A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Dave's Deep Thoughts - Please Hold. It's Advent

Here's Pastor Dave McDowell's weekly devotional that he sends out to members of his church. Dave is my brother and serves as the Music Minister at Stewartstown UMC in PA.

Waiting Story #1

If it’s true that good things come to those who wait,
then something great is about to happen for me.

I entered the dark, unoccupied church.
No, it wasn’t Easter morning sunrise service.
Far from it….a December morning……. cold and windy

It was ticket purchase day.
That was the first day to reserve 53 tickets….
tickets on the same plane
the plane that would get my youth choir to their spring mission site and back.

Group reservations for the dates were to open at 6am.
So there I was, sitting nervously by my office phone.

I’m not sure why I get nervous about things like this. 
Maybe it’s just the responsibility of caring for so many people.

My computer clock registered  5:58am
I dialed the 800 number to see if could get a jump start.

Nope. Message said the offices were closed

I dialed the first nine of the ten digits.
I was determined to be the first one in the country doing business this day with ________ Airlines.

The clock switched to 6:00am.
I punched in the last digit.

“Thank you for calling   _______ Airlines.
Your call may be recorded for security purposes.
Presently all of our operators are attending to other customers.
Your call is important to us.
Please hold and the next available operator with be with you shortly.”

Disappointed at the thought of not being first,
I sighed and took comfort in the fact that I would soon be cared for.

Still waiting.

After twenty minutes,
I had figured out that the recorded message came on every two minutes.
In between, the space was filled with synthesized music,
a cheesy flute melody, and a mamba rhythm
accented by clave sticks.

At 6:20am, while it was dark and 28 degrees outside,
I was not in a mambo, tropical kind of mood.

For the 25th time, I heard the recorded message.
I imagined that music pastors all across the country
were gobbling up all the tickets for the same plane that I needed.
I was starting to feel anxious.

The clave sticks were starting to get on my nerves,
and I was now desperately in need of a trip to the restroom,
but was afraid to leave the room.
I grabbed our sexton and ask him to keep guard.
I left him standing by the phone with no idea what to say if a human being answered.
I did, however, set a personal record for quickest use of the facilities.

“Thank you for calling   ________ Airlines  came on for the 63rd time

Word got out throughout the church,
that I was being held hostage in my office.

Visitors began stopping by,
some bringing food supplies, most notably bread and milk.
Others came bring moral support.
Some started dancing to the mambo rhythm and clave sticks.

I now needed another restroom run.
No one was around.
What happened next is between me, Jesus and the plastic Solo cup I found in the office.

I was starting to feel woozy.
There was talk of hooking me up to an IV solution to keep me hydrated.

My brain has now been traumatized by the incessant sound of clave sticks.
I was now counting the number of tiles that were on the ceiling.
“Thank you for calling   ________ Airlines”  came on for the 144th  time.
I now personally despised the sound of the flute.

I think I began to fall victim to the Stockholm Syndrome
where a hostage begins to have sympathetic feelings towards his captor.
I was beginning to enjoy hearing the lady’s recorded voice.

The 160th rendition of “Thank you for calling ……”     WAS INTERRUPTED BY
This is Vanessa. How may I help you today?”

Alarms went off in my head as I realized for the first time in 320 minutes,
I was hearing a live human being.
I was on the opposite side of the room from the phone.
Like a gazelle, I leapt over instruments and small furniture and grabbed the phone receiver.

“God bless you, Vanessa!” I said as tears rolled down my cheeks.
I wanted to wish her a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah,
Joyous Kwanza, and anything else I could think of.

Waiting is something that most of us are not good at anymore.
Maybe we never were.
Sometimes we have no choice but to wait.

Grocery lines, delayed doctor appointments, traffic lights,
crowded emergency rooms all test our patience.

Waiting feels like wasted time when we have so many things to do.
And yet, advent is all about waiting.

Not so much about waiting for Christmas.
Our culture gave up on that years ago…….
as we now celebrate Christmas in the weeks before December 25th
rather than the 12 days beginning on December 25th.

During advent we should take time to think about the four hundred some years
from the last prophetic voice until the appearance of John the Baptist.

During advent we should take time to think about the two thousand years
since Christ promised His return.

Why does God force us to endure long periods of waiting?
I try not to answer most “why” questions when it comes to God
but here are some thoughts…..

Waiting reminds us that we are not the center of the universe.
Waiting reminds us that God, and not us, is in control.
Waiting reminds us that life is a gift to be savored.
Waiting reminds us that the present matters.
Waiting reminds us that our future in eternity is much bigger than we can imagine.

People are waiting for all sorts of things……
waiting for a healing…….
waiting for a difficult life circumstance to change……
waiting for love….
waiting for success,  the dream job, forgiveness……
Name your waiting.

Does that make you feel any differently about whatever it is that you are waiting for?
Maybe not.
But perhaps it will help you to view your waiting time a bit differently.
and even cultivate patience.

____________Airlines  never sent me my confirmation email.
Today I am back on the phone.
I appreciate that I am alive.
But clave sticks are still stupid…………….

“Be patient, therefore brothers, until the coming of the Lord.
Behold the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil,
being patient about it until it gets the early and late rains.
You too, be patient; strengthen your hearts,
for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”
                                                      James 5:7-8

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