Mary and what was magnificent about her

Yeh for Women

Mary, the Magnificat and the embracing of the feminine in Church Life

 

As I was walking the NYC Marathon this year I reflected on a lot of things I had missed when running through the boroughs. This was particularly true in Brooklyn where for the first time I saw the Green Wood Cemetery on 4th Avenue and then on Vanderbilt and Lafayette Avenues I noticed to my left a Cathedral of All Saints but there was something different about this one: It honored not the male dominating side of the Saint World but actually honored the female, or Mary the Mother of Jesus.
There are two tapestries that hang at either side of the altar.  They depict the Annunciation and the Coronation of Mary as Queen of All Saints.  These replaced the original three, which also included the Nativity.  The pews are made of Norman oak and bronze light fixtures and fittings prevail throughout.  The only other color comes from the light streaming through the magnificent stained glass windows, and from the tapestries.  A four manual organ was installed, the largest in Brooklyn at the time.  The Brooklyn Eagle indicated that noted experts claimed that Queen of All Saints would be the most exquisite church in America.

 

In some traditions we lose all mention and focus of Mary as if she were an after thought. She was God’s forethought. Before the birth of Jesus it was pronounced on her that she would be Blessed Among all woman. So why did it take until 1908 for anyone to think of erecting a cathedral in her honor. It took a progressive Bishop and Pastor to team up for this event.

 

This Christmas reflect of Mary. And woman’s role in holding space for the spacious love of God to be declared, demonstrated, and dedicated to the Glory of God of which the Angels sang that first Christmas morning.

 

What was magnificent was not that she was a young girl but that as a young girl she had a mature attitude toward her Judaic faith and the presence of and ability to listen to an angels message that had to be confusing.

Her response, “be it unto me whatever you want” is the classic response to whatever happens in our life as we make meaning and purpose out of what happens rather than believe on that God is ordaining al things that happen.

 

 

The night before Christmas

Quietness is not quite the sound in many homes on Christmas Eve

It was the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was moving not even a mouse.

Everything was all set, presents all wrapped, food all prepared, cookies all baked.

yeah right??????

Mom and Dad were all exhausted and sound asleep, the kids were in bed afraid if they get up they will not get the gifts Santa has for them.

Oh that is right it is only grandma and grandpa’s house where there is quiet all through out the house where not a creature was moving not even a mouse.

PEACE is not the absence of war but the presence of mutual respect

PEACE is not the absence of war but the presence of mutual respect of what others believe and mature representation of what I believe.

If I believe that when Jesus says, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to God except through me” (John 14:6) which I do I have two choices which are the following

1) If I maintain that only Christians are going to heaven and in particular maybe even only Christians who believe as I do about everything.  This condemns the rest of the world to hell.  In that case to be quiet and not try to convert everyone is to walk side by side with those who believe differently and to be disingenuous at worse uncaring at best regarding their eternal destiny.  This is antithetical to the Gospel itself.

2) That how we understand this verse needs to be reassessed into a more healthy and holy and wholesome interpretation that is more consistent with Christian compassion and clarity.  If the Jesus way that gives the Advent focus of love joy peace and hope to the World, it is not a theological way or an ecclesiological way but a way of being.  Jesus lived a life of love, hope, peace and joy and as we choose to live that way we are walking in the way of Jesus regardless of the faith orientation we choose in which to walk as our path.  This does not mean that their are many Gods or many ways to know God but that there is one God and one way to live, in the way of the being, of that God.

There is one God, maker of heaven and earth.  That God filled the heavens with angels singing and the earth with a son given.  The way to God is the way of love.  The way of Jesus being born is the way of Love of God.  John in his epistle says that  everyone who loves is born of God for God is love.

So let us this Christmas stop creating division and let love, joy, peace and hope reign in all hearts of faith and minds of faith whatever that faith expression is as long as at its heart and core is the true message of Chirstmss

“And on Earth peace, acts of goodness and kindness to all people of earth”

This Christmas receive the true gift of faith by the true God of love

 

I am a Christian by choice because I believe it is for me the greatest expression of the greatest gift of love and peace in the world.  I am not a Christian because I have a narcissistic need to be superior, exclusive, or right.  I am a Christian as a mature invitation to a life of faith, hope and love and a mutual respectfulness towards others who may not believe as we do but live as we do.  Jesus said, “If they are not against us they are for us.”

Touching Moments: What Christmas is all about.

The fire and the embers

I could not speak this at our family gathering as it just felt like it would be taken as “preaching”.

The last thing a family needs is  for their preaching Dad, Grandpa, Husband to say anything that sounds preachy.  At the same time I was reminded as the fire was crackling in the fireplace and the fire was burning in the wood, I recalled a story from Ruth Graham that was so moving that I wanted to share it with the family but decided to post it and share it that way rather than in the moment.

Ruth Graham unlike her brother Franklin who seems to always be in the forefront, speaking out on issues, and being both decisive and divisive at the same time, Ruth Graham functions pretty much as a compassionate caring person off the radar of the press and doing deliberate, intentional and intensive acts of kindness, anything but random.

She shares the story of sitting with her dad by the fire one Christmas and her dad turning to her said that he lamented the fact that the fire of his life was going out.  The fire of his time of being an active member of his family, his fire of writing, his fire of the mighty evangelist who felt God’s presence and power, were all failing as his health was failing.  Ruth looked right into his eyes, and with the compassion of a daughter who sees her dad clearly, said, “Dad I think there is more power and presence in the embers than in the fire”.  You can imagine the shared love in that moment.  A moment that is what Christmas is all about .  Not about presents under the tree, thought they can be fun loving expressions of love.  It is the loving presence in person exchanges within a family and within the world.

May Christ presence bring these kind of moments to all families of earth this Christmas. Amen

Winter Soltice

darkness and light share the spotlight

December 21st is the date of Winter Solstice the day that is the longest day of night time or darkness.  Following this day we are moving toward more and more greater intensity of light form the distant sun as earth tilts its way to greater light.  As I was trying to explain this phenomenon to a group of third graders, one of the 3rd graders announced that it was a longer day another spoke that that was not true it was just the longest day of darkness.

I asked them to imagine what it would feel like to see the sun growing less and less present and darkness becoming more and more predominant.  Could they imagine that some people and cultures began to think that they had to appease angry Gods who would let darkness become the growing experience of the world as punishment for sins.  It then is no surprise that many religions pick this season of the annual calendar to celebrate some form of light coming into the darkness, removing the fear of darkness, and creating hope for light to shine in the darkness.

The universal truth and the universal need for reassurance that light will balance out the darkness implies a fundamental truth of balance and harmony in the universe a fundamental message of many religious groups.  In Genesis 1:36 God looks upon all creation, sees the north pole, the south pole, sees the vegetation and the pollutants, the sky above and sea below, and male and female of all living things and imagines the wonder and splendor of all things remaining in balance and harmony,  the verse say, “And God everything that God had made and saw that it was very good”.  This very good was not that one part of creation was very good as opposed to another part that was not so good but that in the balance of nature there is a quality of very good that is strikingly comforting.  At the end of the cycle of the year the amount of light and darkness, day and night is equal even though some days are longer or shorter.  The message is clear.  Their may be some unfairness in one day as opposed to another but over the process of time their is balance and harmony in the system.

The message  of mother nature is profound while some days my not be equally fair but as the years role by ther eis plenty of balance and integrity in the system of nature and the world.

Touching Moments: What Christmas is all about.

God touched the hem of humanities garment by taking on the form of a man

Yesterday my children and grandchildren came for a holiday visit.  We had a wonder filled time as we wandered the mountain on a 1 1/2 mile hike that felt like 4 miles at “Olivia’s Overlook.  There were all the facets of life:  conversation, memories, laughter, rolling of eyes as Ginger our Golden Retriever had to be in the lead, oh and there was the chaos of not being sure which way to go.  Though I thought I knew the questioning created uncertainty and then fear of being lost became rife but caused no strife well only a little. We even saw snowflakes falling at the top of the mountain.

We returned to the house where a time of eating followed and then we exchanged presents under the theme:  “you get what you get and you do not get upset”.  There was the fire in the fireplace but it was eclipsed by the warmth of the smiles as the lights on the Christmas tree was eclipsed by the joy in the hearts.

Then there was the moment when Grandpa was to say blessing for the food and on the gathering.  I really wanted to say that in different ways each one had played a part in my being in a funk during the past two years but I decided to be positive and optimistic so while not denying the reality of some of the hurts in my heart I chose to embrace the love and joy in my heart in hopes of transforming and transitioning our family to better days.  So I chose to speak of the difficult time this past year and that I was glad for everyone in the room and their part in my healing and feeling restored to life.  I thanked each of them for being here this Christmas as it affirmed the true meaning of Christmas of love, joy, peace, and hope of Christmas.

The small family of three that gathered that first Christmas, I still wonder where the rest of the family was as I would think siblings, cousins etc would all be having to take this trip to register for taxes.  Maybe the registration was staggered according to birthday so Joseph was the only one born in December.  We were a family of 13 such a lucky number.  It was a truly wonder-filled gathering blessed by the presence of the matriarch, my Mom at 92 and by the newest member Bradley James, to be 5 months two days after Christmas.

God touched the hem of the garments of each one in our family and helped us all be healed of any thought or feeling except Love, Joy, Peace and Hope.  The Secret Garden of Blessing is the effect of the message of Advent.  God is coming.  God is here.

The Joy of Christmas

On the third Sunday of Advent we light the pink candle, the candle of light in the darkness.  It is the season of Joy.

On that first Christmas there was not much joy.  Mary and Joseph had to journey to Bethlehem because they happen to be of the household and lineage of David.  They could not have this, their first, baby in the quiet village near family and friends of their household.  And did you ever wonder why they traveled alone assuming that other members of their family were also of the line of David.  Being alone can be solitude but it can also be solitary. All the Inns were booked up and this was no holiday.  There maybe was the joy of the wise men bearing special and precious gifts but what ever happened to all that wealth. Did it go to pay taxes?

Then it dawns on me.  The joy of Bethlehem was anticipatory joy that was felt in the moment as if it was there when it was yet a bit far off.

I do not think it was “great joy” when the father announced to the some today is the day you will be rolled up in a cell and planted inside the womb of Mary the selected blessed young woman who had known no man in a sexual way, conceived in the little obscure village of Nazareth. Then later to be born in the celebrated yet little Town of Bethlehem. It was not a day of joy to  leave all the confort and peace and perfect union of love power within the triune Godhead in heaven for the hay fields of earth.  The joy was as outlined later in the Bible text of James 1:2 “Count it all joy when you fall into, stumble into, choose to walk into difficulties”.  It is not mental gymnastics to think of it as “joy” but actually mental discipline to look beyond the moment of suffering, pain, discomfort and experience peace now because of seeing joy down the road.  Jesus on the cross and at the cradle saw down the road so let me paraphrase:

“Who (Jesus) for the joy that was set before him (in heaven), endured the cross of shame, embraced the cradle of loneliness, experienced crises of life and is now set down at the father’s right hand having returned to perfect peace and joy and having demonstrated how to live with perfect peace and joy in this world.”  -Hebrews 12:2

In a difficult time of illness and darkness in my life, I learned at a deeper experiential level the truth of and secret of “counting it a joy”.  I could not.  Rather a part of me could not but when another part saw beyond the difficulties to the joy available from the “maker of heaven and earth” and from within as the creator put it in all of us.  What is that: faith (to see joy), hope and love.  The trinity of eternity is in you.

Mary and Joseph were filled with joy as they looked into the eyes of the one who would make blind eyes see, heal hearts wounded, and heal bodies attacked by diseases.  It was truly the smile of life and love that reflected the gift of Love and deflected all the difficulties of the day.  No one can look into the eyes of the new born and not smile at the wonder of love and life.

The Joy of Christmas is present when all is well and anticipatory when all is not well.  Joy is a well of water springing up into everlasting love, peace, hope and joy.

 

Enter Peace

Cannot get the graphics to work will add in time, Happy Birthday Irving

I have a good friend who walked with me during the darkest hours of this past two years.  At one of my lowest days he called my wife and I to their home.  He told me that they wanted me to have an incredible work of art that hung over their sofa and had blessed their home for years with the single word:  Shalom! They were downsizing so were giving away a lot and wanted me to have this as I had been a source of peace for them during a number of loses, difficult times in their lives over the past several years.  They confirmed my compassionate parts when I was feeling judged by others and had slipped into loathing.  It did not snap me out of it but it was a piece of the experiences that ultimately in time has brought me back to peace.

It is a double blessing as it represents both he and his twin brothers giftedness.  His twin brother, Herman who died a few years ago, with his gifted hands made the gift of a piece of wood on which this Jewish word for peace rests.  The word itself “MOLAHS” was a gift made out of metal by Irving with his gifted hands.  Yesterday, December 8 a day that will always be a fay to celebrate their lives and their legacy and gifts to the world was their shared birthday. So with double thanks I give thanks to God for the gift of peace extended to me by their gift of compassion.  Shalom and Amen!!

Baby’s First Christmas

What does baby Jesus say to us?

crib-community2-09

Recently I was reflecting on Baby’s first Christmas, partly because in our family we have a baby’s first Christmas, so here is the reflections in honor of him and that first Baby Jesus, without whom there would be no Christmas.

The first baby gift of Christmas was about sacrifice not money

The first baby gift of Christmas was not about size but a small baby

The first baby gift of Christmas was about a cradle not a coffer

The first baby gift of Christmas was about what the world needed not about the creator

The first baby gift of Christmas was not about gifts of gold Frankincense and myrrh as the wise men thought but was about the gift of love and peace to spur on acts and intentions of goodness and kindness which the Angels declared  “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth, peace of heart and mind to all on whom His favor rests (that is all of us) and good will with intentional acts of goodness and kindness to all God’s creation, 

The first baby gift of Christmas was not about gift giving but about receiving the unnoticeable unappreciated gift of love and presence/ not about presents under a tree but about God’s presence becoming near and noticeable.

The First Christmas gift was not about fancy ribbons, holiday greetings but about aloneness, abandonment and poverty

The first baby gift of Christmas there were no gay happy meetings of family and friends, but cold aloneness, refugee like state, and overwhelming burdens that would be a catalyst not of peace but of the slaughtering of infants in an effort to remove the threat to Herod of the birth of the one who would rule the world.

The first baby’s gift to the world was to do what baby’s do to our lives:  we forget about everything that crates stress and unrest in our world and sit and face to face: smile to smile feel peace and love.

All Baby’s first Christmases remind us that the love, hope, peace and joy of the Advent Season is about being together, letting go of all but love and smiling a smile that goes for miles and miles!

What is Christmas all about?

It is christmas!

What is Christmas?

 

I am sure you think of a lot of answers to that question and at different moments in the day the answer may be different.

 

On of the things I am working on this Christmas is “being in the moment”.  I was putting some decorations up in our home and came across one that someone gave us for Christmas one year. In that moment I was flooded with a positive feeling of love and warmth.  I sat down and took in the thought of them, the love of them, and the joy that they have and are bringing into my life including a little boy who will be nearly 5 months old this Christmas.  Their are lots of others who bring love and joy into my life. This moment was about them and their gift: simple, inexpensive, and priceless.IMG_1835

Maybe that is what Christmas is about?  People lovingly thoughtful filling hearts with a smile through the years in that moment and for many moments to come.

In that moment in Bethlehem God gave a gift of love and thoughtfulness that we are good to remember every moment of our lives.  From the dark night moments to the bright sun lit days.

Be Smiling this Christmas and oh yes put a smile on someone else’s face.