Tag Archives: waiting

For Sam

You cannot hurry Death, or make it wait.

It will come when it is ready, not a moment sooner.

Even after all the prayers are said, and all the permissions given,

Even after the sins are absolved,

and the Bread and Cup have been received one last time,

Even then,

Death takes its own time.

“Not yet,” Death whispers.

Soon, but not now.

Death will slip in the door when you aren’t looking.

While you doze beside the deathbed, or turn to adjust a pillow.

Just when you’ve relaxed and thought to yourself,

“He seems to be getting better – is that possible?”

Or just as someone else calls your name and you look away …

Death will come,

Stealing the last breath as you wait for the next one and realize (too late)

He’s already gone.

End of Story: Waiting in the Dark – Sermon on Matthew 25:1-13

In 1961, my family moved into a house that was a model of modern innovation. The bedrooms had built-in desks with fluorescent light fixtures, and the closets had sliding doors. The kitchen was all-electric, and there were not only one, but two picture windows looking out over the golf course across the road. But the feature that set this house apart was not visible from the road, or even from inside that all-electric kitchen.

This house had its own bomb shelter, already equipped with blankets, flashlights, jugs of water, and food rations packed in barrels. It was the epitome of middle class preparedness for surviving a nuclear attack. Should anyone decide to “drop the bomb” on southeast Kansas, our family was ready for disaster. We were prepared. Continue reading

Ready for Christmas?

Once a month, I contribute to the Worship Connect blog on the Covenant Church website. Here’s the link to today’s post – and a promise to write more regularly in the New Year. until then, Merry Christmas!

Behind the Storm

Weather fronts fascinate me. I love to watch a good thunderstorm roll in, a wall of black cloud against the sky, the atmosphere full of wind and lightning. The line between calm and storm can sometimes be so well-defined that it looks like God took out a ruler to draw it in the sky. The stark change of temperature that comes with a new front can give me goosebumps. There is nothing like weather to make me keenly aware of God’s power.

If you’ve been following the weather news over the past few days, you know that we had a huge snowstorm swirling over the Twin Cities all day yesterday. The front that came through here dumped half as much snow on us in 24 hours as we had all last winter. The snow on our back deck is about 13 inches deep right now. Yes! This is why we love living in Minnesota: winter is really winter here. Once the plows come through to scrape up the last bits of packed snow, we can settle down to Winter As It Was Meant To Be, and a white Christmas is pretty much a sure bet.

Our first winter here in Minnesota, I noticed that people were a little jumpy, easily offended, and even grumpy when we didn’t have snow by Thanksgiving. Something just wasn’t quite right. Then the first snow fell, and everyone relaxed, let out a sigh of relief, and got back to work. Once the weather front had moved through, everyone knew what to expect. Everyone knew it was finally winter, and winter is a known commodity here. We can deal with it.

What follows the snow, though? What happens when the clouds have exhausted their moisture, the barometer goes back to normal, and the sky is blue again? When, exactly, does that happen, anyway? Why is the coming storm so much easier to detect than its aftermath? Why is the approaching front so much more impressive than the trailing vapor of calm that sneaks in behind the blizzard?behind the storm

You might be wondering what all this nonsense about the weather has to do with Advent, with Waiting, with God coming near to us as one of us in the Person of Jesus. I’m not going to insult you by giving you an answer. Just think about it for a bit. Wait in the expectancy of an approaching front. Wait as the clouds vaporize into nothing. Keep waiting …

Where do you find God? Is he most evident in the power of an approaching wall of cloud? Does God make himself known to you mostly during the storm? Do you find God in the calm stillness that follows the wind and weather? 

More and more

Yesterday’s reading from 1 Thessalonians is one of my favorite passages from the Apostle Paul. He clearly loves this church and thinks they are on the right track. His encouragement is more than cheerleading, however. He has no intention of letting this church rest on its laurels, satisfied with a job well done. “You’re doing the right things,” Paul affirms, “so keep doing them more and more.” Paul raises the bar for the church at Thessalonika, just as any good coach would do. “Great job” sounds hollow and meaningless. “You did that really well. Want to go one step higher? Here’s what you need to do to get to the next level …” – now that is coaching.

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, … For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. – I Thessalonians 4:1-4, 7-12

As this first week of Advent draws to a close, and we prepare to light the second candle on the Advent wreath, it’s clear that Waiting requires more and more of us. More loving each other, more self-control, more quiet living, more minding our own business, and more working with our hands. This is the stuff of the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom that is already here among us, but not yet complete. It is for this Kingdom that we wait, more and more.

Whose War?

Maybe it was because I avoided Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but somehow, I managed to forget about this whole “War on Christmas” thing that seems to be raising people’s blood pressure. Today, I read three blog posts on the topic. Sean Palmer started it all. Then my good friend, Matt Nightingale, added his perspective to the Worship Connect blog on the Evangelical Covenant Church website. Finally, someone referenced a blog written by Jason Sanders, which – though it was written back in October – does a great job of summing up what Christians ought to be doing instead of griping about clerks saying “Happy Holidays” as they hand over the credit card receipt.

I don’t think Jesus ever gave two hoots about being politically correct. Jesus cared about the poor, the sick, the hungry, the oppressed, the outcast, the orphans, and the widows. Jesus cared about giving hope to those whose hope had run out. If I really want to follow Jesus, as I say I do, shouldn’t I be caring about them, too? This is the real war, as Sean Palmer notes: the one that rages inside me every time I ignore someone I should be loving in Jesus’ Name.

The first week of Advent is almost over. We are nearly one quarter of the way into the waiting. Take a few minutes – you have time for this, so don’t give me any excuses – and go read those other three blogs. Comment on them if you want to.

Then come back here and tell me how your Advent is coming along. Let me know how your waiting is going. What ugly truths and joyous realizations are coming to your attention during this expectant season? How are you dealing with your own War on Christmas?

I really want to know.

What Waiting Is Not

Waiting may look like a passive activity, but I have news for you: waiting takes every fiber of my being. Waiting is not sitting around, lazily doing nothing. Waiting is the hard work of self-restraint. I may look serene to the casual observer who sees me motionless, apparently fixed in space and time, but I am no such thing. I am waiting on hyper-alert, expecting who-knows-what. That low-frequency hum you hear is me, waiting.

Waiting is not giving up control – how can I explain this? – it is not the abdication of responsibility that I always find so annoying in a “let go and let God” approach to life. Waiting is a conscious decision to trust God to keep his promises, even when there is no evidence to support that belief.

Waiting is faith.

Waiting is deciding to stop doing and start being.

Start being more aware.

Start being more compassionate.

Start being more humble.

Start being less anxious.

Start being less self-absorbed.

Start being less indifferent.

Waiting is knowing with certainty that what I offer to God will not come back empty.

Waiting is trusting God to let me know when it’s time to get out of the chair.

How do you wait for God? What keeps you from trusting him to do what he promises?

A week of hope – Advent I

The waiting begins.

This first week of Advent might be focusing on “Hope” in your church. Different churches use different themes throughout the season of Advent. My first encounter with an Advent wreath labeled the four weekly candles as Prophets, Angels, Mary, Shepherds, so I thought these were The Official Advent Themes Which May Not Be Altered. Boy, was I wrong.

When some Protestant churches switched from three purple candles and one pink to four blue, I protested that this was just one more way to make churches invest in new paraments (those lovely tapestries that drape the sanctuary in symbols and colors of the liturgical year), spending money they didn’t have. Spending money on decorations instead of ministry. Boy, was I wrong.

But, let’s get back to hope. And to waiting. Have you ever considered how long the nation of Israel waited in hope for a Messiah? By the time angels started appearing to Mary and the shepherds, there had been no prophetic word in Israel for over 400 years. Yet, they waited, and they hoped.

They waited through the silence. They hoped in a promise that had been spoken centuries – centuries – before, a promise that had faded to a faint whisper by the time of its fulfillment, but a promise nonetheless. They waited. They hoped. And when the fulfillment of that promise appeared in their midst, many of them didn’t even recognize him. They thought Jesus couldn’t possibly be Messiah. Boy, were they wrong.

What are you waiting for, this Advent? What hopes whisper in your heart? What is keeping you from seeing God’s promise fulfilled in your life?

Ready, set, … wait!

This is it. The last day of LIturgical Year B in the Revised Common Lectionary cycle. Happy New Year! Seems a little anti-climactic, doesn’t it?

That’s the point.

Now, we wait. We wait in hopeful expectation that Our Lord Jesus Christ will come again as he promised, to restore all things to God’s intended order. We wait in joyful anticipation that all the promises in the Bible are being fulfilled. Just as a baby born in a stable turned out to be the King of the Universe, so God takes our humble, meager selves and turns us into Children of God.

I love Advent. I think it is my favorite season of the church year. If your church tradition doesn’t celebrate this four weeks of waiting, you may not understand why it carries so much meaning, so much promise, so much hope. Maybe this little video will help get you into the groove of Advent. It was made last year, so the dates aren’t exactly right, but tomorrow is Day One of a new church year, and I hope you will celebrate it with me. Feel free to click around the Busted Halo website to find an Advent Calendar you can follow these next four weeks.first_week_of_advent_wreath

Mostly, let’s settle down together and wait. Let us prepare our hearts to worship God.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Anticipating the Anticipation

I am not, by nature, a patient person. That is probably an understatement. When I was delivering my second son, the obstetrician asked at one point, “Are you even having a contraction, or are you just pushing?” I was too busy pushing to answer. Delaying gratification is not one of my strengths. So here we are, two days before Advent begins, and the anticipation is killing me.
Yet, I have been invited to wait. Not forced to wait, but invited to wait. I have no idea what this means.

I have been invited to wait. For me, waiting breeds frustration and anxiety.
I have been invited to wait. But I don’t really know what I’m waiting for.
Yet, I have been invited to wait.

Waiting requires a lot of trust in the One for whom I wait. My impatience is a sure sign that I’m really not trusting God to show up, to make himself known to me.
Yet, I have been invited to wait.

Will you wait with me? How is God asking you to meet him this Advent season?

 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him (Psalm 37:7)

 Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27:14)

 But for you, O Lord, do I wait;
it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer. (Psalm 38:15)

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope (Psalm 130:5)