Monday, November 29, 2010

Happy New Year, Church!

Happy new year, church! No! I realize it is not January 1st ... that's the secular new year. However, the church new year actually started yesterday with the first Sunday in Advent. It's a little confusing, I know. I've always though it would be much easier to make the two new year's coincide? It's VERY confusing, to me, actually. I've struggled with this since seminary, where I learned that the oldest celebration of New Year's was actually in Babylon around 4000 years ago! If I recall correctly, the Babylonian year actually began with the first full moon after the Equinox (first day of Spring) or sometime in March. And, that makes sense to me! Right? Spring = new beginnings/fresh growth, afterall!

This tradition of celebration a new year continued into the Roman Empire. But somewhere along the line, the Romans decided it would be better to syncronize the calendar with the sun and various emporers began changing dates around. This tampering continued until sometme around 45BC or 50BC, when Julius Caesar established the "Julian calendar." Caesar moved the new year date back to January 1st, where it remains today. He actually did this to honor Janus, the two-faced god who looked backwards into the old year and forwards into the new. As Christianity spread, often Christians and, especially, the Catholic church were hesitant (and even at times forbidden) to celebrate new year's because they thought it to be a pagan tradiaiton.

So, clearly, the liturgical (church) year and the calendar (world) year don't quite match up in thier cylce. The bottom line is they don't match up because the purpose of the Liturgical Year Calendar is not to mark the passage of time as is the purpose of the calendar. The liturgical / church calendar is meant to enable us Christians to celebrate and understand more fully the entire mystery of Jesus Christ, from His incarnation and birth until His ascension, and the expectation of his return in glory.

So really, this beginning of the liturgical calendar is very important! My favoirite liturgical calendar seasons are Advent and Lent!

Advent is the special 4 weeks just before Christmas. The purpose of Advent is is to prepare ourselves for the celebration of Jesus' birth. I don't know about you but I find it awfully hard, sometimes, to remember the real reason for the season! The world's view of Christmas is certainly different from the church's! That's why we had our Advent Adventure yesterday afternoon ... to help us understand Advent and get ready for Christmas! I'm so thankful for those who helped get ready and plan the event, for those who donated items, and for those who coordinated the stations/activiites. It was attended by many church members, youth, and children and we had a great time beginning to prepare our hearts for Christmas.

There are many other events happening during Advent to help us prepare for Christmas. I hope you and your families will come and be a part of some of these great events:

*The Purpose of Christmas Bible study (by Rick Warren)- this one is mostly for adults but senior high youth are also welcome! The group will meet on Wednesday nights from 6:30pm-7:30pm in the cathedral room.

*Advent worship services - meet Pastor Tim each Sunday in Advent at 6:30pm for inspiring worship

*Christmas Cantata - Sunday, December 5th. Music starts at 10:15am.

*Senior high youth group going to see "This Man Called Jesus" at Lake Murray Baptist church this Sunday, December 5th. Meet after the Cantata in the narthex. Bring $ for lunch!

*Children/youth Christmas play - 6:00pm on Sunday, December 12th. We'll be practicing on Sudnays and Wednesdays! Come be in it!! There are a few speaking parts left.

*Walk of the Maji Experience - for mid and senior high students on Wednesday, December 15th (6:30pm-7:30pm)

*Youth Christmas Party, Caroling, and Progressive Dinner - Sunday, December 19th for mid and senior highs!

I love this time of year. Always have, always will. Thanks for sharing in it and preparing for Christmas with me!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Attack of the Lizards!

It’s Thanksgiving week! I’d planned to share in this week’s devotion around the topic of thankfulness. And, I am thankful, now more than ever, for A LOT of things - like my relationship with God, my son, my family, the students and youth leaders with whom I get to share in ministry, my church, my health (after being so sick last week and a scare of a staph infection with Blaine this week), new friendships, and so much more. But, over the past five days, I’ve been attacked by lizards! So, that is what I am sharing about on this Thanksgiving week. Read on ….

I don’t really like lizards. Even when I was a little girl, I just wasn’t interested, like some of my friends, in the game of trying to pull the lizard’s tail off. When I see a lizard, quite frankly, it frightens me/gives me the hebejebees and I just want to remove myself from its presence. I don’t know why this is. I know in my head (and from my bachelor’s degree in Biology) that lizards are relatively harmless; at least here in South Carolina. But I just don’t like lizards (or mice or squirrels or …. well … any rodents)

So, you can imagine my dismay when (lizard number one and I) faced off early last week in my kitchen. Let’s call him Charley. So, when I saw Charley, every fiber in my body tensed up and I found myself praying that he go out the door and not up the stairs or anywhere else in the house. I stood paralyzed …. what to do? I got the bright idea to slowly move past Charley toward the laundry room, get the fly swatter, and get him outside. He climbed right on and I thought I was home free. But then, something spooked him and he jumped. Fearing he was going to jump on me, I screamed and dropped the fly swatter and ran. Once I gained my composure, I managed to get him back on the fly swatter, out the door, and I chunked him over the fence (sorry little guy). Done.

Not done.

The next day, there was a second lizard in the kitchen. Let’s call this one Bob. Bob’s tail had been ripped off and was just beginning to regenerate; so I felt a little sorry for him. Consequently, I saved him from certain death / attack of my dog and went for the fly swatter again. He hopped right on and out the door I sent him. But, before I could chunk him over the fence to be his buddy (Charley), he jumped off the fly swatter and scrambled under the back deck . Done?


Yesterday afternoon I was doing some work in the office before senior high youth group. I was making copies and gathering supplies for different events this week. Busy and then boom! There he sat, startling me, on top of the computer monitor in the front office. About that time, several of the senior highs arrived and they scooped him up (yes, in their hands) and placed him out in the grass beside the office. I’ll affectionately remember this lizard as Gus. Done?

Round four.

Meet Michelle. I met her, this morning, as I walked in to my kitchen. Again, catching me off guard, this lizard was on the baby gate that I use to block off the laundry room. I went to move the baby gate and hello …. paralyzed, again, I went for the fly swatter. But Michelle, had other plans. She was a fighter! She wasn’t having anything to do with the fly swatter and being moved out of my house, back to her natural habitat. I tried and I tried but Michelle kept jumping and running and moving to new parts of the baby gate. Finally, I took a deep breath and picked up the baby gate and slowly moved it outside. As soon as I laid the gate down, off Michelle jumped and scurried under the back deck.

I wondered what is going on. Why are there are there so many lizards out of their natural habitat? Is it birthing time for lizards or something? So, I googled “why are there lizards in my house” and “lizards in South Carolina” and “lizards.” And, I learned some things I didn’t know and one thing in particular that can relate to our Christian lives.

Apparently, the lizards are coming inside because it is getting colder outside. I’ve never had a lizard issue in my house before, so I’m not completely sure I buy this as the only reason. Nonetheless, Charley, Bob, Gus, and Michelle came inside seeking comfort (warmth and food). This is much like our relationship with God, right? We come to the Holy One in search of comfort, love, and peace. For example, when times get hard (i.e. cold weather for the lizard), we tend to move closer to God in prayer. The challenge is to remember God's presence in our lives more than during just the rough times; to be caught off guard by the movement of God in our lives, daily!

Another interesting fact about the lizard has to do with their tails. A lizard’s tail helps it in balance and movement. As I could tell from my struggles with Gus (balancing on top of the computer monitor) and Michelle (moving quickly through the tines of the baby gate), balance is very important for a lizard when trying to escape and “enemy.” Further, the tail of a lizard is where fat is stored and thus energy comes from when needed. So, losing a tail could become a real problem for a lizard.

Finally, a most interesting surprise about the lizard’s tail! When it is bumped or pulled off by the “enemy,” it will wriggle around, confusing the “enemy,” and the lizard can get away safely. And, most lizards can regenerate their tails. I think this is a great lesson for us to take in relation to our Christian journey and the enemy (a.k.a. Satan/sin). When we are faced with “attack,” God equips us and gives us the tools for a great escape! As long as we are active in claiming our relationship with God for ourselves, God will “regenerate” our abilities to escape the enemy.

I don’t like lizards. But, I am thankful for Charley, Bob, Gus, and Michelle (the lizards I have encountered this week) and the theological example that lizards bring to the table this Thanksgiving. Pun intended!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Zion Students This Week | 11.08.10

The Test

This past Wednesday and Sunday, we focused on stewardship at mid and senior high youth groups. As a part of our study of using our time, talents, and gifts, our 6th-12th grade students were given the opportunity to take a spiritual gifts inventory. The goal was that this “test” will help them understand some of the talents they have and the ways they can share some of their talents with Zion Lutheran Church. If you didn’t get to take the inventory, you can access it here to either take it online or print it out and take it:

Despite its length (it’s hard to focus for that many questions), I really do like this inventory and the resources that go with it! It offers a perspective on one’s spiritual and relational talents. That same site offers a resource in the youth category called “Using Your Gifts.” Once the inventory is taken, this sheet tells a little more about how one can use their spiritual and relational strengths.

Some of the Zion youth who took this “test” shared their results with me. Knowing what I know about several of these students (and teens in general), I expected our students to receive high scores and to be talented in areas of gifts like music, leadership, and even service. However, there seems to be a common theme from the results of many of the Zion teens who took the inventory. Many of them scored high in the categories of relational gifts over spiritual gifts. In particular in that relational category, many of the youth have their top gifts in listening and intergenerational openness.

For me, this speaks volumes, especially in the area of intergenerational openness. In my master’s degree work, I studied lot about adolescent growth and development, in addition to faith development of teens. Adolescence is a time of rapid physical, intellectual, social, and emotional growth. And, as most of us could probably guess, a typical characteristic of teenage development is discovering their self identity and expressing that identity to others. Often, this leads to a “breaking away” from parents and various expressions of asserting independence. While often times this is trying on families and parents, this is actually a very healthy and normal teenage experience.

From time to time, as their youth minister, youth share things with me that they don’t feel comfortable sharing with their parents. For this very reason, having an adult role model, that is trustworthy, is so important for teenagers. And barring any harm from what they share may cause to themselves or another, a smart youth minister would not break the confidence of a teenager. On the other hand, not every teenager will connect with their youth minister. I’ve not met a youth minister, yet, who had a daily/weekly, strong, personal, wonderful connection with every youth on their church’s roster. It’s just not possible.

Can they be cordial and friendly? Sure! But this is part of the key to having adult church members serve as volunteers in a church’s youth ministry. While I (the youth minister) may not have an instant connection with every youth in the church, I bet I can find an adult in our church who does! That is a fascinating part of ministry for me! In the past 9 years of doing youth ministry, I have loved promoting and seeing the relationships formed between youth and youth ministry volunteers. I have loved (and do love) the connections I have made. It is truly a visual representation of the vows we (as a church) say when we baptize our children … that we are going to love and support them (and their parents) as they grow up in the Christian faith.

I am so thankful for the volunteers at Zion who have stepped forward to be in relationship with our youth – those who help with youth group, teach Sunday school, go on trips, cook meals with or for our students, and so much more! The good news is, according to the gifts and talents of our youth, Zion students are very open to this intergenerational connection. What an exciting place and situation to share in ministry!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I have heard it said, over and over that our youth of today are the future of our church. I’m not sure that I agree with statement, whole-heartedly. Yes, it is a fact that some today’s youth will grow up, go off to college, come back, get married, have children, and will be the adults of tomorrow’s church. And, I’d like to think that we’re instilling the priority to our youth that even if they don’t come back to Zion Lutheran Church they would be a part an active part of some Christian church, somewhere. But, I think there is more to it ... I think our youth are not only the church of TOMORROW but they should be, in fact, known as the church of TODAY.

I mean, just think about some of the leaders in the Bible who were young. They actually teach some really good lessons. Here are three examples:

First, there was David. Come on, he killed an intimidating, skilled, giant of a man. You’ll remember that young David, not even old enough to be in the army, came to the “front lines” (at the request of his father) to bring some food to his brothers and check on them. When David got there, he simply looked at the problem (of the Philistine army / Goliath), faced his own limitations, prayed to God for help, and defeated Goliath. The lesson? “Young” David despite his age and lack of experience figured out how to use the skills he did have! After all, he was a shepherd-boy and he defended his sheep all the time against wild animals. David’s gifts? A cool head and an inventive brain. Don’t those same characteristics apply to some of the youth of today?

Then there’s Mary. Young, pregnant, Mary, the mother of Jesus. Can you imagine being young and in a situation not well accepted by society? Don’t get me wrong, I am not comparing, judging, or suggesting any of our youth should willingly get themselves into situations not accepted by society. However, I am suggesting “young” Mary’s actions in the situation were heroic. When Mary found herself and her family in a stressful and unfortunate (by societal standards) situation, she was able to accept that God had a plan for her even though she couldn’t understand it. And, I think there is a lesson we can take from Mary when she found herself in this troublesome situation. Mary connected with a mentor, Elizabeth. Mary sought her mentor’s guidance, thoughts, and support. On the other hand, Elizabeth listened and learned a lot from Mary; and Mary was, in turn, a support to Elizabeth.

And, what about Timothy? Timothy has been a traveling companion of Paul. The influence that he had over the early Christian church became extra-ordinary. But, Timothy, was very young for a church leader; we know this because Paul tells him “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for other believers!” (1 Tim 4:12). In the two letters sent to Timothy by Paul, Timothy appears as timid, perhaps because of his relative youth. On the other hand, it is believed that Timothy became the first bishop of Ephesus, and that he was martyred there in 97 AD. The lesson? We can’t lead people where we ourselves have never been. Paul taught that to Timothy. So how can we expect our youth to lead the church tomorrow, if we don’t TEACH them and INCLUDE them and TRUST them in the decision making processes of today?

There are modern day examples, too! These are examples of “young” leaders from our congregation who are, truly, setting the example from 1 Timothy 4:12 (please note: there are many I could share; I’ve limited myself to 3 examples but I am proud of all of my students).

Take Christian, an 11th grader. He and some of his friends dressed up and went trick or treating last night! According to Christian’s mom, Christian and his friends ran into another mom who started interrogating them, thinking they may be the older kids who snatched her 11 year old son's candy and ran with it. After talking to Christian and his friends, this mom realized it was not them. Here’s the extra-ordinary part of the story. After this conversation, Christian and his friends filled a bag with all of the candy they had collected and took it over to the little boy’s house. Nope, it’s not saving the world. But, they did “save” that little boy’s world and probably sparked a Halloween memory for that little boy that he will not soon forget and may one day share with his children.

Don't forget, Kara, a 12th grader. She was very frustrated and offended by some bullying that was going on in one of her classes at school. Several times, Kara “stood up” to the bullies in the class and asked them to stop picking on another student. Kara was able to be proactive in the situation and help stop the negative behavior that was hurting another student. Nope, she didn’t save the school from a terrorist or anything, but she did stop one student from being terrorized and isn’t worried about what those bullies think about her for standing up to them.

What about Jordan, a 10th grader. Jordan has been a part of Zion for over 10 years and is in her second year of serving on our student leadership team. Jordan is running for church council this year. Jordan is a great example of perseverance, for me, because she has acknowledged the fact that because of her (and the youth of Zion’s) age, teenagers are often looked down upon or not taken seriously. Jordan KNOWS and MAINTAINS and is EXCITED that the youth of our church could have a voice on church council. Jordan and the youth are excited for an opportunity for the youth to step up and become a part of the Zion decision making process.

Considering these past and modern day examples, it seems that teenagers are actively engaged in being the church of today, not just tomorrow. I am very proud of the students with whom I share in ministry and I am excited that, together, we will grow and make a difference in the world!