Tuesday, November 27, 2007


There's a lot of expectations in the world. We have families that are 'expecting'... there's even the book "What to Expect When You're Expecting" if you want advice on how to deal with that. The problem with most of our expectations is that we are expecting things from others, or feel burdened by the expectations placed on us. We are rarely using that word in a positive context. We have expectations from and for our jobs, schools, families, friends, coworkers, spouses, children, parents and colleagues. We hear about how our expectations are too high, or too low. How can we expect THAT of someone, we're asked? Well, don't expect them to do anything, we're told. We expect snow on some days, rain or sun on others. We expect it will get cold in the winter and warm in the summer. Some expectations, like seasonal ones (well, maybe, if you live somewhere besides Nebraska AND don't think climate change is real.) are reasonable. Others, like when you expect someone else to fix all of your problems for you, or expect your spouse to read your mind, are much less so.

We expect that God will watch out for us, that we will be held in the palm of God's hand. We expect the Spirit will move us in appropriate ways, maybe... IF we have to move at all. We expect that if we lead reasonably good lives, believe in Jesus, and go to church one hour a week that at the end of our days treading this mortal coil, we'll go to heaven. We expect that. Probably more people expect that than are willing to admit it. Some maybe without even fullfilling the "minimum requirements" listed above.

What does God expect of us? Does God expect us to treat each other respectfully and with lovingkindness? Does God expect us to be helpful, obedient, courteous, cheerful and reverent? Like a Scout Law for Christians? (for those of you who want a review: A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.) The greatest commandment was to "Love one another as I have loved you". That's a pretty clear expectation. Not without it's challenges. On difficult days, or in trying circumstances it can be tantamount to herding cats. We have been given the ultimate in unconditional love, really. What can we do to reciprocate that? I think that in offering ourselves cheerfully (remember, I said it was NOT without it's challenges) to each other, to tasks that must be done, to acts of beauty and kindness, often where they feel undeserved, we can begin to show God that we understand and accept the expectations of us. WAIT! I think there IS a Scout Law for Christians... the Fruits of the Holy Spirit But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. How many of those have we each practiced today? If you'd like a comparison to something else maybe you've been doing instead, check out Galatians 5:19-23.

Perhaps it is even more challenging to "do unto others as you'd have done to you." Because we often stop at "Do unto others", or we confuse the language and read "Do unto others as YOU'VE HAD DONE to you". Someone cut me off in traffic? Fine! I'll show them! Someone is yelling at me? Yep, I'm gonna yell right back. I will show my affrontedness by affronting others. I will express my distaste by being distasteful. I will bomb you for bombing me. Spank you for hitting. Bite you back, or even backbite you. Quickly we're sucked into a dark downward spiral. We find that most of this behaviour only makes us feel better for about 30 seconds after the moment has passed. Then we stew, and fret, feel alone, maybe even get depressed, and we don't really even know why. We are not only isolating ourselves and distancing ourselves from the love of others, but from the love of God. Discord, afterall, is from the Latin dis- meaning asunder or away, and cord, which comes from the word for heart. Away from the heart. Away from Love. Away from God. Every time we are participating in discord, we are moving away from God. That's pretty powerful. Not what you were expecting today? Let's change our expecations to ones of accord. (That's TOWARDS the heart, for you Latin scholars). Let's EXPECT, in this season of Advent to move TOWARDS the heart, foward to Love, closer to God. While we're busy expecting Jesus, let's all cheerfully, joyfully remember what's expected of us.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Hold on, I'm about to be sincere

I think in all of my involvement in my relatively short time at NEUCC, today was the pinnacle of my enjoyment in a specific activity. We celebrated our denomination's 50th anniversary, and I was a part of the music. As the person who started the ball rolling on these "Alternative Sundays," I'm blessed with three very talented women that have chosen to join me in the music. I may have nudged this band into being in the beginning (only be announcing my intention), but it's certainly become a very collaborative process complete with meaningful friendships forming in the process. That and they all sound awesome. Kudos to my wife and friends: Jennifer, Holly, and Mary.

Holly and Melissa did a wonderful job writing the service. Much is made of the UCC's stand for social justice. These women beautifully tied this continuing struggle to our faith, to our congregation, and to our long history. It was meaningful and relevant. Nice work!

In the midwest (and in Newfoundland I'm starting to learn), it's not the custom to step back and admire your work--let along give yourself the smallest of pats on the back. We mainly try to keep our heads down and acknowledge those that came before and those that struggled along with us. Yet there are times when taking that step back is beneficial. There are times when it's necessary to look at your work and see how it stacks up and fits in with the rest of the world. Sometimes during that stretch when you're keeping your head down and tending to your business, you start to forget why you're tending to that business in the first place. You forget how initially important that task or activity was because it was your way of sharing the best parts of You with that which is Everyone Else.

A funny thing happens when you glimpse "the whole" unexpectedly. You're startled because not only are you seeing that wholeness, but you're also hit with the realization that you're standing in it. Standing in it like a river that runs up to your knees and all that's come before washes over and around you and you see that you do fit in because the water makes room. All that will ever come will eventually wash over you and around you as well.

We really don't need to ask one another to gather at the river. We've just needed to look up, wipe our brow, and see that we're already knee-deep.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Stewardship and Christmas

I'm interested in knowing people's opinions on Christmas lights. Knowing that we are in an energy crisis where even the smallest changes can and will have a major impact on our planets future, how can we justify lights for a holiday. What happened to burning candles and using things like garland, wreaths, ribbons, and bows to decorate?

Let's look at this:

It says that the avg person uses about 4.4 KWH (I'll use 4 KWH for my calculations) of energy on their light display and that amounts to about $13 per month (I'll assume $10 just to lower the number a bit). The current population being 301,139,947 according to google at the time of writing, and an avg household size of 2.6 ( info here).
Using that there should be roughly 115,823,056 households. We'll assume that everyone only runs it for the month of December, which we know is not true. We'll even assume that 2/3 of these households can't or won't run light displays. That leaves us with 38,221,608 households running light displays for 1 month at 4 KWH giving us a total of 152,886,433.92 KWH of power used for Christmas light displays and a rough cost of ($10 * # of households) $382,216,080. And that's using energy cost figures from last year, and we all know that energy prices keep going up. Just think what a difference could be made if everyone agreed to shut off their Christmas lights for a year and donated their $10 (or $13) to a good cause. Imagine the decrease in the carbon foot print and the increase in the longevity of our planet.

I'd be interested in seeing how the math would work out for the new LED display lights. Perhaps we could even cut the costs in half with LEDs and people could still have a serious impact with $191 million. Even if half of those people didn't want to donate their savings it'd still be 95.5 million dollars!

Okay, I'm reasonably sure I've convinced at least myself of the benefits of not running a light display so that's enough math on this topic for today. Now, I'm asking you to consider this and think seriously about not plugging the lights in and seeing what kind of a difference you can make.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A little 'thought for the day'

Life has peaks AND valleys. If it weren't for the ups and downs, it would just be one long, flat road, and what fun is that?