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The Broken Body

Reflecting on the Body,
you the hand, I the foot
Christ the head, perhaps the heart,
all at times the hidden part,
I let the Scriptures
flood my mind with images,
with suddenly one image,
a moving picture
so harshly real
I gasp aloud.

A person staggers
stumbles forward,
arms flailing, head jerking
back and forth in spasms,
body parts all pulling
different ways.

This then, reality,
Christ’s earthly body now.

God, forgive us.

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Reflections on Important Values and Who in History and in our Personal Experience Embody Them.

Preparing a class on 2nd Corinthians that I will be teaching in a few weeks. Got to thinking about who embodies my personal concept of Christ in history in the Common Era.
I was a bit surprised when I settled on Gandhi. But also know from reading, that Gandhi was a pretty rotten husband and father. Kind of makes me understand why Jesus never got married. I suspect that most great men have had long-suffering families. Perhaps great women also, though in history many of them became nuns and prioresses since that was the only role where women had freedom, respect, and a certain amount of power.
Recently I both read and heard another person say that today’s most popular idol is our self. We’re number one. Our opinions, our belief system, our needs, our desires, our loves, our country, our talents, our goals, our values are more important than anyone else’s when it comes down to making choices. And the end justifies the means when it comes to protecting those.
One of my blog posts brought some rather strong disagreement when I included the bible in a list of possible idols. I really value the bible and look to it for insights, challenges, encouragement and grace. I consider the bible good, but not God.
There are other people than Gandhi,leading smaller lives focused on family and the people they come into contact with, that I consider Christlike. In my past I’ve known a pediatrician, a nun teacher, and an ex nun facilitator that stand out particularly in my memory. They seemed to actually be able to put caring about others first, to be able to admit their own limits and be open enough to others’ very different opinions to be stretched by them, and amazingly to both affirm and challenge others without diminishing them.
I’d love to hear what you value in humans and who in both history and in your personal lives embody those values.

Never Wanted to Go to Heaven

I never really wanted to go to heaven; just wanted to make sure I avoided going to hell, if there was one.  The problem was that my personality likes diversity and change.  I just couldn’t imagine any kind of heaven I would enjoy for eternity.  (Eternity sounds like a very very long time.)

After a conversion from agnosticism complete with an experience of the unlimited, no conditions love expressed in Jesus, I felt pretty sure there was a heaven that would work for everyone, even me.  But I still couldn’t imagine it.

Some years into my spiritual journey I had an experience of such intense and enormous joy, that from then on I was much more excited about going to heaven and not so concerned with the details.

My brother and I were traveling together and the experience was so overwhelming that we each simultaneously asked God to stop it for fear we would actually explode.  I won’t go into much detail, because I think these experiences come about differently for everyone.  We both experienced a moment of great clarity in which we felt, saw, heard  and were a part of a crowd around Jesus singing praise in the presence of God.  After sharing with one another, we decided that what we had each experienced was very similar, but also realized that there was no way to measure or compare.  We both experienced as much joy as we were each able to bear at that point in our lives. So, whether it was an ocean of joy or a cup of joy simply didn’t matter.

Over the forty plus years since then, I have come to believe that the capacity for experiencing joy and the capacity for accepting suffering are linked. I don’t know if there is a cause and effect relationship or just some sort of spiritual law of balance.  My instinct says that joy is the grace that gives us the freedom to accept heart break without dulling the pain through anger or depression or an addiction (even one to doing good or working constantly.)  But my experience also has been that in accepting the painful darkness of sorrow, I find the peace that passes understanding. And that peace is quiet joy.

As the psalm says, “But then comes the morning, yesterdays sorrows behind.”

A Kind Word Heals

A Kind Word Heals

A Kind Word Healsbloggers-for-peace-badge

 

Peacemaker Ministries

I wrote recently about our women’s group starting a new class on conflict resolution. I’m very excited about this opportunity, but I do realize what a challenge this will be. So, I’m praying for our group and our facilitators, and ask my fellow B4Peace bloggers to pray also.

The book we are using to begin is Resolving Everyday Conflict by Ken Sande and Kevin Johnson.

I have only read the introduction so far, but it has captured my imagination and revived some of my long lost hope about peacemaking.

Ken Sande says that since he became a full-time Christian conciliator in 1982 he has seen these peacemaking principles used to stop divorces, restore friendships, reunite churches, settle lawsuits, and even bring peace between warring tribes in Africa and Asia.

I’m looking forward to seeing what can bring about those kinds of reconciliations and peace.

He also says to learn more about Peacemaker Ministries’ resources, training, or services visit http://www.Peacemaker.net.

I feel like I am standing at a door to a whole new way of life, perhaps even a deeper sense of purpose.

Don’t you love those moments in life?

My discovering the wonders of blogging last year at seventy-five is continuing to open new worlds to explore at seventy-six.

Thank yous to: our nephew David who gave me my first computer seventeen years ago, our son Thomas who is our computer tech, Tracy who introduced me to blogging last year, and the bloggers around the world that keep me inspired, particularly Kozo and the group, B4Peace.

They have all taught me that it’s never too late to learn new, exciting, and life changing things.

Peace Songs for the Journey

My list of ten songs plus, that bring me peace or inspire me to seek peace, is pretty eclectic. They vary from a children’s song about diversity:
1.All God’s Creatures Got a Place in the Choir by the Twitters,
to:
2. Nabucco, the chorus of the Hebrew Slaves by Verdi, which evokes compassion in me,
and then ironically my list includes:
3. It’s a Long Way to Tipperary by the Soviet Army Chorus and Band, part in Russian and part in English, from a record we had in the sixties. This is a song about how far war takes us from home, in every sense of the word, and now it also reminds me of the possibilities for drastic change in the world.

Others are religious:
4. Make Me A Channel of Your Peace sung by Susan Boyle;
5. Peace Like a River by the Morman Tabernacle Choir;
6. Peace is Flowing Like a River by Father Carey Landry and Carol Jean Kinghorn;
7. Let There Be Peace on Earth by Voices Without Borders.
8.Panis Angelicus by Celtic Woman

Then there are the classics from the 60’s:
9. Let It Be sung by Joan Baez,
10. Imagine by Lennon -my favorite is by Judy Collins.

And two more recent songs:
11. Some Day by the Celtic Woman.
12.Bring on the Rain by Jo Dee Messina and Tim McGraw, which speaks of having the courage to accept all of life, which is key to personal peace.

Another one I plan to use for prayer/chant on Sunday’s Praying for Peace time:
13.My Peace I Leave You by the international Taize Community Choir in France.

I gathered several others from my face book family:
Give Peace a Chance by John Lennon;
Put a Little Love in Your Life by Jackie De Shannon;
My Little Life by Korby Lenker.
Note:My Little Life at first glance may not seem like a peace song, but since greed,the unrelenting need for more, seems one of the main causes of war and violence, then
celebrating what we have, even in a very small life, should beget peace.

Another song that touches me and challenges me is:
14.I Will Always Love You,by Dolly Parton.
This expresses a truth I believe: that once we’ve learned to truly love, it may bring sorrow, but not hate. I think there’s a strong connection between allowing ourselves to feel the pain of deep sorrow, not avoiding that pain by replacing it with hate or anger or revenge, and the capacity for love.
It would seem that peace, like love, is not only a many splendored thing, but the capacity for peace and love may be inseparable.

I drive a hundred mile plus round trip on an Interstate several times a week, so I am making a CD of these songs to play and reflect on while driving. A small beginning in a small life, but perhaps it’s a pebble dropped into the water.

Keeping Children Safe from the Insane and the Insane Safe from Themselves

When I first heard about the horrifying massacre of young children in Connecticut, my response was that I should buy an Uzzi and volunteer to guard the nearest school any of my grandchildren attended. Realizing that I have grands and great-grands in six counties and three states, I decided to start a movement to arm grandparents as guards in the schools of America. When I calmed down a little, reality reared its ugly head. Mental pictures of me (and those like me) forgetting how to get the safety latch off or shooting the maintenance person, because the glare from a window behind him made the mop look like a rifle, squelched that idea.
I’ve followed the responses and proposals in the media and on the internet and thought a lot about violence and counter-measures, that I’ve witnessed in my seventy-five years.
I don’t have statistics to compare the amount of violence in the decades since I first experienced it personally in 1954 (See post: My Introduction to Violence), but I remember the Kent State student shootings by the National Guard, innocent young black children killed over integration, a father shooting five or six elementary school children on the school playground in my neighborhood in Houston in 1959, The Texas University sniper killing students from its Campanile, and of course the killing of the children in the preschool in the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. If there seem to be more of these now, perhaps it’s partly because of increasing population, partly because of the impersonal anonymous climate of larger and larger institutions, and partly because we don’t imprison the mentally ill in insane asylums any more, but haven’t found a viable alternative for those who are a danger to themselves and others.
But with the killers being students, parents, outsiders, extremists, and even the National Guard, it appears to me that while we certainly have to try to make our schools safer, there really isn’t any way to prevent an insane homicidal/suicidal child or adult from killing groups of children. Groups of children are vulnerable in the school, on the play ground, going from building to building between classes, on school buses, waiting to load onto school buses. They are vulnerable at Science Museums, Chucky Cheeses, Disney Land, Park playgrounds, Zoos, Skating Rinks, Little League games, school sporting events.
Several thoughts confuse the issue of gun control. The guns that killed in these cases were not in the hands of known criminals. And some were ordinary guns, not repeating rapid-fire guns, and then some were bombs. And just about anybody that can read, can make a bomb today.
The problem calls for more than just arming personnel in schools or curtailing the sale of certain types of guns or turning school buildings into bunkers.
My concern is not just the tools of violence, but the hatred that fuels it, a hatred that now comes out in elections, in sports, in marriages, and even in the name of religion. What is the source or catalyst for so much hatred?
To find that answer, we can only begin by looking within.

My Introduction to Violence and the Miracle of Martin Luther King

About 1954 when I was seventeen, someone set a bomb off in our entrance hall. It was the night of an election with a black woman running for the school board in Houston, Texas. Segregation and the myth of separate, but equal schools were still firmly in place, and the black schools had never had representation on the board. I believe she was the first black candidate.
My father was a newspaper editor and had written editorials supporting her.
The bomb was not like bombs today. It didn’t destroy walls or knock down the door, but it had enough impact to cause the confetti packing and sharp pieces of slate to become embedded in the door and walls. It was set off about three in the morning, my father was still at the newspaper covering the election, and I was half-way down the stairs before I decided not to go to the door. That was my first personal experience of the human capacity for senseless violence.
Though my mother was from Mississippi and my father was from Louisiana, they had taught me that prejudging people on the basis of their skin color was not only wrong, it was ignorant. And ignorance was THE mortal sin in our family.
When I married and moved to Nashville, Tennessee our friends were mostly doctors and lawyers and college professors. In the middle sixties I decided to join the NAACP after one of my friends, who was a volunteer at a local hospital, informed us all angrily that, “There was no way in hell, she was going to carry that n_____ baby out to their car. And she told them that right then and there. She didn’t care who heard her.”  Obviously, a college education isn’t always a cure for ignorance.
So in 1968 I was working at the NAACP office when the Poor People’s March came through Nashville. There were many young blacks from out of town, who belonged to more militant organizations like SNCC and CORE, going in and out of the office where I was answering the phone. Their obvious strong hatred of whites, even those of us working for the NAACP, was frightening.
It seemed to me that America was headed for a bloody race war where many innocent people on both sides would be destroyed. I began to pray fervently for a miracle that would prevent that.
I have come to see Martin Luther King as that miracle. I believe whites should be as grateful to him as blacks.
I thank God for Martin Luther King.

bloggers-for-peace-badge                              Peace Begins Within

Conflict is not the same as hatred. Differences of opinion, conflicting needs, and misunderstandings are part of the human condition. But hatred is a whole other ballgame. And where there is hatred, there will be no peace.

Most, if not all, hatred and prejudice are rooted in a sort of primal human fear of being the least, of being at the bottom of our world’s value ranking.  Being at the bottom means being helpless and vulnerable to the ill will of others.

One way we assure ourselves that we are not the least valuable is finding others to consider inferior to us in some obvious way, perhaps morally.

Another way is to focus all our personal or group resources on developing a particular competitive talent or skill, so we can feel safely superior in that area and trust society to overlook our disdain for or even violence toward others.

Or, if intimidated by another person or group’s abilities, like the childhood bully, we can try to cut them down to our size with ridicule, or like Hitler, make them the scapegoat for everyone’s woes.

Hatred is a fear based response. It depends on denying our shared humanity with the “other.”
It allows us to demonize those we choose or are taught to hate, to project on them all the evil that we struggle to repress within ourselves.

I believe the increased incidence of suicide among our soldiers comes from wars that now involve being up close and personal with those in the invaded countries, who turn out to be just ordinary people like ourselves.  Then our shared humanity and helplessness expose wars of today as being murder.  And while fighting for our survival might be noble, fighting for our lifestyle is not.

Scripture says that faith casts out fear. Faith in what? Not faith that we are the chosen and somehow better than others, but rather it is faith that we are all loved by our creator.   In the hymn Amazing Grace, ‘without one plea’ means we are loved for no reason other than being God’s creations, God’s children, not for being good, or right, or a certain religion, or nationality.

Jesus says such extreme things as, ‘Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me.’ Does that mean that Jesus literally is in those we consider the lowest, those we ignore and avoid, treat condescendingly, or even hate and persecute?

He goes on to say that ‘in the kingdom of heaven, those that were last on earth will be first and those that were first will be last.’ Friends, I’m pretty sure the kingdom of heaven lasts a lot longer than our days on earth. It’s something to keep in mind when evaluating our priorities, particularly those that grow out of a need to not be the least or last in this world.

Paul’s treatise on love in First Corinthians 13 insists in no uncertain terms that without love, we are nothing. If we give everything to charity, if we become the poorest of the poor, but have not love, we are nothing. If we have great spiritual or intellectual gifts, but have not love, we are nothing.

Love is kind. Love is not arrogant, envious, boastful, rude, or resentful. Love does not insist on having its own way.
Wow.
When my need to be “somebody” raises its ugly head, I reread these words, and  I have to  quickly go mentally to the back of the line.

So who are the least of God’s brethren? Those that know that without God, they are nothing. Those that walk humbly with  God.

Mother Teresa was able to undertake and persevere in her calling because she experienced both the unconditional love of God and even His discernable presence in her life before she ever began her mission and also during the times of struggle with church authorities to be allowed to do what she knew God had called her to do. Toward the end of her life, Mother Teresa went through a terrible dark depression. She had succeeded in doing what God called her to do and she had even received worldly honors and fame. But at the last, she no longer experienced God’s presence. And compared to that, nothing else mattered, not success in her mission, nor worldly acclaim.  She felt bereft.

The least are those that know that without God, who is love, we are and have nothing of eternal value. But that with God, we need nothing else.  Only then do we not suffer from the illusion that we are, or need to be, better than anyone else.

Peace begins within each of us as we grow in faith in a God who is love.

Related Article: Bloggers for Peace

Edges and Borders: Where You Stop and I Begin