First Week of Advent - Saturday (by Beloved)

Scripture: Psalm 25:1-10 What is your favorite image of God? (Parent, wind, rock, mother hen and lover are some examples to consider.)  Write about or capture this image in your journal.

Probably the most common image of God for me is that of loving parent.  I imagine this is most likely because I have been fortunate to have two loving parents and been able to witness many other family members and friends act as loving parents.  Sometimes they are soft - encouraging, embracing, advocating, marveling, beaming. Sometimes they are hard - correcting, denying, redirecting, grieving, admonishing.  But always it is done out of love.

This is how I see God.  God loves me more than I can imagine, but this doesn't always feel good.  Sometimes God corrects me, God denies me things, God grieves the things I do wrong.  But God also embraces me unconditionally, encourages and strengthens me, marvels at creation and is a beaming and proud parent when I do things to usher in God's kingdom.

The prayer today is to ask for God to heal our image of God so that we can love and get to know God more deeply.  I realize that this loving parent image is not a complete image of God and can be healed in many ways from when I try to make God into an image I can understand or relate to.  So God, heal this image, expand this image, reshape this image.  And remind me always to stand in awe of what I will never truly understand or grasp - your amazing love.

First Week of Advent - Friday (by Beloved)

Scripture: Luke 1:67-79 Find the most vivid image in this Scripture and write about how it connects with your life.

"He has remembered his holy covenant", that we "might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days."

In Jesus' birth, God has remembered his holy covenant, his promise to Israel.  Through Jesus, we can serve God without fear.  We have been freed from fear, from legalism, from hopelessness.  It was probably hard to see in the birth of a baby.  It was even harder to see in a shameful death on a cross.  But we have been given light when we sit in darkness, our feet have been guided in the way of peace.  This is the awesomeness of Christmas, the incarnation, God with us, remembering his covenant, setting us free.  This is what I hope to keep in the forefront of my mind throughout Advent.

God, help me to remember what Christmas signifies.  Keep me on the path of peace.

First Week of Advent - Thursday (by Beloved)

Scripture: Matthew 21:33-46 Name the ways you honor what God has placed in your care.

Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is the child that literally has been placed in my care.  This pregnancy has not always been easy and I have been on a very restricted diet.  People often comment on how "good" I'm being by not eating dessert.  But I would only be hurting my child by eating what I am not supposed to.   This child is helpless and relies only on me to provide what it needs - how could I possibly do otherwise?

Most other situations in life are not quite as straightforward.  If I don't take care of things in God's kingdom, maybe somebody else will.  In fact, the tenants in today's Scripture were wrong for thinking that they knew more than God.  I think that as a minister, this is key.  It is easy to get caught up in thinking that I know best, that my way is best, that if I don't do it that God won't work.  My most often confession is a lack of trust.  Trusting that God can work - through me or in spite of me, using my gifts but also using other people's gifts, putting things in my care and putting decidely more not in my care.  And of course, discerning between the two.   I honor God most by remembering that I am not God.

First Week of Advent, Wednesday (by Beloved)

Express in your journal how your actions have sometimes fallen short of God's expectation of you: Is there a word limit on these things? Isn't there a reason we say a generic prayer of confession and then move quickly to the Assurance of Pardon on Sundays?  I don't like thinking about all of the ways that my actions fall short of God's expectations.  And I'm supposed to be a pastor.  Sometimes imposter feels more like it.

The reality is that I am no more Christian, no more devout, holy, pure, Christlike, than those in the pews.  I struggle with the same old faults when I am supposed to be transformed.  I resist my calling to be a disciple who lives a life worthy of that calling and hide behind irreverence and humor to make it sound OK.

The devotion today says that we need to allow God's judgment to cleanse and free us for loving service.  I guess all I can do is pray that prayer.

God, in this time of expectation, help me to see and hear your expectations for me.  Forgive me and allow me to forgive myself for all of the ways that I don't live up to your expectations.  I await the Christ child, God with us, whose coming into the world makes that forgiveness possible.  Amen.

First Week of Advent, Tuesday (by Beloved)

Write about what you would like God to set right in the world: Here's the global answer: an end to war, the elimination of hunger, a stop to genocide, rape, child abuse, hatred, corruption, injustice and greed.

Here's my personal answer: that my pregnancy would be complication free and my baby born healthy, that my grandmother could die peacefully surrounded by family, that my friend who is back from Iraq would not be haunted by her time there, that my husband would be cured of his diabetes on the same day that mine goes away, that all of the people in my church who are suffering with cancer would be cured, that all those I know and love who are hurting, lost, depressed, struggling or just going through the motions would experience Christ's healing, would be made whole and be born again.

First Week of Advent, Monday (by Beloved)

What gift do you have to contribute to the world? Hmmm, a difficult question to answer.  If we talk about skills and talents then I'm much more comfortable in self-deprecation mode than in toot-my-own-horn mode.

But I think what I have been struck by lately are the physical and monetary gifts that I possess.  A plastic bag was left at our door asking us to fill it with nonperishable food for those who don't have any at the holidays.  I could easily raid my pantry and come up with plenty to share, most I wouldn't even miss.  This time of year there are unlimited opportunities to give a few dollars here, a hat and gloves there, to help those less fortunate.  And I could help with all of it.

Most days I worry about paying bills and having enough at the end of the month, but truth be told, I could donate, I could share my "gifts" with the world, and it wouldn't break the bank.  It wouldn't even fall in the category of "giving 'til it hurts".  It would simply be sharing.  It would be answering my calling to share what I have with the world.