Monday, December 28, 2009

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is bliss, taste it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it...
~ Mother Teresa

Saturday, December 26, 2009

"Eternal God, by the birth of Jesus Christ You gave Yourself to the world. Grant that, by being born in our hearts, He may save us from all our sins, and restore within us the image and likeness of our Creator, to whom be everlasting praise and glory, world without end. Amen." - Laurence Hull Stookey

This lovely prayer is nestled between some traditional Christmas carols in the UM Hymnal. I love finding these things and being blessed by them. We read this one at our Christmas Eve Service this year. I found it to be very moving. May it bless your heart and soul this Christmas season.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Coming Home

As I thumbed through some old Advent devotionals, I stumbled across this one from a former student. She is now teaching school with "Teach for America." She is one of those students who has always challenged and inspired me, two things that are rare. She is headstrong, but she is really all heart. I love her because she is...real. She cannot help but be completely honest (sometimes me!) and I dig that about her. It is because of these things that she walks so closely with the Lord. She simply lays it all out there for God and others in a way that is disarming and inspiring. You'll see all of that in this excerpt from the devotional she wrote on Zephaniah 3:14-20.

"Zephaniah's message of hope screams of all that I am to be thankful for: a God FULL of mercy, a God worthy of praise and honor, an God who removes our sorrows and frees us from oppressors. The most beautiful part comes at the end of this passage in verse 20. Our God is a god who gathers us and brings us home. We are never left to walk alone in this world.

Christmas to me has always meant coming home. When I was younger it was because aunts, uncles and cousings would come home. Now it is because I go home for the holidays. Zephaniah has given a new image to associate with the advent Season, one of coming "home" to Christ. This passage gives me an image of coming home to a right relationship with the Lord and of being rightly related to my brothers and sisters in Christ. It is an image of being part of the family of God.

Advent prepares us for the coming of the Christ child and for the cmoing of a new year, or new birth. As we go home for Christmas, may we forever be reminded to make sure that we are also "home" in Christ. What is more hopeful than knowing there is always room for us to come "home" to Him?"*

Isn't that beautiful imagery? Advent as homecoming. It is just good theology, really. Jesus birth was indeed like coming home. And because of that first Christmas we are able to be a part of God's family forevermore.

Even if you are far from home this Christmas (Holli!), know that Christ himself is nearer to you than ever before. Christmas is nothing if not a homecoming. For "The Word became flesh and came home among us..." and He is with us still (John 1:14).

*The devotional was written by Miss Olivia. You can learn more about her delightful life at her blog, Honestly.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Little Town of Bethlehem

Read Micah 5:2-5

Bethlehem was an insignificant village of Judah, very undistinguished. Eugene Peterson calls it "the runt of the litter" (Micah 5:2, The Message). There was nothing remarkable about this little village.

And yet God chose this, the most ordinary of places, for one of the most extraordinary events: the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. God delights in using the commonplace to accomplish His uncommon purposes. And announcing little Bethlehem as the birthplace of the King was just the beginning.

Micah's prophecy tells us that the coming King will enter in the most common of ways. He will be a "shepherd," the most ordinary of men. He won't come with any fanfare and he won't even be here for himself. He will reign with strength and majesty in the name of the Lord. The marks of his reign will be security, safety, and peace. He will come to fight for God's people and save them.

We know this Savior to be Jesus Christ and we walk in the confidence that all of this is true. We know he was born in Bethlehem only to die for our sins and be raised again. We also know that he is coming again.

May we experience the same anticipation Micah's readers had upon receiving this prophecy so long ago. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, let us keep our eyes, ears and hearts open in expectation of seeing him in the most unlikely places. And may we look forward in holy expectation for His return!

"Remember who you are. We are not commoners, but heirs waiting for our King's coming - preparing for His coming!" - Unknown

{Side Note: Bethlehem = "house of bread" in Hebrew. How's that for holy imagery?!}

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Beautiful Task of Advent

"Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to man. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope.

It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope."
- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Seek That Which Is Above

Sunday, December 06, 2009

I ♥ Advent

Advent is the best. It is like coming home for me. It is at this time of year that I am reminded in the most tangible of ways that God's love for us is absolutley limitless. Every year I learn in a new way just how far-reaching his love is. It amazes me that it can all feel fresh and new with each passing year. Somehow this great God of ours finds a way to show me again and in surprising ways what a miracle that first Christmas truly was and still is for us.

Here are some of the ways he's shown that to me over the past several years.

- The lyrics of that wonderful song "Welcome to Our World" by Chris Rice always bless my heart and soul. I recommend his version if you can find it. It is one of the most heartfelt and beautiful Christmas songs I have ever heard. Incomparable in its theology and its melody. Listen to it and tell me you aren't moved.

- The beautiful words of the first chapter of John's gospel always speak to me. It is so poetic and drenched with meaning that I find a little something new each time I read it. It is a rich representation of the heart of Christmas and Advent. It is one to commit to memory during this season so that your heart can recall it throughout the new year.

- My dear friend Lisa has been the earthly representation of that first Advent candle to me this year, "Christ, our hope." She is holding unswervingly to that part of Him as she fights breast cancer this year. She is shining His light more than she could ever know.

- Visit here for some of my previous thoughts on this glorious season.

- These words of wisdom from Mother Teresa, whose life was the embodiment love, really inspired me today:

"Don’t think that love, to be true, has to be extraordinary. What is necessary is to continue to love. How does a lamp burn, if it is not by the continuous feeding of little drops of oil? When there is no oil, there is no light and the bridegroom will say: “I do not know you”. Dear friends, what are our drops of oil in our lamps? They are the small things from every day life: the joy, the generosity, the little good things, the humility and the patience. A simple thought for someone else. Our way to be silent, to listen, to forgive, to speak and to act. That are the real drops of oil that make our lamps burn vividly our whole life. Don’t look for Jesus far away, He is not there. He is in you, take care of your lamp and you will see Him.”

- There are countless other pockets of realization I've had along the way. I'll admit that I've also had memory lapses where I have failed to fully participate in this season I love so much. But God always brings me back with His nudges of grace and love in the most subtle of ways.

May He come anew into your heart this Advent season. Make room for Him this day and each day of this beautiful time of year. Look for Him in the little things and in the most unlikely of places...that's where He'll be. Look for Him

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Happy Birthday, Jenny!

Happy 32nd Birthday, Jenny Robertson Shelby! I hope you know how very loved you are this day. You AMAZE and INSPIRE me in more ways than you'll ever know. You might be my little sister, but your influence on my life has been huge. Thanks for being a wonderful sister and friend. I love you!