Create Love, Not War – Day Twenty-Six

art is nonconformity

The history of humankind as resident on this earth depicts lands riddled with the puncture wounds of markers moved and the battles fought to place them. In 1967 alone, there were 67 conflicts underway. In Saigon the Second battle of Bàu Bàng went down in March, the ongoing Vietnam War advanced, Che Guevara’s Ñancahuazú Guerrilla, the people of Portuguese Guinea fought the Guinea-Bissau War of Independence, equality was at stake in the Chicago Freedom Movement, and the War over Water (Jordan river) was only one issue behind the Six-Day War over territory Israel and Arabs claimed—to name only a few.

A common theme underpinning these clashes is a human one: recognition of identity as part of a distinct community, and a desire for basic regard—the dignity—to freely live that out. Many were fights for independence from colonizing nations that were concerned more for their own interests than that of the people whose home they entered. Others pertained to the assertion of basic rights as human beings, rights that were not afforded them based on arbitrary indicators (skin color, religion, etc). And religion, well, the number of wars justified by religion cannot be quantified. Wars motivated by religion are most heinous because it assumes a god who would prefer one human being (or ethnic group) over another—and that preference implies the other is dispensable.

I recently finished a science-fiction trilogy (my guilty pleasure) that rather purposely speaks to societal structure in relationship to religious belief. The central character commented on whether members of one powerful group were gods, stating, “They are not. Gods create. If they are anything, they are vampire kings.” His point, rulers that suck the resources out of a place (or peoples) to prolong or enrich their own lives are no different from parasites. True, it is no easy thing to be part of organizing a society that honors the social contract while keeping basic human dignity in tact. War is easy. Peace is not.

Peace is ongoing, organic, necessitates effort, is hard work. It entails collaboration, cooperation, teamwork, listening. Cooperation assumes sharing, and sharing means giving something up for the good of all, so that those who have none may have some. The issue in war is always that someone is holding on to control, to power, unwilling to yield, disinclined to take the moments necessary to really see the other. Because once I see you, know you, I begin to love you. And if I love you, oh how I want to share with you in my life.

I began this entry because I was interested in the Israel-Palestine concern regarding boundary lines and the 1967 map frequently referenced these last few years. Obviously, I got a little sidetracked when I noticed there were so many other places that suffered over similar aims, as are so many current disputes equally significant to those affected. And I am increasingly concerned about a leadership that is so self-interested and preserving while there remain dire needs worldwide – and in our own country. And it is difficult to keep from wondering how this leadership can continue to be supported.

In my (nearly) 50 years of life, I still believe in a God that creates. I believe a God who communicates that making right relationship between God and us, and among us is God’s purpose—from the very first spark of creation to the kingdom of on earth as heaven revealed in all its fullness. I believe we are created to be for one another, that we have grown as people in technologies and the insight and knowledge of each other – that I am capable of seeing God’s character reflected in you and your culture. That by knowing you I know God more, and together we can more effectively, productively lead – collaboratively, creatively, peacefully. It is possible. With God, all things are. I believe that. Jesus, help my unbelief.

 

I write about one way to lead collaboratively in my book, found here.

Flowers That Work – Day Fifteen

flowers eternal

Happy May Day! When I was in primary school, we would pick a basketful of flowers, leave a bundle on a neighbor’s porch, ring the bell and run away. It was terribly exciting and I just thought it was such a lovely idea to leave flowers to brighten someone’s day – and not need to take any credit for the kindness. It is just what you were supposed to do. I always wondered why no one seemed to continue the tradition.

May Day is an ancient spring festival practiced in much of the northern hemisphere. Depending on the culture in which it is practiced, the day is marked by parades, dancing around the Maypole, and always features flowers. From all that I can gather from researching the history of the Maypole and traditional celebrations of May 1st, the entire community is always participant. It is true that we have a number of occasions that the community celebrates together. St. Patrick’s Day is definitely a community event in Chicago! Still, there is something so lovely and innocent about just celebrating the beauty of spring in all its pigmented luster.

flowers in haze

The first of May is now associated with labor unions and worker’s rights, initiated by the Haymarket affair in Chicago 1886. A protest was organized for the day to demand the institution of the 8-hour workday with a guarantee of no pay cuts. Three days later as demonstrations continued, a bomb was let and shots fired, resulting in the deaths of at least four civilians and seven police officers. Today, there are reports of protests in Greece and Moscow, a gasoline bomb and tear gas in Paris, more tear gas in Turkey, and competing marches in Venezuela for and against the government. The US is expected to see higher than usual protests protesting Trump’s immigration policies, among others.

Do not work for that which decays . . . For those who believe Jesus is who he claims to be, work is to promote and be motivated by God’s intention for God’s creation, and is eternal. When Worker’s Day was established May 1, 1886, laborers saw that Capitalism didn’t seem to be working for them. That is, the ones who garnered the bulk of the profit for their labors where the heads of companies and factories. It wasn’t that the common laborer valued money more than God. It is only that money is necessary in this world to provide room and board. Too, the balance of wages against working hours was nothing like fair—and often continues to be thus.

flowers in massive lilypads

Jesus is the ultimate example of what it looks like to do God’s work. Share with someone who does not have of that which you own two. Do not defraud your neighbor or cheat another out of wages deserved. And since these conditions are not universally enjoyed, it is our responsibility to be a part of making things right. Bombs are not the answer, though such displays uncover the despair that is too real for many. So what is a practical way that I can be a part of making things right in this instance? Writing letters to my representatives in government? Joining a march? Sharing my home? My food? Writing a blog to get a productive conversation going? Whatever the case, I would also like to do it with flowers! The ones I share here are from the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Enjoy. And please share how you are already – and your ideas of how we can – make things right together.

Expressions of Peace – Day Thirteen

graffiti jazz

A Philadelphia high school student who went by the moniker, Cornbread, started tagging city walls in 1967 to get the attention of a girl. Since then, an eruption of artwork onto city walls and trains has evolved into an art form accepted by some of the most prestigious galleries. This 40-day spiritual practice is exposing to me to some very interesting things that happened in the year of my birth! [All of the pictures here I took during my journeys to Ireland and Bali]

graffiti dogs n skull

Graffiti is archeologically defined as, “writing or drawings that have been scribbled, scratched, or painted illicitly on a wall or other surface, often within public view.” Of course, in this sense, graffiti has been around since ancient times in Egypt, Greece, and the Roman Empire. Contemporary graffiti, though, is often controversial as it is frequently deemed vandalism (subject to prosecution) and/or illustrating a social or political message.

graffiti forever

On the streets of Paris in 1981, Xavier Prou began creating stencil graffiti to highlight social injustices (homelessness, in particular). And, of course, Banksy, in early 1990s Bristol, UK, garnered international attention transitioning from stencil art to a more “proper” art form. They are visual satire, usually anti-war and anti-establishment. And now this kind of art is found on city walls all over the world. Indeed, I admired such art in Dublin and Cork, in Canggu and Ubud.

Today is, in the Catholic tradition, the Feast of Catherine of Siena (1347-1380). Though Catherine did not write on walls, she did write letters. And she wrote a lot of letters. Some were to encourage others in the faith, some to leaders begging for peace and the reform of clergy, and to many around her to extend her influence outward for greater impact on accomplishing that peace. She engaged in protest fasts and was nearly assassinated in June 1378, but peace between Florence and Rome was finally accomplished shortly thereafter.

graffiti porch

Room With A View: through the glass door

Catherine spoke often about love as the standard of Christian work and witness of God’s presence in it. She also wrote how love is often expressed in sacrifice, action, and even if perceived as aggressive. In one letter she challenges, “If you are what you should be, you will set all of Italy ablaze!” She did not mean this to be a literal blaze, of course, but she was indicating that the power of the Holy Spirit is most effective when the ones in whom the Spirit dwells act.

graffiti cork

The 1960s saw a shift, something like an awakening for those who were historically rendered powerless. And 1967, was certainly an eventful year in protest. Art on city walls frightens the establishment. No guns are leveled but disenfranchisement is given voice. And any change requires a certain creativity to enact. Indeed, poetry has been a very compelling means of dissent. It is dangerous and it is effective. When it is a woman or of other marginalized groups, the act is nearly always regarded as hostile. But change is a breed of violence – the new thing must put the old to the death, after all. Yet when there remains injustice, righteousness – making things right – is imperative. Being human, I am obligated to be part of doing justice, loving mercy, all the while walking humbly with my God. It only requires that I am what I should be . . . then, perhaps, I may set my domain ablaze!

Multiple Dimensions to Healing Earth – Day Six

Love is the seventh wave

Peace activist, John McConnell, believed humans have an obligation to take care of the earth, and to share its resources equally, based on such passages as Psalm 115:16. Two years before I was born, in June 1965, McConnell spoke at the National Education Association Convention in Madison Square Garden where the public came together for a “Minute for Peace.” In October 1969, at the National UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, McConnell proposed a global holiday to celebrate Earth’s life and beauty and to advance peace. And in 1970, US Senator Gaylord Nelson established April 22nd, first as an environmental teach-in, followed by the annual observance.

palm sam bw

Growing up in Denver, CO, I remember years of looking toward the foothills, not able to see them for the perpetual brownish haze that lined the Front Range. Despite regulations imposed on oil and gas industries, air samples in some areas remain at greater than national percentages, higher even than refinery-dense Houston. National regulations have made an impact, however. The Clean Air Act, for instance, has been good for overall health and for the economy.

What is often missed in the discussion about environmental concerns is that global warming most acutely impacts the poor. My father-in-law, Howard A. Snyder, cogently discusses this issue, our responsibility to the earth and to the underserved in his Salvation Means Creation Healed. His impulse is much the same as John McConnell’s but Snyder takes the conversation further by suggesting that creation care is part of God’s redemptive plan. If you believe this as I do, perhaps we might be doing more to make things right in and for this world?

swinging trees sam

Today I had another mind-blowing conversation with my son, Howie chiming in a bit later. We were talking about four-dimensional constructs and the vectors that define them. This always spirals into the (friendly) argument over how to conceive of four dimensions and what additional dimensions indicate. It is such fun, but I’ll leave the details for another day. This is where Howie interjected. He recalled the lyrics from Sting’s, “Love is the Seventh Wave” based on the principle that waves come in sevens, the seventh of which is biggest. Sting asserts that Love is that 7th wave. So we considered the importance of seven in scripture and that perhaps six dimensions are the constant, including time, and that a seventh dimension permeates the reality of the six . . . . Of course, if you subscribe to string theory you’ll want to take it out to eleven, so a twelfth can be Love (you, know, 12 disciples, 12 tribes of Israel)

Yeah, this is how we spend our Saturday’s – and this Earth Day. At any rate, nearly fifty years after the first observance, I have hope that my children will continue to make all things right for the world, for this earth, entrusted us from the beginning. I believe this because of the advances in maths and sciences and technology and, well, YouTube, and they can think in terms of dimensions—beyond what I was taught and limited by in primary school. I have hope because Love is a reality that is beyond all dimensions and my son, for one, lives in that reality.

The lyrics are beautiful to contemplate and Sting’s performance can be viewed here:

“Love Is The Seventh Wave”

In the empire of the senses
You’re the queen of all you survey
All the cities all the nations
Everything that falls your way
There is a deeper wave than this
That you don’t understand
There is a deeper wave than this
Tugging at your hand

Every ripple on the ocean
Every leaf on every tree
Every sand dune in the desert
Every power we never see
There is a deeper wave than this
Swelling in the world
There is a deeper wave than this
Listen to me girl

Feel it rising in the cities
Feel it sweeping over land
Over borders, over frontiers
Nothing will its power withstand
There is no deeper wave than this
Rising in the world
There is no deeper wave than this
Listen to me girl

All the bloodshed, all the anger
All the weapons, all the greed
All the armies, all the missiles
All the symbols of our fear
There is a deeper wave than this
Rising in the world
There is a deeper wave than this
Listen to me girl

At the still point of destruction
At the centre of the fury
All the angels, all the devils
All around us can’t you see
There is a deeper wave than this
Rising in the land
There is a deeper wave than this
Nothing will withstand

I say love is the seventh wave

Endure, Stand, at the Pace of Grace – Day Three

endure with grace

On this day, fifty years ago, Katherine Switzer began the #BostonMarathon. The problem was, women were not allowed to participate. Two miles into the contest, the race director, Jack Semple, fully angered at the realization that a woman had somehow slipped in attempted to physically force her out. Tom Miller, her boyfriend at the time, fought Semple off and Switzer went on the complete the marathon. On Monday, at the age of 70, she again ran the Boston Marathon, this time comprising 45% women.

I am a runner, though I will never run a marathon. Still, it is women like Katherine Switzer who, in the year I was born, had courage to do what she was capable of doing despite the arbitrary social conventions that would prevent her. She helped to forge a path for those of us who were born that year, and enable and encourage us to widen that path in the years to follow.

stand with grace.jpg

A feature that is important not to miss is that Tom Miller also had courage to run with Switzer. Many women are alone in the quest to be wholly present to the world in her gifts and abilities. Switzer was not alone. Thankfully, I have a partner in crime who likes to buck convention when convention crushes the spirit in himself or another human being. Howie is my chief cheerleader who had always seen me for who I am, supporting my efforts to live the Life in me fully.

In my nearly (still 37 days to go!) 50 years of life I have seen progress and contributed to the work to make things right for both women and men. My ordination journey is one of those areas, but that is a story for another day. Still, there is a great amount of work yet to be done. So as I pass a mantle to my children—my two girls and two boys—they understand their unique expression of God’s character at the core and are standing with others in their own way to promote the manifestation of that beauty. And I know that they will be faithful to the effort to make things right in the world.

at the pace of grace

And I know my children are not alone. We endure with grace, stand with grace, and walk at the pace of grace—with others – who see me as. I. am. – see you as. you. are. And isn’t that exactly what Jesus made right at the cross?

Lenten Prayer Practice – Holy Saturday

hope does not disappoint

Because God’s love has been poured into our hearts . . . Rm5:5 How might I minister #hope to someone this Holy Saturday?

Holy Trinity, center me now that I may notice Your creative intention, nest in the broad, safe space of Your presence, and intentionally nurture another with the same.

What word or phrase do I notice on which I may center:

1 Peter 4:7-11 Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes! [MSG]

Line the nest of God’s presence with this prayer for _______ and myself:

Holy God, thank you, for the awesome power your love has. Thank you, for your bright presence so evident in _______. Jesus, give ________ an added sense of that presence today. Holy Spirit, help________ be quick to be generous with your gifts to someone else this day. Amen.

How will I intentionally nurture ________ today:

REMEMBER (3Ns)

PRACTICE (Lectio Divina)