While I’ve been trying to “lay low” and fend off any more fibromyalgia flare-ups – not particularly successfully – Christmas has been making it’s way slowly across the nation from Massachusetts to Rapid City, SD. The storms across the nation have not been making it easy for Christmas to travel over 2000 miles – ice, sleet and snow have created treacherous road conditions and “pioneer living conditions” for those in their paths. It certainly puts the spotlight on how dependent we have become on electrical power in our daily lives.
I want to say thank you to the truck drivers who make their way back and forth across this country, hauling all of the things we need in our lives – food, medicine, auto parts – and some we don’t need but want – big screen TV’s, video games and cosmetics. Without the truckers, our lives would rapidly grind to a halt. So thanks!!
It was a group of truckers that brought Christmas from Massachusetts to Rapid City. US Postal Service and FedEx truckers, to be exact. They carried a small, artificial Christmas tree and a box of ornaments (shared from our own collection) the first week. We started off light! Then we sent in the “big guns” – 3 large boxes (24x18x15) filled with wrapped Christmas presents and notes for our Lakota friends who live in Rapid. They have never celebrated Christmas as a family before – they have always been living with someone else. This year, it is theirtree and decorations with their gifts underneath.
That was the special gift that we sent this Christmas. It wasn’t the boots or sweaters in the wrapped boxes. It was the gift of a family Christmas to a family who has not had much to celebrate over the past 6 months or more. I wished I could have been a “fly on the wall” traveling in the truck with the boxes, so I could have seen the reactions when everything arrived. Not to gain credit, but to share in the joy. That’s the reason most of us give – to experience the vicarious joy we imagine when we seen the joy of the recipient.
All the boxes arrived on Tuesday morning – I actually saw my friend’s signature on the delivery tracking web site that FedEx has. Cool!! I’m glad she was home. I’m not sure what would have happened to Christmas if 3 teen-aged girls got to it first . . .
Now that Christmas has safely arrived in Rapid City, I can turn my attention to Christmas in Massachusetts. You may wonder how Christmas can be in two places at once. That’s an easy question to answer. Christmas is like love – it can be everywhere at once!
In fact, I guess Christmas is love, really. Real Christmas, not commercialized Christmas. Real Christmas is about sharing because you want to, not because you have to. Real Christmas is about acting on love, not just thinking or feeling it yourself. Real Christmas is about these things because that’s what the first Christmas was about. God sharing Himself with us, showing His love for us, acting on His love for us – not because He had to, not because He should – but freely and generously because He loved us.
That’s the other thing I’ve been doing this past week. I’ve been thinking about Christmas in it’s spiritual sense: what it means to me. I got all the shopping and shipping done early so that I would have time to find the peace that Christmas brings when we take time to explore the meanings. I have been reading my Bible again, after an embarrassingly long drought. I don’t mean just the “Christmas story” but other passages that have been incredibly powerful in my life.
The sermon on the mount, that most people would recognize portions of, whether they read the Bible or not, is a particular favorite of mine (Matthew chapters 5 – 7). A lot of it has come into our general knowledge – even for those who don’t know where it came from.
- The Beatitudes – blessed are the poor, the merciful, etc
- You are the salt of the earth
- Turn the other cheek
- Love your enemies
- Beware of practicing false piety before others
- The Lord’s Prayer
- Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also
- God will provide for the day – remember the lilies of the field …
- Ask and you shall receive, knock and the door will be opened
I’ve realized over the past week that all my life has been spent trying to put those 2 chapters into practice – to actively live their words. Wow! Not that I’m pushing myself for sainthood – I’ve failed along the way from time to time. Gratefully, God knows I’m not perfect and gives me second (and third and fourth and . . . ) chances. That’s Love!
I’m going to share a story from my youth that I don’t usually share with people. But I’m anonymous here, so I don’t think I can be questioned about any motives of pride. It’s just a story that amazes me and makes me feel incredibly grateful to God.
One day, while I was walking the 1.5 miles from school to home in the 8th grade, I had a moment of “enlightenment.” I had been praying the Lord’s Prayer as I walked. Okay, that already makes me a little odd – it isn’t something the average 8th grader would do, even in 1965. But my father had died unexpectedly the prior year and I’d had some difficult times. Even though it’s been 40 years, I remember that moment clearly and in detail.
I was just about half way home. I had just passed the local public library and was approaching the intersection where I would make a right turn and head up a small hill. I was alone – very few of us had to walk that distance. I was running through the Lord’s Prayer in my mind the way most people do – like they’re on auto pilot, saying words without really thinking about them – when “it” occurred. I had a moment of understanding what the words really meant. Not in the sense of the meaning of the words or phrases – I’m fairly bright and I knew what the words meant. But in the sense of “knowing” in your heart instead of your mind.
The particular phrase that struck me that day was “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” I was like someone hit me in the head with the truth. For so many those words have come to mean “forgive us the things we do wrong and we’ll try to forgive those who do wrong to us.”
But I understood in that moment the true meaning of the phrase. “Forgive us the things we do wrong in the same way we forgive those who do wrong to us.” We are asking God to treat us exactly the way we actually treat others. Imagine that! It takes a lot of courage or a lot of trust for us to ask God to treat us exactly the way we treat others and forgive us exactly the way we forgive others. How many people do you know that harbor grudges and resentments about things that others have done to them, sometimes many years previously? They can’t let go. They can’t forgive. How frightening to think of them saying to God “Forgive me exactly the way I forgive others!” They don’t forgive, so they are asking to not be forgiven either. Yikes!!
The miracle that happened that day was not my understanding of that phrase. Somehow, some way, God gave me the gift of not being able to hold a grudge or retain anger. People have certainly done things that hurt me and I have certainly had my share of anger over the past 40 years. But since that day of enlightenment, I have not been able to hold the anger or pain, even when I have wanted to. I remember the painful or angry events in my mind – God didn’t give me amnesia. But I don’t have the bitterness or venom in my heart and soul. It goes away without any conscious effort. That is an incredible gift!!!
I wish that I could pass that gift on to everyone in the world for Christmas. Imagine the peace of mind and peace of heart that would spread around the world. If that were possible, then Christmas would truly arrive – everywhere, not just in Rapid City!!