Kindles

A few days ago I got a box out of the closet in the corner of my office. The faded markings on a address on the box, covered by several layers of packing tape indicated I received the contents while serving in Kincaid, WV as a student pastor in the United Methodist Church. I lived near the church in Kincaid, served a second church in Mossy and attended what was then called West Virginia Institute of Technology. That school, like a couple other of my alma maters, has since either closed or been relocated. It’s hard to tell which from their name and new location. If anyone asks, I tell them I graduated from WV Tech which is a little ironic for a guy who knew his next step in life would be a theological education. Then again it would explain why I justify writing my devotions, studies, blogs and even sermons on electronic paper when creating my “SFD”. (Writers and fans of Ann Lamont will get that. Others won’t want to know.)

That box at some point in time held a hot air popcorn popper but I don’t remember having one of those so I reckon the contents that are currently there were shipped to me in this container. The label says it was delivered to a post office box in Kincaid. Yes. I had one of those but the number meant nothing to me even after seeing it in writing. The postmark is dim that I can’t make out the date but I’m guessing the late 80’s or early 90’s. I’m not so dim as to forget when I went to whatever the name of that school was.

The box isn’t all that important. Nor the mailing label for that matter. But they were interesting to me. In a way they remind me that the contents and I relocate from time to time. We’ve traveled quite a few miles this box and I.

IMG_20171205_124748.jpgInside it are ceramic figures of a sheep, a donkey, an ox (not to any kind of scale, mind you, because I’ve seen an ox and they are scary big) as well as a camel that has been glued together more than once. An angel is in there too as well as three suspiciously Anglo looking “Wise Men from the East” and equally White looking shepherd, Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus. Don’t ever tell me that we don’t allow culture to influence our “pure biblical religion.” I will just ask you to show me your nativity set or a copy of the latest Christmas card you bought with a scene of Jesus’ birth on it.

We all make Jesus fit into our culture at times. It’s what we do as humans. Actually, it’s what the Son of God had to do to become one of us as well.

I carefully placed this suspect nativity set on the credenza in my office using some plants left over from my Dad’s funeral a couple of years ago as a back drop. I didn’t think much about the racial and theological implications of the pieces while I was placing them. I handled each one with care because I didn’t want to get the glue out again and because each one kindles in me a love for the group of people who got together decades ago and hand painted each one of these figurines.

I attended United Methodist Temple in Beckley, WV as a youth and young adult. They had a tradition of giving one piece of this set to each child as they grew up among them. When the occasion arose that they had some outlier like me who came late to the party, then they would send them an entire set when they went off to college or left home for whatever reason. The thing is that I knew that these pieces were labors of love. The people who painted and sent them to me were my last true church “home.” I have loved and have been loved by every congregation I’ve served but the fact is that I came out of Temple.

These were my people.

These were my people giving me a gift.

These were my people giving me a gift to remind me of the Incarnate nature of Jesus.

Every year I put them out and remember. Every year I put them away in the same box, with the same styrofoam popcorn – just caught that irony there of the box and the packing popcorn – and I remember the care taken to make sure I got them.

And I take them with me. Always.

Peace!

#ReThinkAdvent
#UnwrapChristmas

Ready!?!

“Therefore you must also be ready…”  Matthew 24:44a

Ready

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those who follow me on Twitter might well recognize this photo.  It’s not a new one.

Getting ready for any day can be a challenge and on the day this photo was taken, well I was apparently more challenged than others.  The fact of the matter is that I found one black right shoe and one black left shoe and put them on.  Granted, these two shoes feel quite different from one another when I am wearing them but it took me close to five hours to realize my fashion mistake.

Oh well…my feet were covered.  I made it that long.  So I guess I was ready.

I think that sometimes I believe being ready for Christ’s presence has something to do with how I might “look” or “appear” to him.  Most of the time, I know better.  I know that he loves me regardless of what I look like at any moment.

Being ready for me is more about remaining in a state that allows me to see Jesus even as Jesus is present in the everydayness of life.  Shoes don’t matter nearly as much as noting the possibility that Christ could meet me in any person or situation that I face as I walk through my day.

I pray during Advent that matching shoes or not – I am ready!

Watch

“Therefore, keep watch…” Matthew 24:36 (NIV)

Watch

Watch

This is Rascal.

He is the youngest cat in the Sears home.

Sometimes, well, we wonder about his sanity.

Other times, I think about the family he is with and realize he just fits in nicely.

Rascal likes to watch for water.  He will come running if you turn on the sink.  Truthfully, there is some debate (in our household and apparently among cat owners on the internet) as to whether or not cats can see water.  My personal opinion of Rascal is that he cannot see it.  He hears it.  He occasionally sees the rippling of the water in the sink.  But running water seems to be beyond his vision.  He can poise himself on the side of the sink and get drenched when you turn on the water.  It’s quite a sight actually.  Cat shaking and meowing at something he can’t quite figure out.

It doesn’t stop him from watching for it, though.  Once that faucet is on or the ice dispenser makes a sound, he is all over that sink – waiting and watching.

I know that the Kingdom of God is often out of my line of vision.  I know where it should be – with the people of God, with the poor, with those who are in need of any help.  But at times I just can’t see it.  I might notice the ripples around it but it is just as likely to knock me flat on my behind before I know its there.  I look a lot like my wet cat at those moments – shaking my head and making weird noises about something I quite understand.

But I do watch.  I just pray that I have the attention and tenacity of my cat.  (Without the “distraction disorder” he also has…If something shiny goes by him while he is watching for water, he is off on a new chase!)

Alas, though, I am often distracted as well.  I know that this week, a plugged up shower/tub, a problem with a car and a couple other little things have kept me from probably seeing the great and awesome power of God in the world.

But I will keep watching.  Maybe one day I will do it with feline determination!