Where Shepherds Lately Knelt

Where shepherds lately knelt and kept the angel’s word,
I come in half belief, a pilgrim strangely stirred;
But there is room and welcome there for me,
But there is room and welcome there for me.

In that unlikely place I find Him as they said:
Sweet new-born Babe, how frail!
And in a manger bed: a still small Voice to cry one day for me,
a still small Voice to cry one day for me.

How should I not have known Isaiah would be there, His prophecies fulfilled?
With pounding heart I stare: a Child, a Son, the Prince of Peace for me;
a Child, a Son, the Prince of Peace for me.

Can I, will I forget how Love was born and burned its way into my heart:
Unasked, unforced, unearned, to die, to live, and not alone for me?
to die, to live, and not alone for me?

– Jaroslav Vajda

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Reflection on Luke 3:7 – Third Sunday of Advent

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. – Luke 3:15-18

Wow, so what the heck kind of Advent reading is this? With a friend like you, who needs a…. fill in the blank.

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Devotion for Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale was born in 1820, in Florence, Italy, to a rich, upper-class, well-connected British family. She was named after the city of her birth, just as her older sister, Frances Parthenope, was named for the Greek settlement Parthenopolis, now a part of the city of Naples. Her father, William Edward Nightingale, was a noted English Unitarian, born under the surname of Shore. Under the terms of the will of an uncle, he inherited an estate, and assumed the name and arms of Nightingale. And later, he was appointed Sheriff of Hampshire. His wife and Florence’s mother, Frances, was the daughter of an abolitionist, Whig member of Parliament. Florence’s growing up was split between Italy and England.

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Devotion for John of the Cross

St. John was born Juan de Yepes Alvarez, in Avila, Spain, in 1542. His family was one of the conversos – Jews, Muslims, or their descendents who converted to Catholicism during the 14th and 15th centuries, under pressure from the government. To better understand the culture of the time, the conversos endured suspicion and harassment from Christians and Jews, and were called renegades. Also, their lives were regulated to prevent their conversion back to their heritage religions, going so far as to even forbid dining with the unconverted. Though, while not treated with equality, conversos did span classes, and even held some offices of limited power.

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Devotion for Dag Hammarskjold

I am the vessel. The draft is God’s. And God is the thirsty one. – Dag Hammarskjold

Is life so wretched? Isn’t it rather your hands which are too small, your vision which is muddled? You are the one who must grow up. – Dag Hammarskjold

I found these two quotes of Dag Hammarskjold to be powerful for me. In the first quote, he succinctly describes God filling us, and in turn pouring us out for the sake of the world, for the redemption of God’s good creation. In the second quote, he talks about the power of persuasion – persuading ourselves to think bigger thoughts, to see the world through different eyes, for there is hope, and work to be done.

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Devotion for Nicolaus Copernicus

Nicolaus Copernicus waas born on February 19, 1473, in the city of Thorn, in Royal Prussia, part of the Kingdom of Poland. While he was born to a family of means, his brother Andreas became an Augustinian priest, and his sister Barbara became a Benedictine nun and prioress. His other sister, Katharina, married a prominent businessman and politician. Copernicus himself never married or had children. Both parents died when Copernicus was still young, and his uncle, Lucas Watzenrode the Younger, continued to care for him and his siblings, seeing to their educations and careers. Continue reading

Devotion for the Japanese Marytrs

“The interpreter had placed before his feet a wooden plaque. On it was a copper plate on which a Japanese craftsman had engraved that man’s face. It was not a Christ whose face was filled with majesty anf glory; neither was it a face made beautiful by endurance of pain; nor was it a face filled with the strength of a will that has repelled temptation. The face of the man who then lay at his feet was sunken and utterly exhausted.”

“Many Japanese had already trodden on it, so that the wood surrounding the plaque was black with the print of their toes. And the face itself was concave, worn down with the constant treading. It was this concave face that had looked at the priest in sorrow. In sorrow it had gazed up at him as the eyes spoke appealingly: ‘Trample! Trample! It is to be trampled on you that I am here.'”

This passage from Silence, written by Japanese novelist Shusaku Endo, is the pivotal point of the entire novel for me. When I think of Japan, I think of technology, order, manners, and ancient traditions. Who thinks about Christ and Japan? I’d never thought about the word “apostatize”. What does it really mean? Continue reading

Devotion for Lars Olsen Skrefsrud

“It is the heathenism we want to get rid of, not the national character.”

Born in 1840, Lars became one of the best known Norwegian missionaries. He was born to a poor family in a small town north of Lillehammer, a home of the Winter Olympics. In his youth, he became a heavy drinker and wild young thing. With some buddies, he robbed a bank and was arrested. Refusing to reveal his accomplices, he was sent to prison for four years. Continue reading

Devotion for William Tyndale

I defy the Pope and all his laws; and if God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost.

These strong words were once uttered by William Tyndale, born around 1490 in Dursley, Gloucestershire. Tyndale is best known for being the first to translate the Scriptures from the original Hebrew and Greek, into a modern european language – English in his case. His translation was also the first to take advantage of the modern invention of printing, allowing it to be distributed widely, to the enlightenment of some, and anger of others. Continue reading