Meditations and blessings about love as Advent’s fourth theme & Hannukah blessings also

Love is the bridge between you and everything. — Rumi

The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is to love and be loved in return. – Natalie Cole

Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!
— Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

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

DANCE— Wendell Berry
… 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.
 

I GOT KIN — Hafiz

Plant
So that your own heart
Will grow.

Love
So God will think,
“Ahhhhhh,
I got kin in that body!
I should start inviting that soul over
For coffee and
Rolls.”

Sing
Because this is a food
Our starving world
Needs.

Laugh
Because that is the purest
Sound.

TOUCHED By An ANGEL
 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.

BOUT LOVE

Where there is love there is life. – Mahatma Gandhi

The greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. – Dalai Lama

Love is more than a noun – it is a verb; it is more than a feeling – it is caring, sharing, helping, sacrificing.– William Arthur Ward

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

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. – Lao Tzu

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.– C.S. Lewis

… But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it! ― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol 

The ancient Hebrew word “ahava” that is often translated as “love” in the Bible has a unique meaning too.  Sadly, this amazing Hebrew word is hidden behind the nonchalant English term that everyone uses for everything. … Love or “ahava” in the Hebraic mind is very different in today’s culture. In the Hebrew, love is connected directly with action and obedience. Strong’s Exhaustive Dictionary defines ahava as “to have affection, sexually or otherwise, love, like, to befriend, to be intimate.”  It brings to mind the idea of longing for or breathing for another. Hebraically ahava is a verb and a noun, it is an act of doing. Ahava is not just a feeling. — Daniel Rendelman

Nothing God ever does, or ever did, or ever will do, is separate from the love of God. — A.W.Tozer

… the action and behavior produced by love is distinctly countercultural. … In a society where so much is presented in terms of “self”—self-awareness, self-esteem, self-acceptance, self-image, self-realization—to present a way of existence in which a person lives for the other in a life of loving self-sacrifice will be highly provocative. Following the one who gave his life as a sacrifice for us will be humbling and undoubtedly costly in terms of human recognition and progress in life as secular society defines it.— zondervanacademic.com

I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you. I love you not only for what you have made of yourself, but for what you are making of me. I love you for the part of me that you bring out.  – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

In the end we discover that to love and let go can be the same thing.— Jack Kornfield

Let the beauty of what you love be what you do. – Rumi

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

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

Love is never lost. If not reciprocated, it will flow back and soften and purify the heart.  – Washington Irving

Life is the first gift, love is the second, and understanding the third. – Marge Piercy

Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place. – Zora Neale Hurston

The chance to love and be loved exists no matter where you are. – Oprah Winfrey

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another. – Charles Dickens, Dr. Marigold

MEDITATION on LOVE
— Howard Thurman 

I’m continuing our thinking togetherabout the meaning of love. And today, I want to read a few verses from Moffatt’s translation of the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians.

Love is very patient, very kind. Love knows no jealousy. Love makes no parade, gives itself no airs, is never rude, never selfish, never irritated,never resentful. Love is never glad when others go wrong. Love is gladdened by goodness, always slow to expose, always eager to believe the best, always hopeful, always patient.

The working definition that we are using is this– love is the experience of being dealt with at a point in oneself that is beyond all the good and beyond all the evil. To love is to deal with another person at a point in him that is beyond all the good and beyond all the evil.

There is something in the experience which has with it always a note of security, of emotional security. And security in its simplest terms means the experience of having one’s needs satisfied. And whoever is able to satisfy one’s needs, simple needs or complex needs, the response, because of this sense of satisfaction, is in terms of not only dependence but in terms of trust, in terms of confidence, in terms of affection, in terms of love.

It is for this reason that religion insists that God loves man and that it is man’s experience of the love of God which in the first instance enables him to be able to love anyone. I wonder if you take for granted the fact that so many of your own basic needs are satisfied by life. And if you take this for granted, then your attitude towards life may not be one of responsibility, of responsiveness, of reverence, of gratitude. It may be an attitude that is simply callous.

You may decide, for instance, that you elate the fresh air that you breathe and the cool water that you drink and all of the other simple creature ways by which your needs are satisfied. But if you reflect upon your total experience of life in this regard, then your attitude towards life will be one of reverence and towards the creator of life one of trust and confidence.

For the Upcoming 4th Sunday of Advent (and the week that follows) Focused on Love 

ADVENT CANDLE-LIGHTING BLESSING— Maren Tirabassi(excerpt, full article with multiple liturgies: https://pilgrimwr.unitingchurch.org.au/?p=7304)

In our church and homes
we gather around wreaths
to pray our lost hopes, broken peace, limited joys, and love so hard to find and share in this season …
We affirm that our candles mean
we claim the power to call this season Advent, when God’s light comes into the world and nothing can overcome it.
We light the candles of hope, peace, and joy.
We now light the candle of love even when many things dim our sparkling
eg loneliness, racism, queer bashing, body shaming
God’s love illuminates hatred and a compassionate heart
and brightens the path to the birth of Christ.
Emmanuel, God be with us in the week to come lighting hope, peace, joy and love on the wick of our lives, so that we may shine on our world your unconditional welcome to all. Amen.

HANUKKAH BLESSING — from hias.org

Hanukkah 2022 will begin in the evening of Sunday,. Dec 18

and ends in the evening of Monday, Dec 26. Recite or sing these blessings as you light the Hanukkiyah each night during Hanukkah:

Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b-mitzvotav, v-tzivanu l’hadlik ner
shel Hanukkah.

Blessed are you, Our God, Ruler of the Universe, who makes us holy through Your commandments,
and commands us to light the Hanukkah lights.

Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, she-asah nisim la-avoteinu v-imoteinu ba- yamim ha-heim
ba-z’man ha-zeh.

Blessed are you, Our God, Ruler of the Universe, who performed miracles for our ancestors in their
days at this season.

On the first night of Hanukkah add this blessing:

Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, shehecheyanu v-ki’y’manu v-higianu la-z’man ha-zeh.

Blessed are you, Our God, Ruler of the Universe, for giving us life, for sustaining us, and for enabling
us to reach this season

HANUKKAH 101 (excerpts) — full article: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/hanukkah-101/

Hanukkah, or the Festival of Rededication, celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after its defilement by the Syrian Greeks in 164 BCE. Although it is a late addition to the Jewish liturgical calendar, the eight-day festival of Hanukkah has become a beloved and joyous holiday. It is also known as the Festival of Lights and usually takes place in December, at the time of year when the days are shortest in the northern hemisphere.Historical Origins of Hanukkah

Beginning in 167 BCE, the Jews of Judea rose up in revolt against the oppression of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Seleucid Empire. The military leader of the first phase of the revolt was Judah the Maccabee, the eldest son of the priest Mattityahu (Mattathias). In the autumn of 164, Judah and his followers were able to capture the Temple in Jerusalem, which had been turned into a pagan shrine. They cleansed it and rededicated it to Israel’s God. This event was observed in an eight-day celebration, which was patterned on Sukkot, the autumn festival of huts. Much later rabbinic tradition ascribes the length of the festival to a miraculous small amount of oil that burned for eight days.How to Celebrate Hanukkah at Home

Much of the activity of Hanukkah takes place at home. Central to the holiday is the lighting of the hanukkiah or menorah, an eight-branched candelabrum to which one candle is added on each night of the holiday until it is ablaze with light on the eighth night. In commemoration of the legendary cruse of oil, it is traditional to eat foods fried in oil. The most familiar Hanukkah foods are the European (Ashkenazi) potato pancakes, or latkes, and the Israeli favorite, jelly donuts, or sufganiyot.  The tradition developed in Europe to give small amounts of money as well as nuts and raisins to children at this time. Under the influence of Christmas, which takes place around the same time of year, Hanukkah has evolved into the central gift-giving holiday in the Jewish calendar in the Western world.Celebrating Hanukkah in the Community

Since Hanukkah is not biblically ordained, the liturgy for the holiday is not well developed. It is actually a quite minor festival. However, it has become one of the most beloved of Jewish holidays. In an act of defiance against those in the past and in the present who would root out Jewish practice, the observance of Hanukkah has assumed a visible community aspect.  Jews will often gather for communal celebrations and public candle lighting. At such celebrations, Hanukkah songs are sung and traditional games such as dreidel are played.Hanukkah’s Theology and Themes

Like Passover, Hanukkah is a holiday that celebrates the liberation from oppression. It also provides a strong argument in favor of freedom of worship and religion. In spite of the human action that is commemorated, never far from the surface is the theology that the liberation was possible only thanks to the miraculous support of the Divine.

Taking the two great commandments to heart: love as the most ancient law

At its core, caring for creation is about loving our global neighbor, because the poor suffer the most from the degradation of the earth. — Shane Claiborne

You shall love your crooked neighbour
   With your crooked heart. — WH Auden

You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make.— Jane Goodall

SONGS about LOVING each OTHER (our NEIGHBORS):

Songs about LOVING the EARTH:

As I Walked Out One Evening

— W. H. Auden

As I walked out one evening,
   Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
   Were fields of harvest wheat.

And down by the brimming river
   I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
   ‘Love has no ending.

‘I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you
   Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
   And the salmon sing in the street,

‘I’ll love you till the ocean
   Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
   Like geese about the sky.

‘The years shall run like rabbits,
   For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
   And the first love of the world.’

But all the clocks in the city
   Began to whirr and chime:
‘O let not Time deceive you,
   You cannot conquer Time.

‘In the burrows of the Nightmare
   Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
   And coughs when you would kiss.

‘In headaches and in worry
   Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
   To-morrow or to-day.

‘Into many a green valley
   Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
   And the diver’s brilliant bow.

‘O plunge your hands in water,
   Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
   And wonder what you’ve missed.

‘The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
   The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
   A lane to the land of the dead.

‘Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
   And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
   And Jill goes down on her back.

‘O look, look in the mirror,
   O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
   Although you cannot bless.

‘O stand, stand at the window
   As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
   With your crooked heart.’

It was late, late in the evening,
   The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
   And the deep river ran on.

POEM by Elizabeth Tambasci

You can sit with us. You can live beside us.
You can play your music. You can listen to mine.
We can dance together. We can share our food.
We can keep an eye on each other’s kids.
We can teach each other new languages.
We can respect traditions. We can build new ones.
You can ask for a cup of sugar. You can ask for directions.
You can tell me when things are hard.
You can tell me when beautiful things happen.
We can listen to stories.
We can disagree. We can agree.
We can come to understandings. You can wear what you want.
You can pray as you feel compelled to.
You can love who you want.
You can sit with us.
― Elizabeth Tambascio

Love Like Salt — Lisel Mueller

It lies in our hands in crystals too intricate to decipher
It goes into the skillet without being given a second thought
It spills on the floor so fine we step all over it
We carry a pinch behind each eyeball
It breaks out on our foreheads
We store it inside our bodies in secret wineskins
At supper, we pass it around the table
talking of holidays and the sea.

Tikkun Olam: In Jewish teachings, any activity that improves the world, bringing it closer to the harmonious state for which it was created. Tikkun olam implies that while the world is innately good, its Creator purposely left room for us to improve upon His work. All human activities are opportunities to fulfill this mission, and every human being can be involved in tikkun olam—child or adult, student or entrepreneur, industrialist or artist, caregiver or salesperson, political activist or environmentalist, or just another one of us struggling to keep afloat. — Chabad.org

Love Your Neighbor

You can be a follower of Muhammad or Jesus or Buddha or whomever. Always, they said that the most essential factor is to love your neighbor. And to love you. — Leo Buscaglia

Again and again I tell God I need help, and God says, ‘Well, isn’t that fabulous? Because I need help too. So you go get that old woman over there some water, and I’ll figure out what we’re going to do about your stuff.’ — Anne Lamott

You shall love your neighbor With your crooked heart, It says so much about love and brokenness — it’s perfect. ― John Green, Looking for Alaska

To be truly good means being a good neighbor. . . . And to be a good neighbor means recognizing that there are ultimately no strangers … Everybody is my neighbor!… Everybody is my brother! … We’re all connected. ― Brian D. McLaren

… teaches us to love ourselves in a wholesome manner by loving our neighbor. Indeed, even by loving our enemies – at least by trying to learn to love them, and by believing that it is right to do so. With grace this is possible. — Michael O’Brien

It’s very important to know the neighbor next door and the people down the street and the people in another race. — Maya Angelou

Sometimes a neighbor whom we have disliked a lifetime for his arrogance and conceit lets fall a single commonplace remark that shows us another side, another man, really; a man uncertain, and puzzled, and in the dark like ourselves. — Willa Cather

Spread love everywhere you go: First of all in your own house … let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness. — Mother Teresa

“The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But…the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”   ― Martin Luther King Jr.

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal … your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses … for in him also Christ ‘vere latitat’ – the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden. ― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

To love our neighbor as ourselves is such a truth for regulating human society, that by that alone one might determine all the cases in social morality. — John Locke

The impersonal hand of government can never replace the helping hand of a neighbor. — Hubert H. Humphrey

Love & Care for Self

When you are compassionate with yourself, you trust in your soul, which you let guide your life. Your soul knows the geography of your destiny better than you do. – John O’Donohue

Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean me first, it means me too. – L.R. Knost

In dealing with those who are undergoing great suffering, if you feel “burnout” setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself. The point is to have a long-term perspective. – Dalai Lama

And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good. – John Steinbeck

Lighten up on yourself. No one is perfect. Gently accept your humanness. – Deborah Day

Of all the judgments we pass in life, none is more important than the judgment we pass on ourselves. – Nathaniel Branden
 
Self-discipline is self-caring. – M. Scott Peck

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation … – Audre Lorde
 
If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete. – Jack Kornfield

People who love themselves come across as very loving, generous and kind; they express their self-confidence through humility, forgiveness and inclusiveness. – Sanaya Roman

When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water. – Benjamin Franklin
 
Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you. – Anne Lamott
 

Carve out and claim the time to care for yourself and kindle your own fire. – Amy Ippoliti
 
Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch. – Parker J. Palmer
 
The perfect man of old looked after himself first before looking to help others.  – Chuang Tzu

Self Care is the secret ingredient to Soldier care in a recipe that yields many servings of effective leadership. – Donavan Nelson Butler

On Loving God

When the worst finally happens, or almost happens, a kind of peace comes. I had passed beyond grief, beyond terror, all but beyond hope, and it was thee, in that wilderness, that for the first time in my life I caught sight of something of what it must be like to love God truly. It was only a glimpse, but it was like stumbling on fresh water in the desert, like remembering something so huge and extraordinary that my memory had been unable to contain it. Though God was nowhere to be clearly seen, nowhere to be clearly heard, I had to be near him—even in the elevator riding up to her floor, even walking down the corridor to the one door among all those doors that had her name taped on it. I loved him because there was nothing else left. I loved him because he seemed to have made himself as helpless in his might as I was in my helplessness. I loved him not so much in spite of there being nothing in it for me but almost because there was nothing in it for me. For the first time in my life, there in that wilderness, I caught a glimpse of what it must be like to love God truly, for his own sake, to love him no matter what. If I loved him with less than all my heart, soul, and will, I loved him with at least as much of them as I had left for loving anything…
       I did not love God, God knows, because I was some sort of saint or hero. I did not love him because I suddenly saw the light (there was almost no light at all) or because I hoped by loving him to persuade him to heal the young woman I loved. I loved him because I couldn’t help myself. I loved him because the one who commands us to love is the one who also empowers us to love, as there in the wilderness of that dark and terrible time I was, through no doing of my own, empowered to love him at least a little, at least enough to survive. And in the midst of it, these small things happened that were as big as heaven and earth because through them a hope beyond hopelessness happened. “O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and for evermore.”…
      The final secret, I think, is this: that the words “You shall love the Lord your God” become in the end less a command than a promise.” ― Frederick Buechner, A Room Called Remember: Uncollected Pieces

Love of God is not a thing which we produce in ourselves by excessive brooding or by self-hypnotism or by any other method. It is a permanent flame, slowly burning in the caverns of all our hearts. […] The basis of all religions is this love of God. For if this love of God were not vital to us, all that the great prophets have been trying to preach would have been unreal and futile. If it were not a real experience which in some sense is shared by us all, an experience which ennobles us and raises us far above the selfish pettinesses of life, no prophet and no religious deed would be able to appeal to our higher natures and establish the claims of religion. ― Surendranath Dasgupta, Hindu Mysticism

A necessary condition for interior peace, then, is what we might call goodwill. We could also call it purity of heart. It is the stable and constant disposition of a person who is determined more than anything to love God, who desires sincerely to prefer in all circumstances the will of God to his own, who does not wish to consciously refuse anything to God.  ― Jacques Philippe, Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart

… the test case for love of God is love of neighbour. The test case for love of neighbour is love of enemy. Therefore, to the extent we love neighbour and enemy, to that extent we love God. And to the extent we fail to love neighbour and enemy, we fail to love God. “Love” (agapao) is … action verb that constantly reaches out to embrace as friends, draw a circle of inclusion around neighbour and enemy (agape is the noun form, almost invariably referencing God’s unconditional love …). Therefore, the ultimate theological bottom line is: God is all-inclusive love. Period. ― Wayne Northey

On Loving Creation

One of the first conditions of happiness is that the link between man and nature shall not be broken.
—Leo Tolstoy

You are called to care for creation not only as responsible citizens, but as followers of Christ! — Pope Francis

The Earth is what we all have in common. —Wendell Berry

God intends …. our care of Creation to reflect our care for the Creator. — John Stott

He that plants trees loves others besides himself. —Thomas Fuller

The environment is where we all meet; where we all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share. — Lady Bird Johnson

The Earth will not continue to offer its harvest, except with faithful stewardship. We cannot say we love the land and then take steps to destroy it for use by future generations. — Pope John Paul II

The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard. —Gaylord Nelson

What’s the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on. —Henry David Thoreau

A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.—Franklin D. Roosevelt

The Earth is a fine place and worth fighting for. —Ernest Hemingway

The proper use of science is not to conquer nature but to live in it. —Barry Commoner

We have forgotten how to be good guests, how to walk lightly on the earth as its other creatures do. —Barbara Ward

Love and Liberty

Love is the bridge between you and everything. ~ Rumi

The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is to love and be loved in return. – Natalie Cole

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. – Lao Tzu

Do love. Don’t just think love, say love, have faith in love, or believe that God is love. Give up the idea that your ideas alone can save you. If you know the right words, then bring those words to life by giving them your own flesh. Put them into practice. Do love, and you will live. — Barbara Brown Taylor

SONGS about LOVE:

SONGS about FREEDOM:

LOVE LIBERATES — Maya Angelou

I am grateful to have been loved
and to be loved now
and to be able to love,
because that liberates.
Love liberates.
It doesn’t just hold—that’s ego.
Love liberates.

 When my son was born, I was seventeen.
My mother had a huge house, fourteen-room house,
At seventeen, I went to her and said, “I’m leaving.”
She asked me “you’re leaving my house?” and she had live-in help.
I said “yes. I’ve found a job and I’ve got a room
with cooking privileges down the hall
and the landlady will be the babysitter.
She asked me, “you’re leaving my house?”
I said “Yes, Ma’am,”
“And you’re taking the baby?”
I said yes.
She said “alright, remember this:
when you step over my doorsill, you’ve been raised.
You know the difference between right and wrong.
Do right.
Don’t let anybody raise you and make you change.
And remember this:
You can always come home.”

 I went home every time life slapped me down and made me call it uncle.
I went home with my baby.
My mother never once acted as “I told you so,”
She said, “Oh, baby’s home! Oh my darlin!
Mother’s gonna cook you something,
Mother’s gonna make this for you!”

 Love.
She liberated me to life.
She continued to do that.

 When my son may have been five years old
My mother would pick him up all the time and feed him.
I went to her once a month and she would cook for me.
So, one day I went to her house and she had cooked red rice, which I love.
After we finished eating, we walked down the hill and she started across the street and she said

“wait a minute, baby.”
I was twenty-two years old.
She said “wait a minute, baby,
you know, I think you’re the greatest woman I’ve ever met.
Mary McCleod Bethune,
Eleanor Roosevelt,
and my mother.
You’re in that category.”

 Then she said “give me a kiss”
I gave her a kiss and I got onto the streetcar.
I can remember the way the sun fell on the slats of wooden seats.
I sat there and I thought about her.
I thought:
Suppose she’s right.
She’s intelligent.
And she says she’s too mean to lie.
So suppose I am gonna be somebody.

 She released me.
She freed me.
To say I may have something in me
that would be of value,
maybe not just to me,

 that’s love.

 When she was in her final sickness,
I went out to San Francisco.
The doctors said she had three weeks to live.
I asked her “would you come to North Carolina?”
She said “yes,”
She had emphysema and lung cancer.
I brought her to my home.
She lived for a year and a half.
And when she was finally, finally, in extremis,
she was on oxygen, fighting cancer for her life,
and I remembered her liberating me.
And I said “I hope I’ll be able to liberate her.”
She deserved that from me.
She deserved a great daughter and she got one.

So, in her last days, I said,
“ now I understand that some people need permission to go.
As I understand it, you may have done what God put you here to do:
You were a great worker.
You must have been a great lover because a lot of men
and, if I’m not wrong, maybe a couple of women risked their lives to love you.
You were a piss poor mother of small children,
but you were a great, great mother of young adults.
and if you need permission to go
I liberate you.

I went back to my house
and something said “go back,”
I was in my pajamas,
I jumped in my car and ran.
And the nurse said,
“she’s just gone.”

You see, love liberates.
It doesn’t bind.
Love says, “I love you,
I love you if you’re in China,
I love you if you’re across town,
I love you if you’re in Harlem,
I love you.
I would like to be near you.
I’d like to have your arms around me,
I’d like to hear your voice in my ear,
but that’s not possible now,
so I love you.
Go.”
 


Touched By An Angel— 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.


Of Love — Mary Oliver
I have been in love more times than one,
thank the Lord.
Sometimes it was lasting
whether active or not.
Sometimes it was all but ephemeral,
maybe only an afternoon,
but not less real for that.’
They stay in my mind,
these beautiful people,
or anyway beautiful people to me,
of which there are so many.
You and you and you,
whom I have the fortune to meet,
or maybe missed.
Love, love, love, it was the core of my life,
from which of course comes the word for the heart.
And, oh, have I mentioned
that some of them were men and some were women’
and some – now carry my revelation with you –
were trees.
Or places.
Or music flying above the names of their makers.
Or clouds, or the sun
which was the first, and the best,
the most loyal for certain,’
who looked so faithfully into my eyes, every morning.
So I imagine such love of the world –
its fervency, its shining,
its innocence and anger to give of itself
I imagine this is how it began.


INVITATION— Mary Oliver

Oh do you have time
to linger for just a little while
out of your busy
and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles
for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,
or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air
as they strive
melodiously
not for your sake
and not for mine
and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude –
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
I beg of you,
do not walk by
without pausing
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.
It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.

ABOUT LOVE

Where there is love there is life. – Mahatma Gandhi

The greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. – Dalai Lama

Love is more than a noun – it is a verb; it is more than a feeling – it is caring, sharing, helping, sacrificing. – William Arthur Ward

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

Love is not really an action that you do. Love is what and who you are, in your deepest essence. Love is a place that already exists inside of you, but is also greater than you. That’s the paradox. It’s within you and yet beyond you. This creates a sense of abundance and more-than-enoughness, which is precisely the satisfaction and deep peace of the True Self. You know you’ve found a well that will never go dry, as Jesus says (see John 4:13-14). Your True Self, God’s Love in you, cannot be exhausted. — Richard Rohr
 
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. — Martin Luther King Jr. Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all. ― Toni Morrison, Beloved

When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.― Jimi Hendrix

The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves. — Victor Hugo

“Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love.” & “I believe God loves the world through us—through you and me.” — St Mother Teresa

There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met. — William Butler Yeats

Many can give money to those in need, but to personally serve the needy readily, out of love, and in a fraternal spirit, requires a truly great soul. — Saint John Chrysostom

… the action and behavior produced by love is distinctly countercultural. … In a society where so much is presented in terms of “self”—self-awareness, self-esteem, self-acceptance, self-image, self-realization—to present a way of existence in which a person lives for the other in a life of loving self-sacrifice will be highly provocative. Following the one who gave his life as a sacrifice for us will be humbling and undoubtedly costly in terms of human recognition and progress in life as secular society defines it.— zondervanacademic.com

LOVE COMMENTARY

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

DANCE — Wendell Berry
… 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.

OF LOVE

I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you. I love you not only for what you have made of yourself, but for what you are making of me. I love you for the part of me that you bring out.  – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

In the end we discover that to love and let go can be the same thing.— Jack Kornfield

Let the beauty of what you love be what you do. – Rumi

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

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

Love is never lost. If not reciprocated, it will flow back and soften and purify the heart.  – Washington Irving

Life is the first gift, love is the second, and understanding the third. – Marge Piercy

Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place. – Zora Neale Hurston

The chance to love and be loved exists no matter where you are. – Oprah Winfrey

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another. – Charles Dickens, Dr. Marigold

Meditations on joy as the third theme during Advent

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

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

Our perspective toward life is our final and ultimate freedom. — Viktor Frankl

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 AbramsThe Book of Joy

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.— Dalai Lama, The Book of Joy

SONGS about JOY:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning is a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness
comes as an unexpected visitor…
Welcome and entertain them all.
Treat each guest honorably.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Rumi

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!


BLIND JOY  John Frederick Nims
Crude seeing’s all our joy: could we discern
The cold dark infinite vast where atoms burn
—Lone suns—in flesh, our treasure and our play,
Who’d dare to breathe this fern-thick bird-rich day? 


JOY  (excerpt)— Alan Shapiro
What never comes when called.
          What hides when held.
Guest
          most at home where least
                      expected.
Vagrant
balm of Gilead.
          What, soon as here,
                      becomes
the body’s native ground and,
         soon as not,its banishment. … 

MUSINGS on JOY

I’d like to repeat the advice that I gave you before, in that I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. 
       … Don’t settle down and sit in one place. Move around, be nomadic, make each day a new horizon. You are still going to live a long time, … and it would be a shame if you did not take the opportunity to revolutionize your life and move into an entirely new realm of experience.
      You are wrong if you think Joy emanates only or principally from human relationships. God has placed it all around us. It is in everything and anything we might experience. We just have to have the courage to turn against our habitual lifestyle and engage in unconventional living.
      My point is that you do not need me or anyone else around to bring this new kind of light in your life. It is simply waiting out there for you to grasp it, and all you have to do is reach for it. — Jon Krakauer


What is this thing called joy, and how is it possible that it can evoke such a wide range of feelings? How can the experience of joy span from those tears of joy at a birth to an irrepressible belly laugh at a joke to a serenely contented smile during meditation? Joy seems to blanket this entire emotional expanse. Paul Ekman, famed emotions researcher and longtime friend of the Dalai Lama, has written that joy is associated with feelings as varied as: pleasure (of the five senses) amusement (from a chuckle to a belly laugh) contentment (a calmer kind of satisfaction) excitement (in response to novelty or challenge) relief (following upon another emotion, such as fear, anxiety, and even pleasure) wonder (before something astonishing and admirable) ecstasy or bliss (transporting us outside ourselves) exultation (at having accomplished a difficult or daring task) radiant pride (when our children earn a special honor) unhealthy jubilation or schadenfreude (relishing in someone else’s suffering) elevation (from having witnessed an act of kindness, generosity, or compassion) gratitude (the appreciation of a selfless act of which one is the beneficiary). — Douglas Carlton Abrams


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 cited by Douglas Carlton Abrams, The Book of Joy


Joy is the reward, really, of seeking to give joy to others. When you show compassion, when you show caring, when you show love to others, do things for others, in a wonderful way you have a deep joy that you can get in no other way. You can’t buy it with money. You can be the richest person on Earth, but if you care only about yourself, I can bet my bottom dollar you will not be happy and joyful. But when you are caring, compassionate, more concerned about the welfare of others than about your own, wonderfully, wonderfully, you suddenly feel a warm glow in your heart, because you have, in fact, wiped the tears from the eyes of another. ― Dalai Lama, The Book of Joy

The Language of Joy — Jacqueline Allen Trimble 
Black woman joy is like this:
Mama said one day long before I was born
she was walking down the street,
foxes around her neck, their little heads
smiling up at her and out at the world
and she was wearing this suit she had saved up
a month’s paycheck for after it called to her so seductively
from the window of this boutique. And that suit
was wearing her, keeping all its promises
in all the right places. Indigo. Matching gloves.
Suede shoes dippity-do-dahed in blue.
With tassels! Honey gold. And, Lord, a hat
with plume de peacock, a conductor’s baton that bounced
to hip rhythm. She looked so fine she thought
Louis Armstrong might pop up out of those movies
she saw as a child, wipe his forehead and sing
ba da be bop oh do de doe de doe doe.
And he did. Mama did not sing but she was
skiddly-doing that day,and the foxes grinned, and she grinned
and she was the star of her own Hollywood musical
here with Satchmo who had called Ella over and now they were all
singing and dancing like a free people up Dexter Avenue,
and don’t think they didn’t know they were walking in the footsteps
of slaves and over auction sites and past where old Wallace
had held onto segregation like a life raft, but this
was not that day. This day was for foxes and hip rhythm
and musical perfection and folks on the street joining in the celebration
of breath and holiness. And they did too. In color-coordinated ensembles,
they kicked and turned and grinned and shouted like church
or football game, whatever their religious preference. The air
vibrated with music, arms, legs, and years of unrequited
sunshine. Somebody did a flip up Dexter Avenue.
It must have been a Nicholas Brother in a featured performance,
and Mama was Miss-Lena-Horne-Dorothy-Dandridge
high-stepping up the real estate, ready for her close-up.
That’s when Mama felt this little tickle. She thought
it might be pent-up joy, until a mouse squirmed out
from underneath that fine collar, over that fabulous fur,
jumped off her shoulder and ran down the street.
Left my mama standing there on Dexter Avenue in her blue
suit and dead foxes. And what did Mama do?
Everybody looking at her, robbed by embarrassment?
She said, “It be like that sometimes,” then she and Satchmo,
Ella, and the whole crew jammed their way home.

JOY 
— Stuart Kestenbaum
The asters shake
from stem to flower
waiting for the monarchs to alight. 
Every butterfly knows
that the end is different
from the beginning 
and that it is always a part
of a longer story, in which
we are always transformed.
When it’s time to fly,
you know how,
just the way you knew how to breathe,
just the way the air
knew to find its way into your lungs, 
the way the geese know when to depart,
the way their wings know how
to speak to the wind,
a partnership of feather and glide,
lifting into the blue dream. 

PRAYER for JOY 
— Stuart Kesterbaum
What was it we wanted
to say anyhow, like today
when there were all the letters
in my alphabet soup and suddenly
the ‘j’ rises to the surface.
The ‘j’, a letter that might be
great for Scrabble, but not really
used for much else, unless
we need to jump for joy,
and then all of a sudden
it’s there and ready to
help us soar and to open up
our hearts at the same time,
this simple line with a curved bottom,
an upside down cane that helps
us walk in a new way into this
forest of language, where all the letters
are beginning to speak,
finding each other in just
the right combination
to be understood.

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, The Book of Joy


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 


‘Without pain, how could we know joy?’ This is an old argument in the field of thinking about suffering and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate. — John Green


Joy: A Defiant Sermon — Chinglican at Table
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…
      No. 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? …
      …. The Gospel tells us that the crowds asked John the Baptizer, ‘What shall we do?’  The crowds asked John the Baptizer what they should do…. Does John give the socially and politically conservative answer, that what is simply needed is a conversion of the individual heart … because the central problem of personal repentance has not been solved? Does John give the concerned parental response, that the private sphere is under threat … that public safety will soon be a myth … and that for the sake of our children, we must enact some policy … Does John give the ‘I have no words to say’ sermon, a reflection on mystery in the midst of grief, 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?
      No. None of the above. In the midst of such colonization, terror, and violence, John’s answer is a call to radical hospitality…  
       In the midst of such colonization, terror, and violence, John’s answer is a call to radical hospitality… John’s call to action is cryptic. It is as if in the midst of the senseless violence in both first-century Palestine and the twenty-first century globalized world, John is calling us to a defiant hospitality. In the midst of violence, the Church defies the common sense … that we need to batten down the hatches … No, John says, we open our doors wider.
      
John the Baptizer is saying what our other readings for Gaudete Sunday are saying.  Rejoice, St. Paul says, again I say it, rejoice, because hope against hope, sending your petitions with thanksgiving to God, the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding and defies the common sense of anxiety in the midst of this crooked and perverse generation will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Rejoice, the prophets Zephaniah and Isaiah say, for God is our savior from our enemies, he has removed our judgment, he sings over us now as songs are sung at festivals.  Rejoice.  Be hospitable.  Open wide your gates, daughter of Zion.
 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.

ADDITIONAL FAITH-BASED COMMENTARIES on JOY

The Fruit of the Spirit: Joy (excerpt) — Kelly Wise Valdes

      …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.


Top 7 Inspirational Bible Verses About Joy with Commentary (excerpt) — Jack Wellman, Patheos.org       

Is the joy of the Lord your strength?  How can you have joy in your walk with God?  What does the Bible define as joy?
  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.

Hebrews 12:2 “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus experienced joy but it was also a focus for Him while He suffered excruciatingly on the cross. In fact, the root word for excruciating is the crucifixion. Joy can help you endure suffering too … God is the true source of lasting joy. Happiness is of human origin and is fleeting.

James 1:2-3 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” 

…  joy can help us endure trials and suffering. The word for “count” as we are too “Count it all joy” is from the Greek word “hēgeomai” which means to lead or go before or to be a leader so our joy, which is from God, will go before our suffering … joy will come during and after our suffering too.

First Peter 1:8-9 “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”      

… If joy is inexpressible, then how can I describe what is indescribable? …

John 16:22 “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

Just before Jesus went to the cross to die for our sins, the disciples were full of anxiety because they were feeling like orphans.  Jesus acknowledged their sorrow for now, but when they see Him again, a resurrected Jesus, they will leap for joy and this joy will remain with them … you can put your own name in where it says “you” because Jesus was not just talking to the disciples but also to you and to me.

First Thessalonians 2:19-20 “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.”

Paul was so joyful and this seems ironic because he suffered like none of the other disciples did.  Why was his joy so abounding? …

Psalm 28:7 “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.”

The Lord is our source of strength ultimately because human joy lasts only for a time but what comes from the Lord is eternal and this includes Joy.  The psalmist stated that his heart, the seat of the intellect in the Jewish genre, leaped for joy and that made him break out in songs of praise.  Ever felt that way? …

Isaiah 12:6 “Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

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