The Teaching of the Cross

The great teaching of the cross is that if Christ lives in us, we are compelled to keep walking in Love even if it should lead to death. Love is always the standard for the Christian.

The implications? Go to all lengths to help the suffering even if it puts my own well-being is at risk.  Make room for the immigrant even if the job I seek is taken. Assist the criminal even if the next crime he commits is turned against me. Help the poor even if my gift is foolishly squandered. Feed the hungry even if, in the end, there is not enough for me. Welcome the refugees even if  my assassin is among them. It all seems so illogical – and it is in this earthly world. The logic of the earthly world says that my survival is paramount for the whole point of my being here is to protect my precious life. But this clearly not what Jesus modeled. He modeled total surrender to  Love at all cost.

Some say that Jesus will come again. I say that Jesus is always on the edge of coming. He stands at the door waiting for one of us, any of us, all of us, to open the door and let Love enter. This kind of Love is not received and held like water in a cup. Rather it is a Love that will gush right through us, and will stop at nothing, not even death.

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Third Way

I have to write a blog today. I am frustrated by my schedule of the last few months. Too packed with commitments and, most important, finishing a writing project. So blogging has gone by the wayside. But I have so much to say. I thought I could satisfy my need to make comment about life in this place we call the world by commenting on Facebook or forwarding cool spiritual snippets that reflect my own spiritual views. But, as it turns out, this is not satisfactory. Somehow, I am going to have to find time to blog.

This morning, I read something in Richard Rohr’s book, The Divine Dance, that prompted me to write. Like every American, I have been distressed by the divisiveness that permeates our country right now. We were divided before but never has this chasm been so blatantly in our national face. It hurts. The differences are breaking families and friendships apart. It makes me think of the Civil War when men were forced to take up arms against their own siblings or Nazi Germany when neighbors were called to betray neighbors. Unless we put a check on our own selves, such an extreme outcome is a real concern.

Rohr’s book is about the Holy Trinity. I struggled to get his drift about why believing in this ancient doctrine is so important. This morning I read why Rohr thinks that believing in the Trinity changes how we look at life in general. (Any theology fails to get down to the living level for me, I tend to discard it, or at least put it on a shelf for future consideration.) Here he uses the example of political differences. The way we view the world is that there are two sides to everything. In politics it is the right and left or conservative and liberal. This is not a Trinitarian view, he says. One might think of a stool with only two legs, bound to fall over and crash. Trinitarian thinking believes in a third way. We may not know the third way, but we can believe that it is there. We of faith believe it because we believe in a God of love. So, even in the midst of discord, we can trust that given time and willingness to not let our differences separate us for good, we go forward waiting for God to intervene.

Rohr writes: Trinitarian thinking, thinking in terms of three-ness instead of two-ness, “means that we can hold our first-force or second-force perpectives (our deeply held opinions) with earnestness, while fully awaiting a third force to arrive and surprise us all out of our neat little boxes.” He gives some examples but I think a clear one is when a natural disaster such as a flood or fire brings neighbors together in service to one another, neighbors who the day before may have felt actual hatred due to their differences.

One of the things I am noticing among those around me who are resisting what we believe a dangerous turn in the way our country is going, is that there a voices that speak of building bridges. You know the chant, “Build bridges, not walls”. There are those who take this very seriously and are seeking ways to come together with people of opposing political opinions to come to a deeper understanding of why they believe what they do. Listen, learn, allow yourself to be changed. See the commonalities, the deeper yearnings that we share. When I see this, I think I am witnessing Rohr’s third way emerging.

It reminds me of that moment during World War I or II (can’t remember), when German and American troops in opposite bunkers came together on Christmas Eve to share their faith through the singing of Christmas Carols. These men got a glimpse of the third way that night. “Silent Night, Holy Night”.

There is a third way besides the divisiveness we are witnessing in our country today. Those of us who believe in it need to find ways to live it and in living it, bring it to fruition. The Lord’s Prayer that Jesus gave us says, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The kingdom of love doesn’t happen by some intervention from the cosmos. It comes when those of us who are of the earth live it by our word and actions.

 

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Pay Attention Guru

I don’t mean to complain but I don’t know what else to do but complain. When I go to my blog, I first have to reenter  my password even though I keep telling it to remember me. I recently changed the password. (Maybe it has some kind of memory loss issue.) When I give the correct password, it goes to my blog, but my last blog entry is not there and I find I have to reenter my password all over again. This blog of January 2,2017 is an experiment. I want to see if when I go to my blog now will I be missing the last two posts or just this one. If I can’t figure it out the Guru will get a call.

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Looking Forward to the New Year

I have a long list of new year’s resolutions for 2017. I haven’t been very successful at these commitments over the years because most commitments had an outcome attached to them and I have very little staying-power to get me to any goal line. Exercise and dieting is a good example. But age is changing that. I no longer have any interest in losing weight, but keeping the machine running as smoothly as possible is now my goal. The body won’t last forever and I am realizing that the break-down of said skeleton and tissue is now happening faster than the build-up unless I pay close attention. So I signed up at St. Frances for their exercise programs and this morning I gave careful thought to my eating habits.

My eating is already improving. As of today, I have been sugar abstinent for two months. This was no small feat considering the two holidays when deserts and candy were in my face. For those of you who don’t know this, sugar is craving-producing, especially for compulsives like myself. When I eat sugar, I want more sugar and more carbs in general. I am already experiencing the benefits of letting go of sugar. During the day, I have been forgetting to eat snacks. Imagine that! Forgetting! It is time for the next meal before I even consider a bowl of chips. My goal this year is to continue on this path but now focus on the meals I eat, making sure there is balance, going lighter on the protein than in the past and making sure I get the fruits and vegetables I should. Carbs…only the healthy ones allowed.

What I have not mentioned so far is the part of aging that we who are old should be considering. The brain is part of the body and tends to break-down along with the rest if it is not well attended to. I continue to read everyday and do a word puzzle now and then, but I am trying to do more. Not only my thinking capacity is of concern, but I want to be sure to attend to my spirit as well. This means what I choose for reading…always at least one book that speaks to my spiritual and emotional health. And attend to prayer. Prayer, it seems, is more and more a part of my life these days as I feel more and more concerned and helpless about the world. I am blessed to have support groups to assist me with this. My friends in recovery, my contemplative community, and my spirituality book club. In each of these, I find people who also consider attending to their relationship with God important.

All of the above would be fairly easy if I didn’t have the other thing called real life. Life with family, life in volunteering, life doing daily chores of cleaning and food preparation. Sometimes it all gets me down. I have this recurring dream of living in a tiny house with only two place-settings of dishes and no nick-knacks to dust. Just me, a rocking chair and a window facing east.

 

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A Conspiracy Against Saying “Merry Christmas”?

Am I from another planet or what? I am seeing all these posts on Facebook about the idea of saying “Merry Christmas”. The tone is such that there is some kind of movement to forbid people to do so. Am I missing something? I am not in the least afraid to wish people a Merry Christmas and when I do so no one has ever raised an objection.

What are all these posts reacting to? I need someone to inform me.

 

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Trump and Knowing “Other”

I thought I would throw Trump’s name in my title because when I did so a couple of days ago, my readership quadrupled. Talk about powerful name-branding! I confess to the deception. This blog isn’t about Donald Trump unless a reader deems it to be.

I was discussing with friends the other day the book Fear of the Other by William Willimon. We were talking about the concept of “other” which we took to mean people different from us because of race or religion or political beliefs. We were gliding along quite nicely as we considered ways to be more welcoming to those who are “other”, that is f a different culture or religion, into our communities until someone brought out what it might be like to be “other”. At first we struggled with this, but then one woman shared her hesitancy to go into a Somali restaurant. “That is because you are afraid to be the ‘other’,” one friend said.

I have to admit that as I have participated in various conversations over what to do about prejudice in any of its forms, us white folks were seeing ourselves as needing to reach out to those “on the edge” and invite them to come be part of our already existing communities. This, of course, puts us in a position where we are surrounded by people of our own tribe while we do the uncomfortable thing.

We shared in the group various experiences we had when we were the “other”. One woman talked about her experience of living for a time in a foreign country where she didn’t know the language. She talked about the frustration of trying to learn a new language as an elderly person. Another shared a similar situation and talked about feeling lonely and unknown, something a Somali immigrant might feel coming to Minnesota. We appreciated the need to hang with one’s own people where you can have meaningful conversations, not to mention the need to share culture and memories.

One woman shared that when she shops at Aldi’s she makes an extra effort to be friendly with the many Somali’s that shop there. Yet, this again, is meeting the “other’ in one’s own tribal place. What about going to a local Somali business to shop or a Somali restaurant to eat a meal. Worried about a possible language barrier with the person serving or standing behind the counter? This is what the “other” experiences all the time when they transport to a new nation.

I mentioned the idea of going to a mosque to worship with Muslims. “We have been invited to do that,” one friend said. Immediately the thought came to mind, “Who would I invite to go with me?” exhibiting the fear of being “other” alone. I made a commitment to myself that I would do this.

Finally we talked about bringing “others” into our circle of friends. I talked about my daughter, Heidi, who enjoys having big or little gatherings and often invites those considered “other” in a way that doesn’t seem like they are “other” at all. She, in turn goes to their gatherings and friendships are launched. She is richer for this and her parents have been enriched as well.

The statement I made above about this not having anything to do with our new president elect is not quite true. When my group of friends began our discussion, we were thinking of “other” as those people who have a different political view from our own. We realized that all we surmised about coming to know “other” applies. We may not have language or race barriers but there are barriers to understanding that we can only overcome if we chose to come to know and understand whoever the “other” is for us.

It has often been said that once you know someone from a different culture, race, or religion…or any group different from your familiar world…it changes your view of the whole group. Our family learned this when one granddaughter married a Syrian Muslim man. This, in my mind is the secret to achieving world peace, but the lesson I am learning today is that we need to step outside the safety zone of our own little tribes and make it happen.

 

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Christian or American First?

I want to share a passage from William Willimon’s book Fear of the Other. I will comment on only one part of it but I am sharing the whole thing because I find is so poignant.

Having had many conversations with many people of different religions and those who don’t profess any religious faith, Willimon says that he learned the following:

We Christians believe some really strange things that are not self-evident to everyone else. Being a Christian is not synonymous with being a thinking, compassionate American: we’re weird.
There’s a bunch of prejudice against Christians out there, some of it well-deserved.
Christians have made some big mistakes aligning ourselves so closely with American culture. When others look at us, they can’t tell the difference between “Christian” and “American.”
Jesus is so much more interesting and so much more lovable than Jesus’ followers.
Like it or not, others will love Jesus and sometimes reject Jesus because of me and my lousy attempt to follow him.

I want to focus on his third statement about what in my mind seems a confusion Christians have about being American. I am one of those weird people who thinks American flags don’t belong in a Christian church. I can imagine times when it would be appropriate such as when warriors are being honored, but I think Christians lose something in their pledging to something less or smaller than the larger Christian community which is world-wide. When it comes to their claim to being followers of Jesus, American Christians need to realize that they are more tightly bonded with Christians of Syria than with their fellow Americans.

Also, there is the other idea expressed above in that Christians somehow equate their being Christian as identical as their being American. For example, they look to political candidates to declare their religious affiliation as though it were a qualification for the office. As far as I know it is only Christians that do this and those that do have a particular brand of Christianity in mind. President Obama claims to be a Christian but his declaration is considered invalid by many because they don’t support him politically. And the reverse is also true. If they like a candidate, some will turn them into a Christian in their mind in order to validate them. This is ridiculous and unnecessary. What we want is people leading the country of good moral character and character is not something only people of faith possess.

I appreciate the last point Willimon made, as well. I don’t get into trying to make people become Christian. Getting myself to be more Christ-like is a full time, life-long endeavor.

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