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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A New Year Dawning

As one year ends and another begins, I offer for your reflection two of my favorite poems by the late Irish poet, philosopher John O'Donohue.

For a New Beginning

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

Blessing for a New Year (Beannacht)

Both poems are from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings, by John O’Donohue

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


The fourth and final Word of Advent is "Love."

The expectation of Hope, the wholeness of Peace, and the belonging of Joy all lead to a profound and pure sense that each of us is inseparable from one another, from the Divine, and from all creation. Far from a sentimental, romantic, or physical attraction, the Love of Advent is the glue that binds humanity and holds the universe together.

Love is not something we have, hold or give as much as it is participation in and relationship with the Life Force of all creation. The intensity is greater in some relationships than in others, hence the mystery of love between humans and for animals, nature, music, art.

Through the ages, as humanity has searched for meaning and purpose, we always seem to come around to that "crazy little thing called love."  It is the at the core of most religion.  Christian scriptures say that without love we are nothing but "clanging cymbals," and that God IS Love. Hebrew scriptures say that the first and foremost rule of life is to love God, others, and self with our whole being.  Love is the basis for the five pillars of Islam.

Love is what we discover in pure vulnerability with ourselves, each other, and with God or whatever our concept of the the Divine may be.  The Words of Advent - Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love - bring us to such a place of vulnerability.  We call this place "Christmas."

Here is my Advent / Christmas offering for you - one of the best expressions I know of Love as vulnerability, "The Rose" by Amanda McBroom.

Merry Christmas!

Amanda McBroom sings "The Rose"

Some say love, it is a river
That drowns the tender reed
Some say love, it is a razor
That leaves your soul to bleed
Some say love, it is a hunger
An endless aching need
I say love, it is a flower
And you, its only seed

It’s the heart that fears the breaking
That never learns to dance
It’s the dream, afraid of waking
That never takes the chance
It’s the one who won’t be taken
Who cannot seem to give
And the soul, afraid of dying
That never learns to live

When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long
And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snow
Lies the seed
That with the sun’s love, in the spring
Becomes the rose

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


The third Word of Advent is "Joy."   

Like the other words of Advent, joy has a much deeper meaning than our popular understanding.  Most of us have a tendency to equate joy with happiness.  Even though the two are often experienced together and one usually leads to the other, joy and happiness are not the same.

I have come to think of joy as a state of being or a perspective on life, while happiness is a fleeting experience of pleasure. Joy is the source of happiness. However, one can be joyful even in sadness. Joy is the deep gladness that we are alive, that we participate in and affect this amazing, wonderful experience we call life. 

Joy is the wellspring of laughter, tears, smiles, and frowns.  Joy is the immense sense of belonging when hiking canyons, climbing mountains, standing on the seashore, or looking across vast plains. Joy is knowing the One Eternal Presence is with us, in us, and around us.  Joy is light in darkness.

This is how Advent Angels sing of "great joy" among us, and the Psalmist says, "Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. 


Wednesday, December 9, 2015


Continuing to explore the words of Advent "Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love," we consider the second word of Advent - "Peace."

Ask most people to define "peace" and we use words like "calm, serene, and tranquil;" or phrases like "lack of conflict" or "absence of war."   Peace is all of this, yet much more.

The Peace of Advent is grounded in a biblical understanding of completeness, wholeness, and harmony.  The Hebrew word for peace is "shalom" which is used to describe the wholeness of body, mind and spirit; covenant relationship between two people, or nations, or with God; prosperity or success; and the end of military battle.  The Greek work "eirene" takes on all of these meanings with Christ as the model for and source of peace, hence the title "Prince of Peace."

In this biblical sense the Peace of Advent is not passive or theoretical, but active and practical.  It is also both inward and outward. We can be peaceful in the midst of conflict, as well as a peace maker between conflicting parties.  However, in order to bring peace to those around us we must have peace (wholeness and harmony) within us.

The Peace of Advent, the same sung by angels to shepherds, is not so much an invitation into tranquil rest as it is a call to action within ourselves and with others.  Just like the popular hymn says, "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin in me."

May the Peace of Advent be with you!

Thursday, December 3, 2015


Last Thursday (Thanksgiving Day) was the unofficial beginning of the “holiday season.”  Over the next six weeks or so there will be many parties, dinners, musical programs, family gatherings, and public celebrations.

In the midst of the holiday season we Christians observe Advent, four weeks before Christmas that remind us of the fullness of our human experience.  One way we do this is by centering on four words (one for each week): Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.  Hope comes first because without hope we can't experience the others. Unfortunately for many people the word "hope" has become confused with "wish."

Here's how I see the difference. On the one hand, to wish is to have a strong desire for something to occur that has an equal, if not strong, probability of not happening. Hope, on the other hand, is a state of mind, an attitude or perspective of assurance that the world is as we expect it to be.  One could even say that wish is a verb - something we do, while hope is a noun - something we have.

In a theological, spiritual sense Hope is the assurance that Divine Goodness (meaning wholeness and fullness) is at the foundation and core of Creation.  At first glance, in light of all the pain and suffering in the world, this may seem rather glib or pollyannaish.  And, if we think in terms of "hope" as "wish" it is.  However, coming to a place and perspective that within each and every person and all of creation there is a Divine Spark (however dim or bright it may be) we begin to sense the essence of true Hope.  Wishing comes and goes.  Hope stays.

Advent is a season to reclaim Divine Hope in our lives.