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?

Monday, September 30, 2013

Choose To Live. Suicide Is Just Not An Option.


In this age
when suicide is an epidemic

This post is for those who 
despair, 
who feel alone, 
who feel there is no hope.

I want to tell you,

there is hope. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

For Those Who Mourn

Tonight, I simply pray for those who mourn.  

May you find comfort and peace.  


 "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted 
and saves the crushed in spirit.  ... 
The Lord redeems the life of his servants; 
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned."  

(from Psalm 34)


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy TaleTelling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale by Frederick Buechner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If art is a creation which captures some deep essence of truth, and in which the whole transcends the sum of its parts, then this masterfully-told story is art of a mythical and poetic form rarely seen in our Western society -- a society in which we tend to focus on the logical and empirical than the equally legitimate range of human experience in the poetic and mythic. Buechner helps draw us back to experience some of that poetic and mythical quality, and even understand some of the jokes that too seriously minded folk might miss from a less imaginative reading of the gospel story. I'm afraid anything further that I could say about this book would fail to do justice to Beuchner's essay, which reads like the yarn of a master story teller and which is framed by the image of a man giving a sermon. Instead of telling the reader "about" the gospel, as a nonfiction writer would do, Buechner leads us to experience for ourselves, and thus to better understand, the elements of tragedy, comedy, and fairy tale, as we ourselves are drawn closer through these interactions to a greater appreciation for the divine. This book is a short read and an easy to read book, but it is one that will both be read more than once and which will profoundly influence how one relates to idea and metaphor in the grand and beautiful story -- tragedy, comedy, and fairy tale, all -- that we call the Bible.

View all my reviews

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Prayer and Silence

“In the silence of the heart God speaks. 

If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. 

Then you will know that you are nothing. 

It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, 

that God can fill you with Himself. 

Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”

Mother Teresa
8/26/10 - 9/5/97


Photo is from Huffington Post article
commemorating the date of her death by restating some of her more famous quotes,
including this one.  Article may be found at:
 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/05/mother-teresa-quotes-death_n_3845448.html

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Vision of Justice

"Now is the time to make justice a reality 
for all of God's children." 

 Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 2013




Today, on the 50th anniversary of the famous "I Have a Dream" speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Linked without advertising HERE), I ask three questions:

1.  How much progress has been made since August 28, 1963?

2.  What remains to be done to pursue the goal of "justice for all?"  

2.  What can you and I do, today and in our every day lives, to contribute to the answer formulated in question number two? 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Medicine for the Entire Self

When we are sick, we Americans tend to want to take a pill that will fix our symptoms.  Then, with our symptoms under control, we keep on doing whatever it is we are already doing, without making any other changes to our habits or lifestyle.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Strength Grows From Compassion: A Tribute to Irena Sendlerowa

A Catholic social worker in Warsaw during the Nazi occupation of Poland, Irena Sendler risked death on a daily basis as she orchestrated the rescue of children out of the Warsaw Ghetto.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Curing vs Healing In Medicine, and In Law

Tonight I found myself reading a blog post in which the author Laura, a person undergoing extensive medical treatment for a serious illness, discusses insight she gained from a workshop for persons undergoing health challenges.  One of the main insights she gained was a new perspective on the difference between "curing" and "healing."* Laura writes:

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Are You a Lonely Dad on Father's Day?

I am posting this on Father's Day of 2013, and in recognition and appreciation for the role that fathers play in the care and development of their children (of all ages).  All over the USA today, we celebrate fathers.  Special visits will be paid, handmade little gifts will be given, special meals will be served, and phone calls will be made to thank, shower affection upon, and generally to show appreciation of our fathers.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

To Live a Life Well Lived, Without Later Regret

I read a review of a book today (and linked at the end of this blog post), in which it was suggested that, as a spiritual practice, we make a habit of occasionally contemplating our own mortality.   Interesting thought.  Why might that be a good idea?  After reading more, I became convinced of the value of the practice, and I will share my thoughts about that now.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Food Justice? Not Hardly!

The USA Senate just passed a major agricultural bill, amounting to billions of dollars over the course of the next several years. What are the ramifications of this Bill?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Remembering Tiananmen Square, June 3, 1989



Remembering the massacre at Tian An Men Square
June 3, 1989,
please consider the following quotation: 

The ultimate weakness of violence is that 
it is a descending spiral, 
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. 
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

More on the Meaning of Peace

At the end of his time with the Disciples, Jesus said to them  

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

Christ Taking Leave of the Apostles, Duccio c. 1308
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

What does Jesus mean by that?
This morning, I would like to point to the following thought:

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A War To End All Wars

In Flanders Field
Flanders Field American Cemetery, Photo by Werner VC
A Tribute for U.S.A. Memorial Day 2013

Thursday, May 16, 2013

American Society Encourages Slaughter of Innocents

There. I thought that headline might get your attention. Unfortunately, it is true, and I'm not talking about abortion.  I'm talking about how many innocents each year are slaughtered by gun violence.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

"Should I Marry Him?" (Musings on Mother's Day 2013)

Mary Cassatt, Under the Horse Chestnut Tree

"If you want to gauge a man as marriage material, 
look at how he treats his mother.  
Because in ten years,
that's how he'll treat you."  


This was advice given to me by my grandmother, when I was less than twenty years old. Now, many decades later, I am more firmly than ever convinced that she was right.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Who Is My Neighbor?

A false god 
divides the world
 into 
friends 
(those the god loves) 
and 
foes 
(those the god hates); 
the true God 
loves all, 
and 
loves equally.

(Miroslav Volf)

Van Gogh, The Good Samaritan


Friday, May 3, 2013

Beggars in Modern Times

Acts Chapter 3

So one day, Peter and John were walking to the Temple to pray. As they were walking into the Temple gate, they were passing by this man who had been crippled from birth. Every day, someone carried that man to the gate so that he could beg from those who were going inside to the Temple courts.
Nicholas Poussin, Peter and John Heal the Blind Man at the Gate
Metropolitan Museum of Art 

BEGGARS

I don't know about you, but I've passed by this scene often, sometimes literally and sometimes figuratively. In the first part of this blog post, I'll talk literal. In the second part, I want to challenge each of us to think figuratively, in the sense of the bigger picture.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Letter From A Birmingham Jail

In the midst of national sadness stemming from a brutal act of terror and violence, let us not overlook one of America's shining lights for nonviolence and justice.  

Monday, April 15, 2013

Walking Into the Light

The Lord is my shepherd;


I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.



Danielle Ridgway Knight, The Shepherdess of Rolleboise (1896)
courtesy Wikimedia Commons



Sometimes life gives rise to anxiety. 

When it does, we Americans tend to compensate by talking so much we can hardly hear ourselves think.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Imagining of Peace


[T]he moral imagination requires

the capacity to imagine ourselves in a web of relationships that includes our enemies; 

the ability to sustain a paradoxical curiosity that embraces complexity without reliance on dualistic polarity; 

the fundamental belief in and pursuit of the creative actand 

the acceptance of the inherent risk of stepping into the mystery of the unknown that lies beyond the far too familiar landscape of violence. 

Or, to express this more poetically:  

Reach out to those you fear. 
Touch the heart of complexity. 
Imagine beyond what is seen. 
Risk vulnerability one step at a time

Original photograph by 
Alexandria Skinner, copyright preserved



John Paul Lederach, quoted in Creative Beginnings, from the Moral Imagination Program, United Religions Initiative.  

(http://www.catalystforpeace.org/faithintoaction/MIPCreativeBeginningsURI.pdf, accessed April 12, 2013)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Fambul Tok: Building Peace in Sierra Leone



Between 1991 and 2001, a brutal civil war in the central African nation of Sierra Leone resulted in the deaths of about 50,000 people. Rape and maiming were deliberately used by soldiers as weapons to spread intimidation and fear. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced from their homes and many became refugees in Guinea and Liberia. No one was unaffected. Neighbors were pitted against neighbors. Entire communities were disrupted.


Following overthrow of the military dictatorship, how could communities so damaged restore a sense of peace? To answer this question requires asking questions like, "What is justice?"

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday's Most Famous Quotation

Entire theological treatises have probably been written on the last words of Christ, uttered as he was dying on the cross.  Crucifixion causes asphyia, which makes inhaling air to speak difficult.  Thus, it is not surprising that the words actually uttered were short.  

Matthew 27:46 records that Jesus said, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"   In the gospels of Matthew and Mark, Jesus is quoted in Aramaic, shouting this phrase only and then cries out wordlessly before dying.  Is this not a surprising utterance, coming from one who proclaimed to be "one with the Father?"  Is this not proof that Jesus felt forsaken and abandoned by God?  

Monday, March 25, 2013

Liberation




Chag Pesach Sameah


Happy Passover to my Jewish friends. 


May we all celebrate liberation from bondage into freedom.

The painting is "Splitting of the Red Sea" by Dr. Lidia Kozenitzky

Friday, March 1, 2013

On Loving One's Enemies



[W]e know it is possible to love our enemies. Otherwise why would Christ in the Sermon on the Mount ask that we so love? . . . Are we to make Christ a liar? If we do not think it possible to love our enemies, then we should plainly say Jesus is not the Messiah.
 (Quote from Stanley Hauerwas)

Karoly Ferenczy, Sermon on the Mountain (1896)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Monday, February 11, 2013

You Balance the Federal Budget

This interactive game challenges you to apply your own values and priorities to balance the federal budget! If you choose to participate, the results from your game can be sent for inclusion in real studies to determine how the public wants the budget to look and how real people would sort the priorities to balance the budget. Sound intriguing? Set aside some time and try it out!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Remind You of Anyone?

This short video illustrates how life is improved and deepened when we view events through a more compassionate lens ... totally worth the three minutes it takes to watch the film

Friday, January 18, 2013

Blog Series: Musings on Isaiah Chapter 58


During Lent of 2012, I wrote a series of blog posts on Isaiah Chapter 58.  Here are links to each article in the five part series:

Monday, January 14, 2013

So Live, That When ...



So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take 
His chamber in the silent halls of death, 
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night, 
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed 
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave 
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch 
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams. 



William Cullen Bryant

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Rethinking Church?

I can’t stand your

religious meetings.


I’m fed up with your

conferences and conventions.


I want nothing to do with your

  religion projects,


your pretentious

  slogans and goals.


I’m sick of your

  fund-raising schemes,

your public relations and

  image making.

I’ve had all I can take of your noisy

  ego-music.


When was the last time you sang to me?


Do you know what I want?


I want 

JUSTICE

oceans of it.

I want

 FAIRNESS

rivers of it.


That’s what I want. 


That’s all I want.






How does this strike you?  
It's a direct quote from 
Amos 5:18-24 
(The Message translation of the Bible)


*Image is the Tower of Babel, from a Russian manuscript of Cosmas Indicopleustes (c. 1539), scanned from В. Д. Сарабьянов, Э. С. Смирнова. История древнерусской живописи. М., ПСТГУ, 2007, стр. 586 by an anonymous source. It is in the public domain due to expiration of copyright.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Forgiving ...



Forgiving what we cannot forget 
creates a new way to remember. 
We change the memory of our past 
into a hope for our future.

- Lewis B. Smedes


*Photo of Rosa 'Iceberg' at the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden, taken April 2005 by Stan Shebs

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Magic of Childhood

Today is a big day for me.  On this Epiphany Sunday, marking the visit of the wise men to the baby Jesus, the sermon in church was about the question, "Who Is This Baby?"  Good question!  A quarter of a century ago, I looked at my own child and wondered the same thing.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Redemptive Road

On Sunday, September 16, 1963, during the Sunday School hour, a bomb blast ripped through the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.  How doeFour little girls were killed: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Denise McNair.  How does that tragedy speak to us today, nearly fifty years later?