Abandoned by God

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I have chosen to ignore Holy Week in recent years. I am fully aware of the importance of this time for the Church year. In fact, I have preached and taught about it my entire career. Easter is the most holy day for Christians (not Christmas – it unfortunately has become the patron day for commercialization and the glorification of the family, no matter how dysfunctional or even abusive it might be). And as I have stated for years, Christians can’t really appreciate the wonder of Easter without knowing what happened the previous days. Yet, Christians consistently forgo the pain of Holy Week and focus instead on the flowers, eggs, candy, and pretty new outfits of Easter Sunday. In our society’s constant pursuit of happiness, we turn from pain towards the party.

Holy Week is tough. It deals with Jesus being frustrated to the point of anger, and abandoned by all his friends except for his mother and a couple close women disciples . It involved torture and capital punishment. The events of those few days are so agonizing that Jesus even asks why God has forsaken him as he hangs from the cross to which he is nailed.

At its core, Holy Week is about feeling abandoned by God. And so that’s why I chose to ignore it the past few years. Life had enough pain without wallowing in it for a few more days. I needed an Easter every day, not just one day each Spring.

The Church’s bemoaning of Easter Christians who ignore the other facets of the faith walk might be missing the truer realities of living in today’s world. Yes, there are some people who only want the party, but perhaps there are many more who simply cannot add one more hurtful event to their lives. Few days ever go by without someone sharing with me that she feels abandoned by the divine in the world, alone to face the hurt that life so often brings. Many countless people experience distress each day due to the lack of compassion or grace by the world around them. They are targeted due to gender, social class, race, sexual orientation, religion, or simply for decisions they make in life. Just as the majority of Jesus’ closest followers deserted him at the most difficult time of his life, too many people today are ignored or even blamed by the very people who call themselves Christian, and yet refuse to live as Jesus himself would.

How are Christians to observe this holiest of weeks? We are to observe it by doing everything in our power to alleviate the pain in this world – not by passing judgment, but by showing compassion and grace. We can pray for all the thousands of Muslims who have been terrorized and killed by ISIL. We can reach out to people who are different from ourselves, and truly listen to their stories, honestly attempting to comprehend their lives. We can fight for just laws which do not discriminate or alienate others. We can ensure a good education and safe and secure living environment for every child. We can follow the footsteps of Jesus, reaching out with compassion and grace to a world where the majority live the agonies of Holy Week each day.

 

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Giving Up Giving Things Up for Lent

lent-imageI’m giving up giving things up for Lent. After having spent close to 30 years seriously contemplating my Lenten practice of fasting, I think it’s time for a change. I first discovered this ancient practice of giving something up for Lent while I was in college. One of my friends, another religion major, was a devout Episcopalian. I recall seeing her in a Wednesday morning class during my freshman year, wondering how she could have dirt on her forehead. I kindly let her know, because what kind of friend who let someone go around with dirt on her forehead all day? She grinned, and then patiently explained Ash Wednesday and Lent to me.

I felt like an idiot. How could the minister at my own United Methodist Church not have told us about something that Christians all over the world had done for centuries? I vowed I would join Christians around the globe in observing Lent, so that I could best be prepared to celebrate Easter. During those first few years, I always gave up something to eat. I have attempted chocolate six different times – but between my birthday falling during Lent and the arrival of Girl Scout cookies – I never succeeded. I have given up Diet Coke a couple times, and have focused on red meat until I finally gave up red meat completely. (Turns out eating red meat has a very bad impact environmentally, and I could certainly get protein in other ways.) After a while, I turned to things like not gossiping (a Lenten promise to which I was driven by a particular coworker), and not thinking negatively. I also experimented with taking on something – like a special volunteer project or fundraising for hunger.

These have all been well and good, and I am glad I observed Lent in those ways, but those days are in the past. I have spent close to 25 years in the ministry, much of it working with women and especially young adult women. So many women have already given up so much in their lives. Sacrifices made for children, parents, husbands. Time spent trying to prop up a broken public school system. The thankless job of managing the details of dying churches, while many lay men still held the power and were oftentimes not acknowledged by male clergy. Volunteering to help those in need, while they themselves found it difficult to make ends meet.

In the midst of this patriarchal society – where women do not earn what men earn, are graded on their looks, are abused and killed at alarming rates by male partners, and are the backbone of a broken economy – I encourage the women of the world to give up giving things up for Lent. Instead of giving up yet one more thing, find some way to treat yourself during this season. Get that long overdue haircut. Buy a special chocolate bar. Take time to read a book for fun. Tell your husband he is on duty one evening or day while you go and just goof off. Join a women’s group. Take a retreat, even if for just a few hours.

I am well aware that I am fortunate woman. I have not had to make the sacrifices that many of my sisters make each day. But that is the point, isn’t it? We are all sisters. And Jesus is our brother. He required sacrifices of those who had much, and knew that Mary deserved to sit at his feet and learn with the men. He didn’t require her to spend one more minute in the kitchen, sacrificing her time and energy so that others could be with him.

So I invite my sisters to observe a Holy Lent, knowing that the women of our world are not required to be the sacrificial martyr.

The Depths of Winter

a cold January day at an old Irish cemetary

a cold January day at an old Irish cemetary

My daughter and I had a recent conversation about “winter music.” As we drove around in my car, I yet again forced her to listen to Sting’s If On A Winter’s Night. She didn’t seem to mind, but was curious why I was still listening to Christmas songs and it was after January 6. (We do observe the full 12 days of Christmas in my home.) I shared that throughout the centuries, people had songs they would sing during the dark, short days of winter, and this was the music Sting honored with his album. That definitely included some tunes about the Christmas story, but winter was broader than just 12 days.

I acknowledge I am like much of our society when I want to skip winter, unless it involves a pretty snow that is easily drivable in a day or two. It seems Christmas is about bringing as much happiness and light into the world as we can, and then we immediately turn to Valentine’s Day where love reigns supreme, and then we immediately skip to swimsuit season. Unless we enjoy winter sports, we try our best to ignore the short, gray days, and the sadness that can often accompany them. When Sting gave interviews about his winter music, he discussed the importance of diving into winter and embracing what it means spiritually. When we just try to survive it – to skitter through in anticipation of bright, sunny days – then we miss an important aspect of life.

In the past couple decades, our society seems to have become more and more obsessed with being happy. The pursuit of happiness appears to take precedence over anything else in our lives. We don’t see the value in things which don’t make us happy. Many years ago I met with my wise spiritual director, Susan, and I can remember telling her that I just wanted to be happy. She responded, “Perhaps wanting to be peaceful might be a better option. Happiness can be superficial, and doesn’t really speak to your soul.”

Peace can only come when we really face the gray days of winter. If we try to ignore those times in our lives, we will not truly know peace. I invite you this winter to observe a full winter. Find times of quiet. Reflect on the purpose of your life. Embrace the darkness, knowing that it will shed light on the easier days. Dive into winter – the cold, the lack of light, the isolation – and look into what your soul says to you. We will definitely appreciate the warmth more fully when it comes, and be able to grasp the deep peace which truly does bring joy into our lives.

The Prince of Peace in today’s world…

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The traditional Moravian beeswax candles for our Christmas service

The first Thursday of December is when Salem College holds its annual Christmas Candlelight worship service, which has been a tradition since the beginnings of our school in the late 1700s. As College Chaplain, I am privileged to provide a meditation. Our world right now is so particularly shattered by hate, violent rhetoric, fear and misinformation, that it begs to be addressed, especially during this season of advent. Below is the message I gave last week –

We come together today for this annual worship service to prepare for the celebration of Christmas. And Christmas is all about honoring the Christ Child. During this season, there are many names we call the Christ Child – the Light, the Messiah, Emmanuel, the Prince of Peace. This afternoon, I would like to focus on what it means to prepare for the coming of Peace.

Peace is something we talk a lot about in this world, but it is so elusive. The name Salem itself comes from the Hebrew word Shalom, which means peace. The Moravian founders of this area sought to build a peaceful society in the midst of a world that seemed so far from it. At the heart of this sacred ground of Salem – peace should reside.

Just as the early Moravians knew, just as Sister Oesterlein (our first teacher) herself knew, this world is not peaceful. In recent months, we have been particularly reminded of that. Violence pours forth in so many parts of the world – whether the streets of Paris, Beirut, Baghdad, Kenya, Nigeria, or other places not deemed as news-worthy. Violent, mass shootings have become so commonplace in our own country that many of us aren’t as shocked as we should be, and think that all we can do is pray. Institutionalized racism is still a core fabric of our society – 50 years after the Civil Rights Movement – racism is present, whether it’s obvious, subtle, or unrecognized by the people in power. People who don’t fit what society deems the “norm” are seen as less than and less worthy.

And we all know the saying “Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” – and we know the lie that fills that phrase. Words of hate, fear, division and ignorance do hurt us. Peace is that intangible thing we talk about, especially at this time of the year, but which we struggle to grasp. Before we can even define what Peace in our own lives, and Peace in the world, truly means – it slips through our fingers.

The child we gather to hear, sing and pray about this afternoon was someone who lived in a time of great violence and upheaval. He knew that Peace was something greatly desired in his world of unrest, hatred and fear. And when he talked about Peace – it wasn’t a sanitized version, where everything was clean, neat, happy, and uncomplicated. It wasn’t just the absence of violence. It can be too easy for us to buy into this – to sit in our nice clothes in a beautiful setting with the comforting aroma of beeswax candles and think this is Peace.
This – this that we experience here today – this is what propels us to work for Peace. Peace is real – it’s authentic – it’s messy. We come together not because this is Peace – but because this gathering lets us glimpse the possibilities before us. As we see the goodness in our sisters and brothers – we want to carry the hope and promise of true Peace with us tonight and tomorrow and the day after – we want the world to reflect what we see in small part here.

There is an old saying that holds true – If you want Peace, work for Justice.
Jesus was someone who didn’t just sit around and talk about lofty ideals. How he lived – his actions spoke far louder than words. He reached across lines of division – whether it was religious or cultural or political or socio-economic – and brought people together in unity. He insisted they operate with respect for the other, and place others before themselves. He modeled that Peace does not come from a place of power, but from a place of servanthood, of understanding, of walking in someone else’s shoes – especially if they are shoes in which we’d rather not walk.

I encourage you today – take the glimpse of the beauty and peace of this afternoon – this wonderful hint of a better world that is before us at this moment – I encourage you to carry it forth to a world filled with violence, division, fear and hatred. Take steps – both big and small – to work for the abolition of violence in all its many forms, to work for justice – so that peace may prevail. Breathe in the Peace around us, and release that breath of peace to the world. One place, one person, at a time – let peace begin with each one of us, as we seek to go forth and change the world for the better.

Peace be with you. Amen.

The Right to Parent

My daughter (center) with two of her best friends, also adopted from China and also my honorary daughters!

My daughter (center) with two of her best friends, also adopted from China and also my honorary daughters!

Today’s news is filled with a huge policy change in the world’s second most populated country. China has decided to end its one child policy. China is a major player on the global stage. More people speak Mandarin than English as a native language. Its economy directly impacts the global market. Its policies, both militarily and diplomatically, have major implications for numerous other countries. Yet, in my family, this policy hits much closer to home.

I always knew I wanted to be a mom. As a young teenager, I decided I wanted to adopt any children I had. Adopting babies domestically was quite difficult for many years (and is still not easy), and I knew there were countless children around the world who needed homes, so I intentionally chose to adopt internationally. When Angelina Jolie began to adopt children from around the world, I cannot say how much I envied her. She clearly articulated the thoughts I had on parenting and what it means to be a family. I eventually ended up with one birth child, and one child adopted from China. They are now college-aged adults who are the most important people in the world to me.

As people reflect on the one-child policy, there are so many different avenues to explore. We are facing a global population crisis, one which we never (or rarely) discuss in this prosperous nation of ours. China tried to deal with the issue when it instituted the policy so many years ago. However, the implementation of the policy has oftentimes been harsh, cruel, damaging and even inhuman. My daughter’s story (and so many stories of other children adopted internationally) turned out well. When we traveled to China to bring Ava home, everyone kept telling us she was a “lucky baby.” But we knew we were truly the lucky ones to have her in our lives. It has been vitally important over the years for her to understand her heritage and take pride in it. The Greensboro Chinese Association will forever be dear to me for all the myriad of ways they help adopted Chinese girls and boys to know their homeland.

Over the years, I have found myself oftentimes questioned about the situation in China which led to bringing Ava into our home. Many people who ask these questions do so from an elevated place, believing that our country is one of freedom where people can choose how many children they can have and not have the government interfere. Yet, the long-standing eugenics programs in the United States, including in my home state of North Carolina, challenge such assumptions. These forced sterilizations had nothing to do with overpopulation and everything to do with who has a right to parent. People in power believed they could play God and make those decisions for society. People on the fringes, who were seen as less than, were forcibly denied that right without their consent.

As so many people in our country hail the ending of China’s one-child policy, we set ourselves up on a pedestal, believing that our land of the free is above that sort of thing. Our history negates such a belief.

I feel quite fortunate to be a mom. I know not everyone is called to be a parent, but for those who hear that calling, the people in power should not deny it. This being said, we do have a global population issue that needs to be addressed. One of the major reasons I chose to adopt was because there were children who needed homes, and I didn’t feel a great compulsion to create a “mini-me.” Instead, I encourage each person to look into her own heart. Why do I feel called to be a parent? What does that say about a relationship with a child?

Parenting may be a right to some people, but instead I offer that it should be a calling, a privilege, a gift.

Where are you from? and welcoming the Stranger

“Where are you from?” As a native Southerner, that’s a question I’ve heard a great deal throughout my life. We like to know where people grew up, and then there is an excellent chance we will ask a couple more questions and find out we know some of the same people or are distantly related. As a native of the North Carolina mountains, I also get excited to meet someone from the Appalachian Mountains (and please pronounce it App-A-Latch-Un, and not App-A-Lashan). There’s something comforting about making a connection that speaks to the core of who I am.

Yet, that question is not always asked with kindness or respect. A hilarious video by Ken Tanaka highlights the difficulty non-white individuals can encounter in our society when people assume they must be from somewhere other than the United States. A Harvard student was asked this same question by Donald Trump Monday night when the young man attempted to ask a serious question of the Presidential Candidate. The implication is clear – someone of European descent is a “real” American, while someone of non-European descent is not.

Migration is a fact of history. It is a constant, at times having greater urgency than others. We are certainly witnessing that in our world today. How we respond to migration, and thus immigration, says far more about the people we are than about the people who are moving from one place to the next, or even the people we are assume (oftentimes incorrectly) are immigrants.

The Christian faith is based upon the life, ministry, and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus spent his early years as an immigrant. Due to persecution and threats of death, his family fled to Egypt where they could live in safety. So many of the migrants of our world today – whether in Europe or North America – are fleeing for reasons of safety or because the poverty is so overwhelming that it is impossible to survive. Jesus’ experience as an immigrant surely impacted his teachings, as did his own faith as a Jew. The Hebrew Scriptures are filled with mandates to welcome the stranger, the foreigner – to provide shelter, food and safety. Jesus himself said to that when we help the stranger, the one in need, then we are in fact welcoming him.

So why are we in this country so scared of someone who is different? Why do we want to literally build walls to keep out those who live in extreme poverty or dangerous places? Especially for those who continue to call this place a Christian nation, how can we say that if we ignore one of the basic tenets of the Bible?

Christians need to reclaim this vital part of our teaching and expression of faith. To become insular, to fear one who is different in whatever way we perceive them, is to reject Jesus. I am fortunate to work with a very diverse group of young women as a college chaplain. It pains me to hear some of them share their stories of rejection and fear, either as immigrants, or as citizens who are assumed otherwise because of how they look. Yet, in the midst of the pain so many of them experience, I can see the face of Christ. Each day, these young women teach me more and more about the Christ spirit, and what it is to welcome the stranger. And when we welcome the stranger, we discover more rewards and joy than we would ever know by limiting our circle of friends, or members of our community.

Where are you from? I’d like to say I’m from a place where all our welcome, and much grace is always to be found.

Those Who Live By the Sword

CrossedSwords“Those who live by the sword, will die by the sword.” According to the Bible, those are the words of Jesus. Many people have heard this saying, but oftentimes don’t realize it comes from the Bible. I have heard students attribute it to some great writer or another, but these were the words of Jesus when he was arrested the night before he was crucified. Roman soldiers came to the Garden of Gethsemane to arrest him for treason, and one of the disciples (the hot-headed and impulsive Peter, naturally) grabbed one of the soldier’s swords and fought, slicing off the ear of the soldier. Jesus calmly healed the ear, and then uttered this sentence, before giving himself over to the authorities.

This phrase was one of the first things that popped into my mind when I heard the news story last week about Tennessee’s lieutenant governor suggesting that Christians should arm themselves after the terrible shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. I couldn’t help but wonder what Bible he had read. Christianity, as with any of the major world’s religions, has a great deal of diversity. It is unfortunate that the press wants to focus on one section of Christianity, the right-wing conservative. Of course, this is the same thing the media tends to do with Islam. In both religions, these groups are the minority. Yet, when there is an entire network dedicated to sharing the story of only one segment of Christians, it is understandable that version becomes what society views as the norm for all Christians.

There is no question that we live in a violent society. There is no question that we live in a deeply fragmented and divided society. There is no question that there are people who deal with mental health concerns (yet, do we really want to become the society of Spielburg’s 2002 movie, Minority Report?). However, I am tired of people who say they are Christians speaking for all Christians, when so many of us interpret the Bible differently and choose to follow Jesus along a different path.

Escalating violence in a violent society is not the Christian way. We have not even truly attempted to deal with the issue of guns and mass shootings in a peaceful, proactive manner. The stats are clear – our country far exceeds any other developed country in gun deaths and mass shootings. And the ones who cry the loudest for accessibility to guns are the ones who claim to be Christian and consistently call our country a Christian nation.

So, what would Jesus do? I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do know that living by the sword will only increase the violence and further alienate us from the grace, love, unity, and compassion the Christ Spirit offers. I am by no means against people owning guns. I grew up in a mountain culture where I knew plenty of people who hunted so their families could eat. I don’t know any Christians who want to take guns away from people like this, or people who are truly responsible. But I do know a whole lot of Christians who want to have serious discussion and reform in the open accessibility to guns, especially guns which could not possibly be used for hunting and can only be used for killing numerous people in a few seconds.

The Bible also says that we need to work towards being a society where swords are beaten into plowshares. We need to work towards giving life instead of destruction. No one wants to die by the sword, so let’s take proactive, unifying steps towards a more just, peaceful society.

Certainty is the Devil

extant

“Certainty is the Devil.” So states JD Richter, as portrayed by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, in the Halle Berry fronted series, Extant. Extant is produced by Steven Spielburg’s Amblin Entertainment. When Oscar winner Berry was attached to the series, it make a stir in the entertainment community. The sci-fi concept is set in the future, with Berry as an astronaut who finds herself connected with aliens, and possibly an alien invasion. Government conspiracies and threats of totalitarian rule soon ensues.

The show was a bit slow in its inaugural season, but the addition of Morgan and a revamped story line made it a must see this summer. The season finale airs tomorrow night. Morgan is his usual compelling self – this time a renegade bounty hunter with a better sense of justice than anyone in power. He has proved an excellent complement to the brilliant and heartfelt astronaut, Molly Woods. One aspect the series has relayed so well is the gray areas in the world, especially in regards to government, politics, protectionism, and what it means to be human. The near future, as many conveniences as it offers, is not an Eden where technology and science have made it easy to know right and wrong. If anything, moral certainty seems even further removed from reality. It is the people who have no room for doubt who make the biggest mistakes. And thus Richter offers the aphorism, “Certainty is the Devil.”

I can’t help but think of Kim Davis, the Kentucky Clerk of Court who has violated a court order to fulfill the responsibilities of her government position and issue marriage licenses because her brand of Christianity does not believe people of the same gender should be married. She is as certain as the day is long. This is the case in spite of being on her fourth marriage, and having conceived by one man while married to another.

Certainty is the Devil. Even Jesus seemed to realize this. One of my favorite passages in the Bible is that of the Syro-Phoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30). She is a non-Jewish woman with a critically ill daughter. She begs Jesus to heal her daughter, but he tells her that he has come for his own people. Who cannot think of the refugee and immigration crises around the world today when reading these words? Yet, she refutes his lack of concern for her plight, and he changes his mind. Yes, the Son of God, recognizes this foreign woman as a child of God and changes his mind. Her daughter is healed.

Jesus himself understood certainty was of the devil.

History is filled with stories of people who are certain, who refuse to listen to the experiences of others. Their certainty takes precedence over law, social norms, reason, experience, or relationships. It is the story of men who knew they were created in God’s image and should rule over women, who were seen as only a poor imitation of men. It is the story of people who found verses in the Bible that justified enslaving hundreds of thousands of people due to skin color. It is the story of people who want to protect people like themselves, regardless of the dire situations of other humans. It is the story of people who believe they alone know right and wrong, and that others should follow their dictates.

Of what am I certain? I am certain that each and every person in the world is a child of God and should be treated as such. I am certain that not one of us is God and fully knows what God thinks. I am certain that each one of us will find ourselves surprised in the great beyond to learn about some of God’s ideas that we have chosen to ignore. I am certain I don’t have all the answers, but I am called to struggle with the difficulties of the human condition and the big issues in the world. Certainty is the Devil.

Who Can Claim Community?

Community

Several weeks ago I was seated in a very familiar auditorium with hundreds of other United Methodist clergy. This is not an unfamiliar setting – I’ve spent much of my life in similar circumstances. As part of our meetings, various invited and scheduled individuals – leaders of our conference or denomination – stand and share information with us. I have forgotten much of what I heard during those few days, but one message still leaves me in shock.

One of the leaders of our seminaries stood up and began to share a story from a few years ago about an “athiest church.” For any of us who are aware of the great diversity of spiritual movements not just in our country, but around the world, this is an old story. Secular humanists have gathered for many years to provide insights for life, communal support, and values as to how to live in the world. Yet, it seemed to be news to this man. He continued this story, relating that when he heard it, there was one thing that came to mind – He thought it was “pathetic.”

My mouth hung open, stunned. My friends sitting near me shifted in their seats, obviously uncomfortable with such strong and judgmental language. This man continued his talk, stating that the Bible tells us that only followers of God can gather in true koinonia. Koinonia is a Greek word (and the New Testament was written in Hellenistic Greek) which essentially means fellowship. He stated that only people who gather in God’s name can have God’s presence in that community, and for others to copy this is pathetic.

Jesus was Jewish, but he never limited his contacts to people who were Jewish. In fact, it was often the non-Jewish people who became some of his closest associates, who carried forth his message, who even changed his mind about the nature of God (as in the Canaanite woman). If Jesus himself did not believe God’s presence could only be limited to his particular brand of religion, how can we make such statements today?

The past couple years of my life have been some of the most difficult I have encountered. And some people I know who claim to be Christian have been the most hurtful. And some of my most powerful encounters with the spirit of Christ have been through people who are athiests. Who are we to limit where God is in this world, how the Divine works, where true community and love and support can be found?

Our society and world are so incredibly divided, filled with hate and mistrust of “the other,” and lacking in the ability to engage in respectful dialogue. For those who claim to follow the spirit of Christ, we should be the last ones to pass judgment where the Divine is present or is not present. I give thanks that the Divine is present throughout all of creation and in each person I encounter.

Prayers for Nepal

Nepal flag

“Remember just to breathe, Amy.” Tenzin calmly bestowed these words on me as she left my office. Her smile and quiet presence lingered long after she headed back to her dorm room. She was one of the first Nepali people I had ever met, and she certainly exemplified the peaceful spirit I came to expect from so many of my Nepali students. When I arrived at my new job as a college chaplain years ago, I quickly realized our campus was filled with young women from Nepal. Over the years, I would learn so much from them – about the beauty of this remote and mountainous land, the average living conditions, and especially the Hindu and Buddhist faith of the people there.

Breathing is an essential part of yoga and meditation, practices well known in Nepal. As I have so often struggled to catch my breath in the midst of this hectic American lifestyle, my Nepali students have reminded me of the importance of simple focus and grounding. My knowledge of Hinduism and Buddhism were quite limited (and mainly academic) before getting to know these young women. I have learned much about these belief systems, and even more about the similarities and complementarities with my own faith of Christianity.

The impact of the earthquake in Nepal is staggering. The thousands of lost lives, the greater numbers homeless and in need of basic supplies, the years of rebuilding that lay ahead for this small and vital country – it’s overwhelming. As I work with former and current Nepali students, I pray for the help that is needed, and the strength and courage for the Nepali people to move forward. Please do consider making a donation. Money is what is needed first and foremost, and here are some reputable agencies who are already well established in Nepal.

Finally, I offer these words from the Bhagavad-Gita, XVIII, for the people of Nepal.

I desire neither earthly kingdom, nor even freedom from birth and death.
I desire only the deliverance from grief and all those afflicted by misery.
Oh Lord, lead us from the unreal to the real from darkness to light from death to immortality.
May there be peace in celestial regions.
May there be peace on earth.
May the waters be appeasing.
May herbs be wholesome and may trees and plants bring peace to all.
May all beneficent beings bring peace to us.
May thy wisdom spread peace all through the world.
May all things be a source of peace to all and to me.