ONE THOUSAND GIFTS

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transparent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world. ~ Sara Ban Breathnach

Saturday, December 17, 2011

God With Us


God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them. ~ Isaac, a Mennonite Pastor


You will have to excuse me if I have posted this song, God With Us, by Todd Agnew before.  It is one of my favorites, so I watch for videos that use its lyrics.  Plus, many artists have used scenes from The Nativity so I get confused on what I have shared where. : )

God with us, Immanuel.

During recent weeks I have journaled my thoughts, my questions, my insights around this truth of Christmas.  God came to reside WITH us.  Immanuel.  Still, it is difficult to discover God within the pain, the despair, the suffering of life.  Of both my life, lives within the communities nearby, and lives of those I only see from a distance on TV.

A wordle expresses this Biblical truth, God With Us.

So, as a pastor, as a seeker....I hold both.  The despair and the pain along with the truth as found in scripture, Immanuel, God with us.

In his Advent sermon, Pastor Isaac uses two edgy quotes of a monk by the name of Sebastian Moore that give me thoughts to consider as I struggle with the tension of what I see and the truth I read.
Christ is present to us insofar as we are present to one another. It’s a call to receive God’s love from one another, and to be present, to make Christ’s love available—to wait, and watch, and hope that Christ will come in and through us.
The second challenge of Moore's:

...look forward to the point when the whole mystery of God will be known in the clasp of your brother [or sister’s] hand. But when we feel those hands, as we pass the peace, we must also remember that the One we worship has holes in his hands. Yes, Christ has come to us, but he is also standing with holes in his hands, awaiting our discovery.
(sigh...) Discovering Immanuel, God with Me, in the messiness, the pain, the discomfort of life.

I am certain I have journaled (verses just "thinking" it) that I believe we, the Church, tend to sugar coat, to romanticize, the Christmas story. My prayer has been that during this season of waiting, Advent, I might look deeper into this familiar story with all its familiar characters and discover Immanuel in a new way.

Many Blessings ~ Sandi 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Unexpected Gifts

Christmas presents. Gifts bestowed and received. Maybe a surprise or two. You, the Gift surpassing all other gifts, bring us more than we might expect. Presents that did not make our list, something to wear on the inside of us such as truth, generosity, patience, reconciliation, and respect for one another. Each Christmas, another gift of growth. What will you gift us with this year? ~ Joyce Rupp, Fragments of Your Ancient Name


Such a strange way to save the world...

Gifts bestowed and received...Presents that did not make our list, something to wear on the "inside" of us...

Chapter 6, What Do You Want?, begins with an unexpected gift in the midst of a tiring ordinary day and, even though Ann has spent much time recording gifts, she needed a loving presence to redirect her gaze from the ordinariness to help her see the extravagant gift a mere two steps away.
His whisper brushes the curl of my ear, "When I saw it, I knew you'd want it too."...he who made vows to a woman and chaser. No - he didn't actually make vows to that woman. But this is the woman I am becoming. That eucharisteo is making me - fulfilling thanks vows to God. I am starved and the feast makes me wild. Because really, who gets to touch the moon? Tonight, she's close. I might. (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 104)
Racing across the field, camera in hand, Ann runs, laughing...drinking in all that is and she celebrates the realization that she IS STILL a child.
Who am I to see glory with unveiled face? Is that what the child seeks? Is that why I escape motherhood at the dinner hour, because I can't see the glory there, here, right in the moment? Still? And me slowing for the hunt, looking for even one thousand gifts, sanctuaries in moments, seeking the fullest life that births out of the darkest emptiness, all the miracle of eucharisteo. (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 105)
I am wondering who helps me to notice graces and gifts I might otherwise miss.

As I wonder I believe that it may be the Grands, who step into life ready to discover and ready to be surprised.

A small child.  One of the most vulnerable and even insignificant members of our society, it is they who help me to notice.

How I wish we could not push that sense of wonder, of vulnerability from a child's heart by burdening him with the world's stuff.  Yet, there is hope for me, for all children, that we can grow up, regardless of how old and wise we might be, we can grow up and regain a sense of that wonder....within the smallest and most ordinary moments.

Ann too thinks how after all she has learned, how she is still learning...still growing...
Yes - maybe that woman-child. The one who lives her life in circles, discovering entering into, forgetting and losing, findin her way round again, living her life in layers - deeper, round further in. I know eucharisteo and the miracle. But I am not a woman who ever lives the full knowing. I am a wondering Israelite who sees the flame in the sky above, the pillar, the smoke from the mountain, the earth open up and give way, and still I forget. (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 106)
Oh, does this confession easy my own seeking/forgetting heart! For I too know, and yet still I forget!!!

Once again a reminder that I can discover myself within the ancient stories of these living scriptures.
I empty of truth and need the refilling. I need come again every day - bend, clutch, and remember - for who can gather the manna but once, hoarding, and store away sustenance in the mind for all the living?(Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 106)
If I am like the ancient Israelites wandering.

If I depend upon others to help me to discover and feast upon the manna given.

Who do I walk beside?

How do I help them to discover and to feast?

For I am not called to journal my gifts and hoard them, I am called to celebrate my discoveries with others so that together we might feast.  That is why God came to live among us - Emmanuel.

Jesus came for me.

Still, he is not my gift to hoard.  I am called to announce his coming....the gift of his presence.

Lord, help me to discover those unexpected gifts, those gifts that have not made my list, those gifts that are like manna, gifts that are "you" within my day and then help me to share the gift of your presence among, within, and between all that is within this life. By your Spirit, help me to grow back to being like a child.  AMEN.





Many Blessings ~ Sandi


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

All is grace.

Take time to be holy. The word 'holy' does not mean 'goody-goody'; it means set apart for sacred use. That is what these quiet moments in My Presence are accomplishing within you....This process requires blocks of time set aside for communion with Me. ~ Sarah Young, Jesus Calling


A needed reminder this morning as busy days continue... Busy days that contain "good" things, yet if I don't allow Jesus to be born through me within my encounters, I fear they are only empty encounters.

In her devotion book, Fragments of Your Ancient Name, Joyce Rupp writes:
Words, words, words, and more words, 
Spoken, written, throughout history and life. 
None can compare with you, the Word, 
A message complete and all-encompassing, 
Sent forth to humanity from the Great Heart 
T speak the completeness of all words: Love. 
O Word of the Holy, your message is alive, 
Written in covenantal script never to be erased. 
May each common word coming forth from me 
Echo the magnificent love of you, the one Word.
In Chapter 5, What in the world...is grace?, Ann writes of a time when her world is turned upside down with the words,
 Levi's hand went through a fan in the barn!" (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 80)
Hard eucharisteo, times for which it is difficult, gut wrenching, to offer up gratitud.  A horrific accident, the death of a loved one, a senseless act of violence....

As she continues writing her thoughts through this experience and as she remembers other such times, the truth that what she sees, she sees through her lens of perspective.
Only the Word is the answer to rightly reading the world because The Word has nail-scarred hands that cup our face close, wipe away the tears running down, has eyes to look deep into our brimming ache, and whisper, 'I know. I know'. (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 87)
Ann comes to the realization that life is not a mix of grace moments and curse moments, but that all of life is grace - an "ugly/beautiful" paradox in which God is always present and always at world, no matter how difficult the circumstance.
Le laid peut etre beau - The ugly can be beautiful. The dark can give birth to life; suffering can deliver grace. (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 99)
Thomas Aquinas defined beauty as id quod visum placet - beauty as that which being seen, pleases. If all the work of transfiguring the ugly into the beautiful please God, it is a work of beauty. Thus, holding such a realization, Ann asks me to consider:
Is there anything in this world that is truly ugly? That is a curse? (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 99)
I've been working on my sermon for this coming Sunday, the text is Luke 2:1-20 but I've backed up a bit and have thought about the events that led up to Luke 2 and what it meant for Mary to say, "Let it be with me just as you say." (Luke 1:38)  When she agreed to this plan of God's, her life became complicated....  Big time complicated.

As I have thought of all these words and images, of Voskamp, Luke, Job... I have held the truth that suffering has nourished grace in my life and that pain and joy are arteries of the same heart - that mourning and dancing are but movements in God's symphony of beauty.

When I stay focused on The Word, I know within my heart that it is my perspective that labels something as being "good or bad".  That in this world, God is always good and that regardless of my circumstances...I am ALWAYS loved.

That means everything....EVERYTHING is eucharisteo.

I am reminded of this truth every time I come to The Table.  At The Table I am reminded... I am told TO REMEMBER... that out of pain and suffering God transformed the world.

All is grace only because God does transfigure.

O Lord, I may read and write these truths...I hold them....yet it is only by your Spirit that I can "live" this truth as I walk through this world that, when I see though "my" lens, holds so much pain. Help me today to see through your eyes, through the lens of your Word. AMEN!!


This week I am focusing on Mary and her response to take part in God's plan, but Joseph.... Joseph is often a forgotten character in this transforming event.  Michael Card offers a wonderful song...that is one of my favorite songs of Christmas.

Oh...might I be able to surrender and trust God to work through the things that seem "bad/painful/despairing..."

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Monday, December 12, 2011

Breath of Heaven

My computer got left at the church office yesterday.  I had planned to return to the church, but after my last call of the afternoon....I simply forgot and headed home.

When I got home I discovered my PC isn't able to connect to the Internet....  Sunday was one long and interesting day. : )

I'm at the office this morning, with a lot of work waiting, several worship services coming up, a good possibility of two funerals in the near future, and a surgery this afternoon.  ....plus all the stuff coming up with/for my family.

As I drove to the church this morning, thinking about all that is coming up, this song came to mind.  It became a prayer as I held each phrase.

I am waiting in a silent prayer.

I am frightened by the load I bear....do you wonder if a wiser one should have had my place....be with me now.

Such wonderful words.  Such a poignant prayer for I am called to bring Christ into all the places I step today.

Many Blessings ~ Sandi


Friday, December 9, 2011

Today....Respond with Gratitude

A wonderful video to hold during this weekend...this two weeks before Christmas weekend!  Can you believe it?

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

All life comes out of bleakness.

When the desire to go forward lessens, When the brightness of insight dims, When the hope of fining a way fails, It is then that I enter into your darkness And I find a nest in your sheltering womb. Entering the hushed cave of your heart I abide in the shadow of your presence, Tuning toward that which is not seen But known in faith, accepted with hope. Resting there, I am enveloped in your love. ~ Joyce Rupp,  Fragments of Your Ancient Name


Another of my favorite songs of Christmas, Mary, Did You Know?

Yesterday I listened to a K-LOVE DJ tell of decorating her first Christmas tree as an independent adult. It was beautiful and "perfect".  She was excited to show others her beautiful tree. Eventually she married, had a family.... and she has allowed her small children to decorate the tree. : )

You guessed it, this tree is not the tree she decorated "before kids".  She admitted this tree is not the "perfect" tree of her younger days. But then,  as she concluded her story she said,
"In the messiness, there you find perfection."
Jesus, when being tempted in the wilderness, said, "It is written..."

Ann Voskamp writes,
And it's the Word of God that turns the rocks in the mouth to loves on the tongue. That fills our emptiness with the true and real good, that makes the yes see, the body full of light. (AnnVoskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 96)
Messiness.  Bleakness.  Despair. Sorrow. Darkness....Have you ever thought that new life come out of such places, and hasn't it always been so?

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. ~ Genesis 1
Ann writes:
All new life labors out of the very bowels of darkness...Out of the darkness of the cross, the world transfigures into new life. And there is no other way. (AnnVoskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 96)
In yesterday's video Mary was shown as "bearing down".   It is suffering/bleakness/imperfection... that has the realest possibility to bear down and deliver grace.

I have read stories of such grace being delivered and I have experienced receiving such grace.  It has been within my brokenness that I have been able to turn toward God, the one who give such grace, and in that grace I have discovered the fullness of joy.

Mary, did you know....

In the midst of suffering, it is difficult to know that grace/new life....is being formed within me and around me as the Spirit of God hovers......

Ephesians 1:11 says,

11-12It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.
He's working out everything and everyone....

Ummmm, I've been journaling about eyesight and perspective.  I want to focus on the same Word Jesus focused on that enabled him to stay focused on Truth while in the wilderness as I work and live through my own wilderness experiences.  I'm thinking that in some ways "life" is a wilderness experience and it is my choice on what I choose to focus.

I can focus on the questions, the fear, the worry...the despair, the "whys" or I can focus on the Truth that tells me the Spirit of God hovers within, among, between...working out everything and everyone.  I can focus on that which brings new life out from the questions.....from that which seems to be total bleakness.....  New Life!

During this season of Advent, of anticipation.... I want to do my best to choose...to wear the lens of that Word on which Jesus focused and as I strive to do this, I pray that I might see.  Who knows when angels might appear in the sky announcing Great News?  : )

I do not want to be so preoccupied with "stuff" that I might miss seeing, hearing....



Many Blessings ~ Sandi



Thursday, December 8, 2011

Taking a moment to simply be....

Each week I end worship by saying:
The Living Christ wants you to take him from this space into life "out there".
He wants/he encourages you to laugh and to love and then to laugh some more.
To listen and to learn.
To have opinions AND to respect the opinions of others.
To be honest.
To do little things like saying, "Please" and "Thank You."
To be a friend.
But most importantly to be the unique and gifted child you were each created to be.


This morning, I've read my devotions and a few pages in Ann's book, but....  that's about as much as my mind will hold at the moment.  I think this is one of those times Jesus is asking/encouraging me to "Laugh"....


....and simply rest with a good cup of coffee!

Blessings for a good Thursday!



Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Watch for me today, San!

I am with you in all that you do, even in the most menial task, I am always aware of you, concerned with every detail of your life... Sarah Young, Jesus Calling




I discovered this video yesterday and I sat.... I watched.... I listened.... I pondered.....

Sarah uses scripture to write her devotions as though Jesus himself is speaking to me.  Today she continues saying:
Nothing escapes My notice - not even the number of hairs on your head. However, your awareness of My Presence falters and flickers; as a result, your life experience feels fragmented. When your focus is broad enough to include Me in your thoughts, you feel safe and complete. When your perception narrows so that problems or details fill your consciousness, you feel empty and incomplete.
Learn to look steadily at me in all your moments and all your circumstances. Though the world is unstable and in flux, you can experience continuity through your uninterrupted awareness of My Presence. Fix your gaze on what is unseen, even as the visible world parades before your eyes.
The question in the video, "Would you have come that night....  do I have room...?

I've been working through Ann's book and asking where God is in these hard eucharisteo moments.... moments that seem to be unending.

My mom sharing the plight of two life long friends who are in nursing homes....wondering "Why" as their bodies fail them yet they remain here.  Why....


A woman I will be visiting later today who lost her grip on "life" many years ago and now lies in a hospital bed with a questionable diagnosis on life.

A young man and his family with whom I will pray with today who wants to be a vital part of society, but because of an accident faces yet one more surgery today...

Brunch with a wonderful group of women, who each holds the reality that their bodies are no longer 30, loved ones are experiencing difficulties in health, time, questions....

Four young women who have my heart and who each hold unbelievable tensions, questions, schedules....and I am helpless to help....

OMG....I sound like Job!

Before I leave today I think I will read through God's response to Job for when I read Job, not in terms of human suffering but in terms of the limits of my understanding, I am reminded.... I am reassured that:
Nothing escapes My notice...Learn to look steadily at Me in all your moments and all your circumstances...Fix your gaze on what is unseen, even as the visible world parades before your eyes.


I have been holding on to this image for weeks.  Besides reading Job before I leave today, I think I may print this out and put it on the dash of my car...just as a reminder.

Unlike the Job character, I know the rest of the story....

I so appreciate this song by Faith Hill, A Baby Changes Everything.  It, like all these images I have included today remind me that Jesus is Emmanuel...God WITH me.....

This video reminds me that we have romanticized the nativity story.  I journaled a few days ago that there would have been pain, tears, uncertainty, loss.... by those who gave of themselves to be used so that God could come and live among us.  Lord! Help me to embrace the truth that you are within and between all that I see, all that I hold, all that I carry.....  Lord, through the power of your Spirit, help me to give thanks in the circumstances I will be carrying this day.....AMEN!


Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Monday, December 5, 2011

My Eyesight - My Perspective

That which seems evil, is it a cloud to bring rain, to bring a greater good to the whole of the world? Who would ever know the greater graces of comfort and perseverance, mercy and forgiveness, patience and courage, if no shadows fell over a life? 




Ann continues to read through her cards containing verses of scripture:
See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heals... ~ Deuteronomy 32:39
Ann writes that these words reconfigure the battle field under her feet.
I grip the card and I know all our days are struggle and warfare (Job 14:14) and that the spirit-to-spirit combat I endlessly wage with Satan is this ferocious thrash for joy. He sneers at all the things that seem to have gone hideously mad in this sin-drunk world, and I gasp to say God is good.
Jesus said, "Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, deep that darkness is!" (Matthew 6:22-23)

Today I read with horror the story of a father who attached a tire jack to his 2 y.o. daughter's car seat and then threw her/car seat and all into a river....she was awake.

I've a two y.o. grandson....

I wanted to scream....  but to whom? ..... to what?

Ann believes that if Satan can keep her eyes from the Word, her eyesight is too poor to read the light - to fill with light.
Bad eyes fill with darkness so heavy the soul aches because empty is never truly empty; empty is only a full, deepening darkness. So this is what it has to be. Eve in the Garden, Satan's hiss tickling the ear, 'Did God actually say...?'
You know, I have been raised in the church.  I grew up attending Sunday School, Youth Group, Young Adult classes....until I began teaching classes myself.  Yet, I continue to be amazed, and somewhat alarmed, by how little I know and how much there is still to learn, to study, to reflect upon....

I sometimes wonder if that is one of the weaknesses of the Church today.... this spiritual illiteracy that I feel within myself and notice in many others.

The world around me is dark!  It is much darker than I even realize because I live within its darkness.  I have been lulled into "thinking" I see, that I know the Light....

It is so easy to become a lazy Child of God.

Holding all that has gone wrong in her life and within the life of others, Ann writes:
Not using anything to bend the light of this world so I can read my own messy days? Spray on another layer of graffiti; worthless. 
So, I have been ambushed. 
Without God's Word as a lens, the world warps.
Ann slips her scripture card back into her pocket, thus "slipping on her glasses."

Sigh.....

I'm stepping through the season of Advent.  I'm reading stories I have heard all my life!  I "know" these stories so well, I don't even need the Bible to tell these stories.

Yet, after all my Advent seasons, this Advent I am wondering if I "know" the main character of the story as well as I know his story?

I am grateful for authors like AnnVoskamp, Joyce Rupp, Phil Gulley, Eugene Peterson....and so many others who challenge me to continually check my eyesight.... to continually challenge me to ask hard questions.....

At the same time, I am grateful for my parents and grandparents, for Sunday School teachers and professors, for friends and for those joining me on my journey.  I am grateful because through them and within them I have the hope and the courage to pause and look hard in the mirror....

In other words, it is taking an entire village to raise this Child of God! : )




Many Blessings ~  Sandi

Perspective - how I see

"Surely the Lord is in this place and I was not aware of it!" ~ Genesis 28:11-16


: ) My congregation is becoming a bit edgy. They want to sing Christmas carols and I am doing my best to resist the pressure to please and to sit within this season of Advent.  Advent, is the time of waiting, of watching, of seeking.  In some ways it is an uncomfortable place to be, waiting....  I'm not surprised these good people want to skip over this time of waiting and jump right into the glory and excitement of Christmas.

Still, we are called to be still, to be patient, to watch....  To be like Jacob and discover that the Lord is in this place!

Sarah Young writes in Jesus Calling,
"His discovery was not only for him but for all who seek Me. Whenever you feel distant from Me, say: 'Surely the Lord is in this place!' Then, ask Me to give you awareness of My Presence. This is a prayer that I delight to answer."
In Chapter 5, Ann writes of her son's injury and her own struggles during this time.  She gives Levi two Tylenol and then goes looking for medicine of her own which is in the form of cards with Bible verses.
Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand. Isaiah 14:24 (NASB) 
A good God plans everything. EVERYTHING. So a good God can only...make plans for good? He only gives good gifts? A thing of evil cannot be created by a good God? (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 88)
(groan....)

Such a question to hold on a Monday morning!

It is still black as ink outside.  The light from my lamps cast shadows when it hits my chair....  Ann reflects that a shadow is an empty space, a hole in the light.
Evil is all that lacks the goodness of God, a willful choice to turn away from the full goodness of God to that empty of His goodness.
All God makes is good. Can it be that, that which seems to oppose the will of God actually is used of Him to accomplish the will of God? That which seems evil only seems so because of perspective, the way the eyes see the shadows. Above the clouds, light never stops shining. (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 88)

Still, what perspective sees good in a child suffering abuse, a young mother dying of cancer, a violent storm that claims lives...

The sun is just beginning to rise and faint light is coming through my blinds.  Light is pushing out the darkness that has surrounded me.  Julian of Norwich wrote:
See that I am God. See that I am in everything. See that I do everything. See that I have never stopped ordering my works, nor ever shall, eternally. See that I lead everything on to the conclusion I ordained for it before time began, by the same power, wisdom and love with whivh I made it. How can anything be amiss?
Perspective.

How I see.

Ann holds similar thoughts and remembers the death of her baby sister.  She sees the tombstone in her mind's eye...
I won't shield God from my anguish by claiming He's not involved in the ache of this world and Satan prowls but he's a lion on a leash and the God who governs all can be shouted at when I bruise, and I can cry and I can howl and He embraces the David-hearts who pound hard on His heart with their grief and I can moan deep that He did this - and He did.' (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 89)
Perspective.

I don't know.  I struggle with Ann's thought that "God does...." Yet, to disagree takes power away from an Almighty God.

Yesterday we read Chapters 38-41 in Job.  Reading Job has been a blessing, an eye opening experience...a challenge to my perspective.

In Chapter 38 God finally responds to Job and quiets Job's friends with the direct question:

 2 “Who is this that obscures my plans
   with words without knowledge? 
If I read Job as a book that tells of human suffering, God's response is cold and harsh.  However, I have learned that reading Job as a story that tells of the limits of human understanding, changes my perspective.

In Chapter 42 Job humbly responds:

  2 “I know that you can do all things;
   no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
   Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
   things too wonderful for me to know.
Ann writes she can feel God holding her as she expresses her grief, like a flailing child tired in her Father's arms as he whispers in her ear:
Are your ways My ways, child. Can you eat My manna, sustain on My mystery? Can you believe that I tenderly, tirelessly work all for the best good of the whole world - because My flame of love for you can never, ever be quenched? 
Sometimes, Ann writes, we need time to answer the hard eucharisteo and I cannot disagree.  Some times, the darkness is to dark and I cannot see the light chasing the shadows.  Still, during this season of Advent I am encouraged to wait, to seek, to be still......

The season of Advent prepares my heart once again to be open to the truth that God loved me so much that he was willing to come and live in my midst....Emmanuel.  When I can fully embrace this truth, then the eyes of my heart are opened and I see in a new way.....  My perspective has been changed.....

May it come to pass.  AMEN.

  



 Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Make a joyful sound..


So lift up your voice and sing out His praise
It’s Christmas
Born is the King, rejoice in the day
It’s Christmas
Make a joyful sound
It’s Christmas
Let His praise resound
It’s Christmas ~ Hillsong - Born is the King


This morning, reading the post of a friend (Radical Ramblings and Thoughts of a Southern Girl) I smiled.

I smile as I considered her words and insight on the word "HOPE."

I thought how some of my posts recently have felt a bit dark as I journal through Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts.  Yet, I believe it is my strong sense of Hope that enables me to have the courage to sit with some of these difficult questions.

So, in the spirit of my Radical Ramblings Sister, this morning I am not cracking Ann's book, I am simply smiling and enjoying the Hope of this Advent Season.

I am celebrating that Hope because within this Hope, I know Joy, Love, and Peace.

Happy Saturday!

Born unto us this day a Savior
Gifted from heaven to a manger
The hope of the world
A light for all mankind
All of the earth rejoice
It’s Christmas time

So lift up your voice and sing out His praise
It’s Christmas
Born is the King, rejoice in the day
It’s Christmas
Make a joyful sound
It’s Christmas
Let His praise resound
It’s Christmas

Goodwill to all the earth
And peace divine
All of the earth rejoice
It’s Christmas time
It’s Christmas time

So lift up your voice and sing out His praise
It’s Christmas
Born is the King, rejoice in the day
It’s Christmas
Make a joyful sound
It’s Christmas
Let His praise resound
It’s Christmas


Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Friday, December 2, 2011

Reading His Messages

The woods spell out words. I need a lens to read them. Every dark woods has words. And every moment is a message from The Word-God who can't stop writing His heart. ~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts


I just happened upon this video today...and was touched.  It spoke to the busyness and the chaos that is so much a part of my world... The "stuff" that is part of my world, yet I often simply "walk through blindly."

A couple of years ago I had cataract surgery on both.  Now, this surgery was SUPPOSED to remove the cataracts AND give me perfect vision, something I had not enjoyed since pre-school days.

It didn't.

The surgeon made mistakes and for months I struggled with poor eyesight until I finally canned the surgeon and returned to my original optometrist.  She immediately diagnosed the problem and put contacts in my eyes.  I can still remember my excitement.  I even called the optometrist's office to exclaim, "I can see the numbers on license plates!!!"

Ann shares a similar story of asking her dad why anyone would bother putting a sign up in their woods if no one could make out the words.

She was taken to see an optometrist. and the next time she went past the woods she saw the words "as clear as a bell and I read them plain:
Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. (Acts 16:31 KJV)
The woods spell out words. I need a lens to read them.  Every dark woods has words. And every moment is a message from The Word-God who can't stop writing His heart.  But who can read His messages? 

These few sentences caused me to stop and consider.

Just recently I listened to, what I labeled as "horrific" stories, of some individuals and families.

A fourth grader who had heart surgery this week and will need ANOTHER halo screwed into his head in 2012 to correct something about how his head does/does not grow.

A young mother given a few months to live.

A young man facing another surgery to correct injuries from an accident....a surgery that promises to be painful but does not promise to offer relief.

If God is writing His heart in the world, what do these words spell out?

I've been reading the book of Job.  In 33:13-14 one of Job's friends say:

God is far greater than any human.So how dare you haul him into court,
   and then complain that he won't answer your charges?God always answers, one way or another,
   even when people don't recognize his presence. (MSG)
Psalm 19:1-3 reads:

1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
   the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
   night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words;
   no sound is heard from them. (NIV)
Hebrews 4:12...God's words making a careful incision into a life, blade words that kindly cut the tissue back to where soul and spirit join, tenderly laying bare the intents of the heart:

God's word is alive and working and is sharper than a double-edged sword. It cuts all the way into us, where the soul and the spirit are joined, to the center of our joints and bones. And it judges the thoughts and feelings in our hearts. (NCV)

Yesterday, I was frustrated trying to figure something out.  One of my daughters jokingly said, "Mom, there should be an 'App for that'."

This morning I am wondering, "Is there an App for all the pain I hear and see?"

Considering all the words written in the world, Ann to wondered how to deal with the pain in her own life, in the lives of others.
I hold the medicine bottle, but have I found pills for the pain?
To read His message in moments, I'll need to read His passion on the page; wear the lens of the Word, to read His writing in the world. Only the Word is the answer to rightly reading the world, because TheWord has nail-scarred hands that cup our face close, wipe away the tears running down, has eyes to look deep into our brimming ache, and whisper, 'I know, I know.' The passion on the page is a Person, and the lens I wear of the Word is not abstract idea but the eyes of the God-Man who came and knows the pain. (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 87)
Some heavy thoughts for me to consider and hold this morning.

Good Morning America is on and I can hear about words regarding devastating winds, war, economy.... I wonder, "How does the Word read the world?"


Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Joy and Pain


"The difference between shallow happiness and a deep sustaining joy is sorrow. Happiness lives where sorrow is not. When sorrow arrives, happiness dies. It can't stand pain. Joy, on the other hand, rises from sorrow and therefore can withstand all grief. Joy, by the grace of God, is the transfiguration of suffering into endurance, and of endurance into character, and of character into hope--and the hope that has become our joy does not (as happiness must for those who depend upon it) disappoint us." Walter Wangrin, Reliving the Passion


After recording 1000 gifts, Ann reflects on the realization that she has a journal full of blessings, but as she has awaken to the joy of God's presence/grace/gifts, she has also awaken to the reality that awakening to joy also awakens her to pain.
"...life is loss...WHAT will I lose? Health? Comfort? Hope? Eventually, I am guaranteed to lose every earthly thing I have ever possessed. WHEN will I lose? Today? In a few weeks? How much time have I got before the next loss? WHO will I lose? And that's a definite: I will lose every single person I have ever loved. Ether abruptly or eventually...Every step I take forward in my life is a loss of something in my life and I live the waiting." (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 84)
Deep thoughts.

Real thoughts.

Thoughts that I often try to avoid.

In a world of certain loss, then the question comes, "What is 'grace'?"

By naming "blessings", "gifts"...."God Winks" I am striving to be more aware of God in my life.  But, notice the words... "blessings" and "gifts"..... If I name these moments as gifts and blessings, what are the moments of pain, of suffering?


Cursedness?

Emptiness?

Forgotten?

Forsaken?
How do you know how to sift through a day, a life, and rightly read the graces, rightly ascertain the curses? (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 85)
Like  me, Ann asks what is good, what counts as grace, what is the heart of God?

When Job lost everything,  he assumed that God had either turned his back on him or was unfairly punishing him.

What is the heart of God?
Do I believe in a God who rouses Himself just now and then to spill a bit of benevolence on hemorrhaging humanity? A God who breaks through teh carapace of this orb only now and then, surprises us with a spared hand, a reprieve from sickness, a good job and a nice house in the burbs - and then finds Himself again too impotent to deal with all I see as suffering and evil A God of sporadic, random, splattering goodness - that now and then splatters across a gratitude journal? (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 85)
Like Job, Ann draws herself up and asks a hard question.

What are all the moments that I don't list as "gifts", as "blessings"?

What of these moments?


 God, it is difficult, this waiting...waiting when I see such darkness within such brightness.  Give me courage during this season of Advent to hold both the joy and the pain that is life and to see You. Through the power of your Spirit, may my happiness be transformed into your Joy. AMEN.


Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Monday, November 28, 2011

Waiting.... Watching....


We are in the season of Advent. Advent is the name for these days leading us to Christmas and the birth of Jesus. It is a season to give attention to God’s gift for us that is new every year. We watch and we wait in Advent. We watch so that we might be found. ~ Michelle Thomas-Bush


In her devotional book, Jesus Calling, Sarah Young writes:
"Problems are part of life. They are inescapable: woven into the very fabric of this fallen world. You tend to go into problem solving mode all too readily, acting as if you have the capacity to fix everything. This is a habitual response, so automatic that it bypasses your conscious thinking...You are ever so limited in your capacity to correct all that is wrong in the world around you...Rather than trying to fix everything that comes to your attention, ask Me to show you what is truly important..."
I admit to having a love/hate attitude for this season of the church year.

I tire of all the things that slip so easily onto my calendar.  I tire of my inner expectations for myself at church and at home.  I tire of the weary faces of those I meet.  I tire of the constant movement....

The Grands that give me so many smiles.
I love the colors and the music.  I love hearing the bells ringing.  I love the smiles and excitement of the Grands.

I even love the brightly colored gift wrap!

I love the Christmas story.

Yet, more often than I like to admit, I allow the "tires" of the season to create unnecessary "problems" that keep the "loves" of the season hidden. But, this season, I am striving to walk through this season with my eyes more clear, because I want to be more fully living within these moments of mystery and awe.  I want to more fully live into to the gifts that are all around me, just ready to bless me and to give me the promised hope, joy, and peace of this season.

Advent is about waiting.

Advent is walking through the darkness as I await the coming Light.

I've been thinking, how Advent is like my journeying of discovering and living through the eyes and heart of Eucharisteo.  It is slow, yet I have caught glimpses that encourage me to continue watching and waiting.

Today I planted an Amaryllis bulb.  As I smoothed the soil around the large bulb, I thought how long it takes for the brillant flowers to appear, and then I stopped....

I stopped and thought how this flower is a perfect bulb to plant during Advent, this season of waiting and anticipation.

I thought how this flower, as it slowly puts out it long leaves and then its display of brilliant red flowers, is a perfect visual reminder for me to continue this journey as the days and weeks to come promise to be full.

Daily discipline, especially in the midst of so much stuff,  is the door to full freedom.  Ann writes of this freedom when she records her 1000th gift:
"...the discipline to count to one thousand gave way to the freedom of wonder and I can't imagine not staying awake to God in the moment, the joy in the now.  But, awakening to joy awakens to pain." (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 84)
Joy and pain.  Ann's insight is they are but two arteries of the one heart that pumps through all those who don't numb themselves to really living.

Joy and pain.

I resist pain.

I want to problem solve pain and make it go away... disappear.  Yet, Ann, as she writes her 1000th gift comes face to face with the reality that "awakening to joy awakens to pain."

I didn't expect that.

When I pause and consider all these thoughts; as a mother of daughters...when I sit with the Christmas story and consider all that would have been beneath the words of this familiar story, I can imagine there would have also been pain and loss within the wonder and mystery.

God, through the power of your Spirit, may I be given the courage to continue walking through this time of waiting so that I might learn to live with both the joy and the pain of life.  May I walk through this season of Advent with eyes more open and a heart more full. AMEN.


Many Blessings ~ Sandi