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What is wrong with you?

What is wrong with you?

Early on, everyone with a disability must resolve how to answer this perennial question.  Whether your disability is easily visible and the question is almost a greeting or whether the question doesn’t arise until your disability is revealed, the question comes.  Sometimes there is a follow-up: Why can’t you….  If you’ve grown up with a disability, you’ve mastered some sort of answer by the time you are an adult.  If you’ve acquired a disability, the sad news is that in the midst of grieving whatever function you have lost, you also have to come to terms with answering this question.

As a child, I learned quickly that I was expected to answer this question by explaining my dwarfism was a lack of bone growth. As I got older, I added that God makes everyone different; different sizes, shapes and colors. Coaching children to answer puts two burdens on a child. First, by answering with information you do not challenge the “wrong” part of the question. You answer what is wrong with you. Repeatedly the child hears and absorbs “there is something wrong with me”.  Second, the expectation the child will answer with information imprints on the child that they are expected to share personal information with total strangers.  By virtue of their difference, they are not entitled to the same sense of privacy and personal space everyone else gets.  Honestly, I coached my children in the same kind of answers I always gave.  Today, I would teach them differently.

Nothing is wrong with me. Different is not wrong nor is it bad nor less than. If responding to a child, I would add “And your parents should explain that to you.” The task of teaching children about differences is not the duty of all the people around the child who are different than the child.  Especially if it is a child-to-child interaction, no child should have to defend their right to exist to a peer.  The idea that this applies equally to adult-to-adult interactions should not have to be explained but here it is. I don’t owe you an explanation or information. I will not leave the idea something is wrong with me unchallenged!

I often go to the story in John 9 as a metaphorical guide to Jesus’ response to disability. The story begins with the disciples questioning: Who sinned, the parents or the man, that caused him to be blind?  Definitely a judgement that something is wrong.  Jesus responds, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”  So nothing is wrong. Let’s think about the last portion of the response—so that God’s works might be revealed in him. So why are any of us here?  So that God’s works might be revealed in us.  Same deal for all of us. People with disabilities do not have some special directive nor are they excluded from purpose and value. Then the story is odd.  Jesus puts mud on the man’s eyes and tells him to wash it off.  For me, the mud represents all the judgments, limiting opinions, and disrespect heaped upon all of those judged different but especially those with disabilities.  Then Jesus tells the man to wash it off.  It is an action the man himself takes, inspired and guided by Spirit.  “Then he went and washed and came back able to see.”  Here is where I feel strongly about metaphorical meaning, not literal meaning.  What did he see?  The literal and even common metaphorical meaning is that his sensory eyesight was activated.  It was a physical healing.  Yet the passage says he was a beggar and no one could recognize him now.  He was a changed man.  Here is what I think he saw—he saw himself as a divine being, worthy and capable. He stood straighter, walked with confidence the familiar paths, he changed his appearance with a sense of self-esteem. The transformation of consciousness is a powerful healing that is possible for all of us. How many of us need restoration of our ability to see ourselves as worthy; as divine heirs of the kingdom?  How many of us never notice the mud placed upon our vision, layer after layer, day after day?  How many of us are willing to take action when divinely inspired?  Or do we wait for someone/something else to act upon us for healing?

During Lent we are encouraged to give up something.  Our Unity Lenten booklet lays out a plan to let go of the negative and take up the positive.  Let’s give up the mud! Let go of mud we heap upon one another and the mud that we accept when heaped upon us. There is nothing wrong with you; there is nothing wrong with others. If anyone asks what is wrong with you, do not affirm the idea by explaining what is wrong. Challenge the idea!  Deny it has power over you! There is nothing wrong with me.  We may be different but that does not make one of us wrong! You do not owe anyone a further explanation.  Let us take action to wash the mud away, thought by thought, and see ourselves for the brilliant expressions of Spirit each of us is.  We are here so that the works of God may be revealed in us. The Divine shines in every single, radically whole, one of us.  Shine on!  

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Interdependence and the Joy of Community

          Of all the lessons I have encountered during the pandemic, perhaps none is as striking as the value of inter-dependence.  The emperor of independence has been exposed as vulnerably naked and myths that seemed to under gird the value of independence have proven false.  I can see clearly that we are different people when we are isolated from one another and we are all connected in ways we might not have observed nor valued in the past. 

          Early on it became apparent that one by one, the virus spread from contact to contact.  Our health depended on the identification ability, isolation protocols and forthright sharing of information, not only by those in our area, but individuals and leaders around the world.  The web of connection had tethers on every airplane and cruise ship and bus and subway in the world. Not only is “no man an island”, even physical islands are connected to the whole of the planet. 

          Much of our western philosophy of “rugged individualism” and “fierce independence” is based on “ableism” or the valuing of physical, intellectual and emotional abilities and the superiority of people with these attributes expressing without limitations.  We have devalued the concept of inter-dependence and denied the reality that even the most “able” of us depend upon one another.  One of the great fears of aging is a decline in abilities that forces us to rely upon others.  We resent the change because we have long devalued interdependence.

The pandemic leveled the field in a way we would not enter voluntarily, as disabled and abled alike found themselves working from home, getting shopping and food delivered, and restricted in our mobility. Everyone was reminded how much we depend on the “essential workers” whose work is to care for us when we’re sick, drive trucks to move groceries and goods around the country, provide utilities, stock the store shelves and make sure we have food to eat. People whose work is cleaning suddenly were valuable. We have had to ask for help or at least acknowledge the help we receive from others.  We have shared resources in shortages. We have stretched ourselves to find ways to connect with one another, waving from balconies, putting up signs to be viewed through windows and taking video technology to new personal levels.  In its absence, we have been reminded of the joy of community.

          I sincerely hope that interdependence and the joy of community are values we can carry forward, beyond the pandemic.  I am not naïve and acknowledge the ways ableism flourished in the pandemic and sought to further marginalize those with underlying medical issues and those in poverty. While the gaps widen between those who have financial and economic power and those who do not, I hope we can all remember the webs of connection revealed during the pandemic. When we accept every single link of consumer and producer connects us to each other, no one is superior to or left out of the wholeness of our precious blue marble, spinning in space.  As it becomes safe to return to gatherings and hugs, may we celebrate the joy of community shared in smiles coming out from behind masks to be shared with those in stores and restaurants. May we express our gratitude to those who work in the farmlands and on the docks, as well as those who tend us in hospitals and residences.  May we greet one another from a sense of dignity and respect no matter what language we speak, clothes we wear, where we live, and education level we acquire.  May our value be inherent in our beingness, without measure of productivity or abilities. 

Someone asked me why interdependence is not talked about more in the disability community.  My response was related to my perception that typically “ableism” minimizes the contributions people with disabilities make.  Inter-dependence assumes that everyone in the community contributes something; there is value in receiving as well as giving and there is an ebb and flow that benefits everyone.  Ableism looks at a request for help or a need for assistance as a weakness and a failing and does not value nor acknowledge interdependence. Ableism values “power over” others above “power with” others. Ableism also ignores the fact that the entire consumerism of power depends on the work and contributions of others.

Radical Wholeness stands for the idea that “physically able” is not the same as “spiritually connected”.  The most able among us may see themselves as separate from the enlivening divinity in each of us. I am not criticizing them yet my spirituality calls me to see myself in the perpetual dance of humanity and divinity. To feel separate from the divine impacts many areas of our lives and to feel connected is not a guarantee that our humanity appears like the humanity of others.

          One of the last demonstrations outlined in the gospels was Jesus washing the feet of the disciples.  Afterward, Jesus didn’t say, “I did this so that you know who is in charge!” or “I did this for you and now you owe me!” Rather he said, “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.” John 13:14-16 NRSV.  I read this as an admonition for interdependence. It is an invitation to continually acknowledge our oneness in Spirit; the inherent wholeness in each of us; and the joy in a community caring for one another.

Post script: as I prepare to post this, I ache for the people of Ukraine seeking to live in peace and I ache for the people of Russia longing for the same peace.  We are connected without regard for distance and I pray for a peace whose outworking is not apparent in this moment but possible through Spirit nonetheless.

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7 Dwarfs, Munchkins and Fairy Tale Fallout

          With roles in Station Agent and Game of Thrones, Peter Dinklage has worked hard to establish himself as a serious actor.  Recently, he has used his voice and public platform to call out Disney productions for half-stepping diversity progress.  Apparently, the new Disney production of the age old “Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs” will take the white out of Snow White but leaves the 7 Dwarfs, and its accompanying damage, intact.  Maybe because Dinklage uses the F-bomb liberally in his comments, maybe because no one wants to hear or understand what he’s talking about, Dinklage is being dismissed as simply, “an angry little man”.  What is all this about?

          Fairy tales, for the most part, involve mythical things or powers that don’t really exist.  While extinct dinosaurs might resemble the imaginary dragons, you cannot find the elusive flitting fairies, gargoyles that leave their stony perch, vampires or giants bigger than trees.  The challenge with short-statured people in fairy tales (dwarfs, leprechauns, trolls and gnomes), is that short people do exist.  They are real human beings just like everyone else.  They are never portrayed in tales as heroic beings like everyone else.

          Many Unity ministers love to use The Wizard of Oz to examine metaphors and lift it up as a spiritual tale.  I do not.  What do you do about the Munchkins?  One of the primary tools of discrimination of people with disabilities is “infantasizing” them, or making them childlike. If you go to Munchkin.com you find a company making baby products.  This village in Oz is filled with one dimensional (height) people with cute little costumes and no real identity or characteristics.  One day I found myself in the grocery store, going up and down the aisles to gather my groceries.  A man sidled up to me and with a sneer said, “Look what we have here!  A Munchkin!”  I was very uncomfortable and moved away from him.  He located me in another aisle, “Are you gonna tell me where the wizard is?” The evil in his tone and demeanor was starting to freak me out.  I abstained from saying, “May a thousand flying monkeys come out your ass,” because I was a pastor and that was not a very pastoral thing to say.  Instead, I found my daughter and hurried out of the store.  I should have told the store manager.  The problem with portraying people with dwarfism in fairy tales is that a fair number of people cannot distinguish fairy tales from reality.  Dinklage, like most of us, did not grow up with people looking at us as potential romantic partners, as leaders of industry, as inventors, as creatives or people to respect. We were “the dwarf” in class, in town, in our work environments, often in our own families.  It is a minimization that few are interested in undoing.  Dinklage hoped he had the recognition to make a change. Sadly, I think he was wrong.

          Disney is in the business of fairy tales.  In recent years, they have begun to identify some of the damage done in the typical fairy tale.  For generations we have taught young women that they need a man (ideally a prince) to rescue them from danger (not that the men cause the danger, that is left to evil older women) and finding the right prince is the only real path to happily ever after.  Young men are taught fighting is the answer to any conflict, physical strength is the primary characteristic of success, and you also need to find a princess for happiness.  Newer stories are being told about women who fight (Mulaun, Maya and the Dragon), women who don’t get rescued (Tangled and Frozen), men can lack physical strength, be sensitive and prevail in peace (How to Train Your Dragon-not a Disney film, DreamWorks) and the absence of beauty as necessary (Shrek, also DreamWorks).  Still, we leave the dwarfs intact as not real people, even though we have real people in the roles.  Snow White in the forest with 7 little men is not in any danger because they aren’t real men, they are dwarfs. They have no capacity for violence, sexuality nor heroism.  Only one out of 7 seems to be very smart (Doc vs Sleepy, Happy, Grumpy, Bashful, Sneezy, Dopey).  Maintaining this one-dimensional portrayal of people with dwarfism is what Dinklage is calling out as the perpetuation of the damage done in fairy tales, while appearing to correct the bigotry of Snow White-ness.  

          Dinklage’s comments are being countered with wails of “So should we do away with all fairy tales?”  “Why does everything have to be politically correct?”  “Why can’t kids have stories anymore?”  So here is a thought.  Before we cast out damaging fairy tales, we need to first, acknowledge the nature and existence of the damage fairy tales have done; and second, we need to write new stories that counter the damage. What if it was The Princess and 7 Men in the Woods?  What if the men, maybe a mix of short and tall, had real strengths and weaknesses, and a devotion to protecting and caring for the princess?  What if they performed heroic acts to keep her safe?  What if it was a dwarf man who summoned the courage to kiss the poisoned girl they all had cared for and the princess awakens to a love born out of caring and courage—which might actually be the foundation for a happy marriage? I would suggest that we cast the princess as a woman of color and short stature but then observers could dismiss it as just a “dwarf tale” not really relevant to “real people” or in our value system, tall people. Just as even winning an Emmy has not been enough to eliminate references to Dinklage as a “dwarf actor” not merely a talented actor.  Putting that “dwarf” label in front of anything is like adding a demerit, or a negative sign.

           People with dwarfism are real people.  They are in pulpits and classrooms and boardrooms and hospitals.  They have hopes and dreams; they have marriage and divorce and children.  Like all real people, they have diseases and pain and yet, like all people, the measure of their worth is not their height nor their productivity.  We all have sacred value. Minimizing the value of anyone, based on any characteristic in this material and temporary manifestation in the world, is injustice.  We need to stop telling stories that perpetuate injustice.  We need to create new stories to lift up the characteristics that lead to true success—kindness, compassion, courage, wisdom.  We need to start NOW.

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The Blessing Jar

A couple years ago I found this idea in an article and I’ve adopted this practice ever since.  Last Sunday was the end of the first full week of the new year.  Having experienced the uncertainty and unpredictability of the last two years, I am confident things will continue to surprise and sometimes disappoint me in the coming year.  That has not dissuaded me from setting intentions and maybe even a few goals.  Yet that is not what the practice is about.

At the end of the week, or Sundays for me, I stop to reflect on the blessings of the week.  2020 was packed with the drama of retiring in a pandemic and moving across the country.  Last year, I have to say, sometimes I considered an uneventful week a blessing. 

A day is lived moment by moment.  A week is built by seven mostly ordinary days.  And a year is filled in by 52 weeks.  It’s fine to have a New Year’s ritual of looking back at the year but my memory vision is not what it used to be.  I have found a weekly recording of blessings both keeps me present to the gifts of my ordinary life and gives me a scrapbook of memories for my New Year’s Eve reflection.  I enjoy the challenge of looking for gifts as the isolation of our pandemic continues to disrupt the adventures we used to look forward to. Nature offers her gifts in the silence and isolation that always exists and I return to her often. Sundays I take time to take a page from a calendar or a small note sheet and fill in my blessings.  I tuck the note into the Blessing Jar and release it.  New Year’s Eve is a pleasant surprise as I (and family if they are here) pull the notes, one by one, out to review the year.  There are always more blessings than we remembered. 

If you have no Blessing jar, any container will do.  If you don’t have a page-a-day calendar, recycle any piece of paper.  The important thing is to take time to sit in gratitude and savor the blessings of the now moment.  If you think you have nothing to be grateful for, consider the mishaps that didn’t happen. I had one of those driving days yesterday. I sighed as I pulled into my parking space, grateful none of the accidents I narrowly avoided happened.  Grateful for my reflexes and a reliable car.  And a parking space by my door. It’s not too late to begin a Blessing Jar for 2022.  Find the gifts you might have overlooked and allow gratitude to guide you through this year. 

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Everything challenges us

Everything challenges us

As we turn the calendar page, we focus on new beginnings.  As we practice writing a new year, we imagine the new skills we will gain. We write goals as if there is a magic in the new year that will propel us past all the things that got in the way of reaching previous goals.  We affirm that this year the elusive something will be added and we will find fulfillment.  We affirm that this year, the persistent appearance of those things we do not desire will lessen and we will find fulfillment.  As I pondered what the elusive something might be and what the persistent annoyances are, I discovered that everything challenges us.

Joy calls us to lean fully into the experience without the reservation of fear that joy is limited and irreplaceable. We are tentative in joy, exhausting its fleeting time, and then lamenting its absence.  Joy calls us to dig deeper to discover the joy that comes from within and is not dependent on the temporary nature of the outer world.  Joy calls us to embrace the life we have.

Sorrow, which we would rather avoid or dismiss, calls us to resist narrowing our focus to only that which we have lost.  Sorrow beckons us to reflect on all that we have enjoyed, find gratitude in this moment for all that remains and expand our awareness into the fertile fields abundantly seeded with possibilities yet to be revealed.  

Love calls us to recognize it as our true nature, the essence of our being rather than something added to us from outside.  Love illuminates our wholeness and our integration into the wholeness the universe embodies.  Love dissolves the barriers and allows us to see we are not broken, waiting for some missing piece to bring us completion.  Love declares we are wholeness, not as a couple or a tribe but as an element of the All- ness we name God or Allah or the Divine.

Hate, the human distortion of our divine nature, calls us to examine what fuels our belief in separation. Whether we point to politics or religion or nationalism or simply fear of otherness, hatred is a creation of our humanity.  As we sift through all the elements of our hatred, we may ultimately uncover the evidence of our divine unity deep within our human experience.

Justice, that virtuous right outcome we seek, calls us to discern the lens of our rightness. What shapes our perception of what is right and what is wrong in any situation? Justice calls us to dismantle the constructs of our tree of knowledge, the duality of right and wrong, and imagine what will be most beneficial to each one.  Justice invites us to see it as a correction only necessary in our human floundering out of alignment with our best self and calls us to endeavor to live more fully centered in our best self. 

Injustice calls us to act in ways that support the dignity, the worthiness and the divine essence of each one.  Injustice is evidence we, as a community, have allowed our humanity to stray from its divine foundation and we are called, not only to find our way back to our divinity, but to act as examples for those still lost and wandering. Injustice is a temporary condition in the material world and we are called not to see it as diminishing the value of individuals nor as a permanent condition beyond our control to redirect.

However the events of 2022 challenge us, may we respond in ways that bless our lives and the lives of others.  May each challenge strengthen our faith and renew our resolve to not tire of doing good.  May we find wonder in the ordinary and splendor in the silence.  Let us create a 2022 which honors the ancestors, gives us joy in the present moment, and expands our vision for what comes next. 

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Joy Advent 2021

Joy should be simple—it’s my name.  It is a word tossed around quite a bit at Christmas.  The angels appearing to the shepherds sought to calm them by saying, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people”.  For many of us, joy is what we seek in the outer world.  We find it in the birth of the baby or the news someone brings to us. I believe joy, like all the advent gifts, resides within us. Yet, as one of my favorite theologians, Henri Nouwen, says, “Joy does not simply happen to us.  We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”

Choice is another one of those spiritual gifts.  We can choose where we place our faith. We can choose peace or struggle. We can choose love or anger. We can choose joy or all the things that feel like the absence of joy.  In loss we may feel like all that gave us joy is gone.  Yet just as love comes from within us, and we pour it out upon ourselves and others, joy wells up from within us when we allow it to and acknowledge it.  In times of great loss, acknowledging joy may feel like a betrayal of the one we’ve lost. For me, I have come to understand it doesn’t work like that.  None of the love is lost, even if the one I loved is out of reach. I keep loving because it is my nature to love, forced to find new avenues for the flow. Joy does not require perfection, or the absence of sorrow, or the worldly measures of success. I keep choosing joy because it remains an eternal reminder of Spirit in me and in the world. I choose joy when I smile; when I smell the winter evergreen; when the snow falls silently to cover every blemish; when the cardinal perches on the feeder like a scarlet kiss from heaven.

Advent gifts are celebrated on Sundays and because of the rhythm of weekdays and the 25th, sometimes we celebrate joy for a day and sometimes we celebrate for 6 days.  This year we have a week to celebrate choosing joy.  Choose joy. Do not let it escape your attention amid the parties and shopping; amid the sadness and loss; amid the expectations and disappointments. Open your heart to the joy that is there, waiting for you to claim it.

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Love Advent 2021

          While Love may be the most familiar of the Advent concepts, it is also one that we complicate with layers of humanity and ego.  In its purest, love is the very essence of who we are. It is the unifying and creative force in the Universe. We usually see love shrouded in our personal history and experience. We feel wounded by love as much as we feel healed by love.  Actually, the wounding we might identify is our human response to the actions of other humans, not related to the pure essence of love at all.

          Perhaps the original story of the visit of the Magi bearing gifts has contributed to the complication of the celebration of love and Christ’s birth. We measure both the love we give and the love we receive in gifts. We allow large and small, fancy and simple, time and companionship experiences, and yet, we keep ending up measuring love with gifts. A favorite Motown Christmas song implores us to “Give Love on Christmas Day.” We acknowledge that the heart of every gift is love and I just wonder what love looks like beyond the gifts.

          This year I want to suggest we Be Love, not only at Christmas but all through the year.  When we are being love, we are not only compassionate but also generous with others and with ourselves.  I’m not sure how being love looks to you but I invite us all to explore the experience for ourselves. Amid the busy shopping, wrapping and cooking, take time to breathe and be the love that is Christ born anew in us each day.

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Peace 2021

          “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace…”  This message from the angels in the gospel of Luke focuses us on perhaps the most elusive of all the elements celebrated in Advent. We have glimpses of hope, faith, love and joy but how much do we experience peace?  Hanukkah is a celebration of light over darkness, and yet another battle for the Hebrew people who continue to feel the stress of conflict in the world even today.  The famous tale of Silent Night and the pause in World War I portrays how fleeting peace can be on earth. Yet here it is, the Advent Sunday and week of peace.  What are we to make of it?  How can it inform our preparation for the holy birth?

            If peace is, at its simplest, the absence of conflict, what if we turned our attention inward?  There is no conflict in the spiritual realm (or heaven), so this is an issue for our human experience here on earth.  What if our first order of business is not so much the conflict we create among ourselves but the conflict we create within ourselves?

            Created in the image and likeness of our creator, then our essential nature is love.  How much time do we spend centered in, and thinking, feeling and acting from our love nature? The most basic conflict consuming much of our time here on earth is functioning out of alignment with our true self.  I want to be love in expression and I cannot feel peace when I am thinking, feeling and acting out of anger, fear, guilt, worthlessness and pain.  Peace calls me back to my essential self of love.  When I accept my own struggle to be love in expression and am able to see the struggle of others, I let go of anger and know that I have nothing to fear from others.  When I forgive myself for times I have been less than my best, I let go of guilt, even as I seek to make things right with others.  When I know myself as the creation of the Divine, I realize I am precious to the creator and my worth has nothing to do with the measures of earth.  There is no greater nor lesser in the Creator’s expression. I let go of condemnation of myself. When I am in pain, physical or emotional, I know it is a temporary experience that is not my essential nature. I let go of any sense that I deserve or need to hold onto the pain. 

            The more I can experience peace within, the less I perceive myself in conflict with others. The more I can acknowledge the unifying nature of love, the more I seek to find a path to understanding the struggles of others and solutions that create a world that works for everyone. As there is more peace within my earthly experience, I begin to see more peace out in my worldly experience.  Peace is always one of the infinite possibilities available in each moment. Today I choose peace. I claim peace on earth.  

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Hope and Faith 2021 Part 2

The beginning of Advent is often designated Hope and Unity prefers Faith. It may be a matter of degrees but here is an analogy that might be helpful. Hope is the opening and Faith is the power to walk through, push through the opening.  And sometimes we have to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7) even when we do not see the opening.  Openings and Hope are what “representation” is in the media.  Let me explain.

Back in the 80’s, single parent adoptions weren’t popular or well known. Single, disabled parent international adoptions were something I hadn’t seen.  But I did it anyway.  For eighteen months I waded through paperwork, navigated delays and unexpected obstacles and lots of prayer work to bring my son Victor home from India.  It was a long journey with lots of opportunities to exercise my faith that if this was my child, as I believed he was, Spirit would make a way for him to come home.  I shared my journey to give Hope to others; to let others see an opening they might be guided to walk through.  I even have an article from an Indian newspaper documenting “a disabled American woman adopting a boy from India with the same disability”.  Maybe that provided hope in another country.

Sharing this time with Hanukkah, we are reminded of how unlikely it would seem that the small amount of oil would last for eight days. Or how impossible it would seem that a small band of Maccabees could overcome a vast army. These are metaphors for the ways that Faith keeps us centered in the infinite supply that comes from Divine Source and the strength, wisdom and guidance that dwells within us all, even when it seems the world is against us.

Everyone needs hope.  With more representation of diverse, disabled  people achieving success, sometimes in the most ordinary ways others take for granted, we create hope.  We long to see openings for our dreams. May each of us find hope this season of Advent and then exercise our faith in an unseen power to move us in the direction of our dreams.  The power is within us. Claim it!

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Hope and Faith 2021

RW 2021 Hope and Faith

          A few months after my infant daughter Sarah died, I purchased a blank journal and starting taking notes.  The notes were ways that Sarah continued to appear in my life: the angel-wing begonia cutting bursting into bloom in January; the pink balloon drifting across the sky at the cemetery; the adoption pictures I was beginning to look at.  There was a healing in writing the notes but there was more healing in the expectancy of purchasing a blank journal and knowing there would be experiences to put on the pages.  Faith seems to be a more active form of expectancy than hope. If hope is the blank journal, then faith is the purchase, keeping a pen handy, staying alert for the good unfolding and committing to writing it down. 

          This year’s advent season also begins Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of light and faith, when good triumphs over evil and hope stands strong in the face of fear.  We’ve been through some interesting times the last couple years and it is easy to focus on loss and darkness.  Yet faith encourages us to be the light whenever possible and expect to see the light in the darkness. As the late Thomas Kadel admonishes us in the title to his ministry book, we must “Keep The Book Open.”  Look with expectancy at the blank page of each day and commit to seeing and noting the good as much as you commit to being the good others see. It is the light of Radical Wholeness within each of us that is seeking expression.

          This advent will be the first season of freedom in 43 years for Kevin Strickland.  While the state of Missouri declines to give him compensation to begin after 43 years of wrongful conviction, the Midwest Innocence Project started a GoFundMe page and raised $1.5 Million. 

          While a menorah was first placed across from the White House in 1979, this will be the first Hanukkah celebrated by the family at the Vice-President’s house. Residing there is the first female, Black and Asian Indian Vice-President.

          Vaccinations are available and we have the potential to limit the spread of COVID and all its variants. People are traveling again and with vaccinations, people are gathering in homes and embracing loved ones.  We have missed the hugs of connection.

          Let this season of light illuminate the darkness with the beams of each smile, each kindness, and each connection and may the path be revealed for each step forward in faith.