Monday, November 30, 2020

First Week of Advent: Crumbs

I've developed a certain relationship with the month of December over the past decade and a half. I won't deign to pinpoint when it started exactly, because I don't think that it can be measured that precisely. It's been more of a gradation; a slow setting upon over time that, when fully realized, can bring surprise that anything had ever changed at all.

Many people rely on the magic of this time of year to carry them, even to renew them. All the music and traditions bring a transcendent, spirit-brightening feeling that may float them through the month and into the new year, and then the anticipation slowly builds over the next 11 months until it may begin again.

For me, the magic went in the opposite direction. There was no single cause. Some of it was the death of loved ones that caused yearly holiday trips to fade away. Some of it was the weight of needing to create magical moments for other people via my vocation that there would be none left over for me.

And so, come mid-October when the decorations and ads began their annual early overtaking of anything related to autumn, I would groan inwardly at the impending weight re-asserting itself, with crumbs of magic falling from the table I was charged with setting so that I could collect them and save them up for when I could enjoy them the most. 

This would be my inward reaction every year, without fail, for the better part of 15 years.

And then this year, I wandered into a store to pick up some items. It was the later part of October, so I already knew what I would see: rows and shelves lined with all manner of knick knacks and wall hangings proclaiming the merriment of the celebration to come. 

This time, however, an inward shift had occurred. I did not greet this sight with the usual despair or resignation or anger or annoyance. Instead, I felt a certain indifference, and even anticipation at what the appearance of these items signaled. 

So much of this year has not been what anyone has wanted. For my own part, I've lost vacations and work trips, I've had to readjust my expectations for settling into and performing my new position, and I've had to figure out how to balance work and family in a new way. I have little doubt that I have been alone in this recalibration of...basically everything, really.

There is a good chance that many people who already anticipate this time of year are leaning into it even more heavily than before. So much else has been upended, but the magic of this season has not abated. Instead, people need it in even greater abundance. 

I not only noticed the shift within myself, but embraced it. If the shackles of some previous way of relating to this season have finally fallen away, then I would receive the new freedom that would replace it with gratitude. 

I would receive hope, which had been there before, yet now seems to come as a full meal rather than crumbs, at long last.

Monday, November 23, 2020

I'm on Pulpit Fiction this week

I have contributed the "Voice in the Wilderness" segment to this week's edition of the Pulpit Fiction podcast, which takes a look at the Revised Common Lectionary texts each week leading to the coming Sunday.

This time around, my assignment was 1 Corinthians 1:3-9, one of the texts for this Sunday, November 29th, the First Sunday of Advent.

You can listen at their website or just click play below:

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Family Approval

Thanksgiving is next week. Even with our pandemic enduring, it might be that people are making plans to be with family this Thursday or some other time over the weekend. I personally recommend against it, but you might have already made plans.

There are many who look forward to these times of holiday reunion. But there are many others who do not. 

For some, times like Thanksgiving are less opportunities for joy and togetherness, and more times for walking on eggshells around family conflict, or enduring the overbearing and damaging opinions of one attendee, or constant anxiety due to registered disapproval of how one identifies or who they love.

This week, I hold in prayer all those who will be heading home even though they don't want to. I hold in prayer all those who have already decided not to go home, and those who have been told to stay away. I hold in prayer all those who have found chosen family with whom they are able to share genuine acceptance and support.

However and wherever and with whomever you celebrate, may you feel loved this Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

A Prayer Through the Crowd Noise

based on 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 

Faithful God, we admit that we aren't sure how to wrap our minds about much these days. 

We see signs of hope and progress, but we hesitate to believe that they will last. Likewise, we see events that cause us to despair, and some of us may cling to optimism that it will pass while others worry about continued decline into hardship. 

This uncertainty is made all the more complex by the voices around us--often with their ties and vested interests--assuring us that better times are ahead or here to stay. We are in need of help in discerning which voices speak truth and which are trying to sell us something. And our even greater need is to hear your voice in the din of so many others'.

O God, awaken us to your divine guidance, and keep us alert for your Spirit's leading. May we never be lulled to sleep by voices whispering us into a daze that skews your vision for our lives and for our world. Amen.