Advent Devotional 10 – 2020

Today’s reflection comes from the kind and dedicated Gabe Gutiérrez.  Gabe serves as the Director of Campus Ministry for TCU Catholic. Gabe is from Arlington, TX, where he lives with his wife and four children. He loves God, his family, and the Texas Rangers.

Reading: John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Reflection:

“Dad, how many more days until Christmas?”

I cannot tell you the number of times over the last month that my 6-year-old son has asked me this question. In our house there are multiple calendars and advent calendars. Our neighbor has a digital countdown to Christmas projected up onto their house (just for my kids to see), and in spite of the answer being everywhere around him, he asks.

For my son, and for most kids, Christmas is huge. It’s a time that brings excitement, joy, love…..and of course gifts. As each day passes, his anticipation and excitement builds. I can’t blame him, I love Christmas too.

We live in crazy times. For my family and for so many others, this year has been marked by chaos, loss, and uncertainty. Yet, this advent I too am getting swept up in the same excitement that is permeating my household. This year, each day that Christmas approaches my anticipation grows. I can’t wait to once again celebrate and remember the great gift of love that is God’s only son, Jesus, breaking into our reality.

Christ, the light of the world, much like that first Christmas, comes in the midst tumult and confusion to bring faith, hope, and love. In this time of the year, when the nights grow longer, let us remember that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

How many more days until Christmas?

Let us pray.

Christ be our light and fill us with your love.

Amen.

Advent Devotional 9 – 2020

Our reflection today comes from Margeaux Manshel.  Margeaux, from New Orleans, LA, is a psychology major with a minor in sociology. A member of TCU Catholic, she has always loved doing service work and using service opportunities as a way to spread unimaginable joy to others.  You can spot her lighting a candle in the Carols by Candlelight video!

Reading:  Romans 15:13

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

Reflection:

As 2020 comes to a close, we start to look back at the year and see how far we have come.

When we take a step back, we tend to first look at the negative aspects of the year that we have all just been through. Even though there were negatives, when you truly ponder about the past year, you begin to notice that the positives of 2020 outweigh the negatives. For instance, the Covid-19 pandemic began near the end of my senior year of high school, and I thought we were just getting two weeks off of school. I saw it as a blessing and hey, no more homework! But as time became blurry and the weeks grew long, I no longer saw it as a blessing.

However, I wanted to change my mindset and grow closer with my Mom and Dad, so that’s what I began to do. As Covid-19 may have taken away my senior year, it did not take away the joy I had with my family. In fact, by being home all the time, I got to hang out with my parents every night because all extracurriculars were cancelled. I could sit at home and watch movies, bake, and cook and really gain joy from my parents and the experiences we endured together.

Romans talks about joy and peace, and I noticed that the littlest things such as spending time with your family can continue that feeling of peace within. I feel that now that I am in college, and I have a bigger crowd to speak to, I would like to share a saying that the President of my high school back in New Orleans, Sister Camille Anne Campbell, shared with us every year during Advent.

She would always look at us and say, “Now girls, what does Joy stand for again?”

And in unison we would join with her and say, “Jesus, Others, and Yourself.”

Through that quote and the one provided above from Romans, joy can be brought in many ways. By looking back and seeing the growth that Jesus, others, and yourself have gone through this past year, I would give yourself a pat on the back and hug those closest to you because you did it and as Sister Camille Anne would say, “Jesus, others, and yourself should be proud. Now go and spread joy!”

Prayer:

Dear God, we pray that you help others find joy within this Advent season and to truly reflect on this past year and count our blessings.

Advent Devotional 8 – 2020

Hello, readers!  Today’s reflection comes from TCU graduate student Emily Sagraves.  Emily is a 2nd year master’s student in the Higher Education Leadership program at TCU, and she is the graduate assistant for TCU Student Activities.  She also served as an intern for our office this year and ran two book groups (she led us through Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection and Mari Andrew’s Am I There Yet?).   She was such a terrific intern that we begged her to stay on an extra semester; thankfully, she said yes!

 Reading:

Psalm 30:5b NKJV

Weeping may endure for a night,

But joy comes in the morning.

 Reflection:

Is it morning yet?

I think we can all agree that 2020 has been one of the longest years. I can still remember exactly where I was when the world seemingly stopped and we were told that lockdown was in effect. My roommate and I spent the days watching late night tv and eating copious amounts of comfort food (aka Torchy’s guacamole), and the experience was riddled with both laughter and tears.

Despite all of this, there have been glimmers of joy that I have been able to cling to. My cancelled internship turned into an entire summer at home with my family in the Wyoming mountains, my hesitance toward using Zoom became a way to meet people where they are, and the cancellation of in-person events led to an abundance of creativity in my work. This year has felt like one continuous night, with no light at the end of the tunnel in sight. However, morning is coming!

As the Psalmist writes, and as we think toward 2021, joy is coming in the morning! The darkness and weeping of 2020 is almost over and we will be able to move to a fresh start and a new morning with 2021. Let us reflect on the blessings that God has given us this year and hold on to hope for the blessings to come in 2021, for “The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12 ESV).

Prayer:

 God, please guide us through the night and continuously remind us that You never stray and You will bring joy in the morning. Even in our darkest times, You are by our side through it all, ready to celebrate with joy! Thank you for your continuous provisions and for the joy and hope that we have in You.

Advent Devotional 7 -2020

Today’s devotional comes from TCU student Brian Dickson Jr. (’22).  Brian is an Art Education major, a leader in TCU Black Student Association (BSA), and he is also the president of the TCU Gospel Choir.  If you haven’t watched their performance yet in the TCU Carols by Candlelight video, be sure to do so; you will spot him right in front!

Reading:  Habakkuk 3:17-19

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails, and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to tread on the heights.”

Reflection:

 It is common to confuse happiness and joy. Happiness is a temporary feeling that comes and goes as you accomplish or gain something that pleases your flesh but leaves your soul hungry.  Joy is a fire that is lit deep within and its flame continues through your trust and faith in God.

Joy is all about being fulfilled and satisfied with knowing you will always have God. In his word, He tells us that He will never leave us nor forsake us, and just knowing that brings joy and comfort to the heart. This life was not made to be easy; it comes with trials and tribulations that are a part of God’s plan and in order to truly obtain joy, you must trust in God’s will. He knows what our future holds, and though tomorrow is not promised, His everlasting love and salvation is forever guaranteed.

“How can you smile and be happy during a pandemic, or while the world is on fire?” The dark clouds of doubt will try to settle in your heart, yet your heart is a temple for the Holy Spirit and God’s light. No matter how hard life gets, nothing and no one can take away the joy of knowing my life is in God’s hands. He has brought me out of many terrible situations, and nothing is too big for him to handle. He is a sovereign God, and he has already won. We will get through this and overcome anything else the enemy attempts to use to break our faith and optimism.

Prayer:

Father God,

Humbly I come before you and ask that you touch our hearts, and comfort us in these trying times. Helps us understand the true definition of Joy and give us peace and strength to handle any and all adversities.

Amen.

Advent Devotional 6 – 2020

Reading:

Furrows, be glad. Though earth is bare,
One more seed is planted there:
Give up your strength the seed to nourish,
That in course the flower may flourish.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the rose, is on the way.

Lyrics from People Look East, a hymn by Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965), 1928

Reflection:

Maranatha is an Aramaic phrase that appears once in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 16:22).  Often, it is translated to “Come, Lord Jesus.” In my family, we often say it during Advent, perhaps after lighting a candle on our Advent wreath and saying a prayer.  When I take the time to pray the Daily Examen, I often begin by repeating Maranatha, come Lord Jesus while taking deep breaths. This is my personal cue: it’s time for prayer.

As I was thinking about this word this year, though, the word marathon keeps popping into my mind instead.  Remember back in March, when many of us were sent home and asked to work from home?  And my children were sent home from daycare, too?  Those early weeks of this pandemic were a sprint.  Each morning, my husband and I looked at our calendars. I have important zoom meetings from 9-10:30; can you take the kids on a walk? //    Sure, yes, I guess.  But I will need to email my 10am appointment and ask if she can talk later. //   Remember the playground is locked up, so you shouldn’t’ walk past it. // Wait, does the baby have a fever?  No. No, she’s fine.  I’m crazy. //

Did your March feel like that, too?  And your April? And May, and June, and July?  And maybe your August and September and October and November and goodness I can’t sprint this long.  No one can. 

It’s a marathon, friends.  This year has been a marathon for me, and I have to stop pretending I can sprint.  

I looked up the word marathon, and it basically means “a place full of fennels” in Greek.  So there’s no magic answer to the stress we all feel in that etymology.  Instead, I make myself pivot back to Maranatha, come Lord Jesus.  

Maranatha.  

Slowing my breath down, as I do on my early morning runs, so that I don’t lose it completely.  

Maranatha. 

Repeating this plea to God so that I feel God’s presence in this moment.  

Maranatha.

Forcing myself to stay present and to sit still long enough to remember that the God who made me is with me still. 

Prayer:

I invite you to sit still for a few minutes.  Try taking three to five deep breaths.  And between each breath, gently say to yourself, “Maranatha, come Lord Jesus.”

 

Britt Luby, Associate Chaplain TCU Office of Religious and Spiritual Life 

Advent Devotional 5 -2020

Today’s reflection comes from Father Jonathan Wallis.  Fr. Wallis serves as the Director and Chaplain for the TCU Newman Center.  He also serves as the Vicar General for the Diocese of Fort Worth.  His connection with TCU is lengthy, having graduated in 1996 with a degree in Music Education.  We are lucky to have him back in Fort Worth and supporting our Catholic students on campus.

Reading:

John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.

Reflection:

Growing up in more northern climes, the first snowfall of the year brought great joy and peace to my heart. The regular world was not just covered over but transformed. Barren, leafless trees took on a new splendor draped in snow and ice. Landscapes that were familiar revealed different aspects under a blanket of snow.

There was a hush that fell outside that was not unnatural, but certainly was not normal. The regular pattern of life was interrupted by a moment of quiet and peace. I imagine that the peace Christ gives us is something like the first snowfall of the year.

In the season of Advent, we prepare for the coming of Christ — the Prince of Peace. The season of Advent offers a pause in the regular rhythms and preoccupations of life. We have the opportunity to see the old and familiar from a new perspective. We are offered a moment of transformation.

The first snowfall of the year offered the opportunity to see a wonderful connection between the old and the new. Familiar landscapes were transformed by a new covering of snow. The coming of Christ offers us the same opportunity; we see what is old and familiar in our lives and how they may be transformed by Christ.

In this time of Advent, let us see our lives from a new perspective. May we see how they may be transformed by Christ and his peace.

Let us pray.

Lord,
We ask that you renew the gift of peace in our hearts.
Grant us the grace to be instruments of your transforming peace in the world.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Advent Devotional 4 – 2020

Our devotional today comes from TCU student Erin Carter.  She is a freshman Religion and Psychology double major. Erin is part of TCU RUF, TCU Delight, and Gamma Phi Beta. She is also a member of Calling in Action (CIA), a Christian student dance organization on campus.  You can check out her sister, Audrey, and several other members of TCU CIA in their Carols by Candlelight performance.  A link to our first-ever digital Carols by Candlelight service will be shared this afternoon!

Reading:

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid”.  (John 14:27)

Reflection:

Throughout the past four months, my life has felt like waves crashing over me time and time again. As soon as one is gone, the tide comes back in only to be stronger and more powerful than ever before. This year has been nothing but heartbreak after heartbreak for me. I have been exhausted from hearing continuous bad news not only for the world as a whole but also in personal matters; I have found myself searching and yearning just for a breath of air between each crashing wave. Not only have I been trekking through a season of loneliness and hopelessness, but so have all those around me, ranging from my family, to close friends, to strangers.

No matter what is happening personally, peace is something so many of us desire but lack the strive for. We get so caught up in the way the world presents peace to the point where we forget that the Lord is waiting patiently for us to come running back to Him to ask for true peace. We need to check ourselves and ask if we’re only searching for peace in the world that creates instant results (such as self-care nights with facemasks and Netflix breaks) or if we are searching for an everlasting peace of The Lord that is for His ultimate glory.

“Peace,” a song by Bethel Music, has been such a reminder for me to fully lay my life down before Jesus in these moments where I seek for peace.

“Peace

Holds me when I’m broken

Sweet peace

That passes understanding

When the whole wide world is crashing down

I fall to my knees

And breathe in Your peace”

Prayer: 

Jesus, thank you for a season of brokenness because it gives us opportunity to grow closer to You. Remind us that You have not let us go in the midst of chaos. Lord, You bring everlasting peace for Your glory and it is so hard to remember sometimes. Allow us to focus on You and Your peace rather than worldly and temporary pleasures. Amen.

Advent Devotional 3 – 2020

Our devotional today comes from Dr. Kay Higgins who, after 43 (!) years of service, is retiring from TCU.  She currently serves as Associate Dean of Student Development & Director of Parent & Family Programs.  You can read her bio and several loving testaments about Dr. Higgins on this website (Do it!  Go read!  She’s incredible!).  As my colleague Rev. Lea McCracken writes, “Kay has been the backbone of the TCU family experience for four decades.  Her presence, devotion, and hard work over the years has defined the love, honor, and pride of our Horned Frog families.  Her legacy forever shapes how we all bleed purple.”

Thoughts on HOPE

Reading:

Ephesians 1:17 – 19:  17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

Reflection:

“I hope you will come to see me this weekend.”  “I hope I get what I want for my birthday.”  I hope I make a 100 on my Calculus test.”

We use the word “hope” often.  The hope we reference here is grounded in some anticipation with an ample amount of doubt or uncertainty thrown into the desire, in another word, “wishful thinking.”

Biblical Hope is the confident expectation of what our future will be when we allow ourselves to focus on God and who God is calling us to be. In trying to be more like God, we are in fact living out the hopefulness God has given to us.

Bob Goff (b.1959) is an American lawyer. He serves as the founder and president of Restore International, a non-profit organization that alleviates atrocities and injustices committed against children in Uganda, Iraq, Nepal, Somalia, and India. He is also the author of the New York Times best-selling book Love Does.

In an interview titled, Thoughts on Hope, when asked, “What is your definition of hope? Bob Goff responded: “I think of hope and expectation a lot. They kind of have the same birth parents: anticipation. Sometimes expectation gets a bad rap. I think you should be constantly expecting everything. Just don’t expect things from each other. But expect that God’s going to do terrific things by you, through you, and hopefully because of you. Living constantly in anticipation and expectation. That’s what hope means to me.”

For what more could we ask?

Prayer:

Oh Creator, on this day, we give you thanks for the confident hope that our focus should be on you.  In focusing on you, we will more loving, more caring, and seek more justice than we could have ever accomplished alone.  In the name of the one whose birth we anticipate,  Amen.

Advent Devotional 2 – 2020

Our second devotional comes from TCU senior Kalina Fajardo.  Kalina is a senior music education major from Fort Worth, Texas. She is an RA, a member of multiple choirs and Christian organizations, and she leads TCU’s Latter-Day Saint Student Association (@tcu.ldssa).  If you meet her, you will quickly notice that she radiates kindness and positivity.  Truly: it’s almost magical.  You can see her read in our 2020 virtual Carols by Candlelight video coming out on 12/7!

Reading:

2 Nephi 4:16 “For my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard.”

Reflection:

Over the past eight months, my mind has been racing. Sometimes I feel like it runs its own race, and it takes great effort persuade it to come along with me and focus on my zoom class, engage in conversation with my friends and neighbors, or spend time in prayer. Most often, my mind likes to linger on things I consider to be “lost”: half of my study abroad semester, a productive summer travelling and working summer camps, singing close to my friends again, getting to hug people whenever I feel like it. When my mind travels this familiar path of mourning, I am far from delight. I’m usually also far from any productive thought process as well.

These words from the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi sank into my heart, the way much-needed advice often does, “my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually”. While my mourning certainly has its place, I can choose to ponder on the things of the Lord instead. Rather than relive my losses, I can delight in my spiritual memories. I can remember the Lord and remember the ways He has lifted me and blessed me in times past, with the assurance that He will continue to do so.

During this season, let us choose to balance our racing thoughts of disappointment and grief with memories of when the Lord has been good to us. Let us remember, ponder, and delight in the things of the Lord, and in our personal witness of Him. Let us use this delight to bring joy and hope to others.

Let us pray. 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the ways You have been present and involved in our lives every step of the way. Thank You for the ways you have come through for us, for the blessings both visible and invisible to us. Please bless us with the strength and peace to remember You and to delight in Your word and Your presence. Show us the way. Amen.

Advent Devotional 1 – 2020

Welcome, dear ones, to the 2020 Advent Devotionals.  We are excited to bring these stories from our Horned Frog family to your inbox at the end of a long, strange, year.  As always, you can find past devotionals on our website.  In addition, it’s easy to sign up to receive devotionals on our website, too, so be sure and share with folks who might like to read along with you!   If you no longer wish to be on our subscriber list, please respond to this message and simply write “unsubscribe.”

Our first Advent Devotional comes to us from Rev. Eddie Kahler.  Rev. Kahler started serving the TCU Wesley Foundation as pastor/director this fall, and we are thrilled to have him here supporting our students. He is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church.

Reading:

Midnight, Christians, is the solemn hour,

When God as man descended unto us

To erase the stain of original sin

And to end the wrath of His Father.

The entire world thrills with hope

On this night that gives it a Saviour.

 

People, kneel down, await your deliverance.

Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer,

Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer!

 

(From “Midnight Christians,” by Placide Cappeau.

The poem for which the carol, “O Holy Night” is based.)

 

______________________________

 

Reflection:

I’m tired of waiting.

Ever since the pandemic started, I’ve been looking forward to the day it will have passed. At first I thought, “Surely by mid-summer this will all be over.” Then summer turned to fall and fall has now turned to winter. My wife decided early on not to take my optimistic approach, but to instead plan on the virus sticking around indefinitely until told otherwise. She was determined not to get her hopes up.

I have resigned to her approach. Most of us have done the same in an effort to keep ourselves mentally ready for disappointment, prolongment, and exhaustion. We’ve convinced ourselves that the best way to protect our well-being is to not get our hopes up. Be tough. Don’t let your guard down. Don’t set yourself up to be hurt later when things don’t turn out the way you want them to.

It is too bad the season of Advent calls for hope anyway.

In the poem above, the writer declares that because of Christmas the “entire world thrills with hope,” solely because a savior has been given to us. God has torn open the heavens and come down in the person of Jesus (Isa 64). We all desperately long for this message and this Christmas we get to receive it once again.

As I think about how badly I desire the dumpster fire of 2020 to end, I realize that 2021 is not the thing for which I should get my hopes up. That too will bring disappointment. All the struggles of December 31, 2020 will still be there the next day. So how does one hope this Advent? We can place our hope in Christ, not in 2021.

“People, kneel down, await your deliverance. Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer!”

God has come to us and done something about 2020. God has even done something about the mess that is our lives in the person of Jesus. The world thrilled with hope all those years ago and there is still reason to hope today. Christ redeems all, even 2020.

I encourage you to no longer set your expectations low on what God is doing. Be vulnerable enough to still have hope. God, after all, is with us. Here is the Redeemer!

Prayer:

Dear God, help us get our hopes up for receiving your gift this Christmas even in what has been a hopeless year.