Friday, December 14, 2007


In decorating my apartment for Christmas this year, I realized that I have a very small supply of Christmas decorations. This is okay, because I have a small apartment, and so what decorations I do have can adequately fill up the space. Plus we got a sweet live tree, and even though it is sparsely decorated, it is lovely. :)
However, there is one Christmas decoration that I greatly desire to have: a Nativity set. And not just any nativity set, but this one:
Willow Tree Nativity Collection
The Willow Tree Nativity set, designed by Susan Lordi. I have given other Willow Tree figurines to my mom for various holidays, and I really really like them. This Nativity is just BEAUTIFUL, and I love it. The only problem is that the combined price for the entire set is about $290.00!!!!! Honestly.... That's ridiculous, I know. But I love it. Fortunately, you can buy it in pieces. The plan is to buy one section at a time and eventually get the whole set. (Even better would be to get other people to buy it for me!) I'm anticipating that it will take me 5 or 6 years.

Until then, though, I still really feel like I need a Nativity set for my home (wherever that may be in the next 5 or 6 years). So as an alternative to the complete Willow Tree set, last night I purchased this Nativity Set, much more affordable at $19.99:

Isn't it cute??? AND, if you push the star, Junior the Asparagus sings "O Little Town of Bethlehem." SO CUTE!!!

Well... That's all really. I just wanted to share my excitement with you all. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Wherever you are, be all there

Youth and college ministry is such a roller coaster ride! I struggle with knowing what to do, knowing if I'm having an impact, feeling unappreciated, being frustrated with a lack of involvement, being annoyed at the immaturity of the students, perplexity at the students' desire to just stay where they are instead of growing/changing, and so many other things. I feel like I don't do my job well enough, and that if I were only more dedicated and more disciplined, I would be seeing so many more results. I know these feelings are not limited to people in ministry, but I think that in such an objective field without easily measurable standards, we have to create the standards ourselves and we always set the bar too high.
I've recently come to the realization that youth/college ministry is not where I am "called." I love working in the church, I love the idea of connecting people to God in new and exciting ways, teaching them, and sharing with them the wonderful things that have happened in my life. But there are too many frustrations that I face working with students. I compare myself with my coworkers and see so many places that I fall short. I like the church, but I don't think this is what I'm best at. It would be easy to get caught up in thinking that I only have a year and a half left with the CCO, and excited about my future possibilities.
But I've come to another realization recently. In being unsatisfied with where I am and looking to the future, I am not honoring God where I am. I talk a lot with my students about the future. One of the main concerns with Christian college students is knowing where they are "called" -- the neverending search for that place that God will bless them. We all experience that at some point in our lives. The Christian lingo tells us that we have to find that perfect place that God is calling us to; we have to listen for His voice to tell us where he is leading us. Unfortunately it's rarely that easy. And I think that if finding God's call for our lives is the main driving force of our beings... we are never going to find it. We will always wonder if this is "it," if this job or this place is the best that God has planned for us. We will always be looking for the next best thing even while we try to rely on God's providence.
To truly find that call, though, I think that we need to stop looking for the best perfect thing. God will bless us and use us wherever we are. I am feeling discouraged and unappreciated with my job NOT because this is not where God has called me. I am feeling discouraged and unappreciated because I am not doing MY best to honor him. If we are living to the best of our ability, honoring God in all that we do wherever we are, he will bless us wherever we are. Cheesy and cliche that it is, that old phrase was right -- Wherever you are, be all there.
For now, I am here, in Pittsburgh doing youth and college ministry, and from this point forward I will BE here with my whole heart. No more trying to figure out what I'm "really" called to do. God wants to bless this ministry through me NOW. He's not the kind of God who holds promises of the good life over our heads like a carrot in front of a rabbit. If we bless him, wherever we are, he will bless us as well.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Come and see

Yesterday at our college fellowship group, Sister Elena shared with us about community. I wasn't sure what she would share; honestly I expected it to be something "same old, same old" because over the years I've heard a lot of teaching about community. Sister Elena is certainly gifted and qualified to teach, and so I suppose it was in a moment of cynicism when I found myself pleasently surprised at what she shared with us.

John 1:35-39
The following day as John stood there agains with two of his disciples, Jesus passed, and John stared hard at him and said, "Look, there is the lamb of God." Hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus. Jesus turned around, saw them following, and said, "What do you want?" They answered, "Rabbi" - which means teacher - "where do you live?" "Come and see," he replied; so they went and saw where he lived, and stayed with him the rest of the day.

Of all the passages there are in the Bible about community, I had never heard this one before. By Sister Elena's admission,it was both about community and call, but on both counts it was new to me.
First, we see that John acted as a signpost for the other disciples who were with him. Only after he told them that Jesus was the Lamb of God did they leave to follow him. All of us have people in our lives who point us toward God.
Next, Jesus asked them (rather directly, in this translation) what they wanted. In order for him to help them and lead them, he wanted to make sure they were after the right things. And the disciples were on a quest. They didn't stutter or stumble when Jesus asked them what they wanted, they simply told him.
Then, not only did Jesus invite them in, but they stayed with him the rest of the day. They saw Jesus' home and made themselves comfortable in it. In community, the home is an important thing. It's not just a place where you sleep and cook dinner; your home represents a part of who you are. By inviting people (or not inviting certain people) into our homes, we are demonstrating what's important to us.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The words come and go... Some days I just do not feel eloquent. When inspiration strikes, I love to write! I compose emails and blog entries in my head, long before I am near a computer. But some days I sit there with a blank page before me, and I just cannot summon the effort required to write. It's not that I'm in a bad mood, or depressed, although occasionally that happens. I am a good writer. I like crafting words, arranging them to my liking, drawing readers into my head for a brief time. But without inspiration, I avoid writing much because I know it's bad. So today, good reader, I apologize. I intended to write about a book I'm reading, and talk about how as Christians we are called to be good at whatever we do, and do it with the grace of Christ. But I'm just not feeling the word-flow today. It's taken me a good twenty minutes to write this short paragraph, and so I think I'm going to call it a day. Until the inspiration strikes again...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Burn Us Up

I have a confession: I love the Old Testament.

Of course I love the New Testament as well. In fact, I love the whole Bible. I love the whole-ness of the Bible, and the fact that the Old Testament and the New Testament are so closely interwoven if you only take the time to look for it.

But I love the Old Testament.

Without any quotable facts for you, I'm going to make an exaggerated guess and say that the majority of people who attend church weekly don't know the Old Testament well, let alone even like the Old Testament. And I understand where they're coming from. I mean, lets face it: there are entire books dedicated to documenting laws and listing names and numbers of the Israelite tribes. I don't know anyone who can sit down and read a book of poetry straight through (Psalms) and judging by the prophets, the people God calls to do his work are downright weird! The Old Testament is an interesting collection. And I love it.

I love the stories. You can find absolutely any kind of story in the Old Testament. Romance? Check. War? Check. Drama? Check. Action? Check. Weird obscure non-classifiable genre? Check. (Ever heard the story about Elijah calling out bears to attack the kids who made fun of his baldness?) To give the briefest summary of the Old Testament, it is the story of God's chosen people and their journey with him. It is the classic "rollercoaster" of belief and unbelief, faithfulness and idolatry. In short, the Old Testament is my story. And your story. And the story of every person who has ever followed the difficult call of God.

That is not a full enough description of why exactly I love the Old Testament. But for now, I think it's been established that I do indeed love it. And along with loving it, I get extremely excited when I find other people who enjoy it as much as I do. For instance... Shane & Shane. I attended a concert Sunday evening, which of course was wonderful. But one of the new songs on their "Pages" CD is called "Burn Us Up," basically a retelling of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. Without using any of their ridiculous names, they communicate the real meaning behind that story, and the meaning for us today. Go listen to the song. Go read the book of Daniel. And while you're at it, why not the rest of the Old Testament?

"Burn Us Up" Shane & Shane

There were three
Before the king
There were three who wouldn’t bow to him
For when you heard
The music play
And you were standing you would burn.
They looked at him and said…

Burn us up! Burn us up! Burn us up!
Oh king won’t you burn us in the furnace of your desire
We give up! We give up! We give up!
Oh king won’t you burn us in the furnace of your desire!
Won’t you throw us in the fire!

The king enraged
At what they said
Sent the three away to find their death
The palace stopped in unbelief
When the guilty raised their hands to sing
They looked at him and said…

Burn us up! Burn us up! Burn us up!
Oh king won’t You burn us in the furnace of Your desire
We give up! We give up! We give up!
Oh king won’t You burn us in the furnace of Your desire!
Won’t You throw us in the fire!

You are able to deliver from the fire of affliction
It’s the declaration of my Lord
You’re not an image of gold
You’re the God of old
You have made us
Come and save us
We are Yours
But even if You don’t, we will burn!

Burn us up! Burn us up! Burn us up!
Oh king won’t You burn us in the furnace of Your desire
We give up! We give up! We give up!
Oh king won’t You burn us in the furnace of Your desire!
Won’t You throw us in the fire!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Recent Events

To celebrate La Roche College's fall break, our ministry group hosted an all-nighter this past Wednesday. We had pizza, saw Transformers on IMAX, played Sardines (hide and seek in the dark), played Nintendo Wii and Donkey Konga, saw the sunrise over the city, and finished up with breakfast at Eat'n'Park! I hadn't really thought about whether I could stay up all night... When I was in high school and college it wasn't an issue! I almost made it through this time, but ended up crashing for two hours right before we left to see the sunrise.

For youth group this Sunday, we're heading up to Grove City College to see Bebo Norman and Shane & Shane play in concert. I'm actually not sure how many youth we will have since it will be a late night! I had thought that we would be home by 10pm, but it turns out there are three bands total, which means that the concert won't finish until 10:30 or 10:45, plus we have an hour to drive back from Grove City. I really want to go, but if it turns out to just be my roommate and I, I'll feel a little bit guilty for labeling it as a "youth" event with no youth!

Tomorrow is the CCO's annual Walk for Racial Harmony. It's taking place at the Pittsburgh Zoo, which means that we get to hang out at the zoo for the rest of the day after the walk! I'm pretty excited; I really like animals and zoos, and I haven't been to the Pittsburgh Zoo yet. Supporting a good cause AND all-day admission to the zoo? I'm there!! I just hope it doesn't rain.

Speaking of the weather, I am SO happy that fall has finally arrived. 90 degree weather in October? That's just wrong. Sweaters and hoodies and scarves and boots... oh joy!!! I'm going to pull my winter clothes out of storage this afternoon, and I am SO excited. Also, I can stop dreading driving anywhere in my car and look forward to my fully-functional heater... (The air conditioner has been broken for two summers now, which makes driving anywhere completely miserable.)

I believe that wraps it up for me now... I'll be sending out my newsletter early next week (once I finish stuffing envelopes!), so look forward to some mail from me (if you're on the list!!).


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Hors d'oeuvres

Tonight will be the third youth group meeting since my last (rather depressing) post. I'm still very excited about what we're doing; coming up with new and creative ideas is a lot of fun. I'm not really sure how I made it through last year... After experiencing such joy preparing lessons and games this past month or so, I know that I mostly just floated through my first year of ministry. Thank goodness God can work through anything (even this crap I've been giving out!)!!!
This week's youth group lesson is about changing perspectives. I feel lucky to have been raised with a Christian worldview because it helps me to make sense of all the craziness that happens in this world every day, and I believe that all Christians should feel this way. Despite the pain that we see around us, we've got an "edge" because we can see the end game. The world's not supposed to be so full of darkness, and someday all of creation will be redeemed. We can offer something to the world around us, we can change people's perspectives and help them to see the beauty and grace that exists instead of only pain.

I was at CCO Staff Seminar on Thursday and Friday of this week, and (as usual) I picked up a few more items from my favorite bookseller. Included was one authored by a CCO staff member, called The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness. I read through almost the whole thing on Saturday, and it inspired a good portion of my youth group lesson for tonight. Let me share a quote with you:

"In the meantime [after Jesus' redemption of the world
and before the final consummation],
we enjoy morsels
of joy and peace. And part of our work is to serve them
about -- like
hors d'oeuvres before the banquet."
(Opitz & Melleby, 93)

I love that imagery!! We have this great thing, and we take it and put scary words like 'evangelism' on it and say it's too hard to do, instead of offering the goodness to everyone we meet. Just serve the hors d'oeuvres, people! It's our job!!!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Great ideas are always frustrated.

Last Sunday, we had our fall kickoff for the Youth Group. I've been spending a lot of time brainstorming and planning with my roommate, E, and let me tell you it is SO GREAT doing this with someone! No wonder people get burned out when they try to do ministry alone. We were created for relationships; it makes sense that we can do better work when we utilize those relationships. We've come up with some cool ideas for thinking critically about the culture and finding the truth in the things that we consume every day. A lot of my kids just like things because they are cool or trendy, but they have no idea what the songs or movies or tv shows are really saying. I'm far from thinking that we should remove ourselves from culture just because it isn't 'Christian,' but I want these kids to be able to identify what's good and bad about the culture. Last week I was talking with one of the seniors in the youth group, and she was telling me about a song she really liked called "Minor Prophets." Further probing revealed that she didn't know what the song was about, why it was called "Minor Prophets," or what the minor prophets are.

Anyway. On Sunday we planned a lesson using Acts 17, where Paul speaks to the men of Athens about the 'unknown god,' and quotes their own poets to them, etc. Basically Paul does what I want these kids to be able to do; he uses the things that the people are already familiar with to illustrate and highlight God's truth. Even the junior high kids were making some connections, the high schoolers much more so. BUT... the evening was a complete disaster.

I've always had some minor problems getting the kids to respect me. They like me, and enjoy talking with me and hanging out. But when it comes to discipline, I don't have the parental authority that makes them listen. I have two sisters in the group, one a senior and the other a freshman, and these girls in particular spend a lot of time with me. They are wonderful... but they are the worst about respecting me. They also fight, horribly. They both need to be the center of attention, always, and when they are together their need for attention clashes. I've decided to change the youth group format so that the junior high and high school overlap for an hour, so that I only have to do games and food once instead of twice. On Sunday night, the two girls decided to get into it and it was utter chaos. They were yelling at each other, the older tied the younger one's shoe to a basketball hoop, the younger told the pastor on her older sister, and I was barely holding on. They didn't listen to me, they wouldn't even stay in the area and kept wandering off. It made me look horrible in front of the other kids and the parents who were there to pick up their junior highers. I couldn't concentrate on the lesson because the one girl was incessantly talking about nothing. All in all it was an awful evening. I have to have talks with both of them before youth group again on Sunday, and I am dreading it.

Perhaps what made it so bad was that I was so excited about the lesson, so pumped about this year and what I want to happen with these kids. I was well-prepared and excited and I knew what I was talking about and eager to help the kids make connections. But it seems like every good thing is frustrated... Every time I come up with something great, something horrible happens. Kids fight, or they won't listen, or they just don't show up at all. Days like last Sunday, I wonder why I do this at all.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Down Under?

Last fall, when I was long-term house-sitting for a family in my church, I discovered that they had a fantastic collection of books. Particularly notable to me were the Harry Potter books, travel writer Bill Bryson, and British novelist Alexander McCall Smith. The Harry Potter books were devoured in about a month, and the others were pushed aside for later. Although I wasn't able to read any of Bryson's books at the time, the name and subject matter stuck in my head. I just finished reading his travelogue of Australia, called "In a Sunburned Country." I think it's a rather impressively-sized book, until I remember that the only place I could get it at the library was in the large-print section.

I really, really liked the book! I don't know why I picked that one out of all Bryson's other books; I have no particular affinity for Australia. But now after reading the book, it is now on my list of places to visit in my lifetime. Since I'm running out of time (Panera closes in 15 minutes and I don't have internet access anywhere else) I will condense my "reasons I like Bill Bryson" into a handy list.

--He has a dry, sarcastic sense of humor. (I laughed out loud several times while reading.)
--He has a big vocabulary, and isn't afraid to use it.
--He often combines the two above mentioned items to underhandedly insult waiters and hotel staff where he has had poor service.
--All of his 'favorite' places in Australia were the out-of-the-way, quaint and charming, hidden gems of the country (continent?).
--He is acutely aware of his dorkiness, yet unashamed of it.
--He was able to combine his research about Australia and his travels in it into a funny, charming, and educational book!

Plus, Australia is just a stinking cool country/continent. Go read the book!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Kingdom Whispers

This weekend, I had the opportunity to return home to Bloomington to speak at the church I grew up in. My parents still attend there, and I am actually still listed as a member (and I think I shall remain so, but that's another subject for another time). So there are lots of strong ties at St. Paul. It was, of course, wonderful to spend some time in Indiana, and the weather was especially good to me. This, as opposed to the Christmas weather, which was most disappointing (cold with no snow!). This visit was particularly rewarding, though, because as I mentioned above I had the opportunity to give the sermon on Sunday morning. The occasion was St. Paul's annual Faith Promise Mission giving Sunday, and before you ask I'll explain, because I really like the way the church approaches their mission giving. Instead of using a portion of the tithes to support various and sundry missions that the church invests in, they designate one weekend a year to collect pledges for 'second-mile giving' - basically, the church commits to support the church with their tithe, and additionally chooses to support missions with whatever they feel led to give above and beyond the ten percent that goes to the church. The goal this year was for $40,000, which people commit to give throughout the year to the missions that the church has chosen. This year, there are nine different local, national, and international missions that they are supporting, one of which happens to be me and my work with the CCO! During the pledge Sunday every year for Faith Promise, they invite someone connected with one of their missions to come and speak. And this year, it was me!

I think the morning went really well! I don't feel 100% enthused about what I said, but that's probably just head trash getting to me. The best part about it was being able to speak to a group of people, many of who watched me grow up, and are now able to see me as a grown woman and as a "missionary." As one of my CCO coworkers said, I'm their star - the little girl who they taught in Sunday School who is now working in ministry. Overall, it was a lot of fun and a blessing to me - hopefully it was for them as well.

One of the things I shared that I am most excited about was the Kingdom of God. Volumes have been written on it, and I won't take the time to offer my limited explanation/understanding of it. But one of the things I mentioned on Sunday morning was that I feel strongly that the Kingdom of God provides us a context in which to do and understand ministry. I am still discovering the Kingdom, and figuring out what it means and how to communicate it to people, but what I'm finding is that it is everywhere! I believe my first introduction to it (that I remember) was in a Biblical Theology class in college. Then, when I came on staff with the CCO, it was a phrase that seemed to be tossed around a lot. My Christmas newsletter to my supporters had a lot of Kingdom-themes in it, and of course I spoke about it to my home church this past weekend. And tonight, I heard it in some lyrics of a favorite song. The Kingdom is everywhere!! Let me share the lyrics with you:

Welcome to the worldwide train wreck
Welcome to the come undone
Welcome to the big rejection
Welcome to the hit and run
Where mercy cries for everyone

Yeah, nothing is as good as it should be
'Cause this is the rehearsal
Yeah, in between the was and the could be
Love is the reversal

I believe we're underwater
I believe the engine's blown
Yeah I believe our secret longings
Tell us that we're not at home
But grace reclaims what the world disowns

Yeah, nothing is as good as it should be
'Cause this is the rehearsal
Yeah, in between the was and the could be
Love is the reversal

Love is the Reversal, by Starfield

The phrase that kept amazing me every time I heard it in the song was "in between what was and what could be." That is it! That is so it. We live in an in-between world, with the darkness of the way the world 'was' after sin and the fall, waiting in anticipation for what 'could be,' what is coming to us with the hope of final restoration. I do ministry for the in between, to participate with God in bringing the light and love of what could be to the darkness of what is now.

And so, with what are perhaps not my most eloquent words, but certainly passionate words, I encourage you all to open your eyes and start looking for the Kingdom - you will find it everywhere.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Facing the Giants

Yesterday at (our campus fellowship group), we watched the movie Facing the Giants. You can read the synopsis and watch the trailer here. I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. In general, I try to stay away from Christian movies, because they always seem to reek of poor acting, over-the-top and in-your-face Bible beating, and cheesiness. Contrary to my expectations, Facing the Giants was a very well-done Christian movie. It was made by a church in Georgia without access to big budgets and sets that Hollywood has, and they did everything (acting, script, sound, filming, etc.) themselves. So on that note, the few predictable and poorly delivered lines can be forgiven. It was also, very clearly, a Christian movie about a Christian high school football team. However, it wasn't a poorly veiled attempt to drag people into the movie theaters and present the Gospel to them. It was an honest portrayal of an average Christian man's life and walk with God. Yes, it did quote scripture. Yes, they prayed a lot. But that was the whole point of the movie. And finally, even on the "cheese" level it was pretty acceptable. (My favorite cheesy line came at the very end of the movie when the wife tells her husband that he's finally made it to "the team --- the daddy team." Yikes.)

However, my biggest problem with the movie was that in the end, everything turned out perfect. They found the dead rat. The coach got a new truck. The soccer player - turned football player finally learns how to kick a field goal. The surly, nonbelieving teammate gives his life to Jesus and restores his relationship with his father. The wife finally gets pregnant. And, the team wins the championship against ridiculous odds. Thus, the moral of the story is, pray to God and he will give you everything your heart desires. What?!?!? I would have been happy if at least one of the story lines hadn't turned out perfectly. But then, later as I was discussing it with a friend, she pointed out to me that happy endings are the whole reason Hollywood exists. Take any random non-christian movie, and you will find the same thing -- everything turns out great in the end. We are so inoculated with the glitter and 'perfection' of Hollywood, it's no wonder we have such a hard time understanding why real life is so hard.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Thoughts on Prayer

I've been reading a book by Phillip Yancey called Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference? It's a really great exploration of why we pray, and some of the difficulties of prayer, etc. I've begun to realize, though, that reading about prayer only increases my intellectual knowledge about the subject. Improving my prayer life and activity requires something more than research.
I want to become a better pray-er. I read accounts of the great prayer warriors from Christian history, and hear my co-workers talk about prayer groups and meetings, but it just leaves me feeling inadequate and wanting more. I live a good life, serving my God, but that is no substitute for a relationship with Him.
I think my struggles with praying stem from the overarching problem of discipline that lately has kept surfacing in my life. Basically - I don't have discipline, and I need it. To be a better friend, to be a better campus minister, to e a better Christian, to be a better support-raiser, to be a better child of God.
The thing I read most recently in the book that has stuck with me is that when we pray, our minds wander and we get distracted because we aren't really praying for what we want. When we really want something, it's easier to focus our prayer on it than when we are praying for peace in Darfur. But then again, the more we pray, the more our wants and desires will reflect what God is desiring for His people.
I've been giving a lot of advice to people recently to be praying for their struggles, mostly because I don't know what else to say to them. But if I'm not following my own advice, what kind of advice is it?
And with that, I think I'll close this out... and go pray.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Living Lent

This reflection, by Barbara Cawthorne Crafton, was the devotion I read on Saturday from Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter. It really struck me, so much so that I read it over twice on Saturday and have read it a few times since then. I thought I'd share it with you:

Living Lent
by Barbara Cawthorne Crafton

We didn't even know what moderation was. What it felt like. We didn't just work: we inhaled our jobs, sucked them in, became them. Stayed late, brought work home - it was never enough, though, no matter how much time we put in.
We didn't just smoke: we lit up a cigarette, only to realize that we already had one going in the ashtray.
We ordered things we didn't need from the shiny catalogs that came to our houses: we ordered three times as much as wee could use, and then we ordered three times as much as our children could use.
We didn't just eat: we stuffed ourselves. We had gained only three pounds since the previous year, we told ourselves. Three pounds is not a lot. We had gained about that much in each of the twenty-five years since high school. We did not do the math.
We redid living rooms in which the furniture was not worn out. We threw away clothing that was merely out of style. We drank wine when the label on our prescription said it was dangerous to use alcohol while taking this medication. "They always put that on the label," we told our children when they asked about this. We saw that they were worried. We knew it was because they loved us and needed us. how innocent they were. We hastened to reassure them: "It doesn't really hurt if you're careful."
We felt that it was important to be good to ourselves, and that this meant it was dangerous to tell ourselves no. About anything, ever. Repression of one's desires was an unhealthy thing. I work hard, we told ourselves. I deserve a little treat. We treated ourselves every day.
And if it was dangerous for us to want and not have, it was even more so for our children. They must never know what it is to want something and not have it immediately. It will make them bitter, we told ourselves. So we anticipated their needs and desires. We got them both the doll and the bike. If their grades were good, we got them their own telephones.
There were times, coming into the house from work or waking early when all was quiet, when we felt uneasy about the sense of entitlement that characterized all our days. When we wondered if fevered overwork and excess of appetite were not two sides of the same coin - or rather, two poles between which we madly slalomed.
Probably yes, we decided at these times. Suddenly we saw it all clearly: I am driven by my creatures - my schedule, my work, my possessions, my hungers. I do not drive them, they drive me. Probably yes. Certainly yes. This is how it is. We arose and did twenty sit-ups. The next day the moment had passed; we did none.
After moments like that, we were awash in self-contempt.
You are weak. Self-indulgent. You are spineless about work and about everything else. You set no limits. You will become ineffective. We bridled at that last bit, drew ourselves up to our full heights, insisted defensively on our competence, on the respect we were due because of all our hard work. We looked for others whose lives were similarly overstuffed; we found them. "This is just the way it is," we said to one another on the train, in the restaurant. "This is modern life. Maybe some people have time to measure things out by teaspoonfuls." Our voices dripped contempt for those people who had such time. We felt oddly defensive, though no one had accused us of anything. But not me. Not anyone who has a life. I work hard. I play hard.
When did the collision between our appetites and the needs of our souls happen? Was there a heart attack? Did we get laid off from work, on of the thousands certified as extraneous? Did a beloved child become a bored stranger, a marriage fall silent and cold? Or, by some exquisite working of God's grace, did we just find the courage to look truth in the eye and, for once, not blink? How did we come to know that we were dying a slow and unacknowledged death? And that the only way back to life was to set all of our packages down and being again, carrying with us only what we really needed?
We travail. We are heavy-laden. Refresh us, O homeless, jobless, possession-less Savior. You came naked, and naked you go. And so it is for us. So it is for all of us.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Something New

Trying something new... we shall see how it goes!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday Reflections

Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of the Lent season - 40 days of preparation before Easter. Growing up in the Methodist church, we always had services on Ash Wednesday to mark the beginning of Lent. The Covenant Church (where I work now) doesn't do Ash Wednesday. Today is also my pastor's birthday, so instead of finding a church somewhere with a service, I have to go to his birthday party. Oh well.
My parents taught and encouraged us to give something up as a reminder of Christ's sacrifice for us. During my middle school years, I decided to give up ice cream once or twice for Lent. I have a very striking memory, one Sunday, being absolutely horrified when I realized that I had eaten a milkshake last week after church, subsequently breaking my fast. I like rules, and I don't like breaking them.
As I got older, I remember having conversations with my parents about not only abstaining from something during Lent, but also adopting some practice for those 40 days that would help bring one into closer communion with God. For example, not gossiping or encouraging co-workers or extended quiet time.
We shall see where this Lenten season brings me. What are you expecting?