February 21, 2004

Moleskinerie

mkminiorg.jpg Moleskinerie is a great site for those who love the Moleskine journal -- check it out.

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January 06, 2004

Sunrise in Claremont ...

images/0106062004cm_001 While on the island, we had been treated to several days of beautiful morning skies. Well, southern California wasn't going to be outdone. This morning's was beautiful.

Our weather has been cool and crisp, unlike the island, which had 4" of snow today, after several inches yesterday. Our good friend Ian at ByDesign in Friday Harbor has some excellent images at San Juan Update worth like. He's one of his image:


Image from Ian Byington.

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January 04, 2004

Amazing ...

When I look at this image from Mars,



-- I feel both amazed and humbled.

There are very exciting times -- it reinforces that anything is possible if we commit the resources (minds and money).

Location: Claremont, California

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December 29, 2003

Christmas Blessing - 2003

images/holiday_prayer

  • We each have our own reasons to be thankful on this Christmas day.
  • We each have received many graces to make this moment possible -- for which we are each thankful in our own ways.
  • We send our blessings to family and friends not here to share this day.
  • We remember and are thankful for Christmas' past and the blessings from those who are no longer with us -- their memories are a constant grace in our lives.
  • We all have received so much -- more than any one of us deserves -- we are thankful beyond words.
  • We all continue to face challenges and difficulties -- may we continue to find strength and encouragement.
  • May the blessings from Beyond continue to rest upon us this day.
  • May peace abide within us.
  • May grace illuminate our hearts and warm our souls.
  • Now and forever --
  • For all these blessings,
  • For this new day and its light,
  • For the rest and shelter of night,
  • For health and food, love and family, friends and community,
  • For every gift from Beyond to each of us
  • We are indescribably thankful.
  • Amen

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December 28, 2003

Sunday NY Times Articles

In today's New York Times, Week in Review, there are two articles I found worth referencing. The first The Next Generation of Diseases Are in Hiding, Somewhere is an excellent overview of the state epidemiology and how there is a coming pandemic, we just don't know what and when.

The other articles, The Science of Naming Drugs (Sorry, 'Z' Is Already Taken) tells of the millions spent on making us desire a specific drug based on name. The science of "phonologics" which indicates a drugs powerfulness. "The harder the tonality of the name, the more efficacious the product in the mind of the physician and the end user," stated James L. Dettore, president of the Brand Institute. As if we don't have enough trouble with drug advertising and the cost of medicine -- now the "name-game" -- and we're all lead to the trough.

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December 21, 2003

Advent - Week 4

December is flying past, Christmas Day is just a few days away and we've travelled from Claremont to Friday Harbor, Washington, with Michellie for two weeks of relaxation and family time with Carolyn and my parents, Jerry and Elaine, from Bella Vista, Arkansas.

Week 4's Advent thoughts started in Claremont and where finished here on the island. As I thought about week 4, a more traditional message would be about angels, behold, peace and proclaim -- preparing for the classic Christmas story on Christmas day. I have chosen to go a different route, the reason why isn't clear, it just seems like a good story for this time of the year.

For those "bible scholars" reading, I apologize in advance for any incorrect analyzation of this parable, its just my interpretation.

So, here we go!

The parable starts with a friend knocking on the door of another friend at midnight. The knocking friend is seeking three loaves of bread to share with a traveler who has come. The resident, because of the late hour doesn't want to open the door, for any number of reasons. But, with persistence, the resident is finally persuaded to open the door and give the three loaves.

There's the story. Maybe I should stop there and let each of you draw your own conclusions.

There are many ways to interpret Luke 11:5-10. There is the "teaching us to pray" view and there is the "how a church or other institutions should act and respond to their constituents." I'm not sure where my thoughts will come out, maybe a bit of both.

This parable takes place at midnight -- the darkest hour of the day. In the midst of this darkness, there is a knock, a disruption or awakening. This midnight hour may be familiar to many of us. It can be the darkness of fear and loneliness. It can be the haunting challenges of illness. It can be a spiritual search. It can be the most primary of needs -- survival. I think we can all find something in our lives that fit into this "midnight hour."

The friend is asking for three loaves, this is very specific, three items. In a broader spiritual content, these could be the breads of faith, hope and love. They could be the breads of food, shelter and warmth. They could also be the breads of improving health, well being and affordable healthcare. They could be for peace, global understanding and cooperation. Again, I think we can all accept one of these or fill-in our own needs. More importantly, what are the three things either missing or most needed in your life?

The neighbor, because of the late hour, won't open the door. If we look back at the time this parable was originally crafted, this house would have been a one-room structure with all the human beings, sheep and goats all sharing the same space. Any disruption would have awoken all the occupants.

The friend doesn't give up -- he is persistent in his need for these three loaves of bread. The Greek word used in the bible is anaideuonmai, which translates to "be unabashed, bold or shameless." The point here is clear -- don't give up, be bold, be unabashed when it comes to these needs.

As the parable goes, the neighbor finally gives in and opens the door for this friend.

Obviously, there is more to this story, which we'll get to later. What struck me about this parable is that there are a great many people knocking at midnight -- many of them are our own friends -- are we listening to these knocks? Earlier this week I noticed the San Juan Journal's website's weekly online poll asked, "Will you share some of your resources -- time or money -- with a non-profit or individual in need this holiday season?"

I know that web-polls aren't going to pass the critical test of accuracy, but I think they are a "tell" of on the mind-set of the site viewers happens to be. The results after a week were: Yes - 30 and No - 40.

Does this means that 58% are not listening to the knock at midnight. The interesting part of this question to me is that 58% of the respondents won't even give some time to an individual -- maybe its just stopping by and visiting with someone who isn't sharing the holidays with their family and they are lonely. Maybe its just bringing a hot meal to someone who needs it or is shut-in.

Needless to say, I found the results to the question of the week to be very disheartening and that it presents a certain challenge to the community of Friday Harbor as well as for any community in these challenges times.

The loaves of bread come in many varieties: the bread of social justice, the bread of peace, the bread of economic justice, the bread of full stomach, the bread of a warm place to sleep, the bread of safety from living on the streets for just one night, the bread of happiness, the bread of self-esteem.

Back to our parable. It continues with Jesus' response of, "ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." (TJB) There seems to be a message in the way these words are paired together. Each reinforces the other in the ways we are encouraged to think of seeking our solution -- of petitions, of finding what eludes us, and of obtaining an audience with the person inside -- which may well be ourselves.

Krissy was reading a draft of Advent Week 4 and very correctly asked, "Who's knock are we answering this holiday?" A very good question, one that I've had to ponder hard over the past week -- who's knock are we really answering?

It seems that we too have been swept away by the holiday rush and our own -- perhaps self-absorbed -- preparation for our trip to Friday Harbor that we hadn't really thought about this. Now that we are here, the quiet of the woods setting in and a chance to stop and reflect a bit, I find this question gnawing at my soul more and more.

As I look out the window tonight, the night very dark, a waning crescent, just 14% full, the midnight hour quickly approaching -- are we (Krissy and I) listening for that knock. In the depths of this night, somewhere we can make a difference. In someone's life, we can bring just a bit of joy to a dark, cold and hopeless night.

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. made a famous speech entitled, "A Knock at Midnight." This closing is both honest, haunting and appropriate for this week's thoughts:

"The dawn will come. Disappointment, sorrow, and despair are born at midnight, but morning follows. 'Weeping may endure for a night.' says the Psalmist, 'but joy cometh in the morning.' This faith adjourns the assemblies of hopelessness and bring new light into the dark chamber of pessimism."

As I close this Advent Week 4, I return to Luke 11, those who know this passage well, know that the verses 2:4 are perhaps the most widely known prayer, the Lord's Prayer:

  • Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name.
  • May your kingdom come, and your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
  • Give us today our daily bread.
  • Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
  • Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for your are the kingdom and the power and the glory.
  • Amen (BCP)

After thinking about the rest of the Luke 11 story, this prayer takes on a new meaning. "Give us today our daily bread," has new content and more significance. Sometimes when we have said a verse over-and-over, we miss the real message, the beauty and meaning in five lines.

Are these five lines not the basis for living well -- for leading a simple, contemplative life? In our busy lives, it's easy to miss or forget the real meaning. As I re-read Luke 11:2-10, I realize that the more contemplative my life is -- it is first of all life, and life implies openness, growth and development. Sometimes we forget to live a real life. A life is filled with good graces, challenges, contradictions and difficulties. This real life is dynamic and transformative.

Life isn't easy -- we all know this. We are all blessed with many riches and haunted by any number of challenges -- we all seek some daily bread. With Christmas less than a week away, may we all take a few minutes to pause and think about what is the daily bread we seek and who's knock are we answering.

Location: Friday Harbor, Washington


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December 16, 2003

Writing Process

journal.jpgI have had several inquiries about the writing process I use, so here are the details and some pictures.

The majority of content starts as handwritten notes, outlines and a rough draft. I use a "working journal" that I've designed and store in a 3-ring binder. I created this because I needed a specific structure. The pages are created from a template and printed on Crane Bond in 28lbs ivory. I have found that Crane's 100% cotton, tree-free stock is consistently the best paper for writing with fountain pens.

For journaling and note-taking, I use Moleskine journals. I actually use several of the Moleskine products:

Volant Pocket Ruled Notebook, which I always carry with me for quick thoughts and quotes I run across.

Moleskine Large Ruled Journal for daily personal journaling.

Moleskine Pocket Daily Journal which I use for maintaining my daily cancer journal, including blood work, test results and notes on how I'm feeling.

Moleskine Large Weekly Desk Planner which I use rather than a Palm, which I replaced with a Moleskine some years ago.

The Moleskine works very well with my fountain pens and my mechanical pencils -- can't recommend them more!

I tend to use specific fountain pens for certain functions. For my note-taking and "working journals" I use my Sheaffer Balance II fountain pens. I have three matched fine-point pens, which have been modified and are maintained by Fred at The Fountain Pen Shop in Monrovia, California. I use Sheaffer Script blue ink exclusively in these pens. I also use a Pelikan M-1000 Souveran customized by John Mottishaw at Classic Fountain Pens in Los Angeles. This is a beautiful pen and John always done an amazing job of modifying the nibs to suit my preference for a fine-point and a dry-line.

I do a significant amount of marginalia, which I do with either a Parker Duofold pencil or a S.T. Dupont Orhpeo Palladium pencil. I prefer the weight of these pencils.

Once I have a working rough draft, I move to the computer, which are both Apple G4 PowerBooks -- 12" and 15" with a 17" Studio Display. For software, I use Nisus Writer Express . I personally like the ease of use of Nisus, especially when compared to Word, Mariner Write or Mellel. For my bibliographic needs, I use EndNote v. 7, which I used for creating my online version. I frequently compile quotes using Circus Ponies NoteBook, which was originally a NeXT application, now available for OS X. This is a great tool.

Once I have a digital draft, I usually print a few versions for editing by myself and Krissy, again, using the Sheaffer's or pencils. Once we have a final draft. An archive version is created in RTF, an Acrobat version for the web and a converted version in TXT (text). I use the TXT version to post to this site, which is running on TypePad. Finally, I modify the TXT version to incorporate basic HTML tags and then use MaxBulk Mailer for notification of subscribers.

Well, that's the process!

Location: Claremont, California

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December 14, 2003

Advent - Week 3

The Advent/Christmas season is flying past, it is hard to imagine that this is the third week of Advent, although its not hard to forget its the Christmas season.

I would not be truthful if I didn't admit that each week I start off searching for what this particular Advent week's topic or thoughts will be about. My biblical and religion knowledge just isn't sharp enough to know where or what the subject is. Fortunately, the Internet provides a vast resource (too much at times) for this subject.

Like so much of the Internet, you can find just about anything from basic Advent topics to complete, ready to preach, sermons-in-a-box. Oh yes, there's a fee for that sermon. I would venture to speculate that my grandfather and uncle Claude would be amazed and shocked to see some of these "preacher tools." In their day, the idea of a "sermon-in-a-box" would have been unthinkable. Sure they might "re-package" a sermon used before, updating for current ideas or stories, as I've seen by the marginalia in my grandfather's sermons. These "preaching tools" are just one more sign of how technology has changed so much of what we do.

So, after reviewing several sites Advent topics by week, I was able to create "keywords" (to use a technology term) of what each week's topic could be:

Week 1Week 2Week 3Week 4
ProphecyHoly FamilyShepherdsAngels
WatchPrepareRejoiceBehold
Light HopeJoyPeace
ExpectReceiveWorshipProclaim

After looking at the keywords, none of them are surprising for Advent or the Christmas season. As I look back at the two previous Advent entries, week 1 seems to fall into realm of the topics for that week. The second week's thoughts seem to have some of elements of week 2's topics.

Now, here we are at the third week. Looking at the topics listed for week 3, I will admit some timidity about them. I know that many of this week's sermons will be about joy, certainly the following week's topic is peace. My problem is that I don't write along a very structured path. It isn't like doing an assignment -- this week, write about joy. In fact, for me, the words either just come out or they don't -- forcing the words onto the paper just results in frustration.

To be honest, at this point in the Christmas season, I'd be more inclined write about humbug, much like a sermon given by Peter Gomes a few years ago. Don't get me wrong, joy is a good thing. I like hearing "Joy to the World," as long as I'm not singing it, but, I don't "do joy" the way some people can "do joy."

Maybe I should clarify that a bit. I tend to find joy in less outward or public ways. I find joy in solitude and solace -- in the quiet moments of life. For me, joy involves less activity and more introspection -- a joy that might not be overtly obvious to someone.

So, by way of a long introduction, this week's thoughts are about this type of "joy" and shepherds -- another keyword for this week.

Why shepherds? Well, shepherds lead a solitary lives tending to their sheep. Their lives are lived "off the beaten path." Yet, their lives are filled with challenges and risks. They face the uncertainty of weather and living in nature. They risk having their flock attacked from predators or wiped out by some disease.

Reflecting on the bible Christmas story, Mary and Joseph discovered the inn had no room. Why was there no room? The "whole world" was massing for registration and numbering to see who would be taxed and eligible for service to the armies of the empire.

So, came the birth of Jesus, the son of God. Perfect news to share with the gathered masses. Ah, but, the news was "broken" -- to use a modern term -- to the shepherds, those solitary nomads.

Why? Perhaps because things haven't changed much since those times in terms of news as Thomas Merton noted:

"Nor are the tidings of great joy announced in the crowded inn. In the massed crowd there are always new tidings of joy and disaster. Where each new announcement is the greatest of announcements, where every day's disaster is beyond compare, every day's danger demands the ultimate sacrifice, all news and all judgment is reduced to zero. News becomes merely a new noise in the mind, briefly replacing the noise that went before it and yielding to the noise that comes after it, so that eventually everything blends into the same monotonous and meaningless rumor. News? There is so much news that there is no room left for the true tidings, the "Good News," the Great Joy." Thomas Merton
So this "Great Joy" is announced to the shepherds, those living in silence, loneliness and darkness. To those who are unmoved by the rumors of the day or massed crowds.

Again, how different is today than those days? Do we not live in a time of no room? A time of obsession with the lack of personal time? A time of "technological furies of size, volume, quantity, speed, number, price, power and acceleration," as Brother Merton so clearly wrote about some 35 years ago.

It seems to me that we haven't changed much since the days of the Christmas story or when Merton articulated his concerns about modern times. So what? If that's the way its been, what's the big deal, someone might ask?

Well, is this the life that we really want? Have we been forced to accept this life? A life of no room has no more room for hope. "It is haunted by the demon of emptiness. And out of this unutterable void come the armies, the missiles, the weapons, the bombs, the concentration camps, the race riots, the racist murders, and all other crimes of mass society," commented Merton.

This unfortunately sounds like our times. Where is the joy? Where is the hope? Where do we find our solitude, and contemplation -- our personal joy?

I wish I knew the answer to this, but I don't.

For me, I find my personal joy in the quiet moments of being at home. In the moments spent reading and writing. As I get older, I find that I need more silence -- no 24x7 news channel, not even music -- just the quiet of the house.

Since my re-diagnosis, I find more personal joy in the smallest and simplest of things of life -- not in the "what do you do" or "what have you done lately." Cancer simplifies and at the same time can make life more stressed. It is the solitude -- the time for quiet and reflection -- that keeps that stress down for me. I feel a sense of privilege, especially when I watch the world around me whizzing by without regard for solitude and contemplation. I feel privileged to have been provided this little glimpse of an alternative to the chaos of our modern world.

In just a few days, we'll be back in Friday Harbor, Washington for two weeks. I will admit that the slower pace of life there encourages the contemplation and the quiet creates a natural solitude. In part, the closeness to nature -- the trees, ocean and open skies -- makes a significant difference. This is not that different than the shepherds tending their sheep -- the drone of mass society is a faint memory.

We all need that quiet, that solitude where we can re-charge and gather our thoughts. Whether its getting away for awhile or finding that place in our local environment, we all need to contemplate the questions of faith, hope and love. We all need the solitude -- to quiet our heart and mind to hear the a different voice -- the voice of our soul, the voice of Something Great than ourselves. It is in these moments that we find our personal joy. A joy that heals, warms and encourages us to keep going. A joy that foster and reinforces our faith. Faith is a necessity for our success in any human endeavor.

"Faith is that attitude of trust by which we embrace a possibility for ourselves; it is what stirs us to act in anticipating the fulfillment of that possibility. Nothing of prime importance in life ever happens without faith as an energizing factor. Faith helps to determine the shape of one's life takes." Sundays in the Tuskegee Chapel -- Faith & Pilgrimage

For me, a single moment/event changed my reality -- "Your cancer is back," and started me on to the road of realization that I needed to simplify and slow-down. Personal joy was a by-product, a pleasant gift that I hadn't expected to find in the midst of surgeries, chemotherapy and all the other daily challenges of chronic cancer.

Hopefully a diagnosis or life catastrophe doesn't have to occur for each of us to start down the road to a quieter, simpler and more contemplative life. Maybe we just need to make the decision to slowdown. Maybe this is the right time -- amidst all the holiday madness to find the simple joy of time with family and friends, of lending a helping hand, of letting the Spirit of the season touch our soul.

--/--
References: Massey, J.E., Sundays in the Tuskegee Chapel : selected sermons. 2000, Nashville: Abingdon Press. 188 22 cm. Merton, T. (1976). Thoughts in solitude. New York, Farrar Straus and Giroux.


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December 07, 2003

Advent 2003 - Week 2

This week enter the second week of Advent. Last week, I talked about faith. Faith that our destiny is ahead of us and that we must get beyond the past and look forward. As I thought about this during the week, I felt that there was some missing -- thoughts about faith itself.

Although we are referring to the liturgical season and Advent, when discussing faith, I think it is important to realize that faith does not require a belief system. Nor is it necessarily connected to a deity or God, though it doesn't deny one. Likewise, faith is not something we either have or don't -- it is an inner quality of our collective experience.

"Faith is the beginning of all good things," said Buddha. It is faith that moves us through the hard times. Makes us try again. To trust again. To love again. So as we look toward the future, faith helps us to find our way, to trust our feelings and instincts, to trust Something that there is Something Else.

So, here we are at week two of Advent. What I'm discovering is that Advent is an endurance exercise, a training program for the long journey to a time and place where we have not yet been and all of our past experiences and the present moments are all part of the training or preparation.

Last week we touched on the first of the three Christian graces: faith; hope and love.

Now enter hope.

"And indeed everything that was written long ago in the scriptures was meant to teach us something about hope from the examples scriptures gives of how people who did not give up were helped by God." Romans 15:4 (TJB)

Hope, especially at Advent, reminds us that it takes courage to hope in spite of circumstances. Hope to persevere beyond the obvious or convenient. Hope encourages us not to be satisfied with our circumstances and to not take for granted who we are, where we are or what we do -- that there is Something Beyond us. There is a future that we just don't know all about, yet.

As a side observation, I started acupuncture treatments this last week. The gentleman that I'm seeing is a true Eastern renaissance medical practitioner having study Chinese medicine, Taoist and Buddhist philosophy as well as acupuncture in this native Vietnam. He felt that Taoist reverse-breathing meditation would be very helpful to relax and giving the body time to recovery. As he discussed the breathing process -- the few simple steps -- he then said, "to master this breathing, it may take 5, 6, 7 or more years. Not many of patients have really mastered it."

His comment took on a new perspective for me after thinking about last week's Advent 1 comments as well as contemplating this week's focus on hope. We, us westerners, just don't seem to really get this "long-term" thing. It seems that we think "long-term" is next month, when in reality it is years and perhaps the span of our lifetime. If this doesn't take hope and faith -- I don't know what does.

So what is this "hope?" St. Thomas Aquinas had some fundamental observations about hope:

As regards the object of hope, four conditions must be taken into account. First, that it seeks the good, for hope is always about something good, and so differs from fear which is a response to evil. Secondly, the good concerned is in the future; since no one hopes for something is the past or already possessed; and so is different from joy which follows on the present possession of the desired good. Thirdly, hope must be about a possible but difficult kind of good, since no one hopes for small thing which can be had at once. In this hope is different from unconditional desire or wishing for something in the future. Fourthly, hope is concerned with a difficult good that is possible to attain, for no one hopes for what is altogether impossible. On this point, hope differs from despair.

This seems to be a good primer of what hope really entails. We've all "hoped" for something easy and short-term missing that important aspect of long-term/future perspective.

The one thing that resounds with me is the very last line, "... hope differs from despair." As a cancer patient, the word "hope" gets tossed around frequently and loses some of the meaning, but, I think that for many cancer patients there is a hope/despair binary function in how we view and respond our cancer experience.

Despair is the opposite of hope. To me, despair has four aspects: isolation, surrender, unreality and apathy. As a cancer patient -- you either have the qualities of hope or slip into those of despair -- there isn't a middle position here.

What does hope mean to me -- as a cancer patient? Maybe it is easier to briefly discuss how I view my chronic cancer.

To me, my fear of cancer has been replaced with my desire to make every moment the most it can be. The future, all looks good from here - I see many good moments with family and friends. I see continued challenges, but with the talented doctors, nurses, family and caregivers, together we will work through each challenge with integrity and a view to always maintaining the best quality of life possible. Hope isn't easy to put into words. For me, my "hope" increases with my cancer experience.

Hope has disruptive quality. Humans all live and follow a series of systems. These are rules that we follow and to which we adapt ourselves to a greater or lesser extent. Hope, that genuine type of hope, disrupts this process. Hope opens a door where all appeared to be closed. This door may not be where you would like to be. It may not even be comforting or secure, but it maybe where you need it to be for that moment. Re-enter faith.

"Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen." Hebrews 11:1 (TJB)

It feels like I've wandered off the Advent message, so let me see if I can tie this all together. For this second week of Advent, hope is the message. Hope to persevere beyond the convenient; to not be satisfied with our circumstance (to not despair whatever the situation); to not take for granted who we are, where we are or what we do -- this is an endurance exercise to a time and place where we have not yet been where everything in the past and in this present moment are all part.

Reading that last paragraph again, I guess that is how I feel about my cancer!

May the Lord Almighty grant me and those I love a peaceful night and a perfect end. Amen. (November Compline, Saturday Night Office)


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November 30, 2003

Advent 2003 - Week 1

I'm going to venture into an unusual area of comment me, the liturgical seasons, starting with Advent. This is the first week of Advent -- new year's day for Christians world-wide. Unfortunately for Advent, it is squeezed between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Even worse, Advent is a victim of the commercial holiday madness, which makes the message of Advent harder to hear over the continual drone of Christmas music that seems to invade every musical source.

Nonetheless, there is an important message to all of us, if we can put the holiday lunacy on hold briefly.

I have been re-reading sermons that I've accumulated, some dealing with Advent, Thanksgiving and Christmas. The sermons that have had the most impact on me have been those that don't sugar-coat the reality of Advent and the holidays. Many of these sermons don't have any answers and are preached by those who openly admit, the more they study, the harder it is to understand and live the Great Mystery.

On this new year's day, the message of week 1 of Advent is that our destiny is ahead of us. This future forces us to confront the tyranny of the past -- to throw the past away, get over what was and get with the future.

This is easy to write but so hard to actually live. We find comfort in the past -- the known -- the future is far less comfortable -- we just don't know what will happen. "Say to all faint hearts, "Courage!" Do not be afraid. (Isaiah 35:4)

There is something uncomfortable about the future. None of us want to hear that we must endure or bear or suffer the unknown. In addition, we don't want to wait. We want to get on with our life with some certainty, which is hard to "rationalize" when it comes to the future. Peter Gomes rightly titles one of his Advent sermons, "The art of impatient living."

Enter the trinity of the Christian graces: faith, love and hope.

"Advent hope is not an invitation to easy, silly optimism, nor an invitation to mindless despair or hope held hostage to experience. The only hope worth having and the only harvest worth waiting for is the ultimate confidence which translates the energy of impatience into the art of expectant living in the here and now ..." preached Peter Gomes.

As I read this, there was an instant convergence of this Christian ideal and the basic Buddhist principle of living in the moment. We must all be mindful of the cliches of Advent: light over darkness; hope over despair; gentleness and meekness over might and power. We find these in hymns, in lessons told to us over the years.

Advent, the future not the past is the place to be. It is verbs of action and renewal -- where the unimagined becomes real -- where hope is the cornerstone, not the time gone by.

In the Christian tradition, the future is where God intends to meet us again. That is why we must look forward rather than back. Herein lies the difficulty -- here's where faith and hope become quintessential and so hard to actually live out each day. Hope allows us to see beyond what is and to imagine what might and what ought to be. This helps us to live each day with a sense of strength -- again intersecting with the Buddhist tradition of living fully in the moment.

James reminds us in 5:7, "Now be patient, brothers, until the Lord's coming. Think of the farmer: how patiently he waits for the precious fruit of the ground until it has had the autumn rains and the spring rains. You too have be patient; do not lose heart." (TJB)

I'll be the first to admit this is hard to get comfortable with. The challenges of each day often make it hard to have the faith and hope to see beyond the confrontation and imagine what might turn out to be. Sure I know that I should have more faith and be able to do this -- but, truth be told, it just doesn't always work that way. Is this perhaps one of the secrets of the Christian life? This is hard stuff. It's uncomfortable and sometimes easier to just ignore. Isn't that really a truth of the Buddhist life, its just not so easy to live in the moment and live each day fully.

Yet, as people of faith -- those who believe that there is Something Beyond, that a Great Mystery exists -- are we not obligated to listen to the lessons of Advent, shed the past and look beyond the immediate to what might and should be? A time when this Mystery becomes clear at a time and place that we have zero control over -- the essence of faith.


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