Peace begins with me

Last night I had the privilege to listen to 380 fourth graders perform for a Veterans Day celebration.  Something about children’s voices lifting up a song can cut through all the polarizing rhetoric and divisive crap of recent politics to remind us of what is really important.  I was so thankful to see a beautiful mosaic of our country’s multiethnic identity on the stage of my son’s school–all singing words of liberty and patriotism. I prayed that each student and their families felt the immutable truth of what they sang.

In light of all that has transpired in our country this week, and even over the last few months, the words of the songs hit me afresh and I realized how much of our identity and hope as a nation is embedded in the lyrics of our most cherished patriotic music.  I am also fairly confident that the message of these songs probably runs deeper and extends wider today than when they were first sung. We have figured out a lot of important truths about freedom since we became a country.  But, as this year has shown, we still have much to wrestle with and figure out.

As I listened, different phrases popped out to me and seemed to come together in my own hopes that unity, understanding, and freedom find their greatest expression in how each of us chooses to embody them each day with our words and actions towards our fellow Americans and our world.  This is my prayer in honor of Veterans Day and the challenge they give us to join in the precious and hard work of freedom:

My country tis of thee, may we let freedom ring not just in pledges and songs, but in how we humbly care for the one shackled by poverty or injustice.

Sweet land of liberty, if God shed His grace on thee, may we recognize how extending that grace anew to one another can mend thine ev’ry flaw.

This land is your land, as much as it is my land, and that is our good, crowned with brotherhood, if we are willing to wear the crown and walk with our brothers and sisters of different colors, faiths and histories.

Some say, “this is my country, land of my birth.”  Some say, “this is my country, land of my choice.”  But all our souls are rooted deeply in the soil on which we stand.

So, let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me, and you, and this one land that we have been given to have and hold.

 

lyric excerpts taken from: My Country ‘Tis of Thee by Samuel Francis Smith, America the Beautiful by Katharine Lee Bates, This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie, This is My Country by Don Raye and Al Jacobs, and Let There Be Peace on Earth by Jill Jackson Miller and Sy Miller.

 

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A prayer to rest in on a restful day

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A prayer that reminds me faith and love are not to be compartmentalized in our lives.  My prayer is to be fully in Love so that I can love fully…

Nothing is more practical than finding God, than

falling in Love

in a quite absolute, final way…

Fall in Love, attributed to Fr. Pedro Aruppe

 

Fall in Love

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Taking my equality cue from one sentence in an ancient letter


There is a 6 chapter book in the New Testament that is actually a letter from a man named Paul who did a complete 180 degree turnaround in his life after encountering Jesus.  He wrote this letter-which would seem quite long to us-in an attempt to help a small house church in the town of Galatia not get lost in a list of rules and cultural prejudices.

So, if you are far away from the people you desperately need to get a message to, and the only means of communication is a courier who will travel by foot for a few weeks to deliver your message, you want to make sure you say everything on your heart, right?  Most likely.

This letter is rich with challenges, inspiration and reasoning for why following the way of Jesus is all together different than any religious belief or secular life path they have experienced before.  In the midst of so much cultural angst we are experiencing in race relations today, as well as the ethnic & religious xenophobia that has taken hold, these words resonate a truth that I would love for people of all belief systems and political opinions to take to heart:

There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

‭‭Galatians‬ ‭3:28‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Here is what stands out to me.  In this short sentence Paul addresses 3 cultural areas where the most profound relational gaps exist in his day:

  • ethnicity and religion
  • societal class systems
  • gender roles

It’s a broad statement concluding an entire segment where he is trying to convince them to let go of assumptions that all people who follow Christ must conform to one group’s way of believing and living. It’s also a critique that this one way has some deeply flawed values needing correction.

Whether you follow the way of Jesus, or are a person of faith or not, I feel like these are words to live by in our global world!  My faith tells me that these are the walls of prejudice, inequality and separation that have been broken down and we don’t need to, shouldn’t want to build them back up!

I hope to continue to take my cue for living into this kind of understanding and vision from a word of wisdom dated approximately 1968 years ago!

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Living by freedom’s last words


This morning, I read through the Declaration of Independence – something I haven’t done for a while.  It still makes my heart pound to read those words.  There is elegance and power woven into every sentence.

But this time, the last sentence is what really captured my attention:

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

I find that much of my life and priorities have been very self-focused.   Even in my faith journey, my pursuits mostly have been about me, myself and I.  Already you can count 11 singular first person pronouns in this writing!

But new stirrings within are helping refocus that tendency away from me to we.  So, from this point in the essay, the goal will be to redirect towards second person pronouns, too!

God is giving opportunities for this one flawed and often selfish human being to see the world more fully as a gift to us.  It’s his original intent that we look at life and faith through a communal vs. individual lens.  In Galatians 5:13-14, we are reminded:

“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  ‭NLT‬‬

And July 4 seems a very fitting day to read that our forefathers pledged to be in it together throughout their lives, with all their fortunes, and in a committed mindset to honor and value each other.

Obviously, these words did not fully work out their inherent truth in every aspect of our young country, or slavery and women’s equality for example, would not have become issues for which we had to fight to change course.  But,  theses words of equality and mutuality keep working on us as a nation, and that is why this declaration is such a vibrant document.  It causes us to critique our lives now through the words written then, and own the prejudices and blind spots that still keep us from being a nation of “we”.

And although there are certainly vital issues of mutuality that require the strength of legislation, my first person hope is that we would learn to live in the second person more often and that this reality would be ever before us:  my freedom doesn’t mean much unless it is shared with you, freely.

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True Freedom

In the process of organizing a prayer event for refugees at my church, I came across a familiar passage in Galatians.  Funny how in light of the new heights of polarizing discourse we have reached in this election season, an ancient word about true freedom from an early follower of Jesus gives the most clarity.  His words stand firm & strong without any further explanation:

It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. Galatians 5:13-14 (The Message)

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Fragile Strangers


This is my story about growing up with foster children that I wrote for YouthWorker Journal several years ago.

In observance & response to National Foster Care Awareness Month, and because momentum is growing for people to do something real and tangible to help children in the foster care system, I thought it was timely to share this story again.

Fragile Strangers: Our Part in the Restoration Story

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We are all “broken vessels” and deeply loved by God – a beautiful Easter reminder 

I rarely put things like this out with my own kids, but this 15 year old is really growing as a musician and this song by Hillsong reminds us why we need God’s amazing grace.

Thanks to  Joel Houston & Jonas Myrin for the fresh version of Amazing Grace and thanks to Lanie for a beautiful demo.

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