Friday, December 31, 2010

Marvel: To Become Filled with Surprise, Wonder or Amazed Curiosity

“The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him."
 Luke 2:33 NIV

“Life is like an exciting book, and every year starts a new chapter.” Unknown

As I was rereading the account of Jesus’ birth, I was caught up in the marvel of it all. The cast of characters surrounding the unfolding narrative are as varied as our neighbors. The account, as given by Luke, opens with the elderly couple Zechariah and Elizabeth. Zechariah, as a priest, was appointed to offer prayers. When the angel, Gabriel, tells him that he and his wife, barren and past child bearing age, were to have a child, Zechariah is stunned into silence by his own wavering of faith. We leave this amazing curiosity to find Mary, a young virgin girl, receiving a similar message about a miraculous conception—she was to be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and bear the Son of God. Joseph must have been surprised, and it was necessary for him to have a dream encounter with a messenger from God to grasp this marvelous news.

Things seem to settle back into a routine, when it is decreed that the Roman government wants to take a census, and Joseph must take his very pregnant wife to Bethlehem. Once they get to town, her labor pains increase, and Mary delivers the baby Jesus in a stable, wrapping him in cloths and laying him in the manger.

In the meantime, some shepherds are keeping their flocks when wonder of wonders, another angelic messenger declares the good news of great joy that the Savior of mankind has been born. After this surprise visit from the shepherds and their ponderous message, Mary and Joseph, seem to get some rest.

According to their religious law a few months later, they go to the temple in Jerusalem to consecrate their first born to God. Here they receive the marvelous prophecy from Simeon, who had waited upon God many years to see the day the Savior would be born.

Here are the words they marveled at:

"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel."

Luke 2:29-32 NIV

Jesus, not even a year old, and so much had already happened surrounding his young life. The emotions must have been running all over for Mary and Joseph.

As I look back over this past year, I marvel at all the various moments I encountered, which were made possible by our Creator, and the Savior of the world—Jesus. I wonder what surprises He has in store for each of us this year. I want to become more and more filled with amazed curiosity, as He creates new life in me, and adds to this next chapter of my life. How about you?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Weary: Exhausted in Strength, Endurance, Vigor or Freshness

All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.      
Ecclesiastes 1:8 ESV

“This is a weary world when Jesus is away—we could better do without sun and moon than without him—but how divinely fair all things become in the glory of his presence! Our souls know the virtue which dwells in Jesus, and can never be content without him.” Charles H. Spurgeon

Sometimes life exhausts me. I love adventures and quests, but some days I just want to rest. To do absolutely nothing appeals to me. I thought maybe some others could relate, so I thought I’d put that out there today.

I was wondering if Mary and Joseph ever felt weary as parents. I was wondering how exhausted shepherds get when tending to their blaring, bleating and belligerent sheep. I was wondering how much endurance and vigor it took the Magi to travel across the barren terrain to find the Messiah. I was wondering if Jesus ever wearies of our complaining and our chasing after other things to satisfy us.

I don’t know if any of the above scenarios ever happened or happen. But one thing I do know, people get weary. We want a fresh perspective, new ideas and hope for the future. And I also know that Jesus offers rest for the weary. Since he walked amongst us, I am pretty sure he understands our weariness.

I had hoped to share some new insight into my quest to celebrate the Christmas feast, but instead I offer you this invitation from Jesus:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.”
Matthew 11:28-29, The Message

And maybe this is the best way to celebrate today: Rest.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Feast: Something That Gives Unusual or Abundant Enjoyment

They feast on the abundance of your house;
You give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
In your light we see light. Psalm 36:8-9 NIV

“We do not come to Christmas to pretend that the baby Jesus is born again this day. . . We come to Christmas looking for the signs of Jesus’ presence manifest in our own life and age, in us and in the world around us.”
- Joan Chittister, The Liturgical Year

Although the wrapping paper went out with the recycling this morning, and gifts have been presented to loved ones, our Christmas tree still holds vigil in the corner of our family room. The lights on the tree stay lit through the night, and I’ve hardly unplugged it this year. It reminds me that we are in the midst of a celebration that invades our lives, and asks us to keep remembering the Light of the World.

To keep my heart tender toward the mystery of the Incarnation, each year I think I will celebrate the twelve days after Christmas, which lead to Epiphany. I have a vague idea of this observance, but no real frame of reference, since I was not raised liturgically. I could probably sing all the verses of the familiar song, and have heard that each one of the verses symbolizes significant events in the life of Christ and the church. But I want to know how to celebrate these twelve days. I want to prepare for Epiphany.

As I was reading some more in The Liturgical Year, I found the chapter on Christmas fascinating. Apparently there has been some dispute over the centuries as to when to date the birth of Christ. And through some interesting reasoning the church of the West and the church of the East came up with these two dates. Then the more liturgical churches began celebrating the feast of Christmas, which starts on Christmas day and ends on January 6th or Epiphany, as a compromise of sorts.

You really have to read the whole chapter to get the sense of this, but the main conclusion about the dates comes down to this-- Christ’s birth was significant. Thus we celebrate this time of year. What I like about the feast is that those who observe it mark, not only the birth of Jesus, but also significant events in his life before Easter, such as his baptism.

I need to do some more investigating, but in the meantime my response will be to make this observance personal, not just a history lesson. To do so I will ask myself the following questions: What will I do with this knowledge of Emmanuel--God with us? Will I invite Jesus to teach me more about his life, and how it impacts mine? Will I read the gospels more? Will I be found ministering to those in need and comforting those who suffer this year? Will I become more like Jesus in my thoughts, words and actions?

How about you?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Cross: An Unavoidable Affliction

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12 :2 NIV

"Early Christians knew without doubt all facets of the life of Christ stemmed from one reality…one central reality: the cross. Jesus was born to confront the cross; Jesus died on the cross to bring us to fullness of life; Jesus rose to defeat the cross; Jesus embodied what the role of the cross was to be in the life of us all." –Joan Chittister, The Liturgical Year

Visions of families gathered around the table eating delicacies both savory and sweet. Piles of presents wrapped and placed under our Christmas trees so neat. And just for good measure we remember the babe in the manger, where farm animals are said to eat. Why would one want to leave this scene and to mention the cross? Because if we keep saying that Jesus is the greatest gift without the mention of this greatest affliction, we should count it great loss.

Every adventure has its dark moments, and it seems every year that I contemplate the advent of our Savior, the “little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay,” that it is not long before the images of passion week come into my readings or my mind. And as I was reading about the liturgical year, the author reminded me that while today we will sing and worship the newborn King, that every other day after this is marching us straight to the cross, the pinnacle of our experience of Jesus as our Savior.

To think on these things may be sobering, but they also bring about a mysterious hope. The cross was the unavoidable affliction that Jesus faced for us, yet he triumphed over it. Our hope is found in his resurrection. The hope of this season—a new birth—leads us to the wonderful news that we have access to new life ourselves.

The quest to follow the liturgical year for me is not just a religious checklist, but a desire to know the life of Jesus more fully, and to be willing to take up the cross of following him wherever this life leads me.

I want to leave you with a link to a very old poem that you may like to read and use in your contemplations of the Cross. The narrator of the poem has a vision of the cross, in which the cross is adorned with jewels. Further into his dream, the cross takes on a voice and tells from its perspective what the crucifixion was like. I like the creativity of this poem, and how the cross knew that Jesus willingly took his place on the cross. I would love to hear your thoughts on this poem, if you have a moment. The link takes you to a translation of the poem, it was originally written in Old English. Here it is: The Dream of the Rood (rood means cross).

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Joy: A Source or Cause of Delight

“But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11 NIV

“Very often our joy is dulled by unnecessary anxiety. We let our peace of soul depend too much on persons and events and circumstances, and too little on God’s infallible and tender care.” – from the MaryKnoll Missal

“The essential of happiness is having something to do, something to love and something to hope for.” –Allan K. Chalmers

My adventure in liturgy has come in spurts this December. I had grand plans of daily contemplating the rich history of the church and its celebration of Advent, but alas this fast paced century keeps me from my monastic tendencies. So how does one contemplate Jesus and his arrival in this chaotic, performance driven culture? We plan events like Christmas eve services, we gather with family and give one another gifts as an attempt of emulating the gift of the Savior, and we crash on December 26th. Yet the liturgical year is just beginning, and we have more adventures ahead as we remember the life of Jesus.

In between Christmas and January 6th, which takes us through Epiphany Sunday, we still have time to contemplate the birth of Christ. In our secular world, many will just take a break waiting to celebrate New Year’s Eve, and then start another cycle of chasing after the offerings of this world. And most likely I will, too. I am not out to attack secular pursuits, but I am on a quest to keep Christ as the main focus of how I pursue this life.

This is just the beginning of the journey. So let’s enjoy the newness of life that surges through our heart as we travel back in time to the Birth of our Savior. What new things does He have in store for us?

As I enter the next couple of very special days on the church calendar, the Christmas vigil and Christmas Day, I want to ponder some questions that Joan Chittister poses in her book, The Liturgical Year. Will you join me in my ponderings?

“What does the life of Jesus now mean to us? How is [his] life affecting our own? Are we ourselves living both the promise and the potential [that is offered to us by his life]?”

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tent: A Portable Shelter

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.”
                                                                                       Psalm 90:1 NIV

“While you journey through life in My Presence, My Glory brightens the world around you.”     from Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young

This morning I was sitting in my usual spot trying to enjoy some quiet moments with God. Before I got to that place of quiet, I had been working on my Christmas to-do list. I had visions of ice covered parking lots, but I was planning to brave the weather, and get the task of shopping for gifts, aka gift cards, knocked off my list. I also am in the middle of a project to make some special gifts for family members. So my spirit was having a hard time getting settled. As I was trying to concentrate, my eye caught the title of a book on my little shelf next to my chair, and I took it as an invitation from God: “Come Away with Me.” At first, I resisted and thought, “ I don’t have anywhere to come away with you, the guest/craft room is filled with junk to go through and it’s too cold to sit out on the front porch.” Both of these places have served as sort of refuge and retreat on different occasions, but not today.

The next thought that popped into my head was the image of putting a cover over my head so I could block out the world around me to just be still and enjoy God’s presence. This thought led to a very incredible thought, “Why don’t you build a tent out of blankets, like you did as a little girl and like your boys did when they were young?” As you can imagine tears welled up, because those days were very dear to me. I cried for a bit, and then tried to talk myself out of this absurd idea. But it persisted, and I just happened to have a big blanket on the couch, so I set to making myself a little shelter to sit in and read my Bible today.

My husband didn’t say a word, the cat explored and the dog was very suspicious of the whole ordeal. I climbed in and laid on my back like a child, looking up at my creation. More tears, and then the release into carefree living.

So I gathered my journal and Bible, and settled into my little tent. I felt a little like the prophets, who God asked strange requests of over the years. Then pounce, the cat jumped onto the top of the tent and everything came crashing down. I just sat there laughing out loud with a startled cat on my back.

I don’t know if there is a lesson in all of this, but I invite you to find your own special place to retreat with God today, and just enjoy the carefree moment of being with Him.

“Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.” 1 Peter 5:7 The Message

Monday, December 13, 2010

Kiss: A Mark of Affection or Respect

Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Psalm 85:10 NIV


Walter de le Mare

Sitting under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
One last candle burning low,
All the sleepy dancers gone,
Just one candle burning on,
Shadows lurking everywhere:
Some one came, and kissed me there.

Tired I was; my head would go
Nodding under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
No footsteps came, no voice, but only,
Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,
Stooped in the still and shadowy air
Lips unseen—and kissed me there.

Kissing…ewww! That’s what a first grade boy thinks. Kissing…ahhhh. That’s what a romantic young girl dreams while she stands under the mistletoe. But what does kissing have to do with Christmas?

“In eighteenth century England, a young woman could not refuse to be kissed if she was standing under the ornately decorated “kissing ball.” But the origins of mistletoe's significance go further back to a Greek festival and early marriage rites. It was believed to bestow fertility and “life-giving” power. In Scandinavia, mistletoe was considered a plant of peace, under which enemies could declare a truce or warring spouses kiss and make-up.”

In Eastern cultures, to kiss someone was to greet them. We could equate this with our handshake. Again I ask what all this has to do with Christmas. The answer came to me through the psalmist's use of personifying love and faithfulness, and righteousness and peace. We find these four rich concepts greeting and kissing one another. This metaphor points us to God’s desire to connect with us. I especially like the image of how “righteousness and peace kiss each other;”giving us the image of these two abstract ideas sharing something. Righteousness shows respect to peace, peace affectionately embraces righteousness. This coming together of love and faithfulness, and righteousness and peace embodies the whole of Christmas. Christmas becomes the greatest gesture of all. God kisses the earth with His presence. All-righteous God takes on human flesh. The babe born in the manger grows into the faithful expression of God’s love. Loving us all through his obedience to the Father, he graciously takes our place on the cross.

Jesus accepts the kiss of death for us. He brings peace to our warring hearts, and offers the way to make-up with our Creator God. Leaving us with the holy kiss of His Spirit, he asks us to show the same respect and affection for one another, which he had for his Father and for us.

As we enter the third week of Advent will you join me in the Prayer Appointed for the Week:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory now and for ever. Amen

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Invisible: Inaccessible to View, Hidden

“…for he [Moses] endured as seeing Him who is invisible.” Hebrews 11:27 NKJV

“The liturgical year…does not immediately plunge us in to the chaos of the Crucifixion or the giddy confusion of the Resurrection. Instead, the year opens with Advent, the season that teaches us to wait for what is beyond the obvious. It trains us to see what is behind the apparent. Advent makes us look for God in all those places we have, until now, ignored.”   Joan Chittister, The Liturgical Year

As we enter the second week of Advent, I haven’t even had a chance to share one tradition that we adopted when my husband and I first married. We discussed which traditions we wanted to keep from our childhood experiences, but we also wanted to start our own traditions as a newly married couple. We decided to celebrate Advent. I created an advent wreath out of greenery and four votives and a candlestick in the middle. We found a book called Christ in Christmas: A Family Advent Celebration. Each Sunday of Advent we would read the readings after lighting the candle for the week. Over the years we marveled at the changes in our family, from the first Christmas where we just read the text out loud to our infant son to the toddler years where with two little boys it was hard to keep them still during the readings. Then as they grew older we tried the activities the book suggested, and at the end of the reading the boys would fight over whose turn it was to blow out the candles. We still have the book on our bookshelf, but Advent devotions as a family are far and few between. Although last year or the one before, it was very touching when our sons joined in, each preparing a devotion to share with the family. Those years are mostly behind us now, as they both are working or in college. I still try to have my own times of reflection, and this habit of blogging my journey each Advent has lately become my new tradition.

I share our story, not just to conjure up nostalgia, but to show how one can see the invisible. How important these traditions have been in reminding us of the realness of Jesus in our midst. How he really did arrive in history, and how he will return one day. It is a mystery, but with spiritual eyes and stirrings of the soul, we can perceive that which is unseen. Moses’ story is worth revisiting as an example of how the immortal, invisible God manifests himself to mere humans. Let’s recount the ways he revealed himself to Moses and then the Israelites: a burning bush, the ten plagues, the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day, the parting of the Red Sea, the experience of receiving the ten commandments with all its natural and supernatural drama.

Later on Paul would assert his conclusion about God’s hiddeness:

Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Romans 1:19, 20 NIV

And may I suggest that following the liturgical year, and the reflecting on the meaning of each candle in the advent wreath, can be visible reminders of our invisible God.

Now unto the King eternal,
the only wise God,
be honour and glory for ever and ever.


1 Timothy 1:17 KJV

Monday, December 6, 2010

Decorate: To Add Honor To

“This is the LORD’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” Psalm 118:23

“Where are you Christmas
Why can't I find you
Why have you gone away
Where is the laughter
You used to bring me
Why can't I hear music play”  Faith Hill

This past Saturday was my designated time to clean the family room, and then decorate the tree, and put up other decorations. I really did try not to complain this year as I went about this task. I started out well, but cleaning always takes longer than I expect. I had a bit of headache. And I just wasn’t feeling the Christmas mood, even with the carols playing softly in the background. And then it happened I heard myself ask, “Whose idea was it to decorate Christmas trees anyway…grrr…?”

My oldest son, who was sitting in the other room tried to encourage me by reminding me that four years ago, we all decided that I only had to decorate as much as I wanted. His comment helped me relax, and enjoy myself. And I put a few things back in their boxes, and decided once again I didn’t have to put all the ornaments on the tree.

It’s kind of strange that I had already forgotten the inspiring answer I gave to my mother earlier in the week, when she asked a similar question, “Why do we rearrange our whole house for this holiday?” I immediately answered, “We’re making room for Jesus.” We both were stunned for a moment at the simply profound answer that came out of my mouth.

Today I had an even more amazing thought. Jesus rearranged his whole life to enter our world. He took on flesh. He humbled himself to be born in a manager. He humbled himself to die on the cross. He humbly followed and devoted himself to the Father’s plan.

Maybe the music of Christmas, and the mood I long for, were not resonating with me because I have neglected to acknowledge that this is God’s doing. Christmas is his way of reaching out to me, to all mankind. And it is indeed marvelous when I really take the time to contemplate all that it means to honor Christ in all aspects of my life.

How will you decorate your life this season? What ways can we celebrate Christ in our homes and our hearts this Christmas?

And even when all our decorations are back in the attic or basement, will we still add honor to his name?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Light: A Way of Regarding Something

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6 KJV

“Almighty God, give all of us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen” The Prayer Appointed for the Week, from The Divine Hours

As we approach the end of this first week of Advent, the lights of Christmas are popping up around our neighborhood. I went to my first Christmas social gathering. The first annual Mother/Daughter Gingerbread House Decorating Party with a group of dear friends. We each are facing our own battles with darkness. It was good to just be together in the lightness of the evening, instead of bogged down with the heaviness of life situations. We got to create fun little houses that reflected each personality.

We had a moment to reflect on the light of the world. Mom’s little house wouldn’t stay put together, so we designed a stable and she even had a miniature of the holy family to place in the stable. It was sweet to remember that the true light of Christmas was the One who commanded the light to shine in the first place. The lights and the sweets of the season were put into perspective as we thought of those who are less fortunate than ourselves. We read from Hababbuk 3:17-19, remembering to rejoice even when life does turn out like we expect.

Our little gathering was an example of how traditions get started. Everyone had so much fun that they wanted to know if we could do it again next year. The memories and the joy of creating will keep our hearts light when we face the harder days. We have something to look forward to.

In the prayer book I am following in my devotions this year, one of the refrains of the the liturgy reminds us of the promised return of Jesus, a greater event to look forward to. The refrain is titled, The Cry of the Church.

It says, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Legacy: A Gift by Will

“If God didn't hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn't gladly and freely do for us?” Romans 8:32 The Message

“The seasons and cycles and solemnities put before us in the liturgical year are more than representations of time past; they are an unending sign—a veritable sacrament of life. It is through them that the Christ-life becomes present in our own lives in the here and now.” Joan Chittister, The Liturgical Year

For me this adventure of discovering the liturgy has been a journey over the past several years. As a child I was introduced to Jesus through Sunday school at a country church that was not affiliated with a denomination. The teacher asked the class if we wanted to have Jesus live in our hearts. After I asked him to live in my heart, so that I could live with him forever in heaven, my spiritual formation was very informal. I continued to attend Sunday school sporadically, and in the summer we attended various Vacation Bible School programs with our neighbors, mostly at Baptist churches in the community. In about fifth grade I attended a Baptist church with one of my schoolmates whose father was the pastor. I became familiar with hymns like Amazing Grace, I Surrender All, as well as altar calls and my favorite-- Sword Drills. My competitive spirit loved standing at attention with Bible in hand waiting to see who could find the called out Scripture the fastest. Also we sang this great song during Sunday school called the Countdown Song. It was great since the world was all a buzz with landing on the moon and space travel and the Jetsons on Saturday morning. The opening verse went something like this: “Somewhere in outer space God has prepared a place for those who trust him and obey.” Good times.

Yet I missed out on after school catechism classes, first communion and confirmation that my Catholic friends experienced. It wasn’t until I was an adult inoculated in one mainstream tradition that I began to wonder about other church traditions. I confess that because their approach was different than mine, I mostly made fun of them or even worse was fearful of their traditions.

The legacy of the liturgy dates back to the early church. In the Catholic Encylopedia online, the general consensus was that although the liturgy was not as formal as it has become, the early believers followed a loose format when they met together. (See Acts 2:42) To give a brief overview of the history of liturgy would take a whole semester at least, so suffice it to say, we have been handed down a rich legacy of traditions from various groups. I will recommend another of my favorite mentors on this topic of spiritual heritage and formation, Richard J. Foster. In his book Streams of Living Water, he celebrates the various contributions each tradition has offered. It’s a place to start if you are interested.

It was interesting to note that the word liturgy was possibly first used in 1560. This was the year that the Anglican Church published their Book of Common Prayer into Latin for use at universities. Again so much history revolves around the Church of England and its break with the Catholic Church that I will refer you to an internet search if you want to know more.

What does this all have to do with us today, and celebrating Advent? The greatest legacy we have is Emmanuel. No matter how we approach the different traditions, Jesus is our central figure. He is the one that all of these celebrations are focused on. He is not just a child born in Bethlehem or the man who died on the cross—He is God with us! This is the greatest gift given to us our by the Father’s will that we have ever been offered. In the gospel of John, he states this about Jesus and about those who become his co-heirs through belief:

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:12-14 NIV

10 and 9, 8 and 7, 6 and 5 and 4,
Call upon the Savior while you may,
3 and 2, coming through the clouds in bright array
The countdown's getting lower every day.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Adventure: An Exciting Experience or Undertaking

“This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.” Psalm 118:23 KJV

“The liturgical year is an adventure in bringing the Christian life to fullness, the heart to alert, the soul to focus. It does not concern itself with the question of how to make a living. It concerns itself with the questions of how to make a life.” Joan Chittister, The Liturgical Year

Let me be the first to wish you a Happy New Year. Yes, I know that it is only the first of December. Actually I am a couple days late in my well wishing. The liturgical year marks the first Sunday of Advent as its beginning. While I was not brought up in a church that observes the seasons of the church year, I have been fascinated by the practice. I wondered how these seasons of advent and lent came into existence. Many of those who have been rediscovering the ancient spiritual practices have been reinvigorated in their spiritual lives. Over the years I have been seeking out new mentors to help me understand what it involves to follow Christ throughout the year, and remember the significant seasons of his life as well as the life of the church. As this season of Advent unfolds, I would like you to join me on my adventure and introduce to you my mentors (whom I have met in their books).

Our marking of days, weeks and years with our familiar calendar makes sense, since we live in this world. But as a follower of Christ, I want to live more and more in communion with the things of God, and so I am drawn to the liturgical year, which marks the remembrances of significant events in Christ’s life and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. As we begin this particular liturgical year, I would like to explore together some of the history, as well as just experience the following of the liturgy.

Liturgy may be an unfamiliar word to most. And it may conjure up images of monks silently living out a daily regimen of reading Scripture, chanting prayers and meditating on an icon. Or for others it may mean following a prescribed form of worship Sunday after Sunday that is published by their church. For me, the sound of it is mysterious and foreign.

A quick search of its meaning at Merriam-Webster online ( gives this definition:

a rite or body of rites prescribed for public worship; a customary repertoire of ideas, phrases or observances. Its origin is from Latin liturgia and Greek leitourgia, both meaning public service. In a note at the end of the entry it says the word was first used in 1560.

The public aspect of liturgy is significant. One observation I have made in my quest has been that my experience of the liturgy would be enhanced by the corporate practice of it. This explains my desire to draw others into my adventure. Some would recommend I find a congregation that practices the liturgy, yet at this point in my life I do not find myself in a position to seek out that setting. One, I am married, so the monastery is not an option. And two, I find myself in a contemporary setting that is familiar to me, and the place that my family has its roots and affections.

I hope that just as others have invited me into this journey through their writings, you will be intrigued and excited about learning new ways to engage the heart of Christ this year.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Fear: An Unpleasant Sensation Caused by Nearness of Danger or Pain

If you asked my family or friends if I was prone to be fearful, I bet most of them would deny it. Even if I asked myself that question, I would have to assert that I am fearless, most of the time. On the outside I may appear confident, without a care in the world. Yet today I read a prayer about overcoming fear, and I crumbled inside, letting the tears of fear roll down my face. I conceded that I do struggle against fear. Fear shadows so much of my thinking. But just like a shadow, unless I am standing with the sun behind me, I don’t always perceive this shadow of fear constantly following me.

But today the sun was shining just behind my heart and I caught a glimpse of this unwanted companion just standing there waiting for me to acknowledge its presence. In reality this encounter was a gracious act of the Son, who loves to show us what we’re up against. He longs for us to realize how much he wants us to live in the freedom he has already fought for so valiantly. Jesus has already faced all the danger and pain that fear throws at us. So even in this moment of recognizing my tendency toward living in the shadow of fear, I am grateful for the one of whom I can say:

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1 ESV)

I leave you with this prayer of confession from the book, Prayers for People Under Pressure by Jonathan Aitken:

I would like to rise above, Lord.
Above and beyond.
I would like to purify my glance
And borrow your eyes.
I have fears that grip so tightly.
Fears of failure. Fears of success.
Fears of not being loved, fears of being misunderstood.
I am imprisoned by my fears.
I would like to rise above, Lord.
Above and beyond.
I am worried about yesterday.
About my failure,
And whether I can be forgiven.
I am worried about tomorrow,
All the expectations and ideals.
I long to discover today.
I long to discover the place of joy
--the place of beauty
--the place of content
--the place that I know is here. So close.
And yet I love my prison and hate it.
I long for freedom.
My child, I hear your cry.
I have long been watching your closed shutters.
Why choose to be a prisoner of yourself?
You are free.
It is not I who locked the door,
It is not I who can open it
…for it is you, from the inside,
who persist in keeping it solidly barred.

Author Unknown

Friday, October 1, 2010

Reading and Living the Gospel

For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed,
a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,
just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." (Romans 1:17 NIV)

“Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together.” (Psalm 34:3 NIV)

“At every point as we read the Gospels, we need to remember that they are hero stories that exist to exalt the protagonist of the story.” –Leland and Philip Graham Ryken, note on Matthew 4:1-11 in The Literary Study Bible

The other day I was reading in the Gospel of Matthew about the temptation of Jesus. Lately, I have been reading from The Literary Study Bible. I was struck by the literary note about the Gospels, quoted above. To talk about the gospel in story language may seem like a reduction of its significance, but in reality it adds so much more texture and depth to the meaning. To read the gospels as a hero story, with Jesus being the protagonist or hero, makes my heart soar. Who doesn’t love a good hero story? Over the years culture after culture has passed down its own hero stories. And today we flock to the movie theaters to engage in the exaltation of the hero projected on the screen. How much more should we exalt Jesus?

To understand what it means to exalt someone, I researched the meaning of exalt; one nuance of the word exalt is “to bring to a position of honor” (Vine’s). As we read the accounts of Jesus’ life, passion and resurrection, we find him overcoming evil, healing the sick, and speaking with authority that rankles his antogonists, the religious leaders of the day. As we enjoy the unfolding story of triumph over evil and ultimately death, I identify with the struggle and rejoice in the victory. It gives me a renewed motive for honoring Jesus with my whole life.

In wanting to discover more about the word gospel, I came across an explanation of why Matthew, Mark, Luke and John’s biographies have become called The Gospels. The following commentary gives merit to Jesus' life as representative of a hero story, “As the Messianic rank of Jesus was proved by his words, his deeds, and his death, the narrative of the sayings, deeds, and death of Jesus Christ came to be called euangelion[the gospel]…” (from Thayer's Greek Lexicon).

What intrigues me about the narrative purpose of the gospels is the idea that through the recounting of the story, the protagonist is exalted. We not only see this as we read the Gospels, but also as we live out the gospel in our own lives.

When we tell others Jesus’ story, we are exalting Him all over again. One of the best ways to give honor to our Lord can be through telling others how he has rescued us. I pray we each will have abundant opportunities to tell the story.

"I love to tell the story
of unseen things above,
of Jesus and his glory,
of Jesus and his love.

I love to tell the story,
because I know 'tis true;
it satisfies my longings
as nothing else can do."
(Katherine Hankey)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Thanksgivings, Benedictions and Doxologies

On your feet now — applaud GOD!
Bring a gift of laughter,
sing yourselves into his presence.

Know this: GOD is God, and God, GOD.
He made us; we didn't make him.
We're his people, his well-tended sheep.

Enter with the password: "Thank you!"
Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
Thank him. Worship him.

For GOD is sheer beauty,
all-generous in love,
loyal always and ever.

Psalm 100 (The Message translation)

Have you ever forgotten how to enter the presence of God? Or felt like there was no way in, especially when you are feeling low or just plain filled with doubts or having a great fit of unbelief. Or maybe, you just are in a rut, and all the old ways of talking to God or praying to Him or praising His name, just don’t move your soul. I am in a place like that these days, and this morning I feel I have had a breakthrough. That the sun is shining through my overcast soul.

These encounters with the holy, living God are not something we can pencil in on our calendars, or make time for in our planners. Yet they do take time, so while I was sitting still and was crying out to God in my stuckness, I was ushered into His presence. I didn’t know how he would respond or where this crying out would lead me. In God’s sweet way, he drew me into his presence through my heartaches. Through my resentments about life, and how I think it ought to be going right now. As I was allowing myself to feel today-- the impact of missing my sister and her family, and the crush of all my supposed responsibilities, the Lord let me cry and blubber and get all messy in my chair situated in the corner of my family room. I grabbed the box of nearby tissues, and we had a good cry together.

In the midst of the crumpling up of myself, God invited me back to one of our favorite pastimes—looking up words in the dictionary. Over the past few weeks, I was developing a creative way to jumpstart my prayer life. I had taken a coupon organizer with twelve dividers and labeled three each for different aspects of prayer. I had three slots for praise, and three more for confession and for thanksgiving and finally intercession.

For the praise section I used affirmations, adorations and praises. For confession I labeled the section with confessions, laments and impossibilities. For the thanksgiving section it was a bit more difficult to make three subcategories. Thanksgiving to me just seemed like one aspect of prayer that was easily enough defined by calling it thanksgiving. But I pressed into it and added to thanksgivings, benedictions and doxologies. I thought it strange to add those to this section because both words seemed more like types of praise or blessings. Since I couldn’t come up with anything else, I kept those labels. Lastly, for intercession I included supplications, intercessions and offerings.

So as I was sitting here today wondering how God could possibly pull me out of this sadness and frustration of not really connecting with Him lately, I turned to the dictionary and looked up benediction and doxology. Big words that boil down to benediction meaning “to speak well of” and doxology meaning “a good opinion, honor, glory”. Both have rich uses in the liturgy of the church.

A familiar doxology is “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” and also Psalm 100 is considered a common doxology. There is so much more to explore regarding the use and practice of these two ideas, but what really jumped out at me was that thanksgiving does include these concepts of speaking well of God “from whom all blessings flow” and when I thank God it does open up my heart to enter his presence with praise and thanksgiving. Thanking God can be a means of expressing my good opinion of him or if you want to be more formal, thanksgiving gives honor and glory to God.

I leave you with this doxology, Gloria Patri:

"Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen."

P.S. Next time I’ll share some of the “prayers” I have been collecting in the coupon organizer and filing under their categories. I plan to add the doxologies of different church traditions to the doxology section.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Solace in Solitude

My sister noticed this lone flower growing out of the stone wall. She mentioned that I should take a picture of it. So just before my month long visit with her and her family in Scotland ended, I snapped this photo. Now that I am back home, this photo gives me strange comfort. The word solace comes from a Latin root meaning "to console". Images evoke emotion, and photos remind us of  a moment, but art speaks to our heart. So this is more than a photo to me, it is an icon of solitude. Some may think it shows fortitude because this scrawny poppy plant rooted itself in a stone wall, not the usual soil for prospering. I find much comfort in solitary moments. Quiet times of reflection on life and all its beauty and pain. This captured memory becomes a prayer that its beauty and loneliness will alleviate for a brief moment the grief and anxiety that crowd our days. When my sister looks at it she will know that I am praying for her to experience relief and a wistful moment of consolation knowing that we are together, even though we are miles parted.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

At the Cross

"At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!"

Isaac Watts

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.  Romans 1:20 NIV

While on vacation last week, my husband and I were out walking around a campground in Kentucky. We came upon an outdoor chapel with this cross at the "altar" area. Later in the week, I woke up with the sunrise and walked back over to sit and enjoy some time with God before the day started. As I walked up and saw the cross, my heart started singing an old hymn that we used to sing at the little country church where I first met my Savior. “At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light…” Tears brimmed as I was overwhelmed with the simplicity of this faith that I have clung to over the years. “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so” or you could say for the Cross tells me so.

I had really looked forward to lots of time soaking in God’s word and reading on this vacation, since lately a lot of my mental time is consumed with school work. I was a bit disappointed, as it just didn’t work out to spend uninterrupted time reading and journaling. I would read a Psalm each morning, and then once we got out on the boat, the ride jostled me too much to do any reading.

After awhile I realized that God was inviting me to just enjoy His quiet presence through the surrounding joys of nature…rushing water, breezes blowing through my hair, sunshine on my face and the greening of the landscape that unfolded each day. By the end of the week the redbuds and dogwoods were blooming along with the Bradford pear trees. We saw all kinds of water fowl: two bald eagles, pelicans, ducks, geese, blue heron, and osprey to name a few…all carefree and proclaiming the majesty of God.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Confess: Agree With, Admit or Acknowledge

And all of us have had that veil removed so that we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more.
(2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT)

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of all?” This is not a question that any of us would admit that we ask each morning as we are getting ready in front of our mirrors, but we may think it, or we may be asking a different question. The one I often ask is “Am I really beautiful?” I am not necessarily pondering my outward appearance. I am looking for something deeper. I am longing for affirmation, acceptance, desirability or something along those lines. To be quite honest, I am afraid of mirrors, and hastily finish my work in front of one, then leave. Sounds a bit foolish, but it seems safer to me.

Confession as a concept rates with mirrors as something I tend to avoid out of fear of what I will discover or what might be revealed, since both are instrumental in personal examination. The mirror unveils physical defects; confession searches our spiritual shortcomings.

With that confession made, I want to unveil some wrong thinking that I have entertained over the years regarding the practice of confession. My thinking ran something like this, when I confess something, it usually reflects badly on my choices or character making confession uncomfortable and painful, therefore I'd rather avoid confession.

While confession does include the humbling experience of admitting that I have sinned, it is a beneficial process. In fact Scripture teaches that confession is for our good, and I am coming to see it as a gift, just as a mirror truly is a helpful tool. Mirrors point out things that need to be changed. If we have a hair out of place, we can comb it back, and secure it with hairspray. Putting make-up on without a mirror would give us inconsistent results, not to mention, that we could be fairly sure we would look like a disfigured clown if we refused to use a mirror.

Confession brings about freshness, a cleanness that restores joy, lifts our countenance, and removes guilt which keeps us from gladly and freely loving God.

A mirror represents examination through reflection. A couple times in Scripture someone asks God to examine them. One is the familiar cry of the psalmist in Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV):

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”

When we allow God to investigate our hearts and do His cleansing work, we can confidently look in the mirror. This idea of looking into a mirror surfaced in a devotion I was reading. The author invited the reader to literally “stand before the bathroom mirror, take a good long look at the person looking back at you.” I did this, thinking that a myriad of sins would come to mind, and I would ask the Lord to cleanse me. Instead an amazing sense of His grace overwhelmed me, and I saw His love reflected back to me.

Here is a poem I wrote in response to that holy encounter through a looking glass:

O God, I look into the mirror,
What do I see?
Beautiful eyes looking back at me
Not a ravishing, sculpted form.
But a smallish, curvy woman
With freckled face and brownish hair;
Nothing to proclaim me all that fair.

Yet as I look into those eyes,
I am humbled to see You
Looking back at me, urging me
To really look at that face-
Those penetrating green eyes that
Tears so easily fill.
So tender, so sweet, surrendering still.

Seeing the truth that it is by You
I have been made
and You love me!
One You wouldn’t ever trade
For a thousand fairer maids.

Through these reflections on mirrors and confession, I hope we will feel freer to use both on a daily basis.

One last thought. An answer to the original question, “Who is the fairest of all?” I offer you an anonymous German hymn: “Fairest Lord Jesus”.

Let’s confess our devotion to Him-

“Fairest Lord Jesus; Ruler of all nature,
O Thou of God and man the Son
Thee will I cherish; Thee will I honor,
Thou my soul’s glory, joy and crown.”

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Trust: Firm Belief in the Reliability, Strength or Truth of Someone or Something

Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart;
don't try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for GOD's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
He's the one who will keep you on track.

Proverbs 3:5-6 The Message

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”  
-Corrie ten Boom

The invitation to trust comes to me on a moment by moment basis. Sometimes those moments are in the midst of big, life forming decisions, like when I asked God is this the person you want me to spend the rest of my life with or recently when I sought direction on going to college in my forties? Other moments are just the small, life sustaining choices of moving forward or asking for God for help to love and think of others' needs as well as my own.

Another area where trust enters into the equation has to do with the future, the “what ifs” of this life. Usually my “what ifs” worry themselves into my mind as foreboding and sinister plots to ruin my life. Such as, what if I go blind and I can’t read anymore. Or what if my husband loses his job, and then what will we do. Some of these ponderings are actual things that could happen, and some are pretty fantastic, but either way they cause me distress. When this happens I start thinking of all the possible scenarios to prevent or solve my dilemma, and my anxiety level increases, and I get cranky.

Yesterday I was worrying over some plans for the summer, and had myself in a tizzy. This morning I realized that I wasn’t trusting God to provide the best solution, as he has done so faithfully throughout my life. So here I am at a place where I have to stop trying to figure it out, and cry out to God: “Please work this out in your way that is best for all involved. Amen.”

I can entrust the unknown future to God because I do know Him, and He is trustworthy.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Res Novae

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.”

Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV

I have been back in classes for about two weeks now, and it always amazes me when a thread of an idea emerges from different classes. In Latin, we were learning about the word “res”, which can mean "things, matters or affairs"; or as we would say “stuff”. Our teacher likes to tell us about the origin of words and mentioned in passing that “res novae”, literally “things new” becomes the word “revolution”.

This caught my attention because in English Lit II, we were discussing the Romantics, and how their approach to poetry and art reflected a desire to move away from the structure of the Neo-Classicists, who were emulating the Greeks and the Romans, to self-expression and the emotional emphasis that we take for granted in poetry and art today. The artists were revolutionary, attempting “new things”. Another interesting relationship between revolution and the Romantics relates to the fact that the national revolutions of that time period, the French and American, were most likely a result of this new thinking—a move away from the rules and rulers of their day.

This knowledge whets my appetite for revolution in my own heart. Not rebellion, but the freedom to express myself creatively in honor of our Creator. To explore and understand in a fresh way how revolutionary and life changing it can be to follow the One who promises that He is “making all things new…” (Revelation 21:5)

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
the old has gone, the new has come!”
(2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Butterfly Circus

Lacking hope or inspiration? Check out this short film titled Butterfly Circus:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Suspicion or Fascination?

Taste and see that the LORD is good.
Oh, the joys of those who trust in him!
(Psalm 34:8 NLT)

“Look at the world with childlike wonder, ready to be startled into surprised delight by the profuse abundance of truth and beauty and goodness that is spilling out of the skies at every moment…Plan on spending the rest of your lives exploring and enjoying the world both vast and intricate that is revealed by this text [The Holy Scriptures].” -Eugene Peterson, Eat This Book

Have you ever bumped into something subtle that you possibly knew was lurking in your heart, but you were unable to name it? As I have been reading through Eat This Book by Eugene Peterson, I experienced this “aha/ouch” moment. The book has been challenging my approach to God’s word. The main challenge has been to take a more holistic approach, rather than just going to the Bible for answers or comfort, Peterson exhorts the reader of Scripture to come with receptivity to the God of the Word, to engage our imagination as the narrative unfolds, and to participate in God’s great story of redemption.

My heart was soaring as I absorbed Peterson’s thoughts on reading Scripture in a more engaged way. But then he brought up suspicion. He warns that we must “abandon all condescending approaches to the Bible.” In light of this warning, he reveals that we have been indoctrinated to approach all texts with suspicion. Peterson reminds us that, “We are taught to bring a healthy suspicion to everything we read, especially when it claims authority over us.” He does not say this is wrong, but I think what hit me is that to always approach every text with this suspicion robs me of the fascination of discovery.

When I have made my Bible reading into a checklist, rather than an encounter with “the Living God who sees me” the joy seeps out of me. (Check out Genesis 16 to get a fresh taste of God’s mercy)

In light of Peterson’s exhortation, now I desire to come to the Word as a feast to be savored, rather than a specimen to be probed, investigated and “figured out.” This thinking led me to looking at the table of contents as more of a menu to peruse and ask the chef what he recommends for my meal. I am not against the goal of reading through the Bible in a year or any reading plan, I am just saying checking things off tends toward methodical hurrying through the text; instead of a slower meditative pace, enjoying each bite.

Here’s to your spiritual health. Taste and see that the Lord is good!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Can You Help Me?

O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.
(Psalm 30:2 NIV)

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  (Matthew 18:2-3 NIV)

Yesterday I went ice skating with my grown son and some of his friends. I love to get on the ice and glide around the rink. While skating I noticed the cutest young girl with curly hair, a pink hand-knit sweater and a swirly green skirt hanging on to the rail and making her way around the rink. Every once in a while she would let go of the security of the rail to venture out on the ice. During one of my rounds, she had fallen and was having a difficult time getting back up on her skates. As I approached her, she looked up at me and in the sweetest voice, asked “Can you help me?” I helped her up and she thanked me.

I will never forget her voice or face, as she with no embarrassment or shame asked a stranger to help her. She easily acknowledged that she couldn’t get up on her own effort. She needed help. And she was so cheerful about it.

Her childlike innocence pierced my heart. Why don’t I reach out to God with the same eagerness and joy as the little girl at the ice skating rink? God is not a stranger to me, but my proven and faithful, loving Heavenly Father, who gladly helps whenever I call. Yet sometimes the shame of getting myself in awkward predicaments leads me to timidly approach God, instead of gladly looking into his face and just asking, “Can you help me?” and then thanking Him when he does.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Cleaning Closets

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
(Psalm 51:10 NKJV)

"Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden, cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." 
–the “Collect for Purity” found in the Book of Common Prayer

On my current to-do list, I have the following things pending: review Latin, blog and clean closets. One out of three--I am blogging. But the review will probably happen when I get back to classes and cleaning closets may not happen now until the “Spring Cleaning” bug hits me some warm day in February.

Even though I haven’t tackled any closets over winter break, I have been considering the condition of my heart. Taking inventory, if you will, asking God to get rid of anything that keeps me from pure and simple devotion to Christ.

Today during a time of prayer with friends, we read the above prayer for purity to prompt our silent time of asking God to cleanse our hearts before we entered a time of thanksgiving and then intercession. The phrase “unto whom all hearts are open” gave way to the imagined scenario of cleaning out one of my closets.

I began to ask God to “clean the closet of my heart”. I realized that when I go through my clothes’ closet that I often discover outdated, old outfits that I never wear anymore. So I asked God to help me check for any outdated thinking I had about Him and His ways, to remove the old ways of relating to Him and others. To show me old habits, which keep me from totally embracing His tender mercies.

The prayer in my heart at the time wasn’t so eloquent, but the germ of the idea in prayer sprang into a full meditation of what it would be like to have God clean out the collection of old stuff that keeps me from offering full access for the Holy Spirit to work his wonders in my heart.

I want the Lord to look in my heart and see neat stacks of Spirit inspired love, wisdom, joy, peace and hope, instead of bitterness, doubt, criticism, worry and self-sufficiency. I want to be clothed with compassion, kindness and self-control. I desire to come to my heart’s closet to easily find, and then put on the characteristics of Christ for my own well-being. And with enough left over to share with others.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches,but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24 ESV)

The longing of my soul this year is to know Jesus more, and enjoy His presence in all the situations I encounter. So far this year, I have been allowing myself the luxury of a fairly unstructured approach to each day. I know in about a week, I will be watching my time closely, and have much occupying my mind as I delve into the semester at school.

But this semester, I hope to take better precautions in guarding my heart against the lure of boasting in my own wisdom or strength. Rather I will glory in knowing Jesus, and seeking the things that delight my Heavenly Father, as I experience his steadfast love.

May His steadfast love, justice and righteousness be poured out into our hearts this year.

Knowing You
by Graham Kendrick

All I once held dear, built my life upon,
all this world reveres and wars to own,
all I once thought gain I have counted loss,
spent and worthless now compared to this.

Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You.
There is no greater thing.
You're my all, You're the best, You're my joy,
my righteousness; and I love You, Lord.

Now my heart's desire is to know You more,
to be found in You and known as Yours,
to possess by faith what I could not earn;
all surpassing gift of righteousness.

Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You.
There is no greater thing.
You're my all, You're the best, You're my joy,
my righteousness; and I love You, Lord.

Oh, to know the pow'r of Your risen life,
and to know You in Your suffering,
to become like You in Your death,
My Lord, so with You to live and never die.

Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You.
There is no greater thing.
You're my all, You're the best, You're my joy,
my righteousness; and I love You, Lord.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Holy Name of our Lord Jesus Christ

Give to the LORD the glory due His name;
Bring an offering, and come before Him.
Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness!
(1 Chronicles 16:29 NKJV)

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. (Luke 2:21 NIV)

Over the last few years of observing the Advent season, I have discovered that to celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas is not accomplished by singing the familiar song, but by continuing to reflect on Christ’s birth and early childhood over the twelve days following Christmas Eve culminating in a celebration of Epiphany on January 6th.

In my Advent devotion book, January 1st and the 8th day of Christmas coincide, which is no coincidence. The eighth day is also a significant time in a Jewish child’s life. This is the day his parents have him circumcised, as well as give their child his name. It is appropriate that on this first day of a new year that we acknowledge the Name of the one who gave life to us. Instead of focusing so much on my own goals, and how I will better my name this year, I want to “ascribe to Jesus, the glory due His name.”

In my reading today, Walter Wangerin shares a prayer that expresses my heart as I reflect on this season, and look toward the newness of this year:

There has grown in me this year again a genuine joy, O Jesus. A personal, deep down, inexpressible joy. Joy after loneliness. The joy of new relationship: for I am yours... My name is written in the Book of Life. As a baby myself—more needy than able, weaker than strong, foolish from failure, helpless and hungry—I’ve seen the sheer grace of your love: for I should be dead, but I live! I should despair, but during this Christmas too I’ve known moments of genuine peace. This cannot arise from me. It had to come as a gift from the Source of Life and Truth and Light and Bread and Love.