Prisoners of Hope

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Credit: Magnus Hagdorn (https://www.flickr.com/photos/hagdorned/8504467548/)

It has been almost two weeks since the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic.  

I don’t know about you, but that seems like a lifetime ago.  So much has changed so quickly I’m not sure what to feel at any given point. 

I woke up a few mornings ago and realized that not knowing what to feel actually provides me with the opportunity to choose how I’m going to feel.

Last week, a colleague reminded me of the Old Testament prophet Zechariah’s admonition:

Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;
    today I declare that I will restore to you double.

(Zechariah 9:12)

The great South African theologian Steve De Gruchy took the concept of hope a step further and once said that “We are called to be midwives of hope.”

The COVID-19 Pandemic is testing us in ways that few imagined just a few weeks ago.  The cost—human, economic, social—is huge and growing.  It is easy to lose hope in these times.  But as the prophet Zechariah and De Gruchy remind us: despair is not an option.  

Not only must we remain hopeful ourselves, but we must also bring hope to others.  We can do this through our own acts every day—with our coworkers, our family members and our neighbors.  By doing so we are united with one another through our common humanity.  

Moreover, that is where we will find God.

It is through that strength of unity that we can be of real service to those in need even as we face challenges like the COVID-19 Pandemic. We are only going to get through this by working together. 

My prayer for each of you is that you can find the hope of which Zechariah reminds us so that you can continue to be a midwife of hope for others.

So, each morning when I get up, I choose hope.

Interstellar Space

Living as I do in an urban environment, it is not usually possible to see many, if any, stars on a regular basis.  Fortunately, my work takes me off the beaten path to places where there is little ambient light to obscure the night sky.  

Most recently, I found myself in the desert of New Mexico at the Benedictine Abbey of Christ in the Desert on a silent retreat.  There, after the sun had set, the heavens blazed.

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Continue reading “Interstellar Space”

Juneteenth

Today, June 19th, marks the anniversary of the day Texas abolished slavery in 1865.  Several states, including Texas, recognize it. The Federal Government has also recognized “Juneteenth Independence Day,” although it is not an official Federal holiday.

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Perhaps of more consequence, Apple added Juneteenth to the list of official U.S. holidays this year.  I’m embarrassed to admit that while I had a vague sense of Juneteenth, it wasn’t until it popped up on my phone that I started to pay attention.

So I dug deeper… Continue reading “Juneteenth”

God’s Jewels

alcyonewebsterikeulemansAnyone who knows me will attest that I am fundamentally a city person.  Having lived in New York City on and off for over 30 years, my instincts are well-honed and distinctly urban.  I can emerge from the subway and my sense of direction is intact. I know the most likely corners on which to catch a taxi during rush hour.  My knowledge of animals is limited to the best kinds of pets for apartments.

So, when I recently found myself on safaris in Zambia and Botswana, I was out of my element.  Unending open space. Myriad shades of green. Where do you even begin to look?

It was disorienting.

Continue reading “God’s Jewels”

One billboard outside Sandusky, Ohio

Each year my wife and I attend St. Bartholomew’s three-hour Good Friday service.  Each year I wonder how on earth I will sit through three hours of music, extended periods of silent prayer, readings on the seven last words of Christ, and a homily on each.  Each year the time disappears. Continue reading “One billboard outside Sandusky, Ohio”

Fog Over the Promised Land

stock-photo-17181584-mountain-manLast Thursday afternoon, just before heading home to New York, I stood on Mount Nebo in Jordan and looked west to the Promised Land.  Mount Nebo is where Moses stood at the end of his life, having led the Israelites in the desert for forty years, and died.

Today there is a modern Catholic church built over the remains of an ancient Byzantine church on Mount Nebo.  The mosaics from the Byzantine church have been beautifully restored and are displayed as part of the modern church’s design.

Continue reading “Fog Over the Promised Land”

Abir and Smadar

IMG_2132A good pilgrimage leaves one with more questions than answers and this one has not disappointed.  Several evenings we were blessed to have guests come and talk with us about the current situation here in the Holy Land.  It’s hard not to be discouraged.  How does one get to a just peace?  What does that even mean?

But I did see God moving in the lives of those most heartbroken by the conflict.  It was in their brokenness that I found hope.

Continue reading “Abir and Smadar”

Twenty characteristics that make a genius

Leonardo_da_Vinci_LUCAN_Hohenstatt_20_Uffizi_copyIn keeping with my desire to observe Advent by seeking out beauty (see my November 28th post) and my fascination with Salvator Mundi (see my November 14th post), I just finished reading Walter Isaacson’s masterful and insightful biography of Leonardo Da Vinci.  

Isaacson concludes his book by identifying twenty characteristics that make a genius.  Isaacson has given this list some thought, having written biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, and now Leonardo.

So what does it take? Continue reading “Twenty characteristics that make a genius”

Five Advent Lessons

IMG_3750This Sunday, the First Sunday in Advent, will mark a new liturgical year. We tend to gloss over that in our culture, focused as we are on the big event: Christmas Day. However, Advent is one of the places where one can feel God at work in the world. Here are five ways to make space for God during Advent. Continue reading “Five Advent Lessons”