artisans for peace...

Two conversations in the last 24 hours have touched my heart deeply, reminding me yet again that we walk by faith not by sight. The first took place outside on a coffeehouse terrase sharing tea with a colleague. It was a perfect Berkshire morning with sun, a light breeze and no humidity. My friend is going deeper into the practice of contemplation and training for spiritual direction. The other took place this morning inside my study via Skype with a friend from the L'Arche community. They are anticipating the 45 anniversary of their  Ottawa community this fall and gearing up for a joyfully simple celebration. Both friends expressed something of the embodied wisdom and tenderness of God to me simply by their being. And in ways greater than words, I was renewed.

In his April 2017 letter to the international L'Arche community, Jean Vanier speaks of discerning signs of God's budding presence within and among us. "Where in our world is spring time?" he asks.

With so many different situations in Syria and Iraq, the continued growth of Israeli settlements, the fears of terrorism, the turmoil around the presidential elections, the economic difficulties, and the poor who become poorer. In all that, where is America and what will be the future for Europe? So many, many questions! Where is the springtime of a new world?

Watch, watch closely, those who are rising up and walking in the footsteps of greatness, the greatness of Nelson Mandela (28 years in prison and yet he never doubted that justice would triumph over injustice), Martin Luther King and Dorothy Day in the US, Sophie School, Pope Francis with Justin Welby the Archbishop of Canterbury, and so many other great ones who work towards ending the separation between rich and poor. There are so many people today who work toward uniting the human family, search to do works of peace, meeting people wounded by abandonment, rejection and anguish, struggling to make our beautiful earth a place of life, freed from abuse and avarice. (read more @http://jean-vanier.org/en/home)

Like many heart-centered people, we find ourselves overwhelmed with grief and fear. There
is an energy running amok among us that has been seduced by hatred and enslaved to violence. If you have seen the recent NRA membership video - truly a vulgar exercise in fear mongering and white supremacy - you can't help but be concerned. (Check out Bill Moyers' insightful take on this @ http://billmoyers.com/story/new-low-nra/) The current political regime has emboldened the allies of chaos and they are taking full advantage of their time in the sun. Niebuhr used to tell us:  the children of darkness are much better at taking advantage of the hour than the children of light. To which Vanier replies:  "In a world such as our own, which is so divided, are we not called to... move towards those people with whom we feel less comfortable, to listen to them and to respect them?"

At the moment, I am very touched by two people, very different, who both work for peace. One is Vera Baboun, a Palestinian woman, who is Mayor of the town of Bethlehem, and whose motto is: "Grace is born from the womb of suffering." She has written a magnificent book, Pour L'amour de Bethlehem, ma ville emmuree (For the love of Bethlehem, my walled city.) The other is Yakir Englander, born oa Hassidic Jew in Jerusalem, who tries to help young Jews and Palestinians meet each other so that they can work together with those living in poverty. On both sides of the wall separating Israel and Palestine, these young people are working for peace.

Vanier asks the question that my two friends embodied and that fuels my own heart: How can each of us become an artisan for peace?  As I consider this challenge, two words take on gravitas:  artisan and peace. An artisan practices and nourishes his or her craft with patience and clarity. In a throw-away world, many artisans have been rendered obsolete yet their presence is crucial.  Living in this small city surrounded by small farms, there are still enough artisans to help teach us what it means to creatively practice your craft. My car mechanic is one such healer; rather than soak his customers with inflated dealership prices, he cobbles together repairs to fit a working person's budget. A local luthier does much the same thing with instruments both old and new.

Their lives suggest to me that being an artisan for peace has something to do with bringing creativity and patience to birth, yes?  No one hit wonders here, just women and men willing to carefully retool what is broken and share their hearts quietly without fuss or ego. I felt that on July 4 as we sang songs of freedom and resistance marching through the streets of Pittsfield.  This wasn't a concert - it was a community event - where song leaders helped empower everyday people to sing a simple but long forgotten song. I sense the invitation to live as an artisan for peace in my movement towards the L'Arche Ottawa community, too. Even the worship series I am doing this summer re: spiritual practices series for 21st century people seems like a piece of the puzzle, too. Vanier concludes with this challenge: We are healed by those who are most excluded and rejected if we live with them in a relationship of friendship.


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