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Archive for February 2016


Rabbi Levi Yitzchok once saw a man hurrying frantically through the marketplace. Stopping the man the good rabbi said, “My dear fellow, please pause for a moment and tell me where you are running to so desperately.”

“I’m sorry, sir,” the man said, “but I can’t stop now. I am in pursuit of my happiness.”

Rabbi Yitzchok said, “But how do you know that your happiness lies in the direction you are heading? Perhaps it is the other way and you are really running from it.”

All of us have been guilty of letting our lives get too full and hectic as we frantically seek that illusive happiness that lives out there somewhere. Wise teachers have tried to persuade us that happiness cannot be found any place external but must be found within. There is great truth to that.

I wonder, though, if it also might be true that when we seek to find happiness we are frustrated because we actually are pursuing the wrong thing. What if we are like a “heat-seeking missile” that has nefariously been programed by the media to believe we are supposed to seek cold? That might not be a good illustration, but what if we can’t ever find happiness by seeking it?

If happiness was life’s goal I think the Bible might talk a great deal more about how to find it. Instead Jesus came calling us to serve, to give, to help, to heal. He didn’t provide a formula for finding happiness – or did he? Jesus talks about the Realm of God being like a person who found a great treasure hidden in a field and promptly went and bought the field. Note that he didn’t buy the treasure; he bought the field. Perhaps the happiness we so desperately desire can’t ever be found, but is the byproduct of a well-lived life.

I was talking to an old woman who had known great grief in her life. As we talked about her life and how all her children had died before her, I said, “Yet still you seem so happy.” She looked puzzled and said, “Really? I never thought about it. I guess I am but that wasn’t what I was living for.”


Michael Piazza
President, Hope for Peace & Justice

(February 2, 2012)



Read Today’s Newsletter HERE

tree with music notes

Pope Francis’ Reflection on Lent

 (from the Contemplative Life Bookstore

via Rev. Sue Ann Yarbrough)

 Perhaps most notable is the act of fasting. While Catholics fast on Ash Wednesday and on Fridays during the Lenten season, many people-religious or not-take up this increasingly popular discipline during the year.

But Pope Francis has asked us to reconsider the heart of this activity this Lenten season. According to Francis, fasting must never become superficial. He often quotes the early Christian mystic John Chrysostom who said: “No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.”

So, if we’re going to fast from anything this Lent, Francis suggests that even more than candy or alcohol, we fast from indifference towards others.

In his annual Lenten message, the pope writes, “Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.”

Describing this phenomenon he calls the globalization of indifference, Francis writes that “whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.” He continues that, “We end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.”

But when we fast from this indifference, we can began to feast on love. In fact, Lent is the perfect time to learn how to love again. Jesus-the great protagonist of this holy season-certainly showed us the way. In him, God descends all the way down to bring everyone up. In his life and his ministry, no one is excluded.

“What are you giving up for Lent?” It’s a question a lot of people will get these next few days. If you want to change your body, perhaps alcohol and candy is the way to go. But if you want to change your heart, a harder fast is needed. This narrow road is gritty, but it isn’t sterile. It will make room in ourselves to experience a love that can make us whole and set us free.

And from the back of UCC 2016 Lent Devotional:

“What if you didn’t ask for help in becoming a better person and prayed instead for the grace to stop being the subject of your own little life project?  What if this year you gave yourself up, not just chocolate, beer, or Facebook?  What if this lent you invited God to speak not so much to your behaviors as to your heart?”


lent - give up yourself


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lent art

Love, Unexpected

Reprinted from Original

Article dated 2-12-14

The airport was crowded, flights were delayed, and everything was beginning to annoy me.  Too loud – too long – too uncomfortable — no end in sight.  A family with a little boy about 3 or 4 years old squeezed in next to me, and I swear I actually sighed to myself as I imagined another few hours of squirmy, fussy energy, invading my space.  (I know – what a grump.  But there it is.)

The little boy asked his mom if he could go over to the window to watch the airplanes.  The window, about 50 feet away, was within easy sightline, so she said yes, and he happily ran over to peer out to the runway.  After about 45 seconds, he turned, looked back at his mother, and shouted at the top is his voice:  “Mommy, I love you!”    She smiled and said, “I love you, too!” as he came running back for a hug.  After a moment or two in her arms, he returned to the window, only to turn around again, and again in a surprisingly loud voice, proclaim his love.  She laughed a little, slightly embarrassed, as he charged back for a quick hug, then returned to the window.  After the third “Mommy, I love you!!”, she replied:  “I love you, too, but you need to use a quieter voice.”  He looked puzzled, shrugged, and then shouted: “But Mommy, I really love you!”

By this time, everyone around was smiling.  We met each others eyes knowingly, older people recalling children and grandchildren whose love had once been that obvious and un-self-conscious,  younger people perhaps remembering a time when they had felt safe enough to love someone with their whole heart.  “I remember that age,” I confided to my nearest neighbor (a stranger).  “You have kids?” he asked.  “Two – almost grown,” I replied.  “Wow, it goes fast, doesn’t it?” he said.  “I’ve got three kids…”  and so it went.  I saw a picture of someone’s favorite niece’s newborn, and heard about a wedding coming up for another traveler.  Soon, the little boy was back with his mom for good, playing with something from his backpack, completely unaware of the effect he’d had on the people around him.   It was still a long wait, and the airport was still crowded and loud, but it wasn’t uncomfortable anymore.

Love comes in unexpected packages.  Valentine’s Day carries so many cultural expectations and so much commercial hype, and it focuses so exclusively on romantic love, that we can forget how big Love really is.  It’s as big as a jumbo jet – as an airport waiting room – as a three year olds loudest voice.  It’s so big it can connect strangers and create communities.  And it is so big that it never goes away—even when our attention wanders or our hope wavers, Love is still there.

“Dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God.” 

(1 John 4:7)

If you don’t remember anything else about love and life this Valentine’s Day, remember this:

you are loved, really loved.

Shout it, share it, pass it on.

Thanks be to God




Today’s Newsletter Here

Ash Wednesday Symbol


Go HERE for today’s Newsletter