Advent 3: Meditations on joy & struggling to find joy in challenging times

As our dialogue progressed, we converged on eight pillars of joy. Four were qualities of the mind: perspective, humility, humor, and acceptance. Four were qualities of the heart: forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity. — Douglas Carlton Abrams, The Book of Joy

SONGS about JOY:

Joy Unspeakable — Barbara Holmes

Joy unspeakable
erupts when you least expect it,
when the burden is greatest,
when the hope is gone
after bullets fly.
It rises
on the crest of impossibility,
it sways to the rhythm
of steadfast hearts,
and celebrates
what we cannot see.

For Joy – Jan Richardson

You can prepare
but still it will come to you
by surprise

crossing through your doorway
calling your name in greeting
turning like a child
who quickens suddenly within you

it will astonish you
how wide your heart
will open in welcome

for the joy that finds you
so ready and still
so unprepared.

ARTICLES & VIDEOS about CULTIVATING JOY:

JOY — Maurine Smith
Joy, joy, run over me,
Like water running over a shining stone;
And I beneath your sweet shall be
No longer hungry and alone.
The light at my heart’s gate is lit—
My love, my love, is tending it!

Joy Unspeakable Barbara Holmes
Joy Unspeakable
is not silent,
it moans, hums, and bends
to the rhythm of a dancing universe.
It is a fractal of transcendent hope,
a hologram of God’s heart,
a black hole of unknowing.

For our free African ancestors,
joy unspeakable is drum talk
that invites the spirits
to dance with us,
and tell tall tales by the fire.

For the desert Mothers and Fathers,
joy unspeakable is respite
from the maddening crowds,
And freedom from
“church” as usual.

For enslaved Africans during the
Middle Passage,
joy unspeakable is the surprise
of living one more day,
and the freeing embrace of death
chosen and imposed.

For Africans in bondage
in the Americas,
joy unspeakable is that moment of
mystical encounter
when God tiptoes into the hush arbor,
testifies about Divine suffering,
and whispers in our ears,
“Don’t forget,
I taught you how to fly
on a wing and a prayer,
when you’re ready
let’s go!”

Joy Unspeakable is humming
“how I got over”
after swimming safely
to the other shore of a swollen Ohio river
when you know that you can’t swim.
It is the blessed assurance
that Canada is far,
but not that far.

For Africana members of the
“invisible institution,” the
emerging black church,
joy unspeakable is
practicing freedom
while chains still chafe,
singing deliverance
while Jim Crow stalks,
trusting God’s healing
and home remedies,
prayers, kerosene,
and cow patty tea.

For the tap dancing, boogie woogie,
rap/rock/blues griots
who also hear God,
joy unspeakable is
that space/time/joy continuum thing
that dares us to play and pray
in the interstices of life,
it is the belief that the phrase
“the art of living”
means exactly what it says.

Joy Unspeakable
is
both FIRE AND CLOUD,
the unlikely merger of
trance and high tech lives
ecstatic songs and a jazz repertoire
Joy unspeakable is
a symphony of incongruities
of faces aglow and hearts
on fire
and the wonder of surviving together.

8 PILLARS of JOY
(summarized from the Book of Joy)

Full article: https://www.beliefnet.com/inspiration/the-eight-pillars-of-joy.aspx

… 4 are qualities of the spirit, and 4 are qualities of the heart.

1) Perspective

“For every event in life,” says the Dali Lama, “there are many different angles.” There is, perhaps, no greater route to joy than this. Taking a “God’s-eye perspective,” as Archbishop Tutu says, allows for the birth of empathy—the trait that creates joy not only in the one, but in the many. Empathy opens the door to togetherness, and keeps us from building walls around our individual selves—walls that keep out so many potential friends and allies. Realizing and accepting the validity of different perspectives turns “I” in to “we”...

2) Humility

… to be able to truly appreciate the people around them as equals. When we foster humility within ourselves, we find it easier to be open to the opinions of others, and to realize our own limitations. Without being open in this way, learning and growth stop—both of which are components of a happy life …

3) Humour

… the special ability to laugh, not only at life’s troubles, but at themselves and their very human foibles. … Humor that does not mock or belittle brings us closer together, and can diffuse tense situations. Humor shows us our shared ridiculousness … our common humanity … studies on humor are beginning to show that laughter boosts the immune system, relaxes the body, and protects the heart by lowering stress hormones which cause destructive inflammation.

4) Acceptance

… the ability to accept our life in all its pain, imperfection, and beauty … It is not resignation. It is not defeat. It is accepting that we must necessarily pass through the storm. It is facing suffering and asking the question, “How can we use this as something positive?” Acceptance allows us to engage life on its own terms rather than wishing, in vain, that things were different. It enables us to change and adapt, rather than becoming mired in denial, despair, and anxiety.

5) Forgiveness

Holding on to grievances is our way of wishing the past could be different. When we hang on to those negative emotions, that anger and grief and the desire for vengeance, we only hurt ourselves. And if we use those emotions to strike back and cause harm, we only invite a cycle of retribution… Forgiveness does not mean that we forget… Justice should still be sought, and the perpetrator, punished. Justice can be served without anger, without hatred, and once it is served, we must let go. Until we forgive a person that has wronged us, we allow that person to hold power over us—they effectively control our emotions.

6) Gratitude

Gratitude … is the recognition of all that holds us in the web of life and all that has made it possible to have the life that we have and the moment that we are experiencing. It allows us to shift our focus from what we lack to what we have. If acceptance is not fighting reality, gratitude means embracing it, counting blessings rather than burdens… Gratitude also connects us to others. When we are truly grateful, we remember all of those who help make our happiness possible, who bring goodness into our lives. We, then, are able to recognize those people, and enjoy them and their differences.

7) Compassion

Compassion is a sense of concern that arises when we see others suffer, and wish to see that suffering relieved. It is the bridge between empathy and kindness. A large part of being compassionate is realizing our shared humanity.  … when we think of alleviating other people’s suffering, our own suffering is reduced. … Compassion should be extended to the self, as well.

8) Generosity

Giving to others does not truly subtract from ourselves, but adds to us. … money can buy happiness, if we spend it on other people. People who give experience greater long-term life satisfaction, whether that giving is large or small… Strive to attain a generous spirit, made possible by acknowledging that you are merely a steward of your wealth, possessions, and power …

Candle of Joy —Maren Tirabassi
This old woman who cannot see well
has smeared pink lipstick
around her lips
to dress up for church.
A child, sixteen months or so,
too young to be greedy yet,
hugs a large pink balloon.
It doesn’t matter he’s a boy;
it doesn’t matter where
on the spectrum that is gender
he will grow up
to find himself, his joy.
A teenager with magenta hair,
pierced eyebrows, jean jacket over
the tilt of shoulder
which means something like –
love me, don’t love me,
stands nervous, defiant,
in the chancel
puts flame to the pink candle.
There are many more cosmic
dimensions
to this season of Advent.
Through the centuries
volumes of theology
have been written
on the doctrine of Incarnation …
but always the joy is particular.
Light something.

ON 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

We are fragile creatures, and it is from this weakness, not despite it,
that we discover the possibility of true joy.― Desmond Tutu, The Book of Joy

The beating heart of the universe is holy joy. — Martin Buber

We have God’s joy in our blood. — Frederick Buechner

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

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

What is Joy?… While happiness is temporary and is based upon happenings, joy is from the Lord and you can still experience joy during trials, suffering, and testing. Joy is permanent but happiness is fleeting. —Jack Wellman, Patheos.org

From joy I came,
For joy I live,
and in Thy sacred joy
I shall melt again.
— Paramahamsa Yogananda

STRUGGLES, SUFFERING & JOY: Sometimes It’s Hard to Access Joy

Discovering more joy does not, I’m sorry to say, save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak. In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily, too. Perhaps we are just more alive. Yet as we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard. We have heartbreak without being broken. — Archbishop Desmond Tutu

People often confuse joy with happiness, but they are not interchangeable. Joy is from within, regardless of what is going on around you. Happiness can be a blurred emotion, dependent on a situation. Joyful people make a commitment to gratitude regardless of the circumstances. In Greek, the word for joy is ‘chara.’ This describes a feeling of inner gladness, delight or rejoicing. This inner gladness leads to a cheerful heart and a cheerful heart leads to cheerful behavior. The most important attribute of joy is that you can find joy in adversity. — Kelly Wise Valdes

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

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

The Third Sunday of Advent is … the day to light the pink candle. It is not without reason that this Sunday is called Gaudete Sunday, a Sunday when the readings, the music, the church decorations, and even the pink candle are supposed to be gaudy. It’s supposed to be a party, a day of joy … If only we could.Are we even allowed to light the pink candle and be gaudy … when we have endured…accounts of violence worldwide… horrors … immediately … politicized…  We are not joyful. We are not even pretending to be. We have had enough … But what do we say—indeed, what can we say? …
      …. Does John give the … sermon … that God weeps with the wretched of the earth but really has nothing better to do than to cry with you as you are terrorized? In the midst of such colonization, terror, and violence, John’s answer is a call to radical hospitality … John says, we open our doors wider.
These acts of joy run counter to our feelings of horror, despair, anger, and rage … He is coming, John says, but as we look forward to his return, he isn’t back yet. So yes, we should grieve at this present darkness. … Yes, we should have no words to say to explain the horror.  Yes, do be angry, rage at the senselessness. But as the people of God, in our sorrow and in our anger, in our disbelief at the level of injustice … we also defy … we declare with our actions that this is indeed a time to act, but with the radical acts of hospitality, to let our rejoicing not be empty words, but shocking deeds of expansive welcome to the stranger, solidarity with the hungry and the naked … we rejoice defiantly by flinging open our hearts and our doors to welcome the stranger and love our neighbour. — Chinglican at Table

9/11 Remembrance

Offered by one of our colleagues, local rabbi:

WAGE PEACE by Judyth Hill
Wage peace with your breath.
Breathe in firemen and rubble, breathe out whole buildings and flocks of red wing blackbirds.
Breathe in terrorists
and breathe out sleeping children and freshly mown fields.
Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees.
Breathe in the fallen and breathe out lifelong friendships intact.
Wage peace with your listening: hearing sirens, pray loud.
Remember your tools: flower seeds, clothes pins, clean rivers.
Make soup.
Play music; memorize the words for thank you in three languages.
Learn to knit, and make a hat.
Think of chaos as dancing raspberries,
imagine grief
as the out breath of beauty
or the gesture of fish.
Swim for the other side.
Wage peace.
Never has the world seemed so fresh and precious:
Have a cup of tea and rejoice.
Act as if armistice has already arrived.
Celebrate today.

 



Written by Portsmouth NH poet laureate Rev Maren Tirabassi in 2020:

PAUSE for September 11 by Rev Maren Tirabassi

Pause for September 11.
Don’t say — remember.

Some of our remembers
are complicated
by what was happening to us
and some of us do not remember
because we are too young.

Pause for September 11.
Don’t say – pray.

Some of us want to pray
about the fires ravaging the west,
the terrible losses
of the coronavirus pandemic,
and some want to assign God
a personal agenda
of the first two amendments,
immigration, or masks.

Pause for September 11.
Don’t say – be a patriot.

That has too many meanings,
mostly full of
this-is-the-right-way
and the rest of you are wrong
and can also be confused
with a football team, TV show,
or surface-to-air missile.

Just pause for September 11.
In 2001 particular people died.
People who helped continue to die.
People died in acts
of response or retaliation.
People who live still grieve.
People who live
try to make the world better
because of that day.

Pause.

PRAYER for 9/11 by Rev Gail Doktor (reprised)

Holy Love is bigger than our languages and names for Godself. And so, however we might address the Source of Holy Love, on a day that touches many faith tradittions, let us turn our hearts toward love.
         As an act of prayer, let us remember. And remembering, may we learn, that we might create a different future for generations yet to come.
         We are a nation comprised of many ages, colors, creeds, languages, faiths, ethnicities, and stories. Our forefathers and foremothers, whether they already lived here, arrived here by choice, or came without volition, have contributed to creating a land that— at its best—seeks to broaden the experience of freedom and access to justice for all of its people. Over the centuries this nation, which is upheld by people like you and me, and people different from you and me, has grown to be stronger and striven to become ever-more inclusive. Our differences contribute to that resilience and strength.
         At its best, this dream of freedom that encompasses all people continues be the foundation of our ideals: we are— or may become — home and sanctuary for all kinds of people.Although we know, when we look honestly at our own history, that we must often engage in civil struggle to attain transformation,  we remain committed to doing so.
         Yes, we get it wrong sometimes. Then again, we keep trying, and often enough, we also get it right.
         Today we pause to remember: in Jackson, in the Mt Washington Valley, and around the nation. People held moments of silence. People walked with flags. People sang. People played bagpipes. People rang steeple bells. People rolled in fire trucks, police cruisers, and ambulances. People gathered. People remembered, and told the story again.
          This morning, just like more than two deades ago, we are a country in the midst of growth. We do not live in a state of finalized perfection, but a creative and imperfect, messy and mighty, living experiment in liberty. When we remain motivated by our nation’s ideals, we act not out of fear, but out of courage and compassion. We build toward a sustainable peace for our own times and generations yet to come.  
         Today, we remember the attacks that killed people from 93 nations: originally 2,753 people in New York; 184 people at the Pentagon; and 40 people on Flight 93. Thousands more were injured, either immediately or in the aftermath of rescue, recovery and rebuilding. Others died or were incapacitated due to complications from living and serving around those sites. Wars have been waged, and peace-building attempted, in response to the events of 9/11: thousands more lives are included in that ongoing legacy, too.
         Yes, terrorism was aimed at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. For a period of time, the land, water and skies in and around Manhattan, New York, western Pennsylvania, and in Arlington County, Virginia became sites of trauma, loss. Also sites of heroism. Now they are places of remembrance and learning.
         Today we acknowledge the victims: brothers and sisters from 93 nations, not just ours. People of every imaginable faith. People who spoke different tongues. People of every hue, who created a rainbow of humanity. People who woke up, traveled into the city, and started their days, to live common lives.
         These people, largely, were not warriors, but civilians. And in the every-day-ness of their living and doing, they told stories much like ours. They had families. Partners. Children. Siblings. Friends. Communities that expected them home again.
          They had dreams. They played. They worked. They prayed. Most of them did not expect or ask to bear names that have become synonymous with a nation’s story about itself.
         Among them, the city’s first responders—who have become symbolic of our nation’s first responders —served at great risk, and on that day, ran toward danger rather than away from it.
          All of them, men, women, children, both civilians and those who served a specific call, carried names that have indeed, and unexpectedly, have become a different kind of prayer.
         Brothers and sisters, let us lift up today, not the message that those who sought to force change through violence would have us learn. May we resist acting out of fear. Those who instigated violence believed that they could clip the wings of our imaginations, and topple our beliefs out of the sky.
         Instead, let us remember, and honor, the lives of common people whose lives have taken on an uncommon meaning, May we remember, and doing so, reclaim, rebuild and re-imagine, here in our own local community and across our country and around the world, a bigger vision that embraces peace. One that still has feet, but also wings.
         May we struggle together to achieve our shared ideals. May we seek to do the next right thing, motivated by compassion and courage. May we continue to expand, within our own borders, the great promise of freedom so that it is accessible to all of our nation’s children, through a civil process that—at its best—gives birth to justice, cultivates peace, and recognizes the dignity and value of every human soul.
         Peace. May this be the lesson we choose to learn, in remembrance of those events, in recognition of those lives forever lost or changed. Peace — sustainable and healthy and equitable and accessible in its abundance for all people. May we remember the names and stories of our brothers and sisters, those who died and those were carry the trauma and hurt in their changed lives. May we add our own stories to theirs, as we are called to engage in the great civil work of peace that is the legacy of this day.
         Peace is not the dream of one nation, but necessarily, it is the prayer of all peoples in all nations all over the world. Shalom. Salaam. Peace.
         Amen
   
To learn more, visit the 9/11 memorial site: https://www.911memorial.org/20th-anniversary

Prayer for Highland Park by Maren Tirabassi

Prayer for Highland Park, Illinois

God, we pray for Highland Park,

asking your tenderness

with those who mourn family and friends,

suddenly and terribly lost,

your care for all those wounded,

and your gentle peace

with those who may hear fireworks

as automatic rifle fire

all the days of their lives.

For this small local palm sunday

turned into a via dolorosa,

a “sorrowful way,”

independence-day become day-of-fear,

celebration of beautiful America

become mourning

of broken America,

we weep, even for ourselves,

but mostly for this town,

these people, who will remember

a terrible rain on their parade.

amen.

@@@

Where They Would Have Been: Home — A Meditation by Rev Gail Doktor (caveat: all mistakes in this reflection are my own)

Last weekend, my daughter Sarah and son-in-law Nirajan honored the covenant of marriage with the blessings and bindings offered by a Hindu priest. It was their third wedding ceremony: two earlier mid-COVID occasions were officiated by Christian ministers. Over the weekend, we joined together two families and nationalities: one with long roots traceable backward across centuries of Judeo-Christian heritage as early settlers and builders of this nation, and the other recently-minted residents who arrived as Nepali immigrants seeking political asylum and then earned US citizenship. We observed hours of prayer, ritual, and symbolism. We reveled with joy, laughter, tears, spicy Nepali food, drinking, singing, and dancing to Nepali music in an (ironically) American-Irish Hall in Malden, MA. Together our joined families embody the possibility of this democracy: what love and peace can accomplish within the frameworks of liberty.

On the July 4th holiday following the family weekend, we wandered Boston, MA with Doktor and Fitzsimons family members visiting from out-of-town. They had been part of the wedding celebration. The Fitzsimons’ missed their own Independence Day traditions, usually focused in Highland Park, IL, to share Sarah and Nirajan’s marital moment with us.

On July 4th, we watched a magician on the steps of Faneuil Hall, untethering himself from impossible bindings. Held our breath for an athlete balanced high on a pogo stick in Quincy Market. Wandered the waterfront, the harbor. Stood on tiptoe to peek at dancers performing for the crowd, their rhetoric creatively challenging racism among onlookers and bystanders, until we laughed at ourselves and became part of their willing audience. Found public restrooms. Chugged water. Ate Irish pub food.

We walked through the haunting remembrance of the Holocaust memorial with the numbers of millions of prisoners imprinted on glass, hot steam rising under our feet, the taut words of survivors incised onto stones. Remember. Remember what can happen when oppressive regimes make others less than human. Remember when violence is given reign. Remember the lives taken. Men, women, and children. Remember.

In the North End, we heard the glistening notes of a glass harmonica invented by Benjamin Franklin echo in Paul Revere’s mall. Cocked our heads to catch thin, breathy song from tall Asian string instruments played in the Boston Common. Smiled at the guitarist who strummed loud, throbbing guitar licks for passing tourists and resident ducks as Swan Boats floated past in the Garden.

At one point, we walked beneath the flight of a circling helicopter. Stared at the flash of blue police lights racing past. Wondered. Violence here, too? Apparently local officials accompanied dignitaries in preparation for a parade from the State House toward the Charles River’s promise of fireworks and pops music.

Lights, sirens, and circling aircraft faded away. We tried to relax.

Someone set off firecrackers beyond the park. The three boys didn’t hear it, but their father, a vigilant veteran of the blue collar Irish neighborhoods of downtown Chicago, who remembers openly-active white supremacists who were aggressively terrorizing their own native sons, startled. Turned. Wondered again.

Was it happening everywhere? The rain of bullets? The domestic terrorism?

Their dad, our brother-in-law, had earned a scholarship, gained an education, and worked his way through college. He long ago moved his family out and away from urban Chicago. Left the violence that surrounded his childhood environs behind, because he could. (And even in this, we know there’s privilege, because so many people who want to escape violence cannot get away.) And he observes that it’s gotten much worse since the time he was growing up; it’s out of control. It’s become so frequent, so daily, that the public is acclimated to hearing about the violence.

Even now, his family says he walks, everyplace except home, with his fists closed. Clenched. Prepared for a fight that he didn’t pick, but he’ll finish. Instead he chose as his hometown, with his wife, the sanctuary of Highland Park, beneath its oaks, among its storied architecture, its friendly streets, its playing fields, its ‘good schools’ and its cultural richness and diversity. Yesterday his fists clenched again.

By the time we were in Boston Garden, cautionary texts were pouring in from Highland Park. Around us in Boston, everything now seemed threatening, though the shadow of the assault was cast from hundreds of miles away in the midwest. Yet it seemed to reach across centuries, rooted in the revolutionary clashes that marked the East Coast in the 18th century, groaning from older times into our young new century, lamenting the ongoing struggles of our burdened democracy.

In the Boston Garden, beneath the droop of willow, the creak of oak, the whisper of maple, we re-created a Fitzsimons childhood photo of small boys, nephews and cousins, clamoring over bronze ducklings. Now tall young men, they again draped themselves with grins beneath Cubs and Wildcats baseball caps, around those same bronze birds made famous by Robert McCloskey. Their mom stepped further back to catch the whole image.

Amidst all of these Independence Day moments, cell phones interrupted us. Texts and alerts continued to push their way into the hot, want-some-ice-cream, need-a-cold-water tour of Boston. This Fitzsimons clan connected to ours should have been on the streets of Highland Park, their youngest in the band, keeping time, drumming the rhythm of liberty. Mom and dad would have been on the sidelines, their seats staked out, ready to watch the unfolding festivities, starting with the children’s parade, followed by marching sports teams, then the high school band. Mom’s camera phone would be poised to catch her son’s tall, angular shape among the rearguard of the band, keeping the beat. Their elder boys would have captured video, and remembered their own time marching in that familiar route. 

Until the shots rang out. And suddenly the band surged forward, away from the violence. Our nephews, brother-in-law and sister would have been caught among them. Parade participants and bystanders, just behind and around them, falling.

Of those who fell, we know now, several never rose again. Six perished. Other were taken to the hospital and treated for ‘war-time’ injuries: the youngest was eight and the eldest eighty-six.

As civilians fled, first responders rushed toward the danger.

Above them, a misguided 20-something, former Scout, discarded a gun designed for warfare. It had been aimed at innocents. He, too, fled. Was apprehended, but only after he had taken a human toll in payment. We await, even now, some cause. Some motive. As if any mental health diagnosis or angry rationale could justify or make meaning of the lives he took.

Our nephew ought to have been in that parade. His parents and brothers ranged along the curb, keeping watch. Except they were in Boston with us when it happened.

Instead our family, away from home, stood in the landscape of revolution, the revelry of freedom, receiving heart-breaking updates about someone who, at a minimum, violated the constitutional right to bear arms for purposes of defense. The Fitzsimons’ paused to answer frantic check-ins. Sent out their own queries to friends and neighbors, classmates and colleagues, clients and kin, to confirm they were among the living.

They closed their eyes against how close, how near, they’d come to tragedy. We all know, now, that they … that all of us … are only one connection removed frm irreparable loss. Realize they’ll know people among those hurt and killed.

The Highland Park home to which they return today is not the one they left.fTheir chosen hometown started its July 4th holiday with a joyful renewal of public gatherings after two and more years shut down by COVID and national division, and ended those revelries beneath the onslought of an assault weapon. Highland Park is a common community, an everyday neighborhood, now locked down by fear and anger, held hostage by grief and shock. It is trite to say that they are healing, mourning, and praying. It is early to claim they are organizing, investigating, and urging.

The Fitzsimons’ hometown of Highland Park will be added to a list of communities scarred by such unnecessary, unwarranted violence. It will become one more name in a litany of lament and protest.

This is not just the news about someplace else. Someone else. This is personal. As it always should have been.

Yesterday marked our nephews, cousins, brothers, and sisters. It marked us. All over again. Near kin saved by the fateful invitation to attend their cousin’s wedding. Or they would have have been among those running, diving, dodging the violence that erupted on their beloved streets.

All of us, it seems, are one connection away from such hurts and losses. This isn’t someone else’s issue. It is ours as a nation. As families. As individuals.

Yes, on days like July 4th, we honor those matriarchs and patriarchs who claimed our rights and fought for them. Precisely because of those we honor, we do not validate the violence that has been justified in liberty’s name by a criminal, a terrorist, in Highland Park. Or Uvalde. Or Sandy Hook. Or Parkland. Or Columbine. Or Buffalo. Or Charleston. Of any of more than 300 neighborhoods where a mass shooting of more than four people occurred this year. Or thousands of streets where a single, unarmed person was killed with a gun for any reason of any kind.

As we were bid yesterday in the military and Holocaust memorials, we remember. As we were called to do yesterday by the revolutionary musicians playing the anthem of war, by the gravestones of soldiers, preachers, merchants, farmers, slaves, and freed people, by the reciting of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, by the unfurled sails of the naval ship The Constituion, by the pops’ patriotic songs, and the fireworks burning bright in the sky, we remember. We remember.

Yes, our democracy is burdened. It sometimes feels broken. It bends beneath the weight of its people’s needs and differences. Yet the wealth and monuments of our freedom are built upon the bones of diversity, upon the backs of those who were not free when it was raised, and only recognized as human in later eras. Our nation’s independence was gained at the expense of people whose human rights have more recently been confirmed and withdrawn, confirmed and compromised, again and again, and yet have advanced, overall, from the times of our founding til now.

On days like this year’s Independence Day, when a terrorist killed and harmed innocents with a weapon of war in Highland Park, we are reminded that democracy is a process. Why are we surprised that violence happened in a town that everyone thought was safe? We assumed it was someone else’s issue, restricted to certain zipcodes? We thought such violence only occurred in cities? Or specific urban neighborhoods defined by color and poverty? That some people deserve or create violence, while others don’t? That if we are good enough, faithful enough, deserving enough, violence won’t touch us?

Sometimes we operate as if we believe that democracy, whose birth we celebrated yesterday, exists as an absolute, unchallenged state of being. Yet democracy is ever-unfolding, changing, evolving. It starts with knowing our history, our past. Then imagining what must come next.

Highland Park has just been added to the bloody side of our national story. Peaceful democracy doesn’t promise the absence of conflict or disagreement. Instead, it imagines that the ways we contend with each other are civil. Yet our nation’s founders also believed we must continue to struggle together, even now, to redefine freedom over and over. To expand its range and possibility to encompass more people.

Some among us continue to struggle for the right to vote. Or to be acknowledged as fully human, with the right to regulate and rule our own bodies. Or to be recognized, regardless of differences in sexuality or gender, as worthy of the same rights as those who first framed the constitution. Our constitution once excluded, in its implementation if not in its intention, the full human rights of women, children, people of color, indigenous peoples, people who didn’t own property, and many others.

As we were bid so long ago, and only yesterday, we remember. We remember when we did not belong. We remember that, yes, we do belong.

Remembering, we do more than march. We vote. We challenge policy. We write the future story of change that must continue, transformation that must lead to sustainable ‘common defense, general welfare and domestic tranquility’ for all people in this country, without fear that a weapon of war, or the greater weapons of legal, social, and political systems, will be turned upon us. We add Highland Park to the argument.

This isn’t someone else’s issue. It is ours. It’s our freedom. Our liberty.

Like the covenant made between families last weekend, the longer history of our nation is comprised of emerging differences that find common cause, common love, and common striving together. Our nation is comprised of many peoples: some who lived here before the first foreigners landed on these shores, some whose families came here by choice, some whose ancestors were forced to this land. Yet this land, this nation, this democracy has claimed all of us now.

Our liberties, at their best, belong to all of us. Yet our laws and liberties do not protect all of us, or remain available to all of us. Not equally. Not yet.

So we remember. We say the litany of hometown names, and add a new one: Highland Park. The Fitzsimons’ hometown. Our family’s hometown.

We ask why? We wonder what can change, so this doesn’t happen again? And we act.

We mark the holiday. Celebrate the beginning of freedom. Then we remember, that the work of freedom isn’t finished. As a nation, we are a work in progress. We are the children and grand-children and great-grandchildren of a civil dream that is growing to a greater maturity. We are the offspring of a covenant that  reveals the fullness of what American could be, yet has not become. 

We remember. Our lives are holy. And all love, at its best, is holy. Thus our lives, in whatever ways we may live and put them to the service of others and creation, may be and become expressions of love and forms of prayer.

We remember. We add Highland Park to the prayers, the protests, the policy-making. We breathe. We try once more to make a difference. And we return our chosen homes, if we are privileged to have homes, to dream. To dream hopefully and courageously. To love. To love tenderly and boldly. To pray. To pray differently and faithfully. And to strive. To strive creatively and intentionally for change. To reach. To reach in whatever ways we each can for equitable, sustainable, life-affirming transformation to continue.

Late yesterday, after hours walking through the Freedom Trail route of Boston, we hopped the subway out of the city, and found a Mexican food restaurant open despite the holiday. Munched tortilla chips and salsa verde, then ordered a variety of cuisine. Listened to news updates. Sighed. Changed the conversation to more hopeful topics. Comforted ourselves with scoops of ice cream from the Nepali-owned Jay’s Pizza & Ice Cream shop down the street, where we could also order Nepali momoes if were still hungry. We weren’t. So we said good-bye to each other. Wondered what it would be like for the Fitzsimons to return home today, knowing that home has changed so much.

Pray for Highland Park. Pray for our nation. Pray for this world. May our freedom to pray, and to choose love, be used to strive for this: Peace. Salaam. Shalom.

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Reflections on fathers, patriarchs, parents, and men in our lives who shape and change us. For Father’s Day weekend.

This Father’s Day I want to recognize the kind, patient, sensitive, and caring men who serve as father figures and role models in our children’s lives. They are uncles, teachers, caregivers, cooks, drivers, security guards, and coaches. They are there every day in every way. They gently guide our children through their days, offering advice and wisdom – giving our children a model of what and how they can grow up to be … — Maggie Doyne, BlinkNow

It’s the most profound gift and the most daunting challenge. — Matt Bomer

Open your hands if you want to be held. — Rumi

It is not flesh and blood, but the heart which makes us fathers … — Johann Friedrich Von Schiller

I’d say, Buckle up!… It’s going to be a journey where half the time, you don’t know what you’re doing or what to expect, or how you’re going to bear the pressures, or as Blake put it, learn to endure the beams of love.  I would say, it’s one day at a time … It’s Doctorow saying …[it]  is like driving at night with the headlights on where you can only see a little ways in front of you, but you can make the whole journey that way. — Annie Lamott

Songs about fathers and parenthood:

Questions to consider:

  • If your image of God comes from a parent, what does that experience of love offer as your relationship with God? Stern and disciplinarian, intimate and affectionate, constant and close, faraway and not present, instructive and patient, quick and restless … how do you know God as met through your connection to your primary relationships: parents or caregivers in your earliest years?
  • Does calling God “the Father” help you to connect to Holy Love or is it a barrier? If so, why? What language would help connect you to Godself?
  • For whom have you been a role model or mentor, an influencer and changemaker?
  • Who has been a father figure or role model in your life?
The Longing and the Love (excerpt) — Brian Lundin
We long for the perfect protection of a father,
for strong arms that encircle us,
hold us tight to a broad chest, a beating heart.
Arms that toss us into the air,
screaming with laughter and a little fear,
even though we know those arms will always catch us.From the moment we gasp our first breath of air,
we long for the perfect father.
We long for a father who sacrifices,
who lays down his time to play games,
read our favorite book one more time,
or take a long walk and listen.
Who reaches into his pocket and pulls out a dollar for ice cream.
Who reaches deeper to provide a good home, good food, and good gifts.
We long for a father who always protects,
always cheers, and always sacrifices.Some of us are blessed to find
bits and pieces of these longings met in human form,
Like sun through stained glass—a brilliant picture,
illuminated by our Father who satisfies these longings.We thank God for fathers who protect,
who encourage with strong words, and strong convictions,
fathers willing to sacrifice, striving to love.But some of us are grieving.
Grieving the loss of a good father, or the lack of one.
Some never knew their father’s arms,
and some bear scars, on skin and soul,
dealt from a father’s swinging arms.
At some point, all of us are left longing.
Lacking.No human father can perfectly satisfy.
Look up and know your Father in Heaven gave you these longings,
and only He can … fulfill them …We celebrate our fathers on earth, and our Father in heaven.
We give thanks for the longing, and give thanks for the love.
Father’s Day Prayer — Maren Tirabassi
God, I’m praying for fathers –
fathers, up at night with newborns,
fathers, bent under college debt,
fathers who are good with one age of child
and haven’t a clue with another.
I’m praying for fathers balancing self
and home and work and parenting,
especially when no one seems to notice.
I’m praying for fathers of adolescents,
and for those who are adolescents themselves,
as well as many who prop up their elbows w
hen their hands slip on the gift of accountability.
I’m praying for grandfathers and transfathers.
godfathers and grieving fathers,
foster fathers and adopting fathers,
solo fathers and step-fathers,
fathers-in-law and fathers-in-neighbor,
more grandfathers – tiptoeing around divorce,
and also teachers, pastors, coaches, counselors
who mix a tiny bit of what they know
from fathering into relationships
with dozens of children, and l
earn the rhythm to step back.
I’m praying for those living
with their mistakes as fathers—
small thoughtlessnesses that call for self-forgiveness,
or deep damage needing repentance, transformation.
I’m praying for those who want to be fathers,
and those who have wanted, but it never happened.
I’m praying for those who miss
their fathers because of death or distance,
deep difference or disappearance,
and I’m praying those who miss their children
because of death or distance,
deep difference or disappearance.
Be a parent to them, O God,
on this day and all the days of the year.
I am praying for those who have been
so violated by men in relationship to them,
that the very name “father” is a wound.
Heal them with time and anger,
memory, love and support.
As we approach this civic day
with its tangle of knotted emotions,
draw out for each of us from
your fathoms of tenderness, care, and strength,
for our most intimate needs – named here,
barely whispered to ourselves, or
still hidden in the cave-rooms of our souls.
Amen.

For a New Father (excerpt)— John O’Donohue
As the shimmer of dawn transforms the night
Into a blush of color futured with delight,
The eyes of your … child awaken in you
A brightness that surprises your life …
… You feel the full force of a father’s desire
To protect and shelter.
… May your heart rest in the grace of the gift
And you sense how you have been called
Inside the dream of this new destiny.
May you be gentle and loving, clear and sure.
May you trust in the unseen providence
That has chosen you all to be a family.
May you stand sure on your ground
And know that every grace you need
Will unfold before you
Like all the mornings of your life.

Extraordinariness of Daily Acts: Just Showing Up
 
My father didn’t tell me how to live. He lived and let me watch him do it. — Clarence Budington Kelland
 
Dads are most ordinary men turned by love into heroes, adventurers, story-tellers … and singers of song. — Pam Brown
 
A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society. — Billy Graham
 
I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by the little scraps of wisdom. — Umberto Eco
 
When you’re young, you think your dad is Superman. Then you grow up, and you realize he’s just a regular guy who wears a cape. — Dave Attell
 
Sometimes the poorest man leaves his children the richest inheritance. — Ruth Renkel

The biggest lesson for my kids is that they know they are the most important things I have. No matter what is going on in my life, your kids are forever. — Lin Manuel Miranda

I talk and talk and talk, and I haven’t taught people in 50 years what my father taught by example in one week. — Maria Cuomo Cole

I remember a very important lesson that my father gave me when I was twelve or thirteen. He said, ‘You know, today I welded a perfect seam and I signed my name to it.’ And I said, ‘But, Daddy, no one’s going to see it!’ And he said, ‘Yeah, but I know it’s there.’  — Toni Morrison

A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society. — Billy Graham

He adopted a role called being a father so that his child would have something mythical and infinitely important: a protector. — Tom Wolfe

On Loving Our Children

Baby, I paint the sky blue
My greatest creation was you.
— Jay-Z
In my career, there’s many things I’ve won and many things I’ve achieved, but for me, my greatest achievement is my children and my family. — David Beckham

When my father didn’t have my hand, he had my back. — Linda Poindexter

Prayer Maya Angelou

Father, Mother, God,
Thank you for your presence during the hard and mean days.
For then we have you to lean upon.
Thank you for your presence during the bright and sunny days,
for then we can share that which we have with those who have less.
And thank you for your presence during the Holy Days, for then we are able
to celebrate you and our families and our friends.
For those who have no voice, we ask you to speak.
For those who feel unworthy, we ask you to pour your love out in waterfalls of tenderness.
For those who live in pain, we ask you to bathe them in the river of your healing.
For those who are lonely, we ask you to keep them company.
For those who are depressed, we ask you to shower upon them the light of hope.
Dear Creator, You, the borderless sea of substance, we ask you to give to all the world that which we need most—Peace.

All Kinds of Fathers: Honoring the Men in Our Lives

There are many different types of Dads. Father figures come in all shapes and sizes, and being a parent can sometimes lie with a less-traditional role-model. — MensLineAustralia

It is not flesh and blood, but the heart which makes us fathers and sons. — Johann Friedrich Von Schiller

But a role model in the flesh provides more than inspiration; his or her very existence is confirmation of possibilities one may have every reason to doubt, saying, yes, someone like me can do this. — Sonia Sotomayor

You can honor the day by acknowledging someone who made a difference in your life … — James Van Praagh

Role models set goals for you and try to make you as good as they are. Role models are important. — Kasey Zacharias 

My role model didn’t tell me, he showed me. — Unattributed

By being a living role model of what you want to receive from others, you create more of what you want in your life. — Eric Allenbaugh

Be the flame of fate, that torch of truth to guide our young people toward a better future for themselves and for this country. — Michelle Obama 

We tend to become like those we admire. — Thomas Monson

Children need role models rather than critics. — Joseph Joubert

A role model can teach you to love and respect yourself. — Tionne Watkins

To change bad habits we must study the habits of successful role models. — Jack Canfield 

As a leader, it’s a major responsibility on your shoulders to practice the behavior you want others to follow. — Himanshu Bhatia

God / Holy Love as Parent & Creator

There is something gratuitous about creation, an unnecessary abundance of beauty, and through its blossoms and pleasures we can revel in the sheer largesse of the Father. ― Michael Reeves

[About Prodigal Son parable] … he’s a parent who loves both his children more than anyone can measure. And that’s when counting breaks down. When you love so much there is no scale adequate to calculate your devotion. The elder son, he counts … But the … father – doesn’t. Can’t. Love like this, you see, cannot be measured, tracked, or managed. … God’s immeasurable love. Period. — David Lose

Right from the moment of our birth, we are under the care and kindness of our parents, and then later on in our life when we are oppressed by sickness and become old, we are again dependent on the kindness of others. Since at the beginning and end of our lives we are so dependent on other’s kindness, how can it be in the middle that we would neglect kindness towards others? — Dalai Lama

The child asks of the Father whom he knows. Thus, the essence of Christian prayer is not general adoration, but definite, concrete petition. The right way to approach God is to stretch out our hands and ask of One who we know has the heart of a Father. ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God attaches no strings to His love. None. His love for us does not depend on our loveliness. It goes one way. As far as our sin may extend, the grace of our Father extends further. ― Tullian Tchividjian

Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact, God loves you so that you can change. What empowers change, what makes you desirous of change is the experience of love. It is that inherent experience of love that becomes the engine of change. ― Richard Rohr

I am always struck when I reread the parable of the merciful Father. … The Father, with patience, love, hope and mercy, had never for a second stopped thinking about [his wayward son], and as soon as he sees him still far off, he runs out to meet him and embraces him with tenderness, the tenderness of God, without a word of reproach. … God is always waiting for us, He never grows tired. Jesus shows us this merciful patience of God so that we can regain confidence and hope — always!— Pope Francis

Committing myself to the task of becoming fully human is saving my life now… to become fully human is something extra, a conscious choice that not everyone makes. Based on my limited wisdom and experience, there is more than one way to do this. If I were a Buddhist, I might do it by taking the bodhisattva vow, and if I were a Jew, I might do it by following Torah. Because I am a Christian, I do it by imitating Christ, although i will be the first to admit that I want to stop about a day short of following him all the way. In Luke’s gospel, there comes a point when he turns around and says to the large crowd of those trailing after him, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple” (14:26). Make of that what you will, but I think it was his way of telling them to go home. He did not need people to go to Jerusalem to die with him. He needed people to go back where they came from and live the kinds of lives that he had risked his own life to show them: lives of resisting the powers of death, of standing up for the little and the least, of turning cheeks and washing feet, of praying for enemies and loving the unlovable. ― Barbara Brown Taylor

About the Prodigal Father (excerpt) —Nadia Bolz-Weber (full article: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/2016/03/junk-food-djs-and-brothers-a-sermon-on-how-all-that-is-the-fathers-is-ours/)

… So Jesus told them this parable of 2 sons.
      The first son took his inheritance and left town and squandered everything he’d been given. Like a child who if given the freedom to choose for themselves what they eat, they gleefully gorge themselves on Fruit Loops and Snickers for breakfast and Mountain Dew and Funions for lunch and a dinner of only double stuff Oreos and by the next night they are begging for broccoli.   The younger son had been belligerently independent and self-focused – so sure that if he got everything he wanted that he would be happy but instead he was miserable.
      And so returning home with his head hung low he glances up and sees the Father running to him – before the younger son could even get his totally rehearsed speech out of his mouth the father throws his arms around him and covers him in love. What was lost is found, what was dead is alive says the Father. None of which are moral categories.
     These things call for not condemnation, but a party! And so the father hires a DJ and an amazing caterer and there is dancing and song and drink and joy.
     The younger son may have squandered his freedom in self-indulgent excess. But the older son was just as wasteful.
      The older son squandered his freedom by not thinking he had any. He didn’t believe that all that was the Father’s was his. He squandered the gifts of the Father by living a life of mirthless duty. And coming home from the field he hears the party underway and resents such a lavish show of love thinking it a limited resource. He was being a complete ass and yet again, the Father comes to him reminding him of the great love he has for his child.
      The father sacrifices his dignity twice by running into the street to embrace his children – not as a reward for the children being good but because that is simply the Father’s nature. We are children of a God who does things like that. So in response to the incredulous religious people of his day who were trying desperately to uphold their reward and punishment program Jesus told them a parable about a seemingly bad son and a seemingly good son and how not one thing about their behavior had any effect whatsoever on the heart of their father. All the love that the father had was theirs no matter what. Everything the father had was theirs. So the tragic thing about this story isn’t that one was selfish and one was resentful, the tragic thing is that neither of them trusted the love of the Father. And when that love is not trusted as being sufficient – we replace it with a punishment and reward system.
     …. If you have been told that God is some kind of punishing, capricious, angry bastard with a killer surveillance system who is basically always disappointed with you for being a human being then you have been lied to. The church has failed you and I am so sorry.   
      So if you hear nothing else hear this: that angry punishing God is not the God I know. And it is not the God revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ. This Jesus who ate with sinners and tax collectors and pissed of the religious authorities (because he was so clearly free from their control) and who loved and healed and forgave people indiscriminately – well this Jesus was God’s way of telling us who God is.
       So when I reject my identity as beloved child of God and turn to my own plans of self-satisfaction, or I despair that I haven’t managed to be a good enough person, I again see our divine Parent running toward me uninterested in what I’ve done or not done, who covers me in divine love and I melt into something new like having again been moved from death to life and I reconcile aspects of myself and I reconcile to others around me.
      But I’m human, so inevitably some anxiety or resentment sets me off and I start the whole cycle over again. And that’s ok. Because we have endless opportunities to lift our heads and see how the Divine Parent is running toward us – calling us home. Reminding us of God’s love for us and freeing us to be agents of reconciliation…

God Is for Us — Richard Rohr (full article: https://cac.org/daily-meditations/god-is-for-us-2016-09-30/)

Love is just like prayer; it is not so much an action that we do, but a dialogue that already flows through us. We don’t decide to “be loving”; rather, to love is to allow our deepest and truest nature to show itself. The “Father” doesn’t decide to love the “Son.” Fatherhood is the flow from Father to Son, one hundred percent. The Son does not choose now and then to release some love to the Father, or to the Spirit. Love is the full modus operandi between all three of them! (Remember these classic names are just placeholders. You can replace them with any form of endearment that works for you, but make sure something works!)
     … Love is not something you do; love is Someone you are. It is your True Self … Love is where you came from and love is where you’re going. It’s not something you can attain. … It is the living presence of God within you, often called the Holy Spirit, or what some theologians name uncreated grace.
    You can’t manufacture this by any right conduct. You can’t make God love you one ounce more than God already loves you right now.
     You cannot make God love you any less, either—not an ounce less. You could do the most terrible thing and God wouldn’t love you any less. (You would probably love yourself much less, however.)
     You cannot change the Divine mind about you! The flow is constant and total toward your life. God is for you!
      You can’t diminish God’s love for you. What you can do, however, is learn how to believe it, receive it, trust it, allow it, and celebrate it, accepting Trinity’s whirling invitation to join in the cosmic dance.
      Catherine LaCugna [writes] “The very nature of God, therefore, is to seek out the deepest possible communion and friendship with every last creature on this earth.”
      That’s God’s job description. That’s what it’s all about. The only things that can keep you out of this divine dance are fear, doubt, or self-hatred. What would happen in your life—right now—if you accepted being fully accepted?

  • It would be a very safe universe.
  • You would have nothing to be afraid of.

God is for you.

God is leaping toward you!

God is on your side, honestly more than you are on your own.

A Valentine’s Note from JCC: Songs and poems about different kinds of love: for people, for the world, for each other (hopeful, sad, reflective, rowdy)

SONGS about LOVE:

Blessing for the Brokenhearted  — Jan Richardson
There is no remedy for love but to love more. – Henry David Thoreau

Let us agree
for now
that we will not say
the breaking
makes us stronger
or that it is better
to have this pain
than to have done
without this love.

Let us promise
we will not
tell ourselves
time will heal
the wound,
when every day
our waking
opens it anew.

Perhaps for now
it can be enough
to simply marvel
at the mystery
of how a heart
so broken
can go on beating,
as if it were made
for precisely this—

as if it knows
the only cure for love
is more of it,

as if it sees
the heart’s sole remedy
for breaking
is to love still,

as if it trusts
that its own
persistent pulse
is the rhythm
of a blessing
we cannot
begin to fathom
but will save us
nonetheless.From The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief
© Jan Richardson (Wanton Gospeller Press, 2016). janrichardson.com


Beatitudes for Those Who Love
This prayer-poem is by Rev. Maren Tirabassi.

For Valentine’s Eve, Luke’s Beatitudes

Blessed are you who are poor
with no pink greeting cards or chocolate,
because you love someone with dementia –
for God remembers enough for both of you.

Blessed are you who are hungry for a love
forbidden by family or culture,
by law or religion,
by damage sustained in heart or spirit,
or by anyone who tears your family apart at a border–
because God promises you the taste of kisses.

Blessed are you who are shunned or bullied
in person and online for your body or your abilities,
for you will have a day  
when you will see yourself in a mirror
and laugh with joy at how God made you beautiful.

Blessed are you when someone
assumes the fact that you didn’t marry
means you don’t know about love,
or when they call a child you cherish –
“just a foster kid,”
or bar the way of the therapy dog
who holds your heart together,
because your wounds do not fit
their definitions,
or turn you away in tears
from an ex-spouse’s visiting hours.

Re-joy in that day, for you understand
far more than most ever will.

But woe to you who hoard a loving family,
rather than sharing it with the lonely,
for you are consoled now.

Woe to you who expect life
to be all honeymoon,
for you won’t be resilient to disappointment.

Woe to you who laugh at anyone
who is unloved,
or whose love is dismissed –
for you will never be able to take it back
when the tears in your life teach you wisdom.

Woe to you when all congratulate
your penmanship or tech savvy in life,
but you forget the teacher
who once told you to make
a Valentine, not just for those like you,
but for everyone in class,

no, not the teacher in second grade –
the one two thousand years ago.

+++

Rev. Maren C. Tirabassi

POEM  — Maya Angelou

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.
Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

The Dance— Wendell Berry

I would have each couple turn,
join and unjoin, be lost
in the greater turning
of other couples, woven
in the circle of a dance,
the song of long time flowing

over them, so they may return,
turn again in to themselves
out of desire greater than their own,
belonging to all, to each,
to the dance, and to the song
that moves them through the night.

What is fidelity? To what
does it hold? The point
of departure, or the turning road
that is departure and absence
and the way home? What we are
and what we were once

are far estranged. For those
who would not change, time
is infidelity. But we are married
until death, and are betrothed
to change. By silence, so,
I learn my song. I earn

my sunny fields by absence, once
and to come. And I love you
as I love the dance that brings you
out of the multitude
in which you come and go.
Love changes, and in change is true.

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