Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Heroes and Holly

      Recently, I got the chance to meet one of my heroes. As a writer and a person of faith, I have long looked up to Anne Lamott. She is, as I put it on the day I met her, someone who gives voice to the unspeakableness in my soul. Her insights are shared with such openness, humor, and irreverence, it makes me feel a little safer to say what I'm really feeling, even (perhaps most especially) about God. Anne was at First Baptist Church, Decatur, GA to talk about her latest book, Help. Thanks. Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. She was funny, honest, and even more gracious than I expected to those of us who asked her to sign our books and pose for photos. I will certainly be a lifelong fan now. I need people like Anne to remind me of the value of messy honesty, and the importance of story, as she does in this passage from her latest book:

"We are too often distracted by the need to burnish our surfaces, to look good so that other people won't know what screwed-up messes we, or our mate or kids or finances, are. But if you gently help yourself back to the present moment, you see how life keeps stumbling along and how you may actually find your way through another ordinary or impossible day. Details are being revealed, and they will take you out of yourself, which is heaven, and you will have a story to tell, which is salvation that again and again saves us, the way Jesus saves some people, or the way sobriety does. Stories to tell or hear -- either way, it's medicine. The Word." (Help, Thanks, Wow, pgs. 52-53)



Deep within the soul of the lonely caged bird,
Beats the rhythm of a distant forest.
Etched upon its broken heart,
The faded memory of flight.”
  -Ginni Bly, poet 

Bah Humbug

          OK. If I'm perfectly honest, I sometimes tire of happy, positive statements - the like of which you might find in spirituality blogs such as this. When I find I've had my fill of holiday cheer and party glitter, I sometimes indulge in some sappy Hallmark movies that have all kinds of terrible life events happening to the characters. I weep and wail as my boys snicker at this odd ritual of mine. There are times I also like to read books or quotes such as the one above full of pain and pathos. This feels real to me. It somehow cleanses all the holiday glitter and trappings. Christmas, more so than other holidays to me, is a packaging of all my losses, a reminder that my brother's not here, that I'm divorced, that I’m short on cash and a long string of other lacks, including obviously a lack of faith for not having the requisite amount of cheer during the holidays.
           Instead of fighting the mood, though, I've learned to give in. To walk through the sadness. To acknowledge the rhythm of a distant forest. To find comfort in a winter sky that once burned bright over a winter stable. To weep inconsolably at ridiculous Hallmark plots.
          Oddly enough, I always feel better.



         I've taken to calling it the Christmas crap.  It's all the stuff - the nutcrackers, carved Santas, bowls in Christmas colors, angels in every shape and size,  snowmen, etc, etc, etc   The holiday doo-dads Don and I have accumulated over almost 30 years together fill four giant plastic bins.  
       After spending two weeks in South Africa (and the last few days there in a tent with no electricity!),  I'm feeling overwhelmed by the overblown commercialism and all the shopping, decorating and stuff that makes up our American Christmas.  I find myself creating empty space, putting the doo-dads back in the bin (or in a bag destined for Goodwill!) and making room for photos that trigger memories of places we've traveled and people we love.  In comes the  holly, boxwood, and cedar.  Out goes the plastic and the shiny... except for Christmas lights. You can never  have too many Christmas lights!
     Love came down at Christmas.  Let's make room for the Love.



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