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Archive for December, 2008

I have a ton of blogs that I need to write… so many adventures and places I’ve been waking up to lately! For right now, I wanted to share the Advent devotional that I wrote for Peachtree Baptist Church’s devotional made by members of the congregation. I was thrilled when they asked me to contribute. Here’s the devotional which was actually for Christmas Day, December 25th.

Luke 2:1-20
The community of Peachtree knows how the birth of a baby (and babies!) can bring new life into the fellowship. The excitement and news extended all the way to the West Coast. The birth of new life does something to inspire and encourage those of us who have the opportunity to bear witness to it.

Simple shepherds living out in the fields were some of the first to hear the news of the birth of the Christ child. Curious and yet hopeful of this “good news of great joy”, they set out on their way to find this miracle baby. When they found him, the story is told, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child. They couldn’t wait to spread the good news to others!

I’m always amazed that the story tells us that the shepherds were among the first to see the Christ child wrapped in cloths. It says to me that he was brought into the world to be good news for all people. What a beautiful message to a world in need of such hope, love, joy and peace this season.

On this Christmas morning, as we gather with family and friends, may we look for and find the Christ child being born into our hearts and lives once again. May it be such an awe inspiring occasion that we can’t wait to tell others.

“Glory to God in the heavenly heights, 

Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.”
Luke 2: 14 The Message

Godburst
Kneeling in Bethlehem, page 27
By Ann Weems
“When the Holy Child is born into our hearts
there is a rain of stars
a rushing of angels
a blaze of candles
this God burst into our lives.
Love is running through the streets.”

May the Love of God run through our streets, our homes and our hearts this day and always….

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My Top Ten List

‘Tis the season to be buying gifts, right? Well, thankfully my family has decided to be “present” with each other rather than buy “presents” for each other. Seriously, I think living across the country and realizing I can’t just jump in the car, be there four hours later has really made me treasure the time I will be with them in just 11 days (but who’s counting?)

Besides, with the economy struggling, buying two plane tickets cross-country (plus dog in tow), and rental car fees, it adds up.
So, this Christmas, I have been taking stock of all the great and wonderful gifts that I have been blessed with so far. Here’s my top ten list of things I’m thankful for this holiday season:

1. A gorgeous view of the snow capped mountains on my way to San Jose this week.
2. A good cup of tea on these cold California nights
3. The comforting voice of my best friend Brittany in the mornings on my way to work.
4. My bff Jen who tells me to turn the car around when I don’t know where I’m going.
5. Coming home from work to hear my grandmother’s voice on the answering machine…just calling to tell me that she misses me. (Happy Birthday Ma!)
6. Facebook. Yep, I’m thankful that I have a fabulous way to keep in touch with my friends & family.
7. A beautiful Christmas tree and my wonderful friend, Emily who helped me decorate it.
8. A divine Word that comes just when I need it (and as it happens, when my patient’s need it too.)
9. My husband’s arms that surround me with love and hugs
10. My dad, mom and sister who started counting down my arrival for Christmas before I did!

Here’s to hoping that you all have a wonderful season of giving and receiving gifts of “presence” too.
What are gifts you are thankful for this holiday season?

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It Can’t Be True

I wrote the date today and realized that I turn “30” in one month! Yikes! I’ve got to start on my “Things I want to do during my 30th Year” list.

My friend Ann wrote about her 30th birthday on her blog. I’m trying to embrace my landmark birthday with the same kind of grace and excitement that she did.

But for right now, “Whoa…” is all I can say.  

Any suggestions? What should go on my list?

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Venturing Out

Most of my family members are still pretty amazed and shocked that I spend my days working in a hospital. It was well known by friends and family members that hospital rooms usually made me feel weak in the knees and nauseated. My friend Clay would laugh and remind me of the time when we visited him while on a late night shift in the ICU and I quickly had to excuse myself. Keep in mind that this wasn’t but a few years ago.

I’m growing…. I spend most of my work hours in the hospital and many of those in the ICU… and I haven’t passed out yet. Often times, there are special events at the hospital and today was one of them.stanfordThe Stanford Blood Center was hosting a blood drive today. I managed to avoid the “host” standing in the hallway inviting people to come in. I tried walking other hallways, not making eye contact, or briskly walking past her in order to keep from engaging in conversation with her.

Let me just say, I think blood drives are wonderful and I’m thankful we have them. But, I had never given blood. I guess it goes back to a friend of mine in high school. Tony decided it would be a good idea to give blood instead of going to class one day. He had one of the unfortunate adventures of getting up too quickly and well, ended up getting sick in the library…. in front of everyone. Yep, that sealed the deal. I hate needles and I hate throwing up. There have been lots of opportunities to give blood. In addition to high school, there were college blood drives, grad school blood drives AND when I first started working at PBC, we had a blood drive in our parking lot. I would just see the blood drive mobile and get weak in the knees.

So, I thought I was doing pretty good today when I had made it through the day without giving blood. Until this afternoon, I had my Friday afternoon hot chocolate and was headed back to the office to finish up paperwork. I walked down the hall, prepared to retreat another way when I realized that her table had been moved. “Yes! Another successful dodge” I thought to myself. Not quite. I spotted her. She saw me. She said, “You know, you should really consider donating blood today.” “Um, I can’t” I replied. “Really?” She inquired. Ugh. Here we go. “Well, I’ve never given blood, I’m scared of needles, I get sick walking past here, should I go on?” I replied. “Oh, they are very good. Just go on in and talk to them. YOUR blood can help 3 people. We’re trying to store up for the holiday season.” Dang. Okay, so all these boundaries I’m trying to develop in CPE…. out the window. I find myself walking in the auditorium and…..

I have to say that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Forty-five minutes later I walked out of there with a lovely pink bandage, new tshirt, and best of all (wink, wink) a gift certificate for Baskin Robbins. Yep, I gave a pint so I can get a free pint of ice cream. There was only once when I thought about walking out. I was in my “lawn chair” when a patient I work with walked into the room inquiring about giving. He recognized me right away and could tell how nervous I was. I kept thinking, “don’t throw up. don’t throw up.” And, luckily I didn’t. I have to say, I’m pretty proud of the new venture today.                img_45791              

Free tshirt. Delicious food. More free ice cream. Count me in. (Well, I will proudly say I can’t give again until Feb 6, 2009 and that is okay with me.)

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First Sunday of Advent

Yesterday, I returned to New Community of Fellowship and filled in for their interim pastor. I was delighted for the invitation and opportunity to preach on the first Sunday of Advent. I thought I’d share my sermon here:

New Community of Faith
11/30/08
Isaiah 64:1-9
“While We Wait”

     Today we find ourselves ending a holiday week designed to be a reminder of the things in our life for which we are most grateful. It’s sacred in many ways. Thanksgiving connects us to a very rich, Biblically-based theme of giving thanks. This week, we as human beings were once again reminded before and after the Thanksgiving feast was shared, the very essence of how fragile human life is, how dangerous evil can be, and how we as a society often contribute to the chaos that exists.

     We found out about the horrible tragedies of lives lost in the attacks on Mumbai, India. We are now beginning to hear the stories and see the faces of the Americans who lost their lives in the attacks. We will probably never know about all who were lost in that great tragedy.

     It is still an outrage that we as a consumer-driven society cannot also see the evil in our quest for luxuries. To think that a man lost his life while others literally walked over him in an attempt to catch the first good deals of the day reminds me that we have our priorities out of order. Two disputing men decided the way to handle their argument was in a crowded store on the same day, surrounded by other men, women and children. We should be appalled at these acts of violence, yet we seem to be becoming numb to them. It seems our tendency is to say, “Oh, that’s so sad.”  And yet we continue on like nothing ever happened.

     Yesterday, we awoke to news that hundreds have been killed in Nigeria due to a war caused by religious tensions between Christians and Muslims. Tomorrow, December 1st is World Aids Day, and there is still much work to be done in terms of treatment, care, support, and prevention of this terrible disease. In 2007, it was reported that 33.2 million adults/children in the world were living with HIV/AIDS.

     Shall I go on? We’ve yet to even cover the economy, issues of poverty, etc. I haven’t mentioned the personal struggles and places in our own “private” lives that we bring with us to worship. Enough! We cry—we live in these places every day… do we really have to hear about them from the pulpit on Sundays too, we ask ourselves?

     With fear and trepidation of the reality that you might not ask me back depending on how I answer that question…. I say yes. Yes, we need to talk about these things. Yes, we need to bring them into the worship of God. Yes, we need to ask, where is God in this midst of this chaotic world?

     And yet, have hope. We are not the first ones who have asked these questions, watched tragedies unfold, and witnessed evil being acted out by human beings. Our scripture text today is from the book of Isaiah. Most modern scholars believe that this section of Isaiah was composed after the Babylonian exile sometime during the 6th century. We hear it this morning as a lament, an expression of mourning and sorrow for their present situation. The lament here is something similar to what we would hear in the book of Psalms. The writer getting God’s attention, reminding God of ways God has worked in the past and imploring God to work now in the present. In our text today, there is lament here- real call for Divine intervention.

“On that you would tear apart the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you!” As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down and the mountains trembled before you.”

     Here we have the written words of people living times of destruction, war, poverty, and oppression. They have a real sense of disappointment about them here. God has not shown up in the way that the wanted, and they are living in the reality of waiting for restoration. They are trying to be a hopeful people calling on God and calling out the power that God has to work in their lives. They are hoping for redemption. They are waiting for redemption.

     We find ourselves here on this first Sunday of Advent wondering what to do next. Where do we go from here as faith-filled people? The Israelite children cried out to God for restoration and redemption. And then they waited. They waited to see what would happen next. How would God come and bring redemption? How would God come and bring restoration?

     Why is this a text for the first Sunday of Advent? Because it’s a story of what it means to be a people waiting on God to act and respond to a people in need. What do we do while we wait?  We take our hope in the text we have this morning. Isaiah 64:8 reads, “But now, O Lord, You are our God; We are the clay, and You are the Potter, We are all the work of Your hands.” Our hope is that while we wait, we are being re-formed.  The Israelite children prayed for God to “look upon us… for we are all your people”.

     As God’s people, we have a choice of how we are going to live out the waiting period this Advent. Waiting is a difficult thing to do. We don’t like to wait, but we are forced to do it, sometimes in the most inconvenient of places. We have to wait on a table to eat, wait to see our doctors, wait for a call or a letter from a friend.

     A few weeks ago, I heard a line from a Marc Cohn song that has stuck with me. In the song, the singer asks the question repeatedly, “Am I willing to wait for the miracle?” I had heard that song multiple times but on this particular morning, I heard it louder and clearer than ever before. I shared it with a colleague of mine whose response was, “Sounds like an Advent question to me.” That is the question of Advent I suppose.  Such a tough question. I long for the miracle that the Israelites longed for. Yes, I want the heavens to tear open. I want for God to show up in some really BIG way to demonstrate the God I serve is powerful, interested in redemption, and cares about people who are hurting.

     Instead, God chose to show up in the form of a baby. A baby? Really? Our miracle that we had to wait for came in the form of a baby? And advent is supposed to remind us of that miracle each year. Advent is supposed to be our time of preparation, our time of waiting… waiting for God to show up once again.

     How do we survive these chaotic times while we wait? Do we keep to ourselves in our communities of faith, reading, praying and singing Kum-ba-yah, all the while pretending that we aren’t affected? While we wait, we are to keep awake looking for all the places that God might show up to us.

     I read this week in the Christian Century a story about a place in Seattle, WA that looks a lot like a Starbucks we might find in any of our neighborhoods. It’s called the Recovery Café. The folks who wander into the inviting space aren’t necessarily looking to “shed their addiction” or get off the street. Sometimes folks just show up because they are hungry. Coffee is always hot, and soup and salad are served at lunchtime. A man named Don told the writer of the article about his journey of recovery and involvement in the community at the café. “I’d be dead if not for this place.” And he’s even found a way of giving back. “They trust me with the keys, to open and close, to get the food ready…” Another man who had a habit of disappearing for months at a time said, “Now if I’m not here for a while, people notice. I have to call if I’m going to be away.”

     The founder of the Recovery Café said there is a “sense of the deep relationship between being healed and healing others” as a deep theological marker for the café.  This story reminds me that we don’t have to be perfect ourselves to offer something to others. The Recovery Café sounds like a place where folks are using their waiting time wisely. They are offering their own story and opportunity of recovery as a gift to someone else.

     It can be a time of re-formation for us and for the communities that we are involved in. We can wait and prepare for the arrival of the Christ child. We can be molded and formed in the waiting periods. There is no doubt that we will wait, but how we respond to the waiting period is up to us.

     As we enter into this Advent season, may we wait with eyes wide open to the miracle of God entering the world once again. May we listen for the ways that we may be bearers of hope and peace while we wait. May our story of waiting bring healing and transformation to our lives, our communities and our world. Amen.


 

 

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