Decisions – 1/9/22

I have a very difficult time making decisions.  Whenever possible, I prefer to allow others to make decisions for me.  Even making minor decisions stresses me out, and I rely on my much more decisive spouse to make the call.  I do all the research, give her all the pros and cons, and leave the ultimate conclusion up to her.  Whether it be where we go on vacation, how we spend our money, or whether it is time to purchase a new vehicle, it is easier to let Kathy decide.  And besides, then I get out of taking the responsibility if things don’t work out. [Read more…]

Making Room for Love – 12/19/21

One of the things I find stressful about the holiday season is gift giving.  When Kathy and I first started dating, I told her I was a good gift giver.  Maybe I was hoping to bribe her into staying in a relationship with me by knowing there would be good things to come if she stuck with me through another birthday or another Christmas.  But making such a statement puts a lot of pressure on you, particularly after you have been successful in your gift giving and have to live up to expectations.  Each year I stress about whether I will find something meaningful to give, something that shows how much I care about her.  And I have generally always felt that I was successful. [Read more…]

Making Room for Joy – 12/12/21

When I was in college, each year there was a Christmas banquet.  It was basically like a high school prom but with Christmas trees.  The main difference between our Christmas banquet and prom is that there was no dancing – we were at a Christian college after all and who knew what that dancing would lead to.  The banquet itself wasn’t all that exciting.  But all of us made plans to do things after the banquet.  My group of friends was not much for following the strict rules of the college, so we decided to try to stay overnight in Chicago. [Read more…]

Making Room for Peace – 12/5/21

Of the themes for the weeks of advent, peace is one that I struggle in writing about.  And I think that the reason it is such a challenge is because peace is something that has been elusive in my life. It was engrained in me from a young age the importance of maintaining appearances.  If there was a problem, it was never to be shared outside the family.  Even if all was not well, it was imperative that others perceive it differently. [Read more…]

Making Room for Hope – 11/28/21

Our theme for Advent this year is “Making Room.”  This theme emerged from the Las Posadas tradition.  The roots of Las Posadas stretch deeply into Latin culture. It originated in Spain, but it’s been a yearly celebration throughout Mexico for over 400 years. The tradition commemorates Mary and Joseph’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of a shelter, a place to stay the night. Posadas is Spanish for “lodgings” or “accommodations.”  Beginning on December 16 and ending nine days later, on December 24, Las Posadas commemorates the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy.  Each evening during the festival, a small child dressed as an angel leads a procession through the streets of the town. The procession is primarily made up of children dressed in silver and gold robes carrying lit candles and images of Mary and Joseph riding a donkey. Adults, including musicians, follow the procession, which visits selected homes and asks for lodging for Joseph and Mary.  Each night, one family agrees to house the pilgrims.  Las Posadas serves as a reminder of the need to make room in our lives for the stranger, for in doing so we encounter the Divine. [Read more…]

So This Is the New Year – 11/21/21

Perhaps because of my advanced age, New Year’s Eve has lost some of its luster.  No longer to do I plan or attend elaborate parties, often not even staying up until midnight.  But one thing that has never changed is my desire to make resolutions.  What has also never changed is my inability to follow through on them.  There is a song that I always think of at the New Year by a band named Death Cab for Cutie.  The first line of the song is, “So this is the new year.  And I don’t feel any different.”  So often we plan to make a change, but when the time comes to make that change our commitment dissipates.  And we go back into old patterns because we can, because they are comfortable, because they are easier than doing the work of change. [Read more…]

Those the Light Shines Through – 11/7/21

Recognizing All Saints Sunday in a community like ours is challenging.  Many of us have different views of what the term “saint” means, different approaches to the Divine, varying ways of considering what is next when our lives end.  As I was considering what common thread may exist between us, I remembered an experience I had with Pax.  I was asked to perform a wedding for a couple, but the number of their guests was too large to hold the wedding in the church I served.  They chose to hold the service in a beautiful church, much older than the one I served and very traditional in its design.  There were rows of wooden pews, a large chancel in the front with a choir loft, and an enormous pipe organ.  But the most striking part of the sanctuary were the elaborate stained-glass windows.  Because Kathy was working, I took Pax with me to the rehearsal.  He had not been in a church like this before, and I could see he was amazed by the size and the beauty.  It was a sunny day, and the light was shining through all of the windows. [Read more…]

Saving Jesus from Nationalism – 10/31/21

In the fundamentalist church of my youth, like many other evangelical churches today, I was taught that America was God’s chosen country.   This idea stems from very early in America’s history.  The doctrine of manifest destiny was used to justify American imperialism.  This doctrine asserted that America had a special destiny from God to possess the continent from south of the Canadian border.  This doctrine was also inherently a white supremacist doctrine as it gave no claims to Native American or nonwhite claims to possession of the land.  From its discovery, Spanish and French monarchs financed exploration of what they termed the “New World” because they considered it their duty from God to convert those living in these lands to Christianity. [Read more…]

Saving Jesus from the Church – 10/10/21

I have always had a challenging relationship with the church.  As a child, church gave me a sense of purpose, that after enduring difficulties in life I had the hope of a beautiful afterlife with streets of gold if I just did what I was supposed to do.  But it was also a scary place.  Our pastor would often single people out from the pulpit for sin he was aware of in their lives.  And there always seemed to be conflict between people. People not liking the pastor fighting with people who supported him.  Petty squabbles over church decorations.  It seemed to me that in all of the judgment, in all of the conflict, Jesus was lost.  His message of love, acceptance and compassion replaced by one of domination and self-interest.  Faith was not a way of being in the world, and church was less a place of radical inclusion and more a place of exclusion. [Read more…]

Saving Jesus from Doctrine – 10/3/21

As NCC has begun discussing its identity as a progressive Christian congregation, I have been thinking more about my own identity and the journey which has brought me to the place I am today.  Christianity to me was a set of doctrines.  And there were only a few doctrines that I repeatedly heard – that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died for my sins, and that if I believe and confess those sins I will not go to hell.  The rest of my life was about proving I really did believe – because if I did I would not be engaging in sin.  But as I got older, this approach to faith became empty.  Conforming my beliefs to a set of doctrine did little to impact the way I experienced life.  Believing doctrines did not push me to make a difference in the lives of those around me. [Read more…]