Jeremiah 29:11-13: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
His desire, as I contemplate His Word for Day 5 of my If My People prayer pilgrimage for our nation, seems as if it should be that we are at peace with and in Him. It is His desire for us to know that His plans for us are joy, and hope, and peace and a future, as individuals and as a nation. We only need turn to Him in humility and prayer with open eyes and open hearts. So as I think of peace and prayer and a simpler life for each of us, I am reminded of Peace Pilgrim.
“As I looked about the world, so much of it impoverished, I became increasingly uncomfortable about having so much while my brothers and sisters were starving. Finally, I had to find another way. The turning point came when, in desperation and out of a very deep seeking for a meaningful way of life, I walked all one night through the woods. I came to a moonlit glade and prayed. I felt a complete willingness, without any reservations, to give my life – to dedicate my life – to service. ‘Please use me!’ I prayed to God. A great peace came over me.” Peace Pilgrim
Honesty with ourselves focuses our awareness on the true relationship between the actions of our body, speech, mind and the effects of these actions on our nation. For there to be true change in our nation toward one of respect for all people we must still the distractions of our minds, such as fear and anxiety, to “grasp the truth” (Mahatma Gandhi) of how we effect our nation. As the Dalai Lama states, “I believe in justice and truth, without which there would be no basis for human hope.” Most importantly, as Jesus, our Savior, has taught us that the greatest commandment is to love our God with our whole heart-mind-soul and secondly, to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Mathew 12:30-31) If we are able to place our faith, our trust in God’s plan for us, then he will bring peace to our nation by our realizing that in serving and supporting others regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disabililty, we are serving Him who knows the plans He has for each of us. Where there is suffering His plan most surely calls for us to soothe it with compassion, mercy and justice.
How does one calm the anxiety, fear, anger that is so rampant among many in our nation? The brain is a magnificent organ which is able to process thousands of subconscious stimuli while allowing us to focus on one thought at a time. Over the course of time, these thoughts begin to flow one into the other, much like waves in the ocean. Thoughts may be about our trying to relive a past event, worrying about future events, awareness of all that is happening in our nation from civil unrest, separation of peoples based on skin color and religious beliefs, to terrorism here and abroad. St Paul to the Philippians (4:4-7) tells us to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again,: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. The the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” So we are to rejoice, not show anger, worry, anxiety in the state of things which we have no control over. We are to show kindness at all times. For the Lord is near, we must only seek Him in others we encounter. We are to have no anxiety, but rather we are to pray at those times we find ourselves separated from His plan for our life. A plan of prosper, hope, a future….
“To be at one with God is to be at peace…peace is to be found only within (one’s self), and unless one finds it there he will never find it at all. Peace lies not in the external world. It lies within one’s own soul.” (Ralph Waldo Trine) Our faith in Him leads us to a path of peacemaking in our thoughts, words, and deeds. The emergence of peace will only come about when we have learned to respect the rights of others: people, of all color, beliefs, abilities differences. Respect is evident by our honest appraisal of our lives in relation to others, sensitivity to the injustices endured by our brothers and sisters, and experiential changes that are consciously determined by what we know to be true. We do not turn from our own or others suffering. Rather, we look through the lens of compassion at the reality of our nation. In honesty, we see the injustice around us and we begin to look after ourselves and one another in a kind, sensitive, and healing manner. We find our voice and begin to speak out in love and truth for those who cannot, ourselves included. As Jimi Hendrix sang, “when the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” Where once we routinely closed our eyes and returned to the safety of our habits and unconscious actions, we now have the ability to open our eyes to what is happening around us and respond with honest actions out of compassion. This is our spiritual journey, moving from unconscious to conscious choices in our thoughts, words, and deeds leading to a life of simplicity and harmony. This is our path to peace. As stated by Martin Luther King, Jr., “Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”
Mildred Lisette Norman, better known as Peace Pilgrim, was just a normal person, like you and I, who took on a personal mission for the last 28 years of her life to bring awareness to peace among mankind. On January 1, 1953, she began her personal pilgrimage for peace and walked 25,000 miles until her death on July 7, 1981. On her pilgrimage, she vowed to “remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food.” She lived a simple life as a pacifist, vegetarian, and peace activist. There was no organizational backing for her pilgrimage, no hashtag label to separate her from others, and no money to provide food and shelter. Her only belongings were literally the clothes that she wore, a blue tunic which read “Peace Pilgrim” on the front and “25,000 miles on foot for peace” on the back of the tunic. Her message was simple, “This is the way of peace: overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.” By the end of her life, Peace Pilgrim became a frequent speaker at churches, universities, and for local and national radio and television programs. Peace Pilgrim was able to respond to the suffering she saw in the world around her by opening not only her own eyes, but those of the people around her. She was able to bring awareness to others of the need for peace through the simple act of walking. “No one walks so safely as those who walk humbly and harmlessly with great love and great faith.” (Peace Pilgrim)
May I simply step out with my eyes open to the suffering around and within me. With simplicity and harmony, I seek the path of peace through my thoughts, words, and deeds, knowing that He is ever with me in my seeking.
May you find gratitude and peace in every moment!