Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Second Chances and Grace

Usually towqards the top of the list of things I care nothing about is the miss USA pageant. But in the last few days it seems that the story of Tara Conner has been in the news quite a bit. Again, usually the fact that someone who is in the public eye for something as shallow as winning the miss USA contest but then made poor decisions surrounding illegal drugs doesn’t rank high on my “ who would have thought it could happen” scale. I know that sounds pretty calloused, but stories like this tend to make me a firm believer in original sin.

But I digress.... What did catch my attention was that as I was driving to a local coffe shop to work on a sermon I was listening to the radio andthe “celebrity news” came on. I was surprised to hear Donald Trump say these words “I have always believed people deserve a second chance... I am giving Tara a second chance” I was amazed. Of the ego maniacs in the world I have always felt that “The Donald” was the “ego maniaciest” closely followed by P Diddy, and Konye West. To hear Donald say such a thing was a bit amazing to me. Then my thoughts were voiced by the radio announcer when she said “so it seems Tara owes The Donald a big favor, and don’t think he wont come looking to cash that in someday...”

I wish I wasn’t so cynical, but I find it hard to believe there was anything but personal gain at the heart of Trump’s actions. I’m a little disappointed that Tara’s second chance was hedged in the language of forgiveness, especially when Donald Trump is the one being seen as generous and magnanimous. Now that I’ve polluted this story with my own misgivings and cynicism, wouldn’t be great if the world worked like that. Imagine being forgiven for the destructive decisions and actions we make - giving us a second chance or a third or even a fourth. But imagine if that second chance was given, not with the string of “you owe me and I’m gonna come for payment” attached to it... Hmmmmm.

It’s that second chance that reminds me how amazing God is, and it’s communities that look out for one another and share that same forgiveness and love with each other that make me long for God’s kingdom to come.

What I’m afraid of is that most of us see God's forgiveness and second chances the way we see Trump’s. Loaded against us. “I’ll do this but you owe me and some day I will come looking for pay back.” My son has a game boy game that he takes with him on car trips to make the trips shorter, and to prove to his dad that he isn’t hip and cool anymore (As if the fact that I used the phrase “hip and cool” in a sentence wasn’t proof enough) Anyway while at grandma and grandpa’s during thanksgiving the game boy was lost.. because HE DOESN'T TAKE CARE OF HIS THINGS.... sorry I was channeling dad there for a sec. Needless to say he was heart broken at losing his favorite toy not to mention the pokimon game that had all his trainable pokimon on it. Now imagine if I had said “son I will get you another one but you owe me, and someday I’m gonna call in that favor...” As it turned out it was buried in the bottom of a suitcase, When I found it I immediately came out and showed him what I found. All I got was a hug, a huge grin and a thank you from my son as he wiped tears off his cheeks. As if those are small things to a dad that dearly loves his son! Is God’s love for us any different? When he sees us heart broken, sometimes from our own selfishness and actions, or tangled in traps we have laid for ourselves, do we think that he is thinking how can I cash in on this?

Maybe that's why the incarnation begins in a little town in a barn instead of a palace or in the trump plaza. Because the message of Christ isn’t about stuff, or belongings or real estate, but about life in abundance.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Welcome to the "East Pole"

This morning while driving to work I passed a house in our neighborhood that was decorated with lights and inflatable snowmen, and Santa’s etc... Smack dab in the middle of the yard next to the inflatable Santa was an arrow shapped sign that read “North Pole” What was funny was that the sign pointing to the north pole was pointin’ due East. Now I know some of us are more anal about things like this than others, but it made me laugh.

It doesn’t take much to get my mind spinning off on tangents and this morning a misplaced sign to Santa’s workshop got me thinking....

I’m generally not too upset with the non-christian images and traditions that have crept into the Christmas celebrations we enjoy. We have a Christmas tree in our home, and Santa Claus has often opened the door for me to have a conversation with someone about St. Nicholas. (My son, at the age of 4, asked the mall Santa “did you know that you were once bishop of prussia?”) But, I do find myself consistently saddened by the increased climate of consumerism and “buy, buy, buy!” at this time of year. That's a whole nother blog topic.

The arrow placed incorrectly got me thinking about how often we follow after things that really lead us nowhere, especially at Christmas time (nice segue huh? you wondered how I was gonna find my way back I know...)

Last week in Seattle, there was a complaint filed at Sea-Tac airport about the christmas trees on display by a Jewish Rabbi. They were removed. The Rabbi has since said that his intention was not to have the trees removed, but to have some Jewish symbols added. That's all well and good. I would like to see a mannorah next to the alaska airlines kiosk. But since when was a fir tree with lights and ornaments depicting penguins skiing a religious, let alone, Christian symbol?! That's like looking for “Rockin Around the Christmas Tree” in the Methodist Hymnal. (I think its a direct reference to first sparticus 1:12 “thou shalt rock around the christmas tree, verily fa la la, verily la” Am I gonna have to have Windmeir bros. holiday brew Snow Plow Ale available at communion because it’s “christmassy” so there for it’s Christian? (which by the way was a bit of a disappointment - never had a milk stout before and probably wont have another for a while)

I was speaking with my friend Mike, whose child was in a preschool program that included Hanukah symbols and songs as well a Quanza themes and images. The teachers made sure that Christianity was represented by... Wait for it... a christmas tree. Mike said “Is that the best we can do for the Christian belief about Christmas?... a Christmas tree?... I mean come on!”

When I was a kid in grade school I did the dance and sang “dreidel, dreidel dreidel” at the Christmas program, but never heard a word about the miracle of the oil not running dry, nor did I hear much about the concept of God becoming human. But I sang my heart out with the rest of the 4th grade choir when we performed “Silent Night” and snickered when we had to sing “round yon virgin” --hee hee. It was never a faith/religious experience.

It just seems that there are so many things that we can chase after and call them holy, religious or Christian but in reality they don’t lead us anywhere.

So deck the halls, and make the mall Santa uncomfortable with questions of church history, but remember that Christmas isn’t about trees, or holly, candy canes or “Snow Plow Ale”. It’s about a God who loves us enough to become human, walk with us, sacrifice for us and make sure that arrow sign point to the way that leads to life.

Raise your glass- have a blessed and holy season of Advent and merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Hanging the Greens

Well, Advent is here. We had a fun nite at church on Friday nite decorating the Sanctuary, while the kids were making crafts at the Advent workshop. Just in time for the "Hanging the Greens" service this Sunday morning!

How many Methodists does it take to climb a ladder and put up a wreath? Geesh!

Anyway here are a few pictures of the Flying luigi’s on the ladder and the others who helped on Friday. Also since its my blog my kids made the pics for the kids Advent workshop.

Hope ya’ll have a wonderful season of Advent!