A Spark in the Soggy Places (Brave Every Day)

This is the word brought to my heart this morning. My wet and soggy spirit aching to find just a little bit of fire again. Of how God came. How He always comes.
It may have been written originally during the spirit of advent – the waiting for Christmas. But aren’t we always in a season of expectancy? Of hope to see Jesus come anew? I am hungry for that today. And grateful to read these words again as a reminder of God’s faithfulness. Even when our spirits are soaked and it’s been a long time since we felt any flame in our veins.
(originally posted December 2013 at trading good for grace)
I have been chewing on these words for days. Feasting on their richness.
Because we all know the feeling of cold water splashed on our souls. Even at Christmas.
Sometimes, it’s from the inevitable storms of life. Sometimes, our spirits are soaked in tears. Or sweat.
Sometimes the rain is our own doing. Often, it is not.
But the One who formed the laws of nature is not restrained by them. And, in my experience, He does His best work when odds look the longest. When our altar wood is soaked.
Christie Purifoy says it beautifully in her Advent post this week, and she has granted me permission to share the whole of them here.

(originally posted December 18, 2013 at www.christiepurifoy.com)

There is Advent on this blog. And there is Advent in my home.

Advent on the blog is, I like to think, serene. Advent at home? Less so.

Here is a confession: I have everything it takes to be a good mother. Unfortunately, those qualities consistently abandon me during the tired edges of the day. Which means I only have what it takes when ¾ of my children are at school, and the last little quarter is asleep in her crib.

Translation: I do not have what it takes.

 

DSC_5405_1

 

So far, our family Advent observance has been … impressive. At least, I’ve been impressed. Most nights we have sat down together to light candles and read a devotion. I can’t take the credit. The whole thing is due entirely to the friend (angel, really) who gave us a complete Jesse Tree collection the first Sunday of Advent. We had everything handed to us: beautifully crafted ornaments for each day, a printout of Ann Voskamp’s family devotional (tied up in green silk ribbon), even a large glass vase. We supplied a bare branch from our yard, and we were in business.

But the wait for Christmas is long and heavy, and our observance has cracked a bit around the edges. Well, worse than that, really. I may have exploded one recent evening after yet another argument over who would hang the ornament. I may have called the whole thing off and sent them to bed. One of them crying those enormous, guilt-inducing crocodile tears.

And yet, Monday night somehow found us gathered, again, around our Jesse tree. I wasn’t optimistic. I was tired. When I glimpsed the evening’s reading – 2 ½ pages from the book of I Kings?! From an obscure story about idol worship?! – I panicked.

I was this close to shutting the book up again and announcing a change of plans. I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t read the whole thing while children fought and pestered me with questions like Who is Baal? What is a prophet? They did what to the animals??

But a fight over who was or was not touching someone’s favorite ornament on the tree threatened to boil over so I did the only thing I could.

I started reading.

***

Do you know the story?

There is a showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Baal’s followers prepare an altar and a sacrifice. Then they spend hours calling on their god to set the thing on fire. They shout. They dance. They prophesy franticly. They even slash themselves until the blood flows.

Here is the eloquence of Scripture: “But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.”

At this point in the reading, I had the full attention of my children. They sat mesmerized. It was as if we could see that frantic, bloody dancing. It was as if we could hear the deafening silence of heaven.

I kept reading.

Elijah sets up the stones and the wood for his own altar. He douses it in water. And more water. There is so much water, and the impossibility is doubled. Tripled.

Elijah prays: “Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

We sat – each of us – with eyes large and breath caught – until: the God of Fire came.

He heard. He came. And there was fire.

“The Lord – he is God! The Lord – he is God!”

***

advent angels

***

Making space for God’s presence in my home feels about as back-breaking as hauling stones. My husband and I stack those stones while little people bicker around our ankles. Too often, their bickering is contagious.

I lose my temper. I can’t take even one more thing. Not one more mess. Not one more argument. Until, I have filled our home, our altar of stones, with so much water. An impossible flood of water.

Making space for God’s presence in my home is also a free gift. It is a beautiful and complete family advent collection handed to me by a friend.

It asks nothing of me. Requires nothing of me.

It is an impossible mess, and it is grace, and my children and I have seen fire.

Because God came.

Because God always will come.

_______________________________

brave-squareIn response to the 31 Day blogging challenge, I will be publishing EVERY DAY in October — reporting on ways I reach out to bravery in my everyday life. (See all posts to date HERE.) To be alerted to new posts, please follow me on Facebook or Twitterusing the links on the right side of this page. Or Subscribe to get posts sent to your Email.

Love Comes Near (Unforced Rhythms Link-up)

Love word with Christmas decorations

I simply cannot get over the beautiful truth that God chooses to be WITH me. The lengths to which He went — to which He continues to go — to position us forever next to each other. It is the message that has been moving in me most strongly this Advent season.

That the promised One is coming. Indeed, that He HAS come. That Hope and Peace and Joy are fully satisfied in He who is Love. I know of no better version of love than this. God is WITH us.

She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’ (Matt 1:23)

WITH is such a powerful, beautiful word.

Not God over us. Not God under us. Not God ahead. Nor behind. Not sleeping. Not tiring. WITH.

With means beside. In communion. Doing life together.

God could have come to Earth in any number of ways. Demanding His rightful place. Making sure He could not be ignored.

But he chose a baby named WITH. 

Because in spite of us being a rag-tag group of messy misfits, He just simply could not imagine NOT being with us. Not 2000 years ago. Not today.

So whether or not you are with the ones you love this Christmas. Whether or not the gifts fit or the tree gets lit. Even if the Bumpus’s dogs eat your turkey.

My fervent wish — my prayer — for you all this Christmas is that the WITH-NESS of God will overwhelm you. And His WITH-NESS will stay with you all through the year.

(Reposted and updated from December 25, 2013)

*******

The wonderful Kelli Woodford (Chronicles of Grace) is taking a well-deserved blogging break in December, but she has graciously let me borrow the Unforced Rhythm link-up community for the next few weeks. Your words are welcome here. So very welcome.

If you stopped by here for the link-up, would you consider to connecting with me as well. On the right of this page you’ll find lots of ways to keep in touch. Just pick your favorite method of communication, and I’ll see you again soon!


Joy that Creeps (Unforced Rhythms Link-up)

 

Christmas Joy BannerThe heat rises slowly. But the frost does not give way.

It can be stubborn like that.

Cold and unfeeling.

Eventually its crystals will succumb. The persistence of warmth provides no other option.

And the progress is small at first. The tiniest of clearings at the far south of the windshield.

My vision is still highly impaired.

I watch as one warm spot edges out the coldness. Then another and another. Until one quick motion erases the ice and clears my view.

Sometimes joy creeps like that, too.

It started for me in the thumbs.

I don’t know, really, how long my fingers rode in stillness. Months, I am sure. Maybe even years. Until the day I found myself tapping rhythmically to the radio.

And I did not make it stop. I let it creep.

Steering wheel drum solos. Head-bopping. Full-fledged car karaoke.

On some days the frost returns. That doesn’t surprise me anymore.

A permanent smile is worn only by the foolish. Or the liar.

So I do not curse the coldness.

For I know where to find the warmth.

Because an ice-covered windshield clears faster when you turn it towards the sun.

And my heart, in search of joy, is no different.

Surely then you will find delight in the Almighty
    and will lift up your face to God. (Job 22:26)

*******

The wonderful Kelli Woodford (Chronicles of Grace) is taking a well-deserved blogging break in December, but she has graciously let me borrow the Unforced Rhythm link-up community for the next few weeks. Your words are welcome here. So very welcome.

If you stopped by here for the link-up, would you consider to connecting with me as well. On the right of this page you’ll find lots of ways to keep in touch. Just pick your favorite method of communication, and I’ll see you again soon!


Peace for those with Empty Arms (Unforced Rhythms Linkup)

peace-1024x682(pp_w579_h385)Empty arms carry some of the heaviest weight.

Maybe it’s Distance. Divorce. Depression. Deployment. Death.

A relationship unreconciled. A wound unhealed. A longing unfulfilled.

Maybe your hole is left from a dream that never came true. Or the one that ended before you were ready.

Oh, my friend, I have been praying for you.

Again and again this advent season, God has brought you to my mind.

You with the empty arms. The ones that feel especially vacant in this time of joy and celebration and light. I hear your soul’s songs of lament even among the 24-hour broadcasting of reindeer songs and snowman tunes. I see you standing timidly with your single candle of hope while it feels like the rest of the world is fully embracing multi-colored bulbs and twinkle lights.

And I have been holding you closer to heaven, dear one. Asking God to be extra close to your tender heart. Begging Him to show up for you in expected places this Christmas. Praying that you will taste of His love for you in new ways.

And that you will have peace. Oh, how I have been praying for your spirit to have peace.

For your soul to sit in stillness, acknowledging every ounce of your sadness, crying every necessary tear. But knowing, deeply knowing, that you are held.

You and your empty arms are embraced so very tightly in His.

Now. Always.

May you know it. May you feel it.

Now. Always.

***************

HEY, BETH... Where are the links!?! HEY, FRIENDS... Over HERE!


“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
(Matthew 11:28-30, The Message)

The wonderful Kelli Woodford (Chronicles of Grace) was inspired by these verses to name a Weekly Web Gathering of grace as “Unforced Rhythms.” She is taking a well-deserved blogging break in December, but she has graciously let me borrow the UR link-up community for the next few weeks. Your words are welcome here. So very welcome.

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list… 

(due to technology issues, Linky is not allowing the actual links to show up on my post page… I hope to have this resolved by next week, but please COME OVER HERE to add your link and/or read precious words from my Grace-Filled friends)

For When a Flicker Lights a Way for Hope to Come (Word of the Week)

isaiah 9-2Longing for a word from The Word to guide me through the week, I come before Him expectantly.

He leads me through a labyrinth of anticipation. Of yearning. Of hopefulness. Of waiting.

Of Advent. The Coming of all our hearts long for. Both those things of which we are quite aware. And the fullness of abundantly more that He promises as our inheritance.

We long for a Messiah — our salvation. We long for Emmanuel — God with us.

We long for an experience of His love. A taste of His grace. A promise of His peace.

We long for the days of no more tears and no more pain.

Because the world, so often, is dark and cold. I have heard its stories on the news. I have listened to its echoes in the aching words of those I hold dear. I have read its reports across the blogosphere. I have harbored its weariness in my own soul.

We long. We are restless. We wait.

In the waiting, I am at a loss for words.

And maybe silence is the only proper response. The only appropriate action for the anxious anticipation. The only prayer that makes any sense in the lighting of Advent’s first bit of light in a world full of darkness.

The candle of Hope. advent

Those who walked in the dark     have seen a bright light. And it shines upon everyone who lives in the land     of darkest shadows.  (Isaiah 9:2)

Just one light in the blackness. Just a flicker of hope. It is enough to push back against despair.

It is enough to awaken our hearts. It is enough for us, the waiters — the Advent people, to declare the coming King.

And by its light, may we find our way to all the corners of darkness, until the Light of the World, shines fully on us all.

If you have 10 more minutes, please watch this message about Hope from Ann Voskamp. It’s powerful, darkness-shattering stuff.

____________________________________________________

I return each Sabbath for a fresh Word of the Week. For the God-breathed pages to come alive in a phrase or two on which to spend a 7-day feast. To meditate upon. To use as a jumping off point for whatever other words God would have me hear during the week. I would love for you to join the Word of the Week (WOW) discussion by adding your selected verse to the comments … or reflections on any scripture reading. 

Linking with Unforced Rhythms — a wonderful community of writers who gather each Monday to share with you HERE.

Enjoy this blog? Find Beth in these Places, too.