NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS

2016 New Year Resolutions

1 – I will indulge myself, and I will encourage others to indulge themselves, in the gatherings and the graces and the lasting gifts of life: meals shared with those we treasure, love expressed as often as possible, an abiding focus on what makes for justice and goodness for all, walking as humbly as we can, day by day, knowing that God wants us, all of us, all of God’s children, to enjoy life to the hilt.

2 – I will give it all, and I will give it now. I will not hoard or save – for a later time or a better date – any compliment, poem, idea, notion, support for a worthy cause, any laugh, any hug when hugs are wanted and needed.* I will eagerly seek out and be open to the insights and gracings of others. I will rise to the challenging question: Why should any one of us be lost if someone else knows the way? **

3 – I will spend what I don’t have, that is, that which I so much enjoy and treasure but of which I can never claim sole ownership. I will share God’s love that comes to us all freely and generously, a gift never to be possessed solely by any one person but is a universal spiritual currency.

4 – I will let my heart be broken – broken open to a world in need of caring and hope. I am not an automaton but a human being, and so I will maintain a bruisable heart, a vulnerable center of my personality, a capacity to be affected by the world and all of its inhabitants.

5 – I will attend to the needs of children, never failing, so far as I can help it, to receive happily a greeting from any child and then return it with enthusiastic appreciation. I will remember that all children – in this city or any other – are “our” children.

6 – I will forego violence in my actions, in my verbal exchanges with others, and, of equal importance, in my assumptions and my attitudes toward what the world brings to my door, even if what it brings is chock‑full of violence.

7 – I will nurture and care for three specific bodies – my own, for it is the only vehicle I have for negotiating life through this world; the body of the earth, which is the carrier vehicle for the entire human race; and the body of my neighborhood where I live, for it needs my efforts, my prayers, my support, if we are going to be hale, hearty, and healthy as witnesses for good in the community and in the world.

8 – I will smile at the world as often as I possibly can, sometimes through clenched teeth, to be sure, but still knowing that negativity never has worked and only a glad heart can live a fulfilled life.

9 – I will take in as many movies as I can and listen to as much music as I can and behold as much visual art as I can and witness as many performances as I can and read as many books as I can, for the splendors of human creativity are sheer gifts and glimpses of the divine.

10 – I will be as truly human and humane and alive as I can muster and live my days with attention and engagement and not simply visit this world. As Mary Oliver puts it succinctly, about this year or any other:
When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.***

* See Annie Dillard’s Give It All, Give It Now: One of the Few Things I Know About Writing (New York: Welcome Books, 2009).
** See Samuel Green’s poem “Postcard:10/18/01, NY,” The Only Time We Have: New Poems (Sedro‑Woolley: Grey Spider Press, 2002), p. 37, which is also included as “Oct. 18 New York City,” in The Grace of Necessity (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2008).
*** Mary Oliver, “When Death Comes,” New and Selected Poems (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992), p. 11.

© 2015, Robert Lee Hill

[From LIFE’S TOO SHORT FOR ANYTHING BUT LOVE (Woodneath Press, 2015)]

Top 20 Religious Stories of 2015

Top-Stories

TOP 20 RELIGIOUS NEWS STORIES OF 2015

As shared on “Religion On the Line,” the live, weekly, Sunday morning call-in show on KCMO Talk Radio (710AM/103.7FM).

1. Nine murdered at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina
2. Pope Francis visits U.S.
3. Pope Francis visits Africa
4. Insane acts/events associated with ISIS/ISIL
5. Supreme Court affirms gay marriage rights
6. Lessons about facing death from Pres. Jimmy Carter
7. Bishop Robert Finn’s resignation
8. Nuns are still on the bus
9. Crisis for Zen Buddhism in Japan
10. Mormons disallow blessing of children for same-sex couples
11. Cardinal O’Malley’s counselor role to Pope Francis
12. UAE’s anti-discrimination law (blasphemy law in disguise)
13. NY Daily News Headline: “God Isn’t Fixing This”
14. Jerry Falwell, Jr. urging killing Muslims @Liberty U.
15. Kim Davis’ refusal to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples
16. Donald Trump’s/Ben Carson’s anti-Muslim rhetoric
17. The Dalai Lama’s continuing humility
18. Franklin Graham’s $880,000 & anti-Muslim rhetoric
19. Top Mormon leader Boyd K. Packer dies
20. Boko Haram’s murders and mayhem in Nigeria

Notable Passings– Fr. Tom O’Brien, Marcus Borg, Andre Crouch, Mormon leaders (L. Tom Perry, Boyd K. Packer, Richard G. Scott), Wayne Dyer, Phyllis Tickle, James Fowler, Fr. Joseph F. Girzone

TOP 10 K.C. RELIGIOUS NEWS STORIES OF 2015

(1) James Johnston appointed Bishop of KC/St.Joseph diocese
(2) Bishop Finn’s resignation
(3) Glen Miller convicted, sentenced for 2014 murders at JCC and Shalom Village
(4) Interfaith leaders react to Trump’s Islamophobia
(5) Central Baptist among fastest-growing seminaries
(6) Firefighters who died in the line of duty
(7) Sense of unity re KC Royals’ winning ways/style of play
(8) GKC Interfaith Council’s continuing compassionate witness
(9) Church of the Resurrection breaks ground on new sanctuary
(10) “Religion on the Line” makes it on to Wikipedia!!!

Notable Passings – David Goldstein, Fr. John Wandless

Top 25 Religious Books of 2015

Books Books BooksAs shared on “Religion on the Line,” the live, weekly, Sunday morning, radio call-in show on KCMO (710AM/103.7FM)
1) Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
2) David Brooks, The Road to Character
3) Mary Oliver, Felicity: Poems
4) Marilynne Robinson, The Givenness of Things: Essays
5) Jonathan Sachs, Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence
6) Oliver Sacks, Gratitude
7) Scott Cairns, Slow Pilgrim: The Collected Poems
8) Miroslav Volf and Justin E. Crisp, eds., Joy and Human Flourishing: Essays on Theology, Culture, and the Good Life
9) Tony Jones, Did God Kill Jesus?
10) Geraldine Brooks, The Secret Chord
11) Richard Rohr, What the Mystics Know: Seven Pathways to Your Deeper Self
12) James Martin, The Abbey: A Story of Discovery
13) Jack Danforth, The Relevance of Religion: How Faithful People Can Change Politics
14) Nadia Bolz-Weber, Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People
15) Pope Francis, A Year of Mercy: Inspiring Words from Pope Francis
16) N.T. Wright, Paul And His Recent Interpreters
17) Paul Rock & Bill Tammeus, Jesus, Pope Francis, and a Protestant Walk into a Bar: Lessons for the Christian Church
18) Diana Butler Bass, Grounded: Finding God in the World, A Spiritual Revolution
19) Leah Gunning Francis, Ferguson and Faith: Sparking Leadership and Awakening Community
20) Leah Remini, Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology
21) Mike Graves, The Story of Narrative Preaching: Experience and Exposition: A Narrative
22) Otis Moss III, Blue Note Preaching in a Post-Soul World: Finding Hope in an Age of Despair
23) Adam Hamilton, The Call: The Life and Message of the Apostle Paul
24) Doug Pagitt, Flipped
25) Billy Graham, Where I Am: Heaven, Eternity, and Our Life Beyond
Also Notable: David Gregory, How’s Your Faith? An Unlikely Spiritual Journey; Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church

LET CHRISTMAS COME

LET CHRISTMAS COME
A Poem for Christmas Day 2015Christmas tree in the fog

Let Christmas come for all and one,
let joy ascend and ring,
let sorrows cease and hopes increase,
let love descend and sing.

Let Joseph love what Mary loves
as love supreme is made.
This natal feast, and not the least,
is roughly, gently laid.

Let wise ones sway and trav’lers stay
to seek out what was sealed.
Let light prevail and all avail
to guide our souls to kneel.

Let people say what prophets bade
and say what has been said,
that horrors all and hate enthralled
are kindly slowed and stayed.

Let common things and daily things
be front and center now,
and daylight shine and moonlight shine
to show the way to how.

Let Christmas come for all and one,
let joy ascend and ring,
let sorrows cease and hopes increase,
let love descend and sing.

– Bob Hill

CHRISTMAS IS ….

Advent-Christmas candlesAs the time approaches for Christmas to fulfill its annual appointment with our hearts and minds and calendars, I am aware of its many multi-valent meanings. In all kinds of climes (from equatorial tropics to deep freezes to stark, wind-swept desert areas) and in all kinds of cultures (from hyper-consumerism to abject impoverishment) and in all kinds of circumstances (from relative peaceableness to strife-riddled, war-torn locations around the globe), the arrival of Christmas brings many different gifts.

Christmas is the recollection of a reclaimed past and the harbinger of a redeemed future.

Christmas is, at once, a lullaby and a “Hallelujah” chorus.

Christmas is a joy-saturated moment of ecstasy and a deeply running river of humble adoration.

Christmas is accepting that God is taking up residence in our neighborhood and allowing God to take up residence in our habits and our hearts.

Christmas is “child’s play,” a pleasure which all of God’s children are invited to enjoy.

Christmas is an equal opportunity gracing experience and the most particularized sort of theological declaration.

Christmas is a “bi-focal” event, attracting our attention in two directions at once – to the skies for the testimony of “a multitude of the heavenly host” and to the earth where a lowly manger offers God’s great gift of love to all.

Christmas is the most crassly exploited of the Christian holy days, and yet its essential mystery is never dulled.

Christmas is the subject of one spectacle after another, and yet its basic simplicity and truth can never be ultimately controlled or defined or warped.

Christmas is about a birthday party for Jesus and about the possibilities of a new birth of faith and love in each of us.

Christmas is early-arriving and late-coming in its appearance. For some of us, Christmas has already come. For others, it will occur well beyond the 25th of December.

Christmas is about God’s fundamental, positive regard for the world, especially for the human creatures therein.

Christmas is a festive occasion – no matter how large or small the meal, regardless of whether a Christmas gathering happens inside or outside church walls – because “when God walks down the stairs,” it’s always time for feasting.

Christmas is a pleasurable treasure-trove for the senses – our senses of sight and sound and smell and taste and touch delight in this incomparable season.

Christmas is remembering that everyone is someone’s baby.

Christmas is an ancient rite and an evergreen sprout of unrepeatable wonder.

Christmas is found at the silent altar of a cathedral and in the rustling leaves of a brush arbor and within a steaming bowl of soup at the homeless shelter.

Christmas is about the fresh gift of healing coming into the world and the hopefulness of Christmas-celebrators, even when prognoses disappoint and chemo fails and surgeries prove less than satisfactory.

Christmas is when the spark of hope flares and the light of peace illumines and the blaze of joy enraptures and the flame of love warms, even in the most distressing of circumstances.

In the end, Christmas is a time to come home – to come home to God, to come home to family and friends and community and the world, to come home to one’s soul and one’s best self.

– Bob Hill

© 2015, RLH

“If you could celebrate Christmas in a different country, what would it be?”

Honored to offer a response to the question “If you could celebrate Christmas in a different country, what would it be? “ in the “Voices of Faith” column in The Kansas City Star on Sat., December 19. http://www.kansascity.com/living/religion/article50289725.html

“Voices of Faith” Column for The Kansas City Star – December 19, 2015

To celebrate Christmas in a land other than one’s own is extraordinarily hard to fathom, given the powerful attachments of sentiment, custom, family, friends and beautifully particular, home-specific rituals.

But worse still would be not trying to imagine the Yuletide gifts and graces of other locales. Christmas always holds more wondrous blessings than any one place can contain.

Mexico would certainly be one of the places where my soul could find spiritual nourishment at Christmastime. The tradition of “Las Posadas,” a nine-day festival portraying the Holy Family seeking shelter and being turned away in one place after another, shows God’s indefatigable spirit, which will be undeterred until humanity finally receives the divine gift of incarnational love.

England also attracts my fancy, since its genius musicians originated some of the most beloved Christmas compositions. Charles Wesley and Handel, alone, distinguish Britain as a Christmas music epicenter.

Italy pulls equally strongly on my Christmas heartstrings because of St. Francis’ holy audacity in creating what is understood to have been the first “Living Nativity” scene.

But perhaps it is Egypt that has a special allure for me and possibly many others this Christmas. For it was in Egypt, according to the gospel of Matthew, that Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, refugees all, experienced safe harbor in a brutish and brutalizing world.

Two millennia later, could Christians, especially those of us in the U.S., learn key, saving lessons about the Christmas spirit and the essence of holy hospitality from our ancient, non-Christian, Egyptian exemplars?

– Bob Hill, Minister Emeritus, Community Christian Church, KCMO

LOVE AT THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS

adventweek4Love is naturally, powerfully, undeniably one of the candles on the Advent wreath.

Love, ultimately, is at the heart of Christmas.

Love compels the church’s great music to gravitate toward expression at Christmas time.

Love can be discovered in the midst of everything the church does during Christmas time:
* as musicians proffer their magnificent, healing presentations;
* in the words of scripture which prompt reassurance, remembrance, and earth-shaking insights about the possibilities of new life;
* in the prayers of elders at table;
* in the sharing of communion with friends, family and strangers;
* in the sacrificial giving that is rendered for a world in need.

Love is the motivation and destination behind all of our preparations and traditions during this sacred season.

Love is what warms our homes and our hearts even in the middle of winter’s icy chill.

Love is cooking a meal, writing a note, praying a prayer, organizing a worthy project, sitting in silent vigil at the bedside with patient, earnest hope; without love, such caring acts become mere drudgery.

Love makes all things complete. Love is telling children of your joy in them, complimenting someone about a new haircut, expressing thanks for someone’s unique talents: without love, such transactions are mere rote rituals or, worse, mere charade.

Love is the peace that abides when we let go of old habits and outdated conventions that hinder creative growth in our individual and collective lives.

Love is tough resistance in the face of any thing or force which would bruise or hurt or harm.

Love moves us to coo with warm affection when parents present their babies before the congregation for blessing and dedication.

Love inspires us to act in harmony with our best selves, causing even the crustiest souls to become kind and gentle and generous.

Love abides when we challenge one another to live out our highest ideals.

Love is made manifest in the zip of an octogenarian’s steps as she paces the mall with gladness and glee.

Love is undeniably front and center in the face of any child of God who is unafraid to tell the truth.

Love is generative, moving us to seek and to offer forgiveness when estrangement has occurred. Love is protective, prompting us to provide sheltering kindness for the least, the lost and the lonely among us.

Love, God’s love, love as it has been given to the world through the birth of a baby in Bethlehem long ago, love as it is being given anew to hearts even now – all of this love constitutes the reason for the season.

– Bob Hill

Sharing Joy in Advent

adventweek3

 As we arrive at the third Sunday of Advent, traditionally called “Gaudate Sunday,” the theme of “rejoicing” is premier, and I’m naturally thinking of friends.

While he was contemplating the sheer variety and liveliness of creatures in nature, Thoreau would exclaim: “Surely joy is the condition of life.” When we think of our friends, surely joy is the condition of life with them:
* the joy of a shared task and its fulfillment;
* the joy of celebrating another’s achievements;
* the joy of sharing worship together in harmonious, awe-inspiring ways.

Byron was right when he said “All who joy would win/Must share it,-Happiness was born a twin.”

Of course, there are definite differences between happiness and joy.

Happiness is a full stomach and a checking account in the black and a favorite car.

Happiness is the absence of irritation and a lack of trouble and the promise of pleasant days in an on-going journey of a pleasant life.

Happiness is your hometown team having a winning record and getting all your ducks in a row and all the leaves raked and bagged and set on the curb.

Happiness is fleeting, however, and the least wind can blow happiness right into the wild blue yonder.

Joy, on the other hand, is a grandparent’s embrace and the glad light of daybreak and a laugh shared with someone in the cancer treatment center.

Joy is a high “C” piercing into the upper reaches of a sanctuary (and right through the center of your soul) and a baby’s smile and broken bread shared at a homeless shelter.

Joy is a third-grader mastering the multiplication tables and a wedding day kiss and a trumpeter calling all the saints to go marching in.

Joy nearly always implies two or more. It needs to be shared. And when it’s shared, it goes on and on and on.

From the poorest of the poor to those who have no financial worries whatsoever, joy is shared among friends.

Shared joy just may be the holiest reality we can experience. It is in friendship that we know the truth of the psalmist: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

Thank God for the gift of joyous friendships that bring us some of the sweetest and most gracious experiences we ever know.

– Bob Hill

Advent: A Time for Testimony

adventweek2“Testimony” is what John’s gospel says Advent is all about for those anticipating the coming of the Christ child. Strange that a gospel without a nativity narrative should be so on-target about what this season is for.

When John’s gospel describes John the Baptist, he also gives us our job description: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.”

Which applies to those who claim to follow “the light.” We have been bidden by God to be witnesses, to testify to the light which will illuminate the world.

Now, testimony can be greatly misunderstood. Testifying is not a superior way of being Christian. To testify does not exempt us from embodied service to the needs of the world. Along with testifying, we are still to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, comfort the afflicted, shelter the homeless, visit the imprisoned, tend to the sick.

Neither is testifying a matter of coming to God’s defense as an expert witness. Nor is testifying trying to get other people to believe what we believe.

In his remarkable book, Testimony: Talking Ourselves into Being Christian, Thomas Long declares a strong truth: “Trying to persuade other people to believe what we believe, whether its politics, parenting, or religion, is a classic device to shore up our own uncertainty.”

No, testimony and testifying involve us with something more.

Sometimes testifying can be tough. I’ve grown weary of acquaintances who tell me “Well, Rev., I really don’t believe in the kind of God I see portrayed in some churches and by some so-called religious leaders.” “Well, my friend,” I usually reply, “Fred Phelps was not a representative sample of what’s best in the churches.”

Over time I’ve developed another sort of response. I say, “Tell me the kind of God you don’t believe in, and I’ll bet I don’t believe in that kind of God either. Then I will tell you about the God I do believe in.”

The testimony to which John’s gospel calls us — and which is so central to Advent and Christmas — is talking about God and our faith as if we truly believe what we say we believe!

So, this Advent, on the way to Christmas, let us speak and live as if we truly, deeply enjoyed our faith and not as if we dreaded it. (It continues to amaze me how some Christians go around with sour expressions on their faces, as if they had been baptized in an acrid brine of lemon juice laced with garlic.) Let us offer our testimony to the world with such enthusiastic joy that others will know the authenticity of what we proclaim: “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 116:24).

It’s helpful to remember that sharing testimony does not have to be grandiloquent, opulent, or rhetorically resplendent. It can be as humble and plain as a simple greeting, one person to another. And a humble, plain greeting just may turn out to be a life-saving moment. I can testify to that.

Local Author Fair – Sat. Dec. 5

Do you know a book lover and need to get a unique holiday gift? Come to the second annual local author fair Dec 5 (this coming Saturday) at the Woodneath Library Center. Authors confirmed for the event and ready to sign personalized copies of our books include:
Steve Paul
Jen Mann
Pete Dulin
Heather Man
L. David Hessler
Hollie Westring
Bob Hill
LaDene Morton
Jonathan Bender
Donna
Aaron Barnhart & Diane Eickhoff
Ann Ingalls
Teresa Huff
William Trowbridge
Linda Rodriquez
Whitney Putnam
Chery Holtman