Merry in Service

Once upon a time, I thought vocation – an inclination toward a particular career or a divine call to God’s service – was merely a word on the SATs. While I side-stepped my true calling, I held several different jobs, sometimes two at a time. For many years, I worked seven days a week during the holidays, which ran from just before Thanksgiving to a few days past New Years.

At that time, my family was in the food business. We ensured that candied yams, assorted meats, pastas, Buche de Noel, latkes, applesauce, chicken soup with matzo balls, and Christmas cookies blessed and nourished thousands at the holidays. Not only did we take orders, ring up sales, and wrap gift baskets, we also planned and catered other people’s holiday parties. On Christmas Eve, we watched the last of the gifts go out the door. On Christmas Day, we prepared and served Christmas dinner for another family. Usually, I didn’t mind. I enjoyed the vicarious thrills of different menus and the sound of customers’ delight.

Recently, I reflected on this time as I shopped at a local gourmet market and watched a young woman wrapping gift baskets, tucking a jar of raspberry jam here, a box of butter cookies there. The rush of shoppers was palpable, especially from a young father who checked his list twice and wheeled his children around.

I roamed aisles, as if I had gone back in a time machine, noticing piles of international cheeses, infused olive oils, boxes of pastries, bulk candies, chips, nuts, and – this being Florida – a variety of flowers and orchids. As I mused on the scenery and waited my turn at the prepared foods counter, two strangers rejoiced in being “off” for the holidays. A young man scooping out chicken salad muttered, “I’m working.”

“Yes, so am I,” I whispered.

He nodded, as if assured he wasn’t alone.

Later, at another store, as I sampled some French Roast and enjoyed a momentary caffeine jolt, a clerk asked, “Off for the holiday now?”

“No,” I said. “In the flow of it and still going.”

“Oh, what do you do?” she asked, as if we belonged to the same club and hadn’t met yet.

I replied that I’m a pastor. As we wished each other Merry Christmas and pleasant work days, a young woman wearing a University of Florida t-shirt stopped me and asked, “Did you say you’re a pastor?”

“Yes,” I said, curious about how this might obligate me.

“Wow!” she gushed. “That’s awesome. I’m so glad to meet you. Where I’m from, women aren’t pastors.”

As I traveled home and unpacked my groceries, treats and trinkets, I reflected on what it means to serve during the holidays. In certain ways, little has changed for me. I said, “Yes,” to the call of service, first providing food for the body, now offering sustenance for the spirit. Either way, I’m grateful for my calling and all the people I imagine I bless, who also bless me.

Across the United States and various regions of the globe, men and women will serve during the holidays – in airports, churches, hospitals, hotels, markets, military bases, police stations, post offices, restaurants, and theatres. Whatever our vocational call, may we be those who bless and brighten other lives.

Merry Christmas, Blessed Readers, and God Bless Us, Everyone!

 

© 2015 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks. All rights reserved.

Pour Out a Blessing

I don’t know how it’s been in your life, Blessed Reader, but on occasion, I’ve been very tough on myself. Not only have I been embarrassed, upset or in pain, I’ve also gotten down on myself, especially in reliving distressing moments, wishing I’d done something else or chosen differently. I’ve even condemned myself.

In these moments, I’ve forgotten the power of prayer, especially the ancient belief which held that if something were blessed, it became a priceless gift. Especially because once it was blessed, it held great power for transformation.

Pouring out a blessing is its own spiritual practice. It means we may glorify through spoken word; request divine favor for a situation or condition; or wish a person or situation well. Blessing is different from gratitude. So, when we bless something or someone, we don’t need to be thankful for it. We don’t need to like it. Neither are we condoning or endorsing unethical, immoral or unscrupulous behavior – however we or the law define it. Rather, when we offer a blessing, we step out in faith and trust, opening ourselves to transformation.

When we bless something, we do what Jesus taught, according to the Gospel Writer called John (7:24), when he said, “Judge not by appearances, but judge with righteous judgment.” Because, when we live faithfully, we also realize, it’s as easy to bless as it is to condemn and judge. Yet, when we condemn and judge, we actually intensify the unpleasant, uncomfortable situation bothering us. We actually hold on tighter, rather than letting go.

Remember, as much as we might wish we could, we can’t go back in our time machines for a do-over. So, rather than continually condemning ourselves, a situation, person or condition, we bless it. Rather than trying to correct it or fix it of our human selves, on our human schedule, we bless it. Without judgments of right/wrong, good/bad, yes/no, should/shouldn’t.

The truth is: The God of Jesus and the mystics isn’t giving us more or less than we can handle. Despite what some religious folk may say, no devil leads us down paths of destruction or temptation. Nor does God dispense situations, circumstances, challenges and disease to test, punish, pester, or challenge us. Those are a part of life, what it means to have free will and free choice, and to live in this awesome world, which sometimes does not move the way we’d most enjoy.

The truth is: Blessing something or someone doesn’t change the past. It changes us. Because living faithfully, trusting in God’s expansive grace means we also realize: We can’t out bless God. This is what Jesus and the mystics mean when they speak of knowing that God is ever-present and active in their lives.

So, the God of scripture, Jesus and the mystics seeks our blessing, not because God needs it, but because we do. So we transform our thinking and our lives.