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Spirituality

December 14 Joy: Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart … By Daphne Reiley

 John 15:11 CEB
I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be

complete

I remember this song from Vacation Bible School when I was about 6 years old. It meant something different to me then – it simply meant happiness. Now, at 53 finding myself a wife and a mother of two teens, I experience joy in different ways. Joy in Christ. Joy in the Lord. Yes, these can be very happy feelings; however, I experience this sort of joy more deeply, more seriously, more serenely. This joy is calming, reassuring. I crave THIS joy!

This joy is the joy I feel when I see and hear my daughter laughing and speaking with confidence and lightness of heart; this joy is the joy I feel when I see and hear my son speaking of his future with confidence and hope. This joy is the joy that I have prayed for unceasingly as I have mothered my children through crises this last year.

Joyful Lord, hear my prayer. Lift up my whole heart to see and feel the Joy of your Heart, of your hope for my family. Your love is steadfast and your mercy endures forever. Amen.

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Advent Ideas for Families: Week 3 (a video from Disciples Home Missions)

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Dec. 13 The Star: Letting the Light Guide Us… by Daphne Reiley

Advent graphicJesus spoke to the people again, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me won’t walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 CEB

How is it possible to feel so infinitely full yet empty of so much? Those times when we get out of the way and let the Light shine out of our souls and fill our hearts and minds are just a taste of the Kingdom. Those times when we recognize that we are being used as a conduit of Christ’s Light in the world are times filled with awe and not a little fear.

The star that led the Wise Men to the manger was a source of confusion and awe to those Wise Men, yet they followed. Sometimes, when I struggle with a decision, with choosing which way to go in my journey, the miracle, the warmth, the love, the “WAAAAAAA” that comes when I make a decision in the Light is beautiful, beyond description – and a little scary. Setting my ego aside and allowing that very Light to lead me is difficult and I rarely succeed in allowing it to do so. Yet, if I could set my ego aside, I know I could more easily – and regularly – be a part of that glorious light, allowing my soul to be healed, allowing the joy that comes with being a part of the Light fill and expand within me.

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Lord, as I prepare for that Holy Birth of the Light of the World, instill in me the willingness to follow that Light and let the Light shine through! Amen

Dec. 12 Barn: The Sacred Story Retold by Kris Light

Advent graphic[The shepherds] went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Luke 2:16 CEB

Eyes set on our barn’s changing hues, my hands dive blindly for sudsy spoons while evening rays repaint the farmyard. The remains of an ample table encircle the sink, aromas of sautéed onions mix with green apple dish soap, and I am content. I love our kitchen. I love our home. I love our barn.

Dreams of what we might do with the stately structure outside the sink window encourage recurring conversation. Decades have passed since it sheltered livestock, but that can be fixed. The cattle of yesterday may give way to goats or llamas or a dozen other possibilities. For today, a solitary fox keeps company with barn swallows, bats and nativity scenery.

Soon the manger and other props in the barn will appear at road’s edge. For one cold night youth and adults will create a living Christmas card addressed to all in the community who venture into darkness to behold the sights, smells and sounds of sacred story retold. Ever so briefly, real barn animals will repopulate this farm as old words become flesh.

Tonight, I am grateful for the comforts of home on this side of frosty glass, and glad to peer through gathering darkness at brighter promises still unfolding.

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Divine painter of the setting sun, Draw on our hearts, and enlighten our Godly desires. Meet us where the sacred story is retold. Amen.

Dec. 11 Inn Keeper: No More Room by Jessica Nettles

Advent graphicWhile they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom. Luke 2:6-7 CEB

Jesus’s birth story has long been a part of my personal stream of narrative. I know all the players—Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the angels, the wise men, and, of course, the innkeeper, who is often interpreted in a bad light. There are a few things we need to understand about the innkeeper. In Luke 2:7, we read-“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” Nowhere in the sentence does it say, “The innkeeper, being a complete and total jerk, told Mary, Joseph, and Little Baby Jesus to get off his lawn.” We make the mental leap that the innkeeper was a bad guy because he “turned away” these sacred people. I’ve never understood the need to make him evil. The innkeeper was honest when he said my inn is full in a time when there are lots of people looking for shelter. He had no ill intent, and yet we want to interpret his honesty as villainous and rude. Perhaps it is our culture.

I am from the South. Hospitality is a big deal in Southern culture. We take care of each other, open our homes, make sure no one is without when they are with us. At Christmas, I have heard lots of disdain heaped on the proverbial (because he’s only implied) innkeeper. He doesn’t do his duty. He gives the Holy Family sloppy seconds by putting them in the stable. That’s the easy interpretation of this situation. By thinking of him as a villain, we miss a strong point. The innkeeper is not a villain, but someone who has limited resources that have been used up. We’ve all been there. I’m sure the innkeeper wanted to do his job, just like we want to do our jobs, and yet he had nothing left to give. At Christmas time, women most especially, face having no more room. We have to make those costumes, bake dozens of cookies, attend five or six different parties, bake more cookies, green the church, sing in the choir Christmas cantata and volunteer in dozens of ways during this four or five week period all while wearing a smile and a seasonal appropriate outfit. We want to do all those things, but we have nothing left to give at times. That’s okay. Sometimes we have to be the innkeeper and say, honestly, we have no more room. This is not turning Jesus away or giving him sloppy seconds. We do not fail Jesus or the church at all when we say “no more room.” Take a look at the story. Jesus and his family ended up with a roof over their heads for the night. They ended up being visited by shepherds. They were safe and well. Things worked out. There should be no shame for the innkeeper, and there should be no shame for you. Know when to be honest and say, “no more room.”

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Dear Lord, Please remind me to acknowledge when I have nothing left to give, and grant me the honesty to speak out in these times. Also remind me that you love me even when I can only do so much. People judge. You just love. Amen