Third Friday of Advent – Finding Jesus by Julie Clawson

This reflection comes from Julie Clawson.   Julie is a mom, a writer, and former pastor who lives in Austin, TX with her family.  She is the author of Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices and blogs at


It can be easy to despise Advent.  I don’t mean the period of waiting in hopeful expectation itself, but the actual trappings of the season.  It is easy to despise the commercialism – to condemn the frenzy and the greed and see it as an obstacle to entering into a meaningful discipline if waiting.  It can be easy to despise those that jump straight into Christmas – those that deck the halls in red and green and blast Christmas carols during what should be a time of building expectation.  It is easy to despise those that leave Christ out of Christmas (or to despise those that get offended when Christ gets left out of Christmas).  From tacky decorations, to pushy sales clerks, to religious wars – the hustle and bustle and the secular trappings of the season often stand in the way of our hopeful anticipation of the Christ child.  And so we despise it all, letting Advent become a time of spite and condemnation.

I’m one of the first to question the all consuming ways of empire and consumerism, but I’ve had to humbly realize that all too often I let my animosity towards such things turn my experience of Advent into a twisted period of judgment instead of hope.  And in standing in that judgment I prevented myself from encountering Jesus in the very things I despised.  I found myself hoping to draw near to a Jesus of my own creation – a Jesus that liked the things I like and ran in the same circles as I did.  This was the Jesus I lit the candles for in hopeful expectation during Advent.

But of course, my image of Jesus was a poor reflection of the real Jesus.  Jesus was the one who was out there in the world, hanging out with the uncouth and common members of society.  He was accused of being a drunkard and glutton because he enjoyed being with and feasting with people.  Sure, he delivered challenges to his culture and found moments for retreat, but he didn’t shun it because he despised it for getting in the way of his contemplative spiritual journey.

The Messiah showed up where no one expected him to.  Born to a poor family in the unexpected dinginess of a stable, he subverted all cultural expectations.  I’ve had to learn that my narrow expectations about Jesus do not give me the right to define the modern American secular Christmas as God-forsaken.  Even there – subverting expectations – Jesus is at work.  If I desire to draw near to Christ this Advent, I need to let go of my judgment and condemnation of such places and be willing to see how Jesus appears unexpectedly even there.  My narrow conception of Advent should not lead me to a place of bitterness and hate, but instead allow me to find hope in the redemption of all things wherever it may be occurring.


First Wednesday of Advent – Waiting: A Reflection by Julie Clawson

Today’s post for the series What Are We Waiting for This Advent Season? comes from Julie Clawson who describes herself as a mommy, writer and dreamer.  Her most recent book is Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices. Julie is also involved in the Emerging Women and Emerging Parents networks. This post was first published on Julie Clawson’s blog on the First Sunday of Advent


Julie Clawson

I love the traditional Carmelite themes for each week of Advent – waiting, accepting, journeying, and birthing.  For season that is all about the anticipation of a birth, using a framework that is rooted in the experience of childbearing connects this season to a side of the divine that is often neglected.  Feminine metaphors are well suited, in my opinion, to tell the story of a birth.

Women who’ve given birth know the mess and horrific pain that accompany the joy of welcoming new life into this world.   And the waiting for a birth is no less conflicted.  Nine months is a long time.  Between the bouts of morning sickness, the swollen ankles, and the indigestion there are the long discussions about names and getting the nursery just right.  Alongside the vivid nightmares and panic attacks that you are just not ready to be a mom, there are the daydreams about what it will be like to hold your baby.  Those few seconds in the ultrasound room with the closed-lipped technician do little to assuage your made-up fears or the gut-level desire to just have the baby out already.  Even before you are sick of wearing the same two pregnancy shirts over and over again, you wish that your belly had a little zipper that would allow you just one peak at the little one inside (or at least a short reprieve from having your bladder used as a trampoline).  Waiting for something beautiful to be born – for joy to fully enter your life – is hard.  The child is already there, the joy is present, but you still long for its arrival.

And so mothers learn to wait.

Waiting for the word to become flesh – for the advent of the Messiah was no less difficult.  The dream was in the making, the prophets had cast the vision of hope, but like a pixilated ultrasound image, it left the people wanting.  They knew one would come who would turn the world upside-down, who would hear the cries of the oppressed and bring justice to the land.  Isaiah had foretold of this coming time yet to be born –

On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.

On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;

he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The LORD has spoken.

Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.

He humbles those who dwell on high,
he lays the lofty city low;
he levels it to the ground
and casts it down to the dust.

Feet trample it down—
the feet of the oppressed,
the footsteps of the poor.

  • Isaiah 25: 6-8 & 26: 4-6

They were waiting for the world to change, for a new era to finally be born.  Like a mother longing to just hold that baby growing in her womb, they wanted the promise they had held onto for so long to finally come to fruition.  A few even realized that this gestation of a dream would reach it’s fulfillment in an actual birth.  And so we see prophetess Anna in the Temple approaching this incarnate deity exclaiming words of thanksgiving and giving encouragement to those there who had been longing for the redemption of Israel.  This child who Mary had waited a long nine months to finally suckle at her breast, was living proof that the dream was not in vain – that the wait was worth it.  The world that the prophets had imagined was finally being born where tears would be wiped away and all would feast on aged wine.

But births are never easy.  And upside-down kingdoms have a quirky way of being upside-down.  As joy arrived and dwelt among us, we discovered that there is meaning in the waiting.  The hope and joy is perpetually gestating and being born in light of the way this one little baby shattered every preconception we ever had about the dream we long for.

And so we wait. And anticipate. And live. And follow. And serve.

The child is here, the joy is present, and still we wait for the birth.  The waiting changes us and changes the world.

Practicing everyday Justice

Tom & I are just finishing off our time here at Eastern Mennonite University.  We have enjoyed sharing with the students about how live on purpose in our consumer driven world.

I have particularly been impressed with some of the green initiatives on the campus here.  Their campus garden provides greens squash and grapes for the school cafeteria.  A student led initiative has resulted in the cafeteria going trayless which has saved a stunning 300,000 gallons of hot water as well as quantities of soap and hours of staff time.  It also cuts down on waste as students think more about the food they put on their plates rather than mindlessly filling up their trays.

These initiatives show me how easy it is for all of us to make a difference in our world in areas of earthkeeping and justice.  And if you arn’t convinced of that look at this interview between Julie Clawson, author of Everyday Justice and Spencer Burke


Spencer Burke interviewing Julie Clawson

Everyday Justice

My copy of Julie Clawson’s Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices arrived yesterday and i wanted to make sure that you all knew about it as soon as possible.  This is a book that I am really excited about, not just because I wrote the forward but because I think that it is one of the most important books that I have read for a long time.

In it Julie talks about how the everyday choices we make in our lives have ramification for the lives and wellbeing of people around the globe.  She highlights the consequences of our food and clothing choices and both for the people that produce them and for the environment in which we live.

Everyday Justice challenges us to recognize that these decisions are an important way that we show our love for God and for our neighbours.   It is a must read for all who care about God and God’s world.  I will probably blog more about it in the future and would love to hear your opinions on this topic too

Playing Children’s Games As Spiritual Practice

It is a bright and sunny morning in Seattle with the promise of a hot day ahead.  For most of us it is a work day but I think that if we were honest with ourselves we would rather be out playing with the kids so this post below by Julie Clawson seemed appropriate.

Julie describes herself as a follower of the way of Christ, stumbling through her faith journey and simply trying to seek justice in this world.  She’s worked as a telemarketer, librarian, substitute teacher, children’s pastor, and church planter – but spends her time these days taking care of kids and trying to squeeze in time to write.  She live in the fabulous Austin, TX with husband Mike and two kids, Emma and Aidan. And has a book coming out in Oct. 2009 called Everyday Justice which i suggest you add now to your must read list.  I had the privilege of writing a forward for the book and absolutely loved it.  Julie blogs at One Hand Clapping


Playing Children’s Games as Spiritual Practice

If I could choose how I would like to spend the perfect evening, it would be hanging out with friends with good food and drinks playing board games.  I love strategy games like Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, and RISK, but I also enjoy fun group games like Apples to Apples and Balderdash.  For what it’s worth, a good round of Texas Hold’Em works for me too.  I enjoy the interaction, the intellectual engagement, and the general hilarity than ensues when friends simply have fun together.

That said, I sometimes have a hard time playing children’s games.  There is something tediously mind-numbing about painstakingly making one’s way to Candy Mountain in Candy Land or getting caught in the endless up and down circle of Chutes and Ladders.  Building up my Cootie bug, filling my Hi Ho Cherry-o basket, making pairs in Dora Memory, or matching all the pictures on my Zingo card just doesn’t capture my attention.  But my four year old loves it all.

Granted it comes as no big surprise that the child of a couple of board game lovers would like playing them herself (and I admit, I was the same way at her age).  It’s just that, from the mommy side of things, playing those games for hours on end can get a little old.  Now, I love spending time with my daughter, but after the fourth or fifth round of Candy Land as I’m sprawled out on the playroom floor, I sometimes have a hard time keeping my eyes open.

But for my daughter, it never grows old.  Each time she builds a Cootie bug, she gets excited about getting to make an entirely new creation.  Each card she turns over in Candy Land holds the possibility of adventures – to whisk her away at any moment to exotic locales like Gum Drop Mountain or the Candy Cane Forest.  Each spin in Chutes and Ladders holds the risk of plummeting her downward and losing all she has worked for or the reward of immediate ascension.  In short, in her life ruled by the power and whims of others (mom and dad), these games hold wonder and mystery.  With every spin of the wheel she enters into a magical world of unpredictability and excitement (not to mention repeated trips to every child’s dream land – the Candy Mountain).  These games are full of blessings she can delight in.

So even as I struggle to keep my eyes open as we play yet another round of her favorite games, I realize that I could learn a lot from my four year old about being spiritually present.  When looked at through the right eyes, life is mysterious and full of adventure.  I get to participate in acts of creation each day as I cook entirely new meals.  I am whisked away to exotic locations when I simply stop and notice the beauty of the world around me.  I don’t need the Candy Cane forest when I can lie under the trees with my kids watching the leaves flutter and the clouds float by.

I am so used to the ordinary being, well, ordinary, I forget to find the wonder in it.  But seeing my daughter find adventure in what I found tedious reminds me to shift my perspective.  The world is unpredictable and exciting and full of all sorts of blessings I can delight in – as long as I allow myself to be present in it and allow it to be those things.

More On International Women’s Day

Yesterday was International Women’s day and Julie Clawson organized this wonderful synchroblog about reflections on women.  The entries are well worth a look and a read… particularly during this second week of Lent as we enter the brokenness of hunger  60 – 70% of those who live in poverty are women and girls and it is much harder for women to get out of poverty than it is for men because they have less economic opportunities and because in many parts of the world they still have no legal rights to own property or other assets.

Julie Clawson on the God who sees
Steve Hayes on St. Theodora the Iconodule
Sonja Andrews on Aunt Jemima
Sensuous Wife on a single mom in the Bible
Minnowspeaks on celebrating women
Michelle Van Loon on the persistant widow
Lyn Hallewell on women who walked with God
Heather on the strength of biblical women
Shawna Atteberry on the Daughter of Mary Magdalene
Christine Sine on women who impacted her life
Susan Barnes on Tamar, Ruth, and Mary
Kathy Escobar on standing up for nameless and voiceless women
Ellen Haroutunian on out from under the veil
Liz Dyer on Mary and Martha
Bethany Stedman on Shiphrah and Puah
Dan Brennan on Mary Magdalene
Jessica Schafer on Bathsheba
Eugene Cho on Lydia
Laura sorts through what she knows about women in the Bible
Miz Melly preached on the woman at the well
AJ Schwanz on women’s work
Pam Hogeweide on teenage girls changing the world
Teresa on the women Paul didn’t hate
Helen on Esther
Happy on Abigail
Mark Baker-Wright on telling stories
Robin M. on Eve
Alan Knox is thankful for the women who served God
Lainie Petersen on the unnamed concubine
Mike Clawson on cultural norms in the early church
Krista on serving God
Bob Carlton on Barbie as Icon
Jan Edmiston preached on the unnamed concubine
Deb on her namesake – Deborah
Makeesha on empowering women
Kate on Esther
Doreen Mannion on Deborah
Patrick Oden on Rahab
Scot McKnight on Junia

Reflections on Lent – Weeks 1 & 2

I am really enjoying reading the posts that are going up as part of the Lenten synchroblog.  Some are very challenging, others are inspirational.  All are contributing to my own Lenten journey.  Some are still reflecting on week 1 while others are now focused on the second week of Lent.  Here are today’s new posts from across the blogosphere.  And for those that do not have your own blog please feel free to send me your reflections so that I can post them here.

Also I wanted to remind everyone that Holy Week I would like to be able to put up a series of photos that reflect the stations of the cross and some short reflections on each of the stations.  If you have photos or reflections you would like to contribute for this too please email them to me at

Here are the new posts for today

Doug Jones: Spring Into Repentance

Maria Henderson: Lenten Journey – Broken

Julie Clawson: General Thoughts on Lent and Lent – Being Aware

Lots of Good Lenten Resources

It is great to see the good Lenten resources that are now appearing that could make this the best Lent ever for any of us that want to take this season seriously.

Bread for the World has produced an excellent “Prayers for Hungry People” guide

Bob Hyatt has produced this comprehensive Lent prayer guide for reflection

And if you have not discovered it The Text This Week has great resources including links to the scriptures, movies and art that is relevant to the theme of each of the seasons of the Christian calendar.

Lent and Beyond – An Anglican prayer blog has links to lots of good resources for Lent. One of their links to Per Christum has particularly good links to other resources. including some for celebrating with children.   Another essential site to visit is Church which has lots of good resources for all seasons of the liturgical year.

Another great website is Love Life Live Lent – good resources for churches and families

Last but not least – are you practicing Lent with children.  Julie Clawson at Emerging Parents is looking for contributions of ideas that parents would like to share.