“Through prayer we can carry in our heart all human pain and sorrow, all conflicts and agonies, all torture and war, all hunger, loneliness, and misery, not because of some great psychological or emotional capacity, but because God’s heart has become one with ours.”— Henri J. M. Nouwen
Struck by John Garland’s assertion that praying and singing the Psalms can begin to heal the trauma of even asylum seekers crossing the border after unimaginable challenges, I wonder if this form of prayer can support those seeking to heal from other gut-wrenching trauma.
The support Pastor John and The San Antonio Mennonite Church have offered asylum seekers since late 2016 has garnered national attention.
“The congregation tries to make a long-term difference in people’s lives by employing an approach called trauma-informed care, which draws on the behavioral sciences to help people heal from the ways that traumatic experiences can shape the brain, producing certain modes of belief and action.”
Awarded the National Association of Social Workers’ Texas 2020 “Public Citizen of the Year,” Pastor John has listened to countless horror stories and helped many vulnerable people begin healing through praying the Psalms. Please join Eremos this Thursday evening to listen to his experience and see if it can be of support to you or your loved ones too.
May you be blessed with Divine guidance to lead you to words, songs, people, and experiences that bring you comfort and healing.
“We have such a long way to go,” sighed the boy. “Yes, but look how far we’ve come,” said the horse. — Charlie Mackesy, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse.
I received the most delightful surprise for Christmas: The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy. Disguised as a children’s book, it is filled with wisdom like the quote above.
Sure, I already ‘know’ most of what these wise characters say, but it felt like finding a beloved treasure I had forgotten about to re-experience this wisdom in this unique way.
Perhaps one of the best treasures offered in this book — for the times we’re living in — is “One of our greatest freedoms is how we react to things.” (wisdom offered to the boy by the mole)
Another treasure found was learning about Women’s Christmas (January 6th) from Jan Richardson and her free retreat materials to help us make the most of the day. (See below for details).
And wisdom I eagerly anticipate receiving comes next week with our conversation with Pastor John Garland on how praying and singing the Psalms helps heal trauma.
Like steppingstones carrying us forward in 2021, may wisdom find you in delightfully surprising ways and may it ease your journey through this year.
I’ve come to love this time between Christmas and the arrival of New Year’s Day. It invites sacred pauses to reflect on the year and to ponder the dreams for 2021.
As with so many traditions, this in-between time is a bit more challenging this year. I don’t really want to reflect upon the losses of 2020 and am uncertain about what to imagine going forward.
Joseph Campbell’s invitation to let go of “the life we have planned” seems just right for this world turned upside down by the pandemic. And Viktor Frankl so brilliantly said we always have a choice in how to respond to what’s in front of us:
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” — Viktor Frankl
I feel the pull of 2021 and choose to hold my dreams for it lightly while honoring its arrival with joy. What do you choose?
May you be guided to dream into the new year in whatever ways nourishes your body, mind, and spirit.
“But Heaven only knows
That packages and bows
Can never heal
A hurting human soul
No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown-up Christmas list”
— David Foster & Linda Thompson, from the lyrics of “My Grown-up Christmas List”
Many of us are preparing for Christmas celebrations that are markedly different than they normally would be.
Perhaps our yearning to gather with family and friends in ways we took for granted in the past will lead to more honoring of the blessing of human connection, no matter our differences.
It might be awhile before the pandemic is over and we can safely gather again, but it feels like we can see the light on the horizon.
In the meantime, in this potent time of wonder, celebrating the light in the world, and welcoming the birth of a holy child, we invite you to pause and write your grown-up Christmas list.
Together, may our wishes for peace, love, joy, a safe and secure home, vibrant good health, prosperity, work that nourishes the soul, and a healthy planet lead to a better world for all.
My Christmas Wish
Hugs. While I can hug my beloved dog, she can’t really hug me back. I long for the comfort and joy of hugs with good friends and even those awkward hugs with people I don’t know as well!
Some people are saying they might not ever hug others again because of the pandemic. My heart hurts when I hear that. So, my Christmas wish is for the ability to once again give and receive hugs soon and for each hug to send waves of healing love rippling out into the world.
What’s your Christmas Wish?
Let Nothing Disturb You
A holiday gift for you: Mirabai Starr offering a blessing from Teresa of Avila in Spanish and English.
We’re so grateful our friend recorded this blessing for our Fall Gala. It’s a gem worthy of hearing again and again.
“Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you, all things are passing, God is unchanging. Patience gains all; nothing is lacking to those who have God: God alone is sufficient.”
Teresa of Avila
And so we have come to the end of the year of the pandemic. This is a dark time of year, as we approach the Winter Solstice. Even as the days are short and darkness comes early, the world is turning to the light. Even in this darkness, there is a promise of the light to come.
We have been plunged into anxiety and worry during this last year; yet, even there we found hope. We’ve seen the fragility of our democracy and the resilience. The dark days preceding the election have given way to confidence in how the process proceeds. We have a glimpse of the return to a trust in our government and our governing officials. There is work to be done and we all have work to do.
As Richard Rohr says, “Everything belongs.” The light is promised in the darkness. Hope can be found in the depths of despair. Love and grief are intertwined. We want to be in the warmth and light, but there is richness and wisdom to be gained by embracing the cold, darkness and despair. Rather than turning away from the pain, refusing to acknowledge the sadness, stepping into that dark door can reveal treasures of experience and relief that cannot be found any other way. Emergence rather than denial is a well-earned gift.
You’ve done well to hang on to hope through this challenging year. Let us walk together into a whole-hearted experience of all the future has to offer.
We invite you to join us on the Winter Solstice to celebrate the return of the light. This free 1-hour program begins at 7pm Central. Find Out More Here.
The Missing Year
by Julie Bowman
a reflection on 2020
Missing community, we gathered through Zoom and waved to neighbors.
Missing intimate connections, we luxuriated in long phone calls with dear friends.
Missing a decent night’s sleep, we napped.
When fear rose within us and around us, we chose compassion for self and others.
When white supremacy soared, we examined our own hearts for racism.
When wildfires and hurricanes roared, we vowed to better serve our planet.
Missing civil discourse, we initiated authentic conversations.
Missing democracy with a conscience, we voted.
Missing restaurants, we cooked.
When the news was too disturbing, we balanced it with birdsong.
When depression threatened, we sought out the laughter of children.
When COVID deaths entered our circles, we grieved deeply:
We attended livestreamed funerals.
We let our tears flow without restraint.
We felt our hearts break over and over.
Missing spontaneity, we became intentional and discerning.
Missing predictability, we made a truce with the unknown.
Missing smiles hidden by masks, we practiced “friendly eyes.”
When resistance surfaced, we concentrated on acceptance.
When sadness beckoned, we honored it, then gently cultivated joy.
When restlessness stirred, we got creative:
We sang and danced (and uploaded to YouTube).
We embraced poetry, painting, photography.
We pulled out our sewing baskets and our garden tools.
Missing our sense of time, we tuned into the rhythms of the Earth:
We tracked the phases of the moon.
We noted the migrations of birds and butterflies.
We watched Orion move into the night sky.
Missing our sense of security, we leaned into mystery.
Missing our sense of self, we focused on being present to others.
And found the ground of our being.
Image Credit: Lucy Campbell www.lupiart.com
Eremos Guest Reflection By Rev. Dr. Mona West
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21: 25-28)
My mother, who became a staunch Pentecostal in the last half of her life, was always known to comment on disturbing world events by saying “Jesus is nigh unto the door.” For her, these signs of the times were an indication that the world was about to end, in preparation for the Second Coming of Christ, complete with the destruction of evil, and the triumph of the righteous.
In the 21st chapter of Luke’s gospel, Jesus outlines three signs that signal the end: the appearance of false messiahs; wars and international conflicts; and natural disasters. Not much has changed since the first century. In every age it seems, Jesus has been “nigh unto the door.” As I look back on 2020 and consider the political landscape, violence against African Americans in the US, the effects of climate change, and a global pandemic, I am tempted to wonder if we are on the threshold of that door into the end. Then I consider the season of Advent, which marks the beginning of the Christian liturgical year.
Advent is a threshold: it holds the end and the beginning in creative tension. That is why this season has always had an apocalyptic element to it. Apocalypse is a Greek word, which means, “uncovering” or “unveiling.” Nadia Bolz-Weber defines it as “a big hope filled idea” exposing the fact that dominant powers are not ultimate powers.
The hopeful intent of apocalypse is often overshadowed by focus on doom and gloom, as well as preoccupation with calculating the exact time when the world will end. However, apocalyptic writing in the Bible was not meant to scare people into belief, but to encourage their belief in a God who is bigger than the world’s dominant powers.
Movements such as # BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, as well as the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, are a “lifting of the veil,” an exposing, of the heresy of domination. The hope found in the apocalyptic message of Advent is that God has been “unveiled.” Emmanuel—God, the Divine—is with us. God’s advent into our world and into our lives provides a way of transformation: everything is shaken up, laid bare. Old ways of being and the status quo are brought to an end so that something radically new will take its place.
Apocalypse and Advent are always with us. Not only do they invite us to be in relationship with this God who is with us and is bigger than the world’s powers, they also invite us into daily transformation as we let go of old habits and attitudes and lift the veil on the racism, sexism, and xenophobia in our personal lives and the lives of the institutions to which we belong.
Thomas Merton has said, “The Advent mystery in our own lives is the beginning of the end of all, in us, that is not yet Christ. It is the beginning of the end of unreality. And that is surely a cause of joy!” Amen. May it be so.
Guest blog post by Rev. Doug Fritzsche
Been a tough year for optimists, no doubt about that. Yet the calendar brings us once again to the traditional Christian remembrance of the four big themes of Advent: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.
I remember when the kids were not-even-toddling – and later, when they had not-quite toddlers of their own – playing the hilarious game of peek-a-boo!
It is a raucous game of now-you-see-it/now-you-don’t, interspersed with glee and hand waving and wildly rolling laughter. Peek-a-boo!
And it is more than a game, of course. In those early months, everything is a school of being-in-what-is. So, peek-a-boo is also serious training in object permanence – out-of-sight may be out-of-mind, but it isn’t gone at all.
As we grow and learn to abstract, we accept that the Aswan Dam and the Marianas Trench are real, even though we have visited neither. And we learn and accept the many attributes of people and institutions that come and go: generosity, kindness, hatred, compassion, greed and the whole list of possibilities and frailties.
Jesus tried to connect these ideas by offering images of a better way to live predicated on the fragments of good in evidence everywhere. The Good Samaritan offered succor: Who has never experienced help from a stranger? He showed us that we have what it takes … to be compassionate … to be neighbors … to light the world with love. He concluded that a new world order – his vision of a renewed creation – was “inside you”, was “at hand”. It was available in the here-and-now, not just a consolation prize. He suggested that its coming into being was like a tiny seed that spread like a weed and grew into a great tree offering shelter to all the birds. Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.
My heart aches for the way these teachings have been abused and distorted for hateful and nationalistic ends, especially in this recent year of shared hardship. Yet I look at this Advent as a time to remember that the coming of Christ – the unity and oneness in which all of creation is joined in an alternate reality of compassionate participation and joyful mutual interdependence – hasn’t gone away, even though I might have lost sight of it.
“On a deep level, creativity is a practice of engagement with the chi, or life essence, that flows in and around us and through all things. It is a way of being more fully alive by attuning to the natural creative flow in the body and moving in the direction it inspires. If you recognize that you are part of the creative movement, you can begin to use this capacity in all you do to create a life that is infused with this vibrant energy.” ― Tami Lynn Kent, Wild Creative
Whatever your faith tradition, navigating this holiday season might feel like moving through an obstacle course. Opportunities for sadness, grief, and disconnection at the losses of the year and uncertainty about the future arise daily for some.
We invite you to move through these tender days with creativity as a balm to your body, mind, and spirit. Let coloring a mandala, making Christmas cookies, walking a new trail in a new way, singing along — even with tears — to your favorite holiday songs, writing poems, and more give your soul room to breathe through any pain and open you to glimmers of joy this December.
We had no way of knowing what this December would be like when we invited Brooks Kasson to facilitate her creative workshop, Art, Play, Love, this Saturday. But I like to think Spirit knew. Whether you’re able to be with us or not Saturday morning, we invite you to let the healing power of creative expression help you safely, lovingly, and peacefully experience this unprecedented season of light.
May you open to Spirit moving through you and uplifting you this holiday season through the magic of creativity in its many forms.
P.S. Giving Tuesday is someone’s beautiful creative idea to stop the focus on buying gifts for 24 hours to support the nonprofits we love. Thank you to everyone who has supported Eremos this year. We are so grateful for you! We welcome your Giving Tuesday and Year-End donations, as we prepare for offering the gift of contemplation in 2021 and beyond. DONATE HERE
“Be present in all things and thankful for all.” ― Maya Angelou
May you be blessed this Thanksgiving… with a home that is safe and warm, food that nourishes the body and spirit, connections with loved ones — even if only via Zoom or the phone — that remind you how loved you are, and moments of presence that take your breath away with the sheer wonder of the gift of life.
Thank you for blessing the Eremos community with your presence and engagement this year. We are enriched by you.
A Hopeful Offering
when the birds were singing
I had another heart in me.
—8 year-old child