Angels for Others…

“May today there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us. ” – St. Thérèse of Lisieux

 

I have this quote posted on my office cubicle wall and often share with others. I always find comfort in the words: peace, trust and possibilities. One particular line that always stands out to me is “Let this presence settle into your bones.” It encourages me and reminds me that God is always present. Whether in time of joy or sadness, confusion or doubt, God’s love, mercy and kindness shows up through others.

 

Many years back I experienced a period of deep sadness that was unexplainable and difficult to shake off. I prayed day and night for God to lift what felt like a cloud and pressed forward. During that period, God showed up through a good friend. Margaret connected with me daily simply checking on how I was feeling and offering encouragement. After three weeks, the cloud lifted. I still cannot explain it, but what I learned and will always carry in me is that God never leaves us and often sends angels to walk with us during difficult times. I was never alone.

 

I pray during this Lenten season that we may allow God’s spirit of love, mercy and kindness “settle in our bones” allowing us to be angels for others­­­­.

 

Sandy Diaz

 

Make a Trail

Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;  God’s the one who will keep you on track.

Proverbs 3:6

All too often we follow the path that others have set for our lives. As we grow up, our peers tell us how we should dress and how we should act. Our parents tell us where we should go to college and what our major should be. Our employers tell us what our career path should be, and on goes the list of paths others set us on. For too many people, life is about following other people’s paths, not our own.

Against this, I think of the birth of Jesus. We can become so used to hearing the story we easily forget just how surprising it is. An unmarried couple had a baby in a barn, and those who would come to follow this child would go to unexpected places and do miraculous things. In other words, they got off the path everyone else had put them on, and they followed God. One thing is clear: when you follow God, you are guaranteed a spiritual adventure in which you’ll discover how to live more fully into who God created you to be.

I think Ralph Waldo Emerson captured this well when he said, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” My prayer for us all is that as we encounter God through the birth of Jesus, we will be open to leave our paths and make a trail.

Reverend Dr. Michael Bos, Senior Minister, Marble Collegiate Church

 

 

 

 

Advent or Adventure?

Advent

The arrival of a notable person, thing or event

Waiting, preparation, coming

A coming into place, view, arrival

Anticipation

Something important

One who is awaited

A starting or coming into existence

 

Adventure

Suffix -ure

Forming nouns denoting an action, process, or result

Forming nouns denoting an office or function

Forming nouns denoting a collective

 

Advent is an Adventure

Of waiting

Of preparing

Of coming into view

Of coming into place

Of anticipation

Of something important

Of arrival of a notable person

Of arrival of a notable event

Of coming into existence

Of starting

An action

A process

A result

A function

That forms a collective.

 

What’s your definition of the Adventure of Advent?

Mary Window

 

Shared by Susan Ceeley Phillips

Follow the Trail: Don’t Mess with the Road Map

It was a snowy afternoon in New York City, and once again I was almost late for a meeting at Marble Collegiate Church; it didn’t help that I was scheduled to chair. So, of course, I took a taxi. Destination reached, I paid the driver and headed into the meeting. All went well, until I reached for my wallet just before leaving, and it wasn’t there.  A colleague helped me search the area where we had been meeting and the space just outside; no dice. It was nowhere to be found. Back home, I called the church to check whether anything had been turned in and the gentleman who had helped me search was at the desk. He told me his own story of a similar loss and shared how he had immediately begun to pray, working to put the entire situation in God’s hands. I wasn’t in the mood at that moment, but I did listen and heard the trust and faith in his voice, as he finished the story, where in the most unlikely of circumstances, he was able to reclaim his lost article. His story stayed with me, as a gentle reminder.

in addition to closing all my cards, I started the laborious process of reporting the loss. I resisted briefly, embarrassed at my own absent-mindedness, but there was nothing to do but to take the first step. So, I called 311, the help line for all things municipal and went through the slow and painstaking process of making the report. It seemed to take forever. But the next afternoon, there was a message from the Taxi and Limousine Commission asking me to call them to answer more questions. It all seemed so useless, but I called and answered still more questions always with more info to pin point time, location et al. Later that day, I got an email back that included license numbers and cell numbers of two possible drivers. It all seemed so unlikely to me, but I did pick the driver whose name was a probable match for the nationality I had intuited, called and left a message that was as specific, detailed and nonthreatening/accusatory as possible. I never got a call back. So, I surrendered, and went on with my life.

Several days later,  my friend from the church asked about the wallet. “Nope, nada,” I said. He had a lovely response suggesting that if it was needed by someone else God could be trusted to make that happen. I actually took comfort in that and felt that I had surrendered. Wallet shopping ensued, and then last night, as I was getting on the elevator  and the door was closing, I heard the intercom go off in my apartment down the hall. I stopped at the desk to find out what was up. The door person said “Someone left this for you; put out your hand.”  He placed the wallet into my hand. All money and all cards perfectly intact. So 9 days after I left the phone message, the wallet was returned.

To me this was a City Trail experience. I had to take each little step; and even though I wasn’t exactly in a prayerful frame of mind about the incident, I was graced with the willingness to listen to someone who was, so prayer partnering was there for me, even though my heart was only open a crack. And then a Christmas surprise was handed to me. So I want to remember to bring prayer into the daily routines of my life, not to get a certain outcome, but to open myself to God’s being a part of the process. If I stay open and true to that idea, I might be available to help the next traveler I meet who is walking through a tough or lonely trail journey.

Shared by Karen Gourgey

Afternoon Bonus: Excess Baggage

Like many others, I’m doing a lot of traveling this holiday season.  At the check-in kiosk, I notice another traveler trying to pare down the contents of her luggage to avoid fees for an extra carry on and overweight luggage.  One pile was for the garbage. I noticed a couple of books and an old sweater. My first thought was it’s a shame there are not donation bins at airport check-in counters. My next thought was about the journey of life and the extra baggage that we carry.

What extra baggage am I carrying?

A trunk of unforgiveness?

A weekender of regrets and discontent?

A backpack stuffed with judgment and perfectionism?

There may not be a monetary fee for carrying this extra baggage, but there is most definitely a cost to doing so. A cost to our emotional, mental, spiritual and physical well-being as well as to our relationships with others.  I’m praying that God shows me the extra baggage that I carry and helps me to put it down. May we all travel light this Advent season.

 

Patricia Wu

Doing Less and Being More

 
I was so excited when I figured out that I could retire this year.  Even though I loved my work, the daily grind of commuting over 2 hours to and from Queens every day was becoming too taxing on me. Once I retired, I set out the ambitious goal of co-creating the next chapter of my life with God.  I decided that I would spend at least one hour each day, journaling, meditating, and praying to find meaningful activities that nourish my soul. But first, I wanted to have fun.  I enjoyed traveling, hiking, Salsa dancing, and walking over 10,000 steps a day.  And I forgot about my goal. I forgot that my retirement is a gift from God and that what I do with that gift is my gift to God. I was having too much fun. 
 
God has a gentle way of bringing me back to him.  After one of my hikes, I felt pain on my right knee.  Interesting, I thought. I ignored it and still went dancing, and running up and down the stairs.  Then all of sudden, I could not do any stairs, let alone Salsa dancing.  I could not even walk without pain. I got a fancy dx, patellofemoral pain syndrome (pps). I thought I could do some physical therapy and go back to dancing. But no, God had another plan. My knee pain did not go away and forced me to slow down. I realized that whether we’re working or retired, we tend to do too much. We want to fill the gap with activities, socializing, meetings, binge-watching Netflix, or whatever. I need to do less and just be.  So that I can hear God. So that I can experience the presence of God. So that I can excitedly wait for the birth of Jesus. So that I can write this blog. So that I can create the time to meditate, to journal, and to pray. So that I can have dates with God. God and I will walk in hand in hand on this Avent trail to create the next chapter of my life. I love you God. 
 
Sooknam Choo

A Different Way to Honor the Solstice

Psalm 25:4-5 NIV  

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

For quite some time, the month of December had been a blur of activity, noise, coldness, darkness and fuss. By the beginning of January, I was left empty and unhappy despite all the Christmas festivities.

Some years ago, a friend introduced me to the practice of fasting at the winter solstice. It is a 4 day liquid fast from December 21st to December 25th. The purpose, as my friend explained, is to silence the noise and focus on the approaching new year. In the midst of the season that invites us to indulge our taste buds, I was to abstain. Counterintuitive – definitely!

My first attempt was a total bust. With some difficulty, I made it through 36 hours. There were the Christmas cookies and sweets at the manager’s desk. And the lunch invitation at Junior’s!

“Sorry I am fasting” didn’t make it to my lips.

At the famed Brooklyn restaurant, I enjoyed a delightful lunch of fish and chips.

The following year saw a similar result. There were the normal stresses that I had regularly succumbed to. Additionally, I had failed to prepare homemade juices. My fasting attempt was half-hearted at best. So when coworkers suggested a last minute potluck Christmas party, I agreed to participate. And once I had eaten solid food, it felt pointless to return to fasting.

Last December, I changed jobs within my company, going from an office with 200 coworkers to a power plant where I see just 2 others all day. Even as winter approached, I was excited in my new job and department. The change in circumstances marked a change in attitude. I was also eager to fast as winter approached. This time I also invited the Holy Spirit in as I journeyed towards Christmas. Uttering small prayers throughout each day, I took sustenance with freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices, water, tea, store-bought bottled juices and vegetable broth.  At the end of Friday, day one, I felt light but ok. It was fortunate that the weekend were days two and three. I didn’t have to go to the office and could pace myself or sleep late, and rest as needed. Day four was by far the most challenging.  That morning I yearned for my customary almond croissant to accompany the cup of tea. But with prayerful thoughts, I reminded myself that eating or fasting was voluntary.  There was great power in that acknowledgement.

The liquid fast means there is no chewing, no work. It was a time of stillness, and awareness of mind and body. I focused on listening and limiting my activities. I focused on Jesus, and on what December 25th might have meant to early Christians.

As I left home on Monday night to attend a two hour Christmas Eve Episcopal mass, I put a chocolate bar in my purse. It had come in the mail, a gift from a Finnish friend, and would be the perfect first bite. As much as I anticipated savoring my midnight snack, there was no rush or anxiety. I did not count down the minutes to indulgence. Rather, I remained present throughout the service, listening in peace and serenity to hymns and readings about the birth of Jesus.

And what the promise of salvation means to me.

Perhaps success was due to the new work environment. But I know that it is also true that “with God all things are possible.”

Blessings this Advent and Christmas!

Shared by Annemarie Edwards