Sunday, December 16, 2012

3rd Sunday: Joy

A confession, I don't really feel like writing tonight, and I don't think I have much to say.  But I'm feeling an impending guilt from within to keep my word about least through one more week of Advent. So, here goes....

The 3rd Sunday of Advent is Joy.  All of today's Lectionary speaks of joy and praise, including,
      "Rejoice in the Lord always..." Philippians 4:4

Those are tough words, perhaps insulting words, barely 48 hours after the horrific tragedy in Connecticut.  I would never consider saying anything like this to someone who is suffering.  Events like this challenge me to exam my beliefs about almost anything.  On this Gaudete Sunday, it challenges me to exam what I believe joy is....a deep well of mystery that abides deep in my soul and untouched by pain, tragedy or suffering.  I've spent much time over the last year thinking about this very thing: joy.  "How do I experience joy in my life?" "Can joy truly exist in the midst of pain?"  I say that joy is different from happiness; that happiness is an emotion that is fleeting depending on how my life is going.  Perhaps an easy thing to say as a simple statement.  I want to believe that God=Joy.  I want to believe that there is always joy regardless.  The mass murder of kindergarteners challenges me to ask myself again, "What do I believe about God? What do I know that I know?" 

 The fine young man in the picture is my son, TJ.  He graduated from Texas Southern University yesterday.  TJ has been in my life for the last 12 years.  I've celebrated many wonderful memories with him, but all pale in comparison to the pride I felt yesterday watching him accept his college diploma.  I have feelings overwhelming pride and indescribable joy.  And today, this pride and joy is seeking to coexist among hardship and uncertainty.

I know that I know: God is real and God is Love.  Despite whatever pain or tragedy, this is an absolute for me.  It may be the only absolute truth for me.  It is to this God I pray,

   "May the truth of Your love make a difference in our lives.  May joy rise mysteriously, like the Phoenix, from the ashes of our broken dreams, tears and sadness. Until then, let us feel that You as close to us as our own breath."

Monday, December 10, 2012

2nd Sunday: You can't go wrong with Yoda

I have an intention for Advent season which is "to notice."  Notice: ways to slow down; pay more attention to the strangers I encounter every day; the smallest of things to be grateful for; just noticing the Divine during my ordinary day.  Some days I remember my intention; other days....ehh, not so much.  Today, I was reminded of Advent when I read the words "light saber!"  (Score 1 for "noticing" today!)  I'm reading Just Courage, written by Gary A. Haugen.  Gary is the President of International Justice Mission. (Please click on that link right now and read about their important work in the world). Gary writes:
    "...When we read that Jesus calls us "the light of the world, " we picture ourselves more as a nice nightlight that will comfort the kids and keep us from stubbing our toe, than as a brilliant light saber that is heroically contending with the great evil of the world and driving out swathes of darkness." 

I love his thoughts about all of us as the light of God in the world.  And I think there is room for both: being the light for those who are hurting and simply need the comfort of knowing someone is there, and being the light the boldly pierces the darkest, as Gary said, evils of the world.

And how does that stellar picture of Yoda fit in?  Well, I'm a huge Star Wars fan and immediately thought of Yoda when I reading.  Yoda is a bad ass without a light saber, but with one?  He's the ultimate bad ass.  Perhaps he is the perfect leader for showing us how to bring our light into the world.  Or maybe....I just wanted to work in a picture of Yoda to my blog.

    "In Him was life, and that life was the light of all all the world.  The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." John 1:4-5

Friday, December 7, 2012

Today's prayer

“I yearn for the stillness and silence of Advent.  I’m desperate to not sleepwalk through the darkest days of this season. I long to do nothing now, but just be. To just be in the mystery and blackness of the womb of your Spirit that nurtures new life. “  
 And quoting from The Celtic Wheel of the Year:
   “ Before the first snowflake, before the first glimpse of green, before the sun pulls back further the dark drapes of day; here, in this day, give the sign of your blessing that I may trust the new thing happening little by little this day.”

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Advent 2012

It's the first Sunday of Advent.  I have come to anticipate this day as much as Christmas; perhaps more.  Advent is my favorite season of the year.  Though not a tradition I grew up in, today I can't imagine December without it.

It's a time focused on waiting; expecting; anticipating.  There was a time when a people awaited the birth of Christ; a Deliver from God.  Today, Advent offers to me the space to remember that birth, but perhaps more so to dwell in the in- between space of anticipation and fruition.  Advent invites me to reflect on miracles I've experienced in my life and those miracles yet to come.  Advent invites me to wait, with joy; with hope, for what God will birth in my life next.  Ironically, Advent begins during the darkest days of our seasons including the longest and darkest night of the year.  Advent will end as the world (at least in our hemisphere!) begins a slow journey back toward the light. This metaphor is not lost on the journey of my own life today.

Reverend Shelby offered us two thoughts this morning for the first Sunday of Advent.  One, that Advent reminds us of Immanuel,  "God with us."  I think of "the Alpha and Omega" names for God.  God has been and will always be with us.  And, Advent creates a hope and longing for God to show up in our lives now in ways we haven't known before.  Reverend Shelby also offered the beautiful reminder that God also finds favor with us.  I felt particular connection to this truth.  Gabriel told Mary that  she had found favor with God.  As special as the mother of Jesus was, she is not the only one among us who is highly favored.  We are all the favored of God; simply because we are God's Beloved.

I'll close with Mary's song from Luke, chapter one.  My words would be different than hers, but the song is the same: one of joy and gratitude in the midst of the unknown and fear.

46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”