Friday, November 25, 2011

Slow Down - Save a Life!

There are many ways to tell time. We use clocks and calendars. We mark perosnal time by birthdays, and anniversaries.  We knwo that a day has 24 hours, a week has 7 days, and a year has 365 days. One innovation of Western Culture is to see timeas a line. January begns; December ends.

But the Church tells time differently. The Church’s year is Christological: it is based in the life of Christ.  Reverend Jerome Berryman explains in his book Young Children and Worship, the Church “tells time by celebrating the events of Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension and the gift of the Holy Spirit.” These are divided into two cycles. A key word here is cycle—it indicates a circular movement, not a movement in a straight line. The two key cycles—Christmas and Easter—are divided into our six Church seasons: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost.

We begin the season of Advent November 27th this year. The first Sunday of Advent is also the first Sunday of a new church year.  The word advent comes from a Latin word meaning “coming” or “arrival,”especially the arrival of someone or something important. In Advent we wait for the coming of Christ: both at the end of time and for the rememberance of his birth among us. In our own lives, Advent can be a special time of learning to wait and slow down.

Margaret Wheatley writes that one of the crises of our age is the belief that we can ignore or negotiate with time.  This mis-guided belief, she says causes us to forget about the natural rhythms and cycles of life.  “Instead we believe that it’s a straight trajectory into the future, and we can go as fast as we please.   This can move us away from nature, from rhythm, from others, from God and even from a sense of place."  Wheatley adds that as people in the Christian tradition, and especially for those of us in liturgical churches like the Episcopal Church, it is time to say ENOUGH!  We must take time to think.  We must take time to reflect.  We must take time to slow down and enjoy the cycles of nature and our own lives.  Advent is a season that can help us do just this.

Advent can teach us to wait.  How does one learn to wait exactly?  Our culture is not a particularly adept at this.  It seems to teach us always to be in a hurry, to be impatient, and to want instant gratification. Some of the traditions of Advent such as the Advent calendar and Advent wreath are about the opposite – about slowing down and learning to wait.  How might we use them effectively this Advent?   As we await the celebration of Christmas, what might we be waiting to be born in our own lives?

Advent is a gift of time if we will only grasp it.  It is a time to move more slowly, spend more time with family, friends, and with God.

(Thanks to Carolyn Moomaw Chilton who writes and blogs as a spiritual discipline and an invitation to conversation with others. She is on staff at Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia as the Assistant for Evangelism and Stewardship.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Why is it so hard to pray?

Why is it that so many of us struggle with prayer? We forget to pray, and when we remember to do so, we hurry through it just to get it in.  Even when we take the time, our minds tend to drift, our thoughts scatter like a startled flock of starlings.  After all these years, I still don’t understand why something so important to me can be so difficult: no location is prescribed, no special clothing is required. No title or office is stipulated.  Yet, it sometimes seems as if I am wrestling with a greased pig!

It’s no wonder that our world is so afraid of prayer.  It has great power but is so difficult to control.  Consequently, so many avoid it.  Anything that has power and that we cannot easily control frightens us.

The reality is that it takes discipline, not unlike that required of an athlete who needs to practice a chosen physical feat over and over and over.  Only then is the action insinuated into nerves and muscles so that when it is “crunch” time, the action seems to flow effortlessly.  I need to learn and relearn that lesson itself over and over and over again.  

Monday, November 14, 2011

When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking

Hello friends.  It's hard to believe that it has been so long since my last entry here.  Needless to say, sometimes our busy-ness can overtake us.  In an effort to get back to my blogging, today I simply share something that came across my desk.  Perhaps it speaks to us when we think we are too busy to attend to important things!

author unknown
When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator, and I immediately wanted to paint another one.
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you feed a stray cat, and I learned that it was good to be kind to animals.
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you make my favorite cake for me, and I learned that the little things can be the special things in life.
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking I heard you say a prayer, and I knew that there is a God I could always talk to, and trust.
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you make a meal and take it to a friend who was sick, and I learned that we all have to help take care of each other.
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you give of your time and money to help people who had nothing, and I learned that those who have something should give to those who don’t.
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw how you handled your responsibilities, even when you didn’t feel good, and I learned that I would have to be responsible when I grow up.
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw tears come from your eyes, and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but it’s all right to cry.
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw that you cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be.
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking I looked at you and wanted to say,’ Thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.’
How do we model Jesus to those around us, especially the littlest ones?