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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Theodicy

Sometimes I am asked if I really do believe in One Eternal Presence of God that encompasses all of Creation, then how do I understand and experience the fear, hatred, and violence in our world?  I must confess that in recent days I've asked myself the same question.  Sometimes I do feel like the agnostic fleas below.




Very little seems to make sense when innocent people are shot out of the sky, communities and families bombarded and destroyed, children seek safety only to be met by  military troops, and a man is murdered on a city sidewalk by those who are supposed to protect.

The truth is there are no logical, reasonable answers to the age old questions of theodicy, or the problem of why a good God would allow evil.  Every religious tradition seems to have its particular perspective and teachings some of which include elaborate mythologies of cosmic, spiritual battles between good and evil forces, with the good always winning out in the end. But these mythologies and theologies seem to always fall just short of a truly satisfying resolution.

Another truth is that regardless of our ideological or theological explanations of evil; fearful, hateful, and violent acts still persist, and as a result we experience suffering.  Humanity has a knack for causing ourselves and the natural world pain.  It is true that when we harm another we equally, if not more so, harm ourselves.

When I get caught in this paradox of good and evil I am reminded of how the teachings of the world's religions continually call us back to a simplicity of living in love that Jesus says is "Loving God with our whole lives, and loving each other as we love ourselves."  To me this means recognizing that God "Is" eternally present throughout all of Creation, in every person I meet, every flower I see, every molecule of water I drink, and every breath of air I take.

Does this make pain and suffering go away?  Of course not, but it does allow an ember of hope to glow within the most seemly hopeless situations.  It reminds me that the worst things in life often contain the seed of the next good thing.  It also reminds me that when we fail to recognize the God in each and every fellow human being and the entire created order we open the door to fear, hate and violence.

So, perhaps in the end the ultimate question of theodicy is not really a God problem but a people problem.  And the answers lie within our own actions.   
Love God (God is everywhere).  
Love neighbor (Everyone is our neighbor).  
Do unto others as I would have them do unto me (We are all in this together).


An Invitation to Participate in a Ramadan Iftar
tomorrow evening, July 24, 2014.



Important Reminder!  Just one week left.
July is migration month for One Eternal Presence
If you haven't already subscribed as outlined below please do so now. 

One Eternal Presence will be using a new email delivery system beginning in August. If you wish to remain on the emailing list you must take a minute to subscribe. Please follow the link and complete the simple process which will include a verification email to activate your subscription.    SUBSCRIBE HERE

FYI - there is no need to unsubscribe to the present service as that will take place automatically on August 1 if you do not subscribe to the new service.   Actually unsubscribing now will prevent you from receiving it through July.

If you have any questions please let me know.

Thanks to each of you and I look forward to many more weeks and years of sharing with you.       



 







Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Stone In My Shoe


Today very soon into my morning walk I noticed a stone in my shoe.  At first I thought, "it's not that big and will probably work its way somewhere into my shoe so I don't even notice it."  So I walked on listening to a podcast in my earbuds.  Unfortunately, the stone stayed right in the middle of my shoe and with every step I took it became larger and larger, but I kept walking.  That's when I noticed I had not heard the last five minutes of the podcast because I was thinking about the stone in my shoe.  In my imagination the stone had become a boulder, much like this one:




I finally interrupted my pace, paused the podcast, sat down and unlaced my walking shoe to find this:







How often do we do this very thing with events in our lives?  How often do we make a "mountain out of a mole hill" or a boulder out of a tiny pebble?  How often does a small irritation become a major problem because we didn't address the small irritation in the first place?  I think if we are honest with ourselves the answer to all of these is "Too often!"

It just so happened that when I went back in the podcast to hear what I had missed while contemplating my "boulder" I heard this quote from author Tony Robbins to which I add my own words in red, "Five years from now, if you remember at all, you’re gonna laugh or smile at whatever’s stressing you out now, so why wait?!?” 

So, what's stressing you now?  Is it a boulder or a tiny pebble?  What will it look like in five years?

My guess is that it's probably a tiny pebble worth at least a big smile, if not a chuckle!   So, why wait?


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If you haven't already subscribed as outlined below please do so now. 

One Eternal Presence will be using a new email delivery system beginning in August. If you wish to remain on the emailing list you must take a minute to subscribe. Please follow the link and complete the simple process which will include a verification email to activate your subscription.    SUBSCRIBE HERE

FYI - there is no need to unsubscribe to the present service as that will take place automatically on August 1 if you do not subscribe to the new service.   Actually unsubscribing now will prevent you from receiving it through July.

If you have any questions please let me know.

Thanks to each of you and I look forward to many more weeks and years of sharing with you.       

  

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

"Faith?"

When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to him, ‘Yes, Lord.’ Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith let it be done to you.’ And their eyes were opened.
~ The Gospel According to Matthew, chapter 9


I've been thinking about faith recently and exactly what does it mean to be a person of faith.

As best I can determine the word "faith" (pistis in New Testament Greek) appears in the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke 24 times.  In every instance Jesus observes and acknowledges faith as an active agent in others that leads to seemingly impossible results, usually healing and wholeness, or what we would refer to as a miracle.  Jesus commends people for their faith and also scolds some for lack of it.  

In every instance faith is something profound within the person that leads to action.  Jesus never refers to faith as adherence to doctrine, ritual, or custom, nor does he define it.  Jesus leaves the definition of faith to be determined by the results of its presence or absence. 

Once when Jesus disciples had some problems with an exorcism this little exchange took place:  

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there”, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.’   
Matthew chapter 17.

All of this seems to prompt the questions, is there evidence of faith in our world and our lives, our "communities of faith", or "faith based communities" ?  

Are there stories of healing and wholeness?  Are mountains being moved into seas?  Are we or not "people of faith?"

If I were on trial for being a "person of faith" according to Jesus criteria would there be enough evidence to convict me?



Important Reminder!
July is migration month for One Eternal Presence
If you haven't already subscribed as outlined below please do so now. 

One Eternal Presence will be using a new email delivery system beginning in August. If you wish to remain on the emailing list you must take a minute to subscribe. Please follow the link and complete the simple process which will include a verification email to activate your subscription.    SUBSCRIBE HERE

FYI - there is no need to unsubscribe to the present service as that will take place automatically on August 1 if you do not subscribe to the new service.   Actually unsubscribing now will prevent you from receiving it through July.

If you have any questions please let me know.

Thanks to each of you and I look forward to many more weeks and years of sharing with you.       

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Love and Compassion

"Love your neighbor as yourself."
~ Jesus (and countless others)

For the past six months or so in Saturday Morning Mindfulness that meets at our church we have been spending a portion of our time exploring love and compassion in our lives.

The exercise we do is pretty simple and straight forward.  While in a mindful awareness (simply sitting relaxed, still and silent) we remember a time when we felt unconditional love and acceptance in our lives.  This could be a long standing relationship with another person, the devotion from a pet, a fleeting encounter experienced in a smile or eye contact with a stranger, or even a moment in nature when we felt connected and accepted for who we are. In the exercise we call this remembered feeling our "benefactor."

After identifying our benefactor, whoever or whatever that may be, we imagine ourselves bathed in the light of our benefactor, and then that light resting and glowing deep within us.  We relax in that feeling of total, unconditional love and acceptance of who we are.

The next steps of the exercise invite us to share this light of unconditional love with others as we imagine and envision the light of love within us going out to someone else with no strings attached.  We imagine the same unconditional love and acceptance that rests and glows deep within us as also resting and glowing in others.

We do this first with someone close to us with whom we already have a loving relationship.  This is the easy part.  Then we identify a neutral relationship in our lives, perhaps a person we see regularly on the sidewalk, in a frequently used business, at the gym, or in our place of worship, and we extend our light of love to them.  Finally comes the difficult part which is to extend our light of love to someone with whom we have an adversarial relationship, someone who has harmed or hurt us, someone who we truly dislike.  In all cases we project the unconditional love and acceptance of our benefactor to others without the expectation of anything in return.

Finally we return to the light of love and acceptance within us and rest in it for a moment before ending the exercise.

I invite you to find a few minutes today or sometime soon and try this simple mindful practice of experiencing love and practicing compassion in your life.  The more you do it, the more you will begin to recognize and feel the love within you, as well as the countless opportunities to share that love with others, even people you don't know, and especially people with whom you are in conflict.


Important Reminder!

One Eternal Presence will be using a new email delivery system beginning in August. If you wish to remain on the emailing list you must take a minute to subscribe. Please follow the link and complete the simple process which will include a verification email to activate your subscription.    SUBSCRIBE HERE

FYI - there is no need to unsubscribe to the present service as that will take place automatically on August 1 if you do not subscribe to the new service.   Actually unsubscribing now will prevent you from receiving it through July.

If you have any questions please let me know.

Thanks to each of you and I look forward to many more weeks and years of sharing with you.