Heart for healing, heart for peace

Heart for the Middle EastIt sits in a small box on my desk, nested in shreds of paper. It’s called the “inner spirit rattle” and it was a gift from a co-worker, a sister, a woman of generous heart and deep feeling. She gave it to me because when she saw it in the gift shop it reminded her of me.

That makes me smile. With it came this little card with a quote from Billy Joel:

I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.

“…an explosive expression of humanity.” What a great visual of the power of music! It meshes with my great manifesto of peace through music. (Someday that billion voice flash mob of a choir will happen. Talk about an explosive expression of humanity…can you imagine the explosive peace? I can.)

So I keep this musical heart rattle next to me on my desk and it brings me comfort and joy because of the giver and reminds me always of how we can encourage one another in this life. There is the sweet tinkle of bells and the soft rattle of its inner stones when I shake it. It’s a quiet music I can make right here in my office anytime.

There is another little card that came with it that says…

American Indians have long used rattles during ceremonies to ensure blessings upon their crops. Use this rattle to help rattle some rain into your life, some rain out of your life, to help rattle your worries away…

I use it to remind me to pray for the people I know represented by the world map just above my head to the left. I pray that peace would rain down like the deluge that came into our yard again last night. That those who have lived as neighbors for centuries in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, Egypt and other parts of this globe will be able to live that way again soon. That their children would grow up to see tomorrow and the tomorrow after that. That together they will sing songs and make music that is an explosive expression of humanity. That the other kinds of explosions which have destroyed their communities, their homes, their lives, would be forever silenced. Such a rain of peace would be life-giving and life-sustaining.

The prayers that arise from my heart when I look at this beautiful little gift of a rattle are for healing and peace.

I found these words today from Pope Francis, and though they are about Syria specifically, I offer them on behalf of the entire region as I hold my ceramic heart in my hand, and the prayers pulse out with each beat.

A reading from an Angelus homily of Pope Francis

Today, dear brothers and sisters, I wish to add my voice
to the cry which rises up with increasing anguish from every part of the world…
from the one great family which is humanity.
It is the cry for peace!
It is a cry which declares with force:
We want a peaceful world; we want to be men and women of peace …
and we want in our society, torn apart by divisions and conflict,
that peace break out!
There are so many conflicts in this world which cause me great suffering and worry, but in these days my heart is deeply wounded by what is happening in Syria and by the dramatic developments which are looming.
I appeal strongly for peace …
How much suffering, how much devastation,
how much pain has the use of arms carried in its wake …
I think of many children who will not see the light of the future!
With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons.
There is a judgment of God and of history upon our actions which is inescapable!
Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake.
War begets war; violence begets violence.
What can we do to make peace in the world?
As Pope John said, it pertains to each individual to establish new relationships in human society under the mastery and guidance of justice and love.
All men and women of good will are bound by the task of pursuing peace.
I make a forceful and urgent call to the entire Catholic Church, and also to every Christian of other confessions as well as to followers of every religion and to those brothers and sister who do not believe:
Peace is a good which overcomes every barrier, because it belongs to all of humanity.
I repeat forcefully:
It is neither a culture of confrontation nor a culture of conflict which builds harmony with and between peoples, but it is a culture of encounter and a culture of dialogue;
This is the only way to peace.
May the plea for peace rise up and touch the hearts of everyone so that they may lay down their weapons and let themselves be led by the desire for peace.


A Note In the Desk

junk drawerIt’s a quiet Friday here at church. I was looking for some stamps that I keep in the drawer on the right side of my desk. It’s where I keep headache meds, my wonderful travel spork that Barbara gave me, my comb, various cards to send to others and assorted things that have nothing to do with anything. It’s also where I keep a collection of notes that have come to me in my time on staff, which has somehow spanned twelve and a half years.

So I went through those notes today, because sometimes I just need the reminder of the people who have crossed my path in those years here. Some are love notes from Steve. (I am going to write about those someday…) There are thank you notes from other staff friends and these lovely yellow encouragement cards that people write to you while in worship and then come later in the mail. There are responses to prayers I have asked for and it is gratifying when they offer to lift up our faith family in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq with me. And then there are two from George including this one:

Note from George

He wrote notes like this on those personal cards to so many people over the years I knew him. This one strikes me now for the date: January, 2012. He had been talking to us all about a darkness that he could feel descending since the spring before, but this was before he knew that the cancer was marching through his blood and body again. He died eleven months later, November 24, 2012. I still miss him.

And on this day, if I could, I would rewrite that note to him:

George, I am so thankful to God for you! Thank you for all the ways you serve, challenge & make us better followers of Jesus! – Julie

That’s what he did for me and so many others. He served me as pastor. So many Sundays I received the bread and communion cup from him. He challenged me as mentor and boss. How else would I ever have ended up in the Middle East and other places following the missio dei? He made me a better follower of Jesus because he showed me a better way to follow: humbly, relationally, fully engaged.

So grateful. That’s all I’ve got to add. I wrote this poem for him three weeks before he went home and it goes with my note above to him:

On the journey (Nov 1, 2012 – All Saints Day)

Remember the day you first learned to ride?
The bike with two wheels, with just you alone
Your mom or your dad held on to its side
One day they let go; you were on your own.
At first there was fear, would you fall on your head?
But after a time what you found there instead
Was freedom, excitement, the wind in your face
And faster you pedaled, such memorable days!

And then you had four wheels and started again
A parent beside you, to guide you ‘til when
The test you had passed at the state DMV
Your license attained, and now you could see
The places you’d go with that paper they gave you
The roads you would travel. The world was brand new.

That’s how I feel when setting out now
To the places God calls me, the things he will show.
The training wheels on my first mission bike
That took me to Europe – there was so much to like! –
Were steadied by your hands which held me upright
You didn’t let go until I gained sight
Of the lesson I needed to learn in that study
That we are all part of Christ’s holy body.

You continued my training in God’s mission car
By giving the front seat – such a high bar!
To one who had such a long way to travel,
Who then went to Cameroon and there did marvel
At a look into how faith is lived with no riches,
How much can be gained when our worldview, it switches
To the way God who made us does look at creation:
He loves every tongue, every tribe, every nation.

And now that you’ve set free the child you first knew
You helped her through teen years and watched as she grew
You offered your counsel and gave great advice
You even anointed her role as a wife. ☺
You’ve helped her to find her role in the world
You’ve helped her to grow to woman from girl.
You’ve prayed that she serve the God that she loves
You’ve prayed her into a servant who’d move
Into the path that brings to fruition
Her call to go out into the Lord’s mission.

Thank you for training my poor heart to see
It’s all about Jesus, and not about me.