Light a Candle for Peace

I’ve been working through the Advent Devotional written by Catholic women for Catholic women called “Rooted in Hope.”  There are two main reasons that I chose it:

  • Over the past five or six years, I’ve made it a personal tradition to go to Midnight mass after I get my kids to bed and light a candle; it seems there’s always a prayer concern on my mind at Christmas.  This tradition began when our next door neighbors invited us over for a fish dinner and then let me tag along with them to the service, which was so beautiful that I’ve kept going even when they’ve been out of town.  I thought maybe this devotion would be a good way to prepare my heart.
  • The second reason has to do with what I do at mass: I can’t take communion at a Catholic church since I am Presbyterian, so I always just use the time to pray for unity among Christians.  One of the things that has warmed my heart the most about the Bible journaling movement is to see Christians from all denominations and backgrounds sharing art and supporting each other.  I have this deep hope that our art helps us see what we share in common:  our love for the Word and our love for Jesus.  As I light a candle for peace, I give thanks for the tie that bind us all together!

Here’s a window into the Bible Journaling I’ve been doing this week.  I’ve just been following the daily readings.

This passage from Isaiah 11 is a strange prophecy, one that seems to go against all the laws of nature: a wolf dwell with a lamb? But when we follow Jesus, we often do the unexpected: we choose forgiveness over getting even; we choose loyalty over just looking out for ourselves; we do what is right even when it’s hard or our actions might be misunderstood; we go the extra mile and turn the other cheek; we keep praying until our adversaries become friends; and we do not intentionally hurt or destroy. It may not make the headlines, but I am sure quiet moments of reconciliation made possible by Jesus happen all the time. From today’s devotion: “Salvation history unfolds one yes at a time.”

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The next devotion took me to Exodus where God meets Moses in the burning bush.  I never made this connection before, but Moses is much like the shepherds in the Christmas story, just tending his sheep when he hears God’s voice calling to him.  It is great encouragement to know that God is with us in whatever we are called to do.

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The next Bible story was unfamiliar to me.  When I have a tough time with a passage, I’ll often read it in a children’s Bible.  The Action Bible does a nice job with all of the book of Judges.  The mighty warrior, Gideon doubted God’s promise to him, and asks for a sign and then another sign.  So many times in life, we want God to give us a clear sign that we are on the right path.  God shows great patience to Gideon by filling his fleece with dew on one day and letting it be dry the next though the whole ground was wet with dew.  God still gives him the victory and St. Paul still lists him in the Hall of Faith.  That being said, I still think it’s best to walk by faith, not by fleece.

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I have read the story of Hannah in the temple many times.  Reading it again, what I noticed is how she prays; then she talks to the priest; and then she feels relief. She is a beautiful example of someone who casts all her anxiety on the Lord and then trusts that he cares for her.  I’ll light at least two candles this Christmas Eve, one for a dear friend, who is a faithful saint, and one for a tiny baby growing strong in the NICU.  These two pages gave me time in advance to pray for both.

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The following passage was selected for the Feast of Immaculate Conception.  I did not know what the feast of Immaculate Conception was all about.  I decided the quickest way to find out was to simply go to early morning mass on Friday.  I sat in the room for crying children because the church was surprisingly full and listened to the homily. As luck would have it, the school kids were there and the priest did a nice job teaching about the feast day. The priest explained that God had a plan for Mary from the moment of her conception to be the Mother of Jesus. I love how this ties into the Scripture passage chosen for today in the devotion: “He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before him in love.” It is easy for me to accept that God had a plan for Mary. God also has a plan for us to be adopted as God’s children.  That is something to celebrate!

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I’m in awe of the beautiful calligraphy by Carolyn Svellinger found in “Rooted in Hope”. I did my best to copy her handwriting from the book and then had fun with my Bible Journaling supplies.

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I went to bed last night reading the first chapter of Mark.  I was a little surprised that my pastor preached on this passage at church today.  She begins almost every sermon telling us the passage just read is one of her favorites, but today she confessed that she was preaching on a passage that was just ok for her.  She made me laugh when she said: “Everyone at Christmas wants to see the angels with tidings of joy, but there’s not as much enthusiasm for the man in the camel hair that eats honey and locusts and reminds us to confess our sins and repent.” Advent is a good time to straighten out what is crooked and smooth over what has been rough. It’s not just homes that need to be clean and ready; more importantly it is our hearts. We lit a candle for peace today; Peace on earth begins when we make peace with our God.

I am learning to love St. John the Babtist for how he chose to live a life of austerity and penance and how he prepared the way for Jesus and pointed others to him.  Is there such a thing as a St. John the Baptist Christmas ornament?  I’d love for him to make an appearance every Advent!

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I read the passage about John the Baptist before bed and woke up thinking:  “Remember that you are dust.”  This is a bit of a paradox because I know that God loves and cherishes me.  I know my worth is measured by this:  Jesus paid the price for me.  And at the same time, I know that I’m dust relative to the power and glory of God.  And there’s a freedom in that, which is hard to explain.  Remembering that I’m dust simply helps take the focus off of me and allows my heart to focus on Jesus.  And this gives me true peace.

 

 

 

Rooted in Hope

Welcome to Advent, the start of the liturgical year.  I always think of Christmas as the end of the year, but really, it’s just the beginning.

We start the season of Advent by lighting a candle for hope.

At our home here’s how that looked:  My parents came over for dinner last night and helped us decorate our Christmas tree.  We held an impromptu Advent candle lighting service.  My house was a little cleaner than usual, but my kitchen table was surrounded by the ordinary mess of too many craft supplies.  I quickly picked a Scripture to read.  My mom suggested singing a Christmas carol.  It turned out that none of us knew all the words to the first verse of “The First Noel”.  My daughter randomly ran from the table to get some bells.  For some reason,  some of the potatoes in my soup failed to get soft.  My mother concluded our Advent lighting ceremony, by saying in a solemn voice:  “God, we give you thanks that there is hope.”

And we all burst out laughing.  We start the liturgical year with hope, but we all know too well how things will go.  Sometimes having hope can seem comical.  When things don’t go as planned, I am grateful for friends who laugh, and when the situation calls for it, cry with me.  And I have to believe that even our clumsy attempts to honor God in our homes and with our lives are pleasing to God.

This morning at Sunday school, the story for the children was the three visitors who came to see Abraham and Sarah.  Abraham believed the visitors when he heard that he and his wife would have a child in their later years, but Sarah laughed.  I don’t blame Sarah at all for laughing.  I know too well the pain of waiting month after month for a common enough little miracle.  I think she laughed, not so much in disbelief, but to hide the pain of so many disappointments.  I have always loved the story of Sarah and Abraham and how thousands of years later her descendants still tell the story of how much Sarah wanted a baby and how long she waited.  Her story is also my story and I pray that my children will always know how I prayed for them, longed for them and hoped for them.  What always fills me with awe about the story of Sarah and Abraham:  through Jesus Christ our brother, we are living proof of the promise that God made to Abraham that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars.

We always start to prepare for Christmas with hope.  By spending more time in the Word this Christmas, my hope is that no matter what happens, my heart will be focused on Jesus, my true hope in all circumstances.  I’ve been following along a devotional, called appropriately enough: “Rooted in Hope.”  I love how the Illustrated Faith Advent kits work together with the Scripture readings.  Here’s the first of my Advent Bible Journaling Entries.

The St. Andrews Novena found its way into the margins of my Bible.  Praying a Christmas novena is a new experience for me, but I’m enjoying this simple meditation on the night that Christ was born.  I’ve been working in the “My Promise Bible” from King James Bibles.

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I was surprised at the simple way the prayer from the Illustrated Faith Advent kit was met by the Scripture in the “Rooted in Hope” devotional.  If you want to keep your heart on Christ through the Christmas season, there’s no better way that to have Scripture in your mouth and in your heart!  Spending time in the Word is the best gift you can give yourself this Christmas!

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I loved this assurance from the “Rooted in Hope” devotional:  “The Lord will strengthen you to the end.  It’s a journey and he’s taking it with you.”

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The page below will always remind me of the night that we put up our Christmas tree.  May I wait for Christ’s return with the same hope and excitement and eagerness to prepare that my children have for Christmas and always live as the servant he expects us to be, loving God and one another.

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May you be filled with hope (even if it comes mixed with laughter or tears) this Advent!