Why I Love C & E Christians

Photo by Sarah Dibbern

Photo by Sarah Dibbern

Churches will soon swell with Christmas Eve crowds eager to hear an inspiring message of hope. It’s a time when regular church attenders will find themselves nestled into pews next to folks they don’t recognize. Shoulder to shoulder with people known as “C” & “E” Christians.

Maybe Christmas and Easter Christians are too busy, too tired, too wounded or too cynical to attend church regularly. But the high holidays still pack enough spiritual punch to draw folks into the presence of the divine on at least two occasions.

But I beg you, do not scoff at the C & E’s, as I am indebted to a C & E  family’s annual trek to church. You see, I wasn’t raised in a church-going home. We didn’t pray before meals or discuss sin and salvation. I was a child more familiar with fairy tales than bible stories. My Christmases and Easters were filled with Christmas presents and Easter baskets, candy canes and chocolate eggs. But no church.

And then, during sophomore year in high school, neighbors invited me to a Christmas party. I walked down the block and encountered the usual crumbly cookies, fizzy punch and white elephant gifts. I was pleased just to be included, and at the end of the evening, prepared to head home. That’s when my neighbor tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You should come to church with us. We go every year on Christmas Eve at midnight.”

Church at midnight? I was curious about what happens at church during the hour I typically lie awake waiting for mom to stuff lip-gloss and chocolates into my Christmas stocking shaped like a ballerina slipper. So I tagged along. A gaggle of giddy C & E’s filled an entire row near the back of the sanctuary.

I was enchanted by the artistry of church architecture, the stained glass, the icons. Candlelight glowed. A choir caroled from a loft like an assembly of angels leading the congregation in an ever-building chorus of adoration. I wanted more of this in my life. More connection to other Jesus followers. More understanding of life beyond myself. More reverence for the Creator and creation.

I hurried home excited to share the experience with my mother. It turned out, she also wanted more. More community, more connection, more purpose. We started going to church. I was baptized. A believer in the life-changing power of faith, hope and grace.

And now, this Christmas Eve, I’ll attend church with my husband and children like I do every Christmas and every Sunday. My mother will go to church. My extended family will go to church. We do church. Regularly. And it’s partly because of an invitation from a few faithful C & E’s. Because of them, many have encountered Christ and the gifts of community, service and spiritual growth found within a church family.

So if you’re a “regular” seated next to someone unfamiliar on Christmas Eve, give them a special welcome, a hug, a smile, and maybe even a thank you from me. And whether you’re a regular church attender or a C & E Christian, be encouraged to invite someone to church. Your invitation could change lives much like a simple invitation changed mine.

Standard

I Ain’t No Rocket Surgeon

Photo by Sarah Dibbern

Photo by Sarah Dibbern

It had been a long day that included enduring a wintry commute, driving carpool to the kids’ extracurricular events, figuring out what to feed my people and trying to wrap my brain around the details of a new job. I was tired. I didn’t want to read, talk or think. I just wanted to pour a glass of wine and veg out in front of the television. So I flipped through the Netflix selections and settled on a documentary called, Happy.

Serenity washed over me as I watched smiling people and heard scientists say what we know in our hearts to be true, that happiness has little to do with material wealth and a lot more to do with our environment and choices.

The topic of happiness seems overdone, even trite. We probably hear too much about being happy and how to become happy. But the message of this film is different. It details years of scientific study on the subjective topic of happiness and illuminates some of what truly fulfills a person’s life. Things like physical activity, time spent in nature, being with family and friends, being compassionate and varying your routine.

It’s not rocket science. And yet, when we make decisions about how to spend our time or which career path to follow, we may not be focusing enough on…

  • What type of environment do I thrive in?
  • What kind of people/personalities do I want to spend time with?
  • What can I do to make the world a better place?

In a recent job interview I admitted to having no specific long-term career goals. I don’t recommend this tactic. But it’s true. My education and career path have been organic and non-linear. I practice things I’m good at and have managed to squeeze through a few cracked doors of opportunity.

My next opportunity involves moving on from magazine writer to editor. My routine will vary and I’ll be challenged to learn new skills. I’ll continue to be surrounded by inspiring and creative people. My schedule will still allow me to run carpool, exercise, volunteer and have plenty of time to hang out with family and friends. And hopefully, my on-the-job efforts will result in engaging and entertaining content for readers.

According to the science of happiness, this is a pretty decent mix of ingredients. Of course, a splash of wine to top off a long day can’t hurt. What choices are you making that contribute to your sense of happiness?

Standard

What Are You Waiting For?

Image

Photo by Sarah Dibbern

Some people cringe at the notion of December being treated as merely a collection of shopping days. Although kids love those light-up lawn ornaments that count down the days until Christmas.  And before you get too cynical, pause for a moment and maybe consider the enchantment of seeing a child quiver with excitement as he or she anticipates Christmas Day.

Kids actually have the right idea. Their anticipation grasps at a thread unraveled from a garment of hope. On what kids should focus their lens of hope may require some parental guidance. But their enthusiasm is to be emulated, not squelched.

I am not advocating over the top consumerism or teaching kids that Christmas is all about the gifts. But the days of December do brim with a certain anticipation. A longing for fulfillment. To celebrate the arrival of that which brings true joy and will at last ease our anxiety, pain and brokenness.

The name for this season of waiting is called Advent. It is quite literally a time of preparing for a great celebration.

Beginning yesterday, December 1, and running through December 24, we wait. But not just for an Xbox One or for the booze to kick in to provide enough liquid motivation to stage some elf on the shelf high jinks.

We wait for peace, for joy, for restoration of this whacked out world and its relationship to the creator. We prepare to celebrate a birth that changed the course of history. We also wait, prepare for, long for, the completion of what that birth set in motion. His return.

So go ahead and shop. Put up the tree and wrap the gifts. But consider adding an Advent wreath or Advent calendar to your December days – something tangible to help you focus on what it is you’re truly waiting for. Get the kids involved in special moments that mark the days until the BIG DAY. Read Advent devotions and say Advent prayers at dinnertime, at bedtime, or while you wait in line at Wal-Mart. Especially while you’re in line at Wal-Mart. Ask God to remind us what we truly wait for so that we might brim with the genuine anticipation of a giggling child at Christmastime.

Look up. Open up. Get excited. Get prepared. Advent is here. And a gift most worthy of waiting for has come and is coming again.

Standard