One challenge after another hits. Not one, but two loved ones are diagnosed with a terminal illness. A surprise divorce. A friend dies. Another loved one in the hospital. A job ending.
After experiencing all of the above, I had to stop what I was doing. Life was taking on a whole new seriousness. Because in the same time frame in our very large extended family, we had two babies being born, four new homes established, two new jobs started; there were stubborn character traits softened and the redeeming of a father-son relationship.
There was something ground- breakingly persistent here. Life, like a northwoods lake twice a year, was turning over.
For those of you who don't know, lake turnover is the seasonal movement of water in a lake, a process of the dense lower layer of a lake rising to become the upper, less-dense layer.
Life is constantly moving, turning over, and over, in cycles.
When the fear of death threatens to isolate or abandon us and tries to draw the very energy out of us, there is another lesson to be learned from the lake: that life is contained, transforming. We aren't alone or abandoned. Life doesn't work in linear finite ways. We can embrace the full cycles of Life.
It is allright to cry, and let the fear gather in the eyes and be washed away. We are more than the physical body that starts out small, grows and then fails us. Who we are and who we love is about Spirit and our individualized expressions of Life. In our most challenging times, we let the natural light of Spirit transform us and let our dense lower sense of ourselves and loved ones be lifted, pushed away by a lightness and warmth of our spiritual being.
The fruits of these challenges is that it forces us to experience each other in a new way – more spiritual. The passion, adventure, delight and drama of one, the energy, loyalty and love of another rises to the surface and we forgive the rest. Any regret, resentment, anger can be transformed like dead leaves into a rich and fertile place from which to grow stronger.
This is Life, continuing to create. There is constant renewal, as spring to summer to fall to winter and then over again. Though heart-rending challenges, we too are turning over, seeing ourselves and others in a new light. Life is consistent, insistent and persistent. We can never lose one another when we acknowledge who we are spiritually, in these cycles of light and life.
We have a family story that I like to share around this time of the year. My mom’s father, Walter (or Butchie as he was known to us), was with the Scottish regiment on December 24, 1914, and was a part of that most wonderful Christmas Eve truce. My mom remembers him talking about it and sharing the news of playing football with others.
Butchie survived this war, married and had five children. He also introduced three generations to Christian Science after having been healed through Christian Science of severe head injuries. (But that's another story for another time!)
While browsing the internet about the famous truce, I found a letter that a soldier wrote during that time. It's become famous as you will read. (I've copied it as it appeared on interfaithforums.com.)
It is an amazing story, remarkable situation. It is a tribute to all soldiers everywhere and a reminder that "on each end of the rifle, we're the same."
The Christmas Truce Letter
On November 7, 2006, singer Chris de Burgh paid £14,400 at Bonhams auction house for an original 10 page letter from an unknown British soldier that records events and incidents with the Germans on that night (during World War I) describing "the most memorable Christmas I've ever spent".
The letter begins:
This will be the most memorable Christmas I've ever spent or likely to spend: since about tea time yesterday I don't think theres been a shot fired on either side up to now. Last night turned a very clear frost moonlight night, so soon after dusk we had some decent fires going and had a few carols and songs.The Germans commenced by placing lights all along the edge of their trenches and coming over to us — wishing us a Happy Christmas etc. They also gave us a few songs etc. so we had quite a social party. Several of them can speak English very well so we had a few conversations. Some of our chaps went to over to their lines. I think theyve all come back bar one from 'E' Co. They no doubt kept him as a souvenir.
In spite of our fires etc. it was terribly cold and a job to sleep between look out duties, which are two hours in every six.
First thing this morning it was very foggy. So we stood to arms a little longer than usual. A few of us that were lucky could go to Holy Communion early this morning. It was celebrated in a ruined farm about 500 yds behind us. I unfortunately couldn't go. There must be something in the spirit of Christmas as to day we are all on top of our trenches running about. Whereas other days we have to keep our heads well down.
We had breakfast about 8.0 which went down alright especially some cocoa we made. We also had some of the post this morning. I had a parcel from B. G's Lace
Dept containing a sweater, smokes, under clothes etc. We also had a card from the Queen, which I am sending back to you to look after please. After breakfast we had a game of football at the back of our trenches!
We've had a few Germans over to see us this morning. They also sent a party over to bury a sniper we shot in the week. He was about a 100 yds from our trench. A few of our fellows went out and helped to bury him.About 10.30 we had a short church parade the morning service etc. held in the trench.
How we did sing. 'O come all ye faithful. And While shepherds watched their flocks by night' were the hymns we had. At present we are cooking our Christmas Dinner! so will finish this letter later.Dinner is over! and well we enjoyed it. Our dinner party started off with fried bacon and dip-bread: followed by hot Xmas Pudding. I had a mascot in my piece.
Next item on the menu was muscatels and almonds, oranges, bananas, chocolate etc followed by cocoa and smokes. You can guess we thought of the dinners at home. Just before dinner I had the pleasure of shaking hands with several Germans: a party of them came 1/2 way over to us so several of us went out to them. I exchanged one of my balaclavas for a hat. I've also got a button off one of their tunics. We also exchanged smokes etc. and had a decent chat. They say they won't fire tomorrow if we don't so I suppose we shall get a bit of a holiday — perhaps.
After exchanging autographs and them wishing us a Happy New Year we departed and came back and had our dinner.We can hardly believe that we've been firing at them for the last week or two — it all seems so strange. At present its freezing hard and everything is covered with ice…
The letter ends:There are plenty of huge shell holes in front of our trenches, also pieces of shrapnel to be found. I never expected to shake hands with Germans between the firing lines on Christmas Day and I don't suppose you thought of us doing so. So after a fashion we've enjoyed? our Christmas. Hoping you spend a happy time also George Boy as well. How we thought of England during the day. Kind regards to all the neighbours.
With much love from Boy.
For more information and background, see and read more about a movie, Joyeux Noël, made about this event.
Note: The photo is a family photo and is not for circulation. (c)
“I felt like I was coming home,” Barbara says. “I felt like everything would be okay.” This comment is from an article written by a woman who commented on her first thought when starting to read Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy in an effort to re-gain her peace and equilibrium after a rape incident. (See article here.)
Her triumph reminded me of an incredible friendship I had with a friend who was going through therapy due to incest. During our friendship, I learned more about the power and fixity of purity that has stayed with me ever since.
When I first heard of the situations my friend had endured, I was shocked and furious. She was getting help through the therapy and was a determined young woman. I so wanted to help her.
I remember researching what I could do legally to help her. I got acquainted with many of the local resources dealing with women, sexuality and abuse. I worked in the school system at the time and even produced a cable television program on this issue that included interviews with area social service agencies, call-ins and production staff. The issue exhausted me, angered me, while at the same time I wanted to be strong for my friend.
I knew that all of these human footsteps were important and helpful. But what I needed, and my friend needed, was something much more deeply spiritual.
We must have talked and walked around a nearby lakes dozens of times. I prayed throughout our friendship and on one of our walks, I started sharing some of the spiritual ideas that I was learning:
1. Our very being is spiritual - it is the spiritual elements in life that move us, give us our identity, cause us to grow.
2. Our very being is pure - undefiled, untouched. This is a fixed fact and is unalterable.
3. Nobody can touch our spiritual being - our spiritual identity. Just as no one can change the idea of the numeral nine, no one can change the idea or spiritual being that is you and me.
4. Our identity is not that of a victim, of a vulnerable person who lacks strength, intelligence, courage. These suggestions are shadows that fluctuate and flee in light of the purity that is ours.
5. Violence, perversion, coercion -- these are not our fault. It is not brought about by some perceived lack in ourselves. It is born of ignorance and dies of ignorance. It has no power, presence, influence or reason unless we give it to them.
6. The most loving thing we can do for one another is to not believe in the shadows, but affirm one another's light -- one's primitive purity.
I also relied heavily on some tried and proven foundation stones for my life.
My friend and I exchanged many spiritual ideas for months. She remained strong and significant and healthy changes were made in her life.
Key to the healing was forgiveness - the ability to see the power of Love and the powerlessness of errant actions to take anything of substance away from what God has given us. Later, we both went on to graduate school and lost touch. But what remained is that unshakeable truth that I can now come home to - Our purity is a fixed fact.
*article first appeared in http://kimckorinek.blogspot.com/2010_09_01_archive.html
Kim C Korinek, CSB
banner photo (c) Micah Korinek; other photos by Gabe Korinek, Kim Korinek, Brad Crooks. Leslie Larsen (c) 2016