Veterans Day 2012

To tell the truth…
I like name its former name – Armistice Day – better.
The national holiday set aside to remember that day when soldiers laid down their weapons and the fighting ceased. This is in no way meant to discredit or dishonor those who are veterans or those who currently serve in our armed forces.  They know far better than I the cost and the pain and the heartbreak and the tragedy and the destruction of war.  And, they know something about peace, in real life terms, that most of the rest of us will never know.  So, as we remember Veterans Day this year and honor, in whatever way we chose those who have served, let us also dare to turn in the direction of peace so that one less soldier and one less child and one less mother and one less father becomes a causality or labeled as collateral damage.

To that end…
This quote from Dwight D. Eisenhower who knew much about the cost of war:
“Every gun that is made,
Every warship launched,
Every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense,
A theft from those who hunger and are not fed,
Those who are cold and are not clothed.
This world in arms is not spending money alone.
It is spending the sweat of it laborers,
The genius of its scientists,
The hopes of its children.”

See. Decide. Act.

I am on the Board of Directors of Bridges to Community, an organization that not only does development work in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, but also provides service learning opportunities where volunteers live in and work with communities to address basic human needs.  I got home late last night from a four day whirlwind trip to the Dominican Republic with the Board of Directors of Bridges. In the short time we were there, we visited the communities in which Bridges has worked and will be working, and also met with the leaders of those organizations with whom we will be partnering to improve schools and educational opportunities, address health related issues and provide more safer, more suitable housing for those in need.  I am always moved and troubled and made more hopeful as I walk down the dirt roads of communities like the ones we visited.

While there was much to see and to learn and to think about, the most moving part of the four days for me was sitting in a small Roman Catholic church listening to Father John. He is a Roman Catholic priest from Long Island, NY who, by choice, has lived in the Dominican Republic for the last eight years working and advocating on behalf of a people who otherwise would have little or no voice, and sometimes, little or no hope.
He had three words to say to us: See. Decide. Act.

How simple.
See.
Decide.
Act.
And, yet how difficult it is…
To risk being vulnerable enough to see the need of another.
And, to risk being daring enough to decide to do something.
And, to risk being courageous enough to actually do it.

In addition to the challenge Father John placed in front of us, several of us ended our time in the Dominican Republic reflecting on this Franciscan Benediction:
May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships;
So that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger
At the injustice, oppression and exploitation of people;
So that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed
For those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war;
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.
May God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in this world
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done. 

A Day Not Promised to You

This afternoon I will stand in a cemetery alongside a friend as we remember and celebrate and bury her grandmother. It is a moment, I think, not just to remember the person who has passed away, but to reflect on our own lives as well. Here is something of what I will share this afternoon…

Before he retired, a friend of mine used to call me up periodically to say,
“Remember, today is a day that was not promised to you, but it is a day so full of promise.”
And that is what I want to say to you today.
Today is a day that was not promised to you, but a day so full of promise.
I am hardly one to speak, because I sometimes look too far ahead and worry too much about what just happened, but the truth is the only moment that we have is the moment right now.
Where you are.
With the people around you.
I am not telling you anything that you don’t already know.
But on a day like today…
At a moment like this…
Life moves a bit deeper or a bit more into focus than we sometimes allow it.
And so I encourage you to remember…
Today is a day that was not promised to you, but a day so full of promise.

The second thing I would like to say to you is this…
When I was young I had this picture of God as being somewhere up in the sky looking down to see whether what I was doing was good or bad.  Now I think God is more about compassion and kindness and forgiveness and peace than about rules or about good and bad. And, I think of God as that which connects us to each other and to the world in which we live.  An abiding presence with us all the time; inspiring us and guiding us.  Our lives are a mixture of joys and sorrows, successes and failures, laughter and tears.  And it is not that God is with us sometimes…when life is good or we are good. And not there sometimes…when life is hard or we are struggling to find our way. That which we know and name as God is present in all those moments of our lives, and is present even now.

A Prayer for Today

A Prayer for Today

 

O God,
If we send our prayers up;
Let us also send them out.
Pushing them out into the world.
Towards the needs of others;
And, the dreams of others;
And, the sorrow of others;
And, the hopes of others.
For in some way, O God, in Your grand scheme of things
It is when we link hands and join lives;
And, when we stand with each other and for each other
That we discover You in our midst
And Your Kingdom come made present.
So, let us pray that way, O God.
For those whom we name and all those who find themselves hurting or broken or sad or alone.  And, knowing that our first and our best prayer is often Thank you, let us pray that way, O God.  Giving thanks this day and for the life and love which both surround us and sustain us.  And, having reached out towards one another with our prayers, let us also reach out towards one another with our lives.

Amen.