The Bread of Angels

Communion bread and wine My husband who bakes wonderful bread says when we have friends over to dinner serve them plenty of good bread and wine and they’ll be happy. He’s right. Fresh bread is a treat. And wine is always welcome too.

It’s no coincidence bread and wine are the very substances Jesus told people to eat and drink in memory of him. When we enjoy good food with friends and family, it is a celebration of life.

That’s what being a follower of Jesus is about. Abundant life.

Communion in churches is a ritual where people drink wine to represent the blood of Christ, and eat bread to represent the body of Christ.

Communion is a physical taste of a spiritual reality, the one Jesus instituted during his last supper before he was murdered on a cross by people interested in power, not anyone’s spiritual health. To eat the bread and drink the wine in memory of Jesus is a potent ritual, a way to remember not only a sacrificial act, but also the many teachings of Christ about a spiritual reality which frees people from forms of slavery–emotional, cultural, psychological, and spiritual.

Bread is an amazing substance that starts as a tasteless powder (flour), but add a little salt (of life), and yeast (of growth), and what do you have: the bread of angels.

It’s no wonder Saint Thomas Aquinas who is one of the saints of the church, a brilliant theologian, philosopher, priest and friar from the 13th century, included Panis Angelicus in his hymn Sacris solemniis.

***

Listen to Chloe Agnew or Andrea Bocelli sing ”Panis Angelicus”

Latin Panis Angelicus fit panis hominum Dat panis coelicus figuris terminum O res mirabilis! Manducat Dominum Pauper, pauper, servus et humilis Pauper, pauper, servus et humilis

English The angel’s bread becomes the bread of men The heavenly bread ends all symbols Oh, miraculous thing! The body of the Lord will nourish The poor, poor, and humble servant The poor, poor, and humble servant

I love this particular piece of music because it is, well, heavenly.

And here’s another rendition sung by another famous Italian and a famous Englishman.

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The Road Ahead

 

Roads

Inspired by Exodus 17:1-7

On my drive along Interstate 64 I saw ahead of me was an oversized load with one of those accompanying pickup trucks that block the lane so you can’t pass on the bridges or narrow areas on the road. Sitting on the tractor trailer was a huge dark building swaying ominously. Even when the driver kept his rig well over on the right side of the highway, there was very little room to get around him. I got in the left lane but I didn’t have the confidence to zip on past. At last, I pulled in behind him, so that other drivers, braver and more confident than I, could get through.

Since I’ve come this way many times before, I knew before long we’d all be in a construction zone. Road Construction

I was well aware that the lanes would narrow and the chances of getting by this oversized vehicle would be nil. I felt sorry for all cars that got trapped behind that oversized load. Not one managed to get past. The construction only lasted a couple of miles before I had to get off on my exit . So, going slow, 50 or so, didn’t worry me. I was in no hurry.

It’s great when you can anticipate the road ahead, but that doesn’t happen very often.

Take the Hebrews freed from bondage in Egypt—they courageously left behind slavery, but here they were in the desert thirsty and upset, wishing they’d never left. There was no going back. The waters of the Red Sea had closed behind them. They had no understanding of what was to come, and this Promised Land wasn’t looking too promising. They were so angry, they felt like stoning their leader, Moses. Can you blame them for feeling betrayed—had they been freed so that they would die of thirst in a barren land?

Sometimes life feels that way. We are going along merrily enough expecting the best, but we don’t get what we’d bargained for. Instead we get that late night phone call that not only upsets all our plans, but causes us to despair for someone we love. It happens so fast.

How can we trust the flow of life when it puts obstacles in our path and tests our ability to proceed safely?

We simply do not know what is coming.

We do not know the road ahead.

In the Old Testament reading, the people mistrust Moses, and they mistrust God.  Yet they surely remember how Moses got them out of Egypt and how Moses led them through the Red Sea. They were accompanied by the pillar of cloud during the day and the pillar of fire at night letting them know God was there for them, showing them the way.

But then they come to this water-well where they are expecting water to quench their thirst. It must be dry out there in the desert. And hot. Their feet hurt. Their mouths are parched. The well is dry. They become so angry that Moses is worried they might stone him, and he appeals to God for help.

Moses trusts God. His life has demonstrated, even in the most difficult moments, that God will bring about positive results. After all, he was a baby who almost got killed by the Pharaoh, yet was rescued by a princess. He killed a man and had to flee from Egypt, but God showed him the way back, and turned him into a leader. He became the voice of God to his people and is leading them towards the promised land. Now, God uses him to bring water out of a rock.

The Hebrews in the desert received water to quench their physical thirst, and that was important as surely as it is important for all people to have enough to drink and eat, but life is about more than merely satisfying physical yearnings. Once our basic needs are met, we begin to need something more.

We seek and need love, and frequently we equate love with physical pleasure, with sex. Think about how advertisers use sex to sell products. Cars + sexy women + strong handsome men. What does that say? Viagara with the two old people in tubs looking smugly out to sea? Sex = love, we are told, and if we have that, we will be satisfied.

This is a common human misunderstanding. In the Bible in the gospel of John, there is a deep and remarkable story about a Samaritan Woman. She has lived with several guys, but her promiscuity has not quenched her deeper yearnings. Instead, she’s gotten herself off track from her family and her community. They won’t talk to her and they avoid her. She has disgraced them by her behavior.

You might say the Hebrews’ anger is disgraceful too given all that God has already done for them.

But God doesn’t give up on them. Water, at Moses’ command, flows from a rock for them.

When we come to the New Testament, there is another water well in another land, the land of Samaria, where respectable Jewish people did not go. Good Jews would rather go a thousand miles out of their way.

But Jesus, this very Jewish man, does not go around Samaria. Instead, he walks through it and stops for a drink of water. This well unlike the well in the story about Moses and the people is not dry. It contains plenty of water.

The Samaritan woman is at the well by herself. Normally, women would be chatting with one another, talking about their kids, what they were going to cook for dinner, the latest gossip. But not this woman. She’s all alone with her water jar balanced on her head.

When Jesus, this Jewish guy, asks her for a drink, she becomes aggressive. She has deep emotional wounds. Her people don’t hang out with her, and now this Jewish guy, who according to all she’s ever heard about Jews, thinks he’s better than her, is telling her about living water. She is as angry as those Hebrews not because she lacks water. But because her life is dry and lonesome.

Jesus engages her in a conversation. She is probably surprised and shocked any man is willing to talk to her, and listen to her, any man who isn’t after something from her.

Jesus reaches her right where she lives. In her abandonment, in her loneliness, and in her anger.

Jesus successfully becomes living water for her right there at the well. His inclusion, his willingness to be present for her quenches her thirst. She is alive again.

The Hebrews in the desert received water to quench their physical thirst, but Jesus gives spirit and truth to renew emotional and spiritual life.

Jesus always fills us with what we need. He comes into our lives to relieve suffering, and to give us the means to become whole. Healed. Free. Community-minded.

We attend churches to be refreshed, to taste and see God.

We attend to be renewed, in the spirit and truth of Jesus Christ

Through our continuing awareness of Christ, as we quench our thirst for what gives everlasting life, we increase our trust in the God of compassion, power, strength, and forbearance.

We come to understand the importance of other people as equally loved by God, even the angry Hebrews who had it in their minds to stone Moses, even the Samaritan woman whose promiscuity has isolated her just as surely as drug addiction, alcoholism, food addiction, poverty and disease isolate us from one another.

We come to be reminded, who we are and whose we are, and that we are people with eternal hope, people who can trust the road ahead even when we can’t quite see where it leads because we know God is with us and will never leave us on the broken highways of our lives, but will restore and refresh us and bring us through all the ominous burdens that hold us back.

***

Listen and dance for joy–trusting in God, in the process, in the Mystery, leading you through the wilderness times with a heart of help, and even when you don’t feel as if there is much hope, fear not…

New Swahili Gospel music 2014 Saido The Worshiper Ni Wewe Tu Bwana  

The choir at Bates Memorial sang an upbeat Swahili anthem today: Yes, Jesus is My Savior

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szFWoi9nQQ4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLVHllx5VmQ

 

Charge: Go into the world trusting the mind of Christ is in you and the Spirit of Christ is with you.

Blessing: May you be blessed by the love of God protecting and preparing you for the road ahead.

 

Posted in Blogs for the Soul, Miscellaneous, My novels and writings, Spiritual Practices, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Armstrongs

  Television Interview with Christina St Clair

I wonder if it is merely coincidence that the name of the local TV network, who interviewed me for a show called Chapters, is Armstrong which is the name of my co-author for Ten Yen True (TYT), Amanda Armstrong.

Carl Jung, the eminent dream psychologist, coined the term synchronicity about psychic/physical phenomena.  Apparently he noticed one of his patients dreamed about a Scarab beetle, and in their session, an actual beetle appeared. This beetle was a focal point for Jung to help his patient understand something new and free her from a neurosis about death.

Synchronicity, therefore, is a physical phenomena, that manifests in response to a psychic need/desire/intention. My psychic intention and prayer is for my books to find wide readership.

And this television interview was a generous invitation from another writer/professor/media guy, Eliot Parker. It is a physical manifestation of my hope and dream, but more than that, the interview has gone live just as my prequel Ten Yen, has been published.

And the prequel was in answer to David Armstrong’s wish to know just why the monk in TYT became a monk.   So if you want to know what makes a man enter a monastery, and you like Japanese lore, and are interested in what happens to defeated people (or at least what happened to the Japanese after WW II) read Ten Yen–you might enjoy finding out about Amaya and Joumi…

Guess who the beautiful couple in the photo are? They are strong giving people…with an interesting surname of excellent lineage.  Read about their name origin

Posted in Books by Christina St Clair, Miscellaneous, My novels and writings, Ten Yen, Ten Yen True | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Ring the Bells for World Peace

  Cathedral Bells of CadizCathedral Bells of Cadiz

Italian Church Bells playing Ave Maria di Lourdes 

Campane di Mergoscia – Ave Maria di Lourdes

Soul Blog inspired by Isaiah 40: 3-5, 28b-31 and Philippians 4: 1- 8 (NIV)

 

Every Sunday bells chime in churches to call people to worship.

Bells were introduced into Christian churches around 400 AD but not adopted on a wide scale until 550, when they were introduced into France and Italy before spreading to Great Britain by monks.

250 years later the Archbishop of York ordered all priests to toll their bell at certain times.

In the Middle Ages, bells were thought to have supernatural powers. During the 7th century it is said that the Bishop of Aurelia rang the bells to warn people of an attack. When the enemy heard them, they were said to have fled in fear. The people credited the bells with having saved them. In a world with little man made noise, the sound of bells was not only majestic, but could be deeply fearful.

Today bells are chiming all over the world, a musical cry for something more, something deeper, something greater than our ordinary lives, something that will move us into a world of peace where swords are beaten into plowshares, where spears become pruning hooks.

This is World Peace Sunday which has been observed for 33 years since September 21 1981 when it was established by the United Nations General Assembly and declared as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. In 2001 the General Assembly of the UN voted unanimously to adopt a resolution establishing this day, 21 September as an annual day of non-violence and cease- fire.

How desperately all the nations, from time immemorial, need to honor such a resolution, not just for one day, but for all our days.

During WW II, the number of people who were killed is almost beyond belief:

The United States:  407,000 military and 6000 civilians
Poland: 597,000 military, and 6 million civilians
France: 245, 000 military, and 350,000 civilians
Italy: 380,000 military, and 153,000 civilians
Germany: 3.25 million military and 2.44 million civilians
Great Britain: 403,000 military, and almost 93,000 civilians

In all the nations, almost 48 million people were killed during WW II.
48 million people.
That is twenty times the current population of West Virginia.

In Great Britain, the church bells after the Battle of Dunkirk when English troops were trapped on the shores of France and being slaughtered, the Church bells were silenced. They stopped ringing out of respect, and perhaps also as a silent cry to God to end the deaths, the destruction, the anger, and the planting of seeds of hatred that might never be put to rest.

Today’s World Peace Theme is the “Rights of Peoples to Peace”

Do we have anything to celebrate in the 21st.century? Have we human beings gotten any better in this century which is less than 14 years old?

While I could not find any statistics on all the people killed because of war, or displaced, or maimed, or bereaved, plenty of people are still suffering…

40, 000 people died in 2001-: during Afghanistan’s liberation war – USA & UK vs Taliban
In Nigeria 1700 people were killed Nigeria vs Boko Haram 2002-
Cote d’Ivoire’s civil war: 1,000
2003-11: Second Iraq-USA war – USA, UK and Australia vs Saddam Hussein’s regime and Shiite squads and Sunni extremists: 160,000
2003-09: Sudan vs JEM/Darfur 300,000
2012-: Syria’s civil war 130,000

And on it goes

We are all keenly aware of the needs for an end to wars. We often feel helpless about the atrocities we hear and see on the news and in the media.

A friend of mine, in a discussion about Isil, the terrorist group in Syria and Iraq, who have not only beheaded innocent journalists and an aid worker, but have raped, murdered, subjugated and gone on a rampage of evil, she said, “Come, Lord Jesus, come!”

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

We so need to be grounded in a spiritual reality that helps us become the peacemakers and that reality is only found in relationship with God.

Did you know the prophet Isaiah was considered by scholars to actually be two prophets, and his prophecies are divided into two categories.

Prophecies by the way are not predictions about the future, but are judgments against the people during a particular period in history. These judgments are delivered often at the peril of the prophet.

First Isaiah spoke a lot about the wrong doings, not of the ordinary folks, but of the elite system of oppression that had arisen again. The Hebrews who’d been freed by God from slavery under Pharaoh, had the opportunity to become a nation ruled by God, ruled by compassion, a nation that promoted social justice for all, but what happened was an elite governing group got power and abused the people, enriching themselves and doing nothing for the poor, except extracting payment and keeping them subjugated. The great nation, Israel, that was to be a reign under God became no better than the reign of the Pharaoh who enslaved the people.

First Isaiah spoke vehemently against the social injustice–he was the mouth of God, and he got in a lot of trouble for it. But ultimately his prophecies were borne out. The new nation was conquered by Babylon and the people were scattered, defeated, slaves once again.

Second Isaiah arose and brought words of hope to the scattered and oppressed remnant, calling them back to their homeland.

In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,

Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be lifted up,

And every mountain and hill be made low;

The uneven ground shall become level,

And the rough places plain.

Here is a new message from this Prophet, a message intended to energize the people, to encourage them to return into the presence of God, which for them was a return to Israel. They had to travel 1000 miles across the wilderness to get there. But get there they did, and they rebuilt the Temple that had been destroyed by the Babylonians. It was not as grand as the Temple built by King Solomon, but it was solid and it would last for a very long time.

We too must sound the call, hear the prophecy of a return to God, a return to churches with relevant messages for today, with a sense of the sacred, the sacred so much greater than ourselves.

Two years after the church bells of England were silenced they began to peal again because of the victory at El Alamein, and when the war ended in Europe, the celebration chimed forth.

But that is not enough. That was not a return of the exile to God.

That was a temporary lull.

We must ring the bells again. Loudly., so that every chime is the chime of the sacred, the chime of MORE, the chime of hope.

Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The Lord is an everlasting God,

The Creator of the ends of the earth.

God does not faint or grow weary.

God gives power to the faint,

And strengthens the powerless.

Even youths will faint and be weary,

And the young will fall exhausted;

But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,

They shall mount up with wings like eagles,

They shall run and not be weary,

They shall walk and not be faint.

 ***

Pray with Many Others

 Great God, who has told us
“Vengeance is mine,”
save us from ourselves,
save us from vengeance in our hearts
and the acid in our souls.

Save us from our desire to hurt as we have been hurt,
to punish as we have been punished,
to terrorize as we have been terrorized.

Give us the strength it takes
to listen rather than to judge,
to trust rather than to fear,
to try again and again
to make peace even when peace eludes us.

We ask, O God, for the grace
to be our best selves.

We ask for the vision
to be builders of the human community
rather than its destroyers.

We ask for the humility as a people
to understand the fears and hopes of other peoples.

We ask for the love it takes
to bequeath to the children of the world to come
more than the failures of our own making.

We ask for the love it takes
to care for all the peoples
of Afghanistan and Iraq, or Palestine and Israel
as well as for ourselves.

Give us depth of soul, O God,
to constrain our might,
to resist the temptation of power,
to refuse to attack the attackable,
to understand
that vengeance begets violence,
and to bring peace – not war – wherever we go.

For You, O God, have been merciful to us.
For You, O God, have been patient with us.
For You, O God, have been gracious to us.

And so may we be merciful
and patient
and gracious
and trusting
with these others whom you also love.

This we ask through Jesus,
the one without vengeance in his heart.
This we ask forever and ever. Amen!
by Sister Joan D. Chittister, O.S.B.

Sacred Bell (Bon-sho)

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Ken and Barbie

male

Driving in this little town I want to call home.
I see a man, with startling eyes,
Heading towards midtown Kroger’s.
I wish I could love him, but I don’t.
I prefer the tattoos he no doubt oozes from his very pores,
Explanations, perhaps, that he is important.

He might be.

I hope he is important, does not need to shout to the media his next
Aborted terrorist attack on the local high schools, who did not love him.
Enough.

I see his eyes beneath his narrowed lids, glaring, dry.
So I do my best to understand this male whose angular face, whose spindly arms
Sprouting muscles condemn,
Try to convince me he is tough, good, right
And not a criminal

He does not need my forgiveness.

Which is just as well.
I am not convinced.

A woman, I notice, and cannot not notice,
Is sprouting blond hair, and has eyes of an Egyptian queen.
Barbie
She is an ancient Barbie
Not all tits and sweetness,
But power, invincible, incredible.
Or perhaps, if she could fathom the depths of her heart, that would be her wish.

I don’t feel very pretty these days, these years of decline,
when I am not Barbie and never was.
Those Egyptian eyes. The eyeliner perfectly applied.

Now perhaps I would welcome plastic breasts, stretched face,
And splotched them into an early grave,

And yet,

And yet,

Who will eradicate the lines etched upon my

Ancient face?

wrinkle

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This Is No Joke

 

 

No joke!

soul blog inspired by Matthew 18:21-35 

Psalms103: 3 says He pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills

Isn’t that wonderful to hear how God is going to take care of us?

Yet this is not going to happen without effort.

The ancient Hebrews had to flee from slavery. It took courage to leave the unknown for who knew what. It took faith. It probably also took desperation. They had nowhere to go but up. Yet, when they did get away there were time that they looked back. There were times they made mistakes. There were times that they did not accept the holy power of God. They had seen and experienced the Red Sea open. They had seen the enemy defeated. They had heard the cries of the defeated. They had smelled the fear. They had been given freedom. Problem was they still carried with them many of their old ways of thinking.

Problem with all of us is that we are called to something new in God, but we don’t want to let go of the past. We just aren’t sure that it is going to really be better. Often, times of transition are fraught with discomfort. It doesn’t feel good so we want to go back to our old ways even though they enslaved us. We want to go back, because at least that was certain. It was painful, but it was definite and certain.

Now we are called in faith to trust the unknown, to trust God is there in the unknown. So we’d better get to know God. It’s hard to trust someone you don’t know very well. What if he is an evil tyrant? What if it’s only sheer luck that we haven’t been wiped out because we live on the wrong side of the tracks, or are the wrong nationality, or support the wrong political party?

One of the ways we get to know God is by understanding what Jesus teaches. Forgive seventy times seven, Jesus says. That is pretty clear, don’t you think?

We are to forgive, and then that nasty person does again to us something we resent, but we are to forgive it again, and again.

We are not necessarily to reconcile with them. We aren’t to go back with them. We aren’t to go back to a life of slavery no matter what form it takes.

The ancient Hebrews, if they’d been in a covenant with Jesus’ teaching, would have known that they were to forgive the Egyptians for making them slaves and abusing them. They had to make bricks and work hours and hours day and night. Their children could be killed and there was nothing they could do about it. They need to forgive these awful crimes against them. But God doesn’t say, “go on back and make nice with them.” No. God wipes out their pursuers. God frees them to move on to something else.

So Jesus tells us to forgive and forgive and forgive.

Forgiveness frees us not the enemy.

After Jesus tells us about forgiving sins, he tells something troubling.

The kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. This is judgment. As the King began to settle up with the people in debt to him, a man came who owed him ten thousand talents.

Think of it like this, the IRS decides to do an audit. Or the probation officer decides to pay you a visit. Or your aunt, who is married to the Godfather Mafioso, who lent you a whole lot of money which you haven’t paid back says she wants to come to visit.

You owe 10,000 talents. This would be like owing what the Enron executives stole from their employees. Millions and millions of dollars.

So here is the king, someone with authority over you, and he says: give me what you owe me.

You stare at the floor because you don’t have the money.

The king orders you and your family sold into slavery, or back into jail. In a last-ditch effort, you beg the king to give you time to repay the loan. Surprisingly, the king forgives this massive debt “out of compassion.” If the parable Jesus tells ended here, it would be a wonderful story of God’s limitless compassion and forgiveness.

We’d all be saying, see, God forgives, and that’s that. But that isn’t that.

The Parable continues. Jesus tells us that the forgiven debtor rushes out to tell his family of the good news, only to run into “a fellow servant,” who owed him “a much smaller amount” (literally, 100 denarii, roughly a third of a year’s wage). Jesus just said we are to forgive and forgive and forgive, and didn’t this person just receive forgiveness. Wouldn’t he have figured out the importance of being able to let a debt go? But no. The person who was the biggest sinner in the world. The person who owes the most, grabs this little guy who owes him a trifle, grabs him by the throat and throws him into debtor’s prison.

When you were young and stupid, you slashed someone’s tires. You thought it was funny at the time. When you were caught and nearly had to go to jail, you got scared. But someone posted bail for you, and you got out, and you swore you’d never do it again. You weren’t actually convicted in your heart. It was really that you’d gotten caught that made you act contrite. So here you are, now 45 years old, and you have a brand new car with white wall tires. One day you come out of the house with your shammie to polish your beautiful car, and you catch the neighbor kid letting his dog do something heinous on your flashy wheels. It is only PEE! But you get a big stick and are going to beat the kid to a pulp. Fortunately, someone stops you. Where is your mercy? You received mercy when you were young? How come you can’t offer it now?

Part of the problem is that you didn’t really care about what you did. You didn’t face the enormity of your debt.

We rarely admit the enormity of what we owe God—our very life and breath. You hadn’t really asked for forgiveness, but you took it because it was there and it was free. It cost you nothing.

We are always doing that to God—accepting the Mercy that is offered to us unconditionally, but not actually changing a thing about the way we live, or think, or act.

Then, one day, we are confronted with our own bad behavior done to us, and we get mean. Jesus teaches Peter and us, “So my heavenly father will do to you unless each of you forgives his brother [or sister] from his heart.”

What is called for is a totally new way of viewing the world, metanoia (Mt. 4:17), a change of heart. The God who comes to expression in Matthew’s parables desires “mercy, not sacrifice” (Hos. 6:6, see Mt. 9:13; 12:7) and summons people to be forgiving because they have experienced forgiveness.

If you are a slave, then you are suffering. If you are suffering, then you are a slave.

It is only through the love and compassion of Christ that we are freed from the enormity of our suffering. We are freed to lead a life, not without difficulty, but one that is moving us into a place of “peace” that surpasses all understanding. WE are freed to become the love of God in the world. WE are freed to end the suffering of other people, because we forgive them, and when we forgive them, we experience freedom too, we are unbound from the ropes and chains that tie us down and keep us burdened.

Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. This is no joke.

***

When we are betrayed, it hurts, and yet the answer is not in revenge, but in forgiveness.

Audra McLaughlin: “Forgive” (The Voice Highlight)    contemporary

Yoel Ben Simhon – Forgiveness Hymns (El nora alila)  

Including traditional Moroccan hymn

I dream back
To distant childhood memories
At the synagogue in Kiryat-Gat
Atonement day; shimmering hymns
Grandpa Mimon goes to pray
Grandma Sultana at the kerosene stove
Toils over the last meal before the fast
With a melody wrapped in holy scents

Soulful chants fill the sanctuary
The glorious scrolls infused with incense and snuff
On this day of forgiveness
There is no respite from its endlessness
Wishing the minutes away
Insufferable tension, awaiting
To sing out loud the soul-saving hymn

Moroccan Hymn: Oh God who is majestic, oh God who is majestic,
Grant us forgiveness at the time of the closing
hour

El Nora Alila    Beautiful and haunting–

Forgiveness- Matthew West- Lyrics  

 

 

 

 

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Bad Hair Days and God

dogbadhair

 Blog inspired by John: 12: 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume (NIV John 12: 3).

No woman in the world would use her hair to wipe up grease, would she? Mary’s hair was long and glorious, her pride and joy. She poured a very expensive liquid, not quite like fuel oil, but something equally thick and tangy, onto the feet of Jesus. This expensive oil must have run all over the ground. Mary threw herself down. On her knees, head bowed, she wiped up the grease with her hair. Why did she do it? To make Jesus notice her? To straighten her hair once and for all?

I went to the hairdresser for a new style because I was having a “bad hair day.” I came out of the salon very pleased with my shiny smooth tresses. If only this straight hair had lasted, but after a wash, it turned into frizz. Nothing I did, not the spray, not the mousse, not the gel, not the Aussie shine serum, not the straightening iron restored it to its hairdresser prettiness.

When I was a girl, I was convinced that my hair was without curls. I later saw photos of myself as a teenager, and to my surprise, my hair used to be wavy. Often, we are unrealistic about how we view ourselves. Often we think we are okay and not in need of anything in particular. We certainly don’t think we have spiritual kinks. When we are children, our parents and the people around us teach us values. If we are lucky, we are loved and the values we internalize will be straight and narrow. We might well be honest, generous, kind and hardworking. That doesn’t sound too twisted, does it? But what if we are also greedy, self-centered and mean to small animals? How do we actually grow beyond what are often ingrained behaviors and ingrained ways of thinking? How do we influence Shiites to live harmoniously with Sunnis, Palestinians to get along with Israelis, Aunt Betty to take back her estranged oldest daughter?

There are many places we can seek understanding about life’s mysteries. The church is one such place. The church, however, has sometimes done as much harm as good. Think inquisition. Think the Crusades. Think of exclusionary statements such as “you can not be a member because you are living with someone who is not your legal married partner” or “you cannot be a member because you refuse to believe that the mother of Jesus was a virgin.” Yet, from the church, goodness has also arisen. Hospitals and schools have been opened. The poor have been fed. The destitute and abandoned have found inclusion. Blankets are distributed to displaced peoples. A very long list exists of positive actions from Christian people who have turned their lives over to a spiritual reality beyond the worldly notion of self-gain.

When we begin to grow spiritually by choosing selflessness, the impulse arises from some deep resource. Although GI Sue and GI Joe might well have joined the military out of need (poverty, scant opportunity, lack of self-esteem and so on), when she (or he) takes the shrapnel for her friend, she is doing more than what we normally expect from any person. Her limbs might be shattered, but her action of self-giving beyond her need for physical well-being, is the path to spiritual wholeness. In other words, wholeness results from acting in accordance with holy principles. It is the result of holy living.

Consider Betty Williams in Northern Ireland. In agony over the bloody death of a little neighbor girl whose legs had been blown across the street by an IRA bomb, she could not sleep. She could not get the terrible image of that innocent child’s dead body out of her mind. It might have been easier to stay home and get drunk, but something greater than herself motivated her to go into the streets and bash on front doors. “Is this,” she screamed, “what we are teaching our children?” Can’t you hear that cry? “Is this what we are teaching our children: death and revenge and a thousand years of hate, and an endless cycle of violent oppression?” Betty began a peace movement that has ended years of angry separation between the people of Northern Ireland.

Grand acts such as those of heroic soldiers and courageous women are not the norm of the spiritual life. Most of us must take small steps towards spiritual wholeness. Every time a person is able to rise above negative behavior, such as refusing to worry about the future, or not telling someone else a juicy piece of gossip, then he or she is acting in accordance and in unity with God. Our bad habits, though, do not simply disappear. We invariably need spiritual help. By learning and practicing the teachings of Jesus, we eventually become spiritually one with Jesus, yoked to his life of holiness. Jesus, like our spiritual mother, gives us birth. Justice, strength, truth, fearlessness and concern for others will become our normal way of life. We will contain the heart of God and be contained within its universality. We will be able to give our all to and for God.

Mary willingly gave what she most prized to Jesus. Hair for women in ancient Hebrew culture was even more important than it is for modern women today. Hair was one of their most prized attributes. It not only made them sexy and alluring, it gave them value and prestige. Mary taught that we have to let go of the old ways we think are precious in order to serve Jesus. She taught us that this is joyful and not to be feared or denied. She taught us that it is okay to be spontaneous and generous with and for God. Did she gain anything from this encounter? Yes. Her love for Jesus freed her. Her focus on God prevented her from feeling embarrassed about being an unwelcome person at an exclusive party. Instead, Mary’s gift of oil demonstrated Jesus’ inclusion of women. In Hebrew culture, anointing with oil was a symbolic rite priests performed, reserved for royalty.

God is the only one who can and will straighten out our lives. We might be awed over a golden sunset, we might hear the rhythm of angels in the sweet song of the blackbird, we might experience the ultimate in physical union with another human being, but these beautiful moments are only the good hair days of life. They look and feel wonderful for a short while. They are holy moments from God for us to enjoy. They are the promise of something even better. To enter into the wholeness of God requires more than casual observation. It requires commitment. It requires a willingness to be rooted in holy practices such as prayer, meditation, worship, fellowship, and the study of sacred literature. The Bible is the sacred text of the West preserved by the Institutional Church. The Bible is a good place to begin the job of getting rid of spiritual kinks. It won’t be easy though. It’s kind of like weighing wavy hair down with heavy objects to smooth it out. Curls of resistance will pop back up, but eventually with a lot of effort, and grace, the reward is a fully engaged life bringing about peace everywhere, for everyone.

***

Jamie’s World–Bad Hair Day  laugh at yourself

Chakra Meditation Series 7th Chakra/Sahasrara using B Note Singing Bowls in HD love yourself through a ten minute meditation to open the crown chakra (at the top of the head)–the body’scenter of spiritual energy, God-energy, universal love and wholeness.

Contemplative Prayer Exercise: September 18    http://www.pray-as-you-go.org/home/

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Don’t Move Over, T.S.Eliot: a poem about an unknown flower

Tall Phlox late blooming

In its way, this flower on the wide walkway leading up to the sanctuary at Gethsemane, was breathtaking. Lonesome. Tall. Blossoms both pink, white, faded, gentle, and possibly fragrant. It garnered my attention because of its beauty, and though I am no poet, I later wrote this poem:

Carpenter

Yes indeed.
What could be more apt
Than to meet a carpenter
At a monastery?

On a walkway,
Where silence must be observed,
I stopped,
Enthralled
By a tall flower,
Wild or planted by a monk,
I could not tell.

I did not have a name for the flower,
Except tall, quiet.

Was it fragrant, I wondered,
Bending my nose to the tip
Of purple-pink petals?

A bee, a bumble bee, lay within the bee
Frock of blooms,
And so I hesitated,
Not wanting my nose stung.

I hesitated,
And I walked away
Up the steps to another sanctuary.
Built by monks.
Cool white bricks.
Silent place of morningsong.

I did not stay long.

I returned to the wide sweeping steps
Leading down,
To a sacristy of promise.
And I sat upon a step,
Looking out at the world
Of rolling hills, of scented grasses,
Of distant statuary,

Of a giant cross
With one wide swath of mowed grass
For the pilgrims to walk
And pay obeisance.

The flower, distant, not moving,

Sported the bee,
still,
And dead as dead a bee can be.

I wished he would move.

I wondered what had made him
Land in such a pretty font?
I wondered had he been sprayed
By a fearful allergic saint-to-be?

At last I walked slowly
Down the silent boardwalk
Of square cement tiles
Laid, by a monk, sore hands of practical prayer.

I stopped and sniffed the flower.
If it were fragrant, my nose could not tell.
The bee lay still and silent.

Gently, I touched his furry back.
He began to stir.
Legs,
proboscis,
wings
stretching…

Stay, I said. Don’t go.

This bee, so much smaller than a
Bumble bee, now I dared come close,
Was, I could tell, a carpenter bee

Who belonged in old trees,
Rotted attics,
Rafters,
And roofs,

But here he was, this Carpenter,
Choosing different,
Choosing more.

***

Spiritual Exercise: 10-15 minutes.

Choose a flower or a plant, a tree, a vine, something that grabs your attention.

Watch it for 15 minutes seeking a lesson from the plant…a word just to you, from God which is Mystery, through this particular manifestation of Spirit.

Humming Bees: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yjY1grrC3w

 

 

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Heron as Teacher

Great Blue Heron by Mike Baird

Philip bought me two Mary Oliver poetry books for my birthday. Why I Wake Early, and Dog Songs. I love them. They are spiritual refreshment, beautiful to read, and sweet to go to sleep with, giving me hope, reinforcing my sense of mystery and anchoring me in the ordinary which is extraordinary.

Whenever I see a blue heron, by breath is taken away in a sense of awe.

Mary Oliver’s poem catches the Mystery, simple, eloquent, full of hope and the joy of life:

Heron Rises From The Dark, Summer Pond

So heavy is the long-necked,
long-bodied heron,
always it is a surprise
when her smoke-colored wings

open
and she turns
from the thick water,
from the black sticks

of the summer pond,
and slowly rises
into the air
and is gone.

Then, not for the first or the last time,
I take the deep breath
of happiness, and I think
how unlikely it is

that death is a hole in the ground,
how improbable
that ascension is not possible,
though everything seems so inert, so nailed

back into itself–
the muskrat and his lumpy lodge,
the turtle,
the fallen gate.

And especially it is wonderful
that the summers are long
and the ponds so dark and so many,
and therefore it isn’t a miracle

but the common thing,
this decision,
this trailing of the long legs in the water,
this opening up of the heavy body

into a new life: see how the sudden
gray-blue sheets of her wings
strive toward the wind;
see how the clasp of nothing takes her in.

natural wild life heron the heron is a large species of bird that ...

***

spiritual practice

Laugh with a Blue  You tube by Katylynndean

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For Heaven’s Sake

The Kingdom of Heaven is Within You" by Swami Krishnananda

Inspired by Matthew 16:21-28

When Peter said, “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God,” he got it about Jesus. Right?

But here he is responding to Jesus who is trying to show the disciples he is facing suffering, death and resurrection. Peter takes Jesus aside and begins to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.”

“Get behind me, Satan,” Jesus responds.

The phrase, You are the Messiah, the son of the living God, is well-known. It reminds me of a student saying what they think their professor wants to hear.

Get behind me, Satan, also well-known, attributed to Jesus, always gets our attention.

We squirm. Is Jesus talking to us?It seems to me Jesus is probably fed up, feeling cranky and alone. He has spoken truth to power. He is well aware the Pharisees and Scribes are out to get him because he threatens their understanding, and their authority.

He knows they are going to kill him and it is going to be ugly. He also trusts God to raise him up into more abundant life. Maybe he snaps at Peter, Get behind me, Satan, because here is Peter, his companion and friend who seemed to understand, and now doesn’t. Perhaps Jesus is feeling isolated without a friend in the world who understands him fully.

Have you ever felt truly alone?

Perhaps you’ve been divorced.

Maybe someone you love has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Perhaps you’re a teenager whose best friend has thrown you over.

Or you have just gotten a horrible diagnosis with a frightening prognosis.

Maybe you are a mom or dad caring for little children, home all day alone, with no adult conversation.

Perhaps you are caring for someone who is ill.

Perhaps your beloved has died.

A preacher acquaintance of mine wears a ring from his deceased wife and he tells a poignant tale of the death-bed promise he made to her.

He is now in his eighties, still active, a tall, stately, handsome man who is intelligent and articulate. His wife has been dead for many years, but she has a strong grip on him. She made him promise to never remarry.

This faithful man kept that promise. When he told me about it, I felt such sorrow for him, and a little angry at the dead wife who was so possessive. I wondered what their lives might really have been like. He was coping okay but was clearly lonely.

When Jesus begins to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised, Peter does what we all want to do when we face our death or the death of a loved one. He tries to find a way to protect Jesus. He doesn’t want Jesus to suffer and he certainly doesn’t want him to be killed. He does not hear the part about Jesus being raised on the third day.

As human beings, it seems to me we should bless Peter for caring so much, for wanting to step in and offer protection, but Jesus will have none of it. “Get behind me, Satan!” He is exasperated with Peter. Perhaps in today’s language Jesus might say, “For heaven’s sake!”

Jesus wants everyone to understand the nature of divinity and to experience the presence of God in the here and now as well as trusting in an afterlife free from suffering, immersed in the energy of love, the wholeness of eternity.

So what does he, this man who is also God, this man who is completely plugged into Grace, this Jesus, what does he teach?

He says, For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

For my sake, for Christ’s sake carries with it deep meaning.

Jesus is going to die on the cross. We’ve heard endless times that his death “saves” us from our sins. Yet, even more important is the message of love, “I am going to lay down my life for you.”

So what can we do for Christ’s sake?

We can do nothing unless we are plugged into grace and understand that the true nature of divinity is not death, but love. The true nature of divinity is not crucifixion but resurrection.

How are we to lose our lives for Jesus’ sake?

Mother Teresa of Calcutta says, We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread, but there are many more dying for a little love.

Take Ruth, my mother-in-law, Philip’s mom. She was a woman of great faith which fed her ability to love others. Most of her life she worshipped in a Disciples of Christ church in Warren, Ohio.

Starting out when her children were tots, she took care of the little children in the nursery. She kept on working in the nursery for 40 years. 40 Years! What began out of love for her own children grew into love for the children of others.

Once she got older, she retired from the nursery and was finally able to spend her time in the sanctuary in Worship. She loved that.

Outside of the church, her life reflected how rooted she was in the holistic life of Christ.

She was a good mother, and raised 4 children. She was a good wife, preparing meals, keeping house, baking fresh bread every week for her husband, and o, her fruit pies were second to none.

As an older lady, she got a job at a hospital serving people their meals. She loved doing that, serving not only chicken and jello, but offering a kind word to ailing people.

Another Teresa, one of the saints of the church, Teresa of Avila says: All things must come to the soul from its roots, from where it is planted.

This is important. We cannot be what we are not.
In every human being lies a seed waiting to be watered to life. To be encouraged to pursue our interests, our talents, is life’s greatest gift. The people who encourage us never die to us; they live in us always for having made our own lives full.  Joan Chittester

Heaven is a state of being–it’s allowing the divine to guide our lives. Divine guidance might come in the form of dreams, prophecies and visions, but more likely it comes through the activities we most yearn for, and is found in the people who encourage us–realistically, but lovingly.

Peter is not misguided when he wants to protect Jesus from what is coming. He undoubtedly does not want to lose his teacher and friend, the man who has encouraged him to become so much more than he ever thought possible. His desire to keep Jesus safe arises out of love. Imagine how lonely he will feel without his best friend, Jesus.

Loneliness is so common. You can be in a crowd of people and feel a total disconnect.

I looked on the Internet for ways to combat loneliness. There were some good ideas about joining a group, taking a class, and so-on. All good ideas except they missed one thing. For Christ’s sake, for heaven’s sake, the antidote to loneliness, and the answer to life is to forget ourselves.

Babies, children and youth are by nature more self-centered. They need care and direction from adults. Alas not all adults, and in fact most adults, are not one hundred percent mature, free of issues. We are not perfect beings. Yet.

So where will we plant our feet in the holy ground of connectedness to life and to other people?

We all know heaven is not found in the accumulation of things, or power, or prestige, but is found in the open heart who gives himself or herself to God which simply means becoming a font of love, becoming the living water for others.

Not only did Ruth take care of the little ones, she also quilted, selling the quilts to raise money for the church. Sewing for her was practical, an art-form, and the basis of lasting and enriching community. Thus, she used her skills, doing something she enjoyed to help other people and to help her church.

When we say yes to Jesus and do our best to follow his teachings, out of our passions, our interests, coupled with love, immersed in the wisdom of Christ, the chains which bind us will be loosed and loneliness is bearable, and life is more abundant.

We are like Peter and would much rather protect ourselves and our loved ones from death. No one knows the hour or the time, but when we forget ourselves for Jesus’ sake, we enter the kingdom of heaven.

For heaven’s sake, on the third day, Jesus was raised, and we too will be raised into a radiant love beyond the boundaries of this life.

Spiritual Practice

be genuine in sharing your love, arising from the love of God.

share the joy of those who rejoice,

mingle your tears with those who weep.

welcome everyone, especially those who feel alone and afraid.

***

God is a term, a word, a name for an eternal process…

You are never alone.

Listen to sung psalms. so much wisdom in these poems, these inspired moments through, well, through us: Saint Paul Cathedral Choir: Psalm 121   

psalm 23 sung in Hebrew with English text

Psalm 23 (ဆာလံ ၂၃) – Cer Khun Sung (Akuk)  

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