Wilderness.  Uncultivated. Uninhabited. Inhospitable. Neglected. Abandoned. Disfavored. Dangerous. These words are commonly used to describe places of “wilderness.” And yet, as I write, my eye keeps catching the edge of a vast wilderness, carved out by the sprawl of our city. Snow-capped purple mountains with jagged peaks pierce the skyline. Shimmering, frigid, silty ocean water…

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For Karen, the stairwell was her wilderness sanctuary, right in the heart of the merciless city. There, she found the space and solace to let loose and cry out with a loud voice. The oppressive thumb of drug addiction, abuse, pain and poverty could not find her in that place.

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A smartly dressed, well-heeled crowd pressed their way through a cold December evening in 1851, seeking to find comfortable seats within the warm confines of New York’s Metropolitan Hall. The hype for this event was incredible. It would become part of an annual phenomenon, featuring big and plenteous voices, gathered to sing out the scriptures, as arranged by George Frideric Handel in his oratorio, “The Messiah.”

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In Mark we get a smelly guy yelling – dressed like a nutcase. Right from the opening verses. “Repent!” Literally, “get a different mind!” Wake up!

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