My Blog

COMING HOME TO WORDS OF WAR

I was on a retreat this weekend and left with an amazing sense of peace. Home again, I unpacked and took a much needed nap before I checked the news on my computer. I saw words about threats and bombings and even WWIII.

Here is what I want to say about this news:

War never leads to peace.

War and killing are never God’s will.

God never takes sides in a conflict.

Any leader who claims that he is speaking for God is a manipulator and liar.

I am not allowing these events to mess with my peace. The peace I feel is a gift. Jesus said, “I give you peace,” but he added lest his followers should misunderstand, “The peace I give is not what the world gives.”

SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT

On the table to the left of my computer is a small plaque that reads: “Seek Peace and Pursue it.” St. Benedict wrote these words for his community way back when. This afternoon I head out to St. John’s campus where I will be attending a retreat with friends who are members of the same contemplative body as I. St. John’s University was founded by the Benedictines and the retreats I attend there always have a Benedictine flavor. It is one of those things I go along with even though I am a Franciscan in my heart. I am also a Quaker in my heart, but that is another story.

The overlapping of my coming across Benedict’s quote and the retreat is a coincidence I should probably pay attention to, but I would rather note the overlap between Benedict and this blog. The title I chose ten years ago when it was launched is “My Thoughts on Peace.” At the time, I was a student of Peace Pilgrim, a woman who walked several times across the nation for peace around the time of the Vietnam War. She taught me that peace in country and peace in one’s self are basically the same thing. In fact, the path to peace in the world, she taught, begins with peace within.

I am thinking about Peace today as I watch the new and the solution that Peace offers me as I head out this afternoon. Peace within doesn’t come easy to me. I have to work at it. My spiritual director calls the practice of meditation work. Indeed it is. I have to work at it every day to make peace stick.

Another way to get peace to stick is to associate with others trying to do the same thing. That is what the retreat is about.

PEACE!

I WANT TO BE PART OF SOMETHING BIG

“I want to be part of something big”, These are words I found written in my journal in 1990. I had just started a new job at a church in St. Cloud, MN. I was an idealist. I had a passion for social justice. I loved the kids put in my care. I was doing work that had the potential to break forth into something big. I had the good fortune to meet face to face people who were making a distinct mark on the world. Here is the total of what I wrote that February day 30 years ago:

I want to be part of something big – to be aware of the fact that what I do has meaning. This is why I keep reflecting on the concept of “building the Kingdom of God” – knowing that a mighty work is being done and the work I do in my little corner is part of that work…gives value to all I do.

I never lost the passion. What has changed is that I have found “my little corner” more acceptable. I have learned that this little corner is part of the Kingdom. It is the place where I breath and move and where my senses do their magic. It is true that there are children in the world who need a meal today, but there is also a grandchild that needs to know he is loved and I will be calling him today. I think that when I wrote this I was thinking about my work. But it was never about work.

You may think that the reason you go to work each day is so that you will be given a paycheck to put food on the table and clothes on your back. But I believe that your job is about building the Kingdom of God. So is shopping and going to the doctor’s office and stopping to talk to your neighbor who is getting his mail as you pull out of your driveway. If you hate your job and dread the neighbor who talks way too much, then be aware that the you are a part of the building that my need some work.

There was a young man, John Huebsch, who was an inspiration for my book, The Memorial of Jesus. He co-founded Common Hope, an organization that helps families in Guatemala. John was admired by those of us who went to Guatemala to volunteer our services. Most of us felt that we could never do for the world the great things he was doing. But he liked to say, “Just take care of your little corner of the world.”

I am full of gratitude today for the big thing thing I am part of, the building of the Kingdom. The new year isn’t about starting new things but about continuing the work. It is a work we all share.

HANGING ON TO BELIEFS – TIGHTLY

The last time I saw her, my cousin Franny gave me a number of small pamphlets. She has been decluttering for several years and I haven’t been able to leave her house without something in my arms. She is passing on her problem of too much stuff to me. Don’t be surprised if you come to my house and you get an armful of stuff.

One of the pamphlets is actually a self-published paper-back book entitled Your Owner’s Manual. On the back, the author had posted a warning: “Ideas in this Manual could be hazardous to your belief system and may not be suitable for some religious types.” I think I am safe. I have already done quite a bit of decluttering and getting rid of my old beliefs. Author Burt Hotchkiss isn’t shocking me off my stool. I appreciate, however, reading new words put to ideas I am recently exploring. My most recent exploration has been recent discoveries about consciousness. David Hawkins has written several books on the topic of which I have read five thus far. Burt and David should get together and talk. They would hardly have to use words, so in tune would they be with one another. I am still at the stage, though, where I need words – lots of them.

The chapter I read this morning in Hotchkiss’s booklet is entitled “Mind Dynamics”. He writes that even before an event happens, our reaction to it is already determined. In other words, no matter what you say to me, what I hear and understand has nothing to do with you or your intention. I am experiencing something else and what I am receiving is shaped by what I already believe. You might be intending to pay me a compliment but I may hear it as an insult or vice versa.

My experience has taught me that memory is also distorted by the beliefs I had at the time of an event. To make matters more confusing, memories are distorted when you bring them to mind later because beliefs are always changing.

Hotchkiss suggests that says that these belief system to form at the start. “From ‘Day One’ of your life,” he writes, “your experiences determine how you see life, what you believe about yourself, and your relationship to others and all things.”

With each of us having different belief systems, there is no wonder that we live in such a chaotic worls. With the holidays happening all around us, family gatherings come to mind. It is a common thing in my family to talk about old times bringing up events from childhood. As I listen to my adult kids tell their stories of what happened, you’d think everyone was raised a different family. Yet, no matter the differences, everyone is insists that their memory is the correct one. Using Hotchkiss’s line of thought, the reason for the discrepancy is that everyone who is was present to a particular event was experiencing something different because of their different belief system. How is one to know what actually happened? Ask those who work I the courts how much you can depend on the accuracy of witness accounts in trials.

I agree with everything the Manual says thus far, even if I don’t always understand it. Belief systems can change, and he address that too. It can be hard to change, but the benefits can be great. I used to believe that there was something immoral about people who had an attraction to persons of the same sex. Since I tossed out that belief, my world has opened up to all kinds of wonderful relationships.

St. Paul wrote that we should wear our beliefs like a loose garment. People shouldn’t have to wrestle us to the ground to get us to see something in a different way. When a belief gets in the way of Love, we should be able to let it go with the next gust of wind.

Perfectionism and New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t make them anymore. I don’t recall when resolutions and I parted ways. I just know that there came a time when I realized the futility. Resolutions were just setting myself up for failure.

Some people prefer the idea of setting goals rather than making resolutions. I am not clear on the difference, but goal does sound less foreboding, even a bit positive. It makes one seem to have a certain amount of control over life. But for a perfectionist, either word is lethal. Goal lists for a perfectionist are worse than Santa’s naughty list.

I have had to reevaluate this idea of perfectionism. Who ever thought it was a good idea to begin with? Plato? Socrates? Jesus? I think Jesus did say something about being perfect like he and the Father are perfect, but was I think he has been totally misunderstood. I am not sure exactly what he meant, to tell you the truth, but he also said that we should love ourselves and I can’t seem to love self and seek perfection at the same time.

So, I have decided to give up on perfection totally. And, folks, I am feeling really free right now. I no longer ponder about the outcome of anything I do. And after the fact, if something turns out to be a flop, I smile and go onto the next thing. A better philosophy for me is simply to do the next right thing. The next right thing is whatever is on my list. Yes I still make lists, but those just help me remember.

No goals, no resolutions. If today is Tuesday and I have on my list to go to swim at 2:30, I will pack my swimsuit and towel and set it by the door. But if I the toilet gets clogged up and I have to stay home and wait for the plumber, I just choose a different next right thing. Call my cousin Franny. Then I move onto the next right thing.

I can’t imagine that Jesus would be disappointed in me. He understands that I don’t understand what he meant about being perfect. Maybe the translators of the Bible got confused and mixed up his words. Perhaps he really said, “Perfectly be just as the Father and I are being.”

Merry Christmas to All

I have been away for some time due to technical difficulties…my own as well as the cite itself. But things look good for the future, though this page upon which I write my blog for today looks strange indeed. The opening page for the blog looks unfamiliar to me and it is bereft of fanciness, perhaps a sign of my life to come. Just words. No fluff. Simple.

Christmas is upon us. My own family celebrates tomorrow. Our Thanksgiving included most of my son’s family from Colorado. They won’t be with us for Christmas but as the day comes near, a couple of the Minnesota family members may be absent. One Grandson headed out to spend Christmas in Colorado…a first real adventure on his own…my thoughts are with you, Charlie. One grandson is just getting over a week of the flu but his mother is showing signs of getting sick herself. God knows who in the end will show up tomorrow. Those who are supposed to be here, if my spiritual calculations are working.

What matters is where our hearts are. Today my heart is with my loved ones everywhere. We span the world from Boston to Australia, Colorado to St. Louis and here in Minnesota. Friends are in my heart today, too. One whose father went home to his Heavenly Father this past week, another who reached the ripe old age of 89, and all those who journey with me on the spiritual path toward awakening. God is pleased with all, no matter where we are in our journeys.

Christmas for me is about Jesus’ message of Peace. Jesus’ idea of peace was so much more than just quietness of heart. It was about relationships that are vulnerable to see the truth about ourselves and to see “that of God” in others. It is about seeing everyone upon the earth as our Brothers and Sisters, equal creations of the Creator who takes delight in each.

Merry Christmas, dear ones.

Return to Pacifism

Watching the news in recent weeks and months, I find myself searching for that small space inside me that once held a faith in pacifism. Today, I felt a hope of renewal as I read a reflection by Richard Rohr. Lately he has been writing about mystics, perhaps for the same reason that I have had this yearning. Today he highlighted Catholic priest and peace activist, John Dear. He quotes Dear in his explanation of what it means to be a pacifist:

“What does it mean to be nonviolent? Coming from the Hindu/Sanskrit word ahimsa, nonviolence was defined long ago as ‘causing no harm, no injury,no violence to any living creature.’ But Mohandas Gandhi insisted that it means much more than that. He said nonviolence was the active, unconditional love toward others, the persistent pursuit of truth, the radical  forgiveness toward those who hurt us, the steadfast resistance to every form of evil, and even the loving willingness to accept suffering in the struggle for justice without the desire for retaliation….”

Rohr suggests another way understand nonviolence by claiming our fundamental identity  as the beloved (children) of the God of peace….This is what Jesus taught: “Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called the sons and daughters of God…Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors, then you shall be sons and daughters of the God who makes the sun rise  on the good and the bad, and causes rain to fall on the just and unjust.

If we believe that we are all children of God, then every human being is our sibling, he says, “then we can never hurt anyone on the earth ever again, much less be silent in the face of war, starvation, racism, sexism, nuclear weapons, systemic injustice and environmental destruction…”

When I meditate on the words that Jesus spoke and the life he lived, it baffles me that any acts of violence, ANY harmful acts against other human beings can be justified in his name. I feel the light again, a tiny flame now, but I hope that in finding others who believe in peace as a way of life, it will burn brightly once again.