by Christine Sine
You probably realize by now that I love to mess with traditions and reshape liturgical practices and seasons to better fit my own state of mind and the issues I am grappling with. As the war in Israel/Palestine rages on, I find my gratitude season has become instead a season of grief and gratitude. I blogged about that last week, but today realized there is another aspect of this that I wanted to share.
This week my focus revolved around the question “What is life gaining and what is life draining at the moment?
I wrote “Say no to what is life-draining” and then began to list what came to mind.
- Turn my back on negative thinking about what I am doing, the future, and the world around me. That only leads to despair and depression.
- Say no to Christmas shopping. I find it overwhelming and very draining to do Christmas shopping in the weeks before Christmas. Even the steady stream of ads and hyped-up incentives to buy more that flood my inbox leave me feeling exhausted. So during November, I will try to keep this exposure to a minimum.
- Switch off the news. Watching too much news about the wars in Ukraine and Israel/Palestine, climate change, political upheaval and polarization, refugee crises, and hurricane devastation overwhelms and drains me leaving me feeling inadequate and useless. Switching off the news doesn’t mean I don’t take notice of it, but it does mean I don’t allow it to control my life.
- Say no to too much food and “Christmas cheer”. The guilt that goes with overeating and overconsuming is not only draining but actually makes me want to eat more and it seems to begin earlier every year, usually as the cold weather sets in. Now is the time to choose which gatherings are life-gaining and which are life-draining and say no to the ones I don’t really want to go to anyway. One of our favorite gatherings over the Advent season is going to the Messiah and we have already booked our tickets for that.
Then I started to think about what is life gaining for me. Part of what I realized is that there are solutions to my life-draining challenges that are actually life-gaining.
- Negative thinking can become hope and promise if I focus on where I see God’s love and joy breaking through – Instead of saying “I can’t do this” I can say “This is hard but I can persevere.” Or I can say “In the midst of this difficult challenge I am grateful for friends and family that support me.” We can also do what my friend Sue Duby taught me to do – look for the joy spots. Instead of asking “Why did God let this happen?” ask “Where is God already at work in the situation that drains me? How can I join in? “
What could you do to focus away from negative thoughts onto the positive?
- Transform crises into opportunities for generosity. Watching the news about the devastation of the wars and earthquakes, floods, and droughts as well as speaking to friends who work with refugees, the homeless and those at the margins of society spurs me to be generous with my giving and my volunteering over the next few months.
How could you respond to the crises in the world around you? Is God prompting you to be more generous to others with your time or resources?
- Plan for shows that are life-giving. Over the last few months, Tom and I have found an array of wonderful programs on Netflix and Britbox that are very life-gaining for us – stories about creative animals and the natural wonders of our world. Stories about families that care for each other and their neighbors. It has transformed our TV and live-streaming focus. Thinking about the “shows” that are life-gaining for me spurs me on to plan our Advent and Christmas watching in advance – Messiah, Advent carols, Advent retreat. There are wonderful life-gaining alternatives.
What entertainment over the next couple of months would be life-giving for you? How could you say no to those that are not?
- Plan parties that are life-giving. By now you probably realize that I love to plan parties and the Advent season is one of my favorites to get ready for. Since COVID we no longer hold big gatherings in our house, but I still do lots of cooking for friends and family across the country. Next week I will pull out my copy of The Godspacelight Community Cookbook to get some new ideas. I will soak fruit for the English-style Christmas cake that is always so popular. (yep it needs to soak for a month before I make the cake) I might even get my first batch of Scottish shortbread though of course that can encourage me to start overeating early. Cooking at this season, knowing that I will share it with others is very life-giving for me.
Planing parties and cooking may not be life-giving for you, but what are the ways that you like to bless others? What are the sharing activities you love to participate in or plan for over the Thanksgiving/Advent and Christmas season?
- Plan for a zero-waste DIY Christmas. What if I aim at a zero-waste Christmas this year? Making Christmas gifts is life-gaining for me. What about a totally homemade gift for Christmas this year? It’s time to pull out the knitting needles and maybe make some of those photo albums Jean Andrianoff talked about in her post A Practical Way to Share the Wonder Not only is that a fun and life-gaining thought, it is also an inspiring and joy-filled one.
Maybe homemade gifts don’t appeal to you but how could you reduce the stress of Christmas gift-giving this year?
- Create spiritual practices that are life-gaining. My focus on gratitude is just one of the spiritual practices I plan to use in the coming months. I hope to paint leaves, and pine cones at our community meal – a wonderful beginning to the season and something that helps all of us slow down, reflect and relax. Meditation gardens are part of my delight at this season too, becoming more and more a part of how I love to prepare for a new season. I plan to refresh my memory by rereading the section in Digging Deeper: The Art of Contemplative Gardening on how to create a contemplative garden and will then get to work on an Advent garden which I plan to create before the beginning of Celtic Advent in November 15th. Other practices enrich the season for me too. The Advent Quiet Day retreat is something that I find I value as much for myself as for the enrichment of others. -I will also start to add Advent images to use as I redecorate my sacred space for Celtic Advent.
What are the practices that are life-giving for you over the Thanksgiving/Advent and Christmas seasons? How can you make sure that you protect these practices?
The upcoming seasons of Thanksgiving and Advent are meant to be joyous and celebrated. Prayerfully consider ways that you could make this more of a focus in the coming month… and maybe you could join us for our retreat on December 9th as a start.
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