Monday, December 10, 2018

Through Stained Glass: 2nd Monday of Advent-Peace

 Below is Adam's reflection for today's word: peace. He is participating in an Advent Word a Day challenge created by his colleague Becky Durham--the pastor at Peace Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina. To see her journey through Advent, click here.

Peace

Peace is writing by candlelight first thing in the morning.
It is two snoring dogs at your feet.
It is the steady hum of a small space heater and the radiance of a Christmas tree.

Peace is looking at the photos and treasures from the adventures over the last year.
It is steam from the coffee cup dancing between the flickering flame of the candle.
It is the first good night's sleep in over a week.

Peace is the moment just before the dawn--before the squirrels arrive for breakfast.
It is happiness--hygge in this home at this hour.
It is the stillness of a foggy morning.

Peace is the silence after the furnace turns off--solitude.
It is this morning, this moment, the manifestation of divine grace.
It is before someone declares that they "have a case of the Mondays."

Peace is wholeness. It is completeness. It is tranquility. It is my prayer for you today, this week. It is a reminder of how God's redemption transpires.

It is Psalm 122 becoming your our prayer: "Peace be within your walls and quietness within your towers."

Peace, Christ's peace, be with you today. And for Christ's sake, live in peace.

a peaceful scene from Adam's house this morning.
advent candles burning, xmas tree lit, and two pups asleep.
peace is in the silence.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Through Stained Glass: Restore--A Week 1 Advent Reflection



Restore.

My faith was restored twice today (12.06).

The first time by a group of children who sat with eager attention as folks from church put on the play “Pinocchio.” They sat with their little eyes wide open, laughing and gasping at ol’Pinoke’s growing nose and Jiminy Cricket’s wisdom and wit. When we were done, they giggled and applauded, shouting out their favorite characters!

They made me smile.

Then, around a table with ladies nearly nine times the children’s ages, I sat silently and in awe as I listened to these women offer their sage advice. For an hour, over food they all made, I listened to stories about their favorite Christmas gifts and holiday rituals. Then, one of the oldest silenced our rowdy group and brought us to tears as she shared a memory from her senior year in high school. It was Christmas morning. She walked home from the church service she had attended. It was still dark, and as she sauntered down the streets of her quiet town, she said there was a peacefulness she had never experienced. At this point, her eyes filled up with tears. In great detail, she recalled the chill on her cheeks, the snow under her feet, and the gratitude and goodness she felt as she watched the lights in the houses slowly turn on, which caused her to think, “The kids are up in that house! What a gift Christmas is.”

My poor attempt to recall her story does it no justice. But it was a moment so moving, it restored my hope for the magic of these holy days—if we would get past the bickering and negative bantering of recent and offer our presence to one another.

Those ladies made my smile even larger.

Restore.

As I’ve been walking with you through this season of Advent, I’ve been thinking a lot about restoration, these days. It isn’t that my faith has been dead (it hasn’t been, I promise), but like a houseplant that is allowed to sit just a little too long without a cool, glass of water, my faith soil had become hard, dry, and cracked… until this very day of God’s grace. As I spent part of it with young and old, I reclaimed my place in the story, and I was restored into a vision for this season.

What would you say if I said that an out-of-tune piano should just be thrown away? That we should give up on the fact that it doesn’t sound like it once did, thus, we should get something newer, shinier, and maybe even, more modern.

Chances are, you would say I might have had too much eggnog.

Yesterday the piano tuner was at church. I watched him for a while do what piano tuners do: tapping on all the keys, exposing the strings that are hidden within the instrument, then delicately tightening and loosening them to restore the sound to its original tune.

At times, we get out of tune. In fact, it happens more often than we would like to admit. For Christians, Advent is the time to allow the Spirit to tune our hearts to God. It is a season to restore the joy of God’s movement toward us—and rejoice in the good news that God did not, has not, and never will give up on us.

Where might you allow the Spirit in to do the slow work of restoration on your heart?
How might you restore the hope, peace, joy, or love, in the life of someone else?
What needs to be restored in your life?

Friends, remember:

10Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.


11Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. 12And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. 13And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. ~ 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Through Stained Glass: The Magic Mirror by Annie Hieronymous

(This week's post is written by Annie Hieronymous. She is a member at First Presbyterian Church and creator of the little library at The Christian Child Care in Lincoln, Illinois. Annie is a deacon, Cubs fan, and poet.)
Remember to bring your little mirror to worship this Sunday! 

The Magic Mirror

When I was a child, I loved to watch Romper Room.  Every morning I would sit in front of the TV and watch the kids sing songs and do fun things.  But the thing I waited for most anxiously was the Magic Mirror.  I’d move up close to the TV and sit quietly, hoping against hope that Miss Rosemary would see me through her magic mirror.
“Romper Bomper Stomper boo
Tell me, tell me, tell me do
Magic mirror tell me today,
Have all my friends had fun at play?”

I sat with bated breath, full of hope that just this once she would say my name.  She’d go through the list and of course, I was terribly disappointed when mine wasn’t mentioned.  It was kind of heartbreaking that she didn’t see me.  After all, everyone wants to be seen.
We spend a lot of time every day standing in front of a mirror.  We primp. We preen.  We mess with our hair and put on our make-up.  We check to see if what we’re wearing makes us look fat.  We dance or sing our favorite rock song.  We practice that one conversation that is so important.
Mirrors come in so many shapes and sizes and they don’t lie about what is on the outside.  But sometimes mirrors become scratched, cracked, or even broken, much like our own lives.  Are we sad?  Are we hurting?  Are we lonely?  Those are the things a mirror can’t tell us.
It would be wonderful if every time we looked into our eyes in that reflection, we could just say, “I love you.”  Three little words.  God wants us to first love ourselves so we can take the path to loving and caring for others.  We need to know ourselves.  We need to know what’s on the inside as well as the outside.
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror, then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” – I Corinthians  13:12
So let’s get out our magic mirror and see ourselves.  Let’s look deep inside.  We are, after all, not just a face.  Let our reflections mean something to us, and then it will mean a lot to others as well.
Tracy Morgan said, “I know who I am.  When I look in the mirror, I see me.”

The path to a good life, happiness, and fulfillment starts inside us.   We can walk towards redemption, forgiveness, and love.  It is a path well taken, right through the looking glass.  Jesus is waiting on the other side.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Through Stained Glass: Midweek Mirrored Resistance by Kelli Woodford

Today's reflection is by First Presbyterian Church member,
Kelli Woodford. Kelli is a child of God, daughter, mother,
writer, dreamer, coffee connoisseur, and warrior. 

The day was cloudy. One of the first of the cold that now accompanies us with more regularity. My eyes scanned shorn cornfields for the threat of deer. My fingers played with the radio. My feet worked the pedals with a life their own. And none of this was unusual. In fact, I felt a little swept up in the monotony of it all.

Pressures of work and home hitchhiked on thoughts barely conscious. Old stories I’d told myself of criticism and shame, judgment and division, replayed at a speed my vehicle wouldn’t dream of challenging. This was life, right? This was the workaday world we all succumb to and perhaps in which we unwittingly participate. A life in which we so often feel alone.

And it was the gum, I think. As my fingers brushed the inside pocket of my purse for a minty strip, something pushed back. Something solid. Something small. A rogue square placed there on another day, a hitchhiker of another kind. The act of pulling out a mirror startled me. Because to my great surprise,

There I was.

I looked back at me in the small fragment. Me, driving my father’s borrowed car while mine was in the process of being repaired. Me, of delicate blue eyes which skipped a generation to land in these sockets. Me, the one who felt so swept up in thought and analysis, in worry and regret, that she lost sight of what is perhaps more true: who she is.

And it was on the side of the road, among nameless cornfields, that an act of resistance was born. I snapped a photo of just one piece of my face reflected in that square because I needed to name the place. This is what art does, right? It names an experience, alters the perspective, reframes assumptions about reality. Art is an act of resistance. You see, in that moment I was not only the anxious imaginings of an overactive mind or the judgments inherent in what we all come to call normal, I was actually something more than that. I was present. I had substance greater than whatever my mental noise declared. Like the mirror in my hand, I was solid.

The truth of the matter is that I was in fact surrounded by so much more than vacant corn and bean fields, but by the great cloud of witnesses symbolized by my father’s steering wheel and my grandmother’s eyes. By those whose love stays with me in ways I can’t deny when physicality is viewed from another angle. Madeline L’Engle wasn’t wrong when she wrote that love is never absent, just sometimes enfolded.

There is a strength in this acknowledgment. A confidence in recognizing the love that is both within and without. Somehow that little square of mirror resistance permitted a returning to the Self most true, the one that stills the endless chatter of monotony’s lull. A life in which we are not alone.


Friday, November 9, 2018

Through Stained Glass: Mosaic Mirrors

Tiny mirrors were handed out Sunday at worship to remind
us that all we need is love and who we are is love. We will
bring them back to worship on Sunday, 25th of November.
If you didn't receive one or would like to, there are plenty
remaining at church. Just ask Adam for one! 


The end is near!

Alright, not really. But also, really.

Lectionary Year B is coming to an end, which means so is our artwork for 2018.

These final days have us exploring what it means when we allow the good news to take hold of our lives. Last Sunday, Jesus summed it up into 2 heavy commandments:

1.     Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, nephesh, and strength; and
2.     Love your neighbor as yourselves.

That’s it. The whole Gospel message comes down to one word: LOVE.

How do we love God, though? I imagine some people would say we do by going to church, giving to the church, or something about believing what church teaches. These are all good practices! They really are! However, Jesus never really talked about good church attendance, nor did he really teach that loving God is dependent on ascribing to certain creeds or beliefs. As someone once pointed out, Jesus never said, “Worship me.” Instead, he said, “Follow me!”

The best piece of advice I have read about loving God went something like this:

The only way I know how to teach anyone to love God, and how I can love God, is to love what God loves, which is everything and everyone, including you and including me!

We love because God first loved us. And nothing we do can ever remove us from the love of God. If we love God, God remains in us, and this love is completed and brought to perfection in us.

As we press on toward the end of our year and the completion of our artwork, we will end on the same note we began the year on: LOVE.

This is why this past Sunday you were handed a tiny mirror. You were invited to take one and carry it with you throughout your week as a reminder that you are loved. This “phylactery” is to help you remember that the world doesn’t need another Michael Jordan or Mother Teresa: it needs YOU. The best way to love God is to love the things God loves. And what does God love? No, no, no… who does God love?

Look in the mirror. Do you see it? God loves you!

And that’s the thing about this love; it is what and who we are—at our core.

Our True Selves—God’s love within us—can never be exhausted.

Love God, friends. With everything you have. Then, take time to love yourself—and the rest will follow.

On Sunday, November 25, bring your little mirror—scratched, dirty, or broken—back to worship. Together we will make a mosaic at the center of our painting.

With our many parts, we will piece together what is true about Love—we all shine like the sun.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Through Stained Glass: Salvation--Transformation--Enneagram-ation



A baptismal font that hangs on Adam's wall. Baptism is the
bond of unity in Jesus Christ. When we are baptized,
we are made one with Christ, with one another, and with
the Church of every time and place.

Have you found your true self yet?

Don’t worry; you’re not alone.

Salvation is the ongoing journey of living into our baptismal identity—the new creation we receive upon our baptism. In our baptisms, the old self—the self that is controlled by ego and the external demands of the world—dies, and the new self—the new creation guided by love and the Spirit—lives. In baptism we are given our original names:

Beloved.

The journey of living into our identity as God’s beloved is what Paul refers to in Philippians 2. When we discover our true selves, that’s when we live as residents of the reign of God. You are not asked to be me; nor am I asked to be you. You must embrace out your salvation, as I must workout mine. Together, however, we can help each other become who God has created us to be.

Embracing salvation is a journey—a death and resurrection experience. Jesus taught us that in order to find life, we must lose our lives. We lose our lives by emptying ourselves of all that gets in the way of Life. What gets in the way of Life are the ways we put ourselves against one another. Or the way we stand in our own way.

Jesus said it wouldn’t be easy. “The cup that I must drink, you must also drink.” The journey of salvation is not found in doctrines or correct information or even practicing the right morality. The journey of salvation is made daily, often slowly, with mystery as the guide. Even the disciples tried to make the journey about being right (see Mark 10.38). Jesus showed us the way to life, and he taught us the way of love by loving others. Only in selfless service to God through love of God and neighbor as ourselves will we truly experience the transformation Jesus spoke of when he said, “the truth will set you free.”

Here’s the thing: we cannot transform ourselves. Only God can do that. And anyone who has walked a great distance with God knows this reality. One theologian puts it this way:
“There are two utterly different forms of religion: one believes that God will love if I change; the other believes that God loves me so that I can change!”
Once we move past our egos—or the false self we’ve worked endlessly to create—we will discover the gift of our True Self.

What do we have to help us get back to where we once belonged? Scouts have a compass. Pirates have treasure maps. Christ has given us the Word. Wisdom presents us with the Enneagram. Where Meyers-Briggs and Strength Finder offer entertaining insights into our personality, it is the Enneagram that is concerned with change and making a turnaround. This kind of sounds like the word repent, huh? The Enneagram confronts us with compulsions and laws under which we live—usually without being aware of it—and it invites us to go beyond them… to take steps into the domain of freedom.


It’s here, in the freedom of our awareness and the awareness of our freedom, where we encounter our True Self.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Through Stained Glass: A Mid-Week Reflection-Fall-se Self

"What is your greatest obstacle to your deepest prayer?” This question posed by monks living in the Egyptian desert is as relevant today as it was in the fourth century. What blocks us from living out our deepest prayer is ourselves. Identifying how we block our own spiritual progress requires consistent self-observation, appropriate questions for self-reflection, and a supportive community. The Enneagram (ennea is Greek for nine) is an ancient map of process and self-discovery that is an effective tool for personal, professional and spiritual growth.

         I am excited about this fall. Having completed a pretty busy summer, it will be nice to return to familiar routines and practices such as enjoying Kirk Nights, hearing the choir on Sunday mornings, and writing for the church’s blog. This fall will be unlike any before!
A significant focus for me (and I hope for us) during this upcoming season will be exploring who we are as children of God. In sermons, casual conversations, and in studies, I’m sure you have heard me say once or twice that we must recover our original name—a line borrowed from my favorite monk, Thomas Merton. Like I mentioned in last week’s sermon, long before we chose our vocation or anything about this life, God chose us. What does this mean? What it means now is not the same as what it meant ten, fifteen, or forty years ago. Or does it? Perhaps there is something persistent despite changing years. For this reason, I am having our church study and reflect on the Enneagram. The best explanation about the Enneagram comes from Father Richard Rohr, who writes:
The Enneagram is a dynamic system. It was developed primarily in an oral tradition, in the context of relationships between students and teachers. A “dynamic system” is one that recognizes that humans are far too complex and nuanced to fit easily into simple categories; it supports the evolving, maturing human journey.
The Enneagram is not a strict law or code. Its categories are not meant to bind or restrict you to a certain way of being and living. People who know the Enneagram in a superficial way think it’s about putting people into boxes, but it actually works to free people from their self-created boxes.
I truly believe until we understand who we are as individuals, we can’t know who we are as a community of faith. If you have paid attention to the sermon series over the summer, you probably picked up on how being our most authentic self (both as individuals and as a community) has always been a struggle for God’s people. Did you know that the author of James argues that God never sends evil!? In contrast to those who can’t commit wholeheartedly to God and to the changing reality, God is faithful both to God’s own gracious, self-giving character and to God’s beloved. 
            James would also say that God has gifted us with what we need to be the people of heaven on earth. James might add (and so do I for that matter), the inner battle is rooted in our own self-centered desires. James describes such attractions as an almost irresistible lure that baits us like dumb animals. I find this explanation to be helpful: Once we bit, the natural history of desire plays out: with our cooperation, selfish desire conceives and births sin; and once mature, sin spawns death.
            However, God stands outside our natural progression of desire, sin, and death—as the one who is not tempted to be self-centered nor tempts anyone! Instead, God models other-centeredness; indeed, James teaches that all giving originates in God, who is always and forever the great giver. From the beginning of creation to the liberation of Israel, and to the Christ-moment, God shares freely and without discrimination. It’s as if to say: God is responsible for a competing progression: according to God’s loving purpose, God births believers through the word of truth; once birthed, these first fruits of new creation offer promise to all.[1] As the first fruits of God, we as the Body of Christ, are the tangible evidence of the in-breaking of God’s gracious and gentle rule. Which is why James essentially says, to know the word of God (or what God wants) and not to do it is silly!
            Just as God cannot be boxed in, neither can we as God’s people. For this very reason, it is important for us to return to center, to the Wisdom of God implanted in us from the beginning, so we do not forget who and whose we are. There’s no better time to let go of our false selves and all the baggage that comes with that person, than the season of Fall!



[1] McKnight, Edgar V., and Christopher Lee Church. Hebrews-James. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Pub., 2004. Page 342