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Archive for the ‘WONDER’ Category

Advent … Day 7 of 29

Week 1
The People’s Need

… my God turns my
darkness into light.
Psalm 18:28
He has delivered us
from the domain of darkness
and transferred us
to the kingdom of his beloved Son
Colossians 1:13
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shined.
Isaiah 9:12

reclaim the dark … for light shines in the dark

Christmas came amid it all … amid all of the dark and twisties …

  • tears, sorrow, dismay
  • loneliness
  • longing for the past
  • dying, grief
  • sin
  • enemies, death

These are the realities today, as we open the daily advent doors to the celebration of arrival of the Christ Child … as we await his coming again. These were the realities then … roughly 400 years ago.

Christmas, then and now, is all about dark places …

  • the womb
  • a valley
  • the grave

But, it is also about contrast, about that upside-down experience of Christ within us.

And without such a contrast …

would there be a reason for a Savior?

No …

That is why we wait with anticipation, otherwise we know not why he came, we know not our own value … for if we follow this Savior (who not only was born, but died and rose), we can be part of bringing the upside-down world to those around us.

Luke 6 says:

Blessed are you who:
are poor (now)
hunger (now)
weep (now)
who are hated (now)
who are rejected (now)

This was the state of life for the Jews … this is the state of life for us … NOW!

Our reality of being the blessed is not due to our circumstances or situations, but because of HIM, of He who came to deliver us from our darkness

and bring the light.

This ends week 1, the People’s Need.

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Advent … Day 6 of 29

Week 1
The People’s Need

When the Magi had gone,
an angel of the Lord
appeared to Joseph in a dream.
“Get up,” he said,
“take the child and his mother
and escape to Egypt.
Stay there until I tell you,
for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
Matthew 2:13
When Herod realized that he had been outwitted
by the Magi,
he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys
in Bethlehem and its vicinity
who were two years old and under,
in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.
Matthew 2:16
A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”
Matthew 2:18
The Wise disobey the King … in Godly wisdom

It is a black spot on the Christmas story. One that is often not told, alongside that of the Magi … their voyage in search of what the stars have told, the gifts for the babe. Maybe because it occurred a couple years after the birth of the Messiah, or maybe, just maybe … we cannot handle the truth?

The order of King Herod (a leader known to have killed any who threatened his rule) to have all male babes up to two years old, killed. In history this act is known as the Massacre of the Innocents. It is horrific to imagine what it must have been like to live through such a horror.

This sacrifice of innocent life … it too is part of the waiting that is advent. It shows us the dichotomy of the brutality of human life compared with the life-giving that this babe brings. This babe, who later grows up to be killed … yet another killing of an innocent.

Our sin-filled world is one of enemies, brutality. Persecution and torture and death (and war) are part of the package that sin has wrapped up for us all.

As we open a door each day this advent season, may we each remember that our joy in celebrating the birth of our Redeemer came at a cost, that innocence was slaughtered for salvation. May we also remember those who are suffering under persecution … may we lift them up each day in prayer. May we humble ourselves and give our time, our resources, our efforts to bring peace to Earth as we prepare to celebrate the Prince of Peace.

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Advent … Day 5 of 29

Week 1
The People’s Need

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world.
Adam’s sin brought death,
so death spread to everyone,
for everyone sinned.
Romans 5:12
Jesus answered them,
“Truly, truly, I say to you,
everyone who commits sin
is a slave to sin.”
John 8:34
So whoever knows
the right thing to do
and fails to do it,
for him it is sin.
James 4:17

A few bad chapters does not mean your story is over …

Since the Garden of Eden, humans have been born into sin. Our most common human legacy is sin. Because of sin, we fall short, miss the mark. Our bodies experience the effects of sin in our fragility, our inescapable end of life, through death. We fail each other, resulting in broken relationships, broken commitments and traumas that get passed from generation to generation.

Sin is real …

and it is really why we are counting down the days, in hopeful anticipation of the coming (and the coming again) of Jesus.

For God made Christ, who never sinned,
to be the offering for our sin,
so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:21

We are not just counting down to Christmas, we are counting the days to the anniversary of the end of our life in sin. This is personal, this is life saving … we just need to be willing to open that final door to Him, the one to our heart.

“Jesus told the story of the Prodigal son to make a simple point:
never mind what you’ve done, just come home.”

Unka Glen

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Advent … Day 4 of 29

Week 1
The People’s Need

I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death
Psalm 23:4
And the dust returns to the earth
as it was
Ecclesiastes 12:7
The last enemy to be destroyed
is death.
1 Corinthians 15:26

Dying ≠ Christmas

Death ≠ Christmas

Grief ≠ Christmas

Wanna pour cold water on the Christmas season? Add dying, death and grief. For this triad can steal the joy of this festive season. Wanna take our eyes off the prize, the culmination of the advent season? Walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

Some of us are lonely this season, grieving a loved one whose absence fills us with longing. We are struggling to long for the finale of the advent season, because we are longing for them … the one(s) we miss and love.

Some of us are planning a funeral … while the rest of the world are hanging boughs of holly.

And for some, there is the shadow of death seems to shadowing this season, each advent door opening to one more day of life and breath … but so aware that there might not be an open door tomorrow.

How do we celebrate, anticipate the birth of our Savior as we walk through this valley?

“… the tension between believing in the goodness that is to come

and naming the grief and heartache of our present moment”

Cole Arthur Riley

Ah … that tension.

It is the tension of being fully human while looking ahead to redemption. Looking ahead to (as Revelation 21:4 tells us),

death shall be no more, 
neither shall there be mourning, 
nor crying, 
nor pain anymore, 
for the former things have passed away

This is what we are counting down to, what we are anticipating. While we wait (in the hospital room, the funeral home, the graveside) he will wipe away every tear from their eyes (Revelation 21:4a), for he is near to the broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18). We are not left alone in this dark valley, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23:4).

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Advent … Day 3 of 29

Week 1
The People’s Need

“Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.”
Jonah 2:8
Say not,
“Why were the former days better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
Ecclesiastes 7:10
“But one thing I do:
forgetting what lies behind
and straining forward to what lies ahead.”
Philippians 3:13
"I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know"

White Christmas … that is my personal ideal of the season. The snow bring light to an otherwise dark night, dark season. I expect that my ideal was formed in my childhood, growing up on Canada’s East Coast, where snow and Christmas were synonymous.

Ah … the ideals we carry in our minds! The past can be so easily idealized in our minds.

“Back in my day …”

“In the good ol’ days …”

“When I was a kid …”

Remembering the past, the events of the past, can be good for our hearts and souls, for the past has brought us to where we are currently. Yet, we cannot return to a previous time. And, if we look at the past clearly, it wasn’t all delight. At Christmas especially, we can allow our minds to visit Christmas’ past and choose to stay there indefinitely.

Christmas includes the past, present and future. It is the fulfillment of past promises, we get to walk through today with the God who loves us and, in this advent season, we get to anticipate the celebration of the birth of Jesus, who will come again in time to come.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Hebrews 13:8

God,

I need to honest with you … I want my old world back. I want to live in my memories of snow, and family all together, and carols by the tree, and littles snuggling in close, and the warmth of holding a loved one’s hand, and … simpler times.

Yet, I live in the now, the present … remind me to unwrap it. Remind me to cherish it, the present, the now. For today is the gift you have given … yesterday is gone and tomorrow is not promised.

Prepare me, prepare my heart for whatever world is coming. Prepare me, my heart and soul, for the coming of your Son … the best gift.

For you do not change … you remain.

Rest is the defiant act
of creating space
In my own life
for my own soul.
While I cannot stop
the passage of time,
I can pause
my passage through time
so that I can see
yesterday more clearly
and choose tomorrow
more willingly.
-Justin McRoberts

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Advent … Day 2 of 29

Week 1
The People’s Need

From deep in the realm of the dead 
I called for help
Jonah 2:2b
Two are better than one
Ecclesiastes 4:9
I am lonely and afflicted
Psalm 25:16

Christmas is the season of smiling faces, of deep belly laughter, of good cheer and joy … and loneliness.

Someone said to me recently that Christmas is so much about family that it makes them feel lonely. They are not alone is that feeling.

There is a song that came out in the 1980’s with the following words,

"Sad songs say so much. 
If someone else is suffering enough 
to write them down 
When every single word makes sense  
it's easier to have those songs around." 

Ah … to know we are not alone!

This is our human cry. Our human need.

This is why we need Christmas! Why we need a Savior.

We need the words of Jesus himself:

 “and be sure of this—
that I am with you always,
even to the end of the world.”

Matthew 28:20

There is also a person of the Christmas story who knew what it was to be alone. Mary, a single teen, pregnant … in a society, a time a place, when women were equated to dogs on a good day. She received the news of her pregnancy from an angelic host and then kept the news to herself, until she was with her cousin Elizabeth … the kindred spirit who knew of Mary’s condition, for her own womb was shook with the presence of she and her unborn one. Though Mary may not have been physically alone, for she had family, her part in this advent story threaded through her entire life, leaving her with an experiential loneliness for much of the rest of her life.

Father God,

Some of us feel so lonely at this Christmas season. We long for the human connection that we see and hear in the music, the movies and even in our places of worship. Yet, we go to bed alone and wake up the same.

Some who are lonely are even surrounded by other humans, but connections have failed. Loneliness can also be felt when we walk through this season alongside another (others).

And Lord, if we are not one of those who walks through advent longing for connection, please open our eyes and hearts to those may be struggling. When you bring them to mind, convict us to raise their names to you, to contact them, to do something for them … with them.

Your Son, whose Earthly arrival we anticipate … he knew loneliness. He knew what it is to be alone with his thoughts, with his hurt. He knew what it was to be left alone by the one who sent him as he hung on a cross. God … your Son did this so that we could know his presence, your presence.

May you be real to us this season. May we bring the real you to others.

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Advent … Day 1 of 29

Week 1
The People’s Need

“I called out to the LORD, out of my distress …”
Jonah 2:2

“I cried aloud to the LORD …”
Psalm 3:4

“I call on the LORD in my distress …”
Psalm 120:1

Do you cry?

Does the heaviness of life, of the dark, weigh on your heart and soul?

Have you ever cried out to God?

The Christmas Carol, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, says :

“Israel that mourns in lonely exile here”

And, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, starts with these words,

God rest ye merry gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay

Dismay? What does dismay have to do with the Christmas season?

Well, actually,

Tears
Sorrow
Dismay

These are part of the reason why Jesus came to be with us … a very big part. The coming of the Messiah was planned when sin entered our world, entered into us. When sin entered the world, so did tears, sorrow, dismay. Jesus came to save us from our sins, but he also came to be the embodiment of God … he is the full package and his coming paved the way for us to never, ever be alone in our tears, our sorrow, our dismay.

 O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Refrain:
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

God,

We … I … need you.

As I bow my head, my heart is heavy, my eyes are brimming with tears, my mind struggles to focus on being in your presence. God … Father, hear the cries of my heart.

You, and only you can hear what is unspoken. I know that you are sovereign, that you are in control of everything. I give you my heartaches, my struggles, my sorrows …

and I ask that you don’t let me take them back.

Thank you that advent reminds us of how you send hope into our sadness.

I am counting the days …

Day 1.

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Advent Eve

And so, Christmas begins … in the dark, looking for the light.

This is it … Advent Eve. The day before the first door is opened, as we countdown to Christmas (and get our daily chocolate (or socks, or tea, or whiskey …) as a reward for waiting another day.

Advent … waiting.

The word advent means to come, but the season is about the awaiting of the coming of the Messiah, so that God could be with us … or, more specifically, so that we could be with God.

God, in the flesh.

The highly anticipated King of the Jews,

born in a manger … a feed trough.

Jesus … the bread of human life.

The redeemer of God’s chosen people,

who came to offer eternity to … all.

So that we are all his chosen people.

This is a season of celebration, anticipation and hope,

but …

it is still dark …

and the closer we get to Christmas,

the darker it gets.

This is the dichotomy of advent …

that as the world gets darker,

the light shines brighter,

for,

“Light shines brightest in the deepest dark!”

John Butcher

For the days leading up to Christmas day, itsawonderfilledlife will be like an advent calendar. It will be a place that will take us from dark to light, from black to bright … maybe even from despair (for some are feeling despair this day, these days) to hope.

This is for anyone … for the busy (they will be short) and the bored, for the discouraged and the joy-filled, the lonely, the hope-deprived, the God-lover and the God-doubter, even for the one who has been deconstructing their faith … for a daily walk toward the birth of Jesus may be just the reminder of what faith (without the extras) really means.

And so, Christmas begins … in the dark, looking for the light.

* If you want to ensure you get these daily doors opening to the coming of our … of your Savior, hit the follow button (below the ‘Blogs I Follow’ section on the right) and they will be delivered to your inbox each day (6am PST).

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Black

Black Friday …

Today, is the day when the Christmas season begins … in our pocketbooks, our waistlines, our social calendars, home decor, music and movies.

It begins in the dark. In an inky blackness similar to the one that preceded the first Christmas.

As the Christmas season has been creeping closer, as the daylight in my northern hemisphere home, my thoughts have been on darkness.

As a solar-powered human (aren’t we all?), I feel each minute of decreasing light as the sun moves toward the southern hemisphere and away from us in the north. I feel it in my energy levels, in motivation, in my soul. On the weekend that the clocks were pushed back, a few weeks ago, I heard myself say … four more months and then the light will be seen to be increasing in our lives again … four more months.

It is as though I was repeating the line from a favorite children’s story,

I think I can …

Then I remembered words from Jonah. His words of telling of his salvation from a deep, dark place. From the belly of a whale, he cried his sorrow to God …

and God heard his cries in the dark.

“In my distress I called to the Lord,
    and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
    and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the depths,
    into the very heart of the seas,
    and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
    swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished
    from your sight;
yet I will look again
    toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me,
    the deep surrounded me;
    seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
    the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
    brought my life up from the pit.

“When my life was ebbing away,
    I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
    to your holy temple.

“Those who cling to worthless idols
    turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
    will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
    I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”

And so, Christmas begins … in the dark, looking for the light.

Stay tuned.

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There is a line which speaks such truth, in the movie, Shadowlands (the story of the relationship between CS Lewis and his wife Joy Davidman … that is all I will say as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who doesn’t know … but, the two are played by Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger … SEE THIS MOVIE):

“we read to know we are not alone”

To read something that makes you feel, that reminds you that your thoughts and emotions are experienced by another is enlivening. Sometimes it is in reading a good book that we find connectedness, but sometimes connectedness comes from other, unexpected places.

Having a coffee with a friend who is safe to share your heart with can bring connectedness and relief from the wear and tear of life like nothing else. Laughter with loved ones, praying for others, a shared look across a crowded room with your love … they all remind us we are not alone in this life.

But people are not the only pathway to experiencing this human need. Have you ever taken a walk in nature only to feel overwhelmed by the beauty around you? Or, tasted a meal that brings joy to your palate? Or inhaled the scent of lilacs (or roses, or whatever flower provides olfactory delight)? Or glanced at a painting that moved something within you? Or … heard a piece of music …

Have you seen the video (below) of the toddler hearing someone play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata? It is a very moving, moody, melancholy piece of music. This little guy has an emotional response to the sound of this music. A response so visceral it is as though he understands, from experience, great sorrow.

But, what if he is simply having a human experience of connectedness. Connectedness to other humans, to nature, to God? For does not God exist in all beautiful things? Is not our human experience one of the combination of great joy and sorrow at the same time?

Yes, God is in the beautiful, the arousing, the joyful … but he also knows sorrow, loss and brutality.

As we move beyond the Easter season …

the season of our greatest gain,
his greatest loss

Easter is not left behind, for it’s joys and sorrows they go with us, in us.

Easter is the great reminder that we are loved, we are never alone, we are connected … and there are reminders of this everywhere.

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