Thoughts from the Wilderness

Father John and Cleo

The fact that we are all different is a gift, a gift to each other. And a gift to ourselves. It’s important to realize that you are a gift of God to yourself; I am a gift of God to myself. With our various talents, abilities and gifts, with our unique beauty, with our various flaws – we are each a gift.

Start by accepting the reality of you as you are, as a gift of God to yourself. I know what it’s like to be tempted to not love and accept myself as I am – I have obvious physical imperfections and other flaws. But with God’s help I am happy that I have grown in self-acceptance and self-love, and with God’s help I have grown in loving others. I’m far from perfect – but I am happy that I have grown and continue to grow.

May that be true for each of us – that we grow in awareness of our intrinsic value as God’s unique, beloved child – with all our gifts and unique beauty and with all our flaws.

Then, let’s continue growing (as we are) by loving others as we love ourselves. Appreciating that, as each of us is a unique gift to ourselves and to the world, so is everyone else. Therefore it’s not necessarily arrogant to say, I am God’s gift to the world. As long as we realize that everyone else is too!

Of course some of us are easier to appreciate than others because we are all at different stages in the quality of our character and level of maturity.

But we don’t have to be the same. Diversity and difference are gifts. And that doesn’t just apply to individuals but to groups. Over eons, God has created people with a rainbow of skin colors, languages, cultures, music. God creates women, men, and children. And animals and plants and the rest of God’s creation.

Obviously God likes variety. And yet, alas, people often have trouble appreciating and loving these intrinsically good differences among people and peoples and among God’s creation.

Of course many people embrace and support and celebrate these differences. Just one wonderful example of this is the great diversity of world music. The term world music was popularized fairly recently – in the 1980s. Of course local kinds of music have existed for eons. But the increased phenomenon of popularizing local musics beyond their locale and of intermingling multiple types and styles of music really began to explode only in the last 35 or 40 years.

Sometimes musicians of warring countries have intentionally gotten together to make music in the cause of peace – and it’s a beautiful thing.
Nelson Mandela said,

“You may be poor, you may only have a ramshackle house, you may have lost your job, but that song gives you hope.”
Another quote: “If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.” – Jimi Hendrix.

And looking at history, where would American music be without African-Americans – from gospel to jazz to blues to soul to rock ‘n roll?!

When we appreciate and intermingle our racial, ethnic, cultural, sexual, individual and other differences we make beautiful music together – literally and figuratively!

Speaking of great music, we can look forward to enjoying the talents of Erin Shields and David Shenton, who’ve played Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, right here at the St. John at the Wilderness Harvest Fest on September 9! (This is an updated essay).

-In peace, John+

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