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Teach me

As I contemplate “finding joy” (our Spiritual Journey Thursday topic this month), it occurs to me how little it takes for me to lose mine. A stretch of bad weather, a cold that hangs on, misplacing my things, upcoming obligations that worry and stress me… These and many more easily grab my attention and, if I let them, steal my joy.

On the weekend I visited a friend who, a week ago, had a heart attack. Now mending from bypass surgery, her attitude of noticing all the positive things and being grateful for them is, I think, a template for retaining joy through bad times or good.

She was perfectly peaceful about relinquishing her classroom to a substitute for the rest of the year. Her husband was laid off from work a while ago, but because of that he was free to be with her in this distant city through this time. Her doctor happened to come by her room as her heart was misbehaving, witnessed what was happening, and pushed up her surgery. Her daughter, passing through on holidays visited the night before surgery and calmed her mother’s jitters using her doula skills. My friend has a strong faith and interpreted these things as evidences of the care of a loving heavenly Father.

For all of us—my friend navigating through her life-and-death health challenge to me with my petty annoyances, I believe finding joy comes in seeing and focusing on the good in the situation and being grateful for what is, rather than wishing for something that isn’t.

I leave you with a short prayer that I wrote some years ago but still need to pray:

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Image: Pixabay

teach me

the sweet leisureliness
of being a lily
the implicit trust
of my child-hand
in Yours
the unlikely joy
that sings sparrow-songs
even when I’m on the ground

© 2007 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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sjt-2017-graphicThis post is linked to Spiritual Journey (first) Thursday, hosted this week by Margaret Simon at her blog Reflections on the Teche.

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Mindfulness at Christmas

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One of the Christmas bells in my mother’s collection (Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly)

Thank you to Irene Latham for rallying us to revive our Spiritual Journey Thursday meme, at least this once. We’re invited to reflect on our One Little Word choices for 2017.

My 2017 word was / is MINDFULNESS.

I am aware that there are psychological and, in some faiths, religious overlays to the word which may bring baggage to it that I hadn’t intended. In my February post where I talked about what mindfulness meant to me, I gave it this definition:

Mindfulness, simply defined, is “being present in the moment.” It also has a psychology definition:

“Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience” – Definition from Psychology Today.

Personally I like that second definition except for the bit about not judging. I reserve the right to judge and filter out thoughts that are critical, negative, pessimistic, hateful, etc.

Now, in the middle of December, I am relating mindfulness to Advent, the candles that are lit each week in church, and the qualities each represents. So far we have focused on HOPE, PEACE, and JOY. I suspect next Sunday when we light the fourth candle, we will hear about LOVE.

I want to possess these qualities in abundance and in their purest forms, especially at Christmas. However, the circumstances of my life change and with those changes my emotions fluctuate resulting in the needle of my Hope-, Peace-, and Joy-meters becoming virtual pendulums,

Each Sunday’s sermon has helped me focus on the lasting and unchanging aspects of Hope, Peace, and Joy that play out for us in the events of that first Christmas. Hope doesn’t dim because God took the initiative to reconnect with us, and promises us eternal life beyond this life. Peace is possible because we’ve entrusted Jesus with our lives; Joy is irrepressible because we are invited into relationship with our Creator. I’m sure next Sunday’s talk on Love will deliver something just as enduring.

My challenge to myself, then, is when circumstances change—when I get the flu, or the shortbreads don’t turn out, or the weather switches off all the power and my plans go sideways, or whatever—I remain mindful of the lasting, unchanging verities of the season’s meaning, instead of losing hope, peace, joy, and love at the whim of what’s happening in my daily life.

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”—a poem that became the carol—illustrates how this worked for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who, according to this article, wrote it in the middle of the American Civil War. The carol version leaves out the two stanzas that refer specifically to the war. Here is his poem in its original form.

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Image: Pixabay

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

I’m going to take ringing bells as my cue to be mindful of the truths that Advent represents that are bigger than my fluctuating day-to-day hope, peace, joy, and love.

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This post is linked to “Spiritual Journey Thursday,” hosted today by Irene Latham. At the link-up you’ll be directed to other bloggers and their Spiritual Journey Thursday posts.

 

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Bells Across the Snow

Snowy park bench

Scene from our morning walk, December 2013. (Photo © 2014 by V. Nesdoly)

Bells Across the Snow

O Christmas, merry Christmas,
Is it really come again,
With its memories and greetings,
With its joy and with its pain!
There’s a minor in the carol
And a shadow in the light,
And a spray of cypress twining
With the holly wreath tonight.
And the hush is never broken
By laughter light and low,
As we listen in the starlight
To the “bells across the snow.”

O Christmas, merry Christmas,
‘Tis not so very long
Since other voices blended
With the carol and the song!
If we could but hear them singing,
As they are singing now,
If we could but see the radiance
Of the crown on each dear brow,
There would be no sigh to smother,
No hidden tear to flow,
As we listen in the starlight
To the “bells across the snow.”

O Christmas, merry Christmas,
This never more can be;
We cannot bring again the days
Of our unshadowed glee,
But Christmas, happy Christmas,
Sweet herald of good will,
With holy songs of glory.
Brings holy gladness still.
For peace and hope may brighten,
And patient love may glow,
As we listen in the starlight
To the “bells across the snow.”

– Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879)

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This lovely poem is part of the reading for December 24th in the classic devotional, Streams in the Desert. As I read it this morning, I thought of my friend whose husband died a week ago yesterday.

I wish her, and all who hear that “minor in the carol,” those “holy songs of glory” because of the hope that Jesus’ coming to earth brought.

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2014 in Christmas, Public Domain, Religious

 

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