Archive for the ‘Compassion’ Category

Church Walls

October 18, 2022

I drive the car into a parking space. I look at the building, the destination of the trip. Perhaps I will spend the day there at work. Perhaps I will make a sales call. Or try to solve an engineering problem. Or try to help someone in need.

Walls and a roof enclose the space. Outside where I am temporarily, nature and atmosphere and freedom. Moving inside everything changes. In there hierarchy, drama, politics engulf the spiritual atmosphere.

Madeleine L’Engle must have realized this. “Sometimes the very walls of our churches separate us from God and each other. In our various naves and sanctuaries we are safely separated from those outside, from other denominations, other religions, separated from the poor, the ugly, the dying.…”

I have felt that many times. When I enter one building and others from the community are entering another. And others enter buildings not churches. And others stay outside. And we are all separated by those walls. Wars have been fought with people killing neighbors because of which building they entered.

And I weep.

She writes further, “The house of God is not a safe place. It is a cross where time and eternity meet, and where we are – or should be – challenged to live more vulnerably, more interdependently.”

Some people lift a sentence from a letter of the Apostle Paul and rejoice in being separate. I’m not so sure Paul would rejoice. Reading his entire opus, the theme seems to be the desire to bring everyone together as followers of Jesus. And Jesus didn’t love the walls.

It Begins In The Heart

October 12, 2022

Whatever else happened, Jesus was most interested in the contents of the heart. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” What you value is related to the status of your heart.

Jesus valued people. You can tell from each of his interactions with people–even his enemies.

Some seek peace. Yet they exhibit anger and bitterness.

Some seek justice. Yet they exhibit bias and anger toward one group while saying they want justice for another. Justice is justice, no matter which clothes it is wearing.

What values color your heart? What do you say? James taught us that how we speak reflects the status of our heart. He also taught that what we do reveals the status of our heart.

Maybe we need a daily check-up?

Kindness

October 4, 2022

In ancient times, the Temple was the place where God was present.

The Apostle Paul taught us that our heart is now the Temple where God is present.

We are to treat that Temple with reverence, taking care of its well being.

Jesus taught us that we should love one another—do to others as we hope they do to us.

The essence of that command in our daily life is kindness.

Show that God is within; be kind.

Learning to See What’s Around Us

September 29, 2022

Two fish swim together across the pond. They meet an older, wiser fish. He says, “Hello, boys, how’s the water?”

The two swim for a bit, then one asks the other, “What’s water?”

This story is from a commencement speech given at Kenyon College in 2005 by David Foster Wallace.

He began with the common advice that college’s role is to teach you to think. The real point is knowing what to think about. Even more, to become aware of what surrounds you.

You’re tired and grumpy after work. Then you realize you are out of food at home and must go to the supermarket. It’s rush hour. Someone in a gas-hog SUV drives aggressively trying to pass everyone. You arrive at the store. You manage to find what you need. The check out line is long. There’s an overly made-up chubby woman screaming at her kid. The cashier says have a good day with the voice of death.

You think–perhaps that SUV was driven by a dad trying to get a sick kid to the hospital. Perhaps the woman at the store was tired after nursing a husband sick at home with cancer. Perhaps the cashier is caught in a dead-end job with many pressures at home.

Perhaps we don’t see the “water” around us. Perhaps we blame other people for things when we don’t understand their problem. Perhaps we think people are purposely out to get us when in reality they are just trying to get by. Just like us.

Perhaps by seeing the water, we can live a more compassionate life. And that would be good.

You Don’t Own Me

September 6, 2022

Looking back on the 60s, I thought this was radical for the time–and for many even today in the 20s it is radical.

You don’t own me

I’m not just one of your many toys

You don’t own me

Don’t try to change me in any way

And don’t tell me what to do

And don’t tell me what to say

And please when I go out with you,

Don’t put me on display.

Written by John Medora, David White; Sung by Leslie Gore, 1963

Even in my nerdy teenage years, those words resonated.

And today even more so.

The non-technology part of my Twitter stream concerns women hurt by evangelical pastors and evangelical husbands. I’m sitting here not 15 miles from a guy who famously injured emotionally if not physically many women.

I know of many who hold to a theology ripped from part of the Apostle Paul’s writings to justify that behavior. They may make fun of how that disciple of the Enlightenment, Thomas Jefferson, famously cut phrases from the Bible that he couldn’t agree with (understand?), but this is the same in reverse. Let us just cut a few phrases out of Paul, paste them on our walls, and follow them.

Count the number of times Paul instructed mutual submission. Observe the way Jesus treated women. Follow Jesus’ command to love our neighbor (and no, not that way…).

The radio in my wife’s car is set to Sirius XM’s 60s Gold (for contrast, mine is on Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville). This Leslie Gore song pops up occasionally as a reminder of how to treat other people.

Try it.

Being Full of Care

August 19, 2022

Later I realized this 1969 encounter was my introduction to a Baby Boomer/Yuppie attitude that I’ve noticed ever since. He had a good job lined up after graduation. However, if he didn’t pass this second-year German class, he would not graduate. The professor suggested he contact me (why, I don’t know) for tutoring to get through the class. I mentioned once about feeling bad about the professor’s lot of moving from Vienna, Austria to Ada, Ohio. My pupil remarked, “I don’t have time to care.”

Jesus’s fifth of the eight Beatitudes, “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘carefull’, you find yourselves cared for.”

Life is filled with these reciprocal situations.

Love when shared returns to the sender.

Gratitude when shared returns to the sender.

Even money at some point when shared appropriately returns benefits to the giver.

Jesus makes a point–we are blessed when we care.

Let us make that today’s mantra (saying that we repeat). We will then be presented with people or situations for which we should express care.

Develop the Best in Everyone

August 11, 2022

The way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.

Charles Schwab

“Spare the rod and spoil the child” is a phrase I’ve heard from my youth before someone got smacked or chastised.

Some people use the method of criticism even to physical punishment or threat of losing job, security, family in order to “improve” the object of their wrath.

In Jesus’ time, the Romans used violence and the threat of violence to achieve power over others. This attitude went from emperor down to head of the family.

The Pharisees were great at comparing how great they were and loved by God to how others were outside of God.

Jesus took a different approach. “It is the sick who need the physician,” he once told the Pharisees. 

Appreciation and encouragement—the better path.

Christ Abhors Vagueness

June 27, 2022

It is easy enough to write and talk about God while remaining comfortable within the contemporary intellectual climate. Even people who would call themselves unbelievers often use the word gesturally, as a ready-made synonym for mystery. But if nature abhors a vacuum, Christ abhors a vagueness. If God is love, Christ is love for this one person, this one place, this one time-bound and time-ravaged self.

Christian Wiman

I read this thought and loved a couple of things in it. It’s easy for anyone to use the term God. Christ abhors vagueness.

It reminds me of an old Peanuts cartoon where Linus proclaims, “I love mankind.” But then he adds, “I can’t stand people.”

We can see this in general society. We see it in evangelical churches. Probably other churches as well.

I hope we don’t see it within us.

Jesus taught us that love is specific. His stories told of specific people loving specific people. He healed specific individual people. He taught us to do the same.

When I leave this desk to go out into the community around me, can I show some act, however small, of love toward each person I meet?

That is the test.

Put Your Mask On First

June 23, 2022

In case of sudden loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from above your head. Pull to activate. Put your mask on before helping others.

Have you flown in a commercial airliner in the past 30 years? If you’ve flown at least as much as I have, you may have the entire performance memorized. Whether you are trying to or not.

We live in an era of anxiety and fear and anger (one breeds the next breeding the next). Not just in America where it plays out second by second on social media and TV. This is a global phenomenon. Millions, well billions, of people falling into those despairing emotions. Self-serving politicians also globally are always poised to exploit those emotions in order to gain or maintain power.

What can someone trying to live the life that Jesus pointed to (or Buddha, if you are so oriented) do to survive and help.

Put your mask on first.

The next thing you should do after reading and thinking on this is to pause and reflect. Where am I? How can I be assured of connecting to the source of oxygen (to continue the metaphor)? And I take myself out of the circle of anxiety and fear.

Thich Nhat Hahn told the story of Vietnamese refugee boats in troubled waters. If everyone on the boat was filled with anxiety and fear, all was lost. If even just one person remained calm, that calming influence spread and the boat was saved.

Thus only by putting on our own “mask” of calm can we help those around us. Don’t be a perpetrator of fear. Be a spreader of peace.

Freedom From Anger

April 8, 2022

Anger is an indication of concealed hatred, of grievance nursed. Anger is the wish to harm someone who has provoked you.

John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 8

Anger. Could that be the theme of this era? In America, some white people are angry at people with skins of different colors or with those who are not like them. Leaders of nations worldwide are angry at each other or at their followers. Adherents of one religion or sect within a religion are angry with those not aligned with them.

Humans can easily nurse grievances until the anger bursts into flame causing sometimes irreparable harm.

Are we doomed?

No.

Many find the way through anger. John of the Ladder gives guidance.

The first step toward freedom from anger is to keep the lips silent when the heart is stirred; the next, to keep thoughts silent when the soul is upset; the last, to be totally calm when unclean winds are blowing.

John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 8

I heard three great questions on a podcast during my morning walk this morning. Try them.

Does this need to be said?

Does this need to be said now?

Does this need to be said by me?

I wish you calm today. Namaste.