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Oh Little Town of Bethlehem


English: "(...) Entry of Pilgrims into Be...

English: “(…) Entry of Pilgrims into Bethlehem at Christmas time. It was taken in 1890.” (text from same source) Note: At the source of this picture, several pictures portray Christmas in Bethlehem in 1898 (not 1890). This picture seems to be the only exception. It could be that the indicated date is actually a typo… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Autograph manuscript of first stanza ...

English: Autograph manuscript of first stanza of O Little Town of Bethlehem. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On December 21st, our family will be gathering with others in worship for the seventh annual joint simulcast Christmas service with the people of Bethlehem at the Washington National Cathedral.

Prayers, readings, and hymns alternate between Washington, D.C., and Palestine via the Internet, bringing together people of different lands, languages, and ethnic backgrounds in celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace.

In this age of turmoil and religious strife, it may be a surprise to some to know that Christians have religious freedom in Palestine and that Christmas and other Holy Days are celebrated vigorously!

The carol, “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem”, was inspired by a pilgrim’s first visit to Bethlehem many years ago. This year it will acquire new meaning for me as we join in song with the “Living Stones”, as the descendents of the first followers of Jesus call themselves today. Let me encourage you to visit and attend church services in Palestine when you make your pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Inspiration awaits.

Learn more about the writer of “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem”, Philip Brooks and his journey, below.

http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/Notes_On_Carols/o_little_town_of_bethlehem.htm

http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/HTML/christmas_classics_videos.htm#Chap_02

Currents Of Joy


Dead plant in pots

Dead plant in pots (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m changing the title of my blog from Connecting tha Dots to Currents of Joy.  Newer themes may reflect a difference in my points of view after years of struggle to reach a place of peace with where I am in this world.

The title comes from a book by Henri J.M. Nouwen, “Lifesigns“,  which our Little Fork couples group has just finished reading.

Here’s a quote: “Thus, celebration goes beyond ritual, custom and tradition. It is the unceasing affirmation that underneath all the ups and downs of life there flows a solid “current of joy“.

Last night was the point of change. A friend wrote that a Peace plant that I gave her several years ago had died after she’d been away from home for several weeks.

She felt sad, and I understood, but wrote back to say that the death was indeed sad, but the plant stood for much more which still remained. We could celebrate our friendship which is still alive!

At last, light at the end of the tunnel…God is love and there is no fear in love or change, even in the death of a Peace plant.

A Poem by an Algerian Believer


 

English: Photo of railings and scenery of Moun...

English: Photo of railings and scenery of Mount Huangshan. It is customary to ‘lock your soul’ together by clasping the padlock (often with a personal engraving) on to a permanent structure, such as the metal railing and then to throw the key over the edge of the cliff into the misty valleys below (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

“He Inhabited the Depth of My Heart”

 

I beheld his light from afar
from behind the mountains, from behind the horizon.
He arose like the light of the radiant morning filled with joy.
He arose within my soul so filled with darkness,
my lost and confused soul, my soul that did not know the meaning of rest.
Yet he visited me like the gentle breeze.
Like the fragrance emanates through the hills. He visited me …
He inhabited the depths of my heart and settled there within.
He filled my soul with purity, with life.
He is Jesus, the tender compassionate one Jesus,
the source of my joy Jesus, the anchor of my soul.
I adored him since I first met him, and have melted in passionate love for him.
And how could it be other-wise? For he has loved me from days of old.

 

Anonymous

 

why i hate religion, but love jesus || spoken word | chiselseason.com


I like this guy and his message, though he slips up once, because he mentions Christianity which IS a religion… Isn’t it?

His point is clear enough.

why i hate religion, but love jesus || spoken word | chiselseason.com.

What Kind of America Do You Want?


DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 24JAN08 - Bono, Musician, D...
Fighting poverty in Kenya

Image by Gates Foundation via Flickr

I’m following a real time philosophical debate which has already polarized many in the Christian community, especially since the 2008 Presidential campaign.

Here’s the background:

In our Holy Book, The Bible, followers of Christ are urged to “pray for our government so that we may lead peaceful and quiet lives in all dignity and godliness” (I Timothy. 2:2).

But what does that really mean?

I looked for a simple definition of godliness and an example of living out our lives in dignity, peace and godliness, here’s the one I chose.

Jerry Bridges in his book, “The Practice of Godliness“, identifies godliness as a “personal attitude towards God resulting in actions that are pleasing to God”.  In my opinion, for a follower of Jesus, devotion to doing what pleases God requires more than just a subjective feeling of well being, but rather an objective knowledge of God’s revealed pleasure.That’s where reading the Bible as revelation comes in.

You can read more from Jerry’s book below.

http://books.google.com/books?id=GWrEtMpVcr4C&pg=PT115&lpg=PT115&dq=godliness+and+justice&source=bl&ots=JmWnbhDZnI&sig=9KCd4JYGnpDqdvbM3s2QJ8gUUok&hl=en&ei=wFTWToX6NMrj0QHryaShAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=godliness%20and%20justice&f=false

The current debate centers around the role of Government today:  Is America responsible for helping the poor in our country and the world with Federally Funded Social Programs, or is this the role of the Church and individual followers of Christ? What is God’s pleasure in this issue?

You can begin to follow the debate here:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thedebateblog/2011/11/hello-world/

I have two problems with depending on the Church to care for the needs of the poor.

I see much resistance and prejudice towards large segments of society, putting limits on God’s heart for diverse people; The modern day history of the Church does not bode well for “caring more for the needs of others rather than ourselves.”

I have heard many, many North American Christians say it is their duty to look out first for their family which includes quite a long list of things: Christian education, safe schools, saving for college, a nice home, a safe car, a good community etc. before they can care for others. They are willing to give some money to “help” the poor, or even go on a mission trip “far away”, but they are not willing for the poor to intrude on their comforts.

In my experience, caring for the poor is exhausting and inconvenient and often painful. It is modeled for children by their parents. The church has a long way to catch up to our ancestors who founded the Salvation Army, Alcoholics Anonymous, abolished slavery, suffered during the Civil Rights Movement and many other works which benefited the poor.

Explaining Advent


An Eastern Orthodox wreath containing six cand...
Advent Calendar Day 0

Advent Calendar by kimncris via Flickr

I don’t remember hearing the word, “Advent” until I became a college student.

On the other hand, my husband, who grew up Episcopalian, celebrated it every year of his life. The year our first daughter was born, Jon made an “Advent wreath” resembling the one here. Beginning in November, we would light a candle each week and read a verse which prepared our hearts and minds for Christmas, and remembering Christ’s coming to earth.

As our family grew we added Advent Calendars with little doors which the kids opened each day, to read a verse from the Scriptures pointing to Jesus’ birth. It became the highlight of our year, and lighting the candles a great honor.

Here is a two minute video which explains the Church Tradition of Advent for people who didn’t grow up with it.

For those of you who are from a more traditional background, this is geared toward a younger crowd, what do you think?

Jewish filmmaker refutes clash theory


Mezquita of Cordoba

Mosque of Cordoba

Hello to all my friends who have returned to check into my blog.

I haven’t been writing for a variety of reasons, some pleasant and others not so much, having to do with back pain. I hope I’m on the road to recovery now that I’ve begun Physical Therapy for a damaged vertebrae in my neck.

Here’s a little history lesson I ran across recently from the Common Ground News service which shows how Muslims, Christians and Jews have historically lived together in peace in other places in the world besides Palestine.

Jewish filmmaker refutes clash theory

by Lewis Gropp 19 July 2011

Cologne, GermanyOut of Córdoba is a documentary film about the greatest but least known chapter in European history: Muslim Spain. For almost 800 years, vast swathes of the Iberian Peninsula were under Muslim control. Al-Andalus, as Moorish Spain was known, is to this day viewed as an era marked by tolerance, with Jews, Christians and Muslims living for the most part peacefully together under the banner of convivencia (coexistence). Córdoba was the capital in a region that represented a leading cultural and economic centre – of both the Mediterranean and the Muslim world as a whole.

In Out of Cordoba, which was released last year, but which can now be bought at educational institutions across the United States, Jewish-American filmmaker Jacob Bender counters the idea of the clash of civilisations by invoking the tolerant spirit of Cordoba and tracing the life stories of two 12th century philosophers: the Jewish Maimonides and the Muslim Ibn Rushd. As Bender explains at the start of his film, following the terror attacks on his home city of New York, he felt the need to discover new hope and idealism as a way of refuting the clash theory. Retracing history in the spirit of Ibn Rushd and Maimonides and, to a certain extent, Bender’s own pilgrimage of hope, shows that tolerance and free thought – historically and today – can help bridge even the most entrenched divides.

Maimonides and Ibn Rushd were philosophers, legal scholars and doctors who were proponents of Aristotelian ideas and advocates of logical and free thought. In modern day Córdoba, the film follows Bender as he meets people who are inspired by the spirits of both men, among them an imam that reads out a fatwa, a religious opinion, against Osama bin Laden, branding him an infidel owing to his violent crimes.

Bender also speaks to the Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos, who says that Maimonides and Ibn Rushd are an expression of his work as a diplomat. The two figures are historical examples, Moratinos explains, that the coexistence of Judaism, Christianity and Islam does not inevitably lead to conflict and confrontation, but that it can be a mutual inspiration to aspire to extraordinary cultural achievements.

The film’s audience accompanies Bender as he retraces the historical journeys of Maimonides and Ibn Rushd across the Mediterranean region. He heads to Morocco where he meets André Azoulay, a Jewish citizen and senior adviser to the Moroccan king. Azoulay speaks of cultural dialogue and emphasises how urgently we need to listen to the message of tolerance of both these men from Córdoba. “Maimonides taught us Jews to make our Judaism an instrument of reconciliation, not a dogmatic tool where fundamentalism finds refuge,” he says. “In the Muslim world, [Ibn Rushd] represents the same rationalism.”

One of the film’s most moving moments is Bender’s encounter with Rabbi Arik Ascherman in Jerusalem. Bender says that he could initially see no scope to include contemporary politics in a film about Maimonides. Efforts by Ascherman to secure Jewish-Muslim reconciliation – with recourse to Jewish religious traditions and Maimonides – seemed to suggest otherwise.

“One thing that Maimonides taught us is that you can’t hide your head in the sand; you can’t avoid tough issues,” says Ascherman. “You have to grapple with them head on. We must resolve the conflicts we’re confronted with. And so we must find a way to see God’s image in our Muslim brothers and sisters.”

Ascherman’s view is that the status quo should be turned on its head and religion made a part of the solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In a voice quivering with outrage, the Rabbi describes the injustices and the violence that have befallen many Palestinians as bulldozers destroyed their houses in East Jerusalem. He describes his organisation, Rabbis for Human Rights, as the “conscience of Israel”, a place where rabbis campaign for the rights of their compatriots, Israeli Palestinians and Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

The film’s last word goes to David Burrell, a Christian professor of theology, who stresses that Ibn Rushd and Maimonides were pioneers in critically examining their own religious traditions, and who engaged with traditions that were not initially theirs.

In the end, after following in the footsteps of Ibn Rushd and Maimonides and seeing today those who are still very much inspired by these figures, Bender looks at the silhouette of Jerusalem, a city which has become a synonym for human discord, and he says that at the end of his journey, he cannot but help be inspired to believe in the possibility of alternatives to the clash of civilisations and the power of interfaith reconciliation.

###

* Lewis Gropp is a freelance journalist based in Cologne, Germany. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 19 July 2011, http://www.commongroundnews
Copyright permission is granted for publication.