Rainbows in the midst of a Storm

I have neglected writing here for awhile. It’s not the first time I have said that! (check earlier posts) Here we all are in the midst of something that none of us could have imagined, even in our darkest moments. While I do not claim to have any answers to this worldwide health crisis, I feel like I can bring some light and love to friends from my faith family. So bear with me as I share, and know that you are loved and a beloved child of God. No matter what is happening in the world, God is here, walking with us, and wanting us to reach out and share our honest feelings and emotions. This includes the difficult stuff. You do not need permission to voice your concerns to God, just do it!

In this space, my goal is to share scripture, poetry, music, prayers, and thoughts that are helping me through this time of isolation. It is a way that we can hopefully still feel connected. I would love to hear your ideas and thoughts too, so please share in the comments below.

Something I have been struggling with, is just how can we reach out and be the church, while so many of us are isolated at home? Matthew 5:13-16 from The Message says:

Salt and Light

13 “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

14-16 “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.

I love the call for us to bring out the God-flavors of this earth, and the God-colors in the world. We just have to think creatively about how we can do that right now. I believe it means that we pay more attention to those who are still working to provide us groceries and supplies and carry out meals. Saying thank you and being kind matters.

Checking on our immediate neighbors is important too. And reaching out to friends by phone, or text, or some face to face app. We are human, and we need connection with each other. Make sure you are more intentional about staying in touch with friends and family and even beyond that.

I love the imagery of bringing out the God-colors in the world. It makes me think of a rainbow after a storm. Sometimes there are rainbows in the midst of a storm. It’s a unique moment when the clouds are dark, and rain may still be falling, but in the distance you spy a bright spot with the colors of a rainbow streaming down. A reminder of God’s promise to us.

Ann Weems is a favorite writer and poet. She paints beautiful pictures with her words, and today I want to leave you with this hope-filled poem.

I’d Write for you a Rainbow
by Ann Weems

If I could, I’d write for you a rainbow
And splash it with all the colors of God
And hang it in the window of your being
So that each new God’s morning
Your eyes would open first
     to Hope and Promise.
If I could, I’d wipe away your tears
And hold you close forever in shalom
But God never promised
I could write a rainbow,
Never promised I could suffer for you,
Only promised I could love you.
That I do.

Be well and stay safe my friends.

 

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Marriage

As I reflect on marriage during the celebration of our 28th year of marriage, I am reminded of a song from The Greatest Showman movie called Tightrope {Songwriters: Benj Pasek / Justin Paul, Tightrope lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Fox Music, Inc} By the way, if you have not seen this film, and you adore great movie musicals, you must find it to watch!

Tightrope imagines a relationship as walking the tightrope, never knowing what is next, but holding on to one another’s hand to balance one another. Some lyrics:

Some people long for a life that is simple and planned
Tied with a ribbon
Some people won’t sail the sea ’cause they’re safer on land
To follow what’s written
But I’d follow you to the great unknown
Off to a world we call our own
Hand in my hand and we promised to never let go
We’re walking the tightrope
High in the sky
We can see the whole world down below
We’re walking the tightrope
Never sure, never know how far we could fall
But it’s all an adventure
That comes with a breathtaking view
Walking the tightrope With you
The winding road of any relationship, no matter how long, is that there will be moments of great joy along with moments of great sorrow. Sometimes we experience both at the same time. But you make a choice each day to walk along side those whom you love, and hold their hand through whatever comes along next.
Thirty years ago I met a young man from Alabama who was very intelligent, quirky and unique, and full of compassion for others. If you know our story, then you know that he figured out he liked me pretty quickly. It took me a bit more time.
We spent a lot of time together one summer during seminary, and became good friends. I enjoyed his company, we had lots of mini adventures together, and most of all, he made me laugh. The like grew to love, and for all these many years we have held each other’s hand as we walked the tightrope of life together.
Nothing earth shattering about anything I have said, and I realize that. However, Jimmy and I really have known some wonderful moments of great joy, but we have also experienced moments of great sorrow and heartache too. Through it all, we stood firmly in our faith, and held onto each other’s hand as we moved through each experience together. We are still holding hands, having mini adventures together, and I look forward to many more!
All my love to my best friend Jimmy,
Missy

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White Chicken Chili

Our church hosted a Chili Cook-of this evening, and several people asked for my recipe. So here it is, with my changes listed in [brackets] Enjoy!

Prep Time 5 minutes | Cook Time 8 hours | Servings 6 servings | Calories 441 kcal
Author The Chunky Chef [Missy’s changes/suggestions on how she prepares her chili]
Ingredients
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts trimmed of excess fat
1 yellow onion diced [1 tsp. onion powder]
2 cloves garlic minced [1 ½ tsp. garlic granules or garlic powder]
24 oz. chicken broth (low sodium) [follow liquid amounts, or use less chicken broth]
2 15oz cans great Northern beans drained and rinsed
2 4oz cans diced green chiles (I do one hot, one mild) [I only use mild green chiles]
1 15oz can whole kernel corn drained [I use an extra can of corn]
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cumin
3/4 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
small handful fresh cilantro chopped [I omit the cilantro]
4 oz reduced fat cream cheese softened
1/4 cup half and half
TOPPINGS:
sliced jalapenos
sliced avocados
dollop of sour cream
minced fresh cilantro
tortilla strips
shredded Monterey jack or Mexican cheese
Instructions
Add chicken breasts to bottom of slow cooker, top with salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, chili powder, and cayenne pepper. [I buy the frozen grilled chicken breast strips at Aldi, and cook the chicken, trim any fat, and cut into bite sized pieces. Also saves time later on for shredding the chicken.]
Top with diced onion, minced garlic, great Northern beans, green chiles, corn, chicken broth and cilantro. Stir.
Cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours or on HIGH for 3-4 hours.
Remove chicken to large mixing bowl, shred, then return to slow cooker.
Add cream cheese and half and half, stir, then cover and cook on HIGH for 15 minutes, or until chili is creamy and slightly thickened. [VERY IMPORTANT!!! You need to make sure to use the reduced fat cream cheese and make sure it is very soft, and add it into the chili to cook for at least 2 hours on high. The cream cheese needs plenty of time to fully melt and mix in, and 15 minutes is not long enough. Otherwise, you will have flecks of cream cheese floating around not mixed in.]
Stir well and serve with desired toppings.

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Interrupted Lives

9-11image_8411233339126135969_n

Interrupted Lives

(written after the events of 9-11-2001)

We move through our days
Not looking much past the next hour and how it’s filled
Flowers grow and wither without notice
A bird’s song falls on deaf ears
Seasons come and go
While we complain about the weather
There is not time to pay attention
The details of our days become a blur
One moving into the next with no distinction

Craving to take away the boredom of the mundane
Everything becomes “thrill me,”  “dazzle me,”
“Impress me,” “entertain me”
So desensitized to the world around us
We’ve lost the wonder of each new day and it’s opportunities
We forget we are put here to be in relationship to one another
And to creation
And to God

Then something happens
Some defining moment that changes everything
We become witness to something horrific and unimaginable
Hiding in our own self-absorption
Ignoring that some in the world witness these sights everyday
Their souls and minds altered by the sights and sounds of lives being lost
The world as they know it crumbling all around them
Hopes dashed, dreams dead

This moment tests the metal of who we are
Where our priorities lie
What we believe
How we relate
Whether we care
Why we are here

Now that planes fly again, images are fading
Are we different?  Have we changed?
Do we embrace each new day,
Hoping that by its end we have listened and cared more than before?
Will we ignore this chance to start again;  to make a difference;  to show love?
Are we once again caught on the treadmill of activities that fill our schedule?

How soon we forget the important lessons
Something else will interrupt our lives to remind us….

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May you rest in peace, Ann Weems

Yesterday a woman named Ann Weems passed on from this earthly realm.  She was not someone I knew personally, however she has influenced the shaping of my thoughts about who God is, and how God loves each of us.  She was a peace-seeking, poetic prophectic voice, and profound worship leader who shared her God-given giftedness to this world through her words and poetry.  In my mind, the best way to honor someone like Ann, is to continue to share her words that have uplifted me, changed me and challenged me.  So I share one of my favorite poems that she wrote, and encourage you to be both uplifted and changed and challenged by this gifted woman of God.

Balloons Belong In The Church  by Ann Weems

I took to church one morning a happy four-year-old boy
Holding a bright blue string to which was attached his much-loved orange balloon with pink stripes . . .
Certainly a thing of beautyorangeballoonpinkstripe
And, if not forever, at least a joy for a very important now.
When later he met me at the door,
Clutching blue string, orange and pink bobbing behind him,
He didn’t have to tell me something had gone wrong.
“What’s the matter? ”
He wouldn’t tell me.
“I bet they loved your balloon . . .”
Out it came then, mocking the teacher’s voice:
“We don’t bring balloons to church.”
Then that little four-year-old, his lip a bit trembly, asked:
“Why aren’t balloons allowed in church? I thought God would like balloons.”

I celebrate balloons, parades and chocolate chip cookies.
I celebrate seashells and elephants and lions that roar.
I celebrate roasted marshmallows and chocolate cake and fresh fish.
I celebrate aromas: bread baking, mincemeat, lemons . . .
I celebrate seeing: bright colors, wheat in a field, wild flowers . . .
I celebrate hearing: waves pounding, rain falling, soft voices . . .
I celebrate touching: toes in the sand, a kitten’s fur, another person . . .
I celebrate the sun that shines slap dab in our faces . . .
I celebrate snow falling: the wondrous quiet of snow falling . . .
I celebrate the crashing thunder and the brazen lightning . . .
And I celebrate the green of the world, the life-giving green, the hope-giving green . . .
I celebrate birth: the wonder-the miracle-of that tiny life already asserting its selfhood.

I celebrate children
who laugh out loud
who walk in the mud and dawdle in the puddles
who like to be tickled
who scribble in church
who whisper in loud voices
who sing in louder voices
who run—and laugh when they fall
who cry at the top of their lungs
who cover themselves with Band-aids
who squeeze the toothpaste all over the bathroom
who slurp their soup
who chew cough drops
who ask questions
who give us sticky, paste-covered creations
who want their pictures taken
who don’t use their napkins
who bury their goldfish, sleep with the dog, scream at their best friends
who hug us in a hurry and rush outside without their hats.
I celebrate children who are so busy living they don’t have time for our hang-ups,
And I celebrate adults who are as little children.

I celebrate the person who breaks up the meaningless routines of life,
The person who stops to reflect, to question, to doubt,
the person who isn’t afraid to feel,
the person who refuses to play the game.
I celebrate anger at injustice
I celebrate tears for the mistreated, the hurt, the lonely.
I celebrate the community that cares-the church.
I celebrate the church!
I celebrate the times when we in the church made it,
When we answered a cry,
I celebrate the times when we let God get through to our hiding places,
through our maze of meetings
our pleasant facade–
deep down to our selfhood,
deep down to where we really are.
Call it heart, soul, naked self—
It’s where we hide
deep down away from God
and away from each other.
I celebrate the times with the church is the church,
When we are Christians,
When we are living, loving, contributing.
God’s children-I celebrate that we are called God’s children even when we are in hiding.
I celebrate love-the moments when the you is more important than the I.
I celebrate  perfect love-the cross, the Christ,
loving in spite of,
giving without reward.
I celebrate the music within a person that must be heard.
I celebrate life–that we may live more abundantly.
Where did we get the idea that balloons don’t belong in church?
Where did we get the idea that God loves gray and sh-h-h-h
And drab anything will do?
I think it’s blasphemy not to appreciate the joy in God’s world.
I think it’s blasphemy not to bring our joy into God’s church.
For God so love the world
That Christ hung there
Loving the unlovable.
What beautiful gift cannot be offered unto the Lord–
Whether it’s a balloon or a song or some joy that sits within you
waiting to have the lid taken off?
The Scriptures say there’s a time to laugh and a time to weep.
It’s not hard to see the reasons for crying in a world where hatred
for others is so manifest;
But it’s also not hard to see the reasons for laughter in a world
where God’s love is so manifest.
So celebrate!
Bring your balloons and your butterflies, your bouquets of flowers,
Bring the torches and hold them high!
Dance your dances, paint your feelings, sing your songs, whistle, laugh.
Life is a celebration, an affirmation of God’s love.
Life is distributing more balloons.
For God so loves the world . . .
Surely that’s a cause for joy.
Surely we should celebrate!
Good news! That God should love us that much.
When did we ever get the idea that balloons don’t belong in church?

Thank you for the reminder Ann Weems.

 

 

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Tribute

My dad, Pop as I called him, was a great man.  I realize many people believe this about their dad, and I do not doubt that to be true.  But we can also include Pop in that category of greatness.   Today, February 14, the day we have set aside to celebrate love, Pop let go of this world 4 years ago, and met his Savior face to face.  No more pain, no more suffering, no more hurting…it was his time to go.

Whenever Pop first died, I had started to write a poem as a tribute to him.  I set it aside and just recently found it again and edited and finished writing it.  Writing has become my way to sort out my feelings.  So I share this, so whoever out there in the cyber abyss, can read about this great man who I called Pop.

“Pop”
William A. Arnold 10-23-32 to 2-14-12
written by Missy Collins
(started February 2012, completed December 2015)

He was a humble and faithful servant of God
He was a dedicated student and teacher of the scriptures
He was an example of how to take discipleship seriously
He was a strong man who worked hard his whole life
He was a persistent man who never let obstacles get in his way
He was a person with an enormous capacity for compassion
He was someone who knew and respected history of family and the world around him
He was a wise man who was respected by others
He was someone who understood God’s constant abiding care
He was a man with a special manner of kindness and hospitality toward others
He was someone who saw the humor in every situation
He was a person who enjoyed the great outdoors and camping
He was someone who loved the way music could fill you with wonder
He was a person who giggled the most at Tim Conway. (and his giggle was infectuous!)
He was an avid reader and writer and poet
He was a patient man who taught us by example
He was a wise man who helped us see the importance of forgiveness
He was a maker of beautiful stained glass creations
He was a dedicated photographer of life events

He was a man who chose his life mate carefully, and consistently loved her until his dying breath.
He was a father who loved and provided for his family
He was a survivor of a house full of females! (including Christy the dog!)
He was our cheerleader when it came to tackling new tasks
He was our mentor for learning life lessons
He was a man who sought to support any new endeavor his family or friends would try
He was someone who saw our potential and he prayed we would explore life and eventually see it too
He was a man who beamed with pride at all our accomplishments
He was my example for how to truly listen and be present for others
He showed all of us the importance of having a strong faith through all of life’s trials
He had an ongoing conversation with God each day
He always did the best he could with whatever task he was given

He showed us what it meant to love unconditionally
And his loving presence is missed every day.

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Just like riding a bike

Bike-Printable-Chalkboard-Blue

My husband decided to take up bike riding a couple of years ago.  He rides a fancier multiple speed bike, and has worked his way up to going several miles when he’s out riding.  It’s nice that in our community there is a people trail all around town that has a paved pathway for runners, joggers, walkers, and bicyclers too.  So he’s made good use of biking those trails, and also ridden it around town to cut down the cost of driving.  He’s also dropped some weight and  gotten some great exercise.

Even knowing he would ride circles around me (literally), I thought maybe we could go out together and ride sometimes.  As I was approaching a milestone birthday last summer, I was out shopping and came across a really nice looking one speed cruising bike.  It was seafoam green, off white thick tires,  a sturdy frame, a basket on the front, and a cup holder for a water bottle.  The only things missing were the streamers on the handlebars, and a little bike bell that goes ching-ching.  It was a cute bike, and I thought it could be a good thing for me.

I mentioned that found a bike I liked to my husband, and he went to take a look at it.  When he came home, he rolled in my birthday present and I became a proud new owner of that cute and sturdy seafoam green cruising bike with the basket and cup holder.   All mine.  All I had to do was figure out if I could actually ride again?  Though as the old adage goes, “It’s just like riding a bike” so I figured it wouldn’t be a problem.  Not to mention, it is a sturdy one speed, and how hard could it be to get up on there and take a ride?

It has been sitting unridden for a long time.  It still looks really great, but I had not yet attempted to ride.  I even told some of my good girlfriends about it, and could see on their faces that they didn’t believe that I would actually ever ride.  One friend even offered to buy the bike from me!  In their defense, they do know me, and I do not represent the epitome of health and fitness.  🙂  I do not fault them for doubting me.  I had doubts myself.

I have to say, even though I always enjoyed riding a bike when I was younger, I was scared to try.  In a way, this bike has become a symbol for many opportunities in my life that I was unwilling to try, because of my fear of failure.  Recently, a group I have been working with at my church came together to cast a vision for the direction they feel the spirit of God is leading them to reach out to the community.  One of the things the facilitator said was that you can’t be afraid to fail.  When trying something new, eventually failure will happen.  You learn and evaluate, and then move in a different direction the next time.  Failure is a necessary part of the process.

So finally yesterday, these many months later, my husband took me out to help me relearn how to ride my new(ish) bike.  I am sure that our neighbors had a lovely vision of me hiking my large posterior up onto the seat and trying to ride!  And truly, hopping on and riding like the wind did not happen right away.  Some seat adjustments had to be made, and things needed to be tweaked here and there, but once I was able to get going, I remembered the joy of coasting down an incline with the cool wind blowing and fully surrounding me.   I remembered the task of pedaling up the hills when more effort was needed. I remembered the sense of freedom to explore and get out into the world.  And I understood that while I won’t be ready to tackle a longer ride until I’m much more comfortable, I have set a goal to eventually get there.  Time, effort,  and practice will be the only way to see positive results.  I have to at least try.  And I have to be okay with failing too.

It’s kind of like walking with Jesus every day.  There are days when we have to put more effort into that ongoing relationship, and additional prayer and Bible study, and encouragement from other believers might be necessary.  Other days, we feel and know a strong sense of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and we become a part of God moving in the world and touching the lives of others.  And other times, we have to adjust our approach, learn to shift our focus back to Jesus, and grow from the learning process of whatever changes we need to make.

The apostle Paul often used athletic imagery in his letters to the different churches.  He understood that being a Christian was about discipline, and trial and error, and learning and growing throughout our lives.  Anyone who walks, runs, or bikes, or has any kind of regular exercise program knows these things.  And Paul wanted to encourage a daily disciplined ongoing growing life-long faith for each Christian.  In Philippians 3:12-14 Paul writes;

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Walking with Christ daily is a choice.  And we will all fail at times.  We have to be okay with that.  We learn to evaluate and regroup, set new goals, then leave the failure behind so that we can embrace change and growth to move in a new direction.  It really is just like riding a bike.

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Trying once more…

I have not logged on to write in quite a while.  I didn’t realize how long it had been until I logged in today.  And when I set up this blog, I chose generic nature scenes to rotate at the top of my page.  Today the scene from winter was there.  Timely and true.  From a place of several great losses in my life in the last 4 years, I think the season of winter has had an invisible grip on me and part of me has shut down in order to just function.

I began this blog to try to reflect on and grieve the loss of my father (Pop).  Being a pastor’s wife has placed me with many families who have lost a loved one.  And while I too would mourn the loss of many of those beloved church and community members, they were not my immediate family.  Being present with those who mourn is never easy.   Being the person that has to sort out and fully grieve a great loss is unbearable.

While I consider myself to be a fairly strong person, I realize that I have been ill-equipped to walk through this difficult time in my life.  The barren winter took hold of me, and wrapped it’s cold dormant branches around me, and has not let go.  For a long time, I could not feel or see it, however I now recognize it is there.

I mentioned several great losses earlier.  It started with Pop (my dad) dying in February 2012.  The next year was the most difficult for my husband in his ministry.  Leading a church is never easy.  Juggling your ministry and calling with the various personalities and quirks of a congregation, is quite a challenge most days.  Sometimes you are able to share moments of God’s grace and love and create significant relationships, and other times you fail.  One person being unhappy with something you have done, who has a personality clash with the minister, who also has their own agenda, can cause a ripple effect that spins out of control.  And if such a person is in leadership within that church, and they know the few who have “perceived” influence in the congregation, the end result is usually not positive for the minister.  This was the case, and my husband was forced to resign his position abruptly, with the majority of folks in the church unaware there was even a conflict.   Another significant loss.

My courageous, loving and selfless mother-in-law Pat contracted a rare auto-immune disease that attacked her kidneys, in the fall of 2013.   Other complications caused further issues.  She seemed to be reacting positively to the treatment the doctors gave her, but then relapsed and quickly became worse.  Facing dialysis treatments the rest of her life, lacking a strong support system to care for her at home, and a greatly diminished quality of life, she made the decision to stop all treatments.   She died in early December that year.

In the spring of 2014, my 29 year old nephew Zach (my only sister’s only child) had a cardiac arrest.   He was out to dinner with a friend, and they were saying goodbye in the parking lot when he collapsed.  By the time help got there, the damage of the lack of oxygen to his brain was significant.  After being in the hospital for a couple of weeks, it was diagnosed that he would no longer function on his own,  and would be bed-ridden and require life support the rest of his life.  His parents knew Zach would not want to live like that, and chose to shut down all life support.  He died on Mother’s Day of 2014.

I never sought out any kind of grief counseling, though the beady-eyed, coke bottle glasses wearing Hospice social worker assigned to my dad’s case, encouraged all of us in his family to do so.  I wasn’t a fan of certain things regarding Pop’s Hospice care, though I know now that it was more my anger at the situation and not really about those caring for him in Hospice. I am stubborn, and felt like I was fully capable of handling this loss on my own, thank you very much!

Then the church situation happened.  And how do you grieve a loss like that? Strong feelings and emotions tied up in a ministry you are forced to walk away from.  Investment in the lives of those in the congregation severed without warning.  Who offers grief counseling for ministers and their families facing an uncertain future after something like that?  Lots of anger at the injustice of the situation, paired with facing your own weaknesses, and then the great need for forgiveness for yourself, and for others.  Quite a lot to process.  I am still processing.  Then two more significant family losses.  And if I was not completely numb before, I certainly was after that.

Having recently taken a course about caring for a congregation (pastoral care and counseling), we devoted a lot of time to caring for families who are grieving.  I knew that would be a difficult subject for me.  It dredged up all the emotion surrounding each loss, and my lack of properly addressing my own grief for each.  It also gave me some new insights regarding things I had held onto, or blamed myself for–things really out of my control.  It got me to a place where I see that my grief needs to be confronted.

I hope to share some of that journey here.  Mainly I want to write again.  My dad had a gift for writing poetry and stories about his life.  I want to honor his memory and not neglect that creative gift that he gave to me.  I want to open my eyes and see the rays of sunshine peering through the clouds of my dreary winter.  I want to share my quirky view on life and my faith journey and any other insights along the way.  I want to laugh more. I want to breathe again.

So here is to a reboot, of sorts, and trying once more.

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Advent, Relationships and Joel, the Lump of Coal

This morning my mom shared with me an unusual clip from the Jimmy Kimmel show last night. Jimmy was asked to be a part of a video of an original Christmas song written by the band The Killers.   For the last few years, this music group has created an original Christmas song and given all the proceeds received from the sales to the RED Aids international campaign.  This year’s song is called Joel, The Lump of Coal.  The video can be found on Kimmel’s show website, or the song purchased and downloaded on iTunes to benefit the RED Aids campaign. (This blog was written 2 years ago)

I wasn’t sure what drew my mom to this video, beyond the humorous bit Jimmy Kimmel showed about creating the video.  But as I watched the video, the message of the song is simple but deceptively profound.  In the end, the lump of coal that is given to a naughty child is transformed, and in the process also transforms the heart of the child.  Ultimately we are talking about a change of heart based on an unusual relationship of a gift given for bad behavior by a human. This theme seems very familiar.

The power of the internet and social media has created today to be a special day during all the madness and busy-ness of the holiday season for all of us to pause and give something back.  Whether it be caring for someone that is lonely or disenfranchised this time of year, to also giving financially to charities doing great work all over the world every day, to care for impoverished and forgotten people.   I would encourage you to consider participating in this day.

I have always considered the Advent season to be all about giving.  Not just one day of December, but during Advent and beyond.  During the Advent season, those of us who are Christians spend this time to reflect and prepare our hearts as we wait for the coming of God’s greatest gift given to us in Jesus. But we aren’t just supposed to just sit around and hang out.  We aren’t supposed to get caught up in the secularization and selfishness of Christmas that so pervades our society.  We ARE supposed to be watching and waiting with anticipation.  But waiting with anticipation also means to be about caring for others, and reaching out a helping hand, and offering moments to be present and listening and sharing with those around us.  Christmas really is not all about us, or those big ticket items that wind up on our list of desired gifts.

When the focus is shifted away from the onslaught of advertising for more things that most of us truly do not need, or all the ways we choose to fill December with activities and parties, the selfishness of the season is taken away.  From the start, the incarnation of Jesus coming as one of us meant a new way to be in relationship with God.  In a most unusual way Jesus came without fanfare, without a big fancy party, without a conquering army, but in the flesh as a baby, to grow and experience life as one of us.  And ultimately Jesus was transformed into the Christ who comforts, befriends, challenges and loves each of us despite how naughty we each can be.  Through Jesus’ life, sacrifice, death and resurrection, Jesus came to be the ultimate way to transform our lives and draw us all closer in relationship to our Creator God.

Ann Voskamp shares what Advent is about, and showcases how God, our Creator, can transform human lives and relationships.  Ann says:
“The whole world was made by God’s word. But God’s children alone were made by all of God’s love. You were formed by a huddle of holy hearts.

You are made of both the dust of this earth and the happiness of highest heaven. You are made of both flesh and spirit, and you are made of two worlds longing for forever with Jesus.

No matter what happens in the world, the truth is always this: you were formed by Love…for love.” (Unwrapping the Greatest Gift:  A Family Celebration of Christmas by Ann Voskamp)

Consider reaching and out and finding ways to show Christ’s love to others during this month and in the upcoming new year.  Let’s shift our focus, look beyond ourselves, and become God’s loving people to a hurting world!

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Interrupted Lives

Interrupted Lives

(written after the events of 9-11-2001)

We move through our days
Not looking much past the next hour and how it’s filled
Flowers grow and wither without notice
A bird’s song falls on deaf ears
Seasons come and go
While we complain about the weather
There is not time to pay attention
The details of our days become a blur
One moving into the next with no distinction

Craving to take away the boredom of the mundane
Everything becomes “thrill me,”  “dazzle me,”
“Impress me,” “entertain me”
So desensitized to the world around us
We’ve lost the wonder of each new day and it’s opportunities
We forget we are put here to be in relationship to one another
And to creation
And to God

Then something happens
Some defining moment that changes everything
We become witness to something horrific and unimaginable
Hiding in our own self-absorption
Ignoring that some in the world witness these sights everyday
Their souls and minds altered by the sights and sounds of lives being lost
The world as they know it crumbling all around them
Hopes dashed, dreams dead

This moment tests the metal of who we are
Where our priorities lie
What we believe
How we relate
Whether we care
Why we are here

Now that planes fly again, images are fading
Are we different?  Have we changed?
Do we embrace each new day,
Hoping that by its end we have listened and cared more than before?
Will we ignore this chance to start again;  to make a difference;  to show love?
Are we once again caught on the treadmill of activities that fill our schedule?

How soon we forget the important lessons
Something else will interrupt our lives to remind us….

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