Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Sermon from the 4th Sunday of Advent

December 24, 2017
Advent 4B

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26
Romans 16:25-27
Luke 1:26-38

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

Here we are the 4th week in Advent…which is also Christmas Eve, or Christmas Eve Eve….but you get the idea.   Our gospel lesson today is from Luke and the story we just heard would have technically taken place 9 months before the celebration of Christ’s birth.  This is the annunciation…when Mary learned from the Angel Gabriel that she would be the mother of the Son of God. 

The angel doesn’t come to Mary and say, how would you feel about being the mother to God’s son?  Would you be up for it?  Say Mary, here’s God’s amazing plan for saving the world, are you okay with playing a key role in it? 

Nope, the angel doesn’t really give her the option to answer….because God has called her.
God has chosen Mary.  There’s no opportunity to say no, because she’s the one. 

Mary does, however, ask, “How can this be?” 
She is human, of course and probably was wondering about the details…who wouldn’t? 

But this doesn’t deter her from saying yes. 
She is an amazing woman.  She hears God’s call in her life and she responds, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” 

In the midst of the season where we are preparing for God with us, Emmanuel, to be in our presence, in our hearts and in our world…sometimes this story seems like an amazing, one in a million occurrence of God calling one of God’s chosen to join in on the mission of saving the world.  And what makes this story amazing….is that Mary says yes.  She hears God’s call for her and she responds, positively. 

So, how does this story speak to us this day? 
God is breaking into our hearts every single day.  God is calling each and every one of us to be a part of this mission to love and save the world. 

We may not be called upon to physically give birth to the Son of God. 
But that does not belittle the fact that through our baptism, we have been called, by God, to live out lives of love and service to others, to bring Christ into the world. 

Mary was called to do a very tangible thing, to birth God’s love into the world, to proclaim that God’s promises are fulfilled.  Aren’t we asked to do the same? 

Meister Eckhart, a medieval mystic and theologian wrote, “We are all meant to be mothers of God.  What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself?  And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace and if I am not also full of grace?  What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to the Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and in my culture?  This, then is the fullness of time: When the Son of God is begotten in us.” 

God comes to each and every one of us, proclaiming good news of great joy to all people. 
We are each called and claimed and sent into this world to bear Christ to those around us. 

How will you bear Christ to the world this day? 
How are we to be mothers of God this day? 

A good friend of mine has been going through some struggles lately.  We’ll call her Jane. 
As a woman in her 40s, happily married and mother of 2 children and a member of just two churches her whole life, Jane found herself and family church shopping for Christmas Eve. 

This is what happened, after worship one Sunday, a woman approached her, in a large group and said that she was a terrible mother and her kids were horrible and everyone knew it and it needed to be said.    Jane was of course, upset and fired back at these women. 
Later, she spoke with the pastor who decided not to step in and address the conflict.  Hence, Jane does not feel that this is a place where she can bring her children or worship with a full heart. 

Last week, she and her husband received a gift subscription to Parents’ Magazine.  Weird, right?  How can this be? 

The reason I share this story is because my friend Jane is called to be the best mother she can be to her children and she is doing an amazing job. 

Just as Mary was called to be the best mother she would be to the Son of God. 

Mary responded with how can this be? 

My thought is that my friend Jane may ask herself this question from time to time….and my guess is that she is not the only mother, parent, teacher, mentor, pastor, youth worker to ask this question. 

Just as Mary wrestled with her call and responsibility, so do we.  When God calls us to task, calls upon us to be part of God’s mission in the world around us, we wrestle with this response and just may respond with, “How can this be?” 

As Meister Eckhart reminds us, we are all called to be mothers to God and as such, we are called to live into that role in our everyday lives. 

Katie Munnik reflects on the role of mothers in this way,

“Mothers teach their children how to live, and in turn are taught.  We become the mothers we are because of our kids’ personalities.  Christ’s own questions would shape Mary’s thinking heart.  Christ’s own love would give form to her loving.  Mary finds identity as mother in the identity of her son.  Questioning and offering obedient answers.
Constant to the end. 

As we continue to birth Christ into the world around us, we too, are changed in how we live and love.  Our questions and answers change as we grow in relationship with God and with one another. 

Our love of God and care of Christ in the world around us continues to change as we see and respond to Christ in our midst. 

We are called to be present as we bear Christ to the world. 
It means we will be both brave and vulnerable. 

Brave to share the light and love of Christ. 
And vulnerable to how the reflection of the light and love of Christ is received. 

As we prepare for the birth of the Christ child, I pray that we live with eyes open to see the presence of Christ in our lives today.  
Look for ways to care for others who bear Christ into the world.
Look for ways to nurture relationships with God and with one another. 

Seek ways to be bravely vulnerable while revealing the light and love of Christ in a world deeply in need of forgiveness, love and peace. 

May the peace, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen.   

Monday, December 25, 2017


Twas the morning of Christmas and all through the house,
a few creatures were stirring, but thankfully not one of them a mouse.  
The living room was strung with open boxes and paper, 
thinking the clean up would come sometime later.  
The opening of gifts happened very early this morning,
after much celebration in worship that began on Advent 4 morning.*

Yet before seeing the downstairs, something first had to be done.  
There was a trip to the scale, which always makes me worrisome.  
By a Festivus miracle, the numbers have gone down yet again, 
Which means today, there is room for celebration.  

Another week of solid workouts, eating well, and tracking it all,
Has made the scale numbers yet again fall.  
Now part of this decline, is due to some low hydration this Christmas Day.
Last night between multiple worship services, there needed to be more water breaks and less visits to the calf in the hay.**

In preparation for the celebration of Christmas,
I took time each day to complete the 12 Days of Fitness.  
From planks to wall squats, pushups and lunges,
My muscles have been transformed taking on shapes not found in sponges.  

I am continually thankful for the opportunities to try new things and to step outside my comfort zone.
But more thankful for the people who support me in all that I do, either in person, or through texts on my phone.  

And now with coffee in hand, I'll share my latest numbers from the scale,  

Hoping that with this post, others feel okay to share their tale.  

Be well, dear friends on this Christmas Day.
Take time to share love and light with family and friends, even if this isn't your holiday.  
Be yourself. Be brave. Be vulnerable. Be true.  
The world is much better, because of the presence of you.  

*I know it's weak, rhyming morning with morning...but hey, I have yet to finish the first cup of coffee.
**It's actually straw.

Monday, December 18, 2017


Here we are again, fresh off the scale.  

I'm learning more and more how important slow and steady is.  Another .2 pounds down.  I know it's a fraction of a pound, but it is making a difference.  

I have to say that this past week my body has begun to feel and look a little different.  I am beginning to see the weight loss in my face and around my obliques.  There is a little more room in my jeans and I'm feeling good about myself. (not that I wasn't before, but with results come encouragement and positive reinforcement.) 

This past week included beginning the 12 Days of Fitness - a butt-kicking 12 day full body workout.  Just like the song, the 12 Days of Christmas, each day you add something new.  

Today I will complete 7 stair climbers, 6 pushups, 5 star jumps, 4 burpees, 3 minute bridge, 2 mite wall squat and a 1 minute plank.  Good times, friends, good times.  

This has been a good new thing for me.  It pushes me outside of my comfort zone and is working muscles that I have not challenged for a while.  It's wild that in the last 3 days, I've already seen improvement in the wall squat.  And by improvement I mean that now my legs don't start shaking until some where in the middle of the second minute.  

The eye opener for me is that my upper body needs some attention.  As a solid cardio girl, I neglect core strengthening and upper body strength training.  That will be a goal for me in the new year.  I know, looking back, that I was running strong and fast when I was doing a combination of running, boot camp classes and yoga.  It's just a matter of working those different workouts into the weekly schedule.  

Food wise, I feel like eating healthier is becoming more habit.  Again, I miss some treats from time to time, but in the beginning I felt restricted, but now I focus on the good stuff I can eat.  It's happening...there is a transition.  It takes time.  I'm thankful that in the time it has taken thus far, that there has been a steady decline and I have good support at home and at work.  

Until the next post, be well, friends.  

Monday, December 11, 2017


The numbers continue to drop.  (She breathes a sigh of relief.)  

When this year began, I chose the word 'focus' as my one word.  That word took on different shapes throughout the year.   From family, to one aspect a day, to reading, to working out, and as the year is winding down, it's back to diet and exercise.  The positive outcome of focusing on diet and exercise is that it is making a difference.  Despite the time of year, the numbers on the scale continue to go down.  At this point, while I miss pizza and good crusty home baked bread with butter, I'm not sneaking off to get some everyday.  I am thinking that pizza may be my New Year's Day treat, though... But seriously, because I have been logging food and workouts, I'm more apt to think about what I'm eating and why.  I'm more apt to not snack on a cookie, but reach for an apple or a cheese stick or a hard boiled egg.  
So, it's working.  
The downfall, that I realized last night while sharing my highs and lows, is that this seems to take up lots of room in my head and my heart.  Yes, I know when you focus on something, it takes up more space in your day to day life, but I often wonder what else could or should be filling that space and time.  But the other positive is that I am able to share my journey and experiences with others, which I hope helps model a life (in progress, of course) with a healthy focus. 

The new recipe for the week came from the cookbook, Run Fast, Eat Slow, by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky.  There are so many tasty treats in here.  This week I made the fig & pig quiche.  

Also, I really like figs.  The quiche was super tasty and I even worked some whole wheat flour into the crust.  

We brought back zucchini lasagna this week....a new house favorite.  So many layers of cheese, veggies, meat and homemade sauce!  

In other news, I'm working on my word for 2018....with prayer, discernment and some reading, I think the word is coming into view.  Updates to come.  
My goal, weight-wise this week, is to maintain, not gain.  I have been thankful for the decrease in numbers each week, but never know what the week will bring especially with 3 work lunches this week.  

Have a great week.  Until the next post, be well.  

Monday, December 4, 2017


.2 pounds = my loss for each of the last two weeks
.2 pounds = feels like double digits when I think about his past week.  

This week was a tough one as I knew it would be.  This week included two trips to Hershey - one with lunch at Hotel Hershey and tasting some sweet desserts...

The next trip to Hershey was to tour and dine at Tröegs.  The food was delicious, as usual, but the brews...they seemed to taste better than normal - probably because I hadn't had a beer in several weeks.  What a nice treat!  

Saturday included back-to-back celebrations and gatherings.  From a 50th wedding anniversary celebration to an annual cookie swap.  Both events were filled with joy, smiles and of course tasty beverages and food.  
Here are the lemon rosemary shortbread I made for the swap:

Home on Sunday for lunch, Billy and I enjoyed home freshly cooked venison tenderloin with a side salad with homemade lemon vinaigrette.  (After using only zest in the cookies, we have many lemons in need of consumption.) 

With three days of feasting, I wasn't really sure how the overall week would turn out.  The other important addition to this past week where my daily trips to the gym.  I went 6 days in a row.  I stepped it up on the length of cardio and did 3 spin classes.  I know that the physical activity helped in a huge way.  I'm thankful for the change on the scale, no matter how slight.  

I'm ready for a run this morning and another week of regular workouts.  Strength training and perhaps a new class at the gym will also be part of this week's adventures.  

I'm thankful, yet again, that this is something Billy and I are pursuing together.  It would be much tougher on my own.  And thank you, for following along with words and prayers of support.  

Be well...