In a fascinating quirk of the calendar, Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday fall on the same date this year. While the two observances might seem to clash, they are an inspiring pairing. On a day that happily celebrates love, we begin the season in which Jesus gladly demonstrated His love for the Father and for us in astounding ways.
I’ve become one of those people who watch the Super Bowl for the commercials. I grew up as a football fan, but then “my” team went through a long and painful period of bad play and terrible management. Given the demands of an always crowded schedule, I decided there were better things to do with my Sunday afternoons. I stopped watching football.
I was reminded this week of a conversation I had with Sara when she was in pre-school. She had done something wrong, I had corrected her, and she was weeping mightily. Trying to console her, I said, “No one loves you more than Mommy and Daddy.” She stepped back and put defiant hands on hips. “Nuh uh,” she responded.
I had coffee with some friends this week and, in the course of our chatting, we discussed the difficult subject of confronting people who have caused us pain. It was something we’d all experienced, and most of us shared that we were reluctant to confront those who had hurt us because we’d probably only be hurt again.
As I have been so often lately, I was struck by the timing of the lectionary this week, that we hear the story of Philip and Nathanael on the weekend we remember Martin Luther King, Jr. When Philip urges him to meet Jesus, Nathanael scoffs: “What good can come from Nazareth?” Dr. King was met by a similar reflexive dismissal because of where he came from, the color of his skin, and his message of peace, yet he persevered in faith and action, and changed our country – and the world.
As a child, I would conflate the Magi with Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha, and imagine the Wise Men singing, “This is my quest/To follow that star/No matter how hopeless/No matter how far/To fight for the right/Without question or pause/To be willing to march into Hell/For a heavenly cause…” I thought it worked – except for the “hopeless” part.
Christmas Eve has been my favorite worship service of the year since I was small. My extended family would trek through the snow for the 11 PM service at the Norwegian church my grandmother attended, to welcome the newborn King and the hope and mercy He brought with Him.
After so many weeks of anticipation and preparation, Christmas is finally here.
For many of us, the third Sunday of Advent is when the panic sets in: Will the Amazon packages arrive on time? How can the tree be so crooked? Why do the cookies keep burning? How can Christmas be right around the corner?
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.