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So much of our energy, time, and money goes into maintaining distance from one another. Many if not most of the resources of the world are used to defend ourselves against each other, to maintain or increase our power, and to safeguard our own privileged position.

Imagine all that effort being put in the service of peace and reconciliation! Would there be any poverty? Would there be crimes and wars? Just imagine that there was no longer fear among people, no longer any rivalry, hostility, bitterness, or revenge. Just imagine all the people on this planet holding hands and forming one large circle of love. We say, “I can’t imagine.” But God says, “That’s what I imagine, a whole world not only created but also living in my image.”

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And now, may God forgive Saddam Hussein.

—for Alice

How many times has the wind sung
new verses to our familiar choruses,

we’ve seen only the clouds
and misread the signs?

We seek peace in a mirror.  And looking,
when we should have been listening,

missed prophetic thunder
in the blackening of trees.

But new birth accents the possible,
disguised in the freshness of a sudden, spring rain.

The time has come
to throw out spoiled milk.

There are evergreens already,
birds singing low in the brush.

Yet how many nights
have we slept on old, cotton sheets,

clinging to comfortable tintypes,
content with the smaller of joys?

First published in Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Reconciliation is much more than a one-time event by which a conflict is resolved and peace established. A ministry of reconciliation goes far beyond problem solving, mediation, and peace agreements. There is not a moment in our lives without the need for reconciliation. When we dare to look at the myriad hostile feelings and thoughts in our hearts and minds, we will immediately recognize the many little and big wars in which we take part. Our enemy can be a parent, a child, a “friendly” neighbor, people with different lifestyles, people who do not think as we think, speak as we speak, or act as we act. They all can become “them.” Right there is where reconciliation is needed.

Reconciliation touches the most hidden parts of our souls. God gave reconciliation to us as a ministry that never ends.

When we are free from the need to judge or condemn, we can become safe places for people to meet in vulnerability and take down the walls that separate them. Being deeply rooted in the love of God, we cannot help but invite people to love one another. When people realise that we have no hidden agendas or unspoken intentions, that we are not trying to gain any profit for ourselves, and that our only desire is for peace and reconciliation, they may find the inner freedom and courage to leave their guns at the door and enter into conversation with their enemies.

Many this happens even without our planning. Our ministry of reconciliation most often takes place when we ourselves are least aware of it. Our simple, nonjudgmental presence does it.

To the degree that we accept that through Christ we ourselves have been reconciled with God we can be messengers of reconciliation for others. Essential to the work of reconciliation is a nonjudgmental presence. We are not sent to the world to judge, to condemn, to evaluate, to classify, or to label. When we walk around as if we have to make up our mind about people and tell them what is wrong with them and how they should change, we will only create more division. Jesus says it clearly: “Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge; … do not condemn; … forgive” (Luke 6:36-37).

In a world that constantly asks us to make up our minds about other people, a nonjudgmental presence seems nearly impossible. But it is one of the most beautiful fruits of a deep spiritual life and will be easily recognized by those who long for reconciliation.

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

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8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

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13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 15And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

While we are having fun with family and friends, eating goodies and opening gifts, please remember those for whom Christmas is a difficult time this year–those who have recently lost family members, those with loved ones in intensive care, those who have no families, no money, no homes. . . those who fight depression and sadness.

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Just Before the Dawning

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We are no longer required to enter in shifts,

so we congregate in Clara’s room,

where our minds reject

 

the horribleness of silence.

The nurse, who speaks in staccato whispers,

fingers blond strands of blood-soaked hair.

 

We remember last night’s storm:

The slicing wind, the freezing rain,

my two gloved hands holding hat to head,

coat to shivering torso.

 

Having left holiday plans behind—

even December’s bell ringers

with their hungry red cauldrons—

we shed most of our meaningless baggage,

 

keeping only a book of puzzles and a light

blue umbrella.  We hoped for a dark-chocolate

Christmas.  We remember the ice hitting glass.

 

 

first published in JMWW

Life is unpredictable. We can be happy one day and sad the next, healthy one day and sick the next, rich one day and poor the next, alive one day and dead the next. So who is there to hold on to? Who is there to feel secure with? Who is there to trust at all times?

Only Jesus, the Christ. He is our Lord, our shepherd, our rock, our stronghold, our refuge, our brother, our guide, and our friend. He came from God to be with us. He died for us, he was raised from the dead to open for us the way to God, and he is seated at God’s right hand to welcome us home. With Paul, we must be certain that “neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Who can deny how gently
tender petals float on the wind?
Yet each day more flowers fall,

withered and dying.
Even the leaves
remain where they drop.

Is this not a sign?

Gone—
the pinks of summer.

The wind blows colder now
and hardly for the better.
Stiff brown leaves crunch,

but look—look,

a Rose of Sharon blossoms
from a Virgin’s womb.

And the wonder of it is
it happened just like that.

 

first published in Domicile

December 2006
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