Approaching the Good of All for the Good of Peace

A young mother arrived at the hospital with a family member whose heart had stopped. Fortunately, her husband knew CPR and was able to restart their heart while they waited for the ambulance. My job as a chaplain at this point was to be present with the family while the trauma staff attended to the patient.

The young woman felt helpless in this situation and yet powerful things happened as a result. Her children had witnessed the life-saving CPR and, as it would be for anyone, it was frightening and chaotic for them. “I can’t ever face such trauma again and be this unprepared,” she said. As we sat together, waiting on test results, we explored options on how she could be prepared for, and respond to, an emergency situation in the future.

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The Courtesy of Peace

Recently I joined a friend for lunch in a small restaurant with tables fairly close together. The pleasant ambience was interrupted when a car began to back out into traffic from a space in front of the restaurant. The driver of another car laid on his horn, gesticulated angrily and drove the next 20 feet only to stop at a red light. Everyone in the restaurant turned to each other, wondering aloud, “what just happened?” “Why did the other driver need to be so rude?”? Heads were shaken, smiles were exchanged. But then the original car started backing up again, and proceeded into the opposite lane. 

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Walking the Peacepath Home

Recently I had the honor of preaching at my 50th college reunion. While writing the sermon, I realized how foundational the quote at the core of my sermon is to my Peacepath. Ram Dass, who was an American Spiritual Teacher from the 70s who helped popularize Eastern Philosophy, particularly Hinduism, in the US, wrote, “We are all just walking each other home.”

Home means different things to each of us. Ideally, it is the place we feel most loved, safe, and able to truly be ourselves. Peace is the natural home of the human. Yet our world is anything but Peaceful. The news of war, political unrest, and the devastation of climate change is so overwhelming that we feel there is nothing we can do to make a difference.

As a Peacemaker, I believe, that, together we can change the world for the better. To come together, we must both invite people to accompany us and offer to walk alongside on their journeys. We must believe in Joyous Possibilities, rather than sad realities. We can and should acknowledge what is true now, yet understand that Peace demands looking beyond the present. Peace requires a new vision for how we exist together on this planet.  Peace necessitates joining hands and working together to achieve a new reality.

When was the last time you walked with another? What did you talk about along the way?  Were you awed by nature’s beauty? Did you listen to and support one another? 

Walking together in Peace, we’d learn about each other’s values and what causes we are passionate about. We’d find each other’s cultures fascinating rather than frightening. We’d learn about our hopes and what each other needs to thrive. I’d teach your children walking songs and you’d help me carry my bag when my back is tired. We’d look for new people to join our band of Hope.

And as for home? It would keep evolving into something bigger, something more, something sweeter, something filled with Boundless Possibilities for connection, abundance, joy, and healing ourselves and our planet — and doing those things together.

Cat Stevens is still singing about the “Peace Train” that would take the world and him home.

Oh, I’ve been smiling lately

Dreaming about the world as one

And I believe it could be

Someday it’s going to come.

What we discovered at reunion is that, in college, intense times spent in one another’s company developed both a sense of self and the ability to trust. Gathering after 50 years meant time to remember, time to feel safe, time to mourn, time to laugh, and time to rejoice. There was Peace in reconnecting. It wasn’t a distant Peace, it was a road we traveled and a road we are traveling still — together.

Whether we are walking or riding the train, our destination is the same — we’re all on the Peacepath, headed toward that Peaceful Home — together we can find it; together we can create it. What are we waiting for? Time to stop railing against stupidity and greed. Time to walk the Peacepath together. You’re exactly the people I would like to journey with.

Salaam, Shalom, Peace, Blessed Be.

Making Peace with Death

“Life is a daring adventure or nothing.” So wrote the blind and deaf social reformer Helen Keller. Despite hardships, Life is wild and precious. Still, death comes for us all. Choosing peace in death as in life, we are empowered to decide how we will face death. Engaging those we love in that conversation permits them to be our advocates in carrying out our wishes, which affords them peace as well.

Life carries no guarantees except the certainty of death. Perhaps the only way to cheat death is to live fully into each and every day. That way, when death draws near, it finds us full of gratitude for Life’s richness.

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The New Mystics of Peace

Growing up in the 50s and 60’s, my family, like so many others across the country, faithfully attended religious services. There the values of my faith community were taught: The Golden Rule, the Ten Commandments, etc. Among all those Sunday School lessons, mysticism was never mentioned. Mysticism is defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary as “the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience.” That means that mystical experiences can be attained by anyone, not just those living rigorous religious lives in monasteries or ashrams.

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Peace is Filled with Miracles

In a recent Washington Post editorial, Anne LaMott proclaimed that ‘Age Makes the Miracles Easier to See.’ As I read it, I wondered if she shouldn’t have added the word: Again. Anyone who’s ever known a child or two knows that, during their first couple years of life, they spend their days encountering miracles. The American Heritage Dictionary defines a miracle as: 

  1. An event that appears inexplicable by the laws of nature and so is held to be supernatural in origin or an act of God.*
  2. One that excites admiring awe; a wonderful or amazing event, act, person, or thing. synonymwonder
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A Peacemaker Ponders Peace in 2024

What does Peace mean to me as a member of this beloved community of people of faith and philosophy?

I am a Peacemaker.  Since adopting that challenge, I’ve considered how to contribute to Peace and Peacemaking going forward. For me, Peace in 2024 means another year of working with respected colleagues, pondering who we are as people, individually and communally, and discerning possibilities for Peacemaking for living together in the Susquehanna River Valley.

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Depending on the Kindness of Strangers

In Tennessee Williams’s 1947 Play, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” a lead character, Blanch DuBois. says “I have always depended upon the kindness of strangers.” But, of course, these strangers were neither kind nor dependable. 

What if kindness was what it’s supposed to be? Here are some of the big beautiful words used to define it: respect, benevolence; beneficence of action or manner. Kindness is generosity, an action from the heart. Tennessee Williams made clear the travesty of the use of that word in his play.

Kindness is not easy. To offer gifts from our heart, we must know what we can offer and give from that place. Done properly, being kind does not use us up, it fills us up. A sweet action of kindness can fill another as well. Kindness is an essential building block of Peacemaking.

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Missing Places at the Table

Many years ago in Northern Europe, people celebrated only two seasons: Winter, which started on November 1st; and Summer, which started on May 1st. In many places in the world, both pre-Christian and Christian communities have celebrated the end of October and the beginning of November as a time to remember our beloved dead.

Once while in California, I was invited to a dinner where we brought place-settings and special foods to honor those we had lost. We ate in silence and candle light, communing with those no longer with us. There were tears — and oddly enough laughter — as we recognized the places that those who had gone before still occupied in our lives. We remembered — we reassembled those relationships. It was healing to remember the friends and family that we remember and the ancestors and mentors who helped us become the people we are today.

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“No!” Is a Very Useful Word, But, It’s Not a Peace Word!”

Work on this blog post has gone on for weeks. It’s taken me that long to move from rant to Peace-blog — which is the purpose of my writing. What started the rant? The overuse of the word NO! in public and private discourse, often shouted. Ai, yai, yai! 

Oh, I could go on, but it’s exhausting. And you know what else it is? Immature. This is not, as they say, “adulting.” These are the very important expressions of toddlers. This is differentiating. Me. Me, Me, Me! This is a toddler learning boundaries: I’m me. This is mine. I can do this (myself)! As parent, caregiver, and friend, these phrases feel incredibly personal — and very frustrating, however, they are simply moments of discovering the edges of the toddler’s reach, a stage of exerting independence by testing: “No, I’m not going to bed.” “My toy!”

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