Discover. Uncover. Recover. Spiritual Disciplines for the Expectant (Part Three)

Hope

Hope (Photo credit: bitzcelt)

God sure has His work cut out for Him this Christmas.

In keeping with our Advent theme of expectancy, what many of us are expecting from the Christ child and our annual celebration of His birth has changed over the past week. While we seek to DISCOVER Him in His Word and UNCOVER His Presence in our hearts, a growing number of us have another need – one which trumps the previous two…

a need to RECOVER.

The spiritual discipline of RECOVER requires that we look no further than the dictionary to aptly describe what our expectant hearts need most from Emmanuel today:

To get back: REGAIN

We desperately need what we had before last Friday; before the diagnosis; before the deployment; before tragedy struck and darkness hovered over the face of our deepest fears.

To bring back to normal position or condition: RESCUE

‘Normal’ is a relative term, isn’t it? We might even ask whether normal is a word we can entertain in a world such as the one in which we live. Perhaps what we need most is God’s reminder that He knows our condition. He sees our aberrations and infections and misfires. He knows that what we see and experience and read and watch each day is not His idea of normal. He knows that the most some of us are hoping for in the coming year is a new normal, since returning to an unbroken state in these broken lives we lead is impossible without a full-on invasion by the God of the Angel Armies.

But, WAIT! That’s what Christmas IS! The Baby in the manger came to be our life-line, our connection to Heaven. Our RESCUE.

To find or identify again

We discussed our great need to DISCOVER God when we began our series last week. It’s no secret that when tragedy strikes, people begin to look up and look around in search of meaning and hope. Our response to the struggles and challenges of life can take us down dark paths toward more difficulty and pain, or we can choose to seek out that which we have lost sight of. Through the tears and discomfort of knowing too much and seeing too much, we must discipline ourselves to look for the Light. Only by that Light do we stand a chance of finding what we’ve lost and in so doing, helping others to find it (Him), too.

REACH

I never thought about the word RECOVER meaning to REACH, and yet there it is – in black and white. In order to recover from tragedy and find what we have lost, we must REACH for the One Who has already reached out to us through the Presence of His Son in our dark world. If you can do nothing else to express what you find inside your head and heart today, do this one thing: reach for Him.

To save from loss and restore to usefulness

Ultimately, the work of the manger is a saving work. We have all experienced loss. In our hopelessness we know what it’s like to be rendered utterly useless. As we look forward to¬† reminders of God’s action on our behalf – as Christmas Eve approaches – may we be open to being saved. Rescued. Reached. Found. Restored.

Not just so that we can feel better.

Not only for the good of our own hearts and the lives of those we bump elbows with from day to day.

But so that we may be found useful in the ongoing RECOVERY work of the Kingdom of God. Agents of healing. Messengers of peace. Bringers of joy (and hugs and smiles). Sharers of tears.

Children of God.

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Discover. Uncover. Recover. Spiritual Disciplines for the Expectant

Glass icicle, through a magnifying glass

Glass icicle, through a magnifying glass (Photo credit: miletbaker)

Contrary to popular belief and common practice, shopping is not a spiritual discipline.

Even if this comes as no great surprise to you, in this season of commerce (even in Christian circles) what we DO tends to outweigh what we SAY about Christmas. We may SAY that it’s all about Jesus – His birth, the Incarnation, the arrival of God on the scene – but what we DO when we spend our precious time and resources at the mall sends a crystal clear message to a world full of skeptics…

Believers are no different than everybody else.

Our unremarkable witness to heaven’s advent here on earth has me concerned today (maybe because I shop-till-I-drop with the best of ’em), yet I’m confident that I am not alone in yearning for a different way to celebrate Christmas this year. It may be December 11th, but it’s not too late – it’s NEVER too late! – for us to steep ourselves in the very real presence of God (vs. the very real distractions of the season).

For those of us who are expecting MUCH of this holiday – and of every day during which we choose to celebrate Emmanuel – I’d like to propose the adoption of three spiritual disciplines. Three ways to keep our focus on the One who is God EVERY DAY – 365/24/7. Three ways to prop open the book of our lives for the Author’s eyes to see. No more cover-ups. No more propaganda. No more societal sell-outs.

Three Spiritual Disciplines for the Expectant. Today we consider the first of these:

DISCOVER.

The spiritually expectant are watching for God to show up. Looking for signs of His presence. Fully expecting to SEE HIM here! The spiritual discipline of DISCOVER is for seekers only, requiring not only that we pay attention and both recognize and celebrate the times and places where God is with us, but that we actively seek Him out. In the world around us, yes, but also in His Word.

Those of us who wish to DISCOVER the realities of God are invited to sink ourselves into the pages of scripture, where God can ALWAYS be seen and heard!

  • Choose a word to focus on for the rest of Advent. Make it something that matters to you right now. Need help? Think power, light, promise or energy.
  • Look up the definition of your word in a dictionary and write it down. Be sure to include any synonyms or antonyms for your chosen word.
  • Open a concordance (or check out the online study tools at blueletterbible.org) and look up your chosen word. Write down every scripture reference that contains that word. How about your synonyms? Look those up in the concordance as well, and add those references to your list of scripture texts.
  • Over the next couple of weeks, look up all of the scripture references you’ve identified. Read each one, then read it again. Write down the ones that trigger questions or thoughts or ‘aha’ moments. Make notes about these trigger texts as you read and meditate on them throughout the day.
  • As you read to DISCOVER, ask yourself questions like these:
  1. How is my understanding of the word I’ve chosen changing or growing as I study it?
  2. How can this new understanding of my chosen word strengthen my faith journey?
  3. What can I do in response to this new understanding of my word/God’s Word?

Let’s choose to DISCOVER new meaning and create new energy for Advent! I hope you’ll take time to share your word with me (mine, in case you were wondering, is: buy). And be sure to check back on Friday for the second Spiritual Discipline for the Expectant: UNCOVER.

Until then Expect MUCH!