Reflections on idols & advocacy: Moses standing in the breach

In Exodus, Moses stood between Israel and G-d, when his people lost hope & trust and made an golden calf idol and G-d threatened to destroy them; Moses defended them and even made demands of G-d. Who do you identify with in this story? For whom will each of us speak? And what will we demand of G-d? Meanwhile, what idols are getting between us and our spiritual wellbeing, our connection to G-d, community and creation?

Standing In The Breach by Jackson Browne
And though the earth may tremble and our foundations crack
We will all assemble and we will build them back
And rush to save the lives remaining still within our reach
And try to put our world together standing in the breachSo many live in poverty while others live as kings
Though some may find peace
In the acceptance of all that living brings
I will never understand however they’ve prepared
How one life may be struck down and another life be sparedAnd though the earth may tremble and cast our works aside
And though our efforts resemble the fluctuating tide
We rise and fall with the trust and belief
That love redeems us each
And bend our backs and hearts together standing in the breach

You don’t know why it’s such a far cry
From the world this world could be
You don’t know why but you still try
For the world you wish to see
You don’t know how it will happen now
After all that’s come undone
But you know the change the world needs now
Is there, in everyone

The unpaid debts of history
The open wounds of time
The laws of human nature always tugging from behind
I want to think that the earth can heal
And that people might still learn
How to meet this world’s true challenges
And that the course we’re on could turn

And though the earth may tremble and the oceans pitch and rise
We will all assemble and we will lift our eyes
To the tasks that we know lie before us
And the power our prayers beseech
And cast our souls into the heavens, standing in the breach

You don’t know why it’s such a far cry
From the world this world could be
You don’t know why but you still try
For the world you wish to see
You don’t know how it’s going to happen now
After all that’s come undone
And you know the world you’re waiting for may not come
No it may not come
But you know the change the world needs now
Is there, in everyone


Idols Like Golden Calves: Feeding our Hungers

The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly human goal. — Pope Francis

You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind. The rational mind doesn’t nourish you. You assume that it gives you the truth, because the rational mind is the golden calf that this culture worships, but this is not true. Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating. — Anne Lamott

It happened, you see, after the war, when I saw people making money while the others were dying in the trenches. You saw it and you couldn’t do anything about it. Then later I was at the League of Nations, and there I saw the light. I really saw the world was ruled by the Golden Calf, by Mammon! Oh, no kidding! Implacably. Social consciousness certainly came to me late. —  Louis Ferdinand Céline

God’s green earth can no longer sustain itself for those who worship the golden calf. Those who have put this planet in jeopardy shall no longer live. We have been working hard for this day to come and we have help from every God-fearing being on this planet. Many will say they believe, when in their hearts, they truly worship Mammon. — Stephen Biro

Advocacy

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. — Winston Churchill

When we speak we are afraid our words are not welcomed. But when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak. — Audre Lorde

Where you see wrong or inequality or injustice, speak out, because this is your country. This is your democracy. Make it. Protect it. Pass it on. — Thurgood Marshall

Great thoughts speak only to the thoughful mind, but great actions speak to all mankind. — Theodore Roosevelt

I speak not for myself but for those without a voice. … those who have fought for their rights … their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated. — Malala Yousafzai

As an immigrant, I chose to live in America because it is one of the freest and most vibrant nations in the world. And as an immigrant, I feel an obligation to speak up for immigration policies that will keep America the most robust, creative and freedom-loving nation in the world. — Rupert Murdoch

Inspired by St Francis, plus hope responding to shootings & earthquakes & volcanoes & hurricanes & fires

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures — Excerpt from Canticle of the Sun by St Francis of Assisi

“Hope” is the thing with feathers – (314)
Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.


Hope & Purpose

There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’ No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster. ― Dalai Lama XIV

Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose ― Viktor Frankl

Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. — Robert Kennedy

The spiritual task of life is to feed hope. Hope is not something to be found outside of us. It lies in the spiritual life we cultivate within. — Joan Chittister

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness. —Desmond Tutu

Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly – but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future. — Nelson Mandela

You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for his own improvement and, at the same time, share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful. — Marie Curie

Western civilization places so much emphasis on the idea of hope that we sacrifice the present moment. Hope is for the future. It cannot help us discover joy, peace, or enlightenment in the present moment … I do not mean that you should not have hope, but that hope is not enough. Hope can create an obstacle for you, and if you dwell in the energy of hope, you will not bring yourself back entirely into the present moment. If you re-channel those energies into being aware of what is going on in the present moment, you will be able to make a breakthrough and discover joy and peace right in the present moment, inside of yourself and all around you. — Thich Nhat Hahn, Peace In Every Step

Violence

Violence isn’t a Democrat or Republican problem. It’s an American problem, requiring an American solution. — DaShanne Stokes

A coward’s gun is emptied when fear pulls the trigger, and hate is the ammunition of choice. ― T.F. Hodge, From Within I Rise: Spiritual Triumph Over Death and Conscious Encounters with The Divine Presence

In the developed world, these levels of gun violence are a uniquely American problem. — German Lopez, Vox

We’ve heard these words before. We’ve heard them far too often only to have the next mass shooting supersede the former … From Sandy Hook to Texas to Charleston to Virginia Tech to Pulse to Las Vegas…Lord, hear our cries and compel us to act. — Rev Traci Blackmon, ucc.org commentary

We’ll pray for Las Vegas, some of us will get motivated, some of us won’t get motivated. The bills will be written, they’ll get watered down, they’ll fail. … over time we’ll get distracted, and we’ll move on to the next thing. And it’ll happen again, and again. — Jimmy Kimmel

Blessing of Hope
— Jan Richardson

So may we know
the hope
that is not just
for someday
but for this day—
here, now,
in this moment
that opens to us:

hope not made
of wishes
but of substance,

hope made of sinew
and muscle
and bone,

hope that has breath
and a beating heart,

hope that will not
keep quiet
and be polite,

hope that knows
how to holler
when it is called for,

hope that knows
how to sing
when there seems
little cause,

hope that raises us
from the dead—

not someday
but this day,
every day,
again and
again and
again.

Reflections on water & respite in hard times and places

As one commentator says, “there are many kinds of thirst.” Where do we find respite and rescue in the midst of dry, hard, troubled times? What are the wastelands of our lives? Where do signs of life surprise us in our personal and communal “desert places”?

You should not see the desert simply as some faraway place of little rain. There are many forms of thirst. — William Langewiesche
Water Water Water Wind Water Juan Felipe Herrera
water water water wind water
across the land shape of a torn heart
… again and again a new land edge emerges
a new people emerges where race and class and death
and life and water and tears and loss
and life and death destruction and life and tears
compassion and loss and a fire …
rumbles toward you all directions wherever
you are alive still

If you don’t die of thirst, there are blessings in the desert. You can be pulled into limitlessness, which we all yearn for, or you can do the beauty of minutiae, the scrimshaw of tiny and precise. The sky is your ocean, and the crystal silence will uplift you like great gospel music, or Neil Young. — Anne Lamott

What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well. —Antoine de Saint-Exupery

This is the sense of the desert hills, and there is room enough and time enough. — Mary Hunter Austin

Water is life’s mater and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water. — Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

To be commanded to love God at all, let alone in the wilderness, is like being commanded to be well when we are sick, to sing for joy when we are dying of thirst, to run when our legs are broken. But this is the first and great commandment nonetheless. Even in the wilderness–especially in the wilderness–you shall love [God]. — Frederick Buechner, A Room Called Remember: Uncollected Pieces

Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water; she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure. — Francis of Assisi

I alternate between thinking of the planet as home–dear and familiar stone hearth and garden–and as a hard land of exile in which we are all sojourners. — Annie Dillard

Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected … On the other hand, wretchedness–life’s painful aspect–softens us up considerably. Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. When you are feeling a lot of grief, you can look right into somebody’s eyes because you feel you haven’t got anything to lose–you’re just there … Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together. ― Pema Chödrön, Start Where You Are

… there are no crows in the desert. What appear to be crows are ravens. You must examine the crow, however, before you can understand the raven. To forget the crow completely, as some have tried to do, would be like trying to understand the one who stayed without talking to the one who left. It is important to make note of who has left the desert. — Barry López, Desert Notes: Reflections in the Eye of a Raven

New Water
— Sharon Chmielarz
All those years—almost a hundred—
the farm had hard water.
Hard orange. Buckets lined in orange.
Sink and tub and toilet, too,
once they got running water.
And now, in less than a lifetime,
just by changing the well’s location,
in the same yard, mind you,
the water’s soft, clear, delicious to drink.
All those years to shake your head over.
Look how sweet life has become;
you can see it in the couple who live here,
their calmness as they sit at their table,

the beauty as they offer you new water to drink.

DesertJosephine Miles

When with the skin you do acknowledge drought,
The dry in the voice, the lightness of feet, the fine
Flake of the heat at every level line;

When with the hand you learn to touch without
Surprise the spine for the leaf, the prickled petal,
The stone scorched in the shine, and the wood brittle;

Then where the pipe drips and the fronds sprout
And the foot-square forest of clover blooms in sand,
You will lean and watch, but never touch with your hand.


Meditation on manna from heaven and the last shall be first

Meditation from this week’s texts: grace in unexpected times and places — manna in the desert and overturning the social order when ‘the last shall be first’


The Last Shall Be First

Love someone who doesn’t deserve it. — Wendell Berry

Maybe God (or Goodness or Good Orderly Direction or Gift of Desperation) is in whom we move, live and have our being, but the world is a also a chaotic place and humanity is a chaotic place, and I am a chaotic place some days, too. So I take the right action: I get my own emotional acre in order, through radical self-care, serving the poor, sharing my M&M’s, flirting with the very old. Then the insight follows, the one I share … that, all evidence to the contrary, we are loved and chosen and safe.— Anne Lamott

The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth. — Niels Bohr

To see the universal and all-pervading Spirit of Truth face to face one must be able to love the meanest of creation as oneself. — Gandhi, Farewell

Tonight, darling, we are going to right a lot of wrongs. And we are going to wrong some rights. The first shall be last; the last shall be first; the meek shall do some earth-inheriting. ― John Green, Paper Towns


Manna

This bread is the body of the cosmos. — Thich Nhat Hanh

If it is bread that you seek, you will have bread. If it is the soul you seek, you will find the soul. If you understand this secret, you know you are that which you seek. — Jalaluddin Rumi

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to the few. The manna of popular liberty must be gathered each day or it is rotten … Only by continued oversight … by unintermitted agitation can a people be sufficiently awake to principle not to let liberty be smothered in material prosperity. — Wendell Phillips

According to legend, the Israelites were doomed to starvation but were saved by food called ‘manna’ in the form of coriander seed that came from the heavens. The manna fell during the night on dew, which encased and protected the seeds until morning when they could be gathered and ground into flour, which was used to bake a sweet bread. A double portion fell on Friday so that there was enough to bake bread for that day as well as for Saturday, the Sabbath, when no manna fell. ― Martin K. Gay, Encyclopedia of North American Eating & Drinking Traditions, Customs, and Rituals

… manna. It is a honey-like excretion from certain insects which infest tamarisk trees in this area. When it drops from the leaves it becomes almost solid, but in the heat of the day it melts, so it must be collected in the morning. That sufficient was available to feed all is a miracle, a special intervention by God. … the name manna comes from “‘What is it?’”, man hu in Hebrew: the Israelites ask what do you call it. — Chris Haslam, Anglican Diocese of Montreal (blog)

God takes things away from us, and then forms a new identity in us. It is hard. It can be painful. But it is an act of freedom. It is a liberating act of God, and there will be times where we will yearn for the ways of old …  God takes all sort of things away from us. God takes death from us. God takes shame from us. God takes oppression and bondage from us. And then God gives us manna. God gives us God’s own identity. God nourishes. God feeds. — Rev Michael Isaacs

Paradise Regain’d: Book 1 (1671 version)
— John Milton  (Excerpt)

He ended, and the Son of God reply’d.
Think’st thou such force in Bread? is it not written
(For I discern thee other then thou seem’st)
Man lives not by Bread only, but each Word
Proceeding from the mouth of God; who fed
Our Fathers here with Manna; in the Mount
Moses was forty days, nor eat nor drank,
And forty days Eliah without food
Wandred this barren waste, the same I now.
Why dost thou then suggest to me distrust,
Knowing who I am, as I know who thou art?

where our protest sound
Lenelle Moïse

… haiti’s first cousin
forcibly kissed
by a hurricane
… hot winds
come one fat
tuesday.
old levee leak
explodes. fixing funds gone
to homeland
security. soldiers
stationed in iraq. said,

jazz is underwater
days like laissez-faire
manna does not fall
saviors do not save

hunger prays to rage for
resilience, improvisational genius
implodes, anarchy duets
with despair …

MannaKing Woman
(excerpt from song lyrics)

Am I created in the image of my “Father God”?
Am I created in an image? What I had I lost
Am I created in an image what I want to see?
I am created in the image of suffering
I’m suffering
Calling all your heavy laden
Graceless
All suffering

Calling all you heavy laden
Faceless

Manna machine …

Reflections on awake, arise: scriptures that call us to engagement

Meditations inspired by scriptures that call us to wake up, be alert, pay attention, be present and engaged. What does that spiritual practice look like in your life?

Golden slumbers kiss your eyes
Smiles awake you when you arise. — Thomas Dekker


I cannot be awake for nothing looks to me as if did before.
Or else I am awake for the first time
and all before has been a mean sleep.
— Walt Whitman

There are many whose eyes are awake
and whose hearts are asleep;
Yet, what can be seen
By mere creatures of water and clay?
But he who keeps his heart awake
Will know and live this mystery;
While the eyes of his head may sleep
His heart will open hundreds of eyes.
If your heart isn’t yet illumined
Be awake always, be a seeker of the heart,
Be at war continually with your carnal soul.
But if your heart is already awakened,
Sleep peacefully, sleep in the arms of Love,
For your spiritual eye is not absent
From the seven heavens and seven directions
 — Attributed to Rumi


Awake

Our species needs, and deserves, a citizenry with minds awake and a basic understanding of how the world works. — Carl Sagan

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aid, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn. — Henry David Thoreau

Buddhist mindfulness is about being present but I also think its about being real. Being awake to everything. Feeling like nothing can hurt you if you can look it straight on. — Krista Tippett

Why does the eye see a thing more clearly in dreams than the imagination when awake? — Leonardo da Vinci

To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. — Pema Chodron

In these times you have to an optimist to open your eyes when you awake in the morning. — Carl Sandburg

Today is life —the only life you are sure of. Make the most of today. Get interested in something. Shake yourself awake. Develop a hobby. Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you. Live today with gusto.— Dale Carnegie

I love sleep. My life has a tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know? — Ernest Hemingway

Sleeping is no mean art. For its sake one must stay awake all day. — Friedrich Nietzche

Arise
Person after person has said to me in these last few days that this new world we face terrifies them. I can understand how that feeling would arise unless one believes that men are capable of greatness beyond their past achievements. … The times now call for mankind as a whole to rise to great heights. We must have faith or else we die. — Eleanor RooseveltFirst thing every morning, before you arise, say out loud, ‘I believe’ three times. — Ovid

I am not concerned that you have fallen, I am concerned that you arise. — Abraham Lincoln

When you arise in the morning, think of what a privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love. — Marcus Aurelius

I arise in the morning town between the desire to improve the world and the desire to enjoy it. This makes it hard to plan the day. — E.B. White

There is a Japanese proverb that literally goes, ‘Raise the sail with your stronger hand’, meaning you must go after the opportunities in life that you are best equipped to do. — Soichiro Honda

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