advent: one or two things edition

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The church I attended while growing up adhered to the church calendar.

I especially looked forward to the Advent season, the slow procession

towards Christmas.

Each Sunday leading to Christmas, a member or a family would

read a scripture related to each week’s theme and light one of the candles

circling the wreath.

With held breaths, the candlelit Christmas Eve service would

begin with high school students presiding over  the evening.

As children, we waited to reach the magical age of the teen years

and take charge of the church for an hour.

As adults, I hope we can wait with similar anticipation of the

unfolding season of Christmas.

Tomorrow, when I open my devotional books,

I will begin on page one.

Advent means coming or arrival and Sunday

marks the beginning of the church calendar year.

With all the promise of new

beginnings, they can create a tendency to overload

our to-do list.

Personally, I have done a bit of thinking and

am determined to put on an attitude of waiting

and only do 1 or 2 things during this season.

I went to a DIY craft fair with a friend last week

and saw dozens of great ideas, I am only

choosing one or two crafts and the same

goes for food items.

Believe me, I want to make 90% of the offerings,

but in this instance less means more time for other endeavors.

I reflected on my intentions regarding Advent calendars and

came to the conclusion that 24 days of doing anything is

a challenge during a busy Christmas season.

We always fall behind and I feel like a failure.

We are doing a stripped down version this year

a la 12 days of Christmas.

I audibly exhaled after making this decision.

Why do I often take activities designed to bring

joy and make them a burden?

As far as Advent reading, I can be so prone to

want to read every. single. book.

This year I will continue with my normal readings

and add this one and nothing else.

The following are a few other options you

might enjoy as well:

Good News of Great Joy

YouVersion (multiple options and lengths)

She Reads Truth-O Come Let Us Adore Him

 

In 2006, our pastor joined with 5 other pastors

to develop the Advent Conspiracy .

You can read more about it here.

In simplest terms it is a clarion call to

Give More, Spend Less.

We decided to revamp our Christmas list

for each member of

our family to fill out this year:

  • Something you need
  • Something you want
  • Something to wear
  • Something to do
  • Something to read
  • Someone to bless who is in need
  • A charitable activity to do as a family
  • The one movie I must see before the holidays end
  • The favorite holiday treat I must eat
  • My favorite holiday activity to do as a family
  • My favorite holiday tradition
  • A game I want to play with the family

Our hope is there will only be one or

two items under the “me” categories and

many more than one or two ideas under the

family and others categories.

That’s our intention.

That’s our plan.

Let’s welcome Advent with waiting

and extending ourselves on behalf of

others and not merely overextending

ourselves.

Oh and yes by all means exhale a lot

by only adding that which brings meaning

and exercising your right to say “no thank you.”

Joyous Advent!

 

 

 

 

spiritual teachers

 

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During our conversation, it became apparent my daughters differ in their preference of

reading the same book repeatedly.

I was reminded of the books I have read daily or year after year.

The stack above is a collection of books that have accompanied

me during the morning hours and remained steadfast through

the ever-changing landscape of life.

Just like a faithful friend, they encourage, remind and provide

a foundation of strength to keep standing.

There are several more I could place on the honorable mention

list, some might even be your favorites but besides

my Bibles, these have been my truest guides.

(A tiny sliver of me feels so vulnerable sharing these
books. Perhaps because they are a window to this delicate
and fierce walk of faith.)

Daily Light: A common thread of scriptures for the morning and the evening.
One of two devotional I have given the most to loved ones.

Jesus Calling: This is my number two gift devotional. I started reading
this devotional a long time before it became so popular. I loved that it
always seemed to express what I needed to read.
(If you are curious to know my #3 gift, it would be Blessing for the Evening.
It would make my stack, but I don’t own it. Isn’t that wild?) 🙂

Let Go: This might be a strange choice, how a slim book of letters
written by a 17th century French Archbishop would find its way
into my hands but I am thankful it did. This book is tough and
tender. It has this beautiful sunset on the cover but don’t be fooled.
Sometimes we need our teachers to be gentle, sometimes we
need a little shaking. It’s all about surrender.

My Utmost For His Highest: I started reading this devotional
in high school. A friend raved about it so I eventually bought
a copy of the original version and I couldn’t understand it.
Later in college, they came out with a contemporary version
and it was much more to my comprehension. This probably
explains why my friend went on to become an emergency
room doctor and I did not. I do read the original from time to
time and understand it more, it only takes me two readings now 😉
Timeless wisdom.

Seeking God’s Face: This one makes me sigh. For years,
I have wanted to follow a lectionary or a listing of daily scriptures
to read based on the church calendar. No matter which one
I would choose, I was confused. I never knew if I was
reading in the correct place. It drove my perfectionist heart
crazy. Enter this wonderful book made for non-emergency
room doctors tee hee. Here’s a picture.

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See the box? For the next 12 years (heh) I will know my place!
That’s a very good thing.

31 Days of Praise/Prayer: There are times in life when words are distant,
prayer seems futile and difficult. I alternated between these two volumes as
they taught me how to prayer through the scriptures and to keep clinging
to His promises.

How To Study The Bible For Yourself: The pages of this book are yellowed
by age. There is so much wisdom in this small book. I return to it time
and again to be reminded of the many ways to study the Word of God.

Venite: I have written about this book several times. It is now out of print
but used copies can be found. I was raised in church and over my 50 years,
have been apart of so many church traditions and experiences.I am so
grateful for this fact. I also know that I love tradition.
The pastor of the church we now attend always says we are a storied
people steeped in the story of God. I adore this and it is the very reason
I reached back to grasp the old ways. This prayer
book helped me rediscover parts of my church upbringing I had abandoned.
I found it at a time when I was very much in a wilderness and physically
stopping to pray throughout my day and night changed my life.
It changed my heart and drenched me with peace and hope.
I know it sounds trite or cliché but truly I felt my soul fly home
when I began to pray the hours.
There is something so sacred about uttering words that have been
said by countless seekers over centuries.

I wrote Robert Benson who
compiled this book to thank him and to share how
unaware my soul was missing
something until I started praying the hours.
(His letter response is a very cherished possession.)
I wish I always stopped my busyness to pray throughout
the day but when I remember
to pause, I am remade breath by breath.

Whispers of Hope: I bought this book in 2005 at a Beth Moore
conference in Spokane, Washington. I am so happy that she has
updated and recently re-released it.
(Although for those of us with large handwriting, I wish
they had kept the book the same size…oh well.)
Each day is a scripture reading,some thoughts from Beth
and spaces to write out prayers.
I can fan through the pages and see the multitude of prayers
required during that time frame. Some answered and
some remain. I wonder if all of them had been answered would
I still have the need to pray. As I let my eyes roam over those
needs still not resolved, I can’t ignore the reality of seeing His hand.
I know that He has drawn me closer to Himself.
I have changed in the midst of each hardship.
It is more than hindsight allowing me to see more clearly.
It is the prayers of 2005 and the God who was more than equal to
those cries, He is the same God who walked me through
the aching years that would follow.
He knew when I poured my ink prayers onto paper
that more hardship would come and He would remain.
He still remains.

What books bring you comfort?

This post is apart of the 31 days…yet again series
about books. You can find the entire series here.

 

 

simply love

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During my freshman year and half of my sophomore year in college,

I lived on the same dorm floor.

It was the early 80’s and MTV had just started to make it way to our

small town’s cable televisions.

Several of us, who had survived a year together, crammed into a single room

and watched music videos.

We laughed and tried to mimic the dance moves.

It was new and it felt revolutionary.

We all were equally having a blast.

As time began to evaporate, we each realized there were more crucial

activities than trying to define A Flock of Seagulls’ hair  like studying or heading to class.

For no apparent reason, other than perhaps it had been a burning

question since freshman year, the television owner looked me

straight in the eyes and said,

“Hey, what are you? Are you Catholic?”

To be honest, inwardly I smiled.

If you know my story, you might recall that as a child after viewing several

movies about nuns, I wanted to be one.

In my young mind and heart, I could not fathom how to be

closer to God than to be cloistered.

Somehow that hope didn’t mesh with my Presbyterian upbringing.

I didn’t share this tidbit to my friend who was known for her frequent declarations that

as a communication major she was destined to be the next MTV VJ.

Instead, in my quiet voice, I said,

“No, I simply love Jesus.”

I have been thinking a lot about that assertion from 1983.

No truer words.

Lately I have been reading so many debating words on the Christian front.

How have we come to this place in 2014 where we have to label everything as either

good or bad?

Conservative or liberal?

Pro this and anti that?

Millennial this or not?

Young or old?

Some of the descriptors I don’t even understand to be perfectly honest.

My spiritual walk has been shaped by old and new.

I embrace liturgy and praise choruses.

I love opening Bibles crammed with tissue paper as well as listening to it read on my

smart phone (by a voice  sounding like Jeremy Irons, no less).

My heart finds rest in the King James as well as The Message.

Hymns remind me of this vast faith journey of those before me.

Rock concert-like worship can send me to my knees just as much as

singing The Lord’s Prayer.

My heart swells knowing  God delights in all my complicated  ways of finding Him just as

much as He finds pleasure in the one who always wears a tie to church.

He scoots up beside the one who has a bold

ink story applied to her arms.

His ways are old and yet new every single dawn.

His ways are deep and profoundly simple.

His way is the loving way.

The best way I have found.

The collection of books pictured above are ones I grabbed from my shelves, night table

and dare I say, the floor.

They have been teachers in simply loving Jesus.

They are old and they are new.

One day even the new will be old, if it remains against the expanse of years.

Just like in 1975 when I first said yes to Jesus.

Just like in that packed dorm room in 1983 when I defined myself apart from

any denomination.

Just like today in 2014,

My name is Helen and I simply love Jesus.

This reality never gets old.