Saturday, December 7, 2019

Full compassion

Saturday of the First Week of Advent

Gracious is the Lord and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
Psalm 116:4

The conversation is an unexpected blessing. Due to a variety of circumstances, what was meant to be a conference call becomes a one-on-one with a trusted friend. And in that space, I lay open a burden that has been weighing me down, hampering me from walking with delight. What I find in return is a balm of wisdom and compassion.

Compassion is more than its dictionary definition of concern for the suffering of another. To receive genuine compassion is to have my hurt, my doubt, my quest for solace recognized and respected. Such loving-kindness reflects the compassion of God, who became as vulnerable as a newborn in order to bring healing and deliverance to all of humankind and creation itself.

Our conversation moves from the sacred place of shared griefs out into our present joys, the light of Christ within each of us calling us into mutual expectancy. We make the way forward just that much more clear for one another as we travel again toward the cradle containing light and life.

Image by Johannes Plenio from Pixabay

Friday, December 6, 2019

Playful formation

Friday of the First Week of Advent

They shall come and make to a people yet unborn
the saving deeds that he has done.
Psalm 22:30

I walk into the church and smile as I look at our giving tree. It is momentarily adorned with felt Advent wreaths industriously placed there by a toddler. These wreathes currently reside on the shelf at the back of the church, ready for our youngest to interact with. They are an invitation and a teaching tool. I love that this particular young child of God enjoyed playing with them, and how that playfulness made my heart glad.

The spiritual formation of our youngest is about the spiritual formation of all of us. I am on my journey with Christ because a multitude of people shared their faith with me while I was growing up. Sunday school teachers, my parents, camp counselors, priests, youth leaders, nuns and monks, pageant directors, grandparents. As an adult, my spirit has been strengthened by the discernment of the holy offered by so many who are so much younger than I am.

On this feast day of St. Nicholas, as I call to mind all those who nurtured my faith along the way, I also offer a prayer of thanks for all the young ones in our midst. They continue to form me, delight me, call me up short, teach me more about God and love and joy.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Bright for one another

Thursday of the First Week of Advent

You, O Lord, are my lamp;
my God, you make my darkness bright.
Psalm 18:29

The night is cold, and we make our way carefully across the parking lot avoiding treacherous patches of ice, heading for the door that beckons us with light shining from within. There will be welcome there, warmth and company, food and prayer, conversation and camaraderie.

The moon casts its reflected light onto the trees, and the snow outlining their bare limbs captures the light and reflects it in turn, illuminating our way with frozen beauty.

Another brightness lights our way as well. God’s light is not only reflected in the world around us, but in one another. We too contain light and have the capacity to make the way bright for one another.

The door opens, we enter the sanctuary, each a flame of God’s promise.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Deserving attention

Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

I will mediate on your commandments
and give my attention to your ways.
Psalm 119:15

As I begin my morning, I feel the tug of the game on my phone. I resist the temptation to play as I know it will lead me into a zone where, before I know it, I will have spent an hour matching three pieces of fruit. As I make my tea, as I begin to journal, as I center myself for prayer, the lure of playing lingers, distracting me.

Of course, the game is perfectly designed to lead me deeper and deeper into a commitment. And capture my complete attention.

And I realize how easily I can undervalue my attention. Yet, where I place it is also where I place my soul. So many voices clamor for my awareness, my consideration, my devotion, and not all of them call me to my best self. I can and need to make choices about where I give my heart.

I center myself again, remembering why I begin my day with prayer. So that I can give my attention and myself to God, who leads me deeper into life and wholeness.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Empty urgency

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness.
because of those who lie in wait for me;
make your way straight before me.
Psalm 5:8

The file folder lies there as an affront, tugging at my sense of duty, somewhat buried on my desk but not quite obscured. Its bright green color is intentional, as well as its label—urgent. It is meant to draw my attention so that I will not forget it or set aside the work contained within.

Nevertheless, it has been sitting unattended for weeks that have become months, holding a final piece of paperwork from our move last April. Its completion has been complicated by all that comes with a transition. But I have also been hampered by allowing the task to become larger than it is, letting myself become almost paralyzed by a sense of failure. These are familiar snares that lie in wait for me.

In my spiritual life too sometimes my way forward is blocked by obstacles that I create. Often, I just have to wait until God clears the path before me.

Today the way opens. In calmness I find all the right paperwork, complete the form, put it in an envelope. Tomorrow it will be in the mail.

I leave the urgent folder empty on my desk and give my attention more fully to this season, this Advent, this time of waiting.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Evidence of Glory

Monday of the First Week of Advent

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me;
you are my glory, the one who lifts up my head.
Psalm 3:3

Across the way, I watch the smoke rise from a chimney, moving across the cold morning air. It drifts, dissipates, disappears—simply a sign of a warmth being generated somewhere within the building. And yet it is a thing in and of itself, particles of water and dust that make a path across the sky, evidencing the presence and direction of the winter wind.

I, too, am a thing made of particles of water and dust. Dust that God called into being eons ago. Dust that is evidence of God’s love. Dust that God finds worth shielding.  And on this Advent morning, I am called into being again. Called to begin again the journey to the manger and to the end of time. Called to travel a path yet undefined.

I lift my head to watch the smoke, following its dance, ready to discover sacred glory in unexpected places.

Image by analogicus from Pixabay

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Awaiting the return

For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
1 Thessalonians 5:2

The wakeful part of my soul listens. Although I am mostly asleep, a part of my consciousness is waiting. Waiting for the sounds of a door opening, footsteps on the stairs, the homecoming of our daughters. They are young adults now, and they return to this place which is not the home in which they grew up.  Nevertheless, in their returning they make it more assuredly home for all of us.

And because they are young and on their own and it is a long drive, they will arrive in the middle of the night.

I remember a morning years ago when I was walking them to school and they ditched me, in all good humor, ready and yearning to walk on their own. I knew it was time. And I also felt unprepared, as if a thief came in the night and snuck their childhood out the door while I was sleeping. And at the same time, I anticipated with joy the women they would be come.

Advent is the season of waiting, of expectancy, of paradox: we look simultaneously for the vulnerable baby in the manger as well as the triumphant Christ who will gather all of broken creation into strong arms of love and make all whole.

I hear the footsteps, the soft familiar voices, and slip into a deep sleep, knowing the house will be even more full when I awake.