Reflections, music, poems & prayers about the work of peace in observance of MLK Weekend & pending 2021 presidential inauguration.

PRAYER of MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

God grant that we wage the struggle with dignity and discipline. May all who suffer oppression in this world reject the self-defeating method of retaliatory violence and choose the method that seeks to redeem. Amen.

Music about peace & advocacy:


Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love.
— Leonard Cohen

Prayer — Black Elk

Grandfather, Great Spirit, once more behold me on earth and lean to hear my feeble voice.
You lived first, and you are older than all need, older than all prayer.
All things belong to you — the two-legged, the four-legged, the wings of the air, and all green things that live.
You have set the powers of the four quarters of the earth to cross each other.
You have made me cross the good road and road of difficulties, and where they cross, the place is holy.
Day in, day out, forevermore, you are the life of things.
Hey! Lean to hear my feeble voice.
At the center of the sacred hoop
You have said that I should make the tree to bloom.
With tears running, O Great Spirit, my Grandfather,
With running eyes I must say
The tree has never bloomed
Here I stand, and the tree is withered.
Again, I recall the great vision you gave me.
It may be that some little root of the sacred tree still lives.
Nourish it then
That it may leaf
And bloom
And fill with singing birds!
Hear me, that the people may once again
Find the good road
And the shielding tree.

DOVE as SYMBOL of PEACE

We must combine the toughness of the serpent and the softness of the dove, a tough mind and a tender heart. ― Martin Luther King, Jr.

When angels visit us, we do not hear the rustle of wings, nor feel the feathery touch of the breast of a dove; but we know their presence by the love they create in our hearts. — Mary Baker Eddy
 
  
Great ideas, it has been said, come into the world as gently as doves. Perhaps then, if we listen attentively, we shall hear amid the uproar of empires and nations, a faint flutter of wings, the gentle stirring of life and hope. Some will say that this hope lies in a nation; others in a man. I believe rather that it is awakened, revived, nourished, by millions of solitary individuals whose … works every day negate frontiers and the crudest implications of history. — Albert Camus

The more bombers the less room for doves of peace. — Nikita Khrushchev

I had a dove and the sweet dove died; And I have thought it died of grieving: O, what could it grieve for? Its feet were tied, With a silken thread of my own hands’ weaving. — John Keats

I say love, and the world populates itself with doves. — Pablo Neruda

A Brave and Startling Truth
— Maya Angelou

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.

GANDHI’S PRAYER FOR PEACE
I offer you peace
I offer you love
I offer you friendship
I see your beauty
I hear your need
I feel your feelings
My wisdom flows from the highest source
I salute that source in you
Let us work together
For unity and peace.

MORE PRAYERS by MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

Thou Eternal God, out of whose absolute power and infinite intelligence the whole universe has come into being, we humbly confess that we have not loved thee with our hearts, souls and minds, and we have not loved our neighbors as Christ loved us. We have all too often lived by our own selfish impulses rather than by the life of sacrificial love as revealed by Christ. We often give in order to receive. We love our friends and hate our enemies. We go the first mile but dare not travel the second. We forgive but dare not forget. And so as we look within ourselves, we are confronted with the appalling fact that the history of our lives is the history of an eternal revolt against you. But thou, O God, have mercy upon us. Forgive us for what we could have been but failed to be. Give us the intelligence to know your will. Give us the courage to do your will. Give us the devotion to love your will. In the name and spirit of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

Dearest Jesus, come and sit with us today. Show us the lies that are still embedded in the soul of America’s consciousness. Unmask the untruths we have made our best friends. For they seek our destruction. And we are being destroyed, Lord. Reveal the ways the lies have distorted and destroyed our relationships. They break your shalom . . . daily. Jesus, give us courage to embrace the truth about ourselves and you and our world. Truth: We are all made in your image. Truth: You are God; we are not. You are God; money is not. You are God; jails, bombs and bullets are not. And Jesus, give us faith to believe: Redemption of people, relationships, communities and whole nations is possible! Give us faith enough to renounce the lies and tear down the walls that separate us with our hands, with our feet, and with our votes! Amen.

Oh God, we thank Thee for the creative insights in the universe. We thank Thee for the lives of great saints and prophets in the past, who have revealed to us that we can stand up amid the problems and difficulties and trials of life and not give in. We thank Thee for our forebears, who’ve given us something in the midst of the darkness of exploitation and oppression to keep going. And grant that we will go on with the proper faith and the proper determination of will, so that we will be able to make a creative contribution to this world and in our lives. In the name and spirit of Jesus we pray. Amen.

WORK of PEACE

Peace does not mean an absence of conflicts; differences will always be there. Peace means solving these differences through peaceful means; through dialogue, education, knowledge; and through humane ways. — Dalai Lama XIV

Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. — Margaret Mead

If you want to end the war then Instead of sending guns, send books. Instead of sending tanks, send pens. Instead of sending soldiers, send teachers. — Malala Yousafzai

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. — Victor Frankl

Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace. — Dwight D. Eisenhower

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

Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding. —Albert Einstein

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

It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. 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 F. Kennedy

We aren’t passengers on Spaceship Earth. We’re the crew. We aren’t residents on this planet. We’re citizens. The difference in both cases is responsibility. — Apollo Astronaut Rusty Schweickart

… I am fully committed to the oneness of humanity. If we share these common feelings, then we will have no ground for violence or war. It’s difficult but possible to achieve, through education, not through prayer. I met someone who asked me, please pray. I said, I am a Buddhist, I have a daily practice of prayer but I do not believe prayer brings a peaceful world. We can keep praying for a thousand years and nothing will happen. We should be realistic. If you have the opportunity to meet the Buddha or Jesus Christ, ask them to bring peace to this world and they will certainly ask you, who creates violence? If god created violence, then yes, it’s relevant to appeal to god. I am certain that Buddha and Jesus Christ would tell us, you have created the problem, so it’s your responsibility to solve it. Work for peace, the easy thing to do is pray. — Dalai Lama

Reflections on covenants made with love, themes from 1 Corinthians 13.

This week we celebrate the renewal of Ray & Arden’s Wedding Vows during the year of their 60th anniversary: such vows are bound as a covenant made in the sight and presence of holy love (agape).


This is our great covenant: To dwell together in peace,
To seek the truth in love, And to help one another.  
— James Vila Blake

Link to scripture, focusing on verses 4-8a and 13. For prior reflections on agape (holy love) contrasted with other forms of love, visit this post.

Questions to consider:

  • What vows, oaths, pledges and promises have you made to an individual, entity or organization?
  • Which covenants and promises have included a promise of love?
  • What promises were made to you in return? Did those reciprocal vows or promises also include love?
  • What practices support your ability to keep your promise?
  • What symbols signify those promises? Do you wear or carry them on your person?
  • What is the difference between a covenant and a contract?

Are you fleeing from Love because of a single humiliation?What do you know of Love except the name?
… Since Love is loyal, it purchases one who is loyal:
it has no interest in a disloyal companion.
The human being resembles a tree; its root is a covenant with God:
that root must be cherished with all one’s might.
A weak covenant is a rotten root, without grace or fruit.
Though the boughs and leaves of the date palm are green,
greenness brings no benefit if the root is corrupt.
If a branch is without green leaves, yet has a good root,
a hundred leaves will put forth their hands in the end.
— Rumi

Appalachian Elegy (Section 6)— bell hooks

listen little sister / angels make their hope here
in these hills / follow me
I will guide you / careful now / no trespass
I will guide you / word for word / mouth for mouth
all the holy ones / embracing us
all our kin / making home here
renegade marooned / lawless fugitives / grace these mountains
we have earth to bind us
the covenant / between us / can never be broken
vows to live and let live

On Covenants

To every people the land is given on condition. Perceived or not, there is a Covenant, beyond the constitution, beyond sovereign guarantee, beyond the nation’s sweetest dreams of itself. — Leonard Cohen

When you look in the dictionary for the most important word, do you know what it is? It could be remember. Because all of you have made covenants — you know what to do and you know how to do it — our greatest need is to remember. — Spencer W. Kimball

Mother Earth needs us to keep our covenant. We will do this in courts, we will do this on our radio station, and we will commit to our descendants to work hard to protect this land and water for them. Whether you have feet, wings, fins, or roots, we are all in it together. — Winona LaDuke

The word ‘slavery’ and ‘right’ are contradictory, they cancel each other out. Whether as between one man and another, or between one man and a whole people, it would always be absurd to say: “I hereby make a covenant with you which is wholly at your expense and wholly to my advantage; I will respect it so long as I please and you shall respect it as long as I wish. — Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Peace does not rest in the charters and covenants alone. It lies in the hearts and minds of all people. So let us not rest all our hopes on parchment and on paper, let us strive to build peace, a desire for peace, a willingness to work for peace in the hearts and minds of all of our people. I believe that we can. I believe the problems of human destiny are not beyond the reach of human beings. — John F. Kennedy

Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence and deem them like the Ark of the Covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. — Edmund Morgan

The best way to strengthen a home, current or future, is to keep covenants.  — Linda K. Burton

Sociologists argue that in contemporary Western society the marketplace has become so dominant that the consumer model increasingly characterizes most relationships that historically were covenantal, including marriage. Today we stay connected to people only as long as they are meeting our particular needs at an acceptable cost to us. When we cease to make a profit – that is, when the relationship appears to require more love and affirmation from us than we are getting back – then we “cut our losses” and drop the relationship. This has also been called “commodification,” a process by which social relationships are reduced to economic exchange relationships, and so the very idea of “covenant” is disappearing in our culture. ― Timothy Keller

Dalai Lama’s Commentary

With a wish to free all beings
I shall always go for refuge
to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha
until I reach full enlightenment.

Enthused by wisdom and compassion,
today in the Buddha’s presence
I generate the Mind for Full Awakening
for the benefit of all sentient beings.

As long as space endures,
as long as sentient being remain,
until then, may I too remain
and dispel the miseries of the world.

In conclusion, those who like myself, consider themselves to be followers of Buddha, should practice as much as we can.

To followers of other religious traditions, I would like to say, “Please practice your own religion seriously and sincerely.”

And to non-believers, I request you to try to be warm-hearted. I ask this of you because these mental attitudes actually bring us happiness. As I have mentioned before, taking care of others actually benefits you. — 14th Dalai Lama

Holy Covenants: Jewish & Christian Commentary

In legal language, a covenant generally denotes an agreement between two or more parties. But in a religious context, a covenant is much more significant. It is a sacred promise with God. [God] fixes the terms. — Russell M. Nelson

God doesn’t want us to have rigid rituals with Him. In the new covenant, He is more interested in having a relationship with us. — Joseph Prince

The Israelites frequently forsook God, and he as frequently forsook them. But when they repented and returned to him, he remembered his covenant and delivered them from their distresses. — Adoniram Judson

A covenant made with God should be regarded not as restrictive but as protective. — Russell M. Nelson

The work of man is to respond to the Covenant by obeying the commandments of the Torah, those commandments that can be obeyed here and now. — David Novak

Then God establishes his Covenant with Noah, and with his sons, “and with every living creature.” Many recall the Covenant with Noah, but forget the Covenant with all other living Beings. However, God does not forget it. He repeats the terms “all flesh” and “every living creature” a number of times, to make sure we get the point. No one can make a Covenant with a stone: for a Covenant to exist, there must. be a minimum of two live and responsible parties to it. Therefore the Animals are not senseless matter, not mere chunks of meat. No; they have souls, or God could not have made a Covenant with them. The human Words of God affirm this: “But ask now the beasts,” says Job 12, “and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee … and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee.” ― Margaret Atwood, The Year of the Flood

When God makes a covenant with us, God says: ‘I will love you with an everlasting love. I will be faithful to you, even when you run away from me, reject me, or betray me.’ In our society we don’t speak much about covenants; we speak about contracts. When we make a contract with a person, we say: ‘I will fulfill my part as long as you fulfill yours. When you don’t live up to your promises, I no longer have to live up to mine.’ Contracts are often broken because the partners are unwilling or unable to be faithful to their terms. But God didn’t make a contract with us; God made a covenant with us, and God wants our relationships with one another to reflect that covenant. That’s why marriage, friendship, life in community are all ways to give visibility to God’s faithfulness in our lives together.” ― Henri J.M. Nouwen, Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith

Things that become important to economies become ritualized and become deified. Because I’m Jewish, I always thought it was interesting that in Judaism, salt seals a bargain, particularly the covenant with God. Some people, when they bless bread, they dip it in salt. Same thing exists in Islam. — Mark Kurlansky

Marriage has a unique place because it speaks of an absolute faithfulness, a covenant between radically different persons, male and female; and so it echoes the absolute covenant of God with his chosen, a covenant between radically different partners. — Rowan Williams

Settle this in your heart: Whether I am up or down, the Lord Jesus is the same. Whether I sing or sigh, the promise is true and the Promiser is faithful. Whether I stand on the summit or am hidden in the vale the covenant stands fast and everlasting love abides. — Charles Spurgeon


Meditation on circle of life, death & rebirth: themes from Holy Week

HOLY WEEK: Risk, brokenness, resistance, and death balanced by love, justice, healing, hope and renewal. — Rev Gail

I am a broken person and a resurrection person — Anne Lamott

We Pray This Day— Ann Weems
O God, we pray this day:
for all who have a song they cannot sing,
for all who have a burden they cannot bear,
for all who live in chains they cannot break,
for all who wander homeless and cannot return,
for those who are sick and for those who tend them,
for those who wait for loved ones and wait in vain,
for those who live in hunger and for those who will not share their bread,
for those who are misunderstood and for those who misunderstand,
for those who are captives and for those who are captors,
for those whose words of love are locked within their hearts and for those who yearn to hear those words.
Have mercy upon these, O God. Have mercy upon us all.GARDENS: Gethsemane

We learn from our gardens to deal with the most urgent question of the time: How much is enough? — Wendell Berry

… Wherever beauty called me into lonely places,
Where dark Remembrance haunts me with eternal smart, Remembrance, the unmerciful, the well of love,
Recalling the far dances, the far-distant faces,
Whispering me ‘What does this—and this—remind you of?’
CS Lewis, Launcelot (excerpt)

The garden is one of the two great metaphors for humanity. The garden is about life and beauty and the impermanence of all living things. The garden is about feeding your children, providing food for the tribe. It’s part of an urgent territorial drive that we can probably trace back to animals storing food. It’s a competitive display mechanism, like having a prize bull, this greed for the best tomatoes and English tea roses. It’s about winning; about providing society with superior things; and about proving that you have taste, and good values, and you work hard. And what a wonderful relief, every so often, to know who the enemy is. Because in the garden, the enemy is everything: the aphids, the weather, time. And so you pour yourself into it, care so much, and see up close so much birth, and growth, and beauty, and danger, and triumph. And then everything dies anyway, right? But you just keep doing it. — Anne Lamott

In the orchard a Sufi inclined his face Sufi fashion upon his knee, and sank deeply into mystical absorption.
A rude man nearby became annoyed: “Why are you sleeping?” he exclaimed. “Look at the vines, behold the trees and the signs of God’s mercy. Pay attention to the Lord’s command: Look ye and turn your face toward these signs of His mercy.”
The Sufi replied, “O heedless one, the true signs are within the heart: that which is external is only the sign of the signs.”
The real orchard and vineyards are within the very essence of the soul … — Rumi

BREAKING BREAD TOGETHER: Serving & Communing

Helping, fixing, and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. ― Joan Halifax

The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread. — Mother Teresa

Even in the inevitable moments when all seems hopeless, men know that without hope they cannot really live, and in agonizing desperation they cry for the bread of hope. — Martin Luther King, Jr

Eating a meal together is a meditative practice. We should try to offer our presence for every meal. As we serve our food we can already begin practicing. Serving ourselves, we realize that many elements, such as the rain, sunshine, earth, air and love, have all come together to form this wonderful meal. In fact, through this food we see that the entire universe is supporting our existence … enjoy breathing in and out while practicing the five contemplations …

  1. This food is a gift of the earth, the sky, numerous living beings, and much hard and loving work.
  2. May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude so as to be worthy to receive this food.
  3. May we recognise and transform unwholesome mental formations, especially our greed and learn to eat with moderation
  4. May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that reduces the suffering of living beings, stops contributing to climate change, and heals and preserves our precious planet.
  5. We accept this food so that we may nurture our brotherhood and sisterhood, build our Sangha, and nourish our ideal of serving all living beings.
    — Plum Village, Thich Nhat Hanh’s Buddhist sangha

… he didn’t say, “This is my body broken for you…UNDERSTAND this in remembrance of me.” He didn’t say, “ACCEPT this or DEFEND this or BOUNDARY this in remembrance of me.” He just said, “DO this in remembrance of me.” — Nadia Bolz-Weber

ARREST, BETRAYAL & FORGIVENESS: Justice

I did my best, it wasn’t much, I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch. I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool ya. And even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand before the Lord of Song, With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah. — Leonard Cohen

We need more hope. We need more mercy. And we need more justice. [and] … We have a choice. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken natures and the compassion that remains our best hope for healing. Or we can deny our brokenness, forswear compassion, and, as a result, deny our own humanity. ― Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy

What is justice? Giving water to trees.
What is injustice? To give water to thorns.
Justice consists in bestowing bounty in its proper place,
not on every root that will absorb water. — Rumi

Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. ― J.R.R. Tolkien

There are some human rights that are so deep that we can’t negotiate them away. I mean people do heinous, terrible things. But there are basic human rights I believe that every human being has. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the United Nations says it for me. And it says there are two basic rights that can’t be negotiated that government doesn’t give for good behavior and doesn’t take away for bad behavior. And it’s the right not to be tortured and not to be killed.― Sister Helen Prejean


HOLY ABSENCE: Death & Tomb

In being with dying, we arrive at a natural crucible of what it means to love and be loved. And we can ask ourselves this: Knowing that death is inevitable, what is most precious today? ― Joan Halifax

Interesting … No flash of light. No announcement. Simply the awareness that what has been is gone. Mary Magdalene, in the dark, notes that the stone has been moved. John, at the door, notes that the wrappings have been left behind. Peter, in the burial place, pronounces it empty of the Christ whose burial clothes have been left behind. And they are left to tell the others. That’s about all the sight of Resurrection that anyone ever really gets, come to think of it. Darkness and an empty tomb. The notion that what has been taken is clearly alive. A burning memory and an unfinished truth. … We must all, at the end of this Lent, live our lives … so that all the communities of the earth can find blessing in us. — Joan Chittister

You had not imagined that something so empty could fill you to overflowing, and now you carry the knowledge … that roots itself beneath your heart: how the emptiness will bear forth a new world that you cannot fathom but on whose edge you stand. — Jan Richardson

FULL CIRCLE: Life to Death and Back Again

Despite the conflicts of life, the Psalmist proclaims that our times are in God’s hands. God sustains us as we travel through the valley of the shadow of death and God will meet us on the other side. — Bruce Epperly

In the oddity or maybe the miracle of life, the roots of something new frequently lie in the decaying husks of something old. ― Craig D. Lounsbrough

Holy Week is the Church’s great celebration of life in all its dimensions: communion with others in the Spirit, the call to suffer if necessary … the sometimes loneliness of total commitment and the glory of living in the Christ … It is a week to recall your own cost of living the Christian life and drawing strength for the journey from the One who has lived it before us and now fills us with His own eternal life. — Joan Chittister

Don’t worry about coming … for the right reasons. Just wave branches. Shout praise for the wrong reason. Eat a meal. Have your feet washed. Grab at coins. Shout Crucify him. Walk away when the cock crows. Because we, as we are and not as some improved version of ourselves … we are who God came to save. And nothing can stop what’s going to happen. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

You can’t effectively fight abusive power, poverty, inequality, illness, oppression, or injustice and not be broken by it. We are all broken by something. We have all hurt someone and been hurt. We all share the condition of brokenness even if your brokenness is not equivalent.― Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy

ARISING: Resurrection

You may say that I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us, And the world will be as one
— John Lennon, Imagine (excerpt)

Of resurrection? Is the east
Afraid to trust the morn?
— Emily Dickinson, Afraid? (excerpt)

… What you held in your hand, what you counted and carefully saved, all this must go so you know how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness. … Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, only kindness that ties your shoes and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread, only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world to say It is I you have been looking for, and then goes with you everywhere like a shadow or a friend. — Naomi Shihab Nye, Kindness (excerpt)

There’s a blaze of light in every word, It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah. — Leonard Cohen

You can’t effectively fight abusive power, poverty, inequality, illness, oppression, or injustice and not be broken by it. We are all broken by something. We have all hurt someone and been hurt. We all share the condition of brokenness even if your brokenness is not equivalent.― Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy

ARISING: Resurrection

You may say that I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us, And the world will be as one
— John Lennon, Imagine (excerpt)

Of resurrection? Is the east
Afraid to trust the morn?
— Emily Dickinson, Afraid? (excerpt)

… What you held in your hand, what you counted and carefully saved, all this must go so you know how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness. … Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, only kindness that ties your shoes and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread, only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world to say It is I you have been looking for, and then goes with you everywhere like a shadow or a friend. — Naomi Shihab Nye, Kindness (excerpt)

There’s a blaze of light in every word, It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah. — Leonard Cohen

Let us remember within us
The ancient clay,
Holding the memory of seasons,
The passion of the wind,
The fluency of water,
The warmth of fire,
The quiver-touch of the sun
And shadowed sureness of the moon.
That we may awaken,
To live to the full
The dream of the Earth
Who chose us to emerge …
— John O’Donohue, Blessing for the Earth (excerpt)

It is the mystery of the thrown-away stone, that ends up being the cornerstone of our existence. Christ has risen from the dead. In this throwaway culture, where that which is not useful takes the path of the use-and-throw, where that which is not useful is discarded, that stone that was discarded is the fountain of life … — Pope Francis

Speaking in Creations tongues, hearing Creations voices, the boundary of our soul expands. Earth has many voices. Those who understand that Earth is a living being, know this because they have translated themselves to the humble grasses and old trees. They know that Earth is a community that is constantly talking to itself; a communicating universe. And whether we know it or not, we are participating in the web of this community. ― Joan Halifax

Like sudden lightning scattering the spirits
of sight so that the eye is then too weak
to act on other things it would perceive,
such was the living light encircling me,
leaving me so enveloped by its veil
of radiance that I could see no thing.
The Love that calms this heaven always welcomes
into Itself with such a salutation,
to make the candle ready for its flame. — Dante (Paradiso excerpt)

Only that you now have taught me (but how late!) my lack,
I see the chasm; and everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile and grow … — CS Lewis

… and have you ever felt for anything
such wild love–
do you think there is anywhere, in any language
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure
that fills you,
as the sun
reaches out,
as it warms you
as you stand there
empty-handed–
— Mary Oliver

All of my work … has been about becoming a resurrection story – slowly, painstakingly healing from the damages of childhood in a family where the parents didn’t love each other; the damage this culture does to children who are different; how the love of God, through friends, slowly helps us be restored to the person we were born to be. — Anne Lamott

Still I Rise— Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise

I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

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

Reflections on ‘Love Written on our Heart’ from Jeremiah plus St Patrick

Eagle Poem — Joy Harjo (excerpt)
… Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning … Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.

Of Love Written On (and In) Our Hearts

I looked in temples, churches, and mosques. But I found the Divine within my heart. — attributed to Rumi

In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh … You got to love it, you! … love it, love it and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air … hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.— Toni Morrison, Beloved

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