Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Four Candles and One String of Lights

The final week of Advent is here. There's no mid-week service to be concerned about this time... Christmas Eve comes soon enough without that for Church Staff, thank you!

(Which is something that I always seem to forget as Advent is beginning each year. I'm thinking; "Four weeks of Advent, three Wednesday services? What gives?" Then I get to where I sit now and think, "Thank you, dear wise and well-appreciated churchmen before me! ")

So now that all of the Advent candles are burned past their Sunday-best, it's approaching the proverbial 'go time.'
...and all the really good gremlins begin to show up.

No, we're not talking about ironically placed show-quality cars from the 70's...
Nope, not those water-fearing Furbees either...

I'm referring to the mythical beings that have been adopted into the semi-common vernacular when referring to electronic and mechanical devices that inexplicably cease their proper functionality, and may or may not return themselves to working order when examined or exorcised. (This option was considered today... Read on.)

Well, its not a long list, really.
At church last night, we had some issues with a computer (these were somewhat self-inflicted).
Then my microphone died in the middle of the Monday night service (just the battery, but it sounded like Darth Vader was doing the words of institution before I caught it).
This morning we lost the battle against the duplicator, the folding machine, and a presentation remote.
...and all but the bottom foot of my Christmas Tree has lost its lights (whole strings are burning out, like they're getting too much juice after having served faithfully for 5 years.)

Gremlins, I tell you!

Yet, even with all of this - our toes feeling like they're edging ever closer to the line drawn in the sand that declares "Chaos!" - it's going to be an excellent Christmas!

The bulletins got printed - Thank you, School Office!
The bulletins got folded - Thank you for your temporary compliance, Folding Machine!
The presentations worked out...
The microphone served faithfully for those today who wouldn't have known that it was 'just the battery'...
I'll manage new lights for the tree next year...

...and people will still hear about Jesus being born to save us from thhe guilt of our sins in a few days.

Not so bad, really.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

The JOY of His coming... Advent.

This year I've found myself a little bit fixated on the concept of 'Joy'.

The Joy of Christmas.
The Joy of Advent.
The Joy of Family.
The Joy amidst sorrow.
The Joy that follows as the next thing after "the Peace that passes understanding."

I'm finding that, at least for me, Joy is getting quieter and quieter.

Not that Joy is lessening. That's not what I'm saying. No.
Rather, in a strange way perhaps, the opposite entirely.

Joy is simply becoming a quieter thing within my life, though still intense.

Yes, that makes it somewhat easier to overlook if I'm not careful.
Yes, that can cause me to forget to portray it outwardly for others to observe.
(Two situations that I've been encouraging the little ones at church to avoid.)

The Joy of the Advent of Christ - 'Christmastime' as its most widely understood - has become like the white-hot glow of the campfire's insides... after the big flames have died down.
The entire month of December is a 'Busy-mas' of church service preparations, classroom devotions, family arrangements, decorations everywhere, and songs that you can't help but sing along with on the radio ("Thanks a LOT, Bing Crosby!").

...but under it all, at least for me, is that final and almost overlooked present that got stuck down at the toe of your stocking.

Its a nugget that, once it's found, you can't take your eyes off of.
You hold it for a prolonged moment before life starts swirling around you again, and lose yourself in the warmth of awe.

HE has come!
THIS is why it's all happening!
...we're going to be okay. Really!

And your heart whispers with the Angels:
"Gloria in Excelsis Deo!"


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Holy Spirit's work in Facebook

A few moments ago I tried to post something as my status on facebook...

...and it stopped me.

[Something along the lines of: "Your attempted status is too long! Maximum characters exceeded..." (this isn't precisely what it said, but I took the point.)]

It stopped me, and I'm glad for it. I'd much rather write a little more thoroughly on the topic... whether its warranted or not, you be the judge.

Here's what I wanted to post...

Dear Christian Friends; I love you all dearly! And my non-Christian friends too! (who I know are also reading our posts...)
Therefore, let's be sure that all of our social-public discourse on the things of God keeps Christ at its focal point... not the fact that "we're" right and "they're" not.

Mark 2:27-28 Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."

I thought about how to shorten it (I was only 8 or 9 characters over the limit), but I decided that a combination of fate and God's hand had delayed what might have been a caffeine-induced post.

I'm not considering changing my mind on this - and I haven't edited the content above - but I think it is something that I need to sit back and reflect on a little more.

The basis of what has been rolling around in my mind is this;

How should we who are pastors be utilizing social media?

-and more to the point -

Have we forgotten our public role of 'shepherd' for the sake of the simplicity of 'putting ourselves out there'?

Of course, I do find the irony in the fact that when one Internet venue puts up a slight roadblock, I re-direct myself into another medium that is equally as public and potentially hazardous toward the condition of those who read it.

Here's my concern; [in a 3-point list, since I am a pastor after all...]

  • I have friends who are blatantly Christian and I have friends/acquaintances who are not.
  • Many of us, in the 'real' world, gladly temper our public image so as not to cause offense or injury to others (or, more importantly, to the Gospel of Jesus)
  • Yet, when it comes to our 'Friend' list or 'Followers', we are quite brazen and often unfiltered when it comes to what we consider 'Tweet-able'

There are enjoyable debates that I witnessed (and many less than enjoyable that I walked away from) while at the Seminary... and it seems that we pastor-types tend to revert to that when we get together. This I can understand and appreciate. We need the mental 'pick-me-up' and refresher, especially with how we have been wired through the institutions that helped form us. This is important indeed!

But, its easy to forget: that's NOT how the 'normal' people of the world think, act, or are prepared for!

Instead, what image of pastors do we portray for people who don't have the same background and context as we do? It looks pretty nitpick-y. It looks mean-spirited. It looks haughty.

...and in short,

(thought I KNOW for certain to the bottom of my heart that these are Christian people who love God and appreciate the grace and love that has been delivered through faith in Christ alone...)

We look like the Pharisees.


(There, I said it. And no, it didn't feel good.)


I don't want to stop the debates over the sensitive issues of our churches.
I don't think that everything should be left as the 'status quo'.
I really don't want our people to stop hearing about the importance of those things that God holds so dearly and gifts to us...

But what I'm trying to lovingly suggest is as follows;

When we 'post' or 'tweet' or 'reply'; imagine yourself standing outside your church, fully vested with the processional cross in one hand and a nicely-lit billboard sitting next to you proclaiming the very thing you just handed out to the Internet world. All your members see you and read what you've written, and all their friends who drive past look over their shoulders and associate you with your membership (their Christian friends)... and more lastingly, to their image of Christ.

Are we holding up the cross for the sake of the cross, or in order to make ourselves heard?

Conversely, (and in a much more positive form of statement) imagine all the ways that the unlimited power and influence of the Holy Spirit can be delivered through these media.

I ask that we simply consider this...


Please receive this in my own best efforts at Christian love, as I know that I too am guilty of that which I comment upon.

In our Christ,

- Matt

The White Pigeon Hope - Seeking to "Normalize" the work of the Holy Spirit since 2008.