Monday, December 31, 2012

Greet the New Year With Gratitude

Today marks the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013.  Our celebration of Christmas is often soaked in nostalgia and now, many of us look for a fresh start in the New Year.

We look ahead with new resolve, new behaviors and new habits to create the new person we have always dreamed of being.

For many of us though, those resolutions are famously short lived.  Rather than a new start, we wind up with a continuation of what preceded it.  We're the same people, facing the same challenges, often with the same disappointing  results.

Here's some thoughts about ringing in the New Year and that new future we're dreaming of:

  • The future begins now.  Think about it.  The future doesn't just arrive out of nowhere.  The future grows out of the present moment.  I suppose, in some very important ways, the future is the fulfillment of the present moment.  It's what the present moment means.   Isn't that what Christmas was all about?  God born at a particular time, in a particular place and that's where God continues to be found.  God enters our time to be found nowhere else but here and now.
  • Change your relationship to now.  If I'm angry now, the future is likely to be filled with bitterness.  If I feel cheated now, the future will bring disappointment.  If I'm fearful now, the future will bring anxiety and dread.   On and on.  We can't have a new future until we figure out a new way to be right now.
  • Gratitude is the most powerful tool we have to create the future we hope for.  At this end of the year, simply hold everything that brings you to this present moment in grateful awareness.  Even the pain that might come from this exercise.  Or the fear, or the anger, or even the grief and tears.  They all exist now too, and they have a right to be here.  Resist the urge to push them away.  Instead, try this.  Pull up a chair.  Invite them to sit with you.  Introduce yourself.   Serve snacks.  Don't worry, another guest will be arriving at any moment.  It's called healing and healing hangs out with some of the very people you've been dying to meet.  


Monday, December 17, 2012

Sermon Reflections on Sandy Hook Shootings

I am sharing the audio of the sermon I preached yesterday at: 

Epiphany Lutheran Church
5521 Old Mill Road 
Alexandria, VA

Still reflecting on those events, and their implications for all of us.  In the meantime, clinging to that light that the darkness does not overcome...walking the path it lights ahead of me. 

Later, I will post the prayer, where the names of the victims are read, and the congregation rings a hand-chime.  A moving memorial.

The Light That Shines in the Darkness (Sandy Hook Elementary School)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Helping Your Child Deal With Tragedy

The tragic shooting in Newtown CT strikes the parents of young children in a unique way.  Our children’s trusting eyes, their upturned faces emphatically underscore the human proportions of this senseless act.  We feel our responsibilities as parents even more keenly.  At the same time, fulfilling them becomes infinitely more complicated now.

Here are five basic things you can do as this story unfolds:
  • Spend intentional time with your child.  One of a child’s most basic needs is to feel safe.  As parents, we often underestimate the security our mere presence provides.   Make a special effort to stay close to your child.  Just being together in the same room is a tremendous source of reassurance.
  • Don’t encourage or discourage their questions.  Don’t initiate questions but, don’t discourage them either.  Let your child be your guide. Respond honestly and directly to your child’s question if and when they do ask.  Remember, it’s often not what we say, but how we say it.  Our words may go right over our child’s head.  Our body language, our tone of voice will ring out loud and clear.  Direct, honest, calm responses tell your child what they most need to know.
  • Limit news coverage.  While it’s important to stay informed, it’s easy to overdo it these days.  Constant news coverage creates it’s own rationale, and it’s easy for children and adults to lose perspective.  Turn it off for awhile.
  • Save adult talk for adults.  Our children’s questions often touch our own uncertainties.  Avoid the temptation to go into those uncertainties with your child.  It’s important that we have a place to work out our own questions and feelings.  Talk with your spouse, a friend, or even write in a journal.  While, it can be healthy and healing for an adult to acknowledge their questions with their child.  An honest “I don’t know” is better than posturing and avoidance.  However, it’s almost always a mistake for a parent to share more than that with their child. Our children don’t need to deal with their parent’s issues.  They need us to help them deal with theirs.
  • Maintain perspective.  Because bad things can and do happen in the world, doesn’t mean the world is a bad place.  Bad things are the exception, not the rule.  Remind your child that their school is a safe place.  They can trust their teacher, the principal, and the school staff.  If you have questions about school security, resolve them with the school administration.  Your child doesn’t need to hear them right now.
Finally, get involved.  Perhaps the best thing we can do as parents is to have a hand in creating a world our children can safely believe in.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wherever Two Or Three Are Gathered

It was great to see ECUSA Bishop Eugene Robinson on the Daily Show.  He is the first openly gay man elected Bishop.  He was plugging his new book in favor of same sex marriage.  The premise of the book, in so many words is that love is from God.  When people of the same sex experience love, what they experience is from God, as there is not love apart from God. 

I wouldn’t want to push that analogy too hard, but as a basic operating principle it’s not bad. 

What was really great about his appearance on the Daily Show was another Christian voice added to this conversation.  Not just any voice.  A Christian leader. 

Too often, the Christian position is characterized in popular media by religious conservatives who’s answer to most things progressive follows the famous advice of Nancy Reagan; Just Say No. 

Bishop Robinson’s appearance affirmed again that there is diversity of opinion among people of faith.  I don’t think that can be stressed enough. 

No individual, no group, no theology, no doctrine, has a lock on the Truth. 

At Advent, that’s a big part of what we celebrate, isn’t it?  Emmanuel.  God with us.  When two or three are gathered.

When two or three are gathered, that’s when the fun starts.  Two or three gathered will produce at least two or three points of view.  Sometimes more.

And that’s where God is.  That’s where God has chosen to be.  Right smack in the middle of it.  In the unique messiness of life that happens whenever two or three are gathered.