Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Meaning Is In The Waiting

Waiting is increasingly a strange notion. After all, we have microwaves for fast instant food. We have cell phones for instant access. We have digital books for instant download. We have google for instant answers. We are increasingly impatient when something is not forthcoming as quickly as we think it should be.

Then we have Christmas.
It starts in August and is celebrated sometimes until January.
What happened to looking forward to Christmas?
What happened to saving the dessert for after dinner?

Why is Christmas in full swing as soon as the Halloween candy is on sale?

Advent is a time of waiting.
Advent is a time of anticipating.
Advent is a time of looking forward to the coming of Christ.
To quote the book, The Meaning Is In The Waiting,
 "Advent lies in waiting. Waiting rests not in frustration but in stillness. Not frenzied anticipation but in embracing the present. We need to relearn how to wait, to rediscover the act of savoring the future of staying in the present and of finding meaning in the act of waiting."

The first Advent candle was lit today. The first candle represents Abraham and Sarah, our ancestors in the faith, the patriarch of our Savior. And it represents expectation. The expectation that God will follow through with His promises. The expectation that our waiting is not in vain.

Abram was called to wait. He packed up his household, turned down his birthright, (unheard of!) and was sent on a journey to a new land...but he had to wait to find out where it was.
He was promised a great nation, but had no children until his old age. He was called to wait for the child who would fulfill that promise. Even then, he did not live to see the nation that came from his waiting.

Abram's call was to wait, but it was also to change. We know he had had big change in his life already: His father had moved the family once, establishing himself in a new town with new acquaintances and associates. But here he was, asked to make changes again. Leave his father's house, his relatives, his inheritance, to go to an uncertain place.

One thing I learned while in Israel was that Hebrews have a way of thinking that is completely different. They're always changing. They're always doing things differently. The lady I was traveling with has been in Israel many many years. She was even recently there just a couple months before I visited. Yet she remarked constantly on how things had changed even from when she was there a couple months before. Israelis have no problem changing the way they do things.

It strikes me that maybe they get this from their patriarch.

Quote: "The voice that spoke to Abram still speaks to us: "Go, from the things that bind you, from the sense of your own identity, from your day-to-day way of being to something that I shall show you." God calls, and waits for our response....
God's call to us remains a call to change; to leaving and accompanying, to moving and changing, to growing and flourishing. It is part of human nature to yearn for stability, to put down roots, and to stay put; but it is also a rule of nature that things that do not move do not live. Water that does not move becomes stagnant, and in the same way when we do not move we become sluggish and hard to change. God's call does not necessarily ask us to move our physical surroundings, (although sometimes it does); most often it asks us to move our internal surroundings, to be prepared to be changed and transformed." 

We are asked to wait. We are asked to change. We change in the waiting. Waiting is an essential part of our journey with God.

Abraham was asked to change, was asked to wait. He moved forward, not knowing exactly where his journey was leading. He and Sarah were promised a family, a land, a nation. They thought they had waited in vain for the family to materialize. They became anxious and tried to fix up for themselves how it would all work out. But Ishmael was not the child God was planning to use to form this nation.
In the end, after all the pain of waiting, all the anxiety of the unknown, of not knowing exactly where they were headed  or how it would work out, they finally had their promise fulfilled. Isaac was born. He grew, and then God did an unexpected thing: He asked Abraham to sacrifice his son. Abraham prepares to do so, but what questions must have run through his mind. How could he now have another son to fill the spot of Isaac? How about the nation that would outnumber the stars? Yet in faith Abraham acted, and God provided a sacrifice instead of Isaac.

Abraham and Sarah became symbols for us not only of faith but also of waiting: of waiting as an essential part of our journey with God, of waiting being vital for the proper unfolding of God's plan, and of waiting being as important as that for which we wait. God summons us to go out but does not always tell us where to, or why...for that we must wait, but in the waiting we can, sometimes, discover a meaning.

The first candle is for Expectation. The first candle is for the Patriarchs of our faith. Who often had to wait.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Journey of Waiting: The Meaning Is In The Waiting


Moments of great calm,
Kneeling before an altar
Of wood in a stone church
In summer, waiting for God
To speak; the air a staircase
For silence; the sun's light
Ringing me, as though I acted
A great role. And the audiences
Still; all that close throng
Of spirits waiting, as I,
For the message.
Prompt me, God;
But not yet. When I speak,
Though it be you who speak
Through me, something is lost.
The meaning is in the waiting.

R. S. Thomas

A Journey of Waiting.
Join me every week in Advent as I read and study the book, The Meaning Is In The Waiting by Paula Gooder. 

A journey of waiting, a journey looking for the coming of Jesus.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Picture of Love

This is one of my favorite pictures from my trip to Israel. The background is the Sea of Galilee. The stomping grounds of Jesus.
I took this photo at Capernum. There is a Greek Orthodox church there and there is a gate with this decorative iron cross looking out toward the sea.

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for what this picture represents. It reminds me of Jesus. His home town was Capernum. He lived and preached all around the sea. Then He died for my sin on a cross. His essence. His life. His death. His love.

All in one picture.

A picture is worth a thousand words they say.

A picture of His Love.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sun and Moon

Psalm 148

 1 Praise the LORD.

   Praise the LORD from the heavens; 

   praise him in the heights above. 

2 Praise him, all his angels; 
   praise him, all his heavenly hosts. 
3 Praise him, sun and moon; 
   praise him, all you shining stars. 
4 Praise him, you highest heavens 
   and you waters above the skies.

 5 Let them praise the name of the LORD, 

   for at his command they were created, 

6 and he established them for ever and ever— 
   he issued a decree that will never pass away.

 This Sunset was taken at En Gev Kibbutz looking at the opposite side of the Kinneret towards Tiberias. 

This moon was taken in Migdal. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Eye Of A Needle...

18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
   19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’[a]
 21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
 23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Luke 18:18-25

One day as I was walking in Jerusalem I came across a little door. Then suddenly this story came to mind as I realized that I was looking at the eye of a needle. City gates and other entrances had these eyes as a way to let people through after the big gate or door is closed for the night and before it was opened in the morning.

Later in the day I happened to have the chance to ride a camel. Now the story really came to life. I recalled how small the door was as I stood next to the sitting camel.

Then I imagined the group around Jesus as he was talking to the ruler. He was traveling to Jerusalem. All the disciples were with him, as well as a large group of followers.  Jesus was telling parables and teaching. I always like to imagine the sights and sounds and smells around. Jesus had a habit of using what was at hand to illustrate his teaching. I imagine them near sundown sitting near the gate. This is the place men gathered to talk and meet. Women are coming to the well to get water. The crowd lingers to catch every word this man has to say. The Pharisees are arguing and debating. Children running and playing. Cooking smells are in the air. Just then a string of camels loaded with goods on the oriental trade route nears.  The ruler approaches and asks Jesus his question. As they talk, they're idly watching the camels near the gate. Suddenly Jesus uses them to illustrate his point! How much easier for the camel to go through the eye of the needle than the rich man to sell all he has to follow Jesus! The crowd would have immediately looked at the size of the loaded camels against the familiar eye of the needle of their own city gate. The contrast was so impossible, it cemented the idea of how hard it is to enter the kingdom into their minds.

I know when I saw the door, and then the camel it cemented the story in my mind. And oh how I don't want to be like the rich ruler who couldn't let go of his riches to follow Jesus!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Playing Catch-Up: Jerusalem

Jerusalem. I never thought I'd actually make it to Jerusalem. Every year for the last 14-15 years we've celebrated Passover as a family or as a church. And every year at the end of the Passover, we lift our glass and say together: "Next Year in New Jerusalem!"

I never thought I'd actually visit Old Jerusalem. The Jerusalem where Jesus walked. The Jerusalem the Romans took over. The Jerusalem that crucified Him. The Jerusalem that missed the Messiah. The Jerusalem that saw the miracle of Jesus dying for our sin. The Jerusalem that saw the miracle of Jesus vanquishing darkness and rising from the dead!

In the words of a dear friend of mine: "I WAS THERE!"

Yes, and I felt Him there.

You know, I just spent a month in Israel. A place known as the Holy Land. A place for pilgrims to visit. A place thousands and millions visit journey to in hopes of meeting a void in their hearts. A place where they look eagerly for a physical sign of Jesus, for a moving Spiritual event. They hope to meet Him there. But I discovered something. I don't have to visit Israel to feel Jesus. Or find Him. Or see Him.

I feel Jesus at home in everyday life.
I find Jesus at home in everyday life.
I see Jesus at home in everyday life.

I feel Jesus when He touches me and heals an imperfection.
I find Jesus when I meet someone who shows His Love.
I see Jesus when I look around me at the many blessings He gives me.

This is not to say it is vain to look for Jesus in Israel. But if you never make it to Israel, you can still feel Him, find Him, see Him.


In Jerusalem, I visited the Wailing Wall which is now known as the Western Wall. It is a small portion of a wall that surrounded the Second Temple, the Temple Herod built over the temple that Solomon built. It was destroyed by the Romans. Then others came in and gained control. The Turks filled in the Eastern (Golden Gate) because they heard that the Messiah was supposed to enter through that gate. Later as everyone knows, the Muslims gained control of the Temple mount and built a Mosque. So now the Jews only have access to the outer wall.

The Golden Gate

I visited the wall several times. Once, during the afternoon. Once early early on Shabbat morning. Once at midday. Each time I was there I noticed how quiet it was, and how reverent people were. When entering the area, you should have your head covered and arms covered. You approach the wall and spend time praying, or reading a scripture. As you leave, you back away for about 50 feet. Some people write prayers to leave in the wall. It is quiet except for the murmur of prayers. Prayers in all languages, prayers of fervor, prayers deep in the heart.

One of the golden moments I will always remember from this trip occurred when I visited early on Shabbat morning. There were only a few Orthodox Jews present. Real people who really live and worship. I and my companion were the only "tourists" and we were there reverently and for a purpose, just as the Orthodox were.
The sun was just beginning to send rays over the mountain. There were few out, so it was quiet. People were intent on praying. Suddenly, from the men's section (which is fenced off separately from the women) came a loud prayer and song in Hebrew. The voice was full of feeling. He was singing and praying for Messiah to come. For Messiah to save.
When the voice died away, the women at the wall praying with me were in tears. They wanted Messiah too.

I loved Jerusalem. The streets were busy, brisk with people buying and selling. So many smells and sounds and languages, and sights. I could imagine how it might have been when Jesus was walking those streets. We visited an archeological park where they've excavated down to the 1st century streets around the base of the temple. Surely, surely Jesus walked those stones.

Another Jerusalem memory was the 12 stations of the cross tour I took with the archeology team from Mexico. The leader was speaking Spanish, but if I could see her and hear her well when she spoke, I could catch the idea of what she was saying. And the team was very gracious to translate everything for me as well.
I walked the steps that Jesus walked the night he was betrayed. I visited the prison he might have been held in, I experienced the pain of the muscles in climbing the hills and walking the distance between the Mt. of Olives and Pontius Pilate's house. I think the most meaningful moment was standing in the prison, where historians think they threw Jesus and hearing the 88th Psalm read...
... I am overwhelmed with troubles 
   and my life draws near to death. 
 I am counted among those who go down to the pit; 
   I am like one without strength. 
 I am set apart with the dead, 
   like the slain who lie in the grave, 
whom you remember no more, 
   who are cut off from your care....

Another moment on the tour was in the Holy Sepulcher. There hidden away are two tombs carved from rock. It was there that Jesus was laid. There that Jesus was risen!

The womens section of the wall.

Prayers in many languages.

Prayers stuck in every crevice.
The wall must be bathed in prayer.

Another view of where the Temple stood.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Home Really Is Best

It's a little weird to sign into English. While I was in Israel, everything appeared in Hebrew. And from Right to Left. But I'm back in the States and now everything is back to English.

My flights arrived home safely. I had a bit of excitement in Tel Aviv as the security decided my pink suitcase was suspect and emptied it unceremoniously and took it off to some undisclosed place only to return it after about an hour to let me re-pack. Meanwhile they scanned all of my belongings (some several times) to be absolutely sure of...something. Since they only spoke to each other in Hebrew, I have no idea what made them suspicious. They questioned me a little.

Why are you here? (I don't know.)
Do you understand any languages besides English? (Does Pig Latin count?)
Did you learn Hebrew in school? (I can read it backwards and forwards! Ha!)
Is your suitcase used? (It's full of dirty clothes right now. Of course I used it!)

After all that for about an hour or more and being quickly expedited through security, I finally made it to the gate and on the plane. In Atlanta the drug dog sniffed me. Apparently there was something he liked because he jumped up on me and the guard had thoughts of keeping me. I turned my $4,000 smile on him, and he let me leave without any trouble....but I think the dog also liked my pink suitcase.

I think the pink suitcase will stay at home next time.

It's good to be home.

Now it's time to catch up all my journaling, blogging, and photo organizing as I sort out everything I learned and experienced on the trip. More blog posts coming as I debrief!