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The Virtue We Need
AUTHOR
Bob  »

The apostles are almost comical in their frequent bewilderment concerning Jesus.  Clearly, they never met anyone remotely like him before.  The way he looks at things is so original and surprising. He’s a genius in the way that he speaks to the heart of things in the disarmingly simple stories that he tells.  Most significantly, the apostles see in him a truly compassionate and free person.  Everywhere he goes, he brings hope and healing to the downtrodden.  The spirit that he’s got, they want.  It’s exhilarating.

At the same time, he scares the hell out of them.  They notice that he sparks resistance and hatred from the powerful who find him to be dangerously subversive.  Jesus knows what the authorities can, and almost certainly will, do to him – and yet he persists.  He challenges them to their faces. The apostles wonder how a person can be so fearless.  The courage he’s got, they want.  But it’s more than a little terrifying.

The apostles falter, sometimes spectacularly, in their adherence to his way.  Many times Jesus says to them something that he must often tell himself in his quiet moments, “Do not be afraid.” 

We Christians struggle, as the early disciples did, to understand and emulate his courageous ways.  We often don’t measure up.  Standing up for the poor, confronting oppressive structures, and opposing unjust laws and practices can take a Christ-like bravery. It’s daunting.

Courage is not always listed at the top of virtues to which Christians aspire.  Maybe it should be.

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Three Things
AUTHOR
Joan  »

When I became a manager with staff reporting to me I pondered what skills I would need to focus on given I had never had such a job.  I thought about the things I valued in people who have managed offices I worked in.  One of the top things was kindness.  This probably came to me because I had recently read a quote attributed to Henry James.  He stated "There are three things that are important in human life.  The first is to be kind.  The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind."

I was so impressed by that statement that I printed it out on a large piece of paper and hung it over my desk.  It is still there many years later despite getting a bit ratty on the edges.  I look at it each time I enter my office and, I would like to think, it has impacted how I am both in the office and away from my work.

 

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Be Kind, and Unwind
AUTHOR
Jill  »

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, the golden rule, for most of us it was the first rule we were taught as children. Such a simple phrase to remember but it is quite a hard one to practice. While we were young our circumference of interactions was small. It is not so difficult learning to consider those who already consider you. And I know, sometimes being kind can be even harder with those we love. Unfortunately, we even more so must practice being kind to ourselves. We must work our way inside out. Self-care, mentally and spiritually, is overlooked on a daily bases. Learning to break the bad habits of self-criticism and self-doubt will allow us to connect more genuinely in our relationships with others. So I suggest we make an updated version of our glitzy rule. Be kind to others and be kind to ourselves.

 

 

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At McDonalds
AUTHOR
Bob  »

An arthritic woman, someone’s grandma no doubt, slowly and stiffly walks in out of the cold.  She sits for a while, then unwraps several layers.  Eventually, she painfully moves to the bathroom, returning 10 minutes later.  She sits again, pulls a cup and saucer from her bag, sits quietly some more, then makes her way to the counter and buys a coffee.  Back in her seat, she takes a minute or two before transferring the drink from the paper cup to her china.  All the while, I’m thinking I’ll put down my book and approach her to see if I can buy her breakfast.  Before I do so, a young business woman from the next table gets up and asks if she can get her something to eat.  She says she’d love an Egg McMuffin.  In a couple minutes the meal is on the table and the young woman is off to work.  The grandma fishes a knife and fork from her bag, wipes them with a paper napkin, and prepares to eat her breakfast.

 

Who says the city is a heartless place?  I’m grateful to have witnessed the young woman’s kindness.  How easy that was!  Often, it doesn’t cost much to show a little humanity.  No need to be hesitant when a clear opportunity to reach out presents itself.  Next time, I’ll be quicker to get on my feet.  Generous thoughts are good; simply acting on them is better.

 

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The Triple Truth
AUTHOR
Joan  »

Ahhh... humanity.  There are times I edge towards despair as to how I can have any positive impact on our seemingly battered humanity. As I pray for guidance I often am inclined to search out wisdom from sages I admire - Jesus, Buddha, Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, Winnie-the-Pooh and others.  Recently I found this teaching called The Triple Truth.  The Buddha, ever succinct, crystallizes what I need to do to renew humanity in my little time and space.

A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.

This seems so simple yet I forget I can change someone's the world with a simple smile, a kind word, a compassionate ear, a hug or a gentle hand on an arm.  By these actions I can renew someone's spirit or prevent their fall into anger, despair or sorrow.  To renew someone's view of themselves is a powerful gift.  It is a stone in a pond of someone's world that ripples out to all they encounter. 

What better way to contribute to the crucial renewal of our world and our humanity? 

 

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Same God, New Me
AUTHOR
Jill  »

It seems to creep in the night, seeping in every waking thought with such precision. Lingering, taunting me in the grocery, at the movies and worst of all in my prayers (so I thought).  I hid from the sheer idea of it, saying to myself “no, I’m just hurt”. I swaddled myself in deceptive invisible layers that seemed to guard me but really kept me tightly wrapped in my own misery. I was in a negative emotional free fall of brokenness.

Spring 2003, my baby brother went to be with the Lord. I lived my entire childhood with the growing understanding all life’s first were just a faded dream for my brother.  So, you would think I would be ready. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready for the heartbreak, pain and brokenness. I wasn’t ready for the anger. I was so very angry. It was a stench, that greeted my loved ones and every person I encountered. Anger showed up in every aspect of my life.  One day, I gathered up the courage to finally truly pray about it. I was done trying to slay this anger beast on my own.  Through prayer God has renewed my spirit, and where there use to be a gaping hole of brokenness; He has planted love and peace.

In what area in your life do you need God to renew you?

Psalm 51:10  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

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AUTHOR
Bob  »

 A friend of mine entered the new year in spectacular fashion.  After waiting months for a donor, he received a heart transplant at Cleveland Clinic a couple days before Christmas.  When I talked with him on the phone less than two weeks later, his voice was so full of vitality and enthusiasm, it brought tears to my eyes.  It seemed miraculous.

I once saw a documentary in which a middle aged woman received an aural implant that allowed her to hear for the first time since she became deaf due to an illness when she was a teenager.  I’ll never forget her ecstatic flood of tears when she perceived the first sound through her earphones. 

Every morning we open our eyes to a new day.  We hear the sounds of people and things we love.  We breath in and breath out.  Our lives, at once mundane and miraculous, are renewed day by day.  Yet, even someone like me, who had open heart surgery two decades ago, can often forget what a gift each heartbeat is, what pleasure our senses give us.  That’s just the way it is. 

Today, though, I’m relishing the thought of my friend with a new heart, of that woman with her restored gift of hearing and of myself with twenty added years of life (and counting). It might have been otherwise.

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Hope is ...
AUTHOR
Steph  »

“Hope is not blind optimism.

It's not ignoring the enormity of the task ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It's not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight.

Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it.

Hope is the belief that destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by the men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.”

- Barack Obama

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The Joy of Hope
AUTHOR
Joan  »

I have grandchildren who, at this particular time, are full of a special sort of hope. The kind of hope that keeps them in a cloud of excitement as Christmas Day approaches.  The kind of hope that leads them to be able to tell you exactly how many days are left until December 25.  I have the impression no matter what is under the tree that day they will have their hopes fulfilled because their hearts will be open to the joy of the unexpected goodness of the people who love them. 

This is the sort of hope I try to embrace myself as the days have darkened and the world seems off kilter more than usual.  The hope that enables me to feel gratitude and joy for each day because I know God loves me and gifts me with what I need to be happy and free.  The things I put on my "list" are not always what I receive but I hold tight to the hope that the God who loves me as a parent loves a child will gift me the grace I need to grow and express God's presence in this world.

May you find and share such a hope in this season of giving and in the year to come.

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The Gift
AUTHOR
Jill  »

It’s the most wonderful time to get gifts. At least that’s what my inner child would say. I used to believe all the other Holidays were just fillers for the main event, Christmas! Once the leaves turned into their autumn hues, my brother and I were on high alert for the “big brand toy store” catalogs. We regularly checked the mail after school, and sometimes checked it twice. “It’s here!” one of us would shout, shoulder to shoulder with markers in hand we would assemble our Christmas list. Now of course we understood only a small percentage of the toys and games we desired would make it under the tree Christmas morning. And that was just fine by us, because our Christmas list was just a nonverbal proclamation to our parents of our hope for the grand gifts to come.

 

I wonder if Mary composed a list, in the months approaching the arrival of her son Jesus. As she prepared for motherhood was she contemplating all the things her baby might need or what kind of man he might be. Maybe it was beforehand when the angel Gabriel was sent to reveal that even though she was a virgin, she would conceive and give birth to the Son of the Most High (Luke 1:31-32).  Or maybe later, after visiting with Elizabeth when she declared “blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear” (Luke 1:42). Did she recite her list to her Heavenly Father in prayer? Or maybe she had no list at all. I believe Mary was stilled by the peace of the Holy Spirit; she knew she would give birth to the Messiah (the anointed one). Oh, I could only imagine her heart was full of HOPE, for the Grandest Gift of ALL to come, King Jesus.

 

What are you hoping for this Christmas Season?

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