Monday, December 25, 2006

December 25, Christmas Day

Laurie Rudel

. . . the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.
Galatians 3:22 (NSRV)

Creature of the earth

of clay and spit and water and blood

what might be born in you this day?

What newness seeks expression?

What dream stirs within your beating heart?

Look! look! A newborn lies beside you

in need of tender care.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

December 24 - Fourth Sunday of Advent - LOVE

Joan Dennehy

Mary said, My soul proclaims your greatness, O God, and my spirit rejoices in you, my Savior. For you have looked with favor upon your lowly servant, and from this day forward all generations will call me blessed.
Luke 1:46-48 (NRSV)

Lady of Guadalupe, Black Madonna, Queen of Patriarchs, Mystical Rose, Miriam, the Jewish girl from Nazareth said, "yes" to life. Gabriel and God and all the heavens stood in suspense, hanging on the woman’s answer. This story means that each of us is asked to bring the light of Christ into the world.

Barbara Brown Taylor describes it this way: "If you decide to say ‘no’ you simply drop your eyes and refuse to look up until you know the angel has left the room. Or you can listen, you can decide to take part in a plan you did not choose, doing things you do not know how to do, for reasons you do not entirely understand. You can agree to smuggle God into the world inside your own body."

The angel can come into any human life, any family, any nation with the good news that we are not lost or forgotten. Protestants have ignored Mary for too long. She represents the feminine side of God. In folk art she is depicted huge and powerful, holding a tiny Christ on her lap.

Sit quietly and breathe slowly.
Bring to mind a time when you said "no" to life, went back to whatever it is that is familiar to you.
Bring to mind an image of Mary and ask her to speak to you.
Keep breathing slowly until your heart and her heart feel like one.

We are all meant to be mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born.
- Meister Eckhart

Friday, December 22, 2006

Saturday, December 23 - LOVE

Joan Dennehy

But I say to you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Matthew 5:44 (NRSV)

Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of South Africa, spoke at St. Mark’s Cathedral this year:
"All. All belong. Jew, Palestinian, Buddhist, Muslim, atheist, secularist. All. All. All. All are held in this wide embrace with a love that will not let anyone go. God has no enemies, and certainly my enemies are not God’s enemies. Each and all are precious, with a preciousness that cannot be computed. Each of us is known by name.

So what? Well, no one can be excluded. Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden. George Bush. The Iranian president. The North Koreans. All. All belong. Just think of the person you can least stand. Do you know God loves that person as if they were the only person on earth—just as God loves you?"

Fountain of Light and Truth, we confess that we continue to spend what can only be described as obscene amounts on budgets of death and destruction, when we know that just a fraction of those budgets would ensure that God’s children everywhere, our sisters and brothers, would have enough food to eat, clean water to drink, a decent home, affordable health care, a good education. Be born in us anew that we will believe again in your dream.

One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life; that word is love.
- Sophocles

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Friday, December 22 - LOVE

Laurie Rudel

You shall also love the stranger,
for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Deuteronomy 10:19 (NSRV)

In one translation of this text the word "love" is rendered as "befriend." You must befriend the stranger. We can ponder this teaching at a couple of levels.

Despite the history (some would call it a "sacred contract") of our country as a lamp to the "poor huddled masses yearning to be free" we have not been the most hospitable of people. We worry ourselves sick that a stranger is getting something for nothing and that there won’t be enough to go around. We have determined that indeed "fences do make good neighbors." The truth is that all but a very few of us came here from "somewhere else": we were strangers once ourselves.

At another level there are parts of ourselves that cry out for recognition: pieces of us that we perceive to be less attractive or even repellent. We call these pieces by a variety of names and rarely draw attention to them.

If we believe that we are linked inside and out then how we love/befriend others who are strange to us helps us to love/befriend all the varied parts of ourselves and how we love/befriend the varied parts of ourselves allows us to love/befriend others.

The point is: we’ve all been there.
Remember that! God tells us.
You are special, but not that special!
Remember when you . . .

[Love] is not something that we must create, it is us. Love is our essence—the fundamental energy that nourishes us. It is our birthright.
- Benjamin Shield

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Thursday, December 21 - LOVE

Laurie Rudel

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? He said to him, Yes, Lord; I love you. Jesus said to him, Feed my lambs.
John 21:15 (NSRV)

Love is a verb

an action word.

It is not a lumpy thing

that sits on a shelf taken

down occasionally for dusting

as if a prized possession.

Love is alert, looking, seeing, noticing:

how is it with your soul?

Make many acts of love, for they set the soul on fire and make it gentle.
- St Teresa of Jesus

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Wednesday, December 20 - LOVE

Joan Dennehy

We know that God makes everything work together for the good of those who love God and have been called according to God’s purpose.
Romans 8:28 (The Inclusive New Testament)

Silence is a place of hearing and it is finding its way back into worship. Removal from the noise of this world lifts the heart and asks us to think of the things of heaven.

In our society, noise disconnects us from others and drives us deeper into isolation. Perhaps we often overuse electronic gadgets for the same reason we spend countless hours shopping: We do not want to be left alone with our thoughts. When was the last time we followed a thought where it would take us without our eyes or ears being pulled away by a screen or an artificial sound?
Carl Jung said, "If you can’t stand to be alone in silence with yourself, why do you inflict yourself on us?" Meister Eckhart, 14th century Christian mystic, said "Nothing in all creation is so like God as silence." That means to run from the self is to run from God.

I have found that only in silence can this mystery of everything working together for good be met and integrated into human flesh where the mind continues its work of dividing and sorting everything while the heart serenely pulls the fragments into a whole we can feel if not exactly see.

O God of Wonders let us see that the measure of the pain we feel in any loss is the measure of love we’ve had.

Love makes any place agreeable.
- Arabian proverb

Monday, December 18, 2006

Tuesday, December 19 - JOY

Laurie Rudel

. . . suffering produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Romans 5:3-5 (NSRV)

God’s love has been poured into our hearts . . . not sprinkled, or rationed out, not saved or held back for a rainy day . . . poured . . . just like the little girl with the yellow umbrella on the Morton Salt container who pours out salt behind her like there is no tomorrow.

In a very real way there is no tomorrow for God. No yesterday either for that matter. For God the thing that matters is now. This moment, then the next one. Mark Nepo writes: Do one thing at a time and do it entirely, and it will lead you to the next moment of love. When we can be present in this way our everyday life begins to carve out a path leading us toward deeper and deeper love.

And the deeper we go in love then the more we will experience the radiance of grace that infuses all aspects of our life including times of great suffering. Nothing, not even suffering can separate us from the love of God.

• Pause in prayer and ponder the state of your heart.
• Imagine God pouring love into your heart and especially filling the empty places.
• Take it in, treasure it, and remember your heart-full of love as you go about your day.

It is only necessary to know that love is a direction and not a state of the soul. If one is unaware of this, one falls into despair at the first onslaught of affliction.
- Simone Weil
Monday, December 18 - LOVE

Joan Dennehy

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fatted ox and hatred with it.
Proverbs 15:17 (NRSV)

My five children tease me now about how much I watered down the orange juice while they were growing up—just one of many humble offerings at the table when budgets were tight. The pedestal table is a six foot round butcher block which found its way into the church library and now sits in storage waiting for a better day. It will take some sanding to remove the years of elbows, gouges, sliding plates, schoolwork, art projects and sewing efforts. It was the only table big enough for most things.

I was sitting at that table one day with a young one on my lap, rocking back and forth crying, Thank you, honey, thank you. She had brought me a handful of flowers, the flowers I had spent all spring trying to grow, trying to create just one beautiful thing, something that would take me outside the house. When she saw that finger-painting of colors humming against the blue air, she could think of nothing but to pick them and bring them to me, wilting already in her hot little hands. Thank you.

Close your eyes and erase the many thoughts and images that arise. Then ask to see a table in your own life where love was shared. Breathe deeply and feel the energy of love in the air surrounding you.

Love cures people—both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.
- Karl Menniger

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sunday, December 17 - The Third Sunday of Advent - JOY

[Winter storms hit us hard this past week.
Power is back on after three days . . .]

Laurie Rudel

Rejoice in the Lord always: Again I say, Rejoice.
Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
Philippians 4:4-5 (NSRV)

This letter from Paul links rejoicing, gentleness, and proximity to God as keys to a faithful, trusting life.

We don’t hear much about gentleness or joy these days. On the whole our culture values displays of visible power. Gentleness is frequently perceived as a weakness. Our children learn early on to develop thick skins, to "toughen up". Having protective outer skin is helpful and necessary in life, however at what point is enough "toughness" enough and at what point to do we lose our capacity for gentleness and joy?

To live close to God is to live close to the ground—the humus. As it has been observed, we are not human beings attempting to be spiritual: we are spiritual beings attempting to become human. To live close to God is to become fully human capable of the full range of human emotions. There is joy in accepting exactly where we are in life and to cease our striving to be someone or something that we are not.

God, give us this day a full measure of gentleness as we offer a full measure of gentleness to others. Keep us from the temptation to wield power over others, especially over those weaker than ourselves. True power belongs to you, O God. May we grow this day in humility and tenderness and joy.

Joy fixes us to eternity and pain fixes us to time. But desire and fear hold us in bondage to time, and detachment breaks the bond.
- Simone Weil

Friday, December 15, 2006

Saturday, December 16 - JOY

Laurie Rudel

So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
Matthew 28:8 (NSRV)

Life is never quite as straightforward as we think it is. As a matter of fact the path of our lives can rarely be described in a linear fashion. We live within a huge arc from birth to death and within that arc we experience many little deaths and births: ideas, dreams, jobs, loved ones. Destruction and creation are both necessary for fullness of life. Fear and joy travel together as necessary companions.

When the women came to the tomb they had no idea that God had spoken a word to re-create the energy of the human-Jesus into the Christ-God empowered energy that would inspire millions of people to love and serve and offer their own lives on behalf of the world.

Just as God has spoken a new word, just as the women ran to speak a new word to the disciples—so we are called to speak our unique word to the world.

• What is your greatest fear?
• What is your greatest joy?
• Who will you tell this to?

Joy and sorrow, life and death, always so close together!
- Dorothy Day

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Friday, December 15 - JOY

Joan Dennehy

I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you,
and your joy may be complete.
John 15:11 (NRSV)

Times are tough. There is a global anxiety that seeps into the window at night and makes for fretful sleep. There seems to be a real shortage of joy these days. You don’t see a lot of adult people skipping and twirling around. Joy seems almost irreverent in a world where so much is going wrong.

Imagine you are in a plaza with a big water fountain in the center and people sitting around all over the place. It’s early spring, the sun is shining, and pigeons are flapping in the sky overhead. You are talking to your friend when all of a sudden she just snaps. She runs over to the water fountain, plunges her hands into it, and drenches herself. Then she runs back to you and puts her cold wet hands on either side of your face. You are appalled. Everyone is staring. You want to throw a scarf over her head because her face is so completely open, so utterly defenseless that you can hardly stand to look at it.

Joy happens when God is present and people know it, which means it can erupt in a depressed economy, in the middle of a war, in an intensive care waiting room.

Gracious God, though joy might seem to be too revealing, we, for heaven’s sake, want to learn not to protect ourselves so much, not to have such a grip on ourselves. Help us make room for you like Mary did. Help us see how she started humming a tune the church is still singing to this day. Teach us to sing.

No earthly joy is acquired without tears.
- Phillipine proverb

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Thursday, December 14 - JOY

Laurie Rudel

. . . let the field exult, and everything in it.
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy . . .
Psalm 96:12 (NSRV)

Recently, in a retreat setting, I worked with a group of people teaching them how to do hand dances in pairs. We began quite simply by placing the palm of our hand against the palm of our partner’s hand. We pushed a little, pulled a little, made some shapes with our hands and pretty soon our hands were dancing with each other. Then we made some space between our hand and our partner’s hand, just a little bit. Some of us could feel energy pulsing in the space between.

The next morning our retreat group took a meditative walk through the forest. Folks in the group were of differing physical abilities. At the beginning of the hike we were told that if anyone needed to stop for a moment and rest that the whole group would pause until that person was ready to move on again.

So in this manner we walked and stopped all along the trail. One man who was quite fit began to become irritated at all the stops and starts. Then he remembered the hand dances. Now each time we stopped he centered himself and let his energy reach out to the tree closest to him. It became a sort of a human-tree dance.

To our ordinary eyes trees appear to be still. Rooted in one place how can a tree dance and sing for joy?

Gracious God, open my eyes to the joy that floods the world and let me sing!

One joy scatters a hundred griefs.
- Chinese proverb

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Wednesday, December 13 - JOY

Laurie Rudel

You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy,
in your right hand are pleasures evermore.
Psalm 16:11 (NSRV)

In this season of waiting we prepare for what will come. We purchase gifts, send cards, make cookies, and decorate while visions of the holy-holiday dance through our heads. The trick, as always, is to not miss what is happening right in front of us right now!

When we ponder that "in God’s presence there is fullness of joy" perhaps we might want to see what that fullness looks like right now rather than tossing away today as one more day to cross off on our way to the main event.

So, today give yourself an early Christmas present of God’s presence and:

• Go outside. Take a good breath . . . what does the air smell like?
• During one of your meals really taste what you are eating.
• Before you go to sleep notice where you experienced a tiny sliver of joy.

Health is not just the absence of disease. It’s an inner joyfulness that should be ours all the time—a state of positive well-being.
- Deepak Chopra
Tuesday, December 12 - JOY

Joan Dennehy

With joy you will draw waters from the wells of salvation.
Isaiah 12:3 (NRSV)

The writings of C.S. Lewis have taught me three things about joy. The first is that joy surprises. It comes unbidden and unplanned for. I have tried to coerce it, even gently cajole it into existence, but like the Spirit, it blows where it will. Lewis tells of his first experience with joy, when as a child of five, his brother make a little toy garden of twigs and flowers in the lid of a biscuit tin. The sight enchanted Lewis and he fell under its spell.

Secondly, joy is not the same as pleasure, fun, happiness. If you have tasted it you know you won’t exchange it for all the pleasures of the world.

Finally, joy co-exists with pain. In the midst of affliction, joy gives proof of its power. It is the anchor that gives us the stability we need to endure all kinds of upsets and struggles.

• Sit quietly and bring to mind a time when joy has surprised you.
• Now think about a struggle you are now experiencing.
• Breathe through this struggle and bless the buried part of you just waiting for its turn in the world.

When you finally allow yourself to trust joy and embrace it, you will find your dance with everything.
- Emmanuel

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Monday, December 11 - JOY

Joan Dennehy

When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.
Matthew 2:10 (NRSV)

In the Christmas story something powerful led the magi on a long and dangerous journey to see the one who would embody wisdom in this world. As they knelt to give their gifts I wonder how they imagined the future of this baby.

"It’s strange the way everybody has their own pet notion about Jesus..." was the musing of one of The Brothers K, in a novel of the same name by David James Duncan. "Grandawma, for instance, says he’s just a defunct social reformer. Then there’s Papa, who once said he God’s Son all right, and that he survived the crucifixion just fine, but that the two-thousand-year-old funeral service his followers call Christianity probably made him sorry he did. Bet spent a whole day making a Christmas card for Uncle Marv and Aunt Mary Jane last year, then got so proud of the card that she refused to mail it to anybody but herself. "That’s the Christmas spirit!’ Everett told her. Then we looked to see what she was so proud of, and it turned out to be this whole army of crayon angels, in these gold sort of football helmets, charging into Bethlehem and in the sky above them huge red and green letters copied from a book Bet couldn’t yet read proclaimed:


We wish, Answer to All Mysteries, that it was perfectly clear who Jesus was and is. He’s a Word, a bridegroom, a vine, then a thief in the night. He’s the messiah, a rabbi, a third of a Trinity, a fisherman, then a broken loaf of bread. Yet something powerful leads us every year to the manger and awakens in us the gifts that are ours to give.

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile is the source of your joy.
- Thich Nhat Hanh
Sunday, December 10 - The Second Sunday of Advent - PEACE

Laurie Rudel

By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Luke 1:78-79 (NSRV)

Again we are reminded that peace is active! Guided by God our feet lead us into the way of peace, if we will let them.

One day my feet marched me into the 24-Hour Fitness Center near my home and signed me up. I was surprised by their action but, in the end, let them lead me. It turned out they knew in the soul of their soles that I would soon be facing a rough patch in life. I needed to experience my body as strong and capable. I needed to lift weights and run with stamina.

There is within God a place of tender mercy that I imagine to be the heart of God. By this mercy the dawn of God breaks into our lives, gives light to all who sit in darkness, comforts those near death, and "guides our feet (if we will follow them) into the way of peace."

• Pause for a moment and contemplate the leading of God in your life.
• Do you feel any inarticulate tugs toward something odd or unexpected?
• Explore that tug and offer up your willingness to be surprised.

Once we learn to touch peace, we will be healed and transformed. It is not a matter of faith; it is a matter of practice.
- Thich Nhat Hanh

Friday, December 08, 2006

Saturday, December 9 - PEACE

Laurie Rudel

Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
Romans 14:19 (NSRV)

Pursue seems to imply going after something. It also implies that the something we are going after—what makes for peace—is itself elusive. And yet we have a clue about what results to look for.

Mutual upbuilding creates life-giving, supportive community. It does not tear down, belittle or exclude. It sees the other as necessary for the wholeness of peace. This peace is not wishy-washy. It is the kind of peace that inspires movement and creates movements in the world. It is a word that cries out and strengthens the weak.

Joan Chittister says: "When we admit what it is that we exclude from our ideal world and then determine why that is, we come face to face with the inadequacies in ourselves. It is what I exclude that challenges the limitations in my own personality."

• Remember a time when you felt held by community.
• Recall a time when you felt excluded.
• What can you do this week to build up a community that you are a part of?

May you have warmth in your igloo, oil in your lamp, and peace in your heart.
- Eskimo proverb

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Friday, December 8 - PEACE

Joan Dennehy

Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
John 14:27 (The Jerusalem Bible)

Thich Nhat Hanh was leading a reconciliation retreat between Vietnamese monks and nuns, and American veterans of the Vietnam War. One of the American vets confessed during the retreat that he had killed five Vietnamese children in an ambush, and since then he could not bear to be alone in a room with children.

Thich Nhat Hanh responded: "At this very moment there are many children who are dying in the world. There are children who will die just because they lack a single pill of medicine. If you are mindful, you can bring that pill to that child, and you can save his life. If you practice this five times, then you will save five children. Because what is to be done is to be done in the present moment. Forty thousand children die every day because of lack of food. Why do you have to cling to the past, to think of the five who are already dead? You have the power to change things by touching the present moment."

• Identify something heavy within you that seems to be in the way.
• If you are not seeing, breathe slowly and begin the vow to see.
• If you are not listening, breathe slowly and begin the vow to listen.
• Be honest in assessing how heavy this stone in you is.
• If you need help in moving it, whom will you ask and when?

Inner peace is beyond victory or defeat. - Bhagavad Gita

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Thursday, December 7 - PEACE

Joan Dennehy

Devotion and faith join together; peace and justice exchange a kiss.
Psalm 85:10 (The Psalms: A New Translation for Prayer and Worship)

Congruence is defined as the quality or state of coinciding, agreeing, corresponding. It was a great shock to me in my young life to realize that what I wanted on the inside was not what I practiced on the outside. I wanted a peaceful home, but what effort would I put into making that happen? We complain about the violence on television and in movies, yet we continue to expose ourselves to it. We disapprove of the greed and fierce competition in some professional sports, but we still support them. We are disturbed by the killing of innocent people around the world, but we spend more than half of our tax money on the production and maintenance of the military machine. Our actions are sometimes inconsistent with our desires.

We want peace, yet we rarely step into the way of peace.

What a stunning image the psalmist gives us. It sends me to the silent chapel of my heart where God can speak of peace to me, a hidden saint. "Wisdom will spring up from the ground," the psalmist goes on to sing, "and truth will look down from the sky".

I imagine walking down a hallway, a gallery of paintings, where people of all ages have given expression to this kiss. O sweet harmony—until I hear another sound, the kiss of betrayal, and find myself in a night garden, wine stains on my shirt, my eyes so heavy, trying to stay awake and remain with him who is deeply grieved even unto death.

Restore us again, Eternal Giver. Burn us with the refining Fire of Love. Revive us. Guide our footsteps upon the path of peace.

If you love peace then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed—but hate these things in yourself, not in another.
- Mahatma Gandhi

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Wednesday, December 6 - PEACE

Laurie Rudel

. . . let the shoes on your feet be the gospel of peace, to give you a firm footing . . .
Ephesians 6:15 (NEB)

Today is the traditional celebration of St. Nicholas Day. On this day St. Nicholas is remembered for tiptoeing to a home in desperate need and leaving gold coins in their shoes. His good deed became legendary. And it became a model for sharing what we have with others in need.

Each morning you arise and prepare yourself to go out into the world. What kind of shoes do you wear? For today you are invited to step into gospel shoes, shoes that proclaim peace and offer you a firm footing in a changeable world.

At some point today:
• Give your feet a little rub and thank them for carrying you this far in the world.
• Lovingly put your socks and shoes on your feet.
• Walk with confidence
• Notice who you might quietly help this week.

I do not want the peace which passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace. - Hellen Keller

Monday, December 04, 2006

Tuesday, December 5 - PEACE

Laurie Rudel

I listen to God speaking:
"I, the Lord, speak peace,
peace to my faithful people
who turn their hearts to me."

Psalm 85:8 (The Psalter)

What does it mean for God to speak peace to faithful people? How do we turn our hearts toward God?

Apparently, to God, the direction of our hearts matters. How our hearts are attuned makes all the difference as to whether or not we have the capacity to listen and hear the voice of God. Attuning our hearts to God might mean seeking some quiet time each day to pause and reflect. It might mean loving what God loves.

The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gives us a picture of fullness of this kind of peace: "True peace is not the absence of tension, but it is the presence of justice. Peace is one of the most talked about, perhaps least understood and sought after states of our time or of any time, and yet it is impossible to achieve or to maintain. What is peace? Is it a dream state from which we must awake? No. It may not be something we ever really achieve, but something we continuously strive for. For as long as there is inequality and people are starving, naked and homeless, do not have the basic necessities and lack dignity, then there is not peace. It requires the presence of justice, love and power."

• As you read the paper or listen to the news look for signs of God’s peace.
• As you read the paper or listen to the news look for places in need of shalom.
• Can you help in some way?

Looking for peace is like looking for a turtle with a mustache: you won’t be able to find it. But when your heart is ready, peace will come looking for you.
- Ajahn Chah
Monday, December 4 - PEACE

Joan Dennehy

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace..." Luke 2:13-14 (NRSV)

Peace is not
an absence of war; it is a virtue,
a state of mind, a disposition
for benevolence,
- Spinoza

The attainment of wisdom is slow and painful and few are willing to relinquish familiar, even if inaccurate, views. Resistance to change or growth is considerable. It would seem that most people are willing to die rather than alter those belief systems which confine them to lower levels of consciousness.

David R. Hawkins’ book Power vs. Force raises the question of why religions which represent the teachings of the "Prince of Peace" have never forbidden war or the killing of other human beings under "justifiable" circumstances—justifiable, of course, to those doing the killing; their victims will likely fail to appreciate the justification. This behavior does not measure up to the principles of our faith.

The level of truth originally expounded by Jesus Christ is the highest attained on earth. By the time of the crusades at the beginning of the eleventh century, the practice of Christian truth had fallen to its current level, a little less than half. So it is with all world religions. The only way to bring it up again is to increase our integrity, understanding and capacity for compassion. Only then can the survival of human society and the happiness of its members be secure.

God of Peace, Shalom, Salaam, help us see that ignorance does not yield to attack but will dissipate in the light. Help us believe that nothing dissolves dishonesty faster than the simple act of revealing the truth.

If my hands are fully occupied in holding on to something, I can neither give nor receive. - Dorthee Soelle

Saturday, December 02, 2006

December 3 - First Sunday of Advent - HOPE

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust.
Psalm 25:1-2 (NRSV)

O Heart within my heart,
let not fear rule over me.
Yes, let all who open their hearts
savor You and bless the earth!

Compel me to know your ways, O Love;
instruct me upon your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
for through You will I know wholeness;
I shall reflect your light
both day and night.

I know of your mercy.
You have been with me from the beginning.
Forgive the many times I have walked away from You
choosing to walk alone.
With your steadfast love, once again,
Companion me along your way.

Relieve the blocks in my heart
that keep me separated from you.
See all the darkness within me;
fill it with your healing light.
Look at my pain and all my fears;
they shut out love and life.
As you renew me,
redeem the nations,
That we on earth may unfold your plan.

from: Psalms for Praying, An Invitation to Wholeness by Nan Merrill

Hope holds up the head. - Scottish proverb
Saturday, December 2 - HOPE

Joan Dennehy

We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain. Hebrews 6:19 (NRSV)

We turned the television on and the woman made us laugh. "I’d like to be positive, really I would," she said, "but I don’t have time...I’m busy all day being negative." Why is it easier to be negative, to see the downside of something, or mewl over what seems impossibly undoable? Perhaps hope has something to do with perspective.

Consider the contrast from the writer of Hebrews: Hope that is certain, strong, can withstand all manner of tugging and storm on one hand, and on the other hand, hope that is fragile, wispy like smoke circling up from a dish of incense and out through the weave of a curtain. I live my life inhaling hope, amazed that something so gossamer can be so sustaining.

Anne Sexton wrote, "My faith is a great weight hung on a small wire." She compared it to the spider hanging her baby on a thin web or the vine, twiggy and wooden, holding up grapes like eyeballs. "God does not need too much wire...just a thin vein, with blood pushing back and forth in it and some love."

Perhaps we do not need too much hope to be positive.

Sit quietly and center yourself, and as you breathe, feel your heart with its thousand feelings beat within your chest. Breathe in a slow rhythm and let hope rise in you. What does it want to say to you?

The true hope was in the endless love, for I saw that I should be protected by God’s mercy and brought to bliss.
- Julian of Norwich