Friday, November 30, 2012

Child of Wisdom

My third (and final) born is testing me these days. I think some of it is attributable to her age; she's two. Some of we can plan on her birth order; you gotta scream and demand a lot to be heard when you have two older siblings. The secretary at church says the rest of it is her name; with a name like Margaret of course she'd end up strong. Needless to say she and I have had our moments over the last few weeks which culminated one morning this week with 90 straight minutes of screaming because I wouldn't let her eat Sour Patch Kids for breakfast. I was never happier to walk into daycare than I was that day.

But for all the patience she has been sucking right out of me, we have had some really sweet bedtimes. I totally think she's playing me (and it's working for her), but in our little bedtime routine in the rocking chair in her room, the wives' tales about her special birth are starting to come true.

Margaret was born with a caul, a veil of tissue over her face and body. It wasn't at all life threatening or even worrisome. Essentially, she came through the birth canal still inside the womb of water that held her, and it wasn't until she was delivered that the emergency room doctor who (barely) caught her wiped the tissue away from her face. It was pretty awesome to watch. I didn't know it was anything special at the time, but when I told the story to others I learned about all sorts of traditional beliefs about this kind of birth. Some say that babies born in the caul are destined for greatness, others say they will be seers, prophetic, that they carry innate wisdom and the ability to protect.

I've started a new little ritual when rocking with Margaret at night. I've been making the sign of the cross on her forehead three times, saying with each one, "God your Father/Mother loves you (I alternate the parent each night), Jesus your brother saves you, the Spirit your friend leads you." The first night when I finished she looked up at me and said, "I love them all three together." Tonight she said, "They all three love you, Mommy."

What a blessing. What wisdom. What joy to be her mother.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

An Advent Faith

I admitted over on Facebook just a few moments ago that while it is not yet even the season of Advent, I have already started up my holiday music.  It was, of course, a somewhat tongue-in-cheek admission aimed particularly at my former seminary classmates and other colleagues.  Any of us who were in seminary sometime in the past 20 years or so have been well-taught not to get to Christmas too soon.  I have been teased even around here (hopefully in love) for resisting the urge to get to the Christmas music before the twelve days of Christmas start on Dec. 25 and focusing instead on the coming of Christ, both our memory of his first coming and our hope in the fulfillment of God’s promises at the second.

So here’s my true confession - - I love Advent.  I love it even more than Christmas.  I love the hoping and the longing and the anticipation.  I love the mystery and the symbolism and the darkness that is just begging for the Light of the World.  I love the unknown and the desperation.  It feels so authentic to me.  In my life of faith these aspects of Advent have often spoken to me in deeper ways than the pure joy and elation of Christmas.

My faith journey has not been one of absolute certainty much of the time; it has been one of questioning and struggling, one of wondering and even doubting.  There are things I have known that I have forgotten.  There are things I have believed from which I have drifted away or that have been transformed in unexpected ways.  There have been times when it feels like all the candles of my faith are being snuffed out one by one, when I am left in fear and trembling, longing for, desiring the strength and consolation that is promised by God.  I have felt an aching desire for confident faith, and somehow in these times of wrestling with God and longing after Christ, the Spirit seems most present with me.  This is Advent.  Whether it’s four weeks before Christmas, smack in the middle of spring, or even stretched over a period of years, this is Advent.

And then, just when I think I’ve lost it all, the glimmer of God’s grace, the light that comes into the dark which the darkness cannot overcome, starts to appear on the horizon.  New revelations brighten the landscape, light chases away shadows, and knowledge of God’s love and providence reign the day.  Christmas comes when at least for a little while love’s pure light shines bright, and the truth and certainty of God’s grace is revealed.  Yet, for me, it is the hope of Advent that heightens the joy of Christmas.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The words in bold

Satisfy us with your love in the morning.
And we will live this day in joy and praise.

It's hard to remember to say the words in bold. In most of my time spent in more formal worship, I say the plain words. Usually they are words I have crafted or at least organized for the setting. I know what I meant when I put them together. I know I want them to be heard, how they relate to what's coming next. I think about how I will read them to set the tone, what inflection will add to their meaning. They have an "L" right by them, and that "L" means me. The leader. The one in charge of getting everyone where we are going together. It's a hard role to shake, even when I don't necessarily want it (or carry it) in every setting. It's hard to remember to read the words in bold.

But sometimes I have to, and sometimes I get to. I think I need to more often. Because I don't do it often I think I sometimes forget that while I have some leadership responsibilities in some settings and while I am the leader in some groups, I am not always the leader. I need to be led, too.

Here at CREDO someone said this morning, actually it was read to us from p. 14 of The Unnecessary Pastor by Eugene Peterson that as pastors we can't take the leadership away from Christ. That hit me. I think I try to do that. I think I try to do that because listening for Christ, discerning, Christ is hard work. And it's risky. How will I know when we're following and when we're just pretending to follow? It feels very different to let God lead in my own life than to let God lead in my ministry and in our church. There are more people who are effected. There are more people who might be hearing God's voice. There are more opinions, there is more at stake, there are more people who can get hurt if things don't work out. I'm very willing to fail in my own endeavors, but letting other people down, leading them in something that fails, that's scarier.

But we can't take the leadership away from Christ. I can't follow him in just some areas of life and not others - -especially I can't leave his leadership out of my ministry and my leadership in the church. I think I run my vocation on my own steam, and that's not going to work for long. I already think it's petering out. I don't mean I'm burning out, but I'm seeing we can all only grow so far on my excitement, my vision, my ideas. The spirit has to come from something deeper than me. The leadership has to come from Christ.

It's time to read the bold print.