Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Gaudete and Grieving

Yesterday afternoon I hit the point where I had to stop. I had to close down Twitter, Facebook, and all the news source sites from my web browser. I had to stop the conversations.

I had to remind myself that while my heart is grieving, my soul rejoices. Perhaps there is comfort to be found in the seeming coincidence that this Sunday was Gaudete Sunday. Maybe I, like so many of us, need the reminder that our soul can be joyful even in times of grief and sadness.  Maybe we need the reminder that sorrow may last for a night, but in the morning comes the light.

Yes, we may be mourning the loss of those souls in Connecticut  We may be grieving the loss of a job or a home. We might be sorrowful over a relationship ending or an unwelcome life change.

Yet, we are not a people of sadness. We are a people who live in expectant, confident hope. We are a people of joy. Even when we are remembering the darkest hours of Good Friday, we know, with all our being that there is an Easter morning.

So yes, mourn. Grieve. God does not deny us that human need. After all, even Jesus wept for Lazarus. Yet, we cannot despair. We are an Easter people reminded in this particular week of Advent that we are a people of joy.  We mourn our loss. We can find comfort in the joy those lost souls now have.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

When all that is left is silence

"After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music."
~Aldous Huxley

I am now on my fifth day of trying to process the tragedy in Connecticut  I am trying to wrap my head around the shooting in a school, in a mall. I am trying to figure out what my heart is supposed to feel and my head is supposed to think at a time like this. Like so many others, I am answered with silence.

There are plenty who feel the need to add their voices to the mix and in a way I am too. Some are writing beautiful pieces offering real suggestions to help those that might cause terror such as this due to mental illness. Others are suggesting the time is here, yet again, to really examine the gun control policies in our nation. There are also beautiful stories and posts to social media of acts of kindness and remembrance of the little souls and the brave adults who time came too quickly and harshly.

Then there are those who see this is a time to offer angry words. They blame guns, blame God, blame the nation. Whether from fear or anger, they strike out at whomever they can reach.

All I know is that at Sunday's youth group I looked at the teens and wondered...Would I be as brave as those teachers? What could I do to protect them more? Why did those children have to die and never get the chance to experience the sweet torture of adolescence?

All I know is I now treasure all the more the pictures and updates I get from my goddaughters. I wish I was closer to my pseud-nieces and nephews to offer them hugs and celebrate each day with them.

All I know is that there are no words of comfort, no policy shifts, no anger, no fear that can erase what has happened.

I do not have the words to offer you, those grieving, or myself. I simply offer my silent prayer to God knowing that the angels will add their voices and those voices are all the sweeter with the choir of Sandy Hook's children.

Friday, December 7, 2012


Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I came to a profound realization. If ever I am lacking in humility, I will simply play Boggle with my brother. Despite being a certified bibliophile with an annoying vocabulary, I absolutely, positively stink at playing Boggle.  One round found my brother scoring 35 while I weighed in with 1, that's right 1 point.

My sister-in-law, while not quite as proficient as my brother, also completely schooled me. However, she was kind enough to offer words of encouragement along the lines of, "You just need to play it more often and you will start to know what patterns to look for." Yeah, I have a wonderfully kind sister-in-law.

What I did learn was how important little words are. Three lettered words become so crucial.

In a faith where we toss around consubstantial, Eucharist, ecclesial, transubstantiation, and even our short words like laity and chalice hail from a different age, simple short words get lost in the shuffle. Boggle taught me that can be dangerous.

I'm not even talking about some obvious ones like soul, love, faith.  I'm going even smaller - three letters - joy.

This is a busy time of year for us in the Church. Advent ministries and programs flood our schedule. Personal and professional obligations loom like an oncoming avalanche. Yet, if nothing else, this time of year should remind us of the simple, but so crucial idea of joy. Our God rejoices in us."I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete." When Jesus says this in John 15.11 it is such a simple yet incredibly profound statement.

Despite the chaos that is life right now (which includes a nasty headcold), I am trying to live with joy. I am trying to have that joy be contagious (unlike the headcold).

"Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,O daughter Jerusalem!
The Lord, your God is in your midst, a mighty savior;
He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love,
He will sing joyfully because of you."
~Zephaniah 3.14,17

Thursday, December 6, 2012

When A Geek Geeks Out

A few months ago, based off of some discussions and the fact that we have The Hobbit opening this month, I decided we'd do a series for the young adult ministry on "Faith & Fantasy: Lewis, Chesterton, & Tolkien."

My not-so-well-hidden-geek is completely geeking out.

Not only do I get to spend weeks (five to be exact) talking about, discussing, and reflecting upon my favorite authors, but I get to do real research. For while I am quite familiar with their writings, I wanted to see what was out there for analysis on a deeper level.  Enter my deep and abiding love for research (and this is a fair use of the word love).

Utilizing the wonders of the library system, I am getting books sent to me from college libraries across the state and have a stack of books on my table at home that if they fell they could squish my dog. For her safety I have moved them closer to the center of the table.

I often wonder if Martha and Mary had a third sister, maybe Margaret. She was the nerdy one. She's not mentioned because she was off with her nose in a scroll (her dad taught her to read, even though that was not an accomplishment for your average 1st century young lady). I've got a whole mental story about her and her sisters. Maybe I'll write it some day for you.

These do all come together in my mind. For you see, Tolkien, Lewis & Chesterton all remind us of one very important but over looked aspect of our humanity and faith - imagination. We can get so caught up in the reality of life, of the business of living, the work of God, that we forget the creativity. We forget to imagine. If we are to have childlike faith, isn't one of the most consistent characteristics of children their creativity?

While I am enjoying challenging myself with the research and writing of a new series, I am rejoicing in the challenge being issued to live creatively. Since starting this project I am spending more time in my own art and creative writing and those are good places to be.

How's your imagination?