Sunday, December 31, 2006

On their way to get married, a young Catholic couple are involved in a
fatal car accident. The couple find themselves sitting outside the
Pearly Gates waiting for St. Peter to process them into Heaven. While
waiting, they begin to wonder: Could they possibly get married in Heaven?

When St. Peter showed up, they asked him. St. Peter says, "I don't
know. This is the first time anyone has asked. Let me go find out," and he

The couple sat and waited, and waited. Two months passed and the couple
are still waiting. As they waited, they discussed that IF they were
allowed to get married in
Heaven, what was the eternal aspect of it all. "What if it doesn't
work?" they wondered, "Are we stuck together

After yet another month, St. Peter finally returns, looking somewhat
bedraggled. Yes," he informs the couple, "you CAN get married in Heaven."

"Great!" said the couple, "But we were just wondering, what if things
don't work out? Could we also get a divorce in Heaven?"

St. Peter, red-faced with anger, slams his clipboard onto the ground.

"What's wrong?" asked the frightened couple.

"OH, COME ON!" St Peter shouts, "It took me three months to find a
priest up here! Do you have ANY idea how long it'll take me to find a

Sunday, December 24, 2006

When love is felt or fear is known,
When holidays and holy days and such times come,
When anniversaries arrive by calendar or consciousness,
When seasons come, as seasons do, old and known, but somehow new,
When lives are born or people die,
When something sacred's sensed in soil or sky,
Mark the time.
Respond with thought or prayer or smile or grief.
Let nothing living, life or leaf, slip between the fingers of the mind,
For all of these are holy things we will not, cannot, find again.
Rev. Max Coots

We gather in reverence before the wonder of life -
The wonder of this moment
The wonder of being together, so close yet so apart -
Each hidden in our own secret chamber,
Each listening, each trying to speak -
Yet none fully understanding, none fully understood.
We gather in reverence before all intangible things -
That eyes se not, nor ears can detect -
That hands can never touch,
That space cannot hold,
And time cannot measure.
Sophia Lyon Fahs
From Singing the Living Tradition, #439

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Ethical religion can be real only to those who are engaged in ceaseless efforts at moral improvement.
By moving upward we acquire faith in an upward movement, without limit.

-- Felix Adler

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The office of government is not to confer happiness, but to give men the opportunity to work out happiness for themselves.

-- William Ellery Channing

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The War Prayer
by Mark Twain

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came -- next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams -- visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation

*God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest! Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!*
Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory --

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside -- which the startled minister did -- and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

"I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this -- keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. the *whole* of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory--*must* follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(*After a pause.*) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!"

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

Twain apparently dictated it around 1904-05; it was rejected by his publisher, and was found after his death among his unpublished manuscripts. It was first published in 1923 in Albert Bigelow Paine's anthology, Europe and Elsewhere.
The story is in response to a particular war, namely the Philippine-American War of 1899-1902, which Twain opposed. See Jim Zwick's page "Mark Twain on the Philippines" for more of Twain's writings on the subject.

Transcribed by Steven Orso (snorso@facstaff.wisc.edu)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The spirit of a person's life is ever shedding some power, just as a flower is steadily bestowing fragrance upon the air.

-- T. Starr King

Thursday, December 07, 2006

After recognizing the "crucial role" that the separation of church and state has played in defending American democracy and fostering the vitality of religious practice, Obama remarked, "Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason .... Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality."

Senator Obama's "Call to Renewal" keynote address can be found here:
http://obama.senate.gov/speech/060628-call_to_renewal_keynote_address/index.html. His remarks at the 2006 Global Summit on AIDS and the Church at the Saddleback Church Campus can be found here: http://obama.senate.gov/speech/061201-race_against_time_-_world_aids_day_speech/index.html.

Jerome Eric Copulsky is Director and Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies at Virginia Tech.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A man is stumbling through the woods, totally drunk, when he comes upon a

preacher baptizing people in the river. He proceeds to walk into the water and

subsequently bumps into the preacher. The preacher turns around and is almost

overcome by the smell of alcohol, whereupon he asks he drunk, "Are you ready

to find Jesus?" The drunk answers, "Yes I am." So the preacher grabs him and

dunks him in the water. He pulls him up and asks the drunk, "Brother have you

found Jesus?" The drunk replies, "No, I haven't found Jesus." The preacher,

shocked at the answer, dunks him into the water again for a little longer. He

again pulls him out of the water and asks again. "Have you found Jesus my

brother?" The drunk again answers, "No, I haven't found Jesus."

By this time the preacher is at his wits end and dunks the drunk in the water

again --- but this time holds him down for about 30 seconds. When he begins

kicking his arms and legs, the preacher pulls him up and again asks the drunk,

"For the love of God man, have you found Jesus?"

The drunk wipes his eyes, gasps for air, and says, "Are you sure this is

where he fell in?"

If I am not for myself, who is for me? But if I am for my own self only, what am I, and if not now, when?

-- Rabbi Hillel

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair and
confusion... who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing, -
and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend -
who cares. - Henri Nouwen

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