Monday, November 30, 2009

RESPONDING TO THE ANNUNCIATION

Am I virgin enough to respond to Mystery with a "yes" from my deepest, truest self?

Reading the day's piece by Kathleen Norris in Watch for the Light - Readings for Advent and Christmas, I appreciate the poet's perspective Norris brings to the Annunciation. Against the popular demystifying and demythologizing trends of our era, Norris suggests Christians accept the mystery and embrace a greater sense of what it means to be virgin.

Norris points to Thomas Merton's description of a "point vierge" at the center of his being, "a point untouched by illusion, a point of pure truth...which belongs entirely to God , which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point...of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us."  This, Norris suggests, is the virginity out of which we can all respond to God's invitation to cooperate in the divine conspiracy.

Norris: "I treasure [the Annunciation] story because it forces me to ask: When the mystery of God's love breaks through into my consciousness, do I run from it? Do I ask of it what it cannot answer? Shrugging, do I retreat into facile cliches, the popular but false wisdom of what 'we all know?' Or am I virgin enough to respond from my deepest, truest self, and say something new, a 'yes' that will change me forever?"

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

NEW YEAR NOW

With Advent's onset, we turn toward the New Year--and beyond--with tangible hope


NEW YEAR NOW.  I think of Advent as the beginning of the Christian year.  The calendar year is waning. Even now, its possibilities and disappointments, highlights and tragedies are being analyzed by pundits.  It's been an awesome year, but its unfulfillments yield to an already-emerging hope for the future. Christians are the first to look to the horizon for what is promised and yet to come. Even as we live in the present challenges, we're anticipating something that will redeem and renew all that has been downtrodden, devalued, and distorted. For us, the future begins today, on this first Sunday of Advent.

SOMETHING TO PARTY ABOUT. No doubt, we will observe the official New Year on January 1.  But we will do so as ones who have prepared for it with soul-searching, Word-guiding, promise-bearing, Incarnation-proclaiming anticipation.  By the time the world's New Year rolls around, we will be several days into our celebration of the Word made flesh, the Advent conspiracy commenced, hope alive, the future drawing near. While New Year's Eve revelers drink emptily to the New Year, we will have already embraced its challenges with imagination and courage.  We will celebrate, but not like ones who have no hope.

BEYOND THE NEW YEAR.  With Advent, we turn toward the New Year, to be sure, but toward something beyond it.  Our hopes are not in the New Year.  Our hope is in the One who holds our time and all time in His hands.  During these four weeks, we remind ourselves of preparation and anticipation of the ancient story that reaches into the future and gives purpose in the present.  We recall that our lives are rooted in something deeper than mere culture and tradition, that we are not alone in our struggles for justice and a better world, and that love has come to us right where are--a love the invites belief, faith, perseverance, and a confident hope in a yet-to-be-fulfilled future.  

EMBRACE THE STORY, LIVE ITS PROMISE.  I embrace these weeks with gratitude for the opportunity to look forward with meaning and purpose.  Perhaps I am unusually moved by the shaping of these days in terms of hope, but I accept that as a grace and share it as one of a handful of enthusiasms I possess and pass along.  I challenge you to begin to contemplate anew the age-old story of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.  In this multi-faceted story is enough tangible hope to charge our present days, empower us to let go of yesterday's disappointments, and bring the future near.  Let's begin to celebrate the New Year together even now. 

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Friday, November 27, 2009

EUCHARIST


I wrote this piece a four days after Thanksgiving a few years ago, relating Thanksgiving to worship and daily living.

Thursday:
Gathered together with family and friends.
Sat down to turkey with all the trimmings.
Offered thanks for blessings seen and unperceived.
Pushed ourselves back after several helpings.
Sauntered outside to pass a football.
Played until we could not see the ball.
Headed back inside for a round of desserts.
Talked and told stories late into the evening.
Piled into the van and headed back home.
Collapsed into an exhausted, satisfied sleep.

Sunday:
Gathered together as family and neighbors.
Stood up to worship with all the senses.
Offered thanks for blessings seen and unperceived.
Pondered the preached Word's fresh helping.
Sang of the grace that is greater than our sin.
Prepared to share in the blessed Sacrament.
Headed down the aisle to kneel around the altar.
Took in the consecrated bread and wine.
Piled into the van and headed back home.
Contemplated anew the wonder of these blessings.

Monday:
Scattering apart as neighbors and laborers.
Standing up to serve with all our capacities.
Offering thanks for blessings seen and unperceived.
Pondering the interface of word and deed.
Singing of faithfulness even as our strength fails.
Playfully considering the sacredness of life.
Heading interactions in the direction of community.
Talking and telling stories as work is accomplished.
Plowing through traffic as we head back home.
Celebrating the fullness of life as a gift from God.



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Thursday, November 26, 2009

A LITANY OF THANKSGIVING

African-American Quaker pastor Howard Thurman's Thanksgiving Day reflection speaks for me

Today, I make my Sacrament of Thanksgiving.
I begin with the simple things of my days:
Fresh air to breath,
Cool water to drink,
The taste of food,
The protection of houses and clothes,
The comforts of home.
For these, I make an act of Thanksgiving this day!

I bring to mind all the warmth of humankind that I have known:
My mother’s arms,
The strength of my father,
The playmates of my childhood,
The wonderful stories brought to me from the
lives of many who talked of days gone by
when fairies and giants and all kinds of
magic held sway;
The tears I have shed, the tears I have seen;
The excitement of laughter and the twinkle
in the eye with its reminder that life is good.
For all these I make an act of Thanksgiving this day.

I finger one of the messages of hope that
awaited me at the crossroads:
The smile of approval from those who held in their hands
the reins of my security;
The tightening of the grip in a single handshake
when I feared the step before me in the darkness;
The whisper in my heart when the temptation was fiercest
and the claims of appetite were not to be denied;
The crucial word said,
the simple sentence from an open page
when my decision hung in the balance.
For all these I make an act of Thanksgiving this day.

I pass before me the mainsprings of my heritage:
The fruits of the labors of countless generations
who lived before me, without whom my own life
would have no meaning;
The seers who saw visions and dreamed dreams;
The prophets who sense a truth greater than the mind
could grasp and whose words could only find fulfillment
in the years which they would never see;
The workers whose sweat has watered the trees,
the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations;
The pilgrims who set their sails for lands beyond all horizons,
whose courage made paths into new worlds and far-off places;
The Savior whose blood was shed with a recklessness
that only a dream could inspire and God could command.
For all this I make an act of Thanksgiving this day.

I linger over the meanings of my own life and the commitment
to which I give the loyalty of my heart and mind:
The little purposes in which I have shared with my loves,
my desires, my gifts;
The restlessness which bottoms all I do with its stark insistence
that I have never done my best, I have never reached for the highest;
The big hope that never quite deserts me, that I and my kind
will study war no more, that love and tenderness and all the
inner graces of Almighty affection will cover the life of
the children of God as the waters cover the sea.
All these and more than mind can think and heart can feel,
I make as my Sacrament of Thanksgiving to Thee, Our Father,
in humbleness of mind and simplicity of heart.

From For the Inward Journey, selected writings by Howard Thurman, 1984, Richmond, Indiana: Friends United Press

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

SHALL GRATITUDE FAIL?


An emerging poem of Thanksgiving


Shall gratitude fail
even as the day that proclaims it
draws near?
An age-old grievance surfaces,
rude and unwelcome.
Petty regrets and jealousies stir
afresh, subtly skewing the
lightening horizon.
Common relational tensions
seem annoyingly magnified
in light of a conscious decision to
accentuate the positive—especially
for this holiday.

Presence or gnawing absence
of estranged or once-endeared loved ones
plays games with a heart intent on
embracing thanksgiving’s spirit.
Unusual or changed circumstances
provide breeding ground for
doubt or guilt or despair—
particularly for souls trained
to calibrate meaning by repetitive, familiar,
nearby things.

Shall gratitude fail
in calculation of debits and credits
of goodness on a balance sheet?
Weighing pleasant occurrences
over against troubles threatens
a tenuous thanksgiving.
Only if gratitude is faux
will it falter in the face of
persistent rationalizations for
justifiable self-pity.

Out of a thousand impressions
and experiences appealing for
complaint or protest, gratitude emerges—
wonder of wonders—as the
response of choice.
Discounting no injustices,
minimizing no contrary feelings,
gratitude simply shines a light
on what is given and good
and declares it so.

Gratitude is neither a salve for wrongs
nor an obfuscating diversion.
Instead, it invites recognition,
often amid too-obvious wreckage,
of grace and mercy and love—
unearned, undeserved and free.
And in this recognition, this choice,
this declaration, thanksgiving
opens a way to walk toward tomorrow
with confidence, with courage,
with hope.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

WE LIVE BY MERCY

Working well and giving thanks--two responses to mercy, according to Wendell Berry

I usually find good fodder for my mind and uneasy nourishment for my soul whenever I read Wendell Berry. It happened as I read in A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems, 1979-1997. Two verses of a poem titled "Amish Economy" spoke to me of Thanksgiving:

We live by mercy if we live.
To that we have no fit reply
But working well and giving thanks,
Loving God, loving one another,
To keep Creation's neighborhood.

And my friend David Kline told me,
"It falls strangely on Amish ears,
This talk of how you find yourself.
We Amish, after all, don't try
To find ourselves. We try to lose
Ourselves"--and thus are lost within
The found world of sunlight and rain
Where fields are green and then are ripe,
And the people eat together by
The charity of God, who is kind
Even to those who give no thanks.

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A CALL FOR A NEW APPROACH IN AFGHANISTAN


The following letter is being issued by over a dozen Christian leaders to President Obama, as he considers a new strategy in Afghanistan. I am supporting this letter.  You can use this link to support it, too.
Dear Mr. President,

We believe, that after eight years of war, we need a whole new approach in Afghanistan.

We speak not as military or political strategists, but as citizens seeking to faithfully apply our moral values to this most crucial issue. We want first of all to commend you for taking the time to make a careful and considered decision on this important matter that will affect the lives of so many.

We feel deeply about the ethical and moral issues at stake in our future policy in Afghanistan - legitimately protecting Americans from further terrorism, protecting the lives of our men and women in uniform, protecting the Afghan people from the collateral damage of war, defending women from the Taliban, and genuinely supporting democracy - to name a few.

But we also lament the suffering, violence, and death on both sides of the conflict and recognize that war can never bring about the peace we strive to build in this world.

We are concerned that the discussion in Washington, D.C., is far too narrow. We respectfully and prayerfully suggest that you pursue a strategy built on a humanitarian and development surge.

Massive humanitarian assistance and sustainable development can rebuild a broken nation, inspire confidence, trust, and hope among its people, and undermine the appeal of terrorism. And it costs less - far less - than continued war.

Lead with economic development, starting in areas that are secure, and grow from there - providing only the security necessary to protect the strategic rebuilding of the country. Do not make aid and development another weapon of war by tying it so closely to the military; rather, provide the security needed for development work to succeed. This kind of peacekeeping security might better attract the international involvement we so desperately need, both from Europe and Arab and Muslim countries.

Pursue political and diplomatic solutions by promoting stable governance in Afghanistan and Pakistan; seeking political integration of those elements of the Taliban that are willing to cooperate; engaging with the United Nations and regional states to stabilize the region and promote economic development; and investing in international policing to prevent the spread of extremists and the use of terror.

We humbly suggest you host a meeting with the heads of the leading, well-established international development agencies in Afghanistan, who are trusted by the people of the country and have many indigenous employees. These organizations can share what kind of security they would need for the development that is most needed. Equally important, meet with members of Afghan civil society for their perspective as well. This input is crucial to your decision on Afghanistan.

Finally, it is time for a vigorous, public, and ongoing conversation between the government and the faith community about the moral and ethical implications of our policy decisions. Our counterterrorist missiles and unmanned drones may cost less in American lives and treasure, but they have very significant political and moral costs. The collateral damage of our technological war is great, resulting in many civilian deaths - further alienating the populace and, inadvertently, producing more recruits for terrorism.

Mr. President, we urge you to take the approach of effective humanitarian aid and development and genuine engagement with the moral issues that confront us in Afghanistan. As always, you are in our prayers as you seek the right decisions to these most difficult questions and choices.

Sincerely,

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

REMEMBERING WITH GRATITUDE


Howard Thurman demonstrates a thoughtful practice worth considering

CONTEMPLATE THE YEAR. I like the way African-American pastor and writer Howard Thurman recollects the year.  The following words of thanksgiving come from For the Inward Journey, a collection of Thurman's writings (Friends United Press, Richmond, Indiana, 1984).  May their simplicity and profundity prompt us to consider such in our own lives.

OTHERS’ LABOR. “I remember with gratitude the fruits of the labors of others, which I have shared as a part of the normal experience of daily living.”

BEAUTIFUL THINGS. “I remember the beautiful things that I have seen heard, and felt--some as a result of definite seeking on my part and many that came unheralded into my path, warming my heart and rejoicing my spirit.”

DISTRESS. “I remember the moments of distress that proved to be groundless and those that taught me profoundly about the evilness of evil and the goodness of good.”

NEW PEOPLE. “I remember the new people I have met, from whom I have caught glimpses of the meaning of my own life and the true character of human dignity.”

DREAMS. “I remember the dreams that haunted me during the year, keeping me ever mindful of goals and hopes which I did not realize but from which I drew inspiration to sustain my life and keep steady my purposes.”

THE SPIRIT OF GOD. “I remember the awareness of the Spirit of God that sought me out in my aloneness and gave to me a sense of assurance that undercut my despair and confirmed my life with new courage and abiding hope.”



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Monday, November 23, 2009

XENIA - "BICYCLE CAPITOL OF THE MIDWEST"

A more-than-pleasant surprise on what might have otherwise been a dreary weekend


WATER TOWER MESSAGE.  I usually, if not always, put my road bike on the top of my VW Beetle or on the back of our Trail Blazer whenever we travel to other cities overnight or for a weekend.  I did so on Saturday as our son Sam and I headed to Xenia, Ohio, for a weekend soccer tournament.  As we drove into the city, Sam noticed the words on a water tower: "Xenia: Bicycle Capitol of the Midwest."  I had no idea what that meant, but they had my full interest and attention.

RAIL TRAIL HEAVEN.  The first Xenian I asked answered my questions.  Xenia is the center of rail trail development for the state.  Years ago, Greene County Commissioners had a vision to make bicycle trails readily accessible to all county residents and, ultimately, to all residents of the state. I was directed to Xenia Station (in the photo), the old railway station that now serves as the hub for four major rail trails that extend through the county and beyond.  I was told that one can ride a bicycle on a paved trail from Xenia to Cincinnati or Columbus.  Ultimately, rail trails will link all parts of the state.

ALONG THE MIAMI RIVER.  So, I rode some of the trails in and around Xenia.  They're paved, well marked and well maintained.  Posted signs show the color-coded trails and give directions to local points of interest.  I was thoroughly impressed.  Early Sunday morning, I rode to Miamisburg and followed the wooded Miami River trail down to Franklin and then made my way back to my hotel, a nice 25-mile ride that included fog rising off the river at sunrise, numerous deer on the trail, and a few challenging hills.

FUTURE DESTINATION.  I found two bike shops near Xenia Station and talked for a while with Steve, the friendly owner-operator of Xenia Surf N Cycle.  Looks like he does good work out of an old service station/garage.  I noticed Steve had significant number of recumbents.  It appears that the city has embraced its bicycle identity and is thoroughly welcoming of cyclists.  You can view the county's trails and facilities at this link.  Here's another link to the Miami Valley Rail Trails.  That said, I will likely make Xenia a future destination as a jumping-off point for some serious trail riding.  What a nice serendipity on what might have been a dreary early-winter Midwest weekend!

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

THANK YOU

A prayer of Ted Loder in his incredible collection of poems titled Guerrillas of Grace:

Praise be to you, O Lord, for life
and for my intense desire to live;
praise be to you for the mystery of love
and for my intense desire to be a lover;
praise be to you for this day
and another chance to live and love.

Thank you, Lord
for friends who stake their claim in my heart,
for enemies who disturb my soul and bump my ego,
for tuba players,
and story tellers,
and trapeze troupes.

Thank you, Lord,
for singers of songs,
for teachers of songs,
who help me sing along the way,
and for listeners.

Thank you, Lord,
for those who attempt beauty
rather than curse ugliness,
for those who take stands
rather than take polls,
for those who risk being right
rather than pandering to be liked,
for those who do something
rather than talking about everything.

Lord, grant me grace, then,
and a portion of your Spirit
that I may so live
as to give others cause to be thankful for me,
thankful because I have not forgotten
how to hope,
how to laugh,
how to say "I am sorry,"
how to forgive,
how to bind up wounds,
how to dream,
how to cry,
how to pray,
how to love when it is hard,
and how to dare when it is dangerous.

Undamn me, Lord,
that praise may flow more easily from me
than wants,
thanks more readily
than complaints.

Praise be to you, Lord, for life;
praise be to you for another chance to live.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

THANK THEE, O GIVER OF LIFE, O GOD

A Thanksgiving poem by Angela Morgan


Thank Thee, O Giver of Life, O God!
For the force that flames in the winter sod;
For the breath of my nostrils, fiercely good,
The sweet of water, the taste of food,
The sun that silvers the pantry floor,
The step of a neighbor at my door;
For dusk that fondles the window pane,
For the beautiful sound of falling rain.

Thank Thee for love and light and air,
For children’s faces, keenly fair,
For the wonderful joy of perfect rest
When the sun’s wick lowers within the West;
For huddling hills in gowns of snow
Warming themselves in the afterglow;
For Thy mighty wings that are never furled,
Bearing onward the rushing world.

Thank Thee, O Giver of Life, O God!
For Thy glory leaping the lightning rod;
For Thy terrible spaces of love and fire
Where sparks from the forge of Thy desire
Storm through the void in floods of suns,
Far as the heat of Thy Presence runs
And where hurricanes of chanting spheres
Swing to the pulse of the flying years.

Thank Thee for human toil that thrills
With the plan of Thine which man fulfills;
For bridges and tunnels, for ships that soar,
For iron and steel and the furnace roar;
For this anguished vortex of blood and pain
Where sweat and struggle are never vain;
For progress, pushing the teeming earth
On and up to a higher birth.
Thank Thee for life, for life, for life,
O Giver of Life, O God!

I found this poem in The Treasury of Religious Verse compiled by Donald T. Kauffman, 1970

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Friday, November 20, 2009

WHAT WE RECEIVE AND REFLECT

A poem, to be read on Thanksgiving

Just a few years ago, I went searching for the ultimate Thanksgiving poem.  I turned up lots of worthy renderings that I like (and will post over the next six days).  But nothing that year spoke to or from what I was feeling at the time.  So, here's the result of my attempt, not at the ultimate Thanksgiving poem, but to express what was--and is--in my heart as we approach this holiday.



Thanksgiving doesn’t live in a vacuum;
We do not pluck it from thin air.
We cannot be grateful on command,
Genuflecting at the drop of hat.

Talk is cheap when it comes to thanking.
Yet beyond courteous etiquette
Lies a deeper reality that beckons,
Inviting us to reckon with grace.

Native American graciousness
And Pilgrim hospitality,
Turkey and all the trimmings point
Beyond finely folded, praying hands.

Through and beyond these images
We glimpse a sacred connection,
As generations across time
Hail some gracious provision.

It’s not so much a debt we owe
Or tribute for posterity
As it is a virtue we receive
And reflect into eternity.

We deep-down know we are held
By sustaining, life-giving hands.
Not our own or on our own,
We belong and are lovingly known.

We cannot utter such mystery;
Tradition and rite fall short.
But these, and we, can point and say
“Thanks” for life and grace today.


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Thursday, November 19, 2009

TOWARD THANKSGIVING

 I’m glad Thanksgiving is a designated holiday, or else I might just charge on presumptively

This holiday is for all that we
Take for granted,
Assume as a given,
Absentmindedly overlook,
Claim as our God-given right.

This holiday is for all those we
Unnecessarily criticize,
Agitate with our demands,
Impatiently rush,
Regularly impose upon.

This holiday is for all that we
By-pass in our drivenness,
Go out of our way to avoid,
Carelessly forget,
Thoughtlessly leave out.

This holiday is for all things we
Receive as gracious gifts,
Share as common ground,
Express as transcendent grace,
Return in praise to God.


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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

QUESTION AUTHORITY

Am I too old to be thinking this way?  I think not.

Maybe it comes from spending years under the heavy and often punitive hand of authoritarian guidance.  At some point, my unquestioning compliance completely gave way.  I found a firmer ground and path forward in life.  I have been asking often-unwelcomed and awkward questions ever since.  And I value such questions being asked of me.  It seems to me that this is the only possible way to authentic authority and shared and celebratory outcomes.

Question authority.
Examine everything.
Do not discount your misgivings.
Do not just accept what is said.
Do not merely go along.
Exegete perspectives.
Trace down accepted assertions.
Look behind common notions.
Uncover what is intended but unspoken.
Speak what you discover.
Repent, if it is called for.
Expose untruth if it be so.
Cry out now, or many may
weep for your silence.



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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

BECKY AT 50

Today is Becky's half-century mark and I celebrate her vibrant life

She was sixteen (a year after this 10th grade photo) when I met her right after I moved from West Virginia to Indianapolis.  I was senior in high school and she was a junior, though just six months younger than me.  My cousin Beth introduced us at a church youth group gathering.  We went out on a few dates in those days.  Our first date was to a North Central High School football game and then to Noble Romans for Sicilian deep-dish pizza.  But it wasn't until the beginning of my junior and her sophomore year at Olivet Nazarene College (now University) that we found that we were drawn and committed to each other exclusively.  Two years later, we married.

Becky's as cute and exuberant and full of grace as she was when I met her back then.  No more Dorothy Hamill hair cut, but she's stylish and fit.  She runs and walks several miles each evening after working as a school nurse to over 1,000 ninth-grade students.  And who could have known what a great mom she would become?  I'm still amazed.  Becky's also deeply spiritual.  She doesn't go in for religious pretense or church politics or dramatic displays of hyper spirituality.  Just the same, I am convinced she lives the Word and the Word lives in her.

I'm privileged to share life with Becky.  One of the privileges and responsibilities of a spouse is to guard and empower all that is precious and mysterious and unique in your loved one through a lifetime.  That is my continuing commitment and joy.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

WITH THY HEART AS OFFERING

This song has been on mind over the past few days

Some children see Him lily white,
The baby Jesus born this night,
Some children see Him lily white
With tresses soft and fair.

Some children see Him bronzed and brown,
The Lord of heav'n to earth come down.
Some children see Him bronzed and brown,
With dark and heavy hair.

Some children see Him almond-eyed,
This Savior whom we kneel beside.
Some children see Him almond-eyed,
With skin of yellow hue.
Some children see Him dark as they,
Sweet Mary's Son to whom we pray.
Some children see him dark as they,
And, ah! they love Him, too!
The children in each different place
Will see the baby Jesus' face
Like theirs, but bright with heavenly grace,
And filled with holy light.
O lay aside each earthly thing
And with thy heart as offering,
Come worship now the infant King.
'Tis love that's born tonight!

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Friday, November 13, 2009

CHILDREN...AS GOD SEES US

An Advent reflection and line of thought I'm working on...or that's working on me

Since starting to invest my time with International Child Care Ministries earlier this year, I’ve seen the faces of thousands of children.  They come to us from nearly every continent: “mug shot” photos of kids from every kindred, every tribe.

A local caregiver asks them to look at the camera.  Some stand stoically.  Many beam brightly.  Others grin shyly.  A few frown.  The photos will attach to a folder to attract a new sponsor or be mailed as an update to a faithful one.

No wonder people like serving with ICCM--they get to see all these beautiful children all the time.  What a delight!

God sees these children’s faces.  God sees our faces, too.  Some of us smile.  Many hesitate.  Others are sad.  More than a few frown.  God is drawn to what he sees in us, regardless of how we appear or feel.  How God delights in each one!

What’s more, God wants us to see and know him, too.  The Incarnation brings God into our full view.  God’s likeness and love is reflected in the face of the Child.  God’s hoping that when we see Jesus, we’ll recognize how much we’re loved, lay aside our hurts and hesitations, and step forward in trusting confidence.

And seeing and knowing Jesus, maybe we’ll begin to see every child like God sees them, and to see his likeness in each one.  And to delight!

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Monday, November 9, 2009

LIFE AND LOVE

One of Wendell Berry's "Sabbaths" poems

"I know that I have life
only insofar as I have love.

I have no love
except it come from Thee.

Help me, please, to carry
this candle against the wind."

-- Wendell Berry in his latest book of poems, Leavings

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Friday, November 6, 2009

PEACEABLENESS TOWARD ENEMIES

Wendell Berry offers fresh perspective on an age-old possibility


I again came across an essay by Wendell Berry by the title “Peaceableness Toward Enemies.”  The essay, found in his book Sex, Economy, Freedom, & Community, is a reflection on America’s role in the Persian Gulf War.  Berry perceived that war was unnecessary and more costly to global politics and ecology than we have yet to realize.  I may offer more content at a later date, but, for now, a few quotes:

“The idea of peaceableness toward enemies is a religious principle.  Whether or not it could be believed, much less practiced apart from authentic religious faith, I do not know.  I can only point out that the idea of the ultimate importance of individual lives is also a religious principle and that it finally became a political principle of significant power and influence.”

“Peaceableness toward enemies is an idea that will, of course, continue to be denounced as impractical.  It has been too little tried by individuals, much less by nations.  It will not readily or easily serve those who are greedy for power.  It cannot be effectively used for bad ends.  It could not be used as the basis of an empire.  It does not afford opportunities for profit.  It involves danger to practitioners.  It requires sacrifice.  And yet it seems to me that it is practical, for it offers the only escape from the logic retribution.  It is the only way by which we can cease to look to war for peace.”

“The essential point is the ancient one: that to be peaceable is, by definition, to be peaceable in time of conflict.  Peaceableness is not the amity that exists between people who agree, nor is it the exhaustion or jubilation that follows war.  It is not passive.  It is the ability to act to resolve conflict without violence.  If it is not a practical and a practicable method, it is nothing.  As a practicable method, it reduces helplessness in the face of conflict. In the face of conflict, the peaceable person may find several solutions, the violent person only one.”


In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

TIRED OF WAR


Doing something constructive with war grief

 

I am grieving for all families who lost or had loved ones wounded at Fort Hood on Thursday. May the God of comfort help them cope with their terror and loss and pain and anger.

 

I am grieving for all families who lose or have loved ones wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq every day.  May they, too, find solace that helps them cope in some healing way with the loss of their loved ones.  For the wounded, I pray recovery of body and mind.

 

I am grieved at war.  I am weary of war.  I am tired of the exaltation of militarism.  And I am bewildered by the perpetual denial of their toxic fallout and ineffectiveness.  In this latest go-around, we've lived for eight years with the ascendancy of all things military and war-exalting.  We've been forced to accept the draining of our national treasure and the loss of our future as "necessary."  We've been lied to and intimidated by a Presidential regime, humiliated by secret tortures and extreme renditions, and endured one fallacious callow justification after another. 


I have never been unclear about my sense regarding war in general and the Afghan and Iraq wars in particular. I've written consistently in opposition to these wars.  I spoke publicly for a better way at Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis on the eve of the invasion of Iraq.  I've worked years with homeless neighbors whose lives and families have been devastated by war.  I've called attention to the high rates of suicides among active and returning troops, the alarming rates and intensity of PTSD, and the ineffectiveness of military and civilian responses to them.

In light of the quagmire in Afghanistan, the ever-increasing toll at home, and the fatalistic approach our current President is set to continue, I am renewing my challenge to militarism as a primary approach to problem-solving in general and America's role in Afghanisan and Iraq in particular.

Anyone who would like to join with me in discussing strategic nonviolent citizen action to renew opposition to war in Afghanistan and propose alternatives of nonviolence. e-mail me.  We'll set up a time to meet, pray, and strategize together.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

[TALL] URBAN BIKE

My friend's bike at my favorite urban watering hole



HIGH WHEELER.  My friend David is about 6 feet, 9 inches all.  This is his ride. He doesn't use a car. His bike is parked in front of Unleavened Bread Cafe at the corner of Central and 30th Street.  The cafe has a community room that's used for lots of group meetings.  I've been meeting there with a group of friends every Wednesday morning for about eight years. David's at that table, too.  The UBC community room also houses this church.

URBAN CHURCH, URBAN BIKING.  Somehow, the sign of this little urban church with the bicycle parked against it reached out to me.  Two things I love.  The church in the city, in its myriad forms--formal and informal, charismatic and institutional, walled and without walls--thrives in the city, despite turbulent times (and maybe because of them).  Urban biking is on the upswing in Indy, with more designated lanes being marked, more rails-to-trails projects developing, and more trying to commute more frequently on bikes.  I'm grateful for both and want to continue to encourage and advocate for them.

  
In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

HALF-LIFE OF FAITH

A confession and a prayer for my children

I have so far been able to protect my children
from undue fear and outright violence,
from malnourishment and unjust treatment.
I have not, thus far, competently guarded them
from unbridled consumerism and outright greed,
from justification of all things material.

I have taught them the Lord’s Prayer--
duly recited at each table gathering,
but I have not fully shared with them
our indebtedness to a world we have exploited.

I have cautioned them on drugs and addictions,
and lived an ever-sober life before them,
but I have indulged my appetite for trinkets,
and fed their dependency on branded gadgets.

I have instructed the Commandments to the letter,
and called for living the values they commend,
but I wonder how many gods-not-called-gods
and masquerading idols we return to each Monday?

I have commended my zealous evangelical brethren
for calling out obvious social moral dilemmas,
but we together have swallowed camels,
and overlooked deadly sins that consume us all.

I want my children yet to learn from me
the difference between stewarding and possessing,
that what we possess tends to possess us,
that hearts follows treasures every time.

I want to teach my children, long before I pass,
that there remains an authentically traveled way,
beyond and nearer than I have so far made known;
it ever awaits the heart that hungers for God alone.


In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Monday, November 2, 2009

JESUS' THIRD WAY

Walter Wink posits 16 ways Jesus taught and nonviolently responded to injustice and evil.
  • Seize the moral intiative.
  • Find a creative alternative to violence.
  • Assert your own humanity and dignity as a person.
  • Meet force with ridicule or humor.
  • Break the cycle of humiliation.
  • Refuse to submit or to accept the inferior position.
  • Expose the injustice of the system.
  • Take control of the power dynamic.
  • Shame the oppressor into repentance.
  • Stand your ground.
  • Force the powers into decisions for which they are not prepared.
  • Recognize your own power.
  • Be willing to suffer rather than retaliate.
  • Force the oppressor to see you in a new light.
  • Deprive the oppressor of a situation where force is effective.
  • Be willing to undergo the penalty of breaking unjust laws.

-- From The Impossible Will Take A Little While, edited by Paul Rogat Loeb. Walter Wink is one of the most outstanding living theologians.  His work on "the powers" is required reading for anyone trying to make a difference in the world today.  These points--and their full Biblical bases--are found in Jesus and Nonviolence: The Third Way.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

WENDELL BERRY READS A POEM

This video clip offers a brief insight into the heart and words of poet, essayist, farmer Wendell Berry






A plethora of information on the life and work of Wendell Berry is at this link http://brtom.typepad.com/wberry/

Berry's latest book of poems, Leavings, is now available.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.