Being Kind on the Winter Solstice

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice, Dec. 21, 2014 photo credit - Kevin Jones

Winter Solstice, Dec. 21, 2014
photo credit – Kevin Jones

Being Kind on the Winter Solstice

Today is the Winter Solstice. It is the shortest day of the year, for those of you who are not familiar with this terminology. Yes, it is also Sunday. I led a worship service at my church this morning. Yet, I also walked through a sleeping garden today. The Chicago Botanic Gardens.

The Winter Solstice is the time of the shortest day, the time of the longest night. Starting tomorrow, the days will grow longer once more and the dark will wane. But today, tonight is the time of the most dark.

This morning at church was the fourth Sunday of Advent. We lit four Advent candles on the Advent wreath this morning. The lighting of candles, the return of the light is a prominent feature of the Christmas festival. The kindling of light is a similar feature in many other midwinter festivals—Hanukkah, for example. Sankta Lucia, and the Yule Log, to mention two more.

At the Botanic Garden at this time of the year, the lights are prominently displayed in many parts of the central gardens. Since this past weekend had a few temperate days, lots of people were visiting. Walking the paths, through the greenhouses, and viewing the special display. Oh, and the lights. Over 750,000 strings of lights decorate the outside areas. Mostly white lights, but also mixed with some red and green, with a few golden accents.

My husband, daughter and I walked through the garden, as I said, later in the afternoon. We sat on a bench for some little while, looking across the lagoon. And as dusk approached in the muted light of the overcast afternoon, the strings of colored lights shone more brightly.

When I see the quiet panorama of the winter Garden, I think of nature sleeping. I see the effects of the decreasing light. Because of my line of work, from time to time I have people telling me of their sadness, sometimes depression, at this holiday time of the year. Sometimes, it is beneficial to sit and be quiet at this time—if we can find the time. Certain people set aside the time around the Solstice as a time of quiet and reflection. (Just a suggestion.)

I try to meditate and pray on a regular basis. At the Winter Solstice, at the waning of the year, I can take advantage of this quiet, peaceful time. I can use this time not only for reflection, but also to let go. To release sad things, mad things, bad things. To lighten up and get rid of resentments and other baggage I’m holding onto. That way, I’m not only being kind to others, I am ultimately being kind to myself.

And, God willing, I can spread some of the light. The light that God brings into the world.

Winter Solstice at dusk, Dec. 21, 2014 photo credit - Kevin Jones

Winter Solstice at dusk, Dec. 21, 2014
photo credit – Kevin Jones

@chaplaineliza

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Helping through Reflection and Planning

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, September 22, 2014

HAPPY make your soul happy

Helping through Reflection and Planning

Thank you. Thanks to all of you who faithfully follow this blog. Or even, occasionally follow this blog. I appreciate your presence, your comments, and your prayers and good thoughts. I may not have outwardly said anything up to this point (at least, out loud or in print), but I sincerely do thank you for your reading.

For those of you following at home, you may have noticed that I went on a silent retreat on Saturday. A Soul Care Day, a day set aside for spiritual reflection, direction and spiritual formation. This day of silent prayer was rich for me! I received so much from it. I not only received spiritual nurture and recharging, personally, but I also received some good thoughts and leadings about several situations that are on my mind. So—all to the good!

Now, what about the reflection-and-planning part? Where does that come in?

I needed to put the final touches to planning the Sunday worship service today, and everything fell into place. (Excellent!) I also put in some time to planning World Communion Sunday, October 5th. I enjoy crafting a worship service, and finding complementary parts of the service, as well as appropriate hymnody and special music. Now, I just have to write the sermon for Sunday . . .

The notes and reflections which I wrote down on Saturday are a treasure trove for me, upon reflection. I am grateful and appreciative that I was able to take the time to attend this Soul Care Day. I realize only now that the insights I received are like layers of an onion—and that I have substantial work to do to mine the information and get further insights. More will be revealed to me, I’m sure. More, over time. That’s what I need for right now.

Upon reflection, I feel like the Little Engine that Could. (I think I can, I think I can!) Chugging right along, steadily, my calendar is never boring!

@chaplaineliza

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Kind to Myself at a Silent Retreat

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, September 20, 2014

Be still, and know that I am God Ps 46-1

Kind to Myself at a Silent Retreat

I spent today in silence. At least, most of the day. In silence, reflection, prayer, and meditation.

At first, when I thought about participating in this retreat, I couldn’t justify spending a whole Saturday away. A whole Saturday when I intentionally separated myself from the busy, day-to-day, hustle and bustle. But the more I thought about it, the more I considered it to be something I needed to do. For myself, and for my spiritual health.

So, yes. I was kind to myself today. As the title of the day of prayer said, this was a Soul Care Day. A day to be gentle with the soul, and to reflect on scripture. The two reflections of the day touched me deeply. (Both on the Good Shepherd; the morning reflection on Psalm 23, and the afternoon reflection on John 10.) It was deeply moving to have a connection with God in such an intimate way. Another powerful thing that moved me as well was the additional material each participant received.

I found I appreciated the prompts that helped me join this silent retreat fully. Concerns (about myself, others close to me, my work), weariness (of body, mind or spirit), distractions (that occupy or nag at my mind or heart) and fears (“what ifs,” outcomes, expectations). I was encouraged to bring any or all of these things to conscious awareness, as they came to mind, and set them aside. So I might fully enter into the retreat.

A third thing that touched me deeply was a private prayer time I had with the retreat leaders. This was a kind and giving act they offered. A precious gift, and I welcomed it. Three people prayed with me. One I have only known and seen several times. The other two I have known for a long time. One woman has a number of children, with two the exact ages of my two youngest. She and I were in a mom’s bible study together for years, before I even went to seminary. (And the third? My spiritual director, and an amazing woman of faith.)

It was restful and helpful for me to step away. Step out of a leadership position at the church where I work, and rest in the hands of God. Walk with the Good Shepherd for a short time, and rest in the green pastures of God’s grace and love. Thank You, God, for this wonderful opportunity to rest in You.

@chaplaineliza

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