Advent, Brokenhearted Theology, Meaning, Ramblings, Spirit, Worship

Growing Impatience in a Very Odd Advent

Advent has always been a season of reflection for me (which usually results in more writing, as evidenced by all these past Advent thoughts).

This has been an odd Advent. Instead of writing and reflecting on waiting, I’m just waiting.

There are always things I’m waiting for. Longings, anticipations, expectations. Usually, though, these things are a bit vague and conceptual – I’m waiting for a deeper sense of internal rhythm, I’m waiting for resolution of a large story in progress, I’m waiting for peace on earth.

This year we’re waiting for a baby to be born. Jesus, yes, but also our own. We’re within spitting distance of the due date of our second child, but I think both Krissy and I anticipated having this child born already.

But the baby is staying put. So we’re waiting, waiting, and still waiting.

And the impatience is growing.

Impatience because this thing we expected to have happened already hasn’t happened.
Impatience because our anticipated timeline is not our actual timeline.
Impatience because life goes on even as we wait.
Impatience because we are not in control and there is so very little we can do.

As I survey the state of my soul, I’ve sensed a subtle (and sometimes less subtle) snippiness, dissatisfaction, and dis-ease, a proclivity towards distraction more than life-giving rhythm. In a world of on-demand, express-shipping, fast-food, I am recognizing in myself an atrophied patience.

This Advent at Open Door, we’ve been making our way through a journey Toward the Approaching Light. I’ve loved that imagery because it speaks of multi-faceted movement. It is not simply that we are journeying toward Christmas one week at a time, but that the Light itself is approaching.


And that’s been a helpful reminder for me in this season of impatient waiting.

Even in the midst of a world in turmoil, the Light itself is approaching.
Even in the midst of unfulfilled longing, the Light itself is approaching.
Even in the midst of unexpected frustration, the Light itself is approaching.
Even in the midst of distraction and delay, the Light itself is approaching.
Even in the midst of growing impatience, the Light itself is approaching.

Even in the midst of yet another Advent season where we join the chorus of two thousand years of waiting, the Light itself is approaching.

Brokenhearted Theology, Meaning, Quotes, Ramblings, Resurrection, Spirit, The Saints

There Are No Lakes Till Eternity (On Reading Rilke)

We are not permitted to linger, even with what is most
intimate. From images that are full, the spirit
plunges on to others that suddenly must be filled;
there are no lakes till eternity. Here,
falling is best. To fall from the mastered emotion
into the guessed-at, and onward.

Rainer Maria Rilke, To Hölderlin

Poetry lends itself to reading between the lines and finding meaning that may or may not have been intended by the author. This is true of poetry in general but certainly and particularly true of Rilke.

Rilke wrote in the language of German and the language of a mystic, neither of which is my native tongue. So when I read his works they are translated once by a scholar from German mysticism into English mysticism and then a second time as I translate Rilke’s mysticism into some grain of truth or beauty that I am capable of comprehending and wielding.

The nature of this dual-translation is such that I’m never sure if what I find true and beautiful is actually Rilke or something that emerges in the long journey from Rilke’s written words through the translator’s pen to my mind. Or both?

But I’ve been dwelling all day on the above-quoted section and find in it a deep truth of the human condition. Despite our deepest desires for safety and shelter, life rarely permits us to linger. Even when we find ourselves in a moment of fullness – saturated with meaning and emotion and love and beauty – it is fleeting, and then only an image of fullness rather than true fullness, which does not exist on this side of eternity.

To live is to fall into the guessed-at, and onward.

Brokenhearted Theology, California, Church, Contemp Culture, Equipping, Eucharist, Global, Leadership, Meaning, Ministry, Narrative, Peacemaking, Pedagogy, Prayer, Ramblings, Resurrection, Spirit, Urban

Poetry and Place: Listening to Your Neighborhood’s Voice (Part 2)

Last fall I spent a week in the Mission District of San Francisco and spent time exploring and listening to that neighborhood. Part of that week was spent learning to

hear the sounds of the streets

listen to the voices of the people

taste the city’s flavor

see the sights of everyday life

feel the sidewalks, the fabrics, textures, the pain and the beauty of a place

recreate the voice of the neighborhood with a bit of poetry.

The product of that experience was a poem – the colors scream – but also a desire to recreate the experience and invite others to listen to their neighborhood’s voice in all its beauty and brokenness.

This month, I’ve been meeting together with a group of friends who are exploring and experimenting with our neighborhoods and our role as a neighbor in that place. Our “homework” the first week was to map our neighborhood/place and spend time listening, exploring, and creating some kind of artistic response to what we heard/saw/tasted/smelled in that place.

Here’s a poem I wrote inspired by my place:


walk up, time to see the day
the neighborhood awaits our presence
in its beauty and in its pain

vacant lots, echo chambers
locked up toys and runners
runners in pink, runners in green
big runners, small runners
costumed runners, laughing runners
all just passing through

‘the spirit of God is upon me’
her voice cuts through
the runner’s drone and the drum’s resound
her words call out, I am recognized
‘be careful,’ a Siren sounds

to protect my child or 
protect this stranger?
the cruelest of choice
a Siren sounds, ‘be careful’
our wheels roll on
my heart lingers

the lilies of the field
the lilies of the field
and the birds in the air
will they be okay?
will she be okay?
will we be okay?
a Siren sounds

East Hollywood, California // April 2014


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Waiting on the Spirit (Reading Acts 1 Together)

On Wednesday night, for the first time in a while, our community group cracked open a Bible and read Scriptures together. Seasonally we had been spending some time on different aspects of formation and caring within our community – trying to share more and create a space for openness and honesty and, from that space, spending more time praying together.

We also always start off with a meal, and sometimes time can slip away when fifteen people are crowded around a dining room table laughing and sharing life together. I’m glad we spent as much time as we do eating together and embracing the normal patterns and rhythms of life (eating, socializing, laughing, etc.). It’s a good weekly reminder that in the everydayness of life there can be a sustaining spirituality.

But, it’s pretty easy to get stuck in the “everyday spirituality,” and we want to make sure that we’re grounding ourselves in something that’s not fleeting, so we spend time reading Scriptures that have been the church’s book for a few thousand years (and, much of it, the people of God’s book for many more thousands of years). This next season we’re going to be wading through the Book of Acts and opening ourselves up to hearing God’s voice speaking and God’s spirit prompting us to respond and change and grow and bear fruit.

So we read Acts 1:1-14 together on Wednesday. We read it twice out loud, with two different voices. One time we just listened, the second time folks read along. We talked a bit about how the act of reading audibly and communally (and especially a book that seems as odd and foreign as the Bible) feels a bit odd at times. But I think it’s an important practice, even if it’s weird, that moves us out of the norm of everyday life.

Barukh Shoham "And the Spirit of God Hovered Over the Face of the Water

Acts 1 is a pivotal moment – a hinge for the church. It seems weird that Jesus is resurrected from death (his first departure) only to leave again (his second departure, recorded in Acts 1). And he only spends 40 days post-resurrection “teaching on the kingdom.” Why not longer? Why only 40 days? Why leave when you have a perfectly good resurrected body? Why leave when there’s surely so much more you can teach and share?

But he leaves, and he tells his followers to wait.

  • Wait, because in a few days, this will make sense.
  • Wait, because in a few days you’ll experience the spirit of God, which Jesus describes as the father’s gift (1:4), the new baptism (1:5), and the power for witness (1:8).
  • Wait, because once you’ve received this gift, you’ll understand why this chapter of the story has to end.
  • Wait, because you wouldn’t believe it if I told you now what’s going to happen next.

So they wait. Acts 1:14 says “they all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” They wait and pray.

The church doesn’t have to live in an Acts 1 reality, but many of us do live in an Acts 1 reality.  We’re content with the nominally or culturally different life we lead, or we’re confused or frightened or unsure of what it means to live in the power of the spirit.

For those of us in that space – the Acts 1 space – Jesus speaks to us through the Scriptures, calling us to “wait and pray” because there’s a new reality coming that will change your life and, if you’re open to it, can change the world.