Monthly Archives: November 2014

Longing for What We Can’t Have

Weirdly I posted last week’s blog as a page… not sure what I was doing or how I did it. I deleted it as it was a time-sensitive one on Thanksgiving. 

Yesterday (November 29) was my 48th birthday. Over the years I have received many wonderful birthday gifts including several marvelous surprise parties thrown by my wife and friends (alas for my wife, throwing parties is not in my make-up so she has not been so blessed). And this year I was blessed by a number of cards, a few gifts, and a fair number of Facebook well-wishes.

However the one thing I would love to have received- the one thing I did not and could not receive – was a birthday call from my dad. For many years, wherever I was, my father would call me to wish me a happy birthday. I didn’t realize until my dad’s death in 2011 and the phone call that would never come again how much that simple act meant to me.

So much of what we want we cannot or perhaps should not have. Friday was “Black Friday.” Someone wryly observed it is a day to buy things we don’t need (or really want) after celebrating a day of being grateful for what we have. But in it I always see a longing for more, for satisfaction. Not well-pursued or satisfying however.

We are creatures of longing, of aspiration. We want higher, better, bigger things. We see it an humanity’s art – visual arts, drama, poetry, literature. Our visions in politics, even the disparate ones so prevalent today. are for a world that is better than the one we have. We want justice and peace and abundance and joy.

Advent and the often contrasting frantic preparations for Christmas are about this longing. a longing that cannot be satisfied by any Christmas observance or holiday tradition. No purchases made or gifts received will bring us closer to the aspirations that lie beneath so much of what we do at all times but especially now.

Unlike the phone call from Dad which will not happen in this life again, this longing does have a satisfaction in God’s gift in Jesus. All the wants that we cannot or should not have pale in the light of the Light of the World.

Today I am re-experiencing a bit of grief because of the call I will not ever receive. I am longing, though, for the promise of Christmas, which can and will be satisfied anew if I will let it…

“O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

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Is It Enough to Pray?

Yesterday I read a blog from United Seminary professor and colleague David Watson about the recent UM Council of Bishops statement that came from their gathering. I am not going to enter into the fray on my denomination’s divisions over human sexuality among other things.

I am struck – again – by the lip service I pray to the power of prayer in my life and ministry after reading David’s blog. Not that action isn’t necessary – far from it. At its best faith requires a fusion of right-heart and right-action. It is, I think, what God demands of us and makes possible in Jesus Christ.

But I keep coming back in my own life and faith and ministry to how little I believe in prayer. At least based on my efforts in that direction in my spiritual walk.

Do we believe that God does things? Do we believe that a God who demands right-living wouldn’t also be a God of action?

I find myself losing hope about my denomination’s future unity and vitality. Which is, I think, a perfect invitation to pray. So I will… more.


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Things Look Different Today

No, not in the light of the election yesterday. But in the light of the sun. Sunday marked the return of Eastern Standard Time to my world. As I walked into church Sunday morning, I thought “Wow it looks different!” The sun was shining in my eyes and the world was bright. I had grown used to the morning twilight of recent weeks as I drove our son to school and then shambled into the office.

What a difference turning the clocks back an hour makes. At dinner time the difference will be there, too, as darkness covers the evening meal that was eaten in broad daylight not so long ago. What a simple act, turning back the clocks. Just an hour. But how different things look.

And how disorienting it is! My sleep is still a little off as my body continues to think it is Daylight Saving Time.

As I think today about church – worship, meetings, studies, groups – I think the same ought to be true. Just an hour. But it ought to change our perspective. It ought to disorient us a little as our comfortable assumptions are challenged and our faith is renewed by exercising and stretching it.

Faith IS a comfort and ought to be. But if that is all it is… faith puts us to sleep rather than waking us up and changing us as it should.

I leave you with my favorite quote on the subject of church:

On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of the conditions. Does any-one have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake some day and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.

Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk, Harper & Row, 1982



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Election Day Thoughts Don’t Matter – Your Vote Does

Today is election day in America. Although I have not yet voted before the day is out I will have. I can count on one hand the number of times in thirty years that I have not voted. And I always regret when I do not.

My vote… your vote… matters. If there is an American creed, this assertion must be at the top of the list. Voting is how we do America.

If you do not vote, then you have silenced yourself. No one else. Facebook is not a ballot box. Anything but. The truth is I don’t care what you think about the issues and candidates of the moment if you don’t express that thought through voting.

You may feel like your vote doesn’t matter. But it does. Your single vote may not sway the election. But the number of close elections that have been decided by a relatively few people’s choices argues against the impotence of your vote. And like many small acts that are right and good and may not seem to matter, this one does, too.

You may not like the candidates. Then put your name on a ballot somewhere – school board, village council, condo association, PTO, church board. Some group some where needs your leadership if you don’t like what is happening.

If you do not vote then the argument is won. Even if your vote cancels mine on some issue or candidate the bigger victory is that we exercised our right to vote.

And we live in a world where some still do not have that right. Some whose circumstances make casting that ballot difficult or, in other lands, dangerous.

And we live in a nation where men and women have died for the right you may not be exercising. Veterans who risked life and fallen soldiers and sailors whose lives were sacrificed. Women who risked censure and their safety to demand they receive the same right the men had. People of all colors and backgrounds but largely African-Americans who became martyrs because they took seriously the ringing words that “all men [people] are created equal.” Including that they should be able to vote.

If you can’t vote because you didn’t register, then watch and listen carefully to today’s lesson in American civics. And if you don’t go today to complete a ballot, then go here and complete the application so you can when this next American holy day arrives again:

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