Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Spirituality of Violence

           I grew up in the powerful grip of the American myth of righteousness.    In my naïve world,  we were the good guys.   We stood for freedom and democracy.   We lived, as we were told incessantly, in “the best country in the world.”  And, we believed it.   In the heady years following the Second World War, we were awash in the flickering black and white television images of American triumphalism.   Sitting in our PJs at night we would stare blankly as we were indoctrinated into the narrative of  American power and its accompanying, deeper myth of redemptive violence.   TV shows like “Combat,” “Wagon Train,” “Gunsmoke” and “Have Gun, Will Travel”  programmed our minds with a panoply of endless violence which was the panacea for every conceivable problem.  This trend has grown.  Today it is estimated that by the age of eighteen the average American has seen over 200,000 acts of violence on television (American Psychiatric Association http://w2.parentstv.org/main/Research/Facts.aspx) . 

Our play time reflected the violence that surrounded us.  On jungle gyms and playgrounds we whooped and yelled, and it was always about  American nobility and valor vanquishing an endless series of bad guys that reflected the nation’s enemy du jour.   Each day we would take our toy guns and sally forth against Indigenous Americans, the British,  the Confederacy, the Spanish, the Germans and of course, the Commies.  Today, the targets of horribly graphic computer games for children are the wonderfully non-descript “terrorists,” who can take on whatever race or ethnicity befits the agenda of the moment.   In the face of each threat, each enemy, we continue to resort to a justified, even noble violence which we are told will sweep clean the soiled landscape.

Redemptive violence is a deeply imbedded cultural belief that, at the end of the day, only violence will truly solve our problems.    It’s nice, of course, to give a cursory nod to the idealistic dreamers.  Indeed, restrained acknowledgements are given to  Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Dr. King and their ilk but we have it drilled into us daily that  violence is the final sanction: the only thing that will really get the job done.    We are taught in our history classes, for example, that we had no choice but to use the atomic bomb on Japan because they would never have surrendered otherwise.   This all too familiar conceit conveniently forgets that in reality Japan had put out several feelers for peace talks prior to the “dropping” of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Moreover, the entry of the Soviet Union into the war had a profound impact on the surrender as well.   We did  have options to vaporizing two whole cities, but peace talks were not acceptable.  Only total surrender would do.  So the Enola Gay  and Bockscar took off with their nuclear payloads and headed for Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In all this we cannot overlook the. story of a nation whose history is one of continual violence.   The evidence is so overwhelming that it cannot be fully illustrated here, but the horrible truth is that this nation was literally built upon the bloody backs of millions of enslaved human beings  (http://civilwarcauses.org/stat.htm).   More than a century later, the generational trauma still tears at the souls of African Americans everywhere.  Talk of reparations for this crime against humanity is met with derision and dismissal.   Our so-called “manifest destiny” rolled across the continent over the mass graves of indigenous people (http://www.religioustolerance.org/genocide5.htm), in what some call the largest genocide in human history.     Our industrial might rose through smoky haze of the ghosts of martyred union activists (https://study.com/academy/lesson/a-historical-outline-of-organized-labor-in-the-united-states.html) .   And today we are forced to look at the truth that we are locked into an endless arc of warfare in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, The Philippines, Turkey, Somalia,  Niger, and around the globe that literally sees no end.   And to fuel this widening global conflagration, the United States of America spends more on its military than the next eleven countries combined (https://www.pgpf.org/chart-archive/0053_defense-comparison).

So inured are we to the violent core of our national reality that it has become part of our spiritual reality.  Indeed, it is clear that we need to come to grips with the fact that violence has become the spiritual underpinning of the American conscience.   From our greed-inspired upper class revolution to the genocidal westward expansion to the prosecution of computerized drone wars that spread out endlessly before us,  America has been baptized in the blood of the innocent.    Our spirits have been harnessed and hitched to the wagon of a highly individualistic materialism that is narcissistically clueless about the suffering we cause around the world.    

This spirituality of violence is more than a vague unfettered strain in American culture.  It is highly organized into a quasi-religious practice and enforced with an increasing rigor that should disturb even the most calloused heart.    The cult of violence protects gun ownership as zealously as any religious fanatic.   Indeed, the National Rifle Association, which functions as a   priestly voice for the spirituality of violence, funded American politicians to the tune of tens of millions of dollars last year to assure that no realistic gun control could pass through Congress or the Senate. 

On top of the clear corruption of our government through literal buying of votes is the fomenting of fear and racism that drives the sales of weapons.   Last year there were 14.5 million applications for concealed handgun permits in the US (https://crimeresearch.org/2016/07/new-study-14-5-million-concealed-handgun-permits-last-year-saw-largest-increase-ever-number-permits/) .   14.5 million.  This does not include the voluminous sales of Military style assault weapons and a host of other implements of destruction.  In. the face of nearly daily mass shootings in schools and other public areas, the US government is quietly repealing the few regulations that do exist regarding these weapons (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/white-house-refused-to-release-photo-of-trump-signing-bill-to-weaken-gun-law/).  The alleged right to possess these instruments  of death is enshrined in a holy misinterpretation of the US Constitution and God help the person who tries to legislate even a modest control over these weapons.

Propaganda notwithstanding,  the US is currently  experiencing the lowest crime rates in fifty years (http://time.com/3577026/crime-rates-drop-1970s/) .   Murder, violent crime and property crime are at an all-time low.  Yet if you watch the news this is not what we are being told.  Our police forces are being deliberately militarized with armored personnel carriers, military assault weapons, and military training to combat a crime wave that does not exist.   No longer do our civilian police forces protect and serve.   Instead, they have been formed into military assault units leaving a trail of dead bodies, almost all of whom are people of color.  

The violence of our spiritual core is coming home to roost.   The bombs we have dropped around the world are exploding in our towns and cities, and the wholesale use of our national resources to support this violence has hollowed out the center of what used to be our shared values.   Today, the “best country in the world” has the lowest literacy rate in the so called developed world with an education system that is starved of funding and crippled by a never ending drive to privatize and diminish it.  Today the “best country in the world” has the highest infant mortality rate in the so called developed world.  Today the “best country in the world” has one in ten people in its whole population suffering from malnutrition.   Today, we cannot claim being the top dog in anything except the number of killings by fire arms.  

The spirituality of  violence and death has seeped into every corner  of our existence.   It is an unescapable part of who we are as a nation.   If we pause and take a look in the mirror we will no longer see an idealistic, freedom loving people who are setting out to improve the world, if ever that was anything but an illusion.   No.  If we look through the eyes of the rest of the world we are fast becoming the ones who must be stopped.   We are no longer seen as heroes.  We are no longer the ones that everyone seeks to emulate.   We have become an active and grave threat to the whole global community and it is  a matter of time before the world comes together to put a halt to our spiritual madness.

The collective weight of our violent history has resulted in an American Spirit that is twisted and contorted.  The call comes to us to renew it.  The American heart is hardened and cold.   We must thaw it with compassion.  The American hope is shriveled into a cynical echo of shattered dreams.  We must bring a new kind of hope.   Now is the time to act for the healing of the nation.  Now is the time to name the lies that poison our people.  Now is the time to stand up and be counted.

This is more than a call to simple resistance in what is rapidly turning into an authoritarian state.   This is a call to spiritual conversion.    Let us throw off the tyranny of our own desires and reach for the welfare of the human family.    Let us shed the spirit of death that has gripped our people and together let us reach for life.    Let us name the lie of redemptive violence and live into the spiritual redemption that comes from self-giving love and compassion.   In short, let us step out of this twisted and evil culture and build something new together.    Let us begin to lay the foundation stones for a new America where people come before profits and where the welfare of the human family is something for which we are collectively responsible.

Let us act now to tear down the temples of violence and greed before it is too late.   Let us be the midwives who birth a new spirituality that even now groans in anticipation, waiting to come forth.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Climate Change

For decades now the scourge of climate change has been in our headlines.   Since the beginning of the industrial revolution over two hundred years ago, human activity has caused the release of carbon dioxide and other chemicals into the environment, leading to increasingly dramatic changes in the global climate.   Unsubstantiated claims of hoax and overstatement notwithstanding,  the changing climate of the planet is  an irrefutable reality.   From increasingly intense storms to extended drought and shrinking ice caps the evidence is there.    Pacific Island peoples are watching their homes disappear beneath the waves and coastal cities around the world are making plans for how to cope with rising sea levels.   Many species of animals and plants face extinction and are migrating in ways never witnessed before.  For humans and other creatures occupying the planet, the news is  not good.  

The painful piece of this is that we could have done something about it.   At so many turns in the road there were options.   National legislative action, global climate conferences, local action and more have been brought to bear on this most critical of concerns but the truth is we were lazy.   The truth is that the profits of oil companies and the comfort of our automobiles were more important than our children’s future.     

Is it too late?     I’m not a scientist and wouldn’t venture a guess.   However, it’s clear that we are at best, making a late start as ice fields melt and wholesale extinction becomes a probability.    No matter what we do now, it’s clear.  The climate has changed and continues to do so.

There is another kind of climate change taking place in our nation as well.    This is the change in political climate.    In the 2016 elections 46% of the population did not elect Donald Trump.  His opponent won the popular vote by more than two million votes.    Yet in spite of that Donald Trump Tweets on in narcissistic wonder as President Elect.    In positioning himself for this almost inconceivable upset, this businessman of questionable ethics pulled out the playbook of Adolf Hitler and used it masterfully.   I know.  Some will shake their heads and say this is a bridge too far.   But it’s not.

Hitler rose to power saying he would make Germany great again.   He rode the tide of economic stagnation, and turned to Jews to blame it on them.    Hitler also systematically erased truth, obfuscating any critical observation of his actions, first with propaganda, or as the media so euphemistically calls it, “fake news,”  and then with jack-booted thugs.    And finally, he furiously accused his critics of the very things he was doing.   

Does that sound familiar?   Donald Trump has been screaming for more than a year now about making America great again.   He rode to prominence, in part, by repeating over and over the absurd notion that President Barak Obama was not born in the United States.   He has turned his eire on many ethnic groups, but particularly on Muslims, calling to register them, which is exactly what Hitler did to the Jews.   Trump also erases truth, shouting out a putrid stream of lies, each one more blatantly astonishing than the next and all of them repeated by a media drunk with the ratings gained by covering the outrageous buffoon.    

There can be no denying it.  A climate change is taking place in our nation along-side the environmental one created by carbon emissions.    This change  has to do with the creation of a climate of fear.     Donald Trump and his minions have successfully tuned in to the fear of  white Americans who feel their privilege and economic power slipping.   He has tapped into the frustrations of racists, misogynists and homophobes who have for several decades been kept under control by a growing surge of acceptance and tolerance in our land.    But the President-Elect,derides this acceptance and openness as “political correctness” and glibly offers tacit  permission  to attack gay men and shoot Arabs on the street.   The social  progress won by blood and determination in the struggle for  justice and human rights is being eroded by the corrosive acid  of fear.   

The climate change we are experiencing is dramatic.   From an environment characterized by an expanding circle of inclusion in our culture, to a pall of hatred of the other;  from a fresh wind of hope and possibility to poisonous rants of “Lock her up!  Lock her up,”    the America being ushered in by a Trump Presidency is the herald angel of fear.     

As the Trump regime takes shape, we have seen an avalanche of cabinet appointments that indicate where he intends to take the nation.    A climate change denier is in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency.   The head of one of the world’s biggest oil companies will be the Secretary of State, and the interests of his oil company are clearly not aligned with the interests of the nation.    A quasi-literate former Texas governor will be the head of the Department of Energy.    A person who never has had any engagement with public education is in charge of the Department of Education.    The list is long, and articulates a clear agenda.    We are looking at a regime that will remove health care from more than 20 million people.   We are about to experience the privatization of public education and of social security.     And, we are looking at state sponsored persecution of Muslims and other communities as well.   

The intent to dismantle America with the apparent assistance of a foreign power seems clear.   What is not clear, at least to this writer,  is how people of faith and integrity will respond.     What is not clear is what faithfulness and resistance look like in this time of burgeoning tyranny.    As the number of victims of this non-elected regime continues to grow, what are the choices before us?   

The first thing that occurs is that there needs to be a refusal to accept the normalization of the present circumstance.     This is not just another governmental transition.  This is not just an administration which sees things differently.   This is not merely a shift in point of view.       These people intend harm.  They are poised to hurt and destroy.    In the words of the infamous Koche Brothers, they intend to “destroy the dominant paradigm.”    They are glaringly clear about this intent, and we need not wait to see what they will do.      And we certainly do not, as some have said, hope for their success.   In the success of this coming government we will discover our mutual destruction.

So this is a call to resistance.   

This is not a time for whining or complaining or going numb in the chill waters of imminent totalitarianism.    This is a moment for decisive, clear opposition to what St. Paul calls “the rulers, the authorities, the cosmic powers of this present darkness, the spiritual forces of evil…..   (Eph. 6:10). ”      It is an urging  to insist with our lives on love when hate strives to be in charge.     It is a  It is a prophetic shout to each one of us to do a fearless moral inventory of who we are and what we are willing to do to counter this literal tide of evil.    

The question before us is this.   What sacrifices are we willing to make?   For sacrifice will be required.   This is not a reality that will dissolve before impotent ranting on social media.   For this climate change to be halted and reversed, people of good will and compassion will have to rise up, not just with voices but with action.    From engaging in local politics, such as town councils and school boards to participating in state and national campaigns, our energy, time and yes….sacrifice are required.    From openly sabotaging attempts to register Muslims to building alternative communities of safety for all people, the hope for the future begs our engagement.  

The work before us is an unpainted canvas, requiring imagination, creativity and courage.   Will we provide sanctuary for the dispossessed?  The time to draw is now.   Will we organize for non-violent resistance across the nation?  Will we sit on the doorsteps of elected officials?   This is the moment to dip our brushes into the colors of justice and hope.    From placing our bodies in the path of the machinery of hate to “driving a spike into the wheel of injustice (Dietrich Bohnhoeffer),”   today is the day we come together to create a masterpiece of equity and compassion.  

The Climate of hate and greed that has arisen can be turned back, but it will take the best and ultimate efforts of each one of us.   It will take commitment.  It will take perseverance.   Our common goal is to halt the pollution of hatred and lies, to put a stop to the toxic waste of social disintegration and to pour our lives into the creation of a new and and life-giving climate that will sustain and nourish all people, a world where all are safe and “none shall make them afraid.”
So let us abandon our cynicism and our despair.   Let us lay down our defeatism and claim together the joy of being in the struggle for the healing of the world.     Make today the day that we begin.  Make today the first day of a new era of wonder and power for all people.

Thursday, February 28, 2013


“Everyone who thirsts….come to the waters and drink….”
Isaiah 55:1

            Have you ever been thirsty?   I mean really thirsty.   
Thirsty like you have just eaten a whole bowl of really salty popcorn; thirsty like a dried piece of parchment.   Thirsty like you’ve been in the desert for days.   Thirsty.
            When you’re that thirsty it’s hard to think about anything else.    It’s tough to imagine doing the dishes or walking the dog or taking care of more serious business.   You’re just thirsty.   You can think of nothing but finding some water, somehow, some way.   In fact, when we’re that way, our thirst defines us.
            I think that many of us are thirsty in our spirits.
            I think that the life we lead sucks us dry and leaves us empty inside.   I think we are spiritually parched.  And I think that we thirst for God just like someone who has been wandering in the desert for three days thirsts for water.    Our spiritual thirst actually defines us.     But unlike someone who thirsts for water, we are unusually good at ignoring our thirst for God.   We mask our spiritual emptiness with booze,  sex, food, overwork and more and we think that we are somehow vaguely “spiritual.”   But the truth is that we are not….very spiritual.   We are literally dying of spiritual thirst, and we are so deep in denial about it that we can not consciously grasp it.
            So, with Isaiah I say today, “Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters and drink…!!!”     Notice it says, “everyone.”   We all thirst.  We all have deep needs for the Holy in our lives, and we are all really good at denying and ignoring this need.   Well, as the man says, “denial ain’t a river in Egypt.”  
            Let me issue this loving call today.   Let’s come to the waters of God and drink deeply of God’s wonderful Spirit.  Let’s step into deeper intentionality in our spiritual lives.  Let’s take on the power of spiritual discipline.  That’s right.  Discipline.    Let’s make time each day for prayer and study of Scripture.  Let’s claim our community as a place of power as we work together to go deeper in Discipleship.   Join a Spiritual Life Small Group.   Come to Bible Study.   Seek a prayer partner.  You know what to do.  So, at the risk of aping some sneaker company, “Just do it.”
            Come to the waters and drink and you will be amazed what if feels like to be nourished in the Holy Spirit.   You will suddenly be aware of just how spiritually thirsty you have been.   So let us drink at the fountain of  love.  Let us quench our thirst with God’s Holy Spirit.   Let us drink the water that will keep us forever from thirst (John 4:14).

                                                                        Pastor Schuyler Rhodes

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


            The election is over now and I want to confess to you that I am exhausted.   'Not that I did much around the election except vote and blow some hot air on facebook about it.  But still, the whole process left me breathless and bug-eyed.    For the better part of two years we've watched the ramp up to this presidential contest.    And I guess I really don't mind the ramp up and the hype.  I can even live with all the cash that got spent.  After all, even at the outlandish $6 Billion figure, it still only represents about one tenth of one percent of our Gross National Product.   But I digress.
              The thing that really wore me down was the almost total pandering to the perceived self-interest of the population.   How will this policy effect me?   What will it mean to me if this happens?   Will   taxes go up?    It reminds me of the old Beatles tune..."I  I Me Me Mine."    Now don't get me wrong.  I'm not opposed to self-interest.   Survival is a good thing.    As I glance at retirement, I want to make sure my pension and savings are secure.   I don't want to end up losing my home to a bunch of crooked bankers, and I sure don't want.......well......things that I don't want.
               But the truth in all this is that there's a whole world out there beyond what I want.   Indeed, my narrow,  perceived self-interest may in fact not be in my best interest.   Sure.  I want to continue to drive my car everywhere.  I like it.  I've always driven everywhere.  And I finally have a half way decent car to drive!   But really, isn't  it  time we all stepped out of our cars and onto a bus or a train?   Or, God forbid, maybe I could walk or ride my bicycle!   It's not what I want, but maybe it's better than that.
                Perhaps, too, there's a nobler way to go in all this.   Perhaps the things we want are simply less important than the greater good?   Maybe individualism has simply gone too far in this culture and we've lost any appropriate sense of community.  
                How about this?
                What if health care was free and available to all?    I know.  You may not get to choose your doctor.   Well, get over it.   Everyone getting access to health care is way more important than your individual right to choose your physician.   What if our public schools were of the highest quality in every community?   I know.   You want to send your child to the best school and you want tax dollar to do that.  Forget it.   Equal educational opportunity for every child in every community is simply the right thing to do.  
                I could go on and list all kinds of things that get shaped by our individual and often selfish choices.   But by now you get the picture.   Stepping away from our immediate selfish desires and offering our energies for the benefit of the whole community is, at the end of the day, in our best interests.
               So let's finish this year with a big communal shout!  Let's step forward and offer ourselves for the betterment of the whole community, not just ourselves.   Let's give some time to a feeding program. Volunteer to work with folks trying to stop criminal reposession of peoples' homes.   Become a big brother or big sister.   Mentor someone.    You know the drill.
               So yes, I'm worn out from all this me me me stuff.   And maybe I am a little grumpy.    But I promise I'll wake up tomorrow invigorated and ready to rock.  I promise that I will redouble my efforts to build community and bring justice to our neighborhoods.  I promise that I will pour myself into the loving act of serving others.   I promise to continue to work on letting go of what I want so that what we all need might come into view.


Friday, September 02, 2011


         One of the great truths of this life is that we can only really see the world through own eyes and by the contours of our own experience.     It is as though we all scuttle through existence living in the one celled prison of our own viewpoint and experience.     The difficult thing in all this is the quick and easy assumption that what we see, feel, or believe must absolutely be what someone sees, feels or believes.      How often I have heard someone proclaim a doctrine or an ideology as an inalterable truth.   How often have I sat among a gaggle of people where judgment is rolled out like a carpet and then thrown on top of a community or a person.      And, when our myopic worldview is mingled with anger or resentment,  or worse - self-righteousness, it's time for those around us to duck or get out of the way.    
          The unfortunate result of this is that there is a great deal of resentment, anger and judgment out there.    A lot of it is based on this assumption that we actually know something, when all we really know is what we ourselves think or see.   I'm reminded of the time when I was canvassing my community about how we might change or do something different.   One person came into my office, sat down and said, "I'm going to tell you what I think because if I think it, then everyone else must think it also....."     I remember this because I was so taken aback that I quickly wrote down the quote as the person was saying it.
          We all come from different perspectives and are taught by different experiences.    We all feel the light of the sun and wetness of the rain, it's true.   But we all experience it differently. 
          This is why grace is so important.    Grace is love that is unearned and even at times undeserved.   Grace is the eloquent and holy acknowledgement that everyone needs to be cut some slack.     We extend grace to someone who screws up badly.   We offer grace to someone with whom we disagree.   We receive grace when someone smiles in the face of a terrible mistake and shrugs.     And grace comes, too, when we have done our worst.    Here, grace gets called forgiveness.    
         So, because we don't see through someone else's eyes, maybe we can cut them a little slack now and then.   Because we don't carry with us the catalogue of another person's experiences, perhaps we back off and give folks a little space.....a little grace.
         It's not only a good idea for us to offer this grace to others.   If we're honest, we will admit that need grace ourselves.     Who, after all, doesn't need to be cut some slack once in a while?   Who doesn't need love....especially when they don't deserve it.
         It's my own belief that God loves us this way.     I also believe that God dares us to give it a try ourselves.   Grace.  Unearned, undeserved, unlimited love.     It's the thing that just might pull us through.   sr

Friday, December 10, 2010

Well, I am officially upset. I mean, I've been opposed to it; I've been nominally against it; I've even gotten myself arrested a couple of times in demonstrations that take a stand saying it's wrong. But now I am upset. Actually, I'm more than upset. I'm ticked off. I'm angry.

Sitting at table with community members the other night, we learned that four of the nine folk sitting there were unemployed. I hurt for them as they struggle, not only with finding work, but with all the accompanying feelings that come when you lose your job. It is not, to say the least, a pleasant And my prayers and thoughts are with them and with all the people whose jobs have evaporated in this economic morass we call a "recession."

But there's the thing.

This recession drags painfully on while we prosecute two wars on the other side of the world. And if wikileaks is to be believed, we're actually engaged in far more than that! Add to that the Pentagon budget of something over 500 billion dollars a year - and remember - the amount for the Pentagon in the federal budget does NOT inlcude our current wars! But consider this. There's a huge chunk of change going to kill people. It amounts to nearly sixty cents of every tax dollar.

And then, dear sisters and brothers, consider this. A dollar spent in the domestic economy goes something like thirty times further than it does when it's spent on the military.

Not only are these wars morally repugnant, wrong, and otherwise misguided. They are also strangling our economy as we go ever deeper into debt (mostly to China) to pay for them while our friends, neighbors, sisters, brothers, fellow church members are losing their means of supporting themselves and their families.

It's time to bring the boys and the girls home from Iraq, Afghanistan and wherever else they causing death and mayhem. It's time to cut the federal military budget in half, and it's long past time we began to invest in the things that create jobs and community.

So, I'm just sayin.' But the truth is that I'm really upset



Saturday, November 27, 2010

It's Thanksgiving. Well, actually it's a few days after Thanksgiving. At this point in time many of us are sliding into the Christmas season with vague memories of Turkey, family, long naps, and leftovers fading quickly from view.

I know I'm already gearing up for the season ahead with just a quick glimpse over my shoulder...an appreciative glimpse to be sure...but nonetheless a fleeting glimpse at several days of precious time with my family. It was wonderful. Simple, unhurried time. Stacking wood at the cabin, cooking time honored family recipes and going for long walks in the woods; all of it is a gift so welcome.

With friends out of work, people losing homes, and tough times everywhere I feel a little foolish lifting all this up just now. I think to myself that people don't want to hear about my thankfulness. And yet, maybe this is precisely the time to stop and be grateful.

No matter what's going on for us, there is cause for gratefulness. Those of us struggling with unemployment may pause to receive some well earned love and support. Grateful. Some of us wrestling with our own issues of worthiness and self-esteem may stop to take note of the fact that "God don't make junk," and there is talent, heart, soul and wonder buried beneath the folds of depression. Some folks are dealing with ruptured relationships this Thanksgiving. 'Hard to be grateful in the face of abandonment or betrayal, and yet....and yet....there is a whisper of healing in the wind. A relationship may be in ruins and life might seem beyond difficult. But love still presides over this life. Love of children, friends and family; love of community and love - yes - of God. Grateful.

No matter what our current location in life, everyone of us would benefit - and in turn those around us would benefit if we could all adopt what some slick preacher once called "an attitude of gratitude." Well, let's skip the inane rhyme and pause together to reflect with a grateful hearts.

For life, for love, for simple moments of sharing, for laughter and silliness, for bad jokes and for inspired sonnets, let us open our hearts in grateful thanksgiving.

Tomorrow, as we begin this Christmas season - getting ready for the Christ Child - let's do so with hearts renewed and fueled with prayers and shouts of Thanksgiving.

For as the old hymn says..."whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well...it is well with my soul." Indeed.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and welcome to this blessed Christmas-time, as we await the powerful possibilities that come with new life.