Monthly Archives: December 2011

Waiting and Journeying Day 7

Saturday, Dec. 24:

 

AM Psalm 45, 46; Baruch 4:36—5:9;

Gal. 3:23—4:7; Matt. 1:18-25

T.S. Eliot

 

Excerpts from “Little Gidding”

(No. 4 of Four Quartets)

 

There are three conditions which often look alike

Yet differ completely, flourish in the same hedgerow:

Attachment to self and to things and to persons, detachment

From self and from things and from persons;

and, growing between them, indifference

Which resembles the others as death resembles life,

Being between two lives—unflowering, between

The live and the dead nettle. This is the use of memory:

For liberation—not less of love but expanding

Of love beyond desire, and so liberation

From the future as well as the past. Thus, love of a country

Begins as attachment to our own field of action

And comes to find that action of little importance

Though never indifferent. History may be servitude,

History may be freedom. See, now they vanish,

The faces and places, with the self which, as it could, loved them,

To become renewed, transfigured, in another pattern.

Sin is Behovely, but

All shall be well, and

All manner of thing shall be well.

If I think, again, of this place,

And of people, not wholly commendable,

Of no immediate kin or kindness,

But of some peculiar genius,

All touched by a common genius,

United in the strife which divided them;

If I think of a king at nightfall,

Of three men, and more, on the scaffold

And a few who died forgotten

In other places, here and abroad,

And of one who died blind and quiet

Why should we celebrate

These dead men more than the dying?

It is not to ring the bell backward

Nor is it an incantation

To summon the spectre of a Rose.

We cannot revive old factions

We cannot restore old policies

Or follow an antique drum.

These men, and those who opposed them

And those whom they opposed

Accept the constitution of silence

And are folded in a single party.

Whatever we inherit from the fortunate

We have taken from the defeated

What they had to leave us—a symbol:

A symbol perfected in death.

And all shall be well and

All manner of thing shall be well

By the purification of the motive

In the ground of our beseeching.

V.

What we call the beginning is often the end

And to make and end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start from. And every phrase

And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,

Taking its place to support the others,

The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,

An easy commerce of the old and the new,

The common word exact without vulgarity,

The formal word precise but not pedantic,

The complete consort dancing together)

Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,

Every poem an epitaph. And any action

Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat

Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.

We die with the dying:

See, they depart, and we go with them.

We are born with the dead:

See, they return, and bring us with them.

The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree

Are of equal duration. A people without history

Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern

Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails

On a winter’s afternoon, in a secluded chapel

History is now and England.

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this

Calling

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

Through the unknown, unremembered gate

When the last of earth left to discover

Is that which was the beginning;

At the source of the longest river

The voice of the hidden waterfall

And the children in the apple-tree

Not known, because not looked for

But heard, half-heard, in the stillness

Between two waves of the sea.

Quick now, here, now, always—

A condition of complete simplicity

(Costing not less than everything)

And all shall be well and

All manner of thing shall be well

When the tongues of flame are in-folded

Into the crowned knot of fire

And the fire and the rose are one

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Waiting and Journeying Day 6

Friday, Dec. 23:

AM Psalm 93, 96; PM Psalm 148, 150; Baruch 4:21-29;

Gal. 3:15-22; Luke 1:67-80 or Matt. 1:1-17

Laura Watts

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope. (Psalm 130:5)

I will never forget the summer of my 18th year when I moved to the beach to live with my brother in the sleepy little town of Manteo, North Carolina. We occupied a rambling old turn-of-the-century house with cracks and creaks and bats that got in through the woodstove. It was primitive and magical.

My days were spent either on the beach or working at a Christmas shop where I sold ornaments and fine art to tourists from New York.

At 5 pm, however, I’d hop into my little red truck and hurry over the Causeway to the Pea Island Wildlife Refuge. There I would sit alone on a dock in the middle of the marsh, waiting for the sun to go down.

I always took my journal. Sometimes I wrote poetry. Often I would just sit. And watch. And wait.

I remember feeling a tinge of sadness as I cheered the sun to its resting place. The day was now officially over. What had I accomplished? What had I neglect­ed? What did I regret?

You wait, wait, wait, and then—poof! Like those sunsets, the waiting is over and the thing you have waited so long for has either been realized or eluded your grasp.

So what’s to be learned then? Waiting, as difficult as it is, is a time for reflection and preparation.

What am I learning about myself while I wait? Am I content living “in the ten­sion”? Or am I restless? Am I impatient?

Am I wasting today worrying about what might, or might not, happen tomor­row? Am I growing—spiritually, emotionally, creatively—so that, whatever the outcome, I can look back and see my time of waiting as a gift from God?

Once more I find myself in a period of waiting. This time I am determined not to waste the wait. This time I will grasp that moment of beauty just before the sun slips behind the horizon. And I will hold on tight.

At least until a new day dawns.

(Today’s exercise: If you have a chance, watch for the setting of the sun. Stand outside and look. Stand prayerfully, thanking God for whatever he brings to mind. If it’s a cloudy day, say a prayer of thanks as you turn your night light off.)

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Waiting and Journeying Day 5

Thursday, Dec. 22:

AM Psalm 80; PM Psalm 146, 147; 2 Samuel 7:18-29;

Gal. 3:1-14; Luke 1:57-66

Amber Noel

And they had no child, because that Elizabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. Luke 1:7

And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple. Luke 1:21

“Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked upon me.” Luke 1:25

In the beginning, there is no baby. In the beginning, there is much of what there is now. There is waiting and there is forgetting to wait.

And there are bodies.

There is an old woman, a Jew among pagans and a rheumatic, binding up her hair so she can soak her body in the tub.

Meanwhile, her old husband, a good priest with bad knees, gets struck dumb by an angel. He is righteous. Why this harsh treatment? God disciplines those he loves. But for what? For eyes that had ceased to see, though his hands had not ceased to do God’s work? Was it for not being glad at glad tidings? Or was it for disdaining his old body, and his own wife’s.

Elizabeth would have known exactly why. He talks too much, too prone to ruin a moment with a good point. He would soon find a new voice in listening, though.

But good thing Elizabeth was not there at the time. Then she would have seen the look he would have given her. Those? His eyes would have said to her hips. Ours? And then the finger in the crack of the dam—and Zachariah’s look, and the angel’s frank gaze—and all that river of grief held back might as well have been fire instead. She would be twenty again, all at once, with all that hope again, all at once, and the hope might well near have killed her.

So God makes sure he finds Zechariah in the temple, alone.

Now it is the beginning, and there is both the silence of the one who says too much and the words of the one who, until now, has said too little. “Thus hath the Lord dealt with me!” she shyly sings. At the end of one week she has an old husband’s new kisses, and is soon lotioning her skin that has begun to glow. In an old house, Yahweh is flapping his wings. But it is a hint, and there is much still to pray for.

It is not this baby that is the beginning and the end of all their waiting. It is outside of them, far outside, and yet it is in them, too, they can’t deny it, what God has done to their bodies, and will yet do, and in this impossible thing, they have just begun to taste it.

This is the beginning, and it whispers its unexpected end: Look.

(Today’s exercise: At different points throughout this day, pause and thank God for your body. Thank God for whatever health he has given your body. Offer up to God the parts of your body that are broken or wearied. Offer them up, in hope, as a “living sacrifice.”)

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Prayer Vigil for Patrick Kelly and his Family: Dec 22-24

Please visit this link and sign up for the prayer vigil spanning from December 22 – 24. Sign up for a 30 minute time slot.

In the midst of a difficult, sad time, it is beautiful to think of the people all over the world praying for Patrick. There are folks in both hemispheres, people from various faith traditions, people who knew Patrick as a child and people who have never met him. We are united in our love and hope and grief.

Julie, Patrick and the rest of the Kelly family are so grateful for your prayers.

Here is the link to the BLOG for more information. 

 

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Continue Praying for the Kelly Family – they have received very hard news…

They have received some very very hard news. Click here to read Julie’s latest blog post. 

 

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Waiting and Journeying Day 4

Wednesday, Dec. 21:

AM Psalm 72; PM Psalm 111, 113; 2 Samuel 7:1-17;

Titus 2:11—3:8a; Luke 1:39-48a(48b-56)

Steve Breedlove

Advent as a time of journeying? Of going somewhere? I thought it was a time of waiting, of sitting more than journeying. A new thought! But it must be right: after all, one iconic image of Advent is a pregnant woman, astride a donkey, with a graying-soon-to-be-first-time father walking alongside. Going somewhere.

“Going somewhere” has always been a significant aspect of our family’s life. In the many places we have lived, we were usually hours, or days, from grandpar­ents; so Sally and I developed a repertoire of road songs. They served the desper­ate moments when books became boring and an argument was about to break out in the back seat. (I still think they’re better than DVDs.)

“Going somewhere” was also significant in the spiritual life of ancient Israel. Pilgrimages to Jerusalem were part of the regular rhythm of worship for faithful Jews; and God provided them with road songs for the journey—the fourteen Songs of Ascent, Psalms 120-134.

I read the Songs of Ascent recently and was struck by the range of experiences they cover. God gave Israel a song for just about anything they might encounter on the journey—threat, hardship, loneliness, joy, family togetherness, peni­tence, happy times around a campfire. The song I’ve been singing on my most recent road trip has been Psalm 123. Here’s my version:

Lord, I lift my eyes up to you – like a servant looks to his master

(for instructions, and for the supplies I need for the task you command),

like a maidservant looks to her mistress,

(I am small, and waiting)

I am looking to you for mercy.

And I will continue to look till you have mercy on me

till you have mercy.

Why? I have had more than enough.

More than enough of unbelief, of mockery, of pride.

More than enough of that foul air, around me and within me.

More than enough.

Lord have mercy.

Reading this, it sounds like this has been a miserable season. Actually it hasn’t. This fall I’ve laughed a lot, loved a lot and been loved a lot. Still, I am pretty constantly aware of my limits.

Recently, while traveling, I woke up too early one morning (not uncommon) and I lay in bed thinking about things I had failed to do and that, by reason of distance, I could not do. About that time I got a text: “Urgent! We need ________! Where are they?” I didn’t have a clue, but the awareness of my smallness was fierce. “Lord, have mercy.” On another recent occasion, I entered into a pressure-packed, intensely difficult conversation, not knowing at all how to set an agenda or manage the process. I had no wisdom or plan. “Lord, I am waiting to be told and waiting to be supplied. Have mercy, Lord.”

Another time, temptation raised its familiar head. I made the right choice in the moment, but the tempter mocked, “You can get away from me this time, but it won’t last: I’ll wear you down. I’ll find your weak spot.”

“Lord, I have had more than enough. Have mercy.”

In 1 Kings 19, an angel told Elijah, “The journey is too great for you.” I am so thankful that I can say to God, “I have had more than enough: have mercy.” If not for that, I would quit walking for sure.

 

(Today’s exercise: At some point today sing out loud. Sing whatever strikes you as most singable. But do sing out loud. And as you sing, remember that day and night “God rejoices over you with singing.”)

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Waiting and Journeying Day 3

Tuesday, Dec. 20:

AM Psalm 66, 67; PM Psalm 116, 117;
1 Samuel 2:1b-10; Titus 2:1-10; Luke 1:26-38

Henri J.M. Nouwen
Bread for the Journey

We walk in a “ravine as dark as death” (Psalm 23:4), and still we have nothing to fear because God is at our side: God’s staff and crook are there to soothe us (see Psalm 23:4). This is not just a consoling idea. It is an experience of the heart that we can trust.

Our lives are full of suffering, pain, disillusions, losses and grief, but they are also marked by visions of the coming of the Son of Man “like lightning striking in the east and flashing far into west” (Matthew 24:27). These moments in which we see clearly, hear loudly, and feel deeply that God is with us on the journey make us shine as a light into the darkness. Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. Your light must shine in people’s sight, so that, seeing your good works, they may give praise to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

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