I was driving to work one day and was caught in the morning traffic on the Broadway Extension. I happened to look in my rearview mirror and saw that the woman driving the car behind me had a big smile on her face. I couldn’t help but wonder about her. At first, I admit when I initially saw her I thought that she was smiling at something I had done. Isn’t that sad? In the blink of an eye I had a moment of self-centered cynicism. Once I got past that negative thought, I wondered if she was on the phone with someone, but I never saw her talking – just smiling. I realized that she just had a natural friendly expression on her face. When I looked in the mirror at myself, I realized that I was not smiling. Now, I wasn’t frowning or anything – just sort of a neutral countenance. I decided to imitate the woman who was behind me and just drive the rest of the way into work with a smile on my face. You know what? It changes the way you feel.
One morning recently I had a disagreement with my son. It was just a minor misunderstanding – the kind of thing that blows over easily. But as I was getting ready to leave the house a thought crossed my mind that I was leaving with things a bit unsettled. I thought how terrible it would be if I was involved in some car wreck and died (yes – I probably watch too many dramatic shows!). But I wasn’t sad over the thought of losing my life, I was sad over the thought of my son wrestling over our last encounter. I knew that he would feel regret and the thought of him feeling that way made me sad. Again, we didn’t even have a real argument or anything but I would never want him to think that he would need to feel guilty. Keep in mind that I had my own emotions of being a little miffed but more important to me was making sure that I didn’t leave my son in a bad way or in a situation where he struggled with guilt.
This Sunday is Epiphany Sunday. It is one of the oldest of holidays that we celebrate in the Church. Epiphany is from a Greek word that means “manifestation”. It means that something is revealed or made known. Perhaps you have heard someone say, “I’ve had an epiphany!” (although I don’t know a lot of people who have the word “epiphany” as part of their daily vocabulary!) The exclamation is intended to mean that an idea, thought, or explanation has come to mind. Something has been made known to them.
Just five days! Our Christmas morning tradition is – orange rolls. It is so much a part of our holiday, that we never eat orange rolls at any other time during the year. It is a tradition we’ve held since our daughter Hannah was very young. It started because I wanted to have the most time to focus with my family. I would buy the orange rolls in a can so that it would be quick and easy. As the years progressed and Hannah & Brooks got older, they started asking for homemade orange rolls. Several years ago I found a great recipe and started making the rolls from scratch. Now that the kids are older, Christmas morning isn’t so much about the fun of playing with new toys (which was a lot of fun for all of us!) but has become more about enjoying the morning together.
As we draw closer to Christmas, I want to encourage you to read “The Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. It doesn’t take that long and it has some of the most moving phrases I have read.
Please take a moment and look at the pictures shared in the link below, I promise you’ll be glad you did. The pictures are the work of photographer Stefan Draschan. He put together a series of pictures of people who “match” the artwork they are looking at. I find it beautiful, humorous, and touching. I am not sure if the series is entitled, “Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder” or perhaps “Art Imitates Life” but either of those would be appropriate. What I truly loved about his work is that human beings are inspiring works of art in and of themselves.
Today a group of people from St. Luke’s left our church to drive to Houston, Texas. They are the fourth group that we have sent to help with the post-hurricane missional work. They will be working with and from Memorial Drive United Methodist Church. I am so proud of the ones who left today, the ones who have already gone, and all the people who have given donations to support the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) efforts in all the areas that have been hit with tragedy.
Our son Brooks runs cross country and track. Now I ran track, but never did cross country. It takes place in the fall and if you are a spectator, it is like no other sport. As the name suggests, they run in country-like settings. Many of the courses might be in town but will go through wooded areas, across rough terrain, and through muddy patches. The courses are not in a nice straight path or even a smooth oval shape, though the start and finish lines are typically close together.
Have you watched the news lately? If you’re a little like me, you might be avoiding it. It can be really depressing! Mounting evidence of Russia’s intrusion into not only our election process but that of other countries as well. Hateful political rhetoric that deepens the divide in our country and throughout the world. Hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes, and a volcano on the brink. Church and school shootings (there are way too many shootings everywhere but it seems even more tragic because the two places you should never have to worry about are church and school.) All of these issues on top of racism, child abuse, human trafficking, substance abuse, poverty, etc.
Today I am in Germany. I am part of a church trip to Germany and to England to study the Reformation. We made the trip this year because of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing the “95 Theses” to the church door in Wittenberg (10/31/1517). It was one of the pivotal moments in the history of the church.