Like the wise ones of old, help me to be open to your leading, Gracious God. Where might you be leading me? What new things should I be looking for around me? Open my eyes to the stars in the sky. Open my ears to the voices speaking to me and with me. Open my heart to those I too often overlook. As this new season and new year begins, remind me of your constant love, Holy One, while urging me forward to see where you will guide me. Amen.
On vacation this week, I was invited to a tea party. We dined on Sprite (my hostess does not like tea) and blueberries. We talked about important topics like how delicious the Sprite was and how much fun we were having. In the midst of our tea party, my eight-year old hostess said, “I take tea parties very seriously.”
As I was thinking about this tea party, it reminded me why I love tea. Whether I drink tea alone or with friends, drinking tea slows me down. It reminds me to sip, to enjoy, to savor. I hope you take the time to day to slow down and enjoy a cup of tea.
I am preparing to say good-bye to 2014 and hello to 2015. Before I shut the door on this year, I pause to remember…
Thank you, God, for the opportunities I had this year. I remember…
Loving God, thank you for being with me through the difficult days. It isn’t easy or fun, but I remember…
Thank you, God, for community…for people who loved and supported me and for those I loved and supported. Thank you for the people who walked with me, who challenged me, and who laughed with me. Thank you, God, for my loved ones…
Thank you, Holy One, for seasons of the year. Thank you for the winter days of waiting and resting. Thank you for the springtime days of new life and opportunity. Thank you for summer days of growth and change. Thank you for fall days of enjoying the fruits of our labor and pausing to give thanks. In the seasons of this year and the seasons of our lives, I give you thanks, O God.
And now after remembering, I turn 2014 to my memories and to You and open myself to all that You have for me in 2015. Be with me, Loving God, as you have always been. Amen.
Merry Christmas! Today is the day we have been preparing for throughout Advent. Jesus is born. Here is the story as recorded in Luke’s Gospel.
“ In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.
Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.
The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”
When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us.” They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child. Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told.”
Now, you can light the three purple candles, the pink candle, and the white candle.
We have been waiting for this day, Loving God. We have prepared ourselves for this special day. On this Christmas Day, let us live as those who let hope, peace, joy, and love reign in our lives. As the candles burn brightly and light our path, let us live as those who have the Christ’s light burning inside us today and everyday. Amen.
Also published on liturgy link on November 11, 2014.
In this final week of Advent, our attention is on love. The following Scripture verses may be very familiar to you, so I’m asking you to read it twice. The first time is in the New Revised Standard Version (you may hear similar words at church). The second time you’ll be reading from the Message (a modern interpretation). Listen for the call to love in these words.
Matthew 22:36-40 says, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
”Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?” Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”
Light three purple candles and one pink candle.
God, we have learned to love from being loved by you. And so today, let us enact that love. Let us live that love. We know that what the world needs now is more love. We need to remember how much you love each one of us and we must share that love with others. Amen.
Also published on liturgy link on November 11, 2014.
This is a drink that we would have regularly at Christmastime when I was young. I made a batch yesterday and loved how the house smelled. This would be great to serve if you are having a big get together. This recipe provides lots to drink and makes your house smell very welcoming.
When I made this yesterday, I was surprised by how sweet it is. When I reheated a cup this morning, I added a little water to dilute the sweetness. I’d suggest lessening the amount of sugar when you try this recipe.
I’m sharing the recipe as my Mom gave it to me. Give it a try!
The Gift of Nothing Patrick McDonnell
New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2005.
In this season of more and more to do, I read this book often. You can probably find it in your local library and return it when you have enjoyed it.
Here’s the story-Mooch wants to give his friend, Earl, a gift. Earl has everything he needs, and Mooch doesn’t know what to give him. He decides to give him nothing but cannot find nothing anywhere he goes. Join Mooch in his search for the perfect gift.
I hope this book reminds you how much you have. I hope this book encourages you to find time to spend with someone you love. You might even spend some time doing nothing together.
And a great resource for linking children’s books with Scripture is Storypath from Union Presbyterian Seminary. Their post on The Gift of Nothing will make you want to read it again.
During the third week in Advent, we spend time thinking about joy.
From Psalm 5:11, we hear these words,
“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
so that those who love your name may exult in you.”
Light two purple candles and one pink candle.
Too often, we think joy is something big, O God. A brass band or a parade can certainly bring us joy. Just as easily and far more often, we can feel joy in a hug or the squeeze of hand, we can see joy in a smile or hear it in laughter. Help us to not overlook the simple joys that peak into our lives daily. This week in our Advent journey, open our eyes to the joy that surrounds us. Amen.
Also published on liturgy link on November 11, 2014.
What We Talk about when We Talk about God Rob Bell
New York: HarperOne, 2013.
In this book, Rob Bells tells us God is always with us, God is for us, and God is moving us forward. If you have never heard any of these things or if you need to be reminded of any of them, this books is for you. In these pages, you’ll find Scripture, modern culture, science, and a variety of other sources cited to talk about how we talk about God.
For me, there was too much technical science. Others might not be bothered by this, but it was too much for me. In II. Who Ordered That?, I felt like I was watching The Big Bang Theory without the funny parts–just the boys (as my parents call them) talking about things that do not make sense to me, and yet, I kept reading because I wanted to see where he is going.
All of this science talk is Rob Bell’s way of opening the reader to the complexity of what we know. We can be _______ and _______. It doesn’t need to be either/or. And what goes into the blanks is limitless.
Probably (or most likely) because of my own experiences of God and where I’ve studied, much of what was said in this book wasn’t new to me (except some of the very detailed science stuff!). And yet, like everyone I need to be reminded. I appreciate this book for reminding me of how big God is.
As a warning, some people find the formatting of Rob Bell’s books distracting. It is true he does include lots of white space on every page. I use the white space as a reminder to slow down. I will say that this same formatting happens in every single one of his books I’ve read.
“Like a mirror, God appears to be more and more a reflection of whoever it is that happens to be talking about God at the moment” (2). This reminds me of Anne Lamott’s quote, “You can safely assume you have created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” See I told you I really do like Anne Lamott.
“We are both large and small, strong and weak, formidable and faint, reflecting the image of the divine, and formed from dust” (56).
“To be closed-minded to anything that does not fit within predetermined and agreed-upon categories is to deny our very real experiences of the world” (80).
“For many people in our world, the opposite of faith is doubt. The goal, then, within this understanding is to eliminate doubt. But faith and doubt aren’t opposites. Doubt is often a sign that your faith has a pulse, that it’s alive and well and exploring and searching. Faith and doubt aren’t opposites; they are, in turns out, excellent dance partners” (92).
“There is the unexpected subversion of the cross, turning so many of our ideas about God on their heads, insisting that God is so for us that God is willing to take on the worst the world can bring and suffer it, absorb it, and feel it, right down to the last breath” (144).
“Imagine that–religious people quoting the Bible to defend actions that were the exact opposite of the intent and purpose of those very same scriptures! It’s possible, then, to be quoting the Bible out of the conviction that you’re defending God’s way when in fact you’re in that exact moment working against how God wants to continue drawing and pulling and calling humanity forward” (161).
“Jesus doesn’t divide the world up into the common and the sacred; he gives us eyes to the sacred in the common” (184).
I know this is not tea. I love hot cocoa too. And we are smack dab in the middle of candy cane/peppermint season, so I wanted to share a delicious gift I received last Christmas. I have a crafty friend who makes amazing homemade gifts. Last year she created different flavors of fudge, vanilla, this hot cocoa, and lots of other delicious treats I cannot even remember but throughly enjoyed.
In this busy, busy season, take time today to sit down with a favorite beverage. You might sit by a window and watch snow fall. You might sit by a candle and watch the flame dance. You might sit at your favorite coffee shop and watch people hurry past you. Just sit for a minute and enjoy a drink that makes you happy. And maybe give God a prayer of thanksgiving for the person who created your drink. God, Thanks for my dear friend who made me this tasty cocoa mix that provided many yummy beverages. Amen.