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Archive for the ‘reflection’ Category

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Photo credit: Jim McGuire

I have been listening to the music of Carrie Newcomer, finding her lyrics to be uplifting and a soothing balm. Over the years several friends have mentioned her music to me, and I have seen her lyrics quoted in essays and sermons. One song from her latest recording is “Help in Hard Times”:

I invite your comments with a favorite uplifting song or artist. What music restores your hope on hard days? What song brings sunshine into your home or soothes your spirit?

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In the U.S. where I live, the second Sunday of May is celebrated as mother’s day. As a girl it became linked in my mind with church celebrations of Mary of Nazareth, mother of Jesus. I was raised Catholic, and while that no longer is my religion, the songs we sang to celebrate Mary powerfully shaped me and my early ideas about faith. I had a deep admiration for Mary’s courage and her sense of purpose. With Mary on my mind, I have been re-reading a couple of books.

978-1-62698-004-4To understand Mary in her cultural context and to explore the impact of her faith on her way of life, I recommend In Quest of the Jewish Mary by Mary Christine Athans. This book does a beautiful job of presenting historical details and guiding readers to imagine a figure of tremendous faith. The story opens with the personal journey of the author, who writes from a Catholic perspective that is full of respect for other faith traditions. This volume will be of interest to readers of any background who enjoy interfaith journeys. I wrote a complete review of Athans’ interesting book when it was published by Orbis Books in 2013.

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For a discussion of scholarly studies on the role of Mary in Islam, I recommend Mary the Blessed Virgin of Islam by Aliah Schleifer, former professor at the American University in Cairo. I have met many non-Muslims who are unaware of the importance of Mary in Islam. In Islam Jesus is considered a prophet, and his mother is honored for her deep faith and model of pious living. Her story is told in Chapter 19 of the Qur’an, entitled Maryam.

Do you have a favorite title about Mary? I invite you to share in the comments below.

 

Disclaimer: The books mentioned here are from my personal library. No fee was received for this review.

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The Shortest Day

poem by Susan Cooper

Copyright Susan Cooper 1974

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen,
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing, behind us — listen!
All the long echoes sing the same delight
This shortest day
As promise wakens in the sleeping land.
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends, and hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year, and every year.
Welcome Yule!

christmas-window-candles-10

This poem was written for The Christmas Revels held in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The text was posted on Susan Cooper (Official Fan Page) on facebook (24 Nov 2015). Please note that sharing is only for noncommercial use, and permissions questions should be directed to susancooper@thelostland.com.

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“All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

Did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?”

excerpt from “Blessing the Dust” by Jan Richardson
© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com

This Lent, what quiet, hidden corner of your heart will you open to God? Where will you invite God’s healing, to bring you toward new life, toward wholeness? Wherever your path may lead this season, my prayer is that you will be surrounded by love on your journey.

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happy new year

May the new year bring you abundant opportunities to give and receive love, to discover new joys, and to appreciate all of your blessings with fresh eyes.

If we make any resolution as this year begins, may it be to show more kindness to each person we meet.

I look forward to a year of reading, learning, and sharing about the books I enjoy.

May peace be with you now and always.

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may God’s light break into the darkness, bringing healing to all our wounds. As we celebrate the inbreaking of light in the natural world, with winter solstice in the northern hemisphere, I’d like to share a beautiful solstice reflection from Jan Richardson:

a loosening
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart….
Get up.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.
This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.

(excerpt from “Blessing for the Longest Night”
© Jan Richardson janrichardson.com)

I am grateful to a friend for sharing Jan Richardson‘s passionate, thoughtful reflections and her creative works of art. May her work be a blessing to all who read it.

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commissioned by Children’s HopeChest.
created by Elizabeth Ahlem.

In the U.S., we observe a national holiday of Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November. The day gives an opportunity for families, often geographically scattered, to gather in table fellowship and to share their traditional foods. The time is set aside to be thankful for abundance, and for the company of loved ones.

Certainly this is a simplified description, and I know that many people are on their own, or hungry, or in unhappy homes, or grieving, or worn down by injustice. In the midst of these complexities and challenges, we still can find a spirit of gratitude. We can be thankful for our minds, ready to create a world of equity and peace; for our hearts, that long to give love where it is missing; for our souls, crying out for God’s kingdom to be built here, now, in our midst.

My heart knows that we are meant to give thanks every day, even (perhaps especially) when it it hard. Instead of giving thanks, we let our worry about what is lacking get in the way of seeing the good that is present. Even in hard times, we have gifts that we can use in service of those in need. As we turn to God in gratitude, may our eyes be open to the needs of those around us. When we see injustice, and want to know where God is amidst the pain, may we remember that we each are meant to carry out the vision of building God’s kingdom. Each of us has a part to play in lifting up the lowly, in giving strength to the weak, in granting rest to the weary.

Let us give thanks for courage, and the strength to act on our convictions as we endeavor to build a more just and equitable world. Let us turn our thankfulness into action. We nourish seeds of peace by giving our time and material resources to those who are working to eliminate poverty and injustice.

My thanks to artist Elizabeth Ahlem for permission to share her artwork. This image was commissioned by Children’s HopeChest, which works to serve orphaned and vulnerable children.

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