Christ is born! Alleluia! The angels are singing, bells are ringing. Today is the day when we are reminded of love that comes in the most unexpected ways and stays. Entering into Bethlehem we are reminded of God's YES, that is always with us, even when, especially when we aren't sure. YES! Even when we are too tired to believe it. YES! Even when we doubt that we will be able to catch our next breath. YES! Even here, at the end of one doggone tough Pandemic year, even here, Christ enters in. YES! God's promise of Emmanuel, I will always be with you - is born in Bethlehem this day.
In the beginning words of John’s gospel proclaims to us, “The Word became flesh and dwells among us.” Pastor David, spoke these words at our socially distanced, outdoor Christmas Eve service. As we were preparing to again this year, especially this year light our candles and sing Silent Night, we were reminded of the words that have changed everything. The Word became flesh. In this year of so much, of too much…COVID, racial injustices, politics, marching, shouting…on this day, for this day, “The Word became flesh.” Now there is a living presence that knows so well the angst of our days. In this event now there is true peace that passes understanding. In our weeping, God is present. In our fearful, sleepless nights, God is present. In our laughter, God is present. In all of our holding on and letting go’s, God is present. Today’s event of Incarnational Love enters our hearts as well as our heads when we hear Shakespeare’s line, “If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die?” This day we open our hearts to the hope that comes with Christ’s birth into the world. This day we open our minds to all the ways YES can transform us and transform even this moment in our stories.
Our Advent encouragement bumper stickers: "Pay attention." "Stay awake!" "Not yet" are life-gifts from this journey. We need to continue to carry them with us past Bethlehem. Because the truth is, as important as it was for us to make this pilgrimage, this isn’t our ending place. Soon, and you will know when it's time, soon it will be time to set your course and set off in a new direction. Left foot, right foot. Companioned always by the Gracious One who created and is creating still, we are called to step into the world carrying additional messages: of “Peace”, of “Hope”, of “Joy”, of “Love”.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1: 5)
Blessed Christmas to you this day. I am so very grateful that we have shared this journey, shared these December days. I am grateful for your companioning with me on this uphill climb that was first endured and now has somehow shifted these 2020 days. May you be surprised by joy and held in love. May you know that peace that enters in and then settles into unexpected spaces and places. May you take comfort and strength in coming to understand perhaps for the first time Emmanuel, God-with-us. May God’s coming and becoming human invite us into believing in all that is possible, all that is not yet, all that is YES. May God bless you and all you love on this Christmas Day.
Step-by-step we are making our way to Bethlehem. For this Advent season, this season held in the midst of a pandemic, many of us have journeyed with heavy hearts. Illness and loss, isolation and distancing have kept us in darkness, but somehow, we have been making our way. This dark time of the soul often finds us stumbling through the long nights into the weary morning hours. Left foot, right foot. Weeks ago, when I began this journey to Bethlehem, I wasn't sure I'd make it. What I was sure about, though was that I couldn't stay where I was. My heart navigated the hours of my days, and my spirit knew that this wasn't, this couldn't be all there was. I needed to seek out something else to guide and direct me.
"For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides," the Little Prince reminds us. Walking with a candle or a flashlight keeps us looking down, making sure that we don't stumble. Following a star, keeps our heads up. When we are following a star, our vision and our spirits shift. Things, little ones and bigger ones are somehow not the same, they've shifted. Instead of walking with our heads looking down, being afraid of falling, we find ourselves looking out and beyond what we see now. Following a star takes us toward what is on up ahead.
Many of us have grown up hearing the story of the Christmas star from the gospel of Mathew. For many of us viewing the Bethlehem Star on this Monday night brought the story to life. This ageless tale of the three wise souls who traveled from afar seeking what was not yet here. We grew up hearing that they left what was familiar and set out not knowing what or how, only knowing that they needed to make the journey. Left foot, right foot. Stories are particular and universal, both. Stories live in the past and sometimes help us name and frame what is our story now. We are told that they had no map, instead they set out following a star, up and out in the distance. Seeking to pay homage to the newborn who would bring peace, they were led.
Likewise, we, too have set out seeking something new to be born in our hearts. Grace and even mercy. Forgiveness. Restoration. Love. All along the way our patterns, our inclinations, our stepping-outs and stepping right-back-ins - - all of these responses have mattered. Times when we were intentional to take one step and the next. Times when we got lost or maybe just felt caught up in something else and meandered for a time. This Advent journey, this tender time we've spent traveling has quite literally gotten us from there to here. What might be helpful sometime is to name or savor or paint or sing where "there" was and where "here" is now. This season has reminded us that it matters to pay attention and to mark our journeys from darkness to light.
It matters that we didn't stop. It matters that we didn't give up or give in. It matters that somehow even when, especially when we felt overwhelmed and disheartened, we continued to follow what was just on up ahead. Left foot, right foot. It matters that we continued to look up and have the courage to take the next step. It matters in ways we might not yet understand.
Tonight, will surely be different. Christmas Eve in the midst of a surging pandemic. There may be small, outdoor gatherings, some streamed or zoomed services will be held. Somehow, we will lean into one another as we listen again to the story of a baby being born in a stable. Tonight, somehow there will be carols sung and candles lit. Tonight is the night to come in from the cold. This night is for each weary pilgrim who somehow found the strength and courage to keep following Bethlehem's star.
Whether or not you journeyed this past Advent following the star out your door, or on the horizon, or knew its presence in your heart - you have stepped out in faith. This star has been our place of holding on to hope. Looking up beyond what has been so desperately painful, we have kept going. Believing that a star would lead and guide us on has brought us to this night. This Advent journey has reminded my heart that what we have learned in these past days will lead us on and through into what is surely to be next.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Wednesday's Theme: Grief
Grief is like the guest that never leaves. Consistently hovering. Often exhausting. Sometimes maddening. Demanding with a sense of entitlement. Intrusive and draining. Rumi wrote this beautiful poem about The Guest House and its call for gratitude. As we near the ending of our journey, with the star shining brightly on the horizon, I’m not so sure I can get all the way to gratitude. I know, nonetheless that deep in my heart that I am committed to this journey. Even in the midst and mess of my tender grief, I am committed to looking East.
Eleanor Farjean’s carol, People, Look East was first printed in the Advent season of 1928. She wrote this timeless piece as everyone was recovering from the war to end all wars. Most everyone was feeling the strain of what would be a global, economic depression. Into those dark and dreary days, Eleanor created a song that called us to hoping, still. Her fourth verse says, “Stars, keep the watch when night is dim, one more light the bowl shall brim. Shining beyond the frosty weather, bright as the sun and moon together. People, look east and sing today: Love, the star is on the way.”
Advent holds so many things, so much of what we are carrying at the very same time. It holds calendars and commitments. It holds songs and carols, traditions and stories. It holds great joy and sorrow, tender hearts – empty and full, both. People, Look East continues to call us over the years to 2020. Here in these pandemic, quarantining days, this hymn invites us to not give up. Even here in these early winter days, these words remind us of the song of Love that is always, somehow singing.
We have been gifted with wise and gracious composers and writers of songs that often carry us through. Women and men who have composed melodies that somehow hold us throughout our lives and hold us now in this journeying to Bethlehem season. Words and melodies that are holding places for our tears and sorrows, our best hopes and best wishes.
2020 has been such a tender year. We have lived through days into weeks into months that we never would have imagined or even believed a year ago. Some of us have gotten sick, some have recovered. Some of us have lost loved ones. All of us have changed in small and great ways over the past many months because of COVID.
People, Look East is a hymn that continues to sing to me of hope. Especially this year, this is a song about trusting, anticipating and believing into what will be next. It reminds us that we are not alone. It reminds us that this is not nearly all of who we are in these days. There is more…love, story, song. This song encourages us to wait through the night. In this melody, with these words we are reminded once again that the dawn will surely come.
We shall not cease from exploration,
and the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started
and know the place
for the first time.
~ T.S. Eliot
Tuesdays Theme: Words of Our Faith
As I make my way to Bethlehem, as I am making my way through the living of these 2020 pandemic days, I am grateful for so many words that guide my faith. And hope. And love. Mystery and majesty. Grace upon grace. For as long as I can remember I have been held in an understanding of God’s time. This sense of time that holds the past, present and future all at once. There is a wisdom in that. There's a perspective that helps move through the living of my days in times of light and shadow.
For all that was…Much like the cairns found marking the side of the road, I feel the comfort from these words, “someone has been here before.” There is a rootedness that holds me when the strong winds blow. As I lean into the words of “all the was,” I have a sense of history that affirms moments when I feel as though I am making my way without a map or a compass. Here I am reminded that there has been someone here who has lived through something similar. These words hold hope and strength for me, “If they made it through, so can I.”
For all that is…Years ago when I was part of a group of clergy traveling through Israel I had a sense of being in the present moment like I’d never experienced before. There is a church on the northern shore of the Galilee that has windows looking out over the water. Our group gathered in that space, singing hymns and sharing communion. Much like my then-home church in Atlanta with windows looking out over the trees, I had a body-knowing of my faith being alive across time and space. The prayers, hymns, bread and cup were alive in the moment. Communion in Capernaum, communion in Atlanta. A moment in time.
For all that will be…Now nine months into COVID’s pandemic, it’s hard sometimes to imagine what gathering for worship will look like in the future. How will we sing the hymns? Share communion? Pass the peace? How will we be in worship together? And holding me in place when I feel like I am floating off into space is the grounding of my faith: I am who I am. God, Emmanuel, is with us. The future is not yet here, there is no sense in trying to name and claim it. It has not yet arrived. My faith encourages me to “have faith.” We will know what we know when we know it. It is not for us to know now. I know this can sound like dancing around an answer, but I don’t believe that it is. That’s just the truth of it.
T. S. Eliot’s words speak to the not-knowing and the not-needing-to know. They speak to faith that holds time and is not bound by it. They speak to hope that knows our story with a peace beyond our understanding. These words speak to love that leans into the YES that comes with each sunrise. Now and not yet – held as one.
Thanks, Sam Ellis for this picture
Monday's Theme: Relying on the Moon
Today marks the Winter Solstice, our shortest day and longest night of the year. For so many, 2020 feels like we’ve been living through the longest night for months now. It’s been difficult to understand, difficult to get our heads and hearts around. Every year there is one day when Chronos time (time on calendars and wristwatches) and Kairos time (being held in mystery, being held in God’s time) meet. It is on this longest night of the Winter Solstice. On this one day into night, the universe and each grieving heart are woven together.
In the Native American tradition, this night annually began a season of gathering together with family and friends. It was a time of leaning in and telling stories. No longer planting or hunting, this time of midwinter reminded many that it was also important to sit and listen. Time to share stories that their grandparents had passed down, and stories that were theirs alone. These stories that needed time to be told from the inside out. It makes me smile to think about how humans have evolved over the years. Now during this season of COVID, our sharing of stories, grandparents’ and our own happen on zoom calls.
A favorite professor at Candler, Bill Mallard used to talk about “the comin’ on moon.” Ever the optimist, Dr. Mallard was one who delighted in learning and teaching. There was a light that came to his eyes and across his face whenever a moment of `ah-ha’ entered our discussions. He was my advisor in seminary, and I was certainly not his sharpest student. I asked him lots of questions. With the patience of Job and all Job’s ancestors, Bill would listen and nudge and encourage and when finally, finally I began to have an inkling of understanding, he would beam and proclaim, “Why, Lesley, you’re comin’ on!” The highest compliment. I will always treasure those “comin’ on” conversations about faith and practice and being alive in the world.
And tonight, the moon offers us that same enthusiasm. The moon shows the world, even in the midst, especially in the midst of this pandemic, “we’re comin’ on.” This night marks the Waxing Moon’s arrival, reminding us that more light is on its way – even on the Winter Solstice. Tonight, on this longest night we are given a bright light in the sky. We are told that forty-five minutes after sunset the Bethlehem Star will be aligned and will offer us the best time to see a bright star on the horizon. Even on this darkest night, there will be a light in the sky, maybe bright enough to lead us on and maybe even bring us back home.
Sunday’s theme: Time
There have been some haunting songs written about moments in time, Simon and Garfunkel sang, “Time it was and what a time it was, it was. A time of innocence, a time of confidences. Long ago it must be…” And Jim Croce’s, “If I could save time in a bottle, the first thing that I’d like to do is to save everyday till eternity passes away…” Melodies to encourage and nudge us into marking the moments that hold us and our lives.
Tomorrow promises to be a moment in time, a “once in a lifetime event’. The Bethlehem Star is set to appeared. We are told that it will be brightest 45 minutes after sunset and that is the best time to stop and see. Jupiter and Saturn are aligning and in that coordination of space and time, we will have a glimpse of history. We all know somewhere in our heads that histories (or herstories as many of us have been known to say) hold in themselves – stories. Records passed from one to another, stories witnessed and shared. Many of us have grown up with the story of the three kings following a star which, we are told led them to Bethlehem and the manger. Tomorrow night those of us who have eyes to see, will have a glimpse of that story, as well. Perhaps more in my heart than in my head, I am looking forward to seeing. I’ve already scoped out a place to watch. And to wonder. And to wait.
It’s honestly too much for me to imagine what the world was like 800 years ago when this was said to have last happened. And it’s hard for me to get my head around what life like will be 800 years from now. Too much. What we have and what we do know is right now. What we have and know is this moment. Not forever. Just right now. This life-event is a good reminder of the preciousness, the possibilities and the power of this moment. This life-event is a good reminder of our participation in the wondering and the witnessing of this moment. It invites us to take stock of what matters most for you and me in these days.
And I know that as I am writing this, the event occurs tomorrow, not today. My son, Brogan and I were walking one-night last week and stopped briefly to talk with a gentleman who was using his phone and looking up at the sky. Now that I think about it, maybe the guy was an angel. Now that I think about it, the whole time I’d been walking with Brogan I’d been listening intently and looking down as we walked along. Maybe I was concentrating on what he was saying, or making sure I didn’t trip and fall, but I remember I’d only been looking down. Now that I think about that walk I took with my son and the appearance of the gentle man with his phone – maybe his message was a reminder to just look up. Look up and look around, look around (Yes, that song from Hamilton just ear wormed its way back into my heart), “how lucky we are to be alive right now.”
Here, right here in the midst of a global pandemic, as one of the hardest years of our lives is limping to an end – right here, two stars are aligning. They are bright enough for all of us to see. They are bright enough to get our attention. A star appears to all of us on the darkest night of the year. Let your heart come circle all around this moment of your story.
“Ring the bells that still can ring,
forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything,
that's how the light gets in.”
~ Leonard Cohen
Saturday's theme: (de) Light
Although I never had him for a class, I thought of him as one of my favorite professors, because I so loved his door. Richard Bondi’s office was in the basement of Bishops Hall at seminary. I imagine it was there so that he could be close to the bookstore, which he also managed. On his door was Leonard Cohen’s words, “Ring the bells…”
I wonder if any professor ever thought to put kinder words up on her or his door at seminary. Those days at Candler were truly amazing, life-stretching and life-birthing days. It wasn’t heaven, but it certainly was a glimpse of it. There I came-out and discovered that God’s love was greater than my fear of judgment. There I learned to read and preach and write. There I was held in song and story, in hope and healing. There Mr. Cohen’s words came alive, line-by-line.
For these days that are naturally growing darker (the Solstice is soon coming), these days when the vaccine arrives with prayers of not being too late, for these days we find encouragement. It would be easy to sit in despair as many of us limp to 2020’s finish line. It’s been an exhausting and overwhelming time. “Ring the bells that still can ring…” It’s not over, and we’re certainly not done, you and I. We’ve still got bells, bells that need ringing. They may look a little battered and bruised, but bells, nonetheless. Bells were made to ring! And so, I believe were we. Sitting on the shelf they look pretty, some even beautiful shapes and sizes. But/and the truth is, bells were created to ring, to sing, to make a joyful noise, and so, I believe were we.
“…forget your perfect offering…” How many times have I hesitated or even passed up opportunities this year to say something or to do something because I was afraid it just wasn’t `enough?’ It wasn’t smart enough, or put together enough, or perfect enough. And the moment passed. Moments come and go. Rarely, if ever do moments return. Mr. Cohen must have known that feeling of having a moment or two or three pass him by. I certainly have known the deep-in-my-gut regret when I’ve realized that moment in time has been missed. “I wished I’d of…” Don’t know if I’ve ever had a perfect offering, but I do know about regrets for missing on the opportunity to give.
2020 has certainly been a year of cracks. Lord in your mercy, forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have also sinned. “…there’s a crack in everything…” will echo from these days. This year has felt like lesson after lesson in ways we have wounded our planet, as well as our sisters and brothers by what we have done and what we have left undone.
And somehow grace finds us. Time and again, grace finds us, when we have eyes to see. Mr. Cohen offers us hope and healing in his fourth line: “that’s how the light gets in.” Without the crack, without the offering (however humble), without the bells – we wouldn’t know the light that is somehow, miraculously getting in. In spite of it all, in spite of us, the light is getting in. Even in these growing darker December 2020 days, the light is finding its way in and finding us. Thanks, Richard, for being a beacon from the Bishops hall basement. Sometimes life’s greatest lessons are on a kind soul’s door, right there all along.
Thursday’s Theme: Prayer
“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” is from Mark 9:24. It is spoken by a father whose son is sick and comes to Jesus for healing. It is not some words of entry, not some magic words needed for a miracle to be performed. Instead, they are the most honest words this father knew to say to one who offered his family hope.
For centuries these words have been spoken. They have been whispered in the dark or shouted perhaps from the top of a long-climbed mountain. These words have come out in a gasp, or slowly and painfully been said in A. One. Six. Word. Sentence.
This prayer holds so many of my moments from 2020. So many times, in these past days into months, my prayers have felt the push and pull of this year’s faith journey. So many minutes back-to-back-to-back when I was afraid and so unsure of where I was going, of what I was supposed to be doing next.
This year will go down in the history books, that’s for sure. I wonder what they will write of us. Our finest hour? Not even close? Our moment in time when we walked in light or in darkness? Our time of building bridges toward one another? Or our time of building taller and taller walls?
As I’ve been carrying this prayer, especially in these past days it has all-in-all brought me hope. As I’ve been praying these words, I am grateful for this prayer’s starting place: `Lord, I believe.’ These are words that echo my generational faith. Somehow in these six words I know that I am both standing on the shoulders of my ancestors and at the very same time rocking my sons in my arms.
But I think that the final three words are the heart of this year’s prayer. It wasn’t that long ago we were gathered in houses of worship singing hymns. Not that long ago when we were sitting shoulder to shoulder in movie theaters, or 3 packed in a booth at a favorite restaurant. It wasn’t that long ago when we all could come and go from buildings without having our temperatures taken. Now the world is so very different. Help my unbelief. We’ve all been forced to come to a screeching halt. We’ve all needed to acclimate ourselves from what we thought life was going to be to new-shared standards and rules. Help my unbelief.
Prayer has held me throughout my life. I’ve been taught prayers by heart since I was old enough to speak. I’ve read others’ prayers silently or aloud and knew that that prayer’s writer had spoken for me. I’ve sung prayers and I’ve prayed breath-prayers when just a few words were enough. Help my unbelief is all about faith and hope and love. Mine for God, and God’s for me. These words speak to the deepest, most vulnerable place in my spirit that longs for God’s spirit.
This prayer certainly stands the test of time – and Lord knows that 2020 has surely tested it. Amen and amen.
(thanks to dear friends Amy and Ed in Charlottesville for this winter moment)
I will bring a cup of water. here's the best that I can offer
In the dusk of coming night, there is evidence of light
With the pattering of rain, let us bow as if in grace
Consider all the ways we heal, and how a heart can break.
Oh abide with me, where it's breathless and it's empty
Yes, abide with me and we'll pass the evening gently
Stay awake with me and we'll listen more intently
To something wordless and remaining, sure and ever changing
In the quietness of now
Let us ponder the unknown, What is hidden and what is whole
And finally learn to travel at the speed of our own souls
There is living water, a spirit cutting through
Always changing always making, all things new.
There are things I cannot prove, and still somehow I know
It's like a message in a bottle that some unseen hand has thrown
You don't have to be afraid, you don't have to walk alone
I don't know but I suspect, that it will feel like home.
~ Carrie Newcomer (bold, italicized words, my choosing)
Wednesday's theme: Grief
It seems like this Advent has so many grieving places. Maybe it’s me, but the nights are feeling longer and colder. I know that we are moving toward our time to change from autumn to winter, moving toward the Winter Solstice. I know all of that. But/and my heart feels especially tender this year. COVID’s quarantining and isolating has been a challenge for this extrovert. In this season traditionally holding both caroling and gatherings, I’m missing both. Also, this year our family lost two uncles. I’m missing them and my heart holds our family close this December. I find myself lighting as many candles as I can each night. I catch myself humming or singing out-loud favorite carols as I’m walking through the neighborhoods. I’m trying to find my way.
We had a professor in seminary, Fred Craddock who taught us about staying in our leaving and leaving in our staying. It took me some time to begin to understand what he was talking about. I came to appreciate that much of life holds layers and often two things going in opposite directions come somehow to a similar place. Dr. Craddock was one of the best storytellers I’ve ever heard. He taught us to preach the Word of God through our stories and to invite our congregations to do the same. He taught us from the inside out and back again. He was such a lover of words. When he was preaching, I used to hang on most every one of them. He taught us that there are words strong enough to hold our hearts.
Abiding as one such word. Abiding speaks to the truth of what I think Dr. Craddock meant by staying in the leaving and leaving in the staying. It speaks to companioning from the rising of the sun until it’s setting, and then waiting through those hours until the light returns. Abiding speaks to the listening beyond that time when words have run out and two souls are sitting in silence. Two souls sitting in silence because now words are no longer needed. Abiding is much like that.
Advent’s touchstones are found in abiding. Slowing down. Paying attention. Waiting. More than just being in the same physical space abiding speaks to marking places for the moments in our stories. Abiding leans in and walks beside.
Carrie Newcomer’s song about abiding does my heart good every time I hear her sing it. It feels beautifully and comfortingly true. She begins with an offer of a cup of water, the best that I can offer. Yes. There are things I cannot prove and still somehow, I know. Yes. She marks life’s mysteries, sure and ever changing. Both. Yes. Abiding helps us lean in. It helps us hold our hope. Abiding helps guide us as we make our way through. Yes.
Friday's Theme: Messengers
My Mom died in October 2005. Don’t tell my sisters, but I was always my mother’s favorite. Truth be told, each of us would say that same thing. And how Mom pulled that off, I’ll never know. Even after her death, Mom has had a way of showing up at all the best times for my sisters and me. Wordlessly, intuitively she has offered support and encouragement. She did that for me a year and a half ago, and it was such a gift.
I was going through one of the hardest times of my life. On the same day that my world stopped on its axis, I went on a retreat with women from our church. When we arrived at the retreat, we were given a couple hours to wander around the property. There was a lake, and I headed that way. I found a spot in the sun and tried to catch my breath and find my heart. Earlier in the morning, I’d been told life-altering news and I was still reeling. Time passed and I noticed that dragonflies kept circling round, some landing on my arms and legs. [I hadn’t really experienced dragonflies and didn’t know if they had stingers. As they kept landing on my I decided I’d wait and see before I swatted at ‘em. Turns out they don’t sting.] The folks hosting the retreat were artists and it wasn’t until I was walking back to join the group that I noticed the 20-foot metal, red dragonfly looking as though it was sitting on the water. I remember wondering how I could have passed it earlier and not seen it. I wondered about that and moved on. Right foot, left foot.
Throughout that summer, I kept seeing dragonflies. Most sightings were when my friend, Kimberly and I were playing golf. I could always see one or two or three when we were teeing off at the 9th hole. Those were hard days for me. I felt robotic, conveyer-belting my way through most of my days, with very few moments of feeling alive and awake. Right foot, left foot. During that summer, I was also training for 2 triathlons, one in June and the other at the end of August. It was on the day of the June Tri at Calloway that I realized Mom’s gift.
Sister, Betsey was my coach and tri-partner. We had finished the swim and were on our 10-mile biking challenge. I’d gotten off the bike for two hills already and on my third hill, I got off and put my head on the bike seat, “Go on, Bets. Leave me here. I can’t do it.” Sweet sister just grabbed her water bottle, took a sip and said something kind like, “It’s OK. I can wait. I’m not leaving.” And she didn’t. Soon after I re-mounted, finished the bike, went on and finished the 5K. And (proud to tell you) I achieved my two goals: “I won’t be last, and I won’t die.” Later that afternoon we all went to the pool to cool off. I was sitting on a lounge chair, reading a book when a dragonfly landed on my knee. In that moment, the dragonfly - finally - had my full attention. She (my dragonfly friend) turned and faced me, and when she did, I said, “Hi, Mom.”
In that moment I knew that Mom had been with me all along. She'd been right there from the day my world stopped turning, until that moment at the pool. She was always with me. She had been there in that 20-foot red dragonfly sitting on the water and she was still there with me on that sunny, warm June day after the triathlon. She continues with me, still.
Sometimes messengers come in events, sometimes in music or just words; sometimes messengers appear as a presence that holds no real form, sometimes messengers come as dragonflies. For those of us receiving the messages, we just have to do our best to keep our hearts open and pay attention. For me, Mom was just there. She didn’t have advice or words of wisdom; she didn’t solve my problem or take away all my pain. She was there. And the gift for me was, she’d been there the whole time.
"Time is different here," I heard my Mom's voice say a couple months after her death. Journeying through these Covid-19 days, remind me of the gift of those words. You are invited companion me on this 2020 Advent journey to Bethlehem, as we seek Emmanuel, God who promises always to be with us.