Tag Archives: compassion

Prayer in Motion

While I was looking for an image to tag this post, I wandered down several paths. Things that showed solidarity, things that showed people helping people, images that showed unity in faith, things that captured the truth that humanity is one species and from those ancient roots sprang a myriad of cultures, faith, ideas—and yet we remain, at the core, one. In the end it dawned on me that I already had the image, the Kalaloch Tree of Life. A tree that holds on to life in the most precarious of situations.

(c) by the author/ photographer 2019

I’ve been wanting to write about this current global event for a few weeks. In part because I have been disappointed at the reaction of those I thought I knew who disregard the threat because they are not in a high risk group, or who were concerned that our hospitals were going to become centers for the spread of infection (I’m not sure when that was not the case), those who thought it was a hoax, or those who were over-reacting to the point of endangering others.

Then there were my heroes and heroines. People who were reaching out to neighbors, volunteering to deliver food and supplies, rearranging their schedules to protect themselves and others. I’ve seen missteps and masterful strokes of leadership. I’ve seen stalled responses and the broadcasting of irresponsible, irrelevant, and (consequently) dangerous information. I’ve looked on the challenges to go against all common sense and trust God to protect them at the communion table, in their gatherings, and in their lives. I grew tired, I cried, and just as often took heart. So much to write about, and unsure of where to start. If nothing else, a National Day of Prayer gave me that start. Prayer, you see, is a verb.

Those of you who know me well know that I have an issue with folks that look to God as a cosmic Santa Claus. “Dear Lord, we’ve made a terrible mess of things (for those who are willing to admit it) could you please just fix it all?” Or even the arrogance of the practice noted above, “God loves me and won’t let anything happen to me so I can do what I please and I’ll be fine (too bad for anyone else that suffers due to my actions).” For those who wish to test the creator of our universe, however you perceive that entity to be, allow me to point out the passage of Luke 4:9-12:

Then the devil brought him to Jerusalem, had him stand on the highest point of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and ‘with their hands they will lift you up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You are not to put the Lord your God to the test.’” (NET)

If you are a Christian and you believe Jesus is the Christ, then I am here to tell you that not even the Son of God was willing to test the Creator. Tell me why you should. Tell me how you can dare to risk the suffering of others through your own ignorance and lack of compassion?

After studying and writing about the Book of Job for several years I can tell you I see the same lesson. Just because you think you’ve done all the right things; you are not magically protected from the vagaries of a universe that operates on rules you may not have bothered to learn. The lesson of Job that I see is that the universe operates on understandable rules. Sometimes we suffer because we made bad choices, sometimes it is because the universe operates on knowable rules and we didn’t take the time to learn. Sometimes it is because other people make bad choices. In any case, I believe we are here to do our best to reduce the subsequent damage to our global home, our loved ones, and our neighbors. I believe we are obligated to make the best choices to reduce the suffering of others.

That brings me to the title of this little rant, “Prayer in Motion.” I have no issue with taking a day to set aside time to breath, to get our bearings, to focus, and to reassess priorities. This is true regardless of your faith or ethics. What I do wish to see in the world is an active response, a prayer in motion, if you will. Seriously think about ways you can reduce your contact so that we can get on top of this. Italy has the 2nd highest ranking health care system in the world, yet they are currently (as of this writing) being forced to triage patients for the use of ventilators and life sustaining treatment. Currently, the United States ranks 37th in health care services and has a population more than five times that of Italy. We are coming out of the gate seriously unprepared to handle a large outbreak of anything, let alone something that can kill.

Problem number two: “if you’re sick, stay home” doesn’t work if having a home of any kind depends on you working and your job isn’t portable. This article published by the Pew Research Center breaks down the numbers of people who cannot afford to take off a day or a week with no pay and no benefits. Next time you stop at the local drive through to pick up dinner, you might want to keep this in mind.

That leads us to the next problem, when people stop showing up at places to eat and buy the things we took for granted, businesses suffer, especially the small business trying to keep things propped up. In the Seattle metro area, there are already serious impacts to people who make their living serving the huge population that commutes to commercial centers daily. Many of the professionals in our communities can and do opt to work from home; hotel maids, taxi drivers, food service workers, cleaning personnel, and oh so many others don’t have that option. And when the people are not there to serve, there is no job to do.

But there are things that I see that give me hope. Neighborhoods that pull together to keep an eye on each other. People coming together to find alternative ways to deliver food and supplies to those who no longer should be relying on public transit. People who work on getting medical services where they are needed while containing risk. This is the heart of “prayer in motion.” This is where you step up to finding ways to reduce impact, and to help those who face challenges in surviving this crisis. This is what people of faith, and people with an ethical standard, are called to do.

Take this day to pray, or meditate, or simply practice deep breathing. But use that time to focus on what you as an individual, or as a member of a “social distancing” group, can accomplish that will alleviate the situation. Be informed, make wise choices, and learn to rebuild a society that sees us as one global community facing many global threats. Be the answer.

 

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Filed under Giving Back, Humanties for the Unbound Mind, My Journey with Job

…to the least of these

Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

This morning I posted a link to a blog I follow and mentioned that I believed being a decent human being was our number one goal. Oh, I also mentioned something that validated other beliefs and faiths. That earned a punch back. I was breaking the first commandment and following Jesus should be my number one goal. I responded that, in my opinion, doing what Jesus said to do was an act of following him. I also referenced Matthew 25:31-46. Then I thought for a bit and decided cherry picking may not be the best approach and I should widen my response. You know me, FB posts often grow into blog posts so here we go.

I have recently completed a manuscript that studies the Book of Job. This was a years’ long project. I have been told that the book is “thoroughly researched,” that the research is “dissertation level,” and that “it is the most comprehensive treatment of the Book of Job that I have come across.” Some of the concerns expressed were whether I could connect with a general market, or if I was going to be limited to those who study these things. I hope not. You see, I still believe there are those who are not scholars of sacred texts who hear the voice of our ancestors while they try to piece together what it means to live in a world that often passes understanding, that is often beyond our reason.

My studies took me all over the world and sent me to the words of many ancient civilizations and spiritual/ethical leaders. I found a drumbeat, one that spoke deeply to who I wanted to be, and I chose to share it.

For this bit, let’s focus on the Judeo-Christian scriptures (hopefully my Jewish friends will bear with me in this usage). Scripture wars where one side says, “what about?” and the other side says, “well here’s one for you,” get us nowhere. As noted above, I responded with the parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25, a favorite of mine, which talks about how we treat fellow beings as being the metric by which our soul is measured. Can I back that up with any other passage? Well, yes, several. Here are a few.

Deuteronomy 10:17-19 is quoted often these days since it admonishes Israel on the doorstep of Canaan to love the resident foreigner, at least in part because once you were one.

Isaiah 10:1-4 is a declaration that those who enact unjust policies are as good as dead. That when you deprive the oppressed and steal from those who are widowed or orphaned, destruction is assured.

Matthew 5:1-12. The Sermon on the Mount would do us all good in this day and age. The common name of the Beatitudes says much about how we should view fellow beings.

Matthew 19:16-22, often interpreted as a mandate against wealth, it is really a well-defined lesson on how to apply wealth. It also has something to say about rules. The “rich man” who approached Jesus swore up and down that he was following the commandments and yet he felt something was lacking. He was told he needed to sell everything and give it to the poor.  I don’t think Jesus was trying to tell rich people to be poor, I think he was making a comparison between following all the rules and having compassion. I know a few rich folks that use great mountains of their wealth to make this world a better place. Non-believing rich people. Can a person of faith do any less?

I’ve always loved 1 Corinthians 13:1, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but I do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” I’m afraid I know a lot of clanging cymbals.

There are so many more passages that address how we treat others. Scripture also addresses the treatment of animals, and the earth that provides us with sustenance. There is a sense of responsibility when you are instructed not eat meat that was killed in a manner that poisons the flesh with the adrenaline of fear. Or, to eat those creatures which are scavengers and predators. Letting the land rest every seven years helps protect the fertility of the ground, gleaning allows those who have no other resources to find food and nourishment. Beyond the wars and smitting and flooding, there is much about how to be a decent human being; even when things are not going our way.

That’s where my hero steps in. Job tests the boundaries of what it means to live a righteous life, a life according to the rules. The rules so many treasure so dearly that humanity itself is left behind. Job demands answers, and (in my opinion) he gets answers. If the chapters referred to as the science lessons are to mean anything, it is crucial to put them in context. Once you can speak from a time and a place relevant to the author’s thoughts, wide vistas open and a light shines on an ever-creating universe. A universe where not every nanosecond or picosecond is focused on our personal wellbeing. Once we learn to see the world from a perspective Terry Pratchett called the universal view, then doing what is right in the world becomes a natural goal. You follow a Creator by becoming a positive and compassionate part of that creation.

Whether you are an academic, a curious layperson, or a member of the general public that just wants to see a different point of view on why there is suffering in the world, and what you can do in the face of it, come join me in the author’s study while we explore the riddle of Job.

Redefining Job and the Conundrum of Suffering – projected publication early 2020.

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Filed under Humanties for the Unbound Mind, My Journey with Job

The Morning After

It is difficult, when you are building a public face, to know how and when to respond. As an author, I do have to consider the public; but I also must remain true to my own beliefs; beliefs and positions well documented throughout this website. So, here goes my interpretation of where we are the morning after.

Perhaps this election may finally force us to look in the mirror, to see what America has become without make up, the pretty clothes, whitened teeth, and brushed out hair. It is time to look closely at what a night of drunken, unleashed anger and hatred has done to us. We have elected a golden calf. Yes, I am serious, we elected what we “perceived” to be a savior, a hypnotic rush to “something different” rarely stopping to check out anything on either candidate that did not fit in with our established worldview. We do, indeed, deserve that which we have created.

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There is, of course, the question of the popular vs. the electoral vote and the discussion has arisen for many years about the modern usefulness of the Electoral College. What is important to understand is that the Founding Fathers created a republic, a union of states, not people. Each state had its own history, personality, needs, and desires. Canada pulls this off better than we do, but then they are younger as a country. The provinces have retained their personality and commerce between them can be an interesting affair.

The point is that the founding fathers did not want the states with greater populations to overrule the states that were sparsely populated. Therefore, we have a senate based on 2 representatives for each state and a house based on population. The number of folks in the electoral college is determined by the total number of representatives and senators each state has. The rules for selection vary from state to state – but that was the point. When you vote for president, you vote for a representative of the College that usually follows the sentiment of his or her state, but not always. This is a representative form of government – not a democratic form.

As to this election, we were in a logical conundrum that had few good outcomes.  If Hilary won she had to have a Democratic (or, at the very least a sympathetic) Congress or absolutely nothing would be accomplished in the next four years. I mentioned to a Canadian friend that she may have had difficulty getting her laundry done. By the time the polls closed on the west coast last night, we knew that we were again faced with a few hundred people who take pride in NOT doing their jobs. Hillary’s battles would have been exponentially worse than anything Obama has faced in the last eight years. At last count, the Federal Judiciary has some 103 vacancies with 59 nominees pending. That’s just the Judiciary. There are also several directorates that are vacant simply because a Republican Congress didn’t choose to do their jobs. And this is only the tip of the iceberg of “things undone.” This is not a way to run a country.

Now, we have another scenario. If rumors are true and Trump the Salesman only used the theatrics to get elected and he intends to be a more moderate president than indicated, he will be a disappointment to his base. And that is a real problem. He has awakened a dragon in this country and it will not be easily subdued. His acceptance speech notwithstanding (I watched the first third or so), this campaign was all about hatred. Hatred of other races, immigrants, gays, liberals, Hillary, and women. I know that there is a large piece of his constituency that voted for him based on their own, logically supported reasons, but the loudest part of that crowd is fueled by anger. That does not bode well for us or the world.

If Trump faces real problems in his upcoming court appearances, we are no better off. We are left with Mr. Pence. Mr. Pence is one of the most dangerous creatures known to man – a true believer.  True believers are not interested in facts; they are interested in commitment to a world constructed in opposition to evidence and reason. There are no wins here.

The point is, this country is seething with hatred. We cannot survive on a diet of hatred. We just can’t. If we are to change our direction, if we are to slay the dragon within us, we must start today to create the atmosphere, and the qualified base, to take back our public institutions. We need people willing to work, to do the jobs our founding documents require of them.

We also need compassion. I no longer wish to call myself Christian in public because of what the public face of Christianity has become. I am, however, deeply committed spiritually. It is because of that commitment I will not surrender to the forces that swirl around me. My writing, my life, my voice will not be silenced. I will continue to support my fellow beings on this planet, regardless of race, religious faith (or lack thereof), or sexual orientation or identity.

Now I must prepare myself to respect the office, even if I cannot respect the man who holds it.

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Filed under Humanties for the Unbound Mind, Personal Journeys