Patiently Waiting

edge-of-the-cliff-608x400Be 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 the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. (James 5: 7-10)

OK, so we’re thinking we’re supposed to be reading stories of angels coming to Mary and Joseph or maybe more about that vision that God holds for us.  And some guy named James or, in that century, someone that wrote in the name of some guy named James, tells us to “be patient”.  Who is this?  He obviously did not have Christmas shopping to do.  He obviously did not have to worry about putting his decorations up.  He obviously did not have to crank out bulletins and sermons for the next four weeks.  He obviously did not understand our situation.  I mean, we need to get this show on the road.  Isn’t that the way we do things?

Truthfully, we Western Christians struggle with the whole idea of Holy Patience.  In fact, it is probable that for most of us, that phrase is an oxymoron.  We live in a permanent state of hurrying, trying to get to the “next thing.”  So we struggle with our faith journey which is always an exercise in the practice if patience, the practice of simply being, of honoring the sacredness of the moment.  Perhaps that’s the whole point.  We are not told to be patient because God doesn’t have time to deal with us right now or because God in some passive-aggressive act is holding back on the promise that we’ve been given and dangling it out there like some sort of temptress.  We are told to be patient because where we are is the place that we are called to be.  The “next thing” is not yet.

This season of Advent teaches us patience if we will only pay attention.  But we are in such a hurry to get to the “next thing”, to get to the big day, that we are missing out on the now.  Being patience does not mean ignoring what is to come.  Being patient is about understanding that this moment, this one, never-again-to-come-again moment is the place to prepare you for the next thing. Jumping to the “next thing” does not get you down the road faster; it takes you to a place that you are not prepared to be.  Be patient.  God will come when God will come.  God will come when the moment is the right one.  God will come and those who have patiently and actively waited will be the first to know.

I discovered that in the spiritual life, the long way round is the saving way.  It isn’t the quick and easy religion we’re accustomed to.  It’s deep and difficult–a way that leads into the vortex of the soul where we touch God’s transformative powers.  But we have to be patient.  We have to let go and tap our creative stillness.  Most of all, we have to trust that our scarred hearts really do have wings. (Sue Monk Kidd)

FOR TODAY:  Be patient.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Silencing the Frenzy

dreamstimefree_2009266120But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him! (Habakkuk 2:20)

Well, tis the season!  THIRTEEN MORE DAYS!!! 20% OFF ONE DAY ONLY!!!  FREE SHIPPING TODAY ONLY!  FIRST 100 CUSTOMERS RECEIVE A FREE ______________ [I don’t know, just fill in the blank!]  The truth is, we are frenzied!  We live at a frenzied pace with which, truth be known, none of us can keep up.  I think about my last couple of days.  I haven’t even been able to breathe. Today I decorated five Christmas trees (one big one, four small ones), straightened my house, decorated all over the house, made a cheesecake, and now I’m writing this really late blog. Oh yeah…I wrote a sermon too! I think it’s just a conspiracy to keep us from dancing!  (Sorry this is so late in the day!)

But, think about it–we’re probably not the first people on the planet to live frenzied.  Think back–”Joseph, you’ll need to spend the next few days and take off from your carpenter’s job (unpaid, I’m guessing) and pop over to Bethlehem to pay this new tax that we’ve concocted.  We hope that works for you. Oh?  Your wife is about to go into labor?  And, really, she is birthing the salvation of the world, the Son of the God, the Messiah?  Well, that’s great, but you still need to pay your taxes on time or we can garnish your wages or take your house or throw you into one of those new Roman prisons.”  And so they went–Mary and Joseph, supposedly on a donkey or a mule or something of the like.  They arrived in Bethlehem.  But apparently everyone had gotten the same notice.  Do you believe all this traffic?  Why didn’t we make a reservation?  (Oh, really, Joseph?  What were you thinking?) Where is that first century Groupon when you need it?  Mary, I know this is hard.  I PROMISE that I will find a place for us to spend the night.  You’re WHAT?  NOW?  Are you kidding me?

We all know the story.  There would be no room.  There would be frenzy.  And so we made do.  We took what we could get–a sort of back room filled with hay and cast-off blankets.  It was filled with animals cowering from the cold.  And there Jesus was born into the frenzy of the world.  Truth be known–there was never calm but there was always peace.  But the point is that God still came–came into the frenzy of the world.  God does not wait until everything is calm and together.  God does not come because you have all the decorations up; God does not come because you finally have all the gifts wrapped; and God does not come because the world is ready, because the world is at peace. God just comes, frenzy and all.  And all we have to do is put on our dancing shoes!

So, THIS Advent, let go of the frenzy and remember…the Lord is already in the temple…the Lord has already come…God is just waiting for us to notice.
There is nothing so much like God in all the universe as silence. (Meister Eckhart)

 

Grace and Peace,

 

Shelli

 

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,

 

Shelli

 

In the Time Between

StillnessScripture Text:  Luke 23: 48-49

48And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. 49But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

 

What do we do with this day, this day after, this day before, this time between?  What do we do when our foundations have been shaken to their core and we wander, alone?  What do we do when we stand at a distance and can do nothing to fix it or hurry the healing along?  This IS the deepest part of the wilderness.  We begin to wander again but this time, we are alone.  This time we wander in grief and despair.  The darkness overcomes us.

Have you noticed that all of the Gospels after the frantic accounts of the Crucifixion fall silent on this day?  They all go from some rendition of laying Jesus in the tomb to some version of “after the Sabbath”.  There was, you see, nothing more to say about what had happened and the story had to stop and wait for itself to begin again.  You see, this IS the Sabbath, the time between work and work, the time between conversations, the time between life and life.  This IS the time to be silent, to sit in the deep wilderness and wait, wait again for life to dawn.

The truth is, there IS nothing to do with this day.  See, this day is not ours.  We’re so accustomed to days revolving around our lives that we have forgotten how to wait, how to just be.  Notice that tomorrow morning the Scripture will not give us the account of the Resurrection.  It will instead tell us the story of the revelation of what has happened, the finding of the empty tomb.  We were not there for the Resurrection.  While we were grieving and wondering and trying to find our way in this new wilderness, God was re-creating in the darkness.  God seems to be drawn to the darkness, to the place where the Light most needs to be.

So, in this darkness, in this silence, know that you are not alone.  Know that God is re-creating everything even now.  Know that this is the time to just be still, to just be still and know.

My ego is like a fortress.  I have built its walls stone by stone to hold out the invasion of the love of God.  But I have stayed here long enough.  There is light over the barriers.  O my God…I let go of the past.  I withdraw my grasping hand from the future.  And in the great silence of this moment, I alertly rest my soul. (Howard Thurman)

 

FOR TODAY:  It is finished.  Just be still.  Just be still and know.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

We Are the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For

Mirror imageLectionary Passage:  Isaiah 61: 1-4, (8-11)
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.  They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations.

The passage is familiar.  It is the very picture of hope.  Standing in the midst of ruins, the prophet (probably someone other than Isaiah at this later writing) foretells the perfect reign of God, the time when all Creation will be renewed and recreated.  This anointed one is the hope for the future.  This is the one for whom we’ve been waiting.

 

But in verse 3 all of a sudden the pronoun changes.  The prophet has proclaimed the year of the Lord’s favor and then “me” becomes “they”.  Who are “they”?  They, my friends, are us–all of us, those who have been anointed to bring righteousness, to build up, to raise up in the name of the Lord.  The city–all of it–all of Creation will burst forth from devastation.  It turns out that this prophet was not called to fix things but to proclaim that all are called to this holy work.

 

All of us are part of what the Lord has planted and nourished and grown to bloom.  All of us are “they”.  We are the ones that are called to become the new shoots sprouting to life.  We are the ones that are called to bring good news, to bind up, to proclaim liberty, to bring justice, to witness, and to comfort.  This Scripture may sound vaguely familiar to us for another reason.  In the fourth chapter of the Gospel According to the writer known as Luke, Jesus stands in the synagogue in his home temple in the midst of a world smarting with Roman occupation and cites these same words.  He acknowledges his own calling, he is commissioned to this work.  And he sets forth an agenda using the words of this prophet.  So, here we are reminded once again.  We are reminded what we as the people of Christ are called to do–to bring good news, to bind up, to proclaim liberty, to bring justice, to witness, to comfort, and to build the Kingdom of God, to be the very image, the very reflection of Christ in the world.

 

In this Season of Advent, we look for the coming of God into this world.  We look toward the fullness of God’s Kingdom.  We wait and we wait for the world to come to be.  But when we start beginning to look for someone to fix what is wrong in the meantime, we are reminded that we are they.  We are the ones for which we’ve been waiting.  We are the ones that while waiting with hopeful anticipation, we are called to spend our time bringing good news, binding up, proclaiming liberty, bringing justice, witnessing, comforting, and building the Kingdom of God.  Maybe that’s why we were called to wait in the first place–to reexamine our own lives, to find the “we” that God created.  God did not come into this world to fix the world; God came into our midst to show us who we are called to be, to lead us to Life.  We are the ones.  When it’s all said and done, God’s Kingdom will come to be when we become who we are called to be.  If God really wanted to “fix” the world, don’t you think it would be done?  God doesn’t want to fix us; God’s desire is that we live.  All of this waiting?…we are the ones for which we’ve been waiting!  It is our life for which we are preparing.

 

You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour.  Now you must go back and tell the people that this is The Hour.  And there are things to be considered:  Where are you living?  What are you doing?  What are your relationships?  Are you in right relation?  Where is your water?  Know your garden.  It is time to speak your Truth.  Create your community. Be good to each other. And do not look outside yourself for the leader.  This could be a good time!

There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly.  Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate.  At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally. Least of all, ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.

The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!  Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary.  All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. (The Elders Oraibi, Arizona Hopi Nation)

 

FOR TODAY:  For what are you waiting?  What do you have to do to become the one for whom you’ve been waiting?

 

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

 

Holy Patience

PatienceScripture Text (Advent 2B): 2 Peter 3:8-9

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.  The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.

 

I must admit that I am not the most patient person I know.  I think it’s safe to assume that, really, few of us are.  The world just moves too fast.  The patient ones, the ones who wait, tend to get left behind.  And yet, those of us of us who are always on the move don’t really get there any sooner.  What is that about?  And then we read this passage that describes God as patient.  Have you ever thought of the Divine, the Holy, the Creator, the One who is always and forever on the move, compelling us to go forward, to live into this glorious Vision that God has, as “patient.”  I suppose the impatient ones of us want God to get this show on the road, already.  After all, where IS peace?  Where IS righteousness?  Where IS this promise of no poverty, no hunger, no suffering?  But wait, it doesn’t say that God is sitting back on the holy laurels and being slow about things happening.  God is not slow to fill the world with glory; God is waiting for us, patiently waiting for us, to catch up.

 

So perhaps our impatience, our living life full-throttle, without stopping, just stopping to see what God is doing, to hear where God is calling, is what is slowing this whole thing down.  After all, God knows where God is going.  God is waiting for us, waiting for our response, waiting for us to perhaps wait to see, wait to hear.  Oh, shoot!  It’s back to that waiting thing.  We CAN’T hurry this along.  We CAN’T live for the next thing.  We CAN’T live as if we are in a season that is not quite yet.  God is waiting for us to stop, to wait on God, so that we can catch up to what God envisions us to be.  It’s back to the Sabbath ideal.  God created times for us to stop, to wait, to let ourselves sort of regroup so that we could move forward down the way we are called to go.

 

You’ve heard the story of the American traveler on safari in Kenya.  He was loaded down with maps, and timetables, and travel agendas.  Porters from a local tribe were carrying his cumbersome supplies, luggage, and “essential stuff.”  On the first morning, everyone awoke early and traveled fast and went far into the bush.  On the second morning, they all woke very early and traveled very fast and went very far into the bush.  On the third morning, they all woke very early and traveled very fast and went even farther into the bush.  The American seemed pleased.  But on the fourth morning, the porters refused to move.  They simply sat by a tree.  Their behavior incensed the impatient American.  “This is a waste of valuable time.  Can someone tell me what is going on here?”  The translator answered, “They are waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies.”

 

This Advent time is a time of waiting for God.  But it is also a time when God waits on us–patiently and lovingly waits for us to awake to God’s Presence, awake to God’s beckoning, awake to finally see where we were meant to be all along.  We cannot do that if we are too busy impatiently moving through life, always reaching and grasping for the next thing and missing that God is waiting for us now.  If we would be a little more patient, if we could just for a moment stop and breathe in that Holy Patience of God, perhaps God would no longer have to wait another day or another thousand years for the promises to come to be.

 

Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only [they] who see, take off [their] shoes—The rest sit round it and pluck blueberries. (Elizabeth Barrett Browning, from “Aurora Leigh”)

 

FOR TODAY:  Stop moving so fast.  Be patient.  Look.  Listen.  Take off your shoes and be.  God is waiting.

 

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

 

Not Quite Yet

 

 

waiting-on-god1Scripture Text:  Isaiah 64: 7-8

7There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. 8Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

Yes, I know, it’s been forever since I’ve written.  The seasons have changed many times (both literally and figuratively).  And here we are at Advent…the Season of Waiting.  Perhaps it’s one of the hardest times.  After all, our culture is pushing the whole time, pushing, pushing, pushing, pushing, pushing…trying to get us to buy into the mindset that we have to do it NOW, jump while the prices are hot, buy while the getting is good, check off our lists before everything is gone.  And so instead of talking about Advent and waiting and the slow but deliberately wonderful work that God is doing, we fill our minds with Black Friday and (now) Light Black Thursday (which used to be known as Thanksgiving Day) and Grey Wednesday, preceded by the colorful days before, and Small Business Saturday (Yeah, they need THAT desperately…hoped you shopped, shopped, shopped, to show the superstores that there is more out there than their marked up-marked down, red carpet, yellow tag deals.) and Sort-of-Cyber-Sunday (didn’t that use to be the day that things were CLOSED???) and, building it all up to Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping day of the year.  Hurry, hurry, hurry…or the things will be gone….

Whew!  STOP!!!!!!  Shhhhhhh!

“We are all the work of your hand”…So what happens to that when we are all running around like mice in some sort of bizarre color wheel?  Advent is a time of waiting, a time of listening.  I think it may be the hardest season for us to pull off.  After all, the culture allows us our Lenten darkness, our Holy Week closures, our Easter joy.  But Advent…GET READY…ONLY 25 SHOPPING DAYS LEFT!!!   25 Days of waiting on the Lord…25 Days of not jumping ahead…25 Days of looking for the Lord.

I supposed that it is right that God appears to hide from those who seek the Lord.  I suppose it is true that God has somehow hidden the face of the Divine from us.  But, really, what would you do if you knew, knew all that was God, knew what God looked like?  What would be the purpose of continuing on this faith journey, of expecting God to mold us and make us?  We are comfortable with waiting for a child to come, for a birth to happen, for the glorious gestation that our biological makeup requires that we endure.  So, why do we rush the birthing of the world?  Creation was the beginning.  And now we wait.  We wait for eternity to come to be.

Advent teaches us just that.  It doesn’t merely teach us to wait; it shows us that for which we wait.  The Advent season is three-fold.  It is a remembrance of the waiting for the birth of Emmanuel; it is the realization that we must wait in our lives, that we must experience the waiting for God to come to us; and it is the practice that we need to wait for God’s coming into the world in its fullest, the waiting of the glory that is to come.  If we don’t learn to wait, we will never know what God’s Coming means.  Wait for the Lord…Wait…Wait…Not quite yet…

You must give birth to your images.  They are the future waiting to be born.  Fear not the strangeness you feel.  The future must enter you long before it happens.  Just wait for the birth, for the hour of new clarity.”  (Rainer Maria Rilke)

FOR TODAY:  Wait…Wait…Wait…what does that mean?  Why can’t you do that?

Grace and Peace,

Shelli