Monday, November 30, 2015

Advent II

Living with an attitude of patience has never been an easy thing for most of us.  There are no warning signs which tell us that our patience is about to be measured.  On the road we travel there are signs warning us that a snake like curve, or a steep hill, or a railroad crossing is ahead.  There is time to prepare.  But, in the journey of daily living, there are no warning signs to tell us danger or difficulty lies ahead.  Instead, the moment of testing is suddenly and unexpectedly hard upon us.  There is no time to ready ourselves.  The only moment is the moment of reacting or responding. 
I remember one foolish fellow full of youthful enthusiasm for Christ who said he prayed for temptation to come so that he might grow stronger more quickly in his faith.  About all I knew to do was to point him toward the wisdom of Jesus expressed in that prayer He taught His disciples to pray.  In the same manner, it may be dangerous to pray for patience.  Who among us wants the kind of things to come in our life which will measure our patience?  Who among us wants to have the opportunity to be patient if it means dealing with difficulty and delay?
Patience is not developed in us by practice.  If wanting to be more patient made us patient people, most of us would be much further along the road of being in control.  As we read the Scripture it is interesting that patience is listed in that section Paul wrote about the fruit of the Spirit.  "...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience..."  (Galatians 5:22)  If we take this Word seriously, we find ourselves coming to a place of understanding that patience in us is not so much about will power and human determination as it is about abandoning ourselves completely to God so that He can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent I

As we begin this Advent season, one of the first words which can be heard in the air is, "Be Patient."  It is not wonder that this particular season of the liturgical calendar has such a reputation for making us uncomfortable.  Colossians 3:12 tells us, "...clothe yourself...with patience..,"  but the truth is, we do not wear it very well.  It does not seem to fit our mindset, our lifestyle, the way we are moving through our life.  Just to hear a call to live with patience raises our anxiety level in an uncontrollable way.
The antithesis of patience is, of course, impatience.  Perhaps, we are more acquainted with the latter instead of the former.  Impatience is what drives too many of us.  Impatience is ego driven.  It declares that nothing is more important that what I want when I want it which is now and not later.  Impatience does not take into account the needs of others, or even the larger good of the community.  Impatience is that expression of ourselves which it makes it clear that it is all about me.  It can even turn into a narcissistic self-righteousness which excludes the possibility that another expression of faith might have some value or merit.  If someone sees the world differently than we do, we have not time or use for them in our lives.
As we struggle in the human realm with this issue, so do we struggle in our spiritual lives.  Being patient with God to act has never been an easy thing.  Our lack of patience with God often causes  us to take matters in our own hands and to do things our way as did Abraham with Hagar.  These early Advent days remind us of the certainty of the plan of God.  It reaches before us and far out there after us.  Life is much less complicated and less stressful if we live within its unfolding nature instead of trying to push it along a little faster. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Advent 2015

To be honest is to admit I am not sure I really want to do this again.  For the past three years, I have written daily Advent reflections.  Since Advent is a liturgical season of some length, the reasons for abstaining this year are obvious.  First of all, it is a lot of work that I really do not have to do.  No one is standing over me saying that this thing must be done.  It is more like I am signing up and volunteering when no one is asking.  Secondly, having done this for three years, there is a part of me that wonders about my ability to be fresh with my thoughts and not simply re-stating something written in a previous year.  And then, thirdly, no one is really sitting out there wondering if I am going to do this thing again.  If I don't, no one is going to send a note expressing deep regret that I have provided nothing for them to read.

Again, honesty requires admitting that if I do this thing again, it is not because of someone or something out there.  It has to do with an inner issue which is the issue of obedience.  Being retired from active ministry which centered around serving a local church does not mean that the call of God experienced so long ago is no longer something which has any bearing on my life.  This call of God heard first as a high school senior did not have a certain number of years attached to it.  Instead, to say "Yes" meant offering not years, but a life.  So, since I am still around, still breathing, still being  blessed by this wonderful freely given grace of God, I remain as one who lives within that call.

The call I heard did not have within it something like, "Would you like to do this...?" but more "Follow me and I will provide the details later."  So, it is not really a question of my wanting to do this thing again, but more of sensing in my spirit that He wants me to do it again.  Fleshing out a call to ministry is a life time endeavor and sometimes it simply means sitting down and writing out a blog post to offer to God to use in whatever way He might choose. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

One More Birthday

Those of us are who getting a little older may not view our birthday with the same enthusiasm and excitement we did when we were sitting in front of a birthday cake with candles which could be counted on fingers.  Having to use a calculator to do the figuring seems to take away some of the fun! While the Bible does not mention anyone's birthday, it does in the beginning pages make a big deal about the number of years people lived.  Adam lived 930 years; Methuselah created the longevity record with 969 years; Joseph, on the other hand, lived a mere 110 before he was put in a coffin in Egypt to await transport hundreds of years later back to the Promised Land.  As the Biblical story progressed, numbering years became less important, but in the beginning it was certainly something noteworthy.

Our fascination with celebrating birthdays is certainly noteworthy.  Children would agree as they count the number of presents, but as adults, they become noteworthy as we count the number of years. Whenever I start thinking about my three score plus years, I immediately remember some good friends whose years were far fewer.  Some things in life I am yet to understand.  Another thing that happens in the moment of counting years is giving thanks for the grace of God which has made it possible, and as I do, I come to another one of those things I do not understand.  Since every year, like every day, is a gift from God, each one is certainly noteworthy and something for which to be extremely grateful.

While "how many" may be noteworthy, "how well" seems far more important.  How well have I lived out this gift given to me by my heavenly Father?  How well have I cared for those entrusted to me?  How well have I loved those easy to love and those who seem to want to do nothing but make loving them difficult?  How well have I lived?  These birthdays we count are opportunities to make another mark on the longevity pole, but more importantly, they give us the opportunity to reflect on the years past in a way that can enable us to be more focused on living well in the ones still to come.