The Daily News

Pacifism is work     Today I struggle with news coming out of so many parts of our world, and I am at a loss for words.  The best I can do is offer this prayer:

Creative Energy
Take hold of us and shake us loose
From boundaries that separate us
From one another.
Give us the courage to let go
And do the hard work of peace.




Photo Credit:  NASA Space Photos CD #137 Ultraviolet Light Source from an Old Galaxy



Holding Vigil For Oso



I sit in my chair to meditate this morning.  Gusts of wind heave heavy rain at my windows and the tears finally come.  They don’t stop, so I am here with you, holding vigil for the people of Oso.  Forty Five miles north of me loved ones stand in the rain over a 1.5 mile expanse of mud and debris waiting to confirm the fate of family and friends.  King 5 News reports that “…tons of earth and ambulance-sized boulders of clay” from Hazel Hill loosened by steady, pounding rain, came crashing down on the houses below last week.  They wait to have news of death crash down on their souls housed in now spent bodies.  The official count today is seventeen dead…but the missing list bears ninety names- half the population of Oso, Washington, USA.

The constant rain has brought geologists to the area to monitor the very real threat of more landslides to the rescue workers in the valley.  It is too much to dwell on it further.  The video embedded below recounts the story of the rescue of a four-year-old boy.  It helped me to understand better what this experience was for the people who died, and for those who wait. My thoughts from two recent posts bear repeating here.

One spiritual practice we can do for Oso is to step away from the role of spectator, and take the time and solitude to feel empathy for the people who suffer.  Although we cannot fully know their experience of suffering, we know that it matters that they suffer, and it matters that we stand with them spiritually.   Whatever the suffering is, it is.  In our prayer we can ask that they be given the grace to be faithful and true to the process of living through it.  May they eventually come to a juncture in their grieving, that they can embrace the reality of the experience and emerge whole again.   By holding vigil with them we can live the suffering with them from inside the presence of God, vulnerable, clean and stripped to our essence.  May they hold themselves together while training a vigilant eye toward grace.  For those of us from afar, words are ineffective.  We must send spiritual energy.  You may find the meditations below helpful.

Buddhist Practice of Metta, Sending Loving Kindness

May you be safe from harm.
May you be happy and peaceful.
May you be strong and healthy.
May you take care of yourself with joy.

Tonglen Meditation Practice:  Compassion


A fellow blogger at has gifted us with links for sending donations and helping in other ways.  This is an in-person look at life in the 530 corridor at this horrific time  It holds up for us the people of Oso and their strength and committment to the common good of their community.


Photo Credit:

March 21, 1960 Sharpeville Massacre: REMEMBER

blog post on sparkeville massacre

Nelson Mandela
Winnie Mandela
Steve Biko
Desmond Tutu
Robert Sobukwe
Chief Albert Luthuli
Walter Sisulu
Albertina Sisulu
Ruth First
Joe Slovo
Helen Suzman

Hundreds of others…


On March 21, 1960 in the township of Sharpeville five to seven thousand Africans gathered in front of the police headquarters to protest the carrying of mandatory pass books.  Their intention was to leave their passbooks at home and fill the jails until there was no more room, thus costing the government financially, and depriving white employers of workers.  Police threw tear gas into the crowd without warning and some protesters reacted by throwing rocks at them.  A police officer opened fire with live ammunition, and a reported 70 people were killed, among them eight women and ten children.  One Hundred Eighty were injured.  The BBC reported on this day that, ” Police Commander D H Pienaar said: “It started when hordes of natives surrounded the police station….He said that,  “If they do these things, they must learn their lessons the hard way.”

“Hordes,”  “Natives,” “Lessons,” Africans with rocks, police with loaded guns.  Unbelievable, I say.  I, the one whose country brutally colonized American Indians and enslaved Africans, while perpetrating deplorable crimes against them.  I who am still financially complicit in their inequality, and unconsciously complicit in my ignorance.  We all are called to look within on the anniversary of this terrible massacre.

Helen Suzman, Ruth First, and Joe Slovo were South African Jews.  They knew that Shoah can happen again if we stop remembering.  It happened again in South Africa in Sowetto Township on June 16 1976.  More than 176 and up to 700 people were killed by police who fired into a gathering of school children simply demanding to study in their own language rather than in mandatory Afrikaans. The BBC on that terrible day quoted South African Prime Minister Vorster as saying, “We are dealing here not with a spontaneous outburst but with a deliberate attempt to bring about polarisation between whites and blacks.  “This government will not be intimidated and instructions have been given to maintain law and order at all costs.” [emphasis mine].”  Denial purports to cover a multitude of sins.

As spiritual persons we are called to remember.  It makes us human.  Today let us hold our own truth and reconciliation hearings in our own hearts, to one another, and to the world beyond.

The Stranger

The Stranger

With unseeing eyes
Hollowed from a dozen
Imposters’ faces,
I squint at the emerging
Traversing regally through
My life.

Each counterfeit countenance conveys
A piece of the truth, and
“The play is the thing
Wherein I’ll catch
The conscience of the King.”
A questionable cast of characters all:
Control.  Fear.  Manipulation…

Curtain call
Brings them all on stage.
Kudos and bravos for
Truth learned and support loaned.
They fade with dimming lights and
The Stranger takes center stage,
Hostage no more.

© rita h kowats 2013

Holding Vigil

Used with permission “Vision After the Sermon “by Paul Gauguin

“Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.”  Gn. 32:24

“…I saw God face to face, and my life was spared.”  Gn. 32:32

Recently, I enjoyed viewing the work of my favorite Impressionist painter, Paul Gauguin.  “Vision After the Sermon” took me by the shoulders and shook me awake.  “Pay attention to me!” it shouted.  Initially, it profoundly disturbed me.  I identified with Jacob and felt abandoned on the other side of the river, left to wrestle alone.  I was angry that the spectators judged from afar, while Jacob fought on their behalf.  My response was so intense, I let it live itself out, unattended for a week.

Spirit has done her work in the meantime.  Today, as I return to the painting, it whispers, “They are not spectators.  They hold vigil for Jacob.”  I am overwhelmed with awe.  What a holy thing it is to hold vigil for someone who struggles to see the face of God.  When we are aware of someone’s struggle and we set aside a time to surround him with the light and grace of God, we are in solidarity with him, even while standing on the other side of the river.  Because we vigil, our loved one, or a group about whom we care, is not alone.  We can send someone the energy of God whenever we think of her throughout the day.  In this way, the spectator becomes a participant.

I have experienced the spiritual practice of holding vigil before an important meeting.  It can have a profound effect on the outcome, because it frees us from the need to force a desired outcome, thus allowing the Spirit to guide the struggle.  When we intentionally pray for the openness to see the face of God in unexpected places- even in a business meeting- our lives as we know them are spared, changed.

It comes to me that I hold vigil with all of you who read these reflections.  We wrestle together.  We are a community in search of the Face of God.  Thank you.  Amen.