One who can't see with his eyes can certainly help those of us who have eyesight see more clearly.  In her artical "Light without sight" (Christian Century, April 2, 2014) Barbara Brown Taylor introduced us to a French resistance fighter who was imprisoned by the Nazis. Jacques Lusseyran, in his book, And there Was Light shared how he could see light when he went blind. According to Dr. Taylor, "one of his greatest discoveries was how the light he saw changed with his inner condition. When he was sad or afraid the light decreased at once. Sometimes it went out altogether, leaving him deeply and truly blind."

When it gets really dark in our lives, it is hard to see where we are going. Fear of loss narrows our world and swallows light. When we fill in the unknown future with anxiety that tomorrow will not work out well, we become afraid. It is hard to make decisions about moving forward because we have trouble figuring out what the consequences of decisions might be. If we are too anxious that they will be bad, we will narrow our world, moving forward tentatively and haltingly.

But Barbara Brown Taylor then said, "When he (Jacques) was joyful and attentive it [the light] returned as strong as ever. He learned very quickly that the best way to see the inner light and remain in its presence was to love." The Bible puts it this way, "Perfect love casts out fear." Love of life, love of others, paying attention to the joys and pains of others, reduces our fear. Paying attention to our own strength, our own courage, our own resiliency, can give us the energy to step forward into the unknown without as much fear to hold us back and drain our strength. 

Why does love help reduce fear. Because love is the connecting spirit that helps us know that we are not alone. Love is what binds us to each other so that when our hearts weaken, we know that others are there to share our journey with us. Love is that which overcomes our isolation and enables us to live in the strength of shared time and space.

So take it from one who can't see with his eyes. Love your way into the light. It is better than shrinking in fear.



I didn't know what VSP was till a few weeks ago. And I have some strong feelings about it. VSP stands for Voluntary Separation Package. It was offered to 12 of my colleagues and friends at Christian Theological Seminary where I spent 15 years working before retirement. Today six of the twelve accepted the package.

Tonight I am grateful for the lives of those who will be leaving CTS. Each one has given of themselves to nurture future leaders for the church. Each has studied, written and taught in their field to help assure that future leadership in the church is educated and grounded in the rich and complex tradition of our faith. They have given their lives to help others explore the depths of faith that has been expressed throughout history.

Tonight I am remembering each one as they made decisions about their future.  Holly Heron has taught New Testament and I am grateful for her sharing with me her insights as we taught classes together. Ron Summervile taught Church History and was the leader of a life changing journey I took to Ghana soon after I came to CTS.  Frank Burch Brown has taught Religion and the Arts and has blessed me with deep conversations about God in the midst of loss and pain. Marti Steussy has taught Old Testament and I have been enriched by our friendship and blessed by working with her in teaching Licensed Ministers. Rufus Burrow has taught Ethics and has challenged me to be my best self.  Wilma Bailey has taught Old Testament and her quiet and steady presence has grounded me in my life at the school.

Each of these persons is experiencing profound loss tonight. I cannot know what it means for them. But, I know its meaning for me will be revealed only as time goes forward. As I wait for the future to open up and reveal their new life and mine in their absence, I can only say, "Thank you, dear friends and colleagues for the gifts you offered me and so many others." 


Some of us were raised with this directive:  "Grown men don't cry." Not everyone got the message.

Recent news from the sports world is about Knowshon Moneno and his tears. Moreno, a star player for the Denver Broncos of the NFL seems to not hold back his tears.  The publicity is about how generous the tears are, but some comment on how sentimental he seems to be. 

Now some of us were led to believe that tears were a sign of weakness. We look with wonder on a grown man who shed's tears without shame. We were taught that to be strong one had to buck up and not express our emotions. 

But, my experience of deep grief has taught me something different. "Tears are an important way for us to find release from the pain of our loss. Some people would advise us to give up our pain and get on with our lives. They believe the cure for grieving is just deciding that you are over it.  My experience suggests that pain and sadness are not something we can choose to surrender so easily.  Pain has to give up on us. Tears are a way of helping us rinse out our souls so that the sadness releases its grip on us. (Lose, Love, Live: The Spiritual Gifts of Loss and Change", p. 44)

But, it is more than being freed from the pain. Tears are also a sign of strength. When we are weak, we cannot allow ourselves to feel because it threatens our self control.  But, when we are strong, we can stand the feelings and we can express them.  So, in our learning to live without someone or something that matters, when we are overcome with tears we can take courage because we are gaining strength for living a new life in the future.

I am glad young men didn't get the message that "grown men don't cry." When macho men in the NFL are not afraid to express their sadness, there is hope for better healing of the heart.


I recently led a class on preparing for the holidays.  A dozen of us gathered to share our anticipations and our anxieties.  As we talked we discovered that almost everyone there was struggling.  Most were not really looking forward to the holidays.
  In the stories were shared, most were dreading the holidays because they anticipated the sadness and loneliness that is part of them.  Most experienced the holidays as times when they missed something or someone really important to them:  deceased family members; children away from home; hopes for resources to do more than they were able to do; traditions that were no longer possible because of the changes in life or location.
Holidays are times when we seem to focus on accumulated experiences that can’t be replicated. (Or, more accurately, the memories of experiences that had acquired special meaning but can no longer be duplicated.)  While our life is full of such experiences, holidays seems to be a depository for more focused and special memories.  Hopes for happiness are exploited by a culture that uses our longings for belonging to sell us promises provided by its products.  We experience the stress of trying to be in the holiday spirit.
 But, I think that holidays are more than about what we have had and lost.  I believe they are open times for the welcoming of new and interesting possibilities for the future.  To welcome and embrace that open space for the future that has been given to us by the loss of things the way they were, we have to grieve the losses so they don’t control our way of looking at the holidays.
 Grieving the loss of the world the way it was frees us to embrace the world that is coming.  As you face the holidays and feel dread or sadness overtaking your spirit, take time to look at what has changed, to name that which is no longer a reality, to remember  the good that you have received, to forgive the past for not being permanent, and play with new ways of celebrating, developing new traditions that affirm what you truly believe about the holiday’s meaning.  Holidays are about relationships, loved and lost, and wherever we are, new relationships and new ways of expressing our life together are all around for us to explore.