Valentine’s Day Loneliness

Valentine’s Day is an interesting topic. It seems like people either absolutely love it or wholly despise it. If you have a partner, having a day set aside to reflect on how wonderful they are and doing something you love together is great. Kristine and I have enjoyed some amazing Valentine’s days. Last year, we found a nickel arcade and wasted an entire afternoon blowing through nickels. This year we got a new board game and are excited to play it tomorrow.

But I also know Valentine’s day can be a hard and depressing day for people. One of my favorite Simpsons episodes, “I love Lisa”, is all about how Valentine’s day can exacerbate feelings of isolation.  I have conversations with people every year about how this day reminds them of how lonely they are, whether because they are worried that they will never find a partner or they are mourning the loss of a loved one. We often try to give a consolatory word or an encouragement, ‘God has just the right person out there for you.’ While this is true, it is often the last thing a person feeling this way wants to hear.

It is an interesting conundrum that days and times of the year that are set aside for joy and love are also the times when people often feel the least amount of joy and feel the furthest away from love. Perhaps this is why there is such a rise in counter-valentine’s culture/events. Groups of friends celebrating gal-intines day together or game stores offering Valentine’s discounts are all efforts to help people who feel lonely and isolated.

I honestly don’t know what the solution is. Trying to curb loneliness is something we as a population have been struggling with for 100s of years, if not longer. All I might suggest is reaching out to someone in the coming days. Just a simple text or funny meme can remind someone that they are not alone and that there are people in their life that love them. Don’t limit it to specific times of the year. Make it a habit of reaching out to people. Text that co-worker you have not talked to in a while. Sit next to that person that always sits in the back row of class. Call that person you have not seen in church for a while. At RiverTree, we firmly believe that relationships are the foundation to everything the church can and should do in the world. Let’s all make an extra effort to reach out and connect with someone we normally don’t interact with this Valentine’s season.


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2020 Pastor’s Blog Restart!

As anyone who is reading this can certainly tell, this blog section has not been the most up-to-date line of communication here at RiverTree. One of my New Years Resolutions for 2020 is to is to utilize this more. So here I am, writing into the void on a cold, snowy January morning. To be honest, I am not entirely sure what this page will end up being. I might reflect on something I have read or heard. I might use it as a sounding board for up coming messages. I might recommend books or TV shows. It might even devolve into me just reviewing games or movies. (Because I do love talking about movies and games!) Whatever this ends up being I want it to be something we experience together. I want a dialogue; I want to hear from all of you!

Some of you know that Kristine and I recently got a little kitten. In fact, little Sheev Meowpatine is sitting on my lap right now as I am typing this. One thing kittens do a ton of is sleep. I mean this little guy sleeps 15 plus hours a day. One of his current favorite places to sleep is on me. Now, I love this. Who would not want an adorable kitten napping on them (maybe people who are allergic to cats, but that is besides the point). The problem is, I don’t often just sit or lay down for an hour in the middle of the day for kitten to sleep. But I am not going to wake little Meowpatine up, he is so cute sleeping—he snores even! So this means that for the past few weeks I have been forced to just simply sit or lay down and do nothing for 30 or 40 minutes at a time. If I happen to have my phone on me, I can read or listen to a podcast or something. But often times it is just simply being still.

Thinking about these times of forced stillness, I thought of the story from the book of I Kings where YHWH appears to Elijah. In the story there is a cacophony of noise and excitement that swirled around before YHWH’s coming but that, “After the earthquake came a fire, but YHWH was not in the fire. After the fire came a gentle whisper,” (I ki 19:12). Like many people (I’m sure most of you reading this) I am always on the move – bouncing from one task to the next one meeting to the next. That is what life is right now. If you are not continually going you are falling behind someone else who is. But I am finding that this does not have to be the case.

Believe me the first few times I was trapped under a sleepy kitty I was frustrated. ‘I have to get a draft of this week’s sermon done today.’ ‘I have to email that person back.’ ‘I have bulletins to make.’  But, in only two short weeks, I have grown to love these moments of forced rest. Often, I think we get so busy doing things for the Kingdom of God that we are too busy to actually hear from God. I have found that I connect more with God and hear more from God in these 30-minute kitten nap moments than I do in hours and hours of sermon prep or other church work. This little kitten has done a better job than any book or motivational speaker ever could, in reminding me the importance of stillness; the importance of simply being. I know that as Mewopatine grows he will nap less and less, and I know that our kitten naps will become more and more infrequent, but I am truly grateful for the quite moments we have together. For, they have reminded me that too often I look for God in the big, loud, important things in life. When realistically, God is best heard in the quite whispers of life. I just have to slow down to hear.
 
 

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Re-imagining Church

What if we could re-imagine church?
 

Statistics tell us that most people in our country are slowly giving up on church. I don’t blame them. Church can be a difficult and even harmful institution. Many people people have good reasons to stay away from organized religion. If that’s you, I don’t blame you. I have been in and around churches my whole life. I have yet to escape with no hard feelings at least and wounding at most. So, why not just give up? Why keep giving it another shot? For us at RiverTree, we are hoping to answer that question not with pat, oversimplified answers, but with substantial and meaningful acts of love that produce authentic community that is difficult to find in our culture today. In other words, we invite you to come and see for yourself what we’re trying to accomplish, and maybe consider contributing to it. Because the answer to improving the church is not abandonment but active involvement. We welcome differing voices and experiences into our community because we believe that that makes us richer and more like God’s family. Come on. Give church another try.

 

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