Taking Down the Porch Decorations

I finally got our Christmas decorations from the porch taken down today!  Well, mostly–I still need to get up on the step ladder and take down the icicle lights–the staples go in so hard that it takes a pair of pliers to pry them out!

Part of the reason it’s taken this long to get this job done is that I went away for two weeks earlier this month, during the time when “normal” people take their decorations down.  Part of it is that I deliberately chose not to take them down the day after Christmas, as so many people seem to do nowadays.  We have forgotten that the “12 days of Christmas” BEGIN with Christmas day, and end at Epiphany.  Hence, we have always kept our decorations up and lit during the 12 days.  Actually, Kelly chose to keep the porch lights on until sometime late last week, because she liked them, and they cheered her up.  I say, good for her.

Looking at my calendar yesterday, I realized that we are just four weeks away from Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.  “Wow,” I said, “it seems like we just recovered from Christmas, and it’s time to start again.”  But that’s the joy and the challenge of the Christian year–we move by a rhythm of fasts and feasts, of preparation and celebration.  While it is good to “keep Christmas in your heart” all year long, it is also good to be reminded that Jesus’ work on earth didn’t stop with his being born in Bethlehem.  He grew up (though we know frustratingly little about his childhood and adolescence), taught his people how to love, healed the sick, raised the dead, challenged the powers that were, was crucified, died, and rose again.  And, through the power of the Holy Spirit, he lives today in the body of Christ, his people the Church.

So, though I am sad to see an end to the Christmas lights for another year, I am glad that we are preparing to enter another season of waiting and watching and preparing ourselves for the coming of the King.  For it is in the preparation and the journeying and the pilgrimage that we ultimately find ourselves again, and in so doing, we find God.

Grace and Peace,

David

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Why Prayer Matters…

Yesterday, I attended a prayer rally in support of legislation that will regulate the 10 “massage parlors” in the city of Warren, Ohio.  It was an inspiring event, attended by a wide range of people from all over Trumbull county, representing many denominations (and many non-denominational churches, too).  My thanks go out to Councilwoman Cheryl Saffold for bringing the event together. 

As I stood in that parking lot yesterday,  listening to speaker after speaker, with the cold wind whipping through downtown Warren like a cold knife, I was amazed by the feeling of God’s presence among the people gathered there.  Methodists, Baptists, Catholics, Pentecostals, and a whole range of views in-between were gathered together for one purpose–to pray to God for the legislation that will be passed this Wednesday.  There were no efforts to “convert” one another.  We didn’t have a discussion on how we are different–though we also didn’t discuss how we’re the same, either.  We just focused our hearts and minds on God, and prayed in Jesus’ name for one another, for the city of Warren, and for those who are exploited by the commercial sex industry. 

Prayer matters not so much because it brings about some magical turn of events, or because it is an incantation against evil, but because it draws us closer together and closer to God.  I believe in prayer because I know that I am changed whenever I pray, and I believe in the power of God’s presence among God’s people.  Prayer brings that power to the forefront.  Prayer matters because it can be a powerful sword of nonviolence in a world of violence, desecration of human life, and apathy on the part of a large number of the populace.  Prayer makes it possible for us to have the courage to march against what we know to be wrong, and to stand up for what we believe is right. 

So yesterday’s rally was a great moment, for our movement against the massage parlors and against human trafficking, but also for me personally.  It reminded me that a few committed individuals, working together for a common purpose, can indeed change the world.

If you read this, please keep the city council of Warren in your prayers on Wednesday, as they vote to regulate the “massage parlors.”  And know that my prayers will be joined with yours.

In peace,

David

There are no “Bar Mitzvahs” in the Bible!

As I have been doing some research on rites of passage and on human faith development, I began to explore the Bible for some examples of rites of passage.  Not surprisingly, I didn’t find any!  In fact, a lot of people in the Bible go from being an infant (or child) to being an adult, with nary a mention of their childhoods.  Some examples:

  • Jesus (other than a brief mention late in Luke 2, he pretty much grows up in the gospels without any childhood!)
  • John the Baptizer (doesn’t even get a childhood story–just birth to grown man.)
  • Isaac (one minute, he’s a boy about to be sacrificed, the next minute, he’s grown up and looking for a wife.)
  • Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25:26–babies; Genesis 25:27–grown men!)
  • Moses (Exodus 5:10–baby in the bullrushes; Exodus 5:11–grown man!)

It’s no wonder we have a hard time expressing rites of passage in the church today–there are precious few examples of rites of passage in our most foundational Scriptures.  There are no bar mitzvahs in the Bible!  Pastoral theologians Herbert Anderson and Edward Foley wrote in their book Mighty Stories, Dangerous Rituals: Weaving Together the Human and the Divine that in the church, “…there is an absence of ritual models for significant moments of crisis or transition.” (pg. 7) 

That’s why I am doing my Doctor of Ministry project in the area of spiritual direction/spiritual growth with youth and young adults.  It is my hope to be able to help youth/young adults create for themselves meaningful rites of passage that will help them be prepared to face the challenges (to their faith and their sense of self) that will come when they enter the so-called “real world.”  The goal is not to create a youth ministry with spiritual direction tacked on, but a ministry of spiritual direction with youth and young adults. 

Look to see and hear more about this project in the coming months, as I work through the details and start working with my “subjects” (participants) for the study.

Blessings,

David

A haiku for today…

When you read this, please don’t “read into” it. It’s just a reflection on a thought I had in a conversation in class this morning. I’m not going through any tough times or anything!

hurtful words are said,
words hurt more than sticks or stones,
words can break the soul.

On Dr. King, and the Prayer-Action Connection

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was many things–Preacher, Leader, “Drum Major” for justice and peace, Nobel Laureate, and inspiration to countless people in the fight for equal rights for all.  But today, I want to focus on the fact that he was a deeply devout man, with a spiritual depth that fed all of his amazing work. 

In my office, I have a picture of Dr. King that I picked up when I was in Atlanta a few years ago.  Underneath it, I have put this quote:  “It is no more possible to be a Christian without prayer than it is to be alive without breathing.”  Dr. King understood that the ground of all his work was what Julian of Norwich called “the ground of all beseeching,” God’s own Spirit.  His deep connection to his faith, through a life of prayer and study that is well-documented, is what kept Dr. King going when times got tough, and it seemed that no one else knew where God was calling him next.  It was his faith in God, and in the promise of new life in Christ that allowed him to have such confidence in his cause, peace in the midst of chaos, and a sense of personal safety even in the face of regular death threats. 

This is not to say that everything was peace and roses for Dr. King.  Indeed, his faith called him to places that tried his spirit and tested his resolve on a number of occasions.  His faith was one forged in the crucible of political and public action.  His principles were the result of hard-fought battles on the frontline of America’s most tumultuous times. 

So today, I salute Dr. King the reformer and leader of the civil rights movement.  But I also remember one of God’s saints, who now rests from his labors, and whose life and work call upon each of us to take up the banner of justice and freedom and carry it forward, rooted and grounded in the love and grace of God. 

Peace,
David

New Year, New Me?

So, here it is, January 2nd–time to make the old resolution for the new year.  I know, I should have thought of this earlier–at least by the 31st, but I’ve been busy.  So busy, in fact that it’s been…WHOA!…MONTHS since I last posted here.  I hope all my loyal readers (are there any left out there?) have stuck with me all this time. 

At the present moment I find myself already behind on about three projects–nine, if you count each of the reading/reflection assignments that I’m supposed to do for my D.Min. class as individual projects.  And, I feel this afternoon like I need a vacation after my vacation.  Not that spending the week with the family wasn’t fun, but it was a bit removed from relaxing. 

But back to the resolution.  As I posted on facebook (in haiku form, of course), my goal this year is to breathe more.  Not just regular old in-out type breathing, but really reflective, mindful breathing.  I resolve to lay aside all the tensions that I pile upon myself, and take some time each day this year to breathe in the presence of God, and breathe out the love of God to the world.  Or, maybe I just need to eat more chocolate.  Probably the breathing thing, though. 

“Be still, and know that I am God…” I should print those words on a card, laminate it, and staple it to my hand or something.  I don’t know, maybe too much on that last one, but I should remember that more often–God is God, and I am not.  Thanks be to God.