Nov 17 2010

Living Joyfully for Advent

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Please see an updated version of this post here.

For each day, from now until Epiphany, I’ve thought of one thing I can do to practice joy and gratitude, and to give love,  putting it on a calendar that draws on some older Advent and Christmas traditions.

In the 6th century, the Celtic Christians celebrated Advent during the 40 days before Christmas, as a mirror to the period of Lent before Easter.  In this age of  blurring of holy-days and consumerism, I like the idea of starting Advent earlier, so that Thanksgiving is included, but also there can be more intentional preparation for Christ’s coming.

Another tradition from around the 6th century (and probably earlier) was the “O Antiphons.” Most people would recognize a version of these antiphons as the verses of the Advent carol O Come, O Come Emmanuel. They are still prayed in many churches, as they have been for more than 1500 years, from December 17 to December 23.  Each of the antiphons refer to a name of Christ, most from the Book of Isaiah, and offer a jumping off point for reflection.

Finally, Christmas seems to end abruptly on December 26th in our consumer celebration. Another lost tradition is the Twelve Days from Christmas to Epiphany.  Epiphany means “appearance” or “manifestation” and remembers the Magi and shepherds visiting Jesus, and Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, the public revelation that he is God’s Son.  The period from December 25 to January 6th seems an ideal time for reflecting on the Light that has come into the world with the birth of Christ.

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Pulling these three traditions together, I’ve created a calendar of ideas for living each day intentionally and joyfully.  Here is a PDF version.

The ability to give and experience love and joy doesn’t just happen, it needs to be stretched and strengthened. And over time, the capacity to love and to joy increases.

Let the Holy Spirit lead!

 



Oct 27 2010

Luke 6:45

(I’m joining with Ann Voscamp’s Walk with Him Wednesday  blogging community and sharing about a scripture verse I’ve memorized.)

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I’d always focused on the negative side of Luke 6:45: an unloving heart speaks hurtful words and makes people sad, or a silly heart says embarrassing things, and on and on. So at some point, I decided to hide my hurtful words and my silly words, so my unloving and silly heart wouldn’t be found out and cause problems.

Of course, it didn’t work and just made me feel worse. What I really wanted was a heart that said loving words and words that weren’t embarassing.

A while ago, during the stress of comprehensive exams, I started doodling a story about Little Me and Jesus.

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Little Me took her heart to Jesus and something happened:

Little Me and New Heart

And then Jesus sent her on an adventure:

Little Me on an adventure

A few months ago, I read Luke 6:45 and realized that there was another side to the verse–the positive side–so I memorized it and it has been my prayer: that Jesus would give me the little glowing heart from my Little Me doodles so that it could be shared with others.

“The good woman out of the good treasure of the heart produces good…For it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.”

Only Jesus can give that abundance and does so with joy! And then he sends us on adventures….

holy experience


Jul 19 2010

Three Weeks of Thanks

Mondays are for gratitude…counting to 1000 and beyond…

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“We never know where God hides His pools.  We see a rock, and we cannot guess it is the home of the spring.  We see a flinty place, and we cannot tell it is the hiding place of a fountain.  God leads me into the hard places, and then I find I have gone into the dwelling place of eternal springs.”  Streams in the Desert, July 5th

The past three weeks have been full of wonders and many things to be thankful for as I moved into my new apartment (aka The Contemplative Cottage) and spent time with friends.  Looking back on my worries about leaving Boston and then the fears about choosing this apartment, I can’t believe I doubted! The above quote from one of my favorite devotionals captures my feeling now as I sit at my desk.  God knew exactly what place I needed to embark on the next and final stage of my PhD.

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206. Wonderful furniture from friends, rides for moving stuff, and shelves for my books.

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207. Fourth of July beauty shared with friends.

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208. Little Sarah.

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209. An afternoon on a mountain river without a clock or email or cell phone (not having reception was a great Sabbath stop!).   Forever inspired by nature artist Andy Goldsworthy (a lovely excerpt from Rivers and Tides here), I tried my hand at building a cairn…

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…and discovered water bugs that look deceptively like little twigs–until they start walking around.  Yes, what you think are pieces of bark are really three life forms!

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210. Camping fun with friends.

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211. Exploring mossy woods with my young adventuring friend.

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212. A sunlit glen hidden off the trail.

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213. After giving myself a break the past few months, I finally had the feeling on Saturday, “It’s time to begin again,” so I stacked the main books for a dissertation chapter on my desk.  I had worried that the academic push of the last 5 years had permanently ended my love of reading and writing and even theological study, but each day I’ve been finding evidence that there are still embers of this vocation glowing, which God is gently fanning back into flame.

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214. A lovely afternoon at Kimberlee’s twinfant shower.

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215. Black-capped chickadee enjoying a feast.

216. Bible study books are not usually satisfying for me, but Cynthia Heald’s Becoming a Woman of Excellence has really opened my eyes to some life-giving insights. I’d love to go through it with a small group.

217. It seems that the twinfants have decided to stay put until they are full term.

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218. For the Word’s challenge and the Holy Spirit’s conviction this week,  and the hope that God provides the heart’s treasure.

220. Matt Maher’s song “Hold Us Together.”  On July 4th, Pastor Dan told the congregation that he was leaving Bethany in November and taking a position in California.  He has been our senior pastor for 11 years.  It was the last thing I expected, but I’m trusting that we can walk this path because Bethany is a community of people who love Jesus and love each other.  God has a plan, hope, and future for Dan and Anne, he also has one for the Bethany community.

You can listen to the full song one time here: http://bit.ly/ck52Tc

Hold Us Together

It don’t have a job,
It don’t pay your bills,
Won’t buy you a home
In Beverly Hills

Won’t fix your life
In five easy steps
Ain’t the law of the land
Or the government
But it’s all you need..

Love will hold us together
Make us a shelter
to weather the storm
And I’ll be my brothers keeper
So the whole world will know
That we’re not alone

It’s waiting for you
Knockin’ at your door!
Every moment of truth
When your heart hits the floor
When you’re on your knees then…

Love will hold us together
Make us a shelter
to weather the storm
And I’ll be my brothers keeper
So the whole world will know
That we’re not alone

This is the first, day of the rest of your life
This is the first, day of the rest of your life
‘Cause even in the dark you can still see the light
It’s gonna be alright, gonna be alright


Peace and Joy to you this week!

holy experience


Feb 3 2010

Finding Words

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“Words don’t mean anything.”

I found myself saying that a lot in 2009.  Words I read.  Words I wrote.  Empty.

It’s not surprising that I started mixing up my letters, using wrong words, and consistently neglected endings.

There were too many words to keep track of, to remember, to reach out and try to capture, kicking and screaming, from thought to paper, sometimes jumbled, sometimes ridiculous, rarely loved enough to reveal their beauty.

The last few years, I drank from the fire hose of academic theology (and drowned)…books and ideas coming so fast, I lost the larger text of my life in a cascade of others’ ideas and opinions. I lost my words.

And the books which once gave me so much comfort lost their life, “just words on a page.” Not flesh and blood. Incarnation stripped away and the meaning with it.

Too, so much of life became virtual words, 140 character snippets of breath-taking moments, so easily sent into the ether, so easily erased and forgotten.  What about the heart and love they expressed?

(I love hand-written letters, taken out and read tenderly over the years, testimony to a life lived, honored by safe-keeping, ribbon-bound, in a special chest.)

Losing my words, especially my prayer words, woke me up.  Now, drinking from the Word is reconnecting life and heart, text and meaning.  I see that what I lost was not simply a string of letters and punctuation, but Someone to talk to, Someone I trusted to welcome my heart and reply with His own.

“In the beginning was the Word…” John 1:1

God with us. Love spoken into the world with flesh and letters,  bound with ribbons of an Always-Presence everywhere I look.  Word-who-took-on-skin, this Love, can hear and respond, can still speak today through frail earthly language.

“Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
will not stay still.”
(TS Elliot, Burnt Norton V)

Human words may crack under the weight of meaning.

But You do not.

Lord, may the words I speak and write be rooted and planted in Love.

holy experience

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