Sunday, December 21, 2008

Daily Advent Reflection: Dec 21

Fourth and Final Week of Advent, December 21 — December 24

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! God is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.
— Luke 1:26-31

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
—Luke 1: 39-42

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for God has looked with favor on the lowliness of God’s servant. ... God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; God had filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”
—Luke 1: 46-48, 52-53

“With haste” Mary went to visit her relative Elizabeth. Mary had just found out, from an angel, that she was pregnant. And the angel told her that Elizabeth, her older cousin, was pregnant too. So it must have been a comfort to be with Elizabeth, another woman, a relative, someone else who was pregnant, during an undoubtedly scary time.

Mary was in big trouble—by society’s standards. She was to be married soon to Joseph. To outsiders, she was simply knocked up outside the boundary’s of what was acceptable. Joseph wasn’t involved. By the law of their society, Joseph could have Mary stoned to death.

Keep in mind that Mary was very young, maybe about 13. She was living in an occupied land. Empire seeped into her everyday life. Violence of all sorts, killing, rape, extortion, were common. She was not powerful. She had no voice in this culture. And from this context, perhaps afraid, and running for her life, she seeks the comfort of another woman.

And Elizabeth smiles and embraces her, and calls her blessed. From this embrace of blessing, she remembers the words of the angel, “God is with you.” And Mary’s soul sours. She sings a song of liberation. It is a song for all who experience oppression. For all who have been forced to live with the stares of others brought on from breaking society’s sexual norms. Even though she lives in the belly of the empire, she holds within her hope. And her song, can become our song, and our hope, too. God will bring down the powerful and lift up the lowly. God’s mercy is great. God is with us. God will bring life where there was shame.

Let us be quick to remember our blessing. Let us be quick to bless. And never forget that in the reign of God the voiceless give birth to hope and sing songs of liberation that bring life to the world.


Sweet mother of us all, only you know the true potential that is carried deep within each of your children. May we live with pregnant expectancy in the coming weeks, as we wait and work for your justice.

Prayer for lighting the fourth candle.

May we remember our blessings, and be a blessing to others.

Activities for this week

  • Attend a Christmas service. Many churches have candlelight services, or reflective services that can help create a space of calm and beauty in the midst of a stressful season. Join the Living will host a candle light service on Dec. 21 at 6:30 pm at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church 545 S. 5th AVE, Tucson. The church will also be open for quiet meditation from 4 pm until 6:30 pm. We’ll offer a meal to share together at 5:30 pm. Come for any of the evening. See the blog entry below for more about the service.

  • Remember those whose sexuality makes them second class citizens. Women as well as people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (just to name a few) are often demeaned or discriminated against because of issues related to sexuality. If this resonates with your own experience, consider how Mary’s story may speak to you. If you aren’t already an ally to the LGBT community, consider becoming one and becoming more involved at

  • Give money away. A movement called Advent Conspiracy invites people to give more money away at Christmas. If you have money to give, consider helping build water wells in Africa (, or helping the Community Food Bank in Tucson, which last we heard, was so overwhelmed with trying to meet people’s basic food needs, it did not have enough resources to provide Christmas boxes to families this year.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Longest Night Christmas Service Tomorrow

Sunday, Dec. 21 Join the Living will host space for meditation, community meal sharing, and a time for collective reflection and prayers. All are welcome to participate in any part of the evening.

4 — 6:30 pm

Silent, personal meditation and prayer in the Sanctuary.

The small stone and wood sanctuary of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church will be lit with candles and decked out with fresh Christmas greens. It will be true sanctuary and refuge. Come and go any time from 4 to 6:30. Simply sit in the silence for as long as you like, or light a candle, or say a prayer. It's open space for you. All welcome.

5:30 pm

A meal will be available in the parish hall.

Vegetarian. Local food. By pay-what-you-can donation.
All welcome.

6:30 pm

A short service of readings, prayer, reflection, and music.

We will honor the longest night, as well as the grief, sadness, fear, and anger we may carry with us at this time, but we will also celebrate the light of Christ, and pray that the light be born in our world anew. All Welcome.

St. Andrew's Episcopal Church is located at 545 S. 5th Ave (at the corner of 5th Ave and 16th Street).

Parking is available on the street in the neighborhood. The church is wheelchair accessible.

Daily Advent Reflection: Dec 20

Perhaps you've heard of the Advent Conspiracy. It's a national movement to bring the true story and spirit of Christmas back. In Tucson several churches have joined together to support one another in living out the Advent Conspiracy,

But the idea of celebrating Christmas without so much consumption has been around for a while. In 1973, a group called Alternatives for Simple Living formed as a protest against the commercialism of Christmas. Alternatives for Simple Living is still around encouraging people of faith to examine and challenge our consumer society.

Check them out and their many year-round resources for churches and families at

Alternatives for Simple Living also produced a Christmas song book, Carols with Justice, a while back. Thanks to our friend Patricia Morrison, who introduced us to the group and let us borrow the song book.

Here are some of the alternative justice verses for some old favorites. Just add them in to the original song after singing the original first verse...

Away in a Manger

Teach all the world leaders there's no room for hate.
Peace, love and compassion will justice create.
Let kindness and fairness for all folk prevail.
Our care for each other shows God's love is real.

When children are crying and mothers distressed,
Because those in power with greed are obsessed,
We seek to find justice, compassion for them
Because of Christ Jesus born in Bethlehem.

We want to be gentle like this little one
Who sleeps in the manger, God's own precious son.
We ask the Lord's blessing that we may do right
To those all around us and those not in sight.

Silent Night

Silent night, holy night!
When will peace
conquer might?
Pray that justice will set victims free,
Those who are shackled to bleak poverty.
Christ be born in each heart,
Christ be born in each heart.

We wish you a merry Christmas

Regular chorus and first verse, then...

Remember the poor, the sick and the old;
Your love for all people is worth more than gold.

Make freedom and peace and mercy your aim,
For Christ came at Christmas to set hearts a flame.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Daily Advent Reflection: Dec 19

This weekend memorials for those who have died without homes and on the streets will happen nationwide. Many cities are planning memorial services around the Longest Night of the Year, which is Sunday, December 21.

Today in Tucson, Primavera Foundation will host our community's annual Homeless Memorial. The public is welcome to attend.

The memorial service, begins at 4 p.m. at Evergreen Cemetery and Mortuary, 3015 N. Oracle Road. This past year 128 people died in Pima County's streets and desert washes.

Kate will be one of the religious leaders to speak at the service.

The rascally righteous modern prophet dude, Shane Claiborne, is pictured above.
Click on the pic to go to a story about when he got arrested
for standing in solidarity with his friends without houses in Philly.

Jesus was born in situational homelessness. Maybe it was a covered shed for the sheep. Maybe it was a small cave carved from the side of a small hill. The community shelter: the inn was full that night. His parents were traveling to be counted for a census demanded by the Empire in which they lived. And in the midst of this movement that was not by their choice, far from home, Jesus was born.

And later as he walked and taught in his homeland, Jesus was pretty much homeless. He once explained to someone who wanted to follow him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head." (Matthew 8:20)

How To Save A Life This Winter

Published November 22, 2008 @ 12:46PM PST, on

It's cold out there. As the temperature drops, people living on the streets face an increased risk of frostbite, hypothermia, or even death. Earlier this year, in February, four Atlanta homeless people died in one night due to the freezing weather.

But it doesn't have to be this way. Doctors and nurses from Boston's innovative Health Care for the Homeless program have compiled a list of tips for people who want to help save a life this winter.

  1. "Can you hear me?"
    In extremely cold temperatures, it's important not to dismiss an unconscious individual. It takes just a few seconds to check if someone is responsive by asking if he or she can hear you. If you don't get a response, call 911.
  2. Extra Coffee
    Purchase a small, decaffeinated coffee (caffeinated may add to dehydration) during your morning coffee run and give it to someone on the street. Just a small hot drink can warm someone up. Hot chocolate is a good alternative.
  3. Disorientation
    Disorientation, confusion and even "inappropriate" behavior might be signs of the onset of hypothermia. In the dead of winter, if someone appears confused and disoriented, it is important not to misunderstand and dismiss these symptoms. Look for the other signs of hypothermia - extreme shivering, exhaustion, slurred speech and drowsiness - and call for help if they're present.

Instead of turning the other way when you see a homeless person on the streets this winter, pay attention. You could save a life.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Daily Advent Reflection: Dec 18

A modern reflection on Isaiah 61: 1-4

The spirit of the one who Will Be Who She Will Be is with me, because She has breathed her life into me; she has sent me to bring good news to those who sleep on the streets, to wash the blistered feet of the migrant worker lost in the borderland desert, to bring warm meals and news from the neighborhood each week to the elders alone and captive in their homes, and release to the prisoners locked by the shame of the past, to proclaim the year that God winked and danced with us, and the mere day when the fallen powers get what’s coming; to comfort all who weep and grieve with heavy hearts; to provide for those who mourn so much they keep calling in sick to work day after day—to place a wreath of sweet honeysuckle and roses gently on their heads with a kiss, to let the smile lines of gladness take up permanent residence on their cheeks instead of tears, and let them be enveloped in praise instead of weighted down by a faint spirit.

People will see them and say, “They are like oak trees. I want to curl up on the soft grass under their strength and shade.” They shall transform super fund sites into play grounds, they shall turn whole despairing neighborhoods into urban gardens; they shall inhabit the abandoned places of Empire and open up pay-what-you-can organic cafes, and the devastations of many generations shall be overgrown with bike lanes and fruit trees and all shall live in "a friendly world of friendly folk beneath a friendly sky."

Thanks to Howard Thurman, an African-American mystic and theologian, who brought the "friendly folk" image into the world.
The rest was written by Carol Bradsen at Time Market cafe while drinking a cup of coffee on this cloudy morning in Tucson.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Join the Living in the Tucson Weekly

The Tucson Weekly published the following article about Join the Living today.

A local group seeks to promote the true meaning of Christmas--and spirituality


Dr. Seuss got the true essence of Christmas right in How the Grinch Stole Christmas! At the end of the story, the Grinch realizes the holiday isn't about materialism.

"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas ... perhaps ... means a little bit more!"

The Grinch's realization is lost on many people, who flit from store to store and even trample each other to get bargains. But change is afoot, thanks to an international movement called the Advent Conspiracy, which seeks to replace Christmas consumption with four concepts: Worship fully; spend less; give more; and love all.

Tucsonans have been participating in this movement with its own Christmas Conspiracy. Activities have included potluck gift-making and a barter bazaar. The last event--at 4 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 21, at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church--is a service with meditation, a meal, prayer and candlelight.

The events have been coordinated by Join the Living, a soon-to-be nonprofit that focuses on spiritual practices and building community. Co-founders Carol and Kate Bradsen exchanged vows in a blessing ceremony last year.

A goal behind Join the Living is to help others find meaning in their lives.

"I wanted to answer a larger call," explains Kate, an ordained Episcopal priest. "Part of that call is about helping other people answer theirs. The idea is we can all become fully alive in whatever way that means to us."

Specifically, Join the Living focuses on spiritual practice and community building while offering various collaborative projects including a blog, creative liturgical community events (such as the Christmas Conspiracy), an Easter vigil, services and an upcoming magazine called Bread and Oranges.

The magazine "is a collection of personal stories and essays of how people are living with hope, imagination and community," says Carol, a freelance writer and graphic designer.

The couple seeks to move forward with a new living model called the Restoration Project. Seven ministers and activists meet weekly and are interested in living in a spiritual community and doing social-justice work.

"Our bottom line is about living with love, justice and peace," says Kate. "We want to all live in close proximity and offer retreats, classes, a pay-what-you-can café and daily prayer."

The couple identifies as Progressive Christians--those who include all people regardless of sexual identity and religious path.

"Progressive Christians read the Bible in such a way that the love and justice of God celebrates the diversity of humanity," explains Carol.

Inclusion is an important part of the Christmas Conspiracy.

"We're taking part of what we believe to be the essence of Christmas, but making it accessible to people who may or may not be Christians, may or may not celebrate Christmas, may or may not go to church but still they can get something from it. ... Christmas is not supposed to be about debt and consumerism. It is supposed to be about relationship, love, justice and peace and the things that are so important to who ... human beings are," explains Kate.

She sums up Christmas in a simple yet profound way: The joy of Christmas is that light shines in the darkness--and that light is the fact that God is always with us, even in the dark of winter.

An eloquent explanation comes from Carol, spoken clearly without pause.

"Christmas is a Christian holiday, and it's been co-opted by our consumerist society as a tool for profit. Jesus was a prophet with a 'ph,' not with an 'f.' The real story is being covered with bows and wrapping paper and credit-card debt.

"The real story is that Jesus came to give the message that God was for the poor, the oppressed. That God wanted to see justice done, wanted to see people love each other, and wanted people to be free and didn't want people to be suffering. That's what Jesus was trying to say and offer people. And that's the message of Christmas, and that's the hope--that God is still with us. ... If we love each other and look out for each other, we can join in with that power, and that force of love will change the world."

Change is the keystone of the Advent Conspiracy, which asks, "What if Christmas became a world-changing event again?"

I'd say if the Grinch can increase his heart size by three, there's still hope for Christmas.

Daily Advent Reflection: Dec 17

The Language of Hope

This activity for kids could also be something folks of any age could try today. It's making your own Hope Haikus. It's an activity posted on the Loyola Press website.

The details are below. But the main thing is just remember 5-7-5 and give it a go. If any one tries it, we hope you'll add it to the blog via the comment section at the end of the entry.

Happy haikuing.

Activity Objective
The young people will be led to personal reflection and expression of the meaning of hope.

Lesson Outcome
The young people should be able to explain the virtues of faith, hope, and love.


  • Scratch paper, one sheet per young person
  • Pencils
  • Two sheets of paper (4.5 x 5.5 inch) per young person
  • Eight-inch piece of string (one per young person)
  • Tempura paints
  • Black markers
  • Small containers for paint
  • Newspapers
  • Instrumental music
  • CD player

Solo Activity

  • Share with the young people the form of Japanese poetry called haiku. Explain that a haiku has three unrhymed lines. The first line has five syllables, the second has seven syllables, and the third has five syllables.
  • Allow the young people time for silent reflection and to gather their ideas about how to describe hope. Then have them use scratch paper to write two haikus about hope. The haikus should refer to nature and use a simile or metaphor. For example:

    Glowing orange sun

    Darting through scattered gray clouds

    Reminds me of hope

  • Distribute the sheets of paper (4.5 x 5.5) and the string.
  • Direct the young people to follow these steps:
    • Dip the string in tempura paint.
    • On one of the sheets of paper, form the string into a design.
    • Cover the design with the other sheet of paper.
    • Place a book on top.
    • Slowly pull out the string.
    • Remove the book and separate the papers to dry.
    • Print or write the haiku with black marker on the dry paper.
  • Display the artwork.

Approximate Time
25 minutes


  • Playing instrumental music helps to create a reflective atmosphere.
  • Have several containers of each paint color to alleviate congestion.
  • Cover painting surfaces with newspaper.

Learning Styles

  • Art/Space Smart
  • Self Smart
  • Word Smart

Finding God Themes

  • Hope
  • Living Our Faith
  • Virtues

Monday, December 15, 2008

Daily Advent Reflection: Dec 15

This short film below is a story of prophecy and of hope for the future.

The images and ideas of the film are shaped around the knowledge and vision of Willy Whitefeather, a Cherokee elder.

It is beautiful, moving, profound and well worth 7 minutes to watch (the last minute is credits).

Directed by Catherine Margerin, Visionary Willy Whitefeather, produced by Mary Mathaisell

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Daily Advent Reflection: Dec 14

The Dawn of Hope
Third Week of Advent

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion-- to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory. They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.

—Isaiah 61:1-4

These verses from Isaiah were written from among a people experiencing profound loss. They had been exiled from their home, torn from their land—from all that made life make sense. They were living with the sense that God had abandoned them. Much lament and heartache come before this hopeful vision full of possibility.

One of the first public things Jesus did according to the gospel of Luke (chapter 4, verses 14-22) was read some of these words from Isaiah. Jesus did not first demand repentance from people. First, he stood in the spiritual community of his youth and read the words from Isaiah...freedom to those held captive, good news for the poor. Jesus says that God is looking with favor on God’s people, not judgment. He’s letting us know that God shows up first with an open hand to those on the bottom. This grace-filled gesture is what Jesus first points to. This is the kingdom of God that Jesus says is already present among us. If we just wake up to see it.

The 20th century theologian, Paul Tillich, once wrote,

“Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life...It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection of life does not appear.”

The author of Isaiah, Jesus, Paul Tillich, they are all trying to tell people in great pain, people like us, that God will keep showing up.

We can live with hope, not because we ourselves necessarily have any. But because God tells us and shows us time and time again—through prophets, through the birth and teachings of Jesus, through tiny moments of grace in our own imperfect days—that we are not alone and that freedom is both here, now, and coming.

Hope drags us out of our beds of despair into the cold streets to stare at the dark horizon and wait for the dawn. We may find ourselves standing, waiting, half asleep and shivering, but God whispers to us, “It may be cold, but I’m still here, the dawn is coming, and I want you to be free.”

—Carol Bradsen


Great light of the new dawn, you rise each morning in the face of deep darkness. So may we too find a way to remember the hope that we are called to, and work to plant it in ourselves and in all those whom we encounter. Amen.

Prayer for lighting the third advent candle this week

God give us hope, because we need it.

Ways to try living with hope this week

  • Watch the sunrise. In Tucson this week the sun rises at about 7:15 am. Try going outside to watch the sky, and wait for the sunrise. Listen. What is God trying to say to you?

  • Light candles of gratitude. Gratitude helps nurture hope. At the end of each day this week, find a few candles, or light the candles on your advent wreath. As you light each one, think of something you were grateful for that day. Another way is to think about the moments of the day in which you felt most alive, or happy. Sit in the silence for a few minutes before you blow the candles out.

  • Be kind. Smile at strangers. Offer hope to people who need it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Daily Advent Reflection: Dec 13

A little "Prepare the way" from Godspell.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Daily Advent Reflection: Dec 12

Okay. Prepare the way. That's the theme this week.

But how do we know what to do? How do we prepare? Where's the list?

What if ...

our doing is best preceded by being.

And our being is best done in God.

And God is perhaps best known in whispered stillness.

And in stillness there is waiting and listening.

The Tao Te Ching asks:

Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and your water becomes clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?

—Tao Te Ching 15

And once that "right action" arises from the clear stillness, we can step out to do.

All the while remembering that our right action is our right action. It is our piece in the larger mosaic. We are freed from trying to do everything. My list won't look like your list.

So today, prepare the way for God to be born in the world anew! But first, wait.

—Carol Bradsen

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Daily Advent Reflection: Dec 11

How do we prepare the way for God, for a new way of living? Love is usually a good answer to most questions like this. How then do we love? Here's one thought...

To love is to be responsible like this in everything:
the work we do,
the things we buy,
the food we eat,
the people we look up to,
the movies we see,
the words we use,
every choice we make from morning till night.
That is the real measure of love; it is a wonderfully demanding responsibility.

—Eknath Easwaran

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Daily Advent Reflection: Dec 10

Today's daily office reading according to the use of the Episcopal Church includes these verses from the book of Isaiah in the Hebrew Scriptures.

A Vision of God in the Temple

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:

‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.’

The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am one of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’

Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.’ Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’
—Isaiah 6:1-8

Today is also national Day Without a Gay day. A day when many in the queer community plan to call in "gay" to work, and instead volunteer in the community to take a stance against hatred by spreading love in the world.

It is also International Human Rights Day, and the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration begins,

"Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world, ..."

You can read it in full here in 360 different languages.

None of us are free until all of us are free.

In light of today's reading and the historical nature of this day, here is a video for reflection from the Cathedral of Hope choir in Dallas, Texas, singing Here I am, Lord. Cathedral of Hope is the largest predominantly gay congregation in the world.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Daily Advent Reflection: Dec 9

As we wait, it is not easy.

As we long for God to show up and fix everything, we are just reminded during Advent that once when God did show up, God was a baby. Vulnerable and crying.

As we prepare the way for God and for justice, it can be exhausting and disheartening to honestly confront just how high the mountains reach and how low the valleys go.

In this video and song by Michael Franti and Spearhead: Hey World (Don't Give Up Version), I imagine God is singing to the world, "Don't give up on me, I won't give up on you. Just believe in me like I believe in you."

What do you hear?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Daily Advent Reflection: Dec 8

School children tell the story of an angel visiting Mary and the birth of John the Baptist...

From Brown Bag Films, "Give Up Yer Aul Sins," is a series of short films based on Dublin school children telling bible stories to their teacher in the 1960s.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas Conspiracy Gift Making Party Today

Today, Sunday, Dec. 7, is the second gift-making party.

We'll have a sewing machine set up, lots of paint and various creative supplies.

Bring any thing you'd like to add to the communal pile of shared creative supplies. But you can also just bring your own project and hang out. We've checked out about a dozen books from the library on making your own gifts to help spark ideas. Today we'll also have a big bucket of paper mache goo ready to go. It can be formed into all sorts of shapes and then painted.

Next Sunday is the Barter Bazaar. No money will be exchanged, just trading.

Both begin at 4 pm at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church Parish Hall, 545 S. 5th AVE, Tucson.

At 5:30 a vegetarian meal will be available for a pay-what-you-can donation.

Daily Advent Reflection: Dec 7

Week 2
December 7th-December 13

Preparing a new way

A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’

—Isaiah 40:3-5

Of all the characters in the Bible, John the Baptist is the one you would most likely run from if you saw him on the street. The biblical stories of him tell of a crazy man, wandering the wilderness dressed in camel hair and eating locusts. But more than looking and acting a little crazy, John the Baptist talked crazy. Like so many of the prophets before him, he claimed that things were going to get better. He called out to a people who lived in poverty under the thumb of a repressive regime and told him that some day everyone will be equal. Someday justice will be served.

I have heard that when people initially went to register African American people during the civil rights movement, many of them refused. They believed that white men were going to do whatever they wanted. They did not believe that they would ever truly be granted power in the political system. If you had told them that some day there would be an African American president, they would have scoffed at you.

They thought that John the Baptist was crazy.

Sometimes I do too.

To call out for equality, to work for justice, to try every day to answer to a different bottom line than the systems of oppression and violence that keep so many people down—this is no easy work. There is no easy road to freedom. But if there is any clear, dominant message of the Bible, it is that we must spend our lives working for justice and equality.

John the Baptist is so named in part because he is the person who baptized Jesus. It was a crazy man who thrust Jesus into his ministry, and the message of that same crazy is as true today as it was two thousand years ago. This world is not the world of God’s dream. The way we live is not the way God imagined we would at our creation. All of us need to turn back. We need to change the way we live individually. We need to change the way we live as a society.

While this call, like the call to keep awake, can be overwhelming, that is no excuse for inaction. Like any road, the road to freedom begins with one step. Our ancestors would never believe how far their steps have taken us. We may not see the dream of God in its fullness, but we owe it to ourselves, to each other, and to the generations that come after us, to take the next step.

—Kate Bradsen


God, prepare in us your new way. Make the places in our heart where love lives, a little bigger. And give us courage to accept and tend what you plant there.

Prayer for lighting the second advent candle this week:

May this light guide us as we take the next step to prepare for the dream of God.

Some ideas for preparing for a new way in your own life

  • Prepare yourself for the day. If you do not do so already, take a few minutes each morning to prepare yourself for the day. One way is to sit in silence, and take a few deep breaths. Remember that God says to you, “You are my beloved.” Rest in that reality for a few minutes before you do anything.

  • Write down your dreams. The more you pay attention to your dreams the more they will speak to you. How might the Spirit be stirring in your dreams to prepare a new way in you?

  • Reach out to those who are preparing for a long journey. Thousands of people forced from their homes for lack of economic opportunity are preparing to cross the border this week. Many are separated from their familes. From October 1, 2007 to September 30, 2008, 183 people died while crossing the border in Arizona.

The organization, No More Deaths, seeks to end death and suffering on the U.S./Mexico border through civil initiative. Their action and humanitarian aid is based on the conviction that people of conscience must work openly and in community to uphold fundamental human rights. The work of No More Deaths embraces the Faith-Based Principles for Immigration Reform and focuses on the following themes:

• Direct aid that extends the right to provide humanitarian assistance
• Witnessing and responding
• Consciousness raising
• Global movement building
• Encouraging humane immigration policy.

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson has created an interactive, holiday resource for families to learn about the border and then donate money to No More Deaths. Parts of the project have been reprinted below with their permission, including part of the introduction and the questions for this week.

The questions are designed to help us understand a complex situation that is playing out on our southern border with Mexico. Every day and night, hundreds of people embark on a journey to enter the United States in the hopes of finding better jobs, providing children with better educations, sleeping in safer homes, building more promising futures.

Politics, trade policies, enforcement strategies and national security all play a key part in this story of migration, but we want to focus on the moral and spiritual aspects. How do we welcome the strangers in our land? How do we treat others as we wish to be treated? How do we make sure that justice and compassion cross all borders?

We hope this activity will spark interesting conversations and lead us to consider things that we may not have thought about before. We also hope this activity will help generate some funds that will go to support our ministry of No More Deaths, whose volunteers are working year-round to provide humanitarian aid with the ultimate goal of ending the death and suffering in our backyard.

This is only a suggested donation - be as generous as you feel comfortable.

Sunday 12/7
When migrants are repatriated back to Mexico, it's
common that all their money has been taken except
for a little bit of change, which is all they have to
survive on. How much change do you have in your
pocket or purse right now?
(Add actual amount) =

Monday 12/8
Since people without documentation cannot easily
open bank accounts to cash pay checks, they must
rely on check cashing services that take a percentage
of their money. How many of these services
(CheckMate, Payday Loans, etc.) did you pass today
as you went around town?
____x $.25=

Tuesday 12/9
Migrants have to sleep under trees along the path.
How many beds do you have in your home?
____ x $.25=

Wednesday 12/10
Migrants will often bring a small piece of paper with
a few phone numbers or addresses of people they
will look up when they get to their destination. How
many phone numbers are stored in your cell phones?
____x $.10= 

Thursday 12/11
Some migrants cross several borders before arriving
at their final destination. How many countries have
you been to?
____x $.25=

Friday 12/12
If detained by the Border Patrol, a migrant will have
all of his/her personal belongings taken and
sometimes not returned. How many accessories (belt,
watch, wallet, jewelry, hat, etc.) are you wearing?
____x $.25=

Saturday 12/13
Many loved ones send a love letter or meaningful
note with the person making the journey North
hoping it will give them strength for the challenging
trip. How many notes have you sent to loved ones in
the last month?
____x $1.00=

TOTAL= ________

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Daily Advent Reflection: Dec 6

Today's reflection comes on a Saturday, the weekly day of rest and reflection our Jewish sisters and brothers honor as commanded by God. The following was spoken by Rabbi Arthur Waskow and can be read in its entirety here.

In the following excerpt, Rabbi Waskow is telling about the two names that God reveals to Moshe (Moses) through a burning bush...

"The first one is Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh. "I will be who I will be." I am not stuck in who I was, or who I am. I am becoming. Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh. A great spiral of transformation, in which we draw again and again on what has gone before us, ancient and just 25 years ago. We draw on what has come before us in order to move forward deeply on the great spiral. Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh. With such a God, we, too, can become.

And the second name that God reveals: God calls Moshe aside, intimately, and whispers, "Let me tell you my nickname. What is my nickname? Yud Hey Vov Hey." No vowels. Not Jehova or Yahweh. Certainly not Adonai, Lord. These are strange letters. Not quite consonants, not quite vowels. Yud Hey Vov Hey. In English, Y-H-W-H. This is the name we have been taught not to pronounce.

So, on a day that honors rebels, I invite you -- l don't command you -- I invite you, if you are willing, quietly, to try, simply, to pronounce it. Y-H- W-H, with no vowels. Y-H-W-H. With no vowels. For me, it comes out [DEEP EXHALE] just breathing. The most intimate name of God, just breathing. What we breathe out, the trees breathe in. What the trees breathe out, we breathe in. We breathe each other into life. We gather together to breathe words with each other, to join the Breath of Life. And the Breath of Life breathes out, as well as in. The Breath of Life inspires, and the Breath of Life expires."

© Rabbi Arthur Waskow [Permission is given to reproduce for personal use, provided the entire text is kept intact, including this notice. Other uses require the permission of the author.] Rabbi Arthur Waskow founded and directs the Shalom Center and is the author of Godwrestling, and other works of Jewish renewal.

This 2006 video is of Rabbi Waskow calling for peace. May we be provoked to wake up, take a deep breath and join the Breath of Life in becoming peace ...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Daily Advent Reflection: Dec 5

Today's reflection comes from The Song of Simeon and the Book of Common Prayer order for compline, which is an ancient night-time prayer. It can be read alone at any time, or try reading it with your dear ones at night before sleeping.

Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake
we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.

Lord, you now have set your servant free
to go in peace as you have promised;
For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior,
whom you have prepared for all the world to see:
A Light to enlighten the nations,
and the glory of your people Israel.
Glory to God, and to the Christ, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

All repeat the Antiphon

Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake
we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Daily Advent Reflection: Dec 4

In the spirit of keeping awake, and in light of yesterday's division in the Episcopal church, receive this blessing today from Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Advent Reflection: Dec. 3

"Darius and the Clouds"
from The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

"You can never have too much sky. You can fall asleep and wake up drunk on sky, and sky can keep you safe when you are sad. Here there is too much sadness and not enough sky. Butterflies too are few and so are flowers and most things that are beautiful. Still, we take what we can get and make the best of it.

Darius, who doesn't like school, who is sometimes stupid and mostly a fool, said something wise today, though most days he says nothing. Darius, who chases girls with firecrackers or a stick that touched a rat and thinks he's tough, today pointed up because the world was full of clouds, the kind like pillows.

You all see that cloud, that fat one there? Darius said. See that? Where? That one next to the one that look like popcorn. That one there. See that. That's God, Darius said. God? somebody little asked. God, he said, and made it simple."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Gift Making Party & Workshop This Sunday

Our second gift-making party is Sunday, Dec. 7. at 4 pm at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church.

You can bring your own project and hang out or jump into the big pile of supplies and idea books on hand.

This week we'll have a sewing machine set up (thanks to Alana who fixed it!), a bucket of paper mache goo ready to go, and a color printer and computer for making t-shirt transfers (we have a few transfer sheets to share), along with an iron and ironing board.

At 5:30 we'll serve some homemade soup. Supper is a suggested donation of $5 or pay-what-you-can to help cover the cost of the seasonal, mostly local food.

Here are some scenes from last weeks gift making party.

Daily Advent Reflection: Dec. 2

Keeping Awake

Let me respectfully remind you:
life and death are of extreme importance.

Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is easily lost.
Each of us should strive to awaken, awaken, awaken.
Take heed, do not squander your life.

—Buddhist Gatha

God we do not want to squander our lives. Help us to wake up. And to be ready to welcome you with open arms where ever you show up this week.

One way to awaken is through meditation. The website from the younger folks involved in the World Community for Christian Mediation is a good place to start...

And here's a bit more on breathing from Tom Harpur, who wrote the book, Prayer: The Hidden Fire. (Kelowna, BC: Northstone Publishing, 1998)...

"Catch your breath and it will free you. Breathing properly is perhaps the most basic factor in meditation. You can base an entire period of meditation just on your breathing. In fact, some styles of meditation center their entire approach on breathing alone. The breathing pattern of most of us is too rapid and shallow. Anytime you find yourself struggling with meditation, check your breathing. Slow down the pace, breathe deeply, and relax.

Simple Breathing Meditation Exercise

  1. Sit quietly in an upright position ...
    Close your eyes ...
    Become aware of this body-self that is you ...
    Focus on your breath ...
    Notice the pattern of your breathing ...
    as it moves in ... as it moves out...
    Notice how fast you are breathing ...
    Notice whether you are breathing deeply
    or with shallow breaths ...
    Notice where your body moves when you breathe ...
    Is the movement in your chest...
    or in your belly? ...
  2. Watch your breathing for a moment ...
    You may find that just attending to your breath
    will allow you to relax ...
    As you focus and breathe ...
    let your breaths become slower ...
    and deeper ...
    Let your body relax ...
    and move to a sense of peace ...
  3. Notice where your body is sore or tense ...
    Imagine the breath moving to that place
    and gently massaging the tightened knots
    of tension ... or fear ... or anger ...
    Simply allow the breath to open up your body ...
    so that your life energy can flow freely...
    As you do so, you are preparing yourself for prayer ...
  4. As you focus on your breathing ...
    you may notice thoughts coming and going ...
    Just notice the thoughts ...
    then let them go ...
    You may want to imagine them as clouds
    floating across the horizon ...
    or as leaves on a stream being carried away ...
    Just as your lungs generate breath ...
    your mind generates thoughts ...
    As thoughts arise ...
    gently return your focus to your breath ...
    Notice the space that opens inside you as you relax ...
    as you gradually come into your sacred centre ...

This reflection by Tom Harpur on breathing was found at It offers a good written introduction to Christian meditation and centering prayer from some of the leading teachers on the subject, including John Main (his teachings started the World Community for Christian Meditation) and Cynthia Bourgeault, an Episcopal priest, hermit, writer, and teacher of the contemplative path.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Daily Advent Reflection: Dec. 1

Monday, December 1st
World AIDS Day, 20th Anniversary
Tucson event: Massive community gathering of music, stories, and art at Club Congress tonight, 4pm-8pm

Keeping in this week's theme of staying awake...

"History will judge us on how we respond to the AIDS emergency in Africa… whether we stood around with watering cans and watched while a whole continent burst into flame… or not."
I'm not sure buying a red shirt/ipod/bag/cup of coffee is enough.

The theme for World AIDS day this year is leadership. To find out how you can make a conscious choice to fight AIDS go to: