I know that Love healed the blind, reached out to children, and drove money changers from the temple. Love pleaded from the cross–Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. Love was the faultless sacrifice that shattered darkness and restored humankind to wholeness.
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.
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.
By Sr. Spero
After a string of sweltering days, I read the translation of this morning’s antiphon—“I thirst for the living God”—as if I had never seen it before. Water has been tasting so good, and I am gulping it with abandon. Normally, I take water for granted, and have to force myself to drink it – to “stay hydrated” as the health magazines say. It must be the same with “Living Water.” (John 4:14) I don’t appreciate the miracle until I don’t have it, and I feel dry and hopeless. But that’s when I can say, “I thirst for the living God.” And that’s when he answers.
Sometimes I clear my thought collection by writing poetry. I un-jumble the jumbled mess by sorting, eliminating, and re-arranging words on paper. Recently, I captured the words thistle thorns and placed them in my reject section. However, they persisted and insisted on space in my poem.
I’m of Scottish descent and somewhere in Scotland, there’s a clan chief and a run-down castle that bears my name. Enter the lowly thistle, scorned by gardeners, despised by children in bare feet, and just below dandelion on the least wanted list. It also happens to be Scotland’s oldest recorded National Flower. A 13th century legend tells of Viking invaders, who hoped to capture the Scots as they slept. Their plan failed when a barefooted soldier tromped on a thistle, cried out in pain, and woke the sleeping Scots. If I’m any example, Scots are not morning people, and the Vikings were quickly overcome by enraged clansmen.
The thistle is a symbol of tenacity. It’s both a humble weed and a complex entity composed of soft downy flower and sharp thorns. Its roots reach deep, it keeps a stubborn grip on the land, and flourishes in adversity. I’m aware that God hands me flowers with thorns now and then. The beauty of the flower is a blessing, but it’s the thorns that make me strong.
God is a storm. That is what leaps out at me from the psalmist’s imagery: God’s stormy thundering voice breaks the cedars. During the rest of the week, we will be encountering images in the Psalms of God as a refuge from the storms. Those are more appealing images. I prefer them to images of God’s storminess.
Yet, somehow both are true. God is a refuge from the storm, and God is the storm.
I’d rather skip the stormy images altogether. But Lent is an apt time to encounter the psalmist’s insistence on the God who is not just a harbor, but also a storm.
For Lent is a journey into unprotectedness. Lent is being willing to expose ourselves to storminess. Jesus moves from seeming unprotectedness in the wilderness to utter vulnerability on the cross. And Lent is an opportunity to ask how much energy we pour into protecting ourselves — from the storms we encounter on the path to true self-knowledge, from the storms we encounter when we genuinely love our neighbor, from the storms that are God, and the storms that God protects us from.
By Lauren Winner
Excerpted from God For Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter, Edited by Greg Pennoyer and Gregory Wolfe (Paraclete Press)
By Faithful Finch
We received a beautiful Christmas card with a picture of Mary & Joseph, and the shepherds huddled in light around Baby Jesus and the words, “Let every heart prepare Him room.” I put it up on our bathroom mirror to remind me as I dry my hair to “prepare Him room.” But how do I do that? I feel so small in the pains and inadequacies of my puny life as I scurry from thing to thing to make space for Christ the King. As I wash my face at the end of the day, and look at the beauty and simplicity of that card, I once again feel convicted from the words, “Let every heart prepare Him room.” I say, “Ok, I want to get there. I do, but all I have to offer is sin and the pain that comes with it. I’m sorry. Help me.”
A peace comes on me as I realize that not one person in this Nativity scene came to “prepare Him room” without pain, without sacrifice, but with so much blessing. That’s what the preparing is all about: making room every day of the year.
Birth: Wonder…Astonishment…Adoration. There can’t be very many of us for whom the sheer fact of existence hasn’t rocked us back on our heels. We take off our sandals before the burning bush. We catch our breath at the sight of a plummeting hawk. “Thank you, God.” We find ourselves in a lavish existence in which we feel a deep sense of kinship – we belong here; we say thanks with our lives to Life. And not just “Thanks” or “Thank It” but “Thank You.” Most of the people who have lived on this planet earth have identified this You with God or gods. This is not just a matter of learning our manners, the way children are taught to say thank you as a social grace. It is the cultivation of adequateness within ourselves to the nature of reality, developing the capacity to sustain an adequate response to the overwhelming gift and goodness of life.
Wonder is the only adequate launching pad for exploring this fullness, this wholeness, of human life. Once a year, each Christmas, for a few days at least, we and millions of our neighbors turn aside from our preoccupations with life reduced to biology or economics or psychology and join together in a community of wonder. The wonder keeps us open-eyed, expectant, alive to life that is always more than we can account for, that always exceeds our calculations, this is always beyond anything we can make.
Excerpted from God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas, Edited by Greg Pennoyer and Gregory Wolfe (Paraclete Press)
By Sr. Spero
In the Lauds service this morning, I noticed that the psalm verse familiar to me as “Let me hear of joy and gladness” (Psalm 51:8) was translated “Let me hear joy and gladness.” At first I thought it was a mistake. But then I considered—is this what the Psalmist really meant. Not—“ let someone come to me with good news,” but “let me hear joy.” Hearing joy has nothing to do with outward circumstances. It is an act of the will to listen to the joy that is surrounding us. The heavens declare the glory of God. (Psalm 19:1) The heavens praise your wonders, LORD (Psalm 89:5). The Scriptures that that it is there. Do I listen for joy? Do I open my ears to catch it? Not often. But is it possible if I set my will to listen for it? Yes!
By Sister Spero
God created flowers. Each species, fully developed, is beautiful. A flower cannot choose its own beauty. It begins with the seed, containing the nature of the parent plant. If the seed drops, or is placed, in soil with the right nutrients, it will grow. Development depends on water, good soil, and protection from predators. A plant cannot arrange this on its own. It cannot make itself produce flowers.
We are the same, but, unlike flowers, we can choose our own beauty. (I’m not thinking of make-up and exercise). We can cultivate spiritual beauty. We can ask for living water (John 4:14), avoid rocks and thorns (Matthew 13), and protect ourselves from predators. For me, the predators are stray thoughts that I can choose to embrace or ignore.
I cannot choose what type of flower I am to become, but I can be a co-worker with God in his garden—to blossom into the person God originally created me to be.