Lenten Devotional – Thurs, Mar 4: MEEK

Meek: does this sound like a blessed condition? Matthew’s author used the Greek word praus. It might convey, as Brian Stoffregen writes, the “positive sense of ‘humble’ or ‘gentle’” or it might carry a more negative connotation such “‘humiliated’ … ‘walked on’ … ‘doormats’ … ‘powerless.’” In Hebrew scriptures, these people would be called anawim. The scholar Powell writes that the meek are the “ones who have not been given their share of the earth. They have been denied access to the world’s resources and have not had opportunity to enjoy the creation that God intended for all people.”

In this understanding, the meek include those who, without choice, are dispossessed and disenfranchised. They lack representation and authority. They are unable to hold onto land, resources or struggle to gain access to channels of influence and power.

Additionally, Martha Stortz writes that ‘Biblical meekness is tempered strength, power deliberately held in check.’ According to John Stott, ‘the Greek adjective translated “meek,” means “gentle,” “humble,” “considerate,” “courteous,” and therefore exercising the self-control without which these qualities would be impossible.’

In other words, the meek are people who are gentle and kind, and also exercise self-discipline about when and how they respond to unjust situations. They’re capable of righteous anger, but they restrain themselves unless the issue demands advocacy to be rectified or addressed.

According to some commentators, the meek, as defined by Biblical context, opt for strategies of nonviolence. Examples of such people include Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. If we point to communities that adopt such practices, we might consider the Amish communities for their principles of nonviolence. They may be meek, and yet they are also strong and resilient.

Whether dispossessed or deliberately soft-spoken and courteous, do we often notice or listen to such folks? Christ’s Beatitude is pointing us toward this part of the population and reminding us that these are neighbors with insights to offer and gifts to share. By offering a blessing, Christ confirms their place within the community.

Do you identify as humble or meek? In what way? — Gail

You are meek
A trait few seek
Mistaking it for weak
Lidia Longorio

He never complained. He seemed to have no instinct for the making much of oneself that complaining requires. Wendell Berry

Men sometimes speak as if humility and meekness would rob us of what is noble and bold and manlike. O that all would believe that this is the nobility of the kingdom of heaven, that this is the royal spirit that the King of heaven displayed, that this is Godlike, to humble oneself, to become the servant of all! Andrew Murray

The least known among the virtues and also the most misunderstood is the virtue of humility. Yet, it is the very groundwork of Christianity. Humility is a grace of the soul that cannot be expressed in words and is only known by experience. It is an unspeakable treasure of God, and only can be called the gift of God. “Learn,” He said, not from angels, not from men, not from books; but learn from My presence, light, and action within you, “that I am meek and humble of heart, and you shall find rest to your souls”. ― William Bernard Ullathorne

One of the best exercises in meekness we can perform is when the subject Is in ourselves. We must not fret over our own imperfections. Although reason requires that we must be displeased and sorry whenever we commit a fault we must refrain from bitter, gloomy, spiteful, and emotional displeasure. Many people are greatly at fault in this way. When overcome by anger they become angry at being angry, disturbed at being disturbed and vexed at being vexed. By such means they keep their hearts drenched and steeped in passion. Francis de Sale

Challenge or Question: Have you ever used a nonviolent response to an unjust situation? Was your response to a personal situation or a societal one? What strategy did you use? How did it work? What other strategies might you try?

Lenten Devotional – Wed, Mar 3: COMFORT

God promises comfort for those who are heartbroken. The simplest understanding of consolation is that people will regain the capacity to experience healing and joy. Interpreters also assert that comfort will come within the anticipation of being forgiven and restored to a more healthy and whole self, and reconciled to Godself.  

Sometimes our comfort comes in a spiritual form. We regain a sense of being connected to something larger than ourselves. Perhaps we even experience a reassuring presence, or know a wave of calm and peace, though not always. Yet as humans, we eventually heal.

As mentioned in prior reflections, this Beatitude doesn’t promise miracles that will address people’s suffering directly, at least in ways that will remove the causes and circumstances. Yet it suggests that mourning and grief have a place in the human experience, alongside joy and delight. People heal by becoming fully being present to and experiencing their feelings and thoughts. As humans, we learn and cope best by embracing the breadth of our emotions.

God remains faithfully present to God’s people, and continually offers the resources to become active partners in restoring and renewing the world that humans have also hurt. As St Teresa of Avila so eloquently reminds us, we are Christ’s hands and feet in the world now. Comfort will come, often, by the ways we are present to each other. We share our spiritual and emotional journeys and find strength and peace along the way. Just as we are designed for joy, we are also created to grow from the difficult experiences of sorrow, fear, and anger. As the Psalms say, we may weep in the night, but joy will come in the morning. — Rev Gail

Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always. — Hippocrates

I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort where we overlap. — Ani DiFranco

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Christ has no body now but yours … Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. —
St Teresa of Avila

Challenge or Question: Could you take a moment to simply acknowledge what you need? What hurts in your life or needs mending?  Then perhaps you can say, what would give you comfort? What would give you comfort? Can you do something for yourself or someone else to ease some pain, loneliness or sorrow today? A call, walk, or visit? A note or cup of coffee?

Lenten Devotional – Tue, Mar 2: MOURN

Tue, Mar 2: MOURN

At first pass, in English, this sounds like a blessing for the bereaved. As if it was meant only those who are grieving. Yet it encompasses more.

All by itself, grief is a defining human experience. People mourn for those who have died. According to Maxie Dunnam and Kimberly Dunnam Reisman,Sorrow and tears are part of life. The ability to cry is a gift from God. … The Bible talks about all kinds of sorrow and mourning, and it certainly makes the case that weeping and mourning are part of life. In fact, the Bible uses twenty Hebrew words and thirteen Greek words to express sadness and grief. Mourning is a natural human response.”

Yet translators say that this blessing’s intention covers a broader human experience. Perhaps we can also expand this blessing to those with mental health challenges such as depression or other conditions such as traum and loss. It embraces the broken-hearted or sorrowful.

Sometimes we express personal loss. Other times it’s societal.

Another scholar, named Boring, says those who mourn fall into the category of people who lament. Boring writes, ‘they lament the present condition of God’s people and God’s program in the world.’ They are folks dissatisfied with the current conditions of the world. They are restless, and cry out against the human experience of injustice and oppression, illness and suffering. They long for the ideals of the kingdom of heaven to unfold. They’re advocating and actively working toward transformation.

We are in holy company when we mourn. Martha Stortz summarizes the grief shown in the life of Christ as both personal and societal. “Jesus tears over the loss of a dear friend, the fate of a great city, and his own impending death establish his humanity. He knows the full range of human experience, and the comfort he offers comes from the depths of suffering.”

Then comes the word of teachers such as Rumi and the wisdom of our own Christian philosophers and guides from St John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila to CS Lewis, Joan Chittister, and Richard Rohr. They remind us to open the door to our emotional and psychological houses, and allow grief and pain to enter our hearts. Give them space. Work with them. Learn from them.

How many ways does this Beatitude name times in your life? — Rev Gail

Sorrow prepares you for joy.
It violently sweeps everything out of your house,
so that new joy can find space to enter.
It shakes the yellow leaves
from the bough of your heart,
so that fresh, green leaves
can grow in their place.
It pulls up the rotten roots,
so that new roots hidden beneath
have room to grow.
Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart,
far better things will take their place.
― Rumi

In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares. The older have learned to ever expect it. I am anxious to afford some alleviation of your present distress. Perfect relief is not possible, except with time. You cannot now realize that you will ever feel better. Is not this so? And yet it is a mistake. You are sure to be happy again. To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now. I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only to believe it … ― Abraham Lincoln

Some people, they can’t just move on, you know, mourn and cry and be done with it. Or at least seem to be. But for me… I don’t know. I didn’t want to fix it, to forget. It wasn’t something that was broken. It’s just…something that happened. And like that hole, I’m just finding ways, every day, of working around it. Respecting and remembering and getting on at the same time. Sarah Dessen

Everyone keeps telling me that time heals all wounds, but no one can tell me what I’m supposed to do right now. Right now I can’t sleep. It’s right now that I can’t eat. … Right now all I seem to do is cry. I know all about time and wounds healing, but even if I had all the time in the world, I still don’t know what to do with all this hurt right now. ― Nina Guilbeau

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break. ― William Shakespeare

Unless you have been very, very lucky, you have undoubtedly experienced events in your life that have made you cry. So unless you have been very, very lucky, you know that a good, long session of weeping can often make you feel better, even if your circumstances have not changed one bit. Lemony Snicket

Someday you’re gonna look back on this moment of your life … You’ll see that you were in mourning and your heart was broken, but your life was changing … Elizabeth Gilbert

Challenge or Question: How has grief or sorrow been a teacher in your life? What have you learned from it? Consider writing a letter — in a notebook or journal — to someone whom you’re missing or grieving or about an issue that is breaking your heart.

Lenten Devotional – Thurs, Mar 11: FILLED

As he talked to the people of his time, Jesus used imagery that helped them identify with the conditions of humanity: those who would receive the blessing. Hunger. Thirst. The same metaphors translate well for modern folks.

We understand such deep and essential needs. Authors of the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Biblical commentaries write about this Beatitude by including it among the three earlier ones that addressed being poor in spirit, mournful, and meek. These scholars say that those who receive the first four blessings are “conscious of their need of salvation” and that they do not yet act as if they are “possessed of it.”

They’re metaphorically empty. And they know it. And somehow, this need or ‘lack’ is always creating space for the presence of God in their lives.

Folks who are about to be ‘filled’ are among those in the early stages of the twelve-step recovery model: a helpful way to compare the journey through the Beatitudes. They’re in need. They’ve admitted to that need. They’ve named the nature of their issues and challenges. They have handed over their lives and wellbeing to redemptive relationships, such as Godself. They long for help. They have turned themselves toward God for that help.

If we’re longing for a healthy and sustainable relationship with Godself, mirrored in our self-care and ethical connections to other people, then the answer to our desire is to experience a wholeness of connection that satisfies what seems missing in our lives. That’s what being ‘filled’ means. That’s the blessing.

It’s an easy metaphor to understand. Harder to live out.

Think of this desire as life-threatening. As vital as lack of food or water would be.

You need to be filled. Fulfilled. The promise of the Beatitude is that the need is met. More than met, by forming a relationship with Godself.

Our desire to be in relationship with God, when fulfilled, is satisfied in such a way that it may remain sated. It continually renews wellbeing. We’ll probably have relapses. Bumps along the way.

Yet our holistic connection to God restores equilibrium. In such conditions, we can care for ourselves and others, because we are anchored in a bond with Godself.

Of course, the human experience, named at the start of the blessing, is that we’re constantly wanting. We start out empty: devouring and processing whatever we can imbibe. In a sense, that’s how we learn.

Even if we want good, healthy, ethical conditions and outcomes and connections, we’re on the empty end of the equation, wishing for fulfillment. And we’re perpetually out of balance, we cannot stand alone: we need to be in relationship.

Simply wanting to be connected to God turns us in a life-affirming direction. It won’t be easy or absolute. The state of reaching toward God, as God leans close to meet us where we are, remains part of our journey. Apparently, we must exercise the option to say yes, over and over.

While we’re always invited to belong to God, the choice remains ours. The opportunity to say yes — or not — is within our power. So the only one who gets in the way of the relationship with God is us and our human experience.

God always draws close. Pursues us. Never backs down. Never gives up. Always shows up. ANd that presence … that’s what fulfills. And fills. — Rev Gail

It’s emptiness, not fullness, that Jesus blesses. — John Koessler

Open your eyes, look within. Are you satisfied with the life you’re living? — Bob Marley

Man is the only animal whose desires increase as they are fed; the only animal that is never satisfied. — Henry George

To be satisfied with a little, is the greatest wisdom; and he that increaseth his riches, increaseth his cares; but a contented mind is a hidden treasure, and trouble findeth it not. — Akhenaton

You must accept that you might fail; then, if you do your best and still don’t win, at least you can be satisfied that you’ve tried. If you don’t accept failure as a possibility, you don’t set high goals, you don’t branch out, you don’t try – you don’t take the risk. — Rosalynn Carter

God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. — John Piper

Challenge or Question: When do you feel that you are enough? How does that reflect on your connection to Godself? What gifts have you received that allow you to experience that feeling of contentment, fulfillment, satisfaction, and being enough?

BLACK HISTORY MONTH (Racial Justice Programs – Early March)

SUPPORTING DIVERSITY & INCLUSION in the OUTDOORS:
A Sense of Place Community Forum

WED • 6:30pm

This event is free. Please register for the event at bit.ly/2NcStjR.

How can we cultivate a more inclusive outdoor recreation community in the Mount Washington Valley?

On Wednesday, March 3 from 6:30-8PM live via Zoom, the public is invited to participate in “Supporting Diversity & Inclusion in the Outdoors,” a Sense of Place community forum. Join us to consider what practical steps user groups, local businesses, and local community members can take to support more diverse participation in the outdoors. Panelists from the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, REI, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Venture Out Project will share their perspectives, followed by a facilitated discussion. Emily Greene from the Saco Watershed Collaborative and Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve will moderate. This event is free. Please register for the event at bit.ly/2NcStjR.

About the Panelists:

Kent Jackson, Director of Education at the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, Boston, MA, is a seasoned environmental educator who has successfully created, developed, directed, and evaluated environmental youth leadership programs. He is a certified American Canoe Association Instructor, a Wilderness First Responder and a Leave No Trace Master Educator.

James Saunders is Logistics and Marketing Coordinator for The Venture Out Project.

Becky Smith is Director of Retail for REI’s Washington, DC flagship store.

Janet Zeller served as the National Accessibility Program Manager for the U.S. Forest Service for 17 years, and wrote their ADA guidelines. She is now retired, but continues her work as an Accessibility Specialist in outdoor recreation.

VIDEO SCREENING & DISCUSSION ofLADAINIAN TOMLINSON and
The Backstory Behind His Hall of Fame Speech on Unity | NFL 360

***** Tue, Mar 9 • 7pm *****
(corrected date)

CORRECTED date for this discussion due to schedule conflict that Rev Gail didn’t catch in original scheduling for this program.

Zoom gathering:

To preview the 20-minute video of the interview with LaDainian Tomlinson: https://youtu.be/uUZ02WkG3Qk
Introductory statements from Dr. Tony DeLuca:
“I would appreciate it if you would share this with the members of the congregation. As an historian and  someone who is involved in the spiritual life of the church, I feel I have a duty and a responsibility to make this information available to others. The timing is most apropos given that’s it’s Black History Month and we are still enjoying the aftermath of the Super Bowl experience. It’s the type of thing I hope we will be able, in the not-too-distant future, to come together as a group and engage in another form of Christian conversation.”

Tony DeLuca continues: “The video presents a positive alternative to the highly-charged, confrontational nature of the events of the past year. The video is not rhetorical. It’s personal. It provides valuable insights into how we can approach the goal of racial harmony. To paraphrase Shakespeare: “The solution lies not in the stars, but in ourselves.” The timing is right. I suggest we arrange to do this via ZOOM as soon as possible.”

Tony Deluca will help us think about this 2017 video message from football professional and NFL Hall of Fame recipient LaDainian Tomlinson.

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