Sunday, November 28, 2010

But about that day and hour no one knows...

There I was, yesterday, completely prepared for Advent. 

So I went to bed. It took Marley a bit longer to settle in, since it was the first night with the down comforter.  I do wonder if it drove her nuts sleeping with the feathers.  But after some pouncing, she finally settled in, victory was hers, and she curled up for the night. 

At 6 this morning, I heard some rustling.  Then a light thump, followed by more rustling.  You guessed it, Marley was ready to Matins.  She had the stars out and was sorting through them, deciding who to pray for, no doubt.  I politely told her it was a bit early....eventually she found her way back to her down throne. 

Worship was an intense experience this morning.  With an Affirmation of Baptism this morning, we had an extended family who was there most recently for a funeral.  So, to see that family all together again gathered around the Word and the Meal was wonderful.  The statement of faith that the young man shared was a wonderful expression of his faith journey, especially through the most recent ups and downs in life.  The amazing gift of grace was seeing the young man's mom at worship with us.  (Long story short - recent divorce, painful for all involved, dad & kids worship with us, mom is not a member, starting to see some healing as everyone moves forward.) To see everyone pass the peace and come forward to the table brought tears to many eyes, including my own.  The reminder to me, that this is the table that accepts us, no matter what.  This is the place where we can come broken, messed up, knowing that we may not have handled everything in life just right, but it doesn't matter here.  This meal heals, fills, strengthens and helps us face the realities of living in a broken world. 

Today we could see the brokenness but at the same time, the promise coming in the Christ child, that longing for healing and wholeness that is here...and is coming...thanks be to God.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

soon and very soon

I'm totally ready for Advent. 

The wreath is on the table:

And there is a basket of stars...just ready to be hung up. 
The stars is an idea that I borrowed from the Heidi Neumark, she wrote about her experiences serving as a pastor in the Bronx in the book Breathing Space
She talks about her Advent preparations,
"After the children were in bed, I put up our Advent decorations: the glittery calendars, the Tree of Life tablecloth, the wreath of candles, the lion and the lamb, the bowl of stars, each inscribed with a name of someone to pray for. Every day we hang a star from the light fixture over our table and pray for its namesake as it dances in the rising candle heat." (Breathing Space p.210)

I've got a basket of stars, full of names ready to be prayed for.  Each day as the star goes up, it will hang from the banner that my mom made a few years ago which is hung over my fireplace...I'm sure that light and heat will help all the stars dance. 

I definitely connect with Heidi and the season of Advent.  There is something about the longing for something that we have known, that is missing...for me it's remembering back to Advent and Christmas as a kid.  After Thanksgiving the window candles went up to light up the dark winter nights and the advent wreath was placed in the center of the dining room table.  I miss those days with family.  My family is now in Connecticut, New Hampshire and Indiana...we rekindle those feelings and emotions when we gather together...but being apart reminds me that something is missing. 

Maybe it's more than what's missing.  Maybe it's the longing to recreate those joys and traditions as life goes on.  Maybe it's the longing of feeling God's presence and God's love as we figured out which candles went in which room, as our fingers had little red dots from the prickling of the pine needles as we put together the advent wreath, as we argued over who got to use the candle extinguisher after the meal (because blowing out the candle made too much smoke.)  I mean, who doesn't have a candle extinguisher in their house for the Advent wreath...we're the only ones?  Okay... (For the record, I could tell you just where it is in the house...but I digress.) 

How will God fill the empty spaces?  How will the poor be fed?  What will peace and justice look like in our lives and our world?  I think these are the questions that still urge us to cry out O Come O Come Emmanuel...come into our hearts, our lives, our families, our communities, our church, our world...we, creation, waits with an eager come...we're ready....

Come now, O Prince of Peace,
Make us one body,
Come, O Lord Jesus,
Reconcile your people.
(Come now, O Prince of Peace, Evangelical Lutheran Worship #247)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

what will people remember?

As I'm finalizing details for worship tomorrow (in my head) I wonder what people will remember from their experience at church tomorrow.

While the rest of the church world (or most of it) celebrates Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the church year, the congregation I serve will be having it's annual Thankoffering Service.  The date for this service was set before I got here....and it it always Christ the King Sunday because it is the Sunday before Thanksgiving.  So tomorrow's service, as last year, and the year before and the year before that and the...(you get the idea) will be a balance of Thankoffering and Thanksgiving. 

The time for the children's message will be used by the Sunday School youth as they reenact the events leading up to and including the first Thanksgiving.  We have 4 scenes, pilgrims, indians (so it says in the script) the mayflower and a paper mache turkey.  As this skit slowly became a bigger production, folks said, oh pastor, you can just shorten your sermon.

The gospel for the Thankoffering service is from John and contains Jesus saying, "I am the bread of life."  Who knows how long the sermon will go, but it will give me the opportunity to talk about the tables we gather around in our homes for Thanksgiving as well as the table we gather around in the sanctuary.  Hopefully it will offer people the opportunity to reflect upon the fellowship around the Lord's Table because the meal is Jesus Christ. 

 (Freshly baked bread for worship in the morning.)

We do not celebrate communion weekly, just the first and third Sundays of the month.  So we will celebrate the Lord's Supper tomorrow, for which I'm thankful. 

Following worship, we will head down to the fellowship hall for a turkey dinner.  Turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, veggies, salads and desserts.  Which may lead all of us to sleep through the Pats/Colts game....although I think not! 

Will people remember the children's production? the sermon? the meal?  the second meal?  does it matter?  Perhaps I'm getting too caught up in what I think is important.  I just think there is a fine line between church as church and church as social club/entertainment.  The gathering we do in the sanctuary and the meal that we have in that place strengthens us for service to our neighbors, not just for our own personal enjoyment.  Not that we shouldn't enjoy worship, but there is more to it than that.  It's Christ meeting us at the cross, it's God come down to us, is Jesus as our bread and wine, uniting us as sisters and brothers for service to others....

Sorry if this is a bit preachy, I guess I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the whirlwind that tomorrow will be.  I'm letting it go to you, dear readers, and to matter what happens, even if the Mayflower runs into the pews, God will be there...speaking to and feeding each and every one of us...and for that, I give thanks. 

Thanks for reading....until next time...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

More thoughts on SoA

Still trying to figure out why I am completely addicted to Sons of Anarchy.  

I'll admit, I missed last week's episode and I was tempted to skip last night until I had a chance to see the other one, but I couldn't pass it up.  I got enough plot info at the beginning to carry me through.  And I cried at the open market scene as Jax watched Abel with the young couple.  In the moment of that scene you could see Jax's internal struggle for what he wanted and what was the best for Abel.  It was a sigh of tears and a bit of relief when he made his decision, even though not everyone agreed with him.  Well that good feeling lasted for like 30 seconds before the repercussions began. 

In any given moment, you are drawn into a comfortable place, but you know, that it will not last, because BAM you are hit upside the head with some new tragedy.  When tragedy strikes, you are ready for a breath of good news.  You welcome in the good moments, the God moments, when all seems right and good, and then that comfort is discomforted, reminding you of your presence in the world, the broken, troubled, imperfect world.  In that world, we don't always make the right choices, we are torn between thinking of ourselves and thinking of others, torn between what we think is right and what God calls us to do, walking the fine line of simultaneously sinner and saint.  

So, maybe in my everyday life, I'm not hopping on my motorcycle, dealing with local town politics, escaping from lock-down in the hospital and fleeing to Ireland to rescue my kidnapped son...and that has all happened in season 2.  (For the record, I would love to ride a motorcycle on a regular basis and will go to Ireland some day, but the rest of those things are not on my bucket list.)  But everyday we face the challenge of living each day to its fullest.  Sometimes we get it just right, and other times we totally mess it up.  The blessing in all this is knowing that God is with us in the midst of it all, meeting us at the foot of the cross and showing us with grace.

Until next time...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

should be in bed, but...

So facebook sometimes takes away minutes, no who am I kidding, hours of my day.  I am a master of multitasking facebook & either food network or travel channel.

But here's one of the cool things about facebook.  I've had the opportunity to reconnect with people from different times in my past.  I had the opportunity to get to know an exchange student, Thomas, while at seminary.  While he connected with so many of us that year and we said, oh, keep in touch...he had a realistic outlook that it probably wouldn't happen as maybe we would like it to happen.  When people are in similar situations, they feel close and bond, yet when those contexts change, when we are not in created community together, then our relationships will change.

Thomas was so right.  Looking at different friends I have on facebook, that is so true.  It's great to reconnect with people from different times and experiences in my life, but our relationships have changed. There are some relationships that maybe I wish would've turned out differently.  I mean, who doesn't look back and think...what if?  What would my life be like if...?  But that's not how life works, is it?  You could spend your entire life, trying to reach back, to change things, or to just live in the hope that things had gone differently. 

But instead, I've decided to take a different approach.  I'm truly thankful for the times in my life when I had close relationships with many of these people.  Some I am really close to now, and others not so much, but that's okay.   In Eat, Pray, Love one character says to Liz, that person was in your life at that time for a reason...but that time is over.  (Okay, that was a paraphrase, because the book is downstairs, and I don't have the oomph to A) find the book and 2) locate the actual quote.) 

So yes, I am thankful for the times in my life when I have been super close to people, and thankful for the opportunity to reconnect with each of them.  It makes me chuckle when people from different times in my life comment on the same post...(I'm goofy like that)  But yeah, each person, who I have gotten to know for a short or long period of time, has been brought into my life and gifted me with laughter, tears, and lots of memories.

So thanks, God, for my dear friends.  I hope that you keep opening the door to new relationships that let your light shine through others, to lighten my way. 

Until next time...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

the not so very hungry pastor

Breakfast in Loogootee with local colleagues.

Lunch with more colleagues in Jasper. 

An afternoon homebound visit and homemade apple pie (yum!) with ice cream. (two scoops)

I'm not hungry.  At all.

More important, however, from today was my opportunity to feed people. 
There is something so humbling about sharing the Lord's Supper in the presence of someone's home.  There is an intimate feeling, but also one of the presence of the saints surrounding us as we eat and drink.  We get to share in a meal that has been shared with the communion of saints around the world.  It is a small gathering of the larger church.  Folks are thankful for the opportunity to share in communion.  I'm humbled that I can share this meal with them. 

Just one more reminder that God is always with us...guiding us, feeding us, strengthening us and sending us off in service for others. 

Until next time...

Monday, November 8, 2010

oh, I had a good idea earlier...what was it?

As far as facebook status updates and tweets are concerned, so are the topics/ideas/thoughts on my blog.  Sometime during the day I have a clever thought (who am I kidding) more clever thoughts than I can keep track of, but I don't write them or tweet them at that moment and then they are gone. 

So perhaps my idea for today's blog came to me earlier, but may have changed since then. 

A couple thoughts on God at work in the world today:

Firstly, I had another flat tire on Katarina.  :( Luckily, similar to the first one, it happened while putting the air in the tires.  Perhaps I need a bicycle pumps for dummies book.  I was totally ready for the ride, layered up and everything, when I put air in the back tire, pulled off the pump and the valve on the tube as well...there is nothing as sad sounding as a tire, just before a ride saying, "psssssssssssssssss......" as all the remaining air left the tire...oh well, Katarina heads to the bike shop either tomorrow or next week.  I did the planned ride on my hand-me-down mountain bike. (The hills were a bit different with fatter tires and different gear options.)  But I did ride today :)

The other cool moments, or God moments from today came through phone calls.  The first two were from a parishioner.  I am so thankful for the time that we have to build relationships.  That time spent getting to know one another allowed for communication and heartfelt conversation today.  (Thanks, God, for that...because it was amazing to be present for that person...and to hear back from that person later in the day.)

The second phone call was from a friend/colleague who needed some time and space to vent.  I like being there to listen and to love my friends when they need to just let go. 

Today I've been reminded of the ministry of presence, for folks within the parish and folks in my life.  I'm glad to have been there to listen, to laugh and to pray.  I'm also glad for friends who are there for me, too, offering advice, love and prayers.  You all rock!

Please pray for all kids, everywhere....until tomorrow...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

on the road again

First of all, I am so thankful that I did not set all my clocks back before going to bed last night.  The power went out at just about 2:00 this morning, so there would have been resetting again this morning.  It was out for about 4 hours, so I'm also thankful for the extra blanket that kept me cozy. :)

After worship I enjoyed a Thanksgiving dinner (that couldn't be beat) with a hundred or so of my closest friends in Martin County.  I had dinner at the 4-H building with many folks from church and many more from the community.  I'm now in the mood for more pumpkin roll... The post dinner nap was wonderful! 

With the sun out this afternoon, I had planned on going for a walk.  I anticipated the nap, so I was dress and ready to walk before kipping out.  The clothes were not as motivating as I had hoped, though.  I thought, okay, I guess I could walk.  I think post Hilly Hundred I rested, and then, well, it was just tough to get back into the groove.  I've walked a few times, but nothing on a regular basis.  Without a regular exercise routine, I start to not feel too good.  I don't sleep as well, and I definitely do not eat as well.  It's somewhat of an unhealthy spiral.  (Apparently my wellness wheel was out of whack.)

Thanks to my cycling buddy, Carolyn, and her facebook post on an unhealthy exhaust during a run and a reminder that the weather is great and perfect for a ride . . . I put some air in Katarina's tires, filled up the water bottle and hit the road.  The weather was beautiful.  The wind was tricky in some directions, but felt great at my back in other directions. 

Carolyn was definitely the presence of God in my life today.  She was the voice/face/post? of God calling me to get off my butt and get outside.  I'm truly grateful for her motivation.  (She's awesome!)

Until tomorrow, or the next God sighting...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

local is good.

I bought my first Christmas presents today.  I believe this is the earliest I've ever started.  And I'm pretty excited about them, because I was at a one stop shopping event, with lots and lots of different vendors.   Many of the vendors were big business with local folks hosting parties to sell the goods.  Now don't get me wrong, it was a great event...there were door prizes and the opportunity to support local folks within the community. 
My pure joy came from buying gifts that were hand made in Loogootee.  I'm sure my mom and sister will love them!  (After Christmas I'll be able to tell you what they were.) I know I will be making more purchases from that wonderful woman for friends as well as some gifites for me :) Then I'll post details about her work and her products. 

So the other cool part about One Stop Shopping was this cool interaction between a diverse group of women. Young and old, chatting about all sorts of things, even God.  I actually had someone who was sharing a story about how she had gotten back from a 'walk' (probably an Emmaus Walk) and how she was talking with her husband about it, who isn't a Christian.  She was telling him, you can be a Christian and still have a beer.  You don't have to change what you like to do, just let God work through you. 
Amen, sister.

I like it when the preacher hears the gospel message.

In other news, I'm quite looking forward to an extra hour of sleep tonight. 

Friday, November 5, 2010


Not much to reflect upon today, except the relaxation that comes with a day off. 

I was on a mission for new pants...and after stopping at two shops I was disheartened, so I thought, heck, I'll try another day, and I picked up lunch to go (curried chicken salad) & a chocolate chip cranberry muffin .... then I stopped by the thrift store on my way out of town and found two perfect pairs of pants for under $5.  (Less than I paid for lunch & the muffin!)  Pretty sweet deal & I was back home to veg out with Brad Pitt movies for the rest of the day. 

I picked the last of my veggies today, as a true frost is forecast for this evening.

The bowl is full of green tomatoes and jalapeno peppers and there is a large handful of oregano in front.  I think there's a salsa verde in my future...or some spicy fried green tomatoes :)

Thanks be to God for a chance to just relax.  To take time to rest and rejuvenate and make some homemade pizza.  And for the opportunity to pray and mentally prepare for the week to come. 

Thanks to Paula Dean, I have made the tastiest caramelized onions yet.  Her helpful tip, low and slow. The results, onions that were dark & sweet and perfectly contrasted the bite in the goat cheese that topped the pizza. 

All in all, a wonderful day off.  Thanks God.

Until tomorrow...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

nap disorientation.

So, I'm super thankful to wonderful colleagues today.  One who drove and the other navigated, so I was relegated to napping in the back seat on the way home from lunch. And maybe it was the long day, or maybe it was the shiner bock at lunch , or maybe it was just riding in the back of the car that lulled me off to sleep.  Well, I woke up to see the sights of Jasper and when we got back to the church I said my goodbyes, hopped out and got into the truck to drive home.  To my surprise, or shock, even, I had left my cell in my colleague's car!  I was completely amazed that I had done that....(I'm still slightly in shock.) I said, okay God, what's the lesson? 

When I made it home, I had a call from my colleague that she had my cell (one sigh of relief, because, pretty much most of my connections are there) but the garage had been locked, so she couldn't get to the car! I said, no worries, at least the cell is safe, really safe, being in a car in a locked garage and everything.  She didn't want me making the 40 minute drive to her place if we couldn't even get to the phone.  So she'd call when the garage was open. 

I looked at the clock and realized that even if she called back in the next 10 minutes I'd have to rush to her place, pick up the cell, turn around and rush back to make it to the meeting scheduled at 7pm.  So I thought, how important is it?  Really, I can get online at home...I have a land I really need the phone?  I realized I was headed in that direction tomorrow anyway and I could just pick it up in the morning.  I put on the kettle, made a cup of tea and decided to spend my pre-meeting time reading.  My colleague called back, after breaking into her garage to say the cell was now safe inside the house and she apologized for the inconvenience.  I said, no worries, the cell is located (that was my biggest fear, that it had fallen out in a parking lot somewhere) and that I would get it in the morning.

I know God was in all that the kindness of a the space in the afternoon gifted to me not only to nap, but also to sip tea and read....and in the reminder that sometimes I do not need to be connected to the entire world in the palm of my hand. 

If I don't check my email again tonight, that's okay. 
If I miss someone's hilarious status update, it's not the end of the world. 
And maybe my thumbs needed a break from texting. 

I am thankful that it didn't go missing...but that it's missing from my life tonight, that's okay, too.

Until tomorrow...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

becoming more aware...

So now that I've begun blogging (again) I'm noticing God's work in the world more so than I have before.  (Somewhat of an embarrassing confession from a pastor, but it's true.)

Multiple God spottings today. 

This is the one that left me thanking God over and over and over. 
I was headed to Bible study and with just 5 minutes before start time and there was just one person.  I thought, well, there are at least 2 people who told me they wouldn't be here...but some others should show....and then three others showed up.  We were talking and greeting one another when another couple walked in.  It was their first time at Wednesday evening Bible Study...and we welcomed them with open arms.  They shared that they had been attending a Wednesday evening Bible study at a church that is closer to their home, but tonight that study was at the local nursing home, so they decided to join us.  And what a night for it, tonight's scripture opened conversations about seeing outside of our own lives.  When we do that, no matter what stage of life we are in, God's light shines through us and draws out God's light in others around us.  That was so hard for me say as I looked around the table and saw a woman who had breast cancer and still has leukemia, sitting next to a couple with a daughter recently diagnosed with leukemia, and next to them was a couple who had just lost a mother/mother-in-law.

I hope that the new couple (who are members of the congregation) felt the love and support from those who surrounded them.  One question asked how do we, as a congregation, salt the earth/community/those around us.  A participant said, do we do enough?  And the newer couple replied, yes, we've received all sorts of gifts, cards and financial support. 

Through different conversations, smiles shined through and tears were shed and wiped away.  God is at work though each and everyone of us...even when we don't think we've got anything to give.  I give thanks to God for bringing that group to Bible Study tonight...for the open, honest conversation, for the chances to laugh and the opportunity to shed tears.  There was love in that room...I pray that everyone felt God working through them.  

I also saw God at work in the young boy in front of me at the grocery store this evening...he saw I only had two things and offered to let me go in front of him.  I thanked him, but since he only had two things I said he should go...first.   (and sometimes it's the little moments)

Until tomorrow...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

tears of joy and sorrow?

I can't help but cry sometimes. 

I have the opportunity to be with people during challenging, sad and difficult times.  So I sat with an older couple today that within the last year and a half has become homebound.  They often talk about how much they enjoy visits and especially ones with home communion.  As we prayed before we shared the meal I asked them if there was anything particular or special that we could pray for.  The husband, whose Alzheimer's seems to get worse as the weeks pass, used to tell stories and jokes to no end.  Now he sleeps most of the day, and usually most of my visit.  As we gathered together to pray and I asked if there was anything special...he paused and said, pray for people who don't get out, for those who can't go like they used to.  (tears come to my eyes as I think of him speaking earlier today...) so often when I ask people who or what we should pray for, they most often lift up amazing is that?  That no matter what we are facing, God still works through us and helps us to see beyond our own little world to see the bigger picture. 

Today we prayed for all the sick and all the homebound, especially the couple I with whom I prayed.  We shared the Lord's Supper..we smiled, cried and hugged.  God is with and was with that couple today. 

I am blessed that God ministers to me through the people I'm called to serve. 

Until tomorrow...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bad Girls gone good.

Great conversations with many wonderful different women today.

Today during Bad Girls Bible study we were discussing visiting home-bound members...and one woman said, hey, that would be a great thing for the women's group to do.  We could take turns visiting and bringing communion to people.  Most definitely, I said.  God's work, our hands...naming and claiming the gifts God has given us to minister to others. 

We've had this once a month lunchtime Bible study for just about a year now.  I've either hosted the ladies for lunch at my house or from time to time we got out for a bite to eat at the local cafe.  I love the fellowship that happens around the dining room table, the laughter, the tears and the prayers.  As we finished up today, I asked each of them to promise to pray for each other...I'm sure they/we already do that, but I thought, let's say it out loud.  So we prayed and as people departed one woman said, well, would you all come to my house next month?   I'd have to figure out what to fix, but would that be okay?  Oh yeah, it would!  Then another woman said, well, how about my house the next month?  This woman was attending for the first time today, and has just recently returned to frequent worship with her husband.  How wonderful that she joined us to and is ready to host this group, already.  God is definitely up to something! 

Until tomorrow...