It’s been a bookmark of mine for a few years, this card sent by friends. I love the John quote and the image of a candle in a hurricane glass shining its light on the world beyond the window.
Beautiful as they are, candles require attention or they can create quite a waxen mess. If left unattended, they can burn the house down. There’s a power to their warmth and light that can be destructive, even deadly, if neglected or used with ill intent.
Candlelight is a good image for the faith I share with the world. If I don’t tend to this faith in love, if I proclaim things to be good, true, and holy without love for the life outside the window, I’m as apt to burn things down as I am to shed illumination. If I keep the light to myself, well away from view, it does no one any good but me. I have to tend to it, or it won’t shine for very long.
Another thing: I have to remember that I’m not the only one who was given such a light. When I’m walking in the dark, it just may be someone else’s candle in the window that illuminates my path forward.
Love is in the air around here. Valentine’s Day is around the corner, chocolate and candies line store shelves, and a shocking amount of pink and red hearts are plastered everywhere. But that kind of love is not really what this card is requesting.
Love of any kind takes a lot of work and patience to foster. The emotional high we get from a new romance, the thrill at the birth of a child, or the emotional fuzzies exchanged with close friends don’t have a long shelf life if we store them in our inner cupboards like the canned goods in our kitchens. True love in any of its forms is a living presence that requires intentional attention and faithful nurturing. It is a gift from God, sent from above. But it’s a cutting from a living tree more than a figurine in a pretty box. It requires the very essence of who we are if it is to grow – and if we are to grow with it.
Perhaps that’s why it’s a dove and a spray of greenery and flowers – a reminder that our prayers for love are answered, but only come to life when we commit ourselves to love’s flourishing.
A single gilded word. It shouldn’t be consigned to an Advent or Christmas value. After all, peace something no faith tradition omits, even if none follow through in bringing about its reign.
The golden, gilded age doesn’t usually refer to a reign of peace – it is traditionally mistaken for a time and era filled with seaside mansions and philanthropic achievements. But this card has the truth of it: peace is the substance of a true golden age. No gilding required.
The home is small, the wilderness expansive. The trees and flakes are sparkle rimmed. The skis are set, ready for another foray into the forest; the lights are on. There’s some wood to throw on the fire just outside the door. There are words in the air. Everything needed is here, but nothing beyond it.
Simple isn’t easy, but if I can recognize the holiness of an uncluttered inner and outer space, I just might see in the woods, words, and flakes a glimpse of God’s ever-changing, never-ending love.
It’s on the inside of my birthday card, this map. My son, Colin, marked the places where the various items in my present called home – nuts from the Blue Diamond factory and local growers, olive oil, honey, etc. They come from neighboring communities and were picked up in local shops or farmer’s markets. California offers almost everything within a few square miles and under an hour’s travel.
This is local in another way, too: it’s local from the place my son lives.
I don’t believe that everything is relative, but I do believe that everything is related. This map reminds me of that – and prompts me to honor the connectedness and relatedness of all things.
They come to the feeder every day – at least a pair, usually more. For the cost and effort of putting seed in the feeder and scattering bread crusts on the ground, grace and beauty on the wing is made manifest just outside my window. Every season, in all kinds of weather, they come.
It’s said that cardinals are the spirits of those who have left this life returning in a different form. It’s also said that they signal death, the presence of the Spirit, and imminent change. Any, all, or none of these things could be true. I can’t say. What I do know: beauty and grace are local where I live and breathe just as surely as they are resident in exotic, far away places.
Gracious God, give me an eye to see the beauty you offer, and a spirit to be profoundly grateful for it. Amen.
It’s just a day into the new year, but Christmas season is still with me – the twelve days don’t end until the 6th, and our festive decorations are still brightening up the house. Included in those decorations are the Christmas cards that hang between the kitchen and living room. Walking between rooms, I pass under the well wishes of friends, family, and a few institutions – an arch of love and care that has been constructed card by card for decades. It would be a shame to let the cards go before giving them more than a passing glance…
You might want to share some of your favorites as well…
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
The wolf shall lie down with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the falling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the earth. Isaiah 11:1-9, NRSV
Offered by Riley Anderson as a light on the path to Bethlehem.
[Originally posted in 2015; Riley Anderson created this with a branch from her yard.]