been talking about the way things change

Hebrew break time.
Thanks to those of you who put in input for my sermon last week…namely just the four of you.  If you feel so inclined to see what I came up with you can click HERE to find an audio of my sermon.  Don’t feel bad if you don’t want to, I’d understand.  I rarely want to listen to sermons online so you’ll get extra friend points if you do.
So, instead of writing out on here the things I preached on, instead I’m going to reflect on the process of sermonizing (a word I think I might have just made up although maybe not?)  So here goes some random thoughts on what this process looked like for me.
I picked the passage Isaiah 43:1-7.  Upon talking through some thoughts with my friend/Worship Arts Director at my church, Paul, I came up with a basic theme and direction for the sermon.  I basically was choosing to talk about what we should do when faced with adversity in this life.  Mostly the kind of adversity that we cannot control.  What do we do when life just sort of sucks?  (I said it a bit more eloquently on Sunday, don’t worry…I didn’t offend anyone). So I chose to look into these words that the Lord speaks to the people in Babylonian exile and see how they could speak into our lives.  Little did I know it was going to be intense. …. alright, so I did know.
I started looking through commentaries because I was really intrigued by this passage and to be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure how it lined up with the history I learned in OT.  So I searched.  I started to see how the words of the Lord would have applied to these people and realized an even deeper meaning than I had even imagined.
Isaiah begins and ends this particular passage recognizing God as the Creator.  The crux of the this passage is found in the middle where it says “Because you are precious in my eyes, and honoured, and I love you.”  The last thing that tugged on my heart was the use of the phrase – “you are redeemed.”
So let’s put those things together and think about this for a moment.  We are precious in the eyes of the Creator of the universe and because of that love, we are called redeemed.
Did you get that?  The same God that spoke the world into being LOVES us.  Not only that, but he calls us precious and redeems us.  The commentators point out that the form of the verb used for redeemed shows a complete action.  It’s already been done for us.
So when we face the flooding waters and the consuming fire of this life, we have the ability to draw into the embrace of the Father and hear these reassuring words.  Even though it seems like these raging rivers and fires are going to over take us because we don’t have the full picture.  Even though there is evil in this world that we can do nothing about…  God is God.  He is the creator of the universe and he chooses to love and protect us.
SO… from that reality we must live.  We must live into communities that support each other through the storm.  Because, friends, it’s not a matter of if the storm is going to come into your life, it’s a matter of when.  And when that storm comes, will you be completely dependent on God?  Completely dependent on those around you that also know God is good?
Because sometimes, instead of being dependent on God and our community, we become dependent on a life circumstance.  And when the bottom falls out of that, we are left in the shambles.  But if you’re dependent on God and those around you, at least you have people around to help you rebuild.
One year and five months ago, as part of a bible study exercise I identified the biggest fear I had at that time.  I had to fill in the blank of the statement. “If ______________ happens, then I’ll be wrecked.”  In that bible study I learned to replace that sentence with “if _________________happens, then there’s God.”   I didn’t learn it a moment too soon.  Then, two months later, my blank happened.  That thing I feared, that phone call I never wanted to come, that news that brought me to my knees.
But there was God.  and a community of believers that surrounded me and helped me to start rebuilding.
So, friends, a lot of these reflections happened post sermon, but the basics were there on Sunday and one really big thing I learned is that I really like preaching.   And while I was really nervous and I know that there were things I could have done better, overall the experience was really good.  Because God is good, and that’s all I have to say about that.

darkness is a harsh term, don't you think?

—and yet it dominates the things I see.
Did you know life’s not fair?  Did you know that sometimes bad things happen to good people?  I’m not talking about you spilled your latte on your white dress (although that does suck).  I’m talking about the unjust things that are a product of the fallen world.  I’m talking about the fact that things exist like cancer, racism, hate crimes, death in general, MS, poverty, sexism, rape, molestation … obviously the list goes on.  So in the midst of a world where you are constantly faced with the unfair systems of this world, how do you find the faith to keep walking?  How do you find the strength to get out of bed everyday and try and make a difference?
Now before you say to yourself, “wow, Alicia is really going through something” let me tell you that I’m preaching on this subject this Sunday.  But mostly I want to draw from my group of friends, fellow seminary students, former students, all those close to me:
What are the things that keep you going through the darkness?  What are the moments in life that allow you to “keep the faith”?
More to come on this topic as I continue to flush it out with the passage I’m preaching on.  I don’t want to jade any comments so please, comment away with whatever comes to mind.

like a deer in the headlights

   I spent this past week up in the glorious mountains at the 126th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church.  Oh yeah, and the Feast, which was also fun.  In case you don’t know, the Feast is an event for families, it happens every three years and consists of worship, family activities, learning experiences and time to refresh your soul.  The Annual Meeting is for church delegates and pastors to get together and do the business side of running a denomination.  There’s voting, ordaining, remembering, updating and lots and lots of corny jokes.
My role for the weekend was basically to do whatever the Events staff needed done.  It included checking people in, driving shuttles, picking up Starbucks VIA, ushering, greeting, moving boxes, and a variety of other jobs.  There was also worship and lots of fancy phrases like, “I move to resolve…” and “All in favor say ….”  But for me there were much more important moments.
I was looking forward to this time in Estes Park mostly because I was going to get the chance to hang out with some very good friends that I had missed during my first few weeks of summer.  However, I had no idea how much fun I would have and how renewed I would feel after this week (Or how tired I would be after helping with these events…seriously, so tired).
There were a lot of fun moments, including going on the zip line through through the mountain scenery with some dear friends, worship, sharing some of my story in front of a very large crowd of people, sharing laughter with friends that were new and old, and even some trips to Starbucks.
However, probably the most significant time was spent processing some of my recent discoveries about the last year of life.  This happened in various ways, with others and by myself and I’m thankful for all of them.  Being home this time has been much harder than past times.  I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that Colorado no longer really feels like home.  I’m realizing that the life that I built in Chicago is a significant one.  I’m involved in a church, I have friends who wade though the depths with me, I go to school, I (sort of) have a job … I have a complete life.  And that’s not to say that I don’t love Colorado, or that I don’t love the people here.  It’s merely to say that I am different then I was when I lived here and this is more of a place that I visit than a place that I live.
Life is meant to be lived alongside others.  I am so very thankful for the people that God has placed in my life this year.  Even if some of them are moving on from Seminary and even if my community will look differently next year than it did this year, I am excited to get back to Chicago and see what God has for this year.  It should be a good one.
This past week was full of moments where I could do nothing but stand in awe at God’s work in my life and the lives of my friends, and in awe of his love for us.  It almost felt like I was a deer in the headlights, as though I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breathe, all I could do was stare at his glory.  Those moments in life are the kinds of things that keep me in check.  Keep me smiling and trucking on when things are harder than they should be, harder than God intended them to be.  Because this life…it’s unfair at times.  And in those times it’s good to reach back and see where God has been faithful to you.