The Path

I grew up with a hunger for God, a love of Jesus, whether I really understood that or not.  Early on it was manifested in being drawn to Bible stories and other stories of people of faith.  Those stories were somewhat enfleshed by the weekly experience of having people invited to “give their lives to Christ” and join the church.  I myself made that decision by age ten.

What I didn’t hear much about then was that I was stepping on a path that would give me a chance to grow, change, and become closer to God, enriching my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined.  But when the ups and downs of my faith and life set me in Quakerism as a young woman, I was inspired by older Friends, especially women, who seemed to glow.  They had something that inwardly I yearned for.   Their witness invited me to take hold of a path, a way of life—familiar, I now know, in Quakerism and in Christianity—that I then scarcely knew consciously.

This path is not like a trail that one can knowingly follow, nor is it about achieving a destination or status.  It does involve making a life-choice, and then is more about surrendering or letting go in faith. Each one’s journey is different. Trusting and doubting and wondering, seeking and finding and losing, suffering and knowing joy, making wrong turns and finding a way provided when there is no way—all are included.  It’s an ascent that involves deepening.

Friends’ directions for following this path have been to live up to the Light that you have and more will be granted you.  It calls for holding onto a tradition—what others have come to know in the past and have left a witness to—while at the same time living in the present with what you know and experience.

Queries:

What kind of life-choice have you made?

How do you, or can you, reject harmful or unbelievable notions you learned in your past religious experience while also staying open to learning some fresh way to understand the rejected concepts?

Prayer:

Pray the Lord’s prayer (the Our Father), paying attention to what words are meaningful to you and what ones give you trouble.  Then choose one word or phrase to hold in the Light, praying to be touched or taught in a fresh or deeper way through that word or phrase.

For further reflection:

“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.  Lead me in your truth, and teach me. . . . (See Psalm 25: 4-5).

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us”  (Hebrews 12: 1).

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Expectations

In Luke’s Christmas story Zechariah didn’t expect to meet an angel as he was doing his priestly duties, and he didn’t expect that an angel would speak to him. Only becoming unable to talk let him, and others, realize that something special had indeed happened to him. In Matthew’s story Joseph didn’t expect to marry someone who was already pregnant. But he was able to hear the angel and accept what he was told; he went ahead after all and married Mary.

The Christmas season is a time of many expectations. We expect that we can make or buy the perfect gift for everyone on our list, we can do all the extra work that decorating and preparing for the holiday calls for, and we will be together with family members and everyone will get along and be happy. I may expect that my husband will get me something really special and thoughtful. We will do everything the way it has always been done. Or maybe the expectation is to do something different this time, which surely will please everyone. Whatever the expectations, our egos get a workout. Stress levels soar.

Meanwhile, if an angel were to speak to us, we probably would take no notice. Maybe because we would be too busy, maybe because we don’t believe in angels, or maybe because we wouldn’t listen since the word most likely wouldn’t fit into our agenda. And we fail to receive the true gifts of Christmas—light, love, hope, faith, joy, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, new life.

As long as my mother was alive my family celebrated Christmas in much the same way, year after year. But now everything is different, and I can spend a lot of energy longing for some parts of how it used to be. In the remaining days of the Christmas season, I hope I can let go of my door-closing expectations and open to be able to experience wonder, surprise, joy. Everything won’t be smooth or familiar. But I can expect that Christ will be present. I hope I will notice.

Queries:

What memories of Christmas are particularly meaningful to you? Or maybe particularly painful?

What expectations do I need to let go in order to let God/Christ/the Holy Spirit be at work in me this Christmas?

Sometimes the expectation that Christmas will be meaningful is an expectation that closes doors. What would it take to let go of even that?

Prayer:

Sing your favorite Christmas carol. Listen to the Messiah. Find time to be quiet.

For further reference:

“And he shall stand and feed his flock . . . and he shall be the one of peace” (See Micah 5: 2-5a).

“And blessed is she who believed [trusted] that there would be a fulfillment . . .” (See Luke 1: 45).