There’s still more

Today is the second day of Christmas so we are still contemplating the joy and celebrating the season.  Aren’t we?  The shepherds have left the stable but there are still ten more days to stay there and adore God who was born into human flesh to live with and in us.  But, perhaps, you have just breathed a huge sigh of relief, murmuring a silent prayer of thanksgiving to God that it is over. Maybe the tree is already at the curb or in the box.

Most of us are a bit—or even a lot—tired of all the preparations and church services, no matter how glorious, and want to rest up so we can be ready for the next holiday, New Year’s Eve and the new year.  Yes, 2015 is just a heartbeat away and then we are off again, back to normal whatever that is.

I want to slow down in order to be more aware of what it is God wants for me—what he wants to say—how he wants to use me for his Kingdom.  But, it is hard to stay in the moment or even the day which I am in.  Most of us are busy thinking about the next hour or the next day the moment we get out of bed, or at least by the time we have had our first cup of coffee. We forget to enjoy and celebrate where we are in this “now” moment we have been given.  We forget to come and adore Jesus. I want to do this.

This meditation from Max Lucado causes me to pause:

“One’s imagination is kindled thinking about the conversation of the innkeeper and his family. Did anyone mention the arrival of the young couple the night before? Did anyone ask about the pregnancy of the girl on the donkey? The innkeeper and his family were so busy. The day was upon them. The day’s bread had to be made. The morning’s chores had to be done. There was too much to do to imagine that the impossible had occurred. God had entered the world as a baby.

Meanwhile the city hummed. Merchants were unaware that God had visited their planet. The innkeeper would never believe that he’d just sent God into the cold. Those who missed His Majesty’s arrival—missed it not because of evil acts or malice; no, they missed it simply because they weren’t looking. Not much has changed in the last two thousand years, has it?”

We can almost excuse the merchants and inn-keepers because they weren’t expecting God to come as a tiny baby born to peasants.  But, we have heard the story Advent after Advent and Christmas after Christmas. We are apprentices of Jesus and he has made a difference in us.  We know that a life-shattering, world-changing event took place that night and it will never ever be the same.  Let us not rush head-long back into normal but slow awhile to honor Jesus by spending time with him and paying attention.  Help us, Lord, we are addicted to busy.

“Here in this place the new light is streaming, now is the darkness vanished away;

see in this space our fears and our dreamings brought here to you in the light of this day.

Gather us in, the lost and forsaken, gather us in, the blind and the lame;

call to us now, and we shall awaken, we shall arise at the sound of our name.” ~ Marty Haugen

May the next ten days of the Christmas season bring you joy and the awareness of God with you.  Stay blessed. ~ Donna

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It’s Time!

“Love caused your incarnation; love brought you down to me. Your thirst for my salvation procured my liberty. Oh, love beyond all telling, that led you to embrace in love, all love excelling, our lost and fallen race.”—ELW, #241

Jesus loves us and there is absolutely nothing that we can do about it.  Nothing we can do will change this fact.  I’ve said it many times, and will most likely continue to, because it is so true.  Christmas shows us this. We often tend to split the Bible into two stories, the Before Jesus story and the After Jesus story, but in reality, the Bible is all the Jesus story.  Phillips Brooks, an Episcopal Bishop and author (also the writer of “O, Little Town of Bethlehem”) who died in 1893 says, It was not suddenly and unannounced that Jesus came into the world. He came into a world that had been prepared for him. The whole Old Testament is the story of a special preparation …Only when all was ready, only in the fullness of his time, did Jesus come.”

God loved us so much that he wanted us to be able to re-connect with him. From the beginning, the plan was for Jesus to come and live with us when the time was right and all was prepared.  But, in the meantime, he missed us and longed for that restored relationship.  Once in prayer, I was given a sense of that longing.  It was intense and brought tears to my eyes that would not stop flowing.  I can’t describe it because there are really no words and when I try, even to myself, the tears come.  The best I can do is to say that it was a feeling of longing, aching, loving and missing all in one. A feeling of the Lover separated from the beloved, multiplied many times over.

God loves us!!  God wants us and so he took the form of a helpless baby, born in a barn, in poverty to a human mother into a simple carpenter’s family.  That family had to go into exile so that Jesus would not be killed too soon.  Our rescue, redemption and restoration was born this night.  In the Fullness of Time he comes.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  —John 1:1-5, 14 (NIV)

And, so, the story continues.

An Irish Christmas prayer for you.

The Light of the Christmas Star to you

The warmth of home and hearth to you

The cheer and good will of friends to you

The love of the Son and God’s Peace to you.

My love and Blessing also to you.  Merry Christmas.  ~ Donna

The Word became Flesh

Christmas will have arrived before I write to you again. We will be reminded by our celebrations that Jesus—God the Word made flesh—has come into the world.  Light has entered the darkness.  The Kingdom of God is at hand. The Kingdom is here, now, and it is up to us through the power of the Holy Spirit, to make it visible to the world.

Joan Chittister, OSB, writes, “We do not come to Christmas to pretend that the baby Jesus is born again this day. Nor do we pretend that on this day the baby Jesus is born in some mystical way in us. We come to Christmas looking for the signs of Jesus’ presence manifested in our life and age, in us and in the world around us.” 

I believe this is true.  We really want to see the Kingdom, don’t we?  We want to see Jesus and we do see Jesus.  We just might not realize it with all the horror that we see and read about.  In the last few months I have seen, personally, or heard about the following—much of it right around us:

I see a parish hall filled with boxes of food and bags full of Christmas for those who have nothing or little, and I see that same parish hall filled with food boxes each and every month to give to the hungry.  We see Trinity Youth Group go on a mission trip every summer to help those in need. Sunday after Sunday, I see people taking time to pray for those who ask for it at prayer stations. We hear about many answers. I observe people listening to those who need to be heard.

I know of people who drive others to doctor’s appointments and who deliver meals or groceries to those who can’t get out or are not able to fix them for whatever reason. There are people who knit hats for newborns in the hospital; prayer shawls for those who need healing and comfort; and sew lap quilts for those in wheel chairs.  Some serve at the food bank and/or the clothing bank and Meals on Wheels.  I hear prayers instead of curses in heavy traffic or when a driver does something dumb and dangerous, and I hear kind words and see smiles in long lines at the supermarket, etc. etc.

I know people who spent time working in a Mexican dump to help those living there and building a house for a family living at the mission.  Some have sent Christmas presents to the children there instead of buying them for each other.  I see a housing project for the poor in our town that is amazing.  There are people working to provide clean water in places where it is not available. I know some of them.  So do you. I know Daughters of the King who pray with the homeless at the St. Francis Center on Sundays. There are children who forego Christmas and birthday presents for themselves asking that the money that would be spent be used to help others, instead.

These are all, mostly, right in our own back yard, and there are more.  You have your stories, too.  Perhaps these seem like small things compared to the enormous need, but each little flame in the darkness makes it possible to see God’s Kingdom on earth, today.  It is visible if we look around. Some of us pray each day for the spread of the Kingdom throughout the world. We are called to be part of the answer to that prayer.  The darkness has not and will not overcome the light.  Alleluia!!

The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. ~ John 1:14

Happy and Blessed Christmas to you, dear flames.

Donna

It depends

It is while waiting for the coming of the reign of God,
Advent after Advent,
that we come to realize that
its coming depends on us. ~ Joan Chittister, OSB

God leaves the Advent up to us—the coming of the Kingdom of God up to us?  Does this make sense to you? Doesn’t God know how we are?  The answer to that is, “Yes, he does.” He knows how and who we are and he does it, anyway.

Don’t tell anyone, but I’m a little ticked at God right now – for getting me into the things he does; for breaking my heart over so much – for not fixing things or me with a “Zap” when he could have.    How can a person see God in the sky and immediately fall into a pit?  Good question.  Requires meditating.  But there is so much gone wrong with the world right now.  It’s in the news every day.  I feel pretty helpless when it comes to doing very much about it.  I want God to ZAP it healed.  Don’t leave this to us because we, or at least I, don’t know what to do about shootings, and ISIS, etc.  I can’t even handle things on a smaller scale, sometimes.

I don’t like winter.  It is part of the pit I fall into and some years are harder than others. It’s dark.  I’m weary.  I’m dry.  I’m broken-hearted over the state of the world, of situations in my own family, in yours and some issues personally my own.  I want to run away some days. The Rule of St. Benedict, which I somewhat follow, calls one to Stability in Community.  We work out our salvation in fear and trembling where we are placed.  That rules out running.  So…God knows who and how I am/we are and he calls us to Advent.  Teresa of Avila, when she was beginning a new convent and was travelling by donkey with a few other nuns, fell into a swollen creek and said to God, “If this is the way you treat your friends, it’s no wonder that you have so few.”  I can sometimes relate. Advent reminds us that the light will return but how and what do we do while we wait?  What do we do until we’re healed?  How do we help usher in the Kingdom of God?

Three things come to mind.  “Be still and know that I am God.” Spend time alone with God even when we want to run out of our prayer chair.  Teresa of Avila, again, once said, “I was more anxious for the hour of prayer to be over than I was to remain there.  I don’t know what heavy penance I would not have gladly undertaken rather than practice prayer.”  Silence and Solitude are hard to get into sometimes. Teresa tried anyway and so, in obedience, can we/I.

We can love our brothers and sisters and help with what’s right in front of us—those “little” things with our name on them.  And the big things—civil unrest, shootings, slavery, ISIS and other such breaking-heart signs of human will gone horribly wrong—since they are not likely to be zapped immediately without our intervention, I have decided to lift them to God  in loving prayer.  That does not mean I love these things.  It means that God loves those people gone wrong, so I must.  It could be me.  I hold them, as well as I am able, into the light of Jesus every day, sometimes more than once.  That’s all.  That’s my Zap.  Pray and praise.  Work for the coming Kingdom.  Watch and wait.  And be thankful. Even when you’re mad. And broken.

Come Lord, Jesus, and dwell among us.  Again.  Very soon.

~ Donna

Who knows?

“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!”—Isaiah 64:1

It is my custom when I turn out the light for sleep to spend a few minutes in prayer.  I offer the night to God to work in me how he will when I’m not awake to get in his way and then I say a good-night prayer or two.  A few days ago, I turned out the light and snuggled down to sleep.  But as I did, a picture instantly came into my mind – the black sky of deep space with pinpoints of light scattered about. Whether I was awake or asleep I do not know—God knows.  I believe I was awake.

As I considered this sky, suddenly, a section in the middle of the sky moved.  It’s hard to describe but I will try.  The sky was still black and star-studded, but in the center of the image something like a ripple moved.  That whole section of sky and stars moved just a ripple within the rest and settled down again.  I knew instantly that I had seen God and it terrified me.  I tried to comprehend it but I couldn’t and I absolutely cannot explain what happened. My mouth was dry, my heart was pounding, I was breathless and I was terrified.  After a bit I thought, “I understand why the Israelites didn’t get it.  They couldn’t comprehend God either.” Then I thought, “It’s a good thing we have Jesus.”  After a minute or two, I went to sleep.

Over the next few days, I have continued to meditate on this image.  Old Testament stories tells of times when a person or two saw God. Some were able to relate to him, but most weren’t.  God would show up in a burning bush, a pillar of cloud, a pillar of fire, thunder and lightning and, once, in sheer silence. Very occasionally he came in the form of a person.  The people, after having experienced some of this told Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” God was frightening to experience and later they made their own in the form of a Golden Calf.  They wanted a god that they could see and who wasn’t so scary. Now I somewhat understand their problem.  We all want to see God, don’t we?  We sometimes make him in our own image.

I have a question for God here beginning Advent.  If God had intended to come live with us since the beginning, why did he wait so long to show up? Why do I ask God why?  I don’t know because he rarely answers those questions.  Maybe, it was because he wanted us to know that we couldn’t make it without him.  We had to make a thorough mess of things. What did God want? I don’t know—God knows. Maybe he was waiting for Mary.  He knew her from the beginning and so, perhaps he was. God waits for someone to do what he needs to have done. God waits for a person or people to make him visible.  Maybe me.  Or you.  Perhaps since the beginning.

Some things are not meant to be understood but experienced and known.  Maybe, within that whole image, God only wanted to say “I love you.”  Or perhaps it was a good-night kiss. I don’t know—God knows.

…Your world doesn’t know You now, they close their eyes to You.
O where are the wondrous deeds You do, all for those who were true?
Sunder the heavens and come to our aid. Lord, look how Your people stand afraid.”

~ John Foley, Redeemer Lord

– Donna