If you know me at all, this needs no explanation:
It always amazes me and slightly overwhelms me when I see the flood of people rushing up and down on the Metro. Where are they all going in such a hurry? How can there be so many people? And yet, the God of the universe knows them each by name and cares about their well-being.
Anne is in the midst of that lovely winter storm, so our RevGalBlogPal Friday Five comes via phone and the faithfulness of RevGal Martha!
I am always grateful for the prayers of others, but I am especially touched when someone asks, “How may I pray for you?”
During this season of fullness, how may we pray for each other?
How may we:
1. Pray for you
I am still in discernment and interviewing for a job that I am truly excited about… and the forces of the universe are bringing a winter storm to our area in time for Sunday morning when I am scheduled to preach. So pray for safety as I travel, clarity of my words, wisdom as I discern, and joy in my heart.
2. Pray for someone you carry on your heart
Our lovely daughters, that God will continue to guide them and grow them to be the women of God they are destined to be! They are thriving and learning a lot about God’s faithfulness this year. Pray for the decisions that they make which will affect their futures.
3. Offer thanksgiving with you
I posted a month of Thanksgivings on Facebook. I know it’s not everyone’s thing, but it was a good discipline for me. I can too easily get negative and whiny. This helped me “ponder anew what the Almighty can do, Who with his love doth befriend thee.”
4. Ask God’s blessing in your life
For some financial decisions we are making. I don’t want a LOT of money, just ENOUGH.
5. Lift up anything else in your heart?
I have several blog posts in draft mode. I am tinkering, editing and reflecting (a LOT) before I post them. They are posts that have been on my heart for some time. They are not sugar-coating anything (read: they will likely piss off at least one group of people or another.) I have watched as various public figures and friends get blasted on the Intehwebs when they write from the heart… and that kinda scares me. So pray that I use great care in what I choose to post and do so with love and mercy in my heart, even if it is not extended to me in return.
Nothing profound today… just reality. And a bit of luck for me, because I beat the parking enforcer to my car and did not get a ticket!
I’ve had one of those days where my “do list” is longer than my energy or brain power can handle. I confess I almost skipped today’s photo prompt when I read it. And then I turned the corner, walking in to my study, and found Henry, my study buddy and companion.
Ah, yes. Peace.
I give you peace, the kind of peace that only I can give.
It isn’t like the peace that this world can give.
So don’t be worried or afraid.
My work as a pastor and a chaplain brings with it some very important boundaries. I am bound by my allegiance to Christ and the Church. I am bound by my vows of ordination. I am bound by my oath of confidentiality. I am bound by legal restraints for patient and family privacy. I am bound by the ethical requirements of chaplaincy. I am bound by the laws of the land which govern us all.
And yet… I am free to worship God as I choose and to represent God in my place of work and influence, small as they may be. It is in these places of ministry and calling that I have the greatest freedom, and yet am so clearly bound by God’s call on my life.
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt,
rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing,
put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee
or laid aside for thee,
Let me be exalted for thee
or brought low for thee.
Let me be full,
let me be empty.
Let me have all things,
let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am Thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
The Wesleyan Covenant
After a fun, busy weekend, the birds have flown the nest. This is a pile of some of the things that went out the door this afternoon. Clean laundry, leftover turkey, books and supplies, computers… they were more than ready to go back to their own haunts. It is as it should be. But in this going, it’s sometimes hard to see a turn of the calendar and a new season (for all of us!)
I thought about ‘GO’ all day. It was a reminder to me that we are not created to “sit and suck up real estate” as my friend Richard used to say. We were tagged by God to GO and do things that will make a difference in the world. And so we do.
There’s another part of ‘GO’ that is important — it’s being and doing the authentic persons we were made to be, the persons that will be the highest impact for the world who needs their joy and light and love. I want that for my daughters, my husband, my friends… rather than impressing my ideas or framework on their lives, it’s very freeing to let them GO off in the direction God leads them.
I haven’t seen “Frozen” yet — but this song from the movie had a strong message of not only letting go, but going.
This week’s Friday Five is offered by MaryBeth:
Good morning, all! In the United States we are waking up from our annual turkey feast, a day and meal surrounded by traditions of all sorts.
One of my favorite Thanksgiving morning traditions is listening to a National Public Radio program called “Turkey Confidential,” in which Lynne Rossetto Kasper and a selection of celebrity cooks take calls from people with problems like, “I put too much cayenne in the cranberry sauce!” and get advice like, “Add a little fat, like cream, to cut that heat.” It’s folksy and amusing, and celebrity chefs join in as well. And I do it every year, so: it’s a tradition.
Waiting for us, just around the corner, is Advent, which almost all of us observe in some way…whether by that name or no, we are all preparing for the coming of the Christ.
Today’s Friday Five, following that line, is Advent Confidential. What are your favorite traditions, observances, hymns, or memories of Advent? Is there something you remember from childhood that you’d like to do again? A funny story you can share about the time the Advent wreath got a little over-lit? We are here and listening!
1. Lessons and Carols
Several of the churches we attended had “Lessons and Carols” as part of the Advent tradition. Some of the music was not do-able by the average congregant, so as a lucky chorister, I got to sing them all. For instance this English carol dated around 1420: “There is no rose of swich virtu/such is the rose that bar Jesu…” (with a more contemporary setting by Benjamin Britten here.)
Interspersed with the music were readings from the Bible. Occasionally, I still listen to the BBC broadcast of Lessons and Carols as I go about my tasks on Christmas Eve.
Stockings are the fun way that we give each other little things — many times they are not big enough to warrant a real package. But they range from the sublime (soft fuzzy socks) to the ridiculous (googly eyes on pencils.) And of course, there’s chocolate and gift cards. We all participate in doing this, and some of my favorite gifts over the years are hand-crafted gifts from our daughters.
We didn’t usually go to church on Christmas Day. Christmas Eve, always. On those rare years when Christmas fell on a Sunday, we did put on our pretties and out to church. Christmas Eve services over the years included pageants where I was one of the actors, singing in the choir, or ringing handbells. Only when I had a baby in my arms was Christmas Eve something that I observed! Depending on where I am serving (hospital, church or other setting), I still participate in Christmas Eve festivities.
4. Advent Wreath
We started this tradition with our children, and it is one that we still enjoy. (In fact, this weekend, as we decorate for Christmas, one of the items that I must find is the Advent wreath!) We place the wreath in the center of our dining room table. We will light the first candle a little early as our college student and out-of-the-nest daughter will be heading out on Sunday morning. Our song of choice is O Come, O Come Emmanuel. Lighting and snuffing the candles is a part of our children’s memories of Christmas.
I know. Well, DUH. We bake Christmas cookies (sugar cookies that we decorate), and many, MANY kinds of cookies including the chocolate “kiss” ones, schaum tortes (meringues), fudge, and tea cakes. There’s cookie exchanges, cookie gifts, and so on. I have a supply of cookie cutters and decors that gets busted out this time of year. It’s a lot of fun.
BONUS: The Christmas I’d like to forget. But never will!
A few days before Christmas, the first year in our present home, our older daughter got the flu and missed the last few days of school before winter break. My parents were arriving to have Christmas with us, and we were worried we would “share” this virus. Well, share we did. My husband got sick, then our toddler, and finally me. I was supposed to help lead worship on Christmas Eve when instead I was… very, very ill. A call to our pastor in between trips to the bathroom (“No, I’m really sorry, I can’t be more than five feet away— GOODBYE!”) got me out of my responsibilities.
Christmas morning, we were all feeling pretty puny and not exactly excited about celebrating Christmas, with the exception of my parents (who felt great and, praise be, never DID get the bug!) On one memorable occasion, after the baby had barfed all over my bathrobe, the couch and even managed to hit my coffee cup, I looked up at my mom and said, “Well, NOW what?” With her usual calm manner, borne out of raising seven children, she said, “Well, when she stops dripping, take her to the bathroom and clean yourselves up.”
“When she stops dripping…” Words of wisdom I have never forgotten!
It was a classic, “can-things-get-any-worse” moment of parenting. We affectionately refer to that year as “The Puking Christmas.” It almost ranks up there with the Christmas we gave each other a water main (to our house.)
I have an end-of-call routine that is very simple, and very comforting. I get a cup of coffee from St. Arbucks and a bowl of oatmeal from the hospital cafeteria. The oatmeal gives me enough oom-pah to make it home safely after being up most of the night. The coffee keeps me awake. Just barely.
This morning, as I did my usual routine, all of the morning’s calls handled and my charting completed, I headed down to grab my nominal breakfast and caffeine. I’m usually polite, but distant. It’s the only way I get in and out of the cafeteria in less than 15 minutes. (Here’s the honest truth: when I see a patient’s family member in the cafeteria, I try to think of how I can “look busy” rather than stop and talk to them. Here’s the reality: when I see the pain in their eyes, I usually stop and listen.)
This morning, it wasn’t the families who wanted my attention, but a couple of the homeless guys. “Hey doc,” said one, “why are YOU eating in here?” (The physicians have their own lounge with food provided. The rest of us pay for the privilege of hospital food.) My standard answer: “I’m on of the chaplains… How are you this morning?” (And they usually tell me.)
One man stood near me, talking about the Washington football team (who lost again…) and the weather (supposed to be a nasty icy mix today). As I scooped out my oatmeal, he fumbled with coins in his pocket. “How much is oatmeal? Dang…”
I turned to him and said, “Hey, do you want some oatmeal? My treat.” He looked at me suspiciously, but then scooped out his own bowl and added raisins.
As I paid for our breakfast and was turning to go, he politely invited me “to join us for breakfast.” There was a table with three other men, all eating their breakfast.
In all honesty, I wanted to run away. RUN AWAY RUN AWAY RUN AWAY!!!!!! But I smiled and said that I could sit with them for a few minutes. So I did. They insisted that “The Reverend” would pray for their food. And I did (short and sweet). As I sat there, enjoying my oatmeal and listening to them dissect the foibles of our hometown team, I realized that instead of inhaling my oatmeal and running to my next task, I actually sat and enjoyed it. It was warm and sweet. The coffee was satisfying. I left to answer a page, wishing them a warm and safe day (and knowing that they will probably spend a bit of time trying to strategize on how to do just that.) But it was a great start to my day.
Now, will my on call routine include “breakfast with the guys”? Perhaps. At the very least, they will get more than a nod and a swirl of a lab coat around the corner. Jojo, Matteah, Harve and Big Ed* taught me that a bowl of oatmeal or a plate of scrambled eggs and bacon, served up with a side of laughter, is a sweet thing on a cold morning.
A bowl of oatmeal… filled my heart with many, many small lessons in gratitude this morning.
Thanks be to God.
*not their real names.
This week my to-do list grew and grew, until I finally gave up, put it on a spreadsheet (oh yes I did) and figure that either it will all get done or it won’t. There’s the logistical must-dos (buy a turkey, mail a tuition check, get cat litter) and the wanna-dos (vacuum the house, clean the bathrooms, press the linens, finish shopping for Christmas). As it happens that I am on call tonight, and then family starts arriving tomorrow, I am down to just the must-dos.
One thing that I’ve discovered is that the holiday will still come, whether I have things done to my list’s standards or not. I feel a lot of my tension dissipate as I think about what we will do…
- We will still bake pies and cookies and laugh
- We will eat turkey and ham and potatoes and all kinds of yummy stuff
- We will celebrate with friends from our church family
- We will enjoy the far-too-brief visit with our daughters and their friends, all home for the weekend
- We will remember family and friends who are a long ways away… and miss them
- We will make time for the things we enjoy the most – a little football, a little shopping, a little story-telling
It’s all in the manner of preparation. I make my lists, but then, when the moment is here, chuck the list in recycling and just wing it.
There’s another element of Thanksgiving week that has become a sort of family tradition — as we have turkey leftovers and watch football, we also begin to decorate the house for Christmas. We’ll put up the tree, string the outside lights, and find a place for the Advent wreath on the table. We’ll fish out the Christmas music and sing carols. We’ll trade out the Thanksgiving tablecloth for Christmas-y colored ones.
And when the house is quieter next week, as I sit and watch the tree twinkle in the living room, I’ll think about the joys of being together, and anticipate the next time we share a meal. I mentally prepare for the times we will spend in December… even as I remember the moments we have just enjoyed. As the week rushes into Advent, I try to take some time to ponder what we’ve done, where we are now, and what we plan to do.
It is this double-vision – looking ahead and looking back – the permeates the Advent scriptures:
Isaiah 40 (CEB)
A voice is crying out: “Clear the Lord’s way in the desert!
Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God!
Every valley will be raised up, and every mountain and hill will be flattened.
Uneven ground will become level,
and rough terrain a valley plain.
The Lord’s glory will appear, and all humanity will see it together;
the Lord’s mouth has commanded it.”
Isaiah’s words were to a people who had wandered away from God. They had chosen other gods, other places to invest their worship and affections. By forgetting the God of the ancestors, they were living with casual disregard for God in the present. And the future? It wasn’t probably even on their minds. Had they become complacent? Self-satisfied? Not so much openly rebellious and disinterested? Whatever the excuse or picture that we try to paint, the children of God were being called back to remember, to worship, to rededicate themselves to living intentionally with God.
I ponder what it would have been like to be forcibly ejected from my homeland, to be mocked for worshipping a God that leaves me in exile. I think about the ways that I forget all God has done… all the ways that I am blessed, protected and cared for by God.
The Lord’s glory will appear, and all humanity will see it together…
Advent takes this double-vision of thankfulness and hopefulness, and brings us to a place of awareness. Awareness of how much God has blessed us. Awareness of the responsibility we have for living with joy and obedience today.
As I prepare, I remember… I clear the way to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child, and the joy and change in my own heart.
Thanks be to God.
(Now… about that cat litter and trip to the post office…)