Lessons from the Vikings

Lessons from the Vikings

Detours in Life

Pentecost 90-98

Mega Post #4

 

 

When Jacqueline Kennedy referred to her husband’s tenure as a new Camelot, we understand that she meant it was a golden age, like that of King Arthur. When the Greek government dubbed a campaign to rescue ethnic Greeks from behind the walls of the Iron Curtain “Operation Golden Fleece,” we understood that they were invoking an ancient name to communicate that these people belonged to them. Each generation of storytellers adds another layer of fact and fiction to the myths, such that the themes and characters of myths are timeless, and endlessly relevant, as they are reinvented and reapplied to the lives of each new generation.  The purpose of these myths is to provide examples of how detours in life can be navigated.

 

Many today are spouting words of the hopeless.  Many feel the times in which we are living are bleak.  It would seem that mankind has lost its heart and that all feelings are cold and uncaring.  No one wants to listen; everyone just wants to scream their own opinions and fears, none based upon fact.  Let’s takes a moment and see if the stories of our history could shine some light and perhaps hope for us today.  Stories of the Vikings who lived in certain cold times and locations might just teach us something.

 

It was in 2013 that the lead character of the computer-animated musical fantasy “Frozen” sang the following:  “The snow glows white on the mountain.”  Like many films, this highly successful film was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s tale “The Snow Queen”.  The nineteenth century Danish tale also served, many believe, as the premise for one of the characters in the twentieth century book by C. S. Lewis, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”. 

 

Andersen’s tale of seven stories depicting the story of the Snow Queen had its roots in Norse mythology.  Like many myths, the earliest ones of the Northern Germanic tribes that settled in Scandinavia, Denmark, Norway, Holland, and Iceland centered on creation.  The Norse myth of creation begins in the land between two celestial areas of contrasts.  The frozen land of Niflheim and the hot land of Muspell both portrayed the landscape of Iceland which has both frozen tundra and bubbling geysers. 

 

According to the legend, the heat of Muspell takes a toll on the frozen glaciers of Niflheim and as the ice begins to that and melt, an evil giant the Norse named Ymir appeared.  A cow of formed out of the melting snow and produces milk for the giant to drink.  As the heat continues, the giant Ymir sweats and from that sweat, two more giants are created.  The cow known as Audhumla licks the ice and another giant called Buri is freed from his frozen lair.  The giants rule the skies and the stars and one has a son which marries another’s daughter.  Ymir continues to be evil and is disliked.  He is later killed by the children of the god Bor and his body made to create the rest of the world.  From his skull, the Norse believed the sky was created; from his brains, the clouds.  Ymir’s bones became rocks on the earth and his blood the rivers and seas.  However, all but the god Bergelmir and his wife drown in the overflowing blood of Ymir.

 

One of the children of Buri, the god freed from the ice, is known as Odin. His brothers are Vili and Ve and the Norse believed these three could breathe life into inanimate objects.   When everyone else is drowned by the blood of Ymir, Odin, Vili, and Ve give the remaining children of Bergelmir a region in the east known as Urgard for their home.  The three brothers then use the last remaining part of Ymir, his eyebrows, to erect fortifications around their own home, Asgard.   The brothers were, according to the myths, out walking along the coastline one day and came upon tree trunks that had washed up on the shore.  They breathed life into them creating humans.  Odin is said to have given the trunks breath and life; vili, emotion and intelligence; Ve, the senses of sight and hearing.  In some of the myths, Ve also is said to have bestowed upon the humanoid shapes, expressive features, and the ability to speak.

 

From the lifeless tree trunks now transformed with new life as humans, came the first man and woman.  In Norse mythology they were called Ask and Embla.  Because they also needed a home, the creator gods as the brothers were called, created a new realm for the humans that was called Midgard or Middle Earth.  Between the realm of Odin, Vili and Ve known as Asgard and Midgard was a bridge.  This bridge was known as Bifrost and looked very much like the natural phenomenon we know as a rainbow.  Ask and Embla were given the responsibility of caring for their Middle Earth realm and for populating it with more of their kind.

 

Norse mythology often gets forgotten in its origins and most of us think of the exploits of later humans from the region which we know as of Vikings in thinking about tales from this region.  We think of the land of Wales from whence the writer of the most popular tales of Middle Earth came or the New Zealand landscape where the films were made when we think of Middle Earth.  Few realize that we live on the original Middle Earth.  Perhaps this is where the true beginnings of the heavens, earth, and hell trilogy came.

 

The readings we have of the more modern day religious tales bear witness to similar beginnings in part to the mythologies of mankind.  This should not be taken as evidence that such readings or scriptures are false.  The best stories incorporate what the listener knows as familiar with what is trying to be told or taught. 

 

Mythologies were the original lessons of life for ancient mankind.  J. Michael Straczynski explains:  “The point of mythology or myth is to point to the horizon and to point back to ourselves:  This is who we are; this is where we came from; and this is where we’re going.”  Straczynski feels we have lost our purpose in the last century and are merely wandering through life aimlessly. Perhaps that is the attraction of such modern day myths like the popular film series” Star Wars” and  the British television program that has run for the last forty-plus year, “Dr. Who”.

 

Mankind may indeed be hungry for heroes like Odin.  What we forget is that however life became breathed into our bodies, we do have life and we can become an integral part of that mythological struggle we know as life if we but place ourselves in it.  Too often we go through life reacting instead of creating.  The Viking warriors were present in their moment and lived, finding ways to overcome life’s detours.

 

While the events of the past two months have been frightening – nature seeming to attack and then man waging war upon innocents – there have been heroes.  People volunteered from all walks of life and location to help others.  In Las Vegas, when a call went out for blood donors, people stood in line for hours to donate.  One of the neatest things about a detour is that we often have the opportunity to gain a new perspective.  As long as we keep our faith and continue to do good, we will make strides on our journey of life.

 

 

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Showing Up

Showing Up
Detours in Life
Pentecost #81-89
Mega Post #3

In my last blog post I quoted Corrie Ten Bloom: “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” Prayer is often synonymous in today’s world with faith. Today’s battle cry of “Take a Stand” and “Take a Knee” is all about showing one’s beliefs and/or patriotism or the lack thereof. Everyone from the NFL’s youngest fan to the President of the United States has an opinion. Everyone, it would seem, firmly believes in freedom of expression… as long as the person expressing is saying or doing what the listener/observer believes in.

I was not around during World War II but a Caucasian Christian had to think they were relatively safe from the witch hunt that the Nazis were conducting in rounding up people of the Jewish faith and sending them to concentration camps for eventual extinction. And before I go any further, let’s address the issue of “Did it really happen?” Yes and the hundreds of thousands who died and are buried are the proof that it did. Six million of the Jewish faith from all ages and walks of life were killed for nothing more than believing. Germany became a killing ground as did the countries invaded by Adolf Hitler. He had promised to make Germany great. Instead it made it a graveyard.

Corrie Ten Bloom was something of a superstar in her chosen field. She was the first woman in the Netherlands to become a licensed watchmaker. Corrie also ran a club for young girls which provided them an opportunity to learn and expand their lives. She believed in these young women and in a bright future for them all. Such actions were considered dangerous by Hitler and when he invaded the Netherlands in 1940 he instituted restrictions that banned Corrie’s club for these girls.

Because of her Christian faith, Corrie and her family helped their neighbors who had been targeted by the Nazis and were in fear of being sent to concentration camps. As father stood up for his faith, different from those he was helping, by stating: “In this household, God’s people are always welcome.” Word of their actions eventually reached the Nazi authorities and Corrie Ten Bloom and her family were arrested. Her sister and father both died in the concentration camps. Corrie Ten Bloom spent time in two such camps over a span of eleven months. On New Year’s Eve 1944 she was released due to clerical error. The following week everyone in her age group in the unit in the Ravensbrück concentration camp was sent to the gas chambers.

Corrie Ten Bloom returned home and continued to help the disenfranchised, particularly the mentally disabled. She established with her remaining family members a rehabilitation center in Bloemendaal. The refugee houses consisted of concentration-camp survivors and sheltered the jobless Dutch who previously collaborated with Germans during the Occupation exclusively until 1950, when they accepted anyone in need of care. She returned to Germany in 1946, and met with and forgave two Germans who had been employed at Ravensbruck, one of whom was particularly cruel to her sister.

Corrie Ten Bloom lived her faith, standing up for what she believed and showing up by living it, even when the going got impossibly rough and life-threatening. You might say her faith created the detour her life took by being sent to a concentration camp but really, isn’t that what faith and our beliefs do at times? Life is not all about smooth sailing. Any sailor will tell you that the most exciting times out on the water are not those where everything is calm and bland.

The recent furor over whether one stands or kneels during the playing of the National Anthem is not just about one song. It has become a battle cry to respect those veterans who defend our nation’s ideals every day. But is that really the only way to show such respect?

I would suggest that perhaps we should use our faith as our own personal steering wheel and follow in example of Corrie Ten Bloom. Faith should not be something we pull out only when we get in a tough situation or are scared. Neither should patriotism. Both faith and patriotism should be active parts of our living each and every hour of every day. They should be as evident and visible as the noses on our faces.

I would suggest that we should be respectful and attentive during the playing of the National Anthem of our own and any country. I do think we should take it a step further, though. Because this has become such an issue involving our veterans, let take it all the way. I’d like to see people continue to support the NFL so that the NFL can support our veterans. Let each team donate fifty tickets to Wounded Warriors, injured and disabled veterans that could then attend the game. I would like to see those Wounded Warriors who bravely lived their patriotism escorted to the sidelines for the playing of the National Anthem by team players with all present on the sidelines for the flag and anthem.

To be sure, some of those Wounded Warriors will not be able to stand but certainly no one can doubt their patriotism. Let’s stop the shouting and start taking real action. Let’s show up for what we profess to believe in and take a stand… or a knee… or a wheelchair to honor the true heroes of the game of life.

 

 

 

A Universal Plea

A Universal Appeal

Detours in Life

Pentecost 37

 

Prayer was our topic for a series of discussions during Advent 2015.   While we may think of prayer as a purely religious thing, history bears witness that it really is something else.  In its simplest definition, prayer is an entreaty, a plea, a request.  What makes it different from any other request is that a prayer has a level of earnestness associated with it.  Earnestness is not a word used much these days and yet, it is a word that is changing the course of history and has for thousands of years.

 

I remember getting a question just two days into that series:  Why discuss prayer during Advent?  The answer, like my decision on this topic, was not as easy as one might deduce.  After all, this blog is about thinking of ways we can better our living.  While I use the seasons of the liturgical calendar to organize these posts, this blog is not merely theological content nor does it eschew not support any one specific spirituality.

 

Calendars are organizational tools and the liturgical calendar is no different.  The Roman calendar eventually had twelve months in it, an evolution of other calendars tried throughout the history of the Roman Empire.  The Hebrew calendar has thirteen months in it.  The difference between the two is that the Roman calendar was based on the sun while the Hebrew calendar was based on the moon.  If one assumes a month is four weeks long, then a year of 52 weeks divides into thirteen months very easily.  Of course, the year being 365 days means that those 52 weeks are not going to encompass all the days.  That is why some months on the Roman calendar were longer than others and the decision of which months were longer was often based on politics.

 

The calendar I use for divisions of topics for this blog is based upon both the Roman and Hebrew calendars.  It relies on changes in both the moon and the sun.  Christmas, the date of December 25th, was determined based on the Winter Solstice.  During the earliest years of the Church, it occurred on December 25th.  It was considered the birth of the sun because, after the Winter Solstice, the days grow longer and the sun would appear to ancient man to grow.  For the early Christian Church, a group of Jewish believers who recognized the man known as Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah and Christ, the son of God, the symbolism between the natural “sun” and the religious “son” was too good to ignore.  In more modern times the date of the Winter Solstice occurs between December 21-23 but is now beginning to move earlier to include December 20th.  Christmas, however, has remained a fixed date on December 25th.

 

There are remnants of the Hebrew calendar still evident in the modern calendar, however.  Easter is not a fixed date and changes every year.  The date for Easter is based upon the phases of the moon.  Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon of the Spring Vernal Equinox or Spring Solstice.  The Jewish festival of Passover is also celebrated during this time.

 

We all have our own uniqueness but we also all have a great deal in common.  I think we can all think of some time in our life where we needed help; maybe even a time when we really, really needed help.  It is those moments of request, earnest and heartfelt requesting that unite us.  We all get hungry, cold, scared, and even sick.  We also all are born with the ability to experience happiness and joy.  Regretfully, while we all experience the conditions of need, not everyone gets a chance to experience the conditions of positive emotion.

 

A prayer is not just a question for aid.  A prayer is not always in the form of a question at all.  At times, a prayer is a cry for help, earnest and immediate.  It can also be an exclamation of gratitude, although some would say such prayers are accompanied by hidden requests that such good times continue.  There are also prayers of remembrance and again one might say they carry a subconscious hope that the person praying is also remembered by the deity to whom the prayer is offered.

 

Prayer is the first reaction for most in those situations.  It is a universal response mankind has engaged in since the beginning of time.  We need to watch because we do not know what tomorrow holds, or even twelve hours from now.  We need to live goodness and mercy because we all at some point in our life feel we are stuck in a wilderness of sorts. 

 

Hurricane season is in full swing in the USA.  With Hurricane Harvey just having left, Hurrican Irma is in the new.  Next week we will be discussing Hurricanes Jose, Katia, and Lee, storm systems that have already formed with their own projections.  It is a time of great need – need for action, wise thinking, and prayer. 

 

Prayers are those earnest yearnings and the requests of our hearts.  Prayer is a universal plea, a universal need.  When fully recognized, prayer has universal appeal.   We all have hopes.  We all have dreams.  Far too often we go through life thinking about what we do not have instead of what we do.  Prayer is also about gratitude, a gratitude that lets us recognize our own potential.    It is something we have in common, the fact that we all have a time in which we will utter a universal plea to that which we feel but cannot fully see, something that we can feel but cannot create on our own.  This time of natural emergency created by the effects of nature coming together in a storm system threatening and affecting millions of people recognizes the human in all of us and the need for humanity in the world.

 

Today the universal pleas of those in Irma’s path are matched by those undergoing persecution for beliefs, their gender, their race or color.  The need for better living, for life itself is a universal plea.  It should not be determined by race, color, creed or socio-economic status.  May we all do our best to live productively, efficiently, wisely without harming others who are attempting to do the same.

 

The past several days have required a detour of life for many.  Evacuating one’s home is difficult; electing to remain is gut-wrenching and scary.  Life is not for the cowardly.  With faith, effort, and wise decisions, we can navigate the detours of life.  All it takes is one breathe, one prayers, one positive step.  Best of luck to all affected by life’s storms, whether they be natural or self-made.  We can do this thing called life!

 

 

Stretch

Stretch

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 space.com, “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.

 

 

Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing

Detours in Life

Pentecost 30

 

Some of the hardest detours we travel are those that require us to rethink what we thought we knew.  This past weekend, three people died because of feelings about the subject of race.  The topic of race is a social force and anyone claiming it isn’t has been living deep down at the bottom of the ocean. 

 

For centuries the human race has debated the divisions of, the identification for, and the correlation between the various races, their impact on intelligence, physical potential, genetics, and disease.  It cannot be denied that certain cultures are prone to specific illnesses while others seem to have no susceptibility at all.  This should not be interpreted as a weakness, though.  It is simply a characteristic of a great many things.  Genetics has proven that certain cultures – i.e., races – have a particular connection to various healthcare concerns.  This does not mean there is a correlation to potential or intelligence.

 

Throughout history the body of humans inhabiting this planet has been organized into racial groups, sometimes as few as three and other times as many as fifty.  In 1998, the American Anthropological Association issued the following statement on race:  “The idea of race has always carried more meanings than mere physical differences; indeed, physical variations in the human species have no meaning except the social ones that humans put on them.”

 

Race is not a biological fact and it has no true scientific importance as a means of division.  It should not be used to segregate or discriminate.  This may be a new detour in your thinking but it is fact, based upon pure scientific data, not greed, fear, nor baseless rhetoric.

 

In 2002 the American Anthropological Association published a paper remarking on the social foundations of race: “Although racial categories are legitimate subjects of empirical sociological investigation, it is important to recognize the danger of contributing to the popular concept of race as biological.”    Please take a moment and reread that last sentence.  Race is not a biological fact.

 

The completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 had as its purpose a way to better understand genetic components of disease.  A detailed map of humankind’s DNA sequence was constructed which allowed exploration of the various genetic differences across our vast planet.  Their findings were a huge detour from what many of us believed and/or have been taught.  We all are genetically 99.9 percent alike.

 

Within our specific DNA there are six billion bases of DNA with a .1 percent difference representing six million locations that differ between two individuals.  Most of these differences are “neutral” which means they do not change the function of any genes.

 

Before your eyes glaze over, take a minute to think.  A genome is nothing more than the genetic material of something, the complete set of the DNA that an organism has.  In humans, the nuclear genome comprises approximately 3.2 billion nucleotides of DNA, including genes and chromosomes.  So while having six million different sounds like a like, it actually is less than .1 percent.  Imagine having one hundred pieces of tiny chocolate candy like M & M’s on a plate.  Would you really argue if someone took just one?  Of course you wouldn’t because the amount left is much greater and overrides that one piece.

 

Race is a social construct, a way of organizing people by culture and yes, sometimes by skin color.  However, race itself is misleading.  Those deemed Caucasian are of European descent while the term actually comes from the Middle East and referred to people from the Caucus Region, a mountain range in Turkey and Russia.  Asian is a racial term to signify people of Chinese, Japanese, and Indian descent but Russia is also on the Asian continent.  There are many natives of Bermuda which, technically as a former English colony would make them of European descent and yet, these people appear African because they are descended from slaves.  If we assume most people from Bermuda are African, what do the descendants of the British pirates do?  There would then be Caucasian-skinned Africans which is contradictory to the racial separation itself.

 

Racial designation is not a biological fact and will always be misleading because the human race did not remain living in just one place.  Such descriptions and their resulting divisions are a social construct, a harmful collective construct.  Certainly people should take pride in their ethnicity and the culture of their ancestors.  However, this pride should not seek to silence or harm others. 

 

There is no biological division of the races.  We are human beings.  Hatred based upon race is much ado about nothing.  We are all part of the human race and it is time we started treating each other with humanity and respect.

 

 

Life Happens

Life Happens

Detours in Life

Pentecost 26

 

Sometimes things don’t go like we had planned.  Maybe the car won’t start so you are late to that meeting.  Maybe the store was out of your secret ingredient for your holiday casserole.  Maybe you discovered that you thought you had scheduled a blog post only to discover there was a glitch in the system.  Maybe the power went off overnight and so your alarm didn’t go off.  Maybe you spilt coffee on your tie right before you walked out of the house.  None of these things were really your fault and yet, you are the one who has to make things right.  After all, life happens.

 

In the past we have talked about how practice makes perfect.  The same is true when it comes to basic living.  We plan for the successes in life but it is the “oops!” and goofs that really build strength.  We seldom practice success; it is its own reward.  What we practice are the mistakes either we made or life just threw our way.  By practicing, we gradually overcome and learn.  We gain strength but also confidence to move ahead in life.  We feel we can take on another project, which comes with a new set of challenges.  Because they are new, these challenges come with their own set of mistakes… and the process starts all over again.  Life happens.

 

As adults, we tend to overlook that learning process, the series of one step forward and two steps backwards that we all make.  Detours are a time of learning.  Life is not about standing still.  It is about growing and falling down, getting right back up –   the good and the bad, and how to improve. 

 

Several years ago I took a class (a wonderful class) on spiritual practices.  I freely admit I signed up for it because of I was going to do a series on prayer (Advent 2015).  I thought it would be a great reference and the timeliness of the class offering made it a perfect fit.  I was certain such a class had to include praying.  I was wrong.  Life happens.

 

The class focused on the spirituality within each of us as we go about our daily livings.  It was less on the “churchy” things we tend to tack on to such things as prayer and more about the mundane everyday things we all have to do … or should do.  Instead of hearing someone talk about how to pray, I heard about washing the dishes.  Was this an “Oops!” moment?

 

The “Everyday Spiritual Practices” class I took was a great class but it did not discuss praying.  What it did discuss was being connected to our living, being present in the moment.  Coaches tell athletes that they need to be “present in the moment.”  What they are really saying is forget about that last pass you didn’t catch, the goal you didn’t make; live the play at hand.  It is great advice…in the moment. 

 

Tomorrow, though, after the game is over, that same coach will spend all day going over the game and showing the players where they made their mistake.  That coach will point out where the player was supposed to turn so that he could have caught the ball or how distraction from a guard threw the passer off a bit so that a ball caught and then thrown was too far to the right to hit the basket.  Today they need to live in the moment to win the game but tomorrow they will live in the past to prepare for the future.

 

Such a habit of living and learning is great for sports but it doesn’t do much for our spiritual life and yes, even atheists have a spiritual life.  We all have a soul, a spirit within us.  We all exist and by existing, we are connected to other things and people.  Even the homeless are connected, maybe not to a structural house but to their own favorite place to sleep on the ground, their comfortable blanket or hat. 

 

If we think about it, a detour is a time of reflection and supplication, of reviewing like that coach the day after the game.  It can also be a time of understanding.  Life can be very confusing and confounding.  A detour offers us a different perspective.

 

Spirituality is a very popular word these days, very trendy and often said in all the right places.  True spirituality is usually the result of and the cause of a detour in life.  For some, spirituality is a term they use to avoid in-depth retrospection.  For others, it is a curse to be avoided and for still some, it is a way to avoid the unpleasant truths about ourselves.  Not all spirituality can be good or have positive outcomes.  Adolf Hitler and ISIS are two prime examples of such as are Charles Manson and Jim Jones.

 

We all have what St Augustine called “ordo amoris”, an ordering our loves.  In other words, we have things we love and place a priority on those things.  We also place a priority on the everyday mundane tasks that life requires; washing dishes, doing laundry, keeping the car in working order and filled with gas.  Few of us love doing those mundane tasks but they allow us to live and do what we do love or need to do.  When faced with a detour, we tend to react instead of act.

 

Who are you?  What would you be without your personal “ordo amoris”?  When we encounter acts of terrorism, the fabric of many lives is ripped apart as people doing rather mundane tasks are suddenly faced with a tragic detour.    In a matter of moments destructive spirituality literally tears hundreds of lives apart. 

 

None of us are born with a warranty tag attached under our arms or on the back of our necks.  Life happens.  The importance of prayer, that conversation we have with our faith as we live, keeps us sane and emphasizes our being connected.  Our spirituality, that which connects us to our universe and life, tells us we are alive.  Life happens and so, we need to live it.  Detours are scary and exhilarating.  They need reflection and preparation.  They demand we are present in the moment in navigating these detours in our living.  After all, if we are lucky, life happens.

Pay It Forward

Paying It Forward

Detours in Life

Pentecost 9

 

When was the last time you did a good deed for someone?”  I recently asked this of a friend.  My friend thought for a minute and then described something over two weeks ago.  Last year about this time my Pentecost series was about “making the ordinary extraordinary”.   It was about making each day count. Most of us would love to have that happen except … Life takes us on a detour instead.

 

Last year I told you about Kim Atwood, a woman who focused on doing a good deed a day.  In the year 2000 another woman named Catherine Ryan Hyde wrote a book upon which a movie was based entitled “Pay It Forward”.  Kim took this same premise and put it into action.  “One morning, on my drive to work, I was thinking about the law of moral causation and the karmic energy that surrounded my life.”

 

Kim was not just interested in doing a good deed but it that deed having a ripple effect.  She encouraged her friends to follow her example as well as the strangers who were the recipients of her actions.  The first day she stopped at her favorite donut shop for a pastry and coffee and then bought the same for the person in line behind her, asking the clerk to tell said person what had been done.  The next day she bought a potted plant and left it with a note on a car in a parking lot.  On another day she ordered some pet products from www.totallyfreestuff.com and donated them to a local animal shelter.  Soon life closed in on her and it was bedtime one evening when she realized she had not accomplished her good deed that day.  She went online and in five minutes had donated a few dollars to a charity.

 

The point of sharing with you Kim’s story was that she turned her ordinary commute into a period of retrospection and then took action.  She made each day extraordinary for the beneficiaries of her actions.  Kim was not some millionaire and often her actions took only a few extra minutes.  One day she simply stood at a store and held the day open for people sharing a smile and a brief greeting for a few minutes.  Each smile was returned and as she finished her shopping, she saw others holding the day for those entering.  Kim create her own detour from her normal pattern and started finding a way to make each day count.  She was doing for others but discovered it took her on a trip of her own as well.

 

Behavior is contagious.  That is why gangs are successful and cults have a following.  Kim Atwood used her time wisely and her detour from her normal routine made positive behavior contagious.  The ripple effect of her actions created more extraordinary moments for more living things. 

 

Joni Averill is a columnist with the Bangor Daily News and she wrote about Kim in 2010.  “ Civility. Manners. Thoughtfulness. Understanding. Compassion. Respect. Tolerance.  Our society seems to be losing its grip on those essential virtues.  What a much nicer world it would be if we all made the attempt, daily, to be kinder to one another.”

 

Bangor, Maine is a town that is often the last US stop for soldiers going to the Middle East.  Those arriving and departing usually deplane as new planes are to be boarded, different connections made.  Each soldier is greeted as they enter the Bangor Airport by citizens of Bangor and usually handed a cup of hot coffee or a cool drink.  They all receive a smile and hero’s greeting, justly deserved and earned.  These humble residents, however, are also heroes.  They make an exhausting trip better and remind our brave men and women why they are doing what they do.  Regardless of the weather or the time of day, each plane is met, each servicemen thanked.

 

Steve Jobs once said “If you are working at something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed; the vision pulls you.”  Hopefully, today something extraordinary will pull you to action, something that benefits another person and makes their ordinary day a time of extraordinary living.

 

We think of detours as nuisances but they can be a wonderful way of paying it forward.  Yes it is scary to deviate from our normal and really, who thinks they have the time?  Truth is, we have all time to take a detour of meaning and to pay it forward.  We’ll end up helping ourselves as well as the world.