Looking for a more meaningful Christmas?

The story of Christ’s birth is a story of promise, hope, and God’s revolutionary love.

So, what happened? What was once a time to celebrate the birth of the Savior has somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists. And when it’s all over, many of us are left with presents to return, looming debt that will take months to pay off, and this empty feeling of missed purpose.

Is this what we really want out of Christmas?
Is this God’s intention for Christmas?
What if Christmas became a world-changing event again?

Welcome to Advent Conspiracy. The Advent Conspiracy is a movement by Christians to reclaim the true meaning of Christmas. It takes its name from the word advent meaning coming, God coming near in the birth and life of Jesus Christ. Conspiracy implies something revolutionary, counter-cultural, and life changing. For many who embrace celebrating Christmas differently, this is exactly what they have experienced.

This is your invitation to join the groundswell of Christ-followers who are choosing to make Christmas what it should be – a joyous celebration of Jesus’ birth, not a retail circus and scheduling nightmare. Your first step is to download the Advent Conspiracy Discussion Guide. It’s designed to help you, your family and your friends begin to reflect on and discuss how the celebration of Christ’s birth can look and feel different this year. In it you will find questions and ideas to help you build your plan. Choose the practices which will best prepare you for a more meaningful Christmas.

Quick Links
Download the Advent Conspiracy Discussion Guide

View Messages on Key Concepts of The Advent Conspiracy

For more ideas and information, including the history of the movement,
go to http://www.adventconspiracy.org/

Need some help or have some questions? We are here to help you!
Contact Pastor Lisa at 386-668-4805 or pastorlisa@cumcdebary.org

Quotes: Busyness

Be Still and Know by Michael Mize

Though I am always in a haste, I am never in a hurry, because I never undertake more work than I can go through with perfect calmness of spirit. – John Wesley

There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence, and that is activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of this innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone and everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.
– Thomas Merton

John 14:27 (NRSV)
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

“Compulsive” is indeed the best adjective for the false self. It points to the need for ongoing and increasing affirmation…. The compulsion manifests itself in the lurking fear of failing and the steady urge to prevent this by gathering more of the same- more work, more money, more friends. – Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart

We live in an age of unprecedented workaholism and burnout. Businesses continue to downsize, leaving fewer people to do more work. Superwoman was tailor-made for these conditions because she lulls us into thinking that we can do it, and that everyone else is already doing it. She convinces us that there are no boundaries. She entices us with the belief that everything is possible if we just work hard enough. But living with the Superwoman myth is living in a dream world — a nightmare, actually. In that world we are destined not only for exhaustion but fragmentation. We will never be able to move toward wholeness if we fail to set boundaries for ourselves. We cannot experience the centeredness that God intends for us if we falsely believe we can do it all.
– Kimberly Dunnam Reisman,
The Christ-Centered Woman: Finding Balance in a World of Extremes

Our task is the opposite of distraction. Our task is to help people concentrate on the real but often hidden event of God’s active presence in their lives. Hence, the question that must guide all organizing activity in a parish is not how to keep people busy, but how to keep them from being so busy that they can no longer hear the voice of God who speaks in silence. – Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart

Hundreds of men are hoarse from continual speaking, and are wearied out with running here and running there. If things slow down, we evolve yet another type of meeting. And when this new and added wheel is spinning merrily with all the other wheels, there may be no spiritual outcome whatsoever, but there is a wind blowing in our faces; and we hot and sticky engineers have a comfortable feeling that something is going on.
Arthur John (A. J.) Gossip

Seeking slowness is essential in the stew of discipleship. Cultivating a culture saturated in the embodied life of Jesus requires purposeful patience. A new character needs to be developed while leading in this type of atmosphere. Slow is not something to bear with, it’s something to embrace. … In this stew we need unhurried time and grace-filled space for: long conversations, unearthing conflicts, detox from consumerism, facing missional fears, relearning how to listen, frustrated prayers and moving beyond suspicion to trust.
– Dan White Jr., Missional-Marinating

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Click here for a short, excellent article on a spiritual practice called Breath Prayer. This practice is a great remedy to busyness.

Click here for Michael Mize’s comments on the creation of his piece, Be Still and Know

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Mark Day 5: Reaching for Healing

Healing in His Wings by Marybeth Stafford

Gospel of Mark Reading Plan
Day 5 Reading: Mark 5

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
If I but touch his clothes I will be made well. – Mark 5:28 (NRSV)

Observation
Mark 5 contains three huge healing stories.

  • The healing of a demon possessed man, so strong he breaks chains, so ill he hurts himself and cries out like an animal, so far gone he lives in the tombs.
  • The healing of a woman suffering from hemorrhages for 12 years. She’s so desperate she spends all she has on doctors, but only grows worse.
  • A little girl so sick she dies.

Each situation involves a desperate outcast, a lost cause. Jesus changes all that, providing sanity, healing, and new life. Jesus’ involvement in these situations is scandalous because all three persons would have been labeled unclean according to Jewish law due to their association with the dead or blood. “Good” Jews would have had nothing to do with them because touching them would have made the good/clean unclean as well. Jesus breaks through the barriers and chaos, demonstrating the power of God and the will of God that the Kingdom of God is for all people.

Thy Kingdom come! Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!

Application
I admire the woman who remains hopeful after so many years of chronic pain, loneliness, and disappointment. Her condition labels her unclean, separating her from the worshipping community and table fellowship. Her condition robs her of time, companionship, energy and money. It would have been easy for her to simply give up due to the exhaustion and letdowns of daily living. Yet she does not lose faith. She continues to reach out for healing.

Prayer
Compassionate Christ, you draw near to those the world labels unclean, lost causes, and beyond hope. There is always hope with you. Come again to all who are desperate and despairing. Come with companionship and salvation. Come with encouragement and strength. Come with answers, healing, and new life. Come, sweet Jesus, come…

You are invited to name persons, institutions, and situations in need of Christ’s healing and hope…

Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

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For another devotion and original prayer based on Mark 5, click here

For a deeper explanation of today’s artwork by the artist, click here

For more information on the Gospel of Mark Reading Plan, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

 

Quotes: Giving

Overflowing by Deboarah Koff-Chapin

I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.
– CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

When you learn, teach.
When you get, give.
Maya Angelou

God has given us two hands —
one to receive with and the other to give with.
We are not cisterns made for hoarding; we are channels made for giving.
-Billy Graham

We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled.
The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.
-Ray Bradbury

As leaders, we are never responsible for filling anyone else’s cup.
Our responsibility is to empty ours. – Andy Stanley

An old Nigerian proverb says,
“It is the heart that gives; the fingers just let go.”

There’s enough for everyone’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed.
– Ghandi

Jesus taught us that if we share, if we combine our resources with trust in God, there is enough — the abundance mentality. This perception that there is enough connects directly to our willingness to share compassionately. It flows naturally from being detached from our possessions; when we want less, we have enough.
– Christopher Maricle, The Jesus Priorities

Psalm 23:5 (NRSV)
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Maimonides, a 12th century Rabbi and philosopher, proposes there are 8 different levels of giving. They are listed below from “lowest” to “highest” ethically. Anonymous giving is ranked ethically “higher” because it demonstrates humility and no personal desire or need for recognition, praise, credit or gratitude in return for the gift.

8. Giving reluctantly or unwillingly
7. Giving willingly but in a way that is inadequate
6. Giving adequately, yet only after being asked
5. Giving adequately, before need to be asked or urged
4. Giving publically to an anonymous recipient (such as giving to an organization without hiding your identity and without knowing the recipient.)
3. Giving anonymously to a known recipient
2. Giving anonymously to an unknown recipient
1. Giving anonymously in such a way that the unknown recipient is no longer dependent upon others (such as providing jobs so persons may care for themselves)

2 Corinthians 9:6-12 (NRSV)
The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. As it is written, “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God.

The Gift Economy: Karma Kitchen
Imagine a restaurant where there are no prices on the menu and where the check reads $0.00 with only this footnote: “Your meal was a gift from someone who came before you. To keep the chain of gifts alive, we invite you to pay it forward for those dine after you.” That’s Karma Kitchen, a volunteer-driven experiment in generosity. Karma Kitchen first opened in Berkeley on March 31, 2007, by several volunteers inspired to seed the value of a “gift economy”. The restaurant is run by volunteers, meals are cooked and served with love, and offered to the guest as a genuine gift. To complete the full circle of giving and sustain this experiment, guests make contributions in the spirit of pay-it-forward to those who will come after them. In keeping this chain going, the generosity of both guests and volunteers helps to create a future that moves from transaction to trust, from self-oriented isolation to shared commitment, and from fear of scarcity to celebration of abundance.

As a Christian, I do not believe in the concepts of karma or reincarnation. However, I fully embrace the concepts of God’s abundance, fostering community, exercising faith through good works, and the generous employment of time, talent, and treasure as a testimony to the grace and provision of God. – Lisa <><

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For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Mark Day 4: Pay Attention

Attentive Boy by Robert Lewis

Gospel of Mark Reading Plan
Day 4 Reading: Mark 4

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” – Mark 4:24-25 (NRSV)

Observation
In most of Mark 4, Jesus is teaching through parables and proverbs. A parable is a short story which illustrates a Biblical truth (verses 1-20 the parable of the soils, verses 26-32 the parables of how plants grow and the mustard seed). A proverb is a short saying relating a Biblical truth, which may or may not employ a metaphor (verses 21-25 concerning the lamp and the measure). The chapter closes with Jesus demonstrating his authority and power by calming a storm.

“A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.” - Charles Spurgeon

Application
I’ve often heard the phrase “You get what you give.” It’s a simple one to one correlation, cause and effect. If you practice your scales, you will improve your piano playing. Jesus’ proverb takes this a step further. If we pay attention to his teaching, desiring to both understand it and apply it to living, our efforts will be multiplied by the grace of God. We will receive even more than our efforts could naturally produce. The same goes for those who ignore Jesus’ teaching. They have received nothing and will continue to lose ground spiritually.

Prayer
Rabbi Jesus, you invite all persons to grow in wisdom and truth. Plant in us a resolve to listen deeply. Enable us to focus, to understand your teaching and to apply it rightly to our lives. Protect us from every threat which seeks to steal our time with you, which works to snatch away your insights. Thank you for your grace, for faithfully tending the soil of our souls, and for multiplying our efforts to grow to be like you. Bring forth a great harvest of faith made real in life and love, for the honor of your name. Amen.

You Are the Source
a hymn text based on John 15:1-8
Meter- 86.86 with Refrain (CM with Refrain)
Suggested Tune- GIFT OF FINEST WHEAT (United Methodist Hymnal #629)

Refrain–
You are the Source of grace and life,
the Root of all that’s true
You join us to this mystery
as we abide in You

Verses–
Dear children of this fallen sod
the Gard’ner knows our need
in grafting us to Christ the Vine
we gain eternity (Refrain)

For we are branches of the Vine
joined cross both time and place
no fruit is grown apart from Christ
for what is grown needs grace (Refrain)

You prune our lives with utmost care
so we might bear more fruit
the fruit of justice, peace, and love
lived out in all we do (Refrain)

Eternal Vine, most Holy Seed
sewn as Your willing Son
so intertwine Your family vine
that we might be as one (Refrain)

© May 19, 2000 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.
Lisa is especially interested in collaborating with someone to set this text to original music.

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For more information on the Gospel of Mark Reading Plan, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Mark Day 3: Grace Under Pressure

Grace Under Pressure by Miki de Goodaboom

Gospel of Mark Reading Plan
Day 3 Reading: Mark 3

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
Jesus went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him.
– Mark 3:13 (NRSV)

Observation
It’s only the third chapter of Mark, yet the disputes continue to pile up around Jesus. Pressure is coming from many directions:

  • Jesus continues to heal while the Pharisees continue to plot how to destroy him (v. 6)
  • Jesus continues to heal while the desperate crowds press in, threatening to crush him (v. 9, 20)
  • Jesus continues to heal while the unclean spirits recognize him and cry out in fear (v. 11)
  • Jesus continues to heal, but his hometown neighbors, including his family, name him crazy or demon possessed (v. 21, 30)

In the midst of all this pressure, Jesus heals. He also gathers and names the twelve. In the midst of all this pressure he begins to mentor and empower them, for they will carry on the healing work of the kingdom when he is gone.

Application
Plotting, Crushing, Screaming, Accusing, Crying, Calling, Misunderstanding … Jesus’ life is demanding, loud and full of pressure. Pressures from strangers, demons, the needy, the religious leaders and even his own family. Yet Jesus seems focused and unaffected, grace under pressure. He displays stillness and wisdom in the midst of the chaos. He knows who he is and remains steadfast in fulfilling his purpose.

I can relate to the noise and the pressure. I want to better embody Jesus’ grace, wisdom and ministry of healing.

2 Corinthians 4:7-10
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

Prayer
Jesus, Prince of Peace, you are serenity in the storm, the still small voice when all around us is disaster and despair. We see you steadfast, faithful and sure in the midst of great pressure. Make us like you. Reveal your ways in our frailty. Help us to follow you through the chaos of our days. Grant us your clarity and focus. Empower us to always preach and heal with grace and wisdom. For you alone are our strength and hope, for you alone belongs the glory, now and forever. Amen.

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For more information on the Gospel of Mark Reading Plan, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Mark Day 2: New Wine, New Wineskin

The Wineskins by MazTaz (aka Marianne (Maz) Gill-Harper)

Gospel of Mark Reading Plan
Day 2 Reading: Mark 2

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.
– Mark 2:22 (NRSV)

Observation
In chapter 2, Jesus begins to clash with the established religious leaders.

  • They accuse Jesus of blasphemy when he forgives and then heals a paralyzed man
  • They accuse him of eating with sinners when he calls Levi to be a disciple and accepts his invitation to dinner.
  • They question why Jesus and his disciples do not fast when they do.
  • They accuse Jesus of breaking the Sabbath law of no working when they are simply eating.

Application
Jesus’ motivation, authority, teaching, way of living the faith, and choice of companions rub the religious leaders the wrong way. They have built up a stack of rules for faithful living. Instead of enlivening the faith, the rules have strangled it. Jesus’ ways seem too free, too new, too radical when in reality they are what God intended all along.

Prayer
God of Life, Creator of Heaven and Earth, you make all things new. Make me new. I’ve been walking with you for some time now and recognize the Pharisee in me. Save me! Save me from frivolous traditions, archaic prejudices and crusty legalism. Keep me fresh. Soft in your hands. Open to your bidding. Ready to receive the new wine of your Word. Glad to be filled again with your Spirit. Joyous at the tearing down of dividing walls. Ever eager for the expansion of your Kingdom through Jesus Christ, your blessed Son and Savior. Amen.

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For more of MazTaz’s stunningly beautiful thoughts, poetry and art, including more on this parable, please visit her blog.

For more information on the Gospel of Mark Reading Plan, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.