Free Advice

I want to take the opportunity to pass on some of the things that have helped me and may help others. They are not new but I am in my 84th year and have been around the block a couple of times. I my travels I have picked up a few things that may be of value.

  • Be open to opportunities. They often come at surprising times but do so with caution to insure that it is an opportunity and not a trap.

  • Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Be careful as to your long term commitments and don’t make decisions with short term eyes. Always consider the long term ramifications of your choices.

  • When taking advice (such as now) consider the motives of the giver of the advise. If they will benefit directly or indirectly in your acting on their advice be very weary of accepting it. If they do not benefit it is a good sign that they are motivated selflessly and you can consider that advice favorably.

  • Be patient with life. Instant gratification is often fleeting and does not satisfy. Contentment in life is proportional to the effort put into it. Look for contentment for it brings the joy and happiness that is lasting.

  • Be patient with people and slow to be offended. Always ask if the offence was really intended as you perceived it or was it the result of a person’s personal problem which had nothing to do with you. Then of course there is the possibility that you deserved to be offended. Sometimes we need to recognize our own faults, then correct them, or at least try.

  • When a disagreement occurs … and they will … always ask yourself, “How important is it for me to win this argument?” Do I want to sacrifice love or friendship to serve my pride or my ego? Sometimes it is prudent to lose or just refuse to fight in the interest of peace and love.

  • On of my favorite expressions is, “I thought I made a mistake once … but I was in error.” It is my way of saying, I am often in error and when I am, my first action is to admit it and then ask for help. To try to hide a mistake is to put your trustworthiness in jeopardy which deepens the problem. Admitting error brings others to your side. People are always willing to help an honest person. You are recognized as a responsible person.

  • Live a life of truth, honesty and justice, and be cognizant of the fact that Justice applies to everyone equally. A decision or action that I consider to be “justice” to me, if it damages someone else, is not Justice. Justice is when no one hurts and sometimes we must have less than we want for justice to exist.

  • Recognize that our work and indeed all our efforts in life should contribute to the wellbeing of our fellow humans. When we gain anything at the expense of another we loose because we have damaged humanity.

  • This list is not complete but it will suffice for now. You may think that I have ignored faith and religion but I haven’t. All the above is not only based in my Faith in God but it is the manifestation of that faith. It is the way I love God and my neighbor or at least do my best to accomplish that. I just try to be more kind than I need to be.

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A Unified Christianity

This is interesting, to say the least …

In January 2014, Bishop Palmer gained notoriety after Pope Francis sent him as a special envoy to a Charismatic Evangelical Leadership Conference hosted by Kenneth Copeland. During the conference, Bishop Palmer presented a short video message from the Pope. Bishop Tony and Pope Francis were personal friends. The message was recorded when the two met a week prior to the Kenneth Copeland Ministries leaders conference. Pope Francis suggested the recording and it was recorded on Tony Palmer’s iPhone. The message is one of brotherhood, unity and love. A declaration that the Reformation protest has ended. At the end of the presentation and video message, Copeland prayed for the Pope and recorded his own message back to the Pope. Bishop Tony Palmer died on Sunday 20th July, 2014, after injuries sustained in a motorbike accident.

I do not believe that I am related to Kenneth Copeland unless it is through some common ancestor in Scotland in the 1200’s or 1300’s. I also do not identify with his ministries which have been tainted with questions of possible financial improprieties. Neither do I presume to judge him or his ministries although I do find his style of preaching not to be my prefered style.

All that aside, Tony Palmer fascinates me. He had a Catholic wife and their children were raised Catholic. Yet, he was a charismatic Episcopal Bishop who has worked in Roman Catholic circles. I like his statement … “Diversity is Divine. Division is diabolical.”  I “preach” that a lot as I firmly believe that we should celebrate our diversity and learn from it while freely sharing God’s gifts and His love. As stated in the video, for all practical proposes in 1999 the Catholic and Lutheran churches agreed on the doctrine of Justification of faith which was the prime reason for Martin Luther’s split and this essentially resolves the conflict over the nature of justification which was at the root of the Protestant Reformation. The document was later ratified by the Methodists.

I don’t understand why this agreement has not been more generally promulgated and why it hasn’t been the seed of general unity. I don’t envision a return to one united Christian Church under a single leadership. I doubt that will ever happen. But we should be able to respect each other as working toward the same goal as United Christians. We should be able to unite around our common beliefs and it could be done if not for the diabolical divisions which are the result of misunderstandings and misinformation or just, if you will, unimportant window dressing. It is not important how you worship as long as you do.

Of the misunderstandings, Confession to a Priest was mentioned in the interview as a “problem” with the Roman Church. Why? Confession can be therapeutic and is a way of humbling ourselves. However, it is not mandatory and never has been. We, as Catholics are not too receive Communion while in the state of serious sin and so we should reconcile with God through confession in order to receive. But it is also a matter of conscience that determines our state of sin and I personally don’t know anyone who is in that kind of trouble.

Some say that we idolize the saints. But, we idolize them no more than the average sports fan idolizes a star quarterback or exceptional basketball player or swimmer or anyone who has won an Olympic medal. We look to them in awe of their accomplishments and for inspiration. We hope to emulate them and since they apparently have a connection to God, we ask them to intercede for us.

Probably the most misunderstood is the Catholic devotion to Mary … The Mother of God. That just sends some people off on a tangent to places unknown. But why do we give her that title? We’ll start with Jesus. If we are Christians we do accept Jesus as both human and divine and the two are an inseparable One. As a human, Jesus’ mother was Mary. But, if Mary is the mother of Jesus, she must be the mother of God because Jesus is both human and divine. It is that simple. No, she is not a God, nor did she exist before god. (Mary Ball was the mother of the first president of the United states, George Washington. She was not a president. She was the mother of a president.) But why is she so revered? Well, she is the rock star of all saints. As a young, unmarried girl she was told that, if she accepted, she would become the virgin mother of a Savior of the world and she trusted God and accepted the assignment. She was the first follower of Christ and his biggest fan. That took a lot of trust in God and a lot of bravery. It is that simple. She, of all people knew she was not God nor any where equal to Him. We admirer her for her faith and devotion.

And then there is the subject of belief based in both the Bible and Tradition. There were Christians before there was a bible and the Bible rose from their traditions so how can you throw away tradition? Yes, the bible was inspired by God but not dictated word for word by God. If it was, how would there be four different gospels describing the life of Christ with so many differing details. The Truth of the Bible lies in its message and it is that message which was inspired. But, of course that is an argument that can go on until we are able to ask God Himself for the answer.  My theory is that early protestants were so anti-pope that they grasped at the idea of a perfect Bible to prove that they didn’t need a pope or anyone else. But that is only my theory.

Getting down to basics, lets talk about “The Message”. That is the only thing that is important. Do we abide by Jesus’ message of love of God and each other? If we do, then we are Christians. Everything else is just window dressing or even distraction. Religious organizations are human devices intended to aid us in our need to find God and His ways. As such, all are imperfect, as are we. I invite you to read ” How Could I Go Back” which tells why I am a Catholic in relationship to the faults in my church.

I also invite you to “Hearts Open To the Spirit“.

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The Symphony of Life

Just imagine a group of 150 musicians each playing his instrument in any tune or tempo he wanted and trying to be the loudest in order to drown out his fellow musicians. That is what uncontrolled ego does to the world.

Lets make beautiful music together, clear and melodious. When you have about 42 minutes to enjoy this I highly recommend it but if you don’t, watch at least a small part of it to get just a hint of what I am trying to convey here.

That performance is well worth setting aside the time to hear and watch. Let it wash over you and stir your soul. It will do that if you let it and you will emerge cleansed of your immediate cares … at least for a little while. It does that for me.

Each person in the orchestra has his part as we do in life. Sometimes we have a prominent solo but we never dominate. Our efforts always are to blend with the whole. We are often in the background giving support to the soloist or to an entire section of the group. Even the rests where we are silent lend to the harmony and produce a needed effect.

Wouldn’t our world be wonderful if we all lived in harmony! We can make beautiful music together if we would only try.

Reflecting even deeper into our life of symphonic harmony we realize that the music of the world would not be remotely possible without the people who designed and created the musical instruments. We never see them and sometimes it is we who are in this supporting role. Never prominent but indispensable in our role. The least of us is important to the harmony of life.

Conversely, very prominent is the leader(s) of the orchestra. They have the awesome responsibility to guide us and maintain the harmony. But they too must subject themselves to the written score of the author.

And then of course there is the Author, Himself. He has not only created the music but all who perform it. It is God’s plan that is the music of life and it is God’s plan that we live in harmony to make it as He designed it.

Again, I say, Let’s make beautiful music together and leave ego and discord behind.

Some people fear that being grateful makes us beholden to someone. Maybe it is true but it is not to be feared. It means we have a friend who cares. That’s a good thing. We need to recognize God as our friend, not one who condemns and punishes. He created us and he does not want His creation to fail. That would be rather counterproductive wouldn’t it! God is not stupid nor should we be stupid either.

Maybe this should be our prayer …

Lord,
As we journey along the adventuress road of life
let us thrive in harmony with our fellows.
Let us blend out talents with them
to bring to fruition the plan You designed for us.
Let us avoid discord as we do our best
to follow your plan for humanity.
Let us play each of our assigned parts
using the talents You have gifted to us
ever aware of the beauty you have planned for us.
Amen

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Maturity – Step #4 – Adulthood

When we reach adulthood we are supposed to be mature. I see too many exceptions to that rule. I also see too many levels of maturity. Humans are designed in such a way that one group of people have an extensive maturity training period in their early adulthood. These select individuals are called “Parents”. They have the privilege and duty to care for one or more infants and in doing so should finally learn what self sacrifice is all about. For many, this extended hands on training period is a success. Unfortunately their is no screening in place to prevent completely immature adults from being parents. A few are so unable to control their selfish rages that they murder their children. Many fail to wean their children from their natural selfishness to various degrees.

To those of you who believe in “Original Sin” I suggest that since the “original” sin of Adam & Eve was the sin of ego driven selfishness (and what else could it be called) that Humans are born in that state. It must be removed or suppressed in order that we may live as God meant us to live … As His will be done … in unselfish love and justice. (But I digress.)

Adulthood  does not, unfortunately equate to maturity. I have come to believe that self centeredness is a condition of an immature person. It, not money, is the root of all evil. It is a state of uncontrolled ego wherein a person holds himself above others and holds his wants above the needs of others, He may not even recognize the difference between wants and needs, It is a condition of wanting instant gratification as opposed to inner joy. It is greed, not gratitude for what we have. Fanaticism is, I believe, a form of immaturity. Any degree of intolerance is immaturity. It is rampant in our society.

But, all is not lost. There is no deadline in this world for reaching maturity. Many, myself included, do not reach advanced levels of maturity until late in life and some never reach it at all. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Most religions have goals that promote maturity. They never give up and neither should we. I do believe however that there is a deadline. I do not believe that immature people are allowed into Heaven. C.S Lewis makes that point far better than I ever could in his book, “The Great divorce”. No it is not about marriage or the dissolution of marriage. It is about moving from Purgatory to Heaven. Read it.

But on the assumption that immaturity is not permitted in Heaven I suggest that in order to avoid delays or even rejection, we should be as mature as we possibly can before approaching those gates.

We can stamp out adult immaturity if we start with ourselves.

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Maturity – Step #3 – Childhood

Step #1, In the Womb and Step #2, Infancy, are required reading before attempting to understand Childhood in step #3.

The entrance into childhood, unlike the entrance into Infancy, is  a gradual transition. Childhood is recognized as the physical ability to speak and to walk and it is a condition of the person which lasts many years and moves through many stages. Our discussion is not concerned with the physical advancements but we will consider only the mental maturity of the person.

Unfortunately there are some who never advance to this stage in life. They remain completely self centered and self absorbed in spite of their physical advancement. However, for most individuals, childhood starts with a period of weaning. I do not refer to weaning from breast or bottle feeding, or both, but from  being self centered. Most infants, are introduced to others of their age. They learn they have peers, people just like them. They also begin to understand language and concepts. At first meaning is conveyed to them through tone of voice and facial expression and after a time communication develops. They begin to walk. The ability to Walk and talk usually defines the transition to Childhood.

It is then, during the extended period of childhood, that a person is weaned from complete selfishness to maturity. It is a long and difficult period beginning with the sharing of toys and progressing, hopefully, to love and have compassion for others. Selfishness is deeply ingrained during the preceding periods even though the periods are short. But they are lifetimes to the emerging child.

The success attained during Childhood is dependent on the personality of the child but more, I think, on the guidance and example the child receives during that period. Example of parents and other adults has the most effect On them. They learn primarily by emulating what they observe. There are several stages of development in childhood but they all come together when we speak of mental (and spiritual) maturity. The child matures physically and he learns certain skills. The former is natural growth and the latter is a result of education. They can occur and in some cases do occur without mental maturity. A certain amount of sharing is forced upon them but unless, through the example of parents and other adults, they see and adopt selflessness and a sense of justice to some degree they may progress through childhood with little maturity. Religious training sometimes helps but unless they see that their parents put value in their faith, this too may fail.

There finally comes a time when they are given leave to drive a car and consume alcohol. They think that they are mature and their parents pat themselves on the back thinking the same. They go off into the world as adults. Many are functionally ready. Some are not. Some have not been completely weaned from selfishness. What makes it worse is that, for some driven by inflated egos and bad example, selfishness has been reinforced instead of being minimized.

They are left to mature in the next stage, Adulthood.

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Maturity – Step #2 – Infantcy

Did you read what life is like for the Fetus in Step #1? It is necessary to understand what that must have been like before going on to this step.

Step #1 ends abruptly and dramatically. I can not speak to birth itself but its trauma is relatively brief and a one time event. It is what happens next that is relevant to this discussion.

All of a sudden the constant contact with the mother is gone as is the continuous nourishment. The umbilical cord is cut. Miraculously, vital organs that had never been necessary before go into action. This, of course requires no action or even knowledge by the infant. It just happens. Its the consequences of these actions that effect the baby and thus, his reactions. He (or she) becomes aware of hunger, a strange gnawing, a need unfulfilled. He cries out for it to be satisfied. He is fed and momentarily satisfied. But then the newly activated digestive system may cause discomfort, usually just air in the stomach, sucked down with milk. He doesn’t know what it is but he knows it is uncomfortable and he does the only thing he can. He cries.

His environment is no longer perfectly controlled and he responds only as he can to being hot, cold, or just uncomfortable. None of this is the result of conscious thought but it is an instinctive reaction. He soon learns that being wet or soiled is uncomfortable. That experience of constant closeness with mother was unconsciously reassuring and it is gone. That can be traumatic. That is why being swaddled in confining blankets is comforting to a newborn infant. The trauma is overcome at times by the need for sleep and with sleep comes peace for him and his parents. But imagine what it is like to be completely helpless and waking from a restful sleep. You are alone. Where is your human contact? Where is the one who provides for you needs? Terror invades and you cry out for help.  It is well to note that the infant who has developed the closest ties with its mother is the one most effected by the fear of she or any other source of comfort not being there. Anne, my wife, slept in a lawn chair next to our oldest son and held his hand so he would feel secure and be able to sleep. This continued for well over a month.

An infant, the product of his past experience in the womb, is self-centered, to the extreme. He only knows of his world and his existence. His mother, his parents, and anyone else is only there to attend to his needs. No one … nothing else … is of any concern. It is not a conscious decision on his part but an unconscious reaction to his environment. He is not being good or bad, he is being a natural baby. He has no choice in the matter. The infant is in a state of complete immaturity. We all start from there and go on to childhood.

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Maturity – Step #1 – In The Womb

We begin life in the womb as a helpless fetus. What has this to do with maturity? It is the starting point and the starting point of anything has profound effect on what immediately follows.

A Fetus is a person who is completely dependent on its mother. It lives in a safe and comfortable temperature controlled environment. It is nourished by the mother, continuously and without any effort on its part. Its digestive system and other organs are still in stages of development and at this time unused and unneeded. The fetus doesn’t even need to breath. It does, in the later stages of fetal development, become self aware to some extent and also aware of its mother and possibly some sounds outside its little totally secure world.

It lives, seemingly in comfort, and has no obligations to itself or others of which it is aware. It only has to develop and grow and none of that requires conscious thought and certainly no conscious decisions on its part.

This is the first step in life, our initial experience, our cornerstone of what will soon change dramatically.

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