I heard on the radio a couple of days ago that there were hundreds of people lined up outside the Auckland City Mission waiting to receive food parcels. Around the world there must be millions of people without enough to eat - while many of us "put on weight over Christmas".
Food for thought
"I am truly astonished at how such richness came to dwell in such poverty".
I recommend two books I have read recently. Two very different authors (a middle aged man and a teenage girl); two very different challenging life experiences; two different religious affiliations - both inspiring!
I am Malala: the Girl who Stood up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban
by Malala Yousafzai with Christine Lamb
Although I have read several other books about the Taliban in Afghanistan this one gave a much greater "grass roots" feeling for living right in the midst of their reign of terror. (It is set in Pakistan - but the issues are the same.) What courage! I can't imagine being anything like as brave as this child/teenager. I realized too that her father was a hero in his own right. The news understandably focussed on Malala but the book gives the perspective of the whole family.
Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife.
by Dr Eban Alexander
I was initially rather skeptical of the title so I hedged my bets by buying a Kindle version! Now I wish I had bought a regular book so I could lend it. The medical people who cared for Alexander during his bacterial meningitis and week long coma did not expect him to survive, or if he did he would have severe brain damage. However he made full recovery and was then able to describe his "near death experience" with an integration of medical, scientific and spiritual perspectives that I have not read elsewhere. What particularly inspired and, yes, even excited me, was that the descriptions of his experience matched what both the mystics of the past and contemporary scholars with an interest in non-duality and levels of consciousness are talking about. Of course there are plenty of people "de-bunking" his account and the conclusions he draws from his experience - but see what you think for yourself.
A very different musical style from my last post in the link here. This brought tears to my eyes for a couple of reasons: First the sheer breathtaking beauty of the voice of a nine-year old. This little girl sings in Holland's Got Talent and as you will see the judges are completely speechless by what they hear. (To hear the judges comments you need the second video clip - click on "full version" at the end of the first clip.) My second reason is a bit of an assumption: the song Amira sings is Puccini's ‘O mio babbino caro’ (Oh My Beloved Father) and it appears from what you see backstage that it is her father (and brother) who are waiting for her as she runs off stage. Perhaps she sang the song for him? Perhaps her mother is not around for her for whatever reason?? Assumptions I agree! But regardless of that, this is a taste of childlike beauty in her innocence and her amazing voice.
Here's a very powerfully thought-provoking song written and performed by someone I know. The music style isn't what I would normally "like" but knowing the composer/singer I always watch and listen carefully. Whatever your music style listen right to the end … don't miss the final challenge.
I've probably mentioned this before - but the Gratefulness site is a wonderful place to go for all sorts of inspiring things. Today I want to mention the Labyrinth. You can be "carried" round a Labyrinth journey with beautiful images and quotes for reflection popping up at intervals. In this busy pre-Christmas season why not make a cup of coffee, sit for five minutes and be carried. Click here to begin.
The website Spirituality and Practice has some lovely "12's" - i.e. Galleries of twelve sayings on a topic accompanied by beautiful photos. In the busyness of a day you might like to look at the "12" on Grace. One I especially liked was:
You don't have to do anything.
You don't have to do anything.
You don't have to do anything."
Advent reminds us of the first coming of Jesus and that brings with it wonderings about "the second coming" or "God's reign on earth as it is in heaven" or "the end of time" or "the apocalypse"…
(Of course many people don't wonder about any of the above! But keep reading anyway :-)
Two helpful thoughts from Cynthia Bourgeault:
"'The end of time' actually occurs whenever we step fully into the now!"
"The word apocalypse does not actually mean a fiery final catastrophe. It literally means an 'uncovering' or 'unveiling' - as for example, when the wrappings are removed from a package and you get to see what's inside."
Exciting…inspiring…mind blowing… what a marvelous weekend!
I joined a couple of hundred others for a weekend with Dr Ilia Delio who unpacked the topic of Science and Theology in a masterful and engaging way. I am in awe of her ability to communicate such a wide reaching topic with both depth and a light touch. One of the key truths expressed in both science and theology is that we really are all connected. Technology makes this connection "visible" and possible in new ways. (Like this Blog for example!)
I am also participating in an Advent retreat on-line (technological connection again!) with Cynthia Bourgeault. Today's reflection from the Gospel of Thomas is Jesus saying:
"I stood to my feet
in the midst of the cosmos
appearing outwardly in flesh."
What a powerful way to think of the incarnation: Jesus "standing to his feet" as if suddenly waking up to being here, with us, in a body…
What a shock, what a challenge.
In the same passage Jesus goes on to say:
"My soul ached
for the children of humanity.
For their hearts are blind
and they cannot see from within."
Jesus - catapulted into a body in the midst of us, with an aching soul for what he encountered.