| Some of David's Thinking |
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Advent, which began last Sunday, is the season of waiting. In terms of the biblical drama, it is a reminder to the generations of the faithful who waited for a messiah to be born and who died never having seen the fulfillment of the promise they believed in.
But waiting is much more than a season of the Christian year. It is also a fundamental aspect of the universal human experience; a part of life many of us find difficult.
The most clear-cut experiences of waiting may be at the beginning and the end of life. There is no way to hurry a pregnancy, and we would not want to. And any of us who have sat next to the bed of a loved one who is approaching the end of life knows that this, too, is a matter of waiting. Even in these aspects of life over which we like to think we have greater control, there is an element of waiting.
When illness comes, you can go to the doctor, take medicine, change your life to become healthier, but you still need to wait for health to come. You can work for justice in the world; you can organize and work day and night for some element of injustice to be corrected, but you will still need to wait for justice to come. This is especially true in matters of the heart. There is no healing, no trust, no forgiveness, no hope, no love, that doesn’t require us to wait for it.
Many of us, I suspect, need to learn how to wait.
Waiting is hard. Waiting makes us feel wake and impotent. It is a harsh reminder of out limitedness. It is a reminder of our need for others. It is a reminder of our need for God.
Waiting is a part of faith, which is finally trust. The prophet Isaiah says that waiting can be a source of strength: “Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
Being attuned to God, paying attention and waiting, renews our strength so that when the moment is right we can mount up with wings like eagles and we can persevere for the long haul and run and not be weary.
Tuesday, 22 November 2011
A story is told of Robert Henri, the artist, who, while attending an art show, stood in admiration of a painting by another artist. A man standing next to him said something to himself, yet loud enough to be overheard. He said, “I’ve been given a place at last.”
Henri turned and said, “Are you in this line of work?” “Yes, for years,” he responded, “but this is the first time I’ve ever gotten in a major show.”
Henri became confused, knowing, as he did, the artist who painted the picture he was admiring. He said, “Which is your picture?” The man said, “This one,” pointing at the painting in front of them. Henri said, “You must be mistaken. This picture was painted by Sargent.” “Yes, I believe you’re right,” the man said. “Sargent did paint the picture. But I’m the one who made the frame.”
Many will agree that the frame of a painting, if it is the right frame, draws little attention to itself while playing a critical role in drawing attention to the character of the picture. When we reframe the picture we often discover the picture proclaiming a new message or mood.
Framed in a wonderful tradition of long-standing, Thanksgiving continues to be a time when we survey the blessings of creation and give thanks to God. We give thanks for the abundance that we receive. Thanksgiving is the act of giving thanks.
No need to tamper with that as it is framed except that another message may appear if we reframe the word “Thanksgiving.” Let’s frame the word with the world of hunger as in Africa or Dallas, or loneliness as in the elderly, or fear as in children abused. Are those who suffer in innocence expected to view “Thanksgiving” as giving thanks for abundance received?
Reframed in their name, the message of Thanksgiving that I hear is not our giving thanks. Rather, out of thanks we are compelled to give. Thankful for the love of God offered to all people, even through us, we give. Thanksgiving is not so much a focus of what we give (thanks), but why we give (thanks); thanks for all people, the hungry, the devastated, the elderly, the abused, and thanks for the God who leads us to give our best that their pain will cease.
Let us all pray for a blessed Thanks-giving.
Wednesday, 16 November 2011
In the eighteenth chapter of the gospel of Luke, Jesus tells his disciples to “pray continually.” In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul admonishes, “Pray without ceasing.” Does this mean there is no time allowed to eat, sleep, or hang out around the Bishop Arts District and shoot the breeze?
It helps to distinguish prayer from prayers. To Isaiah, to Jesus, to Paul, what matters is prayer, not prayers. What counts is “prayerfulness,” an all-pervading attitude of heart and mind by which any activity in our lives can become a prayer – anything from eating, sleeping, shooting the breeze, to comforting one another, getting ready for school, praying for peace. Prayers, on the other hand, constitute just one more activity among others.
We are not prone to this attitude of prayerfulness. However, without this attitude of prayerfulness, prayers become empty husks; spirituality becomes false. Prayer demands concentration and awe, a heightening of consciousness and perception. Christian prayer demands that Christ be born in you.
Prayers are personal, but they are never private; they are essentially social. The theologian Karl Barth said, “To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.” Prayers that do not have direct human and social application are not Christian prayers. To love Jesus is not to imprison him in our hearts, but to take him into the streets and back streets of Oak Cliff and the world.
May you pray continually, pray without ceasing, seeing clearly, so that your life may become like prayer, a wonderful communion with God.
Wednesday, 09 November 2011
Certainly no parent reading this column has ever said, “I don’t know why I work so hard for my children; they never seem to appreciate anything I do.” But you have probably heard other parents say that.
One of my favorite movies is “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” Sidney Portier, talking with his father, says that children don’t owe their parents anything. That would include gratitude. He maintains that doing the best for one’s children is simply what the job of being a parent is about. It doesn’t hinge on expressions of thanks from the children, knowing the highest moments of being a parent come in nurture, discipline, sharing of feelings and other means. If children express gratitude somewhere down the line, great. But thanks doesn’t validate one’s life any more than a lack of thanks negates it.
More than one social reformer has turned bitter because the very people whose cause he or she has undertaken have been the ones who have inflicted the deepest wounds. Entering into the fight for justice on behalf of the oppressed is a part of life, says the Christian faith. Those whose efforts are mostly “investments,” seeking certain personal returns, are often those who become first class cynics.
What is it to participate in life at its fullest, to know the maximum meaning of being human? According to the gospel, it is the joining of oneself with God in the relieving of suffering, the bringing of healing, and the end of oppression. That is life. Appreciation or not.
In the Christian faith, our concern is not that of demanding thanks. Gratitude, rather, becomes our style of life. In Christ, our whole being becomes the acting out of our thanks for God’s endless gifts to us. And while I understand that such gifts often come as judgment, negative criticism, and as a “no” in our lives, other gifts are sometimes in the form of affirmation.
It is in this second category – the expression of thanks that friends and family sometime extend – that many of us are also keenly aware of God’s love manifest through those about us. It is the love that sets us free.
This blog is written by Senior Pastor David Carr, (email,
214.942.0098 ext 25).