Waiting is not one of my spiritual gifts. I wish it were easier to wait.
And Christmas is the season of Advent, which means, literally, “to wait.” Wait implies that we are paying attention, (one would assume), to something. Something specific. Let’s just say that modern life has rewired our expectations. Waiting is part of life. However, we’d like to know the point. As if waiting is a test with unambiguous and accurate answers.
There is a delightful story about a man who takes his son to movie matinees. That is not unusual. Except this: the boy, his son, is deaf.
The man is accustomed to questioning. “Why do you do this to your son, if he cannot hear the movie?” Or, “If your son can’t hear, what value is there?”
The Father smiles and says, “You are right. He cannot hear. But I wonder. In the movie we watched last weekend. What color were the walls in the house? How many windows where there in the main house? What color was the heroine’s hair? And her eyes?”
The Father continues, “I guess the value depends upon what we are paying attention to.”
Could it be, that (just like the hearing-impaired boy), the value of waiting depends upon what we are paying attention to?
We assume that wait means to fill time or space. This is what derails us. (Wait is assuredly a word we’re not fond of. I read that the average person will spend 5 years of his or her life waiting in line, 2 years playing phone tag, and six months sitting at red lights. That is over 7 and half years of waiting, at best, doing nothing, or at worst maxing out our blood pressure. And it doesn’t help that we blithely text while we wait.)
Here’s the deal: Part of the inability to wait (to see or savor) is that we live overwhelmed (many wrestling with a kind of despair), and that becomes our narrative. In other words, that’s all we see. We don’t see the gift. We miss the invitation to the sacred present.
“At Christmas, time deepens,” John O’Donohue writes. “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.”
What if the waiting of Advent, is the story of a God who pitches a tent among us, even as we live in the midst of a culture grown weary from too much? Too much speed, too much fear and too much strife?
Waiting provides space for a reset. Replenishment. Spiritual hydration.
Remembering what we value. Remembering those things and people, for which we are grateful. In this, waiting offers the gift of simple grace. “My advice to the person suffering from lack of time and from apathy is this: Seek out each day as many as possible of the small joys,” Hermann Hesse wrote.
My favorite Christmas story 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.
My favorite part of the story?
The boy walked with a lighter step.
Yes. With awareness comes gratitude. With gratitude weights are lifted, and there is a sense of peace.
I love the affirmation lighting the first Chanukkah candle (Dec. 22): “I light this candle to illuminate the remembering of the light within me and embracing me, both, always.” So. Here’s my Christmas gift; Want what you already have, including what is on the inside.
This I do know: In the hurry and the hubbub, our world grows smaller. However (like the young man in the story), when we make space, we see. We pay attention, we remember, we are grateful, we take delight, we grow. And our world grows larger. And we spill that light, knowing that our delight grows (like love and joy) when we share it.
My new word this week is Hyggelig (hu-guh-lig). The Danish practice of creating warmth, connection and well-being. A complete absence of anything frustrating or emotionally overwhelming. Taking pleasure from the presence of gentle, soothing things. Celebrating the everyday. Savoring the present moment. Often enjoyed with good food and drinks, warm blankets and candlelight.
I wish to all Sabbath Moment readers a blessed Advent and Christmas. And to my Jewish brothers and sisters, a blessed Chanukkah.
Quote for your week…
In technology you have this horizontal progress, where you must start at one point and move to another and then another. 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. Thomas Merton
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Today’s photo credit — Antigua, Guatemala… Last week… Monastery hospital, Disibodenberg, Germany. Home of St. Hildegard of Bingen… Cathy Roby… keep sending your photos… send to firstname.lastname@example.org
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In the mailbag… because your letters affirm us all…
–Thank you for sharing your faith and yourself with such beautiful reflections each week. Pat
–Wonderful SM! Love the music ending! Love your vulnerability… your “out-there-ness”! Happy Birthday… don’t ever quit… just change your sneakers… you are sooooo needed! Brenda
–Thanks, Terry, for you ministry through Sabbath Moment. Every Monday I eagerly open e-mail for your latest sharing. Always a great blessing. Praying God’s continued blessings as you minister to us. Janice
–I am getting SM and I love it! Thank you! SM nourishes me and give me a lift. I appreciate it and you. Merry Christmas. Cheryl
–Thanks Terry! I loved this! Well, I love them all, but this one especially, because I love to dance and recognize it as an inner expression of joy or whatever we need to express. My cousin from Chicago, who I tipped off to your “Moments” a few years ago, sent me a text this morning. “Have a dance full day!” she said. And there’s another forgotten joy-builder, humming! I’d totally forgotten about humming until a short meditation on Insight Timer reminded me: my grandmother who raised me hummed all the time, and this created an energy all around her that everything was all right. Love & blessings to you and yours. A huge thank-you for all you do! Pam
–This is the gift that you grace us all with—the gift and the challenge and the reminder to savor and celebrate the person God has creased us to be through our “dancing”. Thank you! Today I shall drive to grab ahold of that joy and spread it around me. Brian
–Terry, it’s comforting to experience that after I read your posts…I breathe… Rena
–Glorious day to you Terry. I just read your words and listened to the Bob Marley video. WOW, with moist eyes, is all I can say. AND of course, thank you. You fill my heart, excite my spirit and make me want to tap dance again! Thank you, thank you…soul sparks to you. Sincerely, Kim
–I quote you often and treasure your Monday morning encouragement. Merry Christmas! Alice
–Hi Terry… I laughed so hard this morning when I read that you couldn’t remember who sent the photo to you. It was me! It happens to all of us these days! Speaking of healing in your SM this week, this is a picture of the ruins of the monastery hospital at Disibodenberg. In August when I was following the footsteps of St. Hildegard of Bingen we visited this amazing sacred portal one day and we were taken up in it’s beauty and peace in the middle of a forest. No wonder why Hildegard stayed here for 39 years and became the Abbess. Disibodenberg is a monastery ruin in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Have a very merry and blessed Christmas! Peace, Cathy
POEMS AND PRAYERS
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.
St. John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle
into an unclenched moment,
a deep breath,
a letting go
of heavy expectancies,
of shriveling anxieties,
of dead certainties,
that, softened by the silence,
surrounded by the light,
and open to the mystery.
I may be found by wholeness,
upheld by the unfathomable,
entranced by the simple,
and filled with the joy
that is You.
Life is short and we do not have much time
to gladden the hearts of those
who make this earthly pilgrimage with us.
So, be swift to love,
make haste to do kindness,
shower abundant hospitality on friend and stranger,
walk in justice that you may follow the path of mercy and love.
And the blessing of God who comes to us unbidden,
who for our lives was broken,
and in whose Spirit we are guided into wholeness and holiness of life,
be upon you and those who you love and pray
for this day, and forevermore.