Peace…Day 4

One way to encourage peace in the world is to help those who are struggling to maintain their local cultures and ways of life.  I love to experience the crafts and foods of other cultures, and sometimes when I’m looking for “just the right gift,” I go to the fair trade shop.  Fairly traded goods are those which support local and sustainable farming and crafting, and the people who do the work get all the profits from the goods they make–they’re paid a fair wage for what they produce, which is they I think the world should work. 

As you’re considering ways to make peace in your life and in the lives of those around you, consider giving fairly traded goods as Christmas gifts.  What better way to share the love of Christmas and help out others at the same time?

Two of my favorite fair trade sites are:  http://www.equalexchange.coop/ (coffee, tea and chocolate) and www.tenthousandvillages.com (fair trade gift items from around the world).  I don’t work for or get profits from these companies, but I use their products sometimes, and find its a good way to help the world and celebrate Christmas at the same time.

Peace,

David

Advertisements

Peace…Day 3

Practice the art of listening today.  Instead of coming to every conversation with a list of your own woes, or with rebuttals or comments to make on what other people say, simply listen to them.  Listening is different from simply hearing.  Hearing is the physical process of your ears processing sound, but listening–real listening–involves putting your whole self into the conversation–being mindful of the other’s presence, and attending to what is being said.  Someone can tell you are listening when you focus on them (and not on your cup of coffee or someone across the room whom you want to talk to next), and when you can “mirror back” what they are saying.  Try it out.  When someone says something to you–especially if they are sharing something painful or frustrating, you could say something like, “So, if I’m hearing you right, what you’re saying is…” or “I think I understand that what you’re saying is…” 

True listening also involves not judging what is being said, or coming back with your own perspective right away.  The worst things you can say to someone who is in turmoil are “That’s just silly!” or “So you think you’ve got problems…” and then launching into a laundry list of your own issues.  Friends don’t come to you to have a battle over who has the worst life, they just want to listen.  When the time is right, after you’ve helped your friend by really listening to them, then you can share your issues and problems. 

Friends who truly listen also don’t give advice, but are willing to recommend resources or professionals who may be able to help.  While listening to someone else, you may recall a book you’ve read or a TV show you’ve seen that was particularly helpful for you in a similar situation.  Don’t try to force your favorite self-help guru on someone just because he/she has been helpful to you–really listen, and discern if this person’s needs would best be met by the self-help resource you’re thinking of.  (Not everyone finds Dr. Phil to be helpful, and if a friend comes to you with a problem about their son’s drinking, you probably don’t want to recommend “I’m O.k., You’re O.k.” as a resource.)  The art of referral is a good practice.  “Would you like to speak with your pastor about this?”  or, if they don’t have a pastor, “May I take you to meet my pastor?”  are good ways to refer someone.  Never tell someone that they need a doctor or a psychiatrist without making sure that you preface your statement with the concern that what they are bringing to you is of greater import than you can handle alone.  And most of all, don’t try to handle major life issues on your own if you’re not a trained professional.  Referring a friend is not a sign of weakness, but a sign that you have truly listened to him or her and are concerned about what concerns them. 

If you practice this type of deep listening, you may find yourself becoming one of those people who people identify as a “good listener,” and you might just find yourself becoming overwhelmed with the issues of your friends and family.  Don’t forget to have a friend with whom you can speak from time to time.  This type of circle of mutual listening is what we mean when we talk about community. 

Peace,

David

Peace…Day 2

Over on Facebook, there’s this trend going around where people are changing their profile pictures to pictures of their favorite cartoon characters from childhood. (If you don’t know what a “Facebook profile” or a “profile picture” are, keep reading—it won’t matter.) I have not changed mine, mostly because it’s such a hassle to change my profile pic that I don’t do it that often anymore anyway. But if I did change my picture to my favorite cartoon charater, it would have to be Linus Van Pelt.

You remember Linus, don’t you? Charlie Brown’s best friend was known for carrying around his old blue blanket, and after years of reading Peanuts cartoons and watching the holiday specials, I always wondered why Linus never gave up that blanket as he got older. But then, the Peanuts gang never have gotten older, have they? Once, when Linus’s sister, Lucy, asked him what he was going to do with his blanket when he got older, Linus replied, “Maybe I’ll make it into a sport coat.” Linus was often the one person to whom Charlie Brown could turn in the middle of one of his angst-ridden moments, and he usually had something witty, wise, or mature to say about the situation. One of my favorite lines comes from when Linus himself was having a bad day, and he said to Charlie Brown, “I love humanity—it’s people who drive me crazy.” We’ve all had days like that.

Linus’s sense of wonder and faith is another quality that I like about him. He is the only kid in town who believes in the Great Pumpkin, who brings candy to all the good children in the world on Halloween, and he proves his faith by standing in the pumpkin patch with Sally all night long. He believes in the Easter Beagle, who shows up to bring eggs to him and everyone else at Easter. Linus is the one who guided all the kids on their trip through France in one TV special, and he knew all about the battle of D-Day, which he described in moving detail. Even if people drive him crazy on occasion, Linus’s faith in humanity, and in the wonder and myster that still exist in the world, are inspirational.

In the Charlie Brown Christmas special (you know, the one with the scrawny tree), Charlie Brown is asked to direct the children’s Christmas pageant, and in the midst of all the chaos, he begins to question what he’s really doing there. No one listens, the play is in a mess, and they don’t seem to care about Christmas at all—just the partying and presents. Even old Snoopy the beagle has “gone commercial,” as he decorates his dog house with thousands of decorations and lights in order to win a contest. “Doesn’t anyone know what Christmas is really all about?” Charlie bemoans. “Sure, Charlie Brown,” says Linus, pulling his thumb out of his mouth, and he launches into one of the most touching renditions of the Christmas story ever captured in animation. (See it here.)

“And on earth, goodwill and peace to all…” that’s what Christmas is about, for Charlie Brown and for all of us. Sure, Linus has this weird thing with his thumb-sucking and blue blanket, but who among us doesn’t have some attachments that we just can’t seem to get rid of? Sometimes the Christian faith is accused of being a “blue blanket” or a crutch to support weak people. But I say that when you are broken down and beaten by the world, you need a crutch from time to time to help you get stronger. If we all had the simplicity of spirit and profound sense of wonder of Linus Van Pelt, the world just might be a more peaceful place—even if people drive us crazy sometimes.

Peace,

David

Peace in our time…Day 1

Today, I am reflecting on the Hebrew word “Shalom.”  Shalom means peace, of course, but it is also used as a greeting and as a way to say “goodbye” at the end of a conversation.  Shalom is more than just a concept–it is a way of life, a state of mind, a way of approaching the world and the people in it with the kind of mindfulness that we seek this Christmas. 

Mindfulness involved ‘being in the moment’–each and every moment—not worrying about what’s in the past, or fretting about the future.  What if Peace were the mindset with which we approached every moment?  What if we greeted everyone (friends, family, co-workers, even foes) with the Peace of Christ, and then bestowed that peace upon them again when we left them?  What if everyone did that?  What would the world be like?

Today, I encourage you to greet everyone you meet with Peace.  Imagine everyone around you as the presence of Christ in your midst.  Journal today about what it feels like to have the mindfulness of Peace at the forefront of your thoughts as you go through the day. 

Be careful with yourself today, and be careful in this snowy weather.

Blessings,

David

Keeping Hope Alive…Day 5

Today’s my day off, so I’ll keep this post short and to the point.  Not much needs to be said about this suggestion, though.

Talk a walk today, even though it’s cold and snowy. Enjoy the sights and sounds of the world around you. Remember that God created all that you see–even the people who built the buildings and houses you may pass. Listen for sounds of nature in the midst of the busyness of life. Or, if you’re n…ot able to go outside, sit by a window that looks out on the world. Meditate on the beauty of God’s creation. Give thanks to God for allowing you the opportunity of a few moments of silence and reflection with God.

Blessings,

David

Keeping Hope Alive…Day 4

What is your Christmas wish this year?  I don’t mean to ask what you want under the Christmas tree, or what you hope to give to someone else under the tree.  What I mean is– What do you really desire this Christmas?  What is it in your life, your family, your work, your soul that God can work on right now?  Where do you seek healing and wholeness? 

Take some time today to write down your true Christmas wish, then put it somewhere that you’ll run into it every day.  Again, for me, this would be by the refrigerator!  One suggestion would be to write your wish down and put it on the Christmas tree–in an envelope, or folded and stuffed inside a Christmas bulb–you know, the glass kind that you can take the top off of.  Put that on your tree, and every time you look at the tree, say a little prayer to God, asking him to grant this deep desire of your heart.  Wishes don’t have to be just for children, and they don’t have to be superficial or corny.  Whatever you are seeking from God, God will help you find.  Now, your wish may not come true just as you want it to–that’s part of the process.  God sometimes helps us realize that what we wish for is not really what we need.  What we really need sometimes is to allow our will to become aligned with God’s will for us.  This process helps us grow from saplings into spiritual redwoods, with the ability to withstand all of life’s challenges and trials.

Blessings,

David

Keeping Hope Alive, Day 3

Today marks a new beginning for us in the Mahoning Valley.  This afternoon, Colleen Aliberti and I will be attending the organizational meeting of the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative’s working group on Human Trafficking.  This group will eventually work to form a commission in our county to address the issue of human trafficking in the massage parlors that dot the landscape here in Trumbull county.  The commission, made up of legislators, law enforcement and city administrations, will work together in a broad-based approach to not only closing the nuisance businesses, but in eradicating the issue of human trafficking all together. 

Did you know that every year in the U.S., 18 to 20 thousand people are trafficked for illegal purposes?  Most of this modern-day slave trade centers around the sex tourism industry.  People actually travel from all around this region to come to the Warren/Niles/Newton Falls area to visit these establishments!  Many of the young women who work in massage parlors are brought here from Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and other Asian countries, with the promise that they will be given a good job in a nail salon or a restaurant.  Instead, they end up in the back rooms and basements of massage parlors all around this country. 

What does all this have to do with us and with hope?  Well, those who are caught up in the human trafficking trade are not filled with much hope.  My prayer is that the churches in Trumbull county, and all across this state, can make a difference in their lives by making human trafficking a felony offense under state law.  If we can do this, the women (and sometimes children and men) who are affected by this issue will be filled with more hope and promise in their lives.  And, that brings hope to us as well. 

Please pray for us as we bring together this coalition today, and for the work that is ahead of us.  Please also consider becoming a part of this work–it’s one way that God’s hope is breaking through into our world today.

Blessings,

David