We’ve made it beloveds! Countdown to Christmas and we’ve come to the last Advent candle (okay, Christmas Eve to go, but you know what I mean): LOVE. Such a powerful word so full of meaning. And the subject of so many stories… but I thought I’d share this one I found. It’s a true story about a man named Dashrath Manijhi who lived in a small village in India, who managed to carve his way into the history books — literally.

Dashrath was born in 1929 into a poor family. As a young man, he had his eye on a pretty girl named Falguni Devi, but she was beyond his caste and “out of his league”. Her father refused to let the two marry. Yet, love is a stronger force than man-made prejudices, and the couple ran off and married alone, and raised two children near the base of a giant mountain. One day when Falguni was walking along the rocky edge of the mountain carrying a meager lunch for her day labourer husband, she slipped and fell and seriously injured herself. Her beloved husband rushed to her aid and made the incredible journey around the mountainside to the only hospital nearby. Unfortunately, the journey was just too long and Falguni succumbed to her injuries and died.

Dashrath was obviously devastated and vowed to “move a mountain” in response. Like Noah building an ark in the middle of a drought, he was mocked and ridiculed for chiselling his way through the rocky mountain, forming a direct route to the neighbouring town’s hospital! Dashrath attempted to seek help from India’s government at one point and took a train to Delhi to meet with leadership and plead his case, but was kicked off the car because he didn’t have a paid ticket! Legend says he walked the remaining 1000km. It took 22 years (from 1960-1982) to single-handedly carve his way through the mountain, using only a chisel and hammer, but the “mountain man” eventually created a path 360 feet in length, 30 feet high and 25 feet wide. Because of his determination and love for his wife, the distance between the districts of Atri and Wazirganj has been reduced from 55 km to a mere 15km. A gate marks the original pathway carved “with love”.

The gateway to the path carved through a mountain!

And so we reflect on the final advent candle. A powerful reminder of God’s love for a broken world. A love so deep He sent His only son to earth to heal our brokenness. This is what Advent anticipation is … waiting for the Savior to arrive. Our paths were not promised to be easy. There are falls, hurts, and even death along the road, but love makes a way. He chisels through our hardened hearts and quickens the path to safety. As we enter the final countdown to Christmas, let us be reminded that this season is not about trees, presents and good food (as much as I love good food!) it is truly about God’s love for us. Be blessed!

The Journey of Joy

We’ve come to the last week of Advent: JOY! Many of you know I’ve mused about Joy before, so this topic is no stranger to mittonmusings. Therefore, without further chit-chat, let’s tell our little story for “Joy” as per our advent theme this year.

(Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013 “Saint Irene”, Rethymnon )

One summer evening long ago, a country farmer clanged hard on the knocker of the village’s tiny monastery. The elderly monk who tended the gate and the surrounding herb gardens slowly made his way toward the wrought iron fence. “Good sir!” the farmer exclaimed “I have brought you a gift! The finest grapes from my vineyards! Surely they will be so sweet to taste!” “Thank you… I am sure the Abbott will appreciate your fine donation.” “Oh no, they are not for the Abbott, but for you, because when I come to the gate, it is you who opens it, and you who brought me bread when my crops failed because of the drought, and you who tends the herbs so patiently.”

The monk thanked the kind farmer and placed the bundle of grapes in his garden basket. After admiring them all morning, he finally decided he would indeed take the grapes to the Abbott, for the Abbott shared wise words and treated the elderly monk kindly. The Abbott was pleased with the gift but was aware of a brother laid up in the infirmary who was quite ill. “The grapes look so sweet,” he thought, “This sick brother will appreciate them so much more than I, for his time is short and he has fewer joys to relish in his time left.”

The brother in the infirmary plucked a single grape from the bunch. He held it on his tongue and tasted the sweet juices. “So marvellous!” he thought. “But the entire bunch is too much for me. I will share them with the cook who brings me my nourishing meals each day and brings me physical strength in my hour of need.”

The next morning, after the breakfast meal, the cook gathered up the bundle along with the leftovers. In the kitchen, he admired the grapes and appreciated their fine quality. “I must share these with the sexton, who truly understands the handiwork of God in nature. They will bring him such joy!” thought the cook who then prepared the sexton’s lunch of bread and cheese. He tucked the bundle of grapes beside the warm loaf.

An hour later, the sexton sat down with the novice apprentice he had been mentoring. “Look at this fine treat!” declared the sexton! He popped a grape in his mouth and passed the bunch to the novice. “See, God’s design is perfect. He delights in giving us good gifts if we take care of His world.” When the novice accepted the offer, he was reminded of his first encounter with the tiny village monastery, and the kind, elderly monk who welcomed him at the iron gate.

And so, just before nightfall, the grapes made their way full circle. “Enjoy them, my friend” the apprentice beamed. The monk smiled and took the cluster of grapes back to his modest room. He savoured each sweet morsel and wiped the juice from his chin. With true joy in his heart, he fell into a pleasant sleep, comforted by the assurance that God was watching over him always as he carried on with God’s work each day.

And so it is, my friends. True joy bubbles out of a heart changed by God. It cannot be contained but spreads from person to person. It takes on a life of its own and the sweetness of it begs to be shared. As we await the final days of Christmas — remember to share Joy!

Did you like that little muse about Joy? Here are some others we’ve shared over the years:

Another Advent Devotion

Joy Photography

Joy even during COVID?

Finding Peace in the Storm

Welcome to the second week of Advent… the candle of Peace. Following our theme this year, let me tell you another little story.

In a far, far away land, a wealthy king decided to decorate the hallways of his grand home by holding a contest. He offered a substantial award to the artist who could depict “peace” in a painting. Artists from far and wide got to work. They presented the king with various peaceful renditions: snow-covered fields, baskets of flowers and fruits, children playing, and musical orchestras, but the king settled on two paintings of the kingdom’s nearby mountains.

The first was a painting of the valley’s lake in summer. The lush green mountainside towered over the still, clear water, the mountains reflected back at the beaming sun, disturbed only by the dusting of clouds in the clear blue sky. Wildflowers dotted the mountains. Many of the townspeople thought this was obviously the winner of the contest, for the painting surely exemplified “peace”.

The king mulled it over, appreciating its beauty, but passed it over for the final piece. The second painting was also one of the surrounding mountains and valley lake. Yet, this painting was dark and stormy. The mountains were in the shadows, lit only by a giant lightning bolt. The lake was swirled in a tempest of turbulent waves and whitecaps. No flowers dotted the countryside, only deep forests of fir trees. “This masterpiece will hang in my halls, as it depicts the truest “peace”” declared the king, “Do you see it? Tucked in here, beside the tallest fir tree in the shadows? A simple nest where momma bird sits quietly on her clutch of eggs, protected from the raging storm.”

True peace is when we can find calm despite the noise from the outside world. God-given peace of mind is not affected by the state of one’s surroundings, it comes from our hearts. Sometimes that means changing our perspectives. It was easy to see peace in the first painting of the summer sun. But the king had to look deep into the storm to find the nest. The bird knew she could not change the rain, but she could wait it out. The Holy Spirit helps us see the things we can change and the things we cannot change. He helps us look deep within and find what we need to carry on.

Another thoughtful muse by an unknown author (again adapted by me for you!) to remind us this week, that there are no promises that life will be endless summer days filled with wildflowers. There will be times when God will allow the tempests to rage deep into the shadows of our lives. True peace comes when we tuck ourselves in, knowing that God’s presence will guard and protect us — even in the middle of the storm. Only then are we truly able to shield others from similar storms.

And so, my beloveds, as we walk through this second week of Advent, remember that storms will come!

26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 14:26,27