Wow!!  The year has flown by and here we are standing on the threshold of a new Christian year!    It has been a full (and sometimes tough) year for me…and because of that, there will not be a printed version of  the StoryFormed Calendar this year.   Printing costs are up and I felt like my creativity was diminished this year.   However, back in the summertime, on a road trip, I had a vision for what I wanted the Advent page of the calendar to be (if we would have printed one).  Well…I had a flurry of creativity the other day and decided to design it.

I want to give the Advent page as a gift to anyone  wanting to shape life around God’s story.  You may download the PDF below and print it up yourself (it is an 11×17) at a local printer, or use the “smaller pdf” if you just want to see it on your own personal electronic media.  And tell anyone else who might be interested….just remember, the picture IS copyrighted and not to be sold or used in print or electronic media – other than personally – without giving credit to the author (Tara Malouf/Red Thread Photo).

The door of Advent is opening to us…let us live in expectation of what God wants to do in this new year!!

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**All images copyrighted 2010 :: RedThreadPhoto.com

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My family and I take an Advent pilgrimage of sorts each year.  It happens around our dinner table as we slowly take a journey toward Bethlehem.  We open the pages of the Scriptures and wander with the friends we find within – from creation to the birth of Jesus.   This year I have been struck with a question that Christine Sine asked…”What are we waiting for this Advent season?”  I took the question and mixed it with the point of view of being in the middle of the story of the Scriptures, and here is my answer:


I stand on the edge of unformed worlds and watch them come into being.  I see light, brilliant color and exquisite detail.  I hear rushing waters, animals calling to one another and the sound of footsteps on the gravel.  I hear the words “it is VERY good” and those words are forever imprinted upon my psyche.  They churn in me images of intimacy with the Creator, my fellow bipeds and all creation.  I taste joy and sweet glory dripping off this newborn terrestrial ball.

Then tears…the sound of pitiful weeping and the thud of an apple falling to the ground.  The taste in my mouth turns bitter with pride, shame, hiding and toil.  I feel the jolt of a planet askew in its orbit.  I must squint for the light has dimmed, my eyes relegated to the spectrum of shadows.  I feel the stabbing pain of jealousy, murder, arrogance, love of self.  I am disoriented with the rest of the planet.  I have become “homo incurvatus in se ipsum” – man bent in on himself.  I am trapped and only a whisper of “it is good” lies  below audible frequencies in the regions of my heart.

I am hot and weary from wandering a planet that does not cooperate with me.  I hear promises and I hope; I trust…I long.  I celebrate moments of light when the “very good” seems to well up almost to crescendo but then…always falls flat.

I walk, I lie, I settle down, I am oppressed, I am delivered, I run back to tyrannical idols.  I obey, I distrust, I watch generations die,  I hope, I am faithful, I disobey.  I watch leaders rise and fall, I cry in agony, I am carted off to foreign lands, I watch God be faithful, I am deafened by His silence.  And I wait…I long…for that “very good” rhythm.

I hear the sound of weeping again and this time find my face and hands wet with tears.  I cry as a sojourner in a strange land.  I hear the words of the prophets and they stir my soul awake with words of justice, wholeness, and intonations of “very good”.  My tongue, so used to bitterness, perceives ever so slightly, the taste of joy once again.

Then I hear nothing….

Heavy weighted under this unbearable nothingness lies my hope.  It is suffocating – being executed by the crushing weight.  In its final breath, a single Baby’s cry rings out and shatters the grip of this oppressive foe.  The weary planet shudders and takes, at long last, a gasp of fresh air.  The Baby’s cries reverberate to the outer edges of the universe and command the attention of a King.  The planet stands up straighter and a new creation process is put into place.

The Advent journey ends here for many, but I do not think it should.  For we  live in the unraveling story outside the pages of the Book – a story not so different from the one gone before.  A story of longing and waiting and hope.

Though able to breathe, this planet still wheezes and coughs within its brokenness.  It groans for full restoration – for the new creation to be complete.  And I stand on its infected skin hearing children crying and people yelling.  I feel the pain of wars and hate and cruelty.  I, like back at the beginning, still taste the bitterness of sin.   I still live with that awkward curvature of my soul.

And I wait…Though I catch glimpses of Reality, I long for this Baby to return in the fullness of His Kingdom.  I long for Him to immerse a tired creation once again with the fullness of His glory.  I long for peace.  I long for a world put to right.  I long for the reign of a just King.  I long for healing and for joy to be the only flavor in our mouths.  I long for rest…for Shalom.  And I long to live fully in the dance of “it is VERY good”.

(But Lord, as I wait for Your Son to come again and to make His Kingdom fully established, let me labor to make to make it a present reality- more visible wherever I am. )

I am glad that Advent is a season of preparation and not perfection…or else I would have already failed!!  It seems as though this season has come upon me without me being fully ready.  I am trying to make an Advent menu (because we are going to try vegetarian eating except for Sundays) but it’s been on my desk for the last two days and I haven’t touched it once.  I just pulled out some books we will use for our journey into the next few weeks, but didn’t get to any readings tonight because I friend of mine had to go to the emergency room and I had her kids here.  (I don’t know if anyone else can relate…but I could use a few more days before Advent starts!  However, since I don’t have that, I want to take a deep breath and enter into preparation…not perfection!)

One thing we did do today is create a “kind-of” Jesse Tree.  My daughter and I put together an arch of twigs from the yard for the creche to go under.   You can tell we put it together ourselves but we had fun doing it!!  (In other words…we won’t be marketing our homemade “Jesse Trees” anytime soon!)  Anyway, the arch will reside over the creche and each night after we do these nightly readings, we’ll add a symbol/picture/ornament to the arch.

So then my daughter gathered 7 rocks from our garden and covered them with the colors of the Christian Seasons.  They are the anchor points for our Jesse Tree arch.  And of course, I had to get into our seasonal stuff and get out the creche.

I also pulled out a couple of the books we will use during this season.  My kids LOVE The Advent Book.   Even as they get older, they love to open the doors and read the story behind them.  Then Beginnings and Endings accompany our readings in the evenings.

May you enjoy the preparation of Advent and not worry or fall into perfectionism.  May we all not just fall into sentimentality (as we hear one more rendition of  “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”) but may we tell the Stories that deepen our faith and lead us into expectation.

The weather here has been pretty foggy the last couple of days.  Now, I am not complaining because I love the feeling of the air pulling close to the earth in a tight-wrapping hug and I like the way the misty air touches my skin and caresses the foliage.  Big diamond droplets of water cling tenaciously to the bare branches of the tree outside our kitchen.  My children will always comment that they feel like Narnia is close by when we experience the fog and I agree with them.  I half expect to see the shadow of lion moving in the veil – just out of my reach, yet not out of my vision.

This morning I awoke to the sound of a foghorn calling from somewhere on the coastline.  It was a low, deep call – calming with no sense of panic, yet a strong solid message of guidance.  I lay in bed enjoying the periodic sound allowing its reverberations to move through my body.   With each subsequent sounding, it became a call to my heart.

Over the past few months I feel like time has become crazy – my business, kids schedules, church, school, marriage, friendships, projects, and parenting all became a tumble-jumble mess and mix.  It couldn’t even be called “juggling” but rather more like tub of balls being dumped on me from above, some of them bouncing, others needing to be tossed in the air again and still others rolling away into some corner waiting for attention at a later date.  (I hope someone understands this illustration!)

But this morning, the foghorn became to me a distant call beckoning me toward Advent.  It signaled to me that there is coming a new season – one in which I am to enter by slowing down, waiting, listening, and even fasting.  In the midst of my foggy brain it became an directional compass, navigating me away from shipwreck on rocky shores and guiding me on to other harbors.  And as I listened, I found myself breathing in rhythm with the foghorn.  And so I long to breathe in sync to the rhythms of Advent.

A good friend of mine has done some posting on the O Antiphons (which started yesterday).  Since we are traveling, I am just going to direct you to her site.  Thank you, Bethany!!

Click here (Wisdom)…

Then here(Lord)…

Many richest blessings to all as we approach the birth of our Savior!!

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I saw this on a friend’s blog and loved it.  It is an Advent Prayer by Henri Nouwen:

Lord, Jesus,
Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!”
Amen.

Enjoy the slideshow!!

Click on the link below:

slide show

[Sorry to repost this, but the related links on the original post were quite inappropriate!  Thanks, storyformed IT department]