“Some of the gestures clergy have pointed out as most meaningful also reflect the particular challenges they face.”
The skill set for revitalizing a small church is very different from the skill set for growing a church from large to blockbuster mega church.
Simply put, “For Ignatius, the ebb and flow of consolation and desolation is the normal path of the Christian life.” There will be times of consolation – when there is a sense of noticeable, personally experienced growth or blossoming, when God’s presence seems close and the means of grace seem easy and quick at hand. There will also be times of desolation – similar to the “dark night of the soul” – when, whether from wrongdoing, or attacks of the enemy, or times of struggle or challenge, God’s presence seems distant or even simply absent, when our growth seems stalled or the habits that sustain us feel unusually heavy.
How is it that the angle of a foot planted on a sidewalk can feel familiar? But it can. And the angle of the soul is similarly directed and shaped. What roads are shaping you? Roads can be sly, shifting you this way and that when you’re lulled into complacency.
There is a moment you stand on the brink, or the brink stands on you. The inexorable draw pulls you in, like gravity, like…
Weeding and praying go hand in hand. I tug and clear and get dirty and think and talk to God and process my thoughts and feelings and listen to the birds and untangle morning glories. And God weeds my soul and cultivates my soil and could, like in the cemetery Easter morning, be mistaken for a gardener.
As recently as 1941 the President wore a black arm band when his mother died. What is this impulse for a mark of sorrow, grief, repentance, confession? Why are strangers at train stations asking for this? In our culture that let black arm bands of mourning drift down to the floor, an old practice, a dated practice to be left by the wayside?
“We are not only impoverished in love; our loves are disordered, out of alignment. We can attempt to cushion them as much as we want; only realigning misplaced joints will relieve the pain, though.”
Our world needs to be new again: reborn, pressed against the chest of its Creator. Do galaxies have a newborn smell? Do subatomic particles dance with the hard-to-predict movements of a newborn’s kicking legs? In the youth of the world, did the trees yawn the contented sigh of a just-nursed newborn?
As Christians, we bear the light and allow it to shine through us so it may be offered to a world hungry for reconciliation and peace. We offer it to one another when times get rough and the waiting gets long. Sometimes, it gets so very long and can feel very desperate. Our response as Christians is not to brush the wait and darkness aside with simplistic answers and sound bite advice. We are not supposed to solve the problems others face but step into the darkness with others, offering the light we possess that Christ offered us. That is the participation we are called to during Christmas. O come, all you faithful ones.