Brokenness and Strength

Brokenness and Strength

Jan 17 & 18


The past ten days have found the United States experiencing weather that has adversely affected many.  From freezing conditions on the Gulf Coast to ice in Florida and deadly mud slides in California, the weather has reminded us that life is fragile and nothing can be taken for granted.  Discussions about global warming have offered up evidence of the debate as, in the midst of this bitter deep freeze spreading across over two-thirds of the USA, scientists reveal the planet has experienced some of its warmest temperatures ever.


We like to think of science as the art form that explains life.  Since science is rational and proven, then life itself must be rational, right?  Life is full of incongruences.  There is seldom anything completely rational about mankind.  With all of our technology and creature comforts and the ability to expand our horizons into outer space, many of still live in fear, creating our own defeats instead of living successfully.  We seek someone to blame instead of answers.


What would you do if you knew you could not fail?  It is a question asked by several different organizations in their efforts to help those for whom life has been most difficult.  Many believe that it takes being born into money or at least an industrialize nation to become successful.  Many often use their upbringing as an excuse rather than a stepping stone.


Masiela Lusha was born in Albania and also lived in Hungary and Austria where she studied ballet in Vienna.  At age twelve her parents moved to the United States, settling in Michigan.  Child experts would tell you that is a great deal of moving around in a short time frame, as well as changing cultures, and that it would be expected for there to be some problems for the child trying to assimilate.


Lusha was determined and by age twenty she had acted for five years on a national produced television program called “The George Lopez Show”, acting as a Hispanic.  Since the television program stopped production, she started her own production company, wrote eight books and translated several volumes of poetry from Albanian into English.  Masiela Lusha is a humanitarian in her own right. She has served as the ambassador for a major children’s literature publishing house, Scholastic, and made multiple public service announcements encouraging children to read.  Additionally, she started her own foundation to assist homeless families.


While most of us will never get a major acting contract with a major network, we can all help the homeless and encourage children to read.  We can also support agencies, government programs, and nonprofit foundations that do similar work.  American Indian Chief Seattle once said: “This we know; the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood, which unites one family. All things are connected.”  Just in case you think “These are not my problems so why should I bother, think again.”  We are all connected so “their” problem is your problem.


Aoi Miyazaki is a Japanese actress with over forty films and sixteen television programs to her credit.  Considered one of Japan’s most beautiful women, she is only thirty years old.  One of her films, “Children of the Dark”, led her to the tragic problem of child exploitation.  Her photobook “Tarinai Peace”, published with her brother, portrayed the true nature of poverty in India.  She has also supported programs to assist with raising awareness and funds for childhood cancer.


Aoi Miyazaki is a perfect example of how one person can make a difference.  Another book with her brother focused on the world wide problem of global warming and was entitled “Love, Peace, and Green Tarinai, Peace2”.  She doesn’t just see a problem or talk about it over coffee.  She does what she can to bring it into sight of all people.


Too many try to blame what is wrong with their environment on those who have moved into it.  They feel that immigrants are responsible for any “brokenness”.  We will always have problems.  The really tragic thing is when no one does anything to address these problems.  These two actresses began acting in the early teens.  They are not experts in their field.  They are, however, able to see and hear through the “noise” of life.


We tend to think of noise as a musical or audio term.  Actually it is a mathematical one and means errors in measurements.  In 1722 a man named Roget Coates put forth a theory that perhaps a combination of different observations might be better in determining truth than simply taking one approach.  That led to the development of standards which are then used to determine an answer with the least possible problems.  In other words, procedures were developed to give a way to provide the best estimate with the least amount of errors. 


Today a program called “Squish Squash” is sometimes used to find what seems to not be present.  The program takes what is known and then eliminates it and draws logical conclusions about what is thought to be present but cannot be proven to be.  For instance, if you think you heard a robin’s song but only see and hear ducks and geese at the pond while making a video, then you might assume you were wrong.  However, once near a computer, you could upload and work such audio magic to take out the sound of the ducks and geese until the robin’s soft melodic song could indeed be heard.


In order to help children and families with their brokenness, in dealing with whatever hurdles they are encountering in life, we first need to eliminate the loud mouths that already have enough to live.  We need to admit there are errors or difficulties with everyone having a fair chance and then do what we can to hear them and help them thrive.


In 2016 on Super Bowl Sunday I did a post and gave an equation about how the offertory plates of one church could feed all the hungry children in the state.  It was quite an eye opening experience for me to realize how one group of people, when working together, could eliminate such a grave problem that exists.


Last year in one week I spent about $40 (USD) purchasing some items for a program that provides food for children during non-school periods.  These children do not have a guarantee of eating meals at home due to their poverty.  A local business donates money to purchase meal packages but other items are needed and my mere $40 purchased over two hundred and forty supplemental items.  That breaks down to each item I purchased costing approximately sixteen cents each.  So for less than half a dollar, I provided a child with some fruit, some dairy (on a cracker), and a sweet, in addition to their meal pack.  I consider myself a rather thrifty shopper but I think anyone would say I got a great return for my money,  Not only did I get a good value for the items purchased, I invested in someone’s future, their life.  Just imagine what we all could accomplish for less than fifty cents if we decided to mend the brokenness around us.


The answers to the world’s problems are often found in our own mirrors.  We and we alone are the solution to the brokenness around us.  When we think of others and come together to affect real-time solutions, then we become strong.  The best way to help ourselves is to help others.


Twelve Steps Forward Again

Twelve Steps Forward Again

Advent 16-19

Year in Review 2017


During Easter of this year we discussed mindfulness.  Mindfulness has become a trending buzzword these days but what does it really mean?  Simply put, mindfulness means being present in the moment, being an active participant in one’s life – moment by moment, awareness of each feeling, thought, and sensation.  It combines the external with the internal without judgment. 


Charles A. Francis published a book in 2015 about mindfulness entitled “Mindfulness Meditation Made Simple: Your Guide to Finding Inner peace”.  Mindfulness is an important lifestyle technique that I believe we all need but few of us truly understand it.  For that reason, I am publishing Francis’ summation he wrote about his book and the twelve steps he advocates.  His way is not the only path one can embark upon in being mindful but it is an excellent journey if you desire to engage in this journey of mindfulness.


I like Charles Francis’ book and highly recommend reading it as well as paying particular attention to his explanation of each step.   Trying one a day for the twelve days of Christmas would be a great exercise and introduction to mindfulness.   Of course, without having read the book, it might be difficult but you can get enough of an idea to try some rudimentary practices regarding each step from this synopsis of them. 


Step 1—“We became aware of the pain and suffering created by unmindful thoughts, speech, and actions.” Step 1 teaches you some important concepts to help you understand the practice. In this step, we’ll talk about the Four Noble Truths, which deal with suffering and how to overcome it. We will also talk about the Five Hindrances, which deal with things that get in the way of your meditation and spiritual development.


Step 2—“We learned how to develop our primary tools of observation: concentration and mindfulness.” Here you will learn how to use your two most important tools of observation. If we want to understand ourselves, and our relationships with others, then we need to learn how to observe the world with unbiased clarity.

We often make quick judgments based on preconceived ideas, because it’s easier than examining situations further and often less painful in the short-run. That is, we jump to conclusions without having many of the facts. So, to observe reality without bias, we need to develop our skills of observation. Like a journalist, we’re trying to get at the truth.


Step 3—“We sought to eliminate the things that agitate our mind, and prevent us from achieving inner peace and serenity.” A common challenge for beginners is dealing with a racing mind. We’re often unaware that many of our daily activities are agitating our mind. In this step, I’ll show you how to identify and eliminate the sources of agitation. I’ll also give you some effective tools for calming your mind.


Step 4—“We learned how to structure our meditation session for maximum effectiveness, and to fit our lifestyle.” In Step 4, we discuss our meditation environment. There is no best time or place that applies to everyone, because we all have different commitments and living situations. I’ll give you some guidelines for choosing the best time and place for you. We’ll also talk about sitting position and how long to meditate.


Step 5—“In order to enhance our spiritual evolution, we made mindfulness meditation a regular practice.” This step deals with the actual mechanics of meditation. You’ll learn exactly what to do during your meditation sessions. I’ll give you different formats, so you can choose the one that’s most suitable for your needs, and I will even guide you through a typical meditation session.


Step 6—“We remained vigilant in our meditation practice, so that we continued making steady progress.” In Step 6, you’ll learn how to track your progress by keeping a meditation journal. This will help you stay grounded in proper techniques by establishing goals and measuring your progress. It will also help you stay motivated.


Step 7—“We became aware that other people can provide us with the spiritual nourishment vital to our development.” Other people can be invaluable sources of spiritual nourishment that will dramatically speed up your development. I will show you how to connect with them, so that you not only enhance your own spiritual development, but also that of others.


Step 8—“We sought to cultivate peace and harmony in our relationships and interactions with others by practicing deep listening, mindful speech, non-judging, and forgiveness.” In this step, we’ll examine how our behavior impacts our spiritual development and our relationships, and I’ll share with you some powerful tools for improving them.


Step 9—“We sought to dwell deeply in our spiritual community in order to enhance our development, and that of others.” In Step 9, I’ll show you how to avail yourself of the healing power of your spiritual community. I will introduce you to some more useful tools for enhancing your practice, including loving-kindness meditation, and a new meditation technique we’ve developed—writing meditation. You will also learn about the most powerful tool of all—the mindfulness meditation retreat.


Step 10—“We became aware of how unmindful consumption perpetuates our suffering, and prevents us from achieving true inner peace.” In this step, we’ll discuss how your consumption of nutrients and other substances can either enhance or hinder your spiritual development. As you progress in your practice, you’ll develop the wisdom and inner strength to make healthier choices.


Step 11—“With the strength, courage, and mindfulness we attained through our meditation practice, we confronted and overcame the wounds from our past.” Many of us have wounds from long ago that have never healed. These are serious obstacles to our development. In Step 11, I will show you how to use your emerging mindfulness to overcome them, so you can be free of them once and for all.


Step 12—“Having found freedom from our suffering through mindfulness meditation, we shared this practice with others, and continued dwelling deeply in the present moment through mindful living.” One of the great gifts you will receive from this practice is a deep sense of caring and compassion for other people. In this step, you’ll learn how to help others achieve inner peace as you have, and how your mindful leadership can help create a more mindful society. You’ll also learn how to apply mindfulness to all your daily activities, so that you continue making progress.”


Remember, you only have to try one step per day.  It may seem like I am adding more onto your already busy schedule but once being mindful becomes a habit, it actually improves your schedule and your response to life itself.  The true purpose of mindfulness is to recognize the joy in living that is all around us.  What a great way to end this year and begin the next!

Goofs and Greatness

Goofs and Greatness

Detours in Life

Pentecost 172


Yesterday’s post was numbered incorrectly.  It should have been 171.  I erred.  It wasn’t the first time and it will not be the last, I am sure.  The thing is, life is full of missteps.  They should not be stop signs but rather, detours into possibilities.


“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”  It may seem strange to begin an essay/blog post about dreaming of a better you or me with words from the American feminist Gloria Steinem but really, the feminist movement was all about empowerment.  Some would claim it was designed to destroy the fabric of a nation and indeed, in some areas of the world, equality is seen as that – a destructive tool.  Empowerment is about strength and two strong people are much better than one – unless that one is too scared to have another strong person beside them.


The characters of comic books and sci-fi movies are delightfully entertaining but alas, we have no people with the ability to neither soar through the atmosphere unaided nor leap skyscrapers in a single bound.  No one person can turn themselves into a super strong block of ice nor cloak themselves in invisibility.  In short, we have no Superman.  What we do have is the potential for super men and women.


It is imperative that we dream about a better tomorrow and more specifically, a better self.  Nothing else can move forward until we do.  The comic book characters and movie representations of those characters enthrall us and also offer some wonderful life lessons.  They give us hope and, at the same time, serve as reflections of our fears and dreams.


At some point, most of us have felt invisible.  It seems thrilling for someone in a story but to walk among the crowds and feel invisible is actually very painful.  We want to belong, not be ostracized.  The character Wolverine is seen as handsome and strong.  Having become a mutated human through a tragic accident, his claws are as steel and he can rip his enemies apart.  We often feel ripped apart by the words of others and have probably been tempted to respond in like fashion.  I ask you this, though:  Have you ever seen Wolverine smile?


The first step to a better life is a better being.  It is a process and it takes time but first we must envision it, envision a better self.  The journey can be rough and tough-going, as J.R. R. Tolkien eloquently described.  “All that is gold does not glitter; not all those who wander are lost.  The old that is strong does not wither; deep roots are not reached by the frost.”


Two of my favorite quotes about this come not from writers but from scientists.  It may seem strange but what after all is science but the envisioning of a better world, based upon the past and the present?  Thomas Edison once said “I have not failed; I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  We often forget to apply that in our lives.  We may go to bed at night not having accomplished our goals for that day but we did not fail.  We simply learned other lessons, some of which were things not to repeat again.


My other favorite quote is something Albert Einstein once said.  “A human being is part of the whole called by us [the] Universe, a part limited in time and space.  He experiences himself; his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.  This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.  Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by weaning our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”


We need to embrace ourselves as part of nature’s beauty, envisioning a more positive self-image and believing we can be better than we are.  In short, we need to dream a better self.  Harriet Tubman was born a slave and spent her life seeking a better self, difficult since she lived under laws that sought to suppress her becoming that.  “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”


When we dream and believe we can be more than we are, we open the door and take the first step towards making it a reality.  Once accomplished, even in small increments, the better you will lead to a better world.  So go ahead and revel in that mistake you just made.  See it for what it is – a life lesson in becoming a better person.



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.

Little Things

Little Things

Detours in Life

Pentecost 31


It is an often-repeated saying that life is made up of little things.  Author Kurt Vonnegut once said that we should “enjoy the little things in life for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”


In writing for, columnist Amy Johnson pointed out forty “little” things that could become “big” things that could bring us happiness. 

1.Finding money in your pocket that you didn’t know you had.

2. Being asked by someone who cares how you are doing.

3. Climbing into bed when you have fresh sheets.

4. Taking an extra-long bath or shower when you have some free time.

5. Smiling at a child you see in public.

6. Receiving a 10 minute massage from your partner or friend.

7. Cuddling someone before you have to get up and start your day.

8. Waking up and realizing it is a sunny, beautiful day.

9. Having a long phone conversation with someone you care about and haven’t spoken to in a while.

10. Watching the rain fall when you have nowhere to be, and you can curl up on the sofa.

11. Watching children playing and laughing together, reminding you of the joy in the world.

12. Spending some time with your pets – or animals in general!

13. A stranger giving you a genuine smile.

14. Having a nice, long stretch when you first wake up to get your body moving.

15. Laughing out loud at a funny memory.

16. A gesture of kindness from someone in your life – as simple as your child helping you cook dinner.

17. A smell you love, from baked bread to a freshly mowed lawn.

18. A meaningful, long hug from somebody you care about.

19. Putting on clothes after they have been warmed on the radiator.

20. Taking a few moments alone when things get hectic.

21. Watching the sunset or the sunrise.

22. The smell outside after the rain has stopped.

23. Listening to your favorite artist or album.

24. Receiving an email or a letter from a friend.

25. The chance to be creative, from painting an old set of drawers to doodling a picture.

26. Holding hands with someone you love.

27. Eating your breakfast in bed.

28. Playing a game you used to love when you were younger.

29. Eating healthy, tasty food that makes you feel good about yourself.

30. An extra half an hour to snooze in bed.

31. Having some time to yourself to read a book you love.

32. Buying your favorite drink or snack and savoring it.

33. Receiving flowers from someone who cares about you.

34. Eating your lunch outside in the sun.

35. Trying out a new recipe and creating something delicious.

36. A gesture of support from your friends or family.

37. Listening to a song you used to love and haven’t heard in years.

38. Taking the time to help someone with their problems.

39. Spending time in your home when it is tidy and clean.

40. Achieving a small victory, like fixing the washing machine or replacing a light bulb.


Most of these are little things that, if noticed, would bring a smile to your lips and joy to your soul.  Few, if I am to be honest, would be actual detours and yet… Sometimes the detour is simply our slowing down enough to see the world around us.  We all have countless things to do and few feel they have enough hours in the day to get them all done.  Are we really too busy to find happiness in the little things around us?


Johnson answered this question in her article by quoting Dr. Glenn Williams, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Nottingham Trent University.  “An effective route to happiness is not necessarily through experiencing major events that we might have planned out such as getting married, moving house, getting that all-important promotion or even being on a holiday.  Rather it is the small, and often unexpected, pleasures in life that can make us smile each and every day to help us build happier and more meaningful lives for ourselves and for others.”


Feeling in control of one’s life is a great thing and necessary for attaining success.  We should not, however, be in such tight control that we miss the little things, those little detours that take us away from our norm and lead us to happiness.

Intention and Disconnect

Intention and Disconnect

Detours of Life

Pentecost 20


One of the most common detours with which we are faced are often those of our own making, those times in which what we intended did not quite happen.  In spite of the most careful planning and fervent effort, things go awry.  Life happens and sometimes, perhaps often, it simply does not go as planned.  We end up on a detour, an unexpected and usually undesired detour.  Do we respond with this detour with good humor and grace or do we get angry over the inevitabilities of life?


One cannot approach the concept of grace either objectively or subjectively without including the religious community.  Indeed, many do not even attempt to define the concept of grace outside of a religious and theological construct.  I am asking you to consider it a form of living but today I will not discuss it as an inevitable part of one’s spirit of living but as it relates to organized religion and its followers.  This is important because often the religions of the world have become stumbling blocks to grace, especially when seen through a subjective lens. 


Beyond Intractability was developed and is still maintained by the University of Colorado Conflict Information Consortium. The missions of the Consortium and, more specifically, the Beyond Intractability project reflect the convergence of two long-standing streams of work. The first is an exploitation of the unique abilities of Web-based information systems to speed the flow of conflict-related information among those working in the field and the general public. The second is an investigation of strategies for more constructively addressing intractable conflict problems — those difficult situations which lie at the frontier of the field.


We will begin our discussion with a quote from the Beyond Intractability website:  “At the dawn of the twenty-first century, a casual glance at world affairs would suggest that religion is at the core of much of the strife around the globe.  Often, religion is a contentious issue. Where eternal salvation is at stake, compromise can be difficult at or even sinful. Religion is also important because, as a central part of many individuals’ identity, any threat to one’s beliefs is a threat to one’s very being. This is a primary motivation for ethno-religious nationalists.  … However, the relationship between religion and conflict is, in fact, a complex one. Religiously-motivated peace builders have played important roles in addressing many conflicts around the world.


“Although not necessarily so, there are some aspects of religion that make it susceptible to being a latent source of conflict. All religions have their accepted dogma, or articles of belief, that followers must accept without question. This can lead to inflexibility and intolerance in the face of other beliefs. After all, if it is the word of God, how can one compromise it? At the same time, scripture and dogma are often vague and open to interpretation. Therefore, conflict can arise over whose interpretation is the correct one, a conflict that ultimately cannot be solved because there is no arbiter. The winner generally is the interpretation that attracts the most followers. However, those followers must also be motivated to action. Although, almost invariably, the majority of any faith hold moderate views, they are often more complacent, whereas extremists are motivated to bring their interpretation of God’s will to fruition.  Religious extremists can contribute to conflict escalation. They see radical measures as necessary to fulfilling God’s wishes. Fundamentalists of any religion tend to take a Manichean view of the world. If the world is a struggle between good and evil, it is hard to justify compromising with the devil. Any sign of moderation can be decried as selling out, more importantly, of abandoning God’s will.”


Manichean may be a word unfamiliar to you but its meaning is how many people view the world and try to live their lives.  Manichean comes from the word Mani, which is the name of an apostle who lived in Mesopotamia in the time frame of 240 ACE, who taught a universal religion based on what we now call dualism. If you believe in the Manichean idea of dualism, you tend to look at things as having two sides that are opposed. To Manicheans, life can be divided neatly between good or evil, light or dark, or love and hate.


In other words, in an attempt to live their doctrines of peace and love, people tend to think with a narrow field and view the world as either black or white.  Human beings are complex creatures and no one is one-dimensional.  In other words, no one person is all anything.  In our intention to live a doctrine of love and peace, we allow our subjective narrowness to trip us up.


To be certain, some things are either right or wrong.  You cannot murder someone halfway.  A person is either killed or alive.  However, the quality of life then comes into question and such is often what leads people to commit suicide.  Rather than offer grace, their expectations, based upon their belief system, suffocates any grace they might find.


So should we assume religion is the problem and not the answer?  Absolutely not!  Religions tend to connect us and remind us of that which we are deep inside.  They are, I believe, most necessary to life.  Religions offer us ways to show, recognize, and live grace.  Life is hard but grace makes it not only possible but worthwhile. 


Quoting David Smock, the Beyond Intractability website offers one solution to consider in finding grace amid all this conflict and discord.  “Religion is inherently conflictual, but this is not necessarily so. Therefore, in part, the solution is to promote a heightened awareness of the positive peace building and reconciliatory role religion has played in many conflict situations. More generally, fighting ignorance can go a long way. Interfaith dialogue would be beneficial at all levels of religious hierarchies and across all segments of religious communities. Where silence and misunderstanding are all too common, learning about other religions would be a powerful step forward. Being educated about other religions does not mean conversion but may facilitate understanding and respect for other faiths.”


We all have intentions and the faith-based communities of the world are no different.  However, when need to give closer attention to our efforts and revitalize them every day.  Grace might very well be the key to world peace and it certainly makes each of our lives better.  Rather than being the problem, grace is the answer.  When navigating the detours that life will certainly give us, grace is the best compass one can employ.  Grace should be the connection between us and the rest of the world.







Easter 31


At the beginning of this series I mentioned that it would not be the daily blog postings you have become accustomed to from me.  I believe I characterized that this series might seem “chaotic” at times.  That is because I wanted you to take time to participate in the series subject matter – mindfulness.  When we are practicing mindfulness, we are, quite simply, fully in the moment in which we are living.  More importantly, we are aware of every aspect of that moment.


Once upon a time I taught young children problem solving and anger management.  We used the hand in explaining to children there were steps they could take to react positively to the messy time of life.  In problem solving I taught them to first identify their problem.  That might sound silly but all too often, we get so caught up in our emotions that we are simply reacting instead of acting.


The second step in problem solving is to think of solutions and the third step is to imagine those solutions being put to good use.  The fourth step would be try the best possible solutions and the fifth step – to evaluate and, most importantly – do not be afraid or ashamed to start all over again.


The five steps of anger management sound fairly simply, especially compared to those of problem solving and yet, they are actually quite harder.  The first step is to take a deep breath.  Do not yell or scream but simply breathe.  Then we taught the children to count to five.  This puts some space between you and the root of your anger.  It also helps you to proceed with deliberate and hopefully positive action rather than simply react in a defensive and often unproductive manner.  And, we encouraged the children to count to five several times.  The fourth step was to feel good about one’s self and the fifth – well, the fifth was to problem solve the cause of one’s anger.


Both of these are examples of using mindfulness.  Life is messy and chaotic and we usually try to find the quickest way out of such situations.  The problem is that by doing that, taking a quick and easy way out, we tend to repeat the same actions over and over.  In other words, we create our own messes.  Take time to simply recognize the moment and simply “be”.  In your mindfulness journal record your feelings and then move forward.  Forgiving the anger does not mean you approve of what caused it.  It simply means you are moving forward and leaving it in the past.  Mindfulness is of value because it allows us to live more fully, to be that which we seek to be – the very best we can be.