Dream Big

Dream Big

Jan 8

 

On August 17, 2015 at 6:31 AM a tweet was seen: “Make sure humanitarian efforts don’t go unnoticed this World Humanitarian Day”.  His simple tweet was seen by over eleven hundred people and retweeted hundreds of time.  That alone did a great deal for humanitarian efforts.   It got people thinking and talking and, as usual, led to action.  One tweet got people thinking and enabled others to dream big.

 

The use of twitter, a social media site that limits the amount of characters might seem fitting for a lad who suffered from dyslexia.  Most would not have expected him to try very hard to learn, especially since he was born with the proverbial silver spoon.  The little rich kid who sent that tweet on August 15th began his entrepreneurial ventures by buying American record manufacturers excess stock; you know, the stock nobody wanted.  He then sold the excess record albums out of the trunk of his car to anybody and everybody.  He soon was selling to retail markets in England and then started a mail order discount record business.  That led to opening his first store, the name chosen after being suggested by an employee to recognize the lack of experience they all had in what they were doing.

 

He was seeking to make a place in the world and our young man who had trouble in school suddenly found himself not having trouble in the business world.  He began opening other businesses, none of which he really was an expert in and all with the same name reflecting his lack of experience.  From records he branched out into an airline, a soft drink company, a liquor company, a mobile telephone company, a communications empire…the list goes on.

 

He also sought to achieve personally and in doing so has set some personal and world records by crossing the Atlantic in a sailboat alone and flying around the world in a hot air balloon.  All bore the name “Virgin” and were piloted by none other than Richard Branson, now Sir Richard Branson.

 

Branson started his first charity, “Student Valley Centre” at the age of seventeen.  It is difficult to find an area of life that his foundation and charitable giving does not support.  Among the causes he supports are Domestic Violence, Animal Abuse, Adoption, Fostering Orphans, AIDS and HIV, At-Risk/Disadvantaged Youth, Cancer Education and Research. Children’s Causes, Conservation Efforts, Disaster Relief, Education, Environment, Family/parent Support, Gender Equality, Health Rights, Physical Challenges, Homelessness, Human Rights, Hunger, LITERACY, Mental Health, Poverty, Clean Water, Weapons Reduction, Women’s Rights, and Global Warming. 

 

All of his causes affect the citizens of the world.  He was awarded the United Nations Correspondents Association Citizen of the World Award for his environmental and humanitarian efforts.  He was also awarded the Knight Bachelor (hence the title “Sir”) by the Queen of England.  Branson credits all this to his desire to seek new things and answers.  “My interest in life comes from setting myself huge, apparently unachievable challenges and trying to rise above them…from the perspective of wanting to live life to the fullest.”

 

The beginning of the New Year gives us all a chance to ask what identity we want for ourselves.  Who do you want to become in 2018?  Branson thought himself “huge” and then set out to make it happen.  He defined living life to the fullest by giving as much as he could to help others be huge. 

 

Stop thinking small and give yourself a large identity.  We all can achieve great things when we work together.  The first step is to decide we want to make the world a better place and to individually make a difference in the world – no matter how small or how large that difference might be.    When we dream big, we seek to be a better person and help another.  By dreaming such big dreams, we will give ourselves a wonderful today and a better tomorrow.

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Bountiful Experienced

Bountiful Experienced

January 4, 2018

 

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.  Even if we live in the poorer section of town, we can still live a bountiful life.  Oseola McCarty is an example of this.

 

As reported in a New York Times articles in 1995, Oseola McCarty spent a lifetime making other people look nice. Day after day, for most of her 87 years, she took in bundles of dirty clothes and made them clean and neat for parties she never attended, weddings to which she was never invited, graduations she never saw.

 

Born in Wayne County, Mississippi, Oseola moved to the town of Hattiesburg at age 6 years.  She had quit school in the sixth grade to take care of an invalid aunt and shortly thereafter went to work.  She never married, never had children and never learned to drive because there was never any place in particular she wanted to go. All she ever had was the work, which she saw as a blessing. Too many other black people in rural Mississippi did not have even that.  She spent almost nothing, living in her old family home, cutting the toes out of shoes if they did not fit right and binding her ragged Bible with Scotch tape to keep Corinthians from falling out.

 

Over the decades, her pay — mostly dollar bills and change — grew to more than $150,000.  “More than I could ever use,” Miss McCarty said without a trace of self-pity. So she is giving her money away, to finance scholarships for black students at the University of Southern Mississippi here in her hometown, where tuition was, in 1995, $2,400 a year.

 

“I wanted to share my wealth with the children,” said Miss McCarty, whose only real regret is that she never went back to school. “I never minded work, but I was always so busy, busy. Maybe I can make it so the children don’t have to work like I did.”  People in Hattiesburg call her donation the Gift. She made it, in part, in anticipation of her death.  As she sat in her warm, dark living room, she talked of that death matter-of-factly, the same way she talked about the possibility of an afternoon thundershower. To her, the Gift was a preparation, like closing the bedroom windows to keep the rain from blowing in on the bedspread.  “I know it won’t be too many years before I pass on,” she said, “and I just figured the money would do them a lot more good than it would me.”

Her donation has piqued interest around the nation. In a few short days, Oseola McCarty, the washerwoman, has risen from obscurity to a notice she does not understand. She sits in her little frame house, just blocks from the university, and patiently greets the reporters, business leaders and others who line up outside her door.  “I live where I want to live, and I live the way I want to live,” she said. “I couldn’t drive a car if I had one. I’m too old to go to college. So I planned to do this. I planned it myself.”

 

Oseola McCarty died in 1999 of liver cancer.  Shortly after her donation to USM, a group of New Orleans businessmen matched her donation and the Oseola McCarty scholarship was begun.  Each year it is awarded to an African American student at USM from southern areas of the state of Mississippi.  The woman who had very little material possessions and never finished elementary school lived a bountiful life that will continue to provide for others.  By saving her spare money over her 91 years on earth as a washerwoman, Miss McCarty made the future bright for others.  What a bountiful legacy to leave!

 

Intention and Disconnect

Intention and Disconnect

Advent  6

Year in Review 2017

 

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 have asked you to consider it a form of living but today we will discuss it not as an inevitable part of one’s spirit of living but as it relates to organized religion and its followers.  Why?  Because, in my humble opinion, often the religions of the world have become stumbling blocks to grace.  I firmly believe our purpose in living is to cherish – each other, nature, all things connected to life.  Many times, the religious communities are the very institutions that define grace and yet, sometimes, they are its worst enemies.

 

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.

 

Here is 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.

 

Recently, I had a family member pass away.  I requested my religious leader to hold a fifteen minute prayer service as requiem for this person’s passing in order to honor their life.  It would have been that last thing I could do to cherish this person’s living almost a century on this planet.  For the past four months, this religious leader has been too busy to find fifteen minutes.  Clearly he does not cherish my membership in his religious community.  Someone else less determined might take his actions to be a condemnation of their living as well.  We hear of suicides and wonder why.  Usually it is something as simple as a person not feeling cherished, not having had grace extended, and seeing nothing in their future.

 

This religious leader has been so busy doing his charitable works that he forgot charity truly begins at home.  It is said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  This proverb or aphorism is thought to have originated with Saint Bernard of Clairvaux who wrote somewhere around 1150 ACE “L’enfer est plein de bonnes volontés et désirs” (Hell is full of good wishes and desires).  Life seldom goes according to plan but we still need to have intentions with follow through.  Otherwise, all we are left with is a disconnect and that not only might alter someone else’s life, it usually has an effect on ours as well.  Grace is a simple act of kindness that shows the recipient he/she is cherished.  Life is precious and worth at least fifteen minutes of our time.

 

 

 

 

The House on the Hill

The House on the Hill

Detours in Life

Pentecost 173-182

Mega Post 15

 

In Anytown, Somewhere Country, there sits a big house on a hill.  We’ve all seen it – columns that support multiple floors with large windows boasting of opulence and grandeur.  And at this time of the year, such a house is usually blinged out with twinkling holiday lights that beckon us to dream and drool.  For many, the house on the hill represents their fondest dreams.

 

In a season that has brought about many detours and even the passing of a loved one, I should not have been surprised to have one last detour.  I postponed this posting out of respect for those 200+ killed in an earthquake and then, apparently lost it in cyberspace for two weeks.  A computer that seemingly reads my mind to suggest corrections had lost its ability to retrieve saved data.  In my moments of frustration and refusal to just give up and write a new post, I realized something important.  Life’s illusions often are just a detour that leads us to new realizations.

 

It was about twenty years ago that I came across a detour one night going home from a meeting.  My children had been great through their meeting but then the parents’ meeting ran long and well, even McDonald’s French fries were not keeping peace in the backseats of my van.  Everyone was tired and cranking and the beginnings of winter colds were evident.  Amid the sniffles and bickering, I subconsciously cried out for some quiet and peace.  Every house we passed seemed to be perfect while the environment in my car was anything but.  It was then that I came upon a road crew and the detour sign.  There had not really been a great deal of traffic and yet, soon I was stuck in a line of cars, all following the sparsely labeled detour.

 

It was still three weeks until Christmas and Hanukah, both occurring within a couple of days of each other and many houses did not yet have holiday displays.  My kids noticed we had taken a different road and were not interested in the detour.  “When are we gonna get home?”  “Did you get us lost?”  Suddenly the arguing in the back had stopped.  My kids had joined together in thinking I had gotten them lost and I confess, I was beginning to wonder myself.  My only comfort was that we had plenty of company because the line of cars continued both in front of me and behind me.  We had just slowly driven up a rather steep hill and then around a curvy, slight descent when we saw the house on the hill and suddenly I understood why traffic was going so slowly.

 

The sign was simple with its white paint and black lettering.  “Welcome to Green Acres and Tall Trees” is read.  What lay beyond was two acres of festive holiday lights, celebrating the Christmas season, Hanukah lights, and even a peace tree with yin-yang and peace symbols.  Clement Moore’s holiday poem about Santa Clause was displayed in a series of vignettes, all brightly light and some with animation.  There were boxes where people could donate canned goods for the local food giveaway pantry as well as the familiar kettle for loose change of the Salvation Army.  At the end of the drive, visitors were offered cups of hot cocoa and a candy cane.

 

A decades-old tradition in this small community, the detour had opened it up to all who normally would just pass it by, hidden amongst the hills and trees of the area.  Normally, there was an admittance fee but with the detour, the owners had decided to forego the charge.  The fee of $4 per car was given to the local ministry council for use in helping the less fortunate.  At the beginning of the drive, visitors were advised of this and many insisted on paying for the drive even though it was free.  As a result, that year the display brought in ten times its normal contributions.  This was one detour that literally paid off!

 

The following year my children eagerly waited for the holiday season and going back to our “Detour House” as they called it.  I spent several days driving around trying to find it during daylight hours to no avail.  Trying to retrace the detour was difficult and finally I shared my frustration with a friend who had grown up in the area.  “Get your car keys” my elderly friend requested.  We got in the car and she proceeded to tell me how to find this house on a hill that had brought my children and myself such delight. 

 

We drove around and my friend suddenly pointed out a rather plain looking house set back from the road.  “This is your holiday detour house” she said.  I looked at a two story house that seemed rather drab and plain.  The barn behind the house was a need of a good painting.  In fact, the house looked empty and I remarked about that.  I tried to explain to my friend and neighbor how the house had looked but she just smiled, positive this was our house.

 

I asked a friend who worked at the newspaper about the house.  Surely, I thought, someone had written a story on it.  She sent me a link to a story written ten years earlier.  It was an obituary about a woman who had escaped Nazi Germany as a child.  She had been sent to distant family in America.  The only surviving member of her family, the child spent her teen years depressed.  She worked for a farmer and lived in a small cabin on the farm, seldom speaking, mourning her lost childhood and family.  One night the farmer’s child became lost in the woods amid a snow storm but when daybreak arrived, the child was found at the woman’s cabin.  She had always lit a candle in the window at night for her family in heaven and the child had followed the light in the window of her cabin.

 

The farmer tried to pay the woman for saving his child but she refused everything.  When the child grew up, he inherited the farm.  The woman was very old by this time but each night he helped her light a candle in the window.  One Christmas, as she lay near death, he put up a display for her outside her bedroom window since she no longer could go into the front room and light her candle in the window.  The woman’s health improved and the next year the display grew.  The woman died three years later but the family continued to grow their holiday lights.

 

The young man had tried to move the woman who had saved his life into a batter cabin but she refused.  In her mind, her little three room cabin was a mansion.  The last holiday season of her life, the man and his sons had built a false front for their house, decorating it as if it was a huge mansion.  The woman smiled and said love made any house a mansion.  Her cabin provided for her and gave her peace and security as well as love.  It was enough.

 

When they were older, I drove my children pass the holiday house in the summer and, like me, they did not recognize it.  We had been making the holiday tour for several years at that point so they knew I had taken the right road.  The magic of the season – love – became very real at that moment, all because of a detour and a young child’s wish to leave a light burning so her family would know where she was.

 

Sometimes detours show us what had been there all along. The trappings of success are not what make us success.  It is what we carry deep inside that truly counts.  Pretty twinkling lights attract and are beautiful but real beauty lies deep inside the soul.  Sometimes a detour leads us just to where we need to be in order to learn.  We need to learn to recognize the love that is around us and do what we can to create more.  We might always wish for more but usually what we have is enough for us to spread some love and peace, making our own world a little brighter and helping us all find our way home.

 

This ends a most unexpected “ordinary time” of Pentecost.  In Advent we will wrap up this calendar year but combining all of our topics this year, starting on Wednesday December 6th.  Until then, may the light of your life shine brightly and be a beacon of hope for others.  We all can be a house on the hill for someone.

 

 

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.

 

 

Evil and Grace

Evil and Grace

Detours in Life

Pentecost 158-163

Mega Post 13

 

Recently I have been silent on my blog out of respect for those who lost their lives in natural and manmade disasters.  A Middle Eastern earthquake was unavoidable, although loss of life might have been prevented with better housing and warning systems instead of monies spent of war.  Then in the United State of America there was yet another instance of a mentally ill white male obtaining too much firepower for his fragile mental state, resulting in injury and death to innocent people.  If we treated the threat from active shooters like we do from pesticides … well, suffice it to say that we have less threat from dying from DDT than we do at the hands of an angry gun owner.

 

Evil is a nebulous term and we have a better chance of defining a black hole than a definitive answer to what evil is.  Over the weekend it was announced that convicted criminal Charles Manson had died.  The response to this news did not speak well for the faith community.  Many see Manson as an evil man, the very definition of what a devil would be living in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  Their faith that bespeaks of all mankind being children of God seemingly flew out the window, much like those politicians who want rules for everyone except themselves.

 

The world can be a tumultuous place at times.  How we respond determines what we really believe. Maintaining grace in all times is not easy but very necessary.  While others are ranting and raving, someone needs to carry on the good fight, do the good works.  A good person is not the one with the loudest voice.  A good person is the one that does the most good.

 

Sometimes people are just good people.  In 2015 the James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award was awarded to John and Tashia Morgridge.  John became a part of Cisco Systems as president and chief executive officer in 1998 and quickly led the company into becoming a publicly traded company that was known as a technological powerhouse.  Tashia had studied at the University of Wisconsin and was a special education teacher.  As a couple, they became known for their charitable giving.

 

Quoting from The Tech.org website which announced this award, given each year by the Tech Museum of Innovation, the Morgridge’s philanthropically have sought to improve education worldwide, “and they have done much of that giving through the TOSA Foundation, named after the high school where they met. The Morgridges have supported the University of Wisconsin’s research facilities, special education programs and scholarships, founding the Morgridge Center for Public Service and establishing the Morgridge Institute for Research, a biomedical institute. They are also generous supporters of literacy programs in East Palo Alto, Calif.; Tashia has long devoted herself to improving educational opportunities in disadvantaged neighborhoods.  Internationally they donate principally through CARE, an organization dedicated to fighting poverty, and The Nature Conservancy.”

 

Other people need a wake-up call.  Jon Huntsman, Sr. is well known as the founder of a global chemical manufacturing company.  What might not be as well known is that he gives away a great deal of his income.  He became a serious humanitarian in 1992 after a diagnosis of prostate cancer.  En route to the hospital, he wrote a one million dollar check to a homeless shelter, another to a local soup kitchen feeding the homeless and poor, and half a million dollars to the clinic that first diagnosed and discovered his tumor.  He later began his own cancer foundation at a cost of over one billion dollars.

 

This humanitarian has long been giving away his money, which totals well into the billion dollar range. Founder of a global chemical manufacturer, his serious giving days began in 1992 when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. On his way to the hospital, he gave a one million dollar check to a homeless shelter, another million to a soup kitchen, and $500,000 to the clinic that first found the malignancy. Huntsman would go on to found his own cancer foundation, which cost him more than one billion dollars alone. His donations have even gone so far as to knock him of the Forbes list of wealthiest individuals.

 

We have already discussed ways to help with local educational projects on this blog in the past three years.  Volunteering to be a mentor or, if you do not feel academically capable, volunteering to help behind the scenes at such locations, is a perfect start to living your beliefs and helping your local community.  Baking or providing cookies is an easy first step.  Being a Big Brother or Big Sister is another and these programs have training sessions to help you get started.

 

If making hats or weaving plastic bags into water proof mats is more your style, your local homeless shelter would be happy for donations of your handiwork.  One of the easiest ways to make a blanket is to purchase a yard of flannel and then fringe each end.  That is done by cutting slits five inches long on either end.  The strips become fringe and the blankets is an easy yet warm addition to any homeless person’s bedroll, lightweight yet a good layering insulator for cold nights.

 

Our faith and spirituality is really put to the test when someone like Charles Manson dies.  Do we simply say we are glad he is no longer a drain on the coffers and our psyche or do we respond with the faith we profess to have?  Where was the resounding “May the Lord have mercy on his soul” that one cannot argue he desperately needed?   Evil done by others should not be our compass.   We all have the ability to help another and when we live grace, we receive grace.  Life is really just that simple and we all should exercise the grace to do whatever good we can.

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.