Reflections on joy, Advent 3 theme

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in You, a joy.  — Rumi 

Questions to consider about joy:

  • What is the difference between joy and other states of being, such as happiness?
  • What is essential to experience joy?
  • When has joy surprised you?

And All Be Made Well – Jan Richardson

That each ill be released from you
and each sorrow be shed from you
and each pain be made comfort for you
and each wound be made whole in you

that joy will arise in you
and strength will take hold of you
and hope will take wing for you
and all be made well.

For Equilibrium, a Blessing — John O’Donohue
Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.
As the wind loves to call things to dance,
May your gravity by lightened by grace.
Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth,
May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect.
As water takes whatever shape it is in,
So free may you be about who you become.
As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said,
May your sense of irony bring perspective.
As time remains free of all that it frames,
May your mind stay clear of all it names.
May your prayer of listening deepen enough
To hear in the depths the laughter of god.

JOY
 
I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy. – Tagore
 
To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with. – Mark Twain
 
The three factors that seem to have the greatest influence on increasing our happiness are our ability to reframe our situation more positively, our ability to experience gratitude, and our choice to be kind and generous. – Dalai Lama 
 
All Joy reminds. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still ‘about to be’. – CS Lewis
 
When you are grateful, you are not fearful, and when you are not fearful, you are not violent. When you are grateful, you act out of a sense of enough and not out of a sense of scarcity, and you are willing to share. If you are grateful, you are enjoying the differences between people and respectful to all people. The grateful world is a world of joyful people. Grateful people are joyful people. A grateful world is a happy world. — Brother Steindl-Rast
 
 We create most of our suffering, so it should be logical that we also have the ability to create more joy. It simply depends on the attitudes, the perspectives, and the reactions we bring to situations and to our relationships with other people. When it comes to personal happiness there is a lot that we as individuals can do.  – Dalai Lama 
 
‘Without pain, how could we know joy?’ This is an old argument in the field of thinking about suffering and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate. – John Green
 
Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities. – Fred Rogers 

I call it Joy. … But certain other experiences were… The first is itself the memory of a memory. As I stood beside a flowering currant bush on a summer day there suddenly arose in me without warning, and as if from a depth not of years but of centuries, the memory of that earlier morning at the Old House when my brother had brought his toy garden into the nursery. It is difficult or find words strong enough for the sensation which came over me; Milton’s ‘enormous bliss’ of Eden (giving the full, ancient meaning to ‘enormous’) comes somewhere near it. It was a sensation, of course, of desire; but desire for what?…Before I knew what I desired, the desire itself was gone, the whole glimpse… withdrawn, the world turned commonplace again, or only stirred by a longing for the longing that had just ceased… In a sense the central story of my life is about nothing else… The quality common to the three experiences … is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again… I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is. — CS Lewis
 
I’d like to repeat the advice that I gave you before, in that I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. 

… Don’t settle down and sit in one place. Move around, be nomadic, make each day a new horizon. You are still going to live a long time, … and it would be a shame if you did not take the opportunity to revolutionize your life and move into an entirely new realm of experience.

You are wrong if you think Joy emanates only or principally from human relationships. God has placed it all around us. It is in everything and anything we might experience. We just have to have the courage to turn against our habitual lifestyle and engage in unconventional living. My point is that you do not need me or anyone else around to bring this new kind of light in your life. It is simply waiting out there for you to grasp it, and all you have to do is reach for it- Jon Krakauer

Reflections on extended family: inspired by UKAMA Sunday and the Shona word for interconnectedness.

The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. – Richard Bach

Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones that would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what. — anonymous

Shona concept of Ukama (Zimbabwe). This is the name of the partnership between faith communities in NH and Zimbabwe. Jackson Community Church is partnered with the Chikanga Church in the city of Mutare, Zimbabwe. Excerpt “… life is an interconnected whole, the ultimate wellbeing of the individual can hardly be disentangled from the well-being of others. It is through kinship or relatedness that the individual’s actions affect others positively or negatively at present as well as in the future.”

Questions to consider:

  • What is your image of God? Often our primal understanding of love and power is shaped by our earliest primary family relationships. How is your understanding of God like the people of your family of origin or adoption?
  • Who are the people you have ‘chosen’ as your extended family? What bonds tie you together?

Poem — Mary Oliver 
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one. – Jane Howard

You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them. – Desmond Tutu

To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there. – Barbara Bush

Families are the compass that guides us. They are the inspiration to reach great heights, and our comfort when we occasionally falter. – Brad Henry


The family – that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape, nor, in our inmost hearts, ever quite wish to. – Dodie Smith

When you grow up in an extended family, or in a stable neighborhood with two or three generations of families who live there, you feel seen. Not just the good things you’ve done, the stuff you put on your resume. You know they’ve seen you in your dark times, when you’ve messed up – but they’re still there. — Dean Ornish

This is my family. I found it all on my own. It’s little, and broken, but still good. Yeah. Still good. – Stitch (Disney character)

Blended families: woven together by choice, strengthened together by love, tested by everything, and each uniquely ours. — anonymous

The creation of a more peaceful and happier society has to begin from the level of the individual, and from there it can expand to one’s family, to one’s neighborhood, to one’s community and so on. — Dalai Lama

Obviously, you would give your life for your children, or give them the last biscuit on the plate. But to me, the trick in life is to take that sense of generosity between kin, make it apply to the extended family and to your neighbour, your village and beyond. — Tom Stoppard

Through my love for you, I want to express my love for the whole cosmos, the whole of humanity, and all beings. By living with you, I want to learn to love everyone and all species. If I succeed in loving you, I will be able to love everyone and all species on Earth… This is the real message of love. ― Thich Nhat Hanh

A child is fortunate who feels witnessed as a person, outside relationships with parents, by another adult. ― Louise Erdrich

Global health issues remind us – perhaps more than any other issue – that we are all children of the same extended family. — Kathleen Sebelius

You inherited a piece of everyone in your family. Insult them, insult yourself … Family makes you who you are and aren’t. – Marcelina Hardy

The great gift of family life is to be intimately acquainted with people you might never even introduce yourself to, had life not done it for you. – Kendall Hailey

He that raises a large family stands a broader mark for sorrow; but then he stands a broader mark for pleasure too. – Benjamin Franklin

A family is a place where principles are hammered and honed on the anvil of everyday living.  – Charles Swindon

To maintain a joyful family requires much from both the parents and the children. Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of the others.  – Pope John Paul II

We must take care of our families wherever we find them. – Elizabeth Gilbert

When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching — they are your family. – Jim Butcher

It didn’t matter how big our house was; it mattered that there was love in it. – Peter Buffett

Holy Thoughts on Families Formed by Love and Choice

God resorts to working through us for others and upon us through others. Those are some weirdly restorative, disconcerting shenanigans to be caught up in: God forcing God’s people to see themselves as God sees them, to do stuff they know they are incapable of doing, so that God might make use of them, and make them to be both humble recipients and generous givers of grace, so that they may be part of God’s big project on earth, so that they themselves might find unexpected joy through surprising situations. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change. ― Thich Nhat Hanh

Reflections on injustice & healing: themes from Jeremiah

Balm in Gilead — Grace Schulman
“Is there no balm in Gilead?”
So cries dour Jeremiah in granite tones.
“There is a balm in Gilead,”
replies a Negro spiritual. The baritone  

who chants it, leaning forward on the platform,
looks up, not knowing his voice is a rainstorm
that rinses air to reveal earth’s surprises.
Today, the summer gone, four monarch butterflies,  

their breed’s survivors, sucked a flower’s last blooms,
opened their wings, orange-and-black stained glass,
and printed on the sky in zigzag lines,
watch bright things rise:

winter moons, the white undersides
of a … condor, once thought doomed,
now flapping wide like the first bird
from ashes.


Questions to consider, based on text from Jeremiah:

  • What are some of the injustices you notice in the world right now?
  • What voices resist or critique those injustices? Who are the prophets of this age?
  • What actions or words are helping reinforce the injustices you have noticed?
  • Do people from within your community, or groups with whom you identify, speak up or take action about the injustices you are noticing?
  • What are some signs of healing or hope that you see for those injustices … what “balm for Gilead” do you witness?
  • What is a daily action or choice you can make, to become more aware or to affect change, about an injustice that is of particular concern to you?

Injustices Named

Our nation is reeling from shockwaves of violence, intolerance, anger, suspicion, and fear. At this moment it feels like our whole country is a powder keg, about to ignite, fueled by long legacies of racism, xenophobia, heterosexism, religious intolerance. — Anathea Portier-Young

… we must understand the lament’s power. Too often as Christians, we edit our prayers to God. We speak frankly to friends, advisors, and paid professionals, but we don’t speak frankly to God. Jeremiah holds nothing back from God and models a prayer life of both praise and lament. … These verses continue to resonate with both Christians and Jews as they confront the troubles of today’s world. What would Jeremiah say if he heard that more soldiers died from their own hand than in combat last year in Afghanistan? What should we say? How would Jeremiah react if he heard that 22 veterans a day commit suicide? Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 still tries to shake us from our complacency. — Garrett Galvin

This fact does not mean that the prophet should cease telling the truth as she sees it from God. But all truth telling is contexted by a careful listening to the pain of those very people…. We modern day would-be prophets would do well to listen carefully to the cries of our people. We may demand from them God’s justice, but in a highly complex and competitive world, the doing of justice may not be so clear-cut. When the people of our flock feel the pressing demands of a capitalist world to work hard and to achieve success; when the women are urged to “have it all,” to achieve great success in business and equal success as spouse and mother, while the men are to “be men” and to be relational and giving, yet powerful and winners, the cries of the people may ring loud in the land. — John Holbert

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. — Desmond Tutu

Non-violence doesn’t mean we have to passively accept injustice. We have to fight for our rights. We have to oppose injustice, because not to do so would be a form of violence. Gandhi-ji fervently promoted non-violence, but that didn’t mean he was complacently accepting of the status quo; he resisted, but he did so without doing harm. — Dalai Lama

Hope & Healing

To be contented human beings we need trust and friendship, which tends to develop much better once we realise that all beings have a right to happiness, just as we do. Taking others’ interests into account not only helps them, it also helps us. Warm-heartedness and concern for others are a part of human nature and are at the core of positive human values — Dalai Lama

The painful truth is that we are not the people we envision ourselves to be—not always. We do not live up to the convictions we profess to be the basis for our lives—not always. We may be in tune to the “justice of the Lord” in some areas of our lives, but I guarantee that there are others where we are not, and we are clueless about that fact. Jeremiah calls us to ask not “Where is God?” but “What have I done?”—to pull back the veil of our appearance of godliness so that we can find the way to real healing. — Alan Brehm

We stuffed scary feelings down, and they made us insane. I think it is pretty universal, all this repression leading to violence and fundamentalism and self-loathing and addiction. All I know is that after 10 years of being sober, with huge support to express my pain and anger and shadow, the grief and tears didn’t wash me away. They gave me my life back! They cleansed me, baptized me, hydrated the earth at my feet. They brought me home, to me, to the truth of me. — Anne Lamott

At the same time Jeremiah reminds me that life is not about sitting around waiting for my medicine.  Band aids and half –measures will not bring the cure we need.  Jesus heals me for a reason.  I’m called to love in return with all my heart, soul and mind, to extend love to my neighbor in gratitude … I know of no other way, no other healing balm, that helps me meet the daily challenges. So I listen to the spiritual and will try to sing it every day this week: Sometimes I feel discouraged and think my work’s in vain; but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again. — Lillian Daniel

Whom do we invite into our lives, our communities? How do we segregate our societies and how do we embrace diversity? What may we learn from our differences? Themes from Jeremiah & Luke.

When we set that table, we would do well to remember that we are not the hosts, but the God who loves us all, and invites each and every one of us to the feast. — Kathryn Matthews

Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter & become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. — Henri Nouwen

Everydayness (excerpt)— Emilie Townes
… there are other ways in which we sit here this morning
and i want to suggest that given the worlds we live in these days
however we are, as we sit here this morning
it’s normal
the challenge, i think for all of us is this:
what will we to do with the fullness and incompleteness of what we have
brought to this time and place
as we remember that we are in a world
that we have helped make
that needs a new, or perhaps ancient vision
molded by justice and peace
rather than winning and losing …
i’m talking about what we call in christian ethics, the everydayness of
moral acts
it’s what we do every day that shapes us and says more about us than
those grand moments of righteous indignation and action
the everydayness of listening closely when folks talk or don’t talk to hear
what they are saying
the everydayness of taking some time, however short or long, to refresh us
through prayer or meditation
the everydayness of speaking to folks and actually meaning whatever it is
that is coming out of our mouths
the everydayness of being a presence in people’s lives
the everydayness of designing a class session or lecture or reading or
writing or thinking
the everydayness of sharing a meal
the everydayness of facing heartache and disappointment
the everydayness of joy and laughter
the everydayness of facing people who expect us to lead them somewhere
or at least point them in the right direction and walk with them
the everydayness of blending head and heart
the everydayness of getting up and trying one more time to get our living
right
it is in this everydayness that “we the people” are formed
and we, the people of faith, live and must witness to a justice wrapped in
a love that will not let us go
and a peace that is simply too ornery to give up on us
won’t you join in this celebration?


Guest House — Rumi
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.  


Questions to consider, themes from Jeremiah and Luke:

  • What sort of privileges, status or power do you hold or inhabit? Which ones were you born into and which ones did you earn or achieve?
  • How is your life segregated, so you spend your time with people like yourself?
  • When and how do you spend time with people different from yourself?
  • How do attributes of power, privilege, and status allow or interrupt your ability to make a difference?
  • Who is someone, holding a position of status and authority and power, whom you admire as a role model?
  • When have you sat down with people different from yourself to eat together? What was it like? How was it awkward or enlightening?
  • When have you prepared the meal for others different from yourself?
  • When have you been fed by others with different social identities than yourself?

On Privilege, Positions & Power

It is better to be told, ‘Come up here,’ than to be put lower in the presence of a noble. — Proverbs 25:7

That the people in her particular village were ‘the most marginalized,’ and often those furthest from her own milieu of ‘incredible social privilege’ was what set her apart. — Dr Jonathan Jacobs (about socialite Judith Peabody)

Having power and wealth is not inherently evil; it is how one uses these privileges that matters most to God. Is power used to oppress others or to liberate them? Is wealth hoarded only for self-gain or shared with those who have so little? When the human family works together on behalf of everyone, life improves for all, and God is pleased. — Lisa Davison

When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable. — Madeleine L’Engle

We’re never so vulnerable than when we trust someone–but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy. — Frank Crane Do we welcome them on our terms, or with a willingness to say, “Today we are a different church because you are here in our midst, because you are part of us”? Let’s be the church, and let’s be open to the newness of what God is doing each day, the gifts brought in the person of new members, new friends, new Christians. — Kathryn Matthews

The centrality of honor in this culture teaches natives to stay always a step behind their rightful status, for it’s important that “one is not at all trying to appear or to be better than another person.” — John J. Pilch (commentary on Jewish culture in Biblical times)

Beneath all the great accomplishments of our time there is a deep current of despair. While efficiency and control are the great aspirations of our society, the loneliness, isolation, lack of friendship and intimacy, broken relationships, boredom, feelings of emptiness and depression, and a deep sense of uselessness fill the hearts of millions of people in our success-oriented world. … The radical good news is that the second love [human love] is only a broken reflection of the first love [God’s limitless love] and that the first love is offered to us by a God in whom there are no shadows … — Henri Nouwen

The churches must learn humility as well as teach it. — George Bernard Shaw

Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real. — Thomas Merton

There are people who observe the rules of honor as we observe the stars: from a distance. — Victor Hugo

A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed. — Desmond Tutu

A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you. — C.S. Lewis

Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man… It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone. — C.S. Lewis

We are rarely proud when we are alone. — Voltaire

There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self. — Ernest Hemingway

Through pride we are ever deceiving ourselves. But deep down below the surface of the average conscience a still, small voice says to us, something is out of tune. — C.G. Jung

With Whom Do We Eat?

Bread was important; in fact, where some eat and some do not eat, the kingdom is not present. — Fred Craddoc

When I feed the poor, they call me a saint, but when I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a communist. — Dom Helder Camara

Eating, and hospitality in general, is a communion, and any meal worth attending by yourself is improved by the multiples of those with whom it is shared. — Jesse Brownerm

Hospitality is hope … If you feel hopeless, go visit your cranky uncle in elder care. Bring him flowers or a new pair of socks—nothing gives a person more hope than a new pair of socks. Then, because you’ve brought the hope, you will feel it. — Anne Lamott

Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect. — Brene Brown

Hospitality is the practice of God’s welcome by reaching across difference to participate in God’s actions bringing justice and healing to our world in crisis. — Letty M. Russell

We don’t practice hospitality to point other people to ourselves, our church, or even our beliefs. We practice hospitality to point people toward the ultimate welcome that God gives every person through Christ. — Holly Sprink

We might even go so far as to say, that the theology of Liberation can be understood only by two groupings of persons: the poor, and those who struggle for justice at their side—only by those who hunger for bread, and by those who hunger for justice in solidarity with those hungering for bread. Conversely, liberation theology is not understood, nor can it be understood, by the satiated and satisfied—by those comfortable with the status quo. — Leonardo and Clodovis Boff

When you start with an understanding that God loves everyone, justice isn’t very far behind. — Emilie M. Townes  Greek word for hospitality, philoxenia, means ‘love of the stranger … banquet behavior fitting for the reign of God ought to affect dinner invitations even now. — Peluso-Verdend

Love … is not something you feel; it is something you do … Love seeks the well-being of others and is embodied in concrete efforts in their behalf. — Francis Taylor Gench

Jesus tells us to surprise others by our own dinner guest list, and prepare for a “great” time, too. Perhaps we, too, will come to understand a little better the meaning of true fulfillment and joy. — Kathryn Matthews

He comes as a guest to the feast of existence, and knows that what matters is not how much he inherits but how he behaves at the feast, and what people remember and love him for. — Boris Pasternak

True hospitality is marked by an open response to the dignity of each and every person. Henri Nouwen has described it as receiving the stranger on his own terms, and asserts that it can be offered only by those who ‘have found the center of their lives in their own hearts.’ — Kathleen Norris

Reflections on Advent 4: Love (plus longest night, resistance songs, Blue Christmas)

This week, Mary’s song, one of four found in the Gospel of Luke, is a song of praise and resistance, an expectation for justice and change. In times when we wonder whether to expect transformation, we are reminded to work for change, and to recall that we are lights in the darkness.
How will you shine in this season and into the coming year?

Les Miserables – Great Crescendo (excerpt)
Do you hear the people sing? Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people, Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart, Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start, When tomorrow comes!

Do you hear the people sing, Lost in the valley of the night?
It is the music of a people, Who are climbing to the light
For the wretched of the earth, There is a flame that never dies
Even the darkest night will end, And the sun will rise.

For those Living with Grief & Loss

 I hear
the love of those
who have loved me
echo in me.
All the notes of my song
sing over theirs,
the only kind of beauty.
The song does not die.
May I live
with love and mercy
for it will echo
long after.
— Steve Garnaas-Holmes

AGAPE as LOVE

The essence of agape love is goodwill, benevolence, and willful delight in the object of love. — Got Questions

True transformation is when we unleash the power of agape. We create an environment for positive change. There is still a world of possibility, even when the worst thing happens that could possibly happen. Forgiveness gives me the capacity to contribute something of value—to create a positive outcome to a terrible tragedy. —Desmond Tutu

Our hearts are like diamonds because they have the capacity to express divine light, which is agape; we not only are portals for this agape, but are made of it. — Anne Lamott

I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world. ― Mother Teresa

The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them. — Thomas Merton

All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. — Leo Tolstoy

Agape is a sobering love to receive, for it says, ‘If I cannot love you for who you are, then I will do so despite who you are.’ It is unique in that it is able to love those whom it cannot like. ― James Castleton, Mending of a Broken Heart

The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well. — Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash, and drink. The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform. — Thich Nhat Hahn

LONGEST NIGHT: Of Moons & Stars – Light in Darkness –

We are a way for the universe to know itself. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff. — Carl Sagan

To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight, and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings. — Wendell Berry

You must have shadow and light source both. Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe. — Rumi

We go into the darkness, we seek initiation, in order to know directly how the roots of all beings are tied together: how we are related to all things, how this relationship expresses itself in terms of interdependence. — Joan Halifax

Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water.
The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken.
Although its light is wide and great,
The moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide.
The whole moon and the entire sky
Are reflected in one dewdrop on the grass. — Dogen

Is the sweetness of the cane sweeter,
Than the One who made the canefield?

Behind the beauty of the moon is the MoonMaker.
There is Intelligence inside the ocean’s intelligence
Feeding our love like an invisible waterwheel … ― Rumi

The pine tree of Shiogoshi / Trickles all night long / Shiny drops of moonlight. — Basho

… [Sagan’s] statement sums up the fact that the carbon, nitrogen and oxygen atoms in our bodies, as well as atoms of all other heavy elements, were created in previous generations of stars over 4.5 billion years ago. Because humans and every other animal as well as most of the matter on Earth contain these elements, we are literally made of star stuff, said Chris Impey, professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona. “All organic matter containing carbon was produced originally in stars. The universe was originally hydrogen and helium, the carbon was made subsequently, over billions of years.” … In 2002, music artist Moby released “We Are All Made of Stars,” explaining during a press interview that his lyrics were inspired by quantum physics. “On a basic quantum level, all the matter in the universe is essentially made up of stardust,” he said. — Remy Melina, Are We Really All Made of Stars? Live Science (excerpt)

SONGS of RESISTANCE: Commentary

Why, one might wonder, all these songs? Because singing is an act of resistance. That’s not to say that all singing is, of course. Sometimes it’s an act of joy and sometimes of camaraderie, but it’s also an act of resistance. The slaves knew this. When they sang their spirituals they were both praising God and protesting the masters who locked them out of worship but couldn’t keep them out of the promise of deliverance of the Bible. And the civil rights leaders knew this, too, singing songs like “We Shall Overcome,” when so many in the society didn’t give them a chance to advance their cause of justice, let alone triumph. — David Lose, Singing as an Act of Resistance (excerpt)

I wonder whether we would dare to sing the Magnificat today. What would it mean? — Richard Ascough

It’s easy to sing the song, but to pray the lyrics from deep within … that’s worship! — Gangai Victor

Who can resist … the story of Mary’s elegantly exuberant prayer, the Magnificat? Her spontaneous outburst in song echoes Hannah’s praise for God’s marvelous deeds in the lives of all who are marginalized or downtrodden (1 Samuel 2). Like Hannah, Mary sings out of her own experience, her own hope, but out of the experience and hope of her people as well. The Magnificat is a lovely expression of joy at God’s promises kept, a celebration of the tables being turned, or overturned: the lowly are lifted up, the proud are brought down, and the hungry are fed. God remembers the people of Israel, and the promises God has made to them. What a powerful text for every heart hungry …  Kathryn Matthews (excerpt, UCC Sermon Seeds Dec 23 Reflection)

One thing we do know: music in the United States has led directly to environmental action, the equality of our citizens, a movement against war and violence, and it has raised the voices of the working American … Powerful songs have always been the engine behind the greatest social movements — it is the marching soundtrack that unites the people and gives them focus and resolve, and it’s not limited to the U.S. In 1970s Nigeria, Fela Kuti invented Afro Beat music as a way to protest the oil company regime of Nigeria. His song “Zombie” became a global hit that railed against Nigeria’s military dictators. In South Africa, the indigenous Mbatanga music helped bring about the end of apartheid and it spread a message of peace and reconciliation in that nation. In Chile, Victor Jara wrote songs about his country’s struggles, sparking the Nueva Cancion (New Songs) movement that caused South Americans to rise up against their military dictatorships and replace them with democracies. In Brazil, the Tropicalia movement was created by songwriters like Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, and Rita Lee as a form of protest against the Brazilian military junta, which eventually fell from its own corruption and incompetence. In Australia and New Zealand, popular songs written by indigenous and non-ingenious songwriters sparked an indigenous land reclamation movement that is still active today. — Barrett Martin, Huffington Post (excerpt)

Throughout the ages, God’s people have faced oppression. And in the face of that oppression, God’s people have sung God’s songs of resistance. But God’s people have also been oppressors. We have enslaved others — and each other. We have stolen from, oppressed, and slain others — and each other. And when we have done so, the oppressed, the enslaved, the persecuted have sung God’s songs of resistance against us. — Rolf Jacobson

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