Thursday, December 25, 2008

12 Days, T-36 Hours

It is early Christmas morning. Christmas Eve candlelight is still ringing in my ears. Singing “Silent Night” in candlelight with an accappella verse thrown in is a moving event! All the Christmas preparations are complete, or they don’t matter anymore. Christmas is here! The tiny Savior is born! And with Him a great hope!

The preparations for the 12 Days of Christmas prayer are also complete, or they don’t matter anymore. The schedule has been laid out, the location set, and a list of leaders prepared. My name is on that list too many times, but that is the way it is.

I’m a bit nervous about how this project will play out, but not overly so. It was never intended to be my project anyway; but His. If this were all mine, I would have bailed long ago! There has been way too much uncertainty in this for my taste. My previous post talks about the walk. But each step has been in the Lord’s hands and everything has fallen in place.

There is nothing left to do but show up and see what He has in store for us.

And that has been the point of this project, the anticipation of Jesus’ arrival and our preparation to receive Him. We’re supposed to make that preparation before Christmas during the Advent season. But, as usual, we humans have heaped a lot of other meanings and expectations on top of that and created a time of great stress for ourselves.

The intent is to take the time “after” to do what we should have done “before”. But it’s not really “after”? There is an actual tradition of the 12 days of Christmas beyond the partridge song. In my tradition, the period of time between Jesus’ birth and when the Wise Men arrived. Can you imagine how the Christmas story really played out? In today’s world there is very little that captures our attention for 12 days…

Emmanuel, God with us. Joy to the World!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Presbyterian Crossroads

This is a devotional written for one of the 12 Days of Christmas Prayer described in earlier posts. Come join us at Faith church 12/26-1/6!

The Mastercard Commercial I’d like to see:
(Jim Moss, Presbyterian minister, South Carolina)

Amount spent each year in Europe and the United
States on pet food: $17 billion

Cost per year to achieve basic
health and nutrition for the entire world: $13 billion

Amount spent
on perfumes each year: $12 billion

Clean water for all the world:
$9 billion

Amount spent on cosmetics in the US: $8

Basic education for the world’s children: $6

Total amount the US spends on Christmas each year: $450
billion (or 16 years worth of food, water, and education for the

Initial cost of the US Government bailout of failing
financial institutions: $700 billion (or 25 years worth of food, water, and
education for the world)

Coming to grips with the alarming
disconnects of our consumerist society: Priceless

I don’t actually know a lot about the nuances of the Presbyterian Church and I haven’t really paid attention to its particular controversies. (All churches have their own set of controversies.) Two things have always struck me about the Presbyterian Church however. One, the Presbyterian Church prides itself on social justice issues. Two, the Presbyterian Church is a more cerebral church.

I guess at this point I need to start using “PCUSA” to be concise in meaning; and typing.

When you heard the statistics I used earlier I bet you were thinking a number of things. Like, “Why is this happening?” Or, “Why doesn’t someone do something?” Or, “How can I help?” But I bet you didn’t really think about why you should help? That, to me, is one of the things that puts the PCUSA at a unique crossroad in the diverse family of people and denominations that make up Christ’s church. PCUSA attracts folks that are socially conscious, altruistically want to help, and don’t understand why this world is so messed up. But PCUSA has the charter to usher those folks into the understanding that the world is messed up or “fallen” because of our separation from God. The understanding that God has a plan and that plan calls for involvement in social justice, not for social justice’s sake but as an expression of Christ’s compassion. Action that leads not only to mortal relief but more importantly to life everlasting!

I think its PCUSA’s cerebral nature that is one of those things that brings it closer to the doorway between the world and God’s Kingdom. It is a natural transition, a welcoming portal, and PCUSA has a 300 year history of doing it well. But PCUSA is at another crossroad. It, like so many other denominations in the US, is declining. In many ways I feel it’s the academic rigor that is causing internal scholastic debate and an inflexibility that is hurting the calling of the church. We aren’t fire & brimstone but we have our own versions of rigid thinking. PCUSA is at the crossroad of trying to figure out how to soften the barriers that keep folks from getting to the solid core; Christ.

The typical worldly response to trouble is to tighten up to regain control. But that can have negative effects. The internet is full of folks talking about splitting off of PCUSA. It’s also full of folks that are committed to the PCUSA but see the need for changes in focus. I believe much of the Missional church movement comes as a response to this. And we’ve seen this issue in our own congregation.

The most biblical response to being at a crossroad is to pray. Pray for discernment of God’s will for PCUSA and Faith church. Pray for the guiding presence of the Holy Spirit in these times of transition. Pray for a church that embraces action as an expression of Christ’s compassion.

Let us pray…

Thursday, December 11, 2008

WHES Christmas Program

If you didn't show up for the WHES Christmas PTA meeting & Christmas program you missed a lot of polite children, some adorable little snowmen performers, a wonderful rendition of "The Blitzen Boogey", and some great cookies! Oh yes, you also missed one of Faith's own playing a wonderful Santa! (It was not me even though I have the "stature" for the part. )

Faith's primary job was to provide the cookie snacks and man the refreshment table after the program. And there were ample cookies! And good ones too! There was even enough to leave some in the teachers lounge for the next day! (Ms. Johnson wanted them in the Office. I'm not sure who won?) We also dropped off another bunch of books that Faith collected. Libba and Bob had everything under complete control! My biggest job was to lay down napkins so Marilyn could load them with cookies. Tough job...whew! Thank you! Thank you, for everyone that contributed!!!

It was also a time to connect with our partners. A number of us finally got to put faces with names for folks like: Barbara Johnson - Principal, Jean Oakle - Director of Parent Initiative Second Mile, Mary McDowel - Parent Initiative Second Mile, and Darlene Mann - PTA President. It was also time to meet and mingle with the parents and students. We could have used a few more folks that have that "mingle" personality but Kerry and the Youth did a wonderful job! But even for those of us like me that are more socially challenged, it was still a wonderful chance to exchange hellos and smiles with many and rachet up that comfort level.

We also shared some paint swatches to pick a color for our in-the-works project of fixing up the Parent Portable. Check-in with Libba if you're interested in helping out.

Kerry took some phone video that she will load on the youth website so keep checking! You may even be able to figure out who the Secret Santa was?!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

12 Days Check-in

This has been an interesting walk so far!

You get the kernel of an idea and you show it to some folks and what do you get? “That’s a great idea! I’m behind you!” Then nothing…

OK Lord what do I do now?

So He gives you a few ideas and you piece together a little more to help get the idea across. You spread the net a little wider to see if you can generate any momentum and get some ideas flowing. “That’s a great idea!” “I’ll help any way I can, just let me know.” “I’ll be out of town.” You do get some more encouragement but not a lot of concrete help. It’s starting to look like it will be all on your shoulders or nothing. It’s starting to sound like my plan not God’s?

OK Lord what do I do now? How do I know if it’s a bad idea? Or not time? Or just move forward in faith?

So you put together an announcement to have sent to the whole congregation; still with a lot of holes. You send it to some folks for review first. “You need more information..” Well, you’re at the end of your rope and are just about to pack it in. But you wake up with the right thing to add, and then find that someone has sent you an email with some help too!

OK Lord, I have a congregational announcement out there that is incomplete and begging for input. What if no one signs up? It’s in your hands now.

(In the meantime, the pressures of a looming deadline at work as well as your own preparations for the holidays are weighing heavy!)

On the way to work listening to 91.3 you hear three songs that could easily provide the devotion for three of the topics! A backup plan!

And that is where we are now…still walking…

I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty here, or singling anyone out, and I’m not twisting arms. I myself feel convicted here because I see myself in a lot of those responses! It’s sometimes a relief that I have an out because of a prior commitment. I would like to help but don’t know how. I’m too busy to even think about that.

But I am getting a tiny glimpse of the Kingdom! You’ve heard the phrase “Engage brain before running mouth”? Well that simple glimpse is “Talk with God before answering.”

Sorry if this offends anyone. That is not the intent. I’m just reporting some insights into human nature that I’ve seen, but more importantly, some insights into how God works and his plan.

Keep walking!