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Saturday, December 06, 2003

Jesus, You Fill All Our Deepest Desires

Your Father's love was so unlimited that he wanted us to know that love and to find in it the fulfillment of our deepest desires. So he sent us to you, with a human heart big enough to hold all human loneliness and all human anguish. Your heart is as wide and deep as divine love itself. Your heart does not distinguish between rich and poor, friend and enemy, female and male, slave and free, sinner and saint. Your heart is open to receiving anyone with total, unrestricted love. For anyone who wants to come to you, there is room. You want to draw all people to yourself, and offer them a home where every human desire is met, every human longing comes to rest and every human need is satisfied.

But your heart is gentle and humble. You do not force; you do not pull or push; you do not coerce. You want us to come freely to your heart and trust that we will find there the peace and joy we most desire. You do not put any requirement on us; you do not expect any great act of generosity; you do not hope for heroic gestures or dramatic signs. The first thing you want is trust. You can only give your heart to those who come to it in trust. Help me today to give you that trust. Amen. (Henri Nouwen)
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Friday, December 05, 2003

Lord, Be The Center of My Prayer

O Lord, let me praise you, bless you, worship you. So often my prayer turns to introspection of my own confused feelings and emotions, or my attention wanders to people and events that swirl in my restless mind. Why do I keep focusing so much on what separates me from you? You are the source of all goodness, beauty, and love. You have shown me your mercy by coming to me and lifting me into your own life through the life of your Church. And still I keep living as if the thousand other things that crowd my mind need more attention than you.

Help me to make you the center of my inner life. Give me the grace of prayer. Show me how I am fooling myself when I fail to make you the center of my life and my prayer. Let me understand that in and through you all my little concerns will be taken care of. You do not despise my worries, but you ask me to trust that you will deal with them when I simply keep my eye on you and your kingdom. Teach me your way, O Lord. Amen. (Henri Nouwen)
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Thursday, December 04, 2003

the gift of the church year

Ok, it's probably like being dragged up in front of the class to have your comment responded to in the blog, and for that I apologize, but I was starting to write a comments-novel and decided to just do a post instead.

In response to this post, mattie writes:

Actually, I never *got* Advent. What's with the waiting for a single day? Time will pass, usually more slowly or more quickly than I'd like at any given time, but it's going to pass whether or not I do anything about it. My mom describes Advent as preparing - but why only prepare four weeks out of 52? The world's a pretty hairy place, and it could use some preparing year 'round. I'm very happy that you seem to get something out of it, but Advent - like a lot of other religious holidays - I never got very excited about. (So wouldn't you know it, I became a Quaker).


I like the liturgical calendar, with its different seasons and days to focus on different aspects of faith because...I'm really freaking lazy. Seriously. If I left it up to my own whims, I would never do things like preparing, celebrating, and repenting. They would slip down to the bottom of my to-do list, like swiffering under the bed.

Having seasons or days set aside to focus on those things makes me remember why they're important, and it increases the likelihood that they'll be done the rest of the year. It's not that I only do my preparing four weeks a year - it's that I spend those four weeks trying to get better at it. It's a time for unpacking what it means to prepare for God's presence here on earth, taking it apart and putting it back together and seeing all the places where I'm not exactly singing O Come Emmanuel as the season of Christmas approaches. The work I do during these four weeks will bear fruit in my life the rest of the year.

So, I guess that's the best part about the liturgical calendar - it tells me what my work is for a certain period of time. See above note re: laziness. I can only focus on a few things at a time spiritually, and the rhythm of the liturgical year makes sure that I'm hitting all the major points, and not just skipping over the rough stuff that makes me uncomfortable.

For example, Lent is a good time to think about death. As in, my death, my small, personal death when I return to the dust from whence I came. I don't think it's really in my nature to set aside a little over a month to ponder that one every year. But in the context of Lent, with Easter right ahead reminding me that God is with me even in the darkness, I can deal with it.

One of the reasons I can look at my death with a little less fear during Lent is that everyone else at St. Ned's is doing the same thing, thinking about their own deaths (I hope not everyone is thinking about my death, anyway). It's in the liturgy and the lectionary and there's a chance to work it out through worship and hashing it out with others. The rhythm of the church year creates safe spaces for deep work to happen.

Small point - Christmas is actually a season, lasting 12 days (I think there's a song about that...) and leading into Epiphany. Advent is the preparation for the season of Christmas, so it's not about the one day. We don't really have a lot of 'one day' holidays. Easter is a season that lasts 6 Sundays. Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday are points in Holy Week, but they're part of the greater whole as well, and are sometimes best approached as a group. I think the message there is that it takes time to really immerse our small selves in what each season is trying to teach us.
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because what the world needs now is more Christmas crap

The I believe in Santa Claus ...and I vote! shop.



It's not wtfwjd? but, hey, you can give it to grandma.

All proceeds go to support the Sara Feels Guilty About Buying Herself An iPod foundation.
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Help Me to Choose the Narrow Road

Dear Lord Jesus, I remain so torn and divided. I truly want to follow you, but I also want to follow my own desires and lend an ear to the voices that speak about prestige, success, human respect, pleasure, power, and influence. Help me be attentive instead to your voice, the voice which calls me to choose the narrow road to life. The choice for your way has to be made every moment in my life. I have to choose thoughts that are your thoughts, words that are your words, and actions that are your actions. There are no times or places without choices. And I know how deeply I resist choosing you. Be with me every moment and in every place so that I may recognize your way and choose to walk it. Amen. (Henri Nouwen)
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Wednesday, December 03, 2003

We Are Called to Be People of Hope

We are called to be a community. We are called to be together, in a fellowship of the weak, to proclaim Jesus as Lord. We must not romanticize this. It is a humble task. Quite simply, we must call our brothers and sisters together -- there may be only three, or ten, or fifty -- and say, "We want to come together as people in prayer in our common anguish."

We are called to be people of hope. Together, we can face our despairs - personal, global, or ecclesiastic. Together, too, can we find the risen Lord, emerged from his tomb of despair, ready once again to love us first. In embracing us, Jesus gives us the hope we need to find and live the life he has hidden in us and in the world. (Henri Nouwen)
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Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Stay With Me When Iím Sinking in Doubt

I trust in you, Lord, but keep helping me in my many moments of distrust and doubt. They are there and will be there every time I turn my eyes, ears, or hands away from you. Please, Lord, keep calling me back to you, by day and by night, in joy and in sadness, during moments of success and moments of failure. Never let me leave you. I know you walk with me. Help me walk with you today, tomorrow, and always. Amen. (Henri Nouwen)

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Monday, December 01, 2003

stealth Advent

One of the cool things about Advent is that there isn't a secular side to it, unless you count the Bart Simpson chocolate Advent calendars, which I totally meant to buy on ebay last month and didn't.

Advent is this stealth thing that happens while everyone else is shopping. Meanwhile, we're lighting candles and waiting for God to show up, as a baby of all things.

I know there are some people who get hung up on the fact that Christmas is pretty much an ancient pagan celebration that we've thrown a bunch of Jesus on top of. That it isn't based on historical data, that the manger may not have happened, that maybe there wasn't a star and if it was it can be explained away. It can all be explained away.

Except that God showed up, here, among us, and nothing else matters. It doesn't matter when or where or how that baby was born, only that he was.

The cycle of the church year follows Christ's birth, ministry on Earth, death, resurrection, and what came afterward. We relive the whole thing every twelve months. So, even though the historical dates don't line up, the rhythm works. I'm glad that we celebrate this moment in the darkness of December, when we can really use a little new life among us.

And we get to sit and wait for it to happen, knowing that it's going to happen and that there's nothing we can do to make it come any faster. We just mark the time with the candles.

Isaiah 60
2 See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
3 Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.
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Sunday, November 30, 2003

trip followup

I'm back from Michigan. It's good to be home, such that home is for me. I'm spending my first day back enjoying some down time at Dennis' while he is visiting his mom. It's the closest place to home for me. And he's bringing back dragon's breath noodles for us.

I missed my life so much while I was gone. I missed St. Ned's, I missed Dennis (which was made even worse by the fact that MacKenzie named the stuffed dog he gave her last summer Dennis, and Dennis the Dog was very active during my visit), and I missed driving my little green car on familiar streets. There's something weird about getting lost in your hometown, but I did so a couple of times. Had no freaking idea where I was.

I was driving my dad's whale Buick with the bench seat and the gear shift in the wrong place (at least relative to my beetle) which was making me nuts. It has Tennessee plates so if I was driving too cautiously that first day while I was getting used to taking up more room on the (wet) road, at least people were bitching about the wrong state.

Mostly being with the family was exhausting. There's an old saying that your family knows how to push your buttons because they installed them, and that's certainly true. But just being around people, with two of them being small, noisy people, on a constant basis was something I didn't tolerate well on this trip. I did get off on my own, or with just one kid, a bit, but I just never felt like I fully decompressed. I had a tension headache most of the time I was there, and last night Dennis ran me a tub after he picked me up from the airport and I just cried for a while.

On the trip back, I finally got around to reading The Sparrow which has been recommended by many many people. I liked it a lot and I'm still thinking about it today. I'm looking forward to reading the followup, Children of God.
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Happy New Year!

Well, it's First Advent, the beginning of the new liturgical year. Get out the funny liturgical hats and the liturgical noisemakers and the liturgical champagne.

Ok, so it doesn't really work that way. But still, new year.

I'm going to try to post something new every day in Advent. Here's my favorite prayer for Advent, written by Henri J.M. Nouwen:

Lord Jesus,

Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, "Come Lord Jesus!"
Amen.
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