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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Home Turf

Complete this sentence "Home is where..." (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1609).

I have a terribly unsophisticated confession to make--I was not raised in a dysfunctional home.  Therefore, all the great literature based upon dysfunctional homes (enshrouded in swirling torrents of anger and addictions) was a great puzzle to me.  In my experience home is where the fruit of the Spirit abides:  ("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." Galatians 5:22-37.)  It is plainly evident that this is more amenable to happiness than unrelieved chambers of hell on earth. To this day I am thankful to have escaped what some prefer to see, pronounce, and prescribe as "realism." 

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Monday, September 29, 2014

The Fall as Prelude

In an earlier blog (click here) I discussed a remarkable thing. The story of the fall in Genesis paints man as irresponsible – not accepting responsibility for his actions. Yet we must understand that by this very story mankind accepted responsibility. It says in effect we ourselves are to blame  for our fallen state--much as if I were to tell you a story in which I portrayed myself as culpable.

Exercising conditional love, God in the image of man expels the perpetrators from the garden. Jesus by fully portraying the Creator reveals the unconditional nature of God's love. God loves us despite our sin. The only issue that remains is for us to truly love unconditionally ourselves. Any honest person not in a state of denial is fully aware of a multiplicity of personal foibles. Logic leads to the inevitable conclusion that we are therefore unlovable. But God is not imprisoned by logic. Like a parent looking upon a newborn baby, love for the child is unconditional at the outset. For man to love himself, he must accept the unconditional love of God for him. The key that unlocks love and hence forgiveness of self is confession and belief in Jesus. Confession is simply another way of saying that the reign of denial has ended. Accepting Christ's death as a powerful symbol of the reality of God's unconditional love for us opens the door for us to love ourselves and thus to forgive ourselves.

This graceful yet realistic aspect of Christianity is an essential contributing factor that makes it an enduring religion meeting the needs of mankind generation after generation.  

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Facilitating Happiness

Why is being a servant to others essential for sharing the Gospel? What is one way you could be more of a servant to someone you are concerned about? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1608).

Flat-out, it is important to have fun in the role of service. As the saying goes "the Lord loves a cheerful giver." So if there are elements in the arrangement which are getting on my nerves, I attempt to air the issue and discover ways in which the service can be streamlined and to get the job done while taking everyone into consideration.  Personally, that is the only way that I can avoid building up feelings of resentment. I have on occasion told myself that "after all I'm doing this for Jesus." Yet, self-inflicted misery and attempts at self-deception are seldom good for the spirit.  I think of the nickname given to Hubert Humphrey – the Happy Warrior. To me that's a great stance--and the most redemptive profile--in which to serve others.

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

None Dare Call It Cheating

When did you last experience suddenly understanding something that once confused and puzzled you? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1607).

The patterns of culture can insinuate themselves profoundly within the matrix of life and those raised in a culture of success have little clue as to the complex cultural source of their coping skills.  They thus typically feel vastly superior to those not raised in a success culture within which success and ownership are taken for granted.  In this sense, the rules of the game are fixed by cultural knowledge and those in the know are entirely content and even eager to leave it that way.  We should be able to look to social science to sharply convict us of this sinful complacency, but regrettably social-science-speak is way too often the mesmerized chantings of a stiff-necked people with corn cobs up their asses--truth be told, it is little more than cant-infested, arrogant jargon.

I saw this clearly this morning.  Last night I had fallen asleep in bed with the radio on.  Early this morning, I dreamed a sequence in which I was given a competitive timed test to take.  The matrices from which to derive the correct answers were awkwardly posted here and there on the wall.  Only those who knew in advance where to look had a chance of scoring well on the test.  Needless to say, I was not one of those in the know and awoke with intense anxiety.  At that very moment speaking on the radio was a social scientist reading a paper in which every word was uniformed jargon designed to assuage other social scientists with contrived objectivity rather than stating clearly the more or less obvious point being made.  Suddenly, many things became clear--even the anger of the far-right who, if nothing else, state their prejudices outright and plainly bare.


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Friday, September 26, 2014

Realpolitik vs Political Grace

How does a leader who uses his authority according to "worldly wisdom" differ from one who does so by "God's grace." (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1606).

Realpolitik "is politics or diplomacy based primarily on power and on practical and material factors and considerations, rather than explicit ideological notions or moral or ethical premises." (

Realpolitik can be contrasted with political grace.  Realpolitik focuses on external power; political grace focuses on behavioral empathy.  The first focuses on the rule of gold; the second on the golden rule. The first focuses on short-term effect and efficiency rather than the long-term imperatives of compassion and justice--which, in all practicality, will sooner or later in one way or another sabotage the lustful desires of realpolitik.  Realpolitik, therefore, artificially and with contrived rationality limits its vision to the real and practical of today, whereas political grace embodies the unitary realities of the present and future in a context of compassion and empathy.    

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Whirlwind Antidote

Paul found that intense pressures led him to depend on God all the more... How do you respond to intense pressures? Do they deepen your walk with God or drive you away from him. (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1606).

Pressures often equate with there being a multiplicity of variables, many of them uncontrollable or even unknowable, combined with a sense of urgency.  It is during such storms that a strong anchor of faith is essential to maintain psychological stability.  That is, all our carefully wrought plans can become anachronistic at any fleeting moment.  Therefore a spiritual compass is essential to maintain purpose and bearing throughout whirlwinds of upheaval.  It is interesting to note that in the Old Testament Israel would return to God when chaos and nihilism wrecked havoc.  In a sense unbearable times of stress give us a choice--become catatonic, yield to erratic insanity, or latch on to the light-source of faith.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Memorable Expressions of Care

When sick or hurt as a child, what expression of care did you find most comforting? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1606).

When I was a child I had both the mumps, measles, as well as the standard bouts of colds and fever.  By far the most comforting expression of care would be when I was in bed covered by a blanket and mother would bring into the bedroom a bowl of warm cream of mushroom soup with saltine crackers crumbled over the top.  A close second expression of care would be on road trips when we pulled over next a roadside stand for fresh produce.  Preparing the sandwiches, mother would turn to us boys in the back seat of the car and ask us how big a tomato slice we wanted? She then would cut the slices to perfect specification.  Such expressions of care bring long-term feelings of warmth.  

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Favorite Song When Growing Up

What was your favorite song as a child [or youth]? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1600).

When I was growing up (ages seven to eighteen) Daddy pastored three churches. These churches were in Oviedo, Ellenton, and Bowling Green, Fl.  All of them had two sets of hymnals.  One for the Sunday morning service--The Methodist Hymnal--and the other for Sunday evening worship and Wednesday prayer meetings--The Cokesbury Worship Hymnal.  The Cokesbury (with 346 entries) was somewhat less than half the thickness of a Methodist Hymnal (with 904 entries).  The Methodist Hymnal was used for the markedly more formal service in the morning.  In evening worship the song leader would ask for favorite hymn selections from the congregation.  Interestingly, the oft repeated favorites proved to be the same for all three widely separated churches.  Hymn favorites for the evening services included: "The Old Rugged Cross," "I Would Be True," "More Like The Master," "We're Marching To Zion," "True-Hearted, Whole-Hearted," Praise Him! Praise Him."  There was some overlap with the Methodist Hymnal but a good number of songs weren't in both hymnals..  "An Evening Prayer" was one of my Cokesbury favorites especially appropriate it seemed for evening worship.  

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Monday, September 22, 2014

The Love Cohesion

In your opinion, what is the best way to develop the ability to love others (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1599).

At the source of love is mercy (or Christlike grace).  The fundamental requirement to effectuate love is the willingness to forgo condemnatory judgment.  Thus, strongly allied with love is the willingness to forgive and maintain multiple almost imperceptible reconciliations.  Empathy as stimulant precedes love and its absence on the mental landscape has tragic consequences.  Empathy is a strong antidote to fear and judgment.  Empathy is the defining characteristic of love, for "love" without empathy is essentially a judgmental power game.  Empathy can be visualized as the perceptual intersection of individuals.  Without strong intersections in force, community is impossible.  The fundamental challenge in developing the ability to love to is cultivate empathy and maintain strong perceptual intersections.

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Breach of Promise

What very sincere promise did you once make but failed to deliver on? Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1371).

I was 23 years old and living in Miami.  One Sunday I attended a United Methodist Church there for the first time.  That very Sunday I was made the teacher of a youth class full of unruly students.  I agreed to be the teacher.  After several weeks of class disorder, I never attended the church again, and made no attempt to communicate with the church office.  Looking back, I accept responsibility for this breach of promise, but feel there were extenuating circumstances.  I think the church's eagerness to put me in charge of a youth class knowing nothing about me and with no vetting whatever indicated a certain irresponsibility (or desperation) on their part.  I felt very bad about my irresponsible behavior--very much a failure, but not so bad as to return.

A side note:  The Sound of Music portrayed my model for the perfect teacher--if I could only be like Maria and fill the classroom with grace and charm and win the love and respect of all the students--where even discipline was fun.   Alas, I seldom have seen this model perfectly replicated. 

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Mercury Moments

What was the most fulfilling job or task you ever had? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1598).

The activity I like most is when time seems to fly by.  I have long ago learned that jobs aren't characterized by all positives--every job has positives and negatives.  In this light, I have had many jobs in which I have encountered strong positive aspects.  Time flies by for me when I am, to use an athletic expression, "in the flow."  Focus and facility of personal resources unite imbuing the task with an ongoing sense of accomplishment, confidence, challenge, creativity, and even ease.  To use an old expression, all cylinders seemed to be firing smoothly and effortless.  This has occurred in such diverse activities as computer programming, customer relations, purposeful conversation, listening, reading, writing, even focused trial and error iterations.  On  such occasions I look back and ask, "Where has time gone?"

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Not a Measured Row

How can a little faith influence your everyday life? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1449).

There is just a tiny switch between doing nothing and doing something, but the two options have wildly different outcomes. (From Tina Seelig's book, What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20, page 19).

1 Kings 19:11-13 New International Version (NIV)

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

We often assume in life that things follow a linear curve gradually sloping upwards.  For example, the more miles I travel in my car, the more gasoline I will typically consume.  Yet in many matters involving the human brain, the most perhaps, the relationship tends to be exponential as a heightening synergy comes into play. Learning is an instance of this.  While reading comprehension can begin slowly, progress can exponentially improve as practice continues.  Faith is another example.  Certainly here the quotation applies: "There is just a tiny switch between doing nothing and doing something, but the two options have wildly different outcomes" ibid. Jesus tells us if we have the faith of a mustard seed (a little faith), we can move mountains.  Sometimes we never commence a project or journey for our first steps seem so inconsequential (we are assuming linearity).  Ironically, the exercise of a little faith leads to dramatically heightened faith. Abundant life does not grow from blasts of tawdry razzle-dazzle, but from a gentile whisper.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Expect a Visit Today by the Mayor

Are you a night owl or an early bird? Ever fall asleep at the wheel? On a date? On duty? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1447).

Luke 12:35-38 New International Version (NIV)

“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.  It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak."

When I worked for the City of Saint Petersburg, on vary rare occasions, usually with notification, the mayor would tour the various working locations throughout city government.  I worked several miles from City Hall in the Leisure Services Complex.  One day my boss, Mark, announced that the mayor was coming by for a visit sometime during the day.  Mark specifically asked me to clean up my work area.  Whereupon, I straighten things up, threw things out, put things in drawers, and dusted all round.  The mayor never showed up; and I ventured to Mark the opinion that he had fabricated the mayor's expectant visit so that I would have to straighten up my desk.  Perhaps it's easy to overemphasize the importance of such preparations.  But, on the other hand, what if the mayor had stopped by for a visit and we were all lounging back reading newspapers with our feet propped up on our desks?  It would be difficult for the mayor not to remember this during budget crunch time.

It is interesting to note how human behavior is modified by the knowledge that a third party is watching.  In fact, this is no doubt a principal reason why God has ordained a multiplicity of institutions (such as government, the private sector, families, the free press, and the church.)

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Conscience Matters

Is there anything you do that does not bother your conscience but might bother the conscience of someone else? Explain. (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1596-7).

In my book this is the key question:  Is the proposed action hurtful or helpful?  On these grounds, for example, I do not consume alcoholic beverages for I'm certain in my own mind that alcohol damages the brain permanently.  In a sense, to hold this position in America today (the position of a teetotaler) is politically incorrect.  That doesn't bother me one iota.  Neither does speaking the simple truth about my own personal beliefs or experiences.  For example, even though my heart isn't in it, I will sometimes think of the "n" word (say, someone cuts me off in traffic).  I admit this publicly to all races.  Such candidness bothers some people terribly, but in my view speaking the simple truth at an appropriate moment is the best policy.   That is, I strive to be courteous without being politically correct for I think that it is helpful all round to be honest, and that simple confession is good for the soul--yours and mine.  Likewise, it bothers me not at all to testify to my Christian faith even among unbelievers.  I take these risks essentially because I trust (when push come to shove) in the empathy, fairness, and strength of the American people.  My philosophy is best expressed in a quotation by Stephen C. Paul: "When you give up your own truth to win at someone else's game, everyone loses."

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Unadorned Values

Looking over your schedule and priorities for this past month, what would you say is your ambition in life? Is that what you want to be? How do your ambitions compare with Paul's in terms of clarity? Value? Concern for God's Kingdom? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1584).

Some weeks ago Pastor David Miller asked us for the next week to write down in a journal our daily spending.  I have been doing so since his suggestion.  It is a an eye-opener what I spend daily on personal indulgences.  It can't help but raise the question, am I a blatant materialist who is searching for ultimate value in things rather than enriching relationships?  It necessarily brings to mind this Scripture from Matthew:

Matthew 25:41-46 (NIV)

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

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Monday, September 15, 2014

First Time Away from Home

What do you remember about the first time your were away from home without a parent [or close relative]? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1584).

Not recalling the exact year, I will peg it at 1957 when I was 13 years old.  We were living at the time in Ellenton, FL.  That year for the first time I attended the Methodist Youth Camp in Leesburg, FL, some 120 miles away.  The camp was situated on a lake in the woods. The trip was a rite of independence for without my parents as immediate backup, I would face strangers alone and isolated--both unfamiliar peers as well as adults.  It was overwhelmingly a safe environment, of course, from a parental point of view; but from mine it was a risky adventure into independence.  What if I could not be successful in the various camp activities?  What if my peers did not like me?  What if adults did not like me?  Obviously, the experience had its anxieties.  The sport I enjoyed the most was tetherball; the craft, making "shofars" from bull horns.  I felt a sense of accomplishment upon returning home not needing to testify to a single spell of homesickness.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Trying to Please Everyone

Where do you draw the line in trying to please everyone? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1583).

The fundamental question is:  in my various relationships in which people exercise formal or informal power over me; when, how, and in what manner do I draw the line and do what I would do as if no pressures to please were present?

The first thing to recognize is that pleasing others is no black or white, off or on switch.  For example, on the job I would greatly appreciate the common courtesy of my boss in asking "Wayne could you do such and such?"  rather than imperially demanding "Wayne I order you to do such and such!" Either way, of course, if it were a job requirement I would do it; but my boss always chose to be pleasing in the way he broached the matter.  The same, of course, applies to informal relationships.  Common courtesy is a handy tool that takes many painful edges off: "Please pass the salt" rather than "Hey you, pass the salt!"

It's worth mentioning that power relationships are complicated.  While my boss held formal power over me, I as an employee that he depended upon daily held a degree of informal power over him.  I would suppose that even a gang leader feels some pressures to please his followers.

There are extreme cases where polite negotiation is irrelevant--the relationship between a Polish Jew and a rabid Nazi SS Officer.

All this said, where do I draw the line in trying to please others--given I was always  taught to respect everyone including those with formal or informal authority?  The answer, I suppose, is that I most always TRY to please others--that's my strong preference.  I seek to help and not harm.  But sometimes helping one person will by this very act displease another.  Based upon my own actual experience over the years, this is what I do.  I analyze the character of the need.  I ask, where does the greater need lie and whose displeasure seems more self-serving than serving?  When I answer that question, I then proceed joyfully to do as my conscience directs and to where my conviction leads determining to continue to love and respect everyone.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Government's Hurdle

What aspects of government do you find most difficult to accept? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1582).

What bugs me most is how government is too much like me and thee.  That is, it takes on all the limitations of human perception.  It much too often mistakes labels for reality.  It assumes knowledge where in fact it stands in abject ignorance.  It assumes a tad too much invincibility in close cahoots with its own presumed immortality.  It forgets that its mission is to serve and not be served.  Sometimes it is subject to too much emotion; at others it is subject to too much rationality.  It adores rationalization and can rationalize that black is white and that war is peace and that poverty is good for character building.  It is sometimes paranoid, at others it is manic-depressive.  It acts either like money grows on trees or, conversely, that Scrooge was the wisest man ever portrayed.  It caves in much too often to peer pressure and does the popular thing rather than the right thing.  It often worships success at the expense of duty. It acts without thinking and colludes with false friends for the wrong reasons.  It is subject to hateful acts and awesome callousness. In all these ways (the list is endless) all governments without exception are equally republic.  The Supreme Court has ruled that a corporation is a person.  With a little introspection it will conclude that governments are people too.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Competition and Individual Rights

What have been the benefits of healthy competition in your life? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1579).

I am now studying education tailored to people who are disabled.  The United States has passed several laws with anti-discriminatory implications: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Rehabilitation Act, Americans with Disabilities Act.  All of these laws testify to the reality that American values do not support competition at any price.  Competitive triumph is overwhelmingly of less importance than individual rights.  This is as it should be for allegiance to competition at the expense of empathy and compassion eviscerates  the raison d'ĂȘtre and fundamental purpose of life itself. 

Tough guys like to go on and on about the benefits of competition. This gives them validation--they seem to think--as tough guys.  They are living proof of the survival of the fittest and their worthiness is therefore beyond dispute.  "Touchy-feely" aspects of life they hold in contempt.  Public policy must not become hostage to such sad, one-dimensional caricatures of humanity.  

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Envy of the Free

Who was someone you were envious of in high school and why? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1579).

More than fashion or physical strength or beauty, I admired most those students who embodied free-spirited prowess and were not severely buttoned-down by fear in social situations--who spoke their minds unencumbered by social pressures.  Those I admired most were outspoken not in anger or angst, but often colored their comments with friendly kindnesses.  I have, by the way, never outgrown my envy of the beneficently free; and have prayed for the same in my life.  In this sense, I'm constrained and somewhat embarrassed to say, all my high school love consummations were platonic.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Power of Purpose....The Limitation of Plans

If you were God, would you choose "you" to be part of your plan for the universe?...(Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1577).  I prefer "part of your purpose" rather than "plan."

Obey what you sense in your heart that you are to do, and when He is ready He will show you the next thing. (Joyce Meyer in Power Thoughts Devotional, page 253).

Your Sage moves you into action not out of feeling bad, but out of empathy, inspiration, the joy of exploration, a longing to create, and an urge to find meaning in the midst of even the greatest crises. (Shirzad Chamine in Positive Intelligence, page 75).

There has been an effort to make God a "left-brain automaton" who obsesses over logic and planning at the expense of creativity, openness, and exploration.  This greatly delimits God.  Consider a marriage. While a couple getting married may have some plans for the future, clearly the most important thing is not to have rigid, detailed plans but to have allegiance to an over-arching purpose.  Plans may have to be changed overnight, but mutual encouragement, love, and support until death does not.

President Obama was roundly criticized for stating that a strategy was not developed to meet a foreign policy challenge.  Certainly a strategy will come, but even then I trust it will not be a plan set in concrete--oblivious to new developments and realities.  Two thousand years after Christ, one would think mankind would have relinquished at least a tad of its myopic legalistic obsessions.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Sympathetic Strategy

Have you ever been faced with the need to feel compassion for a person but find it hard to do so because the individual in question is difficult? You find suppressing your anger in that person's presence becomes a primary goal.  I would like to suggest a way for you to muster the compassion that you need to assuage your anger.

Shirzad Chamine in Positive Intelligence suggests a way to tap into empathy--and that is to visualize the child (p. 94).  He then suggest a way to help us tap into our deepest values by asking us to flash forward and ask "At the end of _____ [ultimately of life itself], looking back, how do I wish I had conducted myself regardless of outcome" (p. 180).  Together this suggests a general format to help us find compassion for difficult people.

To do this we are to visualize the difficult person when they were a lovable and winsome child. Then simultaneously we are to flash forward and compassionately appreciate that the person we are now so visualizing like us is mortal and that life is fleeting.  Our unitary, telescoped humanity can give our anger pause and arouse sympathy within our hearts and turn bitterness into compassion.  

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Glass Half-Empty or Half Full?

Do you tend to see the glass half-full or half-empty? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1576).

In the parable of the sower (Mark 4), [Jesus] compared the Word of God to seeds sown in different types of soil.  As the parable indicates, the sower sows indiscriminately, knowing that some seed will fall in places where it will not grow. Like Jesus, we are to sow good seed in all places at all times....

Sow a thought, reap an act;
Sow an act, reap a habit;
Show a habit, read a character;
Sow a character, reap a destiny --Anon.

(Above two quotations from a devotional by Julie Ackerman Link, "Our Daily Bread," September 8, 2014).

Whether the glass of life is half-empty or half-full is irrelevant to the purpose and direction of our lives and actions.  Like the sower in the parable, knowing that in some respects the glass is half-empty (bad soil exists) should have no effect upon our actions--which is always to sow good seed as if each one has a chance to grow and flourish (the glass is half-full).  To say "what's the use anyway...." is an option with no hope or promise whatever.  As human beings, though we do not know with certitude every detail of the world's finality, out of respect for the efforts and faith of the past and our hope for the promise of children unborn; we continue to make our best efforts--that's all rightly we can do.

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Results Oriented Faith

What is the difference between the hope of a Christian and wishful thinking? How has your hope in Christ aided you this week? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1576).

Wishful thinking is characterized by ineffectiveness primarily due to its lack of practical acknowledgment of facts.  On the other hand, in the nurture of life the steadfast love of God has overwhelmingly positive and demonstrable benefits.  Wishful thinking lays a shallow veneer over unpleasant reality and is a form of escapism while faith engages even the most painful facts with redemptive love. The Christian faith holds that with considerable cost and sacrifice the cruelty and pain of the world can be assuaged.  Wishful thinking seeks to escape all cost and labor--it wants a painless wonderland rather than a harvest field wet from sweat, toil, and tears.

Now it is a tautology that no one knows how human history will end.  Will hatred, death, and destruction win the day?  The Christian culture on the profoundest level asserts that it will not!  This remarkable faith is reinforced individually and communally as reliable and true in daily Christian service--the faith is constantly tested--the results are already in.

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Wide Expanse of Meaning

Why do we as Christians "groan"? ... What does the Holy Spirit do for us when we do not know how to pray? When is the last time you did not know how to pray and the Holy Spirit helped and comforted you? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1576).

Romans 8:26-27 New International Version (NIV)

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

All familiar with the wordless consolation of music are well equipped to understand the intercession of the Holy Spirit on those occasions when the most we seem able to express on our own is distraught nonverbal yearnings.  Life is much larger than the pale verbiage we use to describe it--words are outlandishly flat compared to the multi-dimensional universe of experiential energy surrounding us.  Those who feel the majesty of a mighty forest or live by the sea find it silly to suppose that a mere description of them in words comprehends their meaning.

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