Saturday 26 December 2015

Inbetween Days: Liminal Space

So here we stand on the hinge of another year. The winter solstice has passed, Christmas has been and gone and we find ourselves in those in-between days standing at the threshold of a new year. Yes the day light hours will increase over the coming weeks but still we must face winter. January and February can be difficult as we feel stuck in the cold on these dark winter evenings.

Winter is not an easy time, so many of us want it over as soon as possible. We want spring and the new birth and life that it brings, but that is not the way to live and we know it. To live, always holding on to the spring yet to come, is to fail to fully experience what is present now. There is such richness in the dark cold of winter and we need to feel it and allow our eyes to adjust to the darkness. There is a beautiful wonder about winter that we would do well to embrace. For it is in this cold stillness that change can begin to form and grow.

There is a beauty in those in between days as we stand on the threshold of something new, in that space. As we stand together between the worlds in the changing of the light.

The truth is though that we are always standing at thresholds, at times of change. Each beginning is actually the end of something and each ending is the beginning of something new and what stands in between is threshold.

Over the last few months I have kept on hearing a phrase that I was not really consciously aware of before; it is phrase that has kept on knocking on the window of my consciousness all this year, staring right into my soul. The phrase is “Liminal Space”. Now what on earth does it mean? You may well be asking. Well “Liminal Space” is a threshold, a space between things.

The word “Liminal” comes from the Latin “limens”, meaning “a threshold.” A threshold is a doorway or the entrance, it is a place or point of entering or beginning. In psychology the term “Limen” means the point at which a stimulus is of sufficient intensity to begin to produce an effect.

So “Liminal Space” is that moment when something changes from one state to another. Such as the dawn of each day, when the morning sun rises high in the sky bringing daylight. Or at dusk, when the evening sun sinks into the horizon bringing nightfall.

“Liminal Space” is that moment when we move either into or out of a deep fog, whether physical or one made from our own minds. Sometimes in that fog we find a complete stillness and in that stillness a new truth can be revealed. As we do we come out of the fog once again and step into a new clear light. Similar to those moments when we awaken from a deep sleep, when we are not yet fully awake but no longer asleep. And at the other end of the day that state when we move from being fully awake and conscious into deep sleep. Then there are those moments of life’s transitions, between life and death itself. The following reflection by Victoria Safford, describes this beautifully.

“In Between” by Victoria Safford

"One afternoon some time ago I brought my little baby out to visit a very, very old neighbour who was dying that year, quietly and gracefully, in her gracious home. We were having a little birthday party for her, with sherry and cake and a few old friends gathered round her bed. To free a hand to cut the cake, I put my baby down right on the bed, right up on the pillow - and there was a sudden hush in the room, for we were caught off guard, beholding.

It was a startling sight. There is the late afternoon light were two people side by side, two human merely beings. Neither one could walk, neither one could speak, not in language you could understand, both utterly dependent on the rest of us bustling around, masquerading as immortals. There they were: a plump one, apple-cheeked, a cherry tomato of a babe, smiling; and a silver-thin one, hallow-eyes, translucent, shining, smiling. We revellers were hushed because we clearly saw that these were dancers on the very edge of things. These two were closer to the threshold, the edge of the great mystery, than any of us had been for a long time or would be for a while. Living, breathing, smiling they were, but each with one foot and who knows how much consciousness firmly planted on the other side, whatever that is, the starry darkness from whence we come and whither will we go, in time. Fresh from birth, nigh unto death, bright – eyed, they were bookends there, mirrors of each other. Radiant.

Cake in hand, and napkins, knife, glasses, a crystal carafe a century old, we paused there on the thresholds of our own momentary lives. Then, “What shall we sing?” said someone, to the silence, to the sunlight on the covers, to the stars. It was the only question, then, as now, years later. What on earth shall we sing?"

“Liminal Spaces” are “Thin Places” occurring on boundaries between things. This brings to mind a beautiful song by Justin Sullivan. Please listen to a version of it here...

“Liminal Space” is a boundary. Think of fences, walls and trees between property. It is the edge between things. Such as water and land, a valley or a hill. When I think of where I come from in West Yorkshire, such boundaries are everywhere in those hills and valleys of green and grey. Another example is in the change of the shape of the land, just look around you then next time you are out and about where you live . Another example is the East Coast of Yorkshire , around Filey and Flamborough Head where the cliffs are eroding and falling away into the North Sea. It is amazing to stand there sometimes and stare out into the sea watching the waves hitting and then retreating from the coast . It is that moment of contact, just before the sea withdraws once again that is a kind of “Liminal Space”.

“Liminal Space” is not only physical in nature though. It is that moment, which may last a lifetime, that lies between the known and the unknown. It is a moment of transition a space of heightened intensity when we cross the threshold of what we think we know. That moment of abandon when things change and are never quite the same again. Moments that can change us forever. Moments that change everything. We all have them, it’s just that too often we are not fully awake to them. We all of us stand in that space, between the changing of the light. Between every sunrise and every sunset a whole new world of possibility is born.

Now sometimes we enter such times, “Liminal Space”, willingly, as a result of a decision to try something new. But there are also others times when we just drift into them a bit like driving into a fog on our journeys somewhere, not knowing when the fog will clear. Such moments are filled with uncertainty, they are times of transition we did not ask for at all. These can be confusing times and such confusion can cause fear and anxiety. We humans do not like uncertainty, we like to know the ground that we stand on is solid and secure. We want the path to be clear, we want our goals to be certain, we want to rush through the fog and enter once more into the light as soon as possible. This is why so many of us don’t like the cold and darkness of winter, spring is so much more appealing, but we cannot have the joy of spring without life’s winter. We want certainty, we want firmness now!!! This though is not realistic, this is not life.

The French Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin captured this perfectly when he wrote: “We are quite naturally impatient in everything. To reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability – And that it may take a very long time.” He urged us to be patient, to embrace this time of uncertainty, to allow it to unfold naturally as we evolve into what we are meant to become. The key it would seem is to be open and to experience everything, because everything matters you know, even the experiences we don’t want to feel. We need to experience the thresholds, so as to learn all that they offer. To stand between the worlds in the changing of light. To pass through the “Liminal Space” and become all that we were born to be. Born again and again and again in each moment of life.

This year has been one of great change for me. This year has been one when I have come out of the mist of threshold into something new. New dawns have emerged and new beginnings have arisen. New truths and experiences have come to me. My life has changed on so many levels. In every sense. There has been the obvious physical change as I have lost over a third of my body mass. That said there have been other changes too in terms of my understanding of life and it’s meaning to me. These changes have been mental, emotional, spiritual as well as the physical one.

My understanding of my own spiritual faith has opened and awakened to new levels too. There has been one phrase that comes from “The Sermon on the Mount”, from Matthew’s Gospel, that has been taking shape in the soul of me all year long. The phrase is “You are the light of the world”. That this is the real message that was brought to the world 2.000 years ago and that it is our task to bring this to life in our mortal lives. That it is our task to incarnate this love in our world. That we are responsible for this our world. That we are the ones that our world has been waiting for. It is up to us you know, it’s up to us to bring this love alive.

Last year as I stood on the threshold of the year I did not know what was to come. None of us did, did we? This year we all stand at a new threshold uncertain of what is to come. As we stand in the coldest darkest days. Let’s not rush through these in between days and wish them away. Let’s instead appreciate this “Liminal Space” for what it is and when we are ready, let’s step into the days of the new beginnings and truly give birth to the love that is within us all.

I will end with this beautiful meditative piece by Kath R Walker...Best wishes for the days ahead and may you experience all that lies inbetween...

“In Between” by Kate R Walker

In between, liminal, that space where we wait.
Between moments; events, results, action, no action.
To stand on the threshold, waiting for something to end,
And something new to arrive, a pause in the rumble of time.
Awareness claims us, alert, a shadow of something different.

In between invitation and acceptance.
In between symptom and diagnosis.
In between send and receipt of inquiry and question.
In between love given and love received.

Liminality, a letting go, entering into confusion,
ambiguity and disorientation.
A ritual begun, pause … look back at what once was,
Look forward into what becomes.
Identity sheds a layer, reaches into something uncomfortable to wear.

In between lighting of the match and the kindling of oil.
In between choosing of text and the reading of words.
In between voices and notes carried through the air into ears to hear.
In between creation thrusts ever forward.

Social hierarchies may disassemble and structures may fall.
Communities may revolt or tempt trust.
Tradition may falter or creativity crashes forward.
Leaders may step down or take charge.
The people may choose or refuse.

In between, storm predicted, the horizon beacons.
In between, theology of process reminds us to step back.
In between, where minutia and galaxies intermingle with microbes and mysteries.
In between, liminal, that space where we wait: Look, listen, feel, breathe.

Thursday 24 December 2015

Christmas Eve

"Christmas Eve" by Tracy Pullman

Christmas eve is a time for candlelight.
It is a time when one desires nothing more than family and soft music.
Who can say what passes through our hearts on Christmas eve?
Strange thoughts, indefinable emotions and sudden tears.
All this and more, unbidden, come without reason.

And we burn our candles for this is Christmas eve.
Christmas eve is not a time to be merry but quietly glad.
It is the proper time to wish upon a star.
It is a time to watch children with excited happy eyes troop off to bed to
await the miracle of dawn.
It is a time of wonder, of thankfulness that life is still being created anew
out of darkness.
It is a time of quiet awakening to beauty that still lives on through the
strife of a war torn world.

And we burn our candles for this is Christmas eve.
Christmas eve is a time of heartbreak,
When those who are not at their own fireside are most missed.
Christmas eve is a time of blessing when all the heartbroken world gives
thanks for the quiet beauty of rest,
When one is closest to ones companions and is not then enemy of any

And we burn our candles for this is Christmas eve.
Christmas eve is a time of memory,
When one remembers past happiness and love
And often sighs for the good that might have been.
Peace on earth and now comes the memory of the story of the first
Christmas, so old and yet so new.
We lose ourselves in legend and dream of storybook people; Tiny Tim
and the other Wise Man live again in the memory of human hearts.

And we burn our candles for this is Christmas eve.

Christmas is the season of the heart. It is a time to focus on the ties of the heart, the loves of the heart, the dreams of the heart; it is a time to focus on the hearts yearnings and longings; it is a time when we are called to concentrate on the heart, on what it wants, what it needs and what it compels us to be. The heart of Christmas is the heart itself, burst to overflowing, lit up bringing light and warmth into this season of darkness and cold. It brings hope in what can be very cynical times, as it always has. Christmas is the dream of the heart, wishing to come alive. This is why Christmas is both the religious and emotional centre of the year for most folk. Christmas is the time of the heart, which calls us to our truest nature, to be all that we can be.

This is why it is the holiest of holy days and nights. This is why I believe it is for everyone regardless of background and or faith, or lack of it. Christmas connects to something universal, something eternal in all of us which allows us to connect to our true selves, to one another, to all life and to that loving and eternal spirit that runs through all life.

“Oh I wish it could be Christmas every day”. Well it can be if we make it Christmas every day. It begins by lighting that lamp, that fire in our hearts and in our hearths.

I have included in this blog material that has inspired me and the worship I have created this Advent and Christmas season. I trust it will speak to your spirit and fill your heart with the soul of the season.

Merry Christmas one and all...

“Christmas is for Love” (Author unknown)

Christmas is for love. It is for joy, for giving and sharing, for laughter, for reuniting with family and friends, for tinsel and brightly covered packages. But, mostly Christmas is for love. I had not believed this until a small elfin like pupil with wide innocent eyes and soft rosy cheeks gave me a wondrous gift one Christmas.

Matthew was a 10 year old orphan who lived with his aunt, a bitter, middle aged woman greatly annoyed with the burden of caring for her dead sister's son. She never failed to remind young Matthew, if it hadn't been for her generosity, he would be a vagrant, homeless waif. Still, with all the scolding and chilliness at home, he was a sweet and gentle child.

I had not noticed Matthew particularly until he began staying after class each day [at the risk of arousing his aunt's anger so I learned later] to help me straighten up the room. We did this quietly and comfortably, not speaking much, but enjoying the solitude of that hour of the day. When we did talk, Matthew spoke mostly of his mother. Though he was quite young when she died, he remembered a kind, gentle, loving woman who always spent time with him.

As Christmas drew near however, Matthew failed to stay after school each day. I looked forward to his coming, and when the days passed and he continued to scamper hurriedly from the room after class, I stopped him one afternoon and asked him why he no longer helped me in the room. I told him how I had missed him, and his large brown eyes lit up eagerly as he replied, 'Did you really miss me?'

I explained how he had been my best helper, 'I was making you a surprise,' he whispered confidentially. 'It's for Christmas.' With that, he became embarrassed and dashed from the room. He didn't stay after school any more after that.

Finally came the last school day before Christmas. Matthew crept slowly into the room late that afternoon with his hands concealing something behind his back. 'I have your present,' he said timidly when I looked up. 'I hope you like it.' He held out his hands, and there lying in his small palms was a tiny wooden box.

'It's beautiful, Matthew. Is there something in it?' I asked opening the top to look inside. 'Oh you can't see what's in it,' he replied, 'and you can't touch it, or taste it or feel it, but mother always said it makes you feel good all the time, warm on cold nights and safe when you're all alone.'

I gazed into the empty box. 'What is it, Matthew' I asked gently, 'that will make me feel so good?'

'It's love,' he whispered softly, 'and mother always said it's best when you give it away.' He turned and quietly left the room.

So now I keep a small box crudely made of scraps of wood on the piano in my living room and only smile when inquiring friends raise quizzical eyebrows when I explain to them there is love in it.

Yes, Christmas is for gaiety, mirth, song, and for good and wondrous gifts. But mostly, Christmas is for love.

“All I want for Christmas” by David S. Blanchard taken from “A Temporary State of Grace”

This is a time of year when we ask – and are asked – what do you want? Shall it be another tie, a new pair of gloves, a book? We ask and we answer. We shop, we wrap, we ship. And the season usually comes and goes without us ever really answering the question: What do you want?

Some of the things we want we might be afraid to ask for because we can’t be sure what we would do if we got them. Many things we want we don’t know enough to ask for. Most things we can’t ask for because we know no one can give them to us.

Most people ask the question without any interest in really knowing, yet it can be a question for each of us to hold on to for a time in mind and heart. What do we want? Not what would we like, but what do we want to give us a deeper connection with life and to help us give expression to our love? Not a long list of things, but a sense of clarity that illuminates what it is we are doing and why. Not outward signs of generosity, but an internal sense of caring that guides us to give in any season. Not just the reflex of always giving, but also the courage to truly answer some of those who ask us, “What do you want?”

Dare to answer. Think of the things you want, and the things others close to you would want. Imagine the ways they might be given and received.

What do you want?

"This is the season" by Jacob Trapp

This is the season when the child in the heart of all of us awakens and the
embers of long forgotten dreams are blown into flame.
The ramp of the Legions is stilled; the Caesars lie in dust, but the light
from that humble stable shines warm and bright.
Something old and almost lost amid the clutter of the years is calling from
the skies and across the fields of snow.
The night winds are stilled and in the darkened heavens the stars foretell
of lengthening days and the birth of spring after the winter’s cold.
This is the sign that the light of hope, which shines in the dimness of our
broken dreams, will never fade or die.
O stretch your hands and with the simple trust of the child, grasp another’s
hand and walk the way together.
Though the darkness press in upon us and the promise of Christmas
comes like the echo of music upon the wind, let our hearts remember
that loveliness, that light.

“Sing” by George K Beach

This is a good season for singing. I may not sing very well but everybody knows the Christmas carols and I can just sing and get away with it. Nobody notices unless I refuse altogether. So singing comes easy, now.

This is also a good season for telling stories. The stories I like are both life-like and a little fantastic – believable, unbelievable, and somehow both at once. They let me imagine something other than hard facts that just say what is.

The idea of angels singing and animals talking for a holy babe born in a barn and laid in a manger allows me to love a little while in a world where everything is different. And get away with it.

A most amazing recognition that is: that I can get away with it. Life allows me; it lets me go again and again: for we are set at liberty.

This is a good season for believing that “something happened” and everything is different now. I don’t have to be bigger, better, or beautifuler than anybody. I can love somebody and get away with it.

And what is “it”? It is only that which I want in my heart of hearts – like loving, like being changed, like singing and having a story to tell. And once I have let myself go, there is something I can do no longer: pretend I am not allowed to be myself, in the community of giving and receiving. Such a life of freedom and love is itself the first and greatest gift.

“Little Kight” by Charles A Gains

As I look at this lighted candle, I think of all the people I have read about
who lit up the world with their love. I think of Jesus and Buddha, St Francis
and Schweitzer, Clara Barton and Martin Luther King. And I know in
my heart that I can light up the world with my love too.
As I look at this glowing candle, I think of all the people I have known in
my life who lit up my world with their love; parents who gave me birth,
teachers who taught me in schools; people who walked with me for a
while. And I know in my heart that that I can light up the world with my
love too.

As I look at this bright candle, I think of all the people I know now who
light up my world with their love; my partner and my children; my colleagues
and my friends; people who are with me now, others who are
absent, but with us just the same. And I know in my heart that I can light
up the world with my love too.

Loved ones, friends, strangers I pass this light to you. Take it and let it
brighten up the darkness. Let its glow sparkle around your eyes and
lighten your face And know that by sharing our love, even in little ways,
we touch others with our light and our world becomes brighter
It all began many years ago when one light lit up the midnight sky. It has
been passed on to us by saints and prophets, parents, teachers and poets,
and all the friends and lovers of humankind.
Take it, pass it on - tonight, tomorrow and whenever you see a shadow or
a dark place your love can lighten. No one is ever too old. No one is ever
too young. Each of us can touch someone by our love and inspire them
with our light.

A Closing Prayer

Christmas Eve, December 24, 2007
On this night of nights,
We have more for which to be grateful than we will ever know:
More cause to bless and cherish
And bend our knee in wonder,
More call to lift our hearts on wings of praise.

For we, too, on this very night,
Illuminated by a story and a star,
Can witness a miracle:
A birth — heralding our birth,
Pregnant with promise and oh so surpassingly strange;
A life — no less magical than ours;
A death — to charge our days with purpose,
Helping us to live in such a way
That our lives, too, will prove worth dying for.

To enter the realm of enchantment,
We must first shed our self-protective cover,
Not, as we too often and so sadly do,
Take this precious life for granted,
But unwrap the present and receive the gift,
Mysterious and charged with saving grace.

So let us, on this night of nights, set aside our shopping list of grievances,
Resist the nattering of our grubby little egos,
And crack our parched lives open like a seed.

Let us pray.

Let us awaken from the soul-crushing allures
Of sophisticated resignation and cynical chic,
To savor instead the world of abundance and possibility
That awaits just beyond the self-imposed limits of our imagination.

Let us awaken to the saving gift of forgiveness,
Where we can, in a single breath, free ourselves and free another.

Let us awaken to the possibility of love,
Body, mind, and spirit,
All-saving and all-redeeming love.

Let us awaken to the blessing of acceptance,
Expressed in a simple, saving mantra:
Want what we have; do what we can; be who we are.

Rather than let wishful thinking or regret
Displace the gratitude for all that is ours, here and now,
To savor and to save.

Let us want what we have —
Praying for health, if we are blessed with health,
For friendship, if we are blessed with friends,
For family, if we are blessed with family,
For work, if we are blessed with tasks that await our doing,
And if our lives are dark, may we remember to want nothing more than the loving
Affection of those whose hearts are broken by
our pain.

Let us do what we can —
Not dream impossible dreams or climb every mountain,
But dream one possible dream and climb one splendid mountain,
That our life may be blessed with attainable meaning.

And let us be who we are —
Embrace our God-given nature and talents.
Answer the call that is ours, not another's,
Thereby enhancing our little world and the greater world we share.

That is my Christmas prayer,
Call it thoughtful wishing.
All we have to do is put our heart in it.
And there's one more bonus.
Unlike wishful thinking, thoughtful wishes always come true.

Amen. I love you. And may God bless us all.

An Excerpt from "Love & Death: My Journey through the Valley of the Shadow" by Forrest Church

Saturday 5 December 2015

What can we give?

For most of us Christmas is about the giving and receiving of presents. It’s kind of mass consumerism gone mad. The worst excesses of which seem to form in that most hideous of American imports “Black Friday”, which is actually really linked to the American holiday of “Thanksgiving”. We have not taken that part on, just “Black Friday”, not the giving of thanks bit. Maybe we should and then extend it on into Christmas itself. Surely Christmas is about giving thanks for the gifts we have been given and expressing this thanks by using this gifts in our lives. In so doing we can become gifts to the world…Isn’t this what it means to live with gratitude?

I suspect that the tradition of giving and receiving gifts at Christmas time is linked to the three gifts of the Magi “Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh”. Gifts of great value 2,000 years ago, although only gold has retained its worth today. Now in early Christianity the journey of the Magi was celebrated on the Feast of the Epiphany on the 6th of January, the 12th day of Christmas, hence the Carol “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree”…etc...

The early Christian church did not celebrate Christmas as we do today. The tradition of giving Christmas presents is really a modern one. By Victorian times the culture of gift giving and the mythos of Father Christmas, St Nicholas or Santa Claus was beginning to take hold, immortalised in the fiction of Dickens and the like. As the twentieth century moved on into the twenty first this culture developed into mass consumerism. Today it would seem that buying, wrapping and giving gifts has become nothing more than a mechanical chore and one of the worst examples of mass consumerism going. Is this really what Christmas is about? Is this really giving by heart? Is this really the spirit of Christmas?

I certainly do not think so. The spirit of Christmas is found I believe in those simple words from my favourite carol “In the Bleak mid-winter”…

“What shall I give him? Give my heart”

Gordon B Mckeeman once said “Christmas is not so much a matter of explanation and interpretation as it is a mood and a feeling. It is a time in the cycle of the year set apart by hope and fellowship and generosity. Christmas is the season of the heart.”

I agree with Gordon I believe that the true spirit of Christmas is the heart, that this is the gift of the season. Christmas above everything else truly is the season of the heart. When we truly give our gifts to others we are giving them our hearts and when we truly give from our heart to another we are somehow bringing that heart of God alive and that spirit is once again incarnating in life.

This is the religion, the spirit that can still be discovered beneath the ribbons and the wrapping paper. This is the spirit that can once again come alive if we engage in the giving and receiving of gifts and not merely presents. This is one way in which we can truly begin to become a gift to the world.

One thing that I believe is a worthwhile venture to do at this time of year is to think of and perhaps even make a list of the nicest gifts we have received. Not just Christmas gifts though, but also those we have received throughout our lives too. Now these could be actual presents, or they could be loving gestures or kindly acts. I will never forget a bowl of soup that Wynne Semester made for me when I was a completely broken man after Ethan had been killed some ten years ago now. She sat me down in the kitchen at Oldham Unitarian Chapel and just simply warmed up the soup and fed me while my heart broke. This simple act of love and countless others helped heal me in my utter despair; they helped to relight the fire of love and hope in me, in my darkest hour. I can name a 1001 or more times when others have done similar things. I have been and will continue to make a list of the many gifts I have been given throughout my life. This fills my heart with gratitude as I think of ways in which I can begin to give back what has been so freely given to me.

Why not give this a go. Spend some time in this Advent season compiling a list of all that has been given to you, freely, from the hearts of others and perhaps think of ways in which you too can give back from your heart. You never know, in so doing you may just be reigniting a fire that has gone out in someone’s heart.

Now please don’t take what I am saying the wrong way. I am not trying to coerce you here, to get you to behave in the right way, just so you will be rewarded. This is one of the few things I don’t really like about Christmas, the way that children are kind of coerced, dishonestly, into behaving themselves by the threat that if they don’t Father Christmas won’t come. It never works anyway. And why don’t I like it? Well because it’s not honest and besides which most children know for a long time that this is not the case, long before they will admit to it. I know I did. Although having said this I understand fully why parents use this tactic.

There is another problem too in using this method of coercion. Once we see the lie in this Christmas manipulation we equate all life in the same way. I think that one of the biggest problems when it comes to question re faith etc is that people equate God with Father Christmas. The God I have come to know is nothing like Father Christmas or anything else for that matter. God is not some kind of super being handing out favours or not willy nilly. God is no thing at all. God is beyond being.

When I really think of the gifts I have been given the greatest is of course life itself. This is of course the ultimate free gift. The ultimate unearned grace. As the beautiful hymn goes “Life is the greatest gift of all the riches on this earth; life and its creatures, great and small, of high and lowly birth. So treasure it and measure it with deeds of shining worth.”

Well truth be told I can’t claim to have always treasured and measured it with deeds of shining worth. I haven’t always been grateful for all that I have been freely given, beginning with life itself. How many of us can truly say that they have?

Now of course saying that we are grateful is easy. We can all say that we are grateful for the gifts we have been given, whether at Christmas or throughout the year; whether these gifts are material or spiritual in nature. But I am not so sure that this is what gratitude actually is. To quote David Whyte:

“Gratitude is not a passive response to something given to us, gratitude is being awake in the presence of everything that lives within and without us. Gratitude is not something that is shown after the event, it is the deep, a priori state of attention that shows we understand and are equal to the gifted nature of life. Gratitude is the understanding that many millions of things come together and live together and mesh together and breathe together in order for us to take even one more breath of air, that the underlying gift of life and incarnation as a living, participating human being is privilege, that we are part of something, rather than nothing…Thankfulness finds its full measure in generosity of presence, both through participation and witness. We sit at the table part of every other person’s world while making our own world without will or effort, this is what is extraordinary and gifted, this is the essence of gratefulness, seeing to the heart of privilege. Thanksgiving happens when our sense of presence meets all other presences. Being unappreciative means we are simply not paying attention.”

This is really what I would like you to think about over the next of weeks as we approach Christmas. To consider the gifts that we have been granted and to perhaps think of the gifts we would like. To remember, but not passively, let’s instead make it an act of remembrance, of all that has been freely given to us, gifted to us. Let’s also make from these gifts a true act of gratitude for all that is our lives. Let’s become a part of the gift that is life itself and express this in our being. Let’s become the gift to the world. And pour out this gift on one another and to all life, in all that we feel, all that we think, all that we say and all that we do…