Saturday, March 31, 2012

Longer Days

In my junior year of college I decided to fast on Wednesdays during Lent. I fasted from sun-up to sundown, which is a fairly wimpy fast, but I am a fairly wimpy faster. I hoped that over the course of Lent I would become better at the spiritual discipline of fasting, but as Lent dragged on I noticed that waiting until sunset to eat dinner seemed harder and harder each week. One Wednesday close to Easter I got really discouraged. Why wasn’t I getting better at fasting? Of course then it dawned on me of course it was harder to make it to sunset… the days were getting longer! Nature was upping the challenge on me.

Lenten commitments or sacrifices aren’t just supposed to make us “good at” spiritual disciplines; they also make us more humble and reliant on God. Nowadays I give up meat for Lent, and I am frequently reminded of my need for grace as I am (for example) biting into an Italian B.M.T. sandwich at Subway because I have once again forgotten that I’m not eating meat. But this is the good news of grace, right? Grace shows up most noticeably in the moments where we remember that we are only human.

For most of us, it does get increasingly difficult to make time for God as Lent progresses because life gets a lot more hectic as we move through spring and into summer. Here at Pecometh our busy season will hit right after Easter, with Volunteer Day and Pecometh Day, and all of the guest groups that come in at the end of the school year. Part of our Lenten challenge is paying attention to how God is present here and now as we look forward to (and prepare for) that busy season of ministry. For many of you the challenge is making time for God as your semester becomes more and more demanding, or as little league season gears up, or as the church calendar gets more and more full. (Let’s say a prayer for our pastors and church leaders heading into Holy Week!) Thank goodness God will show up in the midst of all that busy-ness, and we just need to slow down just a little and keep our eyes open.

Today I went down to Riverside to take a couple pictures of Spring springing at Pecometh. Grass is coming up and there are little green leaves on the new willow tree. I thought I’d share a picture with you. I hope the familiar sight reminds you of the ways that grace is springing up in your life.

Originally posted on the Pecometh Blog.

Re:Viewing Confirmation

Confirmation Sunday
If you did not grow up in the church (or maybe even if you did), “Confirmation” may seem like a strange name for a youth program. Who is doing the confirming when we talk about confirmation? Does God send down a sacred confirmation email saying, “Yup, this person has been baptized by water and the spirit.”? Or are we doing the confirming? Are we holding confirmation hearings where we vet our students to confirm that they are “ready” to join the church? Or are the students confirming that they have read the fine print and looked into their hearts, and they are ready to sign on the dotted line and “become a member”? Ideally, in confirmation we are all doing the confirming together. We support each confirmand (student in confirmation) in learning more about our faith tradition, reflecting on how God has been at work in his or her life, and deciding if she or he is ready to make a faith commitment.

If you went through Confirmation as a youth, what comes to mind about that process? I’ll admit, I hear plenty of people talk about how boring it was. And I’ll never forget the first day of confirmation class when I had to explain to a student that we were not talking about conforming them. Of course I also remember how empowering it was to me as a student, being asked to make my own decision and my own commitment to God and to the church. I know that many people share that experience. (And I’m actually really glad they made me memorize the Apostle’s Creed).

And if you’ve taught confirmation, you’re probably remembering the wonderful ways that you experienced God through and with youth… and you may also vaguely remember that feeling of “oh my gosh how am I supposed to fit all of this information into few enough classes that I can get all of the kids to come and also include some worship and service and missions and teach about the sacraments and grace and the trinity and have everyone sit still long enough and understand it all and not be too bored???” Or was that just me? When I was teaching confirmation it was sometimes challenging for me to let go of the logistics and content and really be present with my students and with God.

But I’ll confess that I love teaching confirmation. It is a chance for us to show young people the best of what God and the Church have to offer them. It is a season when we encourage our students to reflect on their own experiences of God, and we give them the tools to discern how God is inviting them to live out their faith. That’s why I am so excited to invite small confirmation classes to participate in the Re:View Confirmation Retreat in March. I know all of the prayer and planning that go into a confirmation process, and how it can be especially challenging for smaller churches. I hope that confirmation leaders will be blessed by the chance to leave the logistics to us so that they can spend the weekend focused on their confirmands. Together we will re:view some of the ways that God is at work in the world. We’re going to learn, climb, share, star-gaze, pray, hayride, shoot arrows, worship, listen, and lots more. And there will be Peeps Smores. Let me know if you’re interested in joining us!

This blog was originally published on the Pecometh Blog.  Next year's Re:View Confirmation Retreat is scheduled for March 8-10, 2013.  

Longing For Easter

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. – Psalm 51:10

I remember when I was little I spent all winter and spring yearning for the day when I could go barefoot in the yard. For some reason, I always looked forward to Easter as a time when it would be warm enough. (Being too stubborn to admit I was wrong, I have memories of hunting for Easter eggs with very cold feet.) For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the Christian calendar brings our spiritual lives into harmony with the rhythm of the seasons. During Lent, our growing anticipation for the light and warmth of spring reminds us of the longing we have for new life in Christ, and for the joy we share at Easter.

By February (my least favorite month) I am ready for a new season… but there are still at least another couple months of cold weather. At Pecometh winter guest groups come in to enjoy the peace and beauty here, but it’s very quiet. There are no campers or canoe programs or groups at the pool. The bustle and noise that most people associate with Camp is still a few months away. It’s time to start preparing for the busy season, but summer is still so far away. Even though many of us would like to fast-forward through this time of year, in Lent put the time to good use. We set aside 40 days to repent and reorder our spiritual lives. I’ve sometimes heard it described as spiritual spring-cleaning.

Come April, my life will be joyfully chaotic, so now is the time to spiritually prepare for all that ministry. In the coming weeks, some of our staff will be sharing Lenten reflections with you on the Pecometh blog as we move toward Easter – and prepare for another busy summer welcoming guests and campers! We invite you to join us in observing a holy Lent, and hope that you will share your reflections with us as well.

Originally Posted on the Pecometh Blog