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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Celebrating an Endless Calling

Since I've been home, actually since I left Hebron, I've been searching for the right words.  I've found plenty of emotion, but words elude me. I am going to try anyway to put some together.

I am happy to be home, to sit by my Christmas tree lovingly assembled by friends and family before I came home. I am happy to see friends and family, to experience the warmth of their physical embrace. The reach of their prayers, love, and support extended to me across thousands of miles, but I would be lying if I said I didn't miss being with them. At church the day after I arrived home, I swam into a sea of welcome and care.

I am relieved that I no longer have to make sure I have alcohol pads in my pocket to counter the effects of teargas; I no longer have to be quite so aware of my inability to protect others from burning eyes, nose, throat. I am relieved that I do not have to watch up close Palestinian children shaking in fear, Palestinian adults shaking in anger, or both deflated by circumstances over which they have no control. I am relieved that I do not have to witness young Israeli soldiers puffed with power or shrinking in shame as they attempt to seize the dignity of Palestinians. I am relieved that these scenes do not fill my physical space, though they  enter my mind, my heart, my dreams with frequency.

Even as I am happy and relieved to be here, I want to go back to Hebron. I am afraid that I will too easily forget, that I will become complacent in the ease of life I live in the U.S. I want to be in Hebron with my Christian Peacemaker Teams teammates who understand this feeling, who care passionately, who speak eloquently and share widely the truth we have witnessed together. I want to be with my teammates who tire of the reality faced daily, yet remain committed to justice, to peace, to truth, to compassion in a way that inspires me to do the same.

I went back to work for just a few hours on Monday. During prayer we heard Joan Chittister's words about commitment and enthusiasm:

Commitment and enthusiasm are two concepts that are, unfortunately, often confused. Commitment is that quality of life that depends more on the ability to wait for something to come to fulfillment—through good days and bad—than it does on being able to sustain an emotional extreme for it over a long period of time. Enthusiasm is excitement fed by satisfaction. The tangle of the two ideas, however, is exactly what leads so many people to fall off in the middle of a project.
When the work ceases to feel good, when praying for peace gets nowhere, when the marriage counseling fails to reinvigorate the marriage, when the projects and the plans and the hopes worse than fail, they fizzle, that’s when the commitment really starts. . .
When we feel most discouraged, most fatigued, most alone is precisely the time we must not quit.

I want to live a committed life. Yesterday when I was out, I saw a simple yard decoration: two giant - maybe 2-feet tall - ornaments. In between the ornaments, just as tall as they were, the word PEACE. I wish the words were in the yard all year long. These words of Parker Palmer express my reaction to the yard decorations and the life I aspire to:

As I celebrate Christmas with my family, I think about the fact that the early Quakers—my 17th Century spiritual ancestors—refused to set aside Dec. 25 as a special day.
They feared that doing so would lead them to forget that every day is holy—that peace and justice are moral imperatives all year long—that hope is always ready to be born in our hearts—that we are never free to ignore the needs of the least among us.
Memo to self: Celebrate Christmas with a full heart on Dec. 25. But understand that you're celebrating an endless calling, and keep your heart open to the world's needs 365 days a year.

We must commit ourselves to peace, to love, to each other, to the rest of the glorious creation we live in all year long. This is what God asks of us, what God invites us to do. We must display our commitment like a yard sign and we must use our bodies to live it. God - Love - asks for our commitment, but will never force it. We make the choice to commit.

As we consider God's invitation, we may wonder how we could possibly change our world, what we possibly have to offer. The beautiful thing about being created in God's divine image is that each of us has something to offer the world. Each of us has gifts uniquely suited to bringing our world to the fulfillment of God's vision. God invites us to share those gifts. It is up to us to accept the ever-open invitation.

Mary was a poor teenage girl in Galilee and reminds us that transfiguration of our world comes from even the most unlikely places and people. You are the indispensable agent of change. You should not be daunted by the magnitude of the task before you. Your contribution can inspire others, embolden others who are timid, to stand up for the truth in the midst of a welter of distortion, propaganda, and deceit; stand up for human rights where these are being violated with impunity; stand up for justice, freedom, and love where they are trampled underfoot by injustice, oppression, hatred, and harsh cruelty; stand up for human dignity and decency at times when these are in desperately short supply. 

-Desmond Tutu, God Has a Dream

As those of us who are Christians welcome the birth of the Prince of Peace, the full embodiment of Love, may we openly accept the gift and example of his life. And may all of us, regardless of our beliefs, our backgrounds, or our present reality come to know the gift that we are, the ways we, too, may embody Love.  May we recognize ourselves as indispensable agents of change. May we embrace YES as Mary did. May we respond to the endless calling of our world - to bring it closer to one in which all are treated with dignity, where mercy, forgiveness, and love guide us. May we commit ourselves to keeping our hearts open. May we never quit.

Blessings to you, your friends, your family, your enemies, to strangers, to all this holiday season. 

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