Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Eve

It is Sunday evening, Christmas Eve.  Chuck is at the grocery picking up something for us to eat after church and I have been sitting and just pondering it all. 

In about an hour or so we will go to church at my old church - Karl Road Christian Church and I will sit with two daughters and three granddaughters and my husband and hear the ancient story and sing the familiar songs of this night. This has been a different advent for me - starting with a wonderful retreat and including worship at First Community Church which has been very meaningful.  But other than that I have not had a regular daily spiritual practice.

That is what I was pondering as I sat preparing myself in a different way for our worship tonight.
The story of the nativity is one that is always rich for me as I have preached over the years about the various characters - the angels, Mary, Joseph, shepherds, wise men.   I have thought about the different ways that people come to Bethlehem  and the themes of the weeks - peace, hope, love, faith,. I love the dreams and angels and stars that move the people forward and then the picture of the vulnerability of the baby in a stable surrounded by a motley group of people who have limited understanding of who he is.

Now, tonight I wonder what Christmas has for me in 2017.  I started re reading a book in my library "The Monastery of the Heart: An invitation to a Meaningful life" by Joan Chittister.  The first chapter ends like this:

Life grows us more and more - 
but only if we wrestle daily 
with its every-daily meaning for us.

God is calling us to more
than now.-
and God is waiting 
to bring us to it.

"Listen"  the Rule says,
"If you hear God's voice today,
do not harden your hearts."

So, my prayer for tonight is that I might LISTEN  for the call of what MORE God invites me to experience.  It is a night of celebrating the birth and a night to understand that again Jesus can come into our hearts in a new way.

May we receive him tonight.

Merry Christmas!

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven
No ear may hear His coming
But in this world of sin
Where meek souls will receive him still
The dear Christ enters in

Monday, December 4, 2017


Patience is necessary during Advent - the season of waiting.  But actually patience is necessary during every day - every moment - of our lives.  Patience is defined as: "the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset."

I think of Audrey's stories about her students that are so impatient because they don't understand the math she is trying to teach them and at the same time can't tolerate the work necessary to learn.  It  makes me realize how much patience is part of our growing maturity.  I believe the truth is this: The more we  grow up - the more patient we become.  What is amazing is that now - at the age of 68 - I continue to learn that there is more "growing up" to do.  It never ends.

I write all of this in response to the retreat that I lead on Saturday at Camp Christian.  Our topic was: "My Soul Waits" and over the course of the day I was able to see how God is continuing to reveal to me the ways in which my impatience gets in the way of the peace that God has for me. And so it continues - this journey of change and growth.  At least I hope so.

One of the offerings of the retreat  was the opportunity to just walk in nature and be with God.  I provided several Bible verses that women could take  on their way out the door to repeat and reflect on during their walk.  I grabbed this one:from James.

Therefore be patient,brethren, until the coming of the Lord.  The farmer waits for the precise produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains.  You too be patient, strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.

As I walked on that December morning I kept repeating to myself - "you too be patient."  At one point I just stopped and gazed at this tree in its beauty and barrenness.

This tree that stands patiently by the lake ready for another winter and then a spring with buds and leaves and new life.  It spoke to me of the waiting life - through the dark and cold times and trusting that the seasons change and new life comes in new forms.

And so, I begin Advent with a new awareness of my need to slow down and open myself to God's presence and word to me today.  Patiently waiting for whatever this day and this time will bring.

Here is an Advent reading that I began the retreat with.  We are waiting!

We Are Waiting (a reading for Advent)
This is the season of anticipation,
Of expecting, of hoping, of wanting.
This is the time of expecting the arrival of something--or someone.
We are waiting.
This is the time of living in darkness, in the hues of unknowing.
Of being quiet, of reflecting on a year almost past.
Waiting for a new beginning, for a closing or an end.
This is the time for digesting the lessons of days gone past, anticipating the future for which
We are waiting.
Waiting for a world which can know justice
Waiting for a lasting peace.
Waiting for the bridge to span the divides which separate us.
Waiting for a promise or a hope.
For all of this
We are waiting.

Friday, December 1, 2017


I am waiting to leave for a retreat on Advent which is on "Waiting."  Today is December 1st and the first day of the Holy Season of Advent - the time of preparation before our celebration of Christmas.

As I write this, you know I am a "churched" person.  For most people we are now into the Christmas season.  Black Friday is over and there are 25 days until the big day.  But my life has been lived in the church and I am so aware of the liturgical year - which begins now - with Advent.

Fourteen years ago I purposely started my ministry at Karl Road Christian Church on the first Sunday of Advent - the beginning of the church year.  Now three years later, I still have this sense of beginning again.  This season of waiting.

I have spent much of the week - if not preparing - at least thinking about this retreat.  We titled it "My Soul Waits....." and tomorrow I hope that the twelve women who come will dig deep enough to ponder all the ways in which their soul is waiting.  Waiting for Christmas, of course.  But also waiting for healing or love or our children to thrive.  There are lots of ways in which we are waiting - short term and long term.

What I believe is that the waiting times are more fruitful than any of us know.  Intellectually I think waiting is necessary to prepare us for whatever is coming next.  However, that is my head speaking.  My heart wants things to happen faster than they ever do. And I am talking about little things as well as big things.  One of the hardest parts of living with Chuck is that he is in every way - slower than me.  Slower getting out of the car, slower walking, slower getting dressed.  And I wait and wait and wait.  I hope that somehow over the years I have become more understanding and realistic and - yes - patient.  I hope so.  Because waiting is hard.

So, the waiting for the retreat is almost over.  I leave in an hour to go spend the night at camp and tomorrow we gather to consider the preparation of Advent - and this journey of faith - that will always lead to waiting.  For God, for Hope, for Love.

Here is a poem by Mary Oliver I am going to share tomorrow

Such Silence
As deep as I ever went into the forest
I came upon an old stone bench, very, very old,
and around it a clearing, and beyond that
trees taller and older than I had ever seen.
Such silence!
It really wasn’t so far from a town, but it seemed
all the clocks in the world had stopped counting.
So it was hard to suppose the usual rules applied.
Sometimes there’s only a hint, a possibility.
What’s magical, sometimes, has deeper roots
than reason.
I hope everyone knows that.
I sat on the bench, waiting for something.
An angel, perhaps.
Or dancers with the legs of goats.
No, I didn’t see either. But only, I think, because
I didn’t stay long enough.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Gift of Impermanance

I sat in a hot tub in Hocking Hills this past weekend and stared at the mostly bare limbs on the trees.
It was our every other Thanksgiving when my family rents cabins at Wyandot Woods and enjoys a leisurely holiday.

The three days that we spent there were filled with everything that feeds my soul - bonfires at night, walks in the woods, laughter and games, fishing and boating with children, delicious food and times of reflection and solitude.

This was our fourth or fifth time coming here for Thanksgiving and it was wonderful for me.  As I sat in the hot tub one early morning before anyone in my cabin was up I recognized that - like every other year - this one was different.  Part of the difference is just the fact that we are all growing up and aging.  So, I was with Chuck who is walking with a cane and spent more time reading and playing games than anything else.  I remembered years before when we would go to Old Man's Cave or Conkle's Hollow.

The other cabin had the five grandchildren who range in age from 3 to 15.  The older kids are fun and funny and more helpful than ever before.  The "baby" Maggie was able to take the mile walk at Conkle's Hollow this year with only a little bit of it riding on her Dad Erik's shoulders.

We will be back in two years and it will be different again.  We will be older and they will be older and who knows - maybe there will be changes in the family as new people arrive and some may leave.  You never know what is happening next.

And that is, of course, the gift of impermanence.  We know that this moment - this beautiful moment is here and is irreplaceable.  This  moment  challenges me to be HERE.   Can I experience it and cherish it?  Not wish it away or try to recreate it later.  But just be in it.  And Grateful.

I read a quote from Richard Rohr today  

If you are present, you will eventually and always experience the Presence

I am grateful for this time away with the people I love.  There were moments of Presence for me that I will always cherish.