Advent I

I think of Advent as a preparation for both the celebration of the birth of Christ in Bethlehem and the second coming of Christ in the future.

I don’t know about you, but I find there is something a little scary about Christ’s second coming, and I’m not entirely looking forward to it. Maybe it’s because there are places in my life that I’m not letting Him be King. It occurs to me that God shows great mercy in giving us the time of Advent to prepare ourselves for both celebrating the gift of salvation in the Baby Jesus, and the second coming of Christ!

If during this preparation time, I can invite and welcome Jesus into those places in my heart that need healing, I have an opportunity for both personal help and the chance to establish His glory on earth. If I open myself up to welcome and honor Jesus in other people, (not always an easy thing to do), He has also given me a chance to bring His glory, and peace on earth. What a tremendous gift and incredible season!

I find myself meditating on the words from Christmas carols. I think of “Silent” from “Silent Night” and “O, Come Let Us Adore Him.” Instead of losing myself in the activity of the Christmas season, this year I want to celebrate and worship the reason for Christmas, Jesus. I can’t get there unless I take times of silence, and find what blocks my true worship. I think of the Christmas carol “Joy to the World”, and feel that’s what the writer means when we sing, “Let every heart prepare Him room.”

Jesus came as a baby for us, as a gift, and maybe the best thing we can do at Christmas is offer ourselves as a gift to Him, needy and pure like a newborn.

 

No Need to Wait

Recently, a dear friend of mine passed away. The process of dying is hard work, and while I realize that no two people are the same, it does seem that there are similar “stages” to preparing for heaven.

It seems that the person reviews their life and then works on unburdening themselves of places they have harbored hurt and unforgiveness. Some of those places are in unhealed relationships with others, while some are areas where they need to forgive themselves.

There is a stage of “letting go.” Some people I’ve seen let go of worries and fears they’ve been riddled with their whole lives, and finally, find some peace realizing they can’t do anything but let God take care of them. Some have cared more about possessions than relationships with God or others, and everything gets put into perspective thinking about their immediate future. Others let go of toxic relationships because they only have the energy and time left for what God wants.

Often there is a surge of gratitude, and a need to express and share thankfulness to those with whom they are close.

If this process prepares us for heaven, would it not make sense that if we began this process now, we could bring some heaven down on earth?

 

At the Ready

I recently attended the funeral of a friend who had served in the armed forces. At the gravesite, three young servicemen, dressed in their pristine uniforms, stood ramrod straight. With clockwork precision, they saluted and turned toward each other. In silence, and with great care, they removed the flag draping the casket. They stretched it taut, made one fold, creased it, turned it, and folded it again. Time was not an issue; all was done with respect and reverence, both for the flag and the individual who had honored it with their service. The flag was presented with such dignity to the gathered loved ones.  Those men must have spent hours preparing their uniforms and learning and practicing the graveside ceremony. Their level of care and perfection brought tears to my eyes.

The three servicemen hadn’t known the person who died, but they respected who the person once was and what they had sacrificed. It made me realize what a gift it is when everything is done to the Glory of God, and how much the small things really do count.

 

Gratitude: The Opposite of Fear

Last week, I was talking to the Lord about what my fear does, and how it makes everything in my life smaller. What I discovered is that fear breeds selfishness, which in turn breeds loneliness and separation. After meditating on this concept, I asked Jesus about the opposite of fear and how to counter my lack of trust in Him. He told me that gratitude is the answer. Gratitude fosters generosity, which breeds joy and community. I decided to do an experiment and put this new “lesson” into practice. What a difference it made in my life!

 

“Look To”

Our bell tower at the Church of the Transfiguration is at ground level, making it quite easy to view the bells being rung. In addition, there are glass doors through which you may observe.

If you ever have an opportunity to experience changing bells about to ring, you may hear the words, “Look to, treble’s going, she’s gone!” These words are spoken by the person ringing the treble bell (bell #1), the bell that weighs the least. “Look to” is the alert for all bells to prepare to ring; this includes the treble bell ringer making sure that all ringers are holding their ropes and that every rope is in the hands of a ringer.

At “Treble’s going”, every ringer adjusts their bell so that it’s on the balance, which means they won’t need to pull the bell overly hard to begin the process of it ringing. It will be ready to go at the slightest pull. Each ringer’s attention is on the two bells in front of them so they can “place” their bell, that is, have their bell ring exactly at the proper time so it sounds the way it should.

When “She’s gone” is called, the treble bell will pull their rope for the first ring, and each bell will follow consecutively. The larger bells take longer to ring than the smaller ones, so this needs to be taken into consideration.

We hope the next time you visit Cape Cod, you’ll include the Church of the Transfiguration and its unique bell tower on your itinerary.  And you can listen for those very important words, “Look to, treble’s going, she’s gone!”

To Move a Mountain

Fear can be a destructive force if we don’t confront it and take authority over it.
I’ve learned some basic things about fear that have helped me (if I remember to
use them!)

When I engage in fear, I’m thinking about the future, and not living in the present
moment. When I’m in fear, I’m thinking about myself, and usually convinced the
outcome of a situation will be different than the way I would like. I’m not loving Jesus
enough to trust Him with my future. If I’m being obedient to what God wants for me, I
can stand firm in His provision.

If I’ve decided to let fear in, then I can decide to “kick it out!” Satan is the author of fear,
and I can pray and ask the Holy Spirit to usher fear out.
And lastly, a question that comes to me – if faith the size of a mustard seed can move
mountains, what mountains remain unmoved because of my lack of faith and my fear?

Forgiveness – An Antidote to Anger

My father has been gone for quite a while now, but I’m still learning things about him.

While I was growing up, I remember him as having quite a temper, and I’ve often wondered how he mellowed so as he aged. Recently, I was going through one of his Bibles, and a typed prayer, that had been sent to him from a friend, fell out.

It said, “Lord, You know how I am angry and hurt over what this person has done to me. I would like to make them suffer the way they have made me suffer. But I can’t be close to You and hold this anger at the same time and I want to be close to You more than I want to get even. I know You are always having to forgive me for how I wrong You and others around me, so I confess my pride to You, my haughtiness, and in Your Name and with Your Power, I forgive this person. I believe that You love them as much as You love me. Into Your hands I release them and the consequences of whatever they have done. Help me to continue to release them each time that I think about them. I desire Your peace and healing within my heart. In Your Name I ask this. Amen.”

The note went on to say, “Is it enough to pray this once, or twice, or seven times? Probably not. But you can be assured that before you have ever reached the 490th time (which is ‘seventy times seven’), you will be changed; you will be free of the anger; and you will see this person in a very different way. Hope this helps.”

What a gift to come upon such a powerful prayer. I have to think he must have prayed it often, for he was a changed person.

Advent Shadows and Light

During this time of Advent, we’ve been having an opportunity to have personal conversations with the Lord about Light.

There is so much to learn about light and darkness, places they come up in the Bible, and places they are present in our lives.

Today, the words came to me, “without a shadow of a doubt”, and I asked the Lord what He had to show me. He taught me that when I allow my doubts to linger in the shadows, they grow and become fears. If I will expose those doubts to the light, the shadows will dissipate, and I will be able to trust.

Be still and know that I am God

by Faithful Finch

If I would only stop and take the time to really slow down, still my soul, and re-center on the Lord, it makes everything else fall into place. Somehow, I forget this, and think the faster I go, the more I can accomplish in my own power. The truth is, if I really remembered who God is, I would take the time and be still. It works both ways—if I will be still, I will know that He is God, and if I know He is God, He will still me.

I think of a body of water with its surface tossing from the wind, and when it becomes still, it is able to reflect the light of the sun. When we let ourselves be still, we are able to reflect the light of Jesus.

Cast your cares upon him

by Faithful Finch

I’m the kind of person who worries if I don’t have something to worry about, so the scripture, “cast your cares upon Him, for He careth for you.”( 1 Peter 5:7) is a good reminder for me that I need to do something about those worries.
The verb, “cast” is such a great, active verb and makes me think of when I used to go fishing with my Dad, and would cast the line out as far as I could.
I find that when one is used to having worry so close by, there is almost a vacuum once you have cast it away, and there is a need to fill the space the worry has taken. I was thinking about what would be the best thing to fill this space when a sentence in a book by Henri Nouwen hit me, and I realized both what I had been doing by choosing to worry, and what I needed to do with the void once I cast my cares on the Lord!
The sentence says, “Continual complaining is more attractive than facing reality.” All these years, my worrying has been complaining that God is not enough! Facing reality is that God is there, and the answer to filling the void is to praise Him for His faithfulness, because He does care for me.