Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Season of Angels

Do you believe in Angels? Some folks do not. Many prefer to look at the world as though the things we can see, hear, smell, taste and touch are the totality of reality. Still others (many of my best friends) look beyond the physical aspects of the "real world" to incorporate what the Apostle Paul talks about in Romans 8:37-39.

Paul (and the general witness of the New Testament) seems to think that there are supernatural elements of life that we can not touch with our hands or see with our eyes. One of those realities is the presence of angels.

Father Damien Thompson (former Abbott of Our Lady of Gethsemani) even believes in personal angels. Much like the concept of a "guardian angel" that is somehow assigned to look after a certain individual. His angel is named Marco. I have not discovered a personal angel but I do not set it aside as impossible.

In fact, the when the angel Gabriel appeared to a young woman named Mary ... Gabriel proclaimed that "nothing is impossible with God" ... I think Gabriel is correct. If God is God, then nothing is impossible. Even the presence of individually assigned angels that come complete with clever names.

It seems that this is the season for angels to make the headlines once again. We read the Christmas story and discover personal messages of Gabriel, we hear the choir of angels at the manger scene, and we sing of them with a word of "Hark!" What other time of year would you sing Hark? There must be something in the air.

For me, at this moment, I am aware that I do not have a full-fledged well-developed theology of angels. I just know this...When the angel appeared to Mary he said "do not be afraid." When the angel appeared to Joseph he said "do not be afraid." When the angel appeared to Zechariah he said "do not be afraid." And when the angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds in the field they heard "do not be afraid...I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people."

That's good enough for me. I won't be afraid because "perfect love drives out fear..." (I John 4:18). Not that my ability to love is perfect, but because God's nature is best described as perfect love. Therefore, I won't be afraid of angels or their message. In fact, I will seek them out. Maybe I will discover something new this Christmas season. I am looking forward to the possiblites.

Meanwhile, I will listen closely to some of my favorite angels...You met them in photo form at the open of this post!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

How Fast Are You?

I shouldn't tell you that I just ate a couple delicious chocolate chip cookies that just came out of the oven. Yep, there is nothing like a warm toll house cookie. Better yet, there is nothing like a cookie that is created by the hand and heart of your wife. It is enough to convince an Amish man to bet on a spotted horse.

Actually, this thought is not related to cookies at all...well, in way... but I am really thinking about the Tuesday 6:30 AM team. We had a discussion today about what it means to fast.

It is a strange word, fast. It can mean moving really quickly, loose moral behavior, or holding something very tight. But in this context it describes a spiritual discipline of intentionally abstaining from some or all food (or some other behavior or desire) for a period of time.

The question is, why? The answer is , why not?

Richard Foster (Celebration of Discipline fame) talks about fasting as an inner and personal discipline. It is not like public worship where we gather to be filled. It is not like service that touches the lives of the poor. It is interior, quiet, and often unknown to everyone but the person who counts the most.

But, why?

Well, why do we pray? Why do we give? Why do we study the Bible? Why do we... Do we do it so someone (maybe God) will notice and we will earn an "A" in Spiritual Discipline 101? Or do we do it so no one (but God) will we do it so we will know God better?

Jesus did it. He didn't command it...he just said "when you fast..." as though it was a common activity not a forced march. He fasted in the wilderness and came out victorious. He knew the Father better, deeper, more completely, and he was now prepared to enter into the fullness of ministry that would lead him to Calvary. Ultimately the answer to the 'why' question is "because" ... Because we want to know God better, deeper and more completely. Our willingness to set something aside helps us focus our attention on God and on the call that rests on each of our lives.

Start small but take the first step. Make an intentional decision to discipline your life around a brief fast. Don't tell anyone. Just do it. Use the time to pray. Allow each reminder of inner hunger to remind you of God and the task that stands before us all. It is a task to the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength (add stomach!) and your neighbor as yourself.

Why do you pray? Because we believe God listens. Why do we worship? Because be want to offer ourselves to God. Why do we fast? Because we want to offer ourselves to the world.

No more toll house for today!