Thursday, December 31, 2009
I just read a great article about a new group called Help-Portrait. It is founded by some professional photographers who are also Christians and felt called to use their skills and passions to help others. Help-Portrait is calling all photographers (professions, hobbyists and amateurs) to put those cameras to good use by taking a special portrait shot of someone in need and then giving them a nice large printout of the photo as an encouraging reminder that they are special and valuable people.
It's not huge, but it's good. Some people will also give food, blankets, and friendship with the photos, and people will be changed in small ways.
The coolest part is that this is a group of people who are doing what they are already passionate about doing in a way that helps others. How can we help more people connect their passions with the world's needs?
Monday, December 28, 2009
or little grains stuck for days in our hair.
Like a cold mist we can't see up close
yet clouds our glasses as soon as we walk in the door.
Like a sunrise that won't fit in the frame
and is kind enough to follow us home.
Like diving into a crystal blue lake
then taking a drink for the hike.
Like that poignant moment we just can't explain
but still makes us smile and cry.
Like whale watching on the Alaskan coast
and the Alaskan snow globe collecting dust.
Like a forest fire, melting trucks, exploding trees
and a candle flame waving in the wind of my breath.
Like time that always gets away from us
but is with us every minute of every day.
(Josh Broward, 12.28.2009)
Friday, December 18, 2009
Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever been in one of those conversations? “It sucks to be me.” “Oh, no, it really sucks to be me.” “Well, if you think that’s bad, let me tell you how much my life sucks.” This is normal life for us. My job sucks. My apartment stinks. My husband never helps around the house. My mom drives me crazy. My bosses keep changing everything. I have a cold. My back hurts.
What is this a contest or something? Do we really want to win this game? “Yeah, it really sucks to be you! Whew, you’re life is terrible!”
“See! I told you!”
But sometimes, we really do feel pretty terrible. This week, I sat at my computer pouting, with my bottom lip sticking out like a little kid who just dropped his ice cream. Sometimes, we just feel like joining the song, “It sucks to be me!”
Israel would understand. Israel was a small fish in a big sea with sharks all around. The biggest shark of all was Assyria. Assyria was pressing down upon Israel like a lion on a mouse. It seemed to be only a matter of time before Assyria would annex Israel like it had already done to all the other nations. They would lay siege Jerusalem, and if they won, they would make the king of Israel stand in the town square. The commander of the Assyrian army would take a rod and smack Israel’s king in the face with it, maybe knock a few teeth out. When Israel looked into the future, they saw defeat and public humiliation. So, yeah, they were singing, “It sucks to be me.”
But God answers Israel in a surprising way. ...
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Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Christmas is my favorite holiday. I loved the relaxed time, spending all day together with my family for several days in a row. For many of us Christmas means family time.
But food always goes together with family. In my house there was always more food than we could possibly eat: turkey, honey-baked ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce (sometimes still shaped like the can), and best of all pumpkin pie with whipped cream and pecan pie with old-fashioned vanilla ice cream. (I know I’m making myself hungry, too!) Nothing says Christmas like the sin of gluttony!
And of course there are presents. My mom has two great spiritual gifts: giving and shopping. Christmas at our house overflowed with all of my mom’s bargain gifts. Christmas gift-giving is such an important image in American culture that economists gauge the health of the entire economy based on Christmas shopping.
And the presents have to go under a Christmas tree. Through some accident of history, green triangle shaped trees have become one of the world’s most recognizable symbols of the holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus.
Some people think mostly about the songs and the movies. Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Jingle Bells, The Twelve Days of Christmas. Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Charlie Brown Christmas.
For Christians, the primary images of Christmas are often a little different (at least when we’re thinking about church stuff). We usually think about Christmas carols and special Christmas Choir Cantatas. We think about the classic Christmas songs: “Away in a Manger,” “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World,” and others. These songs are always full of joy and appreciation for God’s greatest gift to the world – Jesus.
And of course, the single greatest image of Christmas for Christians is the baby in the manger – or feeding trough. Most Sunday School kids can draw that baby in the wooden box with the X-shaped legs and hay. We might even add a nice yellow glow of light coming from the quiet little baby in the hay.
Our images of God’s coming into the world are overwhelmingly positive. We think of joy and peace, family and friends, comfort and abundance. Even when we think theologically, our thoughts are deeply positive: light and salvation and grace and peace for the world and good news for all humankind.
Many of the Bible’s texts do lead us in this direction. But not today’s text. Today’s text is from the prophet Malachi – the last prophet recorded in the Old Testament. Listen as Malachi explains God’s coming into the world. This is Malachi’s Christmas.
To continue reading this sermon, click here.