Advent: The starts and stops of waiting

The progress has been moving through stages of starts and stops for weeks now.

Stage 1: It's time! We're going to do the house project!... Wait for weeks while the contractor goes through the back and forth of getting a permit from what is apparently a very picky city office.

Stage 2: Wow! Look at that! A whole segment of our house was just torn down in a matter of hours!... Wait for what seems like forever for the late fall rains to stop so the ground will be stable enough for digging.

Stage 3: Hooray! They are digging the foundation!... Wait for the cement workers to have an opening to build the walls... wait for the city to come inspect the stability... wait for the walls to be fortified before filling the dirt back in... Oh, and wait for the rain again. Walk out the door to a huge dirt/mud pile sitting in the driveway for the entirety of this stage.

Stage 4: Look at that! They are building walls!

The temptation now, in the progress of this stage, is to forget the stops that will come after this start. There is such obvious movement now. After all, framing is actually a pretty fast process of house building, relatively speaking. But there are sure to be more weather events out of our control, or delays because of the holidays. There are also times coming where the work being done, like running electrical lines, is important, but more hidden.

What will be tempting next, in the waiting of this stage, will be to forget the progress that will come after the delays . 

Waiting is not static. It runs through cycles of hope and despair, forward movement and frustrating stillness. We anguish that the quiet stage we are is the place we will die, never seeing the end of the wait. We get pulled onto the momentum train, wishing for the wait to end sooner than is possible.

This is the struggle of Advent. Christ has already come, and yet, Christ is still coming. We celebrate God's redemptive work in ourselves and in friends who have found new futures we wouldn't have thought possible. We learn about the systematic injustices pushing people down and wonder how we might ever start to climb out of this pit. We see a beautiful sunset and marvel at a God who takes our breath away. We see death and pain and sorrow and sickness and lament to a God who seems too inactive. Already and not yet. Our faith cycles through times of feeling either word more tangibly than the other.

That's what waiting feels like. That's what Advent feels like.

I wonder if this Christmas, we can let ourselves feel both. Experiencing the joy of celebration does not mean we are callous to the pain of oppression. Lamenting the brokenness of a  messed up world does not mean we have to forfeit the simple pleasures of playful presents and delicious food. 

What helps me bear the starts and stops waiting is not ignoring the feelings of either, but by releasing my grip on the outcome. There is so much of life that is beyond my control, weather patterns being chief among them. No matter what I do, I cannot make the end come at a certain time or in a particular way. So holding the process with tight-fisted stubbornness does me no good.

The best I can do is to be fully me, to rest where I should, to engage where I can, and to let things unfold as they will. And to pray, pray, pray to a God who is good and trustworthy.

Wherever life finds you this Advent, I hope you can do the same.

A blessing for a new beginning

This day,
Like all days,
Is an opportunity for
A new beginning.

May you have the courage to plunge
Into the wrestling and wonder
Of the formation of fresh life.

It will not be easy.
As the saying goes, nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

First, the seed must get buried.
Once deep in the ground,
The seed must wait in silence. 
Until the day comes that it cracks.
And becomes broken enough
For something new to come forth from inside. 
The seedling.
Once that fragile seedling of life emerges,
It must push its way through darkness,
Before emerging into the light.
Only then can it grow the buds of the future, 
As the sun and rain nourish what was once the seed
Into what it has always been meant to become.

May you know that the fight for life is worth the cost.
That wrestling is where your strength is built.

May you experience the deep goodness
Of the Creator’s presence with you.
The God who breathed being into humans in the first days,
Is asking you to trust.

May your heart quiver with excitement, 
Knowing that no matter how old you are
Or how you have lived before this day,
It is never to late to begin anew.
The seeds in you will never expire.

May you experience the hope
Sculpted into your essence.
May you know the God
Who never tires of expanding life.

May you breathe. 
May you wrestle.
May you desire.
May you dream. 

the seeds in you will never expire

One way I experienced new life recently is through the experience of preaching a sermon at Genesis Covenant Church. I have had a long wrestling with teaching, and have often stepped onto the stage as someone other than myself. This experience was different. God helped me be me and bring what God had given me. It was a beautifully redemptive experience. If you want to listen, you can do so here.

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A Blessing for a New Day

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Inhale.
Breathe deep the life of a new day.

As energy surges through all that has rested in the darkness,
May the light of morning awaken you to hope.

May grace find its way to your heart,
Releasing you to an expansive love,
Unprotected and free.

May love make its way to your brain,
Breaking open your thought loops of not-enough-ness,
With the deep knowledge of your cherishedness. 

May your cherishedness travel to your hands,
Allowing you to embrace others
In the same way you have been held.

May peace go to your gut,
Calming the churning insides of fear,
And creating space to feel the difficulties of life
Without letting their acids get the best of you.

May wonder grab hold of your ears,
Opening them to the delight of laughter
That is dancing its way around this world. 

May courage push through the tired muscles of your legs, all the way to your feet,
Giving you strength to turn from the regrets of yesterday
And walk expectantly towards new challenges,
Bringing all of yourself along for the ride.

May desire reach your eyes,
Giving you vision to see past the illusions of what you think you want,
To the inmost longings for that which really matters.

May beauty journey to your tongue, 
Giving you a taste of eternal contentedness
And a hunger to create more.

May the Spirit who hovered over the beginning of all things
Like a mama bird protecting her young,
Speak new life to your soul
And carry you into the future.

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I have been reading the lovely book To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings by John O'Donohue. In it he says,
 "Despite all the darkness, human hope is based on the instinct that at the deepest level of reality, some intimate kindness holds sway. This is the heart of blessing."

It is a beautiful work that is inspiring me to speak words of blessing to those around me. Whatever your day holds, in some small way, I pray these words of mine remind you of the intimate kindness of the Divine. 

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