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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Practice (encore)

originally posted on October 23, 2013

"…be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Paul's Letter to the Romans, 12:2


"…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness…" 
Paul's Letter to the Galatians, 5:2

Surely just about everyone has heard the old joke attributed by many to Jack Benny:  The hurried visitor to New York City asks a person on the street:  "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" To which the person replies, "Practice, practice, practice."

We become who we are through practice and who we are right now is the outcome of previous practice. Take for example two common things among most humans, speaking and walking.  Both actions are developed through repetition, trial, and error over course of time in the first years of our lives.  Both then become part of who we are to the point of being perceived as natural.  There are so many other things we have practiced as well such as attitudes, emotions, intellect, and myriad skills and talents.

Much of my personal experience and understanding of "practice" comes from participation in athletics and theater.  In both cases practice and rehearsal are the precursor to performance.   Can we imagine a basketball player playing a game without repetitive drills, shooting, and running; or a baseball player hitting a 95 mile and hour fastball without hours in a batting cage? Or how about actors just spontaneously creating a fully polished play or musical.  Even improvisation requires practicing the art of improvising.  All great performing artists and athletes spend countless hours practicing and rehearsing.

The same is true in our emotional, social, and spiritual lives.  We can be just as intentional in developing what our religions and faith traditions call "spiritual practices" as athletes and artists are in developing skills and talents.   Gifts, or fruit, of the Spirit such as love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control do not come to us fully developed, or ripe. Just as delicious fruit needs water, sun, nutrients from soil, and time to ripen on a tree, our lives need nurturing and developing through practice.  

The Good News is that wherever we are, whoever we are, or whatever our circumstances we can literally transform our minds and our lives through practice.   Of course the first step is to take intentional, regular time off stage and away from the arena to read, listen, look, meditate, and contemplate who we want to be. 


The alternative is to constantly remain on autopilot and haphazardly make our way like an actor without rehearsal or an athlete without practice and training.


So, when do rehearsals begin?

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

All The Difference (encore)

Originally posted on July 10, 2013


When you come to the fork in the road, take it.
-Yogi Berra

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both         
And be one traveler…                              
…Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—             
I took the one less traveled by,            
And that has made all the difference.
- Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken"


Even though the directions from Yogi Berra make you scratch your head and "say wha'?" there is a context in which they make perfect sense.  I've been told (without verification) that Yogi himself was giving directions to a house with a long driveway that became circular before reaching the house.  In which case, taking either prong of the fork led to the same place.

Perhaps there is a meta-metaphor for life here - regardless of the choices we make in life we all end up at the same threshold. What lies beyond this threshold we call "death" is and always has been a mystery.  Every human being has this destination in common.  However the vast variety of paths along this journey offers as many "forks" to take as there are individuals on the pilgrimage we called "life."

It seems to me if we're all going to end up in the same place, then "all the difference" of which Robert Frost writes is the stuff of our lives created by the choices we make and the roads we take.  Another way to look at it is that wherever we are today is the results of yesterday's choices, while tomorrow will grow out of today's decisions.  The decisions and choices we make really do make all the difference.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Theodicy (encore)

originally posted on July 23, 2014

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.

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).

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Summer Reruns

I’m taking a summer break today and the month of August. While away I’m sharing some Summer Reruns of past blogs. I hope you’re having a great summer! Here’s one from Summer 2013.   Enjoy!

http://oneeternalpresence.blogspot.com/2013/07/slip.html?m=0