Category Archives: Advent

Advent 2013: The Way Home

This post is part of The December Synchroblog and part of Christine Sine’s annual Advent synchroblog, both of which invite bloggers to reflect on the idea of “coming home” and what that means to them during the season of Advent. The bloggers who participate will be listed at the bottom of this post for you as they become available. 

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The word “home” brings to mind a feeling that is hard to describe … it has to do with belonging and being loved and relaxed and letting one’s guard down and feeling safe. Sometimes home is found in a particular place such as a state or a city or a house, and other times it is found in the company of others or in a particular activity such as painting or riding a horse.

When my son comes home from college and we give each other a great big hug that lasts 10 or 15 seconds I get the feeling that I’ve found my way home. At times I experience that “coming home” feeling when I realize that someone “gets me”.  Other times I feel like I am home when I hear a particular song or am in the process of creating or when I’m hanging out with friends.  And sometimes I find my way home in a simple act of giving or listening or helping.

Whether the feeling of home is brought about by people, places or activities it is a blessing that is like a deep, refreshing breath for our souls … it feels right and there is a lightness that occurs within.

Thinking about the holidays and home reminds me of the sermon “Are You Going Home For Christmas?” by Frederick Buechner in which he talks about what it means to be truly home.

“I receive maybe three or four hundred letters a year from strangers who tell me that the books I have spent the better part of my life writing have one way or another saved their lives, in some cases literally. I am deeply embarrassed by such letters. I think, if they only knew that I am a person more often than not just as lost in the woods as they are, just as full of darkness, in just as desperate need. I think, if I only knew how to save my own life. They write to me as if I am a saint, and I wonder how I can make clear to them how wrong they are.

But what I am beginning to discover is that, in spite of all that, there is a sense in which they are also right. In my books, and sometimes even in real life, I have it in me at my best to be a saint to other people, and by saint I mean life-giver, someone who is able to bear to others something of the Holy Spirit, whom the creeds describe as the Lord and Giver of Life. Sometimes, by the grace of God, I have it in me to be Christ to other people. And so, of course, have we all-the life-giving, life-saving, and healing power to be saints, to be Christs, maybe at rare moments even to ourselves.

I believe that it is when that power is alive in me and through me that I come closest to being truly home, come closest to finding or being found by that holiness that I may have glimpsed in the charity and justice and order and peace of other homes I have known, but that in its fullness was always missing. I cannot claim that I have found the home I long for every day of my life, not by a long shot, but I believe that in my heart I have found, and have maybe always known, the way that leads to it … I believe that home is Christ’s kingdom, which exists both within us and among us as we wend our prodigal ways through the world in search of it.”

May we all find our way home during this season of Advent by spreading love and kindness wherever we go.

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check out the other synchrobloggers

 

Advent 2012 – Sometimes Dreams Do Come True

This post is part of the December Synchroblog “Tell Me A Story” in which we are invited to tell an Advent story from our own life.  I will provide a list of the other contributors at the end of this post as they become available. I hope you will check them all out!

“The hard work of Advent reflection and waiting is mingled with the gift of time and space to dream new dreams, to bathe in pools of hope, and to stretch the canvas of our imagination wide enough for God to paint God’s own visions for our lives. Advent is a season for our imagination to run wild as we contemplate a God who becomes human. We are given a wider glimpse of God when we allow Advent to be an invitation to dream beyond our comfort zones of what we think can happen in our lives and what God can do. In Advent we receive four weeks to dwell on what God’s vision might be for us and for those we touch. Four weeks to dwell on how the courage of expanding our imagination might feed into the growing kingdom of God. Four weeks to gather our wits about us for another year; preparing our bodies, minds and spirits to receive the Christ child and take him out into the world for others to see and praise, worship and obey; the Christ with whom we dream big and imagine wildly.” 

Taken from the Preface of Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent  By Enuma Okoro

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Years ago I had a dream that I was a student at an elite dance academy.  In the dream I was “a dancer” and I loved to dance and I loved the dance class. But I wasn’t just a dancer or someone who loved to dance, I was a very good dancer and I knew it and took great pride in the fact.

There was an important upcoming production that all the students were auditioning for and I was quite certain that I would get a part but I didn’t and I was very disappointed.

Next thing I know I am rehearsing with the dancers who were going to be in the show because one of them got sick, had to drop out and I was chosen to take her place. I was very excited and felt that I was just where I should be. The instructor was giving us direction and correcting us as we were rehearsing and then suddenly the rehearsal was over. As we were all walking out, the instructor asked me to stay behind for a moment. After the other dancers left she told me that I wouldn’t be able to be in the show because I just wasn’t good enough. I was crushed and devastated. I began to cry. I realized that I was not only disappointed about not being in the production but I was also very disappointed that the instructor did not think I was good.  How could this be happening to a good dancer like me?  If my good dancing didn’t make the instructor like me what in the world could I do to earn her approval and affection?

Then the scene suddenly changed, the way it does in dreams, and I was in a huge industrial kitchen.  I had no idea what I was doing there or why I was wearing a chef’s coat. I looked around and found a man preparing some food at one of the nearby steel counters. I walked over to him and asked him what was going on. He told me the Executive Chef was looking for a new Sous Chef and wanted to talk to me. I was completely dumbfounded! I knew I wasn’t much of a cook and certainly not capable of being a chef.  Why in the world would he want to talk to me? Where did I even get the chef’s coat I was wearing?  How did I get here? What in the world was going on?

Then suddenly a tall man all decked out in chef’s attire walked towards me with a huge smile on his face.

“Congratulations, Liz,” he said, “you got the job.”

“What job?” I asked.

He went on to explain that I had been awarded the Sous Chef position.

“But I’m not a good cook,” I exclaimed.

He just looked at me with that smile on his face and said, “I know … It’s because I love you.”

And then I woke up.

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Sometimes dreams do come true.

So go ahead this Advent season and dream big and imagine wildly!

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Here are the links to all the December Synchroblog posts:

Carol Kuniholm writing at Words Half Heard

Jeremy Myers tells us about Santa Clausette

Liz Dyer celebrates Dreams Do Come True

Leah Sophia digs in with Planting Hope

Glen Hager reveals a story of Christmas Surgery

Kathy Escobar wrestles with holiday expectations

Wendy McCaig  ponders storytelling in  Once Upon A Time

Expect the Unexpected

This post is a contribution to the Advent Synchroblog “Jesus Is Coming: What Do You Expect?”  I’ll put links to other’s contribution at the end of this post as they become available.

I have expectations!  I definitely have expectations!
They consist of me expecting a bunch of stuff to happen that will make life better. Not just for me – but for the world as a whole. And I think that is a good thing. These kind of expectations keep me getting up in the morning. These kind of expectations keep me looking for the good in people. These kind of expectations keep me believing that it will get better. These kind of expectations keep me hopeful. But expectations are only the beginning. It’s the unexpected things of life that have the potential to change us and the world we live in.

The Christmas story has a lot of unexpected things going on.  A pregnant virgin, a baby who is God, a star that guides, angels making announcements to shepherds.  Yes, Jesus burst onto the scene in an unexpected way, at an unexpected time, in an unexpected place, amid unexpected events – but that was only the beginning.  Throughout his life we continue to see a pattern of the unexpected taking place.
His family was bewildered.
Religious leaders were perplexed.
His own followers were baffled.
He wasn’t supposed to wash his disciples feet!
Why wouldn’t he allow the sword to be taken up against those who were trying to have him killed?
Who would have thought he would spend time with a Samaritan woman or help an adulteress?
And then there was his death, 
and his resurrection, 
and his ascension. 

You have to admit that if you hung out with Jesus you should be accustomed to the unexpected.
At Christmas I am reminded not only of the unexpected things that Jesus did but also that as a follower of Jesus I should be accustomed to doing unexpected stuff.

Loving my enemy.
Putting other’s interests before my own.
Sharing my resources generously.
Feeding the hungry.
Standing up for the oppressed.
Helping those who are sick or weak.

So let’s blow everyone’s mind this holiday season and do some unexpected stuff.

Like admitting that we Christians haven’t done a very good job at loving people who believe differently than us, much less loving our enemies.

Like being less concerned with structuring everything around what we believe to be right and wrong; and being more respectful of the rights of those who believe differently than we do.

Like being willing to give up some of our comforts, resources and rights so there will be less people who are poor, hungry, homeless and without healthcare.

Like being more humble about our knowledge of God.

Like loving and caring for others the way we love and care for ourself.

What unexpected things can you think of to do?
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Be sure and check out these other Advent Reflections:

Advent: A Journey of Awakening

Awakening

– by Sharlande Sledge

Wake us up, God!

Here we are,

rubbing the sleep out of our eyes,

still drowsy and dozing.

And you, Emmanuel God,

are awake with life,

coming to us from on high

to startle us with incarnation.

 

Stretching and yawning

from ordinary time,

we stumble to the door of your Advent.

At first we may not recognize

the outline of your face.

The night is too much with us,

but the dawning is with you.

The light whispers your coming.

 

So wake us up, Lord Jesus.

Wake us when our expectations are too low.

Wake us up when our expectations are too high.

Wake us when we least expect it.

Wake us to your everlasting light.

(pg. 3 Prayers and Litanies for the Christian Seasons)

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Advent is very much about awakening – shaking off our spiritual slumber and opening up our hearts and minds to the sacred, awakening to the divinity that dwells within us, to the presence of God and his will for our lives.

Over 500 years ago Ignatius of Loyola said that the most important of all the spiritual disciplines is not meditation, but what he calls the “awareness examine.”  The awareness-examine was a spiritual exercise he gave to the Jesuits and to anyone who came to him for spiritual direction.  Its design was to examine how aware or awake one was to God in his or her life.  Ignatius suggested that at the end of each day, one would sit and ask oneself, “When was I most aware of life today?  In what event or idea or transaction was life present in a strong form in my day?”

This Advent I am asking myself these questions each evening:

Was I awake to God’s coming into my life today?

When was I most alive today?

In what event or idea or transaction did I experience the Advent of God in my day?

And each morning I am praying:

Wake me up, God.  Here I am.

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This post is part of the December Synchroblog, “Advent: A Journey”.  A synchroblog is a collection of similar articles or posts made by a diverse group of bloggers who have agreed to blog on the same topic on the same day. You can find a list of all the participants at the end of this post.  If you’re a blogger & want to be part of future synchroblogs, you can join on facebook or go to our new synchroblog site and subscribe.

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The Gate Of Heaven Is Everywhere

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Christine Sine is once again hosting an Advent Blog Series on her blog Godspace.  The series is called “Jesus Is Near: How Do We Draw Close?”This post is my contribution to the series.  Christine will share at least one contribution daily on her blog, where she also provides a list of all the contributors.

“We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent

and God is shining through it all the time.

God manifests Himself everywhere, in everything – in

people and in things and in nature and in events   …

The only thing is we don’t see it  …

I have no program for this seeing.  It is only given.

But the gate of heaven is everywhere.”

–          Thomas Merton

 

Years ago I believed that drawing near to God required me to become someone other than who I was/am.  Although I became a follower of Christ while the old hymn “Just As I Am” was sung, I didn’t believe being myself would allow me to get very close to God.

It took me many years to begin to understand that being myself – my real self as opposed to my false self – was not only what would enable me to draw near to God; but, to my amazement and surprise, reconciliation with God and others was to be achieved through reconciliation with myself – my made-in-the-image-of-Christ self.

I don’t need to leave myself – my true self – to become spiritual – to commune with God – to see God manifested in everywhere, in everything – to walk through the gate of heaven that is everywhere – in people – in things – in nature – in events.  It is my false self that must die so that my true self may emerge.

My false self finds it’s identity in what I am not (I’m not like “those” people), or in a group who shares some common experience, or in a person who makes me feel like I belong.  My false self is consumed with personas and masks that hide my feelings, my failures, my passions, my fears, my desires in order to pretend to be what I perceive to be expected from me.

My false self is telling me right now, as I write this, that I must get busy and do something to become my true self … but the truth is I cannot do it – I cannot think or work myself into being real enough to draw near to God.  Becoming real is something that happens to us in the midst of our life.  Paula D’Arcy says, “God comes to us disguised as our life.”

In other words, it grasps us in the midst of our ordinary life. Being real is an experience  – during prayer, in the midst of suffering, while fully experiencing our place in creation, being forgiven or loved, enjoying art or relationship … it is not based on any sense of merit or accomplishment – it is a gift.  A gift that allows you to see a child sleeping, hear a voice singing, feel a breeze blowing with spontaneous awe and gratitude; a gift that allows us to be mindful of difficult feelings when they begin to surface – feelings of anger, fear, boredom, sadness, frustration, anxiety – that can be acknowledged to ourself and to God as if we were holding the feeling in our hand and presenting it to ourself and to God; a gift that allows me to look upon events and people with sacred attention and be vulnerable rather than defensive, judgemental, controlling and/or manipulative.

The fact that we cannot think or work ourself into being real enough to draw near to God does not mean that we cannot end up spending our life working to nurture and maintain our false self.  Our realization of our false self, our struggle to remove our masks, our willingness to dwell silently in the presence of God, to allow God to live his love through us, to be present in the here-now – these things help us to receive the gift of the really real – the gift of being our true self – so that all our enterings and leavings become a movement into the presence of God because “the gate of heaven is everywhere.”

“Everything I see, hear, touch, feel, taste, speak, think, imagine, is completing a perfect circle God has drawn.”  – Meister Eckhart

Synchroblogging Is Back

Wordle: Synchroblogging


synchroblog is a collection of similar articles or posts made by a group of bloggers whohave agreed to blogon the same topic on the same day

After taking a bit of a break.  Okay, it was a long break.  And after the most excellent leadership of Phil Wyman (The Why Man) for several years, we (Kathy, Liz & Sonja) are attempting to breathe new life into this form of blogging again.  We would love to hear your voice and invite you to participate in the upcoming synchroblogs:

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SEPTEMBER

CHRISTIANS AND THE IMMIGRATION ISSUE – 9/8/2010 (second Wednesday of the month) As Congress debates how to handle illegal immigrants already within U.S. borders and how to more effectively handle hopeful immigrants in the future, Christians will need to consider what it means to love these new neighbors in our midst.

Please email your name, name of blog, title of post and link to: Sonja Andrews at synchroblog@gmail.com by close of business CST on 9/7/2010 if you would like to be included in this synchroblog.

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OCTOBER

LEGALIZING SAME SEX MARRIAGE – 10/13/2010 (second Wednesday of the month) For more than a decade, the issue of same-sex marriage has been a hot button issue; resulting in legislation, lawsuits and ballot initiatives attempting to either legalize or ban the practice. Division among religious groups have also resulted over the decision to recognize same-sex marriage or condemn it.  Let your voice be heard regarding this history making issue.

Please email your name, name of blog, title of post and link to: Liz Dyer at synchroblog@gmail.com by the close of business CST on 10/12/10 if you would like to be included in this synchroblog.

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NOVEMBER

SEEING THROUGH THE EYES OF THE MARGINALIZED – 11/10/2010 (second Wednesday of the month) Marginalization results in an individual’s exclusion from meaningful participation in society and it’s source is many.  Economic circumstances, illness, disability, geographical location, gender, sexuality, race, religion are all dominant sources of individuals being marginalized.  Sometimes it’s easy to see holidays or certain systems from a position of power or privilege.  As God’s people, what does it mean to see the world through the eyes of the marginalized?  What is it like to be one of the marginalized? How can we be part of bridging some of these gaps?  Use your voice to make a difference on this sensitive issue.

Please email your name, name of blog, title of post and link to: Kathy Escobar at synchroblog@gmail.com by the close of business CST on 11/09/10 if you would like to be included in this synchroblog.

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DECEMBER

ADVENT – THE JOURNEY – 12/8/2010 (second Wednesday of the month)  Advent is the dawn of a journey that leads us not only to Bethlehem but potentially to a new understanding of our relationship to God and his beloved creation.  Share your thoughts about the journey of advent during this inspirational season.
Please email your name, name of blog, title of post and link to: Sonja Andrews at synchroblog@gmail.com by close of business CST on 12/7/2010 if you would like to be included in this synchroblog.

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PLEASE SEND YOUR IDEAS FOR FUTURE SYNCHROBLOGS (THAT YOU WOULD BE WILLING TO HOST) TO: synchroblog@gmail.com

AND …

PLEASE INVITE OTHER BLOGGERS YOU KNOW TO JOIN OUR SYNCHROBLOG.  THE MORE THE MERRIER!  THE MORE DIVERSE THE BETTER!

PS  This week (Aug 9 – 13) has been the “Big Tent Synchroblog”  There was a great turnout (more than 50 posts) .  Feel free to join in.  Go here for a list of contributors.

PSS   Brian McLaren called for a synchroblog the week of August 23 as BACK TO SCHOOL WEEK.  He suggested we blog on Christian education/spiritual formation for kids and youth that week?  Go here to see his announcement.