Changing Times

Changing Times

2019.10.11

 

It seemed like good idea. I thought I was being respectful. When this blog began over five years I decided to honor those victims of domestic terrorism both at home and abroad by having a day of silence in honor of the victims. That has resulted in this blog being quiet this past few months. Such events have become more commonplace than the writers of the Bill of Rights could ever have imagined. On September 29th alone, there were four such incidents – Beaumont, Texas, Round Lake, Illinois, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Jacksonville, Florida. While many abroad will claim the frequency of such events is due to the availability of weapons in the United States, the truth is that these incidents are occurring worldwide. Freedom of the press means they get more publicity in the USA without government censorship.

 

While the global temperatures this summer were elevated, it would appear the personal tempers are as well. We have become a race of mad, angry humans, willing to snap back without consideration, acting without moral compass, forgetting the history lessons of the past and with little thought given to the future. An accidental push or shove is all the liberty someone needs to retaliate with the greatest weaponry at their disposal. Social media has become a platform for those who speak first and never think.

 

And so, given the changing times, I too must change my policy if ever I am to post another blog post again. In a three month period this summer, more people died than the sun took trips around the earth. People die every day and each day is a tragedy but these could have been prevents if mankind practiced one simple step – a step of forgiveness.

 

Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense It is the letting go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, forswears recompense from or punishment of the offender, however legally or morally justified it might be. Forgiveness includes an increased ability to wish the offender well. Forgiveness is very different from condoning, excusing, forgetting, pardoning, and reconciliation.

 

According to the Mayo Clinic, forgiveness might be the best health gift we give ourselves. Forgiveness results in a longer life, better relationships, and an overall increased sense of well-being.

  1. Lower blood pressure

When we no longer feel anxiety or anger because of past grievances, our heart rate evens out and our blood pressure drops. This normalizes many processes in the body and brings us into coherence with our heart and circulatory system.

  1. Stress reduction

Forgiveness eases stress because we no longer recycle thoughts (both consciously and subconsciously) that cause psychic stress to arise. By offering our burdens to Spirit for healing, we learn how to leave irritation and stress behind.

  1. Less hostility

By its very nature, forgiveness asks us to let go of hostility toward ourselves and others. Spontaneous hostile behavior, like road rage and picking a fight for no reason, goes down as our commitment to forgiveness goes up.

  1. Better anger-management skills

With fewer and fewer burdens from the past weighing us down, we can have more self-control when we do get angry. We’ll be better able to take some breaths, count to ten, take a time-out or get some exercise—rather than strike out at someone in anger.

  1. Lower heart rate

Forgiveness relaxes our hearts because we’ve let our pain ease out of our system as an offering to God. Our hearts can calm down, and our heart rate decreases as a result.

  1. Lower risk of alcohol or substance abuse

This is a big one. I feel this is one of the biggest and best reasons to jump into a forgiveness practice without delay. Substance abuse is a mask for underlying pain. Forgiveness helps us release that pain and find the gifts in our situation instead.

  1. Fewer depression symptoms

Similar to lowering substance abuse, this is a crucial issue for many people. Depression is debilitating and can lead to suicide. On the other hand, forgiveness gives us healing and grace, and can replace depression with a sense of purpose and compassion.

  1. Fewer anxiety symptoms

Almost everyone needs to forgive him or herself as well as others. Anxiety often arises when we fear that we’ve done something wrong. Our guilty conscience causes anxiety at a deep level. Forgiveness helps us to love ourselves deeply, relieving us of inner pain.

  1. Reduction in chronic pain

Physical pain often has a psychological cause. When we allow a profound shift to happen with forgiveness, we heal ourselves on both psychological and physical levels. Thus, chronic pain can be reversed and we can come back to health.

  1. More friendships

When we’re no longer holding grudges, we can get a lot closer to friends and family. Old relationships have a chance to change and grow, and new relationships can enter—all because we made room for them with forgiveness.

  1. Healthier relationships

When we make forgiveness a regular part of our spiritual practice, we start to notice that all of our relationships (with lovers, co-workers, bosses, neighbors, etc.) begin to blossom. There’s far less drama to deal with, and that’s a huge bonus in life.

  1. Greater religious or spiritual well-being

Whether you’ve chosen a religion or not, forgiveness will bring you closer to Spirit. When we ask God for help and offer our fear, sadness and pain as a prayer, we receive peace and divine love in return. This is true healing.

  1. Improved psychological well-being

By releasing our grievances, we become more harmonious on all levels. Nightmares recede and exciting new life visions become commonplace. We feel calmer, happier and ready to give compassion and love to our world.

A good life, full of quality relationships, service to others and fun, is something that most of us hope for without ever knowing how to create it.

 

Most of our life is consumed with learned traits and that includes despair, hatred, and anger. However, babies are born already knowing how to smile. Think about that for a moment. We are born with the ability to be happy. Babies born blind and deaf can and do smile without ever having seen someone do it. Walking, talking, potty-training, dancing, making music, and throwing a temper fit are all learned traits.

 

We can change the world if we just begin as we are born to do and celebrate the happy.

 

Challenging Belief

Challenging Belief

2019.8.10-11

 

I am taking part in several challenges this month and today they have come together because of a television program I viewed. The program “Expedition Unknown” is currently discussing new findings regarding the archaeological discoveries known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. The 14,000 fragments of cloth tell the story of a deity and the followers of such. Known today simply as God, belief in this deity led the charge for monotheism, the one deity referenced by the three Abrahamic faiths as “Elohim Shophtim Ba-arets”. The name means “the God who judges in (on) the Earth.

 

I am not particularly fond of this name and the reason for my displeasure is not really the name but rather the context in which it is used. You see, it appears in the Book of Psalms and references faith in the deity judging one’s enemies. Because one is considered faithful, it is assumed that one’s enemies are not and will be judged and punished accordingly. I should note that some of those fragments that comprise the scrolls contain the earliest writings of the Psalms, and other writings that comprise the Bible such as the book of Genesis and Leviticus, as well as other stories and writings never seen before being found in caves in Qumran.

 

My problem is that this name seems to imply a deity that shows favoritism. What if I am the one in error and not my enemies? Being faithful does not make me perfect; it makes me a believer. Another word for this deity is “El Nekamoth” or “the God who avenges”. Obviously I am not bloodthirsty and so seeking vengeance on someone is not a hobby of mine. I believe that I have enough to do trying to live my own life and I really don’t try to live others for them. These two names do raise some interesting questions, however, and I think we should give them consideration, especially in light of current events and killings.

 

What exactly falls under the prevue of “justice”, the purpose for judging someone? How do we define “avenge” and is it something best left to the spirit(s) or should we attempt such? Is there a difference between seeking revenge and avenging? The website “diffen.com” clarifies the issue for avenge and revenge by stating “Avenge is a verb. To avenge is to punish a wrongdoing with the intent of seeing justice done. Revenge can be used as a noun or a verb. It is more personal, less concerned with justice and more about retaliation by inflicting harm.”

 

Once synonymous, the two words today have different meanings. Avenge today implies the process of obtaining justice while revenge is a more personal active physical deed, almost always involving pain or harm for the purpose of retaliatory recompense for real or imagined damages. In the usage of these two names, the deity is expected to protect the faithful by avenging ill will and/or wrong doings, thereby carrying acts of revenge to assuage the injured party or parties. Such beliefs allowed the people to bear the hardships brought upon them by their faith and I fully understand that. I just have a problem with a deity being both a god of love and revenge. For some, revenge is not only pleasurable, it is a form of love.

 

In an article for the Association of Psychological Science, Eric Jaffe wrote: “A few years ago a group of Swiss researchers scanned the brains of people who had been wronged during an economic exchange game. These people had trusted their partners to split a pot of money with them, only to find that the partners had chosen to keep the loot for themselves. The researchers then gave the people a chance to punish their greedy partners, and, for a full minute as the victims contemplated revenge, the activity in their brains was recorded. The decision caused a rush of neural activity in the caudate nucleus, an area of the brain known to process rewards (in previous work, the caudate has delighted in cocaine and nicotine use). The findings, published in a 2004 issue of “Science”, gave physiological confirmation to what the scorned have been saying for years: Revenge is sweet.

 

“A person who has been cheated is [left] in a bad situation—with bad feelings,” said study co-author Ernst Fehr, director of the Institute for Empirical Research in Economics at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. “The person would feel even worse if the cheater does not get her or his just punishment. Theory and experimental evidence shows that cooperation among strangers is greatly enhanced by altruistic punishment,” Fehr said. “Cooperation among strangers breaks down in experiments if altruistic punishment is ruled out. Cooperation flourishes if punishment of defectors is possible.”

 

In other words, the possibility of justice being meted out in the form of retaliatory punishment encourages cooperation because it instills an expectation of fairness. Although a bit complicated, this is a concept I actually can understand and feel it makes the naming of a deity based upon an avenging demeanor more palatable.

 

There are also two other similar names used for this deity of these three monotheistic religions. They are “Jehovah Hashopet or “the Lord the Judge” and Jehovah El Gemuwal, “the Lord God of Recompense.” I freely admit I like recompense better than revenge. Recompense implies fairness in compensation while revenge denotes punishment and pain to me.

 

I wonder if my conundrum, the enigma of whether I want my deity to be an avenging deity or a compensating deity, was felt by those early believers. Perhaps it depends on how recently one feels to have been wronged or the extent to which one felt wronged. As of this date, I have not found a name for this deity that translates into “God of Fairness”. Maybe the key is in how one defines what is right and what is wrong. But then, the context comes into play and we should consider that what is right for one might not be right for another yet not necessarily be wrong enough for the need of revenge or recompense.

 

In early 2001, a research team led by Cheryl Kaiser of Michigan State surveyed people for their belief in a just world by seeing how much they agreed with statements like “I feel that people get what they deserve.” Sadly, the events of September of that year changed the minds of many and more and more people wanted revenge for the bombings and murders of almost three thousand innocent victims from over eighty countries.

 

Michael McCullough, author of “Beyond Revenge: “The Evolution of the Forgiveness Instinct” states:   “You have to have some way of maintaining relationships, even though it’s inevitable some will harm your interests, given enough time.” Revenge began as an altruistic punishment but, McCullough and his research team believe, a secondary system of human interaction has evolved. The act of forgiveness is a system “that enables people to suppress the desire for revenge and signal their willingness to continue on, even though someone has harmed their interests, assuming the person will refrain from doing so again in the future.”

 

My problem with revenge is that it is not an answer that permanently solves anything. It may begin with an attempt to right a perceived wrong but it just invites payback which requires more revenge which invites more payback, etc., etc., etc. I like forgiveness as a practice for human interaction much, much better. There is another name for the deity of those scrolls – El Nose, the God who forgives. This is definitely a belief I hope we all practice.

 

Rejoice or Mourn?

Rejoice or Mourn?

Advent 15

 

Today marks the third week of Advent.  This Sunday is known as “Gaudete” and is symbolized with a pink candle and often the wearing of pink vestments.  It is also the beginning of our week discussing grace from the subjective approach.

 

Subjective probability is an individual person’s measure of belief that an event will occur.  Most of us believe in the eventuality of our own death and the death of every other person living.  Death is the natural order of things begun with our birth.  It is the belief of what happens after our physical bodies cease their function that separates people into groups.

 

The third Sunday in Advent signifies that we are but fourteen days away from the celebration of Christmas and the commemoration of the birth of the man known as Jesus of Nazareth.  It is this event for which the rejoicing of the day speaks.  It was also the beginning of a corporal life, a life which would end with its demise.

 

Without sounding trite, there really are two sides to every coin.  A famous hymn written for this day speaks of this.  “The time of grace has come, what we have wished for… Where the light is raised, salvation is found…. Therefore let our preaching now sing in brightness.”  The hymn these words are taken from is titled quite simply, “Gaudete”.  It was published in a collection of Finnish and Swedish tunes in 1582 in a collection known as “Piae Cantiones” although it is believed to have been a chant used at least one hundred years earlier. 

 

The structure of the hymn is simple and reflects most of the period.  A four line stanza composed the verse with a two line stanza being the chorus.  Today the chorus of a song is the part everyone knows and generally sings the loudest.  In the sixteenth century, though, such a two line stanza was known as the burden because it carried the song from verse to verse.  The difference between “chorus” and “burden” would be…you guessed it, subjective, in our modern times.

 

Generally about now, parents are running out of patience and time for holiday gatherings and chores while children seem to pull energy out of thin air.  One does not have to believe in the meaning behind Christmas to feel the effects of the season.  As winter sets in, people are taking every chance they can to complete outside chores and get ready for that “long winter’s nap” known as “too cold to be outside” weather.  While lights adorn buildings and houses twinkling with glee, tempers become frayed and money woes abound.  There seems to never be enough time, money, or grace.

 

One of the more common aspects of Advent is the lighting of a candle each week.  The Advent wreath is known worldwide with each candle symbolic of the week it heralds.  The third Sunday candle for the Advent wreath is pink usually but it not only is symbolic of the joy that believers feel is coming, but also grace.  Halfway through the third week of Advent, the accompanying readings change their tune and become the biography of the baby for whose birth the season culminates.

 

In selecting the themes for this blog, having decided to organize my posts by using a liturgical calendar, I tend to be a little bit tongue-in-cheek about things.  During Epiphany one year, Epiphany being the liturgical season which speaks of the recognition by nonbelievers and those not of the same culture of the true purpose of the man known as Jesus of Nazareth, I wrote about the epiphanies men and women had.  These epiphanies led to some very common and amazing inventions.  Another Advent, the first or beginning season, I wrote about creation stories.  This year, though, I went to the very heart of Advent for my theme.

 

Advent is known as the time to prepare and it is fitting since it falls at a time of year when the season are changing.  Depending on which hemisphere you are in, you might be preparing for summer or for winter.  Regardless, change is coming and we need to prepare.  Once we have prepared, though, what comes next?  After you get up and get ready each day what needs to happen once you are at your destination – whether it be the kitchen counter in your own home or the office?

 

The answer to that is the true meaning of Advent.  It is not just the coming – the coming of a new day or the coming of a Messiah – of which Advent bespeaks.  Advent is about grace, grace received and grace shared.   We do not all perceive nor share that grace the same, however.  For some an incident is a time for rejoicing and for others, a period of mourning.

 

Subjective refers to personal perspectives, feelings, or opinions entering the decision making process.  It is easiest to understand this approach if we use an example of investing in stock.  Let’s say your best friend owns a company and you want to invest in it because you like your friend.  Objectively, though, the company is not performing very well. 

 

Investors that are successful make their decisions based on hard analysis of the facts. They select a stock option with the best return for their money or that best meets their objectives. When making investing decisions it’s always important to make sure you think about and consider whether you are letting subjective thoughts work their way into the process.

 

Should we use that same approach when investing in people, when we engage in a relationship with others?  The empirical approach to grace is based upon observation while the classical was based upon known theory.  For instance, if someone slapped another with a glove in the sixteenth century, it was considered an invitation to a duel.  Using a classical response, the two would meet at a specific time and place and with chosen weapons.  Using an empirical response, the person slapped would select said weapons based upon his opponent’s skill with the options.  A subjective approach might consider the reasons for the slapping and one’s basic instinctive feeling about the sincerity of the fight.  After all, a perceived insult might just be a matter of misunderstanding.  This is where grace would be of great help.

 

History is full of pages and pages of interactions without grace evident at all to the observer.  To those participating, it might be all about grace, grace and respect.  This week I hope you take a moment to truly approach your situation and find the grace in it, not just for yourself but for everyone involved.  

 

It is easy to get angry and to mourn.  It takes courage to find the joy and rejoice. Advent is about grace, grace received and grace shared.    It is a season of believing.  Faith and generosity overcome impossibility.  Poverty and persecution reveal glory. 

Grace in Action

Grace in Action

Advent 7

 

Grace in motion is the continuous practice of showing grace to another and ourselves.  All too often we forget to let ourselves be the recipient of grace from within.  William Shakespeare once said: “Our bodies are our gardens—our wills are our gardeners.“  When we fail to give grace to ourselves, we then try to plant in very dry, hardened, barren soil.

 

Eckhart Tolle spoke of this in his writings.  “Emotion arises at the place where mind and body meet. It is the body’s reaction to your mind — or you might say, a reflection of your mind in the body.”  Rather than thinking of grace as a religious concept or even a description of concise movement, I invite you to consider that one form of grace exists within ourselves.

 

This internal grace often has the power to move us or to cause us to freeze and literally shut down our action of living.  “The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive. To put it more accurately, it is not so much that you use your mind wrongly—you usually don’t use it at all. It uses you.”  Tolle realized the power that inner grace can afford us if we connect to it.

 

“Nobody’s life is entirely free of pain and sorrow. Isn’t it a question of learning to live with them rather than trying to avoid them?  The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self-created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life.  The pain that you create now is always some form of nonacceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is. On the level of thought, the resistance is some form of judgment. On the emotional level, it is some form of negativity. The intensity of the pain depends on the degree of resistance to the present moment, and this in turn depends on how strongly you are identified with your mind.”

 

We hold ourselves up to what is often an impossible standard.  We feel we haven’t responded fully or perhaps in an appropriate manner.  Maybe we are not happy with what we have accomplished thus far.  If we are able to question ourselves, then we have been able to learn something.  IF we recognize that there might be more, we are partway there.  We do need, however, to allow some grace to reach our inner self.

 

“The most common ego identifications have to do with possessions, the work you do, social status and recognition, knowledge and education, physical appearance, special abilities, relationships, person and family history, belief systems, and often also political, nationalistic, racial, religious, and other collective identifications. None of these is you.”  Tolle recognized the importance of living grace not only for others but also for ourselves.  Without it, we limit our own progress and severely handicap our actions.

 

Eckhart Tolle encouraged people to live in the present and I encourage you to do so by allowing yourself some grace.  “Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry — all forms of fear — are cause by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.”

 

When we give grace to ourselves, we become free.  “To be free of time is to be free of the psychological need of past for your identity and future for your fulfillment.  Be at least as interested in what goes on inside you as what happens outside. If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place.  Wherever you are, be there totally. If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally.”

 

We do not control the world or even the person standing next to us.  Ask any parent of a toddler and they’ll agree that their control is minimal.  That toddler has learned the power of grace and forgives him or herself for falling down in their effort to learn things.  No one ever walked without falling and yet, by giving some grace to the effort, we do learn how to walk.  When we put grace into our own lives, we become free to act more productively and effectively.  “As far as inner transformation is concerned, there is nothing you can do about it. You cannot transform yourself, and you certainly cannot transform your partner or anybody else. All you can do is create a space for transformation to happen, for grace and love to enter.”

Clemency – Day 4

12 Days of Kindness

Christmas 4

Clemency

 

“Hakuna Matata…It’s a wonderful phrase!  Hakuna Matata; ain’t a passing craze!”  If you have ever seen the movie “The Lion King”, just hearing those opening lines of one of the more popular songs has you already singing the rest of it.  “It means no worries for the rest of your days.  It’s our problem-free philosophy…”  The 1994 movie was not the first time the Swahili phrase was used in a song, however.

 

A Kenyan band used the phrase in the chorus of their hit “Jambo Bwana” and several years later a German band released an English-language song entitled “Jambo – Hakuna Matata”.  It was “The Lion King” that made it a household familiar saying which is really quite interesting since it is seldom used by native speakers of Swahili.  They prefer to either say “hamna shida” or “hamna tabu”.  The song from “The Lion King” is so popular that a Hebrew version exists online.  Everyone likes the thought of “no worries” as a way to live, it would seem.

 

Considered an unofficial motto of the country of Australia, “no worries” is a phrase that seems to speak to the supposedly relaxed nature of Australians.  Usage of the phrase goes back only about fifty years but the relaxed carefree and easy going, quick to forgive Aussie reputation dates to much earlier times.  Many feel it also characterizes the casual optimism which seems to permeate the Australian culture.

 

Dr Richard M. Jacobs of Villanova University feels there is quite a bit of difference between a sermon and a homily.  The sermon, he writes, is in “the form of a lecture or discourse given for the purpose of providing religious instruction or inculcating moral behavior.”  One would seldom expect to hear the phrase “no worries” or “hakuna matata” in a sermon.

 

Dr. Jacobs characterizes a homily very differently.  “In general, a homily is a scripturally-based reflection [which] provides food for thought about the challenges of living in today’s busy and hectic world.   Ideally, the material conveyed by a Sunday homily addresses the real daily lives of ordinary people.”  While a homily might mention “no worries”, it is also doubtful that “hakuna matata” would be encouraged.  The homily is designed to be a shorter format than a sermon and was made popular by St Peter Chrysologus, a bishop appointed in 433 ACE.  Known as the “Doctor of Homilies” for his short but inspired talks, he supposedly feared boring his audience. His piety and zeal won universal admiration.

 

This leads us to an interesting point and our word and gift for this, the fourth day of our twelve days of kindness.  Today’s gift is clemency, a word which has all but become forgotten in everyday living.  Nowadays, it is used only in the judicial system.  Originally, the word “clemency” was derived from the Latin “clementia” which meant gentleness, calmness, or mildness.  It goes even further back as a compound word made from the “Latin “clemens” which translates as calm or mild and “clinare” which translates as to lean.

 

How often do we hear the phrase clemency is our daily instructions and spiritual teachings?  While most of us would admit to wanting an overall life philosophy of “no worries” and the ability to live “hakuna matata”, few would be able to cite examples of it in their beliefs.

 

Mercy is what most deities offer their believers.  It is what most believers are encouraged to share with others.  We are not created to be judge and jury for each person we encounter.  We are told to love and show mercy, to offer clemency to those who offend us.

 

My challenge to you today, on this the fourth day, is to show someone “hakuna matata”.  Perhaps it will be that person who cuts you off in traffic.  Instead of shaking your fist at them, wish them well.  That person who hurriedly sneaks in front of you in the line at the coffee shop or marketplace…smile and give them a “No worries” response.

 

It is not always easy.  As I write this I realize I need to let go of some anger and hurt caused by the words of another just the other day.  I need to simply say “hakuna matata” and move on with my living.  After all, hanging on to negative emotions doesn’t accomplish anything.  It doesn’t burn calories; it just deprives us of feeling good ourselves.

 

So live a casual optimism and focus on the positive.  Enjoy a carefree day with a problem-free philosophy.  As with other things, giving clemency to another will build our own character.  Gandhi described prayer as “a potent instrument of action”.  I think he would agree showing mercy and offering clemency is as well.  Lewis Carroll wrote:  “One of the secrets of life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others.”  Sharing clemency helps both others and ourselves.  “No worries, mate! G’day!”

Oops! I Did It Again

Oops! I Did It Again

Pentecost 94

Yesterday I got messed up on the numbering or so I thought.  The post for Sunday, August 23rd was Pentecost 93 but I titled it in my log as Pentecost 94.  Was it because I was trying to get the post online in-between heavy thunderstorms that were accompanied by numerous lightning strikes?  Was I caught up in the nostalgia of it being a family member’s birthday?  Was I simply neglectful in my record-keeping or perhaps just got ahead of myself?

The fact is I am human.  I messed up because I am human;  “comes with the territory” you might say.  This would not be the first time I had such an error with the numbering and it is exactly the reason why I have these divisions.  Posting 365-plus essays or articles a year, one every day on this website as well as guest posts means I have a lot of work to sort and organize.  I use the Christian calendar as it is used by more people than any other.  I think in terms of the Episcopal Church seasonal calendar so that was my filing system.  Still, even with what I truly like as a filing system, I make mistakes.

One of the complaints people have with the Episcopal Church seasons, based upon the Anglican Church seasons, is the origin of some of the seasons themselves.  They can be traced to not only Celtic pagan festivals but also those of both Roman and Greek mythology.  For many people, this makes them the antithesis of anything having to do with religion.  I respect those opinions but I do not adopt them.

I like my numbering system.  I have considered using the Julian calendar, especially for this series about mythology but decided against it, once again simply based on universal use of calendars.  So I have what should be a really easy system of numbering, one I think is useful and practical, and one that is not that difficult.  I do not follow the church calendar exactly as I number straight through the season and do not omit Sundays as the church does.  (The Church considers Sundays to be days of festival or feast days, celebratory times and they have their own identifying numbering system.)  But I do follow the basic numbering system for integers: 1 followed 2 followed 3, etc.

And yet, I still messed up.  Or so I thought.  If you haven’t by now gone back and reread yesterday’s post, don’t bother.  You see, I went to bed last night after checking my log and realized I had already put a title in for today’s date.  Oops!  I messed up.  This morning I began by pulling up yesterday’s post so I could correct my numbering error.  I had decided to admit my mistake and use it as a lead-in for today’s topic –  deity of help, a deity of comfort, a deity of refuge from yes, even ourselves.

I had even started this post and then realized “No time like the present” is really good advice.  I stopped what I was doing to correct my numbering error on yesterday’s post about sufficient strength.  Imagine my surprise when I realized I had numbered it correctly!  I had put down a title on my log for today that covers a subject I will discuss later this week.  I really had not made an error, just gotten ahead of myself on my own log, a log that contains side notes in the margins, erasures, etc.  I had spent about an hour last night and another two this morning thinking I had made a mistake, mentally berating myself, only to learn it was all a ….mistake, a mistake about a mistake!

I hope you are smiling or even laughing at this point because I certainly am.  The thing is that we often think we have screwed up.  More than that, we frequently think others have.  Humans are not perfect.  We spend a great deal of time trying to run from that fact.  Apparently, mankind has always done that.

I confess I have never thought of ancient man being bothered by cellulose or having a bad hair day.  I mean, really.  Most depictions of Neanderthal man are the epitome of a bad hair day.  Still, there are several names for the monotheistic deity of the Abrahamic religious mythologies that imply our ancestors had self-doubts.

Elohim Ozer Li, the god of my help, and Elohe Tishuathi, the god of my salvation are just two.  We humans can be quite the judgmental lot.  Sit in a coffee shop and I defy you not to have judgmental opinions about the people that walk in.  It is just in our nature.  Science tells us that these thoughts are the result of our brain working and help in our survival.  We determine who seems to pose a threat, subconsciously pick out who we might turn to in time of an emergency, and/or decide who si wearing the latest fashion the best…or not.  We have the minds to think and so we do.

I applaud anyone who engages in thinking.  Thinking is not really the issue.  What follows those thought processes is.  Having decided someone is simply wearing despicable clothes, do you then knock over their drink?  Do you assume that because a woman took time with her appearance that she is asking to be attacked?  Is someone stupid simply based upon their hair color or number of tattoos?

At some point in time, we will all need help.  Maybe it is because we have made a mistake.  Maybe it is because we need a doctor’s expertise or an organ transplant.  When a loved one needs a blood transfusion to save their life, are you really going to ask how low the donor’s belt was on their pants or if they were of a certain faith?  I hope not.

Life is about living and that living is going to include those “Oops!” moments.  It is inevitable.  Thankfully, we have each other to help us live, to provide support, to be charitable in not only our thoughts but in our actions.  Thankfully, we have Elohim Machase Lanu, the God our refuge.

Have a great Monday or, in some parts, Tuesday.  Make it a great week and cut yourself some slack when you act … human!  Better yet, be a refuge for another.  All it takes is a smile.

A Snatching to a Clover

A Snatching to A Clover
Lent 28

The Roman Empire was far reaching and managed to cross the English Channel and capture England. By the fifth century, though, the Roman Empire was crumbling and Rome had little time or ability to devote to a land so far away. Little is known about this tine. Stone ceased to be used in building and hill forts became popular, the people seeking shelter behind the hills of the region. Archaeological evidence uncovered shows Anglo-Saxons and Britons living together in settlements. Germanic raids plundered the areas after having first been hired to protect those towns.

As the culture changed from that of the Romans to being one of the Britons and Saxons with divisions such as Roman Britain and Northumberland, the people were left to fend for themselves which was a big change from living under Roman rule. Life had never been easy as we might view it but it became even harder. It was in the midst of this that a young boy became the victim of human trafficking.

The young boy had grown up in the Roman Britain in areas now believed to be near the modern-day area of Cumbria, England though some now believe in lived in either Scotland or Wales. His grandfather was a priest in the Roman Catholic Church at a time when priests were not required to be celibate. His father was a deacon in the church but the young boy had not yet discovered his own spiritual beliefs. The Roman army had invaded the British isle in 43 ACE and been surprised at the conquest it took. By the fifth century there were still pockets of rebellion in Scotland with the region never quite conquered. It is most likely that it is here the young boy lived and was kidnapped. Ireland was an island only twelve miles from Scotland and manpower was needed to tend the herds that kept the Irish alive. Pirates often sailed from Ireland the British coast to plunder and take captives.

The boy was named Succat with his Latin name being Patricius or Patrick. During his captivity, he did tend the herds of sheep and goats of the pirates. He also developed his faith, using it for comfort and strength during this time. Believed to have been in his mid-teenage years at the time he was taken, Patrick remained on the Ireland as a slave for approximately six years. Now an adult in both years and spirituality, he followed a vision he’d had, a dream that encouraged him to return to his home. His flight for freedom was successful and Patrick did return to his family. He became a cleric like his grandfather but then, to the surprise of all, returned to the land of his captivity. He spent the rest of his life converting those who had held him hostage, forever changing the history of the island of Ireland.

Today is the day which the Roman Catholic Church established to honor the life of the man known as Saint Patrick. While in the British Isles and Ireland it is primarily a religious holiday, it has taken on a life of its own in other parts of the world. Saint Patrick’s Day in the United States of America is a day known for its festivities and the “wearing of the green”. The legends and fables about Patrick are plentiful with many being just that – stories. He is crediting with driving out all snakes from Ireland. Like New Zealand and other countries, there is no record of Ireland having ever had any snakes. The reptiles cannot swim and even those that might stowaway on ships seldom find a mate with which to continue their species on an island country. Island nations are not known for having ever hosted such reptiles and it is doubtful this can be attributed to the man known as Saint Patrick.

What Patrick did drive out of Ireland was the belief that one should live by taking and disregarding one’s fellow man. With the introduction of religion and his teachings in a way that could be understood, Patrick united the people with their souls and helped them discover their humanity. He explained their connection to such with the illustration of the concept of the trinity, a concept used in many religions and spiritualities, not just the Christian faith. He did this with a simple clover.

Patrick connected man with nature. The Hindu believed in generation, organization, and destruction. Aborigines spoke of the trinity of the elements – earth, wind, and fire. Patrick connected man with nature, with mankind, and with spiritual beliefs. He might not have driven snakes out of Ireland but he drove the singleness of greed and evil out of many of its human inhabitants.

Patrick also forgave the land of his captivity. He not only forgave it, he looked past his misery and saw the potential of beauty and hope. His grace in forgiving his pain is a lesson for us all. Most of us have suffered some sort of finger-pointing, of being bullied, of discrimination. Recent protests have resulted in signs being carried that read _____ Lives Matter. Some signs have read “Black Lives Matter” and some have read “Law Enforcement Lives Matter”.

The truth is that all lives matter. WE need to use Patrick as an example and forgive. We need to look past the pain to see the beauty. We need to see the sacred that lives in all of us. While he may be venerated in modern times, no one held a coming home party for Patrick when he turned to Ireland. Patrick wrote: “I am Patrick, a sinner, most uncultivated and least of all the faithful and despised in the eyes of many. If I be worthy, I live for my God to teach the heathen, even though they may despise me. If I have any worth, it is to live my life for God so as to teach these peoples; even though some of them still look down on me. The Lord opened the understanding of my unbelieving heart, so that I should recall my sins.”

Patrick saw the sacred in his captors and the land of his captivity. Patrick was his faith in everything, even a simple clover. Perhaps you do not believe in a deity. That is your choice. Substitute the word goodness in place of God. Patrick is an excellent example to follow in seeing the sacred in all of live, in our everyday living. “Christ beside me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me.” There is sacred inside us, beside us, before us, behind us. There is sacred beneath us and above us. We only have to believe it is there to see it.