Advent Conspiracy Week 3: Give More

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It sounds like a trick. Last week’s theme in Advent Conspiracy was Spend Less. Now we’re supposed to Give More? Wouldn’t that involve spending more?? True, the way we usually do it, with fancy things wrapped up in pretty boxes, it would mean shelling out more money, spending more time in the store or online. But the idea here is not to give more stuff; it’s to give more of ourselves. Where is your passion? What do you care most about? Continue reading “Advent Conspiracy Week 3: Give More”

Advent Conspiracy Week 2: Spend Less

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Oh, I’ve been dreading this one. Ever since I saw the posters for Advent Conspiracy going up at church a few weeks ago, and I saw that the second week’s theme was about money, I knew that would be the hardest one for me. I’ve never been good with money. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t go on crazy shopping sprees for Jimmy Choo shoes or plasma screen TVs bigger than me or beluga caviar or anything like that. But I do find myself often paraphrasing Captain Jack Sparrow and wondering, “Why is the money always gone?” Continue reading “Advent Conspiracy Week 2: Spend Less”

Advent Conspiracy Week 1: Worship Fully

icn-worship-fully Last year was my first Advent on this blog, and I wrote about the four weekly themes of Advent (well, three of them anyway – I got too busy one week). This year, since I already wrote about hope very recently in my ABCs of Hospital Chaplaincy series, I decided to do something different. Our church is one of many this year participating in Advent Conspiracy, a countercultural movement to focus on the real meaning of this season and not get so caught up in all the “stuff” that goes along with the holidays. I don’t mean writing out Christmas instead of Xmas (which doesn’t bother me since the Greek letter X was an early abbreviation for Christ), or wishing people Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays (which also doesn’t bother me since people of other faiths have holidays at this time of year and I want them to be just as happy). It’s about much more than what we write or what we say.  Continue reading “Advent Conspiracy Week 1: Worship Fully”

Living Up to My Name

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I’ll never forget the day I got called out in my Greek class. My mind had been wandering as the professor went over the vocabulary words on the white board, and I thought he had caught me when I heard him say my name. “Stacy! Did you know,” he asked, “that your name is the diminutive form of Anastasia? And that name comes from anastasis. So the root of your name is -” He tapped the board where the Greek word was written, and I read the English translation next to it. “Resurrection,” I said in wonder. No, I definitely had not known that that’s what my name means. I’m certain my parents didn’t know either when they chose the name. But all these years later, I’d like to think it fits. Continue reading “Living Up to My Name”

Where God Was Alone and Afraid

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In May of 2007, just after finishing divinity school, I went with a group of about fifty classmates and a few professors on a tour of Israel and Egypt. Seeing the places where so many of the stories I had read in the Bible took place – some of them very little changed by the passage of centuries – was powerful stuff. My mind always returns there at this time of year. This is what I wrote in my travel journal the day we visited Gethsemane: Continue reading “Where God Was Alone and Afraid”

Endings and Beginnings

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He was much too old for lullabies, already a teenager. If he had been able to speak, he may have protested, but I doubt it. His mother lay in the hospital bed next to him, wrapped her arms around him. A few hours earlier, she had been full of anxiety and anger, lashing out at anyone who so much as hinted that her son was dying. But I did more than hint. I confronted her with the reality that he was coming to the end, and that he needed her now as much as ever. The anger exploded — then disappeared. And in her son’s last hours, she did as good a job of anyone I’ve ever seen at saying goodbye. She told him she loved him, that every day with him was a gift, and then for a painfully long time, she sang him to sleep. She made sure that the last sound he would hear was not beeping monitors or her anguished sobs or his own raspy final breaths, but that first sound — his mother’s voice, singing to him the same songs she had sung when he was a baby. Continue reading “Endings and Beginnings”

Spoken in a Touch

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A touch can speak beyond words. Many times in the hospital, a patient or family member will grab my hand and hold on so tightly that I know it isn’t really me they’re holding on to in that moment. A spinal cord injury patient who was paralyzed from the neck down always insisted that I hold his hand while I prayed with him, and I wondered why, when he couldn’t even feel it. During some visits, when there is nothing to be said, I will place my hand on someone’s shoulder, or rub calming circles on his back as he is bent with weeping. Sometimes this is still scary to me, and my touch is tentative, uncertain of the recipient’s response. A few times I have felt the person stiffen, or shrug away my hand, and I immediately retract it. But most of the time, the touch is welcomed for what it is — a means of connection. Continue reading “Spoken in a Touch”

2014 With No Mistakes In It

It’s been awhile.  If you hadn’t noticed, my blogging has been lagging of late.  Even in the busyness of the holiday season, I had promised myself that I’d post at least once a week, and I was doing it.  The first three Sundays of Advent, I wrote something to go along with the theme of that week.  But the weekend of the fourth Sunday of Advent, I had to do a funeral, and I was traveling to Kentucky to visit my family for Christmas, and to make a long story short, it just didn’t happen.  But even before that, I was having some trouble.  A well-meaning friend had told me after my first few blog posts, “Wow, you are knocking it out of the park every time!”  And instead of being pleased, my first thought was, Well, shit.  Now I can’t write anything mediocre. Continue reading “2014 With No Mistakes In It”

Ambivalence and Joy: Advent 3

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I have such mixed feelings about the holiday season that, I’ll admit, when one particular Christmas song comes on the radio, I change the words a little and sing, “It’s the most ambivalent time of the year!”  I love Christmas, don’t get me wrong.  I’m usually the first in my neighborhood to put up Christmas lights, and I look forward all year to my annual holiday party.  But the past few years especially, I’ve been feeling kind of left out of Christmas.  I hear all the songs on the radio, and watch all the movies, and see all the commercials, and walk past the greeting card aisle, and I get the impression that Christmas isn’t for people like me.  It’s for people surrounded by big families, not for those of us who live alone with a dog and have family living hundreds of miles away.  It’s for people whose gloriously romantic (and ridiculously wealthy) significant others buy them diamond jewelry and new cars with huge red bows on them, not for those of us without a significant other and living paycheck to paycheck.  Most of all, it’s for people who are happy, and there are plenty of days that’s just not me. Continue reading “Ambivalence and Joy: Advent 3”

Fear and Peace: Advent 2

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Israel made me nervous.  In all my international travels, I had never been anywhere that I felt so unsafe.  Before entering any of the shops in downtown Jerusalem, we had to have our bags searched for weapons, and it seemed every shopkeeper had a story to tell about a bombing that his or her business had managed to survive.  One of my friends said that she felt protected because everywhere we went, there were teenage Israeli soldiers with guns.  Their presence made me feel just the opposite.  And yet every day, we heard “Peace.”  Shalom, the Hebrew word for “peace,” is the common greeting there, and it was in our ears and on our lips at each stop along our journey.  Shalom.  Peace. Continue reading “Fear and Peace: Advent 2”