Charlottesville: Standing Against Hatred

Here in Virginia our hearts are wobbling after senseless bigoted violence pounded the city of Charlottesville. Nestled in beautiful Shenandoah and Blue Ridge Appalachian mountains, this is where Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia. I spent four years as an undergrad @ UVA where everyone is welcome: the best and brightest from our state, country & around the world. The only challenge I had with my African American first year roommate: guys were extra nice to me to meet her because she was so very beautiful! (Then she would introduce them to her fiancé’s picture on the wall.)  🙂 Open multicultural learning experiences, like mine in Charlottesville, make what happened there so hard to fathom. White nationalist extremists wrecked horrifying havoc in this peaceful university town with bigotry, racism, hatred and violence. Our hearts and prayers are with the families of those killed and with the injured of body and mind.

As condemnation filled our televisions and social media feeds, it was alarming to see defamatory rhetoric pushing shaky lines of hard-won peaceful coexistence back to the stone age of prejudice.

In the aftermath, heated divisiveness plays the blame game.

All hearts and minds need to understand that we are all equally beloved of God, whether we are pink, purple, black, green or blue (or red-headed, like this white chick.)

All white people did not do this. Extremists did.

It’s hard in the face of intense hatred to look past our fear and mistrust, but we must.

I need to see the me in you, and you need to see the you in me.

We’re all part of this human family.

Hebron

Working in the Middle East in the 1990s, I experienced hatred up close in the Palestinian city of Hebron where extremist Jewish settlers made life difficult for the civilian population. At the behest of the Hebron mayor, the international Christian Peacemaker Teams served as a non-violent buffer protecting local families. After a young American Mennonite member was severely beaten by settlers, the next Saturday a diverse group of us joined the CPT-ers  – including Rabbis for Human Rights, international NGO representatives (like me), and a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust.

Jewish, Muslim, Christian, atheist, Israeli, Palestinian, and internationals from all over, we stood together while armed extremist settlers spewed venom at us. I’ve never experienced such ugly unadulterated hatred as from their hurled slurs, shouts, gestures and threats.

It was easy to be scared, but standing together against hate our disparate hands and hearts were interwoven with a unifying belief in equality and the equitable worth of despotized people(s.)

No one was beaten or harmed that day.

Ibrahimi Mosque, Hebron

Later that day we passed by the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba to see the shrine-like memorial erected for Baruch Goldstein, an Israeli doctor who attacked Muslim worshipers at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, killing 29 and injuring 125 before he was killed. The Holocaust survivor with us refused to look. He said, “I’m not the only survivor of my entire family to witness this travesty honoring a mass murderer.”

Baruch Goldstein was an extremist. Those settlers were Kach extremists.

We were there together with Israelis who chose to stand up for others, who were horrified by the actions of these extremists.

I get it that there are times to stand against systems of injustice (like I stood between uzi-toting soldiers and Palestinian children in Gaza, and at the same time decried Palestinian extremists blowing up Israeli civilians.) Although I worked in the Palestinian context, I also had Israeli friends who risked their lives documenting human rights abuses. Others, like a beautiful friend from Netanya who crossed challenging checkpoints to stay with me in Bethlehem, built bridges of hope through reconciliation initiatives.

After working there, later documenting mass graves in the Kosovo relief program, traipsing around Bosnia and Croatia, seeing East Timor recovering from injustice to freedom, working with Congolese refugees in Tanzania (& so on) I have developed a simplistic view. There are courageous people standing against extremists all over this globe. There are hope-filled, peace loving Palestinians, Israelis, Albanians, Bosnians, Croatians, Serbs, East Timorese, Indonesians, Congolese… (there are also extremist Palestinians, Israelis, Serbs, Indonesians, et all.)

Kosovo, 1999

What does all this have to do with Charlottesville, VA?

“The acts of a few are not representative of the many.” Those white extremists do NOT represent this white chick. Not now, not EVER. Nor my family, nor my friends of diverse ethnicities, orientations and religions.

Let’s counter our fears and acts of extremism by building bridges of peace, one step of understanding at a time, not letting acts of a few shutter our hearts to the value each of us inherently have as human beings.

Life is a gift. All life is a gift.

The Rotunda @ The University of Virginia

To the people of Charlottesville and the great commonwealth of Virginia, to people of hope and action all over our country and around our whacked out world, we need to put our hearts and hands together to STAND AGAINST extremists, bigotry, racism, hatred and violence.

Let our hearts stand up for love (and our knees, even if a little wobbly.)

Let’s stand up for peace, dignity and equality of all with love from Above. Not some more than others, but all molded as uniquely crafted works of our Creator, equally precious in every shade and hue.

Let’s open our hearts and minds to encounter everyone equally as beings beloved of God.

Let’s STAND AGAINST HATRED in CHARLOTTESVILLE and EVERYWHERE!

grace, peace & hearts (standing together)

Virginia

“It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” Eleanor Roosevelt

p.s. Yes, I’m Virginia, from the state of Virginia, and I went to the University of Virginia (=VA 3 !)

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Lord, Please Save Me (us, you, them-all!)

With what’s happened in Charlottesville this weekend (so unbelievable in the sleepy university town where I spent four years as an undergrad) and with our Gospel readings for today (about Peter walking on the water), I dusted off this prayer written during the early days of my parental care-giving gig (which got a little overwhelming, at times!)  Maybe today we can say, “Lord, please save US!”

Saint Peter jumped out of the boat and walked on the water to Jesus. It was a fine time until he looked down: there was no ground, just deep sea all around. His faith step faltered and he started to sink, then cried out: Lord, please save me! Today I tried that walking on water faith thing, but when the going got tough, like St. Peter I prayed:

Lord, Please Save Me

(the surf down here is getting rough!)

+++++++

Waves of frustration swell the shores of my anger

(nothing is going my way today)

shake – rattle – let go

Lord, please save me!!

Waves of self-doubt stir up the shores of my insecurities

(I am just a nothing nobody)

shake – rattle – look up

Lord, please save me!!

Waves of apathy crush my empathy for the suffering in this world

(there’s already too much on my plate)

shake – rattle – look around

Lord, please save me!!

Waves of fear freeze my courage muscles

(can’t, won’t, NOT, too scared to try)

shake – rattle – work them out

Lord, please save me!!

Waves of mold muddle the shores of my mildewed mind

(too much mindlessness, too little mind-filled-ness)

shake –rattle – be transformed

Lord, please save me!

Waves of helplessness hash the shores of my abilities

(challenges are TOO big, I am TOO small)

shake – rattle – take a leap of faith

Lord, please save me!

Waves of doubt drain the shores of my faith

(why now? why this? why ME?)

shake – rattle – believe

Lord, please save me!

Waves of love surround the shores of my prickly heart

(what’s that soft knocking I hear?)

shake – rattle – open up

Lord, please save me!

Waves of joy shower the shores of my sadness

(Beautiful Savior, come to save me!)

shake – rattle – be lifted up

Lord, please save me!

Waves of mercy wash the shores of my thirsty heart

(Holy Redeemer, forgive me!)

shake – rattle – receive

Lord, please save me!

 

OH LORD

– THE SURF DOWN HERE IS GETTING ROUGH –

PLEASE SAVE US!!

grace, peace & stormy weather

: /   Virginia  : )

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Snapshots & Whatnot: Inspiring Street Art

With all the negative (kinda frightening) global goings-on, here’s a little inspiration today to stretch our mind (& smile) muscles.  

SNAPSHOT…

Traipsing out and about with my niece a few weeks ago in Newport News (our closest big city), I looked down on the ground to encounter this uplifting street art. ‘Twas a rainy and gloomy afternoon, yet this well-worn pavement glowed with a message of hope.

Trampled by cars, traversed by feet, missed by most, this upbeat street art was there despite it all. 

It made me chuckle, it made me smile, it lifted me over the gloomies (for awhile.)

& WHATNOT…

Maybe we don’t feel there’s anything to smile about?

Sometimes in the midst of a global crisis or in the face of seemingly insurmountable personal challenges, a smile can be an act of courage. Full on, straight up, COURAGE.

I’m going to smile, despite it all, because I CAN choose to do it. Instead of clouding the ground with frowns, I’m choosing to share sunshine.

Maybe you (& I) think that’s sentimental sap. But I’m super serious – sometimes sharing sunshine is downright hard amidst a typhoon, hurricane, tornado (whatever.)

Years ago I developed a smile strategy while living in a conflict zone. Passing through military checkpoints multiple times each day my distemper spewed grumpy frowns. I decided to switch my attitude (with exerted effort) to smiles all around. The soldiers thereafter were so disarmed they usually passed me through with out much ado.  🙂

You see, a smile works two ways. It lifts the smiler (working out internal hope muscles to share a little joy) and the smilee (the recipient, who may wonder what’s up with the smiler, but still, the aura of a nice smile lasts awhile.)

Because a smile says something. It says ‘hey you, you are special!’ Yes, YOU, I’m smiling at you. (Not a creepy smile, mind you, something nice.)

Inspiring street art? Yes, if we let it motivate us to share a smile with others who might be low on hope reserves (& increase our own hope meters in the process.)

“Let us always meet each other with a smile, for a smile is the beginning of love.” Mother Teresa (Saint Teresa of Calcutta)

grace, peace & SMILES!

Virginia : )

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Saint Ignatius of Loyola: Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

So that’s Latin. Since I (& maybe you) didn’t study Latin, here’s what it means:

“To the Greater Glory of God”Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

A noble motto from Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits (literally followers of Jesus) whose feast day we celebrate 31 July (today!)

I am a groupie of Saint Ignatius (1491-1556), a Spanish noble who, after making major life changes during convalescence from a serious battle wound, totally devoted his life to Jesus Christ then enlisted buddies to join him in a new way of living, thinking & doing. Approved by Pope Paul III in 1540, this fledgling order founded universities, sent missionaries (ever wonder why so many schools are called St. Xavier?) and developed super spiritual prayer muscles while being the hands and feet of Jesus to those around them.

Notwithstanding a bit of turmoil along the way, the Jesuits and the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius have endured 475+ years. Today Jesuits continue to serve in many ways: educating students in universities & schools, assisting refugees (Jesuit Refugee Service), through churches (Holy Trinity in DC a favorite), facilitating spiritual growth (retreat centers, Spiritual Exercises workshops, books, podcasts), sharing faith in Jesus, providing social commentary (America Magazine, a fav) & so much more.

As we celebrate the life of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Jesuits the world over, including our beloved Pope Francis, here are a few inspirational quotes from Saint Ignatius for our minds & hearts to munch on:

“Go forth and set the world on fire.”

“To give, and not to count the cost
to fight, and not to heed the wounds,
to toil, and not to seek for rest,
to labor, and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do thy will.”

“Laugh and grow strong.”

“Speak little, listen much.”

“He who carries God in his heart bears heaven with him wherever he goes.” 

And, once again, the Jesuit motto: Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.

May all we do today be for the greater glory of God!

grace, peace & Spiritual Exercising

Virginia : )

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Multifarious ViNyL 1980s Music (& ever-evolving me)

Last week John Scalzi posted a Crowded House song (over on his Whatever blog) that reminded me of multiple Split Enz albums stashed in storage the past 20+ years. I’d been meaning to unearth my hibernating collection, so launched operation album rescue to see if any of those oldies (but goodies) could be resuscitated.

Surprisingly, after 20+ years in storage the vinyl held up (only 2 lost to warped-album attrition.) My turntable did not fare so well (belt disintegrated) but my ‘80s stereo amplifier and speakers work like new. Zipped out to acquire a replacement turntable @ store (thankfully there was one in the very back.) At checkout, I asked the two young men if they remembered turntables? One looked at me like I crawled out from under a retro rock while the other quipped, “oh yes, my grandmother had one!”

Ahem. As I walked out with my new acquisition (feeling a bit old) I encountered a young student wearing an oversized t-shirt emblazoned with The Cure (a famous 1980s band.) She was amazed I knew who they were (uh, had all their music & saw them in concert in D.C. @ the 9:30 Club?) Then I was amazed when she told me how her dad had restored an old 1980s turntable system so she could play their albums “retro-authentic.”

This week it’s been like Christmas, with Virginia the DJ having fun amidst hundreds of albums. Some groups I had forgotten (completely) yet when I played the first measures, voila, time warp back to the angst of high school, university & that initial foray into the world of working professionals: the decade of the 1980s.

I found my first album acquisitions from waaaay back @ the Bandbox in Williamsburg: The Beatles, Soft Cell & Genesis. My eclectic collection grew from there with divergent influences. (Our high school senior class song was a tie: Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” and Prince’s “1999.”)

My first year in university every dorm had The Police’s Synchronicity & Prince’s Purple Rain blaring out all over.

Playing these records reminds me of those times, but also fun times at live concerts.

As a birthday pressie my sis took me to see The Police @ The Hampton Coliseum in 1980. Then in university so many great bands passed through. As a member of U-Union Student Activities committee, we all signed up to pour beer early on (from 7:00-9:00pm) then would get in free in time for the concert headliner. (This was before the drinking age bumped up to 21.)

UB40, Psychedelic Furs, REM, English Beat, James Taylor, Kool & the Gang, a host of forgotten others & my favorite band SQUEEZE (saw them 4 times in concert & still am a huge groupie!)

Some of this music reminds me of deeeeep reflective times of inner searching and other tunes transport me to good times kicking back, hanging out with friends.

After university I worked for a non-profit on Capitol Hill. One evening my big-salary-earning buddies called with a last-minute free ticket to see the Grateful Dead at RFK stadium. Picked up on the way, I was wearing a navy blue work suit with pumps whilst they were decked out in tie dyes of various hues (along with everyone else in the stadium.) Can you picture that? Virginia in navy blue threads at a Grateful Dead concert? No matter, we had heaps of fun.

Back to university. I really liked alternative music and dancing (masterly adept at slam dancing until a back injury curbed my abilities, along with a firm ‘no you may not’ from the doctor!) Music was such a big part of my life. When a professor gave an option to write (yet another) 20-page paper or compile an ABC book, creative me opted for an ABC book with a slight twist.

We had studied the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales (mostly grim tales shared with adults, not necessarily child-appropriate) so I created “The Modern Rocker’s Guide to the ABCs.”

Here’s a peek at VA’s ABC book (many favorite bands started with “S.”)

Unearthed this ABC book, too, what a riot!

I’ll never forget the first time I took my younger brother Dwight to Tower Records, a huge multilevel store with untold thousands of records near George Washington University in D.C. The classical section was larger than our entire record store in Williamsburg. We spent over five hours there (intense music perusal interrupted with several sustenance breaks.) I discovered many amazing artists in that big store.

Moving overseas in 1992 all my vinyl records went into storage hibernation. Some ‘80s groups I kept up with (& still do): Annie Lennox, U2, Stevie Wonder, Aaron Neville, Sting, Indigo Girls, Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, James Taylor, REM, Squeeze (Jools Holland et all), Crowded House, Simple Minds (the list goes on & on.) Certain albums were such favs CDs were eventually acquired. For other groups this week’s rediscovery has been like a birthday party because I was so into them (Icehouse, The Stranglers, The The, a-ha, English Beat, The Fixx, Men Without Hats, General Public, Boomtown Rats, Echo and the Bunnymen, World Party, Waxing Poetics…)

“Music can change the world because it can change people.” Bono

Working overseas in conflict zones (& getting a little older) my music tastes evolved. Discovering Enya @ Tower Records, she became a favorite to calm frayed nerves (along with other slightly more mellow groups) while the Violent Femmes, Dead Kennedys & former slam dancing favs dropped off playlists.

Have to confess, some rediscoveries have been WEIRD (1980s weird, which is really weird) but the good stuff is so totally, like, amazingly, awesomely GREAT!

Music is the soundtrack of our lives – it’s been fun recovering memories and favorite melodies from the 1980s. (Now I just have to figure out how to use the USB cable to download these albums to my laptop to mix with more modern fare.)

Many more to play (& rediscover.) Virginia the DJ is having albums of fun!

grace, peace & 1980s ViNyL

Virginia : )

p.s. Signing off with a YouTube of a favorite song I ran to with my Walkman every day in college. Years later I astounded my nieces over lunch at the fancy Williamsburg Inn by launching into this early (anti-drug) rap song ‘White Lines’ from Grandmaster Melle Mel.

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Snapshots & Whatnot: (lens-worthy) images

SNAPSHOTS: 

Today we’re taking a pictorial safari in Africa…

Pretty pink flamingos in Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Meandering elephant in Samburu National Reserve, Kenya

“Habari?” (How are things?) Ostrich in Kenya

A pride of lions (parked in front of our land cruiser) in Tarangire, Tanzania

Zigzagged goings-on with a zebra in Lake Manyara, Tanzania

Twigga love in the air (high up) in Tanzania

Two feet away (from me) a reflective leopard in Samburu National Reserve, Kenya

& WHATNOT…

Last week on his late-nite show Tavis Smiley interviewed actress Jada Pinkett Smith, who is also the long-time wife (20 years) of actor Will Smith. One of the reasons I like watching Tavis Smiley, his interviews often go into deep places. When he asked Jada how she & her husband maintain their internal image with all the negative gossip that scuttlebutts around Hollywood, she said,

“You cannot look at your image through the eyes of others, because most of the time it’s a very cracked lens.”  (Jada Pinkett Smith)

Good advice for all of us to start off this new week: to find an internal lens that lifts us from beanhead-induced doldrums that cause us to view ourselves with cracked lenses. Let’s try to see ourselves with the eyes of our hearts? Lenses of love? As beloved sons and daughters of our Heavenly Creator, whether we’re pink, striped, huge, spotted, tall, squat, long-necked or blue.

grace, peace & lens-worthy images

Virginia : )

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Blithering Blues @ THE COMPUTER

A shout out to Tim Haag over @ Word Inventions. His short writers horoscope posts have provided this blogger with (long & loud) moments of hilarity, plus he regularly shares helpful writer tips & links. This one’s for you, Tim!

The following comes from the computer files of an avid mystery reader (who started with Agatha Christie in the 5th grade & never looked back.)

It was a dark and stormy night.

No, really, it was dark. The wind blew all the street lampposts down as storm clouds vented horrendous rain, slashing sleet & hail. Lighting and thunder added boisterous hue.

A perfect night to perpetuate a crime. (A perfect night to hide under covers.)

A perfect night for all that is dark to seep into corners usually emanated by light.

Hold on, what goes seep in the night?

Blithering drivel seeps onto a computer screen from the muddled mind of a mystery writer doubt dazed by indecision.

This word. No, that one. No, not creepy enough.

Selection to perfection parries pressure to master the first page, the grand start: En garde! Where to begin? Again. And, again. Until it’s right (what a fright!)

Digressions aside, back to our setting. Dark, stormy, blithering with overcast aspirations our writer sits before a blank screen with a blank mind, not one tiny snivel of drivel.

No perspiration of inspiration.

Wait. If all the lampposts are down and everything is pitch dark, how can a computer be working?  Off the electrical hook, a happy ending (almost) – back-ups?

No matter, tonight it’s party time with tinned food by flashlight.

‘Til tomorrow, when a new day dawns @ THE COMPUTER.

grace, peace & blithering drivel

Virginia : )

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