Friday, January 31, 2014

Loving? Really?

How big is love?  Who are we called to love? What does it mean to love people?  We had this discussion in Sunday school last week.

Joe was teaching, and I love how he started the lessons:  we are redeemed, and we are called to be redeemers.  What does that mean?

We would like to draw a line - I will love these people - these people who are like me, who I like.  Those people are easy to love.

But that's a line we cannot draw.

Ok, then, what if I say I'll love the people who are not like me, but who are different.  What if I love them, and that is where I draw the line?

That, too, is a line we cannot draw.

To be redeemers - to love everyone, means everyone.  Each one is sacred to God.  That means even the person who has hurt us, even the person who has hurt someone we love, even the person who we would call evil or negligent or hateful.

There are no lines that we can draw.

I don't like that, and I don't even think I'm capable of love like that.  But God is, and he will enable all of us to love like that, through his grace.

What does love like that look like?  I don't know.  I do think I know what it doesn't look like. It doesn't look hateful or spiteful.  It doesn't sound like revenge or spring from grudges.

Just a small example:  so often on Facebook I see rants and vitriol posted.  There has been a chemical link in West Virginia that ended up in the water supply.  It's terrible, and I hope someone is held accountable for it.  But when I read the posts people have placed on Facebook, I am disturbed by the hatred I see.

Also, when I see people post political statements, or responses to them, I often see good people posting nasty statements, so much so that I want to block their posts.

Love.  We love those who are lovable, and we love our enemies.  It doesn't mean we ignore the sins they have committed, but we at least respond to them as people who have been forgiven.

Labels: ,

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Turning the Other Cheek

Forest Hill UMC
But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.  (Luke 6:27-29)
What does it mean to turn the other cheek?  I think in our macho, independent world, it sounds, at first glance, wimpy.  Does it mean to ignore when someone strikes out at you?  Does it mean, literally, to offer them another opportunity to hurt you?

Maybe in some cases it does.  That doesn't sound wimpy to me, but courageous, if it is done in service to God.  Have you seen the movie The Butler?  In it, we see several African Americans at a soda counter in the south.  White people are spitting on them, hitting them, screaming terrible things at them, and yet they sit there.  They act as if it is not happening at all  That might be an example of turning the other cheek.

In Sunday school a week or so ago, Joe said that turning the other cheek is a way to say that "I will not let the hatred you have stored in you to take up residence in me."  I like that explanation, too. We don't have to respond in the same way we have been treated.  We can respond in a way that isn't hateful - in a way that isn't a mirror of the vitriol that has been aimed at us.  We can respond in a way appropriate to what we believe, to how we have been led by God.

It isn't easy, and it isn't popular, but it is "turning the other cheek."  Do you think?


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Child of God

Yesterday I talked about Wading in the Water.  Check out that chorus again:
Wade in the WaterWater in the Water, children.Wade in the Water,God's a-gonna trouble the water.
I was at a meeting last night.  The leader of the committee said that, "It is easy to be a child of God."  Is that really true?

It has been said that when my older sons prays, it is as if he his crawling into God's lap and talking to him. To me, that is a great image of one of the aspects of being a child of God.  We are pulled into the Creator's "lap" and loved.  That aspect might have been what the leader of the committee was talking about last night.

But consider again the verse from yesterday's post:
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.  (Romans 6:3-4).  
We are children of God - we are children who have been buried with Christ and have been baptized not only into new life, but into Christ's death - into the suffering of Christ.

To be a child of God isn't just the time spent in God's lap, loved.  It is also the time spent seeing other children of God with the Father's eyes.  Our lives are not made easy by our adoption.  God stirs up the water and as God's children, we are called to wade in.  To be a child means that, like Jesus' disciples after the Transfiguration, we have to leave the mountain.

Kermit says, "It's not easy being green."  Kermit can't escape being green - he IS green, and it's not easy. We can't escape being children of God (if we would want to), and I don't think it's easy.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Wade in the Water

Wade in the waterWade in the water, children,Wade in the waterGod's a-going to trouble the water
On the Sunday when we remembered the Baptism of the Lord, we sang the song Wade in the Water during our early service.  I really like it.

Think about the words in light of baptism.  We are the children claimed by God.
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.  (Romans 6:3-4).  
As Christ is baptized, so are we.  We sink into the water with Christ, into death, and we rise with Christ.  Consider that for a moment.  Consider what it means to "wade into the water."  Baptism isn't just a statement of faith on our part, and it isn't just a claiming by God.  Through Baptism, or through our response to our baptism, we wade into the water.  We wade into not only eternal life, but also into suffering.  As Christ walked among those who were in pain and who were oppressed, so do we.  As Christ walked among the sick and lonely, so do we.

Wading into the water is risky.  It's not a walk on the beach.  God's a-going to trouble the water. We won't be in a peaceful, placid place.  We'll be in the troublesome water that is the place where Christ would have us to follow.

Wade in the water, children.

Labels: ,

Monday, January 27, 2014

Why Don't we Listen?

Come to me, you who labor and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.  Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul.  Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.(Matthew 11:28-30)

This morning I read a piece by Henri Nouwen that mentions the scripture above and asks the question, "Why is is so difficult to be still and quiet and let God speak to me about the meaning of my life?"

First of all, I think it is an excellent question.  I often find myself ignoring any leading from God, moving quickly through my day, lost in the busyness of it.   If I even remember to listen for God, it is after I intentionally remind myself to do it.  And I'm not very intentional about it.

Nouwen ponders several possible reasons for our inattentiveness to God.  Is it a lack of trust, a lack of relationship, a doubt of God's presence or of God's interest in our lives?  Is it because we are afraid of God?  What is the reason?

I wonder if it is any of those, although I admit that any of them might be the cause.  I wonder if it is just because I am not in the habit of listening for God.  Everything else clamors for my attention. God doesn't (at least not very often).  In order to listen, I have to be intentional about it.  I have to remember to listen.  I have to block out everything else that is screaming for my time and gifts and focus on God.

I think that's one of the major reasons disciplines are so important.  They are just habits that focus our minds and ears on God.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Father's Eyes

Yesterday, I talked about using one of Nouwen's questions in Bible study to open our hearts to where we can love more generously. That post brought to mind for me a video that I saw on Facebook.  It tells the story of a young business man who is hurrying through his morning, leaving home, driving a car, stopping to get coffee at a "Starbucks-like" place.  All through his morning, we hear his innermost thoughts.  In his mind, he sarcastically speaks to other drivers, other people in line at the coffeeshop.  He recites to himself how they are all getting in his way, how they are too slow, and how he is being inconvenienced by their presence.

While he sits and waits, impatiently, for his coffee, someone hands him a glasses case that says, "Get Service."  He opens it up and inside is a pair of glasses.  He puts them on, and he can see what problem each person is facing in his or her life, written in front of them.  He looks at the person who brings him coffee, and sees "fighting addiction" written out in the space in front of him. The young mother on the street, with her two children, have words that say, "Single mother, barely making ends meet."  A teenager has run away from home.  Instead of seeing how these people have inconvenienced him, he begins to see them with God's eyes, seeing what their problems are, and learning how he can be of service to them.

What if we had glasses like that?  What if we had eyes like that?  What if we could see other people's problems, and felt God's pull to love them more generously?  How would our world be different?  How would we be different?

It's easy for me to see how someone is causing me a problem.  It's harder to see beyond that and to find where I can love more generously, serve more fully.  There are times when I just don't want to do that, and yet God calls me to it.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A More Generous Love

Several years ago I was a student in a Disciple I class.  The teacher of that class taught us several ways to move deeper into a Biblical passage - questions to ask of any passage to seek out the meaning in it.  Those bible study techniques have stuck with me, and I often use them when I teach, to lead the class into the passage.

I was reading Nouwen's book, Here and Now, this morning. The chapter I read was about reading spiritually.  We often read to gain knowledge, but to read spiritually, is to allow God to read us.  He says, "Spiritual reading is reading with an inner attentiveness to the movement of God's Spirit in our outer and inner lives.  With that attentiveness, we will allow God to read us and to explain to us what we are truly about."

It's a different way of reading, isn't it?

Nouwen writes that we should ask the question, "How does God speak to me here and call me to a more generous love?"  I like that as a way to read the Bible.  What is God using in this passage to lead me to a more generous love?  Using that question can allow God to read us - to point out to us where we are not being loving, not being generous.  Through that question, God can open our hearts to feel a more generous love toward someone else.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Goal and The Race

Seneca Rocks
Since I finished Lighten the Darkness as a devotional resource during Advent, I'm looking for new resource.  I picked up Nouwen's Here and Now this morning.  I picked up where I left off the last time I read it, and started reading.

The chapter is about Disciplined Living (Not a bad chapter to start with when one is looking for a new resource for a discipline!).  Read this passage:
Do you not know that in a race the runners all complete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it.
He used an analogy of an Olympics table tennis match, and how determined each competitor was to win the game.  As I write this, the temperature outside is 0 degrees, and the Winter Olympics are fast approaching; it was an image that stuck in my mind.

What is the race?  What are we running toward? My first response is to think Paul meant life with God - that the goal is life with God.  Does that sound right?  I think so, and I think it is a goal that we don't always keep in mind; at least, my focus on it is not always clear.  My first take away message from the devotional I read this morning is that - to keep my focus clear on the goal.

Secondly, Nouwen is amazed by the determination of those who were playing table tennis, and by the joy on the face of the winner.  Do we invest that kind of energy in meeting the goal that we have set?  So often I sit down to do a devotional reading, and I just rush through it, because my goal isn't to grow as I read it, but instead to finish it as quickly as I can. I wonder what would happen if I consistently redirected my energy to reach the goal I'm trying to reach.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Journey

I travel with my work.  Since I started with The Foundation in 2008, I have seen parts of West Virginia that I never had before.  It's a beautiful place, and I love working all through it.

There are times when I travel with The Foundation President, and he drives.  He has a policy -- he does not back track.  We just keep moving forward, and we (with great regularity, if not always efficiency) make it where we are going.  The path is untraveled, but not always short.

In Sunday school a few weeks ago, Marv, who was teaching, said, "Sometimes the route to deliverance is circuitous -- God doesn't take us always on a direct route, because we are not ready for it.  It is not the best way for us."

There are times in our lives when we want to get where we are going, no backtracking, no detours, not side-streets.  We aren't happy where we are, or we are excited to get where we are going, and a circuitous route only offers frustrations.  In our Bible Study class last week, Steve taught about the Walk to Emmaus in the Gospel of Luke.  Why is it that Jesus didn't reveal himself to the two who were traveling at the beginning of the journey?  Why walk all the way to Emmaus, only to have to turn around and go back to Jerusalem?  I think the journey was necessary.  They needed the seven mile walk in order to get where they were going -- spiritually.

Sometimes, we need the walk to get where God needs us to go.  I don't mean to imply that God has us walk through suffering, on purpose, to teach us lessons.  I just mean that sometimes the journey is just as important as the destination.  It's hard to be patient with that, but sometimes it is necessary.

I think that's what I mean; I could still be working my way to getting to where I know what I mean.  :-)

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, January 16, 2014

In Communion

What is communion?  To have / take / be in communion?  We often say that we are "having" communion or that we "take" communion.  As I thought about it this afternoon, I wondered if those were good words to describe communion.

Is communion just an event in the order of worship?  Is it something we "do" and then move on to the next item?

Or is it something  more?

Our pastor's son-in-law died last week.  I sent him a picture I took during worship as he blessed the communion elements, and told him to remember this week, as he goes through the funeral, that he is IN communion.

What difference does that word make?

We are in communion, and God calls us to remember that during the ritual.  We are in communion with God -- in relationship with God.  God calls us to that relationship, and God loves us.  We are in communion with God, and that makes a difference in our lives.

We are in communion with each other - not just during the time of worship that we receive the bread and juice, but also before and after that.  We are in relationship with each other, and that makes a difference in our lives.

We are in communion with those who have gone before.  We are separated from those who have died, but we are still in communion with them.  We are still a part of the kingdom of God, and so are they, and that makes a difference.

I love communion -- I love the prayers, the words, the ritual.  I find grace in the actions that we take together.  Today, I remember that we are in communion all the time, and we are called to remember it.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Who Needs Worship?

I mentioned yesterday that I had listened to a Ted Talk Radio podcast called Believers and Doubters.

I hope you will excuse my fuzziness in telling this story, but short of listening to the podcast again, I don't recall all of the details.  One of the people interviewed was talking about her doubt of God.  She wondered if God was insecure because he required so much worship and praise.

Are we called to worship God?  To praise God?  I think we are.  Are we called to do it because God needs it?  Because he demands it out of some arrogant need for affirmation.  No.

We are called to worship and praise God because WE need it.  We need a time to bring all that we have to God and to give it to God.  Our hearts, our minds, our worries, our gifts.  We need to praise and worship God because it resets our relationship.  Worship reminds us who is in charge. Worship reminds us whose we are.

Through worship, God reaches to us in grace and power and touches our lives.  Does God desire that?  Yes.  And isn't that amazing and wonderful?

Is God an arrogant version of Zeus on Olympus demanding adoration?  No.  God is a dying man on a cross, loving us so much that he gave it all for us.  He calls us to worship so that we can be a part of that love.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Faith and Dbubt

The other day I was driving to Grafton to do a presentation for a church.  As I drove, I was listening to podcasts.  One of them was Ted Talk Radio.  Have you ever listened to a Ted Talk?  This particular podcast was called Believers and Doubters (I chose it because of its title) and it featured interviews with four people about their Ted Talks that related to the subject.

One of those interviewed was Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of Billy Graham.  She reflected on her father's faith and lifelong devotion to God.  The interviewer asked her if her father ever had doubts about his faith.  She responded that there were none that he had ever expressed to her.  I thought from what she said that followed that answer that she believed he had not had doubts.

I don't know Billy Graham, and I don't know about what he might share with his daughter.  I can't speculate about his faith or her memory.  What I do believe, though, is that some people see doubt as a weakness - kind of the opposite of faith.

I have a different opinion. I think doubt is a part of faith.  It is through our doubts that grace works, and we are able to grow stronger in faith.  Doubt is not faith's opposite; doubt is faith's counterpart. Doubt is faith's companion, and we should be grateful for our doubts.  They are evidence of a reasoning mind, a questing mind.  Through our questions, our faith grows.

Don't be afraid of your doubts.  God is strong enough to help you grow through them.

Labels: ,

Monday, January 13, 2014

Joy of the Father

Matthew 3:13-17

It was a day like any other day,
When John stood at the River Jordon,
Baptizing those who would come.
He felt the gift of baptism,
The urgency to reach each person,
The rush of the water
Making each one clean and whole.

Amid the crowds came a man from Galilee:
From out of the crowds walked Jesus,
Lord of Lords, Emmanuel.
“Baptize me.”

Every bone in John’s body rejected the idea.
How could he be asked to do this?
Thoughts ran through is mind:
 “I am not worthy,
I am not ready,
I am not the one to do this.”
And he fought to speak,
“I’m the one who needs to be baptized,
Not you.”

Jesus insisted.
Sometimes when Jesus insists,
All we can do is obey,
So John did what he was told to do.

He baptized the Son of God.

Water ran over Jesus’ head,
Soaking his face,
Dripping in tiny droplets from his eyelashes,
Mixing with his tears.

John, who had been sent to prepare the way,
Saw God coming from heaven like a dove.
John, who had spoken to so many people
Urging them to repentance,
Now heard the voice of God,
 “This is my son,
Marked by my love.
With whom I am well pleased.”

John knew God spoke of Jesus,
But in his heart a flame lept,
He prayed God could say the same about him,
Even just a whisper,
That what he was doing was pleasing to God
That what he had done was God’s will.

John and Jesus looked at each other
John with eyes of uncertainty,
Jesus with a responding smile.
And they both laughed
In the wonderful pleasure of their Father.

Labels: , ,

Friday, January 10, 2014

Each a Part of the Picture

In Sunday school today, we talked about rules and grace.  Why do we need rules and what role does grace play in those rules?

And that could be a blogpost all on its own, but I wanted to write about something else first.

On November 10, I entered an idea in Evernote for a post that said, "Why do we need Church?"  I've looked at that thought for a couple of months, and can't remember why I wrote it -- what post had been born in my mind that I didn't want to forget.  I don't remember.

Today, though, in Sunday school, a topic came up that we as a group did not agree on.  I was teaching, and the topic came up right at the end of class; it lead right into the prayer to end the lesson.

I'm sure I won't be able to reproduce the prayer here, because I prayed it without forethought or notes.  In it, I gave thanks to God that all of us had some idea what God is like, but that none of us had a full understanding of God.  I thanked God that we were able to come together in church and share our ideas about God, so that when we left, we all had a better grasp of who God is, and what we are called to do.  I thanked God that we could disagree and still love each other with a love that came from God.

That's one of the reasons we need church.  None of us has that right idea about God -- we see through a mirror dimly. Together, though, in sharing we come closer to who God is.  We need church because through it we are loved as God's children, even when we disagree.

Let's remember that when we are encountered by what we would not agree with.  We are not always right; we do not have a full understanding of God on our own, and we are called to love each other -- God enables us to love each other - even through our disagreements.


Thursday, January 09, 2014

A New Environment

On the way home from work the other day, we were listening to Public Radio.  The astronaut, Chris Hadfield, was being interviewed.  Part of what he talked about was how much adaption engineers have to make in order to design for work in outer space.  Anything that depends on gravity doesn't work.  For example, (and I'm making this example up) what if you wanted to have a water tank with a spigot.  Turn on the spigot to get a class of water -- the water doesn't flow into the glass, and even if it did, the water wouldn't stay in the glass.  That's a very simple and nonsensical example, but it demonstrates what Hadfield said, "Space is a new environment where everything has to be thought about."  Everything has to be redesigned. None of the regular rules apply.

I think that is a metaphor for our times and evangelism.  The old rules don't apply.  Everything has to be re-thought.  Even gravity does work.  There is no "have a great program and they will come" method.  We can't depend on the idea that people will belong to a church somewhere; we just want it to be ours.  We can't even assume that people want to "belong."

If the very basic rules are different, what do we do?  I think we spend time defining our intention -- our calling from God -- and then we spend time learning the new rules.  This feels much more productive to me that repeating the same ministry, hoping it will work, or complaining about "people today" and how they aren't like us.


Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Eight Years

I missed my blogiversary!

My first post to this blog was on November 29, 2005.  That's (counting on my fingers) eight years ago.

Much has changed in my life during those eight years.  My older son is now 20 (he was 12 when I started), and he is in college.  My younger son is 17 - he had just turned 9 when I started this blog.  He is about to graduate from high school.  I have a completely different job.  I used to be a research associate in a diabetes research lab; I am now on the staff of a United Methodist Foundation.  Steve (my wonderful husband) has also had a career change, and he is happy in his new work.  Our beagle, Molly, was 2 in 2005.  She is now 10 and a half years old and has a whole lot of white fur (that used to be black and tan).

We'll leave the counting of my gray hairs up to God.

The blog has changed.  For many of the first years I was writing, I posted something every day. There were times when I would fall asleep with the computer on my lap because I couldn't think of something to write.  I was afraid to not write every day, because I thought if I didn't have that kind of discipline, then I would fail to write at all.  That kind of writing and that kind of fear didn't always make for good posts.

Now, posting for the blog has become part of my daily devotional time.  Notice I didn't say writing. There are days when I write two or three posts, and other days when I don't write any.  I use a program called Evernote, and when I have the time and feel the inspiration, I write -- one, two, three or more posts (this is my third for today, and I feel more coming on).  When a thought for a post comes to me, I make a note (using my phone) in Evernote, so that I don't lose the idea.  When I have time, I can go back and write.  Each weekday morning, I post one of those writings to the blog.   Writing this way has lifted the every increasing weight of the blog the way it used to be.  I hope it has improved my writing.

In addition, I have gotten into the routine of not posting on the weekends, or on holidays, unless something special strikes me.  This has become a good solution for me.

I thank you for reading.  There are times when knowing that you are reading keeps me writing, and the writing is good for me.  I helps me grow closer to God, so I am grateful.


Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Into Our Hands

In his sermon late last month, Joe asked us to consider why God didn't call a "son" (a descendant) of David to be the Messiah.  Think about that -- God had been calling people to do God's work all throughout time.  It was what was expected by the Jews, who were watching for a Messiah. Even so, that wasn't what God did.

God gave his only begotten son to be the Messiah.  God didn't just entrust the work to be done to a human:  God gave his son into the hands of a human -- into the hands of a son of David.  That was an incredible risk to take.  It required incredible love for us.

Joe went on to compare what God did -- placing his son in the hands of humans -- to what we say at funerals:  into God's hands we give the life of our loved one.  It's wrenching and terrifying, and it's an incredible risk to take, and yet we believe.

Perhaps we believe because we have been believed in.  Perhaps we can trust God because God has trusted us.  Perhaps we can expect eternal life for those we love because God became human.


Monday, January 06, 2014

Book Review: Lighten the Darkness

I hope to start a new "feature" (which sounds much more organized and structured than I intend to be) on the blog where I take the time to review books that I have read.  I'll try to keep the reviews in the same format, although that could change as I go along.  I imagine, if you regularly read this blog, then you'll recognize some of the books I talk about, since my reading is often kindling for my blog posts.

There are times in my devotional life that what I am reading doesn't seem to be bringing me any closer to God.  At times like those, it is best to find something else to use as a devotional resource, don't you think?  At one of those times, a Facebook friend wrote a post about a devotional book that she recommended.  It was the absolute perfect time, so I downloaded it from Amazon.

Information about the book
Title:  Lighten the Darkness: An Advent Journey Through Hope
Author:  Dena Douglas Hobbs
Publisher:  Centering Down
Copyright date:  2013
Links: I purchased this book as a kindle book through Amazon
Dena has a blog called Centering Down

This is a devotional book, meant to be read from the beginning of Advent through Epiphany.  Each day has a short scripture reading, the writing by the author and a closing quote (often from a hymn).  These are not Upper Room sized readings, but they aren't terribly long, either.  Each one was two or three Kindle pages (which is probably less than 2 real pages).

The description of the book at Amazon says, "Lighten the Darkness reminds us again that the advent message is one of deep hope. As sure as the reign of the sun wins against the growing darkness of night, there is one who is coming that will lighten the difficulties and struggles that we encounter in our lives. God comes into our broken world to be with us, to heal us, to save us from not only our enemies, but even ourselves."

I'm glad I went with my first reaction and downloaded this book.  It was my devotional resource during this Advent.  If you read this blog, you'll see that it inspired several of my writings during the season - there were many ah-ha moments.

Dena has an engaging voice in her writing.  She writes well, and has a close relationship with God that shines through what she writes.  Until I wrote this review, I didn't know she was a blogger, but I will be adding her blog to the list of the ones I regularly read.

I liked the theme of lightness and darkness that runs through the book.  Very often what she wrote struck the write chord on the day that I read it.  I was brought closer to God through what I read each day.

I would recommend this book (Thanks, Tami, for the recommendation).  Make a note today to use it during Advent 2014.  While I think it is appropriate for anyone, I can see where it would have an extra layer of meaning for those who feel as if their world has more darkness than light, or for those who love them.

Just as an extra note, there are four reviews of this book on Amazon (as of today) and all of them are five star reviews.  That is rare.

Here is a link to my posts that were inspired by this book.

Labels: ,

Friday, January 03, 2014

Am I Ready?

This is the handmade nativity scene that graces the altar of my church each Advent and Christmas season.  See how classical the arrangement is? One year, I was working with the Chairperson of Worship, and we decided to take a different approach.  During Advent, only Joseph and Mary were on the altar.  On Christmas Eve, the baby appeared, and the wise men held off until Epiphany. We've never repeated that arrangement, and I'm sorry we don't.  I liked the symbolism of it.

Instead, we want the tableau perfectly in place, without waiting for it.

So many times during December, I was asked, "Are you ready for Christmas?"  I know it is a question to fill time -- small talk -- but I don't like it.  Am I ready for Christmas?  If you mean are all of the presents purchased, the meal planned, wrapping done, house clean, then the answer will be no.

I usually (and this year was no exception) come home from the Christmas Eve service (which ends at midnight) and wrap.  I wouldn't mind doing this earlier, but wrapping requires camping out with all of the supplies and taking over the family room.  I can't wrap as I go, or we would be overwhelmed with bags and paper, all December long.  Wrapping has to wait its turn.

So it is with Christmas.  Was I ready for it to come?  If you mean spiritually, then the answer is no. Who is ever ready for the coming of Christ?  It's a process, and every part has to take its turn. God and I are working on it -- that's sanctification.  It is finished?  No.  And by grace, God hasn't given up yet.

Am I ready?  No, but we're working on it.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Shine Like the Sun

I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate.  As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are.  And if only everybody could realize this!  But it cannot be explained.  There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.  --Thomas Merton
I think the last line of the Merton quote above (found in Lighten the Darkness: An Advent Journey through Hope by Dena Douglas Hobbs) reinforces for me why God must be involved in spreading the Good News.

Too often, I think, our evangelism feels like a desperate membership drive.  We must find people (preferably young people, with children and money) to join our church so that we can survive.  This is not evangelism.  Evangelism is convincing another person that he or she is walking around, shining the like sun.

We are the light.  Do you believe it?  Do you even understand it for yourself?  Any grasp we have of that realization comes from God, and any convincing we do of other people, must also come from God.

You shine like the sun.  Do you act like it?  Do you even know it?  Do I?  Can you shine enough to convince someone else that he or she shines too?  I think it's only possible if God is involved -- in what you and I believe, in what we do, and what God is doing in the person in front of us.

What a blessing it is that God allows us to have a part in that!

Labels: ,