Friday, December 29, 2006

Energy in Action

As a student of faith everywhere I find it, I have recently signed up for a daily post from Yehuda Berg, at the Kabbalah Centre. I became familiar with Kabbalah years ago when I read the book Seeing God by Rabbi David Aaron and I found that many of the principles of Kabbalah connect with taoist, Quaker, and mystical ideas.

This morning's note was particularly pertinent here at the end of 2006:

The Kabbalists say that a person whose strength is in his words and not in his actions will always be caught in the world of extremes. That's why it is so important to walk the walk, and not just talk the talk. And we all do it, to an extent.
Focus on action today. What have you been procrastinating on? What are you "trying" to do? Don't try. Just do. You'll be much happier this way.

What loose ends can you wrap up before the end of 2006? I'm going to make my list, scratch that, I'm not going to write the list, I'm just going to get them done. :) Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Gifts & Giving

Before the boys woke up on Christmas morning, I sat in the big chair in the living room and enjoyed the glow of the lights on the tree, in the windows, and on the banisters. All was peace. My mind gradually settled on the presents. On Christmas Eve, my oldest son had wondered aloud where the tradition of "wrapping gifts in silly paper" came from. This morning, as I looked over the gifts, I remembered the story of the three wise men and the gifts they brought to the Christ child.

I thought there may be a connection between the gifts the magi brought to the baby in the manger and the gifts we give to those we love. Whether we recognize it or not, when we give a present to someone, we are giving our best, wrapped in our love and hope for their happiness, to the best in another. We've been thinking of them, their interests, their hopes, their dreams, their desires. What we give them lifts them up, affirms their talents, or brings them joy (or perhaps gives them comfort, warmth, or freedom from care).

In the Quaker tradition, we talk about the divine spirit within each living person and creature. The gifts we give each other could be, like the gifts of the magi, a living demonstration of the love we bring to others who--thank God--are walking the earth with us at this time.

I hope wherever you find yourself this holiday season, and whatever your own tradition of celebration for the birth of hope and reconciliation may be, you experience the peace, connectedness, and divine joy that exist in this very moment. :)

Monday, December 18, 2006

An Eve Moment

This weekend I was given both a kind of "dark night of the soul" experience and the light that came as a result. On Saturday night I went to hear my oldest son perform with his college jazz band. The venue was a small, dark, intimate jazz supper club. I was a bit nervous about it because, as a single person, I thought I would be highly aware of my "aloneness"--especially with Christopher's dad, his wife, and their friends eating together at a table not far away.

The music was wonderful, filling, lifting, energizing. I loved every minute of it. And yet I was acutely aware of the empty seats at my table, heightened by the fact that everyone else (as far as I had the courage to look) seemed to have others sitting with them--family members, friends, lovers, spouses.

I sat alone. At the break, Christopher and his girlfriend came and sat at the table and we talked a bit. Then they returned to the stage.

On the way home, I talked to my daughter on the phone. I told her how great the music had been. She asked, "Was it okay, going by yourself?" "It wasn't bad," I said.

But I came home to what felt like an empty house (although in reality I had my dogs, cats, and turtle to welcome me). And I looked at my beautiful Christmas tree and the lights spiraling up the stairs. And my heart ached as loneliness washed over me. I sat down and cried.

Yesterday my daughter and I scurried out in the early morning to try to get one of the late-release Wiis we'd heard a rumor about (we didn't get one, but we got close enough to see the people who got one!). Then in the afternoon I braved the mall and had a wonderful time finishing up my Christmas shopping. I cared for my grandbaby in the evening while her mama and papa went to a company Christmas party. And both boys were home--Christopher came home for Christmas break from college--and they were upstairs hooting and hollering as they played Xbox 360 games.

I put on the soundtrack to the movie Elf and made Christmas cookies. I was happy. I was singing in the kitchen as I figured out the new cookie press. Life was good again.

It occurred to me late last night that when I was feeling such a riping pain about being alone, I wasn't focused on what's real in my life. I was looking in the shadows for what I didn't have rather than opening my eyes in the light to see the very real blessings all around me. For that dark night in that dark jazz club, I allowed myself to believe in Lack. And you know what? It hurts!

It strikes me that I was reliving the moment in the Garden of Eden, when Eve believed the serpent when he told her she was missing something. Eat this, he said, and you'll have the knowledge God has. Eve thought there was something being withheld from her. She believed it was possible that there was something she lacked. And so she reached out, took a bite, and sought to fix the problem herself.

Not only did that solidify her belief in the possibility that she lacked something; she passed that belief along to Adam. And their own focus on lack caused them to hold back from God when he came for his daily happy stroll in the garden. They hid; they withdrew; they created the illusion of lack in their relationship with God.

If Eve had been completely happy with things as they were in the garden--if she's truly appreciated everything God had given her (and trusted God to reveal anything else needed at just the right time)--that story might have had a different ending.

For my part, this morning I'm very aware of the abundance around me. Life is good. I have companionship, and comfort, and peace, and joy. All along, all I needed were the eyes to see it, the ears to hear it, and the heart willing to fully, abundantly, receive.

Merry Christmas to you and yours--and may the grace and joy of God enfold everyone in the world in an embrace of peace.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Dayienu: “It is enough”

This beautiful poem arrived in my Writers' Almanac newsletter this morning:

Poem: "Just One God" by Deborah Cummins, from Counting the Waves. © Word Press. Reprinted with permission.

Just One God

                              after Wesley McNair

And so many of us.

How can we expect Him

to keep track of which voice

goes with what request.

Words work their way skyward.

Oh Lord, followed by petition —

for a cure, the safe landing.

For what is lost, missing —

a spouse, a job, the final game.

Complaint cloaked as need —

the faster car, porcelain teeth.

That so many entreaties

go unanswered

may say less about our lamentable

inability to be heard

than our inherent flawed condition.

Why else, at birth, the first sound

we make, that full-throttled cry?

Of want, want, want.

Of never enough. Desire

as embedded in us as the ancestral tug

in my unconscienced dog who takes

to the woods, nose to the ground, pulled far

from domesticated hearth, bowl of kibble.

Left behind, I go about my superior business,

my daily ritual I could call prayer.

But look, this morning, in my kitchen,

I'm not asking for more of anything.

My husband slices bread,

hums a tune from our past.

Eggs spatter in a skillet.

Wands of lilac I stuck in a glass

by the open window wobble

in a radiant and — dare I say it? —

merciful light.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Great Givers

I've read God Calling as part of my morning routine for years and years. This morning the message really seemed to jump off the page at me. The reminder was to give of ourselves--our prayers, our time, our thoughts, our presence, our love--before we ever get out our checkbooks to buy a gift. It is so easy to rush out and find a nice sweater, candle, CD, or gadget, wrap it in pretty paper, and wait excitedly for a loved one to open it on Christmas morning. But when we begin to stress about how "little" we have to give, we can think of all the real gifts behind the material, hold-in-your-hands one. We can pray for the happiness, protection, security, and growth of the person--that's a gift. We can call them on the phone and share a little of our time with them. That's a gift. We can spend a little time thinking about them and remembering all loving things they've done and being grateful for their presence in our lives. That's a gift. And we can open our hearts and meditate on the preciousness of that person to us, which I believe adds more light to the world that everybody feels. That's a profound gift.

And when we receive in this same spirit, a new understanding emerges. Unwrapping something on Christmas morning is a joy, but maybe what we're really hoping for is some token that it matters to that person that we're on the earth; that we're loved; that we are connected and wanted and valued; that some other human being understands (or wants to understand) us. That might be a lot to expect from a scarf or a tie. But when we open our hearts and minds to receive everything that goes along with that gift--prayer, time, thought, presence, and love--we can truly know how blessed we are. And then we can continue to give from that richness.

This year may our holidays--Christmas, Chanukkah, Kwanzaa, or a celebration of our own creation--be blessed with an abundant understanding of what giving really means.