Sunday, December 27, 2009


Christmas, and the other holidays that folks celebrate this time of year, is (obviously) a time when families get together. For some, like me, that's a good thing. Of course my family has its own little quirks, but we get along pretty well with one another, and most of us even like each other. For others, it's much more painful, and instead of looking forward to the holidays, many people dread the forced get-together ... and all the more, because it's supposed to be such a joyous time of year.

I've been looking around at the families who are part of the congregation I serve, and the families that are part of the congregation my wife serves. I've realized once again that while the 'nuclear' family is the expected norm toward which we feel like we ought to strive, many families don't fall into that category. I know "Leave it to Beaver" families, "Brady Bunch" families, "Will and Grace" families, "Roseanne" families, "I Love Lucy" families, "M*A*S*H" families, a couple "Addams Family" families.

I wonder what it would be like if we started considering the whole spectrum of families in which we find ourselves when we talk about Family Values.

I'm not sure scriptural families are any better. Even beyond Solomon and his hundreds of wives (not to mention concubines), there was Abraham's family (he slept with the servant, and later almost killed his son), Jacob's family (he earned both wives), Elisha's family (he lived with a widow and her son for a while), Joseph's family (who sold him into slavery).

And this morning I realized that Jesus' family wasn't typical or normal either. He was a bastard child, born to an unwed teenage mother; and his dad likely didn't command much respect in the community after he didn't divorce a woman who carried a child that wasn't his.

Is there room in our congregations for families that don't fit society's 'perfect' mold? Is there room in our congregations for families as diverse and varied as those we find in scripture? And if there's not, is there a way to expand so there's room for everyone?


the press and push to
buy the gifts
trim the tree
hang the lights
drink the eggnog
bake the cookies
cook the goose
to do Christmas

the press and push
gives way to
when we don't need to do

when the press and push is done
then, we celebrate Christmas

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Snow's been falling for most of the day here, but it wasn't really all that cold for most of the day. I was a little concerned about driving in to the church building when I got up and looked around, so I delayed my departure while I got some other stuff done. By the time I got on the road, everything was fine. Though the snow was coming down steadily, it was warm enough that the well-travelled streets were wet, but not icy. Even later in the day, when I had to run errands and make a hospital visit, it was no problem getting around.

As soon as the sun went down, though, and the temperature cooled off (which was about the same time the wind started blowing), the roads that had been wet from melting snow turned (in some spots) to sheet ice. At one point, going down a gentle hill, I put on the brakes while the car didn't slow at all (despite the speedometer reading zero).

Yet in the midst of the accumulating snow, and the worsening weather conditions, a remarkable group of people gathered at Holy Love's sanctuary to sing of the light coming into the world. It seems counter-intuitive, to come out in bad weather to sit in a dimly-lit sanctuary with a couple dozen people singing songs and prayers and scripture together. It seems like it doesn't matter at all. It seems like there's no point. It seems like the proper response ought to be "why bother?" Sure, it might make one or two people feel a little better while they're there, and maybe even for a day or two, but still ... what's the point of the singing?

And then, after almost everyone had left, I had this realization: there's no point to the singing ~ the singing is the point. It's what we do every time we gather for worship, it's just more obvious on a night like tonight. In the face of snow and icy roads, we sing together. In the face of a tough economy, we sing together. In the face of grief and loss and death, we sing together. In the face of whatever we face, we sing, and in singing we remind ourselves and we remind everyone else that there is hope in the promise of a better future, hope even in the promise of a better now.

And so we sing.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

later, you learn

I think that you can't really learn what someone has done for you until you have the opportunity to do that same thing for someone else. I understand that my memory may be faulty, and that what actually happened may not be what still lives in my memory, but here goes.

I remember getting a bicycle for Christmas one year. I most certainly remember that it wasn't there the night before, and I remember that on Christmas morning when I went out to the sun porch, my stack of presents was shorter than my brother's. That is, until I turned and saw (it may have had a bow on it, but that would be pretty cliche, wouldn't it?) a brand new, 10 speed bicycle. Of course, 10 speeds today hardly gets you started, but it was a big step up from the dirt bike with coaster brakes on which I'd extended the seat post so far that it was now permanently bent backward.

But it wasn't there the night before, and I'm pretty sure it didn't come fully assembled. Which means that my dad most certainly stayed up late the night before putting that thing together. I haven't any idea how long it must have taken him, how complicated that bike was, or how disassembled that bike was when he got it. I do know, though, that while I appreciated what I suspected he must have done, I never really knew what his work and sacrifice that night meant until I discovered that I'm willing to do that much and more for my own children.

I think that you can't really learn what someone has done for you until you have the opportunity to do that same thing for someone else.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mary notices the divine
and celebrates
we notice what's missing
without recognizing that we too are longing

we hunger, with Mary,
not for what we want, but
for the Word of God to be spoken into our deepest selves

though we don't recognize
God already fills our emptiness

Coaxing from us, with Her
Let It Be With Me ...

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Someone asked me today, "How's Advent". Of course, I responded appropriately ... I think I told her about the busy-ness that we who work in the church deal with during this time of year. But about two minutes later, in the middle of the next song (this happened at the bluegrass jam), I realized that no one has ever asked me that before. Well, that's probably a lie. No one besides other pastors has ever asked me that before. And out of the blue, someone who I know by first name only, and who I see maybe once a month, asks me about Advent.

Maybe some of what we strive to do makes it beyond our little church-nerd ghetto.

Friday, December 18, 2009


My favorite worship service of this season is the third Christmas Eve service. It's the one I most look forward to, and it's not (only) because it's the last one of the evening.

Here's what happens: Worship at 5:30 is loud and just a little chaotic ~ it's when most families with smaller children are able to come. Unlike on Sunday mornings, folks start arriving a little before 5:00, which means that I really ought to be here and ready to go by 4:00. People arrive early to the first two services, to make sure they have seats I suppose; but they don't stick around after worship like we do on Sunday mornings. When we're told to 'Go in peace', we take it seriously. Time to go home, have dinner, get the kids to bed, 'cause everyone knows they'll be up early tomorrow.

Between services, there's just enough time to sit down for a minute before starting to get ready for the 7:30 service, which hasn't been quite so loud, but comes right on the heels of the other. Making sure the acolytes and assisting minister and organist and ushers are all on the same page fills the time while worshipers are filling the pews.

The third service is much more calm. Outside it's dark, and there aren't many creatures stirring even out on the streets. Folks tend to show up for the 10:00 service around 9:55; I've preached the same sermon and gone through the liturgy twice by then, so I'm not stressed about any of that; whatever little children might be there are pretty sedate by that late hour; most of the folks who show up then are either regular members of the congregation, or active members somewhere else in town for the holiday. In my experience, folks who come to church only at Christmas and Easter every year tend to stay away from the late night service.

Plus, all the extraneous stuff that goes along with church is ignored. No committees, no arguments, no budget issues, no phone calls. Nothing else but Word and Sacrament.

There's nothing wrong with any other service on Christmas Eve, or through all the rest of the year. This third service, though ~ this late night when we celebrate the Incarnation ~ this is the one I look forward to perhaps more any other.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

in response to the weather the other week

it's the kind of snow that
doesn't really stick

it's still on the ground
on the sidewalks
but to shovel would be futile

it won't permit itself to be picked up
but it's easy to push around
and you almost don't need to scrape car windows

just start driving
and the windows blow clean

but easy-to-clean snow
brings with it bitter cold

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


caught up in the busy-ness and slowness
the chaos and the peace
of this waiting season
even while anticipating the joy upcoming

Monday, December 14, 2009

too important to be left to professionals

Between Advent preparations, Christmas Eve planning, vacation scheduling, day-to-day schedule negotiating, science fair project finishing, band concert attending, and all the other extra things that happen this time of year, I certainly understand the overwhelmed feeling that so many people have during "The Holidays" ~ and our family doesn't even do a bunch of Christmas shopping. I have a hard time imaging how other people manage.

On the other hand, in the midst of the chaos, there are moments when I believe it's worth the extra effort. Harper, the other day on the spur of the moment, rehearsed and played a holiday music concert with the Denver Brass ( ... well, Harper plus about 100 other amateur musicians. To see her struggling to follow the notes on the page with her eyes, let alone with her trombone slide, was stress-inducing for her dad ~ would she be too embarassed or frustrated with this experience? I wondered. But then to hear her talk about how exciting it was, and how good the Denver Brass trombonists are with the kind of anticipation in her voice that said "maybe I can be that good someday" made it worthwhile.

And then, last night I had to rush away from HFASS to get back to Holy Love for our Service of Lessons and Carols. Our meduim-sized congregation's chancel choir singing Christmas music for a full house found me sitting in the back of the sanctuary listening to the singing and thinking to myself "they're decent, but I've heard better". But when I looked around the room at the members of our congregation, and folks from elsewhere, all of whom had come out to hear Christmas music, and to hear the story of our incarnate God told through scripture and song, and to sing together songs of our faith ~ all this made me realize that it's better that they're not professionals. If they were, it would take something essential away from the whole experience. Professionals belong at the theatre, or on a concert stage; the members of the congregation belong in front, telling their community the story. In a church sanctuary, in the same place where we gather every week to hear the truth of God's grace and mercy and forgiveness, the local choir sings our faith more authentically than any hired guns ever could.

And once again I'm reminded that music is too important to be left to the professionals ... and that I could use some more practice.

Friday, December 4, 2009

who knows

maybe i'll decide to blog, maybe i won't.

maybe someone will be interested in this, maybe no one will.

maybe this post will sit here, forever, doing nothing but redirecting electrons ... maybe not.