Monday, November 24, 2014


In a way Christmas and Easter are reverse images of each other. Easter is about darkness giving way to a burst, however temporary of pure light--while Christmas is about a tiny light shining in the midst of a universe of darkness.

Christmas is all about the family and it's interesting--and no accident--that Christmas, way more than Easter, tends to bring those of us who were not, for lack of a better phrase "securely attached' in childhood, to a bone-dry desert. Bone scraping against psychic bone, with no consolation and no end in sight. The place where Christ called out, "Lord, Lord, why have you forsaken me?" Though Easter's the season that's ostensibly about spiritual thirst, deserts, and the Crucifixion, Christmas is the time when many of us realize all over again that our hearts have been calling out in forsakenness our whole lives.

H.A.L.T.--Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired--is an acronym known to many of us former active drunks: as in don't let yourself get too any of those things. Lately I've been all four.  Hungry as in realizing at 3 p.m., stuck in freeway traffic, that the only thing I've eaten all day is a bowl of raisin bran. Lonely as in don't even get me started. Angry as in could people shut up, turn off their cell phones, learn how to drive, stop airing their moronic opinions, curb their obnoxious dogs, pay what they owe, and leave me alone?

But especially tired. Literal tired as in my circadian rhythm stubbornly refuses to adjust to PST after my travels so I wake every morning around 3. Tired from trying to juggle and complete many projects, obligations, and plans. Tired of people who want to debate/win points I've never argued with in the first place.

And on a deeper level, tired of the limitations of being human.

"Discrimination regarding who or what we allow to have room in our minds, to preoccupy us, can only be achieved if we regularly empty our minds of our preoccupations. Emptiness, stillness, silence, each of these words is an attempt to pin-point the condition in which God is known. In a daring passage the author of the letter to the Philippians proposes Jesus as the model from whom we have to learn this self-emptying: 'Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus who, though he was God, did not cling on to his equality with God but emptied himself and took upon himself teh form of a servant.' "

--Donald Nicholls, Holiness, p. 70



  1. Oh, how I relate to this post! I was just thinking yesterday about the brokenness and anger in my family, thinking with desperate envy about all those around me with intact, happy families and normal lives, and how they don't even need God b/c they have it all figured out on their own! And we on the other hand do need God, but then where is He in all of this?? Ha. And of course this is all because Christmas is looming on the horizon. I really relate to the loneliness, chronic tiredness, even waking up at 3am in the morning, pulsing with anxiety. Welp, nothing to do but plunge into the darkness of Advent, right?

  2. I once received a pretty Christmas card from a bitter woman that read: "I'm in constant pain, my kids are losers, my husband is an idiot. Life is hell. Merry Christmas."

    I cracked up. OK, so here's the deal:

    Life is like looking through a knot hole in a wood fence. You can see whatever passes by the knot hole, but not the whole picture. God knows the bigger picture, and all is well in it. Those who don't seem to need God right now WILL someday, either here or hereafter. We all must come to Christ, even if it takes an eternity to do so. It's required of all God's children.

    Thus, we can look at ourselves as lucky that we have a head start and already know our connection to the divine. We are being blessed right NOW for our love of God, even if we are only looking through the knot hole and don't see all the good that God has planned for us. Trust.

    When you feel the pangs of struggle, turn your gaze and know that you are cherished by God. Your human past might suck eggs. But your spiritual now is filled with love. Carry Bible quotes from Psalms in your pocket and read them constantly to keep your gaze on God, not on the struggle.

  3. The fourth part of your H.A.L.T. syndrome -- Angry as in could people shut up, turn off their cell phones, learn how to drive, stop iairing their moronic opinions, curb their obnoxious dogs, pay what they owe, and leave me alone? -- that really struck me because I now realize that I get angrier about such things around Christmas than I do at other times of the year. I'm wondering if that's because they look more stark now, against the backdrop of the birth of our Savior, which should be the most splendid time imaginable and instead we see nothing but human messiness.

    Anyway, it seems connected somehow to this in a piece up at First Things right now, "Prayer in the Facebook Age":

    "It is easy to overlook those moments in the Gospels when Jesus withdraws from others. They come across as pauses, a rest between miracles, parables, and edifying encounters such as that with the rich young man. The work of Jesus’s ministry takes place amid others, and the exchanges can be taxing, as when the Canaanite woman asks his help and he replies that his bread is not for dogs. 'And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table' (Matt. 15:26–27), and Jesus relents. The souls he helps and tangles with make him weep and roar; he denounces, mourns, blesses, and heals. Disengagement allows for calm and quiet. Especially in Luke 4:42, his solitude marks a retreat from the madding crowd: 'And when it was day, he departed and went into a desert place: and the people sought him, and came unto him, and stayed him, that he should not depart from them.' Here and elsewhere, the people press and beseech, and Jesus needs a respite."

  4. Sounds like you need a bit of encouragement. Just a reminder that your writing makes a difference in peoples lives like my own. You are appreciated, keep up the good work.

  5. thanks for your always unflinching honesty. It is hard to get through the holidays while suffering of the "dark night" but knowing others share in the same helps.

  6. For what it's worth - I'm in the very same place... :)

  7. Hilarious!! I too hope to have my "bone dry desert" state of mind all sorted out by "Thursday the latest" :-)

  8. Thanks for this piece. I've been a hot mess for days and I really thought it was about an argument over water! How stupid! Your description of the H.A.L.T. syndrome caused me to look at things a bit more closely and to see that I am afflicted with all of the above. Now for some remedial work. Thanks, you are a treasure!

  9. Thank you dear people, I know I'm not alone. I find I'm happiest about Christmas, as in expansive warm, and anticipatorily glowing, right around November 7th...Then it gets real...

    Many folks wrote privately--again, thank you--and I do want to establish that the problem isn't that I have nowhere to go. I have TWO Thanksgiving dinners to attend and I'm hosting Christmas dinner myself. it's more a thing of aching pain at the thought of being alone and nameless, creeping dread at the thought of being with people. That's always more or less my default position/hard-wiring. It's just that Christmas kind of brings it to a point...

    This in spite of my child-like ridiculous love for all things Christmas and Advent, all the rituals, all the liturgy, prayers, traditions and beautiful (or at least tragicomic) memories from childhood on up. To say I wasn't securely attached doesn't mean my parents weren't lovely, loving, profoundly decent folks who always made Christmas the highlight of the year.

    Although did I ever tell about the year when my MAIN PRESENT was a blanket?...

  10. Ditto Anonymous 1. Your book, Shirt of Flame, spoke deeply to me.
    Those who are not hungry, angry, lonely and tired have no need of the comfort only God can give. They are the losers, because this life is not all there is. They will be H.A.L.T. for all eternity. I would rather be H.A.L.T. for this short life than all eternity.
    You are in my prayers. May God send you the peace that passes understanding and may you feel His Love and Comfort as He holds you in the palm of His Hand. Know you are the apple of His eye.

  11. Better to feel anything at all than to drown all that beauty and humanity in booze. Today's the day. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Thank you for the reminder to keep my heart open to all and not presume anything about their circumstances. Hope your spirit lifts. Also, your comments make me think of my brother and may help give me insight into him ( alas, he is probably an alcoholic).

  13. Happy Thanksgiving Heather. You are wonderful!! Yeah, one year we got bed sheets for Christmas-- really!?

  14. New to your blog but glad to have found it! Thankgiving came & went so fast for me this year, but now comes the lovely dark Advent season where I can enter in to the dark quiet spaces of life and contemplate Christ being born again in myself. He always comes when I least expect Him to in a moment of awe-like in the midst of baking cookies or wrapping gifts! A profound silence overcomes me & then the awareness of His presence! beautiful pure anticipation! childlike faith if only for a brief moment in earth time! Oh come Immanuel!

  15. Never thought about the juxtapositon of Easter and Christmas like that before. I like that image of the tiny light amidst the darkness. If you imagine that night when He was born you can almost see how visually He really was a light in the darkness. I picture a dark night ( no modern lights back then, so the night sky must have been really dark.) I'm sure they had some light when Mary was giving birth ( I've given birth at home naturally- and I can't imagine it being pitch black!) I can just picture a big huge open darkness surrounding the Holy Family and a little tiny glow of some small fire or candle light) Anyway I'm not sure I'm making sense because I am so tired ( HALT!) but I loved reading this. I got a good laugh out of it too, not that depression is funny in and of itself but it's good to laugh at ourselves because it's so true- we are undergoing a death each day. I better get my angry tired self to bed! Happy Advent Heather!

  16. And Happy Advent to you all!...the tragicomedy continues....


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