A Model to Follow

flagThis Memorial weekend I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about sacrifice. To all the veteran’s out there, I thank you and words cannot express the deep gratitude I feel for your service. We are able to continue our great American Experiment due, in large part, to the great sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. I believe most Americans, regardless of which side of the fence they sit on, honor you for that. Regardless of the lowlifes out there who capitalize on this weekend to breed ever more hatred for their opponents, claiming “ownership” of being a real and true American, I believe all Americans shine with pride on this day for our brave men and women of the military. It does a disservice to politicize it…even if you are in uniform, you are not sacrosanct to vilify your fellow citizens either. No one gets a free pass to condemn anyone. It defeats the purpose of the sacrifice, which is to maintain freedom for all. I tread carefully here, because while I will never undervalue those who fought in war, there are also other ways to fight, to lead, to serve, to evolve our country into something even better that demanded the sacrifice of life too. Their sacrifices are no less valuable and I honor them on this weekend too.

While I have not served in the military, I have spent my life in service. The model I have used was the core to my vocation, from the Gospel of John 13:12-15:

So when Jesus washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at the table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you?” You call me “teacher” and “master,” and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, master and teacher have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that I have done for you, you should also do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master and nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.

Throughout all my life though, as my understanding grew, this model Jesus set for us is so much more than humbling oneself to wash another’s feet. It is how we must look at each other…the master equals the servant. In one simple motion, Jesus disassembles one of the most embedded notions of cultural  hierarchy, that there are those who deserve privilege and others who don’t…and says that we are all the same, no one is better than the other. No amount of societal consequence, propriety, adulation or even condemnation can make any set of eyes looking into mine any greater or lesser. I can honor their gifts or challenge their flaws without placing them above or below my gaze.

So when I celebrate this day, I do so not only for those who have sacrificed their lives, but to honor that sacrifice by holding myself to the highest standard for what a real American looks like: a beacon to the rest of the world, while acknowledging my power as a citizen of the most powerful country in the world, I embrace the model that Jesus set for me, not lording over, or looking down on, but helping others to rise up to their greatest potential. Our greatness depends on an America committed to building the strengths of its citizens and on leaders who are not kings, but who model the example of humility and service and return our gaze with equality and respect.

 

Living Without Permission

 

book of kells

A wise teacher once told me that to truly live, you must do so without permission. Seeing myself as a free spirit and natural rebel, I couldn’t imagine he didn’t see that I had already mastered the concept. “Think about it for a moment”, he then said, “to whom or what do you seek permission?” I just looked at him blankly, wondering what the infernal hell he was talking about. “Total up all the, ‘Don’t think that’, ‘Don’t say that’, ‘Don’t Be that’, or ‘A good Christian says or does’, ‘An attractive woman is’, ‘A successful person is’ and don’t forget all the ‘You have too’s’, and ‘you can’t do that’s’, and you can see that your life is more restrictive than need be. Except no one can define you, restrict you…without your permission. You have all the power to decide, no one else. You decide who or what enhances your life. And it isn’t always easy…because we can’t always choose who the people and circumstances are that surround us and fill our heads. But personal survival depends on those you choose to submit to.” He then gave us an assignment to list what permissions must be extended, and those that must be denied. I cried for a long time while doing that assignment. When challenged to do so, I felt the terrible weight of the shackles that I had the key to unlock all along, and that meant letting go of some people and ideas and learning to see others in a new light. Change sucks, and I certainly understand why people talk themselves into staying in a situation that is toxic, and they are bound, because once the shackles are off…you have to walk on your own.

The reason I bring this lesson to light has much to do with my year of clarity. When I get lost in the business of living it’s easy to hand over your life in pieces without even being aware of it until suddenly, voila, my journey is weighted down by those shackles again. Except this time, no tears, just resolve. I choose, once again, to live without permission. I’m not talking about anarchy here. There will be always be rules and laws that I submit to because I understand that in the long run they will be as much a service to me as to those that I love, live, work and play with. But to those voices, people and structures who try and rewrite the blueprint that is me because it serves their purpose, I respectfully decline. I know my heart and with clarity I can see who is helping me become and who is keeping me from becoming all that I can be. I decide.

I also know that when I live without permission, I must extend to others the same accord. I must let them live according to their rhythm too. That means dancing a careful dance between support and control, and between fear and love. I am as guilty as any person of treading too far, of overpowering instead of graciously offering, and yet I won’t let myself be punished for trying too hard, even if I am sorry I overstep. And to those who have grown and expanded under my tutelage, I know that is because they have also brought out the best in me too. Because when you live without permission and allow others to live with out permission, everyone benefits. We all get to be our bigger and better selves.

So let me now extend a request. In the comment section on wordpress, share with me one way you would like to live without permission, and I would gladly pray for that to be extended to you. If you wish your comment to remain unpublished, I will submit to that too, (but I will still pray for you). The benefit of throwing it out there for all to see though, is that you will have many more wonderful people out there praying for you too.

Of Purity and Principle

 

constitutionOf purity and principle…I’ve included the definitions of both words below because I, for one, believe that definitions matter. Too often words are used without the necessary respect for what, in purity and in principle, they actually mean causing confusion and misunderstanding. I hate that. In my commitment to clarity I will try my best to stay in tune. So, take a moment and become acquainted with pure and principle.

Full Definition of pure

purer purest

  1. 1a (1) :  unmixed with any other matter <pure gold> (2) :  free from dust, dirt, or taint <pure spring water> (3) :  spotless, stainless b :  free from harshness or roughness and being in tune —used of a musical tone c of a vowel :  characterized by no appreciable alteration of articulation during utterance

  2. 2a :  being thus and no other :  sheer, unmitigated <pure folly>b (1) :  abstract, theoretical <pure research> (2) :  a priori <pure mechanics>c :  not directed toward exposition of reality or solution of practical problems <pure literature>d :  being nonobjective and to be appraised on formal and technical qualities only <pure form>

  3. 3a (1) :  free from what vitiates, weakens, or pollutes (2) :  containing nothing that does not properly belong b :  free from moral fault or guilt c :  marked by chastity :  continent d (1) :  of pure blood and unmixed ancestry (2) :  homozygous in and breeding true for one or more characters e :  ritually clean

  4. 4:  having exactly the talents or skills needed for a particular role <a pure shooter in basketball>

Full Definition of principle

  1. 1a :  a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption b (1) :  a rule or code of conduct (2) :  habitual devotion to right principles <a man of principle>c :  the laws or facts of nature underlying the working of an artificial device

  2. 2:  a primary source :  origin 3a :  an underlying faculty or endowment <such principles of human nature as greed and curiosity>b :  an ingredient (as a chemical) that exhibits or imparts a characteristic quality

In particular, I want to focus on 3a (1) of pure: free from what vitiates, weakens, or pollutes. And from 1a of principle: a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption. OK, now let’s look at the four principles of our American Constitution:

  1. All people are created equal,
  2. All people are endowed with basic rights that cannot be taken away,
  3. The power the government has to make decisions and protect the rights of people comes from the people, and
  4. When the government does not protect the rights of the people, the people have the right to change or remove the government.

In order to keep these principles pure, that is free from what vitiates, weakens or pollutes them, we have to master and appreciate them in order. Any politician who would work against these fundamental principles, cannot in the purest, most principled sense of the definition represent the people effectively. You don’t pick someone for office to defeat someone else. You pick someone who is best suited for the job.

Section 4 of the definition of pure states:having exactly the talents or skills needed for a particular role. Anyone running for office, in order to defend our most sacred principles, must embrace and defend ALL of the citizenry. If a primary goal is not to unify and work with the entire populace, then they don’t have the requisite talent for the job. Campaigns should be based on the habitual devotion to right principles, those laid out in our constitution, the hows of which should be defined by now…and are not.

America, we are a diverse and free people. We will never all think alike or agree. A two party system is one way to balance that diversity. But I wonder, though, how many people are actually acquainted with the principles that define these parties. Both have some noble ideals, and it is those ideals that need to remain pure, especially from the standpoint of a campaign. Because if the behavior of those running for office, run contrary to the purity of those principles, then no one wins.

It’s about time we hold ourselves to a higher standard. We need problem solvers, visionaries, peace makers and dreamers. We need someone who inspires us to face difficulty without fear, because we know we are not alone in this. We all need to trust that anyone charged to be our commander in chief knows that we are a government of the people, by the people and for the people. The sacred trust that they hold in purest principle is that they must be devoted, in service to us.

 

 

 

 

Nana Nana Boo Boo

nana boobooPlease excuse the snark to, you, the general population: “Get over yourselves!” I implore all of you, before you get all whiny and memey on social media…check the veracity and appropriateness of your tweet, update, meme, gif, etc. If it will not help the particular situation you are complaining about and is just to express outrage by sharing convicting “facts” about a person or issue that has you rankled (I checked at least a dozen this morning…ALL of which were inaccurate and just plain MEAN), then I DON’T WANT TO SEE IT. Part of my committing to clarity this year is to stop tolerating the cyber-bullying that people put passive/aggressively out on social media.

So let me ask you this: tell me something positive you’re passionate about, give me more stories of passing it forward, tell me how you are going to make the world a better place. Doing and saying something positive doesn’t have to be monumental. Major ripples start small. Let’s you and I change the culture. Let’s start with halting any and all political rhetoric that has defamatory language toward any person, place or idea.It should be the mission of every ordinary man and woman out there to see and inspire goodness. Share a book that inspired you, make us laugh, tell someone how they’ve impacted your life. Help build someone one up rather than beat someone down.

See goodness and it will multiply…Remember whatever you put out there will come back to you tenfold.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

smokeSome of the most talented and successful people I know don’t have a college degree…a testament to hard work,innovation and blazing new and unforged territories.  For what its worth, I commend you, you stand as an inspiration to us all.  And yet, (I’ll bet you knew it was coming), some of the most foolish, ignorant, arrogant and single-minded people I know don’t have a college degree either.  But wait!  Some of the most talented and successful people I know do have a college degree and the EXACT same things, both good and bad, could be said about all of them too.  So, do we rally up all the foolish, ignorant, and single-minded people and shove them all into a room somewhere, lock them up and throw away the key?  Oh, if only it could be that easy.  My mission is to blow the smoke out of your eyes and transform those who give the formally trained and unformally trained a bad rap.

I have listened to a lot of people tell their tales….what can I say, I’m the kind of person people tell their shit to, whether I want to listen or not (and that is an indictment about me, not necessarily them).  I think there is a pattern to where the road diverges between the two aforementioned groups.  From the broadest perspective, success is a collaborative affair.  It relies on embracing our personal talents, and mastering a sense of cooperation with others to achieve success with that talent, which could be anything from success financially, in service, gaining knowledge, artistic expression, creating a family, etc. None of us are an island…we need others to get ahead.

While not everyone has access to the same amount of help, which is a challenge in a country of dreams that needs to be continually improved upon, I am not talking about general inequity right now.  That is a hornet’s nest for another day.  What I do want to address is the fundamental difference between how people approach success.  I think that those who, at most, do nothing to help use their talents along the way or, at least, use their talent without the same sense of extending help to another are doomed to fail.  It is as simple as that.  Jesus tells a parable about a master going on a journey and distributing talents each according to their ability.  The first two took their talents and made good use of them by working with others and successfully doubling their talent.  The third, who was afraid, feared the success of his master and felt he couldn’t do the same, buried his in the ground. His punishment was harsh, and his talent taken away and split between the other two.

The success isn’t in the amount of  money though. The subtlety of two phrases in the parable is often missed. First: the master entrusted his servants with his possessions, each according to his ability.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if we all just understood that each of us have different abilities and that is the way that things should be?  The success of two of the servants in the eyes of the master had nothing to do with the amount of the end result, but simply that they went out and did something to expand it. Second, was this: the master rewarded them with more responsiblity, not money, but responsibility.  I truly wish our world worked that way.  But no, there are too many people who are focused on who got what in the first place and believe what they make of their talent is theirs alone, or do nothing with what they are given.  Success results in more responsiblity first, then more riches.

The journey to success is different for everyone.  I do know this, however, minimizing someone’s talents because they may be different from yours (and it goes both ways, for those with a greater ability to those with lesser) you will never be successful in my book. Because success is rewarded with an even greater responsibility and how one proceeds after that. I measure success by how they handle the responsibility.  There are no short cuts, no pretense…Jesus goes on to say a lot about responsiblity after this parable…not only does he celebrate those who multiply their talents, he describes how the responsiblity is measured when the Son of Man comes and separates those who inherit and those who don’t.  Those who achieve success is based on this:

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father, Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.  Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison and visit you?’  and the king will say to them in reply: ‘Amen I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least of these of mine, you did for me'”

I implore all of you, stop polarizing talents minimizing them and focus on your own.  Your success won’t be defined by how much money you make off of them, but what you do with it.  God sees talent much differently than our world and politicians do. Just remember that.

525,600 Minutes and So Much More

save our starving children 1 save our starving children 2 stave our starving children 3Numbers are generally not my forte, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate them, or understand their significance in our lives.  There is a great song lyric from the song, “Seasons of Love”, from the musical “Rent’ that I love: 525,600 minutes, how do you measure a year.”  This weekend, working at a “Feed My Starving Children” event at Osceola High School, less than 250 high school students, faculty, and a handful of parents, assembled 300,000 meals. That means 822 children will be fed for a year, 432,043,200 precious minutes of life sustained and celebrated. Actually that last number gave me goose bumps because 432 is a sacred number, (for my science and religion students, Joseph Campbell pointed out the significance of this number), as well as the square root of the speed of light, and how the golden mean is exemplified in sound (432Hz tuning).  And this very number is repeated twice in those precious minutes we helped save this past weekend!

I’ve been focusing on these words of Jesus this year, “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive” and “Every good tree bears good fruit.” This event was the perfect, shining, harmonic example of everything Jesus was talking about.  By the hands of the few, many are saved.  So many good trees, bearing good fruit.  There is nothing more powerful than that.  It was done with joy, celebration and mad organization by the staff of “Feed My Starving Children” and Joel and Heidi Hazzard who sponsored the event. Duplicating loaves and fishes and even moving mountains doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply joining together and working together can accomplish amazing things. Congress could learn a lot from these young people, who came together from all different social groups to work in concert together and accomplish an amazing goal.  I’ve always said the most extraordinary things are accomplished by ordinary (and yet amazing) people.

Where is the Love?

thunderIn all sincerity, I’m not sure whether it is having spring and summer occur simultaneously that has thrown my whole rhythm off, or the unbearable nature of events. from shootings, to the ravages of mother nature, to the quagmire of American politics.  I’m sad much of the time…not the cry your eyes out kind, or the can’t get out of bed kind.  The sadness I feel is like a dull ache based on recognizing a pattern that too many people seem to miss and not feeling like I can act effectually enough to stop it.

The pattern I speak of is fear, the kind of fear that is so deeply in-bedded in our nation that we have begun to suffer a rigor mortise of the soul, expressed in both subtle and obvious ways.  Most obviously, it is expressed in the kind of partiality that blinds one to solutions because national pride lately is only celebrated in opposition to something else, such as guns, the government, climate change, the poor, etc.  In more subtle ways is the complete lack of civil discourse between divergent views, and sense of entitlement that isn’t extended beyond a small group of like-minded individuals.  I know I’m personally tired of being written off, or pigeon holed into a particular ideology that I certainly am not contained by because I ask questions and try to look at a situation from a multitude of perspectives.  The political flavors of the moment are too honed into a blanket kind of hate, blame, and judgment of anyone who harbors a different idea than one’s own. Personal responsibility rarely enters the picture. What is most disturbing, though, is the religious imprimatur that is often used to justify such ignorance and fear.

Jesus says that the truth will set us free, and the way to truth is through him…and he is LOVE.  Love will set us free.  So let us practice love, first and foremost.  Fear will be our demise, if we don’t utilize the powers we’ve been given…  And so I offer a reminder of our greatest gifts:  1 Corinthians 13:1-13


1
 If I speak in human and angelic tongues 2 but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.

2

And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.

3

If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4

3 Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated,

5

it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,

6

it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

7

It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8

4 Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.

9

For we know partially and we prophesy partially,

10

but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

11

When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.

12

At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.

13

5 So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.