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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Lesson from the Garden

What kind of garden crop have you planted?  How long did it take for the flowers or food crop to appear.  (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1686).

One of my most prized garden plants is one that was apparently dead for months. I continued to water it with only a hope that the plant would come back. Almost at the point of my giving up, the plant sprouted two sprigs of beautiful leaves. This happened in the summer and grasshoppers with dispatch made a meal of them.  I continued to water.  Eventually the grasshoppers disappeared and the plant again spouted.  It is now on track to grow a vine covered in purple flowers. Lesson learned--don't give up but proceed onward as if something were true and it can end up being true.

The most recent addition to my planter on the porch was inspired by a neighbor who several months ago brought me sprays of mint from his garden for my tea. They were so refreshing I determined that I would eventually get some plants myself. Just this past week I purchased some little plants from Lowe's-- chocolate mint and spearmint. Using the hand pump, I water them daily from a sprinkling can. They are doing extremely well, and I look forward to the day I can have some more mint tea or lemonade. (I also inexplicably enjoy the funky sulfur smell from the well that permeates my front yard after having watered all the plants.)

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

With Thanks for A (Very) Special Person

I have a best friend of many years; now he's 36 years old. He scored more than 2 standard deviations below the mean on the Wechsler scale--an official determination of the intellectually disabled.  Once some years ago there was a social function sponsored by a fellow church member.  When I mentioned that I noticed my friend was not present, the reason given for the non-invite was it was thought he would be too disruptive.

Last week I asked family members if my friend could attend our family Thanksgiving feast.  The response was a strong positive.  My friend wanted to make a first class contribution to the meal.  I bought chuck roast and all the trimmings to prepare in my slow cooker.  At my house he chopped and diced all the vegetables adding seasoning and red wine to the roast.  After we got the ingredients cooking at my house, he wanted to go to his house and prepare the same thing in his cooker.  On the way to his house we stopped by the grocery store and he purchased about $40 of meat and vegetables--a considerable sum as he obtains an income from two jobs washing dishes.  Today early we headed out to the family gathering--about a 2 hour drive.

Though everyone there was nice to my friend, I could not help but remember the time he was not invited to a function for being too disruptive.  Despite the flawless kindness shown, it was apparent that some found him irritatingly disruptive.  My friend, you must understand, represents the epitome of positive enthusiasm (as well as uncompromising authenticity).

After the meal and cleanup chores, my friend and I decided to walk the grounds--just the two of us.  On our commencing the walk, my friend casually said, "I hope Jesus had a happy Thanksgiving."  I immediately wondered to myself how many in this land of plenty expressed the same thought today--would it take all ten fingers to make the count?  We eventually came to the empty chapel and together knelt down at the alter.  I prayed first thanking the Lord for family and friends.  Then my friend prayed-- asking blessings on all those hungry and in need.

I determined on the spot if for any cause I'm asked to sell out my friend; I will reply without hesitation--"You can take this cause and #!!# shove it!"  

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Fourth Practical Need

Are you a long-range planner, or do you take one day at a time? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1686).

The short answer to this question is that it is essential to make long-range plans while concurrently executing well within the short-term. Yet, with this in mind, it is still readily possible to describe a person as either characteristically emphasizing the former or the latter.  I personally have to plead guilty to favoring a long-term outlook. Perhaps this derives in part from my great admiration for big dreamers who lift their sites using long-term ambitions.  A long-term perspective sets short-term actions within a field of values.  This sense of fundamental stability is a basic need for most humans, or so I believe. For humans have a need not only to successfully maneuver around the next bend, but a need to consistently follow a guiding star for deliverance from the daily maze.  Jesus spoke of people being lost. It is easy to get lost in the daily maze when absent a guiding star. Principled purpose is a practical psychological need that complements the physical needs of food, clothing, and shelter.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tossed Salad - The Medley of Democracy

In my Monday night class at USF, a student offered that America was not and should not be a "melting pot." She preferred to think of America as a "salad bowl."  I like that metaphor tremendously--the idea that we can have cucumbers, celery, carrots, onions, iceberg lettuce, fresh spinach, and whatever else our cornucopia of diversity offers; each happily retaining a distinct character and flavor of their own. My one caveat would be that a good salad also needs a good dressing--something to give the salad itself an identity. I like to think of the American salad dressing as a light, sweet vinaigrette. It is composed of informality, a fresh dash of honesty, plain speaking, respect for individual rights, a generous portion of kindness, mutual respect, and regard. With this as the dressing, I have little anxiety regarding the felicitous consummation of the salad.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Chief Controller - An Error In Judgement

Matthew 25:37-40 (NIV).

 ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

If you are like me you would give good money to avoid falling into the judgmental trap from which position one looks upon all others with more or less disapproval. Sometimes I have to ask myself: "Who died and appointed me the chief controller of all mankind?"  But every time I try to escape a judgmental attitude, it seems somehow impossible – like trying not to think of a pink spotted cow.

Pastor David Miller in church Sunday gave the best possible opportunity to avoid this error. Quoting from Matthew (above), he pointed out that we are to see Jesus in each person. So, recalling this, the next time I am tempted to become controller in chief of all mankind; I will pause a bit, close my eyes, and when I open them see the image of Jesus before me.  

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You Can't Have One Without the Other

Can self-assertiveness and humility co-exist? Where does pride come in? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1686).

The answer to this question is very straightforward. Not only can self assertiveness and humility coexist, they must do so for either one to be consistently sustained. Without self assertiveness, humility becomes abject sycophancy calculatingly manipulating others while wallowing in the self-centered pride of the unprincipled pleaser. Without humility, self assertiveness becomes unprincipled egotism populating a shadow-land of cloned idols erected in honor of self.  Only when self assertiveness and humility coexist is there the possibility for the triumph of righteousness and social realism.

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Tinhorn Misers

Jesus and the apostles Peter and Paul were not always very "tame" when it came to the tongue. When is harsh language acceptable? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1685).

Occasionally it is necessary to shake things up a bit in order to derive a new perception of the situation.  Sometimes "tame" language simply does not do the job.  For example, it is becoming acceptable in the name of capitalism to keep families apart -- even estranged and separated -- on the singular family holy day, Thanksgiving.  The incessant, arbitrary and greedy promulgations of morally bankrupt and pompous tycoons has encroached upon the inner sanctum of the family circle.  Surely it is time to graphically expose such rank materialists for the tinhorn misers and enemies of  family comity they actually are. 

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Breaking Point

At what points might you be tempted to lose your faith: After a big loss? When you seem to be making it very well on your own? When things are not going your way? When Christianity is mocked on TV talk shows? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1669).

None of the above. What would shake my faith most is if a Christian that I greatly admired, even whose words I study daily – such as Jimmy Carter – were to renounce their faith.  I'm trying to envision something of this order occurring on a more personal basis. What if I found a writing of my father's in which he ridiculed faith and hence revealed his entire ministry to be an exercise in cheap hypocrisy?  What if I learned that my mother secretly held allegiance to atheism? The reason that any of these would be such a blow is because I view my parents as sincere Christians and have personally experienced the results of their belief--the huge benefits of Christian nurture. It would be an overwhelming disappointment to learn that their Christianity was merely a tawdry charade.  That could rock my faith to its foundations--something on the order as if discovering that St. Paul secretly held his entire Christian ministry to be one big joke foisted on the delusional.

As troubling as it would be to learn that an admired Christian had committed some notable sin; this would be far from fatal – nowhere approaching the matters discussed above.  After all, I am well acquainted with the necessity of daily confessionals.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Long Time in Coming

The other day I was at Saint Petersburg Music Factory for guitar lessons and Gandhi's Seven Social Sins were displayed on the wall.  I am 70 years old and this was the first time I had ever encountered or heard of them.  It is an understatement to say they constitute seeds for thought.  In case you have somehow gotten this far without encountering them, I list them below followed by a short quotation from Wikipedia.

The Seven Sins are:

  • Wealth without work.
  • Pleasure without conscience.
  • Knowledge without character.
  • Commerce without morality.
  • Science without humanity.
  • Worship without sacrifice.
  • Politics without principle.

Following quoted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

  • The Seven Social Sins, sometimes called the Seven Blunders of the World, is a list that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi published in his weekly newspaper Young India on October 22, 1925. Later he gave this same list to his grandson, Arun Gandhi, written on a piece of paper on their final day together shortly before his assassination.  
  • Mahatma Gandhi published his list of Seven Social Sins in 1925....
    The list was first published by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in his weekly newspaper Young India on October 22, 1925. Gandhi wrote that a correspondent who he called a "fair friend" had sent the list: "The... fair friend wants readers of Young India to know, if they do not already, the following seven social sins," (the list was then provided). After the list, Gandhi wrote that "Naturally, the friend does not want the readers to know these things merely through the intellect but to know them through the heart so as to avoid them." This was the entirety of Gandhi's commentary on the list when he first published it.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

No Middle Ground

When did Jesus become more than just a name to you? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1668).

To be honest it started so young that I don't remember. From the pulpit I would hear father favorably mentioned Albert Einstein or Dr. Schweitzer, sometimes quoting them.  But these highly regarded men never competed in place with Jesus. We were, after all,  a Christian church and body of believers. We did not simply highly regard Christ, we worshiped him.  In my view there is really no middle ground here –  you either, first, highly regard Christ as first among men or, second, you worship him as part of the Trinity; you either consider him a deity or just a singularly admirable very special and remarkable person.  Those who say, "Yes, he's the Son of God, but we don't worship him" actually see him in a radically different light than believers.  If you worship Jesus then he becomes the touchstone by which everything else is assayed – not just a special King, but by nature the very King Himself.  Let me add right off that I join those who find it difficult to wrap their brain around the Trinity in a rational way. The way I look at the Trinity is that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all constitute the One holy family: with God being the Father of all.  

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Fatal Disability of the Proud

If you "left home without it," what would be the first thing you'd ask someone to send? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1660).

Following quotations from a Moody Radio Proclaim delivery regarding the disabled.  Quotations are from memory so may not be exact:

Nothing can overcome the insult of a gift other than the love of the one who gives it.

Disability teaches us that we are dependant--and learning this gives us the quality of grace.

Far and away the answer to this question is very simple. I would want first and foremost the things that I left behind that now make me in my present circumstances dependent upon others. So if I left behind my credit cards,  that would be the first thing I would ask to be sent.

I hate dependency. I insist on thinking of myself as totally self-reliant. A moment's reflection indicates how flimsy this notion is. Not a single meal goes by that I am not in one way or another dependent upon others. There is not a shred of clothes that I wear that does not testify to my dependency.  Every move that I make about the country on public thoroughfares using public facilities testifies to my dependency. Not a watt of electricity is consumed without dependency; not an ounce of water.  Sometimes we can't help but marvel at why Jesus seemed to gravitate towards the dependent, the afflicted, the disabled. It might well have been because they, at least, embodied the exceptional in realizing the full extent of their dependency, and this led to a grace not duplicated in the more "self-reliant."  Let us pray that our eyes be opened to the full scope of our dependency and thereafter grant us grace.  

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Are We on the Firing Line?

2 Timothy 3:12-15 New International Version (NIV).

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

John 14: 30-31 (NIV).

[Jesus said:] He [the Force of Worldly Power] has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.

WOW!!! Jesus said that the Force of this world has no hold (or power) over him.  And his life and death plainly indicated this to be true.  As Paul said, "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and imposters will  go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived."  It is no mystery why the righteous suffer...Can we count ourselves among them?  If not, why not?

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Relation of Time and Meaning

Let us say you have a favorite poem that you consider beautiful and meaningful. Today you offer to read it to us. You read the poem with expression and meaning, and we are all deeply moved. In retrospect we note that it took about three minutes for you to read the poem using necessary emphasis. Now suppose we impose a time constraint of 25 seconds on your rereading of the same poem.  Obviously the time constraint will eviscerate all meaning from the poem as we watch you in rapid fire monotone nervously speed through the text.  Thus we see the relationship between meaning and time. With unrealistic deadlines, there is no room for meaning; or conversely, the longer the time (with an appropriate time), the greater the possible meaning. Christians believe in eternity and eternal life and derive a measure of assurance and tranquility therefrom.  With sights on eternity, we live methodically with purpose and meaning – "reading" life with all due regard. This is a primary benefit of belief in eternal life.  It might also be called "making time for the ethical dimension."

Today pastor David Miller preached a sermon regarding worry.  Note that in the  foreshortened reading above, trimmed time could easily morph into worry and anxiety for everyone.  For relief, we could make a joke of the second "noise" saying in effect "live, laugh, and be merry for in 25 seconds we will die." An unrealistic timeline and worry absent an eternal perspective turn life into a hollow wasteland devoid of meaning or else a nihilistic farce filled with camp.

A Matter of Faith-----

"The Final Picture"
By Julie Ackerman
Below quoted from: Our Daily Bread
November 12, 2014

What started as an empty 11-acre field in Belfast, Northern Ireland, ended up as the largest land portrait in the British Isles. Wish, by artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada, is made from 30,000 wooden pegs, 2,000 tons of soil, 2,000 tons of sand, and miscellaneous items such as grass, stones, and string.

At the beginning, only the artist knew what the final artwork was going to look like. He hired workers and recruited volunteers to haul materials and move them into place. As they worked, they saw little indication that something amazing was about to emerge. But it did. From the ground, it doesn’t look like much. But from above, viewers see a huge portrait—the smiling face of a little girl.

God is doing something on a grander scale in the world. He’s the artist who sees the final picture. We’re His “fellow workers” (1 Cor. 3:9) who are helping to make it a reality. Through the prophet Isaiah, God reminded His people that it is He who “sits above the circle of the earth” and “stretches out the heavens like a curtain” (Isa. 40:22). We can’t see the final picture, but we continue on in faith, knowing that we’re part of an amazing work of art—one that is being created on earth but will be best seen from heaven.

While sometimes I think I can see the big picture,
Lord, my heart knows it sees so little. I’m
thankful that You are working out Your beautiful
will in this world, and I can trust You.

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Model to Help Relieve Conflict

How do you know if you are "quarreling about words" or standing up against false teaching? Which do most Christians spend more time doing? How about you? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1659).

"Quarreling about words" is one thing, "quarreling about personalities" is quite another. It has been pointed out that the health plan supported by President Obama was in substance some years prior crafted by Republicans who thereafter opposed the plan because it came to be associated with someone they detest. The following discussion will do nothing to alleviate such conflict.

Shirzad Chamine in his book Positive Intelligence  on page 172 illustrates "The Iceberg of Conflict."  At the tip of the iceberg is "POSITION."  Extending some distance below the waterline one finds "ASSUMPTIONS."   Forming the lower third and base of the iceberg are "ASPIRATIONS."  The idea is that where parties have different stances – say management versus labor – we often find set opposing positions in addition to destructive and false assumptions regarding the other party. Generally speaking, we should never presume another's thoughts, but forthrightly inquire about them. Finally, on the aspirational level, we find common human aspirations; for example, security. In our example, both management and labor are interested in short-term and long-term security not only for themselves, but for the company of which they are part. From this point of view, both can agree that they want the company and the individuals within the company to be secure and thrive. On an aspirational level, therefore, we find a naturally occurring circle large enough to include both parties.

Now in regards to religion, believers are predisposed to share many values and beliefs on the aspirational level. Even so, false assumptions and frictional positions can develop over time. It therefore behooves those who yearn for community to reaffirm their common values, beliefs, and aspirations.  From this powerful common perspective, they can explore assumptions and reassess the true significance of various positions. When it's not a matter of "personalities" – as in some middle school political food fight – "The Iceberg of Conflict" model provides a helpful way to clarify the matter.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Lord Love a Duck

What false teachings are you aware of and concerned about today? How can you help your church to be on guard, and to present a strong offense?  (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition,  page 1656).

In the old days fire and brimstone preachers induced fear to harvest a crop of converts. Today we have a bizarre twist to that old line. It is now not fire and brimstone that threaten,  but an even more immediate and frightening fear – the fear that I may not grow Rich. Dear ones, the clock is ticking at this very moment.  This may be the ONLY chance for extravagant salvation from middle class mediocrity.  Repent! Believe in God!  And grow Rich!  Surrender all while there's still time and become a billionaire!

Lord love a duck – will we ever grow up?

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Saint or Fool

What should be the Christian's / Church's response to the welfare issue? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1655).

The test is a simple one – is the response helpful or hurtful? The difficulty arises because virtually every move made in this regard can have pluses and minuses and vast areas of uncertainty and unintended consequences. The uncertainty of ultimate outcome, however, cannot be an excuse for inaction or a cause to shirk one's Christian and social responsibilities. The litmus test is unavoidably spiritual and rests upon one's perception of blessedness.  Thus, welfare responses finally depend upon the penetrating clarity and incisiveness of spiritual guidance or lack thereof.... forming perceptions of Mother Teresa as either saint or fool.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Compelling Evaluation

How does Christ affirm your worth even when others do not? (Serendipity Bible  Fourth Edition,  page 1653).

Christ died for me and thus affirmed the absolute nature of my self-worth.  He died for me under no illusions about my perfection.  He died loving me even though fully aware of my imperfections--imperfections that were at base the very cause of his crucifixion.  This is something like the soldier who dies for his country knowing full well the extent of his country's imperfections, but forgiving her and loving her absolutely anyway.  Such loyalty is compelling.  So, therefore, if someone chooses to paint me with a malicious brush soaked in venom and hatred, can anyone blame me for accepting Christ's evaluation of me over his?  I guess my question in this situation is: "Christ died for me; what have you done for me?"

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Guide My Steps

One thing that I greatly admire about Jesus was the extent to which he trusted his Heavenly Father to guide his steps, his speech, his every move. How often do we put lead in the ceiling, so to speak, and assume that everything is up to us or is determined by the roulette wheel of luck. I would like to see more experiments with a full trust in the Heavenly Father to guide our every step, our every word, our every move. I think we would be utterly surprised at the way the road is made clear for us to work productively and awesomely on-target. At least this has been my experience--uncanny as it would otherwise seem to be.

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Fine Sounding Arguments

Paul contrasts clever speech and true wisdom.... What "fine sounding arguments" hinder you in following Jesus?… (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1639).

Clever speech always counsels selfishness. Wisdom always counsels generosity. Clever speech relies on a very old and ancient argument  – "It's fine in theory, but it just won't work in practice" and one closely allied with it – "Those seemingly acting from generosity are in fact selfish; they are full of ulterior motives."

There is no way to answer those arguments other than putting your life on the line and working for Jesus. Cynics center their clever arguments on the short-run and deliver Pyrrhic victories. Those who follow Jesus and wisdom's way always place greater emphasis on the long-run. Validation for wisdom's way is found in child-rearing.  The cheapest, most efficient, most convenient way is never the most effective way.  By choosing to eliminate inconvenience, even infanticide has become commonplace.  This obviously is not the better way, the way of love and hope opening into a viable future.

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Saturday, November 8, 2014

My Childhood Meets the "Religious" Person

As a child, what did you think a "religious" person was like? How did you feel about that person? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1639).

I have no doubt that many worldly-wise people thought of my parents as religious, but I never did. For me, the "religious" person was one who expressed great emotion (not simply passion) in their faith. At a camp meeting, they would be the ones to stand up, raise their hands, shout, and dance around. They were also the ones who would corner you with a question – "Are you on the firing line?"  They are the sort of folks that H.L. Mencken would have a field day feeling superior to (though all Methodist in his book were considered silly).  I never felt superior to emotional believers, but I was somewhat intimidated by their volatility and had an underlying fear that they would put me on the spot with a penetrating question for which I had no ready answer.

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Friday, November 7, 2014

Truth Makes Strange Bedfellows

What outside force is most likely to upset your contentment? Since God does not always change negative outside forces, what can be changed in you so that contentment is possible?....(Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1636).


Philippians 4:4-8 New International Version (NIV)

Final Exhortations (from Paul)

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.


Matthew 6:25- 27, 33 (NIV)

Do Not Worry (Jesus points the way.)

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?... But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.


Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine, p 130.  (Shirzad adds the science.)

Once the amygdala determines that there is credible danger, the brain shifts primarily into survive mode. This results in a cascade of neurochemical events, including the release of the stress hormone cortisol. Few people realize that when you go into fight-or-flight mode, the mind – not just the body – becomes narrowly focused. It begins to selectively look for negative signs of danger while ignoring positive signs of opportunity....

The good news is that positivity is also self-reinforcing and self-fulfilling. Positive emotions bathe our brains in serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals have multiple effects. They make us feel good. They energize the learning centers of our brain, which help us in organizing, storing, and retrieving new information. They facilitate making and keeping more neural synaptic connections, which in turn help us think more quickly, be more adept at complex and big-picture problem solving, and generate more outside-the-box creative possibilities.

Many hold almost instinctively that in order to avoid fear, we must continually be in escapist (or fighting) mode. Since fear is well known to everyone, it is possible that we can spend most of our time trying to escape. Ironically, escapists activities (like reflexive aggression) usually only make the problem worse. Then, like one escaping with substance abuse, when we return to reality we find everything worse and more stressful than before.  Another way we can try to escape is by relying on modes of behavior that seek to unrealistically control the situation.  For example, I can make a habit of constantly blaming others for every problem. This obviously does nothing to face the problem creatively. Jesus, Paul, and Shirzad Chamine point the way to a mental climate that makes possible exploration, enlightened creativity, and constructive patterning of complexity. More and more it appears that science and spirituality share common views regarding the nature of man.

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

An Imposing Threat

What does it mean to you to be a citizen of heaven and an heir of God's kingdom? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1635).

In a famous passage Jesus says that one should render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's. This was a brilliant response to a trap. However, it is a difficult rule to put into practice if one's conscience dictates primary allegiance to the leadings of the Spirit. In other words, Caesar could theoretically ask that I commit adultery. My conscience would not allow this. Therefore I would simply not render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's but rather render unto God the things that are God's.

Conscience can offer a great loophole through which anarchy can pass. This must be avoided. That is, conscience must be informed by the Greatest Commandment and that which is likened unto it; namely, that we should love God and love our neighbor. The United States is not an arbitrary ruler. This is a democracy and is founded upon individual rights. It is an American tradition that conscience to the maximum extent possible be honored and respected. Therefore I have little anxiety about living in America. There is little chance that the government will at gunpoint force me to do something against my conscience. The coarsening of American culture concerns me primarily because it obfuscates the clarity of conscience as a principle of action. When profanity and falsehoods inflame a culture, the provisions for conscience are mocked. In my view the greatest threat to our nation is not external, but the relentless internal and pervasive propaganda glorifying idols of escapism.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Antithesis of Cynicism

What do you look back on as the happiest days of your life? Were they really that good? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1635).

All I know is that I am very happy now. The question can be asked however, are the days now really that good?

This morning I arose early and went to the blood lab because my regularly scheduled doctor's appointment is next Wednesday. The general elections were yesterday and the results are in.  There was a gathering of about eight people waiting for the doors to open at 6 AM.   The cynicism of the people there – even those whose candidates won – was an eye-opener. They sarcastically ridiculed even their own winning candidates. One lady worked at a high school. She just shook her head and said that people have no idea how it is in high schools these days. Profanity fills normal discourse and respect of students even for each other is lacking. Parents blame the schools.  It is apparent that hope is not the opposite of cynicism. The opposite of cynicism is character. It's a foreboding thing that character seems to be disintegrating within a diseased culture. There is plenty of blame to go around for our present crisis; but we should start with ourselves, our home and work, and ask what character is being expressed there?  Is there an environment of truth and humility...or is falsehood and arrogance predominant?

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Absolute Nature of Uncertainty

What is the best thing that happened to you this week? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1635).

I consider this a "got you" question. I do so because I immediately rack my brain to think of what most pleased me this week....when the obvious fact is that I have no clear idea whether what pleased me most was the best thing that happened to me – after all, it could have been the worst in actuality. Similarly, there can be things of which I am completely unaware  that were God-sent.  Perhaps that aggravating delay saved me from otherwise experiencing a serious traffic accident – who knows? I don't know and you don't either.  So the only straightforward answer that a person can possibly give to the question of "What is the best thing that happened this week?" that I have not the foggiest notion.

One of my favorite stories follows:

{"The Stallion Story" quoted from Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine, Greenleaf Book Group Press (2012), page 73.  I highly recommend this book.}

The Stallion Story

And old farmer lives on his farm with his teenage son. He also has a beautiful stallion that he lovingly cares for.

The farmer enters his stallion into the annual country fair competition. His stallion wins first prize. The farmer's neighbors gather to congratulate him on this great win. He calmly says, "Who knows what is good and what is bad?" Puzzled by this reaction, the neighbors go away.

The next week, some thieves who heard about the stallion's increased value steal the horse. When the neighbors come to commiserate with the farmer, they find him again very calm and gathered. He says, "Who knows what is good and what is bad?"

Several days later, the spirited stallion escapes from the thieves and finds his way back to the farm, bringing with him a few wild mares he has befriended along the way. To his neighbors' excited rounds of congratulations, the old farmer once again says, "Who knows what is good and what is bad?"

A few weeks later, the farmer's son is thrown off one of these new mares as he is trying to break it in, and his leg is fractured. As the neighbors gather to commiserate with the old farmer, he once again reminds them, "Who knows what is good and what is bad?"

The following week, the imperial army marches through the village, conscripting all eligible young men for the war that has just broken out. The old farmer's son is spared due to his fractured leg. The neighbors no longer bother to come to the old farmer to congratulate him. By now they know what his response will be: "Who knows what is good and what is bad?"

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