LOVE

Alas…another entry that went  unposted last month.  A great topic, regardless.

Fourth Sunday of Advent: LOVE

 I just feel love…I practice taking others’ anger, suspicion, distrust and give them patience, tolerance, and compassion. ~Dali Lama

Those were the inspiring words of the Dalai Lama from a delightful interview with John Oliver from Last Week Tonight which I share below. ( A must watch, if  I do say so myself.)

In his words, I could hear echoes of Jesus calling for us to love and pray for our enemies (Matt. 5:43-48) and of the Apostle Paul who said “bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not” (Romans 12:14).

In college I was convinced the world religions had nothing in common. Clearly, I had not met the mystics.

Here are  some of the voices of mystics  over the ages that have spoken of love:

“In the end these things matter most:
How well did you love?
How fully did you live?
How deeply did you let go?” 
― Gautama Buddha,  563 B.C.- 483 B.C.

“Bringing joy to one heart with love is better than one thousand repetitive prayer reciting.”

―Sufi Proverb

“Love abounds in all things, excels from the depths to beyond the stars, is lovingly disposed to all things. She has given the king on high the kiss of peace.” 

― Hildegard of Bingen, 1098 – 1179

“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.”
― Jalaluddin Rumi, 1207-1273

“Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love, for they enkindle and melt the soul.” 

―Teresa of Avila, 1515-1582

“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.” 

― Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1906-1945

 

Love is a powerful emotion, not to be underestimated.

Make LOVE the primary gift you offer to others in this time of giving and in every season.

 

 

Ah Joy!

Better late than never! Here is a reflection I tended for the 3rd week of Advent–Joy.

Ah Joy.  And Sadness.  Two of my best emotional friends.

Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley, knocked it out of the park when they wrote the screen play to Inside Out (2015), a not-so-childish animation that tells the tale of Riley, a young girl who is grieving the move her family has made from the Midwest to San Francisco.  Surprisingly the primary characters of this film are her Emotions–Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear, and Sadness–who guide her every thought and action.

Joy and Sadness from Pixar’s movie, Inside Out

What I love most about the       back-story of this movie, is that the character Sadness wasn’t originally a main character.  In his interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air in July of 2015, writer and director Pete Docter shared that Joy, the main character, had originally been paired up with Fear. But after 3 years of working on the film the story line was stuck.  It wasn’t until Sadness came to the forefront, that the story of happiness returning to Riley’s life could unfold.

Sadness, you see, taught Joy that in certain times that Riley remembered being happy, it was a memory that followed  a sad time.  Riley needed to grieve her loss in order to make room for new times of joy.

The holidays can bring much sadness for people. But if they should look deeper, they may find that in many cases they are grieving the loss of joy.

Kahlil Gibran  wrote in his book The Prophet,

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

May any sorrow we may experience this Advent season teach us all the more about joy.

An Unexpected Advent Peace

It has been a busy few weeks.

Although my Advent writing was set aside, replaced with sickness and stress,  my soul was hard at work.

Let me explain.

Over two years ago, in a moment of absent mindedness, I ran a red light.  There isn’t a day that goes by that I do not thank God I didn’t strike a pedestrian.  I did, however, t-bone another car in that intersection.

It was an awful day.

Life moved on until I was served papers late this summer.  It was a lawsuit filed by the driver of the other car.  I was even more shocked a few months later when I received notice of my scheduled deposition and court date.

And what did this person of faith do?  

I panicked.

And I stressed.

And I conjured up deposition nightmares.

As the day got closer, I became extremely nervous.

I couldn’t eat. I struggled to concentrate at work.  And the cold I was fighting burrowed in for the long haul with a cough that kept me up at night and exhaustion which loitered in the day.

By Tuesday, two days before the deposition, I was a wreck. (I’m notorious for worst-case scenario thinking!)

And that’s when it dawned on me.

In the midst of the stress, panic, and worry had forgotten to trust in God.  I had forgotten the power of prayer.

Yep.  Even clergy forget the basics.

So I began to pray.  

I prayed for the plaintiff that she might be healed–body, mind and spirit.

I prayed for her lawyer and mine that their work might be fulfilling and travel, safe.

I prayed for the staff at the law firm that have been so kind.

And yes, I prayed for my own serenity and acceptance of the situation.

I was greeted Wednesday morning with a peace that truly surpassed all understanding.  My trust in God, restored.

My awareness had been turned outward–others have traveled and survived far rougher terrain– and it had been turned inward–I was being given the opportunity to apology to a stranger whose life also shifted that Fall day two years ago.

My deposition the next day blessed me in more ways than I could have imagined.

The second week of Advent has come and gone, but it’s message of Peace remains in my heart and for this I give thanks!

In your own times of trouble, remember to trust your Higher Power and to always ground yourself in prayer.

Take time today to meditate on these words from Philippians 4:4-7:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.  Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

 Peace unto you, my friends, today and everyday.

 

 

 

From Suffering to Hope

You’ve been there.  I’m there right now.

It’s those times when the pressures in life are emotionally crushing, spiritually draining, and physically exhausting.  To make matters worse, a relief from the suffering seems distant and hope, sadly, isn’t even on the horizon.

The Apostle Paul speaks to the community of believers in Rome about the transitional steps from hardship to hope in Romans 5:1-5. He encourages them to “glory” in their suffering  because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” 

I love the way Eugene Peterson translates this same text into contemporay language:

There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

That last line reminds me of a beautiful phrase I was given by a friend just this evening, “I am blessed beyond my comprehension.”

I’m carrying quite a bit of anxiety right now, but if I can focus on God’s gracious power to remove suffering and transform it into hope, I know I will survive this time and more than that, I will sing praises and rise above!

May you rise as well!

HOPE

HOPE.

This week, the first week of Advent, HOPE is our focus as we consider as Christians how our faith stirs hope within us.

This is the time of year, however, when that word is often plugged into sentences that have more to do with the pressures the Holidays than the hope that can be found in the Advent Season.

hope I can find something for everyone on my list.  

 I hope the mall traffic isn’t horrendous.

I hope I don’t go into too much debt again this Christmas.

I hope the drinking doesn’t get out of hand this year.

I hope there isn’t too much family feuding.

I hope no one mentions our recent loss.

I hope the depression or loneliness isn’t too severe.

Whatever is anxiously bubbling up for you this time of year, consider these words from Romans 15:13:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.   

My friends, do not allow the frenzy of this Holiday Season to distract you from the Holy Season of Advent.

Let your focus be on the joy and peace that comes not only in following Christ, but in trusting that the God of hope is at work in our lives.  No matter the struggles, no matter the despair that can rise up in the dark winter days or when you’re not sure how you’ll afford Christmas or when family tensions are rising, remember that God does not forget nor forsake us.

This Advent may we witness hope being transformed into peace between family members, neighbors, and countries. May we fashion with God’s help a hope that comes in the form of courageous and creative change to dire situations. In this Holy Season and every season, may we plant seeds of hope in the hearts of the downtrodden and feel it overflowing from our very own souls.