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Archive for December, 2007

Christmas Eve

 

In him was life and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4,5)

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Photo by Carolyn Shelton, 2007.  All rights Reserved

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My daughter performed in a production of “The Children’s Nutcracker” with her ballet studio this weekend. She was in her element. Take one girly girl and combine her with pink chiffon, sequins, lipstick and a chance to be on stage (and backstage) with her friends and you have all the makings for an ecstatic experience (at least in my daughter’s eyes.) She was not nervous and by the second performance was running around like she owned the place.

As I sat and watched all four performances I became aware of an upwelling of emotion at various points. This was not an emotional response to seeing “my baby” growing up as I might have thought but something different and it took me some time to understand what I was feeling. Sitting in the darkened theater I felt myself immersed in beauty and abundance. As I watched these beautiful young people I was aware of just how privileged and fortunate they are. They are healthy. They have parents (or someone) who is committed enough to get them to rehearsals and make sure they have the equipment they need to participate. They are Americans so they enjoy a standard of living that is only a distant dream for many around the globe. They get a chance to learn to dance and to be surrounded by beauty. As I experienced Tchaivosky’s “Waltz of the Flowers,” enchanted by the music and the young dancers who looked very much like beautiful flowers, I found myself saying a prayer of thanks to God for the gift of beauty and music and the abundance that makes it possible for me to partake in such a feast for the senses.

The sweetness of the experience was tempered only by the knowledge that so many of our fellow humans will never know abundance but will spend much of their lives struggling just to have enough. The contrast of these dual realities brings to mind the story of the nativity in which the jubilant proclamation of the Angels to the shepherds regarding the birth of Jesus is contrasted with the humble stable which housed him and the violence that followed his life. We live in the paradox of “already and not yet.” God has already provided for the redemption and reconciliation of all creation and yet that work is not yet complete. Living with such abundance it is easy to stop with what we “already” have (most everything we need and much of what we want) and forget that so many do “not yet” have even the basic necessities of life.

I pray that the sweetness of our celebrations this holiday season will be tinged with the awareness of and compassion for those who do not live with the abundance we will experience in the next couple of weeks. I pray that their need will be before us, not to spoil our celebrations, but to remind us to be thankful and to motivate us to generosity and compassion as we seek to follow the one whose birth we celebrate in this season.

Lord hear our prayer.

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It’s easy to get caught up in buying “stuff” this time of year. Often we feel obligated to buy gifts for people that we don’t know well or we want to give a gift to a loved one but are not sure what to buy because they seem to have everything they could want or need. Why not take a stand this year to honor someone you love by giving a gift that makes a difference for others and the earth? I’d like to recommend two alternatives to giving “stuff” that may or may not fit, be appreciated, used or needed:

  1. HEIFER International is a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating hunger and poverty and caring for the earth by providing individuals with a source of food rather than temporary food aid; thus helping individuals and families to achieve self-reliance. In addition, HEIFER works to educate the recipients about sustainable agricultural practices. You can honor someone by giving the gift of a cow, pig, goat, sheep, chicks, geese, rabbits, honeybees, trees, etc. that will go to help a family in need sustain itself. See HEIFER’s online gift catalog by clicking here.
  2. The Arbor Day Foundation is working to replant National Forests across the United States that have been devastated by wildfire and insects. At present the National Forest Service has a backlog of over 1 million acres of forest that needs to be replanted and with each new wildfire that number grows. You can give the gift of trees to be replanted in a national forest in honor or in memory of someone ($10.00 minimum gift) by clicking here. You will be able to print out a certificate to give to them or have the Arbor Day Foundation send them one. You can also send holiday cards ($5.95) that come with the gift of a tree planted in a national forest by clicking here.
  3. Of course, I’m sure you would not have to look far in your own community to find an organization whose cause you could feel good about supporting. (Like the Julian Center in Indianapolis, an organization near and dear to my heart. You can access their website here.)

In the midst of this season in which honoring the birth of the savior is overshadowed by honoring the god of the marketplace I pray that we can all stay focused on celebrating in a way that reflects that values that Jesus lived and taught.

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  Luke 4:18-19

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I visited my parents in E.Tennessee over the Thanksgiving weekend and saw first hand the effects of the drought I had heard them talking about for months. The rivers in the Smokies were as low as I’ve ever seen them and while a little rain has eased some of the immediate dryness there, the rainfall in that area of the country is more than 25 inches below normal for this year. Many in the southeastern United States are beginning to understand the sense of helplessness many in other parts of the country and world have felt for years as they have struggled with drought and limited water supplies.

I suppose I’ve been experiencing my own kind of drought in recent days. Since the beginning of November I’ve made only five posts to this blog; less than half the number I made in October. I could say that it’s because I’ve been busy or that the holidays have kept me from taking the time to post and while I, like most everyone, do have extra things to do this time of year I can’t say that my busyness has kept me from posting. It feels more like a drought – a scarcity of whatever it is that elevates us from simply surviving to being able to thrive. I know myself well enough now (five years of therapy will do that for you) to know that when I feel this way it tends to be my psyche’s way of drawing my attention to something that is not sustainable. When something in my life is not working for me, I begin to experience symptoms that, if left unattended, will lead me down the path of depression. When I begin to feel mentally dull, irritable, uninterested in things I usually enjoy and I feel a lack of creativity I know that I need to stop and spend some time reflecting on what it is that is not working for me or what is going on that might require that I practice better self-care. God has created us with a lovely array of sensors that will sound warning bells or will signal us somehow that something under the hoods needs some attention. The trick is to learn to be aware of the signals that your body, mind and spirit are giving you and then do something to identify the issue and deal with it appropriately. Sometimes we can identify and fix the problem on our own and sometimes we need help.

Drought can benefit us if it causes us to pay attention to the way we are using our resources whether they be material resources or physical, emotional and spiritual resources. It would be a shame to waste the opportunity to learn from it.

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Isaiah 55: 1-2

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