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Hope is so important.

When a person has something to hope in, that person can survive even the darkest of times.

Advent is a time of hoping. The people walking in darkness see light.

May you have hope today!

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O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging;
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging;
Not only green when summer’s here,
But also when ’tis cold and drear.
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging!

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!
Thou bidst us true and faithful be,
And trust in God unchangingly.
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!

(Traditional German Carol; Author Unknown)

At the corner of Main and Jackson, near downtown Henderson, this tree stands. All year round, it’s there–evergreen; ever tall. Especially beautiful in December.

Steadfast.

A reminder of God’s steadfast, unchanging love and faithfulness.

A Decided Difference

December 10, 2013 — Leave a comment

I’ve mentioned before that my friend, LouAnn Clark, has a podcast and a website called “A Decided Difference.”

One day, when LouAnn is evenlouann more famous than she already is, I’m going to be able to say: “LouAnn Clark?!? I know her! I know her! She’s my friend!” (I may have just watched “Elf.”)

She gave me a shout-out in her podcast, released yesterday, and I just wanted to say hi to her readers and provide some links for my friends. LouAnn blogs, speaks and podcasts about coping with depression and anxiety and making healthy changes from right here in Henderson, KY. She has had many excellent insights into my own life and I’m grateful for the things she’s said to me in person or via a speech at Toastmasters or her podcast that have either comforted me or caused me to change my point of view.

Her website is louannclark.com

Her latest podcast is here.

She’s also been taking pictures and blogging using the Rethink Church list like I have been.

Check out her site and give her podcast a listen!

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Earth’s crammed with heaven

and every common bush afire with God;

but only he who sees it takes off his shoes.

The rest just sit around and pick blackberries

and daub their natural faces, unaware…

from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem “Aurora Leigh”

Sometimes, in our attempt to set apart special things as holy, we miss the holy that makes up the world around us.

The Messiah came as a tiny baby, born to common folk among barn animals…and many people sat around, unaware of the holy that was dwelling among them.

There is holiness all around us. Don’t miss it.

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These are 7 of the 9 girls of Troop 1884, the Girl Scout troop I lead.

They are a delight.

And they are delighted that tomorrow, there is no school for the third school day in Henderson County. And it’s not even Winter yet.

Also, they would like you to know that they would be delighted if you planned to buy some cookies from them starting January 1!

If you’re not spend some time this December with kids of any age, you’re missing out! December is much more delightful if you spend it with kids.

Happy Monday! It’s snowy and icy here, with more on the way. Stay warm and safe, wherever you are!

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A green Shoot will sprout from Jesse’s stump, from his roots a budding Branch. The life-giving Spirit of God will hover over him, the Spirit that brings wisdom and understanding, The Spirit that gives direction and builds strength, the Spirit that instills knowledge and Fear-of-God. - Isaiah 11:1-2

This year, we are trying prayer stations in the Church Fellowship Hall on Sunday mornings that worshipers are invited to explore before or after (or during, I suppose) church services.

Find Prayer Stations for Advent Week 1 HERE.

Here are the prayer stations we used today, December 8.

Station #1 Make and Take Ornaments

This idea came via Theresa Cho’s blog.

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I used ornaments that I was able to buy at Hobby Lobby for 50% off. They are glass. I do know that there have been times I’ve been able to find plastic ornaments. Those are preferable.

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In the art room, I found little gold and silver bells, tons of glitter in various colors, confetti, pom poms, small shells and buttons. Anything that will fit into the opening of the ornament will work.

Also needed are slips of paper. I used leftover strips from a Christmas colored chain we used a couple of weeks ago.

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Ornaments are used to decorate a Christmas tree. Sometimes an ornament has special meaning or symbols to tell a story. Choose an ornament. Write or draw a Christmas wish that you have. Put it in the ornament. Fill the ornament with whatever additional decorations you’d like. Take it home and hang it on your tree.

As you hang it on your tree year after year, you can remember this Advent season.

Prayer: God of hope and peace, as we continue to prepare for Christmas, we are anxious and hopeful about what will be. Help us to wait and trust in you. Amen.

Station #2 Distraction Box

I found and adapted this idea from the aptly named site “Steal Our Stuff.”

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Set Up: A box with a lid that can be taken off and put back on repeatedly. Markers and slips of paper.

Objective: Leave your distractions behind by writing them down, praying for God’s help and leaving them in the box.

Isaiah 2:2-5

2   In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
3        Many peoples shall come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4   He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

5   O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD!

During this season, it can be hard to remember the reason we are celebrating. When you’re ready, make a list of the things that distract you from celebrating Jesus’ birth in ways that are simple, joyful, generous and reflective. Pray for God’s help and leave your list in the wrapped box. No names necessary, of course! This is between you and God.

Prayer: Lord, keep me from distractions and help me to celebrate your coming in ways that reflect your humility and kindness.

Station #3 Words About Peace

 

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Objective: Place peaceful words, phrases, sentences on the metal surfaces.

PSALM 72:1-7, 18-19       

1   Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to a king’s son.
2   May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice.
3   May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness.
4   May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the needy,
and crush the oppressor.
5   May he live while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
6   May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth.
7   In his days may righteousness flourish
and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

18   Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
19   Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may his glory fill the whole earth. Amen and Amen.

Prayer: God of all who pray and long for peace in the world and in their own hearts, this Advent season, we need you. Amen.

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Station #4 Read About The Season

(This is also adapted from an idea on Theresa Cho’s blog.)

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Ahead of Time: Gather a variety of books about the Nativity Story.

Objective: look through and/or read the books provided and consider the story from various points of view.

There are many present in the story of Jesus’ birth in the Bible. The shepherds. The angels. The Magi. Mary and Joseph. The animals.

Take time to look through the books about the birth of Jesus, sharing and remembering the story of the birth of the one called Emmanuel.

Prayer: God, your story is amazing! Help us to learn it and to know you through it. Amen.

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This year, we are trying prayer stations in the Church Fellowship Hall on Sunday mornings that worshipers are invited to explore before or after (or during, I suppose) church services.

Here are the stations from Week 1 (December 1)

Station #1 Bubble Wrap Advent Calendars

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Note: I borrowed this idea from Theresa Cho’s blog.

This is a great interactive station for families to do together. The objective: make a bubble wrap Advent calendar!

Ahead of time, I cut trees out of Bubble Wrap:

BubbleWrapAdvent

I also held onto the scraps and put them in baskets on the table because it can be hard for kids and adults to resist popping bubble wrap and I wanted the trees to be safe. Providing an alternative to popping the trees worked out well.

The instructions:

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent starts today, December 1, and begins a period of time when we wait for Jesus to be born. Children all over the world will count down the days until December 25.

1. Take a tree-shaped piece of Bubble Wrap from the bowl.

2. Choose a sheet of circle stickers and write 1-24 on each sticker.

3. Stick a circle sticker on each bubble (in order or mix them up!).

4. Hang it in your house and each day, pop a bubble!

Prayer: Lord, waiting is hard! Help us to celebrate each day because it is a gift from you. Amen.

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Prayer Station #2 Read About Advent

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Ahead of Time: Gather a variety of books about the Nativity Story.

Objective: look through and/or read the books provided and consider the story from various points of view.

There are many present in the story of Jesus’ birth in the Bible. The shepherds. The angels. The Magi. Mary and Joseph. The animals.

Take time to look through the books about the birth of Jesus, sharing and remembering the story of the birth of the one called Emmanuel.

Prayer: God, your story is amazing! Help us to learn it and to know you through it. Amen.

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Station #3 Darkness To Light

I borrowed this station from my minister friend, Rev. AnnMarie Montgomery.

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Set up: Blindfolds (bandanas) and tea light candles (I used battery candles)

Objective: Experience darkness. Celebrate the light that is coming into the world through God’s Son, Jesus.

Romans 13:11-14

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us live honourably as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Our Advent journey begins in almost complete darkness. Darkness can come in the forms of depression, discouragement, loneliness, addiction, disappointment, broken relationships, grief, regret, sin, failure, or…

When you are ready, put on a blindfold. (If you don’t want to wear a blindfold, close your eyes and put your hands over them.)  Think about the limitations of darkness. Sit in the darkness, even if it makes you uncomfortable, and consider what a gift light is. When you are ready, open up your eyes and welcome back the light and the ability to see.

Light a candle. The candle reminds us that Christ is our hope. We hope, we believe, we trust in God’s saving grace through Christ Jesus. Sit with the light as long as you like.

Prayer: Lord, let this candle be a reminder today of my hope in your coming. Amen.

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Station #4 Words About Hope

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Set up: I have a set of magnetic poetry, so I used that. And then I searched the kitchen for metal surfaces that were magnetic. These toasters were my find of the day!

Objective: Place hopeful words, phrases and sentences on the metal surfaces.

Psalm 122:1-9

I was glad when they said to me,
‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’
Our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem—built as a city
that is bound firmly together.
To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord,
as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
For there the thrones for judgement were set up,
the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
‘May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
and security within your towers.’
For the sake of my relatives and friends
I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.

Prayer: God of all who hope and long to hope again, this Advent season, we need you. Amen.

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These four stations made a great start to our Advent season.

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AdventReady

 

Short and sweet today. I’m ready to leave the house for the first time since Thursday morning. We’ve had 6 inches of snow, which is a bit more treacherous here than some other places.

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When I open my eyes in the morning, often I go through the old camp check-list:

Alive

Awake

Alert

Enthusiastic!

This morning, I’m all of those things. It is sleeting hard here in Henderson, KY. It started around 11:00 last night and it seems it’s kept up all night until this moment (8:16 a.m. by my clock currently). I took this picture after I let Sam out and watched him slip and slide all over ice-covered patio. He was also alive, awake, alert and enthusiastic! That dog loves snow and cold weather. 

I think about how the list is a progression. And I think about how in my walk with Jesus, sometimes I’m merely alive. There’s no awake, alert or enthusiastic about me. It’s as though I’m merely surviving. I’m not awake to what God is doing. I’m not alert to the needs of those around me. I’m not enthusiastic about participating in the ministry to which I’m called.

Yet, we are called to be more than alive:

Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed alert and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. Matthew 24:40-44

Every day, we have the opportunity to see God’s Kingdom coming around us. We have the opportunity to be aware of what God is doing and participate enthusiastically. It is a gift that God gives to those who remain awake.