Favorite Books: 2012
I'm starting it now. Instead of hitting the "delete" button on the endless emails that come in for everything from pharmaceuticals to vacation real estate, I'm taking the time to go to the bottom of the page and click on "unsubscribe". Simply deleting is no longer enough. They come cluttering into my in-box with such a flurry, I spend too much time deleting junk and not enough time responding to legitimate emails.
Martha and I had a long conversation the other day about the topic of creating and controlling. She commented that some of her students have within them the creative spark that allows (demands) them to create. She can see it when they are pursuing an idea that demands innovation and doing something new and risky.
As the post below stated, this Christmas was a whole new experience for me. None of my children and spouses could be with us in Santa Barbara this year. I'm on the cusp of being a grandfather (any day/week now).
It's so familiar we don't always see it. Like a stop sign at an intersection, our lives get filled with familiar signs, foods, customs, people, places and traditions. I know what I'm familiar with...and I like those familiar things. I have sampled different foods and beverages and find that I like unflavored coffee made dark with a touch of cream in the morning. When I see a cheeseburger, tri-tip, or grits, I know what they will taste like...and I like those tastes. When I see a person whose name I know well and who likes me, I like spending time with him/her. I know the tv shows I go to on Hulu and those I avoid (animations and sci-fi among a few). There are authors I know and love reading and those I have not read, and probably won't
There are times when church life gets wearily tough; endless meetings, intractable problems, strong personalities, unanticipated events, and the budget struggles.
But today was an "Mmmmmm!" sort of day. The staff hummed. Bob pulled together a brass ensemble and vocal group that sang Christmas carols marvelously. Lisa used her strong voice to sing with the group and lead in a song. Jon led worship and preached a great sermon on God's sovereign freedom. The story at the steps was delightful. A care group lit the fourth candle and one member let me interview her about how this group carried her through the death of her husband and provided a sustaining community. Then Ashely corralled the kids into a sweet "pageant" with angels, shepherds, oxen, Mary & Joseph (maybe a couple Josephs) and wise men decked out finely. We were worshiping at one time instead of two and the congregation delighted seeing each other. Afterward Martha and I were invited to join this fellowship group for lunch and blessings.
It was good to be church today!
It wasn't necessarily impressive. It was a hodge-podge gathering of about 40 people with kids sitting on sofas, chairs, the floor. Some of the kids were playing ping-pong while others colored. Lights were low. There were no microphones or screens. Bob played guitar, Allyson played piano and Bruce played flute, and Jon sang along.
It's one of my favorite Saturday events....the hanging of the greens. We're never sure who all will come, but an informal group of "regulars" shows up to work all morning. We wire-wrapped juniper bundles and hung them under all the exterior lights. Large bundles of juniper and other found plants were wrapped to frame the entry doors to the sanctuary and around the large lights in the patio. Then a group, pictured above, put lights on the large tree, hung ornaments and decorated both large ledges along with swags under the side lights in the sanctuary.
Right now, the sanctuary is filled with the aroma of pine and juniper....and Advent!
A formative class I took in seminary was “Clinical Pastoral Education” (or C.P.E.). It was a hospital-based class that taught us how to minister in a clinical setting. We were assigned various units at the hospital. We were taught how to read and write our activity on patient charts. We did rounds and were assigned overnight duty in the Emergency Room. We attended autopsies and had intensive group sessions.
One of the more rigorous parts of C.P.E. was having our supervisor shadow us as we visited patients. Later in the day, he debriefed us on our bedside manner and our language. Until that experience, I had no idea how fast I talked, how much I interrupted people and how forcefully I directed the conversation. My supervisor’s word to me was “relax and listen.”
I’m still trying to remember and relearn those lessons. Because the question from Isaiah 40:6 is as relevant today as ever: “What shall I cry (say)?” What should I be saying (or not saying)? What is the message that I should bring? What is it that you and I should say in the circumstances in which we find ourselves? For some of us, the challenge is to not say too much. For others of us, the challenge is to share openly from our hearts. But for all of us, the deepest question is, what does God want us to say?
The two repeated words from Isaiah 40:1 is the answer: Comfort. As you prepare for worship this coming Sunday, reflect on this word “Comfort.” Where do you find comfort? Where do you expect comfort? Where do you need comfort? Where do you provide comfort?