The Light Shines in the Darkness by Tammy Abee Blom

Note: For the four weeks of Advent, this blog will highlight one scripture from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C for each week. A discipline for the week will be suggested. It is in intended the discipline will fit into your daily life and utilize resources you already have on hand. I look forward to sharing this journey with you.

My favorite part of Advent is the growing light. As the Advent wreath moves from one to four lighted candles, I relish how that added light shines brightly at our dinner table. As neighbors hang Christmas lights, I enjoy watching a dark street become brightly illuminated. And I find comfort in hearing the click of the timer on our Christmas tree because a room that is ordinary becomes festooned with light in a single click. I rejoice in the light of Advent.

Two of the scripture passages, Luke 1:39-45 and 46b-55, from this week feature women who rejoiced. Elizabeth cried out when she saw the pregnant Mary. As someone who had experienced the miracle of pregnancy, she was open to Mary’s miraculous claim of carrying the Christ child. And Mary, having every reason to believe her future was dark, claimed the light by rejoicing in being chosen by God. Rather than wallowing in the darkness of “I have wanted a child my whole life and now I’ll be too old to enjoy him” or “I was looking forward to being a bride and newlywed and now I will be a mother much sooner that I had planned,” Elizabeth and Mary chose to embrace the growing light of new life. They chose to rejoice.

In this fourth week of Advent that is shortened to just two days, I want to remember to rejoice on Wednesday, after the Christ candle is lighted on Christmas day. Even though the tree will look less festive with the gifts removed and some of the neighbors will stop lighting their Christmas lights, I want to live in a place where the light expands and grows. The writer of John said, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.” (John 1:5)  As I embrace the coming of the Christ child, I want to remember that he brought light into the world in the form of hope and that hope cannot be overcome by the darkness.

As the days unfold into a new year, let us light a candle each day to remember the brightness of hope. Locate either a fancy Christmas candle you never use or the stub of candle kept in the junk drawer. Choose a time that works best for you and light the candle while you pray, share your family meal, or hover over the first cup of coffee before the house guests come down for breakfast.

Elizabeth and Mary rejoiced in the light when they could have complained in the darkness. Let us rejoice that light has come into the world.

Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.

 

Advent Waiting by Aimee Day

ad·vent  (ˈadˌvent) noun : the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event. In Christian circles, we commonly use this noun to describe the four weeks leading up to Christmas, in which we “wait for the coming of Christ.” We wait for the Advent, the arrival of, perhaps, the most notable person. But what does it mean to wait for someone who has already arrived, with whom we already have relationship? And, how should we wait for this experience to come?

This Advent I have been waiting. I have been waiting for the coming day when I will marry my best friend and true love, January 5, 2013. On that day, I will wear a beautiful dress, and take vows before my family and friends. I will become a wife and John will become my husband. I am anticipating and waiting for that day. And, in this waiting I have learned a few Advent lessons.

First, I am waiting, but it is not a passive waiting. It is a very active waiting. Before any of the events of our wedding day can occur, there is a lot of planning and preparation that has to take place. Thought goes into every detail, and I have to take time from my busy schedule to meet with vendors and work on projects, and attend counseling sessions and dress fittings. I cannot just sit back and hope that everything goes smoothly. I must dedicate my time and energy to this event, even while I am waiting for it to actually come about.

The same is true for us as we await the Advent of Christ. We cannot just sit back and let the season overwhelm us or just pass us by. We must be active participants in it. This means, we should be dedicating time to reading scripture and Advent devotionals. We should actually attend the Christmas Cantata or the “Walk through Bethlehem.” (Who knows, we might actually receive some blessing from them.) We should spend some time in prayer. Christmas will come, and Christ will be offered to us anew, but we should not just passively await that truth. We need to become active waiters.

Second, as I wait for my wedding day, I realize that I am waiting to have a relationship with someone with whom I already have a relationship. You see, I have a relationship with John. He is my fiancé. But in this period of waiting, I anticipate a new relationship with him. In just a few short weeks, he will be my husband. So, I am waiting for a new, different relationship with someone with whom I already have a relationship. This is the most exciting part of waiting for our wedding day.

As we wait for the day when we will light the final Advent candle, I hope we eagerly anticipate the ways in which we might enter into a closer, more intimate relationship with Jesus. Yes, Jesus has already been born. Yes, we already have a relationship with him. But, I think I can speak for all of us when I say, our relationship with Jesus is not as intimate as it should be. In fact, my relationship with Jesus is far from being the most intimate relationship in my life. In this period of Christian waiting, let’s find ways in which our relationship with Jesus can become a new, more intimate relationship.

This year, as we actively await Jesus’ birthday, I pray that our efforts throughout this season will help us grow more in love with Jesus and the people whom he loves.

Aimee Day is a student at McAfee School of Theology and executive assistant for Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia. 

Where is Home for You? – Zephaniah 3:20 by Tammy Abee Blom

Note: For the four weeks of Advent, this blog will highlight one scripture from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C for each week. A discipline for the week will be suggested. It is in intended the discipline will fit into your daily life and utilize resources you already have on hand. I look forward to sharing this journey with you.

While driving from store to store for Christmas shopping, I listened to Karen Carpenter’s “There’s No Place like Home for the Holidays.” As I was humming along with her melodic voice, I recalled the passage I had read that morning in Zephaniah, “I will bring you home.” Connecting the music and the text, I started listening to the many references to home as related to the holidays. On Facebook, college and graduate students are posting, “I am on my way home for Christmas!” School children are counting down the days until they can be home for Christmas break. My hair stylist, medical doctor, and pastor all asked, “Are you traveling home for Christmas?” Home and holidays are intimately interconnected for most people.

Yet home can be difficult to define. The writer of Zephaniah describes home as “gathered to God.” He proclaims, “I (God) will bring you home. I will gather you.” Coming home is being with God. Maya Angelou describes home another way, “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go and not be questioned.”  For both writers, home is a safe place where we are gathered and welcomed.

Often we think of home as the place where we grew up or the place where our family of origin lives. But this holiday, I want to explore a broader sense of home. I want us to look for the places where we feel gathered to God and for the places where we feel like we are accepted for whom we are. I want us to collect these moments of home and hold onto them. To do so, cut a one inch strip from a sheet of copy paper. Write, “I am gathered home.” Then, draw a musical note on the strip each time you recognize being at home. Keep the strip in your planner or use as a bookmark. Remember to add your notes of home.

At the conclusion of the third week of Advent, offer a prayer of thanksgiving for all the places you felt at home and remember the home where you will attend Christmas festivities. Pray that you will offer a sense of home to those with whom you gather.

Home can be elusive because we think of it as a set place. Yet, home can be all around us if we anticipate being gathered and welcomed.

Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.

Peace, Zephaniah 3:14-20, by Sarah Holik

Peace. We desire peace among nations and ethnic groups, but we also seek other forms of peace—from conflict in our family, from disagreements over theology and worship, from the endless “to do” list, from the children bickering in the back seat, from the war within ourselves.

Peace in the future requires effort now. Christmas offers many of us a vacation, but we have to complete projects before we leave town. We must purchase and wrap gifts and pack suitcases and cars. Getting to rest requires some work first.

In worship, Advent comes before our celebration of Christ’s birth. While preparing for Christmas, we look forward to the ultimate peace and celebration that will come with Christ’s return. Yet if we allow ourselves to calm down in the presence of God, we’ll find God doing the work of preparation this Advent.

Our peace comes in more fully celebrating Christ’s presence as well as preparing for his earthly return. We mark the beginning of a new liturgical year in our worship and soon a new calendar year in our lives. We often recognize the coming of a new year by making resolutions that impact our physical lives, but perhaps there is a spiritual new year’s to be celebrated as well. Though the debts are great, Zephaniah says, “The Lord has taken away the judgments against you.” These scriptures remind me to allow Christ to once again transform my life, even if that looks like beginning again completely. This time of celebration of the Christ child, of the Immanuel with us, and of expectation illuminates the continuous, refining nature of salvation.

Let’s begin again, living in the truth of God’s mercy and forgiveness. I pray that we will allow this time of Advent to make us more aware of Christ’s peace, refreshing our spirits and our hope for Christ’s return. May Christ’s presence then be more visible to those around us, spreading the hope of Christmas, Easter, and Advent.

Sarah Holik is children’s minister at First Baptist Church, Fitzgerald, Georgia.

Mary’s Song: A Hymn of Faith by Kristy Bay

This won’t really shock any of you, but in case you don’t know me yet, I grew up on stage at church. From the time I was two years old all the way through high school and even into college, I performed on stage. In fact, it became a part of my church’s Christmas tradition that each year from about the time I was twelve, I sang Amy Grant’s song “Breath of Heaven,” also known as Mary’s song. Every year for about four or five years, I sang this song during the Christmas season. Soon, it became that embarrassing part of my families’ Christmas tradition. It was embarrassing, but also fun. To this day, we all pretend like we don’t know that Grandma is going to put in a CD and say, “I bet you can’t guess who this is?” and my twelve-year-old voice will come through the speakers . . . and we would all pretend like we have NO idea who it is.

Needless to say, Mary’s song was actually a big part of Christmas for me growing up. It was also an important teaching tool in my young faith-development. Because I remember the year I turned fourteen that the song was suddenly different . . . and not just for me, but for the church. Because the year I turned fourteen, it suddenly hit everyone that Mary was my age when all this happened 2000 years ago. And there was something extremely powerful and disconcerting about the realization that she was me when she was told about the new life growing in her womb. A teenage girl, chosen to bear the greatest gift the world has ever known. And as we heard from reading her song of response today, this girl graciously and humbly accepts God’s message to her, and even praises the Lord for what is to come. Her hymn of faith is pretty remarkable for one so young.

History has been kind to Mary, and that in and of itself is worth taking notice of. Not all women faired so kindly through the corridors of time. But Mary, her reputation is sterling. Think about all the art in which you have seen Mary portrayed. She is serene, almost always wearing blue and white . . . colors that represent purity and holiness. Her hands are soft and either lovingly holding the Christ child, or folded together in reverent prayer, or extended outward in the ever-loving embrace of the woman who was viewed as the ultimate mother . . . welcoming, inviting, loving. She often has a halo of light encircling her head. And . . . she almost always looks older than she actually was. She looks about the age you would think a mother would be . . . rather than the teenage girl that she was.

And this got me thinking . . . you know, this is what history has painted for us . . . what most of us were taught in Sunday School . . . joyful, faithful, humble Mary. And she certainly was all of those things. Her song shows us just how faithful she was. Because what we forget, what we don’t tend to talk about, was that she was an unwed teenage mother. While she lived in a different culture, reactions to pregnant teenage girls haven’t changed all that much over the millennia. Mary . . . thirteen or fourteen, engaged, and pregnant. There is one glaring difference between Mary’s time and ours. Her becoming pregnant outside of marriage could have been a death sentence. Think about that. As we know from other biblical accounts, women accused of adultery were taken outside the village walls and stoned to death. No questions asked, no trial, no stopping to interrogate the other party involved, and certainly no mercy.

God’s pronouncement to Mary that she would carry a holy child was a death sentence. And I have to wonder, how bad did it really get for Mary and for Joseph? Our picturesque nativity sets don’t allow us insight into the their struggles. We are not given a lot of details in the text about how Mary and Joseph suffered for their part in God’s unfolding story. But we’re given a little bit of a clue and if we’re honest, we can imagine how it went over when Mary’s only answer for everyone about her child was that, “God willed it and made it happen by the Holy Spirit.” She lived in a small town. Imagine the looks, the whispered conversations that stopped when she got close. Think about the snide remarks and comments she had to endure. Joseph struggles with what to do until an angel tells him in a dream that she’s telling the truth . . . God is behind all of this. And so Joseph joins Mary in the spotlight of scandal and shame. He marries her. And on this side of history, it’s pretty easy to gloss over the sacrifice that Mary and Joseph made to play their role in God’s story.

They lost friends over this. Mary lost her reputation. What about their parents? What did Mary’s own mother think? And it would not have ended when Jesus was born, either. How long did the holy family have to put up with people comparing Jesus’ looks with Joseph’s? How many times did Mary have to pull Jesus to her skirt and shield his ears from cruel speculations and accusations? Everyone knew that he wasn’t Joseph’s kid. Mary probably carried a scarlet letter around with her for the rest of her life. In fact, I wonder if during that difficult pregnancy, Mary became the woman who had to go to the well in the middle of the day to avoid all the others? Or if she ever got tired of having to comfort her son when others teased him about Joseph not being his dad?

I ask all these questions because I remember when it hit me at fourteen years old, just how hard this must have been on Mary. History has a way of glossing over some of the pain and shame that she probably endured, but I remember my fourteen-year-old self thinking, “If that happened to me, no one would believe me.”  In fact, I remember one day holding a baby outside the university ministry office on my college campus. I was simply doing a favor for the university minister’s wife as they were in a meeting and needed someone to hold and rock Lainy. So I took her outside and walked around humming and talking to her. And I began to notice that people were looking at me funny. They kept doing a double take. One person even walked up to me and said, “A little young aren’t you?” and it hit me, all these people were just assuming this was my baby, and making the judgment that I was far too young to have a child. Those few hours of looks and judgment and snide comments gave me a whole new understanding of what it may have felt like for Mary.

It makes me have such a deep level of respect and compassion for Mary. It helps me see her hymn in a whole new light. Sweet, gentle Mary was also tough and brave and courageous and willing to do anything for the child she had yet to meet. And her faith wasn’t shallow by any means. She accepts what God tells her and rather than see it as a social or perhaps even literal death sentence, rather than looking at all it will cost her, she has faith that God is working on something bigger than what she can see. That is a faith worth emulating. In the toughest and most difficult circumstances, I wonder how many times Mary repeated the words to her song in her head and in her heart just to get through another day. She had faith that God wouldn’t abandon her or allow her to go through this without a bigger purpose in mind. She chose to see Jesus as a blessing and not a burden. I hope and pray that when life gets tough, I have that kind of faith.

Because even though Mary may not have fully known all that God was going to do, we have the advantage of being on this side of history. And do know what else I wonder? I wonder how much Mary and Jospeh’s faithfulness to God’s plan impacted their son. As we know, Jesus later seems to have quite a soft spot in his heart for women who’s reputations are less than sterling. When he meets the woman at the well, was some part of him picturing his mother? When he saves the woman caught in adultery and ashamed, and he helps her up and asks her where all her accusers went, was it because he remembered all the accusations hurled at his own mother? Or the woman who anoints his feet with her tears and everyone is aghast? Did he see some of his own mother’s tears at being scorned? Did he remember wishing that someone would have stood up for her? Treated her with dignity? I think so. I think that Jesus knew first hand about the damage that other’s words and actions could cause, and mistakes or not, everybody needs someone to love them. Jesus knew first hand the fierce love and compassion and faithfulness of a mother who had sacrificed everything for her son, for her God.

On this side of history, we can see that God was true to his promise, and Mary’s song came true. Despite her early hardships, she has been revered and generations have indeed called her blessed. In fact, history has erased the scarlet letter she probably labored under for so long. Her son was indeed the one who brought down the powerful and lifted up the lowly, including so many lowly women, and God indeed did great things.

This advent season, as we look at the flame of the candle of faith, let’s remember that Mary’s faith was so deep and so strong that she gave up everything for God’s bigger plan. Let’s remember what it must have cost her. The flame of faith burns brightly, and shines, even in the darkest of times. May we learn from Mary’s faith that God is working, even when it is hard to see or feel. And maybe, our faith in the darkest times has more of an impact that we will ever know. What if Mary’s unwavering faith taught her son, God’s son, something about compassion, mercy, forgiveness, perseverance, and faithfulness to God’s will? Those traits that were then so evident in his life and ministry? That had an untold impact on all he met . . . no matter their reputation or their past. This is the Christ we follow. This is the example that has been set for us.

May our faith give us the strength to rise to the occasion, as it did Mary, “for the Mighty One has and will do great things.” When we look at our nativity sets this year, may we see with the eyes of Mary. Eyes of faith that help us to see the good, even when all around us seems bad. Eyes of faith that learn to see blessings in our burdens, and promises in the midst of our trials. Eyes through which the flame of our faith burns brightly, for all the world to see. Amen.

Kristy Bay is associate pastor for youth and education, Milledge Avenue Baptist Church, Athens, Georgia.

I Give Thanks All the Time, Philippians 1:3-11, by Tammy Abee Blom

Note: For the four weeks of Advent, this blog will highlight one scripture from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C for each week. A discipline for the week will be suggested. It is in intended the discipline will fit into your daily life and utilize resources you already have on hand. I look forward to sharing this journey with you.

The last five words I said to my children this morning were, “Yes. Yes. Yes! Get out.” As the girls pulled on jackets and grabbed backpacks I answered yes to, “Did you sign my reading log? Is my water bottle in my backpack? And do I have to wear a jacket?” My parting words were exclaimed as the benediction to finally getting them enroute to school. We had been up and at it for over an hour. It was time to move along.

After the door slammed, I walked over to the sink to finish loading the dishwasher. As Doug drove by the kitchen window, I saw the three of them in the car, and my heart whispered fondly, “I love those knuckleheads.”

Sometimes I forget how precious the people I see everyday are. I get drawn into praying for the huge hurts and damaging injustices of the world, and I forget to be thankful for the girls’ teachers who teach a classroom of students, for my pastor who prepares a sermon each week, for the cashier at the grocery store who remembers my name, and for my dear friends who make time to call, visit, and share. I forget to offer thanksgiving for those persons who make my life good.

In Philippians, Paul writes to a community whom he loves. They have been good to him both with emotional and financial support. They know him and his ministry, and their familiarity expresses thankfulness. Likewise, Paul knows this community and he “thanks my God for you and constantly prays with joy.” Rather than letting the familiarity harbor ungratefulness Paul remembers these people fondly and his heart exclaims, “Thank you.”

As we journey through the second week of Advent, let us pray without ceasing for those familiar to us. As a tangible expression of this prayer, cut a circle from a piece of heavy cardstock or draw a circle on a blank page in your planner. Starting at the outer edge, begin listing people in your home, in your church, and in your community for whom your heart swells in thankfulness when you remember him/her. Add to the circle all week until it is filled with names. Then hang the circle of prayers on your Christmas tree or on your bathroom mirror where you can see the names of those for whom you are so grateful.

Let us pray words of thankfulness for those who make our lives better because of their presence.

Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.

Love of the Imperfect by Jessica Prophitt

This year my husband, Lee, and I will celebrate our third Christmas together as a married couple. While it is our third Christmas, it is the first year that we have been in a place in which we could have our own Christmas tree. As you might imagine, we had to start from scratch. We did not have one item necessary for tree decorating, including the tree! So off to Target and Wal-Mart we went. After deciding between a real tree or fake tree, traditional or modern decorations, colored lights or white, a star or an angel for the top, we made our purchases and headed home with all the necessary items to “deck the halls.”

Once home we finished some laundry, had some dinner, vacuumed the spot the tree would be placed, found a good Christmas movie to inspire us, and began the Christmas tree assembly. As we decorated, the movie “The Family Man” played in the background. The movie is a modern twist on the classic “It’s A Wonderful Life.” It tells the story of a man named Jack Campbell, a rich bachelor who works on Wall Street and who seems to be living the perfect life. As the movie unfolds, Jack is pondering about his life–whether he should have pursued his career or instead married his college girlfriend, Kate. In a twist of fate, he gets a chance to see a glimpse of what his life would have been like had he chosen differently. He wakes up and finds himself married to Kate, raising two children, and working as a tire salesman in New Jersey.

At first, Jack is frustrated by his new life and wishes to have his perfect former life back.  He finds, however, that for a few weeks he is destined to live out this “glimpse” of an alternate life.  He longs for his old life.  He desperately looks for something that would give him a taste of the lavish lifestyle from which he was plucked.  After several frustrating days and weeks, Jack begins to experience the love of Kate and the kids, but just as he is learning to give and receive the love of his family, Jack is swept back into his former lavish life. Upon his return, he realizes how lonely he is in his “perfect” life.

As the movie concluded, so did our tree decorating. I’ll admit the tree did not turn out as I had imagined. It was not perfect. It leans slightly to the right, we only had enough ribbon to wrap half way down the tree, and the star we bought for the top is too heavy for the fake tree branch to hold it. It is not the Martha Stewart tree that I had hoped for. But I love it! This is the tree that Lee and I decorated together.  It was created out of love and with a few more years of experience (and another trip to Wal-Mart for more ribbon) it will get better.

This year as we celebrate Advent and anticipate the coming of Christ, remember that perfection is not what is promised with Christ. Love is birthed in a manger . . . the coming of the Christ child. Love is what fills the gaps of life’s imperfections and makes us whole.  While the story of Jack Campbell is not necessarily a new one, the message never gets old:  A life without love is empty. This holiday season don’t get caught up in perfection. Rather get caught up in the love of those who love you in spite of your imperfections.

Jessica Prophitt serves as a chaplain in the United States Air Force Reserves at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, South Carolina.

Words for Warren by Pam Durso

I recently attended the Baptist Women in Ministry of Georgia fall gathering—and had a wonderful opportunity to meet new friends and to visit with some folks I seldom get to see. I had fun sharing about my work and the exciting days ahead. But the highlight for me was seeing Warren. I met him for the first time several weeks ago and fell immediately in love. So I was eager to have some quality cuddling time with sweet, sweet Warren, who is now three months old! And I was so grateful that his mom, Lee Ritchie, shared him with me!

Lee is my friend, and she minister to children and youth at First Baptist Church, Commerce. Lee is quickly learning about the joys and exhaustion that go with motherhood. When I had lunch with her a few weeks ago, I learned more about Warren’s birth—which was both a long-awaited, greatly anticipated arrival and an unexpected surprise. He came to his family through the gift that is adoption—and he is a much, much loved child.

So there at the BWIM of Georgia gathering, during the presentations, I stood at the back of the room and swayed and bounced and cuddle with Warren. He was happiest when he could see everyone and everything—Warren is an observer! He pays attention to all the things going on around him. And oh is he a busy boy. He never seems to stop moving and looking, straining to be part of the action. But the whole time Warren was quiet and happy. He only fussed a little, and Lee handed me his pacifier. I offered it to him and cuddled him up close, and while a gifted young minister spoke passionately of her work with refugees in Uganda, I began whispering in Warren’s ear—“You are so beautiful. You have a mommy and daddy who love you so much. You are a gift to them. You are so beautiful. You are so loved.” My words became a prayer as I swayed back and forth, and sweet baby Warren closed his eyes and went to sleep for a few moments.

When the presentations ended, I had to return Warren to his mother. And then I moved on to mingle and talk with several women I had never met. One of those women asked me, “So are you connected to the little baby you were holding?” And I paused, and then I smiled and said, “Yes. I am connected to him. I am connected to Warren by love.”

Warren, someday perhaps you will hear the stories and know that we prayed for and dreamed about your arrival long before you came. And someday you will know that we celebrated your birth and that we are praying for your new adoptive family as you are bound together by love and that we are praying too for your birth family, offering words of gratitude for their grace and courage. But most of all, Warren, we pray that you will always know that you are loved—you are loved by so many and you are loved by God.

Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.

Lifted Up – Psalm 25 by Tammy Abee Blom

Note: For the four weeks of Advent, Tammy Abee Blom’s blog posts will highlight one scripture from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C for each week. A discipline for the week will be suggested. It is in intended the discipline will fit into your daily life and utilize resources you already have on hand. I look forward to sharing this journey with you.

Thirty-nine weeks pregnant with my first child, I shared with my friend, Terry, how nervous I was about giving birth. Primarily my fear sprang from inexperience. I had never delivered a baby before and didn’t know how it would go for me. And birth stories are ubiquitous. All mothers have a story about the mishaps, oddities, and just plain nonsense that can occur during labor and delivery. I was convinced, not one, but all of these could befall me. I was cautiously terrified.

Terry shared words of encouragement and support but most of all, she prayed for me. When Terry called me after the birth of Eve, which I survived with nary a horror story, she said, “I carried your photo in my pocket all day. I knew you were at the hospital, and the baby was on her way. Each time I reached into my pocket, I felt your photo and I prayed for you. I lifted you up in prayer all day long.”

Terry had shared her assurance of God’s love with me, and she had lifted me in prayer. Her actions model Psalm 25. It reads, “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul . . . in you, I trust.” The lifting up is held in tension with the steadfast love of God. The desperation of fear melts away because the one to whom we lift our souls has been and will be faithful.

During this first week of Advent, choose a way to model lifting up in prayer while resting assured in God’s steadfastness. Two suggestions include:

1-      Psalm 25 is an acrostic poem with each line beginning with the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet. I recommend writing, “I lift up my soul” vertically on a piece of paper. Use each letter to pray for something in your life for which you need God’s help and/or use the letters to list people in your life who need God’s help. You can create a new acrostic daily or work on the same one all week. This is a good exercise to do while standing in lines or waiting on appointments.

2-      Locate a photo of a person, family, or group that you want to lift to God. Consider choosing a photo of yourself. Place the photo on your phone, in your wallet, or carry it in a pocket. Each time you see the photo pray, “To you, O God, I lift these persons knowing you are steadfast and faithful.”

As I prepare my soul for the birth of Jesus, I recall God’s enduring love. As one who believes God is faithful, I lift myself and others to God in prayer.

Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.