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Weary World Rejoices [Advent]

FCS Ministries | 12.18.14 | No Comments »

By Ashlee Starr, Family Services Coordinator at Charis Community Housing

Last night was beautiful. We had been preparing for this night for months. It would be the first annual Christmas party in our neighborhood art garden.

This art garden has been a space for our community to work together, celebrate together, and as my friend and neighbor would say “show the world that our neighborhood is a beautiful place.”

carols

We bought a tree, battery operated lights, borrowed a generator for our sound system, and made some hot beverages. Neighbors gathered to trim the tree while children skipped rope on the concrete space that was once a neighborhood grocery store but has long since been torn down.

We started singing Christmas carols together and danced until it was almost dark. A dear neighbor and long term resident on our street asked to sing his favorite Christmas song: Oh Holy Night.

We only had a megaphone for him to sing into, but his beautiful voice carried for blocks. As he sang the line “a thrill of hope the weary world rejoices for yonder breaks a new a glorious mourn,” I couldn’t help but have tears in my eyes.

We don’t live in a perfect place. We are not perfect people. But this hope that my friend sang about makes me believe that during this advent season, we have plenty of reason to rejoice.

We can gather together across cultural, racial and generational differences to sing about the birth of Jesus. For me, this is where I find joy this advent season. This is where I find community.


Praying for Peace [Advent]

FCS Ministries | 12.16.14 | No Comments »

By Jim Wehner

We met for prayer this morning.  By “we” I mean a group of FCS leaders. We meet biweekly to pray for our board members, our donors, each other and for South Atlanta, our focus neighborhood.

Image credit: Xerones

Image credit: Xerones

This morning we spent time praying for one of the businesses in the neighborhood. This locally owned  business has become a source of negative activity over the past six months.

We struggle to know the best solution to this type of problem. We avoid dictating what is healthy and what is not to the community. We want the neighborhood to speak for itself. We are sincerely glad it is locally owned. Unfortunately, it has become a bad influence toward youth during the day and a very negative gathering spot in the evenings. We know we are not alone in our thinking, but we feel the tension between working to dictate change and participating in locally led change.

Neighborhood tensions like these can really make the work of development heavy. This is why I so love Advent!  The word Advent means “coming.” Advent is the celebration of God entering our world in the form of an infant. Advent is a reminder that with Christ came the promise of Peace.

“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”” Luke 2:13-14

Advent is a reminder that there is a bigger hope-filled story.  Advent means that there exists a peace that outweighs the hopelessness of this world.  Advent means that God understands first hand our struggle against the forces of this world.

Are there places in your own life that are less peace-filled than you wish?  Are there consistent reminders in your life that the peace of this world is fleeting?  Then take heart and remember the Advent promise!  With Christ comes Peace that overcomes this world.

So, as we have learned to do, we begin in the place of prayer.  We seek the One that has overcome this world by entering as a child.  We then step out in faith and try to bring peace to what is a tension filled reality.


In A Dream

FCS Ministries | 12.10.14 | No Comments »

By Bob Lupton

It was a dream that quieted Joseph’s troubled soul. A Divine voice revealed to him that his fiancé Mary was pregnant by heavenly design, not through human infidelity. He should proceed with their wedding plans. It was in a dream that God told him to get Mary and the baby out of Bethlehem under the cover of night and head for the Egyptian border.

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Image credit: SAM Nasim

 

Several years later, in a dream, God told Joseph it was alright to return to Israel, that the danger of Herod’s paranoia had gone to the grave with him. But cautious Joseph was still nervous about King Herod’s son who now occupied the throne. Once again God gave him directions in a dream, this time to take his little family north to rural Galilee and settle there.

Does God still speak to us through dreams?

Peggy frequently shakes me awake out of a nightmare at night – she says I’ve gone to war again. Such dreams hardly qualify as messages from God.

Actually, though, dreams can tell us a great deal about ourselves. Therapists often tell their patients to write down their dreams so they can be discussed in therapy. Perhaps this is one way that God still speaks through dreams. But dream interpretation in a therapy session is quite different from the crystal clear directions Joseph received.

I do remember one time when I was in college having a very vivid dream about traveling home for the holidays with some college friends. We were driving at night, the roads were icy, and the car was overloaded with passengers and luggage. As we came around bend in the road, the driver lost control and – I awoke just before the moment of impact!

The dream was so intense, so frightening, that I could not go back to sleep. I had actually lined up a ride with four college friends the following evening to take us (wife and infant son) home to my parents for a long holiday weekend.

So powerful was the impact of my dream that I could not shake it all day. I finally told my friends that we would not be traveling with them that evening and they left without us. I hated to miss the holiday weekend but I was greatly relieved that we would not be making the road trip.

The following Monday when my friends returned to school, one of them told me that they were very glad that my little family had not been with them on the trip. They hit a patch of ice, he told me, slid around on the road and nearly lost control. They were sure glad the car wasn’t loaded down with the additional weight. It could have been really bad, he said.

Does God still communicate through dreams?

Only once in my life have I had a dream so real that I could hardly distinguish it from an apparition. It occurred in the early morning hours on the day I was to marry Peggy York (my second Peggy). It had been less than two years since my first Peggy’s passing.

Though I was convinced Peggy York was gift of God’s graciousness to fill a deep void my life, I still had lingering concerns. Was this too soon? Was this somehow being disloyal to my first Peggy? The dream was so powerful, so real, that I captured it in words as best I could before it faded with the dawn.

December 29, 2006

Peggy, my first love, came to me in a dream early this morning. It was the first time I have dreamed about her since she left. I first saw her across the room, her back was to me, her hair very short and thin as it was when she was undergoing chemo treatments.

But I recognized her immediately and when she turned to face me she suddenly had a full head of hair, brown and beautiful with little traces of gray. It was curly, just like she always wished it was. She was younger looking, like in the days before cancer and chemo ravaged her body.

She was her beautiful self and I just stood there, unable to take my eyes off of her. She came close and I looked deeply into her brown eyes, those eyes that had always melted my heart. I gazed long like I wanted their imprint to remain indelibly in my mind. It was as though she had never left (but we both knew that she had) and we kissed and caressed tenderly. Strangely, our embrace was not sexual yet very warm and intimate.

I told her that I loved her deeply and would always love her. She seemed to know that but seemed both pleased and reassured by my words. She knew too about my relationship with Peggy York and our upcoming marriage and seemed peaceful about it. We embraced long and unhurried, so real and immediate, so comforting.

I do not recognize the setting where the dream took place but it was in a familiar house and neighborhood since we both interacted easily with familiar people who were there. She moved comfortably among friends, engaging in pleasant conversations. The conversations were easy and delightful.

She seemed totally self-assured, more at ease with herself than I have ever seen her. After a time I began to sense that Peggy’s time with us was getting short, so I gently pulled her away from the others and we went for a walk down a nearby lane (which was somehow in the country).

She told me how amazed she was at the way things worked in heaven. Though I was not able to comprehend very much of what she explained, it did involve a large diversity of people interacting in rich and delightful ways. She was so excited about it all.

Then she told me how wondrous from her vantage point was the earthly realm I still lived in, how it was full of hope and expectation, of planning and surprises, how not being able to see into the future was such a gift, so full of eagerness and anticipation. And then, after assuring me that both she and I were in very good places, she simply drifted away and was gone.

I awoke sobbing, not for sorrow at her leaving, but for the joy of seeing her, the sheer pleasure of being able to hold her and tell her I loved her one more time, at the joyfulness of her words. The only words that would come as I lay there pondering this incredible appearance were “thank you, thank you.”

It was a special gift of God, given to me on the eve of my wedding to Peggy York, a wonderfully reassuring, comforting experience, as real and as precious as if it had taken place in real life. But then, who knows just where “real life” ends and “real life” begins?

Perhaps it is enough to know that God does indeed reveal Himself to humankind – in dreams, in apparitions, in voices, in impressions, in coincidences, and in a thousand other unexpected ways. It is the message of the Christmas story – that God makes Himself known to us mortals. Emanuel – God is with us.


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Weary World Rejoices [Advent]

By Ashlee Starr, Family Services Coordinator at Charis Community Housing

Last night was beautiful. We had been preparing for this night for months. It would be the first annual Christmas party in our neighborhood art garden… Continue reading

12.18.14

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