Still Need A Little Christmas? I do.

It’s my usual post-Christmas funk, so I decide the decorations won’t come down till “Little Christmas,” or Epiphany, as Christians call it. It’s when, as the story goes, the wise men visited the baby Jesus. In my church’s tradition, the event that led to widespread knowledge of the Christ’s appearance in the human world. What I like to think of as Love being revealed in a whole new way. But, I’m still in a bit of a funk; I have been for a while. It started in November. I wrote about it and then didn’t post it. I thought it sounded too cranky. But, now, here it is. 

November 24, 2016
It’s the day before Thanksgiving, here in the US of A, but it’s hard to tell. I’m at the mall, sitting next to a tree loaded with red bows and white lights, behind the candy-themed fantasyland where Santa’s been offering photo opps for a month already. Looks and sounds more like Christmas time than the time to ponder what I’m grateful for. Definitely doesn’t feel like Christmas in my heart.

Are you there, heart?

This heart of mine feels weary lately. Staying positive and serene has taken extra concentration.  Feelings and thoughts take extra time to process. I mean, a wacko has been elected ringmaster of my country and now is filling the circus with a frightening array of clowns. The stress is getting to me. On second thought, maybe this year I need the Christmas season to start extra early. 

My pre-Christmas season has always been about hope. Hope, and the bigger picture–two perspectives that sure are taking their time sinking in today. I’m trying to be gentle with myself as I sort it out. Instead of taking in everyone’s opinions, I’m tuning in to bigger-picture messages, starting with a recent Sunday message.

The story (in the Bible, Genesis 25) was about an ambitious man (Jacob) taking advantage of his brother’s (Esau) hunger. Esau, really, really hungry, craved the fragrant stew his brother had made. He said he’d do anything to eat some stew. Jacob saw his advantage and asked for his brother’s birthright in exchange for the meal, and Esau agreed! So much we could talk about here, but what I’m feeling today in that story is how I crave warm “soul food,” and how I sell myself out in my search for that “food.”  For sure, I could use that comfort right now. 

We read a Psalm together on Sunday, too, from the Bible, number 46: The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us.

I’m taking that on faith today, the day before Thanksgiving. God in my life always has a wild, unexpected plan for good. 

Sitting amongst pre-Thanksgiving shoppers, I think about using my heart and voice to connect more deeply with the preschool kids I sing with; I think about the connections that I so often am blessed to make with neighbors and strangers. I clearly see the hunger in us all, made so very obvious by the recent election. I see how that hunger drives us to sell our birthrights: love. We want to feel better, go about our daily business, hope that the powers that be work it out somehow. Not enough. I’ve got to BE love in all kinds of ways. I now can see the need for lights on the bushes, around the windows, wound around trees–ASAP! 

 Lucille Ball is in my head:

Haul out the holly;
Put up the tree before my spirit falls again.
Fill up the stocking,
I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now.
For we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute,
Candles in the window,
Carols at the spinet.
Yes, we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute.
It hasn’t snowed a single flurry,
But Santa, dear, we’re in a hurry;
So climb down the chimney;
Put up the brightest string of lights I’ve ever seen.
Slice up the fruitcake;
It’s time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen bough.
For I’ve grown a little leaner,
Grown a little colder,
Grown a little sadder,
Grown a little older,
And I need a little angel
Sitting on my shoulder,
Need a little Christmas now.
(Songwriter: Jerry Herman)

Give a little listen, if you’d like:

Be light in the world. 

Eating, Praying & Loving Through The Holidays

The celebrated and movie-fied book Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert lived in the dusty back row of my bookshelf for over a year.  I tried reading it once before, but got hung up on this sentence in the introduction:

“Sincere spiritual investigation is, and always has been, an endeavor of methodical discipline.”

I’m not a big fan of the D-word: discipline.  (If you know me, you are probably shaking your head vigorously in agreement. Stop it! 😙)  Anyhow, my spiritual path has been guided more by J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Not all those who wander are lost.”

I’ve started reading Eat Pray Love again, because I had the movie on recently while cleaning out my side of the bedroom 😷 in preparation for Christmas.  I found myself cleaning only during the commercials and sitting on the bed watching when the movie came back on.  So, I decided to read the book as a sort of meditation, a focus, for the month of December.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s story speaks to some Very Big Questions with which I’ve been wrestling for years.  In particular, why am I, a so-called cradle Lutheran, steeped in church tradition and Bible-reading and such–so extremely uncomfortable with the idea that the only path to the Divine (whom I call God) is through a rigid script that goes something like this:   1) Realize you’re a sinner.  2) Repent from all your sin.  3)  Confess your sins to Jesus.?

I mean, what about the person sitting on a rock somewhere in Jabip in the mountains.  What if they don’t know the salvation formula?

I know; I know: Paul said in the book of Romans in the Bible that here’s how you are saved.  Please don’t get your Christian panties in a bunch.  Couldn’t we just entertain the idea that people need to embrace living in Love and then share that Love with everyone?  Wouldn’t living in Love be our salvation?

Okay, I’m not looking for a debate here. I’m a big fan of Jesus. He has shown me the way to heaven, although I’m not talking about where I go when I die; I’m talking about where I’m already a citizen and where I can learn how to act like it.

But I digress.

Two-ish years ago, my husband began a before-mentioned (in another post or two) cancer-curing journey. Three months before that was the surgery on the back of my teenager’s skull to give her brain enough space to hang free. Before that, five emergency trips to the hospital in two months for my mom.

They all got better, thank God!  Except for me.  I got worse.  I’ve spent the last year-ish recovering from the worry and hurry of addressing my loved ones’ needs. (FYI I’d do it all again for them.)  I’ve been learning lots and, in the process, shedding a whole lot of stuff that has weighed me down for years, stuff that had become a habit.  Fear. Worry. Dread. Hopelessness. Guilt. Toxic Shame. Hesitation to act on my own behalf. Caring about what people think about what I’m doing or how I look. Self-Criticism. Wondering endlessly about getting it right spiritually.

That last one is the latest to go.  Worrying about my questions about Jesus’ purpose and plan for me and all people. You see, I noticed that Jesus did something amazing for humanity, yes, and also said that we would do greater things than he did.  There are so many places in the Bible that hang me up, that make the God of the Universe that I know so unrecognizable that I’ve been known to toss the whole notion of God right out the nearest stainglass window.

You see, I see God (aka Love) in people who don’t profess Jesus as their savior.  I’ve seen God in people who do bad things. (Ahem! Like, all of us.)  I saw God in a dog the other day. Really!  Here’s her pic:

Gloria Closeup

And let me say here that I know the hackles of many a Christian will be raised by these notions I’m putting forth. I know that they will point to the Bible and say, “It says right here that…”  But I have a problem with that.  I think that, perhaps, we’ve gotten the Bible a little wrong here and there. I can’t see God excluding anyone, for any reason, from His/Her Love. I can’t. It’s too capricious. God isn’t capricious. The Universe is designed to be good to all, isn’t it, no matter how we act? God The Father & Mother Of The Universe is loving, supportive, perfect, inclusive, forgiving. Right?

Or, perhaps we can lovingly agree to disagree.  And we can pray for each other.

Back to my story. What I’m reading in Eat Pray Love is resonating deeply in me. It’s about emotional and spiritual and geographic journeys.  It’s about leaps of faith. I relate to so much in what I’ve read so far.  Five months ago, I left my job of umpteen years. Didn’t know why at the time, but I needed to.  Since then, I learned that I’d been living with lung-restricting stress from all those family emergencies, and that I needed self care in a way I’d never needed it before.  That realization has brought me to mind-blowing heights of insight and inspiration, and down to my knees as I surrender, one by one, my need to hang on to unhealthy habits of thinking and doing and being.  I know I’m loved by the Lover Of Everyone In The Universe.

Today I see madness in my city, country and all over the world. I’m shocked, as I’m sure you are, at the daily news of bloodshed, political shenanigans, unbridled greed, and…but, wait!  I remember to stop daily, breathe, and I see what I have, where I’ve been, and that Love is with me.  I’m eating good spiritual food. I’m praying for and consciously loving everyone, including the people I see as enemies. I’m terrible at it, sometimes.  I don’t let that stop me, though.  Please don’t let it stop you.

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I’m an Amazon Associate.  If you want the book, click here: Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia  by Elizabeth Gilbert.