Simply Advent: Simple Practices

We continue trying to keep things simple this Advent with suggestions for simple practices this season. Linger with the Nativity Story This seems simple enough, but why not be quite intentional about taking in, once more, the story of Jesus’ birth? Read it in Scripture. Read a children’s book version of the story. Watch a film about it, such as The Nativity Story or Jesus of Nazareth (first part). Read about it in poetry form. […]

How Do We Wait?

Advent is a time of awaiting the Lord. But there are many ways in which we can wait. Zechariah awaited the fulfillment of the angel’s words with confusion and doubt. Yet the Lord delivered on his promise. Elizabeth awaited expectantly and greeted Mary with hope. And the infant leapt in her womb. Mary awaited faithfully, pondering and trusting in the angel’s reassurance not to be afraid. And the Lord was with her and within her. […]

Men and Women of Hope

It seems like most of us have a friend or family member who, despite having lousy luck at times, is nearly always smiling and is constantly giving of him or herself, even when he or she is the one who could really use a little help. I am blessed to count a few of these kind souls as my friends. But what makes these people so sweet and generous despite whatever life throws at them? […]

Simply Advent: Simple Encouragements

This week, plan to make a single phone call. Just one call, to one person you care about. The purpose? To express your appreciation and concern. The person you call could be a family member, someone from church, a person in your neighborhood, a coworker, a friend you don’t see often enough, or someone else you know through a shared interest or organization. You will call to say, essentially two things: I appreciate you and […]

Hope Opens New Horizons

On December 7, 2016, Pope Francis began a catechetical series on Christian hope. He opened with the following words: It is very important, because hope never disappoints. Optimism disappoints, but hope does not! We have such need, in these times which appear dark, in which we sometimes feel disoriented at the evil and violence which surrounds us, at the distress of so many of our brothers and sisters. We need hope! We feel disoriented and […]

Waiting Well

“For you, O Lord, my soul in stillness waits; truly my hope is in you.” —Marty Haugen, “My Soul in Stillness Waits,” based on Psalm 62 Tick…tick….tick… Won’t we ever get out of here? How long until my order arrives? When will he come home? When is the baby due? Will this fog never lift? When will this traffic move? Won’t she ever call back? When will they finally get here? How long will it […]

Simply Advent: Simple Prayers

This Advent, I want to help you keep things simple. Each week I’ll share ideas for simple prayers, encouragements, practices, and celebrations. Today, as we anticipate the start of Advent this weekend, I offer suggestions for simple Advent prayers. Prayer Bowl Choose a bowl, basket, or box that you can set in a central spot in your home. If this will be a family activity, you might place the container on the table where you […]

Taking Advent Seriously

Advent begins on December 3, 2017. Years ago, I gave up on Advent. It was hard to maintain the Advent frame of mind (quiet longing for the coming of Christ) in the midst of the Christmas tumult, which seems to get started around Columbus Day. I remember listening to a priest one Sunday urging us to take Advent seriously by waiting until Christmas Eve to put up the tree and other decorations. You don’t live […]

Prayer While Grieving

Praying during a season of loss can be hard. When I think of my own seasons of loss or of listening to others’ prayer during their seasons of grief, I can think of multiple descriptions of prayer that sounded something like: I cannot even sit down to pray, because my mind races everywhere when I try to pray. Being still is hard, because so much hits me at once that I don’t know where to […]

God’s Grace and Our Efforts

I have watched myself and other people swing back and forth between two extremes of expectation when it comes to spiritual growth. One expectation is that God will do everything if only I have faith and wait patiently. This view goes out of balance when, in my waiting and believing, I become passive. I pray but do not act. I pray but do not engage with the realities in my daily life. When I become […]

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