This has been a more meaningful Advent for me than some in the past, and for that I am grateful. Even though there have been activities and events to plan, coordinate, and lead, I have enjoyed my Advent scripture readings and haven't been overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the season. This morning I have done some reading, enjoyed sipping some tea, wrapped a few presents, and taken my dog for a stroll in the neighborhood - all the while thanking God for Jesus' birth and having new life in him. I am glad for moments to slow down and rest in God.
One my readings this morning was from a book by John Ortberg called All the Places to Go...How Will You Know? I bought it for myself last week when I was shopping for a few Christmas gifts. I am not in the habit of buying for myself on those sorts of trips, but this book just looked too intriguing. It has me from the opening sentence: "If you had to summarize your life in six words, what would they be?" When I was teaching at South McKeel Academy, we had a workshop where the six-word story idea was presented and many of us implemented it in some way with our students. It certainly makes you sift through what really matters or what really is at the core of what you want to communicate. The author of this book takes that concept and applies it to people of faith in the Bible. He suggests that Abraham's six-word story would be "Left Ur. Had baby. Still laughing." Or Mary's six-word story would be "Manger. Pain. Joy. Cross. Pain. Joy." I love what Ortberg is unfolding in the opening pages of this book and I can't wait to see how God will speak through his thoughts as I continue to read.
Now here is what prompted me to write this blog post on such a day as this...Ortberg writes in his opening chapter:
"In none of these cases would these [people] have been able to predict where their lives would take them. They were interrupted. They were offered an opportunity or threatened by danger or both. This is how life works. We are neither the authors nor the pawns of our life stories but rather partners somehow with fate or destiny or circumstance or providence. And the writers of Scripture insist that, at least sometimes, in at least some lives - in any lives where the person is willing - that unseen Partner can be God."
I think of Mary and Joseph. I think of the wise men. I think of Abraham and Moses. I think of Jonah. I think of Elizabeth and Zechariah. I think of Paul. The list could go on and on of people whose stories are told in the Bible which help inform our faith in Christ, but there are also people and happenings here and now. We think of ourselves, our family members, our church, our world. We pray for lives who are willing to be God's partner in this world. We pray that God will be opening doors and revealing his partnership in unexpected ways. We pray for peace and justice which will come through these partnerships with God. We pray for a willingness to step into a new year and embrace where God is leading. We pray for joy to emerge as we listen, trust, and experience the journey with God.
Thanks be to God for continuing to speak to us and guiding our path. God is the author of unexpected joys!