Tuesday December 1, 2009

COME, THOU LONG-EXPECTED JESUS
First week of Advent, 2009



Come, thou long-expected Jesus,

born to set Thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in Thee.

Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth Thou art:
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
born a Child, and yet a King,
born to reign in us for ever,
now Thy gracious kingdom bring.

By Thine own eternal Spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by Thine all-sufficient merit
raise us to Thy glorious throne.

~Charlies Wesley, 1744


Isaiah 9:1-7

Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed,
      As when at first He lightly esteemed
      The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
      And afterward more heavily oppressed her,
      By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
      In Galilee of the Gentiles.
       The people who walked in darkness
      Have seen a great light;
      Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
      Upon them a light has shined.
       You have multiplied the nation
      And increased its joy;
      They rejoice before You
      According to the joy of harvest,
      As men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
       For You have broken the yoke of his burden
      And the staff of his shoulder,
      The rod of his oppressor,
      As in the day of Midian.
       For every warrior’s sandal from the noisy battle,
      And garments rolled in blood,
      Will be used for burning and fuel of fire.
       For unto us a Child is born,
      Unto us a Son is given;
      And the government will be upon His shoulder.
      And His name will be called
      Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
      Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
       Of the increase of His government and peace
      There will be no end,
      Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
      To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
      From that time forward, even forever.
      The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.


This year, we are again using the Advent Calendar that I made last year out of crocheted mittens. Since Advent can be 22 to 28 days long depending on the year, most years there will be some empty mittens. This year Advent began on November 29th, and we have just two empty mittens. Last year, each mitten held a tiny piece of paper with a Scripture reference as well as two small candies. This year, each mitten simply holds three chocolates – Lindt Lindor truffles, to be precise. And instead of “just Scripture” we are going through an Advent devotional book together in addition to reading small portions of Scripture. So each evening, just before bedtime, we gather on the couch – that part is usual, since it is where we usually sit together for evening family worship. The subject matter is different, as we take a break from our usual readings (we have lately been in Samuel) and focus on this season in the Church year. And the extra special catch is that there is chocolate involved, between the readings and the singing. Gabriel will start catching on to this added twist in our liturgy very soon – and after Christmas he will most certainly wonder where the chocolate has gone. 🙂 On Sundays (and Christmas!) we will be lighting our Advent wreath as well: we have four white candles for the four Sundays of Advent, and one red candle for Christmas morning (instead of the traditional lavender, pink, red, white).

Advent marks the beginning of the Church year. The word Advent is from the Latin adventus (parousia in Greek) for “coming” or “arrival”, and we focus on Jesus’ past, present, and future presence.
* History: Jesus was a real person born in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago ~ that was His first Advent.
* Mystery: Jesus is always with us through the gift of grace. Grace is a sharing in God’s own life and love that we cannot understand but believe in through faith.
* Majesty: Christ will come again—the Second Advent—in glory at the end of time.

Our worship, scripture readings, and prayers not only prepare us spiritually for Christmas (His first advent), but also for His eventual second advent. This is why the Scripture readings during Advent include both Old Testament passages related to the expected Messiah, and New Testament passages concerning Jesus’ second coming as judge of all people. Also, passages about John the Baptist, the precursor who prepared the way for the Messiah, are read.
(i.e. Isaiah 2:1-5,7:10-14, Jeremiah 33:14-16, Zephaniah 3:14-18, Micah 5:2-5a, Matthew 24:37-44, Romans 13:11-14)

Our celebration of Advent is a lovely time for us as a family to focus on feelings of exile, expectation, preparation, hope, anticipation, longing ~ things that certainly are near to us right now. We are waiting for the Lord. It makes Advent very real, very personal, extra meaningful to us right now.

Advent is a season of preparation, but we need to ask ourselves, “what are we preparing for?
Advent is a season of expectation, but we need to ask ourselves, “what are we expecting?
Advent is a season of hope, but we need to ask ourselves, “for what and whom do we hope?

Did you know that Advent is not part of the Christmas season itself? Advent is a season prior to Christmas. The Christmas season begins (according to the Church calendar) with Christmas, and concludes with Epiphany. That is where the 12 days of Christmas originated. Pretty nifty, eh? 🙂 Christmas is not meant to be a single isolated day, but a feasting festival of the Incarnation in the midst of the Church year. Christmas is perhaps best understood after having the preparation of Advent. Advent provides an opportunity to continually re-orient ourselves to God’s will as we expectantly wait with patriarchs, prophets, and kings for the true meaning of Christmas: the Incarnation of God the Son. As the church celebrates God’s inbreaking into history in the Incarnation, and anticipates a future consummation to that history for which “all creation is groaning awaiting its redemption,” it also confesses its own responsibility as a people commissioned to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.”


Two links for your perusal:
one with practical information, readings, references, ideas, and inspiration
another with Luther’s flair, as selections from his sermons focus on the seasons of Advent and Christmas


God bless you all during this first week of Advent.
Long, expect, prepare, hope ~ anticipate the coming of Christ.

Thursday November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving morning.
I am a mix of emotions today.
We had thought our arms would be full with a tiny, wiggly newborn for Thanksgiving this year.
And then, after that dream was crushed, we thought (twice!) that at least my belly would be full.
Crush.
Crush.
As I sit here, thinking about thankfulness — about wanting to be thankful, about being thankful, about what I am thankful for — I am simultaneously fighting unthankfulness.

(rhetorical questions to follow–do not answer!)
How can I be thankful for four empty seats around our family table?
How can I be thankful for four tiny wooden caskets?
How can I be thankful when the very desire God gave us is threatened?
How can I be thankful when I feel abandoned by my God?
How can I be thankful when my faith is only the size of a mustard seed?

Oh wait.
That’s it.
Luke 17:6 and Matthew 17:20.
I am THANKFUL that my faith does not need to be bigger than a mustard seed today!!!


Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.

All the world is God’s own field, fruit unto His praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown unto joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be.

For the Lord our God shall come, and shall take His harvest home;
From His field shall in that day all offenses purge away,
Giving angels charge at last in the fire the tares to cast;
But the fruitful ears to store in His garner evermore.

Even so, Lord, quickly come, bring Thy final harvest home;
Gather Thou Thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified, in Thy garner to abide;
Come, with all Thine angels come, raise the glorious harvest home.


Give thanks to God the Lord; upon His Name now call.
Make known among the people on earth what He has done for all.
Sing praise to Him, now sing; His wondrous acts proclaim.
Rejoice, all you who seek the Lord; come glory in His Name.

Look to the Lord’s great strength; remember all His deeds.
His judgments are in all of the earth; He is the Lord indeed.
His cov’nant e’er will stand; His oath He’ll ne’er forget.
A thousand generations pass; God’s word continues yet.

Sing to the Lord, all earth; His saving power proclaim.
Declare His glory to every race; His marvelous deeds now name.
For great is God the Lord, most worthy of all praise.
He made the heavens and the earth; fear Him and give Him praise.

Splendor and majesty before the Lord are found.
Both strength and joy with Him do dwell; bring offerings, come bow down.
Ascribe unto the Lord the glory due His Name;
The splendor of His holiness now worship and proclaim.

Let now the heav’ns rejoice; let earth give glad refrain.
The world is ’stablished, ne’er to be moved; tell everyone God reigns!
Now let the sea resound, be jubilant all fields;
The forest trees will sing for joy; earth’s Judge is now revealed.

Give thanks to God the Lord; His goodness now declare.
He saves, delivers from every foe; His love endures fore’er.
Give thanks unto His Name and glory in His praise;
Praise to the God of Israel for everlasting days.


Now thank we all our God,
With heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things hath done,
In whom His world rejoices;
Who from our mother’s arms
Hath blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love,
And still is ours to-day.

O may this bounteous God
Through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts
And blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace,
And guide us when perplexed,
And free us from all ills
In this world and the next.

All praise and thanks to God
The Father now be given,
The Son, and Him who reigns,
With Them in highest heaven,
The one eternal God,
Whom earth and heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now,
And shall be evermore.


We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!


With grateful heart my thanks I bring,
Before the great Thy praise I sing;
I worship in Thy holy place
And praise Thee for Thy truth and grace;
For truth and grace together shine
In Thy most holy Word divine.

I cried to Thee and Thou didst save,
Thy Word of grace new courage gave;
The kings of earth shall thank Thee, Lord,
For they have heard Thy wondrous Word;
Yea, they shall come with songs of praise,
For great and glorious are Thy ways.

O Lord, enthroned in glory bright,
Thou reignest in the heavenly height;
The proud in vain Thy favor seek,
But Thou hast mercy for the meek;
Through trouble though my pathway be,
Thou wilt retrieve and strengthen me.

Thou wilt stretch forth Thy mighty arm
To save me when my foes alarm;
The work Thou hast for me begun
Shall by Thy grace be fully done;
Forever mercy dwells with Thee;
O Lord, my Maker, think on me.


Colossians 3:15-16
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.
And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom,
singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Psalm 7:17
I will give to the LORD the thanks due to His righteousness,
and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.
Psalm 28:7
The LORD is my strength and my shield;
   in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
   and with my song I give thanks to Him.
Psalm 50:23
The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
   to one who orders his way rightly
   I will show the salvation of God!
Psalm 95:2
Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving;
   let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise!
Psalm 107:22
And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
and tell of His deeds in songs of joy!
Psalm 116:17
I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving
   and call on the name of the LORD.
Psalm 136:1-3
Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good,
    for His steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
   for His steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
   for His steadfast love endures forever.

and a HAPPY THANKSGIVING, to the friends and family for whom we are thankful.

Friday November 20, 2009

John Donne

 
HOLY SONNETS.

X.

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so ;
For those, whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy picture[s] be,
Much pleasure, then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou’rt slave to Fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better than thy stroke ;  why swell’st thou then ?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And Death shall be no more ;  Death, thou shalt die.

Saturday October 31, 2009

God, oh God, be merciful.

Be gentle and be kind.

Our flesh has grown so weak

And now we feel quite left behind.

 

You gave to us the desire

To have children and yet

You take them all so early;

We feel, it seems that You forget

 

That You were the One

Who called upon us to be

Fruitful on earth and multiplied

And a faithful family.

 

Our minds can not fathom

The streets of pearls and gold

While our arms sit here empty

Without our children to hold.

 

We ask and we pray

And we seek; shall we find?

Our hope and our faith

And our strength are all declined.

 

As we taste this bitter fruit

We feel alone in so much pain;

We long to feel Your comfort

And Your face shine once again.

 

Please guide and lead and strengthen

So that we may learn to be

A true and noble witness

To the Church and world of Thee.

 

Give peace beyond our knowledge

And return to us our joy

Please take this cup of sorrow,

Our doubts and fear destroy.

 

We thank You for the honor

Of producing babes for You

Who will ever live in Glory

Singing, dancing, honoring too—

 

But we beg of You, our Father,

And beseech Your holy name,

To please fill our home with children—

Your faithfulness to proclaim.

 

Astound us with Your mercy,

Bowl us over with Your grace,

Behind this frowning providence,

Please show Your smiling face.

 

Return to us sevenfold

For our sorrows and our grief,

Restore us to our kindred,

Recover hopeful belief.

 

We know that You are worthy

Of our sacrifice and praise.

We do desire to worship, love,

Serve, honor You all our days.

 

But we ask You as Your children

For bread and not a stone.

We trust You in Your sovereignty

To provide as You can alone.

 

Lead us and guide us,

For our footsteps make a way;

Mold us and shape us,

More like Christ a bit each day.

 

And while we learn to wait

And tread right through the fire

Please be our daily sustenance

And help our souls not to expire.

 

We long to be restored

To the joy of Thy salvation

And to once again pursue

Producing a covenant nation.

 

For of us, Your people, You demand

Faithful, pure diligence

To be fruitful, multiply, and subdue

On the earth in Your presence.

 

Provide for us, dear Father,

So that we may faithful be,

Be strong now in our weakness

And cause us not to flee

 

Thy presence, in our anguish

In our fear, and in our cries.

Purge our sorrow, refresh our spirits,

Wipe each teardrop from our eyes.

~by MJC~

Saturday October 31, 2009

My hand rests on my tummy

Where you rest and grow,

Where your tiny heart beats in beautiful rhythm—

Only muscles and skin between us.

 

Your tiny frame is not hidden

Although you seem to be formed in secret.

God has knit you while I carry you

And your daddy whispers to you of his love.

 

We have dreams for you.

Life in the country, siblings,

Church and books and Christmas gifts,

Growing up and learning and being ours forever.

 

We know not the ways of the Lord,

His thoughts are not like ours.

His plans for you are set in stone.

What He has ordained surely shall be done.

 

Dreams of heaven.

Streets of gold.

Praises singing.

Joining your older siblings.

 

My tears are bottled, the psalmist says.

And how big is the bottle?

Oh, when shall I reach the brim?

It has been a dozen bottles—no, fifty.

 

Is that beautiful heart still keeping its rhythm?

Are you spinning and growing and exploring my womb?

Or have you already flown,

Are already dancing in Paradise?

 

Broken.

Lost.

Hopeless.

Empty.

 

You aren’t even gone yet

But I miss you already.

Dreams unfulfilled, hopes crushed,

Arms empty, belly barren.

 

Mommy feels forsaken.

Daddy feels helpless.

Big brother aches for your company.

Our family is incomplete.

 

You can not imagine how much we love you,

But we hope you have sensed it through these weeks.

And we never will forget how much you impacted us,

God has used you in mighty ways in your short but faithful life.

 

We pull out the psalter for reminders of the Strong Tower

The One who sustains us and gives us grace.

He will strengthen and bless your family here

Though we weep and we mourn and we falter.

~by your ever-loving mommy, Melissa Joy~

Sunday October 25, 2009

Wait
by Russell Kelfer

Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried;
Quietly, patiently, lovingly, God replied.
I pled and I wept for a clue to my fate . . .
And the Master so gently said, “Wait.”

“Wait? you say wait?” my indignant reply.
“Lord, I need answers, I need to know why!
Is your hand shortened? Or have you not heard?
By faith I have asked, and I’m claiming your Word.

“My future and all to which I relate
Hangs in the balance, and you tell me to wait?
I’m needing a ‘yes’, a go-ahead sign,
Or even a ‘no’ to which I can resign.

“You promised, dear Lord, that if we believe,
We need but to ask, and we shall receive.
And Lord I’ve been asking, and this is my cry:
I’m weary of asking! I need a reply.”

Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate,
As my Master replied again, “Wait.”
So I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut,
And grumbled to God, “So, I’m waiting for what?”

He seemed then to kneel, and His eyes met with mine . . .
and He tenderly said, “I could give you a sign.
I could shake the heavens and darken the sun.
I could raise the dead and cause mountains to run.

“I could give all you seek and pleased you would be.
You’d have what you want, but you wouldn’t know Me.
You’d not know the depth of my love for each saint.
You’d not know the power that I give to the faint.

“You’d not learn to see through clouds of despair;
You’d not learn to trust just by knowing I’m there.
You’d not know the joy of resting in Me
When darkness and silence are all you can see.

“You’d never experience the fullness of love
When the peace of My spirit descends like a dove.
You would know that I give, and I save, for a start,
But you’d not know the depth of the beat of My heart.

“The glow of my comfort late into the night,
The faith that I give when you walk without sight.
The depth that’s beyond getting just what you ask
From an infinite God who makes what you have last.

“You’d never know, should your pain quickly flee,
What it means that My grace is sufficient for thee.
Yes, your dearest dreams overnight would come true,
But, oh, the loss, if you missed what I’m doing in you.

“So, be silent, my child, and in time you will see
That the greatest of gifts is to truly know me.
And though oft My answers seem terribly late,
My most precious answer of all is still . . . Wait.”

Thursday October 22, 2009

C.H. Spurgeon’s “Morning And Evening”

Evening, October 22

“He shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you.”

John 16:15

There are times when all the promises and doctrines of the Bible are of no avail, unless a gracious hand shall apply them to us. We are thirsty, but too faint to crawl to the water-brook. When a soldier is wounded in battle it is of little use for him to know that there are those at the hospital who can bind up his wounds, and medicines there to ease all the pains which he now suffers: what he needs is to be carried thither, and to have the remedies applied. It is thus with our souls, and to meet this need there is one, even the Spirit of truth, who takes of the things of Jesus, and applies them to us. Think not that Christ hath placed his joys on heavenly shelves that we may climb up to them for ourselves, but he draws near, and sheds his peace abroad in our hearts. O Christian, if thou art tonight labouring under deep distresses, thy Father does not give thee promises and then leave thee to draw them up from the Word like buckets from a well, but the promises he has written in the Word he will write anew on your heart. He will manifest his love to you, and by his blessed Spirit, dispel your cares and troubles. Be it known unto thee, O mourner, that it is God’s prerogative to wipe every tear from the eye of his people. The good Samaritan did not say, “Here is the wine, and here is the oil for you;” he actually poured in the oil and the wine. So Jesus not only gives you the sweet wine of the promise, but holds the golden chalice to your lips, and pours the life-blood into your mouth. The poor, sick, way-worn pilgrim is not merely strengthened to walk, but he is borne on eagles’ wings. Glorious gospel! which provides everything for the helpless, which draws nigh to us when we cannot reach after it—brings us grace before we seek for grace! Here is as much glory in the giving as in the gift. Happy people who have the Holy Ghost to bring Jesus to them.


“Our Father”
by Martin Luther, 1539
 
1. Our Father, Thou in heaven above,
Who biddest us to dwell in love,
As brethren of one family,
To cry in every need to Thee,
Teach us no thoughtless word to say,
But from our inmost heart to pray.
 
2. Thy name be hallowed. Help us, Lord,
In purity to keep Thy Word,
That to the glory of thy name
We walk before Thee free from blame.
Let no false doctrine us pervert;
All poor, deluded souls convert.
 
3. Thy kingdom come. Thine let it be
In time and in eternity.
Let Thy good Spirit e’er be nigh
Our hearts with graces to supply.
Break Satan’s power, defeat his rage;
Preserve Thy Church from age to age.
 
4. Thy gracious will on earth be done
As ’tis in heaven before Thy throne;
Obedience in our weal and woe
And patience in all grief bestow.
Curb flesh and blood and every ill
That sets itself against Thy will.
 
5. Give us this day our daily bread
And let us all be clothed and fed.
From war and strife be our Defense,
From famine and from pestilence,
That we may live in godly peace,
Free from all care and avarice.
 
6. Forgive our sins, Lord, we implore,
Remove from us their burden sore,
As we their trespasses forgive
Who by offenses us do grieve.
Thus let us dwell in charity
And serve our brother willingly.
 
7. Into temptation lead us not.
When evil foes against us plot
And vex our souls on every hand,
Oh, give us strength that we may stand
Firm in the faith, a well-armed host,
Through comfort of the Holy Ghost!
 
8. From evil, Lord, deliver us;
The times and days are perilous.
Redeem us from eternal death,
And when we yield our dying breath,
Console us, grant us calm release,
And take our souls to Thee in peace.
 
9. Amen, that is, So shall it be.
Confirm our faith and hope in Thee
That we may doubt not, but believe
What here we ask we shall receive.
Thus in Thy name and at Thy word
We say: Amen. Oh, hear us, Lord! Amen.


John 14:27
Peace I leave with you;
My peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give to you.
Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

John 16:33
I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace.
In the world you will have tribulation.
But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Philippians 4:4-7
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything,
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:15
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.
And be thankful.

Wednesday October 21, 2009

To Autumn  gif
William Blake (from Poetical Sketches, 1783)


O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stain’d
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou may’st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.

“The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust’ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather’d clouds strew flowers round her head.

“The spirits of the air live in the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.”
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat,
Then rose, girded himself, and o’er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.

Saturday October 10, 2009

October’s Opal
by Robert Savino

October is here, once again,
barely transcending the threshold of autumn.
The maple is turning yellow to orange, to red,
soon to be bared by winter.

Ah winter, when blankets of bliss
cover spoon-fit bodies,
flickering sparks to flames. . .
until love of spring gardens
becomes the rapture of summer bloom.

And looking from outside-in,
beyond recognizable beauty,
the ruby of jewels glows bright,
pumping currents of rivers red,
deep into the wells of every extremity.
Our chest fills with laughter.

When apart, even so brief,
this season stays with you,
whether I am or not
and your voice with me,
through wind’s immutable breath.