Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Joy and Sorrow

Last night I wrapped Christmas presents with my eight year old son, Alex.

He is so eager for Christmas. Our Christmas celebrating begins Friday evening at a friend’s Christmas party. Then Saturday evening at my sister’s house for supper. Sunday morning Alex plays bongos with the other boys for a Christmas song...then the kids are having pizza and ice cream, he told me he can hardly wait.He is eager for Christmas Eve, to go to the candlelight service at VCC and light a candle while we sing ‘Silent Night’ his age he senses something sacred about the Christmas Eve candlelight service…then home to open one gift before going to bed. He is very excited for Christmas morning... then it continues with brunch at one of our kids’ homes with all the Swetman kids and grandchildren…then we finish with dinner at my cousin’s house with family and games. It’s a darn good thing that Rich and I are both extroverts!

This is my favorite time of year. I have always loved the Christmas season. A couple of years ago, Rich and I had to redo our tradition around our growing family but now that we have that worked out it is good…

On another note…

Yesterday I had an email from a woman asking me to pray for her son, Dylan. He is being deployed to Iraq this week. On Sunday, a woman in our congregation told us through tears that her brother is going from Afghanistan to Iraq.

I know of two families that are still out of power. The outage has taken a toll on them financially as they have to eat out once a day. They don't know when their power will be turned on and rumor has it another windstorm might visit us tonight.

My cousin found out one of her best friends has brain cancer. The prognosis is not good. She has another friend who tried to commit suicide and is in a psyche ward.

I am watching some people struggle in their marriages…I don’t know if they will make it through 2007.

I have family members that are estranged…it seems too broken to ever repair…

I am watching friends navigate the waters of relationship with mentally ill and addicted adult children…

Lately, I have been meditating a large amount on holding joy and sorrow together in my heart. I have a book from Joyce Rupp, The Cup of Our Life, she says that "joy and sorrow are sisters and they live in the same house." This statement speaks volumes to me. It is so true of my life. I experience so much joy in my family, in relationship with my friends; in the church I serve and so many other areas…I also experience so much sorrow. Sorrow so deep that if I was not a person of faith I don’t think I could have excavated and allowed that part of me to be exposed.
Sorrow watching the people I serve and love go through horrible sorrow themselves…sorrow when I watch the evening news and see the result of war and poverty and every injustice under the sun…

My prayer for these next few days when we will be celebrating the birth of our God that came to us; Emmanuel…is that somehow each one of us can open our hearts to receive the grace that enables us to hold joy and sorrow while at the same time experience moments of peace and hope in the midst or our very real lives.

Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 14, 2006


I have a few things on my mind…

This year for the advent candle lighting each Sunday Jim Fox had the idea that instead of asking different community members to do readings and light the advent candle, we ask diffent members of our community to tell a story of how the light of Christ came into the darkness of their life in the past year. Then light the candle.

The first week we had a married couple share. Last week we had a woman going through a divorce share. It has been very moving. In November Brian McLaren was with us for a Sunday and he spoke on the faith community being a “school of love” and part of what would happen in this school is that we would tell stories of love; how we experience the love of God and how we show and give the love of God to others. This year’s advent reflections and candle lightings are definitely stories of love.

I am just about through Scot McKnight’s book, The Real Mary, and I love it! I am so happy to read about Mary in a way that brings her to life. Scot does a great job of letting us into her world and what might have been going on for her as she grew in her understanding of who her son was and how she would relate to him and then to the new family he brought into being. I am very inspired to teach on Mary this Sunday.

I was brought up Roman Catholic. I have a very small statue of Mary with her powder blue robe that sits on my coffee table. Not because I worship Mary. Rather because I honor her and consider her blessed among women and because she said a resounding “yes” to God. Side bar: one night my husband and I were hosting a bible study in our home. There was a group of young adults sitting around our living room. We had candles lit and in the middle of our meeting a man was sitting on the floor about 3 feet from the coffee table asked, “is that Obi-Wan Kenobi or is that….uh Mary”

Scot does an excellent job of describing to the reader just what that “yes” to God might have meant for Mary. I highly recommend the book.

I bought my ticket for India. I leave February 16th and return March 2nd. The trip to India is Overture II for my DMin program which I am pursuing through Bakke Graduate University. I think this trip is going to have the same affect on me that going to Africa three years ago did only different. I can’t explain it because I have never been to India. I am in a pensive anticipation (do those two things go together?) that this trip will be another one of those life altering trips for me. I am very excited to go with Ray Bakke. Ray is brilliant, humble and probably the most gifted church historian I have met. More on this another time.

I love this season. I love planning with others how as a community we celebrate and enter into this season. I love my eight year old son’s anticipation for opening presents. I love serving at Ballinger Homes apartments at the annual Festival of Lights party, watching over 100 kids living at poverty level so excited to open a gift. I love watching all the VCC people and Turning Point folks that bought the gifts, wrapped them and came to the party to serve and celebrate with the families. Thank you to everyone, including those who live far away yet by donating helped make the party a success…Bob and Kelly!

I love our Christmas Eve candlelight service, getting up in the morning and opening presents with our single kids. This year that’s only three! Wow, three out of eight not married. Then we go to our son and daughter-in-law’s house for brunch with most of the kids and grandchildren.

I love the day after Christmas when Rich and I and Alex get to just hangout and watch movies. Then I look forward to the week between Christmas and New Years to reflect on the past year and dream for the New Year.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Meeting with Mark Driscoll

Last night Rich and I met with Nancy Murphy (Exec Director of a Domestic Violence Center in Seattle), Tom Murphy, Sandy Brown (Exec Dir of World Council of Churches Seattle), Paul Chapman (protest organizer), Dwight Friesen, Mark Driscoll, and Leif Moi (pastor and elder at Mars Hill Church).

My initial thoughts are going to be brief.

Our conversation was frank and honest. I appreciated the maturity and humility that everyone in the room demonstrated. My sense was that everyone felt heard.

We basically focused on two things: First, the offensiveness of Mark’s language in the public arena. How it hurts and divides. After an open conversation with everyone's participation it seemed that everyone felt heard by Mark. Second, we discussed the protest. Hearing from Mark and Leif--their concerns, my hope is that they felt heard.

The spirit in which we all met was not adversarial but was toward reconciliation by all. I deeply appreciated that everyone remained open and respectful.

There was a very meaningful exchange between Paul and Mark with regard to the protest which brought them both to a place of recognizing their words as harmful. There seemed to be an agreement that an apology for inflammatory rhetoric would be appropriate from both of them.

We all agreed to disagree about our theology and that we could have a healthier way of expressing our difference to the wider community.

I am thankful to all for the graciousness and humility displayed in the midst of difference.

Here are a few things I have learned:

Words on a blog or on a paper are one thing—people in a room who those words touch are quite another

Truth and mercy – a powerful combination

We are all life long learners on this journey where confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation is one of our highest callings.

That Mark and I may have serious theological differences but at the end of the day we have both given our lives for the sake of the gospel

I am hopeful that reconciliation has begun and will continue – time will tell.

I want to thank Mark for coming to the conversation as a peacemaker and not a street fighter. I pray God’s best for him and for Mars Hill Church.