Monday, December 05, 2016

Ninth Day of Advent: Commit

I figured there would be lots of wedding pictures for the word "commit" so I wanted something different. White water rafting. When you get into a raft and you head down a river, you are committed. This is not an amusement park ride (although once one is rolling on an amusement park ride, it's best to stay committed there as well).

There's a great deal of joy in white water rafting...if you're not petrified with fear, but if your guide slips down into the raft (as ours did -- the big guy is not our guide; the petite woman behind me is) or falls out (as the male guide did in another raft) or if you hit the rocks the wrong way (thankfully, we did not) then someone or everyone goes into the water.

It helps to pull together, but there are times when everything churns and splashes.

I look at these pictures now and think, "Wow! Maybe this was a bit above my skill level!" But, I also look back with gladness that I committed to that trip. I need to remember this when a commitment to kindness, courage, gentleness, beauty, goodness, love, faith, and hope look like something above my skill level. I also remember my Guide does not leave me, nor forsake me. Incarnated Jesus may sleep in the boat, but he does not accidentally fall into the boat or out of the boat. He knows how my life's rafting trip ends, and it ends well, safely in his kingdom. He is committed in love to each one of us. 

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Eighth Day of Advent: Touch

Today begins the eighth day and the second week of Advent, the lighting of the candle that most often represents love. The word given for the #AdventWord pages is #touch. At first glance, I have a strange picture to show for "touch," that of the conception of a poem I wrote probably twelve years ago. The finished poem is typed up below the image.

To the Muse

You who taught Herbert to sing
      and Donne to love,
Who am I that You should visit me?

You who touched Mary and the Salvation
     of the world was conceived,
Dare I believe You would bring forth ,

Living words? Breathing Words?
     In me?

This is the first "public" sharing of this poem, and I feel quite vulnerable. To touch another is vulnerable, whether that touch is physical, emotional, or spiritual. We give something away of ourselves and hope that it will not be crushed.

A popular Christian song lyrics start off, "Love came down and rescued me; Love came down and set me free..." Love also came down as a vulnerable baby (but did not stay a baby) and is willing to meet us where we are the most vulnerable -- not to crush us, but to touch us with life and breath, with love and joy.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Seventh Day of Advent: Play

Play prepares our hearts for worship. Play, not as entertainment or competition, but a joyous movement of body and mind, prepares us to adore, to love in the highest degree, our Triune God.

True play is sheer gratefulness and joy in being alive. Our spirits release our grip on the world or fly free of the world's grip on us.

As adults we sometimes have to relearn how to play. We find it difficult to let go of the tensions of the day; we find it difficult not to compare or compete.

Thus, when we play, we practice those movements and thoughts that lead us deeper into worship. Here I am to worship you, Lord Jesus, knowing I can trust you with my life.

Photo credit: Melissa Jean Photography
True play brings joy in being alive with others and enables us to practice the joy that happens in communal worship. Then, having practiced and received joy, we are better able to give joy.

I have not given all the dictionary definitions and research I have on the value of play (dictionary on my left hand side; research on my right -- "Prone to research, Lord, I feel it..."), but, when the tensions of celebrating the perfect Christmas season weigh us down, I hope we will stop to play in joyful abandonment and worship of the One who brings us faith, hope, and love. 

Friday, December 02, 2016

Sixth Day of Advent: Light and Hope

No eyes were harmed in the taking of the picture above. Whether pointing my phone directly at the sun to take a picture of light will harm my phone and/or the camera within it, I don't know. What I do know is the reason why God wouldn't let Moses see the our Almighty Creator in full glory. Even looking at this picture, the brilliance is amazing, and this is a created light. What I am also thankful for is that God wants relationship with me, with us. Jesus does not hold us at sun's length.

I know so many have already used Madeleine L'Engle's poem in their blogs, but it bears repeating since it is that good.

He did not wait til the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.

He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.

He came when the need was deep and great.

He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine.

He did not wait till hearts were pure.

In joy he came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.

To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.

He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.

In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

-- Madeleine L'Engle "First Coming"

(With gratitude to a friend who got this from her friend and sent it to me!)

You don't see the word "hope" in this poem, yet I titled this piece "Light and Hope." Here is why:

This, too, is light. It is the light of my flashlight, or "torch" as I believe they say in the UK. It is human created light, and it is not perfect. Its light will go out. Batteries will need to be replaced as will the bulb. Still, it does shine and, given the proper care and maintenance, it can shine even if it is not the equivalent of the sun.

I see hope when I connect the picture above with the poem for two reasons: imperfect as it is, it is still light and we cannot wait until the world is sane to shine; and, the Lord came with Love, not waiting until we are perfect.

I am loved, and so are you.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no fickleness, neither shadow of turning"
(James 1:17).

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Fifth Day of Advent: Proclaim

Pastors, preachers, priests, must have a difficult time every year between Thanksgiving and New Year's. How does one teach a lesson that they've already taught before to the same crowd? I was a teacher, but at least I had a new crowd each year. However, I have written Advent posts before, and it was tempting today to just leave proclaiming to the picture below and resurrect an old post. 

What impelled me to write was Facebook. Yes, there's lots to dislike about social media, but, thus far, the Facebook organization allows the pages of deceased people to stay in circulation. (Stick with me here.) As I write this, I'm not deceased obviously. Yet a time will come when I am not here and it could be that my post will touch someone's life, just as saints of old made a difference in my life from an early age. 

Through stories of St. Teresa and St. Therese, the stories of St. Augustine and St. Francis, and many more, I learned how to have a relationship with God. I suppose some people cast off the relationship with God of their younger years as some friendship with an imaginary friend. I did not. The relationship was too real. And, I wasn't the only one who knew God existed. 

I did, however, like young Goodman Brown of Nathaniel Hawthorne short story fame, want to check out the wild side. I've learned that the wild side of God is quite an adventure, but back then, the world's wild side killed some of my friends and usually found me throwing up in a toilet bowl. Frankly, it just was not enjoyable. 

I cast my lot with the Christians. Now there are Christians, and there are Christians. One group follows rules and one group follows Christ. I'm trying to keep this proclaiming short, so let me just say that I know now what it is like to be in a community of those who follow Christ and his commandments: Love God; love others. 

When I ask myself, "Would you ever not believe in God?" I end up asking myself: "What do I do with situations that just can not be explained? One example: I had a dream, a detailed dream. The heart and soul of the dream was about an acquaintance (I didn't even know where he lived anymore) who I later found out was despondent, despairing, desperate, hopeless. God wanted him to know that he was loved by God and that he was not a failure.  I thought this is crazy: I can't contact this person. I don't even know if this email address is correct. Still, what if I wasn't crazy? I wrote out the entire dream (along with "please, please, please don't think I'm insane"). I received a long email back telling me the devastating failure that the young man had faced, a failure in his work that if it had not been caught by another could have led to tragedy. He was at the lowest point ever in his life. I can take no credit for reaching out to this person. Some of my teachers have rightly said that sometimes the only way God can get through to us is through dreams. If I were stronger in my hearing of God, perhaps God could have just flat out told me and I would have known what to do. Nonetheless, this was a situation that I can not explain away, and there have been others like it. 

My belief is also more than something I just proclaim or speak out. I trust Jesus not as my "get out of hell free" card, but as my friend and God whose salvation is for me daily. I was never one to think about a "life verse" but I guess I ended up with one anyway through a rather odd story that I won't tell here. 

"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God" Romans 5:1-2.