Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Get Ready for Advent

Watch and Wait: A Guide for Advent and Christmas

Just wanted to remind you that if you (or any of your friends, family, or coworkers) are looking for a companion to journey with you through the seasons of Advent and Christmas, you might want to try Watch and Wait.  It is available on Amazon.

Monday, November 28, 2016

vigilance

advent is a season
for staying vigilant
for being keenly watchful
ever awake and alert

it is a season
for keeping vigil
for wakefulness
maintained
throughout the
darkness of night
when we are most tempted
to drift off into
sleepy inattention
and to become lax and lazy
in our prayer and our practice

vigilance
requires something of us
it demands
an active waiting
an intentional
diligence of heart
a determination
to stay awake
regardless of the cost

for no matter
how much
vigilance may cost
the cost of
falling asleep
is much greater


Sunday, November 27, 2016

hang on

the days are coming
declares the Lord
when I will fulfill
my gracious promise
when I myself
will come down
and be with you
and walk among you
when I myself
will renew and restore
all things
to their creation intent
I will make
the broken things
whole once more
so hang on
do not despair
I'm on my way

Thursday, November 24, 2016

thanksgiving

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever. ~Psalm 118:1


It is easy to look at the world we live in, and all of the craziness going on around and within us, and ask the question, "Why?"  But I think this day, Thanksgiving Day, gives us a wonderful opportunity to flip that question around a bit.  Instead of constantly asking why in the negative sense, we are invited to ask why in a more positive sense.  It is a way of asking--or a way of seeing really--that sees all things as a gift, rather than a right or a privilege.  It is a way of asking that sees things as gain rather than as loss.  Instead of mourning the loss of our loved ones with a "Why were they taken from us?" attitude, we are invited to ask instead, "Why were we given the privilege of having them in our lives to begin with?  Why were we given this extraordinary gift?"  Thanksgiving Day invites us into a new way of seeing and thinking.  It is the way of gratitude.  Gratitude recognizes that everyone and everything is a gift, if we will simply choose to see it that way.  It doesn't deny the pain or sadness of hurt and loss, it just gives us the possibility of converting them into joy.  Gratitude allows joy and pain to coexist.  As a matter of fact, it makes space for them to embrace each other.  It makes a way for true healing to occur.

So may each of us today choose to see things through the eyes of gratitude.  May our hearts be filled with joy.  May we overflow with thanksgiving.  Thanks be to God! 

Monday, November 21, 2016

advent

o light
upon you
we wait
as we sit
in our darkness

it is the season
of longing
which we now
enter into

the season
of groaning
the season
of recognizing
that all is not
as it was intended to be
the season in which
we watch and wait
for all to be made right

and so we watch
and we wait
and we yearn
for your coming

and hope
is birthed
within us

we wait for you
o light
to come and shine
to blaze
to drive away
our darkness
our doubt
our fear
our despair
and bring us
the hope of life

and bring us
a little taste
of your kingdom
a little hint
of the way
things were intended
to be
and one day
will be
forever


*Advent begins on Sunday, November 27

Saturday, November 19, 2016

piddling as a spiritual practice

If you really knew me you would know that whenever I am in town I start every morning with a visit to Chick-Fil-A.  It is more than just the food (which is great by the way), it is the space.  For twenty-plus years now Chick-Fil-A, sitting in my car in an isolated corner of the parking lot, has been the place I have spent my time with Jesus.  As a matter of fact, I was there just this morning.  It has been a rich and wonderful space for me, a place where God has met me deeply, a place where I have read and prayed and journaled and groaned and grinned and wept.  It has been a place where God has gotten his hands on me, where he has drawn his lips close to my ear, and drawn my soul close to his heart.  And it is still a place where he continues to transform me. 

Well, today I was about halfway through my morning routine when I went into the restaurant to get a refill, which is also a part of my morning routine.  And seeing as how I've been going to this particular Chick-Fil-A for about 15 years, I know most of the people in the store pretty well by know.  As a matter of fact, I've seen a lot of them come and go through the years.  As I was entering the store two of the "regulars" were on their way out.  And after we exchanged a few words of greeting, one of them said to the other, "You go on, I am going to piddle for a minute."  At which point she came away from the door and began to meander through the restaurant, greeting people and talking to some of the other "regulars."

Something about the way she said it caught me.  And something about what she then starting doing, caught me even more.  And as I walked back to my car I began to think about what I had just seen and heard.  And I began to be captured by the idea, and the practice, of piddling.  And the more I thought about it, the more I saw its spiritual value.  For most of us piddling is not a positive word, or activity.  As a matter of fact, most of the dictionaries I've checked define the word negatively, as the act or habit of wasting time.  But what the world considers wasting time, might be the very thing God requires in order to live life in union with him.  Life with God requires us to live at a different pace, to have a different mindset, to pay attention.  It requires us to not be so hell-bent on activity for activity's sake.  It requires us to not be so controlled by our own schedules, so driven by our own agendas, and so consumed with our own need to be productive and efficient that we miss the things of God that are right under our noses.  Piddling is a refusal to allow our lives to be controlled by a frenzied pace.  It is a determination to live differently; to stop and slow down, to linger and pay attention, to be on the lookout for the deeper things of life that can only been seen and experienced if we slow down and intentionally look below the surface. 

That's the beauty of what this woman was doing.  She was saying, "I'm not ready to rush off to the next thing just yet.  I want to see if there's something else here, something more, something deeper that I would've missed it I wouldn't have been paying attention.  I want to be open to the present moment.  I want to be fully here, explore the here and now, and find its riches.  So, if you don't mind, I think I'm just going to hang around for a while."  May we learn how to do the same.



love versus need

For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me. ~Ezekiel 18:4


Let's face it, some things in Scripture are just downright disturbing.  Oh, maybe not disturbing in a chaotic, random, hopeless, makes no sense kind of way, but disturbing in a challenging, unsettling, disorienting and reorienting kind of way.  And this is definitely one of those things: our children belong to God and not to us.  We do not own them, nor can we save them.  And they cannot save us.

We cannot save them from grief and sorrow and sadness.  We cannot save them from sickness and struggle and pain.  We cannot save them from hurt and hardship and brokenness; as much as we might like to think that we can. 

And they cannot save us.  They cannot save us from loneliness and isolation and despair.  They cannot save us from fear and anxiety and insecurity.  They cannot save us from feelings of insignificance and unimportance and unworthiness.  And when we demand or expect them to, it can get ugly really fast.  Because our children belong fully to God, and not to us. Therefore, we must learn to love them well, but we must also learn to hold them loosely. 

My sense is that most of us try to get something from our children that they were never intended to give.  In fact, if we do not get from God, what only he is designed to give us, then we will try to get it from our spouses.  And if we do not get it from our spouses, we will try to get it from our children.  And if we do not get it from our children, we will try to get it from our world--and so goes the downward spiral.  When we live our lives needing and demanding something from the people in our world that they were never designed to fully give, it always leads to dysfunction--unhealthy dependence or enmeshment with those in our lives and world.  Each one of us, first and foremost, belongs to God.  It is he alone that can meet us at our point of deepest need.  And only when we allow him to fully meet us there can we ever hope to be able to truly love those in our families, our lives, and our world without needing to control or manipulate them.

O God, let me never seek (or demand) from someone else what you alone can give.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

eat this scroll

And he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.
     Then he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.
     He then said to me: “Son of man, go now to the people of Israel and speak my words to them. (Ezekiel 3:1-4)


you must first eat the scroll
you must taste its sweetness
you must be filled with its life
before you can have anything
of real value
to offer the world

you must receive his words
before you can ever truly
speak his words

you must live his message
before you can ever really
give his message

it makes me wonder
why i get it so backwards
all too often



Saturday, November 5, 2016

caring too much

"No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
     The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts." (Luke 16:13-15)


I don't know about you, but oftentimes I find that I care too much.  I know, I know, it sounds really strange, almost like an oxymoron.  I mean, how can you care too much, right?  But the fact is that you really can, and we often do.  At least I often do. 

I actually think that's what Jesus is saying right here in this conversation with the Pharisees.  They cared too much.  They cared too much about what people thought.  They cared too much about keeping up their image.  They cared too much about their position in society.  They cared too much about maintaining their reputations.  They cared too much about having influence and impact.  And, the truth be known, so do I.  You see, when we care too much--even about things that are good--it gives us a pretty good indication that what we really care about is ourselves, not the person (or thing) that is before us at any particular moment. Our care has subtly shifted from object to subject.

Caring too much is a warning sign that something within us has gone awry, that somehow our affections have become disordered.  Something has become way more important to us than it should be.  In this case, with Jesus and the Pharisees, he is calling their attention to their love of money, but there are so many other things that could be inserted into that blank and the statement would still be true.  Because when we care too much--even about those in our own families--the lines become blurred and we start demanding and expecting things from them that they simply cannot fully give us.  And things just go downhill from there.  As a matter of fact, anytime we become aware of a lack of margins or boundaries in our lives we should become suspicious that somehow we have begun to care too much, somehow our affections have become disordered.  For whenever something, or someone, occupies center stage in our hearts, then that is the thing (or the person) we are truly serving.  Whenever something, or someone, becomes our focal point, all else takes a back seat.  It is just the way we were made.