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  Friday February 27th, 2015    

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Blessings in disguise (12/16/2007)
By Janet Lewis Burns
"As a young doctor, I thought that serving life was a thing of drama and action and split-second judgment calls. A question of going sleepless and riding in ambulances and outwitting the angel of death. A role open only to those who have prepared themselves for years. But I know now that this is only the least part of the nature of service. That far more often we serve by who we are and not what we know."- Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.

Just 15 more days away from the last page of your 2007 "day-planner!" But you've been running into Christmas displays and sales since way before Thanksgiving! What spirit remains to glorify a celebration long since burned out?

"Toys for Tots" barrels gape nearly empty in Winona stores, invoking guilt as we leave with carts heaping with Christmas gifts for children whose bedrooms look like toy stores. We promise ourselves that we'll contribute to the barrel on the next visit. After all, one is never done shopping until the last Salvation Army bell ringer goes home.

An African proverb says, "The blessing is right next to the wound." Those words became more understandable to me as I read Dr. Remen's book. Consider the young family of a soldier stationed over in Iraq for Christmas and beyond. The only gift that would genuinely make anyone in his family happy and satisfied is his permanent homecoming, as they pray for his safe return.

I imagine everyone is just a bit weary of being reminded of the catastrophic flood of 2007. People tend to think and hope that something as joyful as Christmas will take away the hurt and defeat the victims have been living with for so long. I can't speak for those folks. But I believe they would advise you to hug your loved ones and tell them daily that you love them.

Many of those survivors have told of someone who did something for them that touched them deeply and gave them hope, that their faith was restored with the support of a stranger. Another might be forging ahead with determination due to his child's calming and miraculous resilience. The capacity to bestow blessings is in everybody.

One cannot go back to the way they were after something so profound has befallen them. These so-called victims have a great gift to give others. One cannot go through a natural disaster of such magnitude and not have grown from awakening realizations and shared experiences with others.

In her healing book "My Grandfather's Blessings," Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. speaks of a "refuge in the goodness in each other." She focuses on what she learned from her grandfather as a child. He was an Orthodox rabbi, a scholar of the Kabbalah, the mystical teachings of Judaism. Because he was a man of many blessings it seems appropriate to reflect on his gifts to her during this Christmas season of Advent.

She writes, "A blessing is not something that one person gives another. A blessing is a moment of meeting, a certain kind of relationship in which both people involved remember and acknowledge their true nature and worth, and strengthen what is whole in one another."

"When we recognize the spark of God in others, we blow on it with our attention and strengthen it, no matter how deeply it has been buried or for how long. Service is small and quiet and everywhere. And everyone serves whether they know it or not."

Something ironic just happened! I wrapped up this article and checked out my e-mails. My dear high school friend Dianne (Stark) Kimbrough from Santa Barbara had written a brief note concluding with these words: No wonder God tells us, "We are like a spark flying up from a fire." Wow!

The Christmas message has always been about blessings. What greater gift can we give the Christ Child than to ignite the spark of God in one another?

Janet Burns lives in Lewiston. She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com 


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