Category Archives: progressive christianity
On a trail, an ordinary trail . . .
. . .through the National Capital Commission Greenbelt near my home, we encountered an unexpected surprise.
The trail is popular with cross-country skiers in the winter, so I imagine the trees got decorated by someone in the festive spirit last December. Theirs was the gift that keeps on giving, because I enjoyed the happy surprise in July.
After I had soaked up the gift and carried on, I took about two steps before I was brought up short by the next “gift” on my path: a garter snake. I was too busy going into a full-body shudder to take a picture, but if I had, it would have looked something like this.
That’s what a full-body shudder looks like.
I like snakes—far away from me. I know they are good for my garden and nature and all that, and that’s wonderful—far away from me.
While I was shuddering and peering into the undergrowth to make sure the snake was well and truly gone, a jogger happened along. To explain why I was standing still and looking creeped out, I used one word.
The jogger broke into a big smile. “Sometimes you just get lucky like that,” he said, and carried on.
I had to laugh. I hadn’t considered myself lucky to have seen a snake before he changed my perspective. He made me think. I remembered that snakes represent transformation and creative life force. I remembered that they are part of the medical symbol, a symbol of healing. For me personally, they are a symbol of unnecessary fear. That is, fear of something that is NO BIG DEAL, and how I conquer that fear simply by recognizing it.
Come to think of it, those ideas are tied into what Christmas is all about too.
I like these Christmas gifts. They didn’t cost a penny, I didn’t have to wrap them, and there was no baking involved.
If only the real Christmas were a little more like that.
A surprising lesson from a kids game:
I played musical chairs with my Sunday school kids in two ways. First the traditional version with chairs numbering one less than the players participating arranged, music played, and when the music stopped the children scrambled to claim a chair. One sad-faced child did not find a seat and skulked away, excluded to watch forlornly while the other children played. One more chair removed, and so on.
For the second version, we started out with one less chair at the beginning, same as always, and we removed one chair on each round, same as always. The difference was no child was ever eliminated or excluded. When the music stopped, the children found chairs BUT everyone had to have a place, even if it meant sharing.
What warmed my heart more than anything? The kids shared their chairs even when they didn’t have to.
They didn’t evenly distribute themselves to claim space and only share when there were no more empty chairs. We removed one chair per round and when the music stopped there would be two or three left over. Kids reached out to take other kids by the hand to say, “Sit with me.” They were smiling and laughing and hugging. It was wonderful.
Including everyone was happier than excluding and rejecting. Sharing was more satisfying than staking out space alone.
The first time the kids played they did as they were told and followed the rules of the game. They didn’t question the dog-eat-dog nature of the game. The second time they also followed rules, but they were better thought-out rules, and it was way more fun. Inclusion is important in our affirming church. The kids lived that intuitively when playing a game.
How often do we follow dog-eat-dog rules without question when we could easily change the rules to a much more fun, satisfying option?
We must be careful and mindful of the rules we teach our children. What an awesome responsibility.
On the third Sunday of Advent we lit the JOY candle at our church.
This year a woman who I greatly admire lit the candle, and she spoke about what JOY means to her. Shirley talked about the many JOYous times her family—now grown—spent together in their back yard and down by the Ottawa River. The husband she’s been married to for 67 years brings her much JOY. She told us how much JOY she derives from volunteering and from the work she does with the church.
Then it came time to talk about her sister.
Shirley’s sister had passed away in mid-December and the celebration of her life had been held a few days before. Tears came to my friend’s eyes and she took a moment to collect herself.
I thought, “She’s crying during a talk about JOY!”
As she went on to talk about their close relationship and the smiles and laughs the sisters shared over many years, tears did not seem incongruous at all. Deep down at the heart of the grief over the loss of her sister was JOY. Happy memories.
I thought, “She’s en-JOYing her grief.” Actively choosing to see the JOY below the surface during a difficult time. Injecting JOY into the moment.
En-JOY 2018. May you choose to let the JOY that is at the heart of any sorrow bubble up.
“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
. . . When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.”
—Kahlil Gibran On Joy and Sorrow