Monday, April 20, 2009

The Waiting Game

The Waiting Game!
“And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:4-5

This evening the thoughts that keep going through my mind are many but they all have one theme in common – Wait, wait, and wait some more! For many months now we have been waiting for spring, (I think it might almost be here.) My youngest daughter and son-in-law are working toward and waiting for the opportunity to adopt their first child. My son and daughter-in-law are waiting for the birth of their 8th child. My oldest grandson is waiting for my visit later this summer. And I, I am waiting for a pastoral call.
In a society that thrives on “instant” gratification, waiting seems almost unbearable. We no longer wait weeks for answers to our correspondence with the advent of e-mail. In fact, if we write a note to someone using e-mail and do not receive a message back with in six hours, we tend to feel snubbed. I have to ask myself in the light of the society that I function in the question, “What is the value in waiting?”
Try to imagine what ones life would be like if there was no such thing as “waiting.” From the time you were born till the day you pass beyond this life, all the experiences that you would have, would be continuous, with no breaks, no time for reflection upon the experience – its merits, its lessons, its joys or its pains. How would you know the value of what you have lived? For it is in waiting that we do the tasks of examining, the tasks of setting value and judgment on an experience; of experiencing the anticipation that comes with waiting. For much of the value we put on an event or experience comes from the anticipation.
I think about a couple who become engaged to be married. There is usually a period of waiting, of making preparations for the wedding. One experiences the planning of the wedding, the picking out the invitations, of choosing the colors of the wedding, finding the right wedding dress, sometimes writing your own vows, but certainly thinking about the seriousness of the commitment that is going to be made to your beloved. Then comes the day of the wedding. The event, the words spoken, the commitment pledged holds it power, its worth, it’s meaning by all of the preparation that preceded it.
So it is when Jesus was telling his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for what God had in store for them. For it would be by the power and nurture of the Holy Spirit that would give the Disciples understanding and vision of their 3 years with their teacher and savior, Jesus. During this time of waiting for a call as pastor, I have to remind myself that it is in God’s timing the things that are to be will be. Joyce Landorff, an author of the 70’s and early 80’s once address waiting as the time when God takes the raw ore and refines it to the precious medal that it is. We all are precious metals; some of us just need more refining than others it seems. Susan Boyle is my patron saint this week. As she has waited for decades, caring for her parents before she was able to present herself on British television and start living her dream of being a professional singer. We of the world are now blessed with a most beautiful voice. A voice that has been molded over the years with her waiting for “her” time.
“….but to wait for the Promise of God…” this is the true battle cry for a world that is in such a hurry to get on with it, to get things done, to have the experience. Wait, for it is in waiting that we find the depth of what we are looking to experience. Amen

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Several views of Cratar Lake.

Lent 2009 thought

Reflection on Psalm 137
For Lent 2009
“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?”

This Psalm was popularized in the musical “Godspell” in the early 1970’s and has been a focus in my minds eye this season of Lent. Why? Is it because “Godspell” is the focus on my personal devotions this Lenten season, or is there something deeper going on within my mind and heart? Possibly I might discover what it is as I place my thoughts into sentences.
When reading is Psalm, the obvious thought that comes to mind is the idea of being in a foreign land, where there is hostility and sarcasm being heaped onto those who have been taken captive by a more powerful people. This is a song about the Israelites while in captivity. Very similar to those who were captured, brought from their homelands and sold into slavery to a white population in America. Men and women and children sold into slavery, traded like stocks and bonds on the open market, to be laborers in an agricultural society that could only flourish on the sweat and pain of its victims – those oppressed.
True, my ancestor who found his way to the shores of America did so as an indentured servant. But he contracted himself to be in this position as a means to pay for his passage to the New World. He was a willing slave, but there was a time limit and after the fulfillment of his contract, he was once again a free man and as a white European male was able to enjoy all the empowerment that was given to those who held control in that new democracy.
So how can I, as a white male of European descent, having all of the privilege that comes by being male, white, educated and middle class relate to this Psalm? Even my religious faith as a Christian is the standard in my environment. Possibly if I were living in an area of the United States where political and religious norms were more conservative and where a person who is not 100% hetro-sexual might possibly feel some social ostracism; I might be able to relate a little to what the Psalmist was expressing. But I live in Seattle, WA and am surrounded with social norms that coincide with who I am as a person, in general.
How then, during this season of self-reflection can I connect with these words; these feeling of despair and alienation that come from the writer of this Psalm? I will have to leave the physical dimension of these peoples experience and look to the metaphorical expression to be able to find a relationship to these words.
For me, heaven translate into the “kingdom of God.” Christ says, the kingdom of God is within us. So where does the separation come into play? This again must become an individual definition and I believe it can change at varying points in ones life.
I have felt my relationship with God wax and wane at various times in my journey, we call life. One experience of separation from God came while I was pastor in Kittitas, WA. I had gone threw my divorce, so there was the remorse from loosing my family on the one hand and the other piece to this situation was the struggle I was having around my sexual orientation (which was the reason for the divorce).
I would lie in bed night after night praying my heart out to God, yet I felt my prayers and petitions were going no further than the ceiling. This feeling of separation from God went on for three months or so. Intellectually, I knew God was there with me, hearing me and guiding me; yet emotionally I was alone – in a foreign land, being asked by my congregation to “sing the songs of Zion” , so to speak, through preaching and teaching and counseling.
There ate times that we all feel lose and as we journey through that lose, we recognize that we are in a foreign land. Apart of the sadness comes as we long to go back to what is familiar. Back to a land that we understand and call home. As a Christian, I think of the separation of my spirit from God. My spirit is housed in a physical structure – my body. This body functions in this physical world – a differing finite dimension that does not easily recognize the dimensions that God dwells in. God dwells in this dimension as well; it is my spirit and five senses that have the limitation – thus bringing on that feeling of living in a foreign land.
But through Christ’s teachings, I am reminded that I am not in a foreign land, for God’s Kingdom is here among us; within each of us. So for me, my feeling of isolation – of living in a foreign land is generally a result of my shutting down my senses that connect me with God. It comes from dwelling on the past and wanting to hold on to something or go back to something that no longer exists as my minds eye remembers it.
I suspect this is the basis for the saying, “you can never go back home.” We can never go back or re-create “what was” for life is a forward journey. This entails lose of “What was” and in that lose, a sense of separation. As we journey, it is through Christ and his understanding of relationship with Zion that we are always with God. Life’s journey demands that we experience life in a foreign land (unfamiliar experiences). But with the knowledge that god walks with us and isn’t contained to one location – we do not have to feel we are wandering alone – separated from the love, shelter, protection, guidance and relationship of the on God; our loving Creator parent.