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Archive for April, 2012

Henri Nouwen walked the road of peacemaking all his long life

The late Father Henri Nouwen, one of my Christian faith heroes, was a Catholic priest, professor and theologian, writer of many fine spiritual books, and advocate for the poor and disabled. In fact, he lived with the poor and disabled when he wasn’t teaching at Yale and Harvard and Notre Dame, and, for a while, at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology where I attended seminary.

Here’s a few quotable quotes culled from this great peacemaker’s book The Road to Peace, with some parts highlighted in bold type by yours truly for emphasis:

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“The coming again of Christ is his coming in judgment. The question that will sound through the heavens and earth will be that question that we always tend to remain deaf to . . . It is the question: ‘What have you done for the least of mine?’

“[the question] challenges us to look at our world agonized by wars and rumors of wars and to wonder if we have not fallen into the temptation to think that peace can be separated from justice. But why would there be wars if all the people had enough food, enough work, enough land?

“Why would there be so many guns, tanks, nuclear weapons, submarines, and other instruments of destruction if the world were not divided according to those who have the most, those who have more than enough, those who have just enough, those who have less than enough, and those who have the least?”

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“We cling to our false self in the hope that maybe more success, more praise, more satisfaction will give us the experience of being loved, which we crave. That is the fertile ground of bitterness, greed, violence and war.

“In prayer, however, again and again we discover that the love we are looking for has already been given to us and that we can come to the experience of that love. Prayer is entering into communion with the One who molded our being in our mother’s womb with love and only love. There, in the first love, lies our true self, a self not made up of the rejections and acceptances of those with whom we live, but solidly rooted in the One who called us into existence. In the house of God we were created. To that house we are called to return. Prayer is the act of returning.”

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“Constantly I find myself ‘making up my mind’ about somebody else: ‘He cannot be taken seriously. She is really just asking for attention. They are rabble-rousers who only want to cause trouble.’ These judgments are indeed a form of moral killing. I label my fellow human beings, categorize them, and put them at a safe distance from me. . . By my judgments I divide my world into those who are good and those who are evil, and thus I play God. But everyone who plays God ends up acting like the demon.

“Judging others implies that we somehow stand outside the place where weak, broken sinful human beings dwell. It is an arrogant and pretentious act that shows blindness not only toward others but also toward ourselves. Paul says it clearly: ‘ No matter who you are, if you pass judgment, you have no excuse. For in judging others you condemn yourself, since you behave no differently from those you judge. We know God judges that sort of behavior impartially.’ (Romans 2: 1-2)
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So, brothers and sisters, peacemaking starts every time we move out of the house of fear toward the house of love. You and I will always be scared, somehow, somewhere. But if we keep our eyes fixed on the One who says ‘Do not be afraid, it is I,’ we might slowly be able to let go of that fear and become free enough to live in a world without borders, to see the suffering of others, and to bring good news and receive good news.

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“The fruitful life is not the same as a successful life. Fruitfulness is the gift that is given us as a result of our trust in God’s presence. Fruitfulness is, in a way, the very opposite of success, of a life focused entirely on results and on our attempts to control the future according to our little views and our little survivals.”

“Every encounter in life involves the discipline of seeing God in others and making known to others what we have seen. Since our seeing is only partial, we also need other people who will help us to see. Through each encounter, we will come to see more clearly.

Everyone is a different refraction of the same love of God, the same light of the world, coming to us. We need a contemplative discipline for seeing this light. We can’t see God in the world, only God can see God in the world. . .

“If I have discovered God as the center of my being, then the God in me recognizes God in the world. We also then recognize the demons at work in us and the world. The demons are always close, trying to conquer us. The spiritual life requires a constant and vigilant deepening and enlivening of the presence of God in our hearts.

“This process includes the real tension of discerning with which eye I see God: my own eye that wants to please and control, or God’s eye.”

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“The mystical life is the life by which I grow toward what is real and away from illusion, the life that grows into true relationship. The future of Christianity in the West depends on our ability to live mystically, that is, in touch with what is at the core reality at the center of events. Without claiming this truth that everything is in God, Christianity loses its transforming power and becomes something like ‘behaving decently,’ a series of rights and wrongs.”
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“The words of Jesus go right to the heart of our struggle [as peace activists]: ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly’ (Luke 6:27-28). The more I reflect on these words, the more I consider them to be a test for peacemakers. What my enemies deserve is not my anger, rejection, resentment, or disdain, but my love. Spiritual guides throughout history have said that love for the enemy is the cornerstone of the message of Jesus and the core of holiness.”
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Yes guys, if you want to get in shape like James Brown you got to GIT UP! like James Brown and get those Jitterbug legs to jitterin’!!!

Or, if you want to just work on your abs, get the amazing Ab Hancer . . .

THE AMAZING AB/HANCER (WHY SPEND ALL THOSE LONG HOURS AT THE GYM BEING TORTURED BY SOME KID WITH A TRAINER CERTIFICATE WHEN YOU CAN BUILD SIX PACK ABS AND WITH A BAG OF TATER CHIPS ON THE COUCH???)

Me, I was born with jitterbug feet like James Brown.

This is how I roll right here, admittedly, to the neglect of my abs . . . .

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Chris Jordan’s arresting photo of an Albatross, and pix of other carcasses that died from consuming plastics, speaks volumes about the need for greater awareness of our use of plastics and the devastating effects they are having on animals and seas and the general environment.

It behooves us all to be mindful of the plastics we use but could do without by using planet-friendly resources–canvass bags for shopping and such.

More about this fascinating artist here.

LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?

5 You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.

LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

— Psalm 8, N.I.V.

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OLDER, BUT BETTER THAN EVER: THAT HOPELESS ROMANTIC AND TRUE ICON LEONARD COHEN

O, gather up the brokenness
Bring it to me now
The fragrance of those promises
You never dared to vow.

The splinters that you carried
The cross you left behind
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind.

And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb.

Behold the gates of mercy
In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving
Of cruelty or the grace.

— Lyrics from “Come Healing,” Leonard Cohen

Singer, songwriter, old road dawg who tours the world doing concerts constantly, literary poet, former Zen Buddhist monk (who lived 5 years in a Buddhist monastery and came out only because he learned his money manager had stolen the money) and true Canadian original.

That’s the inimitable Leonard Cohen, who is probably best known in addition to all the above, as a hopeless romantic.

But a serious man, often compared to Dylan in terms of originality.

His new album “Old Ideas”–which came out in January and was his first album in eight years–is up to his usual high standards with songs like the opener in the video above, “Come Healing.” It’s Cohen at at his spiritual best, struggling with, and reflecting on his mortality.

But for lo these many years he’s been doing sensuous love songs and waltzes, and biblical spirituals, and bluesy and jazzy saloon songs, and songs that leave us fans weeping in the streets with all that joy and melancholy, wit and romance, with his trademark eloquence.

Here’s some more, including his masterpiece, “Hallelujah,” based on the story of King David’s adultery and agony and repentant praise.

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A dear friend of mine who was, and remains, my mentor in pastoral care ministry, sent this out in an email to me and fellow chaplains in the Baylor Health Care System’s Pastoral Care Department today.

He received it in an email from a friend of his with these words:

Reminds me of Psalm 91:4:

He will cover you with his feathers.

He will shelter you with his wings.

His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”

There is absolutely nothing to fear about tomorrow;
For God is already there …

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PARKER PALMER'S BOOK DRAWS HEAVILY ON LINCOLN'S SPEECHES AND THINKING ON DEMOCRACY--AND ON PALMER'S OWN QUAKER-RELATED THEOLOGY OF NONVIOLENCE--IN THE LATEST OF HIS MANY INFLUENTIAL BOOKS.

What I learned early on from some great teachers is that violence is not just a matter of dropping a bomb on someone or shooting a bullet at them or hitting them in the face. Violence is done whenever we violate the identity and integrity of the other. Violence is done when we demean, marginalize, dismiss, rendering other people irrelevant to our lives or even less than human. Violence is done when we simply don’t care or don’t look hard enough to evoke our caring for another.

So for me, living a nonviolent life means, first of all, doing what’s within my reach so that every day in every way in every relationship I have, I’m trying to ask the question how is it that I am called to honor the identity and integrity of this person? Whether that’s a person less powerful than I am or a person more powerful than I am. Sometimes that’s as simple as being called to listen to this person’s story. Sometimes it’s a more complicated matter of finding a student, as happens to me from time to time, who can’t take a next step in life because they don’t have the $500 they need to make that experience possible and knowing that I do have $500 that I could live without and finding a way to make a gift that doesn’t impose a burden on that person. I just think there’s a thousand different ways that we can practice nonviolence in this fundamental sense of honoring the other’s identity and integrity without having to be Rockefellers or Fords or big-time philanthropists in the world, and without having to have traditional political power. Now, I think it’s urgent that we keep working with each other to reframe politics as a very local act, as simple acts of relationship building and community building that empower people, because there’s more power in coming together than there is in hiding out all alone.

— Parker Palmer in an interview
with Krista Tippett

Parker Palmer–writer, teacher, retreat leader, pacifist/Quaker and serious thinker–is one of the smartest and most civilized Americans you never heard of.

That’s not to say that he’s not been heard, and his books read, by a lot of people who’ve been enriched by his enormous wisdom.

Certainly a lot of educators, theologians, clergy, students and all kinds of professionals (including chaplains in training, who typically get a big dose of his thinking at major teaching hospitals), are familiar with the books and thought of this deeply spiritual and discerning philosopher/teacher.

I’ve been reading his latest book HEALING THE HEART OF DEMOCRACY: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit, and can’t put it down. Many will dismiss it as idealistic, because it takes such a realistic account of where we are as a democracy and nation divided by “scorched-earth politics” while calling for more civilized debate–and some real listening to one another rather than reacting– on divisive issues like abortion.

The book starts with this dedication:

In memory of
Christina Taylor Green (2001–2011)
Addie Mae Collins (1949–1963)
Denise McNair (1951–1963)
Carole Robertson (1949–1963)
Cynthia Wesley (1949–1963)
Christina died when an assassin in Tucson, Arizona, opened fire at
a public event hosted by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who
was seriously wounded. Addie Mae, Denise, Carole, and Cynthia
died when violent racists bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in
Birmingham, Alabama.

When we forget that politics is about weaving a fabric of
compassion and justice on which everyone can depend, the first to
suffer are the most vulnerable among us—our children, the elderly,
the mentally ill, the poor, and the homeless. As they suffer, so does
the integrity of our democracy.

May the heartbreaking deaths of these children—and the hope and
promise that was in their young lives—help us find the courage to
create a politics worthy of the human spirit
.

click here for more on Palmer, a 12-minute video of him discussing the book, and his famous “Center for Courage and Renewal” retreat center.

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THE LATE & THE GREAT NINA SIMONE

Now that I’ve been renewed and restored by Holy Week and Resurrection Sunday.

I’m feeling pretty good and hope you are too, you of the Jitterbug Cult..

And if not, some feel-good, new-life Nina Simone music might make your Eastertide* Monday more mellow . . .

Birds flying high you know how I feel
Sun in the sky you know how I feel
Breeze driftin’ on by you know how I feel

It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good”

— From “Feeling Good,” Nina Simone

* For more on Eastertide, click here . . .

And have a blessed week . . .

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