Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas '11

It's coming on Christmas
They're cutting down trees
Putting up reindeer
singing songs of Joy and Peace
J. Mitchell

As many of you know, who have read my blogs over the years, I'm a PK ... that stands for Preachers Kid.  My dad was a Congregational minister.  Thus, Christmas was always a command performance; a really big hoopla with carol singing, open house, Christmas eve services and huge family gatherings.  I have very fond memories of Christmas's past and so I still love Christmas.

I was out trail running this morning with just my dog.  It's finally gotten cold in Maine and feeling more like December, still no snow, but this morning the ground is starting to freeze and there was ice on the puddles in the woods.  This morning I got thinking about my dad.  This time of year I usually do.  And I was remembering bits and pieces of growing up with a church as your playground and my dad as a philosopher and theologian.

Dad taught that the Bible was an amazing book of stories and the finest collection of oral history .... but some of it needed to be taken for the great story that it was and not taken literally.  His sermons were about human kindness and angels existing here on earth in the form of good deeds and offering a hand to someone in need and love to those who had lost it.  He taught tolerance and acceptance as this is what the Bible really teaches and what he believed Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad ... all the great philosophers taught.

Dad use to take us kids out every spring to find the patches of mayflowers growing deep in the woods and I fell in love with the intoxicating smell of this tiny woodland flower.  Dad would look at us with a twinkle in his eye and say "let's go hunt Lady Slippers!" ... and off we would trudge to count how many beautiful, pink Maine orchids we could find.  On summer evenings he would take us out to the knoll where we would lay in the field and stare up at the stars while Dad pointed out the constellations to us and talked about light years away and infinity.

When I turned twelve years old my dad told me I could now join the church.  Really?  What must I do?  "Well," he said, "you need to come sit with other people who will be joining the church at the same time and listen to my introduction and hear about what the church is."  OK, easy peasy.  So one evening I walked over with dad to his office in the basement of the church and sat my 12 year old self down with several other adults who were planning to join the church.  I listened and asked no questions .... but ....

The day before the "church-joining-service" I went to my father and asked if I could talk with him.  I bet I surprised him with my solemn approach and asking him to sit down and listen to me.  Not a frequent request from his most timid and quiet child.  I looked at my father, took a deep breath and said, "I'm not going to join your church".   Dad raised his eyebrows, pierced his lips and softened his eyes and said "OK, your reasoning?"  ... "well, you taught me to worship the scent of a Mayflower and you taught me that Lady Slippers are intricate art work of a Greater hand.  You taught me to watch for a falling star and how Orion's Belt got named.  You taught me that God exists in all of these things, outside in the woods and in the starry heavens and in my heart.  You taught me to feel love and awe in all that exists in the natural world. And now you are saying that we will worship God in this house with a steeple on it.   I disagree. So, I can't join your church."

And then I held my breath.

Dad starred at me, and slowly a smile came to his eyes and then to his entire face.  And he said "you're absolutely right."

With my fathers blessing I never joined the church.  But I went to "church" this morning as I ran through the woods smelling balsam furs, noting the gorgeous ice crystals formed in the frost heaving of the soil, and stopped to stare at the brilliant streaks of pink in the sky as the sun peeked over the horizon.  And I offered a prayer of gratitude for all that I have and all the love that I feel.

"It's coming on Christmas .... "  and my thoughts turn to my dad and the fabulous way he taught what it means to be "Spiritual".  How he taught me  to give thanks, every day and to count my blessings.  How he lived his life with gratitude and, especially, how to be kind and loving.

And most importantly he taught me that no matter what you call God: Jesus, Great Spirit, Buddha or Mohammad .... they all were preaching the same lesson.  LOVE.

Maybe it can be that simple.

Have a safe and joyous Holiday season.

LOVING you all back,