Advent Day 24: Joy Is Within Our Reach …

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.
Epicurus

 

There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence that is a fount of action and joy. It rises up in wordless gentleness and flows out to me from the unseen roots of all created being, welcoming me tenderly, saluting me with indescribable humility. This is at once my own being, my own nature, and the Gift of my Creator’s Thought and Art within me …
— Thomas Merton from A Grateful Heart

 

All things in this creation exist within you, and all things in you exist in creation; there is no border between you and the closest things, and there is no distance between you and the farthest things, and all things, from the lowest to the loftiest, from the smallest to the greatest, are within you as equal things. In one atom are found all the elements of the earth; in one motion of the mind are found the motions of all the laws of existence; in one drop of water are found the secrets of all the endless oceans; in one aspect of you are found all the aspects of existence. Continue reading “Advent Day 24: Joy Is Within Our Reach …”

Advent Day 17: Awakening To Your Heart …

From the very beginning to the very end, pointing to our own hearts to discover what is true isn’t just a matter of honesty but also of compassion and respect for what we see.

Learning how to be kind to ourselves, learning how to respect ourselves, is important. The reason it’s important is that, fundamentally, when we look into our own hearts and begin to discover what is confused and what is brilliant, what is bitter and what is sweet, it isn’t just ourselves that we’re discovering. We’re discovering the universe. When we discover the Buddha that we are, we realize that everything and everyone is Buddha. We discover that everything is awake, and everyone is awake. Everything is equally precious and whole and good, and everyone is equally precious and whole and good. When we regard thoughts and emotions with humor and openness, that’s how we perceive the universe. We’re not just talking about our individual liberation, but how to help the community we live in, how to help our families, our country, and the whole continent, not to mention the world and the galaxy and as far as we want to go. Continue reading “Advent Day 17: Awakening To Your Heart …”

Advent Day 10: For Mercy’s Sake …

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
— Maya Angelou from Amazing Peace

 

Mercy & Love

I came across a quote from St. Thérèse of Lisieux: “The God who comes to us as an infant can only be mercy and love.” Every time we look at a Nativity scene, God reveals mercy and love. What happened on Christmas only shows us mercy and love.

This is the time to remember all of that. We remember how our God rejoices and delights in us. So much so that he didn’t want to remain hidden. God didn’t want to leave us alone in the struggles and doubts and questions of life. God came to us in person, in flesh and blood, to be found.
— Mark A. Villano from Time to Get Ready

 

Jesus Heals

There are more healings of lepers than any other kind of story in the four Gospels. Jesus is always healing lepers. Leprosy, in fact, in the New Testament is a broad term. It really doesn’t mean what we would call Hansen’s Disease today. “Lepers” were people who, for some reason, were told they were physically unacceptable. They were people who were considered taboo, contagious, disabled, dangerous or excluded for all kinds of reasons. The message seems to be: “You’re not doing it right” or “You are not acceptable as a member of society.” Every Society does this, and we do too, but just in different ways and by different criteria.

When Jesus receives the lepers, he always touches them, and often he then leads them or sends them to a new place. Invariably he reintroduces them to the community and realigns their social status and acceptability.  He pulls them back inside of social acceptability.  That is the healing!
— Richard Rohr from Preparing for Christmas

 

For Mercy’s Sake

But if you had known what this means, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice,” you would not have condemned the guiltless.
— Matthew 12:7

Jesus and his disciples were walking through a field of grain. The Pharisees became upset when the hungry disciples pulled off and ate some of the heads of grain because such activity was not permitted on the Sabbath. Jesus responded to their criticism by telling the Pharisees that he was not so concerned about the rules of the law (sacrifice) as he was about the way people related to one another (mercy).

I know Jesus’ words are true for me: I’d rather fast for a day anytime (sacrifice) than have to be kind and open to someone who has dealt me a low blow (mercy). I would rather choose my own daily sacrifices than have them come to me in the form of critical people, impatient drivers, grumbling friends and irritable coworkers. How much easier it is to give up a piece of candy or go to church on Sunday than to stay loving toward those who mess up my day. Sacrifices I choose seem easy compared to the continual kindness required by Jesus.

Merciful God,
I will accept the difficult people of my day.
May the sacrifices I choose be ones
filled with love and kindheartedness.

— Joyce Rupp from Inviting God In: Spiritual Reflections and Prayers Throughout the Year

 

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Advent Day 09: The Deeper My Joy …

They are prepared for a God who strikes hard bargains but not for a God who gives as much for an hour’s work as for a day’s. They are prepared for a mustard-seed kingdom of God no bigger than the eye of a newt but not for the great banyan it becomes with birds in its branches singing Mozart. They are prepared for the potluck supper at First Presbyterian but not for the marriage supper of the lamb …
― Frederick Buechner from Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale

 

The longer I wake on this Earth, the louder the quiet things speak to me. The more I experience and survive, the more I find truth in the commonalties we all share. The more pain softens me, the deeper my joy and the greater the lessons of those things that live in great stillness. Continue reading “Advent Day 09: The Deeper My Joy …”

Advent Day 08: The Medicine That Lives In A Story …

If we want to know why we’re all so afraid to let our true selves be seen and known, we have to understand the power of shame and fear. If we can’t stand up to the never good enough and who do you think you are? we can’t move forward. I only wish that during those desperate and defeated moments of my past … I could have known what I know now. If I could go back and whisper in my ear, I’d tell myself the same thing that I’ll tell you as we begin this journey:

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.

― Brene Brown from The Gifts of Imperfection

 

Into this world, this demented inn in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ comes uninvited.
— Thomas Merton from Raids on the Unspeakable

Continue reading “Advent Day 08: The Medicine That Lives In A Story …”

Advent Day 05: Practicing Peace In Times of War …

When you’re like a keg of dynamite just about to go off, patience means just slowing down at that point—just pausing—instead of immediately acting on your usual, habitual response. You refrain from acting, you stop talking to yourself, and then you connect with the soft spot. But at the same time you are completely and totally honest with yourself about what you are feeling. You’re not suppressing anything; patience has nothing to do with suppression. In fact, it has everything to do with a gentle, honest relationship with yourself. If you wait and don’t fuel the rage with your thoughts, you can be very honest about the fact that you long for revenge; nevertheless you keep interrupting the torturous story line and stay with the underlying vulnerability. That frustration, that uneasiness and vulnerability, is nothing solid. And yet it is painful to experience. Still, just wait and be patient with your anguish and with the discomfort of it. This means relaxing with that restless, hot energy—knowing that it’s the only way to find peace for ourselves or the world. Continue reading “Advent Day 05: Practicing Peace In Times of War …”

Advent Day 01: A Sacred Season …

Christmas is a swiftly moving season with few clear boundaries. The day after we’ve packed up our Halloween costumes, Hallmark Channel begins nearly two months of twenty-four-seven presentations of Christmas movies. Shortly thereafter, we are inundated with ads inviting us to shop early to get the best bargains. The holiday rush is in full swing by Thanksgiving with Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales abounding, and People jostling one another to be 1st to purchase the latest must have Christmas presents. Radio stations begin playing Christmas songs on Thanksgiving Day.

In the fifty-five days from All Saints’ day to Christmas Day, we prepare for Christ coming through online shopping, bargain hunting, photos with Santa coma songs and carols, baking, drinking, and revelling. Despite wars and rumors of war, poverty, addiction, and homelessness, Christmas magic is in the air! That often in the magic we miss the sacredness of the season, the holy time and space of pregnancy, birth, and revelation. Continue reading “Advent Day 01: A Sacred Season …”