Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

---Collect for the first Sunday in Advent, Book of Common Prayer, p. 211

Romans 13:11-14:

You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Many of you all who have followed this blog for some time know I always do a project for Advent. This year, my project is to really hear the words in the collects in our Book of Common Prayer and the readings in the Revised Common Lectionary, year A, for each of the weeks of Advent and to "practice nipsis" in this exercise.

I got really excited about the discovery of the word "nipsis" just prior to Advent. It was an entirely new word for me!

Its literal meaning in Greek is "sober" (as in the opposite of drunken) but in terms of orthodox Eastern spirituality it implies a wakefulness. it means to become more aware.

Drunkenness, as many of us know, dulls the senses. In fact, alcohol is probably the "off-label self-medication of choice" when we feel sad, or hurt, or afraid, or awkward. We want the pain of these things to be dulled, and there's nothing like a few brewskis or some wine, or a half pitcher of margaritas to let the dulling commence. It dulls the pain of having to suffer the human condition of "having to feel."

I think all of us have our own personal definitions of what we feel as "darkness" and "light." But our collect urges us to take life "guts-ball, no anesthetic."

"Make no provision for the flesh." It asks us to feel things as they are, and trust that the armor of the Light of Christ is sufficient protection. That's a pretty tall order. So often, we use our emotions to steel us from the painful blows. In my case, that often manifests itself as simply "not feeling." In my job, that is a needed skill. In my outside of work life, not so much...and that is where I feel a shift, a transformation to a new place.

I thought about something that happened to me today. I had a young adult connection of mine come in while I was at my desk, signing out surgical path cases, and relate some very devastating news in his life to me. I have incredible compassion for his plight. I do not know what the ultimate outcome of it all is, but I pray that he will be transformed by the experience.

But then, as he left, I picked up my next surgical path case and started to sign it out like he had never been in the room. I focused all I had on the person who needs a diagnosis. I can render a diagnosis for the colonoscopy biopsy patient. I can't render a diagnosis for my young friend. But that skill--that ability to turn my feelings on and off--is a two-edged sword. It allows me to do my job with all my skill and all my training. But away from the office, that skill puts me in a state of spiritual drunkenness, dull to the messages God has for me.

Another story in a different place comes to mind. Yesterday I had a wonderful "catch-up" phone call with another friend halfway across the country. She has been widowed for over a year now. She was discussing how she is not ready to get rid of certain things of her husband's, and how several folks tell her "she needs to move on." She tells me she knows she is not ready, and as I hear her talk, I realize she recognizes she still has things left that she needs to feel, and journey through those feelings. So I simply affirmed her journey by saying, "Hey, you are the only one who knows that time frame. I think you need to take as long as you think you need with it. You just have to make sure you can pay the bills and do your job while you're doing it."

The nipsis for me in these two stories is that I realize this Advent, I am awakening from sleep, just as our reading in Romans describes. There are so many feelings of mine that I have not walked through, lined up in the cupboards in my soul like so many unlabeled, dusty cans. It's fearful to even think of opening the cans. Some of the cans are more recent; some of the cans are dusty and at least four decades old. Worse yet, to think of others opening the cans is even more fearful. I realize I must, with God's help, open them myself, in my own time frame.

What I've discovered this Advent is that of all things, music is a safe space where I can open those cans.

For the past four or five years, I have annually made a shift in my "background music preferences" at home and work every Advent to classical music and "high church music." This Advent, I find myself driving to work and hearing a Bach piece, and crying for what seems to be no reason--or I hear "O come O come Emmanuel" and suddenly feel deep awe and wonder, again for no apparent reason.

I've decided that my opportunity for nipsis in this, is to simply ask myself, "What do I see, in the recesses of my brain, that has evoked this feeling through a piece of music?" What little I have been able to see, has begun to awaken me to new pieces of my most true and holy self.

I realize that once again, the Holy Spirit has been up to her old tricks with me. She has been building me up for this, in things like learning to love singing Taizé chants by my chiminea fire, and leading Evensong, and learning to praise God through my own private singing.

So my question for each of you, in this first Advent look at nipsis that I will be doing in the next few weeks, is this: "What is out there that is the safe background, the safe framework for your awakenings this Advent?" Is it music? Is it art? Is it poetry? Is it walking? Whatever it is, I invite you to journey with me in the fullness of nipsis.



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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