Friday, June 30, 2017

A Cluttered Mind

My mind is cluttered this morning with “stuff.”  That’s probably not the right word for the “clutter” but it is the best I can do at the moment.  

The iPhone celebrated its tenth anniversary yesterday. It has revolutionized the world.  It didn’t revolutionize my personal world until about three years ago when Liam and Katie insisted I should have one.  They found a used iPhone 5 and set me up.  Since then it has been my constant companion, traveling with me wherever I go.  What an amazing device!  I can barely remember life without it.  I’m still a novice in its use, but feel I’ve come a long way from that flip-top phone of just a few years ago.  The experts say there is more “computer power” in my pocket than was needed to put a man on the moon.  Most of the potential in that little device in my pocket has never been utilized because I don’t know how to use it yet. 

The fact that I haven’t tapped into the full potential of the iPhone reminds me of the fact that most of our potential as human beings has not yet been realized.  We have the capacity to be so much more than who and what we are.  Sometimes, given yesterday’s major news story about Trump’s tweets on media personalities and the media’s response, I feel like we have degenerated—gone back to the school yards of our childhood where bullying and “picking fights” and poking childish jibes at one another were the norm.

What was even more distressing about yesterday’s quibble were the comments by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.  “The American people elected a fighter,” she said, and “He,” the president, “was simply pushing back and defending himself.”  Now if that isn’t school yard-like I don’t know what is!  “Punching back” is a childish and silly antic whenever and wherever it occurs, and by whoever. 

I guess we don’t know yet how to use the potential of our humanness in the same way I don’t yet know the full potential of the iPhone (especially since I only have the iPhone 5).  It is probably time for me to upgrade to the newest model.  It seems to me that our human behavior needs an upgrade, too.

Sunrise on the Aegean Sea
I still see everywhere the possibilities of new dawns
and new sunrises.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

More Than a Dash

“I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came her date of birth
and spoke of the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years.  (1951-2017)

For the dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth…
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own;
The cars…the house…the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.  (Author Unknown)

Today I will attend, not officiate, the funeral of a friend.  I tutored  two of her five children many years ago, both of whom are now adults and creating their own “dash.”  This mother lost one  daughter in a tragic car accident and just last year lost her husband.  She lived her dash well in spite of the hardships and heartbreak she endured.  Her life was one of dedicated service (a nurse) to others and to her family.  When our paths crossed on occasion, usually at the grocery store, she would talk of her children and what they were doing and how proud she was of their progress in life.  Her dash was not a little line separating time.  Her dash was writ large with love upon her community, family, and her friends, including me.  Today I will attend the funeral of a friend, and celebrate her dash.

For thou wilt light my candle: 
the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness. (Ps. 18:28)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Matt’s Big Rig

I am still savoring yesterday’s visit and lunch with my 24-year-old grandson Matt, up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  He called last week saying he would be overnighting in Harrisburg, before driving on to Watkins Glen, NY for the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge, and wondered if I might be able to connect with him there for lunch or dinner.  Matt drives an 18-wheeler that has on board all the tools, equipment, parts, wheels, and even a “half a Porsche,” that might be needed during a racing event.  Two other trucks with similar support materials were to meet up with Matt last night and together they will drive on to Watkins Glen today.  At the race itself, Matt is a member of the Pit-Stop crew.  He’s the guy who pumps the gas into the car during those quick stops.

Matt and I haven’t seen each other since Christmas and I was eager to see him and to know how he was enjoying his new job.  So when he called about the Harrisburg stop I jumped at the opportunity.  We met, as planned, at a Truck Stop north of Harrisburg.  That is when I saw, for the first time, the “rig” Matt drives.  I think my mouth fell open and remained open for at least a minute or two! What a truck! I am still flabbergasted.  My grandson, who once sat on my lap, enjoyed driving my lawn tractor, and always dreamed of being involved in racing and being on a Pit-Stop crew is now driving this monster of a truck—and what a fancy truck it is!  The 53’ trailer even has a  lounge area with comfortable sofas and a TV!  

What a special day!  All boys at 11 or 12 years old have dreams about what they want to do when they grow up.  When I was 11 years old, I dreamed of being a naturalist, sailing down the Amazon River and wandering through the rainforests of Brazil.  I still haven’t made it to the Amazon or Brazil. Matt dreamed of being involved in racing, particularly being part of a Pit-Stop crew.  One of his heroes back then was Jeff Gordon.  Today Matt is living out his dream (in part).  Matt's grandad thinks that's incredible!

Drive safely, Matt!  That’s a mighty big rig.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Eleventh/Twelfth Commandment?

It has always amazed me how some Christians hold to the Ten Commandments as being central to their Christian faith.  Please do not misunderstand—I don’t have a problem with the Ten Commandments.  I have a problem with making the Ten Commandments the essence of the Christian faith (there is an Old and a New Testament).   Jesus gave us the Beatitudes (Sermon on the Mount) and a new commandment often called the Eleventh. “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34, KJV).  

Ronald Reagan gave us an Eleventh Commandment, too, “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”  A rule, Reagan said, he followed during his presidential campaign and even after he became president.  (I don’t think Mr. Reagon applied this rule to Democrats).  Jeffrey Archer has titled one of his mystery novels, The Eleventh Commandment.  So we have several Eleventh Commandments, but there is yet another Eleventh Commandment that is heavy on my mind this morning.

Costa Rica Rain Forest
Some years ago I read about a group calling themselves “The Eleventh Commandment Fellowship.”  The group was based in California and its mission was to encourage local churches to pay attention to environmental pollution, the degradation of the earth, and to promote a Christian ecology.  The group no longer seems to exist, but their Eleventh Commandment still speaks,  “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness of life thereof; thou shalt not despoil the earth nor destroy the life thereon.”

This Eleventh Commandment (or maybe it should be the Twelfth) about ecology is an important one.  We are all aware of the plight of the elephant, the rhino, giraffe, and the tiger.  Someday these beautiful animals will be non-existent.  We are aware of the oil spills from vessels and pipelines in  recent years in Alaska, Antartica, Morocco, North Dakota, Russia, the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, and on and on.  We know about the garbage that is being dumped in the oceans and ending up on beaches around the world from Ocean City, Maryland, to the Black Sea.  The 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan sent junk into the Pacific which ended up on the shore of Oregon.  We know about Chernobyl and the desecration of the rain forests.  We know about the Greenhouse effect, and we know about Climate Change. We know, we are aware.  Do we care? Apparently not very much, for we have not yet added Jesus’ "new commandment" or this other Eleventh (or Twelfth) Commandment to the original Ten.

11:  “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another”

12:  “The  earth is the Lord’s and the fullness of life thereof; thou shalt not despoil the earth or destroy the life thereon.”

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Time “In Between”

Have you ever experienced a time “in between”?  “In between” time is usually a time of waiting for something to happen, like the few months in between high school graduation and the first year of college.   It feels like empty time, a kind of neutral zone, in which nothing productive is taking place.   These times “in between” have waiting rooms of all kinds, depending on what it is we seem to be waiting for.  Carl Jung suggested that this “in between” time is often where a person goes when there is a decision to be made, the possibility of a life-changing commitment, a goal to be determined, or an important work to be accomplished, etc.   Often we enter the time “in between” not really knowing what is going on with us.  We go on doing the necessary things that have to be done, meeting our obligations and so forth, but in the midst of it all we feel that we are not quite with it.  We are waiting for some unknown—waiting for something to happen.  We feel caught and held in bondage in the time “in between.”

I call this time “in between” a “Holy Saturday.” It is a time of being in the dark,  like being inside a tomb, a time of waiting and hoping for some kind of resurrection—some happening, some decision, some answer to a pressing question or issue, some goal, some work, some light and life to break forth in a new way.

Waiting is not an easy thing for human beings.  But the time “in between” can’t be rushed or forced.  There are no clocks or calendars telling us when “resurrection” or a “eureka moment” is going to happen.  No infant in the womb has ever had a map that indicated “this way out.”  No seed in the soil has a sign that says, “this way up.”  No butterfly developing in the chrysalis has a schedule and a time table posted nearby. The time “in between” is a waiting that will end only when the time is right!  We must learn to trust the time “in between” when it comes.

And it does come to all of us.  It is more than a mood, more than a kind of depression or an anxiety.  It may be “that of God in us” calling for a response.  It may be the birth of a new idea, a new goal for our life.  The time “in between” is a Holy Saturday, and when it comes we can know that an “Eastering” awaits.

Antelope Canyon, Page, AZ

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Being Graceful

Gerald Mann in his book, When the Bad Times are Over for Good, tells how he and six other students took an advanced Greek course from a professor who never gave an A.  When the seven students went to their first class, the professor held up his little black book and said, “This is the grade book for the course. There has never been an A entered in it.  No one has ever deserved or earned it.  But this course will be different.  I have already written your names in the book.  And I have already entered your grades.  It makes no difference how much or how little you study.  It makes no difference how high you score on tests.   Your grade will not change.  Everyone gets an A.”

Mann writes that he worked harder in that course than he had ever worked before and learned more Greek than he thought possible.  The professor had taken away the fear of failure from the very beginning.  The students got an A simply for being in the class and that gave them the power to perform.  One of the students just loafed.  He didn’t attend classes.  He didn’t even try.  But he got an A too.  That, writes Mann, is Grace!  

If “Love is at the heart of all things,” then we all begin life with an A (Grace).  No matter what our circumstances, no matter what we do or do not do, no matter what we believe or do not believe, no matter how we handle the course of life, we get the A.  We get the A no matter how we flounder and even if we are not aware of the A.  The A is still ours no matter how battered and scarred we are at the journey’s end.  Can Love (if at the heart of all things) do otherwise? 

Many Christians, both past and present, would bulk at this definition of Grace.  They would say the student must love the Lover back, must live a certain way, must believe certain things, must earn  the A, and if not, they will get an F!  This abolishes the notion of Grace! 

Suppose we were to mentally give an A to everyone, our neighbors, friends, and enemies.  Suppose we were to say, we love you no matter what.  We have given you an A, do what you will, we will still give you an A.  What might happen if we, too, were “graceful?”

Monterey, CA

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Generational Diversity

Neil Howe, Washington historian, economist, and co-author with William Strauss of Generations:  The History of America’s Future, written in 1989, characterized the so-called “13th” or “X” generation as a group generally “interested only in what it takes to get by” and who “see their elders as pompous windbags.”  Howe considers those born between 1961-1981 as the 13th generation; the children of the Baby Boomers.   Howe and Strauss say,  “Boomers” (those born in the years after World War II) “initially trusted no one over 30” and “now want to regulate the morals of everyone under 30.”  He says that as Boomers move into their 60’s and 70’s “we can look forward to a big chill” and a “new meanness” in political life.  He predicted “a new national crises in the 2020’s,” and I think we have reached that crises now.

We live in a world of great diversity.  The X generation thinks and lives in a different world than their parents, the Boomers!  The Millennials (Generation Y) the children of both baby boomers and older Xer’s (Millennials were born 1980 to 2000) have a life of their own, generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with the new technologies.  These generations are diverse.  We  also have diversity in nationality, geography, parental status, marital status, income, education, age, race, gender, sexual orientation, and on and on.  

How do we live in such diversity?  The one thing we must not do is lay on the new generations the life we have lived.  It’s a new world.  We must let them find their own way.  There is nothing in the lifestyle of the Boomers of which to boast, or of any generation before or after.  

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  This so-called Golden Rule, which we have long touted, implies the basic assumption that other people would like to be treated the way we would like to be treated.  I’m not sure that is so any  more.  A number of people have lifted the Platinum Rule as the way we should deal with others in the midst of diversity.  It says, “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them, not as you would have them do unto you.”  Treat others the way they want to be treated, which is quite different from how you may want to be treated.  A “relationship” is necessary for the  Platinum Rule, but such is not required for the Golden Rule (which may be why we cling to it).  Do we know how Millennials want to be treated, or the Xer’s?  Do we know how the Afro-American person, the single parent, the homosexual, the aids victim, and all the other diverse persons in our society want to be treated? We better find out.  

This is written from the perspective of a “pompous windbag,” born in 1943, sometimes considered a part of the Silent generation (1925-1942)  sometimes considered a Boomer, and sometimes just a wee bit crazy!  

Friday, June 23, 2017

The “Niching of America”

Historian, Daniel J. Boostin, after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, feared we were on the verge of a most painful period of cultural warfare and human suffering.  He wrote, the “menace to America today is in the emphasis on what separates us rather than on what brings us together—the separations of race, of religious dogmas, of religious practice, or origins, or language.”  

Just how pervasive this segmenting has become in our society since 1989 is plain for all to see.  Howard Synder in his book, EarthCurrents, called this the “niching of America.”  The bonds that traditionally bound Americans together in larger communities are dissolving, we are splitting into smaller and smaller groups, which Synder called “cultural formations.”  These cultural formations are seen in the Boomers, the Xers and the Millennials.  Other cultural groups include Hispanics, African-Americans, Republicans, Democrats, urban folk and rural folk.  Each group views the world differently, each has its own set of values, and each has its own language.

I am very aware of this when I meet with younger people.  Their perspective, their language, their values and  understanding of the world are so different from my own.  I use words that do not register with them.  They use words that do not register with me.  They have little religious background and are biblically illiterate, while I, in turn, am illiterate of the things they find meaningful and important.

This is more than a generation gap.  This is Synder’s “niching of America”—the development of cultural formations that are closed off to those who are not of a certain age, race, sex, religion, politics, or dogma.  These groupings are like little countries or nations—living unto themselves—separate and distinct from all others.  They are ghettos, where a unique life-style has developed that you cannot understand unless you are a part of it.  (Chris Hayes’ new book, A Colony In A Nation, deals with just one of these ghettos or colonies).  

Divided we fall, united we stand (attributed to Aesop).  “And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Jesus, Mark 3:25).  Ghettos must go!  We must build bridges instead of walls!

Sedona, AZ

Thursday, June 22, 2017


Artists are seers who have the added gift of enabling others to see what they see.  Some artists share  their vision with colors, others with the written word, and others through carving and sculpting.   Their creative works remain long after their personal journey is over and their vision lives on.  Vincent van Gogh of the 19th century, was one of these gifted artists.  His work was not appreciated until long after his suicide at age 37.  During his lifetime, he sold only two paintings, but today his work is found in museums around the world and is worth millions.

Vincent wanted to be a minister, tried it, and failed.  Afterward, he broke all ties with organized religion.  He turned to art, seeing in it a better medium for bringing meaning and beauty to people; a way of opening their eyes to the deeper mysteries of life (helping others see what he saw). Vincent saw meaning and beauty in ordinary things:  flower vases, houses, cafes, cypress trees, and sunflowers.  He saw an inner beauty in people:  peasants working and eating, shopkeepers, weavers, postmen, prostitutes and attempted to paint this inner beauty.  In the faces of common people, seasoned by life’s trials and joys, Vincent could see the sacred; and he wanted to share what he saw with the world.  “It is looking at things for a long time,” wrote Vincent to his brother Theo, “that ripens you and gives you a deeper understanding.” While Vincent saw the sacredness, the beauty, and the wonder in the ordinary, he seemed unable to see his own beauty and worth.  His story is a story worth reading.  I think of Vincent each time I hear the song, Vincent, which I heard yesterday and I am still hearing this morning.

Starry starry night
Paint your palette blue and gray
Look out on a summer's day
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul
Shadows on the hills
Sketch the trees and the daffodils
Catch the breeze and the winter chills
In colors on the snowy linen land
Now I understand
What you tried to say to me
How you suffered for your sanity
How you tried to set them free
They would not listen they did not know how
Perhaps they'll listen now
Starry starry night
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze
Swirling clouds in violet haze
Reflect in Vincent's eyes of china blue
Colors changing hue
Morning fields of amber grain
Weathered faces lined in pain
Are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand
For they could not love you
But still your love was true
And when no hope was left inside
On that starry starry night
You took your life as lovers often do
But I could have told you Vincent
This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you
They did not listen, they're not listening still

Perhaps they never will

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Twilight Zone

We live in an ambiguous world, a world where there are different beliefs, opinions, meanings and interpretations.  I am ambivalent (in a state of having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas) about so many things.  There are so many questions confronting us for which, I, at least, do not have ready answers.  I’ve sought for clarity, for certainty, for clear and concise answers to these many questions of life, but have not discovered, or received by some sort of revelation, any definitive answers.  There are so many imponderables; so many intangibles.  Many of  us live in this gray world, a twilight zone, where we struggle to know what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is not.  Most of the social, religious, and political issues are blurred and fuzzy for us.  We have opinions and thoughts about these issues, but we hesitate to identify our fallible opinions and thoughts as the will of God (that is, the only way).  

Some folk do not have this problem. They do not dwell in a twilight zone for they “have seen   the Light.” They believe they have the Yes and the No, the right and the wrong clearly in hand.  They believe that their stance is none other than the stance of God or the authority of the Bible.  They think unequivocally that this or that issue (you name it) is right or wrong, they see only black and white, and they are certain their way is the only way and their answers the only answers to the perplexing questions of our day. This position precludes discussion, dialogue, and compromise.  

I find myself occupying an embattled middle ground—a place where the answers do not come easily, a place of perplexity where black and white are often blended together—a twilight zone.  I find even the scripture to be a twilight zone.  While some parts of the Bible are being pronounced  as the only way, other parts are being ignored.  Especially being ignored is that truth, explicitly stated without equivocation, that we should not judge or condemn.  The log in our brother or sister’s eye cannot be seen clearly, nor removed, because of the log in our own.  Our rigid positions and/or our ambivalence on the social, religious, and political issues, whatever they may be, are always flawed.  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8).

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Dust Bowl of the Mind

“The real use of a thinker to us is that he sets our sluggish mind in motion, and opens up new vistas for us to travel on our own feet.”  (John Arthur Gossip)

The Great Plains region of the United States (Oklahoma and Texas panhandles, sections of Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico—a 150,000-square-mile area) has little rainfall, light soil, and high winds.  The early farmers knew this, but paid little attention to this destructive combination and over-farmed the area.  From 1932 to 1937 a series of droughts dried out the soil.  Since the soil lacked a strong root system of grass to serve as an anchor, the ever constant prairie winds easily picked up the loose topsoil and swept thousands of tons of dirt (via dust storms called  “black blizzards”) all across the nation. The dust storms wreaked havoc, choking cattle and pasture lands, and driving sixty percent of the population (“exodusters”) out of the “Dust Bowl.”

I thought of the “Dust Bowl” this morning when I read  the following:  “Sir Joshua Reynolds used to tell his students, ‘the mind is but a barren soil, which is soon exhausted, and will produce no crop, or only one, unless it be continually fructified and enriched with foreign matter.  The greatest natural genius cannot subsist on its own stock:  he who resolves never to ransack any brain but his own will soon be reduced, from mere barrenness, to the poorest of all imitations; he will be obliged to imitate himself, and to repeat what he has before often repeated.’”

Our individual minds, like the Great Plains,  are barren soil, soil that will soon be exhausted, if we do not continually ransack the minds of others and carefully cultivate and develop our thinking.  If we do not read, study, and learn from history, science, etc.,  and use that knowledge, we will have no anchor when the winds come. The winds are blowing now.   Our own poor shallow opinions  and notions will not stand in the face of these winds.  We must cast our nets wide and seek the wisdom of others who have gone before and those of our own time, reading all kinds of things from poetry to biographies to keep ourselves anchored in the present drought (fake news and other silly notions) if we want to withstand the frivolous winds.

Goethe wrote:  “the most irritating of all people are clever young men (or anyone else) who think they deny their own originality if they admit that what they think of has never been thought of by any one else before.” 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Puddled Spirits

“Something…hath puddled his clear spirit: and in such cases  
Men’s natures wrangle with inferior things,
Though great ones are their object.”  (Shakespeare, Othello)

“Something…hath puddled his clear spirit”…and something hath puddled our spirits. What is it that has happened?  It has happened here, right here, in our nation.  We are divided to such an extent that we can no longer talk peaceably together.  What is it that hath puddled our clear spirits? Was there ever such a time when our spirits were “clear?” Was there ever a time when our human objective was focused on great things, rather than our present wrangling with inferior things? 

What are the “great things?”  What are the “inferior things?”  I shall leave that for you to figure out for yourself.  The following poem titled, “The Cold Within,” (source unknown)  may give some guidance.  

Five humans trapped by happenstance
In black and bitter cold.
Each one possessed a stick of wood,
Monument Valley
Or so the story’s told.

Their dying fire in need of logs,
The first woman held hers back,
For on the faces around the fire 
She noticed one was black.

The next man looking cross the way
Saw one not of his church,
And couldn’t bring himself to give
The fire his stick of birch.

The third one sat in tattered clothes
He gave his coat a hitch.
Why should his log be put to use
To warm the idle rich?

The rich man just sat back and thought
Of the wealth he had in store,
And how to keep what he has earned
From the lazy, shiftless poor.

And the last man of this forlorn group
Did naught except for gain.
Giving only to those who gave,
Was how he played the game.

The logs held tight in death’s still hands
Was proof of human sin.
They didn’t die from the cold without,
They died from the cold within.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Very Special Day

My daughter Rachel insisted on being with me on this Father’s Day as she has for many years.  I’ve been batching it for about six weeks now while my wife is tending to family needs in California, so I was happy to have Rachel’s company on this “special” day.  We had agreed on a lunch menu of one grilled New York Strip steak (which we would split between the two of us) and a baked potato.  Rachel arrived just before noon.  When I came indoors from the deck to check out what she was doing in the kitchen I saw a plate of steaks heaped high—enough for an army!  Then she explained that my son Paul and his family were going to join us.  It was a complete surprise!  

Paul, Helen, Austin and Nick arrived.  It was so good to see them.  Nick volunteered to grill the steaks out on the deck and he cooked them to perfection—medium, medium-well—according to our individual wishes. A sumptuous lunch followed—provided by daughter Rachel—and delicious cookies and brownies for dessert—provided by Helen. What a special time it was for me!  Thank you, Rachel, Paul, Helen, Austin and Nick for being with me on this Father’s Day.  You made my day!   I’m a happy father and a blessed one, too.

Icons of God

When we hear the word “icon” today, we typically think of the pictogram or ideogram displayed on our computer screen which helps us navigate the computer system.  The word also refers to a person who is representative of something:  Elvis Presley is a rock ’n roll icon.  But the word, icon, as I use it this morning, is a painting of Jesus or another holy figure, painted on wood, and used as an aid to devotion in the Eastern Orthodox Church.  The word, icon, means “image.”

The first thing I see each morning are the icons displayed on the wall when I enter my study.  Some of these icons were gifts from friends who knew of my interest in icons and the others I’ve collected from Crete, Russia, Italy and other places.  I became fascinated with icons when stationed on the Island of Crete over a half-century ago and experienced first-hand the ardent devotion given to them by my Greek sisters and brothers.  Icons are venerated by the Eastern Orthodox and are viewed as one of the ways God is revealed (along with scripture, liturgy, tradition, etc.).  While such veneration is not a part of my religious tradition, the icons do serve as message-bearers, as revelation, because each morning they shout out to me that we are all icons of God.  

It is said that we humans are made in the image of God.  We are, therefore, an icon of God.  When I see the icons on my study wall, I am reminded of this reality, as difficult as it is to believe, that each member of the human race is infinitely precious to God.  Timothy Ware in his book, The Orthodox Church, quotes Clement of Alexandria, “When you see your brother or sister you see God.”  Ware continues, “And Evagrius taught: ‘After God, we must count everyone as God Himself.’ This respect for every human being is visibly expressed in Orthodox worship, when the priest censes not only the icons but the members of the congregation, saluting the image of God in each person.  The best icon of God is the human person….The image of God (in each person) is distorted (by sin) but never destroyed; in the words of a hymn sung by Orthodox at the Funeral Service:  ‘I am the image of Your inexpressible glory, even though I bear the wounds of sin.’”

Just as the icon on my computer screen enables me to navigate the computer system, so the Orthodox icons on my study wall help me navigate life’s journey, reminding me over and over again, that every person has “that of God” within.  Each person is to be given dignity, respect, and love because she or he is an icon of God.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Disturbing Woman

Robert Fulghum wrote in “All I Really Need To Know,” the following:

“There is a person who has profoundly disturbed my peace of mind for a long time.  She doesn’t even know me, but she continually goes around minding my business.  We have very little in common.  She is an old woman, an Albanian who grew up in Yugoslavia; she is a Roman Catholic nun who lives in poverty in India.  I disagree with her on fundamental issues of population control, the place of women in the world and in the church, and I am turned off by her naive statement about “what God wants.”  She stands at the center of great contradictory notions and strong forces that shape human destiny.  She drives me crazy.  I get upset every time I hear her name or read her words or see her face.  I don’t even want to talk about her….

She upsets me, disturbs me, shames me.  What does she have that I do not?”

Fulghum is writing about Mother Teresa of Calcutta.   Is there any person in my life who upsets me, disturbs me, shames me so?  Is there any one in your life who drives you crazy as Mother Teresa drove Fulghum crazy?  There should be such a person; a person who says to the world and to us, “We can do no great things; only small things with great love.” 

“If ever there is truly peace on earth, goodwill to men,” writes Fulghum, “it will be because of women like Mother Teresa.  Peace is not something you wish for; it’s something you make, something you do, something you are, and something you give away!”

Friday, June 16, 2017

“Make Your Own Bible”

I think it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who wrote, “Make your own Bible.”  He suggested doing this by selecting and collecting all the words and sentences that in all our reading have spoken to us in our depths.  Thomas Jefferson wrote his own Bible, but he used only the words of the Bible as his source, including in his Bible only that which he believed to be important.  Emerson was suggesting that in making your own Bible, you select and collect all that you have read that has meaning to you, not just from the Bible (Moses, John and Paul) but also from Shakespeare, Kazantzakis, Plato,  and Einstein.

Through the years I’ve made my own Bible of sorts, calling it “Notes of Note,” a collection of quotes gleaned from years of reading the words of others. If God spoke once upon a time to the writer of Genesis, Ecclesiastes and to John, then God has been speaking to and through others through all centuries and their words may be just as inspired (inspirited with the divine) as those words we find in the Bible.  Emerson wrote in his journal that he went to Shakespeare, Goethe, Swift, and Tennyson, and submitted himself to them, “becoming an organ of hearing,”  absorbing into himself all that they had to say.  His compensation for this was “an entire new mind” by which he could “enjoy the universe” through the writings of a hundred different minds.

Rufus Jones suggested that the Gospels According to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are based on their experience, and that we really do not have a Gospel until we write our own—according to,  and based on, our own unique experiences and understanding.  

Each morning I read from both the Bible and my “Notes of Note” finding inspiration and meaning from both.  The Gospel According to Hal is found in nearly fifty years of sermons—and you read portions of this gospel according to me whenever you read this Blog.  Make your own Bible, for you really do not have one of your very own until you do.  

Sunrise over the Aegean Sea

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Sense of Wonder

We must not allow the two “mass shootings” of yesterday (Alexandria, VA and the UPS warehouse in San Francisco, CA) or the 17 others this month in the United States to undo us.  The constant barrage of “bad news” has a tendency to do just that.  We must not allow the actions of one person or group, acting out of  hatred, evil, insanity, or whatever, to divide and conquer us as a nation, or to take from us our sense of wonder as we wander through this wilderness sojourn in our developing democracy. 

A tale long ago told of a people escaping the bondage of Egypt may need to be re-told to help us remember our own story and retain our balance as a people.  This ancient people braved great dangers to find their freedom.   When they came to a sea, with their foe’s army close behind, the sea opened and they made safe passage—the army did not.  They rejoiced as they began their trek into a desert wilderness.  After three days without water they came to a spring, but the water was bitter.  They complained.  The spring water was sweetened in some mysterious way and they rejoiced.  But not for long, because soon they became hungry.  One morning they awoke and found the ground covered with a white substance like frost which they called manna.  They rejoiced.  Every day, every month and every year for forty years—they ground it up, they baked it, they boiled it and made it into cakes—trying to give some variety to this daily fare. It did not take long for them to complain once again.  Then a flock of quail just happened to be blown into their encampment and once again they rejoiced.  They did not know the way to go, and they bitterly argued among themselves about direction, and somehow or another, a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night, led them through. Finally (and the full story is forty years of story) after a long and arduous journey they arrived at a place they called “Promised Land.”  But even in this Promised Land they faced new obstacles—rejoicing at the wonder of it all and complaining when they forgot the wonders that had happened before.

In that tale long ago told, I see the story of our own nation.  The story of that people and the story of our own people makes me wonder how we have survived.  How have we, as a nation, survived wars, depressions, civil upheavals, crooked politicians and great politicians, and now, even these mass shootings?  Is there some guiding principle, some destiny at work, or divine providence that has put up with our frail performance and our constant complaints?   Hang on!  Do not let anything, not even these tragic shootings, undo you or cause you to lose your sense of wonder.