Patience and Hope, Day After Day

tom-kleh-passenger-waiting-in-subway-station-thinks-of-hamlet-line-if-it-be-now-new-yorker-cartoon

“But make up your mind not worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves.  For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.” Luke 21 v.14-15

“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.  For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth.  Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21 v.34-36

The problem with letting a blog go stale for a while is coming back stuffed with news, and wondering what to write about first, and in what context.  Additionally, seeing how wont as I am to distraction, the Holy Spirit in one way or another will put in my ear, softly, subtly, “it’s time to reflect.”

So here I am.  Good news and bad news follow.

First, good news.  Wonderful students.  Respect from most of my team and administrators.  Healthy twin baby BOYS gracing our house in February, and they are developing just fine in mommy’s womb.  A healthy young two year old as well.  I am also dealing with my anxiety with continued counseling and now medication.  New books.  An upcoming C.S. Lewis conference.  Counting blessings on all those things.

Bad news:  My mother fell sick up North with a pretty serious bout of pneumonia.  Very serious.  Currently she is in stable but critical condition in an ICU in a Boston hospital.  I live in Florida, and therefore cannot do much but hope and pray, and have daily communication with my family for updates.  My mother is someone who constantly gives, often in detriment to herself.  She simply does not think about herself: a virtue of course, but the Lord says love your neighbor as yourself, which means we have to show ourselves care as well.  She originally went to get her hip checked, which will probably need to be replaced, but as soon as the doctor’s saw what shape she was in, she was admitted almost on the spot.

All news:  in the hands of God.

Gotta remember that.

I am reading commentary/reflections on the gospel of Luke by N.T. Wright, and the two verses above he puts in marvelous context by framing how these words would have been received by the early Christians in Jerusalem, circa 68 A.D. when Luke wrote.  The apostles were scattered, most of the spreading of the gospel was taking place far and away, and tensions in Jerusalem were still high with the Romans.  So day by day their lives dragged on, and if neighbors asked with a sneer, “Where is your Jesus?” then “all you could do would be to retell the stories, including the sayings of Jesus.  Hang on.  Be alert.  Pray for strength to meet whatever comes.”

And what of us in the 21st Century?  Is it not the same, Wright asks?  Wars still rage, sin flourishes, the world wants us to indulge, forget, numb, rage, be anxious, and turn away from the Light.  Wright says this (a marvelous quote):

“The answer is the same for us as it was the Jerusalem Christians nearly a generation after Jesus.  Keep alert.  This is what you were told to expect.  Patience is the key.  Pray for strength to keep on your feet.  There are times when your eyes will be shutting with tiredness, spiritual, mental, emotional and physical, and when you have to prop them open.  This is what it’s about: not an exciting battle, with adrenalin flowing and banners flying, but the steady tread, of prayer and hope and scripture and sacrament and witness, day by day and week by week.”

In our times of deepest crisis, of deepest pain, we must have the courage to lean in to our Lord and feel the steady rhythmic beat of his pure, unconditional love-filled Heart.  The iambic beat of prayer.  The iambic beat of hope.  The iambic beat of sacrament.  The iambic beat of witness.

Day by day.

Week by week.

It sounds odd, but I have the gift right now of not being able to anything.  This is what my father said as I spoke to him on the phone.  “It is all in the hands of Jesus.”  Because what are we going to do?  I cannot even properly operate a toaster on most days, so it is time for me to trust the gifts and knowledge He has given the doctors and let them do their jobs.

And hope.

And pray.

This is waiting on the Lord.  And it is tough sometimes.  Mind-boggingly difficult for me, as prone I am to despair and giving up.

But our Lord is a Lord of healing.

Let me say that over and over again.

A Lord of Healing.

Day by day.

Week by week.

Would you join me in saying this?

Thanks and blessings.

Greg

Advertisements

“Do it again.”

One of my favorite quotes from any book on faith comes from GK Chesterton’s Orthodoxy: 

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

Our Father’s youth is that eternal Hope that raises us up after we fall.  And for those like me, whose addictions and impulses make falling a fairly regular occurrence (read: daily),

when I don’t feel like getting up,

when it is so much easier to wallow in the muck and mire of past mistakes,

when I’ve gone to bed the night before feeling like a failure,

when there is just no way I can deal with this anymore,

when my job becomes tough and I’m not sure what kind of teacher I am to my students,

Jesus reaches out his hand to pull me up.

And says “Walk with me.

I’m here.

Come to me.

Do it again.

I’m always here.”

Despair feels old, doesn’t it?  And after the heck of the week I’ve had, with nice highs and real lows, it’s good to see the sun rise outside my window.  The daily new beginning.

A student told me I was already one of his favorite teachers.  “Even though you work us real hard.”  Smile there.

In the same class, a girl came up to me after the bell, tears in her eyes.

“Please move my seat next week, the boy next to me says bad things to me.”

She’s being bullied, and I didn’t catch it.  No smile there.  Please pray for her.

Highs and lows.

But, says the Lord, walk into the classroom again.  No, you didn’t fail.  Yes, you will have to address the issue.  Yes it will be tough.

No, do not despair.

I’m always here.

Do it again.

 

 

Beautiful Home, Pesky Ants

 

ephesians-2-22

Quite a  busy week last week.  In addition to finding out that I am going to be a future father to twins (see my last post and the freak out contained within), I headed up to Eustis, FL to see a good friend I haven’t seen in 20 years, Amy.  For the past five years, Amy has been a missionary in Ghana, Africa, as headmistress of a Rafiki Foundation school.  As we walked the streets of nearby Mt. Dora, we caught up on the past twenty years and I learned a great deal of her new life in Africa.  Of how different it is, but how “kids will still be kids.”  Of electricity going out on a regular basis.  On how being a missionary isn’t being a “super Christian” but just following the particular call that God has for all of us.

Amy and I performed together in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I was happy to hear that it was one of the first plays she introduced her new students to.

How wonderful to see her again.  And hey!  She could always use support in her work!  She is an amazing person.  Learn more about her here.

Then a week a teaching at my first VBS (Vacation Bible School).  It has been my desire over the summer to express my faith more, not to merely consent mentally to a creed, but allow the Holy Spirit to touch my heart, hands, and feet.

I wanted to use my gifts for teaching and presenting to specifically teach and show the love of Christ.

To mentally acknowledge my brokenness, yes, but to let the joy of God settle in my heart.

By doing cool little science experiments dealing with air and water pressure, and using them as metaphors for God’s Love.

By acting really goofy during our Praise and Worship times, jumping around, laughing, high-fiving, being altogether out of my element and enjoying every minute.

Seeing the light in those little kids’ faces was pretty amazing.

We wrapped up the week at a celebration held by two members of our church.  They live in downtown Orlando in a beautiful neighborhood, in a beautiful house.

A really beautiful house.

A might-as-well-be-a-bed-and-breakfast house.

Antiques everywhere, ornate furniture.  Perfectly paneled wood.

A veranda, a bricked courtyard with a tall, twisting avocado tree.

Wow.

Nice place.

(I said as I valiantly tried to stop my two year old son from crashing into anything).

A little envy?  Oh yeah, sure,a touch.  Especially as I though about the new challenges of fitting two more family members into an already cramped house.

Then this:

My wife is pregnant and now has to avoid alcohol and caffeine (oh the humanity!).  Seeing only Coke and wine out, I asked if there was any Sprite.

Sure, follow me, our hostess said.

The courtyard had a small storage area, enclosed by a wooden door with a latch. At the top of the door, on frame, tiny little dots moved about industriously.

Our hostess sighed.  “White footed ants,” she explained.  “They are everywhere, unfortunately.  Nearly impossible to get rid of.”

She found some Sprite and we rejoined the party and had a wonderful time in fellowship.

In my prayers later that night, I couldn’t stop thinking about those ants.

The Lord wanted to teach me something.

“Even in a house you thought was pretty much perfect, my son, there was a flaw.  A slight flaw, but a flaw nonetheless.

Theirs is a beautiful home , full of hospitality and goodwill.  They are not moving out any time soon because of some pesky ants.”

And then this realization.  This assurance.  This love.  This promise:

“I want my make my dwelling in you.  I want you to rest in my Spirit, and my Spirit to rest in you.”

Ephesians 2:22.

“And trust me, your pesky sins, acknowledged and repented of, are no match for the beautiful Grace and Love which I want to furnish you with.”

Awesome.

Yes, our sins are those pesky ants, and sometimes they can swarm, but we are being built up for something so much greater.

So why despair, my fellow palace?

For when you are stumbling and bumbling- Hillsong United: Oceans

An amazing song which has been on “repeat” for the past week on my playlist.  Great song for meditating before prayer.  Because Jesus meets us in all situations, even leading us out onto the waters on which he walked.

 

“Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)”

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your Name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

Words from the Magic Monastery

prayer chapel

a book by Theophane the Monk:

I asked an old monk, “How do I get over the habit of judging people?”

He answered, “When I was your age, I was wondering where would be the best place to go to pray.  Well, I asked Jesus that question.  His answer was, ‘Why don’t you go into the heart of my Father?’  So I did.  I went into the heart of the Father, and all these years that’s where I’ve prayed.  Now I see everyone as my own child.  How can I judge anyone?”