Wednesday, December 26, 2012

I had planned to drive to church today, as it is my day in the office, but Mother Nature had other plans. It has been snowing constantly - sometimes heavier and sometimes lighter - all day so far. Although I could have gotten to the church ok, I'm not sure I would have made it home. Making visits would've proved treacherous as well.
So, I'm having a work day at home. Writing my sermon and doing preparations for Epiphany Sunday - making star words and cutting out all the many stars. Star gifts for the folks at church. I had to take a break as my hand was getting sore after cutting out 12 pages of stars.
Christmas Eve was very good. The roads were a bit wet but not snowy. I had plenty time to prepare the bread and do some things. By 6 pm it was starting to snow and I went out and spread some salt around. I escorted a visitor up the lift to the sanctuary. Gave out Christmas activity sheets to the children as they entered.
The first service went fairly well. Just a couple of glitches - instead of the Glory to God, the song leader sang the refrain from Angels We Have Heard on High which was to come later in the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving. The hymns moved along without dragging. I gave the Sursum Corda before the invitation to communion. And the choir, those who showed up early, had a bit of trouble with their anthem before the candlelighting. But for the most part, the service was good.
Between services, the choir had rehearsal, and after some wine, cheese and crackers, and Christmas cookies, they sang considerably better at the late service!!!
We did it all correctly at the late service. Communion was meaningful with the bread wrapped in linen in the manger on the altar.
I gave away my gas money to a youth member who's dad is in the hospital with a fatal illness and who has hardly any money to buy meals and pay for lodging at the prominent hospital on the North Coast. So, I gave him my gas money to help buy his meals. I still had just enough to fill my tank.
I left the church, after locking up and turning off the lights, at 11:45 pm and headed home with the gifts of 2 $50.00 bills from parishioners, a gas card, 2 boxes of chocolate and a box of Christmas cookies.
The gift was, that as I gave what I had, I was given even more in return. The gift was, two good worship services - glitches aside. The gift was the celebrating the birth of our Savior and Lord and receiving the love, hope, peace, grace, and joy, that he came to bring. The gift was, it stopped snowing by 8 pm and warmed up some, so that when I left it was 42 degrees and the roads were merely wet and not icy. The gift was, that at that time of night traffic was light. The gift was, both LH and I, got home safely. I was blessed with gifts and riches on a night full of the Gift of God.
The wonder of Christmas never disappoints me and the miracle of that night so long ago, continues to be a miracle each and every year - no matter the hardships or grief or difficulties. Christmas comes each year with unexpected surprises and with a wonder so great, one can only be silent before it.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Still dealing with the unsettling tragedy of Newtown and all the lives lost.
Prayers like incense arise to God on their behalf.
Heard several foolish comments from various people, no thanks to the media, who simply cannot take a break and say, "When we have more information, we will broadcast it to you." They conjecture and yak just to fill up the time and in the end, sometimes say some stupid things or they pressure onsite responders, eyewitnesses, etc. to share when they haven't had a chance to think about what they are going to say.
How about "They were taken too early from us." Yes, perhaps, they should have high schoolers or college-age - would that make it better because they were "taken later"?
Honestly. I can't even remember them all.
But my spirit aches and grieves for the beauty of these precious lives lost so senselessly and mt prayers enfold the families who are dealing with unspeakable grief.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Advent Busy
catching up on all there is to do. Christmas cards have been addressed, overseas and domestic. The overseas ones have their German or English letter, and I still have to put English letters in the domestic cards. And get stamps!
I still have gifts to wrap and package to get in the mail.
Christmas Eve worship service is still going around in my head.
I have to run off sheets of stars on bright yellow paper for Epiphany, so that I can write words on them, cut them all out and have these "star gifts" for the congregation
on Epiphany Sunday. It does take time to cut out a hundred stars.
I'm starting to feel the crunch and we didn't even put up a Christmas tree. I still have to put up the Nativity scene on our mantel and put the Christmas tablecloth on the dining room table. And perhaps, splurge on an evergreen swag to put on the kitchen table along with a couple of candles.
I'm behind. The luxury of the cruise has now made for a more hectic Advent.
I pray for enough time, even though I don't decorate as much or bake cookies or host holiday parties or are invited to any. It's just the few simple things that are even rushed this year.
I have begun to listen to my Christmas CD's in the van, and can savor them during my hour commute time each way. That is where I will find my breathing space this Advent. On the road, like Mary and Joseph, slowly making their way to Bethlehem. So, I am on the road and making my way to the manger and the very love, heart and grace of God born in the Christ child.
May God walk with us on our Advent roads that will once again lead us to a humble manger and the One who is the heartbeat of God and the Light of the World.

Monday, December 10, 2012

We have returned from a short cruise to celebrate our 25th anniversary and played hooky for the second Sunday in Advent!!! Since this is when we married, this was the time for our trip to the Caribbean!
We sailed on an ocean liner - yes - it spent the summer in Europe and it was huge!
We were fortunate to have a stateroom with a private balcony and enjoyed every moment we were on it. Nice to be able to have some privacy and not have to be on deck with so many others. We savored fine wine with our mostly wonderful dinners. We had a night in Ft. Lauderdale and enjoyed some fine Irish fare. We had an actual beach day on the company's private island and I even took to the water - I couldn't help it as I'm drawn to water - and had a bit of a swim in the shallow waters that were crystal clear.
The only disappointment was the stop in Freeport when we were to stop in Nassau. More's the pity, we ended up with less port time in a place not as nice as Nassau. I think we should've gotten a bit of a refund.
But all in all, the time away, the warmth, the sunshine, the palm trees, the water, and not having to do anything - no cooking, no cleaning, no dishes, etc. was ever so lovely.
The stateroom was roomy with a couch and a large comfortable bed and that great balcony.
All in all, a short, but good time away even in the middle of Advent.
Now, it will back to flurry of the season and preparation for Christmas Eve. I already have the next 2 Advent Sundays in hand. So, my focus is on Christmas Eve and the Sunday after Christmas.
After running errands, doing laundry, it's nearly time to pick up the boys who spa-ed on the farm. It's been awfully and strangely quiet without them at home. The bonus was my being able to sleep in late today!
It's always good to be back home - although I could've been gone another day or two.
As it is, I'm thankful for the time away and apart and LH, as well.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Late yesterday afternoon, I received a phone call from a parishioner. He is a child of the 60's, in his 60's, had been a youth group leader for 20 years, has a developed faith, always asks interesting questions in Sunday school and is a communion assisting minister. Each time he assists, he kneels behind the altar when I serve him and it humbles me to no end. Perhaps, because with my knees I am no longer able to kneel except in my heart. Usually, the other assisting ministers just stand - which makes us more on equal footing, so to speak. But this one, this one kneels and I feel almost unworthy to serve him, but I do. I cannot help but to share the love, the grace, the mercy, the forgiveness, the hope, the peace, the union of our Lord and Savior with him, with all who come to the table.
He called to thank me. Totally unexpected and unanticipated. He thanked me for visiting the shut-ins and those in the nursing homes. He thanked me for the study of Revelation (Bruce Metzger;'s Breaking the Code) that I am leading and for the grace and hope I point out in God's Word even in the midst of some distressing and terrible things that are mentioned would take place. He thanked for taking on a confirmation class - two boys, one in 8th grade and one in 7th - even though it is only once a month and very laid back using Luther's Small Catechism. He thanked me for my preaching, for what I seem to bring to the Table and how he sees in my eyes something of holy grace in the sharing of communion.
I was totally floored and totally humbled. I've done so little here at only two days a week. I do what I can. I honor the tradition of this congregation and denomination - oh, I do throw in a few words to warm what I experience as some coldness in the liturgy. I say, "Beloved of God, lift up your hearts" in the communion liturgy. No one has complained and I like to remind the congregation that they are one of God's beloved. Who doesn't need to be reminded of that? Usually, I don't plan most of those extra words, they flow out of the sermon and scripture of the day.
He told me what a gift and grace I was and that any congregation would be so blessed to receive all that I have to give.
What does he see that I cannot? What does he see that interviewing committees don't see? ( I really don't interview well, but once past that, folks do respond well to me.)
I am just a simple servant of the Lord, flawed, faillable, and in need of grace every moment of the day. It was ever so humbling that he would take time to call, to express his thanks. There was no other motive. (he is married and is so good with his mother who he brings in her wheelchair to worship).
I wish others would see what apparently he sees. What I have forgotten, what I, in my lack of self-confidence, fail to see. Perhaps, then I can keep hope that eventually, when the time is right, another position will open up for me. Perhaps, he was a messenger of God, assuring me to keep faith, to keep hope that I am not a total failure in ministry. That some things do shine through me to others. I felt, coming from him, who gets it (faith), that God was showing himself to me, the Great Silence, speaking through one who so humbled me. The Great Silence suddenly, unexpectedly on an ordinary Sunday afternoon, speaking in volumes I was overwhelmed to hear and could scarce take in. The Great Silence making himself known to me all over again - after such a dark night, and parched desert. In this Advent, in this season of awaiting God's coming, God has come in the form of a faithful layperson and spoken words of hope, healing, promise, assurance and yes, love. All this time of waiting, of praying, pleading, beseeching, longing, yearning, discouragement, disappointment, and serving in the face of the Great Silence, only to receive words of grace that I was unworthy to receive. how truly and utterly humbling.
I thank my Lord. I thank my Lord, for this parishioner, for his kind, generous and gracious words. I thank my Lord, for making himself known to me again. I thank my Lord,
for answering my prayer, "Come, Lord Jesus."
And I smile at the joy and gift I plan to offer the congregation and to this parishioner this Christmas Eve. I will once again, wrap a loaf of bread in linen and lay it in a manger (made by a parishioner of another church I served as an interim) of straw. And with the extra words of invitation and prayer of thanksgiving will offer to them all the "Bread of Heaven given in love for you." And I know, this one will get it - the Living Bread, the gift of God's very love and grace in the body of Christ who has come to us on this Holy night and every time we break bread and share the cup. And in the holy hush of this Christmas Eve, He comes to us and breaks open our hearts to receive him and all he has come to give us. I am so looking forward to Christmas Eve and sharing this gift of love and grace, hope and peace and joy with all who are here.
In the meanwhile, I will treasure these things in my heart and ponder them some more.