Archive for December, 2018

Thought for 2019: Learning to Give in New Ways

Monday, December 31st, 2018

As 2018 draws to a close today, our thoughts inevitably turn to the year ahead.  And maybe we can hold, on this promising threshold, the beautifully disruptive challenge to learn to give in new ways in 2019.

For context: I struggle, as many people do, with the pressing question of “Am I doing enough?”  Most days, the answer is “no.”  We offer that answer of “no” and people tend to reply back with a loving but I believe ultimately misguided answer “Of course you are!”

That answer “Of course you are!”, though comforting and at times necessary, is not how the world gets better.  Not how we find or offer healing.  Not how we find each other again and again.

The answer of “No, I can do more” if held without guilt, or worry, but instead tenderly held with a smile around the knowing promise that we are presented in nearly every moment the blessed opportunity to choose love and connection, is actually a life giving answer,  focusing, opening us to the moment and away from the score card and the agenda of both misplaced and at times over emphasized self-care.

How do I give more in new ways IN THIS MOMENT?  Now there is a question!

That is not a frenetic, draining search.  It is, in a fascinating twist, a question of faith.  Can we have faith, in the year ahead, that God will place us in the worlds he intends us to heal?  When there, can we have the faith to live fully and completely, giving of ourselves?  Can we have faith in the gifts God will ALWAYS allow to flow, both directions?   Can we have faith, to learn new ways to give?

We can!  And every time we do, the light grows a bit brighter…

 

 

Letting the Gifts Flow….

Tuesday, December 18th, 2018

A few days ago, weariness stuck hard.  So many beautiful things over this Christmas Season.  And so much heartache and challenge as well.  The weariness there hits my soul.

And somehow that seems totally appropriate for the Christmas season.  So easy to think of the season as an easy rendition, repeated annually, of “Twas the Night Before Christmas”  but that is not where the biblical story actually starts.  The biblical story starts in far more challenging times than a warm house with children, asleep, awaiting Santa Clause.  It starts with a combination of a hoped-for promise, darkness, and waiting.

The waiting.  There is always this part of the spiritual journey.  This waiting.

The waiting reminds us that this journey with God is a long journey,  A beautiful journey.  And a journey that includes all the twists and turns of life, all the bumps and bruises.

And what then of our roles in waiting?  I think what we can do, simply, is to continue to work on being the gift as best we can.  Can we reach out in our weariness to another?  Can we reach out in our joy to another?  Can we reach?

After all, everyone except for King Herod is on the move at Christmas.  Wisemen, shepherds, Mary, Joseph … all on the move.

So this Christmas, keep moving.  Let Christ be born again in your heart. Let the gifts flow.  Let those gifts, in ways obviously imperfect yet forever blessed, move through you to others.

And have a Merry Christmas!!!!

I personally want to invite you to be part of the church….

Thursday, December 6th, 2018

This time of year, many of us consider change.  What do we vaguely sense wanting to be born in our lives? Empowered by the simple acceptance of choice come 2019,  what do we want the year ahead to look? Some will consider “church” as part of the hoped-for changes in the year ahead.  That is the person I want to speak to. That is the person I want to invite to this church.

Fr. Richard Rohr captures the invitation so well…

I invite you to sink your roots deep in one place, in one particular tradition, even as you explore the wealth of wisdom to be found in other places. Otherwise you will get trapped in individualism and private superiority without any real testing laboratory in the ways of faith, hope, and practical love. Outside of a concrete community of relationships, you can imagine you are much more enlightened than you really are. Whatever tradition you claim, be open to letting it change you even as you challenge your church or community to also grow in maturity.  Fr. Richard Rohr

So why take up the invitation?

Church will change how you view connection

As Dorothy Day famously said, “We have all known the long loneliness.” Loneliness … a universal human experience. And we know as well, “… that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”

We learn here about love, community and connection in a very different way.  Most of our relationships grow out of a relatively confined, narrow demographic band. But in church, the edges of that band expand. It expands, with love, across lines of race, age and socioeconomic status. Church, at its best, eliminates “they” or “them.” It becomes about “us.”

We will, over time, and with the difficult work of stretching our edges, come to know and yes, even to love, people well outside of whatever normal box we tend to traditionally pull our friends from.  And the enrichment in that place is so hard to capture to words

Maybe that is because church creates a new center, a “this-is-what-we-are-for” not commonly found in our broader culture. That is the beauty of New Church Christianity, a faith that at its best, asks us to of course harbor our own individual lives but at the same time to look out, to find brothers and sisters in a new kinship.

Join here and over the years you will make friends from backgrounds totally new to your experience. They will enrich your life in ways too vast to list. You will be better for knowing “them” and in creating a new “us.”

Church will change how you view service

We often confuse activity with effectiveness. We often conflate an opinion with an action. That is not church.

Church instead moves towards a grounded doing, towards a lived moral experience. A simple example: church is more than holding forth on the challenges of addiction. Church instead moves towards working with addicts. Just fill in the blank with cancer, domestic abuse, at-risk teens, foster children, homelessness etc… and you have what churches do.

Join here, and you will go to parts of Philly you have never traveled to before. You will work with others struggling with hope and at times despair through challenges beyond what you have experienced.

You will find in those places good people. Amazing people holding out as beacons of hope in the midst of great struggle. You will leave those places humbled to your core and knowing God in a new way.

Church will change how you see God.

What if this … what if the ultimate reality of life is that life is good and that love is the very foundation of it all. What if our role was to push our selfishness aside and, in the moment of self-forgetting, remember again what is ultimately true, what ultimately matters, what ultimately lasts?

What if God stands on our side?

Join here, and that is what you will hear preached and what you will see lived. You will not hear of a vindictive God, bent on wrath, a threatening “not one step more” God. You will hear of God’s love, of its “no matter what’ness.” You will hear of our need to do our work.

We don’t believe it is, to use a baseball analogy, the bottom of 9th with eternity hanging in the balance. We believe it is top of the 1st actually – and always will be – as we welcome the amazing opportunities in front of us to serve.

The Fine Print Is This

The fine print is simple. Church takes sacrifice, remembering that “to sacrifice” means “to make sacred.” So it takes a willing heart. It takes time. It is not a consumer activity nor is rewarding in the short term.

We are not a special club. We are not here for entertainment.  We are not here just for the weddings or funerals. We are here because we believe deeply in a way of life where we follow, in our own imperfect and halting way, Jesus’ model of how to live with an eye towards others and to the greatest God-given truths known to mankind.

Give the year ahead to church.

 

 

It will change your mind about what you value