Author Archive

We Are All One

January 22, 2021

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. The Apostle Paul writing to the Christ-followers in Galatia.

For Paul writing as a Jew, bringing together “Jew and Greek” essentially meant bringing together all races. Slave and free brings together economic classes. Male and female, of course, genders.

He knew that there were still people of different races, political/economic status, and genders. It is an important part of our spiritual growth that we people who are practicing spiritual formation realize there exist no real boundaries among people. We are to treat and live with all as the same.

A thousand years before Paul spiritual seekers discovered the same truth.

Two thousand years after Paul, we still struggle with bringing that reality into our lives. In America we celebrate (well, some of us) a woman who is also black and south Asian rising to a high political position. And not without some struggle. Why do we need to celebrate? Why is it so unusual.

But not just here. Much of the strife in Africa is tribal. In Asia, it’s religious and ethnic. Europe has its own difficulties.

Treating everyone as simply human seems to be a difficulty for all humans.

We need to break the chain. When you meet someone, try to see what sort of person they are inside not just outside. And treat everyone the same–kindly.

Giving to Others

January 21, 2021

True words are not necessarily beautiful.
Beautiful words are not necessarily truthful.
One who is achieved does not argue,
and one who argues is not achieved.
One who knows the deepest truth
does not need segmented information.
One who knows vast amounts of information
may not know the truth.

One of whole virtue
is not occupied with amassing material goods
Yet, the more he lives for others,
the richer his life becomes.
The more he gives, the more his life abounds.
The subtle truth of the universe is beneficial, not harmful.

There may be no better time in America to read Wisdom literature. One of my disciplines for more than 20 years has been to immerse my mind in it every January. What a way to kick off a year.

But as I sit and contemplate the world, not one place on the globe can I see where such thoughts would not be worthwhile.

Those words were written perhaps 2,500 years ago and ascribed to “the ancients.” How long we humans have known what is the true path–and how little we have followed it.

As Jesus told the religious leader who correctly identified the “neighbor” in the story of the Good Samaritan, “Go and do likewise.”

Thinking of Freedom

January 20, 2021

I was about 500 words into this post when I realized I was writing the introduction to a book I should have written in graduate school. Going from Jesus and Paul through Locke and Rousseau. Continuing on until today. So, I deleted the whole thing.

You’re welcome 😉

Jesus (and Paul and John and Peter and more) were as much concerned about freedom as many writers and activists today.

Jesus rightly pointed out that the Jewish religious leaders were trying to enslave the people to the Law–with themselves as the teachers, interpreters, judges of that Law. And how they found ways to circumvent the Law to their own benefit while piling it on to ordinary people. (Sounds pretty contemporary, doesn’t it?)

Jesus and his followers also devoted teaching to the problem of being enslaved by our passions, our unbridled emotions.

What was his solution? The Kingdom of God. Not a kingdom based upon fear of transgressing the Law. No, it would be a Kingdom based on God’s grace and our love–You shall love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself.

That kingdom would overturn every value of Rome’s kingdom of power and the Jewish kingdom of (the) Law.

We still struggle with those same forces. Some want to enforce all the old laws. Some seek political and economic power over others.

Some of us simply seek Jesus and his Kingdom of love where freedom from both Law and passion are found. And we can live with the fruit of the spirit–love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Self Help

January 19, 2021

A woman became dissatisfied with her life. She decided to actually live in accordance with self-help books. She had 15 such books. For one month at a time, she took 15 months to live each one strictly according to each one of those books.

She gained 14 pounds. She lost one of her best friends. She became self-absorbed, narcissistic.

Some people read through the Bible as if it were a self-help book. Compile a list of do’s and don’ts. Eat the Daniel diet. Point out to others how well they are doing–and conversely how far from ideal they are.

Jesus indeed taught people how to live. Perhaps not so much what to do, but more so what kind of person to be.

Jesus seemed to be much more interested in the state of our hearts. If our hearts are in the right attitude and orientation, then we will live as if described as one of the heroes in his stories.

It all starts from within. It’s like the path Paul charted through his letter to the Romans. It all starts with awareness of what we are leading to a change of heart leading to living in a new, freer way. The kind of life that those around say, “I want what she’s having.”

Violence Won’t Resolve Ethnic Issues

January 18, 2021

I’m concerned about a better world. I’m concerned about justice; I’m concerned about brotherhood; I’m concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about that, he can never advocate violence. For through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can’t establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

I echo those thoughts. Much of the cause of the events in America on January 6 lay in fear leading to anger leading to hate.

But Americans shouldn’t feel alone in that, even though those feelings toward black people and “foreigners” are as old as the country. There is no country in the world of which I’m aware where this vicious cycle doesn’t play out. Europe is struggling. The Middle East has its own problems with ethnicities. It’s still dangerous to be a Jew in Russia. Likewise to be Uighur or Tibetan in China. Or Rohingya in supposedly Buddhist Myanmar or Bangladesh.

It’s a human problem.

We can try legislation, which has some, but limited, impact.

The solution lies in a change of heart. Jesus worked specifically on that heart problem. A pastor I heard once called Jesus the first cardiologist. But even Jesus didn’t change all the hearts. The rule makers and followers killed him.

But as we look in the mirror today—the day America sets aside to honor Dr. King’s legacy—what is the condition of our own heart? What do we need to do to change and bring it in alignment with that of Jesus? When can we look past ethnicity into the character of the person?

Today would be a good time to start.

Be Kind, Simple, Humble

January 15, 2021

Contemplate upon these ancient words of wisdom

There are three treasures which I embrace and follow closely;

The first is to be kind;

The second is to be simple;

The third is to not put one’s own importance first in the world.

Lao Tzu

Let us think of people we have met who are kind. We love to be around those people. They are not weak. They have inner strength of awareness of the situation of others.

There are people we know, surely, who do not overly complicate things and situations. They grasp the essence without embellishment. They live without ornamentation. They cannot be tempted away by outlandish promises.

Who among us like to be around someone who thinks only of themselves? Those who, when in conversation, seem not to be even aware of our existence while listening for words of praise or criticism of themselves?

Perhaps we have been caught up in the events of the world, no matter where we live. Perhaps we need this reminder today of three treasures—kindness, simplicity, humility.

Wisdom Traditions

January 14, 2021

I just listened again to a podcast interview on the Tim Ferriss show with Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the recently deceased Jewish leader from the UK.

Many of you, my readers, might be offended if you listened to Tim Ferriss often. But he interviews people of high achievement of whom almost all have a solid core set of personal integrity. Ferriss is known as the author of The Four-Hour Work Week, The Four-Hour Body, The Four-Hour Chef, Tools of the Titans, and Tribe of Mentors.

Sacks described offering prayers at the site of the 9/11 attack in New York City along with many other religious leaders including Christians of different traditions and Muslims. He was moved by the experience such that in a subsequent book he wrote (and I paraphrase a bit) all religions are a source of truth—subsequently changed to all religions are a source of wisdom.

Those words resonated with me, since I have since my mid-teens read the wisdom literature of many traditions. Heck, in my family reading the works of Roman Catholics was heretical. St. John of the Cross was one of my favorites. <sigh>

Sacks unfortunately passed away last year only a few months after the interview was released. The interview was a great introduction to me, and I have purchased his last book, Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times. I can’t think of better reading and reflections than that book right now.

I don’t think I’ll convert to Judaism by reading his works any more than converting to Taoism by reading the Tao Te Ching (another great and ancient wisdom book).

The book is currently on a UPS truck somewhere. I’ll let you know more when I read it.

My thought of the day despite all this rambling is that we can find sources of wisdom that can be applied to our lives immediately upon learning them simply by opening our eyes and minds and searching. Don’t shut off sources because of ethnicity, gender, geography, era. Start by listening to that podcast and let your heart listen to humbleness, sensitivity, and strength.

How Are We Known?

January 13, 2021

Jesus said that not everyone who calls him Lord will be saved.

Jesus also said that we will be known as his followers by how we love one another. He also said the greatest commandment was love—for God and for our neighbor. He illustrated the definition of neighbor with a story where the hero was someone of a hated race.

As we sit in our evening reflection upon that which we have done with our day—the Ignatian daily Examen—-how do we honestly and humbly evaluate ourselves? We have perhaps said or implied that we are Christian. Have we actually acted—in speech or deed—like a person whom Jesus would welcome as a follower?

Once upon a time, our words and deeds were exposed only to those few around us who thought and acted like us. Now, we post on social media and as these words and photos get “liked” and “shared” we are exposed to perhaps a very large audience. And there we are—no longer hidden to where only a few people close to us know our darkest thoughts. Or deeds.

Not everyone who calls Jesus Lord…

Makes me reflect on my daily shortcomings. And no excuses for moving to a new community where I am almost completely unknown and where there is a pandemic keeping us isolated (or should). Where did I fall short in word or deed?

Rights and Responsibilities

January 12, 2021

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

First Amendment to the US Constitution

People seem to get confused about what the First Amendment actually says. It is a restriction upon the government.

It doesn’t address how we use this “freedom of speech”.

I keep having flashbacks to my university years when talk of responsibilities over rights sounded like the mutterings of old, crabby, conservative people trying to shut up young people with ideas. Well, those young Baby Boomers grew up to screw up a lot of stuff. But I learned the value of responsibility. Although I am now “old”, I am decidedly not conservative and hopefully not crabby. Well, in most regards. Maybe I just grew up.

Try these bits of Wisdom literature mostly 3,000 years old and just as relevant today.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Psalm 19

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but the prudent are restrained in speech.

Proverbs 10

Fine speech is not becoming to a fool; still less is false speech to a ruler.

Proverbs 17

Better the poor walking in integrity than one perverse of speech who is a fool.

Proverbs 19

Do you see someone hasty in speech? There is more hope for a fool than someone like that.

Proverbs 29

I can take a hint. I have no more to say today. Peace.

We Are Known By What We Do

January 11, 2021

Rather than go down the rabbit warren of Resolutions or Goals, I practice and teach the method of visualizing the sort of person I’d like to be.

  • I am the person who rises early to read and meditate
  • I am the person who eats a healthy diet
  • I am the person who exercises with intention every day
  • I am a helpful person
  • …(you get the drift…)

Another practice I’ve adopted for many years is to begin the year reading Wisdom literature. Perhaps it’s the Proverbs which just happens to have the same number of chapters as there are days in January. One-a-day. Sometimes it may be the study of James. Another good one is Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7. This year for no rational reason, I’m reading Wisdom literature from a different tradition.

But saying I am a certain type of person or studying Wisdom literature is only a foundation. Jesus knew that. His challenge was “hear my words and do them.” Solomon was reputed to be the wisest man who ever lived. He did not live wisely. And his child and heir destroyed the united kingdom in just a few short years. All those wise words Solomon had about raising a child–they never made it from his head to his heart.

How many people who have learned a hundred or more Bible verses and can recite from memory do we know whose life would never attract someone to God? How many religious leaders do we know who fail at basic morality? How many people have we dealt with in business who talk Christian talk but fail in fundamental ethics?

So, this year:

  • Get off your butt and actually exercise
  • Actually eat those foods that you know you should
  • Do something for someone somehow
  • Act with intention

Here’s a question you can carry with you along with your wallet and keys–Are You Being Served? Actually, that was a cute British sitcom from the 70s and 80s that I used to watch at times. That visualization reinforces the question we should be asking all the time–Are you being served? Oh, and then, serve.