Blog posts

ADVENT REFLECTION: Dwelling In God’s Strength by Enuma Okoro

December 12, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; that in everything ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:3-9) We have all said at one point or another, “If I just knew what would [...]

POETRY: Magnificat by Mary F. C. Pratt

December 12, 2018

Under pine trees in the snow, the chickadees around my head, I wept for the will of God, this hungry woman fed. All the shadows shifted while my back was turned. Once and always on my finger one soft and small gray bird. Not a twisting due to prayer, but all its own, and mine together. And so I bear the gift, carry it through time— this deepest darkness, astonishing [...]

PRAYER: Second Wednesday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 12, 2018

From Season of Promises Sometimes it may seem to us that there is no purpose in our lives, that going day after day for years to this office or that school or factory is nothing else but waste and weariness.  But it may be that God has sent us there because but for us Christ would not be there, that alone makes it worthwhile. (Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God) Let the quiet spirit of Advent soak into your heart.  Let the spirit of waiting patiently for the coming of Christ at Christmas soak into your heart.  Now listen.  Listen.  The spirit of Advent is the spirit of the gospel, plain and simple.  To open our heart to the true spirit of Advent is to open our heart to the gospel, the Good News that invites us to a new way of [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Silence by Enuma Okoro

December 11, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believes not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season. And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he tarried so long in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. (Luke 1:20-23) Traditionally we read Luke 1:20-23 as God’s punishment of Zechariah for his lack of faith in God’s words.  The angel [...]

POETRY: Aprons Of Silence by Carl Sandburg

December 11, 2018

Many things I might have said today. And I kept my mouth shut. So many times I was asked To come and say the same things Everybody was saying, no end To the yes-yes, yes-yes, me-too, me-too. The aprons of silence covered me. A wire and hatch held my tongue. I spit nails into an abyss and listened. I shut off the gable of Jones, Johnson, Smith, All whose names take pages in the city directory. I fixed up a padded cell and lugged it around. I locked myself in and nobody knew it. Only the keeper and the kept in the hoosegow Knew it—on the streets, in the post office, On the cars, into the railroad station Where the caller was calling, “All a-board, All a-board for . . . Blaa-blaa . . . Blaa-blaa, Blaa-blaa . . . and all points [...]

PRAYER: Second Tuesday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 11, 2018

From Season of Promises The nearness of silence means also the nearness of forgiveness and the nearness of love, for the natural basis of forgiveness and of love is silence.  It is important that this natural basis should be there, for it means that forgiveness and love do not have first to create the medium in which they appear. (Max Picard, The World of Silence) Where are you right now, this minute, as you read these words?  Where are you?  Where are you not only physically – in a house or apartment, in a church, riding on a train, bus, airplane, or subway – but where are you in your heart and in your mind?  In your mind, are you in a quiet place or a noisy place?  Is your heart quiet or full of noise? To wait quietly during [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: A Song From Hollowed Space by Enuma Okoro

December 10, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Oh that thou would rend the heavens, that thou would come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, as when the melting fire burns, the fire causes the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence!  When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou came down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence. For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waits for him.  Thou meet him that rejoices and works righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways: behold, thou art wroth; for [...]

POETRY: From God Christ’s Deity Came Forth by Ephrem of Edessa

December 10, 2018

From God Christ’s deity came forth, his manhood from humanity; his priesthood from Melchizedek, his royalty from David’s tree: praised be his Oneness. He joined with guests at wedding feast, yet in the wilderness did fast; he taught within the temple’s gates; his people saw him die at last: praised be his teaching. The dissolute he did not scorn, nor turn from those who were in sin; he for the righteous did rejoice but bade the fallen to come in: praised be his mercy. He did not disregard the sick; to simple ones his word was given; and he descended to the Earth and, his work done, went up to Heaven: praised be his coming. Who then, my Lord, compares to you? The Watcher slept, the Great was small, the Pure baptized, the [...]

PRAYER: Second Monday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 10, 2018

From Season of Promises I set my heart on God with all my trust and with all my might.  He wills that our hearts should be lifted high above the depths of Earthly and vain sorrows, and rejoice in him.  He loves us and enjoys us, and so he wills that we love him and enjoy him, and firmly trust him; and all shall be well. (Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love) Advent has one message that is rock bottom.  The rock bottom message of Advent is a message of hope.  Hope is not in vain, the spirit of Advent sings to us.  If we listen.  The heart of Advent is hope, and the spirit of Advent sings in our heart.  If we listen.  Hope, hope.  Look forward to the birth of Christ with hope because no hope is more reliable.  No matter [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Barrenness by Enuma Okoro

December 9, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. (Luke 1:5-7) It is a cold word, hollow-sounding, devoid of warmth, almost iron-clad in its finality: barren.  Elizabeth is a barren woman.  Could anything be more devastating in a culture that prides women on the fruits of their womb?  Imagine her wondering what Zechariah might secretly think [...]

POETRY: Advent Calendar by Rowan Williams

December 9, 2018

He will come like last leaf’s fall. One night when the November wind has flayed the trees to bone, and earth wakes choking on the mould, the soft shroud’s folding. He will come like frost. One morning when the shrinking earth opens on mist, to find itself arrested in the net of alien, sword-set beauty. He will come like dark. One evening when the bursting red December sun draws up the sheet and penny-masks its eye to yield the star-snowed fields of sky. He will come, will come, will come like crying in the night, like blood, like breaking, as the earth writhes to toss him free. He will come like [...]

PRAYER: Second Sunday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 9, 2018

From Season of Promises Every one of us forms an idea of Christ that is limited and incomplete.  It is cut according to our own measure.  We tend to create for ourselves a Christ in our own image, a projection of our own aspirations, desires, and ideals.  We find in him what we want to find.  We make him not only the incarnation of God but also the incarnation of the things we and our society and our part of society happen to live for. (Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation) Who is the Jesus you look forward to during Advent?  What does he look like?  Your description reveals more than you think.  If you describe Jesus one way, remember that your description does not rule out other acceptable descriptions.  Does your Jesus have [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Advent Day 7 Personal Reflection by Enuma Okoro

December 8, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Doubt is common to more people of faith than perhaps care to admit it.  Ebbing back and forth in trust and belief is not something to be proud of but it is also not something of which to be ashamed.  It is simply part of our human condition this side of Heaven.  Some people experience less or more of it than others.  We find grace in the stories of scripture that highlight characters who experience doubt and questioning, who want proof of God’s words to them.  We can take spiritual refuge in people like Zechariah and the disciple Thomas who needed proof of the resurrection.  Sometimes God’s goodness sounds too good to be true.  At times our disbelief testifies more to the [...]

POETRY: Later Life: A Double Sonnet Of Sonnets by Christina Rossetti

December 8, 2018

1. Before the mountains were brought forth, before Earth and the world were made, then God was God: And God will still be God, when flames shall roar Round earth and heaven dissolving at His nod: And this God is our God, even while His rod Of righteous wrath falls on us smiting sore: And this God is our God for evermore Through life, through death, while clod returns to clod. For though He slay us we will trust in Him; We will flock home to Him by divers ways: Yea, though He slay us we will vaunt His praise, Serving and loving with the Cherubim, Watching and loving with the Seraphim, Our very selves His praise through endless days. 2. Rend hearts and rend not garments for our sins; Gird sackcloth not on body but on soul; Grovel in dust [...]

PRAYER: First Saturday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 8, 2018

From Season of Promises God does not ask much of us – an occasional remembrance, a small act of worship, now to beg his grace, at times to offer him our distresses, at another time to render thanks for the favors he has given, and which he gives in the midst of your labors.  At table and in the midst of conversations, lift your heart at times towards him.  It is not needful at such times to cry out loud.  He is nearer to us than we think. (Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God) Advent is a quiet season.  Quiet.  Listen.  Advent whispers, and we must be quiet if we are to hear its message.  Advent whispers.  Listen carefully.  Advent carries a quiet message, it says that God is near, our God is near, our God who [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Doubt And The Believing Community by Enuma Okoro

December 7, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith? Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:9-13) It can be scary to admit to ourselves that we are experiencing doubts.  We [...]

POETRY: Freeman Creek Grove by Paul Willis

December 7, 2018

(Sequoia gigantea) Hiking down November snow, we saw the first one still below us, mounding up like a juniper in the Shasta fir and the sugar pine. Soon the trail entered its presence (with Thanksgiving a day behind), the trunk rising in dusky red, in fluted columns strangely soft to our curious touch. The first branches began at the tops of other trees and continued into familiar wonder, older perhaps than the Incarnation, and longer rooted, and while they are here, shedding for us new mercy of cones flung green and small on the white of our steps. We girdled the trunk with open arms, unable to circumference it, much less to find its center. In our random cries, in the things we said to our wandering children, I heard proclamation of [...]

PRAYER: First Friday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 7, 2018

From Season of Promises “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life,” says the Lord.  By these words, Christ urges us to mold our lives and characters in the image of his, if we wish to be truly enlightened and freed from all blindness of heart.  Let us therefore see that we endeavor beyond all else to meditate on the life of Jesus Christ. (Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ) We think of “meditation” as esoteric, the concern of folks who live in monasteries, of interest to the occasional odd duck.  The wandering guru from India teaches “meditation.”  Certainly, we think, meditation is not to be taken seriously by your average person with a real life to live, mortgage or rent [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Devoted Doubt by Enuma Okoro

December 6, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. (Luke 1:18-19) How do we hold onto our belief in God’s promises in the midst of doubt?  At what point do our prayers become rote, tinged more with habit than with hope, based more on what we feel is required of us than in what is possible with God?  Zechariah has a difficult time receiving the angel Gabriel’s words because they do not fall in line with the reality of his and Elizabeth’s circumstances.  [...]

POETRY: The Bright Field by R. S. Thomas

December 6, 2018

I have seen the sun break through to illuminate a small field for a while, and gone my way and forgotten it. But that was the pearl of great price, the one field that had treasure in it. I realize now that I must give all that I have to possess it. Life is not hurrying on to a receding future, nor hankering after an imagined past. It is the turning aside like Moses to the miracle of the lit bush, to a brightness that seemed as transitory as your youth once, but is the eternity that awaits [...]

PRAYER: First Thursday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 6, 2018

From Season of Promises Strangely enough, those who complain the loudest of the emptiness of their lives are usually people whose lives are overcrowded, filled with trivial details, plans, desires, ambitions.  Those who complain in these circumstances of the emptiness of their lives are usually afraid to allow space or silence or pause in their lives. (Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God) Quiet now.  Pause.  Attend.  Advent is a time to cultivate the sheerest, most blissful emptiness.  Advent is a time to cultivate – metaphorically speaking – the emptiness of the waiting womb, the womb waiting to receive and give birth to the Son of God.  Quiet now.  Pause.  Attend. During the Shopping Season our lives fit the description [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Remembered By God by Enuma Okoro

December 5, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard,” (Luke 1:13a).  It is difficult to put ourselves in Zechariah’s shoes as he heard those words.  How would we respond if God sent a personal messenger to tell us that our pleas had reached God’s ears and all that we had desired was coming to pass?  Do we have a big enough imagination to believe that our prayers can indeed rise up to God?  These five verses from Luke 1 are packed with so much grace and divine kindness that it is hard simply as a reader not to be overwhelmed.  How must Zechariah have felt?  The angel informs him of God’s abundant generosity.  Not only has Zechariah’s prayer been heard, but [...]

POETRY: I Said To My Soul, Be Still, And Let The Dark Come Upon You by T. S. Eliot

December 5, 2018

(from Four Quartets) I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theatre, The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of darkness on darkness, And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama And the bold imposing facade are all being rolled away— Or as, when an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between stations And the conversation rises and slowly fades into silence And you see behind every face the mental emptiness deepen Leaving only the growing terror of nothing to think about; Or when, under ether, the mind is conscious but conscious of nothing— I said to my soul, be still, and wait [...]

PRAYER: First Wednesday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 5, 2018

From Season of Promises Silence makes things whole again, by taking them back from the world of dissipation into the world of wholeness.  It gives things something of its own holy uselessness, for that is what silence itself is: holy uselessness. (Max Picard, The World of Silence) Advent is a quiet time.  But Advent is sometimes overwhelmed by the noise and activity of the Shopping Season.  What can we do?  What?  We can carve out a few minutes each day – at the beginning of the day, perhaps, or at the end of the day – when nothing happens except waiting in silence for the coming of Christ.  Nothing except waiting in silence, holy silence. In the first decade of the 20th century, a young Swiss physician, Max Picard, grew [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Intercession by Enuma Okoro

December 4, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. (Luke 1:10-13) Prayer has a power we will never be able to understand.  We may never know how the prayers of others may have impacted our lives, or how our own prayers of intercession affect other people.  When Zechariah enters the sanctuary, behind him is a community praying.  [...]

POETRY: Into The Darkest Hour by Madeleine L’Engle

December 4, 2018

It was a time like this, War & tumult of war, a horror in the air. Hungry yawned the abyss— and yet there came the star and the child most wonderfully there. It was time like this of fear & lust for power, license & greed and blight— and yet the Prince of bliss came into the darkest hour in quiet & silent light. And in a time like this how celebrate his birth when all things fall apart? Ah! Wonderful it is with no room on the earth the stable is our [...]

PRAYER: First Tuesday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 4, 2018

From Season of Promises God is our clothing.  In his love he wraps and holds us.  He enfolds us for love, and he will never let us go.  I saw that he is to us everything that is good. (Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love) The Advent season is a season of homely things – “homely” in the dictionary’s first meaning of the word, “characteristic of the home or of home life.”  Advent is a season of homely things because during this season we prepare for the coming of a homely God, a God who is at home with us.  Our God is so at home with us that Dame Julian of Norwich, a 13th-century homely English mystic and all-around practical person, said that God is “our clothing.”  Imagine that. Here we go through our day [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Lament by Enuma Okoro

December 3, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me. Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause. Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.  Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy loving-kindnesses; for they have been ever of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O Lord. Good and upright is the Lord: therefore will he teach sinners in the way. The meek [...]

POETRY: Conversion by Marci Johnson

December 3, 2018

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14) How can word become flesh? Belly. Bone. Tongue—the feel in the mouth a word rolling around. Word, not a kiss not the thing itself—a name. The arch of a foot. Your face in my hands, just a name. Blue sky lolling beyond the window frame—eyes open. just a way of looking. begin with a [...]

PRAYER: First Monday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 3, 2018

From Season of Promises If you have money, consider that perhaps the only reason God allowed it to fall into your hands was in order that you might find joy and perfection by giving it all away. (Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation) Sometimes it is easy for Advent to get mixed up with the great American season of shopping.  We call it the “Shopping Season,” even capitalizing the first letters of the words.  Heavy duty stuff, here.  The Shopping Season! Peculiar things go on in our heads during the Christmas Shopping Season.  We get discombobulated.  In our heart, and in our mind, we get discombobulated.  We get the Shopping Season mixed up with the most remarkable things.  Love, for example.  We get Shopping mixed up with [...]