giving thanks (again)

Thursday 4 December 2008

I meant to post this last week (on Thanksgiving proper), but I guess I hit the wrong button.  So here it is:

I’m never quite sure why people read old blog posts or how people even find some of them (though the stats wordpress gives me tell me some of the more popular old posts are found through various kinds of searches).  So it was somewhat surprising to see last week someone had clicked on one of my posts from last November that, when I saw the title, I didn’t know what it was about.  It was good, though, because it got me to read my own post again and realize that the same feelings rang true, almost a year later.  The post was a reflection for Thanksgiving upon that which I was, and still now am, most thankful for.  So if you don’t mind, I wanted to just point you to that post again, encouraging you to give thanks for that which is most important to you as you read what is most important to me.

giving thanks

Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you might be.

bell choirs

Monday 1 December 2008

I’m really not a fan of bell choirs.  I’m not quite sure what it is, but I’ve just never found them or the music they provide very appealing.  I can stand them alright, I suppose, and when they work with a vocal choir and other instruments, they’re not really so bad, but they just aren’t for me.  However, as I listened to another performance by a bell choir this weekend (I don’t seek them out — they just happen), I actually was edified by their music, but not by the music itself but instead by the way in which they demonstrated the importance of working together.

So while I have witness on one occasion a song played by one person with a multitude of bells (and I must say, it was a sight to see), the standard setup is for each person to play between 2 and 4 bells on the right beats, together with a good number of others creating a tune as if one were playing the piano.  In the best of situations this can be totally spot on, but in the worst of cases it can end in a train wreck if one person plays on the wrong beat and things spiral from there.

In a bell choir, everyone’s actions affect the outcome of the whole piece.  In a band or choir, things can usually sound pretty good even if one person messes up or sings out of key, but in a bell choir, everything is magnified, and it’s pretty easy to recognize flubs.  As a member, you must let go of control of the outcome and allow others to do their part while you do yours and hope that it all turns out alright.

Such is life, too — we’re all connected in an interdependent web where my actions can ultimately affect a multitude of others around the world.  It can be as blatant as a few people’s greed and impatience (both the individuals and the store that took no precautions) that can cause the death of an innocent employee, or as seemingly disconnected as the choices one makes about buying or not buying items that provide a living wage for the worker, soon forcing them out of their job.

Sure, it’s easy to forget about the others we relate to, whether physically or abstractly, but if we forget about these connections, we’re eventually bound to hurt those we’re connected to.  As we approach the end of another year, let us think about the ways we’re all in this together and how we might need to change our actions and our lives out of honor and respect for the others living in this world with us.

keeping up the energy

Wednesday 30 April 2008

Sometimes it’s hard to find the energy to wake up each morning and fight against injustice, and after the events of a day like today, it would be easy to give up and say, “to hell with the world.”  I won’t recount to you my entire day (at least not in this post), but I will share with you one of the unfortunate events of the day: learning that the orphanage sewing workshop, whose story I had been following closely, was last night invaded by soldierswho stole all the materials and equipment, a workshop that was used to earn money for the girls orphanage (read the story tagged above and previous stories).

In a conversation today, the enormity of the horrors of this world were all too clear, and the ease at which one might give up on a positive future were very much apparent.   But near the end of the conversation, I recalled to the group the sixth of Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s Six Principles of Nonviolence: “Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.”  Or to phrase it another why I heard, “the arch of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

I certainly feel that I couldn’t be working toward a world full of love, justice, and peace if I didn’t feel that — some day in the future — it was possibility to accomplish these things.  Many might categorize me as naive or unrealistic to think some “utopia” of a world is possible, but I say, “why not?”  There may be some kind of evil or badness is us, but I also know that there is a whole lot of love and humanity in every person out there, and we as a species need to cultivate that love and humanity in those around us.

In a world with so much out there to depress and frustrate us, we are called to avoid apathy and ignorance and to build relationships and work toward peace and justice.  It is our duty to love and to seek out ways that all around us might find that love.  We must work to break down the barriers that separate us and blind us to our commonalities and work to truly find what unites us as a common humanity.

the people in your life

Tuesday 19 February 2008

Ever since my blog about 1 million Iraqis being killed in the past 5 years, I’ve been thinking about whether or not I actually might know a million people. The perfectionist in me wants to make an excel spreadsheet list of all the people I’ve met (and remember enough to write down) in the past 25 or so years of my life, but the realist in me knows that would take quite a while and probably not be worth it in the end — and it would likely become just another list I’d want to keep track of as I meet more people, kind of like my ever changing list of movies I’ve seen (those I want to see but haven’t just aren’t rated).  Plus, it would kind of be sad, deconstructing the humanity of relationships into simple spreadsheet.

So instead of turning my life into meaningless statistics, I instead try to think about all the lives of others that have intersected mine. There are definitely people I’ve been in the same room with that I’ve ran across but I would not say I “met” and certainly never “knew” them. And there are surely people who’ve “known” me but I never had contact with — those students for who my name came up in conversation and who were aware of my presence but for who I wasn’t their teacher would be one example. If you let the idea of “knowing” someone require the act of an introduction and/or conversation having taken place, the list becomes a little more exclusive, but even then I’m still amazed at the variety and abundance of people I’ve met and places I’ve met them.

School is one of the larger segments of ways I know people. Since I went to such a small school containing pretty much the same people K-12, perhaps I know fewer people than others that way, though with that small town, too, I came to know most of the people in the community in one way or another, and they can’t be forgotten about. I also know a lot of people form college — classes, dorms, and students groups — and if facebook would have came around a few years earlier, I might have a better estimate of just how many people that might have been.

Church and groups with a spiritual aspect are definitely another big connection for me. I’ve attended (regularly) about 4 churches in my life and have built lasting relationships with people in all of them. I’ve also attended many conferences, retreats, assemblies, and gatherings where I added more people to my “list.” I’ve met and formed many amazing relationships with those associated with Lutheran Volunteer Corps — volunteers, LVC staff, and the many people I met during my trip or otherwise recruiting for LVC. And this section would in no way be complete if I didn’t mention Camp Mowana. I’ve probably worked with around 100 people who were on staff while I was there, and then there are the hundreds, if not thousands, of campers and pastors/volunteers who I met during my time as a counselor. Because I have an issue with names, many of those campers would probably be slighted in a name-specific list format, so that’s another reason not to make one.

And then you have all the other somewhat random ways in which I’ve met people — parties, game night, community organizing, friends of friends, rugby/curling/frisbee/etc., jobs/work not listed above — I’m sure I could name many more ways. I invite you to reminisce about the many people who have stepped in (and maybe out) of your life, making it what it is today, for they are the ones who have truly brought it joy and meaning.

And I invite you (as always) to leave some of your comments about ways you’ve met some of the people in your life and why you find them special — be as specific or as general as you’d like, but I think it’s good to really give credit to those who make this life worth living.


Saturday 16 February 2008

Lament is a word that we rarely use in our daily life.  It’s a word that’s gone out of style, so to speak, even though the 25th book of the Bible is named in relation to the process of lamenting (Lamentations).  But I was on the bus today, thinking about some things that cross my mind on occasion, and I realized what I was doing was lamenting. defines lament as, among other things, “to feel, show, or express grief, sorrow, or regret.”

As I look back at some relationships and friendships I’ve been a part of that have now ended or turned sour, I lament the fact that there was this time when things were different than they are now.  I look back with fond memories of the things we did and fun times we shared that will never happen again.  I think about what memories and experiences I might have had to have given up to avoid the new status of these relationships, and I wonder if it would have been worth giving those days up to be in a different place.

“Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” —  Alfred Lord Tennyson.  (And I believe this can be applied to more than romantic love, too.)  (Some other good quotes, too)

Sometimes I agree with Mr. Tennyson, and sometimes I don’t.  I was having a good (online) conversation last month, talking about how relationships change, and my friend made me realize that certain situations aren’t made to last, so we shouldn’t be disappointed when they don’t.  A girl confided to someone I know that she really liked “the chase,” and sometimes it was the chase she wanted more than the relationship that might come out of it.  And I would agree that there is something to be said (positively) for that “questioning/exploration” time for two people, but I’ve lamented that sometimes that leads to a souring of things.  And I’ve enjoyed being in relationships, too, but when the end means things are different than when they began, I lament.  But I’m also coming to terms with the fact that things can never (and shouldn’t) stay the same; they need to develop in one way or another — and sometimes the development is negative.

There are memories which I cherish deeply, but as I recognize that they are now only memories of feelings and circumstances which will never return, I lament.

I think lamenting is a healthy and necessary process by which one comes to terms with an issue and looks toward the future.  I wish you all beautiful lamentations as you find peace with your life’s disappointments and look forward to all the glorious memories yet to be created.