A FRIDAY MEDITATION – What’s Up?

Many are the plans of a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. – Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)

I have been thinking about discernment. Particularly mine. I want to discern if the things that I have been doing are still what God wants me to continue, or if he has something else in mind for me now that I am older and my energy is less. I have a wee tiny niggling in the back of my mind that he has a little something, but maybe not. He may still be just fine with what I am doing.

As a spiritual director, I often get the questions: How do I get still? How can I listen and Pay Attention to God? How can I see Jesus? How do I discern God’s will? All are great questions.

Discernment of God’s will, or any discernment for that matter, is a process. Finding God’s will requires a real desire to know it and a commitment to follow God’s direction when we find it. If we put stipulations on what we will do or not do, we will not get discernment. Unless, of course, like St. Paul, we get knocked off our ride and blinded for a few days. That’s a new way of seeing. We can’t limit God to certain ways of communication.

Discernment isn’t a decision-making process and what God has in mind for us isn’t always easy to discern. He doesn’t often write his desires for us on a wall or on auto-correct, although he has been known to do so. He has as many communication skills as he wants to use, so prayer is essential. However, there are other helps. Part of my job as a spiritual director is to accompany people during their discernment process – help them ask the questions they need to ask and discover the blocks they may have to hearing God’s will and carrying it out.

Thomas Green in “Weeds among the Wheat” has a suggestion I find most useful, which is to give God what Tom calls a “blank check.” We need to be willing for God to write on that check what he desires to give us. This helps us become willing to find God’s way rather than being willful and wanting our own way. And did I mention prayer?

Frederick Buechner writes – “Vocation comes from the Latin vocare, “to call,” which means the work a person is called to by God. There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of society, say, or the superego, or self-interest.…. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the worlds deep hunger meet.” ~ “Wishful Thinking”

“Gladness” or “Passion” is very important in discernment. What is it that gives you life? Passion for God’s call gives energy so if it is lost in what we’re doing perhaps God is calling us to something new. Although, there are other reasons that passion or gladness might be lost, burnout and/or depression, for example, so this needs discernment, also.

If, in our process we hear from God, as a friend of mine often does, “Keep doing what you’re doing”, we are most likely already doing what God has in mind for us now. In which case, we continue on continuing on.

As usual, I have a story. Many years ago, I was reading the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Jesus directions to his friends, “Unbind him and set him free” (John 11:44b) jumped off the page for me. I believed God was speaking and after some prayer, I enrolled at Aims and started taking psychology and counselling classes. I planned to become a family counselor. I had no idea that God had a slightly different calling than I thought, though the classes I took are very useful. They give me another eye through which to see as I offer spiritual direction, even though spiritual direction is not counselling. A friend who was attending St. Thomas Seminary called me and said there was a program for spiritual directors there and that I should take it because I was always asking what God was doing in any situation. So, what was the process.

First –Prayer was the most important part of my process. I had a niggling sense that I needed to be doing something to “unbind and set free”. And I wanted more than anything else to want what God wanted. Then I took a step of faith and began. I had a sense of where I was heading, but it wasn’t complete – only the first step. And then, more prayer.

Occasionally, God’s call comes in a blazing bush. I have had a few. There is hardly any room for doubt, but the call still needs some discerning. Thomas Green says that discernment isn’t possible if you already know what you are to do, but I don’t always trust my hearing. Most often, there is peace when the discernment is finished. So for now…

Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word. – Proverbs 16:1 (MSG)

Out of the depths, I cried…

Holy Spirit(Part 2)

With my voice I cry to the LORD; with my voice I make supplication to the LORD. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him. When my spirit is faint, you know my way. ~ Psalm 142:1-3

“And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised…” –  Luke 24-49

This IS a tough assignment. I’m a little nervous now that I know God uses autocorrect.  No telling what he will say.  Maybe I wasn’t listening very well.  In case you don’t remember or didn’t read last month’s SOUL FOOD, with a little help from said Autocorrect, God asked me to tell my story with the Holy Spirit.  Since the Spirit was active in my life before I ever knew the Spirit existed, it’s a long story so I’m writing it in installments.

When I left off last month, we were living in El Paso, Texas where Dave was stationed.  We had three small boys by then, and had decided that we wanted them to learn about Jesus in church and that we needed to take them. We returned to the church of our childhoods even though, we were beginning to believe that God was not the waiting-until-you-sin-so he-can-punish-you God. Toward the end of our time in Texas, Dave had the opportunity to have a family accompanied tour in Italy for four years.  At the same time, he found that there was an opportunity for the Army to send him on a two-year assignment to CU Boulder to finish the degree he had started before we got married.  For some, then unknown, reason, I felt strongly that the Colorado University thing was going to happen so Dave turned down the Italy tour before he knew if he might be offered the school option.  We couldn’t wait to see.

Boulder was enjoyable.  We lived in campus housing and there were many little children around for our boys.  We learned what community meant here.  Although there was much community in the military, it wasn’t what we would come to know in our university experience. Half way through this two-year assignment, we had a daughter. You have heard this before, but it belongs in my story now because it was a turning point.

When Kim was born, she was tiny but perfect.  However, before we got out of the hospital, she started having jaundice. She had two blood transfusions and needed to be monitored. My hospital stay was over, but I had to leave Kim there. That evening she began to have blood in her stool and they couldn’t find the cause.  The bleeding was getting worse.  Doctors decided that she needed to go to the military hospital, Fitzsimons, in Denver, so they took her by ambulance in the middle of the night. This was a few days after the big flood in 1965 and many roads were impassible. My doctor wouldn’t let me make the trip and anyway, I had three small boys at home.  I spent my night in prayer (You could call it that.)  I, alternately, begged God to heal Kim, but I didn’t believe God did that, anymore, and I begged him not to let her die.  Sometimes, I yelled at him.  It was a very long night.

Dave managed to get home that next morning – parents weren’t allowed to stay with children at the military hospital – and he informed me that they would do exploratory surgery at Noon if there was no improvement.  This was Sunday, so Dave called the pastor to tell him that we were going to stay home by the phone and asked them to pray.  For what, I wonder. Anyway, the members of the church stopped in the middle of the service and prayed for Kim, our little 5-pound daughter.  They didn’t believe that God healed, either. Then.  I imagine they prayed for the doctors and such.  At the very moment of that prayer, the bleeding stopped.  Maybe Kim managed to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment.  The bleeding did not just slow down, it stopped. Instantly.  The tough military doctor called it a miracle.  We did, too. And the people from the church as well.

I learned something about God that day. He does heal today.  He hears my prayers and answers them.  And I learned that he cared for me.  Luke 7 tells stories of Jesus healing and raising the dead causing crowds to follow him everywhere.  John’s (the Baptist) disciples came to ask Jesus, on John’s behalf, if he was the one for whom they were waiting.  Jesus told them to go tell John what they saw – the healings, the raising from the dead, etc. Then he says to the crowd, v. 24, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? (…)” I read a meditation where the writer wonders what drew the crowd to follow Jesus around. The writer said that, most probable, it was the healings.  Perhaps so.  It worked for me.

A year later, Dave was to return to active duty. I was talking to a neighbor about church and how I wish there was one who believed that God worked in the world today.  I wanted a God that I could touch, a God who heard my prayers of desperation, a God who responded as I had experienced. She said, “I think you might like my church – St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church, Boulder.”  Dave took classes in the engineering building across the street from St. Aidan’s, so he went to their chapel and picked up The Book of Common Prayer (1928).  He read: “Ye who do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways; Draw near with faith, and take this holy Sacrament to your comfort; and make your humble confession to Almighty God, devoutly kneeling.”

Then after the Confession, he read: “Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who of his great mercy hath promised forgiveness of sins to all those with hearty repentance and true faith turn unto him; Have mercy upon you; pardon and deliver you from all your sins; confirm and strengthen you in all goodness; and bring you to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

 Dave said, “I think we have found what we have been looking for.”  At last!  As Frederick Buechner says, “It is not objective proof of God’s existence that we want but…the experience of God’s presence.” Yes! A God I could touch who touches me.  Before we left for Ft. Benning, Georgia, we were baptized at St. Aidan’s. My baptism, I believe, is when the Holy Spirit stopped hovering and started seriously meddling in my life.  Did I not somehow say he could…? And there’s more.

“But wait…”

 

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – And there was Light

These are the days of Elijah declaring the word of the Lord And these are the days of Your servant Moses righteousness being restored These are the days of great trials of famine and darkness and sword. Still we are the voice in the desert crying, Prepare ye the way of the Lord! Behold He comes, riding on the clouds shining like the sun at the trumpet’s call. Lift your voice, year of Jubilee out of Zion’s hill, salvation comes. ~ Days of Elijah, att. Robin Mark

Here we are at the end of the Epiphany Season, Ash Wednesday being this week.  Have you decided what you are going to do for spiritual practices during Lent – giving up something, taking on something, both?

Two things caught my attention today – The Gospel reading for the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, coming up; and today God said to me, “Let there be light” straight out of Genesis 1.  What do these have to do with Lent? I do not know.

The Gospel: From Matthew 17:1-9 – Jesus takes three of his closest friends, Peter, James, and John with him on a hike up the mountain.  While they were standing atop, Jesus’ face changes and shines like the sun and his clothes become as white as the light. Suddenly – it’s always suddenly, isn’t it – Moses and Elijah appear and have a conversation with Jesus. Peter is so excited that he wants to build dwellings for Jesus, for Moses and for Elijah.  But then a bright cloud surrounds the three and a voice from that cloud declares that Jesus is his Son and the disciples (we) need to listen to him. This terrified the disciples the Bible says. You think?! But Jesus touches them and says, “Get up and don’t be afraid.” They look up and Elijah and Moses are gone. Then Jesus says a very strange thing. He says, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” Whiplash!  What?

“Get up and don’t be afraid.” Why does this story hold my attention so much this week?  Why does the above song by Robin Mark do the same? Especially here at the almost beginning of Lent. Why did God say to me this morning, “Let there be light?” Isn’t Lent about darkness, repentance, sacrifice, and maybe some groveling?  And isn’t it about Ashes?  Those that will be marked on our heads on Ash Wednesday with the spoken words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return?” Yes.  Well maybe Lent is not about the groveling, but listen to the words of the service this Wednesday.  If you can’t attend, read the words from The Book of Common Prayer beginning on Page 265.

Thoughts:  Lent is mostly about turning around which is what repentance means.  The Ash Wednesday service reminds me that I am not God.  When God said, “Let there be light”, I remember that in the beginning, God intended and created light, which is probably the same thing, and we were to live in that light in a constant relationship of love with him. “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.” – 1 John 1:5 tells us.  Light shows us when we have gone off course – when we have decided to take our lives into our own hands rather than follow God’s plan for us.  Lent gives us a time to rethink and repent of our decisions to do our own thing. Light reveals to us those things that we do that lead us away from God instead of toward him in a relationship of Love.  The light of Jesus helps us stay on the path and is what we are given to share with others.

Question: What Lenten practices will help me to notice when I do my own thing and help me to return to all that God wants for me and for others? What will help you?

Lord God of signs and wonders, when sin has silenced our song, sing about the good you still see in us. Great Son, friend of all who stray, when shame has broken our best, create a new and living way for us. Wild Spirit winged with healing power, when lies destroy our standing, remind us that you share this road with us.

Therefore, we’ll run, stagger, and bow, then kneel, In penitence because you care for us. Amen – Russ Parker, Prayer Poems for the Journey

 

 

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Grace & Peace

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.  The Lord be with all of you.“- 2 Thessalonians 3: 16

Question – Do you think it’s time to take down my Christmas tree in the basement great room or should I hang flags on it for President’s Day, miniature pancakes for Shrove Tuesday, purple ribbons for Lent, shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day, etc. and leave it up all year? Not a bad idea, I’m thinking.  The week is totally out of control along with my mind, and God is peeking out at me from everywhere.  I couldn’t settle my mind down for quiet time and silent prayer, so I listened to praise music on YouTube for an hour. I am grateful for the warmth and sun which reminds me that I should trim back the rose bushes.  Sigh.

This is the week that I have to write two articles – Soul Food to meet the deadline and this meditation for today.  There was no other time this week to write and after writing the first, I am without words.  However, I love this meditation or whatever it is from Frederick Buechner, so I’ll share that with you this week instead.

Frederick writes, “Theodicy is the branch of theology that asks the question: If God is just, why do terrible things happen to wonderful people? The Bible’s best answer is the book of Job.

Job is a good man and knows it, as does everybody else, including God. Then one day his cattle are stolen, his servants are killed, and the wind blows down the house where his children happen to be whooping it up at the time, and not one of them lives to tell what it was they thought they had to whoop it up about. But being a good man he says only, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Even when he comes down with a bad case of boils and his wife advises him to curse God and die, he manages to bite his tongue and say nothing. It’s his friends who finally break the camel’s back. They come to offer their condolences and hang around a full week. When Job finds them still there at the start of the second week, he curses the day he was born. He never quite takes his wife’s advice and curses God, but he comes very close to it. He asks some unpleasant questions:

If God is all he’s cracked up to be, how come houses blow down on innocent people? Why does a good woman die of cancer in her prime while an old man who can’t remember his name or hold his water goes on in a nursing home forever? Why are there so many crooks riding around in Cadillacs and so many children going to bed hungry at night? Job’s friends offer an assortment of theological explanations, but God doesn’t offer one.

God doesn’t explain. He explodes. He asks Job who he thinks he is anyway. He says that to try to explain the kinds of things Job wants explained would be like trying to explain Einstein to a little-neck clam. He also, incidentally, gets off some of the greatest poetry in the Old Testament. “Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades? Hast thou given the horse strength and clothed his neck with thunder?” (Job 38:31).

Maybe the reason God doesn’t explain to Job why terrible things happen is that he knows what Job needs isn’t an explanation. Suppose that God did explain. Suppose that God were to say to Job that the reason the cattle were stolen, the crops ruined, and the children killed was thus and so, spelling everything out right down to and including the case of boils. Job would have his explanation.

And then what?

Understanding in terms of the divine economy why his children had to die, Job would still have to face their empty chairs at breakfast every morning. Carrying in his pocket straight from the horse’s mouth a complete theological justification of his boils, he would still have to scratch and burn.

God doesn’t reveal his grand design. He reveals himself. He doesn’t show why things are as they are. He shows his face. And Job says, “I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see thee” (Job 42:5). Even covered with sores and ashes, he looks oddly like a man who has asked for a crust and been given the whole loaf.

At least for the moment.” – originally published in Beyond Words

Good right??

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Where did you meet God today?

“I believe there is within us this image of God…There is something deep within us, in everybody, that gets distorted and confused and corrupted by what happens to us. But it is there as a source of insight and healing and strength.  ~ Frederick Buechner

I am reading the book, Mind the Light: Learning to See with Spiritual Eyes, by J. Brent Bill. Brent is a Quaker and my new best friend for the moment.  He knows a lot about the Inner Light. In the introduction, he writes, “Even though light is all around us, we often don’t notice it and the difference it can make in our souls.  That’s where an old Quaker saying, “Mind the Light”, offers help.”

I love this book. It would take several meditations to even begin to offer a meditation on what he writes in it, but one of his spiritual exercises really grabbed me. It is from the chapter titled, “The Light Without: Seeing Others.” Brent writes about a woman, attributing the story to Dorothy Bass, who asks each night while tucking her children into bed, “Where did you meet God today?” I was pondering this question the day of the Vestry meeting.  The meditation that night was…you guessed it…seeing the light of God in others. Hmm…perhaps, God is saying something to me.

As I consider this Light, I think about what the Bible says:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” ~ John 1:1-5

God is Light. Since God created humans in his Image, then somewhere within us that Light still resides.  But, as Frederick Buechner says in the opening quote, “that image gets distorted and confused and corrupted by what happens to us.”  Perhaps, though, a glimmer might still be there, somewhere.

Well, what about “truly evil” people?  Is the light of Christ in them? You might ask.  I might ask, too. The Light of Christ is in everyone.  Wouldn’t it have to be?  If it wasn’t, we would….well that will need to be another meditation or teaching.  There is no room to get into that in this meditation, and I’m not sure that I am qualified to answer it, anyway. I will say that perhaps the Light is so suppressed that it can’t get out of a person or even be acknowledged.  I really don’t know, but I will consider that possibility.  However, we could pray for a crack to open in them for that possibility. Maybe it could be reinforced by those people they meet along the road, which is even more reason for us to pray that the light of Jesus will shine in us.

“Again, Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” ~  John 8:12

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:14-16

Each night as we do our examination of consciousness, along with naming those things for which we are grateful this day and offering our thanks, it might be good for our spiritual lives to consider the question, “Where did I meet God today?”  Then, perhaps, if we are up for it, “Did my light shine bright enough that someone might have met God in me?

We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light so lovely that they want with all their heart to know the source of it. ~ Madeleine L’Engle

Grace and Peace, Donna

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Watch Therefore

“Watch, therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.  Watch, lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.  And what I say to you I say to all: Watch.” ~ Mark 12:35-37 

Happy New Year!  Where did the year go?  I have no idea.  But no, it’s not January 1; it is still November. The Church begins its new year on the First Sunday of Advent which is this coming Sunday. The scripture lessons this year are more about the Second Coming of Jesus than they are about his birth.  It’s much easier to write about birth stories, since I know something about that, than it is to write about the Second Coming of Jesus of which I have had little direct experience.

Birth stories are more about waiting and the second coming is more about watching. Waiting for birth is about preparation for new life.  Birth pangs will tell us when it’s time.  Watching has a different feel.  As I sit here, I’m trying to get in touch with that difference. Watching is about paying attention to what is going on around us as well as inside of us.  In giving birth, we know for what, even if not exactly for whom, we prepare.  Paying attention – watching – is about noticing the signs of Jesus’ coming again.  We’ve never done this before. For what do we watch? How do we prepare?  How will we notice? How is it different? Maybe the work of Advent this year is reflecting on those questions. Today, I have been looking through some books of Advent meditations.  I am trying to decide which I will use this season.  I read this from Preparing for Jesus, by Walter Wangerin Jr.

“For nearly one thousand five hundred years Christians have spent the days of Advent not in passive inaction, but in activities strenuous and profitable; they have prepared themselves by scrubbing and cleaning their lives, by examining and repairing their souls—even as people generally prepare themselves body and home to receive a visitor of ineffable importance.

“Who is coming? Who awaits him? And when will he get here? And how shall the people prepare?” 

“The Son of man, He is coming.  Jesus.  That One, Him.”

“And we are the people who await him.  You and I. Since it was for us he died, we are the ones who wait in love.  And since he ascended to heaven with promises to return, we wait in faith—for the next and final Advent, Jesus will take us as friends, as brothers and sisters into his house forevermore.

“And when will he get here?  Like any New Year’s Day: at the end and the beginning.  But that Advent to come—the final arrival of Jesus in glory—will itself cause the end of this present age and the beginning of our eternal joy.  When will that be?  Ah, my friend, I do not know.  No one knows its day or hour.  Therefore, Jesus commands us to “Watch.  Stay awake. Get ready. Prepare, prepare—and watch?”

“Finally then, how shall we prepare? In these days, while yet there are days and time, by what activity should we make ourselves ready? Why, by meditating on his first coming—for though the future may be hidden from us the past is not, and the one can teach us the other.

“The story of the birth of Jesus is open before us.  We have a spiritual and holy account of the time when God himself directed preparations for that first coming of his Son into the world.  What God ordains is always good.  Therefore, those preparations may be the perfect pattern for our own this year again, this year too.

“Behold, I bring you good news of great joy…. 

“Oh Lord, Stir up, we beg you, your power—and come.  Come even now into this season of our meditations, that by your protection we may be rescued from our sins, and saved by your mighty deliverance in order to look forward to your final arrival with the joy that cannot be uttered…  Amen.” 

Bless you in your waiting and in your watching.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION -It’s Curtains

This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord – Jeremiah 9:23-24

I will be so happy when this election is over.  The campaigns are making my stomach churn and hurt. There is so much anger, hatred and fear out there and it’s hard to be inspired by any of it. Or inspired at all.  I don’t want to talk about it and, by this time next week, it will be over. Please God. How shall apprentices of Jesus behave in times like these.  These are important times.  These are life-changing times.  All of us want life to be better than it is right now.  Violence is erupting everywhere with the promise of more to come.  And sometimes a writer who tries to follow Jesus must say something.

An incident that happened yesterday caused me to pause and discover that if you can get people to talk about their fears and truly listen to the desires of their hearts, you might find that even though we are on opposite sides of the political fence, we basically want the same things. We just disagree on how to get there. To listen well, I have to put my fears, anger and even hatred – oh how I wish I didn’t have those – into the hands of Jesus.

Even though this will make Friday Meditation a bit too long, I want to share with you a bit of a meditation by Terry Hershey that I read today.

“Every Christmas I used to go home to west Tennessee. (Fred Craddock tells the story.)  An old high school chum of mine, I called him Buck, had a restaurant in town, every year it was the same.  I’d go to the restaurant, ‘Merry Christmas Buck,’ I’d say, and he would give me a piece of pie and a cup of coffee for free.  Every year it was the same. I went in, ‘Merry Christmas, Buck.’

But this year he said, ‘Let’s go somewhere for coffee.’  ‘What’s the matter?  Isn’t this a restaurant?’ He said, ‘Sometimes I don’t know.  Sometimes I wonder.  Let’s go.’ So we went for coffee.  We sat there and pretty soon he said, ‘Did you see the curtain?’I said, ‘Buck, I saw the curtain.  I always see the curtain.’

Now what he meant by curtain was this: they have a number of buildings in that little town that are called shotgun buildings (we saw them in New Orleans).  They’re long buildings with two entrances, front and back.  One is off the street, one is off the alley.  In Buck’s restaurant and other restaurants in town, the entrances were separated by a curtain, with a kitchen in the middle.  If you were white, you came in off the street.  If you were black, you came in off the alley.

He said again, ‘Did you see the curtain?  The curtain has to come down.”Good, bring it down.’ He said, ‘That’s easy for you to say.  Come into town once a year and tell me how to run my business.’ I said, ‘Okay, then leave it up.’ He said, ‘I can’t leave it up.’ ‘Well then, take it down.’ ‘I can’t take it down.’  

After while he said, ‘If I take that curtain down, I lose a lot of my customers.  If I leave the curtain up, I lose my soul.’  (Moment of silence)”

So, what to do – I remember that God told me at the beginning of this process to bless both candidates. Have I been good about doing this?  Um, not consistently, but I have a few more days.  In addition, I need to add blessings for those with whom I disagree and who disagree with me.  That is one thing that a follower and apprentice of Jesus can do. Another is to set aside my own fears and listen well. I might bring some light into the darkness and the curtains might start to come down and the love of Jesus begin to shine.