Another prayer as we enter 2012

For my friends in Australia and New Zealand the new year is already well under way. For those of us on the West Coast of the U.S. it is still several hours away. Wherever we are this is still a good time to reflect and renew ourselves in the promises of God.

I wrote the original version of this prayer as my facebook prayer this morning, but as you can see it has grown and taken life over the day. I pray that it will be a blessing for you too.

God may I welcome this new year without fear or regret,
Secure in the certainty of your promises,
May I live in anticipation of its beauty,
And be prepared to embrace its challenges,
May I look for your love in every moment,
And listen for your voice in every sound,
May I see your image in every stranger,
And exalt in your glory expressed in all your creation,
May I learn to live in the place of trust,
Remembering always that the future is in your hands.

Saying Goodbye to a Wonderful Year

Tom and I are just back from our quarterly retreat. As part of the framework for my reflection I have been reading Ruth Hayley Barton’s book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. I was particularly struck by her thoughts on taking time to draw aside in order to notice the presence of God in the present moment – what she likens to Moses drawing aside to examine the burning bush and discovering that he is in the holy presence of God.

Learning to live in the present moment, being grateful for what it holds and giving thanks for how God has created, it is an art that draws us close into the presence of God. This enabled me to recognize the presence of God not just in the moment but in the whole of the year that has passed. And so I find myself kneeling in awe and reverence at the privilege of co-creating with the living God.

As we race towards 2012, Tom and I and the growing Mustard Seed team are overwhelmed by the generosity of God and the many good friends God has given us. This has been an incredible year for us and we have much to celebrate.

We have much to celebrate this Year

  • We began the year by launching our new website, which has enabled us to expand our written and video resources and begin publishing ebooks.
  •  It has even encouraged Tom to start blogging, and he now contributes a weeklymustardseedconspiracy post.  Our recent publications, Waiting for the Light: a devotional for Advent and Christmas and the video Lord Jesus Christ, Draw Close, have been particularly popular and are being used by many to prepare both for the coming of Jesus and for the in-breaking of God’s new creation all over the world.
  •  Godspace continues to blossom as a site for spiritual resources and I appreciate your comments and help in . This year we had over 200,000 visitors and were listed by some as one of the top 100 Christian blogs.  The most popular series was “Tools for Prayer”.
  • The daily facebook prayers are also growing in popularity as more and more people seek to connect daily to God through their internet interactions.

Camas Garden 2011

  • We facilitated four Spirituality of Gardening seminars, a brainstorming session on Recession Readiness, and several small networking gatherings at the Mustard Seed House. We had the joy of sharing new ways to serve God in changing times with friends including those at Goshen College and AMBS in March, the Inhabit Conference in April, the Overseas Ministry Study Center in May, the Wild Goose Festival and Reformed Church Educators in June, and the Mennonite Laurelville Center in August. We also held creativity workshops at several churches, including Kent Covenant and Sanctuary Christian Reformed Church in Seattle.
  •  In August we held our 20th Annual Celtic Retreat, a milestone event that marked a new phase of the development for the Mustard Seed Village. Shortly after, we received an anonymous donation of $25,000 as a matching grant for the first building, and other friends responded to the challenge. Pole Barn imageWith $50,0000 raised we are still praying for the remaining $35,000 to build this pole barn classroom. Our gifted architect and friend David Vandervort is working on the plans, and construction will take place over the summer next year. Last week Tom and I gifted the first five-acre parcel of our 40 acres on Camano Island, valued at $120,000, to Mustard Seed Associates for this purpose.
  •  Last week Forrest Inslee, who heads curriculum design for our upcoming Sustainability Semester Away program, secured approval for accreditation by Northwest University here in the Seattle area. Our partners at Creation Care Study Program  (www.creation.csp.org) are circulating our curriculum proposal to the 30 Christian colleges they work with for approval.
  • If God continues to bless, we will launch the Pacific NW Sustainability Semester next September. What makes it distinctive is that students learn not only about environmental and other global challenges likely to confront us in the coming decade, they will also learn about new community-based ways of living that are more sustainable environmentally and economically. They will also learn how they can work with others in these turbulent times to create new sustainable local neighborhoods.
  • We are so grateful for our growing MSA team… Cindy Todd, Andy Wade, Forrest Inslee and Ricci Kilmer. We are also grateful for our generous MSA boardMSA Bursting and friends like Lindsay, Crickette, James, Nancy and Dennis who volunteer their time to keep MSA moving forward. Our most desperate current need is for a part-time administrative assistant for the MSA office.
  • We have shared hospitality and food from our garden at the Mustard Seed House with friends from Australia, New Zealand, the U.K., Africa, Canada and the U.S.
  • The MSA team celebrated its own milestones this year. I celebrated my 60th, Tom his 75th, and Andy Wade his 50th birthday. We are grateful for God’s mercy and grace as we seek to grow our ministry and journey with Jesus Christ in these troubled times.

We wish you and yours a new year filled with compassion for the growing numbers of our neighbors locally and globally that are likely to be impacted by both the growing economic troubles in Europe and climate change everywhere.

A New Year’s Prayer for 2012

This past year has held many traumatic moments for us. Floods in Australia Thailand and the Philippines, earthquakes in New Zealand, tsunamis in Japan, as well as unrest in the Middle East and turmoil in all our economies. Most of us look ahead to the new year with mixed feelings, unsure whether it will bring more of the same traumatic moments. The prayer below was written with in mind. It is adapted from one I wrote a year ago and I hope that you find it as comforting as I do as I look ahead to 2012

God the eternal rock is with us,

From year’s beginning to its end,

In hard times and in good,

God is with us from year’s beginning to its end.

God almighty is faithful,

Present in each day and every moment,

Drawing close in every act and deed,

God is faithful through all eternity.

God is trustworthy,

Yesterday, today and forever,

Sustaining, enlivening, making all things new,

God the eternal rock is with us this day and evermore.

December Synchroblog – Jesus Came Did You get What You Expected?

The Massacre of the Innocents by Rubens

The Massacre of the Innocents by Rubens

My post yesterday was part of a December synchroblog and below I have posted the other posts in the series. Interestingly many focus on the unexpected pain of this season which seemed appropriate to me as I am posting this on the day in the church calendar known as The Feast of the Holy Innocents when we remember those innocent children who were slaughtered by Herod when the wise men disappeared without telling him who the Messiah was. As Greg Valerio mentioned in his post this morning: They have come to represent the voiceless, the feeble, the baby, the truly helpless who through no fault of their own, become the victims of a world that treats people as collateral damage.

The unveiling of God so often comes in the midst of pain, suffering and death. We don’t understand why but it makes even more poignant our longing for a world in which Christ is at last fully revealed. Our hope is that when Christ and his kingdom are revealed in their fullness, the sting of pain and death will indeed be completely conquered.

Then when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: Death is swallowed up in victory. O death where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? For sin is the sting that results in death and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-56

Glenn Hager – Underwear For Christmas

Jeremy Myers – The Unexpected Gift From Jesus

Tammy Carter  – Unstuck

Jeff Goins – The Day After Christmas: A Lament

Wendy McCaig – Unwanted Gifts: You Can Run But You Can Not Hide

Christine Sine – The Wait Is Over – What Did I Get?

Maria Kettleson Anderson – Following The Baby We Just Celebrated 

Leah – Still Waiting For Redemption

The Wait Is Over – What Did I Get?

Madonna and Child Giotto

Madonna and Child Giotto -

Today’s post forms part of the December synchroblog Jesus Has Come – Did You Get What You Expected?I will post the full list of submissions with links tomorrow.

In my preAdvent post Jesus Is Coming What Do I Expect, I wrote

Above all I am expecting to be changed by a fresh encounter with Christ during this Advent season…. Opening myself to be changed is never easy.  Herod knew that the Messiah was coming but he did not want to meet him in fact he wanted to kill him. The Pharisees too knew that the messiah was coming but even when the saw the signs in the heavens and heard the rumours of his birth they made no effort to go and meet him.

I then added:

So much in my life still needs to be changed by the challenge of a God of love for whom justice, mercy and compassion are more important than right doctrine and theological correctness. I want to learn to follow that God with every fibre of my being and with every aspect of my life. More than that I want to learn to trust this God in new ways know that he will never leave nor forsake me. Trusting that no matter what the future holds, my life is always in his hands.

For me this Christmas season has been a journey into trust. And part of what I have realized is that it is impossible to learn to trust God unless I am in a position where trust is needed. As long as life is comfortable and I know where my provision is coming from I do not need to rely on God. Learning to trust means placing myself in situations that move me out of my comfort zone and force me to rely on God and not on my own efforts.

The unexpected truth that has burst on me during this season is that trust is based on love. It may seem self explanatory, but I realize that it is one thing to know this in my mind, it is another to have it lodged deep in my heart. If I do not believe that God loves me with a deep and unfailing love then I will never fully trust him. My abandoned child self, alone and isolated in a hospital incubator is still present deep within my being and there is a part of me that always believes God will once more abandon me to that place of painful isolation.

Surprisingly, Christmas is a time when many of us feel alone and abandoned. The festivity around us, the coming together of families, the exchange of presents can be exciting but also makes us aware of those from whom we are separated – loved ones who have died, family on the other side of the world, friends we no longer get on with. A growing number of churches hold Blue Christmas services to reach out to us in the midst of these feelings. Others use Advent as a time to reach out in new ways to the more obviously abandoned in our world – the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized.

All of us have an abandoned child buried deep within, but the message of Christmas I have most relished this year is that every abandoned place within us is fertile ground for the Christ child to be planted, to grow and to blossom. In learning to trust I have learned to allow the unfailing love of God to put down deeper roots into those abandoned places of my heart. Hopefully I have also allowed the Christ child within me to grow so that he can blossom in new ways in the year to come.

So in answer to the question Jesus has come did I get what I expected I would say yes and more than I expected. I came looking to learn about trust and found love and intimacy as well and I pray that as Tom and I go on retreat in a couple of days, this lesson will continue to blossom in my heart.

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The other posts in the series:

Glenn Hager – Underwear For Christmas

Jeremy Myers – The Unexpected Gift From Jesus

Tammy Carter  – Unstuck

Jeff Goins – The Day After Christmas: A Lament

Wendy McCaig – Unwanted Gifts: You Can Run But You Can Not Hide

Christine Sine – The Wait Is Over – What Did I Get?

Maria Kettleson Anderson – Following The Baby We Just Celebrated 

Leah – Still Waiting For Redemption

Christmas is Over Or Is It?

Christmas is Over

Christmas is Over

Now that Christmas Day is over many of us feel let down because the day we have been anticipating for so long is over. The malls strip their elaborate decorations and junk their remaining Christmas stocks with huge 50-70% off sales. The Christmas wreaths and trees are thrown out for the garbage collectors and our frenzied activities give way to a low grade depression. But Christmas isn’t really over. In the sixth century it was decided that celebrating Christmas just for a day didn’t provide time to celebrate all the joy that Christ’s birth brought into the world. They made Christmas into a twelve day festival that ended with a feast on the Eve of Epiphany on January 5th to celebrate the coming of the wise men. Yep that’s right the 12 days of Christmas begin with Christmas Day they don’t end there as many malls would have us believe. In countries where this understanding of Christmas has not been co-opted by the commercialism of our society Christmas trees are not decorated until Christmas Eve and remain in the house sparking with light and life until the Eve of Epiphany.

This is the season when we are meant to celebrate with joy and gratitude the wonder of a God whose love is so great that he sent his son to dwell amongst us. How incredible! How wonderful! Lets take advantage of every day of the Christmas season

Now is a great time to reflect on how we want to follow Christ throughout the year.  For me the more relaxed season after Christmas Day is a great time to think about my observances throughout the year. Tom & I will be going on retreat for a couple of days at the end of the week. For those of you who want to continue following the liturgical calendar here are some suggestions for scripture readings for this season and throughout the year.

The Daily Office From the Book of Common Prayer

textweek.com. has excellent liturgical resources for the entire year

Presbyterian USA daily readings

The Daily Office from the Episcopal Church US

Northumbria Community Daily Offices

Daily Prayer with the Irish Jesuits

Daily Prayer from the Catholic Church in Australia

A collection of reflections from early church fathers and others for Christmas and Epiphany season

Bosco Peters in New Zealand has excellent liturgical resources available. Tom and I are particularly enjoying the lectionary readings that he has put together for this year.

Reflections from Forward Day by Day

Dave Perry uses his spectacular photography to reflect on the lectionary

For those that may want to develop a plan for the entire year:

The Voice: The entire liturgical calendar of readings

Christianity: A Plan for Reading the Entire Bible in a Year

Upper Room Ministries provides beautiful and often very moving daily devotional prayers and meditations

Jesus Is Coming – What Do We Expect? The Entire Series.

This year’s Advent series at Godspace has been the richest and most prolific ever. And it isn’t over yet. Tomorrow I will post the reflections for this week’s synchroblog Jesus Came Did You Get What You Expected?

However I want to take this opportunity to thank all who submitted posts as well as those who have followed faithfully what we have written. Now that Christmas is over some of you may have more time for reflection and like to look back over the entire series. may you enjoy a God blessed Christmas season and you read and savour what God is saying.

Jesus Is Returning…Today by Jeremy Myers

The Night Before by Joel Boehner

The True Light Is Coming Into the World – by David Perry

The Wait is Over – Advent Reflection by Dave Timmer

Have We Lost Jesus at Christmas? by James Prescott.

Virgin Mary &The Bible’s Answer to Human Trafficking by Rev. Rajkumar Boaz Johnson

Come Spirit Of Advent – A Prayer of Hope and Expectation by Sally Coleman

Remember Our Story by Ellen Haroutunian

May Salvation and Righteousness Sprout Up Together

A Prayer for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

Parousia: Perchance to Dream #1 by Melanie Clark Pullen

Parousia: Perchance to Dream #2 by Melanie Clark Pullen

Getting Ready for the Baby by John Leech

Expecting the Unexpected by Liz Dyer

Jesus Is Coming What Do I Want To Be Open To? by Kathy Escobar

Expecting Something That Matters by Sarah Styles Bessey

Simplify and Celebrate – What Makes for a Better Christmas or a Better World?

You Can Smuggle God into the World This Christmas – Edith Yoder

A Prayer for the Third Sunday of Advent 2011

Jesus is Coming – I Expect More Time by Ed Cyzewski

The Best of Gifts For Christmas by Steve Wickham

Jesus Is Coming – Did You Hear the News by Paula Mitchell

A Prayer for the Second Sunday of Advent 2011

Advent As A Mirror of Possibility and Expectation – Dave Perry

What Are We Waiting For – Reflections on the Second Sunday of Advent by Dave Hens

Expect the Unexpected by Tracy Dickerson

More Resources for Advent 2011

Jesus Is Coming Will I Get What I Desire? by Dave Wainscott

First Monday of Advent – Advent Re-imagining Everything by Ron Cole

The God Who Would Be Friend – Theresa Froehlich

Advent in Two Minutes – An Introduction to the Season

Advent is Near – There’s A New World Coming

Jesus Is Coming – What Do We Expect?

In spite of the fact that Advent was four full weeks this year, I still ran out of time to post all the Advent reflections that were submitted either to me or to the Advent synchroblog which launched this series. Here are some other reflections you may like to dig into.

 

Liz VerHage at Living Theology

Glenn Hager – Antithetical Advent

Tammy Carter at Blessing The Beloved – His Gift … the way of escape!

Carol Kuniholm at Words Half Heard – What I’m Waiting For

Mihee Kim-Kort – Advent Expectations: Keep Awake

Wendy McCaig – We’re Expecting A Baby

John Reid at Blog One Another – Undiscovered Advent: The Second Coming of Christ