Please come and join us for Christmas Eve Candlelight service beginning at 8:30pm. All are welcome in the circle of light!
This morning, the news from Boston is crowding most of our minds and pressing on our hearts. What to do to express our care? How to process the baffled pain that so many are feeling? It takes incredible courage to live in the world today and not get sucked in by the negativity. It takes courage to stand up to the violence that keeps rearing up in unexpected places, and even in the places we have long since given up on. It takes courage to say, “I choose to live by love, by the power of love,” and not give in to the fear that lies in wait.
For me, this courage draws its strength from faith, from faith that there is a force for good in the world. Some call this “God”, some call it “Love”, while others are not so comfortable with naming something this powerful, this profound. But whatever your preference, there is a power that is stronger than fear. It needs to be fed, though.
We need to feed the power of Love so that it has the strength to support us, the power to change the way we interact with one another, the way we envision the world. You feed Love by caring for the person next to you, saying “hi” to folks you pass on the street, making eye contact with coworkers and cashiers. You feed Love by holding that space at the very center of your breath and your heart open, not letting it get crowded out by fear or despair. Breathing Love in and out.
Good can prevail, but it needs us, every one of us.
Sometimes blessings are hard to recognize.
They slip in barely noticed
Behind our grief and loss,
Or under the pain of brokenness.
The Christ Child came
To a world no less broken than ours,
No less filled with grief and loss.
Our God knows who we are
And what we mourn.
Our God comes, yet again,
A child come to save us,
A child filled with wisdom, yes,
And love too,
Bringing peace and hope to all people.
This is a difficult Christmas season, as we deal with the recent tragedy in Connecticut. It is hard to come to grips with the fact that we live in a world in which such tragedy happens, a world where children are targeted by violence and evil. We are challenged to find a sense of balance, let alone the joy that is supposed to accompany this season. But this is precisely the world that God sent Jesus into. We are the very people who need to hear some Good News.
God came to heal the brokenness that exists in our hearts, in our families and communities, and in the world at large. By becoming human, God brought love to life in flesh and blood, showing us that it can be done, that hope is possible. It isn’t easy to face up to challenges of this world, and it can take a large toll on the spirit – human or otherwise, but it is possible.
It is my hope that, in this season of celebrating the birth of Christ, we might capture also a sense of all of the other possibilities that are being born into our lives. May we celebrate the love and joy that we share with family and friends. May we celebrate the peace that comes as we sit by the fire or gather with loved ones. May we celebrate the hope that casts a glimmer of light on our spirits as we turn our attention toward a small figure born into a manger in Bethlehem… and born into our hearts.
May you be blessed this Christmas,
I took a walk with our 21-year-old cat, Olive, today. She is not eating much anymore, and seems to live on direct sunlight, as plants do. I know she cannot photosynthesize the sunlight, but it seems like a good thing for her, and so when she meowed to go outside, I took her out, set her on the grass and we walked down to the garden together. My intent had been to grade papers this afternoon, but when Olive contentedly settled into a soft place in the garden, nestled in the shadow of a tuft of grass and mustard, I decided instead to do some weeding so that she could enjoy a little time outside.
When life is nearing the end, choices become so much simpler. Being in the moment, in the garden, was the only thing to be done, the only place to be, when it was what Olive wanted and needed.
Death and making the transition from this life to whatever comes next, has been on my mind recently. It’s not exactly a subject we carry in the forefront of our thoughts, and yet something that we all do need to face at some point. My father-in-law passed away a few weeks ago, and all who gathered around his bed at the end agreed that it was “a good death.” Even the hospice staff, commented on how well he was accompanied in this final transition of his life. His children read from some of his favorite books, played music and sang for him, spoke of deep things, of their dreams and hopes, of the many accomplishments of his life, and simply sat with him, holding a hand, communicating with eyes and touch once words ceased to be useful.
John O’Donohue, the Irish priest and poet speaks of death walking beside us throughout our lives, not in a way that is meant to threaten or frighten us, but rather as a reminder that this opportunity to live our one amazing life should not be taken lightly. He closes his blessing “On Death” saying,
“And decide carefully / how you now can live / the life you would love / to look back on from your deathbed.”
Living well gives us pleasure in the present, as my hour in the garden with Olive gave me today, but it also allows us to eventually leave this life with a deep contentment, knowing we have done what we could. We can die in peace, knowing we have answered and lived into the calling of our spirit and of our destiny.
This springtime, as so much comes to life around us, maybe we can feel ourselves participating in the fullness of the circle of life, and be grateful for the gifts… so many gifts that surround us and make our lives good.
As Christians these days, we have the luxury of jumping directly from Palm Sunday to Easter, from celebration to celebration. And yet, if we dare to go into the darkness that is Holy Week, we discover a depth to our faith that simply cannot be gained without going into the dark. Betrayal, brokenness, fear, all of these are a part of the journey. Faith actually makes more sense when we have ventured into the depths a bit, when we come face to face with our faults and failings. Faith makes more sense when we are honest with ourselves about the realities of our brokenness and our inability to carry everything on our shoulders all of the time. Resurrection makes more sense when there is something or someone (us?) to be resurrected. In what ways do we identify with events such as the Last Supper, Good Friday and the crucifixion, with the silence of the Saturday? How do we experience them in our lives and in our souls?
Iona, Scotland on a full moon night 2011.
A new web site, a new blog, a new way of getting information and inspiration out into the community. This is all pretty exciting, even though many folks have been at this for years now.
I am writing this blog just past the Spring Equinox – when the daylight and darkness are balanced. Thoughts of what it takes to live a balanced life come to mind. Balance between “doing” and “being” is probably the most challenging for most of us! How do we find the time to sit down and rest, let our souls catch up with the rest of us? How do we ensure that each day has a bit of time and space reserved for renewal? (We usually do pretty well with giving the “doing” part of the day plenty of space and time.)
As an approach to the Equinox, why not look at the balance in your day, and just for today, see if you can ensure that your “being” has enough room to breathe, and that you do too.