Meditations on lighting lamps: faith as seen and unseen, expected and surprising. Themes from Hebrews & Luke.

You are the community now. Be a lamp for yourselves. Be your own refuge. Seek for no other. All things must pass. Strive on diligently. Don’t give up. ― attributed to Buddha

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Sufi tell of disciples who, when the death of their master was clearly imminent, became totally bereft. “If you leave us, Master,” they pleaded, “how will we know what to do?” And the master replied, “I am nothing but a finger pointing at the moon. Perhaps when I am gone you will see the moon.” — As retold by Joan Chittister

Blessing of Light
—Jan Richardson

Let us bless the light
and the One who gives
the light to us.

Let us open ourselves
to the illumination
it offers.

Let us blaze
with its
generous fire.

Gospel Song: This Little Light of Mine (refrain)This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, Let it shine, Let it shine.

Questions posed by author Jan Richardson:

  • What do I hide, and why?
  • What parts of my created self have I sent underground?
  • Is there anything I’ve left too long in the dark?
  • Do I harbor any passivity that I need to … turn into persistence?

Lighting Lamps

Whatever you are physically…male or female, strong or weak, ill or healthy–all those things matter less than what your heart contains. If you have the soul of a warrior, you are a warrior. All those other things, they are the glass that contains the lamp, but you are the light inside. ― Cassandra Clare

The lamp burns bright when wick and oil are clean. — Ovid

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

Make up a story… For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul. ― Toni Morrison, The Nobel Lecture In Literature, 1993 

America is known as a country that welcomes people to its shores. All kinds of people. The image of the Statue of Liberty with Emma Lazarus’ famous poem. She lifts her lamp and welcomes people to the golden shore, where they will not experience prejudice because of the color of their skin, the religious faith that they follow. — Ruth Bader Ginsburg

[T]he ground directly beneath the lantern is always the darkest. ― Yom Sang-seop

Being the light of the world is about being a broken, exploding, scarred star and shining a light of hope and inspiration to everyone around you. ― Ricky Maye

Love cannot endure indifference. It needs to be wanted. Like a lamp, it needs to be fed out of the oil of another’s heart, or its flame burns low. — Henry Ward Beecher


Gifts & How to Use Them

The old and honorable idea of ‘vocation’ is simply that we each are called, by God, or by our gifts, or by our preference, to a kind of good work for which we are particularly fitted. — Wendell Berry

The atmosphere, the earth, the water and the water cycle – those things are good gifts. The ecosystems, the ecosphere, those are good gifts. We have to regard them as gifts because we couldn’t make them. We have to regard them as good gifts because we couldn’t live without them. — Wendell Berry

Treasure is stored in the ruined places. Do not break the hearts of the poor and heartbroken people. — Rumi

When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game. — Toni Morrison

On Faith

Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth. ― Rumi

As Brené Brown puts it, “I went to church thinking it would be like an epidural, that it would take the pain away . . . But church isn’t like an epidural; it’s like a midwife . . . I thought faith would say, ‘I’ll take away the pain and discomfort, but what it ended up saying was, ‘I’ll sit with you in it.'”― Rachel Held Evans

Because you are alive, everything is possible. ― Thich Nhat Hanh

Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it. — Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. — Corrie ten Boom

All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Some things have to be believed to be seen. — Madeleine L’Engle

The opposite of faith is not doubt, it’s indifference. — Elie Wiesel

Faith is a knowledge within the heart, beyond the reach of proof. — Kahlil Gibran

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Perhaps faith is so hard to define that it’s better to use examples, to share stories, than to write a lot of theoretical things about it (not that that has deterred many theologians). It’s the experience of real people in a real relationship with God that can help us to grasp the meaning of faith, more than a precise or scholarly theological definition. — Kathryn Matthews

The problem of the nature of faith plagues us all our lives. … How do we explain to ourselves the journey of getting from there to here, from unquestioning adherence to institutional answers, to the point of asking faithful questions? It took years before I realized that maybe it is belief itself, if it is real, that carries us there. Maybe if we really believe about God what we say we believe, there comes a time when we have to go beyond the parochialisms of law. Maybe, if we are to be really spiritual people, we can’t afford the mind-binding of denominationalism. In order to find the God of life in all life, maybe we have to be willing to open ourselves to the part of it that lies outside the circles of our tiny little worlds. — Joan Chittister

Reflections on rebirth, renewal & resurrection

Themes from holy week … what part of you must die, or be let go, to make space for that part that seeks rebirth, renewal, and resurrection? In what ways do you strive to be re-connected or given a second chance?

For a New Beginning John O’Donohue

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

Continue reading “Reflections on rebirth, renewal & resurrection”

Reflections on second week of Advent theme – Peace: inner, relational, communal, national/political

Peace begins inside us, then in our relationships, our communities, and our world. All of it relies on connection to something greater than ourselves: Godself.

If there is to be peace in the world, There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations, There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities, There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors, There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home, There must be peace in the heart.
— Lao Tse

Making Peace — Denise Levertov
A voice from the dark called out,
‘The poets must give us
imagination of peace, to oust the intense, familiar
imagination of disaster. Peace, not only
the absence of war.’
But peace, like a poem,
is not there ahead of itself,
can’t be imagined before it is made,
can’t be known except
in the words of its making,
grammar of justice,
syntax of mutual aid.
A feeling towards it,
dimly sensing a rhythm, is all we have
until we begin to utter its metaphors,
learning them as we speak.
A line of peace might appear
if we restructured the sentence our lives are making,
revoked its reaffirmation of profit and power,
questioned our needs, allowed
long pauses . . .
A cadence of peace might balance its weight
on that different fulcrum; peace, a presence,
an energy field more intense than war,
might pulse then,
stanza by stanza into the world,
each act of living
one of its words, each word
a vibration of light—facets
of the forming crystal.

On Inner Peace

The first step is to come home to ourselves. You don’t need to become a Buddha. You need to become yourself. — Thich Nhat Hanh

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

Spirituality is not to be learned by flight from the world, or by running away from things, or by turning solitary and going apart from the world. Rather, we must learn an inner solitude wherever or with whomsoever we may be. We must learn to penetrate things and find God there. ― Meister Eckhart

We are mirrors of our world. The world appears to us as we see ourselves. If it is a harsh place, we have, perhaps without understanding, nurtured a harsh place within. If it is a place of beauty, it is beauty we have nurtured within. — J. Wickham

Peace of mind is not the absence of conflict from life, but the ability to cope with it. — Unknown

Peace comes from within.  Do not seek it without. ― Gautama Buddha

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart … live in the question. ― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

We don’t realize that, somewhere within us all, there does exist a supreme self who is eternally at peace. ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves. ― Dalai Lama XIV

“Peace” can sound merely sentimental or clichéd (“visualize whirled peas”). But deep down, it’s what most of us long for. Consider the proverb: The highest happiness is peace. Not a peace inside that ignores pain in oneself or others, or is acquired by shutting down. This is a durable peace, a peace you can come home to even if it’s been covered over by fear, frustration, or heartache. When you’re at peace — when you are engaged with life while also feeling relatively relaxed, calm, and safe — you are protected from stress, your immune system grows stronger, and you become more resilient. Your outlook brightens and you see more opportunities. In relationships, feeling at peace prevents overreactions, increases the odds of being treated well by others, and supports you in being clear and direct when you need to be. — Dr. Rick Hanson, Huffington Post


Relational Peace
The only way we can make peace is for each of us to be the peace we want to see. — Susan Collin Marks

Happiness in relationships thrives when it involves people that already feel whole, secure and happy. These people do not depend on a relationship to give them anything. All of their relationships then reflect the wholeness of what they are. — Adam Oakley

If you approach someone with compassion, you will open their heart and mind. Show them you understand where they’re coming from, and they’ll be willing to see your side. That gives you a chance to express yourself and your expectations clearly. And when you let people know what you need at the right time in the right way, they’re more likely to give that to you. —  Lori Deschene, tinybuddha.com

Sometimes you need to know that you have good people at your back when things go awry in your life.  Good relationships can bring peace of mind, not to mention longer life, companionship, health, happiness, and a host of other benefits.  At bottom, we are social creatures who need each other. — Meg Selig, Psychology Today

Conflicts can’t be avoided. But we can learn to navigate them more confidently and use the tension as an opportunity to express our views honestly and peacefully. … When you have incorrect perceptions of others, it’s easier to fear, even hate them. Get to know the genuine in others. Find shared experiences, hopes, and beliefs. Connect on that holy ground, and peace will flow out from those moments.— Susan Skog, Beliefnet

Take steps to build better relationships (below). — The Living Well Network

  • Make a list of people you would like to see regularly.
  • Remove distractions, like cell phones, when you visit.
  • Be a better listener.
  • Support them in their own efforts.
While Peacemaking is an everyday activity – how you welcome new people at school, how you deal with conflict among your friends, and the daily decisions you make about how to react to frustrations and disappointments – it is also applying these commitments to tackle bigger problems you see in the world. In fact it isn’t enough to put peace first in your daily life; being a peacemaker means working with others to put these ideas to work toward bigger challenges. — peacefirst.org

Communal Peace
Many spiritual traditions and teachings throughout history have emphasized peace, both as an inner journey and as an outward commitment to live in mutual benefit with our families, our communities, and in the world. — Charter for Compassion

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

Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world. — Desmond Tutu

It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. — Robert F. Kennedy

Children, youth, and adults, even in communities in conflict, are choosing compassion and practicing peace, and they are learning to do this through the joy of play. Few things can provide a common link between people like laughter and play. Through cooperative play, we have a universal and non-threatening platform around which people can come together and learn. Play creates a gateway to moments when differences dissolve, fear melts away, and we see what connects us rather than what divides us. — PlayforPeace.org

Islam, especially its divine book holy Quran, demonstrates the prominence of peace and harmony between the communities. Through its verses as in the verse 5:16 (where with Allah guides all who seeks his good pleasure to ways of peace and safety) Quran seeks a peaceful situation  between the communities … All commentators of Quran urged through their works to ensure communal peace and harmony and to take forward the steps of conflict resolution in this society. Especially in secular country …  Musthafa Theyyala, Communal Peace and Harmony: Role of the Commentaries of Qu’ran with Special Reference to Risalae Nur

Communal harmony does not only mean an absence of communal tensions, strifes and riots. It is something deeper, something emotional. Communal harmony implies mutual understanding, peaceful co-existence, cooperation and coordination among all the constituents of a community. Harmony means proper conformity of the parts to one another and to the whole. — Neeraj Dubey, Daily Excelsior.com

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

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

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

Political, Global Peace

A number of other terms and concepts are necessarily related to the creation of peace, including fairness, justice, inclusiveness, and human rights. These must be embedded into the community in order to foster agreement and harmony. Peace is strongest when derived from social justice, which can be defined as ensuring fundamental rights and equity to all. Strengthening civil society – the rules that bind us and allow us to live productively together, with established means of resolving conflict – is the means to those ends. — Charter for Compassion

Everyone must be committed in the matter of peace, to do everything that they can ….Peace is the language we must speak. — Pope Francis

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

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

To replace the old paradigm of war with a new paradigm of waging peace, we must be pioneers who can push the boundaries of human understanding.  We must be doctors who can cure the virus of violence.  We must be soldiers of peace who can do more than preach to the choir.  And we must be artists who will make the world our masterpiece. — Paul Chappell

What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children . . . not merely peace in our time but peace for all time. — John F. Kennedy

More than just an end to war, we want an end to the beginnings of all wars. — Franklin D. Roosevelt

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

If there is a mystical chord in democracy, it probably revolves around the notion that unexpected music can resonate from politics when people are pursuing questions larger than self… I have seen that ennobling effect in people many, many times— expressed by those who found themselves engaged in genuine acts of democratic expression, who claimed their right to define the larger destiny of their community, their nations. — William Greider

The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls. —Elizabeth Cady Stanton

If the human race wishes to have a prolonged and indefinite period of material prosperity, they have only got to behave in a peaceful and helpful way toward one another. — Winston Churchill

We will take direct action against injustice despite the failure of governmental and other official agencies to act first. We will not obey unjust laws or submit to unjust practices. We will do this peacefully, openly, cheerfully because our aim is to persuade. We adopt the means of nonviolence because our end is a community at peace with itself. We will try to persuade with our words, but if our words fail, we will try to persuade with our acts. We will always be willing to talk and seek fair compromise, but we are ready to suffer when necessary and even risk our lives to become witnesses to truth as we see it.(AND)
So we must fix our vision not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but upon the positive affirmation of peace. We must see that peace represents a sweeter music, a cosmic melody that is far superior to the discords of war. Somehow we must transform the dynamics of the world power struggle from the negative nuclear arms race which no one can win to a positive contest to harness man’s creative genius for the purpose of making peace and prosperity a reality for all of the nations of the world. In short, we must shift the arms race into a “peace race”. If we have the will and determination to mount such a peace offensive, we will unlock hitherto tightly sealed doors of hope and transform our imminent cosmic elegy into a psalm of creative fulfillment.— Martin Luther King, Jr., Acceptance Speech: Les Prix Nobel en 1964

Meditations on walking toward freedom from bondage

What does it mean to walk for freedom? What freedoms do we have and which ones are being dismantled? How will we stand for freedom and resist oppression and injustice? And sometimes, when it is beyond our control, where do we experience the love and grace that holds us accountable, but also sets us free?
Tonight  (excerpts) — Agha Shahid Ali
… I beg for haven: Prisons, let open your gates—

A refugee from Belief seeks a cell tonight.

… And I … only am escaped to tell thee—

God sobs in my arms. Call me Ishmael tonight.

Maggid(excerpts) Marge Piercy
The courage to let go of the door, the handle.

The courage to shed the familiar walls …

We honor those who let go of every-
thing but freedom, who ran, who revolted, who fought,
who became other by saving themselves.

Freedom Walk:
From Slavery to Something Else

Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it. — Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Life is a gift to be received with gratitude and a task to be pursued with courage. — Presbyterian Church USA, Confession of 1967

When author Madeleine L’Engle was asked, ‘Do you believe in God without any doubts?’ she replied, ‘I believe in God with all my doubts. — Bruce Epperly, Christian Century 1-26-10

I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death. — Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom: Autobiography of Nelson Mandela.

The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers. — M. Scott Peck

We make the road by walking. — Paulo Freire

If you can’t fly then run,
if you can’t run then walk,
if you can’t walk then crawl,
but whatever you do
you have to keep moving forward.
― Martin Luther King Jr

This year is also the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.

Prayer — Martin Luther

Eternal God,
you call us to ventures
of which we cannot see the ending,
by paths as yet untrodden,
through perils unknown.
Give us faith to go out with courage,
not knowing where we go,
but only that your hand is leading us
and your love supporting us,
in Christ Jesus our Lord.