Advent Thoughts – Be Vigilant

 

I apologize, I haven’t been writing much at this blog lately.  Things have been pretty busy and my focus has been elsewhere.  I’m hoping to get back to a more consistent blogging schedule soon.

 

In today’s Gospel, Luke says in 21:34-36

 

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.  For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.  Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

 

I heard this at Mass this morning and it just struck me.  How often am I too distracted by what is going on at home or work or society in general to pay attention to the spiritual?  I get distracted by Facebook, Twitter, running, house chores, diet, reading, all sorts of things and I don’t take the time to quietly meditate on my relationship with God.

 

I think it becomes even more apparent at Christmas.  Father Jason said this morning (paraphrasing) that in the “world” it’s already Christmas, and that by the time December 25th gets here, everyone’s tired of it.  But for Christians who have been paying attention to the meaning behind the season, December 25th is the celebration – we are in a period of waiting.  Waiting for the birth of Christ the King.  We need to be vigilant for ways to watch for Christ’s blessing during this busy time.

 

This year, my husband and I are trying to get all of our gift-buying done early.  Typically, we don’t start decorating for Christmas until after my birthday and I’d like to have all of our purchases done by then as well this year.  I really want to focus my girls on the true meaning of Christmas and taking the time to sit with them and talk about Advent.  They see the Advent wreath at Mass, but they don’t know the meanings.  I will confess – I don’t truly know them as well.  I want to make this season special for them and start creating traditions – now that they are old enough to understand.

 

I need to be vigilant.  I need to watch for those gifts that are presented to me as I go throughout my day.  I need to make sure I spend time communing with God, even beyond this season.  I need to make sure my heart does not become overwhelmed by daily life.

 

How will you be vigilant this Advent?

 

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Being Watchful During Advent

In the readings for the first Sunday of Advent, we were admonished to “be watchful”.

  • Be watchful for Jesus. 
  • Be watchful for opportunities to minister to others. 
  • Be watchful for others ministering to us. 
  • Be watchful for the movement of the Holy Spirit

Be watchful for Jesus.  To Christians, we are in a perpetual season of Advent, waiting for the coming of Christ. This is amplified annually during the Christmas season as we wait for the birth of the Christ-child. Our readings, our reflections are about watching…watching those around us for the joy of the season.

I am seeing this daily in our home. This is the first Christmas that our youngest actually understands that there’s something going on. She is sooo excited about Christmas – sure, it’s the excitement of Santa and of getting gifts, but she is enthralled by everything Christmas-related. She was so happy to help me set up our small Nativity scene the other night. We talked about each piece and what they were. Now whenever she walks by it, she says that it’s her “special thing” that she did with Mommy. For her, Advent is taking “too long”; but for us, it’s not long enough.

Be watchful for opportunities to minister to others. The holidays are a time that donations spike. People are in a giving spirit and they are called upon, whether by others or by their conscience, to give of their time, money, or talents. Ministering to others doesn’t have to be formal affair…maybe it’s as simple as holding the door for someone who is burdened with items, or a kind smile when you see someone who is frazzled. It may be volunteering for a task at work, your church, or other organization that would stretch your comfort level. It’s amazing how ministering to others can influence your everyday life.

Be watchful for others ministering to us. I tend to rush through my day always playing catch-up. I don’t always notice others as I go about my tasks. I tend to want to do things on my own, and I will struggle through a task even though someone else may have offered to help. My challenge in the coming years is to learn to accept others who are ministering to me. To accept that smile, to accept that offer to babysit, to accept that little girl’s hand in mine and not to rush through my day. Accept each person ministering to you as a gift and say “Thank you” with a spirit of thankfulness and grace in your heart.

Be watchful for the movement of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit moves in unexpected ways. Stories of people who made a serendipitous connection with a stranger abound, or how the non-answer to a prayer was really the answer to the deeper prayer. Be watchful for how the Holy Spirit moves in your life and the lives of those around you. For us, we struggled for years with wanting to have a child. We decided to become foster parents so that we could help others, but we still wanted to have a child of our own. We were finally blessed with the gift of two little girls who fit perfectly into our lives and our family. God heard our cries and even though we weren’t blessed with a child of our bodies, we were blessed with children of our heart. The Holy Spirit moved in mysterious ways.

How have you been watchful this Advent season?

“The Crossing” by Serita Jakes

Wow!  What a book!  I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked it up, but this book took me on a journey on a story through a number of characters’ lives and thoughts.  Ten years ago, a masked man stepped onto a school bus filled with cheerleaders, football players, and students.  He shot and killed the cheerleading coach, wounded the bus driver, and wounded a football player.  He was never caught.  His actions affected more lives than just those three.  Claudia was a senior cheerleader and close friend of the coach.  She has never gotten over that night.

Fast forward ten years.  Claudia is married to Vic, who is the Assistant District Attorney.  Two years prior, she suffered a miscarriage and has had anxiety issues ever since.  Casio, the wounded football player is a cop with anger management issues.  His anger is causing issues with his current girlfriend.

Vic decides to reopen the case, hoping it will bring some closure to his wife.  Casio manages to get placed on the case with him, especially after Casio’s dad gives him some evidence that wasn’t in the original case files.  What follows is like watching lives self-combust.  What people believed turns out to be false, what they never saw actually existed, and people’s inner demons are still impacting events ten years later.

What I thought was interesting was that every chapter started with a prologue of sorts, written from the POV of the cheerleading coach as she lay dying in Claudia’s arms.  I thought it was some of the most beautiful writing I have read in a while.  This is christian fiction, but it’s not overwhelmingly so.  I was completely surprised by the ending.  It didn’t turn out at all as I imagined.

Amazon Product Page

Chapter One Excerpt

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.  I was not required to give a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

Are you the miracle?

“Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be the miracle.”
— Phillips Brooks

I often pray to get through the day.  To have my tasks go easier, to get through my current project (whether that be at home or work), to have patience.  I pray to be enough to everyone – enough of a mom, enough of a wife, enough of an employee.  I don’t often pray to be more.

I just want to make people happy.  If that means that I have to work harder, or longer, or learn something in order to complete a task, I will.  I don’t want anyone to doubt my dedication to the task at hand.  Sure, I get distracted, but those incomplete projects stay with me until I finish them….like a itch you just can’t scratch – always there, just out of reach until you say “Enough already!  I’ll finish you!”.

I want to be the miracle – not my work product.  It’s already enough of a miracle that I am teaching myself things everyday; that I am following through with things and completing projects; that I have the time to do a project.  I want people to say at the end of my life that I was the one that was miraculous.

Maybe I can show that by being graceful, not just grateful.  I need to seek grace throughout the course of my day.  I need to see it in the smiles of my daughters when I pick them up…daughters I never thought I’d have.  I need to see it in the eyes of my husband when he comes home and the dishes are done (even though I have worked all day as well), supper is on the stove, and no one is fighting.  I need to see it in the projects that frustrate me.  I need to be grateful for the things I have, and see the grace in what I have been given; not see the things I don’t have and want them.

It never hurts to try to be better and to ask for the help needed to be better. 

Are you the miracle, or is the work you do the miracle?

 

The Strength to Face the Day

I saw this on another site today – author unknown, but I thought it was pretty.
 
“The Strength to Face the Day”
 
The warning of a new day
A new day has come my way
Full of joy or sorrow I know I can not say
But whatever be the challenge I know that if I pray
I’ll have the power that I need And
The Strength to Face the Day
 
No one knows what a day will bring
It may be sunshine or it could be rain
But whatever be the problem
Whatever be the pain
If I sing and if I pray
My Master will give me courage
And The Strength to Face the Day
 
So my friend you too by
Grace have a brand new day
Filled with joy or sorrow and
Hope for a brighter day
If you start out singing
And never cease to pray
Almighty God will give you
The Strength to Face the Day.

Prayer for Humility

This is another one I read a few months ago.  I had a boss once who said that I need to work on being more humble.  I am still working on that, but at least now I am more cognizant of how I appear to others.

A PRIVATE LITANY OF HUMILITY
From the desire of being praised, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honoured, deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being preferred, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of comfort and ease, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being criticized, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being passed over, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being lonely, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being hurt, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering, deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like yours.
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, strengthen me with your Spirit.
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, teach me your ways.

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart,
help me put my self importance aside
to learn the kind of cooperation with others
that makes possible the presence of your Abba’s household.

Adapted from a prayer by Rafael, Cardinal Merry Del Val,
from the prayer book, For Jesuits, 1963, Loyola University Press