Sunday, December 31, 2006

A prayer for the new year

Holy Mother...Loving Father...
Source of All That Is...
Oh--You know who You are!

That daughter You gave me said a funny thing yesterday:
"It seems like God has gotten shy over the years"
(Meaning You don't talk to people like in the "old days")

I said I wasn't sure that was true--
that sometimes it just doesn't get written down
Sometimes people aren't sure it's really You
(Or are afraid to believe that it is)

And I told her of the time I heard from you
(or one of Your "people")
"Help heal the world" were the words I heard
while lying in bed early that morning
And then You held me close

Maybe I imagined that, but it didn't matter
The words felt real enough, and the need for healing was real,
so I promised that I would
Later I learned about tikkun olam,
the Hebrew phase which translates to "repairing the world"

That confirmed the notion that the call to help heal the world was true and real...

It's also impossible

There can never be enough glue, tape, bandages, needles and thread, hammers and nails, hope, patience, and love, to get the job done

I suppose that's why the baptismal vows say, "I will, with God's help"

So as we begin a new year, I ask again for Your help
Help me to find the strength, energy, and love to keep working
to mend that which is broken,
both in myself and in the world You entrusted to our care.

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Friday, December 29, 2006

On Poverty

I strongly recommend reading Christy Hardin Smith's post Bringing Poverty to the Table. Yes, as I suspected, the post was prompted by Edwards' announcement yesterday. But even if you support a different candidate, please read. As Christy noted at the end of the piece:

That it has taken a Presidential candidate standing up and talking about this issue to get it back on the front pages of newspapers — at least for the day yesterday — is unconscionable. But at least people are talking about it again, and for that I applaud John Edwards for sticking to a topic that all of us need to be talking about much more frequently.
I don't have a candidate to support yet, as Gore still seems unwilling to run, Feingold has said he won't, and Howard Dean is a man of his word, who promised not to run if elected chair of the DNC. But poverty is one of those uncomfortable, dauntingly big and complex issues that tends to get swept under the rug by the majority. Maybe it's a bit like global warming in that respect. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were graphic examples of the urgency of both issues--we can't afford to ignore either. So I will join Christy in applauding Edwards getting poverty back into the headlines, even for one day. But I hope it will be for longer than that. Hopefully other candidates and officeholders will join him.

And I don't say this as a supporter of any political candidate. I say it as a human being. I also say it as an Episcopalian who is proud of my new Presiding Bishop who insists on keeping the focus on this issue, in spite of the efforts of others to shift the attention back to issues of human sexuality. From an interview in June of 2006:

Bishop JEFFERTS SCHORI: We need to be examining the poverty that is real around the world. We need to be examining the fact that our brothers and sisters, Anglican and not, in places like Africa and Asia don't have enough to eat. Their children don't have the opportunity to go to school. AIDS and tuberculosis and malaria are rampant in many parts of this world and people with those diseases don't have access to adequate health care. That's where our focus needs to be.

And, from a description of Katharine Jefferts Schori's book, scheduled to be released in January...
Grounding her reflections in a theology of the reign of God—‘God’s dream for creation’—she dares to ‘dream big’ herself, casting a vision of a world without poverty and hunger, where we all recognize our interdependence with every other child of God.
Jefferts Schori's book can be preordered here.

And I have heard those words echoed by Bishop Gene Robinson, and by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and by many other people I respect and admire. I hope that more and more people will talk about it--especially people who have an audience. And when people try to distract us with something shiny, I hope that we will redirect, and bring the discussion back to issues of vital importance for our human family.

(Also posted at Daily Kos, My Left Wing and Street Prophets)

Update: I just discovered that Part II of Christy's discussion of poverty is now posted at FDL.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Here's a required part of Christmas when celebrated with my Mom's family:

One of the most beautiful and most revered Polish customs is the breaking of the oplatek. The use of the Christmas wafer (oplatek) is not only by native Poles in Poland but also by people of Polish ancestry all over the world.

The oplatek is a thin wafer made of flour and water. For table use, it is white. In Poland, colored wafers are used to make Christmas tree decorations. In the past, the wafers were baked by organists or by religious and were distributed from house to house in the parish during Advent. Today, they are produced commercially and are sold in religious stores and houses. Sometimes an oplatek is sent in a greeting card to loved ones away from home.

Family members extend oplatki (plural--oplatek is the singular) to one another, and break pieces off, offering good wishes and blessings for the coming year.

Every year we know that Oplatki Time is coming. It's awkward--like knowing you will be required to give a mini-speech to people you haven't seen since last year. Every year someone jokes about not doing it, or tries to barter it down to just holding up the wafers and making one big communal Christmas wish/blessing. But we always do the thing. It's tradition, dang it.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to Heifer in my Mom's honor. She was really surprised, and quite touched. Will share more later, but now it's family time.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Countering Anti-Muslim bigotry

Note: I started this post at the beginning of the month and then got very busy with Christmas preparations and various events for the kids. But today, after more recent developments, such as Virginia Represenative Virgil Goode's letter about the importance of tightening immigration restrictions to avoid an "influx of Muslims", I decided I'd better post it.

What I wrote earlier this month...

From Yahoo News: In U.S., fear and distrust of Muslims runs deep

When radio host Jerry Klein suggested that all Muslims in the United States should be identified with a crescent-shape tattoo or a distinctive arm band, the phone lines jammed instantly.

Another said that tattoos, armbands and other identifying markers such as crescent marks on driver's licenses, passports and birth certificates did not go far enough. "What good is identifying them?" he asked. "You have to set up encampments like during World War Two with the Japanese and Germans."

At the end of the one-hour show, rich with arguments on why visual identification of "the threat in our midst" would alleviate the public's fears, Klein revealed that he had staged a hoax. It drew out reactions that are not uncommon in post-9/11 America.
A video of news segment about this story can be seen at Crooks and Liars.

Here is a link to some columns by Dr. Asma Mobin Uddin, a Columbus area pediatrician and member of the Muslim faith. She makes public appearances (one at my church a couple years ago) to help people learn more about the misunderstood and sometimes mistrusted faith to which she belongs, has written columns for the Faith and Values section of the Columbus Dispatch, and has written a children's book, My Name is Bilal...
Bilal worries about being teased by his classmates for being Muslim. He thinks maybe it would be better if people don't know he is Muslim. Maybe it would be best if he tells kids his name is Bill rather than Bilal. Then maybe they would leave him alone. Mr. Ali, one of Bilal's teachers and also Muslim, sees how the boy is struggling. He gives Bilal a book about the first person to give the call to prayer during the time of the Prophet Muhammad. That person was another Bilal: Bilal Ibn Rabah. What Bilal learns from the book forms the compelling story of a young boy wrestling with his identity.
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Thursday, December 21, 2006

What part of "all" don't these people understand?

Some disheartening stories I've seen recently...

Congressman Fears Influx of Muslims
Right Wing Questions Obama's Loyalty

I know I've posted these words from Bishop Desmond Tutu before, but apparently it's a lesson that needs repeating before it really sinks in.

And, God says, God says, "Yes, I do have a dream. Like, Martin Luther King, Jr." God says, "I, too, have a dream. I dream that my children one day will discover that they are family."

Now, that, actually, is not sentimental. It's one of the most radical things that Jesus ever uttered: "They are family." Family, you don't choose your relatives. Sometimes you wish you could. Family: a gift from God to you. And you: a gift to them from God.

And, in this family, there are no outsiders. Just all, all… all belong. It's an incredibly radical thing. All, all, all. You see, when Jesus spoke about… "If I be lifted up, I will draw…" he didn't say I will draw some. He didn't say I will draw some. He said, "I will draw all, all into this incredible divine embrace of love." All. Beautiful, not so beautiful. Tall; stumpy, like me. … Rich, poor, white, black, red. All, all, all, all. All belong. All. All. Gay, lesbian, so-called straight, all. [Laughter and applause.] All, all. All. All. [Applause.] All. All. All. All. All. Sharon, Arafat, all. Roman Catholic, Protestant in Northern Ireland. All. All. All. Bush, bin Laden. All. It's quite serious because, you see, God has no enemies.
By the way, one way to help those family members who are living in hunger and poverty, is through a donation to Heifer International. I've set up a page, with a modest goal of $250, here.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Art, worship, and action

The image you see above is entitled "O War-Torn Town of Bethlehem", and it can be found at the Episcopal Church and Visual Arts Exhibition online. Click here for the entry page of the "Unto us a Child is Born" section. As I was paging through the gallery, I had a hard time deciding which picture I wanted to post. Different images can "speak" to different people. But I think art can touch us on a level that words can't.

And music can certainly be powerful, inspiring, and motivating. Long story short, I found myself irritated with The Daily Show's segment on the U2Charist. Yes, I get that it's a funny name. But having attended such a service this past summer, I know that these services are designed to help get people feeling inspired and empowered about going forth and helping to right some of the wrongs in the world. At the service I attended, there was a lot of emphasis on the Millennium Development Goals. That's something I take very seriously, and getting more people to care about things like "eradicating extreme poverty and hunger" is a *very* good thing. So I was a tad annoyed when the segment *only* portrayed it as something silly and laughable.

Anyway, I realize the job of the folks at the Daily Show is to make people laugh. But now I feel like it's *my* job to make sure people know what the U2Charist is really about.

Here's a page on the Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation web site that tells a bit about how the U2Charist might be used...

A U2charist is an Episcopal Eucharist service that features the music of the rock band U2 and a message about God's call to rally around the Millennium Development Goals. The U2charist is a great opportunity to reach out to the people in your congregation and larger community, especially young people. This service the music and message of U2 about global reconciliation, justice for the poor and oppressed, and the importance of caring for your neighbor. Led by the global MDG ambassador, Bono, U2 is calling people worldwide to a deeper faith and engagement with God's mission. The U2charist seeks to be an extension of this ministry.

Who knows...maybe Jon can make up for this by having Bono, or, better yet, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, on the program to talk about the Millennium Development Goals. (Why not--he had Bishop Desmond Tutu on the program!)

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The "true on the inside" story of Our Lady of Guadalupe

December 12 is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Here's a news story from the Houston Chronicle about today's festivities: Mexicans gather to honor the Virgin of Guadalupe on annual holiday. You can read the gist of the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe's appearance in 1531 to Juan Diego in this homily, given at the University of San Diego in the year 2000, tells the gist of the story. elderly Indian man named Chuauhtlatoczin ["Juan Diego" in Spanish] had a vision of Mary, the mother of Jesus, at Tepeyac, a squalid Indian village outside of Mexico City. Mary directed Juan Diego to tell the bishop to build the church in Tepeyac. The Spanish Bishop, however, dismissed the Indian’s tale as mere superstition — he was, after all, an Indian — but then, to humor Juan Diego, he insisted that he bring some sort of proof, if he wanted to be taken seriously. So, three days later, the Virgin Mary appeared again and told Juan Diego to pick the exquisitely beautiful roses that had miraculously bloomed amidst December snows, and take them as a sign to the Bishop. When the Indian opened his poncho to present the roses to the Bishop, the flowers poured out from his poncho to reveal an image of the Virgin Mary painted on the inside of the poncho. That image hangs today in the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City and is venerated by thousands of pilgrims from all over the world.
While I was raised Catholic, I don't remember learning this story, or if I did, it didn't really register. Maybe that is because of the "otherness" of the characters involved. Mary of Nazarath, I now know, certainly was *not* blond and blue-eyed, but as a blond, blue-eyed child, that depiction seemed normal and familiar.

I only came to really read and ponder the story as an adult, having been officially received into the Episcopal church, and felt very much at home in my new church. But it was lacked any iconography of Mary, so I turned to other sources to feed that longing. The writing of Kathleen Norris, in particular, helped me come to terms with the significance of Mary from a more modern, feminist perspective than I had encountered in the past, and also introduced me to the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Here is an excerpt of her writing on the subject:

In a recent essay the writer Rugen Martinez lovingly articulates the paradoxes that enliven his sense of the officially sanctioned Mary of church doctrine, and, to borrow his phrase, the "Undocumented Virgin" of personal experience and legend, folktale, and myth. I should probably take this opportunity to make an aside and state that by "myth" I mean a story that you know must be true the first time you hear it. Or, in the words of a five-year-old child, as related by Gertrude Mueller Nelson in her recent Jungian interpretation of fairy tales and Marian theology, Here All Dwell Free, a myth is a story that isn't true on the outside, only on the inside.
Juan Diego was declared a saint by Pope John Paul II back in 2002, and I recall hearing news stories that there were doubts about the authenticity of the potential saint's story. I remember easily accepting the notion that the story was "used" as something like a marketing strategy to help convert the native people to Catholicism. And that may indeed be part of the truth. But it's not all of it. Kathleen Norris writes:
Mary's love and pity for her children seems to be what people treasure most about her, and what helps her to serve as a bridge between cultures. One great example of this took place in 1531, when the Virgin Mary appeared to an Indian peasant named Juan Diego on the mountain of Tepayac, in Mexico, leaving behind a cloak, a tilma, imprinted with her image. The image has been immortalized as Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Mexican-American theologian Virgilio Elizondo argues, in The Future is Mestizo, that the significance of this image today is that Mary appeared as a "mestiza," or person of mixed race, a symbol of the union of the indigenous Aztec and Spanish invader. What was, and still is, the scandal of miscegenation was given a holy face and name. As a Protestant I'll say it all sounds suspiciously biblical to me, recalling the scandal of the Incarnation itself, the mixing together of human and divine in a young, unmarried woman.
I'm getting used to the idea that nothing is as black and white as it first appears--indeed, to welcome and expect that. Here is another meditation on the meaning of the Virgin of Guadalupe, from Social Edge. Will Braun writes, in part:
As immigrant peoples in the Americas --or Turtle Island, as many indigenous people know it-- we live on ill-gotten land. Our homes and churches stand on land once home to others. Our spiritual histories must address this reality with honesty, grace, and compassion.

When I look at my postcard version of Our Lady of Guadalupe set beside my bed --as I often do-- I see a quiet and compelling invitation to redeem the historical legacy of colonialism in our lands and in our hearts. I let the image sink in. I let it inform my attitude to history and indigenous people, inspiring me to be as much like Our Lady of Guadalupe in posture and tone, and as little like the messianic conquistadors as possible.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Robin Meyers' 2004 Peace March Speech

When I posted the link to Robin Meyers' book last night, it hadn't yet occurred to me that I had read his words before. But further searching reminded me that he had given a powerful speech at a peace rally in 2004, which was posted and/or referenced on a number of progressive blogs. It can be found as a PDF here.

Christians take chances for peace. So do real Jews, and real Muslims, and real Hindus, and real Buddhists--so do all the faith traditions of the world at their heart believe one thing: life is precious.

Every human being is precious. Arrogance is the opposite of faith. Greed is the opposite of charity. And believing that one has never made a mistake is the mark of a deluded man, not a man of faith.
Robin Meyers is Senior Minister at Mayflower Congregational Church in Oklahoma City.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Just heard about this book

...will have to check it out.
Why the Christian Right Is Wrong: A Minister's Manifesto for Taking Back Your Faith, Your Flag, Your Future by Robin Meyers

From Bill Moyers:

"In the pulpit, Robin Meyers is the new generation's Harry Emerson Fosdick, George Buttrick, and Martin Luther King. In these pages, you will find a stirring message for our times, from a man who believes that God's love is universal, that the great Jewish prophets are as relevant now as in ancient times, and that the Jesus who drove the money changers from the Temple may yet inspire us to embrace justice and compassion as the soul of democracy. This is not a book for narrow sectarian minds; read it, and you will want to change the world."

Today is Human Rights Day

Today is UN Human Rights Day so it seems like an appropriate time to post the UN Millennium Development Goals:

Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Achieve universal primary education
Promote gender equality and empower women
Reduce child mortality
Improve maternal health
Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Ensure environmental sustainability
Develop a global partnership for development

I encourage everyone to read more about the goals, and do what you can to support them. And I will leave you with part of a sermon by Desmond Tutu:

And, God says, God says, "Yes, I do have a dream. Like, Martin Luther King, Jr." God says, "I, too, have a dream. I dream that my children one day will discover that they are family."

Now, that, actually, is not sentimental. It's one of the most radical things that Jesus ever uttered: "They are family." Family, you don't choose your relatives. Sometimes you wish you could. Family: a gift from God to you. And you: a gift to them from God.

And, in this family, there are no outsiders. Just all, all… all belong. It's an incredibly radical thing. All, all, all. You see, when Jesus spoke about… "If I be lifted up, I will draw…" he didn't say I will draw some. He didn't say I will draw some. He said, "I will draw all, all into this incredible divine embrace of love." All. Beautiful, not so beautiful. Tall; stumpy, like me. … Rich, poor, white, black, red. All, all, all, all. All belong. All. All. Gay, lesbian, so-called straight, all. [Laughter and applause.] All, all. All. All. [Applause.] All. All. All. All. All. Sharon, Arafat, all. Roman Catholic, Protestant in Northern Ireland. All. All. Bush, bin Laden. All. It's quite serious because, you see, God has no enemies.

Secondly, my enemy is not God's enemy. That's incredible: That we are family. And, if we are family, we are not doing our sisters and brothers a favor when we help them out of their poverty. The ethic of family: from each according to their ability, to each according to their need. If we are family, how the heck do we justify spending as much as we do on what we call defense budgets? Budgets of death and destruction. [Applause.] When we know, we know full well that a minute fraction of those budgets would ensure that our sisters and brothers, those people out there, would have clean water to drink, would have enough food to eat, would have a decent education and health care, would have a safe environment in which to live. It's our sisters and brothers out there in those refugee camps. Those are not statistics. It is the mother of someone. It is the child of someone. Loved. And this God that we worship says, "I have no one, except you, to help me realize my dream."

Friday, December 08, 2006

Happy Bodhi Day

During our family's nightly Advent candle lighting, I'm making a point of talking about the other "holidays of light" that are celebrated in different faith traditions. I know very little about Bodhi Day, so if anyone has anything to add, please do...

DEC-8: Bodhi Day (a.k.a. Rohatsu) is when Buddhist celebrate the enlightenment of the Buddha in 596 BCE.

He is said to have achieved enlightenment while sitting under a bodhi tree

Excerpted from a Bodhi Day sermon by Ryuei Michael McCormick

We should not think that this awakening is something that we must revere from afar. It is not that this Buddha is somehow set apart from us that makes him worth remembering. Instead, we should realize that the Buddha is important precisely because he was one of us, a human being who could and did wake up to a new vision of life and a new way of living in the world. What he did, we can do as well. The Flower Garland Sutra teaches that upon his awakening the Buddha thought, “I now see all sentient beings everywhere fully possess the wisdom and virtues of the enlightened ones, but because of false conceptions and attachments they do not realize it.”

It also says, “Then the Buddha observed all the beings of the cosmos with his pure unobstructed eye of wisdom and said, ‘How wonderful! How is it that these beings all have the wisdom of the enlightened ones, yet in their folly and delusions do not know or see it? I should teach them the right path to make them abandon illusion and attachment forever, so that they can perceive the vast wisdom of the enlightened ones within their own bodies and be no different from the Buddhas.’”

Some other links--not specifically about Bodhi Day, but I thought they were cool...

Walking with Peace and Presence

There's a video of Thich Nhat Hahn's "Peace is every step" walk in Los Angeles here, as well as a blog post about the experience.
by Thich Nhat Hanh

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Bodhi Day

Today is Bodhi Day, and I've been planning to do something with that when we light our Advent candle as a family tonight. In the process, I found this...

I have arrived.
I am home.
In the here,
In the now.
I am solid.
I am free.
In the ultimate
I dwell.

Thich Nhat Hanh

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Rejoice (and celebrate diversity)

I find the so-called "culture wars" with regard to saying "Merry Christmas" versus "Happy Holidays" disheartening. Where's the joy in that?

Perhaps you've heard that Walmart has "learned its lesson" and has officially decided to rename their Holiday Shop, "The Christmas Shop." (And some other things--click the link.)

Yay--my holiday *totally* kicked all those other holidays' a$$es. We sure showed them! We're #1! We're #1!"

You knew that was sarcasm, right? This "victory" for Christmas leaves me cold. It's counter to everything I believe the season is meant to stand for.

This Advent, as our family takes time out each evening to light a candle and ponder something about this season, I'm trying to include things from the different "holidays of light". It takes some effort, because when I was growing up, I never really learned much about traditions other than my own.

So, I'm trying to learn more. Here's something I wasn't aware of until recently--December 8 is celebrated by some Buddhists as Bodhi Day, and honors the enlightment of Siddhartha Gautama.

So, what else are people celebrating at this time of year, and how are you celebrating?

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Happy St. Nicholas Day

As Mahanoy at Street Prophets reminded us last night, today is the St. Nicholas Day. There are some stories about St. Nicholas on the Saint Nicholas Center web site. Tonight, at Advent candle time, I think I'll encourage the kids to think about how the stories can be "true on the inside"--what message these stories might have for us today.

Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas' life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.

One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman's father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man's daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.
More here. The image of Saint Nicholas seen above is from the gallery on the Saint Nicholas Center web site.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Advent, continued

After yesterday's post about Advent, I was inspired to create this card.

I'm still looking for suggestions of poems, songs, or other short pieces of writing that would be suitable for reflection along with our Advent candle lighting. I'd like to find a few things that are more generally invocative of the *themes* of Advent, but without the overtly religious language, in order to make it more accessible to my son, who is not a believer. (But I convinced him to come "along for the ride", by plying him with the little candies in the Advent calendar.)

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Taking time for pondering

So, Christmas is coming again, huh? I was just remarking to my EfM group last night that I don't think I've experienced a single Christmas where I wasn't either a teacher or a student. Or if I did, I was probably a very new parent at the time. So at the time when I hear others talking about how they've done *all* their shopping already, or are at very least finishing it up, I'm in the midst of end-of-the-quarter/semester frenzy. "Soon..." I will quietly reassure myself. "Soon, I will be finished with what I'm working on, and will be able to turn my attention to the holidays."

But at the point when I am finally able to do that, some two weeks out from Christmas, all the ads are urging me to check out some "last minute gift ideas".

Last minute? No, this is hardly last minute--and believe me, I've *done* last minute! I've shopped on Christmas Eve more times than I can count. But still, those messages are out there, gently scolding me for not getting started sooner. (They have to do it "gently", of course, because they still want me to buy stuff).

And I say back to those messages, maybe not gently, but quietly, "Bite me."

The season of Advent is about waiting and preparing. The pre-Christmas frenzy of consumerism is about preparing, in rushing around, getting ready for the big day sense, but Advent is about preparing our hearts. I say this, not just to you, the readers, but as a way of reminding myself.

The liturgical season of Advent started yesterday, and I decided that this year, for the first time, we are going to do a nightly Advent ritual. I have always liked the idea of family rituals, but have never made a serious effort to start one and stick with it. Given the diversity of our family, though, I can't just take a pre-packaged ritual "off the shelf", but pretty much have to make one up.

I was raised Catholic, and am now Episcopalian. Demetrius was raised by Evangelical parents, but does not practice any faith tradition now (except, in a tongue-in-cheek way, the Church of the Restful Sabbath.) He appreciates hearing people share their stories from the journey. Humans are united in their search for meaning, wanting to make sense of the big picture, find reason for hope in dark times...

Son in Ohio, now 13, has been an "unbeliever" to some degree or another, almost from birth. His unbelief seems to be in inverse proportion to his perception that others to convince him to believe something, so I never push. But he's watched things like National Geographic Channel's Science of the Bible. We've talked, over the years, about the various "holidays of light" that are celebrated at this literally dark time of year. And we've talked about how there are some stories that are "true on the inside", whether or not one believes they are true on the outside, i.e., actually happened.

Daughter in Ohio, 11, has always been more religiously oriented than her brother. She doesn't attend Sunday school, but has been part of a church children's choir for 4 years. It's at a different church than the one I attend, which is kind of a hassle, I guess. In a perfect world, maybe our family would have a common place of worship. But it feels right to give everyone the space to do what best feeds their spirit/soul. I finally found a church that feels like "home" to me, but it's not the church that has the children's choir for my daughter, so we split our time between the two.

Yesterday was the first Sunday of the month, so she sang with her choir group:

Light one candle for hope, One bright candle for hope.
He brings hope to every heart, He comes, He comes...
Whether or not you believe that the biblical story of Jesus "really happened", there is something universal about the "hope in a dark time" theme at this time of year. That's one of the things I said last night as we lit the first candle on our makeshift Advent wreath. And I read part of the nativity story in Luke, emphasizing this verse:

But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.
And I said, whatever we believe, or don't believe, I think it's important at this busy, sometimes sensory-overloading time of year, to take time to ponder.

By the way, the quarter is *not* yet over--I still have to put finishing touches on an exam and grade some papers today. And I guess I need to run to the grocery store, because Demetrius is on a tight deadline and probably won't be able to get out. So I don't know yet what poem or song or piece of writing we will be pondering when we light our candle tonight, and am open to suggestions. ;)

Update: Via Father Jake Stops the World, a Meditation for Advent I. The song is "Quiet", by Paul Simon.

I've also really been appreciating (since discovering them only yesterday) the reflections of Sr. Claire Joy on her blog Flavor of the Month.

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