*Advent – Waiting With Expectation

*Advent – Waiting With Expectation

CandleFlame The dictionary defines “wait” as “to look forward expectantly.” Not all of our waiting is done with anticipation. From traffic jams and delayed raises, to family unrest, much of our waiting is experienced as impatience, frustration and a simple recognition that not all is well with our world. Advent reminds us that God is still working in this world.

We wait for our deepest hopes and dreams to come to fruition. We wait for answers to our penetrating questions. In our confusion, we wait for clarity of mind and purpose. We wait for ourselves to become the person we wish we already were.

Today I find myself waiting for God’s advent fresh over in this broken world. I wait for the lion and lamb to lay down together, for the misery of war to end, for voices of hatred to be turned from loathing into compassion. I wait for our world to become a better, kinder, more gentle place. I wait for the powerful to bend an ear to the powerless. I wait for a day when there are no refugees facing the terrors of the sea or fleeing the travail of ISIS. I wait for ancient ruins to be restored. I wait for God’s Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. Howard Thurman echos my thoughts in his book “The Mood of Christmas”

“Where refugees seek deliverance that never comes,
and the heart consumes itself, if it would live,
Where little children age before their time,

And life wears down the edges of the mind,
Where the old man sits with mind grown cold,

While bones and sinew, blood and cell, go slowly down to death,
Where fear companions each day’s life,
And Perfect Love seems long delayed.
Christmas is waiting to be born
In you, in me, in all (humankind)”
— from The Mood of Christmas Continue reading

Giving Thanks in an Imperfect Time

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Fall 2014

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Fall 2014

As I write this, much of the Middle East is embroiled in turmoil. Syria is a mess . . . ISIS is on the run, but still poses a serious global threat. A terrorist plot was just averted in Europe. Our nation is divided over the recent election. Demonstrations continue around the country. There are many who fear the future and what changes might come. Daily tragedies tug at our hearts. In spite of the economic recovery too many people do not have a living wage. Painful stories of tragic events come to families who live near us. Our own lives have their share of grief and pain. We are anxious for ourselves and those we love. Depression strikes. Our dark moods deepen. We wonder what there is to be thankful for.

In challenging moments we have a choice. We can focus our thoughts on the painful pieces of life or we can focus them on the good. A bit of perspective helps. Not so many years ago, in the spectrum of the ages, pilgrims driven by their need for religious freedom came to this country. Life was difficult. Cemeteries filled quickly as hunger and disease spread across the colony. The men, women and children who survived had to work through their many losses and the tremendous amount of pain those losses brought. In spite of that, when the first harvest after several bad years came through, they turned their eyes toward God. They reflected, not on their losses but, on their many blessings. Our pilgrim fathers and mothers did this because they knew that even in painful moments, God never stopped loving them.

When we look at our lives honestly we have much to be thankful for. We have reason for giving thanks even in imperfect time. God does not abandon us. God walks with us through the heartaches of life. When I take time to list the blessings I experience daily, I am amazed at all the gifts I so take for granted. I see the ordinary gifts of color and beauty, of harvest and food, warmth and shelter. I remember the people God has put in my life who have graced me at different stages and times. I think of struggling moments which led to life long friendships. I find blessings in my family and joy in relationships. I celebrate God’s faithfulness and mercies.

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night” Psalm 92:1-2

Noisy Gongs or Christ Centered Love? Living as a Christian Nation in the Post Election World of 2016

St George's United Methodist Church - Philadelphia, Founded in 1767

St George’s United Methodist Church – Philadelphia, Founded in 1767

The  election of 2016  has torn at the very fabric of our nation. Words and actions have brought out our darker angels. Facebook posts tell both sides of the long battle for the White House. Some of my friends are deeply troubled by the outcome. Others are celebrating. I know people who are afraid, while some feel misunderstood in the backlash of being labeled a racist.

What I have learned in this election is that all of us need to begin listening to people who have different political beliefs. Until we hear the pain, we will never understand what lies in the hearts of people we differ with. What are the hurts, hope and aspirations of our neighbors? What is the source of anger that rages? Are their common values that can guide us?

I dare to believe that our Christian faith can show us the way. First of all there is love. Love for God and love for each other. If our nation is to resolve our vast differences, it will be because we take time to listen to each other in love.  For in listening we gain empathy, compassion and understanding.

Back in the first century, the apostle Paul, wrote to a group of people in the city of Corinth urging them to start living the Christian faith they claimed.  In simple eloquence he sent words to  bring about understanding and reconciliation, saying, “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing . . . Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.” *   Love includes respect, compassion and caring.  Love treats the other as we would want to be treated.

We say that we are a Christian nation.  Votes were cast based upon Biblical values.   Perhaps, the best way for us to bridge the distance between us, is for all of us  who claim to be a Christian, to live and speak  like one.

“And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” *

*Scripture is taken from I Corinthians Chapter 13.