Be the Light

Be the Light

Christmas 7


What a difference two letters can make.  When it comes to kindness, those two letters make all the difference.  Knowledge is wisdom, intelligence, learned matter.  Knowledge is good but unless it is put to use, it really is little bit more than curiosity answered.  Add the letters to the word “knowledge”, and all of a sudden you have the easiest way in the world to show what you know.


By putting an “a” and a “c” before the word “knowledge’, we create a new word and a great way to show kindness.  The word “acknowledge” comes from fifteenth and sixteenth century words from both France and England, words that mean “recognize” or “understand” or “accord”.  Let’s start with the accord variation first.


All too often, particularly in the political world, it is felt that one must be in complete accord or agreement with someone in order to acknowledge them.  I hope that is not going to become the norm because it really is a very cowardly way to live.  We can acknowledge someone and understand that they are not us and do things different without undermining our own lives.  No one is exactly like you or me.  When we acknowledge that fact, then we are free to show kindness, especially to those who are different.  Their beliefs only threaten us when we live fearfully and without confidence in our own beliefs.


The understand facet of this word is similar in its application.  To acknowledge someone having a different opinion and fully grasping their opinion means we understand them.  It also is showing them great kindness because it is allowing them a dignity, much like what we referenced in our conversation yesterday about respect.


The easiest and most cost effective way of showing kindness to someone is to recognize them.  I don’t mean call them by name but treat them as if they have value. After all, we all have value in our own special way.  Regardless of which creation myth you believe, we are all wondrously made.  Recognize them and then follow up with behavior that reflects that recognition and you will be showing someone great kindness.  It can be as easy as a hand raised in greeting or a joyful “Hello!”


In 1865 the American Civil War, officially known as the War Between the States, was drawing to an end.  The states that had seceded were rejoining and the Colonies were once again a viable democracy.  France had sided with the Confederacy and lent them aid but ties to the Union also still existed.  France had been involved with the colonies almost since their inception, sometimes as an ally and sometimes as an enemy.  However, for almost one hundred years, France had assisted the colonies, both those northern and those in the southern part of the country. 


It was because of this connection that historian Edouard De Laboulaye suggested France create a statue and give to the United States.  The commission for such was awarded to sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi.  France would create and gift the sculpture to the U.S.A. and it would build the pedestal upon which the statue would stand, furthering acknowledging the partnership and friendship between the two nations. 


A need for fundraising delayed the start of the massive project until one year before the US/s centennial celebrations.  The finished statue was delivered and dedicated in October, 1886, ten years after the nation’s centennial.  The inscription, the winning sonnet in a fundraising contest of 1883, was penned by Emma Lazarus:  ““Give me your tired, your poor; Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free; The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.   Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.  I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


This inscription acknowledges each and every immigrant that passes through Ellis Island and serves as a welcome to the thousands of others that arrive in other ports across the country.  The Statue of Liberty, as the statue became known, operated as a lighthouse for almost fifty years, sending its beacon of light emanating from Lady Liberty’s torch out into the night, giving safe passage and welcoming all in acknowledgement of their presence.


My challenge for you this day is to wave hello to someone.  Acknowledge their presence.  Nothing complicated in that, is there?  And if you cannot raise your arm to wave then nod and smile.  By doing so, you will be showing kindness to that other person, regardless of their station in life or bank account or position of authority.  Person to person, you will be welcoming them just as the Statue of Liberty has welcomed millions throughout the years.


Sometimes the greatest gift we can give someone is to recognize their existence.  We don’t have to want to emulate them or believe just as they do.  Acknowledgement simply means we recognize their presence.  To acknowledge someone is to show kindness of thought and presence and it costs us nothing to give.  Remember your challenge for this day is to simply wave a greeting to someone or nod your head in a friendly manner towards another person.


The holidays of this season all involve celebrations with candles.  In this the darkest time of the planet, the period with the shortest amount of natural light, it is very important that we be the light for another.   No one is truly invisible and when we acknowledge another, we are giving them value and worth, being a spotlight that illuminates their presence.  It is a simple gift that will mean everything to someone.



Celebrating You!

Celebrating You!

Christmas 6


This is a time of giving.  Whether you celebrated Christmas and perhaps still are since we are in the middle of the twelve days of the season, are in the process of celebrating Hanukah or Kwanzaa, odds are that you gave a gift to someone or they gave one to you.  It is no accident that these holidays come within a month or so of the harvest time in much of the world.  The concept of gratitude is as old as the human race and this is the season for giving thanks in the form of gifts to each other.


Kwanzaa is the shortest of the three holidays celebrated at this time since it encompasses seven days.  There are seven principles of Kwanzaa and together they comprise “kawaida”, a Swahili word for “common”.  Yesterday we discussed the concept of common as it related to all.  Today I want you to celebrate you as both common and unique.


The first Kwanzaa principle speaks of “umoja” or unity.  It reminds us that we are united in our beings and encourages harmony within the smaller unites of family, community, and even nations.  Being part of a group does not mean we lose our own identity, though.  The second principle of “kujichagulia” is self-determination and it serves to recognize our need to be ourselves and to be brave in doing just that.  Many people confuse the commonality of man as being contrary to our uniqueness.  James Rozoff explains that “Each man is an island unto himself.  Though a sea of difference may divide us, an entire world of commonality lies beneath.” 


In our discussion yesterday about the tragedy of the commons we recognized that cooperation is a key factor towards a successful and brighter future.  The third principle speaks to collective work and responsibility and is known as “ujima.” The best way to celebrate your own being is to help others improve their life.  This is explained in the Kwanzaa principles of “ujamaa”, cooperative economics, and “nia” or purpose.   


Lee Seung-Heun is a South Korean philosopher and prolific writer under the pseudonym Ilchi Lee.  His philosophy illustrates that although he is not of African descent he agrees with the principle of ujima” in this quote:  “By acknowledging and accepting the ultimate commonality, we can naturally and voluntarily develop the attitude of compassion and benevolence toward other people, other life-forms, and all beings. We will want to live for the good of all because we know that’s the way we benefit ourselves, too.”  Helping others also helps our own being and is the best way to improve our own lot.


“Kuumba” is creativity and “imani” is faith.  These two concluding principles of Kwanzaa remind us that in encountering life we must be both faithful and adaptable or creative.  The constant is the belief in the common man.  Nobel Peace Prize nominee Bryant McGill agrees with these ideals.  “We must seek together to address the good aspirations of people everywhere, for we are bound together through great commonality.”


Someone asked why they should learn about Kwanzaa and why I encouraged everyone to celebrate it, even those not of African descent.  The answer is simple.  These are ideals that we all should practice.  They benefit not those of African heritage but the entire world.  Cooperative effort and faith in one’s fellow travelers on the journey of life is essential and helps one celebrate their own living.  The building of our communities, whether that be the family unit or on a larger scale celebrates our own living.  I believe in you and celebrate you in my living today.


The Common

The Common

Christmas 5


Life is a collaborative effort.  We often fail to recognize that and so it sometimes seems that life itself fails us.  During the seasons of Christmas, Hanukah, and Kwanzaa, certain ideals are espoused and encouraged to be taken into the new, upcoming year.  These ideals are in reality practices that provide for the collaborative effort of living.


The English manor of olden times was in reality a very large farm or plantation often protected by stone walls.  Within the land holdings were bungalows for those that lived and maintained the manor properties, crops, and livestock.  Each manor was self-sufficient and large parcels of land, although owned by the landholder who was generally of the peerage, were set aside for use by the workers.  Such land was called the commons land or “commons” as it was used by all but especially the “common people”.


Today some countries have extended the concept of common land while others have done away with it.  It has served as the basis for the establishment of local and national parks but generally speaking, the concept of “the commons” has been used more in an economic sense.  The collaborative approach to living has given way to a more self-centered, ownership ideal.


These three holidays, however, serve to remind us that life is indeed a collaborative effort and we are all in it together. Sow what happens when we forget that living should be collaborative?  What can occur when we elect to extinguish rather than expand and encourage?


Englishman William Forster Lloyd in 1833 proposed the concept of “the tragedy of the commons” in which sheep allowed to graze irresponsibly ultimately killed all the grass upon which they grazed.  This idea was reiterated in 1968 in an essay written by ecologist Garret Hardin in warning of the dangers of unregulated use of shared resources.


Both Lloyd and Hardin applied their theories to land used by everyone, not just those within the commons environment so many argue their conclusions.  Unregulated use of anything can lead to overuse and the killing of such natural resources.  Many feel they were describing the tragedy of open access rather than a true use of a common area.


Peter Barnes, an economist, used the sky as a metaphor to such issues.  Since the sky belongs to all, he wanted to have it considered a worldwide generic commons with companies paying forfeits to pollute.  Logically, he maintained, it would be a wider business decision to have proper manufacturing procedures that reduced the amount of pollutants released and avoidance of fines.  This would provide for a cleaner environment for all, a healthier living, and a less polluted commons area of the sky.


Harvard professor Yochai Benkler has proposed a new collaboration regarding the use of common materials and information.  His model is a new modus operandi of socioeconomic production in which large numbers of people work cooperatively employing the Internet as a communicative and collaborative tool.  First mentioned in his paper “Coase’s Penguin, or Linux and the Nature of the Firm”, written in 2002, Benkler gives credit to this idea to Eben Moglen.   A later book published in 2006 expands on this concept.  “The inputs and outputs of the process are shared, freely or conditionally, in an institutional form that leaves them equally available for all to use as they choose at their individual discretion.”   Copyright issues are avoided since commons-based projects are often shared under an open license.


In other words, the idea of the commons has been expanded to include intellectual material and advancements.  This means that scientists and inventors are collaboratively working together for the betterment of all.  The concepts behind the celebrations of Christmas, Hanukah, and Kwanzaa share a similar pattern of shared usage and responsibility.  They encourage us to live so as to the benefit of all and not just focus on ourselves.  They may seem like simple evenings of enjoyment but the ideals they espoused just might create advancements that make our living more productive as well as enjoyable.  When you light a candle for Hanukah or Kwanzaa or Christmas, you are lighting the way of a brighter future for us all.

Extend or Extinguish

Extend or Extinguish

Christmas 4


Sometimes the hardest part of writing a blog post is the title.  It is the first thing you see and needs to grab your attention.  It must, however, also fit the post.  The recent political campaign for president in the United States was a very good example of this.  Every candidate in an election must sell themselves to the voting public.  As a salesman, this candidate bypassed the needs and issues.  Instead this candidate relied on buzz words and the deep fears that motivate people.  Each campaign stop was a title only, lacking in substance but very big on buzzwords and catchy slogans.  One candidate was a very good salesman and that candidate ultimately won the election.


The word “snuff” is an interesting word and part of the title I would have preferred to use today.  The word has various different meanings, though the use of it definitely grabs the attention.  Originally the word “snuff” comes from an English word in the fourteenth century, “snoffe”.  It referred to the charred part of the wick of a candle.  It became a verb meaning to “put out” and later came to mean to put an end to”.  Thus it also became an adjective meaning something violent.  However, the Dutch had a similar word “snuffen” which meant to sniff through the nose and it was the Dutch definition that gave tobacco taken in through the nose the term “snuff” that made it most famous.  This tobacco had a different grind than the tobacco smoked, a courser, less refined grind, and soon people were using an affectation of “sniffing” in the air to those people they felt were beneath them or of a coarse heritage or behavior.


During this season, whether one is celebrating the Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, Christmas (and yes, it IS still the Christmas season) or Hanukah, we are called to do the opposite of the various meanings for the word “snuff”.  We are asked to remember the light of the world and the light within each of us.  We are reminded that we all come from the same humble beginnings of birth, the same process regardless of the home or hovel or mansion to which we will live our lives. We are encouraged to live a better life, one that encourages another rather than create violence and havoc in their psyche.


“Oftentimes, people reflect on their lives and wonder how they came to be at a certain crossroad or exactly how they got where they ended up. This can apply to anything in life, be it career choices, our choices of marriage partners or even personal decisions we’ve made, crises we’ve lived through.. A path is just that; a means of getting from one place to another and made up of individual stones or paces we take one after the other…When we start out on a certain path in our life, we don’t have the luxury of seeing where our footsteps will lead us…That’s the beauty of living…Every decision we make along the way leads us to more paths and so on and so on until by the end of our days, our life is one continuous string of smaller paths we have taken…All combined to make the final trail…Is it fate that leads us to veer from the original path we had in mind or is it something called destiny? Or is it a certain amount of luck, good and bad, or personal choice?”


This quote is one from last year’s Christmas series and though someone must have said it, I still cannot find to whom the credit goes.  I dislike it for just one small thing – it fails to mention the effect our choices have on others.  Every single choice we make or word we utter can have a huge effect on another.  As John Donne wrote, “No man is an island.”  We are all in this thing called life together.  So whether you are celebrating the recent Winter Solstice, the coming of the end of this year, the fourth day of Christmas, the fifth day of Hanukkah, the third day of Kwanzaa, just today as Hump Day, you are going to have an effect on someone.  The astronauts circling the earth on the International Space Station have an effect on us and they are about as far as a human being can get.  We all impact each other.


On this day, December 28th, what impact will you make?  Will you serve another or snuff out their hopes and greatest wishes?  My original choice for a title was “Serve or Snuff”, by the way.  Will you extend a hand to someone or will you extinguish the flame of their soul?  Recently a friend confessed to having had nightmares for the past six weeks, all based upon an incident that occurred at a place of worship.  Faith, beliefs, spiritualities, and religion should not create nightmares.  No one should have the ability to give another person nightmares.  We would all probably agree to that and yet, do we make it a point to live in such a way to avoid doing that very thing?


It is within our power with our words and actions to help another’s flame of life burn brightly.  Will you serve another or snuff out their hopes and greatest wishes?  Will you extend a hand to someone or will you extinguish the flame of their soul?  It really is not such a hard thing to do, to help another light the flame of their hopes and aspirations.  When we do that, the world will be a beacon of hope and joy, something we should celebrate each and every day.  Then we will truly have joy to the world.




Age and Renewal

Age and Renewal

Christmas 3


This blog is published daily or at least publishes a blog for each day, today being the 1030th blog post.  The different series are divided into sections based loosely on the liturgical calendar of those religions with an historic episcopate.  This blog is not religious in nature though.  The spirituality of the world is also included and recently someone asked me why.  Why do I not just publish from my own perspective?  Why include other religions and discuss various spiritualities?


The purpose of this blog was to have an outlet for discussion, discussions which, I hoped, would expand my own thinking and possibly that of others.  Hence, the title of this blog is “n2myhead” or… “into my head”.  As we approach the end of 2016, I found it fitting to have been asked this question because life really is about age and maturity and renewal, the very things we often reflect upon at this time of the year.  Age and renewal is also the history of the world’s religions and spiritualities and is the timeline for the cultures of humanity.


Today is the third day of Christmas, the second day of Kwanzaa, and tonight will be the fourth night of Hanukkah.  It might seem that a Christian holiday, a cultural commemoration of African heritage, and a Jewish celebration of a miracle have little in common, just as viewing the parade of representative in their native garb at the United Nations seems like a party rather than history.  Those perspectives, however, belie the truth and the connections all have.  They deny the connections we ourselves have.


Hinduism is considered the world’s oldest religion, followed by Judaism and Zoroastrianism.  There were no You Tube videos of the first worship services or spiritual practices but it is believed that the beginnings of Hinduism trace back to India’s pre-Vedic times, somewhere around 2000 BCE.  Called the oldest of the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism traces its beginnings to the time of Abraham or 1800 BCE.  Zoroastrianism is a bit more difficult to track but it is estimated to have begun in Persian from either the eighteenth century BCE to somewhere around the six century BCE.  Jainism, Buddhism, and Confucianism also began around the sixth century BCE and the text of Taoism has been attributed to Lao Tzu with a date also in this same religiously spiritual sixth century BCE.


Christianity is approximately two thousand years old with Islam coming six hundred years later.  Because it also is an Abrahamic faith along with Judaism and Christianity, some claim it had its beginnings with Abraham as do some Christian scholars.  The word “Islam” translates as “submission to the will of God” so it is understandable that since the Quran considers Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses as submitters, they might claim this earlier date.  As an organized religion, nonetheless, it came into existence with the prophet Mohammad in Arabia in the seventh century ACE. 


History is a nondenominational, non-spiritual recording of the history of the world and those in it and yet, even history did not escape the influence of spiritualties and religions.  The western of Georgian calendar used worldwide uses the Christian birth of Christ, the man known also as Jesus of Nazareth, as the axis point or divider for historical events.  Up until recently the terms “B.C.” and “A.D.” were used, referring to “Before Christ” and “Anno Domini” which is Latin for “in the year of the Lord”.  Now the terms are “BCE for “Before the Common Era” and “ACE” or “After the Common Era”.


Shinto is considered the indigenous or traditional religion of Japan and it came into being somewhere around the eighth century ACE.  The world’s youngest religion is Sikhism which was founded in India by Guru Nanak approximately in 1500 ACE.  These major religions are not the only ones practiced in the world, however.  Another religiously active century was the nineteenth century.  Baha’i  in Persia, the modern-day Iran. Christian Science in Boston, MA, USA,  and Mormonism in Western New York are made an appearance during the 1800’s. 


The twentieth century, known for its industrial revolutions and advancements in computer technology did not omit spirituality either.  Rastafarianism was found in Jamaica in the 1930’s; L. Ron Hubbard began his Church of Scientology in New Jersey, USA in 1953 and the Unification Church was founded in South Korea the following year.  Also during this time Great Britain saw a revival of ancient European indigenous paganism with traditions being unified under the heading of Wicca.


This timeline illustrates how we are connected not only with the use of a common sense of time but also by the aging and renewing of beliefs with different perspectives.  This time of year is the perfect time to emphasize those connections and take heed of the gifts we all have with them.  Each celebration serves a purpose and gives us an avenue to reconnect.  Just as we age and learn, growing into our own person, so does the world age and renew itself. 


Writer Deborah Day believes that “Renewal requires opening yourself up to new ways of thinking and feeling.”  I agree.  It is the very nature and purpose of this blog.  The Roman writer Ovid in his “Metamorphoses explains why this is important or should be important to us:   “As wave is driven by wave and each, pursued, pursues the wave ahead; so time flies on and follows, flies, and follows, always, forever and new. What was before is left behind; what never was is now; and every passing moment is renewed.”


During these eight days of Hanukah, these twelve days of Christmas, and six days of Kwanza, we are called to remember, revere, and renew.  It is the essence of life.  It is our purpose for living.  It is proper, then, that each includes the lighting of candles.  They serve to help light the path before us and to take us out of the darkness of the past.  “For within your flesh, deep within the center of your being, is the undaunted, waiting, longing, all-knowing. Is the ready, able, perfect. Within you, waiting its turn to emerge, piece by piece, with the dawn of every former test of trial and blackness, is the next unfolding, the great unfurling of wings, the re-forged backbone of a true Child of Light.” (Jennifer DeLucy)

A Spark, A Flame

A Spark, A Flicker

Christmas – 2


December 24th was the beginning of Hanukah for those of the Jewish faith.  December 25th was the celebration and beginning of Christmas for those of the Christian faith.  While many might claim these are two distinctly different holidays, they do bear much in common – light and family.  Therefore, it is fitting that today, December 26th, is the beginning of Kwanza, a cultural holiday that celebrates family and relationships.


One of the hallmarks of all three holidays is their connection to candles.  Christians begin to anticipate Christmas with an Advent wreath, four candles lit one each week during the twenty-eight days before Christmas at a family meal and then one lit on Christmas Day.  Jewish families remember the miracle of Hanukah, the burning of one day’s worth of oil lasting instead for eight days, with the lighting of eight candles with the same taper at sundown as the family gathers together.  Kwanza, an American addition to celebrate African heritage, speaks to the core of every tribe’s culture – the family and during Kwanza, a candle is lit each night for six days as the family gathers.


Even if you are not Jewish, Christian, or of African descent, these celebrations and the lighting of their candles is something we all not only can appreciate but live in our daily lives.  It is at this time that some of the world’s best traditions and most misunderstood traditions take place.  These twelve days also symbolize our relationships with people and offer us a chance to not only celebrate but also improve our own living, giving ourselves the best possible gift of all – a brighter tomorrow.


Getting your family, whether of blood or of the heart, together is always a good thing.  There will be the inevitable hassles and maybe arguments but really, it is the coming together of each individual that makes us whole and helps us move forward in our lives.  As we pause to light the candles, we are called to remember who we are, why we are, and invited to see the light in each of us.  Aswe depart, we take a little something that helps our own light burn brighter and we have given that to the others present.


The lighting of the menorah to celebrate Hanukah is done preferably at a window to announce to all one’s faith.  We do this in every interaction we have with another.  Our words either light a flame with whom we are speaking or extinguish theirs.  Are we supportive in selecting our words or do we seek to harm and quench their hopes and dreams?  Do we leave people smiling or frowning?


During these twelve days we will share stories and recall celebrations past as well as our hopes for the future, both days of festivities but also those ordinary, everyday moments we hope to experience.  We each have opportunities to be that spark that lights a fire within another.   On Christmas Eve, the first day of Hanukah, I was out doing some last minute errands.  I stopped by to pick up lunch and as I sat waiting for my order, thought about how unhappy I was to be in the midst of the last minute chaos that the retail world experiences on Christmas Eve. 


My number was called and as I turned to leave, a young child reached out her hand to me and smiled.  I smiled back and then stopped as she spoke.  “Hi!” she said as she reached further to take my hand.  She told me her name and then her age.  I looked at her parents who seemed okay with my talking to her and took her hand.  I told her my name and she smiled even brighter.  Then she squeezed my hand.  “I hope you have a good day,” she said.  “Here is a hand hug” and then she gently squeezed my hand.


A four-year-old hand gently squeezing my own hand might just be one of the best presents I have ever received.  It definitely was a spark that lit the candle within my soul.  As I left the establishment, the day suddenly was less chaotic and more pleasant.  The world seemed less frenzied and most beautiful.  Someone had seen the spark of something within, someone who was only four years old.  The secrets to better living are not only for the rich and famous, the highly intelligent, the movers and shakers of the world. 


We can each celebrate living by simply being kind, by lighting a spark within another.  That is definitely worth celebrating and, really, the primary reason we celebrate at all.  Whose light will you help shine brighter today?  Sometimes it is as easy as a smile and joy extended to another, even a complete stranger.  Any child can show you how it is done.  Today be the spark that helps another’s flame burn brightly, please.  The world needs more light amid the darkness of reality.



A Baker’s Dozen

A Bakers’ Dozen

Christmas One


I once was locked out of my car and so I called a locksmith.  I had not locked my keys inside the care; rather, the key broke off in the lock on the car door.  In looking up the telephone number I noticed an interesting line in the advertisement:  “Open 23 hours every day.”  After the owner’s son had retrieved the broken key and made us a new one, he explained the slogan.  Originally ir had read “Open 24 hours every day” but then came a fateful night.  A woman called while his father was taking a shower and he did not answer the call at first.  Ten minutes later the telephone rang again and he did answer, only to be chastised by the woman on the other end.  She felt his advertisement was false since he had not been available every minute of the twenty-four hours.


Great Britain has had a long history of regulation of trade.  Bakers were regulated by a trade guild called The Worshipful Company of Bakers, which dates back to at least the reign of Henry II (1154-89). The law that caused bakers to be so wary was the Assize of Bread and Ale. In 1266, Henry III revived an ancient statute that regulated the price of bread according to the price of wheat. Bakers or brewers who gave short measure could be fined, pilloried or flogged, as in 1477 when the Chronicle of London reported that a baker called John Mund[e]w was ‘schryved [forced to admit his guilt] upon the pyllory’ for selling bread that was underweight.  Thus they would add an extra loaf to an order so as to avoid being found guilty of short-changing a customer.  The term “baker’s dozen” came to signify that extra loaf and a “baker’s dozen was not twelve loaves but rather thirteen.


We are now in a season of Christmas, most noticeably known not only for the religious aspect but also for the secular song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  The true December dilemma for many, though, is that the time between Christmas and Epiphany is not twelve days but thirteen.  Many believe counting the days should commence on December 26th while others consider December 25th the first day. As with so many things in life, it becomes a matter of perspective and what the song and gifts might really signify.


Mary Wolfinbarger, a marketing professor at California State University at Long Beach delved into the meaning of gifts for her doctorate.  She noted that while people are not that sensitive as to which gift they receive, there are some rules we should consider when selecting a gift.  “The basic violation is simply not trying… from wanting to put your stamp on it as a giver.”


During this Christmas series we will look at the twelve days of Christmas, the gifts attached to each day but more importantly, the gifts we share with each other.  Giving a gift is an opportunity to connect with another person, whether that gift was monetarily expensive or consisted of sharing a part of yourself.  We all have hidden talents and things that will enhance the life of another person.  It truly is not about how much we give but how much love, how much extra measure like the baker’s dozen, we put into the giving. 



The Truth about Grace

The Truth about Grace

Advent 28


Ann Lamott felt there was a mystery to grace, that concept we have spent Advent discussing:  “I do not understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”  Describing it is terms of a mystery makes one wonder about its axiomatic presence.  Can something be a mystery and self-evident at the same time?


In our approach to discussing grace, using the four realms of probability, we removed the mystery when it comes to grace.  Whether it was classical, empirical, subjective, or axiomatic, we held true to the belief that grace exists.   While some might try to isolate as the provenance of grace to the religious, we considered that it really is in the air we breathe, simply waiting for us to reach out and grasp it, holding it and then releasing it back into the world. 


So why did I elect to use the four realms of probability in my approach to grace?  Because there is a very great probability that you have shared grace, both as the giver and as the receiver.  We tend to think of things as concrete or abstract.  Those things we can see, hear, smell, or taste are definitely concrete while our feelings lean towards the abstract realm.  The truth is that our feelings, where we often give and receive grace, are as real as anything on earth.  The probability of grace in your life is a certainty. 


The actor Bradley Whitlock has a great quote about grace.  Infuse your life with action. Don’t wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope. Make your own love. And whatever your beliefs, honor your creator, not by passively waiting for grace to come down from upon high, but by doing what you can to make grace happen… yourself, right now, right down here on Earth.”


Life is not simple.  It is complicated and will have periods of darkness and light.  The darkness can serve to clean the slate and lead us towards a brighter tomorrow.  Author Patricia Briggs advises ““When life doesn’t meet your expectations, it was important to take it with grace.”


Writer and thinker C. Joybell C. expounds on that thought.  “Peace is the number one beautiful ornament you can wear, I really believe that. They say you should always wear a smile, but I don’t believe that you should “always” wear a smile.  Seriously, you’re going to look stupid!  But peace, you should always carry peace within you.  It’s the most beautifying thing you could ever have or do. Peace makes your heart beautiful and it makes you look beautiful, too. You want to have perfect physical posture when you stand, sit, and walk, and peace is the perfect posture of the soul, really. Try perfect posture outside as well as inside. Peace creates grace and grace gives peace.”


Grace is not something we should be awaiting to fall into our laps, placed there by another.  Grace is something we should be sharing.  It is a verb, not a flimsy concept hovering just outside the realm of our own existence.  It is an action verb, the one thing that can turn a subjective judgment into a unifying movement, the first step for a better tomorrow, the hope of the hopeless and the light for those who do not see the beauty of the world.



Are You Shopping?

Are You Shopping?

Advent 27


We are in the middle of the last minute shopping craze worldwide as people attempt to make their last minute holiday purchases.  Whether it is for Hanukah or Christmas, the Hanukahmas/Christmukkah marathon has begun.  It truth it began several months ago but it will reach its frenzy in the next thirty-six hours.  What are you shopping for this year?


Some of us are extremely organized (spell that obsessively compulsive) about the holidays and began our shopping in July.  Others enjoy the thrill and risk of last minute shopping.  Some will simply not be bothered and feel themselves to be above all the commercial mayhem that accompanies this time of year.  In truth, however, we are all shopping.  We go through each day shopping for grace.


Hanukah will begin this year on December 24th, the day also known as Christmas Eve.  This is only the fourth time in a century that the two holidays are occurred on the same day.  The Jewish Museum in Berlin has made note of the two holidays in their exhibit “Chrismukkah: Stories of Christmas and Hanukkah.”  The exhibit discusses how interfaith families celebrated the two holidays, being respectful and showing grace for all.  “A Christmas celebration with a tree, songs, and gifts became a symbol of being a part of German culture for many middle-class Jewish families in the 19th century. Jews celebrated Christmas as a secular ‘festival of the world around us’ without religious meaning, or they transferred Christmas customs to the Hanukkah festival. This mixture was and is referred to as ‘Chrismukkah.’”


Christmas is considered the light at the end of the dark Advent time of preparation and Hanukah celebrates the miracle of one day’s worth of oil lasting for eight days.  The conflict between celebrating these two holidays has been termed the “December Dilemma” but I think we need to turn our thinking around and call it the “December Elegance.”  We also need to live it every day, not just in December.


Elegance is a word that brings to mind luxury, sophistication, indulgence and amenity.  These are all aspects of grace as well.  We all really have the luxury of sharing grace one with another.  It does require a sophisticated way of interacting but it is not that difficult or complicated.  When we indulge in living with grace and showing and sharing it with others, we create an environment of amenity and it all combines for greater facilitation of living and effective outcomes.  It is what most of us spend our lives shopping for – respect, grace, and love, the hallmarks of both holidays.


We all give each other the gift of time, although sometimes that gift is done in a backwards way with no time allotted.  We may think we are too busy but really – can any of us afford to be too busy for life?  Grace is about giving another person respect and kindness.  Maybe this year, instead of shopping for a sweater, you can give someone a gift that truly will impact their life forever. The gift of “chesed” or kindness is always in fashion.  Perhaps your family might do something together for others.  Lomed, the Hebrew word for learning, is also something we can share, both by doing and by example.   It can be shopping at the bookstore for a new book or two, one for each family member and one to donate.


The word “Hanukah” translates as dedication and there is no better time to dedicate yourself to living grace than this time of year.  Christmas means the birth of the One who personified love and there is also no better time to show love one to another.  The December Dilemma is really just an opportunity to embrace grace and gift it to another.  That makes your life most elegant and really costs us nothing but positive interactions and living.  Next time you head out to go shopping, remember that the best gift of all is the gift of grace.  Share it and it will be returned to you.  That will brighten the darkness of life and lead us towards a better tomorrow.



Different Strokes

Different Strokes

Advent 26


In 1966 a Kansas newspaper interviewed the boxer known as Cassius Clay about an upcoming fight.  The boxer, more famously known as Mohammed Ali, replied:  “I got different strokes for different folks.”  A year later a rhythm and blues singer released a single called “Different Strokes” and used Ali’s quote in the song.  It appeared a year later in the Sly and the Family Stone hit “Everyday People” and was later the impetus for the title of a television program ten years later.


Although Mohammed Ali might have put a more modern spin on the saying, it actually dates back several centuries.  In the later 1500’s there was a saying “To each his own” with an accepted version being frequently heard in the 1700’s.    A reader asked me what one phrase or quote defined grace.  I think one of the first definitions can be traced through these sayings to the first century ACE and even earlier. 


“One man’s meat is another man’s poison” is accredited to Lucretius during the first century BCE.  “De gustibus non est disputandum” or “There is no accounting for tastes” was also a popular saying and it evolved into the sixteenth century French saying “Chacun a son gout” or Each to his own taste.


I stroke my pets and it is, I am certain, a much different stroke than those delivered by Mohammed Ali to an opponent.  And yet, each allows for individuality.  To me, grace is recognizing that we are indeed individuals.  One person’s food allergies are poison to them while another might eat a great deal of the very same item with no adverse effects.  This does not mean one person is better than the other.  It simply means one is different from the other.


Respect is the one thing we all want and need.  Living in grace means, in my humble opinion, to show respect to all.  Whether you say “Different stroke for different folks” or Different stroke for different blokes”, the meaning is the same.  Life can sometimes hinder us and it can be very hard.  Having respect shown to us can make the journey easier.  As the theme song of the television show states: “Now, the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum, what might be right for you, may not be right for some.”