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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the Betsy Candle

I’m preparing for a women’s retreat today.

It’s a rainy, chilly autumn day and so my mind has wandered from the task at hand to a snowy, chilly winter day… years ago.

My first retreat.

The first retreat I ever planned and led was in February 2006, and it was truly a labor of LOVE.

LOVE for the God who created me with gifts and called me to share them with others.

LOVE for the mountains and quiet time and camp.

LOVE for the women of my church home, whom I desperately missed, having moved away months before.

With only weeks to go before gathering my girlfriends together at camp, one of them was taken away.

Suddenly.

Unexpectedly.

Violently.

Tragically.

Still reeling from this inconceivable death-blow, we gathered as planned. 25 women arrived with broken hearts and lots and LOTS of emotional baggage.

We were…

ANGRY at God for allowing such horrific events to take place.

SORROWFUL for the loss of one who was wife, mother, grandmother, sister and friend.

CONFUSED by an entire range of never-before-experienced emotions toward the one who took her life – our friend, too – her husband.

Sitting in a circle of chairs that Friday night, our faces betrayed the true state of our hearts. One chair was empty and it should NOT HAVE BEEN.

Betsy should have been here.

In the midst of us was a candle – we called it the Betsy Candle – and we lit it up not only with flame, but with the flames of our unanswered questions and unnamed emotions. Intended to represent what her presence in our lives had meant to us, the candle burned quietly among us all weekend.

A reminder of a woman of beauty.

A reminder of the unpredictable nature of this life.

And a reminder to us that sometimes there are no words to express the brokenness we feel inside.

The Betsy Candle was unobtrusive that weekend – it didn’t demand our attention.

Instead, its sweet fragrance drifted from room to room, bringing a smile to one of us here and surprising with a happy memory another one over there.

In quiet ways, the flickering flame of the Betsy Candle brought to life the words of Lamentations 3:22, 23, 26, & 32:

“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.”

The Betsy Candle is long gone. I continued to burn it in my home for months after that first retreat, but the lesson is more clear today than ever before: Sometimes all we can do is to quietly wait.

Without words.

Without understanding.

Without a clue as to what to do next.

But WITH the compassionate, loving and faithful God whose presence burns steadily within us, and whose salvation is absolutely worth the wait.