Advent – Give


Today’s word is “give.” Conveniently, today is also Giving Tuesday, an altruistic answer to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, two days named after shopping events.

I didn’t give anything today. I didn’t have much to give today, either in the way of money or in the way of emotional support. I drank too much tequila last night and woke up with a hang-graine (a slight hangover that sparked a migraine). I drank too much tequila yesterday because I was enjoying myself and tequila sometimes helps me ignore the mean voice inside my head. I had a hard time ignoring the mean voice inside my head because I hadn’t been taking my vitamins or giving myself enough “down” time after a long weekend of socializing and being “on.”

AdventWord_Give

I know the primary intention behind this AdventWord is to encourage us to give of ourselves to others. We cannot survive as a society if we do not support each other and share our gifts. The world would be so much nicer if everyone took it upon themselves to genuinely care about others outside their family and social circle. Not just blithely donate canned goods once a year, but actually go work to end hunger in their community. Not just hand out a pair of socks to the homeless man on the corner, but actively work to end homelessness.

These are worthy goals.

But so often, we forget to give ourselves the care we need. We ignore the signs that we are neglecting our emotional or physical health because we’re too busy being there for someone else. Or because we don’t think we’re worthy. Or because of another of what are probably a million different reasons.

note-to-self

There’s a meme I’ve seen in social justice circles suggesting we care for ourselves as we would a toddler: feed yourself something healthy, make sure to get enough rest, take your medicine, go outside and move around. It might seem silly at first, but don’t let its simplicity fool you. It’s a vital reminder. The fact that it was created in the first place means someone felt it was important enough to spend the time creating a reminder. That it gets shared around frequently means it resonates with a lot more people.

The idea is that one cannot help others without first taking care of their own needs. It’s the old line from the flight safety spiel: put your own mask on before helping others with their masks. You cannot help someone else breathe if you can’t breathe yourself.

So, what I am giving on this day? I am giving myself a break. I am giving myself permission to feel sad or angry or disappointed in myself, but then I’m giving myself a healthy dose of forgiveness.

And while I’m at it, I’m giving myself the freedom to not know what I want to do with myself. I’m giving myself a chance to sit with uncertainty and listen to myself as I work through it. And, most importantly, I’m giving myself as much love and kindness I can muster, and permission to seek reinforcement from others.

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Advent – Wake Up


The television and internet are designed to hold our attention. Have you ever noticed how sometimes it’s difficult to turn away? How you keep surfing channels or sites, looking for entertainment long after you’ve said there’s nothing of value there?

More and more people are taking “social media breaks” where they quit for a couple of hours or even a couple of days. All because they are aware that the pull to constantly check for status updates and read notifications is eating away at their precious time.

I haven’t quite gotten to around to something that drastic but I feel like I’m ready to try it. Ever since the autumnal equinox I’ve tried to spend the half hour around sunset each night sitting in my living room with lighted candle and a book, welcoming the darkness while I carry the light inside. It’s a ceremony I started last year and one that has given me a sense of peace and connection with the earth and the seasons and my place in both.

But even so, my typical week only sees me making two trips downstairs in the late afternoon. Because of the near-compulsion to be online to read more, watch more, connect more, even as I know I actually need to disconnect more.

That’s why I cherish Advent and Lent and the activities related to prayer and contemplation associated with both. This year I will be following AdventWord, if not always here, at least always on social media.

After lighting the first candle in the beautiful advent wreath my mother gave me (and taking a picture for social media, of course), I set down my phone and sat quietly for 10 minutes, thinking about the word for today, #WakeUp, and what it means to me.

To wake up, we first have to realize we’ve been asleep. As we come into consciousness, we leave the world of dreams and enter the world of action. We tell people to “wake up and smell the coffee” as a way to get them to see the truth about a situation. In the social justice arena, we implore folks “Stay Woke” once they’ve been able to realize the truth about how the world works, as a reminder to not slip back into habitual thinking and acting.

I admit I am not a devout Christian by anyone’s standard. If anything, I am a lapsed agnostic. My faith and spirituality doesn’t fit neatly into any of the boxes I’ve come across, and instead I’ve taken it upon myself to create my own. But even so, there a times when I find the traditions of the church I grew up in to be a valuable tool for expressing my beliefs. The rituals of reflection and prayer around Advent and Lent are especially resonant for me, coming at times in the year when such activities are welcome as a quiet space in an otherwise hectic schedule.

Advent is a time of preparation. Not just a pre-Christmas warm-up, but a time to create a space for the message and meaning of Christ’s coming. It is a time for me to reflect on what that message means to me and how I can actively live it out. Meditation and prayer are not simply one-way communications with the divine, they are part of an active and on-going conversation, filled with hope, motivation, support, and most importantly, guidance on how to be an agent for love and kindness in the world. A prayer without action is simply words — powerless, impotent, nothing more than noise. We must recognize that a prayer is a call to action. We must be the ones to carry it out into the world. To make it happen.

The command to “Wake Up” is a call to step out of our comfortable bubble and look around us. Where are we needed? Where can we help?

There are many in positions of power who would prefer we stayed asleep — unquestioning, uninterested, and uninvolved. The work to divide us, fostering hate and deception, and rewarding ignorance. They lie and tell us to fear differences, to fear change, to fear the “other.” Tragically, too many too often use Jesus’s name to do so.

As a progressive Christian, as lax as I am, it is my prayer that we can find a way to overcome that fear and hatred and replace them with love and kindness. It is my duty to make it so.