Posts Tagged ‘Joan Chittister’
Advent 1st Sunday: Year C [06DEC12] Theme for week 1—Waiting & Hope
I love you LORD, you are my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. (Psalm 18:1-2)
Joan Chittister writes in her book, The Liturgical Year, “Advent is not about one coming; it is about three comings. The great spiritual question the season poses for each of us is, which coming are you and I waiting for now: at this moment of our lives, at this present stage of our spiritual development, what we are waiting for surely determines how we will wait for it.”
Waiting and hope, in my mind, are inextricably linked. To have one seems implicit you are dependent upon the other. Therefore, value must be placed upon and acted upon the both.
Today I realize and value that waiting helps me to prepare for what comes… what comes next in the distant future or what comes after “now.” Waiting time allows me space to learn new things—to gain new experiences and develop new skills—helpful development and maturity that lead me to where and who God wants me to be. Waiting actively is waiting well.
“We have to learn the artist’s pace.” -Evelyn Underhill
Waiting well increases my focus and attentiveness because I know and believe that waiting has purpose. I am thankful for the realization that waiting has a prominent place in the life of the Christ-follower. Even as I write these words, I remember that the Eternal God “waited” for the fullness of time to come. There was purpose in the waiting then just as there is purpose in the waiting now. O Lord, help my waiting to be with purpose, active and with hope always alert in the now and still always attentively looking forward.
Celebrating Advent means being able to wait. Waiting is an art that our impatient age has forgotten. It wants to break open the ripe fruit when it has hardly finished planting the shoot. But all too often the greedy eyes are only deceived; the fruit that seemed so precious is still green on the inside, and disrespectful hands ungratefully toss aside what has so disappointed them. Whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting—that is, of hopefully doing without—will never experience the full blessing of fulfillment. -Dietrich Bonhoeffer; God is in the Manger
Today I am amazed that I am even capable of learning how to wait. This alone is the testimony of God’s grace breaking into and working to transform my life. This realization is cause to celebrate. My hope is emboldened with this knowledge and becomes more real. Hope without the ability to wait for what comes is like a pipedream—a fleeting wish never acted upon—and not much more. Hope incubated and nurtured in active waiting is real—this hope changes us—reroutes decisions and alters our way of living, so when the thing we’ve hoped for arrives, we are ready to embrace it fully…we have been looking forward, planning, and preparing. Emboldened hope, born of patient and active waiting, helps me to prepare.
Most holy God of heaven, you who paint the shining center of the sky with the brightness of fire, illumine our hearts, banish sordid things, release the chain of guilt, and make void our trespasses.
LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy
Our Father who art in heaven, holy is your Name. May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever and for ever. Amen.
Lord, hear my prayer. And let my cry come unto you.
Actively Waiting in Hope (A Pre-Advent Meditation)
Hope in My Present
Hope Anchored in Traditions of the Past
The past couple weeks I have had my thoughts drawn to the coming new cycle of the Christian Calendar. I have only been practicing this discipline of living the Liturgical Year since 2007, but it has become one of my favorite and most life giving of all the disciplines I practice. I am excited about what God will teach and shape in me during this coming year.
Advent (Dec. 2, 2012 this year) marks the beginning of the new liturgical year, a new cycle of connecting our lives to the Savior-King, Messiah Jesus. The liturgical calendar follows the time of the birth of Christ through the ascension of Christ to arrival of the Holy Spirit in Fire on the Day of Pentecost and then proceeds with “ordered” or ordinary time until we arrive at Christ the King Sunday (the last Sunday of the Christian year). I have found the Liturgical Calendar to be a wonderful exercise in keeping my mind and heart engaged with the always-present-Lord.
The Cycle of Light
Advent literally means “coming” or “arrival.” It is a time when we celebrate the promise fulfilled of the Messiah King Jesus, born in the flesh of a child some two-thousand years ago. It is also a time when we celebrate with hope looking forward to the promised return of our Eternal King, Jesus, when he will establish his kingdom forever and rule with his people on a new and wholly redeemed earth. Advent is a time of preparation, reflection, and expectant waiting. We look forward, active in the now, with hearts anticipating redemption and completion where satisfaction will be eternally gratified and met… no more longing, no more hunger, no more waiting, but until then, we do wait… with hearts expectant and preparing, we look forward to the coming and arrival of the Light.
Watchful Waiting and Christ’s Arrival
This season where we intentionally focus our attentions to waiting, we turn specifically to “three arrivals” or comings of Christ. (1) His arrival in history; the incarnation, where God became flesh in the birth of Jesus. (2) The return of Christ in his fullness and glory; the End Times of Revelation—a new Heaven, a New Earth—where God in Triune Wholeness comes once again to dwell with humankind for all eternity. (3) His spiritual arrival and entrance into our lives as Lord and Savior—His salvation to us and indwelling of us in the Holy Spirit.
“The question with which the liturgical year confronts us is a direct one: what does the life of Jesus now mean to us? …By taking us into the depth of what it means to be a human on the way to God…the liturgical year breaks us open to the divine.” -Joan Chittister
Bobby Gross reminds us “The Biblical scope of Advent stretches from the garden in Genesis to the New Jerusalem in Revelation.” Advent concerns first and last things indeed, but it also includes the tension of all points in between. Eugene Peterson paraphrases and exposits a deeper look into the Apostle Paul’s words to the church in Rome with these words from Romans chapter eight.
All around us, we observe a pregnant condition. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it is not only around us; it is within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. (Romans 8:22-25 The Message)
We are hopeful, active, partners with God; we are expectant, standing on the shoulders of tradition past as we look forward in our wait…even as He works within us in the now.
“We must do more than simply go through the Advent calendar; we must develop in us an Advent heart.” -Joan Chittister
Postures for Advent
There is tension in the wait; we fluctuate as the Apostle reminds us (Romans 8:22-25) we groan and we rejoice in the expectancy of what is and what is to come. We allow ourselves the permission to sing with joy and lament with sorrow during our season of waiting. The noises and clamor of “busy” is pervasive and unrelenting this time of year; we can be intentional about practicing restraint and making opportunities for retreat from all the distractions. Know that Christ has come and with the reality of that promise and the gift of his Holy Spirit indwelling, we can be expectant, alert, and open to his voice within and his voice without…He is our Teacher, Guide, Counselor, and Comforter. Be ever vigilant and on the lookout for our encounters with the Sacred and Divine.
Practices and Resources
From my friend Christine Sine’s blog, here is a great link to list of Advent Resources. In addition to this link with resources, I will be blogging through the season here on the icrucified.blog. If you’d like to receive the Advent reflections in your email box, be sure to sign-up for them using the link in the upper right-hand navigation bar that says “subscribe by email.”
Advent Meditation: Tension, Distraction, and Focus in the Wait [24DEC2010]
Waiting can be difficult… as Tom Petty reminded us, “The wa-ai-ting is the hardest part…”
Anticipation and waiting can be volatile, like bleach and ammonia. Maybe not…though; I think it depends much on the way it is mixed and controlled. When I thought about this particular metaphor, it was inspired by my own tension and frustration. Interestingly enough, when I began to research “bleach” and “ammonia” I found out some interesting information that I wasn’t aware of. There are several by-products from this mixture depending on how it is mixed. One mixture produces a chlorine gas and another nitrogen trichloride, both very dangerous and deadly mixtures.
So, perhaps anticipation and waiting may not be as volatile as ammonia and bleach, but at times they seem volatile in that my own molecular structure trembles with every atom quivering as I meditate on and participate in the transition of “dying to flesh” and “restoring to glory.” And that process…some days, seems very volatile (even more so than chlorine gas and trichloride)
Then again… maybe anticipation and waiting are volatile in a good way. Another mixture of bleach and ammonia produces something called hydrazine (aka rocket fuel). Now, this is deadly too without proper control…but properly controlled, we send men and satellites into space. Perhaps the volatility of anticipation and waiting controlled by God’s Spirit, produces something that also escapes the boundaries of our earthen nature…
The weakness and humility of being an earthen vessel is temporarily relieved with revelations of affirmation from the Triune God that He chose an earthen vessel to reveal himself in the flesh of the Son to all men. More affirmation comes when we realize His promise of residing in the hearts and souls of frail men and women in the person of His Holy Spirit over the splendor and grandeur of gold and jewel-encrusted temples. Yes, weak and broken as humanity may be, God chooses them as His dwelling place. The affirmation though, doesn’t completely ease the tension.
When your word goes forth it gives light; it gives understanding to the simple… (Psalm 119:130)
Distractions are a reality and a present reminder that things are not completely the way they should be. Historically, we know that Jesus has come. The reminders are all around us; however, there is yet another act or two remaining in this celestial-eternal-divine play. These reminders are the distractions that cause waiting to be hard…these distractions are the temptations that can serve us in roles that are helpful and build us or gnaw at us adversely, eroding our faith until it no longer factors in the work of our perfecting completion.
Search for the LORD and His strength; continually seek His face… (Psalm 105:4)
It is so easy to fall into the rut of distraction. As I just pointed out, it is everywhere…and distraction itself is not evil. Distraction can be like… the sign posted as a reminder on a freshly mopped and waxed floor. Paid proper attention to, the sign causes us to rise to a state of heightened awareness and brings focus to the way we tread upon the floor, ensuring our aim is for maximum traction in order to avoid slipping and falling. We strive to maintain balance and equilibrium, so even if we do “slip” we are prepared to “shift” our weight and remain afoot. On the other hand, if we give casual acknowledgment to the sign and do not put into action the necessary adjustments it calls to us, we hazard a slip… a fall… and the potentially harmful ramifications that may ensue from the crash when we “hit bottom.”
While we wait, we want to stay focused on the One thing…God’s magnificent and guiding Presence. I know I am aware that God is here and God is near. I think the tension manifests itself when I realize the normal actions of my routine (the ways I normally connect with God) are interrupted. This is a major weakness in me and it seems to be heightened when seasons like Advent and Lent put my frailty on display, magnifying my faults under the microscope of everyday life.
It is my desire to open my heart, soul, mind, and physical strength availing all of myself to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit God who dwells within me. I desire to grow in relationship with the Son; where I do not become negatively influenced by distraction, but rather distraction serves as a “heightened” opportunity to grow nearer to and more responsive to the guiding Presence of Almighty God. His Presence is always here, always guiding, always encouraging, and always desiring his children to become all that He destined us to be at the birth of our creation and the first whisper of His breath in us that sparked our very life. Distractions aren’t meant to be stumbling failures; no, distractions are meant to be ladders of growth…portals of opportunity to Practice the Presence of God in every season and every moment. God’s Presence is always where I am at and where I am doing… His Spirit resides within. Therefore, it cannot be otherwise.
You strengthen me more and more; you enfold and comfort me… (Psalm 71:21)
I am beginning to understand the danger of rote religion and the worship of routine. I can recognize (especially during these seasons; perhaps that is also by divine design) when I begin to feel guilty about missing one of my routines… I think this “recognition” might be a spiritual “check and balance.” Sometime, I question whether I have begun to elevate my act of routine to an object of worship…
These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me and their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote. (Isaiah 29:13)
Now, I don’t believe the guilt or conviction brought on by this check and balance question should be obsessed over nor should they be ignored, but they should be embraced as a warning (like the sign on the wet floor) in an awareness heightening way. It should be a tool used in the maturing process, helping to guide me/us away from the always-there-tendency to make idols out of everything we say and do. As Laurence Hull Stookey reminds; “In the Kingdom of Heaven the impurities of wrong motives for right actions cannot exist. They are refined away by the fire of divine goodness.” In this way, the volatile mixture of waiting, anticipating, and distraction serve up a controlled mixture that assist us in escaping the frailty of our earthen nature… like rocket fuel in the hands of a Divine Creator.
You are good and you bring forth good; you instruct me in your statutes… (Psalm 119:68)
Waiting is hard. Waiting is tense. Distractions can cause us to lose focus or become more focused… What and where is your heart gravitating to at this moment? Are you worry-free? Are you experiencing joy, peace, and the warm embrace of God’s love?
The Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face. And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun… for the Lord God will shine on them. (Revelation 22:4-5)
Advent Meditation: Wait Versus Want [20DEC2010]
I want to share a combined reflection that I have been ruminating upon for the past couple days…
The readings that prompt this particular meditation come primarily from the following passages:
Seems like quite the hodgepodge of Scripture, but I suppose that is indicative of how my mind works (insert chuckle here). The overarching theme in this meditation continues to be focused on waiting and how we occupy ourselves during the wait. I’ll begin with some thoughts that “jumped out” at me from Jesus’ discourse as captured in the Gospel of John.
I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will. I have no need of human witnesses, but I say these things so you might be saved. …You were excited for a while about his (John the Baptist) message. You have never heard his (God the Father) voice or seen him face to face, and you do not have his message in your hearts, because you do not believe me—the one he sent to you. You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life. Your approval means nothing to me, because I know you don’t have God’s love within you. For I have come to you in my Father’s name, and you have rejected me. (John 5:30-47)
These are some serious words that Jesus is throwing out. While Jesus is speaking directly to the Jewish leaders during this discourse, this being the Living Word for us today, these words apply in some sense to us today as well. The question I have been asking is, “How much attention do we pay to Jesus’ teaching and his invitation to ‘follow me’?” Read carefully the words of Jesus in this chapter five of John’s Gospel paying particular attention to the indictment that Jesus launches against people who know truth but fail to believe it through obedience. The gavel of Jesus’ justice comes down with this blistering verdict; “You search Scripture thinking it gives you eternal life, but the Scripture points to me and you refuse to come to me… therefore, rejecting the life you seek in the first place. Your problem is this; you don’t have God’s love within you!” (My paraphrase)
The way we wait is very telling… the outward manifestation of our lives; how we live, the things we value, where we spend our money and time, and things like that are the equivalent of a spiritual EKG or MRI. These actions of our lives indicate the value we place on the testimony of Jesus. Yes, the way we wait reveals what we truly believe.
The endurance of our faith is tested during our wait. Another way of saying this; a persevering and faithfully obedient wait is part of the work of sanctification… it is faith being proven genuine.
“Be strong and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 31:24)
“Wisdom is shown to be right by its results” (Matthew 11:19) –Jesus
I worry about how easily we are deluded…by ourselves. We like to assure ourselves that we are okay with the way we live our lives, quick to justify our sin and our failure to obey the teachings of God in Christ. We will act out or do something contrary to the way of Jesus (knowingly) and quickly think; “Thank God, I’m forgiven” without showing any remorse and go on about our way soon to sin in similar fashion again with the cavalier attitude toward God’s priceless grace.
“Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe, for you are my crag and my stronghold; for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me.” (Psalm 31:3)
I was reading the second chapter of 2 Peter and was sickened with grief over the thought that we will project the words he writes on “other people.” When we read of false prophets and false teachers, we are all too quick to dismiss our own reflection from those “false” ones. But, the way we live our lives teaches a “false gospel” if our lives do not align with the teachings of Jesus. We are quick to preach the deliverance from the bondage of sin in almost every church I’ve ever attended each and every Sunday, and we’ll tell our friends about Jesus’ forgiveness and deliverance from sin…yet we remain in bondage to it and consider it “normal” to the Christian life. Huh? We will teach about “Christian Love” suffering all things and being unconditional, yet we are unable to forgive neighbors, friends, and family… because “God is still working on me…” What? When we do this kind of thing, we preach, proclaim, and teach a false gospel. This makes us guilty of the indictment of Peter in his discourse (2 Peter 2:1-22) of being the wicked false teachers. We’ll deceive ourselves by saying “He’s not talking about me…” but he is; especially if we are not living the life of a faithful waiting obedient servant.
These false teachers are like unthinking animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed. They scoff at things they do not understand, and like animals, they will be destroyed. Their destruction is their reward for the harm they have done. … And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before. It would be better if they had never known the way to righteousness than to know it and then reject the command they were given to live a holy life. They prove the truth of this proverb: “A dog returns to its vomit.”
I wonder; how long do we wait? We are an impatient society. We live in an impatient culture, driven to more and more impatience. Almost everything about us is “instantfied.” So, truthfully, the answer to how long do we wait is not very long… I was thinking about the church service I attended yesterday by way of example (and here we are talking about people who are “following” Jesus), and we didn’t practice anything that resembled “waiting.” We gathered together for under one and a half hours and there must have been half a dozen different elements (or acts) incorporated in our time together. Everything choreographed to move seamlessly from beginning to end so even the most ADHD soul would not get bored or distracted. How long do we wait? Not very long.
How long are we willing to wait? I think this question rides closely on the heels of the previous question. It is hard for me to think of anything that we are willing to wait for, especially those things that we have control over expediting the outcome. I think the bigger question is, “Are we willing to accept an indeterminate wait?”
But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Matthew 24:36)
Ultimately, the truth is known and revealed by the way we live our daily lives. This is the condition of our hearts and this reveals whether or not the wait exceeds our want. Or, more accurately… our wants exceed what we are willing to wait for in Christ or our wants exceed how He expects for us to wait… patiently, listening intently to the gentle whisper of His Holy Spirit guiding us in the ways of the Father’s Love…. Reconciling and restoring a broken creation to right relationship with its Creator.
They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. (Jude 1:18)
I pray that we learn to wait. I pray that our want does not exceed our wait. And, I pray that we will learn to live a life of obedience to the ways of Jesus that will teach the truth of the Gospel and not a misleading falsehood that mocks the deliverance of the Savior of the World.
Purify my conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find me a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Advent Meditation: Day Traders [18DEC2010]
I’m still thinking about waiting and the patience of enduring through this season of Advent. As I mentioned in my last posting, The Winter of Waiting, my real life season of waiting brings a deeper understanding to the meaning and purpose of Advent. The past few days, my thoughts have been seasoned with words like mourning, groaning, anticipating, wanting, eternal, and glory…
For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! (2 Corinthians 4:17)
Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
When I think about my frame of mind for the past several weeks, it almost lends itself to being described as depression. I don’t think that is a true assessment though. When I dig deeper at what drives my melancholy (described as a thoughtful or gentle sadness) I identify a few distinct markers that set my mood apart from an unhealthy state of mind. To begin with, I recognize my state of blessedness. From a temporal perspective, I have everything that I could ever want or need for a “happy” life. I have people who love me unconditionally; I have health; I have shelter and food; I have luxuries that provide me a level of comfort and gratification over and above the vast majority of people that inhabit planet earth, and these are just a few of the first things that pop into my mind when I count my temporal, earthly blessings. Moving my assessment of blessings to a more eternal scale, I am in healthy relationship with the Creator of all things, the Uncreated One, the Three-In-One God who was incarnate in Jesus. I am blessed because my soul is in apprenticeship with the Holy Spirit of God as its Mentor. I walk daily in the counsel and presence, in soul conversation and intimate fellowship with this God who is the Friend, Savior, and Judge of all men. So, I do recognize how crazy and with overflowing abundance, this life of mine is blessed. Indeed. To God be the glory with all praise and thanksgiving to Him for everything that has been given to me…I am most grateful and so thankful for the life I have been given. But…
I want more. Not stuff. Not things. Not temporal happiness. I hunger for eternity; I desire glory of eternity that I read of which is yet to come. This is what we wait for…this is Advent.
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently. (Romans 8:18-25)
I am content to live today and enjoy the “gift of life,” but this world has nothing left to offer me. I have been offered the Pearl of Great Price; I have found what I was looking for and I desire it in the full. I suppose it is with this recognition that I have days when my soul feels tired and days when my soul feels like dancing and rejoicing. And we wait.
Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
“But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever” Amen. I’m ready to become a true Day Trader, I want to trade everything for the joy of eternal residence in the Kingdom of God. Advent is the season of hope… a reminder that dark is before the dawn… and with the dawn comes morning that will last forever.
And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. 24 The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory. 25 Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there. (Revelation 21:22-25)
Day and night we walk in the graying dusk;
the between time of the then, now, and yet to come.
The Promise of Him coming,
anchored in the ancient faith stories.
By faith I believe and by faith He anchors me too
Momentary light afflictions remind us of our frailty;
spiritual blessing and promise-filled joys buoy our tired hearts,
providing hope-sustenance for eternal tomorrow .
We wait for the coming Christ, the One who changes
our earthly mourning story…into eternal morning glory.
To Him we praise while we wait.
Jeff Borden ©18DEC2010
Trading My Sorrows – Darryl Evans
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Jeff Borden ©18DEC2010
Advent Meditation: Winter of Waiting [15DEC2010]
The past twenty-four hours have been an interesting and unplanned exercise in “waiting.” I’ve shared thoughts on one of the central themes of the Advent season, waiting, here on the icrucified blog in several posts, but this most recent exercise was unexpected, unplanned, and full of insight.
Late in the evening of December 13th we lost power in our apartment for a period of around twenty-four hours. High winds (gusts up to 70mph) took down some large trees which fell onto power lines. This is not something extraordinary, it has happened to us before and it’s happened to other people too… some in considerably desperate situations; way more so than us. What was interesting in this event; however, was my frame of mind and the condition of my soul. There was an “alignment” of sorts that hyper-sensitized me to the moment.
The waiting during our Advent season is a reflection of the wait for the coming Savior; first, in the coming of the incarnation, and second, in the return coming and establishment of the Eternal Kingdom. Similarly in both of these events, the waiting is without specifics…there is no scheduled to-the-minute arrival that we were made aware of. Yes, there are signs and there are prophetic alerts to help us remain attentive and alert…watching, and waiting, but no specific date and no specific time. This kind of waiting can be tedious, and depending on your temperament it can be unnerving as well. The burden of waiting can be lightened when we have “things” to occupy our wait, but then… these occupations, while burden lifting in themselves, can be distractions too… And, this is kind of where my most recent experience takes off.
I am presently in a season of “winter” in my soul journey. Soul journeys are cyclical in similar fashion as our calendar seasons. All these seasons are necessary, doing their part in the reorientation and reconstruction of broken images as we are continually being made ready for the eternal relationship. Winters of the soul can come at different times and are not automatically aligned with the winter of the calendar. Winters of the soul can be ushered into being under different guises as well, and not necessarily associated with a crisis point in life. God’s providential wisdom and guidance lead us into the seasons of the soul as our need demands and spiritual formation requires.
I think there are some hallmark similarities to the literal winter seasons and the winters of the soul… Winter is typically a dark time; light is a precious commodity. Winter is cold and can be debilitating, so people make it a priority to find appropriate shelter and protective clothing…warmth. Winter is a time when the ground is fallow and fresh fruits and vegetables are at a premium. While winter has a beauty of its own, it is generally a monochromatic season devoid of the vibrancy of spring, summer, and fall with their explosions of color. Similarly, winters of the soul seem listless and give us the sense that God is not so near. Winters of the soul seem grey and lack clarity… Winters of the soul make the sustaining food of God’s Word seem warmed-over, dry, and lacking in flavor. Winters of the soul, while difficult, are also life-giving just as the real season of winter is. Give time to reflection on this…
So, during my time of winter waiting over the past couple months, I have been reflecting on these things. I have been considering the season of Advent, pondering those saintly brothers and sisters who have waited through the millennia. I continue to consider the purging and purification of our souls as we sojourn the physical life. I try to submit myself to the changes and transforming work that God desires to do in me. I groan with my weaknesses and I want to run from and deny the grossness of my failures… but I know availing myself to God’s ways will produce good soil in spring and a bountiful harvest in me (and others) when summer comes. Much of this reflection, meditation, and submission comes from extended times of solitude, silence, and prayerful listening. I’ve thought that my impromptu sabbatical of the last couple months has been a tremendous blessing to these ends, even if there have been disconcerting days in its midst.
Much of yesterday seemed as though silence and solitude were amplified. I had forgotten how loud silence can be. I don’t know if I have ever realized how isolated one can feel in the cacophony of quiet either. Once my wife and my son left the house, it was still dark… the sun yet to come up; without electricity for heat and no light for comfort, I began to focus on the silence and the cold. Not knowing when the electricity would be restored, my senses were in a state of hyper-anticipation waiting for the “juice” to return. Isn’t, or shouldn’t, our anticipation for the return of Christ be similar? As the day wore on and I continued thinking, listening, and praying… I noticed my anticipation for the “power” seemed manic-depressive in nature. I would be excited thinking in the next moment or two “things” would return to normal…somewhat paralleling the nature of my life at the moment; just wait another minute, the power is coming soon. Next, I would be agitated… “Bah!” “It’s not coming… how long must I wait?” Mentally, emotionally, spiritually… up one moment and down the next. All this over a little “power” outage? Hmmm…
I realized a few things; I like silence better when I am in control of it, likewise for solitude. Realizing this caused me agitation and relief at the same time. I also became aware of the fact that control can be deceptively insidious in the ways that it undermines our reliance upon God. For quite some time I have considered myself “helpless” and dependent upon God for all things in my life and to some degree this is true; however, at another level it is not. Hanging out for 24hrs with no electricity has proven that to be true in me. What an incredibly simple and harmless event this “power outage” was that revealed such a deep need for releasing more of me.
Heightened awareness helps to bring focus and attention to things which can be good or bad. In this case, I think it will be good. I’m still processing some of the things that came to my mind yesterday… I’m sure there are more things left to uncover that have been lying dormant in my winter of waiting. I am thankful though, for this winter season. I am thankful also that through this season God will avail much in me as I release myself to Him. Yes, thank God for winter. Winter provides a time for rest that is needful for sustained growth. Winter also means something else… a new season of growth is on the way… to God be the glory.
Advent Meditation: Preparing [13DEC2010]
The “soup” of this meditation has a lot of ingredients in its recipe. I’ve struggled putting the words together and don’t know if I’ll be able to convey my thought in a cognizant and cohesive manner for this post, but I’ll try. It started a few days ago with a passage from 2 Timothy and the apostle Paul encouraging young Pastor Timothy to “think about the farmer, soldier, and athlete…” It was further stirred with a trip to Seattle and some thought provoking dinner conversation. Next, came the Lectionary readings for the Third Sunday in Advent [Isaiah 35:1-10; James 5:7-10; & Matt.11:2-11]. An email exchange served to stir this simmering meditation a bit more and the final ingredients were added this morning with today’s Lectionary readings [Isaiah 8:16-9:1; 2 Peter 1:1-11; & Luke 22:39-53]. This is quite a bit to put into one reflection, but the central thought that emerges from it is “preparing.”
Part of the foundational elements of this preparing “stew” comes from thinking about the athlete and how he trains for his prize. Our Saturday dinner conversation happened to be shared with a coach who trains Olympic athletes. He shared the incredible regimen; the hours of training, diet, sleep monitoring, muscle massages, and all kinds of other things way beyond my understanding. I know I wrote a little bit about this a few days ago, but hearing some of this first hand was even more eye-opening. The words were spoken about this athlete; “she has no life outside of training for the Olympics.” One of the people around the table of conversation said, “I wouldn’t want to be that devoted to anything…” I thought; “This is exactly the metaphor that the apostle Paul encourages the followers of Jesus to model their discipleship after.” We are encouraged and challenged to this same level of dedication in our efforts to learn of Jesus and follow after him… to abandon chasing anything that does not help us in our ultimate re-making and transformation into the image of God.
So, I recently finished reading a book titled Whole Life Transformation and on occasion I will attempt to reach out to the author. I did connect with Dr. Keith Meyer and we traded a few emails regarding the status of discipleship in the Christian community in our contemporary society. His experience is that Americans are not very open to spiritual formation, and he shared that some of the most well-known and respected leaders in the movement of spiritual formation are reporting similar findings. Interestingly enough additional supporting statistics to this information arrived in my email inbox this morning with the latest reports from the Barna Group; you should check out this information (Six Megathemes Emerge from Barna Group Research in 2010) for an enlightening look at the state of Christianity in America.
More ingredients to stir the pot…
“…strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees.” (Isaiah 35:3)
“The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does… Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble. He will keep you safe. Preserve the teaching of God; entrust his instructions to those who follow me.” (Isaiah 8:11-16)
We have fallen away, as a people, from God. I know I’m speaking in generalities and there is a remnant who is following the teaching of God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength… but generalities give a picture of the health of the whole and the American church is in trouble. Many people I know who call themselves Christians are gambling their eternal soul on a grace professed and received from God, yet they trample that same grace under foot ninety-five percent of the time (based on giving God the focus of your life 8 hours a week out of 168 hours – 7 x 24 = 168). How are we preparing and devoting ourselves to the Advent and Return of Christ? Do we live as if it is the most important thing in our lives?
I know this sounds very blunt and dark, but it is a state that we are in… myself included. As I’ve thought about the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer, I have considered my own devotion and preparation in becoming like Christ. I know I fall short and my sensitivities to this seem obsessive to some people. For the life of me, I cannot find an alternative to this thinking as I read and pray over Scripture. Should I fall short on the basis of my own weakness, I know the grace of Jesus Christ is there to rescue me… however, if I fail on the basis of apathy, fear, slothfulness, or doubt, those things in my control and the things God has given me power over through the atonement, death, and resurrection of Christ… I think there is no hope for me. It is in this place that we mock the blood and sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 10:23-36).
“…Shouldn’t people ask God for guidance? Should the living seek guidance from the dead? Look to God’s instructions and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark. They will go from one place to another, weary and hungry. And because they are hungry, they will rage and curse their king and their God. They will look up to heaven and down at the earth, but wherever they look, there will be trouble and anguish and dark despair. They will be thrown out into the darkness.” (Isaiah 8:19-22)
The greatest tragedy of humanity is that so many “so called” believers do not believe the very words (the Bible in general and the Gospel in particular) they base their salvation upon; what irony. God calls us back to himself. This is part of the purpose of this Advent Season, to remember His gift of grace… not to wassail and trim trees. Jesus Christ is returning. If He does not return in my or your lifetime, at the end of your life you will meet Him… Yes, at some point in the span of your life… if not in the middle, certainly at the end, you will indeed meet Him. Are you prepared? Will you be prepared? Are you preparing… with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; like the farmer, soldier, and athlete? He has given us everything we need to succeed and be prepared… even His very own nature.
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. (2 Peter 2:3-4)
Give grace, O LORD Jesus, as I seek your way, that I may grow more and more into your likeness and that I may bear your ensign as a banner of hope and direction before all who are distraught and confused. Through this time of daily devotion instill in me your own gentleness, quiet my over-wrought alarms, and enable me to rest confidently in your wisdom. These things grant by the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.
search other “prepare” posts
Advent Meditation: Faithfulness—Unwavering and Reciprocal [10DEC2010]
I am pondering faithfulness today and considering a number of aspects and dynamics that faithfulness plays out as it extends from God, interacts in our world, and circles back to God. I’m not entirely sure if that thesis consideration flows logically, but that’s kind of where I am at the moment.
I’m wondering how faithfulness works; to us…as we interpret it coming, or not coming, from God. I think in wondering how it (faithfulness) works, it helps to understand what it is. We humans are responsible for coining the word, but I think in the “big picture” it is God who defines it. So, how does God define faithfulness? I believe the best way to describe faithfulness is to examine God’s character in the Bible.
Arthur Pink writes from the reformed perspective, so there are other points of view, but I still believe his observations give us a reasonable starting point when examining God’s faithfulness; he writes:
IMMUTABILITY is one of the Divine perfections which is not sufficiently pondered. It is one of the excellencies of the Creator which distinguishes Him from all His creatures. God is perpetually the same: subject to no change in His being, attributes, or determinations. GOD IS IMMUTABLE IN HIS ESSENCE. His nature and being are infinite, and so, subject to no mutations. GOD IS IMMUTABLE IN HIS ATTRIBUTES. Whatever the attributes of God were before the universe was called into existence, they are precisely the same now, and will remain so for ever. GOD IS IMMUTABLE IN HIS COUNSEL. His will never varies. (The Immutability of God; Arthur W. Pink)
I think it is a fairly safe comparison to equate God’s immutability with His faithfulness. It is on this assumption that I wholly believe in God as faithful. I believe his character is faithful, his love is faithful, his intent is faithful, and his promises are faithful. But, what does that mean to me really?
There are several ramifications that proceed from my understanding of God as faithful; first of which, his faithfulness is not dependent upon anything but himself. God is unchanging and God is faithful; period. Fact: I can trust Him. There may be things that make me uncomfortable about the working of God, but lack of trust is not one of them.
Secondly, God’s faithfulness is not diminished or sullied by my lack of faith. He is still faithful, His promises are still true, and His will and His counsel is always unchanging. It is this second point I wish to explore in greater detail…
I titled this meditation Faithfulness—Unwavering and Reciprocal; the faithfulness I refer to is twofold, God’s faithfulness and my own. As I have shared, I fully believe God’s faithfulness is unwavering… I cannot say the same for myself. While I try hard to be, I am not always faithful. My faith wavers at times and I stumble… I falter… I fall short. But, God remains faithful to me in spite of my shortcomings; He loves me when my actions show weakness and a distorted understanding of love. He stays faithful and true to His promises when I am prone to renegotiate or break mine. Yes, God’s faithfulness is unwavering. The thing about the law of reciprocity in this context is that it is not operationally applied from God to me to God; as I said, His faithfulness is not contingent on anything I do or believe. The alternative context is what is interesting though… and this is where I think the law of reciprocity reaps exponential reward in the life of the believer who exercises faith in God’s faithfulness. When I begin to act on the trust I have in God’s faithfulness, that act is reciprocally multiplied as my faith grows in God’s faithfulness. Confused yet? Let me share an illustration that I hope will bring some clarity.
Several years back our family was on vacation and made an impromptu stop at a random amusement park. One of the things we tried (me and my boys) was this killer twenty-something foot high rock climbing wall. The “ride” proprietor geared us up in harnesses, cables, hydraulic auto-belay system, and other safety gear. And then, we set out on our climb.
I’m sure you’ve seen these fiberglass climbing walls, they’re pretty straightforward with the standard foot holds and hand grabs… they’re not terribly difficult to climb. Plus, I think there is some assistance with the hydraulic belay system you’re attached to, the climb almost felt semi-assisted (aka it was easy going up). Another thing I remember about the climb is that it didn’t seem scary going up; I don’t think I even considered that I might slip or fall, I just climbed on up. I think this can be similar in our experience with God’s faithfulness. Some things we trust Him implicitly with and we just “go with it” devoid of fear or second guessing. We put our trust in God to take us up the “make believe wall” and faithfully believe in our “spiritual climbing gear.” Other times we might not trust Him so much.
I mentioned the climb up the wall. When we got to the top, we were supposed to kick back from the wall with our legs, let go and let the auto-belay system allow us to slowly and gently drop us back to the ground level. No matter that I knew the equipment worked. No matter that I saw people doing this (including my sons). I was practically paralyzed. My brain was saying “it’s all good, Borden, kick it and go.” My body, however, was screaming a paralyzed “NO!!!” and I couldn’t move… I just kinda hung out at the top of this fiberglass climbing wall with people staring up at me wondering what my trip was. The significance of this is pretty huge. You see, I’m practically fearless when it comes to stuff like this… I jumped out of an airplane for crying out loud without blinking, but I just couldn’t bring myself to kick away from the wall. Our faith journey with Jesus can have similar moments of doubt… we’ll trust him halfway through the journey, never fearing for a moment in the how, the way, or the what of where He’s leading us and then all of the sudden we freak… we get paralyzed and we refuse to go another step. Like me… on the wall.
Here’s where the reciprocity of our faith in God’s faithfulness begins to work. When we trust Him to take us or get us someplace, we can trust Him all the way. He is not a “half-way” God! We have to trust Him enough to “kick back from the wall of our doubt” and allow Him to show us His faithfulness manifold over and above what we ever thought it could be in our lives. This principle works; I have found it to be true over and over again… not that it is ever easy to “kick away” from a new wall, but it does get easier. See, when I finally kicked out, I floated almost weightlessly to the ground completely unharmed… just like the other people that were doing it. And here’s how we can take comfort with God’s leading us… surround ourselves by a great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us and travel alongside us, we see people being buoyed and carried from one faith milestone and life transforming moment to another. We watch them, we walk with them, we follow them, and we learn of God’s ways in our lives through them.
But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. And we are confident in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we commanded you. May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ. 2 Thessalonians 3:3-5
Lectionary Readings for the day: Cycle A
Advent Meditation: Waiting…Expectantly and Patiently [09DEC2010]
This season of Advent is especially interesting for our family. While the season itself represents waiting for promises fulfilled by God in the comings of Christ, there is a distinct parallel as we also wait for what we believe are personal promises from God for our family and our roles in ministry for His Kingdom. We are expectant with heartfelt joy in the season of Advent as we gaze upon the landscape of the Divine Big Picture as well as a Divine more personal and intimate picture. Sometimes, however, it is the patient waiting that is difficult.
It would be misleading for me to say or imply that all waiting is a joy. I could probably say things that would lead people to believe that this season of our life is a spiritual formation wonderland… and in some respects, while that is true, it is an unreal picture. The truth is this: God is near and He inspires and encourages me, but some days I grow impatient and some days feel the sucker punches of depression and doubt. These are the days when I have to literally seize those emotions and thoughts and bring them captive into Christ’s Kingdom. This week had a couple of those days in it. I wasn’t feeling so victorious on Tuesday or Wednesday. I knew in my heart that God was with me, but my impatience and male pride were working overtime in my head.
This morning (Thursday, December 09, 2010), I was praying from Phyllis Tickle’s Divine Hours for Fall and Winter and reading from my Wesleyan Prayer book. Several Scripture passages began to spark my thinking. My first thoughts were to remember the ancient peoples of God…those who lived during the day of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah. They were recipients of prophecy hearing of the promises that Jesus the Messiah-Savior was coming. They did not know how long they were to wait, but the promises were real. They suffered incredibly under the oppressive rule of the Assyrians, Persians, Medes, Greeks, and Romans…slaves to all. Still they looked and longed for the promised deliverance. The hung on to the promises for a four century period of silence from God; waiting, waiting, waiting… expectantly for their Savior-Deliverer. There were many dark nights I am sure; stints filled with doubt and depression no doubt, but the people looked to their future with hope, expectation, and so they waited. As I thought about these ancient believers who endured much as they waited, I felt pretty self-absorbed. I began telling myself as did David; “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Look up your eyes to your God and give Him praise” (Psalm 42). And, the Lord gave me also these words:
Be patient, therefore beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and late rains. You also must be patient. (James 5:7-8)
With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day… (2 Peter 3:8)
Put your trust in the Lord and do good; dwell n the land and feed on its riches. Take delight in the Lord, and he shall give you your heart’s desire. Commit your way to the Lord and put your trust in him, and he will bring it to pass. He will make your righteousness as clear as the light and your just dealing as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. (Psalm 37:3-7)
I think something that I am learning about pride is that it has many colors, shapes, and sounds. I would not have thought impatience would be such an indicator of pride, but I know that it is. I also know that impatience is antithetical to the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22) and it is for good reason that Peter writes as follows:
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. (2 Peter 1:5-9)
Today was a better day than Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, but I am thankful for them; the Tuesdays and Wednesdays of life I mean. If Tuesday and Wednesday hadn’t shown up, I might not have been able to see so clearly what Thursday, today, brought me. It is not only about waiting… or even waiting expectantly. It is about trust… and trust means waiting expectantly AND patiently… sometimes much patience. Patience is where trust grows. To God be the glory. Amen.
Advent Meditation: Prince of Peace [08DEC2010]
The last couple of days I have been reflecting on the gifts of all things found in Christ offered to us…as his faithful and true disciples. My thoughts, reflected in Scripture, as we are found in Him…He is found in us. Today I have been giving thought to Christ as our Peace.
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Strong’s 7965) Isaiah 9:6
Shalom is the Hebrew word we translate as “peace.” My first thoughts or understanding when I read or hear the word peace, is quiet or calm. I may extend that definition to something that means “non-hostile” or even mediator, but that is about the extent of what I translate from the word peace. I know from my studies that peace, when used in many contexts from the Bible, means something much more than what I’ve briefly described. Why does that matter? I can think of a few reasons why it is important and should matter. First, as I’ve mentioned at the beginning of this post, Jesus is called the Prince of Peace (makes me curious to know exactly what that entails). Second, Jesus says that peacemakers are blessed and will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9). There are other reasons why it should be important for us to understand more fully the meaning of peace from the Biblical perspective, but I suppose those two are good starting points.
A quick word study on the meaning of shalom (peace: Strong’s #7965) gives us a greater understanding of what Jesus is the Prince of… take a look below:
So, here we find out that “peace” is not just a gentle, easy “feeling,” but something much, much, more comprehensive in its meaning and intent. You can see the exhaustive definition for yourself; however, we can spell it out in its entirety as follows:
- Jesus is the Prince of Completeness
- Jesus is the Prince of Soundness or Wholeness
- Jesus is the Prince of Welfare &Wellness
- Jesus is the Prince of Safety
- Jesus is the Prince of Health & Contentment
- Jesus is the Prince of Prosperity
- Jesus is the Prince of Tranquility
- Jesus is the Prince of Friendship
- Jesus is the Prince of Healthy Relationships
- Jesus is the Prince of Friendship with God
- Jesus is the Prince of Covenant with God
- Jesus is the Prince of Completeness
Jesus is the Prince of:
All of the Above rolled into ONE!
This alone is enough to get a person excited… or it gets me excited anyway! There are some other tidbits of information that I found fascinating about the etymology of the word Shalom. You can check out the same info here for yourself.
The substance of the practice and application of this incredible Prince of Peace name of Jesus rests in how it impacts us. Not only does it have a significant bearing on the relationship that flows out of Jesus and onto His followers, but it also impacts the infilling of His disciples and their overflow to all the world. Remember the earliest promises of God to Abraham; that through him a Savior would be born and all the nations of the world would be blessed through Him. Remember also, Jesus’ proclaimed blessing for the shalom-makers, they would be called the children of God. And, here is the other connecting piece of this… Shalom is a name of God; the Talmud says, “The name of God is ‘Peace’”
And Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and named it Yahweh-Shalom (which means “the Lord is peace”). The altar remains in Ophrah in the land of the clan of Abiezer to this day. (Judges 6:24)
Therefore, it only follows that God’s children would be the children of Shalom…
We who profess to be true disciples of Jesus (abiding in the Vine of Christ; John 15:1-8), are imago dei, the image-bearers of God. We are shalom bringers. We should endeavor to live in His Peace (shalom) and embody all that shalom brings as Christ Jesus covers us, indwells us, and outpours from us into all the earth… redeeming, reconciling, and restoring all of Creation (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). This is the gift of Emmanuel, God with us and God in us.
The question begs asking of all of us; “Are we experiencing the Shalom of God?” I think we are all too quickly distracted by the death dirges of each day’s Top Forty Hits, but the reality is we should be singing the songs of Angels’ Praises instead. I think we can take the time during this Season of Advent to remember not only the gift of God in Jesus, but the Living Promise that He is with us. The Prince of Peace lives today; here…in us… we are Children of Shalom and Shalom Bringers. May it be so to the glory of Jesus who is the Prince of Shalom. Amen
Lectionary Readings for the day: Cycle A