The message and the challenge of Christmas is to believe that if one child in a manger could make such a difference, so can you. This is the meaning of incarnation… the one we don’t like to think about.

(For the full audio, click here.)

Incarnation is the embodiment of the divine in human form. We usually reserve this designation for Jesus. inner lightBut the truth is that the divine is in each one of us. Call it the Divine Spark, call it Consciousness, call it Love Energy, call it the Ground or Essence of our Being, but however you spin it, God and flesh meet in each one of us. And here is where we’ve missed the entire meaning of Christmas. It is not about virgin births, smelly stables, stars and shepherds (though that makes for a really good story), Christmas is about being given a light to guide us in the veiled darkness of our minds… our minds that have forgotten who and what we are.

You see, there seem to be a very few exceptional people who figure it out. Jesus was one of them. He knew that he was the embodiment of the divine. He was a meeting of flesh and spirit. And so are we.

Richard Rohr says it this way, “What Jesus allows us to imagine—because we see it in him—is that the divine and the human are forever one. For most Christians, though, Jesus is totally divine, but not totally human. We deny his humanity and overly assert his divinity—instead of the very synthesis that he came to exemplify, announce, and share! We’ve paid a big price for such dualistic thinking because when we can’t put it together in him, we can’t put it together in ourselves either. And that’s the whole point! You and I are simultaneously  children of heaven and children of earth, divine and human coexisting in a well hidden disguise.”

We have been told over and over again that God came to earth in the form of a child, so that we might be saved. And this is true… but not in the way that first comes to mind. The saving that Jesus came to do was to remind us that the light resides in us. That we are not just these bodies walking around, but we are light and life, we are divine and human. He called us back to ourselves… abide in God, as God abides in you. The Kingdom of Heaven is within. You are the light of the world.

The spark of the divine is in each person. What if we lived believing that and lived believing we have the power of love within us to change the world?

We are light. We are love. We make the most difference when we are in line with that.



The Strength to Love

The Blessed Virgin Mary of the Catholic Church in the United States has been a fairly impotent Mary. OUR-LADY-OF-GUADALUPE-2Her characteristics include pure, obedient, submissive, willing, faithful, sexless (they did declare her a perpetual virgin, after all), and suffering servant. She has been espoused as the epitome of what a woman should be: be obedient and  listen to your husband, God and the Church (which are one and the same), and be the devoted mother like Mary (although as soon as you’ve had sex, you’ve become impure and stained and so will always fall short. And don’t even think about enjoying sex). It’s impossible.

(For the full audio version, click here.)

I prefer the Mary of Mexico and Latin America. Megan McKenna, in her book Mary, describes her as “the staunch, fierce, determined woman, comadre [godmother] of her people, a force to be reckoned with, faithful, enduring solidarity with those who struggle to make her prophetic words in the Magnificat live in the midst of poverty, injustice, and violence.”

I can get behind that. That’s the Mary who doesn’t take no for an answer. Remember when she overrode her own son at the wedding at Cana? Jesus tried to avoid getting involved in the lack of wine at the party, but Mary simply ignored his protest and told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:1-12). Mary was a person in her own right, strong and courageous. She was a prophet – just check out the words of the Magnificat (Luke 2:46-55).  Mary knew, and was fully supportive, of the agenda of God to throw down the proud and the wealthy, to stop the oppression of the people, to feed the hungry and lift up the poor.

In the tradition of the Mary of Guadalupe, she continues to call us to care for the ill, the weak, the poor, the slaves, the displaced and dispossessed.

One must be strong to love … and love makes one strong. Even after all that Mary went through, she never became the victim, but is instead the model for strength in the face of suffering. She draws from an inner reserve, a knowing that suffering is not God’s desire for us, a knowing that love is deeper and longer than death… death will not have the last word. We, too, have the ability to draw from that same well.

Mary is the strongest and most enduring prophet of Advent. Her spirit and her words continue to go before us. Have the strength to love with all of your heart and soul – not just those closest to you, but yourself and the stranger as well. Have the strength of love to work for healing of your soul, your relationships, the world. Have the strength of love to forgive, to hope, to live with joy even in the face of suffering. Have the strength of love to work for justice and freedom for all people. Have the strength of love to trust the Divine within you and around you. Have the strength of love to believe that if one child in a manger could make such a difference, so can you.



A Word of Hope

Hope… that essential ingredient in everyone’s life. It is what keeps us going when we’d rather curl up in a ball and disappear. Where does it come from? A few weeks ago, hope for me came from a woman I barely knew.

(For the full audio version, click here.)

I happened to be sharing a few concerns about my oldest son and this amazing woman just looked kindly at me and said, “Let me speak a word of hope…” She went on to tell a story about her own son, his struggles and how he eventually came through with flying colors. She calls him her “miracle child.” And she did all this in a way that was not bragging or self-centered, but sincerely about helping me to see that there will be better days. No, I wasn’t so down I was ready to assume a fetal position and whimper, but her sharing still lifted me up. She was a modern-day John the Baptist for me.

Our scripture yesterday was about John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness announcing the coming of the Messiah. As crazy as this locust-eating, camel-hair-shirt-wearing guy was, his message was one of hope. The people of ancient Israel were oppressed, depressed, and lacking avenues of hope. I’m sure it felt like no one cared and there was no relief in sight. Fighting back just resulted in being killed or put in prison. John’s message was hang in there, a new day is coming with the advent of the Messiah. Get ready, wash yourselves, start fresh today with a positive attitude and a new dedication to God who has brought us one to show us the way.

Life likes to throw curve balls, but whatever we may be going through, someone else has made it through that. And, whatever we’ve experienced, someone else needs to know that they can make it through, too. We all need hope at times and we can all give a word of hope to others at times.

I know we’re getting into the thick of the season, and the last thing you probably need is one more item on your To-Do List, but I’d ask you to consider this one. Who in your life needs to hear a word of hope, some encouragement that things will get better? Take a few minutes to find a way to offer them hope: send a card, give them a call, drop by and offer a hug and a listening ear, let someone know they are important and worthy.

In my experience, whenever I’ve felt down, God has invariably placed a word of hope on my path. Think about it, pray about it, who is God nudging you to reach out to this week and then trust your deeper sense, your intuition, and do it.

Jesus was the ultimate word of hope… God is with us. God loves us.  God hopes for us. God will not leave us when times get tough. Believe in God. Believe in you. Believe in better days.

Advent blessings,


Be Peace

It’s a simple concept, really, BE-ing peace. But it can sometimes be so difficult to live. be peace

Last Monday I found out that the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) is coming to Racine. When I went on their website to find out their reasons and their schedule, their angry, hate-filled, prejudiced statements and beliefs just had my blood boiling. I was ready to get out my Holy 2×4 and knock some proverbial sense into each one of them. I knew that their picketing needed to be met non-violently. calmly and with love, but inside I was screaming, “How dare you claim to be Christian! How dare you spread your hateful message and claim it is from God!! How dare you, you hypocrites, you whitewashed tombs, you snakes, you viper’s brood” (and suddenly I was breaking into Jesus’ words in scripture – Matthew 23 – in my head, which really rarely happens). All in all I was working into a good, rolling boil… justified… righteous…

(For the full audio version, click here.)

Then I have to start working on the sermon for yesterday. Peace (a topic chosen long before I knew about the WBC coming to Racine). Good. We need peace, especially in the face of these crazy people spreading hate and fear.  Then I read St. Francis: “While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart.”


And I read Henri Nouwen quoting other passages by Jesus: “’Love your enemy, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly.’

Heavier sigh.

Then Nouwen goes on to assert that this is the test for peacemakers… not to return anger for anger or violence for violence, but to rise above that, lest the “peacemaker [be] ravaged by the same anger, resentment, and violence that lead to war.” To truly work for peace and know peace in our lives, we must work on coming from a place of peace.

Got me. Could I do that? Could I, and can I, ground myself enough in God’s love, so as to go into the world leading with that foot forward and not the foot that wants to kick someone’s ass?

And then I was on to our scripture reading, Psalm 85. The Psalmist says, “Yahweh, we are listening to your voice, a voice that speaks of peace for your people… so long as they don’t return to their folly!” At first glance that sounds like a threat, but isn’t it true? It is people’s folly that lead them (us) out of peace and into conflict and war. It is people’s need to oppress, to have power, to be right, to have more stuff, more land, more money.

So, I took a step back, took a deep breath, and remembered that I want to feel calm and peaceful inside, not like I had a raging dragon about to burst forth. It helped… some. It’s hard. Some anger at the WBC was, and is, probably justified on my part and may have been a great motivator to get me out counter-protesting last night. But if I have to hang my hat on that to motivate me to make a difference, I’ve let my own inner peace go out the window. Plus, I am no better than them if I am doing something because I’m angry and hateful. Jesus calls us to the hard task of living out of love.

And so once again the spiritual journey distills into bringing harmony to our inner and outer selves. We will more readily be peace when we know peace within, which means we need to work on that within ourselves which keeps us from having internal peace – guilt, abandonment issues, abuse issues, fear, anger. Sometimes it even means going to therapy to seek healing which leads to inner peace.

And, on that note, I will simply encourage you to be honest with yourself (as I was with myself this week, hard as that is) about your level of inner peace. Then do what needs to be done to increase and cultivate that, so that more and more peace might spread to people around you and ripple outward through the world.




Lament in Advent


Here’s a picture of the rock I brought to church yesterday. It looks like a nice, normal rock, but in truth it is masquerading as a whole rock. I found this while out walking a number of years ago and when I picked it up, it fell apart in my hands (see picture below). I knew someday it would make a great sermon illustration, so it has been sitting in a box in my house ever since. You see, it reminds me of people. To others we may look whole and like we’ve got it all together, but if they look close enough, they will see that there are cracks and missing pieces. We go around masquerading as whole people, but the reality is that we are all broken.

(For the full audio version, click here.)

The journey through Advent to Christmas is the journey from darkness to light, from despair to hope, from tears to joy. This is a transformative season. But, in order for us to be transformed we actually have to admit that parts of us need transformation. I’m no different. I’d prefer to believe that I’ve dealt with all the grief, guilt, and hurt in my life. Then someone or something triggers those broken parts of me and my cracks begin to show again.

Transformation happens when I sit with the brokenness, allow myself to feel it, and then allow it to be a messenger for change. What do I have to learn from it? What spiritual message does it have for me? How can this serve me instead of controlling me?

Yesterday we talked about how the act of lamenting allows us to name our broken, hurting, grieving places and open them up to the light of the Divine with the rock - brokentrust and faith that transformation is possible. Lament is an honest recognition that to live in this world is to experience brokenness in some way, shape or form. However, lament still trusts the presence of the Divine and God’s ability to act powerfully even in the darkest of places.

Perhaps more than anything else, we, as spiritual people, believe beyond any rational thought, that the Living Spirit can bring order out of chaos, and growth out of suffering. As the New Interpreter’s Bible says, “The followers of Jesus dare to affirm that in Jesus the light of God shines and that through Jesus we are restored and have life.”

Advent Blessings,