Tuesday, December 19, 2017



Are there any of us who don't want Happiness, or to live in Joy? I hope not. In the Christmas season we are told 'great joy' is offered to us by God. The traditional 'church' slant on this was that in Jesus, we were finally freed from the power of sin that had condemned all of humanity since Adam and Eve. I don't know about you, but that's hardly a inspiring or hopeful message. Any God that has that kind of vindictive streak hardly inspires joy.
I know many people who have left any faith in God because, as they reason, there can't be a God worth their belief, when there's so much suffering and imperfection in the world. They assume that God has to be an all-powerful 'fixer and doer', making sure that all is perfect and in the proper and holy order. Example: “How could God have allowed that drunk to run his car up on the sidewalk and kill my sister?” Each of us can change that question in our experience and find good reason to quit the whole concept of hope in any idea of God.
Many of us cling to an assumption that God will make everything alright 'in the end'. It's like the lies we hear from the Self Improvement folks, that if we just stick with things, they'll eventually work out. NOT. We all can't be best-seller authors, billionaires or rock stars. Not that we should give up on our dreams, but it doesn't take many smarts to see that 'joy' of any kind is not a matter of just trying harder or longer. Things keep changing, but they surely don't always 'work out in the end', either by God's or our doing. But do we just give up on the whole concept of Joy? Maybe the birth narratives will give us a clue.
Maybe Joy comes in searching for God (Love) in the small and ordinary, even in the birth of a baby. Maybe Joy is always surrounding us, singing to us from the hills and stars, even amidst the suffering. Maybe Joy can be found with great searchings, as is shown by the 'Wise Men'. Or perhaps is finds us when we're just doing our jobs, as did the shepherds. The birth narratives don't ignore the fact of evil: the Roman Empire has the power to move us around and bring death to the innocent. But even the most poor and 'unclean' (the shepherds) can hear and see the power of the message of joy. The story doesn't say that everything worked out fine for them, only that they knew that Joy had come, and was a gift from God. But they were still shepherds.
If we're expecting life to be more easy and free of pain and grief, don't look to God to change it. Life on this planet is a matter of luck, as well as hard work. But it is a lot easier and worthwhile if we are open to Joy. This is the gift we can search for, find, and share. But it usually isn't in the places we search. Not in riches or power. It's in the smallest and even most familiar. Even a new birth.
Instead of setting ourselves up for failure by expecting Joy to knock us over with huge events and winnings, let's begin to be more open in the joys we can find and share in the common, understanding that all around is infused with the holy. If the shepherds and wandering strangers can hear, see and find Joy, so can we all.

In this season for searching, and Joy,


Friday, December 8, 2017



Here we are, well into the Christmas/Holiday Season. In the 'old' days, a couple of generations ago and beyond, 'Christmas' came on December 25, and was prepared for mainly in the previous week. Most Christians in that culture, and society in general, at least gave lip-service to the traditional season of Advent, the four weeks before Christmas. The idea of Advent was two-fold. Firstly, it was seen by the Church as a time of preparation for the coming (again) of the Christ Child, a time to give thanks that once more we could give thanks to the loving God that we wouldn't have to burn in hell because God was going to send us His Son to die for us.
The second aspect of Advent was that it provided a time to expect the unexpected, to search for and be open to the 'Holy' being experienced in yet unknown ways. While this hope was talked about, in reality it was directly opposite to the first. In all truth, it is impossible to be open to anything new if one's attention is consumed by what is assumed and known. But the idea of a time given for questioning and openness is one that needs consideration.
With the commercialization of Christmas and the watering-down of Christianity in general, Advent is gone. But just think, even for a few minutes of the idea, that the 'Holy', however dreamed or believed, is here for us, waiting to be found, experienced and shared, not only in the unusual, but in the ordinary and every-day. Even in a birth of yet another poor and illegitimate child in a conquered and poverty stricken people.
In this culture it is most uncommon and even threatening for people to share their deeper understandings and questions. Even in church we leave this to the professionals. So again, year after year, we become more isolated and ill-at-heart. Just imagine that once a year, for a few weeks, we gave each other the permission, and even the hope, of not only searching for the 'holy', but to share this with each other. Whether Christian, Jew, of Islam or Buddha, Agnostic or Atheist, to look for what is beyond, to be able to ponder and share.
Just to have a time in which we contemplate the possibility that there is more to life than the size of our bank accounts or home, THIS in itself would be a real change.
As it is, as we all know, this time of year has no time for anything more than just making it through. It's more than filled with family and traditions, good stuff all, but no time for More, for any real searching and newness. Such a shame. So stupid on our parts.
Sadly, I don't see any place on the calender for such a happening. And who sees the need for anything like this, anyway? And it is sad, for only a true Advent People, people who can search and share together, can start to make changes that will lead to life and break the spiral of fear and greed on which we're spinning.
For the few traditionalists, and futurists, where ever you are, Here's to a new Advent! May we start to gather in our searchings and sharings! Here's to the journey, and may we not let 'Christmas' stop us!


Friday, December 1, 2017



I'm my own worst enemy. And need to increasingly learn and take time to laugh at myself and the rest of the world. I know this but usually put it off and dwell on the 'deep and meaningful' things of this life. This was brought again, thankfully, to my attention last week when I chanced to turn on Turner Classic Movies and caught the end of a delightful old flick, Sullivan's Journey, staring Jimmy Stewart, one of my favourites. He played the part of an activist who's goal it was to right all wrongs, involved with many causes, always on the side of the poor and oppressed. Right on!
The focus of the plot was when he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was unjustly convicted of a crime and spent several years doing hard time in a hard place. There, he learned the power of laughter, even admist the misery.
Eventually his innocence was proved and he was released, upon which, he devoted his life to comedy, realizing that maybe in doing that, he was more able to help people.
This speaks to me in that I'm called in my soul to do and proclaim 'Love', however understood. And this, most often, gets in the way of my being a fun person to be around. I take things way too seriously. Judy often urges me to have another drink, or a 'brownie'. During this time of year, Advent in the old church calender, when traditional Christianity is supposed to be urging people to be open to newness and life, humour is needed the most. For churches of all sorts are the most closed to anything new. Tradition reigns. In most ways, this is the time of year most closed to anything different. And hence, of course, we miss anything of the Holy, again.
Yet, I need to be able to laugh. If I didn't, I would sink to despair. And those who despair are no good to anyone or any cause.
So, help me to laugh, especially in this season. Friends and enemies alike, offer me another drink. If I'm sitting in a corner, you have my permission to invite me over. Indeed, please prod me into a conversation. In the doing, in the sharing, even in casual converstation, lies seeds of sharing and the 'holy'. I know this, but I resist. Shared laughter is a gift from God, however understood. In this season, let us all know this and share it, helping each other to set aside the bigger pictures that, however good, often keep us from living and sharing our lives to the fullest. We need to tend the trees, even while we have the whole forest in our thoughts.
To all, however you see and name this time before Christmas, please try to share in laughter and joy. And, if possible, include me. I need it.