December 7, 2013

Reflections: How do you recognize holiness in your life?

This discernment takes time and quiet reflection.

By Bill Gregory

The holidays are on our horizon and commerce drives these days more than holiness. Throughout our culture there is a sidetracking of the sacred.

The loss is dear. It hastens an erosion of soul manifested in so many dimensions that we are growing increasingly blind to the cause. There is a direct correlation between this loss and global warming, environmental degradation, the growing division between the affluent and the poor and the inevitable violence this injustice stimulates here and around the world.

We know there is a problem and are sold a bill of goods of half-truths that the solution is more energy, a stronger economy, more consumption and the strongest military. The answer to the erosion of life’s quality in a secular culture is to use more, to use others and to use up nature. In this blindness, the good life is really the “goods” life.

This lament leads to these questions: What is holiness? What is sacred? How do we acknowledge these things and give them a place in our lives that saves us from self-centered terminal distractions?

Somewhere along the time line of our living (a startling small number of days), the still small voice of Sacredness whispers its soul-stunning questions, “What have you done with the days I have given you in response to the beauty I have set around you, to the longing for and capacity to love I have set in your heart and the heart of everyone and thing you know? What have you done to sharpen your sight and open your ears to perceive and serve sacredness?”

Among other things, we need to set days apart dedicated to cultivate awareness of and gratitude for life, love and sacredness, not self-aggrandizement. Awareness begins by setting time aside and asking what, if anything, is sacred in our lives? What is holiness and how do we honor it in our days? This work is called discernment. It takes time and quiet reflection. It takes both solitude and a caring community. How can we order our priorities to love’s and to life’s deeper purposes if we don’t stop and listen, stop and see?

Holidays are meant for such activities. Days called holy without holiness, co-opted by commerce, entertainment and commercials that glamorize status achieved through acquisition and violence starve our hearts and souls of their nourishment.

What do you need to find and honor the sacred in your life? I need holidays and church services with good friends, new friends and not yet friends together seeking and praising. I need great music, ancient and cherished stories from scripture, and preaching that echoes with hope, insight and integrity. I need time to be with family to remember those who have loved us and those who do. I need nature and time to be in it. And I need to set aside time to prepare for these days.

Holidays anticipated and kept by people who believe in and honor sacredness help us overcome our selfishness, isolation, fear and avarice.

Contact Bill Gregory, an author and retired minister, at:

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