Shepherds

English: The loneliness of Culloden Culloden i...

English: The loneliness of Culloden Culloden is one of the few areas that I leave feeling full of sadness. This lonely tree at the sight says it all. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Everyone experiences  loneliness and isolation.  Some people experience it more than others.  They may have a greater need to be connected to others, or they may have lost and never a significant connection in their lives.  Some are lonely because there are not other people around.  Others are lonely because they have a sense of isolation even though they are in a crowd.  I suspect that a lot of our loneliness is about the sense of connection we have to other people.

Shepherds are often alone, even today.  They face a great deal of isolation as they care for the sheep.  Maybe that is why they were invited to the birth of Jesus.  God chose to reach out to those who were isolated and alone.  God chose to share with them because God wants to offer to all a connection to something more.  God wants us to know, especially those of us who are lonely and isolated, that we do not have to be alone.  We are invited into God’s story.  God wants us there are God interacts with humanity.  God wants us to be a part of something more.

This Advent and Christmas, realize that God is with you.  Invite others to be a part of the experience of God.

Modern Shepherd

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Manger Snatching

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Shiloh United Methodist Church in Bedford, Virginia has been robbed!  The majority of the figures in their

English: Nativity scene on the Buenos Aires Me...

English: Nativity scene on the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral. Español: Portal de Belén en la Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires Français : Crèche de Noël dans la Cathédrale métropolitaine de Buenos-Aires (Argentine) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

outdoor nativity scene were taken.  This nativity has been placed in front of the church for forty years.  Maybe it was a practical joke.  Maybe it was a decision made while under the influence of alcohol or other substances. Maybe it was more than that.  Maybe someone is trying to get even with this church and congregation.  Maybe it is not even about this church and this congregation.

The church is full of humans.  We seek to do our best, but we all make mistakes.  We hurt other people.  Sometimes the pain is very deep.  Sometimes the pain is so great that individuals feel alienated from church.  They feel that must stay away from church.  Some may even feel the need to retaliate on either a conscious or unconscious level for the pain that a church or individuals in the church caused.  The pain is often very deep.

People do hurt us, sometimes people in church.  People hurt  us for all sorts of reasons.  The question for us is how are we going to respond to the pain of the hurt.  We can choose to let it fester within in us, or we can choose a different course of action.  We can choose to let go of the pain.  We can choose to forgive others.  We can choose to let the hurt go so that we are no longer experiencing pain.  Letting go of pain does not mean we allow someone to continue hurting us.  It also does not mean that we do not seek justice.  Instead it means that we forgive those who have hurt us.  We forgive in order to stop experiencing pain.  Sometimes we are able to do this alone.  Sometimes we need help working through our pain.

The people of Shiloh United Methodist Church were interviewed on the local news.  They would like their manger scene back, including baby Jesus.  If the perpetrators will just leave it in the driveway, they will take care of the rest.  Also, they are willing to pray with the person.  The church members offered forgiveness and assistance to the ones who stole their manger scene.  What do you offer to the world?

 

Turn Around

Deutsch: Advent zwei Kerzen

Deutsch: Advent zwei Kerzen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

During the recent Republican National Convention we heard the cry, “We need a turn around!”  I agree!  The turn around we need is broader and deeper than a political issue.  The turn around I am thinking about has to do with us, not with politics.  We need a turn around of our lives.  We need a constant turning from our selfish desires while turning towards God.  As we turn around from going our own way, and turn towards going God’s way there is transformation.

 

 

 

If we turn towards God, then we will find new life for all.  We will, in the words of the Democratic National Convention, move forward, not back.  In order for this forward movement to happen we must turn around.  We must realize that our own way does not work.  We need to turn to God’s way.  We need God to guide us and support us in our moving forward.

 

 

 

The only way to move forward is to turn around. So during this advent season, I invite you to turn around.  Turn around from the hustle and bustle of shopping to prepare your heart and mind.  Turn from the busyness of life to a moment of reflection.  Turn from what everyone expect of you and ask what does God need of  you.  Turn around this advent.

 

 

Moving Forward

This fall has been full of the unexpected.  Most of the unexpected things were painful things.  While there were many positive moments, the reality is that things have changed this fall.  Family members now have medical conditions that will never go away.  Another family member died.  In all the difficulties of this fall, I have realized that I have a choice.  We all have a choice.  We can stay where we are, wishing for what once was, recalling the better days of the past, and playing the “if only” game, or we can move forward.  This does not mean that we should not take the time we need to grieve, regain health, or accept our new situation, but it does mean that there is a point when we need to choose our next steps.

 

I am choosing to move forward.  I am preparing for Christmas.  I am not just buying presents, baking, and decorating, but I am preparing my heart.  Each year we are given this season of preparation prior to our celebration of Jesus birth.  It is not just a celebration of what happened in the past, but it is a next step.  It is an opportunity for Jesus to be birthed in our lives in a new and powerful way.  It is a next step in our lives as we grow in God’s grace.

 

No matter what your fall or year has been like, I hope you will join me in moving forward.  I hope you will join in preparing yourself for the birth of Jesus, celebrating the new life that is offered to all of us.  We are moving forward.

 

 

 

Living in the Midst of Life

shelled and unshelled pecans

Image via Wikipedia

We decide that things are going to be different.  We make a plan.  We have a goal.  We are ready.  Then things happen.  For example, I decided I would eat healthy for 2012.  I have meals planned.  I shared my goal with my family.  Everything was fine.  Then, I found some Christmas presents that had not been put away.  Someone gave us pecan brittle.  I’m the only one who likes pecans.  You can probably guess the rest of the story.

 

In our lives there are often surprises, unexpected events, and bags of Red Rocker Pecan Brittle that can derail us from our goals.  We may be tempted to give up the goal entirely.  We may be tempted to say that the goal was just too difficult for us.  We may go looking for more hidden candy.  The truth is that none of us is perfect.  We all make mistakes, give in to the temptation, and have a hard time changing our way of being.  We do things that we know are not good for us.  We are sometimes thoughtless.  We are selfish.  We all do the wrong thing occasionally.  The question is not, are we going to mess up?  The question is what are we going to do when our life interferes with our goals?  How are we going to handle the bag of pecan brittle, the errant behavior, and all of  our mistakes?

 

After we accept the error or mistake, then we need to keep going.  Don’t allow one momentary lapse to cause you to abort your goal.  Each day we re given a new opportunity to be transformed.  We are able to keep moving forward.  There will be things, surprises, and Red Rocker Pecan Brittle that diverts us from our goal.  Our living interrupts the best intentions, plans, and goals.  We have to decide how we are going to handle life in the midst of this living.  What are you going to do after you make the mistake?  Forgive the mistake.  Seek forgiveness if your behavior has hurt others.  Continue to seek your goal.  God does not expect perfection from you.  You will make mistakes.  You will be diverted.  We all must learn to live in the midst of life.

Longest Night

Long night in the city

Image by bolandrotor via Flickr

Tonight is the longest night, or winter solstice.  Because of the tilt of the earth, we know that we will be experience the longest night.  But,  we also know that there are other long nights.  There are long nights of anticipation.  Remember the night before.  It could have been the night before a big event in your life.  It could have been the night before Christmas.  You were so excited about the next day that you could not sleep.  The night before my daughter was born, my husband stayed awake to make sure she and I were okay.  (He was worried that I would sleep through active labor.)

 

There are long nights of grieving.  We have all experienced loss in our lives.  There is the one we loved who left, and we knew that life would never be the same. There is the long night when we lost our way in the world, and we realized that we and our view of the world was forever changed.   We grieve the loss of our perceptions.  We grieve the loss of hopes.  We grieve the loss of dreams

 

There are long nights of loneliness, fear, and isolation.  We feel as if the darkness may overcome us.  We fight and rage against the darkness, or we hide ourselves in the darkness.  Our responses vary, but we have all had darkness in our lives.  You may even be experiencing darkness now.

 

We are preparing for celebrations that the light of God has come.  The light came into the world and darkness did not overcome it.  The light came to be born among us.  The light is now in us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  We, who are Christians, are called to bear God’s light to the world.  We are called to help those who reside in darkness.  We are to offer light, hope, peace, and love.  We put lights throughout our homes and in our windows this time of year to announce the light has come into the world.

 

The decorations are great, but they are not enough.  We are called to light the world.  How will you light the darkness of your world?  How will you be God’s light on this longest night?