Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Chilling Smoke

No, nothing's burning down thankfully. In fact if anything is going down these days it is the temperatures outside! The "Indian Summer" was lovely while it lasted, but Fall is just as welcomed for Z & I. Winter is fast approaching in the Northwoods and there's no denying it.

There's been quite a bit of hype over winter in Walker. Many people show a bit of Northwoods pride by explaining what Winter most likely will be like up here - cold with lots of snow - and follow up with saying, "But I'd rather be here than the cities! It's is pretty here and not as muddied by the heavy foot, bike, and vehicle traffic"

Overall, I have heard that winter is supposed to be a little fierce across the entire country. There will be days when I question why I live in such a cold climate and there will be days when I think it's gorgeous. No doubt, it will be another winter that will come and go. This winter will be different though. It will be my first Northwoods winter, my first winter married to Z, my first winter doing some on-line and some on-campus studies, and more focused discerning where God wants Z and I after we graduate from Luther Seminary.

For the past five weeks Z & I have been getting up early on Tuesday mornings and making our way to Walker Bay Coffee Co. for YoH WORD. It's a chance for the youth and family of Hope to get together and be grounded in the WORD before we head to work or school (or both in my case) for the day. We randomly chose to work our way through the book of Ecclesiastes one chapter a week to start off. This is one of Z's favorite portions of the Bible and it has definitely grown on me since meeting him. Often people question why the OT (Old Testament) & express that Ecclesiastes is dreary.

Being that we are fully submersed in full-time parish ministry and learning the ins-and-outs of the congregation and community of Walker (as well as the surrounding areas) we hear a lot of things about a lot of subjects. This is applicable for other livelihoods as well, no doubt, but it seems that in the church people share on a different level. Some overly share and others are guarded. Often it is a tad overwhelming as everybody shares their desire to be known, accepted, and heard. Often we have to remind ourselves that ultimately the one word that matters most is the WORD.

This morning we read Ecclesiastes 5 and just to mix it up a bit we often use The Message on Tuesday mornings. Now as I've rambled on for a few paragraphs what we read was, "God's in charge, not you - the less you speak the better" (5:2). My response..."ooph!" I'm a talker & I come from a family of talkers & we as a people all have something to say. Often we find common grounds in asking & sharing about the weather. As interesting as the weather can be, as it does shape our day to day life to some extent, we could be much more intentional to hear the WORD and as a few professors at Luther Seminary would say, "dwell in the WORD."

Ecclesiastes is a bit dreary, but it is real and it is the WORD of God amongst us. At the end of chapter 5 we are given a bit of the Gospel & eschaton (meaning the end) promises:

"After looking at the way things are on this earth, here's what I've decided is the best way to live: Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life. And that's about it. That's the human lot. Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what's given and delighting in the work. It's God's gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now. It's useless to brood over how long we might live." 5:18-20

The weather is changing, as it always does, and life happens. Enjoy it as the Preacher of Ecclesiastes tells us to. Dwell in the WORD of God and you will see the Holy Spirit amongst you. We have been claimed by the blood of Christ and He walks with us daily through the snow, rain, and sunshine. Enjoy it! Enjoy it in the loud, quiet, cold, warm, crazy, sane lives that you have been given in Jesus name. Amen!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ

I have come to blog maybe three times in the last couple of weeks, but never knowing what was of true importance to share. I want to be able to reflect on my life as a follower of Christ & not be lost in the material driven society that surrounds me.

Lately Z & I have continued to be asked "How's married life?" and our answer continues to be "Good & Busy." Another question though that has come up in the last few days is "How is your apartment?" & this is even sometimes often followed by "Is it suitable?" I write this sitting in our somewhat of a cave that serves as our guest room & office. There is one window that lets in some natural light & just enough room for a single bed, desk, small table (serving as a second or addition to the desk), & book shelf. We have more than enough belongings to fill the closets & wall space! This makes me curious to know that if we did not think our place was suitable what these people would do about it. The fact is we live a transient life as seminary students & in ministry.

As you may know, I am continuing my education on-line this year as we are four hours from campus. In discussion with a fellow classmate about our working/ministry contexts I shared that the church is in transition right now. For instance, my job is an interim job as the church is looking for a servant-hearted & well equipped pastor to join the staff & focus on the youth & family ministry. My classmate said that all churches should acknowledge that they are in constant transition. The world around us is not stagnate, it is moving forward. The Word of God is not stagnate. It is stirring in our hearts, heads, & daily lives!

We are a sent people. Jesus sends his disciples to Go make disciples (see Matt 28:19) and out they went thus bringing the Word Incarnate by the works of the Holy Spirit to this very day & our lives. I often like to think that we are not called to live a quiet life of faith. After all, our faith did not come to us in a quiet way from God (& I am not a very quiet person). As Christ followers we are to "live a live worthy of [our] calling" (Eph. 4:1).

In my studies & recent discussions, both through school & work, it has been said that Faith Formation is a hot topic that often is blended in with Christian Education discussion. Faith formation is something that is bigger than the acts that help form our faith. Faith formation is a way of life that is for all ages. Today, and for several years now, it is not uncommon if a person or people are unsatisfied with their church to go "church shopping." Not that there is anything wrong with finding a community of believers that worship & serve in a way that connects with the individual. However, at the same time we could help be a church united, rather than divided, if we use one of our beautifully natural gifts & spoke up about the Holy Spirit works in our lives.

Yes, there are various forms of worship, & each form of worship takes preparation & time. Where is God calling you today? Recently I have joined more of the social networking world with a business Facebook, Twitter account, Google+, & I continue my blog for my need of being known & heard & feeling accepted. Yes, I just used feeling words. We as a people seem to be screaming out to be networked, connected, heard, accepted, loved. If we can scream through the internet, we can scream in the name of Jesus Christ & proclaim God's love for all people in action & in word.

How's life? Are things suitable? Living in the footsteps of Jesus life should not be suitable according to our global societies. Living in the footsteps of Jesus life should be a constant adventure with hardships, days of crying, days of joy, & an invigorating knowledge that we have a purpose in our lives. We have a life to live because Jesus is God incarnate, born, died, buried, descended into Hell, raised from the dead, and ascended into Heaven. Even if you don't follow in Jesus' footsteps that's a story worth telling.