A bishop speaks of trees on MLK, Jr. Day

We celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day today in the United States.

I was wrapped up under a blanket on the couch this morning ignoring my dog’s pleas to go outside (it was 14º with wind and snow flurries), when I came across Bishop Michael B. Curry’s MLK Day keynote address airing live on Facebook. Bishop Curry began by quoting Jeremiah 17:8:

“For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit.”

I hope you’ll take a moment on this day to listen to his short message.

Two Novembers ago, on election day, I snapped a fuzzy photo of a house with one of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr. wrapping around the porch eaves in a cut-out metal band.

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“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

May your day be filled with light and love.

Light in the New Year

Thank you for your patience as I took a break from the blog. The last 18 months have taken me too much away from writing and photography, and while I won’t blog weekly as I used to, I do want to begin again, anew for the new year, the new decade.

I’ve changed the tagline up there at the top of the blog: Exploring the Nature of God. Every now and then, when there are pictures or words I think you’d enjoy, I’ll share them here. Mostly, I hope to bring a little more light into your life through this blog, beginning with this morning’s sunrise. These are from my cell phone, shot quickly so as not to miss the light.

A fiery display of a new day
The reward for looking out early

What does light look like in your life right now?

An alternative to going dark

Friday brings a change to the White House, a power shift in Washington. I hope—whether you’ll be commiserating with family and friends, celebrating, or marching in protest—that you’ll take a few moments first to ponder darkness and light, contempt and compassion, condemnation and grace.

I’ve seen buzz growing around the idea of going dark on Facebook this Friday by posting a completely black rectangle where your cover photo would normally be. I confess the idea has some appeal to me, but I also know I have to carefully guard my own soul and heart and mind from settling in with dark thoughts and fears.

Church this past Sunday offered a scripture reading that reminded me of an essential truth to cling to in the days and weeks and months ahead. God calls each of us to reflect God’s light to others:

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I will also make You a light of the nations, that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth. — Isaiah 49:6

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Good tidings of great joy

We’ve made it through the darkest day of the year. The solstice is behind us, and the light is returning. On Friday we celebrate the birth of the Light.

I’m guessing you’re busy today. Perhaps family has already come with suitcases and packages. Or maybe you’re the one packing to head over the river. Or you’re stuck at work trying to wrap up that project. Or you feel chained to the stove preparing one last batch of cookies. Or no one is helping you with the mounting pile of dishes, and you’re left feeling anything but full of Christmas cheer.

Will you take just a moment to savor these verses today? To prepare for the blessing that is Christmas?

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people, for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
– Luke 2:9-11

I like the good “tidings” from other translations, but good news works just as well. Can you imagine the shepherds as they beheld the angel? Can you picture the angel’s great joy at getting to be the one to deliver the news?

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I shared this angel’s photo here several years ago. She remains one of my favorite Christmas decorations, and I’m happy to share her with you again this year.

Merry Christmas, dear friends. May peace and blessings—and the Light—surround you in the coming days.

Flowers and candles: What we tell the children and ourselves

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By now you’ve likely seen the video of the French immigrant father with his small son discussing the terrorist attacks in Paris. If you haven’t seen it, many sites have pulled it  because of copyright issues, but you’ll find it here at the 6:22 mark of the video. (For English subtitles click on the CC icon at the bottom of the video screen, and select English.)

I’d also encourage you to watch the clip right before this sweet father and son, starting around the 4:30 mark. In that part of the video, a French Muslim girl and her mother talk about their reactions. The mother says, “We must be humans and not barbarians.”

The young girl smiles bravely and says she’ll try not to have nightmares. The little boy lets a relieved smile creep across his face as he looks from his father to the flowers and candles. “C’est pour protégé?” he asks. This is for protection? The expressions of both the girl and the boy fill my eyes with tears and my heart with hope.

What do we tell our children and ourselves in times of darkness, when we hear reports of jihadis hoping to spark an apocalyptic war? How do we comfort our children when they see adult fears threatening to overcome our sense of compassion and our common humanity?

Perhaps the French father is on to something that could comfort us all. The candles and the flowers will protect us—not literally from the guns, of course—but because they suggest a willingness and a desire to let goodness rise up, to cause goodness to triumph over the evil.

I don’t know enough of other religions to speak of them, but Christians believe in the capital L Light that triumphs over darkness: “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:5).

There is light and there is darkness in this fallen world of ours. The light is stronger, and the Light will protect us. Perhaps not in the ways we expect or hope or imagine. But to me, flowers and candles are a good start.

This past Sunday, I attended a prayer service at the Episcopal church I’ve been visiting. I’d like to leave you with the evening prayer that we spoke together at the end of the service. May it be an offering of light to you:

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.