Posts Tagged ‘Advent’

Love and Light

// December 19th, 2014 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

We will have two services Sunday.  Plus a post-evening-service feast.  Plus getting the building ready.  Plus the holidays.  Plus a surprise appearance by my dog jumping through yet another window.  It’s a busy time.  I don’t know if I will get it all done or how it will all turn out.  Advent is a time of waiting, a time of mystery, a time of not knowing.  That can easily translate into a time of anxiety.  But this is the week of love.

Love overcomes anxiety.  I don’t know how it will all turn out, but I know that I am loved – by my family, by my friends, by my church.  That love both inspires me to try a little harder and to know that it will be okay even if I fail.  Love provides comfort and confidence.  Love sustains us in the waiting and the unknowing.  On Sunday morning, we will celebrate a love that carries us into a new year and new possibilities, a love that is the love of all loves.

On Sunday evening, we will celebrate the light coming into the world.  The prophets speak of a world plunged into shadow.  This is sometimes regarded as a remarkably prescient vision, that there will be this one time when everything seems bad.  But this is the season of short days and long nights.  It is the season of economic turmoil, wars and rumors of wars, weeping and gnashing of teeth.  This is the cycle that humanity rehearses over and over again.  Somehow, in the midst of that, out of that, because of that, something new and beautiful is born.  On Sunday evening, we will celebrate the breaking of the light over the horizon and our journey into a new day.

Please join us Sunday morning, 11am at Church in the Cliff, 1719 W. 10th St., as we celebrate (and practice!) love.  And join us again in the evening, 6pm at our house, 221 S. Edgefield Ave., as we celebrate God’s becoming in the world.  There will be a feast after the service.  Wear stretchy pants.

Grace & Peace,

Rejoice! (Plus: A Note from the Board!)

// December 12th, 2014 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

People might not guess that I suffer from depression because I laugh a lot.  In fact, I know a lot of depressed people who laugh a lot.  Perhaps a bleak outlook makes us really appreciate the moments of joy.  We wring out every drop.

This week of Advent is dedicated to joy.  As I’ve mentioned, Advent is a time of judgment and repentance.  In order to move into the light, this new birth of God into the world, we must take stock, which can be a maudlin business.  Shortly after Advent evolved into the pre-Christmas ritual, people realized that we need a break.

Advent marks the end – the end of the world, the end of everything we know.  But it is the end that yields to the beginning.  We’re of two minds, taking stock of the past, but anticipating the great joy of the holiday to come.  So this week we take a break and pretend that Christmas has already come, that the light has already broken through, just so we can imagine what that will be like, just so we can have a taste.

This is the reality of life.  There’s a lot of bad stuff going on in the world right now, as we have discussed in church the last couple of weeks.  But there’s some great stuff, too, peeking in for just a moment here and there.  As a church, we have a new building that we’re working to bring into shape.  We’re already connecting with community groups to wring every drop of joy out of the place.  So this week, we celebrate!  We rejoice!  It will be just a moment before we have to get back to work to make that moment of joy more than just a moment and more than just our own.

Please join us this week, 11am at 1710 W. 10th St., as we celebrate the in-breaking of God’s light into the world.  I’ll be out of town, but the conversation will be ably lead by our Board Moderator, Janalee.  I can’t think of any person more qualified to talk about joy!

Grace & Peace,


Our church has adopted two families this year for Christmas. One family includes a pregnant 21-year-old woman, a 1 year-old-girl, and 2-year-old girl. The other family is a single 50-year-old woman. There are still some items on their wish lists, so please sign up to bring them a joyful Christmas.

Please don’t wrap the gifts! Just put a note on them designating who the gift is for. You can bring the gifts to church this Sunday, Dec. 14.

A Note from the Board

If you haven’t visited our new space, I hope you will very soon! It is teeming with possibility and we are very excited to make it a “home” for our community. I’d like to take a minute to thank our pastor Scott for all the visits to the city offices and all the very “glamorous” tasks he’s completed to get this space ready for move-in. Thanks for your diligence Scott! Also, Fred and Jen have lent their architectural and design knowledge to make ready our space and satisfy the city’s requirements. The whole board and many other community members have worked hard to make this move possible. Big thanks to everyone who helped!

There’s still work to do! There are three ways you can help. Please consider how you’d like to be involved.

Make a year-end contribution. The board has worked diligently to ensure that the move is affordable as possible for the community. Yet as you would imagine, setting up house will require some financial resources. Gifts have already been designated for this move, and we’d like to spend as little as possible of our current cash on hand. Would you consider making a year-end gift to Church in the Cliff to furnish and equip our new space? Your gift will make great things possible for our community in the coming year/s. If you can’t attend one of our remaining service in 2014, you can mail your gift to Church in the Cliff at P.O. Box 5072 Dallas TX 75208.

Lend your time and paint brush. Over the next two weeks, we’ll be laying carpet tiles, painting, installing blinds, and doing other general tasks. Please email Mikal Beth at if you have some time over the next two weeks to help with some of these tasks, particularly the painting. Also feel free to donate any brushes or painting supplies you may have at home.

Help plan or promote our Ephiphany party! Our time during advent is devoted to preparing our home, and for epiphany, we want to throw a “get to know us” celebration for the neighborhood. We’re still nailing down the date, but it will be the first week in January. We’ll have activities for children and refreshments for adults. Contact Janalee at if you’d like to help with planning and preparation.

It’s been good to be a part of creating a home for our community during the season of hope. I believe there are really great things in store for Church in the Cliff in 2015. Let’s continue dreaming and scheming together. Thanks!

Hope, peace, and joy,

Peace in the Season

// December 6th, 2014 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

This is the Advent week of peace, but I have to admit that I have not felt at peace.  Advent is supposed to be a month of preparation for the Light coming into the world.  We are to hope and find peace and joy and love one another.  Most of us are consumed with the logistics of holiday travel and consumption masquerading as generosity.  In this church, we are trying to move into the new building, which means wrangling with bureaucracy and digging down into the nitty-gritty of budgets and fabric patterns.  All week, I have sat down to write this e-mail and each time it has evaded me.

At a personal level, being the point-person on the move takes its toll.  It’s not that I can’t do it; it’s just that it is contrary to every part of who I really am.  I know that no one really enjoys filling out forms and being told something different by each and every contact person at the city.  But I know who I am.  I’m made for big thoughts.  I’m not even good at small talk.  The result is that I feel fragmented.

I’m not saying this to complain – and if I had been able to think more clearly, I probably would have come up with something better to say in the church e-mail – but I think it speaks to our theme of peace.  Whenever Jesus mentions “peace,” he is really saying shalom, which is more than just peace as we typically imagine it.  Shalom is wholeness, completeness.  For the individual, it encompasses physical, spiritual, intellectual, and emotional well-being.  It is the opposite of fragmented.  It is that space where we can let our defenses down, where we can be who we truly are.  We do not fear judgment and we act boldly.

In the public sphere, shalom speaks to justice.  We tend to speak of peace in the context of international relations, as the absence of war.  But it is so much more than that.  It first of all presumes that the true self of the individual can act in public without fear, that our wholeness can exist in the world without being trampled.  Imagine if everyone felt that confidence and coherence, that honesty and vulnerability.  Imagine if the world understood its own abundance and strove to make sure that everyone had everything they needed, to make sure that everyone was well cared for.  How could war persist in the face of such compassion?  How could injustice continue?

So I feel fragmented.  I feel torn apart by the demands of the season.  I feel torn apart by the world outside myself.  I doubt that I’m alone.

Please join us this week at our new space, 11am at 1719 W. 10th St., as we discuss inner and outer peace: what it is; how to attain it; and our responsibilities for living with it.  A small programming note: the service will be short.  We still have no water and few  chairs.  Hopefully, that gets settled this week.  Please bear with us while we create a home.

Grace & Peace,

Judgment Turns to Hope

// November 25th, 2014 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

Advent is a time of waiting and preparation.  It’s easy to jump forward to the birth of the little baby Jesus and the star and the wise ones bearing gifts.  We’ll soon be decorating our homes with twinkly, sparkly things and hear the golden voice of Johnny Mathis floating through the halls.  But during Advent, we wait and we work.

This Advent, we as a church have a lot to do.  We finally got our permit for the new building.  There are still a couple of details to iron out, but we’ll be in next week.  But it won’t all be done.  We will be working over the next month and beyond to build our new home, to nest a bit.  It is an opportunity to dream and bring those dreams into reality.  As we do that, perhaps we can use the experience to think about what it means to create a place for God to come into the world.

And what does that presence mean in our lives?  How do we see God?  In what ways do we feel God’s presence?  How do we experience our Advent themes of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love?

This week, we begin with Hope.  Interestingly, it is still a time of judgment.  The First Sunday of Advent is a day of reckoning that begins turning the world back toward justice.  The world is ending and the world begins anew, but only if we wrestle with what has come before and how we ended where we are.  Somehow, we find that hope arises out of tragedy and loss.

This is particularly critical as we watch the events unfolding in Ferguson.  Something has clearly gone off the rails.  Decades of disenfranchisement, of simmering distrust, of poverty and racial enmity, have boiled over.  It’s easy to point at the looting and cluck our tongues.  It’s much harder to ask how we each contribute to racial systems of power that are at the root of what is happening in Ferguson.  If we asked those questions, we might be responsible.  We might have to change.  Whether we want it to or not, the day of judgment will come.  Would we rather it come through introspection and prayer, through thoughtful decision-making that leads to transformation?  Or through explosive violence that destroys the very communities that long for justice?  Either way, the world has once again come to an end and so we will build something new.  This is hope: that we will always be preserved to try again, to do a little better this time.  Judgment turns to hope.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we talk about our hopes for our new church home, our hopes for who we become in that space, our hopes for bringing God into the world.  Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Grace & Peace,

Looking for Love

// December 20th, 2013 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

What happens when life doesn’t sync up with the seasons? When our world seems filled with joyful laughter and shiny things, and we just don’t feel shiny? Is it possible that the holy can be found both within the holiday mirth, and also within struggle?

We are nearing the final week of Advent. Advent is a season of longing, of anticipation. It is my favorite liturgical season, perhaps because it helps me dream of a world where, as Julian of Norwich said, “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Sometimes, though, life gets in the way of Advent. These past few weeks I’ve had a pet die and two dear friends become gravely ill. I know some of you have been sick or struggling to figure out work, relationships, and general life stuff. Sometimes when we’re trying to wrap our heads around the present, it’s hard to anticipate a world where Love is the center of life. Longing for transformation gets lost in surviving the worries of now.

One of our biblical stories this week is Joseph’s dream (Matthew 1.18-25). Joseph, being a stand-up guy for his era, plans to “dismiss” his betrothed, the pregnant Mary. He plans to do this quietly, to avoid shaming her and still maintain his honor, since he’s not sure who the father of her baby is. After he makes up his mind, he goes to sleep, and has a dream. An angel appears, telling him not to fear public disgrace, because the child Mary carries will save his people. This story isn’t really about a virgin birth or sexuality, but about God’s communication with Joseph, and the presence of the holy in a human baby. For some wild reason, Joseph pays attention to this dream, and marries Mary – a risky response not anticipated by cultural standards of normalcy. It’s a shining moment where love and courage win – Joseph’s response makes way for the holy in our world.

This week of Advent, we meditate on Love. We remember that Emmanuel means “God with us” – in the midst of life, wherever we are. Love with us, in the midst of sickness. Love with us, in the midst of grief. Love with us, in the midst of tangled relationships. Love with us, in loneliness. Love with us, too, in all that is joyful and good and beautiful, lest we forget that our world is always charged with these things. Wherever we are this Advent, I wonder – how can we tune ourselves to the Holy in our midst? And how might we be changed if this happens?

Join us Sunday morning, 11am, at Kidd Springs Rec Center, and connect with our face-to-face community as we work out what it means to live in Love together. Join us Sunday night, as well, for our early celebration of Christmas Eve hosted by the Shirley’s. There will be Jesus stories and candles and singing and friends. Food, too, if I heard the rumors correctly, so please join us at 6pm Sunday evening, 221 S. Edgefield.

With Advent Longing,

Advent: Lighting the Candle of Hope

// December 1st, 2013 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

Welcome to Advent! The first breath of the new church year is about to be drawn. Once more, we’ve circled around to the season of mystery, into “the close and holy darkness,” as the poet Dylan Thomas put it.

Advent is laden with expectation, pregnant with strange good news, and lit by archetypal symbols. I loved this season during my growing up years – though in my not-particularly-liturgical home, we just called it Christmas time. Special food, special songs, pretty things that came out only during this special season – it felt magical, like I was part of a story of great importance.  As I became a grown person, I learned about the distinction that followers of the Christian tradition make between “ordinary” time and the seasons that are laden with signs of the sacred.  In the Greek, a distinction is made between chronos, or “clock time,” and kairos – sacred time, time that is heavy-laden with meaning.

We are entering a season of wild kairos. In the rhythms of life, certain seasons help us remember the holiness of every moment and serve as guideposts – identity markers that help us recall ourselves and begin again towards how we want to live and who we long to be.  This week, we light the first candle of Advent – the flickering flame of Hope.

Join us as we take the first breaths of Advent together. We’ll make some symbols of hope & expectancy to take with us on our journey through the next few weeks, and we will talk through the two faces of hope: judgment and expectancy. Please celebrate with us tomorrow, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center.

With Hope,

Advent Programs

// January 8th, 2013 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

Got a little behind in the end-of-school/Christmas rush.  Ready to get back to my normal level of disorganization.

Advent Week 1

Advent Week 2

Advent Week 3

Advent Week 4

Christmas Eve

Advent: Love All

// December 22nd, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

Advent is a time of waiting, no time more so than the final Sunday of Advent when we can finally see the light on the horizon.  And no year in my admittedly short memory of Advent seems like so painful a wait, so desperate a time to be on the threshold of a new year.  I wonder what will be different on the other side of the horizon.

The truth is, we will never know.  The horizon lies ever in the distance, the thing to which we move, but never reach.  Like every year, Jesus will be born; Jesus will die and rise again; Jesus will ascend and return in judgment.  We will mark all of it with laughter and tears, healing and heartbreak.  And then we’ll do it again.

The truth is, we are always waiting.  Waiting for justice.  Waiting for love.  Waiting for peace.  Waiting for God to come into the world.

Tragic events like Sandy Hook always bring into sharp relief questions about the source of evil and the nature of God.  Where is God in all this?  How does God get wherever God is?  Many commentators have worked this angle, for better or worse.  I don’t really want to add myself to either side, but I think there’s a reason we enter into this cycle of the Christian liturgical calendar.  We cling as desperately to our faith in God’s ever-present love and support as we cling to our hope in God’s eventual triumph.  We separate out bits of that at times to mark it, but we really experience it all at once, all the time.  That is why, as the Advent tradition reminds us, we wait and that is why, as Advent Conspiracy reminds us, we must “Love All.”  We are always waiting and longing and hoping, stuck on the threshold of what has been and what might be.  If we can’t hold onto each other, nurture the image of God in every Other One – with apologies to Rachel Held Evans – God does not come into the world.  Instead, God is silenced, beaten back, and the forces of evil triumph again.

Like Mary, we have to say yes to God.  We have to nurture the Divine, give it a place to gestate and to emerge, bodily, into the world.  If we can’t do that, we are indeed condemned to the shadows and dawn will never break.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we talk about seeing the image of God in ourselves and in others so that we can live together in the space between Faith and Hope, the now of Love.

Grace and Peace,

Advent Conspiracy: Worship Fully (in which the author takes issue, as is his way)

// November 30th, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

This year Church in the Cliff is participating in Advent Conspiracy, which seeks to turn Christmas upside down, to remind us of the meaning of God coming into the world.  Advent Conspiracy asks us to reconsider the consumerism of the Christmas season, to avoid the stress of malls, the debt of buying things we can’t afford, and the downright silliness of buying a bunch of stuff that people don’t need and probably don’t even want.  Instead, we should spend our time and attention on the people that we love and direct our money to people who really need it.  Above all, we should take seriously the in-breaking of the Divine into our lives and what that means for how we live with one another.  These are all great things that I support without reservation.  However, because I seem to be constitutionally incapable of playing nicely with others, I have to say that something is bugging me about Advent Conspiracy.

On the Advent Conspiracy website, there’s not a lot of pixels spent on Advent.  It’s all about Christmas.  I know that evangelicals like think they finally cracked the code on Christianity, but Advent has been around a long, long, long time.  And it’s not about Christmas, at least, not entirely.  But the really odd thing to me is that, if we pay attention to what Advent has always been, it gets right at what Advent Conspiracy is trying to do.

Though it passed without remark – my fault – last week was what is traditionally known as “Christ the King Sunday,” the Sunday before Advent.  The patriarchal, hierarchical language gives me the willies, but what it signifies is, well, significant.  Every year, the liturgical calendar rehearses the cycle of life.  There is birth and there is death and there is re-birth.  Beginnings always hurtle us towards ends and ends always lead to new beginnings.  Advent is the fulcrum of that calendar.  To use traditional language, Christ returns as the King to judge the world and to remake it.  It is the end, the apocalypse, where all are held to account.  This sounds scary and weird and I don’t believe a word of it.  However, I do believe we need to take stock, to look at what we have done and who we have become, to see what is real so that we can understand the hope and promise of new life signified by the birth of Jesus in a few short weeks.  Just as we can’t have Easter without Lent, we can’t really have Christmas without Advent.

I know it’s a downer.  We want Christmas stories and carols and lights.  We want wise men and angels and the little baby Jesus.  We want Luke’s fabulous musical numbers.  And we will have all that.  We will.  But we must wait, just a little bit.  Judgment will yield to proclamation, proclamation will turn to anticipation, anticipation will turn to hope, and hope will turn to joy.  Advent Conspiracy asks us to rethink Christmas: to Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All.  Advent, in the long, long, long Christian tradition, makes it impossible to do otherwise.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we talk about what it might mean to “Worship Fully.”  Heck, since we’re not really a praise chorus kind of church or a robe and stole kind of church, perhaps we can talk about what it means to worship at all, and inch up to “fully” as best we can.  Remember, we will take up a special offering every Sunday during Advent to give to people who could really use it.

Grace and Peace,

Advent Craft Days

In an effort to help you spend less, we will be doing crafts at Kidd Springs Rec Center for the first three Saturdays in December from 10am to noon.  We will make cards, lip balm, and soap to give as gifts to family and friends.  Hope to see you there!

Chestnut Farms

Chestnut Farms is a non-profit organic farm in Deep Ellum that CitC friend David Cole is involved in.  They are growing on a quarter-acre that used to be a parking lot.  As I understand it, they are still working out the details on how to serve the community and who to sell to, but right now they are harvesting a bunch of bok choy.  David will be out there most Saturdays and would love some company.  Looks like Saturday will be beautiful out.  If you’d like to join David (after crafting, of course) shoot him an email at

Also, Chestnut Farms is having a benefit concert, Dec. 21 at 8pm, featuring Folk Angel, Robbie Seay, and Lauren Chandler.  Proceeds go to Grow Us, a partnership between Chestnut Farms and Champions of Hope.