How often we repeat the words attributed to St. Francis…..to make us an instrument of God’s peace?  But what does that mean in the context of day-to-day living? Does it mean we refuse to bear arms? That we withdraw from all wars and battles? That we turn the other cheek? That when someone posts something ugly on Facebook we make a comment that points out the flaw(s) in the post’s logic? Does it mean we never express anger or discord?

In my search for answers to these and similar questions, I have spent the last two hours “surfing” through various articles and excerpts regarding Gandhi’s viewpoints.   Two specific sources were helpful to me in my search for what it means to be an instrument of peace. From these articles I determined that to be an instrument of peace one needs to view all of life as “one entity”,  be centered in love expressed in service, and that peace can be attained first by changing one’s inner self as reflected in changed thoughts and actions. In other words,  spiritual love becomes the essential driving force of both one’s thoughts and actions.

Which brings me back full-circle to the wisdom expressed in St. Francis’ prayer……when you consider the concepts voiced in that prayer you are essentially describing how to be an instrument of peace:

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace! That where there is hatred, I may bring love. That where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness. That where there is discord, I may bring harmony. That where there is error, I may bring truth. That where there is doubt, I may bring faith. That where there is despair, I may bring hope. That where there are shadows, I may bring light. That where there is sadness, I may bring joy. Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort, than to be comforted. To understand, than to be understood. To love, than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life. Amen.”

p. 833, The Book of Common Prayer

Helpful Reading/Cited Articles:

The first was an article by Nathan Funk found in  (Gandhi Marg, October-December 2002,Volume.24, No.3):

Transformation: Peace through the Power of Love

The final approach to peacemaking investigated in the peace paradigms course is the transformation paradigm, a paradigm that focuses on the centrality of education, cultural change, and spirituality in all genuine attempts to make peace a reality in daily life. From the standpoint of the transformation paradigm, peacemaking is not only an effort to end war, remove structural violence, or establish the presence of external value conditions. It is also a profoundly internal process, in which the transformation of the individual becomes a metaphor for and instrument of broader changes. Transformation, then, involves the cultivation of a peaceful consciousness and character, together with an affirmative belief system and skills through which the fruits of “internal disarmament” and personal integration may be expressed. Transformation unites doing with being, task with experience. Inner freedom is felt in the midst of action, and sacred ideals are personalized for application by the individual. Peaceful behaviour is learned behaviour, and each individual is a potential and needed contributor to a culture of peace.

From the standpoint of the transformation paradigm, spirituality implies insight into the deep interconnectedness and sacredness of all levels and compartments of reality. It is innate to the person, and may be understood as a universal human “attempt to grow in sensitivity to self, to others, to non-human creations and to God” that recognizes and seeks to accommodate the presence of the divine in all actions and relations. Recognition of this divine presence and claim begets spontaneous loyalty, which cannot be restricted by boundaries of religion, race, class, or gender. This universal loyalty, in turn, inspires actions born of loving commitment to the wholeness and integrity of creation. The personal has become the political in the most creative and inclusive sense possible, as we seek to make public life reflect non-partisan spiritual value. We become present in the moment, yet responsible for a shared and hopeful future inspired by the injunction, “If you want peace, be peace. Be an instrument of peace.”

accessed t/22/13 at http://mkgandhi.org/nonviolence/peace%20paradigms.htm

 

The second helpful article (Kapur, 2012) is best summarized in its’ abstract:

Religion gave meaning and direction to the lives of Mahatma Gandhi and

Martin Luther King, Jr.; it inspired their belief in the unity of life and

commitment to the way of love. Service to humanity was part and parcel of

their religion. The deeper they delved into serving society, the more they grew

in their spiritual awareness. In the process, they became less self-centered and

more spirit-centered. Their vision of a nonviolent social order was based on the

assumption that individual transformation and social transformation are

interrelated. Their lives are a demonstration of the fact that personal and social

transformation are interconnected and interdependent

Kapur, S. 2012,  Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Liberation of self and society,  Gandhi Marg Quarterly Journal of the Gandhi Peace Foundation, 34, p. 5.

accessed May 22, 2013 at

http://www.mkgandhi.org/ebks/Gandhi%20Marg_April_June2012.pdf)

 

childhood-home-burning-feb-4-2017 Photograph compliments of Janet Alan Goforth

 

First of all, this is an outpouring of a grieving soul. My writing is free association at this point, and it may not even be coherent. Do not expect correct grammar, transitions,  or even good writing. I am very emotional at the moment.

I cannot stop crying. The house I grew up in is burning down. No one was hurt. But, so many memories are going up in smoke. Watching for the school bus out the back bedroom window so we could throw our coats on and run up the driveway in time to be there when it pulled up. Being there with my father the last few days  he spent there and finally getting his permission to call the ambulance that took him away for the last time from the home he built and lived in……I watched him build that home from the bottom up. I was 4 going on 5—-that makes the house that is burning  or has burned by now survived almost 63 years of memories.

Christmases there…bringing in cedars to decorate, decorating the windows, playing the piano or the organ, sitting on that awful pea green circular sectional sofa. Mother’s drapes with geometric modern art bright orange and green shapes on them. Waxing the floors—wood and tile. Storing winter or summer clothes in the hallway closet depending on what season it was. Dogs, cats. Beloved pets. Working on homework, baking cookies, mother reading stories to me. Mother sewing our clothes, dressing us all up for Easter. Family cousins, grandparents visiting, holiday dinners, watermelons my father would bring home after work. My  father making pancakes on Sundays—–and, later, Sunday pancakes changed to Sunday biscuits. Our small bedroom us 3 girls shared. I got the top bunk.

Our first little black and white TV and watching “I’ve Got a Secret”—-the first TV show I ever watched. Later came Captain Kangaroo, Howdy Doody, Sky King, Roy Rogers, Mighty Mouse, Romper Room, Walt Disney on Sunday nights. My father making us shut off “our shows” so he could watch boxing when he got home from work. The party we had there when I was in high school—– I hosted it with three other girls as our “home economics” project. We were dancing in the front yard—doing the “Twist”. Hunting for Easter eggs, Becky shaking Christmas packages trying to guess what they were. Anita dressing her cat up in doll clothes—–that cat would always run from her. Bringing boyfriends home and other friends from college. Reading library books in the summer. Riding my green and white bicycle (“Thunderhead”) up the hill to visit Mary Jane or Ellen. Playing Monopoly or Canasta or Rook.

Watching home movies—-laughing at the dynamite explosions played backwards. “Camping” out in the family tent in the back yard. Going out in middle of night to watch falling stars—–remembering my grandmother told me a falling star was an angel carrying someone who died up to heaven. Hanging clothes out to dry in the back yard. Fishing in the ponds, riding horses, dodging walking sticks on the  mountain, pulling cat tails out of the lake, pulling thistles out of the field with my father. Having the “I Will Build Myself a Farm” counted cross-stitch my mother did and had framed sitting in my laundry room and not knowing where to put it.

Going home after “the divorce” never was the same.  Both of my parents had remarried,  and visits had to be split between two homes. But still, the good memories outweigh the bad, and now the house is no more. My parents are dead. Dear friends are dead. My retirement is not comprised of sitting on my deck gazing at the mountains in Colorado as I had planned.

The TV I am looking at as I type was my father ‘s —and it came from the house that is burning. That beautiful rock fireplace and “waterfall” my  father was so proud of having built—-all gone. That beautiful picture window gone. The trees we planted, the swings we swung on, the orchard, the roses, the other flowers, all gone.

I do not like having to learn the lesson of letting go, but that is what life is all about. Learning to surrender, to let go, to accept life on life’s terms realizing things and people are not fair. Enough time spent on the “pity pot.” Here is what I am grateful for: my four dogs with their unconditional love, my two sisters, my friends, my church, my faith, God’s eternal and unconditional love, my house, having enough money, health care, and food to live comfortably. Being sober and clean. My mind, my soul, my life. My memories…..and the gift of being able to make new ones. The lessons being “pounded home” to me this week have all been about letting go, connecting, working on community, and being grateful and compassionate. I just could have done without this latest lesson.

 

 

 

Now we come to the setting of the sun

This morning has been one of  “Facebook Connection with God.” Surprisingly, my Facebook experience this morning felt like getting hug after hug rather than being bombarded by negativity. The first, and perhaps biggest “hug”  I encountered was a post about the forgiveness ceremony at Standing Rock. This event is proof that after centuries of hurt by working together reconciliation and purposeful building of community can help us heal as a nation. It gives me hope that this united effort will continue to heal our nation and block negativity.

Another hug was a video of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra playing and children singing “Christmas Canon.”  This particular piece of music has always comforted my spirit,  and,  as I listened, I realized God was hugging me again.

A third hug was a posted contemplative prayer article that supported my efforts in practicing contemplative prayer. In a kind way the article reminded me how important it is for me to practice growing closer to God in purposeful moments when I quiet my mind and let Him fill the silence with His Love. If it had yelled “Practice, practice, practice!” at me I would not have bothered to read it

These past months have been full of nation-wide negativity and ugliness. On a personal level I fought a long battle with bronchitis and asthma, and I won. Truthfully, although all the medical intervention was integral in my recovery, so was the support and prayers of my friends. I could have easily ended up in the hospital as many of my friends have with this particular strain of bronchitis. Not doing so was a huge “hug from God.”

The biggest “hug” happened this past weekend. I began experiencing abdominal pain about 10 AM Saturday morning, and it seemed to worsen all day.  I tried to convince myself I was having a stomach ache as a result of the new antibiotic I was  taking. When I got home from a local craft show, I got out the antibiotic’s  pharmacy print out, and found, much to my dismay, that if your stomach hurt when taking this medication you needed to call your doctor. On a Saturday night, that meant calling my doctor’s “service.” The doctor I talked to was an angel from God. He helped me realize what I was describing was more than what is usually expected as a side effect of this medication, and when I explained my history of multiple partial bowel obstructions, he suggested I consider visiting an emergency room. He did a good job of breaking through my denial—- I drove myself to a local ER.

While there I got the usual IV, EKG, blood draws, and CAT scan. Based on what the CAT scan showed the ER doctor determined that my “dysfunctional colon” had started backing things up into my small intestine as it has many times before.  “Backing up” and the pain it causes are  generally the first symptoms associated with developing partial or total bowel obstruction. I was lucky—– the doctor decided he could treat me there in the ER with a humongous soap suds enema rather than having to send me by ambulance to Barnes Jewish in St. Louis. Now, in case something as old fashioned and “low tech” as an invasive enema sounds like torture to you rather than a positive outcome, I can tell you from personal experience an hour or so of intense discomfort is much more positive than having a NG  tube forced down your throat into your stomach, a catheter put in your bladder, and spending a week or so in the hospital with the threat of possible surgery hanging over you.

This positive ER experience outcome was intensified by the fact that the nurses who took care of me had been my students in the past, they both recognized me, and they both gave me excellent care. Sometimes it pays to have previously been a professor in a small town. By 4 AM I finally was able to go home and go to bed.

I’ve been able to rest a few days now, slowly building back to almost my normal activity level, and this morning when I was trolling Facebook to find a daily  bible verse and prayer for my church’s Face book page, I encountered the hugs spoken of earlier. Finding all those positive postings got  me to thinking about all the ways God has been kind to me these past few weeks and how grateful I am.

Thanks for letting my mind wander on about hugs.

img_1275

I served my Thanksgiving company this dessert today, and they asked me if I had the recipe. I told them it was one I’d made up myself, and they asked me to write it down and put it on Pinterest.  To do that, I need to publish it on the Internet, so that is why this recipe is my blog entry for  today. Please keep in mind that although it is low carb, sugar free and also a  source for protein and calcium  its fat content is still relatively high. Hope everyone is having a wonderful, grateful, and fun-filled Thanksgiving.

Sugar Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Delight

Ingredients:

1/2 c Cream cheese

1/4 c Plain Greek yogurt

1/8 c Hershey’s Kitchens Sugar Free Chocolate Chips

1/2 t Vanilla

1/2 C plus 2 T Splenda

1/4 C sugar free peanut butter (plain or crunchy)

Directions:

  • Soften cream cheese in microwave until semi-soft yet not warm (about 20-30 seconds on high, depending on microwave)
  • Add yogurt and vanilla  to softened cream cheese; mix throughly
  • Add Splenda, mix vigorously until well blended
  • Blend in peanut butter
  • Add sugar free chocolate chips, mix until evenly distributed throughout mixture

Serve as is or chilled, depending on your preference

 

 

Now we come to the setting of the sun

If I have to hear the “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercial one more time I’ll scream. Only I can’t, my “scream machine” (throat, lungs, breathing) is on the blink, and it is all I can do to breathe in and out—–and sometimes that is a challenge. I remember when I used  to laugh at this commercial. However, I don’t find it amusing anymore as it is getting harder and harder for me “to get up.” Just bending over to feed the dogs is a challenge to my current malfunctioning breathing system.

But, ’tis the season to be grateful—–so let me get off the “pity pot” and just be grateful that I can breathe between coughing bouts and that my asthma wheezing is subsiding. And, having been ill for a week, I think I am most grateful for good old fashioned Amoxicillin with Kleenex running a close second. I am grateful my dogs no longer jump and run when I sneeze or cough. They have been desensitized.

I have found being this ill for a week has brought my emotions “to the top”—-I am easily irritated, I have no patience, and, at times, I find myself crying like a frustrated two year old. No longer is my attention fixated on the implications of our recently past election…..having to fight to breathe has a way of putting things into the proper perspective. I  have to focus on the present moment and what I can and cannot do. If I have to moan and groan to get more air in or out, it is OK in the moment. I have to admit that in the midst of coughing spasms when I am fighting to breathe and tears are rolling down my face I am intensely grateful I am not out in public. Ego and pride have not left me yet. However, it is time for me to put my self-focused attention aside.

To all of you out there who are engaged in Thanksgiving, I wish you good times, loving fellowship, and the ability to remember what you are grateful for in each moment and not just during grace before the big family meal. I shout out a loud “Thank you!” to Creator and ask him to keep those who:

  • are traveling
  • are standing vigil to protect sacred lands and water
  • are surrounded by pain, death, war
  • are in need of sanctuary;
  • are hungry
  • have no place to call home who are our peace officers
  • are in military service
  • serve as our health care givers
  • have lost loved ones
  • are and will be guiding our country

in His care not only on Thanksgiving Day but on all days.  May we all realize we are connected as one human family with all of Creation and Creator himself, and may this realization guide us in relating to each other with love and compassion. Amen.

sharen-sept-2010

Just feeling a bit strange.  My friend Sharen died on July 20, 2015. I still think about her almost every day. Some of you may have read the blogs I wrote while I was trying to survive her death, and you may remember that I explained she was my “go to” friend with almost anything at anytime and almost every day.

Today I got to “go to” her again. Face Book notified me that today was her birthday and provided me with a link for wishing her a happy birthday. I couldn’t help it. I went to her site (yes, it is still there) and wished her a happy birthday in heaven and told her I miss her. I couldn’t have done that this time last year without crying.  Now I am just tearing. I don’t know how Facebook accounts get discontinued following a death, but I wish they’d get a bit better at it.

Or, do I? Maybe it is important to continue remembering birthdays rather than focusing on death-days. There are no death-day wishes, parties, or cards. I know from experience that both birthdays and death-days of those we love are sometimes emotionally very difficult to get through even years after our loved ones have left us.

What I usually do in my blogs is find some spiritual tie into my topic, and I need to try to do that now. The death celebrations I am most familiar with are those that occur annually in my church focusing on the death and resurrection of Jesus. I have, over time, come to believe that God/Creator resides in all of us from the moment of our conception and will remain within and with our souls throughout eternity. I even believe our connection with Creator was a reality before we were born.

I also believe time is a concept invented by humankind and I should be able to  look beyond the concept of time and realize eternity is now and ever shall be in this present moment.  I believe my friend Sharen is connected to me through our common ties with Creator and that within the context of timeless eternity , perhaps, I am not terribly weird/crazy for wishing my friend happy birthday today.

In honor of her and her life, the photo I am posting with this is one of my favorites. It shows her, her little black dog, and my little white dog in my living room during one of the times she came to take care of me after I was discharged from Barnes-Jewish in St. Louis. Even in the “worst” of times we had some really wonderful and treasured times. Happy birthday, Sharen!

venetian-blinds

Today I am being a hermit watching the world through venetian blinds. It is a beautiful world out there, and it is a beautiful world in here because I am giving my body quiet time to heal. Two days ago I had real trouble breathing to the point that I remembered the last time I felt that way I ended up in the hospital. My asthma “puffer” didn’t seem to help much.  Finally at the end of the day in order to sleep I took one of my inhalation treatments hoping that would help. Thankfully, it did.

I woke up fighting to breathe and had to take another “treatment.” The breathing got easier but the congestion in my head and the evolution of a unilateral slightly sore throat into a bilateral major sore throat  kept reminding me I wasn’t well. I started coughing up green mucous, and I knew then I needed to stop and take care of myself. Yesterday afternoon I was lucky enough to have a friend come over who with great kindness repaired everything that had gone wrong with my house during the past year. That was a wonderful blessing. I also discovered that helping move a refrigerator away from the wall can strain my lower back—-something that, thankfully, is a new experience for me. Evidently you can hurt your back without bending over. I’ve been taught healthy body mechanics for lifting someone, but no one ever taught me the right way to pull something heavy away from the wall.

Today both the breathing and the sore throat are less bothersome. I think I am getting well. The back pain will go away too. I am being helped by the support  of my friends and prayers from my priest and my prayer partner. Although I sound like a hypochondriac, I am gleefully pursuing recovery from this bout of minor illness……and gaining on it. And the mantra of “drink lots of fluids and take it easy” along with prayers and faith will help get me  there. Thanks for letting me rant!

 

fall-tree

This will be short today; at least I think it will, but I never really know once I begin writing. Today I noticed the color in the leaves, the partial and/or total absence of leaves clothing some trees, and the leaves already fallen on the ground. I found myself thanking God for the beautiful colors, and then I let my mind “free flow” around the topic of trees, leaves, and seasons.

Of course, I immediately identified with the trees that were “half clothed” with leaves who had already lost a good number of their leaves. For a few minutes I actually started thinking of myself as a tree. I realized I could be grateful for all the leaves [experiences] with which I have been gifted throughout my life. I can be disappointed because I am not the “brightest colored” or most beautiful fall tree, or I can accept the beauty of my own self just as I am who does not have to be like or better than any other tree.  I am also grateful for my leaves that have already fallen and the lessons they left imprinted on my soul. I can fret and worry about which “leaf” I am going to lose next—–will it be my hearing, my eyesight, my memory,  or my mobility? Would it be the death of those near me? Then I realized if I focused all my energy on what I have to lose in the future I would totally miss the gifts inherent in  my present moment.

I began to consider the inevitability of what it is going to be like when I lose all my leaves and stand naked before my Creator. That is how I came into this world, and it is how I will go out. I realize that winter doesn’t have to mean death; the coming of spring may furnish me with a “leaf and joy refill.”  But at this moment, in this moment, I am grateful for existing as an elder evolving tree only partially clothed in leaves. I am even comfortable with the realization that if death comes I will join my Creator and my body will go back to the earth.

I have spent a lot of time working on acceptance, and this practice has often brought me peace of mind I would not otherwise have. I am also feeling a lot of joy as I let myself accept the place and friends my life’s journey has brought me to, and I am enjoying the fruit of the lessons learned from the mistakes I made on the way to getting here.

So, in closing, today’s blog is actually a pre-Thanksgiving giving of thanks to my Creator and a testament to my growing trust of where my Creator is taking me.