Someone wants to trade a handful of change for a dollar bill. You say yes and he hands you 100 pennies. Or 4 quarters, 10 dimes, 20 nickels. Doesn’t really matter. Although the value is equal, it’s not the same and never will be. Maybe you loved that dollar bill. It was the first you ever made or a gift from your grandmother. You know it’s too late but you want it back. Now.
How do we reconcile the feelings that come with change? Especially when it’s an uninvited addition to our journey. I humbly offer some still-working-on thoughts: Step 1, admit you’ve lost something comfortable and familiar; Step 2, face that the present is now the past; Step 3, don’t pretend to like it; Step 4, accept its necessity and inevitability; Step 5, acknowledge God loves you and pray for an infusion of hope. Whatever your change is, it needs time to unfold and define itself. Be patient, be kind to yourself and others, and grateful to God for forward motion.
Birth: Wonder…Astonishment…Adoration. There can’t be very many of us for whom the sheer fact of existence hasn’t rocked us back on our heels. We take off our sandals before the burning bush. We catch our breath at the sight of a plummeting hawk. “Thank you, God.” We find ourselves in a lavish existence in which we feel a deep sense of kinship – we belong here; we say thanks with our lives to Life. And not just “Thanks” or “Thank It” but “Thank You.” Most of the people who have lived on this planet earth have identified this You with God or gods. This is not just a matter of learning our manners, the way children are taught to say thank you as a social grace. It is the cultivation of adequateness within ourselves to the nature of reality, developing the capacity to sustain an adequate response to the overwhelming gift and goodness of life.
Wonder is the only adequate launching pad for exploring this fullness, this wholeness, of human life. Once a year, each Christmas, for a few days at least, we and millions of our neighbors turn aside from our preoccupations with life reduced to biology or economics or psychology and join together in a community of wonder. The wonder keeps us open-eyed, expectant, alive to life that is always more than we can account for, that always exceeds our calculations, this is always beyond anything we can make.
Excerpted from God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas, Edited by Greg Pennoyer and Gregory Wolfe (Paraclete Press)
By Melodius Monk
“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.” This is a most suggestive beatitude. If we had been writing it, we would have said, “Blessed is he who never has sinned.” But if it read thus, it would have no comfort for anyone in this world, for there are no sinless people here.
The language of this psalm can be so commonplace to church-goers that we easily run right past its true meaning. If we pause a moment and think about the phrase, “Blessed is the man whose sins are forgiven,” it’s mind-blowing. What do we do to forgive our sins? Nothing! It’s pure gift. And in addition to this gift, we are blessed. What type of God is this who blesses those who tell Him what they did wrong? If I stole something and then turned myself in, I would still be guilty of that crime; but with God this is not so. When confessed, our sin is covered, obliterated, and never used against us. Do we live in gratefulness to this love? I think the answer for most of us most of the time is, “Sadly, no.” But what a privilege this gift of sin-covering is. It’s a gift that promises us a hope and a future. It’s a covering that allows us to not live in fear. Ever since our first ancestors hid from God in the garden out of fear and guilt, we have followed suit. Perhaps I can be courageous enough today to step out of hiding toward God, and gratefully accept my blessing.
By Sr. Nun Other
I did laundry the other day, and noticed a drip or two of liquid detergent on our new washer. A Christmas gift from a sister’s mother, it’s beautiful, state-of-the-art, and eco-friendly. It even plays a little tune when you open the lid, six musical notes that somehow convey how great clean laundry is. As I reached for a cloth and spray cleaner to remove the drips, I was reminded of an early lesson I received.
The lesson was about a grateful heart, and the teacher was my sister, twelve years older than I am. She had asked for my help at the laundromat, and we had several baskets full. After the last load was neatly folded, my sister added one more task: she cleaned and polished both the washer and dryer she’d used. I asked her why, and her reply made a deep impression. She explained that because she and her husband struggled financially, they were unable to afford a washer and dryer for their home. But she was grateful for the laundromat and the opportunity it provided. Why not treat their machines as if they were her own. It was a lesson about expressing love and gratitude in a practical way, for ordinary things. For me, a grateful heart is a concept with its feet on the ground.