Miraculous Endurance

Posted in Uncategorized on December 8, 2014 by yhcreligiouslife

As we enter another exam season, with senses, stamina, attention, and brain-cells pressed to their very limits, I am reminded that this season of the year is filled with memories of persevering endurance.  Press forward into the headwinds of time, assignments, responsibilities, notes, labs, papers, and exams for just a few more days.candle at end

In the midst of it all, peace!

“Eight Days”

Eight days the light continued on its own:

A miracle, they say, but not more so

Than ordinary lives of flesh and bone,

Consuming wicks burned ashen long ago.

Within there is a mystic lake of fire,

Fuelless energy, power uncelled,

Unmeasured fount of obstinate desire,

Hope burning, where no hope was ever held.

Invisible source of all that’s seen or seeing,

Unseen light that animates the void;

Unlit spark of indivisible Being,

Shard of One that cannot be destroyed:

To be so vast a miracle till death

Is why we struggle fiercely for each breath.

–Unknown

Waking Up to a Bucket of Water on your Head by Emily Halstead

Posted in Uncategorized on December 1, 2014 by yhcreligiouslife

“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.’” -Mark 13:33

water_waker

Advent has begun, and so has the final countdown to the end of the semester. The season of Advent—much like that of these last days preceding final exams—is one of preparation. So if you’re still pressing Snooze, hoping to push off the preparation just a little bit longer, now is a good time to consider waking up.

Let’s first consider what the end of the semester holds for most at YHC: some of us are preparing for cumulative tests, some are preparing for presentations or to submit projects, and some are even preparing to graduate and enter a new phase of life. That preparation does not come without its fair share of stress. You may find yourself making sacrifices in order to prepare properly for what is ahead. You may be giving up time with friends or time watching Elf (and eating candy, candy canes, candy corn, & syrup), or you may be giving up a trip to the movies to see Mockingjay: Part I because you need to have just one. more. cram session before the exam. You may even find yourself fighting off sleep and drinking a Monster, knowing that if you let yourself doze off you could end up completely missing that big final presentation or deadline. Trust me—I know that pain.  There is stress involved. But the work you put into that preparation and the sacrifices you make in order to be ready—those are choices. Those choices are conscious decisions that you make for yourself because you recognize the payoff that comes from adequate preparation. And when you finally hit that finish line of the big test or preparation or essay submission, you know how joyous it can feel to finally reach that moment you had anticipated for so long.

Now let’s jump back to Advent.

This season of preparation is one which many Christians observe in anticipation of the birth of Christ on Christmas day.  This opportunity for preparation looks very different for different people: some take the time for service to others, some may donate money to those in need, some may go to Confession, some take more time to pray, some may visit church more often, or any number of other responses to God’s call to prepare for Jesus.  Just as preparation for a final exam requires making some sacrifices—at times even accompanied by stress—in order to reach the final joy, preparation for Christmas also requires a conscious decision to give up things that we don’t need in order to prepare for what it is we DO need. How is God calling you to prepare your heart for that which you need, and that which He offers?

We are given a clear charge from Jesus at the beginning of Advent: be watchful, and be alert.

Consider this iChapel your Monster energy drink, or perhaps a bucket of water being dropped on your head.  There are wonderful, joyous occasions ahead (i.e. the end of final exams, and Christmas), and they will be all the sweeter if you are awake and prepared for them.

A Pause for Thanks

Posted in Uncategorized on November 24, 2014 by yhcreligiouslife

For the Fruit oPeanuts Thanksgivingf All Creation

by Fred Pratt Green

 

For the fruit of all creation,

thanks be to God.

gifts bestowed on every nation,

thanks be to God.

For the plowing, sowing, reaping,

silent growth while we are sleeping,

future needs in earth’s safekeeping,

thanks be to God.

 

In the just reward of labor,

God’s will is done.

In the help we give our neighbor,

God’s will is done.

In our worldwide task of caring

for the hungry and despairing,

in the harvests we are sharing,

God’s will is done.

 

For the harvests of the Spirit,

thanks be to God.

For the good we all inherit,

thanks be to God.

For the wonders that astound us,

for the truths that still confound us,

most of all that love has found us,

thanks be to God.

 

Have a wonderful, blessed, and safe Thanksgiving. 

 

Peace,

 

Tim

What’s the Point? By Lauren Neal

Posted in Uncategorized on November 17, 2014 by yhcreligiouslife

By this timPresent watche in the semester, just about everyone is ready to be done.  Thanksgiving is next week.  When we come back, it’s finals, and then we will be done.  It’s easy to lose sight of the present in anticipation of the future and the long break that awaits us.  One of the consequences of such anticipation is that it tends to diminish the value of the present.  You’re probably working on papers, final projects.  And, if you’re particularly ambitious, you might even be preparing for your finals already.  I know you’re tired.  It’s hard to do your best when you’re tired.  And, let’s be honest, it’s hard to care.

So you may be asking yourself, “What’s the point?”  I’ve heard such sentiment from many students who are questioning their majors, who are unsure about their futures, and who are just plain tired.  These kinds of thoughts cause a lot of stress, and this is time in the semester when the last thing you need is more stress.  But it’s hard to control such thoughts.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul talks about self-discipline.  There, he says:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, NRSV)

You’re in college for a reason, so ask yourself a couple questions: What is the prize; what are you hoping to achieve by being here; and are you working with that goal in mind?  Not everyone in college knows what they will be doing five years hence.  In fact, I would wager that none of you can be certain.  Even having plans doesn’t mean that that is the way your future will unfold.  And sometimes, it takes many missteps to find the right path.

So what is the appropriate goal?  You don’t want to run aimlessly through college; you want to be able to anticipate the prize and to work towards it.  But to label your goal as a job is to diminish your current experience.  College is more than a means to an end, it’s a place to grow and to become a well-rounded and educated adult.  Looking at Paul’s words, we can see this same idea.  Are you working for a perishable wreath or an imperishable one?  A job will never last.  You could be fired, downsized, or replaced by futuristic machines that can do the work of 20 people.  You could become unable to work through accident or illness; and eventually, you will probably retire and find yourself seeking new meaning in your life.  Your future career, as fulfilling as it may be, is a perishable wreath.

The imperishable wreath, however, is the one that will always be with you.  Paul is talking specifically about faith and the personal attitudes which faith requires: such as self-discipline.  I’m talking about faith as well, but I’m also talking about who you are.  What defines you?  What kind of person do you want to be?  You’ve probably heard that college is the time to ‘find yourself,’ but I disagree.  College is the time to define yourself.  Finding yourself is too passive.  It assumes that we have no say in who we are, but we do.  You can be the person that you want to be; it just takes a little work.  So when faced with the challenges of school and life, don’t think: How will this impact my future? Think: What kind of person do I want to be? And, work as if you were already there.

The River of Life

Posted in Uncategorized on November 10, 2014 by yhcreligiouslife

River of lifeThen the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

—Revelation 22: 1-2

A “mission” is a journey with a specific destination or destiny in mind, “a sending or being sent for some duty or purpose.”  This differs from an “adventure,” as an adventure has not specific destination or purpose.  While both journeys, the differences between the two types are patent.

Here, I want to examine the purpose for our journeys, particularly our lives’ journeys.   If not staring us directly in the face, the question for purpose seems always lingering somewhere in our peripheral vision.  Why are we here?  What are we to do?  What constitutes the good life, the holy life, a well lived life?  Questions simple to ask yet profound in their asking.

In his text The Reinvention of Work, Matthew Fox examines some of these questions.  One direction he takes the reader is first to risk the journey into nothingness and uncertainty, to experience the vastness of the universe found both within and without.  Similar to the sensation felt while standing at the ocean’s edge watching a violent sea, this embracing of mystery “puts us in our place,” as it were, reminding us both of our significance and insignificance simultaneously.  We must explore the nothingness because in the nothingness we might find the mystery that is God, our purpose, and ourselves.  He quotes the Sufi poet Rumi to link his notion of emptiness with purpose.  Rumi writes,

I have said before that every craftsman

searches for what’s not there

to practice his craft.

A builder looks for the rotten hole

where the roof caved in.  A water-carrier

picks the empty pot.  A carpenter

stops at the house with no door.

Workers rush toward some hint

of emptiness, which they then

start to fill.  Their hope, though,

is for emptiness, so don’t think

you must avoid it.  It contains

what you need!

Dear soul, if you were not friends

with the vast nothing inside,

why would you always be casting your net

into it, and waiting so patiently?

This invisible ocean has given you such abundance,

but still you call it “death,”

that which provides you sustenance and work.

As the repeatedly-present river of life that begins and ends the narrative of the bible suggests, our life’s purpose is somehow defined by a water’s edge.  Join us this week as we (re)consider our purposeful work in this life and world.

Have a wonderful week.  See you along the way!

A Pause by the Water’s Edge

Posted in Uncategorized on November 3, 2014 by yhcreligiouslife

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing water's edgecame into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

—John 1:1-5

This week, we are taking a slight, darker turn as we pause from our weekly reflections on water, shifting our semester’s journey back an hour and brushing up against the dim edges of Halloween.  Halloween has a deep connection to the life of faith, marking a place in the calendar where joy and sadness, past and present converge because Halloween is that fete of the church were the darkness of death gives way to the celebration of life.  The turning of the calendar’s page reinforces this spiritual conviction as October’s Halloween’s is superseded by November’s All Saints Day.

All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows, is when the church commemorates all saints, known and unknown. The eve of All Saints’ is known as All Hallows Eve or Halloween.  Each year, All Saints’ Day falls on November 1.  Much like the American holidays of Veterans Day and Presidents Day, on All Saints’ Day we remember many people.  It is a day set aside to remember all those “saints” of the faith who have died.  On All Saints ’ Day, we specifically name those individuals we know and love who have died since our last All Saints’ Day celebrations.  See you in worship on Wednesday as we mark our own All Saints’ celebration, remembering those from our college family who died last year.

In the meantime, here is some background on All Saints’ that I discovered.  Enjoy. 

Christians have been honoring their saints and martyrs since at least the second century C.E.  The Martyrdom of Polycarp, probably written near the middle of the second century, attests to this practice.  The ancient book reads:

Accordingly, we afterwards took up his bones, more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more pure than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, so that when being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course, and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps (18).

Initially the calendars of saints and martyrs varied from location to location and, often, local churches honored local saints. However, gradually celebration days became universal. The first reference to a general celebration for all the saints occurs in 373 C.E.  Early on, John Chrysostom assigned a day for the dead to the first Sunday after Pentecost.  The eastern churches still celebrate All Saints’ on that day. In the West, this date was probably originally used, and then the feast was moved to May 13. The current observance of November 1 probably originates from the time of Pope Gregory III and was likely first observed in Germany.  Following the Reformation, in most western Christian traditions, the celebration of All Saints’ Day expanded to include commemorations of all who had died in a given year, mirroring the early church practice of attributing sainthood to all Christians in a community.  

The vigil of the feast (i.e., the celebration or watch-service on the “eve” before a holiday) has become its own festival.  Many customs of Halloween reflect the Christian belief that on the feast’s vigil the church mocks evil because for the church the night serves as a living confession that evil and death have no real, ultimate power over us.

As a result, various customs have developed related to Halloween.  For instance, in the Middle Ages, poor people in the community begged for “soul cakes,” and upon receiving these sweet pastries, they would agree to pray for departed souls. This is the root of our modern day “trick-or-treat.” Similarly, the custom of wearing masks and costumes developed to mock evil and to confuse the evil spirits.  In addition, on All Hallows Eve, it was customary for Christians to visit cemeteries to commemorate departed relatives and friends with picnics and the last flowers of the year. 

 

 

Open My Eyes by Lauren Neal

Posted in Uncategorized on October 28, 2014 by yhcreligiouslife

open eyesAfter some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Come, let us return and visit the believers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.’ Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul decided not to take with them one who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not accompanied them in the work. The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and set out, the believers commending him to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

—Acts 15:36-41

In 1895, shortly before her tragic death caused by a runaway horse and buggy, Clara Scott wrote the words:

Silently now I wait for thee,

ready, my God, thy will to see.

Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!

The hymn is called “Open My Eyes, That I May See,” and this morning, almost 120 years later, I awoke with this song in my head.  I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that God works in mysterious ways, and that’s certainly true.  But, sometimes God also works in ways so blatantly obvious that we would be daft to not see what God’s doing.  And yet, we often still miss it. 

Sometimes when God works in obvious ways, we’re thrilled and grateful.  When a loved one is sick, we pray for health, and they recover, we praise God for his miracle.  But what about when God works in ways that aren’t so “good,” at least from our perspective?  What about when the healing we pray for comes through death?  What about when we pray for a relationship only to see it end?  Is God still working?  Of course he is, but sometimes we just don’t see what God sees. 

In Acts 15:36-41, Paul and Barnabas have a disagreement, and they part ways.  By going in separate directions, they are able exponentially to multiply the effectiveness of their ministry, but the way it happened was likely painful for all involved.  Why didn’t God just convince them to go their separate ways amicably?  It often seems that we have to do God’s will the hard way, but the point to remember is that regardless of how it is accomplished, God will get his way.

Clara Scott’s hymn reminds us that sometimes all we can really do is to wait for God and try to understand his will.  College is a time of a lot of uncertainty.  You’ll wonder if you’ve chosen the right major, the right school, whether you should even be in college at all, not to mention all of the increasingly complex relationships you are developing.  No one person has answers for you, but God does.  And sometimes our struggles are meant to be overcome, and sometimes they are God’s way of changing our direction.  Let your prayer be for God to open your eyes so that you may see and understand his will for your life.

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