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Wednesday, January 31, 2018


What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. God has made everything suitable for its time... I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live...  ~ Ecclesiastes 3

What is the purpose of humanity? Humanity's purpose is to love [Life] and enjoy [Life] forever. 
~ Westminster Catechism, paraphrased

There is a young woman I can't seem to get out of my thoughts from a couple of days ago as I checked out at a local grocery store. The two young women at the counter, one checking and one bagging, were in conversation and hardly noticed that I was there. Normally, as a customer this would irritate me. Instead I was drawn into their conversation which continued as they both did their jobs rather mindlessly, and still seemingly unaware of my presence.

"What are you going to do?" The one bagging asked the other.

"I don't know what to do. I just don't have a purpose in life," came the reply in a hopeless tone.

By then I was checked out and could have easily picked up my bag and walked away.  I probably should have resisted what some would call, and they may have perceived as "mansplaining," but I didn't.

"Excuse me for interrupting. I couldn't help hearing." I said.  "Perhaps your purpose is to enjoy life."

"But how can I enjoy my life if it is the same thing over and over. I feel like I'm living in a rerun, the same thing every day, with no way to change it."  She shared with a complete stranger.

"The only thing I really know is you are the only one who can change."

She looked at me as if I were from Mars yet with longing, as another customer came up behind me.

"Things will be better," was all I could manage.

There is a lot I wanted to say, but then I really would have been inappropriate, because I don't know that young woman's experience of life at all.

What I do know is that each and every one of us has purpose. Unfortunately most of us think of purpose as "things" we do when our real purpose is perhaps the manner in which we do the things of our lives. In this sense, purpose is not a job, a profession, or a duty that we have, but rather a deep sense of belonging to and participating in the whole of creation, even when our participation (or as The Preacher of Ecclesiastes calls it our "toil") seems small and trivial.

We also stumble on the word "enjoy." How do we enjoy the mundane and harsh in our lives? The Hebrew word used in Ecclesiastes is "ra'ah" which means: to see, to perceive, to have vision, to give attention to.  "Enjoying" life means paying attention to Life each and every moment and engaging the wonder of it all, even and perhaps especially, in the most simple things.

What grander purpose could there be?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. ~ Vince Lombardi

Everything is practice. ~ unknown

I got a guitar for Christmas. Yes, these aging, sometimes arthritic hands are learning to play a guitar. This means taking a few minutes most days to train my hands and fingers into contortions which are heretofore foreign to them. It means sore fingers as callouses develop. And it means going over and over these things with hopes my awkward efforts will one day be music. It means practice, practice, practice. The wisdom of legendary football coach Vince Lombardi quoted above has new meaning to me as I struggle for good fingering that produces clear chords. Practice is integral to learning something new.

Another understanding of practice is that which describes a person's work, as in a professional and vocational practice. In this sense practice is what one does, like a doctor, lawyer, teacher, mechanic, etc. 

There is still another sense of practice that somehow combines the two previous ones. It is true that what we practice, or do over and over, becomes engrained in mind and body as "body memory" or habit. What we think and what we do is who we are. In this sense, everything is practice. This can be a sobering prospect if our "practices" are not necessarily leading toward the overall good of our lives and the world around us.

Remember the old joke about the visitor to New York City who asked a fellow pedestrian, "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" And the reply was, "Practice, practice, practice!"

How do we get to a more loving, peaceful, caring, compassionate, perfect life and world? You got it - by living this way.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Is All Well?

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” ~ Julian of Norwich

As we look around the world today through various media sources it is difficult to say "all is well." Instead "all manner of thing(s)" seem to be unravelling at an alarming pace.  We barely have time to process the crisis of the day, or moment, before another comes along. Human futility and folly seem to be controlling events in ways that keep us unbalanced and out of sync. An underlying sense of fear and doom permeates much of the world, and rightly so, for lack of food, safety, and security. Even so-called prosperous people are constantly driven by fear and insecurity of loosing our prosperity.  

Mystics of the ages like Julian of Norwich could see through the facades of human futility and folly of their day to see the goodness of creation. Her vision wasn't a denial of injustice and evil but rather that God, or Love, is the ultimate cause and purpose of our existence.

Knowing that we are loved, we are love, and are created to love is our hope. Experiencing and sharing such love is our calling. Taking time to contemplate and process our innermost longings and fears within the context of Love is our path, a path that leads to "all is well." 

There appears to be no other way.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


There is no actual present. It’s just the way reality is. It takes that long for our brains to process the instant. We’re always remembering events, and we’re always projecting some sort of future, and I think that’s that’s how we get meaning in our lives. ~  Christian Wiman

If poet Christian Wiman's statement above is true, which I suspect it is on a deep theoretical level, then where is the present moment that we are encouraged to live in and savor? Much of what I hear, read, and have written myself in the recent past suggests that most of us spend too much time in the mind of remembering and projecting. Could it be that the present we seek is actually that place of eternal transition where memory becomes projection? 

Instead of past, present, and future being divisions of linear time and space, perhaps they are actually part of a continuum much like any given point in a circle. In this way there is no past or future but only an eternal present. 

Maybe what we need is a new word that puts it all together like: "pastpresentfuture."  Better still take a bit of each, and shorten it to: "pasenture." Or maybe we already have the word: "now?"

Whatever we call it, the place in time and space when and where memory becomes projection truly does define our life, or as Mr Wiman says, gives us meaning. If so, then it would seem to me that who we are and will become is greatly determined by how we process our memory. However this is not just the memories of the mind, but also the deep memories of body and spirit that take us back into the earth and even beyond into a cosmic cloud of stardust.

"Pasenture" is a place of becoming who we are and always have been - wonderfully arranged bits of stardust with the amazing ability to be aware of it all.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Is it cold enough for you?

As I look at a weather map of North America on my computer this morning, I see most of the continent experiencing sub freezing temperatures. Televisions, front pages of newspapers, radios, the internet, office chatter, and check out line small talk are all abuzz about how cold we are.

Weather seems to be the only topic that most of us have in common anymore. This can be both good and bad. It's good because at least we do have a conversation starter. It's bad because too often it ends up being the only conversation.

Oscar Wilde once said, "Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative." In many ways this is true. I wonder how many times in my life I have missed opportunity of meaningful interaction and conversation with other people because I defaulted to the weather. On a larger scale, what important conversations in families and communities are not happening at the expense of small talk about weather (and I add sports, but that's another blog)?

However, on a day like today, or when tornados or hurricanes occur, the weather is important conversation because it means life or death for some people. Come to think of it, on a much larger scale, as we experience human induced climate change on our planet, maybe we should begin to take Mr. Wilde at heart by moving beyond "talking about" the weather and into more imaginative conversation about our primary human role as caretakers of one another and the only home we have.

In the meantime, stay warm today. And if you have opportunity, offer someone else warmth, whether literally or with meaningful conversation.