Reflecting on Questions….

Toy Train by Jeanne Mischo

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is never easy for me. Each year there are less and less people who have known me my whole life, and it seems most of them passed on during this Advent season. I feel like the family is shrinking until I take a good look around. My nieces have their own children now, some old enough to be in high school. Others remind me it is my turn to be the older generation, to be the one who has known them and prayed for them since before they were born. Yet despite the wrinkles and grey hair that welcome me in the mirror each morning, I don’t feel that much different inside. I wonder if I am up to the task of being an elder. I wonder why I don’t know or understand more than I do. Then I think back to a conversation with my father years ago, a conversation I dreaded and put off for way too long. I called home hoping to get my mother, only to find him working from home. I was calling to say I was getting divorced. I was ashamed, disappointed in myself, and terrified of disappointing my father. Of course once he answered the phone it all came tumbling out, all of the raw emotions I had bottled up in my heart. When I stopped crying and had calmed down a bit, my thirty year old self said I thought I would have figured out more answers by now. My father’s reply remains with me thirty years later. He said ‘I don’t have more answers. I simply have learned to ask better questions’. If better questions define wisdom, then I may make the grade after all. If I am required to listen more and talk less, then I still have a challenge ahead of me. Perhaps the greatest comfort is knowing we are all a work in progress, waiting and watching for a bit of divine inspiration to take human form. Christ told us the Kingdom of God is realized through each and every one of us. What if that Kingdom of God is a lens, a way of seeing and hearing that is first and foremost about relationship, about listening deeply to one another with our whole hearts and minds and souls? What if the questions are more important than our own answers? What if the questions are about each of us finding our own path, not in the sense of anything goes, but rather by walking in the path God has prepared uniquely for us? Make time today to be vulnerable to a different answer than you expect. Continue a difficult conversation, trusting in the relationship more than the uncomfortable message that might be easy to avoid. Allow the divine spark to bring forth a physical reality in a different than what you envisioned. Watch and wait, asking the questions buried in your own heart as you listen to the eternal and never ending heartbeat of the Almighty and ever living God. Art entitled ‘Toy Train’ by Jeanne Mischo ©2013-2016, used with her permission, text by Connie Chintall ©2016

Reflecting on Messengers….

Faithful Goat by Henny McCollochThe skies are clear and the air is cold. The way my old dog is hopping and skipping around, you’d think he was a goat. Perhaps he’s invigorated by the cold, but more likely he’s limiting contact with the icy ground. Our routine seems the same every day, out in the morning and at night, but on days like today there is a twist. So I was drawn to this photo of a faithful goat by my friend Henny. She is a letter carrier with a rural route. Each day when she approaches this farm, the goat scurries over and perches on the stone steps in front of this door. So the other day she took a picture of this strange phenomenon. I am intrigued by the sturdy stone steps and cinder block frame, all to protect an old and weathered door. This door appears to enter a barn that has seen better days. I doubt the animals inside receive much protection from the elements. Wind must whip right through the spaces between the slats. So what is the goat protecting? What does the goat seek to guard? Goats get a short shrift in the Bible. We hear how the sheep and the goats are separated, as if one is good and the other bad. Yet perhaps we simply considering two alternatives, both good, both valid, like left and right. Sheep follow their shepherd, are more docile and compliant. Goats skip and run, looking for mischief and adventure. And in the midst of all this nonsense, goats remain sure footed, even on steep or treacherous terrain. Unlike sheep, goats eat practically anything. What if this goat is not a guard, but rather a guide to a more adventurous path? Perhaps he is inviting us to knock on the door, to try the knob, to see what is on the other side. I imagine this goat is not unlike John the Baptist, a messenger preparing the way for Christ. He points beyond the doorway to the manger, where our Lord enters this life as do we all, a helpless infant. Make time today for the goats and the sheep in your life, and in your soul. Consider the path not taken, the adventure you yearn to begin, the risk you fear to take. Pray for the All Merciful to go before you, to bless and protect you, to stretch and soothe your soul. And always remember, no matter how far you wander, the Alpha and Omega will lift you up lest you dash your foot against a stone. Text by Connie Chintall ©2013, photo entitled ‘Steadfast’ by Henny McColloch ©2013, all rights reserved

Reflecting on the Longest Night…..



Longest Night © Jan L. Richardson

This week, in addition to preparing for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services, many congregations will offer a “Longest Night” or “Blue Christmas” service. Usually held on or near the Winter Solstice, this gathering provides a space for those who are having a difficult time during the holidays or simply need to acknowledge some pain or loss they are carrying in the midst of this season of celebration. For you who are offering or participating in such a service, and for all who struggle in this season, I wish you many blessings and pray for the presence of Christ our Light, who goes with us in the darkness and in the day.

Blessing for the Longest Night

All throughout these months
as the shadows
have lengthened,
this blessing has been
gathering itself,
making ready,
preparing for
this night.

It has practiced
walking in the dark,
traveling with
its eyes closed,
feeling its way
by memory
by touch
by the pull of the moon
even as it wanes.

So believe me
when I tell you
this blessing will
reach you
even if you
have not light enough
to read it;
it will find you
even though you cannot
see it coming.

You will know
the moment of its
arriving
by your release
of the breath
you have held
so long;
a loosening
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart;
a thinning
of the darkness
that had drawn itself
around you.

This blessing
does not mean
to take the night away
but it knows
its hidden roads,
knows the resting spots
along the path,
knows what it means
to travel
in the company
of a friend.

So when
this blessing comes,
take its hand.
Get up.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.

This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.

Art and Blessing © 2011 Jan L. Richardson, used with her permission, to see more of Jan’s amazing work, check out janrichardson.com

Reflecting on Waiting….

What glorious weather we had last weekend! It’s hard to believe it is almost December, especially after the freak snow storm last month. So I was drawn to this beautiful photo of the lake house view taken by my friend Joseph. I love how the early morning sun lights up the clouds and the surface of the lake, bathing everything in vibrant color. There are many mornings when I would rather roll over and sleep in, than rise to see the early morning light. Yet I sacrifice the in between time, the hush before the start of the day. Life begins at home in this tranquil, serene, in between time, not when we rush out of the house to arrive at work. That quiet time is hard to come by these days, when we are all overscheduled and overwhelmed by the conflicting demands of life. We rush onto the next task, skipping over things we meant to do, and often need to do. We even skip over Advent and start Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. We must be reminded that our church calendar begins with Advent, a time of expectations, of preparation, of quiet reflection. When we celebrate Advent, we find Christmas is worth waiting for. To quote the Reverend Canon Susan Goff, “When we wait, God breaks through in unexpected ways to bless and renew us. [Waiting] is not a hollow barrenness that is just killing time until something better comes along. Our waiting, instead, is pregnant, expectant, charged and filled with blessings that will, in God’s time, be revealed.” Take time today to wait upon the Lord, to make space for God in those in between times. Expect God in the midst of unexpected delays. Allow stillness to soak into your soul and to fill your heart. And remember as you wait that Christ’s life began to change his mother Mary long before he was placed in the manger. Photo by Joseph Syzdek

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