Why I’m rethinking the crucifix and you should too

Last month, after much searching, I purchased a nativity set that fit the following criteria: 1) one that our toddler could play with 2) one that I’d also like to display when she’s grown (this ruled out the Little People set – plus we couldn’t find one that wasn’t being sold for $80+!) and 3) a nativity set that had more than one shepherd. You’d be surprised how many nativity sets come with 3 wise men (who likely weren’t even visiting Jesus in a manger but as a toddler or young child) and only have 1 shepherd!

The nativity set that I eventually found is hand-crafted, wooden, and beautiful. It’s perfect except for one thing: it came with a manger but no baby Jesus! This oversight was my fault. The product never advertised it coming with a baby Jesus, but did say that it came with a manger.  Disappointment aside, a manger with no baby Jesus inside of it got me thinking.

Why has contemporary evangelical Christianity told me that a crucifix is wrong? The main argument that I’ve heard against having a crucifix is that Jesus is no longer nailed to the cross–he is risen!  We worship a living Lord. But if this is the reason why displaying an empty cross is superior to a traditional crucifix, then why do nativity displays in most evangelical churches have a baby Jesus in the manger? We all know that Jesus is no longer an infant child in a manger. He grew up to be a man, he died, and he rose again. Why then is it acceptable to have Jesus in the manger but it’s not acceptable to have him displayed on a cross? I have never heard of anyone questioning the need to have baby Jesus displayed in the nativity scene because “Jesus isn’t a baby anymore!” But I have heard of Christians being told by other Christians that displaying a crucifix is wrong because “Jesus isn’t there anymore!” Our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters (among others) understand fully well that Jesus is no longer on the cross–they, too, worship a living Lord. So why is it “right” in evangelical circles to have baby Jesus in the manger but it’s “wrong” to see him displayed on the cross?

The crucifix isintended to depict what He endured for our salvation long ago on Calvary. Though it seemed a shameful, humiliating defeat at the time, Jesus’ death was actually a glorious triumph of love and obedience. His crucifixion brought about our redemption; this is why Catholics love it and portray it in sacred art”.

This quote was taken from a short/thought provoking post that you’ll want to read: Should Christians Use a Crucifix?

Could it be that the evangelical objection to crucifixes has more to do with how uncomfortable it is to be so visually reminded of Jesus’ suffering for our sake? I’ve attended a Good Friday service every year for as long as I can remember. While Jesus’ crucifixion is why we gather, I’ve been to many a service where there is little room or space to sit in this reality. The heartbreaking truth is quickly washed away with, “BUT SUNDAY’S COMING!” This reminds me of people who say to a grieving person at a funeral, “BUT EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON!” It takes appropriate grief and quickly sweeps it under the rug so that things don’t feel too sad or uncomfortable. Yes, it is incredible, amazing news that Jesus rose again! But let us never, ever forget the severe suffering that Jesus endured. Seeing a visual of Jesus hanging from a cross screams: YOU ARE SO LOVED!!                                                                                                                                                                           Jesus came as an infant in a manger. And he was also a man hanging on a cross. Seeing a visual of either one in your home or church doesn’t lessen the reality that Jesus also rose again!
traditional_lrgIf Jesus is present in our nativity scenes as a way of remembering, shouldn’t he also be present on our crosses for the same reason? Maybe crucifixes are not only “OK” for a Christian to display but maybe they are…dare I say…the better way?

5 reflections on 2016 & hopes for 2017

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This blog was started in 2016. In addition to the blog; twitter, instagram, and a fb page were created. I gave them all a trial and will be keeping active on instagram & fb and hopefully write more in 2017 on this blog! It was mostly me (R) writing and posting in 2016…maybe D will join me more in 2017. One can dream 🙂

As I begin to briefly reflect on 2016, I will share the following. I recently read my FB Memories from years past re: my new years reflections. Year after year, I wrote something to the effect of the previous year having its share of really difficult moments & good ones. I guess the saying from Ecclesiastes is true: there’s nothing new under the sun. With that said, I’ll pause to reflect on 2016 and offer some hopes for 2017.

2016

2016 certainly had a theme of loss. While we felt peace about our decision to resign from our church, I mourned the loss of those relationships in 2016. We also said good-bye to our dog, Mowgli, and our cat, Storm in 2016. I miss them.

2016 had a theme of personal growth, too. It wasn’t until the end of 2016 that I realized something: I grew a lot this year in the areas of grace and forgiveness. In 2016, I purposed to “feel all the feels” as well as to let go. Being hurt but not growing bitter is hard work! This could be a whole other blog post. Suffice it to say, I’m entering 2017 feeling light and free.

2016 was a year of growth as a couple. We grew in emotional intimacy and spiritually. We prayed more together in 2016 than ever before.

2016 was the year that I grew closer to my co-workers than ever before. I don’t know why this is. I wonder if my heavy church commitments (being married to a pastor & serving in my own way(s) in the church), caused me to be “less available” when at work. I know that I used to use my breaks at work to do church related things (like update the church fb page, read a book for book club, etc). It could also be the fact that several co-workers have gone through super stressful times this year and it’s more natural for me to “show up” for that than to do small talk. For whatever reason, I’m thankful for new and deepening friendships outside of church walls in 2016.

2016 had us feeling tired & so happy as we watched out daughter grow from a baby to a toddler. We feel tremendously blessed that dad was able to stay home with our girl from summer 2016 onward.

2017

2017 will be the year that we plug into our new church. We visited over a dozen churches in our area in 2016. We are praying about where to put down roots. I am so looking forward to having a church family in 2017!

2017 may bring us closer to discerning what’s next for us in pastoral ministry. Or not. We’ll see! The key is to remain open to whatever comes next. And to also enjoy the season that we are in (we are enjoying it!).

2017 is a great time to do all the new years resolution type things: lose weight. eat healthier. purge items from home. work on projects. read more. travel. I would like all of these! But most of all, I desire to grow in relationship with others this year. Family, friends, co-workers, church goers, strangers, etc. To make time even when you think you don’t have any time.  If I spend more time with people, if I’m more present with people, if I’m more vulnerable with people, and if my “people time” decreases online and increases in other ways, 2017 will be a success.

Do you have reflections on 2016 & hopes for 2017 that you’d be willing to share? I’d love to hear them! Truly.

Difficult December: Come thou long expected Jesus!

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December feels like a blur. In our household, at least one of us has been sick at any given time this month. And when you have a toddler who is sick – no one is sleeping. Suffice it to say, we are not ready for Christmas. And we are hosting Christmas at our house! Eek.(I have to stop and remind myself: the shopping, cooking, cleaning, card writing and even the gift giving is not what Christmas is ultimately about. To neglect to prepare MY HEART for the birth of the Christ child would be the biggest shame of all).

Besides feeling physically run down, my heart has felt heavy this month. I think of Aleppo. I think of the infant baby who was beat by his own father in Napanee (the child is on life support). I think of a family who lost their home and all their possessions in a fire. And I know several who are experiencing significant stress due to job loss at this time of year. My heart is heavy.

December has been a difficult month. A struggle. I haven’t been feeling very merry.  Recently, I’ve begun to wonder if the struggles of this month are providing me with a different perspective of this season. When I read the lyrics of Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, the words hit me in a new way.

Come thou long expected Jesus.
Born to set us FREE.
Free from fears and sins.
Release. We find our REST in thee.
You are the hope of all the earth!
The joy of every longing heart.

A longing fulfilled. The birth of our saviour! The one who provides freedom, rest and hope is Immanuel, God is with us.

Whether this month has been mostly happy or mostly difficult, let us make time to focus on the long expected Jesus.

Thanksgiving: when you’re feeling anything but happy

Tomorrow is American Thanksgiving. More Americans will make it a priority to be with their family & friends tomorrow than any other holiday (yes, even Christmas!). The day before Thanksgiving can be filled with anxiety that has nothing to do with baking or traveling. There’s a type of anxiety that is present for those who have seen heartbreaking changes since last year’s gathering. Death. Job Loss. Divorce. Diagnosis. These are just a few examples of what has happened to too many families over the past year. Individuals and families have been rocked to the core. Things don’t look or feel like they did a year ago. People are holding their breath and hoping for the best for tomorrow.

Thanksgiving can sting more than any other holiday because the focus seems to be pretty much all about family. The message society gives is one of showing up at Thanksgiving as a happy, happy family. To prove this point, what is the greeting that is said at Thanksgiving? HAPPY THANKSGIVING! But we know that for so many, tomorrow does not evoke happy feelings. For several, sadness or anxiety seems more appropriate than “happy”.

If you or your family are struggling on Thanksgiving eve, remember that you aren’t alone. Remember to take it one hour, one moment at a time. Take deep breaths. Hold a hot beverage in your hands all.day.long if that’s soothing. Go for a walk. Leave the party early if you need to. Do whatever will help you. Thanksgiving is about family but remember this: you are a branch in the family tree! You need to stay healthy so that you can bear fruit, too. You matter just as much as anyone else.

Instead of wishing you a “Happy Thanksgiving”, my hope is that you are able to find little & big things to be grateful for in the midst of the sad. Don’t deny your sad. But don’t miss seeing the good, too. With this perspective, show up tomorrow in the best way that you know how while also taking good care of you.

A new season: Pastor in Transition

6 years ago, we packed up all of our belongings and moved from the US to Canada. We moved to a small town that we never visited before the job interview at the church. To say that it was a step of faith is an understatement. More like a leap of faith. We left behind all that was familiar for the unfamiliar. We trusted that I’d eventually find a job. We said good-bye to good friends and family. We went knowing that staying wasn’t our next step. No, our next step was to go.

Now, after 6 years have passed by, we sense that our season at this church has come to an end. Truthfully, this conclusion took us both by surprise (and involved a lot of wrestling). We like longevity and thought we’d be here longer. But then I thought that I’d live in the States forever and here we are in Canada.

Sometimes we think that we’ll always do this or that…until we don’t. We can think that we’ll always live in a certain place, always work a certain job, always have certain friends, always think a certain way…til we no longer do. Thankfully, change doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Often, the unexpected changes in life can produce in us new fruit.

Our recent church will always hold a special place in our hearts. We’ve loved, we’ve learned, we are better people now than we were 6 years ago. We wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Now a new season is upon us. It’s scary and exciting. It feels a bit like 6 yrs ago. Except this time, we have evidence to recall of God’s faithfulness. He was with us then. He’s still with us now.

Here’s to being in transition. Come what may.

What’s next?

With Derek’s last day as lead/solo pastor behind us, we’ve been asked “what’s next?” Starting this week, Derek will be a stay-at-home dad to our toddler daughter. He’s looking forward to it! We don’t know how long this will last so we are going to soak it up while we can.

This summer and into the fall, we’ll be looking for a new church to worship at. We plan to visit all of the Free Methodist churches in the area and will be praying about which one to plug into. Derek will continue to serve the Free Methodist Church in Canada at a denominational level as a member on S.C.O.D. (a theological and doctrinal study and writing group).

You may still be wondering: but what’s next for him regarding pastoral ministry? At this time, we don’t know. This response is unsettling for some (’cause a pastor always leaves for another church, right??), but it’s not unsettling for us. We have peace about this next season of life and ministry.

As Christians, we believe what matters most is that you love God & love your neighbour. Good news – this can be done in a 20 person church or a 2,000 person church. A person can be a lead pastor, an associate pastor, OR a lay person and be greatly used by God. We desire to love, serve and grow wherever, whenever. All the while, we want to remain open to however God may lead.

What’s next? Hopefully lots of this:

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Emotions leading up to last Sunday at church

With this Sunday being our last at our church (of 6 years), people have been asking me how I’m doing. The best way that I can describe it is…it reminds me of what it felt like to graduate from my beloved college. The years were special. Amazing friendships. Spiritual and personal growth. There were hard times but lots of good times. Life felt full due to living in community. But it had to come to an end eventually. You’re thankful for what was…sad that it’s over…and a little anxious with all the unknown that is ahead.

While that’s the best analogy that I can offer for how I’m feeling now as a season of life & ministry comes to an end, it also falls short. You see, after graduating from Roberts, I could go back to visit at anytime. It didn’t affect my friendships. Leaving a church (for whatever reason – even for those who retire) is different. I can’t go back. It would be considered bad practice if I walked in the church doors on a Sunday in the next year (or more). The finality of it all chokes me up in ways that my college graduation didn’t.

So to be honest, with our last Sunday quickly approaching…I’m either keeping myself busy by helping my husband tie up loose ends or feeling the weight of it all (sad). Leaving a church is a form of loss for every pastor and their family, even when it was their decision to do so.

Maybe it’s a good thing that I feel sadness as we lead up to our last Sunday. Maybe my emotions confirm what I say with my mouth: I’m grateful for the past 6 yrs at our church and will never forget it.  And maybe my emotions are showing me just how deeply I have loved this community of people (lump in throat). Okay, so on that note, I’m going to have a little cry…

Wish us luck for Sunday!