Tuesday — Today is the fourth day of Christmas. And in this week before the New Year, time to tidy up or rearrange, or get snowed in, or have your flight cancelled, or find yourself quarantined from Covid exposure. Yes, we live in a real world, where jolly often has a short shelf life.
And yet. It is in this world—this world full of untidiness—where we find and make space for replenishment and sanctuary.
Okay. Now we’re back to the Yule Logs (from yesterday’s Sabbath Moment)…
Rituals and traditions are a wonderful thing. But it’s not just about repetitious behavior. There is something underneath, fundamental and palpable. They can remind us to pay attention: to be here now.
Places where we are able receive.
And places from which we give: wholeheartedness, joy, compassion, sorrow from grief, kindness, grace, forgiveness, gladness. And if I don’t see that truth (and take it to heart), I miss the sacrament of the present.
Not that we don’t lack for traditions in our world. This week, the malls (mostly online) brimmed on Boxing Day, for gift exchange and sifting through the heaps of half-priced Christmas accouterments, in order to get a head start on next year.
Traditions are curious in that so many are observed without any idea of their origin. Here’s one of my favorites: In Caracas (Venezuela) streets are closed to automobile traffic on Christmas Eve in order that people may roller-skate to Mass. At midnight, people shout, “Jesus is born!” and shoot firecrackers (ubiquitous for any celebration in most central American countries) into the night sky. Now that counts as a true celebration…
Which brings me to another book favorite, Scott Russell Sanders’ Writing from the Center. (Meaning, of course, the center of the country—which is where I am from—and one writer’s quest to live a “meaningful, gathered life in a world that seems broken and scattered.”)
“How could our hearts be large enough for heaven if they are not large enough for earth? The only country I am certain of is the one here below. The only paradise I know is the one lit by our everyday sun, this land of difficult love, shot through with shadow. The place where we learn this love, if we learn it at all, shimmers behind every new place we inhabit.”
Yes, I say aloud, reading Sanders. And Amen.
We’re honoring the loss of our friend and hero, Desmond Tutu. And this week, we’ll share a daily quote. One gift he brought, was to be unafraid to speak truth to power, and to find (make) ways to be a spiller of light in a dark world.
Yesterday, I read this from Tish Harrison Warren, “Even now, I catch myself believing that the world belongs to the victors and the powerful. The church, like nearly everyone else, tends to want to be more like the comfortable, the successful, and the powerful — more like Augustus Caesar — than the one who became weak, helpless and despised. We often look for God more in the abundance of gifts under the tree or the happiness of our days than in the helplessness of a baby, the worry lines of the poor, or the lonely agony of a dying man on a cross. But again this year, this story asks to shock us anew and to yet again turn the world upside down.”
Yes. And that invites our prayer for this week… also from Bishop Tutu.
Wednesday — A paradigm is about the way we choose to see life and the world in which we live.
And this week we’re talking about traditions and rituals, about what it means to be grounded.
It is not easy, to be sure, because we all know what it is like to feel dislocated. Translation—not at all grounded. And the past two years have exacerbated this dislocation for every single one of us. Begging the question: So. Where do we park our wellbeing?
I told the story about the “yule log.” And, in the telling, smile at the realization that we live in a world now wired (for whatever reason), to assume that meaning (relevance, replenishment, success) can only be found with a “new and better gas log.” We miss the simple gifts from being present…
In a conference on the “spirit of place,” a Native American elder noted that, “The salmon do not only return to the stream to spawn. They also return to respond to the prayers and hopes of the people who love them.” (And yes, more than a few conferees snickered and scoffed.)
To put a spin on de Chardin, “the whole of life lies in seeing the world
sacramentally.” And it’s not sheer sentimentality.
Yes. The simple gifts from being present.
When we live sacramentally, there is a “price” to pay… when we are connected. The Christian mystical tradition describes the relationship with God in terms of growing toward union. “This encounter with the divine may be characterized by feelings of desire, arousal, passion, and union” in prayer. (Janet Ruffing)
My or my… “desire, arousal and passion.” Do I want the real Yule log fire, or will the gas-log suffice?
Or to rephrase, let me borrow this from Mary Karr, “In lieu of large feelings—sorrow, fury, joy—I had their junior counterparts; anxiety, irritation and excitement.”
Yes, I tell myself, I want large feelings.
But they come at a price, don’t they, to be so alive?
Yes, they do indeed, if you call the weight (and gift) of being fully alive a “cost”.
Let us remember, spirituality, is not about a lottery ticket to the next life, but a front-row-center ticket to this one. When the world slows, and you find yourself, smack-dab in the present, yes the messy, and too often, heavy, present.
And you give yourself the permission to pause.
On my walk this morning, my mind muttered, preoccupied with too much “stuff”. I look up, and our landscape here is framed (grounded) by giant trees, now blanketed in white. All that I see is snow covered. And the world is insulated, silent, save for the crunch of boots in the snow.
Quote for your day…
We are made for goodness. We are made for love. We are made for friendliness. We are made for togetherness. We are made for all of the beautiful things that you and I know. We are made to tell the world that there are no outsiders. All are welcome: black, white, red, yellow, rich, poor, educated, not educated, male, female, gay, straight, all, all, all. We all belong to this family, this human family, God’s family.
Thursday — In many shamanic societies, if you came to a shaman or medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions.
When did you stop dancing?
When did you stop singing?
When did you stop being enchanted by stories?
When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?
(Thank you Gabrielle Roth)
It’s been a journey for me (wired with some version of ACD at my core), learning to be anchored in silence and stillness. To find comfort and sanctuary there. Being snowed in does help in the remembering process.
And there are other gifts. I’m finishing the year reading Amanda Gorman’s Call us what we carry, Jonathan Franzen’s Crossroads and Brene Brown’s Atlas of the heart.
And enjoy the entertaining diversion of going through old boxes, and papers and reading those lists misplaced and left behind. And unearthing gifts from books tucked away. This from John Philip Newell’s Sacred Earth Sacred Soul…
Christ’s birth was celebrated not as the coming of a light that was foreign to the earth but as manifesting the light that is in the earth, the light that is in the sea, the light that is in the sky.
In a Christmas Carol from the Western Isles of Scotland, it was said that the earth glowed to the Christ Child at his birth:
This night is the long night,
It will snow and it will drift,
White snow there will be till day,
White snow there will be till morn.
This night is the eve of the Great Nativity,
This night is born to us Mary’s Son, …
This night is born to us the root of our joy.
This night gleamed the sun of the mountains high,
This night gleamed sea and shore together, …
Ere ‘twas heard that his foot had reached the earth
Heard was the song of the angels glorious,
This night is the long night.
Glowed to him wood and tree,
Glowed to him mount and sea,
Glowed to him land and plain,
When that his foot was come to earth.
The light that was in the earth, the light that was in the sea, the light that was in the sky danced with the light that was in the Child, born of heaven, born of earth.
The Christmas Carol speaks of what is true of every birth, every child and life form, a fresh coming of the divine among us.
Quote for your day…
Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. Desmond Tutu
Friday — It is New Year’s Eve. Many of the festivities have been downsized, but the moment still carries its weight, for pause and reflection. And a glass of wine by the fire. With a good book, of course.
I’m not a fan of resolutions… because making a list is not my strong suit; plus it would always help if I could get a do-over in February.
But there is merit to resolve, to give voice to our heart and our passion for the new year: To live well, to laugh often and to love much.
So. Resolutions… In the coming year, I’ll begin here: I will never give up an emphasis on neglected trifles. (This from Angelo Pellegrini, “The neglected trifles: the garden, the cellar, the simple pleasure of the dinner hour, a scrupulous husbandry in the home, the quiet joy of modest achievement.” The Unprejudiced Palate.) Meaning? I will never give up an emphasis, that the ordinary is the hiding place for the holy.
And number two. However, I will give up my need to know exactly where I am going. Why not let the road of this coming year unfold in wonderful, challenging, and unexpected ways? Is control really that important?
Oh my… what a thing to say during this time. Okay. Let me rephrase: When life is (or feels) upside down, it is important to know that I am not at the mercy of (I am not a victim).
Which means that I can stand (even on uneven and precarious and hazardous ground) and use my voice. And I can choose…
–The power of pause; the ability to stand still in order to embrace the gift of enough. I can begin here: I will live each day from gratitude.
–The gift of self-care; be gentle with myself (and let go of the weight of shame or keeping score).
–The permission to pay attention; the gift of curiosity, wonder, and awe. (It’s my new answer to the question, “What do you do?” “I pay attention. It is my proper work.”) To embrace the sacrament of the present moment.
–To never forget the gift of “we”; no one is on this journey alone. No one.
“We are made for goodness. We are made for love. We are made for friendliness. We are made for togetherness. We are made for all of the beautiful things that you and I know. We are made to tell the world that there are no outsiders. All are welcome: black, white, red, yellow, rich, poor, educated, not educated, male, female, gay, straight, all, all, all. We all belong to this family, this human family, God’s family.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Thank you for being a part of the Sabbath Moment Community. You have enriched my life. And for that, I am profoundly grateful. So. Let us help one another live with soft hearts; to create places for sanctuary, empathy, inclusion, compassion and kindness… spaces where we are refueled to make a difference and to spill the light.
Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
Disturb us, O Lord
when we are too well-pleased with ourselves
when our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little,
because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, O Lord
when with the abundance of things we possess,
we have lost our thirst for the water of life
when, having fallen in love with time,
we have ceased to dream of eternity
and in our efforts to build a new earth,
we have allowed our vision of Heaven to grow dim.
Stir us, O Lord
to dare more boldly, to venture into wider seas
where storms show Thy mastery,
where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.
In the name of Him who pushed back the horizons of our hopes
and invited the brave to follow.
Desmond Tutu (adapted from an original prayer by Sir Francis Drake)
Photo to make you smile… “Dear Terry, Your Sabbath Moments nourish our spirits! Keep ‘em coming! It snowed here in Corvallis, OR, also. We live on 5 ½ acres in the woods just outside of town, so we have more snow and earlier than in town itself. We woke up to a beautiful wonderland yesterday and today even more white stuff. No need to go anywhere. Here’s a photo of the view from our home with our little cabin in the trees. It’s a 1 room ‘sanctuary’ with bookshelves, rocking chairs, comfy 7’ window seat, and an electric ‘woodstove’. A wonderful first week of Christmas to you,” Cammie Bella… Thank you Cammie… I’m very grateful for your photos, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
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