Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve Morning

And the day begins in the sanctuary in prayer. This is my last time on this last day of Advent.

Gerrie reads from the devotional that "The Song Goes On" and I immediately think of the sermon I preached Sunday quoting Anne Lamott's story about her friend dying of ALS. And saying at the end of her life that "The beat goes on." And I write today:
"The song goes on.
The beat goes on.
Life goes on and I watch and wonder and sometimes participate.
My 64th Christmas is upon me and I wonder at it all. The older I get the more aware I am of the injustice in the world, the fearsome struggles of some lives, the dark places of all lives. - illness, loss and suffering. To be a child and the experience of unadulterated joy is such a memory.

And I begin this day to remember the joy, the good news, the wonder and the light.
Because I also know in this 64th year - that death does not have the last word, that suffering lasts for a season and that life continues to bring forth life.

And I also know this truth - it is love that makes the world go around.
Gracious love that forgives our sin
Creating love that guides us into new places and new ways of living
Uniting love that brings us together
Joyful love that sits in wonder at the star in the night, the sleeping baby, the pondering mother, the simple shepherds and the seeking wise men.

This scene during this season has been in my consciousness since I was a child. Sitting on mantles or cabinets. And truly this story in all of its fullness continues to speak to me over the decades of my life. I cannot explain what it means to me anymore than I can explain the tears I shed yesterday listening to "The Messiah" on the radio. It is about memory and meaning and hope.

Christ come. Again. To me. To us.
To bring light and peace and love.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Morning Prayers

I continue to pray every morning in the sanctuary during this season of Advent. And today there were 4 of us who listened to the reading from our devotional and then scattered around the sanctuary in individual silent prayer. At the end we gather together and I read a blessing that has been randomly selected but always seems to fit exactly.

I am preaching this weekend on the Bethlehem star as a star of unity. And could not help but recognize the unity - the connectedness - I experience on these mornings.

This morning I found myself praying for particular people
for those I am encountering who are grieving - a colleague whose son was killed last weekend, a woman whose daughter died in October, those whose loved ones have terminal cancer
for those who are suffering physically - the list is long
for those who are waiting - especially lifting up Brian and Allison waiting to bring baby Charlie Home
and I prayer "Lord Jesus, I pray that we might in our mourning, our hurting and our waiting trust in your presence and your love and your power at work. In the midst of everything we say that you are the bread of life, but it is not always apparent in the moment. But we pray in faith."

What I realize is that I feel so connected to people as I pray for them and stand with them in their situations. They may not have any idea how much I care, but I do believe that prayer is such an important part of our unity in Christ. And it is not only prayer for others - but prayer with others.

We spend most of our time together in silence, each of us speaking to God in our own way but what a connection we have as we gather together in the morning.
It is a mystery, of course, this unity.
But most of all it is a gift.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Living in my reality

I woke up early this morning and looked outside expecting snow and ice. yes, there is ice on the windshield but no snow.
Then turned on the TV and found all the schools cancelled and the weather people warning us about streets and sidewalks that are icy. Be careful!

So I think I should stay home. My secretary should stay home. We should not come and pray this morning. But can't find my cell phone to make this happen.
And, after checking purse, car, coat pockets and of course, calling deduce I left it at church! So, I guess I will try to go to church.

And then the surprise - no ice on my driveway or street. There are puddles of water from rain but no ice and so I go to church and pray and now write this.

All of which speaks to me about how easy it is for me to panic and start with other people's warnings. My fear can paralyze me and stop me in my tracks.
But the "lesson" which I keep learning over and over again - is that while there may be "ice" for some there is not "ice" for all.

So the spiritual lesson is I need to embrace my own reality and see what is here and now.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Wish upon a star

The Advent devotional reading this morning ended with this sentence: "whenever I stand there under those rising stars, I am again filled with a sense of awe and possibility that the life God envisions for us is possible and dreams can come true."

In prayer I pondered the dreams of my life. What are they? What are God's dreams for me? I have this great sense of wonder and awe at the events of this past year in my family - on daughter who moves into her dream house in Reynoldsburg, another daughter moves into a new calling and a marriage and another daughter who is expecting a baby. All of these things came slowly - and are true gifts. But for me, what? I don't know.

As I sat in the sanctuary I looked at the banner with the star of Bethlehem and the words "Come, Lord Jesus." And thought that is what I want, need and dream of. Come into my heart and rearrange things. So that eventually my thoughts will be your thoughts and my will your will. My dream.

I write and then realize that as always, my mind is wandering - thinking about health and finances and so many other issues of life at the age of 64. Suddenly I am in a place of fear, my head hurts and I feel stuffed into my jeans. No wondering and resting in God but in that place of discomfort and even shame. How quickly it can turn.

And so the dreams emerge - dreams of living in a place of inner peace and deeper love and acceptance. Despite my humanity or maybe in the midst of my humanity.

And a verse comes to mind - "Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God believe also in me"

And I write - Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.

We conclude our time of prayer with a blessing by Maxine Shonk. Picked at random.

May God receive you in your vulnerability, in times of limitation may you become susceptible to God's care for you and overcome with God's power in you. May you open yourself totally to the unconditional love of the God who created you and knows you perfectly in this moment.
In your own needy places may you learn how to be in communion with the vulnerable ones around you. May the God of UNCONDITONAL LOVE bless you.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Advent Begins

Advent is, of course, the four weeks before our celebration of the birth of Christ.
This year one of my Advent disciplines is having morning prayers in the sanctuary at 8 AM. Today was the first day. We are reading from a devotional that we purchased and then sit in silence. I have decided that I will be journaling and would like to share on my blog some of my "ruminations"

The reading talks about the "confluence of emotions" of this season.

And yes, that is what I feel.

With the aftermath of a surprise party in my honor, time with family at Thanksgiving and the announcement of a new grandchild, yes, I feel so full!

And yet here at the beginning of the season of Advent, I look out the window at the bare trees against a grey sky...there is a sense of emptiness, waiting, not yet.

And at the same time I sit in a sanctuary that is decorated with lights on trees, Christmas banners and a nativity announcing the birth.
And yet, I am waiting, not ready, just beginning to prepare
There is a "confluence of emotions" - full and empty, satisfied and waiting
And most of all sitting in HOPE

What I love about being woman of faith on a spiritual journey is the understanding - or better yet, the awareness - of the possibility of spiritual growth. There is always more with God.
Always more.
And this season gives me a sort of framework to open myself to more from God, and more for God.
And opening myself to the possibility of new birth - in some new way Jesus may be born within me. Again. This year.
So today I start a day in reflection and prayer and, I hope, openness.
Sitting in the "confluence" and trusting that somehow God is working within my soul.

First, Thanksgiving

Today is the second day of Advent and I want to write about that - but first I have to do a quick catch up - Thanksgiving.

No, not just the holiday - but a recognition of the blessing of the past week - it has been almost overwhelming.

First, Karl Road Christian Church surprised me with a reception in my honor on the 24th of November. I am known as one who does not like surprises (especially in worship!) but this was wonderful. They lured me into fellowship hall to say grace for the chili cook off which had been advertised for that day. Instead I am greeted by people yelling surprise (I think - or maybe it was "happy anniversary") and looking at a sign that says Margot Connor, Happy Anniversary. I was literally speechless as I looked around and tried to take in that there was no chili cook off - instead this celebration of 10 years of ministry. And there were kind words and a tree full of gift cards. It was a great blessing.

and the week progressed with more blessings - like the honor of taking Reagan and Alyse to the movies to see "Catching Fire." I don't know why they want to go with me instead of Mom and Dad, but I am so grateful. I love to be with them and watching them interact. And best of all, Kacey ended up watching with me and then we had dinner. A real gift all the way around.

And then there was Thanksgiving at Wyandot Woods in Hocking Hills. Chuck and I had our own cabin and so we had privacy and time away from the noise and clamor of Kacey and Marnie's families but every morning the kids came over for breakfast and games with Ogram. And I taught them Indian poker, 21 and Oh Hell. Yup - that is what a grandma does.

And then there was the announcement that Marnie and Erik are going to have a baby in July - so exciting for everyone.

What I know about life - this life on earth - is that we all go through seasons. And for me this week was a time of abundance in church and in family life.
I am grateful