Tag Archives: expectation

Prayer, In Advent

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, December 19, 2018

o come Emmanuel

Prayer, In Advent

Advent lasts for quite a while. Almost a whole month. Why does Advent last for such a long time? Why can’t Christmas hurry up and arrive, already?

This waiting-period reminds me of one of the leading cast of characters in Advent preparations, John the Baptist. What does John the Baptist have to do with Christmas, anyhow?

John the Baptist, cousin of Jesus, does not fit into your typical Nativity scene. Usually, in most drawings or figures of the Nativity, there are a usual cast of characters. Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, shepherds, kings, animals, and a manger. John the Baptist just does not fit in here. Where does he fit? With his rough clothing, different kind of diet, and hollering about repentance, he will not easily fit onto a Christmas card, either.

Yet, John the Baptist is featured in the Advent readings, for several weeks. “But the schedule for children’s pageants and choir Sundays often allows us to avoid him, and it is understandable that few of us complain.” [1]  However, John the Baptist is a featured part of the whole reason and purpose behind Advent. Advent is all about repentance. And waiting.

True, the crowded calendar in December often provides little room for repentance and devotion that is strongly suggested for Advent. What gives with this hurry-scurry, rush-rush attitude which now seems to be part and parcel of the holidays? It’s either that, or an extra dose of guilt unloaded on those who are also trying to have Advent devotions on top of following a full calendar of holiday dates.

Dear Lord, help me steer through all of this extraneous stuff and find the expectation and anticipation of Advent. Lead me to discover anew the great worth and value of John the Baptist, and his important message of repentance. Thank You for Your patience and understanding for the many people who are striving to get closer to you—including me. It’s in the name of Jesus, God-with-us, we pray, amen.


Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] (This devotional by the Rev. John Thomas appeared in the Wednesday, Dec. 19th edition of the online Advent calendar featured by Epiphany UCC Church, Chicago, Illinois. Advent 2018)

Wishing, Hoping in Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, August 15, 2018

hope heart stone

Wishing, Hoping in Prayer

Father Nouwen had an intriguing definition of hope written by a student: “I see hope as an attitude where everything stays open before me….Daring to stay open to whatever will come to me today, tomorrow, two months from now, or a year from now—that is hope.” [1]

According to both the student and to Father Nouwen, when we hope, hope gives us the perseverance to continue trying, striving. Hope helps us to know we are on target in prayer to pray the prayer of hope.

When “wishes” come into the picture, what then? Is that like going to some sort of giant vending-machine in the sky? Or, perhaps, a wish-fulfillment sort of thing, where wishes magically appear—or magically disappear—as the pray-er wishes earnestly. While this may be one way of prayer, certainly, is it the best way? Ought I treat the Lord God Almighty, who made heaven and earth, like a vending machine? Where I can come up to the “God-o-matic,” punch a number or pull a knob, and out pops the answer to my prayer request?

As Nouwen says, wishes might indeed get tangled up with hope, and “concerns for how our wishes will be fulfilled. So, too, our prayers are not directed toward the gift, but toward the one who gives it….You wish that…but you hope in….” [2]

Hope is open-ended. Hope is expectation, pure and simple. Hope is simplicity itself. I realize that praying with hope may seem unduly optimistic and pie-in-the-sky. Yet, is this not the way a child comes to their Loving Heavenly Parent and asks? And, am I not described as a child before God? Please, God, help me to embrace that image. Help me to come to You with trust, and love, and hope, just as a child would.

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 72.

[2] Ibid, 73.

How Should I Then Pray?

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, November 26, 2016


How Should I Then Pray?

A new year. Yes, tomorrow begins the liturgical year again, with the first Sunday in Advent. That season of hope and expectation, where we wait for the birth of the Christ Child with baited breath. Well, not really. That is, not everybody does. Even in the church.

I feel like I am running as fast as I can, and I still haven’t caught up. I don’t have a chance of catching up. (Alice, I fully sympathize with you in your conversation with the Red Queen.) The turning of the seasons is getting faster and faster all the time.

These two seemingly disparate things are connected. So many people are scattered and fragmented—including me. Pulled in many different directions. It is increasingly difficult to focus on one thing (even when it’s so important, as the celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ). That is, when there are so very many things calling for my attention.

Dear Lord, help me to slow down. Help me to sift through the urgent and important, and focus on the one thing that I need. The one thing that gives me nurture and strength. My relationship with You, dear Lord. Help me bring my other needs, pains, joys and concerns to You, too, because then I will not be distracted. Gracious God, in Your mercy, hear my prayers.



Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

Pursue PEACE – Harmony, Wholeness, Hope (Repost)

Reposted especially for this group, Pursuing Peace. #PursuePEACE


Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, February 11, 2016

Pursue PEACE – Harmony, Wholeness, Hope

I have been following some sort of spiritual discipline during each Lenten season for the past number of years. As Lent got nearer and nearer, I had not been particularly moved by any special Scripture reading series or prayer discipline, as in years past. However—I have been intrigued by the idea of PEACE for several weeks.

Peace got lodged in my brain, and would not go away. I thought about it more and more, and finally came up with this idea of the Pursuing PEACE Project.

My name is Elizabeth, and my personal definition of peace is harmony, wholeness and hope.

Harmony – I have a bachelor’s degree in music. I have sung in a number of choirs and singing groups, over the years. Music is important to me! Harmony is something I look for, yearn for. Harmony between people, between groups, among families—something I wish to encourage and promote, as much as I can. Doing my little bit.

Wholeness – comes from the concept of the Hebrew word shalom, which means peace. Yet, it means much more than peace! Shalom can also mean whole or wholeness, completeness or safety. A whole basket of meanings! That is what I want from my definition.

Finally, Hope – expectation, trust or desire. (At least, that’s what Merriam Webster says, in part.) I am a glass-half-full kind of person. I have that expectation. I trust that peace is a possibility. I don’t think this is pie in the sky, but a realistic desire.

Even if my part is small, I will be doing something positive, encouraging, and loving in making PEACE a reality. God willing, I am doing my part to pursue PEACE.


Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza  And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

Wait Patiently, In Expectation!

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, November 30, 2015

PATIENCE God is not absent

Wait Patiently, In Expectation!

How often have I seen a small child (or, even, a not-so-small child) complain, “I want it now!” and, “Are we there yet?” And even, “Is it ever going to be time to go in?”

Ah, how difficult it is to be patient, sometimes.

Fr. Nouwen quotes the author Simone Weil as saying in her notebook, “Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life.” I have learned to be wary of expectations. Wishful, pie-in-the-sky expectations, or dreary, down-in-the-dumps expectations. Either way, runaway expectations can be poisonous and completely unhelpful.

Sure, in the short term, expectations can be positive. Even long-term goals, prudently set, can be beneficial, too. Watch for hopeful, helpful expectations. A good thing, certainly, within limits.

But, what if—like a small child—I stamp my foot and just can’t wait through the weeks of Advent for the Christmas holidays? Or, what if an acquaintance of mine is in a snit because of faulty holiday expectations?

Well. Nouwen tells us in this reading that patience comes from a Latin word “patior,” which means “to suffer.” The root of the primary word is a negative one! Yet, Nouwen showed us how this “bad” word can become positive. “What seems a hindrance becomes a way; what seems an obstacle becomes a door; what seems a misfit becomes a cornerstone.” [1]

Dear Lord, help me to open my eyes. Help me view the “not-quite-rights” as Your much beloved children. Dear Lord, gracious God, keep my mind focused on things of You. Let me view the challenges and difficulties of life instead as way stations in my journey through life.


Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Advent and Christmas: Wisdom from Henri J. M. Nouwen (Linguori, Missouri: Redemptorist Pastoral Publications, 2004), 4.

Centering on the Cornerstone

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, September 7, 2015

CORNERSTONE chief cornerstone masonry

Centering on the Cornerstone

Each day this month I’ve committed to Centering Prayer. And, to aid me in this prayer method, I’m choosing a name of God found in the Bible. I’m using that for my word of the day. My word—Name of God for today is Cornerstone.

Last week, I chose this Name with ease. I went down the list of Names I had in front of me, initially, and this one seemed good to me. Even earlier today, as I checked my list again to see which Name I was to use as an aid for Centering Prayer, I had no expectation of what I would discover once I started to pray.

When I got into the middle of prayer, I found out how confused this Name of God made me. Yes, I knew that the Apostles Paul and Peter refer to Christ as the Cornerstone, among other biblical references. Yes, I have sung the contemporary gospel song “Christ the Cornerstone” a number of times. But—what did it mean, anyway?

This gave me pause. I really was at a loss, considering what this Name was supposed to signify.

As I prayed, my mind shifted to my good friend Stu, a civil engineer and a professor of civil engineering. He is a sincere believer. I knew he would immediately be able to tell me not only what this Name of God signified, but also the purpose and significance of a cornerstone on a large building. (I found I was still very foggy about both purposes, and needed to remedy that.)

So, I discovered the cornerstone has—for millennia—been used as an important part of a masonry foundation for a larger building. I understand that all other stones (or, bricks) will be laid in reference to this Cornerstone. That makes so much sense to me, in regards to the Name of God. Talk about the light breaking and shining through to me.

Thanks, God. Thanks for giving me wisdom. Thanks for leading me to a good (basic) source of information. Thanks for setting Yourself up as my Cornerstone. I know I need to line up with You, and You alone. In your Son’s name I pray, amen.


Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

Leaving Advent Calendars Behind

matterofprayer blog post for Monday, December 16, 2013

Advent calendars are wonderful. Great ways to show small children, visually, how many days have to pass before Christmas comes. I have used Advent calendars in my house for years. They are pretty and useful. In years past, the young people here have really appreciated the yearly calendar. But now, my two younger children are in their late teens. Yes, I got an Advent calendar, but my 19 year old did not want to open any windows (this year, at least). And my 16 year old is opening windows in the calendar, but is not particularly excited about it.

What do I do when some Advent activity or small tradition of Christmas is left behind? How will I feel? Will my unrealistic expectations be dashed? What then?

This is where prayer comes in. Prayer can be calming. Prayer can be life-saving. I can pour out my disappointment to God in prayer, and get some relief. (some release, too!) I know, intellectually, that my children are growing and changing. As each new year passes and each December proceeds toward Christmas, I need to grow and change, too. My prayer life helps me come to terms with that part.

God knows our disappointment and fear, as well as our anxiety, anger and distress. God is familiar with our joy, excitement, and laughter, too. These are God-given expressions, meant to express our feelings, desires and the innermost cries of our hearts. (chuckles, too!) God calls us to pray, to communicate, to curl up alongside and have a heart-to-heart talk. Just what I need, so often.

Let’s pray. Dear God, thank You for such wonderful ideas as Advent calendars! But help me come to terms with facts: my younger children are growing beyond such things. I know You can bring me—You can bring us—to fresh understandings of the Advent season. Thank You for this time of preparation. Prepare our hearts to receive You. Amen!

Christmas Music for Everyone

matterofprayer blog post for Saturday, December 14, 2013

I hear Christmas music on the cd player as I write this. Choral, a capella. Complex chords and harmonies. These aspects of the music make my heart sing. The winning combination of beautiful music and meaningful words helps my heart to worship, too.

Since I am a classically trained musician and have a bachelor’s degree in church music, music has been and still is an important feature of my life. My avocation and my deep joy, as well as an aid to worship. Sometimes music can bring me to tears, and the next minute can lead me to worship and praise. Especially at this time of year.

A great deal of Christmas music was written with the church in mind, or at least, based on the Gospel accounts in Luke and Matthew. (I know there are some fun songs, secular songs, but I’d like to focus instead on the sacred music.) Composers and songwriters in many diverse cultures have tried their hands at writing Christmas music—and Advent music, too. Diverse songs like “Lo, How A Rose E’re Blooming” (German, Michael Praetorius, 1609) to “The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy” (Traditional West Indian Carol, popularized by Harry Belafonte in 1958).

Different cultures portray the Holy Family in contexts that are familiar to them, too. Many people are familiar with the olive wood nativity scenes, carved by Palestinian Christians and imported all over the world today. But I’ve also seen a Kenyan nativity set with animals native to the Kenya bush. And a Peruvian nativity with everyone dressed in traditional Peruvian garb. And—to me—the familiar Advent calendars with the northern European features.

One more recent Christmas carol comes from the mid 20th century. The words by Wihla Hutson evoke the differences in how children all over the world see the baby Jesus. “Lily white,” “bronzed and brown,” “almond-eyed,” “dark as they.” The Baby Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. He was born into this world to identify with us. And we can identify with Him, just as much.

This Advent period is a period of waiting for the coming of the Baby in Bethlehem. However we may see Him, however the Holy Family is presented in our culture or setting or church tradition, we are to wait with eagerness. With quiet and prayer. With expectation in our hearts. And in one of my favorite ways, with music to assist us in this waiting time.

Let’s pray. Dear God, Gracious Lord, this Advent waiting time is a time of expectation, but it’s also a time of preparation. Help me to prepare my heart to receive You. Forgive me for closing the door on others who don’t see You in the same way as I see You. Forgive me for being so narrow-minded and thoughtless. Thank You that You came into this world for everyone. For each child, for each adult, for each senior. Help me to look on those who are different from me with Your eyes. Emmanuel, God with us, all of us. Thank You, Jesus. 

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

matterofprayer blog post for Saturday, December 7, 2013

I must be getting older. (News flash!) No, seriously. Sometimes, I find myself reflecting on the past with some fondness and nostalgia. And then there are the times I reflect on the past with sadness and grief. Like today. I read in the news that today was the 72nd anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Fifty survivors of the attack gathered there today, along with many other people. Looking back. Remembering. Grieving the deaths of so many, at Pearl Harbor and in the rest of the war. I thank God that my father and his three brothers came back after World War II to their wives. They raised families and led fruitful, productive lives.

Just today, I saw several photos through email and on Facebook, displayed by some friends of mine—all proud grandparents! These photos showed busy toddlers, happy babies, curious children. Almost all of these children are looking forward to the holidays (except for the youngest babies, of course). They and their families are looking ahead. In expectation and excitement.

On the other end of the spectrum are my older teenagers. They are “too old” for the wide-eyed wonder of the coming holiday. Yes, they both acknowledge the coming One. They intellectually realize this season is, indeed, a special time. However, they are more in the “meh” or “whatever” camp, trying to stay outwardly calm and unflappable. (All for outward display purposes, of course.)

So, here I am, in the middle. Looking back, and looking ahead. I need to pray all the more earnestly. I am trying to follow an Advent devotional booklet, with some success. But, outward circumstances are dragging me down. God, please help me to a sense of wonder. Give me a sense of Your presence, each day. Help me follow You.

Let’s pray. Dear God, help me take the necessary and needed time to be with You. As I look back, I remember all those who have lost loved ones in the service of our country. Looking ahead, I remember all those with children (and grandchildren) who are gladly awaiting the holidays. Thank You for this Advent time of waiting. Please, God, be with me as I intentionally set aside time each day to pray and wait upon You. Amen.