ADVENT 1–HOPE, WALKING IN THE DARK

Advent #1

Advent #1, Hope

Jeremiah 33:14-16
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”

John 1:5
Everything was created through him; nothing—not one thing!— came into being without him. What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.

We seem to be trained
to be afraid of and in
the dark.
Yet the shoot
Jeremiah writes of
grows, develops,
comes to fruition
in the dark.
It is in the dark where
our growth happens
Barbara Brown Taylor
writes of
learning to walk in the dark
about just that.
Yet.
Yet.
We avoid darkness,
name it evil,
still, it can be good
for us and to us.

# # #

Walking in the dark.
Things to trip over.
Things that go bump.
The DARK:
the stuff of scary movies.
Here is where nightmares are born.
Creatures lurk here.
Monsters are bred here.
The Dark exists
for those who eschew light.
The Dark has
a heart-beat all of its own.
Emotions are vulnerable here.
Crises are more intense here.
Loss is emptier in the darkness.
Fears
become more real in that non-light place.
Things that are only
metaphors
in the light of day
take on real possibilities
after
the sun goes down.
And yet,
metaphor aside,
people
work,
play,
live,
die
long after most of have gone to sleep—
and after we
have checked our locks.
How do we walk in the dark?
How do we breathe
on those nights
with the weight of the dark
crushing us;
on those nights
when the lights are out;
on those nights
when the dark overwhelms
and
we sense we are being touched by
its velvety tendrils?
In these times
is there a Life-Light
blazing out to us?
Will we burst
the crust of the soil?
Will the tendrils
growing from
the dead stumps
of our hopes and dreams
send forth the green leaves
of fulfilled promise?
In our darkest hours,
our feet seeking firmness
and the next step,
are we able
to find comfort
in the knowledge
of the peace to come?

A THOUGHT FOR THANKSGIVING

Thanksgiving and Transformation

Thanksgiving and Transformation

© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

Years ago
on the side of a mountain
at about 8,500 feet
I spent the night alone.
Cold that night
ice on the ground,
and I was snuggled down
in my mummy bag
all toasty and warm.
In the middle of the night
I awakened with myself
turned around.
The back of my head
to the small opening
I had drawn up and tied off.
My face,
of course was to the back
of the mummy top.
My hands and arms were
more or less tied under my stomach.
You do know that a mummy bag
is very, very tight at best,
and this was worst.
I am not generally claustrophobic
but I was for that moment
of bound up blindness.
My first instinct was
full on panic
but I quickly figured
the folly in that,
so I calmed my breathing,
steadied myself,
and slowly began wiggling,
inch by inch and
degree by degree
to turn my body
around so I could get
my face to the small opening
and breathe and see and get my bearings.
I did and I lay there thankful
and grateful
for stars, Jeffery pines outlined
in the black night sky,
and ice cold air to breathe.

# # #

I begin with this story
because
so many I know have become
metaphorically turned
around in their sleeping bags.
I am not directing this
at the clinically depressed,
except to say
stay on your meds
and seek help
if you have suicidal thoughts.
Some of what I write here
may help, but is not to
be intended instead of
medical help.
This is written for my
many friends who
are feeling so outraged
by what they see going on
around them
that they seem to be in
a state of desperation.
Politics,
terrorism,
broken relationships,
torn apart families,
deaths of ones they loved,
and there is a pervading sense of
hopelessness,
haplessness,
loneliness,
joylessness,
and lostness
stealing their souls.
Name calling and other bashing
is becoming the norm
for the brokenhearted.
And in the same way
that I found a solution
in my turned-around
position in my sleeping bag,
I would like to offer a
suggestion to those
who find their lives
as I found my body.
Breathe and find a place within you
that is still and quiet and peaceful.
There will surely be no place
outside you that will offer this.
It is there, trust me,
so do not just write this off
as an offering by an idiot.
Then inch by inch,
degree by degree,
begin to turn yourself around.
It will not be easy.
It will not be smooth.
My mummy bag
caught and grabbed
me with every move I made,
coming with me and holding back
in my turning around process.
Start by not falling into
every trap of negativity
that is offered you.
Break the cycle of
discontent by
sidestepping issues that
will spring like a steel-jawed trap.
Begin to consider things that are good
as being more efficacious
than the bad things you hear about.
I do not care if you pray
or believe in God or a higher power,
but try meditation,
or focusing on some positive image
for a few minutes a day.
Begin small
and then work yourself up
to longer and longer times.
THERE ARE GOOD THINGS
ON WHICH TO FOCUS
so don’t write this off.
Last,
when you lay awake
sleepless at night
your mind is usually
running wild on
everything that
has gone wrong,
is going wrong,
might go wrong.
Switch the wrong things out
for right, good, things.
Nurture your soul
with love.
Nurture yourself
with love.
Instead of dwelling on lost or bad love,
find the good moments
and give thanks for the
true love you did have.
Give thanks for
the possibility of tomorrow.
Give thanks
that you can give thanks.
Nothing changes overnight.
There is no magic pill to take.
Healing will not happen
if you will not
really want it.
And let’s admit it,
self-destruction is
easier than
the struggle and hard work
needed for healing
a sad life,
and there are hundreds of excuses
you can use as to why
my suggestions won’t work,
how full of shit I am,
how you’re so broken,
wounded—lazy—
you can’t do it.
But if you want it you can have it.
Just not without the work.
Desperation can be replaced with hope.
I pray you find blessings in your lives,
that you will know lasting joy,
that you can find one thing
today
for which you can be thankful.

GIVING A BLESSING

1 Chronicles 29:10-13
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

A Morning Blessing

A Morning Blessing

Giving thanks,
blessing God,
praising God.
We often think about giving praise to God.
We many times remember to thank God
when life is good.
How many of us have ever thought
to bless God?
Why would we even think we were capable,
let alone holy enough
to do this?
But there it is.
Right there in scripture.
David,
one of us,
a human,
a sinner,
having the audacity to actually
lead a group of people,
regular folk,
JUST LIKE US,
in blessing God.
JUST WOW!!!
We can give blessing
to God,
to others!
We have been given that power,
with the expectation that we will use it.
Do not hoard your blessings!
Do not be stingy with them.
Our words are apparently efficacious.
They must be
if God would accept them like that.
If you think about it,
that is why
to curse someone
is so frowned on: the power of our words.
So spend the next week blessing,
not cursing.
Then,
see what power
your blessings have.
Not just when someone sneezes,
but try out your blessing-power randomly.
Bless you friend,
bless your partner,
bless your co-worker,
bless that one who so drives you crazy,
then,
then,
looking in the mirror,
bless yourself.
Give yourself blessings
all through the day.
Bless yourself
when you fail.
Bless yourself when you succeed.
Bless yourself when you want to
curse yourself for being
dumb,
forgetful,
sad,
crazy,
human.
Then learn to bless others
for these very same
things.
Once you discover
what it feels like to live in the midst
of blessings,
this exercise might prove
a life-changing experiment.
I’ll start:
Bless you!

REMEMBERING WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS

Leviticus 19:33-34
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

Stranger and Strangers

Stranger and Strangers

I am writing this
the day after the attacks
in Paris, France.
I am saddened for
the people of France and of Paris.
My heart cries out:
for the pain of those
who now must face
the sudden loss
of friends, colleagues,
and loved ones.
My soul aches:
for humanity,
for this community of world
in which we live,
for
God…
It comes to me that
if it is true,
and I believe it is,
that each and every
one of us human beings
on this planet
carries a piece of the same
spark of divinity,
and that pain causes pain
injury causes injury,
and that cause indeed
is concatenate to effect,
then all we can do
as individuals is to
change our role
in the causes
for the planet’s
high quotient of violence.
I believe that our
wrong and violent
thoughts and actions
are part of the cause
for the global acting out
of wrongness and violence,
and that it is up to us
to make the change.
We can make a commitment,
a choice,
to no longer be part
of the terror.
And while we cannot make
any big global changes,
we can make those
small,
personal,
intimate,
changes
that are needed to build
the bigger changes.
You are only you.
I am only me.
But we are, indeed, we.
And as me,
then you,
and finally
we,
we can become a movement of
the kind of love that can make
a difference,
make a change.
Yes,
hate is hate,
woundedness is woundedness,
but love is love
and love heals.
We can no longer act as if
people we have not yet
met are strangers to us.
Xenophobia is,
in my opinion,
much more evil than
racism,
and we need to be healed of it.

Jim Morrison wrote
“People are strange when you’re a stranger…
When you’re strange
Faces come out of the rain.
When you’re strange
No one remembers your name
When you’re strange…”

Have you ever been a stranger?
Has no one ever
not remembered your name?
Can you remember
a time when
you were vulnerable
and alone?
You are asked to—
remember.
Then,
seeing a stranger on the street,
at your door,
in a place they do not belong
remember that time
when you
did not belong,
got into the wrong place,
were being stared at
and wanted to run,
hide,
get away.
Then you are expected
to treat the stranger
with the same compassion
as you wished
you could be treated…
We know these strangers.
We see these strangers everyday.
We walk among them.
We are asked to decide for ourselves
the weight and
shape and
texture and
volume of compassion—
of this love that the time has come for—
and offer that much
to each stranger we meet.
This is what change can build upon.
This is now love can make a difference.
This is how wounds can heal.
We first make the
change within
our own selves.
Here’s how we can
make this conversion of self
so we can be part of
the dream of
the larger healing
of the world.
I have read how doing
the same wrong thing
over and over
while expecting different results
is a definition of insanity.
The only true answer
to the question,
how can we truly change?
Why don’t we who can
offer a change of heart?
Why not get over
our own anger and rage,
and find peace in our own souls?
Why don’t we explore
the ramifications
of hope and joy
in our own lives
so we have more to offer
each other
than futile posturing
born of our own woundedness?
Changing the world can never
happen by
spreading the poisons
with which we are filled.
Take the challenge:
get help to be of help;
detoxify your own soul
to be an antidote
to the poisons of fear;
get peace to offer peace;
get healed to offer healing;
get rid of your own
inner violence
to stop the world’s violence.
It may be easier
said than done but
it can be done.

So yes,
The time has come for love.
Learn to truly love yourself
so you can teach the stranger
about love.

WHAT GOD DOES

Ephesians 5:1-2
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

What God Does

What God Does

Pay attention all you judgers out there!
This is Paul writing here.
This is the one you so often mis-quote
and misunderstand.
The text says that what God does is love.
It doesn’t say God
hates, compares, excludes, divides, judges.
I believe that if we pervert the action,
intention, and hope of God’s love,
we pervert, subvert, undermine,
the work of God and, in some real way,
we do this to God as well.
I know too many people
who refuse to believe in God
because of the dynamic where we
Christians do not love
as God expects us to and instead
act mean and hateful and withhold love
in the name of
the one
who is so kind and loving.
No, the text says,
“Mostly what God does is love you.”
And substantiated by what we read that
Jesus said,
we can take this to mean that,
while God loves you,
God is busy loving others, too,
as well as doing a lot of other stuff
to keep the cosmos functioning.
This is all metaphor of course,
but it is metaphor
to which we need to pay attention.
God loves—
learn from God!
We are to be as God.
God loves—
excessively, profusely!
This is not puppy and ducky love that
is cute and adorable and sweet.
This is messy love that includes loving
those committing
the most egregious sins
against us and society—
mass murders, terrorists, child molesters,
the foreigner (documented and undocumented).
WE ARE TO LOVE THEM
IN A WAY THAT INCLUDES THEM,
AS WE HAVE BEEN INCLUDED,
IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD!
Why?
Because God loves us unconditionally.
We are not God, but God loves
and because
God loves
us we are to love as well—
extravagantly!
I do not know how this works,
but I do know that we
are expected
to find a way to figure it out.

THE TIME HAS COME FOR LOVE

LIVING ON THE BORDER

Mark 12:28-34
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

And How Do We Speak of Love

And How Do We Speak of Love

There is a difference between living
on the edge and living on the border.
Edge
connotes something abrupt, precipitous.
Border
suggests next door, a boundary.
I’ve been both on the edge
and along a border,
and they don’t seem the same.
We experience borders all the time,
driving
out of our towns,
going to another county or state,
walking
through a riparian zone,
going
through our daily social functions
and experiencing other’s borders and boundaries,
being
on the border of God’s own land,
that place sometimes
referred to as kingdom,
the place where God dwells.
If, in this text, sacrifice
was understood
as that which purifies
and makes one holy,
then the scholar argues
that loving others as one’s self
also purifies and makes one holy.
Can it be that easy?
Is the act of truly loving
a sacred and purifying act?
Just naturally,
freely,
openly loving others.
Fearlessly sharing with love
the very core of our being,
Because—
no matter what,
no matter who,
no matter how—
we are creatures of love
rooted firmly
in the essence of God’s love
with the knowledge that
there is more than enough to share.
But what does this mean,
loving this way?
How much love do we need to give?
There are theologies and congregations
who hold that
we are all divine and sacred creatures,
yet the followers of that doctrine
many times act
more as if it is only they
that are divine,
and use their divinity
to selfishly get what is theirs,
as if the sacrifices offered
are to come to them.
There are also many
who are still quibbling about
the meaning of neighbor,
or will try to tell you that
love itself can judge negatively
or be proponents of tough love
and turn the notion of the love of God
into a bad Halloween joke.
But I have had a revelation
as to what Jesus actually
means here.
This last week I sat
with my son as he lay dying
in a Hospice bed.
I slept on a mat
on the floor next to him.
Cherie slept on the couch at his feet.
We sat in a chair
and held his hand as he moaned,
and we talked to him to soothe him.
I watched our daughter
hold him,
stroke his hair,
crying and talking softly to him.
I felt a deep pain,
an unthinkable anguish,
rise up within me
each time he twitched and fussed.
I ached throughout my body
as hours stretched into days.
And as I prepared to write this,
as I studied the text,
I realized:
it is this much.
This much
is how
we are supposed to love
ourselves,
our neighbors
our enemies.
Loving others,
enemies and friends,
with a love that feels their pain deeply
in our own bodies
as our own,
this is the love of which Jesus speaks.
Parent and sibling love,
bone of bone,
flesh of flesh,
heart of heart.
This is the love that
“is better than all offerings and sacrifices put together,”
and places us on the border of God’s own land.
This is how God loves us.
This is the love that purifies.
And this is
how deeply we are to love,
not just family,
but each other.

This song, The Time Has Come For Love has become the theme song in the Geyserville Christian Church.