NOTE: I meant to post this on Christmas Eve, but a very good friend of mine had a stroke at the age of 40 the day before Christmas Eve. He’s only 40 years old. He remains in critical condition, but is showing signs of improvement. Please keep him, his partner and family in positive thought and prayer. Thanks!
Last week I stopped in a drug store and noticed that the Christmas stuff was already marked off 50%. I had no intention of buying yet another Christmas decoration; but I almost felt as if I was lead to look. In the midst of the plethora of decorations were some simple, painted wood block words. One of them said: “Believe.” I felt something as I picked it up, an energy, . . . and ended up buying it. It now sits front and center above my fireplace, and as I pray and meditate in the morning I look at it. As I walk through the living room a hundred times a day, I look at it. It becomes a mantra, a reminder – “Believe!” “Watch your thoughts.” “Your beliefs create reality.” I’ve just begun reading Wayne Dyer’s new book called Excuses Be Gone, in which he talks about scientific studies that have been done which prove that what we believe can literally create our reality, bring healing and affect our lives, positively or negatively – depending on what our beliefs are.. Scientific proof!
I can’t help but think that I was lead to buy that wood block word. I will keep it in my home year round, as a reminder.
Again, some, including myself might find a lot of the movies, songs and hype that surrounds us this time of year a bit sweet and syrupy. But it is good that collectively this time of year, many people are lead to positive thoughts and feelings – and frankly I’ve seen examples time and again where such thoughts create reality. I have seen and experienced kindness and self giving that is admirable. What a grace that we have this time of year that so many humans are thinking good thoughts and believing good things. What a great thing it would be if we carried such thoughts and beliefs through the rest of the year. Imagine the reality that collectively we could create in our world!
I love the song “Thankful,” made popular by Josh Groban. The song is written by David Foster, Carole Bayer Sager and Richard Page. The text of the refrain and the music wonderfully express our desire to turn our attention to what is good and hopeful:
“So for tonight we pray for
What we know can be
And on this day we hope for
What we still can’t see”
I hope that the little wood block word that I was lead to serves as a reminder throughout the year. Imagine the world we could bring into being if the good will that is felt this time of year was always in our thoughts!
I recently heard a sermon by a bright young priest at an independent catholic church. He began with a story of his Mom, in her mid 30’s huddling her 6 boys and 1 girl together in her arms, . . . at their daddy’s funeral. He said that as she held them close, she kept repeating, almost whispering “God is with us, God is with us, God is with us, God is with us . . .” What struck me is that he said that these words, normally heard and spoken in happiness this time of year, came from a place of deep fear, uncertainty and sadness within her.
When I think of the reality of what many in the world will celebrate in a few days, it is far from the pretty, warm cozy picture that we try to create. It was cold, dirty, smelly, bloody and fearful. Joseph was perplexed by his pregnant wife to be. Instead of a warm, cozy home, they had to leave home and when they arrived in Bethlehem there was no room for them. The child was sought after and almost killed.
“God is with us, God is with us, God is with us, God is with us . . .”
Sometimes our lives can be messy, dark and cold; but the reality that we shout these days is “God is with us!” To some in difficulty, such words might ring hollow. But as sweet and sappy as some of this season can be, perhaps we need this time of year when we are reminded of what is good in the world, what is good in the human spirit and when our thoughts turn to “peace and goodwill toward all.” I can’t help but think that since a lot of us are thinking such thoughts, a little bit of it might actually manifest itself in our reality.
Hold on. Ya never know what Life is going to bring!
When we find ourselves in a difficult place we often feel as if things will never get better. And sometimes, depending on the circumstance we find ourselves absolutely devastated. We just need to hang in there. Something’s bound to pop up. Even in the devastation of death itself, we are given visions of hope beyond this life.
“A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse.” Again, Isaiah places this positive vision before the people, at a time when everything that they knew and loved was destroyed, cut down to the root. Instead of wallowing in the pain, he insists that this is not the end! What seems dead will come to life. Better days are ahead!
When we are going through a difficult time, it’s hard to believe that things will get better. But if we just hold on, hang in there, they do. I sometimes think of an old friend of mine. Devastated from a break up of one he loved so much, he was unable to look beyond that present moment and he was found dead in his garage, his car motor running. He was in his early 20’s. I wonder where life would have taken him had he decided to live. I know he would have done well. He was a bright, capable and good looking young man. I am certain that within months after that breakup, life would have gone on and I’m sure that he would have done so well in life and in love.
We just need to hang in there. Eventually something’s gonna pop up! “A shoot SHALL sprout from the stump . . .”
In many Christian churches that great reading from Isaiah is heard during this season where we are given a vision of a time of peace and reconciliation where the wolf will be the guest of the lamb and the baby play by the cobra’s den. Isaiah envisions this after the Babylonian exile, precisely at a time when the people were devastated, exiled from their own land – everything familiar to them gone – destroyed. Instead of wailing, Isaiah places before the people a positive vision and from this they gain hope. Is it all a bunch of idealistic, pie in the sky rubbish? (See Isaiah 11:1-10) To be honest, when I am going through a difficult time and a friend tries to point me to what is and can be positive, it sometimes drives me nuts. But in the end, if I don’t come to some sense of future hope, I am lost.
“Without a vision, the people perish.” So says Proverbs. And isn’t it true?
Without a vision, a framework of where we are going, a sense of purpose and meaning, something to hope for – we whither and die; maybe not physically, but psychologically and spiritually.
What is the vision that I set before my mind’s eye each day? Is it positive, or is it more focused on what is wrong with my life and the world? When I focus my thoughts on what is good, all that there is for which to be grateful – then I am lifted and my living, loving and working are given energy. When my focus is negative, I perish.
(Sitting in a coffee house window seat – watching people at holiday event strolling by.)
Light snow, a cold evening. Crowds of people walk the streets. The perfect setting for a night like this. All kinds of people. Straight and gay, young and old, richer and poorer, various races and, I imagine, creeds.. All here because of the season. All here because of a primal desire to connect with Life.
Whenever I’m around a crowd of people I wonder at the diversity of souls that exist; not one exactly like another, not only now, but ever since the dawn of time! Talk about awesome Mystery!. How did we all awaken to be the person that we are? Why am I not him, instead of who I am? Why am I not straight, instead of gay? What is it that makes me so aware of myself in this body, with my unique history, with my thoughts, my inner voice as it were? What is it that made me suddenly so aware of myself now, so aware of “me” that I know that one day I will have to die. I never remember this before – being alive and dying. What is it that creates our individual consciousness? Why did I “wake up” in the 20th century, in this body, into this family, at this place?
Questions that cannot be answered. Questions that lead me to silent awe of the Mystery of it all. How can one but be lead to silence?
What a wondrous thing this life is! And what a pain in the butt at times! The very thing that brings us to delight and joy, can become that which brings us to our knees in pain. And this pain then can become the very place where we are hollowed out, our thoughts given focused vision, where incidentals that once seemed so important simply fall away. And we are born again.
Matthew 1: 18-24
Joseph, an upright man, a good religious man, embarrassed, frightened, confused and wanting a divorce. Mary a dedicated woman of faith, yet unmarried and pregnant. No room for them to stay and so a cave where animals are kept, shitty and smelly, becomes the place of his birth. . . . Who would ever think that nothing less than God would emerge from this mess?
God chooses to come to us in the mess of life! And our lives at times can certainly be quite messy. There are illnesses, quarrels, wars, misunderstandings, depression, addictions and any number of maladies that can befall us. It is precisely in this mess that God chooses to reveal God’s self. It is precisely this mess which can become the birthing place of wonderful things! When life’s messiness comes upon us, we need not fear, but open ourselves to it as a place where wonderful insights can emerge and otherwise undreamt paths can be revealed!
Luke 1: 5-25
You have given sterility its pregnancy! We are, once again, beckoned to believe in the impossible. We have in our readings two stories of women who were sterile, but become pregnant. It’s interesting to note that these stories are fairly common in the Scriptures and always the child to be born is destined to make a great difference for the good of the people. Great things happen from seemingly impossible situations! Can you believe it?? I have difficulty believing it, like Zechariah, and so I remain unable to speak, paralyzed in my journey. We all experience “sterility” in our lives, in one way or another. What is sterile in your life these days? What’s sterile in the life of our world? Can I believe that this sterility can be overcome and new life can emerge? It’s just a matter of believing! AND taking action. What’s some small thing that I can do today to give pregnancy to a part of my life, or that of our world, that is lifeless and sterile? If I am honest, most of the time I am like Zechariah who basically looks at the angel and says “yeah, . . . Right! You have GOT to be kidding!” Most of the time I am like Zechariah and don’t believe that incredible things can happen in my life and the life of the world. And in my lack of belief, I remain like Zechariah, lifeless, speechless and a bit listless and lethargic. We are knocked over the head again today by God who says, “Wake up! Believe it!” We are again beckoned to walk through our days believing that life CAN be different, that the world CAN be different! The past couple of weeks I have felt listless. This morning when I read these readings and pondered them, I felt deep within me “Yeah right, . . . You have GOT to be kidding!” And then I started to change my thinking and believe that maybe, just maybe the impossible can happen. I’m not sure if it will. But you know what? . . . I’m not listless anymore. A little pregnancy has been given to my listless sterility.