic violence and drugs are running a community, your community into the ground and you must stand up, when you must reach out to youth, and when you must stand against popular culture in this time and this place.

There are many roads we have to choose from. The ones we are called to take are hard. They are steep, they are rocky, and they are rarely traveled but they lead to life. Not just for you but for humanity. 

In Deuteronomy 30 we find these words: See I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity (and it continues later) I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying him and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

Choose life, choose the road less traveled. Choose the hard road with narrow gates. Reconcile yourself to God and one another. Choose to live in a world that is counter cultural because it can make a difference.  The road may be hard and under traveled but God in Christ has called us to travel for the sake of the world.  So that our descendants may live, so that this world will be a better and more loving place from generation to generation. And may it be so for the sake of Christ.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Life and living. Death and dying.

As I sit here with just a couple of weeks remaining in the semester, I sit living and dying.  Celebrating life and in the reality that death comes.

Life can be like a riddle, and as I sit in a time of transition for myself I celebrate the old and the new. The good and the bad meet on the road and make me who I am at this point in time.  I cannot change the past and I cannot completely anticipate what the future holds for me, so I make a choice, to live and to be.  This past weekend we celebrated the life of a wonderful human being. Aastik Pokhrel.  Aastik was a senior my first year at Hanover and our paths did not cross much but I remember thinking "wow what a wonderful person to just be around." Last year my friend Mera introduced me to Aastik again, and in a short conversation I realized that Aastik was more than just a wonderful person for me to be around, he was a wonderful person for the world to be around. Aastik had a heart unlike any I had seen.  His smile could brighten the room, his sense of humor could bring a laugh at any time, and his love for the world gave everyone hope.

In remembering and celebrating the life of Aastik, I thought about where I am in my life.  Choosing life, choosing to move forward, choosing to be the person God has called me to be and yet dying to the old self, dying to the person the world has created out of me, dying to the expectations of my family, and dying to the expectations of being a product of the south end of Louisville.  Life over death, living over dying.  It seems like such a simple choice and one that Aastik taught all of us a little something about.  Choosing life, choosing to live and to live in the promises of God is not easy. It is hard work, but it is work that makes this world a little brighter, smiles a little bigger, and hearts fill up with love.  Living means confronting the things we must die to in order to live fully. Confronting injustice, confronting those who do not love, loving those who feel unloved, providing for those who have nothing, making something of ourselves when the world says we are nothing, and picking ourselves up when we fall down.  Living. Dying. The two go hand in hand. 

What I found remarkable this weekend was that even in his death Aastik was living.  Because what he stood for and what he lived for gave life and continues to give life.  So many people were touched by his smile, by his laugh, by his gentle being that his living brings about the best death, the death that calls us to leave behind this world and live into people who are not living for themselves, but who are living for the benefit of others. 

As I dust myself off, as I move forward and choose to live, I will always remember Aastik's smile and laugh. I will remember the friends whose lives he has touched, the community who dearly loves and misses him, and the lessons he taught through his actions.  I will remember that the dying going on inside me and around me is not just a necessary evil, but it is something that is propelling life, not just for me but for the world.  

If there is one thing in life that never gets old, it is saying goodbye to people long before I should have to.  And so, as I celebrate Aastik and the life he has given me, so too do I celebrate Aaron and Kalyn and Lindsey and Max and Emily. Some were younger than others, but each has shaped my life, each taught me a lesson about love and hard work, about being who I am and not who others want me to be. It doesn't make their deaths right, or easy, or okay...nothing ever will...but I must choose to live, to live as the person God has called me to be. To live in joy and to live knowing I am loved. I must choose to die, to die to the world and its standards. To set my own standards of justice, love, and live into those things and to never look back. To never regret missed opportunities but to cherish every last moment I have with those I love and those who love me and challenge me. 

Living. Dying. Life. Death. 



Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My Impact Statement

I was asked to write a statement about how the vandalism to the chapel impacted me, I added some about the impact on the community as a whole, but this is what I have submitted.

I am part of the chapel community or as I like to call it the chapel family.  I have been a part of this community since I stepped foot on campus my first year and I have come to love and be loved by those who call the chapel home.  The chapel for me was and is a safe place to go. It has been a refuge in times of heartache and a place where I can simply be in the presence of God without fear or worry.

Saturday morning I received many messages from my brothers and sisters in the chapel community.  I was sent pictures, I had people driving to my house and I eventually to campus to be those who were deeply hurt by what they found Saturday morning. Our house, the chapel, is an open space. It is a space where one can go and be who they are without worry of judgment.  In our house we have a table where we gather to share a simple meal, sharing the bread and passing the cup serving one another.  To find our table desecrated was heartbreaking, angering, and sorrow. 

In our house, we have many pews, our form of a chair.  In these pews I have held friends, been held by friends, and often times sat alone having arguments with myself and God.  The questions left on our chairs Friday evening hurt many members of my family.  They caused pain, they caused us to feel violated, they caused me to think about the time I have spent in silent reflection sitting in those seats.  In our house we have one of the most simple and beautiful stained glass windows where we can sit and see the sun shine through and penetrate a dark place in our home and often times in our lives.  To find black crosses, upside down beside an image that brings light into the darkest places of my own faith journey made me angry.  It upset me that darkness seemed to have a hold of our house.  Thankfully I remembered that darkness does not overcome the light.

The fear and worry I had came from a place of not knowing why the chapel, a home for many, was desecrated.  What had my family done to bring this about? What could we have done to prevent it? Are we safe in our own home. These questions are not just mine, but have been echoed by my brothers and sisters over the last few days.  In the end I am thankful that if it had to happen, it happened to a community that stands on love.  For I fear other groups, communities, or families on campus may have acted out of revenge of some sort. 

I am still hurt when I think back to what we found on Saturday morning, but I am not angry, I am not vengeful. I have hope because love of neighbor has won. I have faith that the chapel is a sacred and safe space regardless of what took place Friday evening.  I am proud that my family of brothers and sisters has come together in support for one another in a very uncertain time for us. But I do wonder if anyone-  besides our family- noticed the pain? Did a thought cross the mind of the person who entered our home and violated our space of how it would affect us? 

In the end our feelings of being violated and having our home vandalized effected each of us differently, for me it was a feeling of violation and as if my home were no longer welcoming.  For some the space still feels that way. But we stand together as a community and a family ready to move on and continue being love to this campus.

Respectfully Submitted,


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Chapel Community as Family

 When you leave for college everything is new, people are new, experiences are new, at times you feel alone in a see of faces. No one knows you and you know no one.  Eventually you find a group of people who become a core group of friends.  For me this was the chapel community. People who came weekly to worship, came to Bible studies, people who met in Chris Roseland's office for Consilium (one of those weird groups who talk about call and vocation), people who were love for one another.  After spending time with these people I found myself considering them as family.  Not just in the mushy gushy they are my brothers and sisters in Christ, but these are people who care about me, who love me for me, who pick me up, hold me accountable, and have my best interest at heart and I the same to them.

For three years now, many of the people I consider friends/family have come from the chapel community. We are a small and close knit community.  We get together and cry with one another, we care for one another, and we love one another. Our safe space is the Chapel. I would be willing to bet each of us have spent a night or two or three in that chapel pleading with God in prayer, crying, singing, playing an instrument, venting, just being, or seeking some sort of peace.  That has been a place that we share with each other, a beautiful place where we can see God, feel God, and hear God in our midst.

On Friday night someone took spray paint to the inside of our home.  They spray painted vulgar things on the table where we share the bread and pass the cup. The wrote horrible things where we sit together and pray together.  They painted upside down crosses next to the stained glass window where we see the beauty of the sun shinning through.  They wounded not only our home, but our hearts. 

I for one have used that space in the quiet of the night to cry, to think, to just be.  I have held others who had a bad night in those pews.  I've shared the cup with many different people around that table.  I've admired the beauty of the simplicity of the space. And when I heard of the vandalism to that space I was heart broken. I was angry. I wanted to know who did it and why they did it? 

So many in our family were hurt this weekend by the things written. It was weird going back into the chapel.  It was refreshing to see how hard the maintenance crew worked to get it cleaned up and looking like it did. But it still cuts deep because some of our family members don't feel safe, they don't feel secure, they don't feel joy, or love, or anything that they felt before because their sacred space was violated.

So as we came together today to worship and reclaim our sanctuary, our home, our place of hope and love, we did so not out of righteousness, not out of anger, but out of love for one another.  We proclaimed that love has the last word and that we would not leave that place looking for vengeance, holding anger, or being hateful. We proclaimed that our community, our family, is indeed built on love. Love of God and love of one another.  That love holds us together, not a building, that love feeds each one of us, not the music from the piano, that the love of God is in that place graffiti or not.  

I'm proud of my family, for coming together and worshiping in a beautiful way. Sharing the bread and passing the cup around the table, singing loud and proud, making beautiful artwork along the sidewalk to the chapel that proclaims love, writing on paper that covered the table our prayers for this community and what this family means to each of us.  We are a very diverse group of people, but we came together today bound by love for God and one another and that is what is important. I think the chapel is different now, it doesn't look different, but it does feel different. Not that it feels empty, but that love surrounds it and flows forth from it.  

Unfortunately for now it has to be locked at night, meaning people are unable to access their safe place, their place to just be and dwell in God's presence, but this will not break us.  We will continue to be a family of love.  We will continue to support one another, we will continue to open our doors and arms to anyone, we will continue being family for each other.  If anything I think this awful event has brought us closer to one another. Only time will tell what will come of this all, if we will ever find out who did this, if we will ever have answers...maybe we don't need the answers, maybe we just need each other.

This family has been there for me through the ups and downs over the last three years, and I realized that today as I tried to articulate what the chapel means to me...I am hurt, I am disappointed that someone would do that to the space we see as sacred and peaceful, but I am lifted up by a community, a family, that simply wants to love everyone.  I am filled with hope because we don't seek revenge, I am filled with joy that we were able to be in that chapel today, loving and supporting one another, crying together, laughing together, praying together, and being love together. 

At a later point I will post pictures of our sidewalk art, communion table cover of paper, and the candles we lit in prayer. 

Until then, keep our family, our chapel community, in prayer as we continue to move forward and be love on campus, even to those who may have done this to our community.  For we are called to love all people and that is something we are good at. 

Peace be within you,


Friday, February 4, 2011

From the Voice of a Young (and proud) Presbyterian

Earlier this week 45 male pastors in the PC(USA) published a letter  that called the church "deathly ill" and called for a radical transformation.  In the end of this letter they provided a proposal for changes in the church.

I have spent the past two days in prayer and in discussion with many folks on this letter.  There were a few things that I wish to comment on at this point, particularly the following comment,

"While everyone wearies of battles over ordination, these battles divert us from a host of issues that affect the way our congregations fail to attract either young believers or those outside the faith. "

My first thought was, OBVIOUSLY these guys were not listening to the young people they do have and the things we brought to the General Assembly.  If they had been paying attention and truly cared what "young believers" are worried about they would have realized that the battle over ordination was something very important to us.  Had they been in the room with us after the vote to not discuss marriage they would have seen many deeply hurt young people who just wanted to TALK about it.  

You want to know why young believers are not coming to your congregations? Because you don't want to talk about homosexuality.  Or if you do talk about homosexuality you talk about it as if it is an object.  We as a church have been oppressive and hurtful to so many brothers and sisters over the years because we are so worried about this issue or that issue that we forget that we are talking about PEOPLE. You don't care about young people because you want them to be part of the church today and tomorrow, they are the "future of the church" and they should "wait their turn"...well I have news for you, the younger generation is standing at the door knocking, begging to be the church of today WITH you and if you don't let us in then you will loose us. 

I am very thankful for my church, Presbytery, and Synod.  I have been welcomed in to work alongside folks.  I admit I am usually the youngest in the room by 20 if not 30 years, but I am serving alongside and not underneath others.  This is what the church needs. 

I've lost my number of points but I also want to say this, one of the things I treasure about the PC(USA) is that I got to experience the 219th GA.  Not because the social aspect was so awesome, but because I got to sit next to, learn from, work with, worship with, and pray with people I did not agree with.  By opening my heart and mind, I was able to learn from people who I would normally write off as crazy or just another close minded individual worried about nothing that matters in this world. But instead I sat beside them and had tough, meaningful, and heartfelt discussions that helped me to understand where they were coming from and where they were trying to go.  I would be heartbroken if we lost the opportunity to have these conversations with each other.  I do not believe we can effectively be the church of Jesus Christ if we are not willing to sit down and listen to and work with people we don't agree with.

Do I like the fact we seem to argue over "issues" as a church? No, but I do believe they are very important ongoing conversations.  And I point to our Book of Confessions to remind us of a few things. 1) Jesus Christ is head of the church. 2) We are all in the same race. 3) We are called to love all of God's people. And 4) We are called to be Christ to ALL people in word, love, and deed.

From the Confession of 1967 (inclusive text)

"...the church applies itself to present tasks and strives for a better world. It does not identify limited progress with the kingdom of God on earth, nor does it despair in the face of disappointment and defeat. In steadfast hope, the church looks beyond all partial achievement to the final triumph of God."

"The reconciling work of Jesus was the supreme crisis in the life of humankind. His cross and resurrection become personal crisis and present hope for women and men when the gospel is proclaimed and believed. In this experience, the Spirit brings God’s forgiveness to all, moves people to respond in faith, repentance, and obedience, and initiates the new life in Christ."

"The risen Christ is the savior of all people. Those joined to him by faith are set right with God and commissioned to serve as God’s reconciling community. Christ is head of this community, the church, which began with the apostles and
continues through all generations."

From A Brief Statement of Faith

"In a broken and fearful world the Spirit gives us courage to pray without ceasing, to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior, to unmask idolatries in Church and culture, to hear the voices of peoples long silenced, and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace." 

My initial thought after reading the letter was "see ya later guys" then it turned to "just take yourself somewhere else, don't drag congregations or the denomination in the mud on your way out" and now I'm wanting these guys to sit down and listen.  For one day to be open enough to hear all kinds of voices from all across the spectrum in our beautiful church.

May the conversation continue, may we listen with new ears, a new heart, and an open mind.  May we be willing to love our neighbors and be radical love in a radical world.  No matter what comes of all of this we have to keep in mind that this is not my church, your church, or our church.  This is the church of Jesus Christ, and thanks be to God for that.

"For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say peace be within you." -Psalm 122:8


P.S.-I don't believe the church is "deathly ill"...but that might be hammered out in a future blog.  How can the Church of Jesus Christ ever be "deathly ill"....

Sunday, January 30, 2011

God is strong, and that is reason enough to tell the story!

There are a lot of things running through my mind today.  I have no idea where this blog may or may not go.  I just know I needed to write.  It was an emotional week, there were ups and there were downs, there was no consistency to the days and that was even true of today.  

I had a busy week, PantherPack prep session and stuffing/delivery took place, I had a nice chat about boundaries with friends who are dependent on my being there and "helping" them with their problems (which turned into a discussion about why I should be angry?), and then I drove 4 hours to Urbana, IL for a Synod meeting.  I heard a great sermon on Friday with a beautiful one this morning as well. I had a friend turn 21 yesterday and I had some heartfelt discussions about things that frustrate me in this world which reminded me of the discussions my Papa and I used to have.  

The amazing thing about this entire week was how much God's word was made alive and brought to light and sent into passion through two great ministers preaching.  The first was from the outgoing moderator of the Synod who preached from Romans 12:1-2.  He preached a sermon titled "Why must we Change?"...the highlights of his sermon were that we change because it is God who is at work reforming and renewing us with God's own word.  It is not that we change ourselves but that God transforms us to be like Christ.  The context in which it was preached was in a Synod that is doing great work to be relevant and active, but the sermon also spoke to us as Christians in churches and in our lives where we get caught being complacent and comfortable scared even terrified of change.

This mornings sermon was a beautiful reminder that while Christ was at his lowest God was strong in Christ and the same is true for us. While we are low, vulnerable, and weak God is strong in us. 

What I have found absolutely awesome about this entire week is that the message of the cross is not a horrible death because God didn't let it end there.  The message of the cross is power because it ends in resurrection and new life!  It is power because it breaks barriers of age, race, gender, and social class (unless we get in the way).  It is power because it speaks when we cannot. It loves when we cannot. It carries us when we cannot carry ourselves.

On Friday afternoon I sat along side an 83 year old woman who I just love.  She told me story after story of her fighting for rights of those who could not fight for themselves.  Of sheltering those who needed a place to sleep.  Of breaking social barriers that were in place for no good reason.  In the eyes of this woman, I saw Jesus Christ.  I saw the power of the cross at work through her life, and this gave me great joy.  The more I think about my new friend the more I think about Christ and the more I want to follow the theme of telling the story.  We all have a story, it may not seem as great as Millie's but God is strong in each of our stories and that makes them worth telling.

This week may have been a struggle, but how great is God to remind me that the darkness does not overcome the light.  I think there are 5 or 6 sermons in this weeks lessons on life.  Maybe I will have to keep telling the story.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Keep Doing BUT Dare to do MORE

 Krista Phillips

Hanover College Chapel


Text: 1 Corinthians 1:10-18 and Philippians 2:1-11

                                                                Keep Doing, but Dare to Do More!


There was an elderly man in a nursing home who lost his dentures.  That night went around with a pillow case collecting everyone else’s dentures from the glasses alongside their beds. After collecting all the dentures he tried them all on until he found some that fit him and then he took the pillow case around putting the teeth back in everyone’s bedside glasses (of course not their own teeth in their glasses). The next morning everyone woke up and began to put their dentures in, only to find that they didn’t fit!  And so they tried to function as the nursing home sought a solution to the problem, all the while struggling because their teeth didn’t fit. 

How many of us walk around this campus trying to function but feeling like our theology doesn’t fit? How many people on this campus feel alienated because their theology doesn’t fit? 

In verse 11 of today’s text we hear the church being called out because there has been what the NRSV translates as quarrels among the people within this church, the translation of the word into quarrels doesn’t do the Greek justice because the Greek word can be translated into strife, contention, or dissention. A division is rising up and Paul says people are taking stands and choosing sides by saying “I belong to Paul” or “I belong to Cephas”  today we might say “I belong to Luther” or “I belong to Calvin” or dare I say “I belong to Laura”.  What does it mean to belong to someone, to agree with their theology? Does it mean your allegiance is to them?  The next question posed in this passage by Paul is one of my favorites.  He asks “Has Christ been divided?” 

John Calvin puts it this way,

For no hope of future inheritance remains to us unless we have been united with all other members under Christ, our Head. The church is called 'catholic' or 'universal' because there could not be two or three churches unless Christ be torn asunder which cannot happen! (Institutes book 4)

In other words all of the quarreling that goes on within the church based on who we claim to follow, besides Christ that is, is all nonsense because Christ is the head of the church and Christ was not divided into pieces or split into factions!  Therefore the church is called to unity in mission.  In the end who are we here to serve?  What is it that we are all working for?

If there is one thing this chapel community does well it is that we do not let our differences of theology get in the way of us being a supportive and loving community.  Some of us like Maria focus on how God’s love relates to our everyday lives, how we come to be transformed and live as a transformed people.  Those like Scott are wicked smart and have crazy formulas that end with the bottom line that God’s grace is super fantastic!  Daniel likes to keep it simple stupid and let us know that because of Christ we can be in the presence of God.  Laura believes the church is a support system, scripture is truth and nothing can separate us from God! Eric believes God loves everyone, even those who are his enemies! Rosa believes that we are the hands and the feet of Jesus in the world around us and therefore we do the work of Christ that reaches out to all people.  And mine, we should just be like Jesus. Period.

And I could separate these theologies that we have submitted (if you haven’t given one to Laura see her after chapel and you will get a colored piece of paper and have your opportunity). I could separate them by content, by diagrams, by pictures, by many different things because though our theologies may seem to differ, at their core they all share the same mind and purpose that God has created a world and a people that need to be cared for and welcomed in. God is love and we are to be love on our campus and in our world! What a powerful message from this small community of folks from different backgrounds and traditions!

I paired this passage from 1 Corinthians with one of my favorites from Philippians because of this affirmation for our community.  To let the same mind be in us that was in Jesus:

Who though he was in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-even death on a cross.  Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend in heaven and on earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Within our chapel bubble, which is even smaller than the Hanover bubble, we do a great job of being in the same mind as Christ.  Serving one another, putting each other before ourselves, we have this down! 

Most of you who have heard me preach before know I can’t just end here, though it is a high note, I do not believe we can read scripture and walk away simply feeling like we can pat ourselves on the back and say job well done.  The Holy Spirit is always at work challenging us to see with new eyes, hear with new ears, and go out with new hands and feet to serve in a different way.

So now that we’ve patted ourselves on the back and come far enough to say we are a supportive and loving community that loves to do the work of Christ, let’s take a look at this text and see what is in store for the future of this community.

There are some key points in the text that raise good questions for us to ponder and answer, maybe not today, but as we grow and continue to reach out to our brothers and sisters on this campus, in E. KY, in Nashville, in Haiti, or wherever we may go.

While we have seen that divisions are harmful to the unity of a community or congregation, I think this text also challenges to take a deep look at what we do and do not believe as individuals.  These individual beliefs often effect how we live in a community of faith.  Do I believe that there is no way God could punish a person, made in the imago dei or image of God, by sending them to hell? Do I believe that hell is real and people end up there?  Do I believe baptism is necessary for salvation? That it is merely an outward expression of an inward commitment? Do I believe that baptism signifies my presence in a community of faith? Or one of the other possible beliefs on Baptism? What do I believe about the Lord’s supper, or communion, or the Eucharist? Do I call it the Lord’s table or the altar? What do these things that I believe have to say about how I live in community with those here in this room and those who do not come into this sanctuary?

What does it mean to me for the message of the cross to be power to the saved? What do I believe about being “saved” and what does that mean? 

What is our purpose as a community and what are we doing to make sure we fulfill that purpose?

Are these questions that we as a community answer or do we do so as individuals?

The question I would like to pose to this community is a tough one for myself and it may be a tough one for the community but I see the same faces here week after week, what are we doing to make sure that our brothers and sisters on this campus are feeling welcome in this space?  What are we doing to make sure that peoples theologies are not being alienated,  that they are not walking around feeling like misfits, but instead feeling the love and service of those who are here today?

Christianity has a long history of being a very exclusive religion.  You have to believe a certain way to be in and if not you are out, but I’d like to see more communities like this.  Ones where folks set aside differences to exemplify love, a word that my not so stuffy dictionary of theological terms defines as

Not a thing that is blind but the act of actually seeing the needs of others and putting their needs higher than yourself or your needs. (Crazy-Talk)

But I’d like to see the same community exemplifying love refuse to become complacent, to refuse to settle as if what they are doing is enough, because when I look out into the world I see people wandering around with their heads down feeling as if they just don’t fit in.  May we challenge each other and ourselves to reach out to those who are not like us, those who we know need someone to welcome them in, those we know who are still figuring out exactly what it is they do believe.  Because let’s face it, how many of us 10 years from now are going to have the exact same theologies that we do now? 

Keep loving each other.  Keep setting aside your differences to stand on common ground.  Keep supporting one another, but dare to reach out.  Dare to break down barriers that society has built up.  Dare to be Christ on this campus.  Dare to love radically.  And dare to dream a vision of a chapel community without walls, so that all may come together to celebrate and proclaim the good news!

In the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Amen.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Reflecting On the Mountains

Sunday morning we woke up in Hazard and headed for Buckhorn.  We met a guy at the gas station (from WV) who had a story about losing his job and his wife and he was headed west (if you want to know the entire story just's sad but some of it is funny too)...

We drove down one of the most beautiful roads I have been on, curving back into the mountains.  Stopping at a couple of pull offs to take pictures and eventually making it to Buckhorn KY.  

I attended Sunday School and Church at Buckhorn Lake Area Presbyterian Church.  I had met a couple of people from this church at General Assembly and decided that  while I was down that way I should go and visit!  

It was a great Sunday to visit, I enjoyed the fellowship and worship and truly felt welcome there.  I also had the chance to do a lot of reflecting both on the sermon and worship service.  They were installing new Elders during worship and I couldn't help but to think back to the day I was ordained/installed as an Elder.  I couldn't help but be renewed by hearing those questions that I have heard time and time again.  As the two men stood and were installed and the Elders came and laid hands on them, I was once again reminded of how interconnected we are as a church.  How we are all called to serve one another.  How we are all working together for the common good.  

As we were leaving (again after a GREAT time in worship/fellowship) I couldn't help but smile, to be joy-filled, to want to stay longer.  Each time I go to the mountains I meet some awesome people.  So hospitable, so loving, so caring, so Christ-like.  Each time I leave knowing I have seen Christ, knowing that the people I come in contact with are brothers and sisters separated by a couple hundred miles and a few mountains. 

We stopped in Berea to see my friend Ethan.  Ethan was so gracious enough to answer some of my curious questions, listen to my stories, and make me go buy fudge :-D!  Then I headed off to Lexington to see another friend, Amy.  She's been back to KY for a couple of months now and we had yet to meet up.  It was great to visit her even if it was for such a short time.

In all, the weekend couldn't have been any better.  I stood on the edge of mountains and as at peace.  I sat on stones and peered out over miles of hills and knew that God was with me.  I met new friends and old friends and saw the face of Christ shining back to me.  I said "goodbye" knowing that it was really a "see ya later" because there is something or someone (God?) drawing me back to these mountains to continue building relationships/friendships that are going to last a lifetime.  

I can't wait to get back to the place I've come to love.  



Saturday, January 15, 2011

You are just here to be here?

As I traveled around a small portion of Eastern Kentucky today, I spoke to a few people and as they asked where I was from and what in the world brought me to the mountains at this time of the year I explained that I just wanted to be here.  I love the mountains and I love the people I meet here.  It seemed like each time we spoke to someone they were shocked that we loved the mountains, that we wanted to drive 4 1/2 hours south to spend a weekend here instead of at school with our friends.  

So our day consisted of waking up around 10am (yay for sleeping in!) and going to Hindman KY to the Appalachian Artisan Center where we had lunch and bought some goodies (including a Rich and the Po Folks CD).  We spoke with the women who were working and then walked around in Hindman before heading back to Hazard.

Our second adventure was to Kingdom Come State Park.  At first we thought this was an epic fail because after driving a little over an hour, we learned that the entrance (2 miles long and uphill or...up mountain) was covered in ice/snow.  So after failing to get even slightly up the hill (yes I still tried in the Lincoln) we just kept driving over the mountains.  Eventually we made it to Cumberland KY and I recognized a few places, then saw the sign for Benham and realized we were close to the KY Coal Museum.

We stopped in the Coal Museum to stretch and give the Lincoln a break.  The lady there (I'm awful with names) had us cracking up for a good 20 minutes telling stories.  Then she told us that folks from here are Mountain folk, folks from TN are hill folk, and folks from WV are country folk.  I don't know how true that is but the way she put it made me appreciate that she wanted to take the time to explain to me how different folks are.  She even went into the difference between folks on "her mountain" and "the next mountain over"...I truly appreciated her time and willingness to share with me.

As we came back over the mountains and headed towards Hazard (without directions...haha) we stopped a couple of times to take pictures and just sit, staring off into the mountains that seemed as if they would never in.  

As I took a few goofy shots and some more serious ones, I sat and stared off into the majestic and powerful ancient mountains.  They are covered in snow, we were folded in, and the the sun kept peaking through the clouds.  It was beautiful....I was telling a friend today, that I feel God and see God so much in these mountains.  In the people I meet.  Not that I don't see God and feel God in other places, but it's different here.  I can't explain it.  But it is a holy place for me.  I see Christ in the way people take care of one another.  In the patience they show to one another. In the hospitality I have received.

And so, I am here just to be here.  To visit old friends and  make new ones.  To laugh, to cry, to relax, to explore.  I am here, just being.

May you find a place to go and just be,


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Preaching, Papa, Nanny, what a week!

This time last week I was settling down after a day of hearing great preaching and enjoying a night of Kentucky awesomeness (especially the bluegrass).
Tonight as I continue to reflect on the Festival of Young Preachers that took place in Louisville, KY (Jan. 6-8) I also reflect on how I came to be at the Festival. If you read a couple of entries back you will see something very similar to what I said Friday night in worship as I spoke about my call to vocation. In this I did not mention one very important aspect of my call, that is my Grandfather, Papa. Papa passed away 7 years ago on Jan. 9. The day after the festival ended I remembered the man who influenced my faith more than anyone else.
You see Papa was the reason I became Presbyterian. Through his side of the family I am a 5th generation Presbyterian. It was Papa and my Grandma who made sure I was at church on Sunday mornings. It was Papa who would take me up to the choir loft and sit me on the edge letting me look out over the empty sanctuary in awe of the architecture and beauty of God's house.
It is Papa's choir cross that I wear (almost) every time I preach. It is the gentleness, kindness, humility, and love of Papa that showed me what it was to be Christ-like. It is Papa who would sit in the basement and let me sneak down the stairs to startle him and then hold a conversation with me no matter how young I was, treating me like an adult. It was Papa who taught me respect by example. It was Papa who taught me dedication and hard work.

So as I look back I remember that I was raised by a man with outstanding Christian character, teaching me by the way he lived. Loving me and it is he who would be proud of me this day.

Tonight I stand 8 hours from it being 1 year that my Great grandmother passed away. I was waking up at the exact time that she passed away. I was preparing to head to Louisville that afternoon to say goodbye...and I didn't make it. So when my great aunt and uncle asked me to put together and do her funeral that I humbly and fearfully took on the task. Recruiting the help of my Pastor at the time (to do all the official stuff) I picked hymns/songs, scriptures, wrote a homily, and put everything together. I stood before family and friends, grieving and broken, leading a service to remember and honor a woman who was gentle and loving. A woman who gave all that she could to the people she loved. A woman who was strong willed and soft spoken, fearless and fearful, loving and patient, funny and witty, hard working and peaceful.

And so I am who I am today because of these two wonderful people (and others too)...I am who I am because of where I've come from. I am who I am because God has created me and called me to be, and to love, and to serve.

Though I miss these two wonderful people more than words can express, though I sit here fighting back tears, though I sit here wondering what kind of emotions tomorrow will bring, I sit here knowing that God is good, that God has something in store for my life that is bigger than me. And I stand here excited. I stand here ready to live one day at a time to serve the Lord and the Lord's people. I stand here knowing that Nanny and Papa are proud of the things I am doing and that makes me happy. I miss them both, I love them both, and I can only hope that continue to remember the legacy they left behind and take it with me wherever I go.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Tomorrow evening I will meet up with my fellow members of the Leadership Team of the Academy of Preachers.  Thursday 129 young preachers from across the nation and across denominational lines will gather to celebrate gospel preaching...AND I'M EXCITED.  

I'm excited to meet up with folks I met last year.  Catch up and see where they are in school and in their ministry.  I am excited to hear them preach, to listen to their stories, to continue building relationships.

I'm excited to meet new folks.  To learn about their journey, how they have arrived at the festival, why they are here, what their expectations are.

I'm excited to see what God does over throughout the festival.  I'm excited to see denominational barriers dropped, the gospel preached, and for everyone to stand together on the common ground of Christ.

Did I mention that I'm excited? 



Sunday, January 2, 2011

Why do I preach?

 “Krista, you have a gift.  You should consider ministry as a vocation.” “You know KP you used your gifts today and you should think about the possibility of seminary after Hanover.” “Aren’t you under care of your Presbytery yet?” “Your pulpit presence is better than mine and I’ve been a pastor for years.”

                These are affirmations I heard and pushed aside many times before I decided to stop and listen to what they were saying. The first sermon I preached was youth Sunday during my senior year of high school, and I did it because no one else in the youth group would.  Well, and because all volunteered me to do it. I thought folks were just being nice by saying all of these things, and they were, but there was truth to what they were saying.

                When I did stop and take an entire summer as an intern here in Louisville at the church I grew up in, I found just how true those words were.  I found myself looking forward to Sunday’s where I got to help write the liturgy.  I loved interacting with folks in nursing homes and hospital rooms who were so happy someone had come to visit.  I experienced what it was like to participate in a funeral service and interact with a grieving family.  And then, I got to preach. 

                I have always loved scripture.  I don’t mean that in a ohhh look it’s the Bible I love it kind of way, but scripture has been and I pray it always will be for me a place that I go when  I am down and out and need a pick me up as well as when things are going perfect.  When parents are fighting, when tournaments were won, when friends abandoned me, when nieces were born, when loved ones passed, and when a friend needed help; I turned and continue to turn to scripture.  There were times I would run to my room and shut the door, face full of tears crying out for things to be different for violence to end, for peace in my house, for the sick to be well, for life to be different. And in these heartfelt moments of crying out I would crawl in bed and open my Bible and begin to read familiar texts in a new way. Brothers and parents would open the door and see me sitting there reading my Bible and they would quietly leave, I often felt in another world, I had found my peace.

                When the time came for me to preach during my internship I was excited.  As the sermon process was underway I truly felt as if it were an act of worship.  Spending time digging into the word of God and reading commentaries opened my heart and my mind to what God was doing and saying.  And when I stepped in that pulpit the final Sunday of my internship I was overwhelmed, I was overwhelmed because God was using me to deliver a message to God’s people and that was something far greater than anything I could do on my own.  And now, I love preaching almost as much as I love scripture.  I love spending time wrestling with a text, listening to the text, and being open to the Holy Spirit while learning along the way.

Each time that I preach I am just as nervous as the day that I first preached, but each time I am fully aware that God is at work in me, around me, and through me, bringing a message to God’s people that is not my own.  And so I stand before you today and like Paul, I do not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decide to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I come to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation are not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.