Advent Wonder

 First Baptist Church, Richmond, TX  December 8, 2017

A few days ago, a rare (for this area) snowfall briefly covered our homes, our gardens, and our church. Young and old rushed to the windows to watch as flakes began to drift down.  Later, the rushing was to go outside, to lift faces and palms to the wonder. I often think just when I need the sense of wonder quickened, a gift like this comes to do just that. Wonder at snowfall or the tiniest dewdrop glistening on a rose petal is a nudge to be open, to remain open-eyed, to be receptive to the fullness and expectancy of Advent.

Wonder is the only adequate launching pad for exploring this fullness, this wholeness, of human life. Once a year, each Christmas, for a few days at least, we and millions of our neighbors turn aside from our preoccupations with life reduced to biology or economics or psychology and join together in a community of wonder.The wonder keeps us open-eyed and exceeds our calculations, that is always beyond anything we can make.  ~ Eugene Peterson

A Reminder

November has been a month of spectacular sunsets. This one was changing so quickly that my husband pulled into a pharmacy parking lot for us to capture part of it before it began to fade. I will always remember this sunset, given on November 6, 2017 –  a day that an armed gunman walked into a small church during a worship service in Sutherland Springs, TX – a small town less than 2 hours from our home and killed 26 people, including children, a pregnant mother and the baby she carried.  The tiny congregation is decimated and the building itself will be demolished. I heard the awful news after we left our own beloved house of worship that Sunday morning. I was filled with grief at the time I saw this sunset. It seemed to me a needed reminder that God is still present even in the presence of evil.

A week later a memorial service was held by the church’s pastor, who lost his own teenage daughter in the massacre. I wept when I heard that volunteers had gone into the riddled church building, cleared and cleaned the space, covering bullet holes and painting the whole space white. Twenty-six white chairs, each containing a rose, were set into the space, which people could visit during the day. Now the building will be entirely removed, replaced by a memorial prayer garden. As my own family gathered for Thanksgiving, and this week as we pulled out old familiar ornaments to decorate our Christmas tree, I am reminded of those families who will have empty places at the table and who will not have family members there for celebrating this Advent and Christmas. There may be some who, like me, begin to shop early and already have gifts for a child or parent who won’t receive them.

I would rather have simply written a poem about the beauty of a November sunset. Instead, I offer my remembering and my prayers in this season of gratitude and beginning again of Advent expectancy. Lament has always been a part of its story.

 

November Light

Recently I found this large bald cypress bathed in morning sunlight. Every ferny leaf  seemed to glow. I wanted to capture that luminous image before the light changed. It is a birthday week for me so I have spent time considering what I have learned in these 77 years and ways I want to spend the time ahead.

I am grateful for light and the ways it touches and changes. I thank God each morning for the new light another day brings. I am grateful for being able to see this, grateful for grace to know that as light changes, new ways of finding and seeing it will remain.

 

“Defend me against the chances and changes of this life, not that I may escape them but that I may meet them with firm resolve; not that I may be saved from them but that I may come unscathed through them.

Defend me from discouragement in difficulty and from despair in failure, from pride in success, and from forgetting you in the day of prosperity.

Help me to remember that there is no time when you will fail me and no moment when I do not need you.

Grant me this desire: that guided by your light and defended by your grace, I may come in safety and bring honor to my journey’s end…”    ~ Norman Shawchuck

 

 

 

Weathered

I did not take this photograph; I do not know where it was taken.  It found me. I kept returning to it to think of its story. How many hymns were sung by the faithful in this country chapel? How many wedding vows repeated as families began?  How does the color of the glass glow when lit from inside at twilight?

I am grateful for those stories, the message of endurance told by weathered wood and stained glass.

 

 

 

Leave Room

heart petals unfold

opening to mystery

leaving room for new seed

 

“Let mystery have its place in you; do not be always turning up your whole soil with the ploughshare of self-examination, but leave a little fallow corner in your heart ready for any seed the winds may bring.”

Henri Frederic Amiel

 

Finding Courage

“Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty beneath its covering, that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven. Courage then to claim it; that is all! But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together, wending through unknown country home.” ~ Giovanni Giocondo

One Tiny Shell

 

This one tiny shell is less than 2 inches tip to tip, half the size of its photo. Although I have a basket of shells that are larger, I keep this one on top of the gratitude journal in which I write every morning. I pick it up before I open the book.  It is almost weightless in the palm of my hand, yet it is heavy with stories.The shell is one of a number of True Tulip shells  collected when Joe and I went with  our sons out to the mud flats off Sanibel Island, Florida. We spent most of the time on the beach near our rental apartment, searching for shells, building sand castles and a tracking a hurricane! Our sons still talk about it.

We added this to our last few days on the island because of a disappointed 9-year-old son. Jeremy used his trip money at the local Wal-Mart to buy a throw net, a net with weights that can be cast out to bring in small fish and other treasures. After only a single use, the net was stolen from the area where he had carefully spread it to dry. We planned the trip out into the flats to gather shells to soften the loss, an adventure all of us would enjoy.

I had no way of knowing in 1980 that many years later, one of the smallest of the shells collected during that family fun would be held in my hand during my morning prayer time.  It is one tiny shell, holding the sounds of the ocean and the laughter of my sons.

Enough

I learned to love roses from my grandmother

why did I never take a picture of her cutting roses to bring inside

to put in a jar in the middle of a table

dressed with a white tablecloth she had ironed

so Sunday dinner could be offered to the preacher and his wife

or family could sit down to fried chicken and peas from the garden

or tea cakes and cold milk shared with a skinny brown-eyed girl

she only had that one rose bush  under the front window of the farmhouse

bearing teacup sized yellow blooms that smelled as pretty as they looked

she only had that one rose bush

but it was enough

enough for her to grace food offered on mismatched china

enough to brighten the room they called a sleeping porch

enough to make a little girl remember

I wish I had a picture of her with those roses

I have her table, even the tablecloth

I have her love of one rose bush

I have grandchildren to help me pick roses

it is enough