Monday, November 29, 2010


Recently I was part of a small group study using the book Saint Benedict on the Freeway by Corinne Ware. Thinking about the way Benedictines pray at certain times of the day has inspired me to infuse more of my day with set times for prayer. Beginning that practice with the season of Advent seems especially relevant, because I really want this Advent season to be one of waiting and watching for God.

I’ve been wondering why it is that I am so  deliberate in my individual preparation for Easter Sunday through the season of Lent, but during Advent my preparation for the birth of Jesus is haphazard. In Lent I add in spiritual disciplines to crowd out some of the worldly activities that otherwise fill my time. I consider regularly the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross and how my sinfulness caused his suffering. Lent becomes for me a season of contemplation and interior preparation.

Why shouldn’t Advent bring the same attentiveness? My preparation for the birth of Jesus, the Word made flesh, is often all exterior. I clean and cook and shop and socialize. I prepare my home for guests but I fail to prepare my heart for the most important Guest of all.

I am part of a group that is studying the Advent Conspiracy. In the video we watched last night, a person who had participated in Advent Conspiracy for a couple of years spoke of how she had previously found her joy in the shopping and crowds, but she now makes space for Jesus to come and dwell within her heart and it has changed the source of her joy and how she prepares for Christmas.

My desire for this Advent season is to make the time, through regular times for prayer during each day, for Jesus to come and dwell within me. I want my heart to be a stable prepared for him, and I want to wait and watch for him to come and be born anew in me.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Be Still

View of the lake at Sumatanga
Photo by Blake Kendrick

The pile of leaves I have to rake out of the seat of my swing tells me it's been too long since I sat in my backyard and just allowed myself to be still. One of my resolutions to myself upon returning from the Academy for Spiritual Formation this week is to be outside more, so here I am, armed with a cup of cinnamon apple tea, my journal and a pen. Between the busy wrens and the daredevil squirrels, there is enough action to keep me from becoming restless. And even if the creatures weren't stirring, the leaves lit up by the sun give me a palette of fall color to enjoy. 

Nature draws me closer to God, and this was made evident to me at Camp Sumatanga last week when I was at Academy. Fall is a wonderful time to be outside, and I soaked it up every chance I could while I was there last week.

So while it may seem frivolous to some that I pause my life to venture outside and just be, I know that this is a practice that feeds my soul, a spiritual discipline that is vital to my life in Christ.

I am blessed to have a place at my house to soak up God's creation, yet even if I didn't I know I could find some place of refuge where my heart could express its love to God. I know that even as much as I enjoy this time, God enjoys it more, for his desire is for me to desire him, to choose to spend time basking in his glorious presence, undistracted by what the world says is necessary. Is this the thing that Mary found, sitting at the feet of Jesus?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bad Yeast

"Watch out!" Jesus warned them. "Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn't brought any bread.

The disciples are so much like us. We argue and fret over the most trivial things while Christ is trying to get us to pat attention to things of eternal significance. We argue over the color of carpet or whether it's appropriate to bless animals, while people are hungry and hurting in the community around us and around the world.

The disciples were fretting about missing a meal while Jesus was concerned about teachings that freed others from the oppressive rules of the religious leaders. We fret over budgets while Jesus tells us to trust him to provide all we need. We argue about whether to sprinkle or dunk when baptizing when Jesus would have us preach his word to those who are lost. We debate the theology of infant baptism while children suffer abuse in our own communities. We complain if something is changed in the order of worship while others are dying for worshiping Christ. We criticize how our youth dress for church instead of being thankful that they are there to worship God.

And what does Jesus tell us? Maybe we need to beware the yeast we are spreading, the bad yeast that poisons our churches and harms the cause of Christ in our world.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Some Thoughts on Being Present in the Present Moment

Have you ever thought about the fact that God sees you exactly as you are right now? Not as you were in the past, but how you are in this moment. This became real for me recently, as I heard a friend’s  life story. I’ve known this person for a couple of years, and what I know is that this person is kind, creative and one whose life is a testimony to a strong faith in Christ. This friend is a joy to be around. Upon hearing this friend’s life story, I realized that what I knew was the present. This person’s past was quite different.

As I thought about what I had heard, I realized that living in the present also means loving in the present. I believe this is what God does. Just as I know this friend in the present, God knows me in the present. What I’ve done in the past, for good or bad, is not the way God sees me. It is as if God is meeting me for the first time at this very moment, just as I am right now.

How would my relationships with others be different if I saw them only as they were right now, if all memory of the past was gone? This is not an easy thing to do. It means that if a person hurt me or someone I love in the past, I am not to remember it, nor am I to be more pleasantly disposed to one who has been kind to me in the past. If God keeps no record of our wrongs, should I also strive to do likewise?

If I treat others as if I just met them, I will be courteous to them, because I would never be rude to someone I just met. If I make this a habit, then not only will I treat others in a more Christlike way, I will also be different as I practice hospitality and the absence of being influenced by prior interactions or knowledge of another. In that way, I will be more fully present in the present moment, not only to the person in front of me, but also to God.