Words of wisdom

The year was 2006. The place was Xavier High School, New York City. The English teacher in one of her classes asked her students to write to their favorite author asking if they might pay the class a personal visit.

One author responded by offering his regrets for not being able to visit with a letter that included these words:

Practice any art —  music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, writing poetry, fiction, essays, research reporting. Do it well, even, not so well. Not to get money and fame, but, to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, which makes your soul grow … Do it for the rest of your life.

—  Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut stresses it’s not so much what we say, but how we say and do it. Is there warmth, care, humility and simplicity for self growth and for the good of others? When we put into practice what it is we say and desire the world around us to be, then others will come to trust us more and express the desire to be near us.

During the month of December, three of the world’s most well-known religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam), are preparing to observe notable moments, as recorded in history. For Christians, December is a time of Advent (meaning coming) preparation, for the Birth of Jesus, as The Christ, on Dec. 25. In Judaism, December is a time to make ready for the Festival of Lights —  Hanukkah, which will be observed Dec. 25-Jan. 1. And, during this 12th month of our calendar, Muslims around the world will observe/commemorate the Birth of Mohammed on Dec. 11. These observances can help us become the true self.

Sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims, we read in the biblical text from Deuteronomy words attributed to Moses: “… Choose Life …” (Dt. 30:19). When we choose to live life to its fullest, we practice the sacred attributes of God which Vonnegut leads us to reflect on: warmth, care, humility and simplicity. It is at this time, therefore, when we have chosen God’s will and purpose for us: Life. Spiritual growth can follow in new, exciting ways. We discover anew that it is God who comes to us each day, in order that, we have life, life abundantly, abiding in God’s Love. As we abide in this divine understanding of God’s presence we grow in honoring our neighbor, respecting them regarding their perspective on the very nature of God, during a sacred, holy time for all.

—  Shellhamer is a retired Lutheran pastor who currently serves both the Lutheran and Presbyterian traditions.