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!
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.
I can understand now where in the Gospels Jesus says, “But when the Son of Man comes will he find any faith on the earth?” We are beckoned in this season to believe in the seemingly impossible! The readings that we have at this time of year from Isaiah bring tears to my eyes. They are so blasted beautiful! For me it’s like watching one of those sweet syrupy Christmas movies where the guy always gets the right girl (or guy as the case may be!). I’ll admit it, when I watch one of those movies I cry. And when I read these absolutely beautiful readings from Isaiah, I sometimes cry. I cry because I am sad because this vision that Isaiah describes isn’t a reality. But I also cry because it beckons me to hope, to believe again. The movie “Polar Express” is a wonderful expression of the belief to which we’re called. When we believe, magical things begin to happen! We begin to hear and see things that we previously did not! “Remember, the magic of Christmas lays in your heart!” (From the movie “Polar Express”)
We’re called in this Advent season to be absolute fools and believe in the seemingly impossible! We’re called to believe that the blind can see, the deaf can hear, that the tyrant will be no more, the arrogant are gone and that the shame of any wrongdoing on our part is removed.
We are called, invited and cajoled in this season to believe in the seemingly impossible! What’s your dream? What’s your dream for our world? Can we believe that it CAN become a reality? “Yes Virginia there IS a Santa Claus! . . . The most real things in this world are those that neither children nor (people) can see.” (From Francis B. Church’s editorial in The New York Sun from 1897, which was later made into the famous movie “Miracle on 34th Street”). “Faith is believing when common sense tells us not to.” (From the movie “Miracle on 34th Street) Can we look beyond the hum drum of our everyday lives and the violence of our world to the Magic underneath it all and to the One who IS there and who so desires to make dreams a reality, . . . if we only believe!
Yes Virginia there IS a Santa Claus! Even good can come from your screwed up family! 🙂
Good things can emerge from seemingly bad or shady experiences. The genealogy of Jesus that we have in Matthew is not an accurate historical record. The purpose of Matthew is to place Jesus in the line of David setting him up as King. As you read the record though, there are some interesting people that emerge like Rahab, the mother of Boaz who was a prostitute, and his wife Ruth who was born of incestuous origins. Of course we also have King David – one of the greats of the Old Testament – who was also an adulterer and murderer. Matthew places Jesus within the lineage of some pretty interesting people! The point is that all is “redeemed.” Our shortcomings, or the shortcomings of our families are not the end of the road. Good things can emerge from seemingly less than perfect people! What one of us is perfect? What one of us does not carry with us some shame of past or present transgressions? Perhaps a lesson today could be to let go of the shame, to let go of the past and to live well in our present, knowing that we are loved, despite our imperfections, and that we can do good, despite our flaws. We need to do what we can to overcome our character defects, . . . yes! But to live in the shame placed on us by ourselves or others only serves to keep us down. It does nothing for us or others. Despite our imperfections, we can still do great good in the world and bring light and life to others!
Some of us who are gay unfortunately have had negative experiences with our families. I know some gay people that were kicked out of their homes when they were teens, others whose partners are never welcome in their family’s homes. I myself was told by my brother around this time last year that I was a spiritual detriment to his family and that he needed to protect them from me. Gratefully I also know families who welcome their gay sons and daughters and their partners with open arms. How blest are they indeed!
Whether we are gay or straight, people sometimes have difficulty with their family. Family issues have a way of coming to the fore around this time when, traditionally, families gather. If you are one who has issues with your family, take heart. Even Jesus‘ family had some issues and his genealogy certainly contained a few characters! I can only imagine what Mary and Joseph’s brothers and sisters must have thought of their nephew at times! No one is really immune. It’s just a part of life.
I think its important, especially this time of year, to have some sense of family, some sense of belonging, particularly for those who have difficulty with their own families. Perhaps it might be a time to look around. Is there someone that we know who is without a sense of family or belonging? Like the One who welcomed all to the table, perhaps we might invite them to our tables. And if you are one who is alone, one who has been rejected, know that you are not rejected from the Divine table, but are embraced in love – no matter what your family, or even your church family may say!
Most of us think it’s the other way around, . . . don’t we? When I experience it, when I see it, when you show me, then I’ll believe it. Isn’t this the spoken or inward response that we have to something that even slightly seems out of the ordinary?
Recently I was watching a Christmas movie, I can’t remember what it was called, or even the plot. But what I do remember is this line in the movie: “Seeing isn’t believing. Believing is seeing!”
Probably due to years of my father saying things like I would never amount to anything, that I was good for nothing and could do nothing right, I still, at times, grapple with those messages in my head. This weekend was one such weekend. No matter how many times I have been told that I do good work, this weekend I was simply not feeling it, seeing it, or hearing it. I sat there feeling like a failure. Gratefully I rather quickly became aware of these negative voices in my head. And then I thought of the line from that movie. And immediately, in the middle of performing a task for my job, I began to think about all the successes that I’ve had in my job, all the good things that have been done and almost immediately my mood began to shift to the positive. And, not only that, I began to see and feel differently about what I was experiencing in my job performance.
Believing IS seeing. As we believe, so shall we see and experience life. I also realized that I am in the midst of one hellava “stinkin thinking” streek. And as I have moved inward, enveloped by these negative thoughts, I project that energy outward – and it, indeed becomes my reality. I only pray for the grace to continue to become aware of such negative thinking and, by changing what I believe, what I think, that I will see myself and others differently.