Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year

I am looking forward to the turn of the calendar from 2008 to 2009 for many reasons. 

One simple reason is...a friend gave me a new calendar and I can't wait to read what "the office" saying is for January 2, 2009. 
In case you are curious, the January 1 saying comes from Michael about being the "top dog in a fairly large pond".

The year 2009 means I am one year closer to graduation for my master's degree. And trust me, that is a very good reason to look forward to the turn of the calendar. 

Another reason is the new year always holds all these new possibilities. Maybe the old year had some disappointments, however the new year has not disappointed anyone yet. Don't get me wrong, 2008 was a good year. Yet, along with the joys there always are some tears.  
This upcoming year only has joy in my mind. I guess I am a "glass 1/2 full" kind of person. The older I get the more open I am to the unknown. 
Okay, for those of you laughing so hard you are falling off your chair...I mean that I do much better not knowing what is ahead. 

Andy preached a couple weeks ago about the angel saying to the shepherd "Do not fear". He pointed out that for some of us that is all we need to hear from the Christmas story. This year, I needed to hear the angel's proclamation to the shepherds.
Fear can trap us into needing to know the next move. For me, fear has a lot to do with a need for control. As long as I know what is ahead, I can in some way prepare and it is less scary. However, there is really no way to know what is ahead at all times. We just cannot manipulate our days to that degree. 
I know I am not alone - I know many of you out there. This is a safe place to proclaim the fact  - we are recovering control freaks!

I am claiming the "recovering" part of the title because for 2009 I am holding no expectations (well, okay only a few). I am going to embrace the unknown of this next year (well, okay reach my hand out). Remember, it is all about baby steps. 

See you in 2009 and all the new year holds. May we laugh and yes at times, cry together in the next year.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas isn't Christmas until...

It is Christmas day. I just finished some left over pasta from my dinner Christmas Eve (thanks Barth). I am now eating some banana bread (thank Martha Stewart-Peck) and sipping some hot cider (thanks Erin Bryan). I am going to see Marley and Me with some friends later. 

It's Christmas day. How are we suppose to spend Christmas? What is Christmas suppose to look like? What is the day suppose to feel like? What is Christmas?
A lot of questions, not so many answers.

It's Christmas day.
I'm at my computer because I am attempting to work on my sermon for Sunday (don't feel bad, I am doing it now so I can be free on Saturday to spend with my family). 
The fact is - I am struggling to get to the real core of what I want to say.
The sermon is about Jesus (no surprises there). 
The sermon is also about Simeon and Anna in the gospel of Luke. They didn't miss Jesus, they didn't miss Jesus' purpose. They got what Christmas was suppose to be? Do we?

It's Christmas day.
I am very aware this Christmas of the loneliness in hearts this time of year. 
I held a widow's hand recently attempting to console her as she struggled with her first Christmas without her husband after 50 something years.
I am aware of divorced parents spending this Christmas alone because it is the off holiday for custody. 
I am aware of families attempting to make the best of the day in the midst of financial struggles. 
I am just aware of the heartache in the world today.

It is Christmas day, what is it suppose to look like?
Did Jesus mean to make a one night appearance where people scurry around in preparation and the anticipation is incredibly high and then it is over?
No, I think Jesus came - Emmanuel "God with us" because of hope.
The hope of the Christmas story is to be a part of each moment all year long. 
Nativity sets are great. However, Jesus did not stay a baby.
Jesus came to bring salvation, to bring hope to a broken world. The hope is not just for today, but each day. 

It's Christmas day.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Isn't that just like God?

I have been pastoring. No, I have not been out in the field watching my flock by night. That is a pasture. This is about being a pastor. Gotta it?

I have been talking with someone who is struggling with life. Nothing deep or even different then what life hands each of us every once in awhile. Just life. 
I like when God gives me words that surpass any wisdom I would ever think of having at a moment and I get to pass those profound thoughts on to another. That is pastoring (no, it is not a real verb - but I like the word anyway). Give me a break, I am not writing a paper for my philosophy class, just putting some words down on a blog...don't get distracted by my made up words. Stay focused.

The interesting aspect of this moment is the fact it took place over facebook. Yea, the internet community that carries advertisements for teeth whitening and Oprah's new diet ideas. God used this crazy "devil filled" internet so I could reach out to someone hours away and say, "hey, I hear you and I understand". 

Isn't that just like God? Yea, God used a burning bush with Moses. God used a talking mule with Balaam. And God used a pregnant teenager (that I still believe was a virgin) to bring a savior into this world. Don't underestimate God to use about anything to remind humanity that their creator is still well aware of their needs and loves them passionately.

Isn't that just like God?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Its A Wonderful Life

My favorite Christmas movie is "It's A Wonderful Life". At least once a season I watch the happenings of that "ole broken down Building and Loan". I had my appointment with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed this past Monday night. 

I posted my last final for the semester and plopped in the recliner to reintroduce myself to the Frank Capra classic.
It never fails - I got nervous when I knew George is going to be getting in trouble and I still wish Uncle Billy wasn't such a flake. Somehow he should know the money is in the newspaper. And what is with Potter being such a jerk! 
Of course, it doesn't matter how many times I have seen the movie, I still cry at the end. 

However, this year I watched the movie with a little philosophy of religion (one of my last semester classes) on my mind. The most interesting topic this past semester was the idea of what makes up someone. Is it our physical being or our soul? As a Christian, I always thought soul right off, without any more discussion. However, a new option was given this past semester, what about our relationships? The idea that the relationships in our lives make us who we are intrigued me.
In the movie George was still physically present after Clarence grants his wish of "never being born". Obviously his soul was still around. However, did he really exist? Yes, he interacted with the world now known as Pottersville. Yet, he was "missing" his life.
What was missing for George that finally drove him to want his wonderful life back? 
His relationships. His wife Mary and his children. 

What makes me cry every year? It's not the soul part of George - when we see the presence of God working in his life through Clarence (though that is a nice part of the movie). 
It's not the physical aspect - when George's lip starts bleeding again. Though I get excited right along with George when he starts screaming "my mouths bleeding, Ernie, my mouths bleeding". And don't forget Zuzu's petals. 
No, I completely lose it and break out the tissues when Uncle Billy comes in with the basket. 
When all of George's relationships pile into his crowded living room you know why Clarence gets his wings.
So, I don't know how I did on my philosophy final. But it is a wonderful life. 

Merry Christmas, Mr Potter!