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I Am Listening

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Week 2: "I Am Listening" Lenten Discussion

Thank you for visiting Week 2 of WonderCafe's Lenten devotional book study. (See the Week 1 discussion.) This thread is a place to reflect upon and discuss the daily devotions offered in the book, I Am Listening: Daily Devotions for Lent (UCPH, 2011). 

I Am Listening is available from the UCRD in print or e-book format. You can order it here. We welcome you to join in the discussion whether or not you have a copy of the book.

Each day we will post a short synopses of the reflection offered in I Am Listening: Daily Devotions for Lent for that day, along with a discussion question or two. We invite you to participate in the discussion by sharing your thoughts on the issues raised in the passage. 

Blessing on your Lenten journey.

 

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First Sunday in Lent | Love's Will
 
"For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength." 1 Corinthians 1:25
 
We are vulnerable to the imposition of death. And whenever we try to rationalize experiences like these, our voice sounds foolish.
 
Learning of a person's diagnosis of a dangerous illness, the community may pray earnestly, pleading for relief. Alas, healing does not always result. Often we are left to share God's broken heart in the company of death. Indeed, no available wisdom, no cliché, can explain how helpless God sometimes appears to be in the face of death's imposing power. 
 
When God appears to be ineffective and weak (in our foolish opinion), that is the point where spiritual strength meets us in abundance. Surprising compassion confronts us with a love that will not retreat.
 
 
Discussion: What painful occasion of loss can you claim? How was God present there with you?
 
 

 

 

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Beloved's picture

Beloved

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Loss of several close loved ones through death, loss through divorce (you do not just lose one person -  a whole family can be lost to you, as well as your life as you knew it).

 

Although through a lot of them there were times that I didn't "feel" that God was with me.  Perhaps because I was looking for God's presence to prevent or heal the illness or death.  I do know that God was with me.  It is when I look back at these times that I see that God was there, God did give strength and help (through a variety of ways).  It is when I look back and see the faithfulness of God during those times that I can face the future and any losses that may befall me.

 

MikePaterson's picture

MikePaterson

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We have moved on a lot through life — 30+ home moves around three countries. So feelings of loss, smaller and larger, are almost a "constant" in all sorts of ways. But "god-ness" supports us and the whole-of-life is a balance. To me, beauty is "god's language of love" and beauty is everywhere, even within our own organic existence — I feel more than amply sustained.

somegalfromcan's picture

somegalfromcan

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I'll never forget walking into church that Sunday. The sense of raw grief was palpable. I looked to the left and right and saw people engaged in tearful embraces. What was to have been a typical Sunday morning service became a service coming together as a community to grapple with the unexpected loss of our own. On Friday we had all received word that a young woman, just 27 years old, had passed away suddenly. She had been the picture of health - someone who ate well and got lots of exercise (she made a living as a scuba diver). She was someone who was well-known and extremely active in our congregation - she had taught Sunday School, sang in the choir and was an active member of the board.

 

Everyone in the congregation, from the very young to the very old, was profoundly effected. This young woman was one of my best friends - for many years we had been roommates. I had thought we would grow old together and share stories of our grandchildren with one another. That was not to be and I will always think wistfully of that dream.

 

The week that followed her passing was a blur of shared meals and memorial services. Friends and family flew in from across the country. Where was God? God was there as a comforter. God was there at the first memorial service - an informal affair with an open mic where everyone was invited to get up and share both funny and serious stories about here. God was there as friends reconnected with one another over meals and at homes. God was there at the second memorial service - a more traditional affair filled with the things she would have loved (and filled to the brim with people who loved her). God was there when a group of her friends went to the ocean, where she loved to be the most, and sing some of her favourite hymns.

 

It was a difficult time for me as she was the first of my group of peers to pass away - an experience that's very different from the passing of an older relative or friend. I was angry and confused. There were only two things that I knew for sure: 1) that I had to gather my friends closer to me and 2) that God had not abandoned us. I miss my friend, but I'm pretty sure that, if there's a heaven, she's up there singing in the heavenly choir and watching over those who love her.

 

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I Am Listening

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Day 5: Monday | Hope in the Wilderness
 
"For the Lord will comfort Zion;'
[God] will comfort all her wasted places, 
and will make her wilderness like Eden,
her desert like the garden of the Lord;
joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the voice of song." Isaiah 51:3
 
The world is full of wastelands, areas once full of fertile soil or forests that have become dry, arid desert. These deserted places are as far from the lovely Garden of Eden mentioned in Genesis as one can imagine.
 
How could God allow such injustice? Why is our world so polluted with violence and bloodshed, with poverty and suffering? Why are there countless bodies buried on the land rather than seeds that could yield life-giving crops? To such questions there are no easy answers. 
 
And yet Mother Nature, together with the Creator, can make any wasteland into a beautiful garden. Joy and gladness can be found again. Restoration and renewal give us reason to hope even amidst suffering and devastation. 
 
In the Islamic tradition the word for Paradise is jannah, meaning garden. There is something about the lush, verdant beauty of a garden that makes it an appropriate symbol of not only the afterlife, but also the redemption of this world. The way a garden emerges out of what was previously barren and cracked soil is a powerful symbol of our life and faith.
 
 
Discussion: Think of a place or time where nature had a special beauty. (Perhaps post a photo?) What does that help you to understand God?
 
 
Beloved's picture

Beloved

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Time or place where nature has a special beauty . . . there is so much beauty in nature always.  A few weeks ago weather conditions were such that there was a thick hoar frost on all the trees.  It lasted well into the day.  When the sun came out  it was beautiful - like diamonds glistening everywhere.

 

The beauty in and of nature helps me to understand God better in seeing a God who delights in the beauty, humor, intricacy, of his creation.

 

 

MikePaterson's picture

MikePaterson

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Nature has a special beauty within us.

 

 

We are a part of nature: we are biological creatures but we do seem to have a few special abilities. The MOST significant of these abilities is, to me, the gift of experiencing beauty. It’s a gift, like using language or abstract thinking, that we can train and develop and make more of.

 

It’s our highest sense, stirring in all our other senses and knitted together with all of our gfits and capacities: it's a gift that can inform our ways of thinking, of acting and of relating; it can inform our morality and our insight. And, more than language or abstract thought, it has amazing capacities to bring us joy and release us into prayers of gratitude.

 

I firmly believe that beauty is “god’s” language of love — it’s a balm to pain, hurt, anger and insult; it facilitates forgiveness; it makes us yearn to give only joy back to the World. And we ALL are capable of creating beauty and sharing beauty — in hospitality, in communicating, in creating, in loving… EVERYWHERE has special beauty and the challenge is to make that the starting point of our opening to its experience. It's "god's" ever-present whisper.

 

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The statement above that — "The world is full of wastelands, areas once full of fertile soil or forests that have become dry, arid desert. These deserted places are as far from the lovely Garden of Eden mentioned in Genesis as one can imagine." — is simply NOT true. They are words from out of blindness. Find the beauty; find the point of relationship. Eden has never been "real" — life in fullness is life in "reality". We can go a long way towards creating ugliness, but we can never fully extinguish beauty, just close our eyes to it.

 

Humanode's picture

Humanode

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Really liked what you said Beloved.

The Word is always there - available, open, free - turning each time and place into The Garden, into the sacred space.  When I finally receive the Word, I look back and see how many times it was right before me and I could not see/experience it. Sometimes I feel that I gloss over the darker times and paint them with brighter colours than I feel they deserve. At those moments I feel called back to Psalm 139:12 "Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You." and wonder if all life, both dark and light, is not holy and it is only the avoidance of life where the disconnection happens.

somegalfromcan's picture

somegalfromcan

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I remember when I was a teenager and I attended the annual CGIT provincial summer camp at Camp Moorecroft, in Nanoose Bay - north of Nanaimo, British Columbia. This camp was situated where the forest meets the ocean. There was a trail that went from the cabins, through the forest, past the campfire circle to a place called Vesper Point. We would hike that trail at least twice daily - for morning and evening vespers (which then led into campfire time). Once you went past the exit for the campfire circle, you would quickly encounter a very distinctive tree. It was called the silence tree, and once you passed it you were not allowed to speak. Vesper Point was a rocky area looking eastward over what is now known as the Salish Sea. A wooden cross had been erected on the site. Sometimes some birds would come sailing past and occasionally a friendly seal would swim by. As a kid, to me, this was the most beautiful place in the world - a place where I really felt connected to God and all of creation.

 

What does this experience help me to understand about God? This spot was possibly the first place I felt connected to God outside of church. Places like this have helped me to realize that God is not restricted to the four walls of a church. God is in nature; God is in urban and suburban neighbourhoods; God is in playgrounds and jail cells; God is at work, at school and at home - God is everywhere!

 

AaronMcGallegos's picture

AaronMcGallegos

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The desert has always been a great source of beauty and inspiration to me. It's helped me understand God is listening, and taught me to listen to God.

MikePaterson's picture

MikePaterson

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Gorgeous photo Aaron.

AaronMcGallegos's picture

AaronMcGallegos

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Thanks Mike. I didn't take it myself, but, um, borrowed it. But it is where I grew up as a teen and the landscape itself had a huge influence on me.

 

(Photo borrowed from here.)

I Am Listening's picture

I Am Listening

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Day 6: Tuesday | Family Faith
 
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By [God's] great mercy [God] has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. ...Although you have not seen him, you love him and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls." 1 Peter 1:3, 8, 9
 
Faith passes from one generation to the next. Family stories and experiences keep the faith alive and help each generation face the challenges of living and dying.
 
Prayer
 
God of our faith,
help us experience living hope.
Every day we hear of the death of people, 
known or unknown to us.
We pray for life after death, through resurrection.
Amen.
 
Discussion:  What family stories or experiences help you face challenges in your everyday life?
 
 
MikePaterson's picture

MikePaterson

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My mother was eccentric in a number of ways.  She was orphaned as a little girl: her father, an infantry Captain, was killed in the hell of Passchendaele in October 1917, and she grew up with Irish relatives in New Zealand. A little pet monkey he had picked up in Aden and somehow had sent to her on his way from New Zealand to France and some photographs of him in uniform amounted to pretty much all she really knew of him. She also had a pony called Silvertips and one of those life-long transcendent affinities for horses.

 

When I was at the age of endlessly asking “how much longer,” we would take drives and holidays and when I tried to say I was ready to “go home now”, my mother would ask me, “have you seen the fairies yet?” To which I would say, “no” and she’d say, “Well, we’ll have to stay a bit longer then.”

 

Have you ever walked on a deserted beach alone under a moonlit sky? Or sat by a stream in the woods? Your mood changes. Whatever feelings you took there are transformed into new feelings. Something potent is communicating with you. So, what’s the entity that’s communicating with you? You can break it all down and get analytic about it and probe your emotional associations and maybe find an explanation; maybe it’s something greater than the sum of those parts. My mother would say it was the fairies — she’d come to know them very well.

 

A teacher herself, she once “corrected” a woman teacher who’d ridiculed a story I’d innocently written about fairies. I was probably nine or 10 years old. Her blue eyes bright as lightning, my mother simply walked into the classroom in mid-lesson. The teacher, a pale, chubby thing with bright red lipstick was seated at her desk. She just stared up, eyes wide, jaw dropped like a rabbit in car headlights: a big moon-white, suety face. While I cringed under my desk, my mother, a slender wee thing, told the teacher in stilleto-like tones that if she’d never seen fairies she was a “simpleton” who should come right now and be shown the fairies. She finally hissed at the teacher: “Don’t you ever dare again attack a child’s imagination, a child’s imagination is his home” (or words to that effect). Then she left, having never once looked in my direction. There was a long, stunned silence. Then some nervous giggling but nothing was ever said about the incident: at school or at home. Even the other kids never mentioned it. It was an extraordinary, incredibly dramatic moment, surreal, and with no closure to this day.

 

The thing to all this is that, once you have this word it your head, and get past all the pretty little pre-pubescent winged things in the watercolour art of desperately bored and lonely Victorian spinsters, and start connecting with the more primal fairy lore than includes water horses and child-stealers and tree spirits and the like, you find it gets very easy — not to “believe” in fairies, but to discern them.

 

And, where whole communities discern fairies as a matter of course and have those experiences named in ways that facilitate the sharing of experiences, the fairies become a “normal” part of the local natural history. Every culture on the planet has or has had its vocabulary of  “otherworld” creatures, many of the consistently describing very similar beings. If “objectivity” has anything to do with widely and independently confirmed experiences, “fairies” have a strong claim to "objective" existence.

 

And how does it help me "face challenges" of daily life?

 

I know "there's always more, there's always another story".

qwerty's picture

qwerty

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Sorry I'm playing catch up here so this is on the meditation on death and encounters with it ...
 
When death looms, only love, beauty and spirit are uneclipsed.  Property, consumption, politics and strife shrivel to insignificance.  The mind reaches for meaning and turns not to what has been accumulated but to what has been created and given freely and to the love and assistance shared with others. 
 
qwerty's picture

qwerty

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On the day 6 meditation ...

 

Family stories are shared experience.  When I die I think I will know how to do it because my father showed me (by demonstrating) how both he and therefore I could face it.  This is a story I do not often tell but which I keep close to my heart  and share only from time to time as the occasion arises.

Beloved's picture

Beloved

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The struggles, challenges, and upsets of my maternal grandparents and their families as they left their homes and families overseas and settled in Canada as homesteaders - how they coped offers me courage, determination, and perseverance.  Extended family of my paternal grandparents took them (and their children) into their home and loved, provided, and cared for their needs when they were in dire straights.  Their example of charity and love teaches me how to live and treat others.

 

Examples from a variety of other family members that help me in challenging times:  people are important, give things time, be thankful for your blessings, faith is important, one day at a time, you will make it through.

 

 

 

 

 

waterfall's picture

waterfall

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In my jewellery box I keep a letter from one of my sons that he wrote to me when he was in his early 20's and just moving out of the house. It was only four lines, but the one line that surprised me was "You are the one person I look up to the most"

He included a saying by Mahatma Gandhi,

"Strength does not come from physical capacity, it comes from an indomitable will".

 

I can't tell you how many times I have reread that letter to remind myself that sometimes we are part of the experience for others and how careful we should be with that responsibility. And more than that, it makes my heart cry with happiness, eight years after I received it, everytime I read it.

 

I know I wasn't the perfect mother and neither were my parents, but somehow along the way, the important parts stay with us if we care enough to pass them along. We are all connected through our experiences and I think it's good to remember to share them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

somegalfromcan's picture

somegalfromcan

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My family story is one that I struggle with. Although we love each other, we are not a close family. For reasons I won't go into here, my parents have caused me a lot of grief and hurt. I feel, in many ways, I have overcome my parents. For the most part, I don't think like them and I certainly don't act like them. I live a very different life from them, and so many of the challenges they've faced are not a part of my life - and vice versa. I have gained in self-confidence because I have had to find my own solutions to my problems. I tend to gain more strength from experiences and stories shared with my friends, than my family. My friends, in many ways, are my chosen family. I know that my friends will not judge me; will accept me for who I am - and I also know, sadly, that is not the case for my parents.

I Am Listening's picture

I Am Listening

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Day 7: Wednesday | The Love Story
 
"We love because [God] first loved us." 1 John 4:19
 
We love only because God loves us first.
We breathe only because God breathed in us first.
We live believing our needy prayers and requests are a waste of God's time.
But the truth is, we need only because God needs us first.
God needs us -- more than we could ever know.
 
...
 
I once asked God why God had created us,
why God had the urge to create breathing creatures such as us.
"It was live," God replied.
Because God was filled with love, God was looking for someone to share it with;
someone to pour out God's love onto.
God needed us.
 
 
Discussion:  In what way does God really need no one? In what way does God really need you?
 
 
MikePaterson's picture

MikePaterson

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Does "god" really need me? Me in particular? Probably not… not in absolute, practical terms.

 

Does god love me? Ah… whatever ":god" is, "god" has somehow got me to where I am — if we overlook a bit of pissing around on my part. My potentiality has been around, put it that way. That's the "god" bit. Has it been fully expressed? No… mea culpa. Have I been unequivocally grateful? Never!… mea culpa. Must I writhe in guilt? It's "god's" fault… too many distractions? It's my fault? Okay, I thought so…mea culpa. God must think I'm a piece of crap and is going to be hell-mad at me for screwing up?

 

But god's not like that: "god" is not a nitpicker. "God" is more than an overwhelmingly generous host; "god" is a deeply loving, deeply forgiving, caring "parent" — we are "god"-flesh, "god"-blood, along with the whole of creation. Some of us are ungracious, truculent, stupid, quarrelsome and all-out objectionable. God may well weep, but "god" never gives up on the potential that we represent — it's better we're around… we might yet catch on.

 

Life is the sort of celebration that's good enough that we all should be desperate to share in it. Someone's hungry? NOT at THIS party! Someone's hurting? NOT at THIS party! Someone's hog-greedy? NOT at THIS party! Someone's picking on someone else? NOT at THIS party!

 

Our "god-given" responsibility is to celebrate… celebrate it ALL… WELL!

 

 

 

LET'S BE GRATEFUL!

 

Thundering, tumbling, reaching:

the surging, swelling, onrushing

arc of ocean’s edge…

 

Birdsong stretching the air to fit the day;

a warming web sheds diamonds of dew

on the upturned wrist of dawn…

 

Bounding squirrel, shining beetle,

staring fawn … eyes met

wild wind-dancing and blown rain…

 

Hue’s rising, blushing, extending

uncurling, arraying, disclosing —

as another blossom’s chalice fills…

 

Firelight chasing, shadows dancing

embers lingering, sparks leaping

anticipations … aftertastes…

 

Infinity turning, night sky yawning…

far-away stars aching to be touched…

clouds like cowboys riding moonbeams…

 

How uselessly we’d name it

tame it, frame it, lame it, maim it…

How gainfully we breathe it deeply in…

How well we expel it as joy.

 

 

Beloved's picture

Beloved

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To me, God doesn't really need anyone, because God is complete in God'self.

 

If God did need me, in particular, it would be because God decided that I would be part of all creation, and because creation is God's, I am God's, and if I am God's then God needs me :)

 

qwerty's picture

qwerty

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Think of God as the cosmos ... the universe. Without us it is just as magnificent and just as immense but it is not, however, profound, nor overwhelming, nor awe inspiring because these are all qualities that depend for their existence upon the existence of meaning and human emotion.  They exist only insofar as human perception exists.  If there is no human to ascribe meaning there can be no profundity.  If there is no human to perceive the greatness of the cosmos there is no consciousness to be overwhelmed and no personality to feel awe.  Thus without humanity God is unrealized.   Just as God gives us our existence humanity calls forth God.

musicsooths's picture

musicsooths

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Does God Need us? I don't think in our human sense of need God wants to be in a  relationship with us. I suspect that it would be pretty boring without the foolishness of us.  I believe we need God not in a "decide what I am going to do way" but in a family support way. Someone that is with you through thick and thin.

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I Am Listening

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Day 8: Thursday | Living Vulnerably
 
"Whenever I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:10
 
There are many stories in the Bible that tell of God turning things upside down and upsetting the status quo -- barren women getting pregnant, the last being first, second-born children being blessed, the poor being invited to feasts, blind people seeing, and so on. We, too, are invited to see the world in a different way, God's way, where weakness, whether it be physical, mental, emotional, or social, is not only okay, but a blessing.
 
To show vulnerability is to be weak according to some. To be ill or old is to render oneself invisible in many circumstances.
 
Weakness isn't about having a diminished social or health status. 
 
Strength isn't about having a heightened social or health status.
 
To be be weak and strong is paradoxical yet possible. it is about being vulnerable while living out compassionate acceptance of fear and death. 
 
Through our places of weakness, we become more aware of God working in and through us; we become new, whole people of God, even as we lie dying.
 
 
Discussion:  When did someone weak show strength to you? Where do your strengths lie when you are in a difficult moment?
 
 
qwerty's picture

qwerty

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Invulnerability is disguise

Fruitless evasion

Failure to plunge into life

Where one ignores the old and the ill

And whistles past the graveyard.

 

When the hill becomes steep

The successfull skier leans foward

Toward the air and the abyss

And does not cringe backward

Into the solidity of the hill behind.

 

I think of that frail old woman

Unable to speak or move

Silently signalling on the hospital symbol board

"When my time comes

This is how I want things to be".

 

Mahakala's picture

Mahakala

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The discussion question for today really left me wondering what "strength' really is. Thanks for the nice poem qwerty. I found it helpful. 

 

Sometimes I don't know what to think, I deeply value that weakness is strength when seen in the light of the gospel. But on the otherhand, I've seen people who have followed this path - deffereing to the wishes and priorities of others, not asserting themselves or their own needs, not seeking or receiving credit for great things they have done, etc. etc.

 

In the end, all those I see who live by those rules always seem to lose, and not in any way that can be considered good or holy. They consdered their own weakness and humilty a faith value and didn't stick up for themselves -- consequently, no body else did either.

 

Is weakness really strength...in the real world?

I Am Listening's picture

I Am Listening

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Day 9: Friday | Finding Hope
 
"We had hoped that he was the one..." Luke 24:21
 
A homeless man is helped in a moment of need by a stranger's act of kindness. Five years later, the stranger who acted kindly is stopped on the street by the very man who used to sit at the curb asking for spare change -- now no longer homeless.
 
The pair share coffee and the formerly homeless man tells the other how his life was changed by that one act of kindness. It wasn't the money he had been given, said the formerly homeless man, but it was the stranger's act of kindness which gave him the gift of hope that changed his life.
 
There is always hope. Sometimes we just need a little help finding it.
 
Prayer
 
Dear God,
thank you for your wisdom.
We pray that you will be with us 
for our whole lives, 
and that you will give us hope, peace, and happiness.
Help us be aware of the needs of others
and grateful for all that you have given us.
In Jesus' name,
Amen.
 
 
Discussion:  Describe a time when someone you know was transformed into a happier person, What made the difference?
 
 
MikePaterson's picture

MikePaterson

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Power, powerlessness; strength, weakness; happiness, joy, despair… I've dwelt on the questions today and yesterday, and recalled and reflected.  Several threads of thought come to mind.

 

As I've encountered strength and weakness, weakness has been a part of alienation and frustration, or ouright oppression… strength comes with fulfillment, meaning and purpose. It should be a universal human right. Happiness has a similar trajectory. It settles on those who've found themselves, who've rejected compromise and equivocation. Happy people, it seems to me, have found courage in themselves and meaning in the World around them. They are confident in their purpose.

 

Happiness is an odd and ambiguous word; “strength” is often mis-used entirely today as a synonym for "force", “happiness” and “hope” are paired in today's study. But, unlike happiness, hope is everywhere; I’ve seen hope in alley-cats and ambitious ants. Hope and life go together so intimately it takes some real determination to deny hope. As people, some of us have learned, I fear, to bully and scare it out of others.

 

The real negative link, I think, is between unhappiness and disengagement.

 

Engagement makes us happy, if we know who we are. We know who we are when we discern meaning in the world and pursue it. It is the pursuit of meaning that makes us who we are and teaches us who we are, it enables us to engage and to be happy. It’s then, too, that we really in-dwell and live and express hope.

 

We’ve created some very distracting environments; it’s HARD to find meaning in worlds of diversion and amusement… without some sure foothold, we can easily drift and wander, striving after unhelpful, disappointing goals, acting out our lives instead of living them.

 

Mostly, I’ve been blessed to be amongst people who have made meaning central to their lives… people who simply don’t “get” it when other people tell them what amazing “sacrifices” they’ve made to become who they are.

 

In my own case, I’ve often been told, “I wish I had time to write.” I wrote my first published book — a less than impressively successful novel — after full days, working often between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m.  Most of my adult life, I’ve written day and night and very little of my output has been published. It’s a mad way to use up a life but it fills my every moment with meaning. Everybody has time to write.

 

I have a young friend who just recently completed a university degree and, throughout all of those demands, he’s sustained his place as a leading international solo Highland piper. There’s no money it and little kudos outside of piping circles. People tell him how “lucky” he is to have such talent. “It’s just practice,” he'll tell you. “It’s about making it a priority.” He has found the certainty of meaning in his life and makes “sacrifices” of all sorts every day… to him, it feels like living well.

 

-------

 

And then there’s “joy”…

Joy is something that happens to all sorts of people; it is a gift that seems to be distributed with fickle abandon — except that it mostly touches those who are open to it, who live in anticipation of it.

 

 

BetteTheRed's picture

BetteTheRed

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I've just had my daughter here with me for 5 days, and she's an example of someone who is much happier than she used to be.

 

She/we had a rather extraordinarily stressful adolescence. I know that this is not an easy period in any parent/child life, but she did take it a little farther than most. I have almost no pictures of her for a period of about 4 years because my copies of her school pictures were always going to the police to identify her as a runaway. I'm also rather more familiar with quite a few therapists and psychiatrists in this region than I'd have preferred to be.

 

So, a hypothesis might be that age, if it comes with any wisdom at all, may also tend to bring some happiness with it. Because it seems to me that she's happier because she's wiser. She said to me just yesterday that it was amazing how life changes when you realize that only you control your own happiness.

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I Am Listening

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Day 10: Saturday | Beyond Words
 
"Let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action."  1 John 3:18
 
We had just deployed on very short notice to Haiti following the disastrous earthquake in January of 2010. It was a cold winter in Ontario as we scrambled to pack a field hospital -- the equivalent of a regional hospital with labs, wards, operating rooms, and dental services -- into containers for rapid shipping to the stricken capitol, to be reassembled within hours of arrival. We jumped onto the aircraft and within a few hours stepped out into tropical heat and humidity, and into a country that had crumbled when the earth trembled.
 
Not one building in 10 was standing. Our hospital tent became the largest building in town.
 
An emergency room is chaotic enough at the best of times, and these were not the best of times. Whole families lined up for treatment for infected injuries, disease, and post-traumatic complications.
 
Imagine an interview, conducted in French through a translator into Creole, then back to the medical technician, who would then translate for the English-speaking doctor! Through this Babel experience, we constantly scrambled to communicate with one another as well as with those we were caring for. Some things, however, speak beyond words. Everybody knew the exact minute that a baby required changing, and somehow it falls to a chaplain to figure out how to rig a diaper.
 
Speaking beyond words became the chaplain's stock-in-trade.
 
How do you comfort a child who goes into surgery every two days to re-set her shattered leg? Words won't do it. But singing a familiar hymn tune might, and so every time nine-year-old Berline went into the operating room, "How Great Thou Art" became a lullaby outside the door.
 
Laying a hand on a forehead to bless a child to sleep, and kneeling beside her bed so that she could stick a shiny star on my forehead to bless me, too. No words.... We do not always need to speak for the Word to be present.
 
Discussion:  Recall a time in your life when no words were needed, yet communication happened in meaningful ways.
 
 
BetteTheRed's picture

BetteTheRed

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I got to my readings and ponderings pretty early today, and I have to say, this one seems self-evident to me. I've been over-thinking it, trying to come up with something clever.

 

All of the most important communication in my life has been wordless. And words are pretty important to me, but they're inadequate in the face of compassion, joy, courage, creation, grief. There's much more that unites us in human experience than divides us by language.

 

And yet, I write, and wish it to make a difference.

MikePaterson's picture

MikePaterson

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Silence and touch are essential to all interpersonal communication. You're right, Bette. And communication very often fails when it's only words.

Pilgrims Progress's picture

Pilgrims Progress

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Firstly,

I've just discovered this thread - and what a delight it's proven to be...........

 

 

So much in the way of spirituality and meaning that lays deep within our core.

(A welcome contrast to the Religion and Faith forum  - which, to me, often reads like faith at arm's length.  Faith mediated through Bible quotes and  scholarship reflecting on  "context" and  "interpretation".)

 

 

I've suffered from clinical depression for over forty years. It is a condition that, above all, highlights the gaping chasm that exists between connection and disconnection.

A depressive episode plummets me into a world of estrangement and disconnection.

 

It has never been words that have lead me back to health and connection.

Rather, it has been touch, a warm smile, love and compassion shown in a person's eyes that brings about connection and healing.

Often there is a delay, but these qualities act as a catalyst.........

 

I sometimes wonder about this.......... There was a time for all of us when we didn't have words -and yet  there was never a time when we didn't need connection and comfort.

Perhaps, in a sense, that time never leaves us...........

 

 

Mahakala's picture

Mahakala

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Oh, I've been trying to stay on top is this Lent group too! Moved to a new week now right (Week #3?)

 

By the way - this last post reminds me of the famous St. Francis quote:

 

"Preach the gospel always. Use words if necessary."

 

Also, the first lines of the Tao te Ching:

 

"The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name"

 

The best things are almost always without words for me.

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