Hope for Transformation

children and earthAs 2012 ends and 2013 begins, I carry hope in my heart for transformation, not just personal, but social.  The phrase “another world is possible” is very real to me.  It is, for me, a matter of faith.

There are many children in my life.  I have grandchildren and great grandchildren who live nearby.  I teach Sunday School.  What will the world look like when these beautiful children grow up?  I am invested in their future.

What do we tell our children about the great environmental dangers and social injustices that we face–about climate change, about war and violence, about foreclosures and unemployment and lack of health insurance, about cutbacks to services for the poor and tax cuts for the rich, about corporate domination of the political process?  How do we explain our inability to create a society that sustains life?  How do we equip them for the great challenges they will face?  Not by putting our heads in the sand, or focusing solely on our personal lives, or pretending that there is nothing we can do.  Rather, we can cultivate hope and set an example by taking part in actions that are transformative, both personally and socially.

This is a spiritual issue, for the ruling powers dominate through money and violence, and none of us are immune.  To the degree that we internalize the values of our culture and bow to the system of domination, we further the sickness of our age.  As we awaken to the extremity of our situation and realize that the system of domination itself needs transforming, we either succumb to futility and despair or find the inner resources that enable us to cultivate hope.

This is, in itself, an opportunity for personal transformation.  As we are transformed, we become agents of transformation, joining with others to create beautiful and compassionate alternatives that demonstrate the better world that is possible.  By taking hopeful actions, we become more hopeful, and make the world a more hopeful place.

For the sake of the children.  For the sake of the future.

Celebrating in Ways that Bring Joy

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There are many ways to celebrate the coming of the light in this dark season of the year, including the Winter Solstice, Hanukah, Kwanza, and Christmas.  Christmas is supposedly a Christian holiday, but the orgy of consumption that accompanies this holiday in the United States makes that questionable.  How ironic it is that people celebrate the birth of a poor baby born in a stable (as the story goes) by spending billions on “stuff” that will ultimately end up in overflowing landfills.

However, Christian or not, many are swept along by the dominant media message:  “Buy gifts for your loved ones to show them how much they are loved and how precious they are.”  The pressure can be hard to resist. This may not present a problem for those who practice a Christianity that is conformed to consumer culture, but for those who seek to follow Jesus it challenges us with one of his core teachings:  “You cannot serve both God and mammon.” Mammon:  wealth, riches, money, stuff.

If you haven’t yet watched Annie Leonard’s “The Story of Stuff,” now is the time.  This 20 minute, easy to watch cartoon, will inoculate you against unrestrained consumerism during this holiday season. The sequels are also great. http://www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all/story-of-stuff/

The Commercialization of Christmas challenges people of every spiritual tradition to resist cultural accommodation, practice integrity, and celebrate in ways that bring joy. I personally love going to Christmas concerts and street fairs, watching my grandkids in the Christmas pageant and the Nutcracker, singing Christmas Carols, having meals with my beautiful extended family, organizing crafts for the Sunday School children, spending an evening at Hospitality House (our local rotating homeless shelter), reaching out to a family in need, putting cedar branches and nativity scenes in our window sills, decorating a tiny living tree that we’ll plant outside after Christmas.

I plan, with God’s help, to weigh my gift-giving choices well.  I hope to not find myself walking vacant-eyed down aisles of plastic toys. The organization “Alternatives for Simple Living” has a Treasury of Celebrations with some great ideas of ways to celebrate the different holidays, including Advent and Christmas.  Scroll down the page at their website to find out more: http://simpleliving.startlogic.com/indexoth.php?place=archives/TreasCeleb/TOCAdvent.php

May you experience and share the true gifts of peace, joy, and love during this season.