Peace Is For Everyone

It’s so hotly contested, but prayer may never be used to exclude people, it may only include people.

When you are in a group that prays in a certain way… a community of faith then prayer is a signature of that group.

But when the group is a public group, particularly a state run group such as a school, official prayer doesn’t belong.That’s the law of this country and I believe, as a minister, a good one. People pray differently or not at all. This is not a Christian nation. This is not who we were founded to be. If you’re proud to be American, be proud of what the country was founded to be.

But there are other reasons that I think prayer isn’t sportspersonlike. Nothing to stop someone from a quick prayer before sinking a penalty shot, although, as a theologian I would argue you would have done better to practice and the Divine shouldn’t be responsible for compensating for your lackadaisical approach to discipline.

But if the bonding is happening only with a few, even with most, and you’re leaving people out of the circle, then they are outside the circle not just at the beginning but also for the game. If they’re pretending, to fit in, then you’re still excluding them and reinforcing the fact that they are not really part of the group. This isn’t going to lead to good results for individuals or for the team.

This is all in reference to an article that talks about a school system that has been notified it must quit “official” prayer and come into accordance with the law. It says it’s a successful team. Does that mean it wouldn’t be successful if they don’t pray? Is there a reason they’ve got a coach? Because it is her/his job to teach a team the skills and reinforce the discipline to play the game well together.

A winning team will have a variety of players to enhance the program. A team that is inclusive, rather than exclusive, can have extraordinary results if you make space for new approaches.

People bring their religious selves with them wherever they are. What’s important is that they live what they believe rather than just talk about it.

I know, I’m an old Peacemaker. I believe that it’s the role of prayer to bring people together… and demanding that the Divine lead your team to victory over another… doesn’t fit that bill.

Prayer is not the only way to help people bond. Be your best self, find other ways to bond with people who are different from you.

Give Peace a chance. And follow the rules of the country.


Great People Making Great Peace

Ah, Jimmy Carter. Wishing you an easy passing. May Death be as kind to you as you have been to Life. May your wife find comfort in all the amazing things you have shared and the love so many have for you.

President Carter is a spectacular man who has done great things for this world. I suspect, watching his announcements, that in addition to whatever he is able to do for women as he has pledged, he will lead us in a gracious acceptance of his dying. He is, as we hate to remember, 90. If it hadn’t been this, it would have been something. May it be easy.

I’m always a bit of two minds when someone who has done great things. I’m filled with admiration and gratitude. But I’m also aware there is greatness in many of us if we only put our hearts and minds to it. There is so much we can do. There is so much difference we can make. The hard work is ours to assume.

Thank you, President Jimmy Carter, for all the work you have done. Thank you, Mrs. Carter, and I’m so very sorry. So many years together and now you are called to practice open hands, open hearts… Peace, Comfort and Blessings to you all. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family… and with the country who claims you as theirs…

And now in your names, let us make a difference together. Let us Peace.



Ripe Peach Peace

I totally missed one of my favorite holidays this year because I was traveling. Lammas, the first of August, is always my eat a ripe, juicy peach holiday.

I think there’s nothing more delicious. Nothing more sensual. Nothing more joyful and celebratory of life.

And here we are, with a whole month devoted to such deliciousness! Viva the Fruit Moon!

I think when the fruit is ripe and full, it’s almost a rite of holy obligation to enjoy it if we have the means.  And thinking about it, the other part of that obligation is to find a way for others to enjoy as well. Fruit. We should eat it!

Being in our bodies, completely absorbed in appreciating the beauty and abundance of our Mother Earth is a prayer of Peace. Peacing! Praying! Giving thanks!


Words that Open Into Peace

Ta Nehisi Coates’ new book, Between the World and Me, is absolutely luscious — which is an odd thing to say about a challenging, painful, hopeful memoir.

In writing his letter to his 15 year old son about the fragility, the endangeredness of the black male body.

You couldn’t look away from the honesty — and didn’t want to because you might miss something.

You couldn’t look away from the sense of responsibility, the need to make this different, the push to become engaged.

It was a privilege to be invited into his world — and that privilege carries weight.

There are huge chasm’s between us and Peace and if we do not recognize them, if we do not make a difference to those who are so endangered, then Peace is just a wistful little fantasy. We must Peace. There are no prayers but our involvement, our willingness to change and to make a difference. There is work to be done.


In Memoriam

I have nothing this morning but the names and stories of those who died.

Clementa Pinckney South Carolina state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, the church’s pastor and a married father of two, was the first victim to be identified.

The 41-year-old pastor was leading a prayer service at the church when alleged gunman Dylann Storm Roof, 21, opened fire. Pinckney was remembered as an accomplished leader in the community.

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, a reverend at the church, was also one of the shooting victims.

The 45-year-old mother of three coached the girls’ track team at Goose Creek High School in Goose Creek, S.C.

Cynthia Hurd Charleston County Public Library confirmed Thursday that one of their librarians died in the attack. Cynthia Hurd, a manager for Charleston County Public Library, was among the victims of the shooting at the Emanuel …

Cynthia Hurd, 54, the manager of St. Andrews Regional Library, was remembered as a woman who spent her life making sure residents of the local community had opportunities for personal growth and an education.

“Her loss is incomprehensible, and we ask for prayers for her family, her co-workers, her church and this entire community as we come together to face this tragic loss,” read a statement from the library. Hurd worked with Charleston County Public Library for 31 years. Before joining St. Andrews, she was manager of the John L. Dart branch.

DePayne Middleton-Doctor DePayne Middleton-Doctor was one of the victims of the church shooting. (Photo: DePayne Middleton/Facebook)

Former Charleston County employee DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, was among the victims. In a Facebook post, one of her family members, Laurie Middleton, said she will miss her beautiful personality, laughter, smile and love for all people.

“My beautiful Songbird. This is a hard one to Swallow. I will truly miss you my love,” she wrote. She was reportedly the mother of four girls and sang in the church’s choir.

Tywanza Sanders Allen University identified alumnus Tywanza Sanders, 26, as one of the victims, WACH reported.

The young man graduated from the school’s Division of Business Administration in 2014.

Myra Thompson Denise Quarles confirmed to “Good Morning America” that her mother, Myra Thompson, 59, had died, but declined to comment further.

The Anglican Church in North America also confirmed Thompson’s death. Her husband, the Rev. Anthony Thompson, is a vicar for Holy Trinity REC.

Ethel Lee Lance Ethel Lee Lance, 70, was a sexton who had reportedly worked at the church for more than 30 years.

Her daughter, the Rev. Sharon Rischer, confirmed to “GMA” that Lance died in the shooting. “I’m lost, I’m lost,” her grandson, Jon Quil Lance, said to The Post and Courier. “Granny was the heart of the family.”

Daniel L. Simmons Daniel L. Simmons’ daughter-in-law, Arcelia Simmons, confirmed to ABC News that he died in the shooting.

Simmons was a retired pastor from another church in Charleston and attended the Emanuel AME Church’s services every Sunday and Bible study every Wednesday, she said.

Susie Jackson Longtime church member Susie Jackson, 87, was confirmed as the other victim. Her grandson, Tim Jackson, told WEWS that she was a loving person with an infectious smile. “It’s real, real hard. It’s challenging because I don’t believe she deserved to go this way. It hurts to process,” he said.

Jackson was active in the church, serving on the usher board and singing in the choir, according to the ABC affiliate.

May they be our call to the making of Peace and a demand for Justice: That the people may live. May our prayers rise and lead us forward.



We Need Peace With Earth

Earth Day is tomorrow. It’s having it’s 45th birthday.

On the one hand, people are aware and involved.

On the other, we are naive, oblivious and self involved.

It’s all very hard work. Many of us do some of the things we’re supposed to. We work to reduce, recycle, reuse. We compost. We drive better cars. And all of us have secret and not so secret places where we’re not really so good.

One of the places we often fall down is in the political involvement, because corporations do all sorts of dirty things that all the bricks in the toilet and turning off the water while brushing your teeth can’t begin to touch.

I think we also pay too little attention to the sacredness of this planet. I think that because we litter, we don’t pay enough attention, we accept that things are/will be polluted. Why is it a crime to desecrate a church and not the land? it has come to this, picking up trash, working to clean up streams, protesting pollution and unsafe practices is a life of prayer. Are we ready for that?

I know the original chant said it a little differently, but my group always sang it this way:

  • Where I stand is holy
  • Holy is the ground
  • Forest, mountain, river,
  • Listen to the sound
  • Love is all around me.

In this time of the Flower Moon, when Mother Earth so generously shares her beauty and promises her bounty, let us take off our shoes and stand in grateful reverence. And then let us begin the work of Peace with the Earth.


Snow Moon Peace Prayers

A couple marries. A young husband dies. A restaurant is shot up in Göteborg. The season changes, the Moon darkens and then, ever so slowly begins to grow again. Blessed to stand by the edge of the ocean, I open my heart…

To be aware. To be grateful. To be of use. To bring Peace. To be aware. To be grateful. To be of use. To bring Peace. To be aware. To be grateful. To be of use. To bring Peace.

Today, back in my life. I have the same prayer. and did I forget to mention, to be delighted.


Sugar Moon? Lenten Moon? Peace.

Lent is no longer part of my religious tradition. Even as a child, while I recall quiet vesper services and beautiful hymnody, i don’t remember imposition of ashes or the relinquishing of a pleasure for the duration.

But of course I knew people who did… I knew lots of friends from other traditions…

It often confused me however because i could never make the connection between ice cream and the crucifixion or alcohol and hungry children. That became more and more true in my 20s and 30s as i knew people who stopped one or the other either to lose weight or to dry out. I became somewhat cynical.

So it’s lovely to have friends who take the sacrifice and the prayer practice seriously. As a ritualist, I’m always interested in ritual practice and in the ways it changes lives.

My friend Faye is a Prayer Warrior. And by that I mean two things: She lives her life in and at prayer, working at things that matter and having a rich and full life. She also can pray mightily when an occasion demands it. I believe in prayer… and I am always grateful for the focused attention that she gives a subject, if for no other reason than how she is changed by those prayers… and how she leads the way.

So when Faye sacrifices for prayer, I pay attention and I welcome the thoughtful giving over of self to make the world and her life better. I guess I’m not as impressed by people who can go 40 whole days without ice-cream… or who think that that matters… unless they’re doing something important with that time.

Aside from all that, she’s a great friend and we laugh together and puzzle at the world together — which is a great gift!

I’m still struggling with having given up cynicism and fear all that time ago. It’s an ongoing struggle. But the Lunacy of Peace is a great thing… and well worth the struggle.


Sugar Moon Lunacy and Peace

Welcome to the Sugar Moon. Right now, it’s cold and the Moon is dark. All there, but all potential.

So many names for this Moon, so many metaphors, so much going on. This will be a Moon of bitter cold and surprising warmth. The sap will rise. It’s up to us if we choose to make sugar or not.

Making sugar from sap is a slow and arduous process. It’s dangerous because boiling sugar burns… But oh, the sweetness at the end! That’s well worth the investment of time and energy. People shake their heads and say it’s lunacy to do such a thing when you can just buy the finished product at the store…

But some things that also boil down very slowly to reveal their beauty cannot be bought in the store; they must be hand-crafted. So it is with Peace.

When the sap finally rises in Minnesota, my buddy Doug taps his trees and sits by a fire in his back yard. There he contemplates both the Peace of what is and what can be. Every year at this time, I think of this Peace activist, keeping tender vigil over his slow boiling pot. Doug probably sings, he often does. He probably thinks and pokes the fire with a stick a lot. His family members join him (although in my mind, the lovely Kim only does as much or as little cold weather fire sitting as she wants!). People drop by to pick his brain and enjoy his friendship (and probably beg for some syrup.)

They take away a message of discipline, dedication, and patience — because that’s what it takes to get to the essential sweetness. Pretty much what it takes to get to Peace, too…

Blessed be, my sweet friend Doug. Here’s to syrup and Peace which both make the world sweeter. Here’s to the lunacy of taking potential and boiling it down in to reality. Strength is required… enjoyment is your decision… and why wouldn’t laughter and joy be what you chose? Step up! Sit down! It’s a long, long prayer… participation required…


Challenging Peace Lunacy

If there’s anything this Pollyanna hates to acknowledge is how challenging and sometimes painful life can be. But looking away doesn’t change that, however often we try avoidance as our coping mechanism.

Life is hard. Bad things happen. Pretending that good things always come from hard things is magical thinking. It’s true we may survive hard things, but it doesn’t always make us stronger or better. Sometimes it just makes us incredibly sad.

In the hard times, we have to search for the balm of Peace. Sometimes we find it in our friends’ or family’s love. Sometimes we find it in quiet moments of Nature. And some folks find it in loud dance music. Wherever we find respite is a good thing.

This year as we go through the year, looking at the Moon and its phases, I’m finding balm in the Moon, in the knowledge that her sweet and serene reflection is always there (even when I can’t see it.)

I like knowing that the balm of Moon shines on you and your problems at the same time. Because life is hard. Challenges do arrive. So I must take a deep breath, drink that light in, and as a favorite prayer says, forgive myself and begin again in love.