Wednesday, November 09, 2016
as a pastor, i constantly struggle with what it means to pastor people with passionate differences of opinion. the congregations i have served have always been made up of both red and blue, black and white, gay and straight, conservative and progressive, passionate and apathetic, and so on and so forth. in the midst of these differences, i wrestle with how to love and act and speak in a way that welcomes all of this diversity of belief and thought.
when i find myself struggling with how to do this, my guide is always and ever Jesus.
and Jesus had one pretty major rule (he called it a new commandment): "love one another as i have loved you."
so on this day, when i am a bundle of emotions, and i find myself swinging between them freely and rapidly; when i find that i am blessed and humbled to be an american, but not nearly as proud as i have been before; when i see some of my facebook friends giving one another virtual high-fives, while others are openly weeping and wondering if there will still be a place for them in this country; when i wonder how to bring a congregation of people together in this new reality: i have one word:
i beg of you to love one another.
if your guy "won" last night, you may be feeling a surge of victory and adrenaline because the system may finally have to take notice of the things that you feel are important that have been slipping away. you may be tempted to taunt or demean others. don't. resist that temptation, and look for ways to connect with and love those who may be feeling hurt or even scared by the this result. try to understand how this might feel to someone different from you. and love them.
if your candidate "lost" last night, you may be feeling confused, angry, bitter, or deeply saddened. you may feel the temptation to lash out in that anger, to reduce this complex social reality to an over-simplified version of junior-high name-calling. don't. resist that temptation. and look for ways to connect with and love those who may be rejoicing today, because for them this feels like a great step forward. try to understand how this might feel to someone different from you. and love them.
we need each other. we need to listen and learn. we need, of course, more than anything, to love.
finally, one way i do know to be a pastor to both red and blue, to both those who are celebrating and those who are grieving, is to remind you that i am with you. that i am here for you. that the church is home for all of us. if you need to talk, please call or message me. or stop in the office. just know that you are loved, and that the great task before us has not changed: we must love as we have been loved.
Wednesday, November 02, 2016
i'm not sure how many americans right now are feeling optimistic about the government. i know i'm not. in fact, while i didn't live through the civil war or anything, i have to think that faith in our elected leaders - indeed the whole system of electing them in the first place - is at one of its lowest points. i just don't have a great deal of confidence in those individuals who have been elected, or in those who want to be. i find myself slipping at times into what feels like a swamp of apathy: sinking, to be sure, but not sure that i care enough anymore to do much about it. i see this attitude all around me: in conversations, on social media, and in popular culture. perhaps there is no more clear indication of our nation's view of the government than this current election season, when we would teeter on electing liars and thieves, crooks and clowns.
which is why i was so startled as i sat down to read psalm 72 this morning. as i read the ancient song, i was stunned by its unabashed hopefulness in the government. of course, the government was the king, and in this case, the poet asks God to give judgment and righteousness to the king. but then it goes even further, in a kind of shameless confidence: "Let (the king) save the children of the needy...let him live as long as the sun...let him fall like rain upon the fresh-cut grass."
i understand that many are going to read messianic prophecy into this psalm, and i understand that if you go looking for Jesus in the words of the ancient hebrews, you can find (fore)shadows of him all over the place. but let us not forget that this is at a time in the history of the hebrew people when there was some pretty serious hope being put in the role of the king; that God could endow a leader with god-like gifts, to lead the people in righteousness and justice, deliverance and freedom.
so, at its core, this ancient song is a song of hope in the leaders of the nation. and that is jarring to me in my election-cycle-stupor. but there is something fundamentally critical in this song; something that i think many american christians have forgotten about. the prayer for the king in psalm 72 is a prayer for justice. it is a prayer for the poor. it is a prayer that those who receive the mantle of leadership of a nation will receive it with humility, with an eye out for the oppressed, and with the ability to crush the oppressors. it is an honest and almost desperate prayer. it reminds me that perhaps, rather than burying my head in the sand, or arguing about politics on social media, i should be busy praying for our leaders. i should vote, if i am prepared to engage in that civic gift/responsibility. and i should pray.
and it reminds me of one more thing, too. that we stand at a different moment in history than the poet-of-old. we can look through the lens of Jesus, who talked about a new kind of kingdom, in which the first are last and the poor are blessed. we know that there is no president, no ruler, no admiral or dictator who can separate us from the love of God through Jesus Christ, who is our King. Jesus brings justice to the oppressed. he heals the broken. he brings unity in the divided places. he brings hope to the places of despair. he falls like rain upon both the rich and the poor. he isn't republican or democrat or even american, for crying out loud. he is love and he is the one true king. we need not live in fear about who will win or what will happen if someone doesn't win. we don't need to live in fear about any of it, because the King is alive and well.
Monday, October 31, 2016
happy Halloween from a mad scientist, George Washington, and Clark Kent (and one of the referees who tries to keep them all getting along)!
shannon made these awesome cookies for cade's classroom.
on Saturday we had some friends over and we had a blast carving our pumpkins!
the guy chewing the apple is mine. Shannon's is the owl. Jackson made the superman logo, cade made George Washington's profile, and Quinton's is obviously "a bear cave with a bear looking out."
Monday, October 24, 2016
if my sermon on sunday could be represented as a song, perhaps it would be this one by drew holcomb, who says, "2016 has been a very confusing year for me. I wrote a new song about it called "Wild World". Here it is."
love is all we've got to give away. amen.
love is all we've got to give away. amen.
Tuesday, October 04, 2016
seasons change. by definition, that's what they do. they are reminders that life, ever beyond our control, is in a constant state of movement, from what is known to what is unknown. the weather itself is a sometimes wondrous, and sometimes terrifying reminder that we are not as strong as we think we are (those words written with an affectionate nod at the late, great rich mullins). but it is in the midst of those in-between times, as one season spins its slow descent into a new one, that i recognize the constant movement of life.
of course, as aliens in a new land (for that is what we are, even with the incredible hospitality of the good folks of state college, pa), the concept of constant change is nothing to our family. we are living exhibits of the seasonal nature of life. just as the colors on tussey mountain, which sits regally, enthroned in a wide sky, and gloriously visible from our back door, are starting to rust to more earthy hues, and as the morning air greets me each morning with a whisper of a new story, life itself is new all the time - every morning!
but in the midst of new grocery stores, new restaurants, new neighbors, and new places in the fridge for shannon to hide the mint jelly; and in the midst of new seasons, new schools and new spaces to park in; i discover that we are still us, with the same fingerprints, the same names, and the same warm love. each season brings its new gifts, along with many new challenges, but it is the same us who journeys through, and the same God who journeys with, whose mercies are new every morning.
may you be reminded, as the morning dew starts crystallizing into fractal webs on the pumpkins on the porch, and as you dig out the coats from the back of the closet, that even if you are a stranger in a strange land; or a pilgrim just passing through; there is a Sojourner who never leaves. God is constantly doing a new thing; constantly surprising us with unthinkable love; and constantly rewriting our messes into glorious endings; but never turns from a relentless, steady and stalwart love for us.
seasons change. the rain may come. the winds may blow, and the air may bite with cold. the sky may darken and put on its gray winter coat. we may not be nearly as strong as we think we are. but God is. and that never changes.
Friday, September 09, 2016
on saturday we went to our first ever penn state football game.
....new at this!
but we had a blast. we left at 10:30am for the 3:30 game at beaver stadium, just a few miles from our house. we got there without any traffic, got into our parking space and set up "camp," which meant that we had table and chairs and food and snacks and drinks and games and toys. we played board games, threw the football, had a dangerous throwing competition, and took a walk around the perimeter of beaver stadium to fully emerge in this "cross cultural experience" as i kept calling it. the weather was spectacular, and helped us to fully appreciate the pregame, as well as the game itself.
once we got into the stadium, we were blessed with padded seats (with backs!) and truly enjoyed all the pomp and circumstance of the blue band, the student section, the nittany lion, and more. so much fun!
the game was sort of meh, at least in the first half, as penn state seemed to struggle to get some rhythm. the second half picked up a little bit, and it was fun when the crowd really got into the game, making plenty of noise and causing some pre-snap penalties.
we filtered out as the band played the penn state alma mater with the team gathered in the corner of the end zone. we stayed for another hour or so, eating some more and talking about the game (especially the best play of the game: the kicker joe julius making a bone-cracking "tackle" on a kick returner). when we finally left, we had no traffic, and we got home in a jiffy, capping off a perfect day for our first penn state football experience.
special note of thanks to the good folks who gave us their tickets and parking spaces (such great spaces!), which enabled us to have this great experience...your generosity is so appreciated!
Monday, September 05, 2016
today is labor day, the official end of summer, and so i find myself reflecting today on the summer of 2016. as different as this summer was, we still did our annual tradition of making a summer bucket list, which i wrote about here, back in july. shannon designed the bucket list with a patriotic theme, knowing that we would be vacationing in washington dc this summer:
and as awesome as that week in dc was, it certainly wasn't the major event of our summer. no, without question, the mark of summer 2016 for the milinovich's was moving. everything was either leading up to the move (putting all of our possessions in cardboard boxes) or resulting from the move (unpacking all of aforementioned boxes).
but we woke up the first day after moving out of our home for the last 6 years, a place that had become home to us, with great friends at a great church, and this is how that first morning greeted us:
and somehow, we knew everything was going to be just fine.
God is good.
and our summer was good, too. beyond all that went with this momentous move, we did all kinds of other stuff, too:
-we saw a movie in the theater (zootopia)
-we made a summer mix cd
-we went mini-golfing.
-we visited the penn state university arboretum.
-we saw the constitution in washington dc.
-we spent the day at del grosso's amusement park.
-we celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary.
-we did special music at church.
-we watched fireworks.
-we joined a new library.
-we participated in music camp at our new church.
-we ate ice cream for dinner at meyer dairy (friendly edit from a very observant neighbor: we've accomplished this one at least three times this summer, if not more....).
-we vacationed in lancaster.
-we saw a state college spikes game. (i got to throw out a first pitch!)
-we bought produce from the boalsburg farmers market.
-we celebrated Quin's and Shannon's birthdays.
-we entertained new friends.
-we attended kindergarten camp and soccer camp.
-we went to steelers training camp.
-we had a full, busy, and abundantly blessed summer. we are excited about the fall, and how we will continue to live into this new chapter for our family. it is a great adventure, and we love it! have a great labor day, everyone. peace.