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January 11, 2019

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Forgiving & A Beach’s Sand

My friend, Eden Vigil Director Lowell Bliss, plied his Facebook eloquence again and posted this meditation on forgiveness. I publish it here with his permission.

lowell bliss

Lowell Bliss 

I was walking with the dog on Nickel Beach this morning and praying about a yearlong project that I feel called to as a spiritual athlete, namely not to enter the 2020 election/prophetic cycle without being as “fully forgiven up” as possible, by which I mean Ronald Rolheiser’s aspiration: “I forgive others for hurting me, I forgive myself for sinning, I forgive life for not being fair, and I forgive God for not rescuing me.”

At one point on my walk, I felt I was being given an image in the surf at my feet. We have no control over the waves that wash up on us and over us. Today the air was cold and the wind from the south was kicked up and Lake Erie was crashing higher than normal on southern Ontario. My late mom was famous for her platitudes and here is one of them: “All the water in all the oceans can’t sink a ship unless it gets inside.” I think that applies to boats, but I don’t think it applies to human beings. We are created to be permeable. We aren’t like rock cliffs on the coast; we are like sand on the beach. If we are not permeable to hatred, fear, and hurt, neither would we be permeable to love and kindness. So I don’t think we have as much control over what gets inside us at any given moment. Neither, in truth, do we have as much control over forgiving others as we may think. We of course have some, perhaps even much. Forgiveness engages our wills, and can even begin there if all else fails. “I forgive; help my unforgiveness” seems like an appropriate prayer, but my point is that if forgiving others was totally under my control, then I wouldn’t have to pray that prayer repeatedly over the span of weeks and months or the entirety of 2019.

If we are permeable on the way in, then we are also permeable on the way out. This was the image of the surf on the sand on the beach. Each wave came in and inundated the sand, turned that patch of beach a slightly darker color. When the wave receded again–as they always do, just as the Great Lakes return to a regular calm in anticipation of their final and eternal placidity–you could watch the water seep out of the sand as well. Soon no movement at all was perceptible, but the color of the sand was turning a lighter shade. I accepted it as evidence, easily deducible, that water was seeping out.

Our lives in Christ Jesus, like all beaches, are built on a slant. We are not built high enough above the shore to prevent the waves reaching us, but we are built with enough slope that the water will eventually seep downhill again and out to sea. We can trust this. We can give it time. The one thing however we do have control over, it seems to me, is whether we build any sandcastle fortress at the edge of the water, useless for keeping new waves at bay, but tragically effective at trapping water behind it.

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January 7, 2019

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“Man in God & God in Man …”

Christians throughout the world are celebrating Epiphany, which commemorates the magi’s arrival in Bethlehem and the Holy Spirit’s baptismal blessing of Jesus. It seems Saint Peter Chrysologus (380-450 AD) possessed special insight into Epiphany’s significance. Small wonder. His name means “golden speech.” 
I’ve lifted this sermon segment from Catholicism’s “Liturgy of the Hours,” which offers readings and prayers for set times during the day. Behold Peter on Epiphany. It comes just after James Jacques Joseph Tissot’s painting. 
journey of the magi

“The Journey of the Magi” (1894) by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French painter and illustrator, 1836-1902), oil on canvas,

In the mystery of our Lord’s incarnation there were clear indications of his eternal Godhead. Yet the great events we celebrate today disclose and reveal in different ways the fact that God himself took a human body. Mortal man, enshrouded always in darkness, must not be left in ignorance, and so be deprived of what he can understand and retain only by grace.
     In choosing to be born for us, God chose to be known by us. He therefore reveals himself in this way, in order that this great sacrament of his love may not be an occasion for us of great misunderstanding.
     Today the Magi find, crying in a manger, the one they have followed as he shone in the sky. Today the Magi see clearly, in swaddling clothes, the one they have long awaited as he lay hidden among the stars.
     Today the Magi gaze in deep wonder at what they see: heaven on earth, earth in heaven, man in God, God in man, one whom the whole universe cannot contain now enclosed in a tiny body. As they look, they believe and do not question, as their symbolic gifts bear witness: incense for God, gold for a king, myrrh for one who is to die.
     So the Gentiles, who were the last, become the first: the faith of the Magi is the first fruits of the belief of the Gentiles.
     Today Christ enters the Jordan to wash away the sin of the world. John himself testifies that this is why he has come: Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Today a servant lays his hand on the Lord, a man lays his hand on God, John lays his hand on Christ, not to forgive but to receive forgiveness.
     Today, as the psalmist prophesied: The voice of the Lord is heard above the waters.What does the voice say? This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.
     Today the Holy Spirit hovers over the waters in the likeness of a dove. A dove announced to Noah that the flood had disappeared from the earth; so now a dove is to reveal that the world’s shipwreck is at an end for ever. The sign is no longer an olive-shoot of the old stock: instead, the Spirit pours out on Christ’s head the full richness of a new anointing by the Father, to fulfil what the psalmist had prophesied: Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows.
     Today Christ works the first of his signs from heaven by turning water into wine. But water has still to be changed into the sacrament of his blood, so that Christ may offer spiritual drink from the chalice of his body, to fulfil the psalmist’s prophecy: How excellent is my chalice, warming my spirit.
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January 6, 2019

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This is a scandal?

Partisan snoops dug up a video supposedly shedding light on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s deep-dark past; The newly-elected congresswoman, a social democrat representing the Bronx and Queens, once danced with fellow college students in Boston. Gasp.

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December 24, 2018

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The Human God at Christmas

I’m sure Mary cooed and sung lullabies to Jesus.  What were her intuitions as she suckled him?  Were there moments when she looked into her baby’s eyes and saw the eons staring back at her?

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December 9, 2018

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Thoughts From Hell

My friend, Eden Vigil Director Lowell Bliss, traveled to Poland to attend the United Nations climate change talks, dubbed COP 24, and toured the Nazi death camp, Auschwitz. He filed Facebook reports. I found this especially poignant, and I share it with his permission.

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November 12, 2018

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Missing The Earthquake While The Scale Shakes

Does the human race prefer the soap opera’s crisis and drama? It seems so. Just view the 2018 American mid-term election scene, where pundits snuggle into their own concocted enigmas and miss potential electoral tremors in the nation’s religious landscape.

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October 11, 2018

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No Worries At Armageddon

Our society is certifiably bonkers. I’ve got proof positive.

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October 10, 2018

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Life Pushes Through The Desert Sand

This is the last sample chapter of a book I’m writing, which maps out how white American evangelical Christianity morphed from intellectual sophistication into an arena for bullies, trashing its heritage and time-honored creeds in the process. Yet all is not despair. The book’s final section, “Samples of Hope,” probes three vibrant ministries that signal many […]

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October 9, 2018

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Mystery & Wonder

Kalistos Ware has thrown a bridge spanning east and west. More specifically, he’s helped Western Christians understand Eastern Orthodoxy. The West tends toward analysis while, at its best, the East stands in awe. The West tries to figure things out while the East embraces mystery . That’s a caricature, of course, and both traditions have […]

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October 4, 2018

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Francis and an appeal to simplicity, humility, and purity

Today — October 4th, 2018 — is the feast day of Saint Francis, the thirteenth-century Assisi native who gave up his inheritance rights as he fell in love with God. His fame radiates so far and wide that we needn’t say much more. It’s best just to listen. Here’s something he wrote, lifted from today’s […]

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