Mary Bea Sullivan

soul stirring stories

Category: Advent 2017

Perspective

It is snowing here in Birmingham, Alabama.  That is cause for great joy among little ones, and varying

Photo by Malcolm Marler

degrees of stress for bigger ones.   The forecast calls for one to three inches of accumulation.  A winter storm warning has been issued. Basically, the city is shut down.

The town of Rangeley, Maine is accustomed to an average of 121 inches of snow each year. Accumulation of one to three inches of snow is a disappointing dusting for Rangeley’s residents.

Having lived in many places in the United States and in Tokyo, I have heard folks snipe at the perspective of others who are from different parts of the country or the world. Rugged Rangeley folks might chuckle at Alabama’s snow-fearing wimps.  People from Birmingham can’t understand why anyone would want to live in such God-forsaken country.

Our perspectives are shaped by our cultures, our climates, our family history, our personal experiences.  What is ONE perspective among many, can easily become THE perspective. Judgment and the overlaying of our perspective onto another, prevents us from understanding and loving the “other.” It limits our experience of life.  If we truly believe that all people are made in the image and likeness of God, it limits our experience of God.

Response to snow is an innocuous example of how we judge and exclude.  When the stakes are higher the judgment can become dangerous. When we are open to listening to one who is different, with a  willingness to be changed by the encounter, our perspective broadens.

Jesus knew about this when he walked through enemy territory in Samaria and chatted with a cast-out woman at a well.  Despite the cultural taboos about Jews and Samaritans, and men speaking with women, Jesus took the woman seriously. He listened to her. She questioned him. Love pierced her and she could not help but run to tell her fellow Samaritans about the one whom she knew to be the Messiah.  Jesus and the disciples stayed in Samaria for two days teaching, transforming, and being transformed.

Yesterday, inspiring leaders from the international mission program, Global Teams came for lunch at Saint Luke’s.  At one point in the conversation we discussed the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. Kevin Higgs, a Christian man who has lived, and respectfully assimilated into Muslim countries for more than two decades, pointed out that for the two days when Jesus and his disciples stayed to teach in Samaria, they stayed in the homes of people whom their tradition taught them were unclean–filthy and offensive really.

Yet they stayed. And lives were forever changed, so changed that we continue to tell the story 2,000 years later. Let’s keep living that story. 

Happy Snow Day!

 

 

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Softening Graces

May softening graces shroud us like fog drifting into the cracks of steely, cold boulders.

May softening graces heal relationships that harden our hearts.

Photo by Malcolm Marler

May softening graces douse the doubt and despair that destroys us.

May softening graces envelope the grief that dares to steal our joy.

I pray for softening graces to transform relationships.

I pray for softening graces to give courage to trust that life is good.

I pray for softening graces to give strength to embrace grief as honoring the loss of the love, or the dream, or the vitality held so dear.

Softening graces to see beauty this day.

Softening graces to give thanks this day.

Softening graces to quicken the soul with joy this day.

Softening graces to throw caution to the wind and love with abandon this day.

Softening graces.

Softening graces.

Softening graces…gently, fiercely, come this day.

Amen.

Inspired by John Philip Newell‘s Sounds of the Eternal: A Celtic Psalter, Wednesday Morning Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession, page 40 which concludes:

“But where the glistening is lost sight of, where life’s colours are dulled and the human soul grows hard, I pray for grace this day, I pray for your softening graces.”

 

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AWAKE

Leaning over, I gently blew out the candle and lifted my eyes to the hill in front of me.  While I was deep in prayer, God was creating a magnificent sunrise.

I grabbed my yoga mat and stood at the top of it,  appropriately poised to commence sun salutations. With each breath, each movement, the configuration of the clouds recast into something new–a shape-shifting show.   

One moment  the sun prepared us for her grande entrance with a display of oranges, yellows, and pinks. The next, grays and greens took shape.

In less than fifteen minutes the show was over.

It goes so quickly, life does.  We are children squabbling with siblings. We are eager college students making our way in the world. We are parents shepherding children through their own squabbles. We are bold and ambitious. We are calm and resigned. Lithe, athletic bodies morph into soft centers and creaking bones.

Suns rise, moons set –breathing in, breathing out a life begets.  

Amen.

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Waiting

I repeatedly vow not going to start my day reading the news.  And yet I did it again this morning. After absorbing the events of the day, I felt discouraged and angry. What do we stand for as a country when we imperil the safety net for the least of these? What does it mean to be Christian when Christianity is wielded as a shield for one who is accused of harming children?

I lamented to Malcolm about how powerless I feel in an age mired in greed and lies. I told him I worry that we are wasting our time in our desire to make the world a better place. Then I put down the news, lit a candle, and opened one of my favorite prayer books,  Sounds of the Eternal: A Celtic Psalter  by John Philip Newell and read,

Photo by Malcolm Marler

“Wait for God, be strong, let your heart take courage, wait for God.” Psalm 27:14

Tomorrow begins the season of Advent, a time of holy waiting, a time of preparation, a time of expectation.  Like Lent, Advent is a penitential time–a time to reckon with that which broken within us, and among us, a time to acknowledge our shortcomings, and turn back toward a merciful God, asking for forgiveness and willing to live into new life.

I am not very good at waiting.  I am suspicious of the way “waiting” has been used to continue to oppress the marginalized. And yet, the psalmist links waiting with strength and courage. The psalmist reminds us we are a people of hope. 

Pondering this holy waiting, I am aware that waiting is not a passive pursuit. After Mary bravely  assented to carry the Christ-child, she did not sit still. Her holy waiting began with a revolutionary proclamation of praise and a trek to her cousin, Elizabeth’s home.

As we settle into this Advent-eve I wonder what awaits us as we ponder waiting for God. I pray we will be strong, that we will let our hearts take courage as we wait for God.

God’s deep and abiding peace,

Mary Bea

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