Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Morning Ruminations

It is 8:45 AM and we have opened our presents. i sit in front of the Christmas tree while Chuck is making an omelet. I feel a sense of peace and deep joy.

There is always with me some part that is bittersweet at Christmas remember other Christmas mornings that are gone.
As a child I can still remember how extremely exciting Christmas morning was. There was great anticipation and wonder in the Gersen household. My parents did not put most of the Christmas presents under the tree until we four were in bed. In the morning we were not allowed to see the tree until after breakfast. And so the waiting during breakfast for mom and dad to finish their coffee and clean the kitchen was excruciating. and then that first glimpse of the tree! Our family took turns - youngest to oldest and the opening of presents was always an event. It was followed by trying on clothes and then playing the games that we had been given. Every Christmas we always received clothes, books and games. Always.

as a mother I tried to give my girls that same sense of anticipation and wonder and abundance. I always gave each of the girls 5 gifts to open - which included clothes, books and games. Then there were the years when they were teenagers and everybody slept in but me. Christmas morning I would be up early listening to Christmas music, drinking coffee and wrapping the last minutes gifts. So wonderful.

and now it is me and Chuck. Me up first to read the paper, drink coffee and at peace. Waiting for opening a couple of gifts and then church and then the family together.

But now I am more than ever happy for this day. And not just for family memories which are rich - but for the whole meaning of the coming of the light into that darkness.

Jesus, my Jesus. My whole life has been a proclamation of the MORE of a life of faith.

I remember being a young teenager and even then wanting to know what the purpose of life was. Was it enough to replicate yourself with children? Or to achieve with a career and creativity? These are all good and meaningful pursuits and they have made my life full.

But it has been my faith - my relationship with God - which has provided a foundation for a deeper meaning to my life. The spiritual path of seeking and being sought by the divine has given me hope in dark times, peace in the midst of turbulence and guidance in confusion. I keep learning that the way of forgiveness, humility and awareness brings fruit and peace.

So today we say - YES - Jesus came and comes again and because of that we can survive the worst of life: the grief that comes with loss, the betrayal of friends, and facing of our own weaknesses and mistakes.

But more important - because of that we can ourselves be people who seek the light and love every day. I can trust that wherever I am - "Immanuel" God is with me. God is present.

With me, Loving. Giving. Calling. Me. and YOU

Merry Christmas! Christ is Born again

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Cards

I've been getting them and I love them.
But this year I am not sending them.

What I really love - besides the cards is the letters and the pictures. I spend quite a bit of time with the pictures looking people I love and seeing how they seem to be now. I love Christmas pictures.

This is my second year of not doing a Christmas letter and it just did not feel like something I wanted to do. But if I did this is what I would talk about.

The year beginning and ending with the deaths of some very special people. The year started with the passing of 32 year old Lisa from breast cancer. Her life touched mine (and many people's) and her dying did also. The year has ended with the death of 94 year old Paul who was truly a good and faithful servant of the Lord. I just returned from visiting with his widow and two daughters as we talked about his art, poetry, music and his faith. The service for him will be in April and I am sure it will be inspiring for all of us.

But of course that is hardly what this year has been for me. More life than death.

Life like finishing up the Wellstreams program and graduating in May. It has been a gift to me to have the time for reading and classes and spiritual direction. In the aftermath of the program I now meet with a professional peer group monthly of spiritual directors and that keeps me still in that world. I also team taught a short course on contemplative prayer and Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr which was really wonderful for me.
Life like watching Karl Road Christian Church become more diverse over the past year. We have had three great occasions this fall: our Acts of Faith concert, our "One World" Sunday and the Christmas family pageant this week which were exciting to me as I could see that we are really becoming a church family that welcomes and celebrates everybody - regardless of age, race, culture, sexual orientation. These services really gave ME life!
Life like the time I got to spend with Audrey - first at her church when she was installed in May, then going to General Assembly with her in July, Advance Conference with her in August and her coming to preach at Methesco in November. I was blessed to be with her as her proud mother but also as fellow ministers. What a gift.
Life like the wedding of Marnie and Erik this summer. I cannot overstate how much I appreciate Erik Schultz as a part of my family - he brings strength, humor and just plain goodness into our lives and the wedding day itself was just pure celebration. I love it all!
Life like watching my family grow up - seeing Shane get engaged! seeing Jackson on the soccer and football field! seeing Alyse and Reagan become more and more confident and even caring of their younger sisters! I could go on and on - but it all gives me life!
So, I probably should have put this and more into the Christmas letter I did not write. But what I see is that God is at work growing us all - throughout this life and then providing peace and promise when we leave to go to the next life with him.

I am, as always, grateful for my faith and my call to ministry. This is what gives my life purpose and meaning.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Everything of Christmas

The Everything of Christmas
Today is my day off and I am starting to get some energy back. I have had a cold for about 2 weeks and it has really sapped me. I think it all started with going to a concert and drinking caffeinated coffee at 7 PM and then not sleeping - and within 24 hours I was coughing.

And then for the last two weeks my goal has been to keep my work to only 8 hours per day - which is a challenge with evening meetings and a women's retreat and just church life. But now, today, I am beginning to feel like myself again.

What amazes me about this time of the year is how rich is usually is. And what that means is that there is so much sadness and pain and joy and celebration all mixed up together.
For example on Friday: one member went into hospice, another to a nursing home and another had a (thankfully slight!) stroke. I also had lunch with Trixie who lost her beloved daughter Lisa a year ago.

At the same time, Chuck was preparing and serving his annual Christmas Tea which is truly a delight for so many people. The next day our evangelism team handed out 300 plus rolls of wrapping paper (FREE with an advertisement for our church) and our youth had their Christmas service party.

Yesterday, I preached about Mary and the fact that God continues to call each of us into "giving birth to Jesus" in our own way. And then in the afternoon visited and/or called the people in hospice, hospital and nursing home. And then we worshiped again in the evening.

and now today - Christmas shopping and having Addie and Reagan over to make cookies and the young adults to play games in the evening.

The everything of Christmas.
And, of course, this is life - with its mixture of good and bad, blessing and struggle, life and death - but somehow with the overlay of the festive and Christmas celebration, it seems like a lot more.

I write this in awe and wonder as I continue to see and to trust that God is at work in all of this. Bringing meaning and purpose to our times of celebration and abundance and help and support through the times of trial.

God is Good. All the time.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Saturday morning at camp

Am sitting here at Monroe Lodge at camp in front of the fire.
I got here last night before anyone else and really enjoyed the gift of solitude in front of a fire.
Al had put the logs on with lots of paper underneath and a lighter in front. Presumably, I light the paper and the fire is produced.

Unfortunately I lit the papers and they burned and the logs did not take hold. It took a while, more paper, more moving the logs around, more ignition to get it going.

And once I had it, I found myself reflecting on the whole fire thing. At Karl Road Christian Church we have a motivating statement: "Ignited by God, Changing the World" and I have learned that to get ignited is not always easy. It is important to have enough kindling and
Alers to get it going. I also found myself thinking about those people who become like the embers and the greying logs...whose warmth is such that anyone can "catch" the experience of Gods love by being near them. But then there are the folks who are like the logs that are "green" and resistant to the fire. Not new ideas, I know, but this is how zi think today.

Anyway, I woke up and the fire that was started last night was still going and I learned the most important "lesson" that I keep learning. That even though I may be one of the leaders of this retreat, it is not my sole responsibility to keepnthe fire burning, I am grateful for the women the middle of the up and put a log or two on the fire. It takes a community to keep a fire going.

It is good to be here today. Therenwill be women here from every church I have served. And we are all aging together and continuing our own feed the fire of our faith.

God is good. All the time.