“To live is holy…”

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View on Beech Mountain January 2019 – Rime Ice.

“Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.”  ~Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Living on top of a mountain is a great way to learn how to embrace the now. Heschel’s quote above echoes many of the teachings of Buddhism and is the ultimate goal in all meditation.  This past week I have been down with illness and forced to be still even more than normal. In some ways it annoyed the heck out of me and made me sad. The biggest joy came in recognizing a gift because I was still enough for a change.

Learning to be still is part of learning to “just be”. In our hectic world frenzy is what is encouraged. Multitasking is the goal of getting everything done as fast as possible. That propensity towards rushing and doing is part of the reason our world is overcome…but only a part.

Talking with my mom today she talked about her desire to hurry up and get well within an hour “like on tv” these days. We have microwaves and fast or faster food. Healing takes time. If we consider reality, everything worthwhile takes time. Good art, good food, good music all come about through care and time.

Shaking an hourglass doesn’t make time go by faster any more than our shaking lives. Saying “get well soon” is partly our wish for our friend or family member to be well. Yet, as more and more drugs are given for more and more things (some unnecessary), it’s clear that we want time to hurry up. We don’t have time to “just be” or “just live”.

Part of it is our buying into society’s view that the busier you are, the more valuable you are as a person. Another part, however, is having the courage to face the “be-ing” of one’s self. Maybe you wanted to be a boy when you were born. Maybe you wanted to be blonde or a tycoon. Maybe you wanted to save the world like Gandhi or Jesus. Maybe you just didn’t want to be like anyone else. Only you know that answer…and only if you can take time to be still and just live.

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This reflection is written by J. Robin Whitley.

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For the New Year by Jane Blackburn

A new year is upon us.
What shall I put on my list of resolutions?

How about a resolution
Not to resolve anything new?

The quest for perfection
Is useless, and deceiving, and disheartening.

The world shouts at us
Look better! Feel better! Do better!
Read this book, and this article.
Follow this program, subscribe to this system.
(And, oh by the way, click here
To send in your payment.)

As if we all have time to devote to
Self-improvement.
And as if becoming that better person
(God help us, our “authentic” self!)
Is the most important thing in the world.

I think I’ll take a year off from that nonsense.
Instead, I’ll try to pay more attention to God,
And to those around me, neither of whom
Really care if I have realized my true self yet,
Or achieved all my goals.

“He has shown thee, o man, what is good:
Do justly, love mercy,
And walk humbly with thy God.”

If I manage this,
The new year will be all it needs to be.

JWB, 12/30/18

Used with Permission via Pixabay

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This poem is used with the permission of Jane Blackburn. Many thanks for her ability to share her gift with us.

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Restoration

prayers of my heart, a collection of articles and writings by C. Alicia Randolph

IMG_8890.jpeg Lake Erie, December 30, 2018.                                Photo by: CAR

I have cried this Day

I have cried out to the wind and the water

And the presence of God’s spirit

That I know is here

In this lonely and dreary Winter place

Restoration

Is my cry

Restoration

Is my longing

A one word Breath prayer

That pours from my soul

Like the water of Lake Erie

Pours across the stones on the shore

Creating shadows

And shades

And patterns

Too beautiful to dismiss

Without paying attention

To the selfless flow of water

Clearing away

putting things right

Smoothing away the rough edges

IMG_8732.jpeg Stones along Lake Erie, washed by water       Photo by:  CAR, December 28th, 2018               Feast of the Holy Innocents

Restoration

It is the one gift…

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Advent Longings: Pondering Strasbourg

prayers of my heart, a collection of articles and writings by C. Alicia Randolph

It is an Advent night, cold and dark and quiet, with an edge of longing darting through my reflections.  International news has caught my attention again and my heart is breaking as I remember and pray.  Earlier today, more violence erupted in our world.  It is a daily occurrence, a moment by moment occurrence, far away and close to home.  Today, the violence disrupted a place of beauty, celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace—the Christmas Market in Strasbourg, France.

There is death.

There is grief.

There is pain.

There is anguish.

There is fear.

There are shadows.

There is darkness.

Again.

Strasbourg holds a dear place in my heart.  I know no one there, yet, I claim it.  I know it is a place of my belonging.  It is a place that is important to my past, a place that sent out my ancestors and welcomed them back…

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Holiday Season is also Holy Day Season

 

In 168 BCE, the ruler of the Syrian kingdom, Antiochus Epiphanes IV, stepped up his campaign to quash Judaism, so that all subjects in his vast empire — which included the Land of Israel — would share the same culture and worship the same gods.


NoteThere is some dispute about the exact dates of the Maccabean revolt and its various battles. The dates in this article differ from sources consulted in creating the map below.


He marched into Jerusalem, vandalized the Temple, erected an idol on the altar, and desecrated its holiness with the blood of swine. Decreeing that studying Torah , observing the Sabbath, and circumcising Jewish boys were punishable by death, he sent Syrian overseers and soldiers to villages throughout Judea to enforce the edicts and force Jews to engage in idol worship.

When is Hanukkah 2018? Click here to find out!

When the Syrian soldiers reached Modin (about 12 miles northwest of the capital), they demanded that the local leader, Mattathias the Kohein (a member of the priestly class), be an example to his people by sacrificing a pig on a portable pagan altar. The elder refused and killed not only the Jew who stepped forward to do the Syrian’s bidding, but also the king’s representative.

With the rallying cry “Whoever is for God, follow me!” Mattathias and his five sons (Jonathan, Simon, Judah, Eleazar, and Yohanan) fled to the hills and caves of the wooded Judean wilderness.

Joined by a ragtag army of others like them, simple farmers dedicated to the laws of Moses, armed only with spears, bows and arrows, and rocks from the terrain, the Maccabees, as Mattathias’ sons, particularly Judah, came to be known, fought a guerrilla war against the well-trained, well-equipped, seemingly endless forces of the mercenary Syrian army.

In three years, the Maccabees cleared the way back to the Temple Mount, which they reclaimed. They cleaned the Temple and dismantled the defiled altar and constructed a new one in its place. Three years to the day after Antiochus’ mad rampage (Kislev 25, 165 BCE), the Maccabees held a dedication (hanukkah of the Temple with proper sacrifice, rekindling of the golden menorah, and eight days of celebration and praise to God. [Proper] Jewish worship had been reestablished.

Perhaps the most famous part of the story is what happened next: a tiny jar of oil kept the candles burning for the full eight days. However, this detail does not appear in any Jewish texts until 600 years later in the Talmud, mentioned in a larger discussion of why Hanukkah observance is so important.

Reprinted with permission from Celebrate! The Complete Jewish Holiday Handbook.

For a somewhat anachronistic and irreverent description of the Hanukkah story, watch the G-dcast video below:

 

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Forgive and Forget? by The Rev. Richard E. Sindall

The following article is written by The Reverend Richard E. Sindall and has been reprinted here with his permission. For more information, please visit his website at Faith Thinking Aloud.

“I can forgive, but I can’t forget.” I hear that declaration as a protest against easy forgiveness that waves away the offensiveness of the offense, suppresses the pain of the hurt, and covers the wound without disinfecting it. It’s such a nice little formula: forgive and forget. Does it not sound virtuous, even pious? In the background of my mind, I hear

Used with permission Pixabay

Jeremiah the prophet saying (for God) of the court prophets who served at and for the pleasure of the king, “They heal my people’s wound lightly, crying, ‘Peace, peace!’ where there is no peace.”

Normally, I would look at the bigger problem for people in general and Christians in particular: the shallow understanding of forgiveness. To forgive is not to excuse but to heal, not to deny but to affirm and confront, not to suppress but to expose and seek to mend. Forgiving is painful, and being forgiven hurts, too. Forgiveness heals damaged relationships, and when the relationship cannot be mended, it heals the wound of the injured person doing the forgiving. Too often and for too long, Christians have been asked to see forgiveness as a divine fudging of the records, a transaction the expunges guilt by divine authority. No, forgiveness is a special kind of healing, and when the injury goes deep, more than a religiously applied salve is needed.

Right now, however, I want to look at the second part of the formula, the advice or command to forget. This part continues to be troublesome even after the relationship has been restored well enough to be carried forward. What does it mean to forget? I cannot erase the memory from my brain. What happened did happen, and it hurt. How am I supposed to make myself forget it? Part of me might want to ask also, “Why should I?”

Here I find Hebraic thinking helpful. Language expresses ways of seeing and understanding. Hebraic thinking and speaking do not separate the intellectual from choices and actions. To hear is to respond in accordance with what has been said, not just to perceive sound. If I choose not to act, I have not heard. To know is to understand and care, not merely to comprehend intellectually. To remember is to act upon what is recalled to mind. My mind is a toolbox filled with memories, and which I select for use in a situation can make all the difference.

We retain aspects of this kind of thinking. If you say to me, “You didn’t remember my birthday,” it is not sufficient for me to reply, “Yes, I did, but I just didn’t get around to sending you a card.” When a wife says to her husband, “You didn’t hear what I just said,” the man is unwise to answer, “There’s nothing wrong with my hearing.”

When in the biblical book of Exodus, we read that God saw the sufferings of the Israelite slaves and God “knew,” we are not being told that God had finally perceived what was going on in Egypt, that the information about the slaves had made it through to God’s consciousness. We are hearing that God feels his people’s misery and has entered into their life of slavery. The message is about empathy not the logging of information.

When a psalmist calls upon God to remember God’s own steadfast love in the past and to recall the covenant promises God made to Israel, the plea is for God to choose those memories as the ones upon which to act in the present. I think the same kind of choice applies to forgiving and forgetting. What’s needed is not a memory lapse but a deliberate choice of which memories not to pull out of the toolbox for use.

Practicing anger will make me an angrier person. Practicing self-control will make me a calmer and more reasonable person. What I choose to practice actually changes me and my temperament one choice at a time. Likewise, I can choose what memories to activate for use, what experiences to relive in my mind, which wounds to reopen.

What is precious to me? What do I treasure? What memories do I store, feed, nurse, and keep ready for use to help or hurt, to respect or control the one or ones who gave me those memories? Which wounds do I, perhaps secretly, wish to keep festering? Do my treasured grudges keep me subconsciously gratified? Do I somewhat enjoy self-pity? Has being the one who was wronged become crucial to my identity, my self-understanding?

Like surgery or the cleaning out of a deep wound, forgiveness hurts in order to heal. As forgiveness heals the wound and, if possible, the relationship, forgetting is a repeated act, not of denial, but of refusal to keep reliving the pain so it feeds its poison into the present, refusal to keep the offense handy for use to hurt back or apply guilt to control the one supposedly forgiven. Neither forgiving nor forgetting is supposed to be easy or automatic, but the two are parts of one process of overcoming wrongs done to us.

 

“To forgive is not to excuse but to heal, not to deny but to affirm and confront, not to suppress but to expose and seek to mend. Forgiving is painful, and being forgiven hurts, too. Forgiveness heals damaged relationships, and when the relationship cannot be mended, it heals the wound of the injured person doing the forgiving.” ~The Rev. Richard E. Sindall

Used with permission Pixabay.

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The Rev. Richard E. Siddall is a minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) retired since July of 2012 after forty years of pastoral ministry in Tamaqua, PA and Bridgeton, NJ.

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Fall on My Knees (a poem by JRobin Whitley)

Used with permission – Pixabay

During the healing service,
I wanted to fall on my knees again.
How long it has been since I,
sinner and saint,
felt
the presence of G_d and wanted
to fall on my knees.

G_d had not been absent.
There was the same awareness of presence.
I was angry that:
God did not act.
God did not protect.
God did not keep
my life, my love
from falling apart.

G_d knew.
Yet, I also knew it wasn’t G_d causing me harm,
though G_d’s commitment to free-will baffles me.
Humanity is cruel, self-centered, and greedy.
Yet, God also sees in us kindness, compassion, and generosity.

I thought John Lennon wrote the lyrics
“Let it Be.”
G_d wrote it,
sang it to John or Paul*
and John decided it could be a hit.
John was always the spiritual Beatle.
John was also the disciple that Jesus loved.
They could be the same
…if you believe in reincarnation.

When one lets a thing be –
It becomes what it is –
monster or saint
Only reveals its nature
when we stop casting illusions.
We are all good at these magic tricks,
but they are only tricks
and not real.

The real comes forth from being.
Let it be.
Whatever “it” is – let it be.
Whoever “it” is – let them be.
Wherever “it is – let it be.

And while you let all the other things be,
rest in the knowledge that you are okay.
You are enough.
Let it be.

Used with permission – Pixabay.

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©2018 J. Robin Whitley is a writer, musician, and artist in NC. For more information on her work, please visit http://www.jrobinwhitley.net.

*Paul McCartney wrote the lyrics to the song, Let it Be. When I wrote the poem I had thought it written by Lennon. Had thought it written by Lennon so long, I only made a minor adjustment to the poem for now. 11/9/2018

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