I thought I saw you down there at the end of the lane. Was it you I saw holding a violet to you breast? Was it you I saw gazing into the distant hills with such a far away look? Were you waiting for someone you love to come and hold you?
I thought I saw you down there at the end of the lane. Was it you with tears filling your eyes? Did I see you reach into emptiness hoping someone would reach back?
I thought I saw you down there at the end the lane waiting for someone. I saw you kneel in the grass with violets all around and I watched you pray. As you stand and walk away I prayed for you.
My spirit reaches out to you, surrounding you, supporting you, loving you, sending your heart strength. It is all I have to offer I cannot promise all will be well. I can only watch and guard. I can only send courage and walk with you, wait with you. I cannot give you all you want. All I can give, from my end of the lane, is love and hope.
46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside.
I love Bartimaeus and have gained insight from his persistence in his call to Jesus. Yet, I often wonder if most people who use the prayer understand its implications. The story itself has many layers. The blind Bartimaeus had a strength we often do not have.
First, the story takes place after Jesus has made his 3rd prediction of his coming death and has turned toward Jerusalem. As Jesus and the disciples leave Jericho Bartimaeus calls until Jesus acknowledges him from there the real meat of the story happens. Bart is calling at a critical time as Jesus is now focused on what will happen in Jerusalem. Yet, Jesus stops and answers Bart’s call. I am reminded of all the times I have called on Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit and wonder if I too have made my petition at an inopportune time. It is a grace that Jesus responds to Bart. This gives me hope.
Second, Jesus doesn’t just heal him rather, Jesus asks Bartimaeus what he wants from Him. Bart must articulate, say out loud, he wants to see. Bart must not only admit his need he must believe in the words Jesus will speak. It is in Bart’s belief in Jesus that he is made to see. He sees not just the world around him but the truth of what he sees. It has always been hard for me to speak my needs. I am always afraid I will be ridiculed or told that what I need is not important. I admit that my belief hasn’t always been as strong as Bart’s was that day in Jericho. Opening my heart and soul to my Creator has not been easy. But, I am a work in progress and I do believe the Holy Spirit is patient with me.
But there is one more piece that is often lost, Bart follows Jesus. Does he follow Him all the way to the end and the resurrection, we don’t know? But in the question and answer of the story, and the following the path that the story takes real meaning. We can ask for mercy, but what do we really want from Jesus. Bart followed Jesus on a difficult path, a road that led to Crucifixion, and yes, resurrection. But also, much pain and suffering. We don’t know if Bart stayed the course. I would like to think he did. But it gives me pause to think when I offer this prayer, what will I do when I am offered the opportunity to see.
December is a dark time for me, not just because it is the winter solstice here in the Northern Hemisphere, but because I feel alone in the dark. Everyone around me is celebrating and I just don’t have the energy to do more than sit alone in the corner. I know I’m a strong introvert and do not like large celebrations but that isn’t the reason for my long face. It is light, I crave light. Warm, yellow, soft, shining, comforting light. I want green growing light to warm my heart and open up my spirit, and here is the amazing thing, I find that light in my belief of a child, who grew into a man, whose message gave, and gives, me hope. It is my light.
So, in December during the traditional celebration of light by Christians and Jews alike I find my hope. It is true I don’t believe Jesus was born in December, it is a legend, a nice legend, but a legend none the less. But I love it that we do celebrate when the Earth bends towards the light, and hope comes again for rebirth. Julia Blum of the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies says it best:
“So, if the traditional nativity story is just a legend, why do we celebrate Christmas – and why do we celebrate it on the 25th of December? Let’s try to answer this question with the profound words of prophet Isaiah: “Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, “The morning comes, but also the night” [Isa 21:11-12}. Also, the night… In this world, we are surrounded by night – and we all long for morning: “Watchman, what of the night”. Human beings long for light – and the One Who created us, knows our longing. That’s why, I believe, December 25th is an amazing time—by holding Christmas at the same time as the traditional winter solstice festivals, the message of Christmas has been made crystal clear: in the world’s darkest hour, the “Light of the World” is born! Yes, this date was chosen be men and probably for the wrong reasons, but as often happens, through human weaknesses and mistakes, God still works out His plan. For millions of believers, Christmas is a celebration of the true Light coming into this dark world!”
“In this sense, one can’t miss the connection between Hanukkah and Christmas -because the message of Hanukkah, Festival of Lights, is the same: The Light of God shines in this dark world, and the darkness cannot overcome it! This is not a pagan message: The Divine Light overcomes even the darkest of darkness – and this is what we celebrate on both Hanukkah, on the 25th of Kislev, and Christmas, on the 25th of December!” (Julia Blum, December 18, 2019, Longing For Light: Christmas And Hanukkah, Israel Institute of Biblical Studies)
“He who wants to enter the holiness of the day must first lay down the profanity of clattering commerce, of being yoked to toil. He must go away from the screech of dissonant days, from the nervousness and fury of acquisitiveness and the betrayal in embezzling his own life. He must say farewell to manual work and learn to understand that the world has already been created and will survive without the help of man. Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul. The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else. Six days a week we seek to dominate the world, on the seventh day we try to dominate the self.” –Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel,
Today is the 2nd Sunday of Advent, and the 4th Sunday of Celtic Advent, and I am thinking about what it means to wait as I read the newspaper (yes, I still read a ‘real’ newspaper) and watch television. I cringe at the headlines of impeachment, of children being incarcerated simply because they are children not like us, and promotions for stuff no one actually needs. So much competition for our attention, our money, and our souls, how can we cope with it all.
God created Sabbath for us to rest, not just our bodies, but our spirits, our hearts, our very beings. Advent was begun as a time set aside for meditation, prayer, and fasting in preparation for hope, not unlike time set aside for Sabbath. Advent is a time of Sabbath giving us time to re-member the hope within each of us, to remember the image of God that resides inside our hearts, souls and minds. Advent and Sabbath are times where we are able to re-claim God’s ownership of our hearts and souls.
For me it is difficult meshing the idea of Sabbath rest with what I read in the paper or see on the news. My spirit waits for the love and the light that is coming, yet my eyes see only the darkness of greed and hate. I hear people who claim to be people of faith calling children of god evil, not worthy of life, and letting them die in cages. I read the words of politicians who claim that offering food stamps to hungry people is a waste of time and keeps them on welfare. I can’t fathom how these people can stand in their “churches” and hear the words of the Carpenter “what you do to the least of these you do to me” and still do what they do.
We who believe in the Gospel, who listen in wonder at the feet of this gentle Rabbi, just as Mary did, have much work to do to repair the damage of those who deny Love. Sabbath rest, Sabbath prayer, Sabbath meditation are the tools we use to gather strength, courage and wisdom to counter hate, greed, and power. It is in resting with God, being with God that we are strong.
Advent is a time of waiting and rest, and as such it is a Sabbath set aside to listen for the heartbeat of God and synchronize our lives with the life given us by the spirit. In the spirit of Sabbath hold on to the quiet, let go of the commercial, gather love and send it forth to heal a wounded world, open your heart to the light and let it be a beacon in the darkness.
Yesterday I received my copy of Meister Eckhart’s Book of Secrets and with some excitement opened the book, to this random page. It took me only a moment to read the few lines of the poem, but a lot longer for the shock to quiet, and the wonder set in. You see there have been more moments in my life than I care to admit that God has offered this prayer for me. This 7-line poem, inspired by Eckhart’s Selected Writings, was an unlooked-for blessing in a moment of need. Because today, you see, I needed to be reminded that God prays for me, that God wants me.
In the hours since I read the poem, I have thought of the many different ways I’ve answered Gods prayer and how many times I’ve ignored it. Over the years I’ve spent time talking to God asking why God would want to be born in me, me, a not so good, not so joyful, not so loving human. A human filled with anger, frustration, confusion and, I’m just going to say this, hate. What would the Divine Being find worthy in me, despite my constantly ignoring the gift?
I’m afraid, even to this day, I haven’t found a whole lot of answers to my questions for God. Unfortunately, God can be quite silent on the reasons why, but persistent in praying. I guess I will have to be satisfied with knowing God wants me to have grace, especially since I remember many of the strange, wonderful, and mystical moments I have experienced. Before I offer a story that illustrates this, let me digress for just a bit.
The idea that God wants the Spirits grace to belong to me, us, that God prays we will want grace given, full abundant grace, without strings attached, has always felt just a little odd. God’s grace is a gift fit for royal/holy beings, and it is being given to you and me! Why wouldn’t any of us want such a gift? As humans we are used to knowing that nothing in this life is free. There are always strings attached, we may not see them, may not even be aware of them, but they are there. Yet here is the Divine just handing it out, for free.
God says the gift of grace is freely, abundantly given and without the necessity of paying back. To me that means in God’s eyes you and I are royal, holy beings, all we have to do is accept the gift. More importantly God wants to be born within us, to become part of us, and that means you and I become part of God. Now that is an offer we cannot turn down, right. Well we can and do turn it down for many reasons such as stubbornness, stupidity, or more likely fear. To be part of God, part of the creator, means we are partners in creation, and that means we are responsible for the care and wellbeing of creation and each other. That means we are to care for the weak, the young, the elderly, the stranger whether they are like us or not. So, yes all of us have turned God down, repeatably. The thing is God keeps asking, God never gives up on us. That is the God I know, a God who keeps trying, and keeps asking no matter how scared, stubborn, or stupid we might be.
Pride can be both a good and a bad trait, unfortunately for me pride is not always the best trait to have. Thirty or so years ago I thought I knew it all, I didn’t need God in my life, I didn’t need anyone, and, in my arrogance, I chose to do some things I’m now not very proud of. I didn’t break the law, but I hurt people who had trusted me. When I came to my senses, I realized somethings had to change but I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. Life can be funny sometimes and in one of those moments I had an experience that changed how I saw myself, my relationship with the Divine, and my relationship with the rest of creation. So, here is the first time I found God’s grace freely given.
As a graduate student at the University of Houston School of Public Health I often had the opportunity to go along with the biologists on bird banding trips in the Gulf of Mexico. We would band baby gulls and terns in the morning and then spend a couple of hours swimming in the gulf before returning to school. On this occasion I was floating along, I don’t swim so I was simply bobbing along while wearing a life vest, I was enjoying the warm water and the sun when I felt something brush against my leg. I looked down into the water and couldn’t see anything, so I thought I was imagining it when I felt it again. My friend called from the boat and told me to be very still and hold my hand out at the surface of the water. I didn’t know why I should, but I did.
To my amazement a fin appeared under my hand and a dolphin rose up and pulled me along in the water. I looked into the water and there were 3 or 4 dolphins swimming around me. At first, they moved me away from the boat and just let me “ride” against them. I could hear clicks and squeaks and they seemed to want to talk to me. So, I talked to them, I was told later for about 15 to 20 minutes, which seemed to pass like seconds. For some unknown reason I told them about my fears, how confused I was, and how unkind I’d been. Amazingly they moved in closer and seemed to “hug” me, the air around me took on a golden color and I felt something within I had never felt before. Slowly they guided me back to our boat and sank into the gulf. Before I knew it, I was being pulled from the water. My friends told me they had never seen anything like it before. I, on the hand, seemed to be in this bubble of serenity. For the rest of the trip friends told me I had this rather goofy smile on my face.
I can’t say that everything was wonderful following that experience but, inside I felt a wall come down and the Divine stepping in. Life is still life, and not all events are perfect, but I found that letting go and letting someone else lead me gave me a new perspective on how to live my life. God’s prayer that I would want the grace given, that I would welcome the birth of God within had been answered that day. There have been other moments when I have forgotten the God within. But after going my own way and needing to be reminded as to who I am, who I belonged to, I would renew my relationship with God. I have found this is an ongoing process for me and suspect it is for everyone. But that moment in the Gulf of Mexico was the first time, and a special moment that has helped me recognize God’s presence, and God’s reminders.
When I opened
my copy of this book of poems and saw this prayer it made me smile, it made my
memories smile, it made me open my arms and once again welcome God. If nothing
else this little prayer has made the whole book worthwhile. I desired God’s
grace. I opened my heart and God has moved in. I am part of God, God is part of
me, I am God’s partner in this amazing creative universe. I pray I am a good
part (at least most of the time). Now my prayer for you:
May you desire God’s grace, grace freely, abundantly, given, so that God will be born within you. Amen
Circle us, Lord, on this New Year’s Day Circle us with the light of your presence, bright in a world going dark Enable us to overcomer fear and temptation Enable us to have courage to overcome despair and apathy Enable us to become that which you would desire Lord of creation, Lord of Salvation Circle us with the light of your presence
Circle us, Lord, each day of the New Year Circle our families within the shelter of your outstretched arms Protect them in each moment of their daily lives Guide them in the decisions they face Protect their homes and relationships Lord of creation, Lord of Salvation Circle our families with the light of your presence
Circle us, Lord, each day of the New Year Circle this nation, with your unconditional love and hope, Create a desire to listen to each other Create a willingness to understand and respond Create a need to reach out to you, Lord, for strength and courage Lord of creation, Lord of Salvation Circle our nation with the light of your presence
Circle us, Lord, each day of the New Year Circle this world with the joy of your Salvation Where there is sickness and disease bring healing Where there is hunger and despair bring hope Where there is torture and oppression bring release Lord of creation, Lord of Salvation Circle this world with the light of your presence
Last evening I was thinking about history, in particular, the history of our country. In 1776 our founding fathers chose to protest and separate from an oppressive imperial government. They chose to fight what they saw as injustice and for the most part they won that battle. Yes, most were elitist, and some were slave holders, they were, to put it mildly, a product of their time. But for the most part they had a vision of a country where each person would have the right to an equal chance at “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I wonder what they would say about today’s inauguration, I believe they wouldn’t be very proud of us right now.
I know, I know, those writers of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution didn’t have the foresight to include women, people of color, those with different beliefs, or the LGBQT community in their plans, but, the blueprint was there. And, in more than 200 years we have grown and matured as a nation, as a people, and now most of us see each person in our country as important, valuable, to the success of us all.
Throughout our history, we have struggled to open our understanding of who is an American. In the last 100 years, great strides have been made in insuring the poor, woman, people of color, those with differing gender identities, and those with differing beliefs have the same rights as rich white males. We opened the doors of our country and people from all over the world have enriched our society in every way possible. But now those advancements seem to be coming to an end.
This country elected someone who only sees value in rich white men. This man and his followers see the population of the U.S. as a means to an end, an end that fills their pockets. To accomplish their purpose, they duped other white men into believing they too can be ‘rich’ knowing that what they will do while in office will prevent anyone but themselves from succeeding. They have done it by demonizing the poor, people of color, women, those of differing beliefs, and those with differing gender identities in order to hide their true intent, to make themselves wealthy and more powerful. They don’t have the interest of the country at heart, the only thing they think about is how much power over others they have and how much money fills their coffers. Not a very nice picture of our current government.
Our Founding Fathers weren’t perfect, they owned slaves, they thought the poor should do more, they didn’t acknowledge women as citizens and they certainly didn’t accept anyone who identified with a different gender. Yet they managed to set aside most of their bias’s and conflicts to craft our government’s documents that had the flexibility to, in time, include those who had been excluded. Not perfect men but wise men.
So, are we returning to an ideology that pre-dates our Founding Father’s? I hope not, but, I fear so. In the last eight years, we have seen the rise of hate crimes instigated by the very people we elected into office. The gains we have made in racial and gender equality are threatened by elected officials who use the fear of being marginalized to demonize anyone who is different. Our so-called representatives have built on misconceptions and lies to produce a constituency across the nation that, while they are well off, thinks they are poor and being discriminated against. Most of these representatives have benefited from the social improvements created since World War II, but, apparently, they believe they are the only ones who deserve to be so honored.
In the next four years, we could lose this country to a society reminiscent of Nazi Germany and that scares me. But I also have hope. I have hope because so many people are speaking out, willing to put their hopes and dreams on the line by standing up and defying those that would roll back the achievements we have gained. Women are marching all over this country and all over this world to say we will not allow our hard-earned rights and privileges taken away. People are organizing to combat hate, racism, and violence. They are banding together to promote justice and mercy in the face of those who would take our health care, our education, our environment, our dreams.
My fear is that if we don’t see progress quickly then many will become discouraged and leave the fight. We cannot do waiver, success won’t be easy nor quick rather it will be very difficult. We will face insults and threats on our lives and lively hood, and that is scary. Each one of us has something we can do, whether it is getting out the vote, writing a letter, or marching in protest. There are small to big tasks, and all are important.
So, do not be afraid, you aren’t alone. Participate at whatever level you are most comfortable with, whether it is writing, financial support, all the way up to running for a government position at the Local, State, or Federal level. But do something, be part of the fight, be part of what we are to become.
Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness: for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. Romans 8:26
Holy Spirit, this past week has been one of disappointment, fear, confusion and, yes, hate. You, Gracious Spirit have taught us to be more than any of that so we ask that you, in your grace and wisdom, guide us towards a future that loves, shows compassion and stands up for justice. In our faith community, our local, state, national, and world communities we are in need of your guidance and strength, help us to be the people of light chasing out darkness.
As a people of many faiths and cultures we are facing new challenges, fears, and frustration we pray that we will be strong, and stand together in faith and love just as we have been instructed by the wise. Help us to be the doorway into tomorrow. Amen