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Bob Sitze's Blog

December 20, 2014

Ready to rejoice?

This blog is part of a series of short Advent observations for your devotional use. Each entry invites you to consider your readiness for whatever God has in mind for your life, especially during this season.

Advent is here again—along with noisy celebrations and quiet hallelujahs. So it's time to ask (again!) a question that springs out of the season's themes and texts: Are you ready to rejoice?

It took the early church a few centuries to come up with the season of Advent—with its repentant and thoughtful assessment of life's underlying truths. For some of those early Christians, those themes seemed a necessary preparation for the observance of Christ's birth: A kind of absolution or purging of one's self in order to properly receive Christ.

Good idea, but here's another one: Start the rejoicing early—not about Christmas' themes or its cultural trappings. You could celebrate Advent! Think about why: "The End" is not the end of you. You're part of God's solutions, not just part of the problem. You know what's on the other side of this season—beyond Christmas and Epiphany and Lent. You're not alone in trying to wrestle with life's big questions. You're not a victim here. You have a supporting role in this timeless drama. You have skin in this game—something to lose, yes, but also something to win!

You're part of a cosmic shift (that's "Advent" in a nutshell) that is bound to happen! Get ready to rejoice! 

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December 19, 2014

Ready to refuse?

This blog is part of a series of short Advent observations for your devotional use. Each entry invites you to consider your readiness for whatever God has in mind for your life, especially during this season.

Advent is here again—along with stubborn streaks and minds of their own. So it's time to ask (again!) a question that springs out of the season's themes and texts: Are you ready to refuse?

As cranky as it sounds to read this in your head, Advent might be a good time to put your foot down and say, "No." (Advent people as cantankerous people?) You don't have to look far to see nay-saying in the Bible. Mostly the prophets and the wisdom writers. (Check out Ecclesiastes for a big dose of no-ness!) Jesus, too, and Paul—coming up against the wrong-headed directions of the worlds around them, including the world of (dis)organized religion that they were part of. Shutting down what didn't make sense, arguing self-righteous folks into a corner, disputing the status quo, and calling people back to the basics of God-following, God-fearing, God-loving. Some folks call this refusing spirit "the law," but that demeans the law's purpose and overlooks the No-seeds that are planted in the good news.

Your calling during Advent might be as simple as refusing the trashy refuse that some people claim as godliness! Ready to refuse? 

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December 18, 2014

Ready to restore?

This blog is part of a series of short Advent observations for your devotional use. Each entry invites you to consider your readiness for whatever God has in mind for your life, especially during this season.

Advent is here again—along with old stuff about to be made new. So it's time to ask (again!) a question that springs out of the season's themes and texts: Are you ready to restore?

Part of your work during this season might be to freshen up, refurbish or at least repaint some of what's gone bad. Not furniture or your old easy-chair. Nope. Instead, you get to work on yourself. With the help of others—who have been standing alongside you all this time—and with some guidance from the word, you can spend these days in self-examination that leads to restoration. Bringing what was once old back to what will be new. Strapping new personality accessories for a new long-haul. Shaping up, slimming down, polishing over or dusting off.

You have all these weeks to consider how God might already be working to help you peel away what's useless or sinful. Scraping off the futility of trying to die with the most toys. A new coat of spirituality that can soak into your wooden heart and preserve you.

New usefulness, new justifiable pride, new purpose, new outlook—all part of God's invitation to Advent renovation. Are you ready to restore? 

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December 17, 2014

Ready to rest?

This blog is part of a series of short Advent observations for your devotional use. Each entry invites you to consider your readiness for whatever God has in mind for your life, especially during this season.

Advent is here again—along with travel and vacations. So it's time to ask (again!) a question that springs out of the season's themes and texts: Are you ready to rest?

Advent seems chock-full of work. Preparating, waiting, shining, cleaning up/out, changing and restoring—tasks that can fill your days with urgent activity. (Jesus is coming again, and you wouldn't want him to see you sitting around, would you?) Perhaps it's time to take a load off, hmm? To let the noise and hype go swooshing by. To shut down your tendencies toward mission-creep. To let problems unravel and dissipate without your planned solutions. To cuddle up with a good book (try Philippians) and let some good words wash away the idea that God is depending on you alone to make this "salvation" thing happen like God intended. Rest. Peace. Calm. Quiet. All gifts of Advent. A kind of "slow-Christianity" that you value as much as slow-food, slow-parenting or slow-church.

Advent could be your time to chill out, to go quiet, to listen with appreciation. To hear God's whispery voice in the middle of the season's clanging and banging about. You could be ready to rest!

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December 16, 2014

Ready to rust?

This blog is part of a series of short Advent observations for your devotional use. Each entry invites you to consider your readiness for whatever God has in mind for your life, especially during this season.

Advent is here again—along with piling trash and castaway possessions. So it's time to ask (again!) a question that springs out of the season's themes and texts: Are you ready to rust?

Soon most folks be awash in new toys—also called Christmas presents—that bring with them the inevitable result: New things displace old things. What's shiny attracts attention, and what's dull gets overlooked and discarded. During Advent, a quiet description of this inevitable devaluing and destruction—something about "moths and rust corrupting"—sounds its sad little note: All this stuff? It's going away. All that people hold dear about themselves? It will pass. All that seems immutable or eternal? It will turn back into small piles of dust. Insect hunger and oxidation will remain active, dismantling what we think is valuable, taking the mighty off their seats—and sending them away hungry.

Strange as it may sound during these days, you may be part of that moth- and rust-process, an agent of God's quiet judgment about what's important and what's not. Your Advent calling may be to eat away at false notions of the good life, to nibble supposed "power" down to nothing, to corrode the false shine of transitive things. To be an agent of rust.

This may seem like an odd calling, but Advent gets right to the point: Are you ready to rust? 

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December 15, 2014

Ready to reveal?

This blog is part of a series of short Advent observations for your devotional use. Each entry invites you to consider your readiness for whatever God has in mind for your life, especially during this season.

Advent is here again—along with dancing candles and crisp sunlight. So it's time to ask (again!) a question that springs out of the season's themes and texts: Are you ready to reveal?

Advent topics sometimes include notions of "light" and the good that comes when even the smallest source of illumination signals that something is about to happen. Advent announces the Messiah's other code name—"Dayspring." With it comes the idea that the Messiah will be the brightness that makes tunnel-time bearable. And even though you're not the source of this hope, you have enough of a glow in you to be a revealer. "Look there," people think when they encounter you. "We can see what Jesus is all about." Someone may plead, "Can you please show me (how you stay so calm, how to be forgiving)?" In your daily living, you can light up a room with your quiet presence. Sometimes you can spotlight what others miss, what's unethical, what's possible, what's true. You uncover what has remained hidden and make transparent what's been opaque. Mostly, you show people Christ, the coming Light.

It's dark during most of Advent, but not when you're around. When it gets hard to see, you're ready to reveal. 

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December 14, 2014

Ready to remain?

This blog is part of a series of short Advent observations for your devotional use. Each entry invites you to consider your readiness for whatever God has in mind for your life, especially during this season.

Advent is here again—along with smaller calendars and shortened days. So it's time to ask (again!) a question that springs out of the season's themes and texts: Are you ready to remain?

This is certainly a time when "Judgment Day means the end of all things" can tempt you to think you're done too. That your life is winding down toward a little pile of ashes; that you're more dead than alive; that you're ready for heaven now. A quote often attributed to Martin Luther had something to say about this idea: If he knew when Christ would return, he'd still go out and plant that tree.

The thought has merit, especially if you're intent on checking out—hiding in your cave until the end comes. Yes, the end is near and, yes, you will eventually die. Yes, Christ will call you home and, yes, it's "appointed once to die and after that the judgment." But what about that tree, about staying here while you're waiting? Checking back in, grabbing up the unfinished tasks and the unrealized hopes? Remaining fixed on what you can still do with your life? Putting aside your coffin's coverlets so you can stick around and share what's still left of you?

No matter how this season's themes point you to the end of your days, another bright truth shines on your face: God is not done with you yet! Ready to remain? 

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December 13, 2014

Ready to resist?

This blog is part of a series of short Advent observations for your devotional use. Each entry invites you to consider your readiness for whatever God has in mind for your life, especially during this season.

Advent is here again—along with seasonal fads and shifting tides of public opinion. So it's time to ask (again!) a question that springs out of the season's themes and texts: Are you ready to resist?

Part of this "Christian" thing is swimming against the current, standing out as the odd duck on the pond, pushing back at what's wrong or worse. Advent is a good time to celebrate God's counterintuitive idea: To love the world—all of it. A good time to remember why you're following along on Jesus' countercultural mission. Challenging generally held presumptions about the good life; opposing decisions that hurt other people; contesting policies and procedures that sound spiritual but are still selfish.

It may seem sometimes like you're in the wrong parade, so you slow down and get off meaningless routes to nowhere. There are even moments when you get out ahead of lock-step marchers and redirect them toward Jesus' teachings. And when resisting gets hard, you refuse to budge. Like John the Baptist, you stick to what you know is right—no matter what the consequences.

It's Advent, and it's time to struggle against streams of status quo that lead nowhere and do nothing. Are you ready to resist?

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December 12, 2014

Ready to ramble?

This blog is part of a series of short Advent observations for your devotional use. Each entry invites you to consider your readiness for whatever God has in mind for your life, especially during this season.

Advent is here again—along with new imagination and old memories. So it's time to ask (again!) a question that springs out of the season's themes and texts: Are you ready to ramble?

Every so often—perhaps during Advent?—it's time to get off the path and wander a bit. Like a child purposefully distracted (by what's intriguing and new), you might find surprise and delight during this season of warnings and work, damage and destruction, eons and endings. It might be just the thing you need, a cold-weather Sabbath in the middle of what's perhaps dragging you down.

Rambling—wandering with a whistle and a spring in your step—might take you to new places. In your lifework, your attitudes toward others, in your self-talk. A time of tromping through forests of worry—but looking for the last flowers of the season. A time to snowshoe off the beaten trail—hoping for the tracks of wandering animals. A time for tiptoeing up to God's newest saints—and hugging them because they bring you hope. Rambling moves you off the dime but toward what's surprising—farthings? Rambling reawakens your sense of adventure, a balance to your sense of duty. Rambling energizes your soul, your body, your brain.

Soon enough you can get back to Advent's major themes, but for now, a little roaming could be fun. Ready to ramble?

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December 11, 2014

Ready to rescue?

This blog is part of a series of short Advent observations for your devotional use. Each entry invites you to consider your readiness for whatever God has in mind for your life, especially during this season.

Advent is here again—along with dead-end life stories and dashed hopes. So it's time to ask (again!) a question that springs out of the season's themes and texts: Are you ready to rescue?

All around you this time of year are people who've bottomed out, gone despondently quiet or given up on themselves. (Names and faces come to mind, right?) They carry their diminished self-worth in smaller and smaller handkerchiefs, knotted up so nothing else falls out. They may even have forgotten how to ask for help, deliverance or a way out. Deeply down-and-out, they're still hoping for rescue. You know their state of mind: You've been humbled into the mud, stomped on, discarded or neglected, so you know that "rescue" is necessary. And you've been rescued more than once—God only knows how it happened, but it did.

You could be God's answer, God's limbs, God's smiling face. Your smallest kindness, your advocacy on their behalf, your love-in-deed, your hand out, your understanding ear—any of these could be evidence of God's greater redemption/rescue of the entire world. These folks in particular. (Names and faces still there, right?)

God is still able to rescue people—you're continuing proof of that fact—and you hear God's invitation during this season to be part of that work. Are you ready to rescue? 

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December 10, 2014

Ready to roar?

This blog is part of a series of short Advent observations for your devotional use. Each entry invites you to consider your readiness for whatever God has in mind for your life, especially during this season.

Advent is here again—along with ancient hymns and strange Scriptures. So it's time to ask (again!) a question that springs out of the season's themes and texts: Are you ready to roar?

During Advent you learn again that "lions will lie down with lambs" in a peaceable kingdom yet to come. You also remember that lions roar, so this season could encourage you, the lion (or you, the lamb) to do more than approach life quietly or sheepishly.

You have reason to roar this season. Not on account of yourself. God is doing wonderful things, perhaps in spite of your lifestyle. People who are hungry will eat well this season; in some places, "the mighty" will fall; God is picking up a winnowing fork for some heavy-duty work and the impossible seems reachable. So you can roar—you never were good at praise hymns or any singing—about God's mighty works, God's mighty power to change the world. You can bellow your gratitude that God's will is breaking out everywhere. You can frighten away hyenas from your peace-seeking.

You can be glad to be one of God's lions—whose best bawling invites lambs to grateful rest! Ready to roar? 

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December 9, 2014

Ready to root?

This blog is part of a series of short Advent observations for your devotional use. Each entry invites you to consider your readiness for whatever God has in mind for your life, especially during this season.

Advent's here again—along with Christmas tree lots and the warmth of good coats. So it's time to ask (again!) a question that springs out of the season's themes and texts: Are you ready to root?

Plants root, but so do pigs. In both cases a necessary digging takes place: Plants grab tightly on to life-giving soil and pigs find delectable treasures for their fine dining experiences. Advent could be a season for rooting, a time of necessary digging into your lifestyle and identity. Assessing reasons for gratitude, evaluating what's important and what's pure frippery. Thrashing around in Christmas decorations to find that one ornament that calls you to reflection. Digging out the cancerous sins that you hope to throw away for good. Finding deep in your soul some delicious possibility for renewing mind and body. Pulling heartfelt encouragement and God's goodness out of the sometimes-detritus of Christmas family newsletters.

Your first ancestors started from the ground, and that's where you'll end your dusty existence. In the eons in between, the earth has been the source of all good that comes from God. And digging deep into the soil of your inner life is a good way to thank God for the ground.

For pigs and for plants, rooting continues life. Are you ready to root? 

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December 8, 2014

Ready to rage?

This blog is part of a series of short Advent observations for your devotional use. Each entry invites you to consider your readiness for whatever God has in mind for your life, especially during this season.

Advent's here again—along with darkness growing longer and pain growing closer. So it's time to ask (again!) a question that springs out of the season's themes and texts: Are you ready to rage?

One of the more stirring arias in Händel's "Messiah" asks the question about why nations "so furiously rage together." (The bass soloist gets really worked up!) This fuming doesn't seem to be an Advent kind of question—the Prince of Peace is coming, after all. So it doesn't make sense that furious raging would something positive or even necessary. And yet ....

During this season, it might be a good or necessary thing for you to join in some raging. Anger at evil and people who promote it; weary disgust with decision-makers with no interests other than their own well-being. Seething, steaming fury because the bad guys seem to be winning. Irritation or exasperation with the slow pace of change. Enough excusing of the malicious opportunism that tramples people who are poor. And so you rage—against "The Machine," the powers-that-be, people who stand in opposition to Christ's ways. Not always a good thing, raw rage nevertheless won't leave you.

Some Advent days, rage may seem like the only option left. Like it or not, are you ready to rage? 

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December 7, 2014

Ready to recover?

This blog is part of a series of short Advent observations for your devotional use. Each entry invites you to consider your readiness for whatever God has in mind for your life, especially during this season.

Advent's here again—along with pestilence and disease. So it's time to ask (again!) a question that springs out of the season's themes and texts: Are you ready to recover?

Many Advent motifs come from Old Testament times, when God's people had experienced almost every kind of calamity imaginable. Plagues, invasions, starvation, economic collapse, failed governments, droughts, failed crops, more invasions. One of the promises embedded in "Messiah" was recovery from these overwhelming problems. Messiah would bring rescue, but also healing.

During this time, you get to recover—from maladies that torment you in body and spirit. This is when God's purging expunges sins from your internal parts. When God's therapy helps you recover the use of long-neglected capabilities for doing right. When restoration comes at you in small ways, soothing ways, health-giving ways. Grace you don't deserve, health-giving favors you'll receive gladly.

During the days of Advent, you can find remedial care in God's words to you. And you can pass on this part of the good news to those still crying out, "How long, oh Lord." Are you ready to recover? 

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December 6, 2014

Ready to rouse?

This blog is part of a series of short Advent observations for your devotional use. Each entry invites you to consider your readiness for whatever God has in mind for your life, especially during this season.

Advent is here again—along with sleepy days and restless nights. So it's time to ask (again!) a question that springs out of the season's themes and texts: Are you ready to rouse?

Directed at the obscure biblical figures of night watchmen and sleeping bridesmaids, the sturdy/joyful hymn "Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying" is an Advent favorite. It carries a necessary message: Wake up, people of God! However the imagery of the hymn gets played out, one fact emerges strongly: Following Christ is not something for sleepyheads! During this season—Christ is coming again, everything may end suddenly and we all have work to do in the meantime—it makes sense to stay alert. Mindful about what you observe, hyperaware of small signs, attentive to what's going on around you, keeping your wits about you—all necessary traits and behaviors if you want to be nimble, flexible and quick.

You watch people, you listen under the obvious surface of conversations, you stay connected to God in prayer and Scripture. You ask hard questions and show people what they're missing. You're awake and part of your mission is to shake open others' eyes and hearts to God, to stir people "who rest "complacently on their dregs" (Zephaniah 1:12). 

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December 5, 2014

Ready to repent?

This blog is part of a series of short Advent observations for your devotional use. Each entry invites you to consider your readiness for whatever God has in mind for your life, especially during this season.

Advent is here again—along with bone-chilling cold and biting wind. So it's time to ask (again!) a question that springs out of the season's themes and texts: Are you ready to repent?

The church year just ended and the calendar year's end is coming soon. It's time to take stock of your life. And it's time to deal with the inevitable conclusion that you haven't measured up to your highest standards, nor to the commands and invitations of your God. You haven't come close to following Jesus' example and you've sinned more often than you'd like. That realization nags at you during long, dark Advent nights. You can't avoid it.

Advent can help you repent for your sorry state of affairs, your poverty of spirit, your base emotions and actions. Honest confession, wholesale regret, even "terrors of conscience" (Luther's term)—all can come at your soul at the oddest moments. Deep into the night, walking alongside those you love, side-by-side with other sinners.

You know that repentance is good for the soul, so you are willing to reflect on your sinfulness. To take the next steps too. You know God will forgive—has forgiven—you. Ready to repent? 

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December 4, 2014

Ready to reap?

This blog is part of a series of short Advent observations for your devotional use. Each entry invites you to consider your readiness for whatever God has in mind for your life, especially during this season.

Advent is here again—along with full larders and overflowing grain silos. So it's time to ask (again!) a question that springs out of the season's themes and texts: Are you ready to reap?

The corn's in and the beans are heading overseas. The applesauce and rows of recently stewed tomatoes smile at you from their shelves. Inventory is up and sales will be good at Christmas. You're counting on a bonus—or at least breaking even. It's harvesttime—maybe a little past, actually—but you're still in a "reaping" mood. A year of work, and there's something to show for it: Good friends, love ready to be seen and stored. A strengthened core, flexible joints, ailments gone for now. Life is good. Thanks to God's grace, your thanksgiving can continue.

However large or small the "harvest," now seems like a time to name it and claim it: God's blessings pour over you. Now's the time for your stewardship to be a ministry of receiving. And as you reap—what God has sown!—you remember in gratitude those for whom the harvest won't be possible, those still hoping for today's food and water, those whose bounty seems only to trickle at them.

You're a steward—none of what you have is yours—so you're going to continue to gather it in, store it away and prepare to use everything you have to God's glory. You're ready to reap!

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December 3, 2014

Ready to run?

This blog is part of a series of short Advent observations for your devotional use. Each entry invites you to consider your readiness for whatever God has in mind for your life, especially during this season.

Advent is here again—along with purposeful hustlings and aimless bustlings. So it's time to ask (again!) a question that springs out of the season's themes and texts: Are you ready to run?

One of the supporting actors in Advent themes is the messenger. The one who brings good tidings to Zion and relies on good highways to carry good messages. Someone who runs, for long distances and for important purposes. A go-between and an announcer, the running courier was the key link between royal/godly decrees and people who would carry them out. Someone like you. Someone like you, who connects God's wishes with God's people. Someone like you, who won't stop moving until your task is done. Someone like you, who carries God's messages without thinking that you're also part of those memos. Someone like you, whom God trusts to bring truth and good news to people who desperately want it.

God's Advent messages are waiting for someone to carry them to the places and people where they will accomplish God's purposes. Are you ready to run? 

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December 2, 2014

Ready to rumble?

This blog is part of a series of short Advent observations for your devotional use. Each entry invites you to consider your readiness for whatever God has in mind for your life, especially during this season.

Advent is here again—along with special foods and warm beverages. So it's time to ask (again!) a question that springs out of the season's themes and texts: Are you ready to rumble?

At selected wrestling events—or monster truck shows—big-voice announcers rev up the audience with the question, "Are you ready to rumble?" The question—oddly directed to people who will only observe a fight or competition—alerts the attentive crowd to what's coming: a struggle filled with danger.

It seems fitting that, during Advent, you could get ready to rumble. Not as an audience member who's watching God take on evil. Not as an appreciative observer who is just glad to be watching what you may not really want to see. Instead, your ticket to Advent comes with an implicit invitation to step into the ring, into even bigger arenas. To gird your loins, to strap on whatever you need to engage the forces and powers who work against God's will, God's commands, God's invitation. Advent can be a time where you become a participant in God's wrestling with (or wrecking) everything contrary to Jesus' ministry. Where you step out and take charge of your life. Where you insist that righteousness prevails.

The main event is about ready to start. Are you ready to rumble? 

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December 1, 2014

Ready to rock and roll?

This blog is part of a series of short Advent observations for your devotional use. Each entry invites you to consider your readiness for whatever God has in mind for your life, especially during this season.

Advent is here again—along with fallen leaves and the hint of snow. So it's time to ask (again!) a question that springs out of the season's themes and texts: Are you ready to rock and roll?

Yes, you can start this season with the anticipation that there will soon be reason to celebrate. To party hearty, to get down. Before you head for other Advent themes or frames of mind, what would happen if you started Advent with a sense of blessed relief—Christ is coming soon ... finally! What if you could be satisfied with whatever state you're in now and celebrate it? What if you could start your seasonal activities with the assurance that you're forgiven—no matter how messed-up or complicated your life seems? What if you could sense the coming of a big "reset button" for your life? What if you knew—for certain—that "the end of everything" wasn't really the end?

How soon would the dancing and singing start? How soon could you decorate yourself as a room fitting for the coming King? And who would you invite?

Ready to rock and roll? 

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Advent: Waiting together

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