Reflections on Memorial Day: those who serve & sacrifice, those who work for peace

Only the dead have seen the end of war. — Plato

This is the day we pay homage to all those who didn’t come home … it’s not a celebration, it is a day of solemn contemplation over the cost of freedom. — Tamra Bolton

Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed. — Preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. — Mark Twain

Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime. — Adlai Stevenson

Gentleness, self-sacrifice and generosity are the exclusive possession of no one race or religion. — Gandhi

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter – but beautiful – struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons (and daughters) of God, and our brothers (and sisters) wait eagerly for our response. — Martin Luther King

Memorial Day Prayer —Carl Schenck
We gather on a somber holiday.
We remember with sadness those we have loved and lost.
Let us not glorify the conflicts and violence
that tear our loved ones from us.
Let us, rather, give glory to God,
who calls us to use our freedom peaceably.
Our God is a God of all nations and peoples.
May our worship of God unite rather than divide.

Songs for Memorial Day Weekend

Film Clips

Protest & Peace Songs:


Memorial Day (excerpt)— Michael Anania … We know the stories that are told,
by starts and stops, by bent men at strange joy
regarding the precise enactments of their own
gesturing. And among the women there will be
a naming of families, a counting off, an ordering …


Peace — Langston Hughes
We passed their graves:
The dead men there,
Winners or losers,
Did not care.
In the dark
They could not see
Who had gained
The victory.


Who kept the faith and fought the fight;
The glory theirs, the duty ours.
— Wallace Bruce


You silent tents of green,
We deck with fragrant flowers;
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours.
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Notes on Memorial Day (excerpt) Lillian Daniel

Memorial Day began after the Civil War as an effort toward reconciliation between the families of veterans in the North and the South. After the war, there was already a tradition in the North of decorating soldiers’ graves, called “Decoration Day.” But in 1868 an organization of Northern war veterans decreed it ought to be a national holiday. May 30 was carefully chosen as the date because it was not the anniversary of a specific battle, and therefore would be a neutral date for both sides. But human beings hold on to their wounds, and reconciliation takes time, grace and mercy…

Memorializing Rightly (excerpt) — Debra Dean Murphy

… much of our memorializing will trend, as it always does, toward … the simplistic, the cliche-riddled hyperpatriotism that does a disservice to the women and men who fight and die in wars conceived by powerful men … Surely it’s possible to honor the selflessness that’s part of soldiering and to mourn the fallen without slipping into the kind of sentimental white-washing that denies the complexities and ambiguities, the compromises and betrayals, both large and small, that the war dead knew well? Why, then, can’t we–in their stead, on their behalf, for their sake–be honest enough to honor such truths? … May we remember and memorialize … all deaths, this day and every day, with the truth-telling they deserve.

On Those Who Serve & Sacrifice

Heroism doesn’t always happen in a burst of glory. Sometimes small triumphs and large hearts change the course of history. — Mary Roach

It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result. — Gandhi

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. — Winston Churchill

Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. — G.K. Chesteron

A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.  — Joseph Campbell

Your ordinary acts of love and hope point to the extraordinary promise
that every human life is of inestimable value. — Bishop Desmond Tutu

It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived. — George S. Patton

Ceremonies are important. But our gratitude has to be more than visits to the troops, and once-a-year Memorial Day ceremonies. We honor the dead best by treating the living well. — Jennifer Granholm

Work for what you believe in, but pick your battles, and don’t burn your bridges. Don’t be afraid to take charge, think about what you want, then do the work, but then enjoy what makes you happy, bring along your crew, have a sense of humor. — Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices. — Harry Truman

Peace comes from being able to contribute the best that we have, and all that we are, toward creating a world that supports everyone. But it is also securing the space for others to contribute the best that they have
and all that they are. — Hafsat Abiola

It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle. – General Norman Schwarzkopf Jr.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. — Martin Luther King

How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes! – Maya Angelou

I’m very conscious of the fact that you can’t do it alone. It’s teamwork. When you do it alone you run the risk that when you are no longer there nobody else will do it. ― Wangari Maathai

My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. — John F Kennedy

A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history. — Gandhi

Peace Workers

On Memorial Day, I don’t want to only remember the combatants. There were also those who came out of the trenches as writers and poets, who started preaching peace, men and women who have made this world a kinder place to live. — Eric Burdon

One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world. ― Malala Yousafzai

If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner. — Nelson Mandela

Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures. —John F. Kennedy

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

If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships – the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace. — Franklin D. Roosevelt

Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come. — Henri Nouwen

We must pursue peaceful ends by peaceful means. I’m committed to nonviolence absolutely … I will continue to preach and teach it… I plan to stand by nonviolence. …(because) only a refusal to hate or kill can put an end to the chain of violence in the world and lead toward community where people live together without fear. — Martin Luther King

Today, we are truly a global family. What happens in one part of the world may affect us all. This, of course, is not only true of the negative things that happen, but is equally valid for the positive developments. … But war or peace; the destruction or the protection of nature; the violation or promotion of human rights and democratic freedoms; poverty or material well-being; the lack of moral and spiritual values or their existence and development; and the breakdown or development of human understanding, are not isolated phenomena that can be analysed and tackled independently of one another. In fact, they are very much interrelated at all levels and need to be approached with that understanding…  Responsibility does not only lie with the leaders of our countries or with those who have been appointed or elected to do a particular job. It lies with each one of us individually. Peace, for example, starts with each one of us. — Dalai Lama

When you have a conflict, that means that there are truths that have to be addressed on each side of the conflict. And when you have a conflict, then it’s an educational process to try to resolve the conflict.
And to resolve that, you have to get people on both sides of the conflict involved so that they can dialogue. — Dolores Huerta

The answer lies in the last word of the priestly blessing: shalom, peace. In a long analysis the 15th century Spanish Jewish commentator Rabbi Isaac Arama explains that shalom does not mean merely the absence of war or strife. It means completeness, perfection, the harmonious working of a complex system, integrated diversity, a state in which everything is in its proper place and all is at one with the physical and ethical laws governing the universe. — Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Violence and nonviolence agree that suffering can be a very powerful social force. But there is a difference. Violence says suffering can be a powerful social force by inflicting it on somebody else, so this is what we do in war… The nonviolent say that suffering becomes a powerful social force when you willingly accept the violence on yourself, so that self-suffering stands at the center of the nonviolent movement… There is no easy way to create a world where people can live together… but if such a world is created…it will be accomplished by persons who have the language to put an end to suffering by willingly suffering themselves rather than inflicting suffering on others… Unearned suffering is redemptive. — Martin Luther King
 

Advent Daily Devotional: Day 12

Thurs, Dec 10 – DAY 12

Communal peace requires a different form of attention and advocacy. By our choices, with our voices, through our actions, we foster local peace. While some people may be in positions to affect national and global peace through high-level policy and practices, many of us shape peace through regional and neighborhood-based activism and engagement.
— Rev Gail

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. — Matthew 5:9

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” — John 20:21

Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures. — John F. Kennedy

Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.
— Desmond Tutu

Peace comes from being able to contribute the best that
we have, and all that we are, toward creating a world that supports everyone. But it is also securing the space for others to contribute the best that they have and all
that they are. —Hafsat Abiola

Tue, Nov 17 Gratitude Reflection

Pause and focus on water. Give thanks for this element that sustains life. In fresh form, untainted by toxins, it becomes a potable promise of surviving and thriving.

            Jesus’ first miracle transformed water into wine. He called himself the Living Water for the woman at the well, who offered him refreshment, though she was from a despised ethnicity that he would traditionally have shunned.

            In times of drought, such as we have experienced this season, wells run dry. Water collects detritus. Riverbeds become barren. Thirst parches throats, simply due to the idea of running out. Of not having enough.

            Give thanks for the abundance of water when it’s available. And for its precious presence, when it is scarce. — Rev Gail

You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
    you provide the people with grain,
 for so you have prepared it.
 You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges,
    softening it with showers, and blessing its growth.
You crown the year with your bounty;
    your wagon tracks overflow with richness.
The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
    the hills gird themselves with joy,
      the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
    the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.

  • Psalm 65

The Dead Sea in the Middle East receives fresh water, but it has no outlet, so it doesn’t pass the water out. It receives beautiful water from the rivers, and the water goes dank. I mean, it just goes bad. And that’s why it is the Dead Sea. It receives and does not give. In the end generosity is the best way of becoming more, more, and more joyful. ― Desmond Tutu

Reflections on joy, Advent 3 theme

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in You, a joy.  — Rumi 

Questions to consider about joy:

  • What is the difference between joy and other states of being, such as happiness?
  • What is essential to experience joy?
  • When has joy surprised you?

And All Be Made Well – Jan Richardson

That each ill be released from you
and each sorrow be shed from you
and each pain be made comfort for you
and each wound be made whole in you

that joy will arise in you
and strength will take hold of you
and hope will take wing for you
and all be made well.

For Equilibrium, a Blessing — John O’Donohue
Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.
As the wind loves to call things to dance,
May your gravity by lightened by grace.
Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth,
May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect.
As water takes whatever shape it is in,
So free may you be about who you become.
As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said,
May your sense of irony bring perspective.
As time remains free of all that it frames,
May your mind stay clear of all it names.
May your prayer of listening deepen enough
To hear in the depths the laughter of god.

JOY
 
I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy. – Tagore
 
To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with. – Mark Twain
 
The three factors that seem to have the greatest influence on increasing our happiness are our ability to reframe our situation more positively, our ability to experience gratitude, and our choice to be kind and generous. – Dalai Lama 
 
All Joy reminds. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still ‘about to be’. – CS Lewis
 
When you are grateful, you are not fearful, and when you are not fearful, you are not violent. When you are grateful, you act out of a sense of enough and not out of a sense of scarcity, and you are willing to share. If you are grateful, you are enjoying the differences between people and respectful to all people. The grateful world is a world of joyful people. Grateful people are joyful people. A grateful world is a happy world. — Brother Steindl-Rast
 
 We create most of our suffering, so it should be logical that we also have the ability to create more joy. It simply depends on the attitudes, the perspectives, and the reactions we bring to situations and to our relationships with other people. When it comes to personal happiness there is a lot that we as individuals can do.  – Dalai Lama 
 
‘Without pain, how could we know joy?’ This is an old argument in the field of thinking about suffering and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate. – John Green
 
Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities. – Fred Rogers 

I call it Joy. … But certain other experiences were… The first is itself the memory of a memory. As I stood beside a flowering currant bush on a summer day there suddenly arose in me without warning, and as if from a depth not of years but of centuries, the memory of that earlier morning at the Old House when my brother had brought his toy garden into the nursery. It is difficult or find words strong enough for the sensation which came over me; Milton’s ‘enormous bliss’ of Eden (giving the full, ancient meaning to ‘enormous’) comes somewhere near it. It was a sensation, of course, of desire; but desire for what?…Before I knew what I desired, the desire itself was gone, the whole glimpse… withdrawn, the world turned commonplace again, or only stirred by a longing for the longing that had just ceased… In a sense the central story of my life is about nothing else… The quality common to the three experiences … is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again… I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is. — CS Lewis
 
I’d like to repeat the advice that I gave you before, in that I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. 

… Don’t settle down and sit in one place. Move around, be nomadic, make each day a new horizon. You are still going to live a long time, … and it would be a shame if you did not take the opportunity to revolutionize your life and move into an entirely new realm of experience.

You are wrong if you think Joy emanates only or principally from human relationships. God has placed it all around us. It is in everything and anything we might experience. We just have to have the courage to turn against our habitual lifestyle and engage in unconventional living. My point is that you do not need me or anyone else around to bring this new kind of light in your life. It is simply waiting out there for you to grasp it, and all you have to do is reach for it- Jon Krakauer

Reflections on extended family: inspired by UKAMA Sunday and the Shona word for interconnectedness.

The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. – Richard Bach

Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones that would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what. — anonymous

Shona concept of Ukama (Zimbabwe). This is the name of the partnership between faith communities in NH and Zimbabwe. Jackson Community Church is partnered with the Chikanga Church in the city of Mutare, Zimbabwe. Excerpt “… life is an interconnected whole, the ultimate wellbeing of the individual can hardly be disentangled from the well-being of others. It is through kinship or relatedness that the individual’s actions affect others positively or negatively at present as well as in the future.”

Questions to consider:

  • What is your image of God? Often our primal understanding of love and power is shaped by our earliest primary family relationships. How is your understanding of God like the people of your family of origin or adoption?
  • Who are the people you have ‘chosen’ as your extended family? What bonds tie you together?

Poem — Mary Oliver 
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one. – Jane Howard

You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them. – Desmond Tutu

To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there. – Barbara Bush

Families are the compass that guides us. They are the inspiration to reach great heights, and our comfort when we occasionally falter. – Brad Henry


The family – that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape, nor, in our inmost hearts, ever quite wish to. – Dodie Smith

When you grow up in an extended family, or in a stable neighborhood with two or three generations of families who live there, you feel seen. Not just the good things you’ve done, the stuff you put on your resume. You know they’ve seen you in your dark times, when you’ve messed up – but they’re still there. — Dean Ornish

This is my family. I found it all on my own. It’s little, and broken, but still good. Yeah. Still good. – Stitch (Disney character)

Blended families: woven together by choice, strengthened together by love, tested by everything, and each uniquely ours. — anonymous

The creation of a more peaceful and happier society has to begin from the level of the individual, and from there it can expand to one’s family, to one’s neighborhood, to one’s community and so on. — Dalai Lama

Obviously, you would give your life for your children, or give them the last biscuit on the plate. But to me, the trick in life is to take that sense of generosity between kin, make it apply to the extended family and to your neighbour, your village and beyond. — Tom Stoppard

Through my love for you, I want to express my love for the whole cosmos, the whole of humanity, and all beings. By living with you, I want to learn to love everyone and all species. If I succeed in loving you, I will be able to love everyone and all species on Earth… This is the real message of love. ― Thich Nhat Hanh

A child is fortunate who feels witnessed as a person, outside relationships with parents, by another adult. ― Louise Erdrich

Global health issues remind us – perhaps more than any other issue – that we are all children of the same extended family. — Kathleen Sebelius

You inherited a piece of everyone in your family. Insult them, insult yourself … Family makes you who you are and aren’t. – Marcelina Hardy

The great gift of family life is to be intimately acquainted with people you might never even introduce yourself to, had life not done it for you. – Kendall Hailey

He that raises a large family stands a broader mark for sorrow; but then he stands a broader mark for pleasure too. – Benjamin Franklin

A family is a place where principles are hammered and honed on the anvil of everyday living.  – Charles Swindon

To maintain a joyful family requires much from both the parents and the children. Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of the others.  – Pope John Paul II

We must take care of our families wherever we find them. – Elizabeth Gilbert

When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching — they are your family. – Jim Butcher

It didn’t matter how big our house was; it mattered that there was love in it. – Peter Buffett

Holy Thoughts on Families Formed by Love and Choice

God resorts to working through us for others and upon us through others. Those are some weirdly restorative, disconcerting shenanigans to be caught up in: God forcing God’s people to see themselves as God sees them, to do stuff they know they are incapable of doing, so that God might make use of them, and make them to be both humble recipients and generous givers of grace, so that they may be part of God’s big project on earth, so that they themselves might find unexpected joy through surprising situations. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change. ― Thich Nhat Hanh
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