Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas Peace (Cleveland Post, December 1, 2011)

I opened the cabinet door to put away the plastic container, only to have five other lids cascade onto my head. Argghhhhhhhh! Why, in the season that points to that time when the lion shall lie down with the lamb, am I not given a reprieve from gravity, an arguably similar natural law that stands in the way of my household peace and harmony?

And why does it bother me now, when it was just something I dealt with in the preceding eleven months of the year?

Deep breath. Count to ten. Perspective. Patience, patience.

This may be the message we need to hear this time of year, but in order to hear it you pretty much have to go into seclusion, turn off the radio, television, web, phone, and have somebody else sort the mail.


Given the condition of my kitchen cabinets, it may seem odd that Martha Stewart is a hero of mine. She has made a successful career of taking homemaking and homekeeping as the serious charge it is. It is work, sometimes even drudgery, but done for people you love and with the understanding that it will make life run more smoothly. As I tell my children, we clean bathrooms because we like clean bathrooms, not because we like cleaning them.

I bet Martha Stewart isn't hit with an avalanche of plastic lids when she opens a cabinet. And that is as it should be: she has accepted the fallen (gravitationally and otherwise) nature of the world, created systems to meet it head on and committed to implementing them. Perfect, no. But organization can head off the bad words and snitty moods by limiting the damage when the unexpected occurs. This is particularly helpful during the holidays. Assuming, of course, that "organize" actually gets checked off one's to-do list.


It is absurd, all this craziness around Christmas. After all, this baby Jesus grew up to be the one who said to another Martha, "You worry too much."

According to the Gospels of Luke and John, Jesus was a friend of Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. He often stayed at their home in Bethany. One day, he arrived with his disciples and Martha went straight to work. Mary didn't. She followed the other disciples and settled in to listen to Jesus teach.

I think most of us can imagine the hurt, the bitterness, the frustration Martha felt. Here she wants everything to be nice for Jesus and his disciples, and Mary has screwed it up by refusing to help.

Not one to take such things lying down, Martha goes to Jesus and demands he make Mary help her in the kitchen. But Jesus says something like "Martha! Chill! We came for the conversation and company, not to be waited on. We can eat any time. Mary gets that."

Oh, the women's Bible study discussions that story brings up! They don't want to argue with Jesus, but, really, doesn't he realize that for folks to eat work must be done? Just like a man!

I like to think he added something akin to "Come join us, Martha. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are really all we need," but Luke's gospel doesn't record that.

What it does say is that worry, hurt, anger, and lack of balance are nothing new. It says that all of us - even women - need to realign our priorities from time to time to make sure we are getting the things that nourish the spirit as well as the body. And in the wondrously screwy way of humanity, that might mean some of us need to get up from the desk and cook something delicious for someone special.


The booby-trapped cabinets convict me of being more like Mary than Martha. I intend to sort them out but the time gets away from me. Kind of the way folks intend to share the Christmas spirit all through the year and start shopping early so they have time to enjoy the season.

We think we can catch up to all of it, the housekeeping and the kindness, in a month. There is something ominous about blowing this particular deadline, that justifies a short temper.

Deep breaths. Patience. Sleep. Perspective.

The cabinets can wait. The deadline is more than met if my children remember love as laughter and fun and peace, not stress, not impatience. That is no small contribution towards peace on earth, good will towards men.

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