Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Living like a pagan

After a nice, albeit different from usual, Christmas weekend, we went out for some post-Christmas shopping yesterday evening.  We like to get Christmas cards, wrapping paper and all that good stuff when it's 50% off so off we went to Target.  And therein lies the reason for this post: Christmas cards.  I sorted through piles and piles of holiday/Christmas cards, with a few Hanukkah ones thrown in as well.  Not a single card mentioned the birth of Jesus.  Instead, they were all geared around these amorphous terms like joy and peace.  If you know me at all, you know I am not an anti-culture Christian.  I don't write angry letters to stores that say "Happy Holidays" or protest the removal of 10 commandment statues at courthouses.  I don't expect culture to practice my faith for me.  But the Christmas card thing really bothered me, because I guess I assumed that amidst all the innocuous generic holiday cards, I would have still been able to find a couple, even ugly, cards that pertained to the actual holiday itself.  But no.  Every card was pagan.

When I say pagan, I hope you don't immediately think Satan worshipper or druid or anything like that, although those are two examples of pagan religions.  The term pagan refers to non-Abrahamic religions, sometimes but not always polytheistic in nature.  More than ever before, I have come to realize that American civil religion truly is pagan.  There is no room for a offensively particular Savior.  There is no room for an anti-consumerism, self-sacrificing God who calls humankind to the same kind of living.

That being said, I am both troubled and relieved by this renewed realization.  I am troubled because I old enough to sense at least some of the change that has taken place in culture, even in my brief 27 years and it saddens me.  But I am relieved as well, because I am young enough to recognize the cheap knock-off that is American civil religion and I am detached enough from that civil religion of generations gone by to be ready and willing to let it go completely.

For me, that means letting culture off the hook for not practicing my faith for me.  It means naming culture for what it truly is, pagan, and choosing a life of faith anyway.  It means living a life of hope based, not on the degree of Christianity I see in our culture, but on the first advent and the promise of the second.  It means rejecting apathy and choosing intentionality in terms of shaping a culture of faithful practice in both my family and in the church I am called to shepherd.  No more living like a pagan, folks.  God will be in all in all or God will be nothing.

Friday, December 23, 2011


It's a lovely frosty morning and I'm working on future sermons and drinking nice.  :)  I feel very peaceful this morning and I think it is largely due to the fact that Tommy and I had our first FULL day off yesterday in quite some time.  Normally, we are very protective of our days off together, but this fall brought some new stuff into our lives, namely Tommy coaching the local basketball team, and our day off was cut short for a brief season.  Even though it has been exhausting without a doubt, I have to say it has been worth it to watch Tommy work with our local kids.  Tommy is not exactly a basketball star; he'll always be my football boy, but he is an excellent leader and coach.  It was so fun to watch the kids grow not only in athletic ability, but also in life skills.  So, definitely a worthy investment of a couple months of Thursdays.

That being said, yesterday was awesome, with nowhere to be, nothing to do and no one who needed us.  We slept in like college kids (a perk of not having kids quite yet), ate breakfast at lunch time, went shopping at Target, had lunch at Olive Garden (thanks to a lovely parishioner giving us a gift card), went to the movies and even got Starbucks on the way home.  *Sigh*  It is just so nice to be together without the weight of the world on your shoulders.

Days off haven't always felt so free, even when Tommy wasn't doing basketball stuff.  For those who don't know, I have dealt with depression since college (probably sooner than that but didn't know how to name it) and I have been on medicine for it.  Last year, nothing the medicine didn't seem even to put a dent in the weight of it all and Thursdays were actually a day filled with anxiety because I didn't have busy-ness to keep my mind off the ache.  But thanks be to God, my amazing doctor found something new for me that works 1,000 times better and I feel free, like all the clogged pipes in my head and heart are finally cleared out.  And now, Thursdays are much more restful, not to mention fun.

So, as I look outside at the sparkly thin frosting of snow on our yard and at my spoiled puppies sleeping on the couch, I am grateful for God's gifts in all their forms: sleeping in 'til 11, gift cards, medication as a means of grace, a sweet husband, Target and all its treasures, Starbucks, facebook chats with my baby bro, and unseasonably warm mornings to run.  Thank you for your gracious gifts God.  Prepare my heart to receive your greatest gift once again this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Who, What and Why

Hello world! I am again joining the blogosphere.  I briefly blogged awhile back about a fitness journey, but ended the blog after finishing the program.  (  Life has changed since then and I recently felt, for the first time, that internal "itch" (as I like to call it) to express myself in writing. introduction to myself and to this blog...My husband and I are co-pastors (aka we share the role of lead pastor) at a small church of about 75 in Kingston, MO.  We've been here for almost three years, during which time I have attended seminary in Kansas City.  I'm finished with my MDiv now and will walk in May while Tommy began his seminary program in August.  While I was in school, I preached a couple times a quarter, sometimes more in the summer, because unlike some people I didn't feel like I was able to preach on a weekly or bi-weekly basis and go to school full-time (and do any measure of justice to either one).  But, now that Tommy is in school, I have been preaching every week since September.  I was incredibly anxious about this new arrangement, primarily because my husband is funny and down to earth.  He seriously could relate to anyone I think, from promiscuous Italian soccer players to hardcore country boys, but that's another story.  I'm different.  I mean, I do my best to live incarnationally, but at times I struggle to live as "a Jew among Jews and as a Gentile among Gentiles."  And when it comes to humor, I think I'm hilarious, but not everyone would agree with that sentiment!  I am more academic and I don't move a whole lot while in the pulpit, something Tommy does quite a bit.  Oh yeah, and I am a girl.  Not a real common site in most pulpits.  So, I felt self-conscious I think.  However, taking on this new role has been affirming in that I have begun to appreciate in a new way my personal gifts and to remember that God speaks through many types of vessels.  My confidence in myself and in my skills and knowledge has grown, in spite of my constant awareness of ways in which I need to mature as a believer and pastor.

Walking into the pulpit each week has changed me in ways I didn't really anticipate, which I think has been my primary motivation for starting a blog.  I have become more reflective than I already was, which is saying something frankly, lol.  I have also become much more cognizant of my role as shepherd.  I feel the weight of the office in a new way and I am consistently struck by my need to pray without ceasing.

However, I have hesitated to start a blog because in my mind, the term "blogger" has become synonymous with "arrogant wordy internet saavy writer," especially (ironically) theologian/minister blogs.  That sounds so harsh when I type it out, lol, but that's how I have felt, as if everyone thinks what they have to say is so important to share with the world that must post it online and share the link 27 times on various social media sites.  Don't get me wrong, so many bloggers have wonderful things to say and I love family blogs that update friends on people's kids and all that.  I read some of my friends blogs and they definitely don't fall into this category.  But overall the culture of blogging tends to be marked by arrogance.  I don't want to be one of those arrogant pastor-theologians that comes to believe that everyone should hang on my every word.  Instead, I want to blog for two reasons.  First, I want to intentionally set aside time to reflect on my life and ministry.  This isn't going to be a purely ministry-oriented blog or a purely family-oriented blog because, for me, my life isn't broken up into neat categories.  It's all connected and each piece informs the others.  Second, I want to humbly join online conversations that are currently taking place concerning matters of faith and practice.  I am only too aware of the fact that when it comes to information, knowledge and all that, I am almost 100% a consumer.  I rarely offer anything up to the community at large to receive critique or feedback, much less help anyone else on their journey of life and ministry.  So, it's time I start becoming a contributor. blog title: Lobdell Lantern.  In the middle ages, it was very dangerous to travel from town to town, especially at night.  Robberies were very common occurences.  And of course, a traveler couldn't exactly hop off the road and stay at a Holiday Inn when the sun set, so they relied on the hospitality of others, something that surely required a great deal of trust on the part of the traveler, I'm sure.  Well, during this time, monks began to hang lanterns in the windows of their monasteries to indicate to any passerby that their monastery was a safe place for the weary traveler.  So, the lantern became in many ways a symbol of Christian hospitality.  I want my life (and my blog) to be a hospitable place, a place where all are welcome to come and sit awhile, to share their thoughts without fear and to experience the hospitality of God.  I do not always succeed in being the hospitable follower of Christ that I long to be, but I press on toward the goal....