Thursday, December 24, 2015

More Christ

Have you ever noticed how we human beings complicate things? We seem to be infected, as a species, with a More Virus. If a little is good, more is better. This disease shows up all through history. Consider Anglo-Saxon law codes. (Yes, I'm going all weird and medieval on you this Christmas. It's been a while; please humor me.) The earliest codes written by the conquering Anglo-Saxon kings were short, simple affairs of a dozen laws, each stated bluntly in a sentence or two, but over the centuries, these codes grew in length and complexity, eventually developing into the incredibly complex English law of the late middle ages.

We do it with law, we do it with our closets, we do it with our lives. More. More. More.

How do you like it?

When it comes to More at Christmas, there's a point of diminishing return. How many traditions can you carry on--reasonably--before they become a burden rather than a blessing?

Elf on the Shelf anyone?

Since we traveled this year for Christmas, I knew keeping focus would be tough. We had more to consider...packing, traveling for uncertain weather (do we really need heavy coats and gloves?), arranging for a neighbor to keep an eye on the house, putting Daisy in a kennel.... The usual chaos, plus More.

I'm proud of myself for keeping a level head through all of this More, and I've actually had lots of fun and very little stress.

Part of the credit goes to the Travellers' Christmas Eve service we attended on December 13. What a great idea! People who enjoy the candlelight service but would be away for Christmas could enjoy the full Christmas Eve experience a few weeks early. We sang all the hymns, heard the scripture, and received a lovely sermon from our pastor of adult discipleship.

That service grounded me so much. But it occurred to me that my grounding required More work from our church staff. It's a reminder of just how hard pastors work during the most stressful season of the year. Thankfully, not all More is subject to diminishing returns. More service to God, more celebration of the birth of our Savior, more focus on the real reason for the season blesses everyone.

More shopping, more spending, more debt, more baking, more decorating...not so much a blessing. Enough is enough.

More light, more life, more peace, more love, more hope, more joy, more Christ. There's never enough.

Never. Enough.

I wish you More Christ this Christmas, and just enough of all the rest.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Sharing the Light

In times of hateful rhetoric and social-media viciousness, it's important to find sources of light and love and hope and humanity. When all we hear is the negative, our perspective becomes so warped by fear and anger. Finding balance in the Information Age can be such a challenge, so here are three very, very different sources of light I've used lately to offset all the darkness.

Humans of New York: Reading this Facebook page -- and the community's comments -- almost always lifts me up and reminds me how much goodness there is in the world. Ordinarily, Humans of New York (HONY) focuses on random people in New York City, telling mini-stories about them. The stories may be funny, sad, poignant, moving, hard, uncomfortable, tragic, provoking, warm...the full range of human experience. Recently, the page has featured stories of refugee families who are heading to the United States after truly horrific experiences in war-torn areas of the Middle East. Read the comments on those stories. You'll be reminded just how generous and amazing Americans are.

Most recently, the page highlighted the story of Aya, a refugee whose family was rejected by the US for resettlement. In all the political rhetoric, it's easy to forget that these are real human beings with real needs. Humans of New York reminds us that when we know others' stories, we are moved to love and compassion. As long as others remain "other" and somehow less than human, it's easy to hate. When you hear their stories, you are reminded that we are all so very, very human.

Daily Good: This site offers up well-written articles on subjects as diverse as outer space, forgiveness, and neuroscience. Most articles concentrate on living a "good" life, with emphasis on wellness, mindfulness, gratitude, compassion, and faith. Here's a blurb from their About Us page:

Often times, watching the nightly news and reading mainstream newspapers it's hard to remember the presence of good in the world. And yet it is constantly around us. The world is full of everyday heroes and true stories of transformation. They have helped sustain life down the ages in a multitude of ways, small, simple and profound. DailyGood aims to shine a light on these stories and in doing so to change the nature of our conversations. If it can spread a few smiles along the way it's purpose is served.

I forgive them the incorrect apostrophe and missing Oxford comma because the content is so positive, so uplifting, so encouraging.

Berkeley Breathed's Bloom County 2015: For friends of Opus, Milo, Cutter John, and dandelion fields, what a delight that Berkeley Breathed decided to bring the strip back on Facebook this year. Here, social commentary and laugh-out-loud humor meet in a delightful revival that's arguably better than the original strip.

Vote Bill and Opus, 2016!!!!

We could do a lot worse.

How do you turn on the light these days? I spend a lot of time with my church community, which is a huge help, but sadly not everyone has a church that lifts and enlightens. Please share your sources of light in the comments!