Each Advent season we at reFresh offer some reflections to help ourselves and others enter this time of the year with intentional hope, joy, faith and peace.
I began celebrating the Advent season more consistently when I was in Europe. It is very normal for those countries to intentionally celebrate the Advent season. Some do not know the meanings and some experience the deep meanings... and of course there is every variance in between.
Here I am posting the first two reflections we are sending out. We are offering them free as a gift this year. I hope and pray that you find them useful and a blessing.
"Time is so precious because there is a finite amount of it. There are only 24 hours in a day. We need to sleep and eat and drink water to survive. We work to provide for the food we eat and the places we sleep etc... We each need different amounts of sleep and different people take longer to eat than others. Introverts need time alone to recharge. Many other things pull at our allotted time.
The gift of our presence to others is so precious because we are giving them our time. I have been thinking about the quality of that time. Is it exhausted, depleted time i give to the ones I love? That does not seem right to me. I want to give the best of myself to those I love. ... this is becoming longer than I intended... read on at www.melissawright.org"
So here we are.
I remember a former roommate who would give her best self to the customers she served during the day at work. Upon returning to our home, she was the depleted and most unkind version of herself. We are dear friends and we worked through that years ago... but it has left me thinking of what I offer to those I love the most.
It does not seem loving or kind for me to give my best to everyone else in the day and then the left overs to my roommate, my boyfriend, my mom, etc...
What do you think? I know I am not alone in this challenge. How do you give quality time, patience and kindness to those you love? ...especially when you have had a long day at work?
Holiday shopping or any online shopping actually...
So if you read my last musings you know that I am working part time for a non profit called the Media Foundation.Click here: Media Foundation for their website.
They help non-profits to meet their operating costs by the donations of DVDs, Video Games, CDs and Books.
As you probably have seen before, When you make a purchase on Amazon through this link Amazon (same as the one on the right of this page) a small percentage of your purchase is sent to reFresh which helps us do ministry.
I had an idea the other day... If you use the Amazon link... and you are looking for DVDs, Video Games, CDs or Books... you could come across the Media Foundation seller Broadband Era. Purchasing through them gives the rest of your purchase price to help other non profits (those listed on the Media Foundation site.
I personally am inspecting, improving, listing, packaging and sending items for the Media Foundation. It would be so joyful to me to see I am sending you a package! :)
Just a thought... your online shopping money could all go to help non profits. Amazing!
I found some writing I did over 10 years ago. I am amazed at the consistency of my soul's longing for God. Back then, I found myself looking at how much my desire to do for God did not always make me feel close to God. I think this poem/song reflects that struggle.. from 2004. .. maybe earlier.
reFresh is in the middle of our 7th year of ministry and we have been practicing some Rhythms of Rest. You read about it when I wrote about our Mondays. You read about when I wrote about the Grotto... you can read more here: http://mysoulrefresh.com/
Now, it is easy to assume that we are taking a sabbath or that we are just not working for this year. Quite the contrary actually. :)
In following the instructions of Exodus 23...
We have taken a rest from the normal (the fields) of day retreats, one on one appointments, starting new ACT Journey retreats, etc... and have taken up (building the barns), practicing what we preach (developing rhythms of rest) developing resources and developing funding for us to do the ministry of reFresh.
We are seeing God poise us for exciting things in the coming year as we seek to remain faithful to where and how He calls us.
I have to admit, It is a challenge to practice what we are preaching and to keep a rhythm of rest. But we are committed to it. And I love seeing how God leads in these times.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him...
This then is how you should pray:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.
I am reading a book by Matthew Kelly. In quoting C.S. Lewis's Screwtape letters he leads the readers into the need for silence in our lives. The diabolical plan of the senior devil is to help the junior devil learn that just creating so much noise in the world that man can no longer hear the voice of God in his life will do the trick. (I love when authors and writings I love are used in newer materials)
"This diabolical plan to fill our lives with noise is pure genius for its simplicity. And countering it requires the same simplicity. The more time you spend in silence, the more clearly you will hear the voice of God in your life."
Kelly then goes on to encourage us to ask this question. "Does this lead me closer to God or further from God? We can ask this question after we hear a song, watch a show, have a conversation...
I learned to ask these types of questions from childhood... but the need for silence and solitude to listen to the Lord is something that has become of paramount importance in my life over the past 10 years.
When I first began practicing times of silence and quiet... it was painful. my mind wandered. I would read words on a page even such as the Lord's prayer and they would not sink in. But over the years of practice... I am learning to just be with the Lord in the silence. To hear His still small voice that calls me to be the me He is creating me to be. It is quite a journey!
And so when I pray ...Our Father... who is in HEAVEN! oh how holy is your name!... I connect with these words more deeply.
But it is work to quiet the noise around me. To quiet the music, tv, words of others... takes practice and effort. I am continuing to learn.
I had an experience this past week that has given me pause to ponder my reactions.
A service that I am using has an option for low income clients to pay a lower price (with some stipulations, of course)
I knew this from reading their materials.
As I have watched my financial support dwindle since my return to the USA, I also watched my modest savings account dwindle as I am committed to paying bills and not going into debt. Now, I have enough life experience and training to know that a savings account is very important... especially when life throws you a curve ball. I have been grateful for that savings account.
So this past week I found that I could pay my bills, but I did not have the funds to put gas in my car or to purchase groceries. I am watching God work that out as He always does... and I also knew I needed to ask this service about the option for low income clients.
As the service ended on Monday, I wrote a check and asked that it not be cashed until after the 5th. The provider asked me if that was difficult and if I had read all the material provided? Did I see the part about low income?
yes. I did see it. yes. I meant to ask. yes. with tears in my eyes I realised that my being able to have enough to also give to others has brought me great joy! and I am facing the reality that I may not be able to do that for a while. that breaks my heart!
The provider helped me walk through this and I left pondering how my pride in being able to DO is being knocked down. Yes it is more blessed to give than to receive but if pride keeps me from receiving... that is not from the Lord.
"The average person will see about 4,040 Mondays in their lifetime. And outside of the few short years before you start school and the time you spend on vacation, or retired, Mondays are the most hated days on the planet. Of course, if you love your job, this doesn't have to be the case, but unfortunately, a sizable chunk of the workforce does in fact, hate their job. This simple truth has given rise to a plethora of Monday songs, most of which speak negatively about the day." The author then goes on to list the top 10 Mondays are bad songs. As a reFresh team, we have committed to taking 1 day a week, 1 week/weekend a month and 1 month a year to be reFreshed in order to minister more fully the rest of the time. You can read more about it here: http://mysoulrefresh.com/ So, Mondays are the days I have been trying to set aside each week. I don't dread Mondays. I look forward to extended times with the Lord, I look forward to rest. And as the year goes on, I am discovering that no Monday looks alike. As I begin the day giving it to the Lord and committing to follow where He leads, it is an adventure. Sometimes with tears, but always with a deepening rest for my soul. As the day unfolds, I call whomever comes to mind and I have been so blessed to see how God is leading me. So today is Monday and I am looking at what the day could hold. Do you take a day/half a day/an hour even? To intentionally settle your heart before the Lord and rest in Him, to be with Him? If you want help knowing how to do this, please ask me or look at our reFresh site.
One of the books we at reFresh recommend is called "Pilgrimage of a Soul" I am reading it and loving it.
This quote from St. Ignatious of Loyola is in chapter 3.
"Take O Lord and receive
All my liberty, my memory,
My understanding and my entire will
All that I have and possess
You have given all to me
To you O Lord I return it
All is yours
Dispose of it all according to your will
Give me your love and grace
For this is sufficient for me"
-St. Ignatius of Loyola
I love the writings of St Ignatious. During some of my darkest times in life, his writings and the Psalms helped me lean into Jesus. There is something so beautiful about the writings/thoughts of someone who has walked through the lowest valleys and came out loving God more deeply.
The Disciples were locked away for fear of what the Jews would do to them... and Jesus appeared in their midst and said, "Peace be with you." (John 20)
Can you imagine?
As I listened to this yesterday, I found myself imagining what it would be like to be one of those disciples- fearful and huddled together. And then to see Jesus in the midst and the words He says are "Peace be with you."
We are promised His peace throughout scriptures.
Peace that is not understandable by the world.
This is the kind of peace that empowers me to leave the locked rooms of my fears.
It is the kind of peace that empowers you to leave the locked rooms of your fears.
I am reading a book by Matthew Kelly called, Rediscover Catholicism. Many things have struck me as I read it. I find myself saying "yes" and "amen" a lot as he helps catholics learn what it means to live with passion and purpose.
This was in what I read today:
"God calls each of us to holiness. He invites us to be truly ourselves. This call to holiness is in response to our deep desire for happiness. We cry out to God, saying show us how to find the happiness our hearts are hungry for, and God replies, Walk with me, be all I created you to be, become the best version of yourself. It is a natural and logical conclusion that we will never find happiness if we are not ourselves. Imagine if a bird tried to be a fish, or if a tree tried to be a cloud. No matter how hard a bird tried to be a fish, it would never succeed. The challenge life presents to each of us is to become truly ourselves--not the self we have imagined or fantasized about, not the self that our friends want us to be, not the self our ego would have us be, but the self God has ordained us to be from before we were in our mother's womb."
how many of us are comfortable being the us that God ordained us to be from the beginning of time? I am finding myself continually seeking to come back to who God has made me to be in the midst of the changes and transitions in my life.
I met Tiana over 10 years ago when she came to the college group at Good Shepherd.
Since then, she has done extensive missions work in Lithuania, North Africa and... well... you can ask her about her experiences. :)
Anyway, She is amazing and since her two years in Lithuania.. over five years ago... She has had a heart to return there long term.
She joined staff with Cru and is currently searching for ministry partners to give financially and to pray fervently for her. She is eager to continue relationships with Lithuanians she already knows and to dive into new relationships as she shares the hope that Christ brings.
Please, would you pray about joining her ministry team? If you have questions, want to set up a time to meet her, or want to tell her you want to join her team: tiana.weaver at cru.org
I realise that for most of you reading this, the post title is a "duh" statement. But I feel the need to ponder it for this post.
Every type of relationship with another human being is hard work.
With my siblings, I know we come from the same place... the same environment... mostly the same really emotionally and physically and mentally hard things. We learned together about how to be in a variety of situations.
Since we have not lived together for over 20 years now, we have adopted ways of doing things and ways of living that are not always how we were raised. And because we are each unique... even the basics of me being female and them being male... and the birth order of me being youngest, one being middle and one being youngest... there are a myriad of life experiences that are unique to each of us and a plethora of relationships with others that have shaped us to be who we are today.
With my friends, some of us were raised very similarly (values, church, free time, etc...) and some of us were not raised similarly at all. But we have found common bonds and common hearts to keep us connected as friends even over thousands of miles.
With all these relationships, I find myself looking for the balance of interdependency. A healthy dependence and independence. knowing I am needed and knowing I need the other. But also knowing I am quite complete in myself with the Lord. It is not an easy balance. It takes hard work.
As seasons come and go with friendships and as my siblings and I grow and shift and change, and as I enter into deeper romantic relationship, I am finding it imperative to give selflessly, to love unconditionally, to speak truth boldly, to walk confidently in who God has made me to be but not at the expense of others.
It is hard work to admit I am wrong and it is hard work to draw into relationships when things are challenging, but if that relationship is important enough, I will work through the the hard stuff. I will not run away and I will not cling. I will strive to stand firm in love and truth.
relationships are hard work. but so worth that work.
Lent is 40 days long. I say it again... loooooong. If you have chosen to abstain from something for Lent this year, or have done so in the past, you probably understand why I say this.
I can maintain anything for a couple weeks. It is a challenge to continue being intentional about this observance of Lent for 40 days plus the Sabbath days. March 5-April 20.
I have been pondering how long 40 days feels. I am pondering how 40 days played out in the Scriptures
Noah and the Ark-40 days and 40 nights
Moses when he was getting the 10 commandments-40 days and 40 nights
The 12 who went down to spy on Canaan- 40 days
Goliath went and took his stand for 40 days before David came along
After being strengthened by the Lord, Elijah went 40 days to Horeb (the Mountain of the Lord)
Nineveh had 40 days to repent after Jonah talked to them.
Jesus himself was 40 days in the wilderness
After His resurrection Jesus appeared for 40 days speaking of the Kingdom of God
I have only given up watching TV shows at home. But I am learned how long 40 days really is. Big changes happen in 40 days. Massively important aha moments with God happen in 40 days.
Today is day 21 of the Lenten time. In our reFresh UnHurry Up into Easter, Lenten Pilgrimage we are asked to spend time with this verse: O that today you would listen to his voice! Do not harden your hearts... Ps. 95:7-8
hmmm... listening to His voice. Each of the 40 days listed above have something to do with listening to the Lord's voice. Oh may I really listen during this Lenten season.
In the churches that follow the traditional church calendar.. The time between Christmas Time and the time of Lent is called Ordinary Time. I find this interesting... so I have done some looking into it... Wikipedia states: "In this context, the English name "Ordinary" translates the Latin termordinalis and is used because the weeks are numbered in a series"
Ordinary Time is celebrated in two segments:
From the Monday following the Baptism of Our Lord (about January 12th) up to Ash Wednesday (March 5th this year);
From Pentecost Monday (early June) to the First Sunday of Advent (Nov 30th this year).
The thing is... there is nothing ordinary about life when we are following Jesus Christ.
I love the distinct seasons to reflect, remember and ponder the amazing gift it was for God the Father to send His only Son to earth to experience the life of a human being and to die for our sins on the cross thereby ending the need for animal sacrifices and securing our ability to spend eternity in heaven.
28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.]
29 Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.
30 For My yoke is wholesome (useful, good–not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne.
Do you feel a need to have your soul eased and refreshed? That is what a Day reFresh retreat is like. We vary the scripture and the methods, but the focus is to come to the Lord whose yoke is wholesome and whose burden is light.
It was delightful today to spend time with others who invested in themselves today by coming away for time with the Lord.
the next two Day reFresh retreats: March 19th May 7th
Sign up on the reFresh website: http://mysoulrefresh.com/
I LOVE my job!