Advent Devotion – Isaiah 57 – Road Construction

Isaiah 57:14-21

14It shall be said,

“Build up, build up, prepare the way,

remove every obstruction from my people’s way.”

15For thus says the high and lofty one

who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:

I dwell in the high and holy place,

and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit,

to revive the spirit of the humble,

and to revive the heart of the contrite.

16For I will not continually accuse,

nor will I always be angry;

for then the spirits would grow faint before me,

even the souls that I have made.

I admit it, I like to drive.  When we are on vacation, I can just sit behind the wheel driving for hours, and there’s nothing like driving over a nice new smooth road.  As many of us well know, this past summer there was road construction all around St. Pauls.  It was pretty annoying.  I couldnt just cruise up and down 27th street.  I had to find all sorts of alternate routes. Some days I even rode my bike (which was a great gift). But now, the cones and barrels are all gone; the big trucks and other road repair machines are gone.  Theres nothing but a nicely widened smooth street.

Id like to think that God promises us a smooth ride.  But thats just not the case.  Obstructions, potholes, dead ends abound.  Sometimes they mysteriously show up, sometimes were given at least a signa warning.  Often these barriers and hindrances are of our own making.

While some blame everything on God, to me it seems like God is actually giving us an alternate route in life.  Instead of getting stuck in complaints and negativity, we can think about the pains and struggles in life as a form of road construction.  Sometimes we need to take a detour.  Smooth spots are the product of work, often hard work. We may not enjoy ourselves in the midst of these rough places, but God is right there with us.  With God’s help we can slow down, we can look more closely at ourselves and those around us.

So, next time you see those flashing lights, orange barrels and construction workers.  Say a prayer of thanksgiving and for safety for those hardworking and sometimes maligned men and women.  Then take a moment or two to look at your life, honor the bumps and potholes, give thanks for the smooth spots, look for Gods grace at work in your day.

Faith in Action.  This may not be terribly practical but it can be quite thoughtful.  Look around and see that person who is working, toiling, often thanklessly.  Write that person a thank you note and give it to him or her.  You dont need to sign you name; you could just write Your friend in Christ or “In Christian love”.

Prayer: God of rough places and smooth spaces, we give thanks for this life.  Help us to take every opportunity to be more loving to ourselves, others, and you.  Amen.

Advent E Devotion II – Stubborn

Ezekiel 2
4He said to me: Mortal, go to the house of Israel and speak my very words to them. 5For you are not sent to a people of obscure speech and difficult language, but to the house of Israel— 6not to many peoples of obscure speech and difficult language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to them, they would listen to you. 7But the house of Israel will not listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me; because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart. 8See, I have made your face hard against their faces, and your forehead hard against their foreheads. 9Like the hardest stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not fear them or be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. 10He said to me: Mortal, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart and hear with your ears; 11then go to the exiles, to your people, and speak to them. Say to them, “Thus says the Lord God”; whether they hear or refuse to hear.

I wouldn’t have thought that stubbornness would be a spiritual attitude. As Christmas approaches we all can probably picture a child in some store stomping his or her feet, pitching a fit, and throwing a tantrum. Face it we’ve either suffered through this as a parent or grandparent or witnessed another adult deal with a stubborn child. Being stubborn just seems so contrary to what we think of as “Christian nice”. However, in some instances being stubborn is evidently a spiritual strength. And that is because unlike a child (or even an occasional adult) God isn’t whining about some toy, desert, or petty preference.

God has an important and life changing word for us. And that’s the problem. Often we don’t want to hear that word. We don’t want to be told to stop; we don’t want to be told to change. We think the way we are doing and being is good enough. The problem is good enough isn’t Godly enough. Our divisions do not please God. It does not make God smile to see so many hungry children and families, to hear the sound of weapons of war, to have her creation used and abused. I could go on and on, because that’s what God chooses to do. Since before the prophet Ezekiel, till now, and till whenever, God is going to go on and on. And when we stop and think and pray about it we can give thanks for Godly stubbornness. We give thanks that God is in this match of wills with us because God:
WILL NOT back down
WILL NOT give in
WILL NOT abandon
WILL NOT leave
WILL NOT forsake
WILL NOT give up on us!

Faith action: During these days of list making, sit down and make a “God List”. What is important to God? How does it compare with what our world says is important? Carry that list with you as you shop, as you go to work, as you go about your days.

Prayer – God of Holy stubbornness, help us to discern what is worthy of such a strong stance. Help us to pray, speak, and work for your peace and justice in this world. Help us to welcome your stubborn expectations, your stubborn forgiveness, and your stubborn love for all. Amen.

Running in Circles – It’s not all Bad

The other day I was at the playground with my 4yr old boy.  We were not alone.  There were several other kids there, and pretty soon they decided to play hide-n-seek.  Well unlike many homes or church buildings, a playground is not really designed to be chock full of hiding places.  But that didn’t matter.  These 3 little kids played anyway.

My son was the youngest, and soon it was his turn to hide.  The count-down started, and he took off running, then he stopped and turned around and ran in another direction, turned around again, and again,Image and again.  He couldn’t figure out where to hide.  But that didn’t stop him.  After a few revolutions he dove behind a pole.  Which for some reason just couldn’t hide his big silly grin.  This same process went for several turns. For some reason, I’m not sure it was his amazing hiding skills.  He was always the last to be found.

So often in our culture, when we say someone is running in circles, it’s understood to be a bad thing.  We are so driven to reach a goal, have an end project–so result oriented, that we miss the point of just doing or being.  Within our prayers, within our church we need to remember that running in circles is sometimes what we need to be doing.  We need to be spending time in prayer of centering; we need to be spending time sitting together around tables, and in living rooms.  We need to be able to just smile because we are playing as God’s children.