A Christmas tree stands a month after Christmas last year. Ashley, who had recently overcame thyroid cancer, kisses her son Trey, who was undergoing treatment for tuberculosis.
(photo: Fred Erlenbusch/Flickr)
“Waiting for a Train” in Régua, Portugal (photo: Rosino/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)
I nearly stood up my very first client on the first day of my first job in social work. Graduate school had not prepared me for the intricacies of the scheduling system at the community health center where I was working. By the time I figured things out, I was nearly half an hour late for the appointment.
photo: Stuart Pilbrow
It’s become customary this time of year to hear concerns expressed about the loss of Christmas spirit. Sometimes these fears are more about one’s cultural identity — and the sense that one’s group is losing power and influence — than they are about the actual meaning of Christmas. At other times, one hears something that sounds less reactionary and more like a thoughtful: Have our Christmas rituals lost some of their meaning? Have they become old and tired or do they pale in comparison to more novel inventions?
A guest contributor uses poetry as a vehicle for processing his faith, doubts and depression during the Advent season.
The first time I prayed the Islamic prayer, or salat, I stood in my living room in the silvery morning just moments before dawn. I was self-conscious and unsure of what to do. I had prepared flash cards to help me through the complicated process of standing, sitting, and bowing while reciting verses in Arabic. I stood facing Mecca and folded my right hand across my chest. My left hand clutched a flash card that read:
Bismillah ah Rahman ah Raheem
In the name of God, the most gracious, most merciful
Alhamdu lil-ahi rab-bil alamin
All praise be to the Lord, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds
Ah rahman-ah rahim
The most merciful, most gracious
Master of the day of judgment
by Peg Aloi, guest contributor
When I was little, and like many kids before me, Christmas was special for many reasons that had very little to do with the birthday of baby Jesus. I loved the twinkling lights, decorating cookies, eating the savory dishes my Italian grandparents served on Christmas Eve, cutting down our tree in the forest, and singing Christmas carols accompanied by Mom on her Hammond organ. I was raised Catholic, but my parents weren’t terribly strict, and so for me Christmas was always a fairly secular experience.
“Buddha Moon - Buddha Stones” (photo: H. Kopp-Delaney/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)
Winter Solstice. The longest night of the year. The other day I was wondering what it must have been like to be one of the early humans, before there was a body of cultural and scientific knowledge built up to assure us that the light would, indeed, return as we turned the corner on this day and headed once again toward spring. It must have been terrifying to see the sun drop lower and lower in the sky each day and the night grow longer and longer without really knowing if that trajectory would reverse.
So this is a dark time — not only astronomically but also the world feels dark right now.
Of all the lessons my children take from our family’s winter solstice celebration, this is the one I hope they remember most: even in the midst of the darkness, within you is the luminous glow that will, in perfect timing, spark the return of your joy. Nurture and honor it, always.
by Jessica Kramer, guest contributor
“Mom’s birthday breakfast” (photo: Jessica Kramer/Flickr)
Christmas is almost upon us. In seeking God during this time, I have sought renewal in the darkness of winter, in the stillness in which to hear God. This fourth week of Advent brings promise of harmony, that the (often disjointed) pieces of our lives, hearts, and emotions might be joined into a single, but rich and layered, sound of joy.
by Peter A. Friedrichs, guest contributor
Awaiting Tiana’s Showboat Jubilee at Disneyland. (photo: huffmans/Flickr)
Advent is a time of waiting. For Christians, it’s a time of waiting for the arrival of the Christ child. For others, Advent is a time of waiting for a hoped-for future, waiting for the time of bleakness to pass and for new joy to arrive.
Do Christmas ham and potato latkes go together? Can Santa visit as well as Judah Maccabee?" ˜guest contributor Adena Cohen-Bearak reflects on reconciling Chanukah and Christmas.
The dreidel's fascinating roots and origins in gambling give one mother (and rabbi) pause about sending "gold" coins to school. A guest contribution from Rebecca Schorr as Chanukah begins.
A guest contributor reflects on how being still with life's deaths and resurrections connects her to the universe.
The first lesbian couple ordained without the blessing of the ELCA discuss coming out, falling in love, losing jobs then gaining them, and feeling God work through them during the AIDS crisis and their hospice chaplaincy. A guest contribution from Sasha Aslanian.
Eddie Long's "anti-homosexual" theology, power, and news coverage. One inside view of the black church.
When I first lived in the upper Great Plains, I did so as a freshman at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. I still remember the day when my parents’ car pulled away and I was standing by my dorm wondering why I had decided to move almost 800 miles from my home in Montana. While I would miss my parents and friends, I began to miss the mountains almost immediately.
I felt like Beret, the female protagonist in Giants in the Earth who left her home in Norway and moved to Dakota Territory. The vast grasslands and harsh climate nearly drove her mad. When I would look outward, I would think, “There’s nothing to see.” Flat land seemed to stretch everywhere and yet nowhere. Corn fields and soy beans.
There’s spirituality thriving in our houses of worship, often unnoticed and unappreciated. It flourishes in the ordinary give-and-take of congregational life, in person-to-person exchanges that Jewish thinker Martin Buber called I-Thou. And we would do well to better recognize this very common and accessible spiritual opportunity.
“L’art du combat avec son ombre” (photo: Frank Taillandier/Flickr)
Over at The Walrus Blog, David Rusack writes a smart and creative reflection on how his training in a specific martial art form of tai chi (Chen-style chuan) has provided a structure that allows him to see with better-informed eyes the parallels with religious traditions and that “the point of the practice is in its form, not its content.”