Meditations on hope and resilience for the first Sunday of Advent

Hope begins in the dark … the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You don’t give up. — Anne Lamott

You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope. — Thomas Merton

SONGS about HOPE:

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.

Advent 1: The Parable

In a mother’s womb were two babies.  The first baby asked the other:  “Do you believe in life after delivery?”
      The second baby replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery.  Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”
      “Nonsense,” said the first. “There is no life after delivery.  What would that life be?”
      “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here.  Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths.”
      The doubting baby laughed. “This is absurd!  Walking is impossible.  And eat with our mouths?  Ridiculous.  The umbilical cord supplies nutrition.  Life after delivery is to be excluded.  The umbilical cord is too short.”
      The second baby held his ground. “I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here.”
      The first baby replied, “No one has ever come back from there.  Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery it is nothing but darkness and anxiety and it takes us nowhere.”
      “Well, I don’t know,” said the twin, “but certainly we will see mother and she will take care of us.”
       “Mother?” The first baby guffawed. “You believe in mother?  Where is she now?” 
       The second baby calmly and patiently tried to explain. “She is all around us.  It is in her that we live. Without her there would not be this world.”
       “Hah. I don’t see her, so it’s only logical that she doesn’t exist.”  
        To which the other replied, “Sometimes when you’re in silence you can hear her, you can perceive her.  I believe there is a reality after delivery and we are here to prepare ourselves for that reality when it comes….”
 
— Attribution uncertain: According to Wayne Dyer, the original story was told by Henri J. W. Nouwen. Possibly  adapted from the writings of Pablo Molinero. Or penned in 1947 by Orthodox Rabbi Yechiel Michel Tucazinsky. Or from the Hungarian writer Útmutató a Léleknek.

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

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 E. Frankl
 
Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality. – Jonas Salk
 

Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope. – Maya Angelou

They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for. – Tom Bodett
 
Few things in the world are more powerful than a positive push. A smile. A world of optimism and hope. A ‘you can do it’ when things are tough. – Richard M. DeVos

A lot of people have their big dreams and get knocked down and don’t have things go their way. And you never give up hope, and you really just hold on to it. Hard work and perseverance. You just keep getting up and getting up, and then you get that breakthrough.– Robert Kraft

Hope is the dream of a soul awake. — French proverb

Dum spiro, spero: While I breath, I hope. — Latin proverb

The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. — Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

IS HOPE ABOUT NOW or TOMORROW, IS IT a HELP or an OBSTACLE?

Grounded hope has two parts. The “grounded” part refers to a realistic understanding of our lives and ourselves. Instead of painting a smiley face over what has happened, we bravely look at reality head-on. Seeing the situation clearly enables us to work toward recovery.
     We cultivate the “hope” part by building confidence in our ability to shape what happens to us next. We start by asking, “Given what’s happened to me, what am I going to do about it? How can I build a better life on top of it?” Then we set goals for ourselves and find sources of motivation to pursue those goals.
      At some point, most of us will face the task of recovering, rebuilding, and rebounding from adversity. Grounded hope can help us not just bounce back, but bounce forward. — Lee Daniel Kravetz, Option B, https://optionb.org/build-resilience/advice/steps-to-grounded-hope

Hope is important, because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today. But that is the most that hope can do for us – to make some hardship lighter. When I think deeply about the nature of hope, I see something tragic. Since we cling to our hope in the future, we do not focus our energies and capabilities on the present moment. We use hope to believe something better will happen in the future, that we will arrive at peace, or the Kingdom of God. Hope becomes a kind of obstacle. If you can refrain from hoping, you can bring yourself entirely into the present moment and discover the joy that is already here…
     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. Many religions are based on the notion of hope, and this teaching about refraining from hope may create a strong reaction. But the shock can bring about something important. 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

When considered only philosophically, hope, more often than not, seems to be at odds with rational, analytical thinking. But due to its proactive nature, hope in action touches the heart and creates its own validation. A good example of this is found in the philanthropic work of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. In the 2015 Annual Gates Letter he wrote: “Optimism for me isn’t that things will get better; it’s a conviction that we can make things better — that whatever suffering we see, no matter how bad it is we can help people if we don’t lose hope and we don’t look away.” — article from ornishliving.com

Hope is not always comforting or comfortable. Hope asks us to open ourselves to what we do not know, to pray for illumination in this life, to imagine what is beyond our imagining, to bear what seems unbearable. It calls us to keep breathing when beloved lives have left us, to turn toward one another when we might prefer to turn away. Hope draws our eyes and hearts toward a more whole future but propels us also into the present, where Christ waits for us to work with him toward a more whole world now. — Jan Richardson

When God saves people in this life by working through his Spirit to bring them to faith and by leading them to follow Jesus in discipleship, prayer, holiness, hope, and love, such people are designed…to be a sign and foretaste of what God wants to do for the entire cosmos. What’s more, such people are not just to be a sign and foretaste of that ultimate salvation; they are to be part of the means by which God makes this happen both in the present and the future. — NT Wright

Reflections on Memorial Day: those who serve & sacrifice, those who work for peace

Only the dead have seen the end of war. — Plato

This is the day we pay homage to all those who didn’t come home … it’s not a celebration, it is a day of solemn contemplation over the cost of freedom. — Tamra Bolton

Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed. — Preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. — Mark Twain

Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime. — Adlai Stevenson

Gentleness, self-sacrifice and generosity are the exclusive possession of no one race or religion. — Gandhi

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter – but beautiful – struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons (and daughters) of God, and our brothers (and sisters) wait eagerly for our response. — Martin Luther King

Memorial Day Prayer —Carl Schenck
We gather on a somber holiday.
We remember with sadness those we have loved and lost.
Let us not glorify the conflicts and violence
that tear our loved ones from us.
Let us, rather, give glory to God,
who calls us to use our freedom peaceably.
Our God is a God of all nations and peoples.
May our worship of God unite rather than divide.

Songs for Memorial Day Weekend

Film Clips

Protest & Peace Songs:


Memorial Day (excerpt)— Michael Anania … We know the stories that are told,
by starts and stops, by bent men at strange joy
regarding the precise enactments of their own
gesturing. And among the women there will be
a naming of families, a counting off, an ordering …


Peace — Langston Hughes
We passed their graves:
The dead men there,
Winners or losers,
Did not care.
In the dark
They could not see
Who had gained
The victory.


Who kept the faith and fought the fight;
The glory theirs, the duty ours.
— Wallace Bruce


You silent tents of green,
We deck with fragrant flowers;
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours.
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Notes on Memorial Day (excerpt) Lillian Daniel

Memorial Day began after the Civil War as an effort toward reconciliation between the families of veterans in the North and the South. After the war, there was already a tradition in the North of decorating soldiers’ graves, called “Decoration Day.” But in 1868 an organization of Northern war veterans decreed it ought to be a national holiday. May 30 was carefully chosen as the date because it was not the anniversary of a specific battle, and therefore would be a neutral date for both sides. But human beings hold on to their wounds, and reconciliation takes time, grace and mercy…

Memorializing Rightly (excerpt) — Debra Dean Murphy

… much of our memorializing will trend, as it always does, toward … the simplistic, the cliche-riddled hyperpatriotism that does a disservice to the women and men who fight and die in wars conceived by powerful men … Surely it’s possible to honor the selflessness that’s part of soldiering and to mourn the fallen without slipping into the kind of sentimental white-washing that denies the complexities and ambiguities, the compromises and betrayals, both large and small, that the war dead knew well? Why, then, can’t we–in their stead, on their behalf, for their sake–be honest enough to honor such truths? … May we remember and memorialize … all deaths, this day and every day, with the truth-telling they deserve.

On Those Who Serve & Sacrifice

Heroism doesn’t always happen in a burst of glory. Sometimes small triumphs and large hearts change the course of history. — Mary Roach

It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result. — Gandhi

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. — Winston Churchill

Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. — G.K. Chesteron

A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.  — Joseph Campbell

Your ordinary acts of love and hope point to the extraordinary promise
that every human life is of inestimable value. — Bishop Desmond Tutu

It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived. — George S. Patton

Ceremonies are important. But our gratitude has to be more than visits to the troops, and once-a-year Memorial Day ceremonies. We honor the dead best by treating the living well. — Jennifer Granholm

Work for what you believe in, but pick your battles, and don’t burn your bridges. Don’t be afraid to take charge, think about what you want, then do the work, but then enjoy what makes you happy, bring along your crew, have a sense of humor. — Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices. — Harry Truman

Peace comes from being able to contribute the best that we have, and all that we are, toward creating a world that supports everyone. But it is also securing the space for others to contribute the best that they have
and all that they are. — Hafsat Abiola

It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle. – General Norman Schwarzkopf Jr.

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

How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes! – Maya Angelou

I’m very conscious of the fact that you can’t do it alone. It’s teamwork. When you do it alone you run the risk that when you are no longer there nobody else will do it. ― Wangari Maathai

My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. — John F Kennedy

A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history. — Gandhi

Peace Workers

On Memorial Day, I don’t want to only remember the combatants. There were also those who came out of the trenches as writers and poets, who started preaching peace, men and women who have made this world a kinder place to live. — Eric Burdon

One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world. ― Malala Yousafzai

If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner. — Nelson Mandela

Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures. —John F. Kennedy

It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it. — Eleanor Roosevelt

If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships – the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace. — Franklin D. Roosevelt

Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come. — Henri Nouwen

We must pursue peaceful ends by peaceful means. I’m committed to nonviolence absolutely … I will continue to preach and teach it… I plan to stand by nonviolence. …(because) only a refusal to hate or kill can put an end to the chain of violence in the world and lead toward community where people live together without fear. — Martin Luther King

Today, we are truly a global family. What happens in one part of the world may affect us all. This, of course, is not only true of the negative things that happen, but is equally valid for the positive developments. … But war or peace; the destruction or the protection of nature; the violation or promotion of human rights and democratic freedoms; poverty or material well-being; the lack of moral and spiritual values or their existence and development; and the breakdown or development of human understanding, are not isolated phenomena that can be analysed and tackled independently of one another. In fact, they are very much interrelated at all levels and need to be approached with that understanding…  Responsibility does not only lie with the leaders of our countries or with those who have been appointed or elected to do a particular job. It lies with each one of us individually. Peace, for example, starts with each one of us. — Dalai Lama

When you have a conflict, that means that there are truths that have to be addressed on each side of the conflict. And when you have a conflict, then it’s an educational process to try to resolve the conflict.
And to resolve that, you have to get people on both sides of the conflict involved so that they can dialogue. — Dolores Huerta

The answer lies in the last word of the priestly blessing: shalom, peace. In a long analysis the 15th century Spanish Jewish commentator Rabbi Isaac Arama explains that shalom does not mean merely the absence of war or strife. It means completeness, perfection, the harmonious working of a complex system, integrated diversity, a state in which everything is in its proper place and all is at one with the physical and ethical laws governing the universe. — Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Violence and nonviolence agree that suffering can be a very powerful social force. But there is a difference. Violence says suffering can be a powerful social force by inflicting it on somebody else, so this is what we do in war… The nonviolent say that suffering becomes a powerful social force when you willingly accept the violence on yourself, so that self-suffering stands at the center of the nonviolent movement… There is no easy way to create a world where people can live together… but if such a world is created…it will be accomplished by persons who have the language to put an end to suffering by willingly suffering themselves rather than inflicting suffering on others… Unearned suffering is redemptive. — Martin Luther King
 

Reflections on Pentecost: breath, wind, and new beginnings

Breath means new life — and new life means new growth, change, and ongoing development. The Spirit protects and connects, but also challenges, provoking and pushing us along. — SALT Project

You are called to be truly human, but it is nothing short of the life of God within you that enables you to be so, to be remade in God’s image. ― N.T. Wright

Bethlehem was God with us, Calvary was God for us, and Pentecost is God in us. — Robert Baer

SONGS:

O Thou, far off and here, whole and broken,
Who in necessity and bounty wait,
Whose truth is light and dark, mute though spoken,
By Thy wide grace show me Thy narrow gate.
Wendell Berry


WHAT IS PENTECOST? (excerpt from article by SALT Project, full link here)

1) Pentecost (from a Greek word for “fiftieth”) is the fiftieth and last day of the Easter season. Next week is Trinity Sunday, and then nearly six months of “Ordinary Time” begins, during which this year’s walk through the Gospel of Mark (and occasionally John) will continue. From ten thousand feet, the Christian Year appears divided almost in half: about six months of holy seasons (Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Eastertide), and about six months of Ordinary Time. Like a pendulum swinging back and forth, or a pair of lungs breathing in and out, the church alternates between these two movements each year: high holidays and everyday life, the joys of celebration and the grunt work of growth.

2) Pentecost is the Christian reinterpretation of the ancient Jewish pilgrimage festival, the Festival of Weeks, or Shavuot (pronounced “sha-voo-OAT,” rhymes with “coat”), celebrated 50 days after Passover. For the ancient Israelites, this festival was an explicitly inclusive harvest celebration (Deut 16:11; Lev 23:16), and over time, it also came to mark the reception of the Torah at Mount Sinai. For Christians, it celebrates the reception of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church. Happy Birthday! …

SPIRIT IN US and WITH US

… view the work of the Holy Spirit differently. The Spirit doesn’t solve our problems, but invites us to see possibilities we would not have seen otherwise. Rather than remove our fear, the Spirit grants us courage to move forward. Rather than promise safety, the Spirit promises God’s presence. Rather than remove us from a turbulent world, or even settle the turbulence, the Spirit enables us to keep our footing amid the tremors. — David Lose

Those in whom the Spirit comes to live are God’s new Temple. They are, individually and corporately, places where heaven and earth meet. — N.T. Wright

Dreams grow holy put in action. — Adelaide Anne Procter

If you want to speak to God, tell it to the wind. — Proverb from Ghana

A great wind is blowing, and that gives you either imagination or a headache. — Catherine the Great

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive. Howard Thurman
 
When you strip it of everything else, Pentecost stands for power and life. That’s what came into the church when the Holy Spirit came down on the day of Pentecost. ― David Wilkerson
 
Without Pentecost the Christ-event – the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus – remains imprisoned in history as something to remember, think about and reflect on. The Spirit of Jesus comes to dwell within us, so that we can become living Christs here and now. – Henri Nouwen

It has seemed to me sometimes as though the Lord breathes on this poor gray ember of Creation and it turns to radiance – for a moment or a year or the span of a life. And then it sinks back into itself again, and to look at it no one would know it had anything to do with fire, or light. … But the Lord is more constant and far more extravagant than it seems to imply. Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration. You don’t have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see. Only, who could have the courage to see it?” — Marilynne Robinson

… Although onlookers thought that the believers who received the Spirit at Pentecost were babbling (Acts 2:13), in fact they were speaking intelligibly in several languages (Acts 2:8-11). Note well: they were all saying the same thing (testifying about Jesus) in different languages. It takes a thousand tongues to say and sing our great Redeemer’s praise. … plurality: the various … streams testify to Jesus in their own vocabularies, and it takes many languages (i.e. interpretive traditions) to minister the meaning of God’s Word and the fullness of Christ. As the body is made up of many members, so many interpretations may be needed to do justice to the body of the biblical text. Why else are there four Gospels, but that the one story of Jesus was too rich to be told from one perspective only? Could it be that the various … traditions function similarly as witnesses who testify to the same Jesus from different situations and perspectives? ― Kevin J. Vanhoozer
 
Pentecost came with the sound of a mighty rushing wind, a violent blast from heaven! Heaven has not exhausted its blasts, but our danger is we are getting frightened of them. — Smith Wigglesworth

The Worship of Nature— John Greenleaf Whittier
The harp at Nature’s advent strung       
Has never ceased to play;
The song the stars of morning sung       
Has never died away.  
And prayer is made, and praise is given,       
By all things near and far;
The ocean looketh up to heaven,       
And mirrors every star.  
Its waves are kneeling on the strand,       
As kneels the human knee,
Their white locks bowing to the sand,       
The priesthood of the sea!  
They pour their glittering treasures forth,       
Their gifts of pearl they bring,
And all the listening hills of earth       
Take up the song they sing.  
The green earth sends its incense up       
From many a mountain shrine;
From folded leaf and dewy cup       
She pours her sacred wine.  
The mists above the morning rills       
Rise white as wings of prayer;
The altar-curtains of the hills       
Are sunset’s purple air.  
The winds with hymns of praise are loud,       
Or low with sobs of pain,—
The thunder-organ of the cloud,       
The dropping tears of rain.  
With drooping head and branches crossed       
The twilight forest grieves,
Or speaks with tongues of Pentecost       
From all its sunlit leaves.  
The blue sky is the temple’s arch,       
Its transept earth and air,
The music of its starry march       
The chorus of a prayer.  
So Nature keeps the reverent frame       
With which her years began,
And all her signs and voices shame       
The prayerless heart of man.

Daily Advent Devotional: Day 20 – Fri, Dec 18

Gratitude is the birthplace of joy. Or vice versa.
            Appreciation and perspective enable you to embrace whatever comes. To find resilience in hard times. To opt for creative responses to challenging circumstances. To be curious rather than angry. It cultivates compassion and connection. Gratitude permits your starting point to be one of acceptance and adaptation, of positive thinking and an attitude of hope and empowerment. You can find beauty and satisfaction even in the midst of thorny times.
            With gratitude, you cherish what is already within reach. And value whatever gifts and experiences come to fruition. You may respect your history, savor the present moment, and believe in the potential of your future. All while experiencing keen awareness of now.
Rev Gail

For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy. —Psalm 92:4

The root of joy is gratefulness … It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful. ― Brother David Steindl-Rast

Joy is the simplest form of gratitude. — Karl Barth

Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. ― Henri J.M. Nouwen

I think joy and sweetness and affection are a spiritual path. We’re here to know God, to love and serve God, and to be blown away by the beauty and miracle of nature. You just have to get rid of so much baggage to be light enough to dance, to sing, to play. You don’t have time to carry grudges; you don’t have time to cling to the need to be right. — Anne Lamott

Tue, Nov 24 Gratitude Reflection

Appreciate questions. Sometimes it is essential to dwell in the uncertainty of asking, the discomfort of not knowing. Sometimes we get a choice, as when we are students, and opt to learn. Other times, we are thrust into such situations, and must cope. Either way, this becomes a necessary skill: to be present to what we have not yet learned or thought, and to discover that there is much we do not yet understand.

            To ask, or to be asked, is to become vulnerable. When you inquire, you enter into a reciprocal relationship, expressing your own need for information or education, admitting you need support or assistance to attain the answer you seek. You acknowledge that, one way or another, you are seeking. You also turn to someone else for guidance toward an answer.

            Sometimes, simply by asking, you also discover that you know what is needed. That by articulating the question, you find insight within yourself.

            At the same time, to ask a question, or to be asked, is to become strong. When you embrace the state of uncertainty and not-knowing, you become more comfortable with growing and learning. To ask a question is to become more connected, to open yourself to the resources of a network of relationships. To be asked a question is to be honored or perceived as someone who serves as a guide or mentor.

            Appreciate that in the asking, or being asked, you do not have to know the answer. Sometimes it is best to acknowledge that you, too, will have to make inquiries in order to provide a solution or information. Or that if you are the one asking the question, be prepared with patience and humility, to wait for answers, or to receive only partial responses and incomplete understanding.

            Give thanks for questions. — Rev Gail

To you, O God of my ancestors,
    I give thanks and praise,
for you have given me wisdom and power,
    and have now revealed to me what we asked of you,
    for you have revealed to us what the king ordered.
— Daniel 2:23-24

There are going to be frustrations in life. The question is not: How do I escape? It is: How can I use this as something positive? Dalai Lama

GRATITUDE (excerpt) — Mary Oliver
What did you notice?
What did you hear?
When did you admire?
What astonished you?
What would you like to see again?
What was most tender?
What was most wonderful?
What did you think was happening?

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