Advent-Candles

It seems like just yesterday we were finalizing Thanksgiving plans. Now ADVENT is here. Advent, the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. A time of 40 day reflection that invites us to ask for more: Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace.

This Advent season, I pray that you reflect, mediate, try something different that will allow you to “be still” and be present with the Spirit. Maybe it is driving in silence, maybe logging off of social media, whatever it is; I pray that you will experience God like never before in these next 40 days.

Blessings Beautiful Ones…

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Get Ready to March Forward

Psalm 126

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It is hard to believe that today is the last day in February! It seems like yesterday many of us were counting down the seconds until we would ring in the New Year. Many of us had high hopes of what the new year would bring. We got out healthy eating plan, exercise path, and other “get-right” tactics in gear. January 1, the gym was packed, smoothies were made, and plans were put into action. Now fast forward 2 months later, do you still have the outlook? Have you created new healthy habits, or have you completely fell off the band wagon? Whatever your answer may be, it’s ok, great things take time.

March is swiftly approaching us. I too like many are trying to reclaim my “march forward” attitude in a world filled of uncertainty and ambiguity. Let me be transparent for a moment, to paraphrase Langston Hughes, “life ain’t no crystal stair.” It is not all glam and glitter as many have portrayed on fakebook, only highlighting the “contoured” moments of life. To be honest, life at times is unconcealed, wrinkled, and in desperate need of a face-lift…LOL. Though these things are true, life is still a beautiful masterpiece crafted by the Master designer.

The “not-yets” of life are yet to unfold, but the beauty in all of it is the journey. The journey that beckons us to MARCH forward when we want to simply retreat back. The journey that invites us to revisit the pathways of light and love that we once let go of because of disappointment and daunting tasks.

If the Lord says the same, in 18 days I will celebrate another year of life. I will rejoice in the truth that though some dreams are unrealized and unattained I still have much to be grateful for. I feel like the Israelites in this passage who were captive in Babylon. Their harps had been hung up so long on the branches of willow trees, that when their joy was unexpectedly returned and restored they thought they were dreaming.

This is not a dream. You are fully awake. The release has come. You can pick up your harp and play again. Play stronger and bolder than before. MARCH forward in your work and your witness on this earth. With each step you take, may you stand taller, may your chin be made more erect, and may you know that your purpose is greater than your pain. MARCH forward, Beautiful Ones, this is your time.

Psalm 126:6

Message Translation

So those who went off with heavy hearts  will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.

Called To Serve

Last month I had the privilege to take a team from the congregation in which I serve to Mixco, Guatemala to teach English as a Second Language (ESL). For the past four years we have sponsored a local school that offers 100 plus students and their families English lessons every weekend free of charge. The outcomes have been amazing! We have seen students grow in their knowledge of God and the English language. Though many of the students live in extremely impoverished conditions, their love for God and learning is rich and plentiful. Every I visit, I am always deeply moved and grateful to God for this opportunity to learn from this loving community.

For the past ten years I have had the honor to serve and partner with a number of organizations and groups in the field of missions. From medical missions in the Dominican Republic to providing English lessons in Guatemala and everything in between, I can truly say that all of these experiences have changed me and made me a better servant of God filled with more compassion, and sincerity for humanity. I have a deeper understanding of what it means to serve. The call to serve is a much deeper connection then just collecting finances or resources to aid a community. It is not a photo opportunity to say: “Look what I’m doing.” It is a mandate to invite others to connect, care, and create synergy and on-going partnerships with communities and local organizations. It is an invitation to offer hospitality and “the best” we have to give to communities who might not get resources otherwise. It is a call for us to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ on this earth.

Jesus teaches that God’s reign is characterized in the present, not by powerful works and miracles, but by deeds of love, mercy, and compassion, especially toward those most in need. If we cannot share freely and fully as Christ did, or if we do not make ourselves available to do so, this indicates that our relationship with God and the world is not as healthy and whole as could be. We have to give something of ourselves, something of our wealth, our comfort, our sweat and tears, just the way Christ did. And then I believe, I know, we will experience more fully the power of Christ’s death and resurrection; the significance of the sacrifice that Christ made for each of us!

This is what it means to be a Christian, a disciple. We love those who probably can’t give anything in return. We do what we can to give them what they need. And we do that not with a goal of earning God’s love or anyone else’s, not to curry favor, or to make sure we are considered righteous at the end of time. When Christians go out in missions and serve the needs of the people in this world with no expectation of anything in return, they are giving two gifts — one gift which satisfies a practical need, and one gift which opens a window to the love and grace of God that is open to all.

We are Christ bearers before others in our homes, in the church, in school, at work, in the whole world. What would happen if, every day, we were always conscious of this truth and did our best to put it into practice?

We are Jesus ambassadors to others here on this earth. We are His hands and his feet to be a blessing to all those we come in contact with. For we know that God in Christ Jesus endured the most amazing, self-giving mission in the history of the world so that all people might have abundant life, so that we might have what we need most.

What is your mission? How will you answer the call to serve? What are you passionate about? Every one of us is passionate about something. Passion can be defined in a number of ways but what it all comes down to is this: What is it that compels you to get up and get moving? What do you desire most of all in your life? What is it that consumes your time, demands your love and grabs your attention? My prayer for you this day, and as we begin to embark upon this new year that somewhere in the answer to that question, the act of helping others and showing the love of God in a tangible way resides.

“A NEW THING”

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Isaiah 43:19-21

The Message (MSG)

16-21 This is what God says,
    the God who builds a road right through the ocean,
    who carves a path through pounding waves,
The God who summons horses and chariots and armies—
    they lie down and then can’t get up;
    they’re snuffed out like so many candles:
“Forget about what’s happened;
    don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
    It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
    rivers in the badlands.
Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’
    —the coyotes and the buzzards—
Because I provided water in the desert,
    rivers through the sun-baked earth,
Drinking water for the people I chose,
    the people I made especially for myself,
    a people custom-made to praise me.

Christmas is over. The New Year is here. Remnants of Christmas ribbons and bows strewn garbage bins encased with leftovers from holiday festivities. However it seems like just the other day, many of us were “making our lists” of the new items we were either going out to purchase for love ones or even hope we were going to receive ourselves. Now just a couple of days later all of the items purchased are old. Some have even lost interest in their newly received gifts! 🙂

The reading from Isaiah reminds us to be present and alert because God is going to do something new! At times we can get so bogged down with what was and caught up in what could have been that we forgo to see what God is doing right in front of our eyes. The same God that made a way for Moses continues to make one for us! It is time for us to have an “exodus” on hanging on to some of our past history and pain. It is time to let go of the old and get ready for the new. God wants to do a new thing in our lives. Are you ready?

Question to Ponder: What are you holding to, that you should let go of?

Prayer: God of newness and life, help us to exit from the past and cherish the present. Help us to be aware of the “new thing” that you are doing in the midst of our days. Amen.

 

This JOY!

THIS JOY!

READING: LUKE 2:10-11

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

MEDITATION:

In this third week of Advent, we pause and reflect on JOY! We reflect upon all that has transpired around us and this nation. Though the celebratory bells rang loudly and the confetti filled the air in Alabama this past week, this type of joy is truly only temporary.

It was a historic feat and reminder to the world that every vote does indeed count! It was a shout in the honor of the 4 little black girls that were killed in the 1963 church bombing in Birmingham. It was a wake-up call that justice can still “roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.  However moments later, this joy was shaken, by bitterness and politics. The world’s joy is fickle. It comes and goes when it pleases. This is not true joy, but happiness. It is the “happenings” of the world and our day to day lives that can trouble us, if we allow it too, just like in the days of the shepherds in the fields.

How do you think the shepherds felt when the angel appeared to them in the evening? Clearly the normal human response would probably be bewilderment and some type of confusion. The shepherds were doing their normal routine, and then here comes an angel. The angel calmed their fear by giving them the greatest news of magnificent JOY, a Savior is born, Christ the Lord.

So  this week as we light the candle of JOY let us ponder these things in our hearts: Light, the spark of fire that brings a deep sense of warmth and joy on a cold night. Light, the gleam of the angel who told the shepherds the greatest news ever told. Light, the illumination that brings us joy, when all we see is darkness. JOY, the world didn’t give it, the world can’t take it away!

ACTION OF THE WEEK:

One of my favorite Shirley Caesar songs is entitled: “This Joy.” My favorite lyric from this song is a line that states “This joy I have, the world didn’t give it to me and the world can’t take it away!”

Believe me daily, people, situations, and things outside of our control try to take our joy. It seems that when all is going quite normal, a plot twist comes our way and tries to trip us up. If we are not careful, we let it.

Now, let’s be truthful; we all have our moments where we allow our joy to get kidnapped. However we should remember the words of good old Shirley, “the world didn’t give you YOUR joy and the world can’t take/steal it away!

Daily we must arm ourselves with the mindset that we will choose joy. We will choose to find the silver lining even in the midst of what seems a grey space. True joy is the realization that our joy is made complete through the power of Christ.

Choose joy. Keep a journal this week. Write about a joyful moment everyday this week.

PRAYER

God of Love, Peace, and JOY we thank you for this Advent season. We honor and give you thanks for being the JOY in our lives even in the midst of confusion. God as we embark upon this week and this season, help us to be JOY givers, Love bringers, Peace makers, and Light bearers. Remind us that the joy YOU give us is whole and complete; the world didn’t give it and it surely can’t take it away. Amen.

Blessings & JOY,

Rev. Christal Bell

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PEACE IS HERE!

READING: ISAIAH 9:6

For a child is born to us, a Son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

MEDITATION: 

Peace is not the absence of chaos, but is the knowledge that the presence of Christ is always present with us.

In this second week of Advent, we pause and reflect upon all that is going on around us. Flaming fires, political unrest, and a host of news headlines have left many of us speechless and numb. They have inundated our hearts and minds in such a way that words, actions, and even signs of hope and peace  are at times hard to find or speak. However there is always hope and there are always words of peace that we can give and bring. The shalom that the Christ-child brings is the help that we need and the hope that we can give!

So this week as we light the candle of PEACE let us ponder these things in our hearts: Light, the illumination that blocks out the darkness. Light, the shining source of heavenly peace that reminds us that we are people of the Light. Light, the armor that shields us from those dark spaces and places that try to overtake us. Light helps lead the way to PEACE everlasting.

ACTION OF THE WEEK 

Where can you be an agent of peace? What spaces and places is God calling you to speak peace, and remind others that the Light has come?

PRAYER

God of Love and Peace we thank you for this Advent season. We honor and give you thanks for being the PEACE in our lives even in the midst of chaos. God as we embark upon this week and this season, help us to be Hope bearers, Love bringers, Peace makers, and Light givers. Help us to expose those dark spaces and places that have kidnapped the promises of PEACE that You bring. Help us to be peacemakers, Amen.

 

WAKE UP: Hope is Here

READING: ROMANS 13:11-12

Besides this you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

MEDITATION: As we embark on the season of Advent, which is the first season of the Christian Church year, we celebrate with light. Light, the illumination that blocks out the darkness. Light, the shining source of heavenly hope that reminds us that we are people of the Light. Light, the armor that shields us from those dark spaces and places that try to overtake us. Light helps lead the way to HOPE everlasting.

This week, as we celebrate the HOPE that the Christ Child brings, let us not forget that this ancient story still illuminates our hearts today! Let the LIGHT in! Allow the light of Christ to surround you and help you reflect and celebrate the amazing ways that God has kept you even in the midst of difficult moments.

APPLICATION: In the words of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes “Wake up Everybody no more sleepin’ in bed.” It is time for us to WAKE UP and become agents of light in our communities, churches, and core spaces and places. Now is not the time to be silent on issues that impact the world. It’s time to WAKE UP and not only be the light but to share the LIGHT that is the Christ. So, this week how will you WAKE UP? What things will you stop sleeping on? It’s time to wake up from slumber and aid in liberating the masses of those who have been stuck in the darkness for way too long.

PRAYER

God of Love and Light, we thank you for this Advent season. We honor and give you thanks for being the LIGHT in our lives. God as we embark upon this week and this season, help us to be Hope bearers, Love bringers, Peace makers, and Light givers. Help us to expose those dark spaces and places that have kidnapped the promises of HOPE that You bring. God of Light, help us to be your light in this world. Amen.

Blessings,

Rev. Christal Bell

Director of  Uplifted. LLC

https://ubuplifted.wordpress.com

christalbell.com