Christmas 2005

poinsettiasDecember 1, 2005

Dear Friends and Family,

Last month I had the privilege of visiting some close friends in Sundance, Wyoming.  If it rings a bell, that’s not Santa’s sleigh settling on your roof or in your head.  Sundance is the place the Sundance Kid did his thing.  Nestled against the Black Hills, this little gem is the home of about 1,000 people and many more animals.  Wyoming is home to more animals than people, and deer and wild turkeys roam the neighborhoods.  Maybe you’re thinking it sounds a lot like home, with wild turkeys running around.   But these turkeys are real, not just what you call your neighbor who tp’d your house to get back at you for sticking Oreo cookies all over his minivan.  (I’ve always had the urge to do that!)

It seemed as though I was plucked out of one world and plopped into another when I learned that dinner the first night was going to be green rabbit chili.   My friend Sherri’s brother-in-law had recently shot the rabbit.  Somehow I got it down, and mom was right, it tasted like chicken.   Many people in Wyoming hunt their own meat and chop their own wood.  Most homes in Sundance are a little over 1000 square feet, but the people don’t care because they like each other.  They stop by their neighbors’ houses once or twice a week just to have coffee and chat.  No need to call because they don’t ask themselves, “What will the neighbors think?”  if the house looks like a pack of second-graders were let loose for a week.  Sherri and Ted don’t have a television.  Their lives are quite simple. People in Sundance aren’t into overspending to keep up with the Jones’, and Wyoming is the only state in the nation with a surplus as opposed to a deficit.  It also happens to be the only state with no gambling — not even a lottery.

One Saturday evening, when Ted and their adopted son, Earl, went elk hunting in the mountains, Sherri and I bundled the two little ones up and set them in their red big wheel Radio Flyer wagon  We walked around Sundance and I noticed that one of the two restaurants wasn’t open.  I asked Sherri why it wasn’t open on a Saturday night, because it seemed to me they would miss out on some great business.  She told me that the owners were probably at home with their families because in Sundance many people value their families over materialism.  At that moment it dawned on me that Sundance offers a beautiful simplicity of life that we non-Wyomingites often miss due to our frazzled lives.  Of course it’s not  perfect because there is no heaven on earth.  But it definitely offers a delightful taste of life in the raw.

And what on earth does Sundance have to do with Christmas, you’re asking, as you buzz around the house with tinsel stuck between your toes.  Is Cherrie off on another tangent, maybe on a sugar high from drinking too many peppermint mochas?  Actually, although you may be right, the back-to-the-basics living in Sundance reminded me of the real nativity—the first Christmas.  Mary had trotted around on a donkey in her last week or so before labor.  I imagine she had some serious issues at about that time,  (As one of my clients said, no one has problems anymore – we all have issues.)   And you thought the delivery of your first child wasn’t exactly a trip to Nordstrom.  Unlike your Costco nativity set, perfectly clean except for the fudge you spilled on one of the wise men, the first Christmas whispered of simplicity.  Instead of glitter, angel hair, or wood shavings to look like hay, dirt and dust adorned the people and animals — not to mention flies.  The most beautiful experience in history seeped of simplicity and  rawness.

We pray that you, like the folks living in Sundance, savor what is truly important in life.  May you strip away life’s complexities and find beauty in the simplicity of relationships.  And may the Son dance on your soul every day of your life.

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