Advent Day 14: Comfort and Joy …

They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
One nation shall not raise the sword against
another nation;
nor shall they train for war again.
— Isaiah 2:4

While external clutter is rather easily cured with a big waste basket and a donation bag, internal clutter is a more difficult matter. During the holidays, relatives can sometimes seem hard-wired to cause us hardship, co-workers can more readily get on our nerves, and our stress levels can elevate completely out of control. Unlike cleaning our closets, we can’t collect our stress and donate it to someone else. Our stress is our own, and we have to deal with it. We live in a stress-filled world and can only do what we can to manage stress. We want to be constructive with our stress, “beating our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks.” We want to quit “training for war” and use the energy of our stress for peace.
— Joan Mueller from Praying Advent: Three Minute Reflections on Peace, Faithfulness, Joy, and Light

Seeking Sanctuary

Today… in a world that’s both astonishingly beautiful and horrifically cruel, “sanctuary” is as vital as breathing to me. Sometimes I find it in churches, monasteries, and other sites designated as sacred. But more often I find it in places sacred to my soul: in the natural world, in the company of a trustworthy friend, in solitary or shared silence, in the ambience of a good poem or good music.

Sanctuary is wherever I find safe space to regain my bearings, reclaim my soul, heal my wounds, and return to the world as a wounded healer. It’s not merely about finding shelter from the storm: it’s about spiritual survival.

Fed by the taproot some call the soul, we need neither to flee from the world, nor exploit it. Instead, we can love the world with all of its (and our) flaws by trying to live in a way that models life’s finest possibilities.

That kind of love is possible, I believe, only if we know when and where to seek sanctuary, reclaiming our souls in order to engage the world in life-giving ways.
— Parker J. Palmer from Seeking Sanctuary in our own Sacred Spaces

Home

Home is a place where people reach out to one another. If we don’t want to really know one another at church, how could it be a home? We’re not called to be a community of strangers. We are called to share the journey together. It’s a place where you hate to miss a party. We look for excuses to get together.

Home is a place where we are nourished, in body and soul. We eat together. We learn from the Scriptures and the spiritual traditions of our church that have been handed down to us. We search through our questions together. The journey of faith sometimes requires searching, and learning from each other’s experiences.

Home is a place of mercy. It’s a place where we are ready to share each other’s burdens and to give and receive support.  I remember hearing an interview with Rachel Naomi Remen, the founder of an organisation called Commonweal, which gives retreats for terminally ill people.  I remember one line especially: “We all have pain,” she said, “but here we don’t hide it … and so we learn to trust.” There’s no home without trust, through good times and bad.
— Mark A. Villano from Time to Get Ready: An Advent, Christmas Reader to Wake Your Soul

We don’t have to go far to find the treasure we are seeking. There is beauty and goodness right where we are. And only when we can see the beauty and goodness that are close by can we recognize beauty and goodness on our travels far and wide. There are trees and flowers to enjoy, paintings and sculptures to admire; most of all there are people who smile, play, and show kindness and gentleness. They are all around us, to be recognized as free gifts to receive in gratitude. Our temptation is to collect all the beauty and goodness surrounding us as helpful information we can use for our projects. But then we cannot enjoy it, and we soon find that we need a vacation to restore ourselves. Let’s try to see the beauty and goodness in front of us before we go elsewhere to look for it.
— Henri Nouwen from Bread for the Journey

Stars

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
— Mathew 11: 28-30

We see in Jesus’ teaching that same, strong capacity to invest meaning and create metaphors. He looked everywhere and saw images of the kingdom of God breaking through the world. He saw signs that would open people’s hearts to that reality. Perhaps he saw two oxen yoked together, sharing their burden, creating a new and greater force, achieving something more than one alone could accomplish — a sign of the transcendent God coming to us, drawing close to us, calling us into a partnership that brings us into a new reality.

Maybe you can identify a time when you were away from the city lights and looked up into a clear night and were taken away by the awesomeness of the Milky Way? Think about that time. Maybe you feel a sense of perspective being there before the stars.  You think about what it means to be on a very small planet amid that vastness and yet so preoccupied with your problems and selfishness.  You question what meaning there could be in all this for you.

Maybe you also sense that the transcendent God is concerned for you, that the God of the universe knows you and cares about you.  Through the revelation of Jesus, “Come to me,” you hear an invitation from God, who does not want to stay above you, but wants to be close to you. A God who wants to renew your strength and see you soar.
— Mark A. Villano from Time to Get Ready: An Advent, Christmas Reader to Wake Your Soul

Prayer

In the abundance of his glory may God, through his Spirit, enable us to grow firm in power with regard to our inner selves, so that Christ may live in our hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, with all God’s holy people we will have the strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth; so that, knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond knowledge, we may be filled with the utter fullness of God. Glory be to him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine; glory be to him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen (Ephesians 3:16–21).
— Henri Nouwen from Bread for the Journey

See Also:

When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?
— Muriel Barbery from The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Choice Organic Tea on Red Oak Floor

(photo credit)

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