Monthly Archives: November 2014

Living in Hope

Paperback cover of Esperanto edition of "...

Paperback cover of Esperanto edition of “Where Love is, God is” by Leo Tolstoy 

Today is the First Sunday of Advent.

Come Lord Jesus, Come.

The Christian lives in the Hope. We look to tomorrow with confidence, even absurd confidence. As the White Queen told Alice, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” There is an exuberance in the Christian Life, an exaltation which passes logic. Why? Because we belong to Christ.

Listen to Leo Tolstoy:

· I believe in God, who is for me spirit, love, the principle of all things.

· I believe that God is in me, as I am in Him.

· I believe that the true welfare of man consists in fulfilling the will of God.

· I believe that from the fulfillment of the will of God there can follow nothing but that which is good for me and for all men.

· I believe that the will of God is that every man should love his fellow men, and should act toward others as he desires that they should act toward him.

· I believe that the reason of life is for each of us simply to grow in love.

· I believe that this growth in love will contribute more than any other force to establish the Kingdom of God on earth

Lord help each of us to be people of belief. In belief we can find meaning and purpose which inspire us to be people who can make a difference. Let us use our belief for the betterment all we touch. Amen

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Advent Candles

The lighting of the four candles during winter may well go back to the ancient fire wheel, lighted in the darkest time of year to lure the sun back and ensure another spring.

advent_wreathEach candle has a specific meaning associated with different aspects of the Advent story. The first one almost always symbolizes expectant hope and is sometimes associated with prophecy. The others are organized around characters or themes as a way to unfold the story and direct attention to the celebrations and worship in the season, such as Peace, Love, Joy. The third is generally symbolic of Joy at the imminence of the coming of Christ. A fifth, white or gold, candle — called a “Christ Candle” — is often lit in the center on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day to signify Christ’s birth.

The color scheme and order of symbolic associations for the candles is largely arbitrary but several traditions have adopted them for the meaning they carry. For Catholics and Protestants alike, the color of the first, second and fourth candles are purple .but the third is rose-colored, to joyfully represent a Sunday with a less somber liturgy.

A common way of marking the days of Advent, particularly among children, is an Advent Calendar, traditionally made of wood but today usually made of cardboard. Typically, there is a tab that can be unsealed and raised for each day of Advent. Something is hidden behind each tab, such as a devotional reading, a religious messages, a seasonal picture, a piece of candy, or a small item such as a toy or charm.

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Don’t despair over problems

This is Avery comforting thought when we are in the midst of trouble. The biblical examples can serve as a source of strength.

Mustard Seed Budget

4Problems are God’s way of leading you to something better.

If you are in God’s kingdom, He leads you. Sometimes His leading is through painful circumstances. We don’t like it, but we’ll like the place where He brought us. Adversity is a path to bliss.

Job first suffered, then he was blessed. Joseph was a slave and then in jail, then he was blessed. Daniel was exiled from his homeland and forced into the king’s service, then he was blessed. Before he became king, David was a fugitive in the desert.

Don’t be caught off guard (as I have). Feel God’s peace in midst of the turmoil.

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Thoughts on Advent

The certainty of Christian hope lies beyond passion and beyond knowledge. Therefore we must sometimes expect our hope to come in conflict with darkness, desperation and ignorance. Therefore, too, we must remember that Christian optimism is not a perpetual sense of euphoria, an indefectible comfort in whose presence neither anguish nor tragedy can possibly exist. We must not strive to maintain a climate of optimism by the mere suppression of tragic realities. Christian optimism lies in a hope of victory that transcends all tragedy: a victory in which we pass beyond tragedy to glory with Christ crucified and risen.

It is important to remember the deep, in some ways anguished seriousness of Advent, when the mendacious celebrations of our marketing culture so easily harmonize with our tendencey to regard Christmas, consciously or otherwise, as a return to our own innocence and our own infancy. Advent should remind us that the “King Who is to Come” is more than a charming infant smiling (or if you prefer a dolorous spirituality, weeping) in the straw. There is certainly nothing wrong with the traditional family jours of Christmas, nor need we be ashamed to find ourselves still able to anticipate them without too much ambivalence. After all, that in itself is no mean feat.

But the Church in preparing us for the birth of a “great prophet,” a Savior and a King of Peace, has more in mind than seasonal cheer. The advent mystery focuses the light of faith upon the very meaning of life, of history, of man, of the world and of our own being. In Advent we celebrate the coming and indeed the presence of Christ in our world. We witness to His presence even in the midst of all its inscrutable problems and tragedies. Our Advent faith is not an escape from the world to a misty realm of slogans and comforts which declare our problems to be unreal, our tragedies inexistent…

In our time, what is lacking is not so much the courage to ask this question as the courage to expect an answer…We may at times be able to show the world Christ in moments when all can clearly discern in history, some confirmation of the Christian message. But the fact remains that our task is to seek and find Christ in our world as it is, and not as it might be. The fact that the world is other than it might be does not alter the truth that Christ is present in it and that His plan has been neither frustrated nor changed: indeed, all will be done according to His will. Our Advent is a celebration of this hope.

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Sins and Grace

Monk in prayer orthodoxA brother questioned Abba Poemen in this way, ‘My thoughts trouble me, making me put my sins aside, and concern myself with my brother’s faults’. The old man told him the following story about Abba Dioscorus (the monk), ‘In his cell he wept over himself, while his disciple was sitting in another cell. When the latter came to see the old man he asked him, “Father, why are you weeping?” “I am weeping over my sins,” the old man answered him. Then his disciple said, “You do not have any sins, Father.” The old man replied, “Truly, my child, if I were allowed to see my sins, three or four men would not be enough to weep for them.”

—sayings of the desert

We rarely think of the depth of our failure. Such a thought would be too overwhelming to bear. The best worldly advice we are given is to think positively. Those who fail to see the good in themselves, we are told, can be very perilous. Such a person no longer works as well, fits in the social order as well, and just seems to drag others down. The Abba gives us an important word in this saying. He challenges us to understand that in the recognition of our sins we understand the marvelous grace of God. If we had to carry the full burden of our failures, we would collapse under their weight. Yes, we must recognize and weep for our sins but God will sustain us in our weeping. And, most importantly, He will give us the grace we need.

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The Church Has What We Want

Back in the 1700’s song writer Charles Wesley, his brother, John Wesley, and Richard Pilmore, were holding an outdoor service, when a mob attacked them pelting them with stones. They were compelled to flee for their lives. They found shelter behind a hedge. When night came they found their way to a deserted spring-house, where they struck a light with a flint-stone, washed their faces in the clear, cold water, brushed the dirt from their clothes, and felt at least a moment’s security from the missiles which had pelted them. Charles Wesley had with him a piece of lead hammered out into a pencil. He pulled it from his pocket, and composed this hymn: “Jesus, lover of my soul, Let me to thy bosom fly; While the nearer waters roll, While the tempest still is high!

Wesley was thankful to God for the shelter he had found in the spring-house. And he wrote of a place of shelter open to all in Christ. People still need a shelter from life’s storms. People still need a place of quiet refuge. People still need a place where they can connect with one another and with God. The church has what we want.

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Being Despised

A brother questioned an old man, “Tell me something which I can do, so that I may live by it,” and the old man said, “If you can bear to be despised, that is a great thing, more than all the other virtues.”

–Sayings of the Desert Fathers

This is a hard but fascinating piece of advice. God has given me much to think about in this area.

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Beyond Gender

English: the first of the Epistles to the Colo...

Julian of Norwich sometimes refers to God as Father and sometimes refers to Jesus as Mother. Gender means almost nothing to her because she is beyond that. There’s something deeper than gender. As alluring and as important as gender is, as it is our metaphor held in our body, it is not our ontological identity. It is not our foundational, essential truth. Your gender is not the True Self. It’s part of the False Self. That’s what Jesus is referring to when he says, “…in heaven, they neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Mark 12:25). But because gender is so deep in our early conditioning, in many of our lives we cling to it until the very end.

Male and female are most different at their most immature levels and most alike at their most mature levels. When you have matured to the point where you are beyond the dualisms that our dualistic minds have imposed on reality, then you know you are children of the resurrection. You are children of light and there is no male or female, as both Paul and the Gospel of Thomas say. People who already begin to experience such unity in this world will usually find it very easy to be compassionate toward lesbian, gay, and transgendered people, because they know that the True Self, who we objectively are in God, is prior and superior to any issues of gender, culture, or sexuality. Gender is important, but it is still an “accidental” part of the human person and not its substance.

The object and goal of all spirituality is finally the same for all genders: union, divine love, inner aliveness, soul abundance, forgiveness of offenses, and generous service to the neighbor and the world. Here “there is no distinction…between male and female” (Galatians 3:28). Mature Christian spirituality leads us toward such universals and essentials. Yet people invariably divide and argue about nonessentials!

Gratefully, Christ “holds all things in unity…the fullness is found in him, and all things are reconciled through him and for him, everything in heaven and on earth” (Colossians 1:17, 19-20)—including everything sexual that seems to always be unwhole or split in halves (sectare=to cut or divide).

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Morning Poem

Every morning

the world

is created.

Under the orange pond

sticks of the sun

the heaped

ashes of the night

turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches —

and the ponds appear

like black cloth

on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.

If it is your nature

to be happy

you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination

alighting everywhere.

And if your spirit

carries within it

the thorn

that is heavier than lead —

if it’s all you can do

to keep on trudging —

there is still

somewhere deep within you

a beast shouting that the earth

is exactly what it wanted —

each pond with its blazing lilies

is a prayer heard and answered

lavishly,

every morning,

whether or not

you have ever dared to be happy,

whether or not

you have ever dared to pray.

——Mary Oliver

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Practicing the Ripening

I share this article from The Center for Contemplation and Action.

A ripening mind and heart might simply be described as a capacity for non-dual consciousness and contemplation. Many might just call it growth in compassion, but surely no growth in compassion is likely unless one learns how to forgive as a very way of life, and to let go of almost everything as we first imagined it had to

English: Blackberries in a range of ripeness, ...

be. This is possible as we grow in the Jewish, Islamic, and Christian notion of faith, where not-knowing (the apophatic way) must be carefully paired with knowing (the kataphatic way). The Judeo-Christian tradition balances our so-called knowing with trust, patience, allowing, waiting, humility, love, and forgiveness, which is very nearly the entire message and surely the core message necessary for any possibility of actual ripening. Otherwise, we all close down, and history freezes up with all of its hurts, memories, and resentments intact. A non-dual way of knowing in the moment gives us a life process and not simply momentary dualistic answers, which always grow old because they are never totally true.

My guidance is a simple reminder and recall to what we will be forced to learn by necessity and under pressure anyway—the open-ended way of allowing and the deep meaning that some of us call faith. To live in trustful faith is to ripen, it is almost that simple. Let’s start practicing now, early in our life, so we do not have to take a crash course in our final years, weeks, days, and minutes of our lives. The best ripening happens over time, lots of time.

—-Richard Rhor

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