What Is Your Reason for the Season?

christmas 2007

(Photo credit: paparutzi)

 My weekly newspaper column:

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ” ~ Norman Vincent Peale

 It is hot (as in 40 degrees C) in Australia right now, which could explain why a blog friend of mine has decided to discard Christmas for the time being. But her real reasons are far beyond the discomfort of the heat.  Her husband is in a nursing home with advanced Parkinson’s; her teenage son has back surgery on Tuesday; the same son was in an awful accident not too long ago which put several of his younger cousins in the hospital — he has been charged and must go to court and may face jail—all because he was trying to give them a bit of fun; her stove has stopped working so there is nowhere to cook the turkey; and she just cannot face the added pressure of shopping and decorating and cooking for Christmas. When she broached the subject with her son, he agreed—in light of all that was going on in their lives, Christmas was not a bright light, but a responsibility which overshadowed their joy.

         

English: First Omagh Presbyterian Church - Mid...

Presbyterian Church -  Taken at noon on Christmas Day (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

   They did make one concession though. They are going to go to church on Christmas. My first reaction when I read of their decision to forego the splash that is Christmas was one of pity, and I could not help but think about what they would miss out on. But are they really missing out? They have made a decision to celebrate what they truly believe Christmas is about—the spirituality, and erase all the extras, except for a visit from the son’s grandma which was his one concession to the season.

            I love the hurly burliness of the Christmas season and even when I have had to face the loss of some of those closest to me at the “happiest” time of the year, I have been able to celebrate, though a bit more sombrely and with a little less sparkle.  I find the Christmas season cheers me up—there is something in the air and it seems merrily contagious.  For the most part people are kinder, they smile more, and they greet friends and family and even strangers a bit more heartily. The lights on our trees and houses and decorations bring a brightness to an otherwise dark time of year.

            I love all the things Christmas—but I understand when the pressure to create a perfect holiday makes it less than merry and bright. Some people find blessings in the spirituality of the season and like my Australian friend this year discard what they think of as the commercialization and crassness of Christmas. I embrace the spirituality of the season, but the others parts of Christmas are close to my heart too. Yes, Christmas has been commercialized, but we can make our choice as to the extent we want that aspect to enter into our celebrations.

          

Cover of "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole...

Cover via Amazon

  I think Dr. Seuss had something when he had the Grinch (of How the Grinch Stole Christmas fame) reflect on what Christmas was all about. This excerpt from the book (and movie of the same name) says it all: “Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

            Humourist Dave Barry puts a little different perspective on the whole question of Christmas, and though skewed for laughs, he covers several bases:“In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it ‘Christmas’ and went to church; the Jews called it ‘Hanukkah’ and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say ‘Merry Christmas!’ or ‘Happy Hanukkah!’ or (to the atheists) ‘Look out for the wall’!”

            Only you can answer the question of the meaning of Christmas and only you can decide how to celebrate it.  I am kind of partial to how President Calvin Coolidge defined it on Christmas Day, 1927 in his Presidential address: “Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”

What does Christmas mean to you?

Is That All There Is? A Sunday Reflection………..

Sunday Prayers

Sunday Prayers (Photo credit: Steven Leith)

 I was brought up to go to church. First I went to Sunday school—then I graduated to actually going to church and “listening” to the sermon. I became a Sunday School teacher. The President of Mission Circle Girls. A member of the choir (though to this day I cannot carry a tune in a tin pail—but they needed warm bodies). Then I went off to university and went to a few masses with my Catholic friends even though I was not Catholic. It was rather exotic for a girl who had attended a Protestant country church. But I liked the rituals, the incense, the kneeling–even though they were foreign to me.

                After I turned twenty I did not go to church for about 25 years. I still prayed but mostly for good stuff to happen and for someone who was sick. I still believed though I was not sure what it was I believed. In fact, during those years I was perfectly happy. I was in a sort of vacuum. I was a constant seeker, but with a more intellectual bent than with my heart and soul.

                I went back to my country church for a while and was received with open arms and open hearts. I loved the feeling of community—I liked the Minister’s message, and I liked being a part of something. But I became too big a part—I joined too many things and tried to do too much, and I burned out. I stopped going to church because I was no longer able to just go and hear the message—I was too busy being a Sunday School teacher, a youth leader, a member of the Church’s women’s group…………..and on and on.

                I returned to my vacuum, but I returned as a more faithful believer in something bigger than myself. I am still a seeker. I went back to church one more time—but it was no longer for me–and though I love the people at that church, I quit again.

                I call myself a seeker as I guess I am not totally satisfied with the answers. But some of the answers I have sought out make sense to me. Sometimes I think it is easier to not believe than to believe. But I am just stubborn enough to believe in something I cannot touch, taste, smell, or see. But I can feel it. And I know there is something bigger than me. And I believe. It seems to come naturally.

                 I believe in a good God—not a violent, jealous, or vengeful God. And I believe that Jesus did walk the earth, and he did have a message, and the simple message is: *“this is not all there is but keep dancing anyway”.

 *in answer to Peggy Lee’s ballad “Is That All There Is?

                Have you come to some conclusion about your beliefs? Are you an unquestioning believer, a seeker, or an abstainer? Or something else? How do you define yourself?

Sunday Musings

Prayers

Prayers (Photo credit: Xerones)

On Sundays I always feel a little bit of nostalgia for my church-going days. To say I have had a crisis of faith may be an overstatement, but many a minister, pastor, priest, rabbi, and faith leader are said to have had crises of faith in order to come to grips with their faith. Unquestioned faith comes from the Sunday School of thought and many of us are past that. In
fact I miss it ~ but maturity brings sober second thought that deepens how one views life and spirituality.

As of late, I have been questioning my faith—yet again. But in questioning it, I think I keep it alive. I have a book called “Create Your Own Personal Sacred Text” by aptly named Bobbie L. Parish.  In the Introduction to the book is this statement, which hit home for me: “….the quest is your own.” And the quest she speaks of is a deeper relationship with Spirit, and the advice given is: “Start where you are and move in whatever direction you feel led.”

I have faith because I want to have faith. It is questioned sometimes. Rattled. Verified. And a constant, even if examined.

Here is an explanation of  prayer that makes sense to me by Pamela Brode from “The Power of Prayer – Make a Joyful Noise”:

“Through prayer we are able to draw power from the Holy Spirit, which fortifies our spiritual being and assists us in coping with whatever situation life hands us with a degree of strength, endurance, and calm.

Through the power of prayer we are motivated to take affirmative steps to help remedy our difficulties. Through prayer we receive protection from behaving irrationally or recklessly and from making decisions that can lead to harmful consequences.

In essence, prayer helps us to take control of our lives. We may not always be in control of what happens in the world around us, but prayer enables us to take control of the way we respond to any given situation—and that is truly empowering. Prayer gives us direction and motivation to take a positive and productive course of action that benefits us as well as those around us.”

You may be like me and question why certain things happen. And wonder why.  Sometimes I cannot determine when to “Let go and let God” because I think God wants us to help ourselves and not just throw our hands up in the air and leave the hard work to him/her.

Does faith give you bliss?

 

~ Sundays Past ~

English: Liddesdale Parish Church A small coun...

A small country church  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember when Sundays were a “day of rest” and the only stores open were… hmm…well pretty much nothing was open. Of course this was in my small town which was very WASP-Y (white Anglo-Saxon protestant) and dry until the early 1960’s (though this is not something I remember, as I was not much of an imbiber at nine years old).

Sundays when I was young  was a day when the kids went to church (for some reason my parents did not go, but the four of us kids did—we went to Sunday school, then when we got older, we went to church and joined the choir, and Young Peoples—a group for teenagers). For me church was more of a community/social thing.  Of course God and Jesus played a role, but at the time God was a male father figure, and Jesus apparently “loved the little children”.

Today my beliefs are a little more complex, but I no longer go to church. I do miss “visiting” though. People tended to visit friends and neighbours and family on Sunday afternoon after church. Without calling ahead. They would just drop in. And that was totally socially acceptable.

I remember when people used to have “parlours” set aside for just these visits, and if the minister should happen by. I think it was kind of like the good “living room” that was always neat and no one used it unless they had company. This makes perfect sense to me, with the type of housekeeping I do.

The home I grew up in was not big enough to have a parlour—we lived in the whole house—though because my mom was so neat and clean, it was almost always company ready. But today, I need a parlour—a room set aside that I can go into that will always be neat and clean and not subject to muddy boots, and coats thrown over chairs, and newspapers gloriously spread all over the floor. I try to keep my living room in good shape “just in case”, but this does not always work out.

Back to Sundays of my childhood~

Every Sunday we would have a roast of some kind—pork or beef or roasted chicken, and on occasion fried chicken. The entrée would generally include mashed potatoes, gravy, coleslaw and a couple of vegetables I would try to avoid eating. I remember spending what felt like two weeks at the dinner table with cold squash in front of me—I was free to leave the table once I had eaten it. I must have eaten it, because today I am not still at the table, but memories of that cold squash still haunt me. It does not affect my grown up penchant for it though, which is strange.

And we always, always, always had a special dessert – most of the time homemade pie or cake and ice cream. In those days we had dessert at every meal, but some were very simple. Sundays were different—no Jell-O, or pudding, or a little syrup in a bowl with a cookie.

I like the freedom of Sundays today—I like that the whole town does not close down. But I do remember the days when visiting was the thing to do on Sunday afternoon, followed by a wonderful meal, then unfortunately as I got older, homework—because of course, I never did it ahead of time.

What are some of your Sunday memories—are they similar to mine, or did you have a totally different “day of rest”?

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