Invitation to wake up
Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is the strangest, most fantastic, most wonderful toy store in the world. The store is run by Mr. Edward Magorium (who claims that he is two-hundred-forty-three years old), assisted by an insecure Molly Mahoney, and a very young Eric Applebaum, a lonely hat collector (who has only Molly and Mr. Magorium for friends).
Mr. Magorium hires Henry Weston, an accountant, to adjust the accounts of the Emporium.
Henry is a very serious and humorless man. Henry is working behind a window, intent on his work, when Eric approaches the window with a request, written on a piece of paper, held up to the window for Henry to see.
Do you want to play checkers? It reads.
I did when I was a kid. Henry writes his response.
(Eric) Want to play?
(Henry) When I quite working.
(Eric) How about after work?
(Henry) I never quit working.
This is not just a story about work. (I have friends, including Sabbath Moment friends, who have lost jobs during this two-year roller coaster—me being one of them—and are grateful for the opportunity to work.) This isn’t about jobs either. This is a story about how our fixation—or busyness or distractions or work—can consume us. And we see our value tied only to this burden of busyness. (Remember those times, as a youngster, when we were told, “Dad—or mom—is coming back, quick, look busy.”)
(Although, it helps if we convince ourselves that it’s okay, “we are busy with matters of consequence”. Just sayin’.)
This is a story about where we tether our identity. And ultimately, about how we perceive what is important.
And if we are trapped (like Henry), we lose our sense of play.
We lose our sense of wonder.
And we lose our sense sanctuary, of rest and restoration.
Sanctuary is where we go to cherish our life. It’s where we practice being present. And it’s never that many steps from where we are, right now.
This is a story about the invitation to wake up. And Advent is “awakened waiting,” which involves being roused, being shaken up. You see, Emmanuel, God-with-us, gets it. Everything human and the permission to live awake.
As Ronald Rolheiser reminds us, “God in Jesus became what God loves—everything human.” Yes. Which mean the child within. You see, if I feel seen, safe and loved, I don’t need to obsess about life as a contest or test or beauty pageant.
In Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, Eric invites Henry to an awakening.
In December 1944, 37-year-old Father Alfred Delp, S.J., was imprisoned in Tegel Prison in Berlin, having been arrested months earlier on suspicion of being part of the Resistance movement against the Nazis. While in prison, he wrote a series of Advent and Christmas reflections during what would be the last Advent of his earthly life. In an astounding spirit of hope, he writes: “The kind of awakening that literally shocks a person’s whole being is part and parcel of the Advent idea. It is precisely in the shock of rousing… that a person finds the golden thread which binds earth to heaven and gives the benighted some inkling of the fullness it is capable of realizing and is called upon to realize.” (Thank you Fr. Gregory Schenden)
What do I want for Christmas? “The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.” (Thank you David Orr)
The planet needs people who wake up.
So… what if waking up begins with wonder?
What is waking up begins with gladness, curiosity, gooseflesh, delight?
Without wonder we approach life as a self-help project. Eugene Peterson reminds us, “We (only) employ techniques; we analyze gifts and penalties; we set goals and assess progress. Spiritual formation is reduced to cosmetics.”
I believe that Eric had the right idea: Today I don’t need to overcome. Today I need to play. Latch on to moments of joy.
So. Do you want to play checkers?
What if I don’t feel like playing? What if my spirit is too heavy? Fair enough. I know exactly what that feels like… So. Let’s think of it this way: Play is an openness to a part of me that has been closed or discounted.
Which means that play is not so much an activity, as a suspending of control. Or as Henri Nouwen taught us, “Love is not something you have. Love is something that has you. You do not have the wind, the stars, and the rain. You don’t possess these things; you surrender to them. And surrender occurs when you are aware of your illusions, when you are aware of your addictions, when you are aware of your desire and fears.”
It is the same with play.
My Christmas prayer: Let us recapture that child in each of us; that child still smitten with wonder.
Where is the play in your life?
Where is the rest?
Where is the wonder?
Where is the gladness?
Where is the gooseflesh?
And St. John of the Cross reminds us of the soil where this seed, this awakening to wonder (this inkling of the fullness) comes to life.
“When you regarded me
Your eyes imprinted your grace in me,
In this, you loved me again,
And thus my eyes merited
To also love what you see in me….
Let us go forth together to see ourselves in Your beauty.”
Today on this fourth Sunday of Advent, we light the purple candle, often called the “Angels Candle,” which represents peace.
On Tuesday, winter solstice and the shortest day of our year, with each day after, letting more light in (or can we say, spill?).
It was sunny today, and I tell the geese to savor the season. They appreciate short homilies.
A peaceful and blessed Christmas to you all. Our roller coaster ride isn’t over. So, it’s important that we make sanctuary space for those around us to be safe. Places of healing to be seen and heard.
Quote for your week…
The One who came still comes and the One who spoke still speaks—Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it—because it does. First Book to the Corinthians
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Today’s Photo Credit: “Unseasonably warm December day, perfect for a sunset walk, Lake Chaminwood near Channahon, IL,” Joe Durepos… Thank you Joe… Keep sending your photos… send to firstname.lastname@example.org
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–Hi Terry: Thank you for all that you do. My husband and I continue to listen to your stories. They are such a cherished time of anticipation… what will Terry say today! Seems that our time spent after, when we pause to discuss what we have heard, has lengthened to a two-cup coffee visit vs just a single cup. Thank you for sharing your gift of storytelling. Your choice words and your rich voice are greatly appreciated. It is as if time stops and we can breathe. I know you miss your Dad. Having a great Dad comes with having a great loss. Thank you, God, for sharing these wonderful Dads with us… until we meet again. You are our church. With great gratitude. Kim
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Whole-heartedness is a precious gift, but no one can actually give it to you. You have to find the path that has heart and then walk it impeccably… It’s like someone laughing in your ear, challenging you to figure out what to do when you don’t know what to do. It humbles you. It opens your heart. Pema Chodron
We pray for another way of being: another way of knowing.
Across the difficult terrain of our existence we have attempted to build a highway and in so doing have lost our footpath.
God lead us to our footpath: lead us there where in simplicity we may move at the speed of natural creature and feel the earth’s love beneath our feet.
Lead us there where step-by-step we may feel the movement of creation in our hearts.
And lead us there where side-by-side we may feel the embrace of the common soul.
Nothing can be loved at speed.
God lead us to the slow path: to the joyous insights of the pilgrim; another way of knowing: another way of being.
O Taste and See
The world is
not with us enough.
O taste and see
the subway Bible poster said,
meaning The Lord, meaning
if anything all that lives
to the imagination’s tongue,
grief, mercy, language,
tangerine, weather, to
breathe them, bite,
savor, chew, swallow, transform
into our flesh our
deaths, crossing the street, plum, quince,
living in the orchard and being
hungry, and plucking