Advent One – Sunday

 

Isaiah 1:2-9.

In this time of turmoil in our country, when the news brings fresh horrors and dashed hopes every day, I find myself wondering whether there is any hope. The images of starvation and famine in lands near and far, the reports of greed and disregard for others during the Black Friday feeding frenzy, the intransigence of both sides of the government as the country staggers towards economic ruin – all of these things make me say, “How long must we endure?”

And then this scripture pops up in the lectionary, begging me to remember that it was ever thus. During the time of exile, the Israelites lived in the same kind of “confusion, disappointment, and dissention” that we find ourselves in today. This passage tells us that our days are numbered. The doomsayers point to the Mayans and say that the end is near.

We must keep alert, and stay ready. We must continue to wait for the savior who is coming.

We must hold on to Hope!

Spiritual Disciplines

On Saturday, I took a course on Spiritual Disciplines from Tracy Brown. We explored several disciplines and learned a process for developing our own practices to follow.

I yearn for more corporate practice of spiritual disciplines, but I understand there’s not much history for that in the Presbyterian Church. We are often so focused on mission, that we neglect our inner life.

The main thing I learned on Saturday was anything done mindfully and regularly that we do to further our spiritual growth can be a spiritual discipline. So social action can be a spiritual discipline. My coming mission to use my talents with Interfaith Housing Coalition in helping teach budgeting to their clients is a spiritual discipline if I practice it mindfully and regularly.

Yesterday, Blair’s sermon was about our “call.” Again, I heard that any vocation done prayfully and intentionally can be an effective call to discipleship.

Then, this morning, I read this piece on conscious habits as a way of spiritual development.

I figure any time the Holy Spirit hits me over the head with something three times in three days, it’s something I need to learn.

Amen!

My grandmother used to have a million little poems and sayings that she used to underline the lessons she taught us. I have no idea who wrote this little poem, but it was one of her favorites.

Too Tired To Pray

 

She thought, when night had finally ended day,

“Dear Lord, tonight I am too tired to pray,”

And wearily she closed her eyes in sleep,

Slipping far into the shadowed deep.

 

Up in Heaven the dear Lord heard and smiled.

“Today she soothed a little, crying child.

She stopped her work to take old Ella Kloop

A fragrant, warming bowl of her good soup.

Her house was orderly, her garden tended.

Her children fed, their clothes all clean and mended.

Her husband, home from work, found happiness

And quiet peace in her deep gentleness.”

 

The dear Lord smiled again. “Too tired to pray?

Her hands have offered prayers of love all day!”

 

A Plot Against Me

There must be a plot against getting the next post up and running. I had full intentions of writing something incredibly pithy and important today, but, once again, life got in the way.

First, the cleaning ladies were scheduled to come between 12 and 1 o’clock. At 1:10 I got a call saying they were going to be 15 minutes late. Big Al and I had put off eating lunch because we didn’t want to get in their way, so we went ahead and started to eat. They turned up about 5 minutes to 2:00.

Okay – so I knew I couldn’t concentrate on the post until after they had left and the noise of the vacuum had diminished (at least a little). So I decided to run up to the Toyota place and get the oil changed, and come back and write the post as soon as I got home.

They changed the oil and rotated the tires, and then came to tell me there was a leak in the water pump. It was under warranty, so it wouldn’t cost me anything for them to change it out, but it would take longer.

Consequently, I didn’t get home until almost 6 p.m., and I really am out of the humor for writing that post. I want it to be a good one, so you’ll have to wait a little longer. I have a bookkeeping job tomorrow morning, and a conference on Spiritual Discipline all day Saturday, so it looks like it will be Monday before I will get started on Down We Go. (Of course, I can’t be expected to write anything on Sunday afternoon with some of the last of the football for the year on.)

I promise I’ll get started on it one of these days…

Expecting the Word – Advent One – Monday

My Advent series this year will follow the Words Matter Advent study from the National Council of Churches. Download the whole booklet if you’d like, and follow along with the writings for each day. I’d love to discuss them with you. Also, here is a link to the Advent readings from the Inclusive Bible. I prefer the more inclusive language here, than the NRSV texts used in the study booklet (be sure to read the note on page 6).

Isaiah 64:1-9.

The study today reminds me that Advent is a time of endings and a time of new beginnings. I hope and pray that it will be that way for Big Al and me. We are approaching the end of two years of liminal living – the decision made to move to our (hopefully) final location after a nomadic life of relocation every couple of years. We’ve been almost two years rattling around in our house with minimal possessions – not wanting to buy new “stuff” because it will just cost us money to move it to Tacoma. We’ve found out just how little “things” matter to us – although there is still some angst when I can’t host Thanksgiving dinner one more year because we don’t have a decent-sized table, or enough plates, or even enough chairs for folks to sit on. I feel like our life has already been “rent asunder” like the mountains in Isaiah, and we’re waiting in the rubble for the potter to put us back together.

I’ve also reached the end of my time on session at Preston Hollow. The final meeting is tonight, and all the out-going elders are supposed to say a little bit about what their time on session has meant to them. For me it was a time to grow outside the boundaries of the local church. I was able to attend Presbytery meetings, and through the three years, I got to vote on four initiatives from General Assembly, a new General Presbyter, and countless church plantings, church closings, new calls, mission opportunities, and all the busy-ness of this wonderful denomination of ours. I also was able to attend several conferences where I met and got to know some amazing people in the Emerging church. I met Bryan McLaren, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Margaret Aymer Oget, Carol Howard Merritt, Bryan Merritt, Phil and Stephanie Shephard, and many more who are “being church” in small, out-of-the-way places around the country – bringing love to the least, the last, and the lost. I’ve also been able to rub elbows, virtually, with many others including Cynthia Bolbach, and Bruce Reyes-Chow. My proudest accomplishment was to be involved in the founding of Presbyterian Women Interest Group on Facebook, which has grown in six months from six people with an idea to over 450 women connecting, studying, and generally working for the kingdom of God in cyber-space.

The hope that I see in these Advent texts is definitely for a reshaping of my life, the church, and the world.

Expecting the Word – Advent One – Sunday

My Advent series this year will follow the Words Matter Advent study from the National Council of Churches. Download the whole booklet if you’d like, and follow along with the writings for each day. I’d love to discuss them with you. Also, here is a link to the Advent readings from the Inclusive Bible. I prefer the more inclusive language here, than the NRSV texts used in the study booklet (be sure to read the note on page 6).

Isaiah 64:1-9.

In this time of turmoil in our country, when the news brings fresh horrors and dashed hopes every day, I find myself wondering whether there is any hope. The pictures from the police brutality against the Occupiers, the rumors of conspiracy between governmental bodies to deny the protestors of their basic freedoms to peaceably assemble, and to speak what is on their hearts and minds, the images of starvation and famine in lands near and far, the reports of greed and disregard for others during the Black Friday feeding frenzy – all of these things make me say, “How long must we endure?”

And then this scripture pops up in the lectionary, begging me to remember that it was ever thus. During the time of exile, the Israelites lived in the same kind of “confusion, disappointment, and dissention” that we find ourselves in today. As the writer in our study reminds us, clay – the very stuff of our creation – is decomposed rock. The mountains must break apart for God, the potter, to craft something beautiful, and hopeful from them. If we are “unclean and soiled” we can, have been, and will be made clean and whole by God.

It’s tough for those of us in the midst of the tearing down of mountains – the burning of the brushwood – to remember that God is involved in all the messiness of our lives, shaping us into new creations in accordance with the plan for the redemption of the world.

I’m working on being more intentional and deliberate about “Praying in Color” as a spiritual discipline during this Advent season. I hope to find new messages and images of God’s self in my life.

Session Tonight

I have a Session meeting tonight, so I’ve spent the afternoon remembering the Four Cornerstones of Emerging Christianity conference that I went to the beginning of the month.

We’re supposed to be setting goals for the coming year. I hope we have had enough discernment to make them meaningful.

Here’s what I’m going to be saying.

Report on Four Cornerstones of Emerging Christianity Conference

  • Friday evening there were three presenters:
  • Susanne Stabile
    • Founder (with her husband) of Life in the Trinity Ministry (sponsor)
    • Talks about understanding that different people are led to Christianity in different ways (think Myers-Briggs personality types)
  • Brian McLaren
    • Internationally renowned speaker on innovative Christian thought.
  • Nadia Bolz-Weber
    • The founder of House for All Sinners and Saints, a non-traditional church in Denver, CO
    • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
    • House is “open and affirming” – homeless, ex-addicts, LGBT, etc.
    • The Church has three jobs
      • Maintain the liturgy
      • Proclaim forgiveness
      • Care for the least, last & lost
    • It is not about the numbers, it’s the content.
    • The church needs to be ecologically stable.
      • Church has bought into the corporate culture
      • The church needs to be recalibrated
      • We need to bring the laity up to the level of the pastors.
  • There are four cornerstones breakout sessions
  • Community (via Al Watters)
    • The church is living in liminal space – before anything can be created something must die.
    • When in liminal space you can either go forward, backwards, or wait.
    • You can only start with what you have.
    • You’ve got to ask yourself and others are they followers of Christ or just fans.
    • Pastors need to be transparent and show their flaws.
    • We can not create meaning but we must discover it.
    • You can’t accommodate every ego but must work within a given framework.
    • You can’t build church community individually.
  • Social Justice (via Al Watters and Cindy Finley)
    • Instructor read from Zechariah 7:9 and 10. “Didn’t I tell them, ‘thus says Yhwh: Administer true justice; show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widowed or the orphaned, the resident alien or the poor and do not plot evil against one another'”
    • List injustices in the community – have passion  – determine how to work for justice.
    • Justice is a long-term commitment
    • Once a judgment is made to implement justice  you must reconcile the team, meetings, and the church as a whole.
    • Having problems forming the right question or seeing what it might look like, you can get with the Right Question Institute in Mass.
  • Spiritual Disciplines
    • The current BIG buzz words are Spiritual, but not Religious
      • Can the church explain how doing God and doing church are related?
      • Can it create a community that is genuinely grounded in those priorities?
      • Can it draw effectively on its inheritance?
    • It’s not about the numbers – the Dave test.
    • Until our churches take time for contemplation and discernment, we will keep on doing everything just as we always have.
    • “A contemplative practice is any act, habitually entered into with your whole heart, as a way of awakening, deepening and sustaining a contemplative experience of the inherent holiness of the present moment.”
    • EPIC worship
  • The Historical Jesus (I didn’t attend, and don’t have any feedback from this session.)

It should be interesting tonight.