Pentecost 116

Pentecost 116
My Psalm 116

Recovery

In a busy metropolitan area, most commuters boarded their train into the city with reading material in one hand and insulated drink bottle in the other. They would find a seat or comfortable place to stand and withdraw into their own little world for the commute. This day, though, someone bumped into another person who bumped into the person standing next to them and so on until one bumper suddenly recognized her bumpee.

The two former college friends exclaimed at the surprising meeting and quickly found a place to sit so they could catch up with each other. The bumper started. “So I’m working in mid-management at ABC firm. I have a husband but so far, our only kids are four-footed. My folks retired to that summer cottage on the lake we used to visit. Let me tell you, their retirement situation made me rethink my own 401K! So, what are you doing?”

The bumpee smiled, readjusted her large carry-all bag and began: “I’m in recovery for…” Her former friend grasped one hand and patted it comfortingly. “Oh,” she began, “I never would have imagined you going down that road! My goodness! Here’s my stop. Hopefully we’ll run into each other again.” With that she hurried to the exit and left the train.

An elderly man sitting on another seat chuckled and leaned toward the remaining woman. “I guess she’s not a big reader, huh?” he asked. The woman looked up startled. The man stuck out his hand to shake the woman’s. “I recognized you from the book jacket of your latest best seller. You just got off a grueling book tour, didn’t you? I got a signed copy while visiting my daughter and her family on the other coast two weeks ago. Both the wife and I really enjoyed the book, by the way.” The woman shook his hand and the two sat back. As they reached their stop, the man asked: “Wonder how long your friend had to wait for another train to get her the ten miles to her real stop?” They departed grinning.

“Being in recovery” has become a buzz word for most in the public eye. It is even trendy, one might say. One could lament over that fact or one could be happy people are seeking help. Of course, there are those simply looking for an excuse to avoid the media and still others not really interested in correcting a problem, just going through the motions to ease any punitive or legal issues they are facing.

Still, we are all in a recovery of some sort. For most of us, it is a simple recovery from yesterday. For some, it is a more intense recovery of the yesterdays of our past. Our self-esteem is not, no matter how we might think it is, dependent on that looking glass in a store’s dressing room. Nor should it be on our own bathroom mirror or in the expressions of the person standing next to us.

Midway of the twentieth century Norman Vincent Peale wrote what has become the Bible on self-esteem, “The Power of Positive Thinking”. Some thirty-plus years later, Al Franken, a comedian who is now a US Congressman wrote a response to Peale’s book: “I’m Good Enough, I’m smart enough, and Doggone it, People Like Me!”

Recently positive self-affirmation has undergone some scientific testing and researchers have discovered it has mixed results. People who already liked themselves recorded slightly elevated feelings of positive self-worth while people with low self-esteem reported even greater stress when asked to believe in themselves.

Chinese philosopher Sun Ra advised man not to lose one’s self. He felt that was a direct path to complacency, stasis, and stagnation. Sun Ra advised that if we hated ourselves, we would push ourselves to become better. Salvation, believed Sun Ra, was in what he termed “the Unknown Beyond”. He justified his belief because he pointed out that what was known had yet to save the world. Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie once stated: “We must become what we have never been.”

Most of us have grown up hearing the nineteenth century adage: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.” Is that really how we should live? A “Newsweek” magazine article almost a decade ago discussed the pros and cons of those who never gave up and those who were prone to giving up. The article delved into the link between the tenacity of those who tried and good health, both mental and physical. After all, most of us believe that persistence would be the healthier choice. Personal success is considered an important element of well-being and, if persistent, doesn’t one eventually succeed? Psychologists not attempted to discover the answer to that question but also considered situations in which success was not possible, in spite of constant and consistent efforts. They wondered “When does an admirable trait like perseverance start to look more like beating your hear against the wall?”

In an effort to answer whether or not there was a point at which diminishing returns of failure would start to take a toll on a person’s health, they discovered that “quitters” were healthier than their persistent and tenacious counterparts. The “bulldog” attitude of those who never stopped trying reported higher incidents of indigestion, diarrhea, skin maladies, poor sleep, headaches…the list went on and on. Their stress hormones were out of balance which indicated they lived in a state of chronic stress. The quitters had much lower levels of the protein CRP which is an indicator of bodily inflammation which has been linked such conditions as diabetes and heart disease.

The research also studied those who were willing to reengage and set new goals after giving up on something previously deemed important. They found that people who were willing to reengage projected a greater sense of purpose and ability and spent less time bemoaning the past. The ability to set new goals was the key to handling the consequences of perceived failure, especially for the tenacious, who often had a difficult time acknowledging defeat.

Goals are important and having realistic goals is key to developing an identity which is essential for good health – mental and physical. However, life requires trade-offs. No one lives a perfect life in a perfect world with perfect people walking perfectly beside them. What we need to do to have a successful recovery from the imperfectness of our being and the beings of others is to make necessary adjustments with grace and forethought.

We live life best when we take it one day at a day. We need to forgive ourselves, forgive others. Living in the past if fine….for a masquerade ball. However, as the sun rises in the morning, so must we – rise and move forward, making our failures into lessons and moving on. W. C. Fields said it best: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a fool about it!”

My Psalm 116

Lord, it hurt so bad.
The pain within could not be seen
But I felt it deeply.
My tears fell unseen.
You were there, though.
You gave me comfort and solace.
You held me up when I fell.
Let me walk for you, God.
Let me sing your praises forever to all who listen.
Afflictions are not signs of your displeasure
They are our battle wounds for having tried.
I give to you my eternal thanks for my life.

Advertisements

Pentecost 115

Pentecost 115
My Psalm 115

A Theory for Believing

Why? It is a question we all ask. What? Where? When? Who? All are valid questions and while, occasionally overused by young children, they are valid tools for learning. In fact, until we ask such questions, one might rightfully posit that learning doesn’t occur. Socrates certainly believed in the power of a question. Socrates, however, had a question of his own. Famous for his own search for answers and definitions, Socrates posed what he felt to be the most important question of all. As he searched for definitions, he asked: “How do you know a definition is correct?”

Socrates felt that one must first understand the definition being given, understand all involved in the definition, and comprehend all the words used in the definition. At some point one must rely on what is propositional knowledge. Propositional knowledge is knowledge based on facts, on what is known, and held to be true. It works fine until one decides to give a linguistic account of understanding. Mathematically it would be written X = df ABC whereby “X” is the item attempting to be defined and the answer is the combined definition (df) of “A”, “B”, and “C”. That works great as long as one knows what “A”, “B”, and “C” are. But then one might ask, as Socrates did, how do we know that “X” really does equal the combined “A”, “B”, and “C” or “ABC”? That answer would be to explain the propositional knowledge of “ABC” which would then need justification or definition and … Well, you find yourself on a perpetual merry-go-round!

Plato resolved this with his Theory of Forms and stated that, at some point, one must rely on a knowledge of acquaintance. This means that instead of knowing what something is, instead of defining it in terms of something else, such as the “X” being “ABC”, we should just grasp what “X” is itself, often based upon our recollection of “X”.

For example, Socrates might define a bed as a rectangular object upon which one reclines to rest but that could lead to a need for defining a rectangle, and resting. Plato upheld that we define a bed more by remembering an image of a bed. Mental recollection would be the mechanism for the basis of the definition and the mental image of a rectangular form would be the object to which said mechanism would be applied.

How do we “know” about what we believe? Some propose that Plato was correct in rejecting Socrates’ idea that understanding should be explained in terms of what is known. Nevertheless, is there a type of knowledge by acquaintance as Plato suggested? Some believe the answer lies not in knowledge by description nor by acquaintance but in the differences between knowing what something is and in knowing how a thing is.

Take, for example, the circle. Euclid, in his Book I of “Elements”, described a circle: “A circle is a plane figure bounded by one line and such that all right lines drawn from a certain point within it to the bounding line are equal. The bounding line is called its circumference and the point its center.” While there is a World Freehand Circle Drawing competition, it is actually impossible to draw a perfect circle, even with the help of a computer. Yet, we all recognize a circle, imperfect though it may be. Plato explained this by arguing that we all have a mental image of a circle and so, when we see something that approximates it, we recognize it as a circle.

The field of Christian apologetics does not apologize for the Christian faith. The word apologetics, though similar to something said to defend and excuse one’s actions, really means to explain. Theologians in every belief field have their own apologeticists, theologians, historians, etc. Knowing the history na doctrine, though, does nothing for the world until we put that knowledge into action. It is simply not enough to know what the belief is. We must learn how that belief is and apply it to our lives.

Just as a circle will never actually be perfect, neither will our living. However, when we live in charity and with respect for all life, then it can be recognized as a good thing. I know what I believe the Great Spirit, the Greatest Spirit, to be but I do not fully understand how he/she works…or why. I also recognize a bit of that Spirit within my fellow man/woman although I do not think any of them are perfect or can ever attain perfection.

The problem is that all too often we use our beliefs to justify our human failings, our desire for power and wealth. Most spiritual beliefs have a period of fasting, a period of quiet discernment or introspective study. These periods of meditation remind us not only of what is important but that we can live better with our beliefs when they are at the top of our priorities rather than material things being most important.

I enjoy my “creature comforts” as well as the next person. It is when those creature comforts overtake my humanity that problems can arise. Perhaps we should remember that our beliefs are not defined by material things. Our beliefs are defined by their intent, their teachings, and our living of those.

When we take an exodus from the material world and societal pressures, then we will become that for which we were created. Then will our form be more pleasing and productive. Then people will not have to ask what we are but see the goodness both by the knowledge of our living and by the acquaintance of love within their own souls.

My Psalm 115

What is our true God?
How do we define our Maker?

Is it found in our wealth?
Do we wear our God in the latest fashion?

Is our vehicle our creator?
Does our image come from our possessions?

Glory is in the living of the teachings.
Power comes from connecting with our beliefs.

A life lived with faith evident
Is a rich life.

When we rightfully identify God and worship accordingly,
We will be blessed.

When we sing praises to the Great Spirit,
We will live life abundantly.

Pentecost 114

Pentecost 114
My Psalm 114

Oil and Water

We’ve all heard the old saying: “Oil and water don’t mix.” Although there are countless other similar sayings in a variety of cultures, this particular one is attributed to Joseph Jones somewhere around the year 1783 as Mr. Jones attempted to describe two things with such contrasting natures that they could not be combined successfully.

Why don’t oil and water mix? It is, quite simply, because of what they are. The website “Let’s Talk Science” explains it this way: “Oil and water are two liquids that are immiscible – they will not mix together. Liquids tend to be immiscible when the force of attraction between the molecules of the same liquid is greater than the force of attraction between the two different liquids. “

Think of it like two bags of candy, both chocolate based. A bag of two M & M’s is lighter than a bag of two blocks of dark chocolate. The two bags contain items with different masses and densities even though they are both chocolate. Although the same, they are also different.

Any liquid less dense than water will simply float on the water. Similarly, a liquid more dense will sink. Density, in case you’ve forgotten your science lessons, is the measure of the amount of a substance found within a specified volume of liquid.

Quiting again the website “Let’s Talk Science”: “To gain an understanding of density, think of two zippered plastic bags of the same size (same volume). Imagine that one bag contains 10 marbles and the other 20 marbles. The bag containing 20 marbles is more dense than the bag containing 10 marbles because it contains more material – even though it is the same material. This analogy describes the relative densities of different concentrations of the same substance.

Also imagine that there is a third bag containing 10 very large marbles. The volume of the material is the same, the number of molecules (marbles) are the same but again, the bag of large marbles contains more material – it has a greater mass and so a greater density. This analogy represents the experiment above since two different materials are used. The objects added to the container will float at different levels according to their density. If the density of the object is similar to that of water, the object will float in the water. If similar to the oil, the object will float in the oil.”

Oil and vinegar are similar to oil and water as anyone attempting make a salad vinaigrette knows. Short of making a salad, what does it matter whether or not we can get oil and water mix? Well, do you like wearing clean clothes or eating off clean dishes? Most of us do.

Soap has no magical qualities for making dirt and germs disappear. I hate to destroy any thinking you might have had regarding such but it doesn’t. Soap is neither a block of superhero dirt-fighting warriors nor does it erase the dirt and accompanying germs and make them magically disappear. It is, however, the way we mix oil and water.

The “Let’s Talk Science” website explains. “Getting oil and water to mix is at the very heart of cleaning dishes and clothes. A lot of agents that make dishes and clothes dirty are greasy or contain oil. Water alone is not attracted to these compounds. However, because a detergent has one end that is attracted to oil-like molecules, detergents tend to bind to dirt, grease and oil. The other half of the detergent binds to water molecules, allowing the soiling agent to be washed away.”

Soap is a catalyst. It breaks the surface tension of the dirt molecules from the object – cloth or dish – and allows the oil within to be released into the water which then washes it away. Never realized the detente that occurred in your sink or washing machine, did you?

When we attempt to mix oil and water or say Israel and Egypt, we need a catalyst, a method for doing so. The history of these two nations and cultures and their conflicts are as old as the history of the world. Peace treaties, like the one arranged by President Jimmy Carter of the USA in the late 1970’s have made some admirable progress. However, they only last as long as people are respectful.

When we live with respect for those of varying beliefs other than our own, when we acknowledge the catalyst that respect contained within all belief systems for all living things can provide, then we live a new creation – a creation of peace and hope. Such a creation provides for a productive and successful tomorrow. Respect should be our manner of living. It is the only catalyst possible that we have for a better tomorrow.

My Psalm 114

O Lord, we treated your children with disdain.
We valued ourselves more than they.
The earth shook and life died.
Your creation was bruised and the winds screamed at us.
The earth knows you are its Maker.
Help us to lie the love you give to us.
Help us pass that along to those who are not our mirror images.
Help us to work together,
Letting diversity be our strength and not our fear.

Psalm 113

Pentecost 113
My Psalm 113

Glass Half Full

Righteousness is one of those words that seldom is used in ordinary conversation. It really isn’t part of anyone’s vernacular (A brief attempt at being slang to describe something very good lasted only a few years.) and yet, it is the reason behind a great deal of the actions positive and negative in the world today. It was Bob Marley who said “What important is man should live in righteousness, in natural love for mankind.”

What is righteousness? In Confucianism, it is “yi” or the moral tendency to do right or good. The Rashidan Caliphs were four caliphs or rulers in Sunni Islam that were to provide examples of behavior that was to be emulated. The name translates as “righteously guided”. The Hawaiian word for righteousness is found in the state’s motto Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono or “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness”.

Righteousness, also referred to as rectitude, is a very important part of the three Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. It refers to the attribute of perfection that one should aspire to while knowing only God can attain it. Righteousness relies on the concept of being judged, having one’s actions justified as being pleasing or in conjunction with religious teachings of the faith.

In 1526 William Tyndale translated the Bible into English and edited the word “rihtwis”, Hebrew for rightwise. Martin Luther in the sixteenth century emphasized the inability of man to attain perfection, thus making righteousness impossible. He called the emphasis on attaining righteousness the theology of the cross and encouraged man to focus on good deeds instead, referring to this as the theology of glory. In his 1518 sermon entitled “Two Kinds of Righteousness”, Luther called the theology of the cross an “alien righteousness” and the theology of glory as “proper righteousness”. In Luther’s view, only God could fully explain and attain perfect righteousness. Man could justify his own being through good deeds and works, proper behavior and testament of one’s faith.

All of these types of righteousness have at their core good intentions but, as we all know, good intentions do not always equal a positive outcome. It is a bit like looking at a glass partially filled with water. Is the glass half full or is it half empty?

Philosopher W. S. Matthews discusses the rhetorical question this way: “A glass is transparent and is usually filled with something that is translucent, nothing of any real substance. Maybe, if we let the glass have a little more meaning, it would be more interesting.” Often that is the very crux of the matter when someone is deciding whether or not to do a good deed. What is the profit of the deed? What is the cost? Sadly, for some, the most important question is “What does it get me?”

Matthews suggests thinking of the glass as something we all have and value – a heart. “The heart is neither full nor completely empty. It’s just there. Now there is another heart that is completely full to the brim and needs to get rid of some of its content before it starts to overflow. We will call the content kindness and love. Some of which is put into our empty heart. Now that felt really good. Hopefully we can find some more. Doing a good deed feels great! When the process is repeated, our glass/heart is completely full. Now what? We need room to receive more. The solution is give to another empty glass/heart. That also feels just as good, if not better, than receiving. Give and you will receive.”

The rhetorical question is not simply an example of approaching life with a positive attitude or negative attitude. It is about being righteous. We will get as close to righteousness, regardless of how you define it, when we practice charity towards one another, regardless of what they look like, what they believe, what they eat, or what they live in or wear. Matthews also makes one more point. “If it is a shot glass, it is either full or empty, never at the halfway position.”

What an interesting analogy that would be if we applied it to life. What if we considered life neither half anything, no “Should I do this?” but a full commitment to always attempt righteous behavior? Then, in describing one’s actions, we could just use two words. Instead of “half full” or “half empty”, we could simply say (and show) … “I believe”.

My Psalm 113

Father and Mother to all,
You care not if we are poor.
You do not value us based upon what we wear.
You provide sustenance to all mankind.
You bless all who are in need.
You hear our cries and give us your comfort.
We bless you for your everlasting compassion
And try to live a life pleasing to your image.

Pentecost 112

Pentecost 112
My Psalm 112

You Are Loved

Recently I needed to describe this blog. I found myself stymied. The description was really a statement of my expectations, the reason for writing it and after over two hundred blog posts, I would have thought such a description, a statement of what, why, and where I hoped it would lead, would have been easy. Ultimately it was, once I stopped thinking of combining a brief synopsis of each post and simply described exactly what I sat down to do, what I hoped you did when you read this. In other words, I just needed to explain my hopes – of myself and you, the reader.

Having decided what the description should be based on, I was suddenly bombarded with a host of “Does every blog meet this?” or “I might not have done that completely each time.” In other words, negative thinking came into play. “Did I meet my objectives each time close enough to put them in a description?” My final description again came very easily….once I silenced the negative voices in my head. I write this blog, this conversation between me the writer and you the reader in order to have discourse. Hopefully that discourse sometimes creates a new line of thinking for you and expands your universe just a little. We call that growth. However, even if your reading this just solidifies what you already believe, that’s good as well. We have engaged in a digital conversation. We have communicated (I really do appreciate your feedback, by the way!) and, more importantly, we have reached out.

This week a cabinet member in the United States of America reported he was leaving his post. The first person of his race to hold the position, he has held it for six years, being the fourth longest person to hold this position. It is not a job that is voted on directly by the general public, unlike members of Congress. It is a political appointment which means the President of the United States makes a recommendation and then the Senate approves by vote. Most people in this position have remarked that it would be easier to gain the voting support of the entire country sometimes than those one hundred senators! It can be a laborious process and every part of a person’s life comes under scrutiny, regardless of the Cabinet post.

When the news of this individual’s resignation, many people had the exact same reaction: “What did he do?” Very few remarked on his tenure, and there are probably those who do not even realize he was the first in his race to hold the position. What was commonly shared by many was a negative expectation.

One of writer Sylvia Plath’s most famous quotes deals with negative expectations. “If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.” Author Pat McCormick echoed that sentiment in her own writing: “Look. I have a strategy. Why expect anything? If you don’t expect anything, you don’t get disappointed.” Humorist Bill Watterson explained it this way: “I find my life is a lot easier the lower I keep my expectations.” It is tempting to blame this negative expectation most people seem to have of life on more recent trends in society but it actually goes back to the earliest of mankind and eloquently recorded in an updated Beatitudes of sorts penned by classical writer Alexander Pope. “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”

In the book “Emotion and Adaptation”, author Robert Lazarus upholds the belief that one can be complacent about their life experiences and that this is due to their expectations. Expectations are simply those things you predict will occur and are usually based upon a low opinion of others and/or of one’s self as well as past, present, and future events. In his book, he repeats a commonly ace[ted philosophical theory that “Happiness depends on the background psychological status of the person… and cannot be well predicted without reference to one’s expectations.”

Born into a family of immigrant Russian Jews in Philadelphia, sociologist Robert K. Merton, once aspired to become a magician and therefore changed his name for a better state presence, explored the common-held belief of the self-fulfilling prophecy of expectations. Merton was educated at Temple University and taught at Harvard and Tulane before arriving at Columbia where he taught for over twenty years before his retirement. Merton’s son would later win a Nobel Prize in economics towards the end of the twentieth century.

Merton created one of today’s most common buzz word phrases – role model, a result of his study on the socialization of medical students at Columbia University. His self-fulfilling prophecy concept is based upon a progressive belief that upholds one’s expectation, whether correct or incorrect, will affect the outcome of a situation or even the behavior of those involved, sometimes individually but also within an entire group. He would later expand this and describe behavior based upon it.

Merton maintained that conformity was “attaining societal goals by acceptable means”; innovation, the “attaining of societal goals in unaccepted ways”; rebellion, a combination of rejecting” societal goals and a substitution of other goals and means”. Merton even described ritualism as “the acceptance of the means but the forfeit of the goals”. Merton developed many concepts but a few were directed at his own field and the scientific world. He sought to correct how the social world of science and how credit is given conflicted with the ethos or morality of science. His “obliteration by incorporation”, the concept where an idea of belief becomes so widely accepted that the inventor is forgotten, can be applied to many things in the twenty-first century. One such example was the basis for his book “On the Shoulders of Giants” in which he takes a well-known quote of Isaac Newton and traces its origin backs to the seventeenth century. Because Newton was intelligent and a scientist, everyone expected that his famous quote was original: “”If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Stephen Covey explains the pitfalls of negative expectations in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”: “Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.”

In her book”Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy”, Sarah Ban Breathnach, on the listing for January 11th, gives us all some excellent advice: “Today expect something good to happen to you no matter what occurred yesterday. Realize the past no longer holds you captive. It can only continue to hurt you if you hold on to it. Let the past go. A simply abundant world awaits.”

We are not born with negative expectations. An infant reaches out to the world, to each and every new experience and they don’t stop doing that. A child learning to walk falls down….but then gets back up and tries again. Life is not for the faint-hearted nor can it be lived successfully with negative expectations. Like writer Jeff Kinney says in “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”, “You can’t expect everyone to have the same dedication as you.”

Although written in a romance fiction book, a genre of late which has had its own negative expectations, Lisa Kleypas, writing in her best-selling novel “Love in the Afternoon” gives us one key for successful living and relationships. “You are your own worst enemy. If you can learn to stop expecting impossible perfection, in yourself and others, you may find the happiness that has always eluded you.”

My Psalm 112

Dear Spirit of All, creator of goodness,
Give us eyes to see,
Arms to embrace,
Ears to hear,
Courage to enact
The potential that is within our lives.
Help us to remember we are worthy
But none more than another.
Let us remember
The best retort
Is a life well-lived in all things:
Charity, Kindness, Generosity, Compassion.

Pentecost 111

Pentecost 111
My Psalm 111

Vision and Rash Hashanah

Creativity is usually something considered only for certain people. “Those” people who take a vision and turn it into an original piece of art. “Those” people who are resourceful. “Those people who are talented. “Those ingenious people who look at a piece of paper, blob of clay, a piece of pencil, the twelve-stone of a musical scale and see or hear something else entirely. Wake up, world! Newsflash! We are all called to be creative!

Last night, in a Lutheran Church in a suburb of a larger city in one of the smaller and none geometric states of the United States of America (Most states are a geometric figure – think about it!), the first of ten days of sacred importance was celebrated. Now if you are Lutheran or Christian or even agnostic, you are probably going through the celebratory feast in your mind. Advent is roughly twenty-four days, give or take a couple; Christmas, eight; Epiphany, averages forty to forty-five; Lent, 40 days; Easter, fifty; Pentecost, roughly one hundred and fifty. Whatever could they be celebrating for ten days? Vision.

Wednesday began the Jewish period known as Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah is Hebrew for “head of the world”. In today’s vernacular it is their new year celebration, commemorating the creation of the first two people of their faith – Adam and Eve. There is no fixed date for the two-day feast. It falls one hundred and sixty-three days after the first day of Passover. The Jewish calendar is a lunar-based calendar and yesterday signaled the beginning of the year 5775.

Rosh Hashanah launches the High Holidays, a period of holy days for those in the Jewish faith. During this time, they are called to repentance for past deeds but also to envision and prepare for a better future, consider how they might live better, improving their lives. These holy days culminate in the holiest of all Jewish days, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. On that day, Judaism says God will decide whether to forgive and grant life for another year.

Rosh Hashanah, the phrase itself, does not appear in the Torah. References are found in Leviticus and the Psalms, however. “Zikhron Teru’ah” and “shabbat shabbaton” are phrases used to denote such anointed, holy days. Rosh Hashanah, the phrase itself, appears only once and that is in the book of Ezekiel. Etymologically, it is similar related to “Arabic Ras as-Sanah”, the Islamic New Year.

There are three stages to this observance of the Jewish ten holy days. It is believed that on Rash Hashanah, God will open the Books of Judgment which are for all mankind. Then each individual is required to pray and repent until the judgment is given on Yom Kippur. It is not a final verdict, however. There is faith and hope that one still has a chance for a positive outcome and that final decree comes for the Jewish believer on Sukkot. Sukkot or Sukkoth is an eight-day festival, agricultural in origin. The seven days of its festival were said to correspond to the then known seventy linguistic groups encompassing all of humanity.

The common greetings said to one another during Rash Hashanah all begin with the Hebrew words for the English phrase “May you be”. On the first day of Rash hashanah you will hear “Ketivah VaChatimah Tovah” which translates loosely into “May you be written for a good new year by God!” Then, after the two-day feast concludes, the rest of the holy days are greeted with “Chatimah Tovah” or “May you be judged for a good year by God”, again a loose translation. Then from Yom Kippur to Sukkot, the greeting is “Gmar Tov” which means (again a loose translation since I don’t really speak Hebrew and apologize to my Hebrew friends and readers if I mistranslate), “You you may receiving a good conclusion of God’s judgment.”

I don’t think it an accident that these greetings all begin with the phrase “May you be”. What a glorious vision that is! What a magnificent world it would be if we all lived by those three words – May, you, be! And it really doesn’t take a creative person, one of “those” people to see where such a vision could take us.

One can easily see how the culture of the time of the early believers in Judaism, the originators of the faith, could recognize the importance of each individual and their actions. The primarily agricultural-based society needed positive efforts from all. The farmers of the early cultures were the lifeline of the people. They provided the food; their crops were the future of the world, for without sustenance, all would die. Warring farmers destroy crops and have no harvest. In her new book, Joyce Meyer makes a simple sentence the absolute truth for the believer (of any faith) and foretells the future when she says, “You reap what you sow”.

A recent study found that, among the estimated six million Jewish people in the United States of America, only fifteen percent see the Jewish faith as the core of their heritage. Only twenty-five percent of Jewish in the Baltimore Maryland metropolitan area attend services ,which correlates to the national average of twenty-one percent of Christians attending church service.

In an article published this week, written by Jonathan Pitts and published in the “Baltimore Sun”, Reverend Timothy Feaser, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church explain this second annual unusual observance of Rash Hashanah which will be officiated by Rabbi David Greenspoon. “The idea is that our church does not belong to us; it belongs to God,” said the Rev. Timothy Feaser, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Reisterstown, where Greenspoon will officiate Wednesday night and at four more services between now and Yom Kippur, which begins on the evening of Oct. 3. “The question is, is sharing the facility pleasing to God? We’re convinced that it is.”

Creativity is described as being inventive, inspired, the inspiration of the talented. Rabbi Greenspoon and Rev Feaser are being creative in their resourceful approach to their living of “May you be”. They are sowing seeds of respect, of unity, of compassion, of oneness, or faith. They don’t have to share the same beliefs, only a commitment to the concept of peace, a concept whose harvest is to let each and every person…be.

We are all creative in our own way. Whatever great spirit you honor, wherever you walk, however you live, we all live a vision. That vision may include the next five minutes; it may include the next five thousand years. Whether your year is now the beginning of 5775 or simply going into autumn of 2014, whether on Oct 3rd, you will celebrate Yom Kippur or conclude a month-long fasting known as Ramadan and celebrate Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice which is celebrated by Muslims with a Hajji pilgrimage to Mecca…We all hope for a future. It is up to each of us to live, repent, and then live again a life of creativity. We will reap whatever we sow. I hope we are sowing seeds of respect, of peace, of life. Then only then will we meet the challenge of life, the need to greet one another and truly mean “May you be”.

My Psalm 111*
*Psalm 111 is one of the acrostic poems – poems whose lines begin with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Today’s poem offering has eleven lines, each beginning with a letter of the alphabet of my language.

Almighty Creator of all, seen and unseen;
Benevolence and glory are your covenant to us.
Comfort the weak and uplift us all.
Direct our steps, Great Spirit.
Everything sings of your greatness!
Forgive us our sins, known and unknown.
Grant us grace to honor one another.
Help us to walk daily in peace.
Inspire us minute by minute, O God.
Joy to all believers; respect of all of creation!
Keep us in your arms, O God, as we keep your words in our hearts.

Pentecost 110

Pentecost 110
My Psalm 110

Progression, Popularity, and Life

A sequence is an organized path, a grouping of things in a particular order. Because events in one’s life tend to happen in a particular order, such as being born, learning to sit, crawling before walking, etc., we tend to think of life as being sequential. After all, a person turns eight before they turn nine; one learns to talk before learning to write; primary grades are completed before college. Many of our daily activities, leisure time events, and even health responses are based upon sequences. It is even used in the defense of our nation.

In geometry, a geometric progression refers to a list of numbers in which each successive number is determined by multiplying the immediate previous number by a specific, unchanging, non-zero integer which is often called the “common ratio”. This is used in something as simple as proving .999 = 1 or a greater problem such as determining statistics.

In 1968, the United States Air Force employed geometric progression for its study in determining the effectiveness of using the Delphi procedures for formulating group judgments. Often, a panel of advisors is used, each bringing their own opinion, to formulate policy, even when exact data for such is unknown. This particular study concerned itself with the direct relevance of using subject matter experts as advisors for making decisions and formulating policies having long-term effects.

The Delphi method is a time-tested procedure used in educational arenas, health care, and even municipal planning. It involves three steps, based on the premise that “Two heads are better than one”. The first step uses autonomous responses to formal questionnaires. The second involves iteration or the repeated use of a process and controlled feedback.

Iteration is a way of problem solving that involves a succession of approximations, each of which builds upon the preceding one to gain a more accurate result. In computers iteration is the repetition of a statement or version, more commonly called an upgrade by the average person, although it may or may not include actual changes.

The third step is called statistical group response. Statistical group response are used because, well, getting everyone on earth to answer the exact same question in the exact same setting at the exact same time would be impractical, improbably, and statistically impossible.

The United States Air Force study was just one of many that heralded something called opinion technology. Earlier this week, in USA Today, Leonard Evans wrote an editorial on highway safety. He employed opinion technology and geometric progression as did the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA reported an increase in highway deaths but stated that, overall, traffic highways deaths continued to remain at an historic low as they had for the past five years. In his research, Mr. Evans found the USA had higher traffic fatalities than other industrialized nations. He stated the reason for this: “Safer countries focused on changing driver behavior to reduce the risk of crashing, while the U.S. has been hyper-focused on technology, particularly mandatory improvements designed to mitigate harm after a crash occurs, and vehicle defects.” By using all the progression methods previously discussed, Mr. Evans concluded that unsafe driving poses a greater threat to the driving American public and the government should focus on correcting that rather than requiring auto makers to constantly change their product; thereby, suggesting policy based upon mathematics.

The noted Myers-Briggs personality profile test, like many others, also uses sequencing in its determinations. Myers-Briggs, the doctoral thesis of two female graduate students in the late 1940’s was used to mark where a person was at that point in time so that positive future growth could occur. Regretfully, many take it and assume it is cast in stone. If the test says you are one thing, you are doomed to remain that forever.

What we often fail to recognize is that as our life moves through its predictable sequences, we have the power for unpredictable responses. Just because someone steps on your toes does not mean you need to step on theirs in retaliation. The scriptural adage “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” was an analogy given to illustrate the need for a tempered response. It was uttered at a time in which all responses were exaggerated. The analogy was calling for equal and just consequences, not a carte blanche to wound or kill at will. In fact, killing was strictly prohibited: “thou shall not kill” is pretty explicit.

In making our own personal choices, we often subconsciously employ a Delphi method. It is not a bad method when used properly. The anonymous response to a structured questionnaire insures everyone answering exactly the same question without fear of retaliation or peer pressure. The use of systematic procedures such as iteration lends an air of objectivity and comprehension while the group responses afford little fear of inhibitions guiding the responses.

However, we need to be sure that the subject matter experts we are trusting in their opinions are really ones we should use as role models when it comes to our own lives. Far too often, those in the public eye are deemed authorities when, in actuality, they are simply other struggling pilgrims. Recently a famous wife, known for her reality television series and several businesses as well as managing her own children’s lives, filed for divorce. This person sells herself as a lifestyle expert but sadly failed to manage her own life effectively so as to achieve the optimal result. Because someone has a perceived sense of status in the modern world, they are considered better able to offer advice as opposed to the teachings of religious doctrines and spiritual beliefs dating back over time.

The United States 1968 study revealed an interesting fact. There was an identifiable difference between men and women concerning accuracy and changeability. It also determined that the realm of opinion was different from the realm of knowledge. The public figures so many idolize are simply offering an opinion which is illustrated by their life choices and actions. It conflicts often with a more knowledgeable choice of action.

Life is a series of events, a sequence of experiences. When we factor in lessons learned, we can then proceed with hope for a brighter future. A baby can sing (of sorts) at the age of three months and with intent by age six months. He or she may not fully understand their utterances but they are capable of making, actually from about twenty-four hours after birth. After all, the same things needed – vocal cords – enable the baby to cry immediately upon being born. While pleasant singing takes longer, a baby can sing. We need to utilize the progression of life provided to us and grow, ensuring that when we sing – figuratively or literally, we are singing the melody that we want, that will be best heard, that is in harmony with a better tomorrow and provide victory for the life we are living.

My Psalm 110

O God, you alone are most high.
We are the captains of our own paths.
We may not select the journey;
However, we can lead the way.
You are our compass.
Your teachings steer us towards successful being.
Your presence affords us comfort and strength.
You will never let us down and walk beside us supporting all.
Thanks be to the One who loves without ceasing.