Sunday, December 25, 2011

Awakening to Christmas

I had a chance to catch a bit of a terrific program on my local PBS station last week, after the last present for the gift drives was sent. "A Journey of Faith: Judaism and Christianity" explored some of the similarities between the two religions' philosophies too subtle for most of us to understand readily. I was happily surprised to discover that Judaism views the Lord's prayer in an experiential way, in the way that I have since I discovered the omnipresence of G_d when I was 5. I have always loved the reverential way Jewish people undertake life; the first time I attended morning prayer at the Shul where my former philosophy professor was the de facto rebbe I was, like probably some of the rest of the congregation, half asleep and going through the motions of reciting the opening prayers. It didn't take long before I started grousing silently. "Why do we HAVE to express our thanks for TREES?" Thankfully, the answer presented itself directly: without trees - beautiful, bountiful, diverse trees - life on earth wouldn't be possible. They're the lungs of our planet, sucking up and cleaning all the CO2 from the atmosphere. Then it hit me; why WOULDN'T we give our thanks and praise for other of G_d's creations without which our lives wouldn't be as pretty or even possible. All of a sudden, I was AWAKE.

I eagerly scanned ahead, up to the place in the prayers where the rest of the congregation had read while my attention had been diverted, slightly disappointed that I had missed the chance to praise water and whatever else I had inadvertently skipped.  Epiphanies are addictive, and I wanted more.  The prayers were soon over though, and, sadly, I realized so, too, was that moment.  That was the moment I truly understood what the word, 'bittersweet,' meant - and that other, blessed moments awaited other sacred hours, if I was only willing to be fully present.

Jesus could not have been the sage he was, if he hadn't been schooled in a tradition that revered the potential for goodness that inhabits every moment  and evidence of this divine wisdom in creation, and he couldn't have taught us, so succinctly, to abide G_d in every moment, every interaction with another, as he did in what we call the Agape doctrine, if he hadn't been the accomplished sage he was.  Here's hoping your holidays are filled with such moments, too. Cherish them all as the miracles they are.

Happy Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

More Holiday Cheer

Yesterday, I posted information on a holiday gift drive taking place right now to help the residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation and other native communities. What I didn't realize then was that many of the children who need some holiday cheer are teenagers, whose needs are often over-looked (as well as those of the elders) at this time of year.

Here is information about a unique gift drive being sponsored just for them:

Teenagers are often left out. So this year The Oglala Commemoration is planning "Shoe Box" gifts.  It's simple.  Get a shoe box and fill it with teen stuff (including hygiene supplies, gloves, socks, t-shirts, and other items small enough to fit in the box).  Please place a note on the box indicating whether the box is for a girl or boy and the age range of items in the box.  These boxes may be sent to:

Eileen Janis
PO Box 525
Crazy Horse Ave.
Pine Ridge, SD 57770

If you would like to sponsor some boxes with your friends or organizations, cash donations may be sent to:

Oglala Commemoration 
1939 Wentzville Parkway
Wentzville, MO  63385 

Of course, gifts for people of all ages are always welcome and can be sent to:

Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, Belcourt, North Dakota (Leonard Peltier's Nation)
TMBCI Holiday Gift Drive
Attention Cindy Malaterre
PO Box 900
Belcourt, ND 58316  
Oglala Sioux Nation, Pine Ridge, South Dakota
Paul Waha Shields
PO Box 1659
Pine Ridge, SD  57770

Thanks, again, people for your generosity.