Wow! We no sooner have Thanksgiving dinner dishes cleaned up and we realize it’s December already. That means 2014 is nearly complete, and winter is just around the corner. For the record, let me just say that I am not ready for another winter of so much snow; I am still trying to figure out what happened to summer. But also with December, we begin a new Christian liturgical year with Advent. And just for the record, I am looking forward to that.
You see, Advent is the first four Sundays of the Christian year where we re-anticipate the arrival of God incarnate—God as fully human—in our world. Of course, we know that I am talking about Jesus. But, acknowledging that it is God who is coming somehow sheds a bit of a different light. You may have seen that billboard that says,
“Don’t make me come down there … signed, God!”
Here we are in November already. Fall colors have come and gone, and most of the leaves have fallen from the branches. The school year is well underway, families are settling into the new routine, farm fields are quickly being cut down for the winter, and the Holiday season is right around the corner with Thanksgiving literally only days away. Of course, with Thanksgiving we enter into the Christian season of Advent—the arrival of God incarnate in Jesus Christ—and how fitting that is. With Thanksgiving, we find ourselves both celebrating the gifts we have been abundantly blessed with while also noticing even more acutely the struggles within our own lives and others. We become more aware of that which compels us to express our gratefulness, while we also become more sensitive to our plight and the plight of the world. While it seems contradictory, it also seems to make sense. Things really could be a lot worse. Then again, things really could be a lot better.
John Wesley, our founder of Methodism, did not hesitate to proclaim that as Methodists, we are to “make all we can, save all we can, and give all we can”. Whenever I read or hear this Wesley quote, it makes me think of that 70’s song by Meatloaf in which he sings, “two out of three ain’t bad.” My guess is that you can relate, and maybe even see the humor. The interesting thing is that we all do not share the same two things that come easy, leaving that third one being somewhat tougher for us to swallow or achieve.
What team sport can actively incorporate as many as 500 people on a team, involve almost mind boggling levels of strength and endurance, include the application of literally thousands of pounds of force, and in the end produce only a few short feet of movement by everyone on the teams? The answer is tug-of-war. Tug-of-war has recorded origins dating back to the 8th century BC, has since been recognized as an official sport, and was even a formal part of the Olympics in the early 20th century. Personally, I find tug-of-war tons of fun to watch, to participate in, and if there is a deep mud trough between the teams … all the better.
If you do any amount of online banking or purchasing, you have likely found yourself answering security questions while setting up your online accounts. One question almost always available to pick from is, “Who was your favorite teacher in school?” For some, this may be a hard question to think of an answer, but I have a hands-down favorite. I had Mrs. Mullens (never knew her first name) for different science classes two years in Junior HS. (Just so you don’t worry, I never use this particular security question, so no top secret info being divulged here).
Mrs. Mullens was able to relate even the most technical aspect of Physics to everyday life. Lab time always revealed unexpected discoveries that I still remember—and use—even to this day. Her lectures were never boring, never seemed trivial, and engaged her students real-time in the discussion. Perhaps most of all, there was no doubt in my mind that Mrs. Mullens cared deeply about me and my classmates, and that she wanted to share her love for science with us in such a way that we genuinely loved science too. Mrs. Mullens was great and amazing.
Jesus said, “Heal the sick … Freely you have received; freely give.” (Matthew 10:8, NIV) I write this newsletter’s opening column having just returned from the 2014 Detroit Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church (UMC). These annual conferences are a time of renewal and re-centering for the Michigan based UM churches, as well as an opportunity for all to be leveled-up on the latest news, activities and missions of our denomination. One very notable mission is the Imagine No More Malaria campaign aimed at eliminating the ruthless destruction of life brought about by the malaria virus. Here in the U.S., we have all but stamped out malaria, and when it does surface we have immediate and ample infrastructure to cure the illness before it seriously threatens those afflicted. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many other places in our world, perhaps most devastatingly in Africa.