Monday, December 5, 2011

The Other Side of Charity

Usually around this time of year I have already purchased most everything on my list.  I don't have a long tlist, but it always makes me feel good to find the perfect gift for a few special people. This year is different.  Like "Ole Mother Hubbard," the cupboard is pretty bare.

At Thanksgiving we received a wonderful dinner, directed our way by a couple here at Mt. Carmel.  Our son had no qualms about sharing with everyone about his Thanksgiving miracle.  Me, I had a harder time wrapping my mind around being on the other side of charity. I realized that I wanted to be the one doing the giving, the one in control.

Our society has a way of making you feel that if you are not successful, it is your fault. But with me, it goes deeper than that. I grew up in a faith tradition where earthly success was a sign of God's grace.  We were taught to pray the prayer of Jabez to enlarge our "territory." We were taught a Theology of Health and Wealth. Although I have fought against it, I realized that for a part of me, that theology still held sway.

This last Sunday, it was my husband's turn to light the Advent Weath. As I focused on the lighting of the candles, and prepared my heart for the coming of our blessed Saviour, I was reminded once again that Jesus did not come to earth for health and wealth. Jesus was born to die. He was homeless.  His first bed was a manger, designed to hold food for animals.

As I looked at over at the Organ, when the statutes of the Wise Men are standing, still far from the manger, I remembered that Joseph and Mary graciously accepted their gifts for the Christ Child. I determined right then that I was not going to be embarassed about needing help.  I determined I was going to be like Tiny Tim who hoped that people seeing him would remember Jesus who made the lame to walk and the blind to see.

I love my congregation and am grateful for all their help.  They remind me that God's love, and their love, is not dependent on the size of my bank account. 

Wise men and women still seek Him.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Some Thoughts From Shane Claiborne

Shane Claiborne was the featured speaker at the Oregon Synod Assembly.  He stood out from most of the participants there because he was young, because he had dreadlocks past his waist, and because he identifies himself as part of an irresistible revolution, a missionary of sorts to the American Church. To put it simply, Shane follows Jesus.

Most of us are not going to imitate the life of Shane, living simply and sharing most things in common.  Shane, however,  can help us unpack what we on Outreach have been doing to reach our neighborhood. One of the words we have chosen to identify Mt. Carmel is "Community." Shane has the following words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer inscribed on his wall:

"The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community."

We at Mt. Carmel understand that the basis of community is love.  We serve love at Transition Projects and Jean's Place.  We serve love around the tables after church.  We serve love around the quilting frame.  We at Mt. Carmel have been given a gift from God, like Shane says "we can look in the eyes of those we don't even like and see the One [Jesus] we love." 


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Aiming for One Percent

For churches with less than 100 worshipping on a given Sunday, increasing attendance by 1% seems like an achievable goal. But is it? How many of us have greeted visitors with the expectation that they would return the next Sunday but we never saw them again.  Is it our fault?

The Answer is both yes and no.  If we are too occupied with our own problems and concerns, we can make people feel as if they are intruding on our private club.  But, if we descend on them en masse, visitors can  feel that we are intruding on their privacy.  One could argue that we just need to be ourselves.  However, like any organization,  we all know that much of our community culture is unspoken and varies depending upon whom you consult.

Outreach has decided that there are certain things that we can do to level the playing field with visitors.  First, we can all wear name tags.  So, begining next Sunday you will be asked to fill out a stick-on name tag with your name.  Visitors will be asked to fill out the same type of name tag.  For some of you this may seem like a lot to ask.  It may seem like a lot to ask for some visitors.  But, we have got to start someplace to make our sense of community more tangible.

The Church in Chicago has proposed a one percent growth goal.  However, for the Lutherans living in the "None Zone," they have reduced that to goal to 0.5%.  So, if Mt Carmel grows by one new person, we will be ahead of the game.

If you would like to write a blog post, please contact me, Susan Doyle, at or leave a comment.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Opinion: Where Have All the Children Gone?

According to The Oregonian, "Just 30 percent of households in Oregon have children, the lowest rate among all but seven states..The picture is even starker in Portland, where only one in four homes includes a child 17 or younger."

Many churches believe that the only way to grow is to attract families with children. However, what about the 75% of homes which have no children ?

This note is the opinion of the author and does not purport to represent the opinions of Mt. Carmel Lutheran Church.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Living Without Religion Part 2

It is hard to judge what effect  the Center for Inquiry's billboard advocating living without religion had on our neighborhood, or on the city as a whole.  The billboard came down after a brief month to be replaced by an ad for Stanford's. I assume that some interested people received information from  I also assume that many people, like me, viewed the site to, as it were, scope out "the enemy."

Sometimes it is good to be reminded that what we believe is questioned by well intentioned people who have trouble with putting their faith in a Being that they cannot see or touch.  We remember how hard it was for Thomas to put side his skepticism at the notion of a Risen Christ. 

Each of us has come to faith in our own way and yet each of us has also come through the hand of God.  Sharing what living life with religion means to us is not as scary when we realize that all we are asked to do is to talk about what God has already done for us.  Sometimes when life is giving us lemons, we need to be reassured by our faith community that God is faithful.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Thought for the Day

“Hope is hearing the melody of the future. Faith is dancing to it." Rubern Alves

Has the Vision for the Church changed?

A study done by the University of Chicago several years ago found that 50% of Americans have fewer than three people that they can confide in.  That same study showed that 25% have no one at all that they can confide in.  We hear alot about how the popularity of Facebook and other social media sites is overtaking face to face contact at events such as reunions. 

It seems that everyone, even churches, have jumped on the Facebook bandwagon.  I am not saying that doing so is a bad idea.  It just seems to me that the unprecedented social isolation, that has come hand in hand with technology, is where the Church can offer more than virtual community.  The poverty and hunger for human contact that we are experiencing knows no class boundaries.

I was in graduate school when the book Megatrends came out.  The simple trends listed by the book seemed so obvious to us budding futurists. However, over the last twenty years, I have come to realize that a simple truth can be be very powerful.  Although the book is now considered out dated, the trend which equates the need for touch in inverse proportion to the use of technology is still valid (High Tech/High Touch).  In fact, with the proliferation of high tech devices, I think that face time has become even more important. 

The Church needs to be on Facebook and other social media sites because that is the new Town Square.  But, the Church also needs to be much more.  Our current task is describe, in a few words, how Mt. Carmel can meet the needs of people who are not currently experiencing God's love in community. This task is not only to identify what we think we have to offer others but also to think about new ways that we can reach out.  If you are wanting to get involved in this process, let someone know.