P.S. I love you

September 28, 2015

Bless you on your walkabout. Our hearts and our love go with you. Love, g and g

Adventure

Hi lovelies,

Sorry for my absence lately! School is picking up here, I’m finding lots on my to-do list. Last weeks lesson was on Father Heart of God. I’ve always struggled with seeing God as my Father, I always saw him as Lord. But now I understand.

Read this! (And at the end I share my own journal post with you guys.)

My Child,

 You may not know me,
but I know everything about you.

Psalm 139:1

I know when you sit down and when you rise up.
Psalm 139:2

I am familiar with all your ways.
Psalm 139:3

Even the very hairs on your head are numbered.
Matthew 10:29-31

For you were made in my image.
Genesis 1:27

In me you live and move and have your being.
Acts 17:28

For you are my offspring.
Acts 17:28

I knew you even before you were conceived.
Jeremiah 1:4-5

I chose…

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On this eve of Mother’s Day, I am witnessing the reawakening of the earth as seedlings begin to emerge and the greening of the trees brings the promise of new life. With the daily increase of violence in our world, I am struggling to find hope. And then today, I was given two gifts. The first was from my notes from the second session of the Compassionate Leadership Program. “It is our consciousness of our inter-dependence that moves us to a desire to resolve conflict in our lives. Violence is the refusal to be in relationship, while non-violence is the refusal to deny our relationship with one another and the earth, which is our home.” There is no more profound interdependent relationship than that of mother and child. Perhaps, that is the reason that wherever peace initiatives occur, women are there!
The second gift I received was from two young American women. Audrey Lodes and Abby Lieser, who attended the Commission on the Status of Women gathering at the UN in New York City this past March. Their response to what they learned was:” It is eye opening. Where you live shouldn’t define what you care about. We need to look out for our sisters!” Their conclusion was that “Women share hope!”
So as we celebrate Mother’s Day, may each of us, as women, commit ourselves to being agents of peace and hope in our troubled world.

Last week I was privileged to attend the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. One of the powerful themes of this year’s gathering of women and men, girls and boys from all over the world was the recognition of the increasing violence, both physical and sexual, experienced by women and girls. Although gains have been made in the area of gender equality in some parts of the world, women and girls in areas of military warfare and terrorism are in great danger. Women leaders from the Arab region expressed their alarm and call to all women in their region: “Don’t let them take your rights in the name of religion. No religion, including the Muslim religion, calls for the killing and destruction of others.” Women and children are often the first victims of war, using religion as the excuse for the abuse. Girls are being raped under the cover of forced conversions, and then marriages, which last only an hour. The only encouraging news is that UN affiliated groups are finding their way into refugee camps to provide safety for women and children who are attempting to find shelter there.
How did the name of God, the giver of life in most religious traditions, get to be the authority in the desecration of human life? The image of God is an image of ultimate authority and power. What is done “in God’s Name” therefore carries Supreme Power. Those who need to invoke the name of God as their authority in destroying or subjugating others, are revealing their true felt powerlessness.
My experience as a psychologist in working with serial rapists and other sexual offenders as well as those who took the lives of others, is that they felt they had no personal power. They attempted to get power by overpowering others, particularly women and children. But, it never satisfied the emptiness of power within themselves.
To the extent that we continue to promote video games, movies and other forms of “entertainment” which reward overpowering others as the purpose of the ”game”, we are participating in an end-game of destruction. What are we teaching our young people, especially young men and boys, about claiming their own personal power, so that they do not have to claim their power by dominating or overpowering others? That is a serious task for a global community hungering for peace in our world.

A few days ago, while searching for the last green beans on the vines in our garden, the importance of the act of harvesting occurred to me. Some of the older beans were large and would not be as delicious to eat. They had missed being picked earlier because they were hidden among the leaves of the vine. Other beans were young and still very small. But as a “killing frost” was expected any day, I harvested the young ones as well. While I was contemplating my little cup of beans, I became aware that each bean carried the seeds for a future blossoming vine. When I came in from the garden, I looked up the meaning of “harvest” and “harvesting.” According to my internet search, the harvest is “the time when you reap what you sow” or “claim the consequences of an effort or activity.” I recalled my experience of last year’s failed bean crop, because the seeds I planted were too old to germinate in the soil. I discovered, the hard way, the importance of live seeds for the promise of a fruitful harvest.

On the shelf in my study, I found a copy of Thomas Merton’s book Seeds of Destruction.  Published half a century ago in 1964, the seeds deadly to peace in our world remain the same: the insatiable drive for power, prestige and possessions throughout our world. James O’Dea in his book Cultivating Peace (2012) challenges those of us seeking to be peace makers to cultivate compassion in our own lives, while recognizing that “peace work is not about winning…it is about mastering one’s need to be the winner.”

Where can we find live seeds of hope for a world in which peace is possible? What old seeds do we need to discard, old ways of thinking, feeling and responding that we need to let go of? What new live seeds of hope do we need to plant lest we be caught in despair?

As I reflected on my experience at the 58th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which closed at the end of March, 2014, I was overwhelmed by all I had learned. My attempts to write a blog about my experience were overshadowed by the immensity of what I had seen  and heard. I was stuck trying to decide where to begin. Then, this week, it occurred to me that I would have to post a series of blogs to begin to tap into the reality of the lives of women and girls throughout our world. I could not do so in two paragraphs. And so, I decided to begin with my awakening to the extensiveness of a rising form of slavery in our global world.

This year is the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the United States and the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act, both significant events in American history. I remember the summer of 1964, when I was completing a graduate course at the University of Tennessee in Memphis. As a northerner from New York City, I was shocked to discover the many residuals from the days of Negro slavery that still existed in the city of Memphis, one hundred years after the US Emancipation Proclamation. And then this year at the CSW, I was again shocked at learning the extent of sex trafficking of women and girls connected to major sporting events, not just abroad, but in my own home town of New York!  My experience at the CSW awakened me to the enormous reality of sexual trafficking of women and girls, as well as children as young as age five, throughout the world. Some estimates indicate that 21 million people are currently victims of human greed. Promised money for their families or a chance to start a new life in another country, many of those vulnerable women and children believe the promises and are sold into slavery, from which there is no escape but death. 

Many Nongovernmental agencies at the UN are bringing the extent and dark violence of this 21st Century slavery into the light. Our nineteen year old granddaughter will be working in Cambodia this summer in a shelter for children at risk for trafficking. I know she will return home with a new heart. .As I write this, the words of a poem I recently discovered by Mary Oliver came to me:       

                                I tell you this

                                to break your heart,

                                by which I mean only

                                that it would break open and never close again

                                to the rest of the world.  

                                (New and Selected Poems,  Vol.2)

As we celebrate Mother’s Day, may our hearts break open to the mothers and children throughout the world who have lost their lives to slavery and “never close again” to mothers and children everywhere.

In the past, November was a time of remembered loss and sadness for me. I associated the change in the weather with the trauma of emergency surgery when I was three years old. Then, four years ago this November, we lost our precious daughter in a tragic death.
What touched my spirit most about November is the gradual loss of daylight and the increasing hours of darkness. Now, as I sweep the leaves from the porch onto the soil below, I remember that each leaf is fulfilling its destiny to nourish the soil for the return of spring.
Our neighbor’s six year old granddaughter taught me an important November lesson. As she helped her grandfather gather the fallen leaves, she picked up each one and looked at it reverently before she placed it gently in the leaf bag. She reminded me of the precious beauty of each leaf, now about to be reduced to mulch as nourishment for what is waiting in the soil.
As I covered the tulip bulbs planted in our daughter’s memorial garden with a blanket of leaves, I did so with a new reverence. May the old losses find their way to the breakthrough into new life… each leaf precious, each life precious for the life to follow. Each leaf sacred, returning whatever it has left to the tree that it served so long…bringing what was needed from the sun to nourish the tree and transforming what could be poisonous (carbon dioxide) to oxygenated air for the life around it.
Every leaf precious, every life precious for the life that is to come!
Today, I remember Wendell Berry’s words: “…in quiet heart and in eye clear. What (I) need is here!”
For this, I am grateful, this Thanksgiving Day!

When Will We Ever Learn?

October 27, 2013

For me, October is always a special time of celebrating life. My father and four of our grandchildren were born in October. In addition, it is also the month in which Grandparent’s Day is honored in many parts of the world.
October 24th, was the 68th anniversary of the ratification of the Charter of the United Nations, which has as its core a commitment: “to keep peace throughout the world; to develop friendly relations among nations; to help nations work together to improve the lives of poor people, to conquer hunger, disease and illiteracy, and to encourage respect for each other’s rights and freedoms.”
According to a recently publicized Amnesty International Study, this October is also the first anniversary of the death of a 68 year old Pakistani grandmother struck down by an American missile (drone) as she picked vegetables in a field with her grandchildren, who were also injured!
As I ponder the 68 year commitment of the United Nations and the 68 years of the grandmother’s life, I am overcome with disbelief and grief! Not just for the grandmother, but also for her grandchildren, who witnessed her being blown apart in their garden and who were also injured in body and spirit. How are they to ever believe that they are safe anywhere in this world?
One of the performances this past year at the Children’s Peace Theatre in Toronto (which Eldon and I helped co-found in the year 2000) bore the title: “If Violence is the Answer, We Have Asked the Wrong Question!”
In my grief, as I read the story of the Pakistani grandmother, Mamana Bibi, the refrain from a 1960’s song from my youth came back to me: “WHEN WILL WE EVER LEARN?”

I will always remember a poignant story my father shared about his boyhood years in conflict torn Ireland. One morning, my grandmother took him by the hand and brought him to the backfield of their farm where a young man lay dead after a battle with British soldiers. She said to my father: Do you see this young man? No mother should ever have to endure this pain! Julia Ward Howe, who initiated a Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1872, agreed with my grandmother. Julia realized her dream of establishing an international Mother’s Day for Peace to focus on the urgent need for a nonviolent resolution of conflict and war. She wrote: “Arise all women who have hearts…. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs”. To reach women across the world, Julia had the proclamation translated into five languages. For the following thirty years, Mother’s Day for Peace was celebrated on June 2. It was changed in 1913 by the US Congress to the second Sunday in May and the words “for Peace” were dropped!
As mothers and women everywhere the time has come to reclaim the purpose for which Mother’s Day was founded more than 140 years ago. How can we respond now to Julia’s urgent challenge to “address the means whereby the great human family can live in peace?”
What if each of us asked not to be given flowers this Mother’s Day (as the Florist Review was once quoted as declaring Mother’s Day a holiday to be exploited!) Instead, how about asking for the gift of a contribution in our name to a group or organization that supports peace in our world? (I am asking for the Mother’s Day gift of a donation to the Children’s Peace Theatre in Toronto). What about you? What groups or organizations would you recommend? What other ideas do you have for women “who have hearts” to “arise” and restore Mother’s Day to once again be Mother’s Day for Peace? I know that Julia and my grandmother will be pleased!

The root of the word “courage” is “coeur”, which translated means “heart.” To act with courage basically means to respond with heart. Today, we celebrate the courage of thousands of men and women: firefighters, police, and many others who responded with heart to save the lives of those trapped in the collapsing World Trade Center buildings. What is this deep instinct in us that fires our hearts to save the lives of others in danger? Is it some deep conviction that life is a precious gift? Is it an acknowledgement rooted in compassion—the realization that we are all one in the One, who we call God, Allah, Yahweh, or the Principle of Being? How is it then that throughout our world we still kill one another in the name of that same God? What has so “hardened our hearts,” the same hearts that are the birthing place of courage and compassion? Today, we celebrate courage, especially the courage of those who gave their lives that others might live. What commitment can I personally make today to nourish and sustain life around me and to refuse to be caught in the vortex of violence in my own life? Perhaps, that is the greatest tribute I can pay to those who gave their lives for others eleven years ago.

Last week, I had the privilege of being part of the 56th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, at the UN headquarters in New York City. Thousands of women and girls (and some men and boys) gathered to explore the obstacles to achieving full human rights for women and girls, particularly those in rural areas of the world. The day before the formal opening of the Commission, thousands of people representing Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) met to begin networking with one another. Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Leymah Gbowee, shared her experience of breaking through the barriers to peace in her home country of Liberia. Her courage in gathering women of different religious faiths to stand with her, and demand peace and justice for their people, set the tone for a week of sharing stories: successes and failures in the pursuit of justice for women and girls throughout the world. This morning, women and girls, and some courageous men and boys, assembled at the corner of East 42nd Street and First Avenue to march under the banner of Global Women for Equality, Development and Peace. I experienced feelings of regret that I was not able to join them, and then I noticed something surprising in my garden. Hundreds of snow drops had worked their way through ice, snow and layers of leaves to hold their heads high in the morning sun! My mother, a strong advocate for women’s rights, planted them more than forty years ago. Since then they have multiplied, finding their way across the garden, beyond where they were originally planted.  This morning, they appeared triumphant in their determination to break through to their early blooming and announce their triumph over what otherwise would appear to be insurmountable for so small and apparently delicate a plant!  I cried and then laughed as I thought of the hundreds of women and girls marching in New York City today and across the world, in remembrance of International Women’s Day. Their commitment, and determination to triumph over what may seem to be insurmountable obstacles to bring about justice for women everywhere, evident as they raised their faces to the morning sun.