We’ve all heard that E=mc2. I’m not a physicist, so I won’t pretend to understand how mass and speed come together to make energy or how energy divided by speed becomes mass or however that works. I was probably sitting at a piano when I should have been studying for a science test. I managed, at least, to rattle off for a test that the E in the equation stands for “energy.”
So what does the E in ELCA stand for?
This past weekend our Confirmation students visited two other local congregations as a way to explore how other Christian denominations speak, sing, and pray in worship. Saturday afternoon they attended mass St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish and Sunday morning joined our neighbors for worship at Lakota Hills Baptist Church.
Pastor Lowell caught up with a few of our youth after the visit and asked them to reflect on their experiences.
I didn’t expect to find myself putting together a crib on Monday afternoon. My work day was almost over when I saw Pastor Lowell dashing from one part of the building to another, trying to prepare for Family Promise guests to arrive for their second day. A new family would be coming – one who was new to Family Promise and had an 18-month old and a 6-month old to care for.
Thanks to IKEA’s online assembly instructions, we finished the crib just as families began to arrive for the day. Kathy and Maddie Wagonfield were putting the finishing touches on dinner and Jenny Smith greeted several children and a few adults as they came in from a day of work, school, and job interviews.
Each Sunday there are several times during worship when a rubric indicates “A Brief Silence for Reflection” or some similar phrase. It is meant to be a time for us to prepare to pray, but the brief silence can be uncomfortable for us. Some of us fidget. Sometimes someone jumps into the next prayer before the worship leader starts it.
With all of our technology, it is rare to find a quiet moment. If you walk or run, you probably put some headphones in and listen to music. When you get home, you might turn on the TV. If you’re like me, you don’t even go to bed without some sort of intentional noise in the background to drown out ... what? Creaky house noises? My own thoughts? What is it about the quiet time that makes us squirm?
Moving is exhausting. Planning and packing and tying up loose ends and organizing and loading and transporting from one space to another depletes every last ounce of energy. On top of physical fatigue, the emotional toll is also great. Extensive farewells to people and place can bring deep grief. Life as we know it is changing.
If you are a fan of Tex-Mex cooking, few things are as delicious as a plate of sizzling fajitas. En route, you can hear them pop and crack and then whap! – your senses are overwhelmed by the sight and smell of the blackened iron skillet set down before you.
The memory that children have always surprises me! Some can name for you every U.S. president; others can tell you every kind of dinosaur. For me, I could quote some of my favorite movies from start to finish with ease. I don’t know where that gift of memory went, but I know it’s long gone. I suppose that, as one gets older, memory becomes more about recalling passwords, pin numbers, and parental carpooling schedules. After all, much like a computer, our brains only have so much room to store information. So, as the more pressing day-to-day concerns begin to pile up, we slowly lose storage space for holding information like the schedule for Saturday morning cartoons.
It won’t be long until things return to normal. If you’ve been living out of a suitcase and traveling during these weeks, the coming days will see your clothes moving back in to your dresser and your toiletries returning to the cabinet or drawer where they belong. If you hosted guests in your home, the Laundry Fairy (at least that is who punches the clock at our place) will make her rounds to wash up the bedding and wipe everything down.
My office is covered with fluorescent sticky notes. On the desk, stuck in the pages of books, and up and down the wall, there are countless 3” x 3” colorful squares holding lists, names, numbers, words, tasks, ideas, prayers, and other random scribbles and scrabbles of life. Everywhere I look, these little, bright visual cues remind me of someone to call, a plan to explore, or ways to be grateful.
It’s not every day that you hear a kid say “I want to be a politician when I grow up!” As strange as it may sound, I was that kid. Throughout high school, and especially grade school, I remember running for leadership positions in my class. As just a little guy, I remember election day, wearing a patriotic tie with gel slicking my hair back.
Although at times I probably wanted to represent the class for all the wrong reasons, I still like to think that helping others was somewhere at the heart of those youthful days. Thankfully, I have grown out of that phase. Today, I cannot even fathom ever wanting to go into politics, however that same calling to serve others propelled me into the ministry.
God challenges us to love with reckless abandon, see the best in others, and celebrate the gifts, talents, and contributions of all people. God invites us to live as people of hope!
I recently went to a big box home improvement store and was more disoriented than usual. A short walk through the main entrance set me on a holiday parade unlike any I’ve ever seen.
Right inside the front doors, I was in the land of pumpkins and scarecrows, ghosts and headstones, spiders and even an 8-foot tall, lighted Darth Vader yard inflatable. Just a few steps later, I took a trip to Pilgrimville, surrounded by a floor to ceiling display of turkey-shaped items, autumnal decor, and a cornucopia centerpiece bulging with plastic gourds, corn, and feathers. Not to be outdone by these two “minor” holidays, the rest of the seasonal featured area was populated with a virtual forest, complete with artificial evergreens, sparkling lights, and glistening bows of every size and color.
As I get settled into the worship community, lots of good conversations have led to exploring the differences between being a pastor and an intern. One way to approach this difference is to become accustom to the candidacy route that someone undergoes to become a pastor.
If you have ever brushed your dog in the summertime, you know that the hair never stops. Brush after brush, the hair keeps coming. From nooks and crannies unknown, the brush fills up one swipe after another. Yes, I know that there are dogs that don't shed. Yes, I am aware that if we didn’t have a dog, then we wouldn’t have the problem of hair on the wood floors, couches, black clothes, etc. But the reality of my back porch during August brushing experiences is a flurry of endless hair. Enough!
It is with sincerest gratitude that I extend a “thank you” to everyone within the Lord of Life community. This congregation has far exceeded my expectations of what the first few days of internship would look like. The new office looks amazing and I, along with hopefully many interns to follow, are so very grateful. I recognize and deeply appreciate all the effort that has been put forth to make my transition a great experience. By inviting me into your sacred space, you have perpetuated the notion that “all are welcome,” which I quickly gathered is a vital piece of defining Lord of Life. You have revealed a commitment to education by investing your time, effort, and resources in a seminarian. Throughout my service at Lord of Life, I hope to continue a “student” mindset, as I learn how to be God’s Church from all of you, my teachers.
As I have been meeting new people and shadowing Pastor Lowell these past few days, I am overjoyed with all the new beginnings that Lord of Life has on its horizon. So many people are filled with positive energy and great ideas. I see their expressions come alive as they talk about vision and possibility. I can relate well to this mentality; I feel like a racehorse awaiting the opening of the gates. I too, am ready to create, serve, give, and truly love all God’s children. The month of August may bring with it busy calendars and hectic mornings, but amidst the hustle and bustle comes an abundance of opportunity.
Summer camp has always been filled with surprise, but the kids could not have imagined what was about to happen.
July 25, 1933, the traditions of wintry December happenings descended on a steamy wilderness experience. No, it didn’t actually snow, but The Washington Post notes that Camp Keystone, a camp in North Carolina, inaugurated the first “Christmas in July” event when they celebrated with a Christmas tree, gifts, and even a visit by Santa Claus on a hot summer night.
Since then, the concept has expanded into virtually every corner of North American society. Camps and parks use it as a catchy summertime theme. Stores and communities leverage the marketing and advertising scheme to draw in otherwise slumping seasonal crowds. Even our own West Chester EnterTrainment Junction advertises, “Beat the heat with Christmas cheer and a mid-year check-up with Santa.”
Christmas in July. It is a wacky concept juxtaposing winter carols, snowy evergreens, and tales of the North Pole with the blistering heat of mid-summer, but it works. Who doesn’t love the option of joy, hope, peace, and presents anytime?
While you might not celebrate Christmas in July in any formal way, there’s no denying that summer is loaded with gifts. Often, this season allows for family reunions and time together around campfires, outdoor projects, vacations to destinations near and far, or “staycations” where we find time for rest and relaxation without leaving home.
If we force ourselves to step back from the traditions and assumptions of the holiday shtick, we quickly realize that the heart of Christmas is the pure delight that refreshes us during these summer months, too. Like Mary and Joseph, we join a journey that is lacking in specifics. Like shepherds in the fields, we stand in awe and amazement about the great news of God coming among us. Like the magi and the barnyard animals, we offer ourselves to Jesus, trusting that he’ll use us for his purpose.
The gifts of Christmas are being shared in our faith communities this summer, too. God continually meets us in moments of worship and conversation together. Our Vacation Bible School declared over and over, “Jesus is the Light of the World,” as we explored new territories of faith. Office and narthex renovations renew gathering spaces to meet our changing needs, like when we create additional room for the Christ child to take up residence among us. We wait with eager anticipation for seminary student Lucas McSurley to land here mid-July to begin a two-year internship. At the end of the month, 20+ of our people will be heading to West Virginia to live and serve among those strangled by poverty.
Christmas is this July. Don’t miss it. God is with us. Immanuel continues to come. The gifts of the Christ child continue to surprise and amaze us. There may not be Christmas trees, mistletoe, and snowy sidewalks, but amazing and unexpected gifts continue to arrive daily.
Instead, God chooses to do the hard work of restoration.
I’ve been wondering about the property in the 7200 block of Tylersville Road for some time. Every time I drove east to drop off a kid at Hopewell Junior School, pick up groceries at the store, or cruise to Voice of America Park for a walk, I glanced at the dilapidated structures and overgrown yard on the north side of the street wondering what happened there.
Looking past the shattered windows of the house and gutters in disrepair, I imagined a time when the yard was overflowing with young children playing after gulping down BBQ at a summer picnic. Long before Tylersville Road was a bustling four-lane corridor, I envisioned family and friends burning away the hours relaxing and talking on the massive front porch. I could picture mountains of raked leaves, constructed snow forts, mechanical projects in the shed, and piles of freshly split firewood waiting to be stacked.
May is a month of remembering. When May comes around, I remember prom as the massive celebration at the end of senior year following our long journey of high school together. In a single night, we gave thanks for the many ways we shared each other’s burdens in the tough times and rejoiced in our many accomplishments and victories. I remember the limousine, the dinner, the dancing, and the After Prom at Geauga Lake Amusement Park that kept us on the rides and waterslides until dawn. I remember good friends, some of whom are still in touch.