Snapshot & Whatnot: Advent (alien-ish) Surprises

Today here’s a snapshot my iPhone captured of goings-on in one of my brother’s fish tanks: Mr. Loach Fish making friendly with Mr. Alien (in a welcoming way.)

“Courage is found in unlikely places.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

If we can find the courage (inspired by Mr. Loach) to reach outside our comfort zones this Advent weekday, we might encounter surprises of various shapes & sizes.

“Each day holds a surprise, but only if we can see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us. Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise. Whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy it will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.” Henri Nouwen

grace, peace & Advent surprises

Virginia : )

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MARY: WIRED WITH GRACE

Today (12 December) is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Way back in the 16th century, native peasant Juan Diego encountered a vision of Mary on a hill near his village in Mexico. Our Lady was dressed in native attire and spoke to him in his local language.

Virgen de Guadalupe, Luis Berrueco (painting @ VMFA)

When the Spanish bishop in Mexico City asked for a sign, Our Lady of Guadalupe provided out-of-season December roses for Juan Diego on the hilltop. As Juan opened his tunic carrying the roses for the bishop in Mexico City, Our Lady’s image in native attire was imprinted on his tunic. This led to millions of native Indians coming to faith in the Americas with the equalizer message (a bit revolutionary at that time to the Spanish colonizers) that God loves ALL people!

A message still relevant for our times. Here’s a thought along those lines from a favorite spiritual writer:

“To pray, that is to listen to the voice of the One Who calls us His ‘Beloved,’ is to learn that voice excludes no one. Where I dwell, God dwells with me, and where God dwells with me I find all my sisters and brothers.”  Henri Nouwen

As we discover all our brothers and sisters, what to do?

“How much we can learn from Our Lady. She was so humble because she was all for God. She was full of grace and she made use of the almighty power that was in her – the grace of God…

Our Lady was the most wonderful wire. She allowed God to fill her to the brim, so by her surrender, ‘Be it unto me according to thy word,’ she became full of grace which she went to pass on. Let us ask God to use us now to go round the world and continue connecting the wires of hearts to the current, Jesus.”   Mother Teresa (St. Teresa of Calcutta)

Guess our challenge is to make this a ‘Wired- Wednesday’ in Advent, then try for that wired-to-Jesus thing each & every day – like roses in December emanating the fragrance of His love.

How cool is that? Roses in December!

grace, peace & wired-roses

Virginia : )

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Human Rights! Human Rights!

Yesterday (10 December) the world paused to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Back in 1948 a war weary world gathered to establish a globally defining document that “proclaimed the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being — regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”  (Source: un.org website)

Alas, a winter storm power outage knocked Virginia’s planned post out, but seriously?

Human rights are important every day of the year.

“We often think of the lack of human rights in far away places, but there are many issues to consider closer to home. Life is a gift, but for many crushed by injustice, inequality, torture, and lack of access to basic rights, it’s a struggle to survive…”

Virginia (in last year’s blog: Human Rights for ALLLLLLLLL!)

This year’s 70th anniversary international #StandUp4HumanRights campaign focuses on the following:

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights empowers us all.
  • Human rights are relevant to all of us, every day.
  • Our shared humanity is rooted in these universal values.
  • Equality, justice and freedom prevent violence and sustain peace.
  • Whenever and wherever humanity’s values are abandoned, we all are at greater risk.
  • We need to stand up for our rights and those of others.

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” Article 1, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Here’s a brief (1 & 1/2 minute) UN video encapsulating these inalienable rights:

So, what can we do?

Be aware, share, and try to be advocates for these rights.

Everywhere.

Photo: VLW (Tanzania) : )

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close, so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” Eleanor Roosevelt (who chaired the drafting committee of the declaration and pushed for its passage in the fledgling United Nations.)

grace, peace & human rights

Virginia : )

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”  Micah 6:8

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Christmas Love

Since the winter storm knocked out our power yesterday (& subsequently our wireless) here’s a quickie Advent quote brought to you by Virginia’s still-a-little-charge-left iPhone.

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“It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you.” Mother Teresa

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Advent Snow!!

The snow is piling up in Williamsburg, Virginia  (the state of) forcing Virginia (the person) to reshuffle her afternoon plans.

Zooming out to an early church service this morning a few flakes fluttered, but I came (carefully) home to snow pounding our rosemary plants. (Not sure if they will survive for their Christmas duties in various dishes, sigh.)

Four hours later, snow continues incessantly. Although the forecast called for rain, now there’s a good 4 inches piled up on our deck.

We southerners don’t do snow very well (the northerners among us don’t get it when an inch shuts everything down.) Seeing so much coming down, waiting for it to turn into rain before venturing out, my brother and I made the executive decision to stay in.

Change of plans. Out comes leftover soup from the frig.

But first, what do you do when plans unexpectedly change?

MAKE HOT CHOCOLATE!!

(in one of my favorite holiday UNICEF mugs)

Sometimes unexpected snowstorms of life take our well laid plans for a whirl. When they (and sometimes as a result us) get turned upside down, it’s hard to turn our plans (and ourselves) right-side up again.

Think Humpty Dumpty. Splat. How to put all the pieces back together again?

We can change our plans (and/or ourselves) or we can bravely continue out in the cold facing whatever the storms of life throw at us.

(like more snow that is still piling up!)

Whatever and however our plans change, the important thing is to trust God will give us the grace to face our next steps. Years ago my Papa sent an email when I was working in a challenging place. In it he wrote:

“The will of God will never take you where the grace of God cannot keep you.”

In that spirit on this second (snowy) Sunday of Advent, here’s an encouraging quote from a favorite saint:

The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow and every day. Either he will shield you from suffering or give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.”  Saint Francis de Sales

What to do when snow intercepts our Advent Sunday plans?

Trust God… and make more hot chocolate.

grace, peace & Advent snow

Virginia : )

p.s. My brother just measured the snow on our deck. It’s now 5 inches and still pounding down. Usually in Tidewater (our region of Virginia that doesn’t get much snow) we ultra-prepare for this many inches (emptying shelves of local groceries beforehand), but this is completely unexpected. Now to enjoy that hot chocolate!

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Andrea Bocelli: A Song for Saturday

For Catholics today is one of those ‘get-your-tushi-to-church’ days (i.e., a holy day of obligation) in honor of Mary. As shared yesterday, her ‘yes’ to God is definitive for all who believe in Jesus (no matter what denomination) because without her faithfulness there would be no Christmas. Some folks complained because we have to go to church twice this weekend (I went to a beautiful vigil service last night) but what an opportunity – to worship God twice! in one weekend!

Onto a song for this feast day (and Saturday of Advent…)

As a longtime Andrea Bocelli groupie, watching his performance of “Fall on Me” last month with his son, Matteo, orbited my spirits right up on high. (If you missed the video’s rounds on Facebook, you can click here to see it.)

When his new album entitled “Si” subsequently came out, my brother Dwight gifted it to me as an early Christmas pressie – an inspirational gift enjoyed multiple times. (Dwight intimated this CD may need to take a vacation in an undisclosed location, as he suggested years ago for the first Josh Groban CD.)

So many favorites but here’s a YouTube of one that’s been on constant replay, “Gloria The Gift of Life,” that Andrea sings with the Voices of Haiti choir (a special project of the Andrea Bocelli Foundation & the Saint Luc Foundation in Haiti.)

“Saint Augustine said that ‘he who sings prays twice.’ It is my hope that the music on this album will offer listeners the good company of a good tune to follow, but also that it may be a chance to pray together. Good music can teach us about beauty and fellowship, and can open up our hearts and minds to higher thoughts.”  Andrea Bocelli (liner notes, ‘Si’)

Andrea Bocelli’s holiday album, “My Christmas,” is also a treasured musical treat. Filled with fun favorites and sacred music, we played it often for Mama and Papa.

Listening to it now brings back precious memories.

Every year while I put up the tree, Mama & Papa (holding hands) would watch the DVD of the ‘My Christmas’ concert with Andrea, David Foster and a host of special guests (including the Muppets.)

If you have a chance to give it a watch, it’s a wonderful celebration.

grace, peace & songs for Saturday (& every day)

Virginia : )

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“Be not afraid…”

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.”  Psalm 27:1&4

These verses from our Psalm reading today have been go-to favorites for eons, especially after going through a rough patch years ago when fear was a constant companion.

By God’s grace (love & mercy) the wells of divine healing flowed long and deep in my heart and life relieving me of debilitating fear(s), but that’s the flunky thing about fear.

There are so many kinds.

Sometimes the opposite of faith is not doubt, but fear.

The Angel Gabriel told Mary, “Fear not.”

Mary had to face her fears, and there were lots of things to fear.

What would Joseph think? (Stoning her to death was an option.)

What would others think? (Reputation? Ridicule? Retribution?)

What would change do to her? (To her person, her life, her family?)

How could she face the unknown? (Not knowing?)

Mary and Joseph figurine

Yet, Mary chose to say “no!” to her fears and ‘yes’ to God.

‘Yes’ to hope – with courage, trust, love and joy.

That’s faith.

Be not afraid…

“But I repeat, do not fear: Jesus is with you, and you are with Him! In darkness, tribulation, anxiety of spirit, Jesus is with you… I assure you that Jesus is holding you more tightly than ever to His divine heart.”  Padre Pio (Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, OFM)

grace, peace & courageous faith

Virginia  : )

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