Song of Peace

Song of Peace

Fireworks behind statue of liberty

“This is my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine;
this is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine:
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine;
but other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine:
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
a song of peace for their land and for mine.”
–Lloyd Stone, 1912-1992/3, written in the interval between WWI and WWII when he was only 22

This song is one that our choir has sung several times around the 4th of July. I love it because it reminds me that just as we in the USA feel strongly about our country, its beauty, and our patriotism, so do people of other countries love their land, its beauty, and they are patriots too.

Over the years I have come to appreciate the freedoms we so often take for granted in the United States. I love my country, despite many things I see that make me recoil. A few things that come to mind are racial prejudice, the rich lording it over the rest of us, crooked politicians, a callous attitude toward those who are less fortunate than we, an air of superiority, and insistence that one point of view is right while everyone else’s is wrong. But though there are a lot of things that are wrong with our country, there are also many things that are right with it.

Traveling outside the U.S. has a way of making you see our country differently. When my husband and I visited Spain for a couple of weeks in March, I thought it was interesting to watch the news. There wasn’t much about the United States on their news. Oh, my…does that mean America is not the center of the universe, as we sometimes think we are?

This was our second trip to Europe; the first was 30 years ago. When we got home after that trip, I was so thankful for many things I’d taken for granted: air conditioning, ice in drinks, clean public restrooms without having to pay an attendant, being able to communicate in a common language. After our trip to Spain, I realized my perspective has shifted. We Americans are often spoiled. We visit other countries and expect things to be the way they are here. Well, they’re not.

I enjoyed our trip to Spain. We found the people friendly and helpful. Of course, it helped that I was able to communicate in Spanish. Not fluently, but my conversational Spanish was passable and I understood most of what I heard.

I’ve often heard it said that people are reflections of the way you treat them. If they treat you kindly, perhaps it’s because you send out vibes of kindness. If they are nasty toward you, maybe it’s because they sense some ugliness in you. Or maybe they’re just kind or nasty on their own…I don’t know.

On this trip, rather than thinking about what I missed about home, I started thinking about the advantages of being in another culture. It’s good to experience a slower pace of life, to linger over a meal for a while, to be anonymous in a crowd, to not feel like everyone owes me something (I don’t think I have that attitude as an American, but perhaps some of it is engrained in me).

I did come to appreciate the virtues of toilet tissue and having a commode seat (we ate in a few restaurants in Sevilla where these “amenities” were not available). I was also glad I took along a purse-size package of Kleenex.

Well, I am getting distracted now because my family is in the kitchen, so I will close. No really deep thoughts here, just appreciation for our country and its freedoms and the right to express my opinion and the right for others to disagree with me and the prayer that we will learn to appreciate the differences of others and embrace diversity and learn to practice compassion, listen more and talk less, and be a little more tolerant and forgiving of those who “push our buttons.” That is all.

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What Makes Me Happy

“Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be,”  Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying. I agree wholeheartedly. While I certainly understand sadness and depression, having spent some time in that desolate territory, I do not wish to pitch my tent and dwell there.

Some days and seasons are hard to live through.  Sometimes you have to recognize when you’re in a situation that’s over your head and you need help. Sometimes you need a listening ear, even perhaps a professional counselor, to sort through all the mess and confusion.

But research has shown that people who focus on happy thoughts and put a smile on their face, even when they’re feeling down, are just happier folks.

Today I’ve been thinking about some things that make me happy. Here are a few, in no particular order:

A child’s laughter

A good belly laugh

Dancing

The aroma of lilacs

Learning something new

Being able to say something in Spanish or French (the latter, I’m not tres bien at…imagine that accent “eggu” over the “e” in “tres”)

Laughing at myself when I do something silly

Doing something silly just for the heck of it

My kitty stretched out on my lap with her paws extended over her head,  in a posture of complete relaxation

The ditties my husband makes up and sings to me in his slightly out-of-tune voice

Seeing my children do something kind for someone

The smell of molasses cookies baking

Cooking

Making a dish for a neighbor or someone who’s sick

Having a conversation with what would be considered an old person

Reading a good book

Reading a trashy novel every once in a while

Getting a letter from a friend

Hearing someone giggle

A thought-provoking quotation

Cartoons (both printed and animated)

Taking a mental health day from work

Puttering around the house

The smell of laundry fresh from the dryer

The feel of folding clothes

Finding mates for socks (the washer usually eats one or two)

Going on a scavenger hunt

Playing volleyball

Taking a walk and stopping to smell a flower or look at a beautiful tree

Good conversations

Meeting interesting people (I gravitate toward musicians and artists)

Trying to figure out what makes people tick (although this is often frustrating)

A beautiful, sunshiny day

Watching snowflakes outside my window

Hiking, especially in autumn

The crunch of leaves as you walk through them

Radnor Lake

Walking on a trail in the woods by myself

Wine with a good friend

Babies after a bath, with their flyaway hair (and hooded towels are just too funny)

Finishing a project and feeling like I’ve given it my best

Drawing, coloring, painting

Enjoying an art show

Reading the Psalms, pondering the Gospels, trying to fathom what in the world the apostle Paul meant by some of his writing

Speaking or writing words of encouragement to lift someone’s spirits

My family having a good discussion around the dinner table

A humble author

Watching TV with our entire family (seldom happens; we don’t have many shows we all like, nor are we all home at the same time)

Seeing positive developments in my children’s lives

Holding hands with John

Hearing Daniel say “I love you” as he signs off the phone

Having lunch with a friend

Watching Julie take pride in keeping her car clean

Laughing together at a joke

E-mail jokes from Jim and Gail

Knowing I’ve listened to someone else and tried to understand that person’s point of view without telling my own story

Singing

Making music on the piano

Finally enjoying singing in Latin at church (it took a while for me to get there)

Watching people in my congregation…especially during baptism and Communion

Hearing our children’s and youth choirs sing

A little Bach, a little Beethoven, some Three Dog Night, Elton John’s early music, The Eagles, Mozart, Norah Jones, Latin music, classical guitar…oh, there is so much good music and great musicians, this is just a mere sampling

These are just a few things that make me happy or bring me joy. There are many more that I can’t think of at the moment. Oh, one joy is knowing I’ve got food in the crockpot for dinner and I won’t have to think about it later in the day when I’m tired. This happens about once in a blue moon. 😀