Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Blessing for a New Year {2016}


I read this beautiful blessing by Rabbi Frederick L Klein and wanted to share it with you for this new year...



Blessings for a New Year


May you be blessed with sudden insights and inspiration.

  May you be graced with quiet moments 
of simplicity and reflection.

May you be supported by your loved ones when you need them.

May you be a source of strength to those around you.

  May you received embraces from parents, 
children, and long lost friends.

  May you cry at a good movie with a person you love.

  May you read a newspaper and react to injustice- 
both in mind and deed.

  May you pick up a hobby that you have always wanted to do.

May you say goodbye to habits and thoughts 
that have become a burden for you.

  May you forgive those who have hurt you.

  May you travel to new places inside yourself.

  May you build the world you have always wanted 
for yourself and others.

  May you have late mornings with a good cup of coffee,
and enjoy the fresh air.

  May you feel healthy- physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

May you hear the joy and the sorrow of this great universe 
in which we live.

And may you –and us all- be blessed with peace.

Rabbi Frederick L Klein

Thursday, December 17, 2015

An Advent Credo (by Daniel Berrigan)


Advent Credo
 Daniel Berrigan



It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss—

This is true: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life;

It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction—

This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.

It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word, and that war and destruction rule forever—

This is true: Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, his name shall be called wonderful councilor, mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of peace.

It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world.

This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo I am with you, even until the end of the world.

It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted, who are the prophets of the Church before we can be peacemakers—

This is true: I will pour out my spirit on all flesh and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall have dreams.

It is not true that our hopes for liberation of humankind, of justice, of human dignity of peace are not meant for this earth and for this history—

This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that the true worshipers shall worship God in spirit and in truth.

So let us enter Advent in hope, even hope against hope. Let us see visions of love and peace and justice. Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage: Jesus Christ—the life of the world.

From Testimony: The Word Made Flesh, by Daniel Berrigan, S.J. Orbis Books, 2004.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Eighth Day of Hanukkah - The Light of Life Shining in Community and a Prayer for Healing


The eighth candle represents life, light and new beginnings.  


Diving into the richness of the Hebrew language:

The name of the eighth candle is "Het" since "Het" or "Chet" is the eighth letter in the Hebrew alphabet.  As such, it carries strong symbolic meaning - it looks like a wall or a fence, and is made of the previous two letters (Vav and Zayin) joined at the top.

Het is the letter of life.  For instance, chayim (life) and chayah (living) both begin with it.  The word for devotion, chasidut, also begins with Het; this fact gives rise to the idea that "true life begins with devotion to God". 

Het is also the letter of light - Vav represemts the "yasher" light that descends from God and Zayin represents the "chozer" light that ascends or returns to God.




For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 
(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)...
Ephesians 5:8-9


Finally, since Vav represents people or others and Zayin represents time, Het is a picture of spending time in community (chavaruh)!


Seven is the number of completion, therefore, the next number, number eight, represents a new beginning point. The eighth day of Hanukkah can be thought of as a launching point, of "going out" into our immediate family, our workplace, our neighborhood, our world (all forms of community) as carriers of His light, having allowed that Light to permeate any dark corner of our own hearts and lives, and bringing the message of fresh starts and new beginnings to each person we meet!


Ideas to bring His light wherever you go

(Gather the entire family together for another brainstorming session.)  
Think about how children bring a sense of delight wherever they go ~ how can we meet others with these childlike characteristics?



As adults, we have more life experiences that might have taught us that these childlike qualities are not beneficial in all circumstances.  There could be old, unhealed wounds that would prevent us from seeing another as worthy of God's light that we carry with us.  

Exercise

As you read through the above list, note if there are any instances that come to mind in which you KNOW you are unable to show these characteristics, or even narrow the exercise to one or two characteristics.  

Hold that instance in your memory and examine it: 1) are there any emotions attached? 
2) is there a hurt that still throbs? 
3) was there a lesson taught that you now know you can unlearn?

Most of our past experiences that still bring pain to our hearts are events that taught us we were unlovable and/or unworthy to receive the love of someone important to us.

The good news that Jesus brings is that He loved us so much, even before we were born, even before we understood who He was, even before we told Him we wanted Him in our lives, that He did what was necessary to bring us into a love relationship with Him.  We are loved right now, unconditionally and completely, in all of our mistakes, weaknesses, strengths and talents.

Any place in our hearts that carries wounds of not being loveable can be transformed by inviting His light and life to enter in.  

THIS is the message of the eighth candle!



Older children may have painful experiences, too.  They may be able to do this exercise on their own, or you might lead them through it as a gentle "walk along besider", just as the Holy Spirit walks beside you and helps you!

A Prayer for Healing (2)

Ask Jesus to bring His light there. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Ask Him to make it clear to you.

Jesus, I invite you into this broken place within me (this wound, this memory). I give you total access to my heart. Come, Lord, shine your light here. Reveal to me all that is going on here. What is this about, Jesus? Come and show me, meet me here, in this place.
Ask Jesus to speak a word about this area of woundedness:

Jesus, come and lead me in healing this brokenness in my heart. Speak to me here, Lord. What are you saying to me? Give me ears to hear and eyes to see what you are revealing. Let no other voice speak but you, my Lord Jesus, and you alone.

It is probably safe to say that we may not have handled our hurt or brokenness well.  We may have pushed it down, or tried to fix it in our own power, or tried to mask it with things that became addictions. Jesus often shows us these places too, and we can renounce these acts and confess our sin that connects to our wound.

Jesus, forgive me for the ways I’ve mishandled my brokenness. You alone make me dwell in safety. Forgive me for all my self-protection and self-redemption, and for all my false comforters. (You’ll want to renounce specific sins you are aware of here.) Cleanse my heart of every sin by your shed blood.

I now break every agreement I have made with Satan and his lies. (Get specific here. What have you believed, bought into?) I renounce any claim I have given to my Enemy, and in the name of Jesus, I command him to flee.

Jesus, come now and do as you promised to do—heal my broken heart and set me free. (Listen here for what Jesus is saying.) Bring this place into your love and healing, bring this place home. I welcome your healing, and I welcome this part of my heart home. Come, bind me up and make me whole.

Conclusion

Jesus' life and light in you become brighter and brighter as His healing power takes hold.  This is when we truly bring His presence into community: our family, our neighborhood, our work, our world.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Seventh Day of Hanukkah - His Light, His Perfection, Our Completion


"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another..."
1 John 1:7


Today we light the Seventh Candle, called Zayen which represents "Spiritual Perfection".

Spiritual perfection, or "completion", is only possible through Jesus.  He is the only One who lived a sinless, perfect life, and He bestows that onto us when we become His brothers or sisters.  All of our striving and trying to work out earning our salvation or proving we are worthy can be released...He has already done all that is needed.  


As we "let go" of our own feeble efforts, we become less burdened, more free, less controlling, more delighted in life, less immature, and more understanding of others and where they are in their journeys.  

Where we feel inadequate (imperfect), He joins with us to complete in us the very thing  we are lacking.  

His provision is perfect, so we never need to despair over our own limitations or areas of weaknesses or inability.  

He gives us His ability.  He empowers us to the same degree that we relinquish selfish control and surrender to His will. 


Applying the truth of the seventh candle
Read and meditate on the passage in 1 John 1:7-9.  If you are doing this as a family, allow time for each family member to share how they believe they can personally walk in Jesus light...

Following are my thoughts on verse 7: 
His light exposes our personal darkness; as we relinquish our darkness to His loving light, He cleanses us from all unrighteousness.  This is the repentance verse 9 speaks of.

Then, we can walk in Christ's light - His light obscures differences, erases the need to compare, allows us to "see" and accept one another from His perspective...THIS is true fellowship...

Write the thoughts down.  Use 3 x 5 cards or post it notes and place them around your home, allowing them to be reminders of how we can walk in and display His light!

Closing Prayer and Blessing

 May God's spiritual perfection, alignment, revelation, and provision be released in my heart, my family's lives and in Israel!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Fifth Day of Hanukkah - Simple Quiet Pleasures


Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
Psalm 119:105
 

Simple Pleasures(1) 

Spend tonight savoring simple joys. 

Pop some corn and snuggle with a book of sentimental short stories of Christmases past. 

If you live in an area with snow, take a walk and leave a trail of snow angels behind. 

In a warmer climates, grab a blanket, head outside, and search for the star in the East. 

Consider watching this video - Star of Bethlehem. It weaves science and faith together, beautifully building God's incredible timing for sending His Son! 

Take this night as an opportunity to reflect on Christ’s humble birth. Turn off all the lights except Christmas decorations and/or candles to really set a quiet mood for the night time advent of His presence into the world.  Try spending a minute or two in complete silence together as a family (can you do it?  Is it comfortable or uncomfortable?) Brainstorm simple ways to invite Him into places of your hearts, your homes, and your daily activities that may have been lacking His loving light in 2015.  Write down the thoughts and circle 3 things on the list that you believe you want to commit to in the coming year.  Keep it handy and reflect and refine it as the days of Hanukkah and Advent continue...

A Prayer Exercise of Quiet Solitude
1. "But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” (Habakkuk 2:20).  
Commit the first 2 or 3 minutes of your prayer time to silent meditation on the Lord - His majesty, His power, His love, His worthiness.  Let your heart be led into a place of awe over this mighty God who extends His love and provision to all of His Creation!
2. “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15).
Allow the Holy Spirit to bring to mind some area of your life that He knows requires some attention - Have you been trying to earn your salvation?  Do you have inordinate guilt over some perceived infraction against the Lord?  Have you sins of commission and sins of omission?  Confess these areas out loud as the Holy Spirit brings them to mind and release them from your mind.  Ask the Lord to increase your understanding of rest and grace, and help you to learn how to trust His provision for you.  Continue to sit, envision His strength becoming part of you and becoming your strength.
3. “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10).
The Hebrew word for "still" in this verse carries the meaning of "going slack".  Think of it as your muscles going to a relaxed state instead of being strained in effort.  You can even think of it as a state of surrender.  And we can be still in a restful frame of mind when we know -  acknowledge, believe, are aware, understand - that He IS God.  The "being still" is akin to yielding to one who we acknowledge is the One in control...it is giving up the control that is so much part of our nature...
Finish your prayer time with 1 to 3 minutes of practicing being still, yielding to His wisdom and sovereign knowledge!

(1) Adapted from the article "Merry and Meaningful" on Just Between Us.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Fourth Day of Hanukkah - Breathe in God, Breathe Out Fear


The LORD is my light and my salvation-- whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life-- of whom shall I be afraid?
 Psalm 27:1


Day Four is a day when we take the opportunity to pause and take time to reflect on the season thus far.   If your heart isn't feeling the peace you anticipated this year, tonight is the night to investigate what could be blocking you from relishing the joy of the season.   

Take 5 minutes to consider some fear that you have.  Then ask yourself:
- Is there a promise in God's Word that addresses it? 
- Is there a wound related to this fear hat needs to be healed? 
- Is there someone related to this fear (even yourself) that He is inviting you to forgive? 

After spending your time of thought, center on Jesus in prayer. Take 5 deep breaths with your hands closed tightly. With each breath, picture breathing IN God's truth concerning your fear and breathe OUT the fear. As you breathe out for the 5th time, open your hands, palms upward as a symbol of releasing your fear. 

Spend how ever long you feel led continuing to talk with the Lord, and close your time with the Amen (which means "yes, let it be so".) 

You can use this before bed to encourage a restful night's sleep, or at the beginning of any day to set your focus on the God of the Universe who also has the hairs on your head numbered, and then we will see the cares and plans of the day through His perspective.  Fear may rise up in little ways, but when you notice its presence, simply breathe - the Lord's truth in and fear out...

 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Third Day of Hanukkah - A Joyful Service Manifesto + Free Printable


The third night of Hanukkah is the night that focuses on Good Deeds.  Light and love continue to flow as "The Royal Law" is honored and celebrated...



What is this Royal Law? James 2:8 reveals the secret:

Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: 
"Love your neighbor as yourself."
James 2:8 NLT

What we know commonly as the "Golden Rule" is a quote from Leviticus, a sacred law of royal love...

Love Your Neighbor
17'You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. 18'You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD. 
Leviticus 19:18

The Royal Law is important to God as it is repeated throughout the Scripture...here are just a few examples:
 
The Greatest Commandment
36"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"37Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38"This is the great and foremost commandment. 39"The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' 40"On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

He answered, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not covet," and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
 
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
 
Galatians 5:14

 Hanukkah becomes the perfect time to demonstrate love to others, even (or especially) our own family.  Zola Levitt shares 8 levels of giving, each higher than the last (1):

1. to give grudgingly, reluctantly, or with regret;
2. to give less than one should, but with grace;
3. to give what one should, but only after being asked;
4. to give before one is asked; 
5. to give without knowing who will receive it, although the recipient knows the identity of the giver;
6. to give without making known one's identity;
7. to give so that neither giver nor receiver knows the identity of the other;
8. to help another to become self-supporting, means of a gift, a loan, or by finding employment for the one in need.

In these days of terrorism and refugees, I believe the Lord is issuing the challenge of the Royal Law, bringing it to the forefront of our minds once again:

'When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.
34'The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, 
and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; 
I am the LORD your God...
Leviticus 19:33-34

What might the Lord put on your heart to do for His children who are suffering?  What opportunities for service exist in your neighborhood, your church, your community?  Which of the "Eight Levels of Giving" might the Lord be leading you to use in your "Good Deed"?  Will you give an act of service? The gift of quality time?  Words of encouragement?  

Good Deeds for the Family
Tradition says that the priests would run to be the first to serve at the Temple.  They were full of joy and eager to begin their daily ministry to the Lord first and then to others.   We, too, are a royal priesthood - what might it look like if we eagerly and joyfully sprang into our duties on behalf of our family every day?

Consider adopting a personal manifesto (at least for the days of Hanukkah and maybe even through Christmas?) of joyful service.  Post a little card with this declaration in a prominent place to help remind you to return to a joyful attitude as the day progresses:

I promise to serve with joy 
while doing my daily duties, chores, and responsibilities.  
I will not complain, criticize or condemn anyone or anything.  
I promise to always look for the good, the pure, the true, the right, the lovely, the noble, the admirable, the excellent, the praiseworthy, in everything and in everyone.  
I commit to be considerate of others first.
Finally, here is a blessing to close your day of considering good deeds(3):


(1) Link is no longer active - 3/20/2017
(2) Link is no longer active - 3/20/2017
(3) Link is no longer active - 3/20/2017
 


 

Second Day of Hanukkah - Remembering Family + Giving the Blessing


So sorry this post is a day late!  Yesterday a computer virus was waging war against me, but I was finally victorious!  Praise the Lord!
 
Hanukkah is "The Festival of Lights" - and so we commemorate each day of the celebration with a graphic and scripture that focuses on different aspects of receiving the Light, being light for others, and reflecting the True Light, Jesus...


The second night of Hanukkah is a time of focusing on family.  So often we think of "being a light" in reference to others; to strangers in other lands, or friends and neighbors and fellow church members.  This night of Hanukkah is a time to shine light on this most precious of relationships, the family, and not take for granted the "world" that lives under the same roof as us!

Family is celebrated in two ways:  by beauty of giving a blessing and by gift giving.

Blessings are spoken after the Hanukkah candles are lit.  Anyone can speak a blessing to any other one. Parents speak blessings to their children, children speak them to parents, and spouses to one another.

Children
There are many scriptural examples of parental blessings if you want to use Bible verses.  You may need to paraphrase them a little.  For instance:

Proverbs 27:11 [You are a wise son/daughter who makes his parents' hearts glad…]
Proverbs 10:11 Your righteous mouth is a fountain of life… 10:31 and flows with wisdom…
Proverbs 4:18 your righteous path will be like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day…
Proverbs 4:22 God's words are life to you and health to all your body…

Or you absolutely can use your own words.  A blessing generally holds these 5 basic components:


1.  Expression of active, ongoing commitment 
2. The use of meaningful touch 
 (a hand on the head or shoulder or even holding hands)
3. the spoken word (letters can count as "spoken")
4. An expression of high value
5. A picturing of a special future

Many times the blessing ends with "I love you" or "I am proud of you" being spoken gently.  

Couples
Traditionally, a husband will read/recite Proverbs 31:10-31to his wife; a wife will read/recite Psalm 112 to her husband.  Holding hands would truly make these readings special.

Priestly Blessing
The priestly blessing from Numbers 6:24-26 is also spoken over the entire family gathered.  Consider passing this tradition to an honor that someone is picked for or who can volunteer for it.





Now is a perfect time to share other scriptures, poems, or short passages of prose that are meaningful or simply favorites of family members. You might consider reading passages about Jesus' family life such as John 2:1-13 (the Wedding in Canna) or Luke 2:41-52 (Jesus lost at the Temple).


Gifts
Every night of Hanukkah is one in which small, inexpensive gifts are exchanged.  But for family night, perhaps think of a gift for a family member where there is no obligation to buy anything, but perhaps give an expression of thanks, or imagine together about a particular dream, or do something that blesses that other person that you might not normally do (requiring a bit of self-sacrifice).  Recall a moment special to you that involves that other person, and share your memory and emotions with him or her...there is no end to the possibilities!  It only takes a little prayerful and thoughtful preparation.  

A Blessing to End the Night

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe who has made us a family!  
Thank you for giving us Your example of a family in Yeshua. 
 Let us always draw near to You through Your son and our Messiah, Yeshua!  
Bless us this night with Your presence as we sleep.  
Keep us safely in Your care and draw us to Your side again.  
Amen.*


* Adapted from "Hanukkah" at http://haydid.org/
 

Monday, December 7, 2015

First Day of Hanukkah - A Blessing


The true light, which gives light to everyone, 
was coming into the world.
John 1:9 
 


Today is the first day of Hanukkah.  Messianic Jews and those who celebrate with them already lit the first candle of Hanukkah when the stars came out last night.  Every night, the candles are lit with the center one, known as the Shamash, or servant, candle.  Jesus declared for all time:

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.
John 8:12 
Hanukkah is a time that we can remember that Jesus is the Light that gives us light, that sets us ablaze with a passion for the things that He is passionate about...
 For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light do we see light.
 
Psalm 36:9
Pray this blessing over yourself and your loved ones today:
Blessing found here (click this link)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Are You A Prisoner of Hope?...Advent 2015 #4


A perfect teaching to go with our Advent theme - I just had to share it with you!
Return to Your Place of Strength, You Prisoners of Hope 

We usually think of being a prisoner as something negative, but to be a "prisoner of hope" is a powerful statement of one's relationship with the Lord...to be so bound to Him that we cannot escape the influence of Hope that permeates His being!

Hope is the joyful anticipation of breakthrough!

To watch the full message, visit: http://www.bethel.tv/watch/3744/hope-in-all-circumstances-sunday-am/2015/11/29 w/ Bill Johnson
Posted by Bethel.tv Redding on Friday, December 4, 2015

Friday, December 4, 2015

How can Hope Abound in a Heart?...Advent 2015 #3


Our God is a God of hope - 

I mull this over in my mind...
why does the writer begin with this thought?


Our God is a God of hope - 
the source of hope is found in Him...

This verse shows there is a relationship to being filled with joy and peace and having hope...
that seems to be the opposite of what I try to do - I try to stir up hope,
hoping that joy and peace will follow...
but here, the Spirit is saying that God will fill us with joy and peace
~ as we believe ~
and THEN hope will abound...
because He is THE GOD OF HOPE...

All that is, all that exists,
reflects a facet of the nature and character of God...
God IS love.
God IS joy.
God IS peace.
He calls Himself "I AM....."
He IS whatever it is I want or need...

If I want more peace...
If I want more joy...
I need more God.

He will fill me with all joy and peace as He fills me with Himself...

God is the God of hope,
Hope is a person,
and hope has a name...
Christ Jesus our hope.
{1 Timothy 1:1}

And how does He fill me (and you)?
As we spend time with Him, He imparts Himself to us through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

When we compare the Spirit-filled life described in Ephesians 5:18-21 with the Word-filled life in Colossians 3:15-17 we find that both passages promise the same things:
a song in your heart,
a thankful attitude,
a pliable, yielding spirit...

A mind that is filled with and yielded to the Word of God has the same effect on our emotions as the mind filled with and yielded to the Holy Spirit.

The Lord imparts Himself through the Holy Spirit as we spend time with Him
in the Word and in prayer.

The definition of hope is this: (1680) elpís (from elpō, "to anticipate, welcome") – properly, 
expectation of what is sure (certain); hope.

Joy and peace are as certain as His Presence
I am praying that He is
filling you with joy and peace 
so that His hope can abound all the more in you and through you - 



- ask Him to impart His revelation concerning this to you!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

How to Have Hope in the Night Hours - Advent 2015 #2

 
Nights can be so long and hard when we are worried and stressed, 
 
but night is the time we can look into the universe, 
be awed at the majesty of the Creator, 
He who named each of the stars,
He who set the constellations in place and leads them forth,

This King of the Universe -
has called us by name, too.
He numbers the hairs on our hear - everyday!
He has adopted us,
 He has ordained abundant life for us...

and in that knowledge, we can understand and experience that we are in His hands as well,
and can trust that He is working all things for our good...
 
He knows what we need before we even ask - 
we can have confidence that our deliverance is coming. 
He is sending a Deliverer - 


{Praying that the truth of His sovereignty will bring hope into your heart...}

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Hope Lights the Way in the Darkness...Advent 2015 #1


The first Sunday in Advent we light the Hope candle - 

When circumstances are the hardest, when life events are the darkest, 
that is when we need hope the most...

Does the light usher in hope...
Or does hope pave the way for light?


 We all need hope:

Hope that our mess isn't the end of us
Hope that "this too will pass"...(whatever "this" is)
Hope that our broken hearts will heal
Hope that this dark night of the soul will be over soon 
Hope that the prodigal will come home soon
Hope that what we are believing for will come to pass before we die
Hope that our children will come to know the Lord
Hope that our attempts at imparting God's goodness, reflecting His Glory is enough
Hope that secret fears will prove unfounded

and we hope against hope...

 
Hope is our assurance that God will finish all He has started.
Hope is our confidence that He will do all He has promised.
All the promises of God are fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
He is our hope, today and forever! (2 Corinthians 1:20)


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Finding Light and Grace in Advent {and the coming year}


Looking for a great way to move into the Christmas season?  

Consider the following:
{found in a facebook group I am in: Contemplative Writers, and shared by Ed Cyzewski}

"This Thanksgiving weekend marks the end of the current Church year. Advent begins tomorrow and we begin a new journey of faith. Thus today is a “hinge day” — a time for gratitude to God for the grace and blessings of the past year, as well as the opportunity to walk forward with the Lord into Advent, as once again we prepare our hearts and homes for the birth of Jesus at Christmas.
 


Questions to consider:
 
Ignatius Loyola regularly invites us to take note of the movements of God’s grace in our daily livings. Today, as this year of grace comes to an end:  
What is happening within my heart? 
What adventures and opportunities of this past year am I really grateful for? 
What individuals and situations have strengthened me, challenged me, stretched me? 
What person and situation has had a particular impact this past year? 
Can I trace God’s presence throughout these past months of grace and opportunity…even if some days or weeks were particularly tough and challenging?

Take some moments today to express your thanks, to compliment a friend, to ask forgiveness, to share your talent and time with someone in need."

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

May your day be full of His blessings...
 
 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Practicing Awareness - an Overview: 7 Steps into Fully, Creatively Living


The glory of God is man fully alive...
St. Ireneus



I have mentioned before that I am a collector
and that is part of the appeal of pinterest and tumblr for me...a way of having a large collection of things I like that takes up virtually "no space"...

How does "collecting" fit into the topic of "Awareness", of being "Fully Alive" and how do these topics influence our art?

As is often the case, I sit down to write what seems to be a simple post, and so much more comes forth...the 7 item list at the bottom begs to be expanded upon, and will be!

To begin, the topic of "awareness" is important in the counseling realm as people are prone to live their lives on "automatic pilot".  Days pass by in a seeming blur, and if one seeks help to find out why their lives are dysfunctional, the individual really can have difficulty finding how their choices have played into their present discomfort {thus why the Scripture declares "in the abundance of counselors there is wisdom"}.  Indeed, when an action/choice/decision has become a habit, it is more difficult for the person with that habit to perceive its existence.  It takes a concentrated, focused effort to perceive and in the case of Christians, a good dose of relying on the Presence of the Holy Spirit to lead into all truth!

Our own God-created physiology can play into the development of "automatic living".  Our skin is designed to acclimate to the feel of clothing or accessories so that we don't notice them within seconds of being placed against the skin.  Our brains are designed to develop the ability to "attend" to certain designated important stimulus while at the same time screening out unimportant stimulus.  These two functions are important to our ability to live our days without distraction, but if lived apart from God or if lived "by might {flesh} and not by Spirit", these functions can lead us into numbness or bewilderment about our inability to experience the abundant life promised to us.

Our minds were also created to momentarily detach {or dissociate} from trauma so that we can do what is necessary to survive.  In some cases, dissociation has become a way of life instead of a defensive strategy to use in a crises.

Awareness, or living in the reality of the present, becomes a needed skill for each of these cases.  So how does one develop {or redevelop} this sense of awareness?  Think of how a young child approaches each day...it is an adventure of new sensations and experiences; curiosity and discovery are normal.  They are open to the adventure of life.  Exploration and revelation are ever before them.  How can we reclaim the sense of adventure and revelation?  Following is a list of suggestions - 7 - try one a day, and then repeat!

 Awareness enhancing activities:

1.  Spend 5 minutes paying attention to your surroundings with your senses.  List (one word to keep is simple) what you hear, see, smell, taste, or can sense through your skin (hot, cold, comfortable, how do your clothes feel, what you are sitting on, etc.)  Consider taking one sense each day, and on days 6 and 7 write reflections on what the senses have revealed to you, or your thoughts about the exercise, or how paying attention to your senses has increased you awareness of the rest of your life.

2.  Count blessings.  3 a day gets you to 1000 over the course of a year.  Do you need a nudge on how to start?  Ann Voskamp's blog, A Holy Experience, has a link to prompts by month. (Plus information how giving thanks for the blessings makes good habits that lead to fuller lives is included.)

3.  Take a break every afternoon at the same time.  Sit down, drink a cup of tea (or in my case, rich dark coffee - no sugar or cream please); don't multi-task, but keep a journal and pencil handy - but this is not journaling time, not even a list making time.  When a thought of "I should" or the list of "to dos" starts running through your mind, just jot them down in the journal quickly for future reference, let the responsibility for it go and let your mind relax.  This might be a time when the Lord speaks to your quieted heart - your handy journal can capture the main idea of His words, but the important thing is not "to do", but "to be". And allow this to be a time when you keep your heart open, where family can come and you listen to their hearts...keep the attitude of "being" and not "doing" while you interact, and see how that affects the family members that come to your "tea time".


4.  Start a virtual collection on pinterest or tumblr.  Limit yourself to 5 minutes on one or the other however.  This becomes a diary of your personal likes, the beauty you are attracted to, the things you are curious about, joy and beauty that is being revealed to you.  It can also be a quick reference to that beauty.  In a very small way, you are creating a personal space for your own likes and loves.

5.  Start a journal:  1)  consider a "quote journal" in your own handwriting.  It will be a keepsake!  Are you writing blessings in a journal?  Consider using the same one for quotes in order to only keep up with one journal.  2).  a nature journal; visually record your surroundings - outside and in!  Sketch, watercolor, use color pencils.  Date your entries. 3).  an art journal; a combination of words and images, collaged, drawn, doodled, sketched, painted colored.  The key is freedom and no concern for the finished product...it is the process that is important!  Don't try to be perfect and let that perfectionism rob you of the benefits of journal keeping!

6. Simplify:  this one word has ramifications in many areas of our life.  Start out by listing possible areas of "too much" that need to be addressed.  Three online places that I like:
a) Home Sanctuary - Christian and her mostly daily emails lead you to clean or maintain a small area, breaking the task into bites even the most busy person can achieve. Want to make your home - your sanctuary? You're in the right place. Come on in and join us!
b) Small Notebook - A Christian blogger in a small home who loves to share the joys and largeness of "small living".  Her family lives in a small space, so she has lots of good ideas for keeping that space from getting full and organizing it.  Small Notebook gives you practical tips and encouragement to simplify your home, your finances, and your time. She hasn't posted since January of 2015, but the blog and all the goodness is still there.
c) Simple Mom - a space dedicated to helping families live simple and intentionally. A book "Organized Simplicity" and "One Bite at a Time" helps make the "simplifying" task, well, simple!

A word of caution - don't let "simplifying" become an issue of overwhelm!  These 3 blogs can help, but give yourself permission to go at a pace is comfortable to you.  I subscribe to "Home Sanctuary", because I like the daily prompts (which I choose to do or not do).  "Small Notebook" is a place I visit during leisurely minutes for inspiration to do more with less.  The same with "Simple Mom".  My visits to these two sites might be once a month, and probably reflects my season in life.  You might find a different routine would fit your lifestyle in a better way. 

7.  Take deep cleansing breaths.  They increase the oxygen that your brain receives, help to cleanse your body of impurities, and release minor stress.  Notice times when you sigh.  Have you been holding your breath unconsciously and your body has just made an attempt to get more oxygen?  Take these opportunities to do several deep breaths...and send sentence prayers to God during the breaths!

One final recommendation...three "simplifying" sources are all you need.  You might find a different three than these, but limit yourself to three.  Anything more is probably procrastination at beginning the task of simplification!

Praying for Him to lead you into the simplicity of devotion to Him 
by letting go of all that is not of Him...
(2 Corinthians 11:3)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

How to Walk Out of Self-Sufficiency {It's Easier Than You Might Think...}



Faith is hard to come by some days. 

This former perfectionist still drifts towards self-sufficiency.  The spiritual disciplines can become the end instead of the vehicle to journey into His Presence. 

My stressed out body lets me know that I have wandered, and now I recognize that my mental state of “being out of sorts” has little to do with the pressures of the world or the schemes of the enemy, but rather it is because of my heart, still prone to wander…


I need to change my perspective…like Job.   
My life hasn’t been reduced like his.  That is perspective right there!  

I have been in Job lately, reading chronologically with my sweet teen through the Bible.  Job was asking “why God…” when all of a sudden, God comes in {after 37 long chapters of man’s wisdom, mind you} and “spoke to Job out of the storm.”

Wow! 
Selah…{pause and think about that!}.

God has a few questions for Job, like: 

 Who is this that obscures my plans
    with words without knowledge?

  Brace yourself like a man;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.
 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
  Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
...


What is the way to the abode of light?
    And where does darkness reside?
  Can you take them to their places?

    Do you know the paths to their dwellings?

Surely you know, for you were already born! 
 You have lived so many years!

God continues speaking of all sorts of wonders, each one illustrating that He is the one in total control - the creation and the continuing rhythm of life…all are sustained by God’s hand.  We can only comprehend a fraction of the entire picture of our lives and all of life on earth; then the heavens are even beyond this. When we look at just the simple processes that we observe everyday, we can begin to move to looking at our lives from God's point of view, instead of our limited earth-bound vision.

Whenever we question “why, God”, we show that we believe we are the ones in control.   
There it is again - my self-sufficiency rearing up in my being…a grandiose heart blind to its short sightedness!  Such is the nature of the flesh!

Notice the bolded and italicized verse, Job 38:2, and these particular words: “that obscures my plans with words without knowledge”.   God is saying that we actually hide our ability to perceive His plans for us when we enter into that domain ruled by our own fruitless words and thinking! 

So, when faith seems far away and I have drifted into controlling my life apart from Him again... 

a walk outside grounds me. 

I can see the heavens, grass, trees, rocks and insects. 
I hear birds and crickets.   
Depending on my direction, I can walk beside a pond or come up to a vegetable garden.  
A spent dandelion head reminds me of the charm of making a wish.   
A hopeful kitten checks for a treat in my hand.  
It is fall, so masses of color are everywhere.  
Leaves let go of their anchor and pirouette to the ground.   
Dried abundance crunches underfoot.   
The air smells pungent and warm.   
I am in the midst of everything God has designed…
                  and my perspective is lifted from hidden “whys” to the true questions…

“How should I respond to this?”
and
“What do You want me to learn from this?”