A guest contributor uses poetry as a vehicle for processing his faith, doubts and depression during the Advent season.
The first time I prayed the Islamic prayer, or salat, I stood in my living room in the silvery morning just moments before dawn. I was self-conscious and unsure of what to do. I had prepared flash cards to help me through the complicated process of standing, sitting, and bowing while reciting verses in Arabic. I stood facing Mecca and folded my right hand across my chest. My left hand clutched a flash card that read:
Bismillah ah Rahman ah Raheem
In the name of God, the most gracious, most merciful
Alhamdu lil-ahi rab-bil alamin
All praise be to the Lord, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds
Ah rahman-ah rahim
The most merciful, most gracious
Master of the day of judgment
by Peg Aloi, guest contributor
When I was little, and like many kids before me, Christmas was special for many reasons that had very little to do with the birthday of baby Jesus. I loved the twinkling lights, decorating cookies, eating the savory dishes my Italian grandparents served on Christmas Eve, cutting down our tree in the forest, and singing Christmas carols accompanied by Mom on her Hammond organ. I was raised Catholic, but my parents weren’t terribly strict, and so for me Christmas was always a fairly secular experience.
“Buddha Moon - Buddha Stones” (photo: H. Kopp-Delaney/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)
Winter Solstice. The longest night of the year. The other day I was wondering what it must have been like to be one of the early humans, before there was a body of cultural and scientific knowledge built up to assure us that the light would, indeed, return as we turned the corner on this day and headed once again toward spring. It must have been terrifying to see the sun drop lower and lower in the sky each day and the night grow longer and longer without really knowing if that trajectory would reverse.
So this is a dark time — not only astronomically but also the world feels dark right now.
Of all the lessons my children take from our family’s winter solstice celebration, this is the one I hope they remember most: even in the midst of the darkness, within you is the luminous glow that will, in perfect timing, spark the return of your joy. Nurture and honor it, always.
by Jessica Kramer, guest contributor
“Mom’s birthday breakfast” (photo: Jessica Kramer/Flickr)
Christmas is almost upon us. In seeking God during this time, I have sought renewal in the darkness of winter, in the stillness in which to hear God. This fourth week of Advent brings promise of harmony, that the (often disjointed) pieces of our lives, hearts, and emotions might be joined into a single, but rich and layered, sound of joy.
by Peter A. Friedrichs, guest contributor
Awaiting Tiana’s Showboat Jubilee at Disneyland. (photo: huffmans/Flickr)
Advent is a time of waiting. For Christians, it’s a time of waiting for the arrival of the Christ child. For others, Advent is a time of waiting for a hoped-for future, waiting for the time of bleakness to pass and for new joy to arrive.
The Advent tension is a way of learning again that God is God: that between even our deepest and holiest longing and the reality of God is a gap which only grace can cross.
—Rowan Williams, A Ray of Darkness
Do Christmas ham and potato latkes go together? Can Santa visit as well as Judah Maccabee?" ˜guest contributor Adena Cohen-Bearak reflects on reconciling Chanukah and Christmas.
The dreidel's fascinating roots and origins in gambling give one mother (and rabbi) pause about sending "gold" coins to school. A guest contribution from Rebecca Schorr as Chanukah begins.
“Human Tapestry” is a three-dimensional painting running on and off the canvas that measures 6 feet high by 16 feet wide by 24 inches deep. The work is visual prospect for international peace and the continuation of life on our shared planet.
Eleven life-sized figures represent various countries and political ideologies. Each is draped in her own flag, her own nationalism, seemingly separate and distinct from that of any other country. While each flag is a symbol of a reciprocal system of language and customs of the people of an individual nation, it also serves to define geographic boundary lines on the earth.
The flag then becomes a symbol of separatism rather than alliance. Instead of recognizing our common human bonds and celebrating our universality, we see ourselves as isolated and often superior to one another.
When I first lived in the upper Great Plains, I did so as a freshman at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. I still remember the day when my parents’ car pulled away and I was standing by my dorm wondering why I had decided to move almost 800 miles from my home in Montana. While I would miss my parents and friends, I began to miss the mountains almost immediately.
I felt like Beret, the female protagonist in Giants in the Earth who left her home in Norway and moved to Dakota Territory. The vast grasslands and harsh climate nearly drove her mad. When I would look outward, I would think, “There’s nothing to see.” Flat land seemed to stretch everywhere and yet nowhere. Corn fields and soy beans.
There’s spirituality thriving in our houses of worship, often unnoticed and unappreciated. It flourishes in the ordinary give-and-take of congregational life, in person-to-person exchanges that Jewish thinker Martin Buber called I-Thou. And we would do well to better recognize this very common and accessible spiritual opportunity.
"Creating a photograph is like meditation, full of paradoxes that coexist happily." -a guest post from listener Monica Biswas with one of her lovely photos.
A guest contribution from a Christian Scientist on "Splitting Infinity" and the play's balanced depiction of his faith.
When I first heard the interview with Matthew Sanford on the radio, I was moved beyond words. I wanted to hear it again. The second time I heard it, online, I was more moved still.
I wanted to understand what had touched me so deeply beyond his extraordinary story of loss and victory, and the candid and engaging quality of his telling. There was something else I could hear in the silences between his words that mesmerized me. What was it, exactly? I still do not know, but I keep asking the question.
I’m a research junkie and a word nerd. When I was in graduate school, I spent a year researching one of the earliest Old English poems, “The Dream of the Rood.” The project began as a lexical analysis for a linguistics class, and what I discovered was that many words had multiple senses — and the available translations didn’t emphasize this. I ended up doing my own translation of all 256 lines. It was immensely rewarding to unfold levels and layers of meaning this way.
A spiritual nomad looks to the night sky and yoga to "cultivate sacred places within my own mind."
StoryCorps's animated short of a mother and her son with Asperger's syndrome reminds us of the lessons Paul Collins shared about raising his autistic son.
In response to Speaking of Faith’s show about the brutality of regimes around the world and the question of the people who disappear — and their children — I thought I would share with you a scene from my childhood in Portugal during the country’s fascist regime that lasted for almost 40 years and ended in 1974.
I wake up in the middle of the night, as I often do, and walk slowly down the steps of the long staircase. I am eight years old. I come to join my father, who sits in his office listening to a small voice coming from a small radio. The sound is muffled; the words sound detached. I do not understand what it says.
He smiles at the sight of my face peering through the crack of the door.
“So, you’re up,” he says.
Inspired by our show with Bill McKibben, a listener and law professor reflects on tuning in to nature's reality rather than anesthetizing from it.
I almost never buy T-shirts. When my son Josh was younger and going through that gotta-have-that-shirt stage, he bought enough for a regiment: sports shirts, camp shirts, school shirts, fund-raiser shirts — whatever was on the market. And when he began to outgrow the T-shirt phase, I inherited more hand-me-downs than a man could use. I kept only enough to handle chore-work for a few years and donated the rest to Goodwill.
The only T-shirt I’ve bought in decades is a recent purchase. Even though it’s brand new, it’s a dingy brown and looks well-worn. It has the words “Same shirt, different day” printed on the front. Okay, it’s corny and maybe a little tasteless, but I fell for it, and I enjoy the brief look of alarm on people’s faces when they first read it.
I am thinking about buying another T-shirt I just saw in a mail-order catalog. This one has a quotation from the Dalai Lama on it: “My faith is kindness.”