Advent as Change

In a story from the book Necessary Change (Cloud, H., 2011) a woman declares that her life might be a living hell but at least she knows the street names.  Rather than move out of her hellish existence she would rather stay where it is comfortable and the pain is familiar.

Most humans will default to complacency and seek the lowest common denominator in an attempt to get by.  Sure, this sounds pessimistic but in reality, as sinner/saints, we are both motivated and unmotivated.  Like it or not the default mode tends to be complacency and, if we are comfortable we tend to stay there.  This default mode is called inertia and describes when a body at rest stays at rest.

Advent is a season that confronts complacency.   One of the prayers for each Sunday in Advent begins with “stir up, O Lord and come.”  The prayer itself challenges our complacency and calls upon God to act in us in ways that will be transformative.  As God answers this prayer to stir up, our lives are stirred from complacency into a time of restlessness which offers the opportunity to move into change.   During this season of Advent we pray that God would stir us up so that we might see ourselves as the sinful creatures that we are and that we would be stirred up to see God present in each moment of our lives.  To “stir up” is to expose, lead, shape and form.  In John 5: 2-9 we read that the waters of the pool of Bethzatha (NRSV) are only healing when they are stirred up!

The stirring up process at first may look and feel like chaos.  To “stir up” feels like the process will lead to clutter as things swirl around.    The stirring up process confronts one right at the heart of life.  The incarnation of Christ stirs up our existence and confronts our reality.  When the Messiah smashes into ones life….change happens.

Advent applied to the Pivot Point Model gives a picture of how this season of the church year can lead to change and transition.

THE PERIOD OF RESTLESSNESS comes in the prayer to God to “stir up” and is actualized as one spends time in the Word of God.  To pray the Scriptures (lectio divina)  provides opportunity for the Word of God to stir up one’s life and to be shaped and formed as the Holy Spirit works through the Word.  Advent discipline leads to additional time in the Word and then reflecting upon God’s call that comes through the Word.

During Advent, spend time in a devotional or in Scripture reading.  Spend time in prayer and sitting  before God.

THE PIVOT POINT happens as the Word of God confronts the complacency of life.  The Word of God changes one’s life.  Paul writes that we are to be “transformed by the renewing of your minds.” (Romans 12: 2, NRSV)  When one spends time before the Word of God, praying the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit causes the Pivot Point that forces one to action.  The action is to either choose complacency OR to create a movement to transformation.  THE PIVOT POINT forces the question to move or to stay? To move is to let go of the past and move to the future.

THE TIME OF ALIGNMENT comes as the Holy Spirit calls one to walk the talk.  The Pivot Point has been the call to action and now one comes to peace with this call and feels at one with it so that there is peace where one has been called.  In Romans, Paul states that the period of alignment will lead us to a point “that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  (Romans 12: 2, NRSV)When one discerns the direction and will of God, one comes to peace with the change that is about to happen.

THE MOVE INTO MISSION is a movement to action.  This is the point of authenticity when who we say we are becomes evident in what we do.  This is where our world turns upside down and a new way of life comes forward.

As I look at this process in my own life, I continue to have a restlessness about a life that reflects simplicity.  Over the past ten years God has called me to continually simplify and I have continued to do so.  I get to a point where I feel that I have “arrived” but in prayer God says to keep going.  So the PERIOD OF RESTLESSNESS for me right now is to look at my life to see how else I might continue to simplify.  How do I sharpen my focus on what God is calling me to do and how do I get rid of all that keeps me from finding that focus?  I continue to be in prayer and I continue to look at my life and my schedule and my belongings to discern what should be kept and what should be given away.  Through this process I have become better at not adding things (which for me is a real growth), but, still I wonder what should go.

The PIVOT POINT’s have come over the past ten years and I have taken action and moved into new mission, but, now I wait for the next PIVOT POINT to bring me clarity.  As part of this process I have set aside extra time in Advent to be present in the Word and in devotion.  Along with this, I am answering what I believe to be a call from God to immerse myself in studying the Sermon on the Mount and Matthew 25.  I am exploring the Word but also looking in church history to see the role these documents played in the lives of Christians in the first three century.  It is my prayer as I do this, that the Holy Spirit will hit me with the PIVOT POINT that will launch me into deeper mission.

In some respects I continue to find this stage of the process to be very scary because it really means relinquishing all control.  I am not good at this.  I pray to trust that God leads in what is good, but, I jokingly say (and really not as a joke) that I am committed to flush toilets and don’t want a call to places that don’t have them.  This statement is both a real fear and a metaphorical fear.  I really don’t want to give up what makes me comfortable and yet I know I am being called deeper into caring for the needs of others.

What I have learned in this process over the years is that I cannot control it.  In the past I have wanted to guide it, rush it, poke it and make it happen.  What I continue to learn is that God works in God’s own time and is usually encouraging me to wait patiently.  This truly is a process of sitting patiently before God seeking the discernment to know what is good and right in the will of God in the context of my own call.













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