Meditations on tangible love during Advent 4: holy, messy, stubborn love that moves among us here on earth.

I believe God loves the world through us—through you and me. — Mother Teresa

The three grand essentials of happiness are: Something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for.― George Washington Burnap

The great struggle of … life is to take God’s name for us, to believe we are beloved and to believe that is enough. ― Rachel Held Evans

The roots of a lasting relationship are mindfulness, deep listening and loving speech, and a strong community to support you. — Thich Nhat Hanh

You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.
― William W. Purkey

Prayer
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
— St. Teresa of Ávila
 

Questions to consider:

  • When did you have an experience of holy, stubborn love this week?
  • When has love insisted on showing up, despite whatever should have turned it away, in your life?
  • What or who has been transformed by love, in your life?
  • When have you served as tangible love in someone else’s life?
  • What is your ‘language’ of love? How do you express love to others? Read an article on this concept.
  • In what ways are you willing to receive or accept love? When and how is it hard to allow yourself to be loved?
  • What songs make your playlist as great love songs? Are they romantic or do they describe a different kind of love?

HOLY, STUBBORN LOVE: Incarnate, Embodied, Among-Us

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. ― Rumi

Whenever you are confronted with an opponent. Conquer him with love. ― Mahatma Gandhi

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. ― Martin Luther King Jr.

Every one of us is trying to find our true home. Some of us are still searching. Our true home is inside, but it’s also in our loved ones around us. When you’re in a loving relationship, you and the other person can be a true home for each other. ― Thich Nhat Hanh

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close. ― Pablo Neruda

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference. ― Elie Wiesel

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always. ― Mahatma Gandhi

I am nothing special, of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts and I’ve led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough … ― Nicholas Sparks

Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love. — Mother Teresa

You don’t love someone because they’re perfect, you love them in spite of the fact that they’re not. ― Jodi Picoult

Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could. ― Louise Erdrich

The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater. ― J.R.R. Tolkien

Spiritual Commentary on Love

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive. ― Dalai Lama

I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us. ― Anne Lamott

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 

Understanding someone’s suffering is the best gift you can give another person. Understanding is love’s other name. If you don’t understand, you can’t love. ― Thích Nhất Hạnh

What I love about the ministry of Jesus is that he identified the poor as blessed and the rich as needy…and then he went and ministered to them both. This, I think, is the difference between charity and justice. Justice means moving beyond the dichotomy between those who need and those who supply and confronting the frightening and beautiful reality that we desperately need one another. ― Rachel Held Evans

God’s grace is a gift that is freely given to us. We don’t earn a thing when it comes to God’s love, and we only try to live in response to the gift. No one is climbing the spiritual ladder. We don’t continually improve until we are so spiritual we no longer need God. We die and are made new, but that’s different from spiritual self-improvement. We are simultaneously sinner and saint, 100 percent of both, all the time. The Bible is not God. The Bible is simply the cradle that holds Christ. Anything in the Bible that does not hold up to the Gospel of Jesus Christ simply does not have the same authority. The movement in our relationship to God is always from God to us. Always. We can’t, through our piety or goodness, move closer to God. God is always coming near to us. Most especially in the Eucharist and in the stranger.
― Nadia Bolz-Weber

When love awakens in your life, in the night of your heart, it is like the dawn breaking within you. Where before there was anonymity, now there is intimacy; where before there was fear, now there is courage; where before in your life there was awkwardness, now there is a rhythm of grace and gracefulness; where before you used to be jagged, now you are elegant and in rhythm with your self. When love awakens in your life, it is like a rebirth, a new beginning. ― John O’Donohue

This Week: Mar 25-Apr 1 — Holy Week Events & Other Activities

SUN, MAR 25: Palm Sunday

  • INTERFAITH GATHERING
    8am • Madeline’s Deli, Jackson, NH
    Reflection & prayer using literature, sacred texts, personal sharing.
  • ADULT CHOIR PRACTICE
    9am • Jackson Community Church
  • PALM PROCESSION
    9:45am • Jackson Community Church
  • WORSHIP: Palm Sunday
    10:30am • Jackson Community Church
  • Community Event: Bliss Yoga
    3pm • Be Well Studios New Hampshire, 3358 White Mountain Hwy Unit 3, North Conway, NH
    Yoga with
    Anjali Rose, $20/pp

MON, MAR 26

  • REIKI WORKSHOP (closed class, April class has openings: contact Rev Gail if interested)
    6pm • Classroom/Betty Whitney Library, Second Floor of JCC

TUE, MAR 27

  • Community Event:
    HOMELESSNESS COALITION in Tamworth, NH

    10am-Noon • TriCounty Cap, Sununu Room, Tamworth, NH
    Overview of issues and initiatives to address homelessness and housing needs in Carroll County/Mt Washington Valley. Rev Gail will attend this meeting along with other valley clergy, and representatives of local agencies and nonprofits, focusing on this issue. Interested individuals are welcome to attend to learn more.

WED, MAR 28

  • PASTOR’s DROP-IN 
    7-9am • JTown Deli.
    Come for caffeine, cuisine, and conversation.
  • TUNE UP (Fitness) with LAURIE McALEER
    9am • Parish Hall, Jackson Community Church.
    Free. Join members of the women’s group and fitness trainer Laurie McAleer for a gentle, introductory fitness class for beginners. Wear comfortably clothing, sensible shoes, and bring a bottle of water. Bring a ski pole. Men and women both welcome to come try this class. Laurie will lead a fitness class that can be customized to each person’s abilities, and help improve overall wellbeing, as well as focusing on body areas that may need additional support and care.
  • WOMEN’S GROUP
    10am-Noon • Parish Hall
    Come for social time, refreshments, and to prepare eggs for Easter Egg hunt on April 1

THURS, MAR 29

  • INTRODUCTORY YOGA with Anjali Rose
    9am • Parish Hall, Jackson Community Church
    Men and women invited to join instructor Anjali Rose for a gentle, introductory yoga class. Wear stretchy fitness clothing, bring a matt and a cushion/blanket if you have them. $10/class for 6 weeks; payable at beginning of session.  Scholarships available. This session runs through April 19.
  • YOGA & MEDITATION with Charlotte Doucette
    3:30pm • Parish Hall. $10/pp fee. (Scholarships available)
  • MAUNDY THURSDAY OBSERVANCES: Bread & Blessings
    5pm • Parish Hall of Jackson Community Church.
    Gather with members and friends for dinner and worship. This evening is derived from events surrounding the ‘Last Supper’ and will include a meditation on bread and blessings.
  • AA
    6-7pm • Church Library

THURS, Mar 29 – FRI, MAR 30: HOLY FRIDAY VIGIL

  • VIGIL
    6pm Thursday until 1pm Friday • Shifts held at home, although church is open 24/7 and people are welcome to hold vigil at the church. Individuals and families can sign up in one-hour shifts from 6pm Thursday until 3pm Friday, to pray, meditate and stay awake during the hours of Christ’s arrest, trial and crucifixion. This vigil will be held ‘by trust’ in people’s homes, or at church if they so choose, so that each person who takes a one-hour shift to keep vigil may do so in their own environs. Sign up at church on Palm Sunday.

FRI, MAR 30: HOLY FRIDAY

  • WAY of the CROSS
    1pm • Jackson Community Church
    Come for journey through ‘stations of the cross.’ Walk the stations, or meditate with Stations coloring pages
  • HOLY FRIDAY SERVICE
    6:30pm •  Bartlett Congregational Church.
    Ecumenical worship services organized by Clergy of the Eastern Slope and hosted at Bartlett Congregational Church.

SAT, MAR 30: HOLY SATURDAY

  • Community Event:
    HEALING SERVICE

    1pm • Christ Episcopal Church, North Conway, NH

SUN, APR 1: EASTER

  • SUNRISE SERVICE
    6:30am • Gazebo by Jackson’s Historical Society. Gather outside for worship & song. Return to Jackson Community Church for hot beverages and breakfast.
  • EASTER SERVICE
    10:30am •  Jackson Community Church.
    Easter worship with “flowering of the cross.”
  • EGG HUNT
    Follows worship service  •  Jackson Community Church. Hunt for eggs on grounds of church. Hunt will take place outdoors if weather permits, inside if weather is inclement.

Reflections on following stars, receiving epiphanies: themes in Matthew 2 and Isaiah 60.

Follow That Star — lyrics by Paul Baloche
In the quiet of the night
Under the wide expanse of sky
I am alone and asking questions… why
What’s this longing in my heart
What’s the reason for my life
And this solitary light is shining, callingFollow that star, follow that star
Uncover the mystery of Who You are
I’ve searched for a lifetime,
I’ve come from afar
And discovered my destiny
Is to follow that star
Like the light of early dawn
I see the promise there beyond
And a hope within begins to rise
Love is calling to my heart
Reaching deep into my soul
And reveals to me the reason for living …
What joy, what hope, what good news
He brings to me and you …So I follow that star, I follow that star
Uncover the mystery of Who You are
I’ve searched for a lifetime, I’ve come from afar
Discovered my destiny is to follow that star
Follow that star, follow that star
Follow that star, follow that star
I have to follow that star
Follow that star
Follow that star


Of Stars

God’s time [Emancipation] is always near. He set the North Star in the heavens; He gave me the strength in my limbs; He meant I should be free.  — Harriet Tubman

What is the good of your stars and trees, your sunrise and the wind, if they do not enter into our daily lives? — E. M. Forster

Once upon a time there were some very wise men who were all sitting in their own countries minding their own business when a bright star lodged in the right eye of each of them. It was so bright that none of them could tell whether it was burning in the sky or in their own imagination, but they were wise enough to know that it didn’t matter. The point was, something beyond them was calling them, and it was a tug they had been waiting for all their lives. — Barbara Brown Taylor 

When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty. — John Muir

Son, brother, father, lover, friend. There is room in the heart for all the affections, as there is room in heaven for all the stars. — Victor Hugo

Stars and moon are an object of consciousness. They are in store consciousness. In the world of the oyster, they have no-eye consciousness and no-ear consciousness. The things that we see, the oyster cannot see. So, sense organs are one condition to give birth to consciousness. The object gives rise to consciousness. And these are manifested from seeds. And store consciousness holds all the seeds. The sense organ and the object rely on each other to create consciousness. Object and subject. They are divided into two parts but this isn’t exactly correct. We cannot take one out of the other. This is called Interbeing. — Thich Nhat Hahn

I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars. — Og Mandino

No, sure, my lord, my mother cried, but then there was a star danced, and under that was I born  … God give you joy!— William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

Well we all shine on, like the moon, and the stars, and the sun. — John Lennon, Instant Karma lyrics

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars; in the heavens, you have made them bright, precious and fair. — St Francis of Assisi

How far away the stars seem, and how far is our first kiss, and ah, how old my heart. — William Butler Yeats

Nations, like stars, are entitled to eclipse. All is well, provided the light returns and the eclipse does not become endless night. Dawn and resurrection are synonymous. The reappearance of the light is the same as the survival of the soul. — Victor Hugo

After my death, the molecules of my being will return to the earth and the sky. They came from the stars. I am of the stars. — Charles Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values

Reach for it. Push yourself as far as you can. — Christa McAuliffe


The Starlight Night
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Look at the stars! look, look up at the skies!
   O look at all the fire-folk sitting in the air!

   The bright boroughs, the circle-citadels there! …

Touched by an Angel
— Maya Angelou

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 set us free


Of Epiphany

In order to reach a distant shore, one must consent to lose sight of the shore for a very long time. — Andre Ghee

All we know for certain is that we are three old sinners, That this journey is much too long, that we want our dinners, And miss our wives, our books, our dogs, But we have only the vaguest idea why we are what we are. To discover how to be human now is the reason we follow the star. — W.H. Auden

Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering. — Saint Augustine

So there we have it: a call, a path, a life, a destination—all safe in the heart of God, and given to us, bit by bit, as we do our part and accept both the invitation and our soul’s transformation that the journey requires. Putting one foot in front of the other, as Jung said, trusting that this life, and this path, is given us for a reason. It is … a path that will be utterly unique to you, yet also grounded in our common experience as people of the star. … We follow the light, though we do not know the way. Yet we need not know everything to follow Christ. We need only trust the invitation and the One extending it. — Rev Mariann Edgar Budde

Sometimes the dreams that come true are the dreams you never even knew you had. ― Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones

The magic of the street is the mingling of the errand and the epiphany. ― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

Science means constantly walking a tightrope between blind faith and curiosity; between expertise and creativity; between bias and openness; between experience and epiphany; between ambition and passion; and between arrogance and conviction – in short, between an old today and a new tomorrow. Heinrich Rohrer

Meditations: Risks, Rising & Renewal (Holy Week)

Bread by Helena Minton
The dough rises in the sun,
History of the human race inside it
Orgies, famines, Christianity,
Eras when a man could have his arm
Chopped off for stealing  half a loaf.
I punch it down, knead the dark
Flour unto the light, let it bake,
Then set it on the table beside the knife,
Learning the power,
Cooks have over others, the please
Of saying eat.

The Exodus from Egypt occurs in every human being, in every era, in every year, and in every day. — Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

The Seder nights… tie me with the centuries before me. — Ludwig Fran

from A Short History of Israel, Notes and Glosses By Charles Reznikoff
XI
A hundred generations, yes, a hundred and twenty-five,
had the strength each day
not to eat this and that (unclean!)
not to say this and that,
not to do this and that (unjust!),
and with all this and all that
to go about
as men and Jews
among their enemies
(these are the Pharisees you mocked at, Jesus).
Whatever my grandfathers did or said
for all of their brief lives
still was theirs,
as all of it drops at a moment make the fountain
and all of its leaves a palm.
Each word they spoke and every thought
was heard, each step and every gesture seen,
by God;
their past was still the present and the present
a dread future’s.
But I am private as an animal.

I have eaten whatever I liked,
I have slept as long as I wished,
I have left the highway like a dog
to run into every alley;
now I must learn to fast and to watch.
I shall walk better in these heavy boots
than barefoot.
I will fast for you, Judah,
and be silent for you
and wake in the night because of you;
I will speak for you
in psalms,
and feast because of you
on unleavened bread and herbs.
Bread By Richard Levine
Each night, in a space he’d make
between waking and purpose,
my grandfather donned his one
suit, in our still dark house, and drove
through Brooklyn’s deserted streets
following trolley tracks to the bakery.

There he’d change into white
linen work clothes and cap,
and in the absence of women,
his hands were both loving, well
into dawn and throughout the day—
kneading, rolling out, shaping

each astonishing moment
of yeasty predictability
in that windowless world lit
by slightly swaying naked bulbs,
where the shadows staggered, woozy
with the aromatic warmth of the work.

Then, the suit and drive, again.
At our table, graced by a loaf
that steamed when we sliced it,
softened the butter and leavened
the very air we’d breathe,
he’d count us blessed.

The piece of bread is an ambassador of the cosmos offering nourishment and support … In the Christian tradition … The bread is Jesus. Jesus is not someone, something, that is outside the bread, Jesus is the bread. And with mindfulness, and concentration, you get in touch with Jesus. In Buddhism, we don’t say that, but we say the piece of bread in your hand is the body of the Cosmos. And when you see the sunshine, the cloud, the rain, the earth, everything in the piece of bread, you have seen the bread … A few seconds of mindfulness help you to see the bread as it is, as it is, the body of the Cosmos. Everything is in there. And with that, you put it into your mouth, and you get in touch with the whole Cosmos. You don’t have to think … there’s awareness … there’s getting in touch … there’s a feeling that’s inside. But there is no thinking. — Thich Nhat Hanh

The spiritual task of life is to feed hope. Hope is not something to be found outside of us. It lies in the spiritual life we cultivate within. The whole purpose of wrestling with life is to be transformed into the self we are meant to become, to step out of the confines of our false securities and allow our creating God to go on creating. In us. — Sr. Joan Chittister

Easter By Jill Alexander Essbaum

is my season
of defeat.

Though all
is green

and death
is done,

I feel alone.
As if the stone

rolled off
from the head

of the tomb
is lodged

in the doorframe
of my room,

and everyone
I’ve ever loved

lives happily
just past

my able reach.
And each time

Jesus rises
I’m reminded

of this marble
fact:

they are not
coming back.

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