Friday, December 24, 2010

No more waiting: Rejoice, for a child is born

Today is Christmas Eve. The church I serve will celebrate tonight at 7 and 11 p.m., with the first celebration featuring songs led by children and the second celebration culminating in the beautiful lighting of candles at midnight.

For Christians, Christmas Eve represents the end of Advent, a season of longing for the birth of Jesus. It's a time during which Christians anticipate and wait.

Waiting for something important is difficult, isn't it? Test results. College admission. Job application. Waiting for something important is difficult.

I was reminded of the difficulty of waiting when my nephew was born. At my sister-in-law's regular visit that week her doctor discovered that her baby did not grow since the previous visit. After consulting with colleagues and not determining what the problem was, the doctors felt it best to get that little guy out. Delena was admitted to the hospital on a Wednesday night so that she could be observed and induced into labor the following morning.

There were tests, some waiting and then the doctor met with my brother and sister-in-law to advise doing a C-section immediately. The baby was showing signs of distress. The anticipation increased greatly.

The C-section was scheduled for 11 p.m., so I called a friend who worked at that hospital to find out the best "back door" place to see my nephew as soon as possible after delivery. She gave me stellar advice and I went to stake out my spot and wait. 11 came and went, as did 11:15 and 11:25.

While waiting, I realized that there was a set of doors behind the doors I could see. The creakiness of these hidden doors let me know somebody was coming. Around 11:30, I heard the creak. I quickly grabbed my camera and turned it on. The doors opened and out came ... not my brother, but a different new father, child and nurse.

The nurse asked the name of the family for whom I was waiting and then told me that "our" C-section was rescheduled but she didn't know why. Why would it be rescheduled? Until when? How can I find out? My anticipation increased drastically. I wanted answers, but I didn't want to leave my spot; I also didn't know where to go.

After some more waiting, my brother came from a different direction to confirm that the C-section was moved to midnight because they had a more urgent C-section. More waiting.

Midnight came and went, as did 12:10, 12:15, 12:20, 12:25. The first set of creaky doors opened. I turned on my camera. The second set never opened. I checked my watch. The first set of creaky doors opened again. I turned on my camera. The second set never moved. I checked my watch.

A nurse walked by. I offered to buy some WD-40 for the creaky doors. She wasn't amused.

I thought my watch quit, it was moving so slowly. 12:30, 12:35, 12:38, 12:40, 12:42, 12:43, 12:45. I waited. I anticipated.

If my watch moved any slower, it would have been going in reverse. I never knew a C-section to take so long. What was going on in there?

I longed to see my sister-in-law. I longed to see my brother. I was tired of waiting. I was eager to know something. Anything: bad news, good news, anything. I wanted to know something.

The creaky hidden doors opened. I grabbed my camera. The second set of doors never moved. I considered taking the doors off their hinges. 12:50, 1:00, 1:05, 1:10. I waited. I anticipated.

There were no chairs in the hallway, but I did not want to sit on the floor. I did not want to sit at all. I wanted to be on my feet, camera in hand, ready. I wanted to be ready to take pictures if the news was happy. I wanted to be ready to give hugs and support if the news was not. My back ached and my feet hurt, but I would not sit; I wanted to be ready. 1:11, 1:12, 1:13, 1:14 AM. I waited. I anticipated.

The first set of doors creaked. I grabbed my camera. I was tired, but I was ready. Let this not be yet another false alarm. Let this not be yet another time the outer doors defiantly stood still, mocking my eagerness, disrespecting my anticipation.

Was the sound growing stronger? Yes, I think it was. Did the doors start to move? Yes, they did. Out came my nephew, all five pounds and some change, held by his relieved and happy dad.

There was much relief! There was much rejoicing! A child was born.

Today is Christmas Eve. Christians stand waiting for the Christ-child with great anticipation. For long we have waited; for long we have anticipated.

Friends, the doors are beginning to creak. Friends, the time is now.

Merry Christmas!

Wilson pastors First Christian Church, 118 W. Washington St., blogs at and reads e-mail sent to

Friday, December 17, 2010

Higher education

What should we cut; what should we cut?

That's the question many religious communities, like many families, are asking. They want to reduce spending by eliminating all that is inessential.

In theory, that is a great idea, of course. To put the theory into practice, however, the operative question is "What is essential?"

One area often targeted by religious communities to cut is ministry with college students. I'm not sure why, though I think it has to do with college students being so transient, so irregular in their attendance and so minimal in their volunteering and giving.

Recently I was asked to address this trend. My response was that ministry with college students should be amplified, not diminished. Now, I bet you are wondering "Why did he say that?" Since I like you, I'll tell you.

First, during the college years, there is a distinct openness to new ideas and to the exploration of faith. This openness allows college ministry the opportunity to soothe some and stir up others searching to connect their spiritual hunger, social commitments and academic pursuits. In college, many choices and challenges are raised — be they moral, spiritual, physical, intellectual, economic or other — which should be held in dialogical tension to create a healthy and whole person.

Second, college ministry can provide tools to live a faithful and informed life. It is unfair for college ministers to create false security, a sheltered environment where every question is answered, and all needs are met. The more appropriate approach is to invite students to be honest with questions about faith, to take a critical look at their inherited faith and then to begin the task of clarifying what is helpful and what is not. There may be periods when the ground of one's faith is shaky; into that uncertainty, however, can come recognition that life is uncertain, and that faith is grounded in a reality that embraces such times and tells us the truth about those times. What seems to be endless wilderness may be an opportunity to go farther and deeper with one's faith.

Third, college ministers have important opportunities as pastors to bring word of hope and peace in times of crisis, whether personal, institutional, national or worldwide. College ministers are blessed with opportunities for pastoral counseling: the great privilege of being invited into the sanctuary of someone else's soul.

Fourth, college ministers have important opportunities as prophets. In the midst of an academic community, college ministers can prod others to deeper engagement of issues that matter, to more honestly asking how we should respond. College ministers should always complement "cogito ergo sum" with "amo ergo sum," challenging the community to love as well as think.

Fifth, when done well, college worship informs and inspires. What is worship that is done well? It is worship that is genuinely ecumenical; emphasizing that God's grace is wide enough to receive us all. It is worship that allows room for the Holy Spirit to affirm our gifts, challenge our frailties and enlarge our perceptions. It is worship that reminds us that the strength of love reaches us wherever we are and brings us together. It is worship with order and flow, but is not stale or stiff. It is worship filled with songs and images from all over the world, with prayers and proclamation, with drama and dance, with art and flowers. Most of all, it is worship filled with the gifts of the gathered community.

Finally for now, college ministry can simply be fun! It should be. The college years should be challenging; they should be formative; they should be a bit confusing, at least from time to time. Amid all that, college should be this fun time of trying on ideas and perspectives, learning everything possible, figuring out how to save the world, playing hard, working hard and more.

Any metabolizing minister could not help but love to be in that mix!

Wilson pastors First Christian Church, 118 W. Washington St., blogs at and reads e-mail sent to

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

college students today

The generation of young people who are filling college classrooms today are more globally aware and less concerned about material wealth than their predecessors. Agree?

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Young adults want change, not charity

Column: Today’s youth understand the true value of charity

Published: Friday, December 3, 2010 8:13 AM US/eastern

When it comes to giving money to charity, Americans are without equal. Every year, and especially during the holiday season, many of us donate money out of religious commitment or to take advantage of the U.S. tax code.

To some degree, this entire process depends on the availability of extra money. Even before the current economic crisis, many were scrutinizing the decreasing purchasing power of their paychecks and wondering if they could once again financially support the causes they believed in.

Yet there remains a potential reservoir of resources that could very well lead us into a renewed time of productivity and purpose: time.

Last year, almost 55 million people volunteered. People cleaned riversides, chopped vegetables for food programs, painted shelter walls and helped to rebuild troubled neighborhoods.

This is great stuff! This is commendable. It is important.

However, it beckons a question: If we continue to use volunteerism in the same way that we use material goods, will time become the next resource we deplete?

Two years ago, though it seems like a lifetime, presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama said that they would expand AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps. Both said they would increase the ways students can earn education stipends for using their time to help others.

The Obama Administration has expanded AmeriCorps, but has not successfully broadened the use and availability of education stipends beyond some rather minor adjustments.

Of course college is no longer a place where people start volunteering; by the time they begin their freshman year, four out of five students have worked as volunteers. By the time they graduate, many college students have spent at least seven years donating their time to good causes.

As one local example, the congregation I serve supports an annual summer trip for high school students who want to serve others. I am very proud of the hard work and commitment of the students and a host of adult chaperones.

Seeing charity from the inside has prompted many students to question whether traditional charities make the best use of the one commodity they can afford to donate: their time. More to the point, students openly state their dissatisfaction in working for causes that are not making a difference in solving vital problems. In short, they don’t have time for charity; they want change.

That is why students are now beginning to merge their academic courses with lessons learned in the process of performing community service and are spending time devising public policy ideas that will make a difference. Perhaps most exciting, they are also running for elected office to put those policies into action.

For example, at all of 22, Kesha Ram, freshly graduated from the University of Vermont, was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives. She ran a very dedicated race. Seeking elected office was not Ram’s first exposure to public life. In high school, she helped to pass legislation banning carcinogenic chemicals from dry cleaning, started a recycling program for her school and led a delegation of students to India for the World Social Forum, where she made a documentary about globalization.

Unlike previous generations who divided their time between work, social activities and spiritual commitments, today’s young adults seek to merge all three.

We’ve raised this generation to think this way, and now maybe it’s time for us to learn a lesson from them.

Wilson pastors First Christian Church, 118 W. Washington St., Shelbyville, blogs at and reads e-mail sent to

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Make a Difference

Today is the easiest time to make a difference
By Nathan Day Wilson

Recently my daughter reminded me of a phrase I used in a sermon a few years ago:”Four things you cannot recover in life: the stone after it is thrown; the word after it is said; the occasion after it is missed; the time after it is gone.”

I don’t know who wrote or spoke that idea originally. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me. And by this point, it’s more likely paraphrase than quote.

I like it, though, partly because it can have many different life applications. For instance, the saying reminds me that we should make the most of our fragile lives.

We all know that life is fragile. No matter how careful we are, how closely we watch what we eat, how faithfully we exercise or how regularly we use our seat belts, life is still fragile. Loved ones die. Jobs end. Illnesses strike. Marriages dissolve. Wars kill.

A well-known teacher reminded his followers that life is fragile when he said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

I’m glad Jesus, with those words from Matthew 6, didn’t only remind us that life is fragile. I’m glad he suggests that we have opportunities to use our ephemeral lives for something that will endure, something that will make a difference.

Isn’t that what we want? No one really expects to live forever, no matter how careful we are, but we want our lives to matter.

We can’t stand the thought that we are just taking up space on the planet, and we cannot even settle for a quiet comfortable life. We want our lives to count and to have impact. We want to have done a good job with life. We want to make a difference.

There’s one more line in that passage above from Matthew 6. In it, Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

In other words, think about what you are doing with your money. Money indicates how we invest our hearts, and thus how we choose to make a difference with our lives.

Want to know how you can tell where your heart is? Look at the ledger of your checkbook or the statement of your credit cards. They will tell you where your treasure is going and thus how you are investing your heart.

Want to know the values of a family, or a business, or a religious organization, or a country? Don’t ask what it values, just look at where it spends its money. Those are the actual values.

None of us can say, “Look, such and such has a big piece of my heart, but my money has to go other things right now. The future is uncertain. I had better hang onto as much as possible.”

Don’t you see? There is never going to be an easy time to make a difference. There is today.

Wilson pastors First Christian Church, 118 W. Washington St., blogs at and reads e-mail sent to

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Vote for Lake Orion football team

Cast your vote for Utica Eisenhower (10-1) vs. Lake Orion (10-1) to be the WDIV Game of the week !! They are currently in 2nd place.

“Vote for Team of the Week” box is on the right side of this page:

Saturday, November 06, 2010

CROP Hunger Walk

Column: Help the hungry with community


Let me tell you a story about a man. I’ll call him Thomas, only since that is his name.

Thomas was a child of the Great Depression. He recalls what his father did after the Depression to help keep his family nourished, including spending many long hours in lines for construction jobs and planting a garden with tomatoes, corn and potatoes.

Thomas graduated from high school and received a scholarship to an Indiana college. He earned a degree in marketing. Only a few years into his first job, his father unexpectedly died and his mother grew ill. Thomas returned home to help care for her.

With no marketing jobs available, Thomas began working in construction. It was difficult to balance construction with caring for his mother, so Thomas sought a different job. He worked for a company cleaning offices and homes.

Even after many years of in this line of work, it was necessary for Thomas to utilize our area food pantries, including the Matthew 25:35 Community Food Pantry and The Salvation Army. Thomas depends on our food pantries and other support to have enough food to survive.

Unfortunately, his story is not rare; some 2.7 million seniors in the United States depend on food panties for food security.At the other end of the age spectrum are the 13 million children under the age of 18, 3 million of them young children, who depend on food pantries to survive.

For that reason, dozens of Shelby County residents will lace up shoes and slip on sweatshirts this Sunday to participate in the Shelby County CROP (“Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty”) Hunger Walk. Registration for the walk begins at 1:30 p.m. at Intelliplex Park.

Those participating will join approximately 2 million people will take part in a CROP Hunger Walk this fall. Collectively the efforts are expected to raise an estimated $16 million to end hunger and poverty.

A colleague who ministers in Michigan has been involved in CROP Hunger Walks for years. In an e-mail, she wrote, “I love our CROP Walk. It brings people together. It gives us a way to meet practical needs. It helps us focus on our community.”

“Sometimes I pray for our community silently while I’m walking,” she wrote. “I pray for the day when we won’t need the CROP Walk anymore because everyone will have enough to eat.”

That’s part of my prayer, too: A day when everyone will have enough to eat. Until then, participating in things such as CROP Hunger Walks is worthwhile.

Wilson pastors First Christian Church, 118 W. Washington St., Shelbyville, blogs at, and reads e-mail sent to

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Vote Values this Tuesday

Voting biblical values into office


I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s going to be an election Tuesday. Yes, I know that you are impressed with my observational skills.

While that shocking news is settling in, let me ask a question: What priorities or values will inform how you vote? I mean surely you, like I, look deeper than what letter is beside the candidate’s name — a D, R or I — when choosing which candidates to support. Surely there is something else, something more that informs us when we step into that booth and cast our votes, right?

Below are five priorities that will influence my votes:First, I believe every human is made in God’s image and that the Bible clearly supports choosing life. Thirty-thousand children dying globally each day of preventable hunger and disease, health care, war, genocides, abortion — all of these are life issues. The candidates I plan to support are those who, according to the realistic functions of their desired office, propose to address all the threats to life and dignity. Along the same lines, I will support the candidates who are most likely to protect human rights and human dignity. With sexual and economic slavery increasing around the world, an end to human trafficking must become a top priority. The immigration system needs comprehensive reform, but it must be changed in ways that are consistent with the biblical command to “welcome the stranger.”

Second, as one who values the Bible, which contains more than 2,000 verses about money and sharing God’s resources, I will examine the promises and proposed policies of the candidates about overcoming extreme global poverty and unnecessary domestic poverty in the world’s richest nation. For me, such a central biblical theme cannot be ignored at election time, as too many Christians have done for years. Any solution to the economic crisis that bails out the rich, and even me in the middle class, but ignores those at the bottom is entirely unacceptable.

Third, from the prophets to Jesus, there is the hope of beating our swords into instruments of peace. I will support the candidates who seem to best understand that our security depends upon other people’s security more than upon how high we can build walls or stockpile weapons. I do not expect a pacifist president, now or ever, but I do want one who views military force as a last resort and never as a preferred response to conflict.Fifth, God’s creation is clearly under assault. I will support the candidates who will likely be most faithful in caring for God’s delicate creation. Energy resource dependence, job creation, national security are all unmistakably interconnected.

Finally for now, I am concerned about the values our leaders model. Am I looking for a Pastor in Chief? No, but I will support the candidates that best exemplify and articulate strong family values, using the White House and other offices as bully pulpits to speak of sexual restraint and integrity, marital fidelity and healthy families of all different shapes and formations.

So, there you have it — a portion, at least, of the priorities that will influence my voting this year.

How about you? What are your priorities?Whatever they are, please be sure to exercise the privilege and responsibility of voting!

Wilson pastors First Christian Church, 118 W. Washington St., Shelbyville, blogs at, and reads e-mail sent to

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Step Well, Andalaj, India

The very interesting Step Well in Andalaj, India.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Read about important Swaziland HIV and AIDS work


Disciples from Indiana and Kentucky have powerful memories of a mission trip that took them to Swaziland, whose population has the world's highest infection rate of HIV and AIDS in the world. The 11 Disciples, who were mostly from First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Shelbyville, Ind., spent two weeks in the southeast African nation caring for children and building a relationship with the Global Ministries partner church there, the Kukhany'okusha Zion Church (KZC).

Janice Wilson, who led the mission trip and is married to First Christian's pastor, Nathan D. Wilson, has developed a love for the people of the country and a lasting friendship with the leader of the KZC partner church in Swaziland, Bishop Samuel Mkhonta. Janice Wilson first went to Swaziland in 2004 and has been back three times since, including this summer's trip. For more, go to:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Environmental concerns challenge us all

Environmental concerns are not only for scientists, lawyers and policy-makers. They are for all of us, not least since we all have moral responsibility for future generations.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

PEN Award finalists announced

From today's Washington Post, written by Marissa Newhall:

Books by Sherman Alexie, Barbara Kingsolver, Lorraine M. López, Lorrie Moore and Colson Whitehead are finalists for the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation announced Tuesday.

Alexie's short-story collection "War Dances" and Kingsolver's historical novel "The Lacuna" are in contention for the $15,000 prize along with López's "Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories," Moore's "A Gate at the Stairs" and Whitehead's "Sag Harbor."

The winner of the award, the country's largest peer-juried prize for fiction, will be named March 23.

Judges considered nearly 350 entries -- all novels and short-story collections by American authors published in 2009.

Last year's winner, "Netherland" by Joseph O'Neill, was rushed into paperback after President Obama mentioned it in a newspaper interview. Having tired of briefing books, Obama said, he had taken respite in O'Neill's tale of cricket and friendship in post-9/11 New York City.

As each year's winner is thought of as "first among equals," all five finalists will be honored May 8 at an award ceremony at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Each runner-up will receive $5,000.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Wrestle with life, then grow and learn

Wrestle with life, then grow and learn
Published: Friday, February 19, 2010 9:11 AM US/eastern

Wrestling with life, while always difficult and sometimes traumatic, is both unavoidable and, more importantly, necessary because wrestling with life helps us develop vision in life as well as expectations. Wrestling with life gives us insight as well as experience. We grow in compassion and in character. Wrestling with life — difficult and scarring though it is — transforms us and enables us to transform.

Wrestling with life is of the essence of life. In the process, we learn things about ourselves and we come to understand some things about God as well. God gives life, and in the giving allows us to be co-creators, full participants with the chance to make decisions, and part of making decisions is taking charge of our lives.

Wrestling with life drives us to find God within us and God in the darkness that surrounds us. Think about that for a moment. Some of us hesitate to say that God is within us, maybe because we think it sounds like we are puffing ourselves up, elevating ourselves above others, showing off and so on. Others hesitate to say that God is in the darkness that surrounds us, as though the darkness is only the absence of God.

But instead, a lesson from the story of Jacob wrestling in the dark, a lesson I think God would have us know is that wrestling with life helps us find God within and God in the darkness that surrounds us.

Here’s how Rumi, a 12th-century poet, put it:
I saw Grief drinking a cup of sorrow and called out, “It tastes sweet, does it not?”
“You've caught me, and now you've ruined my business," said Grief. "How can I sell sorrow when you know it's a blessing?”

There is beauty in the dark valleys of life. We call it hope. We call it spiritual growth -- grounded in the ability to remember a difficult past, either our own or someone else’s, that became new life more than we could ever imagine. Our difficult pasts — our times of scuffling and scrapping, rumbling and wrestling with life — prove to us that whatever it was that we ever before thought would crush us, would trample us, would completely paralyze us has been survived.

And if that is true, then we can survive and grow through whatever we are wrestling with now.

Saturday, February 06, 2010


Feeling emotional? Write it down
By Nathan Day Wilson
Published: Friday, February 5, 2010 9:11 AM US/eastern

I love the ability of writing to change lives. My life, your life, our lives as a community — writing has the capacity to change them all, and change them for the better.

One of the ways our individual lives can be changed through writing is by keeping a journal. Psychologists have found that writing about your feelings can help the brain overcome emotional upsets and leave you feeling happier.

In particular, brain scans on volunteers showed that putting feelings down on paper reduces activity in a part of the brain called the amygdala, which is responsible for controlling the intensity of our emotions. They’re calling this the “Bridget Jones effect.” Kind of lame shorthand if you ask me, but nobody did. And my wife likes those movies, so don’t tell her I said that.

Here’s the skinny: Whether you elaborate on your feelings in a diary, pen lines of poetry or jot down song lyrics to express negative emotions, there appears to be positive healthy effects. UCLA psychologist Matthew Lieberman said the effect differs from catharsis, which usually involves coming to terms with an emotional problem by seeing it in a different light. Lieberman said, “Writing seems to help the brain regulate emotion unintentionally. Whether it’s writing things down in a diary, writing bad poetry or making up song lyrics that should never be played on the radio, it seems to help people emotionally.”

I think Lieberman was talking about me when he said that about bad song lyrics, but I’ll try not to be offended. Too much. I’ll deal with it in my journal.

The psychologists investigated the effect by inviting people to visit the lab for a brain scan before asking them to write for 20 minutes a day for four consecutive days. Half of the participants wrote about a recent emotional experience, while the other half wrote about a neutral experience. Those who wrote about an emotional experience showed more activity in the prefrontal cortex, which in turn decreased neural activity linked to strong emotional feelings.

Two parts of this study surprised me: Men benefited from writing about their feelings more than women, and writing by hand had a bigger effect than typing.

A quote from Lieberman made sense: “The reason (that men tend to show greater benefits) might be that women more freely put their feelings into words, so this is less of a novel experience for them.” Living in a house of all women, I can witness to the brother’s comments about women freely verbalizing their feelings!

Anyhow, the point of this column, if there is one, is that writing about your emotions can help. It can help you recover from emotional distress, process situations, release tension and more.

So get out those pens and write!

Wilson is pastor of First Christian Church, 118 W. Washington St. His book, “Waging Peace Amidst Raging War: The Impact of Religious Peacemaking Institutions” is to be published in the fall. His e-mail is