Friday, January 30, 2009

RIP Izzy Finlay (1995 -2009)

Izzy is guarding the front door of a previous house we lived in.

Today, my wonderful Anatolian Shepherd (who was part of my life for almost thirteen years) died peacefully in my arms. She had just been diagnosed with bone cancer.

I made the decision many years ago that I would not let her deteriorate or go through any unnecessary pain when there was no hope of her getting better. So there was no inner struggle or conflict about knowing what needed to be done.

She was happy to the end - still guarding the house with vigor.

Izzy had an astonishing talent for friendship, was fiercely maternal and powerfully confident in her role as a guard dog - a job she took very seriously. She adored babies of any species: cat babies, dog babies, human babies.... it didn't matter. If she encountered a baby all she wanted to do was be with it and protect it and take care of it.

I want to say right here that I am grateful beyond expression to all the wonderful doctors and other staff members of Woodland Central Animal Hospital who loved her too, praised her lavishly and gave her the very best of care from the moment she was brought in as a rescue until she breathed her last.

Finally, to those who have been so supportive of me today through emails, phone calls, prayers and presence, thank you. I feel surrounded by care and compassion and sympathy in the very best sense of that word.

I'm going to rest for a while now.

With love to you all,
Ellie

How to be beautiful


As a church, we need to reclaim the understanding that adversity can be redemptive and transforming. The so-called "prosperity gospel" promotes the false doctrine that if we just do everything right and believe correctly and think positively that our life will be smooth and successful:

The most beautiful people are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.

-- Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross

And here's something else:

When we begin to believe that there is greater joy in working with and for others, rather than just for ourselves, then our society will truly become a place of celebration.

-- Jean Vanier

I read a lot of Jean Vanier when I was in the convent. His understanding of what makes community work is unsurpassed.

This painting is of Gibran's mother standing in front of a relief that depicts a wounded lioness. He said this about it: "This is a portrait of my mother's soul. The soul is there, the simple majesty."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I dream of a church


My friend, David, over from Mad Priest's place, left a lovely, lovely comment on my meditation blog early this morning. So I went over to his blog to explore a bit and found this wonderful poem:

I dream of a church that joins in with God’s laughing
as she rocks in her rapture, enjoying her art;
she’s glad of her world, in its risking and growing;
‘tis the child she has born and holds close to her heart.

I dream of a church that joins in with God’s weeping
as she crouches, wedged down by the sorrow she sees:
she cries for the hostile, the cold and no-hoping,
for she bears in herself our despair and dis-ease.

I dream of a church that joins in with God’s dancing
as she moves like the wind and the wave and the fire:
a church that can pick up its skirts, pirouetting,
with the steps that can signal God’s deepest desire.

I dream of a church that joins in with God’s loving
as she bends to embrace the unlovely and lost,
a church that can free, by its sharing and daring,
the imprisoned and poor, and then shoulder the cost.

God, make us a church that joins in with your living,
as you cherish and challenge, rein in and release,
a church that is winsome, impassioned, inspiring;
lioness for your justice and lamb of your peace.

-- Kate Compston

I'm one of those seemingly rare people these days - a cradle Episcopalian. Being an Episcopalian/Anglican is not just a matter of conviction for me; it's central to my identity even though sometimes I have felt like bolting (for all sorts of various reasons over the years.) I was deeply moved by this poem because this church not only represents my faith, my commitment --- it is also home.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Feast of Thomas Aquinas


Here's the central point to remember about this saint:

Saint Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican theologian, met the challenge posed to Christian faith by the philosophical achievements of the Greeks and Arabs. He effected a philosophical synthesis of faith and reason that is one of the greatest achievements of medieval times.
I've always felt huge respect of Aquinas - not necessarily because of his conclusions but because he established the precedent all those centuries ago for understanding and then communicating the Christian faith in the light of other - that is, non-Christian - philosophical systems.

Prayer request

Hello dear readers,

Yesterday I was admitted to hospital with some symptoms consistent with heart attack in women. Fortunately, it seems to have been a false alarm but they insisted on keeping me overnight for a variety of tests.

Just wanted to let you know what's going on. Don't worry. Nothing appears to be dire. But it is a little wake up call and I'll get to find out what my cardiac status really is.

I'll get back to blogging soon!

Love to you all,
Ellie

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Conversion of Saint Paul


Here is an excerpt from a sermon by The Rev. Dr. Luke Bouman for today's feast:
The extraordinary thing that we learn about God, in Jesus, is that forgiveness and conversion are possible at all. Acts (and we must admit that Luke may exaggerate for the sake of the story) portrays Paul as the greatest enemy of the earliest followers of “The Way.” But rather than smite him, or demonize him, Jesus instead takes his gifts of zeal and persuasion, and puts them to work for the Gospel.

An encounter with the risen Lord can do that for a person... The first good news in this story is that God doesn't give up on Paul, nor does God give up on us. Even when we are at enmity with God, God loves us and claims us. And since God does not separate us into “good” people and “evil” people, we no longer have to do that with each other. We need not justify our actions by pointing at others and proclaiming how bad they are, quite simply because God does not.

Conversion happens. Turnarounds happen. But they don't happen because I make them happen in myself. They happen because I am grasped, time after time, in an encounter with the risen Christ. Such is the wonder of our God.
I agree. What is most notable about today's observance, is that it's possible for conversions to happen at all. That possibility is really what we celebrate. And that can bring each of us enormous consolation.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Spiritual peace

"Saint with White Sleeves"

This is just so easy to forget:

I think there is a serious corruption in the idea sold through advertising that you can attain spiritual peace through lifestyle and the notion of building your happiness from the outside-in by acquiring things... which if you think about it, is the essence of advertising.

-- Edward Norton

Edward Norton, in case you didn't know, is a movie director. Here's something else he said that I really respect:
If you're overpaid, with a job you enjoy, how can you not give something back?
How refreshing that he knows he's overpaid. How refreshing that he believes he has a duty to do good in addition to doing well.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A World of Good


Did you know that eBay now has a department called worldofgood.com that is just loaded with Fair Trade and other socially and ecologically responsible opportunities for purchases?

I really recommend that you go over there and explore. It's fun!

The above relief carving is from Peru, is 15 inches in diameter, and is only $134.35.

Now here's something else quite wonderful. If you access eBay through GoodShop and then type our name (St. John's Center for Spiritual Formation) in the charity line (be sure and hit "verify" if you haven't done this before), our Center receives a percentage of every purchase you make. There is a HUGE selection of other businesses you can access this way if you like to shop on line and that way you can help the Center without any cost to you whatsoever. You can also help the Center by using the GoodSearch search engine at least part of the time!

In these tough economic times, every little bit helps!

(Since registering with GoodSearch and GoodShop we have raised almost $1,000 through those organizations. You can read all about how they work right here.)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Vincent of Saragossa, Deacon and Martyr

Here's what I was able to find out:

The title line above states almost all that is certainly known about Vincent, the earliest Spanish martyr whose name is known to us. It is said that he was brought to trial along with his bishop Valerius, and that since Valerius had a speech impediment, Vincent spoke for both, and that his fearless manner so angered the governor that Vincent was tortured and killed, though his aged bishop was only exiled.
He was martyred in 304 and is the patron saint of wine makers, vinegar makers and vine dressers.

So, the next time you pull out that bottle of vinegar for your salad dressing, think of St. Vincent and give thanks for his life and witness!

Also, it seems to me that if you are horrified by the prospect of book burning then Vincent is your man! His tormenters agreed to release him if he would consign his Bible to the flames. He refused, of course.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

St. Agnes of Rome


Here's part of what James Kiefer has to say:
Agnes is a Christian martyr who died at Rome around 304 in the persecution of Diocletian: the last and fiercest of the persecutions of Christianity by the Roman emperors. The anniversary of her martyrdom is observed on 21 January. Her name means “pure” in Greek and “lamb” in Latin. She is said to have been only about twelve or thirteen when she died, and the remains preserved in St Agnes' Church in Rome are in agreement with this. It is said that her execution shocked many Romans and helped bring an end to the persecutions.

Some said, “It is contrary to Roman law to put a virgin to death. Our leaders say that it is necessary to kill Christians in order to preserve the old Roman ways: but they are themselves scorning those ways in the process.”

Others said, “Do young girls constitute such a threat to Rome that it is necessary to kill them?”

Others said, “If this religion can enable a twelve-year-old girl to meet death without fear, it is worth checking out.”
This reminds me of the old Zen story about a monk who is confronted by a marauding military man who says, "Don't you know I am the one who can run my sword through you without blinking an eye?"

Whereupon the monk replies, "Don't you know I am the one who can have your sword run through me without blinking an eye?"

One version of the story says that the soldier then bowed low before the monk and said, "Please teach me."

About the blog

Hello, Readers.

It is with considerable regret that I have decided to enable comment moderation on this blog for the time being.While anyone is free to disagree with me or anyone else, I do believe that some ground rules are necessary - especially since this is a spirituality blog.

Reasonable people of good will can and do disagree about most any issue a person could name. Thoughtful and compassionate people, however, do so politely, without profanity and without personal attacks. It is also important not to engage in "mind reading" -- that is, assuming what a person thinks and then attacking the person for it. All I'm asking for here is civility.

Blessings to all and thank you for understanding.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

This day


These are words from the poem written and read by Elizabeth Alexander for the Inauguration of President Barack Obama:

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.
What if. What if, indeed.

Whatever our political affiliation may be, let us all pray for this new president and for the United States of America and for all the world.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Martin Luther King, Jr.


I may have blogged this before here. I can't remember. But it doesn't matter. It bears repeating:

I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, "I can see why Jesus used this as a setting for his parable." It's a winding, meandering road. It's really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about 1200 miles, or rather 1200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, fifteen or twenty minutes later, you're about 2200 feet below sea level. That's a dangerous road. In the day of Jesus it came to be known as the "Bloody Pass." And you know, it's possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it's possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?".

May we be willing to "reverse the question" whenever lovingkindness and compassion require us to do so.

And let us give thanks this day for the life and witness of our courageous brother, Martin. No, he wasn't perfect (as you'll discover if you examine the sites of many of his naysayers on the web). But to my mind, that makes him all the more inspirational. He was a human being with feet of clay like the rest of us. And, still, look what he accomplished! Let us go and do likewise in our own small ways.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Welcome Table


I heard a different version of this song on NPR this morning while driving home from church and I just knew I had to share it with you.

And, oh my. These people are GOOD!

You might like to read something about the Old Town School of Folk Music right here.

UPDATE: I want to send you over to a blog called Casaubon's Book by Sharon Astyk. The posting I have in mind is a reflection on the song I've shared with you today. Here's a really beautiful excerpt:

We’ve lost the habit of the welcome table. I once taught a Hebrew School class of fifth graders about Passover, and I asked them how many of them, when the Haggadah commands them to cast open their doors and call out “let all who are hungry come and eat” actually do so? What, I asked them, would they do if someone actually tried to come in and sit down? Overwhelmingly, these children in a comfortable suburb told me that they would never really open their doors, and that if a stranger tried to enter and eat, the would be afraid. And there are perhaps some legitimate reasons for fear - but some even greater reasons for overcoming it. We are people who have learned to fear the idea of casting open our doors to others.

There are things we can only understand about one another by sitting together for a meal. Seated together, we learn about each other’s food culture - in fact, we create a food culture. Until we eat together, there are intimacies we cannot share. Eating together is a powerful way of tying our lives together. Building community depends upon it - and because so many of us are too busy, or too afraid or intimidated or simply not in the habit, we lose community and intimacy in precisely the measure that we do not share food. It is a starting point for most human connections.

I certainly didn't know that "casting open the doors to the hungry" was part of the Passover ritual. That certainly sheds new light on the injunction of Jesus to "go out to the highways and byways and compel them to come in" when you give a party!

There's a lot to think about here.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

St. Anthony of Egypt, Father of Monastics

Here's something Abba Anthony said:
Do not be afraid to hear about virtue and do not be a stranger to the term. For it is not distant from us nor is it external to us; its realisation lies within us and the work is easy if only we want it. The Greeks leave home and cross the seas in order to gain an education, but there is no need for us to go away on account of the Kingdom of God nor need we cross the sea in search of virtue. For the Lord has told us, "The Kingdom of God is within you." All that is needed for goodness is that which is within, the human heart.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The relationship between value and love

"Prodigal Son"
Artist: Oleg A. Korolev

This man was one of my heroes:

God's love doesn't seek value, it creates value. It is not because we have value that we are loved, but because we are loved that we have value.

William Sloane Coffin

I'm saddened by how many people come my way who believe they have to earn God's love -- even those who grew up in churches that officially emphasize grace. It just goes to demonstrate that what we model is so much more effective than what we say.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cloaked in stillness


Many, many years ago (I was a teenager, probably) I learned from the writings of Rainer Maria Rilke to love questions more than answers. Here is one of his poems:

I am, you anxious one.

Don’t you sense me, ready to break into being at your touch?
My murmurings surround you like shadowy wings.
Can’t you see me standing before you cloaked in stillness?
Hasn’t my longing ripened in you from the beginning
as fruit ripens on a branch?

I am the dream you are dreaming.
When you want to awaken, I am that wanting.
I grow strong in the beauty you behold.
And with the silence of stars I enfold your cities made by time.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Feast of St. Hilary of Poitiers

The Ordination of Saint Hilary

Today we honor the memory and the contribution of St. Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers who lived from 315 to 367 in the Common Era. Here's something I found out about him:

Hilary was one of the most conspicuous and original characters of early Christianity. His distinguishing characteristics were fidelity to the church creed, acuteness in argument, and resolution in action. He knew no fear. He wielded a keen sword when he defended apostolic truth against heretics, or vindicated the prerogatives of the Church against the encroachments of the civil power. Yet, when the differences concerned non-essentials, he displayed a conciliatory disposition. His power lay essentially in his thorough acquaintance with the Scriptures. His earliest literary labor was a Commentary on Matthew, and one of the latest an Exposition of the Psalms. His other exegetical works are lost. Much to be regretted is the loss of his collection of hymns which the Spanish churches used.
It is also to be noted that his parents were pagans of high social standing and that he had a classical education. It is so nice to read about early influential Christians who were not infected with anti-intellectualism.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Feast of Aelred of Rievaulx


Aelred was the great champion of friendship. Take a look at something he said:
In friendship are joined honor and charm, truth and joy, sweetness and good-will, affection and action. And all these take their beginning from Christ, advance through Christ, and are perfected in Christ.
And, this seems a good day to offer the following:

We are all travelers in the wilderness of the world, and the best that we can find in our travels is an honest friend.

-- Robert Louis Stevenson

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Epiphany 1 - The Baptism of Jesus

I really like the image above and I wish I knew more about it. I found it here.

And I want to offer these ancient quotations:

It is not the day when Christ was born that should be called Epiphany, but the day when He was baptized. Not through His birth did he become known to all, but through his Baptism. Before the day of Baptism he was not known to the people.

-- St. John Chrysostom

Here, the idea of the "shining sun" being baptized is marvelously evocative:

Come and see how the shining sun
Is baptized in the waters of a humble river.
A mighty cross appeared over the water of baptism.
The servants of sin descend
And the children of everlasting life ascend.
Come ye, therefore, and receive the light.


- Greek hymn

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A creature in the house of the God of Life.

Artist: Franz Marc

All that matters is to be at one with the living God
to be a creature in the house of the God of Life.

Like a cat asleep on a chair
at peace, in peace
and at one with the master of the house, with the mistress,
at home, at home in the house of the living,
sleeping on the hearth, and yawning before the fire.

Sleeping on the hearth of the living world
yawning at home before the fire of life
feeling the presence of the living God
like a great reassurance
a deep calm in the heart
a presence

as of the master sitting at the board
in his own and greater being,
in the house of life.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Julia Chester Emery

Today we observe the memory of Julia Chester Emery who was added to the calendar in 1994. Here's something James Kiefer says about her:
She visited every diocese in the United States, co-ordinating and encouraging work in support of missions. She traveled to London as a delegate to the Pan-AnglicanCongress. She traveled to Japan, inland China, Hong Kong, and the Philippines to advance missionary work there, and to be able to report on it to the Episcopal women in the United States.

It was Julia who invented the United Thank Offering (UTO). This works (or used to work -- my political instincts tell me that not everyone today would be comfortable with the original arrangement) by giving each woman a small box with a slit in the top (a cardboard piggy bank), and encouraging her to drop a small contribution into it whenever she feels thankful about something. Once a year, the women of the parish present these at the Sunday service, and the money is sent to national headquarters to be used for missions.

Here is something about thanksgiving that I thought I'd add:

Happiness is the realization of God in the heart.
Happiness is the result of praise and thanksgiving, of faith, of acceptance;
a quiet tranquil realization of the love of God.

-- White Eagle

Thursday, January 8, 2009

O taste and see...


I so love Mary Oliver's work. The "shawl of wind" --- what an amazing way to put words together. And, as it so happens, I had some chilled melon this morning and I can still taste it in my mouth with gratitude.

Every morning I want to kneel down on the golden
cloth of the sand and say
some kind of musical thanks for
the world that is happening again—another day—
from the shawl of wind coming out of the
west to the firm green

flesh of the melon lately sliced open and
eaten, its chill and ample body
flavored with mercy. I want
to be worthy of—what? Glory? Yes, unimaginable glory.
O Lord of melons, of mercy, though I am
not ready, nor worthy, I am climbing toward you.

-- Mary Oliver

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Consolation

"Showers of Sunshine"

I like this very much:

God is a shower to the heart burned up with grief; God is a sun to the face deluged with tears.

-- Joseph Roux

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Journey of the Magi

Image found here*

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For the journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins,
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death,
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.


* I was unable to find an original source for this image.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Twelfth Night


Here we are. It's the eve of the Epiphany. Here are some questions for us to ponder in the upcoming season:

On January 6 western Christians celebrate the feast of Epiphany, which takes its name from the Greek word epiphaneia, meaning disclosure, manifestation, unveiling or appearance. At the simplest level, on Epiphany Christians commemorate the "appearance" of the magi from the east. But on closer inspection, what are the ramifications of the baby in the manger? What does His birth manifest or unveil? What about the cosmic signs and the provocative language that this helpless baby is a newborn king? Will he really inaugurate a new reign and rule in which, according to his mother Mary, God will depose tyrants and send away the rich as empty-handed beggars?

-- Dan Clendenin

I do recommend that you click through and read Dr. Clendenin's reflection in its entirety. There are some further reflection questions at the end that are certainly worth examining.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Second Sunday after Christmas


Many church people, I think, are too caught up in viewing the Incarnation as a theological doctrine that must be believed and overlook, thereby, the understanding that it is an reality we are called to manifest in our daily lives. When you think about it, the Incarnation is the very opposite of "abstract"!!!

It is crucial to move from principle to practice — from idea to embodiment. The Word became flesh. And we beheld his glory. The essence, the very being of the ultimate, was there for us to look at, to behold, to touch, to be with. Just as we see God in the historical Jesus, now people will see God in us, as the resurrected Jesus forms us into a literal cell in his own global body.

-- from a sermon by N. Gordon Cosby

For some reason, the above Cosby passage reminds me of the book title, A Warm Moist Salty God (by Edwina Gateley). For me, that title evokes the very tangible experience of incarnation.

UPDATE: I just found a lovely little essay on the Incarnation. Go take a look! It would make a marvelous chancel drama. Maybe that's what it's really intended to be.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

This clod of earth


As I write, I'm sitting in the Albuquerque airport waiting for my flight back to Tulsa having just attended a conference entitled "Laughing & Weeping" led by Richard Rohr and Russ Hudson. I first came into contact with the work of the Franciscan priest Richard Rohr back in the early 90s when someone gave me a tape of a talk he gave on the parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat. It had a powerful effect on me and I've made a point of keeping up with his ministry over the years.

In his closing remarks this morning, Fr. Richard quoted something Carl Jung said toward the end of his life and I pass it on to you:

In my case Pilgrim's Progress consisted in my having to climb down a thousand ladders until I could reach out my hand to the little clod of earth that I am.

-- Carl Jung

Notice how he talks about climbing down rather than climbing up. It reminded me of the time I heard Henri Nouwen speak back in the late 70s. His reference to what he called "downward mobility" had a great influence on me in the discernment of my monastic vocation.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Making the terrible world endurable

Artist: Albertus Verhoesen
I have long admired Flannery O'Connor but, truth to tell, I haven't thought about her works much just lately. Today I happened to come across a reference to her and decided to share the following with you:

I think that the Church is the only thing that is going to make the terrible world we are coming to endurable; the only thing that makes the Church endurable is that it is somehow the body of Christ and that on this we are fed. It seems to be a fact that you suffer as much from the Church as for it but if you believe in the divinity of Christ, you have to cherish the world at the same time that you struggle to endure it.
...
The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.
...
Conviction without experience makes for harshness.

-- Flannery O'Connor

* Flannery O'Connor was fascinated by birds - especially peacocks.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Prayer

Creator God, When you became one of us in the person of Jesus, we believe that you made the most powerful statement of all time. You speak with deeds -we speak in words. In becoming one of us, you said "If you want to know what I look like in your world, look at people." People are the most profound expression of God in our world of space and time. And so human beings, each in a unique and most precious way -not by what they do or what they say, but simply by their presence - makes a statement unique to him or herself about God.

If this be true, at this, the start of a new year, we ask that we as individuals and as a nation commit ourselves to respecting the God in every human being, no matter how cleverly each has disguised him. Help us so to respect one another that war and violence become as antiquated as dinosaurs. In our highly complicated world, awaken us to the wisdom of the prophet. "There is only one thing God asks of you. This alone, to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with your God."

-- The Rev. Mark DeNardo