Monday, December 29, 2008

Monday Meander December 29, 2008 It finally happened! “Meander” was the word of the day on Miriam-Webster’s word of the day (OK, laugh if you want but what did YOU get excited about today?) Meaning 1 : to follow a winding or intricate course 2 : to wander aimlessly or casually without urgent destination : ramble Hmmm, there’s a crucial difference between those two, isn’t there? One implies an aspect of guidance or purpose. A course is followed or formed. The other could be utterly chaotic. Either way, there’s no way to meander quickly. It’s a sabbathing kind of activity that requires one to slow down while risking getting lost or trusting being found. …"Meander," which comes from Greek "Maiandros," an old name for a river in Asia Minor, implies a winding course and lazy movement, and it is still sometimes associated with rivers (as in, "the river meandered through the town"). "Meander" can also be used as a noun meaning "a winding path." If one never risked getting lost, played it safe, stuck to the straight and narrow, you’d miss a lot of wonderful discoveries in life. At the same time, a certain amount of shape and form to the journey are assumed even if not always noticed. We are provided with ground to walk on, air to breathe, one foot to put in front of the other (or wheels to turn….) that facilitate movement’s purpose. I wonder if Mary and Joseph felt a little lost as they expanded their reasonably simple lives to include Jesus? Perhaps the course wasn’t clear for many years, when it was possible to look back over a lifetime. But would the world be like if they hadn’t put one foot after the other into the great unknown God surrounded them with? May you find yourself trusting the Holy Spirit to wander with you as you practice the unfolding purpose of living in Christ this year. To read about the original Christmas wanderers check out Matthew chapter 2. In Joy, Karen

Monday, December 22, 2008

Monday Meander In a re-run of the popular drama, “House,” Dr. House’ boss and his best friend conspire to trick him into thinking he was wrong about a diagnosis. They think that if the arrogant genius learns a lesson in humility, he may have an epiphany about his character. Over the centuries, many human messes have been explained as God’s attempt to teach us a lesson. There’s an alternative that seems more in keeping with God’s character; that God works with us to create something wonderful out of the messes we make for ourselves. Christmas is God’s decision to do that in such an odd way that it just might work. By coming in Jesus, God invades the tiniest openings in our human armor sneaking in with a baby’s soft touch and smell, a quiet everyday healing, an outstretched hand offering to be a brother to one who has no family. Could cleaning up the messes we make really be as simple as that? Inwardoutward.org shared this from a favorite poet’s journal last week: I wonder whether it is possible at nearly 60 to change oneself radically. Can I learn to control resentment and hostility, the ambivalence, born somewhere far below the conscious level? If I cannot, I shall lose the person I love. There is nothing to be done but go ahead with life moment by moment and hour by hour---put out birdseed, tidy the rooms, try to create order and peace around me even if I cannot achieve it inside me. Now at 10:30 there is such radiant light outside that the house feels dark. I look through the hall into the cozy room, all in darkness, right through to the window at the end, and a transparent sheaf of golden and green leaves. And here in my study the sunlight is that autumn white, so clear, it calls for an inward act to match it . . . clarify, clarify. ----May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude Redemption comes down to the simple choices we make in moments of clarity. It may be clarity s to the affect our business choices make on others. It may be a choice to notice someone standing alone and invite them into the circle of conversation. The choice may be as simple as investing equal moments practicing what Jesus taught as we enjoy traditions that have sprung up around his birth. If the humble approach works for God, it seems certain to lead to betters things for those made in God’s image. In Joy, Karen Keeping in Touch: *Do you have a neighbor you can call to check in with? Whether it’s to see how they’re making out with the recent snow or just to say hi, make today the day! *Christmas Eve services will be Wednesday at 7:00 PM (Torsey Church-bring a favorite family candle) and 11:00 PM (Jesse Lee Meeting House with the wood stove warming us). *The popular Christmas Carol communion returns December 28 in 10:00 AM worship.

moment by moment

Midweek Meander Well, here we are midweek again….how’s your journey with Jesus going? If you’re like me, it’s day to day (which I think is progress from week to week). But I’d like to get it to moment by moment. Paul wrote that the goal was to pray without ceasing. Since I’m teaching Hinduism right now at Kent’s Hill School, I have to think about that differently from the type of meditation that require one to stop everything they are doing. (Not that that’s always a bad thing at all!). I learned at this year’s Society of Biblical Literature meeting that scholars have now established Buddhist thought had reached what we know call Palestine in the days of the early church. I have to think that what Paul is teaching is more like the constant mindfulness that Buddhist practitioners strive for. Except that for Paul, that mindfulness is Christ shaped. I’ve been asked more than once how I can refer to “joy” so often. Isn’t it a rather na├»ve or overly idealistic approach to life? For me, recalling joy on a regular basis is a litmus test of how “in Christ” I am. When I feel myself doing a “gut check” whether I can authentically sing off “in joy,” I know that I need more focused, Christ shaped, awareness. Joyfulness can feel thin when I let things interfere with my connection to the living God. But it’s never the “big things” that interfere. On the contrary, the bigger the challenge, the more naturally I turn to God. It’s the little things that interfere with joy. Thus Paul’s call to practice prayer becomes more pressing in the minutia. (Who was it that said the devil is in the details?) It’s the little things that wear us out and drag us down if we’re not ever mindful of God’s priorities, the greatest of which is to love us, each of us at every moment, and to love us into loving each other just as thoroughly. (deep and wide, deep and wide, there’s a river flowing deep and wide….) I can’t fill myself up with that kind of joy, much less others. But I can open myself to the never ending source. The one who preaches to me, N. Gordon Cosby puts it this way: "Too many tired Christians are trying to be good news for the world. God is saying, 'I want you to trust me. I'll do the majority of the work. I want you to go along with me and just watch the miracles.' What's the good news for you? Are you having a good time in life? Do you have news that's so good you've got to share it? Do you feel safe, inwardly? Are you trusting the goodness and grace of someone who loves everyone? We need new forms for sharing the good news of God. The good news has to be embodied---so we must BE before we DO. Our first task is to become new creatures. Like C.S. Lewis said, "God doesn't want improved creatures, but a new creation." Source: Conversation recorded in the newsletter of Wellspring, a ministry to renew and revitalize the church (www.inwardoutward.org 12-17-08) May your day, no matter what kind of day it is, be full of Christ. In Christ’s Joy, Karen

Monday, December 8, 2008

effective Son Shine

The weather forecast today was “Ineffective sunshine,” Bummer, it looks so glorious out the window! It’s when we step out the door that reality will hit. Cold!!!!!!!!!!!!! Advent makes a forecast too, effective Son shine! Today’s cold didn’t really hit me until I went out the door. The cold was outside. But Christ’s warmth doesn’t really hit us until it is inside. Christ is waiting to warm us from our nose to our toes when we open the door to our hearts. On the road to Emmaus, Jesus friends didn’t recognize him until he was gone. Then “They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’” (Luke 24: 32) We seek to open our hearts in a season that celebrates Jesus’ coming, Advent. We long to know the peace, compassion, generosity, and justice that the reign of God promises to bring. But there is so much to fear, so much that closes our hearts. If we really thought Jesus was coming, at any minute, might we risk opening up to holy warmth? I don’t think it’s a coincidence that God chose to come in the irresistible, heart warming tiny person of an infant. What better way to pry our hearts open? It’s keeping our hearts open that takes real effort. Good thing God sends the Holy Spirit to help. The Son is shining! The holy forecast is more of the same. Let’s keep our windows clean, our doors open, our faces turned to the light of Christ’s presence. In Joy, Pastor Karen Keep in Touch: Many thanks to all the Fair Folk: especially our fearless fair queen, Nona Boyink. All the many hands made wonderfully light filled work! Spread the word….the children are working hard on this year’s play. Invite your friends and neighbors to worship on Dec. 21 to receive their message. (And enjoy Scandinavian treats from the parsonage kitchen during fellowship time). AND….make a point to put this year’s caroling party on your calendar for Dec. 21 at 2pm. Last year’s date was snowed out, so we have many elderly members and neighbors wondering if this touch of God’s grace will come this year. The more the merrier!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Ready for Advent

Monday Meander 12-01-08 Does any body else find it easiest to pay attention to the first two of John Wesley’s “Three Simple Rules?” Do no harm, and do good are notions we can grapple with, so something about. The third one, “Stay in love with God,” seems trickier. Why do we tend to set this one aside until we’re “up to it?” Living in a divorce inclined culture certainly doesn’t prepare us for the work that love across a lifetime takes. Are we afraid God is the kind of lover who will compete with other things we love? Or are we afraid of getting our hearts broken? . Perhaps we’re laboring under the illusion that we have to be “just right” for our first date. Some stories just make you stop and take notice, even in the business of trying to wait for and get ready for Christmas at the same time. This week I’d like to share one that got me square in the midst of my Advent. Psychologist Daniel Gottlieb writes: …when Debbie was six years old, I had just come home from the hospital and was unsure of myself personally as well as professionally. It was evening and the first patient I would see after my accident was about to arrive. As I was looking in my wheelchair outside Debbie’s room, looking in the mirror (the only one in the house at wheelchair height) I started to comb my hair. (That was back when I had hair!) It was Debbie’s bedtime. She was supposed to be sleeping. Instead, she came out of her room and stood beside me, watching. Finally, very seriously, she said, “Daddy, why do you always worry about how you look before your patients come?” “I don’t know.” She reflected a moment. “It seems like you always have to look perfect.” “I don’t know. I never thought about it.” I was still trying to get my hair combed and beginning to feel uncomfortable with her probing questions. “They’re only people, you know.” Now I replied with a little more discomfort and animation. “I just don’t know, Debbie. I never really thought about it.” “Well, think about it,” she said, “and we’ll talk about it in the morning.” With that, she went into her room and I went off to see my patient. Sure enough, I was up all night thinking about it. Once again, she had seen right through me! -Daniel Gottlieb, Letter to Sam: A Grandfather’s Lessons on Love, Loss, and the Gifts of Life. I wonder how aware we really are of the energy that goes into creating the perfect appearance, the perfect Christmas, the perfect persona, the perfect life. Oh sure, we nod to the way we inevitably fall short of the mark, “I’m just doing the best I can.” But we still tend to set the bar pretty high. High expectations are not a bad thing. Striving for excellence hones talents and brings out new gifts. But the habits we get into trying to present ourselves at our best can get in the way of reality. None of us can do it alone. We need the innocent observation of a child, the honest feedback of a trusted friend, the insight of a role model. Advent reminds us that God wants to be all of those for us. While we’re busy straightening our hair in the mirror, God is waiting for us to turn around and say, I need you.” As naturally as a mittoned four year old who needs help zipping up his jacket. As awkwardly as an old friend calling after an absence to say, let’s get together. As eagerly as a student ready to learn. God is waiting to take us as we are. But we have to recognize how we are. Why is it so much easier to recognize the flaws “out there,” than “in here.” The economy’s a mess, a problem much bigger than any one of us. And yet, might each of us have had some role in the tangling, either by what we do or by what we didn’t? We’re all tired of the divisive rhetoric of political campaigns, of seeing and hearing more than we ever wanted to about minor celebrities, of commercial promises to make our lives perfect if we’ll only buy…..but don’t we feed the frenzy with what we do and try to wish it away with what we don’t? No wonder we’re in such a rush to get to Christmas! Here’s the thing….. what do we really need Christmas, the birth of Christ for. Is it for the sheer distraction from the rest of what’s going on? Is it as an excuse to gather family? Is the coming of Christ a lovely way to mark the changing of fall into winter, the natural tide of life? What is that gnarly wild guy, John the Baptist, doing showing up in the scripture this week as we light our candles and sing our almost Christmas songs? Repent, Repent, (turn around, turn around)! John’s Advent message is that we don’t need to be afraid to let God see us as we really are, what we should fear is the impulse to hold God off until we’re perfect (or perfectly ready). It’s urgent. We need to allow ourselves to be eager for the kind of love that will take us as we are. That love is the only thing that can truly perfect us, in the image of the God who speaks love into the world. This advent, how are you staying in love with God? It’s not a matter of “why wait.” It’s recognition that we can’t wait to be perfect before inviting the Christ into our life. Come, Lord, as honestly as a child, come make yourself a home in our hearts this day. In Christ’s Joy, Pastor Karen Staying in Touch *It’s Fair Week!!! The fun and fellowship begins on Thursday night. Hands are needed to decorate wreathes under excellent guidance (its never too soon or too late to learn). Friday evening is an “all call” for set up with a pizza break…come help make the magic happen. On Saturday, help is always appreciated especially around clean-up time, 1:00PM. *Among the new Fair Weekend offerings is a nativity display. Do you have a favorite manger scene you wouldn’t mind sharing? Bring it by no later than Friday at 7PM to be placed in the sanctuary. *A little further into Advent, we’ll host the Kents Hill School Vespers on Sunday evening, December 14. Claire Piddock is organizing hosts from the congregation to greet, take coats, and serve goodies afterward. Students from Kents Hill handle all other set-up and take down. Please let Claire know you can help by calling 685-9347. *The new phone book is here, the new phone book is here! Be sure to get an updated church directory (yellow) from the greeters table. Thank you, Carol!!! Keep in Prayer …All who are struggling with the economy, both to survive it and to revive it. ….The Mills family and Alleigh’s friends as the trial for her accused killer begins. ….Communities efforts to make Ricky Gibson’s wish come true and to express love for him and his family. So you have a prayer request to share via the prayer tree? Contact Nancy Perkins (lanaperk@roadrunner.com) or Marie Rodriguez (marierodri@aol.com).