Christmas is coming!

It is only 5 days until Christmas.  A naked pine tree stands forlornly in the middle of my living room. I haven’t started making Christmas cookies, which is worrying my 12 year-old. If I procrastinate long enough, the question of whether to send Christmas cards or not will be a mute point. And there are plenty of loose ends for Christmas Eve with the community and Christmas with the family that need to be tied up.  Normally, I would have entered panic mode at this point. It could be that I’m too tired to care.  But I don’t think so.

I think that there have been so many changes in my life this year that I’m coming to Christmas with a new perspective and in some ways it is like seeing it for the very first time.  True, there is a little part of me that is sad and missing some parts of Christmases past.  But the rest of me feels free again to experience the wonder and magic of Christmas. I’m enjoying watching as the house is slowly (ok, really slowly) transformed inside and out by lights, decorations and the fresh smell of pine. I’m looking foward to making cookies with my daughter just to see her excitement and joy.  I can hardly contain myself and want to give everyone their gifts now, because (selfishly) giving to others makes me feel good inside.  And, finally, I can once again look forward to a Christmas Eve candlelight service laced with love and that magical Christmas hope and peace.

It’s been said that if you want to truly experience Christmas, you have to put yourself in it’s path.  Perhaps that’s what I’ve done this year.  Instead of sitting on the sidelines and watching the parade go by, I got on the path and let Christmas sweep me up, swirl me around in its spirit and now I’m simply smiling as I’m carried along.  Come, join me.  Put yourself in the path of Christmas, see it with new eyes, come experience the light coming back into the world on Christmas Eve.  Open your hearts and be filled with wonder once again. With love and peace ~ Kaye

Christmas Eve Worship Service

7 p.m. at Meadowbrook Country Club, Racine

Racine Journal Times Article

I’m so grateful to Lee Roberts and Scott Anderson, the reporter and photographer who did such a wonderful job on the article in today’s Racine Journal Times! (Check out the link below.)  One slight correction, I had applied and received approval for a sabbatical in December 2010, but was still working at Franksville UMC until June 2011. At the time that I applied for a sabbatical, it was to give myself a year to determine whether or not I would stay in the United Methodist Church.  I was under a great deal of stress at the time and really could not make a logical decision about what to do next with my life.  I joked with many people that “handing out carts at Walmart sounds pretty good right about now!” I could never have believed that this is where I would be one year later.

Everything else in that article is just about spot-on, though there were 80 people in worship last Sunday!  It is so exciting to watch this blossom and grow.  Thank you to the entire community for your efforts and energy.

God and Santa

So, here’s my question of the day… what do God and Santa have in common? I’d like to answer that they spread love and joy all over the world, but part of me wonders (sadly) if their similarities lie in them being cast as men in white beards, smiling and saying they love everyone, while keeping lists that they check twice to see who’s good and who’s bad, who’s in and who’s out.

I was in Walgreen’s a few days ago and some poor little boy was having a rough time. Most of us have “been there, done that” and I sympathize with boy the boy and the parents.  But, as his parent’s were carrying him out of the store crying, I heard his mom say sternly, “You have to stop that or Santa won’t bring you any presents.” Frankly, the whole thing makes me cringe just about as much as “you better believe in Jesus and do the right things or you’re going to hell.”

I’ve been working really hard in my ministry to recast this image of God, and release the Divine from the patriarchal, punitive mold. The God I know is a creative, life-giving, unconditionally loving force. I felt like I was making headway, and now it dawns on me that I have to contend with Santa as well!

Did you know that the original St. Nicholas was a fourth century Bishop of Smyrna?  He was very generous, loving and kind toward the children and the poor, supposedly even throwing gifts in their windows.  No where is there mention of a list he checked twice, or coal given out to the undeserving.  It seems that parents over the centuries have turned St. Nick into a tool to make their children behave.  And the church has turned God into a tool to keep people attending, giving and believing a certain way. I apologize for sounding a little jaded, it is just all so frustrating.

Why can’t we motivate people and kids with positive reinforcement instead of negative reinforcement?  Why can’t we encourage experiencing the joy of giving, and the warm feeling of loving others? Why can’t parents say, “sweetie, I know you’re tired of shopping, so am I, but let’s think about something good… like how much grandma will love these gloves, (or Santa coming in a few weeks or Jesus being born).” Probably a pipe dream, I know.  But the world never got anywhere without dreamers.



Sacred Uncertainty

It is possible that the most uncomfortable place to be in one’s life is “in-between.” In-between is that gray space, Dr. Seuss called it the “Waiting Place”, it’s the gap that exists in the middle of two places – physically or emotionally.

I used to think that this in-between space only happened every once and a while, but I’m beginning to believe that it is almost a constant experience in some part of our lives. Just think of all of our in-between times: in-between jobs, waiting for medical tests, waiting for death, waiting for life, adjusting to life after death, adjusting to life after a break up or divorce, in-between school years or homes. I’m sure you can name many more. Truly, this crazy in-between space can be awfully uncomfortable, frustrating and even scary. It can be a time of tension, a time of grieving, and a time of confusion.

Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, is another in-between time.  It is a “now and not yet time.” God is here now, and yet we find ourselves waiting, for God to break into our lives again on Christmas day.  We’re waiting and hoping to feel that Christmas magic again.  It’s the feeling that for just a few moments all is right with the world, it is the sure knowing that God is present with us, it is the light that can break into the darkest recesses of our souls.

Perhaps, in this in-between place of Advent, and any other in-between places we may be experiencing, we can wait with “sacred  uncertainty.” Sacred uncertainty takes place when we invite God into the gap with us and allow God to transform the scary, uncomfortable, confusing in-between space into a holy space. It is no longer a negative place to be, but a blessed place with a purpose all it’s own. God climbs into the gap with us, scoops us up, cradles us gently and helps us to prepare our hearts and souls to move forward.

May you have a blessed Advent.

~ Kaye