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Want to Know My Dream?

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The question makes me laugh: “You just inherited a dilapidated, crumbling-down grand mansion in the countryside — what do you do with it?” As it turns out, this is not a theoretical question for me. Today’s WordPress Daily Prompt is, in fact, a reality in my life.

All except the second part of the prompt, “Assuming money is no issue…” That part is definitely theoretical. Oh, and the part about it being a grand mansion. That’s not exactly true either.

What is true is that I have inherited the loveliest piece of real estate on the planet, named Quiet Hills by my grandmother Beedie who purchased the place in 1940. The old (1782) Cape Cod in the countryside of New Hampshire could probably be described as somewhat dilapidated, but I don’t see it that way. 

Quiet Hills

Quiet Hills

Because of the money issue, I don’t spend time dreaming of what it might become, I just enjoy it for what it is: a wildlife sanctuary of woods and meadows and a quaint house full of ghosts and massive old furniture, which I imagine house servants slathering with beeswax back in the day. It smells of lavender and witch hazel and my grandmother’s face powder. 

On still nights, I can hear the Ashuelot River rushing over boulders at the foot of the hill. The Hermit Thrush announces the setting of the sun, and the Great Horned Owl welcomes the falling of darkness. I can’t say what happens at dawn because that’s not my thing. I always stay up too late reading Beedie’s musty old novels to see the dawn.

But . . . but — what if I had money?

A Writer’s Haven

No question. Quiet Hills would be a retreat house for writers and nature lovers and spiritual seekers. I’d give classes in writing techniques and in contemplative spiritual practices like Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina (sacred reading). 

We would have silent retreats, too, and I’d have someone teach yoga  and tai chi. I’d set up nature trails on the property with prayer prompts along the way, and build a prayer labyrinth with benches and weeping birch trees around the edges. People would frequently have life-changing spiritual epiphanies there.

Prayer labyrinth

Prayer labyrinth

I’d run a bed & breakfast for my retreatants, and every morning my helper would get up early and make a humongous country breakfast. Our speciality would be blueberry muffins with berries from our fields and fresh butter from two dairy cows who roam the meadows and come into the old coach house for milking. And eggs, too, from my chickens who eat the pests in the vegetable garden where lush tomato vines are heavy with warm fruit and the aroma of sweet basil is overpowering. There would be no meat in our meals, and no one would miss it.

Eggs, not meat

Eggs, not meat

I’d fix up the massive barn; one end would be a huge picture window overlooking the woods — that’s where we would hold workshops, and there would be sleeping quarters in the lofts above. In the corners of the barn I’d have mounds of brightly colored handmade quilts for people to snuggle into each autumn and to spread out in the meadows for writing and naps in the summer. 

I’d get custom-made windows for the main house, and insulation, so I could be there in the winters, too. I’d build a big stone hearth and fireplace in the living room where the small wood-burning stove is now, and expand the kitchen to fit several long tables where people could eat together. Why not put a fireplace in the kitchen, too? And a big bay window with lots of hummingbird feeders just outside. Everyone would marvel at the constant comings and goings of the hovering jewels.

I’d have all new (but vintage) wallpaper and curtains and oriental rugs, and wall-to-ceiling bookcases in every room, because after all, this is a writer’s retreat. I’d have lots of bathrooms, and instead of the dug wells that run dry in August, there would be an artesian well sunk deep into cold, underground springs. There would be a jacuzzi. 

Best of all, Quiet Hills B&B retreat house would be free for those who couldn’t afford my already reasonable rates. Money should be no hindrance to dreams.

And that, WordPress Daily Prompt, is what I would do with my dilapidated inheritance if I had money. Now – please tell me that this is actually a contest, and I win, and the prize is that you’re going to fund my dream. 

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The Plane Crash that Killed a Million People

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We still don’t know who shot down the plane, but we do know that the death toll was between 500,000 and one million people. We aren’t talking about a disaster movie; unfortunately, this is a true story.

The people weren’t on the plane, obviously, they were on the ground. And — also obviously — that many people on the ground couldn’t have been crushed by one plane.

No, these people were crushed by fear and hatred of “the other.”

Lest We Forget Rwanda

It was nineteen years ago today that Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane fell from the skies, the target of either a Tutsi military organization (the president was a Hutu) or Hutu extremists who wanted to prompt a mass “revenge” killing of Tutsi people.

My guess is it was the latter, because within hours of the plane crash, the slaughter began, led by Hutu extremists in the army and the police force. For several years, the president had been whipping up anti-Tutsi sentiment, hoping to build his power base among his Hutu people. Hundreds of Tutsis had already been massacred by the time the civil war officially began nineteen years ago tomorrow.

English: President Juvénal Habyarimana of RWAN...

President Juvenal Habyarimana

Whichever side shot down the plane, Hutu extremists took advantage of the assassination, and the all-out slaughter of Tutsis and moderate Hutus was on. The resulting ethnic genocide was the worst since World War II.

The day after the plane crash, April 7, 1994, ten Belgian peacekeepers were murdered, which led to the withdrawal of U.N. forces from Rwanda and the ultimate death of 75% of the Tutsi people living in Rwanda, many hacked to death by their neighbors after radio stations urged the Hutu majority to kill all the Tutsis.

President Bill Clinton called his failure to do anything to stop the genocide “the biggest regret” of his presidency.

If you have never seen the movie Hotel Rwanda, please watch it. For the world’s sake.

Let’s not forget.

Compassion Fatigue

We hear about compassion fatigue – it’s often talked about in reference to professional caregivers or to those who are caring for loved ones. But it’s true on a global scale as well. Too true. Our human psyches weren’t meant to be subjected to atrocities, day after day, year after year. We tune it out. We numb ourselves.

Your memory banks are probably full of the echoes of TV and radio reports about various genocides, your brains pulsating with color pictures of slaughters “somewhere else.”

But there is no “somewhere else,” folks. Sometimes the slaughters are carried out with assault weapons in our neighborhood schools. Sometimes they come in the shape of airplanes plowing into skyscrapers. And sometimes they come at the hands of a broken military veteran who witnessed human carnage and was himself massacred by the psychological aftermath.

We can’t afford to let compassion fatigue win out. We must – we must – remember these atrocities and the victims, living and dead and damaged. We can’t stop the cycle if we ignore it.

But what can we do, just a bunch of Americans on our couches, hunched over our computers? Read on….

Hope amidst the Hate

I am a member of Bloggers for Peace, a group of idealistic bloggers who pledge to write about peace at least once a month. Thinking that if we send enough hope for peace into the cosmos, surely it will return to the earth.

Last month, I told you about a friend of mine who works with mothers in the Niger Delta promoting peace.

With this post, I want to tell you about several other amazing friends of mine. A few years back, a couple of us went to Africa together. We met a man from Rwanda, Steven, who had been a Christian missionary knocking on doors and handing out leaflets. When he realized that many of the doors he knocked on were answered by orphans who had no adults in the house, he decided he could probably do something more useful than hand them a Bible tract. So he took a few kids into his home. Then a few more, then…

Youth

Some of Steven’s Crew

Pastor Steven

Pastor Steven

Well, you won’t believe what one person can do. And the thing is, he’s not just one person anymore. A few of my friends on that African trip went to meet Steven’s orphans in Rwanda, while I went to the slums of Nairobi to work alongside widows with HIV.

My friends Lori and Kelly were so taken with Steven and his growing family of refugees that they started a new organization called African Road to help support the kids. They are working to provide housing for orphans, micro-enterprise business assistance for mothers, and education for young people.

Please visit their website to hear this remarkable story of hope. This is what can happen when we see ourselves in “the other” – when instead of looking for differences between us, we look for the heart of God in each person.

Kudos to Lori and Kelly! And thank you, readers, for sticking with me till the end of yet-another-genocide story. Perhaps you will consider making a donation to African Road here in honor of this regrettable anniversary.

May the anniversary of the start of the Rwandan civil war remind us that it does not have to be this way.

Please join me in praying for peace. Every day.

Peace to you.

Related Articles:

http://bloggers4peace.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/kozo-cheri-asks-that-you/

Bloggers for Peace — I urge you to join us!

Six Tips on How to Rise from the Dead

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Today is the day that Christians celebrate what seems the silliest premise of their religion (the virgin birth being a close second). Resurrection from the dead.

Mystery

Mystery

Somewhere in the Bible, one of Jesus’ followers says something like, “Well, of course it sounds crazy – if it sounded sane, it wouldn’t take any faith to believe in it!” Good point.

I’m just crazy enough to believe in this stuff, and I thank God (oh – there I go again) that I do. At times I read the Bible and think, “What??” But at other times, the words go down like a draught of pure truth and transcendental joy.

Still, it is not just “crazy” Bible stories that make me believe; it is also my personal experience — the miracles I have experienced in my own “resurrection.” I know for a fact that I would not have had the strength to overcome drug addiction, or Marlboro Lights for that matter, without the power of prayer.

More miraculous are the “smaller” things I’ve experienced through the grace of God, which aren’t really smaller at all. They are all addictions in their own right. I am NOT here to tell you I’ve recovered from any of these. But I have definitely made progress in the twenty years I’ve been a committed Christian, and as they say, “progress, not perfection.” I have been raised from the dead zone of many a curse.

So here are six tips on how you can rise from the dead . . . whether or not you think Jesus did.

1. Get over yourself.

You are not the center of the universe. Other people are just as important as you are. The best way to do this is to have a kid – then they become the center of your universe.

The Center of the Universe

The Center of the Universe

But I didn’t have one of those, so I have had to work harder at this one. Humiliating and embarrassing myself works well, so I do this regularly.

2. Embrace it: nobody is any better than you are.

This is a careful balance with #1. I find that most people are a bizarre mix of grandiosity and massive low self-esteem. It’s weird. Anyway, you are a beautiful gift to the universe –please accept and love yourself, unconditionally and just the way you are. There has never been and never will be another you. I am glad you are alive.

3. You have unique contributions to make with your life. You should not waste the chance.

It’s important to get #1 and #2 above balanced, or you might miss your chance to help bend the arc of history towards love and justice. Because as Episcopal priest Cynthia Bourgeault writes, even if you are doing “good things,” if you  have unhealthy motivations (getting noticed, being loved, even getting to heaven) then you could actually be putting negative energy into the universe.

4. You can’t help much in the world – you probably won’t even want to – unless you stop feeling sorry for yourself.

Victimhood. Oh my God, don’t get me started. When I see this in myself, and I often do, I immediately do some serious spiritual intervention in the form of prayer and journaling and sometimes even fasting, if it’s a doozy. I think the fastest way to change your life — to rise up from under – is to drop your expectations of the world and other people. You will be so much happier, and so will your family and friends. Expectations are just pre-meditated resentments.

5. Forgive yourself and other people.

We are all broken, messed up people, and we will all hurt each other (and ourselves) horribly. Release yourself from the burdens of resentment, anger, guilt, and bitterness. Obsess instead about how lovely the spring flowers are.

Easter 2013 015 Easter 2013 010 Easter 2013 007 Easter 2013 008 Easter 2013 002

Which leads me to this most important resurrection tip:

6. Practice gratitude.

If you release the victimhood curse, gratitude will naturally follow. It is the best gift you can give yourself and the world. There’s no earthly reason you should have woken up breathing this morning, but you did. Be grateful for that. And for a roof over your head, people you love, pets to feed, coffee or tea to drink, gifts that you have that you can share with the world. Perhaps you might want to make a gratitude list in celebration of this new day, this new life that you can choose if you want. Rise up from the things that hold you down! Even if you don’t believe in Jesus and you’re not celebrating Easter, a gratitude list might be a nice present to yourself on this particular Sunday. Maybe a few chocolate eggs, too.

And if you are a Christian, I wish you a meaningful and joyful Easter day! May you be constantly mindful of swimming in an ocean of love and rising on a cloud of hope. Amen.

Lenten Rose

Lenten Rose

What are you grateful for this Easter??

Every Day Disasters

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The wind is picking up. The red and gold leaves seem to have surrendered quickly to the hurricane, dropping overnight in the introductory rain. People don’t surrender that easily. Here in the mid-Atlantic region, we’re dug in.

Since there seems very little chance of us having power for the next few days, we’ve stocked our cupboards with PB & J, our freezers are filled with ice, and we have bags of batteries placed next to our flashlights and candles.

“People are Going to Die in this Storm”

Our governor has ordered people off the roads for the next 36 hours, saying, “People are going to die in this storm.” (Thanks for that, Gov.) Apparently, Sandy intensified overnight, so the winds and flooding from the Chesapeake’s tributaries will be worse than predicted, which was bad enough.

My cats evacuated their beds and took shelter in the hall closet hours ago. They must feel the pressure dropping.

Oh No, Oh No!

I feel afraid. Of what?  Floods, trees through the roof, friends or family being hurt, damage to my new screened porch.

And there are the inconveniences. I contemplate not having electricity to boil my tea water for a few days, and the lack of a hot shower. Maybe having to throw away a lot of food.

Since the sewage treatment plants will likely flood and contaminate the drinking supply, I’ve filled all my plant-watering jugs with fresh water. What happens if the sewage system backs up? Do I have enough toilet paper? Oh no, oh no.

And then I remember:

  • 2.6 billion people in the world don’t have a toilet
  • One-quarter of the world’s population does not have electricity
  • 780 million people in the world do not have access to clean drinking water – 2 ½ times the population of the U.S.
  • 870 million people in the world don’t have enough to eat, and 1 in 6 in America know hunger.

This is every day. Every. Day.

Gratitude and Prayer

Today I’m grateful for my roof, my refrigerator, my toilet, my cats. Did you know there are 50 million stray cats in the U.S.? I am glad that mine have a closet to hide in.

I just blogged on this, but I’ll mention it again, as we await the impending chaos here in our Nation’s Capitol. How come our leaders aren’t talking about climate change? It’s here, my friends.

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/10/24/hey-you-guys-with-the-microphones-fire/

I didn’t mean for this post to be a downer. I hope that if you, like me, are sitting and waiting for Sandy, you’ll take a few moments to be grateful and to say a prayer for the people in the world who struggle to simply stay alive. Every day.

Stay safe, fellow East-coasters. Talk to you on the other side of the power outages.

 

Here’s what people in Times Square have to say about their impending disaster:

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