Advent Means #Sign

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Just a few days from Christmas, a Christmas I must report my thankfulness for. There are many signs that God is with me, personally. I can recount these, although to use them in reference to the sign those gathered to find the baby Jesus used is a stretch. 

 God is with me. Not all do, but I see snow as a sign of God’s presence. Bitter winds? Not so much. But snow falling, snow accumulating, snow to shovel, snow to cover dirt… I’ve always been comforted by snow, and we’ve had quite a bit of it so far this year in Minnesota. We’ll have a white Christmas, and thats a blessing.

God is with me. I am employed by and worship with a new church this year ~ and for the first time in my life I will attend all the Christmas Eve and Day services, mostly with people i’ve never met and may never probably see throughout the calendar year. We announce over and over again that all are welcome. And our announcement is truly real (i know that is not the best English, but you have to qualify these things in America). We really do include and welcome all people to fellowship and to the table. I am blessed.

God is with me. I don’t have a savings account. I have more debt because of student loans and a mortgage, a car (which i nearly worship) and some medical bills… but money (though sometimes a worry if i let it) does not consume me and i am not consumed by the pursuit of it. I try to be generous and have found creative ways to be so this year. I’m hoping to be creative in my pursuit of generating a little more income next year to stay ahead of the bills.

God is with me. I baked 4 different recipes of Christmas cookies this year. I have not baked or consumed Christmas cookies for so long I couldn’t even tell you. It may be over 10 years or more. Lots of reasons for this, but I allowed myself the pleasure this year. And i had fun giving (most of) them away. 

Advent is a beautiful season of signs pointing the way to the humility of Christ. I am never far from reminding myself how good God is and how I’m continually pointed to Jesus. Keep pointing me to the baby, Lord. Amen.

Advent Means #Strong

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I’m keeping a record on my refrigerator. It’s notebook paper and it’s called “Shovel Me Crazy.” I am motivating myself to choose joy by keeping a record of every time I shovel my walk-ways this winter. Yes, I know I am weird.

So far, it’s been several times. I’m surprised we’re getting more snow again this year, like last year, in Minnesota. Last year, I lived in a rental where snow removal was done for me… Now, I am the snowblower. Okay.

Snow falling is a big part of my Christmas-Spirit-Manufacturing. I was brought up to get all excited at those snow flakes and it still makes me so happy. Along with this Christmas-Spirit, for some odd reason this year i’m totally craving Christmas cookies. Keep in mind, for the last several years, probably about 5 years, i’ve been sugar-free. I haven’t been eating rice, bread, potatoes, flower, you know ~ the white stuff. But this year. My goodness. Cookies, please! I especially want the Kiss-ones… the Peanut Blossoms.

When today’s word was on the #rethinkchristmas poster as “strong,” those cookies were the first thing I thought of. I’m not strong. I can’t resist them. I sneak them from the church kitchen. I hovered around the table after Lessons and Carols. I’m planning a massive shopping trip to bake a bunch this weekend. Bake? Cookies?! I have not done that in so many years, I don’t even remember. It may be more than 10 years.

I’m diving in though. For this year, I don’t want to be strong on the cookie thing. I want to just enjoy it. Sometimes I just need to enjoy following a “want.” Maybe that’s part of Advent too.

Our differences are not greater than our common humanity. ~Bill Clinton

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I wanted to share this part of a speech i listened to on ITunes U. I’ve been listening to a lot of Bill Clinton stuff lately. Many reasons why, but i just like what he has to say, he’s a smart guy. He wrapped up an hour+ long talk to young people by saying this:

“Our differences are not more important than our common humanity. Another country I work in in Africa where people will meet each other walking by the trails, and one says, hello, how are you, good morning, the answer is not, I’m fine how are you? The answer in English is “I see you.” Think about all the people that never get seen. And that’s the last thing I want to say to all of you. None of you will be racist or a homophobe or hate somebody because of their religion. Your great trap will be to avoid falling too much in love with your gifts, with your potential. Your great obligation is to use it without forgetting that no matter how smart you are, no matter how articulate you are, no matter what you can achieve, what you have in common with the people who will come in here tonight and clean up after us after we all walk out is more important than your differences. If we can get a critical mass of the world to believe that, you will live in the most interesting exciting prosperous time the world has ever known.”

~Bill Clinton, 2007.

Advent Means #Steadfast

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I never lived anywhere outside of the midwest. I love winter. I love snow. I love Christmastime. I’m not a person who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder ~ although maybe i do on the opposite end. I need all 4 seasons, but if spring or summer lasts too long I become agitated.

I made somewhat of an improptu decision this winter to have the good folks at Discover Card purchase a wheel and tire set for my new VW Beetle. I’ll pay them back somehow in installments. Wow, I’m a normal American again. Okay. That little joy of a vehicle is not what you might call the ultimate snowmobile. And our Saint Paul public works did a very crappy job with their first snow storm which a few weeks after the fact is still making driving here at many intersections a nightmare. It is fun to drive, but i’d feel so stupid if my fun-face skidded out into a snowbank and crashed the little guy. (I call my car “Skywalker.”) So, new tires. Blizzak brand. Supposedly the best.
Gives me a little more confidence. When I was driving with them the first time, the marketing side of my trained-brain was coming up with slogans for the Blizzak campaign. “Money may not be able to buy love, but it can buy confidence.” Or something to that effect.

The Advent Journey, both in the waiting posture of crying out for salvation, and the journey to Bethlehem to be counted (there’s a theme I never heard any one preach on… the metaphor of going to be counted in the census… we all want to matter, we all want to count…) took a steadfast determination. I don’t think they had snow, there was certainly uncertainty (get it?) and a lack of confidence. Now when I drive with these new tires, which provide a lot of stability, but do not fix every icy intersection occurrence, I can think about remaining steady. We’re given help along the way. Let’s take it.

“Christian fait…

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“Christian faith is the gift of the meeting in which men become free to hear the word of grace which God has spoken in Jesus Christ in such a way that, in spite of all that contradicts it, they may once for all, exclusively and entirely, hold to His promise and guidance.”

~Karl Barth, “Dogmatics in Outline” p. 15.

He who, after l…

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He who, after learning a little about the meaning of ‘dogmatics’ undertakes to delve more into detail, will, I promise, discover (regardless of the method he may employ) in this theological discipline and in theology in general a great amount of necessary, thrilling, and beautiful tasks which are fruitful for the Church and for the world.

~Karl Barth, 1959 “Dogmatics in Outline”

“Dogmatic theol…

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“Dogmatic theology is concerned with proving the truth of the message which the Church has always proclaimed and must again proclaim today. It examines the truth contained in certain particular public documents of the past and the present, the ‘dogmas.’ Again and again it inquires for the truth from which the proclamation of the Christian Church is derived.”

~Karl Barth 1959, “Dogmatics in Outline”

Advent Means #Delight

ImageThe advent journey turned my thoughts to delight today. Sometimes the anticipation of waiting is more fun than the realization of getting. What kind of delight did Mary have as she waited for her little boy to be born? It’s kind of fun to imagine: today we take it for granted that we’ll know the gender of a baby before she or he is born (if we wish). A simple thing like the birth of baby Jesus, as soon as it was confirmed for Mary must have been a relief and a delight. The angel at least got the gender right. Would the rest follow?

 Little things brought me delight today. My office was repainted over the weekend. I suppose I should have spent time dusting and cleaning off stuff before I put it back up on the walls. But it was a delight to have a new look to the office. I get motivated by what I use to decorate. In fact, my home is also a place that brings me delight: the Christmas lights and ornaments and decorations are all up. 

As a little kid, like many Americans, there was a lot of delight waiting for Christmas morning. Mostly because of my wish-list and hoping to get a lot of what was on it. We made a red and green paper chain to help count down the days, and every morning my brother and I got to take turns ripping it off and watch it grow smaller until one was left on Christmas Eve.

It’s also a delight to serve in a congregation, as my picture post for today shows, that welcomes all people and trys to find ways to be inclusive to them, outside of just a posted welcome statement. This is a dream we have. It is not actualized in entirety. Single people don’t always feel like they fit in. 20 somethings probably don’t. Those with mental illness might not. The infertile, the widower, the person who needs to rely on public transit, the gay man who came out but has never had a serious boyfriend, the person still unemployed after the benefits run out… My hope is that we are a place of delight to God, as we try to make room for anyone who would join us. I think we are on our way. Come Lord Jesus, come.

Advent Means #ready

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Pulled out ye olde box of Christmas movies today.

Bring on the Santa and Snow and other merriment. Yeah Yeah, I know that Xmas and Advent are two separate things but it’s just this time of year.

I was a big Santa believer, back in the day. I believed longer than many of my friends. This should not surprise you. I’m still a believer in a lot of things: good mental health, letting sleeping dogs lie, the Word of God, Volkswagen… yeah.

Part of the wonder and joy of Christmas for me is the movies. Usually the story is a hopeless situation is turned to awesomeness by a fresh snowfall, a visit from Santa, a new love-interest… you know, all that stuff which feels like magic.

Advent is a time of making our hearts ready to receive magic. Not magic like Harry Potter but magic, the unexpected, the supernatural, the metaphysical. The any-thing-might-happenness of God. The preparation for what it really means that Immanuel God is here with us.

Advent Means #Flood

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When your dad’s vascular surgeon gives your mom what he calls his “private secret” cell phone number to give to YOU so you can call him… Things are serious. To save my dad’s 78 yr old life, he’s gonna have to lose his left leg.

Today’s advent photo-a-day thing was the word “flood.” I came home tonight and realized I never posted a picture and looked around me for what looked like a pic of a flood and i saw all my crazy notes from the past few days trying to piece together phone calls and reserach and questions I have for when I talk to the doctor. Office is getting painted, writing deadlines are past due, I’m weeks behind in reading for homework, I need to go grocery shopping, the dishes aren’t done, you know, life. It’s a flood of denial, hurt, sadness, reality right now. 

That’s Advent. All this stuff is just like all of my other stuff, through all of our years, we cry out for relief. Waiting and watching for rescue, salvation, home, and peace.