Preparing for Advent: Favorite Resources

One of the busiest and most stressful times of the year fast approaches. Christmas shopping, parties, children’s holiday programs, and numerous other end-of-the-year gatherings make the holiday season fraught with running around, anxiety, and feeling pulled in six different directions.

A great way to take time out from all these busy-ness is to spend a few minutes each day with a little book of devotions.  Sometimes a few minutes of peacefulness, quiet, and time to ponder what really matters in life goes a long way.  Advent – the time of preparing for Christmas – can become a time of truly preparing ourselves for new beginnings and new perspective on our lives and our challenges.

Here are some little devotional books for use during the Advent season:

Richard Rohr, Preparing for Christmas (Franciscan Media, 2008).  This little book is a terrific introduction to Richard Rohr’s theology, as well as a delight to those who are already fans.  At $3 for a paperback copy, this little gem is affordable for teacher gifts or other tokens of appreciation and support.

Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Henri J. M. Nouwen (Liguori, 2004).  This compilation of excerpts from Henri Nouwen’s work is a wonderful introduction to his books, as well as a nice collection of short devotionals – each with a scripture passage, prayer, and suggested action item.  About $12 in paperback only.

Advent with Evelyn Underhill (Morehouse, 2006).  The ultimate pre-Christmas gift for mystics.  It can mystically appear on your e-reader for about $10.  Hallelujah!

Advent and Christmas: Bridges to Contemplative Living with Thomas Merton (Ave Maria Press, 2010).  This is an excellent introduction to Merton for those not already familiar with his work.  There’s material for five weeks, designed for small groups (but can be used by individuals as well).  Plenty of references to other Merton works and other authors as well.  Print only, $5.95.

Ann Nichols, The Faith of St. Nick (Barbour Publishing, 2012).  This book is great for family devotionals or a short bedtime story with children during Advent.  These devotionals are focused on the “real” St. Nicholas and provide inspiration, thoughtfulness, and some early church history on a child’s level. This book appears to be out of print, but the Kindle edition is only $3.99 as of this writing.

Blessings for the pre-Advent season, Cindy

What is Teen Life in the Suburbs REALLY Like? Lifting the Lid Off The Wholesome Face of Suburbia (And Finding a Homeless Kid Living in My Daughter’s Closet)

When we think of the suburbs, we might automatically think of mostly white, middle-class, “normal” folks living in three bedroom “Knox Box” houses, a dog and a cat in tow.  We might think most of these people are fairly affluent, have extra money for vacations, cars, and spending money for their kids and their extracurricular activities.  This was my concept of Suburbia when I lived in town and only saw the suburbs from the car window while driving past the scores of subdivisions in and around West Knoxville.

It wasn’t until my teenagers attended public high school that I saw the realities of suburban life in Knoxville.  During my time as a mom of teenagers, we often hosted teens who were in over their heads in crisis.  Parents divorcing.  Parents in poverty.  Parents who can’t pay the mortgage and in the throes of losing their homes.  One young man showed up on Thanksgiving afternoon with no place to go and needing something to eat.  Another young lady ended up in my basement rec room, suicidal and needing someone to talk to.  Then there was the time I discovered a homeless teen living in my daughter’s closet (complete with cigarettes, condoms, drug paraphernalia, and a few of my son’s clothes someone had snatched for his use). 

At the same time as I experienced this, I worked for a Church that claimed to minister to youth through “confirmation programs,” “mission trips,” and youth group meetings that consisted of pizza parties, trips to Laser Quest, and scavenger hunts at the mall.  During these years, the best youth ministry I saw was carried out by an Evangelical congregation that ran a community service program for kids getting out of juvenile detention.  Little old ladies from the church taught wayward teen girls to cook for the homebound and make blankets for preemies in the local children’s hospital.  The teens in the program loved it.  Perhaps what they liked most was the one-on-one attention from mature adults and the opportunity to learn meaningful, practical skills.

I know there are indeed wholesome, “normal” people living in Suburbia.  Perhaps I am one of them.  Perhaps you are, too.  But the days of the “poor” or “needy” living in another part of town are over.  Poverty Next Door is the new face of Suburbia, complete with the drug use, unemployment, homelessness, crime, and other “problems” we previously associated with neighborhoods closer to the center of town.  This is the New Suburbia. 

For my followers:  The first two chapters of Runaway Kitty are available (for free) at this link: runaway-kitty-two-free-chapters

Cynthia Coe is the author of the newly released novel, Runway Kitty, the story of a 15 year old runaway teen who journeys through this New Suburbia after her family loses their “Knox Box” home to foreclosure.  She lives and works on her farm outside Knoxville, Tennessee.