My Dream . . .

dream

As a former history professor, I am reminded that throughout history, basically for centuries, religions have been presented only as a system of arcane beliefs and strict rules. This has brought only hardship and, in some respects, terror to those not in power. Colonialism, subjugation of women, oppression of ethnic cultures, anti-Semitism, pedophilia, Islamophobia, and the list can go on from these few.

Martin Luther King gave a powerful memorable speech, I Have a Dream; I dream how different the world would be if people listened and brought his dreams into reality. Too often, people use whatever tools they can to rise above others and take what is not theirs. This is not what God wanted for us. God wants us to walk in peace and love with each other and share His plentiful bounty.

I look at what the world producing in food and wonder why so many people are starving. God-loving faithful people cannot let this happen. The Earth provides plenty of food for all living on this beautiful planet, but there are those who want to withhold this sustenance for their own selfish means. Money, power, and other egotistical elements taint their thinking. How much is enough? For me, if I have food to eat and a place to sleep, and my fellow man has the same, I am happy.

At church today, our adult forum centered on sharing our gifts with others. There are many gifts that we all have that if we shared would benefit all around us; and, if you believe in the ripple effect, and I do, these benefits will continue outward infinitely. My wife uses her ability to organize working solutions into practical workings; the result is our ever-expanding community food table, where anybody can come to receive enough food for their family each week.

My sharing comes in a more spiritual form; I am a prayer minister and a care-giver to those in spiritual and emotional discomfort. I speak with many people, who come to me with personal issues that they know will only be heard by the two of us and God. The words and comfort that God passes through me to them lifts them in their daily struggles. They feel a comfort of closeness, a lack of loneliness in their confusing lives.

Although I am a Christian, I serve all people at God’s will. As a college professor, there were two or three students who wanted to share prayers with me. I never asked what faith they were, only that they wanted a closer relationship with God. I never brought religion into my English or History classes, but my students knew that I was there to aid them in any way possible. This is why I cannot understand how people who practice the list of offences I mentioned above. God does not want us to live, being oppressed or being oppressors.

To me, God brings us gifts to share. God is loving, compassionate, a healer, a forgiver. He loves all His children; can we do any less to our fellow humans? My dream is that we can.

May you walk in the light that God offers and share in His bounty.

 

The Blessing of Family

community love  The Blessings of Family

I have a wonderful memory of how blessed a family is and can be. Over the course of my life, I have had several families. If you think back, so have you.

My first family was when I was very young. My mother, father, sister, and I were very close. We disagreed a lot, but the love was there, always. When I went to college, my dorm mates and I were part of a loose family with the upper classman dorm advisor as the pseudo father. He helped us get along and showed us how to help each other studying.

I only went to full-time college for one year and entered the Marine Corps. This was my biggest family and remains a family to me today. At first it was just my company; but now, it is every person, male or female, who have been or are in the Corps. This has been a very important family for me, knowing that the esprit de corps always within me and my actions reflect on all these brothers and sisters I now have.

I have also had several families in the jobs that I have had. From operating my own business to teaching in high school and then college, each family has allowed me to grow both intellectually and spiritually. And, speaking of spiritual families, my church family is also an important part of my life. The spiritual growth and compassion that I feel whenever I am in church or have a meeting helps me grow closer to God every day. It is in this family that I have learned to meditate, which in its own right, has allowed me to grow in confidence and wiliness to help others who are less advantaged than I have been.

However, the most important family is the one that was formed when I married; my wife and children have been a source of strength and encouragement in everything that I do. The love of my wife, daughter, and son is the strongest support mechanism I have. The love, compassion, warmth, and closeness of this family unit supports all of us.

As with all families, there are disagreements and times of temporary anger and misunderstandings, but in the end, my family returns to the loving, compassionate place where it always seems to land.

God gives us the gift of family; it is a blessing freely given, a blessing filled with faith, hope, and love; each is planted deep within our natures. Faith, hope, and love are the bases of all families. Sometimes, we just do not recognize this. All families, including the ones I have given as examples, are filled with these three important gifts.

All people have families; not all understand this. We host a community dinner at our church every Monday evening. Elderly couples, lonely, single people, homeless people, and people who live in tents by choice all come to these dinners. The friendship and brotherhood they demonstrate are real examples of fraternal love and community; they look forward to these meals with love in their hearts. They are a true family of friends, enjoying the fruits of God’s kingdom on Earth. They are a joy to be with and I am proud to call them friends and family.

Family is a true blessing for all people. I have been successful in eliminating my ego, my unitary thinking and what I imagine other people are like by accepting all of the people I have met in my life to be a part of my extended family. Through this willingness to open my heart to all, I believe that everyone on Earth is in my family. Some may call this the family of man; I call this the family of God.

I love you all. There is nothing else that I can do when I picture all of you in my mind.

 

A Short Poem

advent light

A Final Thought on Advent, Using the Advent Word of the Day

Heavenly Father, gracious God,

We journey through life

watching for your face in others, in ourselves

Focus-ing to emerge

from the night

to walk in your light

 

Our desire sprouts as do

the flowers in Your eternal garden

staying alert to the presence

of the Holy Spirit

 

In the wild-s of the forest

Our cry is for others to join this journey

Grow-ing in the beauty Your love

and tender caress.

 

Our journey is rough

Filled with perils that only You can smooth

The path beneath our feet is filled with weeds

That we can prune only with Your help

To clear our mortal gardens

 

Gracious God prepare our souls

We rejoice

Sing with all our long-lost Ancestors

And we are awash-ed in the

Comfort of Your kingdom

Our hearts are ablaze

Knowing that with Your grace

We read the signs

To live in Your righteousness

 

We expect You to answer

our prayers and persist

in our desires for material

riches and honors

 

but our true goal

is to enjoy the peace that

Only Your love offers and

That we can finally

Celebrate immortality in the

comfort of Your eternal embrace.

A Christmas Prayer

prayer3

Thank you, Lord

for the promise of peace

and love in your world.

Your continued presence in our lives

is a comfort in times of peril

and warmth in times of plenty.

We thank You for the renewal

of your life within us,

as we celebrate

the day of Your birth

beside us.

I pray that we are

worthy of the love

You offer and the

Light to walk on your path,

even when we fail

to recognize you in the

face of others.

Advent

Bruegel-adoration-kings

I have reflected a great deal during this season of Advent; the awaiting the glorious celebrations of Christmas and what they truly represent. I fondly remember how, as a young boy, I could not wait for Christmas to come. I do not remember visiting or sitting on Santa Claus’s lap, but I do remember the near uncontrolled anticipation of what Santa was going to bring me for Christmas.

When I was a young parent, my emotions for Christmas were mixed. On one hand, I could not wait to see my children’s reactions to what Santa brought for them; this is truly a special time of year for children. It is also a very instructional time for children, because anticipation is a great aspect of our lives at any age.

My other mixed emotion about Christmas was one of disappointment and anguish; not at the coming of Santa, but the payment of bills. I have my own retail photography business and a retail camera shop. Would I sell enough goods to pay the bills? Would the customers flock to my door to spend their Christmas dollars and put my anguish to rest? More often than not, I had to run deep discount sales after New Year’s Day to pay the bills.

As a result, my Christmas days were a combination of happiness, joy, worry, and above all, fatigue. This fatigue was the result of being open for twelve to fourteen hours a day for the month prior to Christmas, which included Sundays; although on Sundays, I did not open until after I attended church services with my family.  

I closed my business twenty-five years ago and became a high school teacher and then a college professor. My anguish and fatigue left me, but the feeling that Christmas was a chore took several years to be replaced by a new feeling of anticipation, the awaiting of the coming of the renewed spirit of God’s love. Being out of the retail business gave me more time to devote to volunteer work; this took the form of being very active in our church community.

The material anticipation of Christmas was replaced by the spiritual anticipation of something much greater. Christmas was replaced by Advent. Advent is a time of anticipation and waiting; patience and meditation. I am not one of the Christians who believe that Jesus is reborn every year; but I do believe that the spirit of Jesus is reborn and enlarged by the myriad of celebrations each Sunday morning as we, as a community, light the advent candles, awaiting the spiritual blessings that this season gives us.

I believe that God is with us twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week. When I meditate at night, alone in my den, I can often feel the presence of my (personal) Angel of God (or the Holy Spirit, if you prefer) with me, guiding me into a deeper concentration and appreciation of what my meaning of life is and whether I am on the path that God wants me to pursue. It is a very important part of my day.

Therefore, Advent is special! It is a time for me to renew my dedication to volunteerism; and, God knows with he way the world is going, aid to those who Jesus blessed the most, the poor and forgotten, do need attention. For me, at this time of my life, it is enrolling people in the new Medicaid Expansion program in Virginia, assisting my wife and others in the feeding ministry at our church, and praying for people who need a closer relationship with God; (this is the most important practice I have in my aid to others). Each time I pray for someone to be well, to get a job, to comfort their anxieties, I grow in my own relationship with them, with my family, and most importantly, my relationship with God.

This season of Advent reminds me that Jesus lived among us to raise our concerns for those society leaves behind; to examine our own lives to enlarge our understanding of what we do in our lives and how we can live closer to God’s will; and, to show us that when our physical bodies die, we do not; our spiritual selves,(souls, if you wish) are the eternal creations of God.

I share this meditation with you with the idea of allowing you to understand why I write the way I do and hopefully enrich your lives, as it has mine. I pray that the love and compassion, the warmth, brotherhood, and anticipation we feel at this time of year can live with us throughout the new year.

My brothers and sisters, I wish you a very Merry Christmas.

Russ

I live with the Song of Advent

advent2

I live with a song in my heart

I have no words for it

I have no tune to hum

I have the song within me, always

 

I live with a song in my heart

It is a song of thanksgiving

It is a song of promise

It is a song of love

 

I live with a song in my heart

Put there by the people I meet

Put there by the nature I see

Put there by the morning sun

 

I live with a song in my heart

Filled with compassion

Filled with grace

Filled with God

The Joy of Advent

advent joy

The Joy of Advent

watch and listen

a surprise awaits

invitations offer something wonderful

unique, challenging

Love is deep inside us;

goodness is inside of us

reach to others

embrace them as equals,

as fellow travelers,

who face the same trials and indecisions

let our gentleness and Love

be evident to all.

put aside anxieties

with prayer and thanksgiving

let our goodness thrive

listen to that inner voice

allow God to open our hearts

to His goodness.

anticipate the joy of Advent

the joy of meeting God again

for the first time,

face to face

as one meets a lost friend.