Saturday, January 5, 2019

Ministry on a Daily Basis: Peer Support

Well. Here it is the fifth day of the new year, and I haven't posted a pastoral blog since November. If you've read my previous blog entries you know that I am a bi-vocational minister. This means that in order to pay my share of the household bills and afford to support this ministry, I need a "day job." I am extremely fortunate, as I have been able to find a day job that allows me to minister to others just about every day. In my position with a behavioral health non-profit in Arizona, I work with adult individuals who are often homeless, struggling with addiction and mental health issues, and related problems ranging from unemployment to suicidal ideation. Currently, my job title is Clinical Services Liaison. My main tasks are to outreach and register individuals for the program I work for. In the course of my duties, I often provide "counseling."

I place that in quotation marks because I am not a licensed therapist, and I do not provide the kind of counseling that a licensed therapist or social worker is trained to provide. I do provide the level of counseling I am trained for as a Chaplain and a Pastoral Care provider. Perhaps it could be considered a little bit of "Life Coaching," or "Spiritual Direction." However, I don't do this in the guise of a priest. In my day job, I am simply utilizing skills I have acquired through my pastoral and chaplaincy training to help clients to discover and articulate their life goals. More importantly, I use my life experiences to work with the clients as a Peer.

When I started with this company, my job was to provide Peer Support as a Crisis Transition Navigator. Navigation and Peer Support are just about the only jobs I can think of where an individual's mistakes in life are a positive point on their résumé. My experiences as a domestic violence victim, a single mother, a person who has temporarily experienced homelessness, a person who has suffered from situational depression, a family member of individuals who have been part of the behavioral health system, as a person who has lived through times of overindulgence in alcohol and other substances myself, and as a relative and spouse of addicts has provided me with the ability to identify with most of the clients who come into our program.

As Peers, the ability to identify with the challenges our clients face gives us a level of empathy that invites the clients to put their trust in us. I cannot count on both hands the number of times a client has told me that they could not open up to a person who never experienced the kind of life they have faced. When a client hears that I, too, have had to escape the horrors of a physically abusive spouse, the client is able to breathe a sigh of relief, knowing not only that they are not alone, but that there is hope for them that their lives will improve, as mine has. It doesn't matter if the client is male, female, or non-binary. What matters is the experience and my ability to compassionately hear their story.

Clients who struggle with addiction are touched when they find that their Peer Support provider is also in recovery. I am not in recovery, but I have experienced what has been called "situational addiction," recreational use of certain substances, and have been in relationship with others who have struggled with opioid, amphetamine, and alcohol addiction. Even so, my clients find me to be an empathetic and caring Peer who understands where the client is "coming from." The most important part of being a Peer Support Specialist is the ability to understand the client's point of view, and to meet them "where they are right now," without any expectation of them meeting specific criteria or demands.

Peer Support Specialists often face a type of discrimination from other healthcare providers. Peer Support Specialists undergo training that provides them the tools to set boundaries between themselves and their clients. They are trained in guidelines for providing professional services while also disclosing a limited amount of personal information while outreaching a client. Nevertheless, there are many who look at a Peer Support provider as simply being "another addict." Rising above the negative perceptions of one's mistakes in life is difficult. When an individual identifies themselves as a Peer, there are some professionals who don't recognized the value of lived experience.

Here in Arizona, we are working on that. More and more, the value of a Peer Support Provider is recognized. As time goes by and statistics are collected, in becomes clear that a client with a Peer Support Provider or Navigator is more likely to be able to follow up on the requirements of treatment and the legal system. With a good, caring, and strong Peer Navigator, a client who is motivated to improve thier life is more likely to achieve success. I don't have the actual statistics, but Peer Support is an evidence based practice that is proven to help individuals make positive changes in their lives.

There are all kinds of Peer Support Specialists. Some work with individuals, other work with families. Some work in the medical field. Others, like me, work in behavioral health. As the benefits of Peer Support become better understood, the possibilities are endless.

I wanted to share this with you, because  I know that Peer Support is a positive and compassionate profession that allows people who have faced hard times to use that experience to help others come through their difficult situations. I want to reach out to those who are searching for a meaningful career who have "been there." If you are one of us, consider Peer Support as a possible new career track. Of course, in full disclosure, this isn't an area where you'll get rich, so if wealth is your goal, this isn't for you. However, if your goal in life is to be able to help others, to use your experiences in life creatively, and to give hope to the hopeless, Peer Support might just be for you.

Think about it - and may your have a happy and joyous 2019!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Birthing Hope

As a bi-vocational priest, it sometimes seems like opportunities to act in the "official" capacity are few and far between. Yet, when those opportunities arise, there is a joy that bubbles up inside me that cannot be described other than to say, I feel blessed. The month of October brought me two weddings this year, both of which took place outdoors. One was held in the White Mountains on a rainy day in the woods; the other, just a week later, took place at the foot of the Superstition Mountains in the center of a labyrinth. While one of these weddings was completely secular, the other included references to the Divine; yet both couples held Handfasting Ribbons and bound one another to promises. Both ceremonies were glorious. Both couples look forward to long, happy relationships. I am thrilled to have been a part of their big days.

I am preparing to print out a brochure with descriptions and pricing for services I provide in the capacity of priest. It's a little discomfiting, to think of these things from a business perspective. I am a person who deals in human compassion, empathy, and love. You really cannot put a price tag on these things. However, one must also make a living, and our time and effort are worth something. The "day job" provides income and insurance, but being in a social services position is not particularly financially lucrative. It's taken me a long time to bring myself to being able to set a cost to the ministerial services I provide. Now that I've done it, I've procrastinated on printing it out. By rights, it should have been delivered to the local wedding venues and other places before this "snowbird" season in the Southwest began last month. This is how I sabotage myself, isn't it. One of a million ways...

Brigid in the Desert hosted an in-person gathering every month for the first 2/3 of this year. When there were two or more of us sitting together at a table in discussion, it was awesome. Unfortunately, we are a small group of individuals with a variety of challenges. Toward the end of summer, some of our physical challenges made it difficult to meet in person. Instead, we have been chatting on the Facebook page and in the Facebook group, Brigid in the Desert Discussions. We have talked about everything from pain and spiritual experience to our interactions with those who have crossed beyond the veil from this world into the next. We are a diverse, fun, and hopeful group. Feel free to join us!

Now it's November. The Wheel of the Year has taken us past Samhain and the beginning of new life after the death of summer. We head into a time of deliberate thanksgiving, at least here in the United States, as well as a conversation around the meaning of that "First Thanksgiving" and our relationships with the Indigenous people of this land. There is much to wrestle with.

The nights are darkening earlier and we notice a chill in the air, even here in the Sonoran Desert. In the mountains and across the northern parts of the globe, the scent of ice and snow reinvigorates our senses and reminds us of cozy childhood evenings and Yuletide dreams. No matter our religious or spiritual heritage, there are memories of gifts and light and new hope that is born at the end of the calendar year. The Wheel turns. We grow older. Sometimes we forget the power of that innocent hope. At this time of year, we can be reminded of it; it can be reborn in us, if we let it.

If there is anything Americans -- and many others around the world -- can use right now, it's a newborn hope. Let's let it be born in us!

Let us birth a new hope.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Walking on Air...A Lesson Learned Past Midlife

Salt River Canyon -- One of the roads I won't be driving myself.
I have to start with this: I am afraid of heights. Honestly, I've actually held my children back from the wall overlooking a beautiful canyon because I couldn't handle the strange sharpness in my heart that I felt when they ventured too close to the edge. Now, mind you, I've hiked some pretty good trails, but when they would get high on the side of a mountain, I would hug the rocky mountainside as if it were my mother. I'm not a screamer, nor have I ever refused to hike the trails because of the height. I also believe that I have enough faith to know that most of the time, no matter what my fight-or-flight response is telling me, everything will be alright. I have, however, refused to drive certain roads. Sometimes, I've just been a passenger in a car on one of those roads and decided I'm never, ever going to be behind the wheel on such a treacherous highway. However, I've even promised never again to drive a road that I've successfully managed, with a lot of prayer and white knuckles. The point is, of course, that heights bother me. Big time.

Salt River Canyon
Now, once upon a time when I was a young 20-something in the Massachusetts Air National Guard, I had the opportunity to rappel. As the Secretary for the Security Police at the 104 TFG at Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, Massachusetts, I was invited to join the SPs on their obstacle course, which included jumping off a 60 foot wall. In retrospect, I'm not sure I realized the wall was part of the course. I didn't want to be the only one from my unit who didn't do the course, so I accepted the invitation. Twice, I geared up with ropes and caribiners, leaned backwards off the wall, and slid down the rope to the ground below. I realize now that I was able to do it in spite of my fear because I was too proud to give in to my fear once I had accepted the challenge. So, I did it. I never planned to do anything like it again, unless I was faced with a life or death situation in which the only chance of survival required rappelling.

Then I turned 60. Now, there have been two milestones that have taken me by surprise. Turning 50 was the first. After my 50th birthday, I began to find that I was much happier in my own skin than I had ever been before. I relaxed and became a generally happier person. I became less fearful in many ways. The decade after 50 was filled with new experiences - commuting from Arizona to California for seminary; ups and downs in my discernment of ministry, which started in the United Methodist Church and ended up in the Universal Anglican Interspiritual Church; reconnecting with an old friend and discovering we were both in love and getting married. By the end of the decade, I had changed careers in my "day job," entering a field that had never even been on my radar. Yet, with all the new experiences, I had not yet truly been challenged. Rather, if I had been especially challenged, I either did not recognize the opportunity, or I turned away in fear.

Sixty happened this year, and it has already changed me. This is how.

I recently accepted a new position in the company I have been at for the last year and a half. With the new position, I became a member of a team that I had only been connected with in an ancillary fashion previously. Last week, our supervisors scheduled our quarterly staff meeting at a place called The Main Event. After the staff meeting, we were able to play. A few of my coworkers played laser tag. Most of us bowled. I bowled. But before the bowling was the true adventure. You see, they have this thing they call the Gravity Walk. It's a series of ropes and foam walkways that hangs 15 feet in the air, above the video games. When I first heard about it, I thought it might be one of those rock climbing walls, and I told myself I would try it. When I saw what it really was, I way I can do that. I stood by a table sipping a glass of water thinking about it when all of a sudden I heard myself telling a coworker that I was thinking about doing the Gravity Walk. 

That was it. She said, "We're doing it!" and we were off. Signed up, suited up, and standing on a ledge 15 feet above everybody else. Like the 20-something me who jumped off a wall because I said I would, I found myself walking across the first rope and stepping on a landing where my coworker waited for me.This second leg of the walk was harder. I stood on the landing, looking at the next step and thought "there's no way my foot will reach that spot." I stood there, pondering this space where between the landing where I stood and the foam walk seemed enormous and all I could see below was the floor. I was determined not to turn around. I stepped...onto the rope...and then onto the foam step. Each bit of the walk was different and posed a different challenge. Each time, I had to tell myself to take the step. Take the step. Even walking sideways on only a rope, holding on to one rope hanging from the ceiling, grabbing another as I stepped along the rope. I did it! I made it all the way around the Gravity Walk. All the way around, down the stairs, unburdened of my gear, and walking out, I said, "I'm going to do that again! Not now, but soon." And I will.

Me, 15 feet in the air!
What I learned is this. Walking the rope is a perfect metaphor for making decisions through life. Each new step is filled with trepidation and possible danger. Yet, if you take the step, even if you take a half step onto the rope and another half step to make to the next destination, you'll get somewhere. Turning around won't get you anywhere. Only facing the fear and making a decision to take a step will get you anywhere.

It isn't much. It seems a simple lesson. Yet, it's a lesson I had not truly learned until now. I've forged forward in many ways in life, but most everything that has happened in my life is something of an accident. I either made a decision without much thought, or I made no decision at all, and whatever would happen, happened. Now, I realized how much may have been different if I had not lived my life dictated by my fears. I think I was given an important message from the Divine, to be honest. A message about my own life.

From 60 onward may be the final part of a life on this plane of existence, but it need not be the end of my life yet. There is no need to let fear cripple me. From now on, I will be brave. I will courageously face whatever is before me, and decide for myself what step to take.

From now on, I am on an adventure!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Yearnings of a Priest/ess

There is this strange emotion that I feel when I see people on television shows and movies sitting in a church having private time with God. The old churches, the stained glass, the cross...

The faith so deep, so pure. I feel the emotion and I wish that I had that kind of faith.

And yet, I know that I do have this faith. This deep faith that is in the God in whom these people seek solace. I know this God.

What I see portrayed in these faithful characters is a quality that makes me a bit jealous. That quality is a simple faith. It's a faith that is not encumbered by politics. Yet, oh how we know the church has been encumbered by politics for so long.

When I see the people in India at the temples, bringing offerings for puja, dancing joyously playing instruments and singing chants, I feel joy and a sense of loss, as if I were missing the kind of celebration that they bring to their worship! I see the people and I feel the emotion and I know that I feel the same, that I know their God, for theirs is the same God in whom all other people find such deep and profound faith.

And this faith, too, is a simple faith, without prejudice, without politics. Yet we know that this religion is political, too.

When I read the words of the Buddha, and those of his followers from both the past and present, I feel a sense of peace. I feel wistful that I do not have such profound peace in my soul. I feel this, and in a moment I recognize that I do have this sense of peace. And I know this relationship with All That Is, and it is simple. Without politics.

When I read the words of Jesus, I know that his Way is also simple. It is simple to love. Yet we who choose to live in Love are faced with politics every single day, for those who work against such simplicity are powerful. We are forced to make Love political.

Yes, my faith is easy, but the way I live it out is not so simple. I find my religion to be filled with various reflections of God. Goddesses, Gods, Prophets, Seers, Bodhisattvas. Stained glass and brass bells, crystal bowls and crystal stones, crosses, pentacles, and ankhs... So many different ways to reach across the span between this world and the next, between the veil of our living and the veil of the Otherworld, between awake time and dream time. So many ways to pray, and so many ways to meditate.

So many ways of ritual, so many ways to hear the Voice of God.

Sometimes I yearn to sit in an old Cathedral alone in the silence and feel the Presence of God, as if I knew no other way.

Sometimes I want to dance on a path of flowers and cry out, Shiva! Shakti! Ganesha! Give me a boon!

Sometimes I yearn to stand alone in the storm and call Kali! Freya! Give me strength! Give me power!

Sometimes I dream of walking alone in a velvet cape, casting blessing-spells. I, the local Witch, with familiar cat at heel, calling upon the ancient Gods of her Celtic and Nordic past.

Always, no matter what name I call, no matter what I pray for, I know that I will be answered by the One Who is All That Is. The One with no name, Who is the Universe, Who is the Quantum, Who is only One. The One Who is neither male nor female. The One Who has no name, but Who has all names.

Because of this, I cannot have a regular church. Because of this, I cannot have a building where I go each week to preach and serve. Because of this, I am a priest without a home, finding ways to serve in the community and providing Rites of Passage and prayers of many kinds.

know this, and yet sometimes in my heart, I simply want to don a stole and stand before a congregation and praise God by all Their Names!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Across the Divide of Time

There's something about the arbitrary divide between old and new years that gets people all riled up about making changes in their lives. For years, it was a regular practice to come up with resolutions about how one planned to improve one's life over the coming year. In the past decade or so, however, it seems that this practice is falling by the wayside. Instead, people are choosing new ways of envisioning the year ahead.

I've seen some people posting on social media that they are choosing a word to represent their goals for the new year. In fact, only a couple of years ago, I did this and wrote about it on this blog, here. This year, I've been seeing posts from friends who simply list a few goals for the year. Rather than "resolutions," these are quantifiable goals with specific timelines or generalized ideas that encompass the vision of the person making them.

This year I decided to do two different things. At the request of a friend, I decided to join a small accountability group where we check in regarding our current life goals. With this group, I formulated a small list of quantifiable goals. These include being more intentional about making St. Brigid in the Desert UAIC an active, functional spiritual community, which I have identified as a "Church Without Walls," or "Church Without a Home;" having one St. Brigid event per month which is free and open to the public; and keeping up with the blogs and the newsletter on a regular basis.

On the other side of my list is being more consistent with my writing. Just having this much delineated gave these goals substance. They aren't just "something I want to do." They are something I WILL do. Pastoring a church is a real job, whether one is paid for pastoring or whether one is a bi-vocational pastor, as I am. In fact, these "nonpaid" priestly duties are more important than weddings and other rites of passage that I might be paid for, because these are the foundation of the church, the real purpose for its existence. The gatherings and social media content are where the real work of ministry gets done.

I've long been a fan of vision boards. Now, these are simply poster board with magazine pictures cut out and glued onto them in a sort of collage. What makes it a "vision" board is the intent behind the creation. My early vision boards were usually pictures of things I wanted to obtain or attain in the near future. This year, I chose to create a vision board specifically for what I wanted my 2018 to be like.

As the Spiritual Director for St. Brigid in the Desert UAIC, I thought that a Mini-Vision Board Workshop would be the perfect event to kick off the new year. Not only would it provide an excellent fellowship gathering, but it would also provide an opportunity for those who attend to work on their personal goals for the year. This was where I could pull together the dreams I have for my personal spiritual work. The gathering was a success. I enjoyed providing a short guided meditation to bring everyone to their vision board. Around the table, conversation helped build friendships and imagination brought together some beautiful collages. 

As for myself, I haven't quite finished the board. I created an eye and spirit pleasing board with quite a bit of white space. I think of it as "breathing room." It's appropriate, for the vision I am revealing on my board is that of a peaceful, uncluttered spirit. I have some busy-goals for my ministry and an active day job. The vision board goals are intended to offset this "busy-ness."


In the end, I guess I chose a word for the year, after all!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Miracles in the Dark

When my eldest daughter was a little girl, she saw an elf in the Christmas tree. I remember when she came to tell me about it, convinced that she had seen something. I didn't try to rationalize her experience. Who was I to say she hadn't seen something?

Certainly, by this time I had experienced enough "supernatural" events in my life to know that what we perceive as real is, well, real. Now, I am certain that some readers will be non-believers and others will be true believers in the supernatural. Some will differentiate between the "imaginary" supernatural of a spirit world of ghosts or that of elves and faeries and what they will deem the "real" supernatural of God, angels, and even demons.

However, I would challenge anyone who believes that one set of supernatural beings or events are real and others are not to consider the inconsistency of such a standard.There is much more to this world than what the physical eyes perceive, and there is sometimes more Truth in what we perceive intuitively than in what we have been taught is substantive. 

Christmas time is often a time of mixed messages. Many Christian parents tell their children about Santa and his elves while also celebrating a traditional Western-European style Christmas and attending church on Christmas Eve to celebrate the birth of the Baby Jesus. Other Christians eschew the traditions of a Dickensian Christmas and declare that we must all remember "the reason for the season," which they deem to be solely the birth of God incarnate.

While I respect this perspective, I find myself often thinking (sarcastically) that, no, the reason for the season is the tilt of the Earth's rotational axis away from the sun. I don't mean any disrespect when I think this, of course. However, as an Interspiritual Priest, I must acknowledge that this time of the year is not solely about the birth of Jesus. It is about all of the holy days and various stories of the many festivities that take place around this time. It is about rejoicing in the hope of light after the great darkness of the longest night.

For each of the many religions and cultures that have holy days around this time, the stories and traditions are very real to those who celebrate them. Yet, each of them might easily consider the traditions of others to be less real than their own. Generally, Christians see Jesus as either the unique Son of God or the one God incarnate. 

Many progressive Christians see Jesus as an embodiment of a Way of life desired by God rather than a Being more divine than any of the rest of us; rather, they might see him as an individual who became more than human by making choices that led him to live the Way of Love, even unto death. On another hand, non-Christians often see him as anything from a Wisdom Teacher to a Prophet, a Good Man, or a faerie tale.

Yet, at this time of year, there is one thing we might all agree on. In the hustle and bustle of daily life, whether it is the general business of the whole year or the wild and crazy business of secular holiday preparations, we all need a time when we can focus on joy. This is a rough time for many, for as the days grow short, the nights long, and the temperature colder (at least here in the northern hemisphere); it is easy to allow ourselves to become overwhelmed by sadness, grief, and the knowledge that another year has passed without us fully achieving our dreams.

Right in the midst of our darkest night, our traditions celebrate the coming light. We celebrate miracles of lamp oil lasting longer than it should have, of principals for living well, of a newborn savior, of the coming of spring, of the triumph of light over dark. We celebrate the miracle of giving generously and receiving graciously. We celebrate the spirit of gift giving in the person of a jolly Santa with eight reindeer delivering gifts on Christmas Eve night, a Norse Odin flying through the air on an eight legged horse leaving gifts in boots set by the hearth at Yule, a Yule Goat delivering gifts, or even the Italian Befana, a kind ugly witch who rides on a broomstick leaving gifts for children on Epiphany Eve.

You see? Mixed messages and supernatural happenings. Yet, it is all in good fun, good faith, and good fellowship! Did my daughter see an elf in the tree all those years ago? Maybe.Whether she saw an elf, something else, or nothing, that sighting has become a part of the narrative around our Christmas celebrations. It has become as real as her experience when she was three years old.

Whatever holiday you celebrate at this time of year, may you find joy in the tales and the traditions. May you find joy in knowing that after the darkest night, there will be a dawn.

Read the Yule blog at the St. Brigid in the Desert UAIC website.


Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Crack Where the Light Gets In (or, Christmas on the Event Horizon)

      I’ve been reading the Diane Duane Young Wizards series on the recommendation of my son. In this series, the wizards’ work is to slow down the entropy that was introduced into the world when one of the Powers of the Universe went rogue, becoming the Lone Power, or the Lone One. It isn’t hard to draw parallels with Judeo-Christian tales of fallen angels and the beginning of death in the world. However, the theology of Duane’s young adult series is not that of traditional religious teachings; rather, it’s more mystical…and more scientific. Ms. Duane may not have been thinking theology…but I am, and what I’m reading about in her books is Process Theology. She’s writing about life and death…and she’s writing about teamwork, and she writing about hope.

      That’s what it’s all about, you know; hope and our part in maintaining hope in our world. Death is not the end of things. Isn’t that one of the real messages of religion, that there is nothing to fear from death? Doesn’t religion teach that we are to work together, to give one another hope when the darkness seems inevitable? The young wizards in the series each have their own Ordeals to undergo, and their own tasks to perform, yet they work with one another to keep the Lone One at bay. In the third book of the series, High Wizardry, Ms. Duane writes of the Lone One, “…It doesn’t have infinite power. It’s peer to all the Powers, but not to That in Which They Move.”

      According to Luke, in Acts 17, Paul taught that we “live and move and have our being” in God. Jesus claimed that he was The Light of the World, yet in his Sermon on the Mount, he is recorded as teaching that we are the Light of the World. How can that be? How can both be true?

      Process Theology uses the language of quantum physics to explain the invisible intelligence behind – and in - all creation. “Wave and particle,” writes theologian Marjorie Suchocki in Divinity and Diversity:  A Christian Affirmation of Religious Pluralism, “are both truly light, and we live in a radically incarnational world where truth itself is a many-splendored thing.” Like the quantum elements of light, God is like a wave that is constantly moving and flowing, until such time as a thinking being perceives the Presence of God. At that point, God is like a particle, and that particle is named according to the cultural expectation of the one who perceives that Presence. In scientific arenas, that “perceiver” is called the “observer.” For the Christian observer, that “particle” is named Jesus.

      I believe that Jesus is a “manifestation of God with us;” as Suchocki writes in God-Christ-Church: A Practical Guide to Process Theology. To continue with the analogy of quantum physics, Jesus is an observable particle of the wave that is God. He is a particle of the Light that when observed reflects the qualities of the ineffable, invisible wave of “All That Is.” I might call the birth and death of Jesus “event horizons.” In quantum physics, the event horizon is the boundary of a black hole. To enter into a black hole would mean certain death. In his popular book A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes, physicist Stephen Hawking describes a black hole as a “boundary of the region of space-time from which it is not possible to escape.” Yet, he describes a singularity as “a point in space-time at which the space-time curvature becomes infinite.” The birth and subsequent resurrection, then, are the “singularities,” for once born, Jesus is an identifiable individual in history; once resurrected, Christ is infinite.

      The hope we find in this story is this: as Jesus was the Light of the World, so also are we. We are, each and every one of us, manifestations of “All That Is,” or as Diane Duane writes, “That In Which [We] Move.” Born of the wave into this material world, we are truly the Light of the World. When we see that, when we connect with the Christ, who is with us in the Holy Spirit, we know the Light as Love, and we begin to reflect it. This is our job. We are the wizards of this world, trusted to slow down the darkness of death and shine the light on eternal love. We are not perfect reflections of God’s love; indeed, we are flawed and we sometimes fear the things we do not understand. We don’t understand death, this threshold between this world and the next. We don’t understand other people, these also flawed beings whose light may not shine as brightly as another’s or who may seem not to shine any light at all. We need not be perfect. We need to keep letting our light shine so that it might get into the cracks and ignite their glorious flame. As poet Leonard Cohen wrote, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

      This Christmas, as we light our candles, say our prayers, and sing our hymns, let us risk allowing our cracks to show, that we might find ourselves poised on the edge of the event horizon, welcoming the Christ into the world. Let us remember that we are all brilliant particles of the Light of God, and we shine the brightest when we shine together.