Tag Archives: Peace

In this baby, I find ….

My recollection is that in my family of origin, part of our celebration of someone’s birthday includes a story, or 2, that begins with “I remember the day you were born; I was…..”  Some of the stories are told exactly the same way year after year, others change in details over time, some don’t recount historical events as a camera may have caught them….but they are still true stories.   They’re true because of who is telling them; it is the story-teller’s relationship to the Birthday Girl or Boy, their experience of our coming into the world, and into their lives, that gives the story it’s life and it’s truth.

That’s how I approach the birth stories about Jesus.  Some of the stories have been told exactly the same way year after year, some change in details over time, some don’t recount  historical events like a TV camera would, but, like our own birth stories what matters about the story is the storyteller, and their relationship  to this child whose birth stories we share.  It is our experience of Jesus coming into the world and how that changes us, that makes this story true….and what makes it sacred story.  We tell about how we encounter the Holy Mystery behind all of life in the life of this child, and the man he will grow up to be.

For Christians, this child’s birth matters – although we may have difference about how and why it matters.  Because if it doesn’t matter to us in 2018, it doesn’t matter, period.  But with matters of faith and spirit, we can only speak of our own experience; what we share becomes our testimony, our evidence, of the holy and sacred experience.

For me, this is a story about finding beauty and hope in the middle of violence and anger.  In the middle of a brutal occupation, when people are afraid to speak out for fear of reprisals, this child is born.  I wonder: what do his parents hope for him?  what do the shepherds see in him?  how can such an innocent — who makes me love him just ‘cos he’s here — be anything but beautiful and full of potential?  What do you see in this story?

So for me, today, I might testify that this child will grow up to be a man who is so full of Love I see through him God in the flesh, walking among humankind.   From him, I will learn how that I am loved and worthy, and so I can love myself.  I will learn how to love my neighbours, how to share, and how to the love the one I think of as “the enemy”, the “other”, the stranger.  This child cracks open my heart, like the skies cracked open by angel’s song, so we can step into a new life and way of being in the world. And this new world order begins when we open our hearts to love just one more person.

How would tell the truth and joy you find in this story?

Merry Christmas; may the love incarnate we celebrate bring you peace.

 

(Thanks to jimbakershow.com for the image.)

 

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Hope in small lights

The other day I was working in my office with a lovely west-facing window and wondered why “all of a sudden” the room was so dark….”Must be a cloud over the sun, after all it’s not even 5 o’clock yet”.  Ah, yes. The final weeks of November and first ones of December always catch me off-guard.  How can it get this dark this early??

Yes, I know it’s about orbits, axis shirts and seasonal cycles, but it still holds my imagination and wonder.  And Awe.  And truthfully, not a little fear…I admit I’m intimidated by rural driving in the pitch black.  Then I turn on the coloured lights on the evergreen outside my front window.  Ah, yes.  Small lights make big differences.

Those lights often encouraged me in my spiritual life this week.  I was so frustrated by the news: dwarfing of remembrance of some events (like the 28th anniversary of the intentional hunting of women at École Polytechnique in Montréal) in light of others (the Olympic Committee’s response to athletes of only one nation who cheated to win). That got more airtime than reports of ongoing bombing and fighting in the Levant.  There was more efforts to downplay the claims by those targeted for abuse and harassment because of gender – 1989 all over again.  Then there was That Announcment by the USA formally recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel – despite international law about occupation, UN policies on “international cities”, not to mention a seemingly flagrant indifference for consequences in terms of disregard of general human and minority rights in the occupied part of East Jerusalem, not to mention geo-political consequences.   It seems that the clouds of reason have darkened the sun…it is too early for “all hell to break loose” – again.christmas lights

 

And that’s when those little coloured lights start to remind me of the underlying truth of all festivities this month: there are little pricks of light in the darkness, and taken together can make something beautiful.  Whether that’s in Romeo Saganash’s speaking Cree in the House of Commons on behalf of Bill C-252, or groups that gather to encourage one another in the hope and vision that if we all were treat every person in our community (and globe) as if they were family, kin, there would be no greed or need and peace would reign.  Or that with a birth of one child a new world order of justice and peace begins.  Or that through unseen collaboration one small vial of oil can light sacred space for 8 days.  Or gathering enough food for many families to make merry, one can, one box at a time.  Miracles of light in a world where darkness casts its pall.

We may curse the darkness.  But we can also show the small light of Hope that each of us carries.  Together we can make a beautiful place, and “say to the darkness ‘we beg to differ.’”*   So thanks, Spirit, tonight, it’s not quite so dark.

 

*quote attributed to Mary Jo Leddy, 1990 book of that title

Thanks to smithsonianmag.com for the photo.

 

What do we do with our grief?

I was so sad when I heard about the shootings in Las Vegas, the attack on the police officer and pedestrians in Edmonton.  On top of that, I was saddened by the death of two people in my community, and Tom Petty. What a week!  Like many, as I reeled from one story to the next, my grief compounded.

So I do what many others do.  I look for answers: how could this happen?  I remember: stories of the person, or (in the case of the attacks) similar events.  I look for community: who else is sharing this sadness with me?  I look for strength and hope: what do I learn from this person’s life, or from this incident?  Because, ultimately, for my grief to be effective, not paralyzing, I have to integrate it; I have to ask ‘how shall this affect how I live?”

I spoke with family and friends, listened to music, read websites.

But I was disturbed with a trend I saw.  Remember the June ’16 attack in Orlando at the Pulse nightclub? That single shooter killed 49 people; it was called a “terrorist attack”, by many.  The Las Vegas shooting, which killed more people, also carried out by a single person is not being called a “terrorist attack”.  The attack this weekend in Edmonton is it being called a terrorist attack; why?

Don’t get me wrong: I am appalled by the violence. It may be driven by ideology.  But I am more appalled that we live in a world where violence is an easy response – and I fear it’s beginning to be the first response.  Is this because a person doesn’t know how else to dispel their grief and anger?  Anger, often, is a grief turned outward; when our life is not unfolding as we want or think it should we explode. Literally.

I, too, am seduced sometimes by violent-think. I’ve said “would somebody just shoot [this person] and relieve me of my misery?”  Maybe it is, too, because I am deeply saddened, and cannot see a different way to alleviate it?

I wonder if we are quick to identify bad actions as “terrorist attacks” when they are done by people with particular flavour-of-the-year names*, while we dismiss other bad actions as the work of disturbed people?  And I wonder, when we denounce the violence quickly (rightly so), why we aren’t as quick to understand what in the world would push someone to such grief, such anger?

So what do I do with this grief? How will it help my spirit live?  It leads me not to take this day for granted; who knows how it shall end?  It leads me to actions which help cultivate peace; can we avoid yet another generation (here and around the world) which sees no option but to explode rage outward?  It calls me to compassionate listening because don’t we all grieve sometimes and need to have that sadness heard and shared?  “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will receive comfort.”

 

* It feels like someone picks a “bad guy” every year.  In my lifetime the  names have been Arabic, Korean, French, Irish, Russian, Pakistani, Iranian, Chinese and even some anglicized names associated with nations indigenous to Turtle Island.

Thanks,  listchallenges.com for the image!

Ever Wondering

EW confI spent the weekend at a conference which explored what it means to have an “expansive spirituality” beginning by asking “Ever Wonder…”: what are the values on which I make my life choices? how do I understand, or even begin answering for myself, Life’s Big Questions? How, and with whom, do we sustain the counter-cultural values and vision of this world being more just, loving and peace-full than it is now?  what it means to answer those questions without traditional – maybe without any – religious language and images?  

Do you find yourself asking what’s life about?  Why are we here? What kind of world do I want, and want my younger family and friends, to live in? How, and with whom, do I help build that? And how do I know something is true?  Who, or what, am I in relationship with what is beyond me – Planet Earth, the others with whom we inhabit it, with whatever or whoever is beyond our planet home?

Those are spiritual questions.  How we answer those questions form our belief system.  And our beliefs ground our choices in life, how we behave towards our self, towards others, towards our Home of Planet Earth.

What do you base your values and choices in life on? 

Religionless spirituality isn’t a new thought.  It’s been around in Western scholarly spiritual work at least since the 1940s.  One well-respected, highly educated, German Lutheran pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, asked if humanity has developed to a point of requiring a “religionless Christianity”?  From around the same time to now, other deep thinkers – from Roman Catholic monks to secular humanists – have offered non-traditional ways of asking and answering those questions.

This conference is part of this ‘chain of tradition’.  Can one be Christian without the so-called “must-believe” doctrines, and mythical stories?  What does it mean to be on a spiritual journey without requiring belief in any dogma, or an ‘outside agent’?  What does it mean to have an expansive spirituality?  And how does any of this help me to live my day-to-day life?  And with whom can I struggle those question into a place that is Life-enhancing for myself, others, the planet?

Do you have those conversations? How and with whom?  I am fortunate that, through my professional duties, I often get to be part of those conversations.  I am honoured to be asked to share my experience, strength and hope (to borrow a phrase) of what gives my meaning and purpose to my life, what supports & sustains my belief that Life is Good, that love is better than hate, that the way things are is not the way they have to be, that the world can be a more just, loving and peace-full place for all of Earth’s inhabitants.  And, since I was 23, what I share doesn’t resemble what I was taught as a child. (That story’s for another time.)

So thanks, folks who created the “Ever Wonder” conference.  These are necessary questions as we wonder together how we shall live for the common good.

Alternative Facts?

I’ve been part of many conversations this week that were commenting on (ok, mostly ridiculing) the idea of “alternative facts”.  Yes, it does sound like Orwell-speak.  But I’ve been thinking….I wonder if there isn’t  a case to be made for alternative facts?

Case in point: my friend and I were discussing someone we both know.  You wouldn’t know from our independent “facts” that we were describing the same human being. My experience and his experience of this person were as different as chalk and cheese.   Were my “facts” – my own experience – of this person any less true than my friend’s?  Did we have alternative facts about the same person?

What about on a macro-level?  Are my “facts” about (for example) the current Israeli government’s treatment of people in Gaza – gathered from the information I research, the agencies I support, experiences I have, the concerns that I hold – any less true than my Jewish friend’s “facts” (from the same kinds of sources and her fear of anti-Jewish sentiment increasing in Canada (I agree with her on that….)? Are these not “alternative facts”?

Facts are information accepted as informed by our perspective.  And what we value.  And what kind of world we want to help build.

I’m talking about alternative facts – based on evidence and experience, not rumor and assertion; not based on something made up with hopes that the louder they are proclaimed the truer they will get. (Sad but true, even legitimate media are slipping into the same muck as the self-determining media wannabes, spreading “we think” as fact.)

But back to the point: information comes at us from so many directions, how do we know what’s true?  Facts we rely on is the information we take in, subjected to critical thinking,  vetted by the questions we ask, the values we hold, and the kind of world we want to help build.  What are the questions you ask?  What informs your values?

My values are informed by my faith: that Life will be Abundant for all people only when we see one another (every ethnicity and cultural heritage, gender expression, religious expression, political persuasion) as a sister or a brother; that peace does not come through intimidation but by wanting for the next person the same as I want for my self; that justice is not a synonym for revenge but a path to restoring relationships to a place of balance; that reconciliation isn’t a politically-correct slogan, but a willingnthe-very-powerful-dr-who-4-2ndess to shape, and be shaped by, one another so we are both the best we can be.  In the end, I accept as my “alternative facts” that for which the “bottom line for me and mine” isn’t the only criteria for making decisions.

And, with respect to The 4th Doctor*, I don’t believe truth and fact are the same.  Facts are information. Truth brings Life for everyone, everywhere; that’s what makes it Holy, that’s what draws us together.  That’s what will set us free.

 

Days of Remembrance

cbc ca Day of Remembrance

This week there are a flurry of “international” and “national” days of remembrance:

This weekend, Sunday Dec 6th is Canada’s national day of action and remembrance of victims of gender-based violence. A day when we remember that 14 women were gunned down because they were women.  We wear white ribbons to remember, and vow “never again”.

We are in the middle of the UN’s campaign of 16 Days of Action against gender discrimination.  One Canadian response is the campaign #WeWillWearWhatWeWant, a campaign that encourages women to gather wearing whatever makes us feel “like a woman”.  Some women will be scantily dressed, others will be fully veiled.  What would a picture of your ‘group of women’ look like?  Post it on Facebook, or on Twitter, link it to your church’s facebook page.

And then there is the issue of hundreds of documented cases of indigenous women who have gone missing or have been murdered whose cases are still unsolved.

Imagine a world where women didn’t need to fear being attacked or harassed, or discriminated against, or talked about for how they live their lives.

This past Tuesday, Dec 1, on World AIDS Day, many people stood and prayed in solidarity with those whose lives have been touched by HIV and AIDS-related illness; most are women, 25 million are children orphaned by AIDS, 85% of which live in sub-Saharan Africa (avert.org).

And on Dec 10th, we will mark the 68th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, yet daily we see human rights abuses done even by signatory countries like Canada, the US, Israel, Afghanistan and China.

How do we seek peace when we face such huge obstacles?

 

These markers are our attempts –frail as they are –  to remember the vision, to honour the people affected,  and so build a world of peace on life at a time.  Some of these days of remembrance give us courage to speak our truth of how God’s vision brings peace to our lives.  Other days of remembrance feel like refiners fire and launder’s soap scrubbing a layer of skin off us and we feel raw and tender and exposed. (see Malachai 3, for reference)

We are human, frail and forgetful; we do not always generate peace between ourselves and others in the community.  We make mistakes, but we are forgiven every time we turn back to the path that leads to righteous peace.  We can be courageous in recognizing the hurt our lives do to others, to turn away from those acts, we wash that grime off our soul so that God’s vision can shine through us.

We are empowered by God’s spirit working in us; we can be humbly courageous and take our place in the movements that build up justice. Our actions to change the world – as small as they might be – are acts of faith – faith that God’s love transforms us, faith that loving our neighbour – the ones we like and the ones we don’t – will lead us to be with God.  We need not fear facing those places within us that need mending.  Though sometimes it feels like we are facing words of fire, and repentance tastes like soap, God uses them to make us our very best self, the self that God sees within us.  Fear not, remember the vision on these days of remembrance and discover the peace your soul craves.