Without Love where would you be right now?

Without Love, the 1973 hit written by Tom Johnston, lead vocalist and songwriter with the Doobie Brothers, draws you in from the first chord. It begs you to sing it – to answer the recurring question, “without love where would you be right now?”

Down around the corner, half a mile from here
See them long trains run, and you watch them disappear
Without love, where would you be now?…

Recently I came upon the reflections of an unknown teacher talking about what she sees in her kids (her students).  I haven’t verified the source or the authenticity, but I like much of the sentiment as she (I assume) puts milestones (success) into the perspective of love:

When I look around my classroom I couldn’t tell you who crawled first, who walked before one of spoke in sentences by 15 months. I can’t tell you if their parents breastfed or boatel fed. No clue if they still wear pull-ups at night, because I’m sure many do! I don’t know if they potty trained at 18 months or 4 years old. I don’t know if their mom ever left them to cry it out for a few minutes or if they strapped them to their bodies 24/7.

You know what I can tell you when I look at my kids? I can tell which families value kindness and manners in their homes. I can tell when a child feels loved and secure at home (and at school which sadly isn’t always everyone’s school experience!) I know who has pizza and movie Friday nights and which mom reads in different voices for bedtimes. I see how kids handle  scary situations like thunderstorms. I can see who has a solid routine at home and who has chores and responsibilities. I can hear how you speak to your children by how they speak to others.

When I look at my little friends I don’t see their milestones, I see who they are: their heart, their actions, their inner voice, their struggles and triumphs, and I see you; and all the love you pour into them. We are always supposed to talk about testing and benchmarks and data during parent-teacher conferences and I had a mom last time look at me and say, “I don’t worry about all the reading and math, she will get there. I want to know… how is she, as a person? Is she kind? Does she include others?”

That took my breath away and is something that will always stick with me!!!

Go easy on yourselves mamas, just love your little ones… it’s all they need.

Author Unknown

Is love all they need?

As parents, we know it’s not simply the either/or of success vs. character; it is the both/and of life.  We want our children to succeed, even if we haven’t articulated to ourselves what is “success” – and – we want our children to grow in a wider sense of life, to be persons of character and kindness.

Indeed success takes on nuance as we come to know and accept our child’s personality, personhood, and aptitudes. I am not sure love is all they need… but without it where would they be now? Without love nothing else matters.  Without love nothing else succeeds in the wider sense of that word.

From the ancient text we read:

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Jesus put success into perspective when He said,

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

So I ask, “without love where would you be right now?” Or to put it differently:

“Because of love where are you right now?”

For more go to “Quia Amaste Me“.

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A Relic of Anguish

Christoph Büchel’s Barca Nostra, Arsenale. Getty Images

Kelly Grovier, culture critic with the BBC, “trawled through the artworks on display at the 2019 Venice Biennale” to pick out highlights including this wreck of a cargo vessel. This is what caught my attention:

The most haunting work in this year’s Biennale is also the one that’s causing the greatest stir. In a bold move that has divided opinion, the Swiss Icelandic artist Christoph Büchel has transported to Venice’s ancient shipyard, the Arsenale, the salvaged wreck of a cargo vessel that sank in the Mediterranean in 2015. The tragedy claimed the lives of around 800 migrants who were trapped in the ship’s hold. The rusting and lacerated hulk, which Büchel has christened “Barca Nostra” (or “Our Boat”), was recovered from the bottom of the sea along with the remains of many who perished. Others were lost without a trace.

The battered boat wedges its way, like a static glacier of unending suffering, into the psyche of everyone who passes it, admonishing us, as if from another world. So raw and unflinching is the work’s intolerable power, some visitors may feel blindsided by its un-metaphorical frankness (this is after all, not an artistic interpretation of anguish but a real relic of it) and object to the repurposing of the doomed vessel as a fleeting installation in an ephemeral art festival famous for its gewgaws of glamour and glitz.

There is something about the distant plight of modern day refugees that would cause us to pause. For millennia people have been nudged, moved, pushed, or otherwise displaced by the bullies of force. Has there ever been a time when we have not been part of going with or receiving a diaspora?

Kyrie, eleison.

For more go to “A Prayer for Refugees.”

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A Prayer from Nagasaki

Urakami Tenshudo Church destroyed by atomic bomb, Nagasaki, Japan, January 1946.

Out of the enormous suffering caused by the atomic bomb, a distinctively Japanese and Christian understanding of the bombing was born: that this holocaust was as a sacrifice of a lamb by which the war would end. (See “A Prayer for Peace from Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan“, written by Dr. RC Hikota)

Dr Takashi Nagai, a Catholic convert, scientist, doctor, and poet lost his wife in the bombing, and who himself was exposed to it, prepared a funeral address for the victims of the atomic bomb; here is an excerpt:

“…Is there not a profound relationship between the destruction of Nagasaki and the end of the war? Nagasaki, the only holy place in all Japan—was it not chosen as a victim, a pure lamb, to be slaughtered and burned on the altar of sacrifice to expiate the sins committed by humanity in the Second World War?…

Only when Nagasaki was destroyed did God accept the sacrifice. Hearing the cry of the human family, He inspired the emperor to issue the sacred decree by which the war was brought to an end. Our church of Nagasaki kept the faith during four hundred years of persecution when religion was proscribed and the blood of martyrs flowed freely. During the war this same church never ceased to pray day and night for a lasting peace. Was it not, then, the one unblemished lamb that had to be offered on the altar of God? Thanks to the sacrifice of this lamb many millions who would otherwise have fallen victim to the ravages of war have been saved.

How noble, how splendid was that holocaust of August 9, when flames soared up from the cathedral, dispelling the darkness of war and bringing the light of peace! In the very depth of our grief we reverently saw here something beautiful, something pure, something sublime. Eight thousand people, together with their priests, burning with pure smoke, entered into eternal life. All without exception were good people whom we deeply mourn. How happy are those people who left this world without knowing the defeat of their country! How happy are the pure lambs who rest in the bosom of God! Compared with them how miserable is the fate of us who have survived!…”

(from The Bells of Nagasaki by Takashi Nagai. You can also see the entire speech here. )

Dr RC Hikota writes:

Nagai called the victims of the atomic bomb “holocaust” (hansai in Japanese). Naturally, many people were shocked and angered by this interpretation, while some were indeed consoled by it. The debate still goes on (for example, see here), but what we have to keep in mind is that to some extent it was a response to the idea that the bombing was a punishment of God to those who were unjust. Also, it should be read in the historical context that Catholics in Nagasaki had suffered discrimination from their fellow Japanese.

Nagai himself remained convinced that he was right to regard the bombing as a holocaust and as an expression of God’s loving providence. (Ref. Leaving My Beloved Children Behind by Takashi Nagai, the English translation currently out of print).

(About Nagai’s life, see A Song for Nagasaki: The Story of Takashi Nagai-Scientist, Convert, and Survivor of the Atomic Bomb by Fr. Paul Glynn)

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Collecting Threads

Unravelling and reweaving seems to describe what we do throughout most of our lives. Parker Palmer captures this in his poem titled “November 22“:

… the world unravels always,
and it must be rewoven time and time again.

You must keep collecting threads—threads of meaning,
threads of hope, threads of purpose, energy and will—
along with all the knowledge, skill that every weaver needs.
You must keep on weaving—stopping sometimes only
to repair your broken loom—weave a cloak of warmth
and light against the dark and cold, a cloak in which
to wrap whoever comes to you in need—the world
with all its suffering, those near at hand, yourself.

And, if you are lucky, you will find along the way
the thread with which you can reweave your own
tattered life, the thread that more than any other
laces us with warmth and light, making both the
weaver and the weaving true—the red thread
they call Love, the thread you hold, then
hand along, saying to another, “You.”

This poem is taken from: The Day My World Unraveled.  According to Parker Palmer it was November 22, 1963 – the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. He writes:

“The poem… is about the way my world began to unravel on that date—and about the origins of my commitment to contribute whatever I can to the constant reweaving our world requires.

I’m ever-grateful for the countless people who collect the threads, maintain the loom, and work without ceasing to restore the tattered fabric of our common life—devoting themselves to creating that ‘more perfect Union’…”

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Forgiveness like an Onion

Forgive and keep on forgiving until the onion of offence is completely gone.

Forgiveness is like an onion.

When you forgive the offense, you peel back one layer of the onion, and things seem to be fine. But weeks, even months later, the offense pops into your mind again along with the anger and you must forgive one more time and you peel off the another layer.

As you go through this process several times forgiving again and again, one day you will pull off the last peal, and the onion disappears and you have completely forgiven the person.

Forgive and keep on forgiving, until the onion of offense is completely gone.

By Dean Smith written at “opentheword.org“.

Hard to hear this? At what layer of the onion are you?

Grace is needed at every skin; it is providential that peeling/cutting onions just naturally causes us to cry, even when we don’t want to.

In the haze of tears, try to remember you were forgiven first.

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May Your Mercy Manifest

Only then will your house be blessed, by Harry Manx

Let it go, Let it go, Well well, let it go go go
Let your sword of vengeance rest
Oh, do the, do the blind lead the blind?
Well well don’t be cruel to be kind
Only then, will your house be blessed

Yeah, offer prayer, offer prayer well well
Offer sweet prayer, yeah now,
To your uninvited guest
Oh, won’t you, give ’em the right,
Yeah yeah, to be welcome, through the night
Only then, will your house be blessed

Yeah, turn your cheek, turn your cheek
Well, turn your other cheek
May your mercy manifest
Oh, when the hawk and the dove
Flying circles ’round your love,
Only then, will your house be blessed

Oh, let it go, let it go, well well, let it go go go
Let your sword of vengeance rest
Oh, do the, do the blind lead the blind?
Yeah yeah don’t be cruel to be kind
Only then, will your house, whoa, be blessed.

This song is by Harry Manx and appears on the album Wise and Otherwise (2002).

I heard this song for the first time quite a while ago and was struck by the lamenting invitation to “let your sword of vengeance rest.”  A lovely request as we remember the place of violence in our lives.  May you let it go; may you rest; may your mercy manifest…

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Hug O’ War

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