Archive for December, 2008

Six-year-olds Can Change the World

I teach first grade at a public school on the west side of Madison. A few weeks ago, we were having a discussion about how we all are alike and different. One of my little cherubs raised her hand and said very proudly, “We are all alike because we all agree that God created the heavens and the earth”.

I smiled, told the child that though I believed that and she believed that, that everyone may not be familiar with what the Bible teaches. I silently thought about how great it was that this little girl knew this truth and wondered if perhaps she went to church. The following day I wrote this writing prompt on the board: One way I can help make the world a better place is …

Without missing a beat, this same child quickly raised her hand. She said she was ALREADY making the world better. When I asked for her example, she said that she was giving up a Christmas present and the money that she would have spent on the present was going to help poor kids in Peru have clean water to drink!

Again I thought, wow. This is just awesome. This child truly has a compassionate heart. And only 6 years old!

Sunday moring as I worshipped at the 9:00 service, I suddenly put it all together – there sat the child’s parents right in front of me. I had no idea the family attended Blackhawk! I wrote a note to my student to tell her that I go to her church and had sat next to her mom and dad. I asked mom to deliver the note. I wish you could have seen her smile this morning as she came in the classroom and gave me a huge hug. I am not sure if she was more proud of the fact that she and her teacher had this special secret, or that she has learned to read so well that she could read my note all by herself. Nevertheless, she was one proud little girl.

This is just one more example of how Blackhawk is changing lives. The Bible teaches that a “little child shall lead them.” This young one is a shining light to her first grade classmates becuase she is hearing truth and even at her young age is thinking about how she can make a positive difference in the world. Thanks for your part in making Blackhawk a place where even the six year olds are on a journey toward God!

Written by Cindy Desjardins

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Burgers at the Beltline (and Other Christmas Traditions)

Every one of our family’s holiday traditions has one thing in common – namely, that there was a Christmas BEFORE that tradition began at which time we were content and happy about those traditions we already had. Every tradition has a beginning, and many times that new tradition replaces a more established one that we would have really preferred not to have given up.

Established traditions are embraced. New events and activities that surround the holidays are never seen as traditions the very first time they’re done, but many of these “first time” holiday activities become the traditions that we celebrate and embrace five, ten and twenty years down the road.

One of our family’s traditions – begun in the year 2000 – involves having all five of us attend the 4:30 Christmas Eve service together at Blackhawk and then stopping for a quick sandwich before driving to my folks’ house in Milwaukee. For each of the past eight years we’ve grabbed that sandwich at the Burger King on Park Street right off the Beltline.

burger1Whether traveling from our home in LaCrosse, then Rhinelander, then DeKalb, Illinois, we always found our way to Madison on our way to Milwaukee. Amazingly, the stop at Burger King became one of the most endearing part of our Christmas Eve tradition. I imagine it was because the five of us were eating a meal together rather than because of the quality of the food (although it ain’t bad!). We took a few minutes to be together, joke around, and watch frenetic employees and customers desperately trying to get somewhere else.

pfeifer-familyThat tradition – of attending the service at Blackhawk and stopping at Burger King – is over. Our son who moved to Madison in 2000 is now working outside of Washington D.C. and he’ll be flying in to O’Hare Wednesday afternoon. His younger brother is studying in Plymouth, UK this year and won’t be coming home at all over the holidays. Mt wife and I are preparing to move to Twin Falls, Idaho. And my father, who celebrated 88 Christmases and presided over our family gatherings for most of them, will not be with us. He passed away the day before Thanksgiving.

And yet, Christmas will come. The central event of celebrating the birth of Jesus transcends the traditions we’ve built around it, and we will – if we take the time to do it – be humbled and grateful for God’s incredible plan that placed a human baby in our midst who was also God – and who would grow up and be our Savior.

Although I’m not quite certain what we’ll do this week, I imagine that at least one of these things will become part of a new holiday tradition. I don’t know which one – that’s the way things are with traditions – I likely won’t know for years.

I’m thankful for the traditions our family has had and the ones yet to be discovered, but even more thankful for Jesus Christ, and plan to celebrate accordingly this Christmas Season.

 Written by John Pfeifer

Poop Water

I have poop water in my basement.

I bet you’re wondering how this even relates to Advent Conspiracy, but I promise you it does relate. 

So yesterday I was about to put some dirty laundry in the washing machine and I noticed that we had a lovely puddle of poop water in our laundry room. My first thought was, “Crap! Not again!” See, this had happened once before on the fourth of July. My husband, Joel, and his brother, Peter, noticed a poop water puddle and we ended up having to get our sewer pipes snaked for 4 hours by a plumber – not an expense we were wanting or needing at the time. Now it’s happened again! And right before Christmas, you’ve got to be kidding me – can’t we have a break from fixing broken things in our house?! 

dropletAfter a few moments (okay, it probably was an hour or so) of bellyaching, moaning and pitying our current situation, I realized we really are lucky to have poop water in our basement (okay, that was a hard realization to get to, I’ll be honest). Having poop water in our basement means that we have a system that takes away our poopy water and brings us clean water. It’s malfunctioning at the moment, but it is fixable. Most of the world does not have that luxury, they can’t just turn on the tap and drink water without thinking. They don’t have systems that separate and make sure they are not drinking their poop water. They also don’t use clean water in a shower without thinking (like I do). 

Looking at the poop water reminded me of one of my patients (I’m a nurse). This summer he had a few infected boils and sores that I was trying to keep clean and get to heal. I was lecturing him about keeping himself clean throughout the day and asked how often/frequently he was able to shower. His reply? “I don’t have a shower, I clean up in Lake Mendota.” He must have seen the look on my face (of disgust – have you seen the green aglea?) and he replied, “Hey, I don’t have a house and access to water all the time. What do you expect me to do?” He was right, and I was ashamed. I completely take advantage of my clean water. I don’t even think about how lucky we are to have water on demand. We also have a warm house, a warm bed, food in our bellies and a million other things that make us blessed.

The second thought that popped into my head was how blessed we are financially to be able to call a plumber and have our sewer de-clogged. In this uneasy financial time, we are blessed with savings and year end bonuses to pay for a plumber. A good portion of Madison and the US don’t have this luxury. You see, just the day before the poop water was in our basement, Joel got his year end bonus from work. I joked that we should use it to fix something in the house, we just didn’t know what. Well, that is going to come in handy at this time.

The Lord provides, it’s as simple as that. And that simplicity is amazing! We have a God that knows our needs, knows our desires, and provides just when we need it. The Lord is faithful and we should know and remember that. I don’t think it was a coincidence that poop water was in my basement the same week we gave to Advent Conspiracy. I don’t think it was a coincidence that we received a check the day before poop water puddle appeared.  

Advent Conspiracy is about more than us; it’s about others and trusting the Lord above all to provide. So in this week of Christ’s birth, go forth with the knowledge that the Lord is powerful, He provides for us way beyond anything we can ever imagine. Be thankful for your home, food, family, friends, clean water and no more poop water in our basement. And as I listen to the plumber use his industrial strength snake, I am thankful.  

May the peace of Christ dwell in you richly this season and may you remember your blessings. 

Written by Shannon Anderson

Sunday Trivia!

scroogeWhat song did a caroler sing outside of Scrooge’s office?

Worship Christ More This Christmas

Check out this piece written by Rick McKinley, pastor of Imago Dei Community & a founder of Advent Conspiracy:

ac_logo_thumb_verticalHere at Advent Conspiracy [AC] we get lots of questions about “How?” people can become co-conspirators. … it is an important question! But what I would like to do is frame that question with a much more important question. “Why?” would someone join the conspiracy?

At the heart of the Christmas story is one of the greatest theological mysteries. God with us. The very birth of Christ has led us down the road to deep theological inquiry as to the nature of the incarnation. At the heart of it all: God is now with us. He is present among us, loving, redeeming, saving, reconciling, convicting and displaying the glory of His Kingdom in a world that is sin swept and heartbroken.

The reason that any of us would go through all this work: being more thoughtful and creative in giving gifts so we spend less and give more; re-distributing funds to well water projects where the least of these live in such great need the reason we do all of that has one simple answer… To Worship Christ More.

The Advent Conspiracy is not just about fixing the world’s problems or becoming activists by resisting consumerism. At the heart of what we are doing is worshipping the God who is now with us. The point of the story of Christ’s birth is profound and transformational. The birth of Christ gave us access into knowing God through Jesus. We can solve lots of problems and live different lives in our culture but if it is not aiming at this one thing then we may be missing everything. God gave us a son so we could know Him and worship Him.

As Christ followers we get to enter that mystery this Christmas. Somehow between spending less, giving more and loving all, we keep coming back to why we are doing it. And there we find the answer. An answer that hushed the shepherds, angered the rulers, and caused the Angels to start singing in a blaze of glory. Because lying there in a feed trough among the steaming dung and smoking nostrils of farm animals, lay the greatest gift the world has ever known. God in the flesh, coming to put our lives and world back together.

This Christmas here is the invitation. Never forget why we are doing all this. As your kids are making gifts, tell them about the greatest gift, as you avoid the crowded malls spend that time re-telling the story, and as we collectively display the love of God through meeting basic needs so others may live, we are telling the world that we give because God gave. And who God gave us was His Son the Christ.

The invitation is simple – this Christmas join us as we worship Christ more.

Peeling the Onion on Advent Conspiracy

Well, it was quite an active life group last night as we discussed tensions that the Christmas season causes. Here are some of the ideas that came up:

The Christmas season seems to magnify all the tensions that believers face everyday in this world – not just the tensions that come up between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

As believers we are called to be different. We strive to do what Jesus did and act how Jesus act which is perhaps best expressed by the two greatest commandments Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27) . We also live in a world where people who dont know Jesus are driven by other things (greed, pride and envy for example) and tend to act accordingly. At Christmas, the tension is caused when we, as believers who want to be driven by the desire to express the love of Christ and be good stewards of resources, come up against the drivers of giving gifts and showing love out of obligation. We’re pulled in all directions!

Giving gifts, we decided, is not, in itself a bad thing. It is, in fact, a way that some people express their love for others. It is some peoples love language. Its the motivation behind the gift giving that is important. Give gifts out of love not out of obligation or guilt.

The Advent Conspiracy is not about wiping the holiday season and all the family traditions that are dear to many of us off the face of the earth. Holiday traditions bring memories (which we laugh at later) and in some families that tradition is a time of much-treasured gathering and re-connecting (and drinking eggnog). What the Advent Conspiracy is about is re-focusing and re-inserting the birth of Christ into the season and remembering what that means to us.

Someone in our group suggested that we need a new time in the year (not around the Holiday Season) where we focus on the arrival of Christ and Adventus Redemtorus (sorry, my latin is a bit rusty!). Would it work if we set aside the four Sundays in May, to focus on hope, preparation, joy and love?

Talk about breaking 2000 years of tradition. Perhaps we call this Advent Conspiracy II !

All in all, here’s what it boils down to. Every day should be Christmas. Every day, we should spend less (be good stewards). Every day we should give more. Every day we should love all, and of course, every day we should love fully. Perhaps thats why Christmas was never mentioned in the Bible. These are behaviors that God calls us to every day of our lives not just on a special occasion at the end of the year.

So mark this on your calendar January 1st, 2009, Advent starts. December 31 2009, Advent ends.  

Royalty, Joy and Holiness all year.  Its gonna be a great 2009!  

Halleluiah!

Written by Fredric Gluck

But It’s About Christ …

When I recieved this twas the night before christmas e-mail, I just laughed because it is all about what we have been talking about with this Advent Consipiracy. Put Christ back into Christmas!

I have to say that it has been a challenge to say the least to get people in my family to agree to go with us and our Advent Consipiracy this year. We recieved all of the normal compliants: “It’s Christmas – that what it’s about,” “that’s not fair to the kids that they don’t get as many presents,” “if you donate what I get them to someone else I will be so upset.” I just said, “People, do you hear what you are saying? Is this the message that we really want to send to our kids and grandkids?” I got a response of, “That’s what grandmas do, they spoil their grandchildren.” So I kept getting back to my point – this is supposed to be about Christ.

My youngest sister was very excited about all of it, because she had already been trying to get her mom to go along with one less gift. So after much discussion and reasoning, I got it to this – everyone gets one gift for the kids and we do Secret Santa (names in a hat) for everyone else. What can I say? It’s better than nothing. Plus I figure I can continue to work it into their minds and hearts for future dates down the road.

Written by Iiona Virgin


Love All

Act Local: Share gifts of time and resources with those in our community. At the Impact Tree in the Atrium, find opportunities available for individuals, families and life groups. All the information you need will be on the cards by the Tree. Take a card – put an ornament on the tree.

Give Global: On Sunday, December 13 during services, we'll take up an Advent Conspiracy offering (a direct result of spending less) to give towards clean water projects and wheelchair needs in Honduras, Kenya and Romania. If you won’t be able to join us at services on that day but still want to participate, just write "Advent" in the memo of your check and drop it in any of the offering boxes.