Color an Ocean of Peace

“Art Teacher,” Bobby calls out, “Jimmy just hit me and said my picture is ugly.”

“Jimmy, why did you hit Bobby?” I ask.

“Because” Jimmy says, “he’s not coloring the ocean blue. The ocean is supposed to be blue. I told him to color his water blue and he won’t listen.”

“So, you got mad?” I say.

“Yes.”

“And you hit him to make him do what you wanted him to do?”

“No, it wasn’t like that. He’s not doing it RIGHT. The ocean is supposed to be blue.”

“So, Bobby is coloring his picture of his world differently than you think the world is supposed to look?” I say, “And you don’t like the way he sees the world because it doesn’t match the way you see it, so, you got mad at him and tried to make him do it the way you think it needs to be done. You hurt Bobby because you wanted him to make his world your way? Is that what happened?”

“Ugh,” Jimmy says, “Yes, I got mad because he ain’t doing right. And he won’t listen to me when I try to tell him the right way to do it.”

“And how is that hurting you?” the teacher asks.

“But it’s supposed to be blue!” Jimmy is clearly upset that anyone could see the ocean as green, black, and purple instead of blue.

“And how is that hurting you?” I ask again.

“But…oceans are blue.”

“Your ocean is blue,” I say. “Bobby’s ocean is multicolored. What if you color your world and Bobby colors his world and you don’t try to force Bobby’s world to look just like yours? Then you will both have a better day.”

“I want you to make him do it right,” Jimmy says sullenly.

“Do you want to be right or happy?” I ask.

Jimmy and Bobby both look at me, confusion etched across their little faces.

I explain. “I’m not going to force Bobby to color his ocean the way you want it to be. However, if you insist on being right, and hitting Bobby because he made a choice that’s different than yours, then you are going to find yourself in a very unhappy position,  or you can accept that Bobby is different than you and that it’s okay for other people to see the world differently, mind your own business, color your own ocean and have a peaceful, happy day. The choice is yours. So, do you want to be right or be happy?”

Jimmy thinks hard for a moment. Letting go of the need to be right is tough. Then he says, “I’d rather be happy.”

Bobby pipes up, “Me, too. I like to be happy.” He proceeds to draw a purple sun in the sky.

Jimmy visibly cringes, but he chooses to be happy, at least for now. He hasn’t seen Sophia’s spotted, flying unicorn fish yet.

………………………………………………………………………………………

The Secret of Peace

Jimmy’s teacher is trying to let him in on a secret. It’s the secret of peace. If we want peace in our lives, then we must stop trying to control the actions of others.

No wonder Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” That doesn’t mean we go around settling arguments but that we facilitate inner peace. Outer peace without inner peace is impossible.

The secret to having outer peace in the world is more people with inner peace!

As adults, we are not so different than Jimmy, concerned about what someone else is doing. Perhaps, it would be good if we could learn the lesson Jimmy’s teacher is trying to teach him. We don’t need to control others and the only actions we are ultimately responsible for are our own.

Ironically, we can see the tiniest faults in the behaviors of others yet neglect to see similar things in ourselves. Jesus once responded to some critics by saying they had the ability to see a speck of dust in someone else’s eyes but couldn’t see the giant beam sticking out of their own.

If I had a quarter for every time a child has come up to me and reported on the affairs of others in hopes that I would “punish” the other child, I think (maybe playfully) I would be as rich as Elon Musk! It seems to start early, this need to control others, even when those actions have nothing to do with us. Kids will often say things like, “Make them let me play with their toy.” Or, “Make them play with me.” Translation: “Do what I want YOU to do and MAKE THEM behave the way I want them to behave.”

Sadly, this desire to control and punish others often doesn’t end when childhood ends. It just graduates and grows bigger and instead of making someone give up their toy or play with them, the controllers want to dictate how others should live their lives. They want to invade neighboring countries, take over their resources and control their populations.

How much pain and suffering in the world would be alleviated if world leaders didn’t try to make other countries conform to their wishes?  If they didn’t invade and seek control? What if everyone in the world were truly empathic? What if we realized our Connectedness?

Peace on Earth

When Jesus was born, the angels spoke to shepherds proclaiming peace on earth, but of course, the world hasn’t been at “peace” since that time, but in the biblical sense, peace doesn’t mean the absence of war. It means inner tranquility, staying calm regardless of what others are doing or saying. In other words, inner peace is only found when we let go of the need to control others.

Just as Jimmy isn’t justified in dictating how Bobby colors or one child isn’t justified in forcing others to play, we are never justified in wanting to control the feelings and thoughts of others.

It’s far too common and too easy to focus on the negative aspects of others, to talk bad about them and try to make them behave the way we want them to, but it’s a losing battle and in the end, we accomplish nothing but destroying our own peace of mind and happiness. I once heard a very young minister named Randy (who knows? Maybe he is reading this post right now!) say, “You can’t legislate morality.” He was right. Kindness, goodness, empathy, joy, love….those things must come from the inside out and be voluntary. If you force people into, it’s not real and sooner or later the sleeping demons of self-righteousness, greed and power will awaken.

LET IT GO!

Peter, an early follower of Jesus, wrote, “Do not repay injury for or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay injury with kindness, because to this you were invited so that you may obtain adulation. For whoever would take pleasure in, long for, and enjoy life (both physical and spiritual, present and future) and experience good days must restrain his language from injurious and their lips from treacherous (deceitful and harmful) speech. They must cease from doing injury and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.”

Likewise, Paul, also a student of Jesus once told a group of Thessalonians who were in The Way to aspire to live quiet and peaceful lives, to mind their own business and work with their own hands.

A passage from Psalms keeps going through my head:

46:10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

The words “be still” there denote a “letting go” or “falling into.” In other words, as Elsa says in Frozen, “Let it Go!” The word “know” means to recognize, get it, or understand.

So, we could put it in the modern vernacular, “Let it go! Relax, and recognize…” What are we recognizing? We are recognizing that I Am God. Which God? The I AM. And what are we recognizing? The fact that I Am is God! And what ever you need I Am is. Nothing is impossible with I Am God. Nothing.

Peace comes when we let go and relax in the knowledge that the Almighty Source of all that is or has been or ever will be is in control. Peace comes when we realize that a person’s life-worth doesn’t consist of our possessions, or what color we paint our oceans.

Stillness and tranquility set things in order in the universe.

Dyer, Wayne W.. Living the Wisdom of the Tao (p. 93). Hay House. Kindle Edition.

 

But the muddiest water clears

                           as it is stilled.

And out of that stillness

life arises.

Dyer, Wayne W.. Living the Wisdom of the Tao (p. 33). Hay House. Kindle Edition.

 

 

Secret of the Wheelbarrow

 

Carrying yesterday’s junk leaves no room for today’s treasures.

DUMP THE JUNK!

About five years ago I bought a new wheelbarrow for the purpose of gardening. However, this spring when I went out to use my wheelbarrow, I found it was useless.

It was useless because of the television, the one that had stopped working a long time ago. I needed to get rid of it; it was useless junk from my past. It was super heavy, too big a burden to carry, so I loaded it onto the wheelbarrow to transport it and then I got sidetracked and left it—for two months!

Recently, I needed to use the wheelbarrow to move dirt as it was time to garden, but when I went out to get it, I realized that I couldn’t put anything in it unless I emptied it.

It wasn’t until I took hold of the handles, guided the wheelbarrow to the barn and unloaded the television that I could use it again for gardening, its original purpose.

IT’S A NEW DAY!

I think our minds are like my wheelbarrow (or any vessel for that matter). So long as we are filled with junk from the past, we are useless in the present.

So often we begin each day with associations to the ones gone before. Each day is a new beginning, but ONLY if we empty the wheelbarrow. There is a passage in the Book of Psalms where David says, “This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” He is telling us that he started over, every morning with gratitude.

There is also a passage in the Tao Te Ching that talks about how the usefulness of a vessel is in the emptiness of the vessel. Only when my wheelbarrow was emptied of the past, could I use it in the present.

THERE IS ONLY NOW.

In the Book of Hebrews Paul says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen.” NOW. Not yesterday, not twenty years ago, not this morning. Right now. Faith works in the present. It is in the present that we call those things into existence that we may not see with our physical eyes, but if we see them with our spirits, they have no choice but to manifest.

In Hebrews 11:3, Paul teaches us, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” The reference to the word of God here comes from an old Greek word, Rhema (hray-mah) and means a literal utterance, especially a narrative or a command. Solomon tells us that life and death are in the power of the tongue. In other words, when we speak of a thing or dwell on a thing, we draw that thing to ourselves.

If we hang onto negative narratives of the past, old junk, regardless of who put it there, we can’t move forward into today, we cannot know true peace and purpose. I know people who still live in their high school mentality, some who are holding thirty-year-old grudges, some who are hanging onto to pain from childhood, some who simply can’t move on because everyday they wake up with their wheelbarrows full of yesterday’s junk.

So long as we are wheeling around yesterday’s junk we can’t enjoy today’s treasures.

The usefulness of a vessel doesn’t lie in its fullness but in its continuously being emptied and refilled.

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens

The Wisdom Found in the Sound of Silence

I am happy.

In this moment I hear that strange sound that accompanies silence. It’s a sound that comes from inside my own head and I don’t know how to describe it, except to say that it’s the beautiful sound of silence. I can put my fingers in my ears and still hear it. Oddly enough, the world around me isn’t silent. There is a clock ticking, a fridge humming, a cat outside meowing into the night, bamboo chimes clanging out on the porch, and yet, I hear the sound of silence.

I breathe in and am thankful for my breath, for life. Every second that has come before has brought me here and there has never been another moment exactly like this one, nor shall there ever be another. Some are similar but this one is this one and my particular thoughts in this moment will never be precisely the same again nor have they ever been precisely the same.

Today I pulled up to an ATM and I saw myself in the side mirror of my car. My immediate reaction was, “You’re pretty.” I smiled. My face is not flawless, but my first reaction to my reflection was akin to the reaction of seeing a brilliant blue bird sitting on the fence post, or seeing a dogwood in full bloom, or watching a waterfall tumble over the cliffs. It wasn’t a television, photo-shopped, Instagram kind of beauty that caused my heart to leap with joy upon seeing my own reflection but it was that same kind of elation, joy and appreciation I feel when I look at the wonders of nature. I fully, in that instant (and now as a result of that instant) understood what the Psalmist said in the Bible when he wrote, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Wow. I am. I am a thing of nature, just like a bluebird, or a dogwood or a waterfall. I am wonderfully made, a unique creation and so are you. I don’t need anyone’s temporal validation because I am internally and eternally validated.

Yesterday, as I was driving back from taking my artwork to a show in another town, about an hour and a half away, I watched the sun, settling behind the trees, getting ready to sink below the horizon and I realized that I was completely happy. No person had made me happy. No circumstance had made me happy. I wasn’t thinking of anything that had happened to me before in my life nor was I thinking of anything that might or might not happen in the future. I was thinking only of the moment, of the pleasure of driving on a country road, of the golden sun, of the quietness around me and then I realized that I was filled with joy and overcome with the beautiful sound of silence. I turned off my stereo so that I could better hear the sound of silence and it was musical, refreshing, delightful. My inner being, my spirit, felt like it was flying. I completely appreciated the moment and the world around me and in doing so, I realized that I am completely loved and was completely connected to I Am, Creator.

Once, a long time ago, my little brother accused me of just being “lucky,” exclaiming that every thing just always worked out for me. Well, now, after all these years, I realize that he was right. Everything is always working out for me. It’s like Paul said in the book of Romans, “…all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and who are called according to his purpose.” Well, guess what? All things means all things and work together for the good means that all things are working out for me and called according to his purpose means that it’s Great I Am’s plan and intent for it to be that way. So, yep, all things are working out for me all the time. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am happy. I am loved. I don’t have to strive or work toward perfection or try to earn God’s favor. All I have to do is receive. Every good and perfect gift comes from above. You can’t earn a gift. You can only be in receptive mode and receive it. So, I don’t believe I was born under a lucky star or a perfect astrological sign. I believe that I am fearfully (awe-inspiring) and wonderfully made and that I am an offspring of the Great I Am who loves me and wants to give me an abundant life. I can’t earn it. I can only accept it (receive) or reject it. When we keep trying to earn it, we are not receiving. It’s like trying to climb a ladder to get what’s already been placed on ground level.