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I think 2019 is in cahoots with 2018. Dare I use the word “collusion”? It’s largely my fault, I guess. Every year, I give my life over to God, and every year I end up trying to run things myself. It is an easy trap to fall into, especially since sitting around like a lump waiting for God to pick me up and move me remains a nonstarter. What does allowing God to direct one’s life look like? And what is a soul to do when she cannot see the signs pointing the way? Write poetry, I guess.

For too long I’ve been onstage
listening for whispered cues —
“Never?” “Whether?” “Wetter?”
Can’t the prompter’s voice better carry,
especially as I’ve had no script to study?
Oh, my improv’s improved over the years;
I’ve studied every school from Method to
Methodist. Faith informs my performance
but gives no stage directions. The audience is restive.
I see them thumbing rotten fruit. I don’t want my end
to be ignominious hook, though I’ll not ask for ovation.
Might the director step in? His lack of notes befuddles.
What I have is old, a blurred third-hand translation
of transcendent art, the only visible word, love.
This will not get the audience seated, let alone
feed the cast. Yet the play goes ever onward.
Scenes change, scenery shifts, the crowd holds its breath.
Line, please.

When editors give new writers advice, one of the things they say most often is “don’t write to the trends but instead write what you are passionate for.”  The thinking is this, writing a book is hard work.  If you have any hope of finishing it, you have to be passionate.  Ho hum?  Only doing it because you think you will make money?  Then you probably won’t succeed.

Yesterday, our pastor lectured on finding your passion in the church.  Some people have a passion for feeding others.  Others are passionate to teach.  Still others garden, growing the food we all need.  He challenged each of us to think about how to use our passions to serve.  (I’ll paste the sermon in below.  It was really good.)

This makes sense to me.  The harder something is to do, the more passionate you have to be to pull it off.  We have one member who is a nutritionist.  Would she be the person to put on the committee to source new seating for the choir?  Maybe.  But a group of us have been talking about cooking classes. This would be a better use of her talents.

Someone else was supposed to redo the church Facebook page.  It is part of her job.  For two years it didn’t get done.  My son and I did it in 3 days.  What can I say?  We’re into social media.  He helped me over a few hurdles and I was able to get it done.

Carpentry.  Music.  Teaching.  Think about your passions as you head into the New Year.  How can you use them to improve 2019?

–SueBE

Advent is a season of anticipation. We await the coming of Christ, pure God and pure human, in the person of a newborn babe. But we know that, don’t we? We’ve heard the Christmas story a hundred times — probably more. Maybe it’s time to try something new.

In her Advent booklet, “Daybreaks,” author Paula D’Arcy challenges us to approach God in a startlingly innovative way: Without demands, without preconceptions, without an agenda. All we need do is walk forward. Or simply wait in silence. Sound easy? Ay, but there’s the rub.

I can’t remember a time when I came to God without a laundry list of desires, hopes, fears, plans and petitions. I expect things from God. I expect a response. I expect that I know what I want and need, both for myself and those I love.

But do I? As a good friend of mine likes to say, “How’s that working for you?” To which I can only reply, “So-so.” To come before God prepared with an agenda provides a false sense of control over my life. It helps me feel organized, prepared, on track. I’ve never been comfortable traveling my life’s journey without a map or even a compass, but now I see that the moments where I’ve allowed myself to jump off a proverbial cliff without a parachute have been the most satisfying and spiritually rewarding times in my life. That’s a big pill for a control freak to swallow.

What if we approach Advent, which is after all, the start of a new canonical year in the Catholic Church and directly prefaces our calendar New Year, without a list? What if, instead of knowing what we’re waiting for, we forget all that and see what happens instead? What if we abolish resolutions and admit that we just don’t know?

And, most importantly, what if we commit to walking toward Jesus without our usual burden of expectations? Maybe we’ll find him in the manger, just as we thought. Or maybe we’ll find him in the last place we think to look: in the face of a stranger, in the words of those we disagree with.

It takes strength to take a journey without knowing its end. But if the magi can do it, why can’t we?

Family PrayerWhenever a new year rolls around, I examine my life for things I want to improve.  One of the things that I targeted for 2014 is my prayer life which has, embarrassingly enough, grown stale.  I couldn’t think of what to do about it, so I pulled my family together on New Year’s Eve for a quick brainstorming session. 

The solution that we came up with wasn’t for my prayer life alone but for our entire family.  In 2014, we are going to focus on family prayer time.  Meeting in the living room (there are no electronics in this room), we discussed the various things that we have each been praying for and those we think we should be praying for as a family.  Then, my husband led us in prayer.

If your family doesn’t have a prayer tradition, you may need something to help you get started.  Here are four suggestions:

  1. An announcement board.  Use a bulletin board to post prayer concerns.  Family members could also pull specific prayers from the board, retreat to a quiet location, pray, and then return the request to the board for the next prayer.
  2. A blessing box. Each family member is invited to thank God for something specific, write it on a slip of paper and add it to the Blessing Box.
  3. A prayer circle.  Everyone sits in a circle.  One person starts the prayer, praying for the person to their right.  That person is the next one to pray, offering up a prayer for the person on their right and so on.
  4. A prayer tree.  When your family prays for something or someone, you hang a prayer flag from a tree in your yard.  Each flag on the tree represents a group prayer.

What does your family do during their prayer time that others might find helpful?

–SueBE

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