i will always believe that peace is the answer.

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i am a news junkie. or nerd. or whatever you want to call me. and on sunday mornings in the states, if i’m home, i like to watch all the sunday morning talk shows. as depressing and skewed and manipulative it may be, i want to be informed. of course, i don’t just rely on the mainstream media to get my news. i also listen to/read independent newspapers/sources. i read commentary and try to listen to global perspectives as well. but, on sunday mornings, i catch up with good ole american sunday morning talk shows = news talk shows.

this past sunday, i did just that. i made a pot of coffee and sat down to hear the latest on syria. something that is on my mind pretty much constantly these days. how in the world have we found ourselves (the usa) in the place AGAIN, where we think we have to flex our muscles, be the police of the world, and intervene (perhaps on our own) militarily in another country’s conflict? not that we shouldn’t intervene. we most definitely should. what is happening in syria is tragic and inhumane. but, perhaps, if we can find the money to station destroyers in the mediterranean and send missiles to syria, then we could find the money (= use the same money) for the millions of syrian refugees living in horrible conditions instead. perhaps we could save lives instead of killing them.

oh, i know that this is a complicated (understatement!) situation, but something about it is simple. at least in my idealistic, theological mind. it’s about humanity. and then ends justifying the means. which in this case, they don’t. that’s my ethical take on it. here’s the simple statement… and i draw on martin luther king, jr. again after celebrating his legacy last week:

violence only creates more violence. period. it never, ever solves the problem. as king says it:

“darkness does not drive out darkness, only light can do that. hate does not drive out hate, only love can do that.”

missiles, war, violence, and the need to show our strength & credibility to the world do not solve any problems, they are simply egotistical. in my opinion, those who are the greatest, are the peacemakers, the ones who are humble and merciful and even meek. the ones who live and work for others, not for themselves. the world does not see them as “great”, but screw the world. since when did the world have everything right? is money, power, greed, and a tough appearance the only way to get respect? i think not. the truly great ones, stand their ground and do not give up, but they do it non-violently:

like ghandi, nelson mandela, mlk, jr., mother theresa, julian of norwich, perpetua, and countless more “regular” women & men & children who are left out of the history books… even you & i. if we choose it.

we can be great. we can make a difference. and we can work for true justice. but, it cannot be through violent means. peace will never be achieved by flexing our muscles and threatening and hitting and punishing. peace will be achieved through peace.

and so, today, during my forty days of fika time, i am going to meet with others in downtown asheville to meditate for peace… specifically for the events in syria, for world leaders, and for our own courage to live non-violent lives.

wherever you are, will you join me at some moment today to stop & think about those suffering in syria, and how the world should respond to the horrible human suffering going on in that country and in many others around the world? will you consider that the greatest way that you can be a peacemaker is, perhaps, in your own life, the the people that you meet everyday? if we all did that, then what would the world be like?

peace and harmony… to you all.

the halfway mark. 31 day photo journey.

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can it be true? are we halfway there? have we turned the corner in our 31 day photo journey?

why, yes we have! it’s friday the 15th (the ides of march. beware!) and we have made it through the first half of march, and thereby, the first half of the photo a day journey. good job!

this was a tough part of the photo journey. and i planned it to be that way. there was a purpose in me choosing to place the words as i placed them. for the first 14 days, i decided that i would use the words that were a little more heavy, difficult, challenging. i wanted the journey to begin in a difficult place, in the dark so to say, so as to be a symbol for what is happening in life, in the world (at least in the northern hemisphere) during this time of year. the journey from winter to spring, from darkness to light. i also wanted to draw upon the christian tradition of lent, or a pilgrimage (as found in many different religions), as a journey through the desert. a time of self-reflection, of self-discovery, of facing what’s painful in life and still holding on. besides isn’t that the cycle of life anyway?

i truly believe that life comes from death. and i designed (together with y’all who submitted words) this photo a day challenge for march to reflect that journey. Β i have lived through that journey. i went from living for others’ expectations to discovering my soul and learning what it means to live life to the fullest. but, i only was able to discover those things because of the “death” i experienced. death to my old self, my false self. death to a life where i felt trapped.

in any case, that death and that new life, all came from a year spent reflecting deeply on who i was, who i am, and who i want to be. so, for march, i decided that i wanted to provide an opportunity for a unique journey for all of us through a photo challenge.

8. can’t live without

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can’t live without my passport! read the story of how our passports got lost as they were on their way back to us from the chinese embassy here.

9. lost

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lost for words as i typed my sermon last weekend. but, it all turned out fine!

10. rocky

rocky

11. wander

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we wandered downtown. and this happened. a little shopping frenzy, huh_

12. challenge

ghandi
on this day, tuesday, 12 march, lina’s wonderful and amazing grandfather passed away. what a challenge it is to deal with and accept death as a part of life. so, final. and yet, still, life in some way, emerges from that death. maybe not necessarily for the person who died, but for those who are left behind… who perhaps feel inspired, once again, to live life to the fullest.

13. exploration

beijing
doing research on our upcoming trip!

14. destination

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now, we have made it to the halfway mark. we have survived and reflected on the first 14 difficult days, and today we turn the corner.

but, before we move on the last 15 days of the photo challenge, of this journey, we take a day to pause. reflect. and rest.

for me, i must admit that the words for the first 14 days have weighed me down. they have affected me and my attitude. every morning when i look at which word is the theme for the day, i somehow take that word into my psyche. i didn’t realize i did that until today, when i woke up and saw that the word was “rest”. and i felt a sense of relief. of calm. i knew that i had survived the first 14 days, as difficult as they were and that i am now ready to move on… closer to the light, closer to hope, closer to life. it truly has been a journey for me so far. and the journey continues for 2 more weeks…

peace to you as you continue to journey on.

do you hear what i hear?

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day 5: i got a cute message from my love this afternoon. and guess what we're doing right now? yep. having our cozy night at home.
day 5: i got a cute message from my love this afternoon. and guess what we’re doing right now? yep. having our cozy night at home.

about 6 years ago i was in anchorage, alaska. i stood in line at a starbucks in a barnes & noble, waiting to order my latte, killing time before heading to the airport to fly home to north carolina. my mouth was watering for a starbucks latte. it had been over a week without one, and i was going through withdrawl. i had 5 teenage girls and one of my dearest friends with me in alaska. we had been doing volunteer work (and a little sight-seeing, too, naturally) and having an amazing time together. it was the last few minutes before we got on a plane and headed back to our everyday lives.

but the week we had just completed left us transformed & touched. we had prepared & served lunches for the homeless, provided free haircuts & showers for anyone who needed to freshen up, played with kids who came from rough neighborhoods, and sorted clothes at the salvation army. we were exhausted, but our hearts & souls were overflowing from all that we had received from the amazing people we came in contact with during our stay.

but, in that moment, i wanted my coffee really bad. i could almost taste it. i remember the girls sitting at a table behind me, patiently waiting & chatting about all their experiences. i turned & looked at them. probably out of instinct… checking that they were all there & all ok. when i turned back around again in the line, i was met with two piercing blue eyes staring into mine. a woman was standing directly in front of me. facing me. and then it happened.

she placed her hands on my shoulders and she opened her mouth, and began talking, and i felt as if i left this world for a few minutes. her eyes. so deep & bright. so blue. and her voice.

“you are john the baptist.”, she said without hesitation.

i had just a split second to register in my brain that what she said did not make any sense to me. and yet, i knew she was speaking about something i should hear.

with her hands still on my shoulders, she continued,

“you tell the truth. keep doing what you are doing. i see you with those girls. you are like john the baptist. just be you.”

at that moment i had no idea what was happening, and yet, knew exactly what was happening at the same time, though i couldn’t (and still can’t) explain it with words. i just remember those eyes. i felt them. they knew me. they were looking not at me, but inside me. they were not speaking to me, but to my soul. for a moment i forgot that the woman was even there. all i felt was warmth, truth, love. i felt completely known.

and then, she was gone. i don’t remember her walking away, but she did.

i turned to my girls, left my place in line, and sat down in a hard chair at the tiny round table. i was shaking. the girls said they saw the lady talking to me. “what did she say?”, they inquired. they knew something was up. they could feel it.

i told them what happened, what the lady said, how i felt. they were stunned, and yet calm. during our week in anchorage they had met amazing people themselves. people who touched them, who taught them, who inspired them – kids in poverty, homeless men & women, people living on the fringes of society, outcasts. some who chose to live that way in order to live more simply. my girls knew that amazing things happen every day, and they knew that this lady who spoke to me, had given me something amazing…

a message.

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i’ve spent the past 6 years thinking about that experience off & on. i’m not sure if i have come to any more exact conclusions than i did that day. i tried not to process it too much right after it happened. i knew that i could read something into it or twist it into something else. instead, i just let it soak into my being and become part of my life. i let it become something that i returned to in my thoughts when the time was right, when it just came to me.

and so, today, i thought again of that day when the lady with the blue eyes gave me a message.

i thought of her immediately when i read & meditated this morning. today’s photo theme is “message” for a reason. we are still on our advent journey, whether we call it that or not. in fact, we have just begin. we are still waiting. we are still longing for light & love & peace. however, we wait with hope. but why do we do something so silly as to wait with hope? because, i believe we have all received a message – from each other, from our faith, from nature. we have been sent a message, that, even though the world is screwed up, even though wars, famine, injustice, violence, and suffering exist, we cling to the hope that one day all will be made whole. we believe that it can and that it will be better. that we will be made whole. that peace & love will reign.

first it snowed & snowed. a real snowstorm. with drifts of snow & everything.
but, what about my message? who is this john the baptist guy? well, john the baptist was a wild man. an outcast. a man who lived in the desert, ate berries & bugs, dressed in organic clothing, a went around giving a message to people that their lives could be transformed. he was a first century hippie for sure. living alone, contemplating life, and inspiring people with his words. he said that he was not the truth, but was here to point people to the truth.

though i may not have a complete understanding of the message from the blue-eyed lady, i am certain of one thing… that john and i would have been buddies. he was the cousin of jesus, and he said that he was preparing the way for jesus, preparing the people for the experience of salvation – a chance for them to be saved, to be changed, to learn what it means to be truly loved exactly as they are, and to learn to be true to who they were created to be… simply themselves.

i realize i’m speaking about john the baptist in the context of jesus right now, and while you may not believe in jesus as god in human form, perhaps we can simply meet each other in the fact that jesus taught love, acceptance, and peace. and those are things we all wish for.

john the baptist was a messenger of these things. he pointed to the one who would teach love, acceptance and peace in his life & in his death, much like ghandi, buddha, mother theresa, and many more.

and this is where our message of hope comes from. because of john, jesus, and so many others before & after, we have all been recipients of an amazing message. but, what do we do with it? the thing about this message of hope, is that it is something that i feel like i cannot just soak in and keep to myself.

so, today, i have been wondering…

what is the message i have for the world? what is my life saying? what do i want to say through my words or actions? what do people hear from me?Β what are you saying? what message do you have for the world?

during this time of year, why don’t we try to take a little time to ponder these things?

the lady with the blue eyes shared her message with me. i am certain it was a message from god. i am not certain of what it means. perhaps it means different things to me at different times in my life. perhaps i will use this advent season to spend some time thinking about that message that i received 6 years ago; and how i can use that message, and my life, to share the ancient message of hope & love in a new way.

i believe with all of my soul that the lady with the blue eyes confirmed for me that all i need to do in my life is to be true to who i am. i believe that is the message that we all receive. that is where our hope lies.

do you hear what i hear?

be silent & listen. wishing you peace.