Advent Day 4: Listen To The Art

Boy, I hurried… I hurried for a long time. I’m sorry I did. All the time you’re hurrying, you’re not really as aware as you should be. You’re trying to make things happen instead of just letting it happen. You follow me? —Bob Dylan

The first in the series of the “Love is…” statements found in 1 Corinthians 13 declares Love is patient.

Us Christians have a tendency to get all up in arms over the sins of those people - nameless, faceless, distant, categories of people… and yet, when it’s our son or daughter or sister or brother we manage to hold out hope, believing that anything is possible. We have patience for what we love.

No expectant parent rushes a pregnancy.

Patience says to your empty hands… Read More

Advent Day 3: Hope in the Wait

*photo above: inside Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Manhattan

I am so tired of waiting, aren’t you,
 for the world to become good and beautiful and kind? —Langston Hughes

We don’t like waiting. We want everything right now. Stores announce “Christmas is Here” the day after Thanksgiving… but Christmas isn’t here. Not yet. A more accurate statement would be “Advent is here.” Advent is a word that comes from the Latin and it means “coming.” Advent is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the coming of God’s promise – the arrival of Christ.

I have a tendency to be an agitated waiter—and there’s a rhythm to my agitation… sighing, texting “I’M WAITING,” checking the time again, shaking my head, rolling my eyes, scrolling through my Twitter feed for a momentary distraction, and repeat. When I’m deep in my cycle of agitated waiting, I can feel my blood pressure rise along with feelings of anger and resentment. Nothing good ever comes from this. Agitated waiting doesn’t make me a better person and it doesn’t help whoever or whatever I’m waiting for either.

Waiting isn’t exactly something we’re very good at in 21st century America. We’ve been trained to expect no wait. But maybe waiting isn’t all bad all the time.

Maybe God created the wait for our good.

Expectant mothers and fathers wait. Farmers wait. We all must wait.

The question isn’t whether or not we will have to wait—the question is: what kind of waiters will we be?

A few days ago, my family and I were in New York. While walking down 5th Avenue, my daughter said she wanted to… Read More

Advent Day 2: The Power of a Blessing

*photo above: Callicarpa shrub (Beautyberry) at the Lake Wilderness Arboretum

Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” —Luke 1.42-45

In Jan Richardson’s introduction to her book Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons, she writes…

I find myself compelled by the power of a blessing: how in the space of a few lines, the stuff of pain, grief, and death becomes the very substance of hope. I wanted not only to know more about that place; I wanted to live there. Blessings enable us to perceive the ways the sacred inhabits the ordinary, impressing upon us that every moment and each place lies within the circle of God’s care.

Blessings are often poetic, pulsing with the rhythms of invocation… and taking on the cadence of litany and liturgy. They use ordinary language in ways that can become extraordinary, offering words that arrest our attention and awaken us to how the holy is at work in our very midst.

A true blessing is meant also to provoke us, to incite us to a response. The best blessings awaken our imaginations.

The story of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth… Read More

Advent Day 1: A Widening of the Imagination

This year I tried something new – I blogged through the 40 days of Lent. It was a challenge for sure, but I enjoyed it. And I’ve decided to blog through the days of Advent (which begins today and runs through December 24). I hope you’ll join me on this journey of waiting and anticipating the coming of Immanuel, God with us, each day this month.

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her. —Luke 1.38

Madeleine L’Engle, the author of A Wrinkle in Time, wrote: As for Mary… she had not lost her childlike creative acceptance of the realities moving on the other side of the everyday world. We lose our ability to see angels as we grow older, and that is a tragic loss.

God, through the angel Gabriel, called on Mary to do what, in the world’s eyes, is impossible, and instead of saying, “I can’t,” she replied immediately, “Be it unto me according to thy Word.”

What would have happened to Mary (and to all the rest of us) if she had said No to the angel? She was free to do so. But she said, Yes.

Sometimes when we listen, we are led into places we do not expect, into adventures we do not always… Read More

And Awe Came Upon Everyone

It’s happening again.

I’m finding myself underlining everything in Father G’s newest book (Barking to the Choir).

The first few pages of chapter 3, “And Awe Came Upon Everyone,” goes like this…

Lately, I’ve been taking a leisurely stroll through the Acts of the Apostles. This section of the New Testament is not only a quaint snapshot of life in the earliest Christian community but also a lesson in how to measure the health in any community at all. When you read Acts through this lens, things start leaping off the page. “See how they love one another.” Not a bad gauge of health. “There was no needy person among them.” A better metric would be hard to find.

There is one line that stopped me in my tracks: “And awe came upon everyone.”

It would seem that, quite possibly, the ultimate measure of health in any community might well reside in our ability to stand in awe at what folks have to carry rather than in judgment at how they carry it.

Homies often say, “I was raised on the streets,” but Monica truly was. Homeless, a gang member, and a survivor, her behavior at Homeboy can often be alarming. She once kicked in our glass front door. On another particularly wild rampage, she went into our kitchen and began to gulp down a purple all-purpose cleaner called Fabuloso. (“Fabulosa” later became her nickname among the homies).

Despite these outbursts, I still hope she’ll get caught… Read More

Contentment or More. Choose Ye This Day Whom You Will Serve.

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No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content. —Ecclesiastes 1.8

This summer while on vacation, I read the delightful Joanne Harris book Peaches for Monsieur le Curé. There were a number of times I took out my phone and typed out a line or two from the book to save because something sparked my imagination.

This quote was one that I had saved:

“Sometimes, on a day like this… I find myself wishing for something more.

More. Oh that word. That deceptive word. That eater of lives; that malcontent. That straw that breaks the camel’s back, demanding – what exactly?”  —Vianne Rocher

Her question about more—the straw that breaks the camel’s back, demanding – what exactly?” is what really… Read More

Playing Hide-And-Seek With God

He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth… so that people might seek God—even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us. For “In him we live and move and have our being,” as even some of your poets have said, “For we too are his offspring.” —Acts 17.26-27

While I was on my solo camping trip last week, I read a number of books—including “The Spiritual Journey of a Misfit” by Francis Dorff. He was a priest and professor of theology and philosophy. My favorite chapter in his book was the one entitled “Playing Hide-and-Seek with God.” Here are some lines from that chapter…

After spending three-quarters of a century seeking God, I’m beginning to think that God loves to play hide-and-seek. I’m also beginning to think that God’s very good at it.

I’m not complaining, just stating a fact. I know that’s how long I’ve been seeking God, but I have no idea how long God has been playing hide-and-seek. If it’s even half as long as I suspect, it makes me feel… Read More

God is at work in your enemy’s heart (do you have room in your theology for that?)

How blue is the sea, how blue is the sky, how blue and tiny and redeemable everything is, even you, even your eyes, even your imagination. —Mary Oliver

This past Sunday I preached a message entitled The Princess And The Basket. Yes, it was the story of Moses and the circumstances surrounding his birth, but I told it with a primary focus on the women in the story… Jochebed, Miriam, Shiphrah, Puah, and Bithiah.

Bithiah (Pharaoh’s daughter) was the one who found the basket in the river with baby Moses wrapped up in it. Knowing he was a Hebrew child (and that her father had signed an executive order requiring the killing of all newborn Hebrew boys), she decided to adopt him as her own and raise him in the Egyptian royal palace.

At this point in the sermon, I said:

God is at work. God is at work in your life. God is at work everywhere. The Spirit of God is everywhere. God’s Spirit is wild and untamed. I mean, you can try to box God up all you want, but… good luck with that.

God was at work in Bithiah’s heart before baby Moses floated down the river. Do you see the significance of this?

It’s crazy. God is at work in your enemy’s heart.

Do you have room in your theology for that?

God is at work all over. Everywhere. God is working down the street, in the bad part of town, in the gang member and the drug dealer, in the embezzler and in the tax evader, in the bigot and the racist and the prostitute. God is working in the heart of the up-and-coming and the… Read More

When You Sit Alone At The Table It Becomes A Desk

I have a big table in my office. Most days, I sit alone at the big table (desk) and work on my computer. We also have monthly staff meetings in there, and when everyone takes a seat, the table is filled and the room comes alive with conversation and laughter (and occasionally some tears). The best meetings are the ones where Leslie has baked something and brought it in to share. This is true for all gatherings, but it is particularly significant among Christians…

When I hear bread breaking, I see something else; it seems almost as though God never meant us to do anything else.  So beautiful a sound, the crust breaks up like manna and falls all over everything, and then we eat; bread gets inside humans. —Daniel Berrigan

Communion (The Lord’s Supper, Eucharist) is a big deal at our church. In fact, it is really the centerpiece of our gathering. We received communion together on Sunday and I’m still thinking about what Pastor DJ Marin said before inviting everyone to come to the table. He… Read More

Now I See

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I am found, was blind, but now I see. —John Newton

Now I see that God’s love does not seek value, it creates it.

Now I see that my identity is a gift from God, not an achievement of my own.

Now I see that I don’t have to prove myself, for God has taken care of that; all I have to do is express myself in deeds of love and gratitude.

Because I am held in the embrace of God’s love, I can’t run away—nor do I want to.

How much better to face it all—the imperfections of my soul and my… Read More