#AdventBookClub: Day 37: Endings

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So, here it is, the last day of #adventbookclub (for this year at least), – and it’s been great to have a focused time each day (I’ve never been very good at that!) By this time I should be in the air en route to Marrakech – hopefully for a bit of sun, plenty of relaxation/sleep and pottering.. hopefully nothing like the journey that Maggi experienced from Gatwick (where I’m starting from!). Maggi speaks of a journey of disruptions for the holy family and the Magi in order to avoid Herod, but also a sense that lives are changed and will move forward in a different way…

When I return, it’ll be back to getting #BIGRead14 sorted for Lent this year. It was named ‘The BIG Read’ in 2010 in the North-East, and I have since worked on 2 x Tom Wright books and 1 x Rowan Williams book. This time we’re using Stephen Cherry’s Barefoot Prayers and I am really hoping that a number of people will join us to engage with each day’s poems – seeking Biblical inspiration and creative outputs via art/poems, etc.: 

See also a few more questions with Stephen Cherry.

#AdventBookClub: Day 36: Inclusiveness

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As we looked at the other day, black/white answers to faith questions can be hard to take… today Maggi takes that even further – drawing on Matthew 2:1-8 – the Magi have often been described as ‘Kings’, but in fact may have been astrologers – something many of us would be uncomfortable with… but a reminder that it’s not up to us to judge who God welcomes, how, and with what questions – we are all included, at whatever stage of the journey we’re at.

#AdventBookClub: Day 35: Begin/End

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A simple thought from today, which had never occurred to me before today – significant events at the the beginning/end of Jesus’ life took place in borrowed rooms (the stable/the upper room) … Jesus ‘slummed it’ along with us – never making a home of his own.

Also totally understanding Maggi’s feeling re decluttering … too much stuff making me feel trapped/weighed down … although it has taken many years to declutter after many years of clutter, but ironically – having a place of my own has given the head space for that – no more “I’ll just hold onto it in case I want it in my own house”.

This saying has become very familiar:

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#AdventBookClub: Day 34: Redemption

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Whilst we are still in a period of thinking about the birth of Jesus, there is also time to think about redemption – and that it’s available to all (and often through the ordinary times of life, which are then made extraordinary).

Redemption, however, is not painless:

The Christian gospel is not magic, wishing away all ills. It is given in incarnation, the inseparable fusing together of the human and divine, and grows at the same pace as all human life – slowly.

A lifelong journey of transformation… individually, and in community.

Talking of journeys – I’m heading down South today, and off to Marrakech on Monday, so the remainder of entries are pre-written!

#AdventBookClub: Day 33: Questioning

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Today’s reading is really helpful – Maggi draws on Psalm 119:25-32 to deal with the question of whether it’s “better” to meet God via revelation (as the shepherd’s did), or via intellectual study (as the wise men did) … and that there is a “danger” in asking questions of our faith. My Winchester housegroup often discussed this, to this kind of end:

… I found that being allowed to believe in a God who could stand up to any amount of questioning, however, hard, made God seem more believable to me, not less… I was delighted to find that it was not only allowable to think very hard and ask any and every question, but that letting the awkward and answerable questions out into the open began to strengthen rather than weaken my faith.

Those questions will still be there, except that they will plague without answer. I’m very uncomfortable with people who have a black/white notion of all answers to faith:

The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know. — Socrates

#AdventBookClub: Day 32: Waiting

Photos taken whilst on photosafari to the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow

We can see what we’ve done, we can see the possibilities ahead. We can possibly:

arrive at the New Year with a sense that the horizon has once again fallen away; you may have a hunch that, once again, there is more life to live, more to do, more to find. We don’t always know quite what we’re waiting for. It seems to be part of the human condition that we get bored when we are too satisfied and, whenever one chapter of achievements or life events closes, we cannot rest too long before we sense that familiar feeling of reaching out for something more.

As 2014 has hit, do we have a sense of expectation, or a fear of the year ahead – once again I approach with both, but with a sense – echoed in Maggi’s next paragraph – that we are not sitting waiting for God’s thunder-bolds, but living the best that we know how in our lives as they are now, waiting with a  sense of hope and expectation.

#AdventBookClub: Day 31: Endings

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We reach the end of 2013 today… and Maggi Dawn starts to deal with the topic of endings – how do books end, how do the 66 different books of the Bible end, particularly how does Mark’s gospel end?

The resurrection, rather than being tied to the time and place of the story, is left as an open book to the reader, who, rather than commemorating or disputing a moment in history, is given the chance to discover the reality of resurrection in their own experience.

As we head towards 2014, may you discover much of excellence in the year ahead!

#AdventBookClub: Day 30: Emptying Selves

Philippians 2:5-11

New Living Translation (NLT)

5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

6 Though he was God,[a]
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges[b];
he took the humble position of a slave[c]
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,[d]
8     he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Maggi Dawn notes that much brain energy/paper, etc. has been expended thinking about how God could become man and still remain God…

We are called to emulate Jesus in emptying self.. but in emptying self we must take care not to take a journey into slavery, rather than sainthood, remembering Mark 12:31…. for some, maybe a New Year’s Resolution for 2014?

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We then look at Jesus cleaning the feet of others – if a servant he would largely have disappeared into the background, but this was as if the Prime Minister had taken over a menial task.

For us, then, our service of others and of God is not a means of validating others or gaining an identity. It’s the other way round.

#AdventBookClub: Day 29: Fear Not

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Some thoughts from Maggi Dawn today

  • … the phrase ‘Fear Not’ appears 366 times in the Bible – one for every day of the longest year.
  • We cannot look in the face of God but we can look into the face of Jesus
  • Truly great people rise above the need to impress others with how great they are.
  • Sometimes we make the business of sharing faith far too complicated, as if we need to be world experts on the subject before we can open our mouths.
  • …the meaning of Christmas is that God loves us so much, he cannot bear to be without us..

How do we take the message of Christmas and act upon it … ensuring that it lasts throughout the year, and we don’t put it aside as ‘Christmas finishes’.

#AdventBookClub: Day 28: Journeys & Joseph

Today’s time to get back on the long train journey up to Durham – hopefully my house has survived the storms – my neighbours have been looking after the place for me and I’ve had no texts to the contrary!

It’s the last day of Ron Glusenkamp’s material today, though Maggi’s material continues for a few more days … that Christmas answers that oft-asked question in cars “are we there yet?” – and yes – with Christmas – we are!

Today Maggi seeks to understand Jesus’ birth from Joseph’s perspective – which brings to mind the winner of The Nativity Factor 2013:

She encourages us to seek ways to connect with God in the ordinary and the everyday – God is not outside of our reach – he became like us – human – to connect us with God.

#AdventBookClub: Day 27: Transformation

From Ron Glusenkamp:

The Child is born in each of us each day in the simple gestures of love that take place among his people. Let us truly live Childlike lives this Christmas season and always.

Today we look at the beginning of John’s gospel (which I happened to do for #onlinecarols2013 the other day):

We look at the expectations that people had as to what the Messiah would look like – expecting a huge powerful leader, but:

For the rest of us, the image of her bearing the Christ-child is a metaphor for the spiritual reality of our new birth – not an external miracle, but an inner transformation.

Faith and heaven are not external, out of reach, but with us – including amongst ourselves and how we might impact the lives of others…

#AdventBookClub: Day 26: Clean and Tidy?

Maggi Dawn today takes us to the environment where Jesus was born … our instinct is to take anything holy and ‘protect’ them in a holy space, but:

We expect Jesus to be where it’s clean, but he is born into the mess of human life. We think of Jesus as safe and calm and serene, but he grows up to be the kind of leader who has his sleeves rolled up, ready to face reality and connect the spiritual world to the material one. We try to restrain him and keep him clean, but he breaks out of those expectations.

So I love this image from Seed Resources in which a Christmas Tree is made from a  cleaning brush:

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Ron Glusenkamp encourages us to think about the phrase “Don’t take it personally” in the hope that we will think about how the birth of Christ affects us as a person, and as a child of God. Give of our best, with confidence and generosity, and the rest will follow! Nice suggestion to give out gift certificates for an hour of your time…

#AdventBookClub: Day 25: It’s #Christmasmeans

Ron Glusenkamp quotes Frederick Buechner:

Doubt is the ants in the pants of faith. It keeps it alive and moving.

with an activity encouraged, rather like #3goodthings, to write down ways in which God has been faithful to me today.

Today’s piece from Maggi Dawn is reminding me that should I ever earn enough ££, I would love to visit Israel and see the original ‘Biblelands’ .. know lots of people who’ve been with Oak Hall – they all say – exhausting but brilliant… but adds another layer of understanding to the Bible stories (in today’s story, particularly the ‘turning away from the Inn’)… the one-roomed family party house – was it too full, or was Mary’s condition too much of a disgrace?

Jesus doesn’t ask us to sweep our our lives before he will be born within us. He asks only that we find whatever space we can, and do not delay, because his birth (and our rebirth) is imminent. He doesn’t wait for a rapturous and well-prepared welcome. He doesn’t turn down our humble, imperfect and perhaps even slightly grudging invitation. He doesn’t ask for satin and velvet, diamonds and Dom Perignon. He’ll be born wherever. All we have to do is make space for him.

Happy Christmas to all (breakfast was 930am – hence earlier get up than most other days so far this week!)

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As Seed Resources says, not Biblically accurate, but I love this…

See what else #Christmasmeans for me…

 

#AdventBookClub: Day 24: Pouring Out

So, I haven’t gone to bed yet, so as far as I’m concerned it’s still Christmas Eve :-)

Brian Draper #Advent20 finishes:

‘Today – of all days! –

I will try not
to wonder what might have been,
had it all gone according to my plans;
nor even what the future holds,
forever just out of my reach.

The wonder is that you reach,
to here, now –

Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace –

and here am I:
one small step,
from darkness into light.”

Ron Glusenkamp:

“Our lives this Advent should be walking thank-you notes to God for the precious Gift of His Son”

with a reminder to regularly focus upon how we are blessed, and take the effort to audibly recognise those around us!

Maggi Dawn encourages us to look back at the promises that Mary was given, and deals with the question as to why we still have poverty etc…

… James takes the same point as James – Justice – and bangs the nail home, saying bluntly that the gospel is neither an abstract faith not a promise of God’s intervention, but a call to practical activism.”

Definitely interested in practical expressions of faith – good to read blogs such as God and Politics… as Pam Webster puts it “to not harbour God’s presence inside ourselves, but to let it pour out.”

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#AdventBookClub: Day 23: Hope for the Future

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Tired, but this caught my eye as I’m heading to bed (I’ve been sorting out photo files on my laptop, and the software kept ‘spinning’ #slow… all good practice for #waiting) … and I think a number of us are waiting to see what we have in the morning, as the wind continues to howl around…

From now on… calls us to look forward positively whilst still living realistically in the present. It is a call to live with an eye to the future, not to escape the realities of everyday life, but to give hope to the present.”

Brian Draper looks over the past few weeks of #Advent20:

Nouwen wrote, ‘Each step is like a candle burning in the night. It does not take the darkness away, but it guides us through the darkness. When we look back after many small steps of love, we will discover that we have made a long and beautiful journey.’

Ron Glusenkamp looks for us to show compassion … to others, and I’m having to learn – to myself … I never think that I’ve done enough…

#AdventBookClub: Day 22: Joy

I’m tired, overwhelmed, been lost in trashy fiction – then made the mistake of trying to work out what I need to do for the end of January (including a proper holiday – holding on for that :-), so loved this choice of verse via Ron Glusenkamp – which he indicates is an imperative:

Philippians 4:4-7

New Living Translation (NLT)

4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! 5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.

6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

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We should rejoice always … so this ending from Maggi seemed appropriate to my tired little mind tonight:

So it is with God. He will be born in our world whether we’re ready or not, deserving or not, prepared or not. The incarnation of God will defy our plans, upset the organised and come with ease and rapturous joy to undeserving sinners and the poor in spirit.

#AdventBookClub: Day 21: Noticing

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In the material from Maggi Dawn today, we are encouraged to think about some of the details of the ‘Christmas Story’ – that the shepherd’s were those who clung to the outskirts of society …

The question we might ask ourselves, then, is not what was so special about the shepherds, but what it is about society that renders those of us who are ‘insiders’ incapable of seeing and hearing God when he speaks.

A challenge today from Brian Draper to learn to truly appreciate the light, by embracing complete darkness – in our modern world there are artificial lights/screens everywhere we turn – can we turn them all off and watch the darkness draw in? I’m looking forward to trying that in Morrocco that’s for sure…

Ron Glusenkamp encourages us to think about friendship – in order to have friends, you need to be a friend… it’s a reciprocal relationship requiring attention/listening.

and me… am about to go around to a new friend’s house and watch ‘Arthur Christmas’! 

#AdventBookClub: Day 20: Slowing Down and Meeting Angels

It’s nearly Christmas … did anyone notice? Short of walking through town I’ve largely missed most of the consumerist side for sure (much as I like people, I am not a fan of shopping stampedes, so try and make the deadlines for presents, etc. earlier in my head!). Great little challenge from Brian today:

Savour the waiting, today. Each time you are delayed, notice your impatient desire not to be ‘here’ … and then say to your soul, be still.

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Another from Ron .. we tend to think of Angels as huge, winged, beings (or if you watch #thebibleuk, as Ninjas), but we never know who they are, or where they might be – the person offering to carry a bag (thanks for yesterday Rich), or the other small things we can do … including waiting with patience whilst things are delayed … as also we looked at with Maggi yesterday (I can always feel the difference between when I have left plenty of time to get somewhere – I can meander and look at things, rather than barge through people).

Maggi today draws on Luke 1:34-38, when Mary is visited by an Angel, who seems to be prepared to engage with Mary’s questions (a case of how will it happen, rather than convince me it will, as Zechariah’s questioning)… and the importance of ‘free will’ in that Mary had a choice in this.

To be without question is not a sign of faith, but of lack of depth. Jonathan Sacks

There’s an important difference between questions that demand an answer, and those that seek to understand who/what God really is/desires.

The call of God is an invitation, not an imposition.

#AdventBookClub: Day 19: Taking Time and Paying Attention

Looking back at some of the responses to Brian’s #advent20, lots of ‘selfies’ from people, and also this poem (Ann Lewin, Reflection):

God’s work of art.
That’s me?
Then beauty must lie
In the eye of the
Beholder.
I feel more like
One of those statues
Michelangelo left
Half emerging
From the marble block;
Full of potential,
On the verge of life,
But prisoned still
By circumstance and
Fear.

Yet part of me is free –
And you are still creating,
Bringing to life
The promise that is there.
Sometimes by
Hammer blows
Which jar my being,
Sometimes by
Tender strokes half felt
Which waken me to
Life.

Go on, Lord.
Love me into wholeness.
Set me free
To share with you
In your creative joy;
To laugh with you
At your delight
In me,
Your work of art.’

Get me, checking out poetry – that bodes well for #bigread14. Today’s challenge from Brian – we’re too busy being busy:

Have a wander. And pay attention to something a child is noticing. It doesn’t have to be your child. We all see plenty of children being dragged by their parents past things they want to stop and look at. Watch for what they see, and see it yourself with fresh eyes

My brain is thinking – maybe when I’ve had some sleep!!

Today or tomorrow I need to record John 1:1-14, ready for @online carols – so I love that it’s today’s verse for Ron Glusenkamp, with verse 1 that he always quotes at weddings, because it’s a social gathering… and it always reminds me of David Wilkinson saying “God is a communicating God, he doesn’t have to be persuaded to communicate with us – he gave us his Word.”

Maggi returns us to the need to look for silent spaces, and echoes from Brian above the need to slow down and pay attention to what it around us, and to discover God in those listening spaces. Referring us back to Genesis 18, we head about the visit of the angels … who, unlike us these days, were not in a hurry to get the next task done, but took time to be with one another, rather than ‘message done’ and move on.. and that made lunch today very enjoyable – yes it was ‘fast lunch’, but just ‘being':

lunchOh, and as Allan’s post says – taking time before pressing ‘send’ – I’d say on Tweets, Facebook, whatever…

 

#AdventBookClub: Day 18: Seeking Silence and Eternity

Was exhausted last night so here’s yesterdays…

I love the way that these two reflections work together:

Poor old Zechariah. A perfectly understandable wobble in the face of apparently ridiculous news and he’s struck dumb for questioning. This is, as Maggi points out, apparently quite unfair since plenty of others have encountered God and demanded proof. Sara

Not surprisingly, when he is told, Zechariah is incredulous – he can’t believe it.  He wants to know how it can happen – a perfectly reasonable question.  He knows it is humanly impossible.  Zechariah wanted some proof, some tangible evidence – I guess he got it in losing his voice!  Perhaps to hear, he needed to be silent? Pam

And Maggi notes that that silence is symbolic and deeply meaningful – not a punishment, but a response to the sign that Zechariah asked for.

Today’s instruction from Ron Glusenkamp calls for us to reshape something that appears ‘useless’ into something of value – reminds me of my friend Christina who’s very good at this:

Take a card, note or picture that you have and reuse it by sending it to someone in need of restoration.

And today @briandraper says there’s a value in those selfies…

[Jesus] can see perfectly what the poet and priest John O’Dononue managed, at least, to glimpse: that ‘behind every face, there is something eternal going on’.

Amen – and glad he can, as I think I just look shattered:

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