Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Big Ears–excerpt from Ten Yen

big ears

In Japan, having Big Ears is a very good thing.  Read more

Here is an excerpt from Ten Yen.  Amaya has just met Joumi at an American party:

Amaya came out of her reverie. Yokatta koto, my goodness, the Japanese man looked as if he intended to approach her. She needed no patron these days…For a moment, saying nothing, she merely sized him up, keeping the pretty smile on her face, strongly aware of his masculine scent. His presence, in spite of his lanky height, reminded her of a samurai. Better still, she thought to herself, he is a Buddha. He certainly has the ears. “You,” she said, reaching a tiny hand toward his lapel, and gently straightening his tie. “I will call you my Ookii Mimi!”

Ookii Mimi means Big Ears.

You can buy the ebook or a print version of Ten Yen.

 

 

Resting in Gratitude

 resting2a This Soul Blog was inspired by Psalm 65 and Deuteronomy 8:7-18

Just how are we to rest in gratitude? Is it like resting in a warm bed?

There are two blankets on my bed covered by a pretty blue spread. I feel so blessed to be warm in the winter, to be so well-provided for. I remember only one occasion when I was seriously cold at night. Although I was raised in a house without central heating in damp and rainy England, in a rambling manor house called Camden Cottage, we always had hot water bottles in our beds, a roof over our heads, and the promise of the kitchen warmed by the gas cooker in the morning. And food, though not always overflowing, was enough.

For this I am grateful.

Who and what are you grateful for?

Gratitude is a spiritual discipline. There is the discipline of surrender, the discipline of listening, the discipline of selflessness, the discipline of waiting. And there is the discipline of gratitude.

Just like those blankets on my bed, gratitude is something to keep us warm in the dark times and the good times, so we will awaken refreshed and immersed in an awareness of a greater reality, Allah, Brahman, Shekina, Spirit, God, as our giver of all things good, and of life itself.

To experience gratitude completes a circle of holiness, of love. God gives. We receive. We rest in gratitude, completing a flow of love from God to us, connecting us with this greater reality.

Awareness of God, dwelling in God’s presence is not a momentary thing we sometimes do in a church but is an experience of a deep love that grows us from the inside out.

God frees us, forgives us, and blesses us with all the good things we will eat this Thanksgiving, but gives us much greater food even than the Thanksgiving turkey and cranberry sauce, or the baked ham and green beans, or the pumpkin and the elderberry pies.

God stills the roaring of the seas,     the roaring of their waves,     and the turmoil of the nations.

Remember, you are not alone. Gratitude is a way to feel connected to others and to God. It is important during the holidays especially to rest in gratitude by becoming deeply aware during your preparations, during hospitality, during each and every moment, that abundance is yours through grace.

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing…

Jesus gives thanks for the five loaves to feed way too many people. He gives thanks not out of fear and insecurity, but out of his confidence in a God of abundance.

Take time this holiday to be present to every moment aware it is a sacred moment. When you are chopping vegetables, remember all who are with you in this simple food–the farmers, the reapers, the packagers, the supermarkets, and not least, the One who provided the seeds, the earth, the rainwater and the feast.

When you take the browned turkey from the oven and smell the delicious aroma, and slice the meat, take time to be grateful you are able to cook, to smell, to enjoy, to be with others. Remember those drumsticks and those hams come from living creatures, and this is a gift from the same God who provided manna to the Hebrews in the wilderness.

God is Mystery and Abundance of spirit.

***

Spiritual Practice

Tonight when you are resting in your bed, bring to mind all the moments where you have experienced joy.

If you are alone, recall two people you’ve seen today. What do you know about them that you are grateful for? When you see them again, if possible, tell them how you are grateful.

When you wake tomorrow morning, take time to stretch and greet the day joyously. Stop worrying about getting everything ready, stop worrying about anything.

Trust in a process of Love. Rest in Gratitude

Listen and watch a beautiful video with images of nature, and the voices of a child and an old man: Gratitude | Louie Schwartzberg | TEDxSF  (~10 minutes)

Children

Japanese refugeeJapanese Refugee after WW II ended

The heroine, Amaya, in Ten Yen, the prequel to Ten Yen True, and Ten Yen Forever (coming out in Jan. 2015 by Amanda Armstrong), which is set in the aftermath of WW II remembers when times were very bad indeed. It wasn’t just that they were a conquered people. There was no food, no shelter, no work. Amaya had to eat acorns and pound sawdust into an unpalatable powder to mix with flour.

At least the little one in the photo has on a warm coat, but many innocent people had no clothing, nothing warm at all.

***

There are no winners in war: during WW II, 60,000,000  to 85,000,000 people died; Japanese deaths were between 2,620,000 and 3,120,000.

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This special event was held to raise money to help the children in Bosnia.  It is a prayer.

Pavarotti & Clapton Holy Mother For War Child 1996  

Eric Clapton:
Holy Mother, where are you?
Tonight I feel broken in two.
I’ve seen the stars fall from the sky.
Holy mother, can’t keep from crying.

Oh I need your help this time,
Get me through this lonely night.
Tell me please which way to turn
To find myself again.

Holy mother, hear my prayer,
Somehow I know you’re still there.
Send me please some peace of mind;
Take away this pain.

I can’t wait, I can’t wait, I can’t wait any longer.
I can’t wait, I can’t wait, I can’t wait for you.

Luciano Pavarotti:
Holy mother, hear my cry,
I’ve cursed your name a thousand times.
I’ve felt the anger running through my soul;
All I need is a hand to hold.

Oh I feel the end has come,
No longer my legs will run.
You know I would rather be
In your arms tonight.

Eric Clapton:
When my hands no longer play,

Luciano Pavarotti:
My voice is still, I fade away.

Both:
Holy mother, then I’ll be

Eric Clapton:
Lying in,

Luciano Pavarotti:
safe within your

Both:
arms.

Luciano Pavarotti:
Holy mother, hear my cry!
(Holy mother, hear my cry!)
Holy mother, hear my cry!
(Holy mother, hear my cry!)
Holy mother, hear my cry!
(Holy mother, hear my cry!)
Holy mother, hear my cry!

Read more: Luciano Pavarotti – Holy Mother Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Hyperlink to God

starry night

You are the hyperlink to God. Mystics, in all religious traditions, will tell you God is within you. Atheists, too, although not using God-language, recognize themselves as pivotal to life.

Yet God is also outside of us in the rocks and trees and stars, in the streams and bird-calls, in the supermarkets full of variety. And much much more.

We have our ideas of what God is, but God is not the white-bearded Santa in the sky any more than God is a stooped old crone carrying her basket of clothes. God/Goddess might be pleasant ideas, and maybe God is a crone or a wizened old geezer, but a richer way to experience and understand God is through yourself, through your perceptions, and through your life.

Awe, gratitude, love are some of the mighty experiences of the holy. They can be cultivated and grown within you. That is what worthy religions try to teach by nurturing ways to become holier, not more pious but holier, in the sense of becoming deeper, kinder, gentler, more loving people.

Slow down and notice your surroundings. Being present to your daily moments is important. When you are flying through life, busy, busy, busy, you are missing life. Slow down. Pay attention. Bird song or the voice of another is heard through your awesome ears, interpreted by your amazing brain, arising from a sacred source you do not even need to name.

Take time to be grateful for your ability to perceive. It is gift and goodness. Consider the many things you experience in one day from getting out of bed, to walking, eating, smiling, smelling, talking, being with others. There are so many perceptions to give thanks about, and if you aren’t a person who can thank God, then sit still and allow gratitude to permeate your being by remembering special moments and savoring them.

What about suffering and evil? Even these difficult and unwanted aspects of life move us to an awareness of the sacred within, of God arising. When we cry at losses, at pain, in pain, for others, for the brokenness of human beings, for the violation of the earth, we are empowered to consider how we might become the force of love against evil, how our lives matter. By developing our skills not only for our good and prosperity, but for the good of all the people, all the world, the whole planet, we hyperlink to God.

Allow the flow of love to move through your mind body soul into the world of teeming life and experience the sacred within the river of your life.

Hyperlink to God. Hyperlink to Love.

 

Children of Light

childrenoflight1

Soul Blog inspired by Psalm 123 and Matthew 25:14-30

In this parable about the Kingdom of Heaven, the Master praises the two who have used their talents to earn more money, but the one who buried it in the ground got into a lot of trouble. In fact, he is thrown out into darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Is this fair? What did he do that was so terrible?

Rev. Fleming McGurgan says:

“I mean, given what we have seen in the stock market and heard on the news in the past few months, digging a hole and burying some cash in the back pasture doesn’t sound so crazy, now, does it? 

Everyone who laughed at Aunt Edna—

(you remember Aunt Edna–

she stashed all of her money

in an old lard can under the loose floorboard)

is having second thoughts today.  

Maybe Aunt Edna had the right idea,

all along. Maybe taking risks—with banks, with investments,with demanding bosses, with life itself—is just too sketchy…  too uncertain…too dangerous.

After all, if you hide your treasure in a lard can or a cigar box, or in a deep, deep hole behind the wood pile, you know exactly what you’ve got and where you stand.  

You may not double your investment.

You may not impress your relatives or astonish your boss—

In fact, the entire world may treat you as their very own Aunt Edna… but at least it’s safe.”

Jesus is not in the fairness business, nor is Jesus in the safety business. Jesus is in the business of growing souls, developing people and increasing their wealth as human beings. Jesus is in the business of giving everything, even unto death. Everything.

The person who is unwilling to take a risk at anything new is not going to grow but is going to remain stagnant. It isn’t just the young, the adventurous and the energetic who are able to take risks. No matter our circumstance, we can all take risks.

But what risks does Jesus have in mind?

He is talking about taking “his property” that he has entrusted to us, and turning it into something more by investing it in some way.

He is talking about getting over our fear of what other people might say, of our inadequacy in new situations, or anything at all that stands in our way to increase the harvest of goodness in the lives of those around us, and in our own lives also.

The man who is given one talent (worth about 1000 dollars, and considered back then to be almost half a year’s salary) obviously is not as capable as the other two people who are given a greater share of the Master’s property.

Still, he has just as much opportunity to increase its value as the others. He could have outshone them if he’d tried.

But the truth is he does not understand the opportunity that is before him. He does not even understand the Master. He says: “Master, I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.”

Where does he come up with the idea that the Master, Jesus, is a hard man? He is obviously misinformed, latching onto his own ideas, and his own pettiness. He reaps what he has sewn. What he believes comes back and bites him. Jesus responds to his fear by throwing him outside into the darkness.

But he was already in the darkness.

His lack of understanding was a form of darkness.

His wrong-thinking was a form of darkness.

His fear was a form of darkness.

God is abundantly giving. God is light.

Those who give without worry about who is getting what back, those who generously share all they are and all they’ve learned for the good of other people and the world will always grow in more goodness and abundance.

They become the light because they are givers of the light.

Imagine a world without light, a world when the sun never comes up, where there are no stars and no moon. Imagine a world where there are no candles and no electric lights. Imagine a world of such utter blindness that there is no common decency.

Obviously, human beings are capable of great harm as well as great good.

We become the darkness or the light of the world.

We, as Rev. Fleming McGurgan says are

“Like the servants in this story, offered by God a partnership. The 5-talent and 2-talent servants saw the partnership as an opportunity—an adventure to be explored. They knew that what the Master gave them could easily be lost, stolen, invested badly—but they took the risk anyway.  

The third servant saw the partnership as a burden—a potential landmine to be feared. He knew that what the Master gave him could easily be lost, stolen, invested badly—and so he opted for damage control.  

This servant avoided the challenge of partnership, only to find that playing it safe can be the biggest risk of all. 

…This story reminds us that we worship a God who is willing to invest in us. A God who is willing to make a bet and take a risk.

This story reminds us that if we play it safe and risk nothing in return, we actually risk everything.” 

We must overcome our fear of being wrong,

Our fear of what people will think,

Our fear of being found out,

Our fear of losing everything,

Our fear of not measuring up,

And give one hundred percent to everything we do, trusting God, who has entrusted us with talents.

Jesus showed us that even death need not be feared.

We will live eternally as fully as we have lived our lives in the here and now. But do not feel bad for sometimes being afraid. We are often afraid. We are, after all, only human. It is hard to face medical tests, examinations, new jobs, life changes. That’s all right. When you feel afraid, when you tremble, when you feel lost, when you feel as if you are in the darkness, remember Jesus on the Cross, and remember Jesus is always walking within your increasing understanding.

Take the risk:

When you are sick, be kind to the nurses and medical people. Offer your courage to others.

When you are lonely, reach out to those who are also lonely.

When you are addicted, seek help not only for yourself, but also for those around you who need your experience to help them.

When you’ve got a test to take, study hard, be prepared and give it your all.

When you are uncertain, trust loving God is with you and all-powerful God is for you.

Become Children of Light.

***

Listen to an old Gospel hymn: Send the Light   Gospel, by the way, means Good News.

Become the light in your own way. Listen to Ellie Goulding – Lights   

     

 

Kurokawa Onsen–Ten Yen

hotspringamaya Amaya, the heroine of Ten Yen (prequel to Ten Yen True) is excited to be filming at Kurokawa. She only has a minor role, but it is a start. To be in such a beautiful place and get to bathe in hot spring water is an incredible luxury after the horrors of WW II. She is very happy. Even more so because once the filming ends, Joumi is coming to fetch her and take her on what promises to be their honeymoon. But she hadn’t counted on the leading man, Ebisu, making a pass at her.

Read what happens in Ten Yen.

Click for more information from the publisher Rogue Phoenix Press:

e-book

print

ebook also available on Amazon Kindle: $3.99

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Water is very important both physically and spiritually. We need it to live. We also love to go to the ocean, or sit by a river because it is so relaxing.

No wonder it is such an important element in many religious traditions.

In Japan, Suijin (水神, water god?) is the Shinto god of water. The term Suijin (literally water people or water deity) refers to the heavenly and earthly manifestations of the benevolent Shinto divinity of water.

Listen to the following music and imagine yourself resting in lovely hot water: CHILLOUT MUSIC – Onsen   

You might just get as relaxed as this Japanese snow monkey:

Come Home

ancient oil lamp, Antioch 350 AD already had streetlights. (Scotchmer ...

Ancient Oil Lantern

Soul Blog inspired by Psalm 78: 1-7 and Matthew 25: 1-13 (The Parable of the Ten Virgins)

Life is so full of awe, mystery, and struggle. Jesus surely understood and wants to teach people deep truth about the kingdom of heaven. He is always trying to help people understand how to live better, meaningful lives. Sometimes he talks about end times. Sometimes he uses hyperbole, exaggeration. The parable about the ten young virgins (or bridesmaids) employs humor.

Ten virgins, we are told, and one bridegroom are going to meet at midnight.  Imagine the people listening to him tell this parable about the Kingdom of Heaven. The men must have been thinking ooo la la, and the women were probably laughing their heads off at the idea of ten young women going meekly to meet one guy. It would almost certainly spell trouble. Ten girls vying for the bathroom, maybe bickering, and jealous of one another. I can imagine them whispering about who is the prettiest, kind of like who is the greatest. There probably wasn’t a lot of cooperation.

This parable, however, is not about cooperation. It is about the Kingdom of Heaven.   In the Gospel of Matthew, this parable follows Jesus’ strong speech about End Times. There are difficult days ahead. But in this instance, Jesus is in part trying to help the people relax and enjoy life, have a good laugh, as well as think about their lives.

There are five wise virgins and five foolish virgins. The wise ones use their heads. They bring extra oil for their lamps. The foolish ones maybe aren’t paying lot of attention and only bring lanterns and no oil. Maybe, they haven’t even checked to see if there’s oil in their lanterns.

The virgins represent the people. The lanterns represent the light of God. Bridegroom represents Jesus.

We are told clearly that no one knows when Jesus will come again. No one knows the hour of their death.

We have all been given the light of talents and skills. How we use them is important. If you don’t use your abilities, then you will lose them. That is a fact. So whatever light God has filled you with, you must attend to that light.

It is noteworthy that in Jesus’ talk about end times, within his warnings and woes to come, he says: “this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”

It is only AFTER everyone has heard the gospel of the kingdom preached that the end times of the whole world are going to happen. It seems then that everyone is going to get the chance to make a choice about what to believe and how to live fully.

We can add fuel to strengthen our faith, or we can let the flame go out.   Faith is a gift. Life is a gift. It is not easy. But like all gifts we must take care of them.

For years, I had a ceramic horse that my brother Edward brought home from Spain. It got broken and glued back together. My brother didn’t remember giving it to me, but it was special. He had loved me enough to give me something precious.

That is what God does too. God loves us all enough to give us something precious. He gives Jesus who teaches us about the sacred Kingdom, the preciousness of life.

Ultimately, we are responsible for the gifts we have been given. We make the choices.   The five wise virgins bring along extra provisions for the journey and for the waiting period. They act wisely because they do not know what is going to happen and they want to make sure they are prepared. What do we do to prepare ourselves spiritually for the return of Jesus? Are you ready? Helping other people is always a good thing, of course, but works alone are not definitive.

One minister wrote this: We’re told the wise maidens bring extra oil, and the foolish ones don’t. That sounds simple enough, but we’re on pretty shaky ground if we look for the easy answers, and decide that the oil represents Goodness, or Piety, or Works, or even Faith. If we do, then it starts to sound as though what’s important is the amount of oil we’re carrying around – as though we all ought to be doing extra good deeds, or praying extra hard, or living a perfect life, so that we can store up a spare flask full of midnight oil, ready to burn if the Messiah decides to pull a pop quiz at the end of days.

When the virgins are told that the bridegroom is coming, the five girls who have extra oil do not share it with their foolish companions. Why should they? Maybe they don’t want the competition.

But God is big enough for all of us, men and women.

So just what is Jesus’ point here?

In the parable of the worker in the vineyard, God pays the one hour workers as much as those who work a full day. It is God’s choice.   Who is getting into heaven is God’s choice too—the five who are prepared get to enter the doorway with the bridegroom.   The other five are off in a flurry of activity trying to buy oil at midnight. Everything is closed. When they rush back, the door remains closed to them. They are turned away from heaven’s gate.

The point is that we must get our priorities straight. What really matters? Do you feel sorry for the losers? Perhaps they were careless and lazy. Perhaps they thought they’d get to heaven no matter what they did or didn’t do. Perhaps they couldn’t afford extra oil. In any case, their lights went out.

The oil of the spirit is not about things. It is about the ways we enrich our faith and keep on trusting the process of the holy. All the spiritual disciplines help in this matter: prayer, meditation, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, fellowship and celebration (to name the ones Richard J Foster discusses in his spiritual classic, Celebration of Discipline).

Yet, even those of us who are deeply immersed in these practices can sometimes feel as if the light has gone out.

When we are true to the teachings of Jesus, we will be able to light the way though acts of kindness, charity, hard work, love, compassion, and fellowship. We will grow in these abilities not because we want to impress anyone else but because we are allowing God’s spirit to flow through us. We will use our skills, talents, passions to be a help to others. We will be ready to leave this earth when the time comes because even though we know there have been times when we have been the wise ones, there have also been times when we have been the foolish ones, yet God’s love is so great that we can trust his promises.

In the spiritual life, there is something called the Dark Night of the Soul. This is a time when a person feels disconnected from God. Unplugged. That is different than what is happening in the parable.   Henri Nouwen, one of the greatest known 20th century writers of spirituality, experienced a terrible Dark Night of the Soul. Everything he’d believed seemed to be crashing down. He was depressed. He could not pray. He felt a deep painful loneliness. He wrote, “There are two realities to which you must cling; First, God has promised that you will receive the love you have been searching for. And second, God is faithful to that promise.   So stop wandering around. Instead, come home and trust that God will bring you what you need. Your whole life you have been running about, seeking the love you desire. Now it is time to end that search. Trust that God will give you that all-fulfilling love and will give it in a human way. Before you die, God will offer you the deepest satisfaction you can desire. Just stop running and start trusting and receiving.   Home is where you are truly safe. It is where you can receive what you desire. You need human hands to hold you there so you don’t run away again. But when you come home and stay home, you will find the love that will bring rest to your heart. P. 12´ In “The Inner Voice of Love  

The five foolish virgins simply haven’t been paying attention. They are off running around being busy when maybe if they’d hung around at heaven’s gate, they would have gotten in. They were too caught up with getting things right at the last minute, when getting things right is not about anything we can do, but is about our hearts.

Did they not know that God is love and Jesus is the healer, miracle worker, teacher, and friend?

Come home by trusting that the Kingdom of Heaven is not only later in some unfathomable way but is also now.

Come home and experience God’s love by opening your eyes to the preciousness of every moment.

Come home and experience God’s love in the people around you. Celebrate richness of soul. Celebrate goodness in the midst of struggle.

Come home in the here and now by getting to know Jesus and walking the walk. If you are not baptized, you might consider finding a church and proceeding.

Spiritual Practice: Take time. Be here now. This evening, when you go to bed, take a few minutes to remember how you have been immersed in God’s love. Perhaps in a smile from a child or a hug. Perhaps you have smiled at someone. Or seen birds flocking, and leaves blowing. Perhaps it is the meal you enjoyed. Or the ball game you watched with friends…or perhaps it is through music.

Come Home, by One Republic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxW0cPo7F_o

Traditional Hymns

Softly and Tenderly   beautiful imagery of nature with personal letter at end to a woman, Lois, who has lung cancer. 

Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling sung by Pwaveno Bamaiyi 

Dwell in Love

All Saints Day facts

Today in the church was All Saints Day. It is a time to remember the love of our ancestors, those people who are the saints in our lives: moms and dads, granddads and grandmothers, people who are no longer with us, but gave and taught us so much, people who led us into becoming better people, people who might not have been perfect but never gave up on us either, people whose very imperfections might have been the seeds for strength within us today.

The saints of the Church are those with whom we share worship, the people who are ever present, demonstrating the strength of a life of faith in the church, the old man who faithfully comes to Sunday worship, the sweet grandmother who sits in the back pew who used to take care of the nursery, the chap who takes care of the grounds–there are so many I could name who probably do not know they are saints to me, people who have demonstrated to me the power and process of love within churches.

Our guest minister today at Bates Memorial Presbyterian Church was Rev. Doug Pendleton who preached about Christian family and how moms and dad raise their children with and through love–up at night for feedings, diaper changes, rocking a crying child to sleep. They are the ones who take care of the sick children, cleaning up vomit, taking the kids to the doctor and dentist. Eventually, they begin to grant their children more freedom, letting them go out on their own, until eventually, they are released, set free into the world, taking with them the values they have learned at home. This is love, Doug reminded us.

This is love which in a way is akin to God’s love for us. Christian faith is a spiritual path where we take on the values of Christ, who is the word of God walking and loving, teaching and empowering, not only ancient Hebrews so long ago, but all people who walk upon the earth.

The message of Christ is timeless spiritual wisdom.

We grow up in faith, and love, by taking on the values shown by Jesus. It’s fairly simple: Love your Lord God with all your heart, mind, soul and body, and love your neighbor as yourself.

To love God fully is to give all you have, out of humility, out of compassion, and out of love for others.

William Law, a mystic and minister from the seventeenth century, said it well: Love and pity and wish well to every soul in the world; dwell in love, and then you dwell in God.

Spiritual Practice

Listen, watch: For All the Saints

Light a candle for the people you love. Sit quietly remembering their presence. Send love to them.

Hungry?

 nudibranchs are carnivores a fun fact about nudibranchs is that

soul blog inspired by Psalm 1 and Matthew 22:34-46 

What we eat can effect us greatly. Take the nudibranch snails (see picture above) and medusa jellyfish medusa-jellyfishfound in the Bay of Naples. The snail carries a tiny parasite, a jellyfish, attached to its surface near the mouth.  The jellyfish grows up and gets nice and fat, but the snail leaves its larva within the body of the jellyfish, and the snails end up eating the jellyfish from the inside out.  http://myweb.rollins.edu/jsiry/Medusa_and_the_snail.html

Gross!

The food we ingest certainly changes us in many ways. What we listen to, look at, and are taught are types of food—spiritual food, psychological food and intellectual food.

Often we cannot get beyond teaching that has been ingrained through culture, schools and family. This is all right provided it is healthy information. Information forms us.

The Pharisees had learned the Torah well, and they were not about to budge on what they considered the rules that pleased God. Of course, the rules that pleased God were not merely about whether you ate certain foods, but how you lived your life, how you treated other people, how you meted out justice, how you included those who were marginalized, and how you got beyond whatever limited you personally.

How do we become better human beings? Do we want a world of peace? Do we want interior freedom?

When an expert in the law, a Sadducee, asks Jesus “which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus says “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself: All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

During elections, we are often confronted with people who think opposite to us. What’s worse is the attack ads which completely distort the truth and sometimes tell downright lies about the opposition. It is important for us to learn how to include other people and not allow anger over differences to create separation. Let us discern truth, admit that others have good ideas, even when we disagree with them, and recognize that we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, no matter their color or their political persuasion.

I got a political e-mail from a friend of mine. We share the same opinions and what he sent were some basic facts. I’ve heard them before. I’ve even confirmed them. In any case, because I agree with him, I have no problem with what he sent me, and I take no issue with him. I sent this information to a few people whom I know and respect. I was surprised at the vehemence of one of my other friends. She sent me back some hate mail that was clearly propaganda.

Perhaps my friend though, “Ohhh, Christina, I don’t want these facts! They cannot possibly be right!”

Sometimes we might actually be absolutely right such as when we oppose murder, cheating, lying and various ugly and obvious crimes, but more often than not we only have a partial view of reality and truth.

Thank God for our differences. How are we to love one another as ourselves when we can’t stand what someone says or does. It’s simple. Treat others as you hope to be treated.

If you hate your neighbor for any reason, it does not matter that you come to church regularly, give money to a charity, and pay your bills on time, you are not obeying the basic spiritual rule of love.

We do not and cannot fully understand what makes people think they way they do. We are not in their shoes, and they are not in ours. Our very differences are our strength. We can learn from one another.

Jesus says you shall love your neighbor as yourself.  This is basic wisdom. God does not want destruction but joy and freedom in our lives. Resentments and bitterness, like those nudibranch snails (we don’t even know are there), can eat us from the inside out.

The commandment to love your neighbor as yourself prevents outsiders from pointing accusatory and judgmental fingers, because there are no outsiders. In God’s love, we are all insiders. This command to love your neighbor as yourself is given as a gift. This is the only way to true joy, true happiness and peace.

To love our neighbors as ourselves unifies us as a people. It is the hope of the world.

Start with the little things: Love your neighbor as yourself    you tube video/music

Acts of Kindness Caught on Camera in 2012  

spiritual quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh

  • When we come into contact with the other person, our thoughts and actions should express our mind of compassion, even if that person says and does things that are not easy to accept. We practice in this way until we see clearly that our love is not contingent upon the other person being lovable.
  • People deal too much with the negative, with what is wrong. Why not try and see positive things, to just touch those things and make them bloom?
  • In true dialogue, both sides are willing to change.
  • Training is needed in order to love properly; and to be able to give happiness and joy, you must practice DEEP LOOKING directed toward the other person you love. Because if you do not understand this person, you cannot love properly. Understanding is the essence of love. If you cannot understand, you cannot love. That is the message of the Buddha. [True Love. A Practice for Awakening the Heart.]
  • So if we love someone, we should train in being able to listen. By listening with calm and understanding, we can ease the suffering of another person. [True Love. A Practice for Awakening the Heart.]
  • Love is the capacity to take care, to protect, to nourish. If you are not capable of generating that kind of energy toward yourself- if you are not capable of taking care of yourself, of nourishing yourself, of protecting yourself- it is very difficult to take care of another person. In the Buddhist teaching, it’s clear that to love oneself is the foundation of the love of other people. Love is a practice. Love is truly a practice. [Shambhala Sun March 2006 ]

Children

bridesmaids

Soul blog inspired by Isaiah 11 and Mark 10: 13-16

In Isaiah we read that The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.  This is a beautiful metaphor about the possibility of unity within the world, the world of peace, the one a God of love seeks for all people and also for all of creation which includes animals and landscapes and little ones.

Children are precious to God–and yet we also read about how the Disciples (Jesus’ friends, students, and chosen ones) tried to prevent little children from getting near Jesus. Perhaps they hoped to protect Jesus who they thought was tired, but it is not up to us to protect God.

In a perfect world, all babies would be welcomed. The first glimpse of a newborn infant would fill moms and dads, granddads and grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends, with happiness and excitement.

But what about when they bring the baby home? That’s when the work of raising them begins. That is a difficult and important purpose in life. We all want the children in our lives to end up like the beautiful description in Isaiah of a child upon whom: The Spirit of the Lord will rest—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and awe of the Lord—

But wait a minute, how does that happen? I just watched the Last 24 Hours about the last 24 hours of Sid Vicious’ life. Perhaps more importantly we should look at not how one dies, but how one lives, and how one is raised up.

Sid was the child of a single mom. The dad deserted when his son was only two years old.  The mother had no skills and no sense of the sacred.  She raised her son not as a mother ought but as a friend. He was raised on drugs and no boundaries.  It is no wonder he ended up a punk rocker part of the Sex Pistols.  He cut himself, made a spectacle of himself, and was part of a group with no self-respect, in full rebellion, proving themselves unrespectable.

Oddly, Jesus loved the most unrespectable, the prostitutes, the embezzlers, the partyers.  He saw their potential. It was hard for me to see Sid’s potential.  He wasn’t even a particularly talented musician. He ended up accused of the murder of his equally lost girlfriend after a drug/sopped night. He did not remember a thing, but his knife was in the girl’s gut. He was bailed out of jail and met by his mother.

What does she do?  Well, she was his friend, right? And not a parent.  She gave him heroin.  Eventually, she gave him enough to kill him.  So he wouldn’t go to jail.  She too died of a heroin overdose.

Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

A child needs guidance in order to grow into a person full of the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding. And we are all children in one way or another in need of grounding in what is holy, sacred, and gives peace.

A Native American Elder (as described by Kent Nerburn,) said “If you see life as a straight line, where the young and old are weak and those in the middle are strong, and if you think that to be important you must be useful, you do not see value in the young and the old. You see them as burdens, not as gifts, because they cannot lift their hands to be of use to the community. But the young and old both have other gifts…The old have the wisdom of experience. They have traveled far on the journey of life and give us knowledge about our own road ahead. They have lived what we are still waiting to learn.”

When Jesus gladly blesses the little children, he demonstrates we need one another, young and old. Parents provide daily care, food, shelter and clothing, as well as love, which sometimes must be tough-minded. Older people are wisdom-givers and sometimes also provide the daily care for youngsters.

Let’s remember though, that as Isaiah says, A little child will lead us: they teach wonder, trust, and innocence, requiring older people to become more selfless, developing perseverance, strength, tolerance, forgiveness, and tough love. As Jesus says, Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

***

Allow yourself to be filled with wonder, and dwell in the awe of the beauty that surrounds you, whether it is within nature, or within your family, or within yourself.

Trust the warmth of your loving God, the process of life, which seeks only the very best for you.