One long night…

Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger. ” Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”

When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us. ” They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child. Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told. ~Luke 2:8-20 (CEB)

Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy. Isn’t it? TV shows and commercials illustrate Christmas time as the … “most wonderful time of the year…” So if Christmas makes you blue… (now I have Evis singing in my head) or even flat out depressed it can be isolating in the sea of celebrations. It can leave some people gloomy finding the holidays anything but jolly, while still others will have experiences that make it difficult to be merry and bright.

When I think of the Advent story it seems to me to start out in the dark and cold, even in the midst of hopelessness. But it is also part of a bigger story of God’s grace waiting our discovery. It is a story of hope.

Sometimes the hype and clichés of the season distract us. The clever marketing ploys succeed in making us desire tangible things we can hold in our hands. Marketing gives us false illusions of how we can find happiness. However all the marketing efforts, hype and catchy logos cannot answer the deep questions of the heart, or address the pain that might reside there, explain the mystery of God’s presence, or even comprehend the meaning of our existence. It also does not help us to understand why bad things happen.

Advent can give us hope though in the midst of our isolation and false illusions because it tells us a story of how God humbled himself, intimately and personally through the birth of Jesus. Sometimes we blow off Advent as just another blip on the church calendar but it is meant to be something more. It is meant to lay a new path of faith for the new year ahead.

In the remembering and retelling of the magical story we are reminded that God loved us so much he allowed Jesus to come down here in the form of a fragile infant to be born in the lowliest of places. The retelling of the story is to remind me why Jesus came into the world in the first place, so that I might have life and live in the light.  I am reminded with the Advent story that God is a hands-on God willing to become vulnerable just so that I might catch a glimpse of how much He loves me. This story tells me that Jesus loved me so much that he came down to earth to be in the darkness with me and to walk with me as I search for the light.

Advent is meant to confront me once again with God’s unparalleled effort to communicate the message that I am embraced and held by a God of love. The Advent season is the time that I can shake off the failures, the victories and the sorrows of the past. I am given a new clean page. Again and again we see in the Bible that God is a God of second chances and the healer of broken hearts. Jesus Christ has come, is present with us, and will come again in final victory when all darkness, pain and evil will be no more.

Heavenly Father, it gives me great comfort to know that You are big enough to handle all my sorrow, all my questions and all my fear. I am thankful that You are a God who is willing to come down to earth and be with me where I am, even if the place You find me is darkness. Even in the darkness I am not hidden from You. I may be worried that I will put others off during this “happy season” with the questions and fears that are hidden in my heart, but I know that You will never turn from my sorrow. You will never brush off my questions. You will never be upset with me if I have the “wrong feelings” for the season. You simply tell me that feelings just are.  Dear Lord, I thank You for sitting with me here right now, waiting with me through this long night, reminding me that there is always a dawn. Amen.

A God who woos

Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth. ~Matthew 5:5 (CEB)

My spiritual life is His affair; because, whatever I may think to the contrary, it is really produced by His steady attraction, and my humble and self-forgetful response to it. It is a case of being drawn, in His way and at His speed, to a place that He wants me to be. Not to the place I plan for myself.

When we allow ourselves to be wooed by God we find ourselves going places we never thought about going before. Anchored in him we find ourselves stronger than we ever thought we were, able to withstand the greatest storms. As long as we remember Who gave us this strength, Who called us from the depths, we will find that we are able to do all things…

Heavenly Father, I thank You for calling me, pulling me, steadily and constantly. May I never forget from Where my strength comes from. Amen.

Born to be restless

The next day John was standing again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus walking along he said, “Look! The Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard what he said, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he asked, “ What are you looking for?” They said, “Rabbi (which is translated Teacher), where are you staying?” He replied, “ Come and see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. ~John 1:35-30 (CEB)

If you look on the church calendar, you will find that we are in the middle of “ordinary time”. We are betwixt and between Easter and Christmas. It isn’t Lent or Advent or even Pentecost.  Ordinary every day life can sometimes be the hardest to live through. We aren’t looking forward to or celebrating an arrival.  Here can be much restlessness. Sometimes I find myself in this restlessness and I can’t help but wonder, “What am I looking for?” Nothing seems to really fill that space.

I think John’s disciples may have felt the same way. If they had found all they needed in John the Baptist they would have not looked up and seen Jesus and felt the need to follow him. John had said all along that he was not “The One,” so some of his disciples may have been feeling restless when they noticed Jesus walking by. When Jesus asked his question though, “What are you looking for” it must have been like a light coming on and they knew what they were looking for. They were looking for Jesus.

I wonder sometimes if we were all born with that restlessness to be on the look out for “something”. We may try to fill it with many things, success or addictions. Deep in our hearts we are all waiting for Jesus to ask us “What are you looking for.”

Heavenly Father, You planted deep within us a longing for you. Although I may try to fill my time and space with other things my heart needs to hear You ask “What are you looking for.” Call to my heart this day Lord so I may follow You. Amen.

Equilibrium

 

Just like a deer that craves streams of water, my whole being craves you, God. My whole being thirsts for God, for the living God. When will I come and see God’s face? My tears have been my food both day and night, as people constantly questioned me, “Where’s your God now?” But I remember these things as I bare my soul: how I made my way to the mighty one’s abode, to God’s own house, with joyous shouts and thanksgiving songs— a huge crowd celebrating the festival! Why, I ask myself, are you so depressed? Why are you so upset inside? Hope in God! Because I will again give him thanks, my saving presence and my God. My whole being is depressed. That’s why I remember you from the land of Jordan and Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep called to deep at the noise of your waterfalls; all your massive waves surged over me. By day the LORD commands his faithful love; by night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life. I will say to God, my solid rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I have to walk around, sad, oppressed by enemies?” With my bones crushed, my foes make fun of me, constantly questioning me: “Where’s your God now?” Why, I ask myself, are you so depressed? Why are you so upset inside? Hope in God! Because I will again give him thanks, my saving presence and my God. ~Psalm 42

If I am not careful my desire for equilibrium can become an idolatrous attempt to deny a large part of what life is about. Messages I receive from the world around me tell me that there is something wrong with me if things are out of kilter and that life is meant to be lived on a plateau of happiness. Advertising sends messages that if only we buy this product or that product all my needs and longings will be satisfied. But if I turn to my Bible instead looking for answers to my restlessness, I find that the psalms show that this kind of thinking is a lie. I should boldly deal with life as it really is seeking out God for my balance and harmony.

Life is not meant to glide along always so smoothly for then I would forget to question. Without questions I do not seek out answers. Who am I? How am I to respond to the all-encompassing power of God? Without the questions I would not know that God is behind, in front, and above, laying a hand upon the one who feels searched out and known. Without the questions I would not know of an Omnipresent Creator nor would I see Him as reality.

In my questions I find myself on holy ground, and as I allow myself to be held in that moment of awareness, I must respond with what is truly in my heart. I tell God that I am afraid, uncertain, relieved filled with gratitude or a longing for more. It is in theses stirred up moments that deepest part of me finds the depths of a living God.

Heavenly Father I know that it is in the valleys and mountain tops of life that I will find myself closest to you. Only You can touch the deepest parts of my heart. As I travel through this day may I feel your hand on me. Amen.

With the eyes of a child

People were bringing children to Jesus so that he would bless them. But the disciples scolded them. When Jesus saw this, he grew angry and said to them, “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children.  I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it.” Then he hugged the children and blessed them. ~Mark 10:13-16 (CEB)

“One of Jesus’ favorite visual aids is a child. Every time the disciples get into head games, he puts a child in front of them. He says the only people who can recognize and be ready for what he’s talking about are the ones who come with the mind and heart of a child. It’s the same reality as the beginner’s mind. The older we get, the more we’ve been betrayed and hurt and disappointed, the more barriers we put up to beginners mind. It’s so hard to go back, to be vulnerable, to say to your soul, ‘I don’t know anything.’” ~From Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr

Heavenly Father, it is so hard to leave behind hurts and disappointments. It is hard to not see the world around me through the experiences I have gone through. Tear down all my barriers today O Lord. Help me to be more vulnerable so that I am able to view the world through Your eyes. Amen.

Present-centeredness

Show me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truths, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day. Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy loving kindnesses; for they have been ever of old ~Psalm 25:4-6 (KJV)

“Present-centeredness describes this important prerequisite of contemplation. Too often we find ourselves ‘distracted’ or ‘abstracted,’ that is, not all there. Both terms are derived from two Latin words: trahere meaning ‘to be yanked or pulled’ and de or ab meaning ‘from.’ When we are distracted or abstracted, we have been pulled from the present by some concern, thought, or action. Often it is guilt and regret over the past or concerns and worries about the future than keep us from living in the present. Dwelling in the past and projecting ourselves into the future both have the same result; they fragment our consciousness, leaving us unfocused. With one foot in the past and the other in the future, this bifurcated way of being splits our attention and ruins our ability to appreciate fully what is occurring before our very eyes.” ~From The Enduring Heart by Wilkie Au

It is my belief that in the “present” I find God’s presence. In the “present” my focus is on Him. In this “present” moment is where I will find the kingdom of God.

Help me to be ever focused on you this day Lord so that I may feel Your presence in my Life. Help me to not be pulled away by the guilt of the past or the worries of the future. Help me to be in Your presence now for this moment. Amen.

One long night

Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger. ” Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”

When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us. ” They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child. Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told. ~Luke 2:8-20 (CEB)

Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy. Isn’t it? TV shows and commercials illustrate Christmas time as the … “most wonderful time of the year…” So if Christmas makes you blue… (now I have Evis singing in my head) or even flat out depressed it can be isolating in the sea of celebrations. It can leave some people gloomy finding the holidays anything but jolly, while still others will have experiences that make it difficult to be merry and bright.

When I think of the Advent story it seems to me to start out in the dark and cold, even in the midst of hopelessness. But it is also part of a bigger story of God’s grace waiting our discovery. It is a story of hope.

Sometimes the hype and clichés of the season distract us. The clever marketing ploys succeed in making us desire tangible things we can hold in our hands. Marketing gives us false illusions of how we can find happiness. However all the marketing efforts, hype and catchy logos cannot answer the deep questions of the heart, or address the pain that might reside there, explain the mystery of God’s presence, or even comprehend the meaning of our existence. It also does not help us to understand why bad things happen.

Advent can give us hope though in the midst of our isolation and false illusions because it tells us a story of how God humbled himself, intimately and personally through the birth of Jesus. Sometimes we blow off Advent as just another blip on the church calendar but it is meant to be something more. It is meant to lay a new path of faith for the new year ahead.

In the remembering and retelling of the magical story we are reminded that God loved us so much he allowed Jesus to come down here in the form of a fragile infant to be born in the lowliest of places. The retelling of the story is to remind me why Jesus came into the world in the first place, so that I might have life and live in the light.  I am reminded with the Advent story that God is a hands-on God willing to become vulnerable just so that I might catch a glimpse of how much He loves me. This story tells me that Jesus loved me so much that he came down to earth to be in the darkness with me and to walk with me as I search for the light.

Advent is meant to confront me once again with God’s unparalleled effort to communicate the message that I am embraced and held by a God of love. The Advent season is the time that I can shake off the failures, the victories and the sorrows of the past. I am given a new clean page. Again and again we see in the Bible that God is a God of second chances and the healer of broken hearts. Jesus Christ has come, is present with us, and will come again in final victory when all darkness, pain and evil will be no more.

Heavenly Father, it gives me great comfort to know that You are big enough to handle all my sorrow, all my questions and all my fear. I am thankful that You are a God who is willing to come down to earth and be with me where I am, even if the place You find me is darkness. Even in the darkness I am not hidden from You. I may be worried that I will put others off during this “happy season” with the questions and fears that are hidden in my heart, but I know that You will never turn from my sorrow. You will never brush off my questions. You will never be upset with me if I have the “wrong feelings” for the season. You simply tell me that feelings just are.  Dear Lord, I thank You for sitting with me here right now, waiting with me through this long night, reminding me that there is always a dawn. Amen.

Previous Older Entries