<![CDATA[Abundance of Peace - Blog]]>Thu, 22 Mar 2018 17:37:08 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[People kill people]]>Thu, 15 Feb 2018 12:20:37 GMThttp://abundanceofpeace.com/blog/people-kill-peopleMy daughter went to school today with ashes on her forehead. She is 14 and received the ashes at church last night as part of our Christian tradition of marking the beginning of Lent with acknowledgement of this time of reflection and wilderness and of our mortality. As the ashes, made from the dried palms from last Palm Sunday and the prayer intentions of the congregation over the past year are placed on the forehead, these words are spoken: "remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." At 14, an age at which most youth shun the idea of mortality, this girl embraces it. She also embraces science, and spirituality, and Christianity, and a "live and let live" way of being in the world that draws people to her like moths to flame. She is unabashedly unashamed of her faith. She is okay with being "dust"...earthen, star dust, pixie dust. 
The woman in the picture wears ashes on her forehead. Her face is red and contorted in pain. She holds a young woman I can only surmise is her daughter. The young woman appears to be in shock. The two wait in horror outside of the school at which the latest shooting has taken place in our country. At least 17 are dead. A 19 year-old former student pulled the fire alarm at the school, and as people began to run, he opened fire with an assault riffle. In school. In America. Again.
My daughter went to school today with ashes on her forehead. She wore a shirt that says "The wise and wild women of the Northeast kingdom". She sang at full volume as she waited for her bus. From school she texted me a photo of a certificate saying she made the honor roll. I texted back that I'm proud of her. She assured me it was "normal" and not that amazing. She is funny, this girl/woman. She is strong and wise and faithful and bright. And she has, since kindergarten known and practiced "lock down" drills like we practiced fire drills. 
The woman in the picture wears ashes on her forehead. Her face tells the story of mortality, of horror. I find myself wondering about her narrative. Is the young woman she is holding her daughter? Does she have another child in the school? Are they awaiting word of her daughter's friend's survival? When her pastor spoke those words, rubbed ash on her forehead, did she think that today a man with a semi automatic weapon would open fire in her child's school?
Last night I placed ashes on the foreheads of those gathered in church. I looked into the eyes of friends, family, loved ones and spoke those words about dust . Like my daughter, I am unabashedly unashamed of my Christian faith. AND, I feel compelled by my faith to stand up to any and all who will sweep this latest shooting under the rug with a call for "thoughts and prayers". While prayer is an integral part of our faith response, our faith is an active one. This Lenten season as we remember the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, as we mark his ministry, his persecution and his death, what are we as Christians doing to stop the persecution of others? What are we doing to protect our children?
The expected responses have begun to pour in. "thoughts and prayers", "we need better mental health care", "we need better family values", "guns don't kill people, people kill people", "the media is sensationalizing this..more people die from alcohol related deaths than by gun related deaths." I can't listen anymore, and I can't not speak to the madness. 
As an emerging faith leader I am wary, always, of "being political". This past year has been a trying time in which to preach and teach the ideals of our faith without concern of being marked as "taking sides". I am a Jesus following, vegetarian, yoga teaching, reiki practicing nature lover. I could be easily type cast as a "liberal snowflake". I acknowledge that although I will not allow guns in my home, I support the rights of people to own and use them responsibly. But when did this right become more important than our children's safety? When did the lobbying of our lawmakers by the NRA buy their loyalty and our collective apathy? And where are the unified Christian voices screaming "NO!" over the shouts of "crucify Him!" How can we who claim Christianity feel the sting of Lent-of remembering our complicity as Jesus was arrested and tortured and beaten and shamed and killed without feeling that same complicity as we avert our eyes to yet another mass shooting? When will we boldly shout "NO!" over the screams of those who would justify the sale of assault weapons?
My daughter went to school today with ashes on her forehead. She is 14. Musically gifted. Kind. Funny. Sweet. Smart. Since kindergarten, she has participated in lock down drills the way we participated in fire drills. She has been taught to hide in closets, to stay away from windows, to barricade doors. Some more recent research and training suggests that the kids arm themselves with pencils, furniture-things they might throw at the shooter. The drills discuss the concept of running and creating a disturbance vs. being a sitting duck. 
The kids in Florida reportedly used a variety of responses. Some questioned the fire alarm as the school had already had a fire drill earlier in the day. Those kids hid. Others followed fire drill protocol anyway. It's likely that none of them were thinking about being dust.
The woman in the picture wears ashes on her forehead. Her face tells the story of mortality, of horror. I cannot avert my eyes, and I will no longer be silent. As a mother, as a peacemaker, as a proponent of health and mental health insurance and care for all, as an activist, as a woman, as an emerging pastor, I am shouting "NO!". This is not a debate about the second amendment. This is not a partisan diatribe. This is standing up for a faith that will not watch more innocent lives taken by senseless and preventable violence. This is a voice that will call my legislators today, and tomorrow, and next week. This is a Christian voice that will pray for all those children and their families, for the shooter and his family, and for each of us who has normalized lock down drills. This is not okay. This is not normal. We as Christians, together with people of all faith traditions and with no faith traditions need to join our voices against the violence. We are dust. Earthen, star dust, pixie dust..and to dust we shall return. I don't want to return having kept quiet to avoid controversy. How about you?
<![CDATA[The hope chest]]>Thu, 19 Oct 2017 13:07:17 GMThttp://abundanceofpeace.com/blog/the-hope-chestIn 1919, the screams of a woman's labor gave way to the cries of her infant daughter. As she held her daughter for the first time, the woman was filled with a love she had never known. She looked into her daughter's eyes and told her this: "Little one, I've packed you a hope chest. It is filled with the dreams of your ancestors and the fragility of future generations. It holds for you the right to vote, fought for my sisters and I. Some died for that right. Others were beaten and shamed. Never forget them. The chest was light, my dear-but then I added the things my mother passed on to me that are my duty to pass on to you. I filled that chest with expectations, with party dresses and modesty and reminders to let men speak first, to not be disrespectful. Forgive me. I packed shame into the empty corners. I painted on the outside "sugar and spice and everything nice. That's what little girls are made of." I know it is heavy, my love, but I trust you will someday find a good man to help you carry it.
In 1943, the scream of a woman's labor gave way to the cries of her infant daughter. As she held her daughter for the first time, she was filled with a love she had never known. She looked into her daughter's eyes and told her this: "Little one, I've packed you suitcase. It is filled with the dreams of your ancestors and the fragility of future generations. It holds for you the freedom born of the pain of war, the understanding that you are strong enough and smart enough to do the same work as any man. The suitcase was light, my dear-but then I added the things my mother passed on to me that are my duty to pass on to you. I filled the suitcase with expectations, with party dresses and more modesty, and reminders that when the men come home, you must step down from your job and back to the kitchen to make room. Forgive me, I packed the words "lady like" into the empty corners. I painted the words "world traveler" in the outside, yet whispered into it the sentiment that a woman's place is in the home. I know it's heavy, my love, but I trust you will someday find a good man to help you carry it.
In 1966, the scream of a woman's labor gave way to the cries of her infant daughter. As she held her daughter for the first time, she was filled with a love she had never known. She looked into her daughter's eyes and told her this: Little one, I have sewn and packed you a tote bag. It is filled with the dreams of your ancestors and the fragility of future generations. It holds for you the rights of people of color and the expectation that you will help carry the load. My brothers and sisters fought for this. Some died for these rights. Others were beaten and shamed. The work is not finished. Never forget.The bag holds a few party dresses, but jeans also, and sneakers and a pair of purple roller skates. The bag was light, my dear, but then I added the things my mother passed on to me that are my duty to pass on to you. Forgive me, but I packed double standards and cautions about the modesty of what you wear into the empty corners. I painted the words: "Free to be you and me" on the outside. I know it's heavy, but I've reinforced the bottom and trust that you'll be able to handle it. I hope you will someday find a good man to help you carry it."
In 2003, the scream of a woman's labor gave way to the cries of her infant daughter. As she held her daughter for the first time, she was filled with a love she had never known. She looked into her daughter's eyes and told her this: "Little one, I have packed you a back pack. It is filled with the dreams of your ancestors and the fragility of future generations. It holds for you the right to express yourself free of the confines of gender. My sisters and brothers have fought for this right. Some have died for it. Others continue to be beaten and shamed. Never forget them. The backpack holds choices, that you might dress in stripes and polka dots, in dresses or cargo pants. It holds a pair of fairy wings. The backpack was light, but then I added the things my mother passed on to me that are my duty to pass on to you. I filled that backpack with reminders to "buddy up", to not walk alone, to be aware of how what you say might be misinterpreted. Forgive me, but I packed the burden of "stranger danger" and a fluffy pink hat into the empty corners, and topped it off with an admonishment to shave your underarms when wearing that sleeveless party dress.I painted the words "Just be you" on the outside. I know it's heavy, but I know you can carry it independently. Someday if you find a partner in this life, they can carry their own bag and you, yours."
In 2030, a woman decided whether she would like to have children. She has created a bag, just in case, that she might hand down to a daughter or niece, or student. She will look into the eyes of that strong young woman and will be filled with an immense love she has never known. She will tell her this: "I have for you a bag. It is filled with the dreams of your ancestors and the hope of future generations. It holds for you the understanding that you are worthy. You are safe. You are loved. It holds the freedom to walk in the woods alone, to laugh with your sisters, to dream with your brothers, to wear what you want without ever being shamed. The bag is light, because I have left out the things my mother passed on to me. It is my duty not to pass them on to you. I have left room in the corners for your dreams and aspirations, and have left the front blank, that you can design it your own way. It's not heavy, my darling, and I know that you can carry it. I will watch you grow and delight as you fill it with love, and peace, and creativity and beauty. ]]>
<![CDATA[Me too....]]>Mon, 16 Oct 2017 11:45:50 GMThttp://abundanceofpeace.com/blog/me-tooDo you hear them? The voices of hundreds, thousands...millions of women bravely stating "me too"? It is deafening, although there is no actual sound that accompanies this latest awakening on Facebook. The simple words "me too", symbolizing the violations of sexual assault or sexual harassment. For some, this is the most "out loud" they have ever stated it. For others, it is one in a long line of "me too" s, whispered in confidence to friends, explained to lovers, wept over in therapists offices. Whether for the first time or the 100th, a "me too" is an outrageous act of bravery. And so, my brave sisters, I stand with you and am so proud of your courage. 
You see...a "me too" comes with risk. Although the shame is not ours to carry, although many of us have healed through hard work and therapy and love and grace, although we understand on an intellectual level that we are not weak, or damaged or sluts, or deserving of what was unsolicited, although statistics tell us that if three of us are in a room together at least one is a sexual assault survivor...emotionally it is terrifying to say "me too". Part of the silence, part of the reason that books like "The Courage to Heal" don't sit out on our coffee tables, part of the reason we aren't more honest and open is that there is a stigma attached to being a survivor. It has, ironically, fed into patriarchal rhetoric, been filtered through the voices of powerful men, then recycled back to us as the grey water of our shame. 
I'm embarrassed to admit that it took seeing 15 (15!!) other "me too" s for me to copy and paste and click that damn button. It took the strength of other women I admire..teachers, social workers, nurses, doctors, pastors, mothers and others..it took seeing their bravery for me to ...well..."me too". I'm sad to admit that I wanted to ignore it, avoid the rabbit hole of anger, let it slide. But, my friends, it has been our collective avoidance of that rabbit hole that continues to feed this cycle and made sexual abuse and assault the "norm"- and our response to it "mental instability".
I won't share the particulars of my story, lest they trigger someone reading this. I will, however generalize so that we can get realistic about the effects of this grey water. I will tell you what I have gained from my experiences-and what has been lost. I gained the ability to see and respond to pain in others, to intuitively sense hurt. I gained the ability to know my own body and to understand how the body holds memories. I gained an ability to love deeply. I gained a willingness to trust, with a stipulation that my trust needs to be earned. I gained the ability to write, because in the silence I kept, writing was the only voice I had that could speak the truth.  I lost the ability to enter a room and not be aware of an escape route. I lost the ability to walk down the street with complete lack of self consciousness. I lost the ability to speak boldly without trembling and to sing to my heart's content without feeling as though I've been kicked in the solar plexus. I lost my sense of having a right to take up just as much space in the world as the men sitting on either side of me.
These gains and losses have waxed and waned, they have complemented one another and been integrated into the strong, wise, courageous and compassionate woman that I am. There have been times in which a "loss" has saved me from overt danger and helped me escape, or held my tongue when my words would have been ill received- and I've learned to accept the losses. 
What I have never learned-what I am learning as I witness the "me too"s all around me is that our individual shame has fed our collective shame and has allowed the patriarchy to hold power. With each "me too", perhaps we can reduce that grey water. With each "me too" that silence is shattered. With each heart emoji, with each "I'm sorry", with each loving comment from our male allies, we are transformed. 
So if you are a "me too", I'm sorry. If you are still grappling with whether to click that button, breathe easy, dear friend. Don't add to the sense of guilt and fear you've built. Be kind to yourself. Nurture yourself. Seek help if you haven't. You are not broken, or crazy, or less than. You are all courage and power and sniffled creativity....and the world will rejoice at the sound of your voice when the time is right for you. 
If you are a "me too" who posted it-I see you. I hear you. I love you. I pray for you. I stand with you, and I will walk with you and the millions of women who are here to change this world. 
<![CDATA[A lingering look....]]>Tue, 03 Oct 2017 11:11:57 GMThttp://abundanceofpeace.com/blog/a-lingering-lookAbout a year ago, my youngest daughter and I were driving when we came upon a rafter of turkeys. (Yes, "rafter" is the term the Oxford dictionary gives for a group of turkeys, though I didn't know it until writing this!) Most of the turkeys stood in a yard on one side of the road, while three lingered in the road. You see, a fourth bird had been hit by a car and was dead in the road. These three others took turns waddling back and forth between the group in  the yard and the one who had been hit. Each time one of them moved toward the rest of the rafter, they did so while looking back longingly at the dead turkey.
My daughter and I sat frozen, tears stinging our eyes, longing to help somehow. Helping to remove the dead turkey seemed the humane thing to do, but would have likely subjected us to an attack from the three who were simultaneously mourning and guarding their friend. In the end there was nothing we could do except wait patiently. (Side note..the person two cars back honked impatiently and ultimately veered around us and almost over the dead turkey in his frustration.My subsequent frustration caused me to beep back, which scared the three turkeys away from their friend long enough for traffic to pass.)
The heaviness of that encounter stayed with us for days to come. It was, I thought, the first time I was witness to such loyalty and longing without being able to do a thing to help. It was both sacred and startling to have seen, and my heart still shudders at the memory. And so how is it that our human hearts can survive tragedy and not break? In the past month, we have seen storms tear through Texas and Florida causing destruction, and loss of life and property. The destruction of the Virgin Islands is unspeakable. Then an earthquake in Mexico we barely speak of, and the devastation of Puerto Rico by hurricane Maria. On Sunday night, a gunman perched comfortably in a hotel room overlooking a music festival in Las Vegas opened fire. 59 people are dead so far, and more than 500 are injured. Our collective memories are stirred...Oklahoma City, Columbine, Fort Hood, Newtown, Aurora, The Boston Marathon bombing, The Pulse nightclub, Tucson, AZ, the killing at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, killings at a church in Charleston, SC, killings at a Christmas party in San Bernadino....so many others. So. many. So many that I fear that our response will be to not linger, to stop standing in the road and looking back at the fallen. So many that I wonder if we distract ourselves away from the hurt rather than tend to our rafter. So many that I wonder how we are to go forward. So many.
My church, my friends, my family have observed and tried to absorb each of these tragedies. We have held vigils and prayer services, sent aid to places affected by storms. We have reminded one another to look back, even when the sight of feathers stuck to pavement is nauseating, even when the pain of witnessing grief breaks our hearts, especially when there is, as there has been recently, an uptick in heartbreaking experiences. 
Last night we held a prayer service and "hug in" at my home church. There were prayers for peace from a variety of faith traditions, secular readings, a time for reflection and the lighting of candles, a time for hugs and embracing. There was room for our dismay, for our tears and disbelief. There was space to linger. We filed out of the church holding multi-colored glow sticks in the air, singing "This little light of mine", a reminder that we are called to shine the light of God, and for my humanist friends, the light of goodness into the pain of this world. 
And so, what now? The pain lingers. There is a palpable sense of grief in the air. Our rafter is shrinking..yet in the great balance of life, there are babies being born, children at play, people falling in love. There is beauty to behold as the seasons shift. There is poetry to write, art to create...loving to be done. It seems our charge then to linger, to absorb what we can, to help where we can; whether financially or physically. It seems our charge to respond to the madness we can help with calls to our legislators for gun control legislation which may help prevent such carnage in the future; to resist the impatience of the driver two cars back...to resist laying on the horn, feeding division, and becoming impatient with one another as we all strive to live, to love, to grieve and to linger at our own pace while being part of the rafter.
<![CDATA[What will you bring to the party?]]>Wed, 13 Sep 2017 14:44:54 GMThttp://abundanceofpeace.com/blog/what-will-you-bring-to-the-partyIt arrives in the mail..or by evite, or office chatter. It takes you by surprise, by delight and you feel a soundness of heart. That invitation you've been waiting for. You breathe deeply and smile. You stand just a little taller. You've made it. You've been noticed. You've been validated. You have arrived! 
You scurry to your closet and scan the possibilities. The pants that fit you 10 pounds ago taunt you from the hanger.  The blouse you bought at the thrift store because of its price and its color more than because of your deep love for it, the shoes; a mishmash of flip flops and sneakers, one holy pair of moccasins all mock you as you imagine yourself 20 pounds lighter, 15 years younger, so much more confident.
You shift gears, then. What fabulous thing will I bring? You ask. You pull down your grandmother's recipe box from the top shelf of the pantry, scan pinterest, consider what delectable and memorable treat you will prepare and present as an extension of yourself. What will I bring to the party?
Last week, my otherwise healthy husband ended up in a hospital bed. He is minus a gall bladder and feeling much better now thank God. While he was in that bed, he counseled young nurses who were conflicted about their futures. He told doctors, and CNAs how much their expertise was appreciated. He thanked the dietary staff for making such wonderful food and for smiling as they delivered it to him. He chatted up his room mates, even the one who spoke Russian and suffered from dementia and scurried about the room moving furniture in the night. He said "no thank you" to pain meds, reported being more uncomfortable than in pain, and insisted on walking as soon as he was able. He watched the news and the baseball games. He worried about his daycare families finding care for their children in his absence. Even in this bed, in this hospital, and in discomfort, he remained authentically "him".
As I took my morning walking meditation, I reflected on last week and all that I learned from watching my husband in that bed. We only have ourselves, and we only need to bring our authentic selves to whatever we do. That party invitation may be just a party-or it may be that promotion you've been vying for, the raise you've been promised, the degree you've finally earned. But stop waiting for that invitation to arrive. You have all that you need right now...today. You won't be any more you with more letters after your name, or with the status of a new title, or when and if you fit into those pants. If you've been waiting until you achieve something that you believe makes you more worthy of seizing life, stop!  Breathe. Look at you. Imagine yourself in a hospital bed. "What should I bring to the party? " You ask. Sneering a the shapeless johnny, you wonder aloud, "what will I wear?" The person in the next bed clears her throat, introduces herself, tells you she's scared. You could hide behind the curtain and pretend not to hear her. You could feign sleep. Or you could bring yourself to the party and engage in the sacred act of caring for another. 
What will you bring to the party?
<![CDATA[Revolution]]>Wed, 09 Nov 2016 23:16:29 GMThttp://abundanceofpeace.com/blog/revolutionPicture
Traffic on the side street ground to a halt. Horns blared, as drivers jockeyed to get to their destination ahead of the rest. I decided to wait, to allow some others to go so that the traffic jam might lessen. I flashed my high beams to signal that I was letting the person across from me, who had been waiting to make a left hand turn go. As traffic began to move, a car behind me pulled illegally around to my left. A passenger rolled down his window and yelled "Move, you fu***ng Libtard!" 
I'll be honest. My first reaction was surprisingly scrappy, and I had to wrestle my hand down, lest it gesture my true feelings. I wanted to engage with this person. How dare he...on so many levels. How dare he yell? How dare he label me, and even think to use such a filthy term. (Where did this term come from, and when did it become acceptable to call someone this?) How dare he draw assumptions. How dare he. That same day, I had a bumper sticker pulled from my car. Again, I felt rage first, then bewilderment, and then profound sadness. Why would someone assume that my property was theirs to touch? What makes this okay? Is it not stealing if we take or vandalize something that we don't agree with? To make matters worse, the sticker was not "political" (and I don't mean to imply that the behavior would have been justified if it was). It was a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt that said "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." This was one of 8 bumper stickers on the back of my CRV. The others are a Grateful Dead bear in a yoga pose, a lotus, one that says "All you need is love", another that says "I'm for the separation of church and hate", one that says "Something wonderful is about to happen". Another states "When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace." The last one asks "Where are we going, and why am I in this handbasket?" 
Do these stickers and my patience in traffic equate to the name I was called by that impatient driver? I am trying to understand as people explain to me their disgust with "political correctness". Where is the line between decency and compassion and disdain for political correctness that would make a person at a campaign rally wear a t shirt that says " f*** your feelings" ? Why am I labeled a "special snowflake" if I peacefully protest an election that I disagree with? And...where do we go from here? If Jesus, or any prophet walked among us, would they be angrily sworn at and called a libtard? Sadly, I suspect so. Therein lies my answer.
As a follower of Jesus, a lover of all faith traditions, a person who respects those who declare their faith in humanity or not at all, I will follow my faith and I will lead. If someone is grieving, I will comfort them. If someone is hungry, I'll feed them. If someone is lost, I'll do my best to help them find their way. If someone is hurt, I will try to offer healing. If I have been the one to hurt them, I'll apologize. If someone is in prison I'll visit them. 
Yesterday morning I taught yoga to three women who were recently released from prison. This is a volunteer effort I began for a class I'm taking, that has captured and changed my heart. As it usually does, it took about half the class for the women to settle. I watched their faces, listened to their nervous chatter, observed their body language, and listened to their breathing. Like the sensation of milk letting down when nursing, there is a palpable feeling when tension releases and peace takes over. It is a privilege to witness. In their faces I saw God. Afterwards I had an opportunity to interview a woman who runs a court advocacy program. Her love and her passion for the work she does lit her face as she talked. She was formerly imprisoned, and understands love and redemption in a way many of us will never grasp. In her face I saw God. 
I brought groceries to my mother in law, who has dementia. Her interest in food is waning, but she lights up at the beauty of the flowers we now bring her weekly. "Just look at the color of those!" she exclaimed. In her childlike excitement and appreciation for beauty, I saw God.
I took a walk with a friend. In her vulnerability, her sensitivity, her willingness to continue being a voice of love and kindness in a world that is impatient with compassion, I heard God.
I picked up my kids and listened to them talk about their day. I listened to their fears. I encouraged them. I told them I loved them. In their faces I see God. I hugged my husband, who, although he had had a fitful sleep too the night before, sent me to bed with a beautiful book and promised to pick our daughter up from play practice. In his embrace, I felt God. 
Usually when I write, I try to get myself out of the way. The "I' can dominate a piece of writing and strip its meaning and importance, and so I aim, most times for "we". However, the "I" in this piece is the point. Each of us has the opportunity to use words and behavior to share love or disdain in this world. We can be the voice of compassion or the voice of hatred. We can shun or embrace. We can espouse peace or divorce ourselves from it. 
I understand if you are grieving. I understand if you feel disenfranchised. I hear you if you fear for the future of all children. I see and feel the same pain. I also see opportunity. Jesus didn't hang out with the best dressed and most wealthy. He didn't ask for people to prove their worthiness, but ensured them of their worth. He didn't attach himself to the things of this world, but focused on demonstrating the behaviors he encouraged us each to exhibit. 
Before I fell asleep last night I chatted online with an old friend who feels disheartened. "If you know of a group that meets to work on ways to build a better world, let me know", she said. In my grief and fatigue I vowed to start a revolution of love. One act, one word, one embrace, one grace, one breath at a time. I think this may be what "church" comes to look like for me. 
So, if you meet me at an intersection, please have patience. It may be that you're the person who must wait an extra minute while traffic moves, or it may be that you're the person the rest of us wait for. I'll leave you to ponder what a revolution of love would look like, and whether you will participate. The words of the Dalai Lama will replace the bumper sticker that was stolen. They state: "Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible."

<![CDATA[Steps]]>Thu, 08 Sep 2016 18:16:53 GMThttp://abundanceofpeace.com/blog/stepsPicture
Recently, I discovered the fitness app on my phone. As part of me rejoiced in yet another use for this handy device, something deeper signed with resignation. A person who resists "measuring tools", who instructs students to only compare themselves with themselves; I shuddered a bit at the prospect of measuring my daily efforts at fitness and health. I've ignored the trend toward "fit bits"...but this is free, at my fingertips, and on a device I already pay for..so, why not?
For starters, accepting this challenge meant carrying my phone everywhere. While I once may have left it in the car while running into the post office, or home while taking a walk..the thing that counted my steps needed to be on my person if I was to get credit for said steps. I made this adjustment and vowed to wear pants with pockets in which to carry the device. First world problem # 1 solved.
Next, came the issue of what is counted and how effort is measured. This thing didn't care if I took lumbering steps around the house half asleep, or a vigorous walk outside. This was driven home to me the day I carried my mother in law's ancient and extremely heavy microwave from her third floor apartment to the dumpster below. I then carried a new one to her apartment. No "extra points" were gained by lifting something heavy, or for lifting my mother in law's spirits. I decided to give into the wisdom of my body and spirit; knowing that I know how much effort I put forth and what effect it has on my body and the world. 
The last, most frustrating issue arose from a combination of the aforementioned problems. What happens when I don't meet my "goal"? Do I mentally add in those trips for which I didn't have a pocket or consciously left my phone behind? Do I fester about the fact that a Tabata class might have fewer steps, but planking which made my whole core shake? At the end of the day, do I measure my health and fitness by the way I feel, or the number on a screen?
As usually happens, an analogy was revealed. If the most important expression of our love for God and for one another is our behavior, what are the tools we use to measure our success? How do we know when we've been just squeaking by? How can we avoid becoming depleted by those who might consider us their own "fit bit"? The answers here are a bit more complex than wearing pockets or having our efforts acknowleged. These answers pose more questions, which bring us back to relationship with one another. A measuring tool may be able to count steps, to record progress..perhaps even to ascertain intention; but no tool can measure a ripple. If an act of kindness makes someone's heart sing, and that person is, in turn, a bit kinder to someone..and so on, that ripple expands beyond expectation. In these trying times, I am making the conscious decision to stop counting steps, to leave my phone home or in the car sometimes...to count on my heart to let me know how I'm doing. I won't ask you to measure my steps, and I'll be grateful if you release me from that expectation. We can measure our fitness by the love we express toward one another....deal?

<![CDATA[Missing the boat]]>Thu, 28 Jul 2016 13:00:53 GMThttp://abundanceofpeace.com/blog/missing-the-boatPicture
The man stood at the edge of the exit driveway. He held a cardboard sign which we couldn't read as we entered the parking lot.The day was blistering hot, and the man appeared to be wearing much of what he owned. His hair was long and matted, his layered clothes disheveled. My breath caught in my throat, and before I could croak out a response, my husband reminded me as he often does, that I can't save the world. (Although an exceedingly generous spirit himself, he has a tendency to rein me in, which is important.) 
We were running late, and were at the store to pick up a few last minute items our daughter needed for her week at camp. I looked at the man, straining to see what his sign said. My daughter interjected.  "People say you shouldn't give money to people who are out there like that, because they may be addicts who will use the money to buy drugs or alcohol." I told her I understood that stance, but have come to believe that it isn't my job to determine what they should use the money for if I share it freely. I told them I am forever challenged by a sermon I heard as a child that spoke about Jesus' presence among us. What would Jesus look like if he were to walk among us? As a big hearted child who thought literally, the idea of Jesus appearing among us challenged me to consider what I would do, if I would know. As a still big hearted but somewhat jaded adult seminarian, I understand the words differently. The words of that sermon now push me to consider each encounter as though it involves the divine. My husband urged me on. I remarked that the man was likely thirsty, standing in the hot sun. My husband and daughter picked up a large bottled water. As I looked longingly at the Dunkin Donunts attached to the store, my husband laughed. "Go ahead" he said, knowing that if not the money I may have given the man, a gift card would at least provide a meal. As we pulled toward the man, we saw his sign. It read "Testing human kindness" I rolled down my window and handed the man the water and gift card. I was met by some of the most gentle blue eyes I've ever seen. "God bless your soul" he said to us as he placed the gift card in his backpack and opened the water. "God bless you" I answered, and rolled up my window as we pulled away.
That exchange happened four days ago, and I am haunted by it. I've replayed our family conversation, our "act of kindness", and an exchange of blessings which left my heart aching, though I couldn't understand why. Then it struck me. We missed the boat. 
I know, the most logical reaction is "no you didn't...you did something kind"....but did we? The man's sign was simple, and maybe I'm reading into it. But how were we to know what kindness entailed? We used the man's appearance to make assumptions about his needs and desires. Perhaps he had already eaten and had access to plenty of cold water. Maybe he needed a fix. Possibly he had committed some heinous act which left him shunned by his family and friends. But, really, we knew none of his story. What if human kindness entailed asking him what he needed? What if he needed a hug, or to tell his story to someone who would listen, or to be invited to eat with us? What if simply being acknowledged as another human being who holds the same piece of divinity we all hold was what would have brought him peace?
Granted, we were in a hurry, and life is like that. My husband and I joke about being a triage center for the many in our lives who need support. Surely we are kind enough. I comfort myself with a mental rundown of all the boats we catch daily. I'm still sad that we missed this one. I know though, that we are humans...ever learning. I trust that this won't be the last time we are confronted by a person holding a sign. Next time I'll take a moment to converse, to inquire, to consider what kindness entails. Today I'm grateful for multiple chances to not miss the boat.

<![CDATA[Beacon]]>Tue, 12 Jul 2016 00:31:41 GMThttp://abundanceofpeace.com/blog/beaconPicture
Have you ever been a beacon? Before you dismiss the question, think about what it means. Think of lighthouses,flashlights.... candles.  All can be beacons as they shine light to make the path more passable for others. 
When Germany occupied Denmark during World War ll, Denmark's relatively small Jewish population was well integrated into Danish society. At first, the Germans allowed the Danes to virtually govern themselves; but, ultimately, the German army called for the deportation of Jews to concentration camps. While legend gives credence and credit to Denmark's King Christian X and alleges that he wore a yellow star, (a symbol the Germans required Jews to wear to identify themselves) and encouraged his people to do so, facts from the US Holocaust Museum website tell us otherwise. While the yellow stars were not in fact used in Denmark, what is legendary is the way King Christian X, the Danish clergy, and the Danish people worked to protect and save the Danish Jews. Refusing to "out" them, thousands of Danes united around the hiding of Jewish people in their midst. Only 50 Jews of the 476 arrested and later detained in Bohemia died. When those 476 were detained, the Danish Red Cross demanded the ability for them to receive visitors, and the Danish people sent parcels of food to those imprisoned. It is believed that this vigilance kept those 476 people from going to Auschwitz. 1
The Danish people became beacons. Were they scared? They had every right to be. Did they stand to lose much? Absolutely. Were they themselves affected? Yes and no. They may have realized they weren't directly affected. However, the Jewish people were their neighbors and friends. What were they saying about their community if they didn't shine their light? What if fear had caused them to dim the beam?
What do we risk when we dare to be beacons today? Who most needs their path lit? A month ago a man walked into a gay nightclub in Orlando and opened fire. 50 lives were lost that night. Countless others were ruined. People in the gay community were reminded how very tenuous their sense of safety is. Straight allies were given a choice to shine a light or dim it. It is risky to shine a light, especially if it doesn't seem like "our" path that is strewn with the debris of hate. Yet, around the country, thousands marched, lit candles, flew the rainbow flag, prayed and loved in response to unspeakable hate.  Last week, three more black men were shot and killed by police. Five police officers were killed by angry gunmen. White allies were given a choice to shine a light or dim it. Law enforcement allies were given a choice to shine a light or dim it. Thousands continue to march, to peacefully protest, to light candles, to listen to differences, to consider how they might contribute to change in systems of oppression.
We live in fearful times, not too unlike the horror of World War ll and an attack on an entire culture. As the Nazi's advanced, many decided to care for their own out of fear and perhaps the necessity of the times. Beacons were few and far between. Looking back, how many would have made their decisions differently had they understood the outcome? Might there have been more King Christians? Might there be more among us today? 
When we remove the lamp shade of fear, light spills forth that illuminates our own paths as well. Have you ever been a beacon? I'll bet you have. I'll freely admit there are days I'd rather hide my light. It feels safer, and it isn't so exhausting. I'd sometimes like to pick and choose where I'll shine my light...and then I think of a lighthouse. The beacon flashes forth whether guiding a cruise ship, a fishing boat, or a humble rowboat. When all boats are warned away from the rocks, our collective path is made clear and safe.

1. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (https://www.ushmm.org)

<![CDATA[Another candle?!]]>Thu, 07 Jul 2016 01:20:51 GMThttp://abundanceofpeace.com/blog/another-candlePicture
My middle son climbed into the van next to me, the trash all loaded up for the dump. "Did you hear about Alton Sterling? " He asked. My son has a hunger for news, with multiple alerts causing his phone to buzz regularly. Daily he asks..."did you hear about....Iraq? Turkey? Orlando? Daily I lament that he was born into a time of such chaos. Daily I pray for peace. 
It used to be that I, as the mom, had responses to horror. I talked with my kids. We lit candles. We went to vigils at church. I prayed. They took moments of silence. Today, his question hung in the air. "Did you hear about Alton Sterling?" My stomach lurched. Another son, husband, father, friend. Another black man  murdered. Another example of police brutality. Another facebook rant. Another public outcry. Another opportunity for ignorant comments to further stir the anger. Another vulgar display of racism masked as respect for authority. I find myself wanting to clap my hands over my ears and yell "I. Just. Can't!" I can't listen to another news update about the death of a black body, and the subsequent fall out of blatant intolerance. I can't listen to the story about today's car bombing as though it is the soup of the day. I can't hear of another madman shooting up a crowd of innocents. I can't read the story about the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan. I can't light another damn candle. I can't believe this is the world God intends for us. I can't believe we are being asked to unclap our collective ears...but we are.
Like a defiant child, I want to keep my hands over my ears and sing to block out those alerts that inform us of another act of hate. Like a concerned parent, I've wondered whether my kids suffer from too much information; seeing and hearing images of death and destruction daily. I've been tempted to try to limit their access, to paint a rosier picture. Grace has a way of removing my hands from my ears and making me believe it was my idea to listen. Grace speaks gently but insistently. Grace turns my fear for my children to gratitude; as I thank God they were born into a time in which refusing to listen makes one just as guilty as being hurtful. They remind me that being silent in the face of hatred is not bringing about peace, but enabling violence. They remind me that sometimes it really is best to rock the boat, to stir the waters, to question the status quo. 
And as happens more and more these days, these conundrums drive me closer to God and deeper into spiritual practices. In meditation, prayer, yoga, scripture reading, painting, walking, day dreaming...I seek to understand the world and long to help heal it. I keep coming back to three truths which will fuel me until at least the next buzz on my son's phone.  :
1. Communication is a two way street.- Those of us whose hearts are hurt by the violence, the inequality, the sickness around us cannot be quiet. We need to speak up and speak out continually. We must continue to rant, to complain, to bring to light, to remind, to educate..we must continually ask "Did you hear about....."
2. We live in a world of enough, with a funhouse mirror distribution of goods. We who have more than enough are charged to share. Faith asks us to trust that if we have a whole sandwich and give half to our brother, we won't go hungry. 
3. Kindness lights our path. We can respond to ignorance with truth, we can speak the truth. We can pray. We can feel defeated. We can question one another. We can question God. What we can't do is respond to ignorance and hatred with more of the same. 
Soon it will be time to pick up my son from work. He will turn his phone back on in the car and catch up on news alerts. I'll be tempted to redirect him. I'll take a deep breath, say a silent prayer, swallow hard..and listen when he asks "Did you hear about..."