Archive for the ‘Waiting’ Category

See Visions

December 29, 2022

Contemplating on the “Christmas Story” still this week. Did you ever notice the number of visions Matthew and Luke record in their stories?

  • Elizabeth
  • Zechariah (more than one)
  • Mary (several)
  • Joseph (several)
  • The Magi (including one to avoid Herod)
  • Simeon (at the Temple)
  • Anna (at the Temple)
  • The Shepherds

There were probably more that didn’t make it into the stories.

What was the most common command in the Bible?

Had to be Fear Not whenever God was about to communicate with people either through an angel or directly.

Have you ever experienced a vision? How did or would you react? Fear? Disbelief? Thinking it’s indigestion?

Sometimes these come to people to break through their fears and anxieties. Sometimes people cultivate a relationship with God such that God does speak to them.

I’ve had some. Two had major impacts even unto this day. Much like Peter was shown every unclean food and told to eat, I was shown all forms of sin and evil and told that within me I was capable of all sin. And that I was full of sin. And I was left with a feeling of humility–not to think of myself as perfect. Sometime later I was shown a more positive vision of humans of every race, ethnicity, gender all together at a huge party and God said these are all my children. Love them.

I don’t teach cultivating visions, but if they come pay attention to them. It could change your life.

The Final Approach

December 23, 2021

The airplane has reached the vicinity of Chicago’s O’Hare airport. The pilot not actually flying the plane on this leg speaks on the intercom. “We’re in our final approach to O’Hare. Flight attendants please take your seats…”

Things get quiet. You wait. And wait. That final approach feels like time has been suspended and half of the trip is just this final approach.

[I’m sorry. At this point, I cannot get the chorus lyrics of Europe’s eminently bad hard rock song The Final Countdown out of my head.]

Two days before Christmas. This is the final approach. It seems like forever. On the other hand, the pressure of not enough time for gift purchasing and wrapping and meal planning and ingredient buying and last visits.

Maybe our bodies and minds remind us to pause, breathe, refocus on the object of the long approach. The arriving. It is the re-living of the moment of awareness of Jesus entering our world. And remembering the changes following him wrought in our daily living.

Thinking Both And or Neither

December 10, 2021

Yesterday I played with words. I liked the name and marketing of an old software company, Think and Do and turned it into a spiritual formation challenge—Faith and Do.

That in itself was playing with another pair of words, usually set up as an either/or statement. This has been argued and worried over for more than 1,000 years—faith versus works is how it’s usually portrayed.

My brain looks at all dichotomies presented to it and automatically begins to look for either both/and or neither alternatives.

Maybe someone presents you with the choice of attending this megachurch or or that megachurch. Perhaps you look and decide neither. There is another alternative of a smaller house fellowship much like the early church described in Acts.

People in the gospels were presented with an early either/or choice—John (the Baptiser) or Jesus.

Actually, it was not necessarily a choice. John had a ministry to prepare the way for Jesus. (I cannot think those words without hearing the song from Godspell.) John challenged people to change their ways and prepare their hearts for the coming of the Messiah.

Jesus came and built on that momentum. He showed how to live in this new Kingdom of God once the way was prepared. There’s more to the story, of course, but this will do for now.

We can think of this remaining couple of weeks of Advent as a time of John. We prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus, celebrated on Christmas Day. First this, then that. Once we have prepared for the journey we must then actually travel.

This is a time of recreating that preparation for many of us. For others it may be the first preparation. That’s Advent.

But then we must actually go. Like Jesus left us with—a commandment to love God and our neighbor and a commission to go and make disciples. We celebrate this on Christmas Day. Then the days following, we go.

Give It Time

October 21, 2021

I learned something this morning. When I learn something before 7 AM, then I’m good for the day, right?

We have been taught Benjamin Franklin’s decision making method. Draw a vertical line down the middle of a sheet of paper. Write all the reasons for the decision on one side; write all the reasons against the decision on the other. Total, and there you have it.

Except, you don’t. There’s more. Franklin continued…after making the lists, let it sit over night. Revisit the list the next day and look at your thoughts again. You will see more things one way or the other.

Give it time to percolate in your subconscious. More ideas will come to you.

Company CEOs, marketing directors, and product managers brief me on their new developments. Then they’ll ask for my feedback. Do I agree that this is really a revolutionary advancement? I give an initial impression, but I tell them that I must digest the information and let ideas fester for a time.

This is often what happens when we study. For example, we may read a sentence in one of Paul’s writings. We think, wow, what a great command. I think he is completely correct.

Except…perhaps we continue reading and see that Paul expands on that thought. Perhaps what Paul meant in total is quite different from what we thought from the one sentence. Then we leave the passage for a time and revisit it the next day. And now we have more ideas, more understanding, more questions.

Many times in many conversations and things we read it is optimal if we give it time. This will save us much misunderstanding and embarrassment.

All Things Come and Go

December 14, 2020

Seven Things Mindful People Do:

  1. Practice being curious
  2. Forgive themselves
  3. Hold their emotions lightly
  4. Practice compassion
  5. Make peace with imperfection
  6. Embrace vulnerability
  7. Understand all things come and go

Abraham Lincoln, in a speech before he was elected president, said, “It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!”

Perhaps we should meditate on two phrases–“chastening in the hour of pride” and “consoling in the depths of affliction”.

I have not written much about the pandemic, mostly because, what can I say that isn’t already said? Except that most things I read fall into one of two camps–scare us about how many deaths, or ignore it and it will go away.

This is not the first pandemic humans have weathered. It will not be the last. Nor is it the deadliest. But it is real. Some people withdraw as much as possible to avoid contracting the virus; some people act as if it’s nothing to worry about. I used to think those attitudes fell along political lines. But it is more personal than that.

I read about a General who was a prisoner of war during the VietNam war for many years. He said that those who made it through were optimistic in the long term. Those who didn’t were the ones who set a date–we’ll be home for Christmas, oops, we’ll be home for Easter, oops, we’ll be home for 4th of July, and so forth.

This pandemic will pass. One way or another. I am optimistic–for the long term. And we’ll forget about it–mostly. Then someday another will spread. Humans will still populate the planet.

And God, the creative source of life, will remain the point of stability in a changing world.

TS Eliot described that in his poem Burnt Norton from the Four Quartets:

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;

Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is, 

But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,

Where the past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,

Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,

TS Eliot, Burnt Norton

The Coming of Jesus

December 17, 2015

Christmas is only one week away. I have to admit that so far, other than the tree in our living room, the last two weeks have seemed much like any other weeks except that I’ve been home for most of the time.

It’s advent. We celebrate Jesus’ coming.

The romantics work up sentimental feelings of kids, anticipation of presents and Santa, snow and warm fires, food and family.

Churches put a few Christmas carols in their worship. Maybe light an advent candle. Have a children’s program. Maybe a choir cantata if it’s a traditional church.

We’ll read the account of Jesus’ birth in Luke along with the prophecies.

What we really need to do is project ourselves in contemplation back to the time. Anticipation of something changing, maybe God returning to the Temple, had been building for a hundred years.

Expectations. Simeon and Anna had hung out at the Temple for most of their lives. God had told them that someone special was coming. Every day. Visiting the Temple. Watching. Every person who came. Every baby to be dedicated. Who would be the one? When would he come?

Then one day a baby came. Quietly. They spotted the family and came over to them. He is the one. Finally. We can die in peace. God told us, and he didn’t lie. There he was. They knew.

Jesus came. Many followed him. They tried to do the things he asked of them.Today, many of us still follow him–or try to. We’re glad he came. He showed us how to live.

Even so, with the commercialization, hype, desires for things–not to mention the lack of peace in the world, these things impinge on my consciousness.

Maybe we need him to come again.

Have Patience It Builds Endurance

March 26, 2015

Sometimes when you’re in your car and you’re on an expressway where you expect to be going at a rate of 75 miles per hour and you find yourself stopped, you have a decision to make.

Monday an early spring snow squall sped across west central Ohio. During the time I was in the coffee shop, about an inch of snow fell. I thought nothing of it. We’ve been driving in snow for more than three months. 

I got on the nearby expressway, Interstate 75, heading north for a quick 10 mile trip to a little tavern, the Inn Between, for a meeting of the executive committee of the soccer referee association. The total trip should have been 10 minutes.

Less than a minute after passing an exit, I rounded a curve and saw brake lights. Uh-oh, but too late to make the exit. That was just before  6 pm. I arrived at the Inn Between at 8:05. Seems someone slowed down when the snow came through and the person behind didn’t. 20 cars smashed together later, the road was closed.

Sometimes when you’re stopped, you’re stopped. You might as well adjust your thinking to the new reality. I’m not going 75. I’m going 0. Then maybe 5. Then 0.

I learned long ago navigating Chicago rush hour traffic. You might as well find some good music and settle in. It’s your decision how to handle the new reality. I’m going to Germany and Hungary next month. I had decided to brush up my German language skills. Have an app on my iPhone. Did 5 lessons while I was waiting Monday evening.

Search for patience in the New Testament. You must have some patience while you wait for the results–there are many. Patience is a fruit of the spirit. Paul counsels us many times. James tells us patience builds endurance so that we can be in the race for the long haul.

Patience is your decision. You can adjust your mind to the fact that you just have to wait. Or, you can decide to be frustrated, angry, bitter. As for me, I have learned (most of the time) to choose patience.

Do The Same Thing, Expect Different Results

December 11, 2014

Doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.
Definition of insanity

A couple of people, maybe more, have entered my life over the past couple of years. They are not encountering the kind of success that they wish for. Yet, they don’t want to change what they are doing.

I sit in my chair reading Scripture and meditating in the morning. The Christmas tree is lit. It’s the same tree as the last many years. It’s a beautifully decorated tree (thanks to my wife, not me). And I’m meditating on why don’t I feel the “Christmas spirit” around me?

Some people are putting up lights. But as I go to the store and hang out at Starbucks, I hear little of “Merry Christmas.”

The economy is good, overall. Yet, people don’t seem as joyful as I remember in the past. Church seems to be going through the motions of the same stuff. Routine.

Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

We need the assurances of traditions (watching “Christmas Vacation” which we have not even done yet this year!), yet we need to bring in new traditions. New ways of building the anticipation.

We know the end of the story. But every story has a beginning. This one is how God revealed himself to the world. A bigger story than Moses. That story led to the Law–which didn’t work. This story leads to the resurrection. That changed everything. We have no Advent without resurrection.

For some reason, I’m in two small groups studying Romans. I’m afraid I might start speaking Latin again. Why Romans? “By faith you are saved through grace.”

Part of this faith is reliving the amazing way that God revealed himself to the world. Totally unexpected. Well, many people were praying and watching for the glory of the Lord to appear. They just didn’t expect the type of Messiah that Jesus was. But it was all so amazing.

Maybe spreading that joy begins with each of us! Merry Christmas.

My Eyes Have Seen The Glory

December 10, 2014

“for my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”

Luke 2

When did old people cease being wise? Or did they?

Simeon was an old guy. He was devout. He was filled with the Holy Spirit. He was one of the group of Jews at the time who longed for God to reveal His glory just like He did to Moses and Joshua, just like His glory filled the Temple that Solomon built.

My bet is that he went up to the Temple (which was not filled with the glory of God) daily to pray and watch.

One day he saw that for which he’d been waiting his entire life. Joseph and Mary brought a baby to the Temple for dedication, since he was the firstborn son.

He said he could now die in peace for he had finally seen the salvation, the glory of God.

Through Jesus, the Jewish hope of the glory of God visiting them again was fulfilled. Through Jesus, Gentiles who probably never had heard of the One God, YHWH, who was the creator of the universe, would now see that God.

Today, as in every generation since, we grow up hoping for the glory and salvation of God to visit us.

In Advent, we re-create the waiting of Simeon. Hoping to see the coming of that light, that glory of God. This re-creating of images and stories is how we learn and experience God. Old people are often the bearers of those stories. Listen to them.

Finding One In Which To Trust

December 8, 2014

I was “acting secretary” for a meeting yesterday as the committee was considering revision of several policies. There was a proposed revision. The committee discussed the proposal and achieved consensus.

The changes written in a Microsoft Word document were saved to one of those USB data sticks. Sometimes called “thumb drives,” these ubiquitous little devices are used for storing and sharing data.

I saved everything on the stick. Removed it and put it in my computer so that I could clean up the draft and prepare for publishing on our Website.

My computer didn’t recognize a drive. Jeff’s computer didn’t recognize the drive. Ken’s computer didn’t recognize the drive. The drive had failed.

We trusted that little thing. It failed us at a crucial moment.

There were two aged prophets at the time we label as about 3 BCE. Simeon and Anna hung out at the Temple in Jerusalem.

You see, at that time God (YHWH) had not revealed himself in the Temple that Herod built like he had in the Temple that Solomon built.

Simeon and Anna…well, they were waiting to see God reveal himself again like he had in those days some 1,000 years before. They were convinced that God had told them that they would see His glory before they died.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem. At the time appointed by the Law several days later, Joseph and Mary took the baby to the Temple to be dedicated. Simeon and Anna saw the baby independently.

They each said that now they had seen the glory of the Lord revealed in that baby and now they could die in peace.

God could be trusted. Even after all those years. He chose Jesus as the way He would reveal Himself and His glory to the world.

God can still be trusted. He’s not a cheap data stick. He still works.

That’s part of Advent. Waiting to see the Glory of God revealed. That’s what we celebrate.

PS. By the way, I returned home and recreated the changes. I am a reporter by profession. It’s my job to remember important things. But there are people (well a wife) who remind me that my memory is not perfect like God 😉