Blue Christmas


Diana Butler Bass writes in a recent article in the Washington Post about the emotional stress that has filled the days and weeks since the Presidential election. Not just stress from who won or lost, but the increase of uncivil behavior towards one another. 

It’s wearying to the mind and the Spirit. 

(I’m not immune to the fits of snarkyness on Twitter. But I have not threatened anyone’s personal safety or denigrated their faith.)

Diana writes: 

“Advent recognizes a profound spiritual truth — that we need not fear the dark. Instead, wait there. Under that blue cope of heaven, alert for the signs of dawn. Watch. For you cannot rush the night. But you can light some candles. Sing some songs. Recite poetry. Say prayers.”

So for Advent this year I am going to Watch for the Light. I will be posting photos on Instagram (@HolySpoons) and will occasionally write here on my blog about the places and scenes which give me glimpses of God in this Advent season.

You can join me in this exercise. The liturgical season of Advent begins tomorrow, November 27th. Let’s find those points where God breaks through and use them to encourage one another.

Pax vobiscum.

CHRISTMAS LABYRINTH: A complete how-to

labyrinthlights

During the last three Advent seasons, I have led a “Blue Christmas” service. Also called “The Longest Night” service, it is a contemplative, reflective service meant to bring a space of quiet worship into the frantic Advent season.

This year we repeated one of our most asked-for activities, a labyrinth made of Christmas lights. In the softly-lit room, with background music playing, it became an ethereal, other-worldly moment. One participant described it as the “space of beauty and peace” that was needed in the midst of a job transition, moving, and medical challenges.

The instructions are simple as long as you understand basic geometry. Here is a set of complete directions. 

1. locate center of room

2. Around center make 4 concentric circles 3′ apart. (with radii of 3′, then 6′, then 9′, then 12′)

3. Measure a string which, when relaxed and not under tension, measures 12′. Secure it to the center point. Use pieces of tape or knots to mark 3′ intervals along the string. (We used yarn)

4. Using the string as a radius, place pieces of tape on the ground every few feet along the circumferences of the circles, as marked out by the pieces of tape on the string-radius

5. Goal: Divide the circle into three equal sections. Steps: locate the desired entrance point to the labyrinth (point A). Locate the point opposite it on the circle (point B), aka the other end of the diameter from point A. Affix one end of the radius to point B. Lay out the radius-string and swing it around, marking the two places where it hits the circumference (C and D). This will roughly divide the circle into thirds.

6. Next, the fun part: laying out the lights. Mark the left edge of the entrance to the labyrinth by measuring 4.5′ to the left of A, creating point E. Plug in the lights and roll out the lights from point E towards the circumference of circle 2, and along the circumference clockwise until the lights intersect line DF (the radius marking the third at pt D). Double back the lights along their path until it gets to point E. Then follow the circumference of circle 4 clockwise, until you reach point C on the circumference. Follow line CF until it intersects circle 2. Follow circle 2 counterclockwise until you are 3′ (aka the pathway’s breadth away from line CD). Double back to follow circle 2 clockwise until you come to a point 3′ away from AF. (Measure this by measuring a 3′ line perpendicular to AF or DF, with one end on the radius and the other on the circumference of circle 2). 

7. Remember to tape down your lights as you go! Continue to follow the path of the labyrinth in this manner. We wouldn’t want to deprive you of the joy of discovery!
 

Win a few, miss a few

Yes indeed. I had grand plans to do a Photo-a-Day on my blog during Advent. I came up with my own list… and I did not make that happen. I did get most posted on Facebook in a private forum, but blogging just… didn’t… happen.

Since Advent started, I have recovered from a lovely GI bug that flattened me over Thanksgiving, and then came down with a case of strep two weeks before Christmas. Suddenly it was the week before Christmas. I had 12 patients to see in 2 days (plus a team meeting). Plus documentation and phone calls. Plus emotionally processing some heavy duty ..uhhh… stuff in people’s lives I care about deeply. On top of all that, the escalating gun violence, political vitriol, and a few interpersonal pressures knocked me down flat.

It sucked.

The house was not cleaned. The shopping was not at the level I prefer to do. And I simply wasn’t vested enough in the Christmas Spirit to do all of the decorating. And the tree? While we managed to put it up during Thanksgiving weekend, I did not get around to decorating it. 2015treeFor the record, we finished that task this morning.

Yes. Christmas morning. So fire me, Martha Stewart! You win a few, you miss a few.

My favorite Wise Woman and Spiritual Director helped me give myself “permission” to let things slide. To just enjoy what happened and not insist that I finish what I started. I did not go there quietly.

The bins and boxes of decorations sat in the living room for the entire month of December. No lie. We just moved them out of the way this morning to make room for presents. I just didn’t have time (or brain power) to complete my grand plans. I bought a ham for Christmas dinner and then failed to think up a complete menu!

Sometimes, life is just like that. For whatever reason, you can’t rise above the circumstances you are living through. Whatever the difficulty may be, it takes more emotional energy than you have in your possession to make things happChristmasJason.jpgen.

Guess what? Cookies still got baked. Presents were found and wrapped (after a fashion). We have a lovely dinner this evening with the combined talents of several wonderful cooks. There was lots of precious time spent with my husband and lovely daughters, and the ones they care about the most. Cats were loved on and spoiled. Most important of all, the birth of Jesus is being celebrated. God’s grace is in my life and in my heart.

I think I’m blessed. Beyond words…

Merry Christmas from all of us!

 

 

Photo-a-day: Satisfied

14 The Eternal sustains all who stumble on their way.
For those who are broken down, God is near. He raises them up in hope.
15 All eyes have turned toward You, waiting in expectation;
when they are hungry, You feed them right on time.
16 The desires of every living thing
are met by Your open hand.
17 The Eternal is right in all His ways,
and He is kind in all His acts.
18 The Eternal stays close to those who call on Him,
those who pray sincerely.
19 All of you who revere Him—
God will satisfy your desires.
He hears the cries for help, and He brings salvation.
20 All of you who love God—
He will watch out for you,
but total destruction is around the corner for all the wicked.
21 My lips will sing the praise of the Eternal.
Let every creature join me and praise the holy name of God—forever and always!
From Psalm 145, The Voice

satisfied

Last August, I savored this bowl of peaches, freshly picked from the orchard. They were warm from the sun. The weight, the scent of peaches filled the kitchen. The smell and feel of peach fuzz on my hands as I peel, slice and cook.

There is something about pulling the fruit right off the tree. It’s experiencing the full work of nature in my hand. It’s remembering the labor of the farmer, who cultivated the trees, watched over their blossoms and setting of the fruit.

It speaks of warmth, of summer, of harvest, of hard work finally seen through to fruition. It’s knowing that behind all of it, there is a Creator’s care and design.

Satisfied.

Photo-A-Day: Inheritance

IMG_2788

One of the greatest gifts my parents gave me was the gift of music lessons. I started piano when I was about 6 years old. I’m still not a great concert pianist, but I find a lot of solace in sitting down to play (usually I wait for an empty house… I’m a little rusty!)

My parents gave this piano to me… I consider it a part of their blessing and my inheritance.