Thursday, November 30, 2006

the advent wind is blowing

Listen. Can you hear it? Can you hear Him? The swoosh of Holy Spirit’s advent wind hovers over Mary’s formless and void womb. “Let there be light.” And there is light.

The Light of the World takes flesh inside the virgin. Beholding the Light, the Father proclaims: “This is my Beloved in whom I am well pleased!”

“All things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made.”

The one through whom all things were made, comes to life within a virgin, within Nazareth, within His people, within His world. He enters His own story.

A baby. A God. A Savior.

Who could have guessed? Who could have expected this? Who could have seen it coming?

When God comes, He comes as surprise. We are the people living in the land of darkness, but then…


…the Light shines out in the darkness—and the darkness cannot overcome it.

We are smitten by the beauty of a Lover God. We fall from our thrones, our kingdoms, our empires, to worship the baby who is our Lord, our King, our Ruler.

When God reveals His power, He chooses not the armies of Pharaoh, the wisdom of Greece, the might of Rome. When God reveals His power, when God bares His mighty arm, when the Lord of Hosts appears, He comes in weakness.

A baby in a manger; a Savior on a cross.

As we wait, as we watch, for the advent wind, for the coming our God, we might look down, we might fall down: for He will surprise us yet again

And again.

“And blessed is the servant whom the master finds watching when He comes. For He will set them at the wedding feast, and put on his apron and serve them!”

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Advent - An Invitation

Like a deer in the snow, Advent softly approaches. As we scurry back and forth between distractions, we are gripped, embraced, enveloped in a season of anticipation. A time for waiting.

And watching.

But how do we watch for the unexpected? Did Zechariah expect Gabriel to interrupt his prayers with a promise of a baby son? As an aging couple how could Zechariah and Elizabeth watch and wait for an end to barrenness? It was impossible.

Could the virgin expect news of a child within her womb? How could she anticipate news of a baby who held the world in his hands coming to life inside of her? It was impossible.

So we watch and wait for what? For what we cannot grasp.

He is coming. And He comes like a surprise.

Like wise virgins with candles lit, we try to peel back the sleep from our weary eyes…and yet, the continuous droning of a world gone wrong lulls us into a dull stupor. We cannot see and we cannot hear.

We grow too dull and too lazy to pause and listen. So we move and move and move and move. We sleep. Awake and move and move and move. Like a junk room piled high, we fill our time with clutter. The tempo of this constant clutter keeps clacking and cracking. The whole world seems to suffer from attention deficit. We cannot listen to one another, we cannot listen to our own heart, and we cannot listen to God.

In the midst of this mad-dash of motion, Advent softly steps into the recesses of our heart. A cool breeze whispers: He is coming.

Like a mouse on a wheel, the world races faster and faster and faster, yet never moving anywhere. We join them, trying to catch up to someone or something for some reason. The soft rhythm of Advent calls out to us like a still small voice.

Watch and wait: He is coming.

Enter the disciplined silence of listening. The Psalmist invites us to “wait on the Lord.” Like Zechariah, we enter the Holy Place offering the incense of our prayers, our quiet worship, our deep yearning, our sad regrets. We offer up our joys and sorrows, our victories and failures to the One who gives us breath. We pause and simply wait upon the Lord.

The rhythm of Advent is the rhythm of waiting. It is the choice to stop, to pause, to listen, to watch, and to wait for the coming of the Lord. Advent waits with hope for the end of all things to be summed up Christ alone. Advent waits for the shalom of God: when war finally will end. When true peace finally will be revealed. When the lion really will lay down with the lamb.

The rhythm of Advent is a rhythm that moves in four directions: we look forward with hope to the day of the His coming, we look backward with joy at the advent of His first coming, we look inward with gratitude for His coming into our lives, and we look outward with expectation for His coming into our world even now. These four motions, these four gazes, these four directions train us to listen, to watch and to obey.

The watching servant learns to do only what he sees the Father do. We learn to act in the world as cross-bearers, lovers, healers and reconcilers.

The days grow short. The night grows long. The shadow of death looms over the world and over our souls. As the chill winter approaches, let us enter the season of waiting and watching for our Lord. Let us prepare for a surprise, for coming of the Lord who does the impossible.

“And blessed is the servant whom the master finds watching when He comes. For He will set them at the wedding feast, and put on his apron and serve them!”

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

[springlist] Limits of Time and Space

Despite my best efforts, nothing happened. I ran. I jumped. I even flapped my arms. Nothing. No matter how hard I tried, I failed. After dreaming again and again and again that I could fly, I almost convinced myself it was possible. Sitting in church, I’d visualize myself hovering above the room, encircling the congregation and soaring up into the sky. Then the sermon would end, and I would realize that I was the one preaching!

A couple weeks ago while sitting in a large hall at a business conference in Chicago, I gazed up at the ornate ceiling. The old sense of flying returned. Ah, this looked like the perfect room to let my imagination soar. Suddenly my mind flashed with light and I discovered this profound insight: I cannot fly.

No matter how hard I wish, no matter how hard I flap my arms, this body is not going to start floating. Catching my breath from this overwhelming illumination, I wondered where does this desire to fly come from? While there are many reasons why other people and myself dream of flying, one reason stands out in the moment: the desire to fly can sometimes be a desire to escape the limits of the material world.

The gift of this physical world comes with a variety of limitations. We cannot stare at the sun. We cannot breathe underwater. We cannot walk through walls. We cannot fly. By virtue of affirming the realness of the world around me, I must accept the limits of this same wondrous world. Limitations play an essential part in the game of life.

Each of us walks through life with a variety of particular limitations such as race, heredity, age, height, eye color and more. There are limitations by virtue of our birth, limitations due to natural laws and limitations that are imposed on us by others or even ourselves.

If I turn right at the stop sign, I cannot turn left at the same time. By turning right, I limit myself to the world on the right hand side. Every decision is a confinement, a limitation that I impose.

Limitations can also be imposed upon me. Education, finances, health, family and other factors may all limit the choices readily available to me in life. Sure we may exalt the few who seem to break through these limits but most of us do not. We live in the midst of certain constraints we will never overcome.

Most of us will never be billionaires with the freedom to jet about the world at our hearts desire. We will work regular jobs, raise families and learn to carve out a life without the excesses of unlimited income.

Most of us will never rule nations or even cities for the matter. We may hold certain levels of responsibility within our work, our church and our communities, but we will not shape world events. Like the unnamed masses throughout history, we simply live and eventually die, making a small ripple upon a tiny pool that soon fades.

This may sound negative. In fact, limitations seem negative. They seem like a denial. So we can easily focus on the limitations in our own lives and suddenly dream of flying. For example, instead of accepting the limitations of our own particular finances, it is easy to continuously wish for more money. Or worse yet, to act as though we have more money by incurring debts that are beyond our ability to pay.

Our limitations may drive us to wishing. We may wish to live in another time period. We may wish to live in another part of the world. We may wish to have different parents, different relatives or different skin color. We may wish for a different life: any life but our own. We may also regret: regret the choices we didn’t make, the person we didn’t marry, the job we never had, the house we never built, the life we never lived.

Or, we might just learn to revel in the limitations of our particularity. While there may be a time for “breaking out of the box,” there is also a time to be grateful for our particular box. This tension between pressing up against my limitations and accepting my limitations may not be an obstacle to fulfillment but may actually be the specific point where the wonder of God’s grace manifests in my life.

Looking back over the last 25 years, I realize that being diagnosed in High School with chronic kidney disease provided a limitation that shaped the person I became. In the midst of the challenges, I learned gratitude and wonder and delight in each waking moment. Sure I could have read that in a book, but that would not make the idea a core part of me.

While we read good ideas and hear good teachings, it is in the arena of living our lives with our particular constraints that we become whom we are. We are not all created equal. We are all created particular. The Creator formed each of us uniquely. We may curse these unique qualities that define us who we are or we may celebrate them.

In this act of celebration, we express gratitude for the gift of our particular life. And at this point, we might just realize the defining limitation in our life: we are not God. Those who do rule the world, those who do become rich and famous and those who are recorded in the history books are still not God. The distance between the Creator and the creature is not measurable and cannot be overcome.

If we are not God, then we are dependent. Life is a gift. Breath is a gift. Our particularities are gifts. Instead of wishing for other gifts, we might celebrate the gifts already given. We might learn to live within the constraints. We might discover the creative wonder at our disposal right this moment.

The limitation of gravity combined with the design of the human body means that we cannot fly. In the midst of this insurmountable obstacle something new emerged: humans discovered the possibility of creating machines that do fly. And in fact, after my conference in Chicago was complete, I boarded an airplane and flew home.

As I reflect on the wonder of that flight home, I pause and give thanks to God, anticipating the other wonders He is revealing in and through the limitations in my life and the lives of those around me.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

[springlist] Updates - health and more

Dear friends and family,

Sorry for the long silence. I have not sent out any updates since August.
Here are a few tidbits about my health, the retreats and the upcoming Advent
meditations. I have one or two meditations that I hope to send out before
Thanksgiving, but I didn’t want to overwhelm you in this update.

Health update
My kidney continues to function well, and I am feeling great. In August, I
transitioned back into work and by the end of the month was working full
time again. For the first six months, I am still on a large dosage of
medications but after that the doctors will hopefully start tapering off the
medications levels.

These past few months have been an amazing transition from weakness to
strength. In the midst of blessing, I am learning to trust God in different
ways and through different seasons. Each moment is an opportunity to trust
the in the goodness and faithfulness of God.

Izaak continues to do well and is making a splash a Maryville College. He
started a new student group dedicated to libertarianism.

Due to my health issues, I postponed all my planned retreats this year with
the exception of recent Law Enforcement Conference. By God’s grace, the
folks at Spring of Light and I are planning a new year of retreats for 2007.

We plan at least three weekend retreats and the first one will be in March.
This retreat will focus on the Blessing of Weakness and how God surprises us
with His grace in the midst of our weak, dark and broken places. I had
planned this retreat for 2006 but it turns out that I was too weak to do it.
I have been contemplating this one for several years and using 2 Corinthians
as our starting point, I believe this weekend will be a time a healing, hope
and clarification about our calling. I am looking at either the second
weekend (9-11) or the fourth weekend (23-25). If you’re interested, let me
know which weekend looks better for you. I’ll send out an official
announcement after the New Year.

Saturday Seminars – Starting next year, I am going to host half day Saturday
seminars that explore a variety of themes. The first one in January will be
“Brunch with the Bard.” On this Saturday morning, we’ll enjoy a presentation
on Shakespeare and think about ways his writings can inspire us today. I’ll
send out dates and more topics at the first of January.

Movie nights – We will continue showing and discussing movies once a month
next year. If you’re interested, let me know. We’re also looking at doing a
special weekend exploration of JRR Tolkien and Lord of the Rings with
several fascinating lectures focused on Tolkien and Lewis.

While my emails can be rather sporadic: from weekly to bi-weekly to
bi-monthly. I do begin sending out regular emails during
Advent-Christmas-Epiphany. This usually means 4 or 5 meditation emails a
week during the season. This is just a warning in case you are not
interested; you can remove yourself from the list or ask me to remove you.

Grace and Peace,

Doug Floyd

"You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find
rest in You."
St. Augustine

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