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A Quiet Starry Night

Blog by Associate Linda Goff

Recently, I was reminded about a turn of the century experience which occurred on January 1, 2000.  During a New Year’s Eve weekend retreat, the attendees journeyed outside at 12:00 AM and prayed for peace in the east, west, north, and south.  That quiet starry night brought us hope for the future as we spoke in faith with the Lord.

I thought about Abraham.  As we hear in Genesis 15:5-6, “The Lord brought Abraham outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven and count the stars if you are able to count them.’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And Abraham believed him; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.”  In Galatians 3:6-9, Paul uses this passage as a basis for his understanding of the importance of faith.

Just as all their ancestors before them, on that starry night in January the retreatants had faith in the Lord.

During this time of the year, I cannot help but think of the Wise Men who were called to follow the star which led to the Christ Child.  When they arrived at the manger, they paid homage and their hope for the future must have been revived.

There have been many rocky roads to walk during this century.  I know that my faith has wavered, and my foot has slipped on many a rock.  Yet faith has carried me onward and my hope for the future revives every time I encounter a kind act, a loving smile, an encouraging word.

During the Advent and Christmas seasons I invite you to experience a quiet starry night.  May the peace and love of the Lord flow over you, faith enliven your journey and revive your hope for a peace-filled future.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Speech! A Missed Opportunity or Being Wise?

Blog by Associate Frank Bevvino

How many times in our lifetime have we said something to somebody and regretted it.

Not that what we said was wrong, but we could have phrased it a better way. Perhaps we could have been kinder in our words or been more considerate. Words have different meanings. Words take an entirely different meaning by the tone of voice used or our facial and eye expressions.

What we say and how we say it is important, so that the person or people we are talking to understands what we are saying. Sarcasm is an example: When someone tells you that you are the smartest person in the world are they complimenting you or are they mocking or criticizing you for thinking you are the smartest person.

The answer lies solely in the relationship of the two people, the context of the conversation and the facial expression of the speaker.

Email and texting gives one no indication how words are to be perceived. Enter the emoji! Emojis are pictures which provide the context of what the speaker is trying to say. A picture of a smiley face, a frown, a face with a mouth and a heart. Until the use of the emoji one seldom knew the meaning of written words. Thankfully emojis have removed many doubts about words that have been written in texts or emails.

Political correctness is another term that has crept into our language these past decades. The Oxford dictionary defines it as “the principle of avoiding language and behavior that may offend particular groups of people. At one time or another we can all be accused of being politically correct or PC. Most people by nature do not want to intentionally offend others.

Kindness and consideration of our differences means that we are usually prudent in our choice of words. When Jesus is confronted by those that oppose him is he being honest with them in his words or is he just being politically correct? We can wonder why Jesus seemed to try to appease his opponents. Did he fear them? Was he being polite? Was he being sarcastic in his responses.

We know from the parables that Jesus’ language was kind and consoling but direct. He was never rude, crude or demeaning to any of his opponents. He showed the same kindness and respect to all, even those with whom he differed. Jesus showed the wisdom to respect the opinion of others while still making sure his true feelings were made known. His respect for others never diminished his sense that the truth needed to be expressed in some way.

Words matter! How we express them takes on a whole new meaning in this 21st Century of social media and social distancing. Jesus understood better than anyone right from wrong. He also understood that everyone he met was his brother and sister created by the Father. In this complex world the truth is still the truth and it matters.

People read and hear things differently and draw conclusions from what they hear and read. Jesus understood this in the 1st Century when communication was simpler.

In the 21st Century we need to look to Jesus’ example of respect and kindness for others in how we express our thoughts and opinions. Some would say it is being politically correct, others would agree that wisdom in our speech is Christian.

In the words of that once famous TV show the X Files, “The Truth is Out There”. We need to hold fast to the truth and live it in the example of Christ. We can still express our opinions but respect and kindness must rule the day. HATE speech is never OK.

Posted in Associate Blog

TRUE FRIENDS GIVE YOU ROOM TO GROW

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

I’m going to sit this right here:

“Sometimes, you have to stay silent, because no words can explain what’s going on in your heart and mind.”

Let that sink in:

“Sometimes, you have to stay silent, because no words can explain what’s going on in your heart and mind.”

Understand one thing — this is not the “silence is complicity” silence. This is the silence that is necessary if you want to keep that card that allows you to walk in both worlds.

Some of you – who are probably not reading this – have no idea what I am talking about. But those of you who do, please stay with me.

During the past several weeks, I have been tested by a number of people who apparently think (operative word) that they know more about what I do than I do. This can be very distressing, especially when I understand that they only see a small glimpse of my world.

Probably what troubles me the most is that I wonder if there is something about me that speaks to this idea that something within me is lacking?

So, today I pay homage to my two strong parents who taught me that the world may not accept me for who I am, but that I am enough!

 

“No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.”
― Alice Walker

Posted in Associate Blog

CHADWICK BOSEMAN: A BEACON OF HOPE

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

We never really know the struggles of others.

Those words resonated deep within my soul this weekend, after hearing about the death of Chadwick Boseman.

How did a global superstar – who portrayed historical icons Jackie Robinson, James Brown, Thurgood Marshall, and the revolutionary King T’Challa (aka Black Panther) – keep such a secret for four years?

How did he continue to film blockbusters while battling colon cancer?

How did he keep focus?

Twitter: Chadwick Boseman @chadwickboseman 
Twitter: Chadwick Boseman @chadwickboseman 

I have no answers to those questions, but his private struggle with the devastating disease could not have been easy. His determination to visit and encourage children fighting cancer while privately fighting the disease himself is awe-inspiring.

What I do know is that sometimes the people with the biggest smiles are struggling the most. What I do know is someone somewhere is going through something.

That is why it pays to be kind, to say a prayer, to share a hug, to be a blessing to someone.

Last night, I traveled (via television) to that fictional country of Wakanda – Black Panther’s home nation — built on Vibranium, a fictional metal known for its extraordinary abilities to absorb, store, and release large amounts of kinetic energy.

Right now, amid all the chaos in our world, we could all use our own personal Vibranium to build a world that is stronger, better, and more just.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

OPTIMISM -vs- HOPE

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

Someone recently asked if I am optimistic that we can redeem the soul of America (as it relates to the racial construct).

I paused before giving my answer: “No. I am not optimistic, but I am hopeful.”

Then, I found myself processing the difference. What I discovered is what I always recognize during these kinds of self-reflection: the difference is in the definition.

I subscribe to the teaching of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks who says “optimism is the belief that the world is changing for the better; hope is the belief that, together, we can make the world better.”

I like the rabbi’s view of hope as an active virtue. I believe that, together, we can create a structure that is beneficial to all Americans; close the “value gap” (which Eddie Glaude Jr. describes as the idea that white people are more valuable than Black people); and find a better way forward.

I can’t be optimistic at this point because I realize that there are people who are invested in preserving the current systemic structure, in sustaining the value gap, and maintaining the status quo.

Are you optimistic or hopeful?

Posted in Associate Blog, News