Monday, February 22, 2010

Random on a Monday

I have found a tenacious rhythm in the life of the church. As Christ Community's Senior Pastor and primary preacher and teacher, I have come to notice that every seventh day is a Sunday. I have tried to stretch and condense the rhythm of the week but to no avail, the first day of the week rolls around and it is time to preach once again. I love doing what I do and I love speaking of Christ's forgiveness, mercy, grace and love. There is, however, Monday to deal with.
Sunday I am with people all day (I'm an extrovert this is fine), but when I crawl into bed on Sunday night I am tired -- physically, emotionally, spiritually tired. When I rise on Monday that weariness seems to settle in and, like a Spring fog in Central New York, usually doesn't burn off until early afternoon. Typically, my solution to this is to NOT inflict myself on people on Monday morning. Sometimes it is unavoidable, sometimes it is essential, nonetheless, given a choice, I work hard to be invisible, quiet, reflective on a Monday.
Life has rhythms and patterns. The birth, growth, decline, death cycle is familiar (and, frankly, unavoidable). There is the rhythm of sunrise and sunset. The seasons spin from Summer to Fall to Winter to Spring and back to Summer again. We are surrounded by patterns and rhythms. I suspect this is why many of the ancient ones of the Christian movement recommended some type of rhythmic approach to the spiritual life. They developed the monastic hours for prayer throughout the day. They developed the Christian calendar (Lent/Easter/Pentecost/etc.) to frame the rhythm of each passing year.
It is Monday and my rhythmic pattern is to hide for a while and then slowly re-emerge.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday and "giving up stuff"

I grew up in a Roman Catholic home -- Catholic school for 1st and 2nd grade, first communion, confirmation all that fun religious stuff. One of the favorite things to talk about as we headed toward Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent was "what are you giving up for Lent". I suspect this was the over simplified response of over indulged people to a season of fasting and penitence/repentance. Fasting is going without something allowed (like giving up food or sex or a favorite activity for a season) to focus on God. As school kids we talked about giving up chocolate or Coke or some indulgence that we could well do without and, honestly, wasn't really much of a sacrifice. I wanted to give up broccoli and Brussels sprouts one year (definitely NOT a sacrifice).
Later in life, as I read what some of the Saints of Old understood about fasting I was astonished at how pale and paltry our childhood efforts were (then again, we were just kids). Many of the old ones would go without meat six days a week in the season of Lent. Many of them fasted entire days and even weeks during this time period. Many of them abstained from all manner of allowable activities as a sacrifice to God and a reminder of their mortality and to help them focus on the deeper spiritual matters at hand.
So, here I am in Lent, once again. It is Ash Wednesday. What am I willing to give up that will profoundly change me. One colleague of mine suggested giving up "negative thoughts and comments about self and others (thanks Rebecca)" -- that could be a serious sacrifice for some. Maybe I should give up my passive "watching" -- Internet, TV, movies -- for a season in order to more fully engage with others in mission and ministry. Maybe I should fast from food for a day or two (or a day a week) and give the money I saved to Haiti relief. Maybe I should fast from eating out for the season and give the money saved to someone who needs it more than I.
I don't want to just "give something up" I want to surrender myself, be remade, re-formed and reshaped into the kind of person God has uniquely created and called me to be. . .
. . . more as we move forward!
dr bj

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Be My Valentine

The variety of traditions surrounding the "Feast of St. Valentine" are intriguing. The only one I'm working with is the one that identifies St. Valentine as a Roman priest in the 4th century who was martyred for performing marriages. The song bird option, the pairing of the turtle doves option and all the rest are fine (and kind of cute) but I believe that human love can meet its fullest expression in the covenant of marriage and, therefore, I like the idea of celebrating the life and death of a person who understood that same principle.
Marriage is under fire in our culture. We live in a time that is so enamored with the intoxicating feeling of "being in love" that the deeper, broader and Biblical understanding of love is lost. That intoxication eventually leads to a hang over. What happens when the feeling of "being in love" goes away or takes a vacation? What happens when it is not "fun" anymore? What happens when I get infatuated with another person while married? In American culture what usually happens is adultery, divorce and disillusionment. What if the problem is not marriage but how we understand love?
The basis of a healthy marriage is not the feeling of love but the choice of love. Love chooses commitment. Isn't this the language of lovers? I'll be yours forever? We'll live "happily ever after?" The commitment in marriage is three fold. I believe a healthy marriage is a commitment to God; a commitment to the spouse; and a commitment to marriage. With those healthy anchors a couple lives through the ups and downs of emotions and they live through the ebb and flow of life's joys and sorrows. And when I don't like my spouse all that much today, I can still love her because I have chosen to do so.
Have a blessed feast of St. Valentine!


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Only six more weeks . . .

I am curious as to who thought up the "six more weeks of winter" thing for Punxsutawney Phill to discover with his shadow. In Central New York State, where I live, six more weeks of winter would be considered a blessing and a good thing. ONLY six more weeks, we cry, and there is much rejoicing. It is difficult to live in a place that has six season -- Winter which is January and February, unlocking season which is March and April, Spring which is May and June, Summer which is July and August, Autumn or Fall which is September and October and then there is the locking season which is November and December. Fully six months of that time it is getting cold, still cold or starting to not be cold any more. SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is simply a medical term for the depression that sets in because we live in a cold and gray place.

There are amazing advantages . . . (wait a second and I'll remember them). . . oh, golf is cheap, when the weather turns it is spectacular. We don't have deal with Hurricanes (like the south east), Tornadoes (like the Midwest), 100 degree heat (like the southwest). We don't have to deal with earthquakes, mud slides (like the far west). People have lived here long enough to learn how to deal with the changing seasons. Curiously, we adjust.

My warmer climate friends often ask -- why do you still live in such a place. My response -- two things. First it is where God has placed me to serve and work. Second, it is home.

Those should be the only answers.