Blessings upon blessings for the coming year. I love you!
Advent is a season of readying the heart for God with us. Although I didn’t exactly plan it this way, my personal spiritual journey seems to coincide with this theme. Advent is an opportunity to draw close to God. In the midst of all that shapes us, it is a chance to remember him.
I’ve been learning to listen, really listen, to God. I have been putting things I am considering before him and asking him what he thinks. Stillness is necessary. I find I need to recall the things he’s already said and done. Over time, he has spoken, whispered even, through his word when I’ve sat with him, through observations and conversations with others, and through his Spirit. My belief is that this truth, from a Spirit-saturated culling of communications, trumps everything else I think I should be doing, could be doing, or might be doing. And it is this truth – this directive from the King who responds to the “thy-Kingdom-come-thy-will-be-done” prayer – that will bear fruit (if put to action) .
God’s quiet voice can get lost in the din of busyness. Then, it feels almost justifiable when we sit in confusion about which way to turn. When we are torn between a range of thoughts and ideas, it is possible that we are being double-minded or double-hearted. James (James 1:6-8) warns against double-mindedness, and I have often wondered about that term (perhaps I couldn’t understand it because I was in the thick of it!). In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he tells them not to be conformed to or shaped by the world around them but to let God transform them by changing how they think (Rom 12:2). The “world” consists of family patterns, family idolatries (worshiping approval, pleasure, success, service, praise, money, ease, image, etc.), unhealthy relationships, and cultural and societal norms – all the things that shape our identity, our sense of being “okay” in the world. These are so deeply ingrained that sometimes we don’t even recognize them as being unhealthy burdens that God never intended for us.
Listening for God’s “no” or “yes” on decisions I put before him means I need to be open to hearing. It also means remembering what he has said and trusting him enough for me to brush the other things off the table and focus on the things I know for certain. Tonight, over dinner, reading the December 6th entry for Sarah Young’s “Jesus Calling,” I was struck by these words that fit the Advent theme and my personal reflections:
“Stay ever so close to Me, and you will not deviate from the path I have prepared for you. This is the most efficient way to stay on track; it is also the most enjoyable way. [People] tend to multiply duties in their observance of religion. This practice enables them to give Me money, time, and work without yielding up to Me what I desire most—their hearts…. What I search for in My children is an awakened soul that thrills to the Joy of My Presence!”
If you are unsure about what God is speaking directly to you, take a moment to be still with him. Ask him what he is passionate about. He will tell you what moves his heart.
Advent has been observed historically by fasting and prayer. I don’t know about you, but fasting allows any emotional issues I have to bubble up to the surface very quickly. Even if you select one small thing, I encourage you to consider some form of fasting. The theme for the first week of Advent is “Hope.” This past year, I have found these words in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians incredibly encouraging, as they tell how God’s presence grows and deepens in our hearts:
When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. — Ephesians 3:14-19 (New Living Translation)
If we want to welcome Christ in our hearts, we must be open to him in our spirit. This allows him to come in and know us intimately. We really can’t make it all happen. This Advent season, allow yourself time and space to be still; allow your mind to rest on Jesus Christ coming into our world because of God’s love for us. Allow your heart and mind to rest on this hope. If stillness or fasting raises any issues, talk to God about them. He will give you insight and direction.
This is the season of Advent — a season of preparation and anticipation, marking the time before the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. The birth of Jesus, in a stable full of animals and stink and hay, is a bit like his coming in to our hearts, really. When he comes to call, we might give him the brush off or begrudgingly give him a corner. Even those who’ve welcomed him in to their lives may think, ah, Advent — not sure I really have time to think about that!
I will be reflecting here on making space for him, this process of making room for the Christ child. Come, Lord. Come. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!
(Makes 4 servings)
1 cup dry lentils
2 cups chicken broth
1 small onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, diced finely
2 T. olive oil
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp garlic salt
Soak 1 cup dry lentils in 3 cups of water.
Prepare the beans.
1. Drain beans and put in a medium sized pot/pan.
2. Add 2 cups chicken broth and 1 cup water to cover the beans.
3. Turn heat on high to boil. Turn to medium/low heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
Prepare the vegetables.
1. Chop a small onion (or roughly ½ cup of chopped onion) and 2 celery sticks.
2. In a small fry pan, heat in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.
3. Add chopped onion and celery to the heat and stir.
4. Add ¼ tsp. pepper, ¼ tsp salt, and ½ tsp garlic salt to the onion and celery and continue stirring a few minutes until they are softened.
Combine vegetables with beans.
1. Add the vegetables to the pot with the beans
2. Continue simmering on low/med heat and stirring.
3. Liquid should reduce, but if it gets too low, add 1-2 cups water and reduce heat.
Garnish with a dollop of plain yogurt, if desired.