First News of Dickinson and Belfield - December 2007
Okay - so I get to ask all the retailers that I blamed the Christmas rush on to forgive me.After working in a department store as a Holiday associate, I NOW have a different perspective on the matter.The problem is all those customers . . . . I also need to point out that Herberger's during the Holiday season is NOTHING like those videos of extreme shoppers that we see on the TV - but it still gives me a different point of view.So what is all this hubbub about?
People want the BEST for their loved ones.The best present, the best deal (that way they can afford to give TWO presents), the best. . . everything.Perhaps because they want to make up for a bad year, perhaps because their loved one needs uplifting,perhaps . . . perhaps because they really do love the other person.
THE BEST is really the relationship itself.Working on the relationship itself is not a showy thing - like a valuable piece of jewelry.It isn't a tangible thing that the other person can hold onto.But it is the BEST thing.Connection and relationship - that is what the Holiday season is really about.We re-connect with some, remember that the relationship really isn't what we would wish it to be with others, and celebrate the presence of Christ in our lives with more.The more fully Christ is present, the stronger the relationship is - even if the other person is NOT a follower of Jesus Christ.For Christ is most fully present in the warmth of love.
And then the New Year comes, and we make resolutions to improve those relationships that need improving, to strengthen those which need strengthening.And, most often, we do NOT keep these resolutions.We don't fix the relationship, we don't quit smoking.We are not as strong and confident, as we would like to be.
We forget that the source of strength is the same as the source of love.We forget that our relationships are only as strong as their foundation - that foundation which is our relationship with ourselves and with God.The best resolution would be to strengthen our relationship with God, and the others will follow.And next Christmas we will already have given the best gift, the gift of a stronger relationship with those we love - because we ourselves have a stronger relationship with our God.
There are many resources we can use to do this. Both our Conference and our Presbytery have websites with letters from our respective executives.I've included the December messages in this newsletter.I have also listed some of the respective national resources.Other online resources exist - as well as the traditional print resources that most of us are used to.Daily prayer, daily study - these serve to help connect.Volunteering helps as well.And donít forget some time spent on that relationship that you are trying to strengthen.
We want the BEST for those we love - and with God's help, we can give our best.
First News of Dickinson and Belfield - November 2007
"Connections and Gratitude"
Let's see - November newsletter, so I get to talk about Thanksgiving.And this is probably at LEAST the tenth time I've written a Thanksgiving Pastor's Letter.What can I say that you haven't heard before?I bet that some of you could write this yourself.After all, we've all lived through LOTS of Thanksgiving dinners.
While Thanksgiving itself is a secular holiday, it is based on the important principle of giving thanks.Those of us with a thankful attitude are rewarded through the way we experience life.Those of us whose life is based on "gimmee this and gimmee that" find life does not meet our expectations.But we already know all this.What can I say that you haven't heard before?
I went to the Homiletics magazine website to find out what they have to say about it.Their article began with this idea:
"When Jesus said he was the bread of life, he didnít mean he was to be our entire spiritual diet."
I started laughing, especially when the article told us to imagine Thanksgiving dinner with just bread and water.Perhaps if we were starving we would appreciate a dinner of bread and water - but what we really want is the apple pie, and the turkey and stuffing, and definitely something made out of chocolate, and wine and cheese and crackers, and . . . Oh, yes, and saying the blessing before we eat.
What the article reminded us of was that we really do need that blessing, that acknowledgement of the foundation of this secular holiday.That acknowledgement that the Pilgrims made when they made it through their first hard winter, a winter that only a remnant survived.That acknowledgement that God has been with us the entire year, that whatever we have been through that we are not alone.
But Thanksgiving - and our spiritual life - is much more than that.
I remember when my parents were alive and I was living on the east coast I would get in the car on the day before Thanksgiving - and the 4 hour drive would take about 7 hours.If I was lucky.And I felt that the trip was worth it, as my sister and her family would do the same - only their hour drive took only hour and a half.Visiting with her was worth that extra 3 hours.We would eat, and then play pinochle - and I would win.(Okay, I would only win 75% of the time.You need to lose every once in awhile or they won't play with you.)But it was not the winning that made this a memorable time, it was the re-connecting.
Re-connecting.We need these connections with other people - with our family and our friends.Christ is the foundation of our spiritual life, but our church and friends and family are necessary parts of a whole, healthy spiritual life.And these connections that we have are a major part of that for which we are thankful on the third Thursday of November each and every year.
First News of Dickinson and Belfield - October 2007
How do we know that "God is good"? There's a greeting series that goes:
first person:"God is good."
second person:"All the time.God is good."
first person:"All the time."
When you hear people saying this series, their voices are filled with joy and meaning.In their own lives, the people speaking have has an intense experience of the goodness of God.They are not speaking from book learning; they are speaking from life-learning.And what they have learned is that a truth-filled way of describing God is "good."
When we do this, we are using descriptive theology.We are describing how God has worked in our lives, how we have experienced God to be."God is love", "God of grace," God of glory" are all phrases we use."Prince of Peace", "the Great Physician", "the Good Shepherd" - we use these to speak of our relationship with Christ.
Each of use have our own set of phrases that we use when we speak of our experience of who God is.That we have our own set does not invalidate the set that someone else has.My own experience of Christ focuses on Christ as healer and gift-giver.Others focus on Christ as the one who forgives us.
If I say that God is "green" in this fashion, my statement does not exclude all the others of the rainbow.You may only experience God as "blue."We could get to arguing over whether God is "green" or "blue" - at least until someone reminds me that all you need to do is add yellow to your "blue" to get my "green."
If I had been using another theological method - that of prescriptive theology - I never would accept that there is blue within my green world.Prescriptive theology excludes all who have a slightly different view of God.Some forms of prescriptive theology focus on the actual shade of green that God is supposed to be.
When we speak at this level, we are telling God who God is, rather than allowing God to just be."I am sorry God, but the devil created that shade of green - is doesn't belong to you", we say, forgetting that God created the rainbow.Forgetting, also, that God declared to Moses, "I am who am."
God created us and our ability to reason.We cannot contain God in our thoughts; we can only dimly hint at that reality of who God is.When we describe God, we include all of who God is - even those aspects of God that no human person (other than Christ) has experienced.We include all of God's children as well.
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