What is Advent anyway?

D7F7FA9D-89EA-4F89-BAD9-FB8D0C5D525BI recently  heard a speaker talk about Advent and how it was a significant part of her family’s faith tradition.  I have always tried to make Christmas more about Jesus & less about the hype, but so far I have not been successful. But Advent. I like the idea of Advent, but what is it? What is Advent outside of lighting a candle each week at church? I grew up at a church where Advent was recognized. I remember one year my mom rushing us out the door to church because it was our turn to light the Advent candle.

Into my college years and beyond, the churches we were part of did not acknowledge Advent. If you asked any of the pastors, I’m sure none of them would be anti-Advent. But somewhere along the way it seems that acknowledging Advent or Lent became associated with old traditional practices. Just as pews and hymnals became things of the past, so did recognition of Advent.

I sensed that there was more to Advent than I had personally experienced, so I did what I normally do when I want to learn more about something. 

I googled it. 

I found out a few things I already knew. I was reminded that Advent is a Christian tradition that calls us to reflect and anticipate. Advent means “coming,” and has roots in the word “arrive.” It is a time designed for the church to take pause and reflect on the significance and power that came with the arrival of Jesus. 

But what I didn’t realize is that Advent is not just about celebrating the coming of Christ, it’s also about anticipating and longing for his final return. The practice of Advent gives us space to celebrate what has been done, but it also helps us shift our gaze towards what is still to come. It is a time of waiting.

As I continued my research, something else stuck out to me. Have you ever noticed that the words Advent & adventure look very similar? I found that Advent & adventure came from the same root word. Both Advent and adventure have their origins in the Latin word advenire, “to arrive”. Over time as language has evolved, Advent has come to be associated with words like “coming” “arrive” and “waiting”. Advent is most often associated with the Christian tradition. Adventure also refers to something to come, but often times it is speaking of something unplanned, risky or even dangerous. It seems like the words Advent & adventure have gone their separate ways as language has evolved, but I don’t think that was the intent. 

Because there is adventure in Advent

There is an adventure in the waiting.

I feel like God spoke those words directly to me. I am horrible at waiting. I discussed this in depth in my last blog post. In times of transition I find myself making unnecessary lists just so I can check things off. When I am looking for jobs, I apply for ones I know I wouldn’t take-but filling out applications makes me feel purposeful. My tendency in seasons of waiting is to look forward, anticipate what is next, long for the next thing. When I do that, I forget to celebrate what God has already done. But not only that, I miss the adventure that is right in front of me. 

To us some of these adventures may seem unplanned, dangerous or risky. But in this season of Advent, we are reminded that we can trust the author of our adventures.

So let’s celebrate Advent this year. Let’s look beyond the traditions that at times have muted the power and purpose of this season and look to the heart of the season. 

Christians that have gone before us have created some beautiful framework around Advent. There are themes designed for us to meditate on each week. Each theme is set in place to either encourage us to celebrate what has been done or look forward in anticipation of what it is to come. But no matter where you look, we must remind ourselves of the adventure we have been called to along the way. 

So join me this month as I seek to understand the power and purpose of this season. 

This season of celebration. This season of anticipation. This season of waiting. This season of adventure. 

Advent. 

Stay tuned,

Lisa

 

Running

Woman Runner Tying Sport Shoes

The leader of a small group I was attending asked us to bring an object that would help explain who we are. I didn’t have to think very long or hard. I brought my running shoes. Those of you who know me know that I am an avid runner. There is nothing like it. There is nothing more physically demanding or spiritually refreshing. But I didn’t just bring my running shoes to that meeting to talk about physically running; running shoes embody who I am and what I value. 

If you are a student of the Enneagram, I am a strong 8. If you are a student of Strengthsfinder, my top strength is activator. I have been designed to move; physically, emotionally and spiritually. I turn nouns into verbs without even realizing it. My favorite bible verses are the ones that have action attached. Brainstorming sessions are very stressful for me, because ideas equal action. Without other people realizing it, I walk away from meetings burdened to take action on all the ideas discussed. A few days ago, Bryan and I were once again talking about rest. I found myself saying “What if the way that I rest is by doing something?” I can just hear my mindful friends begin to compose an email to me about the importance of rest. I get it. Let’s put that on the back burner and discuss my rest needs at another time. 

I will be the first to admit that I am extreme. But I also find that more often than not, I am an exception. Most people I know have incredible ideas, but for whatever reason they stay ideas. I also see this tendency prevalent in our Christian culture. We are quick to discuss our sin, but are slow to repent and make amends. We are quick to judge, but we don’t take the time to truly understand. We talk about loving our neighbor, but we turn our face the other way as they get in their car each day. 

I don’t say those things to condemn; I am equally as guilty of those things. I am here to remind myself and others that ideas are only ideas. Without action – ideas are useless. I have found in my life that the ideas that stay in my mind and heart over time (not rash, fleeting ideas) are usually ideas God has given me. God is calling us to take those ideas and put them into action. 

Don’t just take it from me, it didn’t take me long to find out what Jesus had to say about taking action. The Bible is full of exhortations. 

James 1:23-25 says: “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”

In James 2:14-17  we are told “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

James 2:18 says “But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

James isn’t speaking of salvation. Our salvation is not contingent on our works. But I do believe that James is reminding us that faith propels us towards action. James is calling us to take a good look at our lives. If we aren’t producing fruit, it’s time to take a closer look at our faith. Faith is like a tail wind. It gives us the push we need to keep leaning into our God given passions and callings.  

I have spent the last month or so talking about things that I am passionate about. I have talked about my passion for my community and especially my neighborhood. I talked about my passion for public schools. I talked about my new passion about taking care of the earth. Last week I shared about my passion to take care of our bodies. You may not be passionate about any of those things and that’s okay. What are you passionate about? What are the ideas that keep coming back to your mind over and over again? Take note of those things. Write a list. You may be surprised as what comes to mind spills out onto your paper.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I believe one of the reasons people struggle with taking action is that it feels overwhelming. When we get overwhelmed, we tend to get paralyzed. Look at your list, if you feel like you don’t know where to start, then start with one passion and start doing one thing. Do that one thing until it becomes second nature. And then when you no longer have to try to do that thing, do the next thing. 

I deeply believe, if we all did that, took our God given ideas, committed to one action -and then did another and another – we would CHANGE our worlds. 

So join me as I seek to change my world, one action at a time. 

Lisa

 

 

 

Don’t sell yourself short.

A95B0206-B314-4791-A403-F7C4DEA2F290I was never a star athlete growing up. Any athletic ability I possess I have earned with blood, sweat and tears. But as early as middle school, I instinctively knew it was important to exercise. When I was in 8th grade I started going on morning jogs. In high school I scheduled “treat days.” I would get up at 5:30 to get to the gym before school. I wouldn’t say that my behavior could be described as an eating/exercise disorder, but considering I wasn’t an athlete in the traditional sense, I was much more aware of my body than my peers. 

A few months prior to my liver transplant, I was working with an organization called “YWAM”. We had been overseas so I had not been exercising. I felt really convicted that I was supposed to get back into shape. In case you don’t know – its a lot harder to get into shape than to get out of shape. But I struggled through it; it almost felt like a calling from God that I should get back into shape. 

It was a good thing I did. After my transplant (Transplant), I was back exercising within a month. The doctors were amazed at my swift recovery. I heard over and over again that the reason I did so well after my surgery was because I was in such good shape. 

After hearing that, as you can imagine, fitness was no longer just important – it became a passion. That passion eventually led to a job; I became a personal trainer. My favorite part of working with a new client was hearing their story, to hear about their “why?” “Why did you hire me as a personal trainer? What is motivating you to be more healthy?” Most of their answers sounded like this. 

“I want to be able to run around with my kids….” 

“I want to be around to see my grandchild get married…”

“I want more energy at work….” 

“I want to feel more confident….”

There were a few exceptions, but overall the reason people came to work with me had little to do with how they looked in a swimsuit or how much weight they could lift or how high they could jump. 

They wanted to be who God created them to be and to do what God called them to do. 

I believe God asks us to take care of our bodies so that we can fully be who God created us to be and do what God is calling us to do. 

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says … do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

When we choose to walk with Jesus, we welcome the Holy Spirit to come and take residence in our heart and mind. When we surrender our lives to Jesus and invite him to take over, we become his dwelling place. His temple. We become the vehicle through which The Spirit moves. 

In life, if we do not fill our vehicles up with gas or oil or do not fix what is broken, our vehicle can only drive us so far. We may get half way, but we won’t make it to our destination. 

We are asked to look at our body in the same light. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We are the vehicles God has chosen to use to advance his kingdom. And if we don’t rest, properly fuel our bodies, exercise or prepare for the journey ahead – we won’t get to our final destination. We may get close, but we won’t be able to fully walk out the calling God set before us. 

For me part of my calling is to be a mom. If I don’t get enough sleep, I have zero patience for my kids. I’m not able to walk out the fullness of that calling on my life.

Part of my calling is to write. If I don’t exercise I don’t have the energy or focus to write, I’m not able to walk out the fullness of that calling on my life.

Part of my calling is my community. If I don’t eat well, I don’t feel good and need to rest. I’m not able to fully invest in my relationships, I’m not able to walk out the fullness of that calling on my life.

I’m not here to give you specific tips or a new exercise routine. My challenge for us today is to simply shift the way we view our bodies. We are the dwelling place of the Lord on High. Repeat that again and again throughout your day. I bet if you started saying that each time you were eating or as you were deciding between the elliptical and the couch, you will start experiencing change. 

You will be able to chase your son that “one more time”. 

You will be front and center at your grand daughters wedding.

People will begin to ask at work where you get all your energy.

You will start radiating with confidence. 

And when people ask how you do it…

You can say, I am the dwelling place of the Lord on High.

I was bought with a price.

So I am going to glorify God with my body. 

Lisa

 

 

The Earth.

5395FCA3-8F16-43EE-843C-427A5A3C71DB

Lately I have been very convicted by the state of our earth. I feel guilty every time I put anything in the garbage can. I have started feeling physically stressed out when I consider the state of God’s creation. I have actually started washing our plastic baggies, something I vowed I would never do.

I don’t understand the ins and outs of global warming. I can’t grasp all the underlying causes. But I am confident that the earth is changing and it’s not moving towards the fullness of its glory. 

As I have dug deeper and sought to enter into the conversation, I have been disappointed at the lack of Christian voices. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few loud voices and they are making their mark. But there are questions I keep asking myself: why is a 16 year old from Norway leading a climate revolution? When did climate change become a progressive agenda? In Genesis 2, God’s people were given the privilege and honor to take care of God’s creation; shouldn’t we be leading the charge?

As I continued my research, I heard a few compelling reasons why Christians aren’t out in front of the conversation, but none of them carried much weight. They all feel like shallow excuses. I have come to believe the real reason why many Christians aren’t engaged in conversations about climate change is because we haven’t considered why we should be.

Why should we care?

To understand, first we need to adjust our focus. We get so consumed with our place in this world that we forget that we are a small piece of the big picture. We forget our actions affect other people. We forget the decisions we make will affect generations to come. We don’t consider the legacy we will leave behind. 

We forget we will leave a legacy. It will either be good or bad. It’s up to us to decide what we will be remembered by. 

 So now that we have taken a more broad view, let’s take a look into the future. Let’s imagine we have not changed a thing in the way we interact with the earth. Disease is (more) rampant because of pollutants in the air. Healthy food is scarce because climate’s effect on farm land. People are displaced from their homes because of natural disasters. Without a home kids grow up homeless and this reduces their ability to receive quality education. 

You see, unless something changes, this is the world our kids and grandkids will grow up in. 

But most of us that read this blog, we have the resources to avoid these things. We will figure out how to filter the air around us. We will spend the extra money to buy healthy food. We will go to the doctor at the first sign of illness. We will most likely always have a home, if not ours-we will have a place where we can stay. 

What about the sick, the poor, the disabled, the disadvantaged?

The least of these.  

It’s been proven that careless behavior towards the earth disproportionately affects the least of these. People who are sick, poor, disabled or disadvantaged do not have the same resources we do. They will breathe in the polluted air. They will not have any money to buy healthy food. If they are displaced from their homes, they will not have a place to stay.

And Jesus seems to have some strong feelings about how we treat the least of these. 

In Matthew 25:35 Jesus says “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

If you follow Jesus, this is a familiar section of scripture. You have probably looked at the passage and recognized the importance of physically meeting those needs mentioned. It wasn’t until recently that I saw this calling in a different light. I took a step back and looked at the big picture.

I asked myself, what if Jesus is not just talking about meeting the most immediate, physical need? What if he is not only calling us to feed the poor-but to consider the food the poor rely on? What if he is not only calling us to give water to the thirsty, but to conserve the water we have been given? What if he is not only calling us to give clothes and shelter, but to consider that our choices today have a long term effect on whether those things are available tomorrow?

I believe that he is calling us to ask ourselves those questions. He is calling us to take care of the earth not only because he has given us the privilege and honor to do so, but because he loves his people and he calls us to do the same. He asks us to look beyond today, our small world and consider the big picture. He is asking us to consider the choices we make today and how they will affect tomorrow. He is calling us to consider our legacy.

He isn’t asking us to care for His earth because it’s trendy or it’s the hot political movement. He is asking us because he gave it to us to sustain us…all of us, even the least of these.

Lisa

I know this conversation can feel overwhelming. When I feel overwhelmed, it’s easy for me to get paralyzed and do nothing. 

Start small.

A lot of small changes over time lead to big change later on. We are in the early stages of these changes at our house, but here are a few things we are trying:

• Buy cloth napkins and hide the paper ones.

• Don’t make your paper towels easily accessible, it’s too easy to grab a handful.

• Wash your plastic baggies, in fact don’t buy them. Use reusable containers or buy compostable bags (I found ours at target).

• Don’t by individual packages of snacks.

• Compost.

• Educate yourself on what you can recycle, you can probably recycle more than you think.

• Bring a mug with you to the coffee shop, church, or work…anywhere to replace the use of a disposable one.

Comment with more ideas! Let’s join together and make our small changes add up to something big!