We went to a concert, the Magic of Christmas, the other day that we regularly attend as a family this time of year. As always, it dazzled and inspired. Aside from the Hallelujah chorus, one moment stood out to me from the others. And that was from a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" (sung here by Johnny and June Carter Cash in a lovely rendition).
I have heard this poem, and sung the song, many times over the years. But this time a particular stanza spoke to me in a way it had never before:
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."
God is not dead. Or is he (or she)? In this poem, Longfellow was grieving the destruction (which affected his own son) of the Civil War. He had lost his wife due to a tragic accident. But he found higher source to comfort him.
Through the bells, which “pealed more loud and deep,” echoing the celestial sounds from the heavens, Longfellow took solace in knowing that justice, love and compassion were still alive. That goodness would win in the end. That even with so much tragedy in the world, the light always prevails.
That last stanza has inspired me to such a great extent that I have written it on my vision wall in my bedroom. In this time, when so many of us fear what lies ahead of us in the world, we can look to a higher source of guidance to help us through (if you want to hear more of my thoughts on this, check out this recent interview on a local radio show).
Do you need to call this higher source God? Not if the term doesn't work for you, of course. For so many, the word God has been misused to the point that many of us (myself included at one point in my life) have found it difficult to listen with an open heart to people who talk about God all the time. I used to think, “they are religious, probably close-minded, and want to proselytize to me. They’re just trying to tell me I should believe the way they do.” And I would instantly judge them and stop hearing the message they were sharing.
Until now. I know that something has shifted for me since I used to not be able to read or hear the words of a wonderful spiritual teacher, Marianne Williamson (and a fabulous book, The Law of Divine Compensation). Too much God and Jesus language, I believed. But the words don't bother me anymore. Now, they lift me up.
So I have decided to reclaim the word God. While attempts to avoid using the word for so many years worked for a while, in my spiritual quest for higher guidance, I have found myself wanting to refer to the Source of all love in one simple word. “Universe” doesn’t quite encompass it all for me. “The Divine” often works, but doesn't always fit.
As it turns out, I have decided that I am now okay with talking to God. And here’s another secret for you. I even talk to the one wise person who I was so tired of hearing about for years and years, who is revered in so many religions, and who is much misaligned, much misused. Jesus. After several life-changing experiences with a figure I now understand to be Jesus, I can’t deny the presence of this Ascended Master (how I choose to refer to him) in my life, as a spiritual teacher and model of pure unconditional love.
For whatever reason, these words are now working for me. I have come full circle since I was a child, saying The Lord’s Prayer before bedtime with my mother.
How do you feel about these words, God and Jesus? How do these entities play into your life (or not)? I'd love to hear your comments below the blog posting.
May you have a blessed holiday season, whichever holiday around now you choose to celebrate, if any at all. May it be a time of love, generosity, forgiveness and light.
And I look forward to seeing some of you more in the New Year. Maybe in the free virtual class, or in a whole bunch of smaller workshops in what looks to be a busy first month of 2017! (And by the way, if you’re thinking about resolutions already, here’s a little incentive: I’m doing a year-end discount on an in-person 8-week class in January, but only until 12/31/16)!
In quiet contemplation,