Unplugged

Unplugged

Detours in Life

Pentecost 116 – 125

Mega post #7

 

In a matter of less than three minutes my cell phone died.  I had just been using it and had checked the battery so I know it indicated the power was at one hundred percent.  With young adults in the area, I did the intelligent thing and contacted them.  “Just do a cold boot” was the advice I received.  A “cold boot”?  What is that?  And how does this knowledge get imparted to people?  Why am I not on that list to get such stuff?

 

As mentioned in my last post I spent several days recently at a retreat.  I was unplugged from the world of cell phones and electronic devices.  I could mot quickly google the answer.  I actually had to use my memory bank to retrieve information when in verbal discourse face to face with someone.   None of those acronyms that have replaced conversation;  I was expected to actually use complete words and sentences. 

 

My period of being unplugged was different.  At night I found myself getting out of bed to plug in my phone before I remembered I did not have it.  I was actually homesick for my activity tracker.  Usually I am arguing with it but suddenly I missed it and wondered how many steps I was walking.  Since the retreat was on a mountainside I soon realized the number was not as important as the fact that I was walking… up and down and all around.  Without the weight of my phone or something around my wrist, I actually felt free with little anxiety.

 

In 2012 Michigan State University released finding of a study they conducted.  Their conclusion was this:  Using multiple forms of media at the same time — such as playing a computer game while watching TV — is linked to symptoms of anxiety and depression.  Michigan State University’s Mark Becker, lead investigator on the study, said he was surprised to find such a clear association between media multitasking and mental health problems. What’s not yet clear is the cause.

 

“We don’t know whether the media multitasking is causing symptoms of depression and social anxiety, or if it’s that people who are depressed and anxious are turning to media multitasking as a form of distraction from their problems,” said Becker, assistant professor of psychology.  While overall media use among American youth has increased 20 percent in the past decade, the amount of time spent multitasking with media spiked 120 percent during that period, Becker said.

 

For the study, which appears in the journal “Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking”, Becker and fellow MSU researchers Reem Alzahabi and Christopher Hopwood surveyed 319 people on their media use and mental health.  Participants were asked how many hours per week they used two or more of the primary forms of media, which include television, music, cell phones, text messaging, computer and video games, web surfing and others. For the mental health survey, the researchers used well-established measures, although the results do not reflect a clinical diagnosis.

 

Becker said future research should explore cause and effect. If it turns out media multitasking is causing depression and anxiety, recommendations could be made to alleviate the problem, he said.  On the other hand, if depressed or anxious people are turning to media multitasking, that might actually help them deal with their problems. It could also serve as a warning sign that a youngster is becoming depressed or anxious.  “Whatever the case, it’s very important information to have,” Becker said. “This could have important implications for understanding how to minimize the negative impacts of increased media multitasking.”

 

What I find interesting is that taking a detour from such media devices is generally not considered an answer.  Clearly these electronic tools are here to stay and everyone presumes they will be a forever presence in our lives.  The question is not if they are beneficial or healthy but how to incorporate them into our living with the least amount of detrimental impact.

 

As I mentioned, my detour from the everyday during my retreat was in the woods on a mountain.  For those participating, nature was a welcome distraction and way to enjoy our time away from the electronic world or timelines and scheduling, constant media updates and concerns.  Not all of us can go away, however.  Why not take a walk around your neighborhood but this time, choose a different path.  Gather some rocks or leaves along your way to compare once home again.  Even leaves from the same tree can be different and at this time of the year in the northern regions of the western hemisphere the colors of the leaves are amazing and varied.

 

We often fail to realize how limited our actual contact with other human beings is when we are tied to electronic devices.  By unplugging, you can go to a coffee shop or volunteer at a local charity.  Connecting to others is one of the best ways to not only combat anxiety and depression but to feel better about yourself.  By turning off a few devices, you might just turn on your self-esteem.

 

One of the limitations of using electronic devices is that everything is right in front of us.  We become receivers and are no longer transmitters.  By taking the time to read a book, play a board game,  or do a craft project we reconnect with our imagination and explore new possibilities.  Perfection is not the goal here and the effort makes it beautiful.  When we do this we remember to appreciate the journey and not be fixated on the destination.

 

Dr. Kathleen Trainor, a well-known psychotherapist and member of the Harvard University faculty,  reminds us that learning requires human interaction”.  Developmentally, babies, from the time they are born, seek contact with human faces. They learn language through human interaction. The value of connecting with others comes from the early, loving connection to significant others. Social, non-verbal language development depends on the experience of relating with others.”

 

I will of course get my phone working again.  For today, though, I will stop and smell the flowers, appreciate the beauty of nature and engage in conversation with a living breathing person.  I will get some chores done that often get forgotten while I am online and take some time to simply be.  Tomorrow I hope to be back up to date with everything working but today…today I will follow a detour called unplugged.  I have a feeling that I might just find myself along the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

Slipping Outside the Comfort Zone

Slipping Outside the Comfort Zone

Detours in Life

Pentecost 42

 

You can find a survey about most anything.  Facebook is certainly proof about that.  Still, I never thought I’d come across a survey like this.  It was entitled simply “Your Best Insult”.  One of the things I like best about writing this blog (Your comments and our discussions are numbers one and two, of course!) is the research I do for it.  I certainly don’t know everything; I admitted I was not perfect in yesterday’s post.  In the name of research I have read books I probably would have just passed by and attended gatherings I would have not shown up for because… well, because I am just like everyone else and varying from the norm is not a habit of mine.

 

The term “comfort zone” is simply a collection of behaviors that we continue to repeat.  It is not a location nor should it be our destination.  For most of us, our “comfort zone” is where we live, where we feel most comfortable.  It is what we do and continue to do… over and over again.  Our comfort zone is made up of those things that are common to us, familiar in their repetition.

 

None of us are born with a comfort zone, by the way.  We come into this world making the biggest leap of faith possible.  We leave a safe and protected environment and are immediately thrust into a world in which we must fend for ourselves.  We also suddenly are dependent upon others for everything.  We have no chance to develop a comfort zone because we are too busy learning and developing, acquiring new skills and trying new things.  It is called growing, surviving and thriving.

 

At some point, though, we do cultivate a comfort zone and it is often without even realizing it.  We settle in and get cozy in our comfort zone and then suddenly – BAM! An insult comes along and shatters our sense of security we have found within that comfort zone home.  Most of us try to avoid insults so why on earth, I thought to myself, would some create a survey entitled “Your best insult”, especially in an article about bettering one’s self?

 

The survey questions numbered twenty and I am not going to list them all here.  A few did catch my attention, however, so let’s discuss those.  First, what insult was said to you that you actually consider a compliment?  I remember once having my name mentioned as being the chairperson of an upcoming event.  Another stood up and said: “Not her!  She thinks life is just a collection of learning opportunities.”  The statement was said in a room of almost one hundred people and two hundred eyes instantly turned and looked at me to see how I was reacting.  A few close friends began to say something but I stood up and replied:  “I was going to protest but you know what?  She is absolutely right.  Thank you for noticing.”  I had never really thought of myself or life in that connotation but the statement was absolutely correct.  It not only became a compliment, it helped me define my approach to life.

 

More recently I received another such “insult”.  It would certainly answer the above insult survey question as well as this next one:  What so-called “insult” will you adopt as a life mantra?  It is no secret that I attend a church and, like many churches, this one has educational and self-growth opportunities.  One such retreat was being discussed when one of those talking suddenly turned to me and asked why I was not contributing to the conversation.  I replied I had not ever been to the retreat.  Her response was immediate:  “Oh, of course not.  You wouldn’t fit in!”  She then continued to try to talk the woman sitting right next to me into attending.

 

Let’s ignore that the purpose of a church is to share the “good news” of the faith.  Let’s ignore the fact that one of the admonitions given to those that believe is kindness and charity to all.  Let’s even forego the obvious insult in saying I was too….well, exactly what I am not certain.  While I sat there in my instant “OUCH!” reaction, which is how most of us first respond to insults, I suddenly realized just what a great compliment I had been given.

 

It is my fervent and constant belief that any faith-based group that is exclusive is more a social club than a faith-based group.  Whether they are called synagogues or churches, temples or shrines, they have doors and those doors are supposedly open to all who wish to believe.  Please reread that last sentence.  I did not say the doors were open to a select few, or those who shopped at certain stores.  They are not open only to those who know everything.  The doors are an opening through which all who wish to learn and believe can pass.

 

We can either let insults grow ourselves or we can let them be a pesticide that sucks the life out of us.  The survey concluded with some very intense questions:  At the last event you attended that included people you consider friends. Who approached you and shared a handshake or hug?  Who asked about how you were doing?  Who just talked about themselves without inquiring about you?  How do you define friendship?  How do you define yourself?

 

We often let insults define us.  We give into the pain they generally cause and let them motivate us into crawling deeper into our comfort zone.  The most recent event I attended was one in which I knew almost everyone.  Less than one tenth said hello to me, two approached me but none offered a hug or handshake and no one asked how I was.  The paragraph at the end of the Best Insult Survey advised that we need to survey our situations, not just ourselves.  At this event, people congregated in clichés, staying within their own comfort zone.  Two joined my group that only vaguely knew the others.  As one said, “My eyes know you because I have seen you around.” 

 

Surveying the situation led me to realize that my group was not a cliché and people felt comfortable stepping outside their comfort zone and joining such a group.  During the exercise, the group of strangers became a group of acquaintances, realizing those things held in common and supporting each other in those things that made them different.  A group that began with people who did not seemingly “fit in” became a group of believers and sharing, a group practicing their faith instead of just talking about it.

 

Certainly if people shy away from us we need to take stock and ask if we are subconsciously sabotaging ourselves.  Sometimes, though, maybe we need to look at the situation and not just ourselves.  We can all recognize an insult when one is given or acted out.  However, maybe we need to do a quick survey of said insult and ask ourselves if it is really painful or something for which to be thankful.  Sometimes that insult might just be the best compliment you have ever received and lead us on the best detour we’ve ever taken.  Why? You ask.  Because, taking a few steps outside our comfort zone might just be the best turn you ever make in life, a turn necessary for us to grow and thrive in this living for a better tomorrow.

A Drop to Flood

A Drop to Flood

Pentecost 39-40

 

Two weeks ago the islands of the US and British Virgin islands were lush and green.  Many would have described them as paradise.  Today they look very different.  Hurricane Irma wreaked her havoc with excessive and prolonged wind speeds and torrents of rain.  Before and after pictures look like Hieronymus Bosch’s painting “The Garden of Earthly Delights” in which paradise,   earth, and hell are depicted on one canvas.

 

Estimates for damage in the USA from Hurricane Irma are currently at eighteen billion and many consider that a lucky, conservative estimate.  Many who were living the good life suddenly are finding they must start over while living in poverty conditions.  Others in the northwest corner of the USA are starting over due to wildfires that ravaged several states.  The general public is somewhere in the middle with survivor’s guilt wondering how to help.

 

Born in Ghana, israelmore Ayivor knows something about poverty.  “True compassion does not sit on the laps of renovation; it dives with an approach to reconstruction. Don’t throw a coin at a beggar. Rather, destroy his source of poverty.”  I don’t know of anyone except perhaps some psychopathic, deranged power-hungry leader of a fanatical faction that would say poverty is a good thing.  Many of us, though, adopt a rather cynical attitude about it.

 

“There will be poor always pathetically starving.  Look at the good things you’ve got.”  The lines of the opening song shared by the characters of Judas and Jesus in the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” are how most of us approach poverty.  It has always been; it will always be; I should still be able to enjoy what I have.

 

I am not about to advocate that you give everything away.  However, what if there was a way you could make a difference in the fight against poverty and still keep your lifestyle?  The Better Business Bureau can help with finding local and national as well as international charities with which to donate money.  It is imperative that one check out before contributing to a fund.  Not all charities are run efficiently with the victim in mind and some are just out and out scams.

 

In his book “The Midnight Palace” Carlos Ruiz Zafon wrote: ““The fact is that nothing is more difficult to believe than the truth; conversely, nothing seduces like the power of lies, the greater the better. It’s only natural, and you will have to find the right balance. Having said that, let me add that this particular old woman hasn’t been collecting only years; she has also collected stories, and none sadder or more terrible than the one she’s about to tell you. You have been at the heart of this story without knowing it until today …”

 

Zafon’s book has little to do with poverty in the connotation we are speaking about but it brings up a very important fact.  We all collect things every day.  Sometimes we collect smiles and other times, headaches.  In this quote he writes of a woman who “hasn’t been collecting only years”.  Sometimes we simply collect days, hours full of things that really do not seem to be making the difference in the world that we’d like to have as our legacy.

 

Many of us have too much stuff but that stuff gives meaning and definition to our lives and we feel for those who are suddenly stuff-less.  Several years ago I mentioned that I collected memories.  Someone asked “How do you do that because that sounds interesting?”  We all collect memories, I hope because they are the one thing that can never be washed away or destroyed.

 

Most of us also collect change, coins given to pay for something with more coins being given back as , well, change.  American currency especially seems to almost demand that when someone pays cash, they will get back change in return.  The currency structure along with the number system used does not make for easy, even numbers, especially with varying tax bases for items that are sold.  At the end of the day, most of us have change.

 

In the third book of her Moomins series, Tove Jansson had one of her characters recite:  “You aren’t a collector anymore, you’re only an owner, and that isn’t nearly so much fun.”   This Finnish children’s author realized what many of us take years to understand.  Ownership is great but we need to also be collectors because if we aren’t, then what we own has very little value.

 

It is a common practice for men to empty their pockets of change at night before putting their slacks away.  Women, since they usually carry a wallet with a coin section, seldom do this.  What if we all started a change pot – a container in which to place our loose change at the end of each day?  We could then donate this change to a charitable organization.  By doing this, we would be collecting change, not just hours in a day, and taking ownership of the issue of poverty in the world.

 

“But I am on a budget” you might be thinking.  “I haven’t anything to spare.”  Let’s do thig.  Put a nickel in your change pot every day – just one nickel USD or $.05 (five cents).  At the end of the month you would have approximately one dollar in your change pot.  I say approximately because…well, we sometimes forget.

 

What can one dollar buy?  In Kenya two years ago you could purchase a pen (15 Ksh), an 80 page notebook (15 Ksh), a toothbrush (30 Ksh), and a little snack pack of spicy peanuts and mixed chips (25 Ksh, and full of carbs and protein) – all for one dollar.  Many children in Kenya do not have a pen or paper and so they stay home from school and become part of the ever going cycle of poverty and terrorism, not to mention violence and human trafficking.

 

Your one nickel a day could educate a child in Kenya.  One nickel a day can also provide a meal for a starving child around the world.  Each year, poverty directly impacts children and it is responsible for the death of five million each year due to malnutrition or starvation.  You one dollar a month can result in two hundred and fifty meals.  If you had ten friends or coworkers who had ten friends or coworkers, you could each raise one hundred dollars with your nickel a day change pots and provide over two thousand meals to hungry children in the world.

 

Many offices have football pools, or lottery funds.  Why not set up a change pot by the vending machines.  That candy bar or soda really isn’t going to help your own nutrition but you can help another’s by simply donating a nickel or more each time you use the vending machine or water fountain. Think of it as giving thanks for your good fortunes, regardless of how small it may seem.   Your five cents might seem like a drop in the vast ocean of world poverty but you know what –  It can be the only meal a child eats that day.

 

We cannot, as of today, change the course of a hurricane.  I wish we could because they are three others churching the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico waters right now.  We can stop those wildfires started by human negligence but over half are caused by natural effects light lightening and drought.

 

This series is about detours and many people over the past ten days found themselves evacuating their homes, making detours from storms and fires.   They simply were along for the ride in an effort to escape and save themselves.  Most detours are not that dramatic and yet, all affect us in one way or another.  The best we can hope to do for them is lessen the effects and help them rebuild.  We can each make a difference.  Reach inside yourself and find a way to help your neighbor on their detour to recover and start collecting good feelings.  None of us lives on the planet alone.  We can make the difference between paradise and hell for another human being.  We can turn our small drops of assistance into a flood of relief and make the detour less bumpy for someone.

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!

 

 

Enjoying the Eclipse

Enjoying the Eclipse

Detours in Life

Pentecost 34

 

While eclipses occur almost every year in one form or another, today’s solar eclipse is the first total solar eclipse visible across the continental United States of America since 1979.  Over 12 million people live in the 70-mile-wide (113-km-wide), 2,500-mile-long (4,000-km-long) zone where the total eclipse will appear on Monday. Millions of others have traveled or are in route to spots along the route to view this celestial spectacular event.

 

News agencies are predicting this event will draw one of the largest crowds in human history, especially given that many media outlets will also be covering for those unable to witness the moon’s shadow passing directly in front of the sun, blotting out all but the halo-like solar corona in person.  From its beginning at 10:15 PDT (1715 GMT) in the area around Depoe Bay, Oregon to the close of the totality blockage of the sun by the moon at 2:49 EDT (1849 GMT) near Charleston, South Carolina, this event will unite the world and most certainly the USA. 

 

How one will “see” this event will depend upon location, more on that in my next post.  For now, we need to realize that, in spite of our many differences, there are things that can unite us.  While none of the over one million people living in its path will “see” the eclipse exactly the same, they will be united in experiencing its awe.  The skies will either darken or go into a quasi-twilight setting and some stars and one or two planets will be visible.

 

Of course “seeing” an eclipse is never done with the naked eye.  ISO-certified safety glasses are required or special box-lenses viewing contraptions can be used.  Even animals can sustain damage to their eyes so, if possible, keep all animals indoor homes or barns during the two and a half hour event.

 

An eclipse serves to remind me that what we see is seldom the complete story.  It is wise to remember that we need to take the time to prepare and explore our beliefs and opinions, just as people traveling to see the eclipse have done.  Enjoy today’s phenomenal event in the sky but remember, what you see is not the complete story.  We sometimes have to detour around the obvious to understand real events and see the truth.

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.”