I love Latin. It's been the one language I longed to read and speak since I was in middle school. I wasn't in an area that exactly appreciated Latin. I remember a poignant conversation with Mr. Barfield my Social Studies teacher at Jinks Middle School. (At least I think it was social studies. Some sort of Cultural something or other.)
Mr. B. - Learning a foreign language is a good thing to do. You should do that.
Me - I know. That's why I want to study Latin.
Mr. B. - Latin? That's a dead language. No one uses it anymore. Why would you want to study Latin?
Me - So I can read Dante's Inferno in it's original language.
Mr. B. - Insert speechless stare here.
Nevermind that the original language of Dante was Italian. My heart was in the right place. Or my mind. Or something. I still find Latin magnitizing in ways that makes no logical sense. I have a little phrase book of Latin that calms me. I've been called a geek for this. I should find a Latin mp3 to fall asleep to. Might lull me right out.
Which finally brings me around to the fact that -
The term Advent came from the Latin word “adventus” which means coming. Which didn't originate with Christmas but was associated with new Christians being baptized. I understand that. Baptism is a beautiful way to not only celebrate the blessing of a new life but to renew and revive an old one. The stepping from behind the old curtain onto a new stage. One washed whiter than snow.
Most of us who have lived life longer than 3rd grade need a chance for a fresh start. Or we get one without having planned to go in that direction. A refuge in a new country. A life that begins after a fire sweeps everything from the past away. A new city. A new job. A new hope.
Some of those new beginnings are beautifully orchestrated. Preparing the nursery during the Advent of a child's birth. Preparing for life beyond college after years of focusing on a degree. Preparing for the wedding after a long engagement. New changes.
But advent is not about the new birth - it's the attitude we bring with us.
And that can get complicated.
I offer you one 24 discovered words for travel from Geckos Tales that so beautifully explain just how traveling the Advent season can be so emotionally tricky. Which word best describes your mood this Advent Season?
I pray that as you continue to step deeper into the Advent Season you connect with the still, small voice that will always lead a traveler home.
That's one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible to me. That short phrase. In the fullness of Time. And, this morning, still sleepy, needing to shower and be out the door in a few minutes and walk Big Dog and send a thousand emails, follow-ups, notes, call my mother . . .
You get it. The fullness of time seems like a luxury. Or something way, way, way over there that is absolutely unattainable. Yet, God promises that the fullness of time will arrive. That in the fullness of time the prophesy will be fulfilled. That in the fullness of time the child will arrive. That the seeds that God planted deep within us will come to fruition. If we follow, if we keep our minds and hearts focused on that star, our ears open to the Holy, our puffed up pride willing to climb that donkey - in the fullness of time - all will be well.
I have a Christmas tree that has been up but half decorated for days. Lights strung. A few strings of beads. And then - I kinda stopped. I think I've been waiting for a Christmas happiness to rain down on me that is my normal sort of happy, humming, It's a Wonderful Life decorate the tree, drink eggnog moment. It hasn't happened. I came in two nights ago, turned on the television so Big Dog would be happy and know that meant we were settling down and not moving. (He Likes the sound of the tv - it calms him.) And there begins It's a Wonderful Life and my tree decorations in the box at the foot of the tree.
I switched the channel.
Oddly enough - It was The Grinch that Stole Christmas. If it had been the cartoon I might have left it on but it was the movie and although I like the Jim Carey version, it just required more emotional commitment than I could give right then. So I didn't decorate the tree to either movie. Which was funny because I thought - oh, if only the right movie was on I'd get my Christmas hum on and get to work. But, nope. Didn't happen.
We've always loved the over the top goofiness of Christmas decorating at my house as a child. It was our Mother's favorite time of year so it became ours. She hummed Christmas Carole's as she decorated every tiny corner, mantle and room. Our house that was sometimes very Eyyore'ish became full of light and wonder in every room. It was a new season. Everything sparkled. And, for a little while - the magic of it all was everywhere.
We can't always force our hearts to be somewhere they are not. We can't always hum or be full of the winks and laughter of the Merry Season. The Americanized version of Christmas crazy that I adore. Tis the season to be jolly - ho. ho. ho.
I may pack my ornaments away this year. Allow my tree to be as oddly bare each morning as I feel. But I promise you, as night falls, as those lights become brighter in the growing darkness, I have great hope that in the silence of one peaceful tree-lit moment I will remember that in the fullness of time a child was born. That in the fullness of time the eternal story will unfold. And, that finally, all will indeed be well.
I pray you have crazy, inexplicably no reason for it peace in the middle of the season and that you trust that the truth of your unfolding story will be told in the fullness of God's time.
Whether it's a baby, a career move, or a ticket to parts unknown the expectation of something new is delightful to embrace. Then - just on the other side of this longed for and expected moment - there are colicky nights, challenging board members, and unexpected layovers. The dream of the change to come, the way we envisioned that isn't exactly the neat photo of peace, prosperity, or the stamped passport we hoped for. We are simply stretched thin and tired with dark circles beneath our eyes and challenging dreams. Is the baby getting better? Will the new board members ever accept me? Will I ever get out of this jungle?
A few years ago my cousin won a trip to Costa Rica. She graced me with the buddy ticket. We were to stay in different five star all-inclusive resorts across the country. After we landed, climbed on the airport shuttle for the first city and hotel I kept looking at the description. Particularly to of words like historical, and 'within walking distance to city sites.' I read between the lines and tried to explain to my cousin - Things may be a little . . . rough or rustic where we're going. It may be a little - OH, I don't know - intercity rundown. She assured me, No, No. it's Five star.
My suspicions were confirmed when the driver seemed to go out of his way to drop off the other passengers at their hotels. Happy passengers in beautiful new resorts. Then he headed downtown. It was dark by the time We pulled up at a little 'historical' hotel. It was so quaint. With bars over the doors and windows. And a huge demolition site next door where something big used to be but was now the hotel view of blown up concrete and steel.
It took me just a little while to get cousin off the shuttle. She kept looking at the brochure and saying, no, no. This can't be right. I pulled out my formidable three years of Spanish turned to the driver and said - su casa es me casa = Comprede? All I knew was the man was not going home alone if someone didn't unlock those bars.
But then a really, nice lady opened the door under the dark archway. Then the iron gate. Then the bars. The driver helped us get our bags and breathed a deep sigh of relief as he pulled away. The lady shut the bars, and the gate and the door locking all three behind her. We proceeded inside as my cousin kept shaking her head and whispering, This isn't right. It said 5 star.
Then she showed us to our hotel room door. It was about, oh, maybe three steps away from the desk. Which was in the middle of the room. A small, dark room. That night we climbed in our well-worn beds and closed the room curtain so that we weren't looking at the girl behind the 'desk'.
But the thing was it didn't look like the brochure but the people we met were bright and intelligent, warm and funny. We had one more full day and night with them and some of the best yogurt smoothies for breakfast on this planet. I have never tasted anything like them before or since. And, the conversation I had with the young man that worked the day shift has stayed with me for years.
He spoke about the history of Costa Rica and all the things he loved about his country. Then he told me how much he had always wanted to visit America. First trip? I ask him. Where you gonna go? What do you want to see the most?
An, honest to God wistful look came to his eyes as he said, The small towns. I just want to see small town America. That's what I want to see.
Do you know how precious that was? Not New York, DC or Disney. Just small towns. I immediately wondered which small towns? It's a big country. And, are the small towns you long to see the ones from television. Is it Mayberry? Maybe, Happy Days? Something still twirling around out there in the space of reruns?
I hope if he made it to America he found the right small towns to visit. The ones where people would be as warm, friendly, and considerate to him as he had been to us.
We went on to have many, more delightful, unexpected This isn't right - adventures in Costa Rica including a surprise birthday cake decorated with real flowers for me on my birthday. Smoking volcanoes and some serious detour through miles of unknown jungle.
Our hotels were not five star. They were not what we had anticipated and looked forward to. We didn't pack for that wild turn and wild ride through the jungle. But we came home with stories that far exceeded those our original expectations.
I pray that in the moments where life has given you new birth you are able to show patience and practice Peace until you get to the other side.
There is a really, lovely inspirational Advent reading (weekly updates I think) at Sacredspace.ie It's a Catholic prayer spot with a chapel where people post prayer request, a daily prayer link and during this season a special Advent reflection it's week. This year their reflection is the journey of the Magi and this particular week it is, We Are Not Alone.
I would love to write something that sounds holy and like angels sing in the background while you read it. But I show up with a bag of bruised words and a few stories and a strange longing in my heart for God and new life and faith and more hope and to be a better person. No, not better really but more accessible in this dirty, dry painful world not by being perfect but more human.
So I write a few words here and there even when I'm tired. Even when they are wrong or don't convey what I meant to say. When they are unedited and you have to do more work trying to read and decipher them than maybe I did writing them. No matter. Showing up is half the trick.
Authenticity. It's An old word polished and made new again by the likes of Rock stars like Amanda Palmer (her new book - The Art of Asking - is in self-help sections now) and the new Guru of getting it together Brene Brown (Rising Strong, Daring Greatly, I Thought It Was Just Me - But It Wasn't) and others. It comes down to this - we want the masks to come off. Not just the ones worn by others but our own. We are tired of pretending to be someone we're not. Pretending to be brave when we are afraid. Pretending to have money when we are flat broke and busted. Here and there and always pretending.
You know that whole thing about breaking it all down to TWO commandments. (Geez - two - just 2 -you think I'd maybe be able to get 2 right.) But they are a little on the weighty side - Love God with all your mind, all your soul, and all your heart (oh, sure, sounds easy enough. Not. All is a lot. All for the record is more than 3/4 and 2/8's more. It's a crazy amount if you ask me. All. Who does that?!) And then that next one that has bugged me solid for years - Love your Neighbor as Yourself. I have pondered this for years. Love neighbor as self. Love neighbor as self. How do I love myself? Should I love myself more? What does that look like? A massage coupon from groupon? Buy my neighbor a massage too? What DOES Jesus MEAN?!
But - I've been thinking as I've watched people respond to Brene Brown on stage when I was selling her books. It went like this: There were 750 women in Nashville waiting to get in to hear Brene Brown speak. Excited women. I didn't have a huge clue who she was so I watched her TED talk but it was obvious lots of other people did. (There were men in the crowd too) When they entered the room it was electric. They were filled with a type of expectation and enthusiasm I can say perfectly reflects Advent. They expected something wonderful to happen.
They took their seats and eventually someone introduced Brene Brown who had just flown in from a flight running late. She took the stage, looked out at the crowd and exclaimed, "Holy Shit!" and everyone applauded. If that offends you and you jump off this blog you're going to miss the golden point. Also, I would hate for you to sum up your understanding of this woman from that. She's a great researcher and applies that methodology of study to helping people get up again when they are knocked down, to be strong in the midst of their vulnerability and pain.
People in the audience applauded because they are sick and tired of people sugar-coating things and coming on stage, TV, radio and church podium and be so squeaky clean up there you can't see anything real or relate to it. People are crying out for an authenticity - PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE. They are asking for it as they read The Bloggess and buy her books, Let's Pretend This Never Happened, and Furiously Funny. They are begging for it as they read Nadia Boltz Weber (Pastrix and All Saints and Sinners). Many of these people drop the F-bomb like my mother uses the salt shaker. Heavily, always, and on everything. And, that offends some people. Or they questions - geez - do Christians need to cuss so much to be cool? Which to me is the same as asking, Do Jewish, Buddhist, or Agnostics need to cuss so much? Here's my blanket answer to that.
People need to communicate. With love and truth and authenticity. The end.
I'm guessing the Creator of all things Divine doesn't need a lot of f-bombs to communicate. But to wake someone up . . . just maybe wouldn't be so worried about an f-bomb over someone's soul. I'm just saying. Cussin here or there is a sign of the times and probably a passing thing. One day the f-word may trickle away like groovy slipped by us. But right now it seems to frequently be used in unexpected places as a divining rod of let's cut through all the bull, skipped the preliminary social graces and be honest. That's all.
And it still has all the precious weight of that true story on the first f-bomb moment of a child's childhood on, A Christmas Story.
that brings me back to the 2nd Commandment.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
I began to get the feeling that Jesus meant like, Dudes - for real. As your real flu face, wet hair tears in my pillow self. As your crazy cool, fun, hurtin, messed up wonderful loving self. That's all. Be very, very real. As real as God sees down into your heart. Can you be brave enough to be that authentic? Because before you say anything to that - it takes more courage to be that transparent than we can possibly count. It takes everything.
But an amazing thing happens when we do. And, yes - I know just a little bit about this because the strangers I've been talking to for the last seven years have shown me the way. (You can catch more of that through the stories of Praying for Strangers: An Adventure of the Human Spirit) Through their willingness and desire to suddenly tell me their story, their real story - I learned how to tell mine.
Two Commandments. Both just ask for - everything. To be real and to love with all our heart, our mind, our soul.
Nothin' to it. (insert emoticon wink)
I pray that in this Advent season you to dare to let down your guard. To ask for what you need and to give what you have.We are here together for this moment in time. We might as well be authentically alive . Because pretending - exhausts me.
Thanks so much for reading, liking and sharing with friends.