Last week I attended chapel and heard a very inspiring message from a woman who's had cancer. Looking young, vibrant and beautiful, I would never have known she was sick if she hadn't shared it. But there were many days when she was neither vibrant nor beautiful, and struggled to know where her worth lay then. A woman of faith, she strongly believes in the inherent worth of all people, but when she could not contribute to the family, to her business, nor be productive in the usual ways, she emotionally, if not mentally, questioned her worth.
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A friend recently asked me how my back was. “Good,” I replied. “No more pain; that’s over with?” he responded. “I wouldn’t say that, but it’s better,” I answered. This led to a conversation about the healing power of positive thinking, and how proclaiming my pain-free present and future self could help actualise it. My friend expressed surprise that that my strong Christian faith didn’t result in a more positive response towards my own healing, and that he, with less faith, might have more hope.
This week, I was invited to give a Facebook Live interview to share some of the stories and experiences I've had travelling in pursuit of peace. I had the chance to explain what motivated me to start CryPeace, some of people who have particularly touched and inspired me, and my hopes and dreams for the future. Brief highlights include:
I live in a wonderfully walkable neighbourhood in Toronto, the largest metropolis in Canada, so I tend to shop close to home. But a dry cleaning emergency this month led me to another pedestrian destination, Roncesvalles Village, during my lunch hour today. I was thrilled to find an adjacent eatery with healthy, vegetarian options. As I left with several meals to save time for writing and photography, I put my change in my pocket.
This year, I went to Turkey to help World Vision International share its work with Syrian refugees at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. To understand the situation on the ground more deeply, I met with some of the refugees World Vision is helping in Ṣanliurfa, 50 km north of the Syrian border. That's where I met Lamia, who was only 15 when her family fled the war in Syria. Lamia takes art classes at the Urfa Community Centre, which World Vision supports.
I love the writings of Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk who lived in America during the post-nuclear cold war. He wrote prolifically on topics including personal sanctity, nature’s praise of God (of which humans contribute the most conscious, but no means solo, voices), and the responsibility of all people of peace, and faith, to protect the earth from war.
In May, I went to Turkey to help World Vision International share its work with Syrian refugees in Gaziantep, 100 km north of Aleppo, Syria.
I’ve been involved in communications for development for many years, and have heard many inspiring stories, but so far, this one has touched me most. I was listening to Podcast Playlist on CBC Radio, a weekly show that curates great podcasts from everywhere, and they were playing a podcast about the WMMT radio station in Appalachia, USA.
It all started with a jazz station that evolved into a hip hop show. As it was unusual for the region, a listener sent a letter of appreciation to the DJ. It was from an inmate in prison.
It’s January 1, 2016 – a new year. I started it wonderfully, in my prayer chair. For Christmas, my friend gave me "Thomas Merton: A Book of Hours.” It has prayers for every day of the week, dawn, day, dusk and night. Reading the dawn prayers today started my year off beautifully.
It's advent - the season of year when Christians await the coming of Jesus anew in our hearts, in remembrance of his birth over 2,000 years ago. To celebrate, we light a candle each Sunday - one for hope, one for peace, one for joy, and one for love. This Sunday, my church asked me to light the candle of peace. As someone called to be a peacemaker, I was grateful for the chance to share some of the stories and journies of peace I have made over the years. Let me share the highlights with you.