A Prayer for the Prickly Bits

Preparing our hearts for Christmas, Advent is a good time to bring whatever we’re struggling with into the Light. Maybe fear has stymied our hopes into mopes, we’re wrestling with big decisions and don’t know what to do, anxiety is crushing us, or perhaps we’re just in a dark funk we can’t skunk.

With everyone making merry, sometimes it’s hard at this time of year to let the light of Christ seep into the corners of our hearts, especially the dark prickly bits.

“By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)

Jesus is good with the prickly bits of our lives. He can even turn them into something beautiful, like these cactuses in Arizona catching the evening light. We just need to ask for His help!

Here’s a prayer for today:

Jesus, darkness doesn’t stand a chance in the bright Light of Your love. Please evaporate the darkness in our hearts, minds and spirits with the Light of Your mercy & grace. Take our fears, insecurities & anxieties. Strengthen our faith with courage, clarity & confidence to do Your will. Please empower & empassion us with Your love. Please transform our hearts & minds with Your wisdom & peace, that we may become bridges of peace in this fractured world. Make us conduits of Your Light in the night that surrounds us. Shine in us, O Lord, and through us – by Your grace.  Amen.

grace, peace & prickly-bits prayer

Virginia : )

“When I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a Light unto me.” Micah 7:8

Posted in Advent | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Darkness, Light & LOVE!

“The endurance of darkness is the preparation for great light.” Saint John of the Cross

Today we remember Saint John of the Cross (1541-1591), a Spanish saint known for documenting his “Dark Night of the Soul.” Misunderstood, mistreated, and maligned – John of the Cross came to know the dark intimately while imprisoned for his progressive faith. Yet through the depths of his experience he came to a deeper understanding of the incredible heights of God’s love.

May we learn from his example to seek God even when we feel abandoned and don’t understand: God’s love is with us in the darkest, stormiest places of our lives.

And I saw a river over which every soul must pass to reach the Kingdom of Heaven, and the name of that river was suffering … and then I saw a boat which carries souls across the river, and the name of that boat was Love.Saint John of the Cross

grace, peace & LOVE

Virginia : )

Where there is no love, put love, and you will draw love out.Saint John of the Cross

Posted in Advent | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Patience…More Patience!!      

On this Advent Monday we are edging closer to Christmas. There’s 12 days to go! Twelve days may seem short (looking at our to-do lists) or long (waiting for packages to arrive – in time?) Whatever the case may be, liturgically we are still in waiting mode. Patience required!

Patience is not an easy endeavor. Navigating our lives with patience is even harder.

“Patience is a hard discipline. It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of the bus, the end of the rain, the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict. Patience is not a waiting passivity until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. When we are impatient we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow; later and somewhere else. Let’s be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.” Henri Nouwen

grace, peace & PATIENCE

Virginia : )

Photo: Banff National Park, Canada

Posted in Advent | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gaudete Sunday: JOY! JOY! JOY!

I will greatly rejoice…my soul shall be joyful in my God…” (Isaiah 61:10)

On this Gaudete Sunday of Advent we are called to “Rejoice!” During this holiday season we hear carols about joy and songs of good cheer. Given the staggering challenges that surround us these days, finding our joy grooves may be a difficult task. It’s easy sometimes to confuse joy with merrymaking, but joy is so much more.

Joy is not bubble-head happiness that depends on what happens. Joy comes from within our hearts – sometimes deep within when when tough stuff pummels our hope to oblivion.

 “Joy is the noblest human act.” St. Thomas Aquinas

Joy does not mean pain-free living, but does not let pain drive us to darkness. Joy chooses to follow the Light, even when it’s hard at times to see the dimmest flicker.

Joy believes in God’s mercy and grace. Joy heals. Joy endures. Joy perseveres.

Joy finds value in the rubble of decimated lives, because those lives are valuable. Joy comes from a well of Love transported on wings of compassion that lift up the brokenhearted.

Joy finds & waters roses in the rubble of our lives with extra doses of hope and love.

At the end and beginning of each day, joy is a choice.

“Joy is not simply a matter of temperament. It is hard to be joyful – all the more reason why we should make it grow in our hearts. Joy is prayer; joy is strength; joy is love; joy is a net of love by which we catch others.” Mother Teresa (Saint Teresa of Calcutta)

Joy comes in all shapes and sizes, and Joy is what this season of Advent is all about.

Light coming into darkness. Sacrificial Love incarnated. Emmanuel, God-with-us.

Joy is possible, because Jesus Christ is.

grace, peace & JOY

Virginia : )

“Is my joy based on circumstances, or is my joy based on something within that no one can take from me or give to me?” Richard Rohr, OFM

Posted in Advent | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Patience & Faith-Muscles

“Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9

On this Advent Saturday where we are half way to Christmas (it’s two weeks from today, in case you haven’t noticed?) We’re still in waiting mode, which is not easy, as stated, for certain impatient redheads.

The thing is there are all kinds of things we can be waiting for, not just Christmas. Often we work (& work & work & work) to see things change – and they don’t. But faith says we keep trying…

 Waiting seems to be a kind of acted-out prayer that is required more often than I could understand until I saw what remarkable faith-muscles this act develops.” Catherine Marshall

Here’s to not losing heart with extra developed faith-muscles!

grace, peace & faith

Virginia : )

Posted in Advent | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

December 10th: Human Rights & Advent

It seems appropriate somehow that Human Rights Day falls during Advent.

“…And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

Human Rights Day 2021 commemorates the establishment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 when a war weary world said, “Never again!” The basic premise of the Declaration is that human rights are for all people – not just some.

Just like the love of God is for ALL people, not just some.

The Declaration of Human Rights proclaims “the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being — regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” 

We often think of the lack of human rights in faraway places, but there are many issues to consider close to home. Life is a gift, but for many crushed by injustice, inequality, and lack of access to basic rights, it’s a struggle to survive.

In this season of Advent look around and think about how Christ came as Love Incarnate into a war weary world 2,000+ years ago. The world needed the love of Jesus then, just as our whacked out world needs even more of His love now. Infused with His love, Jesus calls us today to be salt, light, and peacemakers…

“Keep your eyes on the Prince of Peace, the One Who doesn’t cling to His divine power; the One Who refuses to turn stones into bread and rule with great power… the One Who touches the lame, the crippled, and the blind, the One Who speaks words of forgiveness and encouragement… Keep your eyes on Him Who becomes poor with the poor, weak with the weak. He is the source of all peace.”  Henri Nouwen

grace, peace & peacemakers

Virginia : )

“…is this not the fast that I choose: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?”  Isaiah 58:6

Posted in Advent | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments


On this Thursday of Advent, Virginia is contemplating a quote from a favorite author, Brené Brown.

“Often the result of daring greatly isn’t a victory march as much as it is a quiet sense of freedom mixed with a little battle fatigue…Only when we’re brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like wading into the dark stuff in my life. It’s easier to stuff it in the back of a closet & padlock the door. Ignore it. But here’s the thing – tough stuff has a way hijacking us if we don’t deal with it. If we don’t face it, we can’t heal &/or move forward.

Or, maybe the path ahead is dark? If we don’t exert Courage (with a capital ‘C’) to open our hearts to explore the darkness we’ll be stuck forever where we are. We’ll never know how the powerful the Light within us is – and can be.

grace, peace & courageous Light

Virginia : )

“Vulnerability is where courage & fear meet.” Brené Brown

Posted in Advent | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Full of Grace, All for God!

Today as Catholics around the world honor Mary, the mother of Jesus, Virginia is contemplating Mary’s “yes” to God, her openness to be for God and letting God in her be for others…

“How much we can learn from Our Lady.  She was so humble because she was all for God.  She was full of grace and she made use of the almighty power that was in her – the grace of God.  The most beautiful part of Our Lady was that, when Jesus came into her life, immediately she went in haste to Elizabeth to give Jesus to her and her son.  And we read in the Gospel that the child ‘leapt with joy’ at this first contact with Christ.  Our Lady was the most wonderful wire.  She allowed God to fill her to the brim, so by her surrender, ‘be it unto me according to thy word,’ she became full of grace which she went to pass on to John.  So let us ask God to use us now to go round the world, especially in our own communities, and continue connecting the wires of the hearts of men to the current, Jesus.” Mother Teresa (St. Teresa of Calcutta)

grace, peace & faithfulness

Virginia : )

Posted in Advent | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Darkness vs. Lamps of Faith

So much of Advent imagery has to do with Light appearing in the darkness. Keep in mind that 2,000 years ago times were tough in the Holy Land – the people there lived under the darkness of a brutal Roman occupation. We may not be living under Roman military rule, but a great deal of darkness permeates our times with violence, injustice, conflicts, human trafficking, greed, disease… the list is long.

Darkness may also attack us internally. Fear tends to lurk in the dark corners of our heart. Fear grows more menacing when we’re wading through challenges where it seems light is far way (& we can’t see the end of the tunnel.) That’s when we have to let faith light our way.

“Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey.” Pope Francis

grace, peace & FAITH LAMPS

Virginia : )

Posted in Advent | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

St. Nicholas Day: Gifts with a Purpose

In many countries December 6th is a special day where children receive gifts from Saint Nicholas, a 4th century bishop who is remembered in both Eastern and Western churches. Although not many exact details are known about his life, the Eastern church recognizes this saint as a “preacher of the Word of God and spokesman of the Father,” while the Western church has passed down stories of his timely provision of dowries for poor girls in his city who otherwise would have been forced into prostitution and his reputation for helping the poor and oppressed.

A beer-brewing buddy informed me that Saint Nicholas is also the patron saint of brewers. (Who knew? No wonder this saint is so popular in Europe!)

Think about giving gifts. During Advent we await the birth of Jesus on Christmas, but it’s also when we scramble to find gifts for loved ones, neighbors, friends, colleagues – whoever makes our gift lists. Finding gifts may be a burdensome task, but it can be an opportunity to share gifts with a purpose – items that help others, educate, and inspire. There are Fair Trade options that help overseas communities, crafts from local artisans, fruitcakes and fudge from monasteries, issue-oriented books, inspirational DVDs, and gifts that lift spirits (music, hot chocolate & tea!)

There are also precious homemade gifts, like the woolen scarves my sis Shere knits each year, treasured and gratefully used on days when it’s birrizzy cold outside!

As you tick names off your lists, consider how to give purpose-driven gifts.

Methinks Saint Nicholas would approve!

grace, peace & purpose-driven gifts

Virginia : )

“The Giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic His giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves.” Saint Nicholas of Myra

Posted in Advent | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment