As we continue with a Joy theme for the week, I invite you to take in a joyous seasonal tradition today. For many, this could be driving around and looking at Christmas lights, (at night, of course) or going somewhere that has a large display – like LaSalette or Fatima shrine. For some with children, this could be going to see Santa somewhere. For others, it may be lighting a candle in honor of a holiday time of year.
This is historically a joyous time of year for many religions around the world. We do recognize that many people cannot share in this joy, whether suffering from oppression, illness, trauma, separation from loved ones or other negative force that prevents the joy of the Great Spirit to enter them and fill them with its power. If you know anyone who may be suffering at this time of year, and you have the joy within you, it is worth the effort to reach out to them, to let them know that they are worthy of joy as well. So that could be an alternative to today’s invitation, or perhaps switch it and do the seasonal joy thing over the weekend… I send many blessings of joy, what can i say?
In recognition of a week focusing on joy, I invite you to access that joy of surprise that hopefully you all know well. To take that feeling you get when a joyful surprise appears before you and make it into an action for someone else. One suggestion I found from the Cradles to Crayons organization’s Random Acts of Kindness list is to leave a popcorn surprise at a DVD rental machine. I assume this would involve actually making (or buying) popped corn and leaving it there in something that won’t make a great mess.
You may take this suggestion and apply it to something you can do yourself – or just do the popcorn thing. The point is to pass on the joy of surprise to an unsuspecting person, who, like you, has an inherent worth and dignity that likes to smile.
As my dedication for the week has turned to my family, and the three persons within it who celebrated a birthday yesterday, I affirm the fault of living up to my dedication to offering invitations to live out faith each day. I am sure the spirit is there for all of you to pick up where I have not offered anything new.
Today I will offer something new. I offer the joyful practice of helping a neighbor. I notice that, when the sun is out after periods of rain, snow, or whatever the clouds may bring, that there is a natural inclination to want to be outside again, in spite of the cold. While I acknowledge this is not true for everyone, it is in this spirit that I invite you to look to your neighbor – if you live somewhat isolated, a neighbor could be anyone you consider as an acquaintance – and see what you can do for them. An especially difficult challenge is helping the neighbor who is not like you or with who may have not had the best relationship in the past. The Advent theme for the week is peace, and our UU principles (specifically #6) ask us to strive for a world community of peace. So I invite you to use the practice of helping a neighbor as your ‘day’s work’ in building towards this high goal.
My apologies for falling off the train. May this be a reminder that, try though we might to strive toward perfection, we are still human and we cannot attain such a status; though we may let it guide us to the creation of something greater than what we would have though we could accomplish.
So, for today, I offer two invitations, in addition to inviting light a candle (or two) for peace, as traditional Advent practice states.
First, I would invite you all to stop, at some point in the day, and think of something that makes you happy. It might be a person, a place, or an activity, or maybe a special item. Either make a point to connect physically with the image, or let it sit with you in spirit for a time. Let its happiness touch your exterior senses until it reaches your inner sensitivities – your heart and mind. Let it flow through you like a soft river. And may your happy moment make you smile, and be ready for invitation #2.
I invite you to write a happy note or kindness stone (writing a note with decoration on a flat stone) for someone to find.
If you are out and about and find this would be difficult based on logistics, an apt alternative would be to write a letter to a soldier. Though we may not condone war, we should always recognize the separation, loneliness, and disconnected from happy human emotions that many soldiers feel while doing tours of duty far away from their home. May all such communication reach their ears and hearts, to remind them of their humanity and their own true worth and dignity.
Yesterday (12/7) marked the beginning of week 2 of Advent (also the last day of Chalica!, for those interested in a UU-created holiday – see http://chalica.blogspot.com/ for more on this holiday)
The theme for the second week of Advent is Peace. We lit the Advent candle during the service yesterday. Today I invite you to light one yourself, calling for peace. Today, let it be an inner peace. We can’t pray/wish for World Peace to just happen. It needs to be the result of a gradual process. We can keep the process alive by tending to our own inner peace.
If you light a candle today, may it be coupled with moments of calm, moments of silence, and moments of stillness. May you breath echo your inner peace and may it spread around you. May your calm, inner peace bring others peace and calm—may you be a refuge for them from a world that strives to disrupt peace at each and every step.
Today I call us to notice books – books that inspire, teach, or just give pleasure. We are certainly thankful for these books, so I invite you to share with someone a book that you are passionate about. Either tell them about it or physically share it (if they are interested). Also invite them to share a book with you. It is good to share your passions: even if others don’t understand you, they may appreciate you more for seeing what really gets you going.
Alternatively, for those that might like to share in a different way, I invite you to donate a book (or more), to a cause that you know can use them.
As the Sun shines brightly today after a couple days of darkness, I think we should all take time to let that sit in. The invitation is not just to warm ourselves, or to even smile, but to actually laugh! Laugh loud, and laugh often. Call someone who makes you laugh or who you think could use a laugh And if the self creativity is not enough, search out something funny. Do it with every meal. Laughing once is not enough today. Let your laughter echo and spread throughout all of the circles you move in today. During this flu season, may only your laughter be a contagion.
Today I pause for a moment to recognize life’s challenges, and that we can overcome some difficulties by the mere adherence to our personal practices of self-care.
One source I draw from for our daily Advent invitations says to “Take a vacation” today. While I do not mean to take a vacation from my posting, I will take this to mean (for me and for you)
to let go of something that you might think is important today but can wait until another day. Vacate the responsibility, as it were.
Whatever your normal work week is like, or however the holiday season may be going for you, my hope is that a one-time invitation to “vacate” will be a meaningful act, to allow more room for breathing, more room for presence, more room for love.