Friday, December 24, 2010

Reaching Out To Others...Across The Globe

I will be posting the 4th week in Advent post...just a little late. Christmas week has been busy getting ready for the coming of Christ!

Meanwhile, I just got the exciting news of where our shoeboxes went this year! Samaritans Purse has a new feature. If you get a tracking number, they'll email you where they send each box! Apparently ours were all sent to Togo, Africa!
What's especially incredible to me is that we had contributed a lot of flip flops to our boxes this year. We found a good many at a great price...and God sent them to a country where they actually can use them! It's so neat to follow the threads...or paths...of the adventure of following God. We didn't have to worry about the details, God knew where those boxes were needed!

If you'd like to read more about Togo and the children who received our boxes, click here: Samaritan's Purse.

The children in Togo will have a tangible picture of the Gift God sent on Christmas day. The Gift of Salvation for each one of those precious ones.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Third Week In Advent: Waiting Between the Times

Sunday the third candle in the Advent wreath was lit. This candle represents John the Baptist. The man wearing camel hair clothing in the desert, eating locust and honey, and preparing the way of the Lord. He was a modern day prophet to the Israelites. His calling was similar to Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah. With one big difference. His calling was to prepare the way for the Savior...who was coming right after!

In many ways [John] represents waiting...He proclaims Jesus' coming, points people to Jesus, waits eagerly for him, yet stands permanently on the outside. His role appears to be simply one of herald, announcing Jesus, point beyond himself, looking forward but never arriving. He stood, waiting, between the old and the new, because that was what God called him to do and, perhaps, in that waiting he found meaning.
This year I found greater meaning than ever in hearing this story. I think it's because I was able to picture the surroundings. The areas where John lived and ate locust and honey. I know what camel hair feels like. I've felt the heat of the the middle of a dry desert.

(photo was taken at Qumron, Israel)

 In some ways John is the epitome of Advent: a figure in whom the past and the future meet in an explosive message for the present: John may be called to waiting, but his waiting can hardly be called passive; John's is an abrasive, disruptive, unsettling waiting- a waiting that is about as active as it is possible to be.

While we are called to wait, we're called to wait actively.  Sitting around twiddling our thumbs does not count as active waiting. Sometimes, it can be hard to picture what active waiting might look like in certain situations. But we're to be ever moving forward, ever active in this adventure of following God. Even during the waiting times.
Part of the adventure of following God is discovering where God will lead us next. Knowing that God has called us tells us nothing about what God has called us to do. Even those who are more or less comfortably established in doing something to which they have been called by God cannot be certain that tomorrow, next month, or next year this calling will remain the same. The people who heard about John's birth knew that God was calling him and pondered where that calling might lead. 
Our following God truly is a journey or adventure. When I think of journey, I think of the active part. The walking, running, climbing, sliding, moving. It's fluid, and the surroundings are constantly changing. Our calling changes, we move, we change, new things come up. Old things end. There were never any promises that things would be easy on this journey. We go through times when we wonder exactly where God is and what he's up to, and how is this place and this time any help or any significance anyway. Think of John in jail. He sends his disciples to find out if Jesus is really the one they're waiting for. Don't you think he may have wondered what good his being in jail was in fulfilling his calling?

....We need to recognize that John the Baptist's calling is, in fact, our own calling just as he is called to point beyond himself, to deflect attention ever onward to the one who is the Light of the World so we are called to do the same. John's ministry sets up a chain of which we are now a part. He pointed to the truth so that "all might believe through him", once believing they, like the woman at the well, should pass on the message to others so that many might come to believe and pass it on themselves. 
John the Baptists stands as an example to us of one who is prepared, in all humility, to recognize that he is not he center but the periphery; not the attraction but the signpost to the attraction; no the Light but the one who helps others see the Light. Jesus' calling to us all is that we pick up the baton of John and become witnesses to the one who brings salvation to the world. This is only a part, but an important part, of the reorientation that we were reflecting on in the previous passage. John the Baptist's message of repentance involves a huge reorientation in which the center of our believing becomes no longer ourselves but one who is much, much, greater. 
The waiting we do at Advent reminds us of the importance of taking up John's baton of witness and passing it on, and of reorientating ourselves outward from the center of our lives so there is room enough for Jesus in the core of our being.

This begs the question, who are we passing the message on to? And what message does our life send to those who are waiting to see it?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Waiting For The Day Of The Lord

The second candle of advent was lit today in recognition of the prophets.
The prophets heralded the coming of Christ, the day of the Lord.
This week we're focusing on waiting for the day of the Lord.

"The second candle on the Advent wreath is associated with the prophets and, in particular, their prophecies of the "one who is to come." With this candle, therefore, we are waiting for the future and all that it might hold."

The day of the can bring different pictures to mind. Isaiah for instance was talking about the day of the Lord meaning deliverance for Judah from the Assyrians. But he was also referring to the day of the Lord meaning Jesus being sent for our redemption. Today, when one references the day of the Lord, we automatically think of the end of times, and the second coming. Either way, all three are instances of God's people waiting for the day of the Lord. The day of our redemption and deliverance.

This second candle brings more light to darkness, more hope to our waiting. The hope is growing stronger with the light that our waiting will not be in vain. We are waiting for someone to fulfill the prophecies of a peaceful world in which a lion will lie down with a lamb, where a virgin will have a son and call Him Immanuel, a son who will establish a kingdom and uphold justice with righteousness forevermore.

Of course everyone has their own private idea of a savior. Maybe someone on a white horse with shining armor, ready to combat the dragons at the gate. Maybe a warrior with arrows at the ready to conquer the enemies pouring down upon them. Someone who changes the darkness of fear and oppression to the light of gladness, peace, and happiness. The Israelites were expecting a savior who would free them from the oppression of their enemies, who would bring peace to their land once again. Their idea of a savior looked more like the fierce warrior on the white horse.
"As is so often the case, Jesus fulfills these ancient prophecies in a surprising way, and it is through weaving light into the shade of our present world that he evokes wonder by the wisdom of his counsel; shows the power of God in the world's cares eternally just like a parent; and is the source of all well-being for God's people. Jesus lived as wonderful counsellor, mighty God, everlasting father, and prince of peace in the midst of our broken, despairing world, shining in the darkness and bringing hope. 
It is this light shining in the darkness for which we wait, and the season of Advent calls us to readjust our eyes in that darkness so that we can see glimmers of the Light of the World, glowing and pointing us forward to that ultimate time in the future when everything will be fulfilled...."

And so we wait. Quietly, in the darkness, staring at the shine and glow of two candles. One reminding us silently of how we are called to wait. The second, that we are waiting for the day of the Lord.

Waiting is not just sitting around, slightly bored, passively waiting for the next thing.

" The Hebrew word that is often translated wait (as in Genesis 49:18, "I wait for your salvation, O Lord") has the additional meaning of "look eagerly" or "lie in wait for" that brings with it that concept of being a "lookout" whose sole task is to gaze into the distance, waiting for a particular person to come, and then, when they do come, to be able to distinguish them from the others who come the same way....Waiting for the future involves a recognition of what the world might be and the resolve to bring our own part of it one step closer....Waiting becomes active: waiting for the future involves transforming the present."
Active waiting, then is the proper outlook for Advent. We're actively waiting for the day of the Lord when we reach out to others and bring the light closer to shining throughout the world.

So on this second Sunday in Advent, think of the prophets who were actively waiting for the Savior of the World...for the light to chase away the darkness. And actively wait for the day of the Lord.

All exerpts taken from the book by Paula Gooder, The Meaning Is In The Waiting

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Psalm 37:23-24

 The LORD makes firm the steps 
   of the one who delights in him; 
 though he may stumble, he will not fall, 
   for the LORD upholds him with his hand.

Psalm 37: 23-24