Saturday, March 1, 2014

Nouwen on Friendship

What is the essence of friendship? 
  
How can I be a better friend?

Consider the following quotes from Henri J. Nouwen:

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”

“A friend is more than a therapist or confessor, even though a friend can sometimes heal us and offer us God’s forgiveness. A friend is that other person with whom we can share our solitude, our silence, and our prayer. A friend is that other person with whom we can look at a tree and say, “Isn’t that beautiful,” or sit on the beach and silently watch the sun disappear under the horizon. With a friend we don’t have to say or do something special. With a friend we can be still and know that God is there with both of us.” 


Photo by Frank Hamilton, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

RIP Pete Seeger

Today marks the passing of the great American balladeer, Pete Seeger.

Who was he?  Besides being a singer, he was an activist for peace and sustainability, at times challenging the "establishment" which would have clamored for war and curtailed freedoms of ordinary citizens.   Quoting from the annotations to the video below:

"On July 26, 1956, the House of Representatives voted 373 to 9 to cite Pete Seeger and seven others (including playwright Arthur Miller) for contempt, as they failed to cooperate with House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in their attempts to investigate alleged subversives and communists. Pete Seeger testified before the HUAC in 1955.

In one of Pete's darkest moments, when his personal freedom, his career, and his safety were in jeopardy, a flash of inspiration ignited this song. The song was stirred by a passage from Mikhail Sholokhov's novel "And Quie Flows the Don". Around the world the song traveled and in 1962 at a UNICEF concert in Germany, Marlene Dietrich, Academy Award-nominated German-born American actress, first performed the song in French, as "Qui peut dire ou vont les fleurs?" Shortly after she sang it in German. The song's impact in Germany just after WWII was shattering. It's universal message, "let there be peace in the world" did not get lost in its translation. To the contrary, the combination of the language, the setting, and the great lyrics has had a profound effect on people all around the world. May it have the same effect today and bring renewed awareness to all that hear it."







Sunday, December 22, 2013

Reshaping Our Dreams

Sometimes life takes a different turn than we expected. Our dreams, as if they were bread dough, get folded and kneaded back over on themselves, and sometimes even pounded, pulled, and stretched into a different shape than the one we had envisioned or planned for ourselves. But our re-shaped and re-made dreams can still be beautiful. To illustrate in a personal way how this can apply in an every day, ordinary life, I am linking at the bottom of this post to a blog post by Kelle Hampton. This moving story of a mother's love is a testament to the truth that beauty can come from events which totally disrupt our life narrative and turn it upside down on its head.  When Kelle learned her baby had been born with Down's Syndrome, she had to say goodbye to the baby she had expected and dreamt of, and hello to the baby she received.  In the process of doing so, she herself was transformed.


On this Fourth Sunday in Advent of 2013, it is also natural to think of the Christ Child. This little Jewish boy, born to young parents of obscure origins, seems the most unlikely of candidates for God to have chosen.   He was not what the Jews envisioned as their Messiah, at all.  Indeed!  He turned our every narrative and expectation on top of its head.  When he returned to his home town as a prophet, the people were so shocked they couldn't believe it.  After all, he was just an ordinary boy!  In Matthew 13:55 they are reported as saying, "Is this not the carpenter's son?  Is not his mother called Mary?  And his brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?"  Their narrative, their view of the world, was being bent and shaped and folded in a new way.  Could they accept it?  Could they release their own preconceived expectations about who Jesus was and what he "ought" to say, in order to hear what he really had to say?

Has so much changed?  Even today, there are many people who would rather not hear what Jesus really has to say. We would so much rather remake God into our own image of what we would like to imagine, or to hear our own wishes expressed in what we hear.  It's much easier to push Jesus into our preconceived box of what we want to hear, rather than to hear his real message, isn't it?

Thus, at Christmas, I remind myself and each one of us:





Click HERE to read about a Mom's spiritual journey after learning her daughter had Down's Syndrome.
  http://www.kellehampton.com/2010/01/nella-cordelia-birth-story.html  )

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sandy Hook One Year Out: Business (Still) As Usual

Photo by Additing Infor
It has been one year since the massacre at Sandy Hook.  A year ago, I wrote a blog entry in which I asked,

Monday, December 9, 2013

Feeling Blue?

Depression affects everyone from time to time.  
Whether you're feeling just a bit blue or struggle with a dark cloud, 
this film clip might help. 

Need help immediately? 
In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255

Friday, December 6, 2013

Nelson Mandela: Terrorist Or Hero?

This blog post examines the larger concept of how we label others.  It does so in both the abstract and in the specific context of remembering the life of Nelson Mandela.   How will history view Mandela?   Was he a hero, was he a terrorist, or is the reality somewhat more complex than this choice would suggest?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nelson Mandela's Undying Love ...

Nelson Mandela was never just an ordinary man.  He was born into a royal family of South Africa.  He rose to leadership in the role to which he had been born.  On this, the day of his death, I pay a very small tribute to him and link to a powerful two minute video.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn, For They Will Be Comforted

Nowhere and at no time is grief more acute than on those holidays when we celebrate our connectedness to others: Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Birthdays, Anniversaries.  If you are grieving, acutely and painfully morning the loss of a precious loved one, this post is for you.  I also write for the friends of the bereaved, to help you understand a bit of what your friend may be going through.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Sunlight Abstraction by Alison Jardine

I like the light in this painting:


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Inverted Totalitarianism and Fragile Democracy

Author Chris Hedges urges there are no longer any institutions in society -- media, education, labor unions, religion, or political parties -- which can be considered "democratic."  Instead, in the USA we now have what Hedges calls "inverted totalitarianism."  In inverted totalitarianism, individual particpation in democratic processes is orchestrated and tightly controlled.  Instead of individuals being empowered to govern their communities, corporations (through political contributions and lobbying) dominate processes of power, with the government and other social institutions acting as the servant of the large corporations.  What are the ramifications of corporate control of our economic and social institutions, for the future of western society?