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.

 

Advent Blooms

paperwhitesMy first Advent post this year pictured the paperwhite bulbs Nora planted on the day her baby brother was born, November 26, 2016. My, how fast they have grown!

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Today, almost 4 weeks later, Nora holds her growing leaves close and says she loves them. Their blooms should be ready to grace our Christmas dinner table!

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She loves her baby brother even more!  Oliver has many adoring arms to reach for him. He has grown too, a much more amazing miracle than the paperwhites. It has been fun to watch growth and blooming. Tending the blooms and the baby has given particular grace and meaning to these days of Advent, to my reflections of another baby and the way He changed the world.

oliver3weeksOliver and his Papa Joe.

 

Star

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Nora places the star on the stable, telling again the Christmas story.  The star is a symbol of the true Light that has come.

In the church year are found Cycles of Light , Cycles of Life and Cycles of Love:

Today, the celebration of Christmas with family in the kitchen and around the table with festive celebrating has changed –  slowing, stopping , savoring.  Standing still in the Light..

The first step to peace is to stand still in the Light….

George Fox (1624 – 1691)

Peace and all good my Friends!

This is True

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Advent Credo

It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss—
This is true: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life;

It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction—
This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.

It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word, and that war and destruction rule forever—
This is true: Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, his name shall be called wonderful councilor, mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of peace.

It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world—
This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo I am with you, even until the end of the world.

It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted, who are the prophets of the Church before we can be peacemakers—
This is true: I will pour out my spirit on all flesh and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall have dreams.

It is not true that our hopes for liberation of humankind, of justice, of human dignity of peace are not meant for this earth and for this history—
This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that the true worshipers shall worship God in spirit and in truth.

So let us enter Advent in hope, even hope against hope. Let us see visions of love and peace and justice. Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage: Jesus Christ—the life of the world.

From Walking on Thorns, by Allan Boesak, Eerdmans, 2004.

After the Star, Following the Light

Hope

 

 

 

 

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This week I wanted to spend time listening to Christmas music, wrapping Christmas gifts and baking Cranberry bread. I did these things, but along with so many others , I struggled, shattered by news of more violence against  innocent people , heartbreaking photos of grief-stricken families, terrified refugees, and the darkness of human hearts without hope and faith and love.

I have this pottery jar on my kitchen window sill.  It has been shaped and fired and given as a gift of love. In deeper, mysterious ways, Advent is expressed hope, shaped and fired and given. In the darkest of times, this hope remains.

To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.
Gilbert K. Chesterton

Ending to Begin Again

IMG_1885Here at the end of the year comes the year’s springing

The falling and melting snow meet in the stream’

That flows with living waters and cleanses the dream.

The reed bends and endures and sees the dove’s winging.’En

 

Move into the year and the new time’s turning

Open and vulnerable and loving and steady

The stars are aflame; creation is ready.

The day is at hand. The bright sun burns.

Madeleine L’Engle, as quoted in Winter Song, Christmas Readings

By Madeleine L’Engle and Luci Shaw

 

 

 

Gifts

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Gifts are a part of our days before and after Christmas, both the ones that are chosen to give, wrapped with a bow – and the ones that we can’t hold in our hands, only our hearts.  Come to think of it, even the ones that do come gift-wrapped are ones we hold in our hearts if they come to carry messages of love and caring.

The stones in this photo carry messages of the gifts offered in the birth of Christ. They are prayer stones that I keep in a basket on my porch and I often use them as touch reminders of God’s gifts that I need.  The top photo was made some years ago.  The picture below is the stones today. As often happens when I photograph something, surprising truth shows up when I look closely. Some stones obviously show more wear than others. I don’t doubt that the most worn stones reflect my past year’s need and requests. As you can see, Patience, Hope, and Peace have often been in my prayers.  Courage and Strength show wear as well. The stones may gain refreshing from a Sharpie, but the gifts themselves are always clear, always there. I am thankful for all of them.

 

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Unexpected Discovery

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One of my granddaughters likes to leave me little surprises in unexpected places that I find after she has left. Once it was a bright blue ribbon tied on the spiral binding of one of my cookbooks.  Another time she left a small rose from their dressup trunk The rose was perched on the crosspiece underneath a wicker rocker in the room where she sleeps when she is visiting. How long did it take you to be surprised to find a candy cane hooked over Joseph’s arm in our mantel Nativity?

When I find these unexpected signs Maddie leaves for me, I laugh and reach for my gift. In these days following Christmas, I also find joy in gifts that tell me again that God is with me – a brilliant sunset on Christmas Day,the scarlet flash of a cardinal on a bare tree limb, memories of all the ways He has come to me in the past.  I want to pay attention so I don’t miss the signs.  I want to reach for the gift.

Standing Still in the Light

  • IMG_1514The first step to peace is to stand still in the light. ~ George Fox

 

There is a hush in the house that is different in quality this morning, after yesterday’s gathering for Christmas Day.  Before I go back to the kitchen to finish cleanup from our festive meal, before I make a grocery list to ready for our other children and grandchildren who arrive this week, even before I sit down at the piano to enjoy playing the old carols again just for Joe and me, I claim moments  of this quiet to sit in the dark with only the twinkling tree lights and be still.  I hear again in my mind the words of the song often heard sung around the world at this time of year. “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.?