Saturday, December 10, 2011

theocracy [θɪˈɒkrəsɪ]
n pl -cies
1. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) government by a deity or by a priesthood
2. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) a community or political unit under such government
theocrat n
theocratic , theocratical adj
theocratically adv

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

I make my home in Iowa and right now the TV airwaves are dominated by the Christmas shopping deals of the day and political advertising. 

As friends have pointed out, it feels as though the GOP candidates are running for Pastor-in-Chief.

When other governments are led by a religion different than their own approved brand of Christianity, these same candidates wage war against them for imposing their beliefs on their people and the rest of the world.

Just saying...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Need a little Christmas?

Many years ago, I remember looking across the street with utter disdain at my tacky neighbors who had decked their yard and home with all their Christmas regalia before Thanksgiving. It was certainly beautiful but... Good Lord, it wasn't even Thanksgiving yet, let alone December.
I spent a few days in my puritanical Congregational "you just do not get it, do you?" line of thought, until I met her in the grocery store for that last big shop before Thanksgiving.
"Laura, I'm so excited!"
"Your home looks really lovely right now, all ready for the holidays." I said with the best false voice I could muster...
"I know it's a little early to have it all up and ON, it's not even Thanksgiving and all... but our entire family is coming and we haven't been together for years. We will celebrate Christmas together for the first time in ages. I'm really looking forward to it."
So much for my prissy view of WHEN and HOW we should celebrate Christmas.
In today's UCC Daily Devotional, writer Martin B. Copenhaver says that Christmas is a surprise party, illustrating Mark 13:22-25 from today's lectionary.
Martin writes, "In a way it is unfortunate that we always celebrate Christmas on the same day of the year, because that makes the coming of Christ seem almost predictable. But Christmas is more like a surprise party."
We never know the hour or the day... be ready at anytime so you don't miss it.
I'm an Advent person. I am. This can be a richly transformative time of year for me. I'm very good at waiting. I am extremely patient - anyone who knows me well knows that to be a true fact. And during Advent, I can do all the right things and it still feels anticlimatic on Christmas.
Waiting and patience...

Lately though,  the holiday song on my mind comes from the Broadway musical, "Mame."

Haul out the holly
Put up the tree before my spirit falls again
Fill up the stocking
I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now

For we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute
Candles in the window
Carols at the spinet...

For I've grown a little leaner
Grown a little colder
Grown a little sadder
Grown a little older

And I need a little angel
Sitting on my shoulder
Need a little Christmas now

For we need a little music
Need a little laughter
Need a little singing
Ringing through the rafter

As I have seen more and more houses decorated with holiday lights turned on, Christmas trees in windows...I am reminded that the days are tough. We've grown a little colder, a little sadder, a little older...People need a little hope, a little joy, a little laughter... maybe especially right now. And just because I am an Advent person, doesn't mean that I get it any better than anyone else.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Stripping Away the Layers

Don't we all have stuff? You know, a drawer, a closet, an attic, basement, garage...your heart, your soul...

Our stuff is one of the hallmarks of American life. We overspend, overconsume, and obsess, and we're left with too much stuff crowding our lives. Television programs help us "sort" and "store" and even show us how our stuff can be a psychological disorder when it becomes hoarding and some of us live in filth because we simply cannot let go.

It is said that our internal life can be manifested in how we live. Life coach maven Martha Beck says that our psyches choose and arrange our homes according to our life histories.

I believe this because I have lived this... there is a dumpster in front of my house right now. Dear friends have come in to help me sort it out... Am I holding onto something because it is important or is this one of the things needs to be passed on to someone else who can use or appreciate it. We've created a new verb, "Goodwill it," we say.

Recently at the Iowa Conference United Church of Christ annual meeting, J. Bennett Guess, likened this time in the life of the church as a time of going through the attics and closets of our church and denomination. What do we really need to move forward? Just like going through our own personal things, it is hard. We are attached in many ways both emotionally and spiritually to that which we hold on to at home and at church.

And yes, we will be changed for this effort. There's no doubt that change happens, whether you want it to, or not. Ben says that you simply cannot go through a period of change without changing yourself. A true fact. And that can be just a little more than daunting for some of us.

For me, it has gotten to the place where I have really evaluated everything and pared down. Household stuff, books, clothes, some bad habits...even found that my body is getting smaller.

Our congregation is in the midst of transition. The theory is that when people move to a new house, they go through their stuff so they don't spend money and effort moving what they don't need any longer. Same is true as a congregation evaluates where they have been and where they think they are headed. Lots of closets and attics to go through. Lots of dark corners to shine light into and see what's there. It is hard work and hard to let go of things that we have a strong emotional attachment to. There are good reasons, we might say, for why it is kept away in the dark. It's better just left there...

But it is necessary work. Just as it is good for us to have a good sort and clean at home, in our personal lives, and in our congregations. It's important to have a good look. There are certainly things that need to be brought out, dealt with, and let go. It could be the phrase, "that's the way we've always done it," or "we tried that and it didn't work."

We may also find treasures that are worth dusting off and using again. What's waiting for you?

Friday, May 27, 2011

The honor is mine

On Friday afternoons as others are gearing up for a weekend, I am honored.

Yep. Honored.

I spend time reading to a friend in a retirement community here. I knew him for a few years before a stroke rearranged his mind. No longer can the pastor preach or read. But, he's been every bit as much of a pastor to me than any other I have ever had on my journey.

It was a Friday in mid-March when we first started meeting. On one of the first Fridays, I came to him to read to him and broke down in tears. My husband, from whom I am separated was very seriously ill and being taken to a major hospital from our community hospital. I was facing the reality that my kids' father might not live and how would I handle that.

I imagine in times like these, clergy and spiritual leaders must pray, "Please God, help me to say what you need me to say. Help me to say what they need to hear..."

I had been totally numb until I walked into his room. It was in that moment when I could let down my guard and allow the tears to come. Without saying a word, we prayed, we sat, and he was the presence of God for me. I felt compassion and care. I was pastored.

When I come into his room, we smile and giggle. He whispers a few words and I blather on...

Why am I honored ?

Because I get to read his mail to him. He receives gobs of church newsletters, wonderful cards and letters. We often get misty from the lovely and encouraging things these dear friends write to him. We often laugh until we cry. I do not know any of the people who write to him, but I feel like I do. I enjoy the everyday stories of life that friends share with other friends. It's what real life is. I feel honored to be invited in to share in these moments.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

"What if the mightiest word is love?"

My view today was that of love. It was a day to focus on love as much as possible. Not to forget the violence of the week, but to choose love instead.

Today is the Sunday that the church celebrates the baptism of Jesus and ours was no exception. We were offered the chance to remember our own baptism, hard to do if we were baptised as infants, though... Many of us chose to dip our hands once again in the baptismal font and wash our hands or bless ourselves.

My view was that of a young woman coming to the font with her father. She took her hand out of the bowl and rubbed it over his balding head. Her father smiled with nothing but love. It was quite a sight to see them connect in such a way. 

"What if the mightiest word is love?" Elizabeth Alexander 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A song will outlive all sermons in the memory

"A song will outlive all sermons in the memory." Henry Giles

This quote came from Terry Hershey, who used this quote from Giles as a reminder for his clergy friends who are crafting meaningful worship for this week. Hershey is an author and speaker on matters of faith.

The view from the pew is likely a different one than the view from the pulpit for the Christmas Eve homily. For my clergy friends preparing worship, this is one of the big ones of the year. What to say to those twice a year attendees that will make them want to come more often? The sanctuary is usually blessed with many, many more in the pews than on a Sunday in July. This service demands extra attention because it carries a lot of weight in the course of the year. 

I would echo Terry's advice to all my clergy friends planning a moving and heartfelt worship for Christmas Eve. Leave room for the Spirit to move. As wonderful as your words are, as gifted you are with the ability to preach and share the good news, recognize that the presence the person in the pew is seeking comes during the reading of the beloved story, the time-honored carols, the memories that rise from beneath the surface. Its the moment when we all sing "Silent Night" by candlelight at the end that brings the emotions, the hopes and fears, and ghosts of Christmases past. The glow of that light in the face of our growing children, our aging parents, ourselves. On Christmas Eve, most especially, this is the night when the words that are sung are the ones we take into our hearts most readily. 

May the peace of Christ be with you and may you always dare to choose love. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sticking with my view from the pew


No, thank you. 

Actually, no, I'm really not. But thank you anyway.

These are my new responses to the question, "Laura! When are you going to seminary?"

Honestly, I have wrestled, analyzed, discerned, prayed, and tried every which way to make myself fit into a box that really and truly looked like it had my name on it. 

Do you have any idea how liberating it is to recognize that it really is NOT a call? Others might be horribly disappointed. I'm not. Really. It hasn't happened yet because it really isn't going to. And that feels very good.

Yes, I can read well from the lectern. I like to write and I'm not bad at leading worship. I enjoy doing it. I LOVE church and I am the biggest non-clergy UCC polity nerd you will ever find. Dare ya. 

This doesn't mean I won't continue working on my Center/Learn studies but do I need to be licensed? I dunno...maybe.  

God knows. And that's enough.