Ringing in the New Year

I read that on New Year's Day, Buddhists will ring a prayer bowl 108 times with each ring representing a bead on their prayer beads. Paul Corbet writes that "The beads represent things that get in the way of our relationships-greed, lust for power, warfare, and other obstacles on our spiritual path". Ringing the bells 108 times is an opportunity to let go of those things and start the New Year with a clean slate. This need to celebrate and begin anew is one of the oldest human traditions going back to ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago. The Babylonian New Year began with the first New Moon after the Vernal Equinox, the first day of spring. That makes a lot of sense to me as the season of spring calls us to a new beginning and new hope as the earth comes alive. But it is in the early days of the winter season that we jump at the opportunity to celebrate light in the darkness and warmth in the cold. New Year's Eve and Day enable us to look ahead with hope. Karen Deal Robinson says a version of the following prayer when she prays with her "Seasons of a Year" beads.
On the longest night of the year, cold and dark surround us.
On the long, dark nights, when the snow drifts deep,
let us find warmth and love in the firelight.
Happy New Year!

"Millions"

Last night I experienced a fascinating little film titled "Millions". Film critic, Roger Ebert, lists it as one of the 10 best films of 2005. He also writes that it is "The best family film of the year" and "this is what a family film would look like if it were made with the intelligence of adults". Director Danny Boyle ("Trainspotting") and writer Frank Cottrell Boyce ("Hilary and Jackie") have crafted a story that is fantasy, parable, and morality play. Seven year old Damian and his nine year old brother, Anthony, find a bag of cash that bounces off a train and into their lives. The boy's mother has recently died, they have just moved to a new neighborhood, and this discovery is both a distraction from their grief and a opportunity to create new lives. Anthony wants to invest the money, purchase property and new electronic gadgets, and buy influence from his peers. Damian, who has visions of saints, including St. Francis of Assisi, experiences the windfall as a gift from God and an opportunity to help the poor. The choices the boys make and the consequences of those choices is depicted in honest and imaginative ways. As Ebert writes, this isn't a "cute little film" but one well worth your time. It raises some interesting questions. What influences the choices we make in life? Self-preservation, greed, faith, relationships, responsibility, opportunity, etc. ? Young Damien appears to be most influenced by the Biblical proverb that "to whom much is given, much is expected". See "Hollywood Jesus" for more information and reviews of the film.

It's Hard To Be Humble....

While researching the dynamic of humility I came across the following quotes from the writings of Dr. Alan Morinis.

Humility is limiting oneself to an appropriate amount of space while leaving room for others.
Being humble doesn't mean being nobody, it just means being no more of a somebody than you ought to be.

Seasons

On this 7th day of winter, 4 days before the beginning of a new year, I find myself reflecting on the passing of time and the seasons we experience. This poem by Ted Loeder from "Guerrillas of Grace" captures the rhythm of winter.
O God of all seasons and senses,
grant me your sense of timing
to submit gracefully
and rejoice quietly
in the turn of the seasons.
In this season of short days and long nights,
of grey and white and cold,
teach me the lessons of waiting
of the snow joining the mystery
of the hunkered-down seeds
growing in their sleep
watched over by gnarled-limbed, grandparent trees
resting from autumn's staggering energy,
of the silent whirling earth
circling to race back home to the sun
O God grant me your sense of timing.
In this season of short days and long nights,
of grey and white and cold,
teach me the lessons of endings;
children growing,
friends leaving,
jobs concluding,
stages finishing,
grieving over,
blaming over,
excuses over.
O God, grant me your sense of timing.
In this season of short days and long nights,
of grey and white and cold,
teach me the lessons of beginnings;
that such waitings and endings
may be a starting place,
a planting of seeds
which bring to birth
what is ready to be born-
something right and just and different'
a new song,
a deeper relationship,
a fuller love-in the fullness of your time.
O God grant me your sense of timing.

Day after Christmas

We have an annual tradition in our family that is now 34 years old. Each year, between Christmas and New Year's Day, we go out for a family dinner. The day and time depends upon the schedules of the 15 people involved. This year we decided to have a late lunch at The Ripe Tomato in Malta, New York. Everyone, from age 18 months to 60 years, loved the food. The highlights were the "boneless chicken wing wraps" and "triple chocolate pound cake" with ice cream. A great family place with reasonable prices.

The Ripe Tomato