Watch what God is up to!
Are you ready?
I’m not asking if you’re finished with your Christmas shopping.
And I’m not asking if you’re finished with your Christmas decorating.
I haven’t even started!
Today’s Gospel reading urges us to “Watch!” and to “Be ready!” Are you prepared for God’s coming into your life in a new way?
Of course, God is already and always here with us, among us and in us. This time of Advent gives us focused time to practice intentional awareness of God’s presence in our lives. I invite you to be on the look-out, awake and ready to respond when God shows up in your life! God’s is always creating something new.
How can you stay awake?
Here are five practices to consider:
It is in the silence that you can best hear God’s still, small voice. Maybe begin the day with 10 minutes of quiet: watching the sun rise or the coffee drip. Be mindful that you are in the presence of God. You are on holy ground – even right there in your kitchen. This would be a good time to bring up that one thing, person, or issue that is weighing on your heart, asking for God’s guidance. So, 10 minutes each day. Unless you’re really busy, then do 20 minutes.
A community helps you find the faithful path and stay on that path. We are humans so we need to be around other people. It’s the way we are built. It is here, in community, that we can find trusted others who will pull us back onto the path if we go wandering off, which we do because we are humans. While being around others is almost impossible during these vexing pandemic times, a community of like-minded souls can help us on the journey, exploring new ways of being a worship community, like using Zoom!
“The one who has hope lives differently,” according to Pope Benedict 16. We know that this is not all there is to life. There is something bigger, deeper, that invites us forward. Can you hear it?
How can we stay hopeful now, in these trying times? Only with God’s help. I refer you back to the first practice of seeking solitude to hear God’s voice. We don’t have to muster up hope from our own power or resources. Hope can always be found in God’s inexhaustible love and goodness.
Being hopeful is a revolutionary act in the midst of all the bad news surrounding us. Even though so much has been cancelled this year, hope will never be cancelled!
Surrender means embracing what is instead of denying it or resisting it. It might be helpful to find a labyrinth in real life or click here to download and print a finger labyrinth to help you with this and the next practice.
As you approach the labyrinth for real or on paper or just in your imagination, notice that are carrying thoughts and feelings about some external triggering event or circumstance. As you enter the labyrinth, walk mindfully with your feelings or thoughts, naming them, and honoring them. Carry your feelings and thoughts to the center, following the twists and turns of the labyrinth path.
The challenge here is to surrender to the chaos without stepping out of the labyrinth or falling out of alignment with your true self. In every situation you have 2 choices:
Choice 1: RESIST what is. This option will find you bracing yourself and tightening up. From this space, you will be reacting from your reptilian brain guaranteeing that you will not be able to access your higher self or hear God’s direction.
Choice 2: WELCOME what is. Yield and soften to the thoughts and feelings rising up in you. From this space, you can stay aligned with your higher self and from here, you will be able to hear from God. Once you have welcomed the inner feelings or thoughts triggered by the external circumstance, you can take the next step from a place of alignment and clarity. Thanks to Cynthia Bourgeault’s The Wisdom Jesus for this Welcoming Practice.
Surrender is non-clinging – to my agenda, to the illusion that I control events (hello, pandemic) or to the idea that I am in charge. At their deepest level, your desires align with God’s desires, but sometimes, because society’s desires can seem loud and alluring, it is hard to discern which is God’s voice and which is society’s voice. I refer you back to the practice I mentioned above on finding a faith community; make sure it is one that celebrates you!
Note well: Welcoming a feeling inside you is not the same as welcoming the external event that triggers that feeling. We live in a fallen world and bad things happen. The only question is how to respond. You only control your response to external circumstances.
Imagine now that you are in the center of the labyrinth. You have welcomed your feelings while remaining aligned with your true self. It is time to let go. Open your hands and allow your thoughts and feelings to drop to the center of the labyrinth. Drop them at the feet of Jesus. Do not cling to them. Let them go.
Let go of anything that gets in your way of a deeper relationship with God.
Let go of past hurts, even when those have been caused by beloved family members or trusted church members.
Why do you need to let go? Let go to have space to live the life God created you to live, without being trapped in addictive behavior or tied to endless ruminations about past events. Let go to be free from anything that takes the place of God in your life, or gets in your way and obscures the path for you. Let go to be free to respond in a loving way, in the same way God has loved us; we are invited to love others in our midst, beginning with ourselves.
We are having a Lament Prayer Service on Monday, November 30th at 7 eastern on Zoom.
Do you have somethings you need to let go? This is the perfect vehicle to help you let go of past hurts, especially those inflicted by the institutional church. We will come before our good and loving God and drop our complaints at the God’s feet and ask for help letting go and releasing the pain.
WHAT IS LAMENT?
A specific way to pray that expresses sorrow, mourning, or regret aloud, typically in a community, as we are doing tomorrow night. In this Sunday’s readings, from Isaiah and from the Psalms. we hear prayers of Lament. The verses from Isaiah even blame God for allowing the Israelites to go astray. But then the writer acknowledges that ultimately God shapes us like the clay in the hands of the potter. The Psalmist calls God to take care of this vine, and protect what God’s right hand has planted.
- Lament confesses faith in God even in the midst of fear, anger, hurt, or doubt.
- Lament is used in time of great distress to express confidence in the existence of God in the midst of suffering, that God is with us.
- Lament is a cry to God – it is evidence of our belief that God is listening to us – that God cares enough about us to hear our cry.
- Lament demands that God step up and help us. It is evidence of our belief that God will answer us.
The main purpose for lament is
- to come before God as God’s children,
- to tell God all about our sense of dissatisfaction at the way God appears to be acting, or
- to complain to God that it feels like we have been abandoned, or that God has been too silent for too long,
- and to ask boldly for God’s help.
Monday night, we will be weaving together prayer, scripture passages and music, plus four elements for our healing ritual. Please make sure you bring the following four things so that you can fully participate:
- a candle (and matches),
- a bowl of water,
- a bowl with a bit of oil (like olive oil),
- and a small rock that can fit in the palm of your hand.
I pray that this will be a powerful and moving evening of prayer and healing.
Here’s the link:
I hope you can join us!