Joyful Anticipation Deepens

by Zac Harmon-McLaughlin

Joyful anticipation deepens.
This waiting is expectant.
This yearning pounds with possibility.
Joyful anticipation deepens.

The Holy is present,
The sacred right alongside us.
Though there is no clarity, there is certainty.
Joyful anticipation deepens.

Even when our sighs are wordless,
Even when our groans are aching,
Even when we cannot pray,
Joyful anticipation deepens.

And the longer we wait,
The more joyful our expectance.
We are enlarged by the waiting,
And our joyful anticipation deepens.

Spiritual Practice- Praying with Scripture
Today’s reflection was inspired by a time of prayer with the scripture text below. Read through the text several times slowly and prayerfully. Pause between readings to dwell in silent attention to the presence of God speaking to you through these words. Notice what captures your attention, or where you feel drawn to explore. What is God’s invitation to you this Advent season through this text?

Romans 8:21-28, MSG
Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens. All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.
Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

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HOLY UNFOLDING

Lenten Practice: Lectio Divina
Daily Act: Write a note to someone to let them know how their life is integral to God’s unfolding story.
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“LIVING WORD, LIVE THROUGH ME.”

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

There is nothing insignificant in you
And nothing is ever wasted

There is a holy unfolding within you
That is part of the holy unfolding around you
You participate in what is being written
Whether you intend to or not

The question is-
What words are being written with your life?

We are the story
The future will read
When they are seeking to understand
The God beyond understanding

There is nothing too small in you
To live this
Everything matters

Even our failures will say something
About the God who uses everything
In holy ways

God’s unfolding story is
The sacred already resident in each moment
Waiting for release

God’s is a story of redemption-
Of imperfect people
Graced with divine potential
Living their ordinary lives
And discovering the extraordinary
Along the way

Burning bush while tending the sheep
Luminous cloud atop a mountain
Star unusually bright signaling hope in the night
Mostly we stumble into the sacred
On the way to something else

It could be you
It could be me
Who sees in the midst of everything else
How the holy is beckoning
How something is straining
To come to birth
In us
Through us
With us

Sometimes the story is simply
How God was present
When we did not see
When we did not know
When we could not feel
What was there all along

And sometimes we write the story with effort
Laboring to make space for the
Long arc, which bends toward justice
To stretch across this time and place

The story is written also in what is small
The ways you live when no one is watching
What you buy and
What you eat and
Where you work and
Who you love
All of it the storyline of
God’s life seeking expression
Through you

There is nothing insignificant in you
And nothing is ever wasted

There is a holy unfolding within you
That is part of the holy unfolding around you
You participate in what is being written
Whether you intend to or not

The question is-
What words are being written with your life?

“Now in this moment, now in this day, God is creating and leading the way. Life is behind us, life is before, we write the story not heard before.”

Community of Christ Sings #96, Barbara and Richard Howard

WORDS THAT UNSETTLE

Lenten Practice: Lectio Divina
Daily Act: Allow God’s Living Word to speak through you as you raise your voice for justice and peace. Find the courage to speak out against an injustice that weighs on your heart.
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“LIVING WORD, LIVE THROUGH ME.”

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

Politeness can be as much of an injustice perpetuator as anything else. There is so much we don’t say that is flaming hot in our hearts. What if these words are searing in their release? I don’t want to be rude. I don’t want to make anyone feel bad, even if we are complacent while oppression abounds around us, within us, because of us.

The prophets didn’t care. Their words promised searing. Their words provoked disruption of the status quo and had the power to make you shift uneasy in your seat. The prophet Isaiah is unrelenting about a God who desires justice and sees instead the greed and power-lust that are driving the oppressive, complicit, half-hearted actions of the people. I wonder if he had many friends.

“When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you!” (Isaiah 57:13) Wow. Do I really want to be honest about my own collection of idols? It pulls in me as sacred tension. What am I clinging to as a hollow substitute for the real thing?

Sometimes words are holy that we do not want to hear. Sometimes what we do not want to hear is what we most need to hear. It’s hard to imagine at times that this is actually about the world as it could be… that this is actually good for us… like medicine bitter as it first touches the tongue to then work healing deep within.

I surprise myself with the burning yearning for words that are sharp and actions to match. There are times for sifting through complexities and then there are times for stating simply- ENOUGH. There are moments when the Spirit swells as clarity on the side of the oppressed no longer allowing us to hide behind ambiguity.

It is time to say we have had enough of
inequality
hunger
prejudice
greed
violence
polarization
endless consumption
destruction of the planet
complacency without thought of cost
politeness in place of faithfulness

I tremble at the thought of saying more. What will you think of me? I don’t want to sear you with my words… or myself. What do I do with this fire within? How do I balance the pastoral with the prophetic in a world that is aching for transformation?

Maybe I need to spend 40 days in a desert letting the red hot stone and sand and sun burn away at the fear in me, untangling my attachments to false idols, practicing saying “no” for a while to the things that seem like good options only at first.

Maybe then I will have gathered just enough courage to speak truth in love to what I see within myself, within the world… for the healing of myself, the healing of the world.

Do I even want to pray this prayer? Holy Confronter- Burn away what is false in me. Awaken me to injustice that I knowingly and unknowingly contribute to. Shake me out of my complacency. Unsettle me that I may be liberated from everything that is not your vision of shalom. Amen.