Reflections on starting journeys: themes from baptismal scripture

If you can’t fly, then run,
if you can’t run, then walk,
if you can’t walk, then crawl,
but by all means keep moving.
– Martin Luther King Jr.


BELOVED IS WHERE WE BEGIN  — Jan Richardson

If you would enter / into the wilderness,
do not begin / without a blessing.

Do not leave
without hearing / who you are:
Beloved, named by the One
who has traveled this path / before you.

Do not go  / without letting it echo
in your ears, / and if you find
it is hard / to let it into your heart,
do not despair. / That is what
this journey is for.

I cannot promise / this blessing will free you
from danger, from fear,
from hungeror thirst,
from the scorching of sun or the fall of the night.

But I can tell you that on this path there will be help.

I can tell you that on this way there will be rest.

I can tell you that you will know
the strange graces that come to our aid
only on a road  / such as this,
that fly to meet us
bearing comfort and strength,
that come alongside us / for no other cause
than to lean themselves / toward our ear
and with their / curious insistence / whisper our name:

Beloved.
Beloved.
Beloved.

SONGS about STARTING a JOURNEY

Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute,
Whatever you can do, or dream you can—begin it;
Boldness has genius, power, magic in it;
Only engage,—and then the mind grows heated;
Begin!—and then the work will be completed.
—Goethe


It’s just as well, my pitcher shattered
I’m free of all that hauling water!
The burden on my head is gone….
A single well, Kabira
And water-bearers many!
Pots of every shape and size
But the water always One.
— ‘Bhala Hua Meri Gagri Phooti’ –song of Kabir.
translated by Rabindranath Tagore 1915, 55-56


Blessing the Baptism — Jan Richardson

As if we could call you
anything other than
beloved
and blessed

drenched as we are
in our love for you

washed as we are
by our delight in you

born anew as we are
by the grace that flows
from the heart of the one
who bore you to us.

STARTING a JOURNEY

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.– Lao Tzu

To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself. – Søren Kierkegaard

The only impossible journey is the one you never begin. – Tony Robbins

The key to realizing a dream is to focus not on success but significance, and then even the small steps and little victories along your path will take on greater meaning. – Oprah Winfrey

 We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. – Aristotle

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant. – Robert Louis Stevenson

Tell me, O Swan, your ancient tale.
From what land do you come, O Swan ?
to what shore will you fly ?
Where would you take your rest, O Swan, and what do you seek ?
Even this morning, O Swan, awake, arise follow me !
There is a land where no doubt nor sorrow have rule: where the terror of Death is no more.
There the woods of spring are a-bloom, and the fragrant scent “He is I” is born on the wind:
There the bee of the heart is deeply immersed and desires no other joy.
 — Poems of Kabir, translated by Rabindranath Tagore 1915, 55-56

COMMENTARY on BAPTISM

So I hope in this baptismal life ahead of you that when you encounter water – this most common of substances which surrounds land and comprises our bodies…I hope when you drink it in; when you dive deep in a pool of it; when you wade in a stream of it; that even when you wash dishes with it; I hope that you are reminded of the promise of life eternal: a promise that life with God is as close to you as water and bread and wine and human bodies.  Because to be Christian is to know that the eternal is always contained in the present. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

Water figures in many of Jyoti’s paintings, as too in biblical imagery: the waters that were ‘the face of the deep’ before creation; the waters of the flood, over which the rainbow shone, sign of God’s covenant of peace with all creation; the waters of the Red Sea parting to liberate the fleeing slaves, the ‘children of Israel’; the ‘water of life’ with which Jesus identified himself, both with the alienated woman at the well and during debate in the temple; the waters of baptism – that of Jesus and of those who accept his way. — Jyoti Sahi Art Ashram

Jesus has become part with the waters. His character is innately like that of water. … water seeks out the lowest place. Or, as [St] Francis says in his Hymn to Creation, the waters are humble – they offer life to others and for others – and in themselves are clear, like light. — Jyoti Sahi Art Ashram

Meditations on love for the fourth Sunday of Advent

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 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

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

SONGS about LOVE:

PRAYER
Be for them, Lord, a defense in emergency, a harbor in shipwreck, a refuge in the journey, shade in the heat, light in the darkness, as staff on the slippery slope, joy amidst suffering, consolation in sadness, safety in adversity, caution in prosperity, so that these your servants, under your leadership, may arrive unharmed … — Christian prayer from a liturgy for those setting off on pilgrimage, — The Missal of Vich, A.D. 1038


BLESSING Kundalini Yoga farewell blessing  
May the long time sun
Shine upon you,
All love surround you,
And the pure light within you
Guide your way on.


FIVE PRECEPTS (Reiki principles)

  1. Just for today, I will not be angry.
  2. Just for today, I will not worry.
  3. Just for today, I will be grateful.
  4. Just for today, I will do my work honestly.
  5. Just for today, I will be kind to every living thing.

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.

COMMENTARY 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

… 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

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

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 Did Think,
Let’s Go About This Slowly

— Mary Oliver
I did think, let’s go about this slowly.
This is important. This should take
some really deep thought.
We should take
small thoughtful steps.
But, bless us, we didn’t.

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.”

Reflections on the common table: who has a seat?

If the home is a body, the table is the heart, the beating center, the sustainer of life and health.― Shauna Niequist

If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. — Michael Enzi

I feign fullness, but in reality I am achingly empty. And it is because I too often sit at the table of the world instead of the feet of God. ― Craig D. Lounsbrough

SONGS about SHARING FOOD & ENJOYING LIFE:

The Thanksgivings Harriet Maxwell Converse
We who are here present thank the Great Spirit that we are here          
to praise Him. We thank Him that He has created men and women, and ordered          
that these beings shall always be living to multiply the earth.
We thank Him for making the earth and giving these beings its products          
to live on. We thank Him for the water that comes out of the earth and runs          
for our lands. We thank Him for all the animals on the earth.
We thank Him for certain timbers that grow and have fluids coming          
from them for us all. We thank Him for the branches of the trees that grow shadows          
for our shelter. We thank Him for the beings that come from the west, the thunder          
and lightning that water the earth.
We thank Him for the light which we call our oldest brother, the sun          
that works for our good. We thank Him for all the fruits that grow on the trees and vines.
We thank Him for his goodness in making the forests, and thank          
all its trees. We thank Him for the darkness that gives us rest, and for the kind Being          
of the darkness that gives us light, the moon.
We thank Him for the bright spots in the skies that give us signs,          
the stars. We give Him thanks for our supporters,
who had charge of our harvests.
We give thanks that the voice of the Great Spirit can still be heard          
through the words of Ga-ne-o-di-o.
We thank the Great Spirit that we have the privilege of this pleasant          
occasion. We give thanks for the persons who can sing the Great Spirit’s music,          
and hope they will be privileged to continue in his faith.
We thank the Great Spirit for all the persons who perform the ceremonies          
on this occasion.

Table Blessing — Jan Richardson

To your table
you bid us come.
You have set the places,
you have poured the wine,
and there is always room,
you say,
for one more.

And so we come.
From the streets
and from the alleys
we come.

From the deserts
and from the hills
we come.

From the ravages of poverty
and from the palaces of privilege
we come.

Running,
limping,
carried,
we come.

We are bloodied with our wars,
we are wearied with our wounds,
we carry our dead within us,
and we reckon with their ghosts.

We hold the seeds of healing,
we dream of a new creation,
we know the things
that make for peace,
and we struggle to give them wings.

And yet, to your table
we come.
Hungering for your bread,
we come;
thirsting for your wine,
we come;
singing your song
in every language,
speaking your name
in every tongue,
in conflict and in communion,
in discord and in desire,
we come,
O God of Wisdom,
we come

SHARED MEAL: Commentary

Food feeds our souls. It is the single great unifier across all cultures. The table offers a sanctuary and a place to come together for unity and understanding. — Lidia Bastianich
 

The heart is cooking a pot of food for you. Be patient until it is cooked. — Rumi

The table is a meeting place, a gathering ground, the source of sustenance and nourishment, festivity, safety, and satisfaction. A person cooking is a person giving: Even the simplest food is a gift. — Laurie Colwin

There are times when wisdom cannot be found in the chambers of parliament or the halls of academia but at the unpretentious setting of the kitchen table. ― E.A. Bucchianeri

It’s around the table and in the preparation of food that we learn about ourselves and about the world. —Alice Waters

They all know the truth, that there are only three subjects worth talking about. At least here in these parts,” he says, “The weather, which, as they’re farmers, affects everything else. Dying and birthing, of both people and animals. And what we eat – this last item comprising what we ate the day before and what we’re planning to eat tomorrow. And all three of these major subjects encompass, in one way or another, philosophy, psychology, sociology, anthropology, the physical sciences, history, art, literature, and religion. We get around to sparring about all that counts in life but we usually do it while we’re talking about food, it being a subject inseparable from every other subject. It’s the table and the bed that count in life. And everything else we do, we do so we can get back to the table, back to the bed. ― Marlena De Blasi

Meals are significant because you are in close quarters with someone. Your hands are reaching into the same dishes. It is a clear act of welcoming, accepting, and befriending. It was the precise thing that you did not do with the social pariahs. It was the precise thing that the social outcast wanted: community. — Dave Dunham

You’ve spent the whole of your life filling your plate with the scraps that life has thrown your way. And even so, you feel horribly undeserving of these. But please understand that there is a glorious table generously spread with everything that you will ever need. And you might think about the fact that God sits at that very table staring at an empty chair that has your name on it. So, maybe you should step up and RSVP the God who is desperate to see you in that chair. ― Craig D. Lounsbrough

A SEAT at the TABLE: Including Stakeholders
 
I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights. — Desmond Tutu

To share a table with someone is to share everything. ― Paul Krueger

A good life does not mean just good food, good clothes, good shelter. These are not sufficient. A good motivation is what is needed—compassion, without dogmatism, without complicated philosophy—just understanding that others are human brothers and sisters and respecting their rights and human dignity. — Dalai Lama

No matter what message you are about to deliver somewhere, whether it is holding out a hand of friendship, or making clear that you disapprove of something, is the fact that the person sitting across the table is a human being, so the goal is to always establish common ground. — Madeleine Albright
 
All of your stakeholders have to have the right seat at the table, and they all have to be successful. It’s hard to do, but you have to keep your eye on developing a meaningful relationship where it is beneficial for them. Then you work backwards from there. —Brian France

If I am more fortunate than others I need to build a longer table not a taller fence. —Tamlyn Tomita

We don’t come to the table to fight or to defend. We don’t come to prove or to conquer, to draw lines in the sand or to stir up trouble. We come to the table because our hunger brings us there. We come with a need, with fragility, with an admission of our humanity. The table is the great equalizer, the level playing field many of us have been looking everywhere for. The table is the place where the doing stops, the trying stops, the masks are removed, and we allow ourselves to be nourished, like children. We allow someone else to meet our need. In a world that prides people on not having needs, on going longer and faster, on going without, on powering through, the table is a place of safety and rest and humanity, where we are allowed to be as fragile as we feel. ― Shauna Niequist

It is not necessary that you leave the house. Remain at your table and listen. Do not even listen, only wait. Do not even wait, be wholly still and alone. The world will present itself to you for its unmasking, it can do no other, in ecstasy it will writhe at your feet. — Franz Kafka

The best thing we can do for the poor is offer them a place of welcome and community. Our first priority in social involvement is to be the church, a community of welcome to, and inclusion of, the marginalized. This needs to go deeper than a warm handshake at the door. People are often unaware of how much the culture of their church is shaped by their social class. Someone at the door of a church, for example, may hand a newcomer a hymnbook, Bible, service guide, and bulletin with a smile and greeting without realizing how intimidating these can be to someone from a nonliterate culture. The social activities to which the poor are invited, the decision-making processes of the church, the unwritten dress codes, the style of teaching can all be alien to the marginalized. As a result, however warm the welcome, the poor can feel marginalized within the church just as they are outside. (Total Church, 81-82) — Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

Meditations on All Hallow’s Eve: October 31

On this All Hallows Eve, who lingers close to you? — Jan Richardson

… we give thanks for all those who have come before us
handing on the faith and being used by God for simple acts of love.
— Nadia Bolz Weber

“Will we ever stop being afraid of nights and death?”
“When you reach the stars, boy, yes, and live there forever,
all the fears will go, and Death himself will die.”
― Ray Bradbury

… There is a vast mystery into which I believe
I will fall at the time of my death.
At the centre of that mystery is the power of love
who holds me in this life and
will not forsake me at the moment of death.
Christopher Page

Halloween is a celebration of the inversion of reality and a necessary
Gothic hat-tip to the darker aspects of life, death and ourselves.
― Stewart Stafford

This is love: to fly toward a secret sky,
to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment.
First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.
— Rumi

Samhain
is the threshold to the Season of Death.
The fertile fields of summer give way to the bare forests of autumn.
As crops slowly die and winter takes over,
the cycle of life is once again approaching a renewal.
― Dacha Avelin

SONGS about ALL HALLOW’s EVE:

FUN HALLOWEEN Song List:

ALL HALLOWS BLESSING — Jan Richardson

Who live
in the spaces
between our breathing
in the corner
of our vision
in the hollows
of our bones
in the chambers
of our heart:
nowhere
can they be touched
yet still
how they move us,
how they move in us,
made from
the tissue of memory
like the veil
between the worlds
that stirs
at the merest breath
this night
and then is at rest.


ALL SAINTS DAY BLESSING
(Adapted by unknown medical chaplain from poems by John O’Donohue)

What we do here is brave.
We travel this land of fragile human-ness,
holding all the questions
that fear and fierce love
send our way.
We do well to remember
that we are both guest and guide.
May you have courage
to meet wounded spirits with compassion
in their stunning depths of pain
and stand by them in creative space
where story and suffering join,
new meanings emerge,
old wounds heal.
In this season of saints and souls,
may you have good companions
in this place between
the bleak despair of illness
and the unquenchable light of spirit.
May you admire
that spirit in those you serve,
no matter how expressed
—noble, troubling or unwise—
and keep faith
with the gifts you bring.
And may you learn
from these frontier places,
wisdom for your own heart—
wisdom to welcome
the blessings of your kindness,
and be held with love
in all the seasons of your life.

FOR THOSE WHO WALKED WITH USJan Richardson

For those
who walked with us,
this is a prayer.

For those
who have gone ahead,
this is a blessing.

For those
who touched and tended us,
who lingered with us
while they lived,
this is a thanksgiving.

For those
who journey still with us
in the shadows of awareness,
in the crevices of memory,
in the landscape of our dreams,
this is a benediction.

ALL HALLOWSLouise Glück
 
Even now this landscape is assembling.
The hills darken.
The oxen sleep
in their blue yoke,
the fields having been picked clean,
the sheaves bound evenly and
piled at the roadside among cinquefoil,
as the toothed moon rises:
 
This is the barrenness
of harvest or pestilence.
And the wife leaning out the window
with her hand extended,
as in payment,
and the seeds,
distinct,
gold,
calling,
Come here,
Come here, little one

 
And the soul creeps out of the tree.

MEDITATIONS on ALL HALLOW’S EVE as CHRISTIAN OBSERVANCE

It is quite a thing, really. That we are connected to so many. Connected to so much faith. So many stories. So much divine love. Especially in this day and age of alienation and trying to find community and belonging in smaller and smaller ways … what connects me to the body of Christ is not my piety or good works or theological beliefs. It’s God. A God who gathers up all of God’s children into the church eternal …Your hearts are heavy with the loss of someone dear. Many of us have our own beloved dead to remember this day. People who we’d frankly rather still have here in this room as a living person and not as a photo on a … table at church … death is never the final word because in boith life and death we … are very much connected to God and to one another. … God somehow gathers us all ip into the divine love of Christ and makes us a body both now and in the life to come … Jesus had real friends who died, and he stood outside the tomb of Lazarus and wept. … God in Jesus was so moved by compassion and love for those … a God who in Jesus descended to the dead as though to say to us “:even here I will find you and not let go” because death has no sting – death is rendered meaningless to a God of resurrection. — Nadia Bolz Weber


I am grateful that the sacred calendar provides a day to do what so many of us do throughout the year: to remember beloved ones who are no longer here but who somehow journey with us still. In sorrow and in joy, in memory and in hope, and in the love that goes even deeper than the grief … — Jan Richardson


Today is a day when Christian tradition urges us to contemplate the reality of death. Today is All Hallow’s Eve, the evening before All Hallow’s (All Saints’) Day.
     On All Saints’ Day (Nov 1) we are invited to contemplate the possibility that the barrier we normally perceive between this life and whatever follows our physical death may be more permeable than we might assume from the evidence of our physical senses. We are encouraged to consider that physical death may not be the terminus of human existence. There may be a dimension beyond the physical in which all beings who have ever existed continue in some form to dwell.
     Today is a “thin day.” Today we open to the possibility that those who are departed may in some holy way continue to engage in a sacred interchange with the tangible realm occupied by those of us who have yet to make our final transition into the mystery of death…
     So, on this All Hallow’s Eve I affirm that the dark is only dark to my impoverished perception. The darkness of death opens into the dawn of a new and transforming light that I glimpse in the life death and resurrection of Jesus and that I touch in the transcendent beauty and light of this life. — Christopher Page

SAMHAIN Annie Finch
(The Celtic Halloween)

In the season leaves should love,
since it gives them leave to move
through the wind, towards the ground
they were watching while they hung,
legend says there is a seam
stitching darkness like a name.

Now when dying grasses veil
earth from the sky in one last pale
wave, as autumn dies to bring
winter back, and then the spring,
we who die ourselves can peel
back another kind of veil

that hangs among us like thick smoke.
Tonight at last I feel it shake.
I feel the nights stretching away
thousands long behind the days
till they reach the darkness where
all of me is ancestor.

I move my hand and feel a touch
move with me, and when I brush
my own mind across another,
I am with my mother’s mother.
Sure as footsteps in my waiting
self, I find her, and she brings

arms that carry answers for me,
intimate, a waiting bounty. “Carry me.”
She leaves this trail through a shudder of the veil,
and leaves, like amber where she stays,
a gift for her perpetual gaze.

OF HALLOWEEN and SAMHAIN

Samhain is a pagan religious festival originating from an ancient Celtic spiritual tradition. In modern times, Samhain (a Gaelic word pronounced “SAH-win”) is usually celebrated from October 31 to November 1 to welcome in the harvest and usher in “the dark half of the year.” Celebrants believe that the barriers between the physical world and the spirit world break down during Samhain, allowing more interaction between humans and denizens of the Otherworld. — History.com (full article: https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/samhain)

Halloween is a holiday celebrated each year on October 31, and Halloween 2021 will occur on Sunday, October 31. The tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints. Soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive gatherings, donning costumes and eating treats. — History.com (full article: https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween)

REFLECTIONS on These Two Days

Halloween is not only about putting on a costume, but it’s about finding the imagination and costume within ourselves. – Elvis Duran

I was born on the night of Samhain, when the barrier between the worlds is whisper-thin and when magic, old magic, sings its heady and sweet song to anyone who cares to hear it. ― Carolyn MacCullough

Samhain was considered to be a moment when the veil between this world and the otherworld was at its thinnest. Old gods had to be placated with gifts and sacrifice, and the trickery of fairies was an even greater risk than usual. This was a liminal moment in the calendar, a time between two worlds, between two phases of the year, when worshippers were about to cross a boundary but hadn’t yet done so. Samhain was a way of marking that ambiguous moment when you didn’t know who you were about to become, or what the future would hold. It was a celebration of limbo. ― Katherine May

While Halloween certainly acknowledges the “dark, creepy and scary side of life”, I’m not at all convinced that it necessarily glorifies it. The world is full of strangeness and mystery, and some degree of fascination with such things is entirely normal. — Rob Grayson

Halloween in the Anthropocene, 2015Craig Santos Perez

Darkness spills across the sky like an oil plume.
The moon reflects bleached coral. Tonight, let us
praise the sacrificed. Praise the souls of  black boys, enslaved by supply chains,
who carry bags of cacao under West African heat.

“Trick or treat, smell my feet,
give me something good to eat,”

sings a girl dressed as a Disney princess.
Let us praise the souls of   brown girls
who sew our clothes as fire
unthreads sweatshops into smoke and ash.

“Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good,”
whisper kids disguised as ninjas.
Tonight, let us praise the souls of Asian children
who manufacture toys and tech until gravity
sharpens their bodies enough to cut through suicide nets.

“Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me,”
shout boys camouflaged as soldiers.
Let us praise the souls of  veterans
who salute with their guns because
only triggers will pull God into their ruined temples.

“Trick or treat, smell my feet,” chant kids
masquerading as cowboys and Indians.
Tonight let us praise the souls of native youth,
whose eyes are open-pit uranium mines,
veins are poisoned rivers, hearts are tar sands tailings ponds.

“Trick or treat,” says a boy dressed as the sun.
Let us praise El Niño, his growing pains,
praise his mother, Ocean,
who is dying in a warming bath
among dead fish and refugee children.
Let us praise our mothers of  asthma,
mothers of  cancer clusters, mothers of miscarriage 
— pray for us — 
because our costumes
won’t hide the true cost of our greed.
Praise our mothers of  lost habitats,
mothers of  fallout, mothers of extinction 
— pray for us —
because even tomorrow will be haunted 
— leave them, leave us, leave — 

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