Ruminations at Christmastime

When I think about the things that happened this year, I want to go to a dark room and make everything go away.  And just like the college campuses around the United States that deem it necessary to isolate people supposedly investing their time to learn new things, experience a world outside of what they have known, and learn that life is full of the unexpected, it seems that the temptation to only feel, hear and see the good things in life is the answer to a life that doesn’t always have answers to questions that come about.  And yet, to shut the world out because it’s not what you want is to deny yourself the essence of what being human is all about.

Life is a series of events that in its eventuality is unstoppable, in its unpredictability predictable.  This year has seen the death of someone very dear, the death of others that have filled my head with ideas and my heart with love.  There was sadness all around.  For the realization that some voices will never be heard again.  Some smiles will never be seen again.  That a warm touch, that warm hug will never be felt again.  The mind senses that change has come.  The heart knows that change has come.  The spirit knows that while change has come, the world still beckons and that which are gone truly still live in our midst.

A Christian believes that the promise made by a loving Creator becomes manifest in the birth of a child.  Whether that child was born in squalor matters not.  What matters is that the God who created us all kept His promise to His people.  That love, true and unerring, triumphed over disappointment.  That forgiveness and mercy is more powerful than hate and betrayal.  That in giving His people His son, knowing that He in turn will be betrayed by His creation, God showed us the possibility of what we all can become.  If we let love reign in our hearts, we are capable of making the world we live in a world that all of us, whether we consider our self a child of Abraham,  whether we follow the precepts of Buddha, whether we find solace in the spirits of the forest – all of us the can transcend the limitations we place upon ourselves.   Respect one another.  Care for one another.  To see people not as impediments to our ambition but truly as a brother or a sister that we can nurture and love.

In the spirit of this season, we can find in the people around us, the world around us reason to be hopeful.  To be inspired by those who do small things and seeing countless small things bring joy to those who give so wholly of themselves.  I pray that today, we remember that salvation did not come with a proclamation of greatness.  It came from a Father that loved us all, from a couple who devoted themselves to the care of a child entrusted to their love, and eventually, the willingness of this child to give Himself wholly for the people He and His father loved.  In spite of the hatred and spitefulness heaped against Him, this Son of God and Son of Man gave Himself up to serve all of us.  To purchase, with His sacrifice, our salvation.

Love, freely given.  And today, we remember, if we so choose, that we are children of this same Father.  That like His son who died for us, we are tasked to take care of the world around us.  To be stewards of His creation.  To love all of His creation.  It is not always easy.  There are disappointments.  In the end, it is this selfless love that must inspire us to live a life of generosity.  Of giving.  Of sacrifice.  Forgiveness.  Charity.

Peace on Earth.  It starts with each one of us.  A small act of kindness, magnified a billion fold.  May each of us be a reflection of the love that made life possible.  And worth living.

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The Beauty Inside

Years ago, while vacationing in Cabo, I decided to drive to La Paz, Mexico.  I didn’t have a GPS and I was adventurous enough to attempt to go across Baja California with a rudimentary map that I printed from the internet.  I wanted to see the clear waters of Balandra Beach.  So off I went, on my small rental car, driving between fast moving, close passing cars and trucks that seemingly were only a second or so away from colliding with me.  When everything seems like a close call, you just learn to go with the flow.  A few hours later, I was in La Paz.

After a quick lunch and a visit to the beach, it was time to go back to Cabo.  There was only one problem.  I only mapped out the path going eastward.  I had no idea how to get back to Cabo.  I was driving around in circles.  Every once in a while, I’d ask somebody for directions on how to get back to the highway that would take me back west.  There were so many helpful people, but it was readily apparent that my inability to speak or understand Spanish was a major liability.  People tried to help me by drawing pictures of the roads that I needed to drive to.  That only lead me to different circular paths.  Flustered, I stopped by a gas station to try to get directions.

Once again, I didn’t have much luck getting directions to Cabo.  I was panicked.  And then, something miraculous happened.  There was a beat up car parked in the gas station.  A man came up to me and told me that he can show me the way back to Cabo.  Follow him, he said.  He will take me to the highway to Cabo.  I did as he said.  I started my car and followed him as he drove through streets that were unfamiliar to me.  We reached a highway and he pointed to a certain direction, a sign telling me that I have finally found the road home.  I waved at him to thank him.  He smiled and in what seemed like an instant, he was gone.

I sped through the highway, heading westward.  A few hours later, I was back at Cabo.  Relieved.  Thankful.

The thing is, there are many beautiful things to see and experience in Cabo and La Paz.  Great food, great beaches.  And yet.  The thing that I remember the most is the kindness of a total stranger.  I was lost; somehow, this stranger found me, and set me back to the right path.  I could think of a lot of religious allegories, but I really want to say something about how many of us, including me, lead our lives.

All of us, in a multitude of ways, are attracted to beautiful things.  A beautiful person, a beautiful car, a beautiful whatever.  How many times do we ignore the things that seem common, the things we deem unexceptional.  We look up and see the bright lights.  And we gravitate towards the brightest of these lights.  We forget (truthfully, we neglect)  the other lights in the world.  Why is it that we choose to ignore so many things that can bring us so much happiness, so much joy?   I can’t even fathom how much I have missed in life by not paying attention to the things that really should matter the most.

We can spend endless amounts of money trying to stay young, to become more presentable, in the hopes of being likable enough for people to pay attention to us.  We surround ourselves with things to make us look comfortable, as if the look of success is somehow enough to impress everyone that we seek.  Somehow, we have allowed the constant bombardment of messages extolling wealth and beauty to distract us, to make us  forget what is really important in our lives.

I am so glad that I got lost in La Paz.  This unfortunate happenstance lead to one of most life affirming lessons that I have experienced.  In the midst of nowhere, a man in a rusty old car extended the hand of friendship to someone he didn’t know.  He didn’t ask for any compensation.  It was enough for him to give help when help was needed.  He didn’t ask me who I was.  He didn’t care that I didn’t speak his language.  He just helped.

I need to remind myself of this lesson every day.  Beauty comes from the heart.  Love freely given, without any expectation of getting anything in return, is the most beautiful thing of all.  Remember to be kind.  Remember to listen.  Be of service to others.  Expect nothing and in so doing, gain everything.