Longing for the Light
This was an instagram challenge offered by Beth Walker but I chose to do it on my blog.
In the Christian tradition, Advent is a season of waiting, a season of looking for the light, a season of hope for a brighter tomorrow. At the end of 2020, we have never needed Advent more.To mindfully walk through Advent this year, some of my writing friends and I are going to use these prompts. If this sounds like a meaningful practice, we would love for you to join us!!
Each day of advent sit with each word for a few moments and see what you notice. What image comes to mind? No rules, just post a photo that represents that word for you.
29. DARK I am not a fan of the dark, unless it is chocolate or the night sky with the stars, the moon and feeling the quiet sounds. This picture is one example of hopefulness that shines out in the darkness. The sound of joyful song from this Christmas Caroler; it was actually better in the dark!
While there are benefits to darkness, I still prefer daytime! As I reflect upon the dark I think about how important Jesus’ arrival means for the world.
2 Cor. 4:6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
Psalm 18:28 For You light my lamp; The Lord my God illumines my darkness.
30. COMFORT For many the Christmas season is not comfortable or comforting. I love the comfort of my bed and blankets. They are like hugs!
Thankfully the Lord offered comfort through the promise made long ago. The joy of God’s embrace through the coming of Christ the Savior is the most comforting reality.
Ps. 94:19 And when I was burdened with worries, you comforted me and made me feel secure.
1. ANTICIPATE – I know that most people tend to think that anticipation is related to looking forward to something, but not always. Sometimes, when I am looking forward to my Amazon order or a specific letter to come, I can hardly wait! But anticipating bills or jury summons is not a happy thing to anticipate. We tend to expect the worst so sometimes it is hard to imagine or anticipate the positive side of things! But as we anticipate the Lord’s return we practice looking forward with smaller celebrations like Christmas.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
2. MEMORY Remembering one’s past life is important to appreciate the grace of God extended in Christ. After all, how could we celebrate the Lord for His grace and mercy shown to us if we can’t remember what we were forgiven for? On the other hand, the scriptures also indicate that the mistakes of our life of earth will not diminish our joy once we reach heaven. These photo books remind me of the joyful memories I have already known.
Prov. 10:7 The memory of the righteous will be a blessing.
3. GRIEF Rather than moving on, overcoming and leaving it behind, grief is actually a new way of living. Change is the constant of the universe. Life is shaped by loss and everything changes, even when we want it to stand still. We lose possessions, games, physical capabilities, relationships, people we love and the key is to remember that eventually we will all lose everything in this life. Grief is part of the landscape of life. It made itself at home long ago and yet I realized its presence in a profound way when my life partner left earth. It is always there and I ignore it in the same way that I function with a low grade headache or keep eating popcorn when I am already full. Yet sometimes it still startles me.
All my longings for what might have been, for what has been lost and for a happy ending are actually echoes of hope. This is a picture of me at Jim’s memorial service, when my greatest grief journey began.
1 Thess 4:13 Now we do not want you to be uninformed, believers, about those who are asleep [in death], so that you will not grieve as the others do who have no hope.
4. PROMISE Over 40 years ago I made promises to Jim when we were married. These rings are a reminder of those promises. Similarly, There are many promises of God. He keeps them all!, and all of them find their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ, “the radiance of God’s glory. No matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
5. LONGING Our longings are not ends in and of themselves. Instead, they are indicators of where we have placed our affections and security. Longings reveal our inherent need for something outside ourselves. God uses our longings to urge our hearts to search for that which will satisfy us like nothing else!
We all want for things. We long for the good old days. We miss people. We count the days until we can go places and do things again (like Disneyland). We even look forward dreamily to the distant future of life yet to come. We long for normalcy, for connection, for corporate worship, for a vaccine and recovery. Yet in the long seasons of waiting, we can find peace and joy. We can know the hope because God is there. I never want to forget what longing feels like and never again take for granted what I have had. Since all our longings are an opportunity to direct our focus to the One who fills all our desires completely, may I learn to long most for Christ and His glory and my real home!
Ps 107:9 For he satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness
6. WAIT Getting ready and staying ready while waiting are a challenge. It is even harder because the date of the second coming is a random date out in the future and that almost makes it easy to put off getting ready. The sense of urgency and excitement are difficult to maintain during the in-between times of life. I think about the in-between times of my life and the feelings I have while I have waited and prepared. This picture of an hourglass reminds me that we cannot hurry time. We wait.
- I have been excited and nervous waiting for the birth of my children.
- I have been anxious and afraid waiting to get the results of Jim’s biopsy.
- I have been impatient waiting in long lines or for a package to come in the snail mail.
- I have been defeated, discouraged and tired waiting for things to change like weight loss or enough money saved to pay off a bill.
Ps 33:20 We wait on the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
7. WONDER Signs and wonders is a common phrase in the Bible. It conveys the idea of surprise and awe, mingled with beauty and a sense of the inexplicable. Kids own wonder. It’s part of their sensory awareness as they walk through the world seeing it with a different gaze, with focus and seemingly at the ground level. . What would it take for me to walk out this Advent season of preparation in a state of unencumbered wonder? I have to retrain myself to experience the world anew, to open my eyes and see, taste and touch for the first time.
The beauty of the night sky tends to draw me back into the wonder of His vast glory and his intimate thought of me.
“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? Ex. 15:11
8. WANDER The idea of wandering at advent time is connected to the wisemen who made a journey, not sure of where they were going until they got there! Tolkien says that, “not all who wander are lost.” These nomads journeyed with purpose to find the true King, to worship him. May I search for the One whose birth makes all the difference, the God who crawled into human skin and died so that I might live. I am meant to wander and to follow wherever He leads so others will also kneel before my King.
Psalm 119:10 With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
9. EMBRACE I want to hold on tight and never let go. I miss hugs in this new reality where they are scarce but when I close my eyes I can feel them all over again and I find warm joy. Embracing implies comforting, consoling, celebrating, cuddling and acceptance. God embraces us and holds us close and His embrace was first and willingly and transformative. My brother’s embrace of his own son, Jonni, on his wedding day reminds me that while we are slowing “let go” of our own kids physically we hold them close forever. It’s a reflection of a God who never lets go of us! He gathers us in His arms and carries us close to His heart.
Phil. 3:12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.
10. LOVE It is hard to capture love in a single picture. In the end, I chose this one of Jim with our kids because it reminds me of the love of our heavenly Father. Jim’s love is a small example of the deeper love that came unconditionally, sacrificially, complete, affirming and gentle. Perfect and amazing love that chose to come from the glory of heaven to live and die so that I might be loved forever! Love is. Always.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
11 CHILDLIKE I love this picture of Em and Alex, but then one of my friends posted this cute pic of her 2 youngest playing on the trampoline yesterday. Both are great examples of what defines childlike! Kids are happy and curious. They ask a lot of questions! They are full of trust and hope. They persist and don’t give up easily. Kids have a short memory, forgive quickly and live in the moment with wonder, enthusiasm and hope. Though we cannot recapture our youth we are called to have faith like a child along with passion for living. Creativity and playfulness actually grows knowledge, wisdom and discernment.
Experiencing the life of God in this life requires humility like a little child. In what way? Not by remaining ignorant, for God gave us Scripture so that we might learn, grow, mature, reason and become students, disciples, and followers of Jesus Christ. So, like a child, may I always have fun. Laugh. Play. Imagine. Sing. Dance. Hope. Dream. Forgive. Create. Trust. Live life to the full. Be excited. Be adventuresome. Be tender of heart. And most of all, love. Living this way will see the kingdom of heaven rise in my life.
Mark 10:15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it
12 FAMILY This is a picture of my family. I am so proud. We were made for relationships. We know who we are in relationship to other people We define ourselves by relational terminology. I am a child, sister, wife. mom, aunt, cousin, and more. We use these terms to explain relations to those around us. Isn’t it great to be a part of a family? It provides an assurance of being a part of something bigger than oneself. God has emphasized throughout the Scriptures that He created mankind to be in relationship with each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. But more importantly, God’s Word emphasizes the need to be in a relationship with Him, to be a part of His family. We were created to be in relationship with God, and therefore He established the family and adopts all believers into His family as sons and daughters. God wants us to gain our identity from a relationship that’ll never end: our relationship with His family.
PS. 133:1 Look at how good and pleasing it is when families live together as one
Joshua 24:15b But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
13. MYSTERY “How did he do that?” is often said when people watch a magic trick. Jim’s magic was just tricks but the real mystery is “How and why did Jesus do that?” Wow! A miraculous child who would be a Wonderful Counselor and a Prince of Peace came. This child would lead his kingdom with justice and righteousness. The infinite, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Son of God took on a human nature: finite, limited in power, limited in knowledge, limited in space and time. It’s one thing to claim God would ever do such a thing. It’s yet another to suppose God could ever do such a thing—that he could clothe himself with frail humanity, veiling his divine glory without relinquishing for one moment any aspect of his divine nature.
It’s a further mystery that this God-man would live a life of obscurity, poverty, and suffering. Who would have predicted that? Surely if the Creator-King of the universe were to visit us in human form, his coming would be trumpeted from the highest heavens, heralded on every street corner, and accompanied with all pomp and ceremony. And the crowning mystery: the Son of God lived to die. The ultimate reason he was born as a man was to die as a man
And can it be that
I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died he for me, who caused his pain?
For me, who him to death pursued?
Can it be? Yes—he died. Yes—he died for me. Hallelujah! This is mystery upon mystery upon mystery.
Col. 2:2 that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself,
14. SILENCE Last fall I was in Oberndorf, Austria, and had the opportunity to go visit the chapel on the site where the famous Christmas Carol Silent Night was first sung. In the early 1800’s Salzburg went from a wealthy church state, due to gold and salt, to a poor, war ravaged and demoralized place. Joseph Mohr , a struggling priest who shared in the despair and poverty of his townspeople, wrote a poem about a different time and place, a quiet and hopeful story of the Savior, also born into trouble and poverty, that transcended his own city. 2 years later he was a priest in neighboring Oberndorf. On Christmas Eve the church organ was broken so Mohr gave his poem to the organist, Franz Gruber, who set it to music on the guitar.
For me, my favorite carol, Silent Night captures the notion that we all long for in a world that still seems dark and difficult. Because of the dawn of redeeming grace through the Lord Jesus, we can have peace and calm every night!.
Zephaniah 1:7 Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is near, For the Lord has prepared a sacrifice, He has consecrated His guests.
15. GIVE Gift giving is a practice that reminds me of the best gifts I have ever received, most of which are intangible and from the hand of God! These are gifts that our church is giving this year as a reminder that we can imitate the great Gift-giver, but we can never outgive Him! Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
James 1:17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
16. SPARKLE By definition sparkle means to shine brightly with flashes of light. The Bible makes it clear that the way we sparkle is to look to Him. It’s that simple! When we are in the middle of a pandemic, look to Him! When we have no strength to face the situations of the day, look to Him. When we are sad and lonely, look to Him. When we are happy, look to Him. When everything is going well, look to Him. Look to Him and sparkle!
Ps. 34:4, 5 I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant [translated sparkle], and their faces shall never be ashamed.
17. CELEBRATE The most recent celebration I enjoyed was the World Series Dodgers win. God loves a celebration. He actually commanded several and Jesus spoke of the celebrations of the kingdom to come. During Advent, the church looks back upon Christ’s coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people. There is one thing we can always celebrate: Jesus died and rose again for us. Jesus said, ‘For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it’ (12:47). The story of Christ – his advent, his suffering, his death and his rebirth is a story of resilience worth celebrating. Death is not the end and grief does not have the last word. Eternal and abundant life, because of God’s incomprehensible grace, WINS!
Deut. 26:11 a You will celebrate all the good things that the Lord your God has given you and your family,
18. ACKNOWLEDGE So far this is the most difficult word to find a picture for, but in the end I chose a picture of the front of the Worship Center at church, where we regularly gather to acknowledge Jesus in worship. Not everyone acknowledges that the Messiah came the night of that first Christmas, but the only and best response is to worship as the shepherds and Wisemen did. Advent acknowledges our need for a Savior and all the brokenness that brought Him here in the first place. One day every knee will bow and every tongue confess (acknowledge) that Jesus is Lord, but the greatest treasure remains for those who gladly choose (acknowledge) Him now.
Prov. 3:5,6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
19. CONTENTMENT This picture of Gene and Louise (my grandkitties) is a great picture of contentment. The idea of being settled and finding hopeful rest because we have a God who loves and saves. Being content has a lot to do with desires – subtracting desires for things that we can’t get our hands on or that wouldn’t satisfy us even if we did, and increasing our desire for that which truly satisfies and is offered freely, an offer inaugurated with the birth of Jesus, which is what Christmas was originally all about. Learning to be grateful turns what we have into enough.
Phil. 4:12 I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing.
1 Tim. 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
20. TREASURE I have many “treasures”, which includes lots of “stuff”, amazing relationships, sweet memories, and spiritual riches. The treasure of Christmas is the greatest treasure of all – a babe in the manger. Emmanuel. God with us. (This is a Venetian glass nativity I bought in Italy last year!)
2 Cor. 4:7But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
Matt. 5:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
21. PEACE This is a picture of the Sea of Galilee at peace. Jesus calmed the storms of Galilee much like he brings peace to my soul. “Peace on earth” is often said at Christmas time and sometimes I wonder where that peace is? Is it even a possibility? Jesus offers a solution for peace when He teaches people to love one another, even their enemies. Imagine if every single person, group, culture, and country in this world learned to love each other and their enemies; there truly would be world peace. Even more, the Prince of Peace served to make peace between people and God. Just as when He said, “Peace. Be Still.” to the storm, Jesus came to restore our broken relationship with God so that we could first experience wholeness and peace with ourselves, and then extend it to others around us. “Shalom” is a Hebrew word that signifies “peace” or “more than well.” Jesus was the perfect example of “shalom” lived out; the ancient meaning of “shalom” as a greeting signifies, “May you live in anticipation of the day when God makes things whole again.” Shalom!
Is. 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Col. 3:15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
22. JOY What brings joy to the heart of God? What makes Him happy? Kindness. Justice. Righteousness. Knowing Him and being known by Him. Yes! But, perhaps it is enough to know that He is the most joyful being in the universe and that He is not committed to my personal happiness; rather, He is committed to my holiness, which has the added bonus of bringing both of us abundant joy! This little girl (Me, Christmas 1960) looks very happy opening that present! But I was even more joyful when I opened the gift of eternal life!
John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
John 15:11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
23. LIGHT This little light of mine- I’m gonna let it shine…Thank you Jesus for leading me out of darkness and into your light and life! (I took this picture in an upper room in Israel)
John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
24. STAR Finding Jesus = Exceeding great joy! The Bethlehem Star (Jupiter & Saturn) shone on winter solstice this year!
Dan. 12:3 Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.
Matt. 2:10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.