Peace (Advent Meditation) …

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 
—Matthew 5:9

 

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

 

Peace is not just about the absence of conflict; it’s also about the presence of justice. Martin Luther King Jr. even distinguished between “the devil’s peace” and God’s true peace. A counterfeit peace exists when people are pacified or distracted or so beat up and tired of fighting that all seems calm. But true peace does not exist until there is justice, restoration, forgiveness. Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity. It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice, the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer, the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight but the careful, arduous pursuit of reconciliation and justice. It is about a revolution of love that is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free. Continue reading “Peace (Advent Meditation) …”

Advent Day 23: Hospitality …

There must be always remaining in every man’s life some
place for the singing of angels — some place for that
which in itself is breathlessly beautiful and by an
inherent prerogative, throwing all the rest of life into
a new and creative relatedness — something that gathers
up in itself all the freshets of experience from drab and
commonplace areas of living and glows in one bright
light of penetrating beauty and meaning — then passes.
The commonplace is shot through with new glory — old
burdens become lighter, deep and ancient wounds lose much
of their old, old hurting. A crown is placed over our
heads that for the rest of our lives we are trying to
grow tall enough to wear. Despite all the crassness of
life, despite all the hardness of life, despite all of the
harsh discords of life, life is saved
by the singing of angels. Continue reading “Advent Day 23: Hospitality …”

Advent Day 03: Ritual …

I say that religion isn’t about believing things. It’s ethical alchemy. It’s about behaving in a way that changes you, that gives you intimations of holiness and sacredness.
Karen Amstrong as quoted in Profile at TED (2009)

 

Religions don’t agree on which day is holy, but by and large they do agree that once a week you must check in with your beliefs, your community, and yourself. For Jews, this ritual starts Friday at sundown and lasts until sundown on Saturday. For Muslims, it usually starts with Friday afternoon prayers. For the wide range of denominations of practicing Christians, it’s on Sunday, with the exception of Seventh-day Adventists, who are defined by their observance on Saturday. For Quakers, a sect of Protestants who downplay annual holidays because they see every day as an equal celebration of Christ, silent worship at their weekly meetings is the heartbeat of belief. In Buddhism, the holy day of the week changes with the phases of the moon.

For my great-grandparents the holy day was called Shabbos (the Yiddish word for the Sabbath; Shabbat is Hebrew). Each week, for an entire rotation of the Earth, they did not work or handle money or use electricity: no lamps, no phones, and no riding in cars. Just prayer, synagogue, and family time. It was about rest, reflection, and taking stock of the week, a kind of early TGIF.
There are, as with all things, loopholes even for the orthodox. For example, there are large buildings in places densely populated by observant Jews where the elevators are preprogrammed to stop at every floor during Shabbat. If you’re not pressing any buttons, you’re not breaking the rules, right? This is the subject of much debate. Other exceptions also get made. If you’re extremely ill, it might be okay to ride to synagogue as long as a Gentile drives you. But even when my great-grandfather Benjamin was dying of stomach cancer, he was so devout he still walked to services every week. Continue reading “Advent Day 03: Ritual …”

The Voice Of Your Own Soul …

Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you; it means learning to respect and use your own brains and instincts; hence, grappling with hard work.
— Adrienne Rich from On Lies, Secrets, and Silence

When you take the time to draw on your listening-imagination, you will begin to hear this gentle voice at the heart of your life. It is deeper and surer than all the other voices of disappointment, unease, self-criticism and bleakness. All holiness is about learning to hear the voice of your own soul. It is always there and the more deeply you learn to listen, the greater surprises and discoveries that will unfold. To enter into the gentleness of your own soul changes the tone and quality of your life. Your life is no longer consumed by hunger for the next event, experience or achievement.

Continue reading “The Voice Of Your Own Soul …”

Advent Meditation: Sabbath As Resistance …

In our own contemporary context of the rat race of anxiety, the celebration of Sabbath is an act of both resistance and alternative. It is resistance because it is a visible insistence that our lives are not defined by the production and consumption of commodity goods. Such an act of resistance requires enormous intentionality and communal reinforcement amid the barrage of seductive pressures from the insatiable insistences of the market, with its intrusion into every part of our life from the family to the national budget … Continue reading “Advent Meditation: Sabbath As Resistance …”

Blessing Prayer: For One Who Is Exhausted (Evening Prayer) …

Maybe it’s not about having a beautiful day, but about finding beautiful moments. Maybe a whole day is just too much to ask. I could choose to believe that in every day, in all things, no matter how dark and ugly, there are shards of beauty if I look for them.
— Anna White from Mended: Thoughts on Life, Love, and Leaps of Faith

 

For One Who Is Exhausted — A Blessing

When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight.

The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will. Continue reading “Blessing Prayer: For One Who Is Exhausted (Evening Prayer) …”

Desert Day 41: Be Still, My Restless Soul …

Something stirred from deep within. I felt it knocking, begging to be acknowledged and released. I could not put a name to it, but something felt awakened after a long period of dormancy. In truth, this gnawing sensation had been building for more than a year, but on the levee that day, I grappled with this powerful presence at work in me. I had no words for the hunger that was asking me for more. All I could do was attempt to be still and acknowledge its existence. Continue reading “Desert Day 41: Be Still, My Restless Soul …”