Living the Spirit

Living the Spirit

March 6-7, 2018


In 2011 author Judith O’Reilly decided to do one good deed every day.  In an article written for the London-based Daily Mail’s online publication fittingly known as “Mail Online”, columnist Bianca London interviewed O’Reilly.  ‘I didn’t realize when I made the resolution that New Year what I was taking on,’ she says in the epilogue to her book.  “I’d made resolutions before… but the idea of doing one good deed a day morphed into something else again.  ‘This year made me question what a good life is, how we give our lives meaning, and what it is to love.  ‘It also taught me that people don’t always want the good you want to do, and that doing good – believe you me – is harder than it looks.”


The season of Lent, the current lliturgical season, is a time for doing something that results in making one better.  Traditionally it has involved sacrifice but more recently, the trend for a lenten discipline has been to take on something.


I recently got called out by a person regarding my “seemingly liberal views” in a comment.  I always enjoy feedback and often answer direct questions.  I respect everyone for having a point of view because I also have a point of view.  However, this person asked me to apologize and explain my stance so one of my Lenten disciplines this year  is to show others respect.


Recently I attended a lecture series having five parts.  The last speaker talked about the environment and said several things that were, scientifically, not factual.  Did I stand up and scream “Liar!”?  No, of course not.  This person has the right as an invited speaker to say what they wished.  I deeply regret that some people walked out of the meeting thinking erroneous facts but respect for another required that I say nothing.  There were several courses of actions I could have taken afterwards.  One would have been to engage the speaker in some polite chatter and asked for their references, casually mentioning what I felt might have been said in error.  Another would have been to send them a letter comparing my references with theirs and asking for what clarification or reconciliation they knew.  A third would have been to accept that the series was more about gathering together than about academic learning and that others probably realized this as well.


I elected the third course of action, out of respect.  Was it a pleasing choice?  No, not really but I do believe it to have been the best.  I could, of course, be entirely wrong about that and would love to hear your thoughts.  I sincerely hope no one left the meeting and became a vegetarian because of the speaker’s comments that beef cattle are ruining the atmosphere with the amount of methane gas they discharge.  The truth is that dairy cattle produce twice as much methane gas as beef cattle.  Becoming a vegetarian may be the best health choice for someone but such a decision should be based on health and religious reasons, not a misspoken statement given in a speech.


Was I disappointed that the speaker gave out erroneous information, this being just one example?  Naturally I was but again, that is the decision this person made.  We all make such decisions, whether it is to jaywalk or pull into a parking place someone else had their eye on or even to short tip a server for their services.  These decisions reflect on our being and illustrate our own spirit of living.


I cannot apologize to my reader for being a liberal because I don’t think of myself that way.  Reminding that the person screaming about one man’s infidelity also committed infidelity in his own marriage and did so in his multiple marriages does not necessarily make me a liberal.  It means simply that I have a brain and memory and am putting both to use.


I firmly believe if we put eight people in a room and ask them one question each regarding the topics of religion, faith, lifestyle choices, or even just fashion preferences, for each question we would probably receive at least twelve difference answers.  We should insist everyone think exactly the same as we do.  We must respect another person’s right to their own opinion, even when it contradicts their own actions.


It is that contradiction that I hope to illustrate and, perhaps, cause us to consider.  I firmly believe most of us are good people and try to live good lives.  We sometimes just don’t stop to think and yes, that includes me.  Never think I hold myself up as a sterling example.  I am, as my bio states, a struggling wandered on the road of life and I have fallen into more than my fair share of pot holes and taken wrong turns in life.


Life is a journey and I hope, in this blog, to offer a few ways to make that journey a little more pleasurable and effective.  “You were ordered to obey to Allah, and you were created to perform good deeds.”  While I do not identify as a Muslim, I really do appreciate this quote.  The author  of it is considered to be the first person to convert to Islam, being a cousin to Muhammad.   As a collector of quotations, he is among my favorites.  Respect today that wisdom knows no labels or sectarian divides and do yourself a favor by reading up on this man and some of his quotations.


William Shakespeare once wrote “How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”  To do something good certainly helps the world but it also helps us be better citizens.  I hope you will join me during this season in extending respect to all you encounter.


We can, however, do our little part to make the world a better place.  It is, in every religion and spirituality, part of the credo for living.  Whether liberal or conservative, non-religious person or devout, doing good bu offering respect to all just makes good sense.  It doesn’t take a lot of money to create a smile.  In fact, tomorrow’s tip for better living just takes seven minutes.   Richelle Goodrich sums it up very succinctly:  ““Every sunrise is an invitation for us to arise and brighten someone’s day.”



Who Are We…Really?

Who are we…Really?

Feb 12-13


In 1974 a politician serving on the national level was discovered in a compromising position with a burlesque performer.  Being a member of the conservative political party, he claimed he was just supporting the woman’s career and was doing so with his wife’s support.  In the next several months the true affair was revealed, a relationship that had involved a pregnancy and an abortion, all the time while the politician campaigned against abortion and touted his own family values.  This was a watershed moment for national politics.  Up to this point, their private lives were just that – private.  In a nation that proudly disavowed an aristocracy or ruling monarchy so that all could be considered equal (and held equally accountable by a justice system that supposedly was blind to class, politicians had been given a free ride based upon their stature as … well, politicians.


After a wave of sexual misconduct and corruption revelations following the 1974 Tidal Basin incident, Congress created ethics committees for each chamber and formal processes for reprimands, censures and expulsion. The Arkansas politician involved decided to end his political career amid the negative press coverage of his affair also demonstrated that powerful lawmakers could face consequences for their sexual misdeeds ― even if they were consensual affairs.


In a recent article for the Huffington Post, Paul Blumenthal wrote:  “Congress is currently grappling with how to respond to a new wave of sexual misconduct allegations. The effort is occurring amid a national outcry over accusations that powerful men ― not only in politics, but the media and the entertainment world ― abused their positions to harass, assault and rape women, girls, men and boys.”

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) was accused of kissing radio news anchor Leann Tweeden against her will, and he was photographed groping her while she slept in 2006. He has since resigned his Senate seat.  Then news broke that 88-year-old Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) allegedly made repeated sexual advances to women on his staff. He reportedly settled in 2015 a wrongful dismissal complaint filed by one of them.   Several women alleged that Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore either sexually assaulted them, kissed them or made unwanted advances while they were teenagers and he was in his 30s.  Moore lost the Senate race and is said to be pursuing legal action against his accusers. 


Blumenthal also wrote:  “Absent an imminent election, the public sector has few levers available for ousting a lawmaker from Congress (or a president from the White House, for that matter) for sexual misconduct — fewer, certainly, than the private sector has at its disposal for dealing with miscreant CEOs and the like. No lawmaker has ever been expelled for sexual misconduct, and many facing such accusations have simply declared that they would not seek re-election.  But more and more, lawmakers accused of sexual misconduct are resigning from office. A survey of past cases by HuffPost determined that six of the 11 resignations from Congress since the mid-1970s that stemmed directly from sexual misconduct have occurred since 2006. This trend began after a second watershed moment in Congress’ history of dealing with sexual misconduct.”


The 2006 reporting by ABC News that Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) had engaged in sexually explicit instant message conversations with male teenage congressional pages brought up another issue – power over the powerless.  . At least 10 men came forward to allege that Foley had sexually harassed them or made inappropriate sexual comments to them when they were underage pages. Foley ultimately admitted he had a consensual sexual relationship with a former page once the page was of age.  Foley quickly resigned from office, but the true scandal was not just about the personal failings and misconduct of an individual. Foley’s pattern of abusive behavior toward underage pages was known by powerful congressional leaders and staffers, and they swept it under the rug. That’s where it stayed, until the instant message conversations leaked to the press.


Clearly those in a position of power need to be held accountable but we must make sure that in doing so, we do not ourselves exercise our own discrimination or misuse of power.  Righteous indignation is perfectly understandable and accountability must be ensured but how do we do that?


Earlier this week an Ohio Republican state legislator who consistently touts his faith and his anti-LGBT stances resigned after being caught having sex with a man in his office.  Representative Wes Goodman, who is married, was reportedly seen by someone who is not a staffer having sex with a man inside his Riffe Center office. The witness told Ohio House Chief of Staff Mike Dittoe of the situation early Tuesday afternoon, according to the Columbus Dispatch.  Dittoe told House Speaker Republican Cliff Rosenberger, who met with Goodman. Shortly after the meeting, Goodman resigned due to “inappropriate conduct.”


Wes Goodman had made his religious beliefs a major part of his political campaign and life.  He was famous for speaking about what he termed “natural marriage” being between a man and a woman. His campaign website outlined his views on family: “Healthy, vibrant, thriving, values-driven families are the source of Ohio’s proud history and the key to Ohio’s future greatness. The ideals of a loving father and mother, a committed natural marriage, and a caring community are well worth pursuing and protecting.”


Goodman said in a statement to the Columbus Dispatch: “We all bring our own struggles and our own trials into public life. That has been true for me, and I sincerely regret that my actions and choices have kept me from serving my constituents and our state in a way that reflects the best ideals of public service. For those whom I have let down, I’m sorry. As I move onto the next chapter of my life, I sincerely ask for privacy for myself, my family, and my friends.”


It did not take more than ten minutes for Facebook to be full of his opponents and those in the LGTBQ community to start pointing fingers at the hypocrisy of Goodman’s words versus his actions.  My question is this?  Where is our compassion, our humanity in dealing with such revelations?


I think it boils down to living what we profess to believe.  It is not a problem known only to one group of people, one political party.  Society has created the environment that prevents people from living authentic lives.  The media is full of images that contribute to the emphasis on sex and its supposed accompanying power.  We the public encourage this from the media by watching and buying those products, programs, books, fashions, etc. 


Joe Camel was possibly one of the most effective advertising campaigns in the twentieth century.  The RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company was seeking an advertising campaign that would rebrand their Camel cigarettes as being right for younger people.  The plan worked a little too well. 


On May 28, 1997 the Federal Trade Commission released the following statement:  “The Joe Camel advertising campaign violates federal law, the Federal Trade Commission charged today. The campaign, which the FTC alleges was successful in appealing to many children and adolescents under 18, induced many young people to begin smoking or to continue smoking cigarettes and as a result caused significant injury to their health and safety. The FTC charged that R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, the seller of Camel cigarettes, promoted an addictive and dangerous product through a campaign that was attractive to those too young to purchase cigarettes legally. In fact, the FTC said, after the campaign began the percentage of kids who smoked Camels became larger than the percentage of adults who smoked Camels….The agency is seeking an order that would bar Reynolds from using the Joe Camel campaign to advertise to kids and would require the company to conduct a public education campaign discouraging young people from smoking. The Commission also may order further relief, such as corrective advertising or other affirmative disclosures, after the trial on the case has concluded…. Consumers who smoke cigarettes risk addiction and long term health problems including cancer and heart disease,” said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, “and the earlier they begin smoking the greater the risk. That is why it is illegal to sell cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18.”


Where is the outrage today about the barrage of suggestive material, music, and media that encourages the behavior we are seeing in the highest office of this country?  IN its statement of 1997, the FTC concluded “R.J. Reynolds has conducted one of the most effective advertising campaigns in decades. Joe Camel has become as recognizable to kids as Mickey Mouse. Yet the campaign promotes a product that causes serious injury, addiction and death. It appeals to our young people. It is illegal and should be stopped. Joe Camel must grow up or go away.”


Perhaps that is the crux of today’s sexual allegations.  Are people trying to use sexual acts, consensual and harassing, as a means for staying young?  Or have we just decided that whatever a politician wants, he should get?  Have we forgotten why we have a constitution with elected officials instead of a monarchy based upon inheritance and family?


I have no easy answers and, quite frankly, do not think there are any.  What does concern me is the religious community’s response.  Being a religious community involves a sense of compassion and humanity and this week, in response to Rep Wes Goodman, there was precious little of that.  Where is our own compassion when dealing with those who have fallen short and strayed from a path they themselves claim to follow?  Can we not see the need for humanity in these situations, kindness and charity for both sides? 


Before you starting yelling at me, let me be honest and fully disclose that I have never been a sexual perpetrator but I have been a victim.  I would wish it on no one, not even an enemy, to be so victimized and yet, I must rise above any feeling of hatred to find my own humanity.  Who do we wish to be?  Vindictive haters or compassionate in holding others accountable?  I do think we can be accountable and loving without condoning the illicit behavior.    The choice is ours.  I do think we are better as a race than to allow the incorrect, illegal, and inconsiderate behavior of others to pull us down to lower level of behavior than anyone would want.  The selfish behavior of others should create insensitivity and unkind responses of our own.  Very few, if any of us, are perfect.  We hope and seek understanding for ourselves.  I just think we owe it to others to give them the same respect.  Perhaps that is the definition of being mature – the ability to show concern to those who have not earned it but are still just are human as the rest of us.  I firmly believe perpetrators should be held accountable.  I just happen to believe and hope there is a humane manner to do so.


Embrace the Forgotten

Embrace the Forgotten

Advent 13

Year in Review 2017


What about Hale County, Alabama?  Football is big business, not just a popular sport and it is one of the things for which the state of Alabama is known.  This week’s election to complete the remainder of an open Senate term has become another.  Few people know anything about Hale County, even those living in the state.


The University of Alabama, a major university whose football team claims sixteen national championship titles will once again compete for the national number one slot in collegiate football on January 1st.  It is only forty-nine minutes away and the bustling metropolis of Birmingham is only one hundred miles away from Hale County, Alabama.  Yet, for the children of Hale County, Alabama, they might as well live on the other side of the country.  They live in one of the most rural and impoverished areas of Alabama in what is known as the Blackbelt region of the state. Residents of this are at an economic disadvantage with very limited resources. The high school graduation rate is only 34% with 74% of households earning less than $30,000 per year. Almost 200 families live without plumbing and healthcare is nonexistent for most.


According to the United Way of West Alabama, one in every four Alabamians is functionally illiterate, unable to read, write, or use basic math skills and technology in everyday life.   According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 60% of K-12 school children read below the level needed to proficiently process the written materials used in their grade levels.  Children who have not already developed basic literacy practices when they enter school are three to four times more likely to drop out of school.


According to the 2014 Alabama Kids Count Data Book, compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 26% of Alabama children are living in poverty; 9.7% of Alabama teens are not in school and not employed; 25.8% of Alabama children are food insecure; 40.1% of Alabama fourth graders are not proficient in reading; 20% of Alabama’s students do not graduate from high school.


The Sawyerville Work Project is, on paper, a day camp. It is an outreach project sponsored by the Youth Department of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama & local community volunteers.  It takes place in the summer for just a few weeks, and for that camp session, the children that attend the camp are not framed in the light of the region’s poverty.  They are simply kids, having fun, in a place created solely for them.


The Sawyerville Day Camp’s location originated at the Head Start Center in the small town of Sawyerville, hence the name. Within a few years of hosting the camp, the Center could no longer accommodate the increased numbers of campers and staff volunteers. The elementary school in nearby Greensboro welcomed this project and the partnership has continued for a successful thirteen years.


Sawyerville Day Camp ministry began in 1993.  The Blackbelt Convocation knew they needed to embrace the residents of the area, not just those in their church pews and the Diocese of Alabama Youth Department needed an outreach program for senior high students.  The answer to both problems became the Sawyerville Work Project, now known as the Sawyerville Day Camp.  It is supported by many people.


People serve as prayer partners, staff members, organize book drives, gather paper products, provide meals and make financial gifts.  The Episcopal Diocese has committed substantial funds to this ministry.  The generous people of the Black Belt have opened up their homes and churches for staff housing and meals.  Volunteers from within and outside of the Episcopal circle lend time and talent.  High school, college, and adult staff come from all over the state to serve as counselors.  The Hale County School Board permits use of school facilities and buses.  This project is woven together by hundreds of different supporters, all working together to form the Sawyerville experience.


The mission of the Yellowhammer Literacy Project, born out of the Sawyerville Day Camp, is to help close the achievement gap and prevent summer learning loss in Greensboro, Alabama. The YLP works toward this mission by hosting a multi-week summer academic program in which students will participate in reading intervention, engage in creative writing, and strengthen their literacy skills. Additionally, the YLP is invested in helping students grow as scholars and citizens through participation in academic field trips, community engagement, and other enrichment opportunities.


Summer 2015 was a huge success for the Yellowhammer Literacy Project! When first assessed the students in April, 58% were performing below grade level. By the end of this program, 88% of students grew by at least one reading level. Of that 88%, 66% grew by at least two levels. Nine students saw growth by three to five levels in a mere three weeks!
Not only did these students grow academically, but what cannot be tested or shown through the results is that these kids were encouraged to enjoy reading, were praised for their efforts, and became more confident in their own abilities by the end of the program. One child said it best in his final reflection, “I really am smart.”


The Humanitarian efforts of the Sawyerville Day Camp are led by Leslie Manning but she would be the first to acknowledge the help of hundreds, both volunteer staff and interns as well as the volunteers who fed, donate, and serve as prayer partners.  Each child received a swimsuit, towel, and book as well as a backpack.  For many this is the first time they have owned any of these items which serve as outward, visible signs of the larger community of caring that supports them and embraces them.


Now over twenty years old, this day camp has counselors who were once campers.  They believed in the promise shown by the Sawyerville Day Camp of a brighter future and by those who embraced them and they have succeeded.  Kids who once had never heard of a college are now college graduates, having learned to believe in themselves to make a better world for themselves.  People of all ages, races, and stages of life create the humanitarian efforts that result in Sawyerville Day Camp.  They come together and embrace each other.


We can each make our own little reflection of this wonderful camp by embracing the forgotten in our own communities.  We all become champions when we do that.  I hope you are able to be a part of something like Sawyerville Day Camp.  Contact your local YMCA or YWCA or Salvation Army, Easter Seals, or local religious groups.  All will be able to put you in touch with a program that you can give aid to with your time and talents and, if possible, monetary assistance.


As we live these last days of 2017, we need to commit to make 2018 better.  When we embrace each other and ourselves, when we live out the true meaning of the word “cherish” which is the them for this blog series, we make the world a better place.  Sawyerville Day Camp is but one example.  For more information, they can be reached at



Be a Light

Be a Light

Advent 11

Year in Review 2017



Hanukah began on December 12th and it will continue until December 20th.  It is a Jewish holiday that commemorates one small bit of oil burning as a light for eight days.  I saw a Facebook meme that explained it this way:  Imagine your cell phone battery had only thirty minutes of charge left and yet it somehow lasted for eight days. 


What a difference two letters can make.  When it comes to kindness, those two letters make all the difference.  Knowledge is wisdom, intelligence, learned matter.  Knowledge is good but unless it is put to use, it really is little nothing more than curiosity answered.  Add the letters to the word “knowledge”, and all of a sudden you have the easiest way in the world to show what you know.


By putting an “a” and a “c” before the word “knowledge’, we create a new word and a great way to show kindness.  The word “acknowledge” comes from fifteenth and sixteenth century words from both France and England, words that mean “recognize” or “understand” or “accord”.  Let’s start with the accord variation first.


All too often, particularly in the political world, it is felt that one must be in complete accord or agreement with someone in order to acknowledge them.  It really is a very cowardly way to live.  We can acknowledge someone and understand that they are not us and do things different without undermining our own lives.  No one is exactly like you or me.  When we acknowledge that fact, then we are free to show kindness, especially to those who are different.  Their beliefs only threaten us when we live fearfully and without confidence in our own beliefs.


The understand facet of this word is similar in its application.  To acknowledge someone having a different opinion and fully grasping their opinion means we understand them.  It also is showing them great kindness because it is allowing them a dignity, much like what we referenced in our conversation yesterday about respect.


The easiest and most cost effective way of showing kindness to someone is to recognize them.  I don’t mean call them by name but treat them as if they have value. After all, we all have value in our own special way.  Regardless of which creation myth you believe, we are all wondrously made.  Recognize them and then follow up with behavior that reflects that recognition and you will be showing someone great kindness.  It can be as easy as a hand raised in greeting or a joyful “Hello!”


In 1865 the American Civil War, officially known as the War Between the States, was drawing to an end.  The states that had seceded were rejoining and the Colonies were once again a viable democracy.  France had sided with the Confederacy and lent them aid but ties to the Union also still existed.  France had been involved with the colonies almost since their inception, sometimes as an ally and sometimes as an enemy.  However, for almost one hundred years, France had assisted the colonies, both those northern and those in the southern part of the country. 


It was because of this connection that historian Edouard De Laboulaye suggested France create a statue and give to the United States.  The commission for such was awarded to sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi.  France would create and gift the sculpture to the U.S.A. and it would build the pedestal upon which the statue would stand, furthering acknowledging the partnership and friendship between the two nations. 


A need for fundraising delayed the start of the massive project until one year before the US/s centennial celebrations.  The finished statue was delivered and dedicated in October, 1886, ten years after the nation’s centennial.  The inscription, the winning sonnet in a fundraising contest of 1883, was penned by Emma Lazarus:  ““Give me your tired, your poor; Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free; The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.   Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.  I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


This inscription acknowledges each and every immigrant that passes through Ellis Island and serves as a welcome to the thousands of others that arrive in other ports across the country.  The Statue of Liberty, as the statue became known, operated as a lighthouse for almost fifty years, sending its beacon of light emanating from Lady Liberty’s torch out into the night, giving safe passage and welcoming all in acknowledgement of their presence.


My challenge for you this day is to wave hello to someone.  Acknowledge their presence.  Nothing complicated in that, is there?  And if you cannot raise your arm to wave then nod and smile.  By doing so, you will be showing kindness to that other person, regardless of their station in life or bank account or position of authority.  Person to person, you will be welcoming them just as the Statue of Liberty has welcomed millions throughout the years.


Sometimes the greatest gift we can give someone is to recognize their existence.  We don’t have to want to emulate them or believe just as they do.  Acknowledgement simply means we recognize their presence.  To acknowledge someone is to show kindness of thought and presence and it costs us nothing to give.  Remember your challenge for this day is to simply wave a greeting to someone or nod your head in a friendly manner towards another person.


The holidays of this season all involve celebrations with candles.  In this the darkest time of the planet, the period with the shortest amount of natural light, it is very important that we be the light for another.   No one is truly invisible and when we acknowledge another, we are giving them value and worth, being a spotlight that illuminates their presence.  It is a simple gift that will mean everything to someone.



Light and Dark

Light and Dark

Detours in Life

Pentecost 143-145

Mega Post 10


Several  Advent seasons ago we delved into over twenty-five various religions and spiritualties.  Of recent years there has been much debate regarding religion and spiritual beliefs.  Usually it is in the form of an opposing debate: religion versus spirituality.  I always find this very interesting because the religious explanation(s) of the universe are derived from the philosophies of various spiritualties.


This past week many of the Hindu faith celebrated Diwali, a five-day celebration of light over darkness, goodness over evil.  The country of India was the beginning of many religious traditions.  The early civilizations of India all contributed their own versions interwoven with their specific cultures but most shared similar basic concepts.  Today we know these as forms of Hinduism which believes in reincarnation.  The samsara spoke of the cycles of life – birth, life, death, and rebirth.  A person’s rebirth was based upon their living a good life, our focus during Lent, and introduced moral philosophy as a basic part of religion. 


Siddhartha Gautama was born in India during the sixth century BCE.  Better known by most of us as Buddha, he introduced the Four Noble Truths.  They included suffering, the origin of suffering, the end of suffering and the Eightfold Path to the end of suffering.  This Eightfold Path told one how to live a life of fulfillment and centered on the eight principles of right, mindfulness, right action, right intention, right livelihood, right effort, right concentration, right speech, and right understanding.


Then a man known as Jesus of Nazareth was born and after living approximately thirty years began to spread his own version of philosophy around.  He claimed no great title or crown but neither seemed confused about life – its origins, its purposes, its ending.  He spoke of many of the same things Greek philosophers had wondered about and eastern spiritualties referenced.  Thus it is no surprise that the teachings of Christianity dominated the philosophical world in Europe through the first ten or more decades ACE.


Questioning was not forgotten, though.  The first noted Christian philosopher is considered to be Augustine of Hippo.  Augustine’s mother was a proud Christian but he himself at first followed Manichaeism, a Persian religion.  Intense and careful study of classical philosophy led him to his Christian beliefs, however.  He saw no divisiveness between his faith and philosophy and wrote “The City of God”.  In this book Augustine explained how one could live on an earthly place and also live in the heavenly world of what he called the kingdom of God, an idea he adapted from Plato.  While Augustine encouraged open thinking, he also warned against ego in one’s thinking.  “If you believe what you like in the Gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself.”  All too often, we believe until it makes us uncomfortable or we believe only what we want to believe.


It is easy to believe in something that benefits us.  The true test comes when we believe in something that might not give us everything we think we want or should have.   Detours in life often challenge not only our beliefs but how we live those beliefs.   “Faith is to believe what you do not yet see; the reward for this faith is to see what you believe.”  Augustine encouraged learning but lamented that many people saw this as an outward exercise, desiring only to learn about things and others, not themselves.  “And men go abroad to admire the heights of mountains, the mighty waves of the sea, the broad tides of rivers, the compass of the ocean, and the circuits of the stars, yet pass over the mystery of themselves without a thought.”


Taking time to study one’s self or one’s life is tough.  It truly puts the test of learning through its paces.  After all, it is always much easier to see the dirt on another than on ourselves.  I remember hearing a friend remark on her recent weight gain.  Having been ill, she stayed inside recuperating.  She knew rationally that her medications could result in weight gain but really had not given it much thought, that is until she needed to dress for an outing with friends.  “I stood in front of the mirror every day, brushing my hair and teeth, putting on a robe, etc.  Yet, I never noticed I had gained weight until my “going-out” clothes did not fit when I put them on!”  From her perspective, the added weight was invisible until she had her eyes opened by a zipper that would not close.


Most of us know right from wrong.  We know it is wrong to drive faster than the posted speed limit but sometimes feel our reasons warrant the infraction.  Many people feel they can tell when they are inebriated.  Sadly, the statistics on deaths from drunk driving prove most people cannot tell accurately.  “Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.”  Hopefully, you will approach whatever detour life places in your path today as an opportunity for goodness to conquer the darkness of extra time, temporary frustration, etc.  To paraphrase a Diwali wish … “May today find your in the light of prosperity, good health, and wisdom.”


Life is about growing and growth comes from knowledge.  Augustine himself explained life as a journey of hope.  “Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”  We cannot allow anger in all its many forms such as grief and discomfort or fear keep us from taking courage to have hope and grow, learning with each day.  After all, to quote Augustine, “God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.” 



Detours in Life

Pentecost 33


“A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences.  So they really don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem.  The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”


Steve Jobs said the above quote and while I do not know the exact setting in which it was said, I do know the multiple settings to which it could apply.  In fact, they all can be summarized in one word – life.  Tomorrow the earth will undergo a total eclipse of the sun.  For some, it will be a spiritual event and for others, a most frightening one which will bring to remind all sorts of superstitions.  How one figuratively views this eclipse will be determined by their living and so, this week, we will discuss detours and perspective.


A solar eclipse occurs when the earth’s moon passes between the sun and the earth.   This results in the moon fully or partially blocking the sun.  On August 21st, a total eclipse will occur, meaning the disk of the sun will be completely blocked and fully obscured by the moon.  Such an event is called a syzygy, the alignment of three celestial bodies in a straight line configuration. 


One important thing to remember about syzygy is that it occurs between opposing things.  ON Monday, August 21st, the primary celestial body of the daylight hours known as the sun will be aligned with the primary celestial body of the nighttime, the moon and both of these will be in alignment with the planet earth.  The sky on the earth will grow a little dark as the moon obscures the sun but not everyone’s perspective will be the same and it will still be obviously daylight hours.


Goreville, Illinois is a small town but it is there that the eclipse will last the longest.  The totality of the sun in Goreville will take about two and one half minutes.  The just fewer than two thousand people who call Goreville home will undoubtedly be sharing their view with many others but people across the United States will experience the eclipse in their own fashion. 


I am currently in an area with a great view for watching the solar eclipse this year and people have stood in line for hours to obtain a pair of safety glasses for doing just that.  It is most important that no one attempt to view a solar eclipse without proper protective eye protection.  Serious damage can occur to your eyes unless you take the proper precautions.  Many people are eager to experience what they consider a once-in-a-lifetime event – a solar eclipse.


Again, perspective is an important element in an eclipse.  First, solar eclipses are not rare.  They actually occur about every eighteen months.  According to Joe Rao, writing for, “It is a popular misconception that the phenomenon of a total eclipse of the sun is a rare occurrence.  Quite the contrary.  Approximately once every 18 months (on average) a total solar eclipse is visible from some place on the Earth’s surface.  That’s two totalities for every three years.  But how often is a total solar eclipse visible from a specific location on Earth? That’s another story altogether. “


It is estimated with great accuracy that a viewing station will experience a total solar eclipse once every three hundred and sixty to three hundred and seventy-five years.  That is once every three-and-a-half life times.    However, because there are different types of eclipses, a viewing station will probably experience an eclipse once every twelve to eighteen months.


What if we took a detour from our normal everyday living to align ourselves with something opposite, or something we might never had imagines doing?  What type of syzygy could that create?  Would the result be chaos or could we possibly find peace?


For approximately an hour on August 21st, people will come together to experience a solar eclipse.  Regardless of color, race, creed, religion, socioeconomic level or musical taste, we will all experience the same thing, although with different perspectives.  For that brief time we will stretch our imaginations and be amazed at the brief moment of peace that the darkening can create,  all the result of syzygy.  If we but stretch our belief in the possible, we might just realize we can have a broader understanding of the human experience.  We might just stretch into finding better designs for our future living.



Barcelona Benediction

Barcelona Benediction

Detours in Life

Pentecost 32


Over two decades ago I moved to another part of the country that was heavily populated.  As is the case with large metropolitan areas, several of the major thoroughfares were under construction.  Detours were in place as roadways were rehabbed, refurbished, and retooled for the increasing number of cars and trucks that traveled them daily.  For ten years we followed the detour signs until the detours became more familiar than the actual interstate highway.


The mayhem and chaos of terrorist attacks have once again taken over the international news.  The scenes of crowds running, people being sheltered in place, and the all-too-familiar wail of emergency responders replaced the sounds of a busy city this week in Barcelona, Spain.


As is my habit, this blog went dark out of respect for the double-digit number of victims killed and the greater number physically injured.  Such events make even the strongest of us want to hide in our houses and crawl under the covers.  This is not the time for silence, however.  It is a time for action.


The Barcelona attack on Thursday was not an isolated event.  Wednesday night a house exploded killing one person in the Spanish town of Alcanar and injuring the firefighters and police who responded to the call.  Thursday a white van careened onto a crowded pedestrian mall in Barcelona with the afore-mentioned casualties.  Spanish Police on Friday shot and killed five people wearing fake bomb belts who staged a car attack in a seaside resort in Spain’s Catalonia region hours.  Authorities said the back-to-back vehicle attacks — as well as the explosion earlier this week elsewhere in Catalonia— were connected and the work of a large terrorist group.


Today crowds chanted “No tinc por” meaning “I’m not afraid” in Plaça de Catalunya, Barcelona following the minute silence observed for the victims of the attack in the city.  This is not the time to cower, believing our silence will not only save us but prevent future attacks.  We need to respect freedom of speech and we can without condoning violence.


Last weekend a rally was held in Charlottesville, Virginia, the home of the US President Thomas Jefferson.  The result was bedlam and the death of three people, one attending a protest rally to the original white supremacist/nep-Nazi rally and the other two law enforcement answering the call to assist in trying to resolve chaos.  The events Charlottesville were neither sad nor tragic; they were failure. The so-called supremacists did not act supreme in any way. The other side did not show love for all – emphasize – all. We cannot say we are better if we do not act it. We cannot claim love for all mankind if we only mean we love those we like.   At the end of the day, Charlottesville was a lesson in identifying none of us are supreme, right, or seeing the “other” person as equal. It was a mirror reflecting misguided energy.


Instead of traveling to march, we need to walk… walk across town to feed the poor, help the homeless, tutor a child, donate to your community, hold the door and smile at a stranger. The best way to support your vision of and for humanity is to be humane.  Instead of spending money on training camps for future terrorists, we should spend money on feeding the hungry, caring for the poor, discovering cures for the illnesses that affect all people.


Nature cannot exist apart from its many segments. The sun dries up the rain as it creates new life. Animals need plants; water needs the soil for filtration. We all have a purpose, not a place.   We failed in Charlottesville.  The terrorists failed in Spain.   No death should be a battle cry. It should become a motivation for us all to be better, to use the life we have to live humanely. We are, after all, human – all of us.  What will we choose – chaos or community?


William Faulkner believed as those in Barcelona did today that our best respect for those who have perished is to speak up.  “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.”