Sunday, December 31, 2017

emptied

Opening Prayer: Thank you that you emptied yourself for us.  May we always do the same for you.  Amen.

Scripture: Philippians 2:5-11

Journal: How is God asking you to empty yourself this day and this season?  What about for the year ahead?

Reflection: Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)
Have this mind among yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even on a cross. (ESV)
But made himself of no reputation, and took on the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. (KJV)

But stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being made a mortal man. (JBP)

Gave up his divine privileges. (NLT)

Set aside the privileges of deity. (MSG)

He poured himself out. (The Voice)

     No matter how you look at it, what Jesus did by coming to earth is simply beyond comprehension.  We can't even begin to fathom a descent of that magnitude; especially in a world that is hell-bent on ascending.  Yet, that is the mystery of the season; God became man and made his dwelling among us.  God lowered, emptied, stripped, gave up, let go of, or poured out, depending on your translation.  And all of those words together do not really even begin to scratch the surface.  
     But God did not just stop there.  Now he calls each of us, his people, to do the same.  He calls us to be more and more like him.  He tells us that our attitudes, and our practices, should be the same as his.  He tells us that somehow, some way, in our daily lives, we must practice the art of emptying ourselves, because that is what he did.  Because that is who he is.  We, his followers, must constantly be seeking how and where and when and to whom he desires for us to pour ourselves out for the sake of Love.  What will that look like for each of us in the days and weeks and months--and year--ahead?  That is the real question of the season. 

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, show us how you desire for us to pour ourselves out for the sake of Love.  Amen.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

becoming

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, you show us how true it is that becoming takes time and space.  help us to allow you the time and the space to grow us into the people and the followers that you long for us to be.  Amen.

Scripture: Luke 2:40

Journal: What is growing in you these days?  Are you giving it the time and space it need to flourish?  How will you?

Reflection:

     becoming

and the child grew
and became strong;
he was filled with wisdom
and the grace of God
was upon him. (Luke 2:40)


you came as a babe
not a full grown man
and then you had to become

there were no short cuts
even for you
it was a long slow work
this growing and strengthening

why would we
expect it to be
any different for us

why should we be
exempt from the journey
of becoming



Prayer

Closing Prayer:  Lord God, thank you for showing us that becoming is a long, slow journey.  It cannot be forced or rushed.  It take a long obedience in the same direction.  Therefore, help us to be diligent, yet patient.  In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

christmastide

Opening Prayer: 
Lord Jesus Christ,
     Thou Son of the Most High, Prince of Peace, be born into our world.  Wherever there is war in this world, wherever there is pain, wherever there is loneliness, wherever there is no hope, come, thou long-expected one, with healing in thy wings.
     Holy Child, whom the shepherds and the kings and the dumb beasts adored, be born again.  Wherever there is boredom, wherever there is fear of failure, wherever there is temptation too strong to resist, wherever there is bitterness of heart, come, thou blessed one, with healing in thy wings.
     Saviour, be born in each of us who raises his face to thy face, not knowing fully who he is or who thou art, knowing only that thy love is beyond his knowing and that no other has the power to make him whole.  Come, Lord Jesus, to each who longs for thee even though he has forgotten thy name.  Come quickly.  Amen. (The Hungering Dark by Frederick Buechner)

Scripture: Luke 2:1-20

Journal:  How will you make time and space to treasure and ponder the mystery of God with us?

Reflection: But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  (Luke 2:19)
    
It is amazing to me, after all of the gifts are opened and all of the food is eaten and all of the visitors have departed, how quickly we can leave it all behind and shift right back into our normal modes of operation.  Christmas has come and gone, and we are already off to the next thing. 

     I guess that's why the church fathers and mothers realized that we needed more time and space to consider the mystery and the truth and the significance of what really happened.  Thus, Christmastide was born; that period of time following Christmas Day in which we are invited to make time and space for reflection and silence and prayer.  It is a time when we pull up a chair (or a bale of hay) to the manger and join the Holy Family as we all welcome, in wonder and amazement, God into our very midst.  It is a time when we join Mary as she takes it all in and treasures all of these things up in her heart.  It is a time to sit and savor and enjoy and ponder and celebrate the coming of the Light into this dark world.  It is a time when we welcome the newborn King into his kingdom. 
     So do not rush off quite yet.  Do not jump back into your busy schedules and many obligations, but take some time to just linger around the stable.  Sit beside the manger.  Hear the angels voices.  Watch as shepherds and wise men and old priests offer gifts and prayers and prophesies to the One for whom they have long waited and watched and yearned.  Adore the One who has come among us, the One whose heart would not allow him to stay far away, but wanted forever to be know as God with us--Emmanuel.  And finally, let us pay careful attention to how God has been born anew within us and among us, to treasure it up, to ponder it in our hearts, and bask in his glory.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: The day of joy returns, Father in Heaven, and crowns another year with peace and good will.  Help us rightly to remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wise men.  Close the doors of hate and open the doors of love all over the world.  Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.  Deliver us from evil, by the blessing that Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clean hearts.  Amen. ~Robert Louis Stevenson



Sunday, December 24, 2017

christmas eve

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, shine your light into this dark heart of mine and make it you own.  Amen.

Scripture: Isaiah 9:2-7

Journal: Where and how are you longing for the light to dawn?

Reflection: The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of darkness a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:2)
     It doesn't take long, if I am completely honest with myself and have the courage to face the true condition of my heart, to see that I spend a good bit of my journey walking and living in darkness.  It is certainly not something I'm proud of, but it is true.  I am a complete mess.  This old heart of mine is so needy and desperate, so full of anxiety and insecurity, so frail and fragile, so vulnerable and weak.  
     And it is into this darkness that the Light dawns.  It is into this desperation that Hope enters.  It is into this brokenness that the Healer appears.  It is into this chaos that Peace comes.  The One who is able to offer healing and wholeness and peace is born in our midst.  The Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of peace, has come to live among us.  That is what we celebrate on Christmas Day.  That is what we have to look forward to on this, Christmas Eve.  Thanks be to God!

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, Wonderful Counselor, on the eve of your coming we recognize our deep need for you.  We are such a mess, and live in a dark and broken world.  Come, Lord Jesus, and be with us.  Enter into our darkness and bring your light and your healing and your peace.  May your light dawn in our hearts this day and every day.  Amen.

Friday, December 22, 2017

still waiting

Opening Prayer: Today, O Lord, I yield myself to you.  May your will be my delight today.  May your way have perfect sway in me.  May your love be the pattern of my living.
     I surrender to you my hopes, my dreams, my ambitions.  Do with them what you will, when you will, as you will.
     I place into your loving care my family, my friends, my future.  Care for them with a care that I can never give.
     I release into your hands my need to control, my craving for status, my fear of obscurity.  For Jesus’ sake.  Amen. (Prayers form the Heart by Richard Foster)

Scripture: Luke 1:5-23

Journal: What about this passage speaks to something within you today?  Why or how?  How can you relate to Zechariah and Elizabeth?  How is their “story” like your own?  How does the reality of God meeting them in the midst of their doubts and fears speak to something deep within you? 

Reflection: Waiting is not a very popular attitude. Waiting is not something that people think about with great sympathy. In fact, most people consider waiting a waste of time. Perhaps this is because the culture in which we live is basically saying, “Get going! Do something! Show you are able to make a difference! Don’t just sit there and wait!” For many people, waiting is an awful desert between where they are and where they want to go. And people do not like such a place. They want to get out of it by doing something.
     It impresses me, therefore, that all the figures who appear in the first pages of Luke’s Gospel are waiting. Elizabeth and Zechariah are waiting. Mary is waiting. Simeon and Anna, who were there at the temple when Jesus was brought in, are waiting. The whole opening of the good news is filled with waiting people. And right at the beginning all those people in some way or another hear the words, “Do not be afraid. I have something good to say to you.” These words set the tone and the context. Now Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary, Simeon and Anna are waiting for something new and good to happen to them. (A Spirituality of Waiting by Henri Nouwen)

Prayer

Closing Prayer: 
Dear God,
I so much want to be in control.
I want to be the master of my own destiny.
Still I know you are saying:
     “Let me take you by the hand and lead you.  Accept my love and trust that where I   
       will bring you, the deepest desires of your heart will be filled.”
Lord, open my hands to receive your gift of love.  Amen. 
(With Open Hands by Henri Nouwen)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

joseph

Opening Prayer: You offer us a refuge amidst the trials of life.  May our waiting prepare us to see glimpses of your face, even as we long for the full appearance of your goodness throughout all the earth.  Amen. (A Guide to Prayer for All Who Walk with God by Rueben P. Job, Norman Shawchuck, and John S. Mogabgab)

Scripture: Matthew 1:18-20

Journal:  What do you think Joseph’s waiting was like?  What do you think God was trying to accomplish in him through this waiting?  How can you relate to it?  What is God trying to accomplish in you through your waiting?

Reflection: A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.
     People who wait have received a promise that allows them to wait.  They have received something that is at work in them, like a seed that has started to grow.  This is very important.  We can only really wait if what we are waiting for has already begun for us. ~Henri Nouwen

Prayer

Closing Prayer: May the goodness and loving-kindness of our God sustain us in our longing, and transform the desert of our waiting into a garden of fertile expectation. (A Guide to Prayer for All Who Walk with God by Rueben P. Job, Norman Shawchuck, and John S. Mogabgab)

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

not yet

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us, during this season, to navigate the ground between the now and the not yet.  In so many ways it is the space we are given to live in.  And if we are going to thrive and flourish, rather than just survive and endure, we must begin to find your joy in the present moment and in our present circumstances.  Joy that gives us confidence in your care for us, as well as hope for the future.  Amen.

Scripture: Luke 1:39-45

Journal: If you were Mary, how would you receive Elizabeth’s words?  What would they produce in you?  How do the words of Elizabeth give Mary hope?  How do they give you hope this day?  What promise are you hoping God will fulfill someday?  Do you still believe?

Reflection: In many ways, Advent is a “not yet” season.  Mary and Joseph have not yet traveled to Bethlehem, the infant Jesus has not yet been born, the angels have not yet appeared to the shepherds, and the star has not yet come to rest over the manger.  Still, with all these “not yets” embedded in the Advent story, we spend these days and weeks living in faith that God will provide what has been promised—a long-awaited Messiah, a living hope. (Behold! By Pamela C. Hawkins)

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Lord of all hopeful horizons, in the promise of your Word incarnate, Jesus Christ, you have given us solid ground on which to build our lives.  We offer you the toils and struggles of our days in faith that by your grace they will become sources

Monday, December 18, 2017

prepare

Opening Prayer: My God, since You are with me, and since it is Your will that I should apply my mind to these outward things, I pray that You will give me the grace to remain with You and keep company with You.  But so that my work may be better, Lord, work with me; receive my work and possess all my affections. (The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence)

Scripture: Isaiah 40:1-5

Journal:  How are you preparing for the coming of the Christ?

Reflection: It will be up to us to prepare for the Night of the Child, to prepare the way of the Lord, to make straight the paths.  It will be up to us to make a journey of sorts toward Bethlehem, to spend some time listening to the story as it weaves its way through Advent.  We are the ones who must make room in our hearts for the story to speak, who must listen carefully to its twists and its turns, listening for the places where it begins to tell us our own story.
     The season will be full of stories, of family and friends, of Christmases long ago, of memories and hopes and half-forgotten days gone by.  And in the midst of them, we must take care that we do not neglect the telling of the story.  We must be present to its telling, if we hope for it to touch our hearts.  We are the ones who must ponder in our hearts what all of this has to teach us about the Story of us all. 
     It will be up to us to leave our flocks unattended for a while.  It will fall to us to manage our time and our energy and our calendars and our schedules.  We are the ones who must make sure that there is a place and the time to be silent and thoughtful, to rest and contemplate.  We are the ones who must seek out the time to prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of the Night of the Child. (Night of the Child by Robert Benson)

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Lord God, our Heavenly Father, during this season of Advent help us to prepare our hearts for your coming.  Come, Lord Jesus!  Come and visit your people.  We eagerly await your coming.  Come, Lord Jesus!  Amen.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

hope

Opening Prayer: Enliven us, O God, with a great hope.  The hope of your coming.  The hope of your redemption.  The hope of your healing.  The hope of freedom.  May we be agents of this hope in your world.  Amen.

Scripture: Zechariah 9:9-12

Journal: What hope does the Zechariah passage cause to rise in your heart?  What images enliven you?  Why?  What does it look like to be agents of this hope in the world?

Reflection: Hope is a force of God that enlivens us to life.  We can easily miss the radical significance of this definition to our lives.  Hope is often described as the expectation that desires will be fulfilled or as a feeling of assurance about current and future circumstances.  When someone thinks positively or believes deeply about desired outcomes, so this line of reasoning goes, then hope happens.
     However, hope is more than a positive attitude or elevated feeling of assurance.  Like faith and love, hope is a force.  Yes, it functions within individuals to transform their lives.  But hope also resides and functions outside an individual’s attitudes and feelings.  The very character of hope as energy that comes to us from God means we encounter hope as a transforming force that we do not control.
     Hope’s mission is to save us from a false sense of aliveness.  Rather than fulfill whatever fantasies claim our hearts, hope rescues us from a diminished life.  Its mission to us is congruent with its mission to the world: to enliven all to life and to save the world from a false sense of aliveness.
     The opportunities to experience hope are as close to us as we are to our neighbors and our bodies.  God has given us the capacity to pay attention, imagine, and enter into the wonder of life together.  This capacity is also our God-given assignment.  God created us to be a home for hope, to discern its work, and to be a people of hope. (“The Work of Hope,” by Luther E. Smith, Weavings)

Prayer

Closing Prayer:
O Expectancy,
born of fertile wonder,
belabored by narrowed hope;
craning curious lives forward,
You are the brother of holy surprise.
Come startle awake
our dozing apathy, our complacent dreams,
that we may behold your borning, Advent cry.
Amen. (Behold! By Pamela C. Hawkins)

Thursday, December 14, 2017

abundance

Opening Prayer: Bless our God, O peoples! Give him a thunderous welcome! Didn’t he set us on the road to life? Didn’t he keep us out of the ditch? He trained us first, passed us like silver through refining fires, Brought us into hardscrabble country, pushed us to our very limit, Road-tested us inside and out, took us to hell and back; Finally he brought us to this well-watered place. (Psalm 66:8-12, The Message)

Scripture: Psalm 66:12

Journal: What has the road to abundance looked like for you in the past few weeks and months?  Where are you in the midst of the fire or the water?  What is it doing in you?  What is God doing in you?

Reflection: “You let people ride over our heads; we went through the fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.” 

     If I were making a roadmap, I don’t think I’d have drawn it up quite that way.  I mean, who in their right mind would cause the road to abundance to go right through the middle of the fire and the water.  But that is exactly what you did, O God.  Somehow you knew.  Somehow you knew that in order to fully appreciate—and fully arrive at—this place called abundance, we must spend some time in the flames or the waves, or both.  Somehow they are a necessary part of the journey.  Short-cuts are not allowed.  They only make our ultimate arrival less than it would have been.  I mean, who can fully appreciate much until they have had to survive on little.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: What a strange and wonderful life this is with you, O God.  A life where the road to abundance leads through the fire and the water.  Give us the grace and the courage and the strength to reach the destination you have chosen for us.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

yielded

Opening Prayer: Today, O Lord, I yield myself to you.  May your will be my delight today.  May your way have perfect sway in me.  May your love be the pattern of my living.
     I surrender to you my hopes, my dreams, my ambitions.  Do with them what you will, when you will, as you will.
     I place into your loving care my family, my friends, my future.  Care for them with a care that I can never give.
     I release into your hands my need to control, my craving for status, my fear of obscurity.  For Jesus’ sake.  Amen. (Prayers form the Heart by Richard Foster)

Scripture: Luke 1:5-23

Journal: What about this passage speaks to something within you today?  Why or how?  How can you relate to Zechariah and Elizabeth?  How is their “story” like your own?  How does the reality of God meeting them in the midst of their doubts and fears speak to something deep within you?

Reflection: Waiting is not a very popular attitude. Waiting is not something that people think about with great sympathy. In fact, most people consider waiting a waste of time. Perhaps this is because the culture in which we live is basically saying, “Get going! Do something! Show you are able to make a difference! Don’t just sit there and wait!” For many people, waiting is an awful desert between where they are and where they want to go. And people do not like such a place. They want to get out of it by doing something.
     It impresses me, therefore, that all the figures who appear in the first pages of Luke’s Gospel are waiting. Elizabeth and Zechariah are waiting. Mary is waiting. Simeon and Anna, who were there at the temple when Jesus was brought in, are waiting. The whole opening of the good news is filled with waiting people. And right at the beginning all those people in some way or another hear the words, “Do not be afraid. I have something good to say to you.” These words set the tone and the context. Now Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary, Simeon and Anna are waiting for something new and good to happen to them. (A Spirituality of Waiting by Henri Nouwen)

Prayer

Closing Prayer: 
Dear God,
I so much want to be in control.
I want to be the master of my own destiny.
Still I know you are saying:
     “Let me take you by the hand and lead you.  Accept my love and trust that where I   
       will bring you, the deepest desires of your heart will be filled.”
Lord, open my hands to receive your gift of love.  Amen. 
(With Open Hands by Henri Nouwen)

Saturday, December 9, 2017

waiting for help

Opening Prayer: Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.  For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.  Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you. (Psalm 33:20-22)

Scripture: Psalm 33:13-22

Journal: How are waiting and trust related to each other in your life and heart?  Where are you waiting, in trust, on the Lord?  Where are you not?

Reflection: Waiting is essential to the spiritual life. But waiting as a disciple of Jesus is not an empty waiting. It is a waiting with a promise in our hearts that makes already present what we are waiting for. We wait during Advent for the birth of Jesus. We wait after Easter for the coming of the Spirit, and after the ascension of Jesus we wait for his coming again in glory. We are always waiting, but it is awaiting in the conviction that we have already seen God’s footsteps. Waiting for God is an active, alert – yes, joyful -waiting. As we wait we remember him for whom we are waiting, and as we remember him we create a community ready to welcome him when he comes. (A Spirituality of Waiting by Henri Nouwen)

Prayer

Closing Prayer: From high in the skies God looks around, he sees all Adam’s brood.  From where he sits he overlooks all us earth-dwellers.  He has shaped each person in turn; now he watches everything we do.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

advent waiting

Opening Prayer: I wait for the Lord, my souls waits, and in his word I put my hope.  My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.  O Israel, put your hope in the Lord. (Psalm 130:5-7)

Scripture: Psalm 127:1-2

Journal: What does waiting for the Lord mean for you these days?  How are you doing it?

Reflection: Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. (Psalm 127:1)
     Advent is not about trying to create or produce or build something, it is about waiting for God to reveal something.  It is about resisting the urge to do and embracing the urge to be.  It is a time where we wait for the Lord.  We do not wait for the Lord to show up and do something, for he was never absent.  He is always present (Psalm 139:7-12), always working (John 5:17), always speaking (Psalm 19:1-14).  We wait for the Lord because he is already doing something and we just need to be able to see and to hear what that is.


Be up and awake to what God is doing! (Romans 13:11, The Message) 


Prayer

Closing Prayer: Help us, O Lord, to live our lives always and only in response to you.  Help us to do nothing, or initiate nothing, that you have not already begun.  Give us the desire and the ability to join you in what you are doing.  Show us where you are at work, O God, and let us join you in that, whatever that may look like.  In the name of Jesus, the One who comes, we pray.  Amen.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

waiting for redemption

Opening Prayer: Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
     If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
     I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.  My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
     O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins. (Psalm 130:1-8)

Scripture: Psalm 130:1-8

Journal: How are you longing for redemption?  How are you waiting on the Lord for it?  How will you put your hope in the Lord in the meantime?

Reflection: There is a deep yearning within each of us for all things to be made right, to be exactly who and what they were intended to be when they were whispered into being.  Unfortunately, this side of heaven, what we experience is something far less than that.  Our world is woefully and irreparably broken.  Things have gone—and continue to go—terribly wrong.  They are spinning out of control and, as much as we might try, there is very little we can do about it.  Things are just too far gone.  We can’t fix it ourselves.  
     Where is the hope?  Where is the hope that somehow, someone might be able to redeem this mess?  Where is the hope that somehow, someone might make things back into the way they were created to be?
     And it is not just what we see around us that is the problem.  It is also what we see within us.  We are not immune to, or innocent of, this brokenness.  In fact, if we are really honest, we contribute to it in a major way.  Our “record of sins” is no shorter than the next man.  “Oh they may not be quite as extreme,” we tell ourselves, but who are we kidding.  Our list is so long—and getting longer by the minute—that we cannot possibly make it all right again.
     Thankfully we do not have to.  That is where God comes in.  He is the one that is filled with unfailing love.  He is the one that, in spite of our own ugliness and brokenness, offers full redemption.  We just have to put our hope in him.  We just have to wait for him like a watchman waiting for the morning.  For he will come, and when he does, we will be forgiven.  He will fully redeem us—and the world—from all our sins.  Thanks be to God.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: We await your redemption, O Lord, your full redemption.  More than watchmen wait for the morning, we wait for you.  Our list is long, O God, oh so long.  We have no hope of redeeming ourselves, our only hope is in you.  Our hope is in your unfailing love.  Redeem us, O Lord, from all of our sins.  Make us right and whole once again.  Make all things into what you intended them to be.  Lord, have mercy.  Amen.

Monday, December 4, 2017

ready

Opening Prayer: Roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that's coming when Jesus arrives.  Don't lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing.  You didn't know any better then, you do now.  As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God's life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. (1 Peter 1:13-16, The Message)

Scripture: Matthew 25:1-13

Journal: How will you stay spiritually awake during this Advent season?  How will you make yourself ready for the arrival of the Christ?

Reflection: Two words that seem to be coming up often, as the season of Advent begins, are awake and ready. One of them (awake) has to do with a way of being, and the other (ready) has to do with a mode of operation--what it takes to live a life that is awake and alert.  It is like the parable of the oil and the lamps.  Staying awake is only one part of the equation, albeit a very important part.  We must also be ready.  Or, better yet, we must also make ourselves ready--constantly.  Preparations must be made in advance, so that when the time of the arrival comes, we will have oil for our lamps.  During Advent we watch and wait, but that is not a passive thing.  The kind of watching and waiting we are called to do is an active, expectant, anticipatory waiting.  It is a waiting in which our souls stand on tiptoe, knowing that the arrival is imminent, and that we must be ready, whenever and wherever and however it comes to pass.  That is why we must roll up our sleeves and put our minds in gear, so that we will be totally ready to receive the gift that's coming when Jesus arrives. 

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Come, Lord Jesus! Make us ready for your arrival within us and among us.  Amen.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

anxious toil

Opening Prayer: Give me the wisdom, O Lord, to know the difference this day between who you truly made me to be and what I have merely tried to manufacture as a result of my own fears and insecurities.  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 127:1-2

Journal: What is the main difference most days between simply being who God made you to be and trying to make yourself into something (or someone) else?  How does that typically manifest itself?  What is the result?

Reflection: This life is a constant battle between being who and what God made us to be—in all of its truth and all of its beauty—and trying to be something, or someone, other than that.  It is the difference between receiving a self (a true, God-breathed self) and trying to manufacture one.  It is the difference between being organic (or authentic) and being synthetic.
     We are builders by nature, even when it comes to the self.  We are always, it seems, trying to build a life, a career, or a reputation—trying to make a name for ourselves—when who we are has already been whispered into us before the foundations of the world.  We just need to find out who that is and be that.  A dear friend once said, “I think I’ve been asking the wrong question most of my life.  I’ve been asking, ‘God, what do you want me to do?’ when I should have been asking, ‘God, who do you want me to be, and help me to do whatever helps me to be that.’”
     That’s where this Psalm comes in.  It is a reminder from God about the order and essence of real life.  Whenever we start building (even a self to be), our labor will most likely be in vain.  The true self is God-built.  We just need to discover who that is and what that looks like in the world.  When we start trying to make something of ourselves, we just end up creating layer upon layer of falseness, “putting on coats against the cold” as Frederick Buechner once called it.  And that is the definition of toil—laboring in vain.
     Give me the wisdom, O Lord, to know the difference—this day and every day—between who you truly made me to be and what I have merely tried to manufacture as a result of my own fears and insecurities.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Lord, you built me, help me to be all that you made me to be—nothing more and nothing less.  Amen.