Christmas 2015

On Christmas Eve’s eve we grilled burgers and sat out on the back deck late into the evening. I looked up into the night sky and wondered about Mary, about that star, about the night sounds in Bethlehem. As we wait for the swaddled one, our Advent has been swaddled too—in family, quiet moments, books, and home. I’ve been reading about Sabbath again, and this week these words jump out at me:

Sabbath is a fiction, true and sure, the promise of peace. ~Dan Allender, Sabbath: The Ancient Practices

I have been living a fiction these past days, dreaming within a dream—a woman come back from the dust. How wonderful to know only the warmth of kith and kin, to be formed by the waiting, and let my ardor for God be stirred by love.

I pray the same for all of you, Beloveds. I am wrapping you in the swaddling clothes of my love.

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Playdates with God: Image-bearers

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The night before last, I had a dream that I had Alzheimer’s Disease. I was in a strange town, had parked my minivan along the street somewhere, and couldn’t remember where I’d left it. Nothing looked familiar and IT WAS TERRIFYING.

Last night, Jeff and I went to Mountain Stage to see one of our new favorite singer/songwriters—it’s one of the best playdates, seeing live music—and Mountain Stage always introduces us to amazing new artists (AWE-MAZING!), anyway, on the way home, I was telling him about my dream.

“For that little bit of time,” I said, “I knew what it felt like to have dementia. When I awakened, I had so much compassion for anyone dealing with that illness. I was terribly frightened.”

Ever since, I can’t stop thinking about it. This train of thought leads me to try to inhabit the many sorrows people deal with every day. Sometimes, the holiday season must feel like just another day to get through. The world is a broken place. We can still see the beauty through God’s common grace, but being human means living with frailty.

This time of year, we all get bombarded by charities. From the bellringers at the grocery store to the woman standing at the intersection with a sign, everywhere I turn there is a hand out. It would be easy to let my heart turn to stone and look the other way. But I hope I never do. We are the only creatures formed in God’s image. Yet many times I fail to see the holiness in the faces I meet every day. Here are some of our favorite organizations that remind me to open my eyes and see anew.

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World Vision

We’ve been sponsoring three children through this organization for many years now. I’m amazed at all the good work they do. One of our favorite gifts is to give something from their gift catalog in the name of a special friend.

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Family Health Ministries

This is the organization I went to Haiti with last summer. I witnessed first hand the many ways they are changing the lives of the people they serve.

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Read Aloud West Virginia

One of my passions. Helping children fall in love with reading will change the future of the world.

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College Summit

I believe education is one of the keys to helping many of the problems our world faces. College Summit is dedicated to helping make sure every child has an opportunity for higher education.

Some other organizations I haven’t worked with but read wonderful things about:

Help One Now
Mercy House Kenya
Compassion International
Pure Charity

And one more we may add to our giving list this year:

Alzheimer’s Association

What are some of your favorite ways to give back?

I’m going to take a break from the Playdates linkup for the remaining Mondays in December. Have a wonderful Advent Season, beloveds. You are all gifts to me. I’ll see you back here in January.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

Laura Boggess

West Virginia Morning: Doxology

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I awaken before the sun touches the meadow, drift out onto the frozen grass, breathe deep of glory. John Calvin believed theology must begin and end with praise and this morning I cannot disagree. All the world is kissed in white. Except the red of the cardinals at my feeder—crimson flashes on the edge of vision. They chip-chip at me from hiding places as I trespass into their doxology.

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I hop the fence, briefly thinking of Christmas cards and boxed up nativities and how only one side of the lights out front are working. When did life become a race? I want to amble slowly to the manger, savor each step, let my senses delight in scent of straw and flicker of candlelight. Calvin said the world is a theater for God’s glory but lately, I keep forgetting my lines. My eyes are hungry, my soul thin. I don’t know what I am looking for in this ice-meadow, shivering through my robe, standing beneath a roof of lacy gossamer. Delicate crystals of ice rim the memory of autumn and the beauty of the Uncreated One shines before me. I feel the wonder of advent settle into my skin.

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We wait amidst glory upon glory, this beauty dropped into our lives as gift. “The world was founded for this purpose,” said Calvin, “that it should be the sphere of divine glory.”

Overhead, a red-tailed hawk soars on the waking wind and, I, below, lift my small voice and sing the doxology.

Playdates with God: First Monday of Advent

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The first Sunday of Advent found us on the road, returning our son to his scholastic nest after a week of giving thanks. We traveled for a total of nine hours yesterday, watching the sun-chariot of Helios arc across the sky through the windshield. We missed the lighting of the first candle with our church family, the candle of hope, but as day dwindled into night and we drove away from our son, I felt the flame of hope kindled in my heart.

He is growing into his own person and this week felt like meeting him anew in many ways. Every smile was an answer to prayer. Today, it feels right to step from gratitude into hope. It has been a long year. We live into decisions made of sacrifice, uncertainty marks our steps. There have been disappointments and new beginnings, but the light of this season reminds us this story we are living is only part of the tale.

Advent always stirs that deep longing, fills with expectation. I strain my neck to see the manger, but also look inward to find Christ in me. I look ahead to the day when all will be made new in this tired world. Sometimes, it’s hard to let that work begin with me, let my fingers slip from the tight grip with which I hold it all.

John Calvin said that the world is a theater of God’s glory, that he is “inclined to allure us to himself by gentle and loving means.” In his book Ravished by Beauty, theologian Belden C. Lane says, “[P]raise is a matter of studying in minute detail the footprints of God in the world.” He is referring to nature, but I have followed God’s footprints through the ways he is working in the lives of those I love of late. I step into Advent with wonder and awe, cradling tiny flames of light.

Hope. How it does light the way. May your week be filled with light, Beloveds.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

Laura Boggess

Playdates with God: The Ordinary-Sacred

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On the first day of winter—the shortest day of the year—my pastor preached about the ordinary-sacred.

She asked us about our nativity scenes at home, about the figure of Mary. “Mary is often pictured kneeling with a serene expression on her face, or sometimes with her arms lifted high in praise.”

I thought about my kneeling Mary. I thought about my praising Mary. I thought about the babe lying untouched in the manger.

“First of all, how many women who have just given birth do you know who are able to kneel?” She reminded us what it means to be a new mother. It is a messy, tiring thing, this motherhood. It’s the kind of thing that requires hands on.

“If there is any time the holy family should be pictured as hands-on,” she said, “it’s Christmas. For this is when God became hands-on with us.”

My pastor introduced us to the sculptor (and professor) Tom Clark, who grew famous for his lovable gnomes. But he also does other sculpting, including some nativities. She showed us a picture of a nativity Dr. Clark had made in which a frumpy-looking Mary holds her infant close to her body, tiny face peeking out of swaddling clothes. The baby’s head rests in the nape of Mary’s neck, eyes closed, lips full and puckered. (You can see a photo of this beautiful work of art here, on the owner’s blog.)

I met with my Spiritual Director last week and she asked me about Advent. “It feels different this year,” I told her. “Usually, my heart feels tender, vulnerable, needy during this time. But this year it just feels raw.”

We wait for this Jesus. And because we know the end of the story, this waiting is tinged with sweetness. But some seasons? Life is just hard. Some seasons are rich with the rugged journey through the longest night, heavy with the stink of the stable, rife with the sleeplessness of new birth, and the tired of doing all that is required.

These are the seasons to remember this, “Mary didn’t keep Jesus at a distance. She held him close,” my pastor said. “This is the true miracle of Christmas … Just as all babies, his greatest need was to be held in human arms … ”

Jesus is not a God who requires us to stand back and praise him from a distance. He is Emmanuel, God with us. He touched the sick, embraced the sorrowed, held little children in his lap. His life illustrates how the holy comes to us in the midst of the ordinary. Over and over again.

In the dark season, I hold Jesus close. He is as near as my next breath, as close as a tear. And when I open my arms to the raw places in the world, He opens his arms to me. This is how we make it through the longest night, this is true Advent waiting: to wait in hope, with open arms, cradling the beautiful-ordinary as sacred.

Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:

Laura Boggess