I think I’m in love with the electric-heated fleece throw my wife bought me for Christmas. It is wonderful! Especially when it is cold outside like this week has been. Instead of putting over me I’ve tucked it in and around the place I sit on the couch. I come home, turn it on, throw a blanket on top, change and by the time I’m ready to sit down the blanket is warm. It’s like sinking into a soft cocoon of heat. The room and house don’t feel as cold when I am wrapped in the throw.
There are also people and places who make us feel this way. There’s something about their presence which makes us feel good and safe. I’m not a hugger but I love getting hugs from my wife. She’s the type of person who portrays warmth and acceptance. My aunt Evon, who passed away several years ago, was the same way.
In a world which seems to be increasingly divided, we need more warmth, more acceptance, more love. Our crazy mixed up world thinks there are other ways to heal the divisions, start over, bring peace. Truly, only love has that power. It takes more courage to love someone than to hate them, let go of prejudices than keep them, listen and build relationships instead of keeping everyone who disagrees with us at arm’s length.
Warmth. On a cold day in December, it’s a needed and comforting thought.
There is a noticeable lack of Christmas spirit in my family this year. It’s been a long year as my dad battled cancer and passed away on the first of December. The anticipation of Christmas coming has been replaced with a feeling of; “Is it over yet?” I don’t think it’s Christmas per se’ but we’re anticipating the end of 2017 and 2018 to begin.
Anticipation can be a dangerous state of mind, emotion, and spirit. For all we know, 2018 will be as rough, perhaps more so, than 2017. It’s not a pleasant thought but it is a possibility. This is why wisdom teachers discourage anticipation. Life rarely lives up to what we think, or wish would happen. It’s almost always different and this can be good or bad, negative or positive. When life fails to fill our desires suffering, pain, confusion can occur.
So, my family and many others wait in this no man’s land hoping Christmas will not be too difficult and 2018 will be a better, certainly different, year.
Memories and a Christmas Cactus –
My riend Mary, before she passed away, gave us a Christmas cactus. This year it’s finally bloomed. The simple beauty reminds me of her. My Facebook places memories on my start page and two days ago they were of the winter we brought Mary up to our house in Pennsylvania and she stayed with us for the winter. Mary, it seems, is making her presence known to us this Christmas season.
My wife had a birthday yesterday and we had a fun time joking she was rolling down the hill to a big age milestone. We also talked seriously of life and its quick passing. Death, whenever it comes, is closer than ever.
Wisdom teaches us to number our days. This is not a morbid discipline but a joyous one. Each day is precious, not one is to be taken for granted. We are to enjoy and embrace every day as a gift, like the Christmas cactus blooms and pictures which seem from a lifetime ago.
FedEx has a problem. They have packages that were supposed to be delivered by December 25 and, uhoh, today is Christmas. People who ordered their gifts days, week, even a month ago are wondering; “where are the presents I ordered online?!?!” And now Christmas is apparently ruined for thousands of people and families across the globe.
Seems like “first world“, spoiled American, “not really a problem” problems but in our got to have it now, should’ve been here yesterday, drive thru, instant society, FedEx has violated the Cardinal rule of faster is better. Instead of lessons in patience, windows of time to appreciate the bounty of blessings most already have, folks flock to social media, make phone calls, write letters or send emails angrily expressing their displeasure at having to wait. Delayed gratification just isn’t our thing.
It’s Christmas day. This day is the epitome of rejoicing and waiting. Of celebrating what has happened and the anticipation of what’s to come. Perhaps the gift of not having all we seek is perfect for a culture where; “wait” may be the ultimate four letter word.
Blessings of joy, peace and stillness this Christmas day,
In our Incarcerated Fathers’ classes last week I was asked by the dads several times how many days I’d be taking off over the holiday season? It was their way of inquiring if the groups would still be meeting, would I be missing over the next two weeks, would they be forgotten? “I’ll be here.” was always my reply. “Seven weeks ago I gave you a commitment that I’d be with you for the next twelve and I can’t ask you to be faithful if I’m not.”
Too often, we use the Christmas season as a way of escape. We hibernate from the world outside and enjoy the world of our family, friends and those we love and prefer. While there is no harm in being with those we cherish we must also remember the ones who are most likely to be forgotten, overlooked, ignored.
Christmas can be a time of renewed commitment to those who are; “less than,” in honor of the One who is; “more than.” Perhaps this is the real reason for the season.
Christmas is an elusive feeling, one that I’ve lost and have had a hard time locating. I’m not sure when I misplaced it but it’s been several years ago. When I was younger Christmas was a time of joy and hope, family and friends, a season of stillness in an often too chaotic world. Now, however, it seems to simply come and go without much impact upon my life or spirit. I understand the; “Christmas Spirit,” cannot be forced and that feelings shouldn’t be manipulated but the intangible-ness of a warmed heart, intimacy for those we love, a sense of home and family have left me feeling empty and cold during a time when I desire the opposite.
I wish I could put my finger upon the reason for my inability to capture the essence of Christmas in my soul. Perhaps it has to do with getting ready to move in consecutive years and our current house is still too new to us to feel like home. Maybe it is the loss of loved ones to death who made special gifts, baked seasonal goodies, brought love and laughter at this special time of year. Whatever the reason I miss Christmas but I still have hope that one day it will find me again.
A few moments ago I was doing something I loathe but has become an all too frequent discipline this winter, shoveling snow. After another few inches fell last night I headed outside, with my flimsy snow shovel, to remove as much as I could from our steep driveway.
About an hour into this two-hour job I looked up and a nice man was heading up the other half of my drive with a snow blower. It was eating the snow up, spitting it out and putting my little snow shovel to shame! We exchanged a few pleasantries and then he made quick work of the remaining snow. I thanked him and he moved on.
There are times in life we should step aside to someone who is more talented, qualified, gifted and skilled. There is no shame in letting one who can do it better complete a task or project. However, too often we allow our pride and insecurity prevent us from admitting we can’t do all things, be all things, to all people, in all situations.
Wisdom teaches us to know ourselves and our limits. When we are aware of who we are and are not, gifts we do and do not possess, strengths and weaknesses, we can celebrate the giftings, strengths and abilities of others.blessings, bdl
Here’s an interesting info-pic about different traditions celebrated by varying cultures around the world at Christmas…
Traditions can be wonderful but they can also bring the heaviness of the past and a longing to live there.
I recently finished my Christmas day calls & texts to family and friends. Some are doing well and others have had a rough 2013. Family members and friends separated by varying circumstances including death, traditions once highly valued now gone, have a way of making this day dreadful instead of joyful. I spoke to someone this morning who began to cry while saying she would “be alright in a little bit.” I told her not to make this day anything other than what it was, a hard one, and if the mourning of what has been is needed to get to what is and what will be, then embrace this season of change.
Traditions are wonderful and should be cherished but when they change or cease, as all things do, maybe the gifts of acceptance and letting go is what we need to unwrap this year.blessings of peace, bdl
I told the following two stories tonight at our campus. They are wonderful and tragic, heart warming and heart breaking, fantastical and truly depressing. I followed them up with 2 selections of holy texts and a plea to meditate and reflect upon what they mean on a night such as this.
The following has become a tradition at our Christmas Eve service. The telling of the J.B. Philliips’ story titled “The Visited Planet.”
Once upon a time a very young angel was being shown round the splendors and glories of the universes by a senior and experienced angel. To tell the truth, the little angel was beginning to be tired and a little bored. He had been shown whirling galaxies and blazing suns, infinite distances in the deathly cold of inter-stellar space, and to his mind there seemed to be an awful lot of it all. Finally he was shown the galaxy of which our planetary system is but a small part. As the two of them drew near to the star which we call our sun and to its circling planets, the senior angel pointed to a small and rather insignificant sphere turning very slowly on its axis. It looked as dull as a dirty tennis-ball to the little angel, whose mind was filled with the size and glory of what he had seen.
“I want you to watch that one particularly,” said the senior angel, pointing with his finger.
“Well, it looks very small and rather dirty to me,” said the little angel. “What’s special about that one?”
“That,” replied his senior solemnly, “is the Visited Planet.”
“Visited?” said the little one. “You don’t mean visited by ——–?
“Indeed I do. That ball, which I have no doubt looks to you small and insignificant and not perhaps over clean, has been visited by our young Prince of Glory.” And at these words he bowed his head reverently.
“But how?” queried the younger one. “Do you mean that our great and glorious Prince, with all these wonders and splendors of His Creation, and millions more that I’m sure I haven’t seen yet, went down in Person to this fifth-rate little ball? Why should He do a thing like that?”
“It isn’t for us,” said his senior a little stiffly, “to question His ‘whys’, except that I must point out to you that He is not impressed by size and numbers, as you seem to be. But that He really went I know, and all of us in Heaven who know anything know that. As to why He became one of them – how else do you suppose could He visit them?”
The little angels face wrinkled in disgust.
“Do you mean to tell me,” he said, “that He stooped so low as to become one of those creeping, crawling creatures of that floating ball?”
“I do, and I don’t think He would like you to call them ‘creeping, crawling creatures’ in that tone of voice. For, strange as it may seem to us, He loves them. He went down to visit them to lift them up to become like Him.”
The little angel looked blank. Such a thought was almost beyond his comprehension.
“Close your eyes for a moment,” said the senior angel, “and we will go back in what they call Time.”
While the little angel‘s eyes were closed and the two of them moved nearer to the spinning ball, it stopped its spinning, spun backwards quite fast for a while, and then slowly resumed its usual rotation.
“Now look!” And as the little angel did as he was told, there appeared here and there on the dull surface of the globe little flashes of light, some merely momentary and some persisting for quite a time.
“Well, what am I seeing now?” queried the little angel.
“You are watching this little world as it was some thousands of years ago,” returned his companion. “Every flash and glow of light that you see is something of the Father’s knowledge and wisdom breaking into the minds and hearts of people who live upon the earth. Not many people, you see, can hear His Voice or understand what He says, even though He is speaking gently and quietly to them all the time.”
“Why are they so blind and deaf and stupid?” asked the junior angel rather crossly.
“It is not for us to judge them. We who live in the Splendor have no idea what it is like to live in the dark. We hear the music and the Voice like the sound of many waters every day of over lives, but to them – well, there is much darkness and much noise and much distraction upon the earth. Only a few who are quiet and humble and wise hear His Voice. But watch, for in a moment you will see something truly wonderful.”
The Earth went on turning and circling round the sun, and then quite suddenly, in the upper half of the globe, there appeared a light, tiny but so bright in its intensity that both the angels hid their eyes.
“I think I can guess,” said the little angel in a low voice. “That was the Visit, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, that was the Visit. The Light Himself went down there and lived among them; but in a moment, and you will be able to tell that even with your eyes closed, the light will go out.”
“But why? Could He not bear their darkness and stupidity? Did He have to return here?”
“No, it wasn’t that” returned the senior angel. His voice was stern and sad. “They failed to recognize Him for Who He was – or at least only a handful knew Him. For the most part they preferred their darkness to His Light, and in the end they killed Him.”
“The fools, the crazy fools! They don’t deserve —-“
“Neither you nor I, nor any other angel, knows why they were so foolish and so wicked. Nor can we say what they deserve or don’t deserve. But the fact remains; they killed our Prince of Glory while He was Man amongst them.”
“And that I suppose was the end? I see the whole Earth has gone black and dark. All right, I won’t judge them, but surely that is all they could expect?”
“Wait, we are still far from the end of the story of the Visited Planet. Watch now, but be ready to cover your eyes again.”
In utter blackness the earth turned round three times, and then there blazed with unbearable radiance a point of light.
“What now?” asked the little angel, shielding his eyes.
“They killed Him all right, but He conquered death. The thing most of them dread and fear all their lives He broke and conquered. He rose again, and a few of them saw Him and from then on became His utterly devoted slaves.”
“Thank God for that,” said the little angel.
“Amen. Open your eyes now, the dazzling light has gone. The Prince has returned to His Home of Light. But watch the Earth now.”
As they looked, in place of the dazzling light there was a bright glow which throbbed and pulsated. And then as the Earth turned many times little points of light spread out. A few flickered and died; but for the most part the lights burned steadily, and as they continued to watch, in many parts of the globe there was a glow over many areas.
“You see what is happening?” asked the senior angel. “The bright glow is the company of loyal men and women He left behind, and with His help they spread the glow and now lights begin to shine all over the Earth.”
“Yes, yes,” said the little angel impatiently, “but how does it end? Will the little lights join up with each other? Will it all be light, as it is in Heaven?”
His senior shook his head. “We simply do not know,” he replied. “It is in the Father’s hands. Sometimes it is agony to watch and sometimes it is joy unspeakable. The end is not yet. But now I am sure you can see why this little ball is so important. He has visited it; He is working out His Plan upon it.”
“Yes, I see, though I don’t understand. I shall never forget that this is the Visited Planet.”
This next story is ripped from the news headlines a few days ago…
The mother of a 3-year-old thrown to his death from a 52-story Manhattan apartment building said the father killed the boy — and then himself — out of spite.
Svetlana Kanarikov said in a statement that she had been nervous about her son’s visits with his father, and she initially wanted them to be supervised. But she relented after a Dec. 5 court appearance.
“The father never did anything violent against the child before,” Kanarikov said of the two previous visits in a statement issued Monday night through a lawyer. “Both times, Kirill was happy after seeing his dad. Skype calls were also going well.”
Police said Dmitriy Kanarikov threw the child from the rooftop of the building before jumping to his own death Sunday.
He had picked up Kirill at 10 a.m. Sunday at a Manhattan police precinct — a neutral site negotiated in advance by the parents — to spend time with him for the first time unsupervised.
The couple had been married four years and separated in August, and Svetlana Kanarikov said she had taken action after a domestic violence incident. Their split was acrimonious. In addition to Kirill, Dmitriy Kanarikov had wanted their house and other property, too, Svetlana Kanarikov said.
“He said he would take the child away and I will ‘shoot myself from grief,'” she said. “This was his sick way to take Kirill away from me.”
She said he had told his parents that he was taking the child to Grand Central Station but instead went to the building on the Upper West Side and killed himself and the child.
Officers responding to an emergency call reporting two jumpers from the building near Columbus Circle and Lincoln Center found Kanarikov, 35, of Brooklyn, and the boy on the lower rooftops of two separate nearby buildings.
The man was pronounced dead at the scene and his son, Kirill Kanarikov, was pronounced dead at a hospital, police said. A witness said the boy was wearing Christmas pajamas.
“Kirill was a very sweet, wonderful child, who was loved very much,” his mother said. “He will forever live on in my heart.”
1 O Eternal, our Lord,
Your majestic name is heard throughout the earth;
Your magnificent glory shines far above the skies.
2 From the mouths and souls of infants and toddlers, the most innocent,
You have decreed power to stop Your adversaries
and quash those who seek revenge.
3 When I gaze to the skies and meditate on Your creation—
on the moon, stars, and all You have made,
4 I can’t help but wonder why You care about mortals—
sons and daughters of men—
specks of dust floating about the cosmos.
13 No one has ever journeyed to heaven above except the One who has come down from heaven—the Son of Man, who is of heaven… 15 all those who believe in Him will experience everlasting life.
16 For God expressed His love for the world in this way: He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction, but will have everlasting life.17 Here’s the point. God didn’t send His Son into the world to judge it; instead, He is here to rescue a world headed toward certain destruction.
Both stories above illustrate great truths.
The first and most obvious is that we are capable of inflicting great pain and hurt through our own selfishness and desire for power and control.
The second is we need something greater than ourselves to show us how to be greater. We need a hope that is greater than our capacity for depravity.
We are made, designed, purposed to live lives of light in a dark world. Only when we shine can others find their way.blessings, bdl
The NY Post has a story about a man who was injured by a falling tombstone.
Apparently he was “paying his respects at a grave in a Brooklyn cemetery and was hurt Sunday — when the tombstone suddenly toppled over on him.” Read the rest of the story here.
Most of us can relate to this story. Though we’ve probably never been trapped by a death marker we’ve had experiences with things we thought were dead and buried only to have them come back and cause us pain. Maybe it was a habit we tried to kick, a relationship assumed fixed, a careless word figured forgotten, a prejudice rarely seen or a betrayal we were sure we had gotten over.
Oftentimes it can seem that just when we feel we’ve moved past negative, harmful and hurtful events in our lives, ready to leave the past for dead, they have a way of coming back to haunt us. When this happen we begin to wonder if we have made any real progress towards becoming wiser, stronger and more mindful.
The answer is “yes.” Life’s journey is rarely a straight path. It has a way of leading us to places we have been before to remind us of what we’ve learned and to teach us new things.
Remember, just because the past comes alive again doesn’t mean you have to live there.blessings, bdl
“May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.
May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.
May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.
May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.
And the blessing of God the Supreme Majesty and our Creator, Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word who is our brother and Savior, and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Guide, be with you and remain with you, this day and forevermore.” – Saint Francis of Assisi
Growing up in South Carolina there was a large section of mostly undeveloped land behind my childhood home. As a kid it was a great adventure to hop the fence in the backyard and go exploring. Fields, forests, waterfalls, streams and gulleys kept me occupied for countless afternoon and weekends.
The problem was when you were the next “Indiana Jones,” fighting bad guys, saving damsels and humankind, you couldn’t be bothered with inconveniences like keeping your bearings. Fortunately for me there was a road that cut through my personal playground so no matter where I was, if I saw that road, followed it, I would end up back home. It was my compass.
In a world which continually seeks to guide us to who we need to be and what direction our life needs to take, we need clarity and mindfulness to discover and stay true to our purpose and calling.
Some of the most desperate people I’ve met are those with no bearings, no sense of who they are, no compass, no way to get home. They come in all shapes and sizes, young and old, male and female, educated and not. From leaders of large organizations to janitors, folks who aren’t sure what they’re supposed to look like, who they’re supposed to be.
Each of us needs help discovering who and what we are, it’s not a journey we can take by ourselves. We need friends, family, co-workers to travel alongside us, hold up a mirror of our true selves, help us see what we look like and if our lives need a course correction.
We need each other to show us the way home when we get lost.blessings, bdl
“Only silence guards the mystery of the journey that a person walks with God.”
–Pope Francis, December 20, 2013
“Give us the grace to love the silence. In the history of salvation, neither in the clamour nor in the blatant, but the shadows and the silence are the places in which God chose to reveal himself to humankind.
The imperceptible reality from which his mystery, from time to time, took visible form, took flesh.
The Lord always took care of the mystery and hid the mystery. He did not publicize the mystery. A mystery that publicizes itself is not Christian; it is not the mystery of God. The shadow of God in our lives helps us to discover our own mystery: the mystery of our encounter with the Lord, our mystery of our life’s journey with the Lord.
Each of us knows how mysteriously the Lord works in our hearts, in our souls.
The cloud (of mystery) in us, in our lives is called silence, the silence is exactly the cloud that covers the mystery of our relationship with the Lord, of our holiness and of our sins. This mystery that we cannot explain. But when there is no silence in our lives, the mystery is lost, it goes away. Guard the mystery with silence.
Silence is that which guards the mystery, for which the mystery of our relationship with God, of our journey, of our salvation cannot be… publicized.”
Pope Francis concluded; “May the Lord give all of us the grace to love the silence, to seek him and to have a heart that is guarded by the cloud of silence.”
Over at HuffPo there is an interesting article with 20 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Your Eyes
The best that a human eye has been recorded to see is around 20/10.
There’s a word for fear of eyes.
Eyes heal quickly.
It’s possible for your eyes to get sunburned.
It’s possible for your eyesight to get “better” with age.
Your eyeball is slightly smaller than a gumball.
The lens in your eye is about as big as an M&M candy.
Developing a cataract in your eye is kind of like developing a peanut in that “M&M.”
Having 20/20 vision isn’t the same thing as having “perfect” vision.
The length of your eye helps determine what kind of eyesight you have.
Your eyeballs get bigger as you grow up.
Reading this article I began to reflect upon other “truths” about eyes: they can be “windows to the soul,” “bigger than one’s stomach,” “pop out of one’s head,” “twinkle,” “located in the back of one’s head,” “cried out,” “roving” and “gleam.”
Our eyes can also be fixed… on money, reputation, power, fame, revenge, love, grace, kindness or (fill in the blank )__________.
“Let not your heart be prideful, your eyes fixed on raising yourself high. Do not occupy your mind with things always out of reach. Calm and quiet your soul, like a child lying on its mother’s breast. Be still and look to the One who is faithful.”
Where we fix our eyes, place our focus, determines our destination. Let’s make sure it’s where we need to go.
Most of us dare to believe that when the chips are down, the right situation presents itself, our inner hero will emerge.
Several years ago I worked as a staff volunteer and supplemented my income as the janitor of a large church which was composed of several buildings, including a couple of houses for small groups. I often arrived very early in the morning, before the sun came up, to clean.
The church didn’t have an alarm system and the thought of, “what if someone has broken in and I surprise them?” often creeped into my mind. Assuring myself that I would be able to handle it, the skittishness soon passed once a few lights were on and the sun appeared on the horizon.
One morning, entering into one of the campus houses by way of the garage, a cat jumped out from behind some storage and startled me. Actually, it scared the bejeebers out of me! I hollered, stumbled back, tripped and almost fell on the floor. I steadied myself, looked the cat in the eye, caught my breath, relaxed, and then had a good laugh thinking, “oh, you handled it alright!”
No matter how prepared we think we are sometimes life takes us by surprise and other times it scares the mess out of us. Unexpected events and circumstances can make us feel unable to handle the pressure and stress which often accompany anxious times. Mindfulness can give us the ability to still ourselves, look the threat in the eye, and know that fear might be our first response but it doesn’t have to be our only one.
It was the Nightmare After Christmas (from the New York Post).
A Manhattan woman claims in a lawsuit that she was toppled by a pile of rotting Christmas trees left out on a sidewalk.
Gwendolyn Deluca was strolling by 752 West End Ave. in January 2011 when she passed as many as 30 used Christmas trees left in “a large, unstable pile” on the sidewalk “without so much as a sign warning passers-by of the looming danger,” she charges in Manhattan Supreme Court papers filed last week against building management.
The stack of pines stood 5 feet high and “created severely dangerous” conditions for pedestrians, Deluca claims.
Deluca became a victim of the timber terror when the pile collapsed and “caused her leg to be trapped by Christmas tree(s),” tripping her on an already icy sidewalk and causing “permanent” injuries, according to court papers in which she accuses the building of negligence.
Deluca is seeking unspecified damages, and says the incident has left her unable to do “activities that she once so dearly loved,” including playing musical instruments and singing.
It doesn’t take long before the holidays threatens to topple us all and take from us “activities we once so dearly loved.”
A few weeks ago I posted the pic below on my facebook feed:
Some folks asked my why I didn’t like the holidays and my response was, “I love Advent, it’s Christmas I’m not so sure about…”
Advent is a time of peace, joy, waiting, silence, hope and light. Christmas has become something quite different in our culture. It seems to bring anxiety, grumpiness, impatience, loudness and despair to so many.
I encouraged my group Wednesday evening to take time to be still this last week of Advent as others are dashing about, look for light and not be blinded by the commercial glitz, keep your feet and don’t get toppled as we near the finish line.blessings, bdl