Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Passing understanding

One of the best things about being a Christian is the unexplainable sense of peace that accompanies trusting Jesus. Ask anyone who has let go and let God take over.
         The great apostle Paul explains it this way in his letter to the Philipians: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
           I remember distinctly one night, many years ago, when my teenage son was out driving his car and it was past his curfew. I was sick with worry. I prayed, and the moment I accepted that God was in charge, my worry lifted like a bird fluttering away. I can't explain the peace that came over me. 
           I still worry needlessly, and try to fix things my way. But then I remember. Just let go and let God. 
           In this season when there seems to be so much strife in the hectic holiday schedule, and the angry political campaigning, and violent headlines, I believe the secret to Peace on Earth begins with that simple acceptance of Christ on a personal, individual level. I know it is incomprehensible that something so complex as International Peace could be rooted in something so simple accepting God's gift, but I think that is where it needs to begin. 
         As the song says: Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. 

Let it shine

          It's been many years since I went to a peace rally, but there was a good one tonight at First United Methodist Church where about 100 people gathered  for a show of Unity in the Face of Fear.    Members of the silent majority spoke out, even if it was just hearty "Amens" echoing through the room.  "You can't be silent," said Grand Rapids City Commissioner Ruth E. Kelly. "We must speak out against the fear mongering."
            Representatives of several area churches spoke briefly about about peace  and justice for all people regardless of race or creed. They defended immigrants and refuges.  "We're all one," said Methodist Bishop Deborah Kiesey.  She reminded the crowd that Baby Jesus and his family were refuges when they fled to Egypt to avoid King Herod.
            A spokesman for the local Muslim community quoted the poem Abou Ben Adhem by Leigh Hunt. In that poem Abou asks to be counted in the book of life as one who loves his fellow man. The evening ended with a candle lighting in the parking lot, a moment of silent prayer for unity and singing the song "This Little Light of Mine."
            Funny. It was the shortest day of the year, made even darker by clouds. But the light is beginning to shine. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Stand up for Peace

      We lit a candle for peace today at Grandville United Methodist Church, as part of the advent celebration. Christians have been doing the same thing for centuries, but sometimes it seems like it isn't working. It seems like the hate mongers are much louder than the quiet peacemakers. 
      "Pray for Peace," said pastor Tom Pier-Fitzgerald. But that's not all. He suggested we attend a Unity in the Face of Fear rally Monday at First United Methodist Church. Maybe it's time the peace makers were a little noisier.
       People of all faiths are encouraged to gather in the church parking lot, 227 E. Fulton, at 5:30 p.m.  Speakers from various faiths will talk about treating all people with love and respect, instead of spewing hate. Fear chips away at peace; unity can help rebuild relationships.
      Join us.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Puzzle piece

       No one should ever become famous for shooting innocent people. There should be no prize for terrorism. Yet it happens all the time.
       Sixteen years after the massacre at Columbine High School, most of us could name the pair of misguided teens who killed 12 students and one teacher. But how many of us remember the name of one victim?
        It's happening again with the San Bernadino shooting. We read every detail about the two shooters, who I refuse to name, but much less about the 14 victims. People like environmental health specialist Robert Adams or mapping expert Hal Bowman. Or Issac Amanios who immigrated to America from Eritrea; Vietnamese refugee Tin Nguyen or persecuted Iranian Christian Bennetta Betbadal.
         You can blame the media, but the media provides information on both the shooters and the victims. It's just easier, and maybe perversely more interesting, to talk about the shooters. We can change that. 
          Quick: who was responsible for the slaughter at the Alamo in 1836?. A few Jeopardy players may remember the Mexican general, but all of us "Remember the Alamo." You may not know the names of all the victims who died there, and you may have some misconceptions from the movie versions, but the focus is always on the victims. "Remember the Alamo" became a call to action, not because of the media reports but because of the public groundswell.
         It's a behavior modification technique every mother knows. Ignore bad behavior, praise the good. Don't give shooters the attention they crave. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Prize of Peace

Every year the Nobel Peace Prize, which is being awarded Thursday in Oslo, honors some of the world's outstanding peacemakers. This year the recipients are three men and one woman from Tunisia who helped to save their country from civil war and collapse in 2013. These four -- Houcine Abbassi, Wided Bouchamaoui, Abdessatar Ben Moussa and Fadhel Mahfoudh -- aren't politicians or government leaders. They are business people, leaders of four non-government organizations -- a labor union, an employers' association, a human rights organization and the bar association. It wasn't their job to broker peace in their country. But they did it. Peace is everybody's job.
           Afterwards, they were nicknamed the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet. Dialogue. What beautiful music this quartet makes.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Pieces of Peace

Peace on Earth is the promise of Christmas. It's the elusive gift everyone asks for.
       Yet it remains a puzzle.
        As the final days of 2015 wind down, this is the topic I want to think about, talk about. So I will share little pieces of peace as they come my way.
        Just the other day I heard on the radio that the two-finger V for victory sign -- which my generation kidnapped in the '60s and renamed the peace sign -- actually dates to the 1200s. The longbow, which was the atomic weapon of the period, helped the English fight off the French during the Hundred Years War. When the enemy captured an archer  they would cut off his first two fingers so he could never pull back a bow string again. So if a person held up those two fingers it was a victory. His fingers had survived.
         It's a beginning. We still have our fingers. We can choose to use those fingers to aim arrows at our foes or we can offer a sign of peace. Choose peace.