do you hear what i hear?

snow
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.

snow

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? 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.

what would you die for?

for me, today is all about passion. surrender. and trust.

    • passion for a cause, or a belief, that is so strong that one is wiling to risk his or her life – literally or figuratively.
    • surrender to a life of non-violence, peace-making, and love for others… instead of power, violence, greed, and love only for one’s self.
    • and trust that, in all things – even the worst possible moments – good can arise, transformation is possible, and love ultimately wins… call it karma, call it faith, call it universal truth.

because i believe in these things (passion, surrender, and trust), i can face the darkness of today. the darkness of life. naive as it may sound, i know (not in a “i know more than you, you should believe me” kind of knowing, but it a “this is a very personal, from deep within my soul, unexplainable, spirit-driven, buddha-ish enlightenment” kinda knowing) that darkness does not win.

today, i am celebrating good friday. not a good & happy day in itself, but a day that looks ahead to sunday – the third day, a day to celebrate new life, new beginnings (hence the name “good” friday).  in sweden today is  called “långfredagen” = long friday (fits a little better, i think). it is a long day, if i allow myself a chance to reflect instead of pushing right on toward all the good stuff waiting for me on sunday. it’s typical of humans, though, to not want to face the darkness, the suffering, and the pain in our lives. but, i am one of those weirdos (call me emo or something) who wants to soak up today for all that it is. i’m not morbid. but, somewhere, somehow in my life, i learned that in order to fully understand & feel the joy in life, we must have the pain. light is only as bright as it is, when contrasted with the darkness. spring only seems so beautiful because we struggled through the dark, cold winter. get my drift? i don’t exactly understand this ying & yang, this balance between the black & white… it is a mystery. but, nevertheless, the balance is a beautiful mystery, i think.

 a rainy, snowy, gray good friday in sweden.

for me, good friday is about remembering the passion, surrender, trust, and death of jesus. essentially, the day that God experienced exactly what we experience, as human beings: pain, suffering, betrayal, hopelessness, fear, abandonment, and death. whether one believes in jesus as being fully human & fully divine at the same time or not, i believe that there is no argument that this was a man who, according to the accounts we have, lived passionately his mission in life, staying true to himself at all times – spreading a message of love and hope. a man who surrendered his needs and wants, his fears and doubts to a higher purpose. a man who trusted in the power of love over anything else and faced his death; even though, in the end, he did not completely understand the suffering and abandonment he experienced. he passionately surrendered, & trusted anyway.

and there are so many others who have followed in his footsteps… martin luther king, jr. mother theresa. ghandi. but not only those we always think of… there are also many today (known & unknown) who put their lives on the line for a cause or a belief – facing violence, bullying, prison, even death. the protesters in egypt last year, those standing up against racial and/or sexual discrimination, the 99% protesters in the states, holocaust survivors, haitian women fighting for political & social equality, teenagers at my internship who have turned their lives around & now want to give back… the list goes on and on.

the point is, we don’t have to be someone famous or rich to change the world, to make a difference. in our everyday lives, we have a choice. will we live passionately, true to ourselves, surrendering our own lives, trusting in the power of love? or won’t we? will we open our eyes to see the possibilities and opportunities to share love, hope, justice, & peace all around us, or won’t we? just a smile, just an ear to listen, just a tiny gesture or love to someone in our family, to a friend, to a stranger.. that’s all it takes. we don’t have to be burned at the stake, but some of us will be. and we will be bullied. we will face violence. we will be surrounded by darkness. confusion. pain. suffering. it may be our own, or it may be another’s.

the question is, will we give up? or will we keep fighting? will we turn and run, afraid & pissed off? or will we remain steadfast & true to ourselves? will we live with passion & love… even to the point of death?*

quote of the day:

you can choose understanding over anger, believing over nonbelieving, [non-violence over violence], action over inaction. it gives meaning to every choice we make.”

~ Yolanda King (human rights activist & Martin Luther King, Jr’s daughter).

*and by death, i mean literally (because some people do die for what they believe in) and figuratively (ex. dying to our plans so that we can live a more authentic life).

sending you peace & courage to make it through the darkness.

fairness. stubborness. courage. love.

my copy of to kill a mockingbird.

it’s my favorite book of all time. ever.

it’s one of my favorite movies, too. in my top five.

it’s a (north) american classic.

and it’s a must read for all people (even non-americans) because it is a story of universal truths: injustice, racism, ignorance, and prejudice. and while those themes may have different faces all around the world, they are present in every society. this i feel i can say with truthfulness, because i live in a different culture – and i still see injustice, racism, ignorance, & prejudice even here in lovely sweden. of course, the setting of the book is during a specific time (the great depression. the 1920s,1930s) & in a specific place (the american south) in history, but it speaks to us, even today.

i don’t exactly remember the first time i read this book, but i know i was about 14 or 15. it was on the required reading list in school (and it still is in many places). i remember soaking in the words, the scenery, the characters. the tough, tomboy scout. the mysterious neighbor, boo. and the courageous, civil rights activist dad & lawyer, atticus. the belief in justice & equality, the difficult questions raised, the inspiring determination to fight for the rights of all people, the surrender of self for the good of others…. i was completely drawn in. and in many ways, i believe it was a confirmation for my growing teenage beliefs in/questions about equality for all (black, white, rich, poor, gay, straight, foreign, homeless, young, old, disabled, etc.).

i remember that when i first read these words, it was as if i was given permission to think the way that i thought. it was like the words i was taking in were expressing my thoughts, and suddenly i didn’t feel alone. there were others that thought like me, that felt like me. there was at least one other: the author of this book, harper lee. and perhaps my teacher, mrs. trail (since she had us read this book, even if it was on the required reading list). then i realized that perhaps my parents thought this way too, since i was raised my them & having these thoughts myself. and then there’s religion. i had been taught some about Jesus, Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Martin Kuther King, Jr… certainly all of these people believed in justice, fairness, love, and equality too. all of these names & people stood for the themes in this book. this was ground-breaking for me. i was not alone. not at all alone, in fact. and some of the most amazing people i had read about, studied, and met believed in the same things. and that gave me hope. that gave me strength to not give up on who i was becoming, even if i seemed different & felt like an outcast to my fellow classmates (which i was & i did).

over the years (as i have read this book again & again), of course, i have realized that there are many who do not believe in these truths. or they say that they do, but their actions speak differently. as i grew & matured and became an adult, my rose-colored glasses became cloudy and dark. yet, the realization of the reality of the world only served to give me more energy & passion. i wanted to fight even harder the injustices and the inequalities in the world. with each passing year (even up to today) i wanted inspire the belief in the love, respect, and acceptance of all people. and the joy of being able to teach (yes, i was a teacher in my former life) from this book gave me an opportunity to pass along these truths & beliefs to a new generation. i’ve used this book in my classroom & in my churches. i’ll talk about it with anyone. oh, how i hope that  i am doing just a little bit to spread the message that to kill a mockingbird sends to the world…

the reason that i’m writing about this today is because this past week the movie has celebrated 50 years on film. i want to celebrate the book & the movie, and i want to encourage any of you who have not read this book or seen the movie (read the book first! hehe), to do so. the main character, atticus (a single dad) is played by gregory peck (an amazing actor!), who tapped into the character in ways that i cannot describe with words. he became atticus. he, alone, makes the movie sensational. (if you want to read more about the movie/book click here)

 picture from the daily beast.

as a tribute to the 50th anniversary, gregory peck’s wife released a copy of his script, with his personal notes in the margins, along with the anniversary dvd package cool!). on the last page of the script, the script reads:

“We can see Atticus sitting through the window, sitting by his son’s (Jem’s) bed holding Scout. Camera slowly pulls back as Atticus looks at the sleeping Jem.

FADE OUT.

THE END.”

underneath, in bold script, gregory peck has written four words:

“Fairness. Stubborness. Courage. Love.”

enough said. read the book. watch the movie. spread the message. do it!

peace.