Sharing the Season

Gifting a World of Abundant Need

In a season of giving, what does it mean to share our spiritual abundance? How does that spiritual giving inform our engagement with the concrete realities of those in need? These are the questions we set out to explore in the December issue of Bearings with Feature writers Paul Houston Blankenship and Darleen Pryds. For his part, Paul started where his work as a scholar, writer, and activist most often takes him: to the streets and the stories of encounters with the people who live there. Three poignant, intimate “confessions” call out for collective forgiveness, especially in this holy season, for our failure to share the simplest of human kindnesses to those many of us pass by every day. “By grace may we come to understand how our love might become more loving,” Paul prays, insisting that love, that sharing, move beyond abstract platitudes. 

Darleen’s reflections on the birth, nurturing, and suffering of a family of mourning doves outside her window is no less concrete. Her tending to the dove family invites exploration of the complexities of human engagements over the holidays. “The reality of sharing our lives with each other is that relationships are complex” she reminds us. “The holiday season seems to ramp up the complexity.” But through her attentiveness to a brood of lowly mourning doves, Darleen suggests ways that the compassionate embrace of complexity itself can allow us to experience real joy in the holiday season and beyond.

In our Creative Insights section, Ellen McGrath Smith is back with us to introduce two remarkable new books of poetry, Li-Young Lee’s The Undressing and U.S. poet laureate Tracy K. Smith’s Wade in the Water. “Poetry at its best works to lessen that space between what’s said and what’s heard,” says Ellen, “allowing for possibilities rather than closing down necessary conversations.” This is particularly important in challenging times like these, and Ellen’s navigation through Lee’s and Smith’s rich collections guides us to a new season of possibility.

Ron Culmer, who lives not far from Northern California’s recent wildfires, offers Commentary on acts of neighborliness that generate “hope in dark times.” Again here, Ron insists that virtues like neighborliness, generosity, and hope must be more than banal abstractions. He extends Walter Brueggemann’s analysis of Gospel teachings on hope with a call to community organizing for social action. “The good news was meant to be lived and shared, and the church must care because God cares,” Ron challenges us from geographical, ideological, and spiritual landscapes too often ravaged by human-made forces of destruction.

Finally, we’ve pulled two favorites from our archives for holiday reflection and inspiration. Keith Anderson‘s 2014 article, “Advent’s Invitation to Incarnational Imagination,” urges us to attend to the presence of the divine in the most ordinary of spaces rather than fixing our sights on the glitter of the holiday. And Martha Spong‘s  “Going Through the Holiday Motions,” from 2015, offers solace for those made weary by the buzz of the holidays as they swirl around homes and families that have grown and changed over time.

You’ll find woven through all of these pieces a common theme: our contributors are all about love—love in its most complex, often wrenching, profoundly transformative, and redeeming forms. We hope you’ll take both challenge and inspiration from these diverse offerings. May they warm all of our souls and carry us together into a New Year of justice and peace.

From the Left Coast—


Elizabeth Drescher, Editor

Elizabeth Drescher

Elizabeth Drescher, PhD is the editor of Bearings and a Consulting Scholar at The BTS Center. She is also an Adjunct Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Santa Clara University and the author of Choosing Our Religion: The Spiritual Lives of America’s Nones (Oxford University Press, 2016), Tweet If You ♥ Jesus: Practicing Church in the Digital Reformation (Morehouse 2011), and, with Keith Anderson, Click 2 Save: The Digital Ministry Bible (Morehouse, 2012) and Click 2 Save: Reboot (Church Publishing, 2018). Her commentary on contemporary religion and spirituality has been published in Alternet, AmericaThe AtlanticSalon, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Jose Mercury News, Religion Dispatches, The Washington Post, and other national publications. She is a much sought after speaker for religious and academic groups engaging the changing religious landscape in the United States. You can find Elizabeth on Twitter @edrescherphd.

Featured Image: Kira auf der Heide, Untitled (December 10, 2017). Via Unsplash. Cc2.0 license.

Body Image: Jonathan Meyer, “Peace of Christ” (December 24, 2017). Via Unsplash. Cc2.0 license.