Its Complicated: a holiday prayer

God, I’m sitting with the fact that all holidays are complicated. Thanksgiving is the worst–because let’s be honest, the next one is always the worst one.

We try to remember to give thanks in a country where taking, enslaving and abusing people, land and…well everything is a part of our DNA.

And then there are the complications of not seeing family this year. And perhaps for some people, it’s emotionally safer to not see their family. Queer people who are rejected, disabled people who are forced to pass, victims of abuse or neglect trying to build bridges in a broken system.

So I’m praying for this complicated holiday, where everyone gets to feel especially lonely this year.

Teach us thanksgiving,

The Thanks part, and the giving part too.

Help us to find ways to safely connect and support one another. Help us to find the moments of security in this turbulent times.

But also, let us give ourselves permission for these holidays to be complicated.

Let us take them as they are, and struggle to acknowledge who and where we are this year.

This I pray in the name of the Holy Comforter, the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Feel free to use/adapt with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

Read about my journey towards a doctorate in ministry in creative writing and give a small donation towards my tuition! About Me: My Story & My Writing

More Pandemic Prayers and Mundane Prayer to Survive the Day to Day

Pieces of Joy & Thanksgiving

God, I’m a the point in the chaos where I am wondering if I am allowed to be happy

Because the world is shitty right now. People are sick and dying. Politicians and governments do nothing and there is real suffering in the world.

And God knows the last recession, we were living on the edge, skirting bankruptcy, playing Russian Roulette with the bills, the credit cards, the job searches

I remember counting property after property for sale in 2010

This time the hurt is less visible. Those who are sick are quarantined, the hospitals are off limits, and poverty is hidden again and again (like we did) because it is a sign of shame.

I am all to aware the the suffering I know is but a microcosm of what is really going on.

So when things go right, when I realize we have enough room to live in, or we enjoy celebrating the youngest turning 9, or I get in to the program I applied for. I wonder is it ok to be happy?

Lord, I thank God for things like the Nap Ministry and Queer Theology and Black Girl Magic which remind us of the value of rest and joy, and that these things must be practiced especially in the midst of chaos.

Lord I give thanks for a moment to soak in the sun, the opportunity to zoom and pray for one another, and the early Christmas tree lights and carols that are seeping into consciousness.

Lord God I thank you for the beauty of snowflakes, the reminder that safe at home can mean cozy at home and the gifts of pets, hot chocolate, and my favorite music.

Help me to celebrate the little things, God. Help me not to forgo joy, but instead to embrace it, and let these moments strengthen me so that I am more able to go on.

Remind me that you give joy to everyone, even those who suffer, and that denial of joy is not helping anyone, I pray.

This Thanksgiving, please give me, and help me to celebrate whatever pieces of joy might happen. Especially give me the spirit and strength to recognize when these pieces of joy sneak up and surprise me.

Help me to enjoy them.

And appreciate them.

And give thanks for them, I pray.

Amen.

Feel free to use/adapt with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

Read about my journey towards a doctorate in ministry in creative writing and give a small donation towards my tuition! About Me: My Story & My Writing

More Pandemic Prayers and Mundane Prayer to Survive the Day to Day

Christmas: What if we just owned it?!?

The elves are starting. Many parents do the elf on the shelf thing (Not me, Advent is busy, and we find them creepy although lots of parents do a good job) or even the kindness elves. Christmas flyers are being sent out, and of course retail has been talking Christmas forever

Tumblr is starting to look snowy

And us pastors are DEFINITELY starting to think about Christmas-Auditions for our Xmas play have started this week. (which we put on for children as food drive…YAY)
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Technically, in my family, we aren’t supposed to listen to Xmas music til thanksgiving

(but I give myself a pass to sneak it in the car, when I’m alone)

And you have to watch Love Actually 6 weeks before Christmas, because that’s when the

movie starts……and that may be before Thanksgiving.

Then on thanksgiving we toast with Egg Nog and watch our first official Christmas movie–which is tricky to decide…. (My brother wants “Its a Wonderful Life” I like “Miracle on 34th” My one sister likes “Holiday Inn” My other sister likes “The Santa Clause” the kids prefer “The Grinch who Stole Christmas” the cartoon)

1020 × 765 – orthocuban.com

And we do celebrate St. Nick’s day on Dec. 6th where St. Nick leaves Candy in everyone’s shoes and a family game/movie in the holiday spirit……

Ok, lets be honest, we celebrate ALL MONTH LONG

I am all for surprises and delayed gratification, I love waiting for good things, and I like advent, but since I (and everyone else) is already planning Christmas…….I wonder if some year WE ought to just OWN Christmas at church the way retail does.

You know go all out

Start celebrating as soon as humanly possible

Tell the Christmas story five weeks in a row. Because there is always Way, way too much story to get through on Christmas Eve (and I always feel sad for the parts I miss)–Angels and Shepherds and Wise Men and Mary and Joseph (not to mention all those animals hanging around)….so many scriptural narratives to cover!!!

And there are so many good ways to tell the Christmas story, Velveteen Rabbit, The Littlest Angel, the Gift of the Magi, Miracle on 34th St, all the puppy and kitten present stories, the shepherds perspective, the drummer boy, the (three) wise men, the unexpected Christmas youtube video, the googlemaps version of Mary and Joseph’s journey, Charlie Brown & the Grinch, the advent conspiracy, the feeding of people on thankgiving, etc. etc. etc.

As someone in the Nextchurch Twitter discussion pointed out, we are celebrating Christ’s birth ALL THE TIME anyway.

Besides, not everyone may even know the Christmas Carols anymore (tears) maybe we should sing them on Sunday–I know the ambiant music never covers as many true hymns and carols as I want (Holly Jolly Christmas is fun, but First Noel speaks to me)

.

Maybe Advent is during the week and Christmas is every Sunday. (Hey, it works for Lent right?)

How would you take ownership if you starting celebrating Christmas after thanksgiving? How would it change how your church did mission that month? Could you tell the gospel in different ways? Are there lead-in activities that might make it more possible to engage and connect to the community? How about your stewardship campaign, if you directly tied it to Xmas could you do so in a good/GREAT way?

Seems to me that if we are to party people into the kingdom, great mission/storytelling and singing of Christmas is a great way to start….after all, who doesn’t love the candlelit service? Who doesn’t wish that this is how church feels all the time?

One of these years, I’m going all IN!

Reverse Black Friday Experience

Thursday morning at 6am I went to help with Equinox, which is a Thanksgiving meal program that serves about 10,000 in the Albany area….

I was really pleased to do this for the following reasons

1. My family is not the greatest financially, so I’m more able to give time

2. I have a 5& 1/2, 3 & 1/2, and a just 2 year old at home, so the theory of giving time is good, but not always possible, however my mother in law was in town, so I was able to feel like my husband had back up (he does the kid thing all the time, but he’s also our chef so……)

3. We are in the area….I usually don’t work over Thanksgiving, which means this is when we usually go to family (family comes to us for Christmas)…but this year we did a LOT of traveling…so my eldest asked his grandparents to come up and they obliged…

4. I got around to actually volunteering! They gave me the early shift, which I appreciated because it meant I really had the whole day to spend Thanksgiving with my family.

Immediately this made me feel better about the entire holiday…you know feeling worthwhile and all that…

I worked for two hrs…after which they practically kicked you out, so the next volunteers can get in…

I sorted bread, putting 2 bread products in a bag (trying to pair English muffins with the gigantic loaves so its more even) to be ready to pick up by the drivers who start their runs at 8am….

But my favorite part was the line….I had flashback to Black Friday…there they were over a hundred people sitting in their camp out spots (some since 3am I heard) waiting to be “drivers” to deliver the food…families and friends all sitting with boxes awaiting their food….

If we all did this…lined up one day a year to help people (instead of shopping) what a difference it would be….

Maybe it isn’t all year long…but I like to think how small starts…like volunteering for 2hrs…can make a huge difference

(The food is gathered in city hall since its the only place big enough to hold it all….a formal dinner is served to 500 people and 9,500 people get it delivered)

 

Also! Check out this for more Survival Strategies

Funny thing abo…

Funny thing about pastoring, a way to make your job easier is to be emotionally calibrated to the season…i.e if you are “feelin” Thanksgivingy around Thanksgiving, you will be a better pastor, ditto with Easter, Christmas, etc…..I love my job. I am in essence paid to “do the holiday thing”!!!!

YAY