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Daily Dose (Dec 5 – 8)

Tuesday —

This week we’re unpacking one of the themes of Advent: waiting and making space—the permission to see that the ordinary is the hiding place for the holy.

My favorite Christmas story—to retell sometime every December—is one Garrison Keillor tells about a young boy who wanted a Lionel Train Set.
The father, of a family of seven, was in the hospital and unable to work. The mother, worried about money did her best to prepare the children, “I’m sorry, but we won’t be able to have much Christmas this year.”
This news was not easy to swallow for the eldest boy, aged ten, who had been dropping hints since September about the Lionel train set, deluxe with the livestock loader. He even mentioned it frequently to God, reminding God that the train was on display in Lundgren’s store window. On Christmas morning, the boy opened his gifts; a pocketknife, wrapped homemade candies, and new pair of winter boots. There was no train. After Christmas dinner, the boy asked if he could go outside. He needed some place to nurse his sadness. As he tromped along in his new boots, he walked out on the iced-over lake, and let the tears flow.
After enough time passed, the boy turned to head back home. As he turned, with the sun nearly set, he saw the lights of the town shimmering before him. He squinted his eyes and could pick out his own house, on the left, not far from shore. It all looked, he realized, exactly like a town in a Lionel train layout, and if he squinted just right, the smoke rising from the chimney look like a steam engine.
Then he knew; the whole world is a Lionel Train set. And he walked home with a lighter step, in his brand-new Christmas boots.
That sure sounds good… until you don’t see the train set under the tree on Christmas morning.
Here’s what we learn: Waiting is about new eyes.
And my favorite part of the story?
The boy walked with a lighter step. Gratitude grows from seeing with new eyes.

Advent, as with so many markers and celebrations on our spiritual journey, is too easily put in a box of expectations. We have it figured out. And when we begin there, we miss the new and the expanding (and yes, and sometimes unsettling and stretching) places where the sacred is alive and well. It’s just not where we expected it. Say, a manger in a stable…

Let’s take John O’Donohue’s reminder with us this week, “At Christmas, time deepens. The Celtic imagination knew that time is eternity in disguise. They embraced the day as a sacred space. Christmas reminds us to glory in the simplicity and wonder of one day; it unveils the extraordinary that our hurried lives conceal and neglect. We have been given such immense possibilities. We desperately need to make clearances in our entangled lives to let our souls breathe. We must take care of ourselves and especially of our suffering brothers and sisters.”

Wednesday —

Waiting and making space—the permission to see that the ordinary is the hiding place for the holy… our themes for Advent.
“In technology you have this horizontal progress, where you must start at one point and move to another and then another,” Thomas Merton once commented. “But that is not the way to build a life of prayer. In prayer we discover what we already have. You start where you are and you deepen what you already have, and you realize that you are already there. All we need is to experience what we already possess.”
Yes. Permission to embrace the gift of enough. Which sure sounds good… until you don’t (or can’t) see the sacred in the ordinary. You see mostly or only, darkness, or distress or misery.

And speaking of waiting, Thomas Merton goes on to say, “If we really want prayer, we must slow down to a human tempo and we’ll begin to have time to listen. And as soon as we listen to what’s going on, things will begin to take shape by themselves. The reason why we don’t take time is a feeling that we have to keep moving. This is a real sickness.”
Okay, tell me again the reason for Advent season?
What if the power is in the waiting itself, in the space waiting creates?
What if that space invites and embraces new paradigms—letting us see the world with new eyes?
What if, it’s not about getting over the waiting, or having answers for the waiting. In other words, it is not about absence, but awareness.

Even as a boy, I always loved this verse (from Luke’s Gospel), “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
Truth is, we don’t know what Mary learned as she pondered. What we do know is that she made space.
To receive.
To welcome.
To invite.
To let life in.
There is a weight, value and substance in the very space that waiting allows. Why? Because so much gets in the way of our not waiting and not seeing: speed, intolerance, antagonism, fear, expectations, apprehension, inattentiveness, worry… and stuff.
If you wait, you never know what you may see. Maybe the gift of the sacred in the ordinary.
A friend told me a story about the nativity play at their parish.
A little girl played the role of the innkeeper. Mary and Joseph (Joseph resplendent in his dad’s bathrobe) knocked on the inn door and asked, “Is there any room in your inn?” The innkeeper looked at Mary and Joseph, and then looked out at the pastor. She looked again at Mary and Joseph, and then looked out at the pew where her parents sat. She looked again at Mary and Joseph, and said, “Oh well, come on in for a drink.”
I’m still smiling big. So, let’s make space for gratitude and connection and healing and sanctuaries to let our souls breathe.

Thursday —

One of my heroes (light spillers) is Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. His writing and his teaching help me understand and embrace the permission to see that the ordinary is the hiding place for the holy. Our theme this week.
I use one of his quotes, as a mantra: “Just to be is a blessing, just to live is holy. The moment is the marvel.”
I am so grateful for this paradigm shift toward “radical amazement”… Yes, the sacrament of the present moment.

In his book, Who Is Man? Heschel writes, “The world presents itself in two ways to me. The world as a thing I own, the world as a mystery I face. What I own is a trifle, what I face is sublime. I am careful not to waste what I own; I must learn not to miss what I face.
We manipulate what is available on the surface of the world; we must also stand in awe before the mystery of the world. We objectify Being but we also are present at Being in wonder, in radical amazement.
All we have is a sense of awe and radical amazement in the face of a mystery that staggers our ability to sense it….
Awe is more than an emotion; it is a way of understanding, insight into a meaning greater than ourselves. The beginning of awe is wonder, and the beginning of wisdom is awe.
Awe is an intuition for the dignity of all things, a realization that things not only are what they are but also stand, however remotely, for something supreme. Awe is a sense for the… mystery beyond all things. It enables us… to sense in small things the beginning of infinite significance, to sense the ultimate in the common and the simple; to feel in the rush of the passing the stillness of the eternal. What we cannot comprehend by analysis, we become aware of in awe.
Faith is not belief, an assent to a proposition; faith is attachment to transcendence, to the meaning beyond the mystery.
Knowledge is fostered by curiosity; wisdom is fostered by awe. Awe precedes faith; it is the root of faith. We must be guided by awe to be worthy of faith.
Forfeit your sense of awe, let your conceit diminish your ability to revere, and the universe becomes a market place for you. The loss of awe is the avoidance of insight. A return to reverence is the first prerequisite for a revival of wisdom, for the discovery of the world as an allusion to God.”

You know I love and design gardens (sanctuary spaces). And when I moved to Vashon Island in 1988, I went back to college to do a degree in horticulture. Actually, just for pure gratification. One of my classes, to spend the day (each week) in Washington Park Arboretum, naming and celebrating trees and shrubs and beauty. Nice memory. And on this day, Dec. 6, 1934, the 200-acre was created through an agreement between the University of Washington and the city of Seattle. The first plantings were designed by James F. Dawson and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. (the creator of Central Park, Manhattan).  

Friday —

You may have been following the weather here in the Pacific Northwest. We’ve had “strong atmospheric rivers blast the region” with heavy rain. As a writer, I just love the choice of words. Here’s what you learn: it’s the kind of weather where you hunker down. Something about waiting. Does that sound familiar?
Ah yes… our theme this week: the invitation and yes, the gift, in waiting.
The gift is in the permission to see… that the ordinary is the hiding place for the holy.
One of my favorite books last year was Cole Arthur Riley’s This Here Flesh.
She talks a lot about the spiritual practice of seeing, paying attention… and finding awe and wonder.
She writes, “I think awe is an exercise, both a doing and a being. It is a spiritual muscle of our humanity that we can only keep from atrophying if we exercise it habitually. I sit in the clearing behind [my home] listening to the song of the barn swallows mix with the sound of cars speeding by. I watch the milk current through my tea and the little leaves dance free from their pouch. I linger in the mirror and I don’t look away. I trace the shadows hugging my lips and I don’t look away. Awe is not a lens through which to see the world but our sole path to seeing. Any other lens is not a lens but a veil. And I’ve come to believe that our beholding—seeing the veils of this world peeled back again and again, if only for a moment—is no small form of salvation.
When I speak of wonder, I mean the practice of beholding the beautiful. Beholding the majestic—the snow-capped Himalayas, the sun setting on the sea—but also the perfectly mundane—that soap bubble reflecting your kitchen, the oxidized underbelly of that stainless steel pan. More than the grand beauties of our lives, wonder is about having the presence to pay attention to the commonplace. It could be said that to find beauty in the ordinary is a deeper exercise than climbing to the mountaintop….
To encounter the holy in the ordinary is to find God in the liminal—in spaces where we might subconsciously exclude it, including the sensory moments that are often illegibly spiritual.”
(Cole Arthur Riley, This Here Flesh: Spirituality, Liberation, and the Stories That Make Us)

I am writing this on the first day of Hanukkah—sometimes called the Festival of Lights. The festival celebrates the liberation from oppression by the lighting of candles on each day of the festival.
One part of the story commemorates how a one day’s worth of oil miraculously burned for eight days after the Temple of Israel in Jerusalem was recaptured from outside forces in the second century B.C. That’s why the Hanukkah menorah has nine candles: one for each of the eight days, and one to light the rest.
Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish brothers and sisters.

And December 8 marks another celebration that involves candles. Sixty-nine of them in fact. But I’m hoping they will be sitting on the top of a dark chocolate cake. I may need help blowing them out. Just saying’

Prayer for our week…
I am making a home inside myself.
A shelter of kindness where everything is forgiven, everything allowed—a quiet patch of sunlight to stretch out without hurry,
where all that has been banished
and buried is welcomed, spoken, listened to—released.
A fiercely friendly place I can claim as my very own.
I am throwing arms open
to the whole of myself—especially the fearful,
fault-finding, falling apart, unfinished parts, knowing
every seed and weed, every drop of rain, has made the soil richer.
I will light a candle, pour a hot cup of tea, gather
around the warmth of my own blazing fire. I will howl
if I want to, knowing this flame can burn through
any perceived problem, any prescribed perfectionism,
any lying limitation, every heavy thing.
I am making a home inside myself
where grace blooms in grand and glorious
abundance, a shelter of kindness that grows
all the truest things.
I whisper hallelujah to the friendly sky.
Watch now as I burst into blossom.
Julia Fehrenbacher

Photo… “Hi Terry, Sorry for the difficulty with the pdf photo; it was actually a screenshot from a short video I took from my phone and I suspect that you can’t use videos as well on your page. I have attached a different photo that I like as much as the first. As you know, the weather and cloud formations in the Pacific Northwest can be spectacular; the attached is one of my favorites. Best wishes and thank you for your daily devotions as they are becoming part of my daily routine. I’m currently working on your first online ecourse session,” Greg Wilhelm… Thank you Greg… And I’m so grateful for your photos, please send them to [email protected]

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