What’s In Your Manger?

God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illuminated by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.

~ Dag Hammarskjold

What good is it to me if Mary gave birth to the son of God fourteen hundred years ago and I do not also give birth to the son of God in my time and in my culture?

~Meister Eckhart


 If you were raised Christian, you might have some memories, like me, of unpacking and creating the nativity scene in your home during the Advent season.  We had a few of them at my house: the one my parents brought back from their visit to Jerusalem, the ones my brother and I made from uncooked macaroni noodles in Sunday School, and the teeny-tiny one with a fake tree and baby Jesus that were irresistible toys for the cats.  “Has anyone seen the baby Jesus?” my Mom would question, her head poking under the chairs and shelves, hoping to repair the fragmented story and invite its anticipated outcome.


The nativity pieces from Jerusalem were my favorite.  In addition to the usual suspects, there were animals, shepherds, wise men and camels.  My Mom would let me create the scene, reminding me that the three kings arrived later and therefore, shouldn’t be in the stable with Mary and Joseph, but rather en route.  Years later, in the home of my spiritual director, I stood dazzled and mesmerized by her nativity, an annual original creation, that covered her entire dining table.  Every animal figurine you can (and can’t) imagine – scorpions, dolphins, emus and dogs, serpents, chickens, and unicorns – were making their way across the loooooooong dining table to see the new baby.  Seeing the scene depicted in this way, allowed me to expand its scope.  In this overtly mythic and more cosmic unfolding, I could find myself in new facets of the story.


It’s from this place this year, I’ve been falling in love again with the Christmas story.  Whether or not you celebrate this holiday, I encourage you to consider and live the metaphors alive this week….


You are on a journey, to be counted with everyone else, in the census.  Given the circumstances, and putting it plainly, this journey might sort of suck.  And there’s this Angel thing.  A sign, a dream, a moment of serendipity or surprise that suggested there is something very important on your horizon.  What is it?  It’s in you and it’s beyond you…and it’s coming!!!  And, with all this anticipation, and with all this uncertainty, you keep walking toward a new place; a very simple, earthy space.  And in that spot, inconvenient and unfamiliar, but supported by the vision that is in you and beyond you, you birth a spark of Divinity.  What, dear friends, is in your manger?

My nativity scene, 2013

My nativity scene, 2013


Peace, blessings and love to you this season

and in the dawn of a new year.

Saying, “Yes” Can Hurt a Little (and that’s ok).

I don’t know Who — or what — put the question, I don’t know when it was put. I don’t even remember answering. But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone — or Something — and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.

-Dag Hammarskjöld

Paradoxically, we achieve true wholeness only by embracing our fragility and sometimes, our brokenness. Wholeness is a natural radiance of Love, and Love demands that we allow the destruction of our old self for the sake of the new.

– Jalaja Bonheimm, Aphrodite‘s Daughters

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

– The Talmud

Back in 2007, when “Going Green” was going, I worked for a sustainability firm whose task was to educate and support the masses employed by multi-national corporations, to make changes that would bring personal sustainability into their lives.  Beginning with a daylong workshop, I would meet with phenomenal individuals, you know the ones: gifted and smart, parents or just-out-of-college, PhDs or GEDS, believers and atheists, conservatives and liberals.  Yep, those people!  You and me.  And I had eye-opening privilege of meeting with them across the country, however the majority of my time was spent in Texas.  And inTexas, things were extra interesting.

Early on, a client asked us to remove one of the “eco-facts,” we used in our training to help illustrate the demands our current lifestyle choices put on natural resources, in this case, water.  The eco-fact was about the number of gallons of water used to make a hamburger.  Wanna guess?

Six hundred.  600 gallons.  But wait!  Before you totally freak-out, before your righteous button gets tripped and you’re saying, “Duh!  That’s why I’m a vegetarian,” or you run to the Ranchers’ defense with, “What  sort of math were you using?  What about grass-fed beef?  Or what about switching to buffalo?”   I’d like to jump-in and share that I’m not here to defend the eco-fact one way or the other….at least not completely.  Respectfully acknowledging the complexities of making a living in Texas, and admitting to the enormity of defining eco-calculations, the eco-fact was removed.  And, in my thinking, a big uncomfortable, important opportunity was missed.

My current work no longer has me on the sustainability frontlines, and while I’m the first to admit to the creative work-arounds I employ to justify a non-sustainable indulgence or two, I will also say that the sustainability efforts exercised by most North Americans right now do not bode well for our future.  We continue to make really checked-out choices.  And why is that?  It’s not for lack of information.  Or even a lack of support; heck, here are resources and rebates, support groups and incentives of every sort encouraging us to make changes for – you name it – a physically healthier, financially solvent, addiction-freed, more balanced way of living.

Fancy Me Balanced!

But here’s the thing – and we all know this – choosing to make a change, really saying, “Yes,” can hurt.  It brings up all kinds of fear, guilt, shame, and grief – “I’m envisioning something better, but how do I let go of this thing that’s become sooooo familiar?”

Last week, mindlessly thumbing through a magazine, I stumbled on an info-graphic of…yes!  The amount of water in a hamburger, and worse, it also showed the amount of water used to make coffee, wine, cheese and chocolate!  Argh!  I was reading this magazine trying to take a break!  I was digging for some inspiration and now I was hit with this really uncomfortable reminder that perhaps my food choices could benefit from a mindful review.  It didn’t feel good.

But wait….that’s ok, isn’t it?

The miracle of this life is that everyday – Every.  Single.  Day.  – we encounter choices.  It’s easy to speed by them, right?  It’s the, “I’m-busy-or-that’s-too-scary-so-I’ll-do-it-later” stuper.  I don’t know about you, but I can get really seduced by my stuper.  And then, something happens.  It’s a moment when we’re feeling a little more open, or maybe we’re just sick to death of ourselves and this is where the, “Yes,” lives.

You see, I believe, every one of us actually has a desire to live an alive life, one that  contributes to something Larger than Me.  Saying, “Yes,” taps the courage, the curiosity, the determination to suspend our tendency toward the familiar or conformity or convenience, and something else happens!  So, the next time you’re assaulted (or assaulting yourself) with  some guilt-ridden, shame-provoking, or inconvenient reality, ask yourself how and where you  might say, “Yes.”  It’s okay if it hurts a little.  See what happens.

No pressure, but if you’re curious, the info-graphic is right here: