I have been trying to think about what to say about the Umpqua shootings but my heart is breaking and my mind won’t process this. So I am asking you for your prayer this week to write letters to your legislators about gun legislation, talk to your neighbors about keeping safe, and get involved in your community and/or church youth programs. Talk kids and get to know your own children and the children they play with. Keep the kids involved with family and community and help them find safe ways to release anger and frustration. If you need a gun for hunting then talk to every member of the family about gun safety and keep your guns in a secure gun safe when you aren’t using them. I know that isn’t much but if all of us become more aware and involved in the efforts to regulate guns in a responsible manner than maybe, just maybe we won’t be speechless anymore.
Matthew 3:3This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’”
Unfortunately I never had children. However, I have been blessed to be Grammy to my husband John’s two youngest grandchildren. I remember how excited I was to hear our Daughter-in-Law, Laura, tell us she was pregnant and I could hardly wait to see this new addition to our family. Liam was born on John’s birthday in 2007 and he is now 7 year old, actually soon to be 8 and is becoming a wonderful young man.
I have been thinking about what it took to prepare for Liam’s arrival. So many things go into preparing for newborn; baby clothes, blankets, crib, diapers, binkies, blankets, toys, rattles, bottles, booties, the list is endless. And you can be sure you will forget something in all the hustle bustle of getting ready.
We are in the first week of Advent and I was thinking about what Mary would have done to get ready. The first thing she would have to do was tell her intended husband she was pregnant and I can only imagine how the conversation went.
“Ah Joseph, I have to tell you something.”
“Yes Mary what is it.”
“Now I want you sit down and listen to what I say, I know it will be hard to understand, I don’t understand myself, but this is the truth.”
“Just tell me Mary, it will be ok.”
“ Weeell, 3 months ago I was visited by an angel of the Lord and he told me that I had been chosen above all other women, to bear the child of the Most High. He said the Holy Spirit would come upon me and, ah, it happened, I’m pregnant.”
“ Ah, Mary , you are telling me your pregnant, and it is YHYW’s child. That’s a little hard to believe.”
“I know but, before you do anything, like report me to the temple authorities, just think about it.”
“Ok, I’ll think about it, but this I will tell you the wedding is off but I won’t have you taken before the authorities, I still love you and I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
“You will know what’s best to do Joseph.”
Mary was a teenager, maybe as young as 13 years, and being an unwed mother in the first century was not an acceptable practice. Stoning of the woman was the rule and Mary had every right to be afraid. She didn’t know what Joseph would do. She didn’t know that He would be visited by the same angel who would tell him he has nothing to fear. Mary, like any young woman who finds herself pregnant, was fearful of what could happen to her. Just preparing to tell those she hoped loved her would be a fearful experience. Her pregnancy would bring shame and humiliation upon her family and Joseph so simply getting the courage to tell of her predicament would take time. Maybe that is why she went to visit her Cousin Elizabeth to gather the courage to tell her wonderful, terrifying secret.
In the next 4 weeks we too will be preparing. No we aren’t in Mary’s sandals, but, we have those things that terrify us as we get ready for the celebration the Christ Child’s birth. We have our own secrets that we keep buried within us. In the last couple of years the racial bias, gender bias, bias against women, poor, and elderly have come out into the open. All of us, me included, carry some level of all those biases. It is learning to admit that I, we all, carry fear toward someone different that raises those fears and biases from subconscious to conscious where they light of day can heal them.
Advent is about preparation, it is about hope, it is about faith, it is about love, it is about peace entering where angels fear to tread. This advent I am taking my fears out of the shadows and finding the way to heal the wounds they cause. Letting the light of hope, faith, and love change them from fear to acceptance. In prayer, in meditation, and with Advent prayer books I am working, trying hard, to change how I see the world.
What fears, what biases cause you to afraid of someone from a different faith, with a different color skin, is poor, or elderly keeping you from experiencing the amazing peace, hope, faith and love that the presence of the Christ child offers to you? I invite you to ponder the above scripture this week, to pray about how to prepare your heart for the celebration of the Christ’s birth.
“I have come to believe that God, Truth, Beauty, Love—all those concepts I associate with the Divine—are not things that are “found” at the end of the path, like the post of gold at the end of the rainbow, but rather are what I experience on the journey as I travel through life—or perhaps, more explicitly, they are the journey itself.” Jan Phillips, No Ordinary Time
The above quote by Jan Phillips states beautifully one of the revelations of my own life. Searching and hoping to ‘find’ love and truth is an exercise in futility. Beauty, truth, love, and G-d come to me in those moments when I least expect them to arrive on my doorstep. They often ‘find’ me when I am in the darkest and most terrifying moments of my life and they pull me from the depths back into the light. Or they show up unexpectedly, like a un-birthday present, while I am in the midst of something totally unrelated.
In your time of prayer this week reflect on when and where the Divine has surprised you with love, a new truth, and beauty. Give thanks for those moments of joy and vow to be more open to the un‑birthday moments in your life.
When you were born, everyone was laughing but you were crying. Live your life so that when you die, everyone is crying, but you are laughing (Islamic hadith)
Today March 11, 2014 is my birthday and let me get this right out front; birthdays are not my favorite days in the year! I do have a reason, and to most people it seems weird. You see my family of origin just didn’t put an emphasis on birthdays. If we were lucky my mother might bake a cake, or in my case a pie, but other than that we just didn’t mention our natal day. As an adult I chose to use my day as a day for reflection, taking the time to think about the past year, what I’ve done or could have done and what I would like to do in next year. It has become for me my time to remember family events, the good and the bad. But most people think there should be a party or some kind of celebration.
I am wary of people inviting me to their homes on my birthday because inevitably there will be a surprise party with all the trimmings. When the word “surprise” is shouted out I, being the introvert that I am, want to crawl under a bed and stay there until all the hoopla is over with. I actually hate opening presents because the giver is waiting with such expectations of my joy over their gift. Unfortunately, there have been way too many gifts where I smile and say “oh how lovely, thank you”, and I’m thinking “what the heck is this and what is it used for.”
But my mother taught me, and I do believe this, each gift is a given in love and love must always be received with joy. I’m not the best thank you card writer, but will send them to people I can’t thank personally, but coming up with the right words for a gift I can’t recognize is always difficult. My mother’s lessons on receiving gifts is the reason I have stuff in closets of my house I have been caring around for 60 or so years from state to state, house to house, and I still don’t know what they are or what to do with them. I can’t remember who gave them to me but they were given in love and therefore I keep them.
So while I prefer to have a quiet reflective day I am married to someone who thinks all birthdays should be grand celebrations. His family made a big deal of birthdays and they had parties with all the trimmings, just the opposite of mine so I too must join in the fun. So I try to live up to his and his family’s expectations of joy and surprise. I try, I really do. For him and his family’s birthdays I bake a cake and make the day special, because I love them and they get great joy out of the celebration. And, bless their hearts they just can’t understand my reluctance to celebrate my day in the same way they do.
Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate all of the Happy Birthdays I receive. It is nice to have someone stop me and say “Happy Birthday, I hope you have a great day,” it’s just that my idea of a great day is different from everyone else’s ideas. So please tell me Happy Birthday, but, don’t expect me to tell you I’m doing something exciting because my idea of an “exciting Birthday” is sitting curled up on the couch, wrapped in a warm blanket, my dog asleep on my lap, a cup of green tea beside me, and reading a good book. That is the perfect gift for me.
So I have to go now because my husband wants to take me to lunch to a restaurant of my choice, probably Wendy’s or IHOP (I told you I was weird). But I am going to steer him to Home Depot where I can pick up the lumber and compost I need for a new raised garden bed. I am hoping the weather will hold today so that I can put it together and set it up. If I get that done, that will make this a very good birthday.
So, thank you for all of your birthday wishes, they are appreciated. And may all of you have a wonderful day in your own way.