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the Spirit of Christmas

the Spirit of Christmas

Ray Charles sang about it.

Someone you follow on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, a Blogger, or your social media of choice is probably influencing about it.There is a personalized Ad waiting to popup in your feed to sell you something to help you experience it.

Jacob Marley tried to warn Ebenezer Scrooge about living it.

And Charlie Brown just wants someone to tell him what “Christmas is all about.”

Linus tells a bit of the spotlight Christian Christmas story about a savior, who is Christ the Lord. Remember, the shepherds returned to the field praising God for all they had heard and seen as it had been told to them.  The story doesn’t say what the shepherds did the next day.

Is that the same thing as the Spirit of Christmas?  I know it is hard to ponder in your heart, but in a pluralistic world the Spirit of Christmas may mean a little bit more.

Is it what Linus, Lucy, and the others do for Charlie Brown, and a twinkling star that lifts voices?

All the Whos in Whoville gather and sing:

“Christmas day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp.
Welcome Christmas where we stand
Heart to heart and hand in hand.”

How will you tell someone what the spirit of Christmas is?

If that seems hard to do maybe you can be a sign of the spirit of Christmas this year.

Happy Advent!

2021-12-02T11:06:14-06:00Dec 2, 2021|Michael Davison Blog|0 Comments

Appreciative Inquiry

appreciation (noun)

a feeling of being grateful for something;

an ability to understand the worth, quality, or importance of something;

full awareness or understanding of something.

(https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/appreciation, accessed September 29, 2021)

Has the pandemic made appreciation easier or harder for you?

appreciate (verb)

to understand the worth or importance of;

to admire and value;

to be grateful for;

used to make a polite request.

(https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/appreciation, accessed September 29, 2021)

Has the pandemic made it easier or harder for you to appreciate?

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) recognizes October as Minister Appreciation Month.  Specifically, October 10th, is the Sunday that many congregations will recognize their minister(s). In the next couple of weeks, pause for thirty minutes to write a note to a minister(s) that expresses your appreciation for their walk alongside you in faith.  It doesn’t have to be lengthy.

Jesus often went away from the crowds to recharge his spiritual batteries for his life in ministry.  Your note of appreciation might be that recharge moment your minister needs.  Remember, the ministers among us have prayed for, modeled faithfulness, and led struggling people, struggling congregations, and struggling institutions through this pandemic while having their own professional and personal struggles.

Some of these struggles I share.  Some I appreciate.

2021-10-01T12:11:08-05:00Oct 1, 2021|Michael Davison Blog|Comments Off on Appreciative Inquiry

Problems worth dancing with

Progress is a trade

It’s easy to imagine that over there, just a few steps ahead, our problems will disappear.

Pessimists, of course, are sure that instead of disappearing, tomorrow will make things worse.

The truth is pretty simple: All we do, all we ever do, is trade one set of problems for another.

Problems are a feature. They’re the opportunity to see how we can productively move forward. Not to a world with no problems at all, but to a situation with different problems, ones that are worth dancing with.[Seth Godin, July 28, 2021]

In my sermons this past four months I’ve noted that some of us are thinking about “getting back to normal” or “back to before.”  Maybe “before” wasn’t nearly as good as we think it was or as meaningful as “right now” is or tomorrow might be.  I don’t consider myself an optimist. Some might call me a pessimist.  I think I’m a realists, but let’s quibble over labels another day.

Covid-19 forced most of us into situations we never wanted to be in, and decisions we never wanted to make.  It presented us (me) with opportunities to reflect on how I am living.  Where did I spend my time and to what or whom did I give my attention.  Was that good for me? Was that good for my family, friends, and my following Jesus?

The coronavirus did the same thing to the institutions, myths, and stories we rely upon, support, and participate in that act as a compass for our lives.  It continues to do so. It’s the hardest thing: to decide what problems are opportunities worthy of attention and which ones just distract and nag, willingly or not, from meaningful living and helping our neighbors.

One thing that Covid-19 has made clearer for me is that being super busy doesn’t mean one is successful. It may mean we are over functioning or are workaholics or are fearful of idle time.  It may mean that one doesn’t have the clarity to say “no” to the less important or the filters to sift important from unimportant in the short term and long term. And, it could be that one has focused on the very important for their lives and kicked into hyperdrive.

I don’t know if church, youth group, Christianity, or following Jesus, any or all, are important for you.  They may be problems worth dancing with.

May God’s shalom find you and may you live in God’s shalom.

2021-08-05T14:41:07-05:00Aug 5, 2021|Michael Davison Blog|Comments Off on Problems worth dancing with

Intentional Christian Community

From/to

Freedom has a partner, and its name is responsibility.
It’s easy to insist on all the things we should be free from.
But then we realize that we also have the freedom to act, to lead and to confront our fear and our selfishness. Once we realize our own agency, freedom begins to feel like a responsibility.
The freedom to make a difference.(1)

Last month that is what we practiced at church camp: responsibility.  Intentional Christian Community, or any intentional community, is something you have to want.  It’s a balancing act.  It’s a different kind of freedom.  It’s a responsibility.  And that is one of the lessons from church camp this summer as campers and volunteer staff learned about how creation speaks to humanity and God is made known.

The adults that volunteer directors and counselors are the strength of our outdoor ministry program.  The children and youth lived with our Covid-19 procedures with grace and acceptance that this was required for church camp to happen this year.  They altered their own behavior on behalf of the community.  They practiced individualism within community.  We cannot say “thank you” enough to the campers and our adult volunteers.  You’ve set an example for the rest of us about how to be intentional Christian community.


Note
1)  Seth Godin, “From/to.” July 4, 2021.

2021-07-13T13:29:22-05:00Jul 13, 2021|Michael Davison Blog|Comments Off on Intentional Christian Community

What Matters Most?

“Take your time”

It means two very different things.

When a person or a marketer takes your time, they’re stealing. Something irretrievable is gone. If your time is taken for selfish reasons, if it’s wasted, there’s no good way to get it back.

On the other hand, when you have enough confidence to take your own time, to take your time to be present, to do the work, to engage with what’s in front of you right now, it’s a gift.

This is precisely what time is for.

We’re not in a race to check off as many boxes as we possibly can before we are out of time. Instead, we have the chance to use the time to create moments that matter. Because they connect us, because they open doors, because the moments, added up, create a life.
(Seth Godin,”Take your time.” May 29, 2021.)

In a “time” when everything matters how do you determine what matters most?  I’m an old Gen X’er and a version of this question has been part of my conscious existence since the middle 1980’s when I was a college student.  The Covid-19 pandemic may have helped some of us answer the question, “when everything matters what matters most?”  Did it for you?  And yet, as people rush back to time before the pandemic I wonder what we’ve learned?  Really.

I think part of our Disciples ethos is that we value the decision making process: how and why.  Church Camp, like other camp experiences, is time away.  This intentional Christian community develops skills to help people, young and seasoned, determine what matters most and how to live into what matters most.  Those skills will develop over time as they continue to practice and participate in the journey of faith.  Church camp can be a mountain top experience, but its best work is the subtle and nuanced preparation for living through the valleys of life.  This preparation happens in small group conversations, games, hanging out during free time, in prayer, craft time and worship.

You can follow summer camp this year through the Region’s social media (Twitter @ccokdoc, Facebook – Oklahoma Disciples, and Instagram ccokdoc) as well as here at the Region’s website.  We may have a podcast episode or two as well.

Thank you for supporting Outdoor ministry (Church Camp) in your congregation and in covenant with the Christian Church in Oklahoma.

2021-06-03T06:26:40-05:00Jun 3, 2021|Michael Davison Blog|Comments Off on What Matters Most?

Community. Belief. Faith.

A mass noun is one that doesn’t take an S when we have more. “Butter” and “Information” are both uncountable in use, because when we only have only one unit of butter (or information) we use the same word as if we have four or six units. Butter is butter.

Uncountable words are understandably difficult to measure at a glance. They don’t fit easily into the industrial mindset, and we’re often pushed to find things that are less mysterious.

But it turns out that uncountable words like trust, honesty, commitment, passion, connection and quality are a fine thing to focus on.

(Seth Godin, “Uncountable.” April 29, 2021)

Community. Belief. Faith.  Are these uncountable as well?  I think so.

Our summer camp program offers children, youth, and adults the  space to encounter the uncountable.  We do that by blending play, prayer, study, service, and worship every day.

This summer we are putting the “outdoor” back in summer camp.  This will help us hear creation speak and mitigate the possible spread of the coronavirus. Campers and adults will explore some of the stories below this summer at camp.

Summer Camp could not happen without the adults that volunteer their time, life experience and faith experience.  In July, we will offer a proper thank you to all the volunteers.

The Holy One is uncountable, but we trust is encountered when we focus on following the way of Jesus.

Community. Belief. Faith.

2021-05-06T08:55:15-05:00May 6, 2021|Michael Davison Blog|Comments Off on Community. Belief. Faith.

Following Jesus . . . it’s a daily journey

“What Can You Do Once You’re Vaccinated?” (nytimes.com)

Out there, beyond Easter, is a journey through the looking glass.  It’s always been that way, even before Covid-19 restrictions, politics, science, grief, and prayers.  Out there beyond Easter, we have to apply what we’ve learned about ourselves, our communities, communal medical health, citizenship, faith, and following Jesus.

The Regional Youth Council’s Lent devotional suggested that Lent is a daily journey.  And like Lent, those who claim to be an “Easter people” are involved in a daily journey.  We can try to categorize, reference, and program our way into the already, but not yet, empire of God, but the Holy One isn’t easily tamed, named, or claimed.  The divine spark in you knows the whisper of God and what the Holy requires.  There is a lot of noise to silence.  It is a daily journey filled with lows, highs, and the mundane.

Sometimes Christians think of Jesus as a kind of vaccine for the human condition. Traditions and rituals during Christmas and Easter can be a booster shot for a weak spiritual immune system.

In one of my favorite scenes in the movie, “Jesus Christ Superstar,” the crowd sings:

Christ, you know I love you
Did you see, I waved
I believe in you and God
So tell me that I’m saved

Jesus, I am with you
Touch me, touch me Jesus
Jesus, I am on your side
Kiss me, kiss me Jesus(1)

How is your spiritual immune system these days?

This summer at camp, we will mix the same ingredients we have for years: play, prayer, study, worship, and service.  Will it be different?  Yes.  It always is a bit different because we are not turning out industrialized, mass-produced Christians.  That’s not the intent.  Physical distance, masks, and the small groups will probably make camp feel different, but “camp will be camp.”  Why?  Because I trust the ingredients. I trust God. I trust the spiritual immune systems of directors, counselors, and the campers who will create the sacred space we call summer camp.

Following Jesus . . . it’s a daily journey.  It is making choices about what I/we/you can do (should do) once vaccinated.


1. Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice, “Simon Zealotes from Jesus Christ Superstar” (1973) Universal Pictures Film Music.

2021-04-06T08:48:25-05:00Apr 6, 2021|Michael Davison Blog|Comments Off on Following Jesus . . . it’s a daily journey

What will it be like?

“Count me in.”
That’s the opposite of, “count me out.”

Either you seek to unite and be part of it. Or to divide and watch it go away.

Whatever ‘it’ might be.

We can seek to trigger those we’ve decided are our enemies, undermine the standards and burn it all down. Or we can commit to the possibility that together, we can create something that works.

It’s not that hard to realize that even if we can’t always see the gunwales on the boat, we’re all in the same one.

(Seth Godin, 02/28/21)

How do you begin or end your day?  Some may have a soundtrack.  I do.  Sometimes, it is treadmill tunes pulling me along the 6am walk or jog.  Sometimes, it is the playlist of my favorite bands while I was in high school and college.

At the end of the day, I’m another day older, and it is the sound of the ocean.

During Lent, I’ve traded the morning soundtrack for live and pre-recorded video from the International Space Station Youtube channel. (pictured above). There is a soft piano soundtrack. The view is inspirational and aspirational for me, as I handwrite a card to someone.

Lent is an intentional time of honest self-reflection.  As I wander with disciples and with Jesus toward Jerusalem this year, what has come into focus are the aspirations of christians, of myself, based in the inspiration of Jesus, who most often talked about the empire of God.  Jesus’ teaching about the empire (kindom or kingdom) of God was often followed by “is like.” Christian theology speaks of the “all ready” but “not yet” nature of the empire of God in which baptized believers exist and are supposed to be capable of recognizing.  Christians have a kind of dual citizenship that often puts us at odds with ourselves, our behavior, and competing visions of God’s empire and Jesus’ role.

After twelve months (and counting) of pandemic time, overt political conflict, cancellations, and growing institutional and neighborly distrust where have you, have I, recognized the empire of God that Jesus described?

My lent is filled with wondering what “could” it be like or “would” it be like or “will” it be like when . . .

Leaven [Matt 13:33b, Luke 13:20b-21]

Good Samaritan [Luke 10:30-37]

Dishonest Steward [Luke 16:1-9]

Vineyard Laborers [Matt 20:1-15]

Mustard Seed [Matt 13:31b-32, Mark 4:31-32, Luke 13:19]

I leave the house without a mask in the car.

2021-03-01T10:03:56-06:00Mar 1, 2021|Michael Davison Blog|Comments Off on What will it be like?

Question. Experience. Reflection. Relationship.

What motivates you to learn and to grow?
(“The Daily Question”, gratefulness.org. 1/31/21)

Question. Experience. Reflection. Relationship.

There was so much happening. I was trying to take in all the moments.  I spotted my family several rows up from the floor.  Chancellor Tucker was talking about what it means to be a graduate of TCU. This idea, more a paraphrase than direct quote, is all I remember. “You’ve been educated to consult many sources, to weigh the validity of the information from those sources, and to ask quality questions.”

Experience can be a great teacher.  Maybe it is the best teacher. If you want to be the best version or better version of yourself, pay attention to the experiences that help you become the better you. There is an entire market of “stuff,” genre of self-help, and virtual selling of experience.  There are vacations, trips, and camps.  I think we all have an experience that help’s us remember the best version of ourselves when times are hard, tragic, and especially when a moment is nuanced.

Self reflection is necessary.  It is not always easy, but necessary. As a child, youth, and even in early adulthood, I never had a good answer for my parent’s favorite question, “Why did you do that?”  Like many, I often just fell back on, “I don’t know.” even when I did know and didn’t want to admit it.  My mother’s response, “Go to you room and think about what you did and how you will behave differently next time while your dad and I decide the best consequence.”  She meant punishment. Once I reached junior high, I was expected to have an answer for the “why” when I emerged from my room to demonstrate that I had thought about my actions. That is when the dialogue about my actions began as well as dispensing of consequences.  You never get asked, “Why did you do that?” about the good decisions.  Now, why is that.

Stranded alone on a desert island, Chuck (Tom Hanks), opens a box that washed up on the beach. It contains a soccer ball.  Wilson, the brand of ball and name Chuck gives him, becomes his friend.  Wilson helps Chuck cope with the isolation. In a moment of confrontation, Wilson helps Chuck decide to leave the island for the sea and risk death to be found. But, they and may never being found.  Chuck’s wears a pocket watch around his neck. A photo of his fiancé is inside.  A relationship can comfort, challenge, create stress, suffocate, be mutual or one-sided.  Some relationships are good.  Some detrimental. Do you have one or two “good” relationships?  A friend, companion, or community.

When Ash Wednesday arrives later this month (Feb 17th), thus begins a ritual journey that Christianity calls Lent. It can be a time of growth.  First time growth or renewed growth.  Join the Regional Youth Council for questions and reflection about experience and relationship on this ritual journey that disciples take following Jesus to Jerusalem.  The RYC Lent devotional can be downloaded on February 15th here on the Region’s website.

2021-02-02T16:09:48-06:00Feb 2, 2021|Michael Davison Blog|Comments Off on Question. Experience. Reflection. Relationship.

Advent Moments

Think back through the last couple of days.  Watch with your mind’s eye.

Rewind the tape all the way back to getting out of bed.

Remember . . .

Your morning routine;
school or work or waiting;
The places you’ve been;
The things you saw;
The people you talked to;
and then;
home, dinner, what you watched or read;
Your evening routine and to bed.

Look back and find that moment when you experienced hope.
Bring that moment to the front of your mind.
Who is there? What does it sound or smell like?
Stay in the moment for a few minutes.

Look back and find that moment when you experienced peace.
Bring that moment to the front of your mind.
Who is there? What does it sound or smell like?
Stay in the moment for a few minutes.

Look back and find that moment when you experienced joy.
Bring that moment to the front of your mind.
Who is there? What does it sound or smell like?
Stay in the moment for a few minutes.

Look back and find that moment when you experienced love.
Bring that moment to the front of your mind.
Who is there? What does it sound or smell like?
Stay in the moment for a few minutes.

Pandemic time has stretched moments into a pace that makes me uncomfortable or out of control.

Pandemic time: moments to grieve, moments to savor, and moments to examen.

This Advent there is anticipation of life as we knew it before.
Is that what Advent is really all about?

Who can say if Advent will change me for the better.
Maybe, it is being changed by the moments for good.

“Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
(A quote from Ferris in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” John Hughes (Paramount Pictures) 1986)

2020-12-07T09:31:35-06:00Dec 7, 2020|Michael Davison Blog|Comments Off on Advent Moments