Advent

Picture of an Advent wreath

It’s about time to order your Advent candles and choose your Advent spiritual practices.

I offer several suggestions for your consideration.

So … blessings upon you in this season of light!

Old Friends and New

a quote from Sarah Parsons about Lent beginning in the wilderness

Years ago when I was editor of The Upper Room’s website, I began collecting my favorite quotes from Upper Room Books and sharing them in the “Seasonal Reflections” emails. These quotes and their authors became friends I relied on when I hit difficult stretches of life.

It was so satisfying to pick out a selection of these “friends” to include in the pages of Walking in the Wilderness. And I was able to add some new favorite quotes and authors from more recent Upper Room publications.

I hope that you also learn to feel that these faithful friends are waiting to share their wisdom with you when you hit life’s difficult seasons.

Here are just a few …

We are invited simply to be with God. … Crawling up in the lap of Love, resting our head against Love’s breast, and taking comfort in that slow, steady heartbeat of grace that says, This is where you belong.
-Roger Owens, What We Need Is Here

God, collect our tears … And pour them back on us as life-giving water!
-Safiyah Fosua, The Africana Worship Book: Year B

Dear God, help us to see that we are more more than our scars.
-Michael W. Waters, Freestyle

Faithfulness is consecration in overalls.
-Evelyn Underhill, Writings of Evelyn Underhill

All things come and all things go over and over again.
-John S. Mogabgab, Weavings

Grief is such a messy thing.
-Roberta C. Bondi, Wild Things

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Lenten Practice

“I never aspired to write a book for the Lenten season. I have always been so much more attracted to the softness of the season of Advent. In fact, I may have been heard to say, ‘I will never write a book about Lent.’ But here I am, writing a book for Lent, this season of wandering in the wilderness.”
-Introduction to Walking in the Wilderness: Seeking God During Lent

As I was considering my Lenten discipline this year, I decided to read my book in a different way. I’m finding that way to be creating a collage each day. This practice is keeping me grounded, letting me hear these words as if they were spoken to me.

Each day’s entry in Walking in the Wilderness includes a quote from an Upper Room author, a scripture reading, a reflection and prayer from me, and a word to carry in one’s heart through the day. As I tear apart the pages of the book, different elements speak to me and arrange themselves on a page.

I offer to you some of these pages. May the Holy One guide you through these days.

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Walking in the Wilderness

More and more in these days of social, political, religious, and spiritual upheaval, I find myself feeling that I have entered an era of exile, wilderness. … I’m not sure exactly when we arrived here. It might have been around the time that the 24/7 news cycle really got going. … Or when our earth began to groan and we could no longer ignore the effects of climate change. … Or when the global crises of rampant xenophobia and overt racism made us cry out. Or when the pandemic arrived.
-From the introduction to Walking in the Wilderness: Seeking God During Lent. Print book or eCourse.

It was over a year ago that I turned in the manuscript for Walking in the Wilderness. I had no idea that by the time Lent 2021 arrived, we would be walking through such a perilous desert.

The path we are traveling is lonely, difficult, heartbreaking. We do not know from day to day what new challenges or disasters that we will hear on the news or confront in our lives. So many of us are stretched to the limit, barely able to keep up with life. And, yet, like the Hebrew people wandering in the wilderness, when we look up, we see that we are not alone. We are a community stuck in the desert together. And the Holy One is traveling with us. Watch for the signs of God’s guidance — the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. Listen for God’s presence in a the quiet of the evening, in a scripture verse or song that brings you to tears, in the voice of a stranger or the laugh of a child. Remember and remind yourself each day that you are God’s beloved. And you are not alone.

I invite you to travel with me through the days of Lent beginning on Ash Wednesday, February 17. Gather a group of soul friends and study the book together. Or join us in an online course.

God makes a way for us through the desert. We are beloved. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.

Walking in the Wilderness: Seeking God during Lent: Print book or eCourse.

Facing the Holidays This Year

candlesThis year, our holidays — All Saints, Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas — will be different and challenging. I’m grateful to be a part of several events from The Upper Room to comfort you during this difficult season.

  • All Saints Service on November 4, 11:00 a.m. (Central Time). Streaming on Facebook and YouTube.
  • Blue Christmas Advent e-Course. Begins November 29. Learn more.
  • Blue Christmas Service from The Upper Room Chapel on December 21, 11:00 a.m. (Central Time). Streaming on Facebook and YouTube.

All Saints Service
I recently wrote about my saints in an article published on The Upper Room’s website. If you don’t have a church family with whom to celebrate All Saints Day, please consider joining us on Facebook or YouTube for an All Saints service from The Upper Room Chapel on Wednesday, November 4, 11:00 a.m. (Central Time). We will gather together, light candles, and name our saints.

Advent e-Course – Blue Christmas
This Advent will undoubtedly prove to be an unusual one. In the midst of a global pandemic, following a contentious presidential election in the U.S., and in the swirl of racial unrest, we long for a vision of the Holy One.

The Upper Room invites you to join us this Advent as we seek the Light in a season of darkness. Together, we will spend daily time reflecting on the light of the season, gather weekly for online worship, and engage in times of prayer and reflection on scripture. Learn more.

Blue Christmas Service
Join us on December 21, 11:00 a.m. (Central Time) for a Blue Christmas Service in The Upper Room Chapel. Streaming on Facebook and YouTube.

My New Book – Walking in the Wilderness

We may be traveling in the wilderness, but we are not alone. We travel together, holding this sacred space for one another. And the Spirit travels with us into our wilderness journey. “Introduction,” Walking in the Wilderness: Seeking God During Lent

I’m excited to announce that my new book has arrived. Walking in the Wilderness: Seeking God During Lent is published by Upper Room Books and available now from your favorite bookseller.

We may be traveling in the wilderness, but we are not alone. We travel together, holding this sacred space for one another. And the Spirit travels with us into our wilderness journey. “Introduction,” Walking in the Wilderness: Seeking God During Lent

Many voices join mine in guiding us through this perilous season. You will find familiar friends and new ones. Prophets, teachers, and wise ones from whom we hear just right the words. Roger Owens, Juanita Campbell Rasmus, Stephen D. Bryant, Roberta Bondi, Safiyah Fosua, Michael Waters, and many others lend their wisdom.

On the six Sundays of Lent, I offer spiritual practices that I hope will help guide us through these difficult days. These practices are Being Present, Lament, Lectio Divina, Trust, Compassion, and Hospitality.

Blessings to you during this time of chaos and turmoil. Never forget … You are not alone. You are beloved. Thanks be to God.

Praying on Behalf the World

Nine of us gathered this morning in The Upper Room Chapel to pray with and on behalf of the world. Two guests from Colorado joined us. We sang, prayed, and lit the first candle of Advent, the candle of peace.

Our candle lighting prayer by Steve Garnaas-Holmes:

Loving God, you are our peace;
prepare our hearts for your coming.
Forge the swords of bitterness into plows of blessing;
till the soil of our souls for your springing forth in us.
Remove our heart’s defensive armor,
clothe us in light alone,
and pierce our wide-open hearts with your love.
By your Spirit in us, may we be at peace:
awake, and ready to welcome your presence.
Amen.

Join me in an online course this Advent. Child of the Light: Walking Through Advent and Christmas.

Getting Ready for Advent

burning candles

Advent’s arriving on Sunday! It’s time to dig out the Advent wreath. (Now, where did I pack that? I’m hoping that I’ve still got a box of unlit candles.)

This year, I’m looking forward to an online course using my first Advent book, Child of the Light: Walking through Christmas and Advent.

“We all need this time of Advent to slow us down, to open our ears to God’s quiet voice, to guide us through the chaos of the consumerist culture that Christmas has become.” Child of the Light provides tools to help you find your quiet center. Our eCourse invites you to find that quiet center with friends old and new. Enter with Beth into readings and reflections inspired by the season’s carols and hymns. Your spirit will be lifted and your mind quieted. The experience extends past Christmas to Epiphany, encouraging you to live into the joy of Christmas beyond seasonal celebrations.

I hope you’ll consider joining us in Child of the Light.

The Gift of Advent

I’ve loved Advent as long as I can remember. And running across this photo of me, face to face with the Nativity set let me see the gift my parents gave me as a young child.

My memories are of our family lighting the Advent wreath together every Sunday. Each child yearned to be old enough to light the candle. Once you could read, there was the Bible passage or that week’s meditation from the Advent booklet. I didn’t love accompanying the family’s Advent hymn on the piano. 😉

When The Upper Room invited me to write a book for the Advent season, I was thrilled. It called back all those memories of the Advent wreath, the candles, the little book, the awkward hymn playing and the singing.

And I am grateful for this gift.

God, open our hearts and the hearts of the world to your hope. Peel back the layers of our stubborn opinions, our fearful assumptions, and let the light of your life-giving spirit enter in. Amen.

The Uncluttered Heart

Advent Hope

I’m sitting here reading about the world’s latest craziness. (What is going to happen next?!?) And I’m wondering where those the nice Advent feelings are that I used to be able locate inside myself. “Maybe, this year, there will be peace.” “Oh, look, there are the signs of hope (or joy, or love).” Right now, I’m not feeling very hopeful.

I remembered something I’d written about hope in The Uncluttered Heart and share it here:

Hope isn’t a simple, sweet sentiment or an unreachable goal. Hope’s a bit risky — it’s not based on and doesn’t rely on some kind of secret-handshake promise from God. Our hoping does not mean that everything will turn out the way we want it to.

Hope is, instead, a spiritual practice, appropriate any time but especially during the season of Advent. We wait and hope for the coming of Christ into the world. We hope even when it doesn’t feel like it’s going to make a difference. We hope because we are children of God, children of hope. …

When we hope, we align ourselves more closely with the God of the Universe — the eternal force of good, of hope and love and peace.

Carry these words in your heart today: I am God’s partner in hope.

From The Uncluttered Heart by Beth A. Richardson. Copyright © 2009 by The Upper Room. Used with Permission.