Three Simple Rules, Part III
John Wesley saved the best rule for last. After "do no harm" and "do good," we are commanded to "stay in love with God."
The third rule is really the first rule, for we can't avoid doing harm nor can we consistently choose to do good unless we are acting out of a living love for God. But nurturing a loving relationship with God is no easier and perhaps harder during the holiday season than any other time of the year.
As pastor, I know this as well if not better than anyone. One might think that it would be easy to stay in love with God if one gets paid to think and pray and talk about God! But the reality is that ordained clergy can spend so much time encouraging others to love God that they neglect to nurture that relationship themselves. I was once asked by a District Superintendent (my direct supervisor), "Where do you worship?" Good question. Worshiping while one is leading worship is very hard to do. The hardest part of my job is not getting to sit in a pew and worship weekly. You could say that I suffer from "pew envy." So, my advice for following Rule #3 doesn't come from a place of pastoral privilege but from a place of personal need. One of the reasons that I so long for you to stay in love with God is because I know how much I need to.
Because I know how hard this is, I want you to think of your relationship with God in the same way that you think of your relationship with your spouse (if you have one) or a close friend. Though you've known them for a long time, the relationship always needs nurturing and sometimes rekindling. So, during this Advent season, try to make a date with God. Treat this date as you would any other social or family obligation on your calendar. It is, in fact, more important. What are some of the things that you and God could do together?
1. Tell your family that you are going out to get something you need for Christmas. They will assume that you are shopping for them. Instead, arrange to meet God at the beach or on a hiking trail or in a quiet corner of the library (just like in college!) and spend a few hours getting reconnected to God. What more do we need for Christmas?
2. Can't clear the calendar for even a few hours? How about a few minutes each day? Call it speed dating with God. Find an old notebook and just start writing in it: one word that captures your day. Or make a short list. What are you thankful for? Who are you praying for? Write before you start your day. Return to it before you go to bed. Every relationship needs a rhythm. This is a good one to get into.
3. Coming soon. Use our Willow Glen Advent devotional and read each day about how others stay in love with God. Pick up some good dating advice. Maybe it will inspire you.
4. Kaleidoscope on Thursday nights (7:00 p.m. at Woodhaven). This group of people has been such a gift to me every since we started. When I read the Bible this way and in this company, I hear the Word and not just words. To have a weekly date with God again means that Christmas came early for me this year. Get your Christmas blessing here.
5. Take a walk with God, December 17th. My personal date with God during Advent season will be on the labyrinth at the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in San Rafael. Once each month, they move their pews, roll out a canvas labyrinth, light candles, sing Taizé music and project prayer slides so that visitors can walk and pray and connect with God along the way. We will be hosting our own labyrinth walk here at Willow Glen on Tuesday evening, December 17th.
There are so many ways to stay in love with God and just as many ways to stray from that love. So, be sure to put God on your calendar this Advent. I want to hear what folks say when you tell them, "Sorry, I have a date with God that day."