Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Joy to the World

I've been thinking about how light figures into our celebrations this time of year.  The lights twinkle on the Christmas tree, we light the candles of the Advent wreath each Sunday, the menorah is lit for Hannukah, the Magi followed the light of the star to Bethlehem, in other cultures bonfires are lit on the winter solstice.  It must be that, because winter has come, the nights are long and dark, the days are often dreary with little sunlight, and we miss the light of summer.  

The night must have held many terrors for our primitive ancestors.  Our vision is poorly adapted for the darkness of night, and the sounds of the night must have been very frightening.  The light of a fire during the long nights of winter would have kept those invisible terrors from being quite so frightening.  So, perhaps the need for celebrations of light in the dark of winter have been with us for thousands of years.

As you and I take part in this season of light, my prayer is that we are reminded that the lights symbolize freedom from fear of both the literal and figurative darkness, that we feel confidence that life is not something to be feared but rather something to be embraced with joy.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Great Creator, Still Creating, Teach Us What We Yet May Be

I have continued sending the members of my family notes during each weekday in Advent, and last Friday I sent them a note about my most basic beliefs, those beliefs that form the basis by which I try to live. Here's what I wrote about "my life":

First, I'm not sure that "my life" is a realistic expression.  Life isn't about "me'" Life is, and if there is an "I," that "I" is a part of life.  I believe that there is a great Creator that is the source of everything that is and who is a part of everything that is.  I don't believe that this Creator is a puppet-master pulling the strings of each individual life, but rather that natural laws are in motion, and we are free to live in harmony with those natural laws or to interfere with them and live out of harmony with the Creative force that is inherent in everything.

I believe that within all creation, a part of the God who created everything is present, that in each of our hearts, God resides.  Evil comes when we fail to listen to that of God that is within is.  I believe that all life is good; it is when we refuse to listen for the voice of Good within us that we become less good.

I believe that we are part of Creation and have a responsibility to live so that the beauty of Creation is preserved.  Our highest calling is to serve and honor the creative force that brought everything into being, and because that Creator caused all things to be, we do reverence to the Creator by serving and honoring that which was created.  "Whoever would be great among you, must become a servant," is perhaps the most true thought one can ever have.

In a few paragraphs, those are my most basic beliefs.  My prayer today is that I will live a life that is consistent with those beliefs, and that if you find some truth in them, that your life is also lived according to the truth you hold in your hearts.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

O Christmas Tree

One of my Christmas joys is decorating our Christmas tree. My wife takes care of the other decoaring in the house, but the tree is my special contribution to the Christmas decor. To be more precise, once I've hung the ornaments, my wife puts the finishing touch of placing a set of candy canes in just the right places to finish the tree off. This year, our son helped with the tree, and that made my joy even more complete.

As I stood in the kitchen a few days after we completed hanging the ornaments, I was looking into the den at our Christmas tree, thinking how it represents a lifetime of memories.  There are the elves that are like an elf that we have displayed elsewhere in the house that was MY elf when I was very small.  Most every ornament has some signficance, and as it's put on the tree, I recall that this one was from this trip or that trip, this one was given to us to remember one of our children's birth, one of the children made this one, these are the ones that we painted sitting at our kitchen table early in our married life, and so on.  How wonderful it is near the end of the year and during this hurried, harried, magical season to be reminded of what's important in life--the sharing of our lives with each other.

I hope that each of us can find some time to look back on the many wonderful memories and experiences that we've shared with those we love most, these accumulated events that have made us who we are.  What a wonderful life we've been given!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Of All Mankind the Servant

Here's one of my favorite quotes (from the Dalai Lama):  “This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness."  While sacred buildings and communities of like-minded people who are struggling with the same problems and questions are helpful as we try to figure why we're here and what we should be doing with our lives, I have to agree with the Dalai Lama's statement.  If our basic philosophy is to be kind to one another, even those who are not kind to us, we are fulfilling our mission in life.  For me, kindness is the embodiment of everything I believe.I hope that today, each of us will be treated with kindness, and that each of us will treat everyone we encounter with kindness.  If we slip up and react in anger or mean-spiritedness to someone who treats us badly, my prayer is that we'll forgive ourselves and them and resolve to return to "the philosophy of kindness." Happy second Tuesday in Advent.