Mindful Advent – Stillness

snowOn this Christmas Eve, with our thoughts turning to the stable, let us turn our focus in our Mindful Advent meditation practice to the word: stillness.  It is as if the whole world is waiting, waiting for…possibilities? hope? peace? love? In the stillness the shepherds heard the angels share the good news.  In the stillness the magi saw the star.  If we can shut out the noise of the world, for just a moment or two, what can we find in the stillness?

Many years ago I was in Denver in May for a week-long work seminar.  We had one afternoon off, so a group of us went on a drive west out of the city and up into the Rockies.  We wanted to see the mountains, get a bit of fresh air, and relax.  After a while we got to a point where there was a place to stop the car and enjoy a lookout, about the time when we got hit by a sudden burst of snow (and our driver, from somewhere in the south, was getting a little panicky because he was not used to driving in the snow and he wanted to switch drivers).  We got out of the car, and the lookout space was wide enough that we could spread out a bit to enjoy the view.  I was grateful to my traveling companions that day, for they were comfortable not talking all the time, and for a few minutes no one said a word.  It was perfectly quiet — no talking, no road noise, no sound at all.  Looking out on the scene — the mountains, the trees, the gently falling snow — one could feel alone with all creation, part of all creation, with the snow flakes offering a sort of blessing or anointing.  It was a brief still encounter that made one feel as if all that is good is possible.

May this Christmas Eve bring you a moment or two of still wonder,



Mindful Advent – Love

could heart

Today’s Mindful Advent focus word is Love.

It’s a traditional focus word for the fourth Sunday of Advent, and it is a reminder of what Christmas is all about: God’s love for us, all of us, made known in Emmanuel (“God with us”).  Jesus showed us, in word and deed throughout his ministry, that God’s love was indeed for all of us, no exceptions.  Through his death, Jesus showed us that he loved God and God’s ways so much that he wouldn’t back down, even when threatened by death, from God’s love and God’s ways, thus reminding us that God would never back away from us, that God’s love for us would be eternal and steadfast.  Now that, I think, is something wonderful to meditate on.


Mindful Advent – Room

Today’s Mindful Advent focus word is: room (or hospitality or welcome — multiple choice today!).  Meditate on this sense of room or hospitality or welcome — what does it mean to offer it, what does it feel like, when have you offered it or has it been offered to you?

Christmas_nativity-stable-backgroundIn our Children’s Christmas program the last few years, they have depicted Mary and Joseph being rejected by two innkeepers before finding a place to rest in Bethlehem.  This year one of the innkeepers was mean — we don’t want the likes of you here — and one was sorry but there just wasn’t room.  Finally one who had no room at the inn offered them the stable — second best, but out of the elements and comfortable enough.  One could imagine, as the pageant Mary and Joseph encountered each innkeeper, how those innkeepers must have felt – lots of strangers in Bethlehem, and only limited resources, what’s a person to do?  Scarcity, and even perceived scarcity, brings out the worst or the best in people — there is not enough, so I’m just going to worry about myself and who cares about others, or, there is not enough, but somehow we can all make it through if we work together and help one another.

Is there room in our hearts, in our neighborhoods, and yes, in our churches, for all?  And let’s not take the metaphor too far, and offer only the “stable” to others, begrudgingly saying, for instance, that yes you can come to our churches but don’t expect us to be friendly to those different from us (gay/lesbian/trans, old, young, different race, with dementia, on the spectrum,…); let’s offer the best of ourselves, in true hospitality.


Mindful Advent – Light


An appropriate focus word for our Mindful Advent practice on this day of the winter solstice: light.  We celebrate the light today with peoples of many faiths and those who worship creation.  Be mindful of the light today, however much you get of it.  Revel in this beautiful gift of an ever creating, ever creative God.

So far today it is cloudy where I am, so the light is rather diffuse, but we have thrown off the blanket of darkness and can see, even if it is still rather gloomy.  So too we are struggling to throw off the blanket of darkness that pervades our world; we are struggling to reject the blanket of hate, the blanket of fear, the blanket of injustice, the blanket of violence, the blanket of -isms that threaten to smother all the light in our world.  We awake at the dawn hungry for the light, wondering where it is, and we forget that the light is in us, that we need to keep up the struggle to bring light to our world, light made known through peace, justice for all, love, kindness, yes, all those supposedly “soft” things that actually take a lot of strength and courage to bring to the darkness.  But we do indeed have the light — let it shine!  Let it shine in your life, in your community, in your world.  Let it shine!


Mindful Advent – Fear

Yes, it is a surprising meditation focus for our Mindful Advent: fear.  But Advent is a time of preparation, and being aware of fear in others and being prepared for it can help us to improve our world.

When we are aware that our loved ones (children, spouses/significant others, family), friends, coworkers are acting out of fear, then we can respond in ways that help mitigate or de-escalate their fear, rather than to inflame it.  In a way, this is how Elizabeth and Mary helped each other, as they no doubt experienced some apprehension or even fear at their unexpected circumstances.

When we are aware that someone is fearful and/or using fear to manipulate us into feeling or doing something that is against our better nature or contrary to the community’s best interest, then we can resist it.  Herod feared a rival to his throne, even if that rival came in the form of a baby.  He tried to manipulate the magi to get information for him so that (unbeknownst to them) he could do harm and mitigate this threat.  But they became aware of this situation (they slept on it), and resisted Herod by going home by another way, choosing to not give in to his fear.

Fear is something that affects us all.  How we respond to it can be helped by awareness, seeking help in community, and resisting its pull to our more base instincts.

Be calm, and be not afraid.


Mindful Advent – Angel

angels unaware

Sorry for the late post — my wifi wasn’t working at home this morning.

Today’s meditation focus is on “angel.” Angels in scripture were messengers from God.  In the Advent/Christmas story, they said things like “do not be afraid” and “The Lord is with you” and “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people…”

What does an angel look like to you (that is, who is an angel)?  If you were to doodle or draw an angel as you meditate (and I invite you to do so) what would it look like: a generic person, or a particular person in your life, or maybe an abstract glow of light/aura, or maybe perhaps even a little like you?


Mindful Advent – Ordinary

It might seem strange to pick the word “ordinary” for our Mindful Advent focus word of the day at such a special time of the year.  But let’s meditate on it for a few moments today — in fact, I invite you to take a few moments here and there in this “ordinary” day, and really see how in the midst of the ordinary, there are indeed extraordinary blessings.

The people who make up the Christmas stories in scripture are quite ordinary people (except, perhaps, the magi), in spite of our efforts to elevate them with fancy gold embossed Christmas cards.  They could be our neighbors — the young couple just starting out, poor but with great hopes before them, the older couple facing a later in life surprise, but full of wisdom and caring for those around them, shepherds hanging out in the field, just doing their job.  Even though they are ordinary, or maybe because they are ordinary, they experience God’s message and God’s blessing for them, in their ordinary lives, this wondrous, convention-busting God.  They could be our neighbors, they could be us, they are us.


“Let us remind ourselves that it is ordinary people — men and women, boys and girls — that make the world a special place.” -Nelson Mandela

“The courage of very ordinary people is all that stands between us and the dark.” -Pam Brown

“There are no great people in this world, only great challenges which ordinary people rise to meet.” -William Frederich Halsey

Mindful Advent – Seeking/Searching

Today’s Mindful Advent focus word is “seeking” or “searching.”  Meditate on these.  What comes to mind?  Are you searching for something in your life, like love or fulfillment?  Do you have a vague sense that there is something missing, but you don’t know what it is?  Spend some time with it, give it some space, and see what happens…

The Advent/Christmas stories all have an aspect of seeking/searching to them.  Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph, like others they know have been longing for, seeking a messiah to save them from oppression, as a fulfillment of God’s promises through the prophets to bring a savior.  The magi were seeking a new king, a new ruler who had special qualities.  I can imagine them, in their caravan, long days of riding their camels with lots of time to meditate on what it was they were expecting to find and what difference it would make to their lives, and then looking up into the night sky at that star — they followed it, but it was not what they were seeking, but it would show them the way.


Here are some thoughts to ponder, two from Viktor Frankl, who wrote of his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp, and then from a scientist who shows us, I think, that we can’t help but ask such questions.

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

“For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best.”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

“Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?”
Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time


Mindful Advent – Joy

Today’s Mindful Advent meditation focus is “joy.”

The third Sunday in Advent is often celebrated as the Sunday of Joy, with Mary’s song known as the Magnificat as the key scripture reading (Luke 1:46-55).  The only thing I remember hearing in church as a kid about Mary when it came to Advent/Christmas was about how dutiful a servant of God she was, that she took on this sudden and mysterious task of being the “Mother of God” (I was raised in a more traditional religious community than the one I serve now).

But as a adult, I’ve come to know this joy that Mary expresses at the first signs that the child she is carrying is going to be special, is going to bring salvation to the people, not as just personal joy but also as joy for her community.  If you really read Mary’s song, she is not just being personal here, she is being political.  She is talking about a God who would overturn powerful oppressors and lift up the lowly, feed the hungry and turn away the rich.  She is echoing the prophets of old, in reminding the people that God wants justice for the poor and the downtrodden (and yes, the immigrant and the stranger among you), that all are welcome to God’s grace and mercy and that all are not just spiritually blessed but they should have physical sustenance as well.  This is an ancient understanding, not just something us “bleeding heart liberals” dreamt up.  It is biblical, it is spiritual, it is gospel, it is what Jesus would do.  And that is joyous news for us, all of us, today.