advent journal: attending


    I’ve decided to do my best to write each day in Advent as part of my journey to the manger. I ‘m not making any promises about length or coherence on Friday and Saturday nights.

    On most any evening, part of my practice before I write is to do a bit of reading on several different blogs (most of whom you can find in the sidebar). Tonight I found this Henri Nouwen quote in a wonderful post at The Sacred Art of Living:

    To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is to trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our own imaginings . . . The whole meaning of the Christian community lies in offering a space in which we wait for what we have already seen.

    It makes me think of my favorite verses to one of my favorite hymns, “I Love to Tell the Story”:

    I love to tell the story for those who know it best
    Seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest . . .

    Nouwen lays out some cool stuff in very few words. What I hear is Christ calls us

    • to wait open-endedly (without schedule or agenda)
    • and in community (we wait together, not alone)
    • for something beyond what we can imagine (or plan or schedule)
    • and we have already seen (and still struggle to trust).

    I think he labeled it as “a radical attitude toward life” because waiting like that is allowing ourselves to be pulled into the vortex of a powerful paradox. The best way I can describe it is by using another – much older — word for waiting: attending.
    has these definitions for attend:

    • to take care or charge;
    • to apply oneself;
    • to pay attention; listen or watch attentively; direct one’s thought;
    • to be present;
    • to be present and ready to give service; wait (usually followed by on or upon);
    • to follow; be consequent (usually followed by on or upon).

    Wait: be present, apply ourselves, follow, take care, listen, direct our thoughts. Mine have been directed by Dana, one of our seminarians at church to a poem by Denise Levertov that is good fodder for waiting:

    Making Peace

    A voice from the dark called out,

    “The poets must give us

    imagination of peace, to oust the intense, familiar

    imagination of disaster. Peace, not only

    the absence of war.”

    But peace, like a poem,

    is not there ahead of itself,

    can’t be imagined before it is made,

    can’t be known except

    in the words of its making,

    grammar of justice,

    syntax of mutual aid.

    A feeling towards it,

    dimly sensing a rhythm, is all we have

    until we begin to utter its metaphors,

    learning them as we speak.

    A line of peace might appear

    if we restructured the sentence our lives are making,

    revoked its reaffirmation of profit and power,

    questioned our needs, allowed

    long pauses. . . .

    A cadence of peace might balance its weight

    on that different fulcrum; peace, a presence,

    an energy field more intense than war,

    might pulse then,

    stanza by stanza into the world,

    each act of living

    one of its words, each word

    a vibration of light–facets

    of the forming crystal.

    I love the image of “restructuring the sentence out lives are making.” We are all working on the same sentence and Nouwen’s words about taking “a radical attitude towards life” follow the same grammar.

    “In the beginning was the Word,” wrote John; “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

    We are called to continue to attend to the possibilities.


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