3/4 – This Week

“What are you giving up for Lent?”  That’s a question I often get around this time of year as we begin another forty days of Lent on Wednesday.  As I find myself confronting my life, my choices, my desires, I sift the reality of who I often am with the self I desire to be.  Giving something up can certainly help me in that process of sifting as I translate the self I am to the self I hope to become.  But moving myself closer to God isn’t as easy as going without chocolate or giving up meat for forty days; the point is self-examination so that we’re more aware of whom and whose we are, that we remember to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves.  If giving something up helps you towards that end then, by all means, I’ll ask you what you are giving up for Lent.  But if you’re plan is simply to deny yourself something that you enjoy merely for the sake of going without it then I’m not sure how that connects your life closer to God; while there is a place in the history of Christian spirituality for the denial of the wants of the self it must be practiced carefully to have a desired effect.  Often you’ll hear folks begin to talk about what they’re taking on for Lent, as a way to gloss over the focus on giving up and look hopefully to what they can improve.  I used to be a person in this camp, someone who would rather build than tear down.  But the truth is there are some things that need to go, some practices, attitudes, and ideas that it’s time to let go of; and there is a place for us to take a step in a new direction, listen with our ears and see with our eyes what we’ve been ignoring or forgetting or have lost.  The invitation to a holy Lent that we’ll hear on Ash Wednesday is something that invites us to both give up and take on, and I think there’s good wisdom in that if we choose wisely.  If you haven’t joined us at Trinity Commons or on campus and you’ve been meaning to then I think this is a really good time to do it.  If you’re worried about being with a group of people you don’t know or if you’ve been away for a while and you think we won’t be glad to see you then I invite you to let go of that fear: you are welcome with us no matter if it’s your first time or your first time in quite a while.  May this week be a new start for a new direction in your life, and may you have the courage, wisdom, and strength to let go of what holds you back and find, in new ways, the presence of Jesus with you.

Tuesday at 6pm is pasta night and it’s Shrove Tuesday.  Traditionally it’s a day when, as you begin Lent the next day, you use up all the sugar, butter, and cream in the house so that you’re not tempted to eat them during Lent; and it usually comes in the form of pancakes.  While I love pancakes I love pasta more, so we’ll ‘use up’ our cream and butter in making Fettuccine with Asparagus and Asiago Cream Sauce.  Asiago is a cheese (and who doesn’t love cheese?), cream is, well, cream, and asparagus is what you add for color and to pretend that the large amounts of pasta, cream, and cheese you’re about to eat is actually healthy.  So if you’d rather enjoy pasta instead of pancakes then come join us at 6pm as we indulge in such deliciousness.

Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, we’ll have Ash Wednesday at Trinity Commons at 6pm.  You’re welcome to begin your Lent with us.

And next Thursday (3/14) from 4-5pm we’ll begin our Lenten series ‘With Love’ all about how we navigate the complex world of love, sex, and relationships.  It’ll be an honest and open exploration of our identity and faith, and how we make sense of all of it.  I hope to see you there.

On Campus This Week

Tuesday I’ll be at the usual spot in the front of the Caf at BSC around 9am.  Come by and visit to say hey, let me know how it’s going, and share whatever you want to share.  Then you can join us for our last pre-Lent Eucharist in Yeilding Chapel at 11:45.

Wednesday is Ash Wednesday.  As usual, I’ll be hanging out in the University Center by the O Henry’s around 9am if you’d like to come by and sit and join me.  Then, at Noon we’ll gather in Reid Chapel for a shortened Ash Wednesday Eucharist.

Thursday is our usual Hill hangout, and the last one before your spring break.  Come by and join me anytime between 10am and 3pm for coffee, conversation, and lunch.  I’m there at a table near the exit to Univ. Blvd, so you’re invited to stop by whenever you’d like.

-Thomas

 

2/4 – This Week (Mercedes Marathon Week)

We need your help. This Sunday is the Mercedes Marathon through downtown Birmingham, and it’s our opportunity to love our neighbor and be a part of our community. The marathon comes down 11th Avenue (in front of Trinity Commons and St. Andrew’s); the last several years we’ve been out on the street giving gummi bears and Gatorade to those running, as well as cheering them on. The runners are very grateful for the help and support, and we need your help and support to make it happen.

If you’re willing to join us to provide help to the runners then come join us at Trinity Commons (1170 11th Ave S) before 7am this Sunday, February 10.  The runners come shortly after that; we’ll have bagels and coffee for you for breakfast. It’s a fun time (even if an early morning) and you’ll be doing good work for good friends in one of the events that make Birmingham a special place to be.  We need your help so I hope to see you there.

Tuesday–Pasta Night at 6pm will be Shells with Ricotta, Goat Cheese, and Roasted Red Pepper.  It’s a fun and delicious night so I hope you’re able to there.

On Campus This Week

Tuesday we’re finally back at Birmingham-Southern, after what seemed like a very long break. I’ll be hanging around in the front of the Caf starting around 9 am and I hope you’ll come by to say hey, tell me about your break, and what you’re looking forward to this semester. Then join us in Yeilding Chapel at 11:45 am for our short Eucharist, which is always a great way to spend some time with God in prayer and fellowship. After that I’ll be hanging around eating in the Caf; you’re always welcome to come join me.

Wednesday I’ll be back on campus at Samford, hanging out in the University Center near the O Henry’s. Come by and say hey, join me for coffee and a chat, and let’s talk about whatever you want to talk about.  Then join us in Reid Chapel at Noon for our short Eucharist.  I’ll be eating lunch in the Caf after that and you’re always welcome to join me.

Thursday I’ll be back on campus, hanging out in the Hill Center near the doors to Univ Blvd. Come by and say hey, join me for coffee, lunch, and/or a chat, and let’s talk about whatever you want to talk about.

Vocare 19 at Camp McDowell

Finally, Vocare 19 is coming up.  This is a spiritual retreat at Camp McDowell that focuses on issues that college students and young adults wrestle with.  It’s free and a great time to be at Camp, meet old friends, make some new ones, and explore questions of belonging and the future.

Sign up to go here

Learn more about Vocare:

1/22 – This Week

Recently I was having dinner with a friend and while waiting for our table we were talking about our previous visit.  I mentioned a moment in our time together where I felt slighted, unappreciated, even unwanted. Of course, I didn’t say it just like that, I just said I was surprised by how the visit went. What I wanted, an apology from my friend, wasn’t going to come and, getting annoyed, I began to dwell on yet another perceived slight. Maybe you, like me, have a hard time hiding your emotions and rather than get angry, yell, and scream, you respond in silence and by withdrawing. Being my friend, he recognized my reaction and asked me “Are you ok?” I said “yes” all too abruptly. The truth is I wasn’t but I wasn’t able to articulate why; I wanted things to be perfect this time and not allow my emotional needs to upset the dinner we were about to enjoy.  But mostly I wanted him to name that I wasn’t ok and invite more conversation. I was struggling, was it all in my head, was I being unreasonable, was I making a mountain out of a molehill? Rather than say ‘yes, actually here’s why this bothered me’ I just said no and then proceeded to brood, knowing I shouldn’t be brooding and trying to recover my attitude. Relationships are just hard sometimes because they require us to be vulnerable with our emotions; we can’t control other people to be and do what we want. Most of the time we’re not going to get the help we need unless we can share what it is we want. Sometimes, as the prayer goes, we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves and that’s why it’s so important for Christians to be a part of a community that can support, encourage, and help one another. We know Jesus to be someone who can work miracles and the most important miracles happen in the relationships we form with one another, and with God. Sometimes it takes help to look past perfection, to go beyond our fears and beyond our expectations to see the joy of life with one another. Water becomes wine when we can ask for what we need and have the grace and patience to extend compassion and forgiveness to others and to ourselves. May this week be a time for you to recognize the miracle of a loved one which comes most clearly in our willingness to share and listen, to one another, to our emotions, and to God.

It’s Pasta Night this Tuesday (1/22) at 6pm; on the menu is Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes, and Green Beans. Intrigued? Come join us and find out how good all of these good things can be together.

On Campus this Week

Wednesday – Samford
Classes have started, and we return to campus. Join us in Reid Chapel at Noon for our short Eucharist. This is a chance to join in prayer and worship, and you even get convo credit. We’ll be in the Caf after the service for lunch, so you’re welcome to join us then too.

Thursday – UAB
Come by and see me at the Hill Center. I’ll be hanging out at a table in the dining area near the doors to Univ. Blvd around 10 am.

12/10 – This Week

Every year about this time I love to read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I really enjoy reading the familiar story of Ebenezer Scrooge and the visit by the ghosts who show him who he was, what he is now, and what his future could hold. But it’s not just about the three spirits (in addition to Jacob Marley), it’s pity for Tiny Tim and an awareness of the struggle of the Cratchit family as well as the reality of the estrangement Scrooge has with his nephew. Awareness is what the story is really all about and how much an awareness of the plight of others and the reality of our own callousness can transform our lives. As Christians we live with the awareness that the world is not as it should be; for many there is the struggle for justice, there is the absence of peace, and there is the experience of broken lives and shattered dreams. For some of us, this reality is something that our negligence has caused for ourselves, others endure having it forced upon them. Hope is the expectation of a reality we can’t fully see but trust to be true in time. No matter what today looks like, what you struggle with, what unfulfilled longing you carry, or what mistakes burden you, we hope that God will transform today into a better tomorrow with our perseverance. It doesn’t take the visit of three ghosts to bring this change about; God has already done the work and will fulfill the promise of life in and with God. For us, the challenge is to live as best we can with one another in hope and an awareness of what transformation can happen now. May this week be an occasion for you to find meaning in perseverance with Jesus who is with you in the struggles of the moment, as well as hope for the promise of fulfillment of for life together.

For those of you with exams to take this week, good luck. Let us know if you need help, or a friendly ear to listen to you cry/yell/celebrate.

O Lord, support those taking examinations and help them make the most of the knowledge they possess; grant them confidence, steadiness, honesty, and a quiet mind. Amen.

11/5 – This Week

I admit I have moments when I get overwhelmed, sometimes I imagine how nice it would be to be far away from where I am and all that I have to do. I find myself, ever since childhood, standing and looking at a plane in the sky and wondering where it might be heading, and then wishing I were on it. It’s not always about a desire for escape but a longing for adventure and experience. It’s how I typically approach each week, who will I get to see this week, what things may happen, what unexpected situations will I find myself a part of. This week is one that I refer to as ‘social media week,’ it’s where I use our Facebook page to show the many people who support our ministry and Trinity Commons what I do each day, who I meet along the way, and invite them to feel like they’re a part of what we do. We need the support of other people, both by their donations to Trinity Commons to pay the power bill and to keep buying us pasta each Tuesday. But we also need their participation and prayers, we need them to see that what you and I do each week matters for them. This week I’m going to ask you to help me show who you are and what you do, so that like me standing and looking at a plane in the sky, they’ll see us and wish they could be with us too, going where we go and doing what we do. You and I have important lives, we may not always realize it when we’re busy or tired, but the work we do matters and there are many people who are eager to share in it. May this week be an opportunity for you to see your life as an invitation to share and experience the power of a community of love that is larger than you imagined, and then have the courage to be transformed by what you find in the presence of Jesus who calls you by name.

Tuesday will be another Pasta night; we’ll take a break from our usual Italian and try some pastas with Eastern flavors. For those of you who’ve been wanting something a little more Asian, we’re going to try Peanut Rice Noodles with Pork and Collard Greens. Intrigued? Come join us at Trinity Commons at 6pm for an adventure and we’ll give it a try.

On Campus this Week

Tuesday – BSC
I’ll be hanging out in the front of the Caf around 9am. You’re invited to come join me, share anything that’s on your mind, or just say hey on your way to class. Our short Eucharist will take place in Yeilding Chapel at 11:45 am and I hope you’re able to make it this week. I’ll be in the Caf after the service for lunch, so you’re welcome to join me then too.

Wednesday – Samford
I’ll be hanging around of Einstein’s (on the patio or inside in case of rain) around 9 am, ready to talk with you and hear all about your week. Then join us in Reid Chapel at Noon for our short Eucharist. I’ll be in the Caf after the service for lunch, so you’re welcome to join me then too.

Thursday – UAB
Come by and see me at the Hill Center. I’ll be hanging out at a table in the dining area near the doors to Univ. Blvd around 10 am.

I look forward to seeing you this week.