Time Out

I think I’m taking a break, here. Although I’m doing short reflections daily for Advent on the church site blog, I’ve been less than active here.

Today, at least I think it was today, maybe yesterday, that shows how far I’m behind on email too, Michelle W. who’s part of the WordPress staff, posted Lights Out: How to Take a Holiday Hiatus (sort of an onomatopoeia Christmassy sound to that). The most important part for me is the permission to say I’m taking a break.

I’m taking a break.

Life, oddly enough, is sort of slowing down. Son-Who-Lives-With-Us left to visit his father and brother in Florida. We are home alone. Shopping, although not wrapping, is done; mailing is done (okay, there’s still a family email to do); baking for “my boys” is done and either on the way to San Diego or in above son’s suitcase heading to Florida. The calendar is emptying. So why the break?

Well, Christmas isn’t just the tree and lights and presents, although we dearly love those, but a more reflective, and I’ll venture to add, spiritual time for us. We talk story and remember our families and childhood; we sit and watch the sparkle on the tree; Cliff builds fires and we listen to Christmas music. But the most important thing we do is reflect on our journeys this past year: what we’ve learned; what we choose not to bring into the new year; what we want to develop.

Although I don’t write much about our religious life on this blog (that URL is above if you’re interested), you’ve probably heard a tone of it in my writing. That’s my focus at this time of year. Peace. Justice. Kindness. Joy. Reflection. With the spirit that is part of us all and called by many names.

It’s Hanukkah, the festival of lights; Solstice, the return of light; and Christmas, the rebirth of light. There’s Kwanzaa, the celebration of culture and the wisdom of elders (that’s it’s own kind of light). The Buddhists get left out of December holy days, and the Islamic new year was in the western month of October this year. But I expect we can all celebrate spirit and light at any time of year.

Celebrate. Rejoice in your light; your heritage; your life. And the most important resolution any of us can make for the New Year is to be kind. That’s all. Kind.

I may not be back until the second week of January. It takes a while for this old bear to roll out of hibernation; and we may be going up to the farm the first full week of January. I’ll return, I promise. In the meantime:

Peace be with you. And you. And you…….All are Welcome

..

.

 

The Trees Dance

The world is whirling past as I sit here in my upper room, a square of window my companion. For the past several months, it’s been me whirling and I’ve not had much time for this companionable time just watching. This morning, conscious of having time to stop and sit, I looked out to see silver-white clouds dashing northward across a fresh blue sky and an airplane flying southward like a silver arrow through clouds to some target I can only surmise. A stray browned oak leaf whirls past in a wind-gust. And tree tops, light and feathery and freed of their burden, dance like a troupe of upside down ballerina legs on the sky, swaying to a song I cannot hear.

I am gifted by beauty, by quiet, by time.

A little booklet, “Advent Meditations from the Works of Henri J.M. Nouwen” sits by my side. From Monday, First Week of Advent, he writes about a meeting an old professor at Notre Dame who said, “I have always been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted until I slowly discovered that my interruptions were my work.”

Each year when I read this meditation, I am reminded again of my own need to learn how complaints are my work. This fall, I’ve complained of being too busy, of being too tired, usually adding that life has also been filled with all kinds of gifts during this busy time – a book contract, working on a film, travel. And yet, the complaining, even if silent and to myself, seems to come more often than recognizing I had something to learn from the experience of weariness.

Nouwen goes on, “when we believe that patience can make our expectations grow, then fate can be converted into a vocation, wounds into a call for deeper understanding, and sadness into a birthplace of joy.”

Last evening I read a Facebook post from a poet-friend, Judith Bader Jones. She said she was clearing her calendar for the season to write poetry and bake cookies. Sounds like a plan.

Our tree is up, lights on the windows, and the semester coming to an end. If I grow tired in the coming weeks, I’ll practice understanding instead of impatience. I’ll practice watching and waiting for the rebirth of light.

The Creator of the Universe comes to us in these small ways – a dancing tree, a swaying leaf, a moment for reflection.

I offer those same small gifts to you.

.

The Journey to Light

journeyAdvent begins tomorrow. This season brings a certain peace if we’re willing to remember and define a peace for ourselves. We always have a choice: bemoan the hustle and bustle and commercialism, get caught up in the turmoil of finding the right gift or impressive holiday decorations or the fabulous party outfit or the best sale, or we can turn within to wait for rebirth.

The value of having a spiritual life, regardless of the religion or the lack of religion, is remembering and celebrating rebirth.

There’s no doubt it’s been a stressful and chaotic year—from wars and rebellion to drought to flood to an acrimonious election season that seemed never-ending. And it’s not just the external out-there world in chaos: families have grieved a death or divorce, children have been hurt, adults suffered. We’ve each had our share of aches and hurt.

A long year of endless change and turmoil, re-doing, re-evaluating, reviewing, and nothing ever seemed done-done. There was always another detail, another “hanging chad” to reckon with. The to-do lists have grown, the marking off of the to-dos has become elusive.

And yet. It’s Advent.

Each December we have four weeks to watch and wait: for Solstice, Hanukah, Christmas, Bodhi Day, the New Year. Regardless of our tradition, every year we have four weeks to reflect and welcome the rebirth of light. Every year, we have an invitation to open ourselves to the faith-filled journey that we, and the world, will renew, that we will go on.

In our house, we celebrate Christmas, but we also celebrate Solstice. The earth tips, even if we don’t notice, and begins its journey back to summer. We all have a chance to be rebirthed in light.

The pause in the earth’s tipping has been a sacred time of reckoning for people since ancient times, and in our family for a very long time. Perhaps it comes from being people of the land, attached to farm and sky and earth.

I remember my mother marking the place in the middle of the winter-bare lilac bush, lonely at the far corner of the yard. It was her yardstick in the march of seasons. As December progressed, she’d look out the west window to see the sun set, to watch its glow as it passed through the far edge of the twiggy bush toward the center. And then the earth paused, and she watched as the sun began its journey north again, out of the lilac bush and into open sky.

Dad, and those of us kids who worked outside (and all of us did at one time or another) watched the gathering stars as we trudged back to the house after evening chores. I don’t know which bright star we followed (Venus setting that year? Jupiter on the horizon? Sirius?) but we all learned to follow a star, our star, in one way or another.

Will you remind yourself to take time to enjoy these four short weeks? If the earth can pause, so can we.

Which star will you follow this season of December? Which journey will you make?

.