"What He ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best, and most divine for us." Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

We've Been Robbed!!!

While out Saturday, I received a text from my husband asking if anyone had borrowed his gas-powered blower.  He went to do a little yard cleaning and it was no where to be found.  To my knowledge, no one had, but it's always best to ask the children.  I found none guilty, and since such equipment usually doesn't walk off by itself, it was determined we had been invaded.  The disconcerting part of this is that the thief had come in the daylight while I was home and walked right into my garage.  The "what if" rang in my head.  "What if I had walked out on him and startled him?"  And the other troubling spot is that any such tools cannot be seen from the road.  Therefore the officer who took the report said the perpetrator had probably been in the garage before and scoped things out before coming back.
So is it any wonder that my guard was up this morning when the fellow with the yellow hard hat carrying a box under his arm crossed my backyard?  I was quick to call our electric provider and ask if they had workers in the area changing out boxes.  And they did.  But as I was looking out the front window to see if I saw a vehicle, I noticed an SUV in the driveway across the street and a man dressed in black trying to shimmy the front door open -- with a credit card! 

Like I said, my guard was up.  And so, within a 24 hour period, I made my 2nd 911 call.  I was almost embarrassed when, again, the emergency operator quickly responded, "911.  What's your emergency?" 

"Well, it's not exactly an emergency, but there is someone trying to break down the front door to the vacant house across the street."  What I didn't mention was that there were papers on the front door stating that anyone intering the premises would be arrested on the spot. I described what the fellow looked like, what he was wearing and what kind of car he was driving, and then she asked for a license plate number, at which time I had to confess to using binoculars.  (Please let it be known these were bought for the sole purpose of bird watching.)  Before I could get through with all the information, an unidentified vehicle zoomed up and blocked the driveway.  I cautiously asked, "Have you dispatched a policeman, because a blue car just pulled up and two large men are getting out."  I think she got a little concerned as well and asked me what kind of car it was.  All I could say was, "Blue."  What can I say?  I'm a woman who doesn't know any make of car except the one she drives.  At this point, a marked police car pulled in behind them, and my thought was, "Lord, what have I started?"  Over and over, I kept apologizing, telling the dispatcher, "It's probably on the up and up, but I'm just very guarded right now."

And why not?  I'd been robbed.  And before that, my next door neighbors were burglarized when someone entered their home while they there, no less, and had stolen her jewelry ... heirloom pieces that could never be replaced.  A thief has paid us both a visit.  I think I had legitimate reason for caution and to make the call.

I don't know about you, but when I normally think of thieves, I imagine one dressed in a stocking cap pulled low with maybe a mask over his eyes -- as in the movies.  One who sneaks and tiptoes and enters cautiously at night.  One who is so quiet that we don't even know he's been there until we find a door open, a piece of jewelry missing ... or wake to find him standing over our bed.  Really, all a thief has to do is watch us for awhile, and he will find a way in, because he's normally very good at what he does. He violates one of our most precious illusions: that our homes, that we, are safe. 

A thief is scary, to say the least.

I guess that's why I have such trouble with passages of Scripture that allude to Christ coming like a thief in the night.  Matthew, Luke, Peter.  They all talk about it.  And then Paul writes it out plainly in Rev. 16:15 when he quotes Jesus as saying, "Behold, I come like a thief! ..."  Really?

I guess the question we need to ask ourselves is, "What is He after?" 

May I encourage you this Advent season to let this Beloved Invader have His way with you.  If we could get over the fear of His intrusion, I think we might find His desire is to empty His pockets and not fill them.

Just an ordinary moment...

Monday, November 28, 2011

And They're Off.....

Thansgiving has come and gone and the Christmas season is officially here.  Of course, the stores have been decorated for weeks now, and even a local church was decked out in its Christmas array before we could sing, "Come, ye thankful people, come...."  But why not, I've been hearing It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas on the radio for 2 weeks now.  Yet before I get too judgmental, let it be known that even I hit the stores a little bit on Black Friday, though I really didn't purchase much ... just a lavender chamomile candle for my bathroom and a fuschia vest from Bass Pro.  The excursion was more for family fun than anything else. There was even a hope of seeing Santa Claus.  But there were some serious shoppers out there.  Bags not only in their hands and over their shoulders but under their eyes as well as many of the stores had opened on Thursday evening offering all night shopping for that perfect gift for those special ones on your list. 

Yet this rainy Monday morning I woke with my own list.  Not so much a shopping one but a "to do" one.  All pointing toward Christmas.  All getting ready for the big day that will be here before we know it.  My mind is already going in a thousand directions.  Do this.  Do that.  See to this.  See to that.  Pick up this.  Order that.  My lands, I have lists within lists.

But as I sat down for a few minutes and lit my Advent candle, a certain word kept coming up and up again. "Wait."

Excuse me?


Wait for what?  Christmas is coming!

You see, I'd already fallen into the cultural trap.  I had already begun to lose the joy of the present moment by getting ready for the "big event."  I was already on the verge of missing Christmas because of the frantic to get there.  Seriously folks, how many times have we felt a deep anticlimax on Christmas day when that long-anticipated day didn't live up to our expectations?  Could it have been because we had lived so in the future, that when the future became the present, we didn't know how to deal with it because we had lost the ability to be fully present, right now?

So what do we do with that?  Do we do as in days past and wait to decorate our homes until Christmas eve?  Do we wait to sing Christmas carols until that morning?  Do we go on a crusade to have our neighborhood covenants read "No Christmas lights on houses are to be turned on until the evening of Dec. 24"?  Of course not.  That would not only be ludicrous but completely unattainable.

I ask again: what do we do?  What is this Advent "waiting" all about? 

For me, it means active waiting.  Advent summons me to the present moment, to a still yet active, a tranquil yet steadfast commitment to the life I live right now.  If I want to appreciate Advent fully and experience Christmas in its entirety, I need to relearn how to wait, to rediscover the art of savoring the future, of staying in the present and of finding meaning in this act of waiting.

My list of "to dos" has not changed.  The transformation has taken place in my heart.

Just an ordinary moment...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Stay Awake!

I awoke early this morning.  Call me strange, but there's some anticipation I experience when I know a new season is rolling in.  And today is the first Sunday in Advent.  A new candle was to be lit.  And it was.  But somewhere in the pre-dawn, I began to "slip."  Okay, so it's not unusual for me to pull the blanket off the back of the couch, throw it over my feet and slide down within its warmth, and then wake to find myself late for whatever's next.  In fact, after the activities of this past week, this morning would have been such an opportune time.  I even thought about it as I felt my eyes getting droopy. 

And then I remembered this morning's Scripture.  It focused on staying alert.  Keeping awake.  Why?  Because Jesus could be returning at any moment!  Matthew 24:37 says it this way: Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.  Truly, the most basic formulations of the Christian faith include this expectancy.  You can hear it in the communion liturgy: "Christ has died.  Christ is risen.  Christ will come again."  In our Apostle's creed: "... He will come again to judge the living and the dead..."  There's no getting around it; Jesus will come again.  And that's what we do this Advent.  We wait.  We expect.

Advent colors are not the hues we associate with this season of the year.  They are not green and red, but purple, moody and dark.  The music is not major, but minor.  Its theme is not "deck the halls," but "Repent!"  It is a season focused on the coming of Jesus -- not only to Bethlehem some 2000 years ago but futuristically on a white horse.  Yet while we wait and while we anticipate, we also look.  And as we do, we find Him in our midst right now.  We see Him in our spouses, in our children and grandchildren, in our neighbors and bosses, in the girl behind the cash register, in the homeless and the weary and the tired.  We begin to recognize Him in our daily chores, in our time spent with friends, in our pains, and in our sufferings.  In fact, every moment of our lives can become an Advent.  A time when the Lord is near ... present.  But we must stay awake ... and look.

So my prayer for you this first morning is that you would be blessed with a spirit of Advent.  That He would awaken your senses to His presence in the here and now, and that as He does, you would become a sign of love, hope, joy and peace in a world that seems chaotic and out of control and that desperately needs Him.

Blessings to each of you this Advent morning.

Just an ordinary moment....

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The End of One Season ... Welcomes Another

The last 24 weeks on the Christian calendar have been what is known at Pentecost ... or Ordinary Time.  According to Sarah Arthur in her introduction to At the Still Point, "If Advent, Lent and Easter are the glitzy celebrities at the liturgical party, Ordinary Time is the plain auntie collecting dirty wine glasses afterward.  We almost forget she's there."  After all, Advent announces the coming of the Savior of the world with the scenes of a wild man dressed in camel hair.  Christmas heralds "Joy to the World! The Lord is come!!!" Lent is marked with ashes and fasting ... and mortality.  Easter, of course, is the highlight: He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  But except for the initial wind and fire falling upon the disciples in Jerusalem, Pentecost is marked by ... well, by ordinariness.  As the longest season of the liturgical year, it really has no high points; it boasts no showy colors or costumes. 

Pentecost provides a pause.  But it's a pause worth taking. 

As Enuma Okoro wrote:
This ordinary time is
gifted in its quiet, marked passing
Christ slips about
calling and baptizing,
sending and affirming,
pouring his Spirit like water
into broken cisterns,
sealing cracks and filtering our senses,
that we may savor the foolish
simplicity of his grace.

During this time, an E.B. Browning quote, ...Speak Thou, availing Christ! -- and fill this pause, stayed tucked inside the wreath surrounding my morning candle.

George Herbert's poem remains taped to a print on my bathroom wall.

Listen sweet Dove unto my song,
And spread thy golden wings in me;
Hatching my tender heart so long,
Till it get wing, and fly away with thee.

I've meditated upon Elizabeth B. Rooney's prose:

Must we use words
For everything?
Can there not be
A silent, flaming
Leap of heart
Toward Thee?

And what about the poetry of the Greek Synesius?

May my soul, her want perceiving,
Turn her gaze to where Thou art,
And in all Thy fullness find Thee
Food to satisfy the heart.

And lastly, "Love" by George Herbert

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lacked any thing.

A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?

Truth, Lord, but I have marred them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.

And thus I have. 

But tonight marks the end of this journey ... this Ordinary Time ... this pause.  It has been good.  And it has been necessary.  But now the Thanksgiving wreath and orange pumpkin candle have been replaced by purple and pink and white.  Ordinary is replaced with anticipation.

Advent begins.  The end of one season welcomes another.

Just an ordinary moment...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Love Nest

In the dark stillness of the morning, I find myself drawn into a love affair. I do not know his face -- only his voice. But each day finds me listening for and anticipating the rich melody of love. It's only 5 notes ... 3 tones to be exact. For the musical connoisseur, that would be D-C-A-A-A. Sometimes it's short and staccato-like; at other times boisterous and dramatic. Regardless, it's as if he sings for me. Calls to me. And when I hear it, my ears become receptors, my senses come alive and my spirit leaps.

And I answer ... with my own mimicking whistle.  

Where or what he is, I do not know. I just recognize for this period of time, we are both hidden ... from the world and from each other -- in our own little gardens enclosed. But there is sweetness. There is connection. There is communion. And for today, the sound of his song is enough. 

As light breaks and the day rises to meet the sun, there is a hushed reverence, and I find myself alone once again. Yet the melody remains within me ... and it is enough. 

Desires are satisfied.
O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the cliff,
Let me see your face, let me hear your voice;
For your voice is sweet and your face is lovely.
Song of Songs 2:14
Just an ordinary moment...