A Time and A Season {Ecc 3}

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Now I know full well that the verse from Ecclesiastes 3 is NOT in the lectionary for tomorrow.  But this verse speaks clearly to where I find myself at the end of this calendar year, so please forgive me for erring from the lectionary this week.

Anyway, here is the familiar verse, made popular by the band The Byrds:

“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.”

My rector preached an excellent sermon on ” letting go” a couple or three weeks ago .  Her sermon brought tears to my eyes; not because of anything she said in the content of the sermon, ; but she spoke a truth that I needed  {but did not WANT to } hear.

While I cannot remember the exact Scripture verses she preached upon, the thesis of her sermon is what I recall now.

Basically, when God calls us to do something new in God’s Name, it might mean that we need to surrender our will in order to live into God’s will. Occasionally living into God’s plan means letting go.

Maybe it is letting go of an old ministry that is no longer viable.

Perhaps it means a move for someone and their family– relocating to a different place.

It could be that someone is called to pick up a new hobby , or change career paths.

No matter what change God calls us to, we humans are resistant to totally heed our wills to that of our Creator.

We think we know what is best for us  and for those we love. If God is clearly calling us into a new opportunity that might mean leaving behind old ideas, places or people, we dig in our heals and refuse to budge. We give God many different reasons why our life needs to stay comfortable. 

Part of growth in Christ is knowing when and where to let go. 

For me, this whole move to Pensacola has been a process of letting go. 

When Best Dude and I sold our house, we had to begin the packing process. With the knowledge that we’d buy a smaller home in town, we both began to slowly let go of all our unused or rarely used ‘ stuff” .

Books were the first category of ‘ stuff’ that we needed to cull.  Honestly, I lost count of the boxes of books that we donated to the local library— and it was painful to look at each title and assess its use or sentimental value. It was hard for two book-lovers to let go of our books, but it was a necessary part of the moving process.

We also had to clean out our closets: we knew that we would not have two big walk-in closets in our next house. To be honest, culling my wardrobe was not as hard as culling my books, but I still had to look at each artivle of clothing and honestly assess if I would wear it again. Clothes that we did not need and were in good condition were donated to those who might need them; while clothes that were not worth donating were tossed.

God called us to Pensacola, and we are both happy in our small house in our new city. Both of us are blesed with friends who live in the city and county and we are making new friends .

I cannot speak for Best Dude, but I am realiing that God has called me to make Pensacola my home. In order to do that, I need to work on more letting go.

On this Feast Of The Holy Family, I am reminded that we are all part of Christ’s family. I am als reminded, that to we Irish-Americans, family is everything. Letting go does not mean to stop loving those whom we’ve left behind in our move to Pensacola.  In fact, we love them more.

In the Name of the Triune God,

Amen.

 

 

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Nativity Off Our Lord , 2017

After four weeks of hearing people tell me” Merry Christmas”, and wanting to lovingly correct them” Happy Advent”, tonight I can say to everyone MERRY CHRISTMAS. 

Tonight, we celebrate Our Lord’s coming to Earth as a Baby. This special child, we #believe, is God-in-human-form. Advent 4 tells us the story of Mary learning that she is to carry and birth this Child.

Let’s examine the next part of the story according to the Gospel of Luke:

Now, Mary, her betrothed, Joseph are on their way to Bethlehem for the Roman census. the law in that time was that every head of household must return to his birthplace in order to be included in the Roman census

Apparently there were no Official Census Takers that rode around in government sponsored chariots to gather the data around the Empire. Scripture tells us that Joseph, Mary’s fiancé, is from Bethlehem and descended from the lineage of King David, so he must return to his ancestral city for the census.

Mary is probably tired and achy from riding on a donkey while pregnant.  Now I’ve not had the blessing of carrying a child to term and giving birth, but I’ve ridden on horses and donkeys before: it is not a comfortable ride.

Mary had probably endured a less-than-ideal pregnancy. First of all, she was unmarried at the time she conceived. Imagine the chatter that happened around her temple after worship each week as her belly grow big with the Child.

Here is what Scripture says happened:

“He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.

While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.

Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:

to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”

This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”

Emmanuel, the King of Kings and Savior of the World, arrived in the usual way.

Emmanuel arrived in a barn. His Mother was a poor, unwed, very young Jewish woman and His stepfather a mere carpenter.

His Mother did not have a baby shower, nor was there a trendy ” gender reveal party” with all of the couple’s friends and family. As a matter of fact, it would not surprise me if both Mary and Joseph felt shame as Mary’s pregnancy became more obvious. I am sure there were some self-righteous temple elders who wanted to publicly call Mary out on her ” sin”  of conceiving before marriage.

Until the shepherds arrived, prompted and guided to Him by the angel, there was no one but Joseph to witness His first breath.  Instead of a cute crib with soft sheets and warm blankets, He slept in a feed trough meant for farm animals.

This extraordinary Child, Whose birth we celebrate this evening, had humble beginnings. His earthly parents were normal Jewish people of that time and place.

That baby ensures all of us a place in God’s Family. Jesus, God Incarnate, is not only God, but also our brother.  Just like me and you, He had a Mother who loved Him very much. Scripture does not say much about the childhood of Jesus; but we know that He must have grown up as children do. I often wonder if Mary had some sort of clue how to raise this special Baby : since I am told that children do not arrive with instructions on how to bring them up.

As Christians, we #Believe that this Baby is Who we follow to show us the way to be better humans. While His birth might have been humble, He is great and He will change the world. As a matter of fact, He has changed the world so much that we honor and celebrate His birth worldwide.

Without Mary, there would be no Baby.” ~Godly Play

Thank you, Blessed Mother Mary.

In the Name of the Triune God

 

Amen.

 

#Adventword #Renew

Today’s Advent word is: Renew. 

I cheated yesterday and posted this photo to Facebook :

3 advent

Renew is a good verb which to describe where I am in my spiritual journey right now. I’ve talked about how much 2017 challenged me in all sorts of ways. Yet as this year finally draws to a close I feel that God is preparing me for a renewal.  While I am not sure what this renewal will look like, I know  that ” God has my back”. 

How can I be so certain that God has my { and your} back?

During yesterday’s Bible Study we were asked to chose a favorite Scripture verse or story and share with the group why this part of the Bible is meaningful to us. Clearly a theme of God’s faithfulness emerged as we share Scripture passages and stories from our lives with each other.

Scripture points us to this fact; our Creator God is a God that never let God’s People down. Again and again this theme is played out in the Hebrew Scriptures. While Israel was wandering in the wilderness; God was there. When Jonah sat in the belly of the sea creature, God was there, too. Esther bravely asked her husband to let her people free; remaining unafraid of the consequences. Why? She knew God wouldn’t abandon her.

On this shortest day of the calendar year, I feel that God’s presence and I trust that my renewal will help me grow more into the creature I am intended to become. It will not be easy { again, look to Scripture for confirmation— God’s people don’t have options to ‘ take the easy way out} and I expect that some ‘ pruning’ will need to occur in 2018. As a matter of fact my own ‘ pruning’ has begun and the process of trimming away that which is not fruitful has been renewing.

May this final week of Advent 2017 bring to you a sense of renewal as well.

In the Name of the Triune God.

Amen.

Princess Leia: A Tribute

kickass jedi woman 1

I am of the Star Wars Generation, having been born in 1970-something.

Growing up, I totally adored Princess Leia. My brother and I would play in the woods with our friends, re-enacting scenes { and creating our own} from the movies. The Appalachian foothills where I grew up was the perfect backdrop for our Stat Wars adventures.

. I even dressed as Leia for Halloween; and I  won my third-grade costume contest. { also beating our my childhood rival, Perfect Girl, for the first and only time.

Her mom was a seamstress and mine was and is not. It has been years, but I still remember how good it felt to take the Costume Crown away from Perfect Girl— after all she had everything and I still see her as a ‘ frenemy’. { you know, the girls/women with whom you socialize but just can’t trust because they will turn on you in less than a heartbeat}

Anyway, Mom made this cool white dress thing and did my long blonde hair in braided coils like the young Leia wore her hair in the original Star Wars trilogy.  Mom put stage make-up on my face { I hate masks of any kind } and found me some sandals. Armed with a toy weapon, I felt strong , capable, smart and beautiful. 

Young girls in the 1970’s and 1980’s did not have many female characters to look to as role models of the strong woman who can ” hold her own’ with the guys. Sure Leia found herself kidnapped, was separated from her family { but adopted into one that treated her well} and fell in love with an impossible scoundrel of a man. { But they ended up together— which made my heart sing— even as a little girl}

Even now: GENERAL Leia Skywalker is one of my literary/movie heroes.  When Best Dude and I went to see _The Force Awakens_ at the movies two years ago and she showed up as a General in the Resistance I smiled BIG.  Seeing Leia emerge from the scrappy young princess-turned-Jedi fighter into a mature woman responsible for overseeing the intergalactic war against evil inspired me.

I like to think that the teenaged Leia from my childhood followed the path where she could accomplish the most good while in service to others. I like to think that she studied hard under a good Jedi Master, was faithful to the physical training required for her role as a Jedi warrior, and improved her interpersonal skills{ there can be no divas during intergalactic wartime} I certainly hope she never had to kiss Jabba The Hut again.

I am delighted that she and Han Solo did manage to love each other in spite of themselves.

Long live General Leia Skywalker… my favorite Jedi. Physical agility, brains leadership skills, and beauty: she’s got it all.

Be a Jedi. The Resistance needs you and me.

 

May the Force always be with you

{and also with you}

#Adventword #Open

Today’s Advent word is : Open. 

I’ve had to be ” open” to a lot of change in 2017. In addition to surgery and recovery , I’ve had to help Best Dude put our house on the market  which meant keeping it SPOTLESS and ” show-ready” at all times} , decide where we were going to live, and then the pain of house buying.

Mortgage companies are no fun.  I am thankful that Best dude has more ” malarkey immunity” than me ; I felt like I wanted to tear out all my hair for weeks while we worked out the details of our small loan. Honestly, I’ve not seen so many wasted trees than I did while we were working out the details of our small home loan.

Then came the actual moving/closing day. It poured and we were blessed enough to hae furniture on which to sleep that first night— we’d bought some living room furniture from the elderly woman who owned our house. the weather made it impossible to unload the U-haul, and we’d no Internet access.

Getting settled took lots of time, and I had to open myself to the possibility of living with less ‘ stuff’. Our small three { tiny} bedroom and ONE  small} full bathroom simply could not handle our stuff. As I discovered, being open to pruning our possessions is strangly cleansing.

My brother -in-law moved in with us over Thanksgiving. I’m still getting accustomed to another person in our small house, but God opened my  mind to agree with Best Dude regarding temporarily sharing our home.

Its not been an easy year—and I remain open to whatever 2018 will bring, but am hoping that it won’t bring as much chaos as did 2017.

 

Amen.

 

#AdventWord #Trust

Today’s Advent word is: Trust. 

2017 has been a rather challenging year for Best Dude and me.Needless to say, this past year started with much uncertainty.

Trust was key in an uncertain year.

Health-wise , I was struggling. the pinched nerve in my neck had gone from bad to much worse, and I was losing function in my right  {dominant} hand and arm. What had started with some intense nerve pain { which one surgeon in town refused to treat— his reasoning was that I am ” too young” for spinal surgery} was now becoming a loss of function. It scared me.

The more I thought about having yet another serious spinal surgery { at he age of 12 I underwent TWO major spinal surgeries to correct severe scoliosis}the more freaked out I became. Yet I knew that I could not continue as I was– with severe pain coupled with lost function of my upper right extremity.

Physical therapy did nothing to relieve the pain nor regain lost function, so my wonderful general practitioner sent me to another neurosurgeon. He agreed that I needed surgery, so on June 29th I but all my trust in God and the skills of the medical team and went through with the neck surgery. The surgeon removed the herniated disk, fused C4 and C5  neck bones together with a piece of cadaver bone   and decompressed the pinched spinal nerve.

In the process of gaining access to my cervical spine, the surgeon had to move a lot of the soft tissue  including vocal cords} out-of-the-way. I had to trust in his skill to not cut my vocal cords while assessing my spine. As a singer, I work hard to keep my vocal cords healthy.

However, I did trust the anesthesiologist who worked with the surgeon. He came to chat with me while I was in pre-op and assured me that he’s been doing his work for 30 years and can tell  {based on my body mass index and vital signs} that I will be an easy case.

The first memory  I can recall is the nurse in the recovery ward gently calling my name. My eyes popped open and I asked the nurse” I’m not dead”? She replied that I was, in fact very much alive and had come through the surgery well.

Surgery really can help put some things into perspective. For three months during which we were selling our house and looking for another house} I had to trust that Brian would do the physical tasks that I simply could not do. My recovery mandated that I refrain from lifting anything over 10 pounds. I had to trust that Best Dude would carry out all the boxes that I’d packed and place them safely in the POD.

These past six months have been an exercise in trusting God.  Surgery followed by moving, and all that moving entails has not been easy. But a life following Christ was never meant to be easy.

This week I was reminded of the words of Psalm 103–of God’s steadfast love. Are we so blessed to trust that God will be with us, forgive us, and wait with us.

Pax Christos,

Amen

#Adventword #Voice

 

Advent word: Voice. 

Again, this is apropos for this day. Last night’s results for the special election in Alabama have Doug Jones as the net US Senator from the state that neighbors my city. The vote was close, but Alabamians had their say and { for once} erred on the correct side of history.

Now I do not know of Roy Moore conceded the win or not, but regardless, the Republican party did concede.

Thank you, Alabama.

I know many good people who live in that state– and I know tat some of them are Republicans. In today’s totally partisan political climate I know it must be hard to vote against someone who represents your politics. As I’ve stated before, my objection to Moore has little to do with his political platform and everything to do with the sort of human he has proven himself to be. 

Roy Moore lost because enough people in Alabama woke up and realized that party loyalty might come at the cost of putting a dangerous male person in a powerful position.

Men such as Roy Moore silence the voices of sexual assault victims everywhere. In making statements defending his disgusting allegations of lewd behavior with underage girls; Moore’s people dared to evoke the Blessed Mother in their twisted logic.

“… was only fourteen years old when she gave birth to Jesus.”

Just. Stop. Right. There.

Clearly Moore’s camp has not read the Bible with a critical eye. No one who supports him has taken into account that culture, life expectancy of people, and general women’s’ health was entirely different from modern society.

Moore in the Senate would have told girls and women everywhere that their voices, their #MeToo stories, and their dreams for a safer America would remain unheard. If Doug Jones does nothing else in the Senate; he’s already done so much to ensure that voices of women and girls who’ve suffered abuse and assault at the hands of powerful men are heard.

Our job as feminists is not done. Jones’ victory against Moore is a big step– but it is only one step. Last November’s Presidential election taught me that Americans still have a long way to go to ensure that all voices are heard in the public forum. Rights of people of color refugees { from all nations} GLBTQ persons, and persons with disabilities need to be protected.

Thank you again, Alabama. Y’all have proven me wrong– there is a heartbeat for justice in your state. But as a nation, we’ve much work yet to do.

Pax Christos.

#Adventword #Watch

Today’s Advent word is: WATCH. 

I am watching, along with every other conscientious citizen , this election.

Apropos for this day in history as Alabama is voting in a special election for US Senate. Republican Roy Moore has the advantage in a deeply ” red state”. However, Moore has a less-than-savory career– he was removed from the judge’s bench more than once for various judicial infractions.  There are also the serious allegations of pedophilia against him. But Roy Moore is a Republican in a state that is one of the most Republican states in the Union.

Okay, before anyone gripes at me for my partisanship, please know that I am aware that Doug Jones is also a mere human. I am sure he has done things in order to get ahead — he is , after all– a politician. But there are no allegations against Jones like we see against Moore.

Normally I avoid advocating for or fighting against a candidate — it is not my place nor my passion . However, this election scares me. The fact that, if Moore wins this senate seat– it will tell women and girls that they do not matter–that those who assault or abuse someone can get off scot-free.

A Moore victory will send the mindset of white, straight, rich , America back decades. People of color, GLBTQ persons and other marginalized persons are watching this election today. My involvement with some community groups here in my city give me the chance to hear the stories of those who do not benefit from white privilege.

Yes, those of us born white have privilege. I will admit that this fact was tough for me to realize, and I am grateful to my friends and colleagues of Stronger Together: NWFL and  Indivisible, NWFL for the tough love.

A Moore victory will send a message to marginalized groups that , once again, their voices do not matter.

Apparently the #MeToo campaign, in which I participated, fell on deaf ears.

But the survivors of sexual assault in the workplace will be watching tonight. I shall, because I know how it feels to be victimized by a man with power over me. I am an aunt to a sweet little girl, and it is for her sake that I speak my truth. As women, we have a responsibility to the girls growing up now to seek justice and teach them tha tno one has a right to touch them in any way. Girls, especially, need to grow up knowing that they are NOT anyone’s property. My niece is only two years old, and I am already working hard for her future.

Girls, along with their parents or guardians, will be watching tonight.

My heart aches for the women and girls who are assaulted daily by people with power over them . 

Alabama, I am watching you. I hope and pray you do what is right for everyone.

Pax Christos.

 

#Adventword #Message

Today’s Advent word is : Message. 

I collect angels. As a matter of fact, I am sure that somewhere in my parents’ house, are all the angel figurines I’ve collected over my lifetime.

The word ” angel” comes from the Greek word ” angulus”, which means ” messenger”.  I do believe that God sends such messengers to God’s people. Now they { most-likely} are not heavenly beings with six breasts and three eyes. Often in my life, and especially recently, I ‘ve encountered angels who are as human as me.

Since Best Dude and I have moved to City Of Five Flags, we’ve been attending both our smaller Beach Parish across the bay from our city as well as City Parish that is located five minutes from our home. At first we wanted to stay members of Beach Parish. After all, our wedding was there and those good people loved us back to spiritual health after a horrendous exit from a toxic situation. Beach Parish helped both Best Dude and me regenerate our faith in Church.

We love these people, but the truth is we do not get across the bridge very often. The fact is: Pensacola is home now.

Since I live in town and do not drive: I’ve started attending a Bible Study and Mass at City Parish on Wednesdays. The mid-week study and healing has helped me to move past the ” needing care” stage of my Christian walk  and into the stage of the ” care-giver”.

City Parish offers more opportunities for me to get involved in ” boots-on-the-ground-Christianity” — that is what I am called to do. So, Best Dude and I agree that we will transfer our membership to the parish in our city.

This was not an easy decision . Both Best Dude and I love both congregations . Yet for many reasons, we feel that God is nudging us to become full members of City Parish. It is hard, because the people of Beach Parish have loved us through some hard times. But, as one of my sweet ” messengers” reminded me on the phone not long ago everything has a season.

God sends us messages. It is up to us to take heed and listen.  God might be calling us towards a new venture and/or a new season in our Christian walk  I am learning this Advent that in order to follow God, we must often leave our familiar  and beloved comfort zones.

It is time to move on. Advent: this time of watchful anticipation, is a good time to transition. It is our hope and prayer that people at Beach Parish understand that we love them, and will always love them. Their story is intertwined with ours. They, like John the Baptizer, have ” prepared ye the way” for us. Our hearts are grateful. We feel sad, yet excited at all the new possibilities God has in store for us.

In the Name of the Triune God.

Amen.

 

 

#Adventword #Prepare

Today ‘s Advent word is: prepare

Today’s Gospel lesson was all about John The Baptizer ” preparing the way” for the One Who will redeem humanity.  John, older cousin of Jesus, came not to fulfil the Promise, but to pave the way for Him.  As he did when both himself and Jesus were in their mothers’ wombs; John recognized Jesus as Emmanuel.

John knew that his mission was to come before his younger cousin. He, no matter what some people might have thought back then was not the Messiah.

Look at what Scripture says:

“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel” { NIV}

John knew that Jesus would be the One who would baptize people with fire. he, not John, was God-as-Human.

John the Baptizer’s Earthly ministry was one of preparation. John was confident in his role as the precursor to the Messiah– the Redeemer of Israel and the world.

John knew when to let go. 

John’s letting go, after preparing the way for Jesus is a life and faith lesson for me.

I do NOT ” let go” easily— especially to people and places that I love.

But today’s Gospel lesson, coupled with some wisdom from dear friends and then hearing a sermon today about the act of letting go to make more room for what God will do in the future.

Trusting God involves letting go of what is familiar; of what is safe, and of others’ expectations of me.  Letting go is a transition; and anyone who knows me knows how poorly I transition.

It is hard enough to let go of a situation or a person { or group of people who are  toxic . To be honest , it is much more heart-wrenching to let go of people and places with whom one has built good relationships. 

It is much easier to say to someone” I’m leaving you because you are a lousy friend; and this relationship is not healthy for me” Saying : ” I love you and will always love you, but I am at a place in my life where God is calling me elsewhere. It is not you– it is me.”

Growth requires letting go. Maturing Christians know that we need to let go in order to follow God into the next chapter of our Earthly walk.

Some stops on this journey around the sun are for a season. It is here where we are loved into wholeness; often after being ” broken” in a physical emotional or spiritual way. Like John the Baptizer, stops in this walk with God are meant to prepare the way for whatever God has next for us.

No one said it would be easy.  God, I am certain, knows that letting go is not easy. Letting go in order to let God show us what is next is part of a faith-filled life.

I hate it.  My letting go is not done well. There will be tears. Yet I trust that God will show me joy as well.

Pa Christos.

Amen.