New

In my denominational tradition, stoles are worn by pastors to symbolize the yoke of Christ. Although they can be worn by those are commissioned or ordained to offices besides Minister of Word and Sacrament, I decided not to wear a stole until my ordination this past summer.

I started my new call at Peace Presbyterian Church and my career as an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in Ordinary Time.  My first Sunday in the pulpit, I wore my white Communion stole. But after that, except for another Communion Sunday and Reformation Sunday, I’ve been wearing my two Ordinary Time stoles every single Sunday

I know what you’re thinking, y’all. 

Oh my goodness. The horror. What trials and tribulations this pastor has had to endure as she suffers for Jesus with her two Ordinary Time stoles for five whole months. 😴

Fair enough. And it’s not really about the stoles, obviously. 

But the first Sunday of Advent I wore my purple stole, and it was so fun. I really do love the vestments that go along with my calling and I’m so blessed to have so many beautiful ones already.

Like the one I wore last night:

My new-to-me Bethlehem stole, gifted to me by my retired pastor friend, Roberta on the occasion of my ordination. It sparkles.

For my ordination, you might remember that Roberta sent me several of her beautiful stoles.

The stoles given to me by Roberta. 

The promise of something new coming is sometimes enough to get us through the difficult, the sorrow-filled, the mundane, the ordinary days and times. Sometimes all we have to cling to is the promise that God is making all things new.

Revelation 21:1-8

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
‘See, the home* of God is among mortals.
He will dwell* with them;
they will be his peoples,*
and God himself will be with them;* 
4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’

5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ 6Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. 7Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8But as for the cowardly, the faithless,* the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.’

Restore

re·store   /rəˈstôr/
verb
  • bring back (a previous right, practice, custom, or situation); reinstate
  • return to a former condition, place, or position
  • repair or renovate, so as to return something to its original condition

Today as I walked my 901st mile of the year, I spied this library card lying on the track. Now the walking track is in our backyard, in the park next to our apartment.


On the other side of our apartment complex, opposite the park, is the north branch of the Cumberland County public library in Fayetteville. So I picked up the library card, put it in my jacket pocket next to my keys, finished my lap around the track, left the park, and walked to the library. I waited in line and handed over the card, with the explanation that I had found it at the park.

“How kind of you to bring it in!” the woman at the circulation desk exclaimed.

“Library cards are serious business,” I assured her.  And then I returned to the park to finish my miles.

Hopefully the card was restored to its rightful owner this afternoon.

1 Thessalonians 3:6-13

Timothy has just now come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love. He has told us also that you always remember us kindly and long to see us—just as we long to see you. 7For this reason, brothers and sisters, during all our distress and persecution we have been encouraged about you through your faith. 8For we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord. 9How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? 10Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.

11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. 12And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. 13And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Planted

 

Not everything that is planted, firmly rooted and permanently fixed, is blooming and flourishing all the time. But God’s not done with this tree yet. After a winter of bare limbs and no growth, it will bloom again and be spring-time beautiful. Of course, I think it’s beautiful in its own way today.

The same goes for you. Stay planted. Wait in hope.

(The scripture today is Luke 20:9-18, which is a good Advent scripture, but has nothing to do with this photo.)

Glory

This Advent, I’m using a word each day to guide my prayers, thought, and reflections during this season of hope and anticipation.

Today, the word is “glory.” The scripture is Psalm 24.

Each Sunday, the scripture will be Psalm 24, by the way. It’s the only that is repeated.

Psalm 24:7-10

7 Lift up your heads, O gates!
   and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
   that the King of glory may come in.
8 Who is the King of glory?
   The Lord, strong and mighty,
   the Lord, mighty in battle.
9 Lift up your heads, O gates!
   and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
   that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is this King of glory?
   The Lord of hosts,
   he is the King of glory.

I took this photo from the balcony of our apartment. Full disclosure, I did not take it today, Sunday December 2. I took it on Friday afternoon. That I took it from our balcony matters because last year, my first post included a photo I took from our backyard. And as I thought about “glory,” and my first post of Advent, I found myself longing for a Henderson backyard sunrise. Sitting on the couch in our living room in Fayetteville, I looked out the window and realized there was quite a bit of beauty happening in our new “backyard,” and I took this photo.

God’s glory is not hidden from us. All around, we see evidence of God, if only we would look for it.

In this season, we think of God’s glory in terms of a saving, holy light shining on people dwelling in darkness, or of angel choirs singing in the night sky over a Bethlehem field.

But really, Glory is whenever and wherever we stop and look for God. It’s whenever we look up from our ordinary lives and see that God is doing extraordinary things. It’s wherever we remember the gift of grace-filled love that is present even when things are not yet what we long for them to be.

Advent is a season of recognizing the glory that is already among us and anticipating a glory we have yet to see or experience.

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Advent Starts December 2

Join my church in a word-a-day challenge for the season of Advent!

The words for this challenge are from passages in the daily lectionary. Here are the scripture passage each word is drawn from. You might make it a practice to read the scripture each day as you reflect on the word.

What do you do with these words? Well, you can reflect on the word each day and then take a photo that is inspired by that word. You can also reflect on the word and write about it. Or be creative in any number of ways, inspire by that word. If you share your reflection on social media, please use the hashtag #peaceFAYNC. You can also email me your photos or reflections at pastor@peacepcnc.org.

For the past several years, I’ve participated in word a day challenges during Advent and Lent. For an example of how this works, check out this post, or this one, or this one, or one of my very favorite reflections.

May God bless you as you wait in hope!

#Remember

Our tree is up. The lights and ornaments are on it.

Here’s the thing about our tree: I’m not sure it’s pretty to anyone but us, really. I’ve seen some of your trees, all decorated in a colorful theme or with ribbons or balls, and they are lovely, really. Our tree is a mish-mash of various types of homemade and store-bought, old and newer. Ornaments from the trees Jason and I grew up with, carefully saved by our mothers and offered to us when we bought our first house together. All of the angel ornaments given to me, one a year while I grew up, by my Godmother, Donna. Ornaments made at various ages by Jonas, who is now almost 19 years-old. Ornaments we bought from Matt’s Newsstand when it was still open in downtown Henderson and I was trying to begin small collections. Many given to me through the years here in Henderson as gifts from families connected to the church.

Every one is a memory, really, and as we decorate the tree, I remember where each came from, or the story told to me about it (would you believe Jason cross-stitched one of the ornaments on our tree?).

Remembering can be a lovely, humbling part of the holiday season. The season gives us many occasions to remember loved ones no longer with us, fun times from when our children were small and Christmas was a special kind of magical, the mishaps and victories that we associate with tree lights and tinsel. I’m grateful to have so many reminders of wonderful people and times and places.

I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:3-7

#Perceived

All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord,
   for they have heard the words of your mouth.
They shall sing of the ways of the Lord,
   for great is the glory of the Lord.
For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly;
   but the haughty he perceives from far away. (Psalm 138:4-6)

Not a movie star? Not rich and famous? No crown or bling to speak of? Rest easy. You are loved by a glorious God.

(Speaking of movie stars, these sunglasses adorn the set of Sunday morning’s Christmas pageant, which will happen during the 10:30 worship service at the Presbyterian Church.)

#Awesome

When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,
   you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. (Isaiah 64:3)

The use of the word “awesome” is interesting.  It means something like “awe-inspiring” or “magnificent,” but since the 1990s, it has had a much more casual meaning that essentially amounts to “good,” which is quite a bit less impressive than “magnificent.”

“Becky, your Lean Cuisine is done cooking in the microwave.”

“Awesome.”

Nothing about my Lean Cuisine is actually awesome, by the way. But it gets the job done at lunch time.

When God’s people look for awesome deeds, we may be tempted to look up, searching the sky for celestial wonders or an awe-inspiring sunset. We may be tempted to search for something powerful and dazzling. I would imagine this has always been true.

And yet God’s awesome deeds often come unexpectedly, in unexpected circumstances in unexpected places.

During a quiet night in the middle of tumultuous political times while shepherds kept their flocks. In a manger in the middle of nowhere attended by the most ordinary of people and their livestock. With the Son of God coming to earth in the most unlikely circumstances, at least it must have seemed.

The most awesome of deeds. The most holy of nights. Yet only noticed by a few at the time.

May we learn to look for God at work in places we would not normally expect.

#Known

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:8-13)

Yesterday I was feeling rather sick and didn’t take a single photo.

So I bring you this photo from this past summer. It was taken the night before Jenn and Brenden’s wedding in Cascade, Idaho.

This is such a great passage of scripture. If it sounds extra-familiar, it’s likely because you’ve heard it at many weddings you’ve attended. It’s the one that has the description “Love is patient, love is kind…”

We are known well by the people who love us best, and we are known perfectly by the one who created us.