Wednesday – December 11, 2019
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6.19
A Word of Hope
One Step at a Time
Everything begins with a step, but often we lose track of the steps we took and even, that first initial step. Progress works this way. Robert H. Schuller once said, “You can know how many seeds are in an apple, but you can’t know how many apples are in a seed.” If you want a tree you have to plant the seed. The tree won’t come until it is in season. Maybe the solution to all of one’s problems lies in what they can appreciate. If seeds can turn into trees, caterpillars into butterflies, and dreams into whole civilizations, then imagine what you and I could do with time.
We worry that we may not be enough; rich enough, smart enough, motivated enough, attractive enough, and anything else we use to measure worth. What makes the tree more important than the seed? The rocks on top of the mountain could not reach its peak without the rocks at the base. Do not despise small beginnings, feeling stuck, and not knowing what to do. The air tastes much sweeter on top of the mountain when you have to climb to get there.
What if we stopped judging and measuring success? Things might slow down, but my guess is that they would speed up. Maybe we would stop comparing ourselves to each other. How would we know we were ever failing if we had no standard to compare ourselves to? It is not bad to have desires, but we should never feel less worthy over what we don’t have. If we do that, then we forget that life is a process. You see, what makes the air on top of the mountain taste so sweet is every step you took to get there.
God, thank you for your many gifts. Over and over you show me something different, another possibility, and another way. Help us to climb our mountains. Let us fly high above the treetops. Let us accomplish our dreams and more. Lord, I want to want what I have. Thank you for the time you have given me. Amen.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Tuesday – December 10, 2019
At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time. Matthew 24.23
A Word of Hope
Have you ever seriously thought about how much time and energy we give to discerning what around us is real and what is fake? To take this line of thinking a little further, have we given our precious time and energy over to trying to convince ourselves that what we feel might be fake is actually real; or, that what we think is real might actually be fake? The phrase “fake news” is a household phrase these days. Fake news, however, is not new to the twenty first century. Jesus, the above passage from the Gospel of Matthew was warning people to be on the lookout for fake news.
We live in a world where it often feels like the overarching guiding principle is to obscure reality. Beauty products exist to help us look younger. Fake IDs are available to make us appear older. Spans make us look smaller. Carefully placed padding makes us look bigger in desirable places. We can have any color hair and eyes that we choose. We have vegetables made to look (and taste?) like meat, and rice made from cauliflower. How do we know what is what we think it is and what is fake?
A more important question may be, how do we know WHO is who we think they are and WHO is fake? Who is what they profess to be? Who can we trust? We like in a time where it is so easy to obscure reality, to hide behind an image that is created from the imagination rather than through living a genuine and authentic life. Why are we so afraid of realness? Granted, it is not always pretty or comfortable, but at least when we must struggle against an “ugly truth” we know with what we are battling.
How will we know the real Jesus when He comes again? He may be dressed in rags or riches, taller, shorter, fatter, or skinnier, than what we expect. He may not look our mind’s imagined Jesus. Will we miss an encounter with the Holy One while we are attempting to determine if what we see is real or fake? How might our lives be different if we could take everyone at face value? How different would the world be if we treated everyone that we met as if they are the Messiah? Are we not called to seek, serve and love the Christ in all people?
I pray today that I may live the authentic life that God intended for me, that I may use my words to say what I mean and mean what I say, and that I may claim to be nothing more and nothing less than the real child of God that I am. Amen
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Monday – December 9, 2019
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Word of Hope
One of my favorite books is “Two From Galilee ” by Marjorie Holmes. The scripture gives us such little snippets of Mary and Joseph’s struggles as unwed parents. Maybe that’s to keep the Christmas story from being R rated. In the introduction to her book, Marjorie says: I was told. “You’ve made the Holy Family as real as the people next door! You can’t do that.” “That’s exactly what I meant to do,” I pleaded. “to make people realize they weren’t just statues or pictures on a Christmas card. They did breathe and hurt and hope and love just like we do. They too were human beings!”
Her book is fiction and gives human life and heartbreaking struggle to a young Mary having to tell Joseph and her mother that she is pregnant with the messiah! Yes, the Jews believed God would send the messiah to a young virgin. But how would your parents have reacted to you announcing you were that one?
If you really want a true Advent and 1st Christmas experience of anticipation, read this book! Suffer with this young woman the anticipation of the birth and the hardships of trying to figure out how God planned to make this miracle happen. The book of Matthew makes it short and sweet.
But those 4 quick verses of scripture were 9 long months of struggle and wonder for Mary and Joseph! Make Advent a time of wonder in your life. See how you can help those in need know the love of God. There will be many opportunities to show the Christmas miracle kind of love throughout this season.
God of Christmas miracles, help us all experience this time of anticipation in a way that births your love in the lives of those around us this Advent season.
Friday – December 6, 2019
Paul stood up, paused and took a deep breath, then said, “Fellow Isrealites and friends of God, listen. God took a special interest in our ancestors, pulled our people who were beaten down in Egyptian exile to their feet, and lead them out of there in grand style.” Acts 13:16 – 17 (The Message)
A Word of Hope
Paul gives us a bit of a history lesson in today’s assigned reading (Acts 13: 16 – 25). He recounts Biblical folklores we grew up with in Sunday school. Stories we have left behind as we have grown older.
And who can blame us? For many of us growing up in our churches was a devastating experience. From the pulpit we heard what can only be described as spiritual abuse. I still experience it when I go home and attend the church I grew up in with my family.
We carry the past with us. We can’t ignore what has happened in our lives. While I may be simplistic to think this way, my view is that the past can either weigh me down or lift me up. Whatever I have experienced in the past has brought me to where I am today, and if I am in a good place then I can thank the past. If I am not in a good place today I do the best I can until I can do better.
Maya Angelou has been credited with saying “The more you know of your history, the more liberated you are.” She was very wise. If we confront our history we can experience liberation today.
Paul must have known this. He ends his exhortation in verses 23 – 25 when he points to the fulfillment of history in the life of Jesus. This Jesus, the one we have been waiting for all of our life, is “just around the corner, about to appear.” Experiencing this Jesus will result in “a total life-change.”
God of my being. You are past, present and future.
Thursday – December 5, 2019
“Let every heart prepare him room.” (“Joy to the World”)
A Word of Hope
When someone dear, someone treasured is coming to visit, excitement leaps in my chest. Memories come unbidden–of times we’ve spent showered in nature’s glory, leaning into intimate conversation across meals or on road trips or settled into couches while stroking well-loved animals, memories too of faithful companionship in sickness and loss. Waves of gratitude wash the shores of my heart. I stock the fridge with food—and clean the house, though anyone who knows and loves me loves my dogs and is used to being “rolled” for dog hair before going out. The candle-scent of balsam and cedar fills the air and bright flowers rest in small vases on bedside tables.
Now the waiting begins. The tender- hearted waiting.
So how can we prepare—especially in this season of frenzied activity– for the most treasured guest of all, for the Christ who is born in us. The line from “Joy to the World” gives one direction: Let every heart prepare him room. What’s implied here is not just to “fix up” a room, but to prepare the full expanse of our hearts, to open a spacious place where we can hear and experience the holy in our midst. It calls for honoring a contemplative spiritual practice which includes solitude, silence, and interior prayer.
Henri Nouwen once said that “solitude is the furnace of transformation.” Without solitude, we continue to be imprisoned by the compulsive, false self, rather than becoming new creations in Christ.
When Arsenius, the Roman educator who changed his status and wealth for the solitude of the desert, prayed to be led to salvation, he heard a voice saying, “Be silent.” In a world where we are deluged by words, it can be unsettling at first to release our dependence on this input, but, ultimately, it clears the way for the voice of Love. Moreover, as Henri Nouwen asserts, silence “guards the fire within us” and teaches us to return to the world speaking with a new kind of power.
One kind of prayer that helps us prepare him room is what Thomas Merton describes as a “prayer of silence, simplicity, contemplative and meditative unity, a deep personal integration in an attentive, watchful listening of the heart.”
This spiritual “pedagogy” allows us to slow down enough to ponder what’s really important and to settle into who deep down we are called to be—the divine Christ-self to be offered in service to the world.
God of Advent, make our hearts your Bethlehem. Amen.
Dr Pat Saxon
5910 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75235
Toll Free: 800-501-HOPE (4673)