The Things That Make You Go Ahhh…

Double rainbow forming on the western outskirts of Innerleithen, Scottish Borders

Advent 3B Lectionary:  1 Thessalonians 5: 16-24

16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise the words of prophets, 21but test everything; hold fast to what is good; 22abstain from every form of evil. 23May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

Rejoice always?  Pray without ceasing? Give thanks in all circumstances?  Are you kidding?  In this time of sickness and death and divisiveness and, well, just darkness, how in the world are we expected to rejoice, pray, and give thanks each and every moment? I mean, even if things WERE going all hunky-dory, we don’t have time to do that.  There are things to do. There are people to see, gifts to buy, gifts to wrap, places to go (well, maybe not…you know, Covid and all), and we still need to find time for ourselves to think, maybe read this blog, or whatever our life requires.  So when we read this passage, we are a little bewildered.  Because we are used to looking at how to do something.  We want to know the easiest, cheapest, most energy-efficient, or most fulfilling way to accomplish things.  And, most of all, we want to be assured that we’re doing it the right way, that we’re on the right path.

But as much as we desire a “how to” booklet for our lives, that’s not what this is. (Honestly, that’s not really what the Bible is at all!) Paul was not laying down rules.  I don’t think he ever envisioned us living body-bent and knee-bowed 24/7.  I mean, how do we respond to that call to be a Kingdom-builder if we’re praying all the time?  No, Paul was not calling us to a life spent in prayer; Paul was calling us to a prayerful life, a life that is sacred, hallowed, a life lived in the unquenchable Spirit of God.  It has nothing to do with logging prayer hours. I mean, that’s helpful, even necessary.  But this is about perspective, about seeing everything that is your life as hallowed and holy, seeing all you are and all you have and all this is as of God, as prayer. Olga Savin says that “[the Scriptures] tell us that ceaseless prayer in pursuit of God and communion with [God] is not simply life’s meaning or goal, the one thing worth living for, but it is life itself.”  And a life lived the way it is called to be lived is the very will of God.  It is prayer.

As I said, I don’t think the Scriptures are meant to be “how to’s”; maybe instead they’re meant to shape us into those who can find the “ahhhs” in life.  Let me explain.  Think about all those diverse characters in the Scriptures. Abram and Sarai were just living their best retirement life.  And suddenly God has a new plan to make them the patriarchal couple of a “multitude of nations”.  And Abraham went toward the “ahhh”.  Moses was pretty much minding his own business and then ran across this burning bush.  Now, really, wouldn’t you either avoid a bushfire or try to put it out?  But Moses saw something else and said “ahhh” and his whole life changed. And those prophets?  The prophets tried desperately for generations to get the people to pay attention, to make them understand that the Lord was indeed coming, that things were about to change.  They marched this line of people straight through history, warning of something big and dark and ominous when God would step into the world.  Truthfully, that happened.  But it was very quiet, almost a whisper, as the Light again pushed through the darkness.  If you didn’t have your life honed in on that, you would have missed it.  In fact, God had to sort of announce it to make sure people were paying attention.  And, if you noticed it, you couldn’t help but say “ahhh”. 

Praying without ceasing, living a prayerful life, is about paying attention.  It is about looking at the pathway that you walk and noticing those things that make you say “ahhh”.   And then, it’s about turning toward them.  Maybe that means that you get off the well-worn path that is comfortable beneath your feet.  Maybe that means that you veer off in a direction you do not know, a way that you did not plan to go, a way that will change your life forever.  Ahhh….

Praying without ceasing is also about not limiting yourself as to what you think prayer is.  You know those times when you have no words?  That’s a prayer.  The times when words seem to spill out of your life uncontrollably is a prayer.  The times when grief consumes you and you feel as if you cannot function is a prayer.  The times when laughter overtakes you in the middle of an otherwise-serene (and perhaps embarrassing) moment is a prayer.  Every menial task is a prayer.  Every walk is a prayer.  Every drive is a prayer.  Every time you log on to your computer is a prayer.  Every time you cook or wash dishes or empty the dishwasher (I hate emptying the dishwasher!) is a prayer.  Every time you hug someone or touch someone or connect with them on Zoom is a prayer.  Your life is a prayer.  That is what Advent shows us.  Advent wakes us up to the coming of God into the world and asks us to prepare.  But Advent also wakes us up to our own lives, prepares us to see what we’ve been missing and perhaps to notice a different way and to pray, to always pray. Look around. All you see, all you hear, all you are. It’s all prayer. Ahhh-men.

Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair. (G.K. Chesterton)

Grace and Peace,


Finding What You’ve Waited For

dancing-joy(ADVENT 3C)

4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4: 4-7)

Do you remember a couple of years ago when that “don’t worry, be happy” slogan was everywhere? I hated that, to be honest. It always seemed a bit sappy to me. Just forget your worries and be happy. Just forget all your cares and skip down the yellow brick road of life. Ok, see, even Dorothy (of Wizard of Oz fame) had some issues along that road. The Scripture doesn’t tell us not to worry so that we can be happy. The Scripture tells us to not let our worries consume us.

Our culture spends a great deal of time searching for happiness. We watch TV and we see sitcoms and commercials and now those strange reality TV shows with happy people giving us their own clues as to how to get happy like they are. It seems to be our goal in life. After all, what makes you happy? Are you happy when you are with friends or family? Are you happy when you are traveling, seeing parts of the world that you do not know? Are you happy when you are eating ice cream? Or at the beach? Or shopping? Or surrounded by beauty? But anyone will tell you that happiness is fleeting. It’s not the same as joy. Joy is deep and abiding. It exists in the deepest part of our being and rather than covering us up with a sort of pink cloud temporary existence, joys comes from within and fills us. Think about it. Most happy people will describe themselves as happy. But to say that one is filled with joy is different. Joy is being filled with that which surpasses all understanding. Joy is being filled with something that makes no sense and doesn’t have to.

So, here is Paul, probably writing from a prison cell. It would be odd for him to fill his letters with words that might convince his readers that he is happy. He is NOT happy. In fact, Paul is frustrated beyond belief. He wants to be out there doing the work that he is called to do, helping the fledgling congregations that he has barely gotten off the ground. But here he sits. No, Paul is NOT happy. This was not the plan. But beyond what the world understands, beyond what the world can even imagine, beyond any happiness that may come about, is joy. Rejoice in the Lord always. Happiness is fleeting. Joy breeds joy.

So, no matter what is going on, give thanks to God for your life. Give thanks to God for the life in Christ that you have. Let it fill your life. Do not let your worries consume you. Do not let them turn you into someone that you are not. When it’s all said and done, this WILL come out alright. That’s the whole promise. So, when life gets rough, when happiness seems to elude you, talk to God. Pray for peace. Don’t worry about praying that God will fix what is wrong. Just pray for peace to wash over you. Pray for joy to fill you. That’s all you need. Because there you find the heart and mind of Christ.

Think about it. Jesus was born into a waiting world, a world that was sure that all it needed was someone to fix its problems and put its adversaries in their proper place, a world that had figured out what it needed to make itself a happy place. But Jesus showed up on a dark night in a dingy stable in the middle of the poverty of the land and almost immediately began a life that would consist of evading the status quo and those in charge. And roughly 2,000 years later, the world is still not a happy place. So, perhaps this season is not about what makes us happy but rather what gives us reason to rejoice, what makes us whole and fills us and makes us who we are. For into the darkness, came Light and into our dying days came Life. Rejoice in the Lord always!  And, there, there you will find everything for which you’ve waited.

Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God. (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)


Grace and Peace,




And This is My Prayer

BlessingAdvent 2C

9And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1: 9-11)


For what do you pray? For whom do you pray? Why do you pray? Do your prayers ever sound anything like the prayer that Paul writes in the epistle that we read for this week? After all, read it. This is not a prayer for comfort. This is not a prayer for healing. This isn’t a prayer for an easier life or more resources or a clear path to whatever it is for which we are searching. This isn’t even a prayer for peace. This is a prayer that the readers of this letter might grow, might move beyond themselves, might become better at being themselves than they are. This is a prayer for change. This is a prayer for us to get up and move from where we are. See, Paul’s image of praising God is people living changed lives and, in turn, changing lives around them.


Maybe this season of Advent is not, then, about just sitting and waiting for Jesus to show up. What if this was a season of prayer, a season of growth, a season of change? Those that came before us so long ago, those who longed for a Messiah, for someone to change the world (or perhaps just fix it once and for all), had a clear vision of how their prayers should be answered. And then the Messiah was born and was laid in a feed trough on a cold desert night because somehow the world just couldn’t seem to find the time or the space for anything else. And the Messiah grew up and asked the world to follow.   And instead of following, we dug in our heels and refused to change and went on with our important projects and our carefully planned lives. And the world trembled a bit when the Christ child died but for the most part, it went on the way it was. But we changed. Faith is being open to change. So this time, THIS time, let us not wait for what we think we know. Let us not be comforted by a baby in a feed trough or scared away by a man on a cross. Let us follow and be changed.


And this is my prayer, that the image of God that is within you will burst forth and become who you are called to be, taking all that you are—your heart, your mind, your body, your soul—and follow the Messiah not to the place you know, but to the place that God leads. My prayer is that you will follow the Christ and see nothing less than the Vision of God and that the world will know that you have been changed and will want to follow you and be changed too. May your vision not stop with the baby in the manger but may it grow to be the Savior of the World.


Authentic prayer changes us, unmasks us, strips us, indicates where growth is needed. (St. Teresa de Avila)


Grace and Peace,




Presence of God Scripture Text:  Thessalonians 5: 16-19
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.  May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

Pray without ceasing?  Are you kidding me?  Think how much we have to do in this season!  I mean, prayer is a good thing, a great thing in fact.  We all know that.  But pray without ceasing?  As in ALWAYS?  So, what do we do with those distractions, with all those who need us to do something?  What do we do with life?  What do you do with all the preparations that the season holds?  How do you fit that in?  Uh oh…Spirit effectively quenched!  Not good…I hate it when that happens!


The truth is, Paul was not telling us that we had to spend our days body-bent and knee-bowed.  The truth is, there is WAY too much work to do.  We’ve got some Kingdom-building to do, after all.  Paul was not calling us to a life spent in prayer but rather to a prayerful life, a life that is sacred, hallowed, a life lived in the unquenchable Spirit of God.  This has nothing to do with counting the number of hours or minutes or nano-seconds that you spend in prayer.  A prayerful life is one that sees everything as hallowed and holy, sees everything as of God, embraces life as a gift rather than a vessel to be filled with things and to do lists and results.  Praying without ceasing is not about “doing”; it is about being. Olga Savin says that “[the Scriptures] tell us that ceaseless prayer in pursuit of God and communion with [God] is not simply life’s meaning or goal, the one thing worth living for, but it is life itself.”  And a life lived the way it is called to be lived is the very will of God, the very will of, as the Scripture says, the one who is faithful.  It is prayer–ceaseless prayer.


Wouldn’t it be wonderful if in our Advent waiting, we found a time of prayer, we found a time, as Mary did, to ponder (Luke 2: 19).  Maybe THAT’S what’s wrong with us.  Maybe we’ve lost our ability to ponder, to be attentive to what resides in the deepest part of our soul, to be aware of God’s Presence in our lives.  Maybe this time of waiting is so that we’ll take the opportunity to do some serious pondering, to pray without ceasing.  After all, what in your life is NOT holy?  What in your life is NOT positively bursting with the Divine?  What in your life is NOT a gift from God?  Well, the answer is nothing.  There is NOTHING in your life that is not full to the very brim–spilling-over-chock-full-seemingly-unable-to-put-anything-else-in-brim–with the presence of the one who calls you, the one who is faithful, the one who is ALWAYS there.  Make everything you do an offering to God.  Let everything you have and everything you are be a preparation for God’s coming.  Offer it to God.  G.K. Chesterton once said “let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.”  Praying without ceasing is probably more about living, about loving, about holy waiting, than it is about prayer as we often define it.  It has little to do with the words we say and everything to do with tuning ourselves to the conversation that God is already inviting us to live.


The day of my spiritual awakening was the day I saw—and knew I saw—all things in God and God in all things.  (Mechtilde of Magdeburg, 13th century)


FOR TODAY:  Pray without ceasing.  Look around you.  EVERYTHING that you see, EVERYTHING that you touch, EVERYTHING that you imagine, EVERYTHING that you let loose, EVERYTHING that you pick up, EVERYTHING that you eat, EVERYTHING that you love, EVERYTHING that is you…EVERYTHING is full to the brim with God.  Pray without ceasing.


Grace and Peace,