Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark. Rabindranath Tagore
Meditation: I noticed lately how my anxious and critical inner voices are like noisy shadows that produce more darkness than light. I am working on not allowing my inner critical and anxious parts of me to take over my mind and my feelings. And that is not as easy. Humanly I am often wired to first go to those voices. Spiritually I have thank God more resources available. If I can get in touch with “my inner faith bird” that can feel the light, although it is still dark, I can see the potentials in situations instead of only problems. I can see the other person’ s and my own beauty and strength even when we are not at our best. God’s Grace is like the dawning that is awaiting us, no matter what our circumstances. I pray that my noisy shadows will give way more and more to my inner faith bird that feels and sings while anticipating the arrival of the light even though it is still pretty dark all around.
Prayer: God, I want to spend more time opening myself to trusting and hope filled thoughts during this Advent season. Life is often so hectic and so dark. Help us breathe, help us sing or humb and celebrate You, as we are awaiting Your inbreaking light. Amen
Jesus says: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey toward it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us. Samuel Smiles
Meditation: The win of a democratic Senator in Alabama is like a lightening strike, a symbolic “light” event that increases the hope that “decency” and dignity will win in the end. The last time a democrat won in Alabama is twenty five years ago, and that senator back then became a republican two years later. Many feel newly hopeful now that the many political shadows of this past year’s craziness might start falling behind us. A symbolic event of hope and of surprising light! An in-breaking of the thought impossible! Similarly in our personal lives as well when shadows loom and we feel lost, Advent is a reminder that the guiding star will appear when the night is the darkest. Suddenly we see a light when before we stumbled in the dark. Advent is a time of waiting and hoping. It is the reminder that God comes to us in surprising ways.
Prayer: God, we admit that we have been losing hope over the past months that the political climate will change any time soon. Thank You for this symbolic light event. We are surprised by hope. If people can unite and align in new ways, there is hope. The tribalism is not as bad as predicted.
Jesus said: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often. Winston Churchill
Meditation: I had imagined public High School to be such a great experience for my teens. The Middle School culture and social dynamics were a struggle for one of my twins. The more extroverted daughter adjusted better, but the more introverted daughter struggled. So my hope was that High School would be much better and solve the things that were a struggle before. However, my daughter’s struggles did not improve. High School seems to be an extension of Middle School, just with more pressure and less support. What does it mean to change things for her? Will she need to learn new coping strategies, will she get more support to stay and make it in that environment? Or does change mean to find a different learning environment for her? To improve is to change; wholeness is to change often. As a family we are coming to the point of seriously exploring what change might mean, as we do not want our daughter’s energies to only go into struggling and coping as a form of survival. As parents we want her to thrive, to focus her energy on learning and living instead of dreading and surviving. Change is sometimes scary. But change is sometimes the only life giving option.
Prayer: Gracious God, we are praying for guidance from You what change might mean. It seems like the environment our daughter is in and how she copes is harming her. We pray that You show her and us how she can prosper, and how she can develop confidence, hope and a positive outlook on her present life and her future. Thank You for the resources and options You will show us. We pray for discernment and an open mind to make changes that help our daughter feel empowered and hopeful. Amen
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ comes uninvited. Thomas Merton
Meditation: God came into our world in the form of a baby, born by an unwed teenage girl, in a stable, far from home, without healthcare and without a heating device or even diapers. What an amazingly mind boggling truth! As we are awaiting Christmas, our current political reality leaves absolutely no room for a child born like this. There are no provisions. Food stamps, health insurance subsidies, affordable housing – all are being significantly cut. Instead, our political leaders act dementedly and fill the Inn with wealthy visitors who can make “a business deal” with them. Fundamentalist and Prosperity Christians are becoming leading political influences. There is absolutely no room for a God who was born and who died poor. Our government with its decisions disinvites God himself. And yet, the Good News is once again, that God comes surprisingly and uninvited. He does not need much. A stable, a few pieces of cloth, loving arms to receive him and people who are willing to see in Jesus God’s arriving presence. Oh, how we are waiting, especially this year. Especially after all the demented leadership that leaves no room for truth. Oh, how we are waiting!
Prayer: Gracious God, our current political leaders try to pretend You have come for the wealthy. They justify their improper business dealings with a prosperity gospel. They talk about You as if You are the guarantor for the rich becoming even richer, while their theology and business dealings are demented and deceiving. God, please, come into this mess. Come uninvited. Come and speak truth to insanity. Come and let us witness once again that You were born poor, showed solidarity with the poor and died as a poor man. In resurrecting Jesus You established a new Truth. And this Truth will set us free. Amen
Jesus answered, “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” John 18: 37
The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic His giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves. St. Nicholas of Myra
Meditation: St. Nicholas is an archaic role model of joyful giving. Sometimes we are being taught that sharing and giving has to be “selfless” and a form of “sacrificing”. St. Nicholas teaches us instead that giving is about mimicking God’s ways of giving. He invites us to reach deep into our heart where God’s generosity, grace and our trust in God abide. And when we reach that blessed and happy place within us, then our heart will overflow, and we will feel happy to give. This movement away from forced or sacrificial giving to joyful and happy giving is a gift. It is not something we can reach by ourselves. Genuine generosity and joyful sharing always come from God and from us mimicking God’s grace. We give thanks for all those Saints who went before us and who inspire us and our young next generation what it means to give happily.
Prayer: Thank You, God, that You do not force us to share or give. You want us to give from our hearts, not from our heads. You caution us not to sacrifice or behave “self-less” if we feel unhappy or forced. Grace and abundance thrive when from the freedom of our hearts and from the experience of having received generously, we are happy to give. God, center us in this Advent season. Let us reach into our hearts where Your love, grace and generosity abide. Help us to happily mimic You in this giving season. Amen
Each one of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give. You should not give if it makes you unhappy or if you feel forced to give. God loves those who are happy to give. 2. Corinthians 9:7
Rushing into action, you fail. Trying to grasp things, you lose them. Forcing a project to completion, you ruin what was almost ripe. Therefore the Master takes action by letting things take their course. Lao Tzu
Meditation: Lao Tzu’s Eastern spirituality seems so foreign to us Western Protestant Christians. We usually base our lives on a high work ethic combined with high expectations of how we are supposed to build “God’s Kingdom” here on earth, while we are aiming for “holiness”, (surely only after having been saved by “grace”.) The Western culture, including capitalism, is built around these three Christian “driving” forces: high work ethic, the thinking that we humans are supposed to establish God’s Kingdom while aiming at perfection (which we try to camouflage humbly by naming it “holiness”). Are we aware of the shadow side of our collective Western “industrious” interpretation of Christianity? Eastern Spirituality can balance us out. Instead of forcing and grasping, instead of believing that it is all up to us, we are invited to allow God to work through processes of natural growing and maturing. Being patient with one’s self and others and refraining from “pushing and doing” needs to become for us a daily practicing of God’s Grace. Our Eastern brothers and sisters are calling us away from “doing” into “being”. Oh, how hard this lesson can be for us over-functioning and perfectionist Western “doers”!
Prayer: Gracious God, we are often not aware how our Western culture has hijacked Christianity to create industrialism and capitalism. We often do not question our approach of “doing” too much in Your name (or is it our name?), while You invite us to rather “be” with You and watch Your Grace at work in this world. In this Advent season, please, slow us down. Help us accept Your Grace that we need ourselves every day. And help us be more patient and grace filled with each other. Save us from an enculturated Christianity that glorifies human accomplishments instead of allowing life to grow and ripe according to Your will. Amen
People can plan what they want to do, but it is the Lord who guides their steps. Proverbs 16:9
What is important is not what someone is but what (s)he is waiting for. Not the events of life but its possibilities. Dorothee Soelle
Meditation: I remember when my husband and I just got married. It was a happy and also a somewhat anxious time. How would a bi-racial couple make it in the South of the US? How would we use our education? We did not have any money, so all depended on the two of us and how industrious we would become. The superintendent of the German church where I was a pastor at that time said a sentence that my husband and I never forgot. He said: “The future is wide open for the two of you.” That sentence directed us toward our future filled with possibilities. It was such a powerful blessing, and we held onto those words for years to come. Today when my teenage daughter gets frustrated or sad about how she perceives her past or present as hindering her in one way or the other, I say a similar sentence, like “This is just the beginning and not the end of your story” or “Your future is full of possibilities”. Usually that calms her emotions and moves her frustration, sadness or anxiety into a new direction. “Yes, the future is wide open.” Thank God!
Prayer: Gracious God, the Advent season reminds us that You are coming toward us from the future. We are reminded to await Your coming in always surprising and new ways. Even though we remember, at time painfully, our past – it does not determine our future or Your possibilities for us. God, help us await a future that builds on and is yet different from our past. You are the God of possibilities, of transformation and of healing. You are the one encouraging and strengthening us. And we are grateful. Amen
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:15