Courage is Acceptance

FullSizeRenderBy: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief 

Recently, six amazingly brave people climbed on an oil rig that is still headed to the Arctic. These six people were part of a Greenpeace mission to stop Shell from drilling in the arctic. Along side this direct action, Greenpeace also  started a conversation about what courage is.  Then I ran across a post about living cross culturally and I remembered that this Saturday is Global Citizen Earth Day.  Suddenly, courage was an international question. I began thinking about courage, acceptance, and my cross cultural life as interconnected concepts.

Living abroad has taught me a lot of things, and has involved a strange mix of struggle and beauty. Yet, of all the things I have seen, and learned by  living in a world of cultural mixing, I think the most important is that accepting difference is brave, even courageous.

When I am experience someone’s difference, or a different culture, when I am confronted with a different idea about how to greet my neighbor or how to pray, I have two choices. I can degrade the things I find strange and different, or I can accept them.

It takes a lot of courage to accept difference. It is easier to degrade it, and our history as humans has shown that humanity often takes this easier route. Racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, even the degradation of the earth can all be seen as ways we humans have tried to degrade difference.

But every day each of us has the chance to choose something else, to be brave, to embrace difference. I may not understand someone else’s faith, but I can be brave and accept that it is true for them. My support of Greenpeace’s direct action against Shell may seem wrong and strange to you, but you can be brave, you can accept that this is my path, my way of saving the planet.

We are each called to our own spiritual journey, our own life path, our own interpretation of faith, we all have our own passions, our own beliefs, our own way to save the world. Be we can all also share the common courage of accepting each other’s difference. Courage isn’t belittling the things we find different, courage is accepting them and seeing if they hold any truth for our path.

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A Prayer As We Work For Equality

Dear Spirit of Glorious Wisdom,

Give us the strength, love and wisdom

to stand for something more than ourselves,

to believe in a world of justice here on this planet,

to act with love in the face of inequality and hatred.

Let us reach out to the people that society has persecuted.

Let us live towards a better world,

where equal rights are a certainty, not a just the dream of a great man,

where no one is beaten because of who they love,

where no child’s life is worth more than any other’s.

Let us continue to work for equality for all the people of your earth.

Let our actions reflect your wise spirit and your vision of a more just world.

Amen

The Truth about Strength

By: Jenni Taylor

There are easy truths that take no strength at all to believe.

These are the truths about yourself, the ones that start as a germ of an idea and worm their way into very official-looking file cabinets and folders filled with examples, proofs, quotes, and graphs.These are the truths that may have started with a mistake, an imperfection, or a failure. They are often truths that began as someone else’s words, and those words became tattoos etched on skin.They are easy.

It’s easy to look in the mirror and be critical, self-deprecating, and mean. It’s easy to put on the blinders and only see faults, shouting, “This is me! I am ugly! I am worthless! I am unloved! I will never change!” It’s easy to open those file folders and prove how right you are about how wrong you were made.

It is much, much harder to speak the truths that take strength to believe. Strength you might not be sure you have anymore. Strength, and a little faith (about the size of a mustard seed is usually enough) to see what else is there.

“I am a runner.” This is a fact. I run. The days when the endorphins kick in and I’m on top of the world, I can shout out this truth complete with fist pumps. But there are days, many days, when
I am slow. I am tired. Everything hurts. There are mornings when I creak out of bed and can’t manage to stand up straight, and saying I am a runner sounds like a hilarious joke in my ears. But I
say it, and I do it, and no matter what I feel, it is true.

Some truths require belief and action. “I am a writer” is only true if I write, and I have the strength to do so. Others require nothing but belief, and can rock the ground under my feet if I actually hold them tight.

“I am important.”

“I am beautiful.”

“I am loved.”

The truths get harder. Identities are easy to lose in the face of circumstance. We spend years in high school and college building up our personality tests telling us that we are good at something,until the real world hits and we realize we might not be that good after all.

But who we are doesn’t go away. So, today I pray for the strength to believe the truths about myself- the truths that bring life, hope, healing, and return to strength once again.

What You Choose to Believe Can Save the World

By: Jenni Taylor

When we were young, we were told we could be anything. Ballerinas, fire fighters, dragon killers and ostrich riders. We were unbeatable- until a scratch, cut, or broken limb sent us running back to the adult world to fix the things we couldn’t fix on our own.

I belong to the adult world now, but my feelings are the same. I am unbeatable- until an unkind word, work disaster, or soul crasher send me running to the hills looking for someone, anyone, who is bigger and more capable than me. Adult suffering is child suffering, except with large walls to hide the wounds.

The monsters I fight are sneakier now. They come in the guise of whispers, of shiny success, of matchstick “love” that puffs into smoke. I find myself swinging my sword at Goliaths- racism, sexism, hate, injustice- and not making a dent.

That’s when I have a choice.

Faith is believing in what you can’t see. I will never prove Gods existence to any of you, and that has never been my goal. But I can choose to believe that:

If I seek wisdom, I will find it.
If I am broken, I will not be broken forever.
If I am weak, I can be made strong.
If I need comfort, I will be comforted.
If I believe I have a purpose, I have a purpose.

If I choose to believe I am loved by the creator of the universe, I will have the courage to love others. If I make the choice and believe that love is bigger than the monsters, then I know that love will change the world. Like a little girl running to her mom for a bandage for a bleeding knee, I choose to run to my faith and know it will heal my broken heart.

So here I am, in all my adult glory, choosing to be small, choosing to be brave, and choosing to believe I am never alone.

I stand here knowing that what I choose to believe in could save the world..

The Darkness

By: Jenni Taylor

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Hebrews 11:1

During my time in Kolkata, India I was able to visit the Mother House, where the Sisters of Charity carry on the work of Mother Teresa. The building itself is difficult to find, and unmarked except for a simple wooden door and a gold colored name plate on the side that reads Mother’s name. Two little boys had been sitting on the doorstep making paper airplanes as we waited for the door to be opened. I figured that happened when she was still around, too.

A sister, in the same blue and white sari that Mother Teresa was famous for wearing, led us quietly to the tomb. Other sisters were kneeling nearby and singing a hymn quietly together. A few women from the neighborhood passed back and forth through the open entry way, clearly on business. There weren’t many of us, but Indians, Westerners, and Europeans sat together in silence, listening to the hymn and looking at the tomb. It read, “Love one another as I have loved you”. Flower petals were placed carefully below, also reading, “love begins at home.”

A few minutes later we explored the tiny museum next door with some of Mother Teresa’s belongings and her life story. I stopped in front of one poster called “The Darkness.”

I’ve heard Mother Teresa’s name my whole life. I’ve even read a few of her books, mostly simple sermons on loving the poor and the spiritually needy. But somehow I had missed this important piece.

Basically, Mother Teresa wrote down her intense conversations with God, but she eventually reached a point where she could no longer feel him or hear him. She called this The Darkness, and Jesus was the Absent One.

Reading that felt like a rock in my heart. I know it sounds silly, but I wish she had still been there so I could give her a hug and let her know she wasn’t alone. I’ve been in the darkness before. I have a feeling I’m not alone in that either, but I hardly expected company such as Mother Teresa. Doubt is not something to mess with. It’s hard, it’s hurtful, it’s painful and it’s the loneliest place on earth.

I don’t have all the answers. Knowing one of the most famous Christian women on earth didn’t have all the answers either is simultaneously encouraging and scary as hell. But there’s something about faith.

If you are in The Darkness, good. It’s a process and it may hurt more than anything else has ever hurt you before. But stick it out. Don’t give up. Keep questioning and searching and pulling and reaching and live a life of love, even when that love feels so far away. God is there.

Maybe Mother Teresa couldn’t feel God for a while, but hearing the hymn of the other women who have given their lives to her and God’s work, he was there, he was multiplied, and the world was changed.  If it comes down to a decision, faith or feeling, choose faith. I can’t promise anything, but I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it.