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To Unlearn War

1st Sunday in Advent Year A. First Reading. Isaiah 2:1-5

” He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. ” Isaiah 2:4

War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing

Edwin Starr

We are in that time of preparation that starts our church year again. That time when we wait. I know I’m not very good at waiting, its hard to unlearn the cultural push to exhaustion. But here we are, beginning again with the time of waiting. The time when we say, slow down, the Lord is coming. Wait a while with us.

And our text brings us back to Isaiah, the great prophetic texts so often used to say whatever we want it to say, especially proving messianic prophecies. And while that is an important part of the prophet’s text. I am drawn to verse 4 every time. Especially this line:

Neither shall they learn war anymore.

Isaiah 2:4

We learn war. Its not instinctual in us. We aren’t created to live this way. The Hebrew word here is לָמַד lamad, which means to teach, instruct, diligently expert, or become skilled.

I often wonder what a world like that would look like? What would it look like if we didn’t learn war anymore. If we didn’t learn how to fight each other. If we didn’t teach our children glorious war stories, but rather the tragedy of death and trauma and lifelong sorrow produced by it.

In this season of Advent, I’m choosing to unlearn war. If we can learn it there must be a way to unlearn it (or at least I’m hoping there is). I’ll choose to meditate on the ways I can teach peace, and to help restore a world broken by centuries of a learned culture of war. I pray others can join with me and we can figure it out together.

Shalom siblings, peace be with you.

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Aaaaand We’re Back

And we will come back home, home again.

From Now On – The Greatest Showman

I led a small group of Jr High youth this summer, on a trip we took to Memphis for a theologically engaging service experience. Jr high kiddos can be a bit squirrely, and I am easily distracted by tangents, so every so often I would have to say “Aaaaaaaand we’re back” to get them back on track. Apparently this is what they remembered from the week, and really, that’s not so bad.

I’ve taken a break from writing for a while, not just writing for me, but writing for various youth ministry blogs and curriculum. It wasn’t an intentional break, it was more of a side effect of managing the stress of life. Unfortunately what I let go to manage stress were the things that actually bring me great joy. so its time to come back.

I was reminded of the things that bring me joy, and the things I’m passionate about, by attending the assembly of the Deaconess Community of the ELCA. I gathered with sisters from all over the US, Canada and Puerto Rico, for business meetings, worship, fellowship, and holy time together. In that time I heard stories of Sisters who fought battles I never new about, and heard the passions of those of us who are becoming Sisters now.

I was reminded of my own passions. Of writing and speaking and helping people better understand how we can be the church. I was reminded of the diaconate’s call to serve those on the margins, to bridge the gap between the church and the world, and to continually seek justice.

I also let go of some stuff I’d been holding on to. I let the community bear that for me, and then pass it on to the one who holds all things. I let Sister Le hold onto my face and say “you can’t quit, I need you to not quit”, when she couldn’t have known how close I have come to giving up on this very long process of entering the Ministry of Word and Service.

So I write this reflection with no real purpose, except that writing brings me joy. It is cathartic, it is spiritual, and it is life giving. And to say thank you. Thank you to the community, to the generations of Sisters whose shoulders we stand on now, and for the generations that are pulling each other up and along the road we travel.

We are inextricably connected. And for that I give thanks.

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Great Gifts

2nd Sunday after Epiphany: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

“Now there are a variety of gifts but the same Spirit” – 1 Corinthians 12:4

What is the greatest gift you’ve ever been given? And I’m not talking about any of those noble answers like, the love of my child, or my amazing spouse… save it. When I say greatest gift, what comes to mind?

(Just to be clear, the love of my children and my spouse are both amazing gifts, but that’s just not what we are talking about right now)

I am an only child, and holidays were not a huge deal at our house, so I know I got great gifts as a kid, but I’m not sure I remember a lot of them. Although there was this one year when my mom wrapped up figure skates that I had been wearing for a few months, because those suckers were expensive, and when she said they were my Christmas present, she meant it!

One Christmas when my oldest child was about 5 and his brother was just a baby we were visiting family, and my oldest’s Godfather came over with presents. If ever there was someone who’s love language was gift giving, it would be his. Everyone got great gifts, and I got a laptop. It was such a huge deal for me, because it wasn’t something I would have been able to get for myself, and was something I really needed.

That’s sort of what its like with our Spiritual gifts right? Oftentimes we feel like our spiritual gifts probably don’t matter that much, like the time we got socks when we really hoped we were getting that new bike. But we needed those socks, and people around you need your spiritual gifts. Sometimes your spiritual gifts will be like my Christmas computer, big and bold and desperately needed. Other times your Spiritual gifts might seem more like socks, needed but not necessarily noticed.

But your gifts are unique to you. Even if you and another person both have the gift of hospitality, you are uniquely created and your gift will look different than theirs. That’s the beautiful thing about spiritual gifts, all of them are needed within the church, and outside its walls. Someone is waiting for your gifts to be used, for you to welcome them, talk to them, sing with them, or just sit with them. So take some time to think about what your gifts might be, and how you can best use them to serve your church and the world!

For more information on Spiritual Gifts (definitions, quizzes etc) check out these links:

http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/spiritual-gifts-online-assessment

https://www.elca.org/Our-Work/Congregations-and-Synods/Faith-Practices/Spiritual-Renewal/Assessment-Tools

Do You Believe in Magic?

Epiphany of the Lord

Matthew 2:1-12

Its that time. The time when people tend to pack away their trees, and put up the magic of Christmas. But what if we turned that around, and realized that the real “magic” started this Sunday, on Epiphany?!

The Magi (sometimes also translated as the Kings or the Wise men) are some mysterious figures in scripture. We figure they were probably astrologers, the scientists of the time who studied the heavens and were well respected for their knowledge. They saw a sign in the heavens and went in search of this holy baby, signaled by the star in the sky.

What faith it must have taken to go on that journey. To head off in search of something, not knowing what they would find. To be people of science, heading off on a journey of faith.

We are now people of science. We believe in the scientific method, we teach our kids to think critically, and God gave us these abilities to be used to their fullest potential, just as God set stars in the sky for the Magi to study. But even people of science need a little magic.

We need to remember that there are things out there beyond our understanding. That God is bigger than all of our scientific method, and that we don’t have to have it all figured out. God gives us a different star to follow on our faith journeys, and our light is Jesus.

We get to step out in faith, following the light of Christ even though we don’t know where the journey will take us. We will meet Herods, who want us to do things we aren’t comfortable with, and we will change course. Sometimes we will catch glimpses of the glory of God, and like the Magi, we will have no choice but to kneel in worship of the God that lights our paths.

Here’s to the Magic of Epiphany. May it live with you as you continue to journey on.

Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord

2nd Sunday in Advent, Year C

Luke 3:1-6

If you want a great ear worm listen to Prepare ye the Way of the Lord from Godspell. Go ahead, google it. I’ll wait. Done? Ok. Its a great song, even if it just repeats the same words over and over again for 2 minutes. Any time this story of John the Baptist is told, I can’t help but sing this song.

What are we preparing for? Its the season of Advent, a season of waiting and preparation. The secular side of Advent pulls us in a million directions preparing for Christmas. There is china to pull out to reflect the season, decorations, lights to hang, and a million parties to go to.

The church side of our lives has its own pull. There might be extra services, concerts, cleaning, decorating, and its own parties to add to our advent preparation. Sometimes the preparation gets a little out of hand, doesn’t it.

We didn’t decorate this year. The tree is staying in the attic, along with the lights, ornaments, and other signs that my house would be “ready” for Christmas. We didn’t skip the decorating because I’m a grinch or anything, we just have a toddler and a new dog and I really don’t want to add “clean up the mess” to my list of things to do this month.

Not decorating has slowed things down a little bit. But It doesn’t stop the busyness of a season like this. Perhaps its time for all of us to take a moment to slow down and figure out how God is calling us to prepare the way for Jesus, in our homes, in our Churches, and in our hearts. 

Holy Spirit Prayer Stations

A few weeks ago our youth small groups did a lesson on the Holy Spirit from Francis Chan’s Basic series (great series by the way, you should check it out). The video went well, the intro to small groups was great, and then I talked to my leader’s afterwards and they said that it was crickets. Nobody seemed to have much to say about the Holy Spirit.

As we gathered a week later as leaders to discuss this we came up with a few reasons why our rooms seemed so quiet that night. Continue reading “Holy Spirit Prayer Stations”

Must Be Nice

This is the last of my four devotionals written for the Young People’s Ministry. If you’d like to read more great devotionals, please visit their website and read from the other great contributors. 

Global Young People Devotions

Must Be Nice…

If you do a Google search for bible verses about money, you’ll find an abundance of them.

“For the love of money is the root of all evil” – 1 Timothy 6:10

“Whoever loves money never has enough, whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income” – Ecclesiastes 5:10

“For where your treasure is there your heart will be also” – Matthew 6:21

Continue reading “Must Be Nice”

Just Say No: A Young Adult Devotional

This devotional is the third of four I wrote for the Young People’s Ministries of the United Methodist Church. If you care to read all of them together, you can find them under the Devotional page here or follow the link below to the Young People’s Ministries webpage and you can read not only mine but other young writers.

Global Young People

When I was in elementary school we were expected to participate in the D.A.R.E. program. If you are unfamiliar with the program, D.A.R.E. stands for Drug and Alcohol Resistance Education, and was implemented as a program to get us to Just Say No to drugs. To our suburban selves this seemed pretty obvious. This idea of just saying no was really easy because it wasn’t ever a temptation. Nobody we knew did drugs, no one offered us drugs, so it was pretty easy to just say no.

Continue reading “Just Say No: A Young Adult Devotional”

This is the first in a series of four devotionals I wrote for the General Board of Discipleship’s Young People’s Ministries. You can find more info about the ministry programs, more devotionals, and other great things for young adults by following the link below. 

Global Young People

Words have the power, and we have to be responsible with them.
Words have the power, and we have to be responsible with them.

Words are powerful. I know you are reading this thinking, “Sure, like I’ve never heard that before,” and you may be ready to dismiss this right away, but travel back in time with me for a moment. What were “those” words in your life? The words spoken out of anger, malice, or jealously?

“I hate you”
“You are worthless”
“I don’t love you anymore”
“You can’t”
“You aren’t good enough”

Continue reading “Power of Words.”

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