Category Archives: peace

Every Day at 5:50pm

Beginning July 1, I’m joining a group of people who will spend five minutes at 5:50pm (Pacific time; 8:50pm Eastern) every day meditating.

We expect that our energies will join to help eradicate fear and greed on this planet. We expect to concentrate on the concept of Rightmindedness in the hopes that this five minutes of concentrated effort will not only change us, but will ripple out and effect real change everywhere.

Please join us. Five minutes. Set your timer. Close your eyes and visualize our planet in good hands. How hard can that be? Sometimes the tiniest of actions produces the greatest results.

5:50pm for five minutes every day. I’m fairly certain that you won’t be doing anything more important for those five minutes, so why not add your considerable energy to the mix?

Magic might happen.

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Filed under concentration, connections, goals, peace, Possibilities, Prayer, Social Consciousness, Spirituality

Spiritual Sustainability

On June 5, I presented my master’s thesis at Marylhurst University. My topic: Spiritual Sustainability: A Personal and Social Imperative. This is the text of that presentation.

Ladies and gentlemen, professors, angels and other unseen friends. Thank you for the opportunity to be here this morning, the culminating act of an extraordinary education.  Let us begin this morning by acknowledging the miracle of having a fragment of the living God within each of us, and Jesus’ spirit of truth which encircuits all of us in this room and binds us together as family. Whenever two or more are gathered, he is here, and so we welcome the presence of Christ among us today.

I have studied the life and teachings of Jesus for the past thirty years. Even so, in the early research for this thesis project, it was as if a knob had been turned and life suddenly clicked into focus. I began to see very clearly the reality which had been up to that time only theory. It has changed my life. It has changed the way I relate with everyone: my husband, my family members, my neighbors, all of you. I have a new vision of my role in life, in the world, in the cosmos, in eternity.

It all began with John 13.34: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

 Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. Not love your neighbor as yourself, but as I have loved you.  As God loves us. As the ultimate father loves his errant, stumbling, young, immature, seeking child, who is just trying to please. And isn’t that who we are? Fumbling around, trying our best to work with the challenges we’ve been given? God asks that I love that weird homeless guy on the street corner as if he were my child. He asks that I look at that meth addict who robbed us, twice, with the fierce, protective love that parents have for their children. Whew. That’s a big order. This goes way beyond Thou Shalt Not Kill.

Well, Jesus was here. He walked a mile in our moccasins. He knows about us. He knows how we are, prone to pettiness and jealousies, quick to anger and filled with ego and nationalistic and cultural pride. He knew then that the chances were slim that we would be able to achieve this in his absence unless he left us a little help. And so he did.

The Spirit of Truth. The paraclete, the helper, the comforter, the advocate. Christ’s spirit has been with us for two thousand years, to help us do that very thing that we do best – socialize. We are social creatures, and we get together under any pretext to socialize. To do business, to sew a quilt, to raise a barn, to take a class. We get together just to gather together in groups of two or more, because when we do, Jesus is there with us, whether we know it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not, whether we engage with him or not. He is with us and we like that feeling, so we keep doing it.

So we begin to make up things for us to do together. Parties, luncheons. Businesses. Social networks. Governments. Conglomerates. The more complex, the more interesting. Except that when we build these things, we let our heads get ahead of our hearts. We begin to assemble them together out of need, greed, or expediency, instead of accessing the wisdom of Christ’s spirit to formulate and work together in love, as he asked.

Today our systems are beginning to fail. Some people have too much while others have nothing. Our kids are taking drugs, getting pregnant in high school, ending up in jail. As many marriages fail as succeed. What do we do? We implement more social programs to provide high school daycare centers, and drug treatment programs in jail, and cheap, no-fault divorces. These are not sustainable fixes, because we are addressing the symptoms, not the problem.

International relations are stretched to the breaking point as we posture for one another, and we are currently fighting wars on two fronts. War! Still! Christians sending other Christians out to kill. Where is God in that system? What happened to loving every single person on this planet as Jesus has loved us? How can we privileged Americans buy a winter home in Arizona when children are starving? Would you let your natural birth child starve so you could buy a new boat? Of course not, but we all sip cocktails by the pool while our spiritual brothers and sisters starve, are brutalized, and blown to smithereens. And we call ourselves Christians.

For a while, I considered my birth into a middle-income white American family and my unlimited potential as an accident of birth. I no longer believe that. I believe that it is precisely my innate gifts and personality propensities that got me this assignment, so that I might do something with these opportunities I’ve been given.

All of our systems, from trade to taxation to health care to water delivery to food production to the crazy way we try to force round children into square classrooms, is breaking down, and we patch them together, creating enormous bureaucracies that aren’t fixing the problems at all, but are expedient for this legislative term. Or for this administration. Or for this generation.

A famous statement from the Iroquois Nation is that we should never commit a single act without considering its consequences seven generations hence. Who among us thinks two hundred years in the future when we stop to fill our cars with fossil fuel? Or throw plastic bags into the garbage?

Well, there is a solution, and it has been with us all along. We need to bring the Spirit of Truth to the table and access its wisdom. Jesus knew we’d have a tough time with all this social stuff, and of course he was right. Here we are. We’ve never needed him more. It’s time to bring the spirit of Christ back into our systems, back into our lives, back into fashion.

There are those who argue that there is no such thing as spirit, that religion is mere superstition. There are others who believe that humans will rise above and fix everything with their own creativity and ingenuity, but I see no evidence of that. I think the hand of God has been holding back the cataclysm, and we need to wake up and get about our Father’s business before that house which we have built on sand comes crashing down.

It is not my intention to stand here and preach to you. Well, maybe it is. I seem to have acquired a taste for preaching in the past three years. But we’re all smart and alert and watch the nightly news. Many people have been sounding the alarm for a long time. The world is awake and aware. I feel a spiritual quickening in the ether. We are all starving to connect, but we’re without direction. We all know that something can be done, something must be done. But what?

In the research for this thesis project, I came upon a simple formula that I think might be the answer. It is about exchanging our current aggregations of special interests for workable, interlocking systems. This simple formula can be worked on any system from the way your family communicates to the way we elect our representatives in congress. It could be the basis of local budgeting to the way we educate our children. It could change our whole world from a profit-driven economy to a service-driven one.

It all begins with intention. Intention is the beginning step of any right action. I would not be standing here if it was not my intention to further my education in this field. None of us would be here this morning if it was not for our intention to attend this colloquium. So intention has to be the initiating event. In fact, I could use the thesis process to illustrate my point. Eight of us began Dr. Carreker’s thesis class, each of us with the intention of producing a thesis and graduating this month. We had defined our intention.

The next step is to determine three core spiritual values that serve that intention. What are the core values that run our country? What are the core values that propel our education system? What are the core values that are put into play in our energy policies? How about our military strategies? Or our health care system? I can’t name those core values, and I submit that nobody else can, either. Well, this is where we consult the Spirit of Truth. This is where we bring spiritual values into our systems so that we can serve our global family instead of the CEOs and stockholders.

So the core spiritual values in the writing of my thesis were Life, Equality and Growth. Life because it is the most precious value we’re given by our creator. Equality, because I believe that God loves each of us individually and equally, and Growth because that’s what I’m doing here in school. The oak tree never becomes an acorn. Growth is part of the natural pattern.

For every spiritual value that serves the intention, we determine three expectations. Precisely, how does Growth serve my intention to produce my thesis? My three expectations were: Increased Knowledge, Greater Vision of my role in the cosmos, More Love in my heart for my spiritual brethren. Now how do I know I’ve achieved these things? The fourth aspect is measurable criteria.  These are the concrete, measurable results of the system. They are the proof. Each expectation has three measurable criteria by which we know the system is working. Some of my measurable criteria were personal, and some were defined by Marylhurst. And, in fact, here I stand, thesis bound over there on the table, ready for signatures.  All eight of us who began this program served our intentions successfully and are here this morning.

This way of bringing spirit to the table in the reformation of our systems works. It is flexible enough to be tweaked as need be, as society changes, and as new needs arise. If our health care system were built on the solid rock of spiritual values, there would never be a discussion of throwing the whole thing out and starting over. We would tweak the expectations, or the measurable criteria. Nobody would be afraid—and isn’t that part of the problem now? Everyone is in fear. Where is God in that?  

The application of my thesis is to begin this process of bringing spiritual values to our systems. I will join others who have begun to hold small groups in their homes, designing systems, with spirit at the table in the form of values. It is my intention that those people will quickly catch on to the process and hold similar small groups in their living rooms. Slowly, as our larger systems fail, these smaller, interlocking systems will take their place, and begin to undergird our society with common sense procedures, based on love and mercy and ministry, for the betterment of all mankind. Wherever two or more are gathered, the spirit of Christ is in attendance, and the power of that fact should never be underestimated.

In conclusion, I ask that each of you be fearless in your personal ministry. Reach way beyond your comfort zone. Speak your truth, embrace your spiritual brethren, no matter their geographical location, their way of life or the status of their personal hygiene. Speak always of spiritually sustainable fixes to each of our problems. In your tireless work for social justice, remember that Matthew Fox—the theologian, not the actor—said that whatever is sustainable is just. That which is not sustainable is not just. This is as good a definition of justice as I have ever known.

Each of us is a shining facet in the diamond that is humanity. Love one another with a fierce and intense affection. Let your light so shine that everyone will glorify our Father in heaven. Together we can reach that tipping point that will mark the end of our animal ways and usher in a new, spiritual age.

I thank each of you here today for coming. Together we acknowledge this amazing program of study and those who have given themselves selflessly in its creation and mission. It has been my honor to participate.

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Filed under peace, Possibilities, Social Consciousness, Spirituality, Truth

Too Busy

I’m too busy.

A variety of things have converged on my schedule for the last three weeks and for the next three. This six week period is the busiest time I can ever remember. This is when my training of “one day at a time” really comes in handy.

But really. What does “too busy” mean? Too busy to do what? To meditate? I make time for that. To appreciate my husband, my home, my health, my life? I make time for that. To work in the garden, to play with the dog, to buy groceries? I make time for all those things. To have lunch with my girlfriends? To read? To study? I make time for those things, too.

When I say I’m too busy, what that means is that I busy out my schedule just enough so that I don’t have time to do the things I find most distasteful or inconvenient. I don’t enjoy bookkeeping chores, so I put those off until it becomes a project, and then it looms larger and I would rather kill the beast than to have the bulging file folder stare at me a single minute longer. There are other things I don’t particularly enjoy, and my excuse is: “I’m too busy.” But that’s no excuse at all.

Except for right now, of course. Right now I really am too busy, but there is an end date to this crazy time, and I swear upon all that is holy in my life, that I will never let my schedule control me the way it has these few weeks. I don’t like what it does to my mental health, or my physical health. I tend to not exercise (low priority…). I make mistakes, and then I have to clean up after myself, adding more stress and using up more daylight.

I heard the other day that if you want to live in the material world, you have to speed up, and if you want to live in the spiritual world, you have to slow down.

A friend sent me a link to this fabulous timer. I’ve downloaded it to my desktop. It serves either as a timer or as a random reminder. Every morning I set it to go off randomly every 7 to 15 minutes, and when the gong sounds, I sit back, close my eyes, and take a moment for myself, to remember that I am a beloved child of God, no matter what. This helps slow me down and reminds me of what’s important.

Are you too busy? Or is that just a good excuse?

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Filed under peace, Possibilities, Spirituality, Stress, time

Race and the Census

I’ve heard all the silliness over the race options on the census form.

First of all, Black is not a race, neither is White. Those are colors. When I was in school, Caucasian and Negro were both races. African-American is a culture, not a race. So what’s all the fuss about?African-Americans are insulted by being called Negro?  Am I insulted by being called a Caucasian?

Here’s the real problem. There is absolutely no reason for the government to be asking such questions. All it does is inflame, incite and breed suspicion. It divides us into factions, rather than binding us into the unity that is, and should be, America. The government should be color blind.

As soon as the government grants special privileges to anyone, everybody else clamors for their fair share.

If private corporations, charities, small businesses or adult-living facilities want to choose who to deal with based on socio-economic strata, age, or demographic, let them.

But the government census needs to count noses, not note what color thoses noses are. No good can come from that information.

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Filed under peace, politics, Social Consciousness

Anger and Fear

After reflecting for a while on yesterday’s post, I began to have compassion for the angry protesters who are acting out in such an aggressive and sad way.

They’re afraid.

I learned long ago that anger is fear. And there are only two things to be afraid of: Losing something you have, or not getting something you want.

Angry words all say the same thing. Angry words all say: “But what about me?” (Remember this the next time you fight with your spouse.)

We’re all a little afraid. None of us knows what the future holds. None of us likes change. But I can tell you that those of us who were born white, middle class, intelligent and healthy are pretty damned lucky. And luck is all that it is.

It was an accident of birth that I was born to good genes and limitless opportunity. Capitalizing on those gifts (that’s why they call them gifts!) is my duty, and using the fruits of my labor to help those who whose roll of the genetic dice was not so great is what I’m supposed to be doing. Not hoarding. Helping.

I think if we were a little more focused on the less fortunate instead of our own bank accounts, we might be a little less angry, a little less afraid, and a little more excited about the fact that someone sick is going to finally get the peace of mind that having health insurance offers.

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Filed under peace, relationships, Resentment, Social Consciousness, Spirituality

Laying Down One’s Life

Yesterday, seven women “laid down our lives” and gathered in my living room. We left chores behind, we didn’t go out into the beautiful sunshine, we didn’t go to the gym, we didn’t go shopping or mow the lawn or work in the garden.

We knitted and crocheted prayer shawls for our friends who need our prayers.

We talked of many things as we worked, but our focus was the garment we were creating, and eventually the conversation always returned to things of a spiritual nature.

We found connections. Two of the women realized they had met years ago. A different two realized that their social groups overlapped and they had mutual friends. We discovered many things that we all had in common with each other as we prayed, snacked, and talked of this and that, but mostly we knitted beautiful things intended to comfort someone who is in need.

It didn’t feel like much of a sacrifice, as it was a completely enjoyable time, gathering together, sitting and knitting, but I can’t help but reflect on all the things that were likely on each person’s “should do” list for a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon. But because comforting our friends in pain is a much higher priority, we all stopped what we were doing and saw to that first.

Not everybody knew of someone in need of a prayer shawl yesterday, so their shawls, scarves or lap robes will be stored until a need arises. Some of us brought photographs of the people for whom we were creating garments infused with love and the intention of healing.

Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13). I believe that’s what we did yesterday, and the spiritual reverberations will echo through the generations as these shawls are worn and passed along, and the love will spread laterally through the circuits of time and space.

The next time you receive a handmade gift, take a moment to savor the fact that whoever made it, laid down their life for you.

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Filed under Beauty, connections, Friends, girlfriends, knitting, peace, Prayer, Social Consciousness, Spirituality

Back Amidst the Noise

Too much noise. Too much stuff.

That’s what I concluded after two days of silence.

It took a good four hours to still my chattering mind, but after a full day of silent meditation, reading, knitting, thinking, praying, I had a very interesting night, of not tossing and turning, but just gentle contemplation and quiet resting. A storm raged outside, so I was snug in my little lakeside cabin, feeling grateful and calm. Sometime, apparently, I fell asleep, because when I awoke, it was morning, and I felt calm and refreshed.

I took a long walk in the weird storm aftermath, and watched the turbulent surf. Then I came back to town, met Al at his jobsite and broke my silence with an “I love you.” Then we went to lunch and talked about how to bring more silence to our lives, and how to simplify so we have room for more quiet, more calm.

The more stuff we have, the harder we have to work to maintain it, insure it, worry about it… you get the idea. The less stuff, the more peace. Enough should be enough.  

I read three slim books. Inviting Silence, Stillness, and Listening Below the Noise. All were excellent. Inviting Silence reminded me that it’s difficult to hear the voice of God amidst the din; Stillness talked of enough being plenty, and too much is what makes us noisy; and Listening Below the Noise taught me that nothing is so important that it can’t be addressed the following day. In nine years, the author never missed a day of silence, which she takes on the first and third Monday of every month. Everything else can wait.

I have plenty of solitude in my life; I’ve long known how my soul needs solitude. But silence is new to me. No radio, no music, no talking… it was refreshing, and made time for good reflection. I had many things to ponder.  With a clear, calm mind, many of those decisions that have to be made are not really decisions at all, as the solutions are obvious.

Bottom line: I will make room for silence in my life on a daily basis. I don’t need to go on a retreat for it, I just need to make it a priority. And I will, because the gifts therein are worthwhile.

If you want to do a silent retreat, I suggest: 1. Have an intention. 2. Make a plan. 3. Bring activities. 4. Be open to whatever happens.

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Filed under peace, Possibilities, Spirituality, Stress

A New Year, A New Goal

I’m a pretty average American. I grew up in the Midwest with all the insults and prejudices that everybody else did. Fewer than some, more than others. Pretty average.

Those of you who have followed this blog, know that as a result of an inspirational conversation with my friend Terry Barrett, I’ve adopted her ritual of naming each year as it dawns. 2008 was the year of Hesed, or lovingkindness. 2009 was the year of Tao. All year long, I contemplate those concepts and try to work them into my life.

2010 is my year of Namaste. That isn’t really the correct word, as “Namaste” is more of a greeting, or a salute, but my intention is to see the God that indwells every single person I meet. I no longer want to feel threatened or afraid of those who are different from me, who dress differently, are a different color, who speak a different language or who have a religion with which I’m unfamiliar. I want to get directly to the heart of the matter and see who people are at their core.

Most of us are like scared little children, stepping into a new day every day, a scary day, doing things we’ve never done before. Even if 99% of our day is the same as the day before, there’s still an element of the unknown. And that little itch of fear makes us act out in anger, resentment, impatience, unkindness… you get my drift.

I want to see past all that smokescreen in myself and everyone else this year. I want to encourage the god within me to commune with the god within you. I want our angels to go out to lunch together and share a couple of laughs at our expense. I want to be a better person every day, every day, every day.

And so I name the new year Namaste: I honor the God within you, and I welcome the gifts 2010 will surely bring.

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Filed under Beauty, connections, Goodness, peace, Personalities, Possibilities, relationships, Social Consciousness, Spirituality, Truth, Writing, years

Obama’s Nobel

I should have been prepared for talking-head backlash on the Nobel Peace Prize being conferred upon President Obama, but I wasn’t.

First of all, everybody’s got an opinion, and in this instance, the only opinion that matters is the Nobel Peace Prize Committee. So everybody else can just shut up for a minute and try to figure out why they deemed him worthy of his extraordinary honor.

We are so divisive, so ready to engage in conflict, so partisan. No matter what the news item, the antithesis has to be aired. The news shows have to show the negative side of everything–not just show it, but dwell on it–because that’s what makes ratings.

I think perhaps the Nobel Committee is a step ahead of us. Perhaps they’re even a tier above. Perhaps they like Obama’s “can-do” attitude. Perhaps they like the hope that Obama offers in endeavoring to treat everybody like a human being. Perhaps they appreciate that he’s “no drama Obama” and has a singular vision to which he sticks without wavering.  He’s a constitutional scholar. He’s fair. He’s just. He’s a leader’s leader.

But he’s not perfect. Nobody is. Yet what he represents is so far beyond anything we’ve seen in a world leader that I applaud the vision of the Nobel Committee for seeing the bigger picture and recognizing it. Honoring it. Putting it on the global stage and shining one of the biggest spotlights there is upon it.

Well, for once, instead of giving face time to all the sound-byte-craving jerks who call this honor into question, I think the world ought to sit back and say wow.  This is unprecedented. This is extraordinary.

And now that you mention it, this really is quite a guy.

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Filed under Goodness, peace, politics, Possibilities, Social Consciousness, Truth

Two Keys to My Kingdom

Many years ago I read an essay that said, “If you have more than two keys on your key ring, your life is too complicated.” At the time, my key ring was so heavy I was afraid it was going to damage the ignition of my car.

Today, for the first time ever: Two keys. One for the house and one for the car. 

And I have to say, my life is a lot less complicated.

I’ve had keys to storage lockers (the last one surrendered this afternoon), to my mother’s home, to post office boxes, to other peoples’ houses, to other vehicles, on and on and on.  Lots to keep track of. Lots of responsibility. None of it necessary. The only other key I employ on a regular basis is for my bicycle lock, but I keep that in my bicycle ditty bag. It doesn’t count because it’s not on my key ring.

Another indication of a life too complex is the amount of mail that arrives on a daily basis. There was a time when it took me an hour a day to process the mail. If I left town for a ten-day writing conference or retreat, I had ten hours worth of mail waiting for me when I got back.

Made me want to not come back.

Today’s mail brought one bill and an advertising flyer.

A life simplified.  Nobody owns me any more.

And because I don’t have all that flurry of questionably meaningful activity and responsibility, I have the time to concentrate on the important things. Study. Family. Leisure!

How many keys on your keyring? What would you have to give up in order to get down to two?

It’s a worthy goal.

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Filed under goals, Joy, peace, Possibilities, Stress, Symbols, time