Your Key to Experiencing Scripture Reading Come Alive and SLOW WORD

(SLOW Word at the bottom. Remember, every Monday and Thursday there will be a Lectio Divina right here. Let’s savor the Word together.)

Perhaps you’d like to read in the quiet. I get that. Or perhaps you are like my sister and you want to be read to today:) I get that too. I’ve got you covered. Check out the very bottom of this page.

img_2224

 

“You are painting a picture without God in it.” My mother was a month from moving day when those words were spoken to her, lifted up before her like a mirror. Dad’s work had moved eight hours away. So like it or not, there would be a moving truck parked in front of the house they had just built and all their furniture would be hauled up a ramp and she would have to listen to the movers with their heavy, hollow, halting steps tramp up and down with pieces of her life.   No family was waiting on the other side of the truck’s journey with a table long enough to receive them. No friend was waiting inside a screened door with a cup of coffee. She would need to start creating a life from scratch. Again.

 

She carried the heavy anxiety and brought it into Delores’ office for them both to turn over in their hands. Delores listened to the fear and then quietly spoke, “Beth, you are painting a picture without God in it.”

 

img_1481

img_2095

 

And we do that, don’t we? We walk into our day with a picture of what that day will hold…and it rarely has God painted into it. Our imagination mocks us with absence, not Presence. We allow fear to reign and forget that Christ the King is walking beside us.  “I will never leave you or forsake you,” we were told in Hebrews 13:5. Jesus Himself gave this one last statement to the disciples to echo down through his disciples’ hearts for the centuries to come: “And surely I AM with you to the very end of the age,” (Matthew 28:30).

 

The picture of our future is completely different with God inside the frame.  When Jesus is present, the picture of our future sparkles with light, with ungathered joys, and there is always a full table set.

 

Writer and preacher Gregory Boyd in Seeing is Believing says this, “If Christ IS with us, isn’t picturing Him present actually more true than picturing an existence without Him?”

Christ present is the promise.

Christ reigning is the truth.

Christ WITH us is the essence of His name: IMMANUEL.

And THIS, my Friends, changes everything.

 

img_2182

img_1959

img_1671

 

But stay with me through this transition. Christ Present not only transforms our tomorrow, it changes how we do life today. Profoundly.

 

When we live picturing Christ present, we are saying yes to reality and framing our lives to fit the truth.

 

And here’s where this truth connects right here with the SLOW Word movement. When we create space to listen to the word, WITH the WORD, the scriptures come alive. Try it. Try offering Jesus a seat at the table across from you and looking into His eyes as you hear Jesus ask Peter before the betrayal: “Will you really lay down your life for me?” (John 13:38). Ouch.

 

Or try, again looking into His eyes, “If you love me, you will do what I command,” (John 14:15) and see what rises in your soul.

 

Or perhaps try today’s SLOW Word, “Come to Me and I will give you rest,” (Matthew 11:28-29).

 

When you are looking into Jesus’ eyes, the Word of God begins to vibrate with intensity and no longer sits still on the page. It BREATHES. It no longer lies flat. You can no longer pass over to the other side unchanged. The Word is now sitting there between the two of you and it becomes a vital part of the ongoing conversation of your life.

 

This verse from the writer of Hebrews awakens us to the truth: “The Word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart,” (Hebrews 4:12). Looking into His eyes, awake to His Presence in the present, I ask His Spirit to do His SLOW work, renewing my mind, teaching me to place Him in the frame of my reality, and transforming me through His Word.

 

img_1554

(Subscribe on the right to receive more practical keys to the WITH God life and more SLOW Words. And if this, dear friend, is a gift for you, share it with someone you know who may need the encouragement. Set the table for someone else.)

 

Continue Reading

Day 16: We Need You to be Fully You

Her heart squeezed tight as she stepped out of the silver Honda after the six hour drive. She stretched her legs and willed her heart to stretch too, but felt the familiar anxiety pinch it tight.  She was a newlywed arriving at the in-laws for the next family wedding, the next big event after hers.

 

She looked toward the family home and wondered what cloud of stress engulfed the family just through that front door. Without meaning to, she gulped the stress down tight.

Through the door and after the warm kisses she picked up an apron, tying the strings tight around her waist.  Then her blond eyebrows lifted and her lips forced the cheery, “So, what can I do to help?”

 

She directed her question at her father-in-law chopping peppers at the kitchen island.

 

The knife slowed its downward rock onto the wood cutting board until it stopped and he waved her over to his side, “Stephanie, honestly, what we need most is for you to be fully you. We need Stephanie. We need you.”  He went back to slicing the red pepper, slow and even and didn’t notice how her breath had begun to slow too.

 

She had been invited to come alive, invited to become Real and bring her gift for leaving beauty in her wake.

 

She had offered her hands empty and he had asked for her heart full.

 

And this, dear one, is what I hear too.

 

Our Father invites us to come fully alive, to bring our full heart to this new adventure.

 

 

We are invited to bring our gifts and words and love into a God-starved world  and open our hands to serve Jesus to the searching.

 

And yes, I know, if you are like me you are looking at your meager lunch, those slivers of fish, those seemingly insufficient barley loaves and wondering how it could possibly be enough.  Your time is scrunched, your words feel anemic, your life has been broken and rebroken and those talents you have? You sometimes desire to grasp the shovel and bury them deep. But remember, friend, He knows how to bless brokenness. He knows how to multiply what lies small in your hands.

 

 

And you, my friend, you are enough and your heart, fully alive, is needed right here, right now in this zipcode.

 

The God-hungry are waiting for you to come alive, to risk opening your heart and sharing the Bread in your hands.

 

God calls us to stop hiding, to stop dominating, to trust him, and to offer our true selves. He wants us to bring to bear the weight of our lives and all that He has given to us, worked into us, and offer it to our world.”

John and Staci Eldredge, Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul.

 

And this is her poem, my sister, the one who swings her heart open wide.

CROWNED ONE

Luminous

heart shimmering on skin

bursting from uncontained laughter

head back

 

Announce your presence:

shutters blown open.

Santa Ana winds whip mystery

and

scent of freshly baked bread

still warm.

If you have a bit more time, check out my sister Stephanie’s story on re.write magazine this month found here: Issue #19. And don’t miss learning about her beautiful non-profit, Unchained, raising a new generation of abolitionists.

 

Thank you to Cate Catani Robertson and Katherine Birkbeck Photography.  Congratulations and thank you for sharing your gift: Gorgeous.

………………………………………………………………………..

We’re on a 31 day journey toward falling in love with our zip code. Our family just moved down five states south and are loving the warm October. Would you like to come along? Slip your email address (I’ll guard it with my life) into the CONNECT box on the front page and we’ll journey together. Start here.

31dayszipcodeimg

Continue Reading

Sabbath: An Invitation to Cease Striving

126

Hello you…heavy-laden one.

You know that tug-of-war you’ve been straining with? All of your spirit pulling, begging, striving in the dust of a well-worn path?

Today is an invitation to open your fingers’ maniacal grip.

Feel the heavy frayed and frazzled rope of it slide through your palms. Hear the short scramble, the backwards jolt, the weight of it falling backwards with a thud.

Then listen (Matthew 11:28):

“Come to Me weary and heavy-laden…

Come out-of-breath Sprinters and faltering Marathoners,

Overworked and Malnourished bread-givers,

Empty Lovers and Thirsty chalice-holders,

 

Come Passion Seekers and Perfection Strivers,

Burnt out and Cut straight down,

Hope-less and Fear-full,

Visionless reCreators and puffed up Kingdom-builders,

Come to Me and Rest.”

134

Sit right down here on the earth in front of Jesus.

Or feel free in exhaustion to prostrate right over, touch forehead to ground.

Then let it begin to rise, that longing, that fear that keeps you pulling at life hard. Listen until the chaos quiets and you hear the hoarse whisper…your heart’s deepest cry.

Name it. Speak it. Place it in His hands wide open.

And with a large intake of air He will fill your longing with pure breath of life. He’ll grant life and mercifully blow the chaff away.

Today, you are invited to rest, weary one.

Remember, it’s in His hands.

Then come Monday morning?

Ask Him how much of the battle He requires you to pick back up.

“Take My yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Mt 11:29-30).

Continue Reading

Advent, Day 20: How to Have Beautiful Feet this Christmas

In October in Harrisburg, PA Felicia had walked the runway interceding…in their shoes.

 

She told the horrors of the stories of the more than 20 million trafficked simply by wearing a dress.  It’s a runway show called Unchained (click the link here to find out more) and Felicia is a co-founder (along with my beautiful sister, Stephanie!). 24 dresses designed by the acclaimed Project Runway designer Korto Momulo tells the story of the broken daughters: innocence stolen, the abuse and addictions of the trafficked, then hope, rescue, and redemption.

 

Compassion had been building for those just steps away from the trafficked as the stories of women who struggled to live free were shared.

 

And something had been born in Felicia as she walked that runway in the shoes of their story.

 

Or reborn.

 

 

Her own step-mom had squeezed her feet into stilettos every night, danced on a platform, wore the makeup so heavy no one could see the scars.

 

And she was also the one who pushed through the turnstile at a Billy Graham Crusade, who brought Felicia to hear about Jesus.

 

And if compassion is just love stored up,

 

then compassionate action is love spilled out.

 

Because we get them.  Don’t we? We all crave love.

 

And desire substituted and crammed down tight keeps the hunger pains down.

 

Most had their “no” robbed early, their glory carted away by the power gorging. And powerless, they grasped for power wherever they could find it, landing them here in the dark smoky interior of a strip club.

 

And every captive daughter needs a Rescuer.

 

And all the image-bearers need to feel the weight of their value, taste hope in order to walk out of the dark of hell.

 

It was through Harmony Dust’s work at iamatreasure.com that love started surging into action for Felicia.   Harmony, who was trafficked herself, has outreaches for those in the industry and trains women to do the same. On her site, rescued girls tell their stories of sinking into hell and the Rescuer who walked right in and found them there.

 

A few weeks ago Felicia’s love broke wide open with urgency.  She shared with her Ohio State campus church that she planned to gather Christmas gifts for the girls at a nearby club to begin an outreach. Hearts and wallets opened and gift cards for Bath and Body Works were brought to Felicia. Another member of the church, Shaytell Furman linked arms with her to share her mission.  With the gift cards for Bath and Body Works, she and Shaytell went shopping choosing the language of lotions to tell the girls that they have value and worth.

 

They prayed the girls would rub in truth every time they rubbed the lotion in deep. They hoped the salve of the gospel of peace would begin healing the wide open wounds.

 

 

Thursday night they wrapped the gifts up pretty in gift bags and she and Shaytell prayed for just the right girls, just the right club to walk into.  They had their sites on a big commercial establishment but as they pulled into the driveway, Felicia glanced off to the left at a small shady club. Felicia found herself driving up deeper into the unknown. They parked out front, prayed for courage and then pulled open the heavy metal door.

 

Once inside their eyes needed to adjust to the darkness, the covered windows, the few bright spotlights.  Music pounded out a techno beat and men sat at a bar laughing with a few mingling girls. The air was stale with smoke and alcohol.

 

As they walked up to the bar to ask for the manager, a few women sitting at the bar smiled brightly. Felicia was startled. Their demeanor was entirely incongruous.  They were bright August sunshine in the midst of the hard looks, hands wrapped around glasses tight.

 

When they announced to the manager their desire to bring Christmas gifts to the girls, the angry manager softened.  She pointed to the women at the bar with the wide smiles. It was then that Felicia noticed the Bath and Body Works bags sitting on top of the bar.

 

They were Christians on a love mission as well.

…………………………………………………………………..

How to have beautiful feet this Christmas?

 

1. Like Felicia, ask God for where your story and the need of the world meet.  Our testimony brings empathy which in turn will keep us focused when the journey seems long.  Understand that the relationship building that opens doors for the Gospel takes time, grace, and truth.  See this quote picked out by Harmony  from iamatreasure.com by Cloud and Townsend:

 

For God’s system to work, you have to have all three. Grace and time together, without truth, will make you comfortable in your stuckness. Truth and time together, without grace, will discourage and break you. Grace and truth together without time will give you a vision and then not have you reach the completion of that vision. They must go together.               

 

2. Ask God to build in you a love for the broken beautiful.

 

 

3. Do something tangible to show them you care…to share with them their true value.

 

4. Listen well.

 

5. Bring them into safe community.

 

6. Introduce them to the Rescuer slowly, how He runs to those who come home, forgives their sins, carts away their shame.  Then He wraps His robe around them tight, introduces them to His neighbors as His beloved child.

 

Check out this book…no good news giver sharing Christ should be without this short, insightful book.

…………………………………………………………………..

The two women greeted Felicia and Shaytell.  “We’ve been praying for you,” one of them whispered as she leaned over.

 

Felicia and Shaytell learned that the smiling women at the bar had been coming to the club for years every Thursday night, praying, and slowly getting to know the girls.  Now the leader was moving out of state and was afraid the ministry would be dropped.  “And here you are,” she said, hope spreading across her face.

 

 

Summer Gross

“How beautiful are the feet of them that bring the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things.” (Romans 10:15b)

And now for a much more “soulful” version of Handel’s “How Beautiful are the Feet.”

photos from the Unchained Fashion Show. Hear more about my response to the show here.

photos by Andrea Hoppel

Make-up provided by Maria Teresa Hair and Make-up Artist

Continue Reading

Advent, Day 19: Welcoming Him into Our Ordinary

On that first warmish day of spring, we throw all our weight against creaking sashes until the smell of moist earth fills every corner of the house.  All day long moving from room to room we inhale the mixture of wet pavement, hyacinths, pine.

 

We open our stale corners wide open to the breeze.

 

Henri Nouwen says that at the center of every soul is a room with a small table and a candle on it. A door with a handle on the inside stands in the thick walls. I imagine the room looks a bit like a wine cellar at an Italian restaurant, brick archways, dark corners, oak table, heavy carved door.

 

We can stay inside hidden, Nouwen says, alone with our fear and self-centeredness, our seemingly controlled life, or we can push open the door and the waiting King will enter.

 

It’s companionship with the King of Kings starting with the antipasta.

 

OK, I may have embellished that last part.  You might be having Indian food.

“I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me,” (Revelations 3:20).

 

Friends who went through the Alpha series with my husband were struck by Revelations 3:20 and in one session the wife announced, “Let’s do that.”  “Do what?” Andrew inquired. “Go home and open the door for God.” And they did.  They stood right inside their yellow English cottage of a house, turned the knob, opened the door and welcomed Him in…to their lives, their family, their marriage, their home.

 

But it’s not just a salvation scripture…although agreed, it’s brilliant as such.

 

Taking this verse in context, John wrote it down in Revelations as instructions for the church at Smyrna, for the lukewarm, rich, and self-centered.  He wrote it for me, maybe for you.  He knocks to come in, not just on safe days, not just on perfect-hair days, or even for emergencies.  He desires to come in, pull up a chair and eat the crusty bread of common life.

 

He wants to be formally invited into our relationship with our mother-in-law, our cublicle at our dead-end job, our Christmas morning highs, the ordinary every moment.

 

Our job is not to hear the knock, pick up the dust cloth, frantically try to set things in order. No, He gladly picks up the rag and the lemon spray, pulls up His sleeves.

 

Our job is simply to throw open the door and invite Him in.

 

We invite Him to move right in.

 

We invite Him who is King to make a kingdom out of us.

 

Continue Reading

Advent, Day 16: When We Do Too Much

The Advent lectionary and my little Advent series here collided randomly this Sunday in the most satisfying way. Yesterday’s scriptures, “He shall feed his flock” was featured for the Old Testament and then were repeated by Christ to John the Baptist in the gospel and as soon as I sat down in church, a lovely Mezzo-soprano and soprano sang the Messiah scriptures. I sat and bathed.

 

Later the children and I chatted about what we needed to be fed by our Shepherd. We pulled off tags  with words scrawled vertically on a paper in a prayer station, much like you would find at a Laundromat for a dog-sitting service. Simple and uncomplicated. We fingered them in our pockets for the rest of the evening, small kinesthetic prayers.  Xavier picked, “love.” Caedmon picked, “joy.” I chose peace. I desperately need peace from loud and crowding Christmas expectations.

 

I had already held the round see-through wafer in my hand, prayed for more “Jesus,” put the wafer on my tongue to dissolve. I’m always desperately in need of more Jesus.

 

The rest of the aria from the Soprano is what echoed in my mind later, “Come unto me all ye that labour.” It was one of the first arias I was handed in college. I listened but struggled not to breathe with her, mouth every word. Once you’ve sung anything for an audience your muscle memory takes over and the words are not just words, they are words connected to the diaphragm strength it takes to sing those words.

 

This was the phrase that stood out: “Take My yoke upon you and learn of me.”  As I heard the phrase repeated I wondered how many yokes I had taken on this Advent. And whose they were, because they were not His and they should not have been mine.

 

The image being used by Christ here is of an oxen and a double yoke, and the promise that yoked up with the Almighty God in the other half, our assigned work will not strain us out of God-rest.

 

When we do too much, we are slipping out of the yoke, trying to pull in our own strength. We strain hard and soon drop exhausted.

 

I wondered how many other yokes I have picked up, determined that I need to look over each one, ask them whose they are and if it’s time to lay them down. Holley Gerth in this girlfriend-chat of a book, You’re Already Amazing,  (which I love) says there are both talents that we are given and some we are not endowed. On Purpose. God doesn’t want us to try to take over everyone else’s gift. He just wants us to walk forward in ours, with His Almighty empowering fastened securely.

 

This Christmas season I’m giving up perfect.  I’m giving up the fear that my kids won’t have a magical Christmas. I’m giving up the fear that my dear sister-in-law won’t like her gift.

 

I’m giving up the hype. I’m so done with the hype. I just want more Jesus…for all of us.

 

…………………………………………………………………

Perhaps an Advent journal entry or just a simple list in your prayer time:

What yokes have you taken on that may not be yours? Where is the most strain, the least God awareness in your life?

What expectations of the holidays are building up your anxiety?

Perhaps these jobs or expectations need to be reattached to the strength of God,  (I can’t do this in my strength any longer) perhaps they need to be slipped off your neck, given to the antique shop to hang on their crowded wall…

 

We’re on our way, dear friends, there are just a few more turns in the path to the manger.  Come with? Put your email in the CONNECT box and pilgrimage with us. We’re also partnering and working up some lovely treasures for you in the New Year. You don’t want to miss a thing.

linking today with Jen Ferguson with the Soli Deo Gloria sisterhood where she is sharing about a free 30 day book encouraging us to stand with slaves around the world: January is Human Trafficking Awareness month.  Yes. Let’s do this.

 

 

Continue Reading

Advent, Day 15: Learning to Eat Out of the Shepherd’s Hand

They were too much, for whatever reason.

 

They were the lambs the ewe kicked away from her warmth, milk, care.

 

These are the bummer lambs in the shepherding tradition, shunned from mom’s circle of care, orphaned.  She pushes them away, assigns them to a slow death.

 

But to the shepherd, this lamb has inherent value. He reached his arm inside the mother’s birth canal, pulled it gently into the warmth, carefully washed off the afterbirth to make sure her lungs would be clear.

 

His eyes see these castaways completely differently. These are the ones He adopts.

 

 

These are the ones he takes on his lap to feed.  On that very first day, he sits on the ground in the dim of the barn, feeds it every two hours from a makeshift nipple, even grasping its jaw, teaching it how to suckle. These are the ones to whom he offers fresh hay…daily offering, offering, offering until they finally begin to eat it themselves around four weeks. These are the ones He carries close to His chest to regulate their temperature with His own body heat. And these are the ones He takes home at night.

 

For over a year.

 

“He shall feed His flocks like a shepherd. He shall gather the lambs with His arm and carry them in His bosom. And shall gently lead those that are with young.” Isaiah 40:11

 

 

The redemption? These are the ones who know the shepherd best, his smell, his actions, the exact tone of his voice.  And these are the ones whose ears are always perked for his call, who run toward his voice first. They obey quickly. They know that voice through that year of being held, of taking a nipple from his hand. They know that’s where the care comes from.  They are not afraid or reluctant to follow. And they are the most playful with him. Through all that care, that sheep has imbibed the goodness of the shepherd.

 

This is what Isaiah was teaching us about the Messiah to come. This Messiah would see inherent value in every human being. He would wish to take each and every one home to be adopted by the Father.

 

And this is where it gets interesting for us. Maybe we may have said a sinner’s prayer, been invited into the fold but we are the independent, pick ourselves up from the bootstraps kind of people. We have our spiritual formulas and our own wisdom and we think we’ve got this thing all worked out. We think we can stand up on these shaky legs, find our own Source, drink life there.  But we are missing out on being fed His expert formula, coming close enough to hear His voice.  And when we push away the loving care of the Shepherd, think we can perfect our way through, we push away Life.

 

We are invited to come in close.

 

This time of moving has been like that.  My sources have been taken away and I’m listening longer, harder, crawling into His arms more often to drink.  I’m re-attaching to the Shepherd.

 

He didn’t adopt us to send us out there on our own. The Shepherd never does that. He’s going with us all the way. Yes, He’s coming. In fact, He’s the One leading.

Sheila Walsh talks about the bummer lambs here.

Hi friends, we are walking our way to the manger, together.  Using Handel’s Messiah as a lectionary and background music. Come along?  Slip your email in the CONNECT button on the front page and pilgrimage with us.

 

 

Continue Reading

Advent, Day 14: When We Are Tired of Being the Walking Wounded

Isaiah 35:5&6 “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped”. “Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing …“

This short recitative takes only 20 seconds, but to those who are being healed, these words mean everything.

 

It has been millennia since the pads of His feet walked our earth and we yearn to spin around in recognition of His voice, to memorize the many emotions that pass over His eyes.

 

This Advent I hear the constant refrain: He is coming, dear Friends.  He is coming.

 

And just like the first time, when He comes again, healing will be in His wake.

 

Isaiah 35:5&6 “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped”. “Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing …“

 

And this is where I live. I spent so much of my 38 years hobbling, struggling with anxiety, bowing to fear that I cry out for Jesus’ healing. I crave resurrection.

 

I crave resurrection surging through you.

 

We have been born smack dab in the middle of the resurrection and the coming again, the now and not yet. His resurrection has swept the land with an earthquake of victory, but still we are limping under sin’s long-fraught consequences.  We live begging for Heaven to come down, embrace our children lying wounded.

 

We wish not just for us to go there, but for Him to transform the HERE.  We refuse to believe that God wanted us to live nested into this earth constantly pining for another esoteric place.

 

NT Wright preaches over and over until he is out of breath that we have gotten it all wrong.  We have misunderstood the future reality of Christ’s coming. Heaven will not be somewhere out there, he teaches. Heaven will be God come down, the earth redeemed, the very ground seeped and healed and transformed.  When His Kingdom comes, His will is done, the earth will once more echo with God’s: “It is good.”

 

So we pick up the four corners of the cot of our loved one laced through with cancer and beg for Christ’s healing resurrection presence now.  We unwrap bandages from our still open heart wounds and search for a Healer.

 

I walk the streets of the nearby town of Ambridge and the needs of the people are not secured under a mask as they are here in Sewickley. The prostitute leans into the doorway wearing anger like armor. Men stand in front of a boarded up doorway and yell, try to strike the flame of fear with words thrown.

 

But even with the pools of light spilling out of store windows, He can see clearly through our carefully crusted masks. His perfect eyes see the bleeding truth.

 

This is not what He had in mind when He created each multi-faceted jewel to shimmer upon the earth. The pain, emotional and physical, is like a shroud we wear and we are the walking dead.

 

The good news? Our pain makes Him want to fight. He witnessed the widow weeping, her son on the funeral bier and breathed life back in his lungs. The woman who already had been physically healed, her 12 year bleeding finally clotting after touching His robe? He knew the bleeding was continuing from somewhere else. He shocked the crowd, reached out His hand, tenderly touched the unclean, the untouchable.  When He proclaims her “daughter,” He watches her inner heart heal up strong.

 

My greatest joy is working with dear ones with inner healing prayer. I witness Him transform the traumatized with His Presence, His words, His touch.

 

He wants to see you leaping and laughing, friends, your unbound hands raised praising. He wants to lay hands on your eyes, open to you the full light. In the now. And when He returns, the water of healing will wash over us so that we shine and shimmer in His light once again.

 

Advent spiritual exercise:

Take deep breaths, get quiet. Take Him by the hand and lead Him on a tour of your body, of your heart. Perhaps you need a pen in hand?  Invite the Healer to come to each broken hurting place in this new year.  No more pretending perfect. Invite Him to bring His Kingdom come into the highways and byways of your life. Open the door wide for the Healer to come in.

 And just a note: dear one, please stop trying to go it alone.  Independence is one of the greatest spiritual blocks of our Christian existence.  Seek a safe person to come with you to the Healer.  You don’t have to go it alone.  Feeling isolated and fearful of opening your heart? Perhaps you would let me come with you?  Check out the spiritual direction invitation coming soon here to A THIRST FOR GOD.

We’re almost there, friends. We are traveling to the manger together. Don’t miss a day. Enter your email in the CONNECT button on the front page (I’m fiercely protective of them, don’t worry) and let’s pilgrim together toward Christmas.

Continue Reading

Advent, Day 12: When We Search for Peace

Can we talk about how effortlessly rich Kathleen Battle’s voice is? Hands down my favorite soprano of all time.

 

“The peace of the Lord be with you.” We greet, shake hands, smile into the eyes of strangers and mumble the words.

 

But peace, my friends, is something tangible. It is as real as a blanket of snow falling.

 

When Jesus sent out his disciples two by two he armed them with authority to bring His kingdom life to them. He instructed them with this: “whatever town you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave, As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you,” (Mt 10:11-13).

 

In our Messiah lectionary we discover the King riding in on a donkey, not a war horse. Handel is pointing to prophecy that was fulfilled with His triumphal entry. Palm Sunday. Here’s how Eugene Peterson translates Zechariah 9:9-12 in the Message:

 

“Shout and cheer, Daughter Zion!

Raise the roof, Daughter Jerusalem! Your king is coming!

a good king who makes all things right,

a humble king riding a donkey,

a mere colt of a donkey. I’ve had it with war—no more chariots in Ephraim,

no more war horses in Jerusalem,

no more swords and spears, bows and arrows. He will offer peace to the nations,

a peaceful rule worldwide,

from the four winds to the seven seas.”

 

Those leaning in close to Zechariah’s poetry have been pummeled by war. They have been tossed between Babylon, Persia and various little superpowers, bruised and abused.  Not only are they feeling powerless, they are despairing. They haven’t seen anything that resembles normal Jewish life in generations and the stories of God’s glory are starting to be snuffed by time. What do they need? A Conqueror. But, here comes the Promised One and He shocks them.

 

He comes riding on a donkey.

 

They may be begging for someone to shake down the stones of their enemies, but here the Messiah comes riding without a sword to draw.

 

Donkey riding is for peace-makers, not warriors.  There’s no white steed here. But here’s the real shocking difference, He comes not just for them. He comes spreading peace in His wake around the world.

 

This peace is not something the Israelites will bottle up, hold close, treasure in their Temple. This peace is a gift spread round the world, across Alps and penetrating the steep valleys of Papua. No corner of life will be untouched.

 

And this is our hope. “Peace be still,” He declared to the wind and the waves and this Advent I have waves that are white and cresting.

 

The wind and the waves obey and so will our chaotic hearts. And this, my friends, is worth great rejoicing.

 

But perhaps it is the rejoicing that will pave a way for the promised One to come. Perhaps the joy spoken out loud opens the door.

 

We rejoice and His Kingdom will spread like a snapped opened sheet to all corners of the earth. And peace will fall heavy on our laps, on our hearts, penetrate every corner of our streets, our homes.  Because it is a substance. It is not just the absence of something like war or anxiety, it is His Presence come in the front door and taking up residence.

 

When we search for peace, we find Him.

 

 

“God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” CS Lewis

 

We’re on our way to the manger, journeying together. Come on the pilgrimage with us? Slip your email into the CONNECT box on the front page and let’s rejoice in His coming together.

 

Continue Reading

Advent, Day 9: When You Need to Hold Onto Hope

Isaiah 9:2, 6 “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: and they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined!  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace”

We passed him around from person to person, lifted up dimpled fingers, smiled into his always quizzical eyes. I did that bouncy swingy thing I always do with babies to help them settle down.

 

She was still there, her body now quiet. No more strain or the gasping of breath. She lay still on the sterile nursing home bed with its white waffle pattern blanket. No longer there.

 

My sister, dad, mom, brother, his wife Elodie and their infant son surrounded her bed. I came into the room after a short nap at a hotel close to the nursing home. Grieving makes you bone-tired. Mom met me at the door with a simple: “She’s gone.”

 

Our beautiful Nona had just died and many of them had just arrived from an 8 hour drive across Pennsylvania just in time to see her last labored breaths, her searching into their eyes, her mouthing the Lord’s Prayer with them.

 

When the weeping stilled we began looking around, intuitively searching for joy.

 

Sweet baby sounds turned our heads. We started passing him around, nuzzling his neck, looking into his eyes, smelling the warm baby smell on the top of his head. We spoke low, quieting him like she had us.

 

This precious baby, he was not just theirs, my brother’s, Elodie’s. He was ours.

 

We were taking deep breaths of our future, deep gulps of hope.

 

And this one? This Jesus?

 

He is Hope incarnate…

 

born for all of us, for you, for me. The hope of our future.

 

You dear friend, maybe you are grieving like us. A dream cut short, a love passed away, a waiting stretched out into the new year.

 

Come. Let’s crawl up to the holy together, kneel at the manger.

 

Grasp the rough wood sides.

 

Take a deep breath of the sweet scent of hay.

 

Watch the rise and fall of his chest,

 

his small nostrils flare gently with each breath.

 

Listen to his sucking sounds.

 

His eyes open slowly

 

and we ask permission to pick Him up.

 

He fits small in our crossed arms, our open hands.

 

We brush lips against the smooth of his cheek

 

smell the just cleaned off new life,

 

wonder into His ancient eyes.

 

This perfect little package is our future. We slide hands over smooth swaddling.

 

This is Love with skin on.

 

Here in this tiny wrapped up package is Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

 

Hope has come.

 

Hope will come again.

 

Don’t miss the gift of joy here:

 

The photo is from Deb Howard Photography. She has a lens through which she discovers little bits of Advent poetry.

 

Thank you for the gift of your reading, your listening, your journeying with us. You are a gift. Don’t miss a post as we pass the halfway mark of Advent. Slip your email quietly into the CONNECT box on the front page and we will make this pilgrimage together.

If you’ve missed a post, the box top left will help you catch up. Blessings, my friend. I’m praying for you.

 

Continue Reading