Do you sing Christmas carols during Advent?

I used to refuse to sing Christmas carols during Advent. I used to say things like, “We are Christians who celebrate the Christian year! We are in Advent waiting for the coming of the baby. We can’t just jump to Christmas. The Twelve Days of Christmas begin with the birth of Christ! That’s when we sing Christmas songs!” I’ve relaxed my stance quite a bit. For one thing, the United Methodist Hymnal does not help weary preachers with the Advent struggle! There are all of the wonderful Christmas Carols and Advent just is kind of pitiful. So I always had to figure out how to “ramp up” to Christmas with the two well known Advent hymns “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,” the lesser known but acceptable “Lo, How a Rose ‘Ere Blooming,” and “Lift Up Ye Heads” which usually sounded dreadful in most of the churches I served. Michael W. Smith’s “Emmanuel, Emmanuel” became available once “The Faith We Sing” was published which helped spread out the Advent vs. Christmas agony but as a UM pastor the scene and struggle has changed enough that the angst holds through the years. Because just as a new pastor thinks “maybe it will be different with this church.” The church thinks “maybe it will be different with this pastor.” Of course, that usually applies to things other than this topic as well.

After consideration of the changing nature of schools, of folks who don’t come to church so much any more, and of some pastors I respect, I don’t care so much about the Advent hymns vs. the Christmas carols anymore. What I do care a whole lot about is that when someone who hasn’t been in church for awhile does decide to come to church during Advent or what may be for her or him “Christmas time,” there’s music that sounds familiar. I don’t know anyone under the age of 48 who does not at least recognize “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” as that angel song from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” They hear Christian Christmas songs on the radio mixed in with Rudolph and Frosty and Jingle Bells because someone in Nashville or Hollywood thought they could make money from it. So be it. But if they wander in, looking for a place to belong during the season that the “gurus” say is the number one time the “nones” and “dones” look if they are going to look, then maybe we should have at least one song they recognize when they are here.

So thank you Linus. You have spoken to so many more than Charlie Brown. Thank you Charles Schultz. You continue to touch me. I love the Peanuts Gang. Charlie Brown was my first favorite but he wasn’t my last favorite. Thank you Mendelssohn for a tune that is so beautiful that angels must sing it. Thank you Charles Wesley for writing songs of faith that must be sung with heads back and mouths open wide. “Glory to the newborn king!”

Posted in church, churchy, just thinking out loud, liturgy, rambling about the big church, Uncategorized, worship | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

More is caught than taught

I remember being 9 or 10 and my dad picking me up for a weekend visit. He told me that he wanted me to meet this guy at the hospital where he worked. As I remember, he talked about the guy the whole way there – 3 hours! My dad was an orderly back in the day when hospitals had orderlys. He worked on the quadriplegic and paraplegic floor. I learned what those words meant because my dad worked on that floor. I didn’t know those words before that day.

Of course, since I was coming, my dad had the weekend off, but he wanted me to meet this guy so we went in anyway. I didn’t realize everything we were doing exactly but hospital rules required visitors to be 12 years old. I’m sure we went in the employees’ entrance and not the main visitors’ entrance. I remember a few key spots where we sneaked past at just the right moment to get to the right room. Then on the way out we walked slow and talked to people. Everybody talked to my Daddy!

Those days were also days when smoking was allowed in the hospital. When we got in the room, the guy I was there to meet was smoking. There was a tube and clip attached to the side of the bed that he could lean over a little and smoke. As I came in closer to the bed, I was eye to eye with him and the smoke was bothering me. He noticed, said, “Is this smoke bothering you?” and had my dad put the cigarette out.

The very last thing my dad had told me about this man before we came in to see him was that he couldn’t move his arms and legs by himself. My dad had talked about him for 3 hours without telling me that! He told me all these wonderful things about the guy but only mentioned that “minor” detail at the last minute because he didn’t want me to be scared. He was a quadriplegic because he got hurt saving his buddies in Vietnam; we were going into the VA Hospital.

I’m guessing that was about 1975 or so. (Saigon fell April 1975.) When I was standing eye to eye with this guy who was lying in a hospital bed and I was just short since I was 10, I saw the darkest skinned black man I had ever met. Of course, lying on white hospital sheets made the contrast more stark. The whole 3 hours my Dad talked about him, he had never mentioned his skin color. He just hadn’t got around to it because the other parts of his story were more important. After we were introduced the guy said, “Your Daddy loves you so much. He talks about you all the time. I feel like I already know you.”

My Daddy taught me that people are people no matter what. God breathed life into each one of us and *that* is why we care for them. Not because of how they treat us but because of who we are. This is just one story that shows how he taught me that by how he lived his life as a loving Christian who cared for others. He was an Orderly who had to do all the jobs no one else wanted to do which means he did everything for this guy. It was a time when in other places folks were being mean to the men and women who had come back from Vietnam. My dad was going out of his way on his day off to bring his little girl in to meet this guy – sneaking her in! What better way to say to someone “You are important.” “I care about you.” “Thank you for your service.” What better way to live your faith? To teach your faith? We don’t always use words to teach important lessons.

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A wholehearted 7

When I knew that the BE 7.0 with the RevGalBlogPals was going to be on the Enneagram — well really as soon as I knew it was a potential topic — I searched for the books I had, looked for the pages I had copied so my answers wouldn’t be in the book, and found an online test to take to see what it said my number was. The copied pages were from 16-18 years ago when I was working to save a marriage that couldn’t be saved and showed I was a 6. The online test had me tied for 7 or 9. So I read the descriptions and was pretty sure that 7 was it.

I thought I had some idea what I was in for. Thinking all of that would prepare me for Suzanne Stabile is like thinking playing MarioKart with the wheel adapter will prepare you for driving in Dallas traffic at rush hour.  They have a lot of things in common but really it works better going the other way. Dallas traffic at rush hour help you with MarioKart much more than MarioKart help you with Dallas traffic. All of that Enneagram language has a lot in common but Suzanne’s way of teaching has more depth and grace. What I confirmed very clearly is that I am a 7. Going into the BE 7.0 which was Suzanne’s teaching on the Enneagram, I had already registered and paid for the Upper Room 5 day Spiritual Academy and I had the application for the Upper Room 2 year Academy in the bag I carried with me. Having a seasick Suzanne who was down in her back talk about 7s last of all still left me with little room for doubt that both Spiritual Academys “would be good for me.” Kinda like broccoli … or wrestling with an angel. I knew deep within my soul they both were my next right step. God was pulling , calling, me there.

As I listened to Suzanne, I would often find places where Brene Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfection” or her concepts of shame, vulnerability, and wholeheartedness would intersect with our ways of functioning as explained by the Enneagram. The concept at the foundation of it all is the imago dei. We are made in the image of God. Neither use that language but both are expressing how we have damaged (or had damaged) and need to restore to wholeness our understanding that we are made in the image of God. We are enough. We are whole. Not because of someone else but in ourselves from birth as we are/were created.

By the time I got to the 5 day Spiritual Academy, I was waiting to see what God was going to say to me. I knew God was going to speak, I could feel it, I just didn’t know when. I also knew, because I know me, and because of the work with Suzanne the silence would be hard for me. Every day there is an hour of silence in the morning and an hour of silence in the afternoon. During the first hour of silence on the first day,  the best I could do was take a nap.  🙂

The second hour of silence I had a clear sense of God’s call to “tell your story.” I didn’t even get out of the room before the tears started. I thought “God I’ve got *five days* you didn’t have to start so soon!” When I later told my room mate what I felt from God and my story, she told me I had to tell the speaker my story. I thought, “Why would she want to hear this?” But I heard Suzanne’s voice saying 7s often wait too late or almost too late to have their needs met, their voices heard. So I listened to those voices and stepped up. When I told Rev. Grace Imathiu my story, her response had the effect of a blessing on me. “That is a powerful story … if you will tell it I don’t know where you will be in 40 years.” I had the audacity to say to *her* “I can tell a story.” Thankfully, graciously, having just heard me tell my story, she answered, “Yes, you can!”

Every session after that was a continuing call, affirming that even though I am not very good at being silent I was doing it well enough to hear God pretty clear this time. And, in addition to the message to “tell my story,” I should go ahead and turn in the application for the  2 year academy to the director while he was there in person. So I did.

Now all of the various parts of application for the 2 year Academy have been turned in and I’m waiting to hear if I’ve been accepted. I’ve told some others my story. My sister and a good friend have said, “This is a book.” I don’t know about that yet. My spiritual director said “I have the sense that you are on the edge of something big.” Me too.

Several years ago, the RevGalBlogPals started blogstones (o) as a stone of witness when there were no words. I want to ask you to leave a blogstone if you will commit to pray for me as I figure out how to move forward telling my story, answering God’s call on my heart. If you have words too that would be great!


If you want to know more about the Enneagram 7 here’s a link about The Enneagram and blogging

You can find Rev. Grace Imathiu on Day 1 with a Google search.

Suzanne Stabile is at Life in the Trinity Ministries buying and listening to her Enneagram courses is better than an book. Go to a workshop if at all possible! In person is the best! Here’s the link

The Academy for Spiritual Formation at the Upper Room can be found at

Posted in Academy for Spiritual Formation, churchy, Star Word, the family, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Wearing a collar during Lent year 4: the beginning

For the 4th year during Lent, I’m wearing a collar. I wrote about how I decided to start the first year in a post here .

On the first day, this year I had jury duty. If the PhD wasn’t enough to get me dismissed, the collar was sure to do it. However, I didn’t even get out of the pool of potential people to be considered. So I reported for jury duty, checked in, read my book for the duration of the time-wasting-video-message, listened intently for my name to be called, and then was informed that no more people were needed for juries that day, miraculously missed being chosen for the jury pool that has to report back for next Wednesday during Spring Break when most courts are closed, and then the rest of us were dismissed. We were informed checks (all of $6) were being printed and could be picked up in the next room as we turned in our jury badges. The hardest part of my day was finding the correct bus stop. I waited at the wrong one for 30 minutes only discovering my mistake when 3 buses turned at the corner instead of coming to me. 😦 Then I had to move and wait at the correct bus stop for a bus to take me to my car. I was grateful for the gloves in my pocket that aren’t usually in that jacket.

Some days are like that. I expect it to go one direction and it goes another. With God’s grace, there’s something in my pocket that helps me along the way.

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I decided to see if I could import the other blog to this one so the Vicar would be integrated with all my blog posts. It worked! So there are stroke stories here where I thought I could not speak about the the stroke. And everything else from Sarah’s Space is here, too. It was much easier than the glitch filled transfer from Blogger!

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Teresa of Avila

Rev. Dr. Mary Luti of Andover Newton Theological School posted, “Here’s something Teresa of Avila really did say!

In the course of explaining to her nuns why they should not be reluctant to believe that they, despite their gender and state in life, could play a crucial role in reforming the Church, Teresa turns to God to intercede for them, saying:

“Since you, my Creator, are not ungrateful, I think you will not fail to do what these women ask of you. Nor did you, Lord, when you walked with us in this world, despise women; rather, you always, with great compassion, helped them. And you found as much love and more faith in them than you did in men… Is it not enough, Lord, that the world tries to intimidate us…so that we we may not do anything worthwhile for you in public, or dare speak the truths we lament over in secret, without your failing to hear so just a petition? I do not believe, Lord, that this could be true of your goodness and justice, for you are a just judge, not like the judges of this world. Since the world’s judges are sons of Adam and all of them men, there is no virtue in women they do not hold suspect. I do not speak for myself…but because I see that these are times in which it would be wrong to undervalue virtuous and strong souls, even though they are women.”  The Way of Perfection, 3:7 (1562-66)

By the way, that paragraph was blacked out in the first draft of the book, and rendered completely illegible by her 16th c censors. It was restored to the text only in the 1950’s with the help of special light techniques that could read beneath the ink!”

Having just returned from the Upper Room 5 Day Academy for Spiritual Formation yesterday with God’s call burning in my heart, these words almost leapt off the screen in some cosmic 3D LucasFilms production: “Is it not enough, Lord, that the world tries to intimidate us…so that we we may not do anything worthwhile for you in public, or dare speak the truths we lament over in secret, without your failing to hear so just a petition?” It was as if God was saying, “just because you left the 5 day doesn’t mean I quit talking to you!” In the times given for silence, the message I received was that my time for silence is over. It’s time for me to tell my story because it is in telling our stories that the power of change and transformation happen. We connect with each other through our stories. Grace Iimathiu said, “Stories create space for more than one truth.” That is so true.

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RevGalBlogPals: Random Friday Five: Last couple of days….

as posted by revkarla

Happy Friday, dear friends!

I am feeling all in the moment, or at least the past few days moment, so our random FF is focused on the last couple of days (or week, or however you want to interpret this….)

So, without further ado….

1.  What is the best thing you have had to eat in the last couple of days?

Last week I had ribs two out of three days! They tasted very different and both amazing! This week not so much. This best this week has been the cheap version of Coco Pebbles. I don’t need a pity party for that. After ribs twice, cereal is probably a good choice. And, it actually was exactly what I wanted right then. Delicious chocolately crunchy goodness with chocolate milk left when the crunch is gone. mmmm

2.  What is the topic/subject of the best thing you have read in the last couple of days?

John Grisham’s newest book was really good! I listened to it via Audible and I was coming up with excuses to keep listening instead of having the radio or tv on even though someone else (usually the Entertainer) was with me and not interested at all in the book.

3.  Who would you like to give a shout out to that has been in your life the last couple of days?

For the first time in years, I was able to take two weeks back to back of vacation after Christmas! and most of that time I was with my sister. We went geocaching and had so much fun. And then there was the unplanned event when The Entertainer and I went to see The Cardinals Fan who is 96 and she was so good for the Entertainer!

4.  How have you practiced self-care in the last couple of days?

Vacation, geocaching, and seeing The Cardinals Fan who told the Entertainer how the cow ate the cabbage about her dad and my mom and dad. Crazy good. 

5.   Use the following words in a sentence:    couple, shutter, smile, pillow, groan, skip, baby elephant, red shoes.

A baby elephant threw a pillow while the couple smiled,  the shutter clicked, and the girl in red shoes skipped.

Thanks for playing, and have fun!

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