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.

The Language of We; The Language of Us

We’ve sinned a lot, both we and our parents;
    We’ve fallen short, hurt a lot of people. - Psalm 106:6 (MSG)

We. It is a word used too rarely these days. 

The Hebrew Scriptures bear witness to a people who shared their stories in the language of we. Regardless of their individual culpability, or the blame that could or could not be placed on their specific ancestors, their community's past sins were their sins. They did not hide them, and they did not try to shift responsibility. Hundreds of years later, they continued to confess their past and present trespasses together. as a people They accepted the way the dark and light were woven together in their history.

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Get up, God! Are you going to sleep all day?
    Wake up! Don’t you care what happens to us?
Why do you bury your face in the pillow?
    Why pretend things are just fine with us?
And here we are—flat on our faces in the dirt,
    held down with a boot on our necks.
Get up and come to our rescue.
    If you love us so much, Help us! - Psalm 44:23-26

Us. It is a word used too rarely these days. 

The Hebrew Scriptures bear witness to a people who shared their stories in the language of us. Regardless of their individual pain, or the blessings they or their specific ancestors had experienced, the suffering of people in their community was their suffering. They did not expect people to carry their burdens alone, nor did they keep the problems of others at arm's length. They lamented together.

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We and us are words of healing. They are words of responsibility and solidarity. As a white person, they are words I need to use when I pray and talk about race. Regardless of my personal intentions, there are systems of racism and a history of oppression in this country I can confess, on behalf and alongside those who have done overt wrongs to perpetrate them. Regardless of my skin color, there are grieving people whose black skin has caused pain I cannot understand, but whose mourning I can join.

In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. - Galatians 3:28 (MSG)

We are one. Please join with me today in praying in the language of we, and the language of us.

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A Prayer in the Language of We

For the racism we have knowingly or unknowingly perpetuated,
We confess our sins, Oh Lord.

For the oppression placed on people for the color of their skin,
We ask forgiveness, Oh Lord.

For the ways we have closed our ears to the crying of a people,
We request Your mercy, Oh Lord.

For the silence we have carried in the presence of injustice,
We seek Your face, Oh Lord.

For a future with more love, justice, and equality,
We pray, Oh Lord,
For Christ's light to come and shine the way.

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A Prayer in the Language of Us

Help us, O Lord. Help us.

Comfort us in our grief 
Over our black brothers and sisters killed in the streets.

Rescue us from the injustice
Of a system favors some of us over others of us.

Hear us in our lament
When conversations fall on deaf ears. 
When love is absent.
When a way forward seems impossible.

Rescue us, Oh Lord.
Heal us, Oh Lord.

Come with Your justice, Come with Your light, 
Come with Your love.
Come, Lord Jesus, Come to us.

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I confess that I don't know how to write about race and injustice. I feel uncomfortable posting this. But I would feel even more uncomfortable if I didn't. I believe the love of Christ compels me to care and to try. I apologize if I said something offensive. Please help me see my blind spots if I did. Let's talk with each other and work with each other in the hope of a better future.


Along with recent events, this post was inspired by Psalm 106 as part of my Psalms Journey, an experiment in blogging through the Psalms, one at a time, in order. You can read more about that here

If you would like to join the Psalms Journey, please feel free to write your own post on Psalm 106, and add your link in a comment below.

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What I have learned in 100 Psalms

Psalm 100
Psalm 100

More than 2 years ago, I made the decision to blog my way through the Psalms, in order. Today marks a milestone. Today is Psalm 100.

I have taken a few breaks, and had a few guest posts, but otherwise, I’ve been writing consistently. For more than two years, I have returned to the Psalms week after week to see how this ancient song book might speak to my faith and my life.

It has been a sometimes encouraging, sometimes frustrating, sometimes inspiring, and sometimes infuriating journey.

It has also been unexpectedly amazing. In the last two and a half years, I have moved to across states, changed jobs (twice), watched my oldest start school, said goodbye to old friends and waved hello to new ones, and through it all, the Psalms have been my constant companion. They are a warm and tattered blanket for my soul.

Today I read the words of Psalm 100, words I have read many other times in my life. But as I look at them now, I realize how differently I see the words in light of the 99 psalms leading up to their message.

Psalm 100 is a praise Psalm. It is filled with the kind of phrases that can be used as empty platitudes over a worshipping space, pressing people to forget the hard stuff of life and put on their smiling faces.

Unless you read the first 99.

The first 99 help us see how the worshipping community has fought their way into this place of praise.

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. –Psalm 100:1-2

That though they now shout for joy, they have just as often (if not more often) cried out in grief and despair.

Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. – Psalm 100:3

That though they now sound confident in the Lord, they have just as often (if not more often) wondered if He had abandoned them.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. –Psalm 100:4

That though they now enter his courts with praise, they have just as often (if not more often) longed for the day when they would have that closeness with him again.

For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. –Psalm 100:5

The Psalms declare that the Lord is good, but they never say that life is easy. The Psalms proclaim that God’s love endures, but they never claim that pain isn’t its constant companion.The Psalms are the hymns of humanity, weaving through brokenness and beauty in parallel to the experience of our lives.

The Message of Psalms
The Message of Psalms

The Psalms give us permission to approach God as we are, and know that we are welcome. Whether we come with ugly prayers of vengeance or stunning desires of commitment, we are embraced in the never-ending love of our Father.

I, for one, am grateful for that.

In honor of this milestone, I thought I would highlight some of Psalms in the first 100 of this series.

5 of the Most Popular:

5 of My Favorites:

5 of the Most Frustrating (Since the Psalms aren't all roses and flowers, I want this recap list to reflect the wrestling...)

Also in honor of this milestone, I'd like to thank all those who've joined me along the way. First and foremost, for all of you who have read along as I have pushed my way forward on this crazy adventure. Second, to all who have joined me on any of the link ups, including Perfect Number, Kirsten, Brenna, Ben, Jennifer, Marvia, Brandy, Abby, and Janice. (I really hope I didn't miss anyone). Thank you for being part of this with me.

100 down, 50 more to go...

I would love it if you would link up with your own reflection of Psalm 100 below. And stop back next week with thoughts on Psalm 101. Also, if you have participated as a reader or writer, I would love it if you would celebrate with me and comment with any of your reflections or favorites from the first 100.

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