An ELCA pastor shares his thoughts about the Bible, spirituality, the world, and LGBT issues.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

SABBATICAL TIME

I am taking a month's sabbatical from posting.  The next two weeks include getting ready to celebrate Christmas at Abiding Savior.  Then I have a little stay-vaction before I head to Jerusalem for an acadamic study trip.  I wish everyone a blessed Christmas.  May the light who shines in the darkness give you hope and peace this holy season!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Angel Cards: CONTENTMENT

Today’s word is CONTENTMENT. 

In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul says he has learned the secret of being content.  What is his secret, we might ask? It’s thinking about “whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, and commendable.” It’s focusing on people and events that are “excellent” and “worthy of praise.”  [Phil 4:8-9]  When was the last time we did that?

     The 24 hour news cycle is often a litany of woe.  Rarely do we hear a “human interest” story.  When we do it never grabs the headlines but is always relegated to the end of the broadcast.  This points to the observation that it’s easy to be negative, but much harder to be positive.  It’s easy to recite a long list of what’s wrong in the world, instead of lifting up what’s right.
     If you’re one of those “ the glass is half empty and why isn’t it in a mug instead” kind of people, perhaps CONTENTMENT should be your word this Advent.  It’s easy for life to overwhelm us with darkness and despair.  But one of the important themes of this season is “the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” [John 1:5]  This light, of course, was Jesus but he also intends for us to shine as well.  “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” [Matthew 5:14,16]  
     CONTENTMENT is shining our light as brightly as we can and refusing to let the darkness get the upper hand.  It’s focusing on those things that are excellent and worthy or praise because it’s good for our souls and for our world.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Angel Cards: COMMUNICATION

Today’s word is COMMUNICATION.

COMMUNICATION, they say, is a two way street.  It involves both speaking and listening.  In this sense, my blog is a poor communication tool because I cannot dialogue face to face with those who read it.  I’m only stating my opinion and these days there are lots of opinions out there for all of us to read!  What passes for COMMUNICATION these days in our Facebook/Twitter world is stating our opinion and loudly and forcefully as we can.  Our comments usually involve stating our gut reaction to news stories, photos and Facebook posts without giving our words any critical thought.  

     I will be the first to admit I’ve been guilty of this from time to time, but I’m trying to do better!  When something riles me up in cyberspace I try to take a deep breath before I respond to anything.  I consider whether what I have to offer is helpful, insightful, or relevant to the topic at hand.  If it’s none of these three things I resist the temptation to hit the “post” button.
     I have often told people who are angry about something, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be heard?”  Most of the time, people want to be heard which involves a different way of communicating than if we only want to be right.  In this season that is supposed to be about “peace on earth” and “goodwill to all people” it’s imperative that we improve our COMMUNICATION with each other. There is already more than enough hate speech in our world.  Let’s commit ourselves to a different way of speaking both on the internet and in the real world as well.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Angel Cards: POWER

Today’s word is POWER.

Often times we wish for POWER so we can “smite our enemies.”  However, the Advent season teaches us that the coming Prince of Peace wields a different kind of POWER.  Brian McLaren, in his insightful book We Make the Road by Walking, states it this way: “Herod—and Pharaoh before him—model one way: violence is simply one tool, used in varying degrees, to gain or maintain power.  The baby whom Herod seeks to kill will model another way.  His tool will be service, not violence.  And his goal will not be gaining and maintaining power, but using his power to heal and empower others.  He will reveal a vision of God that is reflected more in the vulnerability of children than in the violence of men, more in the caring of mothers than in the cruelty of kings.”

     So what kind of POWER do we seek?  Is it the POWER to build bridges or burn them down?  Are we more interested in making swords and spears or plowshares and pruning hooks?  I think you get my point.  POWER is a quality we need more of in our world if it’s used in the way Jesus used it.  God knows we’ve seen more than enough Herods in our country and throughout the world.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Angel Cards: OPENNESS

Today’s word is OPENNESS.

When the angel Gabriel told an unwed, pregnant teenager, Mary, she was going to have a baby, Luke tells us “she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.”  [Lk 1:29]  This portion of the story reminds us that fear is always a part of OPENNESS.  When we open ourselves up to new ways of seeing things and new possibilities for our lives, it should scare us a little bit.  We are being taken out of our comfort zones.  Some “growing pains” are bound to be a part of the experience.

     But fear is not the only element in OPENNESS.  By the end of her conversation with Gabriel, Mary explains, ““Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” [Lk 1:30]  This portion of the story tells us that faith is also an important part of being open.  We need to trust that new information and new experiences will not kill us, but will make us stronger.  We need to have faith that God is leading us into a bright, new future where we give birth to love, hope, peace and joy.
     If you are feeling like life is suffocating you these days, perhaps your Advent word should be OPENNESS.  It’s OK to be afraid as we step out into an unknown future, but we need to trust that God will guide us on the journey just as surely as he guided Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Angel Cards: HEALING

Today’s word is HEALING. 

Forget obnoxious renditions of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”  Resist the temptation to join the madness of a crowded shopping mall.  Send a few RSVP regrets to corporate and work-related Christmas parties.  Time for HEALING is what is most needed in our lives and in our nation this Advent season.

     How do we do this?  Well, we start with small things.  First, we need to carve out quiet time for ourselves.  During this time we need to silence of cell phones, light some candles, play a soothing collection of Christmas Carols and engage in an activity that is healing to our souls, such as baking or sipping a glass of wine and reading a good book.  Still others benefit from a walk in nature or a contemplative worship service.  Whatever is HEALING and restorative to you…do it!
     In addition to carving out quiet time, we need to engage in an activity that gives us hope.  Volunteer at the local food bank or soup kitchen.  Become a foster parent to kittens or puppies through an animal shelter.  Join a group in your community that is an advocate for justice for all people.  It’s important that we also focus on the needs of others and not get so caught up in our own drama.
     HEALING is something that doesn’t happen quickly.  It always takes time.  Sometimes it also takes the help of a trained spiritual counselor or therapist.  The important thing is that we listen to our bodies and spirits and spend intentional time doing things that give us life and vitality instead of sucking our souls dry!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Angel Cards: BIRTH

Today’s word is BIRTH. 

I am not a woman, so I cannot even remotely know what it is like to give BIRTH to a baby.  But on a metaphorical level, all of us have tried to give BIRTH to something.  Perhaps we are part of a movement to give BIRTH to equality and justice for all people.  Perhaps we are pursuing our education and hope to give BIRTH to a new carrier path.
Whatever the case may be, we all have times in our lives when we try to BIRTH something new that will change our lives and our world.

     Pregnancy is at the heart of the Advent story.  Both Mary and Elizabeth are literally creating space in their bodies in order for John and Jesus to gestate, grow and begin their journey outside the womb.  This reminds us that in order for us to give BIRTH to something new, we must create space in our lives in order for it to grow. We must clear the demands of a busy schedule.  We must let go of anxiety about what the future might bring.  Dreams take time to gestate and mature.  They don’t happen overnight.  So we must be patient and expectant until they come to full term.
     Brian McLaren in his insightful book “We Make the Road by Walking” put it this way: “The actual point of these pregnancy stories—however we interpret their factual status—is a challenge to us all: to dare to hope, like Elizabeth and Mary, that the seemingly impossible is possible.  They challenge us to align our lives around the “impossible possibilities” hidden in this present, pregnant moment.”
     What “impossible possibilities” do you wish for in your life?  For your family?  For our world? Perhaps it’s time to create space in your life in order to give BIRTH to your hopes and dreams.