Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

I pray the silence and anticipation in your journey to Christmas has brought joy and peace.

(from Jane Rubietta, Finding the Messiah)

Dear one,
The angels' song 
Is the same today
As in the field
That long-ago dark night.
I still bring peace,
And favor rests upon 
All with whom I am pleased.
And you, you!
With you I am well pleased.
Believe that, please,
And be willing to punch out 
From your day job
And your night shift
And come to Me.
Because I came in Christ,
Through Christ,
Peace, peace and favor,
For you,
For the world.
come, now.
Sing with Me...

Here is a bonus song, for fun!  Merry Christmas!  Click here.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Week 4 Day 5

Merry Christmas!

Listen to Peace Has Come by clicking on the title.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Week 4 Day 4

Some artwork with the shepherds...
(sorry they are a little small, but they get too blurry when I enlarge them)

Week 4 Day 3

This week's devotion comes, again, from Jane Rubietta's Finding the Messiah...

"Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests."

Peace, did you say? Peace in a country ruled by a manic king?  Peace in a people who had known only separation from the Holy One because of all the manifestations of disobedience in their tribe?  Peace, did you say?

How the shepherds must have drunk deeply of that word.  It's used in the same way as shalom in Hebrew: peace, harmony, tranquility; safety, welfare, health; lack of strife, reconciliation in relationships.  After God's people endured centuries of separation from him, the angels truly proclaimed peace?  Shepherds lived in rather constant danger, likely suffering health issues from exposure to the elements year after year.  The angels' song of peace must have answered a cry deep in their hearts as those notes spilled out like star showers in the night sky...

As the heavenly harmonies faded, the shepherds shook themselves from their midnight vision, blinked widely, then stared at one another for confirmation.  "Did we just see this?  Did this really just happen?" But not for long.  Without a backward glance at their sheep, didn't they whisper in the deep, quiet holiness of the night, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about" (Luke 2:15)?  There is no mention of a new shift of shepherds coming in to take over for the ones who ran off the field to worship the just-born King.

In our busy brains and our busy days and nights, how hard it is to leave our work and our worrisome lifestyles, throw caution to the wind and our sheep (jobs) to the wolves, and go to find the Christ child?  How I long to answer the angels' song like those shepherds, the melodic message tugging on my heart, and me tugging on my neighbors' sleeves, and all of us hobbling off together on our work-weary bones to find this peace child.  To experience the community of people on whom God's favor rests.  To know that favor, that goodwill and acceptance, that blessing.

But wait.  Isn't that Advent?  Christ comes, and his very coming demonstrates that God's favor rests on us, and that peace, peace, peace is available to us all.  Shalom.  Everything we need to live whole lives, to live wholly, to live holy.

Peace.  Favor.  Advent.  Christ comes, and off we go.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Week 4 Days 1 & 2

This week's theme is peace.

In the midst of the busyness of the events of this season, I want to continue to experience peace.  Some days this is easier than others.  I have times when I feel completely overwhelmed.  Then there are times when life is zooming by and I feel complete peace.

In my experience, it is the point of my focus which changes the depth of my peace.  When I start to look around and see the wind and waves, as our friend Peter did when he was walking on the water, I, too, get scared and have to cry out to Jesus to save me.

Other times, I say with Paul that I have learned to be content in whatever situation I find myself because I know that Jesus is right here with me.

The angels told the shepherds:

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests."  (Luke 2:14)

The coming of Jesus brings peace.  I am praying for this peace to permeate my heart and life today.  I pray that it is also permeating yours.

Thank you for stopping by.  May God's peace rest on you today, this moment, this season.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Week 3 Day 7

A prayer for the journey:

in the darkness of these Advent nights
let me be guided by the light of your word.
Give me the humility to be led by you
and the wisdom to learn from you.

I feel your light in my life 
and in the world.

I am grateful for the Savior who awaits us, 

and eagerly await the time of rejoicing. 

Let me look forward in hope 

and turn to you with great trust, 

knowing you will guide my steps 

along the unknown path of this day.
(from Creighton University Online Ministries Advent Prayers)

Friday, December 18, 2015

Week 3 Day 6

I chose the song "Breath of Heaven" for this week.  I liked this version because of the scenes from the movie "The Nativity Story."  This song talks of the long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, but also, of Mary's journey of heart, too.  Enjoy!

This is absolutely beautiful! The same song in Spanish.   If you have time, give this one a listen, too.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Week 3 Day 5

Pictures of the journey:

Taken by my friend, Brittney, in North Dakota

A variety of forms of transportation all on various journeys

Journey up Mt. Fuji

Journey through the labyrinth with our DDH group

Journey through the Word with friends

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Week 3 Day 4

Some paintings of the journey...

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Week 3 Day 3

Today's devotional is from Spark Your Joy by Margaret Feinberg.

In the second chapter of Luke, the author continues setting the scene of Christ's birth by explaining a somewhat ironic political situation.  At the time Caesar Augustus, the adopted son of Julius Caesar, was at the height of power.  Under his leadership, Rome had become an empire famed for its opulence and power.  Some people even referred to Augustus as "Savior," and as king he was known as "Lord."

During his reign, Augusts decreed the Pax Romana which commanded an end of wars and creation of order throughout the Roman Empire.  While peace was mandated by Caesar, many sects awaited a revolution-including the Jews.  The Jews waited for the Messiah to come as a military and political leader to establish Israel's throne in Jerusalem.  Against this powerful, wealthy backdrop, an infant is born to two peasants in a humble barnyard stable.

Compared to Caesar Augusts the rex, pontifex, maximus, infant Jesus was powerless, helpless, weak.

The one truth that will turn your week upside down is:

Caesar reigned from a throne; Jesus reigned from hay.

The irony lies in the God of peace entering the world through Jesus - offering divine peace by the one true King.  Caesar attempted to mandate peace.  All the while, the Prince of Peace was on His way.

Instead of whispering messages from the throne room of heaven, Jesus dives into the muck and mire of the world.  He heals, thirsts, stoops, protects, provides, teaches, holds, weeps, feels, hurts, hungers, suffers, raises, and leaves us wonderstruck again and again.

Christ's birth is a holy exclamation point that the King of kings is with us in a real and tangible way.  And that gives us reason for great joy.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Week 3 Day 2

This week's Scripture:

Luke 2:1-5

In those days Cesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Week 3 Day 1

This week's theme is 'journey.'


... in my heart to Bethlehem

... in my heart to Calvary

... in my life to Jesus

... in my week to tomorrow

... in my day to bring glory to my Savior

... in my moments to love


Where have we been?

Where are we going?

Will the journey be winding through the forest or through the desert or over the mountains?

Will there be...

... joy in the journey?

... peace on the path?

... hope in the hills?

... love in the lane?

... fear in the forest?

... pain on the prairie?

I don't know.  I only know that my Jesus walks with me in the journey.  He promised that He would.

He always keeps His promises.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Week 2 Day 7

A prayer to close week 2
From Finding the Messiah

Quiet my busy mind, God, and let me find rest in the silence with You.  
Take away my personal agenda, the list that insists You meet my needs and fix my problems and all the demands and manipulations I bring.  
Fill me full of Yourself, so that I can in turn give You to the world.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Week 2 Day 6

This week's song is a lovely piano piece.  I remember listening to this album at my parents' when I was younger and enjoying the beauty and simplicity.

Pour a cup of tea or coffee, sit in a quiet place, and take a listen to George Winston, Peace.

Click here to listen when you are ready. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Week 2 Day 5

Some pictures from my files that represent silence to me...

Morning reflections from the pond in Karuizawa

Tree lined street in the morning light

Ripples on the lake

Clouds in a blue sky

Bible reading on the veranda in the evening

Almost sunset

The canoe my friend and her dad built out on the lake

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Week 2 Day 4

Today is a day to share paintings I have found.  
What other ideas do you have for Zechariah and/or silence?

Gabriel speaking to Zechariah

John is born!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Week 2 Day 3

Today's meditation comes from Finding the Messiah: Seasons of Deeper Devotion by Jane Rubietta.

Really Quiet Time

What if we could witness Zechariah's wonder over the prophecy, his tenderness with his beloved wife of many years, this love of his life?  What if we could see how the miracle, and the muteness, changed him?

Zechariah experienced some extended quiet time.  Between Elizabeth's five-month seclusion and his inability to talk, no doubt the couple's social life diminished, as did their conversations.  Zechariah was silent, and not able to speak even if he wanted.  For a person accustomed to words, whether many or few, extended silence is torturous no matter one's personality.  Even babies, who have no words, make all sorts of noises to communicate.

Silence offered Zechariah the space to listen to his own unbelief.  Sometimes in silence we realize that our voices are tired, that we are weary of our own words and worries.  We notice that our thoughts exhaust us and realize that we have nothing new or interesting to talk about.  We tire of ourselves.  In silence we wonder how people put up with our complaining and handwringing, and we see our own fear-based life in a new, quiet light.

Zechariah surely meditated with horror on his own failure and fear, reliving his question of Gabriel - "How can I know this for sure?"- and wanting to kick himself to kingdom come.  But silence doesn't have to lead us to intense shame and then halt there.  Silence can take us into new grace, a deep space, an internal Holy Place.  There we realize that the Holy Spirit has overlaid all our wood with the gold of God's presence, the gilding of forgiveness, the fragrant aroma of heaven-scented love.  There our dirge turns into praise, however silent it might sound.

... Maybe those days of gestation for Elizabeth - because Zechariah's evident lack of belief did not hinder God's deliverance on the promise of a child! - were also days of gestation for Zechariah.  He had to listen deeply as the truth and glory of God, as the goodness and faithfulness of this God who delights to fulfill His promises (Psalm 145:13), as the sheer astonishment at God's favor filled him.  Maybe, there in the fields and barn, in silent prayers under bright stars and in the dark of night, alone, the words and wonder filled the belly of his soul full of God.

What difference does silence make in your ability to listen to your soul, to God's Word, to the people in your world?

Week 2 Day 2

The scripture for this week's advent theme is Luke 1:5-25.  When I was planning these themes and scriptures I did not realize how God was working things together.  (Isn't that often the case!)  On Sunday, December 13, I will be preaching.  My passage is this exact passage.  I love how God has given me a chance to really think about this passage this week and ponder silence.  Blessings as you read and ponder, too.

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron.  Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly.  But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.

Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.  And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.  When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.  But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.  He will be a joy and a delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.  He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.  Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God.  And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous - to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this?  I am an old man and my wife is well along in years."

The angel answered, "I am Gabriel  I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.  And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time."

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple.  When he came out, he could not speak to them.  They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

When his time of service was completed, he returned home.  After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion.  "The Lord has done this for me," she said.  "In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people."

Luke 1:5-25

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Week 2 Day 1

This week's word is silence.

In the hundreds of years spent anticipating the arrival of Messiah, the people waited in silence.  God had sent His messengers.  Many people did not listen.  And, so, the people waited in silence.

Then, God sent word of the arrival of the forerunner.  Again, there was disbelief.  This time there was a forced silence.

In the silence, God is at work.

Silence is not to be feared or undesired.

We should lean into the silence.  Resting in it.

Even when we don't understand it.

Even when we can't feel Him.

Even when we feel abandoned and alone.

He is there, in the silence.  Sitting with us.

The end of the silence will come.

I look forward to exploring this theme together this week.  Let's see what God has to say to us about silence.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Week 1 Day 6

We round out this week with an advent prayer...

God of forgiveness,

I turn to you in my great weakness and beg for your help.

Let me feel the joy growing in my heart as I anticipate your coming.

I hear the message of the prophets of old 
and know that the Messiah will bring 
new life and new ways of living.

From the humbleness of my life, 
help me to grow and bloom 
and hear the words 
that will change the world.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Week 1 Day 6

O Come Emmanuel is one of my favorite Christmas carols.  I really like this version.

I can feel the anticipation in the lyrics of this song as the author recalls the promises of who Messiah will be and is.

Click on the title to hear the song:
O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Week 1 Day 5

After the lovely art of yesterday, I am going to post some of my own photos, from the past half a year or so, that I think depict anticipation.
Feel free to share any comments about the photos or photos of your own!

Anticipating a new day

Anticipating new life

Anticipating meeting with God
and hearing from Him as we converse

Anticipating guidance for a sermon

Anticipating resting with Jesus

Anticipating creativity

Anticipating a challenge and accomplishment