Christmas 2012

The Heart-in-Waiting

The Heart-in-waiting

Jesus walked through whispering wood:
‘I am pale blossom, I am blood berry,
I am rough bark, I am sharp thorn.
This is the place where you will be born.’

Jesus went down to the skirl of the sea:
‘I am long reach, I am fierce comber,
I am keen saltspray, I am spring tide.’
He pushed the cup of the sea aside

And heard the sky which breathed-and-blew:
‘I am the firmament, I am shape-changer,
I cradle and carry and kiss and roar,
I am infinite roof and floor.’

All day he walked, he walked all night,
Then Jesus came to the heart at dawn.
‘Here and now,’ said the heart-in-waiting,
‘This is the place where you must be born.’

By Kevin Crossley-Holland, from Selected Poems, 2001; Photo by Ina Hramacek. (via Fiat Lux)

Merry Christmas.

Eating & Mindlessness

I’m a good cook, and I don’t care who knows it. Problem is, I’m not a good eater. Oh, it isn’t that I don’t eat what I cook (never trust a skinny chef, they say), and I certainly know how to eat. That’s the problem. If you read my posts tagged with “food” or “health” or “wellness” you’ll see how much of a struggle it is. You’ll also see how little real discipline and effort I’ve put into it. I mean, let’s be honest. Keeping a food journal seems to work for a while, but only for a while.

So it was months ago that I ran across a story in the New York Times (sorry if you’ve used up your free articles for the month… try next month) about mindful eating, not so much about dieting as about being more aware of what we eat and why, about putting food in proper perspective. Then, about a month ago I came across another story about binge eating among men and the “Fat Dad” NY Times blog bosts. My situation isn’t as dire, but there’s no denying that those extra pounds contribute to a range of undesirable outcomes, and I am about as far from being a mindful eater as you might care to imagine. And then I suppose there’s something to be said for the first step in any recovery program, recognizing that you have a problem.

Planning Ahead

Tomorrow morning: Coordinate roadside cleanup
108 hours from now: Drive to Baltimore
7 days from now: Drive home
9 weeks 2 days from now: 24th wedding anniversary
11 weeks from now: Tour Maine and New Brunswick by motorcycle
12 weeks from now: Turn 49 years old
4 months 1 week from now: Go to my second ever Rush concert
7 months 8 days from now: World ends, at least according to the Mayans.

Oh, right, there’s a presidential election in there somewhere. So much for ending on a high note.

Journals & Blogs

I never wrote in a journal, never kept a diary, not seriously anyway, until 1998. Blogging was still several years away but 1998 was the year of The Ice Storm, the year my mother had a stroke, and the year I turned thirty-five, which I sometimes refer to as the year I was finally old enough to be President but was smart enough to know it would never happen. Those of you who were in Maine at the time know which storm I mean. And, in time, we recovered from the storm as my mother recovered from her stroke. But I didn’t completely recover from journal writing – almost, but not completely.

For about ten years I wrote pretty faithfully, often several times a week. My writing became part of an evening ritual, especially on Sunday nights. I would sit at my desk listening to St. Paul Sunday, Pipedreams, and With Heart and Voice on Maine Public Radio. I enjoyed the act of writing, putting ink on paper. At the time I was much more into fountain pens and writing was as much an aesthetic exercise as anything. And I’ve got both larger bound books, small Moleskine notebooks, spiral bound and other notebooks, some full and others mostly empty because I got them when I didn’t have any of my other journals or notebooks with me to write in.

Continue reading

Once in Royal David’s City

Advent has come and gone again. Christmas day, too, and now we count down the last of the twelve days. For more than a week, in many cases, trees (real and artificial, green, pink, white, silver, plastic, aluminum) have been taken down and thrown out or packed away with the rest of the decorations. We spent the four weeks of Advent gradually lighting candles to symbolize the coming of the light of Christ into the world. It seems a shame to snuff it out so soon, much as Scrooge tried to do with the Ghost of Christmas Past (but that’s another story, and another tradition). So, as part of our family’s tradition, we keep the candles (or what’s left of them) burning – at least for a couple of hours – every night until Epiphany.

One of my own personal Christmas traditions has been to listen to the live broadcast of the “Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” from King’s College, Cambridge. I missed it this year but, fortunately, have a copy of the festival from 1998 or 1999 to listen to. I know that by the middle of December I’ve heard about enough of “Santa Baby” and “Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey” and been beaten into submission by holiday themed commercials (especially for cars, and even more especially for Lexus’ “December to Remember” sale). But even now I am still a little sad to have the season come to and end, and to pack away the decorations, and the festival of lessons and carols for another year.

In three months’ time we will celebrate the same light in a different way, at the Easter Vigil. Fortunately, at least so far, Easter hasn’t been completely overtaken by commercialism (don’t see any Easter car sales commercials, do you?). And I can look forward to hearing the Exsultet by candlelight again.

Just Let It Go

During his homily this morning our priest used a story about monkeys to illustrate a point. It seems one of the ways to trap monkeys is to put a piece of hard fruit in a sealed box with a hole just large enough to fit the fruit through – and just large enough for a monkey’s hand, but not both. The greediest monkeys will put their hands through the hole to grab the fruit and then not let it go, and end up trapped as a result. While I had a hard time making the connection to this week’s readings, Father’s remarks got me thinking, “What is it I am so unwilling to let go of that it has become a trap?”

What are you so unwilling to let go of that it has become a trap?

A high school classmate and friend, and now Facebook friend, Scott (I knew him as Don in high school) had been an associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Portland for a time. Now he’s taken the leap and started a new church. Sounds like he’s found a way to let go of things that might well have been, or become, a trap. Matters of faith, religion, or church are not the only ground for recognizing the things that we have become so attached to that they limit us or hold us back, but both Father’s comments today and Scott’s leap have given me something to think about.

Ashes


Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.

Bearing this in mind, my Lent will be about continuing to “make better habits, one choice at a time.”  Beyond laying a foundation for better eating habits, there are other things I can take the opportunity to work on, improving bit by bit, trying not to be completely discouraged by the little setbacks that will inevitably happen – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

If you’re giving up chocolate, coffee, dessert, video games, Facebook (not Facebook!!), or something else, consider also “fasting” from a bad habit – just one – and “feasting” on making one positive, lasting change.