Ordination for Another WWSIC

We’ve just gotten word that Karen Clark Ristine, one of our Advent Contributors, and a woman highly gifted by the Holy Spirit will be Ordained to Christian Ministry in the United Methodist Church this Saturday in a service at Redlands University in Redlands, California! Karen is currently the pastor of Mission Hills United Methodist Church in San Diego, California.

Congrats Karen! Come Holy Spirit Come!

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Stop Stoning Yourselves

John 7:53-8:11

Now, there’s a cheery passage for reflection on the Eve of New Year’s Eve!

This story has seemed barbaric to me since I first read the passage in my teens.

The Pharisees, in their never-ending parade of attempts to challenge Jesus with “What-ifs?” and “What-abouts?” involving their interpretation of law, bring some poor woman before Jesus as Exhibit A. “What about this one?” they seem to ask. “Surely you won’t tell us she doesn’t deserve stoning.”

No surprise, of course, that Jesus tells them exactly that. Yet, in a metaphoric way, isn’t this what we sometimes do to ourselves around this time each year?

As we look back on the past year, as we set resolutions for the next, don’t we sometimes stone ourselves with self-criticism and self-judgment?

And in response, don’t we sometimes set resolutions based on unrealistic expectations? And within a few weeks (or even days) when we cannot meet them, we begin the cycle of self-doubt and self-criticism again.

What resolutions can we make and realistically keep that will help us feel better about ourselves?

Can we be nicer to ourselves?

The best New Year’s resolution I ever made–and perhaps the only one I ever kept–was the year I resolved to spend more time in Balboa Park.

Can we show ourselves grace and forgiveness when we fall short of our own expectations?

As for the gym, after more than two decades, I have conceded that I am not going to keep a gym habit. This year, I’m turning in my gym membership, ending my charitable contribution to the proprietors and resolving not to beat myself up about it. I’ll find other ways to exercise and stay healthy, but I’m freeing myself of this perpetual guilt.

Can we see ourselves through Divine eyes?

As for my other shortcomings, the ones too private for a public blog, I choose to see myself as beautifully human in my imperfections, always working to be better and celebrating my life as it is now and my life as it will be. I choose to see myself through the Divine eyes of unconditional love.

This year, if we resolve nothing else, can we resolve to stop stoning ourselves?

***

Rev. Karen Clark Ristine is a minister at Mission Hills United Methodist Church. After more than 20 years as a journalist, she entered seminary in 2006 and has been working in ministry ever since. After a lifelong tradition of sending out scores of Christmas cards each year, she was surprised to discover the irony that, as a minister, she no longer seemed to have time to continue that tradition. 

Waiting

almost top view of fancy liturgical candles on a gold mount.Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

All this waiting.

I’m tired of waiting.

And here I find myself in an entire season of waiting.

I’m tired of waiting for friends and family to find jobs.

I’m tired of waiting for the housing market to rebound.

I’m tired of waiting for the country to stop arguing about divisive issues with derogatory discourse.

I’m tired of waiting for my denomination to stop fighting to its death over who gets to be a minister and instead start ministering to the wounds of the world—including the ones we ministers have caused.

I’m tired of waiting to find time for ritual artistry, mission vision and sermon creation at the end of the week after the administration and budget balancing work is done.

And now, in this season of waiting and anticipation of the beautiful light of Christmas, it seems there are even more things both to do and to fail to do, more finances to worry about, more details to manage and more necessary distractions.

When did we change from the children who couldn’t wait for Christmas to arrive to the adults who can’t wait until Christmas is over?

How is it we find ourselves hurtling toward the Holy Child each year as one more task to get past?

Just wait until next Christmas, we promise ourselves, it won’t be this way next year!

But why wait?

Start now, with 12 days left until Christmas Eve.

Reclaim THIS Christmas right now.

There really is no need to just wait until next year.

Pause a moment now, yes, wait just a moment, and consider what most evokes the holy to you in this season. Spend another moment and let yourself be surrounded by that particular sense of the holy.

Now, in the 12 days that remain, consider one life-giving activity or tradition or memory from childhood or years past, and find another moment or two to remember it or even reclaim it.

One year, for me, this was to open a set of angel candle chimes from their 99-cent box, build them, light them and watch the angels spin from the rising heat of the candlelight. The table they were on was a mess, but I didn’t care. All I saw was the light and motion, and I heard the faint sound of a Christmas long past that became Christmas present.

What in your church, what in your home, what in your heart would give you a holy moment?

In each day, in those odd moments of reflection or even concern, pause to consider the holy.

Pause to surround yourself with a holy memory or create a holy moment.

Pause with the hope and prayer that come Christmas Eve, your season will already be filled with holy remembrances, holy moments and holy light.

Welcome the Holy Child with your heart already filled with a sense of Divine presence in your life.

We wait each year for the celebration of Divine Light in our lives, yet there really is no need to wait.

The Holy Light shines already.

Divine Creator, in this season of anticipation, guide us toward our hopes for the future fueled by our fondest memories of the past. We pause in prayer and in hope that in any moment time expands to fill with the Holy Light of Divine Love. In your most holy names we pray, Amen.

***

Rev. Karen Clark Ristine is a minister at Mission Hills United Methodist Church. After more than 20 years as a journalist, she entered seminary in 2006 and has been working in ministry ever since. After a lifelong tradition of sending out scores of Christmas cards each year, she was surprised to discover the irony that, as a minister, she no longer seemed to have time to continue that tradition.