Hello Mornings

Hello Mornings

Are you looking for a little something to get you moving in the mornings?
Do you find yourself struggling to make room in your life for quiet time and reflection?

I do. It’s something I battle with regularly as life is busy. As part of my constant desire to overcome these two obstacles I’ve been part of the Hello Mornings Challenge since 2012.  The Hello Mornings challenge was originally conceived as a way to encourage Christian women to get up early and meet Jesus first, the day second. I have found my time with the challenge to be incredibly rewarding.

The group I’m part of right now on Twitter has been together in one form or another since 2013. We meet each morning online to greet one another in prayer, through scripture and as well as sending kind thoughts and encouragements. Our group has been as small as 8 members and as large as 15 as people cycle in and out depending on the seasons of their lives. Right now we’re about to enter a new 6 week session and I thought as this challenge has benefited me so much I’d encourage you to check it out.

If you’re not on Twitter have no fear. There are Facebook groups and Instagram girls. There are over 200 leaders of various groups waiting to offer encouragement, support and accountability as you strive to change your morning routine. The commitment isn’t long. Each challenge runs for 6 weeks with a 2 week break until the next session. There are studies and other resources offered as a guide and encouragement for each participant.  It’s very flexible and no one pounces on you if you can’t make it one day. They just want to see you thrive in your walk with Jesus. It’s really a fantastic ministry and I feel blessed to have been a part of it.

I’d love to have you as part of our group (#MJAD – Meeting Jesus at Dawn) on Twitter or someone else would like to have you as well.  Registration is this week (it’s free!) and you can find out more here at the Hello Mornings Challenge page.

P.S. – There is no need to stick with their recommended study! While it does look interesting (it’s on the Psalms) there is no need to deviate from your schedules reading and reflections if you don’t wish to. Hello Mornings is there to offer prayer and support regardless. I’m planning to read the above book in the next session while also checking out various aspects of their study. It’s all about what works for you.  

This is the day?

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This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it?

It’s cold here. Bitterly cold but there are blessings to be found. The sun rises a little earlier each morning as a reminder that summer is indeed coming.  A sign that the dead cold of winter will give way to new life. We will see spring again.

These reminders seem appropriate during Lent. Death will give way to life. We walk through darkness to get to the light. We are a people of the resurrection and if we persist, if we push through those bleak periods we see it happen over and over again.

It may be cold but this is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Make time.

make timeThere are cars on the sofa and baby toys strewn across the floor.  The dishes aren’t quite done and the floor could use a good scrubbing.  My house is not perfect yet here I sit coffee in hand because my mother told me to capture moments of rest in the day so I’m attempting to listen.  Attempting is the key word in that sentence.  I’m not good at leaving things alone.  I’m not good at not tidying, not fussing, not doing.  When I let the desire take hold I find myself tidying and fussing and doing all my time away in the day.  That rest time when the baby rests.  The quiet time when my little one is in therapy.  Today I am sitting and ignoring.  Well not ignoring precisely.  Instead I’m choosing to set aside my instinct and take instead what is needed, a moment for myself.

That moment seems selfish, doesn’t it?  Whether you’re a working mom or dad, a single individual or a person who has responsibilities here unnamed we all feel guilty for taking moments, stealing time and just sitting still.  It is important to just exist.  It is important to steal those moments.  How do I know this?  Well I know it from personal experience as I feel so much better when I’ve stolen some moments but I also know this because of how Jesus lived.  He stole moments.  He moved into gardens and went up mountainsides.  When he needed a break he took it.  He saw value in silence, in stolen moments with God.  He knew how important it was to relax, to rest and listen.

When we are too busy to sit still we fail to hear the whispers of God.  When the rustle of paper and the clanging of silverware takes over our lives the voice we long to hear is muffled and faint.  We need this time.  We must make it a priority.

If you find yourself wondering what that muffled voice is saying take a moment and breathe. If you find yourself doing so much that you no longer even hear it, stop and sit. Steal a moment and reflect. This season of Lent is a time of contemplation, reflection and connection.

Make time in your day to connect.
Make time. It’s important.
Make time for God.
Make time.

And so it begins…

Lent begins today. It’s a season of contemplation, of preparation. A season where we think about the gift that has been given and attempt to really understand what the whole story of Jesus truly means for us, here in this time. I’ve decided to undergo some preparations myself and I know I usually say I’m going to add something to my life with the intent of impacting the world or even just my own life in a positive way but this year I’m giving something up. What am I giving up? I’m not going to weigh myself every day.

Big deal you think? It is a big deal for me. I’m a compulsive weigher. I think it started when I lost a considerable amount of weight a few years ago. I was absolutely petrified it would come back if I wasn’t vigilant. There’s something to be said for vigilance. Statistically those who stay on top of their weight loss are more likely to succeed or so I’ve read, don’t quote me on that. I know I need to be mindful and continue to make healthy choices. That said, the weighing myself daily is taking a toll on the way I see myself. I need to distance myself from the scale and embrace who I am separate from what I weigh. I have committed to weighing myself once a week at the same time. I still want to stay on top of things and continue to care of myself but I don’t want it to be something I obsess about.

What does this have to do with Lent and spiritual progress? I happen to have 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 hanging on my mirror in my bathroom. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” Before you jump all over me I know it’s about sexual immorality if you look at the greater text but I think it also applies to how we treat our bodies. We need to honour God by treating our bodies well. We need to honour the body not just in regards to sexuality but also in how we care for it. I’m not honouring God when I scarf down 1/2 a pizza and refuse to exercise nor am I honouring God when I feel my value lies in what I weigh instead of who God created me to be. There needs to be a balance somehow.  A way to enjoy our bodies while caring for them.  I’m seeking to find that balance.  I’m looking for a way to honour God and give thanks for the great things this body he’s given me can do while caring for it.  

My body was made by God, shaped for me.
I want to feel comfortable in it.

So this Lent I shall strive to feel comfortable in my own skin without obsessing about how much that skin weighs.  I’m going to make better choices and continue to avoid chocolate because it’s my own personal kryptonite.  I know it may not seem like a lot to you but for me, it’s going to be tough.

It’s laughable really…

I had written a piece about ownership and taking control of my life last week.  Looking back on that post I find myself laughing.  I haven’t owned my life or been in control since I wrote the piece.  I never found time to edit it.  I am only now writing because I’m ignoring Lord Business on the couch across from me and the pile of baby toys on the floor.  I begin each day with the intention of carving out some time for me.  I intend to write.  I intend to read.  I intend to move through the day with ease and grace.  These are all wonderful intentions.  How the day usually unfolds is closer to chaos than ease and grace, well grace is given from God and not necessarily seen in my movements and living.

We’re happy here. We live a good life but it’s crowded. It’s overfull.  Personally I feel stuffed to the gills with things to do and things that are happening to me. I started out this year intending to take ownership over my days. Intending to be the captain of the ship so to speak. I was going to take back the house (sometimes I feel as though I’ve lost it to therapy), invest my days in things and people that mattered, really focus on the stuff that counts. I haven’t had time for any of it. If anything since the first of the year I’ve discovered that I have no ownership. My days are not my own.  I may make decisions but in the end things are often out of my control and I have to have faith, I have to trust it will work out when I let go and surrender.

I suspect God is laughing at me right now. Surrender is something I’ve always struggled with and if you’re a regular reader you know that. Turning over my life and control is not easy. Maybe my word for this year should be surrender. Maybe I need a reminder that sometimes dreams change, life isn’t always easy and surrender is important where God is concerned. Surrender is important. I also know I’m not the only one who has struggled with this. The Israelites wandered for 40 years before they got where they were going. I don’t really want to end up like them though. Hopefully I can learn this lesson before 40 years is up. Wandering in the desert really isn’t my idea of a good time, be it real or metaphorical.

He made a choice…

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We open the scene at Christmas with a young mother. We aren’t entirely sure of how she feels or how she will cope. There is no narration of her thoughts as she journeys towards Bethlehem.  We do not know her doubts and fears. We do not know how she felt about being pregnant so young. Maybe she was an old soul, created by God to be the mother she needed to be.  Maybe she was young and unburdened by the responsibilities that lay ahead.  Either way there would be complications later on.  We’ve read his story.  We know the pain she will feel when she loses him. Whoever Mary was, she was what was needed. She made a choice to listen and obey even when doubts might’ve played in her mind.  She made a choice.

As we move into the story we meet Joseph. A man who loved a woman. Who had pledged his life to hers. She becomes pregnant. There are questions. Will he? Won’t he? What is a man to do? His community will judge him for staying. They may even shun the family. What comes next he doesn’t know but he listens to that voice, to the one who tells him to stay. He listens and trusts. He makes a choice and walks forwards in faith but is not unaware of what could happen. There are worries and doubts but he pushes back. He must keep going. He made a choice.

They travel far. They journey together, partners on a path that no one else knows they are on. There is a birth. It is messy and chaotic. There are no midwives or obstetricians, no drugs or is or surgery if anything goes wrong. They are alone, together. They cannot turn back no matter how much either one wants to. This birth will happen, in a stable of of all places. The baby arrives and they like every parent are fully hit with the realization that this child is dependent upon them. Mary feeds her child. She awkwardly wraps him in cloths they have dug out of their packs. Her body aches from the work it has just done. Struggling as new mothers do with fatigue and exhilaration, she cannot settle. She needs to sleep but longs to look at her tiny child. Fatigue eventually wins and she sleeps alongside Joseph, vulnerable and scared. Together they lay in that stable.  That fortress built for animals becomes their temporary home.  The dirt, the wind, the animals and their smells surround them in their first home together.

Things don’t get easier. As they raise Jesus, they find themselves vulnerable to outside forces.  Vulnerability is something we all face. In life we are vulnerable to the whims of others. Choices that are made by people who are not known to us have the power to affect us in ways we cannot even fathom. As people we are dependent upon one another.  We are all connected. We are all intwined. We like to think we’re not. We like to think we’re independent beings but this isn’t entirely true. Each choice we make impacts this earth and the people who live on it. Each choice we make has the potential to bring good or spread evil. Each choice we make does in fact make a difference in one way or another.

I think that is what makes this story so remarkable. God makes a choice. As we chose things everyday, so too did God choose.  He chose to cloak himself in vulnerability. God chose to release power and might and embrace vulnerability so we might know him more fully. God chose to open himself up to harm and pain so that we might see what it means to truly live. God made a choice. God chose us.

May the coming year bring you joy and blessings. May we find ways together to choose peace, to spread light in the world and speak truth to those who need it. Merry Christmas.

The hangover.

Books

Yesterday I stepped into the pulpit for the first time in eleven months. I was nervous headed into it as my entire life is consumed at the moment by family and therapy. It’s the way it should be. I am needed by these tiny humans right now and that is ok. I look at colleagues and friends and admire their contribution to the Kingdom. I am impressed and inspired as I see clips of their work through pictures and blogs.  I had at one point thought this might be me but God led me down a different path and that’s ok but with all of this time off I had begun to worry that I would not do well, that it might in fact be a horrible idea to go back.

As I stepped into the pulpit, gown and all it felt like coming home in a way. I felt comfortable and engaged.  I was affirmed by the people of the congregation and really felt good about being back.  I was relieved that it didn’t bomb.  At least I think it didn’t bomb!  No one said anything terrible so I’m going to take it as a good sign. As I was busy getting ready for church last week my reading time was dedicated to prayer books and commentaries last week.  I really enjoyed the in-depth study and reflection on a particular text.  It was a nice challenge for my brain and my heart.  I also enjoyed knowing that at the end of the week I’d be enjoying worship with the people who loved me through my student placement.  It was a perfect place to return to work once more.

The book I’ve chosen to reflect my week is called Feasting on the Word: A Thematic Resource for Preaching and Worship – Advent Companion.  It is edited by David L. Bartlett, Barbara Brown Taylor and Kimberly Bracken Long.  I really found it to be quite useful this past week.  It had several perspectives on the text, some ideas for children’s stories and suggestions for prayers for the day.  While I use multiple resources and re-work things to fit my own plan I found it to be helpful in providing direction and focus as I got down to work.  If you’re looking for new resources and you happen to lead worship for a living you might want to check out this series.  I have added the spring volume to my collection already as I’ve got a couple of Sundays booked and think it might be useful.

Now let’s talk about the title.  I named this blog the hangover for good reason.  In my time away I had forgotten how exhausted one is on Monday morning.  I woke up remembering why it is Mondays are such a popular day off for Ministers.  The ‘hangover’ after a worship service is a good one though.  Well worth it in the end.

Beautiful

It’s a beautiful day here.  The tree is on.  My couch is covered in yarn and there is music in the air.  Before I begin my various tasks for the day I wanted to share with you a song I came across this morning.  It’s absolutely gorgeous.  Fills one with holiday spirit and is a great reminder of how beautiful simplicity can be.

When Christmas feels large.

Nativity

When Christmas feels large remember what Christmas is truly about.

Christmas is a celebration of beginnings.  The birth of a child.  The entrance of Jesus among us.  The beginning of a life well lived, a life changing life. It demonstrates to us the importance of beginnings for if Jesus hadn’t been born, if Jesus hadn’t begun the journey towards his adult self we wouldn’t have Easter and all it represents. We are after all a resurrection people. A people born in death meets life. A people born again and again.

I know at this time of year it’s easy to put that piece aside. At this time of year it’s easy to focus on the sweet, delicate child and all that is to be done. It’s easy to get lost in lists and baking, in parties and promises but the story doesn’t end here. Christmas is not the finale. Christmas is the prelude, the start to that which will be spectacular. Don’t lose sight of this as you celebrate. Don’t think all is lost if things don’t go as planned.  Don’t expect perfection in that which is just the beginning.We’re starting here. We’re waiting together for the advent of that which is to come.  We’re waiting for Jesus the man, the Christ, the Son.

Let go of expectations. Let go of stress and struggle. Sink into the one who brings peace and promise. This season is a beginning. A born again promise that relationship is there, that more is to come, that we will not be left alone. When Christmas feels large remember the one who is larger, the one who carries us from beginning to end.

When things grind to a halt.

I'm here

The last couple of weeks were challenging for me.

All progress in therapy seemed to grind to a halt.  My son was acting out.  I was frustrated and tired.  It wasn’t the best of times.  When we began this journey we were told these regression periods would happen.  They were to be expected and would often come before a period of growth.  Remembering that and living through it are two different things.  This impacted life in all forms.  I founds myself discouraged and frustrated as I wasn’t reading the book I was supposed to and I had made a commitment to myself.   Then I remembered there was a book I had been reading.  Sure it wasn’t “Does Santa Exist?’ or ‘The Crucified God’ but it was a book that made an impact on me, a book that touched my life.

That’s what the point of this project is, isn’t it?  Reading things that change me, shape me?

Well over the last few weeks I found myself reading “I’m here” by Peter H. Reynolds from time to time.  It was a book recommended to me by someone (I can’t remember who – I’m sorry if it was you) to encourage and support me as I worked through X’s therapy and dealt with autism in general.  When I ordered it I though we could read through it together.  After skimming it I changed my mind.  I’ve kept it for myself as a reminder during those hard times, those withdrawn times that he is in fact connecting and that he is just doing it a little bit differently.  It is a simple book.  A book that might mean nothing to you if your experience if different from mine but it is a sweet story that speaks of different types of connection and different ways of seeing.

Things have progressed just as they said.  My son woke up one day and things had settled.  He struggled less with the concept that speech was necessary.  He tried more words, different words and seemed to understand that we weren’t going to quit, it was something he would have to live with.  What the therapists had predicted did indeed come to pass.  This morning he asked his father as he left for work if he was excited to go.  This kind of spontaneous questioning was rare and fleeting in days past.  It’s working.  It’s work but it is working.

So I apologize for last week and the lack of updates on my progress.  I will endeavour to do better in the future but sometimes life takes precedence in the hierarchy of things to do.  For this week I’m counting “Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent” as the book for me.  I’ve read a bit ahead and will be finished by the end of the month so I have to fit it in somewhere and it might as well be here.  What I’ll read next, I’m not sure.  What I do know is I look forward to sinking into some time of my own once more.  It feels right to be back at it again.  It feels good to have our rhythm back once more.