It’s been quite a while¹ since I wrote on this blog. Not that I’ve been empty-headed; I’ve just had to prioritize other concerns. I have been making notes for future posts, but it usually does me good to express prosaic thoughts, so here goes . . . .
~ ~ ~
I have deeply mixed feelings at this time of year. The better part of wisdom would suggest keeping such feelings to myself, but I tend trust the written word (often more than talking, in my case) more than the wisdom of holding the feelings in.
I have made many mistakes in my life. As in your own life, aren’t there too many to count? Mine have included these:
- poor judgment calls (that could have turned out for good or bad [and did—both])
- near-misses that made God’s sheltering grace clear
- rough-shod runs over people, in the course of overzealous churchmanship ²
I also established obsessive work patterns that, among other negatives, pigeonholed me as a non-people person. (See here for more on identification as a “people person.”) But it is holiday family times, not the work environment, that I intend to focus on here. . . .
I can recall a kind of melancholy retreat from holiday family activities, into a corner where I would do what I was better at than spending time with people: work on my laptop. This “work” was almost never work-work (for which I was paid); rather, I would be creating music or emailing or reading about God things. I was hiding from the people nearby, to whom I was related, in order to be “with” other people across miles. There were reasons for this arguably antisocial behavior, including profound disillusionment over the impoverishment of two cherished institutions, and the powerless feeling of having had to relinquish important ideals. It’s for good reason that that’s a packed sentence.
I remember that one relative criticized me for laptopping, and I reacted defensively. Turns out he was annoyed (and on target) for the same reasons that now annoy me when I observe others doing what I used to do. I still do that kind of thing at times, but I catch myself and quit. When I’m with people I care about, I ought to show them I care about them by paying attention to them instead of stuff on a device. The pic here makes me especially sad, because I value fresh, outdoor air, and I feel these folks would do so much better to look at the green around them, sniff the air, and talk to each other. I place a higher value on human interaction than on nature, and I do know we need, or at least like, to take pics of our experiences in nature and with others. But do we spend more time finding pics to show people than talking about real life, in the moment?
See this article on tech addiction and what to do with your smart phones while at restaurants. I noted that another restaurant offers free kids’ meals when the parents ditch their phones while at the meal. I think that is about the best sociological development I’ve heard all year.
Christmas-season church stuff abounds. I’ve participated in some of it, as in most recent years. Yes, I have about 30 Xmas CDs, a couple dozen Xmas cassettes, and a dozen vinyl records. I think I’ve played a dozen of them so far this year. But in church, Christmas music often bores me. (I’m not much of a traditionalist or a creature of habit.) Some of it is downright glorious, though, and I’ve benefited from it. I do wish we would dispense with some of the the formalities, and all the presumptions of validity based on tradition. It is entirely right to ponder and celebrate the coming of God to earth, but certain ceremonies and phrasings put my soul to sleep more than helping me ponder “Love’s pure light” or pushing me to sing, “Glory to the newborn king.”³
One pop song touches me every time I think through some of the words. “Grown-up Christmas List” (which a former student introduced to me in 2002) combines expressive melody, colorful chords, and key changes in support of phrases like “no more worlds torn apart” and “time would heal all hearts.” What’s your list like? I remember being the kid who passed out the presents to the extended family, and I liked that role, and I like seeing my son becoming enthused over similar things. As grown-ups with years and hurts and growth under our belts, how much do we now care about wrapping paper and bows? Wouldn’t it be enough if hearts were healed, and if peace reigned in our little worlds?
Here’s where I insert a few lines of my old friend Paul’s favorite carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”:
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!”
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
Last December, I recall having had marked feelings of generosity, resolve, and hope. This time around, time-bound hope doesn’t rise within me, but the other two feelings remain. I’m just as intent as last year on giving (in various ways)—more than worrying specifically about presents or cookies. No being tied to a computer for too long, or retreating from being actually with people I love. Somehow that would not be emulating the God who came to be with us.
– B. Casey, 12/1/19-12/20/19
¹ There have been other breaks of this length. I suppose, at ~1800 total posts (including my other two, less active blogs), breaks are OK.
² I’m an avowed Christian—but no longer a churchman and will probably never be one again. I consider myself somewhat uncomfortably berthed among God’s people, and (don’t miss this next phrase!) unflaggingly, observably interested in connections with groups of said people, but it’s harder and harder to buy in to the trappings of local bodies, much less denominations.
³ Wait. Was he actually a king then? We shouldn’t be so assertive with theological history here!