Posts Tagged ‘peace’

When Does Peace Come?

Wednesday, May 30th, 2018

Some words sound like what they are.  The word “shalom”, Hebrew for “peace”, is one such word.

How is it that we find peace?  How is it that we find shalom?

One way to hold it is that peace will come when our external circumstances change.  Peace, in other words, arrives when we finally have more money or more time or a more amenable partner. But that kind of peace rarely comes.  We either fail to attain those goals or we attain those goals, only to still find ourselves still anxious.

Peace comes, quite simply, when we decide it does.

As part of this job, I have been honored to meet some real heroes, people whose life story many would characterize as horrific.  Matt Pennington who lost a leg in Iraq, Eva Korr who survived the Holocaust, Kevin Hines who attempted suicide, Scarlett Lewis who lost her son Jesse at Sandy Hook. Despite unspeakable tragedy, all of them carry a palpable peace about their lives. I think they are there because they traveled through the fire and came out the other end with a choice, a choice they made in the direction of forgiveness and love.

New Church theology puts it beautifully … God does not rest until love takes the lead. When love takes the lead, regardless of life’s circumstance, we find peace. Shalom.


Who Am I?

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

Most of us I imagine struggle with the concept of identity, struggle with the pressing question of “Who Am I?”

Do we have times where we are sure of identity, firmly planted in a life-giving sense of who we are?  Absolutely.

And yet for many those moments are fleeting, giving way to worry and painful uncertainty.

Deitrich Bonoeffer spoke to those sentiments from a Gestapo prison in Nazi Germany.  And found relief.

Who am I? This or the Other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!


Imaginatively Different

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

Sometimes the most basic and transparently self evident ideas are the ones least preached on.

So here, one foundational idea….

There is no place for combining religions and violence. Religions must seek a world that is imaginatively different.  That is our cherished role.   One that even the most enlightened elements of liberal, market driven Western democracy cannot supply.

As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth put it…

What the secularists forgot is that Homo sapiens is the meaning-seeking animal. If there is one thing the great institutions of the modern world do not do, it is to provide meaning. Science tells us how but not why. Technology gives us power but cannot guide us as to how to use that power. The market gives us choices but leaves us uninstructed as to how to make those choices. The liberal democratic state gives us freedom to live as we choose but refuses, on principle, to guide us as to how to choose.

Science, technology, the free market and the liberal democratic state have enabled us to reach unprecedented achievements in knowledge, freedom, life expectancy and affluence. They are among the greatest achievements of human civilization and are to be defended and cherished.

But they do not answer the three questions that every reflective individual will ask at some time in his or her life: Who am I? Why am I here? How then shall I live? The result is that the 21st century has left us with a maximum of choice and a minimum of meaning.

“Meaning” is our task and no small one. “Meaning” leads to a world imaginatively different.

18 Seconds

Friday, October 16th, 2015

Amazing to tour a news studio.  Monitors everywhere.  And a central monitor counting web traffic.  Counting top stories, daily peaks. Average time readers spend on each story? 18 seconds.

And the sunrise that same day, that morning, was beautiful. Bright. Crisp fall day. Too good to actually be shoe horned into language.

“18 Seconds.”  I wonder where we are going. So fast. Writing for things to be scanned not read.

And the sunrise. Different. Peace. Calm. That reminder that God is here too. A deeper movement, something beyond 18 seconds.

Unrest in Baltimore and “Us”

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

Upsetting to watch the unrest in Baltimore. Hard to hold.  These events readily pit us against us.  The need for law and order.  The need for racial justice.  Are those demonstrating thugs or demonstrators?  Are the police oppressors or protectors? We line up very easily on either side of the divide, well armed with labels.

And I believe Christianity again and again calls for a third way, a place beyond simple labels, where we return to seeing each other again.  A way between the poles.  It is a way of gentleness and mercy.

My mercy will not withdraw from you, and the compact of my peace will not recede. (Isaiah 54:10)

Emanuel Swedenborg noted that this “mercy and the compact of peace are the Lord and everything he is.” (Secrets of Heaven, 666)

There is clearly, for the safety of all, a need to reclaim order in the streets of Baltimore. There is clearly a need to search candidly for truth in the death of Freddie Gray while held in police custody.  There is clearly a need for a broader conversation around why so many cities appear to be such tinderboxes.

And there is clearly a need to speak to mercy and to peace.  Without it, there is no “us.”

Love and Security

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

Love and security … the same or not?

We know loves importance ….

Love is our vital core. We grow warm because of its presence, and cold because of its absence, and when it is completely gone, we die. (Heaven and Hell 14, Emanuel Swedenborg)

And we know how when love is present, we can settle into a peace, a miraculous peace, a vital core, a peace which as Christ says “passes all understanding.”  It feels secure there.

But there is another security that love is not.  That security remains needy, self serving and clutching.  Churches must work in the space that questions that type of security.

I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out in the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.  I do not want to a Church concerned with being at the center and which then ends up being caught in a web of obsessions and procedures…. More than our fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within  structures which give a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits that make us feel safe…..


Living Patiently in a Construction Zone

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

We give our hearts, often, to those things that are at best clunky and rude.  We give our hearts to work, to jobs, where yes we find joy but also frustration and fear.  We give our hearts to our beloveds, where yes we find love but also disappointment, vulnerability, loss.

And our ego would have us eagerly believe the long anticipated and well earned blessing is out there, somewhere else with someone else.   Then our hearts would be truly free.  Then at last we would be truly seen.

Something seems to say that is not how it works.  That maybe the universal addiction is the addiction to our own plans.

So there must be a newness, a new way of seeing, a new way to slip beneath the waves or above the clouds – take your pick.

Maybe we are to have, what one author called, a continued “lover’s quarrel” with life.   One where the commitment remains.  Where the commitment stays.  But where that commitment allows for that thing we must push against.  Welcomes it.  A life filled with events and people – “traffic” – that does not yield to our opinions, our plans, our relentless pushing this way or that.

Maybe there, in forced patience and surrender, we find the soft ground where faith grows.

At the Start

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

Today marks the beginning of a  conference in Albuquerque.   Action and Contemplation.

Yesterday thought of the importance of this work, work many pastors – the last of the generalists as one colleague phrased it – find both so enlivening and heart rending.  The work is hard and important because pastors and many others on the spiritual journey continually must stand in two places.

One, the world of the world.  Worries about budgets and guiding and somehow helping that person who with a chipper, shallow glowing grin chirps “Isn’t life great” with little of the depth that adds meaning to those words.  ”Great”, I fear, can simply be code for “I have a lot of stuff.”

Second, the word of the Spirit, where life remains precious, connected and touching and at the same time broken so deep that tears come easily.  Imagine shuttling between McDonalds and the silent oasis in prayer.   That is often my day.  Not just with others.  But with myself.

And so the work matters.  It matters that we effort to cross over to new places and new language and new ideas, it matters that we go back to to help others and those lost parts of ourselves do the same.

At the start.

God’s Life And A Simple Place To Stand

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

What is God’s life in us?  Simply put it is the where “the life of love and charity dwells.”  When we stand in that space, a place beyond the normal tensions of our human existence, I think we can often sense the wider and settled leading that is God.  The cosmos, a word derived from what is orderly, harmonious, systematic, shines down.  Nothing profound.  Just a simple acknowledgement that God is and maybe within our deep longing, that all is right in the world.

Almost anything can become a god

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

Almost anything can become a god.   That is why the first commandment in the Old Testament stated clearly – “You shall have no other gods before My face.”  Our faith clearly centers itself in that same warning.  “…any person or thing that is loved above all things, becomes a god, and is divine.”  (True Christianity)

It is hard to keep perspective around this simple concept.  God does not demand 24/7 attention.   God is not “needy.” He is not a struggling co-dependant searching for constant attention.  God is giving and in that giving, actually a rather quiet presence.

So how do we keep the find the right degree of attentiveness?

First, be aware of obsession and compulsion (including religious!).   Freedom fails to grow where obsession and compulsion take deep, binding root.  Obsession and compulsion – the not to do list.

Second be aware of the need for quiet.  As I grow older, the more I feel pulled to the concept that God’s voice most often shows as luminescent silence.  It is not the silence of “Hello is anyone out there?”  It is the silence of our souls, deeply anchored in God, but now free from the trappings and clutching and control born of our ego.