Advent 2021.5 – Time to Get Started

One thing that I like about Advent is that it actually marks the beginning of the calendar of the church.

Time is an important thing. Some say it’s the most prized currency (along with our attention) of the age.

Culturally, we are arriving at the end of the year.

Spiritually, this is our beginning. Our start.

And I live in this “in-between” space, with culture on one hand and my spiritual life on the other.

So as I watch things wind down and prepare for the marking of another year, I am also starting a journey of Spirit. Advent, to Epiphany, to Lent, to Pentecost, and on and on.

For me, this spiritual journey, this different rhythm is important.

I am not simply a child of this culture. I am a child of the Church, born of Spirit.

This Advent, as a marker of “beginning” I decided to start another one year Bible reading plan.

(I just completed a two-year cycle of lectionary readings, which took me through most of the Bible in two years, and also repeating the Psalms roughly every month or so. This year, I’m again using the “M’Cheyne Plan”, which will take me through all of the Old Testament once, and the Psalms and all of the New Testament twice.)

So instead of starting my reading plan on Jan 1, I began it on November 28.

Pro Tip: It’s not too late to start something for yourself.

Advent 2021.4 – Aiming for Surrender

Thinking more about the “themes” of the weeks of Advent (hope, peace, joy, and love), it seems to me that there’s a challenging and counter-intuitive aspect to all of these.

It’s all well and good to reflect on these ideas and concepts. They are aspirational, and you could do a lot worse than to try and live them out on a given day or week.

But for me, I’ve found that it’s really difficult for me to “try” to be loving, peaceful, joyful, and hopeful. In fact, the more I try to be any of these things, the more I can end up bearing down and gritting my teeth, determined as hell to be loving, etc.

Then, when I come up against someone who is really a challenge to love (because I always do), I end up losing my temper (which I sometimes do), or maybe at best “loving them” while I’m hoping that they feel guilty for how much love I’m showing them (sarcasm intended, and yes I usually end up doing this as well).

Does it really work this way?

It’s really difficult for me to “aim” at love, joy, hope, and peace.

Luckily, I’ve found a better way.

I don’t aim at these values; I aim at surrender.

For me to have a little Advent in my life, I need to surrender my agenda, my will, my way, my plans, even what I think to be true of myself and the world.

I surrender all of this, and I subject myself to the Lord of Advent, to Jesus and His Spirit, and allow myself to be formed, led, and shaped into someone who can actually be a bit more loving, joyful, hopeful, and peaceful.

It’s HIS job to shape me. It’s my job to surrender.

I STILL Can’t Fix You, But…

A few years back I wrote a post about Coldplay. Well, Coldplay and spiritual growth.

I was thinking about it this morning. I’ve been in a class this week about being a “spiritual director”, an individual who helps someone become (and remain) open to growing.

One of the helpful metaphors that has come up in the class is the spiritual director as a sort of “midwife”—we are there to “assist” in the birth, but it’s really not our baby nor our labor. We may know a thing or two, but we are not a professional, not separate from the situation. We are in the birth process with you, helping as we can, naming things as we can.

But ultimately the birth process is yours, not ours.

In other words, I still can’t fix you, but

  • I’ll be with you during the process
  • I’ll try to help identify what you’re going through
  • I’ll comfort you when I can and encourage you when you need it

And I’ll celebrate with you when “new birth” arrives.