Archive for December, 2019

On this fourth Sunday of Advent, churches around the world lit candles for peace on earth, good will to all.

Try to think of the special moments in your life when you felt overwhelmed by the glory and joy of inner peace in the fullest. If you’re like me, you’ve experienced it in those times when a doctor or nurse handed off the blood of your blood into your arms.

There is nothing like a baby to melt down all our fears and worries and stress and strains. Nothing like the innocent softness of a child to tear down our defenses and make us equal to that child in vulnerability.

The way to inner peace is through vulnerability. Jesus was an extraordinarily vulnerable newborn, being the refugee that he was in a place far and very far from the warmth and security of a home.

He grew up to be a man who was secure enough in his manhood that he wasn’t ashamed to show his vulnerability to the world.

“Jesus wept.”

A lot of men today want to make Jesus out to be a manly man, more of a Marvel comic hero than a Mr. Rogers or a Jean Vanier, the great Christian thinker and humanitarian who founded the worldwide L’Arch Communities for the [severely] Handicapped.

Vanier, who died this year at age 90, wrote:

    “Our societies push down weakness because we’re in a competitive society. And so we’re not allowing people to be themselves.

    “You only have to develop the strong part, only have to develop the mind, only have to develop the power inside of you, because if you have power you’ll have money, you’ll have prestige, you’ll have all that.

    “But then we’re denying something inside of ourselves. We’re killing a part of our being–the child inside of us, the child which is called to trust, to sing, to dance, to look at other people without fear and without wanting to control them. . . .

    “But we’re frightened of the child. So it’s true, our society is killing children.”

Vulnerability is not a weakness; it’s a facet of inner strength and peace.

American government is dominated by leaders today who, while never letting us forget how much they love Jesus, are all about bullying.

A bully is someone who has been deeply hurt.

And hurt people hurt people.

A therapist once told me that all the bullies he ever counseled were quite scared and “insecure about walking across the street,” as he put it.

To have inner strength is to have inner peace.

To have inner peace is to have inner strength.

It was this kind of inner strength and peace that enabled Paul and Silas to sing songs of joy in prison.

It was this kind of inner strength and peace that enabled Anne Frank to cope with equilibrium and even happiness through so much trial and tribulation.

Jesus was the strongest, most secure, most peaceful person who ever lived.

And not because he was some kind of Macho Camacho man.

Grace & peace & Happy Holidays!
* More about Jean Vanier’s remarkable life here.


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With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”

— Isaiah 12:3 (NRSV)

Water gets a mention 11 times in Chapter 1 of Genesis. Light is mentioned 12 times.

Water and Light: they are two of the major motifs found in the Bible, from the first page to the last.

The first chapter of Genesis mentions water 11 times and light gets 12 mentions.

Fast forward to the last chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22 (the bookend to Genesis) which speaks of the river of life and the ultimate light:

    1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; 4 they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

    6 And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true, for the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants[d] what must soon take place.”

    7 “See, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

Nobody gets through life without walks through some dark valleys, some much more than others. When I was a hospital chaplain, I walked through the valley with a woman who had experienced the deaths of six of her closest family members in less than a year, including three children and two siblings. It was the death of her husband that put her in the hospital with a heart attack.

But her real sickness was debilitating grief. There was nothing I could say to stop or alleviate her pain, nothing I could say to make her feel better, and I dared not try.

The only way out of grief is through it. Often with a good bit of crawling along the way.

Lord Jesus, master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.

So I mostly sat with this elderly, bereaved woman in silence, holding her hand in my daily visitations and prayers with her. Being as medicated and dazed from the grief as she was, she seldom spoke to me. But one day as I was walking out of her room she said to me, “Thank you for bringing me light.”

I remember standing outside the room and letting tears roll down my cheeks like water. Once I composed myself I felt a certain kind of joy, the kind that comes with loving and serving others.
* * *

Advent promises a reversal of the natural order of things. The promise is that one day the lion will lie down with the lamb, the dry desert will blossom and bloom, and there will be no more darkness, no more tears.

With joy we will relish the soft taste of healing waters and sing and dance in a divine kind of light. Our present world, however, is broken and violent. (And oh by the way, it has always has been.)

We who live in faith and hope (which is not to be confused with pollyanna optimism or with some pie-in-the-sky reward) trust that in God’s own time, He/She will lead us to our wells of salvation.

In the meantime, what we Christians can do is keep hope alive for those in pain and grief, whatever the cause of pain may be.

What we can do this December is give a cup of water to someone whose thirst for relief seems unquenchable. We can carry the light of hope to someone suffering the Christmas blues while helping them carry the cross through their valley.

This is how we can advance the kingdom that Jesus ushered in and left us to move forward, by being someone’s light and water bearer.

This is a way to find quiet but deep joy at Christmas.

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What does it avail me that this birth is always happening, if it does not happen in me? That it should happen in me is what matters.

— St. Augustine

El Greco’s “The Nativity”

The other day I tried to join one of the many nerdy theological discussion groups on Facebook.

In order to join such groups, you are usually required to answer a couple of easy-peasy questions before the administrator allows you in.

To join a fan-and-discussion site of some renowned theologian, for example, you might get a question asking what the last book was that you read by the person, or maybe your favorite book of his or hers.

So the other day I tried to join a discussion group about classical theology and this was one of two questions that popped up:

    “When is the last time you shared the gospel with somebody?”

I was taken aback by query. It’s the kind of question that an evangelical who is into proselytizing might ask, proselytizing being the attempt to convert somebody to your religion by asking a question like, “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior?”

Usually with high-pressure salesmanship involved.

My answer to the question was:

What a weird question.”

Woe is me: I was not admitted.

I’m a member of a Facebook discussion group whose subject is Meister Eckhart, the medieval German mystic regarded as one of the greatest of theologians and philosophers.

This is something Eckhart had to say in a sermon:

    “We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself?

    And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace?

    What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to His Son if I do not also give birth to Him in my time and my culture?

    This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of Man is begotten in us.”

I like to think that as long as I keep my focus on Jesus being continually born in me–as long as I strive to be full of the grace of Mother Mary–that somebody will see some semblance of Christ in me.

I like to think somebody, maybe even many somebodies, will want to have the joy and peace I find in being a follower of Jesus and a student of the word.

I like to think that the last time I shared the gospel with someone was early this morning when I walked down the street to the store to get a can of V8 Juice and smiled at every person I passed on the street and in the store and looked them in the eyes and said quietly but joyfully, “Good morning!”

Most everybody smiled back at me and said “Good morning!” in return. I like to think they sensed the love of God in me in that smile and greeting.

Of the nine fruits of the spirit that St. Paul cited in the book of Galatians, the first fruit is love.

And it works!

This love thing works!

Practice it!

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On Friday, the President of the United States of America said that his Environmental Protection Agency is looking into the problem of sinks and toilets–and newfangled light bulbs.

Speaking at a small-business roundtable meeting, the president actually said the following:

    “You turn on the faucet; you don’t get any water. They take a shower and water comes dripping out. It’s dripping out — very quietly dripping out. People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once.

    “You go into a new building or a new house or a new home, and they have standards, ‘Oh, you don’t get water.’

    “For the most part, you have many states where they have so much water that it comes down – it’s called rain … it rushes down to the sea, they don’t know what to do with it.”

In other news, 53 percent of Republicans think that this president is greater than the 19th-century American leader who saved the Union, freed the slaves and wrote the Gettysburg Address.

Now, most of those same Republicans believe with Rick Perry that God woke up one day and decided to make Donald Trump the next-best thing to God himself and put him in the White House.

Perry said in an interview with Fox & Friends:

    “I actually gave the president a little one-pager on those Old Testament kings about a month ago and I shared it with him. I said, ‘Mr. President, I know there are people that say you said you were the chosen one and I said, ‘You were.'”

Perry added that God in the Old Testament Days used many imperfect people to do great things.

And Rick Perry — a former Texas governor, a former Secretary of Energy under Trump, and an astute student of the Bible — is no doubt right that his former boss has been chosen.

I have no doubt that God is directing President Trump through the Holy Ghost to relieve the suffering of millions of Americans who have to flush their toilets 10, 15 times a day.

God undoubtedly has heard the prayers of those Americans who have to run out in the rain with their soap and shampoo to get clean because their showers just drip — quietly drip — even in states where there is rain that falls down and goes to the sea.

God sees our pain and suffering.

God feels our agony.

God hears Republican prayers and acts on them.

God relieves and heals the pain of Americans who vote right — far right.

God is so good that he placed Donald J. Trump — however imperfect a man he may be — to make American plumbing great again.

Glory be!

Praise God and Trump and pass the gravy!

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NOTE: Remember former House Speaker Paul Ryan? He was still the Speaker when I wrote and published this post back on Dec. 8, 2016, not long after Donald Trump bullied and lied his way into being elected president.

“What is truth?” Painting by Nicholas Gai

President-to-be Donald J. Trump, who lost by 3 million popular votes and barely squeezed out an electoral championship in three key states, was never a Rotarian.

He undoubtedly would have been kicked out had he ever joined.

Rotary Club International is the greatest of service clubs. Its purpose is to encourage and foster service and high ethical standards in the business and professional sectors.

Rotary is everywhere. It does great service projects right here in San Ignacio, Belize. Rotary’s mission is to advance international understanding, goodwill, and peace through global fellowship.

One thing I like about Rotary is its 4-Way Test that is supposed to be applied to every action a Rotarian takes:

1. Is it the truth?

2. Is it fair to all concerned?

3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?

4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

* * *

Now comes the powerful Speaker of the House Paul Ryan–-who like so many people had his character assassinated by Donald Trump as recently as October–-who says Donald Trump’s lies don’t matter.

In an interview on “60 Minutes,” Speaker Ryan said it doesn’t matter that Trump claims via Twitter that he won the popular vote because “millions of people voted illegally.”

Let’s get one thing straight: this is a lie. If it was the truth, Trump and Ryan and every Republican political leader alive would have bombarded us with evidence to back up his claim.

They would be calling for massive reforms to the election system to make sure that every vote cast in the future will be an honest-to-God legitimate vote.

The fact is that Hillary Clinton, whether Trump or anybody else likes it or not, won the popular vote by 3 million votes. (Being the lying loon that he is, Trump claims he won by twice that many votes.)

Ryan went on in his 60 Minutes sit-down to address Trump’s daily barrage of tweets.

“The way I see the tweets you’re talking about, he’s basically giving voice to a lot of people who have felt that they were voiceless. He’s communicating with people in this country who’ve felt like they have not been listened to. He’s going to be an unconventional president.”

So what if his tweets are full of brazen lies and assaults on the characters of good people–-he’s just being unconventional. That’s become the Republican Party’s default defense for every god-awful thing Donald Trumps says or does.

Never mind that what Trump says is rarely the truth; rarely fair to all concerned; rarely aimed at building goodwill and better friends; and rarely if ever beneficial to all concerned.

He’s not the kind of supposedly “great businessman” fit to be president of your local Rotary Club, much less the leader of the free world.

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I want to eat like Jesus.
I want to drink like Jesus.
I want to glow like Jesus.
I want to share like Jesus.

I want to walk like Jesus.
I want to talk like Jesus.
I want to touch like Jesus.
I want to heal like Jesus.

I want to see like Jesus.
I want to hear like Jesus.
I want to smell like Jesus.
I want to feel like Jesus.

I want to laugh like Jesus.
I want to weep like Jesus.
I want to rage like Jesus.
I want to pray like Jesus.

I want to learn like Jesus.
I want to teach like Jesus.
I want to think like Jesus.
I want to preach like Jesus.

I want to live like Jesus.
I want to love like Jesus.
I want to flow like Jesus.
I want to be like Lord Jesus.

“Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.”
~ Psalm 25:4-5

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