A Drop of Water

A Drop of Water

Easter 5


As I began to write this, nine million people in the United States were under a severe weather warning.  Life interrupted and while I was called away, several tornadoes did indeed touch down in northeastern Oklahoma resulting in property damage and human injury.  Two nights earlier a similar scene played out on a television program but with less damage due to one of the lead characters creating dry ice which was sucked into the tornado resulting in a drastic drop in temperature and tornadic power.


“I’m not really a freak; I am a member of the community.”  This quote was said by the first women ever to receive a PhD. in meteorology, Dr. Joanne Simpson.   A graduate of the University of Chicago, Dr. Simpson would go on to lead the Experimental Meteorology Branch of the Environment Satellite Services Administration’s Institute for Atmospheric Sciences and eventually the lead weather forecaster at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).


While at the Experimental Satellite Services Administration, Dr. Simpson, in 1966, became the director of Project Stormfury.  For over twenty years, the United States government initiated this program to seed rain clouds within a cyclone or tropical tornado with silver iodide, much like the character did on the television program with dry ice.  Since tropical tornadoes or cyclones become hurricanes, this effort was considered ground-breaking and life-saving.


The premise behind the television program’s plot I mentioned earlier is not new.  The use of dry ice to effect a change in such a weather system was first posited by Vincent Schaefer and Irving Langmuir.  A researcher at the General Electric Corporation, Charles Schaefer had in 1946 caused a small snowstorm by cloud seeding.  Langmuir was a fan of weather modification and its possible life-saving results and both men would later be advisors for the U.S. military’s Project Cirrus.   Project Cirrus had as its primary goal the weakening of hurricane storm systems.  It was believed that by seeding the area around the eyewall of the hurricane, latent heat would be released and a new eyewall would be created.  The winds of the hurricane would then weaken due to air pressure changes within the system.


The hypothesis that one can seed clouds and cause rain within a tropical cyclone which would lower the temperature and disrupt the tornadic activity was unsuccessful.  It was found that such weather systems did not contain enough super-cooled water within themselves to effect the desired changes.   These systems also undergo such changes on their own given time.  The observational data and storm lifecycle research generated by Dr. Simpson’s Project Stormfury was not a complete failure, however.  The resulting research helped improve meteorologists’ ability to forecast the movement and intensity of future hurricanes.


One of Dr. Simpson’s ventures was the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM).  In conjunction with the Japanese government’s Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency or JAXA, TRMM was part of NASA’s Mission to Planet Earth, a long-term coordinated research program involving a satellite designed to study the earth as a global system.


Prior to TRMM, rainfall predictions worldwide had a fifty percent success rate.  This is an important statistic since tropical rainfall contains over three-fourths of the earth’s atmospheric wind circulation.  Dr. Joanne Simpson was living her quote about being a member of the community with this project.  TRMM’s program goals included improved understanding of the global energy and water cycles by providing distributions of rainfall and latent heating over the global tropical areas; the understanding of the mechanisms through which changes in tropical rainfall influence global circulation and to improve ability to model these processes in order to predict global circulations and rainfall variability at monthly and longer timescales.  It also provided rain and latent heating distributions to improve the initialization of models ranging from 24 hour forecasts to short-range climate variations.  This helps to improve hurricane forecasting and save lives.  Additionally, TRMM helped evaluate the diurnal variability of tropical rainfall globally and develop a space-based system for rainfall measurements.


Roger Miller once wrote that “Some people walk in the rain while others just get wet.”  Joanne Simpson not only walked in the rain, she blossomed in its nourishment and defeated the prejudice of women getting higher education.  She herself recognized the sacrifices she made in her personal life to do so but the millions who reap the harvest of her studies are forever thankful.  While nine million plus will feel the harsh effects of weather over the next twenty-four hours, fewer will perish, thanks to Simpson’s Project Stormfury and TRMM.


Monooly: Game of Life

Monopoly: Game of Life

Easter 4


The concept of land ownership is both new and old and is the reason behind many lawsuits, disagreements, and wars.  Throughout time cultures have advocated the communal use of the land while at the same time wanting to control such lands.  It may sound complicated but think of the game Monopoly.   Elizabeth Magie used this game she invented to protest unfair economic policy.


The point of Monopoly is to obtain properties (or at least cards with titles to spaces on the game board that signify properties0 and then allow others to use your land in the form of rent paid to the property or card owner.  The game player becomes the landlord and every time someone lands on a space for which he/she “owns” the card, rent must be paid.  Sound a bit unfair?  Elizabeth Magie thought so, too.


A monopoly is when a person or company is the only one offering a certain product, usually a necessary commodity.  A monopsony is a single entity’s control of a particular market to obtain an item and oligopoly is a few businesses dominating a particular field or industry.  Who would have thought all of these could be expressed in a game?  Elizabeth Magie did.


The examples I will use are found in the United States of America but none of these terms or economic policies are the sole characteristic of the U.S.A.  Every country on earth has them – regardless of their political structure.  In fact, the more restrictive a government, the more these terms are present and carried out in life.


If I want to see a professional baseball game in the U.S.A., I have to go see a team that is part of Major League Baseball.  There simply are no other professional baseball teams in the United States.  That was not always the case, however.  In the early 1900’s there were a number of professional leagues that were trying to make money by playing before paying crowds.  Baseball was a most popular sport, often called “America’s Game” although variations are found in many cultures worldwide.


These different leagues were not always playing fair or as gentlemen and in 1915, the Federal Baseball Club in Baltimore sued the National and American Leagues under the Clayton Antitrust Act, a law designed to help protect consumers.  If only one business offered a necessary product, that business could charge whatever it desired and consumers would be at the mercy of said business’s possible price-gouging.  The Federal baseball Club wanted to have a fair share of the public’s affinity for baseball but could not compete with the larger National and American Leagues.  Pardon my pun but they wanted to level the playing field, so to speak.


The court case made its way through the court system and eventually ended up at the U.S. Supreme Court.  The 1922 decision written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes has resulted in professional baseball being the only sport in America exempt from antitrust laws, a sport often called “America’s favorite monopoly.”  FYI – Major League baseball will begin its 140th season on April 3, 2016.


In writing the decision of the court, Justice Holmes penned:  “The fact that, in order to give the exhibitions, the Leagues must induce free persons to cross state lines and must arrange and pay for their doing so is not enough to change the character of the business. …  The transport is a mere incident, not the essential thing. That to which it is incident, the exhibition, although made for money, would not be called trade of commerce in the commonly accepted use of those words. …  Personal effort not related to production is not a subject of commerce. That which in its consummation is not commerce does not become commerce among the states because the transportation that we have mentioned takes place.”


Let me make his eloquent words more easily understood.  Baseball is not commerce because it does not “produce” anything.  Antitrust or monopoly laws refer to things that are produced and because baseball does not produce anything, it is not commerce and therefore not subject to laws of commerce.


Land ownership and land value might seem to fall under the same sort of issue.  Early American patriots advocated that the land was for all and all should benefit equally from its usage.  Certain economics philosophies such as Georgism gained popularity with many followers.  Georgism was so named after Henry George, the author of “Progress and Poverty”, a book in which George upheld that while people may individually own what they create, natural opportunities such as land belong equally to all.


Elizabeth Magie was a follower of Henry George and led an active life with varied careers.  In the early 1880’s she worked as a stenographer and was a writer.  She also worked as a comedian, actress on stage, an engineer, and not surprisingly, a feminist.  By the dawn of the 1900’s she had a job as a newspaper reporter and at the age of 44, married.


Magie invented a board game which was designed to demonstrate the ill effects economically of land monopolies and how land taxes could alleviate such problems.  She called her game “The Landlord’s Game” and obtained a patent on January 5, 1904.  In 1932 she revised the game and obtained a new patent for the newly named “The Landlord’s Game and Prosperity”.


Elizabeth Magie followed her own economic philosophies of Georgism with her game.  She did not have it sold to a commercial manufacturer.  Burton Wolfe explains:  “Players… made their own game boards so that they could replace the properties designated by Lizzie Maggie with properties in their own cities and states; this made playing more realistic. As they drew or painted their own boards, usually on linen or oil cloth, they change the title “Landlord’s Game” to “Auction Monopoly” and then just “Monopoly”.  One enthusiastic player of the game was student Priscilla Robertson who would later become the editor of “The Humanist”.  “In those days those who wanted copies of the board for Monopoly took a piece of linen cloth and copied it in crayon.”


The game grew a following and in 1932 Charles Darrow obtained a copyright for his version of the game.  It included the familiar white box of classic Monopoly games.  Also in 1932 Parker Brothers company bought Elizabeth Magie’s original patent for the sum of five hundred dollars.  In keeping with her original purpose of the game which was to popularize and spread the Georgism economic philosophy, by now whose followers were misnamed as “Single Taxers”, she was not interested in making money from her game but in illuminating the public.  She also insisted that Parker Brothers not make any changes to her game.  They reissued the game to the public but then immediately recalled it with very few being sold.


In 1940 just four years before her death, Elizabeth Magie, the original inventor of the game Monopoly, was still a strong voice for supporting what one believed.  “What is the value of our philosophy if we do not do our utmost to apply it? To simply know a thing is not enough. To merely speak or write of it occasionally among ourselves is not enough. We must do something about it on a large scale if we are to make headway. We must not only tell them, but show them just how and why and where our claims can be proven in some actual situation…”  Living one’s beliefs was not a game to Elizabeth Magie; it was life itself.





On the Air

On the Air

Easter 3


In the religious communities throughout time, there have been women who dedicated their life to their faith.  Often these women practice their beliefs in a faith that denounces the evangelical calling of women to preach so they are known as sisters or nuns.  The word nun comes from the Latin “nonna” which meant a tutor or teacher.  I cannot explain why these faiths believed it permissible for the women to teach but not speak in an official public capacity but I do respect their right to believe such.


I also respect the women who worship their faith within the confines of this gender bias.  I myself am a participant of a denomination that allows all believers to become ministers or priests but as I have said many times, I also appreciate the nuances that diversity leads to our world.


These women go about their calling to work solely for their faith with a passion not often found in the secular world.  Many live cloistered lives but one chose to do her “teaching” in an interesting secular format.  Rita Antoinette Rizzo (No, not the character in the movie “Grease”) was born in Canton, Ohio and was, as one might expect of a good Italian American girl, a member of the Roman Catholic Church.


At the age of twenty-one, Rita Antoinette Rizzo became a postulate of the Franciscan order, Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration.  At the age of twenty-two, she was admitted to the order as a novice.  Eighteen years later she left Ohio and journeyed to Irondale, Alabama.  Ten years later she decided to join a local radio station.  Ten years later she did something most unusual for any priest or nun.  Now known as Sister Angelica, she founded a television network.


The Eternal Word Television Network that Sister Angelica founded has become the largest religious network in the world.  It now broadcasts on eleven separate television channels in different languages and has a viewership of over two hundred and sixty-four million home in one hundred and forty-five countries and territories.


The little girl whose parents divorced when she was six years old grew up with disdain by many.  Her faith, however, never wavered and she relied on her faith to give her strength.  In 1996 Mother Angelica as she was now called was responsible for the building of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of the Angels monastery in Hanceville, Alabama.


Pope Benedict XVI bestowed the church’s highest honor for laity, the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award, better known as the Cross of Honor, on Mother Angelica in 2009 for “outstanding service and zeal”.  Mother Angelica never let fear accompany her on her walk of life.  “I’m not afraid to fail, but I am scared to death of dying and having the Lord say to me: ‘Angelica, this is what you might have done had you trusted me more’.”


Mother Angelica passed away two days ago on Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 5 P.M.  She knew her time on this earth was drawing to a close and had spent a great amount of her time in prayer readying herself for the transition she expected upon her death.


Perhaps you remember the news story when Oprah Winfrey began her network in 2011.  Do you remember the naysayers?  There were many.  Now imagine starting a network as a nun thirty years earlier.  Mother Angelica relied on her faith as her North Star.  She is an example of what one woman living her faith can do.  “Faith is one foot on the ground, one foot in the air, and a queasy feeling in the stomach.”



Thinking Differently

Thinking Differently

Easter 2


Two days ago Newsweek reported a change in a centuries old custom of Kenya’s Maasai tribe.  Like many cultures, the tribe had a coming-of-age ceremony for both men and women.  Unfortunately, for the past centuries, the ceremony included genital mutilation for the females of the tribe. 


Throughout their history, the traditions of the tribe have influenced every aspect of their living.  Now, traditional African communities like this one are accepting alternative ceremonies.  The result is that fewer girls are entering into marriage without their personal consent at the age of eleven or twelve and are allowed to remain in school.  As one young girl remarked:  “I am very happy because I will not be married off at this age.  I will now go to school and achieve my dream of becoming a doctor.”


Temple Grandin did not grow up in Africa but graduated from Arizona State University in the United States of America.  She escaped a different type of cultural enslavement, however, that of being labeled “different”.  Dr. Grandin achieved her dream of earning her doctorate in animal science.  Although she did not speak until age four, she is now a world-renowned teacher and speaker, having invented several animal-=handling devices that reduce stress and improve overall health of cattle in the world.


I will pause here to admit that for the vegans in my readership, Dr. Grandin may seem like an unusual subject to begin our series on women inventors.  However, the eating of meat provides life for many people, a large number of whom cannot obtain or perhaps eat enough vegetarian meals to substitute the nutrients obtained by eating cattle.  Yes there is methane gas produced by beef cattle but it is less than half that produced by dairy cattle.  Cattle are ruminants and their practice of grazing actually improves the world’s food availability.  While we need to improve our care of the environment and our living practices that affect it, let us save that discussion for later.


Let’s turn our focus back to the females who have changed our world and Dr. Temple Grandin, an accomplished female inventor who lives with autism.  Dr. Grandin credits her interest and belief that animals should not be mistreated or placed in situations that result in a lower quality of life to living with the stigma of a diagnosis such as autism.  She has designed a number of inventions that use behavioral principles instead of excessive force to help control animals. 


“Dr. Grandin’s restraint systems keep animals calm and prevent them from getting hurt and her center-track restraint system is currently used to handle nearly half of all the cattle in North America. She also has designed livestock handling facilities in the United States, Canada, Europe, and New Zealand.” This description is from the website women-inventors.com


She is also a prolific author on the subject of autism.  Dr. Grandin is currently a professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University.  Her achievements dispel the myth that people who think differently cannot contribute to the world, lead “normal lives” or have anything to offer.   Like all of our women inventors in this series, she overcame gender bias as well as other false assumptions to survive and thrive.


We all encounter people who have low expectations for us.  Perhaps it is because of our skin color, the shape of our eyes or the size of our nose.  What we cannot do is adopt those low expectations or stop trying to accomplish our dreams.  It is only by thinking differently that the world moves forward and new inventions arise. 


I will close with a favorite quote of mine which comes from a 1980’s era television commercial campaign for Apple computers.  Alas it was not written by a woman but by Rob Siltanen; no matter, it is perfect for our discussion about Dr. Temple Grandin.  I hope it inspires you to think a little differently today and to give thanks that we are all not carbon copies but unique individuals.


“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”




Easter 1


We are now in one of the most contested seasons of the calendar I use in my organization of this blog – Easter.  Perhaps it is fitting that we will, as a theme this year, discuss another contested subject – gender equality and the contributions of women as innovators.


A terrorist attack was thwarted today in Nigeria when watchful villagers noticed three young girls acting suspiciously.  One of the young girls escaped, to what no one knows.  The other two, however, were captured and found to be wearing suicide bomb vests.  One of the two captured was under the influence of very strong drugs and taken to a medical facility.  The other girl claimed to be part of two hundred and fifty girls kidnapped from a school in the Nigerian town of Chibok two years ago.  Only fifty of the original two hundred and fifty were able to escape and many have feared that the remaining two hundred had fallen victims to horrendous sexual abuse or forced to convert to Islam.


The very name of the group claiming to be behind the school girls’ kidnapping is “Boko Haram” means “Western education is a sin.”  The group protests women doing anything other than raising children and taking care of their husbands.  In other words, to this group and others like it, women have only the function in life to be slaves.


More than one billion people live in poverty today and most of them are female.  The issue of poverty is a highly complex one and its origins are not rooted solely in Western education but can be found in local, national, and international realms.  Part of the problem is the lack of gender equality worldwide.


One of the best resources remarking on this topic can be found at the website of the Peace Corps.  “Gender equality is a human right, but our world faces a persistent gap in access to opportunities and decision-making power for women and men. Globally, women have fewer opportunities for economic participation than men, less access to basic and higher education, greater health and safety risks, and less political representation. Guaranteeing the rights of women and giving them opportunities to reach their full potential is critical not only for attaining gender equality, but also for meeting a wide range of international development goals. Empowered women and girls contribute to the health and productivity of their families, communities, and countries, creating a ripple effect that benefits everyone.”


Women make up more than 50% of the world’s population and yet they only own 1% of the world’s wealth. Again I quote from the Peace Corps website:  “Throughout the world, women and girls perform long hours of unpaid domestic work. In some places, women still lack rights to own land or to inherit property, obtain access to credit, earn income, or to move up in their workplace, free from job discrimination. At all levels, including at home and in the public arena, women are widely underrepresented as decision-makers. In legislatures around the world, women are outnumbered 4 to 1, yet women’s political participation is crucial for achieving gender equality and genuine democracy.”


For centuries it was believed that women could not keep up with men in the science and mathematics fields.  Today the number of women in STEM – science, technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – fields is not proportional to their numbers in the population.


During this season of Easter, we will discuss invention of women.  Easter is both a religious and pagan holiday with some overlapping between the two.  It is not one specific date, even among Christians.  One of the lasting images of the religious holiday, though, is of the mother of the man known as Jesus of Nazareth at the foot of the cross where her son is being crucified and then her holding his lifeless body.


Michelangelo and many other artists have portrayed this image of the grieving mother in works of art called pietas.  The word comes from the Latin “pietatem” which meant mercy or compassion.  One of my favorite pietas is that of Kathrin Burleson but there are many and all are lovely.  While most of these depictions of the pieta are also called lamentations and feature Mary and her son Jesus, they could be representative of all women who have been subjected to gender bias and the resulting victimization of such.


Women comprise more than fifty percent of the population and no one is ever born without a woman being involved.  With the future of mankind literally their dominion, women should be respected, not reviled and enslaved.  #WithStrongGirls is just one of many organizations trying to bridge the gender gap.  Hopefully, with our discussions about these inventions over the next fifty-plus days, we all will realize that women have much to offer in addition to the ability to birth children.  They can also give birth to some great ideas and inventions that benefit all of mankind.  Please join me as we learn and celebrate women.  What helps women benefits us all.



Lent 46


There are forty days in Lent because Sundays are not counted.  I count each and every day so my count is 46.  Why does this matter?  It really doesn’t except that I like that thought of making each day count, of recognizing the value that is found in living each day.


Listen to the words of pop superstar and recording artist Madonna:  “No matter who you are, no matter what you did, no matter where you’ve come from, you can always change, become a better version of yourself.”  I don’t always plant a garden and I don’t think I have always had everything planted come up and flourish.  The important thing is that I had tried and in the trying, learned.   Every tomato plany may not have grown but I have.


Anais Nin is considered one of the twentieth century’s leading writers although she received quite a bit of criticism in her own time.  I love her comments about growth and living.  “What we call our destiny is truly our character and that character can be altered. The knowledge that we are responsible for our actions and attitudes does not need to be discouraging, because it also means that we are free to change this destiny. One is not in bondage to the past, which has shaped our feelings, to race, inheritance, background. All this can be altered if we have the courage to examine how it formed us. We can alter the chemistry provided we have the courage to dissect the elements.”


Confucius said it much more simply:  “When you see a good person, think of becoming like her/him. When you see someone not so good, reflect on your own weak points.”  This is the key to having a good harvest of soul.  Each day brings us a new chance to be a better version of ourselves.  Lent is a time in which life is inspected and perhaps changes are made.  Each morning is the genesis of a new day and the dawn of a new self.  We each should let our spirits grow and flourish so as to reap the harvest of a life well-lived.



Lent 45


One of the more popular television programs in the United States and in some overseas markets in the crime drama NCIS.  As a fan myself, I know very well the main character’s penchant for rules by which one should live.  One of his more famous rules is “Rule #6:  Never apologize; it’s a sign of weakness.”


With all due respect to the writers, producers, and actors, I have to strongly disagree with Rule #6.  How we respond to people illustrates not only who we are but what we believe.  It takes courage to apologize and it also signifies that one accepts their own humanness.


Yesterday we discussed briefly Aristotle’s “Poetics”.  Aristotle defined the word narrative as “a matter of development of character in terms of a plot.”  The plot is created through a series of challenges or conflicts.  The response to these conflicts reveals the character of the person and their faith.


This weekend many Christians, though not all, will celebrate Easter.  Easter is the culmination of the story of the life of the man known as Jesus of Nazareth.  Christians believe this Jesus to be the son of God who died for the propitiation or appeasement of all  of mankind’s shortcomings or sins.  In a prayer attributed to this Jesus, believers are told to forgive others just as they want and expect to be forgiven.  Known as the Lord’s Prayer, this is the guiding factor in how we should respond to others.


When I invite people over to see my garden, I do not want to show them a plot of land that is full of weeds.  I want them to see plants in various stages of growth and encourage them to envision the bountiful harvest I hope to receive.


It is impossible not to interact with someone in one’s life.  People living “off the grid” in a solitary existence are breathing the air that has been breathed out by other humans and animals.  We cannot isolate ourselves.  We are in this thing called life together.


Yesterday I also discussed Dr. Sedgwick and his book “The Moral Christian Life.”  This is what he says about character and how it is revealed by our responses to life.  “”As character is both revealed and developed in the human response to events, the unfinished or open-ended relationship between acts in forming and sustaining a practice indicates that character is not fixed or final.”  In other words, we need to keep cultivating and weeding the gardens of our souls because we can grow new and better selves.


Dr. Sedgwick continues:  “The unity of the self as a unity of purposes depends  … on some ongoing development of … practices that form” a life as a whole.  While he explains this concept in terms of Christian metaphors, it easily applies to everyone, regardless of religious or spiritual beliefs.


There is nothing that insists we must respond with retaliation or revenge.  A garden needs sunlight and water and perhaps some fertilizer but the best guarantee for a productive garden is nurturing.  We need to take care of ourselves in body, mind, and spirit.


These past weeks we have discussed self-love, self-worth, self-knowledge, self-respect and self-esteem, self-discipline, and selflessness.  We have one more blog post in this series.  It is appropriately titled Harvest and will conclude this growing a garden of better self for this Lenten series.  It will post later tonight as the season of Lent draws to a close and the season of Easter dawns.


“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” Ernest Hemingway said that and I firmly believe it to be true. Tomorrow is a new day, a new day to be superior to the person you are at this very minute.


“Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.” This was said by one of the greatest minds of the modern world, Albert Einstein. Tomorrow is the beginning of a new season and series for this blog but it is also the harvest of this current one. We will discuss the harvest of successfully navigating the narrative of our life and focus on the inventions of women who did just that and created something we all need.




Lent 44


“At the heart of virtue is knowledge of the good.”  This quote is from Timothy Sedgwick, Academic Dean for Academic Affairs and Vice President and the Clinton S. Quin Professor of Christian Ethics at Virginia Theological Seminary.  Actually Dr. Sedgwick is best known as an Episcopal ethicist, a fact of being that surprises many being.   Not that I mean he should not be known for his standing but that we have such things as ethicists and that they exist within a denomination.

 Try as I do to keep this blog open for all religions and spiritualties, at some point we must admit to our commonality and the search for that which is good.  To deny such would be, in my humble opinion, denying the existence of life itself.

 Life is lived in relationship to others.  No matter who you are, what you have, your profession, your status or lack thereof…All life is lived in relationship to others – people, places, things, and the whole of creation.  This is a concept also posited in Sedgwick’s book “The Christian Moral Life”.  One of the more interesting things he discusses, however, is not in the text of the book but in the very first footnote:  “The narrative understanding of ethics as a matter of setting, character, and plot has its origins in Aristotle’s “Poems”.

 If we take a moment to look back at the past forty days, give or take, of Lent, a story will unfold – the story of you.  Your life is a narrative, a series of events and your reaction to them.  At each moment of those past forty days, you asked and answered the questions “What do I do?”  “What will I purchase?”  “Where will I go?”  One question leads to another and the way in which we answer them becomes the narrative of the past forty days.

 These last few days of the Lenten season are some of the most painful in the story for which the Christian season of Lent exists.  To a visitor from another galaxy, it might seem strange to tell of the capture of their leader and prophet.  In some religions to even hint that such could happen to a deity or spiritual leader would be blasphemous.  The Christian faith narrative has the scene of a painful three-day-period which constitutes the end of Lent foretold and then lived. 

 This story gives us a powerful message, even for those not believing in the message of the story at all.  It signifies that life is painful and has recovery.  Why would this be important?  It is important because such is true for all of us – Buddhist, Agnostic, Atheist, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Still-Deciding, Refuse-to-Decide, Spiritualist, etc., etc., etc.  If indeed life is lived in relationship to others, then there will be pain, disappointment, unpleasantness, and even betrayal. 

 We have, in these past weeks, imagines a garden, a garden of self.  Every garden has its pests.  Some arrive blown by the wind but others are intentional visitors.  They plunder the young bulbs out of the earth and disrupt the fragile seeds.  They expose what needs to stay buried and eat what can then never become part of our harvest.  Even the weather can invade our ideal setting of the garden.

 Life is much the same.  There are those people who seem to want only to destroy our tranquil souls and there are always the unexpected life events that, much like a sudden storm, can turn our lives upside down in an instant.

 It is how we connect to these people and events that determines our narrative.  How we connect to our living determines who we are, what self we have planted and nurtured in our being.  Loss can lead to greater understanding and appreciation if we allow ourselves to learn and grow from it.  In his book “The Moral Christian Life”, Sedgwick describes something he calls the Covenant of Hospitality.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”  There are many variations of this saying which appears in Hebrews Chapter 13, verse 2.  It is sage wisdom and the very definition of who we are.  How we treat and connect to those who can seemingly do nothing for us speaks volumes as to whom we are as beings.

 The connections we make in our life are a mirror of our souls.  I am not just talking about the people we know or the charities we may support.  I am talking about the connections we have to our pets, our material possessions, and yes, even our dreams.

 Herman Melville wrote about such connections.  “We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”

 John Lennon explained it a little differently.  “A dream you dream alone is only a dream.  A dream you dream together is reality.”  When we connect with the world and everything in it for positive results, then we are truly living the best self and life we can offer.  AS Lennon says, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.  Someday I hope you’ll join us…and the world will live as one.”





Lent 43


Someone sked me two questions and they requested brief answers.  Can’t promise extreme brevity but … I do promise to try!  First, the questions:  “Why the garden analogy in talking about self-improvement?” and “Sum up such in one word, please?”


A garden is a space dedicated to things that are growing.  That is my definition, by the way.  If you look the word up, you will discover that a garden is officially, as a noun, “a plot of ground, usually near a house, where flowers, shrubs, vegetables, fruits, or herbs are cultivated; a piece of ground or other space, commonly with ornamental plants, trees, etc., used as a park or other public recreation area; a fertile and delightful spot or region.  As a verb, the word garden means “to cultivate”.  It comes from the German “garten” which means yard.


In more modern times, though, a garden is not just a yard.  It is what we do with that yard space.  The term “yard” now means lawn and once in place, a lawn is tended but seldom renewed each year and made to change.  It simply is maintained.  Our lives are not something that we should simply maintain.  They are living entities and change is inevitable.  I used the analogy of a garden because we are supposed to cultivate or grow and do so daily.   


To sum up or describe how we are to cultivate a better self is really not so easy.  It requires being able to foresee the future as well as include the past.  I think the best one word answer I can think of is simply “reaction”… It is how we react to life that determines our true character and paves the pathway of our future.


“Love in action.  Beyond reaction, there is a place.”  This quote comes from a dear friend and spiritualist Nancy Kern.  She posted it on Facebook with a link to a news story.  The story told of a shoplifting event that occurred in Malaysia.  The manager of a grocery store saw a man shoplifting and after stopping him, inquired as to the cause of his illegal activity.  The man explained he’d had to quit in job to care for his children after his wife slipped into a coma following childbirth.


This situation is rather extreme but is also similar to those we all face every day.  We all have choices in how we react and those reactions illustrate just who we are and what we believe.  How we react is a mirror of our faith but more importantly, reaction is a reflection of our character.


In reaction there can either be love or disapproval, judgement or acceptance, inclusiveness in the family of mankind or hatred and death of spirit and body.  The store manager in Malaysia offered the shoplifter a job and gave him an advance on his salary.   How will you react today?




Lent 42


How do you define “living”?  Someone asked why I always used the phrase “in your living”.  This blog is a series of spiritual or philosophical, sometimes theological reflections and they felt discussing occupations was “out of sync”.  I would agree except we are defining the term “living” differently; in fact, one might say we are defining it in opposition to each other.


Living to me is a verb and it is what I do with every breath.  I fully understand that many people say they “make my living” and refer to what their job is.  However, I take issue with that.  The phrase originated when people inquired how someone earned enough money to support themselves and, if applicable, their family. 


Balance is important in all things, whether you are building a house, transferring acid from one container to another or going through a twenty-four hour period in life.  Writer Jarod Kintz has a great way of describing balance by giving two math problems:  0 + 100 = 100; 50 + 50 = 100.  He suggests that the latter is a better balance for love.  It is also a better example of how we should approach life and the experiences we have in life.


The Persian poet Runi who lived in the thirteenth century has an even better way of illustrating balance.  “Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds’ wings.”


 We live and by doing so experience joy and pain.  We also have joy and sadness, laughter and solemn moments, loudness and quiet times.  It is the diversity of living that gives meaning to our being alive.  Life is about much more than our job title.  It is about how we treat people, our selflessness.


I recently read the Book “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin.  It is a great read and I highly recommend it.  In it she explains the connection between selflessness and happiness.  “The belief that unhappiness is selfless and happiness is selfish is misguided. It’s more selfless to act happy. It takes energy, generosity, and discipline to be unfailingly lighthearted, yet everyone takes the happy person for granted. No one is careful of his feelings or tries to keep his spirits high. He seems self-sufficient; he becomes a cushion for others. And because happiness seems unforced, that person usually gets no credit.”


Selflessness is not hard nor does it mean losing out on something.  Too many people are afraid to think of others before themselves.  They are fearful that they might miss out on something or by giving to others forfeit something themselves.  Audrey Hepburn had a wonderful definition of selflessness, something she lived every day of her life in spite of being one of the world’s most talents and popular actresses of the twentieth century.  “It’s that wonderful old-fashioned idea that others come first and you come second. This was the whole ethic by which I was brought up. Others matter more than you do, so ‘don’t fuss, dear; get on with it’.”