When I first planned the inserts for Advent, I decided Week Two would be “make peace.” But that was before fires exploded across Southern California, driving friends from their homes and offices, disrupting thousands of lives, and cutting terrible swaths of destruction across three counties. I prayed for a long time, asking God if it was appropriate to encourage our community to make peace at such a time.
Our Advent journey begins with the pleas of God’s people for Him to come among us and, with His might, shape us into the worthy followers He would have us be. We eagerly anticipate His arrival as a newborn, while we also remember His words of promise and power as the adult Messiah.
I plan Thanksgiving dinner with leftovers in mind. Not only do we enjoy the variations in the days that follow (deviled eggs for breakfast, turkey and lefse sandwiches, potato pancakes), I also enjoy sending guests home with their own leftovers, so they can indulge the next day as well.
Thanksgiving is filled with important decisions: Pumpkin or apple? Whipped or scalloped? Before the game or after? But there is no question when it comes to the central purpose of the day: We set aside this day to give thanks to our gracious and loving God.
I looked forward to the end of daylight saving time last weekend. I rarely get enough sleep, and the opportunity to sleep an extra hour was delightful – in theory. In practice, I was confused, as was the dog, when we awoke in reaction to the sun, not the alarm clock. I felt out of sync most of the day.
Today, on All Saints’ Sunday, we honor the saints who have gone before us, “all the saints who from their labors rest,” as the hymn says. This may seem like an odd, historical exercise until, in the afterglow of Reformation Sunday, we remember that we are all saints.
On this Reformation Sunday, we celebrate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting the 95 theses on the door of Wittenberg Cathedral.
The last ten days have been turbulent in my industry, as the stories of Harvey Weinstein and other serial abusers became public. The women who bravely came forward inspired an online movement which moved many of us to share that we, too, had been targets of sexual harassment or assault at the hands of those who were supposed to be our mentors and colleagues, whose thirst for power betrayed everything else.
Thursday, Sara and I were driving up Fairfax. A line of people, many in camping chairs, ran down an entire block and around the corner. I didn’t see a movie marquee or an Apple logo, so I asked Sara what she made of the line. She pointed to a storefront: “It’s Supreme.” She explained Supreme is a clothing line, featuring expensive sweatshirts, jackets, and skateboards. Thursday was a “drop day,” when new merchandise becomes available for the first time. People were lined up around the block for $150 jackets.
Wednesday was the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the devoted man of God who founded the Franciscan Order. He is also remembered for his love of all of God’s creation, particularly animals, and for the prayer he wrote, asking that God make him an instrument of His peace.
This was a hectic week. So many sectors of my life, personal and professional, pulled me in so many different directions that I felt scattered, strained, and unable to meet any of my obligations on the level I desired. As I tried to impose calm and order on myself, I realized I was making a fundamental error.
We have always sat near the front of the church, on the left, because from the time she was a pre-schooler, Sara wanted to be near the praise band. We all love being close enough to see the expressions of love and joy on the faces of the vocalists and musicians. They use their talents to move and lift us all, and they do it purely to give glory to God. I told Tom Gerhold recently, “Watching the praise team is seeing the Gospel in motion.”
Like many of you, I’ve been thinking a lot about Thelma Simmons this week. While Heaven is certainly happier (and probably better run) now, her absence from our congregation is palpable.
At the end of a week when the world has literally been rocked by disaster, as fire and storm continue to wreak their havoc, what a privilege it is to come together in peace, united and reassured by our love for the Lord and for each other, and to remember the mission of our congregation.
I had a different insert for Labor Day.
Then Hurricane Harvey came.
As I watched the reports, I gave thanks for the police, firefighters, doctors and nurses, and National Guardsmen who literally came to the rescue. I marveled at the civilians who did everything they could to help their neighbors – using boats, rafts, even paddle and boogie boards to get strangers to safety.
This Sunday, I am worshiping at Azusa Pacific University, attending a service to commission Sean and his fellow freshmen. This is that time of year when so many of our young people go off to new adventures or return to their universities or – like Sara – begin their post-graduation careers.
Tomorrow, our world will experience a total solar eclipse. Even though Los Angeles is not in the path of the totality, it is sure to be a dynamic and memorable event, a thrilling reminder of the intricacy of God’s creation.
We’re still cleaning at our house. I continue to be pleased by the calming order that exists in our kitchen cupboards, but I’ve been studying them from a different angle. After last week’s insert, several of you shared with me your craving for spiritual order. I was surprised to realize how many of us work to make sure our cupboard doors sparkle, rather than putting that work into cleaning up the chaotic souls within. And because we present a sparkling door to the world, everyone assumes there is harmony and order inside.
Sara and I tackled the kitchen cupboards this week and did a deep cleaning – pulling everything out, scrubbing everything down, and doing a lot of sorting and rearranging. As Sara threw away several jars of stale herbs, she smiled at me and announced, “This is really cathartic.” I agreed. When we were done, it felt wonderful to reassemble the now clean and tidy shelves.
A friend recently posted on Facebook about Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles’ critical need for blood. Sean saw the post and said he wanted to donate. Sara agreed. I can’t donate because of a previous illness, but I was delighted to take them to CHLA. On the way home, I told them, “Bless you. You just saved someone’s life.”