Advent {A Time to Wait}

Are you waiting for something, or someone, to arrive this Christmas? What are you most looking forward to this Christmas?  Perhaps it is the arrival of a loved one, or time with family and friends. Perhaps you are waiting on a special gift. Perhaps you are looking forward to a few days off of work or school.

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Perhaps you are waiting for a sickness to go away, either for yourself, or someone you care about. Perhaps you are awaiting to emerge from a season of grief or depression.

Maybe you are awaiting the reconciliation of a relationship. Maybe your children have walked away from God, and you are waiting for them to return. Maybe you have walked away from God, and are waiting to take the steps back to Him. Maybe you are waiting on God for some specific answers.

Whatever you might be waiting for, Advent signals a time of hopeful expectation.

The word “Advent” come from the Latin word “adventus”, meaning “coming” and is a translation of the Greek word “parousia”, which refers to the second coming of Christ. The second coming is how the 6th century Christians interpreted the Advent. It was not until the Middle Ages that  Advent was tied to the  coming of the baby Jesus, and how the church seems to observe Advent today; we tend to think of Jesus’ birth during this season rather than the Second Coming.

Our current situation on earth these days reminds me of the original meaning of Advent, that is, waiting for Christ’s return. As a church, as believers, we are living in exile on earth, as in a foreign country,  in a hostile and foreign culture, waiting for deliverance. We are awaiting Christ’s return to set things straight, to bring peace, to establish his kingdom and his throne. Actually, Scripture tells us ALL of creation is longing for Christ’s return.

Israel is still waiting in anticipation for their Messiah… it is grievous, is it not, to realize that the approximately 14 million Jewish people in the world today deny this, or do not know that the one prophesied about has  come already?

I realize how this sounds like foolishness to the world. But that does not mean it is not true.

Advent is a designated Time to Wait. In life, there is a time and purpose to everything, as we are told in Scripture, and this includes a season and Time to  Wait.

Most of us do not like to wait. I  admit it is often hard for me to wait, especially for certain things. Is it true for you as well?  With my limited human knowledge of time, circumstance, and perspective, I still wonder why I have to wait and why it seems to take so long to hear from God on certain matters.

Yet, there are designated “Times to Wait”. Consider the following:

  • God made Moses wait 40 years before returning to Egypt.
  • God made David wait 15 years from the time he was anointed king until he actually became King (and he spent those years running for his life from Saul who sought to kill him).
  • Jesus left Lazarus in the tomb several days before he came and brought him back to life.
  • God  allowed Hannah to wait (and endure scorn and ridicule) before granting her prayer request for a child.
  • God made Abraham and Sarah wait 100 years for a child.

What do you wait for?  We could add our own bullet points to the above list; I know I could add a few of my own.

One of my favorite songs to sing, especially in this season, is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” The song beautifully depicts that sense of waiting and longing for the Messiah to return. Jesus’ return signals the beginning of a new era, when  all things will  be made whole and well, here on earth, but also points to our heavenly home.


O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, thou Wisdom from on high,
who orderest all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go. Refrain

O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free
thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
from depths of hell thy people save,
and give them victory over the grave. Refrain

O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death’s dark shadows put to flight. Refrain

O come, thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heavenly home;
make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery. Refrain

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times once gave the law
in cloud and majesty and awe. Refrain

O come, thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
an ensign of thy people be;
before thee rulers silent fall;
all peoples on thy mercy call. Refrain

O come, Desire of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid thou our sad divisions cease,
and be thyself our King of Peace. Refrain

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear. Refrain

Words: Latin, twelfth century;
trans. John Mason Neale (1818-1866), 1851

During this Advent, this Time to Wait, do not be discouraged, but remember that this Time of Waiting is purposeful.

Believe it: there is activity in the spiritual realm, in the dimensions outside of time and space, that are beyond our knowledge and understanding.
Believe it: God desires our good and is working to fulfill  His purpose and plan for us.
Believe it: It will be good, and it will be the Perfect Time.
{preaching to myself…}

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The Peace of Wild Things (Wendell Berry)

The Peace of Wild Things

By Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
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Who is the Widow?



I am at a loss for words, with acts of terror and crime and hatred and so much bad.  Evil seeks to devour the good. A couple of days ago, I came across these words written by C. S. Lewis in The Great Divorce:

“Here is joy that cannot be shaken. Our light can swallow up your darkness: but your darkness cannot now infect our light.”

How true. No matter how much evil persists and seeks to devour and snuff out what is good, it simply cannot.

There is a tussle among us— even those who profess to love Christ. We long to love those needy among us, yet are filled with fear. Both sides feel the struggle, the pull, and just leaving politics aside—we all want to be safe. We do not want to entertain the thought of allowing a person through our doors who intends to cause harm. Of course, why would we knowingly do such a thing?

Yet why would we knowingly turn our eyes away from the need and fear of the homeless, the country-less, the foreigner, and those alone?

I don’t have the answers but I grieve for those who are genuinely trying to escape tyranny and death, and just to live life in safety and peace.

I read an article yesterday that highlighted the stories of three women who escaped Syria, their predicament, how they escaped difficult circumstances, and how they are surviving now. These are only three stories, but there are thousands more. With refugees pouring out of their homelands, seeking shelter away from terror, we will begin to hear, in the coming weeks, months, and years, more and more stories: stories of not only fear and death, but  I believe, also stories of some miracles, too.

I cannot imagine what it must be like, as these young women, to live alone in a foreign country. They have no country of their own anymore. They must forge a new identity, a new life- all alone— even a new name. They left their families behind to escape horrific conditions for a better life, and now they must learn a new language and start again. But there is at least that hope, to have a new start. Many refugees say they would not return to their home countries even if it is safe- because there is nothing to return to.

God has compassion on them, some of whom are actual “widows”- widows of men who completed suicide missions.

A few years ago, a friend of mine was traveling overseas alone with her young children on a trip to see family. She was afraid and intimidated to journey alone with her young children and her luggage.  Her husband was not able to travel with her, so also felt limited by her English (she is from Asia and English is not her first language).

At the time, she received a comforting word from God that He would look after her, for while she was alone, He saw her as a “widow” and her children as “fatherless”. It was a new idea to me — it expanded my ideas regarding the definition of the words “widow” and “fatherless”, into new territory.

God reminded me of those in my own circle who are like the widow: I know three women who are divorced or going through a divorce right now, some in very difficult circumstances. All of them have young children. This is the needy, the “widow”, living near me.

Whether that time alone is short and temporary (such as on a journey), or long and difficult (because of divorce, death, etc.), God sees the need and has compassion.

But, God takes it even further, for those who are not widows, widowers, refugees, or finding themselves alone, because though these groups may not exactly consider themselves to be such literally, there is a sense in which we are all orphans and fatherless, because we were separated from God.  But God’s promises are “yes and amen”, and he sent Christ for us, to assure us He adopts us, and we receive a heavenly inheritance, just as He promises his own son.

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.   1 Thess. 5:18

He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. Deut. 18:18

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,  is God in his holy dwelling.  Psalm 68:5

I am thankful to have such a God that comes to us in the humble form of Jesus, not a stiff-necked idol, but one who was human and dwelt here on earth. I am thankful God has compassion on the world, those who are in great need, those who suffer, and all of us, His creation.

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!    ~Isaiah 30:18

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Stag Zigzag and Other Happenings

Usually on my walks, I am simply praying, thinking, talking to God, and listening. Because the fall has been mild, lately I’ve had the pleasure of observing a little bit of wildlife in the neighborhood.

I’ve seen a heron near the shore of the river, on a couple of different occasions. I watched a gaggle of Canada geese bathing in the river; they were so funny, it looked a bit like synchronized swimming to me, as several of them would lift and flap their wings, splashing at the same time. Several times I spotted a brilliant red-headed woodpecker examining the bark on the trees by the bank. On another occasion, further down the river, in a patch of woods, I could see a deer making her way to the water, but some other animal chased it off– I think it was a dog.

While driving to church on Sunday over a week ago, a beautiful stag was running alongside with me as I drove. It was so surprising– I slowed down and let it pass, watching it zigzag through yards and onto the street– and finally make its way to a wooded thicket  across a major street, near another bend on the same river.

On other days, I’ve spotted hawks, and at night, I hear owls hooting. It still is warm enough to hear the birds on some mornings, though there is a definite chill in the air now.

One day last week, I was walking on a  beautiful, warm day, and way behind me, down the block, I could see a man in a mobile chair. A few minutes later I turned around, and he was right behind me!  Normally folks who are taking walks do not usually stop for conversation; often we are all simply on our way, or lost in our thoughts. Most folks just smile, say “hi” and keep walking, and I confess I usually do the same.

But not this day.

“That thing moves pretty fast!” I said to the man in his power chair. I initiated the conversation. Elderly people seem to have the most time and interest to talk, isn’t that true? And I bet this man had a story. I wanted to stop and say something more than simply “hello” and keep on walking– or more likely, the Holy Spirit was nudging me to stop and talk.

He then proceeded to show me the controls on the mobile machine and demonstrate its speed. We talked about the weather and the beautiful day, but then all of a sudden, he said, “I’m an agnostic.”

I asked him some questions, such as why is he agnostic, and what he thinks about the Bible, and that sort of thing. Turns out he is 88 years old, and though his eyesight and hearing are fine, he cannot walk on his own, and he talks with very slurred speech, which required some effort on my part to understand him. I did have to ask him to repeat a few times, because I sincerely wanted to understand what he was saying.


He has 8 children, over 40 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren. What a blessing, I told him. He said he was Catholic, but he thought the Bible had a lot of stories it, and wasn’t really real. I asked which part he thought wasn’t real. He also kept asking, “Why?” But why does Jesus need to come? Do I really need to pray all day?

As I tried to answer, I prayed for God to help me say whatever this  man needed to hear. I told him that I did believe in Jesus, that he came to take away our sins, and that if I don’t understand something, I ask God to help me understand. He said he does pray and that he knows God does answer him. I agreed with him, that God does answer.

I can’t imagine this meeting it was an accident; in fact, it seemed to be a purposeful meeting, though I said nothing profound whatsoever, or anything new I am sure he had not heard before. Why, of all people, was I the one to talk to him on the street? Do other people stop and talk to him? What if it were an atheist who had stopped to talk?

And then, his daughter called to him and was waving at him from down the street, and he abruptly hurried off, saying he had to go. From behind me, I could hear her telling him they were worried about him– I guess his “stroll” took longer than usual since we were talking for a few minutes!

I wonder, when a person knows he is nearing the end of his life, and any day could be the last one on earth, how it causes a person to change his ways or thoughts. Shouldn’t that be me, shouldn’t that be us, everyday, living our present day as if it were the last?





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99 Year-Old Stories

I’ve been walking by the river these days, while the temperature hovers between warmish and cool. I love watching the wind blow the leaves off the trees; the leaves are whisked in the water, landing softly, swirling their way with the slow-moving current. The leaves float along,  slightly submerged, but not overcome.

I walk by his house.

He stoops forward, walking slowly with his cane, sighing and moaning… it isn’t easy to walk anymore.  He stays indoors most of the time.

On December 1, he told me, he will be 99 years old.

He is old, weak, fragile, and feeble physically, but mentally, he is lucid,  intelligent, articulate, and possesses a keen memory.  He reads books, many books, on many topics.

He lives alone in the house he and his wife built 40 years ago, and he has no desire to leave it.  He takes care of himself, though he has some help with chores here and there. He reads The New York Times daily.

Every Friday night, he bakes homemade bread for the Sabbath, which his son and daughter attend each week. They also eat chicken stew, baked chicken, salad, and some sort of sweet rolls. Today, he had us shake some apples off his tree, so he could make homemade apple pie. He even makes his crust from scratch.

I invited him over for a visit, and we had fried rice and hot tea. He had asked me for a fried rice recipe last year; and as it turns out, he has been using my recipe since then, and even served it for a Friday night Sabbath meal!

He speaks English, Hebrew, and Yiddish— although, he says, there is no one to speak Yiddish with anymore, except with his Rabbi. His wife, who passed away a few years ago, spoke and read Yiddish. Yiddish is a difficult language he said, he only spoke it, but his wife  was able to read and speak. He speaks quite highly of his wife. Hebrew is like Latin, with strict conjugation and structure rules. People think it is hard, he says, but it isn’t really.

He knows a good bit about Jewish history. We talked about the Talmud. He said that the Talmud says you must never burn a book or cremate a human being. He also said the Talmud states that you must respect others’ opinions, even though you disagree with them. He says he may disagree with me, but he respects my opinion. He said that several times.

I brought out my Passover plate and  goblet to show him… I had forgotten it had scripture written on it,  with the following: “Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” He read that and said, “Well, I disagree with that.”

But, it is no matter, we continue talking. I told him I had organized a Seder dinner a few times, and printed the Haggadah off the internet. He told me what Haggadah meant , the original meanings, as well the meanings of a few other words.

We talked about the country where his parents came from, Ukraine, and  where he himself grew up, in Iowa. Sometime after moving to our current city, he tells me he is the one who built the second quick lube business in the county– but eventually he had to sell to the city because of eminent domain. After all of that, he volunteered in the Jewish Day School, teaching Hebrew phonetics, reading, etc.

He told me always wears his head covering, because he said, chuckling, “When you meet your Maker, you want to be ready, and not have your hair all over the place!”

He used to attend a conservative synagogue where the congregants walk to services on the Sabbath, because he explained, you cannot burn a fire on the Sabbath, and to operate a car is like burning a fire. He can’t walk anymore, but he used to walk there, cutting through the park to the synagogue. I have seen folks walking on the Sabbath to the synagogue many times, when I am on that road.

We talked about the Jewish garment makers in New York… and that their children became doctors, lawyers, and engineers, because attending New York University was free. Education was so important to the Jewish people.

I learned so much just in the span of less than an hour than I could have gleaned from a book.

He was in great apprehension over an appointment he had yesterday with the DMV, about his drivers license.

“They gave me great trouble when I was in  my eighties,” he said. At the age of 98, he feared they would not renew his license.

We found out today: he  received his license. I was so happy for him. I know he is greatly relieved.

He was so appreciative of the invitation to visit, and he welcomed us to visit anytime. He says he is home 99% of the time.

Before he left, he wanted to see a picture I had on the wall. The picture is actually scripture, written in beautiful calligraphy. I took it down and brought it near to him so  he could read it: selections from 1 Corinthians 13. It was obvious he had never read it before, but he recognized it as being from the Bible.

“The Bible was written by Jewish people, except Luke. And you see, they are writing about love,” he said, before we left the house to drive him home.

He wants to teach my students, he told me. He wants me to invite him so he can speak to “my class.” I told him I’ll try to arrange something. It will have to be at my house, as he cannot go across town to do it.

Like a leaf falling on the river, our lives intersect, for such a time as this. A divine appointment. I am thankful.





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Psalm 27

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
    of whom shall I be afraid?

One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
    he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
    and set me high upon a rock.

Hear my voice when I call, Lord;
    be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
    Your face, Lord, I will seek.
Do not hide your face from me,
    do not turn your servant away in anger;
    you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
    God my Savior.

13 I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.

Psalm 27


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What Did Autumn Ask of You? (poem)

What did Autumn ask of you?


What did Autumn ask of you

On trails of fallen leaves

Where children stomp

Adults stroll and winds scatter?

What did your eyes seek

Among the rust, the gold?


You were the rod, the arm, the voice

You were honey withdrawn

From my soul


A foggy, misty morn

Is what I remember

Walking along the lane

The trees barely able to contain themselves,

Laughing and dropping leaves


You were the mirage in the distance

You were the note written on the leaf

That said “i love you”

Which a stranger placed in my hand


When I find the stranger, I’ll ask –

Was it you?

In the meantime, I cannot speak.


What did Autumn ask of you

Or what did I, for that matter?

You barely knew me

Lonely shadows in the day

Shimmering stars at night

Searching for ourselves

Searching for those words.




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