Putting Love In…

Here in the final week of Advent, Christmas is just a few short days away. As we hurry and scurry amidst the holiday rush, crushed by lists, lines, traffic, frustrations & elusive parking places, it’s a good idea to stop for a minute (or two) and think about the reason for this season.

Sentimental claptrap, Virginia, what are you getting at?

I’m not talking ‘Happy Holidays’ syrupy facades but sharing the real stuff: LOVE.

The holidays can be difficult and lonely. Maybe children and grandchildren can’t come this year, you’re single, or single-again facing an empty bed and empty stockings. Maybe illness has hospitalized your joy. Maybe you miss recently departed loved ones and your heart still smarts with super-sized loss. Or, maybe holiday memories are painful, something you’d rather forget.

There’s a lot of hurting hearts out there, deserts longing for a few drops of love.

“Purity of heart is the heart seeing, feeling and relating through the prism of love.”  Father Ronald Rolheiser, OMI

Maybe we need to be better prisms of God’s love this Christmas. Instead of getting crushed by the rush, we can open the eyes of our hearts to see where we might share a little love and joy vs. trudging our way blindly through the frenetic sludge of holiday spirals.

Yesterday as I dashed to mail a package to a friend who will be alone on Christmas, I couldn’t get anywhere near the big Monticello post office. Cars blocked the entrance, there was no way in! Although crunched for time, I zoomed downtown and managed to find a parking place (no small miracle) before running in to join 25 others in line. Undeterred, I started humming a funky jazz rendition of Jingle Bells. Soon a bunch of us in line started chatting: one lady’s college-aged son will be alone on Christmas, the family of another can’t come and so on. Others started humming & we were wishing each other “Merry Christmas” as the line moved merrily along.

For at least five of us, we had all tried (& failed) to get into the other post office. But, 30 minutes later, I left with buoyant spirits, cheered by the shared joy of the rainbow nation in that line. (And, somehow was only 5 minutes late for appointment across town.)

“Where there is no love, put love, and you will draw love out.”  St. John of the Cross

Last week as my mind (& heart) munched on this quote, I found a card my mother sent 11 years ago when I worked in Africa. In recent years as I took care of her before she died we had a nightly getting-ready-for-bed routine. After washing her @ the ‘beauty shop’ and getting her into her jammies, I tucked her into bed & said, “Mama, I love, love, love, love, love, love, LOVE YOU!” Then I kissed her on one cheek and my brother would come in to kiss her on the other cheek before we turned out the lights.

(We actually started the love, love, love business with my bed-fast quadriplegic Papa, who always said he loved us before we tucked him into his BiPap machine at night.)

But in this card from 11 years ago, my mother wrote, “know that I love you, love you, love you, love you, love you, love you, love you!”

mamas-letter-love-love-love-2So, it turns out my Mama started the love, love, love, love business which seems right since she poured buckets and buckets of love into us. But how cool is it that years later, she drew out the love, love, love, love we had for her.

I don’t know what you’re facing this Christmas, but try opening your heart wider to receive more of the healing love of Jesus, that you may put love where there is no love, planting seeds of mercy, peace, grace & joy.  Maybe one day you may draw love out.

Like the love, love, love, love, love of Jesus my Mama shared with us – and we were able to share with her.

Mamas roseFrom here @ Roses in the Rubble, I wish you Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year blessed with extra doses of…

grace, peace & love, love, love, love

Virginia : )

p.s. Check out this Christmas medley from fav Jon Batiste & his band, Stay Human

 “…And every year I think to myself, who I am and who can I help… And every year I think to myself, what really matters is what you do for someone else…”

Wow, after rocking out to that rendition of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, methinks this new holiday compilation will be a joyful addition to our celebration!!  (hint, hint, Santa’s elf disguised as my brother.)  🙂

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crying in the wilderness….

Advent days can be long and bleak when dreary skies serve up icy drizzles that dampen our toes and spirits. Trudging through the sludge we wonder, where is the sun?

In an interior landscape of dreariness, we can get lost in the wilderness of loneliness, where weeds of frustration choke our peace and locomotives of fear derail our dreams.  As darkness descends, we need to pursue the promised Light of Advent to lead us out where our crooked lines can be made straight in the warmth of Christ’s love that shines for us, always bright.

“For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.”  Psalm 36:9

canada-bc-ferry-sunset“The promises of God stand above us, more valid that the stars and more effective than the sun. Based on these promises, we will become healthy and free, from the center of our being.  The promises have turned us around and, at once, opened life out into the infinite. Even lamentation retains the song of these promises, and distress their sound, and loneliness their confidence… Announcing God’s nearness, teaching it and bringing it to others: that is what my life means and wants and what it abides by.”  Fr. Alfred Delp, SJ (from Advent of the Heart)

Father Delp (1907-1945), a German Jesuit priest, was imprisoned and executed by the Nazis during World War II for his involvement with the resistance.

grace, peace & Advent Light

Virginia : )

p.s. I know I’ve shared this favorite hymn before (from my Gospel choir days), but this morning I couldn’t stop singing it & then found this really wonderful rendition of “Walk in the Light,” a hymn by Thomas Whitfield.  Be blessed!!

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World AIDS Day 2016

401px-Red_Ribbon.svgAs we commemorate World AIDS Day 2016, we remember the 35 million people who have died from AIDS related illnesses and the 37 million people around the globe who are currently infected with the disease.

Before moving to Tanzania in 2002, I thought I knew about HIV/AIDS, but nothing prepared me for its devastating toll until I lived in Africa: mothers – fathers – sisters – brothers – daughters – sons – friends – colleagues – pastors – priests – teachers – doctors – nurses – politicians – the rich – the poor – CHILDREN: dead, sick, dying, soon to be dead.

So many victims, many brave enough to go through testing, often cast out of their families & communities, sick mothers struggling to look after children, children left to care for smaller children…

So much ignorance…communities not understanding, judgmental faith-based-groups offering condemnation vs. open hearts of God’s love for ALL (especially the suffering!)

So much fear…fueling prejudice, apathy, blame, injustice & stigmatization.

…and so much HOPE! From courageous beacons across the spectrum, willing to speak out, help out, step out to educate & eradicate this disease: tireless hearts busy with healing & BEING love in action that have done so much to curb the spread of this disease.

In Tanzania, the government set up TACAIDS to coordinate efforts with all government ministries (not just the Ministry of Health), Parliament & civil society. In the beginning, they put a military general in charge. This fight IS a war, not just against a virus, but against attitudes, prejudice & behavior that needs changing.

Starting with MINE.  It’s not ‘us’ and ‘them’ – the victims of HIV/AIDS, however they contracted the disease. That could be ME – but for the grace of God go I…

This is OUR challenge, not just on World AIDS Day, but every day of the year, everywhere in this world, to fight for a world free of HIV.

grace, peace & global hearts (hurting for all!)

Virginia

“The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution that has to start with each one of us?”  Dorothy Day

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And so it begins….

uh, and so it BEGAN.  The first Sunday of Advent jumped us when we weren’t quite finished munching our Thanksgiving leftovers. It’s now the first Wednesday of Advent, there’s a carol service at church tonight, and Christmas is only 25 days away.

Yikes!

Advent often presents the challenge of taking time out to prepare our hearts for the Incarnation (the coming of Jesus Christ into the world) whilst dashing madly amidst the holiday rush of things.

So, today, in this first week of Advent, maybe we can take a little time to sit with God…

JC labyrinth bench fall trees…to quietly contemplate the real Joy of the season: Jesus Christ.

“We cannot wait til the world is sane

to raise our songs with joyful voice,

for to share our grief, to touch our pain,

He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

Madeleine L’Engle (“First Coming“)

Blessings as we enter this season of Advent…

grace, peace & Love Incarnate

Virginia : )

p.s. photo: taken on silent retreat in Wernersville, PA

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Waking It Up with Ladysmith Black Mambazo : )

Altho some of us are reeling a bit amidst our wildly wacky world, give this YouTube video a watch & be inspired by the message (& music) of Ladysmith Black Mambazo with Jennifer Saran & Carlos Santana.

“If you think that love don’t matter – you’re wrong!…

We all have to get up…  — wake up!

You and I know there is a better way…”

LBM has been one of my favorite bands for a long time (my brother will attest to that fact given the high frequency airplay of my LBM playlists on various iGadgets.) Hope someone else out there in the cybershere will be blessed today with their message — to wake up, not give up, on building bridges of love all around us…

For friends, family & cyber buddies here in the U.S. – a blessed Thanksgiving to all!

grace, peace & LBM uplifts

Virginia : )

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THE DAY AFTER THE DAY AFTER

2016-election-stickerVirginia, your humble blogger, is still a bit bleary eyed after staying up late to watch the election results and dashing out early to make an 8:00AM appointment across town. She didn’t plan to stay up into the wee hours of the morning. In the company of her brother (and attendant celebratory morsels), she thought she would be watching history electing the first female American president. Instead, disbelief ensued as state after state swung for President-elect Trump.

People all over the globe are freaking out a bit today. Blessed with many friends in far flung places, I’ve seen your concerns on Facebook this election season (utilizing various dictionaries for rusty Swahili, German, and Arabic, along with British & Canadian variations of English.) I get the picture: most of you are NOT thrilled about Trump.

Maybe you, and many of my American friends, can’t understand why, or how, this happened?

But, I do, a little.

The media, pollsters and many of us were flabbergasted as states like Florida went for Trump. I think even Trump’s campaign was surprised!

The press missed it. They forgot to take the pulse of the somewhat silent majority that shook up projected results state after state. It wasn’t about antics or theatrics, but about values and the frustration of many who feel overlooked and under-served by the Establishment.

It wasn’t just ‘white males’ who elected Trump, but many ordinary, good, hard working people. Probably most of them don’t like him very much given the dubious ways he tapped into anger that garnered him visibility (and some extreme votes.)

But, Trump’s victory is not about hate. Hate did not win last night unless we, Americans and the rest of the world, let it win by not coming together.

No, for many of this silent majority, it was a clash of values, concern for freedom, balance, and a desire for change. (And some folks have a visceral dislike of Hilary Clinton that goes back to the 1990’s. I don’t understand that, but, there it is.)

Like I said in last week’s post, there were many issues to consider. For my international friends, hearing sound bytes of Trump’s rantings you may have dismissed him, but he won the votes of this silent majority with promises to look after issues close to their hearts.

The Supreme Court. How many times in news feeds & tweets did friends & family, many who are on the forefront of serving others, place that as their highest priority for the future, for their children, and why they supported Trump even though they didn’t like him.

The next President could possibly appoint two, or even three Supreme Court justices. As part of our checks and balances, our American Supreme Court is not meant to be political, but it has become so with issues that divide us: individual freedoms, religious freedoms, the rights of the unborn, the right to bear arms, and so on.

Religious issues also influenced many of this silent majority. Trump made outrageous statements about Muslims. (To all my Muslim friends in the Middle East & all over, sorry, once again for how CLUELESS so many Americans are about the 1 billion of you who are faith-filled, family loving, full-on good people!) But, there were elements of anti-Catholic rhetoric going around Hilary Clinton’s campaign. While many Catholics, like me, voted for Hilary Clinton, many opted for Trump given challenges churches (& other religious groups) have faced with Obamacare, religious freedom, and the right to life.

In several African countries, like Tanzania, abortions are only legal to save the life of the mother. But here, in the USA, they are not only legal, but often encouraged by health care providers as a casual form of birth control. Many Americans of various faiths who support the right to life voted for Trump because he promised to do something about it.

Then, probably quite a few of this silent majority voted for Trump because he’s not part of the political system. Maybe they think he will enact change working ‘outside the box’, since he is unencumbered with status quo political machinations. Maybe they think he will help others bring their ‘A-games’ to the table to address the challenges we face as a nation.

We can hope (& pray!) Even if we didn’t vote for him, in his acceptance speech he said, “I will be President for all Americans.” Maybe we should be challenged to bring our A-games to build bridges of understanding, tolerance, friendship and love to knock down the walls of distrust and ignorance around us.

Maybe we need to listen more attentively, because this silent majority has voted to be heard over the voices of our disparate media.

“Listening is not simply hearing. Listening is being attentive. Listening is the desire to understand, to value, to respect, and to save.”  Pope Francis

Maybe that’s a lesson from this election, to really listen to each other.

The last issue I’d like you to understand is change.

After voting on Tuesday I took this picture of a gorgeous fall tree in downtown Williamsburg. Eventually all these beautiful leaves will fall off for winter until spring brings new green leaves.

election-2016-tree-on-dog-streetFor eight years, President Barack Obama has led Americans through good times and difficult times. He and Michele have added strong branches and beautiful leaves to the tree of our country, building upon the trunk and branches of many who sacrificed since 1776 to make America what it is today.

But now, just like most of the last century in U.S. electoral history, after eight years this silent majority has voted for change. A new season. A few new branches, new leaves for President-elect Trump to build upon Obama’s legacy.

“To remember what God has done and continues to do for me, for us, to remember the road we have traveled; this is what opens our hearts to hope for the future.” Pope Francis

We Americans have traveled a long, hard road as a country through deep, dark valleys, tribulations, and, at times, jubilation. These last few vitriolic months have pushed us apart, but now it’s time to open our hearts, minds and spirits to each other.

To hope.  To build our future, together.

grace, peace & understanding

Virginia

 

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CIVILITY, PLEASE!!!

What happened to civility in our political discourse?

On Sunday a spiffy Cadillac pulled up next to me at a stoplight.  As a tinted window buzzed down, I thought, “what have I done wrong?” But the well-heeled lady waved and said, “my husband and I want to thank you!  Your bumper sticker made us laugh all down this road, something we haven’t done much lately. Wherever did you get it?”

bumper-sticker-kirk-spock-2016When the light changed, my spirits lifted with theirs as we drove our separate ways.

This American election season has been bizarre, at best. So polarizing, so depressing to folks from both ends of the political spectrum and to the indecisive bouncing in the middle betwixt the volatile extremes.

Last week at a busy Costco in Newport News, (our closest big city), I looked up and down the full row in the huge parking lot. Not one political sticker graced any bumpers (but mine, of Trekkish political aspirations.)  I looked over the next row to observe the same: no stickers. That’s highly unusual in a Presidential election year in these parts!

It’s the same in our neighborhood. During the last few elections we’ve seen campaign sign wars on both sides of the street (literally.) This year only one neighbor put a sign out.

Many of us on all sides of the political spectrum feel let down by our choices for Presidential candidates. Angry. Upset. (Maybe our candidate didn’t make it past the primary.) Or just plain bewildered. How has it come to this?

I was very active politically in my University days and afterward for five years living in Washington, D.C. The folks I worked for did so much across the political aisle to tackle important social issues, like homelessness and so much more, that require the collective efforts of all parties to enact change.

That was years ago, but one thing I learned in D.C., there are good people working hard on all sides of the political spectrum despite challenges of mud-slinging press and divisive political machinations.

Fast forward to social media antics of today. Sometimes posts on Facebook and other outlets make me cringe. People boast they have ‘unfriended’ those of differing views. Name calling, nasty rhetoric, polarizing tweets and instantgrams go back and forth.

What happened to civil discourse? Like, when we agree to disagree and still be friends? I have been blessed with many friends from different cultures, religions, countries, ethnicities, and political backgrounds who have enriched my life.  Yes, many times we’ve disagreed on specific issues (sometimes heatedly), but they know I care about them – as individuals – and I know they care about me, as Virginia.

As both political parties have let us down this election, understand that things are a bit complicated this time around. I can’t stand my party’s candidate and will most likely vote the other way this year; however, I absolutely abhor some things about both candidates.  There are many, many people like me caught in this quandary.

We all have issues we hold close to our hearts. Indeed, this year many important issues are on the table. While many folks, like me, are not happy with either candidate, some support one or the other for a particular stand on various issues. That doesn’t make them racists or bigots (re: Trump and his wall) or leftist liars (re: Hilary’s lies.)

But, puhleeez!  I am so fed up with religious leaders implying voting for one candidate is God’s way. Get real!  We Americans are a diverse bunch, so too, our churches and religious places of worship reflect diversity and many differing views. I’ve got news for these ostracizing leaders and their followers…

God is not Democrat.

God is not Republican.

And, guess what?!? (This might shock some folks), God is NOT American!

God is above & beyond all our political divisions and national boundaries.

…and the love of God is for ALL of us, whatever our ethnicity, religion, country, gender or political hue.

In this election, there are many, many issues at stake. Each one of us must prayerfully evaluate what’s important in our hearts & then vote accordingly. And then, engage in a little civility. Treat others as we want them to treat us, like the Golden Rule.

To my Christian family and friends, I challenge you with the example of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples at the Last Supper. After he tenderly washed their feet, Jesus commanded them, “Now, you must go and do likewise for each other.”  I imagine He looked implicitly at Simon the Zealot, a revolutionary bent on overthrowing Roman occupation, and Matthew, the former tax collector collaborator with the Roman occupiers. Both look at each other, “you mean, him? Wash his feet? The one with the most completely different political agenda? The one I have a hard time even just being with in the same room?”

Jesus didn’t say to ‘barely tolerate each other,’ but ‘wash each other’s feet.’ So, to, we should wash the feet of those with whom we disagree with respect, civility, and love that knows no boundaries.

As people of faith we put our trust in God, Who has an everlasting well of love & mercy for us that never runs dry. God’s love is here for us no matter what happens, in disasters and after, in good times and bad, and even in this polarizing American election!

Who knows what will happen next Tuesday? But no matter what, people of faith, let’s ask God for the grace to be civil conciliators – conduits of peace, dignity, civility and respect for all. Let’s choose to be beacons of love that dissipates hate.

Let’s show a little civility, please!

grace, peace & civility

Virginia : )

p.s.  My bumper sticker candidates offer some serious wisdom for us:

“The prejudices people feel about each other disappear when they get to know each other.” Captain Kirk (Star Trek, “Elaan of Troyius”)

“I have been, and always shall be, your friend.” Spock (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)

“I am pleased to see that we have differences. May we together become greater than the sum of both of us.”  Surak of Vulcan (Star Trek, “The Savage Curtain”)

“Peace or utter destruction. It’s up to you.”  Captain Kirk (“A Taste of Armageddon”)

img_1696p.s.2. While interviewing a political activist on his late-show last week, well-known Democrat Stephen Colbert asked if she knew anyone voting for Trump.  “No, I don’t think I know one person.” Colbert responded, “well, I know a few. I might be related to a few. They’re nice people. Nice people can vote for both people.”

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