Monday, December 21, 2009

A Christmas Meditation on Peace



Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14)

The scene in which these words were spoken illustrates the extreme contradiction of the Christmas story: A glorious cloud of angels, singing to the poorest of the poor; a powerful man in history, born in a manger.  No matter what our religion, there are some observations that hold true about this story.

angels announcing birth

FLINCK, Govert Teunisz, Angels Announcing the Birth of Christ to the Shepherds
1639, Oil on wood, 160 x 196 cm Musée du Louvre, Paris,
Web Gallery of Art,

Peace, like Christmas, is counterintuitive. To be at peace with our fellow man requires us to put down our defenses. This makes us vulnerable. (As vulnerable as a baby in a manger?) If I give up something to make peace, do I risk becoming poor? (As poor as a shepherd living in a field?) Might I be asked to give up things I feel I’ve earned the right to have? (Even the fish already in my nets, fish that I’ve worked hard to catch?) Might I be asked to give up the labels I put on people? (Even labels that protect me by defining my tribe and serving to limit my responsibilities outside that tribe?)

When we put aside labels and rights and power, we become open to very different, and creative, possibilities: What if I could be honest with the other person, without them using my honesty against me? What if I could lay down my defenses, emotionally or figuratively, and could put energy into things I want or love? What if the other person would work collaboratively with me, to find ways to have my needs met, without fighting against or hurting me? What if I could find a way to help that other party meet their underlying need, without giving up my own security? What if we can find a way to meet everyone’s true needs?

The path of peace is inextricably tied up with reconciliation and tearing down of barriers that separate us. When we examine the life of Jesus, we see a man who never allowed labels or positions to get in the way of seeing people for who they truly were. He taught radical ideas. He taught us to love others as we love ourselves; he taught us to forgive as we have been forgiven; he demonstrated that we can transform our enemy by seeing them as God sees them and thereby enabling them to see themselves.

This Christmas season, consider: What must we give up, to walk the path of peace? What must we actively do? Even when we have been wronged, why must we forgive our debtors? And, what does it mean to forgive another “as we have been forgiven”?

Does the idea of reconciliation mean that we just move on, that we ignore a wrong? No!  To advocate peace is not to advocate weakness.  Thomas Merton wrote, "Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice.  It demands greater heroism than war.  It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience."

Peace is not passive, either.  Peace is waged, just as war is waged, but peace is a force more powerful than the greatest weapon.  Weapons impose change from the outside in; but peace brings change from the inside out.  Martin Luther King, Jr., understood this force, which he called "soul force".  Like Gandhi and Jesus, King waged peace in a way which transformed those who were engaged with it.

The result of King's war can be seen today.  Not only has segregation fallen, but the hearts and minds of formerly racist men and women were transformed by their engagement.  Peace wins through conversion of the opponent.

The purpose of peacebuilding -- and mediation is a part of peacebuilding -- is not to fake a peace. Mediation does not force anyone to agree to terms they don’t want, nor does it put people into circumstances they’d prefer not to endure.  The first task of peacebuilding is to enable communication.  This paves the way for people to listen to each other.  They can then find ways to meet needs and resolve conflict.  When needs are met – when root causes of conflict are addressed – reconciliation can happen.

Peace is a matter of achieving that which we have within us.  C.S. Lewis, speaking in the voice of Aslan, referred to the law of love as the "deep magic".  Peace and reconciliation are not easy; sometimes the trust and openness that is required to achieve great results is as contrary to common sense as is a vision of angels appearing to a ragged band of shepherds on a winter night.  But unless we take the risk, we achieve nothing; and until we achieve peace, we have nothing. What does it gain a man to gain the whole world, but to lose his own soul?

So, this season, my wish for you is, Peace!  Try it!*


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Free Majid Tavakoli, Iranian Student Democracy Activist

Be a witness to stand in support of democracy in Iran and, in so doing, let the oppressors know that power acquired through violence is no match for the power of peace.  Please learn about the issue from this blog post, then copy the links and forward them to your friends! 

Let's help the video go viral worldwide! 

(*If YouTube is blocked in your country, I am placing a vimeo link at the bottom of this post.) 

On December 7th, 2009, Iranian Ph.D. student Majid Tavakoli was arrested after speaking to a group at his school, the Amirkabir University of Technology.  He was severely beaten at the time of his arrest, and it is reported that he has also been tortured.  It is reported that he was made to dress in women's clothing so that he could be photographed.  An effort was made to use the photos to humiliate him.  The effort backlashed: 

A movement has now begun for men to dress in hijab (a headscarf which is mandatory dress for women in Iran) and publish photographs of themselves on the internet, to express their solidarity with Majid. 

Wikipedia states: 

[Men who dress in hijab in protest to Majid's imprisonment] are calling for an end to Iran’s mistreatment of prisoners including Tavakoli. At the same time they are also sending a strong a message of solidarity with women in their fights for equal rights. One message echoed by many Iranian men was "until Iranian women are free, Iran will not be free. Iranian men: let's begin wearing the chador in solidarity with Majid AND the WOMEN of Iran".

One woman writes in commentary to the YouTube video (above): 

Never been this proud of our men. You guys define the word Ma'arefat. You proved that in this world it is possible to be manlier by dressing up as women. Our values have made a huge heap into the future and we are all riding the waves of this amazing cultural revolution, thanks to Majid and thanks to all these brave, honorable men.

Another person writes,

man ham majid tavakoli hastam, ich bin auch ein majid tawakoli, i am majid tavakoli, hameye mardome iran majide tawakoli hastan, drod be majide gahreman, nango nefrin bar welayate jahlo siyahiye waghih dar tamamiyatash az khomeiniye dajal ta khameneiye shirei, jawido sarboland irano irani

Join me in affirming, with the cloud of witnesses, "I am Majid".  Please forward this link to your friends. 

*VIMEO LINK (same video): 

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Free Majid Tavakoli, Iranian Student Democracy Activist

Be a witness to stand in support of democracy in Iran and, in so doing, let the oppressors know that power acquired through violence is no match for the power of peace.  Please learn about the issue from this blog post, then copy the links and forward them to your friends! 

Let's help the video go viral worldwide! 

On December 7th, 2009, Iranian Ph.D. student Majid Tavakoli was arrested after speaking to a group at his school, the Amirkabir University of Technology.  He was severely beaten at the time of his arrest, and it is reported that he has also been tortured.  It is reported that he was made to dress in women's clothing so that he could be photographed.  An effort was made to use the photos to humiliate him.  The effort backlashed: 

A movement has now begun for men to dress in hijab (a headscarf which is mandatory dress for women in Iran) and publish photographs of themselves on the internet, to express their solidarity with Majid. 

Wikipedia states: 

[Men who dress in hijab in protest to Majid's imprisonment] are calling for an end to Iran’s mistreatment of prisoners including Tavakoli. At the same time they are also sending a strong a message of solidarity with women in their fights for equal rights. One message echoed by many Iranian men was "until Iranian women are free, Iran will not be free. Iranian men: let's begin wearing the chador in solidarity with Majid AND the WOMEN of Iran".

One woman writes in commentary to the YouTube video (above): 

Never been this proud of our men. You guys define the word Ma'arefat. You proved that in this world it is possible to be manlier by dressing up as women. Our values have made a huge heap into the future and we are all riding the waves of this amazing cultural revolution, thanks to Majid and thanks to all these brave, honorable men.

Another person writes,

man ham majid tavakoli hastam, ich bin auch ein majid tawakoli, i am majid tavakoli, hameye mardome iran majide tawakoli hastan, drod be majide gahreman, nango nefrin bar welayate jahlo siyahiye waghih dar tamamiyatash az khomeiniye dajal ta khameneiye shirei, jawido sarboland irano irani

Join me in affirming, with the cloud of witnesses, "I am Majid".  Please forward this link to your friends. 

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Friday, December 11, 2009

More on Saving the Small Family Farm in America


If you missed the showing of
Strong Roots, Fragile Farms

by "Odyssey Networks Presents" on Sunday, December 13, 2009, at 7:00 A.M. ET/PT on the Hallmark Channel, you can still see it!

Go to this link: to see the 58 minute streaming video


Produced by United Church of Christ (UCC) and hosted by legendary musician Willie Nelson, this documentary exposes the threat posed by the globalization of agriculture, not only to America's farm families, but to people worldwide who grow our food and work the land.

For my earlier blog entry with more detailed information (and links) on this topic, click HERE

For a link to the advocacy organization FarmAid, click HERE


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thought for the Day

"It isn't enough to talk about peace,

one must believe it.

And it isn't enough to believe it,

one must work for it."

Eleanor Roosevelt

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Peacebuilding Speaker, Tonight! (18 November 2009)

This is late notice but ...   Alexis Bilindabagabo, Anglican Bishop of Gahini, Rwanda,will be speaking TONIGHT at 7 PM at the State Museum.  He will speak about the process of reconciliation and building peace in the aftermath of genocide in Rwanda.  Here is the information about the lecture: 

Lecture: "Genocide and Reconciliation in Rwanda: A Survivor's Perspective of Hope"
November 18

Date: November 18


Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo survived the Rwanda genocide in 1994 that killed almost a million people.  Since that time he has become a recognized spokesman and author on the reconciliation process in Rwanda.  As part of his rebuilding efforts, Bishop Bilindabagabo has founded a foster care agency for genocide orphans and has been instrumental in rebuilding schools, hospitals and churches.

7 p.m., Auditorium, free.  (The museum is located at 301 Gervais Street, Columbia, SC  and the auditorium is on the second floor.)   


Map image

Monday, November 16, 2009

Peacemaking Opportunity

16 November 2009

Conflict occurs in all areas of life.  Have you ever thought about seeking additional training to deal with difficult (or even ordinary) conflict?  If so, register now for an opportunity to be trained in basic mediation! 

The Community Mediation Center, located at 4801 Colonial Drive, Columbia, SC  29203, is offering a 24 hour course "Basic Training Mediation",  from 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM on January 26th - 28th of 2010 (you must attend all sessions).  The 24 hour training will prepare anyone -- including parents, educators, business and human resource professionals -- to begin mediating conflicts. 

An additional bit of great news is that the $150 registration fee will be waived for participants who are being sponsored through community organizations, including churches.  All that's required for this discount is that the individual receiving church sponsorship must agree to act as a mediator in the future for members of their neighborhood or community as part of the Community Mediation Center's Community Mediator Initiative. 

Questions should be directed to Timothy or Dorothy at the Community Mediation Center, phone 803-714-1176. 

If you're interested in attending this training, the time is now to block out the days on your calendar and to ask your church or other nonprofit community organization to sponsor you! 


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fundraiser for My Dad's Nursing Home

November 12, 2009



Thanks to your clicks, the nonprofit nursing home that cares for my father will receive approximately $50,000 in corporate donations!  And just to clarify, my stepmother does NOT KEEP THE CAR!  This fundraiser was a method of advertising by Cadillac, but no, they are not giving away the cars!  She just got to use it for a week and write about it. 



November 4, 2009

My dad has a debilitating illness called Multiple System Atrophy.  It is a terrible illness.  In a very short period of time, he has gone from being the picture of health to a person who cannot manage basic functions of life.  Sadly, he can no longer be cared for at home.  He now resides in a skilled nursing center called The Pines of Sarasota, located in Sarasota, Florida.

The Pines gives very high quality care, but that care is expensive.  The Pines continues to care for people even after they have exhausted their resources.  It is also a nonprofit, and so it depends on private fundraising efforts to make up the difference between what people can pay and what they give. 

My dad's wife, Marjorie, has a great opportunity to raise money for The Pines, but it depends on her getting clicks on an internet site.  Cadillac has agreed to let her use a brand new Cadillac SRX for a week.  She must write about the car on a blog, and the company will donate money based on how many clicks her blog receives.  Can you help with this fundraising effort by clicking on her site, HERE

Please read her story, below, then click on the link she gives.  Please click often in the next few days!  You will be treated to photos of Marjorie's life as she and her dog, Bentley, enjoy the SRX!  If you're lucky, you may even be treated to photos of my beautiful sister Nicole and her baby, as well! 


2010 Cadillac SRX



Please bookmark

and click often

this week!!!

Here is a photo of my Dad and Marjorie, taken about three years ago, before this illness struck.  He and Marjorie love their dogs.  The white dog in this photo is named Bentley, and he's still an inseparable companion.  Bentley can't live with my Dad at the Pines, but he visits often, and he rides in the car with Marjorie.  For this fundraiser, Marjorie is planning to write about her adventures in the SRX with Bentley along for the ride! 

m bill and dogs

Marjorie writes: 

Hello All,

I have been given use of a 2010 Cadillac SRX for a week. The only “string” attached is that I blog about the SRX and my activities using it each day. I’m competing with seven other women in this region of Florida. Whoever gets the most clicks on their blog will win all the proceeds to benefit their charity.

I hope that you’ll find my blog to be interesting and that you’ll click on it frequently throughout the next few days to see what I’m up to, and to help me win the funds for my charity!

The charity I’ve chosen is The Pines of Sarasota. There is a very personal story behind my choice of The Pines.

My husband, Bill, has a catastrophic illness. After more than a year of home care, he now lives at The Pines.  The Pines is a 61-year-old not for profit nursing center. It is home to several hundred folks who need rehabilitation and skilled nursing care. I have recently been elected to the corporate board of the Pines. I am donating (with your help) 100% of the charitable donation to them.

Our family can vouch for the top quality and compassionate care provided to all Pines residents regardless of ability to pay, including residents who have outlived their financial resources.

There are several matching donors.  Thus, a lot is “riding” on your taking the time to see where the SRX and I are and what we are doing. Please, click often on the link 

The more clicks, the more chance we have of winning the competition and helping The Pines! 

Thank you in advance for your support!

Monday, November 2, 2009

I'm Famous!

Actually, another busy lawyer just wrote a very kind write up in the blog of the S.C. Women Lawyers Association, about my brand new, solo mediation practice. 

Click HERE for the article, written by Eve Ross of McNair Law Firm, and contained in the blog of the S.C. Women Lawyers Association:

It's very interesting to begin a solo practice.  I'm drawing on experience that I never realized would ever be beneficial in my future life.  For example, when I graduated from college I worked at a newspaper for two years before I went to law school.  Long story, but I worked in ad layout and design, and guess what:  Businesses need logos and marketing materials, so thirty years later here I am looking at fonts and layouts!  As a young lawyer I was always the "computer guru" in the office, the first lawyer to type their own work (advised not to on the basis that it might cause me to be viewed as a secretary), the first lawyer in the office to do research on the web or to create a web page for my office.  Then, blogging for three years while I lived in China taught me a lot (though my old blog looks rather dated now).  So now, I've just done my own web page

I enjoy being creative, even if it's not as slick and professional as it could be.  It's my goal to bring a degree of professionalism to my work that is very evident, a tangible difference.  Peacemaking is serious business!  Now that I've jumped off the high dive, here's crossing my fingers that I'll find the wings I know are there.   :-D 


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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Where Is The Love?

I was the only person in the bicycle shop.  I was at the counter, making a small purchase and chatting with the owner, when a loud motorcycle pulled up to the store.  The young driver came in the door, walked to the counter, and asked the owner if he had a particular item he needed for his motorcycle.   

The young fellow was tatooed and pierced.  He had on makeup and had spiked hair.  He was wearing all black Goth clothes.  He made his purchase, thanked the owner, and left. 

This was in the early 1980's in rural South Carolina.  Around these parts, we didn't see much of that type of dress.  It brought to my mind images I had seen on television of neo-Nazis and hate groups.  Not saying a word, I just looked at the owner with an expression that said, "I can't believe what I just saw!"  

"Yeah," he replied, smiling wryly as if he read my mind.  "But I had long hair when I was a kid.  And because of the way people responded to me when I was a teenager, I swore that I'd never judge anybody by their appearance." 

His comment brought me back around to remembering my own teenage years, when I, too, didn't always dress or act as my elders would have preferred. 

Lesson learned.  What the bicycle shop owner did was to help me see that young man not as an "other," but as an individual who might be like me, a person who had hopes and fears and motives for his dress.  A person like me, for whom I might have compassion.  That bike shop owner reminded me not to  prejudge, not to put people in separate categories of "otherness", merely based on superficial appearances. 

How often do we judge based on appearance, first impressions, or associations?

I find I tend to judge many things by their appearance or their first impression.  Rap music, for example.  I have a preconceived notion, not entirely unjustified, that much of it is banal and exploitative of women.  I don't normally listen to Rap.  But, like that young man, perhaps some of it should not be judged solely by its appearance. 

As an example, check out these lyrics (below) of "Where Is the Love" by the Black Eyed Peas :


What's wrong with the world, mama
People livin' like they ain't got no mamas
I think the whole world addicted to the drama
Only attracted to things that'll bring you trauma
Overseas, yeah, we try to stop terrorism
But we still got terrorists here livin'
In the USA, the big CIA
The Bloods and The Crips and the KKK
But if you only have love for your own race
Then you only leave space to discriminate
And to discriminate only generates hate
And when you hate then you're bound to get irate, yeah
Madness is what you demonstrate
And that's exactly how anger works and operates
Man, you gotta have love just to set it straight
Take control of your mind and meditate
Let your soul gravitate to the love, y'all, y'all
People killin', people dyin'
Children hurt and you hear them cryin'
Can you practice what you preach
And would you turn the other cheek
Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
'Cause people got me, got me questionin'
Where is the love (Love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love
The love, the love
It just ain't the same, always unchanged
New days are strange, is the world insane
If love and peace is so strong
Why are there pieces of love that don't belong
Nations droppin' bombs
Chemical gasses fillin' lungs of little ones
With ongoin' sufferin' as the youth die young
So ask yourself is the lovin' really gone
So I could ask myself really what is goin' wrong
In this world that we livin' in people keep on givin'
Makin' wrong decisions, only visions of them dividends
Not respectin' each other, deny thy brother
A war is goin' on but the reason's undercover
The truth is kept secret, it's swept under the rug
If you never know truth then you never know love
Where's the love, y'all, come on (I don't know)
Where's the truth, y'all, come on (I don't know)
Where's the love, y'all
People killin', people dyin'
Children hurt and you hear them cryin'
Can you practice what you preach
And would you turn the other cheek
Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
'Cause people got me, got me questionin'
Where is the love (Love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love, the love, the love?
I feel the weight of the world on my shoulder
As I'm gettin' older, y'all, people gets colder
Most of us only care about money makin'
Selfishness got us followin' our wrong direction
Wrong information always shown by the media
Negative images is the main criteria
Infecting the young minds faster than bacteria
Kids wanna act like what they see in the cinema
Yo', whatever happened to the values of humanity
Whatever happened to the fairness in equality
Instead of spreading love we're spreading animosity
Lack of understanding, leading lives away from unity
That's the reason why sometimes I'm feelin' under
That's the reason why sometimes I'm feelin' down
There's no wonder why sometimes I'm feelin' under
Gotta keep my faith alive till love is found
Now ask yourself
Where is the love?
Where is the love?
Where is the love?
Where is the love?
Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
'Cause people got me, got me questionin'
Where is the love?
Sing wit me y'all:
One world, one world (We only got)
One world, one world (That's all we got)
One world, one world
And something's wrong wit it (Yeah)
Something's wrong wit it (Yeah)
Something's wrong wit the wo-wo-world, yeah
We only got
(One world, one world)
That's all we got
(One world, one world)

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

10 Things We Can Do to Contribute to Internal, Interpersonal, and Organizational Peace

(1) Spend some time each day quietly reflecting on how we would like to relate to ourselves and others.

(2) Remember that all human beings have the same needs.

(3) Check our intention to see if we are as interested in others getting their needs met as our own.

(4) When asking someone to do something, check first to see if we are making a request or a demand.

(5) Instead of saying what we DON'T want someone to do, say what we DO want the person to do.

(6) Instead of saying what we want someone to BE, say what action we'd like the person to take that we hope will help the person be that way.

(7) Before agreeing or disagreeing with anyone's opinions, try to tune in to what the person is feeling and needing.

(8) Instead of saying "No," say what need of ours prevents us from saying "Yes."

(9) If we are feeling upset, think about what need of ours is not being met, and what we could do to meet it, instead of thinking about what's wrong with others or ourselves.

(10) Instead of praising someone who did something we like, express our gratitude by telling the person what need of ours that action met.




(This list is directly quoted from the web page for the Center for Nonviolent Communication.  The Center for Nonviolent Communication (CNVC) would like there to be a critical mass of people using Nonviolent Communication language so all people will get their needs met and resolve their conflicts peacefully. They write:  "[original copyright] 2001, revised 2004 Gary Baran & CNVC. The right to freely duplicate this document is hereby granted." ) 


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saturday, October 3, 2009

HAPPY MID AUTUMN FESTIVAL! zhong qiu jie kuai le! 你好吗

4 October 2009

Today is the day of Mid Autumn Festival.  On this evening, the moon is its roundest and the fullest of the year.  Contemplating the roundness of the moon and the fullness of harvest leads us to contemplate our own blessings in life.   This evening in China is traditionally celebrated by families gathering and sharing dinner or walking outdoors under the light of the moon, to enjoy the beautiful evening moon and to celebrate the richness of the blessings of family life.

Blessings to you!  Enjoy this video!


My blog post from last year on this same subject is HERE


Thursday, October 1, 2009

TriPeace: the Web Site of Trinity Presbytery Peacemakers

Justice Like Waters w words banner

I've just created a new blog for Trinity Peacemakers, the peacemaking committee of  Trinity Presbytery in central South Carolina. 

This is not my personal blog, it will be a collaborative effort by all of the peacemakers in the central South Carolina, Presbyterian community. 




to check out the new page! 


Not Presbyterian?  
Well, maybe you should be!


We're bringing peace to the world, one person at a time.




Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Satya agraha (Satyagraha)

30 September 2009

What is the principle of nonviolence? 

logo idea 8

It is not possible for the English word "nonviolence" to communicate the meaning of what is commonly referred to, in English, as "nonviolence"!  This is not a paradox, but rather a limitation of the language used to convey the concept.  There simply is no English language equivalent for the Sanskrit term, Satyagraha (click here for pronunciation). 

Satyagraha, a term coined by Gandhi, is a derivative of two other words: Satya means a truth which equals love; Agraha means force.  The term "Satyagraha" combines these two concepts into one word.  By this, Gandhi means to convey the concept of an active, powerful force of moral truth, a truth which is indistinguishable from and characterized by altruistic love.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., translated Satyagraha as "soul force" (in his "I Have a Dream" speech). Satyagraha could also be called "love force" or "truth force". 

The term "nonviolence" is incapable, linguistically, of capturing the active and powerful nature of the concept of Satyagraha.  The term "non," coupled with "violence" implies mere absence of violence.  Because of this problem, use of the term "nonviolence" is actually discouraged.   Satyagraha is not merely the absence of violence.  Satyagraha is a positive and powerful force in its own right, not merely the absence of something else.  It is a counter measure, an opposite, to oppression and violence. 

Nor is Satyagraha merely a passive enterprise.  As enunciated and modeled by Gandhi and King, it is the active, and often physical, employment of a powerful spiritual and moral weapon.  The individual employing satyagraha is armed not with physical power, but with moral power.  Satyagraha is a weapon of the strong.  It is a weapon consisting of truth and love.    

saffron revolution

Moreover, because Satyagraha is not passive -- it is an active assertion of positive moral energy and decision -- the the term "civil resistance" is preferred to the term "passive resistance".  

king in jail


Martin Luther King in jail after being arrested for requesting service at the segregated restaurant in the Monson Motor Lodge in St. Augustine, Florida. Photo taken on June 11 or 12, 1962.

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, NYWT&S Collection, LC-USZ62-116774.

In the theory of Satyagraha, the means and ends are seen as inseparable.  Violence can never be used to achieve justice, because whatever method is used to achieve a result will become embedded in that result. For example, if a war is won by military means, then the military will become embedded into the new order, and that order will thusly be reliant on presence of the military.  Gandhi wrote, “There must be no impatience, no barbarity, no insolence, no undue pressure. If we want to cultivate a true spirit of democracy, we cannot afford to be intolerant. Intolerance betrays want of faith in one's cause.”



How might this principle be applied in civic discourse?

This principle is universal, applying as equally to power within personal relationships as it does to power in relationships between individuals and governments and between governments themselves.

Thinking in terms of nonviolence, on the other hand, is a good start for thinking about what it means to apply the truth-force to conflict.  To be manifest, the truth force of applied, active love must always be nonviolent.  Nonviolence begins verbally, with how we think and speak toward others.  Through employing nonviolent language, we engage in nonviolent responses to those around us.  As nonviolence begins to be incorporated into our lives, active peace-force begins to be manifested in how we relate to others, in how we build community, and eventually in how we respond to those who sin against us.  Gandhi wrote,

In the application of satyagraha, I discovered in the earliest stages that pursuit of truth did not admit of violence being inflicted on one’s opponent but that he must be weaned from error by patience and compassion. For what appears to be truth to the one may appear to be error to the other. And patience means self-suffering. So the doctrine came to mean vindication of truth, not by infliction of suffering on the opponent, but on oneself.

Give this concept some time, and mull it over.  I think of this concept as being similar to the concepts of matter and energy: you can think in terms of a subatomic particle (my thoughts about myself), or you can think in terms of a galaxy (how nations should relate to one another).  The ideas, both big and small, are beautiful and consistent. 


The Merciful Christ c. 1603 by Juan Martinez Montanes

thank you to the Web Gallery of Art

art the merciful christ


Friday, September 25, 2009

My Web Page

25 September 2009

My web page is almost ready to go online.  Actually, it has been online for some time but it wasn't very good.  I hope the new design and style are better. 

Here's the Link to

Just Mediation

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!  Does the first page load too slowly?


logo words color

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Letting Off Steam

24 September 2009

In an article in today's Psychology Today online, Art Markman debunks the myth that venting anger by blowing one's top or by letting off steam might have a positive effect.  To the contrary, he notes, humans are not like kettles full of heated water, and anger is not steam.  Instead, when a person acts violently as a result of anger, the violent reaction becomes associated with and more closely linked to future anger.  Contrary to popular belief, when a person "acts out" to release "steam" one time, they are more likely in the future to react with violence. 

When a person is feeling angry, it is better to sit quietly or meditate to calm one's self down. 

Here is a link to the article:  Anger Is Not Heated Fluid In A Container


Monday, September 21, 2009

Pray for Peace



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Will you help me recruit a million people for the cause of peace? This will take just three minutes of your time:

  • First Minute: sign THIS PLEDGE (which will be delivered to the United Nations)
  • Second Minute: Pause for one minute at NOON ON EVERY SEPTEMBER 21 to pray for peace. Pray for whatever you choose, in any way you choose.
  • Third Minute: Pass this link along to ten friends.

What Is the International Day of Peace?


Here is a message from Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations.

Remember the horrible events of history that led to the formation of the United Nations.

Most victims of war are powerless. Please lend your voice to those who have none.

The Greatest Generation made a pledge, "Never Again". Let's help keep their pledge a reality.


Pray for a world where people can take seriously that the acronym WMD should stand for "We Must Disarm".

Dare to dream, dare to believe.

Here are some other ideas for ways to observe the International Day of Peace. These ideas were originally posted HERE by Mark Koenig:


Why Do We Care?  Here's One Good Reason . . .

Friday, September 18, 2009

Focus on Christian Mediation

The process of mediation is not faith based.  Mediation is a good tool for addressing most types of conflict.  For people who are Christians, however, scriptural principles in the New Testament have much to say not only about the value of settling disputes outside of court, but also about the spiritual ramifications that are inherent in how we respond to wrongs.  Because of these scriptural principles, Bible-based mediation can differ from secular mediation in several respects. 

First, a first key goal of Christian mediation is that the parties become genuinely, and authentically, reconciled to one another.  This is not just a matter of kissing and making up.  It is expected that this process will involve prayerful self examination, acknowledgment of and acceptance of responsibility for wrongful thoughts or actions, a commitment to genuine change, as well as a willingness to forgive and to be forgiven. 

A second key goal of Christian mediation is to follow the Biblical mandate not to take cases between Christians before the secular courts.  Bible based mediation therefore is usually structured so that parties first mediate, but they also enter into a binding agreement which provides that their dispute will be submitted to an arbitrator if they fail to agree through mediation.  The arbitrator is generally a person, chosen by agreement between the parties, who is respected as an expert in both secular law and in scriptural principles.  

A third aspect of Bible based conflict resolution is so rarely applied in modern times that is it virtually nonexistent.  Namely, expulsion (or excommunication) from the church.  This type of sanction can also take the form of some other order as well, such as mandatory alcohol or drug counseling. 

Parties interested in learning more can explore other topics on my blog, or contact me directly. 


* * *

And if thy brother sin against thee, go, show him his fault between thee and him alone:  if he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.  But if he hear thee not, take with thee one or two more, that at the mouth of two witnesses or three every word may be established.  And if he refuse to hear them, tell it unto the church:  and if he refust to thear the church also, let him be unto thee as the Gentile and the publican.  * * *  Then came Peter and said to him, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  until seven tmes?  Jesus saith unto him, I ay not unto thee, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven. 

(Matt 5:15 - 21)

When one of you has a dispute with another believer, how dare you file a lawsuit and ask a secular court to decide the matter instead of taking it to other believers! Don't you realize that someday we believers will judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can't you decide even these little things among yourselves?  . . .  So you should surely be able to resolve ordinary disputes in this life. If you have legal disputes about such matters, why go to outside judges who are not respected by the church?  I am saying this to shame you. Isn't there anyone in all the church who is wise enough to decide these issues?  But instead, one believer sues another, right in front of unbelievers! Even to have such lawsuits with one another is a defeat for you. Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated? Instead, you yourselves are the ones who do wrong and cheat even your fellow believers.

(1 Corinthians 6)


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Special Ed Kids, IEP's, and the New School Year

September 16, 2009

Special ed kids are starting a new school year.  Take some time now, at the beginning of the new school year, to benchmark, collect tools and resources, and schedule conversations with teachers and school officials. 
Click HERE for a great article on Wrightslaw (a special education resource) that will get you started.  If you are a Special Ed parent or child in South Carolina, and you need help navigating the system, feel free to give me a call for a professional consultation.  It's not a well known fact, but any party can request mediation at any point whenever a conflict arises with regard to a child's Individualized Education Plan.   Click HERE for my professional mediation web page about mediation in special ed cases. 


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fallout From the Mushroom Cloud: Part V of Using Social Media to Build Community

September 15, 2009

"If your non-profit isn't acting with as much energy and guts as it takes to get funded in Silicon Valley or featured on Digg, then you're failing in your duty to make change." Quote from Seth Godin's blog entry, "The Problem With Non," posted September 15, 2009. 

* * *

This is the fifth in my blog series about using social media to build community organizations.  Part I of this series was inspired the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, Bruce Reyes-Chow, who blogged about "Top Ten Reasons Churches and Pastors Resist Social Media".  On the same day I read his post, I also attended a meeting of the Outreach Committee of my own church.  One of the issues that came up at that meeting was the issue of balancing budgeting priorities among various things like newspaper ads, web page design, resources to keep the web page updated, investment in wireless Internet and other technologies for the church building.  During this conversation, I observed a distinct generation gap:  An older member of the group was discussing the need for a newspaper ad, and a younger member of the group replied with a comment that both shocked and enlightened.  He said that most young people will not look at a newspaper to find a church; they will use Google and look online. 

I agree.  Paper is becoming increasingly irrelevant in my own household. 

The next Sunday, as I looked across the heads of people in the sanctuary for church, I noticed that most of them had gray hair.  Where are the "young" people?  Are they failing to engage in community, or are they just failing to engage in my community?  If they are not attracted to my community, then what is it about my community that fails to appeal?  Does my own community in fact lack vitality, or is it just missing one element, perhaps communication?  It's a crisis, as local community organizations, not just churches, struggle with how to remain engaged and vibrant in the local community.  What makes people want to be a part of that?  What is the role of social media in the local organization, and what role is played by the non-geographic community? 

As my thoughts grew, so did the length of this series on using Social Media to Build Community Organizations. 

I believe the Internet is to the Printing Press as the Nuclear Bomb was to Conventional Warfare.  The Internet, and Social Media, has been released in the world.  The fallout from that mushroom cloud is transforming society. The question is, how will we respond?   Immediately after "the Bomb" was dropped, Japan knew that something fundamental had shifted in the way war could be conducted.  Surrender was almost immediate.  We ought to surrender our ideas about conventional communication just as quickly.  Assuming we do want to keep pace with the 21st Century, which way do we go?   

Here's how one church has gone.  For what it's worth, the church that created this video also offers an "online" congregation in addition to traditional services: 

The notion that the Internet has changed the way our society operates is not news to anyone.  In his book The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman discusses the revolutionary ways in which the Internet has created opportunities for dispersal of information.  The Internet has eliminated geographic obstacles and boundaries for many kinds of human endeavors.  People can now engage in communities that are no longer restricted to one geographic locale.  As a result, the fundamental geography of human relationships has now shifted also. 

Here's another video, this one discussing the emergent church and challenges to the future of the institutional church.  But, do we really have to choose?

In my view, social media is vital to any congregation or community organization that seeks to remain relevant in today's world.  I can't tell you how or what or give a simple roadmap about how to make your organization relevant and vital.  All I can say is, you'd better figure it out or your organization will go the way of the small family farm or the mimeograph machine.  In this series, I've tried to provide some thoughts as well as some concrete suggestions that might help in terms of finding the right balance.

There are many beneficial side effects of opening the world of ideas and communication to everyone.  In Part II of the series, I used the story of Mary and Martha to illustrate what I viewed as the importance of paying heed to both aspects of human nature:  the mental and imaginative side (as represented by Mary) and the embodied and practical side (as represented by Martha).  I urged that churches ought to find ways of embracing and incorporating social media.  I linked to a web site showing how to create a podcast and to a YouTube video discussing the value of Twitter. 

There's just one problem, though.  The Marthas among us rightly ask with alarm, "If we focus purely on the world of ideas, and build our community around that, what happens to the local soup kitchen?"  This led to Part III of this series, in which I urged that social media, itself, is not the enemy.  Social media is a tool, and we simply must learn how to use it wisely -- and with intention -- to build community at the local level. 

On the other hand, there are indeed those among us who don't feel any particular commitment to local community.  They may even take a laissez faire attitude that if a local community organization dies, it must not have been relevant anyway.  Like a business that fails to match with its target market. In Part IV of this series I argue in favor of local community.  I confess, I am a social media maven.  I feel deeply nurtured by my online community and contacts.  Yet, I am also deeply and profoundly embedded in and committed to my local community. I was separated from my local church while I lived in China for four years.  Like the Prodigal Son upon his return, my absence from my local church helped me learn to appreciate it more deeply upon my return.  Not only am I in love with my local church, I also think there is value in my being accountable and responsive to my local church.  Though it's not always a message I want to hear, sometimes I need to be reminded that I should wash dishes at the local soup kitchen, and I especially need to be reminded on those days when I don't feel like it.  

Yet I still return to the idea that we must nurture every side of our Being, not just our embodied, physical self but also our spiritual and intellectual side.  And churches are making a grave mistake if they think it's just a matter of "publicity".  Social media is a new way of thinking, relating, of doing business, of being in relationship! 

Social media has revolutionized not only how we communicate, but how we think.  My brother-in-law is a pediatrician.  When my youngest child was born, he told me "No TV until Munchkin is two years old.  The difference in stimulation changes the way the brain is physically wired."  Well, right.  It changes the way we think, literally.  There has been a sea change, and we are witness to it.  I observe young people and they do think differently, perceive differently, and relate differently, than I do.  Just as I think, perceive and relate differently than my parents and my grandparents.  It's not really practical just to get rid of the TV and the computer and the telephone.  We live in the Age of the Internet.  What I propose is that we find wholesome and fruitful ways to embrace and utilize the new technology. 

This leads me now to propose the following concrete suggestions concerning use of social media by churches and other community organizations: 

(a) Social media can be used to strengthen individuals personally through access to information and resources.  In furtherance of this goal, community organizations can enable access to information by installing internet (preferably high speed, wireless), and making it available to their constituents.  Churches can organize training and sharing sessions such as instruction in Internet use.  Churches should make sure that all children are trained in how to keep themselves and their personal information safe from Internet predators. 

(b) Social media can nurture healthy online communities through opportunities for wholesome and healthy interaction.   Social media has spurred new ways of meeting and talking, such as chats and tweetups.  Church groups can facilitate chats and tweetups.  Churches need to be proactive about training and guiding young people in safe use of these activities. 

(c) Social media can nurture deeper relationships among individuals within the local community by enabling greater depth of communication about subjects not normally discussed in chatty conversations.  Churches and community organizations can encourage deeper communication and blogging.  Specific topics can be used as conversation starters, much like a Sunday School class discussion format.  Volunteers could take turns moderating these discussions. 

(d) Social media can be used to broadcast detailed information about local community organizations and events.  To be useful communication tools, church web pages need to be relevant, engaging, and up to date.  Twitter and Facebook also offer venues for communication of current events.  Churches can create events on Facebook and encourage members to publicize the events through this medium. 

(e) Social media can be used to educate virtual bystanders or researchers about the local community organization and opportunities within that community.  Most people in the younger age groups no longer look in a newspaper to get information about local organizations and volunteer opportunities.  Instead, they will look online to find a community organization.  Is your organization's web page interesting and inviting?  Do you give clear instructions about location and contact information?  Are dates and times of events clearly stated and readily apparent from a glance at your web page? 

(f) Social media can be used as a resource for sharing events such through media such as video and audio broadcast and photo sharing.  Is your organization taking advantage of easy digital technology, free resources for creating and broadcasting podcasts?  Do you post video of your best sermons and outreach activities on YouTube?   

(g) What possibilities have I not thought of?  I am interested in the general project of using online resources to strengthen individuals and community -- in all these ways -- both among geographically dispersed people as well as within geographically local community.  What other ways is your church using social media?  Please share in a comment below! 

In conclusion, social media can expand horizons of communication for both individuals and for local community organizations.  Social media does this not only by enabling relations that are not bound by geographic restrictions, but also by increasing effectiveness of communication within the local community.  In so doing, it can deepen relationships of individuals who work within local community organizations and strengthen ties in the local community as well as in the "virtual" community.  I hope to continue to blog and journal about this. Please comment as well! 

Monday, September 14, 2009

Focus on Elder Mediation

14 September 2009

Elder Mediation creates a safe space for dialogue about challenging issues that come with changing circumstances in life. Each family’s needs are different. Issues involved in Elder Mediation may include:

  • Estate Planning & Trust Arrangements,
  • Housing & Living Arrangements,
  • Care giving & Health Care Planning,
  • Financial Management & Consumer Issues,
  • Guardianship & Conservatorship Issues,
  • Decisions about inheritance, and
  • Settlement of Estates when heirs disagree.

Any person may suggest a mediaton, and the Elder is involved in the mediation to the fullest extent possible.  Mediation strives to preserve the autonomy, independence, and dignity of the Elder while accommodating practical and financial needs including care giving and safety.  

Ideally, a family will call in a mediator to facilitate discussion before a crisis occurs. This will ensure that thoughtful well-considered strategies for dealing with life transitions are put in place at a time when many options are still open.  When done early in the process, planning can be proactive rather than reactive.

A mediator is often called in after a crisis has occurred.  When faced with a crisis, the Elder and different members of the family may individually come up with different answers to the question, “What’s next?”  Big decisions must be made on short time frames and with limited information.  This is fine. The mediator is a professional.  Elder mediators do not make decisions for families, but they can point families to resources and facilitate the process of decision making.  In this way, they help families manage conflict peacefully. 

Elder mediators are aware of the stresses and challenges posed by aging family members. Caregiver burnout and inheritance issues are common in families. The conversations that are required to deal with these issues are difficult ones. Health, financial and care giving concerns are serious issues, demanding that all family members weigh in with their views. The answers to how problems will be addressed often, as well, depend on very personal values. The challenges of aging, and of caring for an aging parent, will require various family members to draw on resources, sometime on sheer inner strength, that they didn’t even realize they had.

Regardless of the context or timing, Elder Mediation builds up families by helping them come to agreement and face these challenges in a unified, cohesive manner. In this way, mediation may actually heal fractured relationships and restore family unity. At a minimum, Elder Mediation offers the promise of helping families come up with agreements that everyone can live with, even if no solution seems 100% perfect.

The mediator is not a “counselor,” but neither do most families desire “therapy”. They just need help working out a solution that everyone can live with. A mediator guides family meetings, sets ground rules and referees the conversation so that difficult topics can be discussed in a neutral and safe environment. This setting enables families to overcome the emotional hurdles preventing healthy communication.



A mediation done in this way often takes the form of a family meeting, led by the mediator in such a way as to create the space for everyone in the family to be heard on an important developing family transition. Conflict addressed in this way may be dealt with in a healthy way, before hard feelings or grievances have a chance to fester or polarize the parties.

As family members seek fair ways of sharing the burdens and resources of the family, their individual perceptions and personal feelings are important. Using Elder Mediation to address tensions may avoid the feeling (or actuality) of exclusion of family members. It also avoids having the entire burden of care, or of decision making, fall on one person, whether that person is the Elder themselves, a spouse, or one particular child. Securing adequate assistance from a unified family may actually prevent abusive or neglectful behavior by overwhelmed caregivers.  

Families on the journey toward planning for old age may find themselves not only in territory they aren’t familiar with (estate planning, trusts, advance care directives, home health care, assisted living choices, etc.) but also they may find that when siblings and adult parents must come together to face these issues, they may come face to face with feelings from their past that bubble up and make clear thinking difficult.

Unresolved tensions that may have simmered below the surface can resurface and make family conversations very difficult. Siblings who have lived apart for many years may have developed differences in their own geographic, economic and immediate family structures. As a result of these challenges, they may find it challenging to work together. Angry words may be spoken, and thoughtful decision making can seem all but impossible. 

Even when the angry words are not spoken, an appearance of “peace” may not be truly peaceful at all.  Underneath the still waters, there may be a turbulent bed of emotions.  Mediation seeks to help parties find an authentic peace, not a faked one. 

In conclusion, mediators with specialized knowledge in areas related to estates, financial planning, physical care, mental and emotional needs, and community resources, can help facilitate family discussions about matters relating to safety, finances and capabilities while keeping in mind the senior’s desire for individual control and respect.  If you are interested in talking with me about any issue that may be resolved through mediation, take a look at my mediation web site, HERE.


Monday, September 7, 2009

Breaking Impasse in Mediation

7 September 2009

If a conflict were "easy" for the parties to a negotiation to solve by themselves, they wouldn't need a mediator.  Impasse is a fact of life.  Sometimes the mountain seems pretty formidable.  It's the mediator's job to help the parties find a way over or around their impasse.  Here is a list of some techniques to break impasse.  It was originally posted by Peter Bloch on a dispute resolution listserv.  I have copied the list (though not verbatim) from a site on ADR resources (HERE) run by Stephen R. Marsh.  Thank you to both Mr. Bloch and Mr. Marsh for sharing: 


  1. "Fly on the wall": When an impasse develops, ask one of the parties physically to leave their seat and stand near the wall. Then ask them to play the role of "objective observer".  Ask them to look back at the controversy as it is being played out and give both parties advice on the smart thing to do to resolve the problem.
  2. Role play: Ask the parties to exchange roles. Ask them to remember everything they can about the other person's position and to play that person's "part". Ask them to feel like the other person and to be the other person. They may ask for clarification from the real person, either at the beginning of the exercise or as it progresses.
  3. Brainstorm: Encourage parties to throw every idea on the table, regardless of how crazy it may sound, whom it favors or where it may lead.
  4. Neutral evaluation: Ask another person to comment on the value of something that is crucial to the argument.
  5. External mechanism: Ask the parties to agree on how something will be valued or how some fact will be determined.  An example could be the use of a formula or a market index, even though the actual value is not known.
  6. Exaggeration: Ask one or both sides to exaggerate both their position and their emotional attitude. Sometimes exaggeration causes a person to see their own behavior in a fresh way.
  7. Time out for meditation: Ask parties to take a break for reflection, perhaps in the room together. Do not permit anything to be said. Ask people to think silently about identifying possibilities they may not have yet seen.
  8. Fresh blood: Ask the parties to send in a fresh person who is authorized to act but has not seen all the blood letting that has occurred.
  9. Relationship building. Have the parties to an important dispute spend some time together in a relaxed, retreat-type setting. Let some of the sessions consist of mutual activities or of relaxing together with no particular agenda.
  10. Acknowledgment. Encourage each side to reflect on and acknowledge the admirable qualities of character shown by the other side. Ask them to verbalize the positive things they see.
  11. Personal narrative. Ask each side to share a story about another situation in their life that reminds them of what is happening now.
  12. BATNA and WAPTNA. Assign each side the homework of developing and putting into writing their "Best alternative to a negotiated agreement" and their "worst alternative to a negotiated agreement." This will permit the parties to see more clearly what is at stake by remembering the best and worst that may happen to them if the negotiations fail.
  13. Confrontation. Confront one or both sides about what they are doing and the likely results of continuing in that way.
  14. Setting deadlines. We must accomplish "x" in the next hour or I will assume that there is no will in this room toward settlement.
  15. Offer to forfeit a portion of your fee if the parties can settle before a set deadline. (Only helpful where the size of the fee is large in relationship to the importance of the conflict.)
  16. State interests rather than positions. What do they really want?  What are their concerns?  What are their motivations?  In what areas might they be more flexible?
  17. Imagine a better future. What might the parties be able to do in the future that would be even more valuable than past activities, if they could solve this impasse? 
  18. Change the tone. Ask people to dress differently. To sit in different locations. To sip a cold (non-alcoholic?) drink. (If they are informal ask if becoming more formal might help, and vice versa.)
  19. Switch roles. The mediator becomes a party, and one of the parties becomes the mediator for a while.
  20. Brainstorm again:  Ask the parties to throw out ideas how to break the impasse.
  21. Propose one or a few options: Here are some ideas I have had. They count for nothing unless the parties both like the ideas.
  22. Assign both parties to read the book, "Getting Past No." It has ideas that may help to break the impasse.
  23. List some things that may be at stake: money, prestige, trust, respect, etc. Ask the parties to discuss and explore which of these things seems to be most in the way of breaking the impasse.
  24. If someone shows emotion, comment on that and ask why they think the emotion is present.  The answer may reveal a cause of or a way past the impasse.