In her book, Thoughts Matter, Sr. Mary Margaret Funk, uses the word “acedia” to describe “laziness of the body or sloth of the mind.” Sloth is one of the “seven deadly sins” identified by early monastic tradition in the Church. Last month I attended a Study Day at the Anglican Episcopal House of Study (AEHS) at Duke Divinity School. The speaker was the Rev. Dr. Christopher Beeley, who currently teaches at Yale Divinity School, but is the incoming director at AEHS. The Study Day was entitled, “Pray Without Ceasing”. It was a stunningly different sort of talk about prayer in which Beeley looked at how the 7 deadly sins affect our prayer life. Using the writings of Evagrius, who lived in the fourth century, Beeley showed how the spiritual writings of the early church can have meaning for our lives today.
The mystical and ascetic theology of Evagrius, Origen, St. Basil and the desert monastic traditions of the early church are heavy reading for anyone. To make those readings and the thought processes of early monasticism interesting to others is a gift! Beeley walked this line of scholar, fellow traveler, and teacher well. It was appropriately disturbing and challenging to ruminate over the chewier side of prayer – the side that looks at why we don’t pray without ceasing.
Writing about sloth in this first blog post in many moons is confessional. Being overtaken by spiritual laziness is not quite where I find myself; rather with the acedia that comes with indecision. Writing, for me is time consuming. Wanting to do it well means taking time to craft sentences and explore the nuances of words. This is one expression of creativity in my life. The other is visual art using collage and mixed media. Being an “artist” is more than doing beautiful visual pieces in all sorts of mediums. Words are the medium of many artists, and the beauty that is crafted by those who write is a stunning gift. Enabling eyes to see visual beauty, and hearts feel powerful emotions with words can open up worlds we might never otherwise enter.
Working on finding the time to express the creative gifts that God has given me while enduring in a complex and busy, busy world will be my struggle, I suspect, for the rest of my life. Time to “paste and paint” and the time to put words to work will likely always be the two loves that draw me along in the journey.
Wintering in warmer climates has always seemed like a luxury afforded to those who have homes in two places. Or, as in my case, have welcoming friends in another, warmer, city! Winter has always been a favorite time for me. As my bones have gotten older, however, I appreciate a bit of respite from the colder temperatures.
My friends, Blair and Inza, have graciously taken me in once again this year. Here to spend a few weeks in warmer weather doesn’t mean just sleeping and sunning for Bella and me. Bella gets to share her time and toys with sweet, dear Joy. Last year when I was here with Blair and Inza, Joy ran afoul of a car and her pelvis was badly broken. Nursing her when she came home from the Orthopedic Hospital in Durham was a big job for all of us. Joy has made a wonderful recovery and is every bit the wonderful hostess to Bella that her moms are to me.
Joy and Bella resting with their toys!
This year we have taken on the challenge of making Roman Shades for their bedroom. Using the old ones for the pattern has meant that we did not have to reinvent the wheel…so to speak. Fabric with beautifully colored leaves and branches on a creamy background compliment the sunny room with high ceilings. We’ve all had a hand in making these shades which has added to the fun. Inza’s idea of using metal split rings on the back of the curtains instead of plastic ones is genius. Hot sun on the plastic rings cause them to weaken and break so this will prevent that. They are finished as of this afternoon and all but one of them is hung.
Monday of this week we traveled to Inza’s hometown of Wilson. While Inza was at a meeting, Blair and I went to the Whirlygig Park in Wilson. Inza’s cousin’s Henry and Betty Lou Walston, have been crucial to the development of a place, a park, where the amazing whirlygigs of Vollis Simpson can be cared for and displayed. Simpson was born in 1919 to a farming family in Wilson County. Twelve children were born into this family, so the duties of farm life were shared by everyone. Vollis helped earn additional income for the family by learning to move houses. Maintenance and care of the farm equipment seemed to come naturally to Vollis, who must have saved each and every spare or broken part of these machines. Retiring from the house moving business in his sixties, he used all of those leftover nuts, bolts and spare parts along with the rigs and mechanics of moving houses to build enormous whimsical windmills in his yard. Wind power turns the windmill structures, which then activates a variety of other moving parts on the perfectly balanced rigs. Old road signs, reflectors, wheels and cables add color, height and whimsy to the whirlygigs. Simpson preferred to call his structures “windmills” but once an outsider began calling them “whirlygigs”, the name stuck. In 1996, Vollis Simpson was commissioned to build 3 structures for the Olympics in Atlanta. Exhibited widely, his Whirlygigs were designated as the official folk art of North Carolina in 2013 by the North Carolina House and Senate.
The restoration of Simpson’s “windmills” is done in a warehouse near the Whirlygig Park. Each piece, and every part is cleaned, then painted and restored to its colorful and intricate place on the particular whirlygig. The work is done by dedicated volunteers who, like many in Wilson, contribute time and money to making Vollis Simpson’s work accessible to everyone in this beautiful park. At night the whirlygigs are illuminated by lights that come on as you walk through the park. Landscaping, informative billboards with pictures of Vollis, walkways and covered areas make this park an accessible and beautiful place to visit.
With childlike delight I enjoyed every minute of walking among these giant moving works of art. Listening as the metal parts qently whirred and shuffled, I could feel the joy of Vollis Simpson’s soul. His art is just where it should be, among the people he loved, to be cherished and admired.
Before “Mayhem” became the most humorous buzz word for an insurance company, another insurance company coined, “Life comes at you fast”. Both describe the way in which perfectly ordinary days can turn downright cantankerous. Forgetting to put your garage door up before backing out or, forgetting to stop in time when pulling into a garage can give your day a “patina of disaster” that will send you back to bed wondering what will come next.
This past Sunday was one of those days for me; but before I tell you about that, I should go back to the beginning of last week. My week began with a wonderful visit from my niece Bretta Ogburn and her son, Tyler. On vacation from his work in Atlanta, Tyler drove to Blairsville, Ga where he celebrated his birthday with family and then on Monday, he and his mom came to Sparta. They
raced a potential ice storm to get here but arrived safely. Tyler’s little Chihuahua mix, Astrid came along to visit Bella which worked. Both Tyler and his mom are artists, although their “art mediums” different, and it was wonderful to share inspiration with each other over the 4 days of their visit. I could go on and on bragging about how very gifted they both are – I am a proud aunt! Tyler is an amazing photographer and skilled theater costumer; Bretta does glass beads with lamp work, just one skill among so much else. She and her husband, Ward, have raised three wonderfully different, and talented children.
Leaving on Friday morning, they headed home as I prepared to welcome my friends from Fayetteville in the afternoon. Ruth Gillis and Mary Mac Shields came in the evening after stopping in Winston Salem on the way to visit our favorite shoe store, which was having a sale! I benefitted from the shoe sale with new pair of walking shoes! Enjoying our time together is easy for the three of us. Playing games like Bananagrams (a Scrabble-ish sort of game) and Dominoes keeps us real…we can argue like sisters at times and nearly cry laughing at others. It turned cold while they were here so we had built warm fires in the fireplace each evening. We were sitting in front of the fire reading late Saturday afternoon when our rector at Christ Church called. Sounding nothing like herself on the phone, she was quite sick with the WGA (what’s going around). Between the Flu virus which is nasty and the WGA it has already been a hard winter for folks here. Knowing that there were things that Stephanie needed to do on Sunday, I agreed to do the worship service and preach to lighten her load.
That brings me to Sunday, well actually, Saturday evening. Finding that the gospel lesson for Sunday was the calling of the disciples – the one from John’s gospel where Philip tells his friend Nathanael that Jesus is from Nazareth and Nathanael says, “Can anything good come from Nazareth!”, I began to feel a foreboding. How does one preach on that in the midst of the “politics” of the past week? Avoidance seemed prudent! I finished typing out a sermon to preach and hit “print”. Nothing happened and so began an attempt to fix the issue which after a while just seemed like wasted time.
I got up early on Sunday and scribbled my sermon onto some paper by hand. Everything was going well as I got ready until I couldn’t find my makeup bag. In the great scheme of things cosmetics may not seem big but with 3 women in the house using one bathroom, it can create some anxiety. Getting in the car, Mary Mac and I left Ruth to figure out lunch and deal with the chaos we had left behind! Onward to church! But no, halfway there I remembered my vestments for the service, so we went back. Ruth met us at the door with both my vestments and my phone, and we were off again. Getting back onto HWY 21 N, my adrenaline found it’s outlet in pushing the gas pedal…until I saw the blue lights behind me. Pulling off the road, Mary Mac took charge of praying. My window wouldn’t roll down (frozen shut) so I had to open the door. Hoping the patrolman could see my clerical collar, I explained my dilemma. He took my license and in a few moments he came back with a warning and a smile. BE CAREFUL were his parting words. We got to the church in plenty of time and I headed to the room to put on my vestments. Most everyone was still downstairs at the education program but those of us moving around in the sanctuary noticed right away how cold it was. The thermometer said 47 – inside! Frozen lines accounted for the lack of heat so we began to move everything downstairs for church. Through all of this I had remained reasonably calm…or at least numb. But when I stood up to preach and realized that scribbled notes in pencil were virtually unreadable without my glasses (which were upstairs), I began to wonder if I was on candid camera? And was that word” peas”, or “peace”, or” place”?
I know that at some point I heard the angels laughing at all my false starts and machinations! But incredibly, as it always seems to be, Jesus was there to meet us at the table with his presence. It was, as I said in one of my moments of homiletic clarity,” that moment when heaven’s peace and unity, touches the earthly realm, in all of its imperfection, and we glimpse the reality that is God’s reality.” It is that moment that gives me hope in the midst of this earthly confusion. Thanks be to God!
Last night was our last Mountain Soul concert for the 2017 -2018 season. The group for the concert was Puddingstone. They are a large group of 7 people and three times as many instruments. Many of their instruments are reproductions of instruments used from the 12th century to present. Coming from Hickory, NC they play in lots of easily accessible places across the piedmont of North Carolina. Look them up and get to one of their concerts soon because they are really wonderful!
Our Mountain Soul concerts are always set into the format of worship. So we have a 15 – 20 minute worship before and then close with a prayer and singing Amen. Here is the closing prayer:
We are waiting…
For Love without end
We are waiting…
For Justice without end
We are waiting…
For Peace without end
We are waiting…
For Joy without end
Lord we are waiting for YOU. Amen.
I don’t know the origin of this lovely prayer but suspect that it was written by our rector at Christ Church here in Sparta, The Rev. Stephanie Parker. Embodying creativity in liturgy is surely one of the gifts that God has given this wonderful priest. Listening to God as she shapes her sermons, Stephanie has been steadfast in her preaching among us. Yesterday morning she said she felt as if she had only preached one message since she came: “God loves you”. Carrying this message in word and action, she has inspired us to look beyond our faults and failures (yes, sins) to see God as the one who marks us as God’s own – forever. God loves us, not because of how we act or what we think, but because we are God’s beloved sons and daughters. This fact alone should suck any trace of fear out of our relationship with God. Well over 350 times in the bible, God says, “Fear not”. That message along with God’s love (for us and all creation) are two of the most consistent messages that unite the whole of scripture. God is Love and there is no fear in God’s love.
There is so much fear in the world right now. The Culture of Fear written by Barry Glassner, is a book I want to read at some point. In an excerpt of an interview I read, Glassner said that he feels like our fear is being manipulated by those who profit from it. I’m sure we all have opinions about whether that is true or not. Fear seems to come quickest over those things which we cannot control. Doing all the right things does not mean that we are immune to disease, or disaster or death. It helps to do those “right” things and to “prepare”, but life does not come with guarantees. While life does not come with a guarantee, God does give us the guarantee of God’s love and presence with us. There is no manipulation in God’s love for us; and, there are no conditions on God’s love. In spite of the fear that floats on the surface of much that I see and hear, I can choose to let the good news of God’s love without fear cut a swath of joy in my heart. For this I am grateful!
Getting home late from traveling all day on Saturday, I decided to give in to my need for rest on Sunday instead of going to church. I did manage to get my coffee in time to watch Sunday Morning on CBS. A weekly magazine program, it always has some interesting articles. At the end of this week’s program Faith Salie talked about how art can help us make our yearly resolutions. She showed a picture of a drawing by Henri Matisse. There were distinct scribbles on the drawing that had not been erased, but rather, drawn over. The “ghosts of his mistakes” were left for us to see. It is called “Pentimento” from the Italian word “pentirsi” which means “repent” – to regret, to change your mind. It feels like Matisse left these distinct marks to show us the imperfections that are a part of created art. Showing our false starts and changes in direction (like in the picture of the word “pentimento” above) isn’t easy. But what if those “scribbles” are an important part of art; and, even an important part of life?
The other art technique that Salie talked about is Kintsugi. This Japanese technique takes broken ceramics and other objects to a new level of beauty. Believing that flaws are a part of the unique history of an object, those flaws are treated with respect and repaired with gold. The repair leaves a lovely golden trail that traces the path of the flaw. What if we treated our “broken places” with this kind of respect?
How might these two artistic concepts inform how we want to re – solution the year ahead. Resolutions are so much about dealing with our shortcomings – those places where we are broken or cracked. Towards the end of her article, Salie makes this suggestion: “…We’ll never be perfect, so perhaps our re-solutions can involve being humble enough to shed light on our cracks — and brave enough to repair them visibly.”
I hope I can live this year mindfully. To be mindful of the “cracks” and “scribbly false starts” in my own life, might help me make fewer assumptions about other people. And hopefully it will allow me to be more gentle with my own “cracked nature.” Who knows I might even attempt some kintsugi on some of those cracks!
One of the definitive things about human life is that we grow older each day. Learning to navigate, and accommodate, the ups and downs of aging with something more than grumpy acquiescence requires a determined grace. On the day after Christmas I drove to Wilmington, DE with my friend of 30+ years, Blair Both and her spouse, Inza Walston. Almost every year, for quite a few now, we have made this journey to spend time with Blair’s mother, whose name is also Blair Both. Blair, the elder’s, birthday is December 31. This year she will celebrate 99 years of life.
Blair lives at Crosslands Retirement Center outside of Wilmington, DE in Kennett Square, PA. She and her husband, Richard, moved to Crosslands in 1996. Richard died in 2007 and in 2013 Blair moved to Assisted Living at Crosslands. Driving to Crosslands through the Delaware/ Pennsylvania countryside is an Andrew Wyeth experience: roadside browns, greys and ochres with rustic houses set on rolling hills. Passing Longwood Gardens I always think about Richard, who volunteered his excellent gardener skills in those gardens after his retirement. He and Blair gave so much of their time to numerous causes in their lives. Blair was for many years a volunteer at Hospice, and both of them lived into their Baptismal covenant as active lay ministers.
As Blair’s ability to process the details of her present reality have decreased, she has remained a gentle, strong, grace filled woman. Sitting in her chair by the window she greets everyone who comes into her room with a smile and welcome. Watching her converse with those people, you would never guess that she really has no idea who they are. Her ability to “fake it” as she talks to others leaves all of us amazed. I heard her say to someone yesterday, “I will remember your visit forever.”
Lest you think Blair is a totally agreeable pushover; let me assure you that she has not lost her feistiness. She is quick to speak her mind about things that do not meet with her approval. Whether it is food or apparel; or the arrangement of things in her room, she speaks her mind. When Blair (the younger) asked her mom to not read a particular Christmas card out loud and handed her another card, her mom took the card (with some determination) and said, “You won’t have to listen to this one!!”
Two nights ago at dinner in the Crossland’s dining room, Inza asked Blair if she would talk about how she prays. Without hesitation and with a light in her eyes and joy in her voice she described praying for others. She talked about praying that other people would show her more about Christ, and that God would lead her to those who needed to hear about Christ. She prays for the staff at Crosslands and for those who help her. This is the way she learned to pray from her father who was an Episcopal clergyman. Born late in her mother and father’s life, she described enjoying the special relationship she had with her father who called her his “little friend.” They often spent time together reading and talking. Finally Inza asked Blair, “Are you sure God hears your prayers?” “Yes”, Blair answered without hesitation. “Do you believe that you will be with God when you die?” Again, the emphatic answer came, “Yes.”
Laughing, loving, and praying are all part of Blair’s vocabulary as this part of her life unfolds. These are not new habits, but enduring life patterns. There is some confusion and anxiety on occasion, met with reassuring words from family, friends and staff who know that tomorrow Blair will again be sunny and welcoming.
Christmas can be a complicated time both physically and emotionally. Distances make it hard to be with all the people we love. Expectations set in motion by sometimes less than perfect childhood memories conflict with the unreasonably “perfect” picture of Christmas we see portrayed in movies and the media. Add into that mix the losses that come as a normal course of life. Suddenly, “the happiest time of the year” can become a muddy mix of bright lights and tears.
Two weeks before Christmas my 11 year old cat, Pumpkin, stopped eating. The energy drained out of her. I coaxed her into eating a little and some days she actually rallied into herself. On December 18 I finally took her in and some blood work revealed feline leukemia. A friend and I held her and whispered love into her ears as the vet injected the med to take her home to St. Francis. In death, as in life, her beautiful fur was a luxurious mix of black, orange, and blonde.
Pumps, as I called her, was a Tortoiseshell cat. Like Calicos, Torties are almost always female. A male Tortie is extremely rare and always sterile. Predominantly black, they have red, orange and yellow markings and occasionally a bit of white. Resulting from a complex genetic and developmental mix these cats are part of the beautiful “fur people” that make up the Feline species.
Tortoiseshell cats are said to have “tortitude”, a definitive personality seen in Tortoiseshells. It’s easy to say that one is owned by a Tortie. They are extremely talkative, strong – willed and feisty. Pumpkin was rescued by a friend in Indiana. Mice had invaded the rectory where I was living, so this tiny cat with a big personality came to live with me. I had to feed formula to her with a tiny bottle for a couple of weeks. Sitting on my knee to nurse, she would occasionally turn around to arch her back and hiss at my two curious Golden Retrievers. As she got older she would sit in the crook of my arm as I wrote sermons on my laptop. Resting her head on the corner of the laptop she would “growl” at me when I needed to use the Shift key! Loving Pumpkin was done on her terms, not yours. She survived and controlled 6 different dogs who came through our household; some fostered for a while, and her three Goldens – Katie, Sugar and Bella. I’m sure Katie and Sugar met her at those heavenly pasture gates with St. Francis:)
I will so miss this little “head of our household”! Bella and I will see her dark shape and hear her definite footsteps for a long time; and I will have to go back to using a heating pad to warm my feet at night.
Preachers come in all sizes and shapes. Just bringing up the word, “preacher”, can bring to mind all sorts of images and memories. Neil Diamond’s “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” captures a particular type of preacher:
Starting soft and slow
like a small earthquake
and when he lets go
half the valley shakes.
Brother Love can be found in almost any church, synagogue, or mosque. For anyone raised in religion the memories of preachers are there along with a favorite person or two. The preacher who spoke to young and old alike; the one whose voice was kind and full of love; the preacher who taught us the meaning of believing; and the one we could count on for “3 points and a conclusion.” Those preachers are there along with some who scared us talking about “hell” all the time and those who yelled or leaned over the pulpit and shook their finger at us.
On Christmas Day at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, NC, I got to hear a friend of 20+ years preach for the first time. I know her as a creative, energetic friend. We share the same birth year, yet this retired school teacher is still serving others. She entered the Diaconate Formation Program in The Diocese of East Carolina 2 years ago and is now a postulant for Holy Orders.
Hearing Mary Mac preach gave me such happiness. Preaching will just be one of her gifts. She is excited about the way she can serve the least, and the lonely. Focusing on educating and enabling others so that they can become involved in the ministries of the church is deeply embedded in her heart.
Greeting people after the service in front of the Chrismon Tree
This preacher comes in a petite package that sparks with energy. She focuses on the God who loves us…God who will never stop loving us. Earthquakes and shaking valleys may not be her forte in preaching, but encouraging all of us to become the best we can be with God’s help is the gracious message she brought on Christmas Day. “The ‘presence of Christ’ is more important than any of the ‘presents’ we receive.” That was one of the messages that Mary Mac planted in my heart as she proclaimed the good news…good news indeed!!
It’s been snowing for two days here in Alleghany County. Today is sunny and the snow is melting. The picture above is from yesterday evening when we got caught in a passing cloud for awhile. It was eerie and beautiful.
Several weeks before Thanksgiving I was at the local Family Dollar store. Since I had no list, I was walking the aisles trying to remember what I needed. On a shelf I saw some little blue boxes with the label “Prayer Box” on them. Curious, I opened one and found a little pad of paper and a pencil. This is a picture of what is written on the inside of the lid:
Always looking for any help I can get in remembering the things and people I want to pray for, I bought one. The little box fit neatly on the table beside my bed and I wrote the “names and things” of my prayers on the slips of paper. The box got crowded with paper slips and they landed behind the table and under the bed…well, you get the picture. So I got sticky notes to use instead of slips of loose paper. I stuck them on the side of the bedside table and now when I get into bed they are right there at eye level.
Thinking that this would be a great thing to give friends I went back to the Family Dollar store but could not find any more of the little blue Prayer Boxes. And of course, you know what is next: I decided to make my own to give others! I found out that Amazon has these little boxes, and also has little mechanical pencils that fit into the boxes. I ordered them. And here is my version of the Prayer Box:
There was nothing on the original box that said where it was made or any copyright information so I used the little poem on the inside of the box in mine. I made several of them and of course some of you who are reading this will get one. You don’t really need a “Prayer Box” to write prayers down on little sticky notes to put beside your bed. The easier thing to do is get a pen or pencil and some sticky notes.
Sticky notes on my bedside table
There are so many things that fill up our hearts and stir us to pray. While I was in Georgia for Thanksgiving, I saw a car wreck. When I finally got a chance to turn past the accident all I saw was a badly damaged car with all the air bags deployed. I felt my chest go heavy with fear for the people who had been in the car. I eventually pulled off the road to just gather myself and pray. The image of that car has persisted in coming into my mind triggering my prayers. One of my little sticky notes simply has the word “travel” on it to remind me that all who travel need prayer. We live such distracted lives and the holidays accentuate that distraction. We all need “travel mercies”!
The older I get the more “slippery” my mind becomes. I remember my wonderful friend, Margaret Peterson showing me her “prayer list” which she faithfully prayed every night. It was a full page of names and things to pray for. Margaret was head of the Prayer Chain at Holy Trinity in Fayetteville for so many years and a great example of faithful prayer to me. Not everyone of us can pray in that way.
Prayer continues to be such a mix of mystery and memory to me. I want to remember people by name in prayer. Not because I think God needs me to remind God of that person, but because I want to allow that person or that event or that need to fill up my heart. I need to reach across time and space through God’s Spirit and feel that person’s pain or need; I want to remember my friends by name and feel their love fill my heart. I want my heart to ache for peace. Prayer is seldom, I think for others – it is for us. Prayer is that time spent in God’s presence so that our hearts are enlarged and changed. Those little pink sticky notes take me into that place where God is present.
May your hearts be filled with prayer this holy Advent season.
Did you know that there is a tree inside each one of us? Looking more like an upside down tree it is the bronchial tree. As long as everything is working well with this life-giving tree, we are pretty much unaware of its presence. But let a little virus or bacteria come along to complicate things and we can become quite focused on our “tree within”. The branches (bronchi) deliver the air we need for energy and life to the cells and when they are swollen – well, we’ve got ourselves a “situation”.
I got to my brother’s house in Georgia for Thanksgiving two weeks ago and sat down to write a Thanksgiving blog. Words kept getting twisted up in my mind and nothing seemed to make sense so I put it aside to do later. At some point in the next 24 hours I realized that I was getting sick. It came on the heels of downsizing and moving. Enabled by stress and tiredness, the infection bloomed into acute bronchitis. The cartoon above is a pretty accurate picture of what our household has been like since I got back home a week ago today. Antibiotics, steroids, cough medicine, decongestants, expectorants, have all done their work and finally I am beginning to feel better. I think the “tree shaking” cough will remain for a while. For those who read this blog, I would suggest several things to keep your “tree” healthy: an extra dose of Vitamin C occasionally, wash your hands (a lot), stay away from people like me who are coughing, avoid stress, and take a nap. Sounds like a plan?
I missed the first Sunday of Advent. I love Advent. There is something quite mystical about this dark time of the year. These days leading up to the Winter Solstice are pregnant with anticipation. When I was in Ireland a few years ago we went to Newgrange to visit the 5000 year old Passage Tomb famous for its Winter Solstice illumination. The doorway and lightbox above the door were aligned with the position of the sun at the Winter Solstice. When the sun rose on this shortest day of the year it would shine into the box above the door so that the entire tomb was illuminated. In this way these ancient people would know that “the gods” had granted them another year of life. This was their sign that the sun’s light would continue to grow into long days for growing crops that would sustain their lives. Imagine the anticipation that preceded that day!
In much the same way Advent is our soul longing for that word from God that will sustain us. It seems quite practical that the early Christian church chose this time around the Winter Solstice to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Into the dark winter comes the Light which illuminates God’s love for us. This is the gift of life-giving Love that will sustain us in the midst of all darkness.