Archives For Inspiring

Things that inspire me and help me get closer to my Creator

Being Still ….

December 8, 2014

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Human mind works in a funny way, its basic nature is that of rebellion and the more you try to tame it, the more it gets out of control. Try keeping it fixed at a particular spot for a few minutes and you will understand the point am trying to make here at an experiential level. There are so many times wherein i have just wanted to be quiet, silent in all 3: physical, vocal and mental levels. By being quiet, I don’t mean draining my mind of all thoughts, for that stage is way high up in one’s spiritual journey. I simply mean being equanimous towards the thoughts/emotions that cross my mind, simply being a observer and not reacting. However, this seemingly simple thing of being still is so tough to get in action….

In The About Me Tab:

 I hope that i can raise myself to such a level of purity and integrity so as to have the courage to stand up for my principles as and when required. Most of my thoughts/principles/ideas are still getting shaped and my writing would demonstrate just that. Also, as of now, I feel stifled by even the mere thought of binding myself down with one ideology and thus, i keep jumping from one to another, keeping points i connect to and ignoring the rest.

SOURCE: Being Still – Learning’s from a tree | Just A Crazy Dreamer.

I think I have found a new kindred spirit on the Internet. His name is NAKUL ARORA and he is a young man in India trying to live out his calling. I browsed through several of his posts today and he has much the same questions about life as I do. He is now on my Feedly list for a daily read. I love the picture above from his blog header. I imagine that he is the one in the center of the picture. In his youth he quit the life path that was expected of him in order to follow his dreams. I wish I had done the same. One of the first things to draw my attention to the picture is the diversity of teeth among this young group. It is refreshing to see that physical beauty, some might say sameness,  does not drive all the countries in the world.

He claims to be “a die-hard patriot and appalled by the state of things in my country, I wanted to do something…”

I will be following this young man and probably re-blogging some of his words. The words above about simply being quiet spurred all kinds of thoughts in me. It is similar to the concept of “centering down” common among my Quaker friends.  My mind, I’m sure like his is in constant thought about things of the world. Just being quiet and observing instead of judging is a hard thing for me to accomplish.  I do it on occasion but frequently just can’t manage to do that. With this young man’s words and thoughts I hope to accomplish this more often.  I hope he spurs me into thinking about things in a different way.  We all need to be shaken from our complacency once in a while.

 

2014-08-11_08-25-37One of the surest ways to get smarter is to surround yourself with those who are more intelligent than you and to insist on regularly stretching yourself beyond your comfort zone. If you’re just too smart for your current gig, that’s just not going to happen

SOURCE: 3 Signs You’re Too Smart for Your Job – Yahoo Small Business Advisor.

Another way of saying the above is that if you are not stimulated by what you do for a living then you should be looking elsewhere. But of course in our current economy where so many people are underemployed being too smart for the job is too often the case.  I hope the lessons like this article show is being taught to our young people in high school.  But stretching your comfort zone is something that all of us should do. It shouldn’t be limited by age.

For those of you too lazy to click on the source I am going to give the three reasons here (or maybe I am too lazy to give you my own words ;) )

1. Problem, what problem?

Doing the same thing over and over again in the exact same way never taught anyone anything. If your co-workers are interested only in repeatedly treading the same well worn paths, then it’s unlikely you’ll start expanding your skills anytime soon, according to Ryan. “Your co-workers may be the nicest people on earth, but if they don’t understand what you’re talking about when you lay out frame-shifting ideas or if they can’t hold a conversation about anything except the way they’ve always done things, you’re in the wrong place,” she writes.

2. No one is mentor material.

It bears repeating: Hanging out with smart folks makes you smarter. If you look around and don’t see anyone you really want to learn from at your current place of employment, that’s a huge red flag. Ask yourself: “Whom do I spar with? Who stimulates me mentally at work? Whom do I look up to and learn from?” If the answer is, “No one,” it’s time to start plotting your escape, Ryan suggests.

3. No vision at the top.

It’s hard to progress if you have no idea what you’re working toward, and, unless you’re very far advanced in your career, that vision for your team, department, or company should come from the top. If instead you’re getting radio silence about where the organization is headed, then the scope for meaningful contribution is severely limited. “You can’t grow your flame working for someone who has no idea what a vision is or where to get one. You have to learn from your boss,” warns Ryan.

Just a few final thoughts here. Henry Ford’s assembly line created mass production but it also created a couple of generations of human robots. I was stuck in that mode for a few summers during college and the work was simply stifling to me. I was glad to leave it behind. The three problems above should also apply to our personal lives outside the workplace. If we followed them they would make us all better and more productive citizens.

A Life Half Lived….

July 28, 2014

2014-05-08_08-01-53You want to be free. And as you start to feel that you are being corralled into a certain life, you kind of push against it. It may come out very strange, it may be interpreted wrong, but you’re trying to find out who you are.”….she lived with a deep fear of leading a “life half-lived.”

“I realized that very young — that a life where you don’t live to your full potential, or you don’t experiment, or you’re afraid, or you hesitate, or there are things you know you should do but you just don’t get around to them, is a life that I’d be miserable living, and the only way to feel that I’m on the right path is just to be true to myself, whatever that may be, and that tends to come with stepping out of something that’s maybe safe or traditional.”

SOURCE: Angelina Jolie Didn’t Think She’d Have Kids, Says Her 20s Were ‘Misinterpreted’ | Yahoo Celebrity – Yahoo Celebrity.

Angelina Jolie has always fascinated me. She is such an assertive person and a contrarian to boot. I like that combination. She knows what she wants and she goes after it.  It takes a very strong person to “want it all” but she among few others seems to be almost able to accomplish that feat. Like everyone that I admire to any degree I’m sure there are things about her that if I knew them I would not like but that’s OK. None of us are perfect.

Do any of us lead a life more than half lived? With the wisdom I have gained from almost seven decades on this earth I seriously doubt that I have.  There were so many opportunities that I had that I passed up due to not wanting to get out of my box. Fear, or maybe just trepidation, held me back. I think I am pretty usual in that regard.

I fear that we are stifling those who have a full potential at a very young age now. I fear that we are denying ourselves the next Einstein, Madam Curie, Steve Jobs, or a myriad of other examples. From my study of Yin/Yang and American culture I have learned that one of the things that makes us stand out as a nation is our “can do” spirit.  We simply are not willing to accept our limits.  It seems that anyone of our kids who now steps out of the normal accepted bounds is quickly pushed back via drugs or verbal assault.

I wished I had had a deep fear of leading a life half-lived as Ms. Jolie has. It would have forced me to make other choices in my life. There are many things that I seem to be passionate about but few that I am actually willing to take the risk to achieve at any higher level. I haven’t given up in that regard but time is running out for me. Let’s make sure that those who are beginning their lives have the fear that Angelina has. It will make the world a better place if at least a few of us don’t accept a life half lived…

 

I can’t help but think that if you’d stayed a little longer, we might have avoided the Crusades. Or the Great Schism. Or that time we used the Bible to justify slavery and invoked “Manifest Destiny” to slaughter women and children. We’ve made a mess of things, Jesus, often in your name. We could use a little micromanaging.

SOURCE:From the Lectionary: An Open Letter to Jesus on this Whole Ascension Business.

The words above are from an open-letter that Rachel Held Evans posted to Jesus. I never thought of it but she is right; we could have used some more instructions than he gave us. A few more rules drilled into our dense brains certainly would have prevented a  lot of misunderstandings brought about by our interpretations.  As  a matter of fact we humans have pretty much messed up most of Jesus’ instructions of how to live our lives haven’t we? How do we set that course straight?? And don’t say we are sinners so we shouldn’t even try!  That is the ultimate cop-out…

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Half of American adults ages 18 to 33 are self-described political independents, according to a survey out Friday, but at the same time half of these so-called millennials are Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party, the highest share for any age group over the last decade.

In addition, young adults tend to be single and churchless — turning away from their predecessors’ proclivity for religion and marriage, according the Pew Research Center survey. Almost two-thirds don’t classify themselves as “a religious person.” And when it comes to tying the knot: Only about 1 in 4 millennials is married. Almost half of baby boomers were married at that age….

Only 36 percent of the millennials said the phrase “a religious person” described them very well, compared with 52 percent of the Gen Xers, 55 percent of the baby boomers and 61 percent of the Silent Generation. And they’re significantly less religious than their immediately predecessors, the Gen Xers. When they were the same age, almost half of the Gen Xers — 47 percent — identified themselves as religious.

SOURCE: Many millennials are skipping church, marriage and political affiliations, study finds | The Rundown | PBS NewsHour | PBS.

Let’s face it, America is changing. As the title of the graphic above says people are becoming unmoored from entrenched institutions.  In many cases I think that is a good thing. Those between 18 -33 years old are more independent thinkers than any generation in the past. They are for the most part pragmatists. I kind of think much of that is due to the proliferation of information available because of the Internet.

I can remember in my youth having to spend hours in the library card stack trying to find information for a school essay. I took my writing as seriously then as I do today so research was the name of the game. Now just about any question you can ask has answers almost immediately via an Internet search. If it is a political question you don’t just get a party line Republican/Democrat answer anymore but also a myriad of other possible explanations including even this blog. The information age will radically change our nation in the coming years.

This dramatic season of change requires that many our current social institutions must change or go the way of the dinosaur.  The “truths” of yesterday are no longer the truths of today. This change creates opportunities for some and death for others. It should not be a surprise that conservative politics of anti-this and anti-that is quickly losing favor.  The political party that presents answers instead of grid-lock will find favor. It is heartening to see that the demise of the radical right-wing of politics is on the horizon.

By the same token religious institutions that focus on God’s love rather than his Old Testament wrath will flourish. Those that successfully meld science and spirituality will be those who continue to exist in the coming years. In my mind the movement known as the emergent church is just such an institution. It focuses on core beliefs and  action rather than ancient beliefs and outdated customs.

When the younger generations eventually drag the power away from those entrenched in the “old ways”, there will be some exciting times in our country. For those who are getting ready to jump on the comments wagon, no this is not a black/white thing. Many of the truths that we call morality will not be overthrown. But those based on fear, intimidation, and outdated traditions will get their due demise and that is as it should be.

2014-01-18_17-49-05Pope Francis, laying out his hopes Wednesday for the just-begun year, urged people to work for a world where everyone accepts each other’s differences and where enemies recognize that they are brothers.

“We are all children of one heavenly father, we belong to the same human family and we share a common destiny,” Francis said….

“What is happening in the heart of man? What is happening in the heart of humanity?” Francis asked. “It’s time to stop.”

SOURCE Pope Stresses Strength, Courage, Hope in New Year – ABC News.

I want to end this first month of the new year 2014 with some inspiring words from the new pope of the Catholic church.He has the courage to speak out on so many issues that other fear to embrace. I admire him much for that.

These handful of sentences pretty much sums up one of my life’s primary purposes. I know I am just a simple-living senior citizen but even my contributions to the world mean something. I blog here and especially over at Red Letter Living hoping to convince just a few of you who might be acting otherwise that diversity is a good thing and loving each other is the main thing God expects of us. Why do we seem to gravitate toward the opposite feelings?

Pope Francis continues to pluck my heartstrings with his words.  I can’t imagine a better religious figure for our times. I pray that some of his hope rubs out some of my doubt about the world.

Mother Teresa was once asked in an interview, “What do you say when you pray?” She replied, “Nothing, I just listen.” So then the reporter asked, “Well then, what does God say to you?” Her answer: “Nothing much, He just listens.” 

– Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers: Prayer for Ordinary Radicals (Shane Claiborne;Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove)

 

Listening To God

Love Trumps Efficiency

Even if the poor waste their resources, who cares? That doesn’t mean we should give up on them.  Imagine if God started forgiving only those who deserved it? (Gulp!) We’d all be in big trouble. The amazing thing is, Jesus wasn’t what we would consider fair or efficient—His love was radically unfair! His disciples continually failed, yet Jesus didn’t abandon them, even after one of them (Peter) denied Him three times while Jesus was in the process of being executed (after being betrayed by another disciple: Judas)….

Unfortunately, many churches and Christians today are acting more like big banks, treating “charity” like a loan application, dispensing aid and resources only to the specific poor they deem “worth it.” Are they sober, mentally stable, spiritually healthy, and capable of work? Ok, sign these papers and we’ll give you a Gift Card to the local grocery store—but if you misuse these funds don’t come back!


SOURCE: Stephen Mattson: 5 Reasons We Should Personally Help the Poor | Red Letter Christians.

This is a big one for me. So many Christians readily recognize the grace of God for themselves but will not personally pass it on to others around them. I am just a “there but for the grace of God go I..” person. I can see where some of the decisions I have made in my life could have resulted in me being one of “those people”. I can imagine that my going deaf in midlife could have turned me into a completely different person if my wife, and God, had not be in my corner.

The church that I was recently a member of did an admirable job of adopting a couple of families during the Christmas season. They provided them with gifts for the kids and some food for a couple of meals during those special holidays. But that was pretty much the sum total of their capital spent during the year to this area. For several months I put out the monthly bins at the church to collect food for a local soup kitchen only to see a pittance of cans at the end of each month. Finally being discouraged I stopped even that effort.  I was told by the pastor that people’s lives are so hectic with their families they just didn’t have time for the poor. A poor excuse in my mind….

It is just very hard for many to see that Jesus intended love to trump efficiency every day. We all have to try to keep the words of Jesus in our hearts and in our actions on a daily basis, not just those special times of year….

smileI don’t pretend to know Shane Claiborne on a personal level but he is one of my heroes in life because he lives his faith instead of just saying the words. I have been inspired and encouraged by all of this books. I embrace more of his beliefs than almost anyone I can think of.

When I came across his “14 hopes for 2014″ I found a some more to add to my list. Here they are:

SQUASH NEGATIVITY.  I commit to shut down murmuring and cynicism and gossip and slander and all forms of passive aggression (even on the blogosphere!) – and to exorcise the demons of negativity.  St. Benedict said that speaking negatively about people (even with well-warranted reasons) is “poison”, and it rots away the foundation of community.  In its place I hope to practice honest confrontation when hurt or offended and encourage others to do the same.

LAUGH OFTEN.  I have a friend who says, “If we can’t laugh then the devil has already won.”  Social justice folks can be so serious… and need to loosen up a little. Joy comes from the confidence that the world doesn’t have to stay the way it is.  It also helps win over those who oppose you – it’s hard to hate folks who make you smile.

I love the St. Benedict quote about speaking negatively. It is indeed a poison that is rotting away our common bond. I must admit that I have in the past contributed to this plague but have vowed to not do it so much in this new year.  It is hard to see people acting so contrary to what I hold dear without putting out some angry words but that is just what I hope to do.  I hope St. Benedict gives me a little whisper when I start talking negatively about others.

I think I have a pretty good sense of humor and I hope it shows up at least occasionally on this blog. But I,  a social justice guy, am too serious sometimes. I need to loosen up a little more.  Maybe pay more attention to another of my heroes, Will Rogers, in that regard. I hope I make my readers smile on occasion. We all need a good laugh now and then.

I won’t go into the other items on my list here. Some are just too personal to share. Some are embarrassing and some need additional tuning. But I do hope that I can live up to the two that my friend Shane recently gave me. That would make me a better person and don’t we all want that for ourselves?

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To all my nonbelieving, sort-of-believing, and used-to-be-believing friends: I feel like I should begin with a confession. I am sorry that so often the biggest obstacle to God has been Christians. Christians who have had so much to say with our mouths and so little to show with our lives. I am sorry that so often we have forgotten the Christ of our Christianity.

SOURCE:  What if Jesus Meant All That Stuff? – Red Letter Christians.

Just a quick note to all my Christian friends out there and even the ones who are not, I impeach you to click on the link above before you finalize your New Years resolutions. You just might want to add something else to your list….