Lexi Rees

Lexi Rees

2018.08.31

Literature and Life

 

I must admit that, when going to visit someone, I am always a bit bothered when I do not see any bookcases in their rooms.  To be sure, I seldom go into every room, especially if it is merely an acquaintance or my first time visiting but still, as someone who has bookcases in practically every room, yes even the dining room and kitchen, I sort of expect to see a book case in every room.  My living room, den, previously mentioned dining room and kitchen, as well as every bedroom and guest rooms…well, we have a few bookcases overrunning with books.  So when this author said she went to her bookcases to find a favored but perhaps forgotten book…. I was delighted!

 

I asked Lexi Rees what was her favorite book.  Her answer:  “That’s an impossible question. My favourite book has changed over the years from when I was aged four, “Ernest Owl”, to aged ten, “Nancy Drew” and “The Hardy Boys”, to the wildly eclectic mix I read today. It could be Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” or Terry Pratchett’s “Mort”, depending on my mood. Of course I loved “Narnia” as a kid (it was pre Hardy Potter) and “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” still makes me laugh. 

 

“So I scanned my bookshelves for a book that surprised me, that was still fresh in my mind even though I had read it years ago and there it is – “A School in South Uist”, about an Englishman who is persuaded to take a job as headmaster on a tiny, remote island in the Outer Hebrides in the 1890’s. It’s survived numerous charity shop culls of my overflowing bookshelves, although I don’t know why since I’ve only actually read it once.

 

“It’s not a best-seller, although it ranks well enough in the fairly niche Amazon categories it’s listed under. I don’t have any family connection to the author. I’m not even sure how or where I first stumbled across it as I don’t recall a friend recommending it. I assume I bought it whilst route planning a trip. I’ve travelled extensively in Scotland (and around the world) and try to read a book set in every place I visit, but I’ve never made it as far as South Uist.  It’s an autobiography, but it’s one of those that could easily be mistaken for fiction – it’s got an interesting story, great characters, a fantastic setting, perfect pace and a wonderful voice.

 

I’ve just realized that the barren, windswept island where the elders have their gathering in my book, Eternal Seas, was probably inspired by the image this book conjured up of South Uist, even though the ruined castle I describe is Castle Gylen, near Oban.  I’ve put it back on my TBR pile. It deserves a re-read!”

 

Lexi Rees grew up in the north of Scotland but now splits her time between London and West Sussex. She still goes back to Scotland regularly though.  Usually seen clutching a mug of coffee, she spends as much time as possible sailing and horse riding, both of which she does enthusiastically but spectacularly badly.  Her first book, “Eternal Seas”, was written on a boat; the storm described in it was frighteningly real.

 

Lexi writes action packed stories for children, and will be publishing a non-fiction book for grown-ups in 2019.  She also has a blog about her family’s adventures, which seem to include lots of kids’ activities, travel, horses, boats, cars and crafting.  You can connect with her at any of these links:  Website https://lexirees.co.uk/; Facebook https://www.facebook.com/LexiAuthor/; Twitter https://twitter.com/lexi_rees; Google + http://bit.ly/Lexi-on-GooglePlus; Instagram https://www.instagram.com/lexi.rees/

 

[Please go to my Facebook page for pictures that accompany this post.  https://www.facebook.com/n2myhead/?hc_location=ufi]

 

Writers are not perfect people although some do manage to construct perfect endings.  What they do is connect the written word to the living we all do – whether it is a book for children or adults.  I thank all whom I have featured this month.  They make our living immeasurably better and turn an hour into an adventure when we read their efforts.  What I hoped to illustrate this month is that we all have an effect on each other.  After all, as one of my favorite writers and actual distant relative John Donne, once penned:  “No man is an island.”

 

 

F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald

2018.08.20

Literature and Life

 

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” F Scott Fitzgerald is a well-known name to us but during the era known as “The Jazz Age”, he was just like many of us – someone who wanted to write.  This quote of his reminds me that while the world often tells us we are not so great, our hope and dreams are telling us greatness is possible.

 

Fitzgerald is known today as a great American novelist although only four of his novels were published before his death at the age of 46 with a fifth published posthumously.  He did, however, publish over one hundred and sixty short stories in magazines.  Of interest to me, though, was just how American Fitzgerald really was.  He was named for a cousin, Francis Scott Keys who penned the poem that became the words to the National Anthem of the USA.  Having gone aboard the “enemy” frigate to attempt to broker a peace agreement during the War of 1812, Keys found himself a prisoner of war during a battle in what is known as the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, MD, just outside Fort McHenry.  The opening lines were his plea to know which flag was still flying at the end of the skirmish so that he would know who had been victorious.  Another cousin was hanged in 1865 for her part in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

 

Fitzgerald found himself at Princeton for college and wrote, to the detriment of his other studies.   A brief love affair with a socialite in his native St Paul, Minnesota would become the model for his heroines in several novels and short stories. With World War I on the horizon he enlisted in the Army and fell under the command of a future US President, General Dwight D Eisenhower.  While in the Army, Fitzgerald found himself stationed in Montgomery, Alabama where he fell in love with the daughter of a Alabama Supreme Court Justice.  Her name was Zelda.  The war ended and he took a job in advertising in NYC with the intent of convincing Zelda he could support her.  She later broke the engagement unconvinced and Fitzgerald returned home broken-hearted.  He penned “The Romantic Egotist” which was accepted for publication.  Zelda relented and the two were married in NYC.

 

Four years before his death, Fitzgerald listed twenty-five books he deemed “essential reading”.  One was “The Life of Jesus” by Ernest Rena.  Joseph Ernest Renan lived in the nineteenth century and is remembered as a philosopher, theologian, and orientalist.  He became a professor in a theological seminary in Paris. Eventually, though, his study of German theology, accompanied by his disenchantment with Roman Catholicism, led him to have doubts about the truth of Christianity. And so, in 1845, at age twenty-two, he left his initial teaching position.  After a somewhat checkered life for several years, Renan embarked upon an archaeological mission to Phoenicia and Syria in 1860. He spent some time in Palestine during this adventure. While there, he wrote his celebrated volume, The Life of Jesus. At the time, his on-site library consisted solely of the New Testament and a copy of the writings of Josephus. While the Encyclopedia Britannica is sympathetic to Renan, it concedes that his book “is scarcely the work of a great scholar”.

 

If today’s post seems a contradiction of terms, it is.  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s best friend, fellow writer Ernest Hemingway, hated his wife.  The writer generally faces self-doubt every day while hoping for the exact opposite.  Remembered as a theologian, Rena wrote of a completely human Jesus, describing Jesus as a popular religious leader and self-proclaimed Messiah who increasingly advocated the overthrow of Roman rule and the establishment of a theocracy. To support his apocalyptic vision, Renan’s Jesus was not above using trickery and deception, as in the raising of Lazarus. 

 

Fitzgerald struggled to be a successful writer, penning stories of his day and the glamor while struggling to live in that “Jazz Age”.  His financial failings and the death of Zelda (Hemingway’s predictions that “She was mad” proved sadly to be true with her death as a result of schizophrenia in 1930) led him to Hollywood.  His success there, however, led him to call himself “a Hollywood Hack”.  The man who wrote about the heart and love affairs died of a heart attack himself.  Perhaps this quote of his says it all:  “All good writing is swimming under water while holding your breath.”

 

Life is a series of pros and cons.  We all have good days and bad.  Writers are no different.  They live on the hope something good will be written while living a nightmare that nothing they do is ever “good enough”.   Fitzgerald once said “Personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures.”  I think good writing is the perpetual series of unbroken attempts. 

 

F. Scott Fitzgerald gave us the key to success – in literature and life.  “For what it’s worth… it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you’ve never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start over again.”

 

 

Jane Austen

Jane Austen

2018.08.09

Literature and Life

 

In 2014, writing for “The Guardian” Alison Flood reported that a survey reveals that 54% of traditionally-published authors and almost 80% of go-it-alone writers made less than $1,000 a year.  Over nine thousand writers took part in the 2014 Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Author Survey, presented at the 2014 Digital Book World conference.   The survey group was composed of beginning writers to highly acclaimed, well-published authors and then divided the 9,210 respondents into four camps: aspiring, self-published only, traditionally-published only, and hybrid (both self-published and traditionally-published).  More than 65% of those who filled out the survey described themselves as aspiring authors, with 18% self-published, 8% traditionally-published and 6% saying they were pursuing hybrid careers.  Just over 77% of self-published writers acknowledged they made $1,000 or less a year, with “a startlingly high 53.9% of traditionally-published authors, and 43.6% of hybrid authors, reporting their earnings are below the same threshold.  A tiny proportion – 0.7% of self-published writers, 1.3% of traditionally-published, and 5.7% of hybrid writers – reported making more than $100,000 a year from their writing. The profile of the typical author in the sample was ‘a commercial fiction writer who might also write non-fiction and who had a project in the works that might soon be ready to publish’,” according to Flood’s report.

 

It should, therefore, come as no surprise that this is one of my favorite quotes about writing: “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”  It was said by today’s featured author, Jane Austen.   Jane Austen is a world- renowned English author who completed just six works during her time.  Few have such a small portfolio that have managed to command the legion of fans around the world that Jane Austen has. Her timeless stories have been turned into a plethora of movies, television shows, and modern adaptations in addition to being translated into multiple languages to cross cultural boundaries. Today she remains as popular as ever and is revered as much as any literary figure in the history of the English language.

 

During her lifetime Austen wrote approximately 3,000 letters but only about 160 survive.[6] Many of the letters were written to Austen’s older sister Cassandra, who in 1843 burned the greater part of them and cut pieces out of those she kept. Ostensibly Cassandra destroyed or censored her sister’s letters to prevent their falling into the hands of relatives and ensuring that “younger nieces did not read any of Jane Austen’s sometimes acid or forthright comments on neighbors or family members”.  Cassandra believed that in the interest of tact and Jane’s penchant for forthrightness, these details should be destroyed.   Ironically it is the humor and wit of Austen’s characters that have made her writings so popular and timeless.

 

Austen lived a relatively short life, even for the time period and yet, she read many books, volumes of poetry, and plays.  Some of her favorites included “The Corsair” by Lord Byron and “The Mysteries of Udolpho” by Anne Radcliffe.  Her all-time favorite was reportedly said to have been “Sir Charles Grandison” by Samuel Richardson.  Austen endeavored to incorporate Richardson’s epistolary style in her own writing, but found the flexibility of narrative more conducive to her realism, a realism in which each conversation and gesture carries a weight of significance. This narrative style utilized free indirect speech – she was the first English novelist to do so extensively – through which she had the ability to present a character’s thoughts directly to the reader and yet still retain narrative control. The style allowed her to vary discourse between the narrator’s voice and values and those of the story’s characters.  Jane Austen is considered one of the best authors to have used syntax and tone in the presentation of not only the characters but also the plot and storyline progression.

 

Critic Robert Polhemus once said “To appreciate the drama and achievement of [Jane] Austen, we need to realize how deep was her passion for both reverence and ridicule … and her comic imagination reveals both the harmonies and the telling contradictions of her mind and vision as she tries to reconcile her satirical bias with her sense of the good.”  Austen herself proclaimed:  “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!  How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! … but for my own part, if a book is well written, I always find it too short.”

 

 

Fairy Tale Come True – A Royal Wedding

Fairy Tale Come True – a Royal Wedding

Pentecost 2018

 

I took a delightful sabbatical and discovered a renewed need to connect my faith and my living.  The past thirty-odd days without a blog post have reflected nothing new in the world.  Children are still going to school hoping to learn and instead have to run, literally, for their lives.  It is with a heightened sense of hope that I await tomorrow and the Feast of Pentecost.  I pray it brings us an improved sense of living the faith we purport to hold dear.

 

Today a fairy tale came true, fitting that it occurred on the eve of Pentecost.  One commentator this morning stated that no one would have ever written the script of the wedding of Harry and Meaghan Sussex – the new Duke and Duchess formerly known as Prince Harry and Meaghan Markel.  Yet, this is the time when the spirits make dreams happen.

 

The season of Pentecost celebrates the time when Christian believers received the spirit of their deity.  The mythologies of the world celebrate the spirits of one’s beliefs.  The world fate often is used as one’s destiny but in truth, the word comes from the Latin “fatum” a form of the verb “fari” which meant to speak.  Thus one’s fate was something spoken, a decision.  It became a word that ultimately meant one’s destiny since what one said reflected what one believed and how one lived.  The spirits that help influence this were known collectively as the Fates, much like the Greek Moirai, a group of spirits who determined the course and end of one’s life.

 

We tend to think of mythological creatures as being larger than life; most deities are as well.  After all, we want those spirits that can affect the history of mankind to do so with great fanfare.  We think of miracles as large “Hollywood-style” productions.  While the focuses of some spiritual beliefs are calmer, even their main characters possess great power and knowledge.

 

In 1691, a Scottish minister named Robert Kirk put pen to paper to tell of a different type of mythological creature.  His characters were not new and had been a part of Celtic folklore and myths forever.  Once depicted as being quite tall, by the time Robert Kirk wrote of them, their size had been greatly reduced.  “These Siths or Fairies they call Sleagh Maith or the Good People…are said to be of middle nature between Man and Angel, as were Daemons thought to be of old; of intelligent fluidous Spirits, and light changeable bodies (like those called Astral) somewhat of the nature of a condensed cloud, and best seen in twilight. These bodies be so pliable through the subtlety of Spirits that agitate them, that they can make them appear or disappear at pleasure.”

 

The word” faeries” has an often disputed etymology and the faeries we see pictures in children’s books are a relatively new version.   Their origins are a melting of various elements of mythologies and folklore from different parts of the world.  Many believe they were originally minor goddesses, spirits of nature who took their revenge upon mankind when the natural world was mistreated.  Thus the term faerie has been used to indicate trolls, goblins, gnomes, or ethereal spirits.  They are sometimes called wee folk, good folk, people of peace, or the Welsh “tylwyth teg which translates as “fair folk”.

 

Celtic faeries are said to live in nature, often hiding, and are portrayed as a diminutive race driven into caves and underground by invaders.  These enchanted creatures either protected the good people or could extract revenge upon the evil.  In western parts of Europe ancient mythologies described faeries as personified aspects of nature, similar to the ancient gods and goddesses who had their origins in personified elements of life and questions about it.

 

The advent of Christianity in the first century ACE had no room for such mythological creatures as faeries.  The Irish banshee and Scottish “bean shith” were referred to as a ghost, a woman who lived underground.  There was no room in the Abrahamic faiths for such creatures.  Their angels might seem like faeries but they were divine creatures, not creatures of nature.  While medieval England portrayed faeries as both helper and hindrance, Victorian England explained mythological creatures as aspects of nature and faeries as metaphors for the night sky and stars.

 

Faeries are also found in ancient Greek mythology and are closely aligned to the Greek word “daimon” which means Spirit.  The nymphs the classical poet Homer wrote about in his works “Iliad” and the “Odyssey” could be considered faeries.  The Roman penates, lares, and genii from Roman mythology were also faery creatures.  It is easy to see how the word “daimon” came to mean evil faeries known as demons.

 

I think the real benefit of our mythological spirits and stories is found in the Victorian definitions of them.  A metaphor is a figure of speech in which something is compared to another thing, both things being very different.  One example is: “The road was a ribbon of moonlight.”  Victorian England sought to justify the telling of these stories without compromising one’s religion. They became metaphors, much like the stories found in the scriptures of the Abrahamic faiths.  The difference was that religious stories were held to be true while myths were considered fables of the imagination.

 

The real test of validity lies in the spirit of the believer.  In 1891 W.B. Yeats wrote:  “Do you think the Irish peasant would be so full of poetry if he had not his fairies? Do you think the peasant girls of Donegal, when they are going to service inland, would kneel down as they do and kiss the sea with their lips if both sea and land were not made lovable to them by beautiful legends and wild sad stories? Do you think the old men would take life so cheerily and mutter their proverb, ‘The lake is not burdened by its swan, the steed by its bridle, or a man by the soul that is in him,’ if the multitude of spirits were not near them?”

 

The legends and myths of the world give us a better understanding of both the world and mankind.  Like the word fate, they speak of what we believe, how we live, and ultimately how we will die.  Whether you consider something folklore, mythology, or doctrine, the spirits in which we believe shape our lives.  “Fate often saves an undoomed man when his courage is good.”  Those words from the classic “Beowulf” are an example of the importance fate has been given by mankind.  For many, fate is an inescapable shadow.  For others, fate is merely the road upon which we travel, neither threatening nor constrictive.

 

The characters of the myths of man are really metaphors and if we take heed, they can assist us in our living.  We might not live on the top of Mount Olympus but we can make every abode our own palace and live our own beliefs.  Small children delight in the stories of faeries and often have a favorite.  Such differences in their likes and dislikes are seen as individual, not threatening.  Yet as adults, we often see the differences in beliefs as fearful.  Hopefully one day we can truly learn from such myths and create our own fate, a road of success for all built upon a foundation of respect and reverence for all life.

 

As William Ernest Henley wrote in his “Echoes of Life and Death”: “It matters not how strait the gate; How charged with punishments the scroll.  I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” The new Duke and Duchess of Sussex have already established themselves as believers in the future.  May we also come to share their faith and live with strength.  May our faith and our lives be wedded.  We too can make a difference.
 

 

 

 

 

 

Calling All Others

Calling All “Others”

March 26-30, 2018

Maundy Thursday / Good Friday

 

Atheists and Non-Believers:  This post is for you.  I confess that when I began this blog over four years ago, I did not expect to write a post specifically for non-believers.  It is, after all, a lifestyle blog about incorporating faith and daily living, connecting our spirituality with our relationships.  During this time commonly known as Holy Week and especially on Maundy Thursday and the weirdly named “good” Friday, though, the story is really more about atheists and non-believers than about the faithful.

 

The last week of Lent is designated as “holy” because it depicts the final days of the man known as Jesus of Nazareth.  One cannot ignore the story.  It has changed the face of history, brought about world wars, been used as the basis for genocides throughout the centuries and still is the impetus for many works of art and musical presentations, the latest being NBC’s concert version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” on Sunday, April 1st.

 

As a child, I always connected the term atheist with the character in the story known as Caiaphas.   Caiaphas is one of the lesser characters who seemed to be pulling the strings and controlling the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, the one who gave the order for Jesus’ crucifixion.  There was very little separation of church and state in the Roman Empire since Roman law titled the Roman Emperor as the savior of all within the Roman Empire.  Succinctly put, no one – man or god- was higher than the Roman Emperor.

 

The faith of the Jewish people was insignificant to those in power within the Roman Empire.  Someone violating Jewish law meant nothing to the powers that controlled the land.  Caiaphas and his five brothers-in-law saw Jesus as a threat but knew Rome would not care that he cured the sick on the Sabbath or went about preaching without being an actual Rabbi or living what we might call a “kosher” lifestyle.  When John the Baptist, however, called his cousin Jesus the new Messiah…well, Caiaphas could take that to Rome and claimed treason.

 

The Jewish historian Josephus, a fist century historian and writer, lists Caiaphas tenure as a high priest as beginning in 18 ACE.  Caiaphas married the daughter of the previous high priest Ananus, the son of Seth, Caiaphas was known as Joseph.  We know very little about his life or other duties as a high priest.  In 1990 an ossuary was found that many claim contained his remains.  Another was found in 2011 and was declared to be authentic.  Because of this later find, Caiaphas has now been assigned to the priestly course of Ma’aziah which was instituted by King David.  It is thought Caiaphas (Joseph) served eighteen years as high priest so he apparently got along quite well with the Roman authorities.

 

It is written that Caiaphas and others felt Jesus posed a threat to their faith, its holy places, and would give Rome cause to destroy them all.  In both the gospel of John and the book of Genesis, references are made that it would be better for one man [Jesus] to die rather than the Jewish nation be destroyed.

 

The villain of the final days of Jesus to many is the Roman governor Pontius Pilate.  He in fact says he has no reason to charge Jesus with any crime and urges the priests to take their own action.  They tell him they have none and only Pontius Pilate can do so.  Pilate then gives the assembled crown a choice of which prisoner to set free.  Jesus is not their choice.  Caiaphas would go on to reign as a high priest longer than any other under Roman rule.

 

Maundy Thursday is the day many remember the last supper Jesus had with his disciples, the event which ended in his capture by the Roman soldiers.  The character Jesus knows what is coming and tells the disciple who points him out to the soldiers to hurry up and do what he must.  He then tells the others to be as servants to each other and purportedly washed their feet, placing himself in a servant role to them.  They eat and then sleep in spite of his asking them to stay awake with him.  They are awakened by the soldiers and watch helplessly as their leader is taken away.  Within the next twenty-four hours, the disciple peter would pretend not to know Jesus.  Good Friday ends with his torture and crucifixion.

 

We all live on this big blue marble called Earth one with another.  Whether we are believers or atheists, we must interact with each other.  To intentionally do harm to another does not benefit any of us.  The last advice Jesus gives to his disciples about helping each other are not just words for those who believed in him.  They are the key to successful living for us all. 

 

Whether your messiah is a man called Jesus, a political figure, or someone who has yet to come, the wisdom still works.  To help one another, to serve humankind …. This means successful living for us all.  Not everyone loves themselves so I am not going to say love others as you love yourself.  What I will say is this:  Please treat (love) others as you would want to be treated.  We truly are here to help each other.

 

https://youtu.be/kdmgpMfnjdU

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A New Beginning

And so we begin …

2017 in review

Advent 1-3

 

This blog is organized into the liturgical season of the Christian calendar and so while December is the last month of most calendars; it represents the beginning of the church calendar.  Advent means coming and it is a season of preparation.  It is, though, also a season of review.  Many find this conflicting but for me, it makes sense.  We cannot prepare for the future if we do not review where we have been and learn from the past.

 

This Advent we will review the topics and some posts from 2017, beginning with the very first post from Advent 2016.  Advent 2016 was a blog series about grace, a commodity of which there is precious little in our world.  Oddly enough, grace is one of those words that, although simplistic in its form and spelling, it really rather complicated with multiple meanings.  My first post on grace rather summed it up.  Entitled “O.M.H”, it discussed our human nature and why we need something like grace. 

 

I began by discussing a presentation from June 20, 2011 when filmmaker Louis Schwartzberg gave a TED talk on gratitude.  For the past twenty years, people all over the world have given and listened to oral presentations sponsored by TED, a nonpartisan nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of these short, powerful talks. It began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 110 languages. TEDx events are independently operated local presentations that help share ideas in communities around the world.

 

Schwartzberg employed his skills as a filmmaker and previewed two interviews for an upcoming project of his entitled “Happiness Revealed” in the particular discussion on gratitude.  As he introduced the brief filmed interviews which featured the stunning time-lapse photography of nature that he is known for, he used a popular slang term – “O.M.G.”.

 

In English this popular acronym stands for “Oh my God” and is used both pleasantly and in shock and horror by people of all ages.  Little children are shown on commercials seeing a new bicycle for the time screaming it much the same of older people appear on camera to say it when surprised.  Schwartzberg, however, did not use it in a trendy fashion.  He explained it.  He asked his listeners to think about what they were saying and hearing and gave one beautiful explanation.

 

“Have you ever wondered what that [O.M.G.] meant? The “oh” means it caught your attention, makes you present, makes you mindful. The “my” means it connects with something deep inside your soul. It creates a gateway for your inner voice to rise up and be heard.  And “God”?  God is that personal journey we all want to be on, to be inspired, to feel like we’re connected to a universe that celebrates life.”

 

I discussed how Advent is a liturgical season which captures our attention.  The first season on the liturgical calendar, Advent is the “oh”, a season whose purpose is to grab our attention.  It is the new beginning on such a calendar, the season that ushers in a new year and because of this, we are encouraged to be present and mindful of what we believe and how what we do, think, say, and act conveys those beliefs. 

 

Even if you do not believe in Advent, everything you do illustrates who you are, what you believe, and how you live.  The “my” when we utter it connects us and who we are to the present, to what is happening right in front of us or what we have heard about happening somewhere else.  When we hear of six children dying in a senseless school bus crash and say “O.M.G.”, we are connecting to the pain that must be felt by their families.  Saying it in shock as yet another terrorist action takes place or a natural disaster is experienced, does indeed as Schwartzberg explains “creates a gateway for your inner voice to rise up and be heard.”

 

Over the past almost four years that I have been writing this blog, we have discussed sacred spaces and holy creation stories as well as mythologies that are not perhaps quite so holy.  This blog is read in over forty-three countries and I have delighted in hearing from a diverse group of people.  That is why I truly respect and adore the definition Schwartzberg, considered one of the best naturalist cinematographical artists ever, give to the “g”, the “God!” in this colloquialism. 

 

“God is that personal journey we all want to be on, to be inspired, to feel like we’re connected to a universe that celebrates life,” Louis Schwartzberg explains.  Whether you consider yourself to be religious or spiritual, atheist or Buddhist, young or old, we are indeed all on a personal journey.  We do all want life to inspire us and yes, even the most hardened curmudgeon desires connection to the universe.

 

During Advent 2016, the beginning of the liturgical 2017 year, we discussed a commonly held concept in the entire world.  It is a concept that gives life to how we explain the beauty of a butterfly dancing through the air as well as the kindness of a stranger.  It is the one action that connects us to each other when we experience it, that illustrates our own personal journey, which takes us out of the basement of the everyday and creates something very similar to a miracle made by humans.  It is grace.

 

Grace is a word that most of us have heard used in a variety of ways.  Some claim it is, as a concept and undeserving gift, the foundation of the Bible and explaining it is what the Bible exists to do.  Others use it as an adjective to describe action of movement.  In the next twenty=eight days we will explore all its definitions and yes, there are many.

 

The word ‘grace” has its history in twelfth century Middle English dialect.  It was derived from the Anglo-French and as a romance language, taken from the Latin “grati” meaning a favor, charm, or thanks, and also from the Latin “gratus” which meant pleasing or grateful.  All were considered akin to the Sanskrit “gṛṇāti” which translates as “he praises”.  In Hebrew grace is “chen” from a root word “chanan” which is defined as “to bend or stoop in kindness to another as a superior to an inferior”.  In Greek “charis” is the word for grace and is refers to a “graciousness in manner or action, derived from the root word “chairo” which meant “to be cheerful, happy”.

 

All of our modern-day definitions for the word “grace” illustrate its varied etymology and all are correct.  Grace has, in all its manifestations, one common element – the human experience.  And so, out title today is a derivation on that popular slang term Louis Schwartzberg so wonderfully described.  In our discussion of grace we will, hopefully become attentive to how we live it and connect it to each other, making it “O.M.H.” – “Oh, my human.” 

 

You see, grace is something we all would like to share and without remembering our human connection to each other, we will fall short of that wish.  Regardless of your age, condition, belief system or lack thereof, grace is still salvation from the human condition that we all need, not only to survive but to thrive.  Today truly is the first day of the rest of our lives, the advent of our living! 

Come to the Party!

Come to the Party

Lent 41-43

 

Our lives are like a puzzle.  Each day, each event, each sorrow, each joy – all are pieces of this puzzle we call our life.  Sorting out the pieces would be an impossible task if we encountered them all at once.  Fortunately, each piece is revealed much like a treasure map or the clues on a scavenger hunt.

 

During this series we have been discussing life from the viewpoint of the Beatitudes.  Someone asked me to summarize this series in one sentence.  My answer is a quote from Marty Rubin:  “Drink freely the wine life offers you and don’t worry how much you spill.”

 

We need to celebrate being alive.  All too often we find ourselves competing with others.  Life is not a race; it is a pace.  We should spend our time realizing that our being is a gift and celebrate the party that is our life.  So if we are going to consider our lives a party, how do we live that?

 

Every good party planner will tell you that the first step in having a successful party is the invitation list.  Most of us do not have the ability to control everyone who enters our life.  We can and should make sure that we ourselves come to the party that is our life.  We need to be present in our living.  Kevyn Aucoin explains how to do this.  “Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.”

 

Next in party planning comes the actual planning.  We need to awaken and give thanks for having done so.  Then we need to proceed with a purpose, a plan if you will on our living.  This might include some religious or spiritual aspects but it certainly must involve respect and compassion as well as courtesy toward others.  Essential to every good party is lining up any needed help.  No one goes through life without some help from another.  We need to be confident and reach out to others for assistance.  There is no shame and everything to gain when we recognize this.

 

Crucial to a celebration is having the space to celebrate.  Whether the party is at home or at a rented venue, clearing out space to gather and be merry.  The same is true for our lives.  We need to take the time to declutter, both literally and figuratively.  Next on my to-do list for a successful party is the item “set the stage”.  All too often we forget to set ourselves up for success.  Whether it is by getting the proper education and training or simply putting on a happy face and having a positive attitude, we need to prepare to be the best we possibly can.

 

This week is celebrated by Christians as the last big party and the sentencing and crucifixion of the man known as Jesus.  This year, Jewish people are also celebrating Passover this week, a time of great meaning for them.   In their own way, both holidays celebrate freedom and atonement.  They remind us to forgive ourselves and to forgive others.  To fail to do so is to deny one the joy of living.

 

One of my favorite life quotes is one said by Auliq Ice:  “Laughter is like a windshield wiper, it doesn’t stop the rain but allows us to keep going.”  I think in their own way, the Beatitudes tell us the same thing.  We will encounter negativity in our lives.  That is inevitable.  However, with faith and determination as our windshield wipers, we can use them as lessons to keep going and celebrate the living our life is.  When we decide to come to the party of life, great things are bound to happen and we will truly be free to find joy in our being.