Advent Devotional

John 3:16-21:

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”


 

Jesus was sent into the world—not just sent, but born, born into a human body to save humanity. The eternal light, the Word, was born into flesh. We celebrate that miracle even…

Read the rest …

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Private Revelations

“If private revelations agree with Scripture, they are needless, and if they disagree, they are false.” ~John Owen*

This quote was angrily flung in the midst of a heated Facebook theology discussion last week (because, yes, that’s what people in seminary do on Facebook), as a final proof of someone’s argument, the seal of their rightness because they were basing their arguments on the Bible!

Leaving aside the actual topic, leaving aside that person’s attitude as much as I can, I still found this quote coming back to me. Maybe it was just tainted by the vitriolic Facebook context, but the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me.

I am a writer. Sharing private revelations is really what I do. I see God in my life, in the world around me, and in those moments I see God in new and bigger and truer ways, and I share it on this blog, in my published writings, and in my sermons. Is that truly wrong? Self-centered or self-serving? Isn’t the history of Christianity really a history of different people sharing their own understandings of God, shaping them for their own contexts? Isn’t that what we are told to do (“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation‘” [Mark 16:15], for instance)? And isn’t that how we encourage one another, by sharing how we have seen God in our lives and what we’ve learned? Yes, these lessons we’ve learned are probably lessons shared in the Bible as well, but how much more powerful to experience that for yourself, or to hear of it from a friend or fellow church-goer or devotion-writer! Our God is a living God, and our faith is a living faith–share what you’ve learned! Share what God has shown you in your own life! For that is a revelation, and it may not be a new doctrine or understanding of God when viewed in terms of all of Christendom, but that doesn’t make it any less important to you, or me. Speak. Share you experiences.

God is working in all of our lives. Share it!


* I have absolutely no idea what the context of this quote is. I’ve never read anything John Owen wrote, and I’m fully aware that I’m pulling this quote completely out of context and bashing it without having any idea of who John Owen was or if he is, in fact, someone that I disagree with. If anyone does know about John Owen, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Focus?

As you may remember, focus became my theme for this Advent. I crafted some goals, and set out to improve myself this Advent. That wasn’t what I told myself; on a conscious level, that wasn’t really my intent. But looking back at my goals, they seem to be a lot about me. Maybe that’s just how they’ve played out; all of the God-focused goals have been pushed to the back of my mind, and I’ve been trying so hard to get things done and focus on schoolwork and goals and tasks. Lately, the harder I’ve tried, the less I’ve gotten done. Seriously. The amount of homework I’ve done in the past two weeks is appalling, and I should absolutely be writing an essay that is due later today. But writing is more important than schoolwork. It’s how I listen to God, break out of my boxes and certainties and rigidity. More than anywhere else, it’s where I meet God.

I haven’t been writing much lately, and it shows. Honesty scares me more the longer I don’t exercise it, and it’s honestly been weeks since I’ve sat down and just written. Without writing to ground me in God, I try to decide what should be done and how to do it, and then do those things on my own power. That would be why I’ve done almost nothing over the past few weeks. That would also be why writing this post is the fourth productive thing I’ve done since Friday. And… it was okay. God just kept reassuring me that it was okay to not be working, and so I read some Mercedes Lackey, went shopping (well, looked, which is way more fun than actually shopping anyway) and then out to lunch, watched ridiculous movies on Netflix, spent time with the people I love, played Bingo, took a nap… And it was glorious!

Yes, I still feel a bit guilty at all that wasted time. I suspect I’ll always be that kind of person, but I am more than what I do in a day. I am more than the classes I take, or the homework I do, or the housework I do, or the stories I write. They are a part of me, but they are not all of me. The intersection between unproductivity and presence–my own, others’, God’s–is where I saw God this week.

An unfocused week

Yeah. It’s been a rough week. Focus was very far from my mind. I didn’t get a whole lot done.

I want to say, to be able to say, that I felt God in the midst of my bad week. I can’t, really. I didn’t take time even to listen for God. Yes, I did my devotions and Bible-reading and whatnot, but only as an act of distracted habit. Anything that required real engagement, like journaling or praying, got shoved aside in the midst of worry about getting things done. It was not a week of focus.

It’s funny, actually, because it’s the first year I can remember being excited about Christmas as an adult. I’ve been willingly listening to Christmas music (normally it’s more of a torture until a week or so before Christmas). I even decorated for Christmas. I’m planning Christmas presents and a Christmas party.

But it was not a week of focus. It was a week of avoiding work, and avoiding the difficult questions, and avoiding the darkness all around that seems to just be growing. It was a week of drowning in worry but not feeling like I could do anything.

But this is the week of the peace candle, isn’t it? Prayers for peace, then, for you and for me. Blessings this Advent season, whatever that might look like!

Writing Scared

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I’ve been sitting at my computer for a while now, trying to psych myself up to write: I checked my work email, cleaned out my personal email, caught up on blog posts, researched a few submission possibilities… but I’ve been avoiding the thought of actually writing all morning.

I’m scared.

It’s one of the reasons I should never stop writing, because when I do entropy kicks in, and it’s so, so hard to start again. I’ve gotten out of the habit of listening–the difficulty and honesty and courage required for listening were why I stopped writing in the first place–and now I’m trying to start again and it’s scary. That’s why I’ve been avoiding writing all morning. It’s scary. I don’t want to come face-to-face with myself, bare my soul through writing words on a page, listen to the Source of inspiration and all the things God might say that I don’t want to hear. I don’t feel brave enough. I don’t feel honest enough.

I’m afraid.

I know that if I push through, with prayer and preparation, I’ll be fine, I’ll be more than fine. I know. I do. If I push through, there’s something beautiful and wonderful on the other side, the sense of being surrounded by love and presence. I know. I do. I know even that it makes sense to be afraid. Writing transforms. It’s terrifying to approach God, hands and heart and mind open, ready to receive, whatever it might be. It’s terrifying to approach God, period. The Creator and Ruler of the universe is not conceivable, controllable, quantifiable. I know this. I do.

I don’t feel ready. I don’t know how to start.

And that might be the end, for today.