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Sometimes I think: Wouldn’t it be nice to squirrel myself away in some comfy little hole and turn exclusively to prayer? Then I remember: As much as the hermit lifestyle appeals, it is not practical. Not only are comfy little holes hard to come by, they are seldom free of charge. And there’s the niggling problem of needing to eat. But that’s not the biggest problem.

The biggest problem is this: You can’t pray for the world if you’re hiding from it. You have to know what’s going on. You have to be a part of things. Otherwise, you’re just praying for yourself, and doesn’t that defeat the purpose?

It can be very painful to make yourself aware of the world’s troubles. There will always be too many of them to tackle, too many tragedies pulling at your limited heartstrings. You have to choose, but in choosing, you have to deal with the repercussion of guilt. It is a difficult place to live. A comfy hole is so much more congenial, don’t you agree? But it’s no place to linger, not if you have a heart.

Nowadays it’s an insult to be considered sensitive. It connotes a certain weakness, a lack of backbone, a pitiful inability to cope in today’s eat-or-be-eaten world. I don’t much care about that. If it takes not caring to get by in life, then I guess I won’t get by. Wherever that destination is, it doesn’t feel like a place worth going to. If feeling keenly about people and things makes me a snowflake, then — fine. I’m still here. And as long as the world stays cold with injustice and hatred and inequality, I will persist.

And if the milk of human kindness ever warms us all adequately, I will happily melt.

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It is the Mobius strip of faith: God is most present to us when we are most present for ourselves. Easier said than done. Most of us can scarcely afford to be present: We are too hard at work doing, our every waking moment a list to be dutifully checked off. The only time our souls get taken out of mothballs is for a few flickering seconds a week, perhaps during church services, perhaps in a moment of astonishment at what spring has wrought, perhaps in a loving embrace.

The medical community has voiced alarm at the amount of time most of us sit during the day. Sitting raised blood pressure, they warn. Desk workers suffer heart attacks at a higher rate than active workers. So goes it with our souls. Used infrequently, they wither. It is only in their regular exercise that we find peace.

How does one exercise one’s soul? Through the act of being present. Present to the world around us, to our bodies, to other people, to God. In other words: Wake up, you sleepyheads! Rub your eyes! Get out of bed! All this stuff that’s happening around you is just that — stuff. The focus you bring to it, now that’s living.

Imagine taking one day during which you are forced to provide an intention for your every action. The results would either stultify or stun you. Yes, a lot of what we do is born of practicality: earning a living, eating, drinking, sleeping when tired. It is easy to begin to believe that all of that stuff is a life. It isn’t. Life boils down to the moments that you decide to see, to experience, to be here now. And when you show up, surprise! You’ll find God was waiting for you all along.

Today, I’d like you to ask yourselves the following questions (based on a TED talk by Hank Green): Who am I? What do I do? Who do I do it for? Who benefits from what I do? Don’t like the answers? Change them.

Dare to awaken to even a portion of your own life. You will find yourself there; but what’s more, you’ll find God.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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