Living the Questions

“Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart… Try to love the questions themselves… Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given because you would not be able to live them — and the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answers.” —Rainer Maria Rilke

As I sat down to pen this seasonal reflection a feeling of melancholy was working its mirthless magic on my mood. My “Instrumental Christmas” playlist on Pandora was keen on playing songs to cry to, and the grey sky that hung low on the mountain outside my window further repressed the joy that should be dancing inside me. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas has always been a favorite time of year for me from the time I was a child and still is. My immediate family had a rich heritage of Christmas tradition, involvement in the church, and musical activities, and I have carried on in the same manner as best possible. Alas, much of my family is gone now and the rest live on the other side of this great big state of ours – so trying to recreate what once was just doesn’t have the same effect on the heart. But I have digressed from the story at hand…

In that state of melancholy, I dared make things excruciatingly worse by scrolling through the daily version of The Greatest Story Ever Told, also known as Facebook. After reminding myself that I rarely post about the tragedies going on in my life either, with a heavy sigh, I noticed a message waiting for me. And the rest really is one of the greatest stories ever told – at least in this month in this chapter in the book of my life!

Say what you will about Facebook but through its wonders, I was given a glimpse into the lives of my great grandmother, Emma Wilhelmine Pedersdatter Mørck and great grandfather Frederich Vilhelm Phaff Mørck, from a woman living in North Jutland, Denmark who happened across their photos and records in a family collection she was going through. She was inquiring as to whether I might know who she was as she was not related to anyone in her family. She found me on Facebook after finding my name on our Geni family tree. It turns out this woman is a bit of a genealogy buff and has access to all sorts of records. Denmark kept very good records on its populace and they are readily accessible to the public. – and so, I spent the better part of the weekend learning all about my father’s side of the family’s livelihood in Denmark. My father’s dad, Frederik Mørck immigrated to the US from Denmark around 1910 and was one of the founders of Antelope, MT. He died when my father was just six years old so all we really know is my grandfather’s story of arrival and settlement. It turns out my family in Denmark was quite wealthy and made their mark on Danish society with ownership of large farms and manors, working as merchants, millers, and grocers, and perhaps most importantly as the founders of Carlsberg beer (on my great grandmother’s side)!  That this woman would spend so much time researching my family history is quite something, and we are not even related. She presented me with a wonderful Christmas gift – a whole new perspective on life and my place in this grand timeline we are traveling on. I couldn’t help but wonder if Emma was as ponderous as I am? What did she think of her son leaving the homeland – never to return?

This unexpected gift gave me a new perspective as I reflected on life in the waning days of my 48th journey around the sun and the closing days of a decade that for me, embodied the most dramatic changes to life as I know it than any other decade before. In the last ten years, I found my voice, I took flight and moved west, I ventured into the unknown, I began a new career, I faced down a frightening illness,  death made its presence known with the passing of both my parents and dog all within two years’ time, I bought my first home, I brought a new dog ( a gift from God) into my life, I found and lost love not once but twice, I got married and had a marriage end, and I fulfilled a dream that has carried me through much of this by completing my lay pastoral associate program and becoming an “official” proclaimer of God’s word. And now with this new perspective on my past, I could look at it all through a much broader lens.

Miraculously, I still haven’t spotted a gray hair, but I don’t feel much wiser than I did at the cusp of this life-changing span of years. If anything, I find myself not only full of questions but questioning everything! I seem to have lost the certainty with which I once approached life except for the certain discomfort in the realization that I am not God and I have far less control over what happens in my life than I once thought. The transience of life itself – the impermanence of it all – is so disconcerting that it makes me wonder aloud to God and anyone else who will listen – just what on earth am I here for, anyway?

I know I am not alone in this eternal pondering – that is after all THE question behind every man’s search for meaning. It is what inspired the great thinkers of all time – whose wisdom at least brings a sort of perpetual empathy to our daily struggle, a ray of light into our present darkness.  And I am sure it may have been the inspiration behind my grandfather’s voyage to a new land and new life over a century ago. While I don’t know if he ever found the answers he was seeking, he did find life by living into the questions.

It is easy to let questions of meaning weigh heavy on your heart when an unexpected loss or an unimagined future takes away your certainty in life. Yet time immemorial has proven that despite our best efforts to plan and prepare for the future, we live in the midst of uncertainty and unknowing. But as I wrote last month, life is not diminished by darkness or death, nor is it by uncertainty or the unimagined.  It is made more organic, more wholehearted, more resilient and resplendent. The endless interplay of darkness and light, the dying and rising, the endings and beginnings are signs that everything is forever being made new.

Ten years ago, I could never have imagined the path my life would follow in this journey.  I’m quite certain there are aspects of your life today that you never imagined until suddenly they were a part of your life as well. Some good. Some bad. And yet we live on. The poet John Keats wrote about the difficult work of living with negative capability which is the ability to sustain uncertainty, to live with not knowing, to stand in the mystery, to keep the questions and possibilities open, to embrace ambiguity, to not be too quick to resolve or shut down doubt – and to do all this without running away and trying to escape, without grasping for facts and reason.

Life is unpredictable, unknown, and impermanent, but these very characteristics intensify life, heighten its value, and bring deeper meaning to our days. In the year ahead I am going to focus on living into the uncertain and unknown. Will you join me? It goes against our human nature and won’t be easy, but we can face the unknown in hope and with the promise that through it all we have Emmanuel, God with Us. Our greatest gift – God is with us – in our uncertainty and in our hope, in our unexpected present and our unimagined future. May this assurance live in your heart this Christmas and throughout your days.

A simple prayer for your uncertain days and years:

Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown.  Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  –The Lutheran Book of Worship

Let your light so shine!

The Gift of Grace

“This is what the Lord says – HE who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” – Isaiah 43: 16-19

As I contemplated the dearth of topics I could pontificate on for my end of year offering to you, I considered sharing my year in review, but then if you are a regular reader you already know how completely blown away I am by what has transpired. With that said, I will spare you the details of that novella until I get my feet under me again. Let me just say that if you had asked me last year at this time what would come to pass in 2018, I dare say that none of the life-changing happenings that made this year the paramount chapter of happiness in the book of my life were even being contemplated, let alone hoped for as 2017 came to a close.

We are approaching the waning days of December and for me, as a Christian, it is the time of Advent – a time of anticipation and personal preparation for the coming of our Savior. It is also a time filled with traditions and festivities handed down to us from time immemorial. If you are anything like me – sentimental, deep thinking and even deeper feeling, you may feel everything more acutely at this time than other times of the year. Everything we anticipated and planned for has either come to pass or has not.  Another journey around the sun is almost complete and inherent in that journey is the realization that this moment in time can never be repeated, ever again. And yet, we have been here before – year after year we close out a chapter of our lives and open a new one with traditions that encourage us to hold on to the past all the while looking ahead to the unforeseeable future. Do we look forward with satisfaction at a year well-lived and with hope for what is to come or do we remain focused on a past that we cannot change mired in judgment and/or regret?

When you look at your past what do you see?  What thoughts and feelings arise? Is it a painful memory, one of grief for lost loved ones, an opportunity lost, a heartbroken, a chain that binds and confines your soul? Or perhaps the past brings about a smile of gratitude, puts a skip in your step over a goal achieved, or triggers a longing for the good old days. For me, it is a mixture of the two. Following the deaths of my parents, I struggled to see the good amid the sorrow and to let go of the past and look forward to the future. It’s not that I didn’t want a fresh start on life (one that we are promised every day, by the way) or wish that my life could be transformed from one that seemed stuck in the same old familiar patterns, telling the same story, and hearing the same old voices (usually the critical ones). But for a time, moving on from grief felt like I was dishonoring my parents and moving farther away from their presence in my life. In addition, the past was known to me – familiar – I was used to and longed for the way things were.

Sometimes we can be so focused on holding on to the past – the good, the bad, and the what-could-have-been – that we get lost in the wilderness of what was.

Regardless of how our past plays out in our minds, regardless of what did or did not happen back then, our past has made us who we are today but it does not have to define us, it does not have to lay claim to your life.

We are about to celebrate again the birth of the One who broke through the wilderness of what was to give us the promise of what could be and what is – our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – God incarnate. We are told of His coming by a wandering figure – not someone sitting in a royal palace or government seat or even a religious authority.

No, the Good News came to John, “a voice crying in the wilderness,” who tells us to let go of what has laid claim to our lives – repent – if you will – from the powers that be that hold sway – be they political, economic, or status oriented. John tells us to escape the wilderness – to let go of the binding chains of fear, anger, disappointment, guilt, regret. loss, despair, and sorrow and calls us away from life-draining busyness, quenchless ambition, and the need for approval. He speaks of a transformer who will overcome our broken relationships, our broken hearts, and our harsh and critical voices. All of these things that lay claim to our lives, that have filled our past, taught us “how to live,” and shaped our character – none are more powerful than God.

John tells us to wake up to, break free from, and deal with these fraudulent powers that claim our souls so we can have a new life claimed by God’s faith in us, hope for us, and love of us.

None of us know what tomorrow or the year ahead will bring. In the closing days of 2017, I certainly could not have fathomed preaching would be a regular part of my summer and fall schedule of events let alone meeting the love of my life and getting married nine months later!  I wish I had opened and lived in the gift already given to me – the joy of trusting in God’s amazing grace for the days to come and letting go of the past that I could not change no matter how hard I tried.

We can face the unknown with the same old patterns, practices, and voices in our head or we can look forward in the freedom of God’s grace. Imagine starting the new year off with a fresh start, anticipating the unknown with confidence that a way will be made for us – no matter how daunting, unimaginable, or seemingly improbable the future is.

What would your life look like each day if you let God’s grace – faith, hope, and love have primary claim? What opportunities might you take? What doors might open for you? How might your relationships prosper? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to wake up each morning with the courage to face the day knowing that you have been healed from the brokenness of yesterday through the redeeming grace of God’s love? Well, you can.

As you look back on 2018 – look back and be satisfied that your life was worthy no matter what did or did not get accomplished and, as you look forward, rejoice in the freedom given to you to start fresh with hope – every single day.

My Christmas prayer for you is that you find God’s gift of grace that is waiting for you under your tree and that you will open your heart to it. Let His faith in you, hope for you, and love of you strengthen you and guide all that you do in the days to come.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and your happiest New Year ever!!

Let your light so shine!

 

So much for that strength, hope and faith thing…

evening-glowThere was something about my Mom dying at Easter that helped me get through her death with hope and faith. I felt a strength and peace I didn’t know was possible getting me through that week and even though  the days and weeks afterward were hard, I pushed through my grief and was able to resume life or at least tried to.

So much for that strength, hope and faith thing. I’ve been going through the motions of the Christmas season trying to be merry, trying to be strong, trying to be a light while all the time dreading the “Different Christmas” I knew would be coming yet again.  Last week I wrote about how I had come to accept my different Christmas and the peace I felt in doing so last year. But I don’t feel so peaceful now.

As I sit here trying to write Christmas cards on the 20th day of December (a little late, I know), there are no joy-filled words flowing on to the stack of greeting cards I intended to send, just tears.  I find myself overwhelmed with loss. The loss of my mother, the loss of what  family had always been to me, the loss of ever experiencing my mother’s unique love at Christmas again, the loss of something that I struggle to even define except for loss…

I struggle with all the happy gatherings going on around me – they seem so foreign to my reality right now.  I used to delight in them; delight in the baking, decorating, and gift giving and all the things that gave “meaning” to Christmas. This year there has been no time for baking, not much to decorate, and I can ill afford my Christmas gifting pleasure.  I know that giving of myself to others is the only act that truly shows the meaning of Christmas and yet I can’t even seem to do that! How can a holiday that is filled with so much love, light, and joy hurt so much? How can I, someone who knows the truth, who knows the love and peace of Christ, feel so utterly alone and forlorn at this most wondrous time?  And why does the Classical Christmas station I am listening to play so many songs that seem so sad?

I have no words of light to share with you right now. Just a prayer that the peace of Christ will be with you all this Christmas. That you find Him in the ordinary and the extraordinary but most of all, find Him in your heart.

Seeking His light, so that I may shine it again.

 

A Different Christmas

“God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.”
~ 1 John 1:5

evening-glow

 

Christmas Eve 2015. I sat by my window in my lonely LOG (loft over garage) watching the snow continue to fall, as it had for days and days. Its pristine beauty and sound softening aesthetics belied the frustration it brought to my spirit. Winter had lain claim to my plans for a Christmas trip home to be with my family for the holiday for the first time in three years. And last year more than any, I needed to embrace the warmth, understanding, and love of my family. To be with my mother and father who had had a difficult year and a brother and sister in-law whom I had not seen enough of in 2.5 years.

For sure, it would not be a traditional Christmas for my family even if I had made it home. My mother, who was seriously ill and hospitalized in a state of confusion and despair would be our point of gathering – we would not be going to Christmas Eve candle-light services before looking at Christmas lights and gathering around a brightly lit Christmas tree at the hearth of our home to open presents, share stories and eat peanut brittle.

I too, found myself navigating a new chapter of my life, quite alone and feeling quite broken.  For sure, my heart was not filled with the joy of recent years. There were no stockings hung in my LOG, no gifts under a tree – I was supposed to be in Billings- and Christmas carols were making me cry. Sadly, I was not alone. Around me a marriage had crumbled, trusts were broken, another’s child sat in jail, suicide had claimed a family’s idea of forever, and others treasured every moment of what would be a last Christmas with a loved one.

The world around me felt distraught – plunged into a darkness where even acts of charity were questioned for their ultimate goal. Hunger, strife, terror, desolation, and frustration tore at our nation’s unique fabric- once bound together by common beliefs and goals – now seemed to be splintered across a dark abyss.

A year later, not much has changed in the world – some would claim it has become even more divided, darker, even doomed. In this darkness, we try to make do.

Christmas brings to a culmination, our humanly efforts to cast away the darkness in the world – engaging in the wonderful merriment of holiday festivities, attempting more perfect lives for this special time of year until our perfect plans and family gatherings go awry and our high expectations for the holidays go unmet.

And yet, despite our quest for perfection in our holiday celebrations- our desires to reflect the storybook Christmas traditions we have grown to expect and claim as our own – Christmas came to be in the most IMPERFECT WAY.

Imagine Mary’s despair, being fully pregnant and having to travel 70 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem with Joseph by donkey for a census of all things! Talk about the best laid pregnancy plans going awry! Of course, once there they find no guest rooms available because everyone is in Bethlehem from afar to be counted. And then as if on a very bad cue, Mary’s labor starts and they find shelter in a stable where she gives birth to our Savior and places Him in a manger. A manger of all things!

In the most imperfect and darkest of circumstances a Savior, my Savior, was born. Is there a subtle message for us in that lowly beginning? Jesus’ birth was certainly different than what I am sure Mary had planned! If there were storybook traditions for birth, Jesus’ certainly didn’t follow one.

I am finding less and less truth in the storybook Christmases I remember “having” as a child and those that I perceive others around me having. Yes, the joy and love that comes alive in the hearts of many this time of year is real but the lives that love and joy manifest in are far from perfect. We grasp on to holiday traditions that we carry over year after year in an effort to reclaim that perfection we remember. Straying from those traditions or losing one here and there brings us heartache – as suddenly the Christmas we are celebrating is different from how it is supposed to be.

The Morck family Christmas traditions have been carried on from year to year – decking the halls, arguments over which halls to be decked, lighting the angel chimes, trimming the tree, presents for the dogs, slammed doors on the way to church, gritted teeth in the pews, peaceful and happy moments by the tree as we open presents late into the night on Christmas Eve – fueled by hot chocolate and peanut brittle as the rest of the world slumbered. But the last three  Christmases in my life have been different. Except for last year when life changed for our family, the Morck family traditions were carried out in Billings without me and I found myself trying new ways to celebrate. It wasn’t easy. Christmas wasn’t perfect. Christmas was different and Christmas was beautiful. Yes, you read that right. Beautiful!

“The darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.”
~ 1 John 2:815250853_1394939560530638_2397082385538831720_o

You see, despite all our broken traditions, turmoil, and testiness; despite our deemed lack of preparedness and perfection; despite the darkness we are trying to cast away CHRIST, OUR SAVIOR COMES! BECAUSE of our broken traditions, turmoil, and testiness; BECAUSE of our deemed lack of preparedness and perfection; BECAUSE of the darkness we are trying to cast away CHRIST, OUR SAVIOR CAME!

Christ came in the most imperfect way to give us LIGHT! Last year, as I faced Christmas alone, He brought light to me as I was longing for home and the traditions that were missing from my life. I found His light as I sat “alone” in church, listening to the Christmas Eve sermon. But I really wasn’t alone – I only made myself out to be. I was surrounded by people experiencing their own Christmases, some equally as different as mine.  I saw tears glistening on cheeks other than mine. I realized I was sitting with people just like me. Each of us imperfect and each of us a masterpiece, made in His image and given newness in Christ Our Savior’s LIGHT.

Into my very different and dark Christmas, my Lord and Savior shined His light on the people that have crossed my path and made a difference in my life and at once I felt at peace, felt heart aching joy, and I no longer felt alone! Looking back, I realize that my “different” Christmas was the greatest gift I could receive at that difficult time of my life. I had been set free from the chains of tradition that made my heart ache in their absence and found the most beautiful peace in my “different” Christmas. And this year I am making a different Christmas my new tradition.

Christmas will be very different for me and my family this year and I am okay with that. My mother has gone ahead of us to celebrate Jesus’s birth with Him and shine her light in the stars above. Once again, I will find myself away from family but I will not feel or be alone. My life is full of the Light of Christmas and filled with awe inspiring, imperfect people making their way through life and through their own Christmases.

I thank my Lord for each of you, for in some way, my Lord is working through you to impact my life and I pray that in some way, I have been a light in yours. I wish for you the beauty of a different Christmas this year. I pray that you find His peace and His glory, that you feel His presence in your heart, that His power guides you through your journey, and that His love and light shines brightly on you even in the most different of circumstances.

May this Christmas have a special significance for all of us— imperfect people in need of a Savior, who comes to us just as we are in many different ways and walks.

Let your light so shine, as His light shines in the darkness.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!

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A Different Christmas Morning – 2015

A Light in the Darkness – Christmas Eve 2015

Christmas eve 2015

“Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.” ~1 Chronicles 29:11

 

Christmas Eve 2015. I sit by my window watching the snow continue to fall, as it has for days and days. Its pristine beauty and sound softening aesthetics belie the frustration it brings to my spirit. Winter laid claim to my plans for a Christmas trip home to be with my family for the first time in three years. This year more than any, I needed to embrace the warmth, understanding, and love of family. To be with my mother and father who have had a difficult time this year and a brother and sister in-law whom I have not seen enough of in 2.5 years.

For sure, this would not be a traditional Christmas for my family had I made it home. My mother, seriously ill and hospitalized in a state of confusion and despair would be our point of gathering – not around a brightly lit Christmas tree with presents galore.

For sure, my heart will not be as full of joy as in recent years, as a wonderful chapter of my life has changed course and I find myself once again, walking alone pondering my future with a tattered heart.

Around me marriages are crumbling, trusts have been broken, a child sits in jail, suicide has claimed a family’s idea of forever and always, and others treasure every moment of what may be a last Christmas with loved ones. The world around me feels distraught if not chaotic- plunged into a darkness where even acts of charity are questioned for their ultimate goals, while hunger, strife, terror, desolation, and frustration tear at our nation’s unique fabric- once held together by common beliefs and goals – now splintered across a dark abyss.

We are broken and yet, in this darkness we try to make do, engaging in the wonderful merriment of holiday festivities while others shop to the point of exhaustion, physically and budgetary. We try to make our lives more perfect for this special time of year until our perfect plans and family gatherings go awry and our high expectations for the holidays go unmet.

Tonight brings to a culmination all of our humanly efforts to be perfect hosts and perfect people in pursuit of joy – our efforts to cast away the darkness in the world. We are not ready, some will say! Some will find themselves alone, longing for home. Others will wish they were alone, longing for peace. 

And yet tonight, despite all our brokenness, turmoil, and testiness, despite our deemed lack of preparedness, despite this present darkness we are trying to cast away CHRIST, OUR SAVIOR COMES! BECAUSE of  our brokenness, turmoil, and testiness, because of our deemed lack of preparedness, because of this present darkness we are trying to cast away, tonight CHRIST, OUR SAVIOR COMES!

Christ comes to give us LIGHT! He brings light to the one who is alone longing for home and light to the one who wishes to be alone, longing for peace. What an amazing gift! What wondrous love!

Truly the the most awe inspiring gift from God is our redemption and freedom in Christ to live lives worthy of His sacrifice for us. As I relish in this truth,  I feel so blessed to be alive, my heart beating, breathing in His creation, and shining His grace into the world. Immanuel, God is with us and IN us!

Tonight as we celebrate Christ our Savior’s birth, I will be celebrating the new life each of us has each day in Him. As I sat in church, listening to the Christmas Story, hearing the sermon, I realized I was sitting with people just like me. Each of us broken and each of us a masterpiece, made in His image and given newness in Christ, Our Savior’s LIGHT. Let His light shine that beautiful reality on you. Let His light shine through you – through your outreach, your talents, your witness to the world, your love.

In my present darkness, my Lord and Savior shined His light on the people that have crossed my path and made a difference in my life and at once I felt at peace, felt heart aching joy, and I no longer felt alone!  I thank God for each of you, for in some way, God is working through you to impact my life and I pray that in some way through me I have been a light in yours. I pray that you find His peace and glory tonight, that you feel His presence in your heart, that His power guides you through your journey, and that His Love  and Light will shine brightly on you.
May this Christmas Eve have a special significance for all of us— broken people in need of a Savior, who comes to us tonight just as we are….
Let your light so shine, as His light shines in the darkness.
MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!

The Sixteenth Day of Advent

Courtesy: The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” ~Matthew 25:40

I have never considered myself to be one of “the least” and yet, in a time of great turmoil I was nourished with food and love, in a time of great wandering my thirst for hope was quenched, and now, as I make my way through a new wilderness, I have felt the love of God in the warm welcome of new friends who have reached out to me as beacons of light in this solitary journey. Not just once, but several wonderful tear-welling, throat-aching, breath-halting times of late, someone has walked along side me, whether they knew it or not – and lifted me from very unfamiliar depths.

Frankly, it feels a bit odd to be on the receiving end of such signs of His gracious love. I have always fancied myself as the “Welcome-wagon-Erika-go-lightly-with-a-smile-on- her-face-and-a-skip-in-her-step” shining as or trying to be, a beacon of light for others. I never thought to look for a beacon of light in someone else.

Tonight, I sit here in the light of my tiny Christmas Sprig, glowing garland, and warm candlelight, contemplating in wonderment, how, if we open our hearts, let ourselves be vulnerable, take some risks and let others in –  Christ our Savior does amazing things.

As if on cue with my blessed realization, the jubilant strains of Vivaldi’s “Winter Concerto” sing out from my computer keyboard as my fingers dance and record my thoughts on the same. Yes, I did say dance. My heart is at once lighter and my thoughts brighter.

I am learning a valuable lesson this Advent season of preparation and patient wondering. Truly, I tell you, the Holy Spirit walks with us on this earth. I have experienced His power through the hands and hearts of others.

Thank you to the angels among us, who see the broken and reach out to them, who feed the hungry and poor of spirit with the bread of life, who quench the thirst of the lonely with compassion and friendship, and shine His light into the hearts of others. You are righteous in the eyes of God and beloved by those you have blessed.

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Let your light so shine, just as His light shines in the darkness.

The Twelfth and Thirteenth Days of Advent

Courtesy: The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Courtesy: The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The past two days I have felt anything BUT peaceful and as my luck would have it, PEACE would be what God intended for me to reflect and write on. I struggled to find the words to express a meaningful sense of  Peace, of Love, of Strength – the three essences of life prayed for in the blessing for Day 12. They seemed intangible to me. Rather, I am consumed by feelings of unrest, of separation, and uncertainty. Perhaps it is due to my seemingly non-stop busyness of late. I have not been able to escape to the mountains to refresh my senses and get away from the noise of life. But I sense it is more than that.

The world seems more broken than normal (what a sad state of affairs!) – humanity is at odds with humanity. The glimmers of hope, charity, and love  I see extended to our fellow man is quickly dimmed by the realities of fear, greed, and superiority. Finding peace in this world? Not an easy notion unless you seek the aesthetic peace of mountain sanctuaries. And shoot, we can’t even agree as a state, country or world on how best to preserve the one tangible place of peace we have – our natural environment!   If ever there was a time, at least based on my meager existence and experience, that we needed a Messiah, it is now.

Despite the implicit traditions, merriment, and festive nature of the weeks leading up to the celebration day of Christmas on December 25, this holy season of Advent is a time of longing, of waiting, wondering, and preparing. He is allowing me time to prepare. Time to wrestle with with the intangible so that I might come to know again the depth of his peace – a peace “not of this world”, not even in the mountains.

Our greatest gift is coming. It is time to prepare our hearts for the mighty Prince of Peace.  In the meantime, I can be assured of His grace washing over me — in my less than peaceful times.

Let your light so shine, even the darkness… for Peace is coming.

The Eleventh Day of Advent

Courtesy: The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Courtesy: The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The Bible is the revelation of God’s love. To love one another is the greatest commandment given to us and yet in our fallen world it seems we cannot. As human beings we seek to find love and give love but we want to choose who we love and we want to tell others how they can love. God calls us to love everyone as he loved us, including those who hate us and those who are different from us.

We strive for perfection – in order to be loved, to know love, and to give love. And we will fail, because there is only one perfect love,  God. God is love and only God loves perfectly. He does not measure if we are worthy, there is nothing we can do to merit His love aside from loving others. Once we have received God’s love he expects us to love.”Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” ( 1 John 4:8 ).

Let you light so shine as His Light shines in the darkness revealing his perfect love.

The Tenth Day of Advent

Courtesy: The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

I tend to wander off the beaten neighborhood path on my runs or evening walks-  venturing out east of town where the night sky opens up. Here I feel like I am back on the familiar Eastern MT plains but with the shadow of the mountains I love beckoning me instead of an endless horizon.  Here I can breath again, away from the drone of traffic except for the occasional rushing of a train passing a short distance away. Yes it is dark, but I also feel free – free from the confines of buildings and life. Alive.

One can’t help to feel a bit vulnerable and alone in the countryside especially in the dark, but then I feel that way in life at times, despite my strength, independent streak, and general joie de vivre.  And so it was one recent dark night, that I felt an odd kinship with a single pine tree that stood alone in a blaze of light… okay she merely twinkled… but to my eyes she was a glorious light in the darkness, standing tall and beaming brightly – alone.  In that moment, my stride lightened, as if my heart was literally being lifted out of a temporary but very real solitary funk.

I wish I knew who to thank for dressing that singular sensation in white – a few birds trimming their shelter perhaps?  Their gift of light in the darkness reminded me that although I feel very alone at times that doesn’t mean I can’t shine, perhaps even brightly. God did not place me or you on this earth to be a dim bulb.

Let your light so shine as His light shines in the darkness.

The Ninth Day of Advent

Courtesy: The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

We live in a time of great division, of competing interests, and divergent views on everything from the direction our country must take in her leadership to whether our health care should be mandated or a personal choice. The nations of the world are at odds over religion, climate change, economic ideals, boundary lines, and battle readiness. Threats to our national security and the best way to defend our freedoms pit gun control and  2nd Amendment proponents against each other. Disagreements over property rights and taxation divide neighbors. Even the protection of the very land we walk on is fair game for heated rhetoric.

All this fighting creates an immutable noise that wears on our spirits. Add to this cacophony of discord strife within our most intimate relationships and one might just want to run for the hills, or join a choir.

Singing in a choir is the perfect antidote for spiritual discordance.  No matter how diverse in belief,  political persuasion, or ethnicity the people are, each distinct voice is blended into harmony – sometimes perfect harmony – sometimes a little off key- but together they come as ONE voice to make a melodious sound. A sound so encompassing it drowns out the dissonance of the world around us.

God gave a very diverse world a very beautiful and powerful gift in music. When we sing with one voice  we create a community  of melody – a choir of harmony and maybe, just maybe, a hint of what peace can be.

Let your light so shine, as His light shines in the darkness.