Advent Breathing Spaces

Inspired by Linda Stoll’s blog and timandolive.com, I’ve been posting at my Instagram account a daily photo for Advent. I’ve compiled the first 11 days here for you as well as Advent scriptures. I hope these bring you peace in this season that can seem so crazy at times!

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   HOME: The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.  Romans 13:12-14
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HOPE: God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Cor 1:9

 

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WAIT: Take heed, watch; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.Watch therefore–for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning– lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Watch.” Mark 13:33-37

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VISION:In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5

 

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PREPARE:There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light. The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. John 1:6-9
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RENEW: “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring forth for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’ Jeremiah 13: 14-16
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JUSTICE: The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you by night; but the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself; for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended. Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land for ever, the shoot of my planting, the work of my hands, that I might be glorified. The least one shall become a clan, and the smallest one a mighty nation; I am the LORD; in its time I will hasten it. Isaiah 16:19-20
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PEACE: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13
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SILENCE: Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God. Psalms 43:5
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PRESENCE :A Psalm of David. The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalms 27:4
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BELONG: Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to observe thy righteous ordinances. Psalms 119: 105-106

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A tough decision

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about. His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 

Matthew 1:18-19

Joseph’s decision to divorce Mary came from his faithfulness to the law, but his wanting to do it quietly shows how he wanted to protect Mary too. By quietly divorcing Mary, not loudly exposing her to the judging public, he may have been intentionally protecting her from being stoned. I can imagine, between wanting to uphold the law and protect Mary, that he must have felt he was between a rock and a hard place. And there was only one option to make the best out of the situation.

But God had another plan, another option for Joseph, beyond the law, and beyond his own rational thinking.

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But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. 

Matthew 1: 20-21

Continue reading “A tough decision”

Moving Right

Chuck slithered, his belly against the ground, his fur barely clearing the space between coffee table and his back.  Under the table, his front and rear legs stuck out the ends, and just the tip of his nose. 

“You crazy dog!” My friend stood, hands on her hips surveying the scene–a tipped mug and a coffee puddle by her feet, the result of enthusiasm (for me) shown through the wagging tail of her blonde Labrador Retriever.

I leaned down from my sitting position on her couch to peer under the table. Chuck’s head lay between his paws and his sorrowful, shame-filled eyes looked into mine. “It’s okay, buddy,” I whispered. “I know you were just trying to show you were happy to see me.” I hear his tail pump on the floor. “I make mistakes too, even when I think I’m doing what I’m suppose to do.” I stroke his nose.

Just recently I found myself slithering away from people too, after a misunderstanding of directions. Although not meant to harm, comments by others over my misdemeanour left me feeling raw, stirred my ‘not good enough’ gremlins. Shame washed over me like a tidal wave and caught me in its under current.

Continue reading “Moving Right”

Expanding with every breath

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It was a door I had walked through many times, but all wasn’t as it was. To the right where once my eyes scanned a spacious place lit softly but brightly enough to highlight the displays of books, paper and household items–my favourite bling–wasn’t anymore. Plywood, popular in all construction spaces, walled the once Chapters store from the Starbucks where I now stood. Feeling a bit conspicuous (how could I have not known?) I walked past customers waiting for their embellished caffeine pretending I had to use the washroom.

I’d driven by the large sign on the shopping centre in my town indicating a new Indigo Store. It was just a block walk from the original Chapters store in the same centre. They were expanding and moving into the old Target store under the Indigo label. (For my outside-of-Canada-friends, Indigo is similar to Barnes & Noble, and the Chapters name under the same umbrella. And just in case you didn’t know–Target came and left Canada as quickly as a fox spotting a rabbit. It never made it.) Now it seemed the new store was open, and the old now empty and boarded.

I pulled my hood up, stepped back outside making my way to another door in the direction of the new sign I’d seen, the new home for the items of the old space I’d spent many hours in over the years, browsing, buying, and discovering.

Adventure being a top value of mine, I found myself light in step. Yes, it was just a new store, but adventure can be had in the smallest of activities….yes?

Adventures, though, can turn out the unexpected. And the unwanted.

Continue reading “Expanding with every breath”

Lessons I Learned from Skiing

It’s that moment, ski poles gripped in one gloved hand, other circling steel pole, body shimmering up to edge of chair, waiting, waiting as elevating and then levelling. Point ski tips up, loosen grip from steel pole, push off, disengage. Skis hit flattened snow, bend knees, lean forward, let pressure off right leg.  Empty chair circling right, poles pointing down, skis coasting left, stop, plant poles in loose snow. Skis point just slightly downward, hill trails ahead, signs with coloured circles of either green, blue, black.

And then that first interruption from complete engagement with the moment.

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Whenever asked when was the last time I felt completely in the moment, I don’t have a specific one time. Yet while down-hill skiing, that moment just coming off the chair lift, or navigating the turns, the bumps, the bare spots, and powder while skiing down the mountain, I can’t NOT be in the moment. Plant pole, turn, plant, turn, plant, turn, bend (for speed), lift, plant, lean right, wide right turn, plant, turn…

And then there is the wind that caresses my bare cheeks under googles and over my neck warmer, the swoosh sound of skis on snow, and my mind, my body, even my soul gliding in the moment feeling fully present and purposeful.

Aware and engaged.

Alive.

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Honestly, it has been a couple of years since I last pointed my feet into stiff ski boots, and snapped them into bindings, and then feeling that awkward body position where lower body is forced forward and upper needs to lean back for balance.

But, ah, I miss it!

However, maybe it’s more the feeling of my body and my mind needing to be fully present– focused– so to see the trees ahead, to move my body correctly to navigate the bumps, or to tune in my hearing to what is coming up behind–that I crave, rather than gearing up, bearing cold temperatures, and sliding down a mountain.

For it is in the missing of details, when my senses are dulled, when my mind moves away from the moment, that could lead into snow up my back, googles skewed on my face, poles lost up hill, bruised limbs, and a very sore behind!

When skiing those in-the-moment details of sounds, sight, and touch not only give me a bolder experience but also, I can see now, keep me safe.

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So what’s the trick? How can we be fully present, aware and  engaged, alive,  without needing a mountain to transcend? What are ways we can create a presence of ourselves that navigates the ordinary to boldly experience every moment?

We can….

  1. Stay Focused:  Focused on what is happening now, and navigating each bump and turn with no worrisome thoughts invading. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34
  2. Be Content: Content in the moment, tot struggling against or wishing we were on a different mountain. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, as we can take nothing out of it. 1 Timothy 6:6
  3. And Thankful: Thankful for our senses, alive and firing to fully experience the all in the moment that is a gift to us-now. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

   “The greatest moment of your life is now. Not because it’s pleasant or happy or easy, but because this moment is the only moment you’ve got. Every past moment is irretrievably gone. It’s never coming back. If you live there, you lose your life. And the future is always out there somewhere. You can spend an eternity waiting for tomorrow, or worrying about tomorrow. If you live there, you likewise will lose your life. This moment is God’s irreplaceable gift to you.” ~John Ortberg,“God is Closer Than You Think.”

Do you have something that has shown you how to navigate the ordinary to boldly experience each moment, engaged and alive?

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Good and kind

“You made it seem so…” Hannah’s voice on the cassette tape.

Clay pulls off the headphones. “Easy? Is she kidding me? I was s— myself. She’s not telling the truth about the way things happened.”

Tony. “She’s telling her truth.”

(SPOILER ALERT)

The above scene is from 13 Reasons Why, a Netflix original series about a teen’s suicide, Hannah, and the tapes she recorded before her suicide. Clay’s tape was number 11. However, the late Hannah’s voice on his tape tells Clay he doesn’t belong as part of her reasons why as he is “good and kind.” But he needed to be part of her pre-suicide recordings to help explain why she did what she did. “I didn’t deserve you,” her voice tells Clay through the tape. “I would have ruined you.”

Clay wrestles with his insecurities that stopped him from pushing in, finding out why Hannah aggressively told him to go away before she died. He pictures a scene where he does probe to find out what is really going on instead of walking away with an ego bruised, and hurt feelings.

This past summer I found myself the centre of a Circle of Trust. Based on Parker Palmer’s teachings, the circle is a sacred space where one can show up exactly as they are. At first I was uncomfortable with the idea of no eye contact when speaking, yet the freedom from not judging or trying to read others while I talked let me show up in an authentic way I had not experienced before. And when I respected the space of others by listening only, I allowed them the safe space to be open, vulnerable, and true.

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Continue reading “Good and kind”

An upside down kind of way

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“No one does that anymore,” my eldest sister replied. The fall day was hotter than summer, some tree leaves green, holding on to bonds of chlorophyll, and I wondered if  maybe even confused. The summer season had brought rain and temperatures a season ahead, while now this mid September morning we walked a park trail, sleeveless and sandal footed, a ‘record breaking temperature day’ with heat warning announcements. Summer was fall, and fall is summer.

An upside down kind of day.

Continue reading “An upside down kind of way”