The Saving of Stars :: Come, Lord Jesus, Week 2 (Interview + Giveaway)

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Poem by Christina Hubbard

There’s the good kind of wait: proposals, babies, and Christmas.

Then there’s the bad:

Diagnoses, adoption delays, and jail sentences.

Our bodies were not meant to bear such weight.

Hopes, once stars in an ephemeral sky,

Fall.

We stop before we dive off mind cliffs

Into black sea currents.

(Despair, be not so easy.)

 

What if delay was salvation?

A magnetic mooring, a lighthouse guiding

Wayward soul ships to a strange continent

Called heaven

Where second comings really do happen.

Restoration, no longer a linear journey by camel or car,

But sin confessed, disciples awakened

Under bright Polaris pointing to a baby’s cry:

Christ,

Then beyond.

 

Thirty-three years later: a cross,

Two thousand beyond: Now.

You and me,

Wondering if all this is a dream.

The meaning of life

Is found in singing praise when we’re sinking to the bottom

Of long nights never supposed to happen,

Suffering we didn’t plan.

 

Rise from your aching, arthritic knees bent in supplication.

Lift up your head, weary sea-worn soul.

He comes for the desperate.

 

He is lifting our shipwrecked hearts up to live among goodly stars.

See how you twinkle o’er a broken world

Guiding sailors as they hang on for dear life.

Once storms can no longer wrinkle the sea.

Our hope and gleam

Takes all that sin once stirred up, and stills,

With a whisper of wait and wonder.

See how they lean over starboard side,

Cup their hands

And drink of pure light.

day-9
by Mary Brack

Prayer

Father God, lifter of my head, thank you for continuing to reach down and raise my eyes to You. Tilt my chin from my self, my sorrow, and my social feed. May I see Your stars, like a twinkle in Your eye, a wink of love from Your glorious throne. May I lift my face to take in the expanse of Your love arms wide on the cross. by Michelle Nezat

Share Your Heart

Have you ever considered your waiting as a testimonial hope to guide others toward Christ’s true freedom? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Interview with Kris Camealy

Recently I sat down with Kris Camealy, author of Come, Lord Jesus: The Weight of Waiting. We chatted about:
  • Getting up at the crack of dawn and writing about Advent during July
  • Where she finds wonder
  • How waiting is not passive, but an active, growing time
  • Her favorite readings from the book and the best gift she ever received

Giveaway!

When you comment, you’ll be entered to win a physical copy of the book: Come, Lord Jesus: The Weight of Waiting. Maybe you’ve got the Kindle version and a real copy would be a nice companion? Or you’d like to gift it to a friend. Giveaway ends Saturday, Dec. 10 at 11 p.m. CST.

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Week 1: Waiting Awake by Emily Conrad

 


 

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When You Crave Brave: Gutsy Girls Giveaway

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Maybe it was when I talked myself into climbing the steep slippery hill with the kids despite fearing I would tumble right back down. Perhaps it was feeling hot tears on my cheeks when I looked in the therapist’s face and said, “I don’t want to live afraid anymore.” Or maybe it was seeing my daughter skip with abandon in the surf and later capturing her satisfaction in a piece of sea glass. It was most definitely watching three gutsy girls huddled around my laptop their eyes glued to a virtual tour of Corrie Ten Boom’s hiding place. Yes, it was that a thousand times over.

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When we crave brave, we long for our ordinary selves to do extraordinary things despite our circumstance.

Most of us don’t see ourselves as very fearless. In fact, we might not even believe what we do matters. I once asked a friend what she saw in my writing and my life that inspired her. She said, “You take risks.” Say what? I didn’t see myself as bold or brave, I saw myself as rather incomplete. What she saw was a woman who took steps of faith and defied expectations by choosing to homeschool and uprooting her family so her husband would have more time with the family. (That’s what she told me anyway.)

My friend Amy L. Sullivan defines brave as GUTSY.

gutsy \guht-see\ adjective: brave, courageous, daring.

Showing determination even when your heart beats fast, your hands grow sweaty, and you fear failure.

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When we crave brave, we live gutsy despite how we feel.

We get up off the stump and climb that perilous hill! Hear me, acrophobia? I defy you! We go ahead and admit our true feelings and failings to the nice therapist, let ourselves weep, and remember the guts it took to drive ourselves there. Of course, we look at our ordinary daughters and tell them yes, you can change the world with your gifts! Then we invite others to crave brave with us. We stop worrying what we look like or how crazy our ideas might seem or how silly scared we are most days.img_20161123_142618

We remember what we really need is one friend to crave brave and lead the way, so we go first.Tweet This

Giveaway!

I’m giving away one copy of Amy’s third Gutsy Girls book highlighting the life of Fanny J. Crosby. Fanny is one of my childhood heroes: a blind songwriter and poet who penned over 9,000 hymns! Yeah, she was pretty awesome.

Leave a comment to enter to win a physical copy of the book. Giveaway ends next Friday, December 9 at 9 A.M. CST and will be shipped to the winner in time for Christmas.

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This post is part of the Five Minute Friday one-word writing prompt challenge on Kate Motaung’s blog. We write for 5 minutes on one word. This week was CRAVE. Join us here!

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Waiting Awake :: Come, Lord Jesus Book Club: Week 1

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“Couldn’t you stay awake for one hour?”

I would’ve shaken the sleepy disciple’s shoulders until he woke up, but I’m not Jesus. Yet even as our Savior, the ultimate example of patience and love, asks Peter this question, his wording is loud with pain. (See Mark 14:37, NET)

Peter, James, and John were supposed to keep watch as Jesus prayed in the hours leading up to His arrest. Instead, seated in the dark garden, they fall asleep not once or twice, but three times.

The next hours and days will be the worst and greatest of the disciples’ lives. This sleepy band of men will be tempted, they will fail, they will grieve, they will huddle together in locked rooms, they will run to the tomb, they will see the risen Savior.

To prepare, a night of watchful prayer would do them good right about now, but they can’t keep their eyes open.

As easy as it is to judge them, in Come, Lord Jesus: The Weight of Waiting, Kris reminds us Jesus has commanded us all to stay awake in no uncertain or abstract terms:

“And what I say I say to all: Stay awake.” Mark 13:37

Like the disciples in the garden and like you, I’m waiting for many things; for God to use the gift of writing He’s given me; for the Bible study I lead to make a difference; for emotional and spiritual breakthroughs for myself and others.1-1

As I wait, I work, but the apparent lack of forward movement leaves me waiting in a dark garden full of twisted roots and mysteriously rustling leaves. Writing rejections pile up. As soon as the Bible study gains one attendee, another loses interest. Though I long for revivals, failures abound—in me and in others.

A night of watchful prayer would do me good right about now, but all I long to do is curl up in one of these inky alcoves. Quit writing. Cancel Bible study. Forget about seeking answers. Sleep.

Instead of looking for Jesus’s kingdom come, my eyes grow heavy because I’ve focused on goals I crafted myself. Praise, numbers, recognition, fortune, respect.

These things are easier to see than the advancement of an invisible, spiritual kingdom. They are easier to correlate to my everyday than the end of the world and the eternity to follow. They are easier to quantify than the spiritual snowball effect of influencing one who will influence another and on and on until someone I have never heard of—someone who might not even be born yet—is bowled over by God’s unstoppable love.

The beauty of Come, Lord Jesus is that it reminds us we have not been called to a life of focusing on easier things, which would lull us from our callings and to unfruitful sleep.

What are we really waiting for? Not our own dreams come true, but God’s.Tweet This

Kris writes,

We must remain awake, faithful, focused, even when the temptation to hibernate presses in. Wakefulness requires a conscious effort to be present, even in our distraction and weariness. Advent invites us to hold on. We cannot afford to sleep through our lives. Stay awake, He urges. Pay attention. Be present. He is coming again.” (p. 20)

by Mary Brack

by Mary Brack

This—Jesus and his second coming—is what we’re truly waiting for. Because eternity is in the balance, Jesus does not call any of us to trivial work, though we cannot always know the impact or importance of the tasks before us.

For me, staying awake means I must write through rejections unless I’m directed to focus elsewhere. I must lead though only one or two attend. I must continue to grow closer to my Savior and seek those breakthroughs.

For all of us this Advent, staying awake will mean resisting the easy, sleep-inducing glitter of commercialism.Tweet This

It will mean rising in the night, running outside, and letting the white flurry of God’s mercy and goodness melt into our open mouths.  

Long after we pack up our decorations and begin the new year (and the next and the next), staying awake will mean listening to our Savior’s call to persevere, even when we must wait indefinitely for the events we hope for.

Instead of depending on easy, visible results, let us keep watch for Jesus and His kingdom come. A night of watchful prayer would do us good right about now. Let us wait awake.

Prayer

Merciful Father, pry my drooping eyes open and give them sight. May I not only wait awake, but may I wait awake and really see what you are doing around and through me expecting your return. Give me the perseverance to spend this dark season of night watchful in prayer with your Son. In His name I pray, AMEN.

Share Your Heart

What does waiting awake mean to you? Join the conversation in the comments.

Contributors

emily-conrad
Essay + photo by EMILY CONRAD. She is a wife and writer who lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two rescue dogs. Her debut women’s fiction novel is underway with Pelican Book Group. Emily loves Jesus and enjoys summer road trips to the mountains. Connect with her at EmilyConradAuthor.com.
 mary-brack
Art journal work by MARY BRACK. She is mother to adult daughters and works in church outreach ministry. Creative pursuits of art journaling, blogging, photography, and hunting vintage items keep her sane. Find her faith explorations of life and art and more Advent art journaling at foundnbrighton.com.
michelle-nezat
 Prayer by MICHELLE NEZAT. She is the host of the weekly podcast, More Than a Song, where she points listeners of Christian music to the Word of God. She is wife to Ron, mom to Emily and Meredith, and a lover of Jesus, coffee, and pie.  Find her at MichelleNezat.com.

Advent Book Club

clj_final-cover2-940x1471During Advent, we’re reading Come, Lord Jesus: The Weight of Waiting by Kris Camealy. Don’t have a copy? Grab one for yourself and a couple of friends here. (Use code: HOLIDAYBOOK to get $10 off a $25 purchase through Nov. 28.)

Week 1: Days 1-7

Week  2: Days 8-14

Week 3: Days 15-21

Week 4: Days 22-25



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Is God Good? What the Pilgrims Knew about Trust

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This morning I took my coffee out on the porch and read how the Pilgrims who settled Plymouth Colony in 1620 lost almost half their people the first winter. The Wampanoag (remember Squanto?) taught them to fertilize corn with fish guts and other life-saving tactics, helping to save them from near extinction. Squanto’s own tribe had been completely wiped out by a mysterious disease years before.

Less than a year later, the Pilgrims, newly regrouped and thriving, feasted with their unlikely native friends on turkey, mussels, berries, and gourd pumpkins filled with cream. In a fabulous three day celebration complete with games, dancing the jig, and “exercising of arms” (and we think football and snoozing on the couch after turkey is awesome), two people groups to whom death was a present and very possible reality gathered together to praise God for his goodness.

They had lost so much, and still, they gave thanks.

This week death stole a loved one in our family, just a month after it extinguished her spouse. No one is saying this outright, but I can see it in the faces around me. Mouths are saying,
“I can’t believe this happened,” but what we’re really asking is, “Is God still good?”

No one really feels like it’s the right time to be grateful, but tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

Before the Pilgrims set sail for North America, religious freedom, and peace, they had a worship service on the shores  of Delftshaven, Holland. Through prayer and tears, they solidified their identity as pilgrims passing through this world onto the next. If they had known how many of their company truly be departing for the next great adventure in such a short time.

Death is not a daily companion in Western society, unless you happen to be a doctor or nurse or a binge-news watcher. So when it strikes, we tend to question rather than trust, as the Pilgrims did.

As I was taking cheese from a wrapper the other night, I suddenly remembered how my grandparents passed within 2 weeks of each other when I was 16. When my mom got the news while making breakfast, she hid in her room, weeping, but she trusted. We packed our bags twice within a fortnight to see them off to the next world, first my grandfather, then my grandmother.

“Wouldn’t you question God?” my husband asked me today.

“What would you do if your parents died, or me? Wouldn’t you question God?” Of course. I would be devastated, but the theological dialogue I was raised into was a conversation of trust with God. I find that I naturally do, instead of despairing.

So words spill out of my mouth, as naturally as if they’re my own, but I’m not sure they are. They seem so strange when everyone is doubting. “Isn’t it wonderful that God welcomes our doubts?” I hear my lips saying.

The other night I shut the door to my room and made myself kneel by my bed and sing, “You are good. You are good,” to God.

Singing felt right and holy and kept me from despairing the next day.

As much as a strange spiritual strength comes to me like breathing, I find my body aching and tensing when I think of my dear one’s sobs shaking my arms less than 24 hours ago. I wanted to absorb her pain, but I could not.

Last night the family played a loud charade game to forget their woes momentarily. I slipped out under stars and palm trees. Trying to process all of this, I walked the block with a panicky feeling in my chest. Trust was not so easy now. Why, God, did you not save your servants? We prayed for resurrection. My feet hit the pavement, again and again. Three laps around the block and no answers.

Thanksgiving began from people who knew pain, but who praised anyway. They begged God for a promised land, and half of them received a death sentence, never to give harvest thanks this side of heaven. They believed in spontaneous prayers inspired by the Psalms, which do not give concrete answers, but rather, acknowledge life’s pain and God’s glory in poetry and song.

One of the only Pilgrim hymns still sung today by Christians is Psalm 100 or “The Old Hundredth,”

O enter then His gates with praise;
Approach with joy His courts unto;
Praise, laud, and bless His Name always,
For it is seemly so to do.

Here is the only reason given for praising God,

For why? the Lord our God is good;
His mercy is forever sure…

-From Don Sweeting

Is God good? Yes, but not on our terms. I do not think the Pilgrims naive, but powerfully capable of praise because of their circumstance. This is how they survived and thrived, ultimately maintaining a 50-year peace treaty with the Wampanoag. (Post-election, let’s take a clue.)

I hear someone downstairs playing a song on the T.V., a memory posted to Facebook to bring comfort. It’s the voice of the soul we have just lost, singing over us:

When you don’t move the mountains
I’m needing you to move
When you don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When you don’t give the answers
As I cry out to you
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in you
I will trust in you
I will trust in you
I will trust in you.*

Tomorrow we will thank God, trusting pilgrims that we are.

*Lauren Daigle

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Life-giving or Not? Practicing Reflection to Enjoy Life Fully

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We sat on the back deck step. Kyle looked out on the lawn in the waning light. His profile glowed, and he smirked at whatever it was he was saying, as only a seven-year old can. What I saw in that moment was God beckoning me to notice and enjoy my son, to truly see the way his cheeks glowed as he mused to himself. I stared at this brief window into his soul and soaked it up.

I won’t lie, the living’s been more than rough around the edges lately. Parenting battles leaving me in tears, a darn pinched nerve refusing to heal, blah, blah, blah. At day’s end, I fall into my fluffy white cloud of a bed exhausted. I look over at my nightstand, pull out my journal and write three things: the date, what’s life-giving, and what’s not.

It’s a spiritual practice Trevor Hudson, author of Beyond Loneliness: the Gift of God’s Friendship, has suggested in the Renovaré book club.

The discipline of reflection grounds me in both reality and hope. Being realistic tells me I’m under a lot of emotional stress right now. As a result, my circle of influence must be centered on my family and not much else. Writing down the downers (what’s not life-giving) shines perspective’s light on them. Here I can truly see what’s filling my days with passion and joy. I sense my whole being turning more readily to these pursuits this week.

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The pain and the tiredness fade a little when I scrawl them out and look at how small they are compared to all the awesomeness in my life. The days got harder this week, and yet, the page filling up in my notebook at the end of the day was both prayer and praise:

Lord,

As Ecclesiastes 11:7-8 (MSG) echoes, help me see the gift of what truly is.

Oh, how sweet the light of day,
And how wonderful to live in the sunshine!
Even if you live a long time, don’t take a single day for granted.
Take delight in each light-filled hour,
Remembering that there will also be many dark days
And that most of what comes your way is smoke. 

May I see better, not what I hope this life to be, but what already is exuding life, sitting right beside me, leaning into my ribs with a fuzzy head and elbows rubbing mine, already loving me, just as I am.

Reflection helps us see our life as one eternal moment to enjoy. Tweet This

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As you might have guessed, I didn’t write this post in five minutes flat, as encouraged in the Five Minute Friday challenge. I had time today, so I took it and enjoyed every minute of crafting this post.

P.S. I shared a couple of poems recently over at Altarwork and the Warrior and the Flower.

Go enjoy your truly awesome life.

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Five Meaningful Gifts To Make Christmas Uncommonly Great

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Every year I say I’m going cold turkey. “No more gifts!” I exclaim. (Last December, there may have been foot-stomping involved.) I hate that I buy many gifts out of obligation, but I do it. Another sweater, last-minute chocolate for a stocking, or Amazon gift card. Generic, half-hearted products I whisk upstairs to wrap and hope they will appease the people I love. Every Christmas Eve, our tree practically cowers behind the castle wall of iridescent packages and gleaming bows, a veritable fortress of stuff. I stare at the lights and wish I could find the meaning in it all.

//Here’s the thing: gifts don’t have to be void of meaning.

What if we chose to have an unCOMMON Christmas? A season of expectation for time well-spent, love shared, presence given? Gifts with impact.

  • Gifts that give the season more meaning instead of stealing it.
  • Gifts that inspire instead of let down.
  • Presents that percolate questions instead of the insatiable desire for more.
  • Thoughtfulness that takes us to the feet of Jesus instead of the throne of Wal-mart customer service lines.
  • Things and experiences given and made with love that lay bare our need for a Savior-babe who is anything but common.//

Five Gifts Packed with Meaning

  1. Soap with a story. Preemptive Love Coalition, headed up by Jeremy Courtney, has saved Iraqi children’s hearts for years, and now empowers families displaced by and fighting ISIS with two profound weapons: love and soap. The soap comes in chamomile, olive oil, and charcoal and its made by Sisterhood Soap and Kinsman Soap. The gift catalog also has hand-painted candles, medical care, and chickens. Get a copy of the book for the world changer in your life. Order by Dec. 15 in time for Christmas.
  2. Global gorgeousness for good. Fair Trade Friday partners with artisan orgs all over the globe to empower women to overcome poverty, oppression, and trafficking. There are bracelet and necklace of the month clubs for women, gift boxes for men (hello, leather journals and coffee) and even gifts for the kids. Their work is gorgeous. I especially love the new silver Live Wrecked bracelet.
  3. A book to blow them away. This is one of my personal indulgences: hunting for the perfect book to spark a love affair with words in the lives of my loved ones. Here are a few of my favorites:
    1. For a woman: Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
    2. For a man: The Heroic Path: in Search of the Masculine Heart by John Sowers or The Spirit of St. Louis by Charles Lindbergh
    3. For the teen or rebel: Do Hard Things by Alex Harris and Brett Harris
    4. For a girl: Gutsy Girls series by Amy L. Sullivan
    5. For a boy: The Cooper Kids by Frank Peretti
  4. A memory made could mean lives saved. The Advent Conspiracy advocates fighting consumerism with time spent together and memories made through experiences. Go sledding, make a fort, bake cookies, and use the money saved to give water through their amazing org.
  5. A found gift to tell them who they are. A found gift is a gift you find that reminds you of someone. You can’t spend money on it. And you have to tell the person why this gift reminds you of them. Some people read a letter aloud to go with it. My friend Diana once gave me a found gift: a dangly earring with no match. She told me it reminded her of my unique gifts given by God. She said there was no one else made exactly like me, and God would use my writing. Years later, her words still inspire me. I could do a whole series on this one.

No, I’m not going cold-turkey with the gifts this year. I really like giving them. Here’s why. A year ago we gave our Compassion daughter a bigger gift than normal for her birthday. We received a picture of her hugging the goat she bought with the money. That’s the only photograph we have of her smiling. I still find my kids staring at the photo on the fridge to this day. It’s a gift none of us will ever forget.

Do Christmas uncommonly. Give meaning. Tweet This

Come, Lord Jesus Book Club

If you want to experience even deeper meaning this Advent, consider joining us for an Advent book club. We’re reading Come, Lord Jesus: the Weight of Waiting by Kris Camealy. More info here.
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This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday one word writing challenge. (// indicates the start and stop of five minutes.) This week our word was COMMON.

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