28 January 2008
25 January 2008
in between system crashes, Singing Owl asks us:
Brrrr! Baby, it’s COLD outside! At least that is the case where I am this morning. We are in a January deep freeze. Have a cup of hot tea and tackle five easy seasonal questions.
I have my Jasmine Green tea and here it goes....
1. What is the thermometer reading at your house this morning?
17F at 2:00 pm
2. Snow—love it or hate it?
Love it if I don't have to be somewhere. I remember a friend's slumber party in Feb where we stayed up till 3 and one of the girls' mother called when she got up at 5 to tell us that there was snow outside, so we all got dressed and ran out -- there was enough an a couple of cars to make 1 or 2 snowballs. It was exciting. It's not that exciting anymore. We also used to do road trips in high school where we'd load up the kids on the church bus and drive north until we found snow. (it required an overnight stay, so I'm guessing the parents were doing more planning than we knew.)
3. What is winter like where you are?
Pot holes. It's cold, the snow comes and goes. the roads are old.
4. Do you like winter sports? Any good stories?
Is sitting by a the fire a sport? I used to ski a little, but I was never any good.
5. What is your favorite season, and why?
Spring -- the hope and renewal implicit in the new foliage and all, of course, the riot of colorful flowers. Fall -- the beautiful, flaming colors. both of these because they're neither too hot nor too cold. I'm becoming a wimp in my old age. I lived a bit in an area that went from frozen to sweltering in "spring" and from sweltering to icy in "fall" I hated it.
20 January 2008
Did you ever play a recreational team sport where the teams are selected by captains? Remember how exhilarating it felt to be called first? Or do you remember fantasizing about how great it would be to be called first?
We are called
This morning’s passage in Isaiah tells us:
- “Before I was born the Lord called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name.”
And it goes on:
- “the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”
Psalm 139 takes it even further:
- “you knit me together in my mother’s womb … All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
Now THAT is being called first. Before we were born, before we did anything to earn it, God called us for His team. The God of the universe, the Holy One of Israel, has made mention of your name, He knows you, He chose you. He knows everything about you, and he loves you anyway. If you really stop to think about that, instead of just taking it for granted as something we say in church, it really blows the mind. Listen again: The God of the universe, the Holy One of Israel, has made mention of your name, He knows you, He Chose you. He knows everything about you, and he loves you anyway.
Last week as we celebrated the baptism of Jesus, we remembered our own baptisms. Real Minister spoke of how the water marks us members of God’s family. This week I want to look at what that means in how we live our lives, or as Paul puts it in Ephesians, as we “lead a life worthy of the calling”.
To be a team
To fulfill our calling, we need to first understand what the Bible says about WHY we are called. I hate to burst any bubbles, but we weren’t called so that we would have wealth, or power, or even so that our lives would be easy. Instead, Isaiah tells us we were called to be God’s servants.
Earlier in his letter, before the passage we read, Paul has told the Ephesians the same good news we just heard when he said “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” But he goes on in that same paragraph to say “we are .. created … to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” So we are chosen totally by God’s grace, but he did chose us to DO something.
Now I can’t sit here and tell you exactly what God has called YOU to do, because I don’t know. There are certain types of behavior we are all told to exhibit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control), but as for the actual works God has planned for you, you’ll have to ask God. But I can tell you that the answer is NOT the same for everyone. It’s not even the same for everyone here. The Ephesians passage tells us that we were each given grace and gifts to “equip us for ministry” and goes on to list a few, even more are listed in Corinthians. However, there are whole sermon series or multi-week Sunday school lessons on discerning your spiritual gifts: Don’t worry, I won’t try to cover it all now. I’d rather look at a different aspect: Teamwork. Paul speaks in this passage of building up the body of Christ and growing into the head which is Christ. In other words: We are to be the body of Christ. Arms reaching out, mouths proclaiming his love, those are the attractive things. But every body also has the less appealing functions: the spinal cord that carries messages throughout the body; the ligaments that hold things together, the bones that give us structure: without these things the body could not function.
Lets go back to that team for a minute: When we put together a team, we chose different skills for different positions. What kind of a team would have all goalies, all quarterbacks, or all receivers; certainly not a very good one! Even if everyone on the team could throw better than
Paul tells us that “each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift … to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ”. Everything we need is here—if we can get the parts working together.
But God didn’t say it was easy
Now Paul was not unwise to the ways of the world. He knew that folks don’t always get along. That’s why he spends so much time telling us HOW. Let’s take a look at Paul’s Rules for spiritual unity:
1. First HUMILITY. Humility is the opposite of pride. Now I don ‘t mean “pride in a job done well” which is really gratification. Humility is the opposite of smugness or arrogance. In Philippians, Paul tells us to “in humility, consider others better than yourselves.” I saw a T-shirt the other day that says “Jesus loves you, but I’m His favorite.” That is NOT humility. We should NEVER think of ourselves as better than any of God’s other children.
2. We are also to handle one another with GENTLENESS. That is not a common trait in the public arena today. When someone cuts you off on the highway, would you characterize your response as “gentleness”?
3. With PATIENCE. Not of us reach the same conclusions at the same time. Some just move more slowly. Some of us need to try things to find out they won’t work. We tend to think of patience as waiting passively. The Greek is actually “long-fused”, contrast that with “short-fused”! the King James translated it better as: “long-suffering”.
4. in LOVE. The word here is not brotherly love or affectionate love. Its Agape love – The kind that comes from God; the kind we can’t manage on our own. An undeserved, sometimes even unreciprocated love. This kind of love is not a just a feeling, it is a decision to act for the true best interest of the other party.
5. making EVERY EFFORT to maintain the unity of the Spirit – This is an ongoing activity: It’s a present participle, not a past tense verb. This isn’t something you do once. It’s a decision you have to make everyday, every encounter, and every conflict.These rules are simple, but they are not easy. Paul says “we must no longer be tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming”. These principles are not intended to make us into doormats who put up with everything. We’re supposed to be mature in our faith, but humble, gentle, patient and loving with one another. We have a goal: to serve God, to grow into our roles. As Paul says “speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, [That’s us!] as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.” If we can pull this off, we could make a radical change in our relationships!
Paul tells us that “each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift … to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ”. I believe that within each community: each church, each presbytery, each synod – God provides the grace, the gifts, that are needed within that community to accomplish God’s purposes. But it’s up to us to make use of them and function as a body. God allows us to make the decision to sit quietly and let our gifts atrophy. He also allows us to argue and bicker instead of being one body. But it breaks his heart.
As we start a new year and as we ordain and install new elders at the congregational meeting next week, take some time to reflect on your role in this body. Ask yourself: Am I contributing as I have been gifted? But also ask: Am I making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace? Am I helping and building up my partners in the ministry we call country church Presbyterian? Beyond that, Am I leading a life worthy of my calling?
Let us pray:
Lord open our hearts and minds to the possibilities you have in store for us. Give us grace, compassion, humility and gentleness in our dealings with one another, building us in to a fit body worthy of your headship. Amen.
18 January 2008
|You Would Be a Pet Cat|
Independent and aloof, you don't like to be dependent on anyone.
And as for other people, you can take them or leave them. You often don't care.
You live your life by your own rules. And you have deep motivations that no one truly understands.
Why you would make a great pet: You're not needy or greedy... unlike other four legged friends.
Why you would make a bad pet: You're not exactly running down to greet people at the door
What you would love about being a cat: Agility and freedom
What you would hate about being a cat: Being treated like a dog by clueless humans
- What book have you read in the last six months that has really stayed with you? Why?
Well, all reading at this point is for school. Going back to seminary and having the presbyopia kick in at the same time is a challenge!
That said, "Pastoral Theology" by Thomas Oden has been remarkable, he deals with pastoral care from a theological point of view but is clearly written and easy to understand.
Going back a little further (more like 8 months), "Holiness" by John Webster. This one is one to chew on. It goes into the theology of theology, and the holiness of God, the church and the Christian. This was a MUCH better book than what we used in systematic theology.
- What is one of your favorite childhood books?
Brighty of the Grand Canyon, probably because I remember Mom reading it to us.
- Do you have a favorite book of the Bible? Do tell!
The one I've studied most recently.... So Ezekiel at the moment. I love the fact that when the time was come for Ezekiel to begin service to God in the temple, but he couldn't get there, God came to him. Extravagantly.
- What is one book you could read again and again?
I am not a big re-reader. never have been. But I think I'd like to go back and reread Anne McCaffery's Pern novels. I read those in college many years ago. Maybe this summer as I decompress evenings after CPE.
- Is there a book you would suggest for Lenten reading? What is it and why?
Perhaps the Holiness book mentioned above. It helps to recenter our thinking about all of life on God.
And because we all love bonus questions, if you were going to publish a book what would it be? Who would you want to write the jacket cover blurb expounding on your talent?
I have enough trouble writing all these papers. I'm not sure that I have enough compost to write a WHOLE book. last paper, had 3 pages of data had to stretch to 5. I'm way to terse to write a book.
12 January 2008
Now I have to set a schedule for next term. Will I have recovered energy? will I be able to do 10 hour days? And CPE this summer, is it worth finishing the essays? I won't submit them until after the Dr's appointment because I haven't gotten the pathology report back from surgery. I might have other things on my mind this summer. But I have to turn in my course registration BEFORE the Dr, because I need to get into the right practicum sections. I don't even know what course load I'll be able to handle, but I have to register.
stepping on faith. God brought me here for a reason. I've made it through half of the program. I have to believe he wants me to finish.
Deep breaths and focus on the paper due Tuesday. Ignore the laundry that I'm not allowed to touch and the dishwasher that needs unloading -- off limits. but the catbox I might have to break the rules for. I don't think that can wait till DH gets home. Delenn and Padme deserve better.
04 January 2008
1. Do you make New Year resolutions?
no. Although I make resolutions throughout the year as the spirit leads (read: Hits me up side the head) I don't go for the artificial imposition of the calendar year as a time frame.
2. Is this something you take seriously, or is it a bit of fun?
New year's: non sequiter
Spirit with 2x4: very seriously
3. Share one goal for 2008.
gain candidacy status -- lots of essays and long drives with examinations. (while continuing studies and doing CPE)
I also want to reestablish my health. This year has been rough, surgery last week hopefully resolved most of it, but I want to not have to spend half (or more) of my energy on what ought to be normal.
4. Money is no barrier, share one wild/ impossible dream for 2008
a time of solitude, rest, peace and recuperation at the river (requires airfare and time)
5. Someone wants to publish a story of your year in 2008, what will the title of that book be?
A middle aged woman [finally] answers God's call: The journey continues