Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Christmas Wish for All Y'All

There was a time not too long ago when I was lost. I had a compass, but I failed to use it properly.

Eventually I got my bearings again and I used them to steer me toward something that would always see me through anything. It's an inner flame, a sense of self and an understanding that I'm worthy of love and trust and respect, and that if I am to receive those things from other people, I had better be sure not only that I am capable of receiving them, but willing to give them to myself, too.

Thanks to that journey, I am more than capable and willing to give these things and more to others. And while I have hit some serious potholes along the way, I remind myself that a closed heart is no good to the world.

Some things in my life changed rather suddenly just before this Christmas, and I am sad, confused, and a little heartbroken. But Christmas comes nonetheless, and with it the same dastardly hope I bring to every day. I have just finished arranging the packages under the tree and smiling on the evening I spent with my kids, eating a wonderful meal, listening to Dickens, sprinkling the telltale oatmeal that my daughter believes will guide Santa's reindeer to her doorstep.

The knowledge that there are good things in each day because I have the ability to bring them about is what makes my life go. I have an enormous amount to look forward to if I choose to make it happen. I choose to take care of myself, to continue to learn, to push myself into places that might be a little unfamiliar, and to somehow remind the people I love that I love them, either by some act or word. I know I should do this more often than I do and there are many people who deserve this reminder.

While many of us lament the commercial habits of the season, many others do treat this time of year as a religious period. The focus on Jesus Christ whose birth many commemorate at this time draws people inward, which I think is a good thing, however it happens. People need time to reflect, really reflect, on the quality of their lives, their relationships, and their contribution to humanity.

I have of late become very attached to the Mountain Heart rendition of a very old traditional hymn, Tedious and Tasteless. The words were written by John Newton in 1779, and set to a hymn tune by JS Bach. In reviewing a number of midi and other clips today, I can hear it as a hymn easily enough. Hymns were something that brought me up, good ones really formed an early part of my spiritual growth.

And as much as I still admire and enjoy those old hymns and even some in their traditional garb, there is none so beautiful to me as the heartfelt, soulful expression of a single human voice raised the way one might reach for help. This version sung so beautifully by Mountain Heart really got my attention, and when I hear it, I always kind of pause and take in the words. The person is really questioning things pretty deeply -- questioning his value, questioning why his life seems so empty and everything is so dull, questioning the existence of God, pleading to be taken to a place where he might be near something that makes everything better. But the truth is we can seek those things from within and of ourselves, and must, whether we believe in God or not.

This Christmas, my wish for you, regardless of what path you trod, believer or not, is that you make a promise to yourself to light your inner flame, find your compass, and turn first to yourself for fulfillment in your life. Don't exchange one addiction for another, whether it's religion or alcohol or sex or work or school or that Wii thing, whatever it is. Find you. Trust you. Don't rush to fill every empty space until you understand why those spaces are there. (Sometimes we're not supposed to fill them up.) When you come to understand and love who you really are, empty spaces and all, you'll find your life is no longer as tedious as it once felt.

To all, a peaceful night, silent or as loud with music and laugther as you wish.

Tedious and Tasteless

How tedious and tasteless the hours
When Jesus I no longer see;
Sweet prospects, sweet birds and sweet flowers,
Have all lost their sweetness to me;
The midsummer sun shines but dim,
The fields strive in vain to look gay.
But when I am happy in Him,
December’s as pleasant as May.

His Name yields the richest perfume,
And sweeter than music His voice;
His presence disperses my gloom,

And makes all within me rejoice.
I should, were He always thus nigh,
Have nothing to wish or to fear;
No mortal as happy as I,
My summer would last all the year.

Content with beholding His face,
My all to His pleasure resigned,
No changes of season or place
Would make any change in my mind:
While blessed with a sense of His love,
A palace a toy would appear;
All prisons would palaces prove,
If Jesus would dwell with me there.

Dear Lord, if indeed I am Thine,
If Thou art my sun and my song,
Say, why do I languish and pine?
And why are my winters so long?
O drive these dark clouds from the sky,
Thy soul cheering presence restore;
Or take me to Thee up on high,
Where winter and clouds are no more.

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