Sunday, December 31, 2017

Last hike/walk of 2017

Yesterday afternoon we took our last hike/walk of 2017. For a moment, when the sun came out today, I almost went back out for a true last walk in 2017. But upon steppng outside, it was 20 degrees colder than yesterday. I wimped out. (Plus my hip is a tad tired from yesterday.)

We parked on the lower parking area at Craven's house so we could walk in the flat road access. When we parked, we saw several cars and a lone hangglider in the sky. Before I could snap a shot, it had floated out of range behind the trees.

The path we took was part of the Guild-Hardy trail. A few weeks back we were there and started at the top of Craven's House, followinf the trail down and going out the flat part to the right.

Yesterday we wanted to go in that way and see how far it went. We went to the point you could see Sunset Rock above. If we had more time until sunset we could have gone further, but we cut it close.

This path was perfect for me to walk because there are no obstacles and it is flat. Because of that, I chose not to wear my hip brace. Hindsight tells me the brace would still have been a good idea. Today there is some pain. But I have finally been able to get to the point where I can say yes to hip replacement surgery, so that is good. 2018 will bring a new left hip and will hopefully allow me to get 100% back into hiking, walking, motorcycle riding, and other activities that have been limited.

There were several places where the trail went up or down, including rhe section we had been on previously.

A highlight of the hike was seeing a rather large heart rock in the woods. I wonder if it is natural or chiseled. The area was used by CCC work camps as evidenced by remains of Camp Demaray.

Soldiers and Native Americans once lived in thst area too. Whether or not the rock is naturally a heart or somehow fashioned into one, it was incredible to find.

The other thing I found was a "recycle, reuse, reduce" green bracelet under a leaf. I put it on a sign.

We went a little over three miles on the path. We saw a couple of bike riders, a few walkers, some folks with dogs. It was good to be outdoors and to end the year with some outdoor time in creation.

I am looking forward to more outdoor time in 2018.

Peace and blessings on your journey,

Pictures from yesterday:

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The end of Advent 2017

The last two days of the Advent 2017 photo challenge. Christmas is here. Notice that I did not add "and gone". That is because the Christmas season has only just begun. In fact, today is day 2, with Christmas Day having been day 1. We journey now through the Christmas season with the Christ child until Epiphany. At that time, the Magi visit the Christ child, bring him gifts, and celebrate him.

We'll get there, but for today we are at Christmas 1 and I want to finish Advent.

The last two days of the Advent Photo-A-Day Challenge were December 24-- love and December 25-- birth.

Here are the pictures from those days:

December 24-- love

Today's Advent word is love. I am challenged daily to live, love, and lead like Jesus. Love is the key to keep on keeping on when things get tiring, difficult, or for whatever reason we no longer can. Love of God and love of others helps me to continue loving God and others. Love wins. Pictured here is Christmas love. "His banner over me is love." May the love of the Christ child fill you today and everyday. #love #adventphoto #holstongap

December 25-- birth

Today's word is birth. We celebrate the birth of the Christ child. That child grew into an adult who modeled love and respect for others; one that brought hope and healing into this world. I continue to learn much from this child and I desire to live, love, and lead by his example. #birth #adventphoto #holstongap

Here is a compilation picture of all the Advent and Christmas Eve bulletins:

On Advent 4, I was blessed to worship in two congregations that morning, Fort Oglethorpe UMC and Simpson UMC.  That evening I was at Flintstone UMC for the Christmas Eve service, which was a community service this year with four churches participating.  It turned out to be a very special evening and I was blessed to see it unfold.

I woke up on Christmas Day to a glorious sunrise, yet sad news that one of our members had gone to see Jesus.  I was glad she was no longer suffering or in pain, yet I will miss her humor and spunk.

Reflecting back on this Advent season and Christmas, what do you want to take with you into the next 12 days of Christmas and into the new year?  Is there something you've picked up along the way that you can take with you?  Doing the photo a day challenge has helped me stay in the present and that is something I always need.  Mindfulness.  Being intentional.  Being present.  

Going through Advent with others has given me new ideas on how I might add some traditions into my celebrating in the years to come-- life-sized Advent wreaths for the outdoors, Advent rocks, many different ways to do indoor Advent wreaths at home.

(Outdoor Advent wreath and Advent rocks are courtesy of Patrick Hunt.)

Advent has been refreshing and a new beginning to the year.  I am looking forward to these days of Christmas as we move through the Christmas season.  That reminds me. 

One of the more powerful writings around Christmas that comes back every year is Howard Thurman's writing about Christmas.  I have shared it before.  I share it now on Christmas 2, though it is really more appropriate for after Epiphany:

"Now the Work of Christmas Begins"--

When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.

Blessings on your Christmas season, 


Sunday, December 24, 2017

Advent 2017-- Week 3 (December 17-23) photos and reflections

Today begins the 4th week of Advent, though it's a rather short week with tonight being Christmas Eve and tomorrow is Christmas Day.  This past week of Advent 3 has gone by quickly.  There have been a couple of days where I've posted pictures and reflections the day after due to so much going on.  It hasn't been just the hustle and bustle of getting ready for Advent 4 and Christmas Eve services.  There have been interviews at one of the three churches for a position, home visits, phone calls, shopping for family gifts, some baking and decorating too.  In the midst of it all, I have made some time for quiet, for silence and solitude.  Not a whole lot this week, but some. This past Thursday, on the Longest Night, I went to a local church that was hosting an indoor lit labyrinth for the community.  I had heard about this, but hadn't been before.  It was beautiful inside.  There was peaceful music playing in the background.  It was a pleasant walking and praying experience for me. (You can see two pictures of the indoor labyrinth space on the "community" photo collage, top right and bottom left.)

The full list of days and Advent words:

This past week's Advent words with photos and reflections are below.

December 17--Joy

Today's Advent word is joy. Here are a few things that have brought me joy today: being able to worship in community; watching the light grow brighter as we lit the joy candle today on our journey to the manger; receiving this heart shell from the Outer banks from someone today, holding it, noticing it is a heart on both sides; singing in this afternoon's cantata, "A Great and Mighty Wonder". Joy, deep and abiding, strengthens me.#seeaheartshareaheart #joy #adventphoto #holstongap

December 18-- Grace

Today's Advent word is grace. As I contemplate grace today, I recognize that for me, my faith journey is all about grace. "Grace, grace, God's grace". Grace allows me to live freely. Having received so much grace from God, I desire to extend it to myself and others. "Your grace, O Lord, was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus." (1 Timothy 1:14) #grace#adventphoto #holstongap

December 19-- Promise

Yesterday's Advent word was promise. I posted the 20th on the 19th. Oops. Looking at this fog from yesterday morning, you can barely see what is in front of you. When that happens in life, I try to only take the next clear step in front of me, remembering that God is with me. Deuteronomy 31:8--"The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." #promise #adventphoto #holstongap

December 20--Light

Today's Advent word is light. A little bit of light brightens a dark space. John 1:5--"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light." (CEB) May light shine in your life today where you need it most. May you be light for someone else. #light #Adventphoto #holstongap

December 21--Community

Yesterday's Advent word was community. Community means many things to me. I am blessed to serve three wonderful communities, to live in a wonderful community, to have communities of folks with whom I gather-- in person and through cyberspace. Last night I was in two different communities on the longest night. It was a time of reflection and silence in both communities, a time to slow down, to breathe. Community reminds me I am not alone. #community #adventphoto #holstongap

December 22--Journey

Yesterday's Advent word was journey. I saw this tire in a parking lot. It caused me to think that someone's journey had been interrupted, that it hadn't gone as planned. Left behind was the evidence of a blown out tire. How many times are there interruptions or blowouts on our journeys? We have to look to plan B or even C? We may need to go in another direction. How do we react when these things happen? Are we open to the deeper journey of growth through all situations? This is what I ask myself. I hope my answer will always be yes. #journey #adventphoto #holstongap

December 23--Mystery

Today's Advent word is mystery. I found this quote by A.C. Benson on mystery: "As I make my slow pilgrimage through the world, a certain sense of beautiful mystery seems to gather and grow."#mystery #adventphoto #holstongap

As the Advent lights continue to grow brighter and the journey to the manger draws near, may the light and love of the Christ child shine in the darkness.

Blessings on your journey,


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Advent 2017-- Week 2 (December 10-16) photos and reflections

Has week two of Advent gone by quickly for you?  It has for me.  I guess it's the ebb and flow of life.  Some weeks go by more quickly than others.

What has sustained you during this second week of Advent as far as devotions and practices?  Have you tried anything different?  I have seen some neat Advent coloring sheets, but I haven't had the time to explore obtaining them, much less coloring them.  I have used coloring in the past as a way to slow down, to reflect, to be still, so I think that would be a helpful practice during Advent.

I have continued the Advent Photo-A-Day as a practice.  Here is the entire list of words for the season as a reminder:

Since last week, I did another search on social media for "adventphoto" and found several groups besides #rethinkchurch with Advent Photo-A-Day opportunities.  I was glad to see them, but wish I had seen them sooner, although it was a good practice for me to create something to use.

Here are the words from December 10-16, along with the narrative:

December 10

Today's word is peace. What is peace to you? Where do you see peace reflected? Where do you need peace?

December 11

Today's word is justice. What does justice mean to you? What does it look like? Where is justice lacking? How does justice fit into your Advent?

December 12

Today's word is gift. What is the most memorable (or meaningful) gift you have ever received? What is the most memorable (or meaningful) gift you have given? What is the most meaningful gift to you this Advent?

December 13

Today's word is reflection. What does this word bring to mind? What are your reflections today?

December 14

Today's word is free. What comes to mind when you consider the word? How are you free or how are you not free this Advent?

December 15

Today's word is faith. How do you describe your faith? What role does your faith play in your life? How would you relate the concept of faith to someone who asked you about it?

December 16

Today's Advent word is wonder. What does the word "wonder" bring up for you? What causes you to wonder? What aspects of the word are relevant to you in this Advent season?

Here are my entries for each day:

December 10

Today's Advent word is peace. I went outdoors today for some silence and solitude. I listened to the roar of the creek, the crunch of the gravel. I skipped stones. I listened to the trickle of the waterfall. It is well with my soul. #peace #Adventphoto #holstongap

December 11

Today's Advent word is justice. There are several meaningful verses on justice, but this one combines nature, so it is a favorite. To do justice is to do what is right. #justice #adventphoto #holstongap

December 12

Today's Advent word is gift. This is the morning sky from today. Each day is a gift for which I am grateful, as I am able to enjoy the beauty of creation and time with family, friends, and the Creator. #gift #adventphoto #holstongap

December 13

Today's Advent word is reflection. I posted this heart rock the other day from my Sunday afternoon walk. A friend commented that it is amazing how I have been seeing hearts everywhere. That caused me to stop and reflect. How long has it been that hearts have been a sign, a symbol for me? I can go back at least 5 years. It might be one or two more. I noticed one. Then more. I remember a heart leaf in the driveway one day and my reaction to it-- I needed that reminder. Hearts remind me that the Creator is love, that I am loved, that I can keep on loving others. God IS love. Love is of God. Hearts remind me to keep living a life of love, and to keep leading a life of love. 1 John 4:7--"Let us love one another for love comes from God." #seeaheartshareaheart #reflection #adventphoto #holstongap

December 14

Today's Advent word is free. I am most free when I live as the authentic self I was created to be. One of the spiritual practices that helps me be that person is contemplative photography. This photo is from last spring, a dogwood tree at Flintstone UMC. The pink of this flower reminds me of the pink candle for Advent 3, the joy candle. #free #adventphoto #holstongap

December 15

Today's Advent word is faith. This stone expresses my faith. I continue to trust, to seek to grow in a deeper relationship in this faith journey, step by step. Some days are smooth; others are rocky. I learn and grow through all. If I were to come up with an acronym for faith, it might be "following as I trust him" (Jesus). #faith #Adventphoto #holstongap

December 16

Today's Advent word is wonder. I don't often get to see this building lit up at night. When I do, I take time to observe and admire the beauty of the cross, the window, the building. The story behind the cross on top and the Ripley's believe-it-or not rock church are additional aspects of wonder. #littlerockchurch #FlintstoneGa #wonder #Adventphoto #holstongap

Blessings on your journey to the manger this Advent season,