Saturday, December 29, 2012

Thoughts on entering a new year

1.     It’s about 1to1 relationships
2.     Good church is messy
3.     Missed appointments are good occasions to clean up
4.     Interruptions can be golden
5.     As a grandparent, listen more
6.     Pets are nicest when you are young
7.     Ask more questions
8.     Out-love your critics
9.     Roadmaps are better than organizational charts
10.  Laugh more
11.  Let others in
12.  Trust God always…especially about money
13.  Visiting shut-ins is always good for the soul
14.  Ask more questions
15.  Try new music
16.  Stop correcting mistakes others make
17.  Keep re-reading old stories in the Bible
18.  Let God really surprise you
19.  Fuel curiosity
20.  Turn off the phone and computer
21.  Walk with others more
22.  Allow silent spaces in conversations (talk less)
23.  Let little children teach you
24.  Change your routine
25.  Eat new foods

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Surprise Rainbow

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Sacred Space in a Scarred World

When do you know you are in a sacred space? When do you know you are in a evil space? That's what  the residents of Newtown are wrestling with as they slowly begin to deliberated what to do with Sandy Hook School. How does one transform a place filled with ugly memories and violence? How do you "redeem" space?
This morning I came across the reading carved into the stone above that marked the 50th anniversary of Montecito Covenant Church. The text from Joshua 4:6 is "What do these stones mean?" The context of this question is the order from Joshua to 12 men from the 12 tribes to each carry a stone from the middle of the Jordan River, near the feet of the priests were, holding the ark and holding back the waters. They were commanded to set up a stone altar as a reminder of God's activity in the life of Israel, especially when future generations asked "What do these stones mean?"
The community of Newtown will need to grapple for a long time with this question "What do these stones mean?" I am hopeful that they will speak of the selfless sacrifice of teachers and administrators for the children. I would hope they will speak of a world that protects little lives, vulnerable lives. I would hope they would speak about leaders who step forward for the greater good without a political agenda for the next campaign. I would hope they would speak about hope.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Grateful for Worship Today

This week spun me. The violence at Sandy Hook School. The multiple gunshot wounds to 6 & 7 year olds. The mowing down of teachers and administrators. Then came the cameras and interviews with those caught in the cauldron of grief. One more first person account of fear, terror, grief and bewilderment. What does it do? How does it help?
This morning before anyone showed up I heard the bells at the local Roman Catholic Church, Our Lady of Mt Carmel tolling. That helped. I started counting the rings late. After the 8th ring, I knew it was not announcing the hour. When the bells stopped my count was just over 20. They must have been tolling the names of the slaughtered as the church has done for centuries. We do not spin and analyze, but present these ones to our God. We set this chaotic scene before eternity. We dare to list them among the great cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 12.
At MCC today we planned a children's day, with little ones lighting the 3rd (Joy) candle. But before lighting the candle, I called the congregation to stand in memory of those killed. We then had a confirmand play her violin for the children's sermon and a young man read scriptures. A Covenant pastor led us in an intercessory prayer for the nation. A nurse sang "Mary Did You Know?" and I was able to preach about the fruit of repentance.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Power of Showing Up

I can't get my head around the destructive evil that was unleashed on the children and adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. But I am moved by the power of those who showed up: the teachers who put their lives at risk to protect their students, the first responders who, typically, raced to the scene to rescue those they could and stop the violence, and the pastors, priests and rabbis who had no choice but to show up at the fire house when the bad news crashed home. These ones showed up for the long haul of grieving, remembering, and bringing healing words of hope to their congregants and neighbors.
I have done this job too long now to even question the power of showing up, even without words, but just showing up. And then, as the picture above shows, the houses of worship open up to do the same thing, to pray, to grieve, to mourn, to hope. It's what the church is all about at its best. It's there in the muck and mess of lives torn apart. I guess that is what Christmas is all about; God showing up in our mess.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012


Nothing dampens my mood more than getting pitched. And no season pitches quite like December. When my theology says Advent, the world around me says "buy!" Needs drive so many encounters and conversations. I get weary of answering calls from folks I don't know already, because I know what's coming: give, buy, invest, let us sell your congregation on a new .............
It's Wednesday and we've already had at least six requests to sell, pitch, write checks, supply names, or consider buying something. Yikes! Time to pray!

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