Memorial 9/11 Prayer and Pope Francis’ Call to Peace

National-9-11-Memorial-WideAngle-Sept-2011

Next week we will celebrate the 12th anniversary since the destruction of the twin towers in New York. Many people who lost loved ones continue to grieve. All of us remember and bring our prayers and tears to the day. A couple of years ago I wrote this prayer which I adapt each year as I reflect not only on this incident of terrorism but on all the violence and terrorist acts that continue in our world.

God so much violence, so much pain, so much heartache.
May our memories of this day remind us of the horrors of war.
As we grieve with those who still mourn,
And share memories with those who cannot forget,
May we be stirred by your love and compassion for all.
As we remember those who bravely responded,
And gave their lives to save others,
May we draw strength from their selfless sacrifice.
As we stand with strangers who became neighbours that day,
Sharing and caring for people they did not know,
We give thanks for their generosity and hospitality.
May it remind us of the call to be good Samaritans,
Reaching out across race and culture to other victims of violence.
So many in our world have lost loved ones to terrorism and war,
May their plight fill us with a longing for peace.
Let us seek for understanding and reconciling,
And not turn from your kingdom ways.
Above all God may we remember your faithfulness,
And learn to trust in your unfailing love.
Amen

Last year I wrote a post entitled Remembering 9/11 – May It Call Us to Peace and Not to WarThat thought is uppermost in my mind as I think about our memorial time next week. The situation in Syria seems to call us to war, but should it instead call us to seek peace and reconciliation?

Pope Francis has spoken out against war in Syria – last week he tweeted War never again! Never again war! written to the Russian president, and called people everywhere to a vigil for Saturday September 7th. This part of his speech adapted from the Vatican website translation by Phil Fox Rose in his excellent post Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wakemakes a particularly good reflection for the day.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Hello! Today, dear brothers and sisters, I wish to make add my voice to the cry which rises up with increasing anguish from every part of the world, from every people, from the heart of each person, from the one great family which is humanity: it is the cry for peace! It is a cry which declares with force: we want a peaceful world, we want to be men and women of peace, and we want in our society, torn apart by divisions and conflict, for peace to break out! War, never again! Never again war! Peace is a precious gift, which must be promoted and protected.

There are so many conflicts in this world which cause me great suffering and worry, but in these days my heart is deeply wounded in particular by what is happening in Syria and anguished by the dramatic developments which are looming…

There is a judgment of God and of history upon our actions which is inescapable! Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence.

With all my strength, I ask each party in this conflict to listen to the voice of their own conscience, not to close themselves in solely on their own interests, but rather to look at each other as brothers and decisively and courageously follow the path of encounter and negotiation, and so, overcome blind conflict. With similar vigour I exhort the international community to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace in that country without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people…

All men and women of good will are bound by the task of pursuing peace. I make a forceful and urgent call to the entire Catholic Church, and also to every Christian of other confessions, as well as to followers of every religion and to those brothers and sisters who do not believe: peace is a good which overcomes every barrier, because it belongs all of humanity!

I repeat forcefully: neither a culture of confrontation nor a culture of conflict builds harmony within and between peoples, but rather a culture of encounter and of dialogue; this is the only way to peace.

May the plea for peace rise up and touch the heart of everyone so that they may lay down their weapons and let themselves be led by the desire for peace.

To this end, brothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on September 7, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all people of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.

On September 7, in Saint Peter’s Square here, from 7:00 p.m. until midnight, we will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God’s great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world. Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace! I ask all the local churches, in addition to fasting, that they gather to pray for this intention.

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Living into the Resurrection – What Does It Mean?

Mural outside Simple Way

God’s peace is at the centre of our equipping

The focus for my next few weeks will be “Practicing resurrection”. I am starting each morning by asking myself the question: “How do I plan to practice resurrection today?”

This morning I found my thoughts focusing on my images of God’s new world – what I call God’s resurrection created world. What do I think this will look like? Unless I have a clear vision of this world there is no way that I can live into it.

Usually I confine this kind of imagining to Sundays. God’s rest on the seventh day was a rest of satisfaction, when he looked around at all that had been accomplished in the previous six days and said “It is good.” That is the kind of Sabbath rest that we are meant to live into. What I try to do on Sundays (and some Sundays are more successful than others) is relax and rest in the presence of God and God’s shalom world.

I was really inspired some years ago by the Jewish philosopher Abraham Heschel who said that the Jews regarded Sabbath as a glimpse into the eternal world. I realized that my Sunday practices looked nothing like what I hope God’s eternal world will look like. So I started to try and realign my Sunday activities to reflect more of what my vision of God’s future eternal, shalom filled world will look like.

Easter tends to be a more successful season for this focus in my life. Thinking of the resurrection makes it easy to reflect on my images of God’s eternal world – A world in which the language is love and the culture centres on mutuality and generosity. A country where there is no more crying or oppression or pain, a place where justice will come for the poor and the sick will be healed, a place where God’s creation is restored and there is abundance and prosperity for all.

This is a world with very different values and culture than ours. In fact I think that many of us will suffer severe culture shock when we enter this world because we have spent so little of our time and energy living in this culture here. 

So this morning I thought about where I have caught glimpses of God’s shalom world in this past week. I got quite excited as I thought about the people I have connected to and some of the friendships I am developing. I was encouraged as I thought about my friends in Parish Collective, The Overflow Project and Mercy Ships and the wonderful work they all do in reaching out to their neighbourhoods and the marginalized around the world. I also experienced a deep sense of satisfaction as I thought about the day Tom and I spent in the garden on Saturday planting the spring garden.

I went to church Easter Sunday very much aware of God’s presence with me which of course made it much easier to enter into the spirit of Easter in the liturgy and particularly in communion. Sunday afternoon we celebrated Easter with a richly multicultural community of friends – a glimpse into the diversity of God’s international family.

I thought too about the things I have done that are not representative of God’s resurrection created world – the times I got irritable with Tom, times I resented sharing the bounty God has provided us with, times I turned away from those who are hurting and in need because I wanted to put my own needs ahead of theirs. Because of Christ’s resurrection we can live in a way that is very different from the culture around us but we need to keep reminding ourselves of what that culture looks like and what we need to do to live into it.

Sunday for me, is always a day to realign my life and all my activities not just to the celebration of God’s shalom future but to how God can use our lives to bring glimpses of that future into our world. Obviously Easter Sunday and this season after Easter, is a very special opportunity to do this.

It is a season for celebrating our restored relationship to God, our reconciliation to our neighbours, our renewed responsibility to steward God’s creation. So why not jump start your celebration of God’s resurrection culture, by spending time reflecting on God’s eternal shalom world, this resurrection created life that God expects us to live into? Get a vision for how your life and your activities could make a difference in the lives of others and in God’s world. We cannot bring God’s eternal world into being by our own efforts but we are meant to live as citizens of that new world and live with the values and customs of that new world at the centre of our lives.

Go In Peace to Love and Serve the Lord

Peace rose

Peace rose

As many of you know at this season I tend to become an obsessive gardener and because I am currently teach a course on spirituality and gardening for a local church this has become even more of a passion for me. So I thought this week I would share some of my favourite garden stories and reflections.

The Peace rose is one of my all time favourite flowers, and even more so because of the history that goes with it. I frist read about this rose in the book For Love of A Rose,  and immediately fell in love with it.

It was developed by French horticulturist Frances Meilland in the years 1935 to 1939. When Meilland foresaw the German invasion of France he sent cuttings to friends in Italy, Turkey, Germany, and the United States to protect the new rose. It is said, by some that it was sent to the US on the last plane available before the German invasion. Others think that it was smuggled out by the French resistance. In the U.S. it was safely propagated by the Conrad Pyle Company during the war. In early 1945 Meilland wrote to Field Marshal Alan Brooke, principal author of the master strategy that won World War II, to thank him for his key part in the liberation of France and to ask if Brooke would give his name to the rose. Brooke declined saying that his name would soon be forgotten and a much better and more enduring name would be “Peace”.

His words were prophetic. The naming of the rose as ‘PEACE’ was publicly announced in America by Robert Pyle on April 29, 1945 , the day Berlin fell, officially considered the end of World WarII in Europe. The next showing of the Peace rose came on V-E Day, May 8, 1945. At the very first United Nations Conference in San Francisco, a Peace rose with the message: “We hope the ‘Peace’ rose will influence men’s thoughts for everlasting world peace”, was presented to all 49 U.N. delegates.

August of 1945 came the announcement that the Peace rose was the winner of the All-American Rose Selections Award of Honor. Simultaneously, the war ended in Japan.

Another memorable occasion came in 1951 when the American Rose Society made the Peace rose the first rose to receive its Gold Medal Award. This award corresponded with the signing of the treaty of peace with Japan.

Peter Beales, English rose grower and expert, said in his book Roses: “‘Peace’, without doubt, is the finest Hybrid Tea ever raised and it will remain a standard variety forever”. It is still the most popular rose in the world.

So go and plant a Peace rose, or better still plant some peace in God’s garden. God desires peace in our world and I think that the history of this rose shows that. I always have a peace rose in my garden. its fragrance reminds me constantly of God’s dream of peace and the efforts God makes to ensure it continues to thrive.

Monday Meditation: Beginning the Week with Mindfulness – by Gene Anderson

Gene Anderson just sent me a link to this beautiful meditation he posted. It has refreshed my soul and hope that it will do the same for you. Thanks Gene.

Monday Meditation: Beginning the Week with Mindfulness

Still Waters…

Stilling “monkey mind”,
We slip into deep waters,
Cool, cleansing insight.
A Learning Journey…

Journeying space-time,
Wanderers along The Way,
Footsteps of Jesus.
Crossing the Threshold…

Yet this too, shall pass,
Arriving at beginning,
Christ is All in All.
Shantih
—————–
Peace
————
Salaam
——
Shalom

Mindfulness.

Top Ten Mediation Tips from Micha Jazz At Peaceworks.

group hug

Making peace with Micha Jazz and other members of the MSA international circle

Tom and I have just returned from a 5 day whirlwind trip to the East Coast working with Mennonites at Laurelville Mennonite Center, Renewal and Creation Care Study Program. I am still a little jetlagged as we arrived home at 1 am so I was delighted to discover a link to this great article on mediation written by our good friend Micha Jazz (aka Mike Morris) at Peaceworks. Conflict between people is a huge challenge for most Christian organizations contributed to by the continual stress that we work under. Also probably because we have just been working with people from a peace church perspective, I thought that this would make a great post for this morning. It was originally posted as Ten Top Mediation Tips on Peaceworks blog.

Micha has been be a part of the international circle of MSA for more years than we care to mention. He is also one of the founders together with Chris Seaton, of Peaceworks. Micha is an experienced CEDR accredited mediator (Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution), an accredited workplace mediator, and a Recognised Member of the College of Mediators.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Peaceworks’ Ten Top Mediation Tips 

1.      Always plan to have difficult conversations. Mediation provides a safe, confidential environment with adequate refreshments, to help everyone achieve their best.

2.      Take time ahead of the mediation to find the words to describe what you feel, why you feel the way you do and what you would like as an outcome. Your feelings and preferences are important and everyone wants to listen and discover what they are. You might feel upset, angry, disappointed, confused – mediation offers you the chance to say that, and to state what you want.

3.      Picture your future. How you would like things to be in 6 months time. This helps to see that there is a future beyond the mediation. The pain does not need to last forever. What will the next six months be like if there is no change? This mediation is important!

4.      As you consider what you want and what the future might look like, remember to be realistic. Mediations work best when everyone agrees a realistic, achievable and measurable agreement. Things will certainly feel and look a lot different if a clear agreement is achieved. So take time to build that agreement in the mediation. Do not rush.

5.      As far as you can, be very specific about issues and deal with each of them in turn. Once issues are clearly identified, there is a means for effectively and creatively dealing with the conflict.

6.      Work with the mediator to create a climate in which matters can be agreed and deals can be done; this may involve ‘turning the other cheek’ and ‘biting your lip’. Later, you will be glad you did.

7.      If there are difficulties be honest about them. There is ample opportunity to have a private meeting with the mediator and talk through your anxieties freely and confidentially. The mediator is there to support you throughout do your best.

8.      If you need to resolve financial issues, be sure you have details of the numbers involved and any paperwork that support your verbal claims. Confusion over data will always produce confusion within the process. If numbers intimidate you, request some help ahead of the mediation.

9.      Do not rely on ‘bar room’ advice as to what you ‘should’ walk away with! However well meant, it is likely to be unhelpful, and does not enjoy the benefit of the other party’s feelings and requests. What they say may have a positive impact on you. Remember, this is your dispute and you have the power to resolve it.

10.   Respect and be kind to yourself throughout. This is a mature and creative way to deal with conflict, and one that is increasingly promoted by the legal profession, HR departments, commercial companies etc. worldwide. You are at the cutting edge of the new way to deal with conflict effectively. How smart is that?

Are We Deaf to Silence?

Looking at the waters

Looking at the Waters

One of the things I like to do Sunday afternoon is reflect on the scriptures for the week.  One of the scriptures for this last Sunday was 1 Kings 19:18, the story of Elijah fleeing from Jezebel into the desert.  In the New Revised Standard Version it reads:

Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.  When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stoood at the entrace of the cave.

How do we hear silence and when we do what makes us want to respond by going out of the caves in which we have hidden in order to listen to God?

We live in a world that is full of noise.  This morning I am writing to the sound of Tom vacuuming in the background on top of the ever present traffic noise.  Silence is hard to find in our world and most of us don’t know how to listen or hear what it is saying to us.  But if we sit in stillness and reach deep within our hearts there we can always find the silence of God – not a silence that makes us ask Why can’t I hear the voice of God? nor is it a silence that blocks out the world around us.  Rather it is a silence that resonates with the peace and joy and love that can only be found when we walk close to God.  It is a silence that calls us to intimate relationship with the creator of the universe.  And it is a silence that calls us each day to move out into God’s world in compassion and love.

Another one of the scriptures was Matthew 14:22-33 Thinking about both of these today this prayer/poem welled up within my heart.

Christ you come to us

Not in the wind and storm

Not in the earthquake and fire

But in the sound of sheer silence

A breath of calm that stills the sea

And calls to my heart

Be not afraid peace be still

Come walk on the water

Follow me across the waves

No task is impossible, no pain unbearable

When I hold your hand

And peace shall be the pathway for your feet

Great Update From Tracy Howe Wispelwey at the The Restoration Project

Hold on to Love by Tracy Howe Wispelwey

Hold on to Love by Tracy Howe Wispelwey

I have just been listening to some of the beautiful songs from Tracy’s latest album Hold On To Love .  I love the prophetic and challenging lyrics that Tracy shares and thought that you might appreciate this update from her .  She is a voice well worth listening to if you have not yet discovered her music.  I am also impressed with the buy now name your price policy.  All her albums are available for a donation rather than a set price.  God bless you Tracy as you head to Colombia

Off to Colombia…
I can’t believe we are heading into the end of July.  What a full summer it has already been between Costa Rica, Wild Goose and continuing to share and promote the album Hold On To Love.  Thank you so much for all of your support and help.  We are happy to announce that with the successful launch of the CD there is no longer a minimum donation to download the album from our store!  We also posted the project on noisetrade.com and have already seen it swirl into different musical circles, including being featured on Música Cristiana Moderna (Barcelona, Spain) and Cultuur Shock(Belgium).  We ran it all through Google translator and it looks good…we think.

Now I am getting ready for a 5 week tour of sorts, through Colombia, Costa Rica and other parts of Central America.  Nothing glamorous.  Probably no big crowds… just building relationship with some other amazing artists – learning more about community and life in Latin America – singing in people’s houses and maybe writing some new songs.  I know this trip will lead to some exciting long term creative partnership and I am also helping to develop a website and online collaboration space for an incredible network of artists…which I look forward to telling you much more about as time goes on.  In the mean time, thanks for staying connected.  Here are some more fun things I hope you get the chance to check out:

Videos from Alter Video Magazine

Travis Reed is a film maker and visual liturgist who has used many Restoration Project songs for his videos at The Work of The People.  He recently sent me this picture from Joplin, MO with a note that said, “Your music was playing in my head while I was standing here on the Joplin corner.”

Later when we caught up at Wild Goose festival, he told me how the possibility of music in this wreckage made him think of my music.  I love hearing the way my songs and music speak to people.  It is a gift!  Travis spoke to me ad edited some of the content for Alter Video Magazine.

We spoke for a couple of hours probably, but here is a 2 minute video on art, spirituality and justice, and here is a longer video with some bigger thoughts about worship and creativity and some of my story.  I also recommend the videos with David Wilcox and Brian McLaren.  David Wilcox was one of my first songwriting inspirations and he covered the song Atheist a few years back from Songs For a Revolution of Hope.

More Awesome Reviews for Hold On To Love!

Thank you to everyone who has posted a review on iTunes!  We have moved to the top of search engines because of all the buzz and positive responses.  More reviews alwasy help too so please stop by the iTunes page and continue to share the music with others!  Here are some more great reviews:

Christianity Today:  “Imagine Ani DiFranco doing worship backed alternately by the ambient Hammock and Middle Eastern and African instrumentalists.”  Read more…

Resurrection Life Blog:  “Dig deep and find some great new stuff going on here.” Read More…

Free Music Blog:  “I urge you to download this album. I was hooked, after just listening to track one.” Read More…

Seth is actually already in Colombia working with some incredible people.  He will write and share much more when he returns in August and you will see the twitter and facebook feeds move again (I just can’t seem to keep up with it).  But as alwasy, here are the links on the facebook and the twitter!

“The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt.”
Thomas Merton (1915 – 1968)