Thursday, March 25, 2010

Imagination and Love

Have you read The First Gift of Christmas? It centers on the love a parent has for a child, and the love of friendship. So often we search for the perfect gift for our friends, when it is already in our hearts, our love for them.

Like all years this has been one of joy and saddness. I remember all those who have gone before me to that happier place of rest. And while at times I long for their peace, I also feel strongly called to service here. And in so many ways, those who have gone before me, like Elisha Darlin, Ruth and Russ Nash, and Steve Broderick, are still here in the love they shared. I am a better person because they lived, and need to earn my way to their peace. Ruth and Steve made decisions I would not make because they lacked the imagination for life. They couldn’t see that even suffering brings love into the world. They couldn’t see that what we wished was not their pain, but the ability to serve them in ways they served us.

I look at others who have chosen the “better” way, and the gifts they give the world. Joan, who serves lunches and love to students and staff, wearing her chemo hat proudly, fighting for life as she gives us love.

And Merry’s husband, Dave, who gives all of us much more than he can imagine, as he accepts the debilitation of Lyme Disease, sharing The Lord with all those he meets. The gifts he gives my daughter and grandchildren, Zachary and Anna, are priceless, as is his presence when I go to visit. His hugs remind me that life is all about love. Merry continues to write, and the depth of her work grows, as she grows in love. Check out her web site at Hope is My Anchor.

It is love that knits together my son, John, and his family. Karen has left work to spend time with my grandson Jack who is progressing well in his fight with autism. His sisters Ellie and Audrey are precious gifts in their own right, growing in beauty and love year by year. I treasure my short visits with them twice a year, and marvel at the energy and joy that fills their home.

I’ve had a great year. Recognized as District Teacher of the Year, and in the final five for Iowa Teacher of the Year. But more importantly, I am beginning to write again. After a period of drought and busy work, words are starting to flow.

Love is the center of my life as I commit to the AIC (Association of Iowa Cistercians). In a short ceremony at Vespers I will agree to live my life in love, as part of this school of love. I will struggle and fall, get angry at students, at politics (no, I’m not going to go there), at war, at poverty, at alcohol and drug abuse, at all the crimes of society, but I will pick my self up again, and remember the One who loved us, and try again to live as He did.

For some, there is danger in the world of imagination. For me, it is like the Book of Wisdom. We have to imagine for it to be possible, to have faith. We know reality, and it fails us, so the Truth must be elsewhere. We have to imagine where it could be, and imagine our way to faith by belief. So if I say I believe in Santa Claus, or leprechauns, or fairies, or Hogwarts, it is a way of saying there are dragons, there is truth beyond this world in which we live. There is beauty in flowers, magic in dragonflies.

Love can be found all around us in the most unlikely of spots, in pain, in suffering, in war, in peace, in poverty, and in riches, in cancer, or autism, or lyme disease. Imagination lets us see beyond the actual into the heart. And in the heart is found love.

The First Love, created a woman willing to bear a fatherless child and suffer all that meant in the ancient Hebrew world; created a man, willing to marry such a woman, and raise such a child; created angels, and wise men, and shepherds, and us who believe in an event that happened over two thousand years ago. Believers who don’t care if it was in a cave or stable, winter or summer, but only that the Baby came to us.

At Christmas, we focus on the gentleness of that gift of love, but in our heart of hearts we know the price that gift would pay through His outpouring of love and blood and suffering. So if in our world, there is pain and suffering, there is also love. And it is the love we must remember.

Love was the first gift. Love is the only gift worth receiving. All the trinkets we share are only a poor attempt to tell others that we love them.