At times it can be helpful just to write down the thoughts that occur in your brain. The morning of December 6 after doing a Tara Brach guided meditation through Insight Timer this was my flow.
Tara Brach Letting life live through you
Smattering rain, splattering rain
Listening is my intention for meditation
Can’t possibly center
Too much to do
Piles of presents unwrapped and waiting
Draw away to surrender
Yield to the moment
This moment, only gift
Right now, right here
What greater gift than presence
Read Macrina writing about shopping carts
This is the place and time
For centering in true life
As breeze disturbs the curtains
And rain increases to water now present
Smattering has become flowing
Leaves have yielded to gravity and now lie
as drenched, disconsolate leaves
Not yet encased in ice and snow
Lay down your plans Molly Lin
Hear, see, record, make the letters large
That the runner might see and read (HAB 2:2)
Prince of peace here regardless of man made season
Waiting to be invited
Coming with floods of mercy
Kindness and peace washing over and through
My created chaos insubstantial to this
Power of Almighty
I am waiting as manger for Your resting
Wind increases and I
Bend the knee of my heart
As You envelop me in Your power
Public power source fails
Light goes out, things flicker, then on
You are steady and unmoved
Light of the World
Shine throughout and beyond me
Look through my eyes
Declare Your presence
Touch this world with Sight and Sounds
Of holy life beyond the grind
Of holiday tradition
Man made glamor
Glitz and tinsel
I think I’m hearing music
Realize that is Your Holy Wind
Playing the outdoor chimes
Holding the note to call me back
To Your presence in my midst
Sustained tone like angelic choir
Drawing me, calling me back
To the center down silence
Place of restoration, healing, atoning
Refreshment from Your presence
For many people the holidays bring an increased sense of loneliness and sadness. I get a note once a week from TED talks about recordings that might interest me. Some are good, some do not appeal to me so much. This one is good. Insightful. And it works. Hoping it helps to lift any sagging spirits this week! I know zero about Twitter, but he is famous through it.
TED intro: “Being open and vulnerable with your loneliness, sadness and fear can help you find comfort and feel less alone, says writer and artist Jonny Sun. In an honest talk filled with his signature illustrations, Sun shares how telling stories about feeling like an outsider helped him tap into an unexpected community and find a tiny sliver of light in the darkness.”
Little moments of connection can be found, even on social media. Small things, made up of small moments. He says
You gonna take your shoes off, or what?!? Love that snail’s attitude!
“The third Sunday of Advent we are invited to reflect on the joy we have access to because of our faith in Jesus. One of the defining characteristics of Christ-followers is their joyful demeanor. Let’s not allow the struggles of this year to steal from thegreat joy we have because of Jesus.” (Crosswalk.com)
Philippians 4:4-5 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Rejoice – to be delighted. To feel or express great happiness. Paul wrote to the Philippians saying do it. And then do it again. And again.
Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8-9
Our happiness is can be fleeting and momentary. As a child I was allowed to have one birthday party. My mother filled these little baskets with a treat at each place setting. Some fifty years later I came across the same little basket in a party supply store (since gone out of business).
We have access to more joy than can be gotten through anything one can purchase at a store or online. We have joy that comes from our Savior. His birth caused such joy that angels descended to sing over the earth.
The Anchor devotional for December 2021 reads: ” The difference between happiness and joy is the difference between a short-term pleasant experience and a long-term positive change in circumstances. And the difference between joy and great joy is the difference between believing things are going to be okay, and knowing they are going to be marvelous! Hard times still mark our lives as they did for Jesus and His disciples. But great joy means that it all has purpose and meaning. It will end very well. Enduring life’s challenges may make us strong. But more importantly, it makes us more like Jesus. We may want to be made better for this life, but He intends to make us completely new, perfect, and ready for His eternal kingdom.”
Have you felt that inexpressible and glorious joy? Sit with the Word and the Lord whose birth we celebrate. Ask Him to show you that great joy. “Jesus, we ask You to open our eyes to the great joys that surround us. Help us to do You honor as we remember Your birth and Your return. Amen”
Molded by Your Holy Hand I wait before You Cupped and ready, cleansed, atoned waiting for Your radiant touch Virtue compelled to enfold Your own the vessel of Your making.
Here am I, stuff of earth yielded for Messiah’s birth be it unto me, O Lord, as in Your word and will.
The Great I AM dwells in my heart there to impart the power courage and propulsion for His dream to be fulfilled.
About my illustration:
When our Savior was born He was placed in a manger where the animals usually fed. The manger might have been a wooden log that was hollowed out to hold the feed and hay. A humble beginning and the place where I await Him. Thus the overall shape below.
But the figure is me. Awaiting the Lord’s coming, His fresh in-filling, His power from on high. My heart is marked with the symbol of the cross: I am His forever. I am placed there as an infant. I am His child. I do not have the answers to anything. Receptively is how I am yielded for His will and ways for me. His power, courage and propulsion to fill me in making His dreams for me come true. May my very life and yours be a gift to Him this Christmas and always.
Discovered another book I released when we moved. Silly me. I was able to hear Macrina Wiederkehr speak before she died April 24, 2020 at the age of 81. She has inspired me through her books for many decades.
Do you remember shopping at K Mart? Periodically an announcer would come on the PA system and call shoppers to an area of the store where they could participate in a “Blue Light Special.” Perhaps Macrina was inspired by that announcement?
The book I let go of was entitled Seasons of Your Heart, Prayers and Reflections. Her poem Christmas Shopping spoke so deeply to me that I borrowed the eBook from the library so I could share it with you this Advent season. Read it through. Then read it again slowly and sit with the meanings. I seem to gather new insight each time I read it. Truly, a powerful work though not acclaimed as her best!
O God of words, dear Word made flesh
give birth to my thoughts
change them into words
that will help me Christmas up the lives
of those I love, for I am weak and fragile
scared and empty this year
and still I feel You very near.
Jesus, I think I hear You coming
I think I hear a sound that says
you’ve cared your way into my life again.
I think I see a light more lasting
than the ones we hang on trees
I think I see a world
that’s splashed with God again
so gospelled with his presence
so covered with his love yet, lonely still …
O shoppers, dear shoppers put your carts away.
Please put your carts away
and search deep down within your hearts
for gifts that will not rust or fade
for where your treasure is there is your heart. (Matthew 6:19–21)
O look into your God-splashed, gospelled hearts
and see! See Christmas standing there
waiting to be, not bought but given free.
We are Christmas shoppers, Lord
We are shopping for a way to make your coming last
O take the blind in us and hold it close
O teach us how to see
decorate our lives with your vision
for Christmas, let us see!
O shoppers, dear shoppers hang lights in your hearts
instead of on your trees
for the One we’ve hung our hopes on
has come, and now we’re free
but only if we see.
Jesus, we long for Christmas-eyes.
Please heal the blind in us
for Christmas, eyes that see!
Lucky, our rescue beagle, came to us not knowing how to play with toys. The only way I could get her to take an interest was to affix a treat to the toy. So Olaf has elastic on him to affix a treat, as does the storybook Pokey Puppy, yellow puppy from Tractor Supply, etc.
When we placed the Peanuts characters under the tree this year, she eventually decided that Charlie Brown belonged to her. It took her several days to chew up his collar. We never found the yellow pieces, and I for one did not want to examine her poop. When the stuffing started to fly we removed it from her.
Next was Snoopy. Yep she put a huge hole in his throat. Now the question is do we mount those famous heads on the wall to portray Lucky’s conquests as a hunter? For now they rest in the office closet until I can decide to either pitch them out or mount them. Hmm, would have to put them high enough on the wall that she cannot tear them down!
Wonder what she is wishing for at Christmas? Her other toys so far have not a tear, not a chew. All my daughter’s dogs destroy their toys. Maybe Lucky is related now?
Once while visiting New Mexico Dan and Betty took us to a collection of fascinating ruins. I honestly wondered what the big deal was as we bumped and crashed down a potholed gravel road for what seemed like miles and mile. To this day when I come across one of our photos from there I am stunned to silence.
The Chaco ruins give a bit of insight into life that thrived about the 9th to 12th century BC. Window openings that have lasted all these eons. Doorways, walls, evidence of a large ancient civilization. How did they built these?
https://www.worldhistory.org/Chaco_Canyon/ notes “Chacoans built epic works of public architecture which were without precedent in the prehistoric North American world and which remained unparalleled in size and complexity until historic times – a feat which required long-term planning and significant social organization. Precise alignment of these buildings with the cardinal directions and with the cyclical positions of the sun and moon, along with an abundance of exotic trade items found within these buildings, serve as an indication that Chaco was an advanced society with deep spiritual connections to the surrounding landscape.”
What does this have to do with December 2021? Possibly more than you might think!
“Drinking just two cups of hot chocolate a day helps elderly people keep their brains healthy and their minds sharp by boosting the blood flow to their brains.
“Homeinstead reports that ‘we’re learning more about blood flow in the brain and its effect on thinking skills,’ said lead author Dr Farzaneh Sorond, from Harvard Medical School. ‘As different areas of the brain need more energy to complete their tasks, they also need greater blood flow. This relationship, called neurovascular coupling, may play an important role in diseases such as Alzheimer’s.’”
Back to Chaco from https://www.worldhistory.org/Chaco_Canyon: “The presence of cacao provides evidence of a transfer not only of tangible goods but of ideas from Mesoamerica to Chaco. Cacao was revered by the Maya civilization who used it to make beverages which were frothed by pouring back and forth between jars before consuming during rituals reserved for the elite. Traces of cacao residue were found on potsherds in the canyon likely from tall cylindrical jars which were located in sets nearby and which are similar in form to those used during Maya rituals.”
“It is likely that many of these extravagant trade items, in addition to cacao, played a ceremonial role. They were found predominantly at great houses in enormous quantities within storerooms and burial rooms, alongside items with ritual connotations – carved wooden staffs and flutes and animal effigies. At Pueblo Bonito alone, one room was found to contain more than 50,000 pieces of turquoise, another 4,000 pieces of jet (a dark-colored sedimentary rock) and 14 macaw skeletons.”
I realize that cocoa and hot chocolate are different from one another, but hey! As one source wrote: “Cocoa is a familiar ingredient, whether used for baking or to make hot chocolate, but cacao may be a little less known. With the popularity of eating whole and natural foods as well as vegan diets, however, we are hearing the word more and more with each passing season. It is easy to get confused as to the difference between the two since cocoa and cacao actually have a lot in common, the most important being chocolate.”
So I will raise my cup of hot chocolate to the Chaco architects today and rejoice that I do not have to grind beans to retrieve chocolate. I am also so glad that this is no longer reserved for just the elite! Sure, mine is highly processed, but oh so good! And mixed with coffee to make a mocha? Wow!
The theme for the second week is Peace. I wonder how you define peace? Do you define it with the absence of something like chaos? Or do you define it with the presence of something? Most American mothers say they want peace and quiet for Christmas. What does the Word of God say? Plenty about peace.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27 NIV
Jesus said peace is something He gives to us. He left His peace here with us when He ascended into heaven. He comes and indwells us via His Holy Spirit. We are told in Scripture to live in peace, to have the fruit of peace, to desire peace, joy and righteousness in the Holy Spirit.
These are not the absence of something. They are attributes given to us through the power of the risen Christ. Even in the midst of chaos, we can hold peace in our hearts and minds. This gift from Jesus requires that we actually open it and claim it as our own.
Perhaps your family and loved ones are asking what you would like for Christmas? As you ponder the coming of Christ this week I pray you will read up on His peace and desire that above all gifts this season.
O Jesus, our Prince of Peace, bring us to surrender this season. Help us to desire Your peace above all other attributes this season. We need You to invade our hearts and keep us in all our ways that we might reflect Your glory in this life. Amen.
We have a spindly tree in our front yard. It has lived here only a few months. The man from the nursery said he picked it out himself. It was the best one he had. When it arrived we had to remove many leaves that were hosts to insect sacs in the form of galls.
Streams in the Desert is a collection of devotional writings and quotes collected by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman. Linda gave me a copy in about 1979. Someone had given it to her and she did not care for it. I have continued to read it, not daily every year, but many days over the years. You can easily find it online for free these days.
A portion of the entry for January 16 reads “When God wants an oak He plants it on the moor where the storms will shake it and the rains beat down upon it, and it is in the midnight battle with elements that the oak wins its rugged fiber and becomes the king of the forest.
“When God wants to make a man He puts him into some storm. The history of mankind is always rough and rugged. No man is made until he has been out into the surge of the storm and found the sublime fulfillment of the prayer: “O God, take me, break me, make me.”
January, 2018 Bob and I were both diagnosed with influenza. We had both taken our preventative injection but the flu had made a run around the formula. Within three days he was desperately ill, put into a coma and intubated. I was terrified I would lose him from this life. He had sepsis, organ failure, eventually several forms of pneumonia, MRSA, and was put on dialysis. It was a seriously life threatening ordeal.
Several weeks ago I got a cold. That went into a sinus infection so severe my eyeball sockets ached. I called the doc. Had a telemedicine visit. He decided to put me on antibiotic and low dose of Sudafed. Quizzed me thoroughly about my symptoms. Said some Covid has been similar to sinus infection. I finished the antibiotic. The illness took a turn. One day after I went off Sudafed I sneezed so continuously that I put myself on one dose of Benadryl. That dried up the sneezes. Now I am coughing, and coughing, and did I mention coughing?
Bob has started with similar symptoms though his symptoms have gone to his already congested lungs. I am terrified I have made him ill. Since moving we have spoken more than once about getting a twin bed for one of the spare rooms in case we ever need to sleep apart, like for medical reasons. What if we have not been sleeping apart, one of us gets ill and then the other? Do we still sleep together then or do I need to go order that twin bed delivered?
As the 82 year old guest at our Thanksgiving feast mentioned, “Not everything is Covid.” My brain is racing this morning asking, “But is THIS Covid?” The ordeal with Bob’s health taught me so much about faith and trusting God. I must admit though that I am fearful in this situation. How awful would it be if I give him Covid? With his compromised health he might end up on a ventilator again. (Awfulizing.) Then again, maybe he won’t. Is this pneumonia? Oh Lord, I pray not.
Trust. This morning on the Right Now media app I was listening to teaching by Ann Voskamp from her book one thousand gifts, and these lines struck me in regards to this cough, etc. “If I believe, then I must let go and trust. Why do I stress? What is saving belief if it isn’t the radical dare to wholly trust? I read it in one of the thick commentaries, that two hundred twenty times that word pisteuo is used in the New Testament, most often translated as “belief.” Belief is a verb, something that you do. This is the trust I lack: to know that if disaster strikes, He carries me even there. If authentic, saving belief is the act of trusting, then to choose stress is an act of disbelief … atheism. Anything less than gratitude and trust is practical atheism.”
Even as I type out the above quote a female sparrow lands on the feeder just beyond my computer screen. Birds to this feeder are rare!
He keeps me, too. “Lord, I pray You will heal this cough and help me keep my mind from fear and worry. I also pray the house sparrow will build a nest in our spindly oak tree to give me a constant reminder of Your grace and care. Amen.”
It actually seems as if the entire community has this awful cold. Protect those who do not have it, Lord. Heal the rest of us I pray.
Leprosy was a dreaded disease in Jesus’ time and still exists today. The World Health Organization site at https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/leprosy says “Leprosy is an infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae, an acid-fast, rod-shaped bacillus. The disease mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract, and the eyes. Leprosy is curable and treatment in the early stages can prevent disability.” Here is the story from Luke when there was no known cure.
Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distanceand called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Luke 17:11-19 NIV
“As they went, they were cleansed.” The healing was not instantaneous. Only one turned back and thanked Him. Are you the one who gives thanks?
“As he did with The Widow’s Mite, James Christensen interprets one of the Bible’s more powerful stories and presents us with an image of elegance, grace and beauty. At the same time he engages us in one of the higher promises of art: provoking thought. In fact, the art of reflection is at the core of the painting’s message.
“The Ten Lepers were a group of men cured of their disease through one of Christ’s miracles. Their tattered wrappings suggest what was, until this moment, their illness. Of the ten, nine are too preoccupied celebrating their new lease on life to think of anything else, much yet thank him. The tenth, at this moment, grasps truly what has occurred. He is the only one that returns to acknowledge the Master.
“This image provides an inspiring reminder to take a moment from our fast-paced world and reflect on what we have to be thankful for. And, just as importantly, to take the time to show this gratitude.
Showing gratitude is important for our souls. As the commentator above stated, “Take a moment from our fast-paced world and REFLECT on what we have to be thankful for. And, just as importantly, to the TAKE TIME TO SHOW THIS GRATITUDE.”