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Posts Tagged ‘love’

Last Christmas I was given a 2014 diary with a cheerful bird on the cover – a book with a week on two pages.  I already use a smart phone and a huge family calendar in an ongoing struggle to stay organized, so a third daybook was going to add to the confusion.  But it seemed like the ideal book for a gratitude journal.

Many people encourage the use of a gratitude journal to focus on the positive in your life.  I started on January 1.  Many of my entries focused on practical essentials: A furnace that works.  Warm, sturdy boots.  Electricity.  Sunshine.  Warm mittens.  Enough money.  A home.  Sleep.  Smoked salmon.  Chocolate.  Definitely chocolate.

2014 diary book

Blessings are not shared when they are trapped inside the pages of a gratitude journal.

I was often grateful for family and community: My son, such a wonderful kid. An inspiring teacher. A helpful colleague.  Bright new interns full of enthusiasm. Church. My creative daughter.

And the world around me:  God’s love, birds singing, a bright red cardinal, laughter, snow melting, singing, a puppy next door, a cellist playing a haunting melody in the subway, and the time to sit with someone in the last week of her life.

But after a few months, I got bored with the whole gratitude journal thing.  Sitting down at the end of the day writing down what I was grateful for was too passive.

It is not enough for me to count my blessings like Scrouge counting his coins.  I need to do the harder work of actively living out gratitude in my life.  Blessings are not shared when they are trapped inside the pages of a gratitude journal.

I think blessings are a bit like coins – sure, we can count them, and we can share them. But blessings are much more powerful than coins, because when we share our blessings they multiply.

 

 

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Sun breaking through dark ines.

God’s light shines in darkness.

This was meant to be a post about gratitude, about God’s work in the world.  The first in a series leading up to Christmas, shining light on love and hope in a world that is too often mired in cruelty, greed, despair and evil.

But as I scrolled through my emails this evening one dropped like a bomb onto my screen.  The subject line was “sad news.”  Someone’s relative – a young man in his twenties – has taken his own life.   You are probably familiar with the tragic story line.  A young person living away from home, reached a depth of hopelessness and despair that made death seem like the only alternative.  A family in shock and denial.

Where is God in this senseless loss of life?  How can I write about gratitude and hope in the world now?  How does God let this happen?

All I know is that God walks alongside us in our grief and despair, that God cries out and suffers with us, that God will carry this family in its terrible grief as they walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  God’s love will surround them unawares, even if they rail at God or deny his very existence.  God’s love will shine through family, friends and neighbours who will hold and support them, feed them and listen until they can begin to live again.  Their lives will never be the same, but God’s light will gradually penetrate and one day they will feel hope again.

So maybe this post is about God’s work in the world after all, and what I am trying to express in clumsy words is my gratitude for hope even in the face of tragedy, and my faith in God’s love for us even in our deepest despair.

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I have been reflecting about love.  Not romantic love, but the kind of love that expresses itself as compassion, understanding and care for our fellow humans.

At work, as part of our diversity training, we’re taught about the “platinum rule:” do unto others as they would have you do unto themWe’re told this new rule is much better that the “golden rule” of most major religions.   This makes my blood boil because I am pretty sure humanity hasn’t discovered a new “great truth” in the past couple of years.

One day I told the instructor that my faith tells me to “love my neighbour as myself” — and wasn’t that the same as her platinum rule?  The instructor couldn’t back out of the conversation fast enough.  She wanted to talk about people’s differences, about respecting our co-workers, and making the office a safe place where people can “bring their whole self to work.”  Not about faith.

My values and my faith are all entwined together.  The way I treat people at work, on the street, at the store, is all tied up in my faith and how I cherish and value the life of every human being.  Of course I often don’t get it right.  I get short-tempered and frustrated like everyone.   I struggle with how I am supposed to love people who hate others, people who drive gay teens to suicide, or who hurt children.  To be honest, I would prefer not to have those people as neighbours.  This is not an easy commandment to live by!

I believe that I am called to love my neighbour, to love all people, as myself.  To love radically and unconditionally because I know God loves us all radically and unconditionally. 

And so I was heartened – delighted – to see Bishop Gene Robinson’s video telling gay youth about God’s unconditional love on the “It Gets Better” YouTube channel. 

 Seeker

You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”    Mark 12:31

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One special moment of many in the Holy Land.

Camel at dawn

Dawn on Mount Sinai

My camel plods steadily up Mount Sinai in the dark. Her cushioned feet make a soft crunch on the ground as she steps deliberately up the path, one large foot at a time.

I am bundled in a warm fleece jacket against the crisp cold, sitting high up in my comfortable saddle. Holding securely to the worn, wooden pummel, I am accompanied by my moon shadow, riding up the mountain with me. My shadow and I are both sitting tall and easy in the saddle, breathing deeply the cold, fresh air. A slight odour of musty camel and camel dung drifts past on the light breeze. Overhead, the stars shine like brilliant jewels in the clear, dry night sky.

I hear the guttural grunts and grumbles of the camels, and the calls of the camel drivers behind me. A radio blares for a while, then is silenced. I feel alone with my camel on this dark, rocky mountain.

The camel takes a small mis-step and slips a little on the loose stones. I peer down a dark, steep precipice, but I am calm and trust my camel completely. I continue to feel the rhythm of her steady steps up, up, up the mountain. Imperceptively the black sky lightens and I can see into the dark crevasses. Somewhere a bird sings a pure, simple two-note song.

The grace that has brought me here, to this place, to open my heart to God, brings me to tears. And my heart overflows as God pours in all that I need to sustain me on my journey: life and beauty, joy and love, awe and wonder, gratitude and peace, courage and strength.

An hour later, we arrive at the summit at dawn. Suddenly the camel pitches back and forth, settling down onto her calloused joints to allow me to dismount. A little unsteady on the solid ground, I take a moment to find my land legs. Soon I am back to solid reality, two feet on the rocks, my heart singing as I watch the sun rise, knowing that I will carry home the strength of this mountain of God.

Seeker

You shall have a song as in the night when a holy festival is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one sets out to the sound of the flute to go to the mountain of God, to the Rock of Israel.      Isaiah 30:29

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