The Once and Never King

Power. What is power? It’s the electrical currents we depend on for our lights and heat. Power. It a mathematical function equation that makes number much greater like 33 or 210. Power. It’s the ability of someone having a capability of doing something in a certain way, like the power of speech. Power. It is moving with great speed or force. Power. It is the capacity or ability of a person to direct or influence others and the course of events. Power. It is authority, ruling, controlling, manipulating, supremacy. Power can be used to explain the universe and help and care for others. Power can be used to hurt and control others. Power.

And right now in our world through books, art, movies, blogs, fashion, governments, unions, corporations, the environment, and everywhere we look people are talking about and trying to define and redefine power. People are trying to claim their power back over their own lives through movements like #MeToo and #BLM. People are so scared of losing the little power they have, so they are clinging to hashtags like #MAGA. People are looking to a leader or a group as the only way to get the power like candidates, presidents, parties, activists. We see even world leaders consolidating power throughout the world by changing constitutions to lengthen term limits and rigging elections. People are willingly giving their own power and critical thinking minds away to demagogues of the media, trolls, fake news, isolationism, and extreme individualism. Power. And so many people are too lazy to even realize what is going on. We are facing a time in the world when we must go beyond ourselves and our experiences and realize what is happening…that the powerful are becoming too powerful. And the community is fragmenting. We are not willing to talk with people different from us. So many people are not even willing to live in the same community with neighbors who look different from them.

I am worried we are heading down the path that the Israelites did in the Bible in the book 1 Samuel. They had been doing fine as a society being ruled by judges and the community policing themselves. In 1 Samuel 8 as Samuel is getting older and his sons have been placed as judges the people of Israel ask for a king. They want a king to rule over them—to ride into battle before them and govern them—because they want to be like the other nations. They want a king. God warns through Samuel the people saying the king will take your daughters and sons and take your lands and flocks. And they still after all that wanted a king. They had become lazy in governing themselves. They wanted to be entertained and told want to think. They had bought into the myopic viewpoint of a king being a savior for them that they did not think of the consequences. They wanted to give up their power for the comfort of no responsibility and ignorance. And I keep wondering maybe we are like them. That some people today are trying to reclaim their power by giving it up and that results in losing it completely. Sound familiar?

We were never to be ruled by a king. And in some messed up way our culture of social media and news consumption being so high we have created a king. He tweets out his decrees and we listen and we discuss them even if we do not agree. What’s the king going to say next? We wonder when we wake up in the morning. And in some way maybe by feeding this monstrous king we are making him grow into more power. This illusion of power he has makes others fear him. Maybe it is time for us to stop feeding him with our attention.

Power. Good vs. evil is a struggle for power. The light that will beat the darkness. We are so obsessed with this in our culture: look at the biggest movie/book franchises like Star Wars, Marvel’s Avengers, Justice League, Harry Potter and so much more. Good guys who destroy the evil who wants power over the world/universe. We are craving to see the good guys win. When in reality we need to be watching or reading more modern history and dystopia novels like The Hunger Games. Why? Because they teach and remind us that power corrupts, and that those who might look innocuous or good if they consolidate too much power they will do harm.

We need to be claiming our power back as community and our individual power. We need to be not giving so much airtime to people who do not have critical thinking skills or live in a self-made bubble of sameness. We need to start working toward building community and not tearing it apart. We need to listen to God calling us to a life of caring for each other and loving our neighbors. We need to support the oppressed and silenced in society and the world who have been stripped of their voices by those corrupt powers. We need start questioning and shifting through the crap we are reading that could be misinformation. We need to not accept everything as truth. We need to stop being lazy and start thinking critically. We need to realize God didn’t want us to have a king—so we should stop trying to create one.

Poor man wanna be rich,

Rich man wanna be king,

And a king ain’t satisfied,

’til he rules everything,

– Bruce Springsteen, “Badlands”

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So It Goes…

I remember back in high school when I read the book Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut…I liked it but didn’t really understand it. However, I do remember that phrase “so it goes” that would be at the end of a statement or scene mentioning death or someone dying. So flippant and yet so poignant. I remember how foreign that feeling of resignation was in that phrase, to me an idealist teenager. I was a happy kid. I was super positive even in the midst of family struggles. Now as an adult and a pastor that phrase is something that is always at the forefront of my mind. So it goes.

Waking up in the morning and checking what’s going on in the world makes me sigh and think “so it goes” a lot more since the end of 2016. I think “so it goes” and then follow up with “are you f@#$ing kidding me?! Now what’s happened?!”

“So it goes” has been a way to express the emotional exhaustion of this roller coaster world we are living in. Children are dying by violent acts. So it goes. A tweet went out and caused the stock market to dip. So it goes. There are more people homeless. So it goes. People are being killed because of racism. So it goes. Fascist are running in elections throughout the world. So it goes. Women are being harassed and abused. So it goes. There is a nuclear threat from this or that country. So it goes. Another natural disaster happens. So it goes. There are millions of abused, starving, neglected, hurting people in the world. So it goes. The richer get richer and the poorer are getting poorer in this world and in this country. So it goes. An influential married man had an affair with a porn star. So it goes. Is, anyone else EXHAUSTED from this?

Resignation. Indifference. Numbness. Entitlement. Thoughts and Prayers.

Thinking back to “so it goes” in the book, Vonnegut was pointing us to what’s the point of all that death. The lack of meaning. That people are dying…and people don’t care and just move on. He points to over 100,000 civilians dying in the bombing of Dresden during WWII. Thoughts and prayers. That feels so trite. Right?! Thoughts and prayers.

But what can we do?!  How can we even move forward with all these things going on?! What can an individual even do?! I don’t have the answer. I keep wondering this myself…I know in 2018 I can vote in the election, help my neighbors when I can, support my family, and love as frequently as possible. Maybe because I am an empathetic person the world feels heavier than it did a few years ago… but then you talk to others and they feel the heaviness too. We all know we must act and we do or plan too. However, after my past year of tons of action and constantly on the go I came to the realization that prayer was not just something you do or make a post about…it can change you.

Prayer. I honestly have for struggled with prayer this past year. I mean what is the point?! I was skeptical as a pastor even though as a child it got me through so many difficult times. I honestly think I forgot about the power of prayer. I think my brain had been taken over with the latest news, social media, etc. That prayer became an afterthought. I thought prayer was just a thought. Thoughts and prayers is something I would do quickly and just post on social media. Well I was reminded I was wrong.

Prayer isn’t just a thought it’s something deeper than that. It is not something to just dismiss. If we really pray and meditate, energy fields supposedly can change around a person and become more positive. Prayer changing your energy field is connected to our spirit and this is now being looked at by scientists in quantum physics. The ancient spiritual leaders like Jesus and Buddha showed this through prayer/meditation, and now science and speakers like Rob Bell are discussing these energy fields around us! Prayer is not something about asking for things or blessings—prayer can change your being and your body. Prayer can slow you do and push you to reflect. Prayer can change the energy field around you.

At first, I thought it was a bunch of BS. And maybe you think this is a whole bunch of BS, and that is totally fine. I respect that. For me, though, prayer started coming to the forefront again in my life last winter because of the anxiety I started to experience. I started having anxiety more frequently since January 2017 (you can guess why), and I even had a few random panic attacks caused by the heaviness of what was going on. My family was worried, and my uncle stepped in and encouraged me to learn transcendental meditation from our close family friend. “No excuses anymore,” my uncle told me. I didn’t even know why I was anxious- it was weird. Well, I still thought it was a load of that alternative “crap” but I should try it.

Through meditation I found prayer again. And it helped. You might not see an external change with me and I might still lash out and get depressed, and the “so it goes” is still there…but the sigh doesn’t take over me anymore. I came to the realization I can’t personally change or save my community or world. I can be a part of change, but it is not up to me alone. Prayer and meditation opened me up to see the good and light happening right now in the world. That the darkness is not winning. That there is light even if just a flicker- and it can’t be quashed.

Even with all this BS going on in the world; look at how many people are waking up and saying, “this is not OK!” Look at how many people are marching, voting, speaking up. Look at the teenagers making a stand and how even in our local areas good things are happening. This loud cry of hate in the world is a last groan because they are losing…one is louder when they know they have lost.

There is good in this world. LOTS of good. People are acting out of love. People are saying no to it. They are naming it- the indifference, the evil, the hatred. It is getting exposed and it is unable to hide out in dark corners of society anymore.  If we don’t name it and shine light on it, the ugliness remains hidden in the shadows. This world is moving forward toward love, acceptance, and care for each other and creation. So it goes…we pray, act, and take a stand and the world moves forward. So it goes…we name the hate. So it goes…we say these innocent deaths have meaning and need to stop. So it goes…yes so it goes…sigh…toward the light.

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Truth about Holy Week for Me…Getting Real with Myself

Holy Week has been difficult for me since I was in 5th grade. I think it is a blessing sometimes that I am a pastor so I am made so busy I don’t have to reflect or think about why it is difficult. The Easter sermon is the hardest thing to write each year- these last couple of years I know they are good but just like any typical one. So I am writing this hoping I can finally get my writer’s block of Easter finally done with. Also I want to be clear I am not looking for pity but putting this out there so that also people who sometimes feel like they are perpetually stuck in Good Friday in their lives to know this too shall pass. Also so people who are in abusive relationships know there is life after.

Well as a person who is about being authentic and real…probably sometimes to honest for my own good…I can actually be really closed off (just ask my husband) and especially about why when Easter happens I just can’t get out of Good Friday. And in the words of the amazing Brené Brown, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it…Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” So time to get vulnerable and explore my darkness with this.

As a child I loved Easter. It was this joyous day where at the Presbyterian Church I grew up in they had this huge “chicken coop cross” outside that people could cover in flowers. I loved wearing my beautiful dress and singing loudly for Christ. And of course my Easter baskets were amazing and the egg hunts. That changed though in fifth grade for me when I was 11.

My dad left the first time in February that year. It was honestly a relief to me at 11, because my parents were so unhappily married and to be honest he had become emotionally abusive to my mom. But Easter March 30, 1997 was the day he came back after leaving that first time. And it was scary and complicated for me to even understand. I was so angry my mom took him back, and I felt so guilty for wanting him to be gone and not come back. I loved my dad so much as a child, he was fun and smart, he was caring and supportive, but things started to change a few years before. And he was never really kind to my mom but very condescending, even in front of me.

You see my father was the consummate sales man and could get anyone to believe anything- especially my wonderful mother who loved him so much. However, every night I saw my mom walking on eggshells trying to make him happy. Dinners consisted of mom cooking them and then me (again a child) having to sit and listen to my dad pontificate about his day. Rarely was I even asked first about school- it was all about him and a minute or 2 left for my mom and me. After major counseling I can call my dad what he was (and is) a narcissist, compulsive liar, who lives a secret life, and is a crook. He hid all that as much as he could from my mom and I for years. Anyway he came back that Holy Week and mom let him back in.

I was so mad. It was back to the shit and abuse again. I mean he was on his best behavior for the next year (or at least hid things) but I remember sitting in the living room looking outside as a wind storm began that weekend. And I checked news archives, there was actually a windstorm that Saturday and Sunday where I grew up. The clouds were thick dark gray being whipped quickly across the sky by the wind. The wind blew the gigantic Douglas Firs in our neighbors yard across the street, so they looked like they were waving at me. Those skies though were dark. And it was Easter Sunday. I asked my mom recently if we went to church that Easter, and she said yes and my dad was with us. And all I can remember is the dark storm and the emptiness and loneliness I felt. Knowing that life was not going to get any better. Knowing that mom was still going to be living a lie with dad. Knowing that my mom and I were going to be pawns of his and have to live the lie of the “perfect family.” I at 11 was living in that empty tomb. I don’t even like today talking about the empty tomb, because it gives me feelings of being stuck in it. You see I actually like Good Friday, because I am allowed to be raw that day…I can just be sad like everyone else around me. It is Easter that is difficult, because I see that storm. God, it totally reminds me of the story and movie as a child that scared me to death by Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes. And yeah it was my father coming back to town…looking all good and great but inside rotten to the core…and bringing his circus of deceit with him (if you know the story you might get that reference). Seriously, I have had dreams since that day with my dad standing outside in that story as the shadowy character. Yup creepy.

So when I get up on Easter morning and celebrate I am actually not lying but clinging to the promise that God actually rose from the dead. It is a day that forces me to face my pain and truth and literally pushes me into Christ…even if I would rather still wallow in pain (I am an enneagram 4 so trust me I love to cling to pain, because it my head that means more creativity/artistry- yes that is totally unhealthy and I am working on it).

I just would rather with Easter sit and sob in relief—have a cathartic moment—and just be real and raw than shout loudly. Relief that my mom finally (even after losing everything) left him and is actually with an amazing man I hope I can have my children call grandpa. Relief that I don’t have to have a relationship with my dad anymore, but still pray for him (some relationships are so toxic and abusive people need to be apart and just pray for them). Relief that I am so blessed with a wonderful husband and great examples of men who actually care and are healthy. Relief that even if I can’t reconcile in this world Jesus can and has done that for me. Relief that that chapter is finally over and I can move on.

So sometimes I feel like I am stuck at Golgotha or can’t leave the tomb, but thank God Holy Week pushes Easter on me regardless if I like it to or not it is coming. I am clinging to the promise that God really is alive and that death and suffering and the devil have been defeated. It is so emotional for me, so much that my mom calls to check on me, my husband tries to keep me busy, and (thank God) this year my friends nearby who know the truth (it took a lot for me to share) make sure my hubby and I have a place to go for Easter dinner that day to just have fun (and wine). So yes the tomb is empty—but don’t stay in it but get out into that garden and see the new life. Oh and I get a TON of flowers for my apartment on Easter to remind me of new life, since I loved the flowers on Easter every year when I was a kid. That and chocolate.

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O Holy Night

Confession: I absolutely LOVE Christmas carols and music. I love them all. The day after Thanksgiving till New Year’s Eve I listen to them over and over again…along with The Nutcracker Ballet. When I began reading up about the history of Christmas carols it made me love them even more. Take O Holy Night for example. Great music and song…so meaningful but what is the story behind it?

Did you know that O Holy Night was the first song ever sent through the air via radio waves?! On Christmas Eve in 1906 Reginald Fessenden—who was 33 years old and a former chief chemist for Thomas Edison—broadcasted his voice over airwaves! This was the first time ever a radio had been used. He actually ended up reading those famous words from the Gospel of Luke, “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus…” You see back then they did things that were coded impulses to send message—these were called telegrams. Using the Morse code, basically a bunch of beeps and dashes they could send messages across states over airwaves—no one ever spoke or played music over them until that Christmas Eve! So on 1906 on Christmas Eve, Reginald shocked all those telegram operators because they could hear a man’s voice and then… they heard him play on his violin O Holy Night.

O Holy Night was a favorite carol in the 1900s in the United States that came from France, however in the 1800s the Catholic Church in France denounced this carol. This carol was called Cantique de Noel and based off the birth of Christ in the Gospel of Luke. It was written by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure, the commissionaire of wines in a small town, at the request of his parish priest. Roquemaure was an amateur poet and he turned to his friend Adolphe Charles Adams, a classically trained musician, to write the music for the carol. It only took them three weeks to write and put the carol together. They premiered it at the midnight mass on Christmas Eve in their small French town. And it spread quickly to be sung all over the country. However, a few years later the church denounced the song when they found out that Adams was Jewish and that Roquemaure had left the church.

However, decades later, O Holy Night was revived and introduced in the United States by John Sullivan Dwight, who was a pastor in Massachusetts. He felt drawn to this song because he was an ardent abolitionists (that means anti-slavery), and it ended up becoming very popular in the Abolitionists movement and grew in popularity during the Civil War.

That’s just the history of one Christmas carol! Think of so many more there are we can learn about. If you liked this write up I recommend author Ace Collins who writes a lot about the history of Christmas traditions or carols. At the church we do a Christmas caroling service once a year and instead of a sermon we have histories I wrote up or found about the songs before we sing. It is a lot of fun and I totally recommend it!

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Flo Rida- I Cry

This video and the song is so powerful. This played on major radio stations last year and this year.

The religious imagery is awesome of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

Keywords/phrases/feelings: prayer, hope, Psalm 20, Bible, prayer shawl, baptism

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Connecting Faith with our Culture Today

So I have decided that for the next few weeks I will be posting links/videos of current or recent music, movies, tv etc. that the millennials and gen Y like and saying how it connects to faith or the imagery of religion in it, specially Christianity. So keep checking back in ways to connect faith and life…and to connect with the younger generations!

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Is the Reformation Dead?

So of course like many pastors this is a busy time of year…so I alas did not post last week. We had Reformation Sunday at church so it was lots of getting ready even though it wasn’t even feeling like it was smooth enough. Ok what is “Reformation Sunday”? Right?! Well, I had no freaking idea what it was until I started to go to a Lutheran church at 18 with my mom…and the strange thing is I actually learned in public school about the Reformation in high school.

So this whole church calendar thing has special day we acknowledge on Sundays, like Reformation Sunday. Which is a day to celebrate the Reformation…the time this guy named Martin Luther stood up against the big church at the time that was selling indulgences (basically get out of hell/purgatory free cards if you got enough money for either yourself or a family member who is already dead). Purgatory is like that “limbo” place some Christians believe is between heaven and hell…if you believe in an actual heaven and hell…I don’t think people who are Christians necessarily all believe in that today. Heck my answer is probably too complicated on that.

Anyway so Reformation Sunday is suppose to be celebrating standing up against the big institutionalized church of the time that was oppressing and taking advantage of people. That church has reformed greatly since then and actually has a pretty awesome leader now I greatly respect- Pope Francis I. So this little monk from Germany was like, “Dude, this is wrong!” Poor people can’t feed their families because they are using their money to buy the salvation of their dead family members. People are worrying about salvation and the afterlife and trying to buy their way out of it. And all that money is going to build this huge basilica in Rome…not feeding people. Again, “DUDE, THIS IS WRONG!” On top of it the head guy at the time Leo X was not a good guy…he came from a famous family of wealthy bankers from Florence (The d’Medici family) who basically bought their way to power over a few centuries in Europe. Leo X wasn’t a good guy and took advantage of people and I think bought his position as pope. Anyway Luther called them on their crap with his 95 theses and his intention was for it to be discussed in theological circles not start a reformation…he wanted to not leave the Catholic church but reform it. But alas politics got in the way like usual and people took advantage of the situation. However, this is an important day for the Protestant churches all over the world. It is a day we celebrate standing up against oppressive institutions that tell us how we should be and what we should believe…it is a day we celebrate that yes we have a loving God and we don’t have to buy our way into heaven or earn it…which is contrary to what some pastors who are Protestant teach now a days.

This is a day we celebrate that cultural revolution of the reformation…and yet is the Reformation dead today? I don’t see it dead in the mission development I serve in, because we are trying new things…trying to reform ourselves individually and as a community…stretching ourselves and our expression of faith. Now we are in these big institutionalized churches that block sometimes the way for creativity and difference. We are called to honor tradition of course but we have got to reform. That is the tradition actually…that we are churches and people of the reformation and we are called to keep on reforming. So is the reformation dead in the church? Have we become too static? Have we gotten stuck in our ways?

Hey people want young families and young adults to come to church…but I see churches demanding they still conform to the church and fit in…not allowing them to bring new ideas and participate in a different expression of their faith. I feel like it is like sometimes, “Hey we so want you here! Welcome! But you must conform to everything we already do, and don’t question it….oh and also our church is dying as it is…but hey we can keep doing it because that is all we know…” Ok that probably is too harsh of a critique. But seriously is the reformation dead? How can we encourage more reforming in our churches and our institutions? How can we live into our name as being a church of the Reformation?!

When I became Lutheran I fell in love with the story of this little monk. A guy who stood up against a big institution and got back to the basics of love and having a deep relationship with God. I fell in love with the 95 theses and how he eloquently basically told them off. I fell in love with him being a dissenter who used words to get his point across…and mainly I fell in love with that it was about JESUS and GRACE. That it was about loving and protecting our neighbors like Christ taught us. It was about the Bible. I remember seeing the Luther movie starring Joseph Finnes and reading the 95 Theses and going, “Yeah! I can get into this! They allow questions and discussion and are all about standing up to oppressors! Yeah! It is actually about getting back to what scripture says!” That is why I became a Lutheran…because of the story of Martin Luther and the idea of GRACE. That he stood up against an institution. That it was about God loves us no more and no less than anyone else…that we don’t earn our way into heaven and have to earn God’s love…that God loves us just as we are.

So is the Reformation dead in the church? I think you might be able to guess my answer on this.

So how do we revive and start reforming the church again?

Look, how it is right now it is going to die. So let’s face that fact and stop complaining about it and stop saying “remember the good old days” and actually get off our butts and talk with the people who are not going to church and/or have left. Yes we must honor the past but we can’t keep looking back but need to move forward. Seriously and that means we have to experiment and fail a ton. And the beautiful thing is from failure we learn…and we got grace so we got to keep on trying even if we fail! So start experimenting and failing so we can actual get reforming.

Oh and please stop playing the politically games in the church and comparisons between each others churches. And stop bickering over petty things like what creed for what Sunday. It is highly annoying and frustrating and the younger generations think it is a bunch of BS and stupid. Find something meaningful to get passionate about like I don’t know poverty or social equality…maybe the people you want there (the younger generations) might actually start showing up.

So how are you going to start reforming your church? How are you going to start reforming yourself? I am beginning to ponder this for myself too…

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