Friends Committee on National Legislation started a campaign to cut the pentagon’s budget – in 2011 it was a staggering $664.84 billion, which is 60% of the overall federal budget – so that we do not have to make drastic cuts on important services like education, healthcare, nutrition assistance and housing that keep our communities thriving. Since 2011 the price-tag for defense has sky-rocketed from 287 billion to where we are today, no wonder our country is broke (Link). As a Christian and Quaker preacher, I want to see us invest in eliminating poverty in our country.
FCNL has asked individuals to post their image with their name and an area that they feel our government could do better at putting our money into rather than in Defense. This is mine.
Nothing is more practical than finding God,
that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, what you will do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read,
who you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love,
stay in love,
and it will decide everything.
The magnificat is beautiful and celebratory song. It is known as the magnificat, because that is the opening word of Mary’s famous song in Latin. In Greek it is Megalunei, which means to magnify, grow, enlarge! It is thought to be one of the earliest Christian hymns ever recorded and it is one of four found in the Gospel of Luke. It is the subject of much art throughout history and composers have loved to set music to the words: most notably Vivaldi and Johann Sebastian Bach.
For most of us, our experience of the announcement of a Child’s birth is cause for excitement. Even mores with Mary – the birth of Jesus, foretold by Gabriel is shocking news that causes the Singer song-writer in Mary to break out into a powerful number.
This is the message I gave today at Camas Friends during meeting for worship. It is based on Luke 3:1-6.
The Parking Lots
When I was in high school I did what many people my age have done for generations and that was work as a grocery store carry-out: a bag-boy as we called it back then. I have many fond memories from that first job, not least of which was my promotion to working in the dairy department where my colleagues and I would eat ice-cream from damaged cartons, and have the bakery bake us up frozen pizza’s that we’d “accidentally” sliced through while stocking them in the freezers.
As a bag-boy there were two main areas that I conducted my job: the end of the register where I bagged groceries, and the parking lot where I traversed the sea of cars next to the customer I was serving on many blistery Ohio nights in the rain, sleet and slushy snow.
Of these two locations, the parking lot was where I had some of the most profound experiences of my life as a bag-boy. As a young and very earnest Christian, I took every opportunity to talk to people about my faith, the worship band I was playing on, and even offer to pray with my customers. I remember many times in that 2-5 min. walk to a customer’s car having the opportunity to catch-up with my regulars, listen to someone who had just learned bad news, or hear of family troubles at home. More than once did I offer to pray for them whether right there standing by their car, or later on my own. I never had anyone turn me down. I used what little space was given carefully, I was never pushy, I didn’t always talk about faith, but you’d be surprised how many times in that parking in Alliance Ohio, I had an opportunity to be a listening and compassionate presence.
O God, we thank you for this earth, our home;
For the wide sky and the blessed sun,
For the salt sea and the running water,
For the everlasting hills
And the never-resting winds,
For trees and the common grass underfoot.
We thank you for our senses
By which we hear the songs of birds,
And see the splendor of the summer fields,
And taste of the autumn fruits,
And rejoice in the feel of the snow,
And smell the breath of the spring.
Grant us a heart wide open to all this beauty;
And save our souls from being so blind
That we pass unseeing
When even the common thornbush
Is aflame with your glory,
O God our creator,
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
Gratitude … goes beyond the “mine” and “thine” and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.
Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice. I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment. It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint…The choice for gratitude rarely comes without some real effort. But each time I make it, the next choice is a little easier, a little freer, a little less self-conscious. Henry Nouwen in Memories, Hopes and Conversations by Mark Lau Branson.
This past week I began a four-week “writing sabbatical,” and the whole thing went really well. The church was generous to release me from my responsibilities so that I could commit focused-time to working on my dissertation. The goal is to work my typical 40+ hours a week but spend that time writing – so that by the end of the month I might have a rough draft – we’ll use rough draft here liberally – completed or at least close. That means that I have a goal of adding three or four more chapters to the four I already have written. The push is in order that I might hand this thing in by the cut-off next February. Last week was successful in moving me toward that in that I not only was able to finish a new chapter, but was able to make some connections and learn some things that have alluded me in the short bursts of time I’ve been working on the project thus far. Continue reading Writing-Sabbatical Update #1