Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!!

The waiting is over. Let us all rejoice! Merry Christmas to all, and may this season be filled with much joy and many blessings for each and everyone who happens to read this!!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Controlled Waiting

Something interesting happened when our culture moved from an agrarian society to an industrial culture. It got even worse as it became a technological age. Somewhere in there we lost the ability to wait. We expect everything instantly. It has also created this sense, this desire to be in control.

One of the great things the baby Jesus teaches us is that we are NOT in control. Jesus, God's very own son, was not totally in control. Do you remember the prayer he prayed as he was about to be betrayed? "Lord take this cup from me, but not my will but thy will be done." Even for Jesus' life God was in control. So not being in control simply becomes a part of our human condition, and waiting becomes a spiritual activity, a holy thing.

Then Henri Nouwen takes it another notch higher, when in our devotional yesterday he writes, "The spirituality of waiting is not simply our waiting for God. It is also participating in God's own waiting for us and in that way coming to share in the deepest love, which is God's love."

So as Christmas day creeps ever closer we are reminded that we are NOT in control, and so we wait with God and experience God's love.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Who Loves Ya Baby?

One year my dad got a package of dried apricots from his family and he kindly expressed how much he liked them. For about the next 30 years my dad got dried apricots from his mother for Christmas and his birthday. I'm pretty confident that for all of these years that I've known my dad he hasn't been a huge fan of them.

This past year my wife did her internship project with a clever analogy to frogs. Over the past six months she has gotten a lot of frog themed gifts. We expect that as she wraps up her internship she'll get a number of frogs as going away/thank you gifts. It's the connection people have made with her, and it is a wonderful sentiment that people have gone out and found these wonderfully cute frog items. Truth be told, I don't know that Dawn is much of a fan of frogs. (I like them a lot so I will make sure they have a wonderful place in our home.)

This time of year many of us will receive similar sorts of gifts. We will get gifts from co-workers, distant college roommates, and family members we haven't seen since last year. Their intentions will be good, but they just don't know us well enough to give the "perfect" gift. The truth is, who really does know us that well?

Take a look at Psalm 139... I think God knows us that well, especially when you look at those first few verses. God knows when I sit down and stand up. God knows my thoughts, my words even before they come out of my mouth. Consequently God knows the perfect gift to give to me. God knows exactly what I need this Christmas. I need a savior, and that's exactly what God has given all of us.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Patient Waiting

First of all, to those "regulars" thank you for your patience in sticking with me through this busy time of year. With all of the other writing that I'm doing this time of year (sermons, newsletter, annual report, etc.) the time and thoughts for my blog have been a bit fewer and further in between.

This year the Advent Devotional that we got for the congregation is a collection of writings from Henri Nouwen. Last week there were a couple of neat entries I would like to share. First he wrote, "Patient living means to live actively in the present and wait there." So often we think of patience as a passive thing, so I love this notion of it being active. Then yesterday's entry read:

The waiting of the Advent figures in the first chapters of Luke's Gospel is not a passive waiting. They are waiting very actively. They know that what they are waiting for is growing from the ground on which they are standing. Right here is a secret for us about waiting. If we wait in the conviction that a seed has been planted and that something has already begun, it changes the way we wait. Active waiting implies being fully present to the moment with the conviction that something is happening where we are and that we want to be present to it. A waiting person is someone who is present to the moment, believing that this moment is the moment.

I love that gardening image. When a seed is planted in the spring all you can really do is wait for it to grow. The seed has to do the work. Yet, because you know that a seed is planted in that particular location there are things you do like water it and pick the weeds that might strangle it. Yet all you can do is wait, but it is an active, patient waiting. Sure there is an anticipation of the future, but you are also forced to live in the moment. That, then, is how we are called to live in our lives: actively, patiently living in the moment.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Confirmation Follow-Up

Some of you might recall that I shared a "rant" about confirmation last week. If you missed it, or want a reminder scroll down, or click here. I wanted to briefly follow-up with an idea I had about a new way of doing confirmation.

I would like to see a more organic process to doing confirmation. What I am envisioning is something closer to how we do marriages in the church. When a couple is ready to get married they contact the church, we ask them to fill out an assessment that guides pre-marital counseling and when that is done they get married. What if we did confirmation similarly? When a student feels like they might want to confirm their faith, affirm their baptism, they (or their family) contacts the church and we give them an assessment that would give us an idea where they are at spiritually. Using the results of the assessment the student will follow a series of discussions with an adult mentor. At the end of the mentoring process the student would sit down with the pastor (or other assigned congregation leader) to assess that the student really wanted to do this. In this sense a third grader or a tenth grader could enter the process and be confirmed. It could be as long or as short as needed for the student. It could be used with new member groups, or other places in the congregation as well if desired.

It would be a new way of thinking about confirmation, but I think it has some potential. What do you think of the idea? (assuming I explained it clear enough) Chew on it a while and share your thoughts. Next week I'll share with you what I see as the most glaring concerns about my idea. (Hey, no idea is perfect. There are always shortfalls in these kinds of things. If I had the perfect solution I would be rich and ready to retire about now.)


This can be a touch financial time of year. There is all kinds of pressure to spend extravagant amounts of money. Doesn't it almost feel like the patriotic thing to do, a societal obligation if you will. Nathan Dungan has a great article (here) about how to combat this hyper-spending temptation this time of year on his website, Share Save Spend. In fact, while you're there take a look around the website as there are numerous different items to help us rethink how we use our money.

A Take on Advent

At text study last week we were talking about this whole theme of "being prepared" of "being ready" that runs throughout Advent. In light of the fact that part of what we're getting ready for is the birth of the baby Jesus (along with getting ready for the second coming, but we'll brush past that for now) I thought my pastor friend's thought was awesome. She said something to the effect of, "It's kind of like being pregnant. You don't know exactly when the baby is going to come. So you can take that and panic or you can take that as a great relief because it's not up to you."

We don't know when Jesus will return, but we know that Jesus promised us that. We can take that as a sign that we need to start to scurry around and make sure we do certain things? We also can make the choice to take this promise as a sign that it's not up to us, there is nothing we can do, that it is all up to God. To misquote Pastor Dave from his sermon yesterday, "Being ready is knowing WHO we are preparing for, WHO we are expecting."