The Wisdom of Peace Pilgrim (Part 2)

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“My friends, the world situation is grave. Humanity with fearful faltering steps, walks a knife-edge between complete chaos and a golden age, while strong forces push toward chaos. Unless we, the people of the world, awake from our lethargy and push firmly and quickly away from, all that we cherish will be destroyed in the holocaust which will descend.

This is the way of peace: Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.

The Golden Rule would do as well. Please don’t say lightly that these are just religious concepts and not practical. These are laws governing human conduct, which apply as rigidly as the law of gravity. When we disregard these laws in any walk of life, chaos results. Through obedience to these laws this frightened, war-weary world of ours could enter into a period of peace and richness of life beyond our fondest dreams.”

Steps Toward Inner Peace

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Peace Pilgrim lived 1908-1981 and walked more than 25,000 miles from 1953-1981 spreading her message: “This is the way of peace: Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.”

In Prayer

 

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(Wikipedia; Creative Commons)

 

The Lord’s Prayer

(in the spirit of Celtic spirituality)

O God, you love us like a good parent, and are present in every aspect of our existence.

May your nature become known and respected by all.

May your joy, peace, wholeness and justice be the reality for everyone as we live by the Jesus Way.

Give us all that we really need to live every day for you.

And forgive us our failures as we forgive others for their failures.

Keep us from doing those things which are not of you, and cause us always to be centered on your love.

For you are the true reality in this our now, and in all our future.

In the Jesus Way we pray. Amen.

–David Sorril

Advent prayer

 

Advent quilt and candles

 

Loving God, in this third week of Advent, we praise and bless your name. Together with the prophet Zephaniah, we sing aloud, we shout your praise, we rejoice and exult with all of our hearts to praise your name.

Loving God, we thank you that you are our strength and our might, that you are the source of our salvation, as the prophet Isaiah wrote.

We thank you for your loving kindness and for your mercifulness.

(pause)

We confess to you Gracious One, that for many of us this Advent season has been difficult, filled with anxiety and worry as well as grief and sorrow.

(pause)

We long for the appearance of the Christ Child. We long for your loving presence. We confess to you now our longings.

(pause)

We thank you Merciful One, for your listening, loving presence. We thank you for your continual forgiveness.

(pause)

We bring before you our requests, our concerns for others around us:

During the Advent and Christmas season we read the biblical story of Elizabeth and Mary, of Mary and Joseph, of the shepherds and the wise men.

We also read of the turmoil surrounding these people‑‑ foreign government occupation, mass relocation on account of the census, genocide of infant boys.

We are reminded that turmoil continues today throughout the Middle East. We are tempted to stop praying for peace because of the centuries‑old conflict, because of our weariness of praying for the area, because of our own lack of hope.

God of Peace and God of Justice‑‑again we pray for peace in the Middle East. We pray for an end to the fighting, the deaths, the homelessness of a people. Again God, we ask you to move on behalf of our requests‑‑we pray for your justice and we pray for your peace.

We pray for our country and for the conflicts we have here, particularly the racial divides that plague our nation. God of Peace and God of Justice‑‑we ask you to heal the racism in this country. We ask you to heal the racism in our communities. We ask you to heal the racism in our Church.

Compassionate God, we thank you for listening to our requests and moving in this world on behalf of our prayers.

(pause)

We thank you that you are in our midst, that you rejoice over us with gladness, that you will renew us in your love, and you will exult over us with loud singing.

We praise and bless your holy name.  Amen.

(Photo by Kevin Driedger. Advent quilt by June Mears Driedger)

(Notes) On Art into Faith

jan richardson books

“It is time for religions to open the eyes of a world that believes it has seen everything.”—Daniel Kantor, Graphic Design and Religion.

I recently heard artist and writer Jan Richardson at a conference. I’ve appreciated and admired Jan’s work for many years and I leapt at the chance to hear and see her and I wasn’t disappointed.  Jan’s paper collages have inspired me as I think about fabric art.

One workshop was led by Jan and her husband Garrison Doles on “Art into Faith” and I was nudged again to think how artists and “the arts” can become integral to faith communities. Here are my notes from the workshop and I want to emphasize these are my notes and I may have misheard or misunderstood Jan and/or Gary.

Jan pointed back to medieval cathedrals that used a “multimedia” of art forms to embed the biblical Story into and for the medieval congregants to ultimately embody the Story in their lives.

We need to reclaim the language of “symbol” and how symbols become a part of our existential being—and this is how the Story gets into our bones and we embody the Story of God’s love. Jan said there is a difference between reciting the Story and telling the Story, that is, we live into the Story and develop the skills to tell the Story through all forms of the arts and culture. It is a significant way to tell our story to God and to tell our story to each other. Yet, how can we, with our brokenness and our beauty, tell the Story (and tell our stories?).

These are the things we need:

1)     Engaging people in the creative process, including people who don’t think they are creative. We are co-creators and collaborators with the Creator so we do have creativity. But we have become a culture of spectators so we let the professionals present to us.

2)      We need to develop the talent and skills in people—like developing the “farm league” of a particular medium.

3)     Decide to seek out those who have developed the facility to tell the Story that creates new doorways into the Story.

4)     Art doesn’t happen in isolation but needs community, a fertile soil that provides cross-fertilization, and is focused on the process of telling the Story rather than a final product.

5)     Discern who are the “culture makers” in the congregation and can lead into the mystery of the Story rather than a literal interpretation that limits another understanding of God’s love and interaction with humanity.

6)      Challenge this statement: “I don’t know much about art but I know what I like.” Ask: why don’t you know much about art? Are you afraid of it? Are you choosing to be illiterate? Explore: How does art communicate with people?

7)   Art jars us out of a particular way of seeing, understanding, and knowing. Art is always a dialogue—what happens in the heart of the artist and the heart of the other. Sometimes art can help us talk about the Story in ways that we haven’t been able to before.

Find the line between the telling of the Story in a powerful and meaningful way and a place of emotional manipulation.

At the end of the workshop, Jan distributed a recommended book list:

Janice Eslheimer, The Creative Call: An Artist’s Response to the Way of the Spirit

Makoto Fujimara, Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art, and Culture

Robin M. Jensen, The Substance of Things Seen: Art, Faith, and the Christian Community

Daniel Kantor, Graphic Design and Religion

Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water, Reflections on Faith and Art

Christine Valters Paintner, The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom

Luci Shaw, Breath for the Bones: Art, Imagination and Spirit: A Reflection on Creativity and Faith

Dick Staub, The Culturally Savvy Christian: A Manifesto for Deepening Faith and Enriching Popular Culture in an Age of Christianity-Lite

W. David O. Taylor, For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts

Sister Wendy, Joy Lasts: On the Spiritual in Art

**********

What are your experiences of integrating art into faith?

 

 

All Saints Day: Remembering Five Friends

Photo by Kevin Driedger

The origins of this day are found in the East, where a memorial for all of the Christian martyrs was celebrated, beginning in the fourth century. Currently the day is celebrated in different ways in various church traditions.  When I was on the pastoral team at College Mennonite Church (Goshen, Ind.), we celebrated All Saints the Sunday after November 1. Because CMC has a large group of retired persons and beyond, individual deaths are a regular part of congregational life. Remembering all the people who died throughout the year became an important and solemn ritual with each named called out, followed by a brief period of silence, and lighting a candle in their honor. When I was there, a large box of wooden matches was used to light the candle and in the midst of silence we heard the scratch of the match on sandpaper before it touched the candle wick. The rough strike of the match symbolically reminded me of the pain of our grief as we pondered the person’s death.

Today I want to remember and celebrate five friends who have died this past year: Gene Herr, Lori Waas, Marie Reamer, Betty Snyder, and Dave Haarer.

Gene Herr, Jan. 1: Gene, with his wife Mary, were the founders of The Hermitage, (Three Rivers, Mi.), a contemplative prayer retreat center. Kevin and I volunteered there in the fall of 1999 during a time of transition for us and worked alongside Gene and Mary and continued our friendship after we moved to Lansing.

During that fall, Gene and Mary visited Mennonite churches in Japan. When they returned, Gene told me about traveling by train and seeing the beauty of the Japanese countryside. He said: “As I looked out the window I kept praying, ‘Thank you God for all this beauty that you created. Thank you that I get to see it!’”

Gene died of cancer in Kansas. On his Caring Bridge blog, his daughter described his final days as surrounded by hymns, prayer, and love.

Lori Waas, April 6: I met Lori at church and although I didn’t know her very well, we had many things in common—quilting, music, politics, and theological questions. Now, whenever I listen to the Pink Martinis I think of Lori who was friends with several of the musicians.

Lori also died of cancer. More than fourteen months ago her breast cancer returned and this time it moved elsewhere in her body. When she could no longer eat food she wrote on her Caring Bridge blog how sad she was to no longer enjoy the sense of taste with a delicious meal.

Marie Reamer, April 23: I also met Marie at church where she sat in the same location of the pews. In her early 90s she always wore beautiful costume jewelry and colorful clothes, which I always admired (and, maybe, a few times, coveted).

When we talked after church, she would take my elbow to hold onto for balance but I always received it as a gesture of affection as I leaned toward her to listen to her.

Betty Snyder, July 23: Betty was one of my “faith idols”—someone whose faith I admired and appreciated. Betty was a kind, gentle woman who like a good giggle. She was a giggler. I often thought how I’d like to be like Betty when I grow up.

My favorite memory of Betty is from a sharing time at MSU Mennonite Fellowship. One Sunday she told us about her prayer time earlier in the week: “And I just told God, “I love you! I love you so much.” She cried a little as she shared this and it was a sacred gift to peek inside Betty’s relationship with God. I continue to be grateful for her vulnerability in sharing this.

Dave Haarer, Sept. 25: Dave was an enthusiastic, sincere man who believed the best of others. Once I called him, asked how he was and he responded: “I love my life and I love my wife!” Later that day I recorded this in my gratitude journal as I appreciated his zest for living.

Dave was sick a long time and lived longer than many expected. His beloved wife Ann, unexpectedly died before him and as Dave moved closed to death, she appeared to him in his dreams. Their son Eric, a priest with the monastic community Spiritual Life Institute described his father before Dave died:

“One of the last things mom said before dying was, “I’m ready to go home.” Dad sees her a lot in his dreams. He talks to her in his sleep, and I guiltily yet greedily eavesdrop. Each time is similar: they are in a car on a journey through the countryside near where they first met. Once dad reached out with both arms, “I’m ready, I’m ready. Let’s do!” He wakes up, looks around,  is bewildered. He turns to me and the look of disappointment is heartbreaking: “I’m still here.” He tells me mom said it wasn’t time, he must wait a bit longer. He has more to endure, more to accept, more to let go.” (Desert Call, Fall 2012, p. 29).

Today I light a candle on our home altarscape in memory of these five friends. The stones surrounding the candle are each engraved with a word: “Courage. Love. Hope. Peace. Wisdom.” Words I associate with them in their lives and in their deaths.

A peek into spiritual direction

Spiritual direction by Kevin Driedger

I enter the room for spiritual direction. My director, J. is there, lighting a candle and smiling as she greets me. I meet with her about every four-six weeks, depending on our schedules. Meeting with a spiritual companion is one of my spiritual disciplines, which are things I regularly do to deepen my relationship with God. With a spiritual companion I have someone who listens compassionately as I discern God’s presence and movement in my life.

We sit in chairs facing one another, near the windows looking out onto a meadow, and together we wait in silence, in prayer.

“I don’t know what to talk about today,” I say.

J. nods.

“I’ve been working on some writing projects ….” My voice trails off.

She attentively waits.

“And I’m writing some stuff for my blog but I think I have offended some people.”

J. raises her eyebrows and asks, “Really?”

And in this moment I see that I have no idea if someone was offended.  God reveals to me that I am very fearful of rejection and criticism—I am afraid of offending someone who will in turn reject me. And I see my fear as something God wants to heal and transform in me.

“I’m afraid and I feel very bound up by fear,” I say.

“Well, how do you pray about your fear?” she asks.

“I often pray, ‘Perfect love casts out all fear,’” I say. “But I don’t know if I believe this is true because I feel so afraid.”

“Do you want to talk to Jesus about your fear right now?” J. asks.

I nod yes and she leads me in a guided meditation where I offer my fear to Jesus but also ask him to help my unbelief. I use a lot of tissues during this prayer time.

We conclude the guided prayer and I feel some relief, some resolution, but I know this is a lifetime struggle for me.

J. says to me, “The opposite of fear is freedom that comes from faith. I suggest a breath prayer like, ‘Set me free Lord, set me free.’ I think if you focus on this prayer for the next several months you will begin to experience some inner freedom.”

I agree with her and tell her I will begin using the prayer this very day. She doesn’t often suggest a specific prayer or assign “homework” but because I trust her—her wisdom, experience, and faith–I do as she suggests. We sit in a comfortable silence until I say, “Thank you—even though I didn’t have anything to talk about today, God certainly had a plan!”

We laugh together then she closes our time with prayer. My spiritual director shares her time, presence, and wisdom and through our sessions together I have a greater awareness of God’s healing, transforming movement in my life. We set our next meeting, I pay her, hug her, and leave the room knowing that I have encountered God during this time of spiritual companionship.