AdventPhotos2016 – Listen

30 11 2016

I took this photo last month when we spent a couple of weeks visiting the kids down on Florida’s gulf coast; we brought Bill’s parents down with us this time. I couldn’t tell you which day this was, mainly because at some point every day Bill & Dad were sitting in conversation. I don’t think I know of any two people on this planet who enjoy conversing more than these two.  In this pic, they’re out on the balcony. They usually start in the main area with everyone else – the on, there are lots of voices, dishes are clattering – but at some point they’ll get up and go into another room; just the two of them. It’s too hard to listen to just the one voice with all the other voices, noises, and activity. If and when I want to get Bill’s attention when he is with his dad, I don’t usually get a response from him on my first call, it’s at least two (sometimes more); “Honey” “Honey” “Bill” before his head pivots around to respond. In those times he’s listening for only one voice, his dad’s.

Advent is my balcony. A space separated from the normal clatter and chatter of everyday life. A place for me to listen, really listen, for His voice.


AdventPhotos2016 – Renew

29 11 2016

This was in my mailbox; an invitation to renew my magazine subscription. My subscription hasn’t expired yet; I’m still receiving a copy every month, but the point of the renewal notice is to ensure that my subscription will continue on without any interruption. That’s the ideal, but life can be hectic, the notice gets tucked back in the stack and tossed out. Or I open it, fill it out, seal it up, but can’t find a stamp so it eventually disappears to wherever all unstamped correspondence goes. Or I open it, think I’m gonna do that online right now, pick up my iPad and wow – 12 Facebook notifications… Three months later I walk past a newsstand; I see the current cover of “my” magazine and think, “I don’t remember getting that this month…ohhh.” Magazine companies are seemingly impervious to rejection, and undeterred by my neglect, forgetfulness, or disaffection. I can count on another renewal offer showing up in the mail letting me know that they want to begin my subscription again; there is no penalty, I just need to let them know that I want to renew.

Renew: to make effective for an additional period.

Renew: to begin again.
Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.


AdventPhotos2016 – Time

29 11 2016

As a more task-oriented person, I’ve always had a pretty intentional and structured approach to managing my time. I tend to value time by what was completed within it. I order my next year’s Moleskine calendar in September because the possibility of them selling through the print run and me not having my calendar for the coming year makes me break out in hives. I’ve got a daily, weekly and monthly plan, and every year I do an annual time-block plan – all the major milestones I plan to complete, plugged into a set time frame. I just reviewed 2016’s plan so I could set up 2017, and for the 2nd year in a row I accomplished less than half of what I intended to accomplish with my time. Chronic illness doesn’t play nice when it comes to respecting my time. But the longer I sit in this space, the more I come to understand the the importance and value of slow time. Time that adheres to priorities that I did not set. Time that has space in it to see, to listen, to think. Time that sits in surrender to a purpose greater than my own. Time that has learned to rest in the hope of what will be. Waiting time; Advent.

AdventPhotos2016 – Shine

27 11 2016

I took today’s photo at church this morning. It’s Reggie and her foster mom, Connie. Reggie has a clothes esthetic that I happen to quite agree with; shiny is always better. Today her shirt has a blue and silver sequined heart, and the ankle straps on her shoes are covered with silver studs. Last week her shirt said “Glitter makes me smile!” written in glitter, of course. That girl rocks shiny.

There is a difference though, between shiny and shine. Shiny can only reflect light from another source. Shiny is environment dependent. It is limited by what is around it. If Reggie goes into a dark room, her shirt isn’t shiny anymore, it can only be shiny when it’s around light. Shine however, can be a verb. Shine can act on, and change its environment. It is environment independent. When a light shines into a dark room, the darkness is altered.

Connie doesn’t typically wear shiny clothes like Reggie prefers. But, Connie shines. As a point of reference for anyone who has not participated in the foster care system, it is not typically a space filled with rewards, affirmation or compensation. It’s not a space filled with light. Connie chooses to extend a mother’s care and love into dark places where she is not obligated to go. Connie shines when she does the seemingly mundane, unspectacular tasks of washing laundry, shampooing hair, packing lunches, reviewing homework, and soothing troubled sleep. She shines when she sits down to lunch at a Mexican restaurant and orders a big plate of nothing but french fries because she knows that is what Reggie likes, and what Reggie likes matters. She comes into a dark place and rather than being defeated or discouraged by the darkness, she shines; changing that dark space into something that allows a little girl to fall in love with shiny sequins and glitter. Shine enables shiny.

As I light the candles each week on the Advent wreath symbolizing the arrival of The Light, in an environment marked by the darkness of division, fear, hatred, and anger both in our country and around our world; I am reminded that the choice between dependance on the environment around me, or acting on and being an agent of change within that environment is a choice that rests with me.  I want to shine.


26 11 2016

Advent starts tomorrow!! Take a deep breath in, squeeze your eyes shut tight, curl your toes, clasp your hands together, feel a grin of anticipation pull against the corners of your mouth; it’s coming…Christmas! The arrival. Emmanuel, God with us. The birth, christening this life and being with newness. Awakening our spirits to the possible.

I hope you’ll join me again this year in walking Advent through the camera’s lens. I’m including a graphic with the Theme Word for each day. If you want to look and read, wonderful. If you want to participate with your photos, I would love it! Feel free to share them as a comment, or if you’d rather post a link to your blog or social media post just use #AdventPhotos2016 so we can keep them all connected (if you are linking through to a social media post, make sure your privacy settings are “public” on the linked post so we can all see, please.)

I’m so looking forward to sharing this time with you all again!


Book Review – The CEB Women’s Bible

2 11 2016

I don’t typically review books here on my blog, but a few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to receive a copy of The CEB Women’s Bible in exchange for an unbiased review. Since I only have about 30 bound editions of the Bible, and more digital editions than I’ve actually counted I obviously needed one more, and so I eagerly jumped on this opportunity.Reviewing The Bible is frankly, a little intimidating. It’s not like I’m going to take issue with the author’s use of a literary device, or give a “thumbs-up” for an unexpected plot twist. Instead, I’m simply evaluating and giving an opinion on how well this translation and supporting material handles the sacred text of Scripture.

The Contemporary English Bible (CEB) translation; completed in 2011 by a group of 150 male and female translators from a broad cross-section of Christian faith traditions, certainly provides an accessible and inclusive English translation that resides firmly and reliably in the contemporary language space. That, however, is not what I appreciate most about this Bible. I already had both print and digital editions of the CEB, and I didn’t expect to be particularly impressed by what I assumed would be the addition of a floral cover and a decorative font. With 80 editors and contributors to this edition; every one of them a woman, The CEB Women’s Bible is more than just a prettier Bible, and these editors and contributors surprised me with the thoroughness and thoughtfulness of the supporting material that has been added.

Each Book is prefaced with an Introduction, providing historical and cultural context, and every chapter has at least one Reflection, drawing more focused attention to a particular theme or topic. Scattered throughout the text are over 200 Sidebars. These are brief, topical articles that encourage the reader toward a practical and current application of scripture in their own life. The choice to encapsulate the Sidebar material within a pink text box is an outdated and somewhat tired feminization treatment that could have been given more creative effort, but that doesn’t diminish the content. I did appreciate both the alphabetical and canonical Index of all Sidebar Articles. The main extra that sets this Bible apart is the inclusion of another Index of every named and unnamed woman in the Bible with 100 character sketches (Portraits,) providing additional context and commentary on these women and their place within the Story of God.

There are also 16, full color, gridded Maps with accompanying legends to facilitate the plotting of over 1,000 named locations. Although the nerd in me is kind of impressed by the detail here, realistically I might reference it a dozen times over the course of a year, so not a feature that would entice me to purchase this edition. But, the back of the Bible also contains a section of Discussion and Reflection Questions organized around the Scripture readings from the Revised Common Lectionary for the entire 3-year (A,B,C) cycle, and I am in love with this feature! I am so looking forward to utilizing this tool with a Small Group or Spiritual Development class in the coming year. I am also a strong advocate for an intentional Bible reading plan so I was glad to see the inclusion of three different reading plans; One Month Bible Overview Plan, New Testament in 90 Days Plan, and Bible in One Year Plan.

With regard to the book specs; the edition I received for review was a printed hardcover with no jacket, and laid flat from anywhere in the book. The paper is light weight, smooth white. It allowed noticeable ghosting when I used my Sharpie ultra fine tip markers, but very little with colored pencils. The text is a standard-sized serif font with narrow margins. The single column format does help with ease of reading, and there is white space at the end of most books to allow for limited note-taking.

I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this edition as much as I have. There are some important and useful elements to this Bible that highlight and affirm the position of women as equal bearers of the image of God, and I genuinely appreciate having the name and position of every editor and contributor listed, with attribution also given alongside each Introduction, Sidebar, Reflection, and Portrait. It gives wonderful contrast to the generations of women who have remained invisible and nameless in carrying forth the message and mission of God.
Let me know if you’re planning to purchase a copy of The CEB Women’s Bible and would like to join in an online study group working from the Discussion & Reflection Questions!