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Monday, March 31, 2014

The Wise Amongst Us

Who is the wisest person you have ever known? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1456).

It is certain that I will not come up with any one name.  I have known both personally and known of many public figures I consider wise.  The important point is not to identify a name or two but to identify the criteria that make up wisdom.  Most importantly those with wisdom do not ascribe to relativism when that means a sort of "oh whatever...." mentality.  While they are people of moral conviction and a strong sense of right and wrong....and are in an admirable sense dreamers, they nevertheless are realists and strong pragmatists.   It is difficult to be wise and ethereally divorced from what works on earth.  Those I consider wise are well acquainted with grief and suffering caused by the limited perception of mankind and his tenuous mastery of the good. The wise exhibit a persistent knack for coming to the essence of a conundrum.

Wisdom requires more than stellar accomplishment in a subject or skill. Breadth combined with depth of knowledge brings extensive appreciation of paradoxes knit by human passions--both rational and nonrational--that tends to color justice with mercy.  It appreciates the seasonal nature of human experience while grasping the necessity of bearing fruit out of season.  Despite a certain reticence and humility that can be misconstrued as shyness--even weakness--the wise fasten onto their convictions with a bulldog determination that can catapult them into leadership roles despite their profound distrust of acclaim's blandishments and intoxications.

I feel compelled to mention two wise people that forever impacted my life--my parents.

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Disservice of Unprincipled Servanthood

In your role as caregiver, do you feel a need to set limits? Why? If so what are those limits and how do you enforce them? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1456).

A typical caregiver example would be of an occupant in a home providing care for someone else in the home in some stage of physical handicap or ill health.  I have never been a caregiver in such a situation. Yet certainly I am acquainted with the sort of issues this relationship can raise. For example, there is a sense in which one is a caregiver at one's place of employment--the persons to whom one must attend: customers, bosses, colleagues, coworkers on a wider scale, various departments, and the general public.  Coincident with this come moral requirements and ethical considerations  Whenever submerged within any organization, the danger of co-option by less than stellar motives becomes significant--for example when we are a party to malicious gossip regarding outsiders under the aegis of maintaining team cohesion. Intellectual integrity is similarly challenged when we are tempted "to go along to get along" when in fact we have serious doubts about the wisdom of our current trajectory.  The key challenge to conscientious souls is reining in the urge to be a pleaser in limitless proportions--even to the extent of secretly harboring resentments and feelings that one is abused and exploited--being entrapped to so great an extent that prevarication becomes the dominant modality of one's existence.  There is a sense in which one must--even in order to be useful to others--maintain unflagging personal integrity imbued with relentless honesty.  We must firmly come to believe that avoiding the truth will ultimately prove a disservice to those in our care.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Is Selfless Giving a Fiction?

Regarding giving to others, how often do you experience each of the following motivations--seldom, sometimes or frequently?
a. to feel in control
b. to feel needed
c. to receive in return
d. to get people to like me
e. out of obligation

(Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1455).

I like to think of this first on the national level in terms of defense or foreign aid.  Thinking of WWII; try assessing "a" through "e" in relation to United States motives, specifically considering the Marshall Plan.  Then think of our present foreign aid budget.  In the light of "a" through "e" analysis, to what extent can it be seen as based on selfish  motives?  Consider also national domestic policy in taxing and spending.  Then think of the last time you made a donation...repeat the same queries.

It becomes increasing clear that giving to others can be based upon multiple, sometimes mixed motives. Personally, as I go down the list it is increasing apparent that my giving is not entirely based upon empathy and compassion with no selfish expectations of my own.  Just the other day someone wanted a ride to an appointment assuming I would take them there, but they did not initially consult with me as to what would be a good appointment time for my schedule. I, somewhat miffed, "out of principle" suggested they reschedule to a time earlier in the day.  I wanted to be forthcoming, but not without a significant measure of control.  I have written elsewhere of my need to "feel needed" if I am to be happy and have a strong self-concept.  I have a friend staying with me intermittently and I must admit I am very pleased when he sweeps the floor and vacuums--I like this "return" in part because it symbolizes appreciation.  (And what is "appreciation" but acknowledgement that I did something I didn't have to do.  You are recognizing in a sense that "I was in control." ) I suppose standing naked and alone I am not all that likable; I will be the first to admit that many others have more "going for them" than I.  Therefore, I occasionally try to buy affection with any resource at my disposal.  "Guilt trips" are very unpleasant for they show I am deficit in admirable traits.  I fear being seen as a hypocritical Christian and sometimes buy insurance against such a perception.  Overall, it's clear I very seldom give to others without at least some measure of selfishness....declining here to use the more innocuous term "self-interest".

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Fact of Life

How do you feel when your efforts help others?  How do you feel when your efforts don't seem to help? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1454).

I enjoy helping others because that is my Christian mission and, perhaps equally important, it buttresses my self-concept and sense of self-worth and well-being.  The opposite of helpfulness I suppose would to be totally useless to anyone, in any way, at anytime, anywhere, for any  purpose.  I cannot imagine what a feeling of total uselessness would feel like, but I can speculate it would be a depressing sense of worthlessness.  In such a state of absolute dejection, even one's intercessory prayers would feel pointless.  That is, you would feel useless to no one, including God.  It would, in short, pose a crisis of faith.

Now there have been many times when my assistance has seemed to be of little or no effect--sometimes boomeranging and even appearing harmful.  Of course it doesn't help to be a bull in a china shop--no matter how good intentioned happens to be the havoc-wrecking bull.  We are called not only to be good intentioned but helpfully adroit.  I have long since taken on the viewpoint discussed in Shirzad Chamine's Positive Intelligence.  He suggest that we flash forward to our last day on earth and ask what would we do in the current situation from that vantage point asking "how do I wish I had conducted myself, regardless of outcome" (page 180).  That is, I must right off the bat realize that I don't have complete control of all factors bearing upon the issue at hand.  I must do my best at evaluation of uncertainties with the help of others and solemnly requesting God's guidance.  Then I make my choice and live with it, period.  I always will have the consolation of knowing that even if I fail, I did my best and followed my best lights--really, that is all that can be asked .  I of course would rather have certainty of outcome not just certainty of conviction.  But certainty of outcome in human affairs tends to be limited to mundane physical phenomena devoid of social complexities.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Religion: What Is Needed

Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail, in thee do we trust, nor find thee to fail; thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end, our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend. (Lyrics from "O Worship the King").

In the blog yesterday I explained how a son received a deep sense of worth when he discovered that years before his father sacrificed  his life for him when the father received fatal injuries rescuing his infant son from a burning building.  This story was in the way of explaining how the crucifixion of Jesus can serve to bring a sense of personal worth and value to believing Christians.  However, Christians believe that Christ was much more than a martyr, they believe that he is the risen Son of God. While this instills hope for eternal life, perhaps much more importantly it brings sustaining hope into everyday practical affairs.  For Jesus does not only redeem souls, he redeems otherwise hopeless situations.  Every human has many times faced situations that seemed hopeless, without reason or purpose--interruptions and detours that frustrated plans and dreams.  The Redeemer assists in recovering from hopeless situations by offering nonrational hope--miraculous hope.  God is not a Fantasy Five god, nor is that what man needs.  What he needs is a Savior willing to get down in the dirt with him and help him recover and to avoid debilitating despair.  Finally Christians have a vital role to play throughout their lives in thought, word, and deed. They are to be witnesses for Christ.  In five words this means living a life of humility, truth, kindness, courage, and love. 

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Mystic Chords of Memory

Isaiah 53:5 NLT

But he was pierced for my rebellion,
crushed for my sins.
He was beaten so I could be whole.
He was whipped so I could be healed.

(Note:  Original version has "our"  and "we" instead of "my" and "I".)

I feel a duty to come to an understanding of Scripture.  I need to be guided as much as possible by those learned in Biblical criticism.  Yet, sometimes I construct what might be called "behavioral criticism".  That is, I look at Scripture in terms of the workings of the human mind.  I will (with apologies to theologians) take this tack in discussing the above passage from Isaiah.  (Most Christians see this passage as a reference to Jesus.).

First let us look at the first two lines of this passage:  

But he was pierced for my rebellion,
crushed for my sins.

Here is the way I see this passage.  The obvious question is how can Jesus' suffering over 2,000 years ago have anything at all to do with my behavior today?  It is absurd to say that I participated in it in any way--that I am to blame for his suffering.  Here's the way I see this.  Let us imagine for a moment that Jesus is represented by a flammable effigy in existence 2,000 years ago.  This effigy is set ablaze and is consumed by fire.  Let us say the fire is actually a concoction of the 7 deadly sins.  That is, the effigy is consumed by those sins, and those sins--like fire itself--existed then with the same destructive force as they do today.  In this sense my fire, my 7 deadly sins, share complete identity with the identity of what destroyed the image of Jesus.  In short, he was pierced for my rebellion, crushed for my sins.

Now for last two lines:

He was beaten so I could be whole.
He was whipped so I could be healed.

Christians often speak of being convicted of their sins which brings about repentance followed by healing and wholeness.  To understand how this process works let us say that I have lived a life in which I have with abandon hurt others and myself.  My identity is very much that of a callous and worthless "Pain Inflicter."  Say I grew up without a dad though I was never told why.  One day I learned the truth.  When I was an infant our house caught fire and my Dad ran into the burning structure to save me.  My Dad escaped shielding me, but he incurred severe burns that soon proved fatal.  I now contemplate that my Dad loved me so much and held I was of such value that he was willing to suffer and die for me.  In my mind I play a recurring video of the scene that tragic night.  For the first time it becomes clear that I have priceless value bestowed by my father's love and his death to save me.  I am through the mysteries of human perception led at once to repentance and to dramatically change my mindset and actions.  My father's suffering and sacrifice redeem me--making me whole and free from destructive drives.

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Good Samaritan Requisites

To whom will you be a Good Samaritan this week? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1453).

I can think of several individuals and small intimate groups where in all probability I will feel a strong measure of compassion that leads to action.  With large groups, not to mention nation states, a compelling empathy is much harder to come by.  This is due not so much to callousness as to the necessity within the human mind for empathy to be aroused by imagery and relationship.   An image is inherently more powerful if it relates to someone close to me. Leaders often use compelling anecdotal cases to establish relationship and to bring imagery home.  Transformative leaders like MLK use incantations of widely shared dynamic cultural symbols to surpass the arousal and commitment of physical intimacy itself.

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

SLOWLY Coming to Implement the Jesus Template

RE: Luke 8-26-39 : The Healing of a Demon-possessed Man

Stepping off the boat, how do you think Jesus reacted to the demon-possessed man?
a. with kindness
b. with fear
c. with authority
d. with uncertainty about the situation
e. instantly recognizing the Enemy
(Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1449).

Christians assert that the Jesus Template for human behavior has eternal significance.  This particular Bible reading illustrates how this is so.  When Jesus first approached the demon possessed man; he did so without fear or uncertainty, and  with understanding, authority, and kindness.  This is the much preferred way the mentally ill--say those tormented by the demons of schizophrenia--would wish to be treated today.  Note that Jesus did not out of the gate order the reimposition of restraints. Jesus simply asked "What is your name?" 

I have just completed reading a riveting book by Elyn Saks (The Center Cannot Hold) detailing her battle with schizophrenia.  Today her illness is being successfully treated by medication combined with psychoanalysis.  One thing the book makes abundantly clear is that those afflicted with the disease often encounter very unchristian behavior from others including the scourges of fear, uncertainty, misunderstanding, ineptitude, and unkindness. At various times during her illness, restraints were used on her repeatedly and "liberally".  Let us pray that the treatment of the mentally ill with take on an evermore Christian character with its embedded disciples of deep respect, compassion, and love.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Rare Earth Response

What is the most astonishing event you have ever witnessed?  (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1449).

I have yet to see this, but when I do it definitely will be some sort of milestone.  I look forward to the day when an authority figure--of whatever ilk, but most assuredly, a political figure--when confronted with a Gordian knot of a question will simply respond: "Can I just wait awhile on that one?...I need to think about that."  On the utterance of such a rare earth response, surely the stars in their courses will screech to a halt, and all heavenly bodies will sigh in wonderment.

The preponderance of most questions in truth deserves such a response, but it is beyond man's capacity to enunciate it.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Right to Ask Dumb Questions

The disciples were always asking Jesus questions (even dumb ones). How comfortable are you taking your questions to Jesus? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1447).

If I could add another freedom to the Bill of Rights, it would unquestionably be the right to ask dumb questions.  How many dumb mistakes could be avoided if we were truly free to ask dumb questions?  When I was an undergraduate I took a course in philosophy.  As the saying goes, I remember one day in that class as if it were only yesterday.  First you must understand that I felt extremely weak, vulnerable, and intimidated in the course.   As a teenager, my total brush with philosophy was the experiential narrative of the Bible.  Thus, in my background abstract thought was a byproduct of experience and never ventured far from it.  I was totally unequipped to massage abstractions by themselves in a rarified world of abstractions.  But on this one day I felt inspired and even called to be a man and express my point of view about the subject under discussion.  As usual, I attempted to anchor my observation within experience.  The reaction of the professor and one brilliant student in the room was to meet my comment with utter dismissal, even disgust.  I learned my lesson well, and never again risked speaking up in that class.  I remember walking across campus after the put-down more hopelessly certain than ever that I was not college material.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Parting of Parties

What parties do you enjoy? Dislike? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page`1446).

I enjoy parties where there is no undercurrent of one-upmanship.  I detest parties where it prevails--especially when the insincere mask of comradery is fueled by alcohol rather than the sincerity of charity and love.  Therefore I enjoy office parties where the comradery is real and church parties where all share the common bond of Christian love.  Behind the parties I enjoy shines the brilliance of life and joy; the specter of death's deceit ricochets throughout the others with cynical laugher and ghastly imitations of cheer.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Importance of Immanence

When did you come to the place in your spiritual pilgrimage when you knew Jesus was "the one" you were looking for?  How did you come to this understanding? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1445).

At age 7, I joined the Methodist church.  Before, during, and since Jesus has been held up to me as the example of how one should live one's life.  For this reason, it is difficult to specify when I was not a Christian.  The question is: At what point in my pilgrimage through the world did I come to appreciate the great advantage of having Jesus as a model?   The answer is that after some time--perhaps longer than it should--I came to understand the essential requirement of a sense of meaning, value, and purpose for happiness and the existential need for an omnipresent compass during times of muddy, rainy weather rather than a predetermined road map of set rules.  Further, again for happiness, I needed to have a source of redemption for all occasions--even during those times devoid of readily apprehended importance or meaning--times that would be lost and wasted except for the sense that one is always on call to be a witness for Christ--even during apparently unpromising and impossibly bleak occasions.  In good time, I have come to have confidence in the beneficence and reliability of the Holy Spirit.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

The Safest Assumption of All

In light of this three-fold passage [Luke 6:41-45] how would you recommend approaching people who need help or correction? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1444).

The safest assumption of all is that people who hurt others (or themselves) are themselves hurting human beings--not withstanding any displays of bravado.  Be it the mentally troubled soul who burns themselves with a cigarette or the thief who steals from others, underneath it all you can be certain lies a hurting human psyche.

Such people need correction, but more fundamentally they need a receptive listener who doesn't judge but listens (and not judgmentally) and therefore with a tangible form of love.  The ultimate source of all evil is pain--the devil being a cohort of pain's psychosis.  In a real sense we can say those hurting  others or themselves are sick.  Therefore it can be seen when effectiveness is the end in view, we often err on the side of impatience and retribution and shortchange compassion-based interventions of healing.  Visualize with me Departments of Healing where now dominate Departments of Correction--themselves a product of pain.  Let us turn Departments of Judgment into capable Departments of Justice.

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Many Mansions

Where would you like to locate your "dream home'? Why? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1444).

Today (Saturday) my friend who is a Jehovah's Witness came by for our Saturday afternoon discussion.  I think there is no doubt that his "dream home" would be any home on earth during the 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth--a time of health, prosperity, and peace.  My friend has a keen interest in the wide-ranging analysis of Scripture prophecy relating to the end time and thereafter.  He manifests a strong interest and passion for such matters.  Today our contrasting predilections surfaced during our discussion. It reminded me of an English literature class in which we all read the same literary work and at the end of which we have the assignment to turn in a 20 page theme paper on a subject of our own choosing relating to the work.  Depending upon one's natural interests and talents, some would have a propensity to passionately write about character development; some would write on the intricacies of story development and plot, others might choose to research milieu, others would write on theme development--each student writing according to the predilections of their own interests and talents--each writing about what they were energized to write about arising from keen interest and passion--their "calling" so to speak.

The diverse gifts of talents and interests can be illustrated by the simple fact that some can spend hours playing chess with great intensity and focus, while others show little interest in the game.  Thankfully, the world is big enough to accommodate all interests while overall productivity and well-being are advanced by such diversity of talents and interests.

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Release from Judgement

Luke 6:37-38
The Message (MSG)

 “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”

John 3:16-17
New Living Translation (NLT)

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

Would you rather be a movie director or a movie critic? Why? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1444).

Certainly most every profession requires, at a minimum, a certain level of self-criticism.  Would I want anyone serving me--be it doctor, mechanic, or minister--who never asked himself "Is there anything I'm not doing that I should be doing, or doing better?"  (For example, if I write blogs, do I use "himself" to the extent that I seem to exclude women?)  Clearly to be generous to ourselves in striving for our own best interest as well as that of others, we must--to the extent possible--evaluate objectively the quality of service we are rendering.  This implies that we will be free to find things that are commendable "as is" as well as those areas that need improvement.

I think what Jesus is asking us to do is not to become put-down artist who incessantly and reflexively find ourselves and only ourselves the solitary gold standard.  This loss of objectivity and self-awareness signals profound and troubling personality issues that can be hurtful to everyone, including ourselves.  In other words, Jesus is calling us to a fairness wrought of empathy combined with objectivity.  A helpful way of seeing this is that we should strive for the self-awareness of discernment rather than the self-absorbency of judgment.  (A useful distinction suggested by Shirzad Chamine in Positive Intelligence, page 65).

(I have elsewhere discussed the propensity to judge as a facet of the fundamental attribution error.)

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Location, Location, Location

Last evening two political camps met at various multi-star hotels to watch election returns--one at Clearwater's Sand Key Resort the other at St. Petersburg's Hilton Carlton.  In this local campaign covering not even one county in its entirety (I was excluded)  more than $12 million was spent, $9 million coming from outside groups--one candidate wanted to abolish a recently enacted health care program and the other supported widespread abortions--neither very Christian from my point of view.  Where did God place me last evening?  I was at the Greyhound bus terminal in Tampa with members of my extended family.  We were awaiting the arrival of a family member released that day from Hamilton Correction in Jasper, Florida.  On arrival, he was welcomed with big hugs all around.  While waiting an hour or so for him to arrive, I observed the people in the lobby and contrasted that with my experiences at Tampa International Airport.  I felt equally at home in both places and felt love for passerbys at both.  But clearly there was a difference.  At the bus terminal widespread economic distress was palpable. There was additionally evident a level of submission to always riding 10th class on the national economic bus with its associated cultural rejection.  It was sad in a way...but I wouldn't exchange that hug for a victory toast at either political gathering. 

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Standing Condemned Already

Generally, how receptive are you to "new wine"?
a. I like to keep things as they are.
b. I accept change slowly, but with God's help I can handle it.
c. I'm all for change if I'm sure it's God's doing.
d. I'm a revolutionary--let's turn the world upside down!
(Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1442)

I was a government (city) employee, after all, so it is no doubt true that in many ways I prefer stability over instability.  For 33 years I worked in government facilities and was granted consideration in terms of job security and a decent wage.  In my personal life I have friendships that I reinforce regularly that go back many, many years.  Yet, this said, I would like to see significant change in the world and greatly admire people that can ask "what's missing?" while with equanimity visualizing outside the box of convention and the status quo.  It is my intrepid belief that years hence people will ask regarding many of today's routinely accepted actions and viewpoints--how could they have been so callous, so selfish, so purblind, so unbelievably dense about the fundamentals and minimally acceptable ethics of economics, government, science, religion, and essential biosphere responsibilities? I am convinced we will stand condemned by our myopic certitudes, creeds, and insufferable self-righteous complacencies. 

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sharing Happiness

Philippians 4 4-9
New International Version (NIV)
Final Exhortations

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Romans 12 1-2
New International Version (NIV)
A Living Sacrifice

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Positive Intelligence
Shirzad Chamine
Page 122-3

By positive and desirable feelings, we mean all the feelings generated in the Sage mode.  In the Sage's Empathize mode, these feelings would include compassion, empathy, and forgiveness.  In the Explore mode, they would include curiosity, awe, and wonder.  In Innovate mode, you would feel the great joys of creativity. In Navigate mode, you would feel grounded and centered in your deeper sense of values, meaning, and purpose.  And in your Activate mode, you would feel the power, resolve, and satisfaction of taking pure action without Saboteur [the Judge, etc.] interference. 

The Happiness Advantage
Shawn Achor
Page 30

As you're about to read over the next seven sections, studies have found numerous ways we can rewire our brains to be more positive, creative, resilient, and productive--to see more possibility wherever we look.  Indeed, if our thoughts, daily activities, and behaviors can change our brain, the great question becomes not if, but now much change is possible?

If one reads through the above quotations, it is possible to discern a similar view of the good--namely a mind transformed and renewed by transcendent happiness--a happiness that transcends the anxiety, fear, and guilt of the primeval world.  These points of view share so much in common that it is difficult to conclude other than that the mindset of Christianity at its best did much over the years to contribute to the flourishing of culture and creativity.  Even those who assert there is no God must nevertheless concede that the mental state of faith is in concert with the development of positive intelligence and is consistent with extensive laboratory findings regarding the fortuitous operation of the rejoicing human mind.

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Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Cruel Side of Religiosity's Passion

As you try to follow Jesus, are you becoming more free to love others, or becoming more constrained by religious rules? Why? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1442).

There are virtually no religious impediments in the Methodist church to loving others.  In fact, my local church has a plethora of service opportunities.  The social pressures today that encourage a chilling approach to others include such statements as: the poor are lazy and want everything handed to them on a silver platter...don't succumb to addressing their alleged needs.  Never humor the poor.  A fair minimum wage would undermine capitalism.  Fairness must only and always be determined by a free market.  Economic considerations must always be determinant at the expense of "soft" speculations regarding social justice and fairness.  The gatekeeper for healthcare is and should only be private wealth.  We must never do anything that could be interpreted by anyone, anytime, anywhere as weakness.  We must always employ hard as nails strength in domestic and foreign policy.  All Christian virtues can be interpreted as weakness.  Therefore realpolitik must always rule over Christian values.  There are no gray areas where prayerful guidance is required, everything is always black or white and hardened principles must always rule over the fantasies of weak, romantic, religious folk.   Never look further than the individual for causes of crime.  Put criminals behind bars and throw away the key. Righteousness and rectitude demand it.  These are just a few of the rules we are constantly encouraged to live by--and these are not church religious views so much as political views widely endorsed by a major U.S. political party.  The fervor of their adherents indicates a "true believer" passion that approaches rank religiosity. 

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Friday, March 7, 2014

Welcoming Deep Water

What would Jesus have in mind if he asked you right now to launch out into the deep and let down your nets? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1440).

Galatians 5:22-23
New International Version (NIV)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Where does deep water lie ahead for Christianity?  It is now and always has been necessary to reconcile Christian belief with expanding human understanding of the natural world.  To oppose facts--to say that the world is not a globe, for example--cheapens the central message and mission of Christ.  Steady development can now be expected in the understanding of brain function and structure.  A better understanding neurologically of human perception is becoming increasingly possible.  Christians must welcome this as a source of hope and progress.  How interesting it would be to understand functionally and structurally the fruit of the Spirit--love, joy, peace, forbearance, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control--on a neurological level.  We as Christians must embrace progress on these fronts with full confidence that, when all is said and done, humanity will come to recognize its inherent limitations before the throne of God and that faith will come to be understood as the unique defining attribute of the human species.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Kindness as an Aphrodisiac

Often we hear that “bad boys” are a turn-on for women. I recently observed a contrasting truth—politeness and kindness can constitute a powerful aphrodisiac.

Yesterday two friends of mine Bobby and Deangelo (in his early twenties) and I went on an outing to Bush Gardens. While they experienced a clock-clearing ride—The Cheetah—I strolled through the park and rode the sky-ride and train through the Serengeti, a large park expanse filled with wildebeest, gazelles, ostriches, giraffes, and other animals in a simulated natural environment. After several hours we left with plans to return in the future on celebratory occasions.

Soon after driving away from the park we pulled into a SUBWAY for lunch. As we were eating an elderly lady was having some difficulty making it through the front door with her take-out order. She dropped some of her order onto the floor. Observing this, Deangelo jumped up from our table and offered assistance, which the woman accepted. All the while an attractive young lady in the restaurant noticed all this. We left at about the same time and the young lady and Deangelo struck up a conversation outside the restaurant. Before going our separate ways, she had proffered Deangelo her phone numberwhich he duly accepted in all requisite obligation.

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Aspects of Christian Ethics

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”

--John Wesley

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Sunday, March 2, 2014

What the Bible Teaches

How has Jesus' authority grabbed your attention recently? How is his authority bringing freedom to you?  (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1439).

For many Saturdays now a Jehovah's Witness friend and I have been sharing viewpoints.  Before Jehovah's Witnesses were so named, they were called Bible Students for they met regularly to study the Bible.  Today my friend and I imagined that we were part of one such group in the early 1900's.  I told my friend where my mind would be at as we set down at the table.   I would want to find guidance on the essential beliefs of Christianity--specifically how we are called to follow Christ and do God's will today in practical ways wherever we may be.  In short, I would have a strong bias preferring what might be called a practicum on Bible based Christian ethics.   

I asked him to imagine my consternation when we sat down and the discussion turned from the Gospel and the letters of Paul and daily living to a discussion of widely dispersed and highly symbolic passages from Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation.  Central to this discussion as it developed is the year 1914.  This date is arrived at by beginning in 607 B.C.E. when Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians and the line of kings that had begun with David was interrupted not to be resumed until Jesus assumes the kingship role when Gentile rule ends.  Earlier than the year 1914,  Bible Students calculated that Jesus' kingship would commence in that year based on a dream by Nebuchadnezzar.  In that dream an angel declares "Let seven times pass over" a tree stump banded with iron and copper (trees can sometimes represent rulership).   From Revelation 12:6 and 14 in which a woman with two wings like a great eagle is mentioned, it can be deduced that 3 1/2 times equals 1,260 days.  Therefore 7 times  is twice 3 1/2 or 2,520 days.  But Numbers 14:24 and Ezekiel 4:6 indicate a day can mean a year.  So counting from October 607 B.C.E.,  the end date will be October 1914 when Jesus will become king.  Satan and his cohorts are to be duly flung from heaven to earth on this date (note the mess confronting us on earth since that date).  Satan's defeat at Armageddon is now imminent at which point the 144,000 heavenly joint heirs will rule with Christ for 1,000 years with many positive marvels and wonders blessing all the earth.**

My discontent with the drift and complexity of our discussion would be palpable.  Where in all this do we find practical guidance for Christian living?  Why can't we  accept the remark of Jesus: "No one knows about the day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.... Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back....(Mark 32 and following NIV).  Aren't we showing a degree of intellectual if Jesus came primarily to pose math puzzles and symbolism's labyrinths for an intellectual elite rather than living and dying for us as common sinners?  I would remind everyone at the table of this passage from Matthew 18: At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"  He called a little child and had him stand among them.  And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

**For excellent summary of beliefs of the Jehovah's Witness see What Does the Bible Really Teach; a Watchtower Publication.  Referenced here page 217.

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