Thursday, May 6, 2010

Working for Peace

Sometimes our world's problems can seem so large that we feel we can do nothing to change them. Peace is one of those issues. How could we ever have world peace with so much sin in the world? How can anyone but God bring peace to our broken world? The truth is that we never will have complete world peace until God makes all things new, but that's no reason not to work for peace. We can't make things perfect because we aren't perfect, but we can work to make things better. With God's help, we ourselves can become better, and that's what working for peace is all about.

A photographer with whom I regularly collaborate professionally has started a project called "A Peace of My Mind." He interviews people to ask them about their take on peace and what it will take to make our world a more peaceful place. He talks to all kinds of people—old and young, professionals, homemakers, even homeless people. They all have something different and insightful to say. I think his project has a brilliant premise. If we simply spent more time thinking about peace and listening to each other's ideas, we could learn to make a difference. Each of us has a small sphere of influence, but when we work together we can do amazing things.

I encourage everyone to check out A Peace of My Mind at Right now the project is in the running for a $50,000 prize from the Pepsi Refresh Project. The money would be used to keep up the Web site, fund more interviews, and create a traveling exhibition. You can vote for A Peace of My Mind by visiting

I believe that peace is a natural byproduct of love. When the day comes that God perfects us all, we will be able to live in complete peace because we will love each other perfectly. There are ways for us to promote peace while still standing up for our beliefs, and we can love even those who oppose us. I know that we can't have complete peace in our sinful world, but I think God would support our efforts to work towards a more peaceful community and world.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Answered Prayers

Yesterday did not start out very well.

Early in a workday a colleague and I were conferring about a project we're working on together. We're both writers and editors, and I'd been gathering some sources for a story she's working on. We'd reached the point where I'd gathered the initial responses from these sources and turned them over to my colleague who was responsible for the piece in question. She was going to work with the contributors to get their pieces integrated into the piece. She asked me to read over an e-mail she was going to send to one of the contributors suggesting some mild edits to his piece. This sort of request is standard procedure for a project like this, and her message was very carefully and diplomatically worded. I told her I thought her e-mail looked fine, and she sent it.

Less than a minute later, the recipient called her up in a rage. He had just read her e-mail (very quickly) on his Blackberry while sitting in traffic in Los Angeles and immediately called to tell her how offended he was that she suggest he modify his piece in any way. How dare she question his expertise. Never mind that she needed to integrate his piece with others so that they would roughly match in tone. Never mind that she's a professional editor who's been doing this for more than a decade. Never mind that Steven King himself has to put up with editing. She was out of line to suggest that his piece was anything less than perfect, and he was going to take his loud complaints to the highest people possible in our organization. We work for a non-profit, and this person was chosen for this project because of his supposed love for the institution, but he vowed he would never do anything to help us ever again. Then, when he had my colleague in tears, he hung up on her.

I was dumbfounded. She had no idea the call was going to go this way, so she'd left her office door open and I'd heard the whole thing—at least her end. I'd heard her voice start to tremble as she tried to reason with him. I knew this person was a little high-strung, but I hadn't imagined this would happen. I consoled her as best I could, agreeing that his behavior was completely out of line, and then she went to get coffee.

The rest of the morning was a bit shaky. I kept expecting someone to start screaming at me at any second. Everyone in the office had heard about what happened, and we were all rather subdued. None of us likes getting yelled at by unreasonable people, and an attack on one of our colleagues feels a bit like an attack on all of us.

Later, I finally escaped the office to go to an annual luncheon for an organization to which I belong. As soon as I walked outside some of the weight lifted—it was beautiful and sunny, a perfect day. The lunch raised my spirits even more—good food, enjoyable conversation, and fun entertainment. At the end, they drew names to see who would take home the little potted plants that were centerpieces on the tables. They were very lovely, but I realized wistfully that I'd have no place to keep one if I won it—I live in an association with common lawns where I can't have a flower bed, and I can't keep plants inside or my cats will eat them and then throw up.

Then it hit me. My coworker loves flowers. I picked out a pink one on a table across the room and thought it suited her just perfectly. "Please, God," I prayed, "Let me win that flower." And I did. When I got back to the office, I asked my coworker if she'd like to have it, and she eagerly accepted. "This will look just lovely on my porch," she said. Then she gave me a hug and thanked me for being kind to her on her bad day. Somehow between a luncheon and a flower, the day got better for both of us, and at quitting time we both left in reasonably high spirits.

I don't always expect my prayers to be answered. Sometimes I get so jaded about it that I don't want to ask for anything at all. But then these little moments come up, and that urge to do something like give a coworker a flower pops into my mind. I can't help but pray in those moments, and when my prayer is answered, a little bit of my cynicism rubs away. I remember that God does answer prayers, and that He's there to cheer us up when some jerk yells at us for no good reason. So thanks, God, for the flower. It was a nice gesture, and I'm glad you gave me the idea and the luck to pull it off.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Footsteps in the Sand

I know that practically everyone knows this poem in one of its incarnations, but today I'm going to post it anyway. Several versions of this poem exist, but I've chosen the 1963 version by Carolyn Carty.


One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the LORD. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to him and the other to the LORD.

When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times of His life.

This really bothered him and he questioned the LORD about it. "LORD you said that once I decided to follow you, you'd walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life there is only one set of footprints. I don't understand why when I needed you most you would leave me."

The LORD replied, "My precious, precious child, I Love you and I would never leave you! During your times of trial and suffering when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."

I know this poem well, and I want very much to believe it is true. Sometimes when things are hardest I feel completely and totally alone. I struggle onward, trying to fight my way through to a brighter time. It can be easy to doubt that God is with me when I feel so cold and alone, but I realize that if I were truly alone during those times I wouldn't make it. I'm not capable of pulling myself through trials and tribulations on my own, so I know that God must be there, carrying me through—even when I'm too incoherent to notice Him. God is there all the time. It is my own senses that change. Sometimes I can feel Him and sometimes I can't, but God is constant and true. 

Monday, May 3, 2010

First Star to the Right and Straight on Till Morning

Last night I went to bed early. I was quite tired and pressed down by the weight of all I had done and all I have left to do in the days ahead. I was lying in bed groggily looking out my bedroom window at the single bright point of light in the dark sky. I stared at it and it twinkled merrily back. "First star to the right and straight on till morning," I muttered to myself. That little star (which I realize was probably not a star at all but rather the planet Venus) looked so far away and so inviting.

I've never really been much of a Peter Pan fan. It's kind of an odd story, and I was never really captivated by pirates the way some children are. I do understand the thirst for freedom and adventure all to well, however, and that's the feeling that seeped into my veins as I sleepily gazed at that star. How grand it would be to travel to some far off place where I could discover new things, make new friends, and live a grand adventure. How nice it would be to battle lugubrious pirates instead of fighting my current enemies: sin, bills, my own weakness and fatigue, and the demons who try to trip me up when I'm  not paying attention. How lovely it would be to spend a little time in a fantasy land where nothing I did really mattered because it was just a story, after all.

My life isn't a grand and carefree adventure. It's a more serious and pedestrian journey than I might like, but it also has more character development and more personal growth than Peter Pan's. All of us have moments when we wish we didn't have to grow up, but that's because we don't like the baggage that comes with growing up. Growing up in and of itself is actually a marvelous thing. We get to learn new things and develop new skills and insights. We are refined from a rough sketch to a polished masterpiece as we grow up.

The trouble is really the pressure that comes with growing up. As we grow we are entrusted with more, and it matters more and more how our stories turn out. God gives us talents and resources, and He expects us to use them well. That puts a bit of pressure on us to try to get things right. At the same time, God is motivated to help us get it right, so He helps carry some of the weight. We can't fly or imagine things into reality, but God can carry us and give us the power to do what He asks of us.

Magic and adventure seem like easy outs to me sometimes, but they pale in comparison to God's power and abiding love. I don't need to escape from my life because God is going to make sure I make it through just fine. That twinkling star was beautiful, but it was also quite nice to be warm in my bed with a loving God watching over me.
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