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Obama tells church faith 'keeps me calm'

WASHINGTON -- President Obama addressed how his faith guides him and the importance of hard work as he marked the birthday of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at a Washington church on Sunday, Jan. 17.

"Folks ask me sometimes why I look so calm," he said at Vermont Avenue Baptist Church, a historic congregation that was visited by King. "I have a confession to make here. ... There are times when it feels like all these efforts are for naught, and change is so painfully slow in coming, and I have to confront my own doubts. But let me tell you during those times, it's faith that keeps me calm. It's faith that gives me peace."

The president spoke for almost half an hour in the usual spot for the sermon on the church's program, addressing about 500 people gathered in the Family Life Center of the congregation founded by freed slaves in 1866. At times he spoke like a preacher, opening his speech with "Good morning. Praise be to God," and concluding with "through God all things are possible."


Begin the new year with new dose of hope


Physicians tell us that the human body can survive four to six weeks without food, up to three days without water and for about 10 minutes without oxygen.

How long can a human being survive without hope? Our own experience suggests that without hope the human spirit begins to die almost immediately. Even our bodies show signs of sagging when our horizons show no future or purpose.

Letting the children go


Parents spend years saying, “How do you ask?” and “What do you say?” to children who think the phrase “I want it” is information enough. Parents spend months of prime adult life crouched before toilet bowls cheering streams of urine from children who are quite content to wet their pants. Forever. Parents spend even more years enlisting unwilling children to help with dishes and laundry.

Why? Any honest parent will tell you that the simplest and most pleasant way to complete a household task is to do it yourself. If you cook dinner alone, you’ll do all the work, it’s true, but you can do it listening to NPR, or watching “Seinfeld” reruns, or working in blessed silence. No whining. No “Why do always have to help?” No complaining. No “I set the table yesterday!”

Latino Christmas: Nativities of Latin America


The Christmas narrative, focused on the Bethlehem nativity, has captured the imaginations of Christians through centuries. What is it about this image we find so captivating?

"Crèches are the perfect poetic metaphor for our faith," explains Dr. Nora Heimann, associate professor and chair of the art department at The Catholic University of America. “Crèches celebrate a return to the most basic principles of our faith, Jesus as a child. God then is not just a concept, but is real and human in the person of Jesus.”

Building on this Christian imagery, for the fifth consecutive year, the Knights of Columbus museum in New Haven, Conn., is presenting an exhibit on crèches. This year’s theme is titled, “A Latino Christmas: Nativities of Latin America.”

“We put on the crèche exhibits to provide a venue for families to receive an uplifting religious experience,” said Lawrence Sowinski, the museum’s director.

The Latino exhibit includes 120 hand-made crèches from 16 Latin American countries, the Caribbean and four southwestern U.S. states, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.

Night sky lights that lead us


Some have called astronomy religion’s mother. From England’s Stonehenge to New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon, many of religion’s ancient artifacts turn out to be observatories marking important sky events. The Bible begins with creation stories and Matthew’s Gospel leads with a genealogy, then the story of a star directing Wise Men to the birthplace of Jesus.

The scientific investigation that is spirituality


In his introduction to this yearly anthology of the world’s best spiritual writing, Pico Iyer offers us essential reading about how spirituality is expressed in words.

Spiritual writing, he points out, cannot be mere writing about religion, but rather should be something that comes from, and goes, to the spirit, “which is to say, the human being (or that part of us that communes with what’s beyond us).”

Make a difference in the world by being resilient


By Robert J. Wicks
Published by Oxford University Press, $21.95

As more and more of us face financial insecurity, longer work hours and the increasingly complex personal and social demands of our fast-paced, multitasking, high-tech lifestyle, finding healthy ways to handle stress is more important than ever.

Robert Wicks is a leading expert on stress. His prescription for handling it is to become more resilient. A professor of pastoral counseling at Loyola University in Maryland, his most recent book is Bounce: Living the Resilient Life (Oxford University Press). His other books include Riding the Dragon: 10 Lessons for Inner Strength in Challenging Times and Prayerfulness: Awakening to the Fullness of Life (Sorin Books).

Realityís clash of contradictions


By Richard Rohr
Published by Crossroad Publishing Company, $19.95

Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr’s new book, subtitled “Learning to See as the Mystics See,” extols the spiritual benefits of learning to live comfortably with paradox, with the process of conversion, with learning to change our minds as life comes at us with its messiness and disorder.

He claims that if your religious practice is nothing more than to remain sincerely open to the ongoing challenges of life and love, then you will find God -- and also yourself.

It’s a bold claim, but Rohr offers sound reasoning to support it. Great people, he says, keep adjusting to what life offers and demands of them.

The lonely will always be with you


She walks her route at night across the campus, up this stair, down that, always alone, like a ghost retracing its path for the thousandth time. She is tall, gaunt and plain. Rumor has it that her husband divorced her many years ago and she never got over it.

His resentful senior colleagues devise a plan to oust him. They prevail on a junior female teacher to claim that he is prowling around her and represents a physical threat. The administration falls for the ploy, and the man is exiled to the farthest reaches of the campus with instructions not to talk to any of his colleagues.

She is a bubbly nonstop talker. She comes home for a visit, but her relatives make excuses not to see her. She sponges off an old friend and talks incessantly about herself, uninterested in anything else, never offering a hand at the cooking or cleaning up. Her friend can’t get rid of her soon enough.



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September 26-October 9, 2014


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