The Thin Places

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In this pasLight swirlst week of devotions, writer Jan Richardson1 shared a beautiful idea from the Celtic tradition: that in certain spots and at specific times, there are “thin places,” where the veil between worlds becomes permeable, and heaven and earth meet.

I have a hunch that the veil between earth and heaven, time and eternity, is an illusion – mere perception from our human side of things – and that eternity and heaven are with us all along. Plato’s two worlds approach never did sit well with a lot of Christian theology. God is with us – “Emmanuel” – whether or not we have “eyes to see” or “ears to hear” all the angels singing around us.

It’s amazing how the Divine does get through our surface preoccupations. I remember walking around a historic church building on the island of Molokai. The small, white-clapboard structure was locked up, but there was a churchyard cemetery behind it. As I walked among the headstones, a flood of love washed over me. Entire generations of faithful living had taken place here, and their witness continues to be palpable. It brought a flood of tears, in joy and gratitude for the holiness that has taken place (as St. Paul says,) “from the first day until now.”2

Heaven and earth meet in the “thin places” of time, as well as of space: perhaps in this time, as we celebrate the birth of Christ and ponder its meaning. May we be awed and expressive “stewards of God’s mysteries.”3

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

1 – Jan L. Richardson, “Where Heaven and Earth Meet,” Dec. 22-28, 2014, in Upper Room Disciplines, 2014

2 – Philippians 1:5

3 – 1 Corinthians 4:1

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“Star Child”

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I was stunned by Carlton Young and Shirley Murray’s song, “Star Child,” in an Advent worshiLuminescent lightp service this month. Hope Publishing Company brought it out in 1994, but this was the first time I’d heard it, from the songbook The Faith We Sing.

It calls Jesus “Star-Child, earth-Child, go-between of God.” Then it identifies many “children” of all ages in different circumstances – those on the street and beaten down; those who’ve been used; those who are old and feeling lost; those spared, spoiled and always wanting more. For all these children of God, Jesus Christ, the “hope-for-peace Child,” comes down to earth, announcing that Christmas comes to everyone.

Particularly since my husband and I have come out to the country (almost ten years now), we have gotten to know and value people who have not been the “spared and spoiled.” Many are earnest, hard-working people who have never had health insurance, who put jobs together to make enough for an individual income, who don’t have retirement because they never had a chance to put non-urgent funds aside. Jesus Christ comes to each of these and more.

Maybe what’s different now is that I care. These are our friends, our neighbors. I want them to know that Jesus is their go-between, regardless of how they’re treated by others and whether they’re religious or not. How does this relate to stewardship? We are stewards of the gospel – the Good News – for all.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

Scarcity and Outreach

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Now that enough rain has come to fill up our half-acre pond, more Canada Geese have joined the eleven that have waited here through the fall months of drought. The geese are wild, but those who have been with us the longest recognize my call before I throw out the scratch. They start venturing up the hill, to wait for when we have gone back into the house.

But today with all the newcomHank Eclipse ducks pond 5 10ers, they’re too busy warding off the strangers to take advantage of the food. Stuck in scarcity thinking, they don’t know I put out enough scratch to cover them all. Just like people who don’t trust they’ll have enough if they let someone else come to the table. Like the geese, they raise a big ruckus, and nobody gets to eat.

Scarcity thinking and outreach don’t go together. If we don’t trust God’s provision, none of us gets to enjoy the blessings.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

Anticipation and Advent

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“Look ahead but don’t anticipate.” When we’re riding horses, that’s an important lesson to teach. You want the horse to look ahead for what’s coming next, but not to assume he or she knows whB on Gunner walking at ranchat you’ll ask for next. One mistake a lot of riders make is practicing a succession of moves so many times in the same way that the horse makes the second move on his own.

Many riders ask their horse to back up a step after he stops, to make sure he has quit moving forward. But if you’re on a steep trail and you have to stop, you don’t want your horse backing over the edge.

Advent is a time of looking ahead to Jesus Christ’s coming in a whole new way – not just to the end times, but also to how Christ will come into our personal lives in the year ahead. But we can’t anticipate in what form He will come, or what God will ask for next. Advent is a time of looking ahead – but who knows where God will lead us?

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub