God, here we are caught up in the midst of this season we call Advent…a season of hope, peace, love and joy.
A season that is high and holy…a season steeped in expectation and promise…a season where we mark our days and remember how God sends to us a Savior, a baby nonetheless…to unite us and free us from that which keeps us from being what God intended.
It’s a season that reminds us to lay down our fluffed-up selves and humble ourselves before the Savior of the World..born in a stable…where the animals moved over to make room for this divine moment to happen.
This Advent season is a time for us to not only remember but to also journey with Mary and Jospeh, to wake-up with the Shepherds and hear the Angels sing…to consider once more what this gift, this baby born in a manger means to us…today, tomorrow…for a lifetime.
May this Advent season be filled with a peace that passes all understanding…may our hearts be filled with joy that overflows to those around us…may we know that hope is possible…and may we become the very essence of love that God so sweetly gave to each of us in the gift of God’s Son.
Bless us in our gathering with friends and family…guide us in our travels to and fro…and lead us to those unexpected places…equip us to push past our own comfort to seek and find all of those we are called to love. Empower us with a supernatural strength to be your people, who look east and west, north and south…sharing the message of the Angels; glory to God in the highest…and may we know peace and goodwill to all people.
Bring us to our knees, as we bow before this newborn King. As we sing our songs and share our gifts, stir in us a newness of life. And on Christmas morning may we rejoice with world; Joy to the World…the Lord has come! Let it be so…amen.
Our oldest daughter took it upon herself to take on a second job for some extra spending money. Much to our surprise, she was hired on at local restaurant in her college town. She loves it! And she really loves it on the nights when the tips are good.
The encounters she’s had have given her a remarkable insight into the human race. The encounter she had recently was no different. It was a Tuesday night, nothing really special about a Tuesday night. A couple came in and was seated at one of her tables. Dutifully she went about waiting on them…taking their drink order, getting them some water, serving them as she would any body on a Tuesday night. She was kind and gracious, pleasant and friendly. The couple had a nice meal, took their time, and at the end of their meal Emily delivered to them their check.
When the couple stood to leave and walked over to pay, the man was quick to speak to Emily. He thanked her for the kind and gracious service she had given them, complemented the meal they had just eaten, and proceeded to tell Emily more. You see, they had buried their daughter that day. So this meal had more meaning than an average Tuesday evening meal. The couple told Emily how she had really made their time at the Fox and Fork delightful and special…you see, their daughter’s name was Emily.
My sweet, wears her heart on her sleeve child was speechless, and I’m sure she was fighting back the tears. They chatted for a little while longer, Emily assured them she would be keeping them in her prayers and how special it was that their paths had crossed. Emily was honored to have served them this very special and memorable meal. As the couple went on their way, back to wherever they had come, Emily found herself in tears again as she looked to see that they had left her an extremely generous tip.
I can’t help but think that God had something to do with this chance meeting. A couple who needed some reassurance that the child they had laid to rest was in good hands…encountered a young 22 year old who needed some reassurance that being generous with her kindness is powerful in sharing grace to those we meet. God had his hand in that chance meeting, reminding each one that God heals our broken hearts, reminds us that we are never alone, and loves us in ways that we can’t even being to describe. A kind and generous heart always serves us well.
For the past 200 plus days I have been on a journey. I haven’t talked much about it, but right after Easter I made a decision to live a healthier life. Not only had there been little scare with my blood pressure, but I was tired of not being in optimum health. I had two vices that I needed to say farewell too; Diet Coke and Sugar. My dependence on these two things played a vicious role in my fully being my best self. I knew that it was time to say farewell to these habits. I had to start somewhere and so I picked the most evident.
The past seven months have been challenging, even hard at times…and yet it has been enlightening and encouraging as well. I have prayed for God’s strength like never before. I have had to learn to speak truth to what I am feeling. There have been days that my reflection of the past has brought gut wrenching tears as I realized how much of myself I have given away to harmful habits. But I have also learned that I can’t change the past…there is nothing to gain by beating myself up over the bad choices I have made…I can only correct myself from this point forward and give way to learning new habits.
This journey I have been on, and will continue for the rest of my life, has been more of a spiritual journey than ever being about a diet. The word “diet” is a bad four-letter word for the most part. We often talk about going on a diet, or blowing our diet…but the truth is that our diet is what keeps us alive. Food is fuel that gives us what we need to live and breath in this world. But so is prayer, silence, scripture, worship, community, love, grace, forgiveness…all of these are part of a healthy life of faith. A healthy diet in mind, body and soul give us the fuel we need to live life to its fullest.
While I have lost a sizable amount of weight, I have gained so much more in understanding myself and why I do the things I do. Putting perspective on the reactions I have to life and the curve balls it throws has been eye-opening. Giving God the space to speak into the whole journey has made all the difference. I have learned to treat myself with compassion, move outside my comfort zones, and to not let the past define my future. I may have lost pounds of weight, but I have gained a whole new lease on life. In fact its really more about what I have gained than what I have lost. I’m not missing those things at all.
Flying doesn’t make me anxious, but not knowing where I am going once I get there sure does. Most of the time when I fly somewhere, I am certain to meet someone on my arrival to pick me up and take me to my destination. Most of my flying experiences are to see friends and family, or traveling with my spouse. This time I was flying by myself, and arriving to an unfamiliar city, a day early for the event, and I had to navigate my own way to the hotel. The challenge was that the hotel did not offer a shuttle service, so I had to find my way to ground transportation take a taxi.
I’ve taken a taxi before, but I can’t say I’ve ever done it alone. Once I found my bag at baggage claim in a somewhat crowded area, I started looking for signs. Most airports are great at signage, and this one was as well…but the trick with signage, is you sorta need to know what you may be looking for to understand the signs. I just kept walking and eventually found where I could catch a cab. All was well, and my anxiousness was eased, as a very nice cabdriver saw to it to take my bag and help me on my way.
Not all of us are adventurous, especially when going it alone. If I were traveling with a companion, my anxiousness would have never reared its ugly head. Which leads me to the point I want to make.
In this life of faith, we are never alone. We may sometimes believe we are alone, but we aren’t. Many times we try and go it alone, and we soon learn that going it alone brings a lot of challenges that we could have avoided if we had just asked for help. God assures us that we are never alone…it just requires that we believe it and trust God to be there.
There is a great affirmation of faith that we sometimes use in the church. Here are some excerpts, the parts I tend to remember when I need a graceful reminder:
We are not alone…we live in God’s world
We believe in God…we trust in God
We are called to be the church…to celebrate God’s presence…to love and serve others
In life, in death, in life beyond death…God is with us…we are not alone
Thanks be to God.
One of my mentors has taken on a new exercise routine, and was recently talking about how his trainer was teaching him to breathe. I, too, have had to learn the value of breath when I’m exercising. I can remember back in the day when I wanted to start running and the hardest part of running was to gain control of breathing. It was my brother who taught me that you should inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. If we breathe through our mouth while exercising, we tend to work much harder and find ourselves in that “trying to catch your breath” place. The more we exercise the more we learn that our breathing is crucial to the whole process.
We can also find ourselves needing to just breathe when life seems busy and chaotic. I have a couple friends that tell me many times to “just breathe”. It’s a statement that carries way more meaning than just physically breathing….it reminds us to stop, look and listen and to breathe in that high-quality oxygen that fills us and and when we do things can somehow change dramatically. In the few short seconds that it takes to inhale and exhale we create enough space to re-orient us in how we might respond or act in those times when we seem to be out of breathe.
One of my all-time favorite praise and worship songs is “This Is the Air I Breathe”. The composer writes; this is the air I breathe, your holy presence living in me, I’m desperate for you, I’m lost without you. These words speak to how one cannot live without God’s presence in our life, that God is the very breathe we take to live and survive in this life. There are so many references to breath in scripture that connects us to God. We read how God’s Spirit is described as a breathe that breathes on us to assure us of God’s presence, God’s sustaining love and grace, a breath that gives us life.
Psalm 150 encourages us to praise God in all that we do, wherever we are…and it’s the last verse of the passage that captures the essence of our need to breathe;
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord !
If we can learn to breathe it seems that so much of our day-to-day living takes on so much more clarity and meaning. Whether it be learning to breathe as we exercise our body, or taking the space to breathe deep when faced with a challenge…or simply breathing in the air we are given each day. This air we breathe connects us to something far greater…its life-giving…it sustains us and creates in us a holy space where our breath is God’s breath living in us. When we can visualize this while breathing, it seems to make each breath more purposeful, have more meaning, and equips us to be God’s blessing to others in this world. Just breathe!