Do over… again

A brand new box of crayons, a new car with that new-car smell, the start of a new school year or a new job, a new journal or sketch pad… there is something especially wonderful about starting over. It is freeing and exhilarating to put old messes behind and begin again with the desire of creating something wonderful, the hope that this time will be better than all the rest.

And so it is with the New Year. Whether last year was the best year or worst year ever, the prospect of opening a new calendar with crisp, clean pages waiting to be filled is exciting. It’s the free ticket to a clean slate we all receive every year. It’s funny, because as a deeply spiritual person, I believe that there are infinite do-overs with the Divine. I’ve never bought into the idea that God has a little black book and keeps track of whether we’ve been good or bad like Santa does. I believe that each day, each moment, is a chance to make ourselves new, we don’t really need a new year to make that happen. But, as humans, we are apparently highly symbolic creatures and work best creating ourselves anew when given outside representations of that fresh start.

So, let your soul and psyche take advantage of this once-a-year occurrence. Use this time of transition not simply as an excuse to party, but to reflect and to hope. Sure, pop open that champagne with friends, sing Auld Lang Syne (days gone by) and cheer at the stroke of midnight. But also take the time to consciously reflect on the year gone by – the good, the bad and the ugly. Give thanks for the love you’ve experienced, the strength you’ve had to get through, the friends who have shared life with you, the things you’ve learned and the experiences you’ve had. And then look ahead with hope to the new year ahead. You don’t need to make resolutions that won’t last more than two weeks, but hold an image in your mind of the person you are trying to become, the relationships you are hoping to forge or strengthen, and the accomplishments that will feed your soul (as opposed to your ego). Know that this image shimmers beside you, accessible even when you feel you are most failing that image. At any moment the Divine is there to help you reach out and grasp hold… you won’t need to wait for another New Year.

Peace and blessings,

Kaye

 

 

A quiet morning

This was only the second time in 16 years of ministry that I’ve canceled church. It’s a hard call to make, and I had people upset with me the first time (go figure). But, after watching the news, anxiously surveying the sky, measuring the snow on the driveway, and agonizing over the “right” thing to do, we made the call to keep people home and safe.

Suddenly, there it was, all of 7:35 a.m. and I was wide awake on a Sunday morning with nowhere to go! It was very strange indeed. Yet, it turned into a beautiful, quiet, sacred time as we sat with our coffee and tea, thankfully nestled in a warm house watching the huge flakes of snow swirling to the ground and the brave birds coming to our feeder. I put four candles on our coffee table and lit them for the four weeks in Advent: darkness, desire, preparing and hope. Yes, there was much work put into the service we had planned for day, but this was a nice, peaceful respite from the busy season. There’s nothing like a good snowstorm to keep you in and slow you down.

I hope you find time to slow down and just be. Light a candle for hope and know that it burns brightly not just before your eyes but within your heart.

Peace,

Kaye

CHURCH CANCELED TODAY

Morning Everyone,

Well, we hate to do it, especially since it is the last Sunday in Advent, but we’re canceling the service this morning. With the snow continuing to fall for the next several hours, we just don’t want anyone to risk the roads to get there. Have a nice cup of coffee or tea or hot chocolate and take a few minutes to just be this morning. If you feel like it, light a candle for HOPE today… this was our Advent Candle reading:

Hope starts small, even as a seed in the womb, but it feeds on outrageous possibilities. It beckons us to step out with the belief that the action we take will not only bear fruit but that in taking it, we have already made a difference in the world. God invites us, like Mary, to open to God’s radical leading, to step out with sometimes inexplicable faith, trusting that we will find sustenance.

We light this candle for all of the hopes in our hearts – hope for love, for peace, for purpose, for healing, for transformation, for reconciliation, for forgiveness, for compassion, hope that once again, a small light in the world will make a difference.

Remember, Christmas Eve service is at 7 p.m. and so far the weather looks good! Hope to see you there, but if you are traveling or with family know that you are in our hearts and that our spirit goes with you.

Please be safe today.

Kaye

Preparing a Place

John the Baptist always appears during the Advent season because he is seen as the forerunner of the Messiah, the one who warns everyone to prepare and get ready for Jesus. So, I did my (now famous) John the Baptist impersonation yesterday in church, complete with shouting about packs of snakes and whites-of-my-eyes glares. Honestly, John has always sort of freaked me out, much like the street corner evangelists you might find in Madison and Milwaukee (and probably any other major city or campus). I have crossed many a street in order to avoid the Bible-waving, hell-fire predicting so-called-prophets.  

(For the full audio version, click here.)

The interesting difference between John and those guys in Madison is that John’s chosen location for his ministry is not in the middle of a city, but out in the desert – a place where it would be easy to avoid him. But scripture tells us that everyone – the whole region – was going out to see him anyway. Why? If one was looking for a spiritual fix, a little message from God, why go to all that trouble when you could attend another service at the temple or your local synagogue, maybe make an appointment with the rabbi? Obviously people were looking for something different from the temple or their usual religious haunts could provide them.

Here’s the kicker… if people weren’t willing to risk the wilderness, if they weren’t looking for something more, if they weren’t willing to make the effort to get there… well, they just might miss it all. Which raises the question for us: will we miss it – the light in the darkness, the hope, the magic, the peace – if we don’t go out of our way to find it? Will we go through the motions, but miss the event in our hearts?

One year, when I was about 22 I can remember going through the motions for Christmas. I decorated, bought presents, listened to Christmas Carols, the whole nine yards. But I was in one of those phases where I didn’t go to church much, and I missed it. I attended on Christmas Eve (thinking that was all I really needed to do) and I still missed it in my heart. I was going through the motions for that, too, and not feeling the impact or the meaning. I silently vowed to myself then and there that I wouldn’t miss it again… it meant too much.

Being at church during Advent was one of the things that helped me to center and keep focused on the spiritual side of the season. There are many other things that also help me stay focused so I don’t miss it again. How do you make sure you don’t miss it? Christmas coming, Jesus coming, the light coming, the magic flowing in your heart?

We are preparing for that thin place of Christmas Eve, that place where somehow the spirit is closer and more tangible, where the veil between this world and the next is so thin as to make it permeable, where even the most closed, unprepared hearts can be touched… but it is more likely to feel the brush of angel wings, have goose bumps on your arms, feel flooded with love and peace, glimpse the amazing joy and light of the Divine if we have prepared our hearts. Find what helps you prepare your heart… don’t miss it.

Peace, Kaye

Desire

My daughter asked me last week what I wanted for Christmas. I put her off two or three times before finally saying, “Well, I could use some new spatulas.” The response to which was a classic teenage eye-roll and, “Mom, what do you want for Christmas.” The trouble is that I really don’t want or need anything. It’s different for kids, but most adults I know aren’t making two-page long lists of things they deeply desire to have for Christmas.

So, how then do we address the theme of “Desire” for this second week in Advent. I suggest we take it to a deeper level.

Advent is a spiritual time of looking within, not to beat ourselves up, but as a time of self-reflection and introspection.  Last week we began this introspection by daring to look at the darkness within ourselves – those places we don’t like to touch or look at, much less let anyone else see. I believe that when we spend time getting to know our own darkness, and we begin to bring those shadow places to the light, we may often find that from the darkness springs desire. This desire is much deeper than our ego-desire, it is a desire of our hearts or our higher awareness. If we allow ourselves to go to this deeper place, we will find that the desire of our hearts and the desire of God is the same.

For example, if we find anger in the shadows of our consciousness, we may see that it is the desire of our ego to lash out in justified rage, or take revenge. But if we can look past that, we may find that it is our heart’s desire to let the anger go so that our life force is not spent feeding the negative energy within. Or, if we look inside and we find that we are incredibly insecure, our ego may seek to protect us by trying to prove to others that we are fine, or in control, or better than others. Our hearts, however, may desire to let go of our fears and reconnect with our beautiful authentic selves, to trust ourselves.

If we examine the darkness within and find fear and pain from being wounded and broken, we may begin to recognize that our ego-desire has been to protect us by burying those feelings and hiding them so that we won’t get hurt again. But the true desire of our hearts may be for healing.

Where are the desires of our hearts this Advent? Are they caught up in our egos and what they need or desire – recognition, appreciation, shows of approval, stuff?  If so, can we recognize that and see where that comes from? Can we look beyond it to find the place where our desires intersect with God?  Can we seek our healing, our wholeness? Can we express ourselves with kindness, generosity and love, unlaced with ulterior needs or motives?

Peace, Kaye

Entering the Darkness

“In this strange season when we are suspended between realization and expectation, may we be found honest about the darkness, more perceptive of the light.”  ~ Jack Boozer

Advent began yesterday. The countdown to Christmas, a period of waiting, anticipation and preparation. I do find Advent, as Jack suggests in the quote above, an interesting suspension of time. It is a time when we know the end of the story, yet we hear the story again as if for the first time. We know that the Light is always with us, yet we anticipate the Light which shines in the darkness. We expect something we have really already realized in our lives, yet the expectation brings us to an awareness of the Presence of God-with-us in ways that we don’t have the rest of the year.

(For the full audio version, click here.)

Sadly, Advent has almost become a secular season (beginning right after Halloween, if not before)… it’s the shopping season for Christmas, the cookie making season, the lights at the zoo season, Christmas tree season, the time of holly, ivy, mistletoe and good cheer. Making this time secular and commercialized has externalized our preparation instead of internalizing it. Even the darkness has been externalized as the days get shorter and our nights get longer and our external response is to put Christmas lights on our houses (which I love, by the way).  But it is the internal journey which is most important.

A more spiritual advent is internalized, it asks us to look inside. It will be inside where we find, not only the compassionate, loving joyful parts of ourselves, but the metaphorically darker parts, our shadow side. Externalized advent so often ignores these shadows that get deeper in our hearts this time of year.

I’ve been told that I’m at my best pastoring when I can just be myself. Unfortunately, my true self often gets obscured by things like pride, ego, fear and insecurity. I’m prone to bouts of guilt and shame, and occasionally get slammed with waves of grief and loss. Darkness descends. Sometimes it descends in layers, one after the other, until almost all light has disappeared. I have then effectively blocked my own light from being seen, and I have blocked the light of the Divine from reaching the shadows within me. It reminds me of the window films that you place on your house or car windows to filter out some of the light. If we place layers and layers of that film on our windows, eventually there will be little light getting in or out of the house.

Just because the light can’t be seen as well doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Sometimes we just have to look harder to perceive it and then strive to reach it by working at removing the layers. It’s work, I know, and sometimes scary to be honest about the shadows in our hearts, and to bring those shadows into the light and deal with them. However, it is also the only way I am aware of to become more whole. The light does help us to heal. Otherwise we live our lives divided between the face we show to the world and the face we only allow ourselves (and maybe a few others) to see. Working to become one instead of divided, this is the work of Advent.

Peace ~ Kaye