Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tis the Season to Be … Waiting

Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
For You I wait all the day.
(Psalm 25:5)
Waiting.  Nobody likes it.  That’s why you get miffed when you choose the wrong line at Kroger.  That’s why you grumble when hit a red light.  That’s why you get cranky in a doctor’s office when you don’t get to see the doc by your appointment time.  You check you watch 20 times in ten minutes.  The door to the exam rooms opens, the nurse steps out, you sit up on the edge of your seat, and she calls someone else’s name.  You sigh and slump back into your chair.  Have you ever thought in that moment, “I’m so glad the nurse called her instead of me; she looks sicker than I do”?  No one thinks that.  We don’t wait very well.
Culture takes notice and tries to cater to our needs: express lines, urgent care, turbo speed internet, instant everything, 24-hour service, same-day shipping.  Faster equals better.  The shorter the wait, the greater our happiness.
Now here comes Advent and we have to wait again.  Will Christmas ever get here?  We devise calendars and chains to help us count down the days.  We light candles to mark the progression to the big day.  And we sing with Alvin and the Chipmunks, “Christmas, Christmas, don’t be late!”
But time moves at its own pace.  We can’t hurry it and we can’t slow it down.  That means waiting will always be part of our experience.  Simone Weil writes, “Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life.”  Waiting enlarges the soul.  Waiting grows patience.  Waiting prepares the soul to receive the blessing for which we’ve waited. 
Advent can teach us to wait if we’ll let it.  Advent waiting teaches us to do something in the meantime that reflects the life and love of Jesus: serve the poor, share the good news with those who need it, show love to a neighbor, care for the suffering, give to those in need.  Advent waiting also teaches us to be alert to the blessings in all the little moments that lead to the big moment.  Indeed, Advent waiting is best done with open eyes, open ears, open hearts, and open hands.
Henri Nouwen has written about the fruit of patient waiting: “What seems a hindrance becomes a way; what seems an obstacle becomes a door; what seems a misfit becomes a cornerstone.”   
Tis the season to be … waiting.  Wait well, my friends,

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

All the Saints Adore Thee

On this All-Saints Day 2016, I’ve been thinking about one particular saint that continues to inspire me.  His name is Ambrose Harris.  I had the great privilege of being Ambrose’s pastor for the last eight years of his life on this earth.  Ambrose was one of the few senior adults in the first church I served as pastor.  He and Dorothy were a treasure to the whole church.
My kids loved Ambrose.  He was their kindergarten Sunday School teacher.  He let me bring my kids to fish in the pond on his property, and he always found some excuse to come down to the pond and spend a little time with us.  He had a way of getting down on a child’s level and making a child feel valued and loved.  And his rich sense of humor made him all the more charming to children and adults alike.  He once told his grandkids on a walk in the woods that they needed to keep their eyes on the path because sometimes you could find money on that path.  And they did find money on that path … because Ambrose was up ahead dropping it on the ground.
He was also a man of great integrity.  Integrity comes from the word integer or “one.”  Ambrose was “one”—the exact same person in whatever venue he happened to be.  He’s the guy who would return change if a clerk accidentally gave him too much.
Ambrose was a man of simplicity.  He did pretty well financially in the furniture business but always lived a simple life—never felt the need to adjust his lifestyle to his income.  This meant he always had more money to give away.
Ambrose’s last year or so was spent suffering with colon cancer.  But you know, it didn’t change him a lick—didn’t diminish his faith, didn’t squelch his sense of humor, didn’t isolate him from others.  By being his pastor through that ordeal, I learned from him how a Christian is supposed to face things like that.  And when he died, while we wept on earth, I swear I could hear joy and laughter in the heavens.  A lot of folks there were glad to get him home.
A young mother in our congregation decided to make a contribution to the American Cancer Society in Ambrose’s memory.  So she asked her young son (who knew and loved Ambrose), “How much do you think we ought to give?”  “About a million dollars,” he said.
There’s this line in the hymn, Holy, Holy, Holy.  It is addressed to God and goes like this:

Holy, holy, holy, all the saints adore Thee.

On this All Saints Day I just want to go on record that I adored a saint named Ambrose Harris.  And I look forward to renewing our friendship someday in heaven.